Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tropical Paradise My Ass

In September of 1994 I was deployed to Port-au-Prince, Haiti in support of Operation Uphold Democracy. There are hundreds of reasons why this 3rd-world-hole sucks, I will share a few of them here. When I arrived I was a svelte 18 year old kid. Part of the famed 10TH Mountain Division, I had arrived and was ready for action! Unfortunately, not only was I the youngest soldier in my unit (hehehe "unit"), I was also the lowest enlisted - a mere private in rank. For those of you that have never served or known any veterans, this means that I got all the crappy "details." A "detail" is military jargon for "crappy work that needs to be done that no one wants to do, so you find the lowest enlisted turd and have that poor soul do everything that sucks."

Not all details sucked, but most of them did. We always talked about having another shit-burning-detail, just a saying that meant we had to do awful work. Being a private, you can imagine that I had plenty of shit work available.

Sat-Comm-link or The Day I almost Died
The VERY first day that we arrived in Haiti, I got tagged to set up a Satellite Communications link. I know, sounds effen awesome huh? It was not. Coming from NY and arriving in Haiti was like being thrown into hell. To date, I have NEVER been in an area like it. Texas, Louisiana, and North Carolina are all notoriously humid and I have been to all 3. They have nothing on the suckititude that is Haiti. The weather was horrid. It was always in the high-90's and rained every day. Every effen day. I was in the warehouse that had become our base of operations when Sgt. Glemensky says "Hey Flores, let's get this link up." I think, "oh sweet. Gonna set up some comms and get some things going." That was a stupid thought. You see, our warehouse was a basic concrete structure with a sheet metal tin roof. I was chosen for this task because I was skinny kid. The thought was "Flores is light, we can throw him up there and he won't fall through." As we walk outside, the hot, wet, nasty, world that is Haiti slaps me in the chops. The warehouse is about 20 feet high at its lowest point. Lucky for me there was big rig parked next to it. Sgt Glemensky and I climb on to the trailer. Just a short 8 feet to the ledge. I ground my gear and find that I am losing body weight by the minute - it's so crazy hot that I'm sweating like a whore in church. I am wearing boots, bdu pants, and a brown T-shirt. I grab the sat-comm gear and Sgt Glemensky gives me a boost so that I can grab the ledge. With my incredible strength, I pull myself up easily. This is when things get bad. I went from the hot, wet to the EXTREMELY HOT, DRY. The tin roof was like a frying pan. Had they beer-battered and rolled me in flour I could have been a fried catfish. I gingerly make my way over to the corner (I believe I had to duck walk it) and take about 15 minutes to get the link up and going. In that 15 minutes, sweat is burning my eyes, I'm soaked and feel like I'm going to pass out. I make my way back to Sgt Glemensky and let him know that I'm on my way down. Blind and nauseated, I grab on to the scorching hot ledge with my sweaty palms (think first-date type sweaty hands) and I'm set to dangle over the edge and drop down nicely. My plan went awry. I did not calculate for a less than firm grip due to the water leaking out of my body. I slip off the edge and hit the trailer, my ankle rolls and I am falling head first over the edge. I can see that concerntina wire has been strung out around the big rig and my face is about to pay it a visit. For those of you that have never seen concerntina wire, it is like barbed-wire's big bad cousin. It is a giant slinky of death with little razor t-shapes all around it. Thinking quick, Sgt Glemensky grabs onto to a pole that is mounted on the big rig trailer with one hand and with the other hand reaches out and grabs me by the belt. Thank God that he was a stout guy. On my very first day I almost became a casualty because I weighed 177 lbs soaking wet.

Guard Duty
Guard Duty, generally speaking, isn't so bad. You set up and for 2 hours you keep a watchful eye on your surroundings. I did this a lot in Haiti. Compared to some of the other details, this one wasn't terrible - or so I thought. Not sure how many people remember Tropical Storm Gordon; but you can bet your ass that I do. The day started out pretty normal, I had my egg sammy and was hanging out with a couple of buddies. The rain started early - the sea was angry that day my friends; like an old man trying to send soup back to the kitchen. It never stopped. We had to sand bag our living quarters (open bay warehouse with a crappy tin roof) to keep from being flooded. We kept filling and stacking bags until it was time for me to go on duty (hehehe "duty"). I show up ready for work when it is announced that "Flores needs to report to guard duty." YOU HAVE TO BE SHITTING ME! They were not shitting me; being the private meant that I had to brave the elements. I throw on wet-weather-gear and head out. This "gear" is plastic pants, tucked into rubber boots, with a giant plastic jacket over it all. The rain is coming down so hard and fast that my wet-weather-gear isn't doing much more than keeping me wet by trapping water inside. I walk over to the SOG and he tells me where to go. It is about 150 meters out (a football field and a half). The entire area is flooded. I am wading to my position. The water is now waist deep. I am seeing giant rats float past me; which strikes me as odd since all the Haitians seem malnourished -  how the F did these rats get to be the size of a French bulldog!? I finally make it to my post. It's a Conex at edge of our perimeter. A conex is basically a rail-car without wheels. I climb up top to avoid the rats and human fecal matter that's floating around. I hunker down and sit in a Tropical Storm. For 2 hours. 2 hours guarding a giant lake of funkiness. That I had walked in. Twice. The area was so flooded by the time my rotation was over, that the HMMWV couldn't make it out to pick me up. So, I got to jump back into the Hepatitis-A stew, now chest high, and wade back to work. I'll always remember walking in, soaked to the bone. I was wearing "jungle boots" at the time. They have 2 air holes near the arch, and every time I took a step, water shot out 15 feet. Sgt Glemensky saw me and burst into laughter, then in his very best Jack Nicholson impression says, "You want me on that wall you NEED me on that wall!"

Worst Detail Ever
Time is passing in Port-au-Prince and I have done just about every crappy detail that you can think of...I had to do water runs almost every day, had to guard trash, I even got to sweep the front of the warehouse so when the General visited, his HMMWV would have a clean spot to park. Life was grand. That was until I got tagged for the worst detail ever. Like any other day, I walk in ready to report for duty when I am told, "Flores, you need to head over for a detail. Report to Sgt Such-n-such."  Being the great soldier, I don't even ask what the detail is, I just set out. I find Sgt Such-n-such a few buildings down and we begin to walk. We are shooting the breeze, not talking about anything particular. We arrive at our make-shift latrines. A "latrine" is military talk for "potty." Being clever as we are in U.S. Army, we took a 50 gallon drum, cut it in half, set those halves next to each other, then placed a large thin board over them. We then cut holes into that board and voila! Instant toilets. Human ingenuity will never cease to amaze me! I figure that Sgt Such-n-such needs to drop a deuce so I hang back. He calls me over, I figure he wants to keep chatting while he drops the kids off at the pool. Looking back, I can only wish that he wanted to talk to me while he pinched a loaf. To my utter amazement, I found out that day that the dreaded "Shit Burning Detail" was an actual, and quite literal, detail. Sgt Such-n-such hands me gloves, a 5 gallon can of diesel fuel, a book of matches, and a stick. For those of you that have never lit a turd on fire, it's not as easy as you think. I had to douse the deuces in diesel then from a distance, launch matches into the drum of turds. Think of your dad at BBQ time; the old school charcoal sets. When he would go crazy with the lighter fluid, then stand back and flick matches at it...pretty much my approach. The fuel would burn up quick, I found out. So my second attempt went much like the first, except I understood why I had a stick. I was meant to stir the flaming poo. Which I did. For hours. In hot ass, wet, nasty Haiti weather. I am finally done and burn the gloves that we given to me for the task. At this point, I figure that nothing can be worse and that's why we hear so much about the "Shit Burning Detail." As I arrive back at my work place, I tell Sgt Glemensky about my hours of fun in this tropical paradise. He gets excited and says, "Oh! I had to do the same thing when I was in Korea. It was winter though, so all the crap was frozen. I had to chip it out like ice then try to light it. Took a long ass time...."

Ahhhhhhh....memories. What is life if not the summation of our experiences? I guess at that point of my life I would have been a Turd-burning-guardian-master-of-communications. Have I grown much since then? Debatable. But it was the last time I lit poopoo on fire.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Twilight: I Have No Idea what I'm Talking About

Right off the bat I have to say a few things:

  1. In the words of a teenage girl, "the movie doesn't do the book justice"
  2. Bella's inner dialogue does not match anything that she actually says
  3. My formula of understanding women is completely wrong
    I've read over 200 pages of the first book [and watched the first 2 movies....again]. If you remember, this was all part of my master plan to finally understand what women find attractive and/or sexy. My theory had to do with the emotional content of a man being the basis of attraction, not pure sexual/physical/animalesque gravity that draws men to women. I also mentioned something about "reachers." I hypothesized that men "reach" for women that are too physically attractive for them and women "settle" on a not-classically-handsome man that is sensitive to their needs. Obviously I have no idea what I'm talking about - reading as much of Twilight as I could stomach proved me dead-ass wrong.

    From the very beginning of the story, Bella is CRAZY infatuated with Edward. He is so beautiful, helplessly attractive, flawless in every way, yada, yada, yada....So, I learned quick my theory was crap. Women/girls that read this book are all about how unbelievably good looking this 17 year old vampire is. And to add to my flawed theory, Edward is a HUGE A-hole to Bella! All they do is argue. She looks at him like he is the meaning to life and he literally wants to eat her - but all they do is take verbal jabs at each other every chance they get.

    Not only do I not get women, I clearly have no idea what a teenage girl finds attractive either. I guess from what I read, if you are a handsome kid with nice skin, you can be a jerk. I think that this actually carries over from the teen years into early women-hood. From there, it grows stronger and stronger. You see, the urban dictionary defines jerk this way:

    The kind of guy most girls ACTUALLY want when they say they want a Nice Guy. Jerks are selfish, manipulative bastards who see women as little more then sexual conquests to brag about to their buddies or mere objects that are there for their personal pleasure. As to ensure the post-sex breakup will be in their favor, Jerks often play the "sensative guy" early on so the girl will make most of the moves on HIM, and after he's done with her and dumps her for some other girl just like her, he can make it look like she's at fault for coming on too strong, and consequently she'll take him back if he chooses to return for seconds.

    It is easy to understand why we have so many nuclear and aeronautical physicists and not very many Experts-of-the-Female-Mind. Everything that is said and done is in code. The code is somehow imprinted into the minds of baby girls at birth. All women (regardless of age, ethnicity, location) know the code. Men that have been around women long enough can get small pieces, but this comes at a very high price. Here are some examples of the code:
    1. "FINE": This is the word women use to end an argument when they feel they are right and you need to shut up. Never use "fine" to describe how a woman looks. This will cause you to have one of "those" arguments.
    2. "FIVE MINUTES": This is half an hour. It is equivalent to the five minutes that your football game is going to last before you pay attention to her again, so it's usually an even trade.
    3. "NOTHING": This means "something" and you should be on your toes. "Nothing" is usually used to describe the feeling a woman has of wanting to turn you inside out, upside down, and backwards. "Nothing" usually signifies an argument that will last "Five Minutes" and will end with the word "Fine".
    4. "GO AHEAD" (With Raised Eyebrows): This is a dare. One that will result in a woman getting upset over "Nothing" and will end with the word "Fine".
    5. "GO AHEAD" (Normal Eyebrows): This means "I give up" or "do what you want because I don't care". You will get a "Raised Eyebrow Go Ahead" in just a few minutes, followed by "Nothing" and "Fine", and she will talk to you in about "Five Minutes" when she cools off.
    I didn't even know these 5! I had to steal them from Carlos Xuma. I don't agree with what his site is selling, but I do think he's on to something with those descriptions.

    The code is only part of the mystery. If men somehow are able to decipher the code, they still don't understand what the crap is going on. So it's best to apologize to women every chance you get. You may not know why, but they sure as hell know when, where, and how you messed up and can re-live it in vivid detail. They can can also let you know when you'll do something stupid in the future - it's amazing that they can't predict earthquakes or winning lotto numbers. Just a thought....

    Men, by contrast, are the simplest of all creatures that God has created. We have some basic thoughts: food, sex, sleep, sex, sports, sex. That's it. And the sports part is seasonal. That is the formula to understanding 99.9 percent of all men on this planet. Most of us also mean what we say. When you ask us how our day was and we say "fine" we mean that nothing went wrong and we still have a job. When you ask how dinner was and we say "good" we mean that it was delicious but that is too many syllables to be used to answer a question like that.

    I've also found that word meanings are different between women and men. "Healthy." Zergio's wife, Zara, was under the weather and when she was coming out of it, he said "Wow Zara, you're looking better..ya know, healthy." He has never forgotten it - because no female will allow him to. This was a compliment to the love of his life. Somewhere in the translation from man-to-woman she heard "Wow Zara! You look like a blue-ribbon-heifer!" I still don't know how this  happened; but I have never told Nelly that she looks "healthy."

    I was talking with Dusty the other day about "bunko". From what I gather this is a game used by women to get together, get drunk, and talk about sex. The game also goes by the name "drunko" for that matter. Women actually have to plan to do this! Men need NO excuse to get together, get drunk, and talk about sex. We call this work. Or hangin with the fellas. Or BBQ'ing. Or fixing the car. Or lunch. Or painting the house. Men can get together with no plans, end up drunk, and relive the glory days in the blink of an eye.

    So different in so many ways. I'm not sure who is reaching and/settling if anyone at all. I don't know what women want or find attractive. I am clearly lost on teenage girls. I don't know how a 17 year old vampire that is 200 years old can stay in high school year after year. I don't know how to play bunko. I would venture that most men are in the same place as me - we have no clue why our women stay with us, but we know why we stick around: BREASTESES.

    To all my male compatriots, I wish you well on your journey. May you never say the wrong thing, look the wrong way, wear the wrong shirt, say the wrong thing, or compliment the wrong body part. I would say "live long and prosper," but with the odds stacked against you, I say, "Die a good death."

    The Pelican State

    Really?!?! That's the state nickname for Louisiana?! It should be the "Holy Crap it's HOT State."

    Last week I had to tend to some bidness in the LA. I usually do business trips solo, but this time I was able to travel with a buddy of mine, Dusty Gardener. Dusty is a pretty cool guy - he's a Texas native, drives a charcoal gray swagger wagon, and is a bit of chatty-catty. Since our destination was only 4 hours away, we decided to drive as opposed to fly. Dusty and me in a car for 4 hours driving through the state that I believe DELIVERANCE was filmed. Plan seems perfect. So I sit at the house and wait for Dusty to pick me up; he decided to rent a car for trip.

    We were supposed to leave around 9AM so I figure that he means 11-12. To my surprise, he shows up at 2PM. After an hour of chit-chat in the house it's time to hit the road! As I grab my gear and head out, I see our rental. For a trip to a college campus in the middle of the bayou, Dusty selected another swagger wagon. It is the same vehicle that he owns but this one is white. Two 30-something men, cruising a regional campus, in a minivan:
    The drive was uneventful. Hit some traffic, saw a few gators, nothing really to report. While we drove from Dallas, there was a 3rd co-worker heading out to meet us. We will call him Jack Sherman. Jack is from Austin, TX. His drive was a little longer than ours so we planned on meeting him at the hotel.

    We decided to tour the campus when we arrived so that we would know where to go. Nothing like seeing 2 guys in a minivan drive around a college campus at 15 mph taking in the sites. Creepy, I know. We came across a co-ed and asked for the "Engineering Annex" - not that we were lost, just looking for a more direct route. She was very nice and noted that we were right next to it. The building signage said "NUCLEAR ENGINEERING", but we were assured that the university "doesn't have a Nuclear Engineering department or program." I love this place.

    After our tour, Dusty and I get checked in and figure we should go and see what Small-town, LA has to offer. We decide to head out and grab some dinner since Jack is hours away. We jump in the minivan and cruise for a steak house. Lucky us, the only one in a 80 mile radius was down the street from our hotel. As we pull up we get our first shot at the locals. I wish that I had my camera on me as I think back on it.

    As we are walking in, 2 locals are walking out. As we cross paths, we give the "hey, how's it going?" along with a smile. As the gentlemen smile back it was hard to not notice that something was missing. I couldn't quite put my finger on it....oh yes, I see it now...teeth. Multiple teeth were missing - it was like seeing an old fence that had weathered time and only a few posts remained. And those posts weren't all going the same direction. To quote Dusty, "They maybe had one full set between the both of them."

    We ate, drank, and were merry. As we get back to the hotel, we ask the front desk if Jack Sherman has checked in. Since Dusty nor I have ever met Jack, we ask about his demeanor and over all presence. The clerk is friendly and replies with "Oh, he's nice guy. Quiet. Has a pony tail."  The ponytail part is where Dusty and I look at each other in amazement. We both know that Jack is an older fella (in his 50's). So the ponytail thing is a bid odd, but he is from Austin.

    The plan is now to meet Jack for breakfast, head out to the university and knock out some work.

    The next morning I am up and ready for action. I head down for my free breakfast and to meet the team. I see Dusty is already up and grabbing some grub. As I look over, I see the ponytail and know instantly that this is Jack Sherman. Jack is an older fella, leather skinned, looks like David Carradine and is a hippie. An Austin hippie is much like a Berkeley hippie, except that they wear boots instead of flip-flops. Some small talk ensues and we head out for work. As I walk out of the hotel into the steamy world of LA, my sunglasses actually FOG UP! WHERE THE HELL AM I THAT SUNGLASSES FOG UP WHEN YOU WALK OUTSIDE!?!

    We arrive on campus and get to it. After some hours, we meet with the client and all is well so we figure we should take him to lunch with us. We have all been together for some time and people are getting comfortable. We decide on some creole-style food and head to a local spot. I'm not particularly sure what happened next, but I learned something. I'll give it my best to describe:

    We all are set to order. Our server comes over and 3 of us drop our order with no issues. Then Jack Sherman gets his turn. He ordered something I had never heard of and describes this food to the server. She politely smiles back and writes it down. Before she can race away from him, he says that he would like a side of "File Gumbo."  She figures that this old timer wants a side of soup with his meal. Apparently we were all wrong. Jack goes into a rant about the difference between "File Gumbo" and "Gumbo File." The worst part about this was that he had to use the most condescending tone I have ever heard. His tone was saying "I know that you're from here and I'm visiting your state, but you obviously have no idea what I'm talking about so I'm going to do you a favor and teach you all about the food that you serve and is prepared here daily." On and on he goes, describing the difference at least 7 times. After our server leaves (to spit in our food), I can't help but resist so I ask him to describe it 1 more time to the table. Dusty is not pleased.

    So this is what I learned:
    • Jack can be a real a-hole
    • File Gumbo or Gumbo File is made from sassafras root
    • Sassafras is a real thing!
    For YEARS I thought that "sassafras" was only a word or term used to display genuine surprise, disgust, contemplative states, pleasure, displeasure, etc. In short, I thought it was a word/term like "jinkies" or  "Merlin's beard." As you can imagine, this was awesomeness for me. It added to the overall humor of the trip. From that point forward, Dusty and I would have quick exchanges like this:

    FamousRay: Jinkies! Sherman's an a-hole!
    Dusty: Sassafras Ray! I think you're right!


    Sassafras! I got it!
    Jinkies, that's impressive!

    We get back to the campus and continue to work. It was obvious from early on that we are going to have a late night. We figure we should do all we can on this single day trip to save time next trip out. We head back to the hotel, change out of our business casual clothes and into shorts and t-shirts to battle the heat and get ready for the manual labor. Well, that was Dusty's and my plan. Jack shows up in an opal choker, black skin tight T, skinny jeans, and his boots. With his hair down now.

    We dump in the the minivan and drive over. The van was creepy enough with just Dusty and me; but the addition of Jack Sherman kicked it up a few notches. Imagine cruising with your dad in the minivan trying to pickup teenage college girls - now you're getting the creepiness that was going on.

    We get to work on getting our equipment into a racks. This is all very tedious work and gets to be physically intensive as time goes on. We all dive in with hopes of getting out at a reasonable time. I was hopeful until I saw Jack Sherman begin his work. Somehow he mounted his equipment wrong - EVERY TIME! Sometimes he did the same piece wrong two times in a row. I thought that this was statistically impossible; but I was wrong about sassafras, so what do I know?

    We are working now, it's getting late, people are tired, Jack has messed up his stuff too many times to count. He is having a very verbal and intense argument with is brain throughout the night about how to get the gear racked. He is having a pretty rough time. Dusty and I have 4 easy pieces to go, but we have to wait on Jack. Jack get's his last piece in (the easiest piece he had to work with all night) and tells us to go for it. Dusty walks up to the rack and lifts the gear into place. As he gets ready to rack it, looks at the gear and says, "OH FFFF*CK! You have to be f*ken SHITTING me Sherman!!"

    By this point Sherman is defeated. Like a 6year old trying to learn multiplication, he literally throws up his arms and says "WHAT! I DON'T GET IT! WHAT DID I DO WRONG?!"

    Since I'm in a great mood, I stifle a laugh and walk over to Jack and say, "Jinkies Jack! I think you need to flip this and we'll be OK."

    The best part of all is that I get to do this again in the very near future. I hope that Dusty gets another minivan. I hope that Jack brings his own File Gumbo.

    Merlin's Beard! It's going to be a great time in the bayou ;)

    Wednesday, August 18, 2010

    I May be on to Something

    Dallas Jabbawockee is a friend of mine. Well, on my side he is considered a friend. I'm sure that he would classify me differently. Dallas is a business man so he only thinks along those lines. I would venture that he knows 3 basic classes of people: business partners, business clients, and business acquaintances. My guess is that I'm seen as a "Business Acquaintance" if not just a “Turd.” To say that he is an eccentric man would be like saying that Adam Lambert is kind of gay. Dallas has a very unique view on life,  so I like to talk to him as much as he will allow. It helps that his GF, Karen Krees, is one of Nelly's BFE's (Bestests Friends Ever!). So he's stuck seeing me when we visit Cali.

    Dallas is somewhere between a Jonas Brother and Zack Efron - he has that build and style. By "build" I mean he's not as big as The Rock, but he could definitely whoop Shia LeBeouf.  By "style" I mean he rocks sandals, skinny jeans and Baby Gap t-shirts about 99% of the time. The other 1% he goes with the childs' medium size sweater, V-neck. He truly puts the “O!” in Metrosexual. .

    We enjoy quick-witted exchanges to pass the time when he's forced to hang out with me (this is all to appease the woman of his dreams). Some pretty interesting conversations on just about any topic imaginable are had:

    FamousRay: I was thinking about the Brazilian Cowboy the other day
    Dallas: That sounds like a new sex position. I like those Brazilians; they are innovators
    I thought the same thing. Then I thought about the traditional Cowgirl
    As opposed to the reverse Cowgirl?
    Correct. My thought what was "can gay people do the Cowgirl? Let's not even bring in variations. Wouldn't one of them need to be a female? Hence "CowGIRL'"

    And on and on we go until Nelly or Karen interject on our stupidity. The day of the melon incident, we all had tickets for an urban dance tournament that lasted 5 hours. We were starving at the end of  show and found a place to sit, eat, and converse. Somewhere in the conversation, homosexuality was a quick topic:

    I couldn't be gay. It's too much work. They are always working out, always at the gym, they have to look perfect all the time
    Men are visual creatures. We are stimulated visually, not like women. So it makes sense that they want to look good all the time. That's how they keep their men.
    I never thought about that. It makes perfect sense.

    As a side note: I seem to be on the "gay” topic a lot here and this is bringing to mind Tennille. She hosted another ridiculously great Lesbian Party in honor of me being back in Cali [it may also have been her birthday]. As I walked in, I was the only man there with drunk lesbians dressed up as pirates - it was like being on set of a porn movie. Now, back to the action!

    That quick little exchange about men vs ladies got me to thinking (I know, very dangerous). There is no doubt that men are visual creatures. We are like cheetahs waiting to pounce on a gazelle – visually stunning gazelles. Women are about the emotional content that a man can deliver. This is why you see an ubber hot chick with a dork. Men, who are shallow at best, would never do this. Johnny Depp, Hugh Jackman, or myself would never be seen with Rosie O'Donnell. For the most part, men are “reachers” and women are “settlers”. Men will “reach” for women that are more physical attractive than themselves and women “settle” for dorks that fulfill that emotional need. This is how I ended up with a sexy-ass Salvadorian wife.

    The example below really brings all of these points to life:

    Let us explore some more. Have you ever noticed that Maxim has the HOT 100; but People Magazine does SEXIEST MAN ALIVE? This is because men want to see hot women! On the other hand, women want the total package of sexiness. The good-looks help, but there is more to it, more emotions, more the way a man makes a woman FEEL - that makes him sexy.

    Maxim's Hot 100 really isn't hard to judge. Just like college brackets, we take women and put them head-to-head with one another and decide which one is the hottest. Single elimination, the hottest moves on until there is only one. Then we crown her the hottest thing on the planet. By "we" I mean other men - I had to do research on the voting scheme.

    Sexiest Man Alive is a whole other story; just look at Johnny Depp, Hugh Jackman, and Me. All equally sexy and could take the title, but all for very different reasons. Johnny is 46 and a father, slight build, but is "mesmerizing".  Hugh Jackman is multi-talented and complex. The ultimate in rugged good looks and bad-assery. Then there is me - I would never comment on how unbelievably attractive, suave, or humble I am. That would be tacky. Instead I will say, I have some good qualities that stack up to Captain Jack and The Wolverine. But, it's not easy to say who truly is the Sexiest Man Alive.

    While I was out on a date with my luscious wife, we went to see Eclipse. Obviously I'm on Team Jacob. Sharkboy is all stout and a is a bad ass now that he grew up (all 5 feet of him). Nelly has been on the fence for while, but after seeing the 3rd movie she is committed to Team Edward. That was when this all came to me - I'm on Team Jacob because I see ripped, tanned werewolf as opposed to a tall, lanky, pale vampire. Nelly is all about Edward because he's handsome enough, but the way he speaks and his chivalrous attitude towards Bella is what set him apart.

    The battle lines were drawn before the premiere of any of these Twilight movies. Women and girls have strong allegiances to their respective teams. This struck me odd since Jacob is so much more visually appealing and Edward is much more the romantic. I would imagine that to write a romantic character would be easier than a hunky 16 year old boy.

    I pledge to you all, my committed fans, to find out the truth. I have all 4 books in possession. I will read them all and study how Edward and Jacob are written. Something isn't adding up. With this take on visual-stimulation versus emotional-ties it is easy to make sense of it on the screen. I need to find out how it was done in the book. Somewhere in there lies the code of what women desire. If a book written by a woman for teenage girls that is based on vampires and werewolves doesn't have the answer to what women want....I dare say no book will have that answer.

    A war is brewing. Make sure you're on the right side.

    P.S. Many thanks to Dallas for sending me down this path. I'm sure that if I decipher the key to the needs of women and strike it rich with a best-seller you will sue me for royalties - I wouldn't expect anything less.

    Wednesday, August 11, 2010

    Check Out Those Melons!

    I work with Big Black Jack from Norbit aka the black guy from White Chicks. Here is a quick visual for those of you that forgot what he looks like:

    He's not the actual actor, but looks like him so much that I just call him "Big" now - short for Big Black Jack. So Big and I were having lunch a couple of weeks before my vacation. Like every conversation we have, the subject of alcohol came up. Since it was July and we live in Texas, it must have been close to a million degrees; maybe a million and 2 on that day. As we were talking, he mentions that a nice chilled watermelon would be good on a day like this. Since I am Mexican and he is Black, it was natural that we would agree on the watermelon topic. Big took it a step further. He says not only a watermelon would be good, but a spiked watermelon would be what was needed on a day like this.

    I had no idea what he was talking about. As a Mexican, we will put anything in a tortilla. I assume that being a stout black man means you can put alcohol in a melon and it's heaven. As I listen to him, he takes a bite of his imaginary melon and is in ecstasy. I make a mental note that I must have this melon! I plan to have this melon while on vacation. This melon will be cut up and eaten in Vegas.

    I ask Big how I'm supposed to get alcohol into my melon. He makes it sound easy - cut a hole deep enough to see the red stuff; pour in alcohol; when it goes down, pour in more. Simple. I then ask what type of juice I should use to spike this bad-daddy. Big, being the drunken professional that he is, rattles off 3 different types to be used, 2 of which are Everclear and Vodka.

    Any college-student/young-professional can tell you that Everclear will put a rhino to sleep. It is 151 proof and I believe is prone to spontaneous combustion. To mix that with vodka and some other strong liquor is just craziness. So I settle on vodka being the only logical choice. I go with Grey Goose. 375 ml of French vodka.

    My plan is set and I'm ready to do this! My thinking at the time was this: If I soak a watermelon in vodka, I can get drunk and stay hydrated at the same time - this is a win, win! How did I not think of this before?

    The day before our Vegas trip, I head out to the market with Nelly. I am on a mission to find the smallest watermelon in the area. We walk into the store and I see the big bin of melons. I'm no expert on melons, but I will feel them up and stare at them if given the chance. I start tossing melons around and I come across a decent little one. I put that to the side and continue my search for something smaller. It turns out my first pick was the winner. This melon is perfectly ripe and is about the size of an over grown cantaloupe.

    The next morning we are getting ready for the trip. We are set to hang out with our friends for 3 days in Sin City. Dallas Jabbawockee and his girlfriend Karen Krees are on their way over and we will drive out together. Before Dallas and Karen arrive, I have to get 375 ml of Grey Goose into my over-sized cantaloupe or mini-melon. I think back onto what Big said. I cut a whole and pour in the vodka. It doesn't go anywhere! The vodka is just sitting there in pool in the hole that I made. I tell Nelly's mom about my problem since she was in the kitchen with me. Being the greatest mother-in-law in the world, she jumps into action to help. She goes to get a syringe from her stash of medical supplies. She pulls the needle off and sucks up the vodka out of the melon, re-attaches the needle, and hands it to me. I begin to inject vodka straight into my melon. We repeat this for what seemed to be an hour. Because the syringe was small, we weren't getting very far. During this time, Nelly is commenting on how ridiculous I am and decides to look up "spiked watermelon" on YouTube. Of course there are hundreds of videos. The one she watched says to dig a hole into the melon deep enough for the neck of the bottle to fit. So I did. It then says to plug the melon with the bottle. So I did. It then said that it will take 2-3 days. CRAP!

    Dallas and Karen show up and see my melon. Dallas can't believe that I'm trying to fill this little thing with so much alcohol, but I dismiss his concern as jealousy of my greatness. Since I am out of time, we have to transport this melon with us to Vegas. I find a mini-cooler and the melon fits perfectly. With 1/2 the bottle injected, the other 1/2 was working on seeping into the flesh, we make our way onto the freeway. About an hour into our drive, I realize that my melon is sitting at room temp. This can't be good so I call for a pit stop. I put my melon on ice and were back on the road.

    I let it sit over night.

    The next day we meet up with Dallas and Karen at their hotel and decide to drink and swim. I try to get my melon out to the pool side and am quickly denied. Bastards. We take the melon to Dallas and Karen's room. We are now poolside and Dallas is already a few drinks into the afternoon. I decide it's time to play catch up and have a few of my own at lightning speed. I am now feeling pretty good as is Dallas. During our time in the pool, he made friends with some visiting Welshmen. These are 3 ubber cool guys. First time in the Vegas, first time in the U.S., they are blitzed and loving everything that is America. We share a few rounds, a few stories, and are bonding only like drunk men can do. 

    Noticing the time, we (Nelly, Karen, Dallas, and I) figure it's time to go so we can catch our show. When we get to the room, the girls start to get ready. I look over at Dallas Jabbawockee and then down to the cooler. It's officially "GO" time. We both grab hunks of the already carved melon. I grabbed a piece that was part of the whole where the vodka was poured. He grabs some other non-descriptive piece. As I bite into my melon, my eyes widen and I feel the vodka burn on the way down. It was as if I had eaten a shot of pure alcohol. Amazed by how utterly strong this was, I take 3 more bites. It was horrible. Dallas looks at me and says he can't even taste the booze. I remind him that he's already drunk and swap pieces with him. As I bite into his piece, it is just as strong! I have now taken 5 shots in less than 2 minutes. Dallas says that he can now taste it and decides that he can't eat any more - it will forever ruin watermelon for him and he loves watermelon. I take another bite for good measure and agree with Dallas. 

    I poured an entire bottle of Grey Goose into the smallest melon I could find. That may have been a miscalculation. We need to do something with this melon; I can't just toss it out - that's alcohol abuse. I look over at Dallas and say "I'm giving it to those British Bastards." He concurs with this idea.

    I make my way down to our new friends and declare that I have a gift. They are more drunk than I am and are quick to take it. We come back to the room and I show him our spiked melon. We all take a bite. The Welshman looks at me, remember he is already drunk, and says "I'm off my tits, mate." I don't know what the hell that means, but I bet it means that it's a damn good melon!

    I help my new buddy take the melon back to his room. We put it in the sink and get some ice. As we are leaving, we take one more bite. It was sooooo strong that I think I lost some nose hairs. The Welshman shakes his head and says "that's not even a watermelon any more is it?"

    Was this the day I decided never to drink again? Of course not. But, I have learned my lesson - next time I'm going with bigger melons. Being a man it should have been intuitive that the bigger melons are just better.

    Tuesday, August 10, 2010

    I Died a Little Bit Today

    I knew it from the start
    You would break my heart
    But still I had to play this painful part
    You wrapped me 'round your itty-bitty finger
    With your magic smile
    You kept me hangin' on a lovers cross while
    You put your spell on me
    Took my breath away
    But there was nothin' I could do to make you stay
    I'm gonna miss you

    -Milli Vanilli (1989)

    RyuKen has officially announced that he is leaving his post as Praise and Worship Leader at our church - my heart hurts. You may remember RyuKen as he was featured not once, but twice. To spare you from having to reread them here is a quick summary: I once compared his musical and vocal awesomeness to my sexiness; I stand by that assessment.

    Could you imagine a world where I was withholding my sexiness from you all!? What if there were no more pictures of me looking amazingly delicious for you to daydream [fantasize] over!? What if I no longer interacted with the world with my silky-smooth-phone-sex-voice!? What if my antics were no longer documented for you all to read and live vicariously through me!? WHAT IF I JUST DISAPPEARED! This is simply no way to live! I'm sure many of you are wondering how life went on before you knew (or least heard of) me. Just writing this all is making me sad and a little bit nauseous. This is exactly the type of world-shattering hole that RyuKen is leaving in my life :(

    His sheer awesomeness is mesmerizing at times. When he hits the stage and does his Mick Jagger walk into a robot dance sequence into a technical tutting display into a jump split and catches his guitar that was thrown to him from the drummer then lands in a crane technique stance, it gives me goose bumps - AND THAT'S JUST HIS STAGE PRESENCE! The real show starts when he starts picking the axe and his vocals are on display. Powerful vocalist. The guitar adds that extra flare (I think he only knows 4 chords but he still ROCKS THAT ISH).

    Since I too am an artist [writing is an art you haters], I have come to deeply appreciate RyuKen's style. I have seen amazing Praise and Worship Teams. A few weeks ago while in California we attended a local service. There were 4 people leading - 2 guys and 2 girls. They were F'n awesome. Each one of them had a solo that showed any one of the four could be the lead. I was blown away by their talent. So much so, that I leaned over to Nelly and said that they were they were better than the team in Texas. After I said it, about 3 seconds passed and I leaned back over and said "well, better than everyone except RyuKen." This kid has truly set the standard for emotionally moving me through song and gymnastic-style dance.

    We all have our "thing," no matter what it may be, that moves us. It could be that singer that is just amazing. Maybe it's that musician that plays flawlessly and leaves you speechless. It could be an actor that makes you believe that they are truly living the part they are playing. Some people see sports figures and are just floored - Michael Jordan played the game like no one before or since. Jabbawockeez and Poreotics are dance crews that change peoples lives. This is what RyuKen does with his performance. He is truly singing for the Glory of God - when he is up there, nothing else matters. When he is leading us, you can see his very soul.

    I know that he will succeed in all areas of life. He is moving on to a new job that will require a lot of his time. I completely understand this - in fact a favorite saying of mine is "That ass isn't going to shake itself." This means that when it's time to work, dammit it's time to work.

    RyuKen, I wish you well in all your endeavors. God will have his hand in all you do. To you, my friend, I say:

    How do I say goodbye to what we had?
    The good times that made us laugh
    Outweigh the bad.

    I thought we'd get to see forever
    But forever's gone away
    It's so hard to say goodbye to yesterday

    In closing, I would like the people of cyberspace to rest assured that I have no plans to remove my sexiness from you - that would be cruel and unusual punishment. And I look to damn good to not share it ;)

    Wednesday, August 4, 2010

    Chow Time

    Any one that has served in the U.S. military can tell you that the food pretty much sucks. Not all of it, but most of it - especially the food that is served in the "Field." Field food starts out F'n awful and gradually gets better; better being "not so F'n awful."

    In 1994 I was deployed to the island of Haiti and stationed in Port-au-Prince. As Third-world sh*t-holes go, this has to be in the top 5. When I arrived, I was a lean, mean 177 lb MACHINE! By the time we left, I was a 160 lb teenager that looked like he borrowed his dad's uniform to play soldier. How did I go from war-machine to a boyish figure you ask? 3 reasons: It was HOT, the food sucked, and it was HOT.

    During my time, when deployed you ate MRE's for the first 30 days. An MRE is a Meal, Read-to-Eat. It should really be called AIAB for Ass, In-a-Bag. Some vets will profess that the MRE is a great meal and will continue to eat them even when State-side. These people obviously are not the food connoisseur that I am and are deranged. The MRE contains a disgusting main dish, some crappy sides, and a horrible dessert. The most dreaded of the desserts is easily the "OATMEAL COOKIE BAR" also known as the "cork." To eat even half of this rectangular mesh of cardboard and raisins will stop production for at least 2 days. If you try to push through during this "stop-work" time, you can blow out an O-ring. So for 30 days we ate MRE's. Not 3 a day, but just 1. The food was so bad that we would actually stretch out a single MRE to last 12 hours. Besides the MRE, we had delicious water.

    After the 30 days, we went from MRE's to C-rations. This is when things get good! I know that it's not really a "C-ration" since those were discontinued in the 40's; but we call them that so that we can say "SEE! There is something just as bad as the MRE!" So, what ever this food was, it came in tins. Think of a lasagna pan that was packed with nasty tasting food, then sealed up and sent out to the service men and women fighting a war.

    The rations that I ate EVERY morning was a block/hunk of omelet, MRE bread, and water. For MONTHS, I ate this. I would wake up, get dressed, head over to the chow-line and get a hunk of eggs. Sometimes the eggs were yellow, sometimes they were orange. No matter really, neither looked like eggs. Just imagine a sheet cake. Now, instead of cake, think of a sponge (yellow or orange). Now, cut that sponge into squares, and now you have your very own military omelet. I didn't really understand just how bad this food was for quite sometime. I knew that it sucked in every way possible, but the depth of suckeditude was beyond me.

    You see, after we returned home from Operation Uphold Democracy, life went on as normal back in the States. After about 12-18 months of being State-side I was assigned to funeral detail with Sgt. Glemensky. Sgt. Glemensky was my team-lead since we were deployed to Haiti and we got along great - he was like a big brother and always watched out for me. Firm but fair and great man. About a week into our detail, a funeral came up in Pennsylvania. The funeral detail is like what you see on TV. We have a team that will carry the casket, fold the flag, and present it to the family. A second team is on site to deliver the 21 guns salute that our service members deserve.

    We had completed our detail and jumped on the bus headed back to New York. Just then, the patriarch of the family comes to our bus and declares that they are truly a military family and it would be an honor for us to have lunch with the grieving family. We usually do not do this, but this family would have considered it a dishonor.

    I don't remember where we were going, but I do remember that I was sitting next to Sgt. Glemensky. When we arrived at the restaurant, Sgt Glemensky and I had a quick conversation:

    Sgt Glemensky: Oh man! This place has the best bread pudding around
    Famous Ray: Bread pudding? I've never had that. What is it?
    You've had it before
    No I haven't. I don't even know what it is
    Yes you did. I was there when you ate it!
    When!? Where!?
    In Haiti
    I NEVER had bread pudding in Haiti
    Yeah you did, for breakfast
    I always ate eggs for breakfast
    Remember when your eggs were orange?
    That was bread pudding
    I MADE A SANDWICH OUT OF THAT EVERY DAY! How come you didn't say anything!?!
    Because you looked happy

    And for years I went on eating generally bad food. Breakfast was always eggs with grits or hashbrowns, because in the military you are only allowed 1 starch.Apparently you could only have eggs or bread pudding as well. The U.S. Army has produced some of the greatest leaders of our time; none of which are Gordan Ramsey.