Near-Death Experiences

With the observance of Memorial Day this past weekend and the earlier post I wrote about visiting the cemetery with my grandma, I got to thinking about death. This is not an issue that I think of often, so don’t think I am some dark morbid soul. Death simply interests me to a degree, and sometimes I will write about subjects relating to it, such as my burial vs. cremation post from a few months back.

But as I remembered some people who had passed this Memorial Weekend, especially some who had passed suddenly and at a far too young of age, I found myself thinking hard about a very amazing and mystical subject that has to do with death: near-death experiences.

I really can’t think of anything more fascinating than near-death experiences. To realize that there are people who have claimed to have passed on through to the other side and experienced heaven is such a profound and heavy claim because it speaks to confirm the most hotly contested question of humanity: Is there an afterlife? As a Catholic, my church would tell me to never rely on such near-death experience accounts to take the place of true faith but I can’t help but be intrigued.

I remember first becoming exposed to NDEs while watching “Unsolved Mysteries” when I was probably ten or eleven. I remember my breath being taken away at the whole process. Someone would get into a tragic car accident or almost drown and suddenly the person would rise out of their body, observe their own rescue effort, and then ascend into the heavens. Usually the person would then see a bright white light at the end of a tunnel. As they would travel/float through the tunnel they would have their life recounted on its walls. By the time the tunnel had ended they would have seen their whole life pass before them and the light would engulf on them and an indescribable sense of peace would fall over the person. Then, either verbally or non-verbally, they would receive word that it was not their time and they would be sent back to their earthly bodies.
After the “Unsolved Mysteries” episodes, I saw many more television programs that dealt with the same topic and contained the same themes. I also read magazine articles and case studies about NDEs. Again, many of the accounts were similar. I also came across a couple stories on people who did not go to heaven for their NDE…these petrified me.
However, I was always thirsty for a little more than just a ten minute TV segment or two page article. When I came home for the summer after my freshman year of college, my mom gave me two books that chronicled in rich detail the near-death experiences of two people. The first book I read was titled Embraced By The Light by Betty Eadie and the second book was called 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper. Both of these books are spectacular.
Out of the two books, By The Light was my favorite. It tells the story of the author who went into surgery and when things went wrong, she was taken into heaven. The book if I remember correctly is close to two hundred pages and it spares no details. To hear her explain the colors, music, and beauty of the afterlife is beyond this world (no pun intended). She claims to have been received by Jesus and in his presence every single question she ever had was answered. She too went through the tunnel that so many people describe. To her, her experience seemed like it went on for days. Her sense of peace was so sweet. It is incredible because I read the book six years ago and I still remember so many of the details. She got sent back to her  body and even when she was sent back she still had visions. In one of the more chilling parts of her account she describes laying in her hospital bed and being visited by creatures from hell. She could barely describe their ugliness. They tormented her for a very short time and then a presence from heaven appeared and they vanished. When she recovered and was released, she spent time in deep depression because earth was such a let down from the glory of heaven. However, after the depression faded, she had a new life outlook.  Although I ended this summary with some negative aspects, the book is overwhelmingly positive and glorious. A must read.
90 Minutes In Heaven is good too but it is more “preachy” so to speak. The guy who wrote the book and went through the NDE is a pastor so you can expect a language with a lot of religion included. Don was involved in a severe car accident and was pronounced dead at the scene. Like Eadie’s account, he describes magnificent colors and singing. He got to meet deceased relatives and like Eadie, his life was forever changed.
I definitely know that there are scientific theories that seek to explain these near-death experiences. I have read quick explanations of a few of them, many dealing with the brain receiving abnormal amounts of chemicals as the body reacts to the intense amount of stress it undergoes while facing impending death. But because of the minimal amount of reading I have done on these theories combined with the fact that science is not my strong point to begin with, I can’t speak too much about them.
I just feel that science can’t explain the shared experience that so many people have undergone. Also, the detailed accounts that people such as Eadie and Piper have recorded are just way too spectacular and thorough to be attributed simply to some extra active neurotransmitters.  Science is just not meant to explain everything.
Again, while I should not hang onto these amazing stories of the afterlife, it is hard not to find hope in them. I know a lot of people who have lost children or siblings turn to NDEs for a little bit of comfort. In a world that can be so bleak and scary at times, it is nice to look to someone who had passed to the other side for a short time who can confirm that something far better awaits us at the next stop. Definitely something to hold onto. Don’t Blink.

Memorial Day Weekend Recap

I must say that this past Memorial Day Weekend provided me with a much needed breath of fresh air. I traveled west to Seattle to watch the Seattle Mariners vs. Los Angeles Angels series. Sandwiched between my time in the Emerald City, I got to spend time in both Spokane and Ellensburg, making it so I divided my weekend in eastern, central, and western Washington.

As I mentioned in my Memorial Day post, I spent Thursday night in Spokane. Friday morning I traveled to Ellensburg where I met my brother. I got to meet his girlfriend as we had lunch at The Palace, a dive in downtown Ellensburg. After the meal, my brother and I made the 100 mile drive to Seattle.
Most ironic thing about this trip? The weather in Seattle was absolutely gorgeous. I am talking seventy degrees and sunny gorgeous…for all three days while we were there. We are talking about Seattle here! The most depressing city ever when it comes to weather. So while Missoula got to experience constant rain showers and gray skies, we got to bask in the glorious sunshine while watching baseball.
Ah yes, I just mentioned baseball. My brother and I attended the games on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Despite all the good luck I tried to channel the Mariners way it was in vain as they lost all three games. Brandon League blew it big time on Friday, Felix got rocked on Saturday, and the Angels were not going to let a sweep get away from them on Sunday. Believe it or not, the losses the Mariners suffered over the weekend added to a pathetic streak for me. I have now seen the Mariners lose eight consecutive games at Safeco Field. I am waiting for the team management to ban me from entering the stadium gates from now on.
Me, Travis (our gracious host), and Glen hung out the whole weekend

Despite the disappointing final results, we had a great time enjoying the games. Nothing beats watching Major League Baseball on a beautiful day/night in an awesome facility like Safeco Field. My brother and I had a great time arriving at the park early each day, watching batting practice, drinking beer, eating peanuts, watching the starting pitchers warm up in the bullpen, and then watching the games from a variety of different seats and angles.  We also had a great time catching up with friends who also happened to be at the park. On Friday, Glen hung out with his friend Matt and his girlfriend, Marie. I got to hang out with my friend (and host), Travis. I also got to see a couple of my former interns, Nick and Johnny, on Friday night as well. For Saturday’s game, Glen’s former baseball teammate, Derrick, was at the game with his girlfriend, Kim. Travis joined us for the game too. And wouldn’t you know it, I ran into former Lady Griz star Sarah Ena at Saturday’s game. Come Sunday’s matinee game at 1:10pm, it was just my bro and I living it up.

Me, Travis, Glen, and Derrick enjoying baseball, sun, and beers.

Besides our time at the ballpark, we did other fun things in Seattle as well. Each time before entering Safeco Field, we would go down Occidental Avenue and check out the plethora of food vendors and scarf down a hot dog. Night time was fun too! Travis lives in west Seattle and the first night we went to a German bar called Prost in that area. We drank good ol’ fashioned German beer out of Oktoberfest mugs and we also drank a boot! With the help from two nice girls, the five of us managed to drink the whole boot without ever letting it touch the ground. After the game on Saturday, we went to an artsy pizza place called Stellar’s. Because I couldn’t resist, I neglected to get their signature item and ordered macaroni and cheese instead. My brother and Travis split one of their specialty pies that they made quick work of. My brother said I missed out big time. After dinner we went back to Travis’ house for a bit and then we took a taxi out to the Fremont District. One of Travis’ friends, Heather, was having a birthday party at one of the bars. We started their and sampled a few of the establishment’s 100+ beers and then made it to a couple other bars in the area. Definitely a good time.

Glen and Travis enjoying themselves.

After the game on Sunday, my brother and I drove back to Ellensburg. I decided to stay with him for the night and for the first time ever, I got to go out in “The Burg”. I had a great time hanging with him and his girlfriend as he showed me his stomping grounds. Staying true to the roots of the Reser Boys, we even checked out their casino, the Wild Goose.

Myself and Glen’s girlfriend, Claire.
Monday morning I drove back to Spokane, took care of some items, and ate a fabulous BBQ rib dinner that my parents and I ate outside on their back deck on another beautiful Washington night. By that time the weekend had started to catch up to me. I went to bed, slept like a rock, got up at 4:30am this morning, and drove back to Missoula for the work day. Not a bad weekend.
This weekend was much needed. It was so nice to get out of Missoula for a little bit. I love the city with all my heart, but it really is a bubble. Because of the negativity that has lingered around the Zoo for the past few months, it was so refreshing to get out for a weekend. On Sunday, I wore my Griz gear to Safeco Field. I was overwhelmed with all the random people who yelled “Go Griz” at me and who came up and gave me a high five. Not one person had one negative thing to say. It just added to the pride and devotion that I have towards my place of work and alma matter. Others will sound alarms and do whatever they can to try to bring down something that they don’t fully appreciate or understand, but their attempts are futile.  Griz Nation is so strong, and although I have always known this, it didn’t hurt to have this message reinforced, even if it occurred 500 miles away from home.
A lot of people in Seattle let me know how much they love the Griz.

Thank you Glen for another great trip. Best brothers ever! Claire, it was so nice to meet you. Travis, thanks for being such a great host. Scott Downs, thank you so much for tossing us all of those balls. Thanks to everyone for making this a great Memorial Day Weekend. Don’t Blink.

Happy Memorial Day

Happy Memorial Day Weekend everyone! I hope you all have a wonderful extended weekend and have a nice gear up for the summer season.

Yes, I will be having fun this Memorial Day Weekend but I do remember a time when I actually honored what Memorial Day is all about. My family comes from Walla Walla, Washington. We still have a lot of family living down there. When my grandparents were still living, we would usually go down to Walla Walla to spend the weekend with them. I still remember the Memorial Day trips to the history-filled cemetery with my grandma. As I have said before, I have a fascination with cemeteries and I think that interest really sparked with these Memorial Day outings. Anyway, my brother, sister, and I would get in the car with my grandma and we would drive to Mountain View Cemetery. Armed with probably a dozen different plants we would make the rounds. We would go to the Catholic portion of the yard and we would go right to the plot reserved for all of the priests. Grandma would put a plant on a couple of the stones of the most recently deceased priests who had served her parish church, St. Francis of Assisi. Then, we would go to the Italian section of the cemetery (right next to the Catholic section of course), and pay respects to her (our) family. We would put plants on the tombstones of her siblings and my grandpa’s siblings and other relatives who had passed. At each stop she would talk to the tombstone, and if it was someone who we had never met, she would “introduce” us. These chats were always very sweet and filled with love. Lastly, in the early years, she would visit the gravesite of her deceased daughter. Unfortunately, by the time I was thirteen, she was visiting the gravesites of two of her daughters. These were definitely very sad and emotional times, and believe me, the significance was not lost on a thirteen year old boy.

This weekend I am off to Seattle for the Mariners-Angels series. As I write this, I am in Spokane at my parents’ house.  Last night after work I traveled from Missoula to Spokane. After a great night of hospitality bestowed on me by my parents, I am just about ready to head out the door to Ellensburg where I will meet my brother. After lunch, we will make the short drive to Seattle. We will be watching the games tonight, tomorrow, and Sunday so we will definitely get our baseball fix in.
Once again, Happy Memorial Day! What a great time to honor and remember everyone has passed on, especially the brave souls who have served our country in the armed forces. Have a safe holiday and take some time to reflect. Don’t Blink.

Interesting, Ridiculous, and Appalling

One thing about being a Twitter addict and having the feeds of numerous news organizations going directly to your iPhone text inbox is that you are always constantly reading articles throughout the day. As one of these addicts myself, I have my face glued to my phone much more than I should. Usually I will breeze through an article and move on. Sometimes, if I find an article particularly interesting, ridiculous, or appalling, I will pass it along through my own Twitter account. Well wouldn’t you know it? Today I set a record and tweeted out three news articles, one that represents each criterion I just mentioned. For tonight’s post I would simply like to share each article with you and add a little bit of my terrible commentary.

Interesting –

There is something that interests me about people who keep exotic animals. I find it a little fascinating the attitudes that some of these people have that tells them it is okay to take a creature outside of its natural and geographical habitat and raise it inside their humble home.

If this is not bad enough already, many of these exotic animal owners just don’t want these creatures for their own private enjoyment, they want to exploit them and draw attention just not to the animal but to themselves as well. Many people will accomplish this goal by taking the animal to a parking lot, the Las Vegas strip, an outdoor festival, or….in this case….a bar??
Some guy, who looks half dead by his mug shot, put his pet ZEBRA in the cab of his pickup truck and his pet parrot on his shoulder and drove to a bar. The freak show gets out of the pickup and walks into the bar and the bartender tells them to leave…YOU THINK?!?! The rejected trio gets back in the vehicle and by the time they are all settled in the cops show up and arrest the guy for OWI (Operating While Intoxicated). Who would ever bring any type of pet into a bar, let alone a ZEBRA?! Very interesting for sure.
Ridiculous –

Jose Canseco is a nut. If you follow his Twitter account (@JoseCanseco) you would be more than surprised to hear some of the outlandish, self-serving, uncensored “gems” that he pounds out. Spelling errors, exaggerations, threats, innuendo, and curse words make up the gist of his account. He for no reason at all implied that Al Gore had died. He claimed he could hit a golf ball 380 yards. He said that global warming could have saved the Titanic. The sad part? His Twitter account only describes about half of how psychotic he actually is.

Bryan Curtis from ESPN.com interviewed Canseco over the course of a night and the things that the former major league player said and did provided for one very ridiculous column. Curtis portrays Canseco as an easily distracted person, an aloof teammate, and an egotistical maniac. In the interview Canseco ridicules Curtis, talks politics, defends Mark McGuire, touches on his mission to be a write-in selection to this year’s all-star team, disses Greg Maddux, and talks about being the phantom of baseball.

When Curtis asks Canseco how he wants to die, he responds, “Hopefully having sex in bed.” Go on, give the article a read.

Appalling –

UPDATE: Please read the comments from the Sandpoint students at the conclusion of this post. I must be fair in this blog and give them their chance to respond. It seems as if the facts were exaggerated a little bit. I will keep what I initally wrote below as a testament to my ignorance of not knowing the whole story.

The Spokesman-Review reported on a senior “prank” carried out by the Sandpoint High School Class of 2012. I put quotes around prank because it really was not a prank at all…it was just destruction.

Twenty-nine of the seniors broke into the school late at night with a key they stole from a school counselor and wreaked havoc. The students wrote on doors and windows, put Vaseline on the door knobs, and urinated in the hallways.

I am all for a good senior prank but I appreciate one that is funny and clever.  Vandalism is vandalism and totally misses the mark of pulling off something memorable that people will be able to look back on and laugh about years down the road. Way to tarnish any respect or fondness that your class will ever have at that school.

Perhaps the most appalling part of this whole ordeal is that the students who participated in this goat rope still get to walk in the graduation ceremony. The violators will have to perform fifteen hours of public service, pay back the $1,000 in damages they caused, and help set up/tear down for the graduation ceremony. Talk about getting off easy.
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Nothing ever ceases to amaze me. We live in a crazy world where thousands of crazy things occur each and every day. Thank God for Twitter. Don’t Blink.

Tough Advice From Dad

In life it is easy to sometimes lose track of the future, especially when you follow the all powerful  credo of “Don’t Blink,” a statement that emphasizes the live-in-the-moment type lifestyle. Since graduating college I have had an amazing time working a job I love, meeting great people, and having a lot of fun. Before an hour ago if you asked me how I viewed my present existence I would probably respond with “successful.” Well, sometimes it takes a dad to bring you down to earth.

I don’t talk to my dad that much. Mind you, this has nothing to do with a strained relationship or different personalities contrasting. In fact, it is the exact opposite, my dad and I have a great relationship and many people will tell you that we are clones of each other. But with our work schedules, locations in different states, and an amazing ability to prolong a game of phone tag, we probably talk about once every three weeks. Many times our conversations are pretty basic and quick: “How are you? How is the weather in Montana? How is work? What did you have for dinner? You get a hair cut yet? Talk to you later, love you.” Sometimes though when we are both at our respective houses and are not multi-tasking, a little more of an in depth conversation will take course, and my dad will make sure to subtly (or sometimes not so subtly) step on my toes a little bit. Tonight was one of those nights.
My dad and I last summer.

As I said above and what usually comes through on this blog is that I like to have fun. I like to take trips, I like to go to concerts, I like to go out, I like to eat good food, and I like to live for the moment. This May marked the third year anniversary of my graduation from college. Shortly after graduating I found employment at Grizzly Athletics. Since then, I have kind of celebrated the “young professional lifestyle” – live up life now and enjoy yourself while you can! Up until this point I kind of thought it was my right, something that I was entitled to.

My dad chipped away at my mindset a little bit tonight. God bless my dad too, because it was not like he assaulted me with everything that I am doing wrong, rather he sprinkled his words of wisdom throughout a twenty minute conversation. While talking about the golf tournament he played in this past weekend in Redmond, Washington, he somehow managed to transition into schooling. “So Brent, have you thought anymore about getting your Master’s?” This question of course sent me reeling a little bit. Yes, I think about it a lot but I would have to make plenty of sacrifices to pursue it at this time. My social life would definitely take a hit, I would have to get back into student mode again, and I would most definitely have to find a more suitable living arrangement. Not to mention I don’t know where I will be career wise in six months, let alone three years (time it takes to apply, enroll, and then complete a program). I answer “Yeah dad, I am thinking a lot about it. I know it’s important.” My dad responds “Now is a great time for you to do this. You are young, unattached, and got your whole career in front of you. It will make you much more marketable. No one can take that away from you.” Point taken.

We get out of that conversation and start talking about family and the Mariners and how our family cat, Nabisco, is doing. Again, my dad switches from the softball topics and launches into a discussion on my financial status. After questioning my plans to travel to Las Vegas for the third time in twelve months he just asks me straight up: “How are you doing savings wise? You bringing in more than you are spending?” When it comes to money management in our family, I am 100x more responsible than my brother. The way he spends money is nothing short of ridiculous. Please, read a previous post I wrote on how someone who is barely twenty-one can blow through $25,000 in record time. But obviously, my dad was not asking about my brother, he was asking about me. Over the past two years I have become a little more liberal with my finances. I use my debit card like it is going out of style. However, I do live within my means, but I could do a lot better. I respond “Yeah dad, you know me, I have a handle on what I can and can’t do. At this point, my bank account is steady enough.” My dad replies, “Okay, remember to be responsible. You are not going to be young forever. It is important to save and build up. Be smart.”  Okay, I am taking this advice to the bank.

After talking about the end of my brother’s collegiate baseball career, he switches gears to my career. He asks me how work is going and how I am holding up with everything that our department has gone through in the past couple months. Truth of the matter is, my parents are the only ones who I talk with about this subject.  It is a little too personal and a little too emotional to talk to anyone else besides them (and co-workers). I fill him in and then he non-chalantly asks about what my next career move is. My dad loves what I do and always asks if we could switch jobs but he reminds me to “Keep my options open.”
With that little bit of advice we BS a little bit more and then we say good night so he can get to bed by 8pm (Hey, when you are 55 your sleep is important…especially when you have to get up at 4am). I put down my phone neglecting to check the text messages that came in over the past twenty minutes and kind of sulk a little bit. Coming from the person I respect the most I need to get a higher degree, make changes on how I spend my money, and not get too comfortable at my job…basically, I need to GROW UP. Talk about a reality check!
I have the best dad in the world. Although tough to take in, he is right. My dad is my biggest supporter and is always the first one to compliment/congratulate me. But he is also not afraid to call me out. For that, I am thankful. Don’t Blink.

Keep Your Word

I have faith in the generation that I belong to and I feel that forty years from now, we will have contributed a lot more to society than what generations before us expect us to. However, one common knock on the Millennial generation is that we are soft, a little lazy so to speak.  While I am a big supporter of all of us who were born in the time period of 1980-2000, I have to agree that this characterization is all too true.

Many young people today give up way too easily. For many of us, we simply don’t value our word as much as we should. In a day and age where instant, non face-to-face communication is readily available, many of us don’t think twice about canceling engagements, calling in sick, or dramatically altering plans. Oh, something happens to come up at the last minute that you want to do instead of honoring the plans you already had with someone? Go ahead and send a quick text to the person you are ditching on, you are covered now.

Not so fast…

Now, now, now, let me point out that this blog post is not written in heat of the moment frustration. I make sure to reflect on topics such as this far in advance. Truth of the matter is, I have not felt the sting of the “Generation Millennial Laziness Bug” for a good amount of time now, so I believe I can have a clear head when writing this…but sometimes that angry passion still kicks in.

We need to start valuing our word a little more. No, we need to start valuing our word a lot more. As I have hit on time and time again, in this crazy world that we live in, there are only so many things that we can control. Thankfully, we can take full ownership of the promises and plans that we make and honor them.  True, we all make plans and commitments with the best of intentions. Then life will sometimes get in the way and hit us with challenges, setbacks, alternatives, and/or more desirable options. It definitely tests the will of a person to either follow through on his/her original word or to succumb to the previously listed factors and retract.

In life it is hard not to be selfish. I mean it is only natural to “do me” (Thanks “Jersey Shore”).  Life is too short to be constrained by promises and commitments, right? Baloney. While it is vitally important to take time for ourselves, we need to first and foremost honor others.

Here is the absolute heart of what I am saying: If you make plans to do something with someone, do it. It does not matter if it is a date that you quickly set up that morning, a concert that you had planned for a couple months, a party that you RSVP’d to, a business meeting that you set up, or a trip that you had organized…follow through on your word.

I totally understand that life throws all of us curve balls and it changes the way we feel and messes with our mind set. But that is the thing, life throws all of us curve balls. I understand that mentally you might have had a tough go or that a better offer might have come along or you might be feeling a little under the weather but SO WHAT? You already made a commitment to another person, how can you use that as an excuse to go back on your word? The generations before us along with many people in our own generation (let me give us some credit) wouldn’t let a more attractive offer, some sickness, or emotional baggage derail what had already been set up ahead of time so why should we?

What I always have the hardest time deciphering is how in the very end, right before we decide to make the call/text/e-mail to the other person that we are scratching the plans, how doesn’t an alert go off in our heads that asks “What about the other person?” At this point I understand that the value of our own word and our own reputation means very little because we are damn close to putting the kibosh on everything, but isn’t there some sort of last ditch effort that our conscious employs on us on behalf of the other person? Don’t we think about what they have invested in the plans? Don’t we realize that we could cost the other person (or people) time, money, and pride? Isn’t this the point where we put someone else before ourselves, no matter how shitty we are feeling?

If you absolutely have to cancel on someone, have some guts and either seek them out and talk to them face-to-face or call them. Don’t be a coward and send a text. Also, give them ample time. The last minute ditch operation is one of the biggest screw jobs you could give to someone. Again, just keep the other person in mind.

I choose good friends. By the luck of the draw, I have an amazing family. I got some of hardest working and loyal co-workers anyone could ask for. I pick classy and selfless girls to date. Because of this, I experience the disappointment I have chronicled in this post on a minimal basis. But the rare times I have experienced it, the negative impact has been so profound that I felt the need to write this post. My high school freshman football coach was always fond of saying “It’s too damn easy to quit.” It really is. Never take the easy way out on life and never take the easy way out on others. Don’t Blink.

Dollar Stores

This past Friday I reviewed the Burger Shack and when I was describing its location I mentioned that it was by the “..most disgusting dollar store you could ever imagine….” I never know what people are going to latch onto when I write my blog posts, many times something that I jotted down without even thinking about will generate discussion amongst my readers. So while my dollar store comment didn’t really turn heads or generate controversy, I did have two people ask me to clarify my remark. “Why is this dollar store so disgusting?”  Well, not only am I going to answer that question for my two dedicated readers, I am also going to dedicate a whole post to the king of discount shopping, the dollar store.

I make fun of dollar stores a lot. I chuckle at the elementary concept of such places, look down at the depressing atmosphere, and question the quality of the merchandise.  I place dollar stores in a lower echelon than Wal-Mart. But let me make one thing clear: I do go to dollar stores. Though I try to make these trips as sparingly as possible, I have to call out my own hypocrisy, and admit that I do shop at these places that I seem to look down on so much.
So if I do actually shop at dollar stores from time to time, I obviously see something of value in them. Let me start this post on a positive note and explain what lures me to these discount shops:
Greeting Cards: During graduation season, any holiday, or a time of the year where a lot of birthdays seem to be happening, dollar stores can save a lot of money. I am a card guy. I love sending them through the mail and handing them out personally. At a place such as the Dollar Tree, you can purchase heavy duty cards at 2-for-a-$1.  You buy a regular Hallmark card and many times it will cost you $3.99 or more.
Dress Up Props: When I dress up for St. Patrick’s Day, Halloween, or just random party nights, many times I purchase accessories such as hats, necklaces, leis, and props at the dollar store. It is convenient because they always have a decent selection and because the investment is so low you can heavily use/abuse whatever you buy while you are having fun and not worry. In fact, every prop that I purchase at the dollar store usually never makes it home with me after the event.
Plastic/Paper Plates, Bowls, Silverware: Need to buy cheap plates and silverware for your picnic or for your pizza party? The dollar store is a great option. Not only is everything just one buck, but you have many more choices when it comes to colors and designs than just a regular store.
Wrapping Paper: At Christmas time, the dollar store is a savior for wrapping paper. Just go in the store real fast, spend $10, and now you got ten rolls of different wrapping paper that will last you the whole holiday season. Just beware, Christmas time in any dollar store is a complete goat rope.
However, if I don’t need cards, props, silverware, or wrapping paper, I am avoiding dollar stores. The agony starts for me right when I walk in and the smell hits me. How do I explain that smell? I think the only word I can think of is cheap. I liken the smell of dollar stores to the smell of all those little souvenir shops that line the Las Vegas strip. There seem to be a million of them but yet every single one has the exact same inventory AND that exact same smell.
The disorganization of these stores tends to turn me off quite a bit too. Cleaning the aisles, picking up fallen merchandise, and tidying up is an afterthought. Although I understand why this might be low priority considering every item in the store is worth a dollar and frankly most people aren’t there to admire the cleanliness of the place, it  scares me away a little bit. I like doing business in places where I feel that customers have an organized, healthy environment to shop in.
But let’s get real here, the major reason why I have an extremely tough time shopping at a dollar store centers directly on the products. While I can buy a greeting card or some wrapping paper, I would never touch any of their personal care items, cleaning supplies, or heaven forbid, their food items. How there are not legions of health code violations against these places I have no idea. I think I would legitimately fear for my health if I ever consumed something such as bread, milk, or hot dogs from a dollar store. I am adventurous when it comes to food, I will eat mostly anything, but I cross the line at eating a can of pasta manufactured by a brand that I had never heard of in my life that comes from a small town on the east coast that carries a company logo that looks like a first grader created. No thank you. I hate to sound so uppity, but I am repulsed at the food section of dollar stores. I keep my distance.

Finally, I just get uncomfortable at  the whole notion of checking out at these places. Dollar stores draw a lot of customers to their stores so obviously lines build up. While I would like to think that the process could go a little faster considering price checks are never really needed, sometimes you can stand in line a long time. This is where I start to feel a little uneasy. I kind of feel the people in front of me and in back of me looking at what I have in my basket and instantly judging me… “Wow, look at this cheapskate, he has to come to the dollar store to buy ______ . Desperate loser.”  I prefer to forgo this part of my shopping experience, yet another reason why I avoid dollar stores.

Before closing out, let me make a distinction that will bring me all the way back to the start of this post. There are some dollar stores that are much more unsavory than others. At the high end of the spectrum you have the reputable chain stores, such as Dollar Tree. If I have to go to a dollar store, I am going to a Dollar Tree. Although not my first shopping preference (or second…or third…or fourth…etc), I trust them before any other dollar places. What I watch out for and what I will refuse to go into unless in an absolute emergency are some of these mom and pop dollar stores that you will see in various towns.  Many of these places are just hold outs for junk. They take up residence in grimy areas and you have to enter the store in a specific way and exit in a specific way to appease the paranoia of the owners who cater to some interesting folks. Don’t let the term “dollar store” fool you either. Many of their items are not even a dollar. Oh, you didn’t see those handwritten signs scribbled on post-it notes alerting you to this fact? Much of the inventory of some of these stores would not even make it to the front porch of a yard sale. You thought some of the brands at the Dollar Tree were off-shoot? Try finding a brand even to begin with on some of the products at these places. My best advice?: Stay Away.

We live in an economy where we need to spend our money wisely and conservatively. Sometimes, shopping at a Dollar Tree is the best option. I understand that. I just like to have a little fun with the dollar store “culture”. I am fully aware that sometime in the future I might be on a dollar store budget and have to make regular trips to the nearest Dollar Tree. When that time comes, please be sure to e-mail me the link to this post. Don’t Blink.

Missoula Burger Shack Review

Tonight I felt like a burger but I wanted to add in a little twist. I don’t eat at McDonalds, I think Five Guys is overrated, and I didn’t feel like going to a busy sit down restaurant like Montana Club or Paradise Falls. It was definitely the perfect night to try out the Burger Shack.

The Burger Shack is a hole in the wall place located in the Holiday Village shopping center. For all of you who don’t know much about Missoula, the Holiday Village area is in a less than glamorous location, right off of one of our main streets, Brooks.  In this area you got a CVS, a ghetto casino, the most disgusting dollar store you could ever imagine, a sketchy Chinese buffet, and a second hand clothing shop. Nestled in between all of these locations is the Burger Shack, an artisan hamburger shop that took the place of a questionable Mexican restaurant that I never had the guts to try. However, with my craving for a burger and based on the recommendations of a couple people, I was ready to take a chance.
The outside of the Burger Shack

If you had to guess how nice the Burger Shack would be inside based on its exterior and its close proximity with the other businesses I just mentioned, you would probably keep your expectations rather low…and that would be a smart move. You definitely are not entering a place meant to impress even the lowest aesthetic expectations. About eight tables cover the hardwood floor of the small space. A counter in the back right hand corner serves as the post for the lone Burger Shack employee I saw. Their soda fountain is at the back of the restaurant but is not enclosed by the counter so it is out in the open although the employee is in charge of serving all the drinks/refills. The walls are covered with pictures of their various hamburgers. Also taking up lots of wall space are typed out 8.5 x 11 construction paper signs plastered all around advertising things such as their various specials and their man vs. food challenge (will explain this later).

The inside of the Burger Shack.

So while the place could scare away someone like my mom who has a bit classier needs than myself, I didn’t really care about the modest surroundings. I tend to judge a restaurant based on its food rather than its scenery. Unless a place is a total disgusting hell hole, I have no problem eating in a rustic environment.

The minute our very helpful waiter brought over the menu, I immediately tweeted that I was in burger heaven. I would guess that the menu featured around twenty different burgers to choose from. All starting at 1/2lb patties, my mouth was watering at some of the available choices. You could get a spicy southern burger, a breakfast burger, a philly cheesesteak burger, a Mexican burger, a chili cheese burger, a BBQ sauce/bacon/onion ring burger, and many more. It was an absolutely daunting decision. I think for the first time ever, we had to tell the waiter twice that we needed just a couple more minutes to order. That’s how tough it was to choose. To top it all off? That was just one side of the menu! From what Dan told me, the backside had a full range of sandwiches and cheesesteaks that were also available. I never made it that far.
I ended up ordering the inside out burger. That’s correct, the inside out burger. As the name implies, this was a stuffed burger. Cooked inside the patty was fresh cut bacon and gorgonzola cheese. Dan ordered the ranchero burger, a spicy creation that came drizzled in chipotle sauce with peppers and pepper jack cheese.  All burgers come on soft, fluffy buns with all of the regular fixings. In addition, you also get to choose one side to compliment your burger. Sides include french fries, garlic fries, sweet potato fries, onion rings, cole slaw, kettle chips, and a couple others that I can’t remember. I chose the garlic fries and Dan got the chips.
Me with my burger. Just about to dig in.

How did my burger taste? Amazing. I bit into it, and cheese started oozing out, carrying the bacon pieces with it. Both the bun and patty were so tender, a real treat to dig into. When our waiter first brought out our burger baskets, mine did not look too incredibly big for being a half pound, but looks are deceiving. I took a big initial bite into the burger and when I put it back down in the basket, I realized it looked as if I had just take a small nibble of it. It really was a beast. I admit that I felt a little guilty eating it because I could feel the alarms going off in my body singling an unhealthy assault on my digestive system but I couldn’t stop. It was a taste of true burger bliss.

Close up of my burger. Wish I would have taken a picture of the inside of it.
Dan thoroughly enjoyed his burger as well. Dripping in sweat, he swore that the Burger Shack is by  far the best burger in town.
Dan enjoying every single bite of his ranchero burger.

My garlic fries were nothing to write home about. I would say they were lacking in flavor. But I have to say that I put all fries of that nature to an extremely hard test because I evaluate them based on the Seattle Mariners’ garlic fries…the absolute best concession snack in professional sports. Dan said his chips were good.

The biggest knock on the Burger Shack? It would probably be the price. Most burgers are $10.25. So while they are pricey, especially by Missoula standards, you are definitely not getting ripped off. The hamburgers are top notch quality, freshness is probably the word that stands out most to me when describing them. Also, they are a half pound. And remember, you get a side as well plus a dipping sauce. You will definitely leave the restaurant with a full stomach.
Before I close out, I would like to shine a little light on their “Man vs. Food” challenge that they offer. Titled the Triple Shack Attack, the place will prepare for you a heart attack on a plate that is made of the following: 6 patties, 6 slices of cheese, 12 pieces of bacon, 3 buns, and 1 pound of french fries. If you manage to eat the whole thing in a half hour, you receive $100 in free food (The Triple Shack Attack costs $45 to make). To this date, only two people have attempted it. One completed it, the other didn’t. Both have their picture on the wall…one under the heading of “Wall of Fame” the other under the heading of “Wall of Shame.” I think it is sad that this challenge is so unknown in Missoula. I think it would be fun for different local celebrities and personalities to give it a try. Then again, it is no wonder that the challenge is so unknown when the actual restaurant itself is relatively untapped by the community.
I strongly recommend indulging in the Burger Shack. For anyone who likes hamburgers, it is a must. The burgers are fun, tasty, and big. The service is also great. While I did give the actual restaurant itself a hard time, just have fun with it. Eating in a dive is actually a great experience. Give this local Missoula restaurant some love and sink your teeth into one of Burger Shack’s mouth-watering burgers. After your first visit, as you walk out the door you will already be thinking about the new burger you will try next time. Don’t Blink.

The Male Side of Social Media Drama

About seven months ago, I published a post that dealt with social media drama. In that post, I kind of specifically singled out girls as the ones who really take it to new levels and instigate most of it. However, I have to be fair. While I still maintain that women will engage in SM tactics that add fuel to the fire when it comes to relationship issues, men also contribute to cyberspace BS. They just do it in different ways.

As I have also written about before, while I am a big proponent of the power of sports message boards and the idea behind it, I am critical of the users who freely give out their “wisdom” on issues that they know very little about. I must admit that I have one more problem with message boards and similar outlets that I have not addressed before: the constant back-and-forth insult warfare between users that always seems to pop up.
Like I said, I support message boards. They provide an outlet for fans to engage in conversation and debate about their favorite teams. It is also a good way to connect with other people of similar interests and to belong to a non-conventional type of community. Additionally, for someone like me, I have an extra stake in such a service as the place that I work for is the main topic for one of these message boards. In the state of Montana, eGriz.com is the premiere and most popular online discussion forum. Although often critical of Grizzly Athletics and sometimes directly critical of the job I personally do, it helps to keep the Griz relevant and the passion flowing. It also keeps us in check. I appreciate that.
But it doesn’t matter if you visit eGriz, overthemonster.com, or TideFans.com, if you click on just about any thread, you are bound to see bickering and fighting between faceless users. Many of the people who visit and post on these sites are grown men yet a certain percentage of them will act like thirteen year old entitled brats. Profanity, name calling, and sarcasm are all “weapons” that some users will use against others. Many times, a thread that once started as a quality discussion on a certain prominent subject will turn into a pissing match between two overly opinionated dudes who are hiding behind their computers.
I mean it is easy to understand why something like this happens. Sports are a very controversial subject, one of the reasons that make them so awesome. But when something is controversial, strong opinions are going to be held. While it is fine to have a strong opinion, it is also crucial to remember not to become overly defensive about that opinion. When this happens, the common sense filter dissipates and uncensored blasts start to make it through the waves of cyberspace.
When I start to see a thread go from civil conversation to a head-to-head challenge of one’s manhood, I usually do one thing before I click out of it: I try to visualize the people participating in the feud. For instance, on one side I picture some fifty year old overweight, unemployed guy down in his basement surrounded by empty beer cans  fuming mad pounding away on his computer, ready to snap back at the latest comment directed at him. Once he submits his scathing response, the blow hard accountant a hundred miles away who is sitting in his home office angrily shrugs off his wife who needs help with the crying baby because he needs to come back with a rebuttal…pathetic, I know.
I don’t understand how guys allow themselves to participate in these public arguments. I would be completely embarrassed if I got as out of hand as some message board users do. Is the allure of anonymity that powerful? In some cases it is not even that. For sites such as eGriz and other message boards that have been around for a long time and have a more centralized fan base, people actually know one another. So while you can hide behind a computer, you can’t hide behind some username because everyone knows who you already are. Yes, what you say and how you conduct yourself will be attributed to you. How some people realize this but still continue to rattle off personal attacks and cuss words amazes me.
I know I am not offering groundbreaking advice and I know this problem is never going to go away but here are my three pieces of advice when posting on any online forum (message board, Facebook, Twitter, etc.):
1. Never personally attack someone.
2. If someone personally attacks you, offer a civil response.
3. If the person continues to attack you, just ignore them. It is not worth engaging in an argument with a moron and the chances are that the online community will police the situation for you.
As I am fond of saying, actions done and opinions expressed over social media don’t go away. While you can delete what you post, you can’t undo someone’s ability to print out your words, screen capture it, or re-print them elsewhere. Have some personal pride. As is cliché in the message board world, don’t say something behind a computer that you wouldn’t say to someone’s face. And yes, I realize that many people with way too strong opinions who post on these boards would say whatever they wrote to the other person’s face but you get my point…keep it decent.
If you don’t have self respect for your character and reputation though, please just refrain from insult wars out of respect for everyone else on the board. Again, these message boards are great for fan discussion and for the building of community. However, it only takes one person to tell someone off and for the other person to take the bait before an engaging discussion about a new recruit turns into a totally off topic mud-slinging fest.
Keep the discussion going! Just remember to respect others and respect yourself. These forums are about something bigger (such as a team, a program, a league, etc.) than Fan4Life3456’s beef with DieHardSupporter9111. Let’s not degrade a great thing. Don’t Blink.

The F Bomb

I appreciate the English language and I do advocate the usage of it in its intended and proper form. However, I do know that certain events, cultural situations, and environments call for a modified version of the language. Many times, our language is sprinkled with profanity. Ever watch a rated R movie? Ever read a crime novel? Ever play in sports? Ever just walk down the street? Cuss words are pretty much all around us and if you don’t have young kids around or you are not a church lady, chances are that these curse words are second nature to you and even come out of your own mouth from time to time. It is just a part of life.

But there is a distinct difference about using profanity from time to time and using it every other word. There are people who I encounter who have a problem with profanity, specifically the F word.

I think people use the F word over and over for a variety of reasons: they want to fit in, look cool, act tough, emphasize a point, display emotion, and/or command attention. Many people say it without even noticing they are saying it, a truly sad situation.  But what these people don’t understand is that many of us laugh behind their backs and take them for unintelligent morons when 50% of their spoken word is a derivative of the four letter word that starts with “fu” and ends with “ck”. Do people understand that there is little honor with dropping it? Everyone can utter the word, there is no special trick to it.  There is no cleverness or thought.

When guys abuse the word, it is one thing. I mean come on, us men are idiots anyway. Pretty much everything we are going to say minus the F word is going to be dumb so why not add onto the stupidity and constantly repeat a thoughtless word to go with our thoughtless opinions and sentences?
However, I think it is a real shame and a TURN OFF when women resort to clinging to F!@# as their go to word. A woman who constantly uses the F word, in my opinion, sacrifices her class and feminism that guys find irresistible.
People who use the F word as a defense mechanism need to give it up. When a discussion between two people about any subject starts to get pretty heated, you can immediately tell who the least confident and weaker opponent in the debate is: It is the one who has to resort to cuss words to pad their point. Because they don’t have enough content to back up their argument, they throw in the F bomb to try to give off an allusion of superiority and toughness. Nothing signals a weaker link than this. I know a girl who has different viewpoints regarding sports and other areas of life from me. From time to time, arguments would occur. I always knew I had her because the F bombs would start flying left and right. Sorry, your anger speaks so loud I can’t hear a word you are saying.
If you are going to use the F word, know when the appropriate time to use it is. Yes, during your poker game, when your team gets beat in the last inning, and when you stub your toe at your house are all acceptable times to use it. Don’t use it while talking to someone at the office, driving your kids to school, or at the supermarket. If you don’t have enough respect for yourself to defend your reputation, then at least have enough respect for the others around you (especially children) who should not be subjected to your potty mouth.
While saying the F word aloud is bad enough, some people act even stupider and will write it in e-mails, texts, and social media posts. I honestly never know what is going through the minds of people who will go on Facebook and write an expletive-laden status or post on a “like” page a comment that repeatedly uses the F bomb. In the age of iPhone screen captures, it is beyond me why people will type in profanity that would bring embarrassment to the person’s whole family if the recipient ever decided to share the texts. It should be just a general rule to never use the F word in any type of written correspondence.
Choose your time and place to utter that rare F bomb (if you even have to). Be sure to make it impactful. Refrain from using it out of anger. Keep in mind that the only people who can really get away with overusing the F bomb are gangster movie actors, rappers, and Samuel L. Jackson. Remember, people do take note of how you communicate. Repeatedly using a word that is synonymous with laziness will not get you very far. Clean up your language and say something meaningful. Don’t Blink.