Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Boulder City Primary Election Predictions 2019

Several people have asked me if I was again going to make predictions this election, like I did last election. I have been somewhat reluctant, mostly because I have not been as involved this year. This is largely because I have decided to continue my schooling. But, as I walked into city hall to vote today (a mistake, since voting at BC city hall doesn't start until tomorrow) I decided I would go ahead and make my predictions public.

To start, I want to say that I am very impressed with who we have running this year. I don't know all the candidates but all those I know, care about the city and would all do a decent job. I think no matter the outcome, the city will be in good hands.

Second, I want to make clear that my predictions are not my votes. We are all biased by our views and I'm no different, but I try to make predictions on what I think will happen, not on what I want to happen.

Let's start with City Council. Let's review the rules of the game. In the primary, which is on April 2nd (early voting tomorrow at city hall). Each citizen gets two votes and if any candidate gets over 50% of the voters to put them as one of their choices, they get in and no general election is required for them. If no candidate gets over 50% than the top 4 candidates face off in the general election for the two available seats.

So, the eight candidates running are Peggy Leavitt, Rich Shuman, Tom Tyler, Trenton Motley, Brent Foutz, Judy Dechaine, Claudia Bridges and James Howard Adams.

Prediction #1- No candidate will get through in the primary. There are far too many people on the ballot, all of which have connections in the community and will pull a decent amount of votes so we will be onto the general.

Prediction #2-Sorry Trent and Brent, but you two will get the least amounts of votes. I do not wish to be negative about either of these candidates, but I have not seen one sign, mailer or Facebook post promoting them. In fact, I have hardly heard of them, and I don't think I am alone. People need to feel like their candidate has a chance and really wants this to put their vote for their name, and these two haven't convinced the public they are serious candidates.

Prediction #3- Peggy Leavitt and Rich Shuman will make it to the general election. Had I written this prediction a week ago, I might have not given Rich Shuman as much chance. He seemed MIA, as far as marketing his campaign, but he has showed up and will get past this first round. Incumbents by nature have some natural advantages, and disadvantages. But the advantages are sufficient to ensure that they will both be on the general election ballot. I will even go so far as to guess they will both be in the top 3, mostly because the anti-incumbent vote will be very split with the remaining candidates.

Prediction #4- Tom Tyler will not make it to the general election. I know Tom and he is a wonderful man, has good connections in town and through the Emergency Aid of Boulder City but he has not been as involved in city politics and doesn't have a natural base. This will prove too much for him to overcome.

Prediction #5- James Howard Adams will make it to the general election. James has been involved in BC politics for sometime. The endorsement of the Boulder City Community Alliance (BCCA) was big for him and he has proven worthy of the endorsement. He has really out performed expectations . I think he will be in the top three.

Prediction #6- This is where I would get in toss-up territory. I had a very difficult time guessing who I would list as the #4 slot in the general election, Judy Dechaine or Claudia Bridges. Claudia got the endorsement of the BCCA, which is big. But even those in their own ranks questioned if the process was above board. Last year, they had a candidates forum with all the candidates and after they had heard all their viewpoints voted as a group on who to endorse. This time, the BCCA founders met separately with people they wanted to run, had them present at a meeting and choose to endorse before candidate filling had even ended. This left for an awkward position for people like Judy. Judy is very connected and involved with BCCA and their causes, but the endorsement went to Claudia before she had even filed. But despite this, I think Judy has been a surprisingly good candidate, and pulled much of the BCCA base to her side. She has been more engaged than Claudia and I think she will get the #4 spot and Claudia will be in #5.

Now onto the Mayor. Back when I wrote for the paper I encouraged both Rod Woodbury and Warren Harhay to run (you can read the articles here. Woodbury Harhay.) I am very excited to see them both running. And I think all three candidates are good options, which has made this hard to predict.

But here I go.

Prediction #7- No one will get 50% of the vote and win in the primary. All three of these candidates are good viable candidates and they will split the vote enough that no one will get above 50%.

I will digress a little bit to tackle an incorrect idea that I have seen a lot of. I have seen those who are opposed to Mayor Woodbury disparage either Harhay or McManus for both running and splitting the anti-Woodbury vote. This is crazy, and shows some basic misunderstanding of how our primary/general election works. They can't split the vote because which-ever one gets more of the votes will go head to head with Woodbury. In fact, both of them running actually hurt the Mayor. If he had only one to run against in the primary, when voting is more limited, he would be more likely to take over 50% and not even need to run in the general. (I think of the two electorates, the general election and primary, the primary is more favorable to Woodbury).

Prediction #8- Mayor Woodbury will get the most votes in the primary.  Until recently I really felt the Mayor was in serious trouble (and he may still be in the general). But he has used his strengths, good connections, and a well financed campaign to his advantage. I think with others on the ballot splitting the anti-incumbent vote he will get the most votes.

Prediction #9- This one is hard for me to write, and while I have tried to be neutral as I write this, I hope I am wrong. But, Warren Harhay will not be going onto the general election. He is the moderate, middle of the road candidate, and the middle is a tough place to win primaries from. And while I applaud his self funded candidacy, it has hurt him. Signs and mailers are not everything, but they are something and that is how some people will be introduced to candidates. What is so funny about this is that I think Harhay could potentially win against either of the other two candidates in a head to head. Why? because most people who vote for Woodbury in the primary would rather have Harhay than McManus, and most people who vote for McManus would rather have Harhay than Woodbury. So, you could see a 35% for Woodbury, 35% for McManus, and 30% for Harhay. But head to head Harhay would potentially beat both 60/40. But those are the rules, and so that is how it goes. So in the end, I think it will be McManus and Woodbury in the general election.

As always, if you think I am crazy. Get out, vote and prove me wrong.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Campaign Principle #3- Running on a Budget

Campaign Principle #3- Run on a budget.

This may not be the most controversial principle but it is by far the least followed. Politics and fundraising has become as inseparable as college and student loans. Most feel you can't have one without the other. And while I am not opposed to all fundraising and campaign donations, the extent to which it is done is ridiculous.

In 2016 Hillary Clinton and her Super PAC raised over $1.2 billion dollars. And that is less than Barack Obama in 2012. Does anyone really think that if only she had a few more million dollars to throw out a few more adds in the swing states she would have pulled it off?

I wish I could recall the exact numbers but I recall that in 2012 with less than a week to go in the election, President Obama, and Mitt Romney both had some insane amount of money and I was getting calls and emails asking me to donate more every day. Both had so much money that they could flood almost every airway radio and TV, fill every mailbox, put a yard sign in every yard and still have enough to pay my salary for the rest of my life. (This may be an exaggeration but not by much.)

The problem is that one of the major ways we base how a candidate is doing is the "Money Race". How much do they have on hand? How much is in their "war chest"? Of course, their is legitimate reasons we do this. If someone is willing to put money into someone's campaign they are extremely likely to vote for them. Hence, why the "small dollar" donations are seen as an important metric. Yet, the majority of the money coming into campaigns is not "small dollar". This is true at all levels.

The fundraising flood that hits every major election cycle puts far more money into campaigns than is really needed for candidates to get their information out there. We encourage them to raise as much as possible and spend as much as possible. I see three significant issues with this:

1. We have them learn that the way to get things done is to spend, spend, spend and then we scratch our heads that they cannot find a way to put forth policies that maintain a reasonable budget.

2. Nobody is immune from influence. If someone pays us money we feel indebted to them, it's human nature. The more they give us the more indebted we feel. You can be the best person on earth but if someone pays you thousands of dollars to help get you elected, you are going to give them more heed when they come knocking on your door, than some else who did not.

3. Money spent on elections is money that could have been spent elsewhere. We all know there are many things that are needed in our community. Our schools are underfunded, with underpaid teachers, people throughout the world go hungry, and high school kids swim in pools that don't meet their needs. Shifting campaign funds to these issues would not solve them, but it would be a step in the right direction.

So what is to be done?

We could make laws trying to craft how much each person can contribute? (owe wait we did that). We could cap the total and dictate every aspect of fundraising?

That is not my vote. Rather I would love to see candidates run on a budget. And if I run for office that is exactly what I will do.  Pick a reasonable amount you feel it would cost to run. For example, if you are running for city council review what you feel it will costs you to to run an effective election, say, $10,000.  Then cap your fundraising at that. If I were to do it, I would say I would only take $20 donations from 500 people. After that, if you want to give more I would encourage they put the money to something more worthwhile than getting me elected. (That shouldn't be too hard to find.) If I were running this year for city council/mayor I would encourage any excess go to a fund to donate private donations to the pool, or other cause I feel is important.

This would do several things: show that I am able to plan and execute within a budget, and don't simply look to money to solve my woes. It would encourage small donations, because people would know how I plan to fund my election, and lastly it would ensure that I am not overly indebted to one person or organization. It's a very unique model, but I would love to see it catch on. If anyone tried it, they would go very far in winning my vote.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Campaign Principles #2

I have decided to draft the important principles I would follow if I were to ever run for office. If you have not read Principle #1 you can read it here. With no further ado:

Campaign Principle #2- Make sure I want and can do the job effectively, not just that I want the title, think I can win the election or am mad about one or two specific issues.

I will never forget several years ago, when I lived in Vegas, I had the opportunity to meet with someone who was planning to run for State Assembly. I asked them why they wanted to run for office. They rattled off how mad they were about a bunch of national issues and how poor our current president was doing. I asked them what they thought about several state issues and they had no idea. They wanted to get involved in "politics" but were going to do so by chasing a position they knew nothing about. The person was well connected in the community, well liked, and had many connections that would make fundraising simple. They asked me if I thought they could win. All I could think was, "that is the wrong question." I did think they could win, but I didn't think they should run.

I always worry about this with local political positions and I try to check myself whenever I have considered running. Most of the ones I've seen are not as bad as the example above, but some seem to think they would like the position, or they are hot under the collar about an issue or two, and so they throw their hat in the ring without really knowing what they are getting into. In city politics, there are those big issues that the citizens really care about. They get debated on Facebook and at the local cafe and you think to yourself. "If I was in there I would do so much better then these dingbats." And then there is the more mundane, day to day votes, committees, events, issues, and meetings that make up 95% of the job.

When the new feeling of being called councilman wears off, will I still have the commitment to really give it the time it deserves. And to do it right it takes much more than reading the packet and voting on the issues put before you. Good councilmen, councilwomen, and mayors will drive issues, and that takes research, meetings and a willingness to take risks.  That is why I look for someone and hope to be someone who has been involved prior to showing up to run. Have they been attending council meetings? Have they served on committees and given the time and commitment when there wasn't money and title involved?

Can they even answer what the role of the position is? I have spoken to many in our city who get very confused on the role that the Mayor and Council have vs. the City Manager, City Attorney and other city officials. It is hard to do a job well if you don't understand what the job is. (And as a complete side note that I will write about later, I think some of the biggest political issues and failures come from politicians doing others' jobs. Judges thinking they're in the legislative branch, legislatures thinking they should be executives, and executives trumping themselves up, thinking they should be all three.)

Also, what about my background helps me provide value in the position? A good council both challenges and provides a check on city officials. Without the right backgrounds City Council has difficulty effectively reviewing what staff gives them. It's hard to provide a good review and notice something is missed on an engineering report if you have no background in engineering. Just as an engineer will be hard pressed to provide a fair review of a legal issue. Good leaders can come from any profession, but this is part of the reason a diverse, critically thinking council is a benefit to the city.

So, in summary if I ever run for a position, I need to be able to clearly answer what the position is and does, what makes me uniquely qualified and able to provide value to the position, and can I honestly say that I can keep my commitment both in time and energy during the term of my position?

If I can't give clear, honest and affirmative answers to these questions, than I shouldn't run. I should get involved in other ways more suited to my time, abilities, and present experience and circumstances, like writing about campaign principles in hopes the right people will be inspired to run.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Campaign Principles #1

It is time of year again for people who want to run for City Council or Mayor in Boulder City to file. The filing dates are Jan. 22nd- Jan. 31st. It is no secret that I love Boulder City and City politics. As such, I do plan to run for City Council someday. Notice, I say someday, because today is definitely not that day. But I have wanted to write down my principles for campaigning for sometime and while politics is on my brain I will do so.

The reason is simple. I have been involved a little in a few people running for office and frankly I am not impressed. Not that they aren't great people who can do much for our community, but that I have seen them, get so caught up in the campaign that they do things that are not in their nature. I hope I would never do that and part of that is documenting my principles up front. Also, these are things that I look for in candidates. They are not deal breakers, but I take them into account in deciding who will get my support and vote.

Principle #1: Speak no evil of others running. My job is to tell you why I would be a good choice not why others would not be.

Imagine walking into an interview for a new position. The boss interviewing you says, "Why would you be a good fit for this job?"

You look her in the eye and say, "I saw Johnny just walk out, and I know you are interviewing him as well, so I thought you ought to know that Johnny is an idiot and would do a very lousy job."

"Thank you." She reply's, "but why would you make a good candidate?"

"Did I mention Johnny got fired from his last job because of drinking?"

"This is your interview, please tell me why you are the right person?"

"And by the way Johnny hates cats."

"Listen," She says in frustration, "I need to know why YOU would do good in this job?"

"Oh, all right...because, I'm not Johnny."

While this situation is utterly ridiculous. I have seen it played out in campaigns all across the county.  Politicians spend millions in telling you how lousy the other candidate/candidates are and essentially hope you will cast your ballot for them. Why? because at least they aren't the other guy. No wonder we so often feel forced to vote for the lesser of two evils. All we have heard about is the evil sides of both candidates.

I am a big believer in knowing what your job is and doing it. When you are running for office your campaign  is your interview. Your job is to answer peoples questions honestly and give them the information to vote for you or not.

In a regular job interview the person conducting the interview has several sources of information. The person answering the questions and of course the interviewer also has reference checks to verify information about the candidate. In politics, those reference checks do need to be done. These are done by media, endorsements, and talking to those who know the candidates best. Not by asking the other candidates.

I don't think we realize how deeply harmful the practice of mudslinging is to our politics and society. When 90% of what we hear about someone is negative, I don't care how good the person is, we will not trust them or want to work with or around them. Mudslinging downgrades the winners ability to govern once they are elected, no matter who wins. It erodes trust in our politicians and the process. It emboldens obstructionism. It encourages tribalism. And saddest of all, it works. That is why it is growing. That is why it is widely used in almost every campaign.

But work or not. It is wrong. It is harmful and at some point in the future if I run for office it is my commitment not to do it. In the meantime, I will look for candidates who avoid the temptation to fling mud across the bow. And encourage candidates to focus on the question, "Why are YOU the right person for the job?" And if their only answer is that they are not someone else, than I think we should pass.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Chapter 7- Visiting the Priest

Visiting the Priest

As much as Byron hated to admit it, Julie was right; there was a lot to plan for the wedding. For the next few weeks, he had to order a tux, go get rings, and send out invitations. Julie had sent out far more than he had. He hadn’t planned on inviting anyone, but with Julie sending out close to 100 invitations, he thought he’d better send out a few. Deep down, he hoped this particular Lutheran Church didn’t stick too strictly to the old tradition of his family on one side and hers on the other. It would be a bit awkward when they have to stand on her side and his side being his lone dad. While he had sent out a few invitations, he thought the only person to show up would be his dad. His Dad had always loved him but their conversations since his mother died had become briefer and briefer, neither were really into chatting on the phone. But while he worried a little about how his Father would react today was the day that an encounter with a different Father was on his mind, one he feared far more than the encounter with his own Dad. It was Father Young, the local priest at the Lutheran church. Byron didn’t think it was common for priests or pastors, or whatever you call them, go by Father in the Lutheran church, assuming that was more a Catholic thing. But common or not, Julie assured him that he went by Father Young. Supposedly, he came from a long line of Episcopal Priests, and while the religion didn’t stick, the name did.

So, with no shortage on fear, he parked his car in the parking lot of St. Marks Lutheran church. The light blue Toyota Prius already in the parking lot announced to him that Julie had beaten him there. A smile ran over his face as he saw it. She would give him a hard time about arriving first, even though he was on time, but that he was looking forward to it. He liked her subtle and almost flirtatious jabs. In fact, while he was extremely anxious for this whole wedding thing to be in the rear view mirror, the one regret he had was that it would end his regular interaction with Julie. He hated pictures, invitations, shopping, and planning, but doing it with Julie made it bearable. If he were honest, more than bearable, he looked forward to seeing her.

“Hey, Julie,” He said as he approached the front doors with her standing waiting. She looked down at her watch, faking irritation. “Oh, so what time does your watch say?” Byron asked clearly trying to rub in that he was indeed on time.

“It says you are late.”

“You need a new watch.”

“I thought I explained this to you, if you aren’t 10 minutes early, you’re late.”

“No, the first time you said five minutes and last time when you showed up barely on time, the topic didn’t come up at all.”

“It’s a rule with varied application, and clearly I alone in this relationship know how to properly apply it. For example, one should always arrive early so they don’t leave their bride standing at the front door of the chapel. Doing so is exceptionally risky; she may get bored and pick up another one of her many suitors who happen to walk by.”

“A very risky situation indeed. Do your suitors regularly pass by this thoroughfare of pedestrian traffic?” Byron said motioning to the totally deserted side walk in front of the church.”
Julie laughed lightly as she said, “Well, we better go in before you make us officially late because I am so busy explaining the facts of life to you.”

As they entered the church, Byron’s light mood ended and he felt a heavy burden on his shoulder. The church as beautiful. it was an older church and was cathedral-esque in its grandeur. The wood pews looked newly polished as the sun flooded through the stain glass., this church really felt like the real deal, there was a reverence in the building and the fact that this felt like a real church that would be a great place to connect with God made Byron feel very uneasy. Somehow, being married in the eyes of the guy running the drive thru wedding chapel on the strip didn't seem wrong in the slightest, but saying, “I do in front of a priest in the edifice built to religious worship under the circumstances did not sit well with him. 

Looking closer at some of the stained glass he noted that one window depicted the story of someone getting married. The first window showed a rather dark and somewhat disappointing wedding. Then it showed the young man going back to work. The artist had worked extra hard to make the work appear to be arduous and painful. Well, after a few more depictions of back breaking labour, there was another wedding with the same man and a different bride that appeared much brighter and overall more joyful then the first. Byron new the place was famous for weddings but could not figure out why any chapel would have such a story in stain glass. It appeared either the focus was marriage is nothing but painful work, or don't worry, your next marriage will make you happy. While he was puzzling over the stained glass, Julie had already headed for the priest office. Finding that Byron had failed to follow, she went back, grabbed him by the arm, and pulled him from his gaze and in the right direction. 
They opened a door, and it took them from the beautiful chapel to rather normal looking office. Hello. So good to see you,” said a nice-looking middle-aged man behind the desk. "Come in." He continued. Byron was a bit surprised. When he thought of meeting with a priest, he thought of sitting down in the pews with a man in a large robe or toga or something. This guy simply had on a nice shirt and tie. In fact, he was dressed a lot like Byron. The priest also seemed to young. Despite his name being Father Young, Byron had very much imagined someone opposite. Somehow, at some point in his life, he got the image of a priest being old and he had assumed that’s how all priests were. Thinking now, he realized this didn’t make much sense.

"So, Julie, this must be Byron", the priest said shaking Byron's hand. It was clear he must know Julie. Byron didn't even realize that this was her church. He figured she just picked it because it looked nice.

"Well, it's a pleasure to meet you, Byron. I'm Father Young." the priest said.

"Good to meet you." Byron said.

"Have a seat." Father Young said as he went back behind the desk. "So, you two want to get married. I think that is wonderful. How long have you two been dating?" Byron had mostly thought this would be a logistical meeting. You know the, ‘I stand here, you stand here, you say this, I say this and it will cost X.’ Even this made him uncomfortable, but had he figured there were to be deep, piercing, personal questions like, ‘how long have you been dating?’ he would have been petrified and come up with evasive answers. Given his lack of preparation and since Julie knew the Father, he thought he would just let her answer. After a long pause it was clear Julie had a similar strategy.
Finally Byron looked at Julie and said, "How long has it been?"

Julie, clearly not in the habit of lying to clergy, simply said, "I hardly remember. It's gone by so quick."

Father waited, clearly expecting they would continue with something like, well let's see it was before you bought the new car and that was a year ago... but Julie and Byron had technically answered the question and weren't volunteering any thing else until another one was asked.
"Well, how did you meet?"

Boy, those priests sure know how to get to the heart of a subject. Byron had no idea what to say now. It's not that a flat out lie didn't sound good to him but he didn't know if Julie wanted to lie to her priest so he decided if a tactic worked once why not try it again, "How did we meet?" he questioned turning to Julie.
She smiled at him the kind of smile that did not leave you feeling all warm and fuzzy. "Remember we ran into each other at that little dessert shop at the Belogio." She said with the perfect hint of, I can't believe you forgot our anniversary, in her voice to come off as believable. Boy was she good at this, and it was sure coming in handy now however he was wondering if he could ever truly trust someone this good at half truths.

"Oh, that's right, how could I forget. I was getting ready to do some interviews for work and we just started talking. We enjoyed each others company so much I cancelled my next interview and we went out to dinner." He said doing his best to sound hopelessly in love. With a little encouragement from Julie he was getting the hang of this. Their dating experience was beginning to sound, not half bad.
"So, Byron, what do you do for a living?"

Here, Byron had little to hide, but since meeting Julie, he had determined not to hear any more lectures about how only married people really know about marriage, and, knowing that telling Father Young he was a marriage councilor would cause that, he simply said. "I am a councilor"
"At a school?" Father Young replied.

"No, I have my own practice." Byron said trying to keep it as simple as possible.
"What type of counseling?"

"People, mostly." Byron wished he had left off the mostly and new it wasn't the answer that Father Young was looking for, but it had the desired effect and there were no more questions about his work.
"Byron." You could tell by Father Young’s tone that the getting to know you questions were over. "What church do you belong to?"

"Oh, well I haven't really attended church in years. I don't really belong to any church."

"Do you see God as an important part of your future marriage with Julie?"

Oh, boy, how do you give a half truth answer to a yes or no question. Not only that, Byron new the statistics; he was always encouraging couples to be united in faith or come to agreement on where they stood religiously. It helps marriages, but their marriage was different. He didn't want a marriage in the eyes of God, just in the eyes of those around him. He was wishing that he would have been more persuasive about that drive thru chapel. 

Fortunately, however, he had seen hundreds of men just like him squirm under difficult questions when he was on the other side of the desk, and if there was one thing men were good at when under pressure, it was acting dumb. 

"I just haven't really thought about it before."

Byron new this would illicit a speech from Father Young, but sitting and taking a speech was a lot easier than coming up with answers to questions. Father Young was a very good speaker, and Byron agreed, in principle at least, with everything he said in his rather lengthy speech on God and marriage.

After his speech, he started another speech about how running a church was expensive. Byron was confused at first as to why this was part of the marriage speech, but realized he was preparing to tell Byron that the marriage would not be free. This was a speech Byron felt no need to make Father Young go through the pain of giving, because it was obvious that while Father Young enjoyed delivering the speech on marriage, he did not enjoy the follow up speech on money.

"Father Young, we plan on paying for the opportunity to marry here." Byron said interrupting the speech.

Father Young was obviously relived and followed it with, “We welcome any donation, but the ceremony does cost us a certain amount. Father Young relayed the cost and Byron assured him that he was happy to pay. Byron was pleased to pay him for the service. Byron's guilt was building, but somehow, paying Father Young eased some of the guilt.

Byron, having passed the inquisition, and Father Young, having been assured they would pay, both were much more calm than when they had entered and went out to see the chapel and work out a few logistics for the big day.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Chapter 6- Competition

This is my romantic comedy about Byron, a marriage councilor in case you missed it here are links to (Chapter 1Chapter 2Chapter 3 Chapter 4, and Chapter 5).

Chapter 6_Competition

Many men may have wanted a more confident answer to, ‘will you marry me?’ than, ‘sure’, but it was good enough for Byron.

“Great. This is Vegas, do you prefer the Justice of the Peace, drive thru chapel, or wee little chapel on the strip?”

Without a pause, came the confident reply, “St. Marks.”

“St. Marks? A church?”

“Yes, a church.”

“Would a church do a wedding without notice?”

“We are not getting married today.”

Byron was confused; it seemed to be a beautiful day. Of all days, he didn’t see what made this one less worthy than any other. “What’s wrong with today?” This process of finding a bride had already taken several days, and he didn’t care to have it drag on forever.

“Byron, one of the major reasons I’m doing this it to appease my Mother. She will want to be at the wedding.”

“I guess that makes sense.” He contemplated the situation and decided to give in. “Okay, we can do it next week if that works better.”

“Not next week, maybe, six months from now.”

“6 months?” Why would they possibly wait six months!? “Why 6 months?”

 “I don’t want my parents and others to think I’m rushing into it. Plus, we need to plan it.”


“You really are a novice on this wedding thing.”

“If you really need time to do a few things, I understand. We can wait a month.”

“Three months at a minimum.”

“I’m reasonable 6 weeks.”

“Do you realize how busy we will be if we try to do this in 6 weeks?”

Secretly, he thought this couldn’t take longer than a few minutes of planning but decided to not bring that up right now and instead said, “I love being busy.”

“Okay, six weeks from today it is.”

“Great. Where is this church of yours?”

“Southwest part of town. The pastor will want to meet with us.”

Byron clenched his teeth. He was not going to look forward to that. While he grimaced, she continued. “If we are going to do this in 6 weeks, we had better get photos for the invitation tomorrow.”

“Wait a minute; why would we want photos, or need invitations?”

“Calm down Byron.”  Her tone did not impress Byron, who thought that she should wait at least until they were married before she started talking down to him. “You want to pass this off as the real deal, don’t you? Wouldn’t it be more convincing if you had a picture of me and you on your desk?”

She was right, but that didn’t mean he was going to be happy about it. If he had realized photos would have been part of the deal, he would have thought a bit more about putting that add in the paper. “Okay, so let’s sit down and figure a bit of this out.” So that’s exactly what they did. It was 2:50 before Byron realized it. “Holy cow, it’s almost 3! I need to get over to Paris.”

“Quite the world traveler, huh.”

“No, Paris hotel across the street, for my next…” he didn’t know if he should call it date or interview, so just stuttered out, “appointment.”

“How many of these ‘appointments’ do you have today?” Julie asked.

“She’s the last one.”

“You’re going to meet with her after you proposed to me?”

“Well, at this point, I’m not sure I have much of an option; I can’t stand her up.”

“Just call her.”

“I don’t have her number. Say, why don’t you come with me? I can quickly tell her it’s off and then we can go get rings while we work out all the details.”

“Sounds good. I know it’s probably wrong, but I’m rather anxious to see her.  I mean, what kind of a wacko is willing to get married based on an add in the paper? Besides you and me, of course. What’s her name?”


“Another nuts Julie.”

“No, you’re nuts Julie. She’s just Julie.”

She gave a bit of glare as they left and headed out the door. “Byron, let me give you a bit of hint, sometimes you should simply laugh and keep your mouth shut.”

He was about to argue that the truth shouldn’t be held back, even when it wasn’t appreciated but he wisely laughed and kept his mouth shut.

There are few walks more famous or more unique than the walk from Bellagio to Paris Casino on the strip in Las Vegas. And while neither mentioned it, both felt a small amount of regret and significant irony that their first walk as an engaged couple would be such a blur. They blurred through the casino, past the beautiful conservatory in the Bellagio, through the magnificent entrance, by the world-famous fountains that currently danced to the sound of Andrea Botticelli and Sarah Brightman singing, “It’s time to say goodbye.” Julie didn’t know if it was symbolic of Byron’s conversation with “just Julie”, or an omen telling her to get out while she could. Once they were out in front of the walkway, the crowds grew dense, and one couldn’t toss a brick in any direction without hitting a street performer dressed as Buzz Lightyear, Darth Vader, or Batman, all ready to be in your next selfie for a small fee. Dashing across the busy street, they entered the Paris Casino. After passing a few slot machines, they entered the elevator that would take them up the 1/3 scale Eiffel tower to the restaurant and his awaiting final appointment.

Despite their rush, they approached the front desk at 3:07. “Can I help you?” The greeter behind the front desk, that sat near the entrance to the dining area, said. Looking towards the dining area Byron noticed some of the tables, and spotted a red rose and knew it must be Julie.

“I am here to meet someone.”

“Yes, sir, whom are you here to meet?”

“I think I see her back there, but just a second.” He turned to Julie, “Okay, Julie, you stay here and I’ll go tell her that it’s off.”

“That’s disappointing.” Julie said with a bit of a frown.

“What is?”

“She looks rather like-able.” I kind of wanted to see someone like that Jen you described earlier. Not to mention, it’d be fun to see her throw her plate at you.”

“I hope to be out of here before she has a plate of food to throw. Wish me luck.”

“I’ll be watching.”

The front desk man took him to his seat. When Rick had taken the job as host at the Paris hotel, he had assumed that each night would be full exciting situations, call girls with gangsters, and the like. The thought that a man showing up to meet one woman with another woman in the lobby was something he figured would be about common place as peanut butter and jelly in his youth, and that is saying something given that his last name was Smucker, matching the family business. But in this hope, he was greatly disappointed. Life, even on the strip in Las Vegas, was not as exciting as advertised and while he wanted desperately to have exciting tells of high rollers letting hundred-dollar bills fall from the pockets while a train of show girls followed behind, most of his clients were simply husbands and with their wives coming to a nice meal. Therefore, Byron with one woman waiting at the table and one watching from yonder lobby was of keen interest to him, and while he didn’t know the back story, he was convinced it was about to come out as long as he stayed within ear shot.  “Here you are, Sir.” He said, pulling out the chair across the rose adorned guest.

“Thank you.” Byron said, but it was a lie; he had no desire to take a seat and was not thankful for the host’s action. His plan had been to approach her from one side of the table, tell her he couldn’t stay as he lapped around the table and then put a little breeze in her hair from his draft as he headed back towards the door.  But now with the host holding the chair for him he was rather obliged to take a seat. “Are you Julie?”

She grinned from ear to ear.  “I am, and you must be my mystery man or a secret liaison that is going to drive me in a limo to a secret location where there’s a man behind a desk,”


Byron tried to stop her thought but she kept going, “Of course, I can’t see him because he’s turned around in a big chair? I turn back to the man that brought me but the door shuts and I am locked in the room with the man in the big chair. Silence sets over us as he allows the fear inside me to grow.  Final when the tension has grown to almost the point of a pressure cooker about to blow he will call out in the single deep syllable, ‘Julie.’”

Byron wanted to point out that ‘Julie’ was two syllables, but the story teller was not allowing interruptions. “The voice will sound vaguely familiar, but could it be? While I am torn with thoughts of the past the voice will continue, ‘Julie, I have searched the world over and now you can finally be mine.’ Then I will be sure and will be running to him. As he spins around in the chair, I will call out, ‘Billy, I knew you would find me. No matter how lonely or far I was, I knew you would come.’” At this point she was so into the story that Byron was fairly sure if he walked out right now she might not notice, and debated doing it. “We then passionately kiss and sink into this large chair which is big, but far too small for both of us, but that is fine with me. And then…” She snapped out of it as she saw Byron and Rick both staring in a bit of shock at her. “So, are you my mystery man?”

“I guess so, who’s Billy?”

“I’d rather not talk about Billy.” She said with a bit of embarrassment.

“Okay.” By this time, he had planned to say that he couldn’t stay but the story of the liaisons, limos and Billy had thrown him off a bit. Trying to think of a good way to transition from, yes, I am the mystery man to, now I need to mysteriously disappear was bothering him but he figured that conversation would be easier without the presences of this very attentive host whom was still standing by his side.  “Thank you again, Rick,” he said, noting the name tag. “That will be all.”
“I would like to introduce you to your waiter. He will be here momentarily.” This was said while standing at perfect attention staring directly forward. Clearly Rick, had no intention of leaving in the immediate future.

Byron looked back towards the lobby and saw Julie watching his poor performance. “So, there is no limo or man behind the desk, but I do need…”

He was about to say, ‘to go’ but Julie again interrupted, “Actually that is really good. When I answered this thing, I thought, ‘I bet that this guy is 400 lbs. or like 75’ or something, but you look great. I mean, you could loose a few pounds, but who couldn’t? But overall, you are like an 8, okay maybe a 7. Not that looks are everything, mind you but it is nice to enjoy that person you need to wake up to every morning.  I remember, I used to wake up every morning and look at my dog. And I would say you are a bit of an…”

Byron had let this go on long enough, “Listen, Julie, I can’t stay. Something has come up and I have to go.” Boy, did that feel good. He had done it. He scooted his chair back as the beginning of his leaving motion.

“Oh, no! Did someone die?” Julie asked in shock and seriousness.

He had hoped that would be the end of it but now tried to force the point without having to elaborate. “No, nothing that serious but I do have to leave. I am so sorry you came all this way, but I must go.” Byron again continued his motions of leaving, almost forgetting the host he was about to run into.

“Okay, I understand.” Byron was so relieved to be done with that.  “So, when do you want to reschedule?”

Reschedule? Oh no, she wasn’t getting it. Byron had always thought finding people to date would be hard, now he saw why he never started, it wasn’t finding people that was hard. It was getting rid of them that was hard. He didn’t know what to say but decided to be honest without any elaboration. At some point, one might expect him to realize that strategy didn’t seem to be working, but none the less, he stuck to it. “Julie, there is no need to reschedule.” There was no intention for the words to come off harsh but as soon as they left his mouth he could tell that is exactly how it came off.

Tears began to well up in Julie’s eyes. “Wait a minute.” Byron halted in place half standing and only inches from the still frozen host whose only movement was the edge of his lips that couldn’t help but begin to smile. Exasperation filled her voice, “You send me an email saying you want to meet me, because you need a wife, practically proposing to me, and then I drive clear across town fighting the crazy traffic through the strip and you take one look at me and say it’s over. Clearly, you think looks are nice too, but mine aren’t nice enough for you, and you can’t even take the time to inconvenience yourself enough to sit down and eat with me, you’re no better than Billy.”

Byron decided to ignore the reference to Billy and tried to plead his case on other points. “It’s not your looks Julie.”

“What then? What has come up? Why don’t you want to reschedule?”

What he had been avoiding from the get go, the truth, now seemed his only solution. “I decided on another girl and didn’t have time to cancel, so I thought I’d better let you know rather than leave you hanging.”

“You decided before you even met me? That doesn’t seem very fair.”

Byron was not sure what to say. Fairness had not been on his mind when he had proposed to Julie, and in his defense, he kind of thought past case law may be in his favor in this regard.  He was not being a master of jurisprudence but he did know that all is fair in love and war. And while his case may be a stretch to be called love he thought a jury would buy it. However, how to articulate this at that moment didn’t come readily to him, he was just wondering what would Billy do? When she saved him the trouble by continuing, “Well fine. Can I at least get my dinner? You did drag me all this way.”

“Um…I um…” Byron stammered when unsure of what to do, “see, it turns out that she’s out front, and I should really…”

“She is here? Great! I would like to meet her. Have her come on back.”

Byron had been in counseling long enough to know that this was a bad idea, but before he could decline, the ever-attentive host, Rick, said, “I will get her,” and was off with more alacrity than he had ever performed any task to date in his life.

Seconds later, there they all were: Julie, Julie, Byron, and of course, the ever-specious host, Rick. Julie, Byron’s first date, spoke as she approached. “So, Byron, we have decided to stay.”

Julie #2 jumped in, which was good, because Byron did not know what to say, “Byron was good enough to at least provide me dinner, given that I came all this way and I so wanted to meet you.”

“Oh, good… this should be nice.” Julie said, half under her breath, as she grabbed a chair which allowed Byron to sit as well.

Again, silence fell on the group and it was the silence’s presence that made the presence of the host, still standing at attention stand out. Byron was not happy with the growing number at the table and decided he better get rid of someone, unfortunately, for the host he was the easiest target. “Can we all get a glass of water?”

“No, I’ll have a glass of your Haynes Old Block, Pinot Noir. Actually, go ahead and bring us a bottle.” Julie #2 said with a smile.

Byron knew that divorce was expensive; he regularly said so as an incentive for couples to continue with his services. He was now worried that he was about to get a taste of how expensive break ups could be.

The host wished to protest but could see the manager headed their way and a line back at the front door, so, as much as he wished to see this play out, he was forced to depart.

As soon as he left, #2 started in. Looking to Julie #1, she said, “It’s good to meet you. What’s your name?”


“Well, isn’t that nice. It seems our friend Byron here has a thing for Julies. See, I’m named Julie as well.”

“I know,” #1 admitted.

“You know. So, what else did Byron tell you about me.”

“That was it.” Julie said in all honesty.

Byron was a bit defensive at this point. After all, when one is running a, ‘find a bride’ advertisement scheme, one doesn’t like others to assume you are careless with others privacy. “What else could I tell her, that is all I knew.”

“That’s true,” #2 pounced, “but it was enough to know you wanted her over me. You must have loved her name more. Oh wait, it’s the same name.”

Byron was getting happier by the second that he hadn’t picked #2 and now tried to defuse the situation. “I know you are upset, but let’s try to stay calm.”

“Okay,” She took a deep breath, “I can stay calm. So, when is the big day.”

Byron didn’t want to answer but decided they couldn’t sit in silence, so they might as well answer her question. “We’re looking at 6 weeks from now.”

It is amazing how our tone can express so much more than our words. Byron had stated a brief factual sentence but how he said it and how he looked at Julie, that is #1, is what told #2 that 6 weeks was not what Byron had in mind, and he wished for a much quicker engagement. This is the exact chink in the armor that #2 had been hoping would show forth, but before she could exploit it, the waiter showed up with water and her very pricey bottle of wine.

“What can I get for you?”

Byron was ready and quickly ordered the cheapest meal on the menu, hoping to minimize the damage. Julie #1 followed suite with a similarly priced item. Byron’s admiration for this woman was growing. Then came #2, and much to his surprise she said, “I’ll have the same.” Byron sat relived maybe the damage would not be as bad as he thought.

“Why wait?” She began to go for the weakness. “What’s wrong with today?” #2 asked as the waiter walked away.

Byron wanted to jump up and say, “Exactly what I said,” but what can only be considered a miracle he thought for a moment before he spoke, and then saving his engagement he said, “we feel it would be good to wait, to invite our families and do other important marriage things.”

This was 100% right answer but 0% believable. #2 could tell she was heading in the right vain, and pressed further. “You know I wouldn’t need to wait for my family to come.”

No one responded. “So, did you guys talk turkey?” While turkey was consumed at his earlier lunch, he was fairly confident that was not what #2 was talking about, but he wasn’t sure what she was talking about. Everyone present had a confused look on their face except Rick; he had come back and was again standing by the side of the table, his expression was void of confusion, it rather bore as smile as he knew he had come at exactly the right moment. “I mean did Julie agree to the $600 a month that you had in your add?”

The question seemed personal and inappropriate, but then again, there was nothing appropriate or normal about their entire situation. “We have not discussed that yet.” Byron admitted.

“What if she wants more?” #2 asked.

Byron now noted the smiling host by his side. “What are you doing here?” he said rather abruptly.

“I came by to ensure that everything is meeting your satisfaction.” Came the reply in perfect composure.

Byron was about to tell him to, ‘take a hike,’ but #1 spoke up and said to #2, “Have you forgotten that I am right here. Not that it is any of your business, but I don’t plan to ask for more.”

#2 looked right at Byron and said, “I’ll take half.”

Byron couldn’t believe this. It was absurd and ridiculous, but suddenly he paused, forgetting about Rick, he wondered if he wasn’t being too hasty. Either women he would rarely see, and #2 was willing to marry today as he wished and for half price. Not only that, she probably wouldn’t require him to sit for photos. For a moment he thought about breaking off his engagement with #1, but only for a moment. After all, a jerk is still a jerk, even at half price.

“Listen Julie.” He said to #2. This looking directly at #2. “This is not a debate, I’m to go marry Julie.” Then realizing this may not be as clear sit it should be, he clarified, “this Julie.” He pointed to make sure everyone understood. And the turning to Rick said, “We will pay for the food now and take ours to go.”

Julie #1 was impressed, Byron may not be a knight in shining armor, but a man smart enough to stand up and run when needed might live longer anyway. With victory on his mind he stood taking Julie’s hand. “We will pay at the front desk.” He told Rick.

But before the victory went to far to his head, #2 turned to Rick and said, “Before you ring him up, you might want to note that I’ll be changing my order to the filet minion and lobster tail.”

Friday, August 3, 2018

Chapter 5- The Proposal

This is my romantic comedy about Byron, a marriage councilor in case you missed it here are links to (Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3 and Chapter 4).

Byron found himself now with both too much time and yet not enough. The entire episode with Jen had taken less than one hour, which meant he had a little over an hour before he was supposed to meet his next date, nuts Julie, at a little panini shop that sat on the other end of the Casino. An hour is a long time to walk around a Casino, especially when one does not gamble, even when accounting for the time he would need to spend in the bathroom trying to get strawberry syrup off his face and clothes, but it was not long enough for him to go home and change his clothes, something he desperately wished he could do. Perhaps the next prospective bride would be Jen’s twin and the horrible stained shirt, tie and pants would turn her off, saving him from needing to call it off and thereby helping him miss the joy of smashed panini in the face. He took some comfort that paninis, by nature, were much less messy when tossed at someone than crepes.  The other possibility was that nuts Julie was simply Jen’s third email to him. Yet, if it failed to be Jen’s twin or other alter ego, then what would Nuts Julie think of him showing up to meet her for the first time in a badly stained outfit?

Once in the restroom he did an inventory of how truly bad it was. Wearing his favorite tie had clearly been a mistake and the light blue stripes were now a blotchy purple. The pink shirt better absorbed the syrup but the outline of the stain was clearly visible. His pants were only stained directly in front of his crotch, lucky guy. Lastly, the rose was limp and crusted with dried whipped cream. Trying to remove some only led to the loss of pedals, and he quickly resolved that if he were to have any rose left at all he better leave well enough alone.

Given his state, he desired to limit his time in public as much as possible. Luckily, the empty halls of the Bellagio conference area provided the prefect opportunity and he was able to even enjoy his time, except for the few random souls who wandered by forcing him to find the nearest piece of art so he could stare at the wall and shield his badly stained front view.

At 5 minutes to 1:00 he started the trek to CafĂ© Bellagio, his lunch spot. Within minutes he had arrived and the first thing he noticed was a girl with a rose, but two things made him think this was not his date. For one, the rose was pink, and two, she was normal looking. Normal didn’t bother him but after Jen he thought his chances at completely normal was beyond the realm of possibility. When one picks the quality they want most in a spouse the answer is rarely, “normal”, but that is exactly what Byron found himself hoping for most.

The normal girl with the pink rose kept glancing over at him but never got up. He kept watching for a red rose to walk in. After 5 minutes or so she walked over, “Excuse me are you waiting for someone?”

“Yes, I am looking for a Julie.”

“I’m Julie.”

“Oh sorry, I didn’t think it was you?”

“You didn’t see the rose?” she said, pointing to the rose.

“It’s pink.”

“You are very perceptive.” She said with a bit of sarcasm, “what’s wrong with pink?” she continued.

“I guess I expected red.”

She paused giving him time to explain himself, but since he didn’t seem to feel obliged to, she continued with the question that to her was the obvious follow up, “why?”

“Didn’t I say, ‘wear a red rose’?”


Both wanted to pull out the email and prove they were correct but, after a pause, realized there was little point, and moved on. Part of the reason Julie decided not to push it was pity for Byron, for a quick glance at his rose made her realize that when it came to quality of roses, he had no moral high ground. “Is yours frosted?” she asked, noticing the white around what was once a red rose.
This forced Byron to look down at his own rose and reminded him that he was indeed not one to criticize. “Yes, it is frosted, with whipped cream.” He let the answer stand and she hardly knew what to say, it was clear she wanted the rest of the story. “I will simply say,” he continued, “my last meeting didn’t go so hot.”

Julie tried not to, but a slight chuckle escaped her. “I’m sorry, but I have to hear this. ” She said pulling up a chair and sitting down. There was something about the way she spoke that calmed Byron and he decided to tell all, sparing no detail. Julie listened attentively right up to where he told of being splatted with Crepe. It was at this moment she interrupted their laughs with, “I am so glad to hear it!”

“Well I’m glad it made you happy, it didn’t warm my heart.”

“No, it’s just that your clothes had me a bit worried. I mean, I was nervous before I saw you that you would weigh 300 lbs. or be unable to dress yourself, and you looked surprisingly normal except for the stains, and I thought, “That’s it, he never changes his clothes, probably hasn’t showered since Queen Elizabeth came to the throne. So, I am happy that it was simply a prospective bride showering you with breakfast.”

“Well, I hope you don’t plan to make a tradition of it.”

“Okay, Mr. Smith,” She mockingly referred to the false name he had given to Jen, “do I get to know your real name?”

“Sure, Lewis. Byron Lewis.”

“That not too bad, I prefer Smith, but what are you going to do.”

“Well, shall we go order?” Byron suggested.

“Do you know if they have any Paleo, Vegan food that matches syrup stains?” They both laughed as they approached the counter to make their selections.

Once they had their food and sat down to eat, Julie asked the first question. “Byron, tell me honestly, why are you doing this? No offense, but it is way beyond weird.”

“I think you called it ‘nuts’ in the email.”

“Exactly, nuts. So why?” 

“You can keep a secret?”

“Mums the word.”

“I am a marriage counselor.”

“Oh, I see, people are getting sick of taking advice from a novice. Wait, less than a novice. A novice has at least a little experience, you have none.”

“Thank you. I think you get the idea.”

“So, why not find a girl and get married? Are you secretly gay and don’t want people to know or something?”

“No, that’s not it. I always planned on dating and getting married, but I was busy and being single has been working fine for me. I mean, except for what others think. But I am fine being single and am fine staying single the rest of my life. Well, single, but kind of married, on paper at least. You know, as I outlined in the ad.”

“I totally understand, what is wrong with being single? People think I sit in at night crying or something. Being single works for me too.”

“All right, my turn. Why did you apply to the ad?”

“Two reasons, one, my mother. Someday, I will be sitting over her deathbed, weeping, telling her I love her and she will look into my eyes and say, ‘Are you dating anyone? When are you going to get married?’ I say that, but this isn’t really correct because she will simply refuse to die until I have sworn matrimony. And two, I am so sick of getting set up, and/or having to avoid strange men who want to date me.”

It was her time to play story time and she began to tell all about Larry at her office and the most recent push to get a date to the Garth Brooks concert. She closed with, “I would love for Larry to walk into my office, see a photo of me in my wedding dress, and finally see his mouth open and no words come out. He has offered me his picture about 100 times but if I got one at that moment I might actually keep it. You know maybe we could set him up with Star Jewell.”

He loved the idea. The more she went on the more he felt like this was the girl for him. Truly a perfect match, a win-win. She needed to be married without being married and so did he. So, he decided to put it out there, “I don’t want to rush things, but given what you said, I think this could work.”

“What are you saying?” Julie knew that this may be a simple business decision but she had enough romance in her that she was not going to marry a man whose only proposal consisted of, ‘this could work.’

“I guess, I’m asking you to marry me?”

“Oh, that’s cute… try again.” She said this lovingly but with enough force that he got the gist and with some confidence started out.

“Julie..” then he stopped. “What is your last name?”


“Yup, as you told good old Jen, it’s not that uncommon.”

“Well then, Julie Smith, will you marry me?”

She paused, looked deeply into the eyes of this man she did not know and said the strangest sounding word she’d ever heard herself say, “Sure.”