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.
It was only a week ago, three weeks after he got engaged that he finally got the courage to call his father and tell him that he was engaged. Actually, he probably wouldn’t have even done it then, but he knew the invitation was about to arrive and thought he’d better mention it to him before the announcement did it for him. Luckily, while he knew his father loved him, talking about personal stuff was never their strong point. They loved doing things together: camping, hunting, fishing, and working on the farm he had grown up on. All the memories of his childhood were good, but the one common factor in all the things he did with his father were silence. His mother had always been the one to ask about school, work, girls, and everything in life. With Dad, the conversations were always short, and now that his mother had passed away, they only got shorter. But he wondered if this engagement would be the thing that might force his Dad to ask some personal questions, so, with a little fear, he dialed.

“Hello Dad.”

“Hi, Son.”

“So, how are things going?”

“Good. You?”

“Good. I have some big news.” Silence followed, clearly his Dad was waiting for what it was. “I’m getting Married.”

There was a short silence before his Dad said, “Great.” And then, feeling he ought to say something else, said, “Congratulations.”

“I know it’s quick, but the wedding is in a few weeks, and I was hoping you’d come. I sent you an invitation. It should be there soon.”

“Great. I’ll be there.”

Byron expected some questions like, “who is she?” or, “how’d you meet?” but silence filled both sides of the phone, and Byron finally said, “Well, have a good day.”

“You too. Love you son.” And that was it. His Dad had always been short on details but he knew in part it was because he was short on judgment and always full of acceptance. But while he worried a little about how is 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.”

“Plan?”

“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?”

“Julie.”

“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,”

“Actually,”

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?”

“Julie.”

“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’?”

“Nope.”

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?”


“Really?”

“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.”


Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Book Ideas

I have a book idea that I want to write at a rate of about one a week. Some of these come and go and some have some staying power. I want to keep a list of the these book ideas. I will post them on Facebook from time to time and take votes on what ones I should pursue. If you have a favorite, one you would like to see me write, one you want to start writing, or most importantly one you would be willing to actually purchase if I wrote it, let me know in the comment section. Also if you think I am an idiot on one of these ideas I would be happy to hear it. My thoughts are not conventional but it is how I feel and I am as passionate about hearing why I am wrong as I am about feeling I am right.

First Books I have actually written or have started on

Of Pigs and Priests- The story of a Priest in the 1500's who finds himself in love with the local pig farmers daughter. Being very committed to the priesthood he doesn't do anything about it, that is until Queen Elizabeth comes to the thrown, they all become part of the Church of England and by introducing the Common Book of Prayer, suddenly Priest's can marry. The problem becomes that given the position of clergy in the 1500 he went from off limits to the most eligible bachelor in town. Everyone and their mother wants to either marry him or have him join the family. Follow him as he tries to win his love, raise some pigs, fix the whole in his church and keep the local Duke from setting him up.

Marriage Counselor's Bride for Hire (Need a better name, so if you have any suggestions let me know) - I have been releasing this book a chapter at a time on my blog (For Chapter 1 Click Here). It follows, Dr. Byron Lewis, a marriage councilor devoted to his profession, so much so that between reading about, writing about and saving other peoples marriage he has never found time to get one himself. This begins to have negative impacts on his work and that is when he decides he needs a marriage, even if it's only on paper. Taking in ad out in the local paper he begins his very unusual journey into married life. And despite all he knows about marriage it's only a matter of time when he has to take some time to save his own.

Teton Dam, 50 Years Later (I hate this title, so please let me know if you have any ideas for this one also)- I have begun work on this book and plan to have it completed for the 50th anniversary of Teton Dam failure in 2026. I don't need to go into alot of detail but this goes over the history of the dam, some related dams and how they impacted Teton such as Ririe, and Fontenelle. Goes over many of the compelling story lines before the dam itself was completed and what happened after failure, both the deaths and how the community came together. I am very excited about this book and may tell some of the things I have learned in tidbits on the blog.

The stories never told- This would be a book of biographical sketches of homeless and what we can learn from them. I have done many short stories on the homeless (Here is a link to my Homeless page). It would go over these or others stories and also go over national statics and solutions on homeless. What different communities are trying, what is being successful and what is not.

So those are the ones I have written or started to write. Here is the very long list of the ones I have not started but would like to write at some point.

Rather than Rob a Bank- I came up with this book a long time ago and I would be lying if my desire to write this has not diminished. What inspired this was I heard several stories back to back about students at university's who robbed banks to pay for the high tuition costs (Here is an article of one of them).  I wanted to write a book that compared ways of making money and compare the likelihood of them actually working, for example, the lottery, other gambling opportunities, robbing a bank, robbing other stores, panhandling, stock market, writing and singing a smash hit, and the last one would be writing a book. I planned to donate a portion of the proceeds for the tuition of the guys who robbed the bank if they choose to finish college when they got out of jail, but they will probably be out long before I get to this one.

The Blessings of Poverty and How to Acquire them even when Cursed with Riches- I grew up in a home that was technically below the poverty line. I say technically because my Mother and Father were so good with money and surrounded by such wonderful family and friends that I have to admit we never felt poor or went without, as long as you don't count those cracked wheat tacos, that was a sacrifice.  But I am very convinced that many of the blessing my parents passed on to me were not in spite of being poor but rather because of it.

  • For example, the lesson that happiness and money are not dependent variables. 
  • Hard work, we were delivering papers at a very young age in order to help the family pay the bills (Some will argue that the pace at which I delivered papers doesn't qualify as hard work, but we can leave that part out.)
  • Learning that if you want something you can earn it or go without, when my friends got Nintendo's for Christmas I was getting clothes, (Don't get me wrong we had wonderful Christmas's but the big, cool ticket items were never a part of it for us) if I wanted a CD, movie or pack of baseball cards, I had to find a way to earn the money and buy it, there was no point in asking Dad or Mom to buy it. 
  • Education was valuable, but it was my responsibility to pay for it. Both my parents had Masters Degrees but when my Dad dropped me off at college he gave me a bag or oranges and essentially said, "If you are every hungry come by but that is all I can help you with." He said this with a bit of sorrow, you could tell he wanted to help me with tuition and books, he just couldn't. I count this as one of the greatest blessings in my life. I took college far more seriously than my friends who had parents footing the bill, I graduated in three years with an engineering degree. I went on to graduate with honors with a masters degree, all with no debt and all without asking my parents for funds. Something all my siblings did as well (My cousin wrote an article about it in the Desert News and you can read it here).
  • The Lord has more control on life than does your bank account. No lesson is more important to me than seeing over and over again in my parents and in my own life as I tried to find ways to pay tuition than having no idea how I was going to make it and the Lord opening up the windows of heaven as he promised (Malachi 3:8-11). 

I could go on but the point is that these are things my parents taught me in large part because they didn't have any other choice, necessity drove them to act the way they did. I believe the same lessons can be taught to those who have money, and lots of it, but it's not easy. It is easier to say no to your children when you don't have a choice, no matter how painful it may feel you can't say yes. The challenge is being able to say no when you have the ability to say yes.

Get Out- This is a book on the history of large evacuations and how they are run. I have to admit my interest in this has mostly been focused on dams but over time evacuations as a whole have had great interest to me. Why do some people evacuate and others not? What makes an evacuation notice effective or not? Does society hold leaders responsible for the lives of those who choose not to evacuate or fail to evacuate?

Killing Leo Ryan- This is essentially a biography on Leo Ryan. Who is Leo Ryan? You know, you just don't know you know. Leo Ryan was the congressman who was killed in Guyana by Jim Jones just before they all drank the cool aid. I first learned about Leo Ryan because he was an advocate for Dam Safety and chaired several of the hearings after Teton Dam failed. The more I learned the more I was impressed. He wanted to improve education so became a substitute teacher in the classroom to better understand the issue, he wanted to reform prisons so got himself in undercover as an inmate to see what prison life was like. When he saw in issue he jumped into it and tried to get first hand account and solve the problem. Ultimately it cost him his life trying to understand and free people from The People's Temple. He has become one of my hero's and there is no biography on his life and that is a crime that needs to be corrected.

Selfish Sex or Sex as Service- God's way of improving your love life. The target audience would be LDS couples and LDS young adults. I think there is no topic more poorly understood both in and out of the church than sexuality, and while there are several good and not so good books on the topic. I want to add my zero authority voice to the topic. Things I think need to cover:

  • Selfish sex versus service sex. Satan works so hard to convince everyone that sex is about self. The whole reason sex exists is to make you happy. God's path is the opposite, sex is all about service. It is all about making your spouse happy. You want to have a wonderful sex life then forget about your sex life. While it applies to many aspects in our life I think we would do well to apply Matt 16:25- For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever swill lose his life...shall find it. If you  are obsessed and work to save YOUR sex life, you will lose it. If you lose it, meaning sacrifice what you want for your spouse you will find it.
  • Sex is not easy for anyone. There is a fallacy that Satan continues to perpetrate that because sex is and is meant to be enjoyable that it should be easy. Sex isn't easy for anyone, sex isn't something that you avoid until married and then is all the sudden a magical part of life. It doesn't matter if you are not married and trying to live the law of chastity, struggle with same sex attraction and are trying to live the law of chastity, if you are married to someone who for physical or emotional reasons does not want to or cannot participate in intimacy the way you would like, or if you are happily married and trying to live the law of chastity. The natural man is an enemy to God  and will be forever and ever unless he yields to the enticing of the holy spirit...(Mosiah 3:19). What a perfect scripture this is for this principal. Satan wants us to assume everyone else has amazing sex lives, because than he can convince us of lies like: If only you had a spouse who shared your same preferences, your sex life would be good. If only the church would change its standards on who you can marry, your sex life would be good. If you can just make it to the alter of marriage then your sex life will be good.
  • The fallacy that Satan likes Sex and God does not. Satan has worked very hard to convince people that his political position is pro sex and that God's party is anti-sex. "Yeah, my opponent allows it in marriage with one person, but I will let you have unlimited sex, with whomever you want, whenever you want. I'm Satan and I approve of this message."  This is a lie. If the truth was to be out there, I am convinced that Satan is very anti-sex. He has no body, he does not want you or anyone else to enjoy anything let alone the type of joy true intimacy can bring. But if he is opposed to it, why does he promote it so much? Because he will promote it with the idea that if he can get you to abuse and mis-use sex then you  will lose it forever. Not just in the next life but this one as well. Extremes of this are obvious. If he can twist your mind so that the only joy in sex is with little children, you are not likely to have access and if you do gain access will likely go to jail. But this is true for what many would call mainstream relationships. Cohabitation leads to divorce at much higher rates, and single folks who are sexually active have far less sex than those who are married. And as they age the disparity increases. (While I will need to compile the data, here is just one such article showing this.) So, if your one goal in life was to maximize the amount of sex you  have, the best way to do this would be to have a healthy and happy marriage, which side promotes that?
  • Not sure if there is room for it and how I would do it but I would also want to do research related to sex workers. I live in Las Vegas area and as such see the many ill effects of sex work.It is sold as very glamorous. I would love to do, or find research that shows what it truly is? Where do most dancers, prostitutes, and other similar professions end up when age makes it difficult to earn money in their chosen profession. I honestly don't know, but would guess the statistics are not good, but need to find it out before I speak. At one time I thought I would make it, its own book but maybe just include it in this one.
Ghost Detective- This is a fiction book about a man that works as a detective on the other side. Basically he is dead and his job is to interview dead people try to solve murders and then influence the living to try to get the right person convicted. 

Unity Politics- This would be a book that focuses on the idea that if the only things politicians did was focus on things that the vast majority, 60-75% of Americans believed in they would still have plenty to do. The idea behind this is that the major political parties and voices that associate themselves with these parties, Shawn Hanity, Rachel Madow etc.. have a vested interest in keeping us divided. They focus on issues that are split 50-50 and really never go anywhere. If you re-frame the conversation I think there is vast agreement on a lot of issues and by focusing on those we could get a lot done.  Let me give a few examples:
  • Abortion- Both sides of the abortion debate are so dug into an all or nothing strategy that we have lost sight of the portions we agree on and could focus on and really get good things done. People who are pro-life would like to end all or most abortions and become blinded by the idea of making them illegal and overturning Roe vs. Wade, people who are pro-choice say they believe in abortions being rare, legal and safe, but have been so sold on making them legal have lost almost all sight of truly trying to make them rare. Why? because they don't trust the other side, they see any move to make abortions rare as one step in trying to take away what they feel is a legal right. So, what does unity politics look like? It means the right saying that until we can persuade 60-75% of the population to believe that abortion should be illegal we will stop trying to make it illegal or take away peoples access to it.  Rather we will work with the other side to truly make it rare. What if we took the baseline of how many abortions were performed in 2018 and reached across the isle and tried to bring that number down. How could this be done? Both Democrats and Republicans believe that adoption is good, and there are literally 1,000's of couples waiting to adopt babies and many more who would join them if we reduced red tape. What about starting a social movement praising mothers who chose to give their child a better chance with adoption to a good family?  How about we help mothers who choose not to abort their children with medical expenses and other things? Whatever they look like we could find common ground and find things that would reduce abortion that 60-75% of people believe in rather then hoping for certain justices to retire or kill over and just the right time so we can win in the courts. 
  • Transgender Bathrooms- Democrats cry that transgender are not equally respected, Republicans cry that it is not safe for their young daughters to have to go to the bathroom with a predator of a man who claims he is female. This debate has sprung over into school locker rooms. One I understand because I have children. The reality is that I see more common ground than not on this one. With the amount of risk today given the fact that we all carry video cameras everyday and can almost instantly stream that video for the world to see we simply need more secure, individually locked restroom and changing areas. Would this provide both sides what they need? I think so, but than why doesn't it move forward? Because if that is done no one side gets to declare victory. No one gets to feel like they won. But that is what Unity politics is all about, its about giving up winning to actually making our policy's better.
  • Last one- Immigration. Both sides love and honor legal immigration, so, why so much focus on what to do about illegal immigration, that is the side no one can agree on. Rather why don't politicians focus on the improving the legal system, something that could get bypartisan support? Democrats didn't do it when they were in the majority and Republicans aren't doing it now, in this particular case I think Democrats were fearful of energizing the fringe Republican vote and Republicans are worried about offending it. This is the part that makes unity politics so hard, both parties have 10-25% that are very active that want to win and be right more than they want to get something done and politicians feel forced to appease these groups to avoid losing their seats (Jeff Flake is a good example). But unity politics is about moving beyond those groups when a significant majority of Americans want to see movement. 
I could go on about almost all politically divisive issues but that is what the book is for.

Killing Professional Sports- This one wins as my most controversial book idea, and really idea in general. The book would focus on why we should stop supporting in every way professional sports. Many would assume that this is simply the rantings of a physically inferior man who simply finds himself unable to perform any physical feat beyond touching his toes. To this I have two comebacks, I was listed as an alternate for an athletic scholarship to Southern Utah University (true it was in cheerleading, but athletic none the less), second I can't touch my toes, so there. The reality is I love sports, I love playing them, I love watching them and I think they bring about many important qualities in our kids, teamwork, hard work ethic, over coming challenges, and always pushing yourself to do better. So, when I am writing promoting the end of professional sports it is not the end of sports but just the professionals. Why? 
  • Professional sports make professions wherein a few get very rich and the vast majority of people who pursue it do so in vain and at great expense. Freakonomics did a story on the upside of quitting where they followed people who try to break into the major leagues through the minors. The problem is most of these men take on very low paying jobs in baseball while they pass up moving along in other careers, what freakonomics showed is the longer they  stayed the less successful they were. I think this would be true in most major professional sports, there further someone gets towards becoming a professional the more likely they are to bank on it, but they are still far from likely to actually "make it". 
  • Even the vast majority of those that "make it" find that fame and money too much too early and it leads to poor life outcomes. Hence you get high bankruptcy and incarceration rates.
  • This is particularly of concerns in sports that have long term negative physical outcomes. These sports use "nobodys" to beat up their bodies in order to weed out the best of the best who they can use to make millions of dollars. I was in a restaurant one day and they had a TV show that was put on by UFC. They put a bunch of guys in a training program who then beat the brains out of each other for the chance to be a UFC fighter. So, what did most of them get? Nothing besides major health issues. While it is less direct in some ways the NFL is no different, they rely on high school kids who have had endless promotion about the sport to get beat up every friday in hopes of getting beat up on Saturdays, so the NFL can makes millions why we watch them get beat up on Sundays. I am not opposed to bruises and scrapes but if further studies find that long term brain damage is found in high school football players it should stop being offered in public schools.
  • Another alarming trend is the amount of tax payer dollars going to fund professional stadiums. Study after study has shown that this is not economically beneficial for the cities that do the heavy lifting. We just got the Raiders to come to Las Vegas and it will cost $550 million dollars in tax funds. It is sold by saying it will be money that is paid by visitors however, no matter how the money came in there are many things that money would be better spent on than promoting a billion dollar business. 
  • College sports are a problem as well, but notice it is only in the sports that have big professional followings. You don't get sports allowing swimmers who can't pass a third grade math test onto their teams. You don't get boosters paying off the players of the volleyball team. Many argue that the college football and basketball programs promote the college. I am not so sure that this promotion is not more of a distraction. The stakes of football have become so great that most colleges spend more on the program than they bring in. (Here is a great article on this). No doubt football and basketball are big business but for most schools it is more a big drain than a big money maker, not only that it is a drain of time a resources not to mention publicity. Pick any school and enter the name into google news. I just did it for BYU of the first 20+ stories that came up 1 was not a sports article. BYU is a major university with research coming out daily in physics, engineering, literature, math, family studies, religious studies, and many more topics. They hold weekly forums or devotionals with major addresses from great minds of the world but most of that goes uncovered, but if the head coach of the football team sneezes in the off season, you will hear about it.
  • The obsession with sports in wasteful and unhealthy. I am the first to admit that I was a victim of this. For years every week during football season I would read every article analyzing weather or not BYU would win or lose that week. Then I would watch the game, listen to the game, or even watch the internet update each play on ESPN if I couldn't get to the radio. If they won I was elated and read every article reliving over and over the glory of the win. If they lost I was devastated and walked around in a gloomy cloud for the next three days or so. In the off season I obsessed to think that this was our year and thought out in my mind the glory of them bringing a championship to Provo. Then one day I realized something. I was handing over my time and emotions to something I had 0, and I mean 0 control over. I was wasting excessive amount of time and energy on something I not only couldn't control but that meant nothing to my future and as such it should have nothing to do with my ability to enjoy life. I stopped watching BYU football that day. I might see a play now and again but I don't think I have watched a hole game since then. I am better off. Has my pride in BYU diminished? No, I love my school more than ever, in fact it's made me take off the blinders and realize the reason I love BYU has nothing to do with Basketball of Football. It's what I learned and what I hope millions of others will learn from that amazing University. The world is chuck full of sports commentators analyzing every breath of the players and even fuller of people wasting time listening to them. Sports obsessions are unhealthy and I only notice this in professional sports and college sports that are heavily tied to professional sports, mostly basketball and football.
  • What about city unity? Right now Las Vegas is enjoying the joy of having the Las Vegas Knights or first true professional team play for the Stanley cup. I'll admit it's fun to see so many people get excited about the team, there is a tremendous amount of shirts, hats, bumper stickers and other support. But what is really behind it? Do any of the players have any unity to this city? No, most aren't from hear and if they get paid more to play elsewhere next year they will be gone. Most owners have very little loyalty to a specific city. 
  • While sports can bring out the best in us it can also bring out the worst. Along with loyalty is often crude, rude and violent behavior done in the name of sports. This is true of all sports, even little league, but I think it most often shows up in the stadiums and bars in relation to professional sports.
So, what should be done. I am not supportive of making policy against professional sports rather people realizing they are consuming too much of our time and money and simply pulling back. I would love to see expansion of local amateur sports. These could be full of people who love the sport for the truly the love of the sport, not the money. We could be proud that they are from our local area and we could enjoy a good sport game that doesn't cost huge sums of money and is kept in proper balance. This is why if I take my sons to see a game it will likely be a high school track meet, or college volleyball game. I will support my kids playing sports, preferably sports that don't have big professional following, but if they want to play golf, or play basketball I will definitely not encourage them to go pro.

Well that is all for now. I will probably have another one next week.

It is now 7/26/2018 and I have three more to add

Southern California's New Homeless- This is and idea based on some of what I have learned from Austen. The book follows people in Southern California who make 100K plus and yet are homeless. The cost of living is so high they decide to live in their cars, on the streets, couch serf with friends etc... This follows interesting stories and asked the question that is a high octane economic machine, such as southern and central California has provided, that provides so much good but leaves housing and basic necessity costs so high that it leaves behind even some of the elite, worth it?

Foreign Brides- This follows the whole story and industry around foreign brides. What is the history that has gone from war bride, to mail order to internet? Why do men/women look for them? What countries are most commonly targeted? Can these marriages be successful and if so, how? What causes these marriages to fail? How many of these things are scams for the men/women who chase them? And how many women get involved from the foreign side and get taken advantage of?

Scam Lunches- I have always been intrigued by scams. I love the series American Greed that follows various scams and how they turn out. One of the ways you can often catch a scam is as we all know is promising something too good to be true. Another good way is free lunch. People have often said there is no free lunch. So, when they want to tell you  about your business by offering a free lunch/seminar, good chance it is a scam. I would love to attend these and write up a chapter on each of them, outlining what the scam is. I would also write about the free lunch scam related to insurance that has made me thousands of dollars.


Monday, May 21, 2018

Chapter 4- The Break Up

If you have not read any of my book yet here is Chapter 1. If you want to start from the beginning, a very good place to start.


Byron headed to the computer. It was two days ago that he had run his ad. Over those two days, he flipped flopped back and forth as to whether it was a bad idea or brilliant. He considered not opening the email account and let the whole thing disappear. The email was set up under a false name, and he figured the FBI could have traced it to him, but no one else could. Ignoring the email would let the entire thing wash over, but he had already taken the next two days off work to filter through emails and interview candidates. And ever more than that, he knew his curiosity was too great not to check the email. He said he wouldn't check the emails for the first day but he would have broken that promise while at work yesterday if he hadn't left the password to this new email at his desk at home.
Now that he was looking up the email, he wondered if anyone wrote him. If they didn't, he would have two days off. He was thinking that he might go visit Mark, his old roommate in San Diego, when the mail box opened and he saw that he had 221 messages. So much for San Diego he thought. Perhaps he should have taken a whole week off.

The first email was from Star Jewell. Apparently, he wasn’t the only one making up names. As soon as he opened up the email a large full body photo of “Star” in a rather revealing Star Trek outfit appeared on his screen. Star Trek was not his thing but he knew it well enough to recognize that she was trying to be Commander Troi from Star Trek generations. There was text below that he didn’t need to read as it became the first to the trash bin.

Natalia Swetlana was the next candidate. “I love be your wife. In America, I be honor you for death.” Byron wasn’t sure if this was Natalia’s poor English or google translator’s poor programming, but either way he wondered how Natalia had found his towns classifieds and how many other foreign brides, anxious for a ticket to America were in the next 219 emails. A foreign bride did offer some advantages, but at some point, even with our immigration system she would eventually make it to America, and then where would she go. No, he would stick to the domestic market.

Bambi Jones, was next in line. With a sigh he began reading, “We don’t need to get married to have a good time.” Delete.

In rapid succession the next 30 emails, fell into the category of either foreign bride or thinly veiled prostitution, and therefore also fell into the trash bin. “I would be interested in your proposal. Let’s meet.” Flipping through the emails as quickly as he had, he had stopped reading names. So, after verifying that, that was indeed all she had sent, no photo, nothing about her, no attachment, simply that she would be interested, he went back and got her name. Jennifer, was this very short-winded writer. Had her email been first it would already be in the trash bin, but the last 30 minutes had changed him. What he would have called lazy and lacking any pertinent data ½ an hour ago was simply not racy, not desperate or solely interested in his citizenship. The more he thought about it, the more he realized if he had responded to his ad, he would have been similarly brief. So, it became the first to avoid a quick demise and he went back to the rest.

The rest went very much the same as the first batch and by the time he had reviewed all 225 (the emails continued to trickle in from all corners of the earth as he reviewed), only three remained, and all three shared Jennifer’s attribute of brevity. The only thing that had been added was one email had started by adding the kind words, “This is nuts but…” The other thing the other two emails shared was a first name, Julie. They became, nuts Julie and regular Julie.

It was a bit depressing that the only ones he could see having any chance of being his bride were the ones he knew absolutely nothing about. What was the likelihood that if he actually knew something about these three that they would still be in the running? But he had made it this far, so the three J’s were to move on to round two. Now, for the first time Byron was forced to ask himself, “What was round two?”

Should he try to get more information with a back and forth on email? Given how skeptical these three were, he quickly saw it turning into a game of, “you tell me first.” The next option was to have them come to his office and simply go for a formal interview, but something told him formal was not the way to go, plus he thought he better avoid his office. Trying to explain this to Ms. Whittaker, his admin assistant would be as comfortable as answering his hygienist question, “So have you been flossing?” He knew she only asked because she knew he hadn’t been. Also, depending on how the interview went he wasn’t sure he would want these women knowing exactly who he was, what he did, and where he worked. “Trust is the foundation of which a good marriage is built.” He had said it thousands of times, and as he could hear himself saying it, he knew his new relationship was on a path to make the leaning tower of Pisa’s substructure appear to be robust.

No, an interview style would not be best. Rather a nice sit-down meal together, three girls, three meals, breakfast, lunch and dinner, or rather, late breakfast, lunch and early dinner. He didn’t want to be sitting around downtown with nothing to do. But how to be recognized. In 2000 B.C. a Neanderthal was to meet a female Neanderthal at a cave party and wanted to know how he would pick her out. The decision was made that they would each wear a flower, and as safety pins had not been invented, they needed a flower that would attach to their leopard skin Mumu’s easily. It was a toss-up between thistle and rose. And in a decision that would define how single people determine who in the crowd is on equal social ground as to label themselves with plants as willing to meet someone they couldn’t tell from Adam in public, they went with Rose. Historians will debate how society would be different today if they would have chosen thistle but Rose it was. And for Byron, a single red rose it would be. So, this Friday, three times, three restaurants and one rose; he figured they wouldn’t mind if he reused it.

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The Marble Hallways were wide, the paintings, not replicas but each original, beautiful, unique and complementary to the surroundings. The hallways of the conference area inside the Bellagio was one of his favorite locations and on Fridays or weekends they rarely had conference going on, which left the vast hallways to himself. As he looked down the 400 feet of the hallway before him completely void of people yet full of the beauty of man’s creation, he wondered if this is how King Louis XVI felt in Versailles. While he had always considered himself well off, he doubted if in a lifetime he would see enough wealth to afford half of what his eyes beheld: the rugs, furnishing, chandeliers, art and endless marble.

While his pessimistic, or maybe realistic side didn’t give him any better chance of this working out than the millions of gamblers whose money had paid for the lavish furnishings that surrounded him, his optimistic, or maybe romantic side was willing to give it a chance, and that is what had led him to choosing a location he loved so much. The next corner would end his solitude for that is where the conference portion of the hotel ended and the day to day traffic of gamblers, diners and hotel patrons began, and shortly after joining the fray he beheld his destination, Bellagio Patisserie, a little French place behind the hotels conservatory, tucked next to one of the largest chocolate fountains in the world. Anyone who has had a desert from, Bellagio Patisserie, will not soon forget it. Each one was an artistic masterpiece. These are the kind of desserts people took pictures of before Facebook and Instagram so degraded the art of food photography.

Finding a seat, he paused and noticed the time, 10:50, ten minutes early was, in his view, perfectly on time. Verifying his rose was in place he began to look for its match. Ten minutes may not seem like a terribly long time but it can become quite drawn out when one is waiting for the women who may become their wife to walk into the picture. Odd looks began to float his way as he tried to focus on each new woman that entered his view, searching each of their persons over to see if somewhere she bore a rose. Specifying where the rose was to be worn has crossed his mind, but he had decided it would be too controlling. Now that he was forced to look over each woman’s person he was convinced that overbearing or not he should have specified and made a mental note that if he was ever randomly meeting potential brides in public for the first time again he would specify the location of where to wear the rose. Through trial and error his technique on how to search for the rose was improving. For one thing, after the second man gave him a glare of death that said, “I wish we were not in public so I could properly disembowel you,” after Byron had finished the rose scan on his significant other, he determined to first check if the women was with someone, and then search for roses.

It was now 11:02, ten minutes had seemed eternally long but he had at least known when that would end, now that the clock had rolled past 11:00 the clocked has actually slowed even further. How long he would wait until he simply gave up crossed his mind when he saw it, a single red rose. She was breathtaking. However, I am forced to pause from our story to explain to the reader that in the English language we don’t always think of words based on their definition. Case in point, breathtaking. Someone can be so amazing beautiful that seeing them for the first time causes the unexpected viewer to forget how one goes about breathing. But being hit by a 350 lbs. line man may also be breathtaking. In this case it was neither beauty or the impact of a 350 lbs. line man, rather simply the shock of seeing her made Byron forget, momentarily how to take in air. So, I repeat, she was breathtaking. She was clearly a student of the history of red roses as a form of greeting, because in homage to the Neanderthal that first begun the tradition, she was dressed in 100% leopard skin. Leopard skin top and skirt, both worn just a bit tighter than most leopards wear it. Byron was reminded of what PG Wodehouse had once said that, it was as if she had been poured into her dress and someone had forgotten to say when.  To make the ensemble complete she also touted a small leopard skin purse and had 6-inch heels on with a leopard skin print along the heel. The lip stick was brighter red than the rose and the only thing larger than her augmented top was her hair.

Catching his breath, he quickly realized she had not noticed him yet. If he acted quickly he could hide his rose and avoid a meeting that was sure to be as awkward as her skirt was short. But as his hand moved to the rose, she noticed him, made eye contact, smiled and began heading his way.

As soon as she got within ten feet she opened up with as voice as big as her hair.

“So, you’re my mystery man.”

Byron nodded and reached out his hand to shake hers.

“Shake hands?... I don’t think so.” She said, absolutely bubbling over. She then grabbed Byron pulled him in for a hug, then moving her hands onto the back of his head turned it to her and kissed him square on the lips. Again, breathing stopped. Finally, she released him and as he gasped for air, she said, “That is how you say hello.”

“Well Jennifer.” Byron said, trying to get his bearings.

“Call me Jen, or Honey Boo if you’d rather.” She said as she raised her eyebrows.

“Okay, Jen,” he was going to say nice to meet you but had always been a poor liar, so changed it to, “thanks for coming. My name is Byron.”

“I love it.” She jumped in before he could continue. “When I was a little girl I dreamed of marrying a Byron, or was it Brian, no Ryan. But pretty close right, isn’t that amazing!” Byron was not sure how to answer, and luckily why he puzzled on what to say she asked, “Byron what?”

At this moment Byron had two very instantaneous thoughts. The one was that he did not want to tell her his last name. The sooner he found himself under a sign that read, “Exit”, the better and whatever his future brought the less it had to with Ms. Honey Boo the better. His desire that she have any ability to ever find him again, and that is exactly what his last name would give her, was zero. The second thought related to never seeing her again was that now that he was past the ambiance that was Jen, Honey Boo-boo, he had a strange feeling that his wasn’t the first time he had seen her, but how he could have forgotten the encounter was beyond him.

“Hello Byron, you there?” Clearly his thinking was too slow for her. “And people call me a dutz,” She continued.

“Oh, sorry, have we met before? For some reason you look very familiar.”

She was a bit taken a back. “I don’t remember meeting you before, and most people find me impossible to forget.”

“I can see that,” Byron agreed.

“So, Byron what is your last name?”

“Oh…uh…” torn between lying and trying to come up with an excuse he said, “shouldn’t we get to know each…Smith.”

“Jen Smith. It is perfect. I never thought my name would be Jen Smith. I mean, I love it, but what are the chances?” At first Byron thought the question was hypothetical, but the dumb look she continued to give was clearly wanting and answer.

“Actually, relative to other names, quite high, I think.” Figuring he wasn’t going to get out of a meal with Jen he decided they better get started. So, before she could ask another question he said, “Should we get something to eat?”

“Sounds great, do they have Vegan or Paleo diet?”

“I’m not sure, you will have to ask.”

“I can’t stand the thought of using animals for food, except cows, and fish. See, I hate cows and fish don’t really count. But real animals, I love them. That is why I had my purse made with real fur, to always keep animals close to me. And Paleo, I don’t really know what it is, but I read that its really changing the way people diet and I want to get on board.”

Byron decided not to comment and just got up and headed to the counter, glad the place made as you ordered, limiting the conversation that would occur while they waited for their food. After a long conversation between Jen and cashier on whether or not whipped cream was part of the Paleo diet (she decided that it must be once she figured out it was a cow product), they sat down and began to work on their crapes.

As Byron began to eat he began to think of ways of letting her down. On one hand if he asked her questions he could use her answers as an excuse as to why it wouldn’t work. On the other hand, he hated even to ask, thinking that it might only serve to get her hopes up. In the end he thought he better ask her a few questions, otherwise she may start asking him some.

“So, Jen, have you ever been married?”

She smiled and laughed. “Is this a trick question? I read the ad, no previous marriages. And I have not been, as long as you don’t count the annulments, and the law doesn’t count them, so I don’t think it would be for if you did.”

“The annulments?” questioned Byron.

“Well first, turns out you can’t marry your cousin, at least not when I tried. But the next time, on our wedding night I found out he volunteered going to kids’ classes and hospitals and things as a clown, and I was like ‘I don’t think so, I’m not being married to no clown! Beam me up Scotty! I’m out of here!’ I should have asked my nephew how he met him when they set me up.”

Suddenly it hit Byron. It was her reference to “beam me up Scotty.” “You are Star Queen, you sent me two emails?”

She laughed, “No silly, I did not send you an email as Star Queen. My Star Trek loving, alter ego is Star Jewell.”

Byron waited for a minute assuming she would elaborate on why the two emails but since the question was about Star Queen she felt like the issue have been fully addressed, forcing Byron to be more specific.

“Okay, you sent me an email as ‘Star Jewel’. Why did you send me two emails?”

“In case you weren’t into Star Trek. Duh… Looks like it worked.” She said with a wink.

“Star, Jen, Boo-boo” he rattled off before he got to the point, “this isn’t going to work, I’m sorry.”

“You are breaking off our engagement.” She said loud enough that the fellow patrons began to listen.

Byron was not sure what so say but finally came up with, “We are not engaged.”

She opened her mouth in shock and for a moment was speechless, as tears began to drip down her face. It was clear at this moment she was winning this case in the court of public opinion and Byron heard from a table nearby someone mutter, “What a jerk.”

After a few gasps of shock from Jen she finally pulled her strength together and in her most powerful voice said, “Not engaged huh, well that is rich, take this.” A half-eaten crepe with an excessive amount of strawberry syrup and whipped cream smashed into his face and chest and was now dripping onto his pants and the floor as the nearby diners cheered and Jen walked out.

Here is a link to Chapter 5.