One Way Ticket to Mars, the Green Monster, and a Better Condom for Bill Gates

I usually try to keep my writing timeless because I’m a bit allergic to topical rants, but this has been an especially odd week so I can’t resist. So I’ve decided to veer left, to do that which I usually don’t, and talk about what’s going on outside my window. The three mini segments below are nothing more than little snippets of thought that came to as I sampled the odd slice of pop-culture pie that was the third week of April, 2013. As a point of reference, I was eating Cadbury Crème Eggs and listening to Bryan Adams when I started writing this. Yes, I know the former is for Easter and the latter is for fourteen year old girls in the early 90’s, but whatever; this is my office/bedroom and I’ll do as I please. Here it is:

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I loved being an Alaskan, I despise being a New Mexican, and lately, I’ve been contemplating what life would be like as a Martian. Mars One is a company based out of Helsinki, Finland, and if you send them a short video and a small fee, they’ll think about giving you a one way ticket to Mars in 2023. Jesus. Right now, if I didn’t have a wife and two daughters, I’d be rehearsing in front of my webcam instead of typing this nonsense.

Can you imagine how ridiculously cool that’d be? My wife, the pragmatic, has pointed out the obvious: the mission probably won’t happen, and if it does, everybody is going to die. They’ll probably have to deal with wayward asteroids and weird little extremophiles and insanity induced extraterrestrial cannibalism (fingers crossed) but that’s half-empty thinking. Hell, the incalculable amount of street cred that’d come from my first Martian Tweet would almost make the entire trip worth it. A short video, a small fee, and boom: I’d be the first red planet rock star. I’d wake up every morning dressed like an extra from Barbarella (look it up kids) and do a few anti-gravity aided back flips. Sure, it’d get old, but that first moment of pure gravitas, when my boot imprints upon some other world, would be worth it.

But it’s not going to happen. I have a wife and kids and credit card debt so my place is here. But what about you? Maybe I can inspire you to throw away your terrestrial existence and go to Mars in ten years. Then maybe you can write my name on the endless red dunes and give me a bit of that vicarious fame. I’ll tweet about it, comfortable on my blue planet, and consider my mission accomplished. You can sign up here: http://mars-one.com/en/about-mars-one/contact/21-faq-selection/251-do-i-qualify-to-apply

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If ever there was an allegorical creature that’d represent the United States, it’d be the Hulk. It’s a shame that these jihading terrorists aren’t fans of Marvel Comics because it’d save everybody a shit ton of grief if they were. I guess I just don’t understand why they, the terrorists, can’t learn from history. It’s as if they’re doomed to repeat the same failure over and over like that damn proverbial fly that constantly runs into a window in an attempt to define insanity. They bomb and hijack and kill and then die but it really doesn’t do a damn thing besides strengthen the hatred between our two cultures. Yes, I realize that’s their aim, in part, but they’ve got to realize that they’re losing.

And Boston? Seriously? That place is literally a town full of Irish bad-asses that’ve dedicated their lives to worshiping a lost cause: the Red Socks. Those two brothers kicked the Hulk in the shin. He’s going to grow and turn green and yell something about smashing, and next year, the Boston Marathon will be twice the size it was this year. They’ll run the same route past a soon to come memorial with pride in their eyes and middle fingers in the air, and if anything, Boston will be stronger. Hell, even that damn wall in the outfield of Fenway Park is called the “Green Monster”, but I guess jihading half-tards aren’t fans of baseball either.

***

I have no clue what I’d do with sixty billion dollars. It’s a hard figure for me to fathom. Seriously; that’s the same thing as sixty thousand million dollars, which sounds like a number my four-year-old would make up, but it’s not. It’s the balance that you’d find at the bottom of an ATM receipt in Bill Gates’ pocket.

It’s probably better that he has it and I don’t, because while he’s the type that forms foundations and cures diseases, I’m the type that’d pit a polar bear against a velociraptor to finally put an end to the argument. And yes, with sixty-billion dollars, you could totally go all Jurassic Park and resurrect the velociraptor, so shut up. My point is this: while I’d wake up and use my fortune to do a double back flip in a Lamborghini (which I’d land perfectly in a pool full of pineapple jello), Bill gates is the type that wakes up and decides to create a better condom.

The dude’s a superhero. With one fell stroke and a bit of latex, the intrepid billionaire plans to take on STD’s and over population. Or rather, he’s going to pay you to take on STD’s. Well, you know, that doesn’t sound exactly right but whatever. Bill Gates is offering up one hundred thousand dollars (which I imagine he found in one of his couches or something) to the first person to design a condom that people will actually use. Here’s the link if you think you’ve got a worthwhile idea: http://www.grandchallenges.org/Explorations/Topics/Pages/NextGenerationCondomRound11.aspx

It’s perfectly logical when you think about it. Either he invents the perfect condom today, or Apple beats him to it tomorrow. They’d probably call it the iDom and it’d be white and sleek and freakishly expensive. We’d all flock to the gas stations to keep up with the trends as soon as the iDomS and iDom2 came out. Actually, you know what’s really weird? The spell checker on this PC has no problem with “iDom2” so maybe I’m on to something. Shit. Okay, for the record, the iDom was totally my idea first and I hereby claim all inherent rights associated with the name and demand my one hundred thousand dollars.

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Anyway, both of the books I’ve published will be free for the next five days. If you’re a fan of fiction, you should check out Trailer Park Juggernauts here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00704HK6Q If you’re a fan of real life with just a sprinkling of fiction, you should check out Ephemeral Truths and Short Fiction here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AYRAXNI

Monsters in Vegas

I felt pretty good about the fact that I was in better shape than anybody else in the gym right up until the sixty year old transvestite walked in and put us all to shame. The dude was ripped. He had twice the muscle definition as I did and his boobs were bigger than my wife’s; I have a solid six-pack and my wife is a girl so it was pretty impressive on both fronts. And I knew he was a he as opposed to a masculine she thanks to the skintight grey leotard he was wearing. I suppose he could’ve been smuggling a water bottle or something but I doubt it. He walked in with his argyle socks and ballerina shoes and looked around the gym trying to figure out where to start. He had permanent make up and a grey topknot and no fear whatsoever. He stretched and then started throwing a fifty pound dumbbell around as if it were a paperweight. I shrugged my shoulders and thought “Well, this is Vegas. What did you expect?” I went back to my pull-ups and didn’t think about it anymore. There’s nothing wrong with being the second buffest guy in the gym even if number one is twice as old and wearing a sports bra.

 

I finished my workout and headed back up to the room to meet my wife and children to plan the day. As a side note, if you would’ve walked up to me five years ago and told me that I’d go to bed early in Las Vegas so I could fit in a six a.m. workout, I would’ve accused you of being retarded. Things change. My wife and monsters were awake so I told Terra about the tranny just to make early morning small talk but then I heard my oldest daughter laughing at the story, and that’s when it hit me; I voluntarily brought both of my daughters to Vegas. All of the women in my family were on spring break; one from Montessori, one from middle school, and one from college, so we’d decided to load up the car and drive the eight hours to sin city just for the hell of it. But now what? Questions would arise, and thanks to my anti sheltering policy, I’d have to answer them. I just wish it didn’t have to start with a conversation about what I meant by “smuggling a water bottle.”

The Strip

We headed out, and about ten minutes into our trek, one of those shady but silent men on the street tried to hand me a small brochure advertising the best “escorts” in Nevada. Seriously? I’m not sure exactly what we were looking for that morning but it definitely wasn’t prostitution. Maybe the dude missed his orientation at whore-business-card-handing-out-school but I’m pretty sure a thirty-something year old man walking with his wife and two daughters isn’t in the target demographic. I kept walking and for once, my oldest and most ridiculously observant daughter didn’t see anything so I got to avoid our first conversation about “really bad choices.” But it came about a mile later.

 

The bums came out around ten a.m. and started plying their trade. Some were busking with harmonicas or guitars, others proclaimed to be veterans with camouflage coats as evidence, and some relied on creative signs: “Too ugly to prostitute; too stupid to steal.” I almost gave the last guy five bucks just for his proper usage of homonyms and semicolons but we just walked on by. My oldest, Catelynn, wanted to give a rather jovial bum with a guitar and a bandana something so I gave her a couple bucks. Why not? She ran over and put the money in his hat with a smile and he said “Thank you pretty lady! Stay in school or you’ll end up like me!” then he looked over at me and said “You’re welcome!” I thanked him and we continued on. I started chuckling because somehow, I had just thanked a bum for letting me give him money. The next day, we walked by the same guy a little after ten thirty a.m. and he had already drained most of the forty ounce beer in his hand. It was cheap and wrapped in a brown paper bag because I guess he’d felt the need to reinforce a stereotype. I turned to Catelynn and said “See? You bought that man a beer.” I could see the wheels turning behind her frown.

 

It wasn’t fifty feet later that we passed by a bum in a leather vest that had track marks and needle sores all over both of his arms. It looked as if he moonlighted as a cactus wrangler. My daughter stared at him and his bedraggled sign that simply said “please help” as we walked by and then asked why I didn’t give him anything. “Would he just buy beer too?” I asked her if she noticed the sores, and I knew she had because her observation skills are almost creepy. She said yes, and guessed that maybe he’d walked through a swarm of mosquitoes (she frickin’ hates mosquitoes). I told her exactly where they came from, and that every dollar that went into his coffee-can would end up in his veins. She didn’t ask to hand out any more money for the rest of the trip.

 

I was still thinking about heroin so I didn’t notice the bikini-clad flamingo girl that was running toward us. She bent over to look into my stroller and in a dulcet voice, she asked my youngest, Kinley, for a high five. She was spangled in sequins and almost falling out of her top so I’m sure it’s a mammary Kinley isn’t going to forget. Kinley gave her a tentative high five and the flamingo girl bounced along her way giggling “welcome to Las Vegas” over her shoulder. Great; now what? Should I sit my children down on the curb and explain the pitfalls behind daddy issues? Should I take Kinley to the clinic and get her disinfected just in case?

 

The entire trip was like that; good, but awkward. We took the kids swimming every day after our forages and if I didn’t watch out, I’d find myself swimming with both of my monsters in a manmade lake of twitterpated douche bags. We’d be wading and splashing and minding our own business, and then be inundated with a wave of pheromones smelling slightly of coconuts and Bud Light. There’d be a group of men to one side doing a line dance in the pool (I shit you not) and a group of women to the other giggling way too loud and doing their best to still pull off bellybutton rings. The DJ would shout “to the left to the left to the left” as the bass pumped and I’d do my best to get my daughters to the tiled shore before they’d be swept under by the riptide flowing out from the mating rituals.

 

Our children started suffering from sensory overload pretty early in the trip. We’d take them to see sharks and jumping dolphins and albino tigers; we went to carnivals, we ate and shopped constantly, we rode roller coasters and watched light shows. But as soon as we’d get back to the room, the kids would start pacing and staring at the confining walls like inmates on death row. “Dad I’m bored. I don’t think I can sit here anymore.” Jesus. But I guess that’s what Vegas is designed to do: continuously funnel the guests through a turnstile of constant consumption. And that’s what we did. Terra and I aren’t big gamblers, we only blew two hundred bucks (half of which wasn’t ours), but the three day trip still put me back about two grand. So be it. The lesson Catelynn learned via someone else’s track marks was worth every penny.

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Anyway, I write and sell books and they never cost more than a dollar. If you’re a fan of fiction, you should check out Trailer Park Juggernauts here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00704HK6Q If you’re a fan of real life with just a sprinkling of fiction, you should check out Ephemeral Truths and Short Fiction here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AYRAXNI

Monster

 

The Parasite

I remember looking down at the gelatinous little parasite and hating it instantly. It was putrid grey and about the size of a quarter; it had the consistency of cold snot. It was long dead, the saw that had quartered the cow I was butchering had taken care of that, but I was still repulsed by the thing’s existence. The little bastard was curled up cozy as can be in a slab of steak I was trimming and as soon as I realized what it was, I hacked it out with one of those white-handled butcher knives and threw it in the trash with the rest of the offal. But could it still infect me some how? Was it now, at this very moment, soughing off eggs or disease that couldn’t be contained by the trash can? Had I accidently touched it? Should I run to the bathroom and scrub my hands until they turned pink? Should I set fire to everything in sight to save the rest of humanity and scream like a girl while running for my life? There’s just something insidious about a parasite that irks me on a visceral level. I hate the little bastards.

 

I’m really only afraid of three things; parasites, sharks, and AIDS. The latter two are pretty easy to avoid so if I had to choose one of the three that bothers me the most, it’d be parasites for sure. As a side note, can you imagine how scary it’d be if there was such a thing as a shark with AIDS? Holy crap! I’d never swim in the ocean again. Actually, last Halloween, I wanted to dress up like one. I was going to get a shark costume and pin one of those AIDS awareness ribbons on my dorsal fin. Boom. I’d be the scariest thing ever. Anyway, back on track. I think my fear of parasites dates back to elementary school. Our teacher passed around a large capped beaker containing a huge tape worm and some cloudy formaldehyde. I froze up when it made it to my desk. The thing was long and flat and troglodyte-white with hooks for feet and an evil maw that it used to hang on inside your gut. The teacher told me that it couldn’t hurt me because it was dead and pickled, but I sure as hell didn’t trust him. How could anybody that kept monsters in jars be trusted?

 

Parasites personify every trait that we’re taught to hate; “parasitic” is an adjective always associated with villainy. They shun symbiotic relationships, they take but never give, they enter through deception, and they only leave through death. And if anything, my fear of them has been growing over the years just like a… well, like a parasite. So when I came across that evil little monster while cutting up a cow, I nearly stripped out of my white apron and left. But I couldn’t; I was doing it all for the edification of my young.

 

The wife and I had decided that we needed to show our oldest daughter where our food came from, so when we got a somewhat serendipitous invitation to help butcher a cow, we agreed. Our daughter knew that her burgers came from cows, her bacon from pigs, but it was a superficial type of knowledge. I imagine such knowledge could even be deemed inadmissible as hearsay. So we drove over to a friend’s house to help butcher a cow. Actually, all the unsavory tasks had already been accomplished. Someone else had shot the cow, skinned it and drained the blood; it had already been quartered and aged in a meet locker. My child would be getting the Cliff’s Notes version of death and butchery.

 

As soon as the work started, I could tell that our daughter wasn’t going to learn much. To her, she was just handling a bunch of steak that came from something roughly shaped like the back of a cow. In fact, she loved every bit of it. She got to use knifes like a grown up, and steak is probably her favorite thing to eat. She inherited the appetite for red meat from her mother, and standing next to the two of them as we cut steak after steak, I fully expected them to give in to the blood lust at any moment and start devouring the meat like a couple Velociraptors. It never happened.

 

The day was pretty uneventful until I came across the parasite, and even that didn’t really bother my daughter. “Uh yeah dad, just cut it out and cook the steak. Totes no problem.” Totes no problem my ass! Whatever. We took our share and left after a ranch style lunch of simple dishes that dated back to a more simple time. Cooked steak with salt. Red beats on a white plate. Cut lettuce with dressing and cheese. But as I was eating and as I was driving home, I couldn’t shake the chilling feeling that came from the dead parasite. In a way, it had infected me; part of it was living in my mind and I couldn’t dig it out. Its purpose had been fulfilled.

 

All of this was inspired by a friend’s blog. Her name is Savannah Grace and I’ve written about her work before because frankly, it kicks ass. She’s a globe trekking author with more talent than most, and she recently came across a cow that was tied up in the back of a taxi cab somewhere in Africa. How awesome is that? In a way, I’ve always been secretly jealous of Savannah’s life because she’s constantly surrounded by fodder for writing. And she uses it well; her style is relaxed and easy to read, almost like a conversation, and every bit of her life’s experience is interesting. The picture below is one of her next to the cow, but for the full experience, you’ll need to go read her blog here: http://www.watkinstravel.blogspot.com/2013/03/steak-for-breakfast.html. There’s also a video on her page, but I should warn you now, it’s a bit graphic. But the story is poignant, and if you’re a fan of travel blogs, Savannah’s is one of the best out there. So please check it out.

 

And please support Savannah buy downloading her book “Sihpromatum” here: http://www.amazon.com/Sihpromatum-Grew-Boobs-China-ebook/dp/B008YZ0184/

Cow in a Taxi

‘Merica

My wife has a friend who looks a lot like Uma Thurman. She has two adorable kids that are big on their please and thank you’s and every once and a while, they’ll come over to socialize with my two monsters or we’ll take them out. Last time, the wife and I took the foursome to one of those warehouse sized indoor amusement parks that are filled with enormous inflatable playhouses wherein the children get all cracked-out on slushies and nacho cheese and literally bounce from stimulus to stimulus like rabid pin-balls. The place is called Big Bounce, but from what I’ve seen, there’s something similar in any good sized town. Good healthy American fun.

Anyway, as soon as we walked in and sat down, I popped in a pair of those foam ear plugs that expand in your ears like some sort of parasite and I flipped on my Kindle. As soon as that foamy pressure filled my ears and the ungodly cacophony dimmed to white noise, I took a calming breath and imagined an enormous glass bowl lowering slowly around me. It was peace amidst a fructose fueled madhouse. I read for fifteen minutes or so until my wife got bored and shook my shoulder. She knows how much I love the spectator sport of people watching and she had found quite the specimen.

I followed her clandestine nod and found a man in his early fifties with a super sweet salt-and-pepper mullet and a handlebar mustache that was in need of some serious grooming. “In God’s Hands” was boldly printed on his hoodie. He was wearing a Monster energy drink hat, complete with the green claw marks, and he was drinking a Monster as if he were sponsored. Stone washed jeans wrapped up his ensemble nicely. This guy was rockin’ his approximation of “cool” with pride. I guess I’m not old enough to know, but maybe the getup was cool at one point in time. Maybe he was just one of those guys that stagnated when the next movement in fashion came along. Maybe his sense of cool was frozen in carbonite right along with Han Solo.

And that’s when I turned off my Kindle and took the plugs out of my ears. I started looking around as the noise came crashing back in and realized that I was right in the middle of some of the most epic people watching of all time. We were surrounded by bedazzled jeans and crimped hair and neck tattoos. There were fat men with too small shirts that probably couldn’t bend over far enough to see exactly how much they were exposing. There were women that managed to show ass-crack and tramp stamp and piercing all at the same time. It was awesome. I felt like Jane Goodall must’ve amongst her treasured primates.

My wife looked at me and said “you’re probably the smartest person here right now.” Not many things are worthy of a high five but that comment was (but of course we didn’t actually high-five because it would’ve alerted the redneck herd that an outsider was in their midst). I was smugly satisfied for a while until I realized that being the smartest person in Big Bounce is like being the smartest kid on the short bus. Oh well. I leaned back in my chair and started thinking all sorts of random thoughts. I imagined what it’d be like if Big Bounce were suddenly cut off from the rest of the world. Would I manage to take control Lord of the Flies style thanks to my only slightly higher education? I imagined a world without automated dispensers of nacho cheese, because that’s literally what this place had. I imagined the ebola monkey breaking in the front door and running rampant as I laughed like a maniac. I’m not saying they were all pleasant thoughts.

Right in the middle of my somewhat morbid revelry, a three-hundred-pound eleven-year-old walked in front of me. Look, I’m not judging the child here so please don’t get insulted yet. I know it’s the parent’s fault. I know that even the parents probably had to deal with hardship and that they’ve never come within light years of anything resembling nutritional education. I try to have empathy for childhood obesity, but it’s really hard to pull off when the kid is wearing a triple XL “T” shirt that’s covered with pictures of cheese burgers and french-fries. I shit you not. This kid’s shirt looked like it should’ve been a table cloth at McDonalds. The wife and I saw him at the same time and then turned slowly to look at each other with “WTF” expressions. She and I could’ve both fit into this kid’s sweatpants at the same time, and yet his parents had intentionally bought him a shirt that loudly proclaimed a proud love of fatty foods. Unbelievable.

Look; I feed my children trash occasionally. If you look closely in the picture of this kid, you’ll see the multiple slushie cups and ice cream wrappers and troughs of nacho cheese smothered chips that we were feeding our kids, but they see this type of exorbitance as a luxury. It’s an extremely rare frivolity. This poor kid lived his life that way. Every day for him was probably sans vegetable. I really felt for this kid; few things make me sad but this truly did. And it was impossible to stop thinking about it too, because even when you couldn’t see him, it was easy to tell exactly where he was. You could look out over the inflatable playhouses and see one of them swaying a good deal more than the others. It was like watching that T-Rex walk thought the forest in Jurassic Park 2. It’s impossible for me to not make comparisons like that. I hope you’ll forgive me.

The stress of that much excitement and sugar finally got to the four kids we were responsible for and they started to flock back to us. You could tell that one or two of them had cried at some point. One of mine was staring wide-eyed off into the distance as if her mind had finally snapped thanks to too much chocolate and cardio. My other child was sticky wherever not protected by clothing. They had had a great time, but it was time to go. We walked out past incoming hoards of children that would also make for some great people watching someday and finally made it to the parking lot. I watched the front door for a while as my children were buckling in and made the off-hand comment to my wife that Big Bounce should change their name to ‘Merica. We both laughed, but in hindsight, maybe we should’ve thought a bit harder about what we were laughing at.

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Anyway, I write and sell books and they never cost more than a dollar. If you’re a fan of fiction, you should check out Trailer Park Juggernauts here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00704HK6Q If you’re a fan of real life with just a sprinkling of fiction, you should check out Ephemeral Truths and Short Fiction here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AYRAXNI

Burger Shirt

Adam’s Apple Off Center

I originally set this blog up in an attempt to construct a verbal lightning rod that’d lead people to my books, and I suppose that’s happened to a degree, but as of right now, most of my readers come looking for a medical diagnosis. A few months ago, I wrote about a time in my life wherein a weird trip through the desert and a bit of alt-rock was the impetus behind a medical checkup that ultimately taught me more than I ever wanted to know about thyroid nodules. Long story short, I have one, it’s not cancer, and I get to live for a very long time with a lump in my throat that’s annoying at worst. You can read the original post here: https://thevelveteenmaraca.wordpress.com/2012/07/22/eoio-its-off-to-my-biopsy-i-go/

Anyway, WordPress is an ergonomic website and they have this nifty thingy that tells you how people come to read your crap; more specifically, I can read through all the search terms people typed into Google that led them to me. Most are interesting, some are banal, others are explicit, but the king of them all is “my Adam’s apple is off center”. If you count all the weird little variations, close to one hundred people from around the globe have gone to the computer instead of a doctor and ultimately ended up reading my experience from biopsy to diagnosis. As a side note, I can always tell when they’re from overseas because they spell “center” all bass-ackwards like “centre”.

It pisses me off a bit because I know for a fact that they’re not at all interested in my writing, but hey, at least they’re reading it, right? I’ve even considered using other terms that people might search for like “persistent cough” or “chest pain” or “really big boobs” but I decided against it because artifice is a novice’s tool (by the way, I’d like to take a moment to welcome the chain smoking boob fans that just found my blog). But I can’t really be pissed; it’d be a lie to say that I didn’t do a WebMD search just before going to the doctor so I’d be a hypocrite if I got all high and mighty.

And what if I actually did some good? Statistically speaking, at least one of the people that read my blog actually did have thyroid cancer, so maybe something I wrote led them to go get their own fine needle biopsy. Maybe somebody lived that would’ve died. Maybe I’m a hero. On the news or in the movies, whenever someone is accused of being a hero, they always shrug it off with a cliché and a servile grin and say something like “oh heck, I’m no hero. I was just doing what anybody would”. I’m not sure I could be that magnanimous if push ever came to shove. If some blonde bombshell of a reporter ever dubbed me a hero with a microphone instead of a sword, I’d say “why hell yes I’m a hero” as I stood arms akimbo silhouetted by the sun. Can you picture my cape billowing behind me?

Anyway, if you have a pain in your chest and cough up things that look like they come from a cat, stop smoking and get a chest x-ray. If your Adam’s apple is off center it’s probably a nodule that needs to be checked out. Hell, if you spell it “centre” you’ve probably got government funded health care and one less excuse than the rest of us that turn to the computer every time something weird hurts. And if you like really big boobs, you’re in the wrong place.

Lastly, I write and sell books, and they never cost more than a buck. If you’re a fan of fiction, you should check out Trailer Park Juggernauts here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00704HK6Q If you’re a fan of real life with just a sprinkling of fiction, you should check out Ephemeral Truths and Short Fiction here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AYRAXNI

According to WordPress, people in the colored countries may or may not have read about my Adam’s apple being off-center.
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