2016 Ripley year in review

The highlights and lowlights of 2016 (make yourself comfortable….I might go on a rant)

February…I was assigned three post-season basketball games, a personal high for me.  It’ll be a tough number to beat but every night on the court I try not to suck.  So far….so good.  I used to get butterflies before each game, hours before tip.  Nowadays I get a little nervous, but only to get the game started and start having fun.

April…I took a cruise in the Caribbean with my best buddy.  It was a banner year of travel for yours truly.  Haiti, Jamaica, Mexico and Japan.  Some of my favorite photos of the year were taken during this cruise.  Dave’s my wingman.  Has been since August of 1984.

KICKIN' ASS SINCE 1984

KICKIN’ ASS SINCE 1984

The Tequila Kid and The Ripper

The Tequila Kid and The Ripper

June….a family vacation to Colorado.  All five of us.  Again…lots of fun, great food and a few memorable photos.

Hurricane Pass

Hurricane Pass

We were all over those rapids like a hobo on a ham sandwich

We were all over those rapids like a hobo on a ham sandwich

August…the unexpected death of a young friend.  I miss him.  I was working yesterday when a young man wearing a hoodie turned towards me asked a question, he looked like my friend.  It took me aback.  His death has affected the way that I manage our young employees.  I can’t say that its a better way of managing, but more aware of what’s at stake.  Over the course of 27 years I’ve known five employees who’ve taken their own lives.  I’ve never come to a reasonable answer for any one of them.  As I said before…I miss him.

2016...With our friends daughter, Lilly. She'll never know...

2016…With our friends daughter, Lilly. She’ll never know how great of a person Jordan was.

 

August…..they flew the coop!!  Our two youngest daughters left…in a big way.  One to Germany.  The other to Japan.  Our closest daughter is in Miami…1500 miles away.  My wife and I are all alone.

September….we’ve lived in this neighborhood since 2002.  We’ve been the “new” neighbors for almost 15 years to our next door neighbors.  With Pat and Ed moving into an assisted living apartment and our other neighbor moving to a nearby town…Connie and I are now “old” neighbors.  The young couple living next to us put up a privacy fence and don’t let me pet their dog (of all things…?) but at least Jerry and Claire seem more like our kind.  Nice…wave if they see you…stop and talk.

October...at my workplace, I started posting videos on our stores Facebook page with the charge of “engage our customers”.  Many of the videos that I see on Facebook for our company are…professional though fairly bland, in my opinion.  What I did was become Rowdy Rich.  I  started putting stuff out there with the idea of trying to catch our customers attention with #1…a gimmick (me wearing a pig nose for National Pork Month or something else) and #2…a great price on something that our customers may want.  Its resulted in folks enjoying our Facebook videos but as far as driving us towards a sizable sales increase, don’t hold your breath.

November….I traveled to Japan to visit our daughter Karalee.  Its a long-ass flight…dead serious, but quite an adventure…and I totally enjoyed myself.

At some falls in a gorge with Karalee

At some falls in a gorge with Karalee

December…I read my Facebook “Year in Review”.  Can’t say that I liked it, so I didn’t post it.  What I did find interesting is that I “liked” 5300 times.  REALLY?!  Am I that promiscuous with the “like” button?!  Broken down daily…that’s like 15 “likes” a day.  I was wondering if I was being too liberal with it, then I realized that I was being totally stupid because I’m always going to “like” or react to dog and cat videos, beautiful sunrise/sunset photos, memes that are probably inappropriate and a friend of mine posted her Facebook in review and she had over 10,000 “likes” (BTW…she rarely posts, what she does post isn’t funny and she’s a fairly quiet person….so if anyone has a problem it’s her….not me, cause I’m normal).

Connie left me alone for the holidays.  Dead serious.  For the last week I’ve been totally alone.  Christmas Eve…alone.  Christmas morning…alone.  Thank God my brother and his wife had me over for Christmas dinner (where I was fed like a King!!).  Before you get the tar warmed up and feathers ready, she’s visiting our two daughters.  One in Germany and one in Japan, with a quick visit to Sweden where she’s touring where her ancestors lived, not to mention the moose burgers she ate and wine she’s been drinking…all the while “missing you sweetheart!!”  That old ruse!!  Someone needs to start a business where you can rent a pet for the duration of your wife’s vacation.  Her absence would be greatly eased with either a puppy or kitten greeting me every nightDead serious. 

My boss had a baby.  So I’m trying to do my job and hers.  I can’t really half-ass either and get away with it…so I’ve been going into work on my days off for a few hours and working.  I’ve worked 25 hours in two days so far this week!  Its okay…I’m just getting a little grumpy towards the end of my work day…especially with no puppy or kitten or wife to greet me at home.  Also…since its Christmas break there’s no basketball games to officiate to work off my stress.  Honestly…that brings me down as well.

I’m part of Big Brothers/Big Sisters, an organization that pairs at-risk kids with mentors.   I’m a Big Brother to a 14 year-old young man.  I try to be a good influence on him, take him to movies, dinner, games, try to teach him life-skills, etc.  We’ve been together for 2+ years.  Recently his mother (and him) won’t respond to me taking him out like we used to do.  I’ve been trying for two months with nothing happening.  If his mother does reply she says that “he’ll get back to you”.  I understand that he’s 14, probably doesn’t think replying to my texts are a big deal…but I wonder if we’re “done”.  It kind of made me mad, at first, but perhaps I was only to be a part of his life for these past two years and that’s his journey, not mine.  Our case worker is reaching out to him…but I have a feeling that its “over”.  If it is…I’d be sad.  He doesn’t have a good male role model (not that I’m a Boy Scout by any measure….) in his life.  His friends are shoplifting and such, I told his mother that. He might be done with me.   I’ll just wait and see.

Ripley's...jumping for joy

Ripley’s…jumping for joy

I hope that your year was a great one.  Take care and thanks for coming along.

God bless…

R

 

Two words…ROAD TRIP!!!!

I called my long time best friend last fall and ran the idea of just the two of us getting away for a vacation.  We were turning fifty and had been best friends for over three decades so why not get away?  Our wives were for it, I turned the planning over to Dave and BAM!!  We had a seven day Caribbean cruise booked for early April.  We were both pumped about the idea and couldn’t wait for it to get here.  We departed Iowa on a unseasonably cold April Friday amongst snow showers, flying to sunny and warm Fort Lauderdale Florida.  Man…what a trip.  Our flights went smoothly.  Time flies (no pun intended) when you’re 30,000 feet in the air, drinking beer and swapping lies and memories with your best friend.

We touched down in Fort Lauderdale at eleven at night, picked up our luggage and made our way to the hotel shuttle…with a warm and balmy breeze slowly thawing our middle-aged frozen Midwest bones.  Life is good.  God is great.

I’ve never taken a cruise before.  We were on Royal Caribbean’s goliath ship Oasis of the Sea’s…weighing in at 255,000 tons and longer than the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier (but half as lethal…).  It.  Is.  Massive.

Oasis of the Sea's (on the left) compared to another cruise ship.

Oasis of the Sea’s (on the left) compared to another cruise ship.

It has a machine that makes 4000 rolls an hour (I couldn’t keep up with it but I tried!!).  The pool for its diving show is 17.9′ deep…making it the deepest pool on any cruise ship.  It takes five million gallons of water to fill its multiple pools.  It manufacturers 110,000 pounds of ice…A DAY (that’s a lot of daiquiris and pina colada’s).  There’s 3,300 miles of electrical cable throughout the ship.  There are 186 bartenders, many of whom I grew very fond of.  There’s Dean, Jose, Ariel, Nikoletta, Dean II, Sampson, Mister Blurry, Misses Blurry & “That GUY!!”…all wonderful, hardworking, patient and professional.

We boarded and quickly started taking photos and enjoying the ship, even while in port.

Leaving Fort Lauderdale port on 4/9/2016

Leaving Fort Lauderdale port on 4/9/2016

The locals caught wind of me being in town that day and decided to commemorate my appearance (if even on a passing cruise ship…) by getting hitched (some people!!)

I don't know who was happier...the newly weds or me?

I don’t know who was happier…the newly weds or me?

Even the mayor of Fort Lauderdale turned out to see me off….

Your Honor....

Your Honor….

Our state room

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Saturday and Sunday were spent cruising towards our first stop, Labadee Haiti.  The morning dawned just as a storm was moving out, making it the best sunrise of the cruise.

Just off the coast of Haiti.  Stunningly beautiful.

Just off the coast of Haiti. Stunningly beautiful.

Wonderful.  Absolutely wonderful.  Warm and balmy, no allergies, no jackets.  Blessed

Wonderful. Absolutely wonderful. Warm and balmy, no allergies, no jackets. Blessed

Once docked we meandered towards the shuttle that would take us to a Royal Caribbean owned, stocked and staffed beach.

 

 

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The wagon loads of food and drink that is brought to the beaches for us.

The wagon loads of food and drink that is brought to the beaches for us.

Ribs, BBQ chicken, salad, fresh fruit & desserts....we ate like Kings...very fat Kings.

Ribs, BBQ chicken, salad, fresh fruit & desserts….we ate like Kings…very fat Kings.

The beach was clean.  The water…warm and salty.  The sky…blue.  Bugs?  Nonexistent.  The only issue…they had computer issues at the beverage hut so they couldn’t sell or serve alcohol for around 45 minutes.  Apparently even Paradise has IT issues from time to time.

Suns out  Guns out.

Suns out Guns out.

Realism is just around the corner.  This high wall topped with razor wire was a stark reminder of what lies behind it…kept from our view.

I was never adventurous enough to leave our pleasant confines and wander through unprotected areas.

I was never adventurous enough to leave our pleasant confines and wander through unprotected areas.

The cruise was an international affair.  I rode a shuttle with some Israeli kids, just about died in a Jeep with an Alabaman driving like a bat out of hell, ate supper with a couple of ladies from Thailand (who thought Dave looked like John Travolta…and they weren’t drinking….), soaked up some rays with some Jordanians and broke bread with Jorge and Fariba from Miami.  I love listening to their stories.  Like the room attendant who’s saving up his money to buy property in his country then build an apartment building and become a landlord, or our room attendant who’s been working for the cruise line for ten years.  Those folks working on the ship work eight months (seven days a week) then get two months off.  It’s hard work, they earn their keep and they’re doing a wonderful job of it.

Here I am assisting a lady at the pool with proper form….or so it would seem.

Sight gag #2

Sight gag #2

One little thing bothered Dave and I on the cruise…and that was perhaps the perception that we were a “couple” and not a couple of married men with wives and kids at home or in college.  About the only time it surfaced was when the cruise photographers (they’re everywhere) would ask us to pose together.  I get it.  They want to sell photo’s of couples who are celebrating an anniversary, or honeymoon or special evening, and its something that if we had, had our wives with us we would have taken advantage of as they’re good photos.  One evening, as Dave and I made our way to the main dining room in our Sunday best, one photographer wouldn’t take “no” as our answer to a posed photo.  After three forced poses of “back to back” now “face me with your hands in your pockets” with Dave and I grimacing for each one….I announced “…and now one in our action crime fighting pose!!”  Dave, not missing a beat, followed suit.  The photographer looked at us…paused, shrugged his shoulders and took the below photo.  Consequently…we were never asked to pose again the rest of the week.

KICKIN CRIMES ASS SINCE 1984

KICKIN CRIMES ASS SINCE 1984

….but this is how we really are…laid back besties.

The Tequila Kid and The Ripper

The Tequila Kid and The Ripper

Until next time…God bless and thanks for coming along!

R