Monday, May 31, 2010

Viva Laughlin (unedited)

Not long ago on a blog I wrote that I'm too young to start vacationing in Laughlin, Nevada.

As previously noted, I spent a few days in April vacationing in Laughlin. The trip was with my girlfriend, and we rented a convertible in order to spend a night in Vegas. Remember this?

The trip was ridiculously cheap, which is why we went. Getting out of town is great, and when times are tough, you take what you can get.

I had been to Laughlin once, spending a handful of hours there during a trip to Vegas. I don't know if they still offer them, but years ago there were free buses from Vegas that delivered you to Laughlin for five hours. I was on vacation with my friend and her parents, and we took the free bus one day, just to see the casino town built along the Colorado River. That was the reason Monica and I went to Laughlin. I think her parents spent all their time gambling.

It was interesting to see, but I had no desire to return to Laughlin. But when the price is right, it's hard to say no.

We had a direct flight from Minneapolis to Laughlin on a charter airline. The airport is a single runway parallel to the river, on the Arizona side of it. I don't remember what airline it was, but I liked it. The drinks were a buck or two cheaper than most airlines, which certainly put me in the mood for a 3-1/2 day vacation.

We stayed at Harrah's, the last casino along the river. There are eight or 10 casinos along the river, and one across the street from them. Many of them are easily accessible by walkways along the river. Unfortunately Harrah's is a bit of an island unto itself. It's not miles away, and there's a way to get to the other casinos by walking, but it's not quick and convenient to do. On a hot day in Laughlin, I wouldn't want to make the walk, even if it's a dry heat.

Harrah's is a nice property, and on the weekend the Laughlin casinos nabs their share of varying demographics. It is, after all, 100 miles closer than Las Vegas for many people in Arizona, and touring shows of varying genres do come through town, so it's not entirely a retirement community. But it sorely lacks the opulence and reckless disregard of Vegas.

We arrived on a Saturday night, prime time for the casino cruisers. I was grateful to have a late afternoon flight instead of an early morning flight as is often the case when flying to Vegas. It was a nice day in Minnesota and I spent part of hit hunting down a feature photo for my newspaper(s). Not what I wanted to do, but duty calls.

Our first night was rather modest. We played some video blackjack and I made a few bucks, even though I swear those video blackjack machines are rigged. We didn't venture elsewhere that night.

On Sunday the weather was nice. It was sunny and warm, but the hotel towers shade the pool by mid-afternoon. The pool itself was cold, surprisingly so, and the hot tub wasn't exactly hot. But it was nice to enjoy outdoor pool weather in April.

It may have been my first vacation in Laughlin, but I'm no dummy. I found coupons for two Laughlin casinos inside American Casino Guide, a comprehensive book about casinos nationwide. The book is popular primarily because of the coupons in it, many of which are for the Vegas area, and many of which aren't that spectacular. But there are several two-for-one discounts in it. For Laughlin there were two-for-one buffet deals at Harrah's and another casino up the river, Aquarius. We also had a two-for-one meal deal in the cafe at Harrah's, so that made three discounted meals during our trip. And what did I pay to get this book? Less than $4, delivered. It costs around $15 to get it delivered, typically, but I'm savvy, I used a little of that online magic to get a great deal.

We spent some time Sunday night exploring other casinos. As I noted, it's easy to go from one to the next as long as you're not at Harrah's. They have a water taxi service, however, that runs up and down the river each day. It doesn't run particularly late, so we took one of the pontoon boats up the river that evening and took a traditional taxi back to Harrah's. It costs $4/person for the water taxi. It cost less than $8 for a traditional cab to take us back to Harrah's.

I had some good and bad luck on Sunday evening. On Sunday afternoon I saw the Minnesota Timberwolves were only 5-point underdogs against the Charlotte Bobcats, in Charlotte. The Wolves are terrible, and Charlotte was a playoff team. I bet $25 on the Bobcats. They were crushing Minnesota at halftime. I wish I had bet a lot more than $25, as I easily won that wager.

I entered a poker tournament that evening at Harrah's. I think it was a $45 entry fee. I had good luck in the first hour. I had pocket queens on a hand where an opponent had pocket kings. The flop had all low cards, so I bet a decent amount. The woman called. A queen came on the turn, I bet the rest of my chips, (which technically was an all-in bet, although it lacked the intimidation of an all-in bet.) We turned up the cards and everyone saw how lucky I was. I had to dodge a king or jack on the river to win the hand. She would have made a higher set with a king, a straight with a jack. She got neither, I win the hand.

Unfortunately blinds move fast enough that you can't sit on one big win for a long time. After the intermission the blinds were quickly zapping my stack, so I had to go all in with any decent pocket cards, and when I did it was game over for me. Such is life.

On Monday we rented the Ford Mustang for our trip to Vegas. It was a bit cool by Nevada standards, so the convertible wasn't as appealing as it should have been, but it was warm enough to enjoy the ride, at least during the afternoon. We arrived in Vegas mid-afternoon. How did we spend our first hours? After checking in at our hotel I dropped my girlfriend off at Luxor, where a friend of hers was staying. I went to the Pinball Hall of Fame and spent three hours playing pinball machines of every vintage. It's a working pinball museum, and it's a blast. I could spend hours at that place.

My girlfriend is well connected, she had a comped room for us at Paris, and we also had a free buffet dinner at Caesar's Palace, as well as a late show at Bally's. The buffet was normally $27 per person, and plenty of people were lined up to pay for it. We didn't have to wait, and it was complimentary. What a life I lead!

As for our show, it was rather odd. It was a classic Vegas show. Jubilee has musical numbers, fancy sets and topless women. It's quite a production, but I still don't get the point of the topless women. In a strip club, it makes sense. When dancing and singing, it seems silly. Not every woman was topless every moment of the show, but there was plenty of it throughout the night. It was an entertaining show, although after an hour you've had enough. I wouldn't recommend paying full price to see it, but as a free show, it was something to see. The musical tribute to the Titanic was well done, although watching a Vegas show paying homage to a sinking ship is a bit odd.

After Jubilee ended my girlfriend gambled and I walked down the strip to buy some cheap souvenirs. I was looking at calendars on display near a cash machine in the shop. The dude at the cash machine was dressed a bit sloppy and looked rather confused, as if he couldn't figure out how to make his card produce cash. I minded my own business, but in the back of my mind wondered if my minute pouring over calendars in the shop was unsettling to him, as if I was trying to see him enter his secret code. Sure enough, the guy asks, in English, if I wouldn't mind stepping a way for a minute.

English clearly wasn't his first language, so I didn't immediately understand his request. He said he had obsessive-compulsive disorder, and was offering to buy me something if I'd back off for a minute. At least that's what I thought he was saying. At first I thought he was trying to talk me into some sort of scam that I failed to understand since I had a hard time deciphering his lackluster English. But eventually I realized he was just nutty, and needed space. I was pretty much done looking over the calendars, so I had no problem with that.

A woman working in the store, however, did have a problem. She came over and asked the man if he was bothering her customers. The rather quick exchange ended with exclaiming "fuck you" before exiting the store. The woman went out after him, calling to the security officers who were working in the parking lot of the strip mall. I didn't go to the door to see the exchange, or try to defend the guy. Perhaps I should have, as I could hear some sort of discussion going outside the store. Instead I went about my business and hoped the dude with the bad haircut, pajama pants and flip flops would resolve his issues. I see odd characters like that every time I'm in Vegas and wonder how they came to be there. I assume he wasn't a tourist, but even if he was a local, he probably didn't grow up in Vegas. Somehow a guy who didn't have command of the English language and looked like he had just crawled out of bed was trying to use a cash machine at a souvenir shop on the Vegas strip shortly after midnight on a Tuesday morning in April. Explain that one to me.

We hit the road promptly Tuesday morning so we could have the rental car back in Laughlin by noon. I didn't want to pay for a two-day rental if we weren't going to use the car for two days, so there was no all-night fun and games for me in Vegas. As it turned out, I never wagered one dime in Vegas. If I had more time I would have went somewhere I liked playing blackjack. I had a rental car, it would have been easy to do, but I couldn't afford the time. I also would have enjoyed taking a late night spin up and down the strip with the top down, but it was cool, and very windy, so that idea got nixed.

Our final day in Laughlin was spent at the pool in the afternoon and gambling in the evening. My girlfriend gambled at Harrah's, I went up the river by myself in search of better blackjack action. It was a Tuesday night in April, not exactly the most thrilling night of the year, but wow, it wasn't Vegas. I was surprised by how dead the casinos were. I found decent action at my first stop, which I think was Edgewater. Unfortunately my luck was non-existent. I lost $50 playing $5 hands and went on my way.

The next stop was Aquarius, where I managed to win $50 at a $5 blackjack table in a short period of time. Sensing my luck wouldn't last at the table with a couple of amateur players on the felt, I changed tables. I had early luck at my second table, but that went south. Eventually I cashed out even.

I made one more stop for the night, at Colorado Belle. There wasn't much happening there, just a few tables in play. You'd think it was 5 a.m. in Vegas on a Tuesday it was so quiet at 11 p.m.

I managed to have good luck, winning enough cash at $5 or $10 a hand to cover my modest losses during the trip. It was a hand-shuffle table, and I was about even for the trip. I decided if I was ahead $10 by my accounting that would pay for the cab ride back to Harrah's and I could call it a night. I immediately won three hands, cashed out, called a cab and finished the trip a winner, if only by $10.

We had an early flight out on Wednesday, so there was no last-minute gambling that morning.

I wouldn't pay a lot to go to Laughlin, but I enjoyed the trip. We may do it again soon!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Waste of Minnesota (unedited)

When it comes to big summer festivals, the Twin Cities often comes up short.

There are festivals, but nothing nearly as spectacular as what Chicago hosts every summer. And Stinktown has our metropolitan area trumped, too.

Our big claim to fame, I guess, is the Minnesota State Fair, a 12-day end-of-summer blowout. I can't speak authoritatively, but I often hear the Minnesota fair touted as one of the biggest, somehow. I think the caveat is that by average daily attendance we're one of the biggest. The Texas fair runs longer than the Minnesota fair, I guess, and therefore draws more visitors, but somehow we have more state fair rubes than most every other state. That's what we love here, evidently.

Like other major metropolitan areas we have a "taste" festival. The Taste of Minnesota is typically a handful of days long, around the Fourth of July. It features food, allegedly indigenous to Minnesota, as well as entertainment. It is held in St. Paul and has undergone changes over the years.

I know the festival dates back to the 1980s and use to be on the state capitol lawn. Now it's in another part of St. Paul, a somewhat inconvenient area known as Harriet Island. It moved several years ago.

The event is a corporate entity. In recent years it has changed ownership, and that ownership is trying to make some changes.

Like everything else, Taste of Minnesota depends upon people showing up and overpaying for anything and everything for sale. The festival was free to roam, so you could come watch free entertainment, or just hang around like a hoodlum, and not spend a dime.

Last year the new ownership changed that. You had to pay $10 for access to the grounds, but you also received $10 in food tickets, the currency all vendors must accept for their product. The owners also tried to hike up the level of the main stage entertainment each evening as a drawing card for those who otherwise couldn't care less about a glorified state fair concession stand collection.

New this year: It's $20 to get in during the day, $30 in the late afternoon and evening, and there's no food tickets for your trouble. The owners are banking that by ramping up the entertainment level on the free stage again, people will pay for the show, just as they would at a concert venue. One night the entertainment is 80s rock acts, headlined by Sammy Hagar. Another night its 90s rock, featuring 311 and Offspring. Another night its 90s alt-pop, or whatever you consider Counting Crows and Gin Blossoms.

The problem is that if I'm not interested in the main stage entertainment, I'm going to be hard pressed to pay $30 for access to a bunch of mass produced food products.

The ownership promises a variety of entertainment throughout the day. That's great if you put a high value on the entertainment being offered, a lot of which is music, but if you don't, it has suddenly become a very expensive proposition for a family of four to spend a day at Taste of Minnesota. There's no indication that kids get in for a discount, so a family of four may pay $80 this summer just for access, never mind the $5 soda and the $7.50 hamburgers.

I have a feeling the Taste of Minnesota, something I haven't been to in many years, will struggle mightily this year. Perhaps I underestimate how much people are willing to spend on a holiday weekend just to say they're being entertained, or perhaps I underestimate the draw of the main stage acts. In less than two months, we'll know.

I wish somebody in this town would take a page from Stinktown's playbook and do it right. Stinktown's annual Summerfest, which lasts about 10 days each summer and ends around the Fourth of July, has the right idea. They're not giving away the music, but they offer so much more for the money that it makes the Taste of Minnesota look pathetic. It's almost too big of an event it's so popular.

What this town really needs is a taste of Stinktown.

Lost Vegas

Here's another of those rare double posts.

In this case the origin of the source material is my comment in response to a blog post at Rex appears to be the only person writing blog entries at the site, and that's fine. He has great stories and observations about living in Sin City, and posts them almost daily, some months more than once per day. If you enjoy Las Vegas, and want to know more than where the hottest ultra lounge action is going to be this weekend, Rex is your guy.

Here's the source material: Right here, Chachi!

Even if you don't read the blog entry, my lowercase comment tells a story on its own. Here it is:

when i was 26 i took my first trip to LV. my buddy and i stayed at MGM, got a good rate on a three-night weekend, enjoyed our time out and about and weren’t being fleeced at every turn up and down the strip. it helped that half-pound hot dogs were 99 cents at the boardwalk.

i’d heard about a few clubs around vegas, such as the beach. i went there once or twice. it was a dance place that wasn’t ridiculously priced. i didn’t feel like a sucker for the time i spent there one night with a few friends on a subsequent trip.

it was only logical that the casinos started working harder to get a piece of that action. somehow they convinced young morons that they wanted to overpay for anything and everything associated with a club, and thus the ultralounge was born.

perhaps the ultralounge is just a bi-product of the upscale positioning of every property on the strip.

now i’m an old man, 39 years old. i was raised catholic, so even when i was younger and in better shape than i am today, i was never the chiseled picture of superficiality that you see in “camp vegas” promos. seeing a promo like that makes me think that there’s no place for me in vegas.

years ago i started to realize that downtown was more my style. i was young and attracted to the allure of the strip. by my mid-30s the strip i knew was gone, and since i’m not getting rich in my old age, i have been rapidly priced off the strip.

in january 2007 i stayed two nights at greek isles, a small hotel a block off the strip. during a geocaching adventure i discovered the old beach club, now closed. of course it was, given its off-strip location. what a shame.

i like to do a lot of things besides gamble when i’m in vegas, sadly the strip is figuring less and less into that list.

maybe it’s OK to have an ultralounge in the downtown district, if it caters to the sensibilities of the downtown gambler.

live long and prosper, downtown, i’m too young to start vacationing in laughlin.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Little things mean a lot

I haven't taken the time to chronicle my trip to Vegas for old people: Laughlin, Nevada. That trip was in April. I will do that one of these days, but for now here's a copy of the letter I sent to our car rental agency. As you would expect, I over tell the story.

Hi, I wanted to let you know what a lousy morning I had when I rented a car from the Avis in Laughlin, NV. (Location ID: R1M)

Actually I was having a good morning on April 12. It was my first trip to Laughlin, we were staying at Harrah's and we took the water taxi up to Aquarius for brunch. It was raining that morning, much to our surprise, but that didn't dampen our spirits. We were renting a car and driving up to Las Vegas for a night.

As we headed out of Aquarius, my girlfriend suggested calling our car rental agency to see if there was a free shuttle available. I didn't expect it, but I called. Sure enough, they'd send a car to pick us up. What a nice surprise.

Our rental agency was Budget. I had used an online search to determine car rental agencies available in the Laughlin area. The website I used didn't include Avis. I assumed it was returning results from the entire area, but maybe it was just the Arizona side of the border. Since the airport is across the border, it made sense that the car rental agencies would be, too.

Budget had the best rate, so I made a reservation days before our trip.

I had expected to pay for a taxi to Budget, so I was pleased to hear they had a driver on the road at the time I called. I was told they'd send him a message to turn around and pick us up. I assumed we were minutes away from our rental car.

More than 30 minutes later we were still waiting. I called again, and was told the driver was still on his way. Confused at what could take so long on a Monday morning in Laughlin, I hung up. I went inside to use the restroom and stopped at the bell desk on my way out. I asked the bellhop if there was a nearby car rental agency and he provided me with the phone number for Avis, not far down the street, and visible from the Aquarius parking lot.

Shortly thereafter I received a call from the shuttle driver, asking me if there was one or two in my party. There were two. That was a problem, he didn't have room for two people at the moment, inexplicably, so it would be another 25 minutes. By now we had been waiting at least 45 minutes.

I called Avis and inquired about rental rates and availability. With my AAA discount I could get a car for about $10 more than Budget. I no longer cared about saving $10. The helpful woman on the phone said it would be no problem to rent a car if I showed up at her office in 10 minutes, there were plenty of vehicles available. My girlfriend and I quickly decided we were taking our business to Avis.

I was offered shuttle service for the short ride over to the Tropicana Hotel, where the Avis office is located, but there was a 10-15 minute wait. I was anxious to get my car and continue on with my vacation, so we took a taxi across the street. It wasn't directly across the street, but it was the shortest cab ride I had ever taken.

As we were getting into the cab, I called Budget and let the woman know we were extremely displeased with waiting nearly an hour for her shuttle on a quiet Monday morning. I indicated we were about to take off in a cab, and if there wasn't a reason for me to direct it to Budget, we were headed to Avis. Basically I was looking for some sort of discount off our one-day rate, or at minimum compensation for cab ride to Budget. She said she wasn't authorized to do anything for me along the lines of a discount, so I said thank you, we're heading to Avis. She apologized for the inconvenience. If her apology had included compensation for the cab ride, she would have rented a vehicle that day. Since it didn't, I told the cab driver we were going to Avis.

The best part about the conversation was when I suggested we were about to go to Avis, the Budget representative said that Avis might not have any cars available. It sounded like she was trying to sell us fear, fear that we'd be wasting our time at Avis. I was quite pleased to report I had already called Avis and was told there would be no problem renting a car that morning.

The front desk employee at Avis was quite helpful and friendly. She seemed rather sympathetic to our frustration and was curious how we had wound up with a reservation at Budget when we were so much closer to Avis. All I could tell her was that our knowledge of the area was limited and the thoroughness of my search was inadequate.

When I was looking to rent a car prior to our trip, I wanted to rent a convertible as a surprise for my girlfriend. Before the trip I told her it wasn't going to happen. I had learned the Budget had no convertibles. So, to our surprise, among the cars we were offered that day at Avis was a blue Mustang convertible. I asked how much extra it would cost and was told it was available at the same price as the other cars.

So for our extra $10 we ended up with great service and a convertible. That's a great deal in my book.

I don't remember the woman's name, but I am sure somebody can determine who worked on Monday morning, April 12, and let her know how much we appreciated her help.

Avis provided great service, certainly worth the extra $10 we paid. There's a chance we're returning to Laughlin in July, a very good chance, it appears. That trip will likely include another visit to Las Vegas. There is no doubt that the only car rental agency we will call is Avis.

Thanks again.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

If Joe Mauer is gay, a lot of people care (unedited)

A comment I received from Facebook nation last week when I posed the "is Joe Mauer gay" question: who cares, and does it matter.

No, it doesn't matter, that is very true, but a lot of people care.

Every young woman who is in love with Mauer cares if he is gay. If he's gay, the fantasy of marrying Mauer goes up in smoke.

Every young, gay athlete cares if Mauer is gay. Name a prominent athlete who is gay. News flash, you can't. There's still a major stigma associated with gay men and professional athletics. To the best of my knowledge, every gay athlete keeps his personal life private until the end of his career. If Mauer is gay, and you say it doesn't matter, are you saying that gay men (or women) in certain professions should endure the social stigma of homosexuality?

As I think I noted before, every Twins fan cares if Mauer is gay. If there's a story about Mauer's personal life available online, people will read it. Who cares if he is gay? The same people who care about his personal life if it turns out he's dating Lindsay Lohan. When word gets out that Mauer is gay, everybody will track down the story online, which is ironic since Mauer's personal life is a "who cares" subject.

I have no reason to suspect Joe Mauer is gay, but I learned a lot about society by wondering if he is.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

I hate May, so does Napoleon (unedited)

I'm not sure why, but I have a hard time getting motivated in May. It's a nice time of the year, warm during the day, cool at night. Somehow I'm always kinda disappointed with life in May, and struggle to make the most of it. And April typically isn't much better.

Nonetheless I'm going to push myself to make the most out of the rest of the month, which includes the annual Memorial Day weekend camping trip. Two weeks from tonight I'll be home from the annual camping trip... here's hoping my mood is much more upbeat by then.

Another guy who might not be having a great May is our former fearless leader, the man we referred to as Napoleon. A week ago Friday it was announced, rather quietly, that the top dog of our four-state newspaper conglomerate was resigning. The announcement was posted on our website, without a mention to any of the minions that our leader was no longer leading our company. We're in the communications business, but you wouldn't know it by how poorly we communicate internally.

Most of us were tickled by the news. The guy who was lining his pocket for years to the tune of $300,000 or more, was no longer calling the shots. As far as I'm concerned, the guy has been stealing for years. His punishment: probably a negotiated severance check. It was reported that he stood to cash a $450,000 paycheck if the board of directors ever kicked him to the curb.

Two of my co-workers who have lived off of relatively peanuts for the past several years were kicked to the curb last June at the end of our unceremonious bankruptcy saga without a dime of severance. Good to know that when a company kicks loyal employees who are woefully paid, they get nothing from the company, yet a well-paid executive is guaranteed a fat paycheck when he was kicked to the curb, a kicking that would undoubtedly come as the result of a lackluster performance by Napoleon. It's your country.

There was nary a tear shed for Napoleon, but I was a little less than ecstatic. It was good to know that Napoleon was finally done stealing from our company, but when the weekend was over those of us left behind had to return to our lousy jobs at a failing company in a dying industry. If anyone has any reason to be concerned, it's those that fed off of Napoleon's gravy train -- his uneducated son, the son's trophy wife and at least two of Napoleon's loyalists and their wives. If you're the uneducated boy genius, you should be seriously concerned. I'm sure he cashes a huge paycheck for a job dad gave him through on-the-job training. He, along with the trophy wife, are just as guilty of stealing as Napoleon is as far as I'm concerned. I don't know the kid personally, and I can't fault him for taking advantage of nepitism, but I won't start to feel good about our company until the day that spoiled brat is forced to go out and earn a paycheck on his own.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

If Joe Mauer is gay, you care!

I've pondered a few analogies since initially daring to ask if Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer is gay.

People who loved the Dixie Chicks couldn't burn their CDs fast enough after the lead singer made a disparaging comment about President George W. Bush during a concert.

Who cares? So you disagree with her personal politics, and don't like that she voiced her opinion. Suddenly you don't like the music? False!

Obviously people cared, even though one had nothing to do with the other. People still liked their music, but they chose to protest because they decided the lead singer's personal politics were more important than music they enjoyed the day before. How ridiculous.

Yet linking the two was not ridiculous to thousands of country music fans. I say who cares about the political opinions of a musical artist, particularly when the leanings appear to have little or no influence on the songs the artist is singing.

Plenty of people justify caring about the political views of an artist. Yet according to three members of my Facebook nation, it's ridiculous to care about the personal life of Mauer. The logic seems a little flawed.

You could argue that the lead singer made her political opinions known during a concert, so it's fair game. If Mauer is gay, he hasn't made that clear to anyone. It's OK to care, and react, to what an artist puts out there. If the athlete hasn't divulged his same-sex preference, we shouldn't care.

Fair argument, but it's only OK to care about something if the artist, athlete or politician divulges it first?

If a politician never talks about his past when he runs for office, a past that includes drunken driving, cheating on his wife or stealing prescription drugs while he worked in the private sector as a young, carefree adult, then you're not allowed to care about it? Sorry, not how it works.

But athletes aren't politicians, therefore the same standard shouldn't apply. If so, then of course nobody should care about whether or not Tiger Woods was faithful to his life. If he doesn't want to talk about it, then nobody should care. Yet plenty of people did, and still do.

Somehow the idea that Mauer could be gay because he leads an exemplary personal life elicited the "who cares" response from three people yesterday, all of whom I bet would want to know what an article called "The secret love of Mauer's life" said if it appeared online at If Mauer wanted to cut open a vein and spill the details of his love life -- straight, gay or otherwise -- tons of people would read it, because they care.

And for the record, I posted a new topic of discussion on Facebook today. " Assuming Tiger Woods gets divorced, will he ever get remarried?" Here's speculation about another athlete and his personal life, which should be of no more interest than Mauer's personal life. I posted that topic and got a handful of responses, but not one "who cares." Is it just a coincidence that I didn't get that response today, or is the "who cares" crowd being hypocritical?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Is Joe Mauer gay?

An interesting question came up today. Is Joe Mauer gay?

Does Joe Mauer want to have sex with men?

The question came up sarcastically. And asking the question is actually complimentary.

Mauer, the starting catcher of the Minnesota Twins, just signed a ridiculous new contract in which he will gross more than $180 million for his service. He was projected to be a star many years ago. Slowly he lived up to, and exceeded, the hype. Not only is he the reigning American League Most Valuable Player, he's a local boy. He grew up in St. Paul. He is the toast of the town. Every time he stubs his toe, there's intense media scrutiny about his health. Every single day. That's the nature of sports in 2010, like it or not. And if he was the starting catcher for the New York Yankees, increase the media attention exponentially.

Considering his high profile, it's remarkable that I rarely hear anything about his life outside of baseball. You hear the occasional tidbit here and there, but I never hear stories about Mauer showing up at some trendy night spots, running around with a celebutante or hobnobbing with the beautiful people in Hollywood or Las Vegas. It's quite remarkable, and admirable.

So when you hear nothing, almost nothing about a high profile athlete's social life, that's a bit odd. I'm not looking for such information, but I listen to sports radio and I pay attention to local media outlets. Yet I hear almost nothing about his private life. In this day and age, that seems remarkable.

I don't assume all of this to mean anything more than the fact that Mauer, far from a dynamic personality, likes his privacy. But it made me wonder, is there a reason he seems to keep such a low profile? If so, why?

And with that the question was born. Is Joe Mauer gay?

So I decided to see what kind of response I would receive to pondering the question, without background. I didn't explain to people how Mauer's public reputation is squeaky clean, and admirable, thereby prompting the question. I simply posted the question to the small Facebook audience I have, and couched it under the caveat of a newsroom conversation.

There were a few people who made jokes about the idea or made an interesting observation or comment about the idea. And then there were the hypocrites. Three people, two former college friends and an aunt, made "who cares" comments. I initially said that nobody really cares, but realized that technically a lot of people care, citing one silly reason.

Do people care if Sandra Bullock's husband cheated on her? Do people care if Tiger Woods cheated on his wife? Do people care if some country music artist I've never heard of is a lesbian?

How do you define care?

Let's say that by being interested in the topic, you care. Interest equals care.

It's funny how we all wanted to know so much about Tiger Woods, and how many women he had sex with. (By the way, Woods never wanted any of us to know any of it.) Why is it OK to follow the Woods story, but wondering if Mauer is heterosexual or homosexual is some sort of taboo subject?

There is a fundamental difference, of course. Woods didn't want us to know any of the details, but they leaked. We, the celebrity-adoring public, wanted to know more about something that was made public knowledge, and responded to it. If Mauer wants to keep his personal life private, talking about his personal relationships is nothing more than speculation.

Here's where the "who cares" response fails, and leaves said crowd looking like hypocrites.

Does the crowd ignore all media coverage of George Clooney? Do they say "who cares" every time Entertainment Tonight talks about Clooney's date for some major media spectacle? How about when it is speculated that he's going to star in a new movie? Do they care then?

People are a fan of Clooney, and others are a fan of Mauer. (There are probably plenty of Minnesota women who are a fan of both.) I can't prove it, but I doubt the suggestion that George Clooney may have a new girlfriend raises any objection from the crowd. Yet somehow the crowd deems it appropriate to make a "who cares" statement when a question is raised about Joe Mauer's personal life.

And if you don't care, why do you care enough to respond to my comment posted publicly to my Facebook audience? Why don't you ignore any speculation about Mauer's personal life?

Because you are a hypocrite.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Two years

Two years ago today I spent my first night in this apartment. Two years ago today my life was very much like it is today, shockingly so in several aspects. Things are better in some ways, to be certain, and many of the ways it isn't better can be fixed, if I would ever bother to try. But it doesn't seem as if I do, all it seems is that I write about how my life needs to be different.

I'm happier today than I was two years ago. But I'm dogged by the same thing that has nagged me for several years now: a sense that my life is relatively empty and meaningless. I don't say that for pity, I don't let such thoughts ruin my ability to enjoy a good laugh or keep on keepin' on, it's merely a statement of fact, really. I am thankful for so many things I have, despite the fact that a college degree and 15-year career has provided me so little. I don't want for a lot, and I'm blessed, but my job is now a constant source of irritation and resentment, which provides me with zero financial security. I don't care that I'm not wealthy, but I'm tired of wondering if I'll ever afford the luxury of a modest house, with a garage, and not have to sweat profusely every time I need a car repair.

I have so much more than many, and the ability to change my situation, the problem is that I feel the same way I did more than two years ago. If I was told today was the last day of my life, I wouldn't see it as bad news.

I turn 40 this fall. I'm not going to reinvent myself, but I'm going to find a purpose for carrying on, or die trying.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The gift that keeps on giving (unedited)

I didn't think there was much more to say about the cystic fibrosis kid, but I was wrong.

First, comments from two people I don't know:

Your utility bills sounds enormous and it wasn't that long ago---- few years back that you were looking for donations for utilities back then. Obviously , people are going to think you are running some scam if you keep having the same emergency year after year. has some financial tips... maybe read his book from the library. good common sense stuff for budgeting.

That is a sample of a much longer comment a woman posted to Doug. She wasn't really judgmental, she seemed more interested in offering advice. She addressed Doug's smoking, debunking his claim that smoking was actually benefiting his lungs. After a lengthy diatribe about how quitting smoking would be better for Doug in the long run, she noted how people might believe that he is running a scam and concluded with advice about his Mountain Dew consumption.

Her comment about his bills was most telling. She has known Doug for a while, obviously, and Doug's financial need is an ongoing issue, evidently, or so he claims.

wow! I will not be helping you financially but I will be praying for you spiritually! You need to get your life in order. I have no compassion for someone who is chosing to endanger themselves by smoking! You're lucky you've lived this long smoking with CF> You should be ashamed. Do the math on how much you'd save yearly by not smoking! I will be deleting you from my friends page and will not continue to support you. good luck. I also agree with Mary that you should return that money to each and every person that gave it to you! What are your other medical conditions? Take care of yourself and your only get one shot at this life and you should really evaluate it and make the most of it!

It appears another person is highly skeptical of Doug's integrity.

On Friday evening I gathered with a handful of my haunted house co-workers at a pinball joint not far from my apartment. Mary was part of that group. We talked about Doug, and the more I learn, the more it appears Doug is being far from truthful.

Doug works full time, Mary has been told. She can't verify he is working full time at the moment, but he has worked full time for Metro Transit, our primary public transit provider. He works internally, and has some sort of supervisory position according to another seasonal haunted attraction co-worker who drives a Metro Transit bus. It sounds like Doug has money to pay bills, but chooses not to.

Doug has severed his ties to Mary and Mark's accounts, but Mary's questioning and criticism of him has had an impact. Having seen his repeated requests for donations from his Facebook network -- which exceeds 1,000 users thanks to his sending friend requests to everyone connected to anyone he knows -- she questioned his financial needs, and found that he had received $350 in donations, most of them coming from out of state Facebook users who are parents of a child with cystic fibrosis. This angered Mary, prompting her concern.

Since posting her questions and criticisms, she has received several personal messages from people who were or are skeptical of his financial needs. Mary felt so bad that the parent of a child with cystic fibrosis donated to Doug that she made a small donation to the woman.

From what Mary has learned though her correspondence, Doug is less than truthful about his situation, and at times will lie about his situation to make his story sound worse than it is appearing to be.

A damning piece of evidence against Doug: his "brother" Mike wrote a lengthy message to Mary, essentially confirming that he falsely portrays his financial situation. (And no, they're not related, but their families are close and they grew up together.)

By the way, Doug's responses to Mary's questions and criticism have been to either delete Mary's posts or to respond by simply saying he has never lied to anyone, and that nobody is perfect, including him.

The more I read, and the more I'm told, the more I'm starting to respect Mary's actions. She has contacted the website that is hosting Doug's fundraising effort to help pay his bills, and is suggesting the site administrators look into his situation.

I don't think she is overreacting. Doug has pictures on Facebook from the first regular season game at the new home of baseball's Minnesota Twins, Target Field. It's clear Doug is a big Twins fan, and somehow he managed to obtain a highly coveted, and valuable, ticket to the inaugural regular season game. Pretty impressive for a guy who can't afford to pay his medical bills. According to Mary, he is a season ticket holder. And as she pointed out, there's a picture of some sort of stone at the ballpark, bearing the names of donors to some sort of cause related to the ballpark, including Doug.

The evidence is certainly mounting against Doug. I'm highly skeptical of his integrity at this point, to say the least.

According to the old saying, where there's smoke, there's fire. It sure sounds like Doug's honesty went up in smoke long ago.