End of an Era

Image result for great movie ride

This past weekend Disney held its annual D23 Expo in Anaheim, California, where they as always made a slew of big announcements regarding upcoming projects  from every division of the company.  It was revealed, for example, that over at EPCOT the Ellen’s Energy Adventure pavilion would be getting a complete makeover into a Guardians of the Galaxy attraction,  They also informed us all that a Tron roller coaster would be built next to Space Mountain at the Magic Kingdom.  They shared sneak peeks at footage of various upcoming film projects, including Mary Poppins Returns and Avengers: Infinity War.  The one that hit me closest to home, however, was the confirmation of the recent rumor that the centerpiece attraction of Disney’s Hollywood Studios, The Great Movie Ride, would be closing down.  The plan is to replace it with a high-tech Mickey Mouse attraction.

I’m saddened by this news.

The current and former Walt Disney World cast members who work and have worked at The Great Movie Ride (GMR) make up a very close community and call themselves MovieRiders.  Their go-to slogan is “Once a movie rider, always a movie rider.”  They have been all over social media the past couple of days since the announcement, pouring out their emotions and sharing their memories of this attraction, their home, and the fellow people who worked there, their family.  It is a difficult time for them, but they are strong and are there for each other, and they reluctantly accept this event over which they have no control.  I am a part of their Facebook group, and have been right there with them as they go through this, but I’m neither a current nor former cast member.

My dad was.

Dad worked at a data processing company in downtown Chicago for many years until the company chose to outsource his entire department, forcing them all to take severance packages and clean out their desks.  Dad and Mom decided to move to Florida, and the first thing he did when he got here was apply to work at Walt Disney World.  He was always a Disney fan and loved WDW from vacations past.  He also was a huge movie aficionado and thought that GMR was one of the greatest attractions in all of the Disney parks.  When he went for his interview, he told me, he didn’t specifically say that he wanted to work at that ride, because he knew he’d be happy just about anywhere at WDW, but he did mention his love of movies.  Apparently his interviewer was good at reading between the lines, because when he was hired that was exactly where they put him — Tour Guide at The Great Movie Ride, at what was then Disney/MGM Studios.

After he’d been there for a while, Dad once told me that even though he could have gotten a job working with computers and data processing like he’d done for so many years, where he would have been making a heck of a lot more money than he was making at this hourly theme park job with co-workers the majority of whom were half his age, he truly believed that he’d probably put ten years back onto his life by being there.  There, at GMR, in the happiest place on Earth.

Of course with my father working there I and the rest of the family rode The Great Movie Ride far more often than we might have otherwise.  We had helped him learn his lines when he was training early on, and we got to the point where we knew the script almost as well as he did.  Whenever we were on it and there was even the slightest mistake by the Tour Guide or Gangster or Bandit on that particular show, we caught it and would smile to each other knowingly.  My kids liked to go on the ride when they were little and they knew that their grandpa was working, although we made sure not to go on it when he had to play one of the “bad guys.”

He worked there for several years, first as Tour Guide and then eventually as Gangster and Bandit, and even became a Trainer.  The GMR cast hosted their own awards night regularly for a few years, and Dad won Best Male Tour Guide and Best Gangster a couple of times while he was there.  As a trainer he was popular among the other cast members, and I was told by one of them once that everyone knew if Keith was reviewing their performance they had to make sure to give a really big “Ta-da!”  Unfortunately, as he got older, the part of the job where he had to run up and/or down the stairs in the Temple of Anubis scene started to bother his back.  And so after a bit Dad reluctantly transferred out of The Great Movie Ride and over to Walt Disney World Transportation.

As much as he insisted starting work at GMR added ten years to his life, I have to say that leaving GMR turned out to be what led ultimately to those years being taken away.  In Transportation, Dad worked on the boats, ferrying guests back and forth between resort hotels and the theme parks across Disney’s various networks of lakes and lagoons under the beautiful Florida sunshine.  He died in September 2015 after contracting melanoma, skin cancer.

The outpouring of emotion from former coworkers at GMR after Dad died was really amazing.  I heard from and met people whose names I had heard Dad mention in conversation about work years before, and more people than I could count whom I hadn’t heard about at all.  I never realized just how much my father meant to so many people at Disney.  Many of them he hadn’t seen or spoken with in years.  “Once a movie rider, always a movie rider,” as they say.  Many of these people I am now friends with myself through Facebook, and I am glad for that.

The Great Movie Ride has gone through a few changes over the years.  The cast got new uniforms, which I think took a bit away from the original concept of the ride.  The script changed a few times, often not for the better in my opinion.  Some of the mechanics of some of the animatronic figures stopped working and didn’t get repaired.  Newer, snazzier, thrill-inducing rides opened up in the park and the crowds were drawn there instead.  There came a time where it was obvious that this attraction’s days were numbered.  It’s a shame, really, considering what it used to be.

Despite all of that, I’m sure that if his back hadn’t started bothering him, my dad would not have left GMR to go drive boats in the cancer-causing sunshine.  He would have stayed there and worked through the frustration because of how much he loved the place and the people.  He would have grumbled and complained about the things that were going downhill, but he would have kept on doing his best job, knowing that every guest deserves the best show he can give them.  He would have learned the new scripts and gone along with them because that was his job and he had to,  but he’d also stubbornly hold onto hope that eventually TCM’s sponsorship deal would end and they’d go back to the old script, which made a lot more sense and told a much better story.  As crazy as this might sound, The Great Movie Ride would have kept my dad alive.

But of course that’s not what happened and there’s nothing we can do to change that.  Dad passed away much too soon for any of our liking, and now The Great Movie Ride is following suit.  As I said earlier, I’m saddened, because for a lot of years, this ride was part of my family, and after Dad passed the people that worked there with him showed me that they were, as well.  I hope that everyone still working at GMR finds happiness at whatever new adventure they move on to after the closing.  I also genuinely hope the new ride being put in its place turns out to be a successful one.

Hopefully I can make it out to the park one more time before the end of the day August 13, 2017.  That’s the day that will mark the end of an era for Disney Hollywood Studios, and for the MovieRider family as well.

My Triumphant Return!

I’m a terrible blogger.  I started this blog out with great intent, and wrote less than a dozen posts before I disappeared from WordPress for nearly two years.

In my own defense, I have been busy on that last project I had mentioned.  During NaNoWriMo 2015 I successfully wrote my first novel.  Since then I have devoted all my writing time to editing, rewriting, and polishing that novel.  Now, at last, it has reached its pinnacle — publication.

Lost or Found: A Justin Case Adventure, the first in what I intend to make a series of novels, is now available for purchase in paperback from CreateSpace.com, Amazon.com, and BarnesandNoble.com.  It is also available as an eBook exclusively from Kindle.  Here is the back cover copy, if you’re interested:

Private Detective Justin Case’s 15 minutes of fame are up. The world has all but forgotten him, he is out of money, and he hasn’t had a client in weeks. If not for his awesome girlfriend Sue Crose, he’d most likely be out of business and flipping burgers for a living. But now Sue seems to have gone missing, and before Justin can even begin to search for her a government agent shows up at his door with a lost item case like none he’d ever imagined — one that brings him face to face with people who don’t exist, technologies that haven’t been invented yet, and a trip he never thought he’d take. But no matter what happens, this case must be solved quickly. The fate of the Earth depends on it.

Now that this is finally completed, I hope to have the time to get back to the blog here, at least until November when I’ll tackle this year’s NaNoWriMo to write the next Justin Case story.  Of course, if this really takes off, I might be too busy on the worldwide author’s circuit to do any blogging.

Kidding.

NaNoWriMo Wrap-Up

Well, National Novel Writing Month is over. I’ve been away from my blog for much longer than I would have liked, but it was well worth it. I did it! I successfully wrote an entire novel in 30 days. This is a first for me, and although it still has plenty of polishing to be done before I’m ready for it to see print, I must say that I’m pretty darn proud of myself.

The goal for NaNoWriMo was, as you probably remember from my earlier posts, to write 50,000 words by the end of November. I hit that goal a few days early, then used the remainder of the month to complete the story. I wrote the words “The End” on the final day.

Overall it was an interesting experience for me. I didn’t really utilize any of the helpful tools that the official NaNoWriMo website provides, like sharing ideas and motivation through forum posts or writing buddies, or like meeting up for “write-ins” with other authors. I’ve always been better at writing when alone, so none of these social devices were going to be of any help to me.

The thing for me that actually was helpful and that I definitely made use of was the daily word count entry, which charted your progress and provided interesting statistics, such as what your average daily word count was and what your estimated date of completion would be. This helped me stay accountable to myself, and it got me to force myself to make time every day for writing. Honestly that has always been my downfall as a writer. It’s way too easy to let laziness win.

The next step is, of course, to go back over this entire first draft and make adjustments, revisions, and even some total rewrites of certain passages. Some of this will be incredibly easy, since I made some changes to the plot as I got further into the book. Certain things I’d written earlier conflict with these later changes, so I’ll need to alter them to fit. Not a problem, really. The hard part will be when I get to points where I find myself having to change or completely delete segments that I really like. I don’t want to leave anything good on the cutting room floor, so-to-speak, but I know it is probably inevitable. That, I think, is what I’ll find most difficult during this process.

I’ve seen and been told that the self-publishing process these days is incredibly easy, if that’s the route I choose to go. But to be honest, I’m not really comfortable with that idea right now. I’d really like this novel to have the opportunity to become something big (not that I’m conceited enough to think that it definitely will, but I want the possibility to be there). I’ve been told that for that to even have a chance I’ll need an agent, an editor, and a publicist. Now we’re getting into completely unfamiliar territory for me. If any fellow writers out there who have done this already have any words of wisdom on this subject to share, I’d be eager to hear them.

Outside of all that, as you can clearly tell I have made it back to the blog. Hopefully I can get back to a regular rhythm of a new post every three or four days, but with this being the holiday season it may be a challenge to do so. Thank you all for reading this far. I’m glad to have you here.

“Most writers have totally unrealistic concepts of how publishing works.”

My November 6th NaNoWriMo Update

Well, as I said a couple of posts ago, I have taken on the challenge of National Novel Writing Month, which began on November 1st.  With a goal of 50,000 words by the end of the month, I have just over 11,000 words so far after six days. I’m feeling pretty good about that, but it has not been without its challenges.

The biggest challenge has been trying to adjust my writing habits. I am generally a linear writer, meaning I start at the beginning and I write the story straight through scene by scene to the end. I don’t like to write different scenes at different times and then go back and try to thread them all together like the way they film and edit movies. The reason this is a problem during this month is that I have in my head all of the major plot points of my novel, but my brain hasn’t decided how to get from each one to the next yet.  I’m using up a lot of valuable time thinking about direction and details between story beats.  If I could get myself to write all the major scenes first and link them together later, I might get to 50,000 words a lot sooner and have an easier time writing those connection sequences.  Old habits are hard to break, though.

Another struggle I’ve been having is that the first suggestion I read from every single person giving advice on NaNoWriMo has been to resist the urge to self-edit.  They say to just let the words spill out of your head and onto the page and worry about editing after the first draft is done.  Again, this isn’t how I usually do it.  Normally I make adjustments and edits as I go, not because I think this first draft will be the final one but because I frequently think of new ideas that modify certain elements of the story that I’ve already written.  I’d rather make the change now than have to worry about fixing it later on. Unfortunately, they say this takes time away from getting to the target word count and can often result in leaving great passages or ideas behind when they could have made the final product stronger. One fifth of the way in, I’m still self-editing, hate to admit.

Finally, I have to say that I really do feel good about the fact that I have made it to 11,000 words this quickly and I’m feeling pretty confident about being able to reach the goal before the 30th.  However, my inner critic has already been hard at work on me.  I feel like I have a few sparkles of genius so far, but mostly I’m thinking I have a lot of bland description, weak character development, and a much-too-passive protagonist. I am still pressing forward, but the critic and editor parts of my brain are nagging at me to go back and make some adjustments now.  Must…fight…urges…

My kids have a short story assignment that they have to do for their high school Creative Writing class, and my son has decided he wants to try to write something longer than that, so he’s been writing almost every day at the same time as me. His word count is not nearly where mine is right now, but he’s doing well for a kid who hasn’t really tried to do anything like this ever before.  I’m proud of him just for trying.

So anyway, that’s the status so far.  I hope everyone else out there who’s participating in NaNoWriMo is doing well.  Good luck everyone, and keep on writing!

“There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”

“So Here’s the Thing…” Episode 2

“So Here’s the Thing…” is a recurring column here on Scott’s World in which I address a particular topic that is either a source of frustration for myself, a controversial subject in society, or a current event on which I have a strong opinion.  Let me stress again that if you won’t be able to handle my occasionally-polarizing commentary then you should probably skip these posts. Today’s column is on:

THE NFL’S P.A.T.

We’re just about halfway through the 2015 NFL season and I cannot resist putting in my own two cents about this new extra point system. For those of you not familiar with what I’m talking about, let me get you caught up:

In American football, when a team scores a touchdown it is worth six points, and the team is given a bonus opportunity to score one more point – called the “extra point” or P.A.T. (point after touchdown) – by kicking the ball through the goal posts. Traditionally the kick was made fairly close to the goal posts, with the line of scrimmage being placed at the 2 yard-line. For the most part, these kicks were extremely easy for professional kickers, and it had gotten to the point where they were virtually automatic. This season, however, the NFL changed the P.A.T. rule to place the ball at the 15 yard-line, making those extra point kicks a little bit more difficult.

Many people like this change because it gives the extra point play some significance. Whereas before they might as well have eliminated it completely and just made a touchdown worth seven points instead of six, now there is a genuine possibility of teams missing the kick. The extra point has been made to truly be an opportunity for one more bonus point rather than just a freebie. While I agree with this concept on this fairly basic level, I think that there is still a problem with doing it this way, and I’m going to use today’s blog post to discuss my thoughts.

See, the entire goal of a team’s offense each time they get the ball is to move forward by at least ten yards, earning first downs and continuing forward with the ultimate mission of getting a touchdown. The basic idea of the extra point is that it is a reward for making it into the end zone and getting that touchdown. It’s a reward. Keep that in mind while I make my next few statements.

When the offense fails to get a first down and finds themselves on fourth down, they are faced with a dilemma. If they do not get the first down on that play, then the other team will take over on offense from that same position on the field. Alternatively, the offense can choose to punt the ball downfield to the other team, effectively admitting that they do not believe they will be able to get the first down on that fourth down play, and giving the ball to the other team’s offense at a spot on the field further back than they would have been. Lastly, the third option for the offense is that they can bring out their kicker and try for a field goal. This is also admitting that they don’t have confidence in their ability to get a first down, but they believe that they are close enough to the goal posts that their kicker can get the ball through them. The field goal is basically the same play as the extra point, except that it is not done from the 15 yard-line but rather from whatever yard-line the line of scrimmage is currently on for the fourth down play. This kick through the goal posts earns the team three points. Again, for emphasis: the team has failed to earn a first down or a touchdown, and has decided to settle for only three points. The field goal is essentially a consolation prize.

Now here is where I have an issue. If the extra point is a reward, and the field goal is a consolation prize, then why is the field goal worth more than the extra point?

This is where most people will argue that the field goal is usually from further away than the extra point, and so it is more difficult, and logically it should be worth more. This is reasonable and in fact was true nearly 99% of the time, back when the extra point was kicked from the 2 yard-line and not the 15. With the extra point kicked from further back, there are plenty of times when a team is closer for a field goal than the 15 yard-line.

My argument here is that the extra point and the field goal are executed identically by the offense, and so the value of a more difficult kick should not be lower than that of an easier kick. Of course, nobody would want to change the standard value of field goals to only one point, and nobody would want to change the standard value of the extra point to three or more. The only way to solve the problem I just defined would be to return the extra point to the two yard-line like it was before. That then brings back the frustration people had with it being too easy and a wasted play.

“Well, then, Scott,” you say, “how can we possibly solve all of these problems at once?”

Here’s my proposal, and feel free to share this with anyone in the NFL front offices, because I really feel this is a great idea all around:

We make the value of a kick between the goal posts vary based on what yard-line the line of scrimmage is at the time of the play. Let’s say kicks from the 1 to 10 are worth one point, from the 11 to the 20 two points, from the 21 to the 30 three points, from the 31 to the 40 four points, and anything further is worth five points. Not only does this then award teams based on the difficulty of the kick, but it may in fact encourage teams to try field goals in certain circumstances where they might otherwise have simply punted the ball away, and conversely they might choose to go for it in circumstances where they might otherwise have just kicked a field goal. The distance-related values on kicks will have the added benefit of making the game more exciting for fans.

As for that 15 yard-line extra point, my proposal also includes a change to that as well. Since the extra point, remember, is a reward for the scoring of a touchdown, how about this:

After they have scored a touchdown, the team gets to choose where they want to kick the extra point from.

Yes, you read that right. The team can kick from anywhere they want. This truly makes it a reward because they don’t have to kick it from one particular place and receive a pre-defined number of extra point(s). They can take the easy shot from the 1 yard-line and get one point, or they can take a chance and kick it from, say, the 31 and get four of them. It make the extra point play into a strategic decision, one of risk-reward for the scoring team. This again, makes the play more interesting for the fans, as well as putting more of a value on having a quality kicker. Additionally, making this change keeps teams “in the game” longer than before. Now a team still has a realistic chance of winning a game even if they are losing by nine points with 30 seconds left. A touchdown can become as much as an 11 point play, in effect. Again keeping fans interested longer and stopping them from leaving the stadium early or changing the channel.

Now, although I don’t like this new 15 yard-line extra point, I love NFL football and I will continue to be a fan until the day I die. This will not change no matter what goofy changes they make or stupid rules they come up with (looking at you, “excessive celebration” rule). But I really feel strongly that this proposal makes a lot of sense, because kicks really should have a value relative to their degree of difficulty. I hope you all agree with me. Let me know with your comments.

“Baseball is America’s pastime, but football is truly America’s passion.”

Contemplating NaNoWriMo

As the end of October approaches, I have been thinking seriously about trying my hand at NaNoWriMo this year. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, which is held every November. The basic idea is that participants are supposed to set a goal of writing 50,000 words (the generally accepted approxamite length of a commercial novel) between the 1st and the 30th of the month.  More details about it can be found at the official website, nanowrimo.org.

The very idea is a bit daunting. It means writing an average of 1,667 words per day, assuming no days are skipped, and still having to fit in a full time job, eating, sleeping, and spending time with the family. While not impossible, there’s a reason why this isn’t held every month and writers all over the world aren’t cranking out 12 novels a year with ease. It’s something that certainly will take a lot of self-discipline and support from family and friends. Those of you who fit into that last category, please do not be surprised if I seem to have vanished from the face of the Earth during November. It’s nothing personal. I’ll just be spending more time with my computer than with real people. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to complete this venture successfully, but I really want to give it a try.

For all of my followers here on Scott’s World, please be prepared for the possibility of an extended hiatus on new posts. When I began this blog my intention was to make at least one new post a week. I haven’t kept up with that as well as I’d like, but fortunately I haven’t missed it by too much, either. During November I intend to continue to make blog entries even while working on my NaNoWriMo project, but I’m telling you right now that I will make no guarantees. Just please don’t unfollow Scott’s World if there seems to be a lack of posts for a while.

That all being said, what I really need to decide between now and November is what I want to write. It will assuredly be science fiction, as that’s my primary genre for creative writing, and I have no shortage of story ideas. What I am concerned about with this project is that I will find myself having the same dilemma I have had in the past while writing short stories. I have a tendency to be really good at writing the beginning of a tale, but then I end up abandoning the work because I can’t come up with a good way to finish it. If any other writers out there have had similar problems, I’d be interested in hearing how you’ve overcome them.

Wish me luck!

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

“So Here’s the Thing…” Episode 1

“So Here’s the Thing…” is a recurring column here on Scott’s World in which I address a particular topic that is either a source of frustration for myself, a controversial subject in society, or a current event on which I have a strong opinion.  Let me stress again that if you won’t be able to handle my occasionally-polarizing commentary then you should probably skip these posts.  Today’s column is on:

DRIVING

It’d be easy for me to fill pages and pages with the things that bother us all about traffic and specifically other drivers. I’m not going to do that. We’ve all been through those things a thousand times already when we complain to our friends or family about some idiot who cut us off on the way home from the office yesterday. Instead I’d simply like to clear up a few things for everyone, because I honestly feel that one of the biggest problems we have in the world today is that people simply do not understand the “why” behind many of the things we do. If we could really get everyone to truly comprehend why they are expected to do or not do certain things, then life would be much better for us all. Here’s my first example:

I am constantly amazed by how something as simple as the turn signal can be the source of so much trouble. Drivers are regularly not using it at all or using it at the wrong time. Let me explain how this is supposed to work. The purpose of the turn signal on a vehicle is to let other people around you — those in another vehicle and those on foot — know that you are going to be slowing down and turning soon. Again, to let them know that you are going to be slowing down and turning soon. One more time, for emphasis: Going to be slowing down and turning. The turn signal is not necessary in order to make your vehicle capable of changing direction, it is just there as a device to inform others of your intentions out of basic courtesy and in the interest of safety. So, if you put on your signal after you have already pressed the brake pedal and slowed down to turn, then you are doing it too late for it to make any difference. The guy behind you has already had to slam on his brakes because your turn is taking him by surprise. If you put on your signal after you are already in a turn-only traffic lane, then you are wasting your effort to even bother because everyone can already see that you are going to be turning. If you put on your signal while you are already in the act of turning your vehicle, then, again, you are far too late and there is no point in even bothering to do so. And one of my favorites — if you put on your turn signal three blocks back from where you are actually planning to turn, then it is like the old story of the boy who cried “wolf.” Each potential turn that you come to will have everyone around you thinking that is where you are going to turn, and eventually they will not be prepared when you actually do make the slow down and turn. So please, everyone, remember: approach, then signal, then brake, then turn.

And for those of you who don’t bother to use the turn signal at all, I’m just going to say right now that you’re a moron. Other cars need to know what you are going to be doing. You can’t read their minds so why do you think that they can read yours? When you get rear-ended because the person behind you did not realize that you were going to be slowing to turn, you have no right to be angry at that driver. Frankly, you deserved it and they didn’t.

The next thing I wanted to vent about here is speed. Some of you are going entirely too fast, and some of you are not going nearly fast enough. For those of you in the former category, the obvious problem is that you are breaking the law. The speed limit is not a recommendation. It is the law, which is why you can be pulled over and ticketed for violating it. But I’m not about to preach about staying under the speed limit, because really that isn’t the point I want to make here. The point is that if you are driving at a speed far faster than the majority of other people on the road, you are endangering everyone. Let’s say that everyone on the road is speeding along at 75 mph. When you come flying from behind and pass everyone at 95 mph, you not only run the risk of crashing into another vehicle that might move inadvertently into your path, but you also could cause others to crash as they try to get out of your way.

For those of you who like to drive slowly, thinking you’re being safer by doing so, the same reasoning applies. As others catch up to you and want to go around, your slowness can create accidents. Particularly frustrating and dangerous are those of you who are travelling slower than other traffic and are in the left lane. Newsflash: The slower the vehicles are going compared to other vehicles on the road, the farther to the right they are supposed to be driving. If there are cars going slower than you, you should be to the left of them, and if there are cars going faster than you, you should be to the right of them. This is basic Driver’s Ed stuff, people, and yet I see drivers every single day who do not seem to understand this.

Whether traffic is moving fast or slow, the best and safest strategy is to drive at relatively the same speed as everyone else. If you think some other driver is a jerk who is driving too fast, just get to the right and let him go by. Stubbornly staying in the left lane while going slower than others is only creating more of a risk of car crashes around you.

Third I’d like to discuss Stops.  You should stop at all Stop signs. You should stop at all red traffic lights. You should stop when the gates are down at a railroad crossing. I’ll tell you where you should not stop — in the middle of the freaking road! If the road ahead of you is clear and open and there are no traffic devices directing you to stop your vehicle, then you need to keep moving. Sure, it’s awfully nice of you to stop to let that guy on the side street who’s trying to turn onto this street come in, but it is also very dangerous. The people behind you are not expecting someone to stop when there’s no directed reason to, so you are just asking to get smashed into from behind when you do that. Your act of kindness could actually kill someone. Yes, it sure is sad that the poor guy trying to turn might have to wait a while longer, but that is the way the rules of the road work. The straightaway has the right-of-way. This same discussion can be had over all of those intersections that do not have four-way stops. If you don’t have a Stop sign facing you as you approach the intersection, you need to keep moving. That Mall entrance without a Stop sign or that Wal-Mart entrance without one are both places where you should not stop. Stopping where there is no Stop sign or traffic light can cause confusion among the other drivers at that intersection, and that can lead to accidents. Sometimes I think they need to put up Do Not Stop signs in those spots and then maybe people will follow them.

What all of this really comes down to is that when you are driving you really have to keep in mind that you are not the only one on the road. You can’t just do whatever you want to simply because it is convenient for you at the time. Every time you perform any action with your vehicle without considering how that action might affect nearby drivers you are creating the possibility of a traffic accident. That means if you are in the far left lane of the interstate and you realize that you’re about to miss your exit, you don’t whip your car to the right across four lanes of traffic to try to make it in time. It means if there’s a traffic jam and you are late for work, you don’t just drive on the shoulder to get around everyone else. It means if you realize a couple minutes after leaving that you forgot something at home, you don’t just stop and do a U-turn in the middle of the street.

Please, people — follow traffic laws and be considerate of others while driving. It will make the roadways easier for all of us.

(P.S. I know you were all expecting me to include the whole texting-and-driving thing in this post. Don’t worry, it’ll have it’s very own post some time in the future.)

“Drive carefully. Think of the impact you could make.”

Sacrifice

The open mouth in the rocky mountainside

swallowed the daylight into darkness,

called out for a visitor with strange sounds,

protected treasures with teeth of terra,

and pleaded me to pierce the pitch black,

that I might uncover its hidden history.

* * *

My friend requested we rest before continuing our climb.

Panting and perspiring, he sat on the stony ground

and propped his elbows on his knees.

* * *

Amidst nature never before known,

I crouched to the earth beside him,

incapable of remaining at rest

from the abundance of adrenaline

and the fantastic feline curiosity

that had overtaken my imagination.

* * *

My friend gulped from his canteen, then sadly sighed.

Sweating and squinting, he shook his head

And told me to go on alone.

* * *

With eyes eager to examine the innards of the ominous opening ahead,

I instantly assessed the preferred path to pursue up the slope.

Through the thorns and thistles of the thick underbrush,

‘round the rigid rocks and the tremendous towering trees

I would travel to arrive at my exciting ultimate objective,

the virgin cavern no man had yet penetrated.

* * *

My friend removed his shoes and poured out some pebbles.

Grumbling and groaning, he put his face in his palms

And said that he shouldn’t have followed.

* * *

I sat down in the dirt and dust

And observed my woefully weary comrade,

a committed, constant, unwavering ally

who supported me through times both great and ghastly

and had suffered spectacular sacrifices of self

that my life’s adventures might go on.

* * *

Gazing up one final time at that captivating cave

whose purity I would now never defile,

I helped my frustrated friend to his feet,

and slapped a hand on his slouching shoulder.

We shared a look, a shrug, and a smile,

And began the long walk home.

* * *

I wrote the poem above a few years ago for a class I was taking while pursuing my degree at the University of Central Florida. On its surface, the poem is about a guy who wants to explore a cave, but decides not to go without his friend, who is too worn out already from their journey that day to join him. But really I hope it conveys much more than that.

The idea of the poem is that we all have dreams, desires, aspirations, etc. that we hope to achieve in our lives. We all have times when we find ourselves as that guy who wants to explore the mysterious cave he sees in the distance. But we also all have people in our lives that we care about immensely, whether they be friends, family, or other loved ones, who simply are not able to accompany us on that journey. We have to make choices about going for that dream at the expense of a relationship or letting it go because that other person is more important to us.

Throughout my life I have heard it said repeatedly how if you really want something you need to go after it with all your might. “Don’t be afraid to take risks,” they say. “Sometimes you have to make sacrifices to achieve your dreams,” they say. “You can do anything you set your mind to,” they say.

All of that sounds great in theory, but what about the other people in your life? Our family, our spouses, our friends — they don’t always have the ability financially, physically, emotionally, or even geographically, to accompany us on our quest to fulfill those dreams.

For me, I have wanted a lot of things in life that I have not gone after. Some of that has been my own fear of failure, or the occasional lack of motivation, or even just not having the money at the time to take advantage of an opportunity. I know, however, that there have also been times when I chose not to chase a dream because it would have meant the loss of a relationship that I valued too much. Maybe that was silly of me. Maybe it was more fear controlling my actions. But as much as I still wish I could have gone on those journeys and explored those caves, I am glad to not have left my travelling companions behind. There is no one in my life today that I regret choosing.

Sometimes it is the dream that must be sacrificed.

“A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams.”

So What’s This Blog About, Anyway?

If you are reading this at all then there are pretty good odds that you already know me, as I admit to not having a worldwide audience quite yet.  If that’s the case, then there is also a high probability that you are already familiar with many of my views on assorted topics.  But for those who might not be, I’m going to put in a bit of a warning:

It is possible that you may get offended by something that you read in this blog.  I do not plan to do this, but at the same time I will not be pulling any punches, either.  If you can’t handle the concept that my opinions, beliefs, theories, etc. might be different from yours, or that they might not necessarily be “politically correct,” then it might be best that you not continue reading.

The first post I made last week about my father is not representative of the type of posts that will usually be here.  Well, I mean, of course all of my posts will have the same high quality writing style and top notch witty humor, but they will not all be memorials to people who have passed away.  Nor will they be emotional tear-jerkers straight from the depths of my heart and soul.

That being said, I really can’t tell you right now what my future posts will be, as I don’t truly have a detailed plan.  I intend to use this blog as an outlet for my unique ideas, my blunt opinions, and my wild creativity, so you never know what you may find here.  Sports, movies, religion, music, celebrities, holidays, television, politics, economics, education — no topic is off limits to my ramblings.  I’ll probably throw in some of my own fiction, poetry, or personal anecdotes, too.  Reader beware, I suppose.

For those who might be reading this who don’t know me very well, let me also take some time here to give you a bit of a background on who I am before we really get going.

I am a mid-40’s Caucasian American male with British and Eastern European ancestry.  I am heterosexual with a wife of 20 years and a pair of teenagers learning to drive.  I am a dog person – no cats – and presently own a Shih Tzu/Jack Russell Terrier mix who is easily the smartest canine I’ve ever seen.  In my lifetime I have lived in the Northeast, the Midwest, and the Southeast, and I am sure I demonstrate traits common to all three areas in some way or another.  I am registered to vote as a Republican but find myself often taking the Democrats’ side on various topics.  My mother’s side of the family was Jewish and my father’s side was Protestant.  Despite this, I don’t really label myself as a member of any known religion – but no, I’m not an Atheist, either.  I have a Bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of Central Florida with a minor in English Writing.  I have been working full-time in retail management since 1990, although I still will tell you that it’s not what I want to be when I grow up.  I consider myself a geek, with particular concentrations in Star Wars and super-hero comic books, and am not ashamed to admit it.  Oh, and I absolutely love the Buffalo Bills.

Realistically, nothing in the last paragraph should matter to you at all if you are a fair and open-minded person, but it may give you an idea of where my thoughts might be coming from sometimes.

I’d really like for this blog to become successful, which of course depends mostly on me, but if you like what you read you can help by clicking on those “like” and “share” buttons regularly, and also by making sure you “follow” Scott’s World.

So with all of that being said, I’ll wrap up this introductory post.  I appreciate your visiting the blog and reading what I have to offer, and I promise to try very hard to hold up my end of the bargain by posting quality content at a regular pace.  Ta ta for now!

–Scott

“Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans.”

Keith Edwards, One-of-a-Kind Dad

Below is the speech I gave this past weekend at the Celebration of Life event we held for my father, Keith Edwards, who passed away at the beginning of this month.  I’m posting this here not out of my own vanity, but because several people were apparently impressed enough by it that they asked me to make a copy available.  So, here it is:


Hello.  I think everyone here knows me, but for the record I’m Scott, Keith’s son.  And before you say it, yes, I know I look a lot like him.  I hope everyone enjoyed the slide show.  I had to leave a lot of great pictures on the cutting room floor or else it would’ve run far too long.

So anyway, I’m going to read my speech straight from the page rather than try to follow all of the standard public speaking rules because frankly, emotions are already a bit of a roller coaster today and I’ll muck it all up otherwise.

First of all, thank you all for being here for this.  It really means a lot to me to know that my dad was loved and will be missed by so many people, and judging from the Facebook responses we’ve seen, there were many more folks who feel the same but were unable to be here today.  I will tell you that I really didn’t need people to be here for me, but something in me really needed people to be here for him, and again I thank you all.

It’s common in these kinds of speeches for people to say something about things that they feel they learned from the departed, so I gave it some thought and decided I’d go with that.  My dad taught me that white shirts have a magnetic attraction to spaghetti sauce.  He taught me that there are things that sometimes always happen and there are things that usually never happen.  From Dad I learned that when driving, “whatsa behind me doesa nota matter!” and that you should occasionally really rev that engine to “burn out the gunk.”  And probably most importantly, he taught me that the best popcorn in all of Walt Disney World comes from the little popcorn cart just inside the entrance tunnel of Magic Kingdom, all the way to the left near Guest Relations.

Of course I could probably have gone on and on with these kinds of silly, quirky little things, and I’m sure everyone out there could think of some as well.  But I stopped there because these aren’t the kinds of things that people really want to hear when you’re giving a speech like this.  These things aren’t deep or philosophical, they’re not dramatic or heart-wrenching, and they’re certainly not full of elderly wisdom that opened my eyes to some aspect of the meaning of life.

So I gave it a lot more thought, to try to come up with something better — something more fitting for this celebration of my dad’s life.  I thought about it a lot.  Through drives to and from work, while mowing the yard, while watching tv shows or football games.  I got frustrated because as much as I loved my dad, I couldn’t really think of any of those kinds of things – those deep meaningful things — that I’d learned specifically from him.  I felt like maybe I didn’t pay close enough attention to him.  Maybe I’d missed something important he’d taught me.  Maybe I’d let him down, and he’d died disappointed in me.

Now here’s where I’m going to go off on a tangent for a moment to tell a story.

When I was a very little boy we lived near Rochester, New York, and my parents had season tickets to the Buffalo Bills football games.  This was back in the old O.J. Simpson days, when O.J. was running for touchdowns and not away from police.  Anyway, one time my dad took me to one of the Bills games when I was maybe five or six years old at most.  There was a tradition amongst the people who sat in the section of the stadium my parents’ seats were in where any time something went bad for the Bills, the whole section would stand up and shout, “Oooooooooh shit!” and then sit back down.  Dad explained this to me along with all of the other football things he needed to explain during that game, and he told me that even though this was a bad word that I was not usually allowed to say, it was OK for me to say it here, with the crowd, at the game, when our team had any bad luck.  As you can imagine this was immensely entertaining for a five year old, and I probably had more fun with that part of the game than with the entire rest of the experience.  By the end of that game I had decided that I wanted to be a football player when I grew up, playing quarterback for the Buffalo Bills and having my dad and a large group of strangers yell “Oh shit,” whenever anything bad happened to me.  I remain an NFL and Buffalo Bills fan, and if you know about football then you can probably guess that means I’ve yelled that phrase a lot over the years.

In the summer of 1977 my dad took me to a drive-in theater (remember those?) because he wanted me to see this movie that had come out that he thought I’d like.  I’m pretty sure most of you have heard of it.  It was called “Star Wars.”  It began like a lot of movies did back then, with music playing while some boring words scrolled up the screen.  But then a spaceship flew past shooting lasers back the direction it came from.  Then, when the second, much bigger, spaceship began to thunder across the screen I, Scott Edwards, experienced a fundamental change in who I was as a person and who I was going to be forever.  I am still a huge Star Wars fanatic, and you can probably tell that I did not become a football player.

About ten years later Dad got me a summer job working in the building where he worked in downtown Chicago.  I worked with a couple of other guys in the production center of Heller Financial’s data processing center.  Huge reports hundreds of pages long would come off of these gigantic dot matrix printers and we’d have to properly collate them and distribute them to the correct offices and individuals throughout the building.  As tedious as that could be, I loved that job.  Dressing up in shirt and tie, taking the train downtown, walking the streets of the big city, delivering important information straight to the desks of executives, and even going to lunch sometimes with my dad and his friends all made me feel adult and professional.  Since then I have always strived to be professional and to make a difference at work.  Oh, and I am still definitely a city guy.

So back now from the tangent to me being unable to think of something profound that Dad has taught me.

I was telling the Star Wars story that I just shared with you to somebody recently when I had an incredible realization – an epiphany, if you will.  I had been having trouble thinking of specific examples of important things I’d learned from my dad because it is impossible to describe those things independent of myself.  So much of who I am today, standing before you, is a product of things I learned from him, experienced with him, or gained as a result of having him as my father.  Before he passed away I made sure I told him that I loved him, but looking back now I’m pretty sure he already knew that.  What I should have told him was “Thank you.”

The Edwards men have never been especially expressive of our emotions, but there were a few times over the years where Dad mentioned things to me about how he felt about certain people that I don’t know if he ever said to their faces, and I want to share a couple of those right now.

I know he loved Mom more than anything, and that seeing her smile or laugh always made him smile and laugh as well, even if it was at himself.  I am certain that he never for an instant regretted marrying her, even in the midst of huge arguments – or as Dad liked to call them, “loud discussions.”  He once told me that what he loved most about doing DJ gigs over all those years was getting to do most of them with Mom.

I know that he was very happy with my choice of a wife, and that he thought of Torie as a daughter he never had.  He valued her opinions and felt comfortable sharing private thoughts or concerns with her to see what she thought.  I’ve never told anyone else this, including her, but Dad once told me that he thought that Torie was not only good for me, but that she was good for all of us in the Edwards family.

I know that he deeply loved and was proud of both of my kids, Nicolas and Jacqueline.  He told me that when he first found out he was going to be a grandfather he wasn’t exactly excited about it.  He said he was kind of worried that he wouldn’t know how to be a grandpa or wouldn’t like it very much, but once the twins were born and as they grew older and developed their own personalities, he realized that he loved being Grandpa, or “Grampaw,” as little Jacqueline liked to say.  He told me that he was sure they will both make something great of themselves someday no matter what it is they choose to do when they grow up.

If you knew Keith Edwards at all, you know that he was a huge movie buff.  He loved movies of all genres and from all eras.  He always thought it would be pretty cool to create his own montage sequence made up of his favorite clips from films.  He never did get a chance to do that, but I’ve watched a few of them that other people have made and posted online, and I found one in particular, and although it doesn’t specifically contain clips from all his favorite films or all his favorite quotes, it really makes me think of Dad, both in the images and the words.  I’d like to share that clip with you right now, if you don’t mind.

–YouTube Video:  “Film Montage – Great Moments in Film History” by davidtylersheets

I hope something about that little video made you think of Dad as well.

Whether working in data processing at Xerox and Heller or at Disney World on the Great Movie Ride and in Transportation; whether in bowling leagues, fantasy football leagues, or DJ’ing people’s weddings, my Dad made not just acquaintances but friends wherever he went.  He loved talking to people, educating people, and even debating things with people.  As somebody said recently, “he never seemed to meet a stranger.”  Sometimes when we were all out together as a family this would drive the rest of us crazy.  We’d sigh and roll our eyes.  “There goes Dad again, rambling on to some poor soul about how great Disney World is, or how speeding tickets are just legal theft, or that when he orders a plain cheeseburger it means bun burger cheese and that’s all.”  But really I think the world would be a better place if we were all a little more like that.

There’s so much else I could say about my dad as a person, but I’m fairly certain that if you’re here it’s because you already know him, so I don’t think I need to describe him to you.  Plus I’m thinking I’ve probably gone on for far too long already, so I’ll thank you one more time for being here, and I’ll ask you all one small favor, for me.

The next time you are at the Magic Kingdom, stop at that little snack cart at the front near Guest Relations and buy a popcorn.  But before you take the first bite, lift the box skyward and offer Dad a handful.  After all, it is the best popcorn in all of Walt Disney World.  I’m sure he misses it.

–Scott

“I am a Jedi, like my father before me.”