2014 NHRA Sonoma Nationals, Sonoma Raceway

In late July, I stepped outside of our suburban home in Sacramento and got a whiff of the Sand Fire that was already burning in the remote areas of Amador and El Dorado counties.  Fire is very common in the severe drought experienced in California.  And for just a day, me and Mister Jack wanted to forget about our state’s loss and suffering.  The constant sound of sirens and the thought of firefighters rushing to areas in Sacramento County as well as other hot spots in California.  As childhood asthmatics, we needed to get away, so we traded smoke for nitro gas.  We headed to Sonoma County and the Sonoma Raceway for the 2014 NHRA Sonoma Nationals.

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Don’t ask me about dragsters and championship racing because this has only been my second time at the NHRA Sonoma Nationals.  For one thing, I don’t like speed.  I drive a 2014 Ford Fiesta without using all its bells and whistles because I like to drive without distractions.  I drive like a little old lady because I only care about getting from here to there.

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Photography by Jack French

 

So what’s a nice girl like me doing in a place like this?  Let me give you some hints:

1)  Anywhere I go, I love watching people and listening to their conversations.

2)  I baste myself with sunscreen (think Thanksgiving turkey)  and hope the California sun will melt away my batwings and fade my stretch marks.  Dreamer!

3)   I really spend my time on Nitro Alley.  It’s like the California State Fair–only with NHRA vendors, meet-and-greets, food, and shopping.

4)  Although I’ve been to Sonoma Raceway twice in two years, I’ll go for any of their venues during the year.  If you like classy, family-friendly events, this is it.  Count on having a good time.

Who cares about roasting in the sun and watching the expensive and flashy cars go by?  Sure, the sounds are deafening.  In fact, the power of those vehicles racing down the track are enough to send vibrations from the ground to your upper body.  I’m not kidding you.  What a rush!

Mister Jack loves watching fast, shiny metal on the ground as well as in the air, so as he keeps his Nikon glued to his face as he takes his shots and videos. For me, it’s all about exploring behind the Grandstand.  Of course, I’ll bring back food and drinks for Mister Jack.  Since he’s so into the qualifying races, he doesn’t notice that I’m gone a long time with my camera.  Since our last visit, I’ve been drawn to the the activities associated with Nitro Alley.  This place, behind the Grandstand action, is strictly for NHRA fans.

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Explore Nitro Alley.  Lots of work goes into those cars and motorcycles.  You can also eat, drink and shop.

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Make sure to bring a hat, ear protection, sunglasses and sunscreen.  California sunshine can be so brutal during the summer, so drink plenty of water.

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And don’t hoard the complimentary Mello Yello on the way out!

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Interested in attending an event at Sonoma Raceway?  Here’s a couple of links to get you started:

www.racesonoma.com

NationalDragster.net

 

 

 

Cheap Thrills at the 2014 California State Fair

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The California State Fair is only minutes from our home, so we try not to miss it.  We start by buying a ticket package from our local COSTCO, which covers parking, two admission tickets and a $10 voucher towards food and drink.  By planning in advance, we won’t have to stand in line.  Since our national economy is still unstable, why would we want to waste money by forgetting to use our goodies?  By purchasing this package in advance, we have made a commitment to attend the fair at least once during its annual run.

When it comes to the attending the fair, we don’t decide what to do until we get there.  We’ve been going to the California State Fair for years.  In fact, in the 60s, I went to the fair when its location was on Broadway.  I know.  I’m dating myself, but why should I care?  I don’t have any problems when it comes to aging gracefully.

Usually, Mister Jack goes to the California Lottery exhibit for the Scratchers.  Mister Jack is not a hardcore gambler, so I patiently wait while he stands in line to buy the tickets, scratch off the tickets to reveal the numbers and cash in his winning tickets.  This exhibit always has a crowd because if you buy enough tickets, you get to spin the wheel to “win” more Scratchers.  Am I confusing you?  Good!  So I pick a place to sit, zone out, watch people for entertainment, and work on my tan while he goes through this California Lottery ritual.  When the money is tight, the lines for the lottery tickets and the Scratchers are very long.  This year, I got smart and brought sunscreen and bottled water.  Luckily, we didn’t attend the fair during the fire or the time it hit the triple digits.  The show must go on, but not for us.  We would have been miserable in those situations.

We decided on getting a noodle and rice plate with an egg roll on a stick.  See the sweet and sour sauce on the egg roll?  Of course, you don’t.  It happens to be a clear sauce.  If you can believe that.  As long as I can order a corn dog at the California State Fair, everything is all right with me.  We had corn dogs for dinner.  If you really want to know, I wanted the funnel cake.  I wanted it stacked with ooey, gooey strawberry filling.  Topped with about six inches of whipped cream.

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My biggest fantasy would be getting to any state fair in the U.S. and plopping my butt down on some deserted table with every sample of grease or sugary dish that was available for human consumption.  Who needs to look at exhibits?  Who needs the rides?  Why would I want to go to a live concert by some famous singer or group or when I can sit down and listen to their music in my home or in my car?  Let’s get real.  There’s nothing like being fat and happy in California.

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And yet another thing!  Me and Mister Jack have kids–the furry kind that don’t talk back or get into your retirement money by way of extras like braces, college, weddings, grandchildren, etc.  This sign is a myth.  If you buy the “wisdom” on this blue ribbon, I have a sinking house in the swamps of Crescent City, California that I can sell you.  I know a spoiled, entitled brat when I see one because it takes one to know one.

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We don’t like rides.  We don’t win stuffed toys.  But we love, love, love the animals.   Check out the pink hooves on the pony.

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The only best behaved kids are the furry ones.  We don’t believe in bringing our dogs out in this heat.  Or any public place where people are eating, drinking or purchasing food.

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The Brewer’s Festival featured award-winning beers from the California State Fair Commercial Craft Brew competition.  Since it was held near the racetrack, participants were able to view the horse racing while sipping samples of micro-brew from a 5-ounce souvenir mug.  Award-winning Track 7 Brewing is a local favorite–as well as a favorite with the judges.  I sat in the shade with my complimentary Coke.  And got eaten up by bugs.

We made our usual rounds at the urban gardening exhibit because we are always looking for ideas when it comes to our 1/4 acre of suburbia.  I also make sure we hit the building displaying the county exhibits.  If a California county has travel brochures and publications, I’ll pick them up for my research.  I love to travel.  Although we are both native Californians, we will never know everything about our beautiful state.  But who says we can’t try?  Travel is the best way to see the world.

What???  You’ve never been to California?  Come on down because we’d love to have you!  I was born in Sacramento and raised in the Sacramento River Delta.  Let this farm girl give you two links to get you started:

www.discovergold.org

www.visitsacramento.com

Davis Ranch Corn Festival

Another form of California gold is corn.  Even in this severe California drought and with fire season in full force, people still flock to the Davis Corn Ranch Festival in Sloughhouse.  The extremely family-friendly and dog-friendly annual event is a chance for me and Mister Jack to take a drive into the country for our usual two grocery bags filled with white and yellow corn.  Using California State Route 16, tiny Sloughhouse is only 17 miles east of Downtown Sacramento.   Another plus?  The corn is GMO-free.  Their outdoor fruit and vegetable market is open most of the year.  It also sells goodies like jams, jellies, barbecue sauce, dried gourds and ornaments for your garden.

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Admission to the Davis Ranch Corn Festival is free of charge.  We stayed long enough to grab a quick, cheap meal,  sit on hay bales and listen to the Chris Gardner Band.  While children played in the “dried corn box” at the back of the makeshift concert location, Gardner explained to the audience that he came from the Sloughhouse area.  I approached him during a short break, and he explained that his band performed at the California State Fair the night before.  And they were headed to Lake Tahoe for another performance–as well as a way to escape the valley heat.  He mentioned more gigs over the summer.  Gardner and his band also perform at numerous locations in Sacramento and the surrounding areas.

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The Davis Ranch can accommodate crowds.  The parking lot has expanded since I first visited in the late 80s.  There is a picnic area next to the strawberry patch.  At the back of the parking lot, you’ll see the Christmas tree lot.  Besides the numerous food, drink and craft booths, there are hay rides, pony rides and other activities for children and their families.

If you missed the Davis Ranch Corn Festival in Sloughhouse this year, there’s always next year.  If you’re interested in gourd arts and crafts, entertainment and food, the upcoming 6th Annual Davis Ranch Gourd Festival will be held on September 27-28, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.  The gourd artist has plenty of choices when it comes to buying gourds from the ranch.

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For more information, here’s a link:  www.davisranchgourdfestival.com

Dried California Chiles Enchilada Sauce and Crock Pot Stacked Enchiladas

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For months, I’ve been making an effort to cook most of our meals at home.  I’m retired and don’t work outside the home.  Although I don’t mind shopping, I try not too spend to much time rushing to the supermarket for a specific (or missing) ingredient.  Instead, I use what I have on hand, make substitutions or completely do without.  Cooking at home has its perks:

1)  Since I’m the one who does most of the cooking at our home, I can keep our meals healthy because I choose the ingredients.

2)  Me and Mister Jack no longer want or need the larger portions served at restaurants.

3)  As long as I shop smart, we save money.

4)  When you save money by cooking your meals at home, then you can put aside funds to occasionally dine out at favorite restaurants.  That way, dining out becomes a special occasion for us.  And it’s even better when we can invite family and friends to join us at a favorite restaurant.  Cooking most of our meals at home allows us to splurge on lunch or dinner.  We very seldom get poor service at our favorite restaurants, so we also make a point to leave at least a 20% tip for our server.

Dried California Enchilada Sauce and Stacked Enchiladas in a Crock Pot

Ingredients

The Sauce

1 – 3 oz. package dried California chiles

2 cups chicken stock

3-4 tablespoons chile powder

1/4 teaspoon cumin

1 tablespoon garlic salt

2 tablespoons oregano

4 tablespoons butter

2 heaping tablespoons cornstarch or flour

 

 Instructions

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  1. Fill a pot with water (halfway).
  2. Place California chiles in pot.
  3. Bring water to boil.
  4. When chiles soften, turn off the heat.
  5. Drain water and discard.  Remove chiles and place on a plate or cutting board.  Slit each chile.
  6. Remove stems.  Scoop out most seeds. Discard.
  7. Roughly chop chiles, then place in blender or food processor.  Blend chiles into a smooth texture.
  8. Add chile powder, cumin, garlic salt, oregano, 2 cups chicken stock to chile mixture.  Blend.
  9.  In a saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons of butter.
  10.  Whisk cornstarch into the butter until mixture is smooth.
  11. Slowly add enchilada sauce to butter and cornstarch mixture–stirring constantly.
  12. Simmer on low heat for approximately 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  When sauce is slightly thickened, turn off heat and set the sauce aside.

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Enchiladas

Ingredients

12 small corn tortillas or 6 large flour or corn tortillas

2 cups filling (shredded cheese, vegetable or meat mixture*)

1 cup chicken stock

Dried California Chiles Enchilada Sauce (above)

1-2 cups shredded cheese

Sliced olives for topping (optional)

Crock Pot Instructions

  1. Coat bottom of crock pot with about 2 tablespoons of enchilada sauce.
  2. Place 4 small tortillas or 2-3 larger tortillas over sauce.
  3. Spread 1 cup of filling over the tortillas.
  4. Repeat steps #2 and #3.
  5. End stacking by topping tortillas and meat mixture with tortillas or tortillas strips.
  6. Sprinkle with cheese.  Top with sliced olives if desired.
  7. Cover and cook on “LOW” setting for about 6-8 hours.
  8. Serve immediately or freeze.

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Refrigerate the Dried California Chiles Enchilada Sauce.  Place the sauce in a sealed container and label with current date.  Use on eggs, chilaquiles, burritos, tacos, etc.  When refrigerated, the sauce will last approximately one week.

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Crock Pot Stacked Enchiladas makes an easy and inexpensive meal.  Like most crock pot and casserole dishes, it’s even better the next day as leftovers.  Here is how I packed Mister Jack’s work lunch for next day.

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*Meat Mixture for Enchilada Filling

To save time, I freeze leftover meat filling and use it later for burritos, tacos and casseroles.  I used pulled rabbit for these enchiladas since I already had that stored in my freezer.  The pulled rabbit filling already contained  sauce, spices, onions, garlic and celery–saving me even more time.

Choose shredded or diced:

  • chicken
  • beef
  • pork
  • turkey

If desired, add chopped garlic, onion, celery and spices to meat mixture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Tame a Wild Rose

As a gardener, this year has hit me hard because I am still recovering from my kidney transplant surgery.  I’m doing well, but my doctors aren’t allowing me to play in the dirt.  If I do anything else, I have to wear a mask and gloves.  Anyway, since I’m not the type of person to indulge in self-pity parties, I took advantage of the recent cloud cover and took down a wild rose that has worked its way into the pomegranate tree in the backyard.

The ongoing California drought has taught me well. Since there seems to be no end to it right now, I still look on the bright side. With the drought and fire season in full force, I am still saving water. I only water my plants, shrubs and trees once a week. If anything dies, that’s all right with me. Now, I’m looking at my home landscaping as an “almost” blank canvas. When I get the doctors’ approval to dig in the dirt, I’m going to incorporate hardscape and drought resistant plants to my yards. Right now, me and Mister Jack have agreed not to have a garden this year. He has allowed the lawn to die.

For me, it’s all about saving water and electricity. Since I grew up on a pear orchard in the Sacramento River Delta, I appreciate what farmers do.  Farmers work so hard and take incredible risks because farming relies on the weather.  The lack of rain and snow has hit California agriculture hard, and many family farming businesses continue to suffer.

So this is my game plan this year, and I’m sticking to it:

1) No annual vegetable garden.
2) Buy produce from California farmers.

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The rose had been ignored for several years.  I have a collection of gloves.  The thorns on a wild rose are just plain nasty.  My worn rose gloves would not do because of the worn leather and holes in the gloves.  I ended up using another pair of gloves.  You cannot be careful enough when working with these thorns.  I can’t walk away from a wild rose without some kind of wound.  Although I admire its roses, there are times when you have to bleed for its beauty.

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This is what I have left.  The summer sun was getting to me, so I quit for the day.  Gardening is always a work in progress, and I’d rather be gardening than doing housework.  We agreed to take the rose down to ground level.  Although Mister Jack offered to move it to another place in the backyard, I have my doubts.  Since our yards have changed since we first moved in, we need to change our landscaping to something that suits our needs.  Although gardening has always been a part of my life, I’m looking at plants and shrubs that need less water and care.

Summer Morning and the California Drought

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In California, summer is now in full force.  Yesterday, a thunderstorm was promised for the Sacramento area.  Although Mister Jack told me there was a little rain at his work, there was no rain to look forward to at our home.  Not even enough rain to rate a trip to the car wash.

Triple digits expected next week.

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This week, I’ve been leaving our home around 6 a.m. to walk Elway.  I’ve noticed that many people have that same idea to beat the mid-morning heat.  The smart ones are holding water bottles or gripping plastic cups filled with a beverage or ice water.  At the Open Space, most people walk, push strollers or run.  We want to get our exercise in so that we can go home and hide in our air-conditioned houses.

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Old weeds, new weeds.  Chopped wood and cleared brush.  When there isn’t enough rain in California, there’s the threat of fire.

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The drought situation in California is beyond hope, good wishes and prayers.  All I can do is save water and electricity.  And say a prayer each time I hear sirens in the distance.

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The Only Thing You Need to Know About Wall Street, Your Money, the Internet, and Life

Here we go again.  It’s buy, buy, buy time or sell, sell, sell time on Wall Street.  Panic rules again.  It’s all about money, money, money.

Leave me out of this mess.  I also don’t trust any of these people on the Internet who are trying to sell you on their specific brand on how to get rich quick.  Just because you’re “published” on the Internet doesn’t mean that you can write.  In fact, your precious writing, photographs or whatever will be published somewhere in the world where people want a fast buck.  Hey!  You’ll even get the shaft in the United States.

In fact, as a writer, I don’t trust the Internet at all.

Why?

The Internet was founded on greedPeriod.  Exclamation point. 

Think really hard.  I don’t do numbers, nor do I deal with people who make numbers their life.  Unless they happen to be straight with me and answer my questions.  The “extremely rich and talented” people (engineers, tech heads, financial wizards and anything financial) who do deal with numbers don’t know how to deal with real people who work hard for a living.

I know.  I am highly creative.  I don’t even add columns unless I have to.  In fact, if I had to pass algebra to get a high school diploma in California right now, I’d flunk out and do my own thang.  Yeah, I’d survive without help from Mommy and Daddy footing my “higher education” at Stanford.  Yep.  They had my life all planned from the start.

See, I come from a long line of drunks and gamblers.  Other than my experience with the world famous wine and food in California’s Sonoma County last fall, I don’t drink.   Surprise, surprise!  I don’t even gamble.

In fact, I was always the one who was the designated driver.  I will drive everyone home after a hard night of partying and looking for booty in Sacramento’s Old Sac.  Yeah, us girls and guys hit those bars if we weren’t stuffing our faces at restaurants and buffets.  Sorry, this was in the 80s.  When I didn’t know any better.

But if you were one of my family or friends at that time, I drove you home while you were drunk because you were so drunk that you didn’t notice that I drove like an old lady.  And maybe, when you woke up with a hangover the next morning, did you even remember that I took you to Denny’s for breakfast and hot coffee before tucking you in?

Or maybe you just disappeared from the pack and went home with the boy or the girl.  I get it because I only made it to the guy’s car–then left him after about an hour because he bored me.   Male or female, you have to stand out for one of these drunks to take notice.  Weren’t those the days?   Go to a bar or nightclub and pick up a prized drunk.

Of course, if I took care of you on one of those many weekends, you didn’t even thank me for my service.  You were drunk.  Or maybe you were stoned.  Or you were drowning in your misery by dressing up and looking for someone to spend the night with.  We were young, and we didn’t care because all of us were in the same boat.  We lived in Sacramento, and we worked for the County or the State in horrible, “stable” jobs.  We worked miserable jobs that had no future at all.  During the work week, we showed up and worked.  Come the weekend, we partied hard to forget how miserable we really were.  Yet, we paid our bills and didn’t get arrested.

Doesn’t that remind you of that Toby Keith song?

As for gambling?  You won’t see me walk into a casino and pull the handle on some slot machine.  Or place a stack of money on the red square or rectangle.  The red can be found on any roulette table or crap table.  I’m not going to sit all night long playing poker, then say, “Good hand” when all the chips fall in your lap because you “won” through Lady Luck.  Face it.  The House always wins.  Lady Luck, like any smart woman, comes and goes as she pleases.

I won’t join your pity party when you cry that you don’t have any money for your retirement.  Or if you’re old and your mindset is back in the days of the Depression.  That you can’t believe a loaf of bread costs four bucks when “back in the day” a loaf of bread cost under fifty cents.

My, my, my.  That was then, this is now.  History repeats itself.

Honey, it’s your money.  And money, if you play it right in your lifetime, is meant to be spent.

What are you going to spend it on?

That’s your business.  Why should I care that you buy luxury to feed your insecurities?  Isn’t that feeding into the distorted American Dream?  If you bought into that, I have no respect for you.  I will leave you alone while I do my thang.  Ask me, and I’ll tell you what I do with my money.  Or not.  Depends on my mood at the time.  Or if I even can stand to be in the same room with your sorry, selfish, self-centered American self.

Yeah.  The terrible, terrible truth about money and stocks?  You can’t take any of that wad with you.  Yep.  Spend it any way you want to before you kick.

When you’re with me, quit asking how much things cost.  It irritates me.  Put up and shut up.  What I can’t stand are people who pinch their pennies until they squeal for mercy.  Further more, don’t insult me and pretend to have money when you don’t.  This girl hates being lied to.  When I feel like I’m being played, lied to or controlled, I walk.  And depending on how I feel, I will not come back.

See, I have two diseases:  common sense and high self esteem.  Don’t get in the way of what I want.  I am the Alpha Mare.  I will stomp, bite and mule-kick you to get my way.

I pick up pennies anywhere because Daddy is sending them to me from Heaven.  Who cares if a car hits me in the parking lot as I pick up my pennies from Daddy?  I love my Daddy.  I wish he was still here with me.

And don’t get me started on the Internet because as a professional writer, journalist and photographer from waaaaaaay back, I do not bow to Google or any of the so-called content sites and mills that feed on your ego and want all these so-called writers to “produce” for pennies.

I tried “working” for these clowns for a year and I walked away after they got a piece of my mind.  I won’t even tell you their names because I ain’t your mama.  Find out for yourself as you work, work, work for pennies using your so-called “talent.”  When you have to network, follow stats or need followers on social network, you’re working way too hard for your pennies.  That’s okay.  You’ll brag about what you make.  What you won’t say is that you work like a dog and don’t leave the house.  For your pain and suffering, you don’t even get vacations and sick leave.  And retirement.

No brag, just fact.  I learn from my mistakes.  If something interests me, the chase is on.  As a guard at Pelican Bay in the 90s, I opened two online trading accounts.  I maxed out my so-called 401k with the State of California.  Why?  I wanted to leave my abusive husband, so I needed the money.  Yes, it took me three years to leave this whack job that tried to kill me twice.  This is what happens when you live in the poorest county in California.  I couldn’t even check into a battered women’s shelter if I wanted to.  Not that I would.

Each time he was abusive to me (mostly by the crap coming out of his mouth and raiding our joint checking and savings accounts before I closed them), I played the game of the good, submissive Filipino wifey and shoved money into my stock portfolio.  I learned to trade on my own.  I gambled because it’s in me.  I enjoyed it because  I took risks and didn’t screw anyone to make money.  I even went across to the border to Oregon (only about 15 miles away from Crescent City) to shove money into a savings and checking account.

Did I know anything about stocks?

Nope.  My parents hoarded their money because both of them grew up very poor in the barrio of San Juan, Illocus Sur.  That’ in the Northern Philippines.

Surprise, surprise, surprise.  I am the daughter of two immigrants.  I was made in America.  I am an American citizen who happens to be Filipino and Italian.  Yep.  I don’t have to look it up.  There is an Italian in my family woodpile on my father’s side.  I was born and raised in California–not Kalifornia.  As far as I know, I will continue to live in California until I die.

In survival mode, the wild animals and Mother Nature will do anything and everything to survive.  The rich and the poor will cling to their money and cry.  I’m in the middle, and I don’t care.

Oh!  I’m so sorry.  Maybe those “rich people” were born with it.  Like those commercials on TV try to tell you.  But that’s another post.

Get my drift?  If you don’t, suffer.  Follow the nation’s sheep and get slaughtered when all the wolves of Wall Street and the Internet  take your money.

Oh, by the way.  I lied.  I do gamble.  With stocks.  And I don’t have to tell you how much I’ve made.  And will continue to make.  I pulled all my money out long before the market dumped in 2008 because I knew it was coming.  Pay me because I don’t do anything for free.  I learned everything about life from my partners and my inmates at Pelican Bay State Prison.  Give or take a sergeant or two.

Yeah.  Those men either wore green or blue.   I learn from anyone who can tell me about their life experiences because I don’t want to repeat their mistakes.  Hey!  I make mistakes on my own with no regrets.

Real men will tell you up front.  They get the job done.  In male-dominated professions, this is where I thrive.

So leave me alone.  She retired in 2002, and she will do anything to stay that way.   And that’s pretty good for an overpaid thug.