Things to Enjoy On a Orange County Party Bus

Orange County is one of the most beautiful counties of California, USA. It attracts millions of tourists to its classic picnic and party destinations. It houses many beautiful towns, theme parks, beaches, beautiful farms like Knott’s berry farm, and so on. Disneyland is one of such world class attraction of this county. There are many beautiful beaches on the west coast; few of them are Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, and Dana Point. Awesome mountains, beautiful farms and ongoing corporate activities are other major attractions, which make it most dynamic county of western coast.

Orange County party bus services and limousine services are few fantastic and incredible value-additions to your fun, entertainment and excitement. Orange county party bus service is very suitable for those groups that comprise from 10 to about 50 people. This is not just a travelling in bus but it live-party all the way through your travelling; you enjoy tens of amenities inside the bus providing you the lavishness and fun of your vacation. These party buses house best quality leather seats, big screen TVs, complementary drinks, refreshments, stripper poles, music, hi-fi sound systems, and many more.

You can enjoy town nightlife, beaches, games, Disney World, farms and many other things by travelling through the luxurious party buses all the way. Travelling through these lavish vehicles would make your mood focused on your vacations by making your travelling so enjoyable and leaving no fatigue impact on your body and mood. The serving staff is very well trained, professionally groomed and highly caring towards their guests and customers.

Orange County party bus service is not only suitable for those people who are there for partying and picnic but also for those corporate delegations and other visiting guests to make their experience incredible and memorable. Orange County houses big corporate offices of fortune 500; a huge number of corporate delegations and seminars always keep going, which makes it very dynamic socio-economic area of the State. It makes great impression on experience of a client, guest or delegate to have picked them from airports to their hotels and seminar destinations. You can make your customers feel at home while serving them with party buses, and thus; best results of business can be achieved and an everlasting impression is left on the minds of your guests and clients.

There are many different types of party bus services in the area of Orange County; they make different types of offers to their clients. These offers include different value added services like price packages, different payment plans, and easy pick and drop programs. You can book better services by scrutinizing different aspects of the services, which may include customer reviews about the company you are considering to. You should also have good detailed information about the additional services provided by company and at the same time you should also get information about skills and attitude of the staff who will serve you or your guest.

A well selected Orange County party bus will sure leave long lasting memories of fun and excitement of your vacation or party.

Finding a Party Bus Rental

A party bus rental can be both a fun and luxurious method of transportation for a large group of people. Most party buses are equipped with a number of great amenities and features that can help turn what would be an ordinary trip into a rockin’ party on wheels! This article will take a look at how to go about finding the best possible party bus rental for any occasion.

Party buses are available in almost any shape or size that you could imagine. You can find smaller ones with a capacity of 10 or 12 people, all the way to larger mega buses that can hold over 80 people. So the first step in choosing a party bus (or limo bus as they are also called) is to figure out how many people will be joining you. In most cases, the size of the vehicle you need to rent will effect the price so you may not want to go with a 70 passenger vehicle when you only need room for 20 people.

You’ll also find a number of very cool features and amenities on party buses these days. It seems like companies are trying to out do one another to come up with the biggest and baddest limo bus out there. Most vehicles will come with standard things such as washrooms, sound systems, limo style seating and party lighting but you may come across vehicles that try to go the extra mile to impress. Such things as light up dance floors, karaoke machines, multiple TVs, private VIP rooms, multiple wet bar areas, personal hosts and DJs, or even areas for live bands to set up and play music!

Before calling or emailing for a reservation you should always have an idea of how long you will need the rental for and how far you will be traveling. You will also want to double check and ask to make sure that the company you are renting from has the appropriate licensing and insurance to operate a party bus in your region. It is also highly recommended that you get a contract in writing which outlines the entire agreement including costs and what happens if there are damages or any other issues that might arise. These things are all done to ensure the safety of you and the rest of your passengers and to make sure that you are protected and that do not get taken advantage of.

So here is hoping that your party bus rental goes off without a hitch and that you and your entire group has a fun and memorable time without any problems.

To find a party bus rental in your area, visit PartyBusin’ an online directory that allows you to compare vehicles in your area.

Rent Chicago Party Bus Services for Your Bachelor Party

Chicago is the largest city in the Illinois state. It is the biggest city in Midwest with nearly 3 million people residing in it’s area and 7 more million living in it’s suburbs. Chicago is located mainly in one county: Cook county, but some small parts extend over the DuPage county. Chicago was found as an industrial city and grew up into a cultural, business, transportation and financial center in central USA.

While in Chicago, don’t forget to visit it’s biggest building: The Willis Tower, also hop into the famous museums: Museum of Science and industry, The Field Museum, Museum of contemporary Arts. There are so many cultural activities in the Windy city not only for tourists, but also for it’s residents. Make sure to walk around in the millennium park and go to the beach at Lake Michigan.

For those that are planning a bachelor or bachelorette night in Chicago there are many activities to do at night. Do you have all the list of places where to go and what bars to visit? You can add more fun to your party by renting a limo bus to transport your group form one side of the city to another comfortably and in style. Many Chicago companies have special packages for such parties and can help you improve your party and help you save.

There is a wide selection of bars, caffes, clubs and restaurants in the Windy City. However, you might feel lost when it comes to choosing the best ones for your party. If you book a bachelor party package, most likely there will be included extras such as entrance to Chicago’s most famous clubs like Excalibur or Sound-bar and reserved table seating.

Looking for a limo company in such a busy city might be a difficult task at first. There are hundreds of limo service providers in Chicago. You do not want to call multiple companies just to find out if they offer party packages or deals. What you should do is to narrow your search criteria. Be specific about which bars you are interested in or what party bus you need. There are different types of party buses available in the Windy City so that you can get as many people as you like and have the amenities of your choice.

In the limo bus you can pre-party all you want. A party bus is a spacious private area where you can relax and have your own party going on. Most of the buses have light systems installed, lasers and strobe lights. Also, they have coolers stacked with drinks for your and your friends convenience. Also, most of the buses have plasma tvs, professional sound stereo system and a dance area. Some come with extra additions as disco ceilings and floors, mirrors, neons and styled cupholders just to entertain you. Everything is made for the customer to be happy and excited.

Renting a Party Bus is really convenient. Since you want all of your friends to stick together and you don’t want anyone drunk driving, a chauffeured limo bus is the vehicle to go with. In this way, everybody will be safe and your friends will be thankful to you. Moreover, you will hit that club in style and glamour. You will arrive like a VIP and have that bus waiting for you while you have fun at the bar.

There are many of limousine companies in Chicago. Some specialize in airport shuttle, some only work with corporate accounts and some specialize in parties. However, there are some that offer all the services. Elite Chicago Limo is one of them. You can rent a limo bus for your bachelors party, wedding SUV for the next day and an airport shuttle for your transportation to the airport for the honeymoon. When looking for a limo company in Chicago, search for one like this one.

Spring In Atlanta, GA – Our Top 10 Things To See

#1 – FOX THEATRE

This iconic theater is enamored with Egyptian architecture and big acts inside. Here you will find tickets to see the Atlanta Opera, Ballet, and soon-to-be major Broadway acts. Fox Theatre is also a favorite among musicians and comedians, so you’ll find no shortage of fun during spring.

#2 – ATLANTA HISTORY CENTER

Georgia’s past, present, and future homes will undoubtedly share a common theme of diversity. This series of exhibits shows off Georgia’s history of plantation homes, as well as Native American history.

#3 – ATLANTA BOTANICAL GARDEN

If you’re thinking of visiting a park or a place to go watch nature, these Botanical Gardens will provide you with plenty of species of plants and animals to discover. This 30 acre garden is located just north of the famous Piedmont Park.

#4 – STONE MOUNTAIN

This mountain is carved with the faces of Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee, and Jefferson Davis. It is also home to a large park that can be hiked and biked for a refreshing change away from the city life in Atlanta.

#5 – MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE

MLK’s historic site is home to the house where he was born and raised, held sermons, and ultimately buried. This neighborhood of King is also occupied with a complex of museums and education centers for more intimate details about the Civil Rights era.

#6 – TURNER FIELD

Spring means baseball is back, what better way to experience it than by getting a front-row seat at the home of the Atlanta Braves? Up to 50,000 people can attend a regular season game, or if you arrive really early in spring, you can catch some inside tours to see how the stadium is maintained.

#7 – GEORGIA AQUARIUM

This is the world’s largest aquarium, holding over 80,000 creatures, spanning over 500 individual species. You won’t find a more vibrant and jaw-dropping amount of sea life in one place anywhere else. From penguins, belugas, giant octopi, and sharks, let your inner-child run wild.

#8 – ATLANTA MOTOR SPEEDWAY

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to sit in the driver’s seat of a professional race car? Well, at the Atlanta Motor Speedway, you can feel all the excitement in the Richard Petty Driving Experience, where you can simulate a real race around the track and feel your body being pushed into another dimension.

#9 – HIGH MUSEUM OF ART

While some may not know it, Atlanta has a great museum that houses a wide-range of amazing artwork. From 20th century American paintings, 13th to 17th century Italian, as well as unique pieces from Africa. The building itself is a piece of art, draped in a stunning white porcelain on both the outside and inside.

#10 – ZOO ATLANTA

This isn’t just any ordinary zoo, it is only one of four zoos that are home to a giant panda population. The irresistible bears are a beloved attraction at the zoo, but there are also plenty of other species of animals, like lions, rhinos, zebras, alligators, and so forth. There’s plenty to see and do for the whole family at Zoo Atlanta.

Merle Temple – Last of the Boy Scouts

Merle Temple…Last of the Boy Scouts, Part 1

“I never knew a man who had better motives for all the trouble he caused…” Graham Greene, The Quiet American

Merle Temple, quintessential choir boy, most courteous in high school, American Legion award winner, and boy scout, wandered in to the contentious political minefield of Atlanta in 2001 like some modern day Don Quixote looking for windmills to joust with to salve the ache of the missed adventure he passed up when President Ronald Reagan offered him a job in the White House all those years ago. But, it just didn’t work out as he had planned–no, not at all.

Temple, the descendant of Puritans, was a pillar of the Augusta Georgia community and the leading fundraiser and chairman for non-profits in town. He also was an anti-establishment crusader and lone ranger always searching for new dragons to slay. He had grown tired of his cushy job as a successful BellSouth public relations director, where an executive said he lived “not on the cutting edge, but the bleeding edge.” His search for the ultimate fight had already left him bleeding from managing what was called the “biggest upset in Georgia political history in fifty years.”

State Rep. Robin Williams was a mover and shaker in Georgia politics. Despite threats from the local newspaper and incumbent politicians, Temple, with quiet help from Congressman Charlie Norwood, raised money and managed a newcomer’s campaign against the heavily favored Williams who did not carry a single precinct when the dust settled. Temple earned some first class enemies including the Augusta Chronicle editorial staff, who supported Williams who brought home the bacon for their billionaire publisher, and Georgia Republican Congressmen, who hated to see any incumbent lose.

Temple’s employer summoned him to Atlanta to tell him that he had angered powerful allies in the legislature, and local media pals of Williams–a local newspaper editor and radio talk show host. Temple, who had won every BellSouth award in his department, was told by Georgia President Phil Jacobs that he must surrender his first amendment rights. Rather than dare them to enforce that edict as he should have, he was disheartened, demanded a severance package, and retired.

Norwood came to his rescue and tried to secure the Southern District U.S. Marshall slot for him. Temple had a Masters in Criminal Justice from Ole Miss, had been a state police captain in his youth, and the State Criminal Justice Chairman for the Reagan campaign in Ms. His close friend, U.S. Senator Paul Coverdell would have made all the appointments for the new George W. Bush administration, but Coverdell died suddenly with an aneurism at 62. That left appointments and political spoils to the Georgia republican congressmen. Not good–not good at all. Meetings with federal judges ensued and trips to Washington, but the infighting proved more than Norwood could overcome, and Temple threw in the towel.

Out of the shadows of fate came Georgia State Superintendent of Schools, Linda Schrenko. Temple, a chamber of commerce education chairman and well known reform advocate, was her East Georgia Business Chairman. He had helped manage her reelection campaign in 1998 when she won in a three-way race with a democrat and libertarian. Schrenko said that Bush’s loss was “her gain,” and offered Temple an appointment as one of her four deputy superintendents of schools.

In a move that would change his whole life, destroy his public image, and land him in prison, Temple accepted her offer, and rode in to conquer Atlanta just as he had every other foe on the field of battle before…but this time, the dragons were bigger and nastier, and his worst enemy…turned out to be just down the hall from his new office.

Merle Temple…Last of the Boy Scouts, Part 2

“In the middle of life’s journey, I found myself in a dark wood. I had wandered from the straight path…it was such a thick, wild, and rough forest that when I think of it my fear returns…I can’t offer any good explanation of how I entered it…”–Dante’s Inferno.

Linda Schrenko was Merle Temple’s political hero when he entered the nest of vipers at the Georgia Department of Education in 2001. They were political associates, not personal friends, and he had no knowledge of the libertine past that haunted the highest elected republican woman in Georgia history, or the true depth of the animus toward her from the Atlanta establishment, both political parties, the Atlanta Journal Constitution, and the State Board of Education.

Schrenko had been named the top female republican in the country, but was under siege. Temple thought he could bring his business acumen, political skills, and his tireless perfectionism and idealism to the leviathan that awaited him, and it would only be a matter of time before all surrendered, and he could go back home to care for his ailing wife as he always had.

However, he was no General Sherman on a march through the old South. His Hollywood script did not play in Atlanta where the last bastion of the all democrat controlled state would be gone within two years, but was then in an angry and ruthless survival mode. Schrenko was thought to be running for governor, and the State Board of Education, appointed by her enemy, Governor Roy Barnes, was at her throat and those of her staff every day, holding monthly meetings that were partisan blood lettings and torture of education employees. Barnes, who became known as “King Roy,” began to push his political appointees to secure federal education funds for the shadow government he was building.

The Assistant U.S. Secretary of Education told Temple to hold firm against any diversion and promised prosecution of misused funds. She repeated this to Temple and Schrenko in front of U.S. Secretary Rod Paige. A mole for Barnes in the Georgia Department was escorted from the building and promptly appointed as Barnes’ education czar. Temple’s phone rang off the hook almost daily with pleas for help from other agencies who said that Barnes was seizing control of everything in Georgia–appointing super directors to bypass agency heads, the legislature, and constitutionally elected officials. State police–roads and bridges–the port authority– the department of transportation—it was empire building on a massive scale. State troopers warned Schrenko to be careful on the road lest she be jailed by troopers who were in the enemy camp.

Then, a dozen or so White House and U.S. Education officials told Temple on a conference call that they had “reconsidered.” They would allow Barnes to divert all the funds he wanted. Absent were the administrators who told Temple to hold firm and enforce the law. These politicos said that to make it easier for the Barnes machine, they would send the money not to the Georgia Department of Education, but to the State Board of Education which was not an agency and had no lawful standing or structural apparatus to receive or disburse money. This was surreal to Temple and the moment he really knew how alone they were and that no help was coming from fellow republicans.

Temple was shaken and compared it to Wells Fargo calling the local bank to tell them that there were bank robbers in town, and to hold down trouble, their armored trucks would now just deliver the money directly to the bank robbers. Schrenko told Temple that a conservative in the White House said that she was being thrown under the bus by the Bush administration who wanted a Barnes endorsement of Bush’s No Child Left Behind education bill…the only democratic governor to do so then.

Temple wondered what he had gotten into, but it was about to get worse…much worse.

Merle Temple…Last of the Boy Scouts, Part 3

“…She caused him to shave off the seven locks of his head and she began to afflict him, and his strength went from him. Samson, Samson, the Philistines be upon you…and the Philistines took him…” (Judges 16:19-21)

Merle Temple arrived in Atlanta in the spring of 2001 to save the day for the embattled Georgia Superintendent of Education. By the winter of despair in early 2002, abandoned by the press–shunned by U.S. Ed–rejected by the President of the United States and republicans–he should have gone home to Augusta. It was not to be.

In the wake of the Bush sellout, Superintendent Linda Schrenko began a strategy to spend as much as possible before the State Board of Education could divert it to Barnes. She claimed her legal 5% of federal funds for administrative costs, and awarded grants to local schools. A million dollars or so went to schools–not Roy Barnes. The Board was furious, and tensions grew even worse. Amidst threats and phone sweeps for bugs–leaks and paranoia grew by leaps and bounds.

The fight with Barnes and Washington only exacerbated an already fractured and dysfunctional organization rife with infighting and jockeying for power. Temple’s Don Quixote idealism intensified to rescue the damsel in distress, and dispatch the villains violating the law. Amidst the carnage, Temple began to take increasing amounts of drugs prescribed to manage fibromyalgia pain, and panic attacks. His doctors gave him testosterone to boost his strength and injections for pain. His house was burning down, but he couldn’t walk away from the woman who told him of abuse throughout her life, and had black eyes when he picked her up for trips–tugging at the heart of the Boy Scout. She increasingly came to visit him to tell of the loss of her soul to the devil in an ill advised incantation as a young woman–later telling him that she knew what she was doing in these visits. He was the only one who didn’t get it. Thrown together on the campaign trail, he found himself violating an unshakable moral code. He lost his center in her darkness. He lost himself. He never knew what hit him.

Republican leaders did not want Schrenko as their candidate for governor because they feared she would cut the pork that they wanted when they gained power. So, they blessed Sonny Perdue, a lifelong democrat who had switched parties. Schrenko awarded vendor contracts for the State Schools for the blind and deaf in a bit of flawed “Iran-Contra”–kill two birds with the same stone–strategy to benefit the schools as well as her campaign. Around $200,000 came to her campaign, none of which Temple benefited from. The media said the money came from funds meant for blind children, but no money was allotted them except in contracts that Schrenko used to end run the board before they could divert the money to Barnes.

When the feds pursued indictments after Schrenko lost in the republican primary, Temple was mystified that, despite mistakes, no one acknowledged their efforts to deny theft and defend the constitution, but he looked at the laws the feds had, and urged her to plead. Schrenko said no–she had done nothing wrong. He was barred from talking to her, but she emailed constantly to play on his protective nature and sympathy, and influence his testimony as she again led him down the path to destruction.

In an argument with prosecutors, Temple became angry over perceived pressure to tow the government line in a way he was not prepared to do. He told her that he would tell the truth on the stand about Barnes and Bush. When he refused to abandon his wife as Schrenko demanded, she mocked his wife and told him coldly, “You’ve made your choice.” She notified the prosecutors that he called her, and he was arrested, shackled, and jailed in Atlanta where he nearly died from forced drug withdrawal. While he was near death, Schrenko, the master of the victim opera, appeared on television to blame everything on him, and testify for the prosecutor who changed all the facts to paint his former witness as the mastermind. When Temple almost died, Schrenko wrote him–“I’m sorry for any harm…thought they would just yell at you…”

Temple, the figure in this Shakespearean style tragedy whose story has not been told, reimbursed the amount of the money that came to Schrenko’s campaign though he benefited from none of it. He would have received little or no time if he had not contacted Schrenko, but he remains in prison in 2011, having served over four and a half years, longer than many violent, repeat offenders. The prosecutor, Russell Vineyard, who did not recuse himself although awaiting a Bush appointment, is now a federal magistrate–all of his rants to the federal judge regarding releasing Temple on bail were edited out of sanitized court transcripts erasing evidence of how personal Temple’s rebellion was to a man awaiting an appointment from the man Temple wanted to expose. Schrenko netted no time off for her betrayal of the most loyal aide she had, only public exposure of her darkness–a metaphor for a kind of murder-suicide of two lives that gained her nothing but exposure as a woman scorned. No one was ever prosecuted for the diversion of many millions in federal money, or had to pay any of the money back.

Temple’s wife of 37 years, Susan, whose heart was hidden in Christ, never abandoned him, and viewed Schrenko as her husband’s Delilah. Susan died from a long illness in 2007. The prison defied the order of a judge, and refused to let him attend her funeral. Her last note to Temple was, “Be good until we meet again.”

Even Temple’s enemies could not deny that he was a tireless worker for the disenfranchised in his life for no gain–always the naive idealist fighting the machine. He was given eight years–more than politicians who bribed judges and pocketed millions, but he was subdued by God as he lay near death in the Atlanta jail and found new birth and eternal life in brokenness. He ministers to the broken in prison, and leads weekly Christian movie nights that have exposed over two thousand men to the gospel and saving grace of Jesus Christ. Ordained a minister and married to a childhood friend in 2010, he has long since forgiven Schrenko and all involved, and finally himself. He has filed in Birmingham federal district court to have the honest services counts dismissed, and to tell what God has done for him in prison.

He only says, “It is here that I learned as C.S. Lewis once wrote, that I am not just some soldier of fortune, a body with a soul–but a soul with a body, and that God works His will through me as a spiritual being. I searched for peace and found the only peace there is through the Prince of Peace. Here in this awful pain and grief, He gave me eternal life. How can I then say that it has not all been worth it? ”

The Ku Klux Klan – Ends in 20–?

The Ku Klux Klan had at one time been especially dominant in the mountain, Piedmont and Deep South areas of the United States of America. But the Knights of the White Camellia, another race hatred organization, finally ruled in the Deep South, after being founded in 1867 in Louisiana.

They were reputed to have more members than the KKK, but were more conservative and less spectacular in their actions. The Knights had a similar divisional organization to the Klan, with headquarters in New Orleans. One scholar placed the Knights as actually a branch of the Ku Klux Klan, stating it was a Texas group led by Charles Lee. It was linked to a number of incidents of racial intimidation and harassment in Vidor, Texas, occurring in 1992 and 1993.

These events involved efforts to prevent the desegregation of an all-white federally assisted housing project. Among reported threats was an attempt to blow up a unit to prevent its integration. Residents of this housing project issued a statement that the Knights “carried automatic weapons on a bus they drove through the housing complex and that one Klan member offered white children $50 to beat up African-American children.”

Based on that, the Texas Commission on Human Rights brought a civil suit against the Klan. One tactic nowadays used against them is to bring civil suits, for in many cases, these cowards have attacked an individual with a group of people. That makes it harder to get a criminal conviction. Groups who kill or hurt individuals are difficult to convict in criminal court, due to the “eye for an eye” nature of homicide and assault laws, but it’s easier to get a conviction against them as a group in civil court.

In 1915, the second Ku Klux Klan was founded by William J. Simmons, a famous white promoter of fraternal orders. The new group proposed a much broader program than the first one, including with its white supremacy orientation a degree of nativism, or preaching against foreigners, and anti-Catholicism. They were now also more sharply oriented towards anti-Semitism, and were similar in these regards to the Know-Nothing movement of the mid-19th century.

The newfound power of the modern mass media inspired the Klan’s comeback. For example there was the silent 1915 black and white film, “Birth of a Nation,” which made a major point of featuring the Klan as “American heroes,” and inflammatory anti-Semitic newspaper accounts surrounding the trial and subsequent lynching of Leo Frank, a Jewish man accused of murder.

Frank was the manager of a pencil factory in Atlanta, Georgia, and he was accused of killing 13-year-old employee Mary Phagan, an accusation that due to anti-Semitic fervor grew into wild tales of orgies and rapes that Frank had supposedly committed. His death by lynching through a mob of prominent citizens in Marietta, Georgia in 1915 caused the formation of the Anti-Defamation League, but also fanned the flames of unrest. Georgia politician and publisher Tom Watson used the case to build support for the renewal of the first Klan, which had been destroyed by the federal government in the early 1870s.

But now, the second KKK was a formal fraternal organization with the ability to communicate through the mails, the newly invented telephone, and the mass media. It had a national and state structure, which paid thousands of men to organize local chapters all over the country. At its peak in the early 1920s, the KKK included nearly 15% of the nation’s eligible white population. Some southern groups caused lynchings and other violent activities, which in a few years made the South gain in its reputation for wanton lawlessness.

After 1920, professional promoters Elizabeth Tyler and Edward Y. Clarke helped it spread rapidly through the North this time, as well as the South. It gave the militant patriotism that had been aroused in WWI an outlet, and began stressing Christian fundamentalism. But they also began controlling politics in many communities, and in the 1920s they elected many state officials and Congressmen. The states of Texas, Oklahoma, Indiana, Oregon and Maine were being held under their pervasive influence. Their power in the Midwest began to fade in the late 1920s when a major Klan leader, David C. Stephenson, was convicted of murder.

Such evidence of corruption led to the indictment of Indiana’s governor and Indianapolis’ mayor, as they were both Klan supporters. Meanwhile, the Klan was organizing lynchings, as they had already done in the 1800s, and committing other crimes against humanity, such as dissuading black people from taking jobs for which they had been hired. In one case, they talked a black female schoolteacher out of assuming her position by visiting her at night while wearing their peculiar costumes, with Viking horns sticking out of their heads. They were known for their extreme measures taken against Native Americans, blacks and Jews, plus their newer anti-Catholic sentiments were sometimes violently expressed, as by the mid-1920s, their membership had peaked sharply. They now had an estimated 4 to 5 million members.

Although their active membership was probably much smaller, the Invisible Empire had finally fulfilled their own sick premise, making sure that “you’d better be racist, or else.” But the Klan next proceeded to decline rapidly, and was down to about 30,000 members by 1930. In the meantime, the “Klan spirit” managed to help break the Democratic Party’s hold on the South in 1928, when Roman Catholic Alfred E. Smith was running as that party’s presidential candidate.

The collapse of the second Klan almost immediately afterwards was due to state laws forbidding masks and disallowing the “secret organization” elements of the group, which stemmed from the bad publicity they were receiving through the sporadically violent action of their thugs and swindlers. Also, the interest in it among the ghouls, or individual members, was disappearing, and during the Great Depression of the 1930s, their dues-paying membership pretty much disappeared. There wouldn’t be further interest in it until well after WWII, especially since one of the reasons they had problems was their affiliations with the Nazis and similar groups. They tried getting together with the Neo Nazis in the 1980s, but differing ideologies quickly drove the two groups apart.

The third attempt at the Klan “rising again” was by Dr. Samuel Green of Georgia, when he attempted to revive it in the years following the Second World War, but this failed. The organization was splintered, and states were beginning to individually “bar” it as an illegal group.

But the southern civil rights activities during the 1960s, although they had begun to combat Jim Crow laws and not to particularly oppose the Klan, caused a resurgence of Klannish activities and led to the resurrection of the scattered klaverns. The most notable ones belonged to Mississippi’s White Knights of the KKK groups, which were led by Robert Shelton. These newly revived groups attacked blacks and civil rights workers in many southern cities, including Jacksonville and St. Augustine, Florida, Birmingham and Montgomery, Alabama, and Meridian, Mississippi.

However, this new Klan was not organized well or strongly believed in, so by the end of the 1960s, its power and membership declined to practically nothing. The Civil Rights Movement had used their violent methods against them by practicing gentle nonviolence instead, which made them more sympathetic to the general public than what was now only a bunch of violent, hate-mongering “hoodlums.” The federal government now treated them the same way they treated other organizations seen as “hostile” to American interests, and the FBI was infiltrating and monitoring them well before the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., beloved head of the Civil Rights Movement in America during the 1960s.

They were subject to federal probes, and in Birmingham, my father and the Boys were allowed free license to use “scare tactics” on the “ghouls” as individuals. They “spooked” certain important members by asking their employers about Klan affiliations, also visiting their next-door neighbors and bothering them with questions about the KKK, until these individuals quit the group. Also, MLK’s death in 1968 caused some overdue hatred against them, and anti-Klan sentiment in general, as many people thought the Klan was involved in his murder.

There are some few reports on the Internet about violent attacks by blacks on Klan members in recent years, and apparently there were at least a few murders of whites. Though there was a resurgence of support in the early 1990s via the recruitment efforts of right-winger David Duke in Louisiana, he has since quit the organization, and the membership of the KKK is estimated to now be in the low thousands. With black militancy through “gangstas” on the rise, I think their days may indeed be numbered.

But it has also been estimated that there are as many as 150 Klan chapters or klaverns in the USA, with up to 8,000 members nationwide. These “clubs” run their operations in separate, small local units, and are considered to be extreme hate groups. Therefore, the modern KKK has been repudiated by the mainstream media and many political and religious leaders. Recently, a website touting “Christian Love” was found headed by a female Klan leader, under the phrase “Christina love” on the Internet. It’s doubtful that they’re getting much press coverage; according to the FBI, they’re pretty much “over with.”

Read the next article in this series, “Early American Civil Rights – Begins in 1896″and the other articles in this long article series about why racism was and is so prevalent in the American South.

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Our Journey With Asperger’s Syndrome

When Taylor was about a year old, I started noticing things that didn’t seem quite “normal”. When he would have temper tantrums, he would throw himself backwards with such force, it scared me that he would really hurt his head. When he was walking, he would walk on his tip-toes. These things, most kids grow out of by the time they are 3, but Taylor didn’t. He still walks like that sometimes at almost 12 years old.

When he started Kindergarten in 2004, his teacher came to me and said she believed he had ADHD. I took him to start seeing a psychiatrist to have him evaluated. Another thing I noticed was that his anger was explosive. He would go from being the sweetest kid alive, to a holy terror in 60 seconds. It started happening more frequently. Then I got a call one day that he was suspended from Kindergarten for a few days because he choke-slammed a kid for cutting in line for the bathroom. He was diagnosed as ADHD, and I voiced my concern about him being autistic, as I had read about it and many of the signs seemed apparent to me. But the psychiatrist shot down the idea. We tried several cocktails of drugs, finally settling on Concerta and Strattera, both non-stimulants. It takes him from uncontrollable to quiet. I feel like I lose a piece of his personality with every pill he swallows. And I have agonized over the long-term effects. But I know that he needs it to help him keep it together during the long, stressful day at school.

During this time period, Andy was deployed to Iraq for the first time, so I was alone to deal with it myself. Taylor’s fits became more enraged and harder to control. I learned that there was no way to make him understand someone else’s point of view, so diffusing him was the only way to get him to calm down. Even at 6, he would try to hit himself, or slam his head in to the wall. It’s very disturbing to watch your child try to seriously hurt themselves. His eyes grow dark and cold when this happens…completely disconnecting from me. During this same time period, I moved the kids and myself down to our new duty station in Georgia to wait for Andy to get home. We were there for about a week, when Taylor had a major meltdown. He kept going in to the kitchen and taking knives out of the drawer…not butter knives, but big, sharp ones. He said he wanted to kill himself. I thought he was attention-seeking, trying to get his own way by shocking me. I didn’t know what to do. I had to take all the knives from the kitchen and lock them in my closet, but he still kept getting up through the night and trying to sneak in to take them. Finally, at about 5am and emotionally destroyed, I took him to the hospital ER on Fort Benning. They had a psychiatric doctor evaluate him and he recommended that we put him in an inpatient facility in town…The Bradley Center. My 6 year old was going to the looney-bin. The first time he had spent a night away from me, not in the care of his grandparents. How could I protect him? Would he think I abandoned him? My head was spinning. This was my baby, and I had no one with me to help me make the right decision. Thankfully, kids are pretty resilient, and he did not cry or get upset when I took him and had to leave him there. I cried for the next week while he was there, calling every morning and evening to say goodnight and going in for the only two hours per day I was allowed to visit. The staff told me they didn’t feel he needed to be there, so after a week, Taylor came home. He was in outpatient care 5 days a week for a month, and had a new doctor and a new diagnosis, Asperger’s Syndrome.

Finally…someone else saw the signs I had seen. Autism is a spectrum disorder. Asperger’s is at the low end. He is very highly-functioning. If you met him, you would think there is something a little different about this kid, but wouldn’t be able to put your finger on it. Asperger’s kids have poor social skills, but are usually highly intelligent. They don’t read social cues well from other people. Taylor will become obsessive about certain interests. One of Taylor’s was Amelia Earhart. When he started in school a month later, I knew we were going to have problems for the rest of his life, getting him the best education possible. He is one part gifted and one part special education. The bottom line is that he doesn’t fit in the nice, neat box that most teachers prefer children fit in to. I say most, because there have been a few shining stars, but all of know that they are few and far between. The school district has to create either an IEP or Individualized Education Plan, or a 504 plan. This is an agreement between the parents and the school that outlines things like disciplinary procedures (there was quite a bit of desk-flipping until we got the medicine sorted out, and a few more suspensions) and things like extra time given on a test or homework modifications. It even includes if you have a teacher’s aide working with him or counseling. Bottom line, is that if you have a child with a disability…seek out someone who know what they are talking about. Some sort of advocacy group that KNOWS the laws, because most of the schools WILL fight you on it. They don’t want to have to provide anything extra or make teaching any more difficult for the teachers. I have dealt with 6 schools in all of our moving. I only had one that didn’t put up a fight.

So now Taylor is 12 and he rarely threatens to hurt himself. But he takes about 7 pills a day. I have him take his medicine at home so that it gives him one less reason to stand out at school. He rides the bus with the high school kids and they are horrible to him. He looks normal, so no one knows he has a disability. They call him names, say he is gay and reduce him to tears on a daily basis. He’s never had a best friend. He’s never been invited to a birthday party for his classmates. My heart breaks because I can’t protect him. His school here in NY has been awful. He gets A’s and B’s on tests, but because of the knock-down, drag-out fights we have over homework, some of the teachers lower his grades. His psychologist agrees with me…if he can test out of the material taught, then he is learning it, so why bother deducting from his grades over the principle of doing homework, which purpose is to reinforce the materials so that you can test? The school doesn’t see it that way. When we move, I will explore homeschooling…a subject I have long been against, figuring he needs the social interaction. My father has a Masters in Education, so its not like he would sacrifice his learning potential. Social interaction can come through any number of extracurricular activities. With bullying suicides on the rise in pre-teens, I think I am to the point where I can’t take the chance. I have to help him get through this rough stage of his life, until he can get to the age where he is able to find people that share things he is interested in. I know that it will happen at some point, but watching him get there is the hard part.

Anyone’s Adventures

“The world is a big place, much bigger than we can possibly imagine, and the best way that we can learn about it is not by reading books or by roving the internet but by going out and experiencing it first-hand. It is there that the flesh of life can be found.” -Anonymous-

Before you begin digging into this text (Note the irony based on the aforementioned quote), it is important for you to know who I am; it is rather essential. My name is Brian Heyel and at the time of writing this I have just turned 24 years old. I was born and raised outside of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA. My childhood was not spectacular enough to merit any great detail or in-depth mention. Suffice it to say, however, that growing up for me was what I consider to be rather normal. I rode my bike, and played with friends, and laughed a lot as children are inclined to do.

I would not describe my childhood as outstanding for the sole reason that I do not believe that the events that would follow–little to my knowledge at the time–would or could rest upon the laurels of any great childhood. The events that would follow my childhood were perfectly plausible results of a normal childhood.

Despite the fact that I grew up in a small Midwestern city, by the age of 24 I have lived in six different countries and visited nearly 20. I have seen more major cities outside of the United States than within its borders. I have met and become friends with people from places that I have yet to visit. Consequently, after getting to know these people, the desire to travel burns within me more than ever before.

If I have your attention now, I want to make a point very clear. This is nothing that you should consider to be extraordinary. It is not a feat that requires some form of superhuman strength or intellect. The reason I say this is because as the tales I tell will reveal, success abroad can be obtained through the simple merit of will. If it were so difficult, I think that I should have more stories of failure and adversity. This is not the case, however. My travels thus far are much more wrought with adventure, excitement, fun, and most importantly learning. Remember the adage: what one man can do, another can do.

What is my motivation for this attempt at inspiration? The answer is primarily two-fold, beneficial in two main respects. The first is that if you succeed in stepping outside of your borders you will have the chance to encounter things that will open your mind to the World out there, to a world that goes on everyday but that you never knew existed before that moment. With this experience you will gain a deeper understanding of the human condition as well as a deeper respect for mankind as a whole.

The second part of the answer relies wholly on the success of the first part. By becoming what some might call a citizen of the world, your personal transformation will cause those around you to seek a greater sense of understanding as well. You see, the effect is rather infectious. If you can go out and meet people from another culture and show them who you really are and show them that you want to understand them, they will want to understand you. Chances are that you will make a great impression on these people.

I know that this last idea may sound a bit far-fetched and even corny to some of the more skeptical readers. I understand how one might arrive at such an opinion. Allow me to unveil an example from personal experience of how this idea/ideal was carried out. When I was sixteen I lived in Spain as a foreign exchange student through a yearlong program with AFS (American Field Services). While there I attended high school and lived with a host family where I was treated like one of their own children in as many ways as was imaginable.

One of my classes there in the high school was philosophy. In my American public education I had never even fathomed taking a philosophy class, but the Spanish educational system accorded it to every student. Hoping to make the best of the experience, I tried my best to learn as much as possible–not only in Philosophy but in all my classes. My Philosophy teacher was visibly dedicated, one of those teachers that was motivated by people who were interested in learning something from her. Conversely, she was rather put off by such motions of apathy and motivational inertia. I got the feeling that she rather scorned these ideas. I found her class rather interesting and I did my best to learn from her. Near the end of my year in her class she approached me one day to speak to me.

During most of the year our conversations never passed beyond class material-based question and answer sessions, but this day was different, more personal. She proceeded to ask me where I was from, and I explained. She knew that I was American already, but she did not know from where exactly. After a brief bit of questioning she told me that I had succeeded in changing her opinion of Americans as a whole. When I first started her class, she explained, she had discounted me as another lazy foreign exchange student in it for the free and wild ride of living in another country. Through my hard work and interest I had succeeded in changing someone’s opinion about an entire nation. This was an empowering feeling, and I became rather inspired to continue with this trend.

Inspiration was not at its end there, however, as the possibility of learning other languages was another incentive to live in other countries. It is relatively safe to say that the majority of Americans are exposed to some form of a foreign language in their formative years, but that very few Americans actually put those extremely important skills to use. By the time I turned twenty I was well on my way to being able to communicate with nearly a billion people in their own language. That concept alone blew my mind. With skills like that, I could feasibly live almost anywhere in the world and not be at a loss for words. I did not just like to speak languages, though. I enjoyed speaking them well.

When I lived in Spain, at the end of my exchange program, I spent 17 days traveling around Spain, touring from city to city. Keep in mind that I had not yet turned seventeen years old. For the entire time I lived in Spain I always tried to work on my accent, sounding more and more like a Spaniard with each passing month. I even remember walking about my host family’s house in Spain saying things to myself before I would say them to anyone else to assure that my accent was okay. This practice came in handy, though. As chance would have it, upon checking into a hotel room in Cordoba in southern Spain, the young man (the owner’s young son of maybe 12 years of age) came to ask me with two different colored cards in hand where I was from. You see, one card he held was for Spanish nationals and the other card was for foreign visitors. He had no idea which card to give me. I gleamed as I responded to him that I was American.

Even today, here in Sint Maarten in the Netherlands Antilles in the Caribbean-where I currently reside-I fool people on a regular basis. They will hear me speak one language, thinking I am of the corresponding nationality, but then I will switch to another language, throwing off their judgment completely. Today at a restaurant I recommended a lunch special to a Frenchman; not knowing immediately that he was French, I spoke to him in English. When his wife came in and he spoke to her in French, I immediately switched and threw him off completely. The surprised look on his face-and on the cashier’s face for that matter-makes having learned multiple languages such a joy.

Beyond being a joy, though, it has its professional uses. Currently I am working as a sales executive for two small marketing-oriented companies. This particular island is host to over 90 nationalities so multilingualism comes in quite handy. I generally conduct my business in English until I find out if my client is from a country whose national language is French or Spanish. If this is the case, I immediately switch over and without fail the demeanor of the relationship I have with the client warms as well.

I remember dealing with one client from Columbia-but I wasn’t aware at the outset-and at the very beginning our business dealings were very serious and professional. One day I asked him where he was from. He happily responded and I began speaking Spanish to him. Immediately, he took a whole new interest in me. Since that day, every time I visit him, we generally sit and chat for a good ten to fifteen minutes before getting to business affairs. By having taken an interest in learning his language, he immediately took a greater interest in understanding where I am from as well. This idea again goes back to one of the primary benefits of living abroad-how infectious interest in someone’s culture can be.

I do not want to give the impression that I was just blessed with the ability to instantly be able to speak other languages. It is definitely something one has to work at. Unlike riding a bike, if you stop speaking a language for any period of time, you generally lose your ability to speak it. It is a matter of constant effort to not only maintain but to also improve language skills. I had to work rather hard to get where I am at with my language skills. I must admit that I have always done well with languages, but I attribute that primarily to the fact that I take a determined interest in them. With experiences like those that I have described, it is hard not to be motivated to learn more.

What all of this ultimately means is that living outside of your country can also mean stepping outside of your language comfort zone. If you don’t speak a second language, fear not. You can still live outside your country while living in a country that does speak English. My brother is a prime example of this. Even though he learned a little German in high school and college, he ended up with an English girlfriend. As fate would have it, he is getting his Masters degree in England, which has a culture very unique from that of the United States. His experiences there are ones that the rest of our family just loves to hear about when he returns on vacation. He is able to take advantage of living in another country while not having to worry about the language barrier, once he’s figured out the basic differences in the way we talk.

Personally, though, I encourage choosing a country where you do not speak the language. One reason I encourage this is because I have found that places where they do not speak your native language tend to harbor a culture more different than your own. If at all possible before you leave, though, take a beginner’s course in the target language so that you can at the very least express basic needs and wants. I find that once this can be accomplished, most of the other elements of the language fall into place with a certain degree of ease. Starting from scratch can be much more difficult. Immersion in the language is great for learning it, but it is always great to have a little head start.

What is really amazing-and fortunate for that matter, from an American perspective-is how many people speak English already. In all of my travels I do not think that I have ever been in a situation where I was stuck in terms of communication, although I have come close on one particular occasion in Switzerland. In that particular experience, I was backpacking around Switzerland with my friend, Angela, and we had gone to Lucerne for the day. We had read about this beautiful statue of a lion carved into a rock wall, so we wanted to visit and see it, among other things. German is the dominant language in that particular part of Switzerland-one of the four official Swiss languages-and neither Angela nor myself were very well-versed in it. As luck would have it we got rather lost and needed to ask for directions. There weren’t too many people around where we were but as we passed a car lot, there was a father and his son. I asked him if he knew where the lion statue was. English, French, German, Spanish-nothing. Italian? Sure enough. Dove stá il leone? His response put us back on the right track and further aimless wandering was avoided. As it turned out, the lion was absolutely beautiful and definitely worth all the trouble.

Apart from that small stumbling block, however, English is a very prominent language throughout Europe. Even in countries like France and Spain, I was never hard up to find English-speaking people. The easiest way, without a doubt: the Irish pubs. It is unique to find that there are places where by the very nature of their establishment, they draw in a clientele who speaks a particular language. This is true beyond Irish pubs when considering the various languages you can find. Typically, the easiest to find are based around food and drink. You like Spanish? Visit a bar that plays Salsa music and you are sure to find Spanish spoken. In my travels, if I was ever yearning to meet a few Anglophones, all I had to generally do was visit the nearest Irish pub. By doing this you will generally meet people from the entire English-speaking world: English, Irish, Scots, South Africans, Australians, New Zealanders, Canadians, and of course Americans. It is not surprising in places like this to find people in similar situations such as yours. They too may be world travelers seeking experiences abroad. Visiting comfort zones like this can actually ultimately propel your desire to travel even more, ironic though it may be.

That is yet another great benefit to living abroad: meeting people from everywhere. Certain places tend to be a crossroads to the international community, and it is within places like this that you will have the opportunity-as I have had-to make friends from the entire world. Living in places rich in international flavor allows you to taste many cultures without traveling much. Its akin to trying everything on the menu before you commit to a particular dish. You may find certain characteristics to be common within certain nationalities that you adore, just as you may find characteristics completely reproachable. When noticing these trends, however, be wary of assuming that they will hold true for everyone. Nevertheless, you do-by living in international crossroads-get the chance to learn from people whose culture is very different from your own. This is an invaluable skill in dealing with people both on a personal and a professional level.

Speaking from experience, in my last job, where I worked for a tour operator with twelve staff and seven different nationalities represented, cultural differences could account for difficulties as well as for advantages. In terms of difficulty, occasionally staff members would misunderstand meanings of certain things that were said and tempers could flair. With experience in dealing with these types of situations, a certain degree of adaptability is ultimately obtained. If you pay attention to how people work in terms of their culture or upbringing, you will be able to bring understanding to others around you in times of conflict. Thus you are able to turn conflict into a positive experience of greater understanding for all parties involved.

Similarly, there are benefits to be gained from operating in an international atmosphere. You will undoubtedly get the opportunity to learn other languages, or at the very least phrases from other languages. Without immersion, you will find that learning a language in depth becomes difficult. That doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t pick up knowledge here and there. If you really wish to pursue it, you can take advantage of the background of those around you and learn their language in a more structured setting. I myself have traded Spanish lessons to a Welshman in order to learn how to play the guitar; he has since moved to Honduras and I can only hope that what I taught him has come in handy.

It was when I lived in Spain that I came to realize how useful speaking another language could be. As I have already stated, I spent nearly three weeks backpacking around Spain by myself when I was only sixteen years old. The crazy thing about that statement-apart from the fact that I was only sixteen-was that I was almost never alone. Reason? I spoke the local language in a place where many travelers didn’t. I became useful to many people around me, just because I could make their stay in Spain a little more enjoyable. It was in this way that I was able to land a cheap place to stay outside of Pamplona for the Running of the Bulls without having made any prior reservation. It is worth noting that every hotel and hostel within an hour’s drive of Pamplona had been booked weeks and if not months in advance for what has become the third largest party in the world. It was also in this way that I landed free meals courtesy of an old English couple who had difficulty reading their menu at a bar in Valencia. Beyond scoring little freebies here and there I was simply able to help people who seemed to need a little assistance, which was always appreciated with a smile and at the very least a brief conversation.

Beyond learning the language, though, being familiar with the culture and history of a place will also serve you as it serves others. I spent nearly three days hanging out with the same family as they toured southern Spain. As I recall they were from Georgia, and when I met them we were waiting in line to visit the Alhambra and Mezquita in Cordoba. Having lived in Spain for nearly a year at this point in time and taken a Spanish history course that covered these architectural marvels in detail, I was able to serve as a tour guide of sorts for the family as we wound our way under the arches of the Alhambra. After spending the afternoon together, it was time for me to catch my bus to Sevilla where I planned on spending a few days; I split off from this family, but not for long.

By chance I would run into them in Sevilla. Just as I had recovered my sense of direction after getting lost while walking through the back alleys of Sevilla, I looked up to see the El Cid statue almost staring me in the face. This stare was immediately followed by a loud and excitedly uttered “Hey!” from the family I had left the previous day in Cordoba. They were passing by on a carriage tour and offered that I accompany them for the remainder of the ride. I spent that day and the following with this nice family, touring about and teaching them some of the history and culture of southern Spain. Ultimately, I was even able to use my language skills to meet people from my home country. Experiences like this are valuable in the sense that it brings a little bit of home into your life at a time when home is physically quite far away.

Now perhaps one of the most valid questions that I ever get from people is whether or not I miss home. The answer to this question, I believe more than any other, will vary from person to person. I can honestly say that I have only felt what I would describe as homesick once, and it was only for a very short while. This particular instance took place when I lived in Spain-my first experience away from home. During the first few months there, I was so occupied with activities and learning about where I was that the idea of missing home was perhaps the farthest thing from my mind.
Nevertheless, by sheer chance, I lived in a part of Spain that has a very long and consistent rainy season. This fact alone I consider to be the primary reason behind my feeling homesick. I reiterate, though, that I only felt this way for a brief period of time. The rain, which once it had started seemed quite loathe to stop over a period of a few weeks, was keeping me penned up indoors. This stir-craziness resulted in me thinking about home quite a bit and starting to wish I was back there. My days and nights began to be filled with a desire to get away from this place that was quickly becoming an international experience from behind four walls.

And then one day it hit me. I had spent the better part of the year leading up to that point raising money and working towards getting where I was. I would be damned if a little inclement weather was going to ruin my experience and drive me back to Wisconsin. There was too much invested, and more importantly there was too much to see still to consider giving up. The short-lived taste of the best of Spain remained fresh in my memory; I wanted more of that. With this in mind, I decided that regardless of the climate, I was going to enjoy where I was. I started going out and meeting people. The locals, having grown up there, were quite acclimated to the conditions, and soon I became just as acclimated as they were. From that point onward the experiences of living in Spain began to shine like gold in my memory.

It is important, though, to emphasize that missing home affects everyone differently. There are various reasons for this, and in the end you will never know for sure how you will react until you give it a try. I knew foreign exchange students in Spain who at the outset seemed doomed to return to their home countries within a very short amount of time, but in the end they stuck it out and made the best of the challenge before them. One girl in particular stands out in my mind to this day. She was from Japan and spoke no Spanish at the start. To make matters more difficult for her, she spoke no English either. Communication for her was extremely limited at first, almost relying entirely on gestures and expressions. She studied and listened and forced herself to interact. Some of the kids in our group always tried to include her in things we did, which certainly helped her in the grand scheme of her time there. It was an enormous challenge for her. Indeed, this aspect of living abroad can prove to be the greatest hurdle you will experience in your time away from home. The most important thing to recognize, then, is that the tougher it is to accomplish, the more valuable the experience becomes in the long run of things. It has been said that without the sour, the sweet is not as sweet. A great lesson.

Now bear in mind that I am only giving you tidbits of my overall experiences over the last several years, but if you are reading this and thinking to yourself that this sounds amazing and something to the effect of “I wish I could do that” comes to your mind, the only thing that I can re-iterate is that chances are that you can do it. I really can’t push this point enough. It is important, obviously, to consider one’s personal situation when pondering over the idea of packing up and moving somewhere. Maybe right now is not the right time, but I will tell you one thing; if you don’t ever decide to go, you never will. Stuff will constantly get in the way. It is a simple matter of planning. Think about all that you can gain from such an experience and try to see if you really want to give yourself a chance at it all. Once you have decided-and obviously I hope you decide to do it-then start making plans. I know people down here in the Caribbean who used to have homes and 401k plans and investments and so many material possessions that a fleet of U-Hauls was necessary for moving; they did exactly what I am talking about. They decided to give it up for a shot at what many-especially down here-call a better life. Your entire value system can change. Your entire outlook on life can change. Your perspective on human relations can change. You will change. Better yet, you will grow.

My Review of the Independence of the Seas by Royal Caribbean

February of 2009, Andy and I decided to try our hand at cruising since his dad and step-mother are big fans. Unsure of whether we would enjoy sleeping in a tin can and being confined to a boat, we actually had a great time. The Independence of the Seas was one of the largest ships in existence when we went. Now they have the Oasis of the Seas, which is the largest of all the cruiselines, boasting two Flowriders and a zipline from bow to stern.

We drove from NY to Florida, where we went to the port of Fort Lauderdale. It was a long drive, and even more-so due to the fact we took the girls to their old kennel in Georgia. Andy, as always, was a source of non-stop entertainment for me as I drove.

We spent the night at the La Quinta. It was a decent hotel, as far as we could park my car there for the duration of the cruise…but it was in need of some upgrades. The next morning, we took the complimentary shuttle from the hotel to the port. We left pretty early because we didn’t know what to expect when arrived, and I am glad we did, because it looked like Noah loading the Ark! All we needed were some zebra’s going two-by-two and it would have been a party. There were palates of food and supplies, booze, suitcases and people everywhere. We waited in a big line in a warehouse-type building to check in, and then were ushered up a ramp on to the ship. Once we stepped onboard, however, it was kind of amazing.

Inside the ship

When you get on board, you go to your room to check it out but they have already taken your luggage, so you are free to roam. They sail out of port and everyone cheers. But then they make you report to the lifeboat drill, or as I like to call it, excuse to take a humiliating picture of Andy.

The ship was very nice and our cabin was small, but we weren’t in it other than to sleep. The bed was comfortable and we had a porthole window. I debated on whether to get a balcony, but those Dateline Murder mysteries keep popping into my head, so I decided alcohol and a balcony might not mix. If we ever take the boys on a cruise, which we actually wished we had, we would have to get a family suite or two adjoining rooms because the 3rd and 4th beds fold down out of the ceiling like bunkbeds, and there is no way I could sleep with the kids hovering above us.

Food: I read about a thousand reviews about cruise ships before we went on this one and I chose Royal Caribbean because they had good reviews on the food and things to do to amuse yourself while onboard. They were really laid back about what you wore. Honestly, I saw quite a range every day, even the so-called “formal” nights. We only ate twice at the buffet, but we ate in the dining room every night and we had room service for breakfast every day. You could order what you want from your tv the night before and tell them what time you want it to arrive, all at no extra cost. There was a Johnny Rockets that we paid an upcharge to eat, which was weird for a burger joint but they put a fried egg on my burger and all was forgiven. They had a nice little pizza shop where we grabbed our late-night snacks before heading back to collapse in bed.

Entertainment: Okay…I am lacking in this dept. I didn’t see the ice-skating show. But we did see the comedy act, which was the Cruise Director. He was funny, but don’t take your kids to that! The “F-BOMB” was dropped many a time. We spent every evening in the casino, and Andy went on the Flowrider, which is a surfing machine. I might have tried it if there wasn’t stadium seating at the bottom. We also went miniature golfing, which is not easy when the new challenging of trying to hit the ball is foiled by the wind coming off the ocean.

The Ports:

Our first excursion was to Belize City, Belize. The port area where you first come in to town is quaint and pretty, but it soon becomes apparent that it is an illusion created for cruiseships. We stopped at a little bar on the pier and sampled the local beer, Belikan. (It’s pretty good.)

Then we were off to catch our jungle ziplining tour. We boarded a bus and drove for about an hour, where we were presented with a local lunch. They said it was chicken and beef kababs, but I was skeptical. Nonetheless, I was hungry so I ate it.;) Then we made our way into the jungle and began to suit up. I wish I would have know we would have to hike up a cliffside…it was humid and tiring. But we finally got to the top and after scanning the line for any breaks, when it was my turn I just sat and flew! I found it was better to just not think about how I could plummet to the ground and fall to my death.

It was a great experience, but I don’t know that I would go back to Belize again. I was told the reef off the coast is second for snorkeling only to the Grand Reef off Australia. But I have no interest in snorkeling since I am a tad claustrophobic and I can’t float on my stomach.

Stop number two was Costa Maya, Mexico. This is the view from the cruiseship tenders as we came in to port. Costa Maya had been hit by hurricanes, so everything was brand new. It became apparent that this little village relied on the cruise ships to support their way of life. Andy and I spent a relaxing day under a palapa, and the restaurants served fresh ceviche, pico de gallo and of course, Dos Equis. You can’t go to Mexico without enjoying a margarita, so I stopped to get one by the pier. They had a busy, but inviting salt-water pool, complete with swimup pool bar.

Finally, stop number three was Cozumel, Mexico. This is the home of Spring Break. Thankfully, we were there before the throngs of college girls gone wild, so it wasn’t too busy. This is another place I would probably not visit again, as the island is small and limited in activities other than drinking on the beach. Which was what we did.

All in all, the cruise was a great experience. There were plenty of activities for children, but it catered towards every age group. Our fellow cruises included seniors, honeymooning couples and extended families. We felt like we didn’t have to sacrifice quality for amenities, and we weren’t bothered by partying frat boys. I would be hard-pressed to go on another cruiseline after this wonderful trip!

“Bad Girls Club” Was Really a Sad Girls Club

Anyone with half of a brain who watched this show could see that these girls were a bunch of unsupervised, dangerous, immature females on the road to self-destruction with the last stop being prison or the cemetery. Every one of these females ranted and raved throughout the show about being tough, classy and intelligent yet none of them showed this.

The alleged goal of the “Bad Girls Club” show was to follow seven young women with “severe psychological issues and personality disorders” as they live in a house for four months and have their daily interactions and interpersonal relationships with their housemates recorded. They’re supposed to be accomplishing specific goals yet I never heard or saw any one of them do this.

There were no goal plans in place or mentioned and I never viewed any acts of intervention (not counting that wolf-pack attack in Mexico) when things got out of hand. These females had two speeds: Rage and Crazy. Their coping skills from start to finish were non-existent, but make no mistake, they were not suffering from any “severe psychological” issues. They seemed to straighten up pretty quick when the Federales showed up and threatened them with jail after that gang assault in Mexico…just as all bad actors do.

During their brief contact with the Federales, not one of them (Ailea or Whitney) went into their infamous rage black outs. Amazing, huh? As a matter of fact, if you watch the clip of Ailea and Whitney being confronted by the Federales, you’ll see two completely different females. No attitudes, no cussing, no loud talking; Ailea was such a sell-out there. She lied by denying that she ever hit or kicked Amber and blamed Whitney (her so-called fab-5 bud) quicker than you could flick flies off of doo-doo.

I asked, “What happened to ‘crazy’ then? Where did she go?” See fake crazy hops a bus when the going really gets tough and police get involved. Then “crazy” is nowhere to be found. There was no tough “Boston” act. Both were as meek as church mice.

These females certainly had no people skills and definitely suffered from personality disorders, but with that being the case, they needed to be medicated and (at times, sedated) in a long-term, lock-down treatment facility. An old-fashioned parent like my mom would say, “All they need is a good licking from their parents. They’ll be okay.”

If you haven’t watched this show and you have children or pre-teens, you need to watch it because it depicts exactly what happens when children with little or no home-training (or the ones who ignore their home-training) do when they step out into the world. For some reason I had the feeling that these females probably ruled their homes and parents; instilling fear with threats of “going off” and ruling by intimidation because everyone thinks they’re so “crazy.”

You put them up against real crazy women with nothing to lose; real bad girls who live and breathe to buck the system, police and anybody else they come into contact with and these girls would get a dose of really crazy up close and personal.

WHO WERE THE “BAD” GIRLS

First we have the Ambers. These two girls started off back biting just about everybody in the house. And while they were extremely catty at times, I wouldn’t say they deserved what they received (destroyed clothing, being jumped, etc).

Kayla aka Kaycee aka “house drunk” from Compton, Ca. This female made a fool of her self on television, shared with us her legal troubles and practically bragged about using men to pay the bills. She showed no shame in acting like a schoolyard bully throughout her short time in the house and eventually left after assaulting one of the Ambers over…a tip.

Amber B. is from Montevideo, MN and was simply lost in space if you ask me. She gave a whole new meaning to the phrase “Blonde Dumb.” I wouldn’t agree that she’s competitive. She was mousey than anything else and shameless with her hypocrisy and cowardice. The fact that she was in an abusive relationship tells you a lot about why she was acting as she did in the mansion. I pray she has gone into therapy and put 10,000+ miles between her and the abusive former boyfriend.

Amber M. of Seattle, WA, supposedly grew up sheltered and poor, but you wouldn’t have known that by the way she acted. She did stand her ground on several occasions and one must give her a pat on the back for those moments, but other times I think she just did things just to be doing them. I think she was attention starved for the most part and immature. The finale dinner incident was Amber M style all the way. She seemed to love sexual escapades and tossing herself out there just as she did during her phone conversation with Tiffany’s “brother” and when he arrived she appeared to behave true to her words only to have a change of heart or a revelation (depending on who you ask) at the dinner party. She said she felt “uncomfortable” with what Tiffany’s “brother” did to her as she “slept.” Was it real or simply her last drama-queen act, scene eight?

Ailea of Buford, GA, was silly, whiny and obviously emotionally unstable. Are there any nuclear waste plants in Buford, Georgia? Because she sure acted like she was suffering from some sort of birth defect. This female slept with just about anyone she came into contact with and even asked her housemates once, “Am I a slut.” I screamed out, “Heck yeah!” Ailea initially came off as this frail, teary-eyed chick that just couldn’t date offline. She quickly outgrew that. She went from frail fairy to Crazy Mary by the end of the show and I was happy to see her go. Her performance (because that’s exactly what it was) wasn’t worthy of an Oscar…maybe a straitjacket and a double shot of Penicillin, but no Oscar. It was like watching someone with turret’s syndrome.

And then she exposed herself on national television as a wimp and sell-out. This so-called “Bad Girl” bragged about being down and being a ride or die chick…yet when the Federales showed up and talked about Mexican jail and criminal charges, “Crazy Mary” quieted down and quickly served her Bad Girl buddy up as Taco meat. And notice that she never once bragged to the Federales about her kicking Amber like she did in the house later on. How cowardly of this self-proclaimed “bad, tough Girl.” Ailea needs a serious mental health evaluation, not because I think she’s actually mentally ill, but more so for her to spend 48 hours on an acute care ward in a real, lock-down facility where actual mentally ill people are.

It’ll scare her straight when one of them stalks and preys upon her like she seemed to enjoy doing to her housemates. Then, when she’s released let her spend some time in county jail around real bad girls who would likely do worse to her for a whole lot less than she did Amber. I can guarantee you this want to-be bad girl won’t be nearly as loud or tough in a jail cell with someone who’d beat her behind just for looking at him or her wrong.

Whitney of Boston, Mass. At the reunion we learn that “Boston” wasn’t even from Boston. She’s from Lynnfield or somewhere north of Boston. Typical of a suburbanite who wants to be tough so bad, she’ll lie about being from the city just to look tough. Classic child-like behavior. You just have to laugh at this contradictory, loud, self-absorbed, want to-be female thug who seemed to think that her being from Boston actually instilled fear in people. “You never hit someone with a shoe,” she screamed, “If you’re a real girl from Boston, you never hit anybody with anything other than your bodily parts.” During her immature, contradictory rant the cameras flashback to an early limo scene showing Miss “Boston” taking off her shoe and trying to hit her housemates while angry.

Someone should have hit her with a dictionary and some class. She did the state and people of Boston a severe injustice by the way she represented the City of Boston on television. True, she didn’t display any slutty behavior like the other four, but she more than made up for that with her mouth. This was another one I was happy to see go. I couldn’t help but notice how she simmered down quite easily when the Federales paid her tail a visit after that assault. She didn’t get ballistic with them. Things that make you go hmmm. Can anyone say PUNK? BULLY? See, when the going really gets tough and tough shows up, a want to-be thug will always cower.

Sarah is from Milwaukee, WI and was as happy as a lark when her spread appeared in Playboy. It was almost like that was a major accomplishment for her. Not so strange for someone with severe insecurity issues. She was proud to let us know her boobs were real (as if we cared) and winning meaningless contests. I didn’t get any drama-queen vibes from her performances, but she was definitely dealing with some issues. All I can say about her is making up for lost time is cool, but remember Judge Judy’s famous saying, “Beauty fades…dumb is forever.” You won’t always have that body (especially not eating like a runaway slave and laying around like coma patient) so work on your long-term, marketable assets so that when the boobs sag and the junk-in-your-trunk has faded, you’ll be able to make a living at a real job.

Ashley (can’t recall where she was from) replaced Kaycee and seemed to be a behind-the-scenes instigator, while trying to appear neutral. She’s another one that seems to think life revolves around her body and looks. And now we have Tiffany aka Tiff Bear. Tiffany hailed from Chicago, IL and was an intelligent female who didn’t seem to be as bad as the others. She, like Kaycee, seemed to have a thing for thugs. The telephone conversations she and boyfriend “Skeet” had as he smoked his blunt’s were odd.

You know, with him and his “tricks” in the background. Why a beautiful, seemingly intelligent woman would be “in love” with a unemployed, blunt smoking thug is beyond me, but she seemed to be rationalizing it in her mind, so more power to her. Tiffany played the quiet one at first until she had to cuss Kaycee out and then Amber B. Actually, I kind of agreed with her finale flip-out. Amber M. seemed to be going for one last dig on the evening of the dinner. Scene 34, act 50. She should have spoken up and not been talking about “bouncing up on it” with a man she didn’t know. I thought she was drunk in the “feel up” scene, but she said she was sleeping.

I didn’t really buy Tiffany’s “sincerity” in Mexico after the wolf pack attack though. Her Oscar winning performance in Mexico was funny. She instigated and stoked the fires of the other dimwits and then after it blew up and it became apparent that folks were going to be getting the boot, she steps out of the shadow of her “crew” to play the peacemaker and mediator. Girlfriend didn’t want to get the boot for her part so she got on Cookie’s (Amber M.) good side and earned some pats on the back for her “mediation”. She turned on her buddies and let two-faced Ailea have it, but I couldn’t help but see it as a veil attempt to deflect attention from her part in that nonsense.

I think girlfriend saw an eviction notice in the future after Whitney got the boot and devised a quick plan to save her own tail. She turned on Ailea pretty quick. Smart move, Tiff Bear. And to throw in acknowledgment of her contribution to the animosity was priceless. She saved her spot in the mansion and she deserves a gold star for that. Once again, all in all, Tiffany did not come off as bad as her housemates, but she played the passive-aggressive role better than any Emmy Award winning actress I’ve ever seen. One week, a leader. The next week, a follower. The week after that, an instigator and then, she would go into her “Oprah” mode and play the role of “Mother love.” I hope she has grown and resolved her passive-aggressive issues… and not dating any blunt smoking, trick handling hood rats…and destroys her copy of the time she spent on this silly show so that her children and future husband and employers don’t ever see it.

Here’s my over-all take on the “Bad Girls” creed:

A Bad Girl knows what she wants and how to get it. She makes her own way, makes her own rules and she makes no apologies.

REALITY: Making no apologies when you’re wrong and getting what you want at the expense of others, isn’t being a bad girl, it’s being a narcissistic fool. This type of mentality will leave you disliked, not respected and likely at the back of a lot of lines throughout life as you come to find out that the world does not revolve around you. At age 18, 21, etc you’re no longer a girl. You’re supposed to be a woman (as so many of them claim they were). And a real woman knows when and how to apologize when she’s done wrong.

A Bad Girl blazes her own trail and removes obstacles from her path. A Bad Girl fights and forces her way to the top with style and beauty.

REALITY: None of you used style or beauty during this show. Ok, the only style you represented was thug and child style.

A Bad Girl believes in jumping first and looking later.

REALITY: Wrong! When you’re young and foolish, you live by this mantra, but when you grow up, you realize that introspection will always help you make better choices.

People will love you. People will hate you. Others will secretly wish to be you. A Bad Girl is you!

REALITY: Wrong, again. You all represented sad girls with bad attitudes. And if anyone truly loves you, they’ll tell you that your behavior and antics on this show were extremely un-lady like and downright childish. No one hates you. And Hell no, we do not secretly wish to be you or anybody that will clown themselves on national television getting thrown out of bars, a COUNTRY or a show. And in the days of extremely high STD rates; STD’s that can kill you and leave you sterile… I suggest you all get tested and slow your roll before you end up in an early grave or a quarantine unit coughing up blood and mucus. No decent man wants a soiled woman with herpes cold sores all over her mouth and genitalia because she thought being a “bad girl” who would screw the crack of dawn was cute.

Bottom line: all of the females kept it real…real dumb, real immature and real silly. There is nothing attractive, ladylike or real about being destructive, disrespectful, promiscuous, arrogant or immature. Bad girls who don’t grow up and act like women end up dead or in prison. A decent man doesn’t want a grown woman bragging about beating people up, getting thrown out of bars, screwing random men and being proud of being a thug. Trust me.

Being on the show was supposed to end with these females growing and changing yet they seemed to get worse as the show wore on. The only time I saw any tears or heard anything that resembled personal growth and personal responsibility was when they were afraid of being booted off the show. Their confessionals showed no glimmer of personal growth let alone real change. It was sad.

Watching this show, you see a bunch of children in a big house running the street all night, getting into mayhem and cursing worse than sailors; they wanted to fight everyone (and almost did) and couldn’t go anywhere without a fight breaking out. They were like little girls whose parents were gone for the weekend and they were just doing whatever they wanted. They tore up this beautiful house and left it looking like a trash dump. I wonder what they’re families and friends thought? Probably the same thing I would wonder if I were their parent: “Heavenly Father, where did I go wrong?”

It’s great to live out loud, girls, but if you’re going to conduct yourselves in the manner in which all of you did on national television…it might be best that you live it quietly because beyond the cameras, you get arrested or beat down (or both) when you go around acting insane.