Tuesday, February 26, 2008

More Restaurant News

I am heading up to Portland today but discovered a couple of things yesterday that I found interesting so I thought I might post them before I leave.

First, I stopped at Robby J's under the impression that they were selling their equipment. I am looking for a couple of things for the kitchen so I thought he might have something I could use.

On the door was a posting from the health department shutting him down for not buying his license for the year. The date of shut down posted was February 12. That means for what ever reason when he was billed for his license (cost is based upon seating) late last year, he didnt buy it so they closed him. Who knows, he might have expected it and just waited till they did it but that doesnt make great sense to me.

Secondly, on my way back, I drove by Kasey's BBQ. They were putting up the new name on the end of the building. "Long Shots Pub". I dont know if it is the same owners but it is definately a change of plans.

For those who don't know the history of that building, it was the original DQ in Bend along with a small Mom & Pop grocery store. The widening of the road caused problems for the store and they ended up with parking behind the building and allowing people to come in the back door. This went OK until a robber robbed them twice in one week. The second time he came in he stuck his gun in the face of the same cashier and stated, "Remember me?". I talked with her shortly afterwards and she was very nervous and was going to quit. I dont believe they lasted long after that.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Restaurant closing

I was saddened to hear of recent closings in the restaurant game here in Bend, mainly Robbyj's and Dennys. I wondered if there was trouble at Dennys a couple of days ago when their kitchen manager called and asked if I had any openings. Then a person called today and asked the same thing saying they were from Dennys looking for spots for a couple of their cooks. I asked why and was told that the local Dennys was closing down.

Now I know from experience that many people believe that the restaurant game is a real money maker but from the inside let me fill you in on something. The bottom line percentage in this business is not that great. I am told that the ones with liquor license or lottery can do pretty well, but I have neither so can be no expert on those. Don't get me wrong, this is not a complaint, just a fact. The bottom line is don't do it unless you love it.

I never really started out to be in the business, my degree was in Computer Science and Accounting and I honestly thought that was the direction that I was going to take. But working in the game while going to college, I learned to love it and after graduation turned down a IT position to stay in it. I must admit that there were times along the way when I regretted that decision but I believe that I have always realized that it was what I was meant to be. And my college was a huge help in many ways. My business classes helped me make smart decisions, my computer classes helped me in in menu design and spreadsheet analysis, and the accounting helped me keep the numbers all in perspective (and believe me, numbers in the game are very important.).

I was also blessed by having a few mentors in the game that helped me out in so many ways along the years. Those being Dan Boone (from the old Tom Tom restaurant), Jack Mangin (Founder of Pilot Butte Restaurant), and Steve Martin (a savvy local businessman with restaurant background and lots of great ideas). I see all three of them from time to time and really appreciate their friendship and knowledge that they have handed me.

They say that the majority of new restaurants close down in the first few years. The reasons, usually are from either trying to do too much too quickly or from not realizing that only a small amount of the money that comes into your till really belongs to you.

As far as Robbys and Dennys, only someone from within could answer why. They were both well established and in Dennys case, had a national marketing assistance. I can only say that I am sorry for the them and their crews. I am sure that the Dennys shut down will give Cheerleaders a boost but from what I hear of that owner, he won't be gloating about it either. Good people never get a kick out of others demise.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The funeral of a friend

I went to a funeral yesterday. That is not an easy thing for me to do. But it is also an area where I push myself for a couple of reasons. One to show the family that I do care but also to show repect and honor that persons life especially if it affected mine somewhere along the line and this one did. I slipped into the back of the crowd as the service started and as I gazed around, I wondered how many people there were there that I recognized or that recognized me. The years do seem to change people.

So, now, in the middle of the night, I find myself wide awake thinking of this lady and her family and feel the need to put some of it down in writing if for anything so I can go back to sleep.

Her name was Dorothy DePue. But I knew her and will always remember her as Mrs. DePue. I can't say that I was a close friend but I always respected her and loved her. She was a woman who always showed some very great characteristics. She was confident, proud, and caring (Her caring was in a strong way. When she told you something, you knew that she meant it out of love, but doggone it, you better be listening). I always admired her and felt that she was the glue in her family. She married a tough old bird in Earl and I equally admired how she got him to church.

As a youth, I was always afraid of Earl but as I got to know him better as an adult, I came to love and respect him also. I oftened wondered if he had changed or if it was me. And if it was her influence that made that change.

I stopped and talked to Earl after the service. He looked up at me and said, "Alot of people loved her, didnt they?". "Yes, they sure did.", I replied. I felt the deep pain that he was going through and knew that he would much rather be with her than sit out there in with all those people around him. But in typical Earl fashion, he didnt talk about his problems.

Now, as typical with me, my thoughts come in the middle of the night when I seem to process people and events which in turn has me usually staring up at the ceiling.

I realize that life is like a race. But winning is not the important thing. The important thing is how we run the race. That is your legacy. We all stumble and fall from time to time along the way but we have a choice. To get back up and get back in the race or to just crawl towards the finish line often times mired down in self pity and despair.

Somehow, I envision Mrs. DePue at that finish line, her arms raised high with a big smile on her face. She ran a good race and now will wait for Earl to be by her side again. Well done.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Memories from Truck Stop Days


He sat on our front lawn, warming in the sun. As I approached, he jumped to his feet in a defensive manner. “Are you just trying to get warm”, I asked. “Are you going to have me arrested?”, he challenged. “No”, I said, “I’m not here to harass you, but to find out who you are and if I can help.”

I asked if he was a vet (it seemed obvious by the camo gear that he carried). He asked if I served and where. I felt that he might have been a Vietnam vet so I explained how I never reached land but served off of the coast. I told him that the General Manager had been Army Airborne though. “Well”, he explained, “I never served overseas, I was a guard down in San Clemente, California during the Nixon years. That was 27 years ago though. He told of having to don full battle dress to ward off war protesters. He said that he had to once stand outer guard at the age of 19 where he was the first line of defense against those same protesters.

He got out of the service and then couldn’t find a job so he began to ride trains all over the country. He said that the hardest place that he had found was Montana. He said that he originally went to Montana to help the Militia learn new tactics but they only laughed at him. “Montana is a vile place. They say that they are anti government but they are really themselves, the establishment. Just look at their legalized gambling. They make it sound like you are helping out their local government with the proceeds from the gambling but really, they are only fattening up their own back pockets with money from poor folks that think that they are doing it for good.”

I asked him where he was going. He said nowhere, that he was just surviving. He said that he was considering digging a hole in the forest somewhere and living off of the land.

I had to assure him a few times that I wasn’t bringing the police in. He told of getting off of the train in Pasco Washington and being accused by the police of raping a local girl when he had just arrived in town. He then started off on a group of stories about police violence that made no sense but all lead to a story of a shop lifting conviction which he claims is the only thing on his record.

He walked into the store to buy a bottle of beer and a razor. He said that the owner of the store was swearing and using the lords name in vain which angered him so that he placed the razor in his pocket for fear that he would get angry in the spirit and take it out on that owner. He paid for the beer and forgot about the razor. Once outside the store, the owner called the police about the razor and he was arrested, had his hair cut, and spent three nights in jail.

I told him that there was nothing that I could do to help him with the road but I didn’t want him to go away hungry. I sent him into the diner for breakfast but refused to give him money for booze.

I later joined him inside at the counter when I had breakfast. I noticed that he had brought his Bible with him so I struck up a conversation regarding it. He asked me what church I went to and I told him Baptist but the church denomination meant nothing. That a belief in Christ is the real need and all of the different denominations where like icing on the same cake. He said, “It’s more like the same greased pan. All the churches want is money, they don’t really care about you.” “Not so, I countered, There are good people in every church that do the work while the rest are there, I admitted, just for themselves”.

Fire seemed to shoot from him eyes as he was confronted. “There is one thing that you never argue about if you want to be someone's friend”. “They are Politics and Religion.” Seeing that I had struck a nerve, I said “OK”.

But he kept talking about biblical things so so did I. “The church triumphant is really todays church militia.” He stated. “isn’t that rather zealot?”, I asked, “Jesus was a servant, he wasn’t a radical.” “The hell he wasn’t!”, he retorted, “ He threw out the money changers. He brought down the Roman Empire along with a few others and he will bring down this world also.” I said that Christ was a servant, that he taught us to think of others first. The Bible states, “A soft tongue breaks bones.” “I think that Christ used that many times.”

With fire in his eyes he glared into mine. “Don’t quote scriptures to me, that is blasphemy” “Why is that?”, I asked. “No one can quote from God’s word but God himself. You are only quoting what someone interperate anyway.” “God’s words are God’s, not yours.”

Then with those same cold eyes, he told me, “Do you know who I really am.”. I am a Demon hunter. I hunt demons, and I rip their heads off just like taking the tops off of a beer bottle.” He then began a dissertation of various things of the Bible, Christ, and the Devil. His zeal seemed to be growing and my lack of backing down seemed annoying to him.

Not wanting to make a scene and seeing that I was getting nowhere (pagan that I am), I shook his hand and said, “I best get back to work.” “Well, thanks for the breakfast.” The fire seemed to subside as I got up as if he really didn’t want me there. “Good luck with your demon hunting.”, I stated as I left him there at the counter.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Just another day

None of my days seem to be the same. For a man who always has enjoyed stability, that has been quite a challange for me at times. In the old Jake's, I pretty much knew what my day to day life would be like. Right down to not only what time breakfast or lunch was, but most times what it was also. I had cream of wheat for breakfast and a burger for lunch. I arrived at work at the same time and left at the same time. It was all so very predictable.

Fast forward to the new Jake's and that has all changed. I arrive at changed times depending on alot of variables and the same goes for my comings and goings and finally, my leaving for home. Because there is so much to be done, no day seems very long but some are more challanging than others.

Take today, for instance. I arrived around 9 or so and set up the back room for Judy's group that was to arrive around 10 since she was running late. Next came a little office work, working on the deposit, corporation minutes, budgeting, bill paying, reading mail, talking to groups who wanted to use the back room, checking out the latest revisions of the website, and working on our newest projects with the widows that live behind us.

Sometime around 11 or so, I grabbed some tools and started working on a project at the register that I have meant to do for quite some time and just decided....to do it. That was when my first real challange of the day came. I listened to a couple of ladies who were heading to the salad bar area talking about how they were going to try and find larger plates to fill up with. We learned early on in our "all you can eat" buffet that when we gave people the larger platters that they sometimes filled them as high as they could and often times left much on the plate. We also learned that if you gave them to go containers, that some of them would take advantage of that and fill them to the brim and take them home for another meal. I had to decide on either raising the rates and thus taxing most for the unfairness of some or setting limitations. I chose the latter. The buffet would continue to be all you can eat but the plates would be smaller and you could go back as many times as you wish. I also set the rule for no to go containers.

As I worked, I noticed one of the ladies coming back from the salad bar with a platter piled high with as much goodies as she could place on it. I walked back and quized the waitresses and no one had given her a platter. She had asked Judy and Judy had told her that she could go back as many times as she wanted but the smaller plates needed to be used. We figured out that the man at the table had probably swapped his food over on to one of their plates and given them his platter. I told them all that it was not worth the bother and we should just let it go.

A few minutes later, Judy came back to me and told me that they had gone over and gotten themselves to go containers and were filling them up with the items from the salad bar. They had also helped themselves to sacks to put them in. With a sigh, I knew that I needed to nip it in the bud and walked over to the table. In a quite calm voice, I explained to them the salad bar rules and told them that I would allow them to do it today but in the future they could not take the salad bar to go. The platter lady had already filled her container up and the younger one was beguinning to fill hers with all of her plates pilled quite high so high she needed two containers. The younger lady said that she understood and that she had just lost her appetite and had only gone to the salad bar one time. The man at the table, however, was quite aggitated. "How dare you come over here and challange us.", He stated. " I ordered my sandwich and couldnt eat it all so I got a to go container and if I can so can they. How dare you embarrass us this way!".

I could see that arguing with him would not go anywhere and with his voice getting louder and a full house of customers around me, I took what I felt to be the best route. I appolgized if I offended them and thanked them for coming in and retreated back to the kitchen wondering if I would have been better off just talking to them as they left.

A little later as I was talking with someone at the counter, I was told that Judy had just been chewed out by a customer. I quickly went to the cashier area to see if I could help. The man had seen Judy off to the side after paying for his meal and had yelled at her about how I had ruined their lunch and that they would never ever come back again. After yelling at her, Judy had calmly said sorry and that was their choice. This angered him even more and he began yelling that it was his daughters birthday and that we had just ruined it for her. Seeing the bags of food that they were carrying out, Judy calmy smiled and said "Have a good day, sir". He spun around and slammed out the door, ranting as he left. I hugged her and assured her that she had handled it right.

I then took Judy's car to the shop for a service and ran a couple of errands before returning and eating a late lunch with my sweetie and business partner. She then went off to order up shirts for the store while I finished up the corporate minutes and walked over to pick up her car. I hoped that they would give it a wash as them sometimes do but seeing that it was still quite dirty, I ran over to one of the neighborhood car washes to clean it up and surprise her with a sparkling clean car. After leaving the wash and with a very wet car, I stopped at a estate sale on the way back. I parked the car in the sun on the street hoping to have some of the wet dry off while I was inside. Upon leaving the sale, I watched in horror as a man with one of those dirt blowers with the big motor back packs was blowing dirt right down the street towards my newly cleaned car. All I could do was watch as the cloud of dust encompassed her white car and quickly change the bright white to a duller grey white. As I reached the car he was just getting by it. Shaking my head, I stated, "Buddy, I just washed that car.". What I got in return was a bright eyed toothless grin. A cigarette butt hung out of one side of the mouth burnt all the way up to the blackened end of the filter. Without saying a word, he had told me loudly, "Sorry, I am just doing what I was told to do.".

Arriving back at the shop, I grabbed a couple of cleaning towels and began wiping down the car that didnt look much better than when I had left. One of the dishwashers came out and was dumping the garbage. "Hey, Lyle", he stated, "It would be alot easier if you just took it through the car wash.". With a smile and a shrug, I returned, "I just did.". He stopped for a second and with a confused look continued on inside.

Tired, I had had enough for the day and told Judy that I thought it was time for me to leave. Now after a relaxing evening at home, I now am ready to retire for the night and then get up tomorrow and start it all over again.

I wonder what tomorrow will bring.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Some of Bend's old time doctors meet at Jake's twice a week for coffee and talk. They are quite a group of guys. As a matter of fact, two of them operated on me when I was 11 yrs old. One as the surgeon and the other as the anastegeologist. Judy sets them up and then pretty much lets them go on their own so they can just enjoy each others company. They know where the coffee pot is and get their own refills.

I usually stop and say Hi when I see them and when I stepped into the room last week, I noticed a younger man sitting off to the side just by the back door. At first I thought it was just the ride for one of the guys who lives in a near by retirement home. As I checked out the buffet and salad bar, I noticed the docs talking to the man and realized that they did not know him.

I stepped back into the room and walked up to the fellow and asked him if I could help him. "I dont think anyone can.", he drunkenly slurred, "I am just getting out of the cold." He went on to explain that he was on his way home. I told him that I would get him some coffee to warm him up and get him back home. He reluctantly came with me up to the chairs by the cashier. He was so drunk that he stumbled most of the way. I offered him some food and he turned me down so I poured him some coffee to go and told him to wait while I brought my van around.

When I came back in he was missing. I asked the cashier and she said that he had gone back in with the docs. This time he was more persistant and so was I. "I am going to stay here.", he declared. "No", I said, "you are coming with me. I am taking you home.". "What if I dont want to go?", he slurred. "You dont have much choice here.", I countered as I lifted him out of the chair and forcibly walked him out to the car. "Are you telling me to get the hell out?", he complained, "I aint hurtin no one.". "I am just trying to help you out.", I explained as I helped him into the van.

I quickly got in and put the car in gear before he could get back out. "I have a bike out back.", he said. I drove around the building and spied his bike against the wall. I wondered how in the world that he could have ridden it in his state. After pulling up beside his bike I reached over and buckled his seat belt. He struggled trying to figure out how to take it off as I quickly threw his bike in the back and got on the way.

"Names George.", he said, "Are you Jake?". "Some people call me that", I stated and left it at that. "You own this place?", He asked surprisingly. "Yes", I explained. "And you are giving me a ride?", he asked somewhat confusingly. "Yes", I returned.

"Well, that explains why you have such a fancy ride. Dual air bags and leather seats and all." As he talked about the various parts of the inside of the van, He flung his coffee cup right and left spilling coffee all over those same seats and I was glad that they were easily cleanable. "It must be great to be this rich!", he explained. "Well, George, I am not rich but yes, I am fortunate to have this vehicle. Now, where can I take you in it?", I asked. 'I dont have any place to go." he said, "Could you take me down to Safeway or something. I want to stand on the street corner with a sign or something. Not that that works. No one ever gives me any money." He then turned and asked me for a job. I told him that I had no openings and didnt forsee any. He said, "No one will hire me.". I couldnt hold it back and said, "If you came to them sober maybe they would consider you better."

He sat back splashing more coffee as he sat back seemingly insulted by the remark. 'What did you say your name was?", he asked. "Actually, my name is Lyle. But so many people call me Jake that I dont argue with that.". "That's Stupid", he said, "Why do they call you Jake.". "Because I own Jake's". "Well, my name is still George and I dont hide behind other names." I didnt argue with him. Besides, the more agitated he seemed to get, the more coffee got spilled.

I knew where he needed to go and began driving towards the Sheppards house where I knew that he would get the best help around especially in the situation that he was in right now. As I turned on to Revere, he began to complain. "Safeway is the other way.", he said. "I know that. I am taking you to the Sheppards House. Have you ever been there before?". "I met the lady who runs it once.", he said. "So, you know Linda. Great, then you already know someone there.". "I dont want to go.", He complained. "Take me down to a bridge or something. Or do you know any tent cities. I will go there.". "Sorry, George, I am taking you where you need to go.", I countered.

He argued and got more agitated the closer we got and I was happy to see a few guys around as I pulled into the parking lot. I quickly got his bike out of the car and leaned it up against the wall by the other bikes. "Hey, someone will steal it.", he complained. I wondered why he didnt worry about that when he put it out behind my place. I escorted him in as he splashed more coffee on the way in. I wondered if he had drank any of it and could not recall one swallow.

I brought him in and introduced him to Gary who was at the computer ready to log him in. "I dont want to go in that computer.", George complained. Gary had been through this before and told him how they had to keep control of who all was there. "I dont have a lock for my bike. Its just a stupid wallmart bike that I got off a guy in Redmond for cleaning his parking lot. I quickly stepped in and said, "George, I will get you a bike chain if you agree to stay." He seemed perplexed and Gary told him that a simple yes or no was all that was needed. George said ok and I told him to stay with Gary and I would take care of everything. "I am going outside with you.", he stated. As I drove off, I saw him take his bike and I was not sure whether to follow through on my part or not but decided that even if he was gone, someone else could probably use the chain.

I searched around a local store and got a chain that had a pretty easy combination thinking that a key lock would not be smart. As I drove back into the lot, I noticed George outside talking with some of the guys.

"You came back.", he seemed surprised. I showed him the lock and he said, "That wont work, I need a key lock. I wont remember anything.". I told him that he would probably lose the key and he fished out a set of keys that looked like bike lock keys out of his pocket. "Where is the lock that goes with those keys?", I asked. "Hell if I know." Came the answer back. "Why dont you take the tag that has the combination and put it with your keys?", I asked. "Cause I might lose them too.", he countered.

I told him that I was taking them inside and giving them to Gary. If he wanted them he would have to get logged in. When I shook his hand and said goodbye, he stated, "My name is still George." And then laughed at his own joke. I left him outside talking with the other guys who were trying to get him to go inside to get help.

A couple of days later, I ran into Linda and asked her about George. "I met him.", she said. "I was getting him signed in and had him sit down and fill out the forms." I was helping someone else out and then noticed that he was gone. I picked up the sign in sheet and he had only filled in one thing. Where we ask what he feels his life is like right now, he wrote...."It is in the toilet"." I never saw him after that." She said.

I havent seen or heard from George since. I guess it just validates the old saying 'you can lead a horse to water, but you cant make him drink'. I am sure that I will bump into him again someday. Next time, I will to put a towel down on the seat first however.

Friday, February 8, 2008

The Widows

On Saturday a couple of the ladies living in the park behind us held an indoor yard sale. I found that kinda strange for in the middle of the winter and my curiousity got the best of me so right after the rush, I went back to see what was up. I had also gotten quite a kick out of their sign that they had placed out on the road. It read "Indoor yard sale inside".

Two sweet ladies were running the sale and I saw the usual tables full of stuff that I probably would never use but over in the corner was a piece of exercise equipment that Judy and I had looked at at the store just the day before.

In striking up a conversation with the two ladies, I asked the obvious. Why this in the middle of the winter. After all, they would have to drag stuff out of storage and with all of the snow around, packing it down to the hall hand to be a chore.

"We are trying to raise money to pay for our electric bills in the winter.", came the reply. Now they had my attention. You see, I never realized that any of the people in the park could be struggling like this. Especially since the space rent on their places was the best in town and will not go up as long as they stay there.

The plight of one particular lady hit me the most. She is nearly 90 and living on $600 social security per month. Her heating bill in her old trailer the month before was $200. This proud lady who had lost her husband decades ago and who had kept her head up all these years was now struggling to survive. She was actually one of the ladies running the sale and the other lady told me her story as a couple kept her busy on the other side of the room.

I wasn't sure what to do but knew right then and there that something had to be done. While I looked at Judy's potential purchase thinking more of their plight then the condition of the equipment, the older lady walked over to the kitchen to get the chicken sandwich that she had made for the two ladies to share for lunch. She let out a giggle and brought over a bag with two slices of bread to her friend. "I cant believe that I forgot the chicken!", she laughed, "But at least we have some bread to share!"

I told them both that I needed to get Judy and I would be right back. I walked back over to the diner and got a couple of portions of turkey breast and told Judy of the equipment that she needed to look at. On the way over to the hall, I filled her in on the story. I handed the turkey breast to the ladies and they gleefully went to the kitchen to prepare their lunch while Judy and I looked at the equipment that I was already prepared to buy no matter what the condition. It was nearly new, Judy loved it and we made the purchase. We then moved on to an indoor bike that was across the room.

After purchasing the bikes, I began to flash out ideas to the ladies. I got the telephone number of one of the ladies and promised my help but also letting them know that I was really not sure what kind of help that I would or could be. I assured them that I would try to do something.

I first talked with my friend, Mike Schmidt from the chamber who usually is in on Sunday mornings for breakfast. Mike said that he was meeting with someone from Pacific Power the next week and that he would mention it to them to see what kind of programs that are available. I knew that Mike would be diligent and get back to me.

I then met with my other friend, Richard Smith, who used to be the construction supervisor for Habitat for Humanity. Richard and I along with my buddy, Frank had been the foundation of our poker tourney on Monday's that we coined "Holdem for Habitat". Richard has friends in the construction industry and I asked him to talk with some of them and see what kind of ideas we could come up with.

Lastly, I stood up at the beguinning of Monday's tourney and proposed to everyones agreement to turn over the first Monday's winnings of every winter month to go towards this problem. After all, the money would be going to the same benefit as we are talking about these ladies habitats. We raised over $100 that evening and after playing one of the players walked up and handed me a check for $400 to assist in the program. Wanting to remain annonymous, he told me that he had been blessed and wanted to share and help where he could.

Those are the routes that we are taking at this time. I am writing this for two reasons. First, I am asking for your prayers and thoughts towards it. I am a man of faith who believes strongly in the power of prayer and also knows the value of positive thinking. We can solve this problem corporately.

Secondly, any ideas on what we can do is greatly appriciated. You can leave them here or contact me at 419-6021. No ideas are bad ideas. Many unworkable ideas have lead to productive ones and I know we can make a difference here.

Here is where we are to this minute. Pacific Power has sent me information that I need to look over. I am prepared to assist them in their forms if needs be and hope that the proud ones will come along. I called up the lady that I had met at the sale and she has agreed to be the laison for the widows in the park that need the help. I asked her how many there were and she said that she really wasnt sure but knew of at least six living in her area of the park. I will try to keep you posted on further developments.

Friday, February 1, 2008

The big sale in Redmond?

I knew what was on the radio was too good to be true, but my crew seemed to buzz about it most of the morning so I agreed to go up and see what it was all about. I was looking for a laptop for my daughter and they said they had laptops starting at $150 so I figured that was my motivation.

I walked into the event center at the expo grounds with 50 or more people waiting in line to get in the building. I asked one guy who came out what he thought and he said that it was ok, so getting to the front of the line, I plopped my $7 dollars down and went inside.

The first booth that I came across seemed loaded with cheap oriental stuff and to no surprise the salespeople were all oriental. There were some neat looking knives and swords if you like that kind of stuff but all the rest looked very cheap.

I then targeted the booth that had the computer equipment along with loads of other electronic gear. Fighting through the crowd, I came to the laptops. Peeking through, I spied a few of the prices that seemed to be in the $400 range. And then I sighted the show specials, you know those items that they talked about on the ads. The stack was in the middle of the room. A single hand written sign designated them "Show Specials". A stack of old laptops and desktops that looked ancient. I shook my head and headed back over to the line of "better" laptops. The cheapest was around $300 with the most expensive closer to $700. Looking closer, I could tell they too were ancient as to laptop standards. I looked around at the rest of the electronics and did find a couple of items that looked interesting but everyone of them had no price on it. I would have to get in this big long line just to find out what their price was.

I gave up on the electonics and then went looking for something....anything that would save me the entrance fee. I went from store to store but to no avail. I stopped at one small kiosk where a spanish speaking barker was yelling out, "Great prices! On sale today!". It reminded me of being down in downtown Tijuana again. Someone pointed out a video camera that he had in front of him and asked the price. "$150", he stated. I reached over and picked up the camera. It looked like a mini dvd type and that was a pretty good price and it looked like a name brand. A closer look showed the brand that had a letter differing from the name brand and to no surpise, no place to open up the side to load the mini dvd. It was actually one that you place a memory card into or just hook up to your computer. It was just made to look like a mini dvd camera to fool the unsuspecting.

After an hour, I gave up and left. As I slowly walked back to my car, I listened to others who walked around me back to theirs. I was listening for their comments and boy did I get an ear full. I don't think I have ever heard the "f" word so much since back when I was in the Navy. I still have a hard time hearing it from a woman. As I started to get in my car, a young girl was spouting it out to what looked like her mother. "We just stood in the ______ line in the _______ cold and then paid out 7 _______ dollars each for what? We got _______ nothing! What a _______ rip off!". I shook my head as I closed the door and started the engine. I wondered if the mother just tollerated the words or did she teach them to her.

If this reaches one person who decides better than to be fooled by this ruse, it will be worth it. Save your $7 and put it to good use. Like a movie or something. Or come see me and I will give you a burger for it. I guarantee you will be far more satisfied.