Please…don’t read this if you aren’t a man over 40

I’ve been trying to kick start a blog for some time now. Problem is, I don’t have a niche.

You know, a determined, pre-conceived audience for whom I write.

A friend asked me point blank the other day, in response to my  post in a Writers & Authors Page on Facebook about not being able to find an audience with my blog.

She asked, “Who is your audience?” and I kinda thought to myself, um, well, I guess it’s… and my mental voice kinda trailed off at that point, like my 13-year-old’s does when I ask if he’s done his homework.

So, I thought about it, for like 12 seconds, as always, ’cause I like to make snap decisions (indecision ranks down there with my 16-year-old’s used sock smell) and I blurted (if one can blurt in a text message) that I supposed my audience was “Millennials who want to discover something about themselves.”

Honestly, the ONLY reason I said that crap was because:

     A. I didn’t like feeling stupid for not finding a target audience before starting my blog

     B. I didn’t want a girl who used to play keyboards at church as a teenager when I was a big muckety-muck youth pastor at the same church show me up with her simple question about who my target audience was

     C. My best friend’s son (who claims he’s a Millennial at age 20, but heck, my cousin’s 16-year-old daughter claims she’s a Millennial…bzzt WRONG!) claims he LOVED my blog posts and said they would totally connect with Millennials so I thought, Millennials, yeah. I’m hip. I thought I was writing to my peer group, but hey, I guess the young folks dig it more ’cause I’m so honest, or something.

For the record,  I Googled generational distinctions and Millennials were born between 1980 and 1995, according to a reliable source, the Center For Generational Kinetics… the reason for this is the emotional connection Millennials feel from 9/11 (September 11, 2001) and the Gen Z kids (born after 1995) were too young for a strong emotional experience related to that event when it happened. Some sources claim Millennials were born as late as 2000 but that leaves no personal connection to 9/11 so… nope.

Anyhoo, Millennial stuff now researched, my friend (who really is a Millennial) said many Millennials are too sensitive for my terms (retard, turd-breath, Republican, Bible thumper, light in the loafers, God-phobe atheist, sand Negro, Bathrobe head, and many other outlandish terms that I don’t really use but just might if so inclined and I’d just been ripped off by a street beggar who was really a disgruntled Postal Worker posing as a Homeless Person.

Read the above paragraph again if you want, but it won’t make much sense the second time, either.

Welp, anyways, I ditched the notion right then and there when my Millennial Friend suggested that her peers were too pussy to purr over my bluntness. So, I said, screw Millennials. Or, Gen Z’s who think they’re freakin’ Millennials. How about I just do this stupid blog post for myself?

That would mean you’d have to be a white, 50ish man who’s wife divorced him after a long time and several kiddos, leaving him confused and angry but pretending he’s doing well. That would mean my audience is composed of men who love God and Jesus and grew up going to church but feel like church is kinda wimpy and phony at worst, and a good place to meet people who want to care at best.

That would mean my blog would be geared toward guys who feel absolutely invisible at times and who feel like if they stripped naked and set themselves on fire in a crowded restaurant people would still push past him to get to the taco salad.

Bottom line is, I don’t think people of any culture or viewpoint or age or race or creed or color or religion or cult or background, be it Redneck, Rogue, or Refined, can collect enough interest to stop and read a blog these days, unless it’s followed by millions (or at least more than 6?) people on a regular basis.

I got ten or 12 likes on my last post and I felt pretty doggone superb about that, being that in the past post, I got like, um, zero to one  like (I think my Mom liking a post doesn’t really count). But, thanks Mom, if you’re reading this.

So please, don’t read this blog unless you’re a man over 40. You’re not my demographic. And, you have no business liking it.

Whether or not you like this blog, it’s for me. Your comments are always welcome, even if you aren’t a guy over 40!

John Cockroft isn’t crazy. He’s just not sure how to get a bigger audience. He believes his words hold value and his opinions matter. But then again, most people reading this feel that way about themselves. Hey, maybe everyone is his demographic, after all! JohnCockroft.com and 1ofakindonline.com for more about him.

What I want most I can never get

I’ll get right to the point. There is one thing on my wish list each Christmas…

Okay, it’s on my list even in the summertime. And in the Spring. And, yep, the Fall.

So, what’s this all season wish?

Let me first ask you, the reader: what is it that you want more than anything? Do you have a passion in life? Is there something you’d definitely not want to go a day without?

I realize those are two different questions. Let’s take the first question, Do you have a passion in life?

First, if you have a passion, such as mountain climbing, it may take a while to condition yourself to attain that goal. If you have a career goal, you know the drill. Set the timetable and write it down. Get advice from those who are where you want to be, etc. Having a passion can also be something you do but it isn’t getting you any real benefit, such as a passion for sex, alcohol, shopping, gossip, or lottery ticket buying, tobacco buying… all right, you can tell I’ve been around convenience stores too much.

Convenience stores aside, what is your passion in life? Does it make you a better person if you pursue it? Does it help others?

Next question: Is there something you’d definitely not want to go a day without?

Let’s get the obvious out of the way, such as oxygen, water, etc. Yes, we prefer to eat and sleep, but I suppose most of us would still be alive 24 hours later if deprived of food or sleep. But air? Kinda ranks high on the list.

Push aside the essentials, and what do I mean by is there something you’d not wanna go a day without? tobacco? caffeine? pornography? texting? Facebook? gossip? video games? TV?

What about those healthy choices, like daily exercise, Bible study, prayer, random acts of kindness? Yes, all good and healthy, per se, but what about your passion? What is your driving force?

This sounds like a motivational speech, doesn’t it?

So, be prepared to be a little less motivated.

My one thing I want but cannot get.

I’m passionate about creating art, literature and visual stories through video and photography. I’ve written books (check them out on Amazon) and appeared in a variety of films and stage plays. I’ve created artwork on T-shirts and canvas; in fact, that’s what I do for a living now. http://www.1ofakindonline.com

Let’s step back from passion, drive, ambition, goal setting… all the motivational stuff.

What do you want most?

Think about it before you answer.

What I want most is______________.

Let me know what your answers are. Comment below.

Ready for my one thing now?

Finally, here goes: The one thing I want most but cannot get is to have my children live with me.

Yep. That’s the thing on my wish list. I wish I could wave a magic wand and get the last six years back that my kids have been apart from me. It’s not their choice they had to leave. It sure isn’t mine.

But divorce happened. And because it happened, though I fought against it tooth and nail, it took my precious boys away from me. They were 12, 10, 7 and 1 when the separation occurred. It tore like a knife.

For details, see my book on Amazon “Divorced Christian Dad.”

The one thing I want, money can’t buy. The one thing I want, I can’t get by working on something, or improving who I am, or completing a seminar or going to counseling.

The one thing I want, to have my boys live under my roof, is the one thing I can’t get.

Even if I gained a ton of money and pursued custody in court, it wouldn’t buy back the six years I’ve lost.

That’s why things get a little weird for me. Not having the one thing I wish for most, and realizing that if I changed all my behavior to the “Billy Graham” setting of perfection, or if I had the “Bill Gates” income, or the “Brad Pitt” appearance, nothing could get me what I want most.

I’m stuck on a timeline in the course of eternity that happened to start in the 20th century and now continues into the 21st century. Then, scores of years hence, no one will remember me and I’ll be a distant memory to the few who knew my children or grandchildren.

Just like my great-great grandparents, I won’t meet my great-great grandchildren. Just like them, I won’t be talked about in the 22nd century. And, as time rolls on, or even if Christ returns in the rapture and the world ends in a ball of fire, I still won’t have had my children growing up in my household in the early 21st century the way they were supposed to.

No matter what happens or doesn’t happen in the Cosmos, John Cockroft won’t get full time custody of his kids.

If I could go back in time, I would. I would change everything that caused those kids to not be in my home. I accept responsibility for my mistakes. But I can’t cause those mistakes to have never happened.

What did I learn from my mistakes? That there’s nothing I can do to reverse them. No matter how good a person I become. No matter how much money I earn. No matter how influential and powerful I become.

Right now, I’d trade all the money, fame, power, and praise for the chance to raise my sons in my home rather than be a visitor every other weekend.

I hope you are reading this with hope. I hope you aren’t divorced, and that you still have your kids. Or, if you are young without kids, I hope you get married and stay married. And raise your kids all the way through.

My new wife and I have devoted our lives to making marriage popular again. Check out our YouTube channel “TwentyFourSevenMarriage”…

Chances are, John Cockroft is more transparent than you. That’s because  he’s a big-time muckety-muck professional blogger so don’t even try it on your own.

How to get 100% customer satisfaction every time

How do you get 100% customer satisfaction every time? For a good source of frustration and inspiration, check out this fellow blogger.

In baseball, batting averages can be less than 4 out of 10. Those numbers look a bit more grim in the surgical world.

Imagine a baseball player retiring and looking for something to do. He’s flipping through a medical school brochure one day, and an idea hits him. He could become a brain surgeon in just 3,454 easy steps! (I know, it takes an imagination the size of Wrigley Field, but don’t leave your seat for the hot dog stand just yet.)

So, this retired MLB superstar batting hero whose been averaging 4 hits out of every 10 waltzes through medical school in a sweet full ride scholarship due to bad manners but good connections (his sister is the medical director’s mistress) and he lands a job at XYZ hospital.

It’s his first brain surgery and he’s sweating bullets. You know how rookies are. Especially when they’re used to big league standards, i.e.scratching yourself in front of 30,000 fans, spitting sunflower seed shells all over a multi-million dollar sports complex and getting rich on a 60 to 70 percent miss rate… steee-rike ONE!

Now he’s up to bat at the new job, doing his routine, popping his neck, popping and re-popping each knuckle, scrubbing up to his elbows, and finally trying to wrangle into a pair of medium-sized surgical latex gloves with wet hands…(where’s the blankesurgeonty-blank Larges when you need ’em? Mr. Jones is already under the ether and the surgical team is buzzing in the OR, clattering forceps, scissors, and adjusting the volume on the stereo.)

Our MLB big bat retiree arrives,  hoping no one notices his fingers poking from his latex mediums or the sweat rings forming under the arms of his pale blue pastel scrubs.  He’s focused. He’s in the zone. He’s used to big bucks and big crowds. This little bitty surgical room ain’t  diddly squat.

He takes his place at the plate. Before him is Mr. Jones’ shaved scull, ready for the saw.

Our MLB rookie brain surgeon spits into both shredded gloves, cracks his knuckles in unison for one final prep, and picks up the saw, waving it menacingly behind his right ear, waiting for the pitch as the surgical team stares in bewilderment.

HOW TO GET 100% CUSTOMER SATISFACTION

As you can imagine, the story doesn’t go well for our rookie brain surgeon. If you’ve grown accustomed to being a Big League-r, you’ll likely to get used to failing at bat more often than succeeding.

If you’re really a brain surgeon (or an engineer) you insist on things going well all the time. The results could be disastrous even if one foul ball occurs.

So, here’s the “happy medium” for those of you who miss the ball like a baseball batter, yet want the results of a successful surgery:

◊When mistakes occur, correct them yourself. 100%

◊If you can’t correct them yourself, get someone right away to do it who can

◊If you can’t correct the mistake as a team, immediately inform the customer and ask what you can do to ensure their satisfaction

REAL WORLD EXAMPLE

In my world, I am an illustrator. I draw a picture from someone’s photograph onto a canvas or a tee shirt. Pretty simple stuff. But, on a few occasions, the customer isn’t satisfied. However, I don’t hear about it at the time of purchase, because…

A. They don’t want to hurt my feelings (you know how sensitive artists can be!)

B. They already paid for it and it takes a while to regret their decision fully

My customers text message me their photos for me to create my illustration. So, in one instance, a customer text messaged me that she wasn’t happy with the results. (This was the next day). I answered that I was sorry for the unsatisfactory result and offered to re-draw her picture free of charge. I sent her a sample sketch, which she liked, and proceeded with the final product, which she picked up.

In another case, a customer lived out of town. I sent him a follow up message, stating that I hoped he enjoyed his art and he could get a discount if he placed a new order in the next 30 days. THIS IS IMPORTANT. If you ask for feedback, and offer an incentive, you can get more business AND determine where you’re slipping up.

When he replied that he wasn’t impressed, I again offered a free re-do. He complied, and liked the new version of his picture. This time, I had to mail it. All free of charge, of course.

And that, my friends, makes me now batting a thousand with my customers.

John Cockroft isn’t perfect. But, he tries. 1ofakindonline.com for his illustration business site.

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How to get what you really want

fb_img_1486760454022Every breathing human wants something.  We all want some things more than others.

This rant is about that one thing you want most.

Think about it for more than a nanosecond.  Look up and to your right (or is it left?) and do that memory recall thingy they talk about in psychology.  Open the window of your desire. Go ahead,  I can feel you break into a cold sweat already. So, open the desire window.  You need to feel the breeze of your own values wafting across your consciousness.

Because when you truly open that window to your soul and expose what your true one burning desire is, you will be forced to identify who you are.

We breathing human beings,  yes, even you, the reader, have one desire higher than any other.

And that one thing,  whatever it is,  defines us, whether our parents, friends, siblings, children, grandchildren,  neighbors,  dog, neighbor’s dog, neighbor’s parents, sister-in-law’s gay cousin’s Republican uncle, or any other human air breather out there knows.

So if you’ve read this far, and followed the instructions thus far, and you’ve opened that window to your soul and you feel the breeze of your inner desire blowing through your pores, analyze what you want and why.

Use Me As An Example

For lack of a better example, or because  it’s my most intimate example, and purely to help you,  the reader, I’ll peel back and expose my inner desire and then analyze it right here while you’re watching.  (Hope that doesn’t make you a Peeping Tom…)

Here goes. As I open the window to my innermost desire… I see a man who misses his kids so much it stings his nose to write this sentence.

I see a man who would do anything to have those kids and their mother live with him, in harmony, under the same roof.

There, that wasn’t so hard. Yes, I’m crying writing this, but I’m not nearly as afraid of tears as I am of blocking out my innermost desire.

Now that I’ve let my reality escape into this blog post, now that I’m crying,  I want you to open your window of your innermost desire  and prep for your analysis with me.

It’s okay, you’re not blogging, you’re merely reading,  so don’t worry, be transparent to yourself. I may not see you, but by me sharing my desire, and by analyzing it, I want you to know yourself and take action to accomplish what you need to accomplish and find true peace before you stop breathing air.

My Analysis

Okay, deep breath. Here it is…

In order to get what I want, I will have to reverse time.

Um, so… so that means…  I can’t get what I want.

I can’t get the one thing I want most.

Wait. I thought this blog post was about finding the true me and getting what I really want…

Nope.

It’s about discovery. It’s about not ever achieving the one thing you want most and still being okay. Yes. You can never get everything the way you want it, but you can still be okay.

Don’t concern yourself with how. The answer isn’t in analyzing further. It’s in accepting that you cannot reverse time… but you can be okay anyway.

Don’t over think. Just accept that if  you cannot get what you want most, you can still make enormous contributions to society and be completely fulfilled. Because you’re human. Because you breathe air.

And that, my friend,  is what makes you worthy of not being able to get what you want and still be okay.

John Cockroft is no psychologist, but he still can do a mean self-analysis. 

Who else wants to get the most out of church?

You know how it is. When you visit a church, you want to get something for your time.

It’s not that church has to be like a business proposal. It’s just that church is supposed to fulfill a need at the core of every human… to feel accepted and validated by a Higher Power. To know the Creator of the Universe is indeed, concerned about and able to reply to my situation.

Check out the reasons people go to church here:

It’s rather egotistical to think you and God can be on a first name basis, but church is supposed to help you realize that. Think of it. Without God, without the Bible, church has no real value. But, if you believe the Bible, if you believe God created the Universe, then you can get outside your own narrow view of life and open yourself up to a new concept that you may not have all the answers!

When you visit a new church, or are returning after not attending for some time, you tend to compare it to your home church, or the church you once attended regularly.

My wife and I visited a church far from home recently. Some things, we liked  about the new church.  It was like a double shot of espresso (this new church was hip; it featured a Starbucks style counter!) We liked the energy; the smiles; the way people gathered and talked. But, of course, we like that about our home church, too. Even though our church is older and “whiter”, it still reflects a common thread of friendliness. And yet, my home church, the church I’m visiting, any church… they all have a shellac coat of phoniness.

Church smells of polyurethane politeness.

What I find generally missing in many churches is the “you can tell by the way I walk my walk; I’m a real world friend with time to talk (and listen)” as it pertains to visitors and newer attendees.

Do you think church is hypocritical?

Don’t think I’m a sour grapes outsider. I grew up in the church bubble and lived the “cliquey connoisseur” lifestyle most of my life.

Back to my visit. My wife and I sat on the second row, center. Not a very visitor thing to do, I know. Most of you would be in the aisle seat toward the back, ready to spring at the first sign of commitment.

On our first visit two weeks ago, a friend introduced us to some regulars up in the front center who park in the SAME seats and get there early like groupies at a rock concert. So, being creatures of habit, we again sat up front, center, next to the groupies.

Only these church groupies aren’t so hip. They’re, er, older than I, which means, pretty well up there. On a scale of 1-10, they’re a 9 for being un-hip. Which I like, by the way. I listen patiently to the older guy telling me his ailments. He’s pretty cool, for an older, ailing guy. He can drive without pain, but his rotator cuff acts up, especially when he goes to grab his wallet (his words, not mine!) which may explain his lack of participation come offering time (who am I condemning; I didn’t drop anything into the offering bucket either!)

The older guy (his name is Trooper, or something unusual with a T) confesses he missed last Wednesday evening service, on purpose. I confess the same. His reason is the same as mine, ironically. We don’t wanna stand and praise Jesus for an entire hour. At this church, the praise-a-lleujah time is half an hour, followed by a 30 minute sermon. But, last week was praise week. No sitting. Lots of rotator cuff afflicting with the expectation of raising arms toward heaven.

“I can’t stand that long,” Trooper says.

“Why not sit during worship? I’ve seen it done.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing that.”

Ego?

Nah, not this guy.

He’s genuinely scaredy cat of being different…something Christians really frown upon.

Me? I plop down during the second song as the chubby bearded hipster with old lady 1930s glasses and short hair on the side, man boobs, and pants so skinny a prepubescent girl could wear them sings into the mic and strums his guitar dramatically. And his boots… so shiny, so… what are they? Combat meets Laura Ingalls Wilder. Lace up, tongue poking over skin tight stretchy pants… wow. Just, wow. Distracting with a big, fat, man booby Capital “D”.

So, I plop down and sit with my head resting on my forearm draped over the seat reserved for man boobs at the mic. How do I know? Each seat in the front row is adorned with a honkin’ huge laminated sign for the appropriate designee. For example, this seat in front of me reads “Worship Pastor”. Gosh, what an absolutely stupid title. No resume builder here, folks. Unless you never want a real job out in the real world. “D-uh, I’m a worship pastor. I can, uh, wear tight pants and raise my flabby arms towards heaven like a real worship hero. D-uh. Follow me, as I, like, uh, follow Christ, for real. I know, right?”

OK, a little Millennial generation gap hostility there… but if you’re still reading, you’ve been warned.

The other front row seats are smattered with equally garish reservation signs. They read: (Church abbreviation) Staff; Lead Pastor; Associate Pastor; Outreach Coordinator; Connection Director; Ambivalence Eliminator; Song Leader Boot Polisher; etc. and so forth. Each distinguished designee firmly and securely regarded in his or her seat (which were completely unoccupied come sermon time… ) which means they probably went for a double shot of espresso at the cafe/bar for hipsters near the main entrance?

So, the worship ensues, my head is down and I’m in the “praying fervently” position, or so it seems to observers of my second row antics.  My lovely wife, in her tight red jeans and high heels, stands as if standing for an eternity in high heels is the most comfy thing in the world, as the entire congregation no doubt leers at her loveliness. She even waves at God with outstretched arms and claps along as they sing. Me, I’m watching those shoes close up. I think I have the better deal.

heelzzz

 

The sermon is by an older white guy. It’s good. It applies to me. My wife gives me the knowing look during the message that says, “Are you listening?”

Remember, I grew up in church. Heck, I was on staff at a church. I love God. I love Jesus. I just hate church.

Sort of.

I think everyone deserves to give church a chance. To get beyond merely observing and analyzing, but digest the meat of the message they’re trying to convey. You are short changing your religious experience if you think you can attend church as an observer only.

It’s not fair to sit back and judge like I do. I may hate church, but…

I’ll be back next week. I have a lot to learn.

John Cockroft is a walking contradiction. His religion is worthless, but he’s real and he doesn’t lay claim to a particular seat in church. You can sit anywhere you like. He’ll gladly adjust. For more about him and his lovely wife, visit TwentyFourSevenMarriage on YouTube, or go to www.JohnCockroft.com

 

 

 

 

 

Fearful Amigos

We traveled to Mexico last Thursday and the Thursday before that. The first time, I blogged about it as well. That was a foot journey across the Rio Grande. The second time, we drove. I’d never driven to Mexico, and wanted to try something new.

We didn’t tell anyone we were going. Not because we weren’t excited about driving into the unknown, but because we knew that all the gringos would say it was a bad idea.

Before I explain what happened driving in Mexico, I’ll fast forward to the predictable: We got back and told people about it the next day. Of course, they were less than favorable.

 

Me: I drove to Rio Bravo yesterday.

Man I Just Met: Where’s that?

Me: South of McAllen… it’s a city of 101,000.

MIJM: There’s a city that big down there?

Me: (Nods head.) Uh-huh. Yep.

MIJM: Oh, I would never do that. It’s so dangerous. You could get killed.

Me: I didn’t get killed.

MIJM: They’ll kill you and drive off in your RV.

Me: I don’t have an RV.

MIJM: Aren’t you afraid of dying?

Me: No. If I die, I’ll just be in heaven sooner. You want to go to heaven, don’t you?

Needless to say, the Man I Just Met didn’t jive with my thought process. So, needless to say, I wheedled my way into another conversation with another Man I’d Never Met Before.

Me: I drove to Rio Bravo, Mexico yesterday.

MINMB: That’s dangerous. You could get killed.

Me: But I didn’t get killed. I’m still here talking to you.

MINMB: Did you hear about the woman in Houston? They took a knife and tried to cut her purse strap and when that didn’t work, they dragged her along and stuffed her into a car and killed her.

Me: I don’t own a purse.

I could bore you with more discussions, but you get the point. My fellow gringos were, ahem, scaredy cats about driving to Mexico. They’d all heard horror stories of kidnappings, bludgeonings, rapings, murderings, beheadings, disembowelings, tar and featherings, and further acts of terror involving driving south of Texas.

To hear the white people talk, one dare not venture beyond the sanctioned tourist traps and even then, watch out and hang on to your money. I venture to say those folks have never been to Mexico. And those who have, spend A LOT of money compared to me.

THE REAL SCOOP ON MY DRIVING TRIP TO MEXICO

My wife and I drove across the border on the Bill Summers International Highway from Progresso, Texas to Progresso Nuevo, Mexico. Getting in was anticlimactic. Once across the Rio Grande, you pay $3 to drive on in.  You stop at another gate and you think, here’s where they frisk you and get out the dogs and ask for your blood type. Nope. The uniformed guard looks at you as if to say, “what are you waiting for, drive on in to Mexico already!”

Once in Mexico, you notice a long line of cars lined up going North. Everyone is trying to get out. You have an easy path South and no one to block you save for a dozen or two Mexican men waving you into available parking spaces fraught with boys and buckets waiting to wash your suddenly filthy car for money.

 You politely decline their offers to invest in your pocketbook and keep driving. It’s kind of fun seeing the disappointed looks. In a twisted way, that is.

Once past the touristy stuff, we ran out of town. Not much of Progresso Nuevo exists beyond tourism. These people are excellent beggars. They know how to play the sympathy card really well. Hey, I’ve been there numerous times and it still kinda works on me.

Anyways, it was fun being south of Progresso Nuevo for the very first time. Driving in Mexico, into the unknown… Wait. We can’t use the GPS because of international rates. And the road signs… ahem, all in Spanish. Hmmm. This could be tricky. We’d better go straight south, then U turn and come back.

Uh, oh. There’s a toll booth up ahead. Like a sobriety checkpoint, it’s too late to make a U-ey.

We’re staring at words on a sign in Spanish and we see numbers. Cars: 32 Trucks 45. 32 cents? 32 dollars?

We’re at the toll booth, and I ask the nice attendant in perfect English, “how much?” She stares at me like I have a cactus growing out of my right nostril and indicates the sign that I can’t read.

I read the sign again. Oops. There it is. 1.60 dllrs. OK, I understand, but why abbreviate dollars like that?

We’re now on the open road, but the road only goes east and west. We’re on a ramp and we’re heading west. OK, so much for going south and then back north. Now, we’ll have to guess by the mileage how far we’re going.

The landscape is flat and agricultural. Plowed, unplanted fields and irrigation ditches. Looks like eastern Colorado where my brother farms. Boring.

A herd of Mexicans are cramped into a pickup. We pass it. Amusing how they disregard seat belt laws and seating limits. A seatbelt sign is visible within site of the scene, making it more comical.

We see a sign for Rio Bravo. We’ve heard of it. Must be a bigger town. We take the exit to the south and we’re in Rio Bravo, Mexico, a couple of stray gringos.

Sewage. It’s the first smell I notice upon entering town. Bienvenido!

Past the smell, the city becomes startlingly prosperous looking. We get out and snap pictures of a statue inside a circle drive.

There are lots of 7 eleven convenience stores. A church’s chicken, and Papa John’s. So many 7 elevens. Like the 90s and earlier in the U.S.

It’s a nice, 84 degree day in January. Bragging rights on weather, even though we haven’t a clue what we’re doing. We wander about on foot, after snapping a picture of where we’ve parked. We can’t imagine asking for directions, though!

A woman is walking up, asking us about why we’re taking pictures of dumpy houses. She rattles in Spanish, and we tell her we don’t speak Spanish. She continues, so I start rambling in English, knowing she hasn’t a clue what I’m saying. It’s funny. See more details on our YouTube channel. https://youtu.be/FNTZKEmfW8M

We’re back in the car, and wandering. Wandering. The streets are so dirty and so uneven. Such potholes; they could swallow a Volkswagen!

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The uneven streets of Rio Bravo, Mexico

More zigging. More zagging. We’re lost. Yep. No GPS. OK. This is interesting. I am wandering north, and then a block east until it runs out of street. A block north. Two blocks east. Three and a half blocks north. So on. Nope. Dead. End. Streets.

Dogs wander across the street like they have the right of way (because they do!)

Other drivers may or may not stop for you at intersections.

We take a LONG time to retrace our tracks back to the main road. South, west, zigzag…etc. Streets dirty. Dogs aplenty. Dirty. Rough. Uneven. Potholes.

OK, that was … time consuming. We find the main highway and head back to Progresso Nuevo before it gets too late.

It’s fun being on the south side of Progresso Nuevo. We bypass the toll to get there. We park in a dilapidated area.  I hand my expensive Canon camera to a girl and she takes our picture, surprised that we handed her a camera that is worth more than a year’s wages here.

Her mother is there. I try to talk to them and we get the names and general idea that we are going to a church to hand out gifts to children. The girl, about 14, gets into a car and drives her mother!

We grab a plastic garbage bag full of toys, and the camera, and wander the filthy streets, taking pictures of chickens, children… a dog sleeping on an abandoned recliner amid a pile of debris. I can easily count each of the dogs ribs.

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Emaciated canine on recliner in Progresso Nuevo, Mexico

He is sleeping across from a church, now in progress. The doors are open. We stop and I greet children on the street. I start drawing their caricatures in my sketch pad.

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Here I am drawing pictures and handing out toys.

The act bridges a gap in the language. Children are swarming us as we hand out the toys from our plastic trash bag. Santa comes to Progresso Nuevo!

Some guys are kicking a soccer ball around the mud rut laden streets. I join in for a bit.

The church service is over and our little handout session of toys and pictures is wrapping up. We go inside the church and snap a picture with the congregation of 17.

Tourists!

Dios te Bendiga!

Back in line to get to the U.S. Shorter line now that it’s dark outside. They ask us what all the boxes are for in the back. “We work at a market; they’re our supplies.”

“Did you buy anything?”

“A donut.”

The patrolman rolls his eyes. “Go on.”

There it is. Our dangerous, murderous trip full of terror…

Hate to disappoint the fear-mongers and fearful, but it’s not that dangerous in Mexico.

John Cockroft is a writer from Missouri. Every time he goes on a new adventure, he meets people who have never been murdered. As troubling as the world seems to the fearful, John still has yet to be mugged, beaten, raped, kidnapped, disemboweled, or have his RV stolen.

I almost cried at Starbucks

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The Starbucks in McAllen where this happened. For real.

I usually rant about bitter, grumpy older man stuff… you know, the kind of thing that makes Millennials cringe…

This rant is dedicated to the Millennial couples I witnessed at a Starbucks in McAllen, Texas tonight.

It’s a January Sunday night, and the weather in this South Texas town is cooler than usual. My leading lady and I are finished working the market http://www.DonWesFleaMarket.net where we sell original artwork on Tee Shirts and Canvas.

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Me doing my artwork at the DonWes Flea Market. Wanna know more about my art? http://www.1ofakindonline.com

The weekend work aside, we stroll into a Starbucks to do our duty to remind you how in the online audience of ours just how observant and wise we are. Heck, we were born in the ’60s so we’ve earned some respect, right?

We sit at a corner table and I immediately notice a young Hispanic couple (Hispanic… only in America do we call Mexicans Hispanics, lumping them with Cubans, South Americans, Central Americans, and “real”Spanish people from Spain! Oh, and Portuguese. We don’t know what to do with them, but throw them into that group, too; not that we ever encounter a real red-blooded Portuguese person… or not that we would recognize one from the pack of aforementioned people groups; but I digress…)

Anyways, I am sitting in the corner table facing the door and I immediately notice this young Mexican couple and they’re so engrossed in each other… I mean, talking and laughing and touching appropriately from time to time. Sweet little “aww that’s adorable” stuff that would make a romance movie producer envious.

So this wonderful Mexican-American version of “When Harry Met Sally” is playing live before our eyes, and lo and behold, another Mexican-American couple walks in. He’s holding the door for her, and holding her hand for her, and… you get the picture.

They are like totally immersed in one another’s eyes. The way she looks at him. And these couples go on and on, for like, minutes, and minutes. No electronic devices. No negative gossip. No profanity. They are speaking English. Then Spanish. It’s… okay, to use a chick-flick term, freakin’ adorable.

I get goosebumps. My faith in young people is rising immensely, watching these couples go about their romantic Sunday night dates. They aren’t home, sitting in separate rooms, he on the video games and she on Facebook trashing him. They are in love and it shows.

Then, after a wonderful extended time together, the first couple leaves. He gets the door for her, dumps her trash for her. They go to their vehicle. He. Gets. Her. Door.

OMG… I’m gonna shake his hand. I’m gonna tell him what I think. I got goosebumps and tears in my eyes. I’m bolting outside and waving to him so as not to freak him out as he comes around to the driver’s seat. “Hey man,” I smile, approaching slowly. “I’m from Missouri, and I’m not used to seeing such amazing…”

I hardly know how to put into words what I’m thinking.

I point to him and look at her, smiling in the passenger seat. “You’ve got a real winner here,” I say. She quickly agrees. I turn back to Romeo. “I just want to say, you’ve restored faith in young people for this old guy. The way you treat her and each other with such respect. That’s almost unheard of nowadays. Thank you. You’re a wise, respectful dude.”

He shakes my hand, thanks me, and they are gone.

My next little couple eventually rises to leave. He dumps her trash, opens her door, and as they walked out hand in hand, he gets her car door. My heart is overflowing, and my eyes want to follow suit.

McAllen, Texas, if this is how your young people behave on a Sunday night, it’s little wonder your community is so blessed!

For those of you aspiring romantics, here is a recommended book:

John Cockroft is a really sensitive guy underneath his somewhat aloof exterior. His stuff is visible at http://www.JohnCockroft.com.