Qdoba’s Meatless Impossible Taco: A Review

Trying the meatless meat by Impossible at Qdoba

I altered mine a bit from the advertised serving suggestion

I decided to try the 100% Vegan Impossible “Meatless Meat” at Qdoba yesterday. Thought I would do a traditional taco (NOT Vegan) but use the Impossible filling rather than meat and assess the difference in taste and texture.

The look of Impossible Meat Substitute in a taco

First off, what is the Impossible Meat Substitute, What’s in it and how is it made? Impossible Foods uses genetic engineering to make ingredients that are essential to the taste and texture of its plant-based meat substitute: soy leghemoglobin (also known as heme) and soy protein. Soy protein replaced wheat protein as the main base for Impossible’s second recipe, while soy leghemoglobin is responsible for making the patty taste like meat.

According to its website, the five main ingredients include: water, soy-protein concentrate, coconut oil, sunflower oil and natural flavors. If you get a 4 oz Impossible hamburger patty: The Burger is kosher and halal certified but not organic. A 4 ounce patty packs 240 calories, 14 grams of fat, 370 milligrams of sodium, and 19 grams of protein.

I thought I would try regular tacos and replace the meat wit the Impossible Meat Substitute

So, it does qualify as “Vegan.” But many Vegan advocates have gone much further in recent years, promoting a “whole food, plant-based” regimen that limits oil, does not use sugar (or honey or agave), does not eat flour and avoids processed foods, especially the highly processed foods.  (If course animal products of all kinds are also avoided including meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk and cheese). My sweet wife has followed this eating regimen for nearly two years and looks and feels great. I enjoy much of what she prepares, but I am weak…I still want meat and cheese and bread, for instance.

That said, a WFPB advocate would not even consider this Impossible creation as it is highly processed, genetically engineered and loaded with fat, even if its vegetable fat.

Trying out a meatless taco

But me, I tried it. And it tastes pretty good. It is not spot on like meat, but it’s close. If I was blindfold tested, I could certainly tell the difference. Impossible spent a great deal of effort to make it taste like hamburger — and it’s close. But not so close in texture as it is much chewier. Sadly, Qdoba didn’t add any taco flavoring so it was also a tad bland.

The big difference is price. A regular meat-filled taco at Qdoba is $3.50. An Impossible Taco is $4.25. Is it worth the difference? For taste, no. But Vegans and others may argue that it is if you are trying to save the animals killed for meat. It may also be better for the environment on a number of levels.

I enjoyed my tacos, even with the Impossible filling. But was it because I added cheese? Nah…it was good.

Bottom line, if you don’t mind spending a little extra money for a soy-based meat substitute that is likely more healthy and certainly better on the environment, than go for it. It tastes pretty close. I give it a 4 out 5…dinging it on the slight texture difference.

10 to 40: The Always Improving Inspiration

The ten day countdown has begun for our 40th Anniversary on July 15, 2019. What an amazing journey this continues to be for the both of us. The togetherness we have shared for nearly four decades continues.  But, today’s “togetherness” is not the “togetherness” of twenty years ago. Life changes and so do we.

Before we even became empty-nesters, our “together” paths began to become somewhat different.  With no children left in school, by the mid-1990s we both had jobs and our journeys were no longer totally on the same course.  How could they be? Different jobs.  Different schedules. We were soon developing our own interests that may or may not have been conducive to the other’s real interests.  But, in my mind, that was OK.  We have always been different people.   We shared the goals of raising good children and sticking together through thick and thin.

I the early years, Julianne was always doing things with the children.

Loving life together. She was always there for me.

For nearly twenty years Julianne was a support for me.  She selflessly sacrificed many of her interests and goals to make sure the children had a mother while I chased after careers and ways to sustain the family, including long periods of not being home due to jobs.  Once the kids were gone, those shackles on Julianne were removed and she had much more time to pursue life.  (Knowing her, she will never say she was shackled, but, she really didn’t have the kind of freedom to move about like I did.)

Century plants only bloom once every ten years

It has been a wonderful experience for me to see Julianne blossom beautifully like a dormant century plant, especially over the past decade.  This lovely lady is one that is always striving for improvement in all facets of her life.  She is an inspiration to me, to her children and to many of her friends and associates.

Seems like for years she has sought for a way to transform herself.  We both hit weight loss program after weight loss program with some minor successes.  But, a few years ago, Julianne took hold of the Whole Foods Plant-based Methodology…not only for weight loss, but for better health.  She refused to fail and today, as I write this, my vibrant wife of 40 years looks like she is only 45, she is vibrant, happy and an inspiration to many. (I will write more about this in a later post).  In any case, she has accomplished what I have had many a struggle trying to even conceive in my mind.  I am proud of this.

At a conference with Whole Foods expert Jane Esselstyn

Julianne with her boss Nicole (right) and another staff member from the College of Pharmacy

Soon she will be hitting her six year anniversary at the University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy.  She has thrived.  Early on she had to one of those personality tests and “discovered” that she is a learner. (I ALWAYS knew that!).  And she has not only run with that inherent talent, she has excelled.  Challenge after challenge on her job has been overcome because she sought to learn.

https://vimeo.com/240555345

And this learning has carried on to other areas of her life.  She needed to learn Photoshop and she did.  She needed to learn Database management, and she did.

Studying a book to better herself for her job

As an employee of UK, she is able to take classes and she has always been at or near the top of each class.  Why?  She refused to quit until she got it. And then she would improve upon it.  One great example was her creative writing class.  I loved to hear her read what she had written for the class.  She most certainly could compile her class writings into a nice little book.

Julianne and Marissa kayaking on July 5, 2019

As I write this post, Julianne is out on the Kentucky River on a kayaking trip with our daughter Marissa.  Neither of them had ever kayaked before.  But, I am sure that Julianne’s all-day adventure on a kayak turned into a master class and she became the master.  I expect her to come and tell me that she wants to buy a kayak now.

Julianne is the other #1 in the picture

Bottom line, the Julianne of 2019 is an inspiration to hundreds of people. She may not know it or realize it either.  She is always surprised when she reads a Facebook post from someone noting how she is such an inspiration.  She humbly denies being an inspiration to people at work or church.  But, there it is.

Author Jane Birch, a proponent of Plant-based living said this recently in a Facebook post about Julianne:  “Her strength and resolve inspire me, and I hope it will inspire many others!”   I have seen similar sentiments by others.

Julianne is the “awesomerest”

 

Funny thing — I have become famous for my “How are you?” response when I say, “I am awesome, but I am getting better. There is always room for improvement.”  But, Julianne skips the “awesome” part and just continues to strive for improvement in all she does.  And that makes her the “awsomerest” wife and friend that one could ask for.  Yes, as the Antsy McClain tune attests… “I Married Up.”

14 to 40: Then and Now – Part 2

In my previous post, I noted a number of things as they were in 1979 when Julianne got married.  It is absolutely amazing how things have changed in these 40 years and how these have had a profound impact on our lives.  I know that many of you reading these posts have likely had similar experiences.  But, as I try to do this countdown, and as I look back and compare to today, it behooves me to note these impacts.

Obviously, the biggest changes are all technology based.  In 1979, we had no internet, let alone, most people didn’t have computers unless they could afford the Atari 400.  By the time I began college at Northern Arizona University in the fall of 1980, there were large mainframes in use at the school.  The mass use of computers, even mainframes, was still fledgling.  By the time I got to my Master’s Program at Arizona State University, the advent of the “Personal Computer” was just beginning.  However, it was not until we returned back from Japan in 1991 that the internet was kicking into gear. A company named Quantum Computer Services, run by Steve Case, had created a bulletin board for owners of the Commodore 64 computers.  In 1991, Quantum was renamed America Online.  By 1993, AOL introduced its own email addresses, a Windows version and provided access to the rest of the brand new internet.  Being the tech geek, even back then, I jumped on board of AOL as soon as I was able. My first ever email address was sumoman@aol.com

AOL Floppy – 50 hours for free

By 1992, we had moved to Kentucky and I was working for Japanese companies as an interpreter.  Then, in late 1993 I was hired to manage a Japanese-owned Horse Farm.  The farm got a computer for managing records.  By this time I had become proficient in the early Microsoft Office products, which were available for Windows in 1990.  In April 1994, Netscape was founded and the first Search Engine/Browser came to being.  (Technically, the first one was called WorldWideWeb and was developed in 1990 for the NeXT Computer).  Anyway, that revolutionized the world and impacted our lives at a personal level.  We could then communicate with family via email, learn new things about the world and find new ways to use our time. I began using Netscape and AltaVista browsers long before Google.

AltaVista Search Engine ca. 1999

It was not until 2004 that Firefox was developed and then, in 2008 Google Chrome came out. (Google was founded in 1998, though the domain name Google.com was registered in September 1997).  Google impacts millions of lives every minute of the day in 2019!

Communications technology made advances as well.  Though pagers had been around for a number of years, the wide use of them didn’t really hit until the late 1980s.  One of my first jobs while in college at Arizona State was in a pager “call center.”  Customers would call in to the center and we would send out the messages to pagers.  At that time it seemed like a real communications break-through, though pager owners were all fairly well to do…mainly doctors, lawyers and company leaders.

A typical pager from the early 1990s

Along with pagers, the emergence of mobile phones as a consumer product started hitting in the early 1990s. I distinctly remember using a Motorola 3200 for the first time when I was working for a Real Estate Auction company in Phoenix.  The owner lent me his.  This was in 1992.  Back then it was a very expensive toy…but so cool to talk while driving a car.  Understandably, like Google, the cell phone revolutionized the world.  As for the direct impact on our family…. I believe our very first cell phone was purchased in 1997 or 1998.  It was a Motorola Flip Phone.  Reminded me of Star Trek!   That really helped in communicating with my wife at home.

The first mobile phone I ever used was a Motorola International 3200

The firs cell phone we ever owned was a Motorola Flip Phone

We had our own home computer to connect to AOL and the internet in 1995.  It was fun to add software to it.  Little could we imagine that 24 years later these would be such a part of our daily lives.  I have worked in the Internet-related industry for most of the 21st Century, and particularly since 2010.  The typical office worker uses one all day.

This is a sample Bernina shot. I don’t recall which kind Julianne had

Julianne worked at a Quilt Shop for a number of years in Lexington and became a Bernina Sewing Machine trainer. Bernina, like many other companies, had developed computer connectivity and thus took embroidery to a whole new level.  Julianne needed a computer at home just to run her machines.

Back to the phones…another breakthrough began around the turn of the 21st Century as cell phones became internet capable.  Everyone wanted one.  But the explosion didn’t really occur full scale until around 2007 when the iPhone was introduced on June 29, 2007.  Julianne and I have actually had iterations of these from the first one to our current iPhone X devices in 2019.  And boy how these have changed the world for all of us.  Can you imagine living life without a mobile device? I can’t!

First generation iPhone

The iPhones and Android devices of 2019 are so powerful that an entire life can be contained on them.  They have access to the internet.  They can take and store photos.  They become music players..no need for a separate MP3 device (oops, I even skipped over the MP3s and many more applications associated with computers),  You can do your banking.  You can send messages all around the world.  And then there are the selfies.

Julianne and I at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota — a typical photo with our cell phone

Taking a selfie with cell phone in 2015. Top was my picture. Bottom was one of me taking it.  That is San Francisco in the background

So, in closing, here are a few more things that have happened just because of computers, the internet and cell phones:

  • The first website was created in 1990
  • NetMarket became the precursor to Amazon and EBay in 1994
  • EBay was founded in 1995 (originally as AuctionWeb)
  • Amazon.com started in 1995 and has revolutionized the world of retail
  • Wikipedia was started in early 2001
  • LinkedIn got its start in 2002
  • Facebook began in 2004
  • YouTube’s first video was posted on April 23, 2005
  • Twitter began in 2006
  • Instagram started in October 2010

WHEW!!  And that was just the technology of the Information Age Explosion.  Part 3 will look at other great changes.

Julianne’s iPhone has trouble understanding her many times.

 

19 to 40: The World as Seen Through Her Eyes

I have already noted in previous posts that Julianne has many talents.  One of those that often goes noticed is her photography talent.  As a photographer myself, I truly appreciate the way she captures the world. And no, she doesn’t use a fancy Nikon or Canon.  She uses her iPhone to capture the world around her.  For this post, I want to make it simple.  Following are about 30 pictures that Julianne has taken over the past 10 years.  They come from her travels, her hikes, her bike rides and her observations.  She captures the world around her in a stunning and wonderful fashion, with just the simplest of equipment.  She has “THE EYE.”  So, enjoy a trip through Julianne’s lens on the world.

A San Diego Sunset

The Kentucky River

A flower from somewhere

The San Diego LDS Temple

The streets of Little Italy in Cleveland

Losing at Canasta

Horse Farm country from the Legacy Trail in Lexington

A heart leaf from a hike in Kentucky

Another San Diego sunset

A flower

Horses and Clouds from the Legacy Trail

The old Kirtland Temple in Kirtland, Ohio

A bridge from a bike trail

Mexican Train

A dam picture

A glorious evening on the ocean

Feeling Bubbly

Tulips and Daffodils from a farm in northern Washington

Moss covered rock wall from a hike in Kentucky

Neighborhood park

Boat dock at sunset

Gray’s Arch in Red River Gorge, Kentucky (notice the small people on the right for scale)

Watch out… From Raven’s Run hike in Kentucky

Kentucky River as seen from a hike

Another San Diego sunset. She loves these

The New River Gorge Bridge as seen from across the gorge. In West Virginia

Wildflowers taken on a hike

Textures. She loves textures

Did I say she likes San Diego sunsets?

The holy tree

 

45 to 40: The Traveler

When we first met in Provo in 1978 I don’t think either of us had an inkling of what lay in store for us and our future together. Like any youthful souls, we had idealistic hopes and dreams. Of course, our main goal after being engaged was getting married, starting a family and finishing college.

Little did we know in July 1979, as we were bound together in loving matrimony, that we would have a future filled with the wonder of travel. For me, by the time I was 22 and married, I had already lived in five states and six cities. I had traveled to Canada twice on band trips.  Julianne, on the other hand, had grown up and lived in Mesa, Arizona all of her life. The majority of her travels had been to Utah for family gatherings and to California to stay with her oldest sister Kathy.  She did make a cross country trip in 1978 with the BYU Orchestra, which also went into Toronto and on to Washington, D.C.

Our first road trip together, during our honeymoon, was to Monument Valley in southern Utah in 1979.

After vacillating to determine my  college direction, I ultimately settled on a dual major in Asian History and Geography at Northern Arizona University. I probably followed my heart more than my brain. My original plan was to become an attorney, but various things along the way led me to choose a different path. Admittedly, my sweet wife was not happy with my change in direction, but, thankfully stuck with me all these years, even though the “what ifs” have often crept into both of our minds at times.

We later visited Monument Valley with the family in 1993

Family visiting Abraham Lincoln home in Springfield, IL in the late 1990s

As I look back today, I honestly believe that following the path we chose has enabled us to have a life rich in experiences. We have never had the riches that many lawyers enjoy, but I think we provided our children opportunities and memories that few American children, especially those born in the 1980s, ever got to experience.

By 1987, we had the opportunity to live and work in Japan. Our children went to Japanese public schools, got to be in numerous TV commercials, were in local TV shows, learned a new language and culture and all that came with that.   They were enlightened with a mindset of diversity and global thinking.  And I am grateful for that.

The family in Oita Prefecture in Japan in 1989, visiting with Governor Morihiko Hiramatsu, who I worked for.

The family visiting the Usa Shrine, one of Japan’s famous Shinto Shrines.

My Dad visited us in Japan in 1991 and we went to Kyoto, where we visited the Kinkaku-ji (The Gold Pavilion)

Julianne and David, visiting the old Tulum ruins in Mexico as part of a cruise.

At the age of 20, I don’t think Julianne would have believed anyone if she were told she would live in Japan for four and a half years and have the opportunity to visit places in Canada and Mexico while also traveling to most of the 50 United States, including Hawaii and Alaska.  But, that we did.  We enjoyed many opportunities to travel together and continue to do so to this day.

Japan was quite the culture shock for Julianne initially.  The weather was different, the people were different, the language was strange and many of the foods she was offered were a bit more than unique.  But, like our children, she learned to love the land and the culture, became engaged and conversant in Japanese and really found great pleasure in the variety of unique dishes in Japanese cuisine, as well as the Japanese take on other ethnic foods.  To this day, all of us enjoy the variety of foods from all over the world.

Julianne enjoys some real ramen with Marissa and Chelsea at a small Mom and Pop ramen shop in Japan in  June 1988

We still enjoy good food. Here we visited Koreana, a local Korean restaurant with my cousin Lew and his daughter.

Visiting the Mystic Pizza shop in Mystic, Connecticut

Over the past 15 years or so, we have traveled all over the United States.  At one time, we had Amaree living in Montana and then they moved to Port Orchard, Washington.  Seth got his first job out of college and lived just north of Cincinnati, but job changes eventually took him and his family to Connecticut and later to Houston.  This meant opportunities to travel for visits.  These became long trips that afforded us the opportunity to see many new places.

Then, in 2017, we had a giant family reunion that began in Kentucky and eventually took most of us as far east as central New York.

Watching the grandkids on the beach at Old Orchard Beach in Maine.

Visiting the Field Museum in Chicago with family

Julianne and I at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota

Travel in Virginia

Visiting the Washington Monument in Washington D.C.

We were able to check out glaciers in Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska

With family in West Virginia

Julianne on a canoe trip with Chelsea and her family on the Little Miami River in Ohio

On a visit to Washington, we got to see Mt. Rainier National Park

Chelsea and Julianne at Letchworth State Park in Castille, New York

Visiting Antique Archaeology, famous for the TV show American Pickers in Le Claire, Iowa

Julianne having fun on the beach with grandchildren in Hilton Head, South Carolina

Enjoying the grandeur of Glacier National Park in Montana

Visiting Pittsburgh on a recent trip to visit her sister

Travel runs in our veins.  Julianne may not like the long road trips that I enjoy (as do many of my children and grandchildren), but she still loves to travel.  Annually she has a sibling trip to San Diego where she spends her time in a family time share on the Pacific coast.  And now that her sister Laura is closer, we make occasional trips to Pennsylvania or meet Laura and her family in Ohio or West Virginia.

I am grateful that we have had so many adventures and memories.  I hope for even more to come.

Enjoying the beach in San Diego with her sisters Maren, Kathy and Laura

Do you like travel? Are you aware that I currently have two books about offbeat and quirky places?  You can use these to take on your road trips. You can see both of my books at http://amzn.to/2ks6fQZ. Working on Book 3, coming in late Spring 2019!!

60 to 40: Let the Countdown Begin!

I have been waiting almost a year for this day. It is officially 60 days away from my 40th anniversary of marriage to my sweetheart Julianne.

What a momentous time for us! The past 40 years have brought so many wonderful blessings into our lives and offered us so many wonderful opportunities to grow closer and to learn about life and love. I have cherished every moment, even the difficult and challenging times.

Over the next 59 days, I plan to post a different outlook on my sweet wife and what I cherish most about having been with her for 40 years. It has been a wonderful journey and I hope that it continues on for much longer.

Julianne and David – May 2019

All I want to say in this post, is that it has been a ride! In 40 years we have had five wonderful children, all of whom are, at the time of this writing, in their 30s. Four of our children have married and we have, through them, 10 wonderful and talented grandchildren, including two teenagers! In our 40 years we have lived in nine different cities, including four years in Oita, Japan. Both Julianne and I have had a variety of jobs, some full-time and some part-time over the years. Over the next 59 posts I will mention some of those as well. During the course of our marriage, we have owned 10 different cars, we have lived in 13 different houses and/or apartments, we have traveled all over the country both with our family and together as a couple. In 45 days from now we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of moving into the house that we currently reside in.

Through the ups and downs, the challenges and successes, the difficult times in the joyful times, ours has been an abundant journey. For this I can’t my blessings. I hope you will follow us over the course of the next 59 days as I spend a portion of each day celebrating The absolute love of my life, the woman and friend who is stuck with me through thick and thin over these 40 years.

Looking Back 45 Years – Setting the Course of My Life

Chicago VII – Released March 11, 1974

A couple of days ago I was listening to the album Chicago VII, which is one of my all-time favorite compilations of music, and certainly my favorite Chicago album. The album represented a change in direction for the group as they added a few more jazzier tones to the typical rock that they had.  In fact, that summer I got to see them in concert — my first-ever opportunity.

I have listened to this album well over one hundred times, but the other day was different.  From the onset of the first three tracks (all instrumental) I was taken back to shortly after my graduation and my mind was flooded with old memories and images, many which I had forgotten about.  It was really a strange, strange feeling.  As each song from this double album set played, more memories came.  Honestly, I was overwhelmed and by the time the album had completed, I realized that the two years of my life between graduation in 1974 and my departing on a mission to Japan for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1976 were probably the most fragile, tempestuous and most formative years of my life…even to this day in May 2019, 45 years later.

Graduation from Murray High School in Utah in 1974

In May 1974, I graduated from Murray High School in Murray, Utah. It was the first event of my life that both of my parents attended.  As exciting and fresh as that even was, earlier events from the previous two years were leading to what would become a number of major turning points in my life and really would alter the direction of it.  As early as the winter of 1972, when the family lived in Bozeman, Montana and I was a junior in high school, I was becoming frustrated with the life around me.  The family was dysfunctional, I was having to make new friends (this was my fifth school in five years) and I didn’t feel like a part of the family.  I ran away from home twice that year, once as a trial run, hitchhiking my way to Billings and then finally choosing to go all out and head to Denver, as a 16 year old. That little trick ended up getting me thrown in a juvenile detention center overnight in Denver. But that is another story.

Me in 1974…age 18

At the same time, I was searching for meaning in life.  To be frank, I was a good kid.  Never smoked, never drank, never did pot (and this was the 70s!).  These were self-induced decisions, not religious ones.  Yes, my adoptive mother Marge was a practicing Jehovah’s Witness at the time and I reluctantly attended with the family, but that really had no bearing my abstinence from these things.  I just wasn’t interested. I got high listening to good music and reading fantasy and science fiction novels.  But, I was also searching for some meaning in life.  I believed in a God, but not the definition of the Jehovah’s Witness God.  I have written about my religious leanings and LDS conversion in other posts. (See THIS POST as an example)

Mom and Dad ca. 1974

All of this led up to our move to the Salt Lake City area in the summer of 1973.  Once again, I had to attend a new school, make new friends and adjust again. I was very fortunate to have fallen into a group of friends that were great examples to me and honestly cared about me. To this day I am grateful for that. But high school was still difficult for me.  I was a non-Mormon in a predominantly Mormon (LDS) community and all of my friends at Murray were mostly LDS.  I was definitely interested in the religion and was even taking an institute class…chiefly to learn more about the LDS interpretation of who God was.  But I was still confused.  I was depressed about my family situation…the dysfunction had gotten worse and the discord between my adoptive mother and my adoptive father Joe Kravetz had increased (and by 1977 they had divorced).  I had a lust for life and thus was not suicidal, but I needed some help.  By the second semester of high school I was seeing a counselor.  They gave me an IQ test and I scored very high.  Funny…that changed a great deal of my outlook.  I was smarter than the average bear.  I finished the last semester with almost straight A’s as a result.  But, what I didn’t see coming was the massive tempest of REAL LIFE drama that would happen shortly after high school was done.

Working at Skaggs with on of my friends.

While in high school I had a job as a clerk at the Camera Department for Skaggs Drug Store in Murray.  I loved the job.  I got to interact with all kinds of people and I got to sell cameras and things.  And, the clerks in the Camera Depart were also responsible for the Record and Tape Department…and I was (and still am) quite the music lover.

It was good to have a job and some income.  I was saving for a car and had some spending money to by record albums which I would listen to in my basement bedroom late at night.  That was my escape.  My happy place.

By June of 1974, I had expressed an interest in joining the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My parents were not happy with that at all. In the 1970s many considered the Mormons to be a cult, and my adoptive parents were in that group.  In June I was basically told to leave the house because my parents did not want me influencing my siblings with this strange religious philosophy, despite my Dad knowing many of the members and the local Bishop pretty well.  And thus the storm had begun.  I was welcome to come over to the house and visit, as long as church was not brought up, but I had to move out on my own.  I was still 17 and was already having to find a place to live, pay rent and become an adult really fast.  My job helped, but I needed more.  Fortunately, my friendly persona and interest in music had managed to make an influence on Alan Ferguson, one of the managers for Alta Distributing Company, the group that managed the record and tape distribution for Skaggs and dozens of other large retail outlets.  One day, as I perused the new releases, Alan came up to me.  He knew I was on my own and that I needed something more than a part-time job.  He told me that they were looking for someone who could be on the road for them five days a week to fill the record racks in stores in Price and Vernal, Utah and also in Rock Springs and Evanston, Wyoming.  They would provide me with a van, which I could also use for personal use since I didn’t have a car.  It was a dream job for this young 17 year old music lover.

After a couple of weeks of training, I was on the road driving a white Dodge van filled with music and loving every minute of it.  I was staying in hotels four nights a week, eating at good restaurants and driving on long drives with music blaring in the background.  I soon made friends in some of the towns that I stayed in each week and would spend evenings with them.

Best friend Jonathan Jensen, who baptized me. This was him in 1976 just after I returned from my mission.

In the meantime, I was having to wait until October before I could consider being baptized into the church.  It was not until January 1975 before I was able to get baptized. My best friend Jonathan Jensen baptized me shortly before he left on his LDS Mission to Sweden.

Soon, all of my friends were leaving on missions.  As for me, as a fledgling member of the church and one who was struggling to live on his own, Jonathan’s family became my family.  I would visit there often, or visit my other friend, Russ Graves, at his house.

Not long after that, a family in the Murray 20th Ward, the Thomas family, knew that I needed something more stable and “family like” and offered me a room in their home.  They lived across the street from the Jensens and were only two blocks from my family, so it was a nice arrangement.

With the Thomas Family and a friend (Byron) in Feb. 1976

The Thomas family was a good example to me and something I needed.  But, I also needed someone my age.

Penny Strong as she looked in 1976

I believe it was at a Stake dance that I met Penny Strong, a senior in high school from Cottonwood High School. I honestly don’t recall how we met.  But, what I do remember, is that she became like a sister to me.  Yes, I was interested in a girlfriend, but I had never had one.  But, somehow, my relationship with Penny was so much more than a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship.  In fact, I can still recall how often I would confide in her and her family.  They were the final cementing agent I needed to remain happy and well.  Ultimately, Penny was the person that gave me strength when I needed it.  Her father Wayne was a good man and would always give me good advice.  She had an older sister that was there as well.  To me, Penny was a Godsend to a young man that was struggling to keep a good direction in his life. I will always be grateful to Penny for being there for me.

But my struggles weren’t over.  I was a hustler.  I was a people person.  Even back in the 1970s, I had never met a stranger.  These characteristics helped me immensely in my work for Alta Distributing.  Sales in Price and Vernal increased nearly 300% in my year and a half.  So much so that Alta had decided they were going to open a record store in Price and, at the age of 18, they offered me the role of managing the store at a salary of $30,000, which was, to me, a mind-blowing amount of money.  I thought about all of the things I could do.  And, I would be in the music business still.

But, one obstacle remained in my mind.  As a member of the church I would be able to serve an LDS mission.  All of my good friends were off on theirs by this time.  Yet, I had not even been a member for one year.  I was lost in my decision making.  I would discuss this situation — good job and good future vs. two years of sacrifice and serving the Lord.  I would talk about this with Penny, the Thomas family, Bishop Jensen, etc.

Ironically, I had submitted my mission papers sometime in November 1975, not even a member for a year at that time.  It seemed like I had to wait an eternity for my mission call.  Alta had made the job offer to me on a Monday or Tuesday in mid-December, near Christmas.  They were banking on me accepting the job.  And I was seriously considering it. By that Friday, they said they needed to move on the store and needed an answer by the next Monday morning.  And, as luck would have it, I got my mission call on Saturday in the mail…  Nagoya Japan.  Leaving in February 1976. So, I was left with the mentally grueling task of making a VERY MAJOR life decision on a Sunday…basically had about 36 hours to make this decision…Mission or Record Shop?  And the tough thing was that nobody could answer me.  Either decision would have been a “righteous” and good decision.

I knew that I had come to a crossroads in my life.  I knew that whatever decision I would make…indeed, the toughest decision I had ever made in my short 19 years of life…would set the course and direction of my life. (And, little did I know how very true that would be!!).  Honestly, I think had I gotten a mission call to the United States, I may have decided on the job.  But, the wanderlust in me.  The adventurous heart in me, looked at Japan as a wonderful challenge and opportunity.

My Passport Picture in 1976

In the end, I chose to serve a mission to Japan.  Monday morning at Alta did NOT go well.  In one fell swoop I went from the good graces as an all-star in the company, to basically a company reject.  They pulled me from the route I was doing and put me on a local, less attractive route in Salt Lake City.  They said that they would consider hiring me back when I returned from my mission, but couldn’t promise anything, and certainly the store option was out of the question.

I was brokenhearted.  I had worked so hard.  I was not sure what the Japan mission would do for my future, but I moved on with faith.  I learned the language and served faithfully, as well as I could, as a one-year convert.

In conclusion, that two year period BEFORE I departed on my mission to Japan (ages 17-19) was my first true trial by fire. Did I make the right decisions?  I will never know for sure, but I think I did in the long run.  The Japan mission for me really set the course of my life as I have had many jobs that were directly a result of my language skills. Now, in 2019, as I approach my 40th anniversary of my marriage to my sweet wife Julianne, I can look back on all of the richness (not in terms of money, but in terms of experiences) my life has given me — five children, ten grandchildren, friends all around the world, amazing travel experiences and a propensity to be happy despite any circumstances.  And my heart is filled with gratitude, especially to those wonderful folks mentioned above that were there for me in my time of need back then.

Did you know I have a couple of books published?  These two books are about offbeat and quirky places to take on your road trips. You can see both of my books at http://amzn.to/2ks6fQZ. Working on Book 3, hopefully coming in late Spring 2019!!

One Man’s Theory: A Stark will be on the Iron Throne, but not the one you think

WARNING:  MAJOR SPOILERS TO FOLLOW.  READ AT YOUR OWN RISK

Daenerys Targaryen lost a second dragon last week in Game of Thrones and is overwhelmed by the death of her loved advisor Missandei. Jon Snow and his forces face a major challenge getting past Euron Greyjoy’s ballisti, the giant dragon-killing and boat-crushing crossbows.  They are at odds and the end of the Starks may be coming. The Iron Throne is seriously up for grabs.  Can a Stark still pull it off?

The Stark family

If you have seen Game of Thrones Season 8, you know that Arya Stark pulled off a total last second surprise against the Night King, killing all of his Undead Hordes in one stab with a sword.  As well, if you have seen Endgame, you know that Tony Stark, aka Ironman, pulled off a similar last second victory by pulling the Infinity Stones out of Thanos’ guantlet and thus dusting Thanos and his evil hordes.  The last second Starks…

The Starks are last second heroes

Flash to the future several centuries, where Stark ancestor Tony Stark is working with the Avengers to bring back all of those who were dusted by Thanos in Infinity War.  We learn from Endgame that Tony has figured out how to go back in time to bring back those that were dusted by Thanos. What was not shown in Endgame (to avoid any Game of Thrones spoilers — IRONic that these are both showing at the same time) was that Tony Stark knew his lineage came from the Starks and upon discovering he could go back in time, he used this power, along with the newly acquired Infinity Gauntlet, to actually go back to the time of the battle at King’s Landing and even dropped by the celebration at Winterfell to leave a hint!!

Yes, remember the coffee cup fiasco on Game of Thrones from last week?  Well, if you watched Endgame carefully, you would notice that just before all of the Avengers got onto the time machines to go back, Tony was holding what looks to be the same coffee cup (next time you see Endgame check it out!)  Everyone was so drunk in celebration, that they didn’t notice Tony’s two second appearance to drop the cup in front of Dany!

Dany with the Coffee Cup, left in a flash by Tony Stark on his way to King’s Landing

 Well, as we shall see, the battle for Westeros at King’s Landing will heat up, and, all of a sudden, above the skies there will be a massive circular flash of light unlike anything anyone in Westeros had ever seen.  Both sides were stricken with fear, for out of nowhere, like his ancient ancestor Arya Stark, Tony Stark, as Iron Man, appears and in one flashing swoop destroys Euron’s ballisti, shreds Ser Robert Strong and takes control of the battle at the last moment, capturing and dethroning Cersei.  Then, the man of Iron takes the Iron Throne.

Iron Man on the Iron Throne (artwork by James Zapata)

A Stark is now on the Iron Throne.

Tony Stark is the Stark that will be on the Iron Throne

And though he will face eventual death in the future, while sitting on the Iron Throne after the victory at King’s Landing….Tony Stark says, “I am the Lord of Westeros, the destroyer of Thanos, the King of the Seven Kingdoms…indeed, I am Iron Man, and the Iron Throne is mine.”

A Week of Gratitude 2018 – Part 1: Life’s Journey

Our Life Journey is a long road

As we approach Thanksgiving 2018, I have taken tome to reflect on those things that I am thankful for, probably more than I have in the past.  As a 62 year old, I have a great deal to look back on and to be thankful for.  So, for the next week, through the Saturday after Thanksgiving, I am doing a post each day to express my gratitude for the various segments of my life.  Some of what I write may be more personal than others may want to see, but to me, these are the main things I want to express my gratitude for.

Which way do we go?

I want to start out this week long effort by expressing my gratitude first and foremost for my life’s journey.  Each of us must walk the paths of our lives’ journeys.  Nobody else can walk this path. Interestingly enough, our journey is not really our own until we leave our parents and our homes.  We all start our journeys on the backs (or in the hands) of others.  And that initial part of the journey may very well lay the foundational footpath for our own personal journey.

 

We must all have our choices

Being a Christian and believing in a pre-existence and an after-life is always helpful to me in understanding and appreciating my journey.  I believe that my Father in Heaven let me know what treacherous and difficult paths would lay ahead of me as I came to earth.  I accepted that knowing as well that I would be blessed with guidance from Him along the way as well as the ability to choose which way to go.  I don’t believe for a moment that God laid out a specific course for me to take.  Rather, he set things in motion for me to take paths with many forks in the road.

I believe this is the earliest known photo of me, taken in October 1956, shortly after I was born.

My journey began in Cleveland, Ohio in early October 1956. I was born into an Italian family (my birth name was Carmen David Laurienzo), but to a Jewish mother. My father, Joe Laurienzo, was a the son of a migrant Italian name Carmine Laurienzo.  From all I know, Joe was a hard working individual.  He lived in the same home as his father on Murray Hill Road in the Little Italy district of Cleveland.

I will never know for sure how my Italian Catholic father met and ultimately married my German Jewish mother (Orene Goldberg, later to be known as Jennierose Lavender). But, I was conceived and was, at the time, the beginning of the third generation of Laurienzos to be born in and live in the house on Murray Hill Road.

The home I was born into on Murray Hill Rd. in Cleveland, OH. This was taken about 1956/57

Joe Laurienzo and Orene ca. 1956 or 1957. This is the only photo I have of both of my natural parents together.

And thus began my amazing journey.

Mother Orene and me

By the time I was 10 months old, in August 1957, my journey took a turn.  Giving in to pressure from her staunch Jewish mother (Marion Goldberg) in Albuquerque, Orene left with me while the Catholic side of the family was all celebrating the Feast of Assumption Festival…one of the biggest annual events in this little corner of Cleveland. I was essentially snuck away, never to meet my natural father, who, I came to find later on, was heartbroken.  Just a little over one year later, Orene was being remarried to the second Joseph in my life, Joseph Kravetz, in a fairly social Jewish ceremony.  They were married in Albuquerque on Dec. 21, 1958.

Photo from Joe and Orene Wedding 21 Dec. 1958

David and brother Aaron, probably in August 1960.

As a very young child, i had already experienced some major directional changes in my journey.  And this would ultimately be the way of life for me for at least the next 15 years of my life. Orene and Joe K ended up having a son together in 1960 (Aaron). Then she left us.  She left Joe Kravetz alone to raise my younger half-brother Aaron and me.

As a young four year old, I am sure that somehow I managed to blame myself for her leaving.  As for Aaron and me, we ended up with a number of babysitters to take care of us while my Dad worked. Some of them would come and go.  It was a tough rocky road for these two little boys.

David and brothers Aaron and Danny, probably about 1962

Joe Kravetz eventually participate in some single-adult parent organization (or something) and later met Marjorie Biel (nee Tudor), who had become divorced and had a young boy (Danny), 16 days younger than me.  I believe that they both married out of necessity more than love.  Nonetheless, as a young child, I was piggybacked into this relationship, which brought forth two more children (Gary in 1964 and Sherry in 1967).

Marge with David, Danny and Aaron in 1963 at Bluewater Lake in New Mexico.

Joe and Marge in 1978 in Jemez Springs, NM. By this time they were divorced but posed for this photo.

Through adoptions, all of us became Kravetz kids.  But it was a hodge-podge family.  Dad worked all the time for a drug store chain.  Mom (Marge) was a practicing Jehovah’s Witness and would take us to the Kingdom Hall a couple of times a week. She diligently sought to make sure we had a religious upbringing.  She had health issues and struggled in her relationship with Joe.  But, kudos to both of them as they made the courageous choice to stay together, despite deep-rooted differences and a great deal of family dysfunction and challenge (Danny was “mentally retarded” – a term used in the 1960s/70s). Aaron and I could be unruly.

Between 1965 and 1974, we had moved four different times to four different cities due to my Dad’s job transfers. More rocky, rutted roads for my life journey lay before me.  New homes, changes in schools, new friends, leaving old friends. It wasn’t easy for any of us.  By the time we were in Bozeman, Montana, I had run away from home twice to get away from the dysfunction…  I was ready to journey forth on my own personal journey and off of the piggyback roller coaster ride I had experienced.

Joe Kravetz and Marge, with my brothers and sister – Aaron, Danny, Gary and Sherry in 1978   This was the only complete family photo we ever had.

I will say here that Joe Kravetz and Marge did the very best they could with what was handed to them.  They both had their emotional baggage and the five children, who were, without choice, along for the rocky ride, had to learn to deal with it all, and we all did in our own ways.

David ca. 1973 – I looked this way my Senior Year too.

I had always been the prayerful type.  I believed in a God and I prayed for a miracle on many occasions.  Mine came in the chance meeting of some members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Bozeman in the summer of 1973.  The one week that I spent visiting with this family from New Jersey every day set me on my own path and in my own direction…one that would ultimately get me asked to leave my home as a 17 year old in Murray, Utah in the summer of 1974.

So, finally, in 1974 I began my own journey, making my own choices on my life’s direction….both good and bad.

After graduating high school in Murray in 1974, I had to make many huge, life-altering choices.  I came to one fork in the road after another, knowing full well that the choices made at those crossroads were ones I could never go back on and “try again.”  That’s the funny thing with choices.

Working as a missionary in Japan from 1976-78

After choosing to be baptized into the LDS Church in January 1975, I had made choices to leave jobs to take on other “grass is always greener over there” kinds of jobs.  Then, it happened…  the first big big big choice.  Do I serve an LDS mission or do I take the really good paying job?  It would have to be one or the other.  In the long run, I chose to serve and this really set the direction for my life journey from then on.

Since that time, my journey has meandered in many directions.  Life has had many challenges, ups and downs and frustrations.  But it has also been filled with joy, happiness and smiles.  Bottom line, I have had a wonderfully rich life and over the next week will show my gratitude to the many things that have crossed my journey’s path.

I am very grateful for my personal journey and for those that have spent part of their journeys walking by my side on mine.

Life’s Been good

Remembering Tom Petty

Today started off terrible. Woke up to news of a massive shooting in Las Vegas where, at the point that I write this, at least 58 people have died. They were doing what they loved, going to a music concert. They were innocent victims. 

Tom Petty Oct 20, 1950 – Oct 2, 2017


As if that was not bad enough, one of the few musicians that I actually idolize because of his music and the inspiration much of it has given me through my life, passed away of cardiac arrest today. Tom Petty has always been one of my all-time favorite musicians. I have used the words from his “Running Down a Dream” and “I Won’t Back Down,” among others for inspiration when I have made attempts to succeed or get over hurdles in my life.

I very rarely cry when a musician passes away. These are just people that are famous in most cases. Most of them I sing along with, but few inspire. I cried when George Harrison died and I’m crying today.

Tom Petty


Tom Petty lived his dream. From the time he was a teenager he sought to become a musician. By age 17 he had traveled across the country to run down his dream. But more than that, he is been an avid supporter of musician’s rights throughout the decades.

Was he perfect? Was he a good example in the morès of life? Probably not totally so. Yes, he has done drugs and advocated it in some of his songs. He struggled, like many musicians, with many of those kinds of issues.l as a result of fame and fortune. 

But, he is one of the few musicians that I’ve taken time to learn about in detail. And I have always been impressed with his care and concern for others.

Traveling Wilburys


When he worked with Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne and Roy Orbison to form the Traveling Wilburys, I was one of the first to pick up that album. I wore it out! I still listen to the traveling Wilburys, especially when I’m driving on the road alone. Now only two remain. 

Running Down a Dream


Though Tom Petty has passed, his music will still be there.

Tom…thanks for the music. Thanks for the inspiration. You will be missed.