St. Joseph’s Church, Fort Collins, Colo.

8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Chosen because…good Catholic friend in town

I will never go back to St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, not because I tainted the holy water in elementary school, but because it’s the most judgmental church I’ve visited. Nothing about St. Joe’s embodies peace, love or understanding.

Before I delve into my own judgments, let me say I know it’s contradictory to condemn judgment and then judge but processing experience necessarily requires judgment. Also, this opinion is based on the 1.5 hours I spent in one church. By no means do I think all Catholics adhere to these values or lack there of.

Choice, Freewill, Abortion

From the street, St. Joe’s is beautiful. From the street, you can’t see the picture of a fetus (it isn’t graphic) framed by words urging congregants to pray to end abortion.  I don’t care what people think about abortion. Life, choice, whatever. I also don’t care about political views. Democrat, Republican, anarchist, whatever. What irritates the living hell out of me is listening to a priest tell a hundred people or so how they should feel about abortion or politics.

Unfortunately for the congregation and the advancement of peace and understanding through Christ, this priest focused on condemning those who make poor choices, such as abortion. Well, that and contradicting himself.

One of the day’s teachings included the following:

“…we should not be passing judgments on others, for this is the Lord’s right. Rather, we should joyfully await his return, when all shall be brought to light.”

Sometimes I’m a little slow, but the Bible led me to believe that there’s only one God. Google’s helped me understand that there’s billions of people on this earth so, if the relatively small St. Joe congregation judges those who abort, doesn’t that mean that more than 100 people in tiny little Ft. Collins are playing God?

Good Old Catholic Spanking

My dad was raised Catholic. He’s got some great stories about naked swimming and nun brutality. While I can’t speak to his experiences, heavy-handed Catholics continue whacking from the pews.

The woman in front of me had three kids. The husband immediately left with the little one. The poor thing was terribly sick but I would have preferred her fever and hacking cough to time with mom who, between praying and singing, occupied her time by whacking her sons on the head, pinching their arms, yanking their wrists, flicking them in the middle of the cranium with her thumb and pointer finger and threatening spankings.

Doesn’t Catholicism sound fun?

The Punisher didn’t smile, but neither did anyone else. I saw a lot of kids and a lot of young parents — good honest Catholics using the ‘ol rhythm method, holding tight to their anti-abortion stance — but I didn’t see many smiles and I certainly didn’t feel like I was part of a community. In fact, not one person returning from communion reception looked happy or even content even. Either something’s askew in the church or Christ tastes like garbage.

Not that they’d want me, but I’m passing on Catholicism.

NOTE: Once again I blew it with the pics. I took plenty, but I’m out-of-town and forgot the adapter. I’ll add them when I return.

Vogel Family Lounge, Ft. Collins, Colo.

3 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Notable Matter: My outfit. Scroll down.

Yep, I’m among the throng of adult kids moving back in with mom and dad. People who use words like mental health impairment (bi-polar nut) and custodial artist (janitor) call people like me the “Boomerang Generation,” which is the politically correct term for” loser.”

I don’t mind. My roommates are affable, they cater to my many needs and they like to drink.

Driven to Drink

Even though I live across the street from a barn and the air smells like horseshit, I think I’m cosmopolitan because I’m bilingual. However, you’d have to be an idiot to live in Colorado and not to pick up some Spanish. (I’m sorry, I meant mentally challenged.)

Unlike many in lazy individuals that are a part of the Boomerang Generation, I pay rent. I am an indentured servant.

My parents buy foreclosed houses, fix them up and sell them. A few days a week, I drive an old Ford (think Beverly Hillbillies) to wherever they’re working and spend quality time with paintbrushes, paint scrapers, shovels and caulk.

My work outfits are fantastic. Picture it. Cheap gray pants, seam on left leg sitting mid-calf, pit-stained long sleeve sorority shirt underneath dad’s old Broncos sweatshirt and ghetto, paint covered company jacket, work gloves and old school LIVESTRONG Nikes.

Yesterday I obliterated my shin with a Pickaxe and when I asked my brother if I could help him landscape he said:

“Yes, but could you please wipe off that white paint under your nose so it doesn’t look like you’ve been blowing lines all morning?”

No problem. I picked up a shovel, asked him how I could even out the oblique workout.

“Shovel from the right and then the left.”

Yeah right.


At 8 a.m. I laid out my bar plan. There’s a Mexican bar close to my house known for well, Mexicans, and bikers. Thanks to manual labor, I’ve perfected my dive bar look. I was so excited to roll into this bar after work but it was closed. What kind of dive bar doesn’t open until after 4 p.m.?

I was traumatized. I did not want to go home, shower, drive around and find a new spot. Thanks to my wonderful roommates, I didn’t have to. The roomies left a box of canned Tecate behind the garage door. Perfecto.

Refrigerated the box, brought a few cans to the front porch, took off my socks, made a face at the dirt jammed between my toes, turned my face to the sun and created my own white trash dive bar.

Without people to talk to or atmosphere to judge, I had no choice but to think.

Thoughts from the Vogel Family Lounge:

  1. Whatever happened to email chain letters? (Question later answered: Facebook)
  2. Why don’t we collect methane gas from cemeteries? Stick some pipes through the ground, link them through coffins, harvest the gas and light a few lamps?
  3. Who is Justin Beiber and why do people care about him?
  4. Should I take offense to my mom’s most recent out of the blue suggestion? Direct quote: “You should travel with condoms.”
  5. Why are the aps on my iPhone doing the jitterbug? I hate this phone.

Might be a Mennonite

February 21, 2011

Fort Collins Mennonite Fellowship, Fort Collins, Colo.

10:30 a.m. to noonish

Chosen because…I’m fascinated with buggies and bonnets

I love Mennonites. At least the ones I met at the Fort Collins Mennonite Fellowship. They’re friendly and as far as I can tell, they view Jesus as a symbol of peace, not a vehicle for judgement.

Now, on the judgment front…

I saw my first Mennonites at a Taco Bell in Fort Collins. The girls were darling in bonnets and homemade dresses. I assumed the Fort Collins Mennonite Fellowship parking lot would be full of buggies, men in cute hats and suspenders helping bonneted women to the street. Giddy, I thought, “Try not to make an ass of yourself by immediately asking about the buggies and bonnets.”

I’m not sure why these Mennonites are singing in a subway, but this is what I thought my Sunday would be like.

Mennonites Singing on a Subway

In a group of less than 30, I found one bonnet. I should have known. The Fort Collins Mennonite Fellowship site addresses bonnets, notes they’re not the norm. Another newbie asked about bonnets and horses. The people he asked politely chuckled and explained.

So who attends the Fort Collins Mennonite Fellowship? Very chill people. Very Colorado looking people — jeans, Merrells, outdoor wear. I felt like I was at a peace rally. A bell kicked off service. Two girls — one barefoot — lit a candle with this long thing, the one without shoes nearly clipped the other’s face with the flame. Then some acoustic guitar, a bit about Haiti, sermon or talk, bell, discussion, refreshments.

Mennonites Hit No. 1 on Church Billboard Chart

The Fort Collins Mennonite Fellowship is No. 1 on the ThumpMe billboard chart because they do peace and acceptance. They’re open-minded. In fact, I found them by going to, curious as to which churches are cool with homosexuals.

While homosexuality wasn’t discussed (I believe David was gay), the Sermon on the Mount was. Mennonites believe Jesus’ word trumps all others, including angry God and confused prophets. The speaker talked about going beyond religious laws to uncover deeper meaning. Does it really make sense to take in all the wretched souls and then condemn them for committing adultery simply because they looked at another woman? No it doesn’t and that’s why I love the Mennonites. They are what I think people who proclaim to follow Christ should be — emissaries of peace and understanding.

The speaker asks, “If your religion does not go beyond, what is it?”



The bulletin said “we are all ministers in the fellowship” and included quotes from Buddha, which is confusing, all inclusive and quite a bit different than my southern Baptists. Two individuals knitted during service, one worked on a laptop, one read a book. Very laid back.

After the sermon/lesson, they opened the floor to discussion. Discussion! I couldn’t believe it. No one said much, but encouraging opposition nearly knocked me out of my chair.

At the end, we held hands and said a prayer which was way uncomfortable for me but whatever. I think I heard a bongo or some other instrument I associate with freedom, but can’t remember.

NOTE: I don’t have a photo of this church. I once again left a piece of clothing in a public place — my jacket, restaurant  — and was without a camera.

What am I Missing?

February 16, 2011

T-Bar Lounge, Wellington, Colo.

3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Notable Matter:  Favorite signs: If you drink to forget — please pay in advance; Get me drunk and enjoy the show.

Good ‘Ol Boys

I love Colorado. Despite being white, it’s fairly diverse — cowboys, hippies, yuppies, mountain people, potheads, granolas (hippie/yuppie combo), etc.

I love Colorado. Despite being white, it’s fairly diverse — cowboys, hippies, yuppies, mountain people, potheads, granolas (hippie/yuppie combo), etc.

Wellington is part cowboy, part cookie cutter. My drive to Wellington a short jaunt down memory lane. I recognize fields and barns where high school compatriots with little self control partied; a particular curve in the road was reputed as landing spot for blown chunks in the 1990s; and a fence post broke records for destroying first car fenders.

I drive a car. Everyone else drives a truck. Cowboy stands outside smoking. I like the black cowboy hat, green Carhartt jacket and creased Wranglers.

The bar is clean, smells like vinegar. Various types of barbed wire and rusty tools hang on the wall, cigarettes for sale behind the bar, someone hacking out a lung in another room.

Six people sitting in upholstered chairs — think 1980s pastel dining room — a thin old man and an older woman at the bar. They are not together. The woman wears looped, electric blue earrings. They look like scissored glow sticks. I doubt she raves.

They watch Ellen, talk about lottery tickets, the Grammys and the newscaster who had a stroke or something while covering the Grammys. They know more about pop culture than I do.

Man talks about the weather, tells me the steers love the unnaturally warm weather (60 degrees).

“But,” he says. “the mountains are at about 130 to 140 so imagine what’s going to happen if we have a dry spring? All the water will go east anyway.”

For you out-of-staters, this means the mountains have a 130-to-140 inch base, which is normal however, if we have a dry spring, floods will follow and regardless of how much water we have, surrounding states and communities will steal it. Good to be back in the land of water wars.

Someone Else’s Skin

I’m writing on a bar napkin. The bartender asks if I want paper. This has never happened. Ever. He says he’s a southern gentleman. He loves booze, women and cigarettes and, “if you take one of those three out of my equation I may as well cease to exist.” Touché.

Old Woman: “I’m leaving but I’ve got some Avon in the car. I’ll just leave it here so Deana can get it when she starts her shift.”

The old man buys me a beer. I can’t remember the last time a man other than a friend or family member bought me a beer. I remind myself to rethink the ranch lifestyle and 70-year-old body parts.

They all know each other and by the time I leave, they know me too — my name and my hand that is. I end up talking to a man who looks like a politician but is a former newspaperman and publisher.  After he buys me a beer — everyone else drinks liquor — he says, “I’m sorry. I just don’t say much.”

“That’s OK. People who talk the least tend to say the most. My brother is like that.”

I tell him things I haven’t shared with you. I will. Someday soon. Perhaps.

Driving home through a fairy tale land of the old west and urban sprawl. I think about the dichotomy between what I think I want and what I thought I wanted.

Separated by less than half a mile, this is Colorado.

This is also life.

I feel more comfortable in places I don’t belong than those I do. People sense comfort. When I travel, tourists ask me for directions even in countries where I clearly standout. I rarely get this in the states.

This is why I have to keep moving. That, and superficial relationships are more palatable than those that are not.

Religion or Bust

February 15, 2011

I had every intention of going to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. In fact, as soon as I realized the events surrounding the Mercedes-sponsored Laureus sports event would prevent me from going, I tried to extend my stay purely for the mosque. Unfortunately, that didn’t pan out.

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is the eighth largest mosque in the world and the largest mosque in the UAE. It’s gorgeous and open to visitors for educational tours. Understandably, visitors are asked to respect cultural norms ie. wear modest, conservative, loose fitting clothing; long sleeves, long skirts and trousers; leave shorts, short skirts and tight clothing at home; avoid intimate behavior such as kissing or handholding; wear a headscarf (women only); and keep beachwear at the beach.

My first experience with Islam was, naturally, inappropriate. I first heard midday prayer while relaxing on a private beach in a garish, unholy Victoria’s Secret bikini I bought on a whim of overconfidence (I’ve lost the bottoms to my standard plain Jane swimming suit). Though it was a private beach, I felt uncomfortable until the wind forced me to cover up.

(The dreaded VC suit on a lampshade…where it belongs.)

The prayer was surprisingly soothing and nothing like the chaos Fox News links to everything Middle Eastern and/or Islamic.

I did have a little prayer mat in my room and realized on day three that the diagonal arrow above my bed was intended to lead guests toward Mecca, not the closet. Waking up to the early morning prayer was delightful and saved me from missing my return flight.

I only wish I could have made it to the mosque and actually come back with an impression a tad more substantive than prayers and an arrow.

My flight out of Abu Dhabi had some quote from the Koran but I can’t remember it. However, when I got home, I found a Bible on my front porch — no joke — and there was a bookmark in the Book of Esther so I randomly grabbed a quote as I need guidance and apparently, sometimes when people are struggling, they reach for a random bit in the Bible and relate it to their lives.

This is what I got:

“And the ‘drinking’ was according to the law; none did compel: for so the king had appointed to all the officers of his house, that they should do according to every man’s pleasure.” (Esther, Chapter 1)

I was looking for something more substantive, something that wouldn’t encourage my commitment to vice. I thought the Bible was supposed to speak to people when they’re hurting. Maybe it’s supposed to act like a cheering section. Who knows. I was hoping for something like:

“This too shall pass,” a Facebook post from a friend that may be Biblical in nature? I’m not sure.

On a side note, my flashy binki may not have been entirely inappropriate. Apparently bikinis and religion can work together as proven by another Mercedes-sponsored event — the True Religion Bikini Runway. I wasn’t asked to participate in this one. I can’t imagine why. You wouldn’t believe the number of swimsuit modeling offers I turn down each year. It’s out of control.

True Religion Bikini Runway 2011 Line

I will be heading to a Mennonite church this coming Sunday and apologize for the flighty posts. Travel. Hopefully I’ll adjust.

(You can follow us on Twitter @thumpme or join our Facebook page. No obligation.)

Abu Divey

February 10, 2011

Intercontinental Hotel, Abu Dhabi, UAE

Emirates Palace Hotel, Abu Dhabi, UAE

Multiple Days

Notable Matter: ATM for gold, not cash

Feb. 4. land in Abu Dhabi at 3 a.m. to cover a sporting event, an unexpected, surreal experience. I have no idea what I’m doing, where I’m going or what is in my suitcase.

Before leaving I read about Abu Dhabi, learn that unlike Catholics, Muslims are not reputed for tipping back the bottle. Thankfully, Abu Dhabi in all its wealth and prestige caters to Westerners and therefore permits alcohol in hotels where Westerners feel safe. Places like the Intercontinental and  Emirates Palace, home to an ATM for gold. Yes, people wait in line and buy gold in Abu Dhabi.

Dive bars don’t exist in places with golden ATMs so I made due.

Intercontinental, Abu Dhabi

First time I’m uncomfortable in the presence of men. They sit in circles chain smoking. They keep to themselves. I falsely believe I’m intimidated by their dress — kanduras, guthras, egals — but that’s not it. I never see them with women, particularly in the lounge. I don’t know if I can talk to them and I don’t want to trample cultural boundaries.* This pisses me off.

*I do this anyway. Details forthcoming in the church/religion bit.

I drink a glass of red wine, smoke a cigarette and eat some nuts. I try not to think about the other hands that may have touched my nuts.

I listen to British accents, foreign tongues and watch the lounge singer. Her gaze fixes on me. I’m the only one watching.

When I leave I can’t get out of my chair. It weighs about 100 pounds. The waiter rushes to my aid. If I can’t get out of a chair, how will I organize my life?

I ponder the possibility of joining a harem.

Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi

This is our home base — media, PR staff, athletes. We’re treated like royalty, media included. I spend a lot of time researching the athletes nominated for the Laureus awards, find myself getting distracted by futbol players I don’t need to interview. There’s something about futbol. It isn’t the players, it’s the culture. It’s refreshingly un-American, tan and fit.

I don’t drink much here. I’m on the clock and exhausted from travel, a long excursion to the desert for celebrity sandsurfing and, of course, insomnia. I manage a half a glass of wine during lunch on the final day of my stay. I eat a little and read about Cairo. What Abu Dhabi lacks in freedom of press, it makes up for in wealth, pouring ridiculous amounts of color and gloss into its dailies. The newspaper is probably more valuable than my car.

The individual serving me has no idea what I want. Water. Yes. He returns 10 minutes later and puts the bottle on the table, a major faux pas in these restaurants. I ask for wine. He brings milk. I understand the confusion, each has one syllable. It happens.

A manager steps in and brings the wine.

I lose interest in Cairo and instead stare at the beach. I see a fat woman in a bathing suit. Must be an American. Halfway through the glass I leave in hopes of finding Kelly Slater at a nearby futbol match. He isn’t there but I’m allowed beyond the rope dividing media and important people. I stand next to a short person who I’m told “basically owns” Abu Dhabi. I pretend to watch the game for four seconds and start a conversation with a German. He tries to name players I might recognize. He’s aghast (politely, Germans always are) that I don’t know anything. My face is blank.

I roll up my pants, head to the beach and ride a camel.

Later that night after red carpet and the award ceremony, I end up in the after party tent. I’m not supposed to be here but the event organizer ushers me in. I’m on the hunt for an athlete. He isn’t in the tent but I run into his manager who gives me his agent’s number. I make myself comfortable, drink some champagne and people watch until I remember my 6 a.m. departure. Somehow I never make it to bed.

These may not be dive bars, but somewhere between packing at 5:45 a.m. showering at 6 a.m. and leaving at 6:15 a.m., I lose a computer cord, bra and shirt. That’s pretty divey. It’s not what you think, but it’s divey.

Make Way for Mosque

February 7, 2011

OK. I’m trying to get to a mosque today. I’m still in Abu Dhabi but I’m fairly certain I’ll be able to come up with something. Just a heads up. Apparently this travel/blog management is going to be more difficult than I thought…

Weather Delays Post

February 2, 2011

Due to extreme weather conditions, I can’t fly out of Chicago and therefore have to leave for Abu Dhabi today. So no bar post. I’ll be gone for a week but hope to get in one of each on Monday and Wednesday. There’s a 12 hour time difference and I’m on a tight schedule so it will be a valiant attempt on my part.

If you’re anywhere near this stuff, stay warm!

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