Travel, Why?

Travel can become an all-consuming thing for many people. While some people travel annually, others look forward to less frequent travel. It seems that almost everyone enjoys travel. Having travelled to many places with work and for pleasure, I could easily just keep on traveling. Have you ever wondered why this is so? Here are several reasons people give for traveling.

To see new things and to enjoy new experiences. No matter how many times we see a sunset, especially a sunset in an unfamiliar place like the Austrian Alps or Western China it is enjoyable. To see Alaska, the Taj Mahal in India, Macha Picchu, the Northern Lights, or Route 66 for the first time is amazing.

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Experiencing new cultures is a reason for some traveller’s decisions. It is impossible to know how many cultures exist in the world today, but what we know is that there are many cultures. Learning about them increases our understanding and appreciation of our culture. When planning a cultural vacation, confirm that you will meet authentic locals along the way. Perhaps you can learn a little of the language of the country that you are planning to explore.

Some people travel to celebrate a life event or someone else’s important day, like marriage, or birthdays. A short trip to Singapore or a cruise in on one or Europe’s rivers are great places to celebrate. Don’t be afraid to enjoy life’s precious times anywhere in the world.

Traveling to enjoy food from different cultures motivates some people. Imagine tasting Philly Cheesecake in Philadelphia, palak paneer in India, French croissants in Paris, or fresh bread-rolls with salami in Italy. The foodies have so many choices.

People are at different stages of their life journey. As travel becomes more affordable, there are more people traveling to discover themselves. Looking to understand who they are in the stillness and quiet of a new place drives some intrepid travellers to places like India and other parts of Asia.

Reconnecting with families is a prime reason for travel for many people. Make visiting family an invigorating experience especially when discovering your genealogy. Take plenty of photographs of your loved ones when you travel to create lasting memories.

So what kind of traveller are you? What motivates your travel decisions? What holiday destination do you find dream about? Knowing the answers to these questions will allow you to plan your holiday to places and events that change your life. What are you waiting for? Go see your travel agent and see the world!

Family Campgrounds in the USA

If your family has not been camping, then you don’t know what you’re missing. Camping, whether in a tent or RV, is a fantastic way to bond with your family and is the True Family Social Network. There are thousands of great campgrounds in the USA that come in all types and sizes to meet every campers needs. You can rough it in a tent, or setup an RV with full hookups, cable TV and free WiFi. Yes, I said WiFi. Campgrounds are more like resorts these days with the same amenities of your major hotels like pools, courts, workout rooms, games and even sites with private hot tubes. Many family-oriented campgrounds offer weekend events like outdoor movies, tie-dyeing, fireworks and s’more parties. Some folks come just to enjoy the campground experience and others are there because of the destination. My family has camped everywhere from the beaches of North Carolina, Hersey, Pennsylvania, Meteor Crater in Arizona, Washington DC and San Fransisco area. One of our most memorable experiences was when we stayed in Amish Country outside Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The campground was just outside of a working Amish farm. One morning we woke to a knock at our door and an Amish family with their horse and buggy full of homemade pies. The smell was incredible, so we decided to purchase what turned out to be the most wonderful blueberry pie we have ever eaten. Just thinking about that pie makes me wish we were there again. Some of our most memorable life experiences happened when we were camping in our RV.

Finding the right campgrounds is easier than ever. There are several resources like Woodalls and Trailer Life that provide directories including campground reviews. My family has put together a great list of our Top 10 Family Campgrounds in the USA. We know there are lots of great campgrounds, but these are our most memorable.

1. Walt Disney World Orlando – The Campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort

Disney World is not only a great place to vacation, but it also a great place to camp with your family. This is our most favorite campground with 750 acres full of pine trees and lots of wild life. The park is located within the Disney World grounds with full access to Disney transportation, onsite dining, swimming pool and other activities. Pets are also welcome within the campground.

2. Washington DC – Cherry Hill Park

Cherry Hill Park is actually located in College Park, Maryland just north of Washington DC. This is the best park if you’re looking to visit Washington DC. The park has a bus stop with access to the nearest Metro station. You can get from the park to Washington DC within about 30 minutes. The park also has a great family swimming pool with other activities available.

3. Destin, Florida – Camping On The Gulf

If you want a campground right on the beach, and I mean right on the beach, then you should try Camping On The Gulf in Destin, Florida. The park has several sites within feet of the crystal clear waters of Destin. The park also has 2 outdoor pools, 1 indoor pool, a game room and an activity center. The campsites are a bit pricey, but its one of the only campgrounds we’ve seen right on the ocean.

4. South Padre Island, Texas – KOA Campground

We are partial to Texas and we love South Padre Island. We have stayed several time at the KOA campground in South Padre Island. Its located right next to the bay with access to fishing, a great seafood restaurant called Pier 19, and the beach is only a short drive away. The park is clean and well managed with a real family feel.

5. Yellowstone National Park – Grizzly RV Park

Yellowstone is our top National Park in the USA. The park is home to a number of wild animals including black bear which we saw on our last visit. Grizzly RV Park is located in West Yellowstone, Montana. It is bordered on two sides by the Gallatin National Forest making for a wonderful nature feel. The park also has a full game room that is free for kids.

6. Hershey, Pennsylvania – Hershey Highmeadow Campground

If you like chocolate, then you have to visit Hershey, Pennsylvania. We have also included this destination in our Family Vacation section. This top 10 listing is for the Hershey Highmeadow Campground. The campground has 55 acres of nature and is located just down the road from the Hershey amusement park. There are lots of activities including 2 pools, game room, playground and more.

7. Petoskey, Michigan – Petoskey KOA Campground

Being from the south, we had never heard of Petoskey, MI. This is a great little town just off of Lake Michigan with easy driving access to Mackinac Island. The Petoskey KOA won the 2009 KOA President’s Award and Founders Award for service. This is a great place to camp with your family.

8. Vicksburg, Mississippi – Askew’s Landing Campground

If you are looking for a place that is a bit rustic but with lots of history, you must visit Askew’s Landing Campground just outside Vicksburg, Mississippi. They have 40 full hook-up sites with many located right in the middle of a beautiful green field. You really feel like you’re camping as you park your RV on grass with no city sounds for miles. The property used to be Bridgeport Plantation and the site of several Civil War battles. It is now listed as a Historical Landmark.

9. Ronks, Pennsylvania – Flory’s Cottages & Camping

Ronks is in the heart of Amish Country just outside Bird in Hand. Yes, these are the names of the towns. There is even an Intercourse, PA. Names aside, this is beautiful country. The reason we chose Flory’s is that the campground is adjacent to an active Amish farm. One morning, we were greeted by an Amish family selling the most wonderful homemade pies from the back of their Amish buggy.

10. Shady Cove, Oregon – Rogue River RV Park

Shady Cove is in southern Oregon about 52 miles from Crater Lake. We just happen to pull into this park looking for a place where we could easily drive to Crater Lake. Wow, were we pleasantly surprised. The Rogue River flows right next to the park with salmon and steelhead fishing at your door step. As a fisherman, this was one of the most exciting places to stay for me.

A Coast to Coast Experience from Salt Lake City to Long Beach to New York City

Journal of Events, as I best remember it.

We went to the SLC airport in time to check in and wait to see if we would be able to get in on the flight to New York City. We were flying “stand by” on Jet Blue. (Editor’s note: Do not fly “stand by” – it is very unpredictable.) We did not make it, but were told that we could probably make the early morning flight to Long Beach, California, and there transfer to another flight to New York City. There was not really enough time to go home, so we stayed the few hours in the airport.

We flew from SLC to Long Beach to New York City without any real problem.

We picked up a Ford Van at the Avis car rental company, and drove to Carolyn and Cade’s. A side note: I had always perceived that driving in New York would be a scary experience. Not so.

We left the next morning, Myself, Ronwen (Mom), and Hillary with Carolyn, Cade, and Matthew, traveling from Middletown, Connecticut to Philadelphia, PA. Because the traffic was so terrible, we were too late to be able to do anything in Philadelphia that day. Note: The drivers in New York City are horrible and rude and discourteous.

We did stop and see Valley Forge along the way to Philadelphia. I learned that it was a gathering place for the troops of the Continental Army, and a training ground for those soldiers.

We saw many deer along the drive as we went through Valley Forge.

We also saw and crossed a “covered bridge” along the road as we went. Mom was excited about that!

We stayed at the Hiatt Regency Hotel in Washington D.C. They had an awesome consierge who was very helpful.

We ate one night at the Trattoria Sorrento italian restaurant, 4930 Cordell Avenue, Bethseda, Maryland 20814. Awesome italian cuisine!!
We also ate ate the Original Pancake House, near the hotel. Fantastic breakfast!

We visited the following places as we toured the Washington D.C. area:

Washington LDS Temple. We saw it in the day light and after dark. We saw bats flying around it in the darkness.

White House. It was smaller than I had pictured it. The tour was short and not really worth the time, other than to say that we had “been” there.

Air and Space Museum (Smithsonian). Interesting place, but not as exciting as I had always thought it would be. Jets, planes, and space craft were on display. I thought the most interesting item was the Wright Brother’s aircraft.

National Archives. We went to see the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. I rode a wheel chair. I was surprised to see how faded both documents had become. They were virtually unreadable.

We passed in front of the Capitol building. Impressive! We took a number of pictures of it. Note: Hillary was the chief photographer of this trip, and she did very well in expressing her talent and skill with the camera.

Library of Congress. This was the most ornately decorated non-religious building I have ever seen! It was absolutely awesome on the inside. Arches, marble, statuary, and colorful paintings and murals decorated the entire interior of this building.

Subway/Metro. It was surprisingly clean and efficient for a public transportation mode.

Mount Vernon. We arrived there early in the morning, just before they were officially open. We waited, walking casually over the grounds. We walked out onto the east lawn, the typical spot where the familiar picture is taken of the main house. Looking out over the panoramic view of the beautiful Potomac River, I could see why Washington loved his home so much. We took the specially arranged tour of the grounds, viewing the slave quarters, the gardens, the greenhouse, the bowling green (east lawn), the west lawn with the awesome view of the Potomac, the “Necessary” (outhouse), and Washington’s Tomb. The guide asked for volunteers to carry a wreath into Washington’s tomb to honor him. I quickly rose my hand. Cade volunteered, too. It was a special experience to walk into his tomb and place the wreath, and to brush my fingers across the limestone sarcophagus and feel his presence, there. Hillary volunteered to read Washington’s Prayer for the Nation aloud for the tour group. I think she was touched by the experience.

Gettysburg. I have always been aware of this field of battle during the Civil War. It has been a place of passing interest. I had originally considered skipping it in favor of other things. I am profoundly glad I did not miss it. We drove to the site and parked the car near the Visitor’s Center. We wandered at length through the center, seeing the faces and reading the stories of those who were there. Then we stepped out the front door and ascended Cemetery Hill, the site where Lincoln had delivered the Gettysburg Address. “Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. But in a larger sense, we can not dedicate – we can not consecrate – we can not hallow – this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. It is for us, the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that the government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” (Abraham Lincoln, Nov. 19, 1863) I stood there, on the very spot where Lincoln delivered this address. I felt my body washed over by a sense of that address, the sense of the struggles that were endured there. A sense of the battle that was engaged, there, and I cried openly as I was engulfed in this spirit. I had not expected this. As we drove around the route that detailed the events of this battle, I felt their presence. I watched as the battle began, the South lined up on the north side and the North lined up on the south side of the valley. I imagined the single gunshot from the Southerners, signaling the opening of hostilities, and I saw the firing of the 166 Southern cannons and the responding 180+ cannons of the North. I felt the rush of soldiers, from both sides, as they met to defend their opinions. It struck me like a bolt of thunder that this was not a war of Good and Evil, but rather a war of opinions, there being Good on both sides. It is an experience that I shall never forget. I stood in a small grove of trees, the target objective of the attacking forces of the South, and wondered at the three day loss of life of 5,000 men.

Antietam. The battle just before Gettysburg. It has been considered, historically, to be a battle that ended as a “draw”, neither side really the victor. But it was the worst battle in american history. 4,000 men died in one single day. We drove by what has been named “Blood Alley”, a site only maybe ten yards wide and perhaps 30 yards long, where the worst of the fighting occurred.

Harper’s Ferry. This was the site of John Brown’s death. It is a beautiful, quiet area on the last stretch of the Shennendoah River where it empties into the Susquehannah River. We barely got there at dusk.

Earth Science Museum (Smithsonian). I was impressed by the volume of ancient fossils that were available and on display at this museum. We also got to see the Hope Diamond.

American History Museum (Smithsonian). There was a lot to see there, but most of it was put into storage for the current renovation of the building. We saw “Old Glory” as it was being re-preserved. But aside from that, it was really the only thing of personal interest in the building.

We walked past the Washington Monument, the tall stone Obelisk on the Mall as we made our way to the Lincoln Memorial. A note on the Mall, itself: We were all disappointed at how unkempt the Mall was. It was not a long field of well groomed grass, but an extremely large eyesore of weeds and bare patches of dirt. We were embarrassed to have such a national landmark being shown to public view in such a dilapidated condition.

Lincoln Monument. We broke down and took a taxi for the last few blocks to this monument. As we walked up to it, I noticed how there were scores of people that were just hanging out on the steps of the monument. But I soon found out why. As we walked inside, between the pillars, to the huge statue of the seated Abraham Lincoln, I was struck with a profound sense of peace. People were coming to see his face, and were reluctant to leave his essence of presence. I didn’t want to leave that spirit, either. We got some awesome pictures here, too.

The Viet Nam memorial was a long, tapered wall of black marble, with names engraved in no apparent particular order. I wanted to be impressed, but honestly, I was not.

We proceeded to return to the Philadelphia area, where we saw the following:

Independence Square. We first saw the Supreme Court building as we waited for the formal tour. We then toured the Independence Hall, seeing the room where the debates took place as they formed the Declaration of Independence, and stood in the signing room where all the delegates signed the document.

The Mint. We visited the Philadelphia Mint, where many coins are struck for daily use as money. It was an interesting one-time opportunity.

We saw the Liberty Bell. It was much smaller than I had previously imagined, yet still fascinating as I realized the impact it has had and now has as a symbol of freedom around the world.

We visited the Independence Visitor’s Center, and viewed a movie on the importance of the cause of freedom that was won. As we roamed the Visitor’s Center store, I realized that they were playing the movie, “National Treasure” on t.v. monitors throughout the store. Interesting, eh?!

As we proceeded back to Connecticut, we stopped in Wilmington, Delaware, to see a unique water tower (for my benefit) that was made of stone, and had been designed to double as a visitor’s tower to see the surrounding countryside, as well.

Back in Connecticut, we spent two days doing different things. One day we spent some time catching up on our laundry, going to WalMart (a great place to shop and find things) and some time at the apartment complex’s swimming pool! We also visited the Gillette Castle and a local waterfall. The other day we spent at the New Haven Beach, saw two lighthouses there, and then went a bit farther east up the coast and saw two more lighthouses.

We then went to Boston, where we first visited the LDS Temple site.

We then parked the car near the harbor, and went in to see the U.S.S. Constitution, or “Old Ironsides”. It was awesome to see and actually go aboard her. She is being touted as the only continuously winning team in Boston! She never lost a battle.

We then boarded the trolley bus and took the motor tour around Boston to see all the sights. Our tour guide was awesome, teaching us, as well as the historical significance of the site we saw, but teaching the proper pronunciation of the words, like we would not be able to paak (park) our caa (car) at the Haavad (Harvard) yaad (yard, or parking area). And she even had small signs that spelled them as they were pronounced! She was an awesome guide! Among the typical sites like the Boston Common, Bunker Hill, and the Old North Church, she pointed out the hotel where John F. Kennedy proposed to Jackie, the apartment where they lived, and the voting polls areas where they cast their vote when he became president. We also saw the Catholic church where Rose Kennedy (JFK’s mom) was christened. We visited the home of Paul Revere and went inside the Old North Church. We passed the area of the harbor where the Boston Tea Party took place.

Next, we headed to Salem, Massachusetts. We saw the old City Hall, the old Salem Cemetery and noted the honorary markers remembering those who were put to death as witches. We saw Nathan Hale’s wife’s home. Last, we drove up to Gallows Hill, but discovered there was no marker to indicate that this was where the witches were hanged.

On our last Sunday, we took a drive up to Sharon, Vermont, to visit the birthplace of Joseph Smith, the first Mormon prophet. It was a beautiful drive, and we enjoyed the views of the countryside. Along the way, we passed the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Last, but not least, we visited New York City, just before we flew home. We only had a day, so we had to make it a real whirlwind trip through the town! So fasten your seatbelts, and listen up: We took the double decker bus tour (which I highly recommend!) and wound our way all about the town. I noted the iron fire escapes, a signature of this town. We ascended the Empire State Building, taking pictures of the surrounding city. My wife nearly had a coronary as I would lean up against the stonework to take the pictures, 86 stories up! We used the subway, which we could swear was just one floor level above the entrance to Hell. The place was so dirty and HOT!! We saw the United Nations, but passed by it too late to take our paid tour. We saw the Chrysler Building, with it’s ornate top. We went into Macey’s, descended the wooden escalator to the food court to have our delicious supper from one of the most awesome cooks I have ever been served from. We walked a bit in Central Park, a most beautiful and peaceful place to stroll casually in the summertime. We saw Time Square. We briefly visited the site of the LDS New York Temple, located at Columbus and 65th streets, just a block west of Central Park. We saw the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. We passed China Town. We drove beneath the Brooklyn Bridge. We passed the Trinity Church, the same one in the movie, “National Treasure”. We went by the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street. We saw Radio City Music Hall. We walked past the Rockefeller Center, which was smaller than I had imagined it to be. We drove through the Bronx and Queens. I did miss seeing the studio of Sean Hannity; I wish I knew where to find it. Maybe next time, Sean!!

We flew out of New York from JFK International, headed to Long Beach, California. We ended up spending the night in Long Beach, due to a misunderstanding with the booking agent that arranged our flight home, but that was O.K. I was able to get some photos of some palm trees to add to our trip portfolio!

All in all, it was an awesome trip. And although I was significantly tired when I arrived home, I would pack my bags and turn around and do it again in a heartbeat!! I am glad I went, and I will always remember the knowledge I gained, the site I saw, and the depth of the feelings I felt, for the rest of my life. I look forward to our next adventure!!

Only the Strong Survive by Seth Soul Man Ferranti

U.S. vs Ferranti: that’s how the case was styled. The United States of fucking America versus me. At nineteen, I was charged with running a Continuing Criminal Enterprise by the feds and sentenced to twenty-five years. I turned to look at my mother as the US Marshals moved in and Judge Hilton of the Eastern District of Virginia said, “You will be committed to the custody of the Attorney General.” Great I thought, Janet Reno, my fucking babysitter.

I never thought I would get busted and prison was the furthest thing from my mind. I was white, middle-class, and from the affluent suburbs of Burke Centre, Virginia. I did the college thing: Penn State, West Virginia University, Virginia Tech, Radford, University of Virginia, East Carolina. My life was a party on wheels. Kind bud. Acid. Brick pot. I figured I was a career man. It was like, have drugs, will travel. But I found out that the feds don’t fuck around and justice doesn’t discriminate. My white skin and middle-class upbringing would only be a drawback in prison and that was no laughing matter.

The marshals handcuffed me and put me in leg irons. They pointed Mossberg twelve-gauge riot-guns at my face and put me on a bus with bars on the windows and an armed escort riding shotgun. It reminded me of some Mad Max type shit. The convicts on the bus called it “diesel therapy.” I could feel the eyes on me as I made my way down the aisle. I tried to look tough as I noticed there weren’t many white people and no one struck me as a suburbanite. In fact, I saw the only other white guy on the bus getting exposed. “What the fuck you looking at cracker?” Yelled a black prisoner. “Nothing.” Replied the white dude meekly with his head down. What a chump I thought as I sunk deeper into my seat and wished I was invisible.

When I hit the compound this old-timer, White Shoes, pulled me aside. I was wary at first, because you never know what a fucker wants in here. But I learned that he only wanted to help. He could tell I was green and I guess he saw convict material, because he took me under his wing. He wanted to see my paperwork to make sure I wasn’t no rat motherfucker. When I checked out he schooled me on prison etiquette. “Don’t gamble, don’t do drugs, and don’t fuck with punks,” he said. “When you talk to people look them in the eye and always be polite, because you never know when someone will lose it. Be cool and if you have a problem, come and get me.”

The advice was right on time as I was adjusting to my environment learning the more disturbing aspects of day to day life on the inside. Like the rest of middle-class America I had seen the movies, but this wasn’t any movie. This was real life. And the realities of prison, I learned, were vicious.

That first morning when the doors cracked I went to go to chow. But as I stepped out the cell this shorty creped on a sleepy-eyed brother and cracked the “nigga” on the dome with a lock in a sock, a favorite prison weapon. The sleepy-eyed con stumbled as he started bleeding profusely from the head. The little shorty punished him and screamed, “Don’t ever be dissing me again nigga.” I stood transfixed by the violence before me as shorty noticed me and said, “You didn’t see nothing did you, white boy?” I shook my head and went back into my cell, skipping breakfast. I later learned this was all about respect and in prison respect was the most important thing.

In prison they say that your word is all you got and if your word ain’t no good then you’re some shit. The concepts of respect and disrespect go hand in hand with that and are at the root of most beefs in prison. Say you bump into dude and you don’t say excuse me. This is a serious sign of disrespect. To get his respect the convict you accidentally bumped might stick six inches of steel into your gut.

In prison you get respect by giving it and demanding it back, by force if necessary. If you lose face just once you could be labeled soft. And if someone thinks you’re soft, they’re gonna try you.

I remember this one white kid Stevie from Maryland who came in. Nice, polite, slightly built, and middle-class. He was in for trying to blow up a gay bar. Some Gangster Disciples took him for a chump and pushed up on him for some commissary. Stevie, fresh to the system, thought he was doing them gangsta’s a favor and bought them a couple packs of smokes. But it didn’t stop there. The next week it was a carton of Newports, the week after some Nike high tops. Then they broke into his locker, taking everything Stevie had. Some white dudes stepped to Stevie and told him he needed to get down and handle his business. Still the idiot did nothing. And in prison you can’t help those that won’t help themselves. Finally the Gangster Disciples raped Stevie. He ended up being pimped out by the gang and is probably still sucking dick to this day.

If you want respect you gotta keep the other prisoners in check. Being nice won’t get you respect but fear will. There is a saying in here, don’t mistake kindness for weakness. Still many of these ignorant fuckers do, so it pays not to be nice. You have to close yourself off and become known as a man that will do something when provoked. Because sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. Even if it means getting a shank and spilling blood. Better theirs, than yours. Don’t try to talk tough in here either, because your bluff will be called and if you don’t jump when called out you will be branded as a punk and your ass will be ripe for taking.

The best course to follow is to be respectful and assertive. Try not to draw attention to yourself, but don’t back down from a confrontation either. Most times, if you stand up for yourself, you’ll find an out, and avoid looking like a pussy. The problem could be laughed off, like “Chill out man, I was only joking.” But if the situation escalates you can get fucked up. It is a fine line to walk, but if you want to survive, you’ve got to learn when and where to draw that line.

Prison isn’t a nice place. There ain’t no good Samaritans here. When the tension boils it erupts like a volcano. As the pressure builds, you can feel it seeking its release. It’s not something easily described, it’s just an awareness. The air grows still, the silence becomes deafening and you can sense the drama about to unfold.

When the shit jumps off you don’t want to be around either. The best thing to do is just walk the other way and act like nothing is happening. Don’t even try to look or watch. Because if you’re seen watching when people handle their business you might be next or worse still you might be labeled a snitch.

It took about 6 months to scope out the basic social order in the joint. I noticed that the prison gangs played a big part in the social structure. There was a sort of prison politics going on with little diplomacy and lots of violence. The gangs were very active and protective of their hustles and interests. White gangs like the Aryan Brotherhood and Dirty White Boys co-existed with the Bloods, Crips and Gangster Disciples. The Latinos had their own crews also with the Mexican Mafia, Latin Kings, and Texas Syndicate. These fractions sometimes suffered violent and bloody struggles for power and control.

Prisoners also affiliated themselves by home states. So you had loosely organized homeboy crews from North Carolina, D.C., New York, or wherever. The Muslim religious sects were another faction that made power moves and were feared as their numbers were always deep.

It’s smart not to join or beef with a gang, because in such disputes or an all-out gang war things get brutal and you can wind up dead. The gangs controlled the drugs, the gambling, and the gumps. And if you fucked with their money they would hurt you bad.

There was this one DC cat who came down from the super max huffing and puffing. What a bad-ass he was. Dude was big, alright, and cut up. Straight diesel, like a Mack truck. But he started making his own moves, fucking with the gumps and shit. The queers he was banging belonged to the North Carolina Bloods and when they got the scoop they pushed up on the DC brother-man, telling him he got to pay to play. The DC convict told them bammers, “Fuck you.” So the Bloods retaliated, and stabbed “da nigga” 37 times. Leaving him dead with a shank up his ass.

There aren’t any fair fights in prison either. “Anything goes” as they say. If you take a wrong step you might get gangstered by a crew of homeboyz. The prison gangs always jump people and the Mexicans are the most notorious for it. If you put it on a Mexican you better have some back because like White Shoes says, “Thirty of those little burrito-eating motherfuckers are coming for you.” La Rasa will swarm like locusts, attacking in numbers to inflict maximum damage.

Most disputes are handled quietly and decisively though, because a gang war leads to bodies and that means lockdown, which stops the flow of the crews hustles. Most killings are internal also as up and comers make power plays and attempt to knock off rivals. As long as you are assertive, handle your business, and got some back, the prison gangs will leave you alone, because they prey on the weak and unconnected. In some prisons it pays to be affiliated if that is what the custom dictates, but in the end you’ll have to make your own decision, and live or die with it.

The gangs operate on the fear principle. They know their numbers and affiliation will intimidate you. But that isn’t always the case. Sometimes a crew might get into something they can’t handle and end up getting punished.

A favorite prison maxim is “Go hard.” Some convicts live their lives following this creed. To the prison gangs these are words to die for. I knew these Dirty White Boys who thought they were the shit. They tried to lock down a wine hustle in their unit. They had most of the unit in check when this “2701b nigga”, Tank, decided he wasn’t paying no crackers for no fucking wine. He stole the Dirty White Boy’s hooch from the stash spot and dared them to do anything. It was put up or shut up time and the Dirty White Boys were going hard. They strapped up with pipes and went to apply justice, prison style. They were outclassed and chumped out though as Tank took their pipes and beat the shit out of their whole crew. The gangs depended on fear and violence, but clearly the intimidation factor was lacking here, because the Dirty White Boys ran to the cop for protection from Big Tank.

In prison most people fit into two categories, good or no-good. There are old-timers, like White Shoes, who go around and talk of nothing else, but who is good and who isn’t. They have spent so many years inside they are consumed by it. Any slight infraction like reneging on a bet or bullshitting too much can get you the no-good label. But if you carry yourself right, handle your business, keep your mouth shut, and are true to your word then you will be considered a stand-up convict. If you have been exposed or exploited without getting your respect, hang around the man too much, or go in and out of the hole all the time without showing any paperwork, you will be considered shady and fit into the no-good category. Prisoners might call you a crackhead, a whaler, a punk, or the worst, a rat. If you pick up one of these labels you are fucked, because reputations stick with you and count as much as respect. Being labeled a rat will hinder you for the rest of your time inside.

Prisoners who are on time might be called a tough guy, a stand-up con, a solid dude, or a crazy motherfucker. Real convicts are known to “keep it real.” A solid reputation will help you to be perceived as a no-nonsense guy who doesn’t fuck around. Clowning is okay, but constant goofing is frowned upon by guys doing life. Jailing the right way earns you respect and a good reputation will make predators think twice about trying you.

The biggest way to get respect is to “make your bones” by taking out a no-good motherfucker. Rats, snitches, and chumps are all fair game. But if you show up the man you get big props. This young dude, Scott, from Kentucky handled his business one day at count. The hacks were hassling him to stand-up for count and he tripped on them, cursing and spitting like a lunatic. The cops hit the deuce and bum rushed him. Tackling him as he fought like a wildcat. He ended up in the bucket four-pointed to the bed for six days. When he finally came out after 90 days hole-time he got big respect because he went hard and defied the man.

Another time this crazy ex-marine dude, Trevor, really freaked. He was in the yard getting plastered on hooch. Then on the move he said, “I’m going back and kicking the shit out of the cop in my unit.” We were all like “Yeah, right dude, go for it.” We thought he was kidding but this motherfucker was dead serious. Later when they locked the prison down we found out Trevor with his drunk, dumb-ass had gone back to his unit, waited for the cop to settle in his office and went in and beat the fuck out of him. I never saw Trevor again, but I’m sure he is serving an extra five years for assault, because the feds don’t fuck around when you attack their guards.

A lot of crazy shit happens in here but if you use your head and aren’t a shifty dude you will be okay. Basically, in prison it’s all about respecting the next man and getting that respect back. We are herded in here like cattle with no privacy, and no rights. We are subjected to strip searches, accountable to the man at every moment, shook down, and humiliated by the powers that be. The little dignity we have left is guarded fiercely and protected violently. If you stay true to yourself, treat people with respect, and carry your weight you will be alright. If you’re a fake-ass, phoney motherfucker you’re gonna get exposed or worse, by far, violated.

You have to remember, ain’t no motherfucker in here gonna help you. If you get in a beef you better fight your way out of it. And always be polite to other prisoners, because you never know how that other dude is feeling or what is going on with their life. Maybe they just lost their appeal and have twenty years to serve. Or they just found out their girlfriend is sucking mad cocks. Or their moms just died and they are looking for an excuse to flip out. If you are not careful you could end up being that excuse. And being on the receiving end of another man’s wrath can be vicious, even deadly.

And the cops don’t care one way or another. Most of them are just punching the clock. They really don’t give a fuck if you make it through the day or not. They’re not getting involved to break up any fight. This ain’t kindergarten so if you step up you better be prepared to “take it to the wall”. When you’re down and bleeding the hacks might step in, cuff you, and take you to the hole. But other than that, the pigs are staying out of the way.

In prison you gotta handle your business and keep it real. That means that you can’t hide out in your cell for your whole bit, or try to sleep away your time. You have to face the killers, thieves, cutthroats, bullies, reprobates, hoodlums, crackheads, gangsta’s, chicano’s, gangbangers, junkies, and hustlers everyday. You have to meet them on their turf and represent. You have to put yourself out there as a man who will be respected and who will die going hard. If you’re not prepared to do this then you better check into PC and be the punk that you are.

Prison is a far cry from the suburbs, but with the right mindset you can survive. You have to be strong in body, soul, and mind. With discipline and wits you can keep yourself sharp like the edge of a machete, because you want people to know that if they touch you they will bleed. The old con, White Shoes, told me once that hard men shatter, but the strong ones endure. And in prison you have to endure because only the strong survive.

Spring In Washington, DC – Our Top 10 Things To See

This isn’t your dad’s baseball stadium, the Washington Nationals play in one of the nation’s top state-of-the-art parks that make everything very convenient and memorable. The biggest feature that stands out is the digital displays used for the park’s concession stands. Orders come in faster and with less mistakes, which means less time standing in lines and more time spent watching the game.

There is no central location for this particular festival, as there are events and festivities carried out all over the city during the spring. The hues of pinks and whites fill the peripheral view, making even the grayest of paved tourist spots look happy.

Foodies unite! Truckeroo is fast food done right. Food trucks gather around every spring to show off their menus while music and entertainment kicks off the fun as you feast on new and delicious eats. There’s something for everyone here, not just fried foods and hamburgers.

Take a trip down the Potomac River to experience a great showing of Chinese arts and cultural demonstrations, culminating with the main event of competitive dragon boat races.

This spring tradition speaks for itself. Each year, tens of thousands of people converge at the White House lawn to take part in the annual egg roll, as well as games and activities for the whole family.

This is what Washing D.C. should be most known for: multi-cultural celebration. Each year in May, there is a collective “festival” that brings embassies together and teaches the public about various cultures and relations with a sampling of various arts and traditions.

There’s almost always something going on at the Smithsonian, but in the spring they dedicate the month of April to the art and heritage of Jazz. You’ll find plenty of special guests speaking and performing, it’s a must for any fan of music, let alone jazz.

Held at the Washington Convention Center, this festival holds hundreds of activities and workshops for anyone even remotely interested in science and technology. The envelope of what science and engineering can accomplish is constantly being pushed, you can get a glimpse of what the future may hold at this expo.

The oldest and most popular film festival in DC comes around every year at the end of April to bring audiences the most anticipated and newly discovered gems from around the world. Some venues are cheaper to get into than others, so don’t think it is a festival only open to the elite.

This is another must-visit place while you’re in Maryland. The famous slave who escaped slavery to become one of the most revered black scholars and activists, step into the humble home that once housed one of America’s strongest minds.

How To Hire The Best Sign Company Out There?

A business sign is the immediate identity of your company. It helps create instant awareness about your store and builds up a steady clientele. Choosing the right company to handle your business signs is a crucial task. It is of paramount importance to ensure that a sign company has everything that it takes to create and manufacture signs that will boost your business further.

Choosing the best company can be a daunting task if you don’t know where to start. This article will help you decide the best signage manufacturers in your area. If you are in the process of hunting the most deserving company, try to consider the following:

1. Manpower and Staffing

If you want an indoor or outdoor signage for your new store, you want it to be there the moment you open your business or else it is of no use. Thus, make sure that the company you’re choosing has enough staff to handle the job on time. Besides this, you also need to take a look at their skills and qualifications. Select a company with competent layout artists and graphics designers that will turn your vision for the best sign into reality.

2. Sophisticated Equipment

Monument signs speak a great deal about your business. To ensure that your business sign will be made with the highest quality, assess the facilities and equipment of the sign design company. Old fashioned printers and manual fabrication will not be enough for intricate details of your signage. Companies that use cutting edge technologies in signage making have the edge as they have more flexibility in accepting business signs regardless of materials and layouts.

3. Installation Services

For a holistic service, choose a sign company with the capability to install your brand signage anytime, anywhere. It is recommended to select a firm that offers installation services to avoid spending additional money for installing the signs. Attempting to do-it-yourself is not recommended as any damage to the signage can void its warranty.

4. Check Previous Sign Projects

It pays off to check finished products previously done by the signage company for other clients. Should you feel that the product is not up to par with your standards, continue doing your hunt until you have found the company that suits your taste to get the job done well.

Never allow a second-rate signage represent your business. To ensure that you are not taken advantage of by scam signage companies, make it a habit of taking these tips into consideration in searching for the best manufacturer in your area.

Go on a Shopping Spree in Kansas City

If you are a shopaholic, Kansas City is surely going to be a paradise for you. Kansas City is known to be loved by shoppers from around the world since the city has a unique collection of various kinds of arts and crafts, jewellery, designer collections, apparels and footwear. The first outdoor shopping mall in the US was started here and that was just a beginning of the shopping revolution. Kansas City stores are filled with varied collections for different tastes. They have numerous items that you would love to take back home as souvenirs and if you are fond of collecting world arts, this city will truly amaze you.

Where to Shop

Kansas City shopping is filled with options for every shopaholic. You can go to local boutiques, beautiful shops, departmental stores, promotional stores, discount outlets and vintage stores that offer you a traditional shopping experience. If you want to spend a day understanding the shopping culture of this locality, you must visit The Country Club Plaza. It is the entertainment hub of the city and has everything you need to shop till you drop.

From designer labels, to local favourites, awesome accessories to fashionable apparels, you will find everything you need. With over 170 shops in this huge shopping plaza, it is no surprise that this is the most loved shopping destination here.

Few other places that offer an impeccable shopping experiences include the Oak Park mall, Zona Rosa, One Nineteen Leawood, Legends Outlets, Town Centre Plaza and many more.

Availing Discounts while Shopping

If you are a shopaholic, you will surely spend more money on shopping than you should. If you want to indulge in crazy shopping, Kansas City has a variety of discount stores where you can shop at affordable prices and take home much more in a small price. The Legends Outlets in Kansas City is a renowned discount shopping destination where you can get brands like Gap, Banana Republic, Ann Taylor and many more at reduced prices.

Feed your Mind, Body and Soul

Kansas City also has a number of malls that are all-inclusive. You can spend a complete day in the mall with shopping, indulging on delicious food, pampering yourself with spas and massages and enjoying a movie as well. With so many fun-filled activities along with shopping, it is truly going to be a day filled with happiness!

Shopping here is a complete experience filled with fashion, style, design, affordability and innovation. You will take home not just many shopping bags, but also a bag full of delightful memories.

Regaining Top Shape – The Benefits of a Tummy Tuck

Sometimes, no matter how much work you put into exercising, results just aren’t showing up in the intended fashion. This can become especially true for those who are a bit older, where fat deposits tend to find a solid resting place in the abdominal area. While this sort of trouble can impact both men and women, women who have undergone pregnancies are more likely to be experiencing the true frustration that comes along with wanting to lose weight, but feeling out of control when it comes to being able to actually make it work.

The good news is that there are a few different ways to get the help needed that will make diet and exercise seem to have a greater impact. One of the most common procedures in plastic surgery these days is actually a tummy tuck, which makes it possible to remove that excess fat. In addition to getting rid of the source of the problem, a tummy tuck can actually stretch the skin in a manner where there is less of a risk of experiencing any sort of drooping or sagging. This means that weight loss won’t have the unfortunate side effect of the appearance of extra skin, which can cause both men and women to think twice about sporting bare midriffs at the beach.

Whether you’re living in San Diego or Kansas City, a tummy tuck can do wonders towards improving self-confidence and making shopping for clothing easier. Since the look of a “beer gut” or chubby belly isn’t exactly what those on the dating scene might be looking for, despite what people tend to say about being open-minded, deciding to undergo the procedure can suddenly make it considerably easier to get out there and meet the right person. For women who are happily married but whose bodies are showing the wear of childbirth, the decision to get a tummy tuck can be to feel sexy again. After all of the strain of pregnancy, any woman who feels as though something as simple as a tummy tuck could reignite the flames of passion is more than justified in the decision to do something that boosts self-confidence.

It is important, when considering a tummy tuck, to remember that if there is more weight loss in the future, waiting on the procedure might be a better idea. This way, the final results will last longer and have more of an impact. Anyone else who is convinced that this is the right step on the path to a happier relationship with one’s body will find that a tummy tuck is definitely a helpful way to get things moving in the right direction.

Types of Storage Services

There are several types of storage services at Kansas City self-storage. When we say ‘types’, we not only point at the different types of services offered by a facility but also the different types of facilities that exist in this industry. The concept of storing has undergone several changes and up gradation.

It has seen remarkable improvement that is in the favor of end users. Though the shift has been gradual, there still exist the old-fashioned units. Whether it is a modern day unit or a traditional one, self storage has several advantages. Here, we shall discuss the importance and the shift in this industry from a simple storing facility to a technologically advanced facility.

Advantages Of Kansas City Self-Storage Services

Basic unit – As the name suggests, the basic unit provides limited facilities. These units may not have technologically advanced services or adopt fancy measures for enhancing the customer’s experience. They simply provide a facility for storing your belongings and their objective is very clear. They know the purpose of the facility and offer simple storing solutions. The unit may not offer privacy or confidentiality. The owner can access your unit or shift your belongings if the need arises. The unit is maintained with a simple lock and key system.

This method of storing may not have state of the art services but has one major advantage, i.e. low rental. The monthly rental charges at such Kansas City self-storage is a small amount. The facility provider can offer lower rates because there aren’t any overhead costs involved. The units are not fancy. They are not staffed well and do not have special security measures. They may not offer protection from theft or natural calamities etc. These are some of the disadvantages of a storage unit. Therefore, if you are looking for a unit to store your not so important or valuable items then an old-fashioned basic unit is good enough.

Advanced unit – As compared to the basic unit, an advanced Kansas City self-storage unit will have several facilities. For instance, it will be equipped with armed security guards, alarm systems, CCTV cameras, bio-metric card system etc. The unit will be staffed well and offer additional customer service through phone and internet. It will be accessible throughout the day or night unlike the basic unit that can be accessed only for few hours during the day. However, all these facilities will come at a premium cost; you have to pay a higher rental for such services.

State of the art unit – The advanced units have gone one-step ahead and offer technologically advanced services. There are several such state of the art facilities at Kansas City self-storage. For instance, the climate-controlled technology is a giant leap in this industry. Temperature controlled units will maintain an optimal temperature inside the unit to safeguard your belongings from humidity or weather damage. In fact, some of them will pump in dry air at regular intervals to ensure that the unit is free of humidity. Indeed, this industry has seen a lot of innovation and development.

Top 10 Fashion Designers on Earth

The fashion world is driven by some of the most inspiring and creative designers whose designs have been appreciated by all and sundry. Check out the top 10 fashion designers in the world, who have given a new dimension to the world of fashion.

Marc Jacobs

A top-notch American fashion designer, Marc is the head designer of famous brands Marc Jacobs and Marc by Marc Jacobs. Previously, he was the creative director of French design house Louis Vuitton and his designs turned Louis Vuitton into a fashion powerhouse from a luggage firm.

Kate Spade

If you love handbags, then Kate Spade is definitely your best friend. Born in Kansas, Kate started her journey in the fashion world by designing handbags and co-founded Kate Spade Handbags along with Joel Franklin in 1993. In 1996, she was awarded America’s New Fashion Talent in Accessories, for her designs by the Council of Fashion Designers of America.

Tom Ford

Tom Ford is not just a fashion designer, but also a movie director. Tom gained prominence after turning the fortunes of Gucci from near bankruptcy. After leaving Gucci, he launched his line of menswear, eye-wear and other accessories.

Donatella Versace

A noted Italian fashion designer, Donatella took the Versace Group to new heights after the death of her brother Gianni Versace. Donatella ensured that Versace has its presence in major fashion centers around the world. Presently, she is the Vice-President as well the chief designer of the Versace Group.

Valentino Garavani

Valentino started his career in 1959 when he established his own fashion house in Rome. Valentino became famous for designing dresses for Jacqueline Kennedy and since then he has designed clothes for many famous and powerful people.

Ralph Lauren

A legendary fashion designer, Ralph is best known for the Polo Ralph Lauren clothing brand. He is credited for inventing the first polo style logo for women’s suit that was designed around the men’s classic style. This became a rage and he is one of the first fashion designers to formulate the short sleeve shirt with the polo emblem.

Giorgio Armani

Giorgio has been in the fashion world for over four decades and he is known for his clean, tailored lines. He began his career as a window dresser and later shifted his focus to menswear. Giorgio is also known for his marketing skills in the fashion world.

Betsey Johnson

A famous American designer, Betsey is known for her feminine and whimsical designs. She designed her first line of clothes way back in 1970 and they became hugely popular among rock and roll musicians. She has also forayed into designing bags, accessories and scarves.

Karl Lagerfeld

Karl is a renowned German fashion designer, whose trademark high starched collars, black glasses and white hair make him easily recognizable in the world of fashion. Karl is also a well-known artist and photographer.

Jean Paul Gaultier

A famous French fashion designer, Jean served as the creative director of Herm├Ęs from 2003 to 2010. Apart from owning several labels, Jean has also licensed a line of perfumes in association with Puig.