Vaca to LA

Parker's Prose

After I started having nightmares about people sending things on Tuesday mornings that they wanted in that week’s paper, I decided it was finally time for a vacation. I hadn’t had one since one of my cousins in Texas got married back in the fall of 2017, so it was high time for another getaway. I decided to go visit my brother, Rob, and sister-in-law, Mindy, in Los Angeles since I hadn’t gone to see them there since they moved at the end of 2015. My mom, wanting to see them too and probably worried for me since I’d never flown alone before, decided to tag along. We decided on Memorial Day weekend so we could enjoy an extra day.

Our Sioux Falls flight was set to depart on Wednesday at 5 in the morning… Ugh, I am not a morning person. We stayed in the hotel connected to the airport Tuesday night, but had trouble sleeping. On top of that, Mom had us get up at 3 in case we ran into any problems boarding the plane, but we ended up standing around waiting for the security check to open at 4. We did find out that we had TSA pre-check on our tickets, so we got to skip some of the security hassle.

We had a layover in Minneapolis before taking the four-hour flight to LA. I tried to sleep on the plane, but since I didn’t know how to tilt the seat back, I couldn’t get comfortable enough. Thus, I opted to finally read the poetry book I’d bought, written by one of my college English professors. It’s titled “Keeping Them Alive” by Christine Stewart-Nuñez. If you’re into poetry, I highly recommend it. She was recently named the next South Dakota Poet Laureate, as well!

We landed in the bustling LAX airport. The first thing I noticed when getting off the plane was that a section of the wall didn’t appear completely painted! My brother later cleared that up by stating how LAX is a small airport, but they’re so busy that they can’t ever really finish the renovations that they start. We spent the rest of the day at Rob and Mindy’s flat since we were tired from our flight. It felt five hours later than it actually was with my lack of sleep and the change in time zones! 

Rob had asked me before we left what I like to eat, so he made sure to stock up on my very particular tastes! He and Mindy asked me every time they cooked if it tasted alright. Rob joked that I was like an alien that they offered food in the hope I wouldn’t kill them! “If we wrote a movie about you, everyone would say you weren’t a believable character.” I’ll take that as a compliment! 

While we were visiting, we also watched a few things Rob helped shoot: “Fastest Car” on Netflix (the second season is coming out soon, as well, for any car enthusiasts that are interested), “Santa Girl” and “The In-Between,” which Mindy directed, co-wrote, and starred in.

On Thursday, we went to the Griffith Observatory. On the way, I was surprised that the traffic didn’t seem much worse than in Sioux Falls. Rob had said when we landed that LA was just a downtown with sprawling suburbs. I didn’t believe him at the time when we were racing down the busy freeway, but it seemed he wasn’t completely wrong, though the parking is horrible almost everywhere you go. We managed to find a spot and began the long, mile trek up the steep hill. Mom had to stop to catch her breath, and said it made her realize she was getting old! We didn’t go inside the observatory, but Mom made sure to take pictures of the view. I wasn’t keen about posing for a picture with just a stomach-high railing preventing me from plummeting several yards. Mom and Rob took one look at the picture and said I looked like I was in pain!

After that, Mom and Rob went to John Wick 3, and I stayed behind and played games with Mindy. I absolutely dominated in Hangman, to the point you’d think I was reading her mind, but she turned the tables with Uno. I’d swear she had Draw Fours stuffed up her sleeves if she didn’t have them rolled up! We had a lot of fun and a lot of laughs.

Friday, I had plans to finally meet up at Little Tokyo with my online friend, Yoru, for the first time offline. Mom later said she nearly had a panic attack when she and Rob left me there. Rob told her I do have a phone if I’m in trouble, no matter how stupid my phone may be. (I’ve been very adverse to spending hundreds of dollars on a smart phone for features I’ll rarely use.) Yoru and I had a lot of fun checking out the shops. I didn’t end up blowing too much money and just walked away with some candy and comics.

I decided to be a little adventurous for once and try out some new food while we were there, which ended in disappointment. I wasn’t a big fan of beef curry; the ice cream inside mochi ice cream was good, but the mochi (pounded sticky rice) itself wasn’t; and I would’ve liked the potato croquette had they not ruined it by baking peas and carrots inside! After venturing to the Cold Stone ice cream parlor that I’d heard her praise so much online, Yoru and I had to say our goodbyes, and Rob and Mom picked me up. The first thing Mom asked when I got in the car is if we took a picture together. Whoops… Well, at least that gives me an excuse to visit again.

Afterwards, Mom, Rob, and I (power)walked to the theater that was about 10 blocks from where they lived to see the new Aladdin live-action movie. It was nice seeing Jasmine get more character development, but I feel they could’ve explained Jafar’s motivations further (why he wanted to start a war against other kingdoms), and the fact Iago wasn’t comical anymore was a bit of a let down. 

Saturday found us at Santa Monica boardwalk/beach. We ate at Bubba Gump Shrimp, where I, of course, had a hamburger and fries. Rob and I happened upon both a Mario Kart and Luigi’s Mansion game in the boardwalk’s arcade, and we Nintendo nerds had a blast playing them! We went down to the beach to bag some sand a co-worker of Mom’s asked to bring back for her. There, I saw a seagull swoop down between too little girls and knock the hotdog right out of one of the girl’s hands! Gutsy little thief!

Sunday came, and we had lunch with Mindy’s side of the family at Lucille’s Smokehouse BBQ, where I ate the most tender steak I’ve ever had. Then, we spent the rest of the day playing board games and video games. I struggled with Mario Party (I’ve never been that great at luck-based games), but that’s okay because I got to stomp Rob in almost every other video game we played. 

With that day gone, it was already time for us to go. Rob dropped us off more than two hours early at the airport, because, again, Mom wanted to make sure we would still be on time if we ran into any difficulties. Granted, we did have a little. Mom got stopped in security because they thought she might be smuggling drugs; it was just her bag of sand. On a side note, to anyone like me without much flying experience, the snacks and non-alcoholic drinks they provide are complimentary (i.e. free), as is the TV, at least on the flights we went on. I didn’t know this going out there, but made sure to indulge on some cookies while watching “The Kid Who Would Be King” on the way back. The TV even lets you track where the plane is on a map. As we were flying over Sioux Falls, Mom texted Dad to tell him it’s too bad they couldn’t just drop us off there before continuing on to Minneapolis. Dad texted back to jump. That’s funny coming from the person I inherited my fear of heights from!

It was honestly a little distressing having to go back to work the next day, especially when I didn’t get home until 1:30 in the morning. I found myself already wondering when my next vacation would be. It goes to show that a couple days off a week is no substitute for an actual vacation, and I certainly won’t be waiting for over a year before taking another!

Okay, in response to Dee Baby’s column last week, it looks like it’s time for one of my seemingly annual letters.

I’m confused where this idea came from that illegal immigrants can apply for welfare when one of the things you need in order to apply is proof of citizenship. Perhaps people think the system is easily fooled since some of our own citizens are able to abuse it? If that’s true, shouldn’t the main concern be fixing that system to alleviate it being taken advantage of in general?

I’ve also heard the argument that illegal immigrants aren’t paying taxes. Well, let’s go through said taxes:

Property tax – this can easily be circumvented by renting, but it wouldn’t be logical to place the expectation to buy property on illegal immigrants when we don’t place this expectation on our own citizens. 

Sales tax – There’s really no way to get around this one except through EBT / Food Stamps, which I’ve already touched in the paragraph about welfare.

Income tax – Some illegal immigrants do pay income taxes by using fake social security numbers, the majority of them not receiving any income tax returns due to the system recognizing that the social security number doesn’t match the data in the system. 

As for the illegal immigrants that are paid under the table to avoid paying income taxes, I’ll play devil’s advocate and ask, why are they the ones that are blamed? There are two reasons that come to mind for why someone would hire an illegal immigrant over a U.S. citizen. 

Number one, employers can’t find any legal resident that is willing to work the more distasteful jobs. Thus, they turn to the illegal immigrants that are willing after coming from a country that has 42 percent of its population below the national poverty level. (I’m pretty sure the people from such a country aren’t able to afford having their noses in smartphones 24/7 either.) Shouldn’t you then blame our citizens that are unwilling to do those kinds of jobs and are instead content to milk welfare?

Two, the employers want to cut back on their own expenses, as illegal immigrants are usually paid less than usual. In this case, why wouldn’t you be angry at the employers for choosing avarice over providing an income to their fellow Americans?

In regards to the wall, it probably won’t come as a surprise to anyone that I’m against it. I’m with Dee; why spend that much on a wall when there are other more important things that money could be spent on? If you disagree and think border security is most important, fine. Then vote to hire more people to work as border patrol. They’re understaffed from what I’ve heard. According to an internal report by the Department of Homeland Security, the wall’s total estimated cost is 21 billion, 600 million dollars, which doesn’t even account for costs of upkeep. The border between the U.S. and Mexico is 1,989 miles. If we hired 50,000 workers, having 25 workers per mile, and paid them the average border patrol salary of about $41,000, every year it would cost 2 billion, 500 million dollars, less than a tenth of what it would take just to build the wall. Sounds much more effective to me, in cost and results.

If you’re still unsatisfied even after hearing all this, if nothing will change your mind about a wall alone being enough to deter illegal immigrants from crossing (with not enough workers to patrol the border, let alone the wall, as it is), I don’t want to hear you argue that more gun control won’t deter criminals from acquiring guns.

Tired of obstinance,

Parker Senska,


Letter to the Editor

By Parker Senska

To the conservatively-biased,

You cry fake news whenever you see fit, just like our so-called President, yet you refuse to point the finger at your own party. You cry “hypocrisy!” whenever liberals take offense, but remain silent when conservatives do the same. You take all conservatively-minded media as gospel, unwilling to do the work of educating yourself on issues, to see the flaws and smoke on BOTH sides of the spectrum. “Fox news? It’s just a little biased.” You try to seem intellectual with the response, but parrot what hard liberals would say about CNN. 

I’ve avoided the latest event in the years-long string of “he said, she saids,” knowing full well that social media has become diseased with any sort of “news” that tries to win someone to their side or get that precious “Like.” However, as my family decided to hold a shouting match on Facebook for all the world to see, to the point my boss was receiving text messages about it, I figured I should become educated on the issue so I can actually smackdown some knowledge should the need arise. I familiarized myself with both sides’ views of the issue, making sure to keep all judgements in check, before watching a minimally-biased news source, one which focuses on informing rather than giving their own opinion.

I can see both sides of the issue. Yes, children are generally separated from their felonious parents. Is illegally crossing the border an equally as steep crime? That really depends on your own values and personality. Personally, I don’t believe so. I feel it’s especially excessive after learning the amount of children that have been taken away (reportedly 2,000 children so far in the span of six weeks).

Ironically, the act itself isn’t what has made me the most livid (I’m not sure what that says about my character). The most outrageous thing to me was when the Trump Administration’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions tried to use the Bible as an excuse for this display of clear intolerance. Before the conservatively-biased minds leap up, saying it’s not intolerance, I will point out that the border authorities are not obligated to imprison the parents. They could just as easily send the entire family back to Mexico. However, as our dear President put in one of his recent barrage of tweets, he will not tolerate the “Catch and Release” system any longer. His ultimatum is build the wall (God forbid) or continue to separate children from their families. 

To the conservatives pointing the blame at the Democrats for the separation happening, the minds behind this separation tactic are using an anti-trafficking law that Democrats passed, which forbids children from being detained in immigration centers for more than 72 hours. However, from what I understand, the same rule is held within the Flores Settlement Agreement, which places restrictions on immigration authorities from holding children regardless. Do your research instead of automatically latching onto any sort of idea that leaves your side blameless.

Back to my main point, it infuriates me that someone would use Christianity, a religion that centers on love, compassion, forgiveness – all values that Jesus Christ shows and preaches on – for his own intolerant agenda. It is amazing how hypocritical some Christians can be, preaching love and kindness while spewing intolerence and hatred in the same breath. And yet these same Christians are baffled why so many people are turning away from the religion. These people see that hypocrisy. It infuriates me that people are turning away from God because of those like Jeff Sessions.

It’s cliche, but I will end this by asking, “What would Jesus do?” Do you think the same person that welcomed children, sinners, and non-Jewish people, even while others tried to deter him from doing so, would hold such malevolence in his heart to separate children from parents out of mere spite? If you said yes, then you are one of the reasons Christianity is dying out.


Parker Senska, a concerned 

Christian citizen