Share this blog...

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Is that rust?

The last couple of years have been a real eye-opener for me. As I have in turn stealthily approached, vaulted over (gingerly, of course - bad back) and looked over my shoulder (through bleary, squinted eyes) at the dramatic threshold of the age of fifty, I have noticed that my body is falling apart at a more rapid rate than I would prefer.

In the past few years I have:

Had lasik surgery to repair my failing eyes. This was a bit of a farce, as it turns out I have thin cornea. While I thought thin cornea only added to my boyish charm, apparently it makes lasik a nightmare. It did and I would rather wear a welder's mask for the rest of my life than go through that surgery again. 8 weeks of miserable recovery for mediocre results compared to the normal-cornead folks' 1-2 day recovery. I pass.

Been through physical therapy for my unreliable back, which has been known to throw me into a painful week-long lockup without warning for attempting to do nothing more strenuous than putting a fabric softener-sheet into the dryer. The stretching seems to help, but I am ever-wary that an E-Ticket to Mr. Toad's Wild Percoset Ride is just a hip-check away.

Had pieces of my skin removed, little by little, due to sun-damage. Thanks! When I grew up here in the beloved Valley of the Sun, we didn't have SPF sunblock - in fact, our sunblock was called "Coppertone" and hastened a dark and enviable tan. We played baseball outside all summer and I rarely wore a shirt. Now it's time to pay The Fiddler and he is taking his payment an ounce at a time.

Given up my ability to consume any food or drink that could be plated or poured. At some point, my iron-clad stomach, once the envy of friends and family alike has been replaced by the lilly-livered, soft-spoken, tender repository for nothing spicier than cottage cheese (room temperature, if possible). I still challenge this new, highly-calibrated stomach at every opportunity, but am inevitably slapped down by its milquetoast disposition and sent to have a seat while it clears its figurative table. I am ashamed.

Spent the night cursing a toothache. Yes, even my storied brilliant ever-whites have felt the ravages of time. My sterling smile and flawless overbite have succumbed to decades of chewing, brushing, flossing and grinning for the cameras and have become brittle and in need of a good shoring-up. Like the foundations of a beautiful bridge, my teeth are in need of an overhaul, with expensive repair work looming on the horizon. I watched a documentary on Joe Willie Namath the other day and was mesmerized by his dazzling white smile, embedded like an ivory bear-trap in his wrinkled, leathery face. Thought to myself Maybe a good whitening is in order as well - it will draw attention away from the bags under my eyes and the half an ear I'm going to have after the next visit to the skin doctor...

Gone on high-blood pressure medication. I can blame this on poor genetics, as the same side of the familial gene-pool that blessed me with the fair, melanomamagnetic skin, receding hairline and propensity toward obesity also saddled me with the likelihood of heart disease and high blood-pressure. Of course, my cocksure, patronizing physician told me that if I lost thirty pounds, I would most likely be able to forego the medication. I am nearly tempted to lose the weight, so I might not only be able to stop with the meds, but also punch him in his condescending mouth and have a decent chance of holding my own in the ensuing brouhaha.

So, we may feel young at heart as we grow gracefully, if not painlessly old, but most likely it is because we have the proper heart medication. Take it as it comes, I say, and enjoy what you have while you can, for it's only a matter of time before the nuts and bolts start to get loose and the rust begins to form.

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Trials of Walt-O the Clown (an excerpt from the novel-in-progress "Killing Tom")

Walter stared into the mirror as he sat in the Ford Probe in the dusty field next to the parking lot of the Frys, where the carnival had set up for the week, putting the finishing touches on his Walt-O face. He had chosen a “happy clown” face, with a broad white swath of greasepaint across his mouth in the shape of a giant smile. Black around the eyes, lips ruby red. And little teeny arching eyebrows. Walter smiled, then banged his knee on the steering wheel reaching for the green fright wig in the passenger seat. “Fuck,” he muttered, rubbing his knee. It would have been much easier to prepare at the house, he thought. But after all, he had promised Jack that he wouldn’t bring the costume inside. So, until he figured out a better place to prepare, he would have to make do with the Probe as his mobile dressing room.

Walter puffed his cigarette with his huge, ruby-red smile and squinted into the mirror as he made certain the wig was on straight. He made a final inspection and waggled his little eyebrows a couple of times to see if it would be funny for the kids. He took a swallow out of the flask and tucked it into the pocket of the shirt he wore under the clown suit, just behind the giant plastic daisy.

Walter stumbled out of the car in his big slap-shoes, flicked the cigarette into the dusty field and made his way toward the area where he had been assigned, next to the Tilt-a-Whirl. Walter belched and breathed deeply. He loved the smells of the carnival – the roasting peanuts and Indian Fried Bread. He could smell the cotton candy and the hot dogs. Now a new dimension had been added to the carnival smells: Greasepaint. The thought made Walter smile. He was a carnie.

“Hey, it’s a clown!” A little boy shouted. Walter turned to see where the clown was and realized that the boy was looking at him. Walter grew suddenly nervous and felt sweat running down the side of his face. He was nowhere near the Tilt-a-Whirl – he wondered what he was supposed to do when accosted by inquiring youth. This had not been covered when he had gone to the meeting before the carnival opened. He was to set up near the Tilt-a-Whirl and make balloon animals for the kids – that was it. He wasn’t supposed to talk too much – something about lawsuits and impropriety.

So Walter smiled at the boy, then turned and quickened his pace. “Hey, Clown!” the boy shouted. “Clown! Clown!” He heard the sound of the boy’s footsteps as he ran behind Walter, trying to keep up.

“Phillip!” A woman’s voice called out, presumably to the boy. Good, Walter thought. Maybe she’ll shut him up and let me get to work. “Leave the clown alone…”

“I want to see the clown, Mommy!” The boy began to cry. He couldn’t be more than five or six, Walter thought – though Walter was not a good judge of age. He had once been slapped in a bar for judging a woman to be approximately forty two years older than her actual age. Age baffled Walter. He continued to try and speed up his pace, but the Goddamned slap-shoes seemed a bit ungainly. That and the Percocet. And the Scotch, probably.

“Excuse me…” The woman raised her voice to Walter. “Can’t you take a minute to talk to my son?” The boy had began to wail. His disappointment was loud and non-stop.

Walter stopped and turned back to the woman, who was looking more angry than imploring. “I need to get to the Tilt-a-Whirl,” Walt-O stammered, his lips turning into a shaky smile.

“Seriously,” the woman said, gathering the bawling child into her arms and making her way toward the sweaty clown, who now realized he had to piss like a racehorse. “Is that any way to act toward a child?”

Walter shrugged. “I don’t know…” Walter saw the woman’s eyes narrow in anger. “No?” he asked.

“Most certainly not.” She approached Walter and the child’s screaming began to give way to a more subdued hitching and low-volume sobbing. “You should have the common decency to amuse the children – that’s what they pay you for, isn’t it?”

Walter began to feel uncomfortable with the woman’s tone. She was starting to build up a head of brow-beating steam and this coupled with Walter’s increasing need to urinate was making him sweat even more. “They pay me to stand by the Tilt-a-Whirl and make balloon animals is what they pay me to do,” Walt-O answered, his tone bordering on indignant.

The woman stood in front of Walter holding the child, who stared at Walter’s make up and bright red clown-smile in open-mouthed awe. “You shouldn’t take that tone with your customers – what kind of clown are you?”

“I’m a happy clown,” Walter answered. A crowd had begun to form around Walter and the woman and her teary child. The boy had quieted down, but the woman’s voice had risen in anger and Walter glanced around him, feeling the sweat run down his face in streams. He had no idea that the makeup would make him sweat so fiercely.

“You’re a happy clown…” The woman mocked Walter and some of the gathering bystanders chuckled. “You seem like a rude clown to me – making a child cry like that.”

“I didn’t make him cry,” Walter blurted out. “He started crying all on his own. I was just trying to make it to the Tilt-a-Whirl, for Christ’s sake!”

The woman’s jaw dropped and her eyes widened. The boy began to sob again when Walter raised his voice and Walter had a feeling that the sobbing was going to escalate into another full-blown fit of caterwauling. “What?” Walter asked with a shrug, noticing the woman’s apparent disbelief.

“What kind of language is that for a clown to use at a carnival?” The woman began to rock the boy in her arms in attempt to calm him. Walter’s eyes followed the bouncing child.

“Language?” Walter asked. “What language?”

“’For Christ’s sake’?,” the woman said.

“What?” Walter was confused. He wiped his sweaty face with his sleeve and came away with a swath of white and red greasepaint. He desperately wished he could get away from this lady and piss and have a drink and fold some fucking balloon animals. “Listen lady,” he said. “I don’t know why you’re all butt-hurt with me, but I didn’t do a Goddamned thing to your fucking kid, so I would appreciate it if you got off my back about it.”

“MY FUCKING KID?” The lady yelled and the crowd laughed some more. Walter glanced at them, hoping his irritability showed through his makeup job, which was now probably hopelessly ruined. “MY FUCKING KID?” She repeated it as if she expected Walter to confirm that this was truly what he had said.

“Yes, your fucking kid,” Walter answered. He yanked off his fright wig and used it to wipe more sweat off his face. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to pee and I’ve heard that urine will stain this material,” Walter said, indicating his puffy green clown-pants.

The bystanders laughed and a few applauded and Walter turned away from the lady and started back toward his car, fairly certain that his career as Walt-O, the Balloon-Folding Clown was coming to a premature and tragic end. He began to tug at the Velcro strips that held the costume in place, hoping that shedding himself of the awful costume might help stem the flow of perspiration that was running down his face and his sides under his arms.

The woman hit him from behind, like a linebacker, knocking Walter to the ground with a vicious scream that sent her little boy into a fit of screaming that rivaled his earlier tantrum. “Goddamn, you people can scream,” Walter gasped, trying to roll over onto his back under the hail of blows the woman was administering with her fists. She had knocked the wind out of him and was shouting at him as she threw punches at his face, which Walter mostly covered with her arms.

“You son of a bitch!” She screamed. “How dare you talk to me that way…Fucking asshole…” THUMP… THUMP…

“Ouch,” Walter cried as she struck him on the ear. Although he outweighed her by a hundred pounds, Walter seemed helpless as the little woman continued her assault.

“Enough, Lady!” Walter pleaded. “Fuck’s sake, get off of me!”
Finally, Walter raised his arm and slapped the lady on the side of the head, which knocked her off his chest and sent her sprawling into the dusty midway. The little boy ran screaming to his mother, who got to her feet slowly, apparently winded by her attack and stunned by the blow.

Walter struggled to his hands and knees and was rising to his feet when two sets of hands grabbed him by the sweaty armpits and raised him to his feet. “Please put your hands behind your back,” the officer on his left said sternly. “You are under arrest.” Walter glanced at the two officers who had helped him up, then glanced down and his costume and noticed his crotch was muddy. Apparently, he had wet himself in the commotion and rolling around in the dirt had gotten him all piss-muddy. “Dang it,” Walter said, putting his hands behind his back.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

LSD - It's What's For Lunch... (An excerpt from "A Bunny Screaming")

I received the following message regarding my blog about fire ants: "Remind you to tell you about when I laid in the middle of a bed of red ants while photographing friends skydiving.. while I was on acid..." Now, the first sentence was intriguing - the second sentence catapaulted the statement to the level of "Classic - Genius".

Not that I have ever taken acid - I want to be on the record about that - however, I did write an amusing ancecdote that might have happened to someone else. Or it could be pure fiction. Or someone might have spiked someone's kamikaze, in which case, the acid would have been taken accidentally... Who knows, really? Enjoy...

We had procured some of the “dreaded Lysergic”—as George Harrison had referred to the drug—from a friend and deemed a sunny spring afternoon as the perfect time to enjoy a leisurely trip through the blue skies of psychedelia in suburban Scottsdale.

We took our tabs at lunch at the Red Robin at Los Arcos Mall and drank a couple of beers along with a couple of Finlandian Kamikazes, fetched up by our professional bartender, Forrest. Once we felt the tugging of the magic Lysergic, we left the Robin and wandered through the mall to the video arcade that abutted the Los Arcos Theater (where I had spent much of many of my summers in the sumptuous air conditioning, sitting through an afternoon’s worth of screenings of whatever double-feature happened to be gracing the screen, such as “The Poseidon Adventure”, playing with “Beneath the Planet of the Apes”—seen five times that summer, thank you).

We roamed the arcade, marveling at the visions on the screens of the games that lined the walls. We didn’t spend a penny and laughed and hooted and cried at the spectacular visions of the Lady Pac Man eating the docile, magnificently-colored dots that littered the screen in her path. Finally, the paranoia of being on an acid trip in a video arcade coupled with a man brandishing a nametag who suddenly saw fit to loom around every machine where we attempted to settle in for more marvelous animated glory made it uncomfortable to remain in the arcade. “I need space, man,” I said, not even realizing that I had used the word “man”, just like the hippies of a generation earlier—apparently, acid was the great equalizer

“Yeah,” Taggart agreed. “That dude with the horns and the purple forked tongue is kind of freaking me out…”

I glanced at the lurking name-tagged man, just in time to see his purple forked tongue shoot back between his sneering lips. “Sure,” I agreed. “Should we kill him before we go?”

Taggart considered this for a moment. “No, he’s harmless, I think—we are in no condition to make judgment otherwise…”

We walked out of the arcade and into the bright sunlight outside, which seemed to explode in ultra-vivid showers of red and gold. “It’s a nice day,” I smiled to the sun, which mumbled to me in what I could only figure was an ancient Aztec tongue as it attempted to scoop me into its glorious rays and carry my willing body to the heavens. I spread my arms for the flight.

“Yes,” Taggart said. “We need to keep moving…”

I frowned. “Are you sure?”

Taggart raised a hand and for a moment we both stared at its outline against the raining red and gold sunbursts. “Don’t question me,” he said. “We linger, we never come back…”

I nodded and brought my arms down to my side in a sweep of swirling, glittering afternoon gossamer. I smiled to the sun. “Maybe later…”

“Yes,” Taggart agreed. “Maybe later.

Just then, a voice called out. “Taggart!” We turned to face the sound, uncertain if a swift, bloody battle would be required, or simply evasion by particle dissemination.

“Fuck,” Taggart muttered. “It’s Jim and Tammy…”

“Make them go away,” I said, near panic.

Taggart nodded to me, his eyes spinning like colorful pinwheels, then turned to the intruders with a kind wave. “Hi!”

“What are you two doing?” Jim asked, a smile on his face. He was a classmate of ours, a year older than me—the same year as Taggart, and president of their graduating class. I liked him, practically idolized him—it would be a pity to have to eat his face.

“Nothing,” Taggart said. His smile twitched slightly and then in my mind continued to twitch over and over, like the needle of a phonograph hitting the end of the grooves again and again—to eternity. I wondered if Jim noticed. “Why?” Taggart asked, paranoia creeping into his voice in the form of a visible bluish shadow that hovered in the air above his head.

“We’re going to a movie,” Tammy said. She had been a cheerleader in high-school and she and Jim had been the dream couple of the decade. Rumor also had it that she had had more abortions before graduation than most of us had performed the act of sex, thanks to the combination of her uncanny fertility and Jim’s incredibly aggressive, Type-A spermatozoa. “Do you guys want to come?”

Taggart and I burst into laughter. Did we want to come? Was that some sort of joke? My mind shuddered at the thought of her great gigantic, fertile womb hungrily gobbling up all ejaculate within a six-mile radius. “No,” Taggart managed. “No, thank you….”

I smiled best I could and it felt as if I were stretching moleskin over a drumhead. “No… No thanks,” I reiterated and squealed a bit as their faces turned red and began to swell with boils that burst and left trails of puss on their ruddy cheeks.

“Are you okay?” Jim asked, staring at me with concern.

“Yep,” I said. “Aces, man…” I pulled at Taggart’s shirt, which snapped back at me with little, needle-sharp teeth. “We gotta go…”

“I know,” he said to me, panic creeping into his voice. He turned and waved at Tammy and Jim. “See ya!”

We ran away from the mall and I could still smell Tammy’s ravenous, insatiable womb sniffing the air for ejaculate and suddenly felt sorrier for Jim than anyone in the entire world. “Poor bastard,” I yelled to Taggart as we ran. “Yeah, imagine all those bats!” He shrieked with a gust of laughter. I giggled along with him as we made our way out of the parking lot onto the sidewalk, where we slowed to a walk.

“That was close,” Taggart said.

“Yeah,” I said, trying to concentrate on moving the flippers that had at some point replaced my feet in a normal walking motion. The flippers were stiff—apparently I hadn’t had to use them in a while.

“I used to live over here,” Taggart pointed. We wandered that way, my flippers growing more comfortable with the movement as we walked. My third and fourth arms were having no such luck, struggling with the shirt I had chosen to wear that only had two sleeves. We walked around South Scottsdale for a couple of hours, trading stories of our youth and sexual conquests, while weathering the Lysergic Storm best we could.

Eventually, we ended up at Eldorado Park at dusk and lay on the ground by the marshy lake where the birds lighted for the night in the reeds. Great, swirling black rivers of birds flew overhead and twisted and turned in the currents of the evening air, before landing in the reeds, forcing others to take to the air in sweeping flurries that continued downstream along the streams of the greenbelt to more hospitable quarters.

“It looks like a big, black river in the sky…” I said, marveling at the movement, as if one, of the birds that flew above us.

“Yeah, huh—freaky…” I noticed Taggart had bird shit on his shirt. I decided to say nothing in the hopes that the giant green worms that were crawling up his legs toward his torso just might eat the shit and be done with it.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Fire Ants - Little Alien Invaders

I am notoriously suspicious of nature. I have no love for the sea or the creatures which inhabit it - they are no more than vicious schools of predatory underwater fiends in my eyes. I have little more trust in the animals which walk the land side by side with we humans. Monkeys are not trustworthy, elephants will stomp a man and a healthy variety of reptiles, insects and winged creatures are inevitably ready to pick us apart when we drop.

I saw a program on the television - one of the nature channels that I try to avoid, for obvious reasons of irrational paranoia - about the killer bees from Africa that some dumbass brought back to the Americas because they made the most delectible honey. They were also gentically disposed to protect themselves against the heat of the African desert and the Goddamn honey badger that Randall is so crazy about. This made the bees not only the makers of delectible honey, but tireless workaholics with a leaning toward the aggressive.

So, eventually, these surly little striped, flying minions of Satan were winging their way across the American continent and have now become an integral part of our eco-system and my inner-most fear-center. I trust bees slightly less than alligators.

But I am not writing about bees this evening.

After the bee-documentary, there was a show about the Goddamned fire-ants. This is why I avoid the animal channels. I once got sucked into an afternoon of the show "Fatal Attractions", which I thought might provide me a glimpse of Glenn Close without her top on and turned out to be a program about simpletons who hoarded various deadly beasts and were eventually mauled and eaten by their "pets". Nightmares for weeks. Anyhow, these fire ants are another of God's Deadly Juggernauts, created to simply destroy anything in their path, for the betterment of the queen. Kind of like Victorian Great Britain when it came to sexuality, ideals and common sense. But I digress.

I was appalled to learn that these little bastards will ravage farms, animals or whatever the hell gets in their way. You can't even drown them with flooding - they will band together and form their own little deadly ant-raft and float until they come to a safer harbor - which they will in turn ravage. I had the unfortunate luck to watch that stiff Keanu Reeves in the ill-advised remake of "The Day the Earth Stood Still" and all I could think of was the alien dust-cloud that disentigrated everything in it touched.

Which led me to think: Ants are from another planet, sent to destroy mankind - they just happen to be too small, so it's gonna take awhile... It makes sense - I've seen the shows - we've been visited, probably colonized and definitely anal-probed by alien life much smarter and more advanced and kinkier than us. We always point to ancient wall-carvings and heiroglyphics showing people in rockets, wearing space-suits and stuff. Who's to say they didn't drop off a couple of barrels of fire ants (and killer bees and honey badgers, while they were at it) to bring on The End of Days? Crop circles: created by super-intelligent ant-armies. Stonehenge - super-strong ant-slaves, aided by killer honey bees.

It all makes sense. I think the aliens just made one mistake - when they were looking at taking over our planet and harvesting their insect-forces, they got the math wrong and simply made them too small. What should have been accomplished in about three weeks with eight-foot long fire-ants has thus far taken a couple of hundred years, with another couple of hundred years of good solid effort to come on the part of the ants and the bees and the badgers.

When I am King, we shall immediately institute a Fire-Ant/Killer Bee/Honey Badger Plan, which will include much fire. This is our only hope. Trust me on this one. Don't go with the dumbass who says the good will be lifted to heaven via Rapture, go instead with King Jerry, who will save the world from the Alien Insect Invasion.

Vote Jerry for King in the upcoming election. It's a write-in vote, but it's worth the lead.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Music - The Skinny

I've been on kind of a musio-kick. As if there has ever been a time when music didn't influence my moods, my choices and my willingness to shed tears without reason... I have listened to and sang and written music for as long as I can remember and cannot recall a time when I didn't have a musical instrument within arm's reach. I have used the medium of song to convey my love and my sorrows, my loneliness and my fleeting wistful moments. That said, I have been thinking more about music lately, and the way it makes me think and feel.

I have a very visceral connection with music. I can not only hear it, I can feel it and taste it - sometimes I can smell it, if it's really good - but I think the strongest connection I have with music is with my memories. A song can bring back a particular moment in time - good, or bad - the opening chords of a particular tune can make the hair stand up on the back of my neck and likewise, make me run for cover.

I remember when I received the Beatles "Let it be" album for Christmas when I was ten years-old and playing it until I wore it out. The opening strains of "Two of Us" still takes me back to that winter every time I hear them played. Certain songs - "Every Day I Write the Books" by Elvis Costello, "I'll Remember You" by Elvis Presley and "Everytime You Go Away" by Hall and Oates all transport me to a different time and place and never fail to bring a smile to my face.

I think we should all pay a little more attention to our music, be it Fallout Boy, Britney Spears or Led Zeppelin, and realize the impact it will eventually have on the big picture. As the movie or our life unfolds and the plot-points take us into unexpected hinterlands, sometimes the magic of the music will be all we have to help us keep the sexton of our story focused on the good and pure.

Keep your memories sacred and keep your songs close by - you never know when you might need them.

Monday, January 23, 2012

"Where are the kids?" An Excerpt from "A Bunny Screaming"

On a trip to West Virginia from Ohio, when I was eight or nine, my sister and I were asleep in the backseat of the Pontiac under a pile of blankets and pillows when my parents pulled into a roadside diner for a bite to eat and perhaps a drink. Rather than wake us kids, they opted just to go on in and have a quick one and get back on the road. After all, it was cold and snowy and getting the kids up and dressed and in and all that would be a huge pain in the ass.

My sister woke up a short time later. “I need to pee,”she said. “Alright,” I muttered. “Get your shoes on—and your coat…” She did and we got out of the car and walked into the diner to find Mom, Dad, and the bathroom.

The layout of the diner was an odd one. There were two doors to enter and exit the establishment, one on the North front of the building, and the other on the South front, near the bar. The North entrance got you to the restaurant half of the diner, where the sit-down patrons relaxed over their meals. The South entrance ushered you into the saloon portion of the establishment, where one could sidle up to the bar and enjoy liquid libations.

My guess is, looking back, that my parents must have opted for the libations, because at the very moment my sister and myself entered the restaurant, my parents were leaving the bar. By the time I wandered into the saloon with my sister in-tow, my parents were already in the car.

Piled blankets and pillows must have looked sufficiently childlike and peaceful to assure my folks that everything was golden, because they proceeded to back out of the parking lot. I ran out into the night just in time to see the brake lights of the Pontiac as they swung out onto route 53, toward Fairmont.

I awoke in a cold sweat, dreaming of the brake lights shining through the snow flurry, carrying my parents to the warmth and comfort of my grandmother’s house. My mouth was dry, my head was still pounding and I was late enough for work to officially be considered a no-call/no-show.

I recalled the brouhaha that followed our abandonment at the roadside diner. At eight, the only phone number that I could recall, other than my own, was, oddly enough, that of my uncle, who also lived in Sterling, Ohio. I certainly had no way of knowing my grandmother’s number—which was the target destination for the now-speeding Pontiac.

So, I called my uncle, and just over an hour later, my sister and I were tucked into bed at the house of my uncle, warm, dry and safe.


As the Pontiac pulls to the curb in front of Grandma’s house, Father kills the motor and opens the car door. He attempts to roust the children.

Come on, Kids, wake up, Goddamn it.

Father warms his hands and waits for the children to stir. Mother gathers her things.

Jerry, God damn it!

Father reaches into the back seat and rustles the blankets. The rustling becomes a bit more frantic when he discovers that there are no children under the blankets.

The kids—God damn it!

Mother looks into the backseat and then into Father’s ashen face. She screams. Her shriek echoes in the night and we can see the terror on her face as we:


To my father’s credit, he was not one to give up on a project once he started. He approached this issue as he approached all issues: with the single-minded stubbornness of a half-witted pit-bull. Dad yelled at my mother: “Get back in the God damned car!” and got back in the God damned car himself and turned the vehicle around. By the time they reached the diner, some two and a half hours later (Dad had made up a little time on the lonely, icy mountain roads), he had figured out where he must have left the kids.

He burst into the diner—the saloon side—and ran to the bar. “I leave my God-damned kids here?”

The bartender smiled. “Sure did—their uncle came to pick them up a few hours ago—they’re fine.”

It took Dad a moment to process this information. “Uncle? What’s that?”
“Yeah, the little fellow knew his uncle’s phone number, so we called. Didn’t want the kids to sit here, scared all night…”

“No, of course not…” Dad looked at his watch. He ran out of the bar.

My mother stood in the parking lot by the car, sobbing quietly, as she had been since they left my grandmother’s. “Where are the kids?”

Dad threw the car door open. “GET IN THE GOD DAMNED CAR.”

Mother shrieked again and got in the God damned car.

My father never stopped driving. He drove from the diner to Sterling, where he picked up his kids; nearly coming to blows with my uncle, then drove straight through to Fairmont, where we arrived, some four hours later. There was not much conversation in the car. Mom was pissed at Dad for the way he had acted at my uncle’s house and for the way he was driving on the slick mountain roads and Dad was pissed at Mom for the entire affair, it somehow being her fault that my sister had needed to pee. And in a certain part of my mind, I was thrilled that Dad had come for us, pissed or not. He hadn’t allowed us to be abandoned and had done what it took to retrieve us and set the stars, the snow and the winding mountain roads right again.

Friday, January 20, 2012

This Week's News - Desperate Times

I was skimming the news and saw a story that caught my eye - as most stories featuring women who are offering sex for something tend to do. This one was about a lady who was loitering by a McDonalds drive-thru, offering up sex for McNuggets. What?! First of all, how many orders of McNuggets would you have to order to get the sex? I'm sure you would want to order enough McNuggets that it would take the McDonalds at least fifteen minutes to prepare. Ten, if you were going to be late getting back to work. Secondly, where the hell am I when the women are hanging out offering sex for McNuggets? I'm no philanderer, by any stretch of the imagination - not a successful philanderer, anyhow - but I do appreciate the value of a bargain. Next time, it might make more sense to advertise a little bit - it would no-doubt benefit not only the lady looking to satisfy her McNugget-jones and the lucky eatery, but also those who appreciate the value of a bargain. Just sayin'.

Another story told of a woman who - shocker - offered up herself for sex to pay off a pawn debt. And her daughter - she offered up her daughter, too. What must she have pawned? I asked myself. That was so valuable that she would offer up this perverted menage-a-tois? A diamond tierra? A 1929 Rolls Royce Phantom once owned by Marlene Dietrich? The secret to cold nuclear fusion? A bust of Kitty Carlisle cast in solid gold? I read on. It turned out that she had pawned a laptop and needed to make a twenty-five dollar payment to keep it off the shelves. Oh, and her daughter was only nine years-old. Oops. A prediction from yours-truly that you can take to the bank: This will end poorly.

I was completely unaware that sex had become such a cheap commodity. Why, back in the day, it was a distant, beautiful treasure that was earned, usually through dogged diligence and money well-spent on dinner, movies, cheap liquor and condoms. Should one skimp on one or more of these time-tested ingredients for sexual conquest, one would most likely do without, having disrupted the delicate conquest-balance. A witty repartee and a nice cologne didn't hurt. And once sex with the object of one's desires had been obtained, one usually kept paying and paying - not just in dollars and cents, but in hours, days and months trying to figure a means of escape from the relationship through trickery, divorce or by following the nearly flawless FBI blueprint for witness-protection programs. Yes, it was an expensive proposition indeed. But after all, the conquest was the thing.

Now, the conquest is worth nothing more than a bag of greasy, deep-fried chicken-paste. Such are the times we live in. Granted, I will be perusing the flyers in this weekend's Sunday papers for McDonald's coupons and keeping my eye out for clever advertisements regarding "Back Seat Carwash" specials and "Cut-Rate McMUFFins".

The conquest is the thing, and these are indeed desperate times. And I certainly appreciate the value of a bargain.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Hollywoodland Sign

I think I have taken the Hollywood Sign for granted. I guess seeing the giant white letters staggered across a Los Angeles mountaintop in movies and on TV over the course of my entire life, it was as much a part of my mind's landscape as the Statue of Liberty or the Eiffel Tower.

I don't know what triggered my search for information about the sign on the internet - probably a 6th-generation gully-leap from researching my Burt Lancaster man-crush, or the fact that a head in a bag had been found near the sign. Most likely the first, but I will claim the latter. Whatever the reason, I wound up finding a photo of the famous LA landmark falling to pieces. Probably a still photo from the movie "Earthquake", I thought. However, further research determined that this was not the case. Apparently, in the mid-to-late 1970's, the sign was in such disrepair that the city contemplated tearing the eyesore down for good.

Ah, it must have been a simpler time when a group of miserly curmudgeons would actually contemplate tearing down a big fancy sign so readily identified with their city. It would be like tearing down the Sands Hotel in Vegas, rich with all its Rat-Pack history, in the name of short term progress. That would never happen. We care too much about history...

Once, the sign sat high on the hill as an advertisement for a real-estate development called "Hollywoodland" and was lit by 40,000 lightbulbs. A caretaker was even hired to maintain the sign - mostly replacing bulbs.

The Hollywoodland sign - fancy house.

Problems keeping the sign in good repair sprung up even in the early days. Once, the "H" fell down - some accounts have it being blown down by the wind, others have it being knocked down by the caretaker's car. I like to think it was the caretaker's car, preferably driven by an intoxicated caretaker.


Anyhow, in the late 70's, Hugh Hefner launched a campaign to raise funds for the sign's restoration. Hugh himself threw in a couple hundred thousand in skin-cash, Alice Cooper funded the "O", in an homage to Groucho Marx - and Paul Williams paid for the restoration of the "W".

By the time I made my first pilgrimage to Hollywood in 1979, to interview Buster Keaton's widow and have one of the worst sandwiches of my life, the sign was already restored and it welcomed me to the city, as it had countless others over its long history. Seeing it in the distance gave me a visceral thrill. I was in the land of cool - the center of the motion picture universe. I half-expected to see Bob Hope sauntering down the street, cracking wise to passersby.

I can't imagine a Hollywood without the giant sign watching over the town reminding us of its history, silently guarding its secrets. Maybe someday someone will design a newer, hipper sign and they will tear the iconic landmark down and replace it with the snazzier version. But that would be crazy. That would be like tearing down Yankee Stadium to put in a modernized ballpark - crazy.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Note to the Facilities Department of the Anonymous Fortune 500 Company

To Whom it May Concern,

I was forced to drink from the water fountain today at the **** location and wanted to bring an interesting discovery to your attention. Perhaps "forced" is too strong a word - after all, no one held a gun to my head or threatened to beat me up if I didn't drink from the fountain. It was my own laziness, which seems to grow more intense with every passing year. It may be an Irish thing, or perhaps just an unfortunately strong cog in my DNA. Either way, I do not hold you or anyone else responsible for my drinking of the fountain, when it is obviously a clear and standard option to simply gather up my water bottle and walk to the cafeteria, where I am welcome and encouraged to fill the bottle with ice and presumably filtered water.

Which I normally do.

Today, however, whether I was pressed for time or simply bowing to the growing laziness that is beginning to cover me like a burial shroud, I stopped on the way to my destination and sipped from the fountain. I was surprised to find, after pulling a "Danny Thomas" and spritzing the water from my mouth like a garden hose with perfect, beautiful lips, that the water tasted like it had been shunted into the building from a golf course lake or the runoff from a garbage-dump.

Golf course lakes are the worst, having eagerly consumed over the years, scores of my golfballs (on which I always take the time to draw on a caricature of a cock'n'balls with a sharpie, for the amusement and delight of those who may find the balls after one of my many errant shots), a couple of my golf clubs and a poorly thrown full can of Bud Light, which was tossed well out of my reach and into a muddy pond.

A cock'n'balls, similar to the one I draw on my golf balls.

The worst golf-course lake experience I had was when my twin daughters were toddlers and we were vacationing on Hilton Head Island. Taking the girls for a walk, I came across a crocodile (or an alligator - I can't tell the difference, especially when I am working myself in a panic and begininning to hyperventilate, as I was that fine Hilton Headian morning) that was over 8-feet long. I don't want to go into details, but as I hurried my daughters along, I had to consider which one I would leave behind for the croc, should it decide to pursue me and my family. It would have been a difficult decision, of course, and I would have been sad, but I am a problem-solver by nature and if I had needed to give up one to save the other and myself, well - at least I would still be alive to sire her replacement.

Logan and Allison the weekend of the Crocodile encounter... Who would have to go?

But that's not why I'm writing today.

I was wondering if it would be possible to have a filtration device installed on the water coolers around the building? I know this would be costly, but perhaps we could sell the shuffleboard table in the cafeteria (where the tasty water lives) - it does not sit level and the pucks are all chipped up, presumably by those who do not play the game well and think it the fault of the pucks and not the angle at which the table is listing.

We could also sell the ping-pong table that is in one of the stadiums. After all, the other stadia do not have tables and I think it's unfair to allow only that select group to hone their ping-pong skills and not the others. It can only lead to friction later.

If you think that it is still too costly or not feasable to install filters, perhaps we can repurpose the fountains into coi-ponds or ornamental fountainry, in which passersby can toss coins and make wishes. If enough coins are collected, we can add this to the Filtration Fund, which we can start with seed money from the sale of the ping-pong table and shuffleboard.

If nothing else, maybe we can put a warning sign like this above the fountains so that no one gets sick or spits the water all over their shirt like I did:

As always, if there is anything I can do to assist, please do not hesitate to let me know.

The area code for Atlanta is 678, in case you need it.


Best regards,

Jerry Ford

The Eastland Disaster - Another Reason To Vacation On Land

I wrote yesterday about the Italian Cruise Ship Tragedy, which was indeed a tragedy, plain and simple – and for which the cowardly Captain of the vessel needs to be hung by his feet and hit with a stick, multiple times, by a stout citizenry. Just my opinion, of course, but to me a dozen dead and two dozen dead are three dozen too many, especially when the disaster was so unnecessary. It seems that the Captain was not only cowardly, but also neglectful and prideful, all of which add up to the disaster at hand. Or a really bad meal at Benihana.

This whole situation set me off into internet-hell, bouncing from historic disaster to disaster, reading about the Great Molasses Flood of 1919 and the Beer Flood of 1814, which cost 9 souls their lives – 8 from drowning, one of alcohol poisoning, which made me smile and sent me off in yet another internet direction, researching to find whether or not I had any ancestors in the area at the time and the over and under on whether I was related to the single soul lost to alcohol poisoning.

The disaster that truly caught my eye, however, was the sinking of the SS Eastland in the Chicago River in 1915. A tour ship, this vessel capsized and took over 800 lives in less than twenty-five feet of water. I remembered reading a riverside plaque about the tragedy when wandering the streets of Chicago back in the latter part of the 1990’s and looking into the murky waters and marveling over just how narrow the waterway was. The idea of a great vessel tipping over, just feet from shore and stealing over 800 lives was inconceivable. Heck, I thought, even if a boat tipped over into the water, I would simply swim to the shore.

I moved on down the river, in more respects than one, leaving the disaster of the SS Eastland behind me to manufacture equally tragic disasters of my own in the names of the SS Mrs. Ford I and the SS Mrs. Ford II. Sure, no lives were sacrificed in these historic dramas, but many souls were damaged beyond repair and some still struggle mightily with their dark undertow. Not me, but then again, I am a man without conscience.

It wasn’t until today that I revisited the facts of the Eastland Tragedy and read through the facts of the tragic mishap. The SS Eastland was a ship designed for the shipping of materials that had been re-fitted as a cruise liner for the Great Lake of Michigan. It had been commissioned on this June morning, to transport some 800 workers of the Western Electric Company from Chicago to a picnic set up in Michigan, just across the lake.

The ship welcomed its passengers (numbering some 2500) and by 7AM was ready to disembark. The vessel, however, was unstable by nature and prone to listing and had recently made alterations to accommodate national regulations for lifeboat-capacity, thanks to the recent Titanic Disaster, and as a result had become extremely top-heavy. When the masses on the top-decks rushed to wave goodbye to their land-locked well-wishers, the ship began to list to the side. Engineers aboard began to fill the ballast tanks to compensate as dancers on the below-decks ignored the pitch of the dance floor. When the revelers realized that the ship was tilting, the dancers – as well as the folks above-decks – rushed to the other side of the boat and caused it to tip radically. Once the lower levels began taking on water, it didn’t take long for the ship to capsize onto its side and rest in the shallow muddy waters of the Chicago River. Those topside either scrambled for purchase or jumped overboard, while those below decks were either crushed by furniture or immersed in the rush of incoming water. Many of those who leapt into the river were crushed into the muddy floor of the river or dragged down by the backflow of the great ship. Others were weighed down by layers of petticoats and over-dresses and the inability to swim or the efforts to keep both themselves and their children afloat in the chaos.

Many were rescued by a nearby tugboat, hustling from the overturned hull of the ship onto the deck, or were pulled from the water by those on shore. These were the lucky ones, saved from a murky death by happenstance or will. The rest perished. The local businesses were turned into makeshift morgues, including a warehouse that would one day be the home of Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Studios. It was the largest loss of life in the history of the Great Lakes and it all occurred within feet of the river’s bank.

This not only cements my fear of water in general, the sea in particular and the muddy waters of our country’s Great Rivers in my own private fresh-water hell, but the need for us to realize that we never know when the Grim Reaper will wield his bloody scythe. But when assisted by the ineptitude and cowardice of the Italian Captain Schettino, his work seems all too effortless.

If have learned nothing from The Titanic, The Eastland and The Costa Concordia, it is that on-shore vacationing is a fine idea – my investment in on-shore vacation destinations notwithstanding.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Captain of the Ship - The Skinny

I do not want to in any way demean or belittle the victims of the tragic ocean liner disaster in Italy, where the Captain ran his ship onto a rock. The ship subsequently listed to its starboard side and capsized, killing over a dozen, leaving a couple dozen more missing. I am no sea-farer, but I can only imagine the horror all too vividly - being trapped on a big boat in the dark and eventually drowning. All just off the coast of Tuscany. My heart goes out to the families of the passengers and crew who have lost loved ones on the Costa Concordia.

That said, I am appalled with what I have read about the Captain of the ship, a Francesco Schettino, who is currently in jail, accused of multiple manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship (italics mine). I get the manslaughter and "causing a shipwreck" charges, but for a Captain to be charged with abandoning his ship seems like the ultimate slap to the face of all the other Captains who have ever, in the traditional maritime manner, "gone down with the ship".

I am the first to admit that I would have jumped on a lifeboat at the first sign of danger, but I am a coward and afraid of the sea and all things that live there. I fear being eaten, stung, bitten, prodded or taunted by the fish, amoeba and bacteria that make the ocean their home and as anyone knows who has ever dared attempt a conversation of the sea with me, it is my paranoid opinion that the second we set foot in the ocean, we instantly become simply a part of the food-chain. The part of the food chain that doesn't have gills, scales, flippers or the ability to survive in the heat or cold of the sea. In other words - the low-hanging fruit of the sea-food tree. Yes, I would have been on a lifeboat along with the women and children in a stolen dress and wig at the first inkling of trouble afoot, but then again, I didn't sign up to be a Sea Captain.

Imagine being on an airplane, feeling turbulence and receiving a message from the pilot that there was some problem with one or two of the engines. Then, a moment later, seeing the pilot, with his parachute flying past your window. No pilot I have ever met would ever even consider such a thing. Perhaps if my second wife had a pilot's license, she would do it, but only to kill me - the rest of the passengers would be considered acceptable collateral damage. It is the same with skippers - the ship is their responsibility and those aboard it their charges. I have always considered Sea Captains to be a noble lot - I cannot imagine Edmund Fitzgerald abandoning his ship, or Captain Quint from the movie "Jaws" - hell no. Granted, Captain Quint was usually too drunk to consider abandoning ship, but that is neither here, nor there. He was there 'til the bitter end, when he was swept into the maw of the giant mechanical shark - which I also fear - which promptly proceeded to eat him.

However, my legendary fear of the deep is not why I'm writing today.

As it happens, the Italian Coast Guard were in full-blown rescue mode and tracked down Schettino and his first mate in a lifeboat some distance away from the listing ocean liner. I paraphrase, but the translated conversation went something like this:

CG: Captain, where are you?
CAPTAIN: Uhhhhmmm... I'm, uh, on a lifeboat.
CG: What? Please repeat.
CAPTAIN: Yes, I'm on a lifeboat, floating to safety.
CG: Why aren't you on the boat, supervising the evacuation of the passengers?
CAPTAIN: I AM. I'm doing it from my IPad...
CG: Seriously?
CAPTAIN: Yes - it's nice. I got if for Christmas - a gift from my wife...
CG: My boat is under the bow of the ship and we are conducting rescue operations from a ladder leading from the deck of the liner.
CAPTAIN: It sounds like you have everything under control. Should I turn off my IPad to conserve battery power?
CG: WE NEED YOU ON THE SHIP! I want to know how many people are in there and what type of help they need!
CAPTAIN: Just a second - my IPad froze...
CAPTAIN: Here, talk to my first mate - he's here, too. He's got a laptop...


And now Captain Schettino is under lock and key, waiting to have the maritime book thrown at him and I hope he gets all he deserves. The lesson I learned today is that in the event of a nautical disaster, I do not necessarily have to steal a dress and wig - I merely have to locate the Captain and hang on tight. Of course, this could backfire on me - I could get one of those brave souls who would never consider setting foot on a lifeboat before every man, woman or child was safely off the doomed vessel, but then again, I could find the Captain and wear my pretty dress and wig. Then all my bases would be covered.

Or, I could simply continue to vacation on shore.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Better than sex?

I once made the pronouncment "A Chipotle burrito is better than sex - half as messy and twice as fulfilling..." Of course, that was back when I was in charge of running six of the restaurants in the Windy City of Chicago, back in the early days of our new millenium, when I had a girlfriend in this country and sex was plentiful, if underappreciated. Those were the halcyon days when I traveled by train or car from location to location, offering advice to managers, putting out fires and tasting the food for quality. It was one of the highlights of my life to be able to travel from location to location to test the wares.

I must have had a thousand meals at Chipotle - half when I worked there, and half through the "free burrito" coupons that have found their way into my hands in the years since. I used my last Chipotle marker - a delightful coin pressed with the logo of a chipotle pepper, good for one free burrito - today, a day which I was prepared to log into the annals of infamy. My last free burrito. I noticed that the chain was now offering "brown" rice, in addition to the original, cilantro/lime version to which I was accustomed.

So, I tried the brown rice, ordered a steak burrito and added the quacamole - price was no option with the rare coin. I asked for an order of chips and made my way to the cashier. To her credit, she gave me the chips for free and stopped just short of genuflection upon accepting my coin. I glanced at the register and saw that the total charge of the burrito and chips was over ten dollars, which surprised me; I have had a burrito with a side of rice and beans and an icy margarita in a sit-down joint for less, but I was in no position to complain - I was getting the food for free. We all smiled and I walked out of the restaurant, Chipotle bounty in-hand and a keen hankering to quench.

Then the unbelievable happened...

I had a disappointing Chipotle experience. I tore into the burrito like a fierce lioness attacking the weakest of the antelope and immediately bit into a huge chunk of beef-gristle. I spat it into a napkin, not willing or able to allow such a minor speed bump interfere with my Chipotle experience, and continued with my meal, willing to believe it was an anomoly. I opened the bag of chips and dug in - the lime-juice/sea-salt chips are the best, I didn't want to waste time pouting over a single mouthful of gristle.

The chips were stale and limp - the opposite of the crisp, tasty chips I had grown accustomed to in the salad days of my career with the company. I made my way through the burrito, on which I had ordered the brown rice, which had been hard and chewy, the soft chips and drank two cans of beer to make up for the poor quality of the burrito.

I sat back on my couch and gazed upon the wrinkled foil wrapper - I had seen hundreds of such wrappers, which had been the last reminders of meals that had nearly conquered my body and my soul. And the half-empty bag of chips that had in years gone by been the treasured prize for my children, who had fought to tears over its possession.

A small tear found its way down my cheek and I had another sip of beer as I mourned the past and the Chipotle days gone by. I gazed at the foil and rejoiced in the many friends I had made and lost in the heyday and the merciless punishment my stomach had taken at the hands of the vicious hot salsa.

They say you can never go back - and I believe them - but I am deeply disappointed that my Chipotle memories have been sullied with an experience such as I bore this evening. I can only hope that this was an abboration and that overall Chipotle still holds its standards high as the sun, but truthfully, at ten-dollars a meal, I may never venture back to find the truth.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Perfect Recipe For Disaster

There have been worse disasters. The Hindenburg, for one. Great photo, big bummer. I certainly do not want to make light of anyone who has begun their day by stepping in a proverbial pile of dogshit, but I may have had one of the worst starts to a day in my entire life this morning. Granted, I thankfully have not had to start any of my days in a hospital or bomb shelter and relatively few in a police station or lock-up, but as far as my middling life goes, this was a pure fucking drag.

I got up, showered and got dressed as I would get on any other unassuming working day, ready to drive to the office and put my time in at the Fortune 500 Salt Mine. I gathered my things and checked my pockets and as a last-minute thought, grabbed the garbage from under the counter to toss in the dumpster on my way out. I locked the door, tossed the garbage and went to my pocket for my car keys.

Where were my car keys?

It had been the bulge of my cell-phone I felt in the pocket of my jeans and not my car keys. I was effectively locked out of both car and apartment, just like that. Just like that. It was still dark outside, as I glanced from the car to the balcony of my 2nd story apartment. My mind raced, as best a mind can race at six o-clock in the morning. I can shimmy up and over the balcony, I thought. Or, I can call Taggart, have him come and get me and borrow his car and pick up the other key from Allie this afternoon. Of course, calling Taggart was the easiest option, since I had my phone and all.

I began to climb.

It would be difficult for me to tell you how uncomfortable it is for a 51 year-old, overweight, foul-tempered man with high blood pressure and a knack for irony to have to scamper up the side of a building and onto a second-floor landing like a retarded lemur monkey before he has even had his morning java.

But I will try.

It was with agonizing slowness that I mounted the railing that bordered the first-floor stairs. Agonizing slowness and hard-earned trepidation. I have a well-developed sense of imagination that allows me to visualize any mishap - when I pull out of my parking lot, I can not only picture the dark-blue pickup truck that will T-Bone me in short order, I can hear the deadly crash of metal and feel the impact in my mind. It's a gift. As I searched for purchase like a normal man climbing one of those rock-walls that the young daredevils maneuver in their snug, safe harnesses, I could only imagine the thud of my head on the concrete below. It wasn't as fun as it sounds.

I hauled myself up and over, slowly - huffing, puffing and cursing like a one-armed longshoreman. But I made it and let myself in. Jesus, I thought. If I can get up and over and in so quickly - a young, spirited thief could probably do it in a quarter of the time - with a smile on his young, spirited kisser. That thought alone would have led most normal people to lock the door to the balcony. Not me, however. Who knows, I may have needed to repeat the act ten minutes later and would prefer not to have to throw patio furniture through the door to gain entry. In fact, I would prefer the young, spirited thieves not to do so, either.

So, I eventually made it in, then out of my apartment, keys firmly in hand. The fingers of my right hand were numb from dangling my carcass from the balcony railing like Sylvester Stallone in "Cliffhanger", only not as nimbly or gracefully.

I got in my car and started it up and began the drive to work, beginning to marvel at my amazing feat of daring, even as I wondered if I would ever get my breath back, if I was having a stroke and what in the fuck was wrong with my fingers, anyhow...

Then the lights showed up in my rear-view mirror. I was being pulled over. Really? I thought. All this before 6:30am? What the fuck? After being berated through a loudspeaker ("GET OFF THE FREEWAY - GET OFF THE FREEWAY"), I got off the freeway and was promptly asked by a sourpuss officer of the law, who was apparently shucked off because he was on-duty at 6:30 in the morning, if I had any firearms in the vehicle. "No," I said, wondering if I had any firearms in the vehicle.

He then proceeded to write me a $585.00 ticket for tags that had been expired since April. "What?" I asked, wondering if I had any firearms in the vehicle. "I usually get notified by e-mail and I go on and pay it..." He shrugged, looking at me as if I had neglected to check on my feeble mother, who had then, on the verge of starvation, stumbled down a flight of stairs searching for a hand-canned jar of peaches in the cellar, when they should have been kept upstairs in the pantry, so Mother could reach them in an emergency. Or something like that. "I don't think about my tags much," I offered. "I mostly get in my car and start it up and drive away - unless I've locked the keys in my second floor apartment and had to scramble up and over my balcony to retrieve them... I don't check the plates and say to myself 'phew - we're good this month', you know?" He didn't and I signed and drove on to work and that's how my morning began.

I dare you to top it.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Ultimate Bad Karma Move

"Ummmmmm, yeah... My, uh... Daughter died... Yep, stone-fucking dead. In Costa Rica... Yesterday... Not sure... I'll know more when I get there... Yes - I will need to take a couple of weeks off to go to Costa Rica. To deal with this... The death of my daugher. There. In Costa Rica..."

I paraphrase, of course, but this tragic telephone call actually took place. Tragic, that is, until you learn that nobody actually died in Costa Rica that day.* This lady actually called her boss and used a fake story about her daughter's death to finagle a vacation to Costa Rica. Now, I don't know about you, but I am not altogether comfortable throwing around talk about my daughters' demise unless it is absolutely true. I just think it is poor form. For instance, which child do you choose to cast to her imaginary death. I don't think there is a good choice here, if you are the parent of more than one offspring, unless you actually do have one really shitty kid. And if you are the parent of a single child, just remember you can only use this excuse once - make certain it is for a good cause.

And God forbid your child should learn of your little fib. I can only imagine what kind of self-esteem issues this might jar loose in a child, depending on how old the child is. On the plus side, if you have an infant, you could probably imaginarily kill it off, then bring it to a company picnic the next year and pass it off as adopted. Just sayin'.

And imagine how crummy you would feel if your daughter died the next week, of an overdose of ecstasy, having thrown a wild rave party, during which your home was summarily burned to the ground, while you were vactioning in Costa Rica. Pretty darned crummy, that's how crummy. It's not only bad form, it is bad karma, bad kris-kris and bad joo-joo. You make up an ill-conceived, sinister lie like this to get out of work, you can bet your bottom dollar that something bad is bound to come back to bite you in your conniving backside.

That said, I have thought about this and there might be some lies you could tell to get out of work and onto an airplane headed to a sunny beach without bringing a dark cloud of sinistericity to hang over your beach towel and Mai Thai.

The Mai Thai - Delicious!

If you need to lie to get out of work to take a Costa Rican vacation, please try one of these untruths - it will make you feel better about yourself than throwing one of your kids under the imaginary speeding bus:

1) "I need some 'Me' time. If I don't get out of this office for a couple of weeks and under a beach umbrella by tomorrow afternoon, I swear to God and everything Holy, I will blow my fucking head off in the break-room..." (Optional): "And I'm gonna take a few of you with me..."

This is the direct approach. It is effective and will usually get you the time off. If you choose to add the optional sentence, you may spend some additional time in the pokey - use only if necessary.

2) "My ___________ (Aunt/Uncle/Childhood Friend/Pet/Boss from another job) is in the hospital. I'm the only one they have. It doesn't look good and this should be over (sob, if possible) pretty quickly, from what the doctor says..."

While this may seem like it smacks of "my daughter died in Costa Rica", notice the subtle differences: The terminal subject can be fictional - "Uncle Shamus" was always my favorite. You are not gathering karmic retribution by sending Shamus to an untimely and unexpected death. And he was so young. And by having the subject be in the hospital, this vacation can be dragged out as long as needed to cultivate an even tan. As a bonus, if you use "boss from another job", your current boss will be aware that should he or she ever end up terminally ill in a hospital bed all alone, you would undoubtedly be there to comfort him/her in their lonely final days and tell funny stories about co-workers to brighten their spirits.

For short-term time off, for baseball games, rounds of golf or just an afternoon in a dark saloon, try the following (little or no bad karma at all):

1) Toothache - when spoken to, glance up as if in pain and nod or shake your head. Do not open your mouth to speak. If asked why you aren't talking, pass a shaky, handwritten note to the effect of "My tooth feels as if a frigid kiss of death from some Viking Hell drives through my very soul the instant open air touches its frayed, naked nerve-endings". You don't have to be this flowery, but it helps.

2) Menstrual Cramps - Ladies, this goes without saying. Fellas, it'll work for you, too. Ladies wish their husbands would care enough to leave work to care for their war-torn ovaries and guys know what their wives are like, so this will work for either gender of supervisor.

3) Poopy-Pants. Enough said.

You're welcome. And please feel free to give me your own suggestions. We will re-visit as necessary. Dr. Ford, out.

*Somebody might have died in Costa Rica that day. In fact, I am relatively certain that somebody died in Costa Rica that day, probably at least three by drowning alone, not even counting shark-bite, stingray mishap or being beaten to death by a drunken, angry Costa Rican. But nobody in the caller's family died in Costa Rica that day - this much is certain.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Elin Nordegren - The New Elvis

Tiger Woods' ex-wife has managed to make Elvis Presley look like a milquetoast - and with Elvis's penchant for destruction, that takes some serious effort.

Presley was legendary for shooting out television sets. These were the old-school, two-hundred pound console-numbers with picture tubes the size of a Mercury Space Capsule. Elvis once shot a TV for having the audacity of airing a show that featured Robert Goulet singing. "I hate that son of a bitch," Elvis told his posse, who I assume then proceeded to hate Goulet as well. I can only imagine what Elvis would do to these huge, HD, seventy-two inch flatscreens we have nowadays. Of course, I imagine Elvis would have been diligent in upgrading his weaponry to keep up with the televisions. He would no-doubt be blowing these massive, flatscreen beauties off his rumpus-room wall and to the fiery gates of hell with a G36-K.

G36-K - Nice looking weapon, huh? Elvis would have probably loved it for destroying televisions.

Presley once bought a house to burn down. While the house was on fire, he and one of his minions hopped up on a couple of bulldozers and plowed the burning building to the ground. At one point, Elvis pushed his lacky's smaller bulldozer into the flames for fun. I'm sure he bought the man a Cadillac after the incident. Elvis was the King of Destruction as well as the King of Rock and Roll. It was a true gift.

These efforts are little more than mischievous pranks compared to the one-woman wrecking crew that is Elin Nordegren. Over the past year or so, she has gone from maintaining an image of the squeaky-clean, mother-of-two, supportive wife of Tiger Woods, arguably one of the most recognizable, rich, successful and winning celebrity athletes on the planet, to the strong, self-confident, beautiful ex-wife of Tiger Woods whose only wish was to take her 16 bazillion-dollar divorce settlement and quietly go off to raise her kids and live in luxurious privacy for the rest of her brilliant, strong, self-confident life.

Elin Nordegren - brilliant, strong, self-confident.

There were underpinnings of destruction just under the surface of those clear blue Swedish eyes. The first hint of her willingness to free the beast came a year ago this past Thanksgiving, when rumor has it, she chased her husband down the driveway and beat his ass and his Escalade's ass with a golf club after learning of his marital indiscretions. A very nice start. It was but a cleaning of her brilliant, strong, self-confident palate.

Apparently, once the taste for violent destruction rears its ugly head, it is a powerful master. Elin recently purchased a twelve-million dollar, 9000 sq.ft., 6-bedroom, 8-bath masnion in North Palm Beach , Florida. And promptly had it razed. Huzzah! A masterful, world-class example of the frittering away of seven-figure mad-money that no doubt left her ex-husband a little teary-eyed, contemplating all the private jets, luxury hotel rooms, hookers, porn stars and cocktail waitresses twelve-million dollars could supply.

When I first saw this story, I assumed it was the house the two had shared when they were married, in which case, I wholeheartedly agreed with its destruction. Burn the bastard! I thought to myself - and more power to you! But apparently this is not the case. She simply decided that the current mansion simply didn't pass muster, so she had it destroyed, immediately passing Elvis and approaching Howard Hughes on the "useless waste of disposable income" ladder.

Of course, this scenario would be much more impressive if Elin herself was manning one of the dozers, 9-iron in hand, directing the proceedings like an orchestra conductor, or General Patton. Delegation of the project takes away a couple of points for hands-on destruction, but then again, it is one of the hallmarks of strong management.

There may be a career in mass-destruction for Miss Nordegren, if she ever desires to venture forth from the Shangri-La she is certain to construct on the site of her twelve-million dollar "Ground Zero" - or she could probably manage a mass-destruction team from behind its golden walls. I look forward to seeing how it all shakes out, but the grandeur of the thing makes me wistful for a simpler time - a time of handguns and picture tubes and bulldozers and fire. Old-school rolling up of the sleeves and dirtying one's hands. Sometimes I just miss Elvis's way of getting things done...

Update: (From Yahoo News) "It turns out that there was a pretty good reason for razing the estate: termites. A report in People magazine indicated that the 1920s-era mansion fell short of current hurricane safety codes, and combined with a termite infestation, that was enough to warrant blasting it down to the sand."
The update was released just before this blog's publication.

Well, it looks like Elvis is still the King.

Friday, January 6, 2012

So, I bought a pizza....

I start a new, second job as a baker at a well-known bagel-joint in Scottsdale tomorrow. Tomorrow at 4am. Not complaining, just saying... Picking up a second job, unless you count my sporadic employment as a troubadour, which would make this a third job, is a means to earn funds to complete the paperwork necessary to gain my wife admittance into this country, which has become not only more difficult, but much more expensive. Do I really need her here? This is debatable, but a different topic for another day - until this is decided in a negatory manner, I must earn these funds and dedicate them to the cause. On the plus side, once accomplished, I should never have to beg for oral sex. Just sayin'.

If any of my rich and powerful readers would like to donate the six thousand dollars this endeavor is going to cost me, please feel free to contact me via email. Then I will feel free to resume my comfortable schedule of sleeping in best I can and scoffing at my laundry on the weekends. Until then, a-baking I will go.

However, this is not why I am writing this evening.

In anticipation of my new, secondary role as a bagel-baker, I treated myself to the delight of delights - a fresh, hot pizza. What the hell, I'm going to work a second job, I deserve it. I walked into the Domino's by my house and ordered a large pepperoni for $5.00, which seemed like a great deal that will feed me for at least two days. I then proceeded to walk over to the local saloon next door to enjoy a Jameson's and 8oz. draft beer with which to chase the Jameson's while I waited for my pie to cook.

A note - the small, 8-oz. beer should be brought back into circulation, because it is not only a delightful addition to the shot of Jameson's, it has a certain old-school sensibility. There is nothing cooler than drinking an 8 oz. draft beer with a pinky-ring bejeweled hand, regardless of the cost. I understand that we base all of our judgement on value and that the huge, 72 oz. buckets of beer is the way to go, but I beg to differ.

But I digress.

I strolled over to the Domino's after enjoying my extremely over-poured shot of Ireland's best and its mini-beer companion and picked up my pie. "Do you want any peppers?" the flamboyant pizza-boy asked.

"What do you mean - crushed red peppers?" I asked, making sure that he wasn't going to send my pizza back through the oven with a handful of jalapenos.

"Yes - do you want any crushed red peppers?"

"Yes," I said. "And some little packets of Parmesan."

"We don't have those." He replied.

"What do you mean - no Parmesan?"

"No, they're like sixty-four dollars..." He flitted away and I left with my pie, four packets of crushed red peppers and no Parmesan. And I ate. I spent most of the time wondering if the sixty-four dollars was the cost of a case, gross, pound, hogshead or dram of Parmesan. The different options made me smile.

Here is my problem: First off, did the sexually ambiguous cashier/pizza maker need to dismiss my request for Parmesan so flippantly? My guess is "no". I think he could have handled my question with a little more authority, especially given all the flamboyance and dismissiveness in evidence.

Second of all, what is Domino's doing skimping on the Parmesan packets - if they want to cut costs, let them change the pizza recipe from one and a half cups of mozzarella on the pie to a cup. Then we get a healthier pizza and this gives Domino's the cash to spend on the Parmesan packets, which granted are mostly ornamental, are also a large part of our pizza heritage. There are places to skimp and places to remain firm in our pizza-beliefs. Keep the packets, I say. No one will notice the missing half-cup of mozzarella, but let them deny us our Parmesan packets - revolt is imminent.

I had my pizza and I will enjoy it again tomorrow, but the damage has been done - there will be no more Parmesan offered with my Domino's. And because of this new, cost-saving change, the next pizza I order will be from Papa John's, who not only includes Parmesan packets, but also the delightful garlic butter, which will continue to be my dietary Achille's Heel.

And I only have Domino's to blame.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Happy Birthday, Stephen Hawking!

God bless you, Stephen Hawking and welcome to your seventh decade. You are not only a genius with an insight into the cosmos that few could ever hope to achieve, but you have managed to cheat Lou Gehrig's Disease for decades, which is some kind of vicious, twisted endeavor in its own right. And I suppose that the "God bless you" part may come off as rather insincere, since neither you nor I believe in a God, benevolent, kind or otherwise that will lead us to the next level of existence. Indeed, we are united in our beliefs - right or wrong - that there is no Otherworldly Omniscient Being looking over our shoulder to judge whether we are worthy of heaven or sentenced to hell. Unless it's a visitor from outer space, and that's another issue altogether.

The fact that Stephen Hawking and I are unlikely brothers in our beliefs, both having the beautiful wisdom and insight to sort through the mortal views of life, death and the world after is only coincidental to our ability to comprehend the universe and its infinity. That's right - you and me Stephen Hawking.

Stephen Hawking was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease in his twenties, which is little more than a short-sighted death sentence in most cases, and has lived through his sixties, which is nothing short of a miracle. He has dodged the Lou Gehrig bullet (at least as well as a man confined to a wheelchair and incapable of traditional human movement and communication is able) and moved ahead with his life, using computers to speak, interpret his facial tics and to convert those tics into recognizable thought.

God bless Stephen Hawking, for all it is worth, for his tenaciousness, wit and insight into the universe we inhabit. I prefer to link myself to Hawking in our religious outlook and view of the universe in order to elevate my own status in our shallow perceptions of the world. But in fact it is unlikely that any others of our generations, or those who have come before, have had the ability to decipher the universe and its endless mysteries as well as Stephen Hawking. The fact that he has done it with ALS is only more awe-inspiring.

My guess is that he has outsmarted Lou Gehrig's Disease. Afer all, if a world-class athlete such as Lou Gehrig and subsequent generations of sufferers have been unable to outlive its muscle-constricting death sentence and Hawking has not only done so, but taken his gradually-eroding muscular skeleton for granted in his quest for further understanding of the universe and its workings, I have no doubt that his uber-developed intellect and good humor has had a hand in the matter.

Happy birthday, Stephen Hawking - and if there is anything I can do beyond a brilliantly-executed full-salute and a blog that falls far short of expectations to help you ring in the new, please do not hesitate to let me know.

XOXO Jerry

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Edict from Jerry The King: It's Okay To Shoot

I read an article about a woman who shot an intruder in her home to protect her 3 month-old baby. I will state up front that I am not an advocate of indiscriminate shooting for any reason but zombie invasion, at which point it's load 'em or lose 'em and Katie Bar The Door.

That said, this shooting was so extremely justified that this young mother should not only be acquitted, but she should get a medal, a key to the city, $1000.00 in free groceries and a really cute puppy. In fact, she should be acquitted twice, just in case some folks miss the first acquittal.

Let me explain.

This 18 year-old mother lost her husband to cancer on Christmas day, leaving her a widow and her young baby without a father. If that wasn't enough, the day of her husband's funeral, a 24 year-old man came to her house claiming to be a neighbor wanting to "say hello". Really, Douchebag? Scoping out this poor lady's house the day they lay her husband to rest? She might not have known it at the time, but apparently the wheels were turning in the would-be intruder's head.

I have no idea what evil intentions were afoot that day, and will likely never know. However, a week later, this same stalwart, gallant soul came to the door, this time bringing reinforcements - another young man and a 12-inch hunting knife. Game on.

It appears that the would-be intruder underestimated the survival instincts of this brave young lady by a long shot. A reeeeally long shot. Not quite willing to give in to the young thugs, she gathered up her baby, a shotgun and a handgun and retreated to her bedroom, where she proceeded to dial 911.

While she was on the phone with the 911 dispatcher, the intrepid marauders gained entry into the home. The young mother asked the police if it was okay for her to shoot the men to protect her infant. To the officer's credit and for which he/she also deserves a cute puppy and a meaningful bump in salary, she was told to do whatever it took to protect herself and her child.

The intruder then proceeded to make what would be his biggest and last mistake - he kicked in the bedroom door and came after the young lady with his hunting knife. And was promptly shot dead. His partner in crime ran away and was captured shortly thereafter. The End.

I know that this must have been a traumatic experience for the young widow and I can only hope that the memories of the terror and the justified gunplay do not linger. Heaven knows she has faced enough hardship without having to deal with the guilt one must feel at taking a human life. But she did what was necessary to protect her home, her baby and her own well-being and she should call Stanley Steamer, buy herself something pretty and concentrate on the important task of getting on with it.

I certainly do not mean to make light of this brave young lady's recovery - the opposite in fact. Hopefully, this awful instance of bad behavior on the part of these two worthless desperados will not hinder too much her ability to move on with the mourning of her Christmas day loss and the raising of her daughter. I wish her the best - she is a strong, brave, capable woman and deserves a long, happy life. Join me in wishing her well.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Note: To the Facilities Dept. of The Anonymous Fortune 500 Company

To Whom It May Concern,

In regard to my previous note (see blog of Oct. 29, 2011), I appreciate your unflagging and dogged attention to the safety and well-being of your employees. Having nearly been gassed to death in a freak automatic-air-freshener mishap, I was delighted to make a note on my Three Stooges desk calendar that for two years, our restroom had remained automatic-air-freshener-free. December came and went and I had not been subjected to the deadly spray, which had previously caused me temporary blindness and probably permanently damaged my ability to produce active, healthy sperm.

Imagine my surprise when I walked into the vestibule housing the restrooms and was greeted by the oh-so-familiar citrus scent of the dreaded Zyklon-B Automatic-Air-Freshener. I could not spot the air freshener because my eyes immediately burst into tears and perhaps bled a litte around the corners. Although I could not see the contraption, I am certain in my heart that it must have been drastically oversized for the tiny vestibule, perhaps more suited for a 50,000 sq. ft. chicken slaughterhouse. It was like using a bazooka to kill a fly. I was immediately overwhelmed by the spray and tried to scream, but the sound died in my throat, which had constricted in a last feeble spasm of self-preservation.

I fell to my knees, crawled to the door and grasped the knob with a pale, trembling hand. The door opened and I fell through, gasping for fresh air as the door shut behind me, sealing the deadly gas inside. "Jeeesush Chrisht," I moaned and stumbled to my desk, where I promptly vomited in my garbage can. I felt bad for the night cleanup crew, but I was alive, by God - I WAS ALIVE!

I can only think that perhaps you were under pressure from some devious health inspector who was apparently immune to your attempts at bribery and that my previous note had caused you to think twice about the placement of the fresheners. However, I cannot imagine any reason for installing the Zyklon Blasters in the vestibule - once again, it seems as if someone has overlooked the purpose of the freshener, which is to cover the odor of the goings-on inside the stalls. Not the urinals and certainly not in the hallway outside the restrooms. WHO SHITS IN THE HALLWAY?

I sincerely hope that you reconsider the removal of these high-powered dispensers and increase the amount of money with which you attempted to bribe the health inspector. I, for one, would be delighted to take up a collection in my area of the building and would gladly turn over every cent of the money which hasn't been used to restore my eyesight and ability to reproduce.

As always, your hard work is appreciated and once again, if there is anything I can do to assist with this or any other pending matter, please do not hesitate to contact me at either my extension or the emergency room, where I will be for the next 6-7 hours.


Jerry Ford

Monday, January 2, 2012

I like old stuff...

I am enamored of old things. I like old movies, old buildings, old towns, old cars and old people. Unless they're cranky old people who are angry and bitter about the way things turned out. I avoid those folks at all costs, because I am fairly certain that's how I'm going to turn out and I want my attitude to be uninfluenced by curmudgeons I may have run across in my past.

I think my infatuation of old stuff began when I was in high-school, which ironically, was at this point a long time ago, making those memories themselves "old stuff". Anyhow, I checked out a biography on silent film star Buster Keaton and subsequently became obsessed, at one point even taking a bus to Hollywood to interview his widow in 1979. This was before the internet and finding Mrs. Keaton was no simple matter, but I was 19 years-old and determined and through diligence and a masterful use of the phone books at the library, I found her and talked my cocky way into her home.

On later trips to Los Angeles, I made it a point to find and visit all the classic palaces built by silent film royalty in the 20's - Harold Lloyd's "Greenacres", Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks' "Pickfair" and Keaton's "Italian Villa" (pictured above). More recently, a couple of years ago, I ran across a 1975 documentary on cable called "Grey Gardens" by Albert and David Maysles, who had managed to somehow insinuate themselves into the lives of Edith Bouvier Beales and her daughter, "Little Edie", who lived in squalor in a filthy, decaying mansion in North Hampton, New York.

Needless to say, I was hooked and regardless of how much laundry I had on deck, there I sat, enthralled with the story of these two old ladies, their packs of feral cats, racoons and the odd, disturbing relationship of the two, which bordered on manic-competitiveness and smacked of decades of jealousy and petty resentment. An article states that even thirty years after a radical refurb, the place still reeks of cat-urine when the humidity is high. Yikes. After viewing, I decided that these two women and their delusional ilk were also well-worthy of avoidance.

But avoiding crazy old cat ladies and cranky curmudgeons is not what I'm writing about today.

I'm writing to say that I believe I have missed my true calling. Having not made much headway of becoming a rich, successful songwriter or author, and never following through on my dream of driving a bulldozer, I think at some point I should have started buying antique cars and restoring them to their original glory. Imagine tinkering on a 1939 Plymouth or Ford Roadster or a 1929 Deusenberg convertible every day. It would be a pleasure to go to work, but I fear I do not have the hands nor the patience to pursue such a dream - I was never even any good at building plastic models; I am nearly certain I would have ruined any Deusenberg I may have assaulted with the best of intentions.

1929 Deusenberg

I suppose I'll simply have to stick to watching old movies and looking at old buildings and visiting the Barrett-Jackson auction to ogle the Deusenbergs. Perhaps on occasion, I'll have the pleasure of sidling up to an old timer and listening to some old stories over a hot-toddy. If I'm lucky, I will learn from them how to embrace my old age with some dignity, while avoiding the whole cat-thing. I suppose I can always claim I am allergic to the smell of cat-urine. We old folks can get away with stuff like that.