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Sunday, May 27, 2012

My Day With The Dipper

We were on a mission. The year was 1984, I was twenty-four years old and with my friend Lanny, was embarking on the ultimate road trip. Our dream was to drive from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara, along the famed Pacific Coast Highway, stopping at every watering hole along the way to sample Brandy Alexanders. It was a dream that any young man would envy: A glorious day in the sun, with nothing between us and the ocean but a stretch of blacktop and an endless series of refreshing beverages—a truly utopian vision. We had no idea when we piled into the Volkswagen Beetle with our Wayfarers firmly in place that we would sacrifice this lofty goal of road magic for the sake of a fleeting brush with greatness.

The scenic 101 highway between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara is probably one of the most beautiful stretches of American roadways ever paved. Overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the road winds along the coast, stretching over a hundred miles between these two West Coast cities and well beyond. The Brandy Alexander, of course, is a soothing and tasty, yet crippling mixture of brandy, ice cream and Crème de Cacao. The drink had captured my fancy through a book I had read that summer. The tawdry volume had chronicled the revelries of the late John Lennon and his friend and fellow singer, the late Harry Nilsson, the highlight of which was the legendary tale of the duo being bounced from the Troubadour after a night of sipping the Alexander to excess.

The combination of the beautiful trip, augmented by the tasty beverage was alluring, so one sunny summer afternoon, we dressed for warm weather—colorful shirts, sensible shoes and baggy swim shorts—popped in the “Synchronicity” tape and hit the road to Dreamland.

I don’t even recall the name of the beachfront restaurant that caught our eye. It was the first of our many unplanned stops and it seemed quite promising. Set well back from the ocean, the restaurant boasted several beach volleyball courts and outdoor seating. We had to park a distance from the eatery and walk along the beach. It was a nice day and we figured the exercise would only exacerbate our thirst, so we parked and began our hike.

We were debating the possibilities of flavored ice creams as a Brandy Alexander enhancement when the powder blue Rolls Royce pulled off the pavement onto the sandy roadside, steam billowing from beneath the classically lined hood. I judged the Rolls to be of an early-sixties vintage and Lanny and I stopped walking as the vehicle rolled to a halt. I whistled through my teeth and smiled. Lanny nodded. No words needed to be spoken—it was a very nice car.

I gazed at the automobile with a mixture of awe and pity. It was a beautiful, classic machine—but it was in trouble. The sight was no more pleasant to behold than a broken stained-glass window. The driver’s-side door opened and a long leg emerged, accompanied by a burst of invective that swelled from within the vehicle. The voice was deep and booming and obviously inconvenienced. The other leg followed and then the form from inside the car unfolded itself and rose to its full height. We stared in disbelief at the man who stood before us. He towered above us—over seven feet tall, chiseled like a statue—and glared at his car. He shut the door with a menacing flourish and damned the vehicle with a final curse.

Wilt Chamberlain was irritated.

“Need some help?” I asked. My voice suddenly sounded small and timid from inside my head. Wilt Chamberlain turned to face Lanny and myself, his hands on his hips, and seemed to notice us for the first time. He was silent for a moment, as he glanced upon these two small creatures. I began to feel uncomfortable—he was blocking out the sun.

Wilt smiled and extended his hand. “I’m sorry,” he said, the voice still deep and resonant, no longer angry. “I didn’t mean to explode in front of you—it’s just this damned car…” I shook his hand—it enveloped mine as a first baseman’s mitt would swallow a baseball. “My name’s Wilt—Wilt Chamberlain.”

“I’m Jerry,” I said. “This is Lanny.” Wilt shook Lanny’s hand.

Lanny watched his hand disappear. “It’s a beautiful car,” Lanny said, his voice almost a whisper.

“It is that,” Wilt said, watching the steam roll from beneath the hood. “But these old ones—you gotta really watch ‘em…”

“Need some help?” I repeated, immediately feeling foolish for having repeated myself.

Wilt waved his hand. “I’ll call from the restaurant, get it taken care of.” We all began to stroll toward the restaurant, leaving the overheated car behind, hissing on the side of the road. “Buy you boys a drink?”

“Sure, Wilt,” I said, my voice a bit braver. As we walked by the big man, I resisted the urge to hold his hand and skip. Wilt Chamberlain was going to buy me a drink—I would finally have something interesting to tell my grandchildren.

We walked into the restaurant and Wilt greeted everyone he passed, finally stopping at the bar and introducing Lanny and myself to the bartender. “Forrest,” he said, the rich baritone pleasant now, as if his expensive automobile weren’t dead at the side of the road. “This is my friend Jerry.”

“Hello, Jerry,” Forrest said. I shook the bartender’s hand. I was Wilt’s friend.

“And this is my friend Lenny.”

“Lanny,” Lanny corrected—quietly.

We ordered Brandy Alexanders and Wilt got an iced tea, I believe. We sat at the bar and sipped our drinks quietly, like good little boys, as Wilt mingled around the restaurant, talking volleyball and sports with his other friends. I thought about all of the accomplishments Wilt had achieved in the basketball arena: 100 points in one game—record untouchable. Averaging 50 points per game for an entire season—record untouchable. In the years that have followed, not even the great Michael Jordan has approached these two
milestones. In all his years as a professional, Wilt Chamberlain had never fouled out of a ballgame. For a center, this was unthinkable.

Beyond the records and the stats, Wilt had always seemed a Goliathan presence on the court. For many years in my youth, a framed photograph of my childhood hero, Connie Hawkins, the great forward for the Phoenix Suns, swooping around the giant Chamberlain had hung on the wall by my bed. It had always been the penultimate photograph to me—the smaller, agile Hawkins making his magic against The Big Dipper.

We didn’t bother Wilt anymore that afternoon, but we didn’t leave. I assume he made a call and had his Rolls taken care of, but I didn’t see him make the call. What I saw was a very gracious man—a celebrity giant, in stature and in legend—playing host in a place where he just happened to have ended up. We simply watched. And drank Brandy Alexanders, first with Vanilla ice cream, then with chocolate. We never made our roadtrip, not that day, not ever. Some might regret such a great and noble trek having slipped through the cracks, but not me. I had met Wilt Chamberlain—for just a minute, I had been Wilt Chamberlain’s friend.

Lanny and I walked back to the car later that afternoon, passing the place where Wilt’s car had come to a stop and we smiled. “Nice guy, Wilt,” I said.

“Yeah. Nice guy,” Lanny agreed. There was not much more to say. We traded our fanciful dream for a memory that day, and now that Wilt is gone, the memory becomes that much more valuable.

After all, the PCH has yet to fall into the ocean and as long as there is brandy and ice cream, the fanciful dream will always remain in my heart, right next to the place where the valuable memories are stored.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

It's like hitting the lotto... Sort of...

I watched a news story - which I kind of resent, because I am unable to skim as efficiently - about a young man from a township in Pennsylvania that one day discovered $69,300 in his checking account. What is a township, anyway? Isn't that like a burg, or something - one of the many cozy homilies that should be retired for the tried and true monikers such as "town" or "city"? If I lived in a township, I might gullible, too - such is the life of a townshipper... Anyhow, the young man had been under the impression that he only had around $40 in his account, shrugged his shoulders, chalked up the extra $69,000 to his own faulty bookkeeping and set about spending his new-found windfall.

What luck, huh? I wish my bank-math was that poor. Anyhow, in a shocking turn of events, his math was better than he thought and the extra $69, 260 was indeed a misstep on the part of the folks at Wells Fargo and had been inadvertently deposited into his account. Unfortunately, in the time that it took for the bank to discover their error, the lad had managed to squander $67, 000 of it, on such things as a used Pontiac, a $600 puppy, a trip to Florida and cash given to family members to help pay their bills.

There were no mentions of Las Vegas, hookers, booze-fueled shenanigans or bling. But of course, he only had $69,000 to work with - he had to be frugal.

But still...

A quick call to the bank might have made a little more sense than to make handouts willy-nilly. And I imagine that he could have probably found a puppy at a shelter that might have cost him much less, even if it lacked the $600 dog's dazzling smile. And a Pontiac? Really? If you're going to go blow some new-found loot on a ride, make it count, man! Go used if you must, but shop up. Since you're most likely going to have to give it back anyhow (and don't tell me the thought wasn't tickling the back of his brain on each and every one of those trips to the ATM), just put a decent down-payment on a BMW or something. Then, keep a couple grand rolled up in your pockets and let the festivities begin. That's right, ladies - B-M-W... Back that statement with some Earth, Wind and Fire blasting out of all 18 of those speakers and roll through the reds, because life is too short to fully stop once you're embarked on that borrowed-money/borrowed-time field trip, my friend.

But I digress.

Now the bank wants its money back and most of it is nowhere to be found. I imagine the Pontiac will be going back to Honest Sam's Quality Used Cars and the puppy back to the mill, but our intrepid free-spending hero is now on the line for the money and is coming under charges for robbery and some stolen property infractions. Oops. Should have gone with the Beemer.

The article says that the young man is now "looking for a job" so that he can begin the process of repayment. Which is awesome - this means he didn't even have equitable employment when the money mysteriously appeared in his account. Brilliant - what did he really think happened here? Magic? A benevolent benefactor who saw his promise and wished to anonymously contribute? Surely not a clerical error... And probably no need to check - this looks legit... Anyhow, as always with such things, I hope it all turns out well and that the young fellow doesn't have to do too much serious time in the klink. And I sincerely hope that he learned something from all this. But next time, buy a nice guitar that will be waiting for you when you get out of stir.

And go with the Beemer.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Cleveland - Land of Mystery

It's like a modern-day Amityville Horror - A family walks into a house of berserkers, some real, some imagined, some undead, after buying a home where a young man once massacred his family as they slept. Or something like that...

I read an article in the news today about a woman who, parked outside her home in Cleveland, got into an argument with her best friend in a car. She got out of the car, went into the house, grabbed a knife and came back outside and stabbed her friend in the face and neck.

The friend then hit the gas in the auto - some say in an attempt to run down the crazy woman who had just stabbed her face and neck - and proceeded to run down two of her mad friend's children, one of whom was killed by the car. The bleeding woman driving the automobile was not arrested and promptly died of her wounds, but not before also plowing into the house and destroying the front porch. The woman with the knife was arrested a short time later, just a couple of blocks away. She was naked when police nabbed her.


The House

As it turns out, this house of tragedy is located just down the street from a house where the bodies of 11 murdered women were found in 2009. Nice neighborhood. Amityville was never this active. I am guessing the entire area rests on what was once the burial grounds of some peace-loving tribe of Native Americans who hunted, fished, lived and died along the banks of the Lake of Erie. And now they're pissed. Don't be surprised if a few square miles around this area inexplicably bursts into flames, And soon.

I do, however, have a couple of questions about the timeline here and the actions of those involved...

First of all, if I am in an argument with someone and they get so heated that they get out of the car to run inside to get a knife with which to stab my face and neck, chances are my vehicle will not still be in the driveway when they come back out. In fact, I will be driving down the street, past the other murder house, singing along with Huey Lewis and The News and will already have made a mental note to unfriend my crazy bitch friend as soon as I get home. Then I will have cocoa. Also, the car was running... If you see your batshit insane friend running back out with a knife, club, rolling pin, sturdy block of wood or shotgun (loaded or not), put the vehicle in reverse and get the hell out of there, pronto. At least roll up the window, so you can stick your tongue out and flip birds and the most damage the attacker can do is slice your tires.

Secondly, if you have stabbed your best friend in the face and neck to make a point and they have subsequently run down two of your children in the aftermath, do you run off without taking care of your young? And at what point do your clothes come off? I am confused here, as this goes against everything I have ever heard about maternal instinct and all that. And the innate need to stay clothed in public, especially when brandishing a weapon.

All in all, this story is disturbing and not just a little confusing. I am sure that things will make more sense once all the facts come out and that none of it will be pretty. I feel bad for the children that were ultimately affected by this nonsense and hopefully the child that survived the tragedy will grow up happy and healthy.

I know crazy things happen every day and it is just another reason that I believe the world is based on chaos and not fate. We all make decisions and it is not destiny that causes us to run into the house after a knife so that we can murder our best friend and as a tragic bi-product watch our kids run down and killed. This is not fate, this is temper. And this is cause and effect at its darkest. The bottom line is that we need to watch our P's and Q's and count to ten every once in awhile, before dashing for the cutlery drawer. And don't park drunk. You're welcome.

Apparently, Every Sperm IS Sacred...

I saw an article this morning about a man complaining about his child support. He only makes minimum wage and the state takes half his paycheck to support his children. All 30 of them. That is not a typo - this gentleman has fathered 30 children over his 33 years, the oldest of whom is 14 years old. Now, don't get the idea that Desmond Hatchett is a philanderer - the children do not all have different mothers - he only had babies with 11 different women. That averages out to just under 3 per lady. Nearly normal, in the big scheme of things. Except that the 33 year old man has 30 frigging children.

And now he's upset that the government expects him to help pay for them.

I get that - nobody wants to have half of their paycheck taken away, even to help support the education, feeding and clothing of their children. Heaven forbid we should spend half our money on that. Obviously, there are more important things on which to spend one's cash and apparently condoms are not one of them.

The article says that some of the moms receive as little as $1.49 per month. That's not a hundred and forty nine dollars, that's ONE DOLLAR and FORTY NINE CENTS. Thanks for pitching in. Here's an idea - howsabout we take some of that precious nut-busting time and get a second job, so that perhaps we could chip in ten bucks a month on the children - that would be awesome and maybe working a couple of jobs might take our mind off where we will be stowing our penis this hour.

Granted, I might be writing with just a little bit of jealousy here. ELEVEN WOMEN/30 CHILDREN. I don't even think that I've had sex with eleven women. In fact I'm certain I haven't - I still have the letters of complaint concerning my performance filed away from the four that I have slept with. I probably just fell in with some really needy ladies, I suppose. Anyhow, regardless of my jealousy and consistently poor sexual performance, at some point Big Brother should step in and do something about this. And by Big Brother, I mean Karma, Common Sense, STD or an actual Big Brother. One or a few of these ladies' older siblings should take Desmond to the marketplace and beat the living snot out of him with a stick. And cut his nuts off for the good of one and all. It is an option - just wear funny mustaches.

Apparently, Desmond went to court in 2009, when he only had 21 children to answer charges that he wasn't paying his child support. He vowed he would not be having any more children, no sir. In the three years since, he has fathered 9 more kids. That is one out-of-control penis.

I don't know what the answer is, here - I don't think the government should be able to sterilize an individual who just cannot stay out of the pouch, regardless of how many children he has fathered, and we can't force Desmond to wear a condom (after all, his penis could be sensitive to latex and that might put him off his erection), but there has got to be a loophole somewhere and I'm thinking it's the child support. If he can't support his kids in a reliable and equitable fashion, we get to lock him up someplace where his penis can't do any more damage.

Like jail.

But if we lock Desmond away, he will not be able to assist with the support of his children at all. And we will be not only shouldering that formidable task, but we will also be paying to keep him in stir and sleeping comfortably with a full belly. It's a vicious irony.

Eventually, I would like to think that Desmond might wise up and swear off the cooch for a bit and perhaps pick up something else to occupy his mind and his penis for awhile, like a hobby, or a second job. He could, of course, simply see if he can wrangle a position as a full-time sperm-donor in a clinic someplace where such positions are necessary and valued.

In the meantime, I do feel a bit sorry for the 30 children who will no-doubt get little valuable father/child time and possibly even end up perpetuating this fatherless cycle. But Desmond has a busy booty-schedule and you can't let a few kids stand in the way of that...

Friday, May 18, 2012

A Note to the Facilities Dept. of the Anonymous Fortune 500 Company - Part 5

To Whom it May Concern,

First of all, let me commend you all for the fine work you are doing with the efficient management of the cleaning schedule for the restrooms that are strategically located throughout the H*** facility. If the number of times I am forced to duckwalk to another part of the building because the washroom is being cleaned when I desperately need to use it, or the crowds of slightly-uncomfortable men milling around waiting for an open pisser in the restrooms not being cleaned are any indication, you have succeeded in creating some of the most popular and cleanest bathroom areas ever. Anywhere.

That said, I witnessed a disturbing, yet ironic incident this afternoon in our cafeteria. A lady, who if I am not mistaken, gave me a knowing wink and come-hither smile as she carried her salad to a table, smacked her head on the first-aid kit that was mounted at head-height on the wall behind her seat. Disturbing in that I had to watch the impact first-hand; ironic because she hit her head on a first-aid kit. I heard the sound, even as I admired her comely shape collapsing into the chair and knew right away that the impact must have stung. The glassy look that came across her eyes only made her somehow even more attractive, but that is neither here nor there - after all, this isn't about fly-by-night love, this is about safety.

I inquired if she was alright, perfectly willing and able to apply either the Heimlich Maneuver or mouth-to-mouth if needed, but apparently neither was suited for her injury and my witty observations seemed to fall on indifferent ears, so I finished my Snickers bar and went back to my desk. I blamed her apathy on the concussion she had sustained and sincerely hope she recovers fully. Hers would be a devastating loss not only to close friends and family, but all who ever ogled her imposing, yet delicate form in motion. I mean that in a totally professional way.

But I digress.

I am not one to simply write notes of complaint or observation without being prepared to offer helpful suggestions. My mother always said, "don't complain unless you have a better way of doing things". I would like to attribute her logic and no-nonsense thinking to the fact that my bloodline runs directly to Henry Ford, another logical, no-nonsense thinker, but the Ford strain does not run through the maternal side of the family, no matter how hard the hillbilly family tree tries to intertwine its seedy branches.

Here are my thoughts:

1) We should probably relocate the first-aid kits. Especially the one mounted above the seat in the cafeteria. Even if folks aren't smacking their heads on them as they try to enjoy some split-pea soup, I would think that the last thing a lunch patron would want to see is someone rifling through the box for a tourniquet kit or eyewash while they try to force down an overpriced slice of pizza. This could also pose a potentially bloody health hazard and shame on the health inspectors for not bringing this up.

2) A more logical place to put the kits is in the bathrooms, where one can comfortably wash their wounds and look into the mirror while administering the eyewash. It just makes good sense. Avoid the dining room altogether.

3) Also avoid mounting the kits near the stadia where the salespeople sit. They get distracted enough without getting to watch injured co-workers frantically pawing through the first aid kits in search of appropriate bandages, maybe moaning, weeping or fainting, or even worse, operating in a state of panic, during which any number of distracting events could occur, up to and including seizure, hysteria, vomiting and the dreaded soiling of the trousers. Yes, let's put the kits in the restrooms.

4) In regards to the stocking of the medical supplies, might I suggest better pain medication - aspirin tends to dissolve on my tongue, which sets of my questionable gag-reflex, which in turn sends me scrambling for the anti-nausea medicine. Also, a colorful assortment of amphetamines, muscle-relaxers and a few cc's of liquid morphine for emergencies would be appreciated. A weekly Friday offering of hallucinogens, while unlikely, would drastically improve the ratings in our yearly employee satisfaction survey. Just saying.

I hope this note finds you well and that you have considered re-instating the margarita parties on the lawn as I suggested lasted month. They are sorely missed.

As always, if I can be of any assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Thanks and best regards,


Sunday, May 13, 2012

For My Mother

I wrote this essay to read at my mother’s funeral service. I botched it horribly, weeping throughout, making it nearly impossible for those in attendance to make any sense of it whatsoever.

Mom might have approved.
In the end, she usually got her way. My mother and I spent a good deal of our time arguing. About principles, about the weather, about football, about life—Mom would argue about just about anything at all. She loved a good fight. I would usually give in to her arguments, being the quiet, gentle soul I am, but she would always make sure that I understood why I was giving in—because she was right. I would nod and sigh, sometimes wave the back of my hand, or make a face to annoy her. But it would only be a temporary respite— the gun was on safety—she was simply waiting for the moment and the fire would sparkle in her eyes and her face would turn a little bit red and the next dance would begin, the next big battle.

When she left, I was fifteen years old, my sister eleven, and we couldn’t really understand why Mom had gone. It seemed to us that being in a family meant holding things together—even when they weren’t perfect. A family meant a father, a mother and their children. And now she was gone. We were angry, my sister and I, and it took years to realize just how much strength it took her to leave her children, with no career training, no money and no real prospects for the future. It took years to learn that all unions are not meant to be—God knows I’ve learned it a couple of times—and that sometimes you have to make tremendous sacrifices for a little peace of mind. In the end, it was another battle, and in the end, my mother won, eventually settling into a life of her own, a life without yelling and fighting and misery—she became content.

She had her first heart attack when she was younger than I am now—at thirty-four. And they never really stopped. A year here, a year there—she was familiar with temporary respites—then another “spell”, as she liked to call them. A hospital in Phoenix, a hospital in Ohio, the famous Mayo clinic in Minneapolis, eventually a hospital in Temple, Texas—My mom visited them all. A bypass here, an angioplasty there, even a pacemaker—she put her head down and met them all, the fire in her eyes, her face just a little red, ready for the fight.

We mended all our fences years ago, and even more than the bickering and our endless tape-loop of arguments, I remember the laughter—going to see “Freebie and the Bean” when I was a teenager, both of us laughing until we nearly wet ourselves. The movie was never really quite that funny after that. In fact, it was horrible. Perhaps it was the company…Her telling of a family story—we’d heard them all hundreds of times, and still laughed at the outcome. She was supportive of my passions—she read every short story, every novel, listened to every song, saw every play. Once I got a call from Texas and my mother was nearly hysterical—she had seen a commercial I had filmed in Phoenix and that had aired in her town. She couldn’t believe it. And she was so excited—she couldn’t wait to call me with the news. She read each new book promptly upon receipt and called gushing with praise every time: “I liked this one even better than the last one!” If I was going to do battle with the world of publishing and agents, by God, she was going to be there with me. And we would win it together.

Toward the end, we ended every phone conversation with “I love you”. Since her last illness, we began to realize how valuable those conversations were. “I could get hit by a bus tomorrow,” I would tell her. “Don’t say that,” she would say, her voice reproachful even after all these years. Well, it wasn’t a bus that put an abrupt and permanent end to those conversations, it was the same old fight, the same old battle. Even after the installation of a pacemaker the month before, it ended up that the heart that had held so much fire, so much passion and so much conviction was simply able to take the strain no more.

Surrounded by those who cared about her and content with her life the way it had come to be, my mother left the earth the same way she had lived. Her chin firm, a fire in her eyes, her face just a little bit red, she clenched a fist and faced the next battle. Only this time, she didn’t get her way. The way I see it, we were lucky to have had her as long as we did. The world was just a little bit better and quite a bit more interesting having had her aboard. She showed us how to fight and how to laugh, and for that, she will be sorely missed.

I miss you, Mom... Happy Mother's Day.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Contrails - Top Secret Government Conspiracy, or Vapor Trails?

I had quite the aviary day today. The first bit of aviary reckoning came at the golf course this morning, while I was sitting quietly in my cart, gathering my thoughts while the others in my threesome practiced their putting and driving. I had purchased a practice bucket of balls that contained precisely 17 balls. I figured hitting 17 balls would give me a pretty good idea of how I was going to strike the balls during the game. To hit any more would be simply garish, as far as I was concerned. I also practiced my putting for about ten minutes. After eight and a half minutes, I knew my putting was not going to get any better. I would only sweat more and might be put in the position to incur some sort of freakish injury, like "putters wrist" or the inevitable pulling of the hammy.

So I sat in the golf cart, gathering my thoughts and watching the birds.

Sitting in the cart, I noticed that wave after wave of birds flying in formation passed overhead, in five to ten second intervals. At first, I simply watched, thinking back on an acid trip where I had seen a great rolling wave of birds flying overhead at dusk, resembling a great dark river in the sky. Then, however, I began to realize that this was some sort of organized flight plan and was reminded of the air support required of D-Day, when squadron after squadron left France, or England or someplace and flew over the English Channel to "soften up" the beaches for the Allied landing. Things went haywire and I think weather played a part, but research has never been my strong point and things worked out alright. We grew up brave and free and not Nazis, so bravo veterans of WWII and D-Day for your efforts. And by the way, I love the term "Softening Up". Dropping a few thousand tons of explosives on an enemy fortication will certainly soften up a landing area. Again, bravo to those who thought to call it "softening up" - pure genius. I would like to think that it was thought up by some forward-thinking generals in the days of the Brad Pitt or Russell Crowe topless adventure-movies with their long-bow archers. Same idea, only with explosions. And tops. Anyhow, I place full blame for a lackluster round of golf on the winged devil - it's only right.

But I digress.

A semi-accurate representation of what flew overhead. Thanks, Google.

A complicated chart reflecting the heiarchy of bird flight. You're welcome.

The second phase of my aviary enlightenment came while Taggart and I were enjoying a leisurely refreshing dip in the pool after the round of golf with cold beverages. Somehow, with reasoning only understood by God, those who divine the fates of fools and thieves and the brittle mind of Mike Taggart, Mike began to relate a conversation he had overheard in the parking lot at work declaring that contrails (the vapor trails left behind high-flying aircraft) were no more than an intricate plan of the government to sprinkle some sort of mind-control mist over the land. Or to control the weather.

I laughed, thinking he was joking. "Oh, I thought it was bullshit, too," he said, gaining a valuable foothold of respect. "But I saw this show..." Taggart shattered any semblance of believability with this follow-up sentence.

"What the hell," I guffawed. "What is this - Area 52?" "'Agent Puffy White'," he countered. "Google it," he said, his face a mask of seriousness.

"Shut up," I said, and we went for lunch. The idea of a government incapable of running our foodstamp program efficiently concocting a far-reaching mind-control plan seemed unimaginable. And if we had the ability to control the weather, wouldn't we simply make everywhere San Diego, only without the outrageous prices and San Diegian attitudes? Just sayin'...

And if I am wrong about all this and it is a government conspiracy, can we arrange it so that my pool remains this temperature year-round? Because it is absolutely perfect right now. Thank you in advance.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

St. Thomas - A Brief Synopsis

I just spent 3 full days in the Virgin Islands. It was a swell time, even factoring in that in an unexpected turn of events that goes against everything I stand for, I took my daughter instead of a high-priced call-girl. Times have been tight. It certainly would have been a quieter trip - call girls, thank God, are not given to small talk - but I'm hoping in the off chance that there is a heaven, this father/daughter bonding time will help offset some of my innate nastiness when it comes time to negotiate with St. Peter about living with Jesus. It never hurts to have some insurance, I always say. I also always say "Giggety, giggety, giggety - alright..." in a nearly flawless imitation of Quagmire from "Family Guy" and it has thus far gotten me nowhere.

But I digress.

These are some of the things I learned on my trip to The Islands:

There are lots of iguanas in the Caribbean. They come in all sizes and are rumored to be herbivores. However, I heard from a golf partner that he saw one devouring a bird, which made me re-think the "Iguanas Are Harmless" line of thinking that I was using to calm my long-standing fear of the reptile. That said, the gentleman who told me of the bloodthirsty bird-killer was also from the States and by the look in his eyes, I got the inkling his fear of the reptile eclipsed my own.

Herbivore, or bloodthirsty killer?

I found that the simplest way to find out the location and severity of a sunburn is to take a hot shower. You're welcome.

Announcements on an aircraft are disseminated precisely to the time required for a human being to nearly reach REM-level sleep. Well played, airline industry - nice passive/aggressive manner in which to act out on your secret hatred of those who fly.

There is very little difference between "Jungle" and "Woods". St. Thomas could be West Virginia with all its inherent thickets and trees and hills. Only the disparate accents of the two and the endlessly pleasant disposition of the Island locals provide a clue as to which offensively humid mountain location one has been delivered.

There is a reason it's called "Sandpaper". Sand is an excellent abrasive - this was proven by walking back from the beach without adequate rinsing. A hot shower will also help one discover precisely where one's body has been rubbed clean of its protective epidermis.

Sea urchins are not to be trifled with. A young, drunken, thrill-seeking salesperson decided it would be a good idea to wander down to the pier on his first night at the resort and jump into the water. Scampering up the rocks on his way back to the pier, he stepped on a sea urchin. Not to be put off, he jumped in the water again and stepped on a second sea urchin on his way out that time as well. Much time was spent pulling sea urchin quills out of his foot, which turned an ugly color, forced him to walk with a limp and made him miserable for the rest of the trip.

Not to be trifled with.

My daughter informed him that if he had peed on the foot, it would have soothed his pain. Once this advise had been delivered, folks were offering to piss on the salesman all weekend. I offered myself and told him that he could have the asparagus variety for no extra charge. My daughter must be some kind of savant - she knows all kinds of weird stuff and once told me when she was five or six that an animal I mentioned in passing (most likely in fear) was not "indigenous to this part of the country". It probably made me feel better.

My daughter, Allie - the savant.

In spite of all the things I learned on my trip, there was still enough fear and paranoia to get me through. A lively conversation ensued at dinner one evening about the reliability of the seat cushions of the airplane as a flotation device. I immediately pointed out that dying on impact would be much more preferable to floating in the water clinging to my seat cushion, since my seat cushion would most likely smell of human feces born of fear. I also wondered aloud if it would be bad form to shed my soiled pants in the water and if human feces attracted sharks. While it might seem like tremendous good-fortune to survive an airliner crash into the sea, it appears that there is a fear and paranoia that can be attached to even the purest of good fortune. Some hope for survival; I dread floating, sans pants, in shark-infested waters, smelling my own fear-poo on a seat cushion/flotation device and hoping that the sharks don't bite my dingle off. These are the thoughts that haunt my dreams.

Dreaming of sharks, sea urchins and iguanas is hard work.

Sometimes I think it would be easier to simply bury my head in the sand...