Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The Consequences of Successfully Passing Rehab

I would hesitate to call Tom Doyle a full fledged member of the social circle I belonged to, but not because of any underlying animosity. Tom was a hard guy not to like. He was a complete lunatic, affable to the extreme, outgoing, gut-wrenchingly funny and overall, a dependable accomplice. Tom was a musician though and could usually be found in someone’s garage driving the neighbors to the precipice of insanity with heavy metal rock played at a volume that was inflicting nervous facial ticks in livestock as far away as the suburbs of the Mongolian capitol, Ulan Bator. He would join us on occasion if his band did not have a session scheduled but for the most part, even though he lived right across the street from me, we only saw him if we crossed paths at some house party he was performing at.

The circles that Tom traveled through were notorious for their legendary drug use but he had a general aversion to playing with his synapses so, with the rare exception of the occasional beer and constant exposure to second-hand pot smoke, he was about as straight as people in my neighborhood came. At least he was until the day his grandmother, whom he lived with, stepped unannounced into his room and caught a friend of his rolling up a joint. Wrongly assuming that her grandson was on drugs as well, she packed him off on a lengthy vacation at a detoxification institution where he picked up a myriad of new vices. His reasoning was that if he was going to get blamed for something, he might as well reap the satisfaction of having done it. To celebrate his newfound freedom upon his release, we decided to throw a party in his honor (which was as good of an excuse as any) and since my parents were out of town, I offered up my house to serve as the epicenter.

The only problem with having a party in Tom’s honor at my house was the fact that it was situated right across the street from his. Tom’s grandmother was watching him like a hawk and would have him right back in rehab at the first suspicion she had that he was ingesting alcohol or drugs. With this in mind, we had to keep things low key. I asked people to park on the street behind me and sneak into mine through the back yard, out of sight of Tom’s grandmother.

At first, the party started small. There was just me, Tom, Mad Dog, Lucky, three cases of beer, two fifths of cheap tequila, a carton of cigarettes and a bag full of herbal sunshine that Tom was rolling up and lighting as quickly as he could. At first I found it hard to believe that someone who had only possessed the habit for less than a week could smoke so much, but as time wore on I found out that, though he could definitely smoke it, he was not quite as proficient at handling it. This became evident after the first newcomer to the festivities knocked on my back door. Tom practically leapt out of his seat, his eyes wide with terror as he instantly broke out into a cold sweat. “Who the #$%@ is that!?!” he gasped as his eyes darted around nervously as if he were scoping out a place to hide or an avenue of escape, “WHO IS IT MAN!”

I got up and looked out the back window. “It’s just The Giz, dude.” I answered. “Chill out.”

Gizzarelli walked in, congratulated Tom on his release and took in a beer and a shot to try to catch up. Tom did a shot as well to try and calm his nerves but did not seem to be all that successful. He was still shaking like an over-bred Yorkshire Terrier forced to share kennel space with a Great Dane afflicted with an overactive libido. It was obvious he had what Hunter Thompson once aptly described as “The Fear”, the overwhelming and paralyzing paranoia that afflicted some users of illicit drugs. I was susceptible to it as well, which is the main reason I usually preferred to stick to alcohol.

About a twenty minutes later, Tom seemed to have gotten a hold on himself and settled down considerably. That was about the time my new girlfriend showed up, without bothering to knock. Once again Tom shot out of his seat, but this time he startled The Giz, who scooped up an armful of evidence and took off after the guest of honor. Figuring that Tom and the Giz had seen something they didn’t, Mad Dog and Lucky followed suit. By the time Carla was inside, I was the only one standing in the kitchen. I helped her carry in her milk crate full of records (the vinyl kind, this was 1985) and introduced her to the friends of mine she had not yet met, which was mainly Tom and Lucky. Lucky caused me a little bit of concern as from the moment he saw Carla, he seemed unable to take his eyes off of her. I didn’t feel threatened by this as she was not into midgets, but I guessed that if he did not give up the staring bit, things would eventually get rather uncomfortable.

As everyone was getting acquainted the telephone rang, which actually set off a little bit of The Fear in me. My parents were on vacation and would certainly soon be checking in. I frantically gathered everyone into the kitchen and told them to be absolutely quiet. I informed them that if it was my mother on the phone and she heard ANYTHING in the background, the party was over right there. They all piped down into total silence as I picked up the phone. “Hello?”

“Hello. JEP?” It was not my mother. It was Lucky’s.
Lucky’s mother was a serious threat. Among the parents of my circle of friends, she was the one who displayed the most overt suspicion of our intentions. She never believed any one of us was up to something constructive, instead choosing to believe that we were perpetually conspiring to commit acts malicious mischief. She believed us all to be utterly devoid of any sense of decency, lacking in moral fortitude and completely incapable of any sort of redemption whatsoever. No matter how hard we tried to convince her that we were upstanding young citizens of the community, she always believed that our positive efforts were little more than a guise to conceal some sinister act of malice that we had already set in motion. It was just not fair, even though her suspicions were usually well-founded and right on the mark.

Mustering all the wholesomeness that I could into my phone voice, I pulled the telephone handset closer to my mouth and said, “Hi, Mrs. Lucky! How are you doing?” As I said this, Lucky frantically jumped up and, in a frantic flurry of hand motions and improvised sign language, made it clear to me that he did not want to talk to her and did not want her to know that he was there.

“Hi, JEP. Is Lucky there by any chance? He took off without telling me where he was going.”

“No, I haven’t seen him.” I thought that I needed to soothe her fears a little though and try to keep her from panicking and putting out a missing person’s report, which she was very capable of. “I thought I heard him say something about going to some sort of party tonight though. If he went there, I wouldn’t expect him back until late.”

“Party? What party? Where?”

“I think he said somewhere in Southgate. I’m not exactly sure.”

“Why aren’t you going to it?” she asked suspiciously. It was a good question, one that I had not anticipated.

“Oooooohhhhh, I have to work early tomorrow morning. I really want to get to bed at a decent time tonight.”

“OK. Well if you happen to see him, tell him that he is to come straight home. STRAIGHT home.”

“I’ll tell him. I wouldn’t worry if I were you, Mrs. Lucky. Lucky’s a good guy and I am sure that he will make responsible choices.” As I said this, I glanced over at the kitchen table and witnessed Lucky and Tom trying to fashion a bong out of a cardboard toilet paper tube and a piece of tin foil, having run out of rolling papers.

“Quit trying to bullshit me, JEP. He’s a screw up. Tell him to come STRAIGHT home.”

“OK. Bye.” I hung up the phone and turned to Lucky. “Your mother said to tell you to come straight home. She also said you’re a screw-up.”

Tom looked up at me in disbelief then faced Lucky. “She said you’re a screw-up? Dude! That just ain’t right.” Tom then turned to address the rest of us. “Did anyone see how quick Lucky put this bong together? This dude’s got his shit together!”

After that, I walked into the living room with Carla to help her get the music going and the party finally started migrating out of the kitchen. We ordered pizza, which set off another of Tom’s panic attacks when it arrived, and embarked upon a gluttonous feast to the tune of Siouxie and the Banshees. We then got into a session of quarter bounce as people began arriving in force. Tom eventually stopped freaking out every time someone opened the door but it was obvious that he was still very on edge.

At some point, I was sitting on the couch with Carla when Lucky came out and took a seat across from us. He was pretty drunk by this point and his ogling, which had not been very subtle since it started, became increasingly obvious. I was just getting ready to say something to him when he finally spoke up and asked Carla, “You went to Sunday school at Cabrini, didn’t you?”

Carla eyed him suspiciously and tentatively answered, “Yeeeaaaaah……”

Lucky jumped up and exclaimed, “I knew you looked familiar! I’m Davey!”

A look of sudden recognition suddenly flashed across Carla’s eyes as she said “Oh My God! How are you? That was so long ago!” The two of them then proceeded to start catching up on what they had been doing over the past ten years. Relieved that Lucky was not going to make a fool of himself, I excused myself to let them keep talking and went to the kitchen to grab another beer. Tom was in there with Mad Dog, making a serious dent in the stash of marijuana he had brought.

Just as I opened my beer, there was another knock at my back door. Once again, Tom froze but managed to keep from panicking this time. I looked outside to see who it was and spotted a middle-aged bald guy in a leather jacket standing outside beneath the back light. It was Carla’s father.

Carla’s father was a pretty cool guy. Carla had a very open relationship with him and told him everything so he knew all about the party I was throwing and that we would be drinking. I got along with him very well and he trusted me, not so much because of my high moral values but because, as a highly decorated paratrooper in Vietnam, he knew I was terrified of crossing him. I was not in the least bit concerned about him finding alcohol in the house but I had no idea how he would handle seeing the stuff that Tom was smoking. I paused while I contemplated how to handle the situation.

Seeing my hesitation, Tom’s paranoia began setting in again and he asked in a cracking voice, “Who is it, JEP?”

I looked back at him with a feigned expression of fear and whispered, “It’s the cops.” I didn’t know what the hell I was thinking.

Tom dropped everything and booked for the front door before I had the chance to tell him I was kidding. He burst through out onto the front porch, which was fenced in by metal railing that was bolted into the cement. Instead of going around or over the railing Tom went right through it, ripping it out and taking it smashing into the front lawn with him. He then took off at a full sprint down the street. This started a minor panic among the rest of the revelers which I managed to calm by telling them there were no cops there. I then immediately touched it off again by saying that it was only Carla’s father, who hearing the commotion inside, had let himself in by this time. He was the one who soothed their fears the second time around, assuring everyone that he was there to make sure nothing was getting out of hand and telling everyone that he was free to give anyone a ride home if they ended up too drunk to drive.

Once he left, I walked back towards the front yard on my way to survey the damage that Tom had caused. As I passed through the living room, I caught a glimpse of Carla and Lucky. Apparently, they did not get along at all when they were in Sunday school together and their reunion had re-opened some old wounds. They were in a corner reciting the various offences each one had committed against the other and their exchange grew more and more heated with each sentence. It had reached a point that demanded intervention before things turned violent and Lucky got hurt. Unfortunately, I had a broken railing to attend to so someone else was going to have to protect him.

When I got outside, Mad Dog was already inspecting the damage and shaking his head in dismay. “I think you’re screwed, JEP. He ripped the anchors right out of the cement. The railing’s toast.”

“There’s no way to fix it? Can’t we just pound the things back in?”

“We can try.” Mad Dog offered, “But I don’t think it’s going to work.”

He was right. We put the railing back into position and the bolt anchors slid effortlessly into the holes in the cement. Too effortlessly. It was autumn and the air had turned colder and much windier. The first stiff breeze blew by shortly after we had positioned the rail and knocked it right back down. Mad Dog put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Don’t sweat it. We’ll come up with something to tell your parents later. Let’s get back to drinking.”

We walked through the front door just in time to witness Carla and Lucky’s argument reach its pinnacle. Both of their faces were bright crimson with anger and just inches apart as they hit each other with traded insults. “You’re an asshole, Lucky!”

“You’re a #%@!#& bitch!”


“CU..oomph!” Lucky should have known better. Muttering the “C” word to a woman will only bring instant and paralyzing physical retribution. Before he could even finish that single syllable, Carla had sent her right foot sailing through the air towards Lucky’s groin. She missed the crown jewels but still managed to plant it right into the pit of his stomach. Lucky doubled over as all the air he contained was forced out of his mouth. He then turned green as the contents of his stomach threatened to follow suit. He clamped a hand over his mouth and with terror in his eyes, searched desperately for somewhere to get sick into. After spotting the milk crate containing Carla’s records, he shot her a final look of defiance and made a break for them. Before she realized what he was up to, he had fallen to his knees by the stereo and added an inordinate amount of semi-digested pizza, cheese-flavored corn chips, El Toro tequila and cheap beer to her contingent of Depeche Mode. Unable to help it, I felt myself beginning to laugh until I saw he was also threatening to unintentionally do the same thing to my speakers. I rushed over to haul him into the bathroom.

As Carla came completely unglued in the living room, Lucky had my toilet in a death grip. His body would periodically convulse into a violent contortion every time he heaved, wreaking havoc upon his aim. One spasm would cause him to soil the bathtub, the other would cause him to spew all over the sink cabinet. Precious little seemed to be making it into the intended receptacle. I eventually found myself holding his head down into the toilet. This was the position I had him in when Carla broke through to us and snuck up from behind for a sneak attack. This time, her foot found the intended target. The kick was delivered so hard it lifted Lucky right off of his knees. I was not about to reach in to check, but I would not have been surprised if a stray testicle found its way into the mess forced out of Lucky’s mouth and nostrils after that last blow.

Left with no choice, I had to let go of Lucky and get Carla out of the bathroom before he suffered any further injuries. I grabbed her in a bear hug and carried her into the kitchen while the Giz took my place. As soon as I set Carla down, the phone started ringing again. I took a deep breath and yelled, “QUIEEEEEETTTT!” The house immediately fell silent once again. If nothing else, we were a very disciplined lot. The only person making noise was Lucky and he was far enough away to avoid being any real danger. I picked up the phone to find Lucky’s mother once again on the other end.

“Hi JEP, it’s me again.”

“Of course.” I did not say that out loud.

“I’m starting to get worried. I can’t find David anywhere. Are you sure you haven’t seen him?”

A plethora of smart-assed responses flooded my head but in the end I just said, “I’m pretty sure. I would have remembered something like that.”

“Well, if you see him, make sure you tell him to come home.”

“I’ll tell him to come STRAIGHT home.”

I went back into the bathroom and found Lucky stripped down to his underwear and passed out cold. The Giz handed me a pile of soiled clothes. “I think you need to get these in the washer before this junk gets all over the place.”

“Good idea.” I said taking the pile. “We need to do something with him also. I don’t need him puking all over the house.”


I nodded. “Bathtub.” I set the clothes in the sink and helped The Giz pick Lucky up and roll him into the tub. He never moved a muscle. After we set him down, The Giz asked who was on the phone. “Lucky’s mom.” I then reached down and peeled one of Lucky’s eyelids back. “LUCKY! YOUR MOM WANTS YOU TO GO HOME RIGHT NOW! STRAIGHT HOME YOU BASTARD!” He never moved.

I gave up and went back to the party after throwing Lucky’s clothes in the washing machine. Within a half hour, things were going full tilt. The house was full, the music was loud and mind bending substances flowed freely. The festivities started taking a toll on my house though. At first I tried to keep things under control but eventually just gave up and joined in, resigning myself to the fact that I was probably going to get busted anyway so I might as well enjoy myself.

At some point, the smoke in the air became suffocating and a couple of people decided to move outdoors into the brisk autumn air. I thought this might attract some unwanted attention but overall, could save some wear on my house so at first I let them go. After an hour or so though I had to break up a fight in the back and saw that the entire yard was littered with beer cans and all sorts of other debris so I was forced to coral everyone back inside. It was like herding cats but I finally succeeded in the end.

Eventually, I had to use the bathroom. At that time, my house only had one toilet so I found myself waiting in line for a very uncomfortable period of time. When it was finally my turn, I rushed in and did what I had to do. I was mid-stream when I realized something was amiss. I looked over into the bathtub and noticed that Lucky was missing. After finishing up, I started asking around. Neither The Giz, Mad Dog or Carla had seen him and I wondered whether or not he had left. While we were talking, Mad Dog spotted something on the floor in the living room and picked it up. It was a black Member’s Only jacket, Lucky’s trademark attire. “He wouldn’t have went anywhere without this.”

I shrugged my shoulders. “He may have. I’ve seen him without it before.”

The Giz then said, “So have I but I doubt that he would have tried to go home in his underwear. Are his clothes still in the wash?” I went down and checked and found that they were. I threw them in the dryer then went back upstairs to make an announcement.

After quieting everyone down, I shouted, “Listen up! Has anyone seen Lucky anywhere?” Most people shook their heads to indicate they had not but a few people that I did not recognize just gave me a blank stare. “He’s a little guy with brown hair. He was last seen in his underwear, lying in the bathtub covered in his own vomit.” An expression of recognition flashed across the faces of those who did not personally know Lucky before they gestured that they had no idea where he went. We then embarked upon a room-to-room search finally finding him underneath my little brother’s bed, once again passed out cold.

We pulled him out and set him up on the floor with an easily cleanable rug as a blanket and an oversized stuffed panda my brother had won at a carnival as a pillow. Mad Dog then asked if they could have some fun with him. After I gave my blessing, they grabbed a camera and started arranging Lucky into obscene positions to simulate sex acts with various members of my brother’s collection of stuffed animals. I helped for a little while, but soon I had to leave after hearing someone burst through the back door.

I arrived in the kitchen and found that Tom had returned, having tangled himself in someone’s clothesline along the way. He looked to be in bad shape. “I’m not going back to rehab, man.” He panted, being completely out of breath. “I’m not going to let the cops take me down!”

“What’s up with the clothesline?”

“If the pigs get me cornered, I’m going to stab them with this!” He held up a piece of line to show off his arsenal.

“No, you’re not.” I countered, wondering what the pot he had been smoking had been laced with.

“I am too, dude! I’m not going back to rehab!”

“Tom, do you have any idea how hard it is to stab someone with a piece of string?”

Tom looked back at his weaponry and then back at me. “You’re right, man. I guess I’ll strangle them then.”

Mad Dog then walked into the kitchen to see what the ruckus was about, just in time to relieve me to take another call from Lucky’s mother who informed me that she had been driving around the city looking for him and was ready to call the police. As I hung up the phone with her, I had to go answer a knock at the front door. I looked through the peep hole to see who it was and was mortified to see that this time, it really was the cops. I mouthed to Mad Dog that the police really were here and, taking the cue, he shuffled Tom down into the basement and out of sight. As soon as I cracked open the door the officer, who I was actually on pretty good terms with, pushed his way inside. I was just about to protest his lack of a warrant when he cut me off. “Relax JEP. I’m not going to bust your asses or anything but we got our first noise complaint on you guys. The party’s over.” I tried to tell him that everyone had been on their best behavior but he begged to differ. “Bullshit. I’ve been driving by here all night and it’s been noisy as hell. I was just waiting for the call. Start clearing out. Now.”

The officer then took me into the other room as people started collecting their things. “I mean it, JEP. I want everyone out here, do you understand?”

I nodded. “I’ve got a couple people that I don’t think should be driving home though. Is it OK if they spend the night?”

He nodded. “Sure, but if I get one more noise complaint about this place, I’m running you guys in. Got it? I’m too busy for this shit.”

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“There’s a prowler in the neighborhood we’re trying to track down.”

“A burglar or something?”

The officer shrugged. “I don’t know. Nobody’s reported anything stolen but he’s been snooping around people’s backyards all night. The only thing to come up missing though is someone’s clothesline. He may just be a Peeping Tom. Seen anything?”

I shook my head hoping that Tom stayed quiet and out of sight. “No, but I’ll keep my eyes open.”

“Thanks. Concentrate on getting these people out of here right now though. I mean it, if people are still here when I come back, you’re in trouble.”

I escorted the officer back to the front door and started clearing people out of the house. It took some doing, but we even managed to convince Tom to risk going home. He took his clothesline with him.

When it was all over, I collapsed onto the couch with Mad Dog and The Giz, finally able to enjoy a beer in quiet. Lucky was still passed out in my brother’s bedroom. I looked around and surveyed the damage. There were beer cans all over the place, overflowing ashtrays and a cloud of smoke so thick in the place our eyes were burning. I had the urge to start cleaning up but decided that I would get to it in the morning. It was already 2am. The three of us started to recount the night’s events but eventually dozed off.

Sometime after three, we were woken up by another knock on the door. I stumbled to the door to answer it, thinking it was the police again making sure everyone was gone. I was horrified to see Lucky’s mother standing on the front porch close to tears. “JEP, I’ve been driving around all night looking for David. Could you please help?”

“Mrs. Lucky, I would if I thought he was in trouble but I’m positive he’s fine. I really have to get some sleep otherwise I’m going to have one rough day tomorrow.” That was the last straw. By hook or by crook, I knew right there we had to get that kid home, even if we had to carry him there after his mother left. “Look, if you don’t hear from him by morning, I will leave work and help you find him. I’m sure he’s just out pulling another all-nighter. It’s not like he’s never done this kind of thing before.”

“I know, I know. I’m sorry to keep bugging you but I’m just really worried.”

“It’s OK. Just go back and get some sleep.”

I went to shut the door but she turned around to say something else. She then saw past me to my couch where Lucky’s jacket was draped over the back. Her demeanor did an immediate out-of-phase shift. “You #&$^!@ son-of-bitch!” she snarled as she opened up the screen door and kicked open the main, which hit me in the nose. She then pushed past me and went for the coat. “He’s here!”

Now, I had heard about mother’s intuition but I never realized how accurate it could be. To my knowledge, Lucky’s mother had never set foot inside of my house. She had dropped her son off a couple of times but never went farther then the driveway. Still, she walked right down the hall and went right to the room were her son was passed out and threw open the door. Lucky was still in his underwear, and still in the last position Mad Dog had put him in for the panda pornography pictures. It looked as if he was sodomizing the critter from behind. His mother rushed over and, for the second time during the course of the night, Lucky took a direct kick right to the stomach.

Lucky jumped up spoiling for a fight but as soon as he saw that he was facing his mother, his courage bled out. He stared at her in disbelief for a moment, then I watched as his abdomen convulsed, filling his cheeks with whatever was left in his gut. He looked disgusted, but still managed to swallow the bilious fluid that was in his mouth. His mother then commenced her verbal bludgeoning, punctuating each sentence with a vicious slap to the back of his head. In between gags and dry-heaves, Lucky asked me where his clothes were. I directed him to the basement.

As Lucky got dressed, his mother turned her fury on me. She told me never to speak to her son again and forbade me from ever setting foot on their property. The same went for Mad Dog and The Giz. She promised that she would be telling my mother everything as soon as they returned and informed me that she would probably be calling the police to report the under-aged drinking, threats that, thank God, she never followed through on. When her son emerged from the basement, she grabbed him by the hair and pulled him to the front door where, with a swift kick to the rear, she launched him out into the front yard. Still screaming insults at me, she threw him into the back seat of the car.

As she got into the vehicle, the dome light went on. I caught a glimpse of Lucky, finally losing control of his digestive system, getting sick in the back seat. The two of them then sped off. I lifted the porch railing back into place and then went inside to go to bed.

The following morning we all woke up in very bad shape. Still, we focused our efforts towards getting the house put back together. We wiped down the walls, cleaned the carpets, dusted every flat surface we could find, pulled beer cans out of the gutters and ended up doing an incredible job. In fact, it was a little too good. We spent the final half hour kind of messing it back up a bit so that we did not arouse any suspicions. The only thing we could not put back was the porch railing. No matter what we did, it kept falling back over. I spent the next 36 hours constantly putting the thing back up. In fact, on the day my parents were due back home, I was just putting the rail back into position when I spotted their car coming down the street. I rushed back inside and prayed that this time it stayed upright.

I watched as my family pulled into the drive and noticed that the wind had died down a little, which definitely worked to my favor. I then saw my step-father get out of the car and lift a large suitcase out of the trunk. He dragged it to the porch and then grabbed the rail to help pull himself up. I then watched the rail lift right up and fall over onto the grass. Seeing my opportunity, I burst out the front door and surveyed the scene. I then looked at my stepfather and, feigning false shock and surprise, cried out “Holy Shit, Chuck! What the hell did you do?”

Shocked himself, he looked around in disbelief and anger and replied, “I have no idea! I just grabbed the damn rail and the piece of shit fell over!”

Fortunately, Chuck is a tried and true technophobe with an entrenched fear of the internet. He does not own a computer, nor does he read The JEP Report. It’s a good thing too. Twenty years after the fact, he still thinks that he is the one that broke the railing.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

True Inspiration

So, I went to my four-year-old’s dance recital last night and though I’m not usually a big fan of watching dance routines that don’t involve a shiny metallic pole on the stage and a generous amount of rolled up $1 bills, I have to say that it was a pretty good time. My daughter did great (though I am admittedly very biased) and I can not adequately put into words how proud I was of her. There was another girl there though that I was incredibly proud of also, even though I have no idea who she was and am not related to her in any way.

She performed several acts after my daughter. The routine was played out by seven girls. Six of them were what you would typically expect of someone who had studied dance for several years. I would guess them to be about 15 years old, svelte, incredibly pretty and obviously extroverted and comfortable being on public display. They were cheerleader girls, undoubtedly popular in high school and I would guess likely members of the type of clique that were not very forgiving towards those not blessed with the level of physical beauty that they themselves enjoyed. I know the type well. When I was a punk rocker, these were the types of girls that dated me to get back at their parents.

The seventh, positioned front and center during the length of the routine, was pretty much the exact opposite of the others. She was short and squat, about as physically unattractive as you could imagine and morbidly overweight. Dressed in what appeared to be a black, one-piece bathing suit covered with a glittering white tuxedo jacket with tails and a bow tie, she looked less like one of the “A Chorus Line” understudies and more like an under-aged dominatrix concubine to Batman’s arch-villain The Penguin.

Now I have to admit, I immediately suspected the intentions of putting this girl in the lead of this particular routine. If one of the other girls slipped on a wet spot on the stage and flew careening headlong into the crowd, she would be met with gasps of horror and bombarded with a rush of well-wishers rushing up to see if she was OK. If the large girl did the same thing, she would probably be barraged with hysterical laughter, would have to live with the guilt of having caused several spectators an unplanned trip to the emergency room of a local hospital while getting top billing on both the eleven o’clock news AND America’s Funniest Home Videos. I suspected that something sinister was afoot and was betting at some point during the routine, she would fall victim to some sort of heart-wrenching, demoralizing prank akin to that suffered by Sissy Spacek’s character in the movie “Carrie”.

Once the routine got going however, something happened that I just could not have comprehended. She danced. She danced really well. In fact, she was utterly spectacular. She approached her routine with incredible enthusiasm, maintained a genuine smile that stretched from ear-to-ear throughout the performance and moved with a poise and grace that I would have thought absolutely impossible for someone of her size. After a couple of minutes of watching her, I could not help but realize the amount of work that she must have put into learning her art. I bet that she expended a hundred times the effort of the other girls to reach that level of perfection and she deserved every second she had in the limelight.

My daughter is very lucky. She’s a really cute kid and I can see the advantages she gains from this. People are drawn to her, the teachers spend more time with her and she is surrounded by individuals that are constantly reminding her of how pretty she is. Things will (admittedly unfairly) come rather easily to her. My challenge in raising her will be to somehow instill at least 10% of the drive, ambition and character that the large girl in the bowtie had. I have no idea what her parents did to her but I sincerely hope that I meet them one day so that I can unlock some of their parenting expertise.

I can not over emphasize the level of respect I held for that dancer as I exited the recital. Sadly though, I probably would have still laughed my ass off if I was watching the film of her falling off of the stage on America’s Funniest Home Videos.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

A Short One from Back in the Day.

I ran into an old friend today and was reminded of a story from when we worked together briefly in the mid-1980s. I was a stock boy at a local grocery store where marijuana use was rampant and though I was never a big pot smoker, I smoked more when I worked there than I did in the rest of my entire life combined. One day, me and a buddy of mine left for our daily lunch / THC break and this nerdy honor student goody-two-shoes kid I’ll call Jeff invited himself along. As my buddy Dave lit up a joint, he passed to the nerd that both of us knew had probably never tried it before. He tried laying on a bunch of BS about his imaginary stoner escapades, so Mike kept lighting up just for his benefit. We probably smoked four times our usual amount that time. When we got back to work, Mike and I were far too baked to be of much use anywhere and Jeff was absolutely blotto, unable to do anything but emit an incessant and paranoid laugh, trip over his own feet and knock stuff over. Knowing no good was going to come of this, I decided to get out of public view and went into the freezer to do inventory.

While I was in freezer, I opened up a box of Dove bars to satisfy my munchies. Dave hid in back cleaning up the loading docks. Jeff wandered manically up and down the aisles, stumbling over product displays and freaking out the customers with his insane laugh. The manager, Darren, finally got pissed and laid into him several times, which only succeeded in increasing Jeff’s paranoia. Darren finally got fed up and went to find me so he could blow off some steam.

I had just finished my fifth Dove bar (out of a box of six) when Darren walked into the cooler. Luckily I had just discarded the stick so I didn’t get caught eating the inventory. The box of them however, was sitting in plain sight but Darren didn’t see it when he walked in.

Darren then went off on a tangent about how Jeff was screwing up out on the floor. He complained about the stuff that had gotten knocked over and how weird he was acting. He then asked me what I thought was wrong with the kid.

I looked at him with my bloodshot eyes and said, “I bet the loser’s on dope.” I then listed off a bunch of symptoms he should look for.

He thanked me for my help and then went to leave. When he hit the door though, he saw the mostly empty box of Dove bars I had been eating and exploded. He lifted it up and yelled, “What the hell is this?!?!?”

I looked at the box and, without skipping a beat, replied, “It’s that fucking Jeff kid! He was in here acting funny when I started my inventory! I bet it was him!”

Darren then loosed a stream of vindictive from between his clenched teeth and told me that he was going to castrate the punk. I stopped him before he hit the door though and picked up the Dove Bar box. “Say Darren, there’s only one ice cream bar left in here and we can’t sell it. You mind if I have it?”

Word of the Day

This little conversation appeared on


No, bellicose is my word of the day. But it's a bitch to work into everyday conversation.

Gabber #2:

Gee Brody, your bellicose nature seems to be showing today.

Gabber #3:

I can see Brody's bellicose veins.

Gabber #4:

Bellicose Lugosi played a great vampire.

Somehow I feel that a conversation very close to this one took place in the Sacramento are in California as well sometime over the past week.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Childbirth and Other Hazards of Sex

During the fall of 2000, my wife called me at work and ordered me to get home NOW. She told me that she was going into labor, so I dropped what I was doing and tore through the office towards the parking lot. I then jumped into my Chevrolet Cavalier and raced through rush hour traffic at a velocity that would have induced incontinence in an Andretti. When the highway lost its fluidity, I jumped onto the shoulder. When confronted with shoulder obstacles, I cut off terrified geriatrics who insisted upon traveling in the passing lane at the pace of retarded garden snails on Valium. Speed laws were broken, commuters were righteously outraged and obscene hand gestures were displayed with an enthusiastic frequency seldom seen this far away from New Jersey.

When I arrived at the hospital, I found that my wife and mother-in-law were already on their way home. They told me that my wife had experienced something called “false labor” which, when translated into terms that I could understand, roughly equated to a false alarm. I was overjoyed. It was not that I dreaded the birthing experience at all, it was just that I do not get the chance to drive like that very often and I was giddy with the prospect of being able to do it again relatively soon. Then the doctor added that my wife was already quite overdue and if she did not experience real labor over the next three days, they were going to induce her on the fourth.

Once we left the hospital, it was around dinner time so we ended up going out to eat at a local barbecue joint. Experiencing a hunger that was intensified by ebbing adrenaline, we ravenously feasted. My wife, who had skipped lunch due to the mistaken belief that she was in the process of having a baby, displayed a particularly uncharacteristic exhibition of wanton gluttony and devoured nearly as much food as I had. When we finally arrived home, we were over-full and on the verge of slipping into a nutritional coma. I think we managed to embark upon a half hour’s worth of conversation before I finally excused myself to go to bed. I think it was 10:30 and I was sound asleep before my head hit the pillow.

At 11:00, my wife woke me up in a panic, telling me that we had to go to the hospital again and that this time it was most definitely real. Having fallen for that one just a few hours earlier, I just laughed and rolled over. I can not remember what she did to me immediately after that but I do recall that it was intensely painful and not only did it instantly force me out of bed, it managed to motivate me to act upon her every command with a fanatical mindlessness that I have not possessed since I was in boot camp. As I was getting dressed my wife explained to me, in detail far too graphic for a male to sanitarily process on a full stomach, what the term “water breaking” meant and expounded upon the need for urgency. After I had put my clothes on I threw my wife’s bags into the car and, with her “breaking water” narrative still fresh in my head, grabbed a plastic garbage bag to cover my Cavalier’s passenger side seat with. When my wife saw my new Hefty bag seat cover, she shot me a look that was obviously meant to call my intellectual capacity into question and asked, “What in the world is that for?”

“It’s to protect the seat the seat in case your water breaks on the way to the hospital.” The tone I used betrayed my waning confidence in this particular course of action.

She crossed her arms. “I am NOT sitting on that.”

I then proceeded to inform her that I was not subjecting my seat upholstery to an over-application of amniotic Armor All either. She then shot me a look that made absolutely certain that if the garbage bag was not removed, I would be physically unable to ever again father another child. Fearing for my reproductive health, I removed it from the seat.

After a couple of quick phone calls, we finally took off for the hospital. This second drive was nowhere near as much fun as the first had been. My wife, an inveterate backseat driver under the best of circumstances, was absolutely unbearable and the fifteen minute drive we embarked upon seemed to last an eternity. By the time we arrived, I was sorely tempted to drop her off at the front door and, after telling her I was going to find a parking spot, bolt for the border in a mad dash defection to Canada under the premise of marital asylum. Against my better judgment however, I parked the car and went back inside.

We got triaged and were shipped upstairs to the maternity ward. It was there that I discovered the complete and total uselessness of Lamaze classes. I tried to coach my wife’s breathing exercises from the beginning but all that I managed to do was elicit a look from her as if she had just caught me pantsing the adolescent mongoloid participants of the Special Olympics relay race. “WHAT THE $%&! IS THE MATTER WITH YOU?!?!?! WOULD YOU QUIT BREATHING IN MY $%@!#$% FACE?” She then went off on me with language that I do not think I have ever heard, and keep in mind I sent six years in the US Navy where spewing colorful vindictive had evolved into a highly respected art form. It appeared as if she was in the midst of a marathon screaming session when she suddenly went green and woozy. She then grabbed for a basin on the table next to the bed and purged the contents of her stomach into it before continuing her barrage of insults where she had left off. As she did this, I removed that barbecue joint we had eaten at a couple of hours earlier from my list of preferred dining establishments.

After enduring a good ten minutes of verbal abuse, I committed an unforgivable sin. Wondering how long it was going to take for the anesthesiologist to arrive with some sedatives for my wife, I accidentally glanced at my watch. My wife then went completely silent, which was the first sign that I had done something very, very wrong. I tried to figure out what I had done but before it had a chance to come to me, my wife asked, “Did you have an appointment that I am keeping you from?”

Still not comprehending exactly what transgression I had just committed, I gave her my “I-am-smart-enough-to-know-that-I-am-a-complete-moron-but-not-smart-enough-to-know-why” look and muttered, “Uuuuuuuuuh, no.” I knew right away that this was definitely the wrong answer but at that point, it is highly unlikely that there is any such thing as a right answer. No matter what I said, I knew I had a verbal bludgeoning in store and just braced myself for what I knew was coming.

One of the things they teach in Lamaze class is that childbirth is a very painful experience. They say one of the best ways to get through it is to pick a focal point, concentrate on it and imagine yourself in a happy place. That little piece of advice did not seem to do squat for my wife, but it worked fine on me. I focused my vision on a picture of Snoopy on one of the bags that we had brought into the room and imagined myself romping through the fields of dandelions with that animated beagle and Woodstock. We then chased got into a dogfight with the Red Baron while flying the doghouse, battling to the tune of that groovy piano piece they always play during those cartoons. I do not know how long I was in this little fanciful trance, I just know that at some point we had an encounter with a Charlie Brown adult. I never saw her but I heard the unmistakable, “MWAHHH, mwah-mwah mwa mwahhh” that I always heard in the cartoons. I was then magically transported right back into the delivery room where the nurses had just placed an oxygen mask over my wife’s face. The mask was not the kind that consists of a simple tube with two protrusions that are inserted into a patient’s nostrils. It was the old variety that covered the entire nose and throat. I turned to one of the nurses and asked, “What is that stuff?”

“It’s just oxygen. We’re out of the nasal applicators so we have to use the facials.” I sensed a lack of sincerity in her voice as she answered me. I was guessing that she was just as tired of listening to my wife as I was and, tired of waiting around for the anesthesiologist to arrive, did the closest thing she could to muzzling her.

I placed my hand on my wife’s forehead and asked if she was doing alright. She answered, “MWAH MWAH MWAH MWAH MWAHHHH!” I didn’t know what that meant so I just nodded my head in agreement and thanked God for having picked a day to send my wife into labor when the hospital’s supplies were running low.

The birthing process, at least in our case, was painstaking slow but replete with an impressive display of a chain-of-command in action. The doctor would look up at the nurses and say “Push”. One of the nurses would then look at me, nod, and say “Push”. I would then look lovingly into my wife’s eyes and softly say, “Push”. My wife would then dig her nails into my hand until blood was drawn and scream “MMMMMMMWWWWWWWWAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH! mwah-MWAH-MWAH-mwah-MWAH MMMMMMMMWWWWWWAAAAAAAHHH!!!!!!!” I would try to translate, but I believe that transcribing what she was trying to say would probably be a violation of some sort of federal decency statute.

This went on for hours. By daybreak, I was getting pretty tired. I was exhausted to the point of hallucination, hungry, uncomfortable and dying for a cigarette. Fortunately, I am smart enough to have kept this to myself. I am sure that if I would have suggested to my wife then that she try and hurry things up, I would have been rushed down two floors to the hospital’s emergency room and would be typing these words in a much higher octave than I am today. Just as I thought I was reaching the end of my endurance, there was a sudden flurry of activity at the other end of the bed. One of the nurses looked up and told me the baby was crowning. I turned to my wife and said, “The baby’s crowning, Honey! The baby’s crowning!” I then tried to figure out what the hell that meant.

I let go of my wife’s hand and strolled down to the end of the bed to see what all the fuss was about. It was a decision that took no time at all to regret.

Now, I’ve had several veteran fathers tell me in the months leading up to this that witnessing the event of childbirth is one of the most beautiful things any person could ever hope to have the privilege of seeing. I realize now that the men who say these kinds of things are sick and twisted and probably get a nice cozy feeling every time they watch a gang of crocodiles rip open thirsty wildebeests on those National Geographic specials. The actual vision of childbirth is disturbing to say the least. It’s full of blood, sharp instruments, clear slimy fluid and more gore than an Iraqi election. It’s kind of like the meal scene in the movie “Alien”, but without the benefit of editing so that the effects are much more grotesque.

I managed to retain consciousness, but just barely. Before I knew it, the baby’s head popped out, setting off another flurry of activity. It kind of looked like a cone-headed version of Winston Churchill, but with a lot more hair. I started to get excited. No female could ever look that much like old Churchill, so it must be a boy. A few minutes later, I was planning our first fishing trip together when the rest of the baby slid out, along with a bunch of extra stuff that I will refrain from describing. The doctor poked it around a little bit and then announced, “It’s a girl!”

My heart sank. It was not that I was disappointed that I had a girl. It was just that I was very sorry that I had a girl that looked like an awful lot like a cone-headed Winston Churchill. High school was going to be really hard on her. At least I wouldn’t have to worry about her getting pregnant before she graduated.

I rushed over to my wife and congratulated her. She was spent, so completely and utterly exhausted but still anxious to hold her daughter. I was overjoyed at that. I had never held someone so tiny before and just knew that if I got my clumsy mits on her she’d be broken inside of a minute and I was fairly certain that those things were incredibly expensive to repair. Besides that, I had an up close and personal view of where she had been a couple of minutes before and I really did not want to touch her until she had taken a shower or something first.

After an hour or so while my wife was undergoing some post-partum medical procedures, I went to see my daughter in the nursery. She had changed colors a couple of times, was cleaned up much better and had lost her Churchill-esque appearance. I still felt more unease and trepidation about her arrival than anything else at that point, seeing her less as my daughter and more as something that I had the potential to screw up on an epic scale. All I could do was promise her then that I would do the best that I could and that, if nothing else, we would be able to share a few laughs along the way.

Still, I could not help but be relieved that she was finally here. I was glad to meet her and overjoyed that my wife’s hormonally-charged, homicidal mood swings were finally coming to an end. This was my first child. I was still blissfully ignorant of post-partum depression at that point.

Things eventually settled down and I started growing more and more comfortable with fatherhood. My daughter made it a breeze. She was an easy baby and the perfect child. She had her moments, but overall she was incredibly awesome for a newborn. In addition to that, at six months she was a total Daddy’s girl and still is. She is heartbreakingly cute, sweet to the core and a little princess through and through. Even though I had never considered parenthood a goal in my life before she was conceived, once she arrived I could not even bear the thought of an existence without her.

I was so enamored with my daughter that about a year later, when my wife told me she was pregnant again I felt no reservations about the experience at all. I was much wiser about the whole thing. I was able to brace for the mood changes, learned to tune out my wife during labor and could not wait to get another baby. When my son was born however, the hospital was fully stocked and equipped with the oxygen applicators that are inserted into the nostrils so my wife was free to talk the entire time. I was NOT prepared for that. Five minutes into the delivery, I had taken my fill of verbal abuse and was on the verge of responding in kind (which, by the way, is a capital crime when you are in the process of giving birth) when one of the nurses, a matronly old woman pushing retirement age with stern facial features that broadcast that she was not to be trifled with, pre-empted me. “Now knock that off!” she chastised my wife. “There is no reason for that! This will be over before you know it and there is no excuse for that kind of behavior.”

The rest of the delivery was unnaturally quiet. A baby soon came out, the doctor told me it was a boy, I beamed with pride, hugged the old nurse that saved me from making a potentially fatal error and then started making plans for an extended vacation in Mexico with my two new kids until the post-partum depression thing had blown over. This time, much to my relief, it never came.

My son turned out to be much more similar to me than I am really comfortable with. He is energetic, outgoing, intelligent, inquisitive, defiant and unable to relax unless he is unleashing a tremendous calamity of some sort. Immune to any disciplinary technique, a tempest of mayhem follows him pretty much wherever he goes and I find myself constantly thwarted in my efforts to bring him to heel. Still, I do not think I would have him any other way. He makes every day an adventure and is the source of a full blown belly laugh at least three times a day. He does things that I could not have possibly have imagined, and that is no small feat considering the breadth of my imagination.

My third child, my other son, was just born a few weeks ago. He’s still too young to decipher his personality yet, but from what I can see so far, I’m guessing he falls somewhere in between the extremes of the other two. I am sure that he is going to fit in just fine.

Monday, June 13, 2005

My First Drive

In 1985, Mark Malone became the first of our group to turn 16. His father, the owner of a successful business that just happened to include the Allen Park Police Department as one of its primary clients, rewarded him with a brand new Ford Mustang to go along with his brand new driver’s license. Not about to let such a momentous development go uncelebrated, the rest of us decided to throw a momentous party in his honor. Lucky offered his house as the site of bacchanalia, which should have been ominous sign that something was going to go horribly awry before the night was out.

There were six of us at the onset of the festivities. There was Lucky, Mad Dog, Mark and myself, as well as two girls that I do not believe we ever saw again after that night. It was Mark and myself who had embarked upon the beer run and after picking up the libations (and discarding the diapers and tampons we had bought with it) we proceeded to try and drink as much of it as we could before anyone else showed up. We did a fine job. An hour after getting back to Lucky’s house, half of our stock was depleted, the six of us were pleasantly smashed and the lights had been dimmed while two of the guys started making out with two of the girls. Not being one of those two, I decided to step outside for a smoke but realized that I had left my pack of cigarettes in the car. I asked Mark, who was one of the two making out since (among 15-year-olds anyway) driving rights seemed to have beneficial effects on mating privileges, for the keys to his car. After a quick interrogation to find out what my intentions were, he tossed me the keys and I made my way to the Mustang.

I entered the car through the driver’s door and grabbed the pack of Newport. Before leaving however, I kind of felt the twinge of adrenaline at sitting in the driver’s seat of a actual, operational motor vehicle. I put the seat back to get more comfortable (Mark had the height of six-year-old pygmy from the Congo Basin with near-fatal vitamin deficiencies), placed my hands on the steering wheel and imagined myself tooling around down with the windows down and the stereo blasting the theme from “Shaft” from the over-sized speakers mounted in the trunk. Once my pimp fantasy ended, my psyche morphed into “Dukes of Hazard” mode and I pictured myself in the much more realistic scenario of trying to outrun the flock of police officers on my tail while I darted recklessly in and out of traffic trying to get the cheerleading team I was dating home before curfew. The sound effects that accompanied my daydreams were woefully inadequate but the best I could do with the vocal chords I had inherited. I needed something a little better so I took the key, put it in the ignition and turned the engine on.

It was an awesome feeling. Once the engine got going I felt as if I was holding the reigns of the most powerful beast the world had ever beheld, contained by my will and able to be unleashed upon my whimsical command. It was not so much the Mustang itself that brought forth these emotions, it was just the idea of being in the driver’s seat of any vehicle. I probably would have felt the same way had I found myself at the controls of a rusty old Escort. Still, I was awe-stricken. I revved the engine a couple of times to get a feel for what was contained beneath the hood and then I had every intention of turning off the car and rejoining my friends inside Lucky’s house. I really did. Honest.

Before I had the chance though, the driver door was ripped open unexpectedly, scaring me half to death. I was so caught up in my automotive fantasy that I had not seen Mark bolt out of Lucky’s back door and rush the car at full speed. Before I knew it I had been body checked right out of my seat and was laying half across the center console. Mark may have been short, but he was a hockey player. He knew how to use his weight well. Using his hands, he then kept pushing me until I was on the passenger side of the car. Panicked, I started stammering out explanations, none of which he bought or for that matter, even heard. He had loosed a string of obscenities that drowned out both the industrial strength stereo he had installed in the Mustang as well as the “Shaft” theme song that was still playing in my head.

Once he was in, he threw the car in gear and then went to stomp on the accelerator. He probably missed it by a good six inches, so he pulled the seat up and tried it again, this time spinning the tires and peeling out into the road in front of Lucky’s house. Thoroughly enraged he screamed, “WHAT THE F*** WERE YOU TRYING TO DO?!?!”

“N-n-n-nothin’ M-m-m-ark,” I stuttered. Under normal circumstances, I am sure I could have taken Mark in a street fight, but at that moment he was pretty motivated. I tried to come up with an explanation that would not infuriate him any further since it was doubtful that he was going to believe the truth. “I-I-I j-j-just was…”


“Nowhere. I was just listening to the engine.” I sheepishly replied, deciding on the truth anyway since I could not come up with anything better.


“I just wanted to listen to the engine.”



Mark went silent for a couple of moments while his rage transformed into pride. “So, how did you like it?”

“It was awesome!” I then went on to gush shamelessly over his set of wheels.

After listening to me expound upon the virtues of his new Mustang, Mark tossed a sly grin over at me and asked, “You want to try driving it?”

I shook my head vigorously. “No way. I’ve never driven a car before.”

“There’s nothing to it. I’ll teach you.”

I protested enthusiastically a few times while Mark pulled over. I protested a little less enthusiastically as he exited the car. I was still protesting once I was back in the driver’s seat, but at that point the smile on my face surely betrayed my overwhelming lack of sincerity. After I restarted the engine, gave Mark one more opportunity to back out. I lit up a cigarette, cracked the window and asked, “Are you sure this is a good idea?”

Instead of responding, a look of uncertainty flashed across Mark’s face. It was as if he had just then realized that we had both been drinking very heavily for the past couple of hours and someone who had never previously driven anything more powerful than a ten-speed bicycle was about to take off in a 200hp Ford Mustang capable of doubling the highway speed limit. I believe he was on the verge of changing his mind when, in an attempt to get mobile before he expressed his doubts, I sent the gas pedal plunging down into the floorboards drowning at anything he was about to say with the sound of the revving engine.

I made it about a block. I tried to take a left at the first corner but was going way too fast. I bounced off the right curb, over-corrected and sent the car careening straight for a house on the left side of the street that looked sickeningly familiar. Frozen in horror, all I could do was watch as we were sent relentlessly forward into what was sure to be a legendary collision. Then I saw stars. Then I saw leaves. Not that leaves are particularly fast, but I was seeing them in slow motion. I then felt the sensation of being lifted out of my seat as the car rolled to the right. I fell to the ceiling, closed my eyes and tried to brace myself the best I could to ride out the chaos until the thunder died.

When it finally did I found myself sprawled out on the ceiling of the Mustang, my cigarette still dangling from my lips. Mark, who had buckled his seat belt, was hanging upside down sporting an expression as if he had just seen both Jesus and Elvis. He surveyed his surroundings and then stared down at me meeting my gaze. I flashed him an apologetic smile and said, “Oops.”

“Oh shit,” he answered. “You better put that cigarette out before the car explodes.”

I removed my smoke and looked around for a place to extinguish it with little luck. Then I noticed the ashtray was on the center console so, in too much shock to think rationally, handed it to Mark to put out. As the car was upside down, we were both assaulted by a shower of sparks as he did so. He then undid his seat belt and fell to the ceiling. “What are we going to do now?” I asked.

“Get the hell out of here.” I remember our conversation being unnaturally calm considering what we were going through. Mark pushed open the passenger door and stepped out, instinctively shutting it behind him. I tried to push mine open but it would not budge. Attempting to punch out the window to crawl out, I cranked back my arm as best I could in such cramped conditions and gave it a right hook with everything I had. The window survived the blow perfectly intact. My right wrist and fingers however were a different story altogether. As I was cussing and writhing in pain, the driver door slowly swung open.

Once I got out of the Mustang, the first thing I did was look at Mark. He was taking in the catastrophe we had just caused and drifting closer and closer to a nervous breakdown. As I looked over the scene myself, I felt I was not too far behind him. After bouncing off of the right curb, we jumped the left one head-on. We would have sailed right into the house but we catapulted up the curb and landed on the tree. We then effectively drove the car up the young maple, completely uprooting it until we rolled off the side of it into the driveway. The car came to a rest perfectly aligned in the driveway, with the exception of having the wheels pointing toward the sky instead of resting on the concrete. Once the scene sunk in, we started to come to grips with exactly how much trouble we were in. I was stunned and nearly catatonic, shaken out of my reverie only by the frantic cries of Mark yelling, “WE GOTTA GET OUT OF HERE! TURN THE GODDAMN CAR OVER!”

We might have had even odds of turning the Mustang back into an operable condition if we had both tried to lift the same side of the vehicle. Unfortunately, Mark ran and lifted the passenger side while I ran and tried to lift the driver’s. Predictably, the Mustang barely moved. As the porchlights started going on up and down the street, Mark and I gave up and resigned ourselves to our fate. It was then I took a closer look at the home we almost hit. “Hey Mark, isn’t this Carl’s house?”

Carl was another member of the group. He was supposed to be showing up at the party at Lucky’s house as well. Mark nodded his head, straightened up his collar and started walking up to the porch. Lucky for us, Carl had one of the cool moms. She opened the door before we even had a chance to knock.

Once Carl’s mother got the door open and spotted the carnage we had inflicted upon her yard, her eyes grew to the size of dinner plates. As she was marveling over her martyred tree, Mark said, “Hi Ms. Bryce!” as if he had just run into her at the grocery store. “Is Carl home by any chance? We’re having a little car trouble at front.” By the tone Mark was using, one could have thought that we had just run out of gas as opposed to automotively ravaging the Bryce family’s landscape. Carl’s mom just looked at him as if he had just stepped off of the moon. She then turned her gaze towards me as I was walking into the light and turned white as a ghost before letting out a horrified scream. Now I’ll freely admit that I’m no Mel Gibson, but I thought that was a bit uncalled for. Mark then turned to see what was wrong and went white as well. I could see his knees go wobbly and he stepped to the side to get out of my way. “Oh my God,” he gasped. “Your face.” I then looked over at my reflection in the picture window and almost passed out. I was so covered in blood I was barely recognizable.

Ms. Bryce grabbed me and pulled me inside. Pushing me into the bathroom, she forced my head over the sink and gabbed an armload of towels while Mark ran to the phone. After I was sprayed down and wiped up, I looked into the mirror expecting to be met by some horribly disfigured reflection that I did not recognize. To my relief, nothing seemed at all out of place. In fact, I couldn’t even tell where I had been injured at first. Then I saw a trickle of blood emerge from my left eyebrow while two more heaver streams emerged from somewhere above my hairline. All three bled profusely but in the end were so minor that they did not even require stitches. After applying pressure for a few minutes, the bleeding stopped.

Somehow in the ensuing maelstrom, Mark and I found ourselves alone together. To my surprise, he leaned over at some point and said, “No matter what, our story is that I was driving. Got it?”

I shook my head. “No way. This is all my fault. I’m not letting you take the rap for this.”

“If you say that you were driving, I’ll be in a lot more trouble than I will be if I admitted that I was behind the wheel.”

“Mark, I can’t do that…”

“The hell you can’t! Listen, the only way you can save my ass right now is by telling everyone that I was driving. Got it? Besides that, my dad’s tight with the cops. It’ll get worked out.”

I nodded my head just as Ms. Bryce walked in and said the cops were just pulling up. She then caught a whiff of our breaths and handed us a tube of toothpaste off of the counter. “If I was you, I’d start eating some of this.”

Once the cops got there, we were dragged to the squad car. From later experience I know that the first thing they usually do is separate the two involved parties so that they can be questioned independantly, but for some unknown reason, this time we were put in the same car. The officer turned to us and asked us what happened.

Mark took over the conversation right away. “Well officer, we were driving down the street here and came to a complete stop at the sign over there. I’m so sorry sir, but as I was stopped I decided to light up the tires. When I did that, this car came out of nowhere, cut us off and after I swerved to miss him, ended up hitting the tree.” As Mark was working his “magic” with the officer, I looked out of the window. There were tire marks going completely around the corner, through the stop sign and did not end until they met the maple tree. All it took was one look at the ground to see that Mark was lying through his teeth. We were both doomed.

After Mark finished, the officer asked me what happened. I just shrugged my shoulders and said, “I have no idea. One second I was in the car driving down the street and the next thing I know, I’m getting my face washed off in Ms. Bryce’s bathroom.” Actually, that was not that far of a stretch. Most of what had happened came back to me over the following couple of days.

The cop just nodded at me and then told me to get out of the car. I lit up a cigarette and looked back at Mark just in time to see him getting ready to blow into the breathalizer. I don’t remember what level he blew, but I do recall that at was high enough to provoke a vengeful tounge-lashing from the responding officer that I could hear quite clearly over the sounds of the approaching ambulance.

Word about the accident spread quick. Mark’s father showed up right behind the ambulance and the people we were supposed to be partying with arrived shortly after that. As I was trying to relay the details of the accident to my friends, one of the Emergency Medical Technicians dressed me up in a foam neck brace. It was a tight fit and after a couple of minutes I ended up taking it off so I could finish my story. Once the EMT saw me without it, he rushed back to put it back on. “You need to keep this thing on you. Your neck could be broken and you don’t even know.”

“My neck’s not broken.” I assured him. I then started violently shaking my head, heavy metal style, to prove my point. My story to my friends was then interrupted by me being tied to a backboard and sequestered in the ambulance until I got a clean bill of health from the hospital.

In the end, everything worked out. Mark was right. His father somehow squared things with the officers, no one was seriously hurt and our reputations as THE premier party-animals were cemented. We had actually become minor celebrities in our Allen Park social circle. In some sort of sick way, I was almost proud of myself for participating in that little caper for a few weeks afterwards, feeding off of all the notoriety I had gained from the event. Then I visited Carl’s house in the daytime, which was the main catalyst that finally instilled a faint trace of restraint into my character.

It’s kind of funny how seeing several very little children playing within striking range of an out-of-control Mustang can suck all the humor out of what otherwise would have been a fond memory of inebriate excess.

Kiddie Cuisine II - Takeout

Today, my two-year-old comes running into my lap and just forces his finger into my mouth while yelling "DAD! EAT THIS!"

I immediately knew whatever it was he had thrust into my mouth wasn't something that could usually be found upon my rack of condiments so I asked him, "What the hell was that?"

With near-hysterical excitement he yells, "A BOOGER!", forcing me into involuntary gagging spasms.

The only thing I can think of that is grosser than gagging on your own boogers is gagging on somebody else's.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

The Scourge of Daytime Television

I woke up a few months ago with symptoms suggesting that I was speeding recklessly towards a full-blown case of the flu. With a temperature that had respectably passed the triple-digit mark, I fluctuated between fits of violent shivering followed by drenching episodes of sweat-inducing hot spells that made for a truly miserable existence. Luckily, my wife was working and the kids were scheduled to be in daycare. That meant that I would have the house entirely to myself, which is an increasingly rare commodity in my case.

Normally when left to my own devices I would start the day off with a couple of beers, surf the web until I got hungry, eat a light meal (so as not to interfere with my buzz) and then plot various acts of petty vandalism against my somewhat less-than-affable neighbors that could be carried out before they returned from work. Unfortunately, I was far too sick to do any of these things so I ended up on the couch in front of the television all day long. It was during this time that I discovered a vicious circle at work.

Now, it is no secret that daytime TV is full of society’s lowest denominations, paraded out by unscrupulous producers for the amusement of the viewing audience, satisfying the morbid curiousity of the general public. Up until that day, I always assumed that television just exploited the weak-minded, morally suspect, tattoo enhanced and dentally impaired inhabitants of society’s fringe. I had no idea, until I was forced to watch daytime TV, how complicit the media is in creating this element. I found myself wondering whether it was the moron creating the programming, by making their entertainment desires known to the networks, or whether the networks created the moron by pumping minds already softened by the effects of unemployment with a steady stream of intellectually starved programming that deteriorates mental capacity quicker than a chainsaw lobotomy performed by an epileptic wracked by the effects of methamphamine withdrawl. I was pondering a classic “chicken versus egg” dilemma. Of course, this dilemma hit me seven minutes into an episode of The Jerry Springer Show.

The particular show I was watching dealt with the subject of unwed mothers trying to prove the paternity of their children and, I assume, get a hold on the palimony payments that were due them so they could continue feeding their drug habits and blessing the world with the continuing priveledge of providing shelter to their offspring at various federal penal institutions. The show was filled with young teen-aged girls with accents eerily similar to that afflicting President Bush, though I find it highly unlikely that they also picked it up at Yale. The male equation of the episode appeared considerably older and I assumed (or rather hoped) that somebody somewhere was preparing a spot for them on their applicable sexual offenders registry. Both sides were bellicose and confrontational, threatening to erupt into a staged trademark Springer brawl at any moment, replete with bleeped out profanities and interfereing bouncers but without the display of an inordinate amount of blood. All disagreements were voiced with the over-dramatic malevolent enthusiasm and complete lack of believeability of the WWF matches that the show’s guests appeared to have taken their acting cues from.

The show is an unbridled assault on the intellect. I could feel my vocabulary deteriorating to the point where I could no longer voice, or for that matter, even think of any word consisting of more than two syllables. I was also overcome with an unsatiable craving for Cheez Whiz, grits and pork gravy, consumed uncut and directly out of the can. Comemorative dishes suddenly had collectable appeal to me while shirts with sleeves or buttons suddenly did not. For a reason I am at a complete loss to explain, I had the insane urge to display my household appliances on the front lawn and thought my car would look much better without its wheels, hovering above the ground on a set of cement blocks. Once I felt a tooth starting to loosen up, I figured I had better change channels before I was hit with the urge to call my sister with some highly inappropriate suggestions about how to take our sibling relationship to the next level.

My next stop on the channel guide was Lifetime. It was a short layover. The show I was stuck watching contained a decidedly unamusing lack of awe inspiring explosions, gratuitous nudity, mud wrestling midgets or lesbian love tringles and therefore the channel had no capabilities of holding the male attention span for more than 22 seconds. Within that 22 seconds however, I was able to ascertain that the program was about the sexual abuse of a child. This was not quite the thing that I wanted to watch while home sick but thought this channel, which focuses on programming for women, could give me a good insight into the mind of the enemy which I could find of interest. Scanning through the guide for information on subsequent shows revealed more adultery, rape, domestic violence and child molestation than any rational human mind could possibly process. I was not sure whether I was reading the programming guide of a television station or the entertainment itinerary of the next NAMBLA convention at Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch. I decided if I was going on a foray into women’s television, I needed to test the waters of something a tad lighter. I went to Oprah.

I have had women tell me that they watch Oprah because she makes them feel empowered and encourages them to be independent. I did not get that out of the episode I watched. What I got out of the Oprah show was that she wanted to empower women to be independent of their men, but seemed to be subliminally leading them to be dependant upon her. I pictured my wife watching this show, entranced by this middle-aged talk guru who was telling her what to dress in, what books to read, what to eat and what to think. I took offense to this as I consider telling my wife what to dress in, what books to read, what to eat and what to think MY job and dammit, I had seniority in the position! This stirred up some strong feelings within me. I felt resentment at Oprah, stemming from the fact that though Oprah has never met my wife yet her words are taken as holy writ while I have been married to the woman for five years and my words are usually dismissed as the lunatic ravings of a talking monkey.

I also felt other, much less familiar emotions. For instance, though I have never grasped that “unfresh feeling” so often described in feminine hygene commercials, I could not honestly say I had ever been afflicted with it. By Oprah’s second commercial break, I was considering myself pretty ripe. I also felt bloated for a little while but that eventually passed, nearly blowing the back out of my shorts and leaving skid marks on the couch in the process. After a while, I decided that I had had enough and needed to get into something a little stimulating for the male of the species before I would be forced to start replying to those e-mails touting penile enlargement devices not because I needed a new source of amusement, but because they had become a medical necessity. I decided to spend the rest of the day flipping between World War II documentaries on The History Channel and pay-per-view pygmy prison porn on Spice.

Friday, June 10, 2005


Last weekend, we took the kids to see the new DreamWorks computer animated movie “Madagascar”. If you have the opportunity, I would highly recommend seeing it. The animation is incredible, the storyline is solid and the dialogue is sharp with plenty of very good adult-oriented jokes. The acting is surprisingly well done, far better than in the last Star Wars movie (though granted, that’s a pretty low baseline). The movie also features two monkeys constantly conspiring to launch a fecal assault and a troupe of penguin paramilitaries in one of the best prison break roles I’ve seen since “The Great Escape”.
During my morning coffee run today, we were discussing our weekend when I brought up the point that I took my kids to see this movie. A co-worker of mine, a gifted engineer with a computer animation fetish asked, “Do penguins really drive the boat around all over the place?” I’m guessing he was a little unclear on whether the movie was produced by DreamWorks or National Geographic. I assured him that though they did manage that caper in the movie, in real life there are few species of flightless waterfowl with the martial arts skills to commandeer an ocean liner and probably even fewer that know their way around a nautical navigation map, so the Princess Cruise ships prowling the Antarctic tourism circuit are probably safe from the avian wing of al Qaeda.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Deer Whistles

My mother and step-father live in northern Michigan where the deer are as thick as lice. After a close call of almost hitting one during the late 1980s, my stepfather invested in these vehicle-mounted whistles that are supposed to scare the deer away from your car. A few weeks after installing these things, my parents and my little brother were driving close to their home with the windows when a deer stepped out in front of them and they knocked the shit out of it. Literally. Deer droppings were launched that flew in through the back window and grazed my little brother (whose reflex had improved quite a bit since the Shepherd Pie story). In the end, the deer did a couple of thousand dollars of damage to the car.
About five years later, right after I got out of the military, my step-father hit another one. This one was just grazed and apparently both the deer and the car walked away from the accident. My step-father was convinced though that if he had not had those whistles installed, the accident would have been much worse. He claims the deer did not see him, but heard him at the last minute and took off just in time to avoid a head on collision. From that point on, he kept pressuring me to put those whistles on my car, reminding me about it every time I went up to visit them. He even got me a set for Christmas one year and asked me almost every week afterwards if I had gotten around to putting them in yet. I never did, out of basic laziness, and eventually told him that the dog had gotten hold of them and chewed them up. Still, he refused to let the subject go and kept lecturing me about the hazards of driving in northern Michigan without deer whistles.
About four years ago, I drove up to visit them but when I got to their place I was surprised to find that no one was home. After two hours of waiting, I was just getting ready to leave when a police car pulled into the driveway with my parents in the back seat. They had hit another deer but this time totaled the car. My parents were pretty shook up by the experience and my stepfather in particular seemed reluctant to answer my requests for more details about the accident. After I asked him if the whistles were installed on the car, he nodded.
“So,” I continued, “Did the deer forget to turn on his hearing aid or something?”
My stepfather glared at me. “That deer was flying. He jumped off a hill and landed on top of the car like he was in the airborne.”
I shook my head in disbelief. “I don’t think they would let a deaf deer in the paratroopers, Pops.”
Even though he still swore by those deer whistles, he at least quit bugging me to put them on my car.
Last week, my mother called me and told me that my stepfather had hit yet ANOTHER deer, bringing the grand total to four. Again, the car was totaled but no one was hurt. Once I got DeerSlayer on the phone, I asked him how bad the car was. He said it was tore up pretty severely. I asked him if the deer whistles were still salvageable.
“Why?” he asked suspiciously.
“I’m going to start deer hunting again this fall and need something to call them in with.” I said while breaking into a fit of hysterical laughter. When I finally settled down I discovered that he’d hung up me, making me laugh that much harder. I called them again last night. He still won’t talk to me.
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