Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Newberry U #4

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Under Hood

Yesterday, when coming home from work, I was stopped at the border crossing and asked to turn off my car and pop the hood. While the Homeland Security guard poked around my engine without checking the oil and transmission fluid, I had to fight the urge to blast the horn, remembering the last time I had done something like that.

My father was a nasty individual, a hopeless drunk whose only hobbies were getting unpleasantly blasted and beating up on people who could not fight back, like his wife and kids. On one of his more brutal benders he was working on his car in the back yard, having already single-handedly killed off a fifth of cheap vodka and had conscripted me to help him. I was maybe nine-years-old at the time and had no desire to participate in his little endeavor, knowing full well that any mistake on my part, real or imagined, would certainly result in blackened eyes or loose teeth. Still, I was forced into the driver’s seat and tasked with pushing down on the gas petal to rev up the engine while my father did whatever he could to put the car in worse condition than it had started off in.

As his frustration grew at the car’s deteriorating performance, the orders he shouted at me started containing more expletives and I knew that it was not long before I would be subjected to a full-fisted crack right across the jaw. While my father was bent over the engine beneath the hood, he finally said that if I did not get the accelerator pressed exactly halfway down, he was going to take it out of my hide. I pressed the gas pedal to the point I thought to be where he was wanting it but judging by the verbal assault coming out from the other side of the windshield, knew I had missed the mark, if there really was any to begin with. In frustration, I cranked back and punched the steering wheel, accidentally hitting the horn.

My father’s reaction was immediate. He shot violently upright and slammed his head on the underside of the hood so hard that he lifted it clear off of its prop rod and brought it crashing down on top of him, pinning him on top of the hot engine. Hearing the commotion in front of me, I peered above the steering wheel and out of the front windshield to see a scene that looked to me as if the Buick was trying to eat my father. He was in real trouble. He had one arm sticking out of the hood, madly flailing around in panic looking for something to grab on to, while his legs kicked desperately out of the front, attempting to find a footing on something to lift himself up with. He also must have been scalding himself on the engine block as well and I can only imagine how close his stomach was to the metal blades of the radiator fan. If someone did not help him soon, his injuries were bound to be pretty severe. On the flip side, if someone helped him out soon, my injuries were likely to be fatal. That’s why I wished the Buick “Bon Apatite” and high-tailed it out of the yard.

My father did somehow make it out of there with little more than some minor burns and a deep cut on the top of his bald head. Amazingly, nothing happened to me because of it. He spent his fury on inanimate objects in the garage, killed another half-fifth of vodka and passed out on the couch. He woke up a few hours later, having sobered up past his violent stage of intoxication and once my mother got home she convinced him that it was only an accident on my part. It was an accident of course, but it sure would not have been had I knew the results of it would be so spectacular.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Newberry U #3

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Newberry U #2

Monday, September 19, 2005

Road Rage

I'm convinced that something funny or worth talking about happens to every single person every single day. That is why I really do not see why I cannot update this thing on a daily basis. For instance, today's amusing anecdote:
I am on my way to work at five this morning, traveling next to a large tractor trailer, when I see a pair of headlights materialize from over the hill behind me and start gaining on us at a high rate of speed. Since my latest ticket, I've been a bit paranoid about the police lately so I let up on the gas and hoped it was not a somewhat less than friendly member of the Michigan State Police Department's Traffic Enforcement Unit. It turned out to be a rusted out Buick that had appear to have either lost its brakes or piloted by a blind member of the Andretti family with a severe case of Attentention Deficit Disorder.
The portion of Interstate 75 that I was on at the time is usually three lanes wide but due to the Michigan Department of Transportation's fetish for road work, it was reduced to two for several miles. I was in the left lane and the tractor-trailer was in the right, directly beside me. The Buick never even attempted to slow down. He just non-chalantly swerved onto the shoulder, hit a bloated piece of furry roadkill, passed the truck as if it was standing still. Once his rear bumper cleared the truck's grill, he swerved left with no warning whatsoever, cutting the truck off and sending him into my lane. I catapulted into the closed lane, somehow managing to pass between the orange barrels without actually hitting one and repeat the feat once the truck was back in his own lane.
I could not believe the utter stupidity of the man behind the Buick and his complete disregard of not only the traffic laws governing vehicular conduct in construction zones, but the "unofficial" code of commuter courtesy as well. I mean, what kind of psychopathic maniac forgets to use his turn signal when merging back onto the expressway after passing an eighteen wheeler on the right shoulder doing twice the legal construction zone speed limit in pre-dawn darkness? I had half a mind to take down his license plate and turn his sorry ass in but I was too busy trying to read the bumper sticker on the Buick before it got too far away. Apparently the Buick's owner has a son who is an honor student at an area middle school. If I was him, I would seriously consider having a paternity test done.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Savagery on the Gridiron

The Lions looked bad and all wrong,
Like they’re singing their dying swan song,
Now if you ask me,
This poor season will be,
Hard, broke, brutal and too fucking long.

Chicago 38 - Lions 6. The bitch is the Bears aren't even all that good.

Detroit Lions Pre-Game Limerick

Now even the head coach confesses,
That the Lions lack road game successes,
But we lack losing scares,
Since these Chicago Bears,
Wear revealing “Hello Kitty” dresses.
Detroit Lions vs. Chicago Bears - 1:00pm EST.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Running for the Border

At our weekly conference call today, the subject of traveling to Mexico came up as two members of our team were preparing for an orientation trip to our manufacturing facilities down there within the next couple of weeks. As none of them had initiated their working visas yet, I was forced to recount my last trip down there as the story had become legend among my old team members, two of which are now colleagues of mine at my current assignment as well.

In the summer of 1999, I had accepted a position working in competitive intelligence and was rounding out my last couple of weeks as a customer quality engineer. My Mexican working visa had expired and rather than renew it, knowing that this was to be my last trip south of the border for a few years, I opted to turn it in and enter with a temporary visa that I could obtain at the border crossing. The procedure for doing this is you go to the crossing, fill out a single page form that only takes a few minutes and hand it to the border guard along with your passport. The border guard then stamps both the visa and your passport with your entry date. When you finish your visit, you are required to turn in everything again so that it can be cancelled by another date stamp in your passport. By 1999, I had gone through that process so many times that one could find more ink on the pages of my passport than at the tattoo kiosk at a Hell’s Angels convention.

The plant that I had to visit in Mexico was located in Matamoros, just over the border from Brownsville Texas and I typically spent three days there. On my last trip however, it was pretty slow so on the day I was to return to Detroit, I left the plant by nine in the morning and took off towards the border early, hoping to drive to Harlingen to see if I could catch an earlier flight back home. Things looked good at first, as traffic was light and the backup on the bridge crossing the Rio Grande did not look all that bad. I found myself in a pretty good mood as I pulled into the immigration parking lot thinking that I would be in the airport lounge throwing back bottles of Lone Star beer before my plane to Dallas even pulled into the gate.

When I walked into Immigration, I found the two border guards, the same two I had dealt with for a few years, seated behind the same desk they always occupied engaging in small talk as they processed business visitors through the transit protocol. Even though I saw these people once a month for going on four years I had never once, as far as I can remember, ever conversed with them. They just took my paperwork, made a few cursory bureaucratic glances at it, stamped it and sent me on my way. The process was so automated that I just assumed that they didn’t even speak English. That was why I was so surprised when, on my very last trip to Mexico, the guard looked up at me after scanning my passport and said, “You didn’t turn in your visa on your last visit.”

Now, from my very first trip to Mexico on business, I had heard stories about what happened to people that didn’t turn in their work visas, none of them pleasant. So, from my very first trip to Mexico on business, I was religious about turning them in. There were a few instances where I had to turn them in to the Logistics people at the customer’s plant because I was running late, but I ALWAYS turned them in. “There has to be some mistake. I turn in all my visas, all the time. The missing stamps are probably because I turned them in to my customer’s broker and not here.”

The guy behind the desk then took my passport back and started doing something with his computer. After a few minutes of painstakingly awkward typing, he shook his head and said, “No, this one is missing. There is no record of a broker turning them in either.”

For all of times I dealt with authority figures in Tijuana, I should have known that I was not going to win this debate. Still, I knew that if I got nailed for not turning in a visa there was no way I was going to be able to make it back to the US in time to bump up my flight. So, while projecting far more confidence than was good for me I retorted, “No, its not. I have turned absolutely everything in.”

The border guy flashed me an irritated look and opened up my passport once more. He then went through it page by page, taking notes on a piece of scrap paper that was on the desk while periodically screwing with the computer again. When he was finished, he tucked my passport into his breast pocket and stood up. “You’re missing three visas. You need to come with me.” He then added something to the end of that statement in Spanish that I did not understand but could tell by the tone that it was some Latin-derived euphemism for “smartass”.

The office where you have to fill out your visa forms is a Spartan affair. It is white, clean, devoid of decoration and lightly air-conditioned. The place they take foreigners suspected of violating Mexican border crossing regulations is not. It is cluttered, dingy and as far as I can remember, not even equipped with a ceiling fan to move the stagnant air around. The Brownsville / Matamoros border area is brutally hot in the middle of summer and the very moment I stepped into that stifling detention center, my sweat glands kicked into overdrive. I was turned over to another uniformed official who got the rundown on my situation by his counterpart working the front desk. The new officer was a big guy, athletically built, younger than his desk-jockeying colleague and overall, a much more intimidating presence. As he received the rundown on my situation, he eyed me suspiciously out of the corners of his eyes and started rolling up his sleeves as if he was going to beat a confession out of me. I have to admit that at that point I was getting a little nervous, not so much because I believed that I was going to get worked over because of a visa inconsistency, but because I was beginning to wonder whether I had an outstanding warrant or something stemming from my youthful excursions to Tijuana a few years before. Had those come to light of the Mexican customs authorities, I’m sure they could have found something in there that they would have deemed beating worthy.

My new antagonist strolled over to where I was sitting after receiving his briefing and pulled a chair up to me far closer than I was really comfortable with. He then held up my passport and fired off his first question. I tried to give him an explanation, but I was interrupted with another question, followed by a long diatribe that I assume was meant to cause me to slip up and incriminate myself somehow. I refused to fall for it which seemed to irritate him slightly. He grew steadily more animated as the interrogation went on and after an hour of him giving me the third degree, his face had gone red and he was practically shouting at me, gesturing menacingly and appearing to be on the verge of getting out of his chair, lifting it up over his head and batting me up across the lower jaw with it. Still, I refused to talk. Not so much because I harder and tougher than he was, it was just that his English was so poor and his accent so thick that for the most part I had not the slightest clue what the hell he was questioning me about. If I had the ability to answer him in Spanish I would have but I as I’ve mentioned before, my Latin American conversational abilities were pretty much limited to the phrases, “You have beautiful eyes” and “Do you want to dance?” both of which I deemed far too inappropriate for the situation at hand. I didn’t think those would prove very useful unless things really went downhill and I needed food money six months after my formal sentencing.

By the time the officer finally gave up and retreated back into an area of the office that I could not see into, any chance I had of catching an earlier flight had pretty much evaporated. By the time my next interrogator entered the picture, my ability to make my scheduled flight was in jeopardy as well.

The second person to take on my case was the opposite of the officer I had dealt with a couple of hours before. He was short, plump, un-uniformed and greeted me with an outstretched hand and a toothy smile that peeked out from behind a bushy mustache. He kind reminded me of a Hispanic version Danny DeVito. Outwardly, he was a very cordial individual and he seemed to take great pains to make sure his mannerisms broadcast that he was there to help. His smile however seemed to broadcast his internal glee at having a hapless gringo by the balls. It was fairly obvious that he was the individual that would be playing the good cop in this interrogation scheme.

Despite his milder demeanor and good English, I was under no illusions that my new interrogator had my best interests at heart. Still, I went along with his charade. He was motivated to prove that the fault for the inconsistent visa stamps lay on my shoulders, otherwise he would not get a fine out of me. I was motivated to prove my passport was not stamped out due to their incompetence, otherwise I would not be getting out of there. With both of us pouring over my passport, we looked over all three of the entrance stamps that did not possess corresponding exit marks. He then took me over to a computer at the front desk and showed me the digital record of me entering Mexico and how it correlated to corresponding lines that showed that I had never checked out, smugly pointing out this proof of my negligence by saying, “See, it is all on computer now. The computer does not make mistakes, no?” The man had obviously never had his laptop crash on him while he was in the middle of a truly awesome game of Minesweeper.

“Computers make just as many mistakes as the people who program them do. I’m telling you right now, I have turned in all of my visas. As I told your people before, my missing stamps are probably due to the fact that I turned them in to a broker.”

We went back and forth on this subject repeatedly, my interrogator insisting that if a broker turned in any visas, they would be on the computer. Finally, at right about the time I should have been checking my luggage onto my ride home, he decided that he would call my customer’s broker.

Though I was not privy to the conversation my bureaucrat was having with the broker, as it took place out of earshot and in a language that I did not speak, I could tell that someone was definitely taking up my cause on the other end of the line. The conversation drew a large amount of animated physical responses from my inquisitor and many irritated shrugs of frustration and grimaced repeatedly as if he was being personally offended. Finally, he hung up the phone and walked back over to me, saying that someone from the broker’s office would be there shortly.

At right about the time my flight was taking off, the representative from the broker arrived. Her name was Lupe and she was a petite little thing, at least a head shorter than Senor DeVito, drop-dead gorgeous, provocatively dressed and the last person I wanted to be in my corner in a brutal brawl with a team of unscrupulous Mexican border bureaucrats. She zeroed in on me immediately upon entering my detention area, flashed a heartbreakingly sweet smile towards my direction and then walked over to introduce herself. After making a little small talk, she asked me for my side of the story and after taking a few notes she held up the folder she had brought in with her and told me that she had all the information she needed to get me sprung. She then walked up to the counter my antagonist had stationed himself behind and underwent the most complete personality transformation I had ever witnessed in my life.

There were no formal introductions between the broker’s representative and the immigration official. Just the immediate launching of an angry tirade from my representative that knocked Senor DeVito off balance. The verbal assault was so sudden and vicious that I don’t think the immigration official got a single word in for at least fifteen minutes. Even the hulking uniformed officer that took the first shot at me excused himself from the back of the office and went outside to the relative safety offered by the heavy traffic of the inspection checkpoints just beyond the door. That little girl was unrelenting and savage and, for the most part, had that little office troll jumping through hoops like a decidedly uncoordinated circus poodle. Forty-five minutes after she arrived, Senor DeVito’s face had permanently flushed an uncomfortable looking shade of deep crimson and his posture had developed the hunched arc of someone who was suffering a particularly humiliating defeat. Then he saw something that rejuvenated his fighting spirit and tried to go on the offensive. He got beaten down pretty bad for his efforts but whatever he had discovered strengthened his resolve and he turned his back on the broker and walked away from the battle, unable to face her anymore.

Lupe walked back to me flushed with exasperation. After loudly berated the bureaucrat in English and plenty loud enough for him to hear her clearly, she explained to me that she had incontrovertible proof that I had turned in two of my visas, but was unable to prove a third. She had cleared me of two-thirds of the counts against me, but it looked as if I was going to get stuck with the third. This time I walked up to the counter and confronted Senor DeVito. “Look, you said that you were sure I did not turn in my visas because your infallible computer could not be wrong.” I said as I crossed the room. “She just proved that your computer makes mistakes. I! TURNED! IN! MY! VISAS! (I punctuated each word by pounding my fist down upon the counter). Now, you have already made me miss my flights so I would like to get out of here so that I can book another. I want to go home. NOW!”

“I can’t let you go yet.” the bureaucrat stammered sheepishly, unable to make eye contact with me and not even able to consider looking in Lupe’s direction. “The computer says you have violated our immigration policy and we have to take action.”

“What kind of action?”

“I have to check.” The troll then turned his back on us and disappeared into a secluded office in the back.

I looked over at Lupe and asked, “What do you think I should do now?”

She handed me a cell phone and said that I had better call my company and see if they had any lawyers around that they could muster.

I thanked her for the phone and called my boss, the quality department director back in Michigan and told him I was in a little trouble. “How much trouble?” he asked.

“Well, I think I need a lawyer.”

“Of course,” he answered with a complete lack of surprise that I really should have taken offence to. “What kind of lawyer are we talking about here? One that specializes in drunk driving cases? Paternity suits? Gun smuggling?”

“Immigration and visas.”

“Really? I never would have guessed that one. What happened?” I relayed my entire predicament and he promised he would get someone from our plant in Juarez, on the opposite end of the Texan border, involved.

After I hung the phone up and handed it back to Lupe, she informed me that there was really nothing else she could do there but would be more effective back at the office. She asked if I would be all right if she left and I lied, saying that I would. I knew though that as soon as she disappeared, Senor DeVito would regain his confidence. On the bright side though, she left me the phone with instructions to leave it at my hotel’s front desk “if” I made it back there. She didn’t bother leaving instructions on what to do with it “if” I didn’t. She probably figured I could barter it for cigarettes or something while I was waiting for trial.

At least an hour had passed before the customs official emerged from behind the desk again and summoned me over. He explained the charges involved and the fines that would be levied in the confusing legalese that accompanies any kind of governmental transaction. I cut him off after about ten minutes and asked, “What’s the bottom line? How much are you trying to get out of me?”




I reached for my wallet and pulled out my credit card. I was not sure how I was going to note that particular item on my expense report but at that point I didn’t care. I just wanted to get out of there and get to the side of the border with paved roads. As I tried to pass it over to him however, he shook his head in refusal. “We do not take credit cards. Fines are only accepted in cash or certified check.”

“What kind of idiot comes down to Mexico with $700 dollars in his wallet? I don’t even walk around Detroit with that kind of cash.”

“Maybe you can get someone to wire the money here.”

“How do I manage that?”

Senor DeVito then launched into a lengthy explanation about how to go about the process of paying my fine. It involved a money transfer, stops at a couple of different offices and overall, it proved to be a complicated affair. After he finished I leaned over and asked him, in a conspiratorially hushed tone, “Can I pay a smaller fine right here for saving the Mexican government all of those administration costs?”

His eyes narrowed to mere slits as his face registered insult and disapproval. “Are you trying to bribe me?”

“Not if you’re going to get all pissy about it.” It was on the tip of my tongue but luckily, I didn’t have the balls to let it pass my lips. Instead, I stammered something about just wondering if there was a shortened procedure for paying the fine. Something like pleading No Contest on the US side of the border. He assured me that there wasn’t and said he would let me try to contact someone to get me out of immigration.

By that point, I had spent about eight hours in immigration and needed a cigarette while I called back to Michigan. He tried to stop me as I stepped out the side door but I turned to him and said, “Where do you think I’m going? You’ve got my freakin’ passport.” Remembering that he did, he then let me go light up in the back parking lot.

The parking lot of the customs complex ends at a deteriorating barbed wire fence at the top of an embankment leading to the Rio Grande, the liquid border between the US and Mexico. A US Border Patrol SUV was parked on the opposite embankment, maybe 100 yards away, watching a small group of aspiring menial laborers standing waist deep in the brown water, right in the middle of the river. There were two soldiers meandering around the parking lot providing security, armed with fully automatic assault rifles carried with that blasé attitude towards weapons safety that seems to be epidemic among Third World military services. I figured that if I made a break for it, the soldiers were more likely to shoot themselves than manage to draw a bead on the small of my back and I could clear the fence and be getting tackled by good old American authorities before anyone in immigration even figured out that I was gone. I told myself that I would be doing exactly that if I was still in that building come sundown. I was not going to waste away down there while waiting for my company to bail me out. It took them three weeks to process a thirty dollar bar tab rung up during the course of entertaining customers. I could only imagine how long it would take them to process a seven hundred dollar cash advance to spring a mathematically challenged engineer from a Hispanic hoosegow.

When I told my boss how much it was going to cost to get me back, he asked me if I was interested in taking a new position in one of our facilities south of the border, an offer that I enthusiastically declined. He then assured me that they would get the money down there as soon as humanly possible, which meant two to three days in my experience. I hung up with him very disappointed and walked back inside to tell Senor DeVito what was going on. After a lot of haranguing, he agreed to let me go as long as I promised to pay the fine by the end of the week with the understanding that it would be increased $175 dollars a day after that until it was settled. I agreed, took my passport and fled from Mexico as fast as I could.

Of course, the payment was late and of course, it was short since no one figured in the late fees. In the end, I spent five extra days down there but I really didn’t mind much once I was out from under immigration’s spotlight. In fact I had checked into a hotel on South Padre Island and, since I couldn’t cross into Mexico to work and had nothing else I could do, I hung out at the beach, played in the Gulf of Mexico, drank excessively, went on a fishing trip and enjoyed nightly tequila binges back in Matamoros. I kind of thought it funny how I was barred from going there as an honest businessman, but no one seemed to have any problem with me crossing the border as an inveterate drunkard.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

An Invaluable Lesson

Yesterday was a rough one. I was still trying to recover from my Monday marathon at work when I received an e-mail informing me that one of my best friends (Sacto Ritch, who you may remember from the “Tijuana Travesty” epic posted a while back as well as from his frequent comments from earlier in The JEP Report) was in town. Since I had to cross back into the US early anyway to ship some parts back to one of our plants, we decided to meet up for a quick beer before he took off with his wife to northern Michigan. Our quick beer turned into two full pitchers and an extra pint for good measure.

It was great to catch up. We discussed some old friends and acquaintances, a couple of whom spent some time in jail and suddenly found religion upon their release (Ritch figures that Jesus must be one prolific hell-raiser considering how many people seem to find him during their incarceration. Personally, I don’t think it’s the guy they talk about at church but rather some smooth-talking Mexican named “hay-ZOOS”.) Though, as always, it was a great time, it had an uncharacteristic lack of general weirdness. The only surreal moment came when a commercial popped up on the bar’s TV screen showing the first President George Bush and Bill Clinton asking Americans for financial donations to help with the Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. These two men, who not all that long ago were fierce political rivals, now looked as cozy together as life-long fraternity brothers. Seeing both of them together showing mutual admiration for each other’s achievements could not have looked more wrong had George Sr. put his hand on Bill’s knee and then seductively slipped his tongue in Clinton’s ear.

When our little reunion was over, we promised to embark upon a proper booze bender next week and parted ways, Ritch and his wife back to his parents house a few minutes down the road and me 70 miles up the expressway to where I recently moved close to Flint, Michigan. I had only gotten about 4 hours sleep the night before, my last meal was a handful of carrots and dip at 9:30 the previous evening and I had just consumed a pitcher and a half of inhibition suppressant so I should have known my semi-sober state was not going to last long.

When I left the bar, I was fine. When I pulled out of the parking lot however, my motor skills went all to hell. I also found myself starving and in desperate need of sleep. Luckily, the sale of my old house was still pending and we had not yet closed the deal, meaning that I still had the key. So instead of trying to weave my way back north for an hour and a half, I made a beeline for my old digs which were less than a mile away.

When I arrived at my old house, I found myself saddled with a terrible dilemma. I needed sleep in the worst way, but I also had a bladder that felt as if it were on the verge of exploding. To sum up my situation, I was too exhausted to pee, and had to pee too bad to fall asleep. To my knowledge, this is the first time I have ever found myself in that particular situation, which makes me stop and wonder whether it is sign of age creeping in or a sign of a severely degraded alcohol tolerance. God, I hope it’s the former. I eventually decided, as my consciousness was fading, to try using the bathroom first. Initially I was concerned with the quality of my aim but once I remembered that I no longer lived there, I just focused on getting the job done so that I could take a little nap.

Once my bladder was out of the way I grabbed the laptop computer I had brought in with me to use as a pillow, and laid down in the hallway. Since there was no furniture in the house, it was as good a place as any. The carpet provided at least the vague semblance of padding and, with all the bedroom doors closed, it was the darkest place in the house. I don’t think it would have mattered where I decided to lay down in hindsight though. I was out like a light before my head hit the computer case.

It was my cell phone that finally dragged me out of my groggy reverie. Even though I had already put in eight hours before I met Ritch, the plant was open all day so if any issue came up I had to respond or, at least come up with an excuse on why I couldn’t that was better than “I drank so much at lunch that I’m now sprawled out comatose in the hallway of a vacant house having just narrowly avoided pissing myself.” Come to find out, it was not work calling me. It was worse. It was my wife and she was pissed.

My wife had called to complain about streak marks on the toilet seat in the upstairs bathroom that, in addition to being just plain gross, could pose a potential health hazard. I was on the verge of apologizing for that when she finally said that the marks were from my son and it was up to me to teach him about the post-potty clean up procedure a little better. Sounding far more alert than I actually was, I told her I would, ecstatic that he was the one that did it and not me.

“So where are you?” she asked.

“Stuck in traffic.” I answered. I then told her that I would be home in about an hour and a half and made up something that I can’t remember to get her off of the phone quicker so I could get going. She knew I was meeting Ritch but did not expect me to get smashed before three in the afternoon, though I honestly can not figure out how she could have expected anything different. After I got off the phone, I grabbed my computer and headed for the car. After backing out of the driveway, I drove up two blocks and stopped at the corner gas station to stock up on cigarettes, non-alcoholic but caffeine enriched beverages and something solid to put into my stomach. My head was still full of cobwebs as I strolled down the snack aisle and came across a package of Fun Dips. Fun Dips are basically packets of citrus-flavored sugar, still in powder form, eaten by licking a candy dip stick and plunging it into substance, which sticks to it so it can be licked off. This is a little tough to do while driving under the influence of an intoxicant, fiddling with the radio, sipping a soft drink, smoking a cigarette and picking my nose, all of which I was likely to be doing simultaneously during the long trip home. Still, this particular snack was almost pure sugar and just the thing I needed to bring me back to life before I tried merging into 80mph expressway traffic to begin my jaunt to Genesee County. I bought two of them.

I tore open the first packet while stopped at the last light before reaching the freeway. I was fiddling with trying to get the candy dipstick out when the light turned and I had to go. Knowing there was no way to arrange the complex ensemble once I hit the highway, I just decided to pour the substance into my mouth. Like an idiot though, I accelerated as soon as I got the packet up to my lips and ended up dumping all the powder inside out onto my tongue at once. I then inhaled, breathing it right into lungs that instantly rebelled. My chest convulsed in a powerful cough that expelled most of the substance right into my nasal cavities, resulting in an incredibly excruciating sensation that I imagine one could also experience by snorting blue raspberry-scented drain cleaner. So, as I was speeding up the freeway entrance ramp, I was convulsing in a brutally violent coughing fit, sneezing uncontrollably and blinded by the impenetrable tears in my eyes brought on by my body’s hysterical attempts to force raspberry flavored citric acid-laden sugar from places it never should have gotten into. Still, I made it all the way over into the left lane and reached the standard 85mph Detroit cruising speed even though I had lost complete control of my muscles due to my coughing and sneezing seizure and had the visual capabilities of Stevie Wonder during a midnight spelunking expedition.

When my fit finished, I wiped the tears out of my eyes just in time to see that I was coming up on the same curve in the road where I had caught speeding by the Lincoln Park Police Department last week. I immediately cut over to the far right tortoise lane, slammed on the brakes and watched the speedometer pass below 65 mph just before the patrol vehicle peeked into sight. With my heart racing, I drifted passed the velocity Nazi, well within the legal speed limit and as consistently between the dotted white lines on the road as anyone else around me. Still, I watched in sheer terror as the officer pulled into the road behind me. I immediately broke out into a cold sweat as I watched the cop gaining on me and this time, my consideration of “making-a-break-for-it” turned into a little more than just a passing thought to make the commute home a little more exciting. Again, it took about a mile for the flashing lights to come on but when they did, my heart sank. I was not getting a ticket this time, I was going to jail. Though I did not believe myself to be particularly drunk (just incredibly tired), I'm sure my BAC was enough to get me some room and board in local hoosegow a little later. I screamed a string of profanities at my rear view mirror and started to pull onto the shoulder. I then, though by no means a religious man, promised God that if he got me out of this mess, I would never do something so irresponsible behind the wheel ever again. Just as I made this divine promise, the patrol car flew right past me and zeroed in on a car in the left lane down the road. I let out another scream, thought this one was of pure ecstasy, lit a cigarette and turned the volume of radio up until I was sure I was violating local noise ordinances. The adrenaline rush I got knowing how narrowly I had missed being felt up by a hairy biker in a Wayne County Jail cell, along with all that sugar I had just sucked into my lungs, completely dissipated any fatigue I had left in my system and not only was I no longer on the precipice of involuntary sleep, I had more energy than I knew what to do with.

Well, God kept his part of the bargain so I guess I have to uphold mine. I now stand before you, the readers of The JEP Report and solemnly swear that never again, in my entire life, will I EVER attempt to eat the contents of an entire packet of Fun Dip while behind the wheel of an accelerating automobile. Not unless I can figure out how to manage it with that candy dip stick anyway.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Random Thoughts

I went into white collar work because I am essentially lazy and have an ingrained aversion to any sort of hard physical labor that does not result in a winning score, a twenty pound fish, a blood alcohol level of biblical proportions or involve spectacular amounts of gratuitous nudity. Yesterday, I experienced my first crisis at my new job though and ended up running all over the sprawling plant (in between verbal bludgeonings delivered by plant management with gleeful enthusiasm) and sorted parts in 90 degree heat for the better part of thirteen hours. By the end of the day, I was drenched in sweat and looked like a coal miner who had spent the day playing rugby in a Philippine garbage dump. My Right Guard had also taken a left turn, leaving me awash in a pungent aroma that I imagine would have been more appropriate to the aftermath of a catastrophic industrial accident at a sewage disposal facility than oozing from the pores of a tired engineer desperately trying to get back home before Monday Night Football started. Coming home smelling like decomposing road kill has its advantages however. Crossing the border was a breeze. Those Homeland Security guys may be fit enough to keep Kalishnikov carrying Quatari militants contained in Canada under normal circumstances, but if al-Qaeda ever decides to spread rancid Limburger cheese beneath their armpits, I have a feeling they’ll be waved right through.

I also got sympathy from my wife, who let me come in, take a shower and sit down to watch football relatively uninterrupted. Unfortunately, I fell asleep on the couch before kickoff.
Anyway, things appear to back to normal today aside from the fact that my back feels like I had spent the day getting worked over at the Arnold Schwarzenegger Center for the Chiropractic Arts. I have a feeling I’ll be calling it a day fairly early.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

green bay 3 - LIONS 17!

Green Bay was quite thoroughly cracked,
Their offence quite brutally sacked,
Ford Field now is sunny,
Green Bay’s walking funny,
As they’ve been quite severely fudge-packed.

Awesome game. Detroit’s offence was much better than they’ve been of late (though still plagued with missed opportunities) and the defense was nothing short of spectacular. To be fair though, the plethora of penalties suffered by the Packers played a huge role in this huge unexpected victory. Happy? You betcha. Think they’re going all the way? Well, I didn’t drink quite enough to start talking that silly.

Introducing The JEP Report Products

I have just figured out how to launch a Cafe Press store and am now the proud owner of an online business offering exactly one product for sale: a T-Shirt. The front is adorned with original artwork designed by yours truly surrounded by a shameless advertisement of this website. The back is graced by a trademark limerick immodestly boasting of my drinking progress. This T-shirt is being sold for $19.99 and I hereby swear that all profits will go to combat that devious disreputable scourge that is my liver. Of course, I will keep you posted on how far the $15.46 I expect to make from this endeavor went to further this worthy cause. In case you don't want to take the time to visit the store (and I can't fault you for that) here is a preview of the one product offered to date:
T-Shirt Front
T-Shirt Back
Product can be viewed much clearer at: http://www.cafepress.com/jepreport

Detroit Lion vs. Green Bay Packers Today

The Packers must know they are destined,
To wear shorts that they’ve screwed up and messed in,
Though known high among wrongs,
They’ve been using their schlongs,
For internal probes of sheep intestines

Detroit Lions going up against Green Bay Packers today at 4:00pm EST. I’ll be watching in horror.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Who's Reading From Japan?

Checking my site meter, I can see that someone is reading this from an armed forces computer somewhere along the Pacific Rim. Speak up! I would love to hear if things over there are the same as I left them eleven years ago. Is Japanese seafood still as much fun to play with as it was horrific to eat? Is Kim-Chi mixed with liberal amounts of rice vodka still capable of producing ear-splitting flatulence that can kill a cocker spaniel at thirty-spaces? Can the bar girls in the Philippines still...................well, that question may cross my own self-imposed standards of decency on The Jep Report. We'll let that one lie.
Let me know how it is over there. I'd love to hear from you.

University of Michigan Trounced By Notre Dame

Notre Dame 17. Michigan 10.
They got one stinkin' touchdown.
And they were playing at home.
I feel so violated, not only because of the devastating loss but because I jumped up out of the seat when I thought Michigan recovered a fumble (which was later overturned) and landed ass down on the remote control. That turned out to be one of the few times I was ever thankful to be watching TV fully clothed.
Well, at least there's still hope that the Lions will win tomorrow. Not much since they're playing Green Bay, but there's still hope.
I think I'm going to go abuse my dog now.

Germans Brew World's Strongest Beer

Any JEP Report readers from Germany? If there are, could you send me a case of this stuff? I'll love you longer than a Filipina bar girl on Spanish Fly!

Introducing Newberry U

I've decided to post the comic strip I had been playing with last year when things are slow and I do not have a lot to write. You can click on the image to make it bigger for easier reading. I'm going to play with the format a bit and see if I can get it to fit on the page better.
Hope you enjoy!

Friday, September 09, 2005

Random Notes

One full week into my new job and I’m already discovering the dark side. I am by no means a morning person and I’m starting to feel the effects of regularly waking up at an hour that would make the Amish shake their heads in profound amazement. I’m also discovering that I am horribly ill equipped for this job from a technological standpoint. My new computer is not fast enough to keep pace on the 100 meter dash track at the Special Olympics let alone fit enough to limp along the shoulder of the information superhighway. My new office phone will not work unless you hold the handset cord a certain way, stand on one leg, drop your pants down around your ankles and sing the third verse of Britney Spears’ “Oops – I Did It Again”. I have had to resort to using my cell phone for all conversations because no one around me seems to appreciate Mrs. Spears’ contributions to American pop music nor that particularly irritating cracking in my voice when I try to hit those really high notes. On the bright side, I have to go outside to the smoking area every time I have to make a call so at least my addiction is well fed. Still, even that could get old once the arctic air takes control around here come November.

Yep, it was a slow day.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Hunter Thompson's Suicide Note To Be Published

I'm kind of disappointed in his suicide letter actually. I kind of expected more. More of what I have no idea. Accusations of sexual harassment by Janet Reno and Margaret Thatcher would have been nice. Insane ravings about being stalked and hunted by a giant hallucinatory chinchilla would have been better. I would even have taken a note lauding the joys of irresponsible gunplay and an argument on how the dangers of such a hobby were wildly exaggerated by the mainstream argument, a stance that could have been concluded by the shot that took his life, terminating it with sense of irony that no other writer could have possibly matched. Instead, he used football for an analogy of his life. I kind of expected something more like:
Well, there’s no way out. The cops have the front door covered. The Olsen twins’ father has heavy firepower aimed at the back. The mob is waiting for me at the side door. Army snipers have eliminated the windows as a viable means of escape. As I was tunneling out, I heard teams of Delta force trying to tunnel their way in. Even if I did get past all that, I’ve been informed that all streets leading out of the neighborhood are cut off by roadblocks manned by paramilitary elements of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. There is no way out. I guess this is the end.
I can’t let them take me alive and I have vowed to go out fighting. I’ve got 3 tons of high-powered plastic explosive, a wide range of automatic weaponry, crates of ammunition and an airborne strain of genital herpes I specially developed for an occasion just like this. I’m going to go out in a fiery blaze of glory. As soon as my buzz wears off.
Please remember me well.
PS. Tell Halle Berry I had the kid DNA tested and I am now prepared to acknowledge paternity.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Taken by Bacon

So, I was on my way home last night, tooling down the expressway at a comfortable 85mph, windows down, wind running through my scalp and talking to my daughter on my cell's speaker phone. As I rounded a curve in the road I spotted, hiding in some weeds on the median, a police officer taking aim on me with his radar gun. I let out a stream of colorful adjectives under my breath and slammed on the brakes, hoping to rapidly slow my velocity down to a level that would appear more favorable to representatives of the local law enforcement community. As I passed the patrol car and spotted him merging into traffic from my rear view mirror, I began to suspect that I had not slowed down fast enough. The patrol car kept its distance at first, keeping pace with me for about a mile while, I assume, he ran my license plate through the system.
Then, he ran up, got on my tail and hit the lights. The next stream of colloquialisms that escaped my lips were not uttered under my breath. In fact, they were loud enough for my daughter to hear through my phone and as I was making my way to the far right shoulder, she was constantly reminding me that I was not exactly using vocabulary common to polite society. She then asked me why I swore and I slipped up, doing something that I knew I should never do if I hoped to raise my daughter into a responsible, moral and trustworthy adult: I told her the truth.
Now, my daughter is not yet five and really only knows what police officers do from what she has seen on TV. This had become increasingly evident when she has a temper tantrum and threatens to call the police and have us hauled off to jail if we do not give her what she wants, such as a new Barbie, some more desert or a later bedtime so that she can catch reruns of Beavis and Butthead with Dad. When I told her that I was getting stopped by the police, she went into meltdown mode and started bawling, apparently having visions of me being sent to Attica to shiv snitches and get back rubs from bikers. She was in hysterics while I rummaged through my wallet for my license, registration and proof of insurance. As the officer approached the window of my car, a little girl's voice was bellowing from the speaker on my cell phone, "YOU'RE GOING TO JAIL!"

"I'm not going to jail sweat pea," I said, trying to soothe her. "I wasn't going fast enough for that." I then remembered that I was going pretty damn fast and did not know if that was a safe assumption. I turned my head towards the officer and sheepishly asked, "I wasn't, was I?"
He shook his head no while his _expression displayed a touch of irritation at the fact that I was talking on the phone in the midst of a traffic stop. Knowing first hand the dangers of irritating armed individuals, I told my daughter that I would call back and ended the call. After the call was terminated, the officer leaned a little closer to me and asked, "Did you know how fast you were going?"

"Not until I saw you." Without another word, the policeman took my license and related paperwork and returned to his vehicle.

Coincidentally, I have been with my new job less than a week. I now have to get up at 4:30am, a time that, not all that long ago, I would have considered a respectable hour to go to bed. Fortunately, I do not have a lot of idle time to get tired during but I do notice that as soon as I become idle, I get hit with incredible fatigue almost instantly. As the officer appeared to be taking his time figuring out what he was going to do with me, I found myself struggling to stay awake. I wanted to light a cigarette but did not have an ashtray handy and did not want the cop to top off my civil infraction with a charge of littering on it as well. For a brief second, I even wondered what would happen if I just took off and went home. It was not that I was afraid of arrest, unable to pay the fine or even thought I would get away with it (the cop already had my address at that point so they would have a pretty good idea of where I was going). I just figured that drowsiness would not be much of an issue over the course of the 65 miles I still had left to drive if I had an armada of angry wailing police cars in my wake to keep me occupied. In the end though, I just sat there and waited.

By the time the officer finally exited his car, I could barely keep my eyes open. I perked up a little bit by the time he got to my door and did the best that I could to look alert while I took my paperwork back along with an extra slip of parchment from the City of Lincoln Park, MI. As I did this, the officer looked at me and asked, "Are you all right?"

"I'm fine." I answered, a bit befuddled. "Why?"

"Your eyes are all red."

I looked into my rear view mirror and saw that, indeed, my eyes looked like I had just been through cataract surgery while under the influence of some herbal sedative the anestheiologist had scored at a Grateful Dead concert. Not wanting the officer to get the wrong impression, I turned to him and said, "I'm sorry. I just heard that Bob Denver died."

"Bob who?" asked the cop.
"Bob Denver. Gilligan. From Gilligan's Island."

The cop took a couple of suspicious steps back away from my car almost as if, from some sort of past experience, he suspected a secret danger lurked just below the surface of a Gilligan's Island fanatic whose eye whites had gone Rastafarian red. "I only wrote you up for 5 mph over the speed limit. You can go now."
He cut me a pretty decent break but I suspect that bitch is still going to end up costing me over a hundred bucks.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Who'd have thunk.....

...that all of these epics would translate into 283 double spaced pages that would make up the manuscript that, after I proofread it, will be sent to a book publisher in the hopes of harvesting some fruit from this labor? Now nothing to do but bore myself by reading my own stuff and hope that some editor somewhere will be just as drunk reading this as I was writing it and think that it has some sort of commercial potential. Once it is sent, all I can do is sit back and wait for the rejection slips to start filing in.
I could use some Mojo......and some publicity. Tell every internet geek you know about The JEP Report (except you GMT Man...if word of this gets out at work I may be jeapordizing potential advancement at my day job). The more of a following I get here, the better I can convince the editors that the manuscript has value.
If the book is published, I promise you that all the proceeds will go to the JEP Foundation, helping to promote irrational and irresponsible behavior across the globe in addition to helping fund the further alcoholic misadventures of the author so that more material can grace the pages of this blogsite and hopefully, more book manuscripts to come.
Once again, thank you all for reading and all of the encouragement you have given. We'll see how this thing goes.


My son looked out over the lake on the campground we were staying at and shivered. “Dad,” he whimpered, “Are there sharks in the lake?”

My daughter was nearby, had overheard him and answered his question before I had the chance to. “No, stupid.” She said with the intellectual smugness that only a little girl in her first week of kindergarten could possess. “This isn’t salt water. Sharks will die unless they’re in salt water.”

Not liking the tone she had taken, nor the unmasked insult she had thrown at her younger brother, I decided to set her straight and give her a little lesson in Ichthyology. “That’s not true, Sweat Pea. Bull sharks can live in either salt or fresh water. In fact, some scientists think that they have their babies in fresh water rivers or lakes.”

My daughter remained skeptical. “No way, Dad. You’re lying.”

“No, I’m not. They find them in rivers in India all the time.”

Wavering a little in her conviction, my daughter then asked, “They don’t have them in our country though, do they?”

“Yes, they do. In fact, they think it was a bull shark that swam into Matawan Creek in New Jersey in 1916 and killed a little boy, bit the leg right off of another and then ate a man that jumped into the water to save them.” At that, my daughter abruptly terminated her line of questioning, turned and ran as fast as she could back to shore while my son started tearfully pleading for me to follow suit.

In hindsight, I may have been a little overbearing while trying to catch my kids up on the finer points of aquatic zoology but I have to admit that they both now know more about Carcharhinus leucas than their peers and I doubt that they are likely to forget about them anytime in the near future. Still, I probably would not have employed psychological terrorism as a teaching tactic had the three of us been swimming in warmer water and I had not been trying to figure out a way to get them out of it for the past half hour.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Lions Win........Finally

The pre-season has been one long glitch,
And the Lions seemed stuck in the ditch,
We all felt quite fooled,
When they finally pulled,
At least one paltry win from this bitch.
Lions 21
Bills 7
Too bad it doesn't count.

Detroit Lions Pre-Game Limerick

Keeping with my fresh determination to post more, I've decided to come up with a new gimick for the blog in keeping with this masochistic fetish I have with cheering for a spectacularly unsuccessful football team: The Detroit Lions. I'm going to try to come up with a pre-game and post-game limerick for them for every game this season, and see how long I can keep it up. I'm doing this mainly because I've got a minor case of writer's block and nothing else noteworthy seems to be happening lately. In short, I've been reduced to making shit up. So, here's the first go:
Though Detroit's had its pre-season ills,
Tonight they have vowed to give chills,
They'll crush like a grape,
And then anally rape,
That gridiron scourge called the Bills.
Detroit Lions vs. Buffalo Bills.
7:00pm EST.
It's the last pre-season game and no one really cares about it so it will probably turn out lamer than most.
See you all again around 10:00.

Anarchy, Violence Rages in New Orleans as National Guard Tries to Take Back Control

Row, Row, Row your boat,
Out of New Orleans,
You'll probably choke,
On acrid smoke,
But the gunplay is a scream.
Yes, tasteless, morose and disgusting but so is everything else going on down there at moment. I am completely at a loss for words from what I am seeing on TV (and for someone as long-winded as myself, that's saying A LOT). I hope the good folks get out of there as soon as humanly possible while those exploiting this disaster meet their fate on the business end of a TOW missle.
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