Wednesday, August 29, 2007

CSI: Southgate

The way I see it, there are several levels of drinking bouts and they can be rated in much the same way that NORAD classifies the threat of a nuclear holocaust. DEFCON 1 is a simple evening out on the town. You meet up with friends, you have a few drinks, share a few laughs, go home and go to bed. No harm, no foul and your biggest threat is a little headache when you wake up in the morning. This is exactly the kind of evening you are doomed to have if you bring your wife with you.

DEFCON 2 is typically what you are in for when you leave your wife at home. It is not all that different than DEFCON 1, but there will possibly be some vomiting involved and there are even odds of you arguing with your spouse once you have stumbled through the front door. The aftermath of this type of outing is waking up on the couch with brain pain that will need at least 12 hours of aspirin therapy to recover from.

DEFCON 3 is what you typically experience when you close the bar. The specter of vomiting graduates from being a possibility to more of a probability and you can usually look forward to an adrenaline charging ride on the Merry-Go-Sofa for at least a third of the four hours you have to sleep before going to work. Once again you will wake up in the living room, nearly fully clothed as you have only managed to get your coat and shoes off before collapsing on the Chesterfield. After a journey into this level of inebriation you can look forward to a hangover that is going to last for days, complete with a migraine that is impervious to Ibuprofen and a stomach unable to process anything stronger than filtered water and Sodium-free crackers. Your wife will probably give you at least 48 hours of silent treatment (which can come in handy during football season).

I am not really sure what goes on during a DEFCON 4 binge as my memory usually gives out right about the time the eleven o’clock news comes on. There are hours that are unaccounted for. One minute you find yourself toasting a successful game of pool and the next thing you know it is mid-morning and you find yourself face down on the kitchen floor. You see that you have tried to undress before hitting the couch but, having forgotten to take your shoes off before removing your pants, got your feet tied up in your inside-out trouser legs while your upper half became entangled in your coat as if you had been involved in some sort of hockey brawl in your underwear. This is the highest level of intoxication a man can attain and still reasonably expect to remain married. Make no mistake though, it will be years before your wife lets you forget about the night that you can’t remember in the first place.

Unless you have resided in a trailer park for more than a decade, it is nearly impossible to achieve DEFCON 5 in a single 24 hour period. It requires a sustained effort over the course of several days and typically involves distance as well as drunkeness. If you start off drinking in a benign place like Toledo, Ohio and come to your senses two days later in a 1980’s vintage Ford Taurus barreling towards Las Vegas at 115 miles per hour, you have reached DEFCON 5. DEFCON 6 if the Taurus’s transmission is in reverse.

You would not even know if you have ever reached DEFCON 7 unless there was a teetotaler in your crew taking pictures and even that may not work if the photographer gets picked up by the feds while trying to pay for his double-prints at CVS. The first clue one usually has that he had this much fun is when he gets sued for paternity in a class action lawsuit filed by dozens of women he has never heard of living on continents that he is sure that he has never visited.

In my service days, I was a reliable DEFCON 3 drinker though I journeyed semi-regularly into the realm of DEFCON 4. Maybe once or twice a year I made it to DEFCON 5 and in my entire life, I only had one instance where I might possibly have experienced DEFCON 6. DEFCON 7 is just simply unattainable to most people who were not born within the sphere of influence of the former Soviet Union.

Sacto Ritch and I typically set the DEFCON bar at 3 when we get together. 2 if we’re just meeting up for lunch. When we got together on August 18th however, not only were our wives with us, so were a couple of girls we graduated high school with as well as the husband of one. We were at DEFCON 1 from the evening’s larval stages and I was personally muzzled as my wife does not get out much and if I got us into trouble during the first time she’s been out to a bar in years, I was in for consequences more appropriate to DEFCON 4.

Jo, Ritch, Jake's Wife, Me, Jake, My Wife, Caretaker Matt

A lower DEFCON rating does not necessarily translate into a lower level of fun, and August 18th was a great example of that. I had a lot of fun catching up with old friends and I enjoyed myself immensely as I typically do in good company. Of course it helped that, since Sacto Ritch and I were not going to make it to DEFCON 4 ourselves, we sent someone else there in our place.

Our victim’s name was not Jake but since I do not use real names in The JEP Report (and the fact that he kept calling my wife Beth, which is not her real name) I am going to call him that anyway. Now Jake is the husband of one of the girls we graduated with and he is a big, boisterous guy. Though I have only had the pleasure of knowing him for a couple of hours, it was immediately apparent that he had a rather friendly disposition, an extroverted nature and held a rather lengthy repertoire of humorous anecdotes that rivaled the collection that I have been documenting over the last three years. He also looked like he could swing a mean bar stool if the need arose, which also comes in handy on occasion as long as we are not the intended targets of the wielded pub furniture. At first glance, it looked as if Jake would perfectly compliment the established drinking habits of Ritch and I.

The evening went well. The beer flowed freely and Mallie’s, the establishment in Southgate Michigan that hosted us, served us nachos, buffalo wings, fajitas and burgers that were all very tastily put together. We all caught up on old classmates and were surprised to find that to date, we only lost one of classmates who had succumbed to a drug overdose a few years ago. I found this surprising since my social circle outside of school, which was far smaller than my graduating class, lost three. Apparently, turning gay was a far more prevalent threat that we had lost six to.

By the time dinner was finished, we were comfortably numb and despite the presence of our spouse and old friends, I decided to up the ante and try to take our session to DEFCON 2 by ordering shots of tequila. Ritch, who I do not believe has allowed tequila to pass his lips since 1990 when it made him gag a Tijuana cab driver, was even persuaded to do a shot. Remembering what transpired the last time I saw him drink tequila, I kept myself ready to leap out of the way in case he broke out into another fit of Technicolor laughter. Ritch was quite a trooper and though the look on his face betrayed the fact that he had not missed a whole lot of tequila over the past 17 years, he suffered no ill effects.

Shot Time

Fortunately, the same could not be said for Jake. He seemed to do the shot fine, but not long afterward he completely disappeared.

Now, we liked Jake and could not just let him go off on his own in the condition he was in without the protection of the pack. In the shape he was in, he could have gotten into a scrape with a bouncer or something and if we were not watching his back, well, we could have missed a really good fight. Ritch went outside looking for him and after slipping in some evidence, stumbled upon a trail that lead him directly to Jake’s car where he was passed out cold. Unsure of what to do next, Ritch came back inside and sought my counsel on what to do next. Based upon Ritch’s description of Jake’s condition, I told Ritch and Jake’s wife that my medical opinion was that Jake was afflicted with a condition that could only be remedied with women’s make-up, a digital camera and internet access. Ritch agreed and once we got our hands on some cherry red lipstick, set out upon the only right course of action in that sort of situation.

As I said before, Jake is a pretty big guy so we had to proceed with caution. We needed to be sure that he was out. We decided to start with an investigation of his stomach contents. The great thing about dealing with the highly intoxicated is that you don’t have to wait to do this post-mortem like the guys on CSI: Miami do. All you had to do was grab a flashlight and study the parking lot. After cataloguing a copious amount of shredded chicken, ground beef, nacho chip fragments, corn, some peppers and potatoes, we were able to deduce that there was not possibly enough solids in that man’s gut to ruin his buzz so it was safe to proceed. When the mission came to the moment f truth outside of Jake’s car though, we were still struck with a moment’s hesitation. Ritch turned to me and asked, “What do you want to do, the camera or the lipstick?”

“I, uh….I could…uh…I dunno…”

Ritch handed me the camera. “I’ll do the lipstick. You’ve got twice as many mouths to feed at home than I do.”

It was a wise decision. The way I saw it two things could go wrong with our little stunt. The first was Jake could wake up swinging and if that was the case, Ritch undoubtedly had a better dental plan being a union employee and all. Second, in Jake’s twisted state of mind he could wake with the weird realization that he was into being made up like a woman and in the highly unlikely event that this happened, well, I just felt more comfortable with Ritch being the one holding the lipstick. Living in California, I imagine Ritch being just a trifle more open-minded about that kind of thing than I am.

When Ritch was through, Jake was a little startled but it appeared to me that he was mostly oblivious to the whole thing. We made him up, took pictures and were prevented from having anymore fun with the guy by his wife who decided to drop him off at her parents’ house around the block to save him from further humiliation. She came back later and described a chaotic scene as she tried to get him into the house. Apparently Jake was pretty much dead weight and she had to have her father help get him inside. Their two kids were also not used to seeing their father in that kind of shape either and apparently went into some sort of hysterics when they saw him, being far more traumatized by it than she had anticipated. That is no surprise. Coming home drunk is one thing. Coming home drunk AND tarted up in your wife’s Mary Kay ensemble is something else altogether. I’d freak too if I were them.

So what was the final verdict on Jake? Overall, I would say that he passed every criteria there is for joining our drinking circle with flying colors and I look forward to downing tequila shots with him and his wife again sometime in the future. There is only one thing left that we have to before we officially welcome him into the fold:

See how he reacts to having his picture posted on the internet while wearing his wife’s lipstick.

-This article brought to you by Jep and Sacto Ritch

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

General Nonsense

Well, I sat down to pound out another article on the weekend's events, but can't quite decide on what angle to take on it yet so as I begin this post, I have absolutely no clue what this entry will be about. I could go with the first thing that pops into my head, but the only thing that immediately registers is something I saw a little while ago at the grocery store. For some reason, I glanced over at an older gentleman in the line next to me when I saw his face contort into a pained grimace as he reached into his back pocket and pulled out a handkerchief. Getting the piece of cloth to his nose just in time, he then let out a violently explosive sneeze into it then set about examining the piece of fabric for what I judged to be an inordinately long amount of time.
Granted there are not a lot of things in the supermarket check-out line to keep a person occupied, but there have got to be better ways to amuse oneself than studying nasal discharge as if you are going to be tested on it once you reach the cashier. I could not help but wonder what he was looking for so intently but in the end I decided that it must have been brain tissue. Judging from the man's appearance and the ease with which he entertained himself I could see how losing gray matter through his nostrils might have been a real concern, especially if it had happened before. If I once recovered from a particularly vicious sneeze to find that I had lost my ability to do arithmetic, I guess I would be checking the house for stray synapses as well.
As I put a bit more thought into this, I can't help but think of what men of my generation do in similar situations. We do not carry handerkerchiefs anymore so when we feel a sneeze coming on, how do we handle it? Trying to recollect my last great sneeze in a public place, I have to say that I put my bare hand over my nose, being careful that my palm was not exposed to my nostrils' line of fire, pointed my head away from any person that looked as if they had a short temper and a debilitating right hook and fired away. I guess if I had the time I would look for an amusing target that I could outrun in case anything actually escaped but there usually is not a lot of advance notice when this type of opportunity arises.
Great. I sit down to do a train-of-thought writing exercise and just managed to write 437 words on snot. This is exactly the type of thing that convinces me that I will never write professionally. I really need to work on subject matter discipline.
What is encouraging however, is that The JEP Report seems to be generating a bit of renewed interest of late. The visit count is up and I can see that people visiting are reading, and reading quite a bit at that. In the blogging world, the number of people who visit your site and the amount of comments you receive is kind of like currency and it may be a bit narcissistic, but that is what motivates bloggers to write. We are definately not in it for the money.
And speaking about that, I am also pleased to report that The JEP Report store actually made a profit this quarter. It did not make enough for Cafepress to send me a check, but you still get a sense of accomplishment for having someone attach enough worth to something you've created to actually pay money for it. Anyway, I added a couple of products to it to celebrate if you want to check it out. The link is to your right.
Speaking of the right, I learned some basic html today and created a couple of other link categories. Beneath the link to The JEP Report store, I have added a "Reader Sites" catagory. In the past I was reluctant to do this for two reasons. First, blogs have a tendency to disappear just as quickly as they are created so my links would be obsolete from the moment they were posted. Second, the subject matter is usually much different than what is found here. Still, people who read this stuff invest a lot of time doing so (thanks to me being very long winded), so I wanted them to get something in return.
Inflammable Hamster is a blog that, as far as I can tell is documenting Alan The Great's attempts to blow himself up using commercial fireworks. He's kind of disturbed. He dispenses some good blogging advice though and I will take this opportunity to dispense some advice right back to him: It's not funny if you actually blow yourself to smithereens...unless you make the Darwin Awards.
RightMichigan is a political blog that I have found rather interesting. Granted, The JEP Report enjoys a very international audience base so I do not know how much appeal its regional focus will have here, but I would reccomend checking it out if you are inclined that way. It had a recent article using a muppet character to point out the governor's recent trip to Sweden so it has promise.
And then there is the "Great Writing" section for the word nerds. Where the Hell Was I? is currently on hiatus but with 1200 posts, there is plenty to read. If you like The JEP Report, you'll definately like Charlie Hatton's site. Until this month, the guy was completely immune from writer's block.
And finally, I have to point out the MySpace page for the Mighty Josephine, Sacto Ritch's band in California. I actually stumbled across this by accident since Ritch never mentioned anything to me about it and quite frankly, they are awesome! I have taken to listening to "Southern Cross" on a regular basis and think it has great potential as an internet indie rock sensation. Solo, if you're out there and still posting music clips, you're going to have to check this one out.
Well, that should do it. It's ten o'clock and work comes early. Adieu.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Third World Inebriate

In the pursuit of exhilaration, some folks like to gamble. Others may like to take to the woods and taunt animals with high caliber weapons. Then there are the people who just can not entertain themselves unless their recreational endeavors carry the possibility of severe personal injury or death. These are the types of individuals who get their thrills by engaging in mountain climbing, sky-diving or marriage. In my personal opinion however, if you are a person seeking the highest level of adrenaline ecstasy, few things can match the charge you get by embarking upon a brutal booze bender in a Third World nation.

Now anyone can buy a ticket to the Dominican Republic and spend a week sipping Margaritas on the beach at a Sandals resort, but it takes a special breed of drunkard that will feel comfortable getting positively pie-eyed in the red light districts of Santo Domingo then brave an illegal border crossing while avoiding UN military peacekeepers, marauding bands of brigands and zombie-generating voodoo witch doctors just to consummate a promised tryst with a Haitian chamber maid in Port-au-Prince. This particular type of bacchanalian is called the Third World Inebriate.

So what makes the Third World Inebriate different than the common lush? Well, there are several things. First off, the common lush usually prefers to drink in a familiar environment and is a creature of routine. You can usually find him sucking down shells of a cheap domestic at his local dive bar, doing shots of low-quality vodka in his living room or guzzling a four dollar bottle of ripple next to a garbage dumpster behind a neighborhood Applebee’s restaurant. The Third World Inebriate is quickly bored by repetition and if his chosen establishment is not the scene of a drug deal gone bloodily awry or offers a front row view of the ruling junta being thrown out of office by an ambitious military upstart, he will usually try to find a more happening venue to go get tanked in.

Another difference between the common lush and the Third World Inebriate is the company he keeps. The lush is most likely to find himself drinking with a former high school football hero turned factory janitor, a retired welder trying to suppress the memory of his fifth failed marriage, an unemployed biker contemplating a career change into the potentially lucrative field of methamphetamine distribution and a married hairdresser seeking to delay the realization that she is about to become a grandmother by seducing the bartender. The Third World Inebriate will likely be sharing his table with a couple of heartbreakingly beautiful bargirls, a former French Foreign Legionnaire, a couple of local longshoreman who occasionally moonlight as high-seas pirates, some British military contractors spoiling for a fight with the table full of Australian sailors across the bar and the madam of the establishment who looks and awful lot like an Asian version of Marilyn Monroe, if the comparison had been done several months post-mortem (bar girls typically do not age very well).

To further distinguish the Third World Inebriate from the common lush, one should look beyond the company they keep and explore the company that they kept. Under the best of circumstances, the common lush might wake up face-to-face with the matronly hairdresser who struck out with the bartender at closing time and decided to go home with someone too drunk to be turned off by breath that reeked of Newport cigarettes, stale Buffalo wings and fermented vomit. Under the worst of circumstances, the lush may have found himself waking up in the bed of the unemployed biker and, discovering that he has been handcuffed to the headboard, unable to escape before anyone finds out.

The Third World Inebriate on the other hand, is more likely to crack his eyes open at sunrise and smell the fresh Pacific breeze rolling in off of Pattaya Beach through the silken jet black hair of a Siamese nymphette that did things to him that he could not possibly have imagined, despite possessing a highly overactive imagination. He will have a memory he will cherish for the rest of his life, even if he has forgotten the nymphette’s name by lunch, which he probably did considering that it is highly unlikely that he could pronounce it correctly even when he did know it.

The rewards of being a Third World Inebriate are immeasurable and though becoming a black belt in the art requires an irrepressible sense of adventure, a Kryptonite liver and years upon years of training, the experience gained in the process will equip one with a repertoire of anecdotes that can entertain his grandchildren for years to come.

Of course, there are few that possess the character traits (or flaws, depending upon your perspective) to make it as a Third World Inebriate. Even among those that do, many try to advance too far in the field too fast and see their promising rise obliterated by inexperience. They find themselves driven insane by absinthe, killed by brigands, involuntarily caught up in the sexual slavery trade, enduring a lengthy incarceration in the Philippine penal system for not carrying an adequate amount of bribe money or maimed by a case of genital crabs the size of freakin’ tarantulas.

With a bit of patience, a lot of hard work and an experienced mentor however, one can not only survive in the field but thrive. The following are a few tips that will help one get started in the field if they so desire it:

1. Begin Your Training Early and Train Hard -Black belt Third World Inebriates start drinking very young in life. Rumor has it that by the age of 18 months Aussie Alcoholic Jacob Brees, known as “The Rake of Rangoon” among the expatriate community, had already figured out a way to disassemble his baby bottle and fit it over his father’s mug of Guinness Stout. Admittedly, Brees was sort of a prodigy (though many actually considered him an idiot savant because of his usual state of being too bombed to form a complete sentence or keep from drooling all over himself) and this level of natural talent alludes most of us mere mortals, but if you are going to succeed, you need to set the bar much higher than you think you can actually reach.

By the age of ten you should be plotting creative ways of getting your hands on intoxicating drink. It will most definitely take years for you to succeed but the improvisation skills you will gain in the process will prove invaluable later. If you haven’t succeeded by the time you are fourteen, you’d better stick to sipping Hot Totties with your Aunt Margaret. You just do not have what it takes.

By sixteen, you should have conquered tequila, able to do continuous shots long after your peers have passed out in puddles of their own puke. By eighteen, you should be able to pass a field sobriety drill despite the fact that the breathalyzer test registered a reading higher than the closing volume of the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Then, and only then, will you be ready to take your show on the road.

2. When Considering Destinations, Start Off Easy - No matter how much talent a potential Third World Inebriate has, it would be suicide for him to think he could survive a week-long binge drinking session in Bangkok if he has never even left the city limits of Des Moines, Iowa. He should start off with a weekend road trip to a Six Flags park in another state. After that, he should consider visiting a foreign country that is relatively safe but where English is not spoken as a first language. Quebec serves this purpose well and has an added bonus of hosting a population that is just slightly less anti-American than the Taliban, but unless you fall in with the Montreal chapter of the Hell’s Angels it is far less violent which gives you room to err. This helps the average American temper any unrealized arrogance, which can be the kiss of death in a developing country. If you can not make it to Quebec, the exact same experience can be had in the Soviet Socialist Republic of Massachusetts.

If you want to start off in a location where people communicate in words you will not understand but will not dislike you because of your national origin, try the mountain regions of North Carolina or anywhere within 200 miles of the Mexican frontier. Just keep in mind that you are in the Bible Belt down there and take care that you do not end up trapped in a dry county without the proper provisions.

After you are comfortable drinking on the road, it is time to venture into the Third World. Tijuana, Mexico is the perfect place for the debutante drunk. The natives speak an unintelligible language, the average citizen lives in abject poverty, due to the burgeoning trade in illicit narcotics folks there are naturally distrustful and hostile to outsiders, there is a myriad of vices readily available for wanton indulgence and the law enforcement officials are shamelessly corrupt. If you live on the sunrise side of the United States however and the west coast is out of your range, Louisiana can serve as a near perfect substitute.

3. Choose a Geographic Area to Ply Your Expertise - Third World Inebriates usually focus upon a certain area of the globe. Some prefer to bounce around Latin America. The main advantage of specializing in this area is that by learning one or two different languages, one can effortlessly communicate with virtually an entire continent. Africa is mainly the domain of the European sub-culture of the Third World Inebriate and offers non-stop action in the form of incessant political violence, economic collapse and epidemic disease. Trust me, nothing brings out the party animal in people like civil strife and insurrection. Others prefer the Orient which has a decent mix of calamity though the deadly sexually transmitted diseases are a little better controlled.

Once you have picked an area, try to visit a relatively modern country there to get a feel for the place. South Africa is the closest one can find to this on the Dark Continent. Costa Rica, Argentina or Chile will do in Latin America and in Asia, Japan is the obvious destination. This will allow you to get your feet wet in a place where the consequences of letting your guard down are not so dire. Truth be told though, letting your guard down in South Africa can still rather easily result in you being robbed, beaten, murdered or sentenced to a slow death by an acquired auto-immune disorder. Why Europeans gravitate to this place mystifies me almost as much as the fascination the French have with Jerry Lewis.

4. Learn the Essential Phrases in the Language of the Land You Are Visiting - Though it is true that English is spoken across the globe, your ability to communicate with people in their native tongue will separate the Third World Inebriate from the common tourist that is ripe for fleecing. In some areas it may also prove crucial to ensuring that you remain properly lubricated. Before you set foot in a foreign land you should be able to say the following in the local lexicon:

1. Can I have two beers please?
2. Do you want to dance?
3. No, I am Canadian. Really.
4. I am not the only one who threw up in the aquarium. Why should I be the only one that pays for it?
5. You have really beautiful eyes.
6. Are you sure you are not a transvestite?
7. ‘Cause I’m pretty sure that’s an Adam’s apple you’re sporting unless you’re choking on the cork to the champagne bottle.
8. How much is it going to cost to get me out of this?
9. Will you marry me?
10. Would you please make sure that the German Shepherd is cooked well done? The last time I ate here I came down with a vicious case of canine distemper.

A Third World Inebriate should also be able to communicate his basest, most disgusting sexual desires to the woman seated next him at the bar. If she has any shred of decency about her, she will try to break his nose and claw his eyes out before storming out of the bar in huff. This is perfectly fine, because the last thing he wants to do when overseas is waste valuable time and money buying drinks for a woman possessing a code of sexual morality straight out of Victorian England. The Third World Inebriate will usually seek out a woman who will hang on every rank suggestion he makes and then, after hearing it all in its dankest glory, will smile coyly at him and say, “That might cost you a little bit extra.”

5. Take a Geography Lesson - Americans generally have a poor grasp of the world around them and, if you are planning upon taking on the lifestyle of a Third World Inebriate, you had better have an idea of where you are going. You do not necessarily have to know that Riyadh is the capitol of Saudi Arabia. You had damn well better know however that it is located in the middle of a desert, presides over the largest dry county on the planet and is inhabited by short-tempered religious fanatics that are capable of murdering you just for casting a side-long glance at one of their women. If that sounds like your idea of a good time, you might be better off just buying a Winnebago and taking a long trip to Utah.

These five tips may prove somewhat less than exhaustive, but they are more than enough to get your average lush larvae started. After a few months of crawling through jungles, over open sewage ditches and into the back doors of nightclubs you have been repeatedly banned from in search of a good time, you will be able to judge the quality of a country’s nightlife solely by the types of side arms the police carry as well. But why should you? What exactly is the draw of this sort of lifestyle? What drives a person to spend years of his life bar brawling his way across the developing world?

Well, it’s hard to say. What I can tell you is that no matter how elaborate your living room’s sound system is, it just can not do justice to the audio assault that is the Rappongi district of Tokyo at three in the morning. And even though Sally Struthers is without equal at tugging at your heartstrings on behalf of the world’s hungry children, you have to walk through a shanty town built atop a Philippine garbage dump to get the full effect. You can watch the file footage of a student protest turned brutally violent in Korea but you will probably forget it before the next commercial break. If you have a tear gas grenade bounce off of your bare ass while you are mooning the riot police however, every aspect of that event will be seared into your memory, as well as your posterior since those things can get pretty damned hot, until the day you die. With equal lucidity, I can recall the acrid odor of the smog in Hong Kong though I lost my sense of smell in 1993. I know what the bare knuckles of a British Royal Marine feel like when they are smashed across your left cheek during a pick-up rugby game in Singapore. I know what a duck egg tastes like after it has been hard-boiled just as it was ready to hatch and then left to ferment. I can also instantly recall the flavor of live shrimp, Yakisoba, yakitori chicken and Kirin beer separately going down as well as all combined together when they were on their way back up.

Many of those sensations were rather unpleasant and are not things that I am yearning to rush out and experience again, but all are remembered quite fondly now. Nothing sweetens a sour memory like the satisfaction of knowing that you had the courage to strike out on your own and brave the hazards that you had to in order to experience the things you did, even if the source of your courage was 150 proof. And if this can turn a bad recollection good, what it does to a great memory absolutely defies description.

Also, when you reach your late thirties, have been married a few years, had a few kids and acquired a sizeable mortgage, thinking of all the recklessness you survived in your youth takes a lot of the edge off of realization that you’re actually kind of a pathetic wimp now that you’ve sobered up.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Agana Goon

If there was one hard rule that I traveled by back in my navy days, it was that when I was in a foreign country, I tried to get as far away from my fellow American servicemen whenever I could. The only time I ever violated this rule was in 1993 when my ship pulled into Guam.

Now technically, my rule was not violated since Guam is actually part of the United States and even if I traveled so far into the interior that I stumbled across a lost tribe of Chamorro cannibals, I would still legally be amongst Americans. Granted, the island is only around four miles wide and at most, fifty miles long so there is not a lot of unexplored territory to stumble into. It is probably safe to say that there are fewer cannibals on Guam than there were in Milwaukee during the Jeffery Dahmer era.

Of Guam itself, there is not much that I can tell you about it since I do not think that I ventured more than five miles from the base. We were only there for two days and as luck would have it, I spent the first of them on duty. As liberty for the ship was going to be cancelled at midnight in preparation for our departure early the following morning, I found myself with just over 12 hours of free time to work with to experience what the island had to offer.

It did not leave a big impression. It was hot there of course and the island did have its share of palm trees but for the most part I remember the island as being brown rather than a lush tropical green and covered more by low brush and tall grasses than thick equatorial rainforest. I would not take this as an accurate characterization of the entire island because, as I said before, I did not get out much. In addition to that, it has been fourteen years since I have been there and most of my memories of the visit took place at night.

A buddy of mine, Ben Wathen, was in the same predicament that I was and the two us decided to at least get off of the ship for a little while and see what the place was like. We went to a ship-sponsored Lu’au not far from base (the furthest from it we got) and ate some spit roasted pig while some native hula dancers performed in front of us. The food was top notch but I suspected we got third-string dancers though. They were much larger than the svelte mocha-colored girls that flashed across my family’s television screen during the opening theme song to “Hawaii Five-O” when I was a kid, shaking their hips as if someone had slipped a few Brazilian fire ants in their underwear. The dancers we got looked like Winston Churchill who, after downing a case of Stolichnaya with his frat buddy Josef Stalin, decided to don a bad wig and a grass skirt and push an imaginary shopping cart around the campfire for a couple of hours.

After we ate, the two of us tried to go swimming but were prevented from doing so by rough seas and a riptide threat. After that, we decided to just go back to base and get drunk at the enlisted man’s club.

The EM club was nothing to rave about and initially Ben and I were both rather disappointed that all they played was country music. This drove us nuts for about the first five pitchers of beer we drank but by the sixth, we were standing on tables singing Merle Haggard louder than anyone else in the bar. Overall, we were having a grand time until about nine o’clock when I left our table to grab ourselves another pitcher. By then, the bar was packed. There were two large ships in port, my vessel the USS Belleau Wood and our sister ship, the USS Peliliu which was identical to ours. Between the two boats, we had unleashed over 1000 people upon the small base and it seemed like most of them, along with nearly everyone stationed on Guam, their dependants, and a heavy contingent of Shore Patrol and Military Police were packed into that little club.

It took me forever to get through the mass of humanity to get my pitcher filled but luckily I was able to pass the time talking with another buddy of mine, Ryan Baker, who had drawn Shore Patrol duty that night and had been assigned to the club. He, like the rest of us, was lamenting the lack of women on base and how he could not wait to pull out the following morning and head to Australia. I remember that only because when I returned to the table, one of the few women I had seen in the club was sitting on Ben’s lap sucking his ear lobes and as it turned out, she just happened to be Australian. I have to say as well, she was incredibly attractive for a woman who was smashed completely out of her gourd. She had straight shoulder-length blond hair, a body that could cause sins of commission at 15 miles and bright blue eyes that must have been just striking when she was able to keep them all the way open. In other words, she was way out of our league.

“Wow, Ben.” I said as I retook my seat. “That’s not a bad job for someone who hasn’t left his seat all night. Would you like to introduce us?”

Ben tried to answer but as soon as he opened his mouth, the girl on his lap leaned over and tried to stick her tongue into it. He gently grabbed her head and guided it back to his ear. “I would but I have no idea what her name is. As soon as you left she just plopped right down on my lap and started sucking on my neck.”

“You’re quite the Studmuffin, Ben. So, you two getting out of here or what?”

Ben shook his head. “If she was just sober enough to tell me her name I might consider it but in the condition she’s in, it just wouldn’t be right. Besides that, my Spidey Senses are going off big time. She’s giving me some bad vibes.”

Ben was like that. If someone needed help he was always there. He was painfully honest, possessed an unshakeable sense of morality and could always be depended upon to do the right thing. In short, Ben was the sort of guy that I would avoid like the plague if I was embarking upon a tear of Third World drinking establishments, preferring the company of someone who was much more comfortingly sociopathic. For some reason though, I liked the guy and felt compelled to put him on the right path. “Bad vibes? They look pretty good from this angle.”

“No man, something’s not right about this.”

“I’ll say. She should have picked a heterosexual to try and seduce.”

“Ha. Ha.” Ben paused for a second to place his hands over the girl’s cheeks and pull her towards him so that they were face-to-face. “What. Is. Your. Name?”

In answer to Ben’s question she leaned forward and whispered it into his ear before going back to licking his neck.

“Well?” I asked.

Ben shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know. It sounded something like ‘Yynjelffijick’. She’s from Melbourne.”

I waved at her. “Hi Yynjelffijick! Glad to meet you.” She did not respond. My guess is that she had no idea that I was even there. “Well Ben, the way I see it you’ve got two choices here. It’s kind of hard to drink beer with someone else’s tongue in your mouth so I would advise you to either tell the angel on your shoulder to go take a hike or quit stringing Yynjelffijick along and end this thing with her now before you break her heart. She looks like the innocent fragile type so it might be a little hard on her now, but if you wait too long she’ll never get over it.”

Just then Ryan and a couple of the other guys on shore patrol stepped up to our table to check out Ben’s new squeeze. He let out a short whistle and said, “Man, I never figured Ben to be much of a player but…Wow!”

“My man here’s got the goods, what can I tell you?” With more of an audience, Ben’s discomfort grew exponentially and finally he had enough. He grabbed her gently around the waist, lifted her off of his lap and told her that he just was not interested and it was time for her to leave.

Yynjelffijick actually seemed to take the rejection fairly well. She just swayed a couple of times, smiled seductively at Ryan, then fell over backwards. I threw my arm out and caught her before she hit the ground, a gesture she seemed rather surprised, and impressed, by and as a token of her appreciation, she sat herself down on my lap, grabbed my head and proceeded to try to lick the back of my throat.

Of course, that is exactly the moment that her husband walked in through the front door.

Now, I do not believe that I am clairvoyant in any way, shape or form but when I saw Yynjelffijick’s husband enter the room I instantly knew what his relationship was to the woman on my lap. He was a big man and being in uniform, I could immediately see that he outranked me by several pay grades. He was obviously quite pissed off by something judging by the expression on his face, his body language and the fact that he seemed to be looking for something other than a drink since he was scanning tables instead of the bar. He looked like a bruiser who desperately craved to get his hands on a head that he could crack open and within a split second I deduced that the melon that was destined to be split was mine. Like I said, I do not have ESP. I just have really bad luck when it comes to that sort of thing.

I tried to sink into my seat to make myself a smaller target but he made me almost instantly. By the time Ben and Ryan saw the guy, we had already made eye contact and he was charging. He was not running at me so much as he was marching double time with homicidal intent as he pushed people out of his way to reach us.

I tried to size up my odds. We were the same height so that was a draw. He outweighed me by thirty muscular pounds so I was definitely at a disadvantage there. He was also a good twenty years older than me so I was pretty sure that I was faster, giving me something to neutralize his strength. Then again, I was weighed down by one hundred and ten pounds of his drunken wife as well which negated the one advantage I had. Factor in the fact that I was drunk and he was not and the motivation angle (he surely wanted to kill me much more than I wanted to kill him) and I was pretty much screwed. Still, I had surprised myself in these types of situations before so I tried to remain optimistic. This naïve optimism was crushed once he got close enough for me to make out the pin insignia he wore above the left shirt pocket of his uniform however. The eagle perched upon the trident meant that he was a US Navy SEAL and that I was fucking doomed.

My only chance was for Ryan and his partners to step up and keep us separated but judging by the two steps back they all took, it was pretty obvious that they were going to go Swedish on me. Ben bore a highly inappropriate expression of giddy relief on his face, apparently overjoyed that he was not the one caught with a naval commando’s wife on his lap. Yynjelffijick had her back to the door and was completely oblivious to the catastrophe unfolding behind her. Her last heavily slurred words to me were, “Let’s get out of here.” Come to think of it, those were the first words she said to me too.

When the chief reached our table, he reached over, grabbed Yynjelffijick by her arm and ripped her off of my lap, knocking our table over in the process and sending beer flying all over Ben. Screaming at her to go outside and get in the car, he called her “Angie”, confirming my suspicions that Yynjelffijick was probably an alias. Then instead of turning back around to finish me off, he followed her through the front door, disappearing into the night. Though the music was still playing, there was little other noise being made in the place and at that moment I had center stage.

The only thing I could do was laugh. It was not the humored, giggling that one does when he finds something funny, but the nervous maniacal roar of a person who just survived a near death experience and just can not believe that he is still alive. As I started laughing, most of the people in the bar did too and soon everyone went back to doing what they were before they were interrupted. I then got up out of my seat and took a couple of steps towards the front door before Ben jumped up and grabbed me. “Where are you going?”


“Are you nuts?!?” Ryan asked. “Give them a couple of minutes to get out of here first. The last thing you want is to get caught by that guy in a dark parking lot.”

“I’ve got to talk to him.”

“What the hell for?!?”

“To tell him I was not trying to pick up his wife.”

Ben was incredulous. “Do you honestly think he gives a shit? Dude, you need to sit down, give them some time to leave and get the hell out of here yourself.”

“Can you imagine what that guy feels like right now?” I asked. “He’s a Navy SEAL and a chief petty officer. He has earned the right to be respected and was just publicly humiliated in his own back yard. This is a small base and I can guarantee you that EVERY-one is going to be talking about this tomorrow. I need him to know that I did not play any part in that other than just being there.”

“Yeah. The only thing you did was try to get me to play a part in that.”

“Well Ben, truth be told, you could use some corrupting.”

As I waited for Ben’s response, the bar went quiet again and the color drained right out of my drinking partner’s face. Ryan and his two Shore Patrol partners again took a couple of steps back but at least this time I saw Ryan’s fingers wrap around the handle of his nightstick. I looked back over at Ben and asked, “I don’t have to go to the parking lot, do I?”

“Nope. He’s right behind you.”

I stood up straight and turned around, finding myself nose-to-nose with the woman’s husband. “Chief, I…”

“Shut the fuck up. Did my wife leave her purse here?”

“Duh..I..buuh…I don’t think so. Ben? Is Yynjelffijick’s purse over by you?”

Ben shook his head.

Giving both of us a long hard look, the SEAL then turned around to leave. “Chief!” I called out after him. “I was just sitting there, when she fell on my lap. I wasn’t trying to pick up your wife. I didn’t even know her name let alone that she was married.”

The chief then turned back towards me. The man was a SEAL and by default an efficiently lethal individual. I am positive that he had seen and done things that would have made my blood run cold. He was as tough as they come, as hardened as a man can get and forced to endure things during the course of training that would have utterly destroyed me both mentally and physically. Yet, after I told him that, I could see that he had tears in his eyes. “Is that supposed to make me feel any better? Thanks for telling me that my wife, the mother of my daughter, is such a fucking gutter slut that she’ll pick up any nameless piece of shit she can get her hands on to have herself a good time with. At this particular moment, that is EXACTLY what I need to be reminded of. Do you feel better now? Do you? ‘Cause I sure as hell don’t!”

I had not thought of that. I decided right then and there that if he did not want me to confirm his suspicions about his wife, he definitely would not appreciate me suggesting he get a paternity test done on his little girl. “I’m sorry, Chief. I just don’t know what to say.”

“Then keep your goddamn trap shut.” With that he stormed out of the bar, without his wife’s purse.

I felt horrible for the guy and having played a part, no matter how small, in forcing that chief to realize just how dysfunctional his marriage was, I was in no mood to continue the festivities. I was in the mood to depression drink so I switched from beer to tequila. I even conned Ben into joining me. A little while later, a waitress told us that Yynjelffijick, or rather Angela, was a regular at the club and was known for her rather prolific infidelity, and the numerous occasions with which she had been caught there by her husband. I was not the first and it as unlikely that I would be the last.

By 11:30, I was comfortably numb and Ben was passed out at the table. Realizing that I was going to have to carry him back to the ship so that we could get there before our midnight curfew, I decided to hit the bathroom first. When I returned, Ben was gone.

I tried to find him but just did not have much time. I suspected that he might have woken up while I was gone, thought that I’d left him and tried to make his own way back to the ship. After a cursory ten-minute search, I left too.

I made it back to the boat and was a little concerned when I checked Ben’s rack and found it empty. Assuming that he had probably just went to the RADAR shop to watch some television instead of going to bed, I turned in for the night.

The following morning, Ben was not at roll call. He was not in the shop either. After an exhaustive search of the boat, it was determined that he probably was not on the ship at all. That made my life particularly miserable as I was the last one to be seen with him and had to endure a barrage of questioning from my division officer and Master Chief. Particularly painful was the account I gave of the Yynjelffijick incident. This resulted in a call back to base to see if the chief had possibly caught Ben on his way back to the ship and slaughtered him in the dark. I was there when the call was made and whoever was in charge of the base’s security assured us that he knew exactly what chief we were talking about even though I did not know his name and that they had a full account of his whereabouts from about a half an hour after the point where we had encountered him. That sounded a lot to me as if they had him locked up. Though I had no idea whether or not that was true, I hoped that if it was, no one got hurt too badly.

At eight o’clock I watched our sister ship, the USS Pelilieu, get underway. At nine o’clock it was our turn to go and unable to wait anymore, we left without Ben. I was quite concerned. Ben was a stellar sailor, aced his performance evaluations and was one of the best men I had in my shop. I found myself in the awkward position of hoping that he had not been seriously hurt but on the other, hoping that he had been hurt seriously enough to justify being charged with Missing Ship’s Movement, which was a fairly major offence and similar to being declared AWOL.

We had been underway for an hour when we got the call from the USS Pelileu informing us that Ben had been found. My first fear was that they had found him floating face down in the Pacific Ocean but our sister ship reported that, aside from being a bit hung over, he was just fine.

Like my vessel, the USS Belleau Wood, the Pelileu was an amphibious assault ship. It was identical to ours in nearly every way except for the number painted on the hull. Apparently Ben, being as blasted as he was, walked up the gangplank of the wrong ship. The Petty Officer of the Watch must not have been checking identification cards as vigilantly as he should have and just waved him aboard. He then walked down to the Pelileu’s berthing area, crawled into the rack that would have been his on the other side of the pier, and passed out in a bed that, as luck would have it, was vacant. He slept through Reveille and did not wake up until the ship was well underway.

He was back onboard the USS Belleau Wood by lunch, but still facing the specter of a Missing Ship’s Movement charge. Both my master chief and I appealed to the captain for leniency, citing Ben’s excellent record but, at least initially, the captain seemed unmoved. Ben was placed on report and ordered to go to Captain’s Mast for non-judicial punishment. In the end though, we were able to get him sprung on a technicality. The captain could still have had Ben’s ass but my belief is that all he was trying to do was let the guy sweat his fate for a while before the skipper dropped the charges. In the end, he let Ben off because he had actually gotten underway an hour before the rest of us and so, technically, did not miss ship’s movement.

He said it just did not feel right to bust someone for being overly punctual.

Editor’s Note: I’ve been trying to document my sea stories for later publication. Keep in mind that I am trying to recall these things from nearly two decades ago out of a memory muddled by a sometimes impenetrable alcoholic haze, so there is some amount of literary license taken. I have also deliberately altered others so that those involved will not recognize the events too easily (keeping my ass out of court). Still, the events described remain pretty true to what happened. For The JEP Report’s newer readers, the related entries can be found at:

1. Savage Sushi
2. The Intricate Hazards of Philippine Cuisine
3. Conquering Fuji-san
4. Thai-ing One On
5. Tijuana Travesty
6. Decataur Debacle

With the exception of Tijuana Travesty, all names have been changed to protect the sickeningly guilty. Sacto Ritch, like myself, is rather proud of our adventures in Tijuana so I used his sign on name. That one is completely substantiated by the only person I know to have ever gone out with us in a Third World country and remained completely sober the entire night: frequent commenter Caretaker Matt.

This series will wrap up if I can commit my experiences in Korea, Hong Kong, Okinawa, Australia and Singapore to verse and manage to keep it fresh. This one was rather tough and Singapore will be absolutely brutal as that place was just too expensive and oppressive to have any fun in (I’m leaning towards making it a social commentary piece – you know, make fun of the locals).

For future entries, an article on the joys of being a Third World Inebriate has been written and submitted to in response to the request of several members there. Once it shows up there I will post here so as not to spoil the anticipation. Also, I am meeting Sacto Ritch for drinks tomorrow night so if tradition holds true, I should have something else posted by next weekend.

Unless our wives hold true to their threats and refuse to bail us out of the hoosegow this time. - JEP

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Curse of Friday

I used to look forward to Fridays but after the last few weeks, I have been dreading them almost as much as Mondays thanks in large part to the way I have been spending my Thursday nights. It started three weeks ago when a buddy of mine suggested we go to a local bar for a quick beer. Now, I used to be an Olympic-caliber drinker but after having a couple of kids it turned into one of my hobbies that I found myself neglecting more and more and as this “quick beer” turned into several that were complimented by multiple shots of tequila, I discovered that my tolerance for alcohol is nowhere near what it used to be.

On that particular evening, things started to go downhill when a biker entered the bar and for some reason decided to take up his post right next to me. The guy was huge, loud, boisterous and obviously looking for trouble, making rude comments to several other customers and being a general nuisance to what up to that point was turning out to be a fairly pleasant evening. He mellowed out a bit once he noticed my buddy’s accent and found out that he was from Germany and we ended up discussing fine Bavarian beers with the guy. Then we started doing shots with him. I am not sure how things progressed, but ultimately we ended up in the middle of a huge group of people doing shots and having a grand old time.

At 1:30, we ordered another round when the barmaid leaned in towards us and asked who was driving home. We both looked around and scanned the crowd before saying, “Our designated driver is around here somewhere…”

“Yeah, right. You two came in here by yourselves. I’m sorry but I’m afraid I am going to have to cut you off.”

I gasped in horror and indignation. I have never had my drinking cut off by a barmaid before. I’ve had it cut off by bouncers, police officers and angry boyfriends, but never a barmaid. It was quite humiliating. Getting cut off by door goons or the authorities at least leaves you with an amusing story to tell your grandchildren but getting cut off without incident by the serving help is just sad. It put me into an immediate funk. I was just getting over the shock of it when someone unexpectedly placed another beer and a shot in front of my buddy and I. It was a very large woman who looked almost exactly like the Wheezy from the television show “The Jeffersons”. I decided to leave when I felt Wheezy’s hand start working her way up my thigh.

I got home sometime after 2:30am, as I remember looking at the clock as I stumbled through the front door. Luckily, I had the house to myself (the rest of my family was taking advantage of a last-minute offer to stay at a relative’s cottage in Ludington) so I did not have a wife and kids around to wake up. Even though I do not remember it, I did somehow manage to get up the stairs and into bed.

My alarm went off at five, and when I woke up I was still pretty messed up. After silencing the clock, I took off my shoes and the clothes I wore to work the day before, and stumbled into the bathroom. I then got sick and passed out on the floor of the shower after I got the water the right temperature.

I hear of people drowning in the bath tub all of the time but I don’t think I recall being told of anyone who ever drowned in a stand-alone shower. Though I was in no danger killing myself while bathing that morning, I discovered a way that someone could. When I regained consciousness, the water level on the shower floor had risen deep enough to cover my ears because my back had plugged the drain. A little position change fixed the situation though and once the pool of water began disappearing I slept clear through until the point that I had run out of hot water.

After turning the water off, I found that I could barely move. I was laying on the floor of my shower for probably at least forty minutes with my feet stuck up in the air resting on the wall. I was stiff all over and it seemed like every movement was excruciating. I prayed that it was not rigor mortis setting in. I was in such bad shape after showering that I could not even bring myself to dry off. I just wrapped a towel around my waist, walked to the couch in the upstairs family room, turned on the news and went back to sleep.

When I woke up after that, I noticed that the time was when I typically would be arriving at my desk. I really wanted to call in sick, and technically I was, but I have a neurotic aversion to calling in sick because of a drinking incident. I forced myself to get up, get dressed and go to the office and in the end, was still the first person of my group to get there, though just barely. I also kept wondering on my way to work what my BAC would register if I got pulled over by the police.

The morning was miserable but actually went well from a professional standpoint and I managed to successfully conclude two morning meetings before spending my lunch hour sleeping in my car in the office’s parking lot. After lunch I was fine, got a lot done in the afternoon before going home and going to bed for the night by 7pm.

I was supposed to be going on vacation to my parents’ house in Northern Michigan last Thursday, but my oldest son came down with pink-eye that forced us to cancel. I ended up back at my buddy’s house that night spending the evening back on beer and tequila in his back yard until closing time. It was a good night but fairly uneventful aside from having nearly had my body’s blood supply sucked out of me through my ankles and toes by a swarm of ravenous mosquitoes. My feet are so tore up right now that it looks like I have some strange form of bubonic plague that only affects my lower extremities.

The good news was that I did not have to go to work the following day as I was on vacation. The bad news was that I did not have to go to work the following day as I was on vacation. Small children do not have the ability to feel any sort of empathy towards a hung over adult and they took great delight in torturing me until I had sweated every last trace of Mexican fire water through my pores (which produces a gut wrenching odor akin to a rotting water buffalo according to my wife).

This last Thursday, a colleague of mine from Toronto blew into town and I spent my third Thursday in a row trying to pop a cap into my own liver with a few colleagues. Even though I left by 9:00 (thank God I live so far away. I was the only one who went straight home and the other three closed the bars in their respective neighborhoods leading to various misadventures), it was still rough waking up Friday though not nearly as bad as the previous two Fridays had been. This was quite an accomplishment considering I had drank so much that I was hallucinating during my entire drive home. There were sounds coming out of my radio that made it sound as if the Detroit Lions made three scoring drives in the last quarter of the game to overcome a 16 point deficit and beat the Cincinnati Bengals by 1.

The hallucination was so realistic that I spent five minutes in my driveway yelling at my radio after I had arrived home. I have no idea how much you have to drink to experience wild visions of that caliber but I am quite sure that it was enough that I really should not have been driving. I should also have felt far worse than I did Friday morning too. In fact, I shouldn’t have been able to go to work. I should have been in the hospital with doctors rushing frantically around me trying bring me out of my tequila coma.

The crazy thing is that I am still having flashbacks. Just five minutes ago, I checked the sports page to find that they have listed Detroit as having beat Cincinnati during that game 26 to 27. Does anyone know what the score of that match actually was?

Friday, August 10, 2007

Beaver Barbarism

I’m used to hearing about animals attacking people, but this is definitely a new one. Apparently, a grandmother was taking a swim in a Swedish river when she was set upon and mauled. Her assailant was not a shark, not a crocodile (you’d be surprised at how rare those are in Scandinavia) and not a polar bear on a snorkeling excursion. Her attacker was a beaver. Now THAT is something that you just do not see every day.

Now, when I am strolling through the woods I try to be on the lookout for predators. The last thing I need is to turn a blind corner, run into one of Yogi Bear’s more irritable cousins and end up in a life or death struggle over the bag of Doritos in my back pack. If I spent any considerable time in the far northern reaches of Michigan, I would probably take some precautions against wolves as well. I would hesitate to trek through the forest without a pack of Yorkshire Terriers on a leash. Yorkies probably are not much good for protection but I bet that in the eyes of a wolf, they would make a great appetizer and hopefully buy me enough time to find a sanctuary or a firearm.

I also give chipmunks a wide berth. I am pretty sure that there has never been a proven case of human meeting his demise beneath the claws of a horde of chipmunks but quite frankly, I don’t trust the savages and do not want to be the first. I am also not a big fan of chickens but I can’t say that I have ever come across any in the wild. I would guess that the feral populations of these birds are probably kept rather low by their natural enemies: foxes, coyotes, raccoons, possums, deep fryers and Frank’s Hot Sauce. I run into their brethren, the ring-collared pheasant, all of the time though and let me tell you, nearly stepping on one of these things during a quiet Sunday-morning sabbatical in the wilderness can result in being overcome with a sense of sheer terror that you would be hard-pressed to match unless you are susceptible to enjoying your holidays in the Sunni Triangle. They wait until you are right on top of them and then they burst towards the sky in an explosion of feathers and fallen foliage while emitting a shrill pulsating shriek that sounds eerily reminiscent of a landing UFO. I would love to hunt these things, not so much out of a love of the sport but mostly to avenge a couple pairs underwear from when I was a kid.

Considering all of the time I have spent in the woods (I do hunt, though not very well. The only thing I have ever killed at deer camp besides bottles of beer and brain cells was a chipmunk who had cut off my escape route and had me cornered), I have never felt threatened by a beaver. They seem to be a rather docile animal and I have had several swim very close to me while I have been salmon fishing. None of them have ever given off bad vibes nor have any ever made any menacing moves in my direction. Still, if you take a really close look at one, I can see how one of these things could wreak havoc on a human if it were so inclined. Like most mammals, they are equipped with claws. Though not nearly as impressive as those found on a bear or a mountain lion, I am sure that they are up to the task of doing a number on the thin human skin. They also have a rather impressive set of teeth for an herbivore, and seeing the short work these animals can make of a tree, I can see how a brawl with one of these things could result in a lost finger or at least a missing nipple.

Either way, I am looking at beavers in a whole new light now and next time I go fishing on the Ausable River, I will probably be packin’.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

A Million Dollar Question

A certain high level executive in my industry asked me a question today while he was in mentoring mode that for the life of me, I could not answer seriously. The problem is that this individual is known for not possessing any shred of a sense of humor and no tolerance for levity during work hours. During meetings, he acknowledges your presence not by saying “Hello” but by saying, “You have 30 minutes to convince me of ________”. His way of saying good-bye is, “Your time is up.” If the meeting goes well, he will publicly question your competence and your mother’s sexual history. If it goes bad, he will have a couple of security goons remove you from the conference room and beat your ass in the lobby, get some old hag from the mail room stomp your personal effects to smithereens in the parking lot and order a couple of scullery apes from the cafeteria to key your car.

In addition to having a savage management style, the man is extremely intelligent and very powerful. As a result he is either highly respected or deeply feared, depending upon what rung you occupy on the corporate ladder. The rung I sit on is just low enough for the man to scare the living shit out of me. He can have me fired with a phone call and with a couple of well-placed letters, ensure that I never work in the industry again.

Anyway, today he asked me a serious question and he expected a serious answer. I came up with three replies almost instantly, but lack the intestinal fortitude to say any of them. The question was, “How do you wish to be remembered?”

My first thought was, “As the guy who came to work buck naked after winning a 300 million dollar jackpot in the Mega Millions lottery.”

My second was, “As the guy who pulled up to the main gate of the American embassy in Karachi, Pakistan behind the wheel of an old Mini Cooper and told the gate guard, ‘Yo! Sergeant! If you’ve got twenty-five million dollars I’ve got most of Osama bin Laden stuffed in the trunk!’”

My third was, “As the guy who had to hold a national press conference to tell the public that despite the videos circulating around the internet that made me an indisputable candidate, DNA testing has confirmed that I am not the father of Paris Hilton’s love child”.

In the end however, I woosed out and mumbled some barely intelligible utterance about being a mentor, blah, blah blah. Truth be told I do not really remember what I said. Luckily, this executive’s English is not all that great and he probably did not understand me anyway. I consider myself fortunate that he also has no clue that, though I am by no means fluent, I can passably converse in his native tongue.

So, how would you like to be remembered? Let me know so that I can shamelessly plagiarize you the next time I need a serious answer to that question.

Friday, August 03, 2007

I Need A New Bar

My favorite bar has met its demise and rumor has it that my backup will soon follow it into oblivion. That means I need to find a new haunt. My requirements for a new watering hole are:

1. Is centrally located

2. Has good beer and a wide selection of premium liquor (past experience tells me that I have very discerning taste buds until our seventh serving, after which I can drink dirty dishwater without getting all whiney about it).

3. Serves Buffalo Wings or some other sort of filling food that will at least give me a fighting chance at the first sobriety checkpoint I come across on the way home.

4. Is presided over by an understanding bartender that will not cut you off for trying to make it to the bathroom on all fours.

5. Must have quality eating utensils, made of a premium metal alloy that will not bend easily under duress and are sharpened to a level that would be found acceptable to a samurai swordsmith. You never know when you might need them to fend off an invading band of Hell’s Angels, battle a fifteen-foot-tall, three-headed, venomous hallucination brought on by a Jaegermeister overdose, silence a snitch or keep the wait staff from getting cheeky.

6. Though not mandatory, having an aquarium handy would be nice too in case someone needs to get sick.

7. I would also like to see our new bar equipped with a video surveillance system so that future outings can be financed by selling recordings of our antics to the producers of the Overweight-Balding-Middle-Aged-Managers-With-Stalled-Careers-Employed-In-A-Dying-Industry GONE WILD!!! series of home videos.

8. I am not sure why, but I have found that some of my best drinking experiences have been in places that employ Rastafarians as dishwashers. It just adds something to the atmosphere that makes you think of soothing tropical beaches, steel drums, cool ocean breezes and Cheetos. Lots and lots of Cheetos. And Chips Ahoy! cookies, too.

9. The bartender should be able to mix, from memory, at least 27 drinks made with vodka, 25 made with tequila, 16 with rum, 4 with corn mash moonshine and be able to concoct at least one chaser with Windex as the main ingredient. Extra points could be awarded to him for also being able to produce, on demand, an eclectic mix of vintage industrial solvents inhaled out of a brown paper bag.

10. Pets should be allowed on the premises, since there are so many neat bar tricks that can be performed using furry animals. Seeing-eye dogs in particular can provide hours of entertainment to a sociopathic inebriate.
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