Monday, December 12, 2011

Something That Made Me Laugh Until I Cried - 12/12/2011

My response to this week's writing group prompt, "Something That Made Me Laugh Until I Cried."

Evidently, weddings are sort of a big deal. Up until couples started staging their events for YouTube, the ceremony tended to be serious and solemn. The binge drinking and antics of embarrassing friends and family were reserved for the reception. Weddings tend to be particularly stately and dignified in the south, where I live, making the episode that I am recounting here even more ridiculous.

My sons, Rick and Josh, graduated from Catawba College, near Charlotte, North Carolina. One of their dormitory suite-mates and best friends was Jamie Gillis from Fayetteville. Through them, I came to know Jamie and as a result was invited to his wedding some years after they graduated. The wedding was held in Salisbury, in the Catawba College chapel.

On the rare occasions that I have been inside a church I like to be close to the exit in case a fire and brimstone situation develops. On this day, I took my usual place in the back of the chapel, far from where Jesus hung out above the altar.

The bride (I have forgotten her name) had already shot past me heading for the alter and my son Josh had still not arrived. Somewhere between "speak now or forever hold your peace" and "sickness and in health" Josh took a seat next to me in the pew. With my eyes, I silently questioned why he was so late. He didn't say a word just opened his jacket. There was a perfect imprint of an iron seared onto the front of his shirt.
At this time it is important for the reader to be made aware that I do not possess an inside voice. For some reason I was blessed or cursed with a very powerful, monotone, speaking voice without benefit of modulation or restraint. Any attempt on my part to whisper generally results in a volume level not much different from my normal speaking voice. Sometimes, I am told, my private voice actually resonates more than my regular speech. That was a problem for me in school, as confidential communique murmured to the person in the desk next to me often reached the teacher's desk full voice. Also, on this particular day, the acoustics of a church amplified that which was already too loud. I believe that design is intended to keep parishioners conscious.

I began to laugh. It was not a chuckle or a snicker. It was a full-fledged guffaw. My amusement triggered laughs from my sons. While their laughter was somewhat courteously subdued, compared to mine, they exceeded the acceptable decibel limit for a church service. I could not stop. The more I tried to control myself, the harder I would laugh. Just when it seemed I had gotten my mirth managed, Josh would again flash his shirt at me.

Soon, everyone in the minster, including the wedding party, was looking back at us. It was not Christian charity reflected on their "shut the fuck up" faces. They take their church ceremonies seriously here in the Bible Belt and any joyful noise must be sanctioned by the congregation and approved by the church council. Just before it seemed we would be ushered out, I managed to regain some command of my emotions and display a modicum of dignity. It is a good thing, because I could not have walked on my own power. I would have had to genuflect to the parking lot.
I never actually stopped giggling, I just was able to confine the sound to my own general area by burying my face in a hymnbook. Tears, drool, and snot will probably prevent any future back pew believer from opening to hymn 234. That page is most likely sealed forever.

I am certain this was the hardest I have ever laughed in my life. At least at something appropriate to discuss in this venue.

Monday, December 5, 2011

First Time Away From Home - 12/5/2011

The prompt for this week's meeting of our writing group was: "First Time Away From Home." This was my response:

The first time Matt killed someone the degree of difficulty was high. It has gotten exponentially easier since. That he was only a child when he took his first life was certainly a factor in the effort required. The guy was one of Matt's mother's boyfriends. Everybody asked him why he had stuck a butcher knife through the drunken, sleeping, guy's throat. He remained silent. He was embarrassed to say that it was because the guy repeatedly tried to touch his wiener. Matt was exiled to juvenile detention where he remained until, at 18, he would be transferred to big boy prison. At 11, Matt was among the youngest, smallest, and whitest inmates at the Tarrant County, Texas facility. That meant that he also had to be the toughest and the smartest.

There was a plethora of wiener-touchers in juvie, both inmates and guards. After Matt had maimed several older convicts and they still would not leave him alone, he formulated ways to kill some of them. He used all of his abundant free time thinking of ways to create murders that appeared to be accidents or suicides. It became a game. The authorities could not link Matt to any of these deaths, but the streetwise thugs knew and as a result he gained mucho respect among the gen pop. Even the guards steered clear of him. "That motherfucker is crazy," was whispered in the exercise yard as he walked by.

By the time he reached his 17th birthday, he was reluctantly crowned the king of the institution. Others came to him for protection, which he gave to those most in need. He divided most of his time between the exercise yard and the library. As a result, both his body and mind were superior to most of his cohabitants.

At 18, as promised, he was transferred to the Texas State Prison at Huntsville. In his nearly 7 years at Tarrant County, Matt had caused the death of 12 wiener-touchers and other creeps. Eleven were inmates and one was a particularly sadistic guard. Some people need killing. He had not had a visitor during his entire incarceration. Evidently his mother was unforgiving about the death of her boyfriend.

Through the criminal grape-vine, Matt's reputation proceeded him to prison. He was seldom challenged and pretty much kept to himself. He only killed 2 men in Huntsville.

A byproduct of his self-absorption was that he was considered a model prisoner and since his only misdeed was committed as a juvenile, he was paroled a week before his 21st birthday. He had spent nearly half of his life incarcerated.

As he walked through the iron personnel gate to freedom, leaving the only home he had really ever known, he had no idea what he was going to do. Other prisoners had told stories of the wonders of the outside world: soft women, hard liquor, and fast cars dominated the fables. He had never experienced any of these pleasures. He had $267.00 in his pocket that he had earned from prison work projects and a duffel bag containing his scant belongings.

Since the prison was located right in Huntsville, he was able to walk the short distance to the city center in just a few minutes. Matt decided he was going to treat himself to an alcoholic beverage. He found what he assumed was a bar since it had neon signs in the windows advertising many kinds of beers. Above the door was the name, The Manhole.

He walked out of the hot, Texas, sun into the cool, stank, darkness of the tavern. He waited a minute for his eyes to adjust to the gloom and then ambled up to the bar and took a seat on a stool.

The bartender asked, "what'll it be, handsome?" Pretty friendly place, Matt thought.

"I don't know. What do you recommend?" he answered, smiling.

"You look like an appletini kind of guy."

"OK, I'll try one."

"Make that two" a voice two stools over said as he slithered onto the stool next to Matt.

As the drinks were delivered, the intoxicated man introduced himself, "I am Adam." He rubbed Matt's thigh as he spoke.

Adam leaned over and whispered something into Matt's ear as his hand moved up to his crotch. Matt experienced a Deja Vu from ten years ago. The same words, fetid breath, and wiener-touching.

Matt put his hands over Adam's ears and with minimum effort, snapped his neck. The man slumped and quietly slid off the stool to the floor. Matt drank down his appletini, savoring the tart flavor as it burnt a trail down his throat. He had no idea how much the drink cost, so he just laid all his money on the bar, told the bartender thanks, picked up his duffel bag, and walked back home. The bitter taste of his hour of freedom still on his lips.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Traffic Accident - 11/21/2011

I hadn't written anything in some time. I lacked the motivation and inspiration. A few of us formed a writing group that will meet weekly and will write from a prompt. That gives me a subject and a deadline, both of which I seem to need. Our first prompt is "Traffic Accident." The following is what that prompt brought to my mind:

Terry was on his way home from his security job on the set of CSI Sea of Tranquility in medium rush hour traffic. He was listening to some classic rock on his new ICrap device. Just as he was starting to relax to a 50 year old Coldplay song, he was disturbed by the nosecone of another vehicle entering his passenger window at a moderate rate of speed. When he had recovered from the shock of the unexpected docking, he assessed the situation:

"Oh crap", he said out loud to himself, then silently thought "Just my luck. A taxi. No doubt driven by an alien with no insurance, and no English.".

"What the hell is wrong with you?" He screamed rhetorically at the driver. "Where did you get your license, "SkyMart?"

As other unconcerned traffic zoomed past, he realized that his initial assessment was correct. It was indeed an alien hack driver. This was going to suck on so many levels.

"I am very, very sorry, it seems my automatic pirate has malfunctioned,." The cabbie spoke through the damage.

"I think you mean pilot."

"Yes, pilot, my English is not so good."

"Neither is your driving, Roswell." He immediately regretted using the racial slur that Earthlings had attached to any extraterrestrial, regardless of planet of origin. It was every bit as derogatory as back when there were white people and they called blacks, niggers and chinese, chinks. Terry was part white on his mother's side, but the white had pretty much been bred out. Terry was roughly the color of a russet potato. He did, however, have enough white DNA that he qualified for minority benefits.

The Venusian driver began to tremble uncontrollably and turned a darker shade of gray-green than his normal hue. "There is no need to get racy. I said I was sorry.

"Racial. I was being racial. Not racy."

"Yes, you were."

Terry segued, "what the hell were you doing at this altitude? You know you aren't supposed to go above 15,000 feet in those shitwagons."

"Again with the obligatory remarks," the Venusian replied.
"I think you mean derogatory."

"You really are hurtful. I know that you Earthlings call us taxi drivers, Venetian Blinds. I have excellent vision. In fact I can see Uranus." What passed for a mouth emitted a high-pitched shriek that Terry took for a laugh.

"That was pretty funny, ET. Now what are you going to do about the damage to my vehicle?" Terry pressed.

"I have excellent insulation from Geico," the driver said proudly.

"I hope you mean insurance. "Why am I not surprised", to himself. "You look just like that lizard."

"You forget that we Venusians are telegraphic. And he is a gekko, not a lizard."

"It's telepathic, Yoda. Can you just not talk to me until the police arrive?"
"Certainly, I will be very solvent."

"Oh, for Christ's sake", Terry put his head in his hands.

He decided he would amuse himself while he waited for the police.

"What is your name?" Terry asked.

He knew that the authorities assigned names to all arriving aliens as they processed through immigration, as their given names are unintelligible and sometimes just a growl or fart sound. He also knew that the INS folks had a sense of humor.

"I am Jeffrey Dahmer," the driver said proudly.

"Of course you are," Terry chuckled.

Just then, a police cruiser arrived. The officer rolled down his window identified himself as patrolman Keith Richards, and asked, "Have you had an accent?."

Terry put his phaser on stun and shot himself in the face.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Dave Matthews Band and Sushi Both Leave a Bad Taste In My Mouth - 9/4/2011

Sometimes it seems that I am the only one in the world that doesn’t grok certain things. There are many cases of this being true, but I think I will limit this discussion to two examples: sushi and The Dave Matthews Band. Spoiler alert: I will admit up front that I don’t care for either of them. So you can save yourself the excruciating agony of reading on if you are just trying to find out where I stand on these critical issues. Perhaps I am not sophisticated or cultured enough to appreciate the complexities and art contained in either, but I like what I like. If you like either or both, I don’t care. Write your own blog.

Sushi: It is not that I haven’t tried sushi. I have given it several chances and each time resulted in a napkin spitting convulsion. It is not that I am discriminating about what I shove down my pie hole. I weigh approximately the same as Gilbert Grape’s mom. You don’t get like this by being selective of cuisine. It is not that I dislike polarizing food. I love oysters, escargot, calamari, mountain oysters, duck pate, and liver. I have eaten unidentifiable items from a night market in China. I am adventurous. It is not the thought of eating RAW fish. I have enjoyed steak tartare and absolutely adore prosciutto crudo.

Perhaps it is partly that it tastes foul and partly because those that are devotees of the sushi are so enthusiastic and fanatical about it that it causes my rebellious nature to surface. They make a Broadway show out of “going out for sushi.” Those of us that find bacon irresistible don’t try to convince others of the joy of gammon consumption. Nor do we try to instruct others of what fetid condiments are required to garner the entire dining experience. I find Sushi aficionados to be a bit like religious zealots. They really want you to know about their sushi.

If you like Sushi, fine. Just make sure you actually like it and aren’t just trying to be trendy.

The Dave Matthews Band: I have unsuccessfully attempted several times to listen to the Dave Matthews Band. I have friends (all middle aged and white) that think the sun rises from between Dave Matthews’ legs. I can acknowledge that he and the other members of his band are accomplished musicians, just as I can concede that the French make decent films. But I don’t have to like them. There are actually a couple of his songs that are listenable to me, but not enough to make the cut on my IPOD. It is not that I am close-minded about music. I have a wide range of musical taste. The playlist you are listening to right now is about as eclectic as you can get.

Someone suggested that “you really have to hear them live.” So I went on Spotify and made a playlist of “Live at Folsom Field.” I had a choice between that and “Live at Wrigley Field,” but there hasn’t been anything worth observing at Wrigley field since Ernie Banks retired. I started it up, hoping to finally grasp what DM was all about. When the first song cued up, Skooter licked himself and left the room. But he knows even less than I do about music. So I ignored his critique.

The first thing I noticed was that before every song there was at least a minute of some kind of tuning effort that seemed successfully designed to drive the fans into a screaming frenzy. EVERY FREAKING SONG. Come on Dave, just start the damn song. It is a double album, so when I woke up (oh yeah, it put me to sleep) it was still going. Fans of DM are certainly in luck. If you like one song, you will certainly like the next one, because it is exactly the same song. Without the tracks being listed and the endless tuning it would be impossible to tell when one song finished and the other began. Kind of like the Grateful Dead (who I am also a great fan of). This was some mind-numbing stuff.

On the rare occasion that I could make out some of the lyrics that he was garbling, they were totally without substance. I am a very lyrical music fan. I am not a fan of jamming just because you can. I like a 3 minute 30 second song with some meaning. Not “I'm the Monkey Man With the great, great monkey plan.” I had to turn it off when he totally butchered Dylan’s brilliant, “All Along the Watchtower.” It was actually several minutes into the song before I knew what the hell it was. That was brutal.

If you like The Dave Matthews Band, fine. Just make sure you actually like it and aren’t just trying to be one of the cool kids.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

There Should Be a Telethon For Me - 8/20/2011

I am not a hoarder like the nutbags you see on television, I just have a hard time throwing things away. OK, by definition, maybe I am a hoarder. I have decided to try to do something about that so that when I get foreclosed, I can travel light and it won’t be so hard to live out of a 1999 Bravada. With that in mind, I have gradually begun to unclutter my life.

Late last night Jack Daniels and I decided to pull my stockpile of clothes out of the closets (though I live in a condo I have two walk-in closets, go figure) and cull them. I put on the play list you are listening to right now (if your sound is on) and set to work.

It has been well-documented, if you have read past posts of this blog, that though I am an intelligent, well-educated, man, I am not very task oriented. I have almost no practical skills. If you gave a set of directions and a tool box to both a chimpanzee and me, the chimp would design a lunar excursion module long before I could assemble an IKEA desk. People that know me know this to be an undisputed truth.

Right now, I have a cabinet door that’s hinges are held on by one of the four screws required. As an alternative to replacing the hinges (which I have no hope of doing), I have developed a rather inventive propping system. The fact that each time I open the door it falls off does not seem to annoy me enough to attempt a repair.
I tell you that so that you understand what a big deal it is for me to embark upon this great clothes-sorting undertaking. It involved an elaborate system of categorizing by fit and functionality for literally hundreds of garments. You notice I did not mention anything about style or fashion, as those were not criteria. My look is timeless. Khakis and polo shirts have never/always been in style. There was lots of trying on, or attempting to, in the case of older items.

Skooter was totally annoyed by this process as not only were the clothes taking up a large portion of the couch, which he considers his, but usually when I get dressed it means we are going somewhere. Every time I tried something on he went to the door. Finally he just got exasperated and laid down on his bed, sort of.

I arranged all the clothing into three groups: 1) those that I can or will never wear again, 2) those that I can (with some effort), will, or do wear, and debris. I have to tell you that only the trained eye can tell the difference. Though I am totally useless, I am a manic organizer (OCD). By the time I had finalized my categorization it was 3 AM and nearly bedtime. Skooter and I took the trash to the dumpster and I left the two huge heaps of my livery in place and headed to bed. Skooter inspected my work, chuffed, and followed me. I had a plan. I would get up in the morning, bag the cast-offs, and take them to homeless shelters.

This morning, I did just that. I filled two lawn and garden size, black, trash bags, and headed out to donate. I felt so good about myself that I stopped and picked up some barbeque to take home as a reward.

Arriving home, I decided to eat the pulled pork before concluding my mission, which involved the putting away of my downsized wardrobe. Sitting on the couch, admiring my work, I noticed a pair of chinos that I was sure should have gone to the donation stack. Closer examination revealed several such items. Frak! I had bagged the wrong heap.

So, I now have another mountain of clothes to donate and only the items that were in my ready line, and not subject to triage, to actually wear. The only winner (duh) from this situation is some really fat homeless guy who plays a lot of golf.

This is why I normally don’t do anything. If you do nothing, you can’t screw it up.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Everyone Talks About the Weather, Really They Do - 7/27/2011

I am not an unfriendly person. In fact my daughter, Carly, calls me a line talker. I like to converse and I can carry on a conversation about almost anything, if it interests me. I enjoy making smart-ass remarks and appreciate intelligent repartee. But the older I get, the less I can participate in small-talk.

The truth is that I am not a good listener. That might be why I failed miserably as a counselor and wasted my time getting that degree. As soon as I lose interest in a conversation, I tune out. I may appear to be paying attention, but I am not. I can maintain eye contact. I can even watch your lips move, but my mind has moved on without you. I had a tolerance for small talk when I was younger and if it was a woman that I was interested in. That is where I learned to maintain eye contact, although sometimes that focus wandered south.

I live in a condo where most of the residents are even older than I am. I can usually avoid these people, but sometimes the door doesn’t close fast enough and I share the elevator with one of them. I do my best to avoid eye contact and try to actually become invisible. This is difficult as I am 6’1” and weigh about the same as a side of beef. It is hard to hide in a 5X5 enclosure. I do not believe that just because two people occupy the same space that a conversation has to ensue. A simple polite nod or “hello” is sufficient for me if I have blown my cover. Even a “wassup” from a younger person, is acceptable, though not preferred. I have pretended to be engaged in a conversation on the cell phone, only to have it ring. So a verbal exchange is often inevitable.

Why do people when they reach a certain age all become meteorologists? They fixate on the weather like red neck on a bowl of grits. If I am stuck with a super senior, I can guarantee I will receive a weather report before I can get out of that confinement. “It sure is a hot one.” I nod but what I really want to say is “it is July in South Carolina, what the fuck do you expect, a blue northern?” Even if it had rained for six solid hours and the elevator is taking in water: “we sure needed that rain.” Are we now farmers here at Captain’s Harbour? Do we have crops to irrigate? I really don’t NEED any rain, ever. I have lived here for eight years and every time I turn the tap, water comes out. Even during the longest of droughts. When all I get from my sink is mud or dust, I will worry about precipitation.

If a person that hasn’t yet reached the age of mandatory weather reporting is trapped with me for the seemingly endless ride, the discussion will center on my dog, Skooter: “Is that a Beagle?” Again a nod but inside my brain is dying to respond: “nope, he is a Great Dane. He has a potassium deficiency.” Or: “My uncle had a Beagle.” Nod, thinking: “Where the hell is he? I want to party with him. Maybe we could become blood brothers.”
I don't wish to be an unfriendly neighbor. I wave like a sonofabitch when I
drive by these people or if I am on the balcony and they see me before I can duck down. And I will talk to them if I have anything important to say. For instance, if I see flames coming from their unit or someone is stealing their car. I totally agree with Robert Frost but unfortunately condos don’t have fences.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Friendly Fire - 7/5/2011

When I was stationed at RAF Bentwaters, United Kingdom, in the early 80s, an incident occurred that I felt I should chronicle. I am certain that this event wasn’t widely publicized, and was not funny at the time, but in retrospect………….

I will give a back-story, hopefully without boring my readers to tears, but some background is necessary to relate the story. RAF Bentwaters was home to the A-10 Thunderbolt aircraft, lovingly called the Warthog. It is essentially a flying tank. The A-10 is heavily armored, with incredible anti-tank weaponry. Among that hardware is a 30MM Gatling gun, mounted in the nose. I will not bore you with specifics about this amazing weapon but will provide a link here if you desire more information. Suffice to say, it is a big-ass projectile.

The event that I am recounting involves this aircraft and this particular weapon. A young airman was attempting to remove a single jammed round from the 30MM Gatling gun on an aircraft parked in a hardened shelter. He was using an unauthorized, but very popular, method of prying the round out with a screwdriver. The round fired, shooting off across the airfield. You can see where this might be a problem.

Since the firing was both highly unexpected and incredibly loud (particularly in the confined space), the young airman was not able to report what had happened. Instead, he was wandering aimlessly inside the structure, dazed and confused, probably with blood running out of his ears.

If you are still with me, you are probably wondering where the projectile ended up. That is a very important part of the story.

RAF Bentwaters maintained a stockpile of “special” weapons to support fighter aircraft that would deploy there from the United States in case the shit hit the fan. The A-10 is much too slow and short-ranged to deliver this type of bomb and not be vaporized. As you can imagine, such a storage facility is heavily secured. So where do you suppose would be the absolute worst place for this projectile to terminate its short journey? Yep, it blew the door off of the security office of the weapon’s storage area. Fortunately, no one was walking in or out of that door at the time. Even more fortunately, it was not a high explosive anti-tank round, or the building would have been reduced to rubble.

The missile shop, in which I worked, was co-located with the weapon’s storage area. This event was immediately reported as a rocket attack on the “special” weapons area. As you can imagine, that situation was taken very seriously. We went on high alert. All personnel were immediately armed (against what, I had no idea). M-16s are normally not effective against rockets.

Fortunately, before any of our crack team of pseudo-combatants had blindly opened fire on the invisible attacking forces, someone found the incoherent specialist, determined what had actually happened, and we stood down. In my 20 year Air Force career that was the one and only time I had been fired upon. I still have no idea why I did not receive a medal for that incident.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Ghost of 4th of July Past - 7/4/2011

Today, we journey back to the 4th of July of 1972. My last as a teenager and a civilian. It was also my last before becoming a father, but none of this has anything to do with this story. My then-wife and her family were celebrating Independence Day as a last hurrah before my upcoming departure to Air Force basic training. I am certain they were hoping that Ho Chi Minh would soon be wearing my ears on a necklace. This trip was a temporary detente between me and that awful family. Again, not part of this story.

We were camping at the Bumblebee Campground on Bumblebee Creek, a tributary of the North Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River in northern Idaho. At that time, Coeur d’Alene was the only French I spoke. Come to think of it, I don’t speak much more than that now.

It is no secret that I love to fish. In those days, Bumblebee Creek, though a small stream, was a great source of brook trout and one of my favorite places to fish. Not just because of my dislike for the other males in our party, I took my fishing gear upstream, alone. I love to fish alone as it is a great opportunity to reflect and hear only the babbling of a brook and not that of people.

The brush was so thick on the creek banks that the only way to walk upstream was to actually wade. Even in July, the water was ice cold, but after a while, numbness replaces the bitter chill. The creek bed is composed entirely of rocks, slippery, often moss covered, rocks. This dicey surface combined with my maladroitness was a recipe for disaster. You only think you know where this story is going.

I had extracted several nice fish from pools along my route, upstream, when I encountered a particularly swift and deep stretch of water. As you would expect, I slipped and fell down. Valuing my catch and gear more than my well-being, I fell pretty hard, but was able to right myself and continue on.

I came upon a culvert that was built to channel water from a gulch under a forest service road into the main creek. At the dumping point of the duct formed a large pool that I believed would be home to some nice brookies. I climbed up and sat on the edge of the corrugated pipe so I could fish down into the pond. I could see several nice fish, but before I had baited up the pool became cloudy. I soon realized that it was blood fouling the water. My first thought was that a bear or mountain lion upstream was feasting on something and the blood was washing downstream. That was not an unreasonable assumption.

Then the reality that the blood was running off of the culvert changed my thought process. The blood was coming from me. But how? I was experiencing no pain. I stood up and performed a self-exam. The source of the blood was from the area of my right, rear pocket, where I had stored a jar of salmon eggs (a favorite trout bait of mine). When I had fallen, the jar had shattered and a large piece of glass was now part of my buttocks. There had been no pain, since the ice-cold water had numbed me. Evidently there are no major arteries in the buttocks, so though I was bleeding quite heavily, I was apparently not bleeding out. That fact did not ease my panic. Does panic increase blood flow? Oh crap.

Since at this point I had lost all interest in fishing, I did not need to wade back to camp; I could walk the forest service road. Actually, I made it back to camp in record time. Someone else went back later for my gear and fish, which I had also lost interest in. They could follow the blood trail.

Then came the most embarrassing part of the ordeal, I had to ask my hated father-in-law to pull the shard of glass out of my, now not so numb, ass, with a pair of pliers. Actually shard is not an adequate word. This was more of a hunk of glass. I am sure he was less gentle than he could have been. After all, I had knocked up his daughter.

We did have a first aid kit, but some of it had been expended earlier in the camp-out, when one of my in-laws had stepped into a frying pan containing hot grease. Obviously, this was not as successful of a camping trip as we had hoped.

The consensus was that I should be immediately taken to the hospital, as it appeared I required stitches. The only dissenting vote was the only one that mattered……mine. There was no way in hell I was going to be someone’s emergency room story. After everyone had a look at it, they bandaged it up as best they could and I had a lie-down. As a reminder of that 4th of July, I have a permanent scar that few have ever, or will ever, see.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Stupid Human Tricks - 7/2/2011

When I was in high school, my dad bought a brand new 1968 Mercury Montego MX Brougham. It was bright orange with a black vinyl top. It was very sleek and sporty, very out of character for my dad, who was a pick-up man. On rare occasions, I was allowed to drive it to school. I had a 55 Chevy, but by then, it was pretty much a rust-bucket that spewed smoke and backfired at the most inappropriate time. I ended up driving it, unsuccessfully, in the demolition derby. The Montego was way cool. With anyone else behind the wheel, it would have been a babe magnet. For me, not so much.

When I drove to school (about 3 miles), I would wait until the school bus had entered Interstate 90 and whiz by it at a high rate of speed, honking my horn like a moron (actually, exactly like a moron). This maneuver was designed to impress a girl that I had a huge crush on, but whose parents, wisely, did not allow to ride to school with a miscreant such as me. Actually, I paraphrased. I am pretty sure the word miscreant has never been uttered in Smelterville, Idaho. I should add here that this particular girl was so far out of my league that she didn’t even know my league existed. That did not stop the ever-hopeful me from the futility of trying. Her parental excuse was just to spare my feelings, she would not have ridden with me if I had duct tape and chloroform.

I usually had a couple of fellow miscreants riding with me, even though my parents had strictly forbidden me from “running up and down the road” wasting nineteen cent per gallon gas. I was supposed to drive straight to and from school. In retrospect, I am sure that my dad realized that was never going to happen. On those days when I had the Montego, lunchtime was miscreant cruise time, sans girls. It was not like the lousy schools now with their closed campuses, metal detectors, and armed security. About the only controls put on us were that the teachers took roll sometimes.

One cold Idaho winter morning I set off chasing the school bus. Just as I accelerated past it I hit a patch of black ice. Many southern readers (as if I have many readers from any region)probably have no idea what the heck that is. Let me just say that once you have experienced it, you will never forget. A few hundred yards in front of the bus, I went into a flat spin. I did several 360s and miraculously stayed on the Interstate without hitting anything or rolling over. It was totally luck, as at 16, I had zero driving skills under normal conditions, let alone careening down the highway at 80 MPH, with two caterwauling passengers. Luckily there was no traffic other than the school bus.

When I had spun to a complete stop, so did the school bus. It had to stop relatively short in order to avoid t-boning me, as I was sideways in the road. There were 55 faces staring straight at me. I don’t think the girl was impressed, nor was the bus driver, who happened to be someone that knew both me and my parents well. Needless to say, I rode the bus every day for the rest of the school year.
The race-car driver of the day was a guy named Parnelli Jones, who had just won the Indianapolis 500. This was back when the Indy 500 was a big deal and everyone knew who won it (and could pronounce their names). I know it is hard for young people to believe, but once upon a time the Indy 500 was bigger than NASCAR. Now I am not even sure if it is televised. My reason for this diversion is that calling a driver Parnelli was like calling a total moron, Einstein. It was not a compliment. That was my moniker until the event was forgotten and I earned more permanent and vile nicknames, based on other stupid things I did later in my high school career.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Acting on my own bungee accord - 6/27/2011

This will be the final installment of the practical joke/prank series. It is not that I don’t have more foolishness to relate to you; it is that I want to move on to another topic that has come to mind. Unfortunately, I have little control over what my fractured and fragmented mind will produce and when. I have to grab an idea when my memory proposes it, or it is gone, sometimes forever. Such as it is with insanity.

Most of my past antics were not the result of meanness or malice, but the consequences of boredom and world-weariness. This is totally the case with the one I am relating in this posting.

In all Air Force maintenance organizations, there is one common necessity; bungee cord. It was as essential as duct tape to a redneck and we had reels of it. Though I am not mechanically inclined, whatsoever, I have created many interesting uses for this magical material. This is the story of one of those uses. When I was working in missile maintenance I was always looking for a release from the tedium. Sometimes these releases were the result of bad judgment. This was one of those times:

One day there was a munitions squadron staff meeting and I volunteered to stay in the shop and “man the phones,” which translated to taking a nap in the break room and/or reading from our stash of magazines that objectify women. I soon tired of relaxing and searched for something to do. That is when I am most prone to mischief.

I decided that it might be fun to rig a booby trap to spring on my returning co-workers. The entrance to the missile bay from the office area was a huge blast door that slides open on rollers. I stretched a bungee cord from the inside handle of the door all the way to the back of the missile bay. I tied the cord to a wet mop head and pulled it as taut as the elasticity of the cord would allow. So essentially I had extended a 75 foot cord to about 100 feet. It was stretched to the max. I don’t recall exactly how I secured the mop head but with all the equipment available, it was not a challenge. There was a hair trigger so that any movement of the door would release the mop head.

I had barely gotten the apparatus rigged up when I got the call that the crew was at the gate. I had to buzz them in. As a result I didn’t get to function test my device, but I was confident it would work as designed.

As the door slid open, I only had a split second to realize that it was not only my co-workers entering the missile bay, but the officer in charge of the munitions storage area and another Captain that I did not know, though would soon enough.

Another instant reality was that I had totally underestimated the velocity that a bungee cord that length would generate. Suddenly, a 45 mile per hour, soaking, mop head was screaming towards my court martial. Luckily, my lack of knowledge of physics caused the mop head to slam into the door handle that it was tethered to, narrowly missing the entourage. Had it hit someone directly, it would have knocked them down like a Nolan Ryan fastball. There was a loud report (never good in an explosive environment) and a significant splash, but no actual casualties. Well, other than my humiliation as I had to explain “just what the fuck was I thinking.”

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

When a Stranger Calls and Gives You the Weather Forecast, Don't Answer - 6/15/2011

Continuing with my theme of practical jokes/pranks I have pulled. The one I have decided to relate in this posting is my favorite one ever. I stated on a previous post that no one was actually hurt as a result of any of my monkeyshines. That may not be entirely true. The tomfoolery that I am about to describe could actually have resulted in some grievous bodily harm. But, for me, ignorance is bliss.

One of my additional duties when I worked in the missile field was as maintenance liaison at the Command Post. In short, the Command Post is a hardened facility where leaders of an installation direct the operations of their units. It is filled with communications, status boards, coffee, and lots of brass. I worked there during exercises, deployments, real world emergencies, etc. My job was to keep the commanders informed of fighter aircraft status, weapons loads, and maintenance progress on broken aircraft.

After all the senior staff (Colonels)had gone home for the day, there was not much to do. We had to keep the Command Post manned, but activity was minimal. There is a saying that “idle hands are the Devil’s tools.” This axiom was never truer for anyone than it is for me. When I am bored, mischief is a distinct possibility. Those that know me know this to be a certainty.

Each of our work stations in the Command Post was equipped with state of the art communications. As this was over 30 years ago, the telephones we had would be laughable now, but for then, they were cutting edge technology. My console had the capability to conference call with several individuals. I could cause phones to ring all over the base, connecting them together at my caprice. As you can imagine, I was want to explore this capability. In addition, the Command Post maintained a listing of the home phone numbers of ALL base personnel. This was before anyone lived under the illusion of privacy and the availability of caller ID was still well into the future. You can already see where this is going. The combination of my ennui, a super-duper phone, and my access to everyone was not going to end well for some people. The problem was that I could not share this prank with anyone as even in those days, I was violating a number of military and FCC regulations.

I started fairly innocently. I would dial two random people and connect them. Of course they both assumed that the other person called them. You can imagine how the conversations went, particularly when I redialed multiple times. While I was listening in, I also had the capability of joining their conversation, taking the role of instigator, both parties thinking that the other guy was speaking. Swearing and threats of ass-kickings were common. It is possible some of these people met to have physical altercations, but I prefer not to think about that. Well, actually, it is kind of fun to think about.

You would have thought that the pleasure I received would have been enough for me, but alas, no. You see, military installations are awash with “secret” affairs and dalliances. I was privy to some, shall we say, sensitive information. So I used that knowledge to select my victims. You would be surprised (or maybe not) at the reaction of a guy receiving multiple phone calls from the person he suspects is diddling his wife, or girlfriend. Sometimes, I had to insert a name in response to, “who is this,” just to up the ante a bit. The most fun of these was when the woman involved did not cohabitate with either of the men, and had her own residence. Dialing the “triangle” was always entertaining. You would think that after a while one of them would stop answering the phone, but they never did.

Sometimes I would just connect two people that I knew simply disliked each other and if there was no immediate profanity or enmity, I would insert some, to get the conversation going. Another of my favorites was dialing a party and connecting them with the weather, time, or traffic report, over and over. I did that to a coworker once and he came in the next day and said there was something wrong with his phone. Evidently, someone kept calling him and giving him the weather forecast. I asked him why he kept answering and he said that he kept thinking it might be something else. I had a hard time listening to him with a straight face. I can still not think of that gag without laughing out loud (LOL).

As with all my pranks, I was much younger then and would not implement such a cruel and thoughtless deed now. I am now much too mature for that kind of shenanigans. Plus I don’t have a phone with that capability and there is that pesky caller ID.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Why I Am No Longer Welcome In The Republic Of China - 6/13/2011

This is the second installment of my account of pranks/practical jokes that I have contrived. The fact that I am chronicling these events does not mean I am proud of them. It just means that I am accepting ownership of these deeds. I did many things when I was young that I do not condone now. No one was physically harmed by any of my actions, but it is possible some extensive therapy was required. And now for the back-story:

In 1974 I was sent to Taiwan for a few months temporary duty, from my base in the Philippines. Taiwan is my favorite of all the Asian countries that I visited. I like the people, food, and countryside. I could do an entire blog on Taiwan, but probably won’t.

I was assigned to Ching Chuan Kang (CCK) Airbase, a Republic of China installation, near the city of Taichung. My task there was to maintain a stockpile of air-launched missiles for F-4 fighters, as the Vietnam War was still a going concern. Our missile shop was “guarded” by Chinese conscripts in stripe-less, ill-fitting uniforms, shouldering carbines that probably would not fire, but were fixed with somewhat rusty bayonets. So anyone storming our facility would run the risk of tetanus. They all had an Asian Barney Fife look to them and I would bet you would find their single bullet in their shirt pocket.

I became quite friendly with one of the guards. He spoke a bit of English and I could count to ten and swear in Chinese. He would stand just outside the door of the missile bay and split his time between cautiously watching for marauding Communists and watching us; young guys with hangovers handling high explosives. He had both a look of interest and a bit of trepidation. His name-tag was in Chinese but he told me his name was Chen. I am guessing half of the conscripts on the base had the same family name. I have spent some time in the Orient, so I can accurately put his age at the time between 12 and 40. Hell, I can’t even guess the gender of some Asian people, and I have a one in three chance at that.

He was there all day, nearly every day, and never seemed to get a lunch break or anything to eat. We would give him sandwiches, snacks, and sodas. He would have probably been court-martialed, had he been caught eating on duty. But my kindness did not come without a price.

Be patient, I am getting to the prank, but I have to give still more back-story.

My crew was working on some inert AIM-9 sidewinder missiles. For aircraft loading and pilot practice, we put a functioning guidance unit on what are essentially pieces of pipe, the exact weight of a live rocket motor and warhead. They look exactly like a real missile except they are painted blue, instead of white. The warhead is about 20 pounds, a little over a foot long, and five inches in diameter. The active guidance unit mounted on a piece of pipe allowed a pilot to lock on a target (sometimes an airliner) and practice the firing sequence without an actual launch. Thereby greatly reducing the danger to the occupants of the airliner.

As it was a very hot day, the blast door was open. It normally is not, but we weren’t working on live missiles on that day. Chen was standing just inside the door, out of the sun. I told my other two crew-members to follow my lead. I started hollering, grabbed a dummy warhead, ran toward the door, handed it to Chen, and we all ran out the door. Chen, still carrying the warhead, ran after us, also screaming. When we stopped running and started hysterically laughing, Chen continued running. It took a bit of time and effort to convey to him that it was a joke. I think if he hadn’t dropped his carbine at the onset, I would have needed a tetanus shot. I hope Chen had been issued a second uniform, because I am certain that he soiled that one.

He eventually forgave me or I returned to the Philippines before he figured out how to load the bullet into his rifle. Either way, I left Taiwan in one piece.

I know that those of you that have read both of my practical joke blogs think that I only pull pranks on Asians. That is not true. These are just the first two that came to mind. I assure you the next chapter will document Caucasional high-jinks.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Be Careful Who You Prank - 6/10/2011

This blog is the first of several that I may or may not write concerning my penchant for practical jokes and pranks. First, a little backstory:

In 1983 I attended the Manpower Management School at Keesler AFB, Mississippi. After over ten years as a missile systems technician, I thought it might be advantageous to retrain into a carrier path that might make me more employable once I left the Air Force. Manpower Management is Air Force speak for Industrial Engineer. Obviously, I was mistaken about the applicability to civilian life, but that is another story.

Many of the Air Force schools are attended by foreign military members. Manpower is one of those. This is a story about one of those officers, and my inappropriate behavior towards him.

I arrived at Keesler on a Friday to start classes on Monday. Most of my classmates also arrived prior to the weekend. We were assigned rooms and immediately began the long military tradition of partying all weekend. One of our classmates was a Korean (South) Major named Ko. He was a very nice, quiet, little man, who had never been to the United States and was overwhelmed by the plenty we take for granted. He also enjoyed that during the months as an exchange officer, he received the pay of an American Major, many times that of which he was accustomed. We introduced him to the American custom (which I made up) that the ranking officer traditionally bought most of the beer. In reality, that NEVER happens. His English was very broken but as always, the more we drank, the better we communicated.

When the meet and greet ended, Major Ko and most of the students retired to their rooms and the rest of us to my room for a few more beers. I noted that Major Ko’s room was directly across the court from mine. An idea for a prank came to me, which seemed very funny at the time. I called several pizza delivery stores and had them deliver a pizza to Major Ko. Then, a few of my new comrades and I watched from my window. As each arrived, Major Ko answered the door, accepted the pizza, and paid the driver. There was never a discussion or attempt to refuse or dispute the order.

On Monday, as we arrived for the beginning of class, Major Ko came in toting several pizza boxes and set them down on the coffee bar. He said, “here are pizza for anyone who want them. It is too much pizza for Major Ko. I no order but they bring them to me. I don’t know what happened. I like Pizza but one is enough.” At that point I took up a collection from those that were involved and gave the money to Major Ko. I explained to him that it was a joke. I wasn’t sure if he fully understood, but he smiled and declined the money.

When class started, we all had to stand up and introduce ourselves to the class and give a little background as to why we were in there and what we did previously during our military service. When it was Major Ko’s turn, he stood up and introduced himself and said very seriously: “I am Major Ko. I am from South Korea and before I came here I, how do you say, administer death penalty.” (Looking directly at me and using a chopping motion towards his neck). Several of us immediately turned a bit pale. As he sat down, he leaned over to me and said quietly, “I funny too.” I laughed so hard I painfully shot whatever beverage I was drinking out my nose.

We became instant friends. Funny is universal.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Exploding Toilet - 6/4/2011

My daughter used to live in an apartment in Clemmons, North Carolina. I not only hated that residence, I was somewhat afraid of it. I think Anne Frank had a nicer place, even when it was full of Nazis. I know it was all she could afford as a single mom with a young son, but that didn’t make me at ease there during my visits. The management of the apartment complex never fixed anything. Light fixtures that occasionally caught on fire were troubling, but the worst thing for me was the exploding toilet. She actually had two bathrooms, but one of the toilets was permanently disabled as my grandson, Carson, then a toddler had flushed countless toys and clothing items. As a result, anything you attempted to flush was returned to you, immediately and emphatically.

The other toilet functioned, but using it was like a game of Russian roulette. You could use it several times without incident, but once you had been lulled into dropping your guard, it would attack. Sometimes it would work enough times consecutively that I would forget the inevitable flare-up. Then when I least expected it, woosh. I and the novel I was reading (yes I am one of those bathroom readers) would be soaked by ice cold and thankfully clean water. It would continue to shoot torrents of water until I had composed myself enough to reach down and shut off the valve behind the toilet. Every time it detonated, it took my breath away.
Not in a good way. Carly kept a supply of old towels and rags to sop up the couple of inches of water that each episode would flood the floor with. I often wondered if the apartment below received unexpected drippage when these incidents occurred.

I am not sure that it happened to me more often than anyone else because I exceed the recommended weight allowance for this particular model of toilet, or because the apartment hated me and chose to punish me in that manner. Anyway, Carly and Carson have since moved on and the apartment is probably occupied by some other family huddled together in humid darkness, afraid to illuminate or flush.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Facebook: You Can Run, But You Can't Hide - 5/28/2011

Last week, through the miracle of Facebook, I was contacted by a woman that I once dated, but hadn’t spoken to in 17 years. I know what you are thinking: one of my sperm had matured and now needed a kidney and/or a college education. No, she contacted me because I had been on her mind for nearly two decades. Well, she hadn’t pined away too much; as she has been married for the last 10 years to the same guy she was dating when I met her. He must be a real catch if someone like me can hold her interest. I am not the kind of man who holds a woman’s attention through the checkout line at Costco.

When I was assured that she was not tracking me down to kill me, I relaxed and enjoyed the contact. It was not nearly as awkward as one would expect.

Lucky for her that there are only three people named Rick Wainright on Facebook, and one of them is my son. I did not have the same good fortune while searching for my old Air Force friend, John Smith. There are nearly 80,000 of them, but I remain optimistic.

I remembered this woman fondly, but she has detailed memories of our short time together that I had long forgotten. And it seems that she was somewhat distraught when I packed up and moved without telling her or even saying goodbye. I honestly had no idea that I meant more to her than a port in the storm. Though it gives me a warm feeling to have someone nearly 2,000 miles and a lifetime away remembering me, I am also very sorry that I ended up hurting her by my absence and thoughtlessness. I have chosen to live a solitary life, but occasionally take comfort in the company of others. I guess I never considered the possibility that others have also taken solace in my companionship.

I want to take this time to somewhat publicly apologize to any woman who found herself in the path of my willy-nilly journey to the abyss. And a word of advice to women: if you like a guy, you might mention it to him before he moves on to the next thing. We don’t tend to be too perceptive and our attention span is very short.

But I take a little satisfaction in thinking of her thinking of me as her husband is trying to give her a good rogering. I never liked the little shit anyway.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Home Moaners Association - 5/16/2011

I lived the first fifty years of my life without hearing the words Homeowner’s Association (HOA). I had never owned a home. I have been a transient for my entire adult life. I followed twenty years in the air force with ten years of wandering aimlessly. My mind still wanders aimlessly, but I now do it from the privacy of my own home. When I decided that Myrtle Beach was the place I wanted to die, I bought a domicile. In 2003, when I purchased my condo, it was significantly cheaper to buy than to rent. I love where I live, right on the waterway, not far from the maddening crowds of tourists at the beach, but far enough.

The only aspect of condo life that I hate is the HOA. Those not familiar with this organization are very fortunate. The owners of our development, called Captain’s Harbour (we have no captains and no harbour), have formed a corporation. The stated purpose of this organization is to administer the operation and management of our condo. Ownership of my unit automatically makes me a member of the HOA, with all rights and “privileges.” We elect a board from within our ownership to provide this administration. Their conduct is governed by the Master Deed, which is a bit like the Bible, in that everyone interprets it to support their own agenda. The Master Deed consists of 25 legal sized pages of lawyer speak with at least that many pages of exhibits and attachments. I have a copy somewhere, but have never read it, nor will I ever.

In the eight years of my residence, we have survived several such boards, as each member serves a two year term. The board is very much like the legislative and executive branches of any government, in that they blame the previous board for everything that has gone wrong. It also resembles Congress in that it is primarily made up of old, angry, self-absorbed, retired, white men, who have nothing better to do. I have a theory about people that want to be on an HOA board. I think they are individuals that have never had a position of authority or responsibility in life and being on the board gives them a modicum of power. I have had enough responsibility in my life. I don’t seek any more, ever.

There are two separate factions within our fifty homeowners (imagine that). They have squabbled, libeled, slandered, vandalized, and sued each other for the entire eight years of my residency. There is also quite a bit of money involved, as our dues/assessments total nearly $15,000 per month. We have had corruption, payola, and just plain stupidity in the management of those funds. Again, like Congress. One board paid a contractor $65,000 IN ADVANCE to do a job. As you can imagine, that job was never done, nor did we recoup our funds.

I tried to run for the board once, on the Voice of Reason ticket, but immediately withdrew my name after witnessing a few minutes of the annual meeting. Meetings are conducted with the same respect, decorum, and order as British Parliament or the monkey house at the zoo. Both warring factions have tried unsuccessfully to recruit me into their ranks. As a result, I am hated by both sides. I am comfortable with that. As you can imagine, it is not a particularly friendly place to live. I am OK with that too. I have Skooter as my friend. What more could I need?

The next elections are scheduled at the annual brouhaha next month. I am sending in an absentee ballot. Though I wouldn’t mind watching the pandemonium, I don’t want to get hit by any divergent small arms fire or stray f-bombs.

Friday, April 29, 2011

How's My Driving? - 4/29/2011

This week I had an appointment at the Charleston VA dermatology clinic. It was a follow-up to a skin cancer removal I had a while back and a check-up to see if I had any more of those little bastards growing on me. More about that later.

I take the Disabled Veteran’s Van from Myrtle Beach as it is free and with gas at nearly $4.00 a gallon, saves me a nice chunk of change on the nearly 200 mile round trip. The trade-off is that for a half hour appointment my entire day is shot. The van departs at 5:00 AM and returns after the last rider has been seen at the clinic. We generally get back by 4:00 PM, so even those of you that are mathematically challenged can imagine that it is a long day. But since my time is of no value it is totally worth it.

Another hazard of the trip is that there is always the possibility that one of my fellow riders will either crap their pants or die, or both. I wish I could say that those are rare occurrences. Sadly, for some of these passengers it is a one-way trip.

My strategy is always to show up early and claim the seat all the way to the rear. The van holds 10 passengers, but thankfully, is hardly ever full. Many of the veterans couldn’t physically climb back to the rear of the van if the front of the van was on fire, so I generally have it all to myself. I am usually among the youngest on the van by at least a war. I bring a pillow and my IPOD and lie down and try to breathe through my mouth, as a full Depends is not the only offensive odor that wafts back to me. Old has its own bouquet.

I avoid conversation at all costs. When I first started riding the van several years ago, I made the rookie mistake of engaging other riders in conversation, as I tend to be the gregarious type. I would get a two hour narrative of war stories that never happened from a guy who spent whatever war he took credit for winning while serving as an admin clerk in Sumter, South Carolina. I have learned from experience that guys that were actually in the shit do not talk about it very much. So I leave it to the other travelers to exchange fictional accounts of which the first liar doesn’t stand a chance. I settle in and put the world on ignore, trying my best to be invisible.

On this particular trip, it was impossible to disregard the hullabaloo that ensued. I noticed early on that the ride was a bit rougher than usual and we traveled on rumble strips more than one would expect. I had to brace myself to remain on the seat during what I could only describe as frequent defensive maneuvers. It wasn’t long before I heard voices shouting at decibels above the volume of AC/DC in my headphones. Since the van was still upright and traveling in somewhat of a straight line, I tried to ignore the din. If someone had died, was near death, or crapped their pants, I was unqualified and unwilling to lend assistance.

Finally, curiosity overcame comfort and I rose into a sitting position and removed Black Sabbath from my ears to find out what was going on. In short, (as this post is already too long and contains too little white space for anyone to read) some of the passengers had determined that our 75 year old, volunteer, driver was impaired. Evidently, having my eyes closed had spared me the horror of a series of close calls. To add to the poor guy’s impairment, a couple of other septuagenarians were verbally berating him, as if they were his wives. The diagnoses offered by his critics ran the gamut of any combination of night blindness, drunkenness, early stages of a stroke, and Alzheimer’s. Whatever the cause, when we stopped at the Georgetown Golden Arches for coffee and an outside of garment piss, one of the combatants called the police. I guess the plan was to breathalyze the driver and if he passed, to give him a series of psychological exams, to determine his ability to soldier on. Well, the police officer that responded spoke with the driver and determined he was coherent enough to continue. She made this assessment without requesting the driver to exit the vehicle, let alone demonstrate his acuity. So with people still caterwauling behind him, the driver got us into Charleston, though I will admit when we entered city traffic his control of the vehicle further deteriorated.

After a discussion with hospital security it was determined that we would be provided a different 75 year old driver for the return trip. We made it back without incident with the original driver riding shotgun.

The original intention of this blog was to tell about my dermatology experience, but I got off on a tangent, as I am prone to do. Anyway, some time ago I asked the dermatologist about the removal of a skin tag from my eyelid. It was an annoyance, but sadly, not the most physically repugnant thing about me. He examined my eye and said that we would have to schedule an appointment with an ophthalmologist as dermatology is understandably hesitant and unqualified to work directly on the eye.

This time I had a different dermatologist and while examining me he noticed the skin tag on my eyelid. He asked if I wanted it removed. I said that I would, expecting him to make the referral previously discussed. Instead, he pulls out what looks like a pair of dikes and proceeds to snip the tag off. He says, “we’ll try to do this without deadening it.” He starts snipping and it feels like he has put hot coals in my eye. Since it was obvious from the tears running down my face that it hurt like hell, he says that “we” will have to numb it a bit. I have already removed myself from the “we” of which he spoke. He pulls out a needle from who knows where and immediately begins sticking it into my eye. This hurt way worse than the side-cutters, plus the added terror of watching a needle being jabbed into my eye. Once it was comfortably numb (Pink Floyd reference) he cut out the skin tag without further discomfort. Then he said these very encouraging words, “it may grow back.” Well, guess what, doc? If it does, I will live with it. My concern is that one of these doctors was obviously wrong about the degree of danger and difficulty in cutting on my eyelid. When it comes to my eyes I want to err on the side of caution. I may have crapped my pants a little during the procedure.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Mensa - Doorway to Nothing - 4/11/2011

It is not uncommon for an exchange with my friend, Bill Woolum, to inspire a blog. Bill is one of the handful of my Facebook contacts that is also a friend in real life. Last night our Facebook conversation began with a discussion of the Yankee/Red Sox game and ended with speculation as to which of our classmates, circa 1970, are Mensans. That may seem like a strange segue, but actually since both of us have severe attention deficit disorder, as well as other issues, it is a totally logical progression. Our exchanges often deteriorate into much more base topics (usually my doing).

I often wish that Bill and I lived closer so that we could have these conversations over beer, breakfast, or blancmange, but alas, we both love our particular coasts.
The Mensa dialog is what inspired this post. I am a member of Mensa and I expect Bill is a closet member. Speculating as to whom in my graduating class of Kellogg High School, Idaho, 1970, were possible Mensans proved to be an interesting activity.

Let me state at this time that I don’t believe my qualification for Mensa is any sort of accomplishment other than I am a really good test taker.

Mensans that I have come in contact with are generally weird and uninteresting, insufferable bores. (Except for Dave Powers and me) You will note that I have let my membership lapse. I have absolutely nothing in common with members of the organization. Contributors to their publications expend an inordinate amount of effort to try to impress each other with their knowledge. I write to publicly display my lack of enlightenment.

I believe that being smart is like being gay, it is not a choice. It is thrust on you and it is up to the individual what he does with it. My innate ability to process information has actually worked against me in my life. School was very easy and as a result I got bored and stopped paying attention in about grade six. Also, in the 1960s, in Kellogg, Idaho, tall, skinny, awkward, kids with big ears/noses that wore glasses and knew all the answers in class were not cool. I tried, unsuccessfully to be cool. I learned pretty much by osmosis, through no effort of my own. I can honestly say that I never read a textbook, other than an occasional chapter that interested me. As a result, I was, and continue to be a world class underachiever.

I graduated right in the middle of my 192 high school graduating class. That may not sound too bad unless you consider that the majority of those that finished below me would be considered special needs students in today’s society.

But, as is my modus operandi, I smoked the ACT/SATs, and went on to college, where I discovered lots of new distractions as barriers to success. I learned that class attendance was necessary to successful course completion. After one year, I was not invited back.

Getting back to the Mensa discussion, statistics would indicate that since Mensa membership is comprised of the top 2% of standardized test takers, my class should have included 3-4. I have no reason to believe that Kellogg High School produced genius above the national average. After all, we were all subjected to 18 years of heavy metal poisoning. I am thinking that would work against us.

Bill and I enjoyed speculating as to who the remaining 2 or 3 qualifiers were. It was an enjoyable exchange. I guessed the other Mensans from my class were Jim Etherton, Mike Jasberg, and Jeff Kenyon. Sorry Christy Blick, you can’t have beauty and brains. It wouldn't be fair. Bill did not disagree with any of those and added Brian Shiplett.

After our conversation ended, I thought that it is very possible that, like me, the other gifted students were also camouflaged, cloaked in mediocrity, and the high achievers from my class succeeded by sheer effort and ambition.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

My life in three minutes - 2/15/2011

A friend created this for me. Fifty-eight years in 3 minutes. You will have to pause my playlist for maximum enjoyment.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Cosmic Event - 2/10/2011

I haven’t made a blog post in quite some time. It is a combination of apathy and laziness that seems to define me as of late. I have not been inspired to produce more than an occasional smartass comment on my Facebook page. But I had an experience yesterday that is worthy of a mention.

I am not a philanthropist by any means. I do the occasional bit of charity, but it certainly doesn’t define my life. I get pleasure from donating food to my friend, Scott Mann’s annual Marathon for Meals and my daughter in-law Tia’s Polar Plunge. I adopt a child and a geezer from the angel trees every Christmas. I never deny a Shriner when they are risking life and limb at busy intersections. I donate my used crap to Habitat for Humanity and play in charity golf tournaments from time to time. All of these small efforts always give me a good feeling. I would probably do more if I had the means, but I am on the bottom end of the economic food chain.

All of the largesses mentioned above are anonymous. I never see the recipient, nor do they know who I am. I have always thought I would enjoy seeing the joy of a needy child opening a present that I purchased specifically for him/her, or the enjoyment of a family having a nutritional meal because of me. It is not that I want credit for my altruism. That is not it at all. It is that I would like to share in that joy, albeit invisibly.

I guess that is enough back-story. On to what happened yesterday. Those that know me know that I am not a religious person at all. I do not think that religion has any connection whatsoever to being a good person. But I do believe that everything in our lives happens for a reason. Call it what you like. I am going to call it a cosmic experience.

I was taking my purchases through the freak show that is Walmart, to a cashier. It was not a busy time so there weren’t a lot of checkout options. The first cashier I approached had just turned her light off and was heading for her end of shift bourbon. I was all the way on the pharmacy side of the store because I had purchased some Mucinex-D, with the hopes of being able to breathe in the near future. As those of you with chronic allergies know, anything with a freaking “D” in the name requires a complete background check for fear that a 24 count pack is the beginnings of a meth lab. I know from watching Breaking Bad, that it takes a whole bunch of “D” to turn a profit in the cooking of methamphetamine.

The next aisle was the cigarette aisle, where there is always a line because the customer and the cashier cannot agree on which of the 50 different types of Marlboro is optimum for their particular habit. The only other checkout stand lights were all the way down on the grocery store end. I hate going down there because there is always someone trying to pay for their groceries with a check drawn on the National Bank of Guatemala or trying to use a debit card without any money in the bank.
Here is where it gets cosmic. Shoppers with overflowing baskets seemed to just beat me to a lighted check-out stand. But there was one that nobody seemed to be going to, though there was only one customer in line. What I thought was my good fortune turned out to be much more than that. It was a young mother of three who was attempting to pay with an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card. It was obvious that the amount of credit left on the card was much less than the cost of the groceries in her basket. She was deciding which items were most important and leaving the rest in the cart. She was handing the items one at a time to a very testy cashier and watching the total to see what else she could purchase. One of the items that were left in the cart was a small, decorated, birthday cake, obviously for one of the children. There was nothing in the basket that was frivolous or unnecessary.

When she had exhausted her EBT grubstake, she began to sift through her wallet and found a few dollars. The cashier totaled up her EBT purchase and, with a heavy sigh, asked impatiently if there was anything else. The lady looked helplessly at the little bit of cash in her hand and longingly at the birthday cake, and shook her head.

Suddenly, I heard myself say to the cashier as I held up my overused MasterCard, “I will get the rest of that.” They both looked at me like I was out of my mind. I was in agreement with that conclusion, but could not stop myself. Restraint and self-control have never been my long suits. She tried to talk me out of it, but stubbornness IS my long suit. I started to help her hand the rest of the contents of the cart to the indifferent cashier. There was chicken, potatoes, stew meat, beans, corn, hamburger, hotdogs, hotdog buns, rice…………..and a birthday cake.

Both of us were crying as I ran my credit card (for different reasons). I had seen the total. I had the feeling this was the first break she had experienced in quite some time. I declined when she tried to force the bit of money into my hand. As she left with her family’s subsistence, she hugged me and called me an angel. My friends know that I am no angel, but for that brief moment, I knew how angels feel. It was the best day I have had in memory.

I did not make a conscious decision to act in this manner. Something came over me and took control. You can call it God if it makes you feel good. I will call it a cosmic event. Omnia causa fiunt. I am not writing this piece to seek praise or reflect myself in a positive light. “I am not that kind of angel.”