Monday, May 31, 2010
Monday, May 24, 2010
WARNING!!! This blog is a story of a part of a night from my youth. Some topics I have written in here may be a bit offensive to some folks. SO if you are easily offended or if you don't think you want to read this Blog then DON'T. You won't hurt my feelings nor will you offend me. Also, I have taken the liberty of changing some names and places (Just a Bit) to protect the Guilty or Innocent.
Two weeks before Christmas break in 1978 I found myself sitting in the basement of Jim Finnegan’s with Al Minnow and Jimmy. Respectively known as Fish and Fin, me? I was Skip. Always have been and always will be. It was a Friday night and we had just finished watching 7 Shao Lin monks defeat the entire Chinese Army with some round house kicks, slaps to the face and using “Bleeding Dragon, Crouching Mantis, Fisted Tiger and Hungry Llama techniques on a UHF station. C’mon, you know you remember UHF television. And if you don’t here is a quick note on UHF, you see before Cable TV and Satellite TV the only channels on the gigantic 19 inch color TV’s in your family room and basements you received were ABC, CBS and NBC all the other channels were on the UHF selector switch of the brain sucking device which has taken over our society and there were only usually 2 stations to choose from.
Now, on Friday nights and Saturday afternoons one of the 2 UHF stations always played Kung Fu movies, Science Fiction movies or old Westerns. We liked ‘em all. Didn’t matter if it were Monks, Aliens, Cowboys or Indians we always watched and then tried our best to impersonate what we had just seen in our own awkward Pre-Teen manner, sometimes those antics required stitches and band aids. That night was no different but seeing as it had snowed most of the day and we had not really had the opportunity to go outside and have a proper snow ball fight or even enjoy the almost pure, innocent natural wonder of the newfound magical world of whiteness we decided that it would be far more fun to try and kick each other in the heads with some soft, cushy snow to break our fall. So that is what we did.
I understand that some of you who live in the South don’t know much about snow so I will let you in on a little secret… you ready? Ok, here goes, NOT ALL SNOW IS THE SAME! I am serious; if you spend any time in the northern climates of the world you quickly discover this to be true. Now, Southerners when they experience a half an inch of snow pretty much shut down everything. No traffic in or out of the city, there is a run on food at all grocery stores, parents have to deal with their kids being home from school and no one under no exception goes to work. It’s true. I have seen it myself firsthand and it is quite amazing to see. ME? Being from the Great State of Wisconsin I find this baffling and confusing and quite humorous. But I go with the flow and chuckle at all the idiots who think the world is ending because of some “Dandruff” from the sky. I am used to going to school in Wisconsin after a night of 12 inches of white stuff hitting the ground while I sleep. Snow days up North are Rare and wonderful occurrences that we seldom had the chance to experience but always looked forward to.
The day in question when Fish, Fin and I set out after Kung Fu Theatre had not been a snow day. As a matter of fact we had been sitting in math class when the snow began to fall and this was no ordinary snow. This was LAKE EFFECT SNOW. Thick, wet, stick and heavy made up of flakes the size of your thumb nail. Perfect for snowballs, igloos and snow forts. The kind of snow parents hated shoveling and kids loved playing in. The kind of snow you see in movies and as a child you dream of during that long wait for a Fat Man in a Red Suit to come and give you all your hearts desires. It was that kind of snow and we wanted to be in it and on it and become the Kings of Memory Avenue.
So, we put on our two pairs of socks, sweatshirts, sweaters, vests and ski jackets, added out mittens and our stocking caps. Fish had a black sailors watch cap that I wanted so badly because it looked so bad ass on him along with his leather coat, Fin had Detroit Redwings knit hat that clashed with his orange hunting jacket and I had a homemade knit Green Bay Packer hat with a gold and green tassel on it and when I flipped up the sides of it read “GREEN BAY PACKER BACKER!” which match my Green Packer Ski Coat. We set out for fun and mayhem. We found it too.
We spent an hour or so behind Fin’s garage building a snow fort big enough for the 3 of us sit inside of Indian Style and once we were comfortably inside Fish broke out a pack of smokes and we blazed up talking about all the girls in school we had crushes on and what it would be like to go on a real date and kiss a girl. Then the talk got around what we thought we were gonna get for Christmas and all the presents we had asked for. Fish told us that he already knew what he was getting because he had found his parents stash of gifts and had opened them. Fin and I were stunned. NO WAY! FISH KNEW WHAT HE WAS GETTING!! He told us of the remote control cars, the “Aladdin” computer toy and a MOTORCYLCE HELMET! We didn’t believe him. We demanded proof! He said “Sure, let’s go to my house and I will show you.”
We set out again. Now Fish lived 7 blocks away and in the thick snow we were traipsing around in we knew it would take some time to get there but we didn’t care. We knew we had plenty of time to get there because Fish’s dad was an over the road truck driver and his mom worked as a waitress with Fin’s mom at a fish house downtown that did not close until 2 am. We headed up to Libel Street tossing the odd snowball or two at each other and marveling at all the Christmas decorations up and down the block. As we passed the Jamrog house we heard loud music coming from the basement and knew that all the Older Kids were partying down there. We could hear Molly Hatchet screaming from the Hi-Fi and you could smell the “Weed” smoke pouring out the back door. Fin made a comment about having the balls to actually smoke some weed. I told him I knew a guy who had some and he lived on the way to Fish’s house. We held a quick consensus and decided we needed to stop by my “Friends” house to score some “SMOKE”.
Once we got to Libel we turned left and headed for Brookridge Street to see Brian. Brian was a new kid in town and he had been trying to fit in with one of the many cliques in the neighborhood but it just hadn’t worked out for him. I had the honor of meeting him a few weeks before up at the ice skating rink while trying out for some Rec League hockey. I didn’t get in and neither did Brian. But we managed to pulverize each other with our sticks for about an hour and bond in a Neanderthal way that most boys do at that age. He invited me over to his house and that is when I discovered that his mother was divorced and worked at one of the many fine Gentlemen’s clubs and also supplemented her income by selling a bit of “Mary-Jane” on the side. He also showed me where she hid the stash and that if I ever needed any to let him know. I told Fish and Fin this quick history and they thought Brian would make a fine addition to our Juvenile Delinquent Gang.
As we approached Brookridge, Fin whipped a snowball right at the back of Fish’s head and scored a direct hit. Fish went down like a sack of bricks. He didn’t even let out a yell. He just fell down like there was no life left in his body. Fin and I were laughing. “Fish, get up ya big pansy.” Fin said. Fish didn’t move. “Fish” I said “C’mon man, get up. He didn’t hit you that hard.” Fish didn’t move.
I knelt down and shook him, “Fish? C’mon. Stop goofing off.” I looked up at Fin. “Man, I think you killed him.”
“Bullshit” Fin said. And knelt down next to Fish and started to roll him over. “Fish? Hey buddy, you ok?” Fin said in a panic. But Fish wasn’t moving. He was limp and in the glow street light he looked pale and sickly.
“What the hell did you hit him with?” I asked
“Just a snowball”
“Dude, did you put a rock in it again? Or roll it in some slush? C’mon Fin spill it. Was it one of your Special snowballs?” I asked in a panic. Because we all knew Fin would occasionally make a slush ball or put a rock in the center of a snowball just for that added jolt of pain and excitement. Sometimes it was funny, this time, not so funny.
“No man! I swear! It was just a plain old snowball!”
I stood up. “Dude, we gotta get someone to help him. He looks real bad.”
“Ugghh.” Was the only sound Fin could make.
I looked down at Fin kneeling next to Fish and Fin was looking at me. “Man, I don’t know what I am gonna do. He’s our friend. I didn’t mean to hurt him. It was all in fun. Right? You believe me don’t you Skip? He can’t be hurt.” Fin looked almost as bad as Fish did. I could see the tears welling up in his eyes and the desperation pouring off of him like foul smelling cancer was making me sick. I glanced over at Fish and then back to Fin. “He will be ok. We just have to get some help. I will run home and get one of my sisters and call an ambulance. You stay here with him.” I said and I turned to leave.
“AAAAAAAEEEIEIIIEIIEIIEIEIEIEIIEEEEEE!” I heard a scream.
I turned back around and I saw that Fish was sitting on top of Fin jamming fistfuls of snow into Fin’s face and screaming “FACEWASHTIME!!!! YOU GONNA GET CLEAN NOW!!!” Fish was laughing and Fin was trying to protect himself and trying to defend himself against the now clearly alive Fish.
“Get off of me you ASSHOLE!” Fin was screaming.
All I could do was laugh. I fell down in a snow bank I was laughing so hard. “Get Him! Wash his face GOOD!” I screamed.
Fin started bucking like a wild horse and eventually Fish rolled off of him laughing so hard he was crying. “FUCK YOU! FISH!” Fin yelled. “You scared the shit out of me. We thought you were dead.”
“That’ll teach you to pull a Jap move like that.” Fish said through tears of laughter.
Fin sat there in the snow bank with his knees up next to his chest and his arms wrapped around his knees. “Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuckitty fuck fuck.” Was all he managed to say and then started to laugh again.
We sat there for another ten minutes laughing at each other and the prank that Fish had pulled. The clear night’s air and the crispness of our breath creating smoke tendrils that rose up into the night’s sky like ghosts of our laughter and companionship that we had created in those heated moments of youth. Soon, it started to snow again and we were getting cold and wet. We decided to forgo going to Brian’s house that night in favor of the promise to enjoy Fish’s new remote control cars and the warmth of his basement.
We had many adventures us three and eventually we did add Brian to our Gang of Miscreants but like all things from our youth they pass on into our vault banks of memories to be drawn up at times when you least expect them. Hopefully one day I will have the time to sit down and make another withdrawal of the times we spent together running the wild streets of Green Bay.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
I used to say that the greatest invention of man was Air Conditioning and I still pretty much to this day believe that. (If you have ever lived in the South you will completely agree with me on this too.) I mean, seriously, who wants to actually live in 98 degree weather with a humidity rate of over 90 percent and not beg for some sort of relief. Oh sure, you can hop in a nice cool shower and remove all that dirt, sweat, stickiness and funk from the elegant curves and angles of your body but once you get out of that refreshing oasis of relief you’re right back to where you started. Nasty and not just any kind of nasty. We’re talking about Friday-night-been-on-a-bender-since- my-girl-just-dumped-me-for-Brad-Pitt-Bender! Aw, don’t deny it, you know what I mean.
Dang, sidetracked again.
Last week, on Monday night, I come home from an evening of working at my part time job. Which some of you may know about but for those of you who don’t I am a waiter part time and it aint easy in any sense of the word. (That word being EASY) The restaurant I work for is small and family owned and has been open for over 22 years, 10 of which I have been working there in my current capacity. Over the years I have transferred from my former full time position to my current one with the City in which I work for. The nice thing about the transfer? Grooming Standards. Yes, I got to finally grow my hair out. For which, on occasion I get harassed about. Mostly from guys who are in the early stages of baldness but that has no bearing on this tale other than affording me a cheap shot at all the folks out there in the world who have given me the old cliché “Get a haircut ya Hippy!” To which I reply, “Lose weight ya ugly Nazi!” Which has caused me on more than one occasion to get into either a verbal disagreement, fisticuffs and/or police escorts? Sometimes all three.
For the job as a waiter I have to keep my hair pulled back in a pony-tail and I usually use some type of glue to assist me in that endeavor, ok, it’s really hair gel but it feels like glue and once that stuff hardens it is like I am wearing a DOT certified motorcycle helmet. I’m serious, you could hit me in the head with a baseball bat and I would be protected. (WARNING: I DO HIT BACK!) I don’t like to wear this stuff but it is a necessary evil for my job and it keeps my hair from falling in my face and the patron’s food. This is a good thing because there is nothing quite as nasty as someone else’s hair in your food. (Unless you’re a Zombie, they seem to not be so particular about dining etiquette.) Now, when I get home I like to take a shower and remove all the gel and seafood nastiness smell from my body which means a nice HOT shower. By HOT I mean SCALDING HOT. I get that from my days in the Navy as do most former military personnel who have spent months and years taking cold showers with the barest trickle of water spitting forth from a handheld nozzle in a shoebox sized shower stall. We as a whole like our showers hot. How hot? Hot enough to cook a 20 pound Maine lobster in.
So, imagine my surprise when I get home and go upstairs for my nightly ritual only to discover that once I get into the shower there was no hot water. No big deal I say to myself. I have taken cold showers before and I am sure I will do so in the future so I deal with it and get cleaned up. No worries. I mean after all there are two other people in the house and I know they had taken showers before me so it only makes sense that I may need to suffer a bit. No big deal.
Afterwards, I come downstairs and sit down next to my betrothed and inform her of the lack of heated elegance in my life to which she replied; “Our daughter took a hot shower earlier.”
“Ok” I say “Please informs her in the morning to not take so long in there.”
The next morning guess what? No hot water. Great. I go down to our basement and check the water heater and it is stone cold. I try to ignite the gas burner but no luck. I am running late for work so I tell my family the bad news and let them know that I will look at it when I get home. Twenty minutes after I get to work I get a phone call from the wife that her father stopped by and lit off the heater. YAY! Problem solved.
That evening another cold shower. And not just for me. I got to share the cold water with the entire clan. Good news is that my water bill will be lower this month. I tried once again to light off the water heater and it refused to obey my ever increasing vocal coaxing and manual manipulations of the ignition switch. Unbeknownst to me, my wife had gone onto Facebook and posted on her site the issues we were having in the hopes that someone out there in the “Blue Nowhere” knew how to either fix the problem or at least be kind enough to send a tanker truck of hot water over to our house so we could have some sense of modern convince.
Nope, that did not happen. What happened was this.
Wednesday morning I receive a phone call from one of my 3 sisters, the second of four offspring of my Mother. Here is a transcript to the best of my recollection:
Me: Hiya Sis!
Sister #2: It’s the GOBBLDY GOOK!
Me: Uh? What?
Sister #2: That’s what’s wrong with your water heater. The Gobbldy Gook is broken.
Me: Uh, sis, I don’t think there is a part called “Gobbldy Gook” Sis. Actually, I am pretty sure of it.
Sister #2: Well we had a problem with our heater a couple years ago and my husband replaced the “Gobbldy Gook” and we have had hot water since.
Me: Ok, well I will look into it and see what I can find out. Thanks for the call. Love you.
Sister #2: Love you to Bro.
Later that day I received an email from my bride with a trouble shooting guide for a water heater. I looked at it. It did not make sense to me. Seriously, I think it was written by Carl Sagan or Albert Einstein and edited by Professor Oppenheimer himself. I tried my best to decipher it and I came to the conclusion after about 10 hours of reading and re-reading the guide that what I needed was a Flux-Capacitor and a 1982 DeLorean to properly fix the heater.
At work I fared just as well with all the advice, everyone had an opinion and advice. Simple stuff, like; “Just get a new one.” To “It’s a gas leak.” I did however have one person say; “It has to be the thermal detonator.” (Ok, you say Thermal-Detonator to anyone in their 40’s and they immediately think of “Return of the Jedi” where Princess Lei literally goes into Jabba’s palace and is carrying a “THERMAL DETONATOR”. I don’t know about you or about the engineers of the world but I don’t think they use thermal detonators to light off a gas heated water heater. Before I left for the day I informed my supervisor that I was going to be taking Thursday off to try and fix my water heater. She was surprised and even a bit encouraging to my future task.
I called Lowes on the way out the door and informed them of my water heater situation and the young lady informed me that usually in most cases like mine it comes down to a bad “Thermo-Coupler” element going bad and that she had them in stock for only 7 bucks. I just needed to make sure the make and model of the heater.
Thursday morning arrives with a quick trip to Lowes and a purchase of a Thermo-Coupler which if you have never seen one is just a simple piece of solid copper with a threaded end and a “Probe” end. That’s it. I took it home and commenced to disassembling the unit in the basement. I followed the instructions and within 20 minutes I was finished. Easy-Peasy-Lemon-Squeazy. Then I tried to light the thing off. Click, click, click. Just like the instructions said. Nothing happened. Waited and tried again. Nothing happened. Waited and tried again… same result. So I stopped. I am not insane and I knew the result.
Guess what. There is an 800 number on the side of the water tank and I called it. I told the lady on the phone what had occurred over the last few days and the repair I made. She said that maybe it was the “Thermal-Housing Unit” and gave me a number to call and even offered to warranty the part for me. Nice. I called. Guy on the phone said there was no part number for the one the lady gave me. Yay! He then informed me to call the company again. I did. This time a guy answered. I told him what I had been going through. He walked me through the “Light off procedure”. Nothing happened.
On the 5th attempt I hit that little automatic igniter and the whole base of the hot water heater seemed to be engulfed in flames. KAAAAFFFFWWWWOOOOOOMMMMM!!!!
I now have hot water.
I posted on Facebook that we had hot water and I got a phone call from… you guessed it, Sister #2
Me: Hiya Sis.
Sister #2: I told you it was the Gobbldy Gook.
Me: Yeah Sis, your right. Gotta go. Love you.
I now know that not only is air conditioning the greatest invention but also hot water heaters are too. Oh, and if you want advice about water heaters, call the company.
Monday, May 3, 2010
I am tired. I am even too tired to rant. I want to rant. I want to be mad and yell and scream and fight but I am just too tired. I wish I weren’t so worn out because I have a lot to be pissed off at. (I know, I know, you’re not supposed to end a sentence with a preposition but I just don’t care right now.)
Let’s see what I am tired of; I am tired of mid-level managers with an over-inflated sense of self importance. I am tired of high-level managers who refuse to find out the truth of incidents for themselves. I am tired of overpriced food cooked by mediocre chefs. I am tired of “reality” television being forced down my throat because it is “Dramatic”. I am tired of the pain I feel when I get out of bed in the morning and the pain I feel when I get into bed at the end of the day. I am tired of worrying whether or not someone at work is “Watching” me. I am tired of being the exception to the rule. I am tired of politicians with too much power and money telling “Regular” Americans how to run their lives and support their families. I am tired of bankers, yes, just bankers in general, corporate bankers loaning money to companies they have a stockholders interest in and then turning around and giving money to the politicians so they can do more underhanded, behind the scenes, dirty little schemes to bilk the unsuspecting American public.
Ok, side bar here, just a quick disclaimer so to speak, I am a fan of Capitalism and of earning money by either producing a good or service that is tangible for others to purchase. Especially if that good or service is for the betterment of the community as a whole. But, and this is a DOOZY, when GREED becomes the driving force and major factor in your earning potential and short cuts are made, people are hurt, killed or mentally destroyed then you my dear capitalist have warped the core meaning and value system this country was founded upon. WE THE PEOPLE have rights and WE THE PEOPLE are not supposed to be taken advantage of in what I can only view as a “Conspiracy of Greed”. Sure, go out and make money honestly and with hard work. You have my blessing but when you do it in the name of Capitalism and warp the principles of Mr. Jefferson, Mr. Addams, Mr. Henry and many, many more true Men of Standard that have come before you, then you are just as evil and as rotten as the murderers and rapists in prison. Because what you leave behind are victims that will never be able to cast an accusatory finger at you. They, the victims, will never see your face, see you in court, and see you pay for your crimes against them and many others like them. Nope, they are left out in the cold. Literally with no homes, no money, no future, no jobs and no way to explain to their children what happened. Simply because they themselves don’t know what transpired behind some closed door in some dark room, in some basement boiler room in some city here in the good ‘ol US of A. (Actually it most likely was a well lit room with drinks being served by illegal aliens who can’t speak a lick of English but that is a rant for another day.)
My point in all this? Simple, years ago, I don’t remember when, our Government and our Wall Street Bankers got together and decided to make some money by setting up the American people for failure through “Cheap, Affordable Loans” and, We The People got hosed. I don’t even think our grand-children are going to be able to dig us out of the hole that has been dug in the name of Capitalistic Greed. True, the Government only approved the change in law for the banking industry to give loans to people who really did not deserve them (They pointed to the spot where to dig the hole) and true the Loan Officers were only doing what they were told by their supervisors by approving loans to people who could not really afford them (They sold us the shovels) and True the Americans who were under-educated thought they could afford a nice home and live the American dream on minimum wage (We started digging in the name of Freedom and Dreams). Then, like all pyramid schemes, yes this is a pyramid scheme, Banking Officials at the top waving money at us folks on the bottom, Politicians in the middle telling “We The People” that we too can have as much pie as we want, and of course “We The People” at the bottom of the heap trying ever so hard to live out the dream that has been sold to us on silver painted platters made of cow manure.
Now? It is all falling apart, kind of like the kids song “London Bridge” only it’s the American Economy and the faith in the almighty American Dollar that is deteriorating at an alarming rate. I wish that there was an easy answer, you know like that commercial where the people are in grave danger and they just push a button and everything is back to normal? Yeah, one of those things. We need it now more than ever. We need it more than a drowning man needs oxygen or a starving man needs food. We need it but we aren’t demanding it. Sure, some congressmen are sitting in chairs in Washington D.C. yelling and screaming at the Chief Financial Officers of the Wall Street banking crowd but all I see when I look at them is a marionette show and the puppet master is not even in town. ( Hmm, Pinocchio Goes to Washington. I think I just found my title for this blog.) Who is this puppet master you may be asking yourself right now and me for that matter? I don’t know. I wish I did. I would rob him and then but a beat down on him the likes this world has never seen. But I don’t know and the people that do know the answer to that question don’t talk to folks like me or you and most likely they don’t talk to anyone you know.
So, back on point, yes, I am tired and when I say I am tired I mean that I am one Bone-Weary Sailor-Cowboy from Wisconsin now residing in Virginia. I am tired of all the rhetoric from the talking heads on T.V, I am tired of all the BS coming out of the politicians mouths, from the POTUS all the way down to the local City Councilmen and women. I am tired of busting my butt over 70 hours a week for the government to take my tax money and give it away to people who don’t even TRY to deserve it. I am tired of people abusing our FREE health care at the now De-regulated emergency rooms just because they have a cold or a splinter or a hang nail or a wart. I am tired of illegal immigrants taking starting jobs that our teenagers used to have and I am tired of adults taking teenagers jobs too. I was a paper boy, I was a yard boy and I even shoveled snow in the winter.
Now? All those things are done by either illegals or adults struggling for money while our youth are coddled and babied by their dotting parents. I can’t stand it. All this crap really burns me up inside and I am trying, really trying to not lose what little mind I have left. It aint’ working. We are broke and not just financially. We are broke emotionally, spiritually and worse yet, our Faith in America is broken. Our fighting men and women overseas who have stepped up in their faith and honor for service to a better America are to be commended for what they are doing and for the price they are paying at the orders of the heads of state who wouldn’t know an RPG from an IED.
Once again, I am off track; see I told you I was tired. Look faithful reader, I am going to try and sum this up quickly and succinctly, please, for the Love of Your Country and all that She has given you, TRY to see past all the crap that is being force fed into your senses by the media and the talking heads. Because the real puppet master, the wizard, he is hiding behind a curtain somewhere, pulling levers and strings. Making others dance and do his bidding and it just seems to be a gigantic joke played not just on us in the US of A but the world in general. And no I am not a conspiracy theorist or a madman with a keyboard. I am just an average workin- Joe living in the Heart of the South and trying my hardest to make my life just a little bit better.