November 28, 2009

X-Mas Time At The Office

Black Friday has come and gone, and we're full bore into the Christmas season. I realize that this causes a great deal of stress in many people, but if you're careful not to take it too seriously and remember that you don't have to be "in the spirit" constantly, you can breeze right through it. And why wouldn't you want to enjoy the month? After all, look what follows it. Three entire months of bitter cold, snow, days on end without sunshine and crushing abysmal cabin fever.

So, if you look at it that way, December seems like a great month. And it can be. There are parties to attend, family gatherings to go to, and best of all, at least two showings of ... Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer ... the Rankin/Bass production!


Bumbles, Bumbles, Bumbles!

Good times, but not the subject of this discussion. Actually, there is a down side to the Christmas season, at least for me. And that is the office Christmas party. As I've mentioned, Christmas is for friends and family, and the people that you are caged in with for 8 or 9 hours a day, five days a week, are neither. I've never seen the purpose of having to spend your free time with people who you already see more than anyone else during your waking hours. These gatherings are invariable stilted and awkward for everyone involved. Fortunately, the shitty economy is doing it's part to eradicate these hellish events.

But there's always some goody two shoes in any office who feels like everyone has to do something to share the holiday spirit. And thus, we are seeing the rise of a particularly odious office Christmas social event ... the Secret Santa. You all know this one. Everyone drops their names in a hat and you get to pick, totally at random, some other poor soul you work with, and have to get them a present. If you're lucky, you'll draw the name of someone you are at least familiar with, and may have a chance of getting that person something they would actually like to receive. But I've never been that fortunate. I always draw someone I either have never talked to, or in the worst case scenario, don't even recognize their name.

The most terrible of these Secret Santa events for me was the one year I "gifted" a co-worker with an Amaretto gift set, and the guy turned out to be a devout Muslim. Ooops! And I'm sure there are a lot of stories that are even more awkward than that. The point is, that no one really likes what they get at a Secret Santa exchange, and I was thinking this morning that if we're going to be forced to continue these things, we ought to make the gifts so bad that they're almost masterpieces of bad taste. So, I did some looking and came up with the following. Most of these gifts are in a reasonable price range and guaranteed to be unwanted.

Shut The Hell Up Gum - $2.99
Give this to your cube mate and maybe he/she will cram his mouth so full that they'll stop talking about their kidney stones long enough that you can get some work done.

Dog Shit Calendar - $13.99
A lot of people have pets. Most people eat too much during the holidays. Hang it on the refrigerator to curb your appetite. Two levels of perfect.

Fetus Cookie Cutter - $9.99
For that special pregnant cookie lover. Make a batch of oatmeal raisin to enhance the gift.

Gay Accent Breath Spray - $5.99
There has to be at least one gay person in the office. A thoughtful gift in so many ways.

I can almost guarantee that you'll be the "talk of the office" when you're on the giving end of any of these fine products. But just be prepared to have that career track you were on altered just a smidgen.

Happy gift giving!

November 26, 2009

Shattered Beliefs

Remember when you were a kid and it was Christmas time? And you were bored one day so you decided to pull down the ladder to the attic and see what was up there? And when you turned on the bare light bulb and illuminated the area and you saw a bunch of toys? And in the blinding flash of one solitary second ... you realized that there was no Santa Claus!?

You don't? Well I do. And let me tell you, it wasn't a pleasant experience. One I hoped would never repeat itself. And in the 50-some years that have followed I have been lucky in this regard, until about a month ago.

During my recovery from a long illness several years ago, I discovered The Food Network. The channel became my companion, and the "stars" of it's many cooking shows, my friends. I especially enjoyed "Iron Chef America". I loved the frenzy, the fierce competition and the nail-biting finish to see whose bevy of exotic dishes, centering around the secret ingredient, would win the day. And surveying the mayhem in Kitchen Stadium was "The Chairman" a stoic individual, who I believed was the master of the culinary arts, and who had more talent in his little finger than the rest of the Iron Chefs put together, including that ginormous douchebag, Bobby Flay.

Several months ago, I happened to catch several minutes of "Dancing With The Stars", which by the way, Jan loves and I give up all hope of watching anything else when this over-bloated clown fest is being broadcast. Anyway, I was glancing at the screen when my eyes locked in on "The Chairman"! My mind reeled. What in all that is holy was The Chairman doing on Dancing with the Stars? And then it struck me like a thunder bolt ... The Chairman was a fake, a charlatan, a third rate celebrity. He was ... Mark Decascos!

The Chairman - My Idol

Mark Dacascos - Twinkle Toes Douchebag

I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. And then I got mad. If the Food Network had perpetrated this scam on me, what other kinds of bullshit had they pulled? So I started doing some serious detective work, which encompassed all of ten minutes, and came up with several stunning revelations.

For instance, Alton Brown, The Food Network's resident smart ass was the director of photography for an REM music video, and operated the steadicam for Spike Lee's cinematic masterpiece "School Daze". And this qualifies him for a cooking show how? Oh sure, he later graduated from the New England Culinary Institute, but so what?

Once A Steadicam Operator
Always a Steadicam Operator

And what about Robert Irvine? The Food Network made big huffing and puffing noises when they found out that he had fudged his culinary resume and kicked him off of "Dinner Impossible", but after replacement tuna steak Michael Symon turned out to be a bust, look who's back on the show?

"I Got No Personality"

I'm Back Babeee!
Dig My Guns!

And in what is the final straw for me, The Food Network was featured in a series of strips of "Cathy" ... probably the worst newspaper comic strip in the history of the civilized world. When Cathy Guisewite spots a trend, it has normally been dead for a decade or more.


Food Network, you have betrayed my trust, and are now featured in terrible new venues ... and I must move on to other things. Yes, I'm now pledging my foodie loyalty to The Travel Channel, which has much better cooking shows anyway, including this guy.

But I'll probably sneak back occasionally to watch Guy Fieri. He may be gross and sloppy, but at least he knows he can't cook.

November 24, 2009

Tasteless Guy Humor

Last night I was wandering through the intertubes, looking for some information on Pancho Barnes. Pancho was a woman aviator in the 1920's and 30's who was almost as famous as Amelia Earhart, but usually took a back seat to her accomplishments, because Earhart and her husband were better hucksters. Pancho held the world air speed record for a period of time, and in later years gained notoriety for her Happy Bottom Riding Club, just outside of Edwards Air Force Base in the high desert of California. You might remember that she was a character in the movie "The Right Stuff". Unlike Earhart, Pancho did a lot of stunt flying in the movies made during her earlier years, including the one featured in the picture I've predominantly displayed above.

Pancho ... Looking awesome!

Being immature, the first thing I did when I saw this was snigger. "Cock Of The Air" ... Heh, heh ... heh, heh. This made me think of George Carlin's "The Seven Words You Can't Say On Television, and my favorite line from his act "You can prick your finger, but don't finger your prick". This, of course, made me snigger some more. Wouldn't it have been hilarious if Howard Hughes had managed to ram through the title "Prick Of The Air"?

This picture was made before the Hays Act was recognized and the motion picture industry was forced to knuckle under to "family" standards. In fact, a lot of movies made right after the advent of talkies and into the early 30's could be quite racy. And Hughes was in the forefront of constantly challenging the MPAA's forerunner on the content of his movies, until he was beat down by the association over his movie "The Outlaw", starring Jane Russell. After that, he pretty much gave up the motion picture producer game and went on to realize his lifelong dream of becoming a world class weirdo.

And speaking of Howard Hughes, if you've somehow missed the cinematic treatment of his life "The Aviator", I highly recommend that you put it on your viewing list for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday/weekend.

As long as I'm prattling along, I might as well take the opportunity to answer a question that was sent to my highly occasional feature "Mr. Answer Guy". Today's question comes from JD, who hails from the perpetually soggy but beautiful town of Tacoma, Washington. JD writes:

Dear Mr. Answer Guy, I was at a baby shower recently, and we were playing one of those incredibly stupid games that they insist on doing at those things. I was thrown the question "What is a baby eel called?" Well, of course, I didn't have a clue, and everyone started laughing, and I got so nervous that I started sweating and the sweat stain spread from my armpits across my chest and my back, creating a phenomenon called "saddlebags". But the joke was on them, because no one knew the answer. What is a baby eel called? And how do I get the sweat stain out of my blouse?

Well, J ... this is a pretty simple one and I'm surprised that you didn't know the answer. A baby eel is called an "elver" or in local parlance, a "glass eel". I would file this one away in the old noggin, because it comes up often in daily conversations. Oh, and use Shout with Oxyclean to get that stubborn stain out.

Finally, to all of my loyal readers ... followers and lurkers alike, a very pleasant Thanksgiving to you and yours.

November 21, 2009


I've mentioned in several posts that my Granddad owned a farm outside of town during the time when I was growing up. On any given weekend, we would more than likely end up going out there on a Sunday afternoon. I never really did know why, as my Mom never really seemed to like her old man. And she certainly never cared for her step mother, but I guess she had her reasons for visiting.

I went along because I had to, being too young to stay home by myself. You would think there would be a lot on a farm to occupy me, but there really wasn't. The yard around the house was huge, so I'd go out there and wander around if the weather was nice. I tried climbing some trees once, until I encountered a bull snake in one of the branches, then I never did that again. There was a barn, but the barnyard was fenced in and guarded by a bull who was perpetually pissed off because there were no other cows around. I guess he had a case of blue balls all of the time. And there was a smoke house and an equipment garage and a hen house. All pretty boring shit.

But they did have a horse. His name was Blaze (for a white mark on his muzzle), and he wasn't good for much besides just being there. He was broke and all, but I don't think either Granddad or Loma rode him much, except for just exercise once in a while. Every time we went out to the farm, I had hopes that they would get him out and let me ride him. But they never did.

However, one Sunday in the early summer, old Troy must have been feeling magnanimous towards his black sheep grandson and asked me if I wanted to ride him. He got him out of the barn and saddled him up and told me to climb up. Well, I had never been real close to Blaze before, and it turned out that he was at least two stories tall. But with a little help, I managed to get my foot in a stirrup and hauled my fat ass into the saddle. After a half minute of reign instruction, the horse headed out on the dirt road that ran in front of the house.

We trotted down the road. And trotted ... and trotted ... and trotted. Because Blaze wouldn't do anything else. Blaze wouldn't turn left, he wouldn't turn right. He wouldn't speed up, he wouldn't slow down, and he wouldn't stop. No matter how much I yanked the reigns, or dug my heels into his flanks, or yelled at him, he just kept on keepin' on. Right down the road.

Then at a tree beside the road, which must have been a predetermined marker for the horse, he abruptly turned around and started back, with no help from me. And again, no matter how much I yanked, kicked and screamed, he serenely trotted back to the farm house yard, turned in and stopped. And that was the end of the ride.

Fucking horse.

On the way home that evening, I was bitching about the horse not doing what I wanted it to, and my Mom told me I was lucky that I hadn't been hurt, because she thought Blaze was a mean animal. And this turned out to be true. About 5 years later, Loma was out riding Blaze in a pasture when it threw her. She broke her leg and pelvis, and since my Granddad was in Bolivar that afternoon, shooting the shit with his cronies, she had to crawl the mile back to the house and summon help from there. If nothing else, she was a tough old bird.

Being up there in years, it took Loma a long while to recover, but she eventually started walking around again, albeit not as well as she did before being thrown. One day, when Troy went over to Bolivar for another one of his good old boy gatherings, Loma took the Army 45 that he had brought home from the Great War, hobbled out to the barn and shot Blaze straight between the eyes.

I wish there had been a more pleasant end to this story, but sometimes farm life is not all chickies and duckies and sunflowers swaying gently in the summer breeze.

Sometimes there's a good dose of frontier style revenge.

Scenes From Suburban Hell (An Irregular Feature)

This morning I was busy cleaning the house. I'd gathered up several bags of trash and took them out through the garage and through the side door, where our big garbage can is stored. When I opened the door and stepped through, I looked at the side of our neighbors house and saw this:


I stared at it for a couple of seconds and thought to myself "No, that must be one of those trophy wall mounts that this guy decided he didn't want anymore, so he put it out by the trash".

But there wasn't any wood plaque on the back, and the eyes looked sort of funny, and there were flies buzzing around it. So I got a little closer ... and :

AAAAAAAH! A Severed Deer Head!

This is so typical of this guy. He, his wife and his two kids are all nice enough people, but he has a penchant for collecting junk. I've come home to find his yard full of bicycles that he bought at an auction. Another time his driveway was filled with old lawnmowers, and then wheelbarrows ... I'm sure if he was certain he wouldn't get fined, he'd have a rusty old car jacked up on cinder blocks in the front yard with a "For Sale" sign in front of it.

And, as you might have guessed, he is a hunter. A bow hunter to be exact, the purists of the hunting world. When he is not out bow hunting, or collecting junk, he likes to use me for target practice in his back yard.

From past experience, I know that the severed deer head is going no where. It will sit there all winter and into the spring, letting the forces of nature wear away the hide, sinew, muscle and flesh down to the bare skull. And then he will put it in his special "garden" in one corner of his front yard, where it will join the other deer skulls, a dead sapling in a rusty coffee can and a half inflated Canadian goose decoy to delight all the visitors to our humble cul-de-sac.

And I know exactly what's going through your minds. You're thinking "Rob, you must take pictures chronicling the decay process and update us on it's progress from time to time". And gentle readers, you can be assured that I will be there for you.

To do this right, I'll need to personalize this partial former resident of the forest. I need to give him a name. In honor of all of the flies that were busily feasting on him today, I'm going to call him ...


November 20, 2009

What Color Is Your Badge?

I just finished my first month at my new workplace, and I must say that I'm happy as all get out to be there. What with unemployment in this state currently running over 10 percent, I'm a pretty lucky guy.

I'm not exactly an employee of the place where I plop my ass down every morning. I actually work for someone else. Which makes me what's known in the trade as a contractor. My employer, wielding great clout, finds me work at another organization. That organization pays my employer an agreed upon sum, and my employer, in turn, throws some money my way. I receive no benefits, vacation or holiday pay. If I show up for work, I get paid. You could say I'm a modern day indentured servant, only I don't get flogged if I fuck up.

The site I work at is huge and at any given point in time, there are thousands of people occupying the grounds. There are reasonable security measures in place to keep the blaggards at bay, one of which is a security badge, which everyone wears someplace on their person. Some people wear them on their belts, others wear them around their necks and a few free spirits clip them to their ear lobes or wear them in their hair as part of a decorative bow.

The badges all have embedded microchips so you can get through traffic gates and enter the various buildings on campus. Your badge has your picture on it, taken by that same guy who came to your grade school every fall and made sure that all conditions were just wrong before he snapped your picture and charged your parents $12.95 for the "skool daze" package. My picture makes me appear as if I am suffering a particularly advanced stage of jaundice.

So, just a badge ... plastic and ink. But there is one odd thing. The badges that the organization employees wear are all white. The badges that the contractors wear are white also ... but with a yellow stripe at the bottom.

It's a small thing, but it struck me as odd that one group had to be differentiated from another.


I haven't figured it out yet. Is there some plausible, reasonable explanation for it that only certain people know? Or is it some unwritten caste system, that will help organization members sort out their true brethren from the outsiders, so that they don't get too close to them?

Absolutely no one that I've encountered so far has treated me any differently than anyone else, and we all talk and joke freely. But I do notice when I walk down the halls, that people will flick their eyes from my face to my badge, and then back to my face when we greet each other. Are they just mesmerized by my jaundiced visage on the piece of plastic, or do they want to classify me?

I've often suspected that I'm neurotic by nature and perhaps this is the definitive proof, but just this morning, I was talking to a woman and she happened to ask me how long I had worked for the organization, but then her eyes went to my badge and she said "Oh, you're a contractor!", and gave me a sad smile, sort of like someone would do if they said "Oh, you poor dear."

As I mentioned earlier, it's a minor thing and I suppose everyone has the need to sort and drop people into certain slots in order to keep everything straight in their own minds. I do it myself. I suppose the organization is just trying to help with visual aids.

It's just human nature.

November 15, 2009

Crabby Samaritan

I don't know what it is with me and people this weekend, but I'm not even going to step outside the house again until tomorrow morning. This morning I was at the bad grocery store with good vegetables because I either like grocery shopping more than I thought, or I never make up lists and depend upon my steel trap mind, which nowadays is more like a cardboard trap and I invariably forget 10 things that I can't live without.

I picked up my stuff and moved into the checkout line. There was some guy in front of me who obviously hadn't seen the "Express - 10 Items or Less" sign flashing like a beacon and had his weekly allotment of groceries spread out for 10 feet on the belt.

But I didn't really care, because I wasn't in a particular hurry. After about a half minute, I became aware of someone standing extremely close to my back. In fact, they were brushing me. So I turned around to make sure it wasn't a pick-pocket, and there stood an elderly lady clutching a loaf of french bread. I turned around and inched forward as far as I could to put some space between us, but she just crept up close to me again.

And then she tapped me on the arm and said "Excuse me, I only have one item and my son is waiting for me in the car out front". Well, shit. I only had 4 items, but if she was so antsy to pay for her crusty loaf and get to the car before her son started beating her, well, why not? So I told her to go ahead.

The cashier rang up her purchase ... and then she pulled the checkbook out of her purse.

Motherfucker. But I still didn't say anything. I didn't even change my expression. The cashier took the check, and then asked for a drivers license or some other form of ID, as is standard. And, of course, the old lady didn't have a drivers license, or "other".

Stalemate. The natives behind me were starting to get restless, and so was I, so I asked the cashier how much the bread cost. It was $2.75, so I whipped out my wallet, threw 3 dollars on the belt, and said that I would pay for it. The old lady looked at me and said "you don't have to do that", to which I replied "it's not a problem". Which was actually pretty good for me, because any other time I probably would have added "because I'd like to get home some time today". So, to all of the people out there who know me, this will prove that I do have some capacity for empathy.

After this grand show of graciousness on my part, I waited for my thank you, but the old bat skittered off with her bread ... without a word. I looked after her, turned back to the cashier and mouthed soundlessly ...


November 14, 2009

The Piano Has Been Drinking

It's Saturday night, The Midnight Special is on the radio, and I was just listening to this song. Performed by my old friend ... Tom Waits.

The piano has been drinking
My necktie's asleep
The combo went back to New York, and left me all alone
The jukebox has to take a leak
Have you noticed that the carpet needs a haircut?
And the spotlight looks just like a prison break
And the telephone's out of cigarettes
As usual the balcony's on the make
And the piano has been drinking, heavily
The piano has been drinking
And he's on the hard stuff tonight

The piano has been drinking
And you can't find your waitress
Even with the Geiger counter
And I guarantee you that she will hate you
From the bottom of her glass
And all of your friends remind you
That you just can't get served without her
The piano has been drinking

The piano has been drinking
And the lightman's blind in one eye
And he can't see out of the other
And the piano-tuner's got a hearing aid
And he showed up with his mother
And the piano has been drinking
Without fear of contradiction I say
The piano has been drinking

Our Father who art in ?
Hallowed by thy glass
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done
On Earth as it is in the lounges
Give us this day our daily splash
Forgive us our hangovers
As we forgive all those who continue to hangover against us
And lead us not into temptation
But deliver from evil and someone you must all ride home

Because the piano has been drinking
And he's your friend not mine
Because the piano has been drinking
And he's not my responsibility

The bouncer is this Sumo wrestler
Kinda cream puff casper milk toast
And the owner is just a mental midget
With the I.Q. of a fencepost
I'm going down, hang onto me, I'm going down
Watch me skate across an acre of linoleum
I know I can do it, I'm in total control
And the piano has been drinking
And he's embarrassing me
The piano has been drinking, he raided his mini bar

The piano has been drinking
And the bar stools are all on fire
And all the newspapers were just fooling
And the ash-trays have retired
And I've got a feeling that the piano has been drinking
It's just a hunch
The piano has been drinking and he's going to lose his lunch
And the piano has been drinking
Not me, not me, The piano has been drinking not me

I need to get on Amazon right away to find this CD. And Jan says that it's difficult to find Christmas presents for me.


Sometime at the beginning of this year, Jan and I started to explore the "what if" options of what we would do once we decided to retire. One of the big decisions we have to make is whether we will stay in this area, or whether we will move somewhere else entirely.

We've kicked around the idea of moving back to our home state, more specifically, the southwest section of Missouri, where I grew up and where Jan and I attended college.

To help us get a better handle on what housing is available in that area, I enlisted the help of a local realtor in that region. Susan knows in general terms what we are looking for, and every week, she faithfully sends pictures and details of current listings that she believes may interest us.

Some of the listings that she sends are so right on-spot, that I wish we were retiring tomorrow so we could make an immediate offer. Others are so off-the-mark dreadful, that I wonder if she was ever listening to us at all.

Perfect or dreadful, she always talks each property up in language that only a realtor could believe, or at least state with a straight face.

This morning she sent me a listing for a "show home" that needed just a touch of attention (her words) because it had been unoccupied for several months. As usual, she sent a set of 12 photos, highlighting the houses strong points, both inside and outside.

This is a picture of the kitchen:

What? That cabinet on the left? Why a few nails and some duct tape and no one will ever notice that it broke off and fell on the counter.

And then there is the room cobbled into the attic, that she described as a "man cave":

I had to look at the picture for several minutes before I could figure out what that protuberance was hanging from the ceiling. But then I realized that the builder had been clever enough to provide an upside down replica of the Great Pyramid of Giza. No man cave would be complete without one.

And try as I might, I was unable to determine with any certainty what hallucinogens the owner might have consumed just before he or she picked out the carpet.

In a way, I'm relieved that we do have a couple of years before we have to start taking this shit seriously.

I'm going to need at least that long to build up an adequate supply of my own hallucinogens to tackle this thing head on.

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride ... Deuxième Partie

This is a continuation of a previous post. If you'd like read that one first, feel free. Or if you don't, that's okay too.

The plane was really started to rock from side to side. Much more violently than I'd ever experienced in a commercial jet or turboprop. And for the first time, I started to seriously consider the possibility that we might crash tits up in a fucking corn field. Wouldn't that be a hoot? I wondered if it would be too late to make the evening news. Do we have enough in our checking account to bury me? Oh crap, I never did tell Jan if I wanted to be buried or cremated. Well, if the plane catches on fire, then I'll be halfway there to cremated. No open casket for Cap'n Crispo!

I don't know how long this train of thought went on, but I snapped myself back to reality and took some comfort that the runway was now visible in front of us. Wayne was still sweating like a bitch, but we were really slowing down. In the last seconds, the plane seemed to just hang in mid-air a few feet above the concrete, any forward progress negated by the force of the wind blowing into us.

And then we just ... settled. The plane thudded down a little hard on it's tripod gear and there we sat, in the middle of the fucking runway. I thought Wayne was going to taxi over to the little terminal building, but he cut the engine and told us to get out. We stood there for a little bit, and when the plane started rocking again, Mel and I draped ourselves across each wing strut and Wayne held the nose down until a pick-up came out and hooked onto the plane and slowly pulled it toward the terminal building, all of us still holding on to it so it wouldn't flip over.

We helped Wayne tie the plane down and then walked into the terminal building. Wayne walked over to the pilots lounge, no doubt to brag to the others how he landed in a 50 knot wind, no sweat. Mel and I looked at each other and giggled like little girls until we told each other to stop.

Then we rented a car, and drove the remaining ten miles to the site in a raging dust storm, and got down to business. We were done with our evaluation in a couple of hours. Mel called Wayne at the airport, and was told that there was no fucking way we were going back until the wind died down to nothing, which by the looks of the forecast, wouldn't be until after sunset.

So Mel and I drove to the nearest town, which had exactly one cafe, and spent the rest of the afternoon, drinking coffee, eating pie, smoking cigarettes and bullshitting about nothing. At sunset, we drove back to the airport. The air was calm, so we got on the itty-bitty Cessna and flew back to LaSalle. I took the front seat this time and occupied myself looking out on the lights of the towns we passed over. I spoke to Wayne a couple of times, but he'd had a hard day, so I generally left him alone. I was just looking forward to getting back to LaSalle and driving home from there.

It was after 10:00 when we reached the airport, which meant that everyone had gone home and turned the lights off behind them, including the runway lights. Wayne said this wasn't a problem, because he could turn the lights on remotely from a transmitter in the cockpit.

Except that it didn't work. No matter how many times Wayne hit that little button, the runway stayed dark. We circled several times and then Wayne made an executive decision. The airport manager lived on a small farm outside of town and we headed for it. And I am not making this up ... we actually buzzed the house twice to get the manager's attention. He came on the radio, Wayne told him what was wrong, and he drove to the airport and turned the runway lights on for us.

We landed. Mel counted out 12 crisp 100 dollar bills into Wayne's outstretched hand for his trouble and I headed for the Day's Inn in LaSalle at midnight. I called Jan to tell her I wouldn't be home until the next day and went to sleep.

I don't know if this little incident was what soured me on air travel.

But it sure pushed me in that direction.

Scene From A Gas Station

This morning I was running my normal Saturday errands and stopped at a Mobil station to fill up the truck for the week ahead. I like to have a full tank prior to the week starting, because I dislike stopping before or after work unless it's absolutely necessary. This must be linked in some way to my latent OCD, but I'm too lazy to give it much thought.

As I was pulling up to a pump, a gentleman exited the mini-mart and pulled up short, thinking I might run over him. I waved him by and he raised his hand in acknowledgement and walked on to his well used Chevy Suburban sitting just opposite of me. I followed him with my eyes and saw that the Suburban was occupied by an unattractive heavy set woman and an equally unattractive heavy set 20-something man. I took these two to be related, as they were both of the same general body type.

As I was preparing to put gas in the truck, I wondered how a reasonably pleasant looking fellow had hooked up with a really unpleasant looking woman like that. Had theirs been a marriage of convenience? Did he have a really crummy personality and she was the best he could do? Or was he being kidnapped by these two beasts?

These are the kinds of things that go through my mind in a split second, and I've long since given up on trying to figure out why I think this way. It's just me.

So, as I was spinning my story in my head, I happened to glance down from the woman's face to her arm sticking out the side window and saw that she had a lit cigarette in her hand. As I looked at the back seat, I saw that Junior also had his hand sticking out his side window, also with a lit cigarette.

I drew my hand away from the start button on the pump and stared at the woman. Then we had the following exchange, which went a little bit like this ...

Fat Woman: What?

Me: Oh nothing. I'm just waiting for you to leave before I start pumping gas so I don't blow us all up!

Fat Woman: Sputter.

Me: Morons.

Fat Woman: Fuck you!

Me: No, fuck you.

The husband/kidnapee put the vehicle in gear and left the station lot, but the fat woman managed to flip me the bird before they disappeared into traffic. I turned my pump on and began filling the tank.

Sigh ...

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride

One of the good things about the end of my business "career" was that I didn't have to fly anymore. I believe that when I first started out, I enjoyed it. But as the years went by, I began to dread the thought of all the hassle that is air travel. Getting to the airport on time, checking in, waiting, being trapped in a metal tube 40,000 feet above the surface of the earth, and then more waiting. And then you had to come back and do it all over again.

Most of the time I flew in large jets, and sometimes I was relegated to small puddle jumpers. But one time, I flew in a 4 seat private plane.

One of our plant managers in downstate Illinois called me one day and asked if I would come with him on a visit to a guy who was starting up a small business, manufacturing some kind of "wonder" cattle feed supplement. During the late 80's and early 90's, it seemed like everybody and their mother was coming up with some new additive to get livestock to market sooner ... without the use of steroids. And every feed manufacturer was looking for an edge to improve their market share. It was an incredibly stupid period in the the history of the industry and logical minds have since took the reigns again and put it on the right path.

Anyway, the facility involved was somewhere in the wilds of Western Iowa and "Mel", the plant manager, had a great idea. Instead of taking a commercial flight to Des Moines and driving to the site, he'd hire an airplane and pilot so we could fly right from his place directly to the site, saving us a lot of time. I had my reservations, because it seemed to me like small planes usually crashed a lot more than big planes, but I didn't want to appear to be a mega-sized pussy, so I agreed to go with him.

Several days later, I drove down to LaSalle, Illinois to the airport where we would start our flight. Mel met me there and introduced me to the pilot, who had an uncanny resemblance to Wayne Knight, if Wayne Knight wore a suit.

Speaking of Wayne Knight, whatever happened to him? He was in "Seinfeld" for all those years, then he had a big part in "Jurassic Park", and then he was in "Third Rock From The Sun", but then I heard he lost a lot of weight, because he didn't want to be fat and unhealthy anymore, only once he lost the weight, no one would hire him again. Talk about a bitch ...

So, Pilot Wayne piled us into the itty-bitty Cessna, and we took off. At first, it wasn't too bad, except that I was in the back seat because I had forgot to yell "shotgun" before we took off and it was kind of cramped back there. I also noticed how shoddy the plane was inside. The seats had rips in them, the arm rests were broken and there was garbage all over the floor. Not impressive at all.

As we got higher, it started to get cold. In fact, there was a cabin thermometer on the instrument panel and when I peeked between the front seats to read it, I was a little alarmed to see that it read 36 degrees. I was going to tap Wayne on the shoulder, but he had head phones on and seemed a little busy, so I asked Mel to turn on the goddamned heat. However, it turned out that the heater was broken, but this wasn't any big deal, because it was Spring and it was warm outside. Except that it was warm outside on the ground, not at 12,000 feet.

As we started out slow descent, it started to get warm again, and I could see details on the ground. And I was seeing a lot of brown poofy stuff racing along the surface. Wayne took time out from listening to his Walkman, to explain that a windstorm had rolled in from Nebraska and the brown poofy stuff I was seeing was dirt from the newly plowed fields being blown this way and that. Only the brown poofy stuff didn't look like it was merely meandering this way and that. It looked like it was going someplace with a purpose, and quickly.

I asked Wayne how fast he thought the wind was blowing. He said he had checked about a minute previously, and the wind on the ground was blowing at about 45 to 50 knots. As if to drive this point home, it was right at this moment that the wind grabbed the plane and started tossing it around. Wayne stopped talking and started a cage match with the steering yolk.

I sat back in my ripped seat and grasped the broken arm rest, and thought, "well, 40 to 50 knots isn't too bad". But then I remembered that knots isn't the same thing as MPH, and when I did the conversions, I sure as shit didn't feel any better. I looked at the back of Wayne's head, and there was sweat running freely in rivulets down the fat folds in his neck and into the collar of his white dress shirt, turning the material translucent. I glanced over at the thermometer on the dash ... 50 degrees ... not good. Then I looked at Mel in the front seat. He looked very pale.

Definitely not good.

I've read that it's not good form for a blog post to go on too long. So I'm going to attempt something I've never tried before and do a two parter. Join me later and find out if I live or not.

Or don't ... it's entirely up to you.

November 13, 2009

Cyber Snub

Friday nights after 10 p.m. are a favorite time for me. Almost as good as Saturday nights after 10 p.m. but lacking just a few elements. This is the time I get to sit at the computer and catch up on all the things I missed during the week.

I can think up ideas for posts, or look at comments on my blog, if I had any. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. I'll go through on-line magazine articles, read blogs that I've earmarked and enjoy, or search for new ones.

And I like to look through facebook entries to see what's been happening with my "friends" during the week.

This evening I was doing just that ... looking through the weeks entries, when I clicked on my "wall" page and glanced over to the left at my "friends" listing. It said "4".

Wait a minute ... "Four"? The last time I looked I had five. What the fuck?

Before I go on here, I want to acknowledge something before all of you wise-asses out there start sniggering to yourselves. Yes. I have (had) only five people on my friends list. And yes, I know that YOU have 30 or 40 ... or 300 or 400 ... or more "friends". Well, let me tell you something. I may have only five (four) friends, but they are REAL friends. Every single one of my five (four) friends are the finest people I know and we are TIGHT! As far as I'm concerned, I wouldn't trade 500 of your friends for even one of my five (four) friends. So, put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Anyway, I kept looking at that "4" and the first thought that went through my mind was "All right! Who's the dirty, rotten SOB who dumped me!" And seeing that I only had five friends to begin with, it wasn't all that hard to figure out who was missing.

Immediately, I started wondering why she dumped me. Was it something I said? Hmmm, I caused a stir earlier in the week by commenting on people who put mayonnaise on their hamburgers, but the person I offended was still there, so that couldn't have been it. Did she die? Did she go into the Witness Protection Program?

I had no answers, so I started contemplating how I felt about this loss. Was it the same as losing a face-to-face friend? Would I have to avoid her in social situations, or walk the other way if I saw her coming down the sidewalk. Would I still send her a Christmas card this year? I think the answer to all of those questions would be ... No.

So, I'm in a semi-social quandary. Should I feel like the rug has been pulled out from under me and shed a tear? Or should I bravely utter "C'est La Vie" and go on with life?

I think I'll choose to move on, without regrets. So JE ... hasta la vista baby.

And as for you other four ... don't even think about it.

November 12, 2009


There's a bit of information that Jan shares with me twice every school year that never fails to flatten all of my tires, no matter what kind of mood I may be in at the time.

"I have evening conferences at school this week".

One would rationally think that this would be great opportunity to spend some quality time alone, or to go out on a weeknight and do things you wouldn't normally do. But for me it's just a pain in the ass. I guess after being married for 35 years that I've just become accustomed to having her around in the evenings, and even if there are not two words passed between us, there's still the comfort of physical companionship. Of being in proximity to each other. For me anyway. I have a sneaking suspicion that she enjoys the hell out of it when I'm gone for the evening.

Dinner is a particular problem. What's the point of going to all the trouble to prepare something when you're just going to sit there by yourself and eat it? It's just not worth it. Yes, I could go out to eat, but I tried that once and I didn't care for it at all. I went to a local restaurant, book in hand, and sat at a table for four in the middle of the dining room, trying to eat and read at the same time. I had the uncomfortable feeling that everyone was staring at me, read only four or five pages of the book and never even tasted the food I ate because I was so self conscious. Once, I took Sean with me and since he was only three, I kept myself occupied trying to get food into him without causing a major catastrophe. I doubt that would work now, as he's going on 25 and learned to feed himself several years ago.

This afternoon, I must have spent an hour trying to figure out someplace to stop on the way home and pick something up. But, I'd already had a hamburger this week, tacos didn't sound any good, take out fried chicken is too greasy and pizza was out because we're having that tomorrow night and I hate to double down on the same food two nights in a row.

So here I sit, stomach grumbling, pondering what I can shove in my mouth to shut it up. Maybe I'll go have a couple of pieces of turkey pepperoni and an ice cream bar. Yeah, that should fill me up.

Shit ...

November 07, 2009

Family Secrets

When I was a kid in grade school, I loved comic books. I'd walk over to the IGA every Tuesday, when the new comic books would hit the stands. I'd spend an hour or more deciding which two I would buy, because after all, they cost 12 cents apiece. Twenty-five cents if it was an "annual".

"Batman" was always a must, but it only came out twice a month. So I filled in the between weeks with things like Sgt. Rock & His Howling Commandos, Our Army At War (with Captain Johnny Cloud) and even Superman once in a while, even though I thought he was kind of gay.

But there was one comic book that I was always on the lookout for ... Donald Duck. Even as a boy I had eclectic tastes. DD came out on a wildly erratic schedule. You were never sure when it would be available. It was my favorite because the stories were always well crafted, and filled with surprisingly sophisticated jokes.

I mention the above, because tonight I was doing some aimless surfing on the computer, and completely by accident came across this ...

(Click on picture to enlarge!)

After studying Donald's family tree for a few minutes, I came upon the answer to a question I had always asked myself. Where did Donald's nephews; Huey, Dewey and Louie come from? I mean, I always knew he called them his nephews, but I had thought that it was just a term he had coined to explain them, and that they were actually waifs that he had just picked up off the street in some fashion.

As it turns out, Donald has a sister. And her name is Della. And it appears that Huey, Dewey and Louie are her kids.

Okay, one question is answered ... but a big 'ole door has just been swung wide open on a whole new set of questions. If you look closely, you'll see that Della is linked to a character identified only as "Duck".

So, what the hell is the deal there? Did Della marry this "Duck"? Did she have a one-night stand with "Duck", and Huey, Dewey and Louie are the result? Are Donald's nephews bastard children? Is it like "Chinatown" and Donald's father impregnated Della so that Huey, Dewey and Louie are Donald's brothers and nephews?

And what the fuck happened to Della? Did she die? Did she run off? What's the story behind Donald getting custody of her kids?

Holy Shit! This is going to bother me for the rest of my life!

Who knew the potential scandal that had laid secret within the Duck family. First thing tomorrow morning, I'm going to fire off a letter to the Disney Company, demanding that they give me some answers to this sordid story.

Either that or I'm going to tip off The National Inquirer.

'O Thanksgiving Tree ...

Saturdays are always the highlight of my week. I get to sleep in a little without guilt, and after a little cleaning and laundry, Jan and I go out to buy groceries for the week. It's fun for me, because after such a long time of doing it by myself, I get to have company while I hunt around for food. I'm sure Jan would rather not go, but she humors me.

After we get the grocery shopping done, we'll usually bum around for a while, looking for this and that ... sometimes buying something, sometimes not.

Several weeks ago, we had sort of decided that we would get a new Christmas tree this year, seeing that our present tree is over 20 years old and is getting a little thread bare. So today we decided to look for one, before they'd been picked over and we were left with a poor selection. Even artificial trees can get in short supply as Christmas draws near. And we found one that we both liked and brought it home.

I was just going to put it down in the basement until the time when we usually put the tree up, which is the day after Thanksgiving. But as we were bringing things in from the truck, I dropped the box off in the back room, where we spend most of our evenings, and where we had decided to set up the tree this year. After we put things away, I looked at the box and decided to open it to see if everything was there.

One thing led to another, and we ended up putting the tree up and stringing lights around it. On November 7 ... three weeks before Thanksgiving ... seven weeks before Christmas.

A Work In Progress

We'll get the decorations put on it eventually. Maybe we'll do one a day, kind of like an Advent Calendar, only with no chocolate.

Since it's in our back room, no one can see it from the outside, which is good because I wouldn't want anyone to think we were weird or something.

Eau de Toilette

A few years ago, I worked with a woman who tried hard to be funny. She was a very nice person, but she felt the need to slip into a contrived "wacky" mode in order to make others laugh. This didn't work out for her at all, and the only thing she elicited from her co-workers, including me, was a polite laugh and a deep wish for her to go elsewhere.

Actually, she could be very funny, but this was only when she had no intention of being so. We worked in a small office, with about 15 to 20 people and her particular nook was right across a narrow hall from the men's restroom. One day, I was working on something, and she came and rapped on my door frame and said in all seriousness "My God, what did Frank have for lunch?" It took me a second, but I realized what she was talking about and started laughing. But I stopped as soon as the stench rolled up the hallway and hit me. At that point, we both started gagging and ran outside to revive ourselves and to wait until the office ventilation system cleared most of the odor out of the air.

I was reminded of this episode earlier this week when I went into the mens room at my new work. The second I opened the door, I was assaulted with one of the top ten worst smells I've ever experienced. I half expected every stall to be occupied, but when I looked down, there was only one pair of feet in the line of toilets. I'd had no time to take a breath before I had come through the door, and I was tempted to breathe only through my mouth, but then the thought of actually tasting the stench started to make me sick, so I turned tail and ran out the door. I walked into a meeting 5 minutes later and noticed a man sporting the same pair of light tan shoes and argyle socks that I had glimpsed in the stall, and fearing that the odor had clung to him out of sheer evil, I sat as far away from him as possible.

Events such as this make semi-lasting impressions on me, so this morning, I started wondering "What did Frank have for lunch?" So I looked it up, and what I found was highly educational as well as disturbing.

Yes, I read up on farting and shitting. And came up with some interesting facts. For instance, the average person farts 10 to 25 times per day because of all of the air that he/she ingests while eating and drinking. That air has to go someplace, so it propels itself right out the old blow hole. However, farts are not supposed to stink. And they won't if you avoid foods that ferment easily inside of you, like onions, beans, cabbage, radish, prunes, bananas, dark beer and wine. Light beer is not on the list, so thank God for that.

And since farting is so often a precursor of taking a dump, there were also some handy tips on keeping the odor level of your shit from moving into the red zone. It wasn't mentioned, but I would imagine that consuming the foods above would carry over from the gaseous stage to the solid state. Plus, fatty foods can cause your poop to smell putrefied. How do you know if your poo is fatty? Well, if it floats, it's more than likely fatty. The article I read was careful to mention that your turds would float in water, not in mid-air, which I think would be cause for some concern. Perhaps the most surprising fact that I learned was that the main reason your shit is smelly is because it backs up in your colon and rots. Did you know that you are supposed to have a bowel movement three to five times per day? Holy shit! I wouldn't call that normal. I'd call it diarrhea!

In order to curb my growing nausea, I stopped researching the subject, but not before I learned that there are actual support groups for people with smelly farts and shit.

I shit you not.

Next time I'm near an Office Max, I'm going to have some sticky notes made up with the names of these various support groups printed on them. So the next time I encounter a situation like I walked into this week I can slap a note on the mirror so that when the afflicted party comes out of his stall, he'll be able to see it as he washes his hands (hopefully) and seeks the help he so desperately needs.

That's me ... helping to improve society one step at a time.

November 06, 2009

Other People's Food

Other people's food
Any nutritious substance not made for sale and not prepared by relatives or close friends.
Other people's food usually tastes like ass.
Completely made up like just a few minutes ago.

Other people's food can originate from several different sources. Probably the most popular, would be a pot luck supper held by your church or social club. You could also find it at dinner parties held by people that you barely know who are trying to be upwardly mobile, but don't know exactly where to start the process. Or, you could have it delivered to you by a sympathetic neighbor in a glass or plastic receptacle covered with plastic wrap or aluminum foil immediately following the death of any close family member.

As a rule, I generally dislike other peoples food. And this includes the first meal that Jan cooked for me, which I believe was beef stroganoff. I smiled as I ooohed and aaahed, but just under the surface .. well it tasted funny. Of course, as I got use to it, it became the gold standard and then my mother's cooking tasted funny.

Food delivered to you after a funeral is not as funny tasting, but I think it's more of "not wanting to cook, so anything is better than that" kind of deal. Or maybe you have drank too much after the funeral, so that you don't really care what it tastes like, such as the case when my sister died, and I was drinking a whole lot so I could forget the image of my other sister propping her up in her casket so she could brush her hair because she didn't like the way the mortician did it.

But that's another story.

The first time I ate other people's food was in college. My girlfriend decided she was going to play grown-ups and have a dinner party for me, her room mate, and a crazed Vietnam veteran.

The evening was stressful, partly because the Vet showed up in a camouflage jacket with matching spit-shined combat boots and immediately started telling stories about how many VC he had iced and his hobby of collecting ears. So when my girlfriend brought dinner to the table, which I think was chicken, I was too busy hoping to God that this guy wouldn't find out that I had a low draft number, but a college deferment to save me from jungle life.

I ate without even tasting the food, and afterwards, I made some lame excuse about having to feed my dog or something and beat feet before this guy could collect my ears.

The next morning, I woke up with a horrible burning sensation in my chest. And it scared me, so I called my Mom and told her the symptoms and asked her what the hell was wrong with me. She just laughed and said "Well Robert, looks like you have your first case of serious heart burn." So, I ran to the encyclopedia, to see if I could find anything to combat it, but of course that didn't tell me shit except that Hartford is a city in Connecticut. And seeing as the internet wouldn't be discovered for another 20 years, I just went to the drug store and bought everything I could find that said "heart burn" on it.

After swallowing half a bottle of Pepto Bismo, a couple of Tums, and washing it all down with a big frosty glass of Alka Seltzer water, I promptly threw up ... and felt better.

Since that time, I think I've had heart burn only once, during Jan's creative cooking phase, when she made chocolate covered chicken thighs, or something similar to that.

I threw all of her cook books away the next day.

November 01, 2009


Life is full of mysteries. Does the Bermuda Triangle possess supernatural forces? Is Sasquatch real? How were the Great Pyramids of Egypt built?

Sometimes mysteries are smaller in scale, and maybe the reason for the mystery is because the person who set it in motion was too dumb to figure it out. That may be the case here, but I'll be damned if I can explain it.

You may recall a post that I wrote several weeks ago, eulogizing Sucky, my plucky 22 year old canister vacuum cleaner, who died of old age. At the time, I was going to give Sucky a proper burial, but something kept me from discarding him.

Today, I was cleaning out some items from the basement. Sucky was in the way, and I figured that my mourning period had went on long enough, and it was time to commit it to the county dump.

But before I took it upstairs, I thought "What if?" So I plugged it in and turned it on. And Sucky came to life ...

"It's alive I tell you ... ALIVE!!"

I turned it off and on about 20 times, and it started every time. No sparks, no flashes, no whines. Nothing but engine.

It was a goddamned miracle. But probably not. If I were an electrical engineer, I'm sure I would think of a rational explanation, like resets, or gremlins, or other such shit. But I'm not, so I'll just go with miracle.

I'm used to my new canister now, so I'm not going to put Sucky back into regular service. Like a racehorse, I'll put him out to stud and use him to pick up fireplace ashes or something. However "stud" is probably not the right word. I don't think picking up fireplace ashes equals sex, but then it's a machine, so who knows?

In any event, welcome back from the dead old friend.

Growing Molder

This morning, I was wandering around the kitchen, making coffee and putting away the pots and pans that had been sitting in the drainer overnight. When I went to put the coffee can back in the pantry, it struck me how messy it had become. Normally, I'd just close the door and forget about it, but I was feeling my extra OCD oats this morning, so I started pulling everything off the shelves and the floor so I could rearrange items and throw some stuff away.

This is better done when Jan is not around. Because if she sees me doing this, she will rush over and start contesting every item I intend to toss in the trash. This inevitably leads to a heated battle of the wills and is of no positive benefit to anyone involved. And since she was still asleep upstairs, this was the perfect time to do it.

When everything was out, I was faced with a pile of assorted crap on the pantry floor that had fallen there over the past several months. Crumbs, toothpicks, cat food, pills, crackers ... and candy! I'm always tempted to save the candy because the individual pieces are wrapped, but my better judgement kicks in and I sweep them up with the rest of the mess and throw them away.

So after I vacuumed the floor and the shelves, and swept down whatever cob webs were present, I was left with a pile of food and whatnot on the counter. You're familiar with "whatnot" ... half-burnt candles, emergency radio, empty cans and half used packages of napkins, straws and plastic utensils.

I threw away most of this stuff, because it all goes on the top shelf and Jan's only 5' 2" and can't see up that high. So I'm pretty sure she won't notice stuff is gone and climb all over my ass.

The food is a pretty easy call on what to save and what to throw away. You just look at the expiration dates, or in this politically correct age, it's now printed on the package "Best by: whatever". Spices are another matter. The snoots on the Food Network tell you that any spice over 1 year old is no good, but that shit is expensive, so I save it and just use extra in recipes to make up for the lack of potency.

Anyway, I'm looking at the expiration dates and throwing stuff away, and I started wondering if this stuff is really bad, or it's just a ploy to get me to buy more of the same stuff. I hadn't had breakfast yet, so I decided to try an experiment. I'd open up some boxes and cans and see if this crap was really "off". So, I started opening expired packages of jello, Ricearoni, and potatoes Au gratin to see what they tasted like.

The Ricearoni was kind of crunchy and hurt my teeth, so I gave up on that after a partial hand full, but the potatoes weren't bad, particularly if you sprinkled them with the Au gratin powder mixed with the Ricearoni flavor packets. Sort of like potato chips. The jello was too tart on my tongue, kind of like those Pixie sticks you bought when you were a kid, but the banana flavor was best.

Next I opened some cans. The pork 'n beans still tasted okay, just cold. As were the peas and creamed corn. The tomato paste was still tomatoey, but strong, and I passed on the beets.

I tried the tin of smoked oysters, but I sprinkled in a few instant potato flakes to sop up the oil and added some wasabi to taste. Kind of gross looking, but it tasted okay.

By this time, I was getting kind of full, so I just pitched everything into the trash can and hauled it out to the main trash receptacle, so Jan wouldn't be wise to me when she came downstairs. I was successful and she didn't notice a thing.

It's been about five hours now since "breakfast", and I'm waiting for the first stomach cramp to hit.