Is This Where All The Dick’s Hang Out?

I apuddlem going to give a little insight on the experience of being a male in a public bathroom. Some of which most men would blatantly deny thinking about but we do. I travel quite a bit and have visited many a restroom, washroom, bathroom, Loo, toilet, whatever it is you want to call it, in many of countries. The best was in a public bathroom in a coffee shop in Denmark that said “take a step closer, it’s not as big as you think it is”. This gets me thinking about that puddle that is in front of every urinal in every bathroom ever. You see, we men walk up to the urinal, see that puddle and straddle our feet apart as to not touch any of the piss on the floor that the last 20 guys have sprayed. It’s like some sort of ritual where you need at least a drop to add to the mess. It’s not even deliberate – it’s kind of like a subconscious phenomenon. But we men are just like the dogs you let out to pee in the yard. One dog pees and the next goes up and pees on his pee to show dominance. I just hear the voice of Stewie from Family Guy every time I watch my dogs do it – “Oh, Ill show him. I’m gonna, I’m gonna pee on his pee.”

The actual reason that this puddle is there is quite simple. When you stand up and piss into an upright toilet that is no more than a foot deep, some splash back naturally occurs. That splash back goes either back on you and your pants or on the floor. I can wear the same pair of jeans for days at home but if I’m travelling than those pants are off and in the laundry pile as soon as I get home. It’s unavoidable. I’ve tried pissing against the side, pissing directly into one of the holes, pissing up and letting it run down, all to no avail. I always see or feel the splash back. And forget it if you’re wearing khaki’s. You might as well just go piss right against the wall. There’s no hiding that piss storm on your pants if they are light colored. Then if you don’t shake enough you get the drip inside the pants and that is even worse. You grab your crotch and try to blot it up from the inside before it runs down your leg. If you shake too much though then dude’s are gonna start looking at you funny.

wet-pantsThen there’s the sink. You are careful, use the regular toilet and avoid any wet spots (except that one on your shoe but no one will noticed that one), you walk up to the sink to wash your hands and sure enough the water pressure is turned up high enough to kill a cow and there it is – water all over the front of your pants like you pissed a gallon before your zipper came down. Or better yet – you go, then wash and make it out unmarked and then you lean for a closer look at your handsome self in the mirror and lean against the counter and sure enough the countertop is soaked and now you have a wet line across the front of your pants from leg to leg like you used your penis as a machine gun trying to hit a swinging pendulum.

The next step is when you take a bunch of those cheap white towels and start rubbing your pants to absorb the water so you don’t go back in public looking like an incontinent toddler. Then of course the cheap ass towels break down and leave a bunch of little white remnants all over you and when you brush them off you have a nice white hue to the groin  of your pants. Then there’s infamous pants blower where you try to position yourself perfectly under the hand dryer so it’s pointed at your wet spot and you try to make it look like your drying your hands but you’re really trying to deflect more of the wind down. Eventually after a few minutes you are satisfied with the level of dryness your pants have achieved and you are ready to rejoin the world again as a  normal citizen that has no problems pissing.

Let’s not leave out the dreaded piss trough. This is where you go to a mens room and it’s originaljust one big long bucket that all the dudes stand at side by side, whip out their junk and piss. Most commonly found at public places like ball parks or old drive in theaters. This is where you go up, pull it out like it doesn’t bother you one bit and do not look away from that little spot right in front of your face. At this point you start thinking damn, I thought I had to piss but I guess I didn’t have to go that bad. But now you’re committed. It’s out and you can’t just shake it and walk away if you didn’t piss. Surely the guy next to you will notice and start laughing while shouting to the whole mens room on how much of a pussy you are so you stand there and start pushing. Push until it looks like your about to break a blood vessel in your neck and finally! A stream, more like a slow IV drip,  that lasts about 10 seconds while you’re pushing it out with all of your might. It stops when you feel like you’re about to pass out and your stomach muscles hurt from pushing so hard so you pack up, walk away wash up and move on. As soon as you get back to wherever you were going – you guessed it. Damn I gotta piss!

pisserBut if you have had a few beers then all of the above is irrelevant. You’ll weave into the men’s room, stand shoulder to shoulder and piss like you mean it, and right away too all while talking about the game looking right at the guy next to you. That piss will last for 5 minutes and you’ll piss right in the center of the urinal or toilet trying to make the loudest sound possible as if your loud power pissing is establishing dominance, especially if your piss lasts longer than the guy next to you (ha! Chump). Rub the piss splash on your pants in with your hands, go look in the mirror, stroke your hair back and go rejoin the party slapping high fives and shaking hands with all of the other drunk pissers – hey where’s that pizza?

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Pinewood Derby’s and The Prize Cake Goes to the Dogs

IMGThe real and only reason that I stuck with Cub Scouts was for that one single event every year. The Pinewood Derby! This was an event where you would buy a kit that included a wood block, a small lead weight, 4 wheels and small axel rods. You had to carve the car into a shape you wanted, put the weight somewhere in the body cavity, paint it and then put the wheels on it. On Derby night all of the “packs” would get together in a central location and each would race their car Vs. another Scout one by one until they had champions. Because as a kid I was into real racing and always raced my matchbox cars at home, this event was custom made for me. The Scout Masters took the Derby very seriously, every car had to be weighed and measured to ensure that no one was taking an unfair advantage. And believe me there were a ton of cars eliminated before the festivities even started – some kids (i.e. their Dad’s) would use their own wood that was an 1/32 of an inch longer than permitted or some would use an extra tenth of an oz. of lead in their weight – but they caught it all. Some kids would have a fancy cut out shape way different than the standard and now they even sell kits that way. My cars I always cut (despite my knife incident, I was better with a saw) and always the standard shape that was in the instructions. Then I would paint it – most of the time black and orange with the number 01 like the General Lee (yeehaw!!).

IMG_0001The first couple of years I sucked – standard blah car, one or two wins but then I would get eliminated. I was always intimidated by the older kids and their badass looking cars. Cool cuts, cool paint, some would even paint the wheels or carve out windows. Mine was just a block with a bad paint job usually done with my Mom’s nail polish and wall paint. Then I had my year. It was in my face – I had the attitude, the eye of the tiger. I split the IMG_0002lead weight in half and put some in the front of the car and some at the rear on the bottom of the car. I guess that made the difference because I came in 3rd overall (out of like 100 or so Scouts) and I was pumped. My prize was a cake that someone’s mom made with blue and yellow frosting in Cub Scout colors and a small trophy. I went home and ate the biggest piece of that cake that I could stuff in my face.

That night my Mom and Bruce played some cards with the neighbors and they always played in either their kitchen or ours and they always left the back doors open. The kitchens were about 20 feet apart through the hallway. We both had dogs, our was a beagle named Bandit and the neighbors had a big brown dog and I forget it’s name. Scruffy or something like that. I think that night was the neighbors turn to host the game. When I cakewoke up on the morning and went to check on my cake it was almost all gone, eaten by a dog. I cried like hell because 1 – I love cake and 2 – that was my prize after years of hard racing and putting up with Cub Scouts that I really didn’t care about other than that Pinewood Derby. Bruce took Bandit out back and I don’t know what happened but about a week later he told the neighbor what had happened and he said “no wonder Scruffy’s been shitting green for a week!”. Poor Bandit.

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Become a Cub Scout, Nearly Cut Your Finger Off and Throw a Spin Ball Like the Bowling Pricks Do.

IMG_0003When I was around 8 – 11 I was in Boy Scouts. I don’t remember quite how I became a member or what made me want to join but I do know that it was not one of my favorite things in life. There are 4 levels of Scouts for those who don’t know (at least that’s how it was then). Cub, Webelos, Boy and then Eagle Scouts. I started in Cub Scouts and we met at one of the other Cub’s house (Mike). Mike’s Mom was the “Den Mother”. I’d like to say that we all sat around and learned how to become men but the truth is we just got together and ran around his basement like sugar infused fools. Once in a while we would review the manual and talk about things we could do to get patches for our uniforms. One of these things was to try and make a bow and arrow out of a stick that we had to cut ourselves. Anyone see where this is going??

So Bruce (my step-father) gives me a small knife and tells me to go into the woods and cut a small tree. Sensing that I had no idea what to do or how to handle a knife at 8 years old he followed me to the back of our apartments to where the woods were. I found a skinny little tree and decided it was to be my bow. I bent the tree over to expose a nice smooth area that I could easily cut into. I held it with my left hand and had the knife in my right. Bruce told me toiPhone Screenshot 1 make sure I cut down and not up. So picture me bending this thin little trunk in half so that my left hand is now lower that the cut spot that I planned to chop with my little pocket knife, I remember “cut down not up” and proceed to put the knife on the tree. Of course it does not cut into it like a laser through the wood which was my expectation so I put all of my strength into it. Of course I had to do it by the book and instead of picking up a stick on the ground, I try to cut through a live tree. I’m 39 now and couldn’t cut through a live tree with a pocket knife! Even if it was only an inch thick. So the inevitable happens – the knife slides right off of the trunk and right onto my left index finger. It cut me pretty wide and deep and it was bleeding like crazy. It was squirting all over the tree, my clothes, everywhere like a B movie horror scene. I dropped the knife and Bruce yells “Jesus Christ I told you not to do that”! Well no, technically you told me not to cut upwards – I did what you said and look at me now! Of course that part was all in my head and didn’t come out of my mouth. All that really came out were my wails of pain. To this day I still have that scar to show me how great of a Cub Scout I really was.

When I became a Webelo Scout (age 10/11), we went to spend one night at the campground for their jamboree. The older kids got to spend like the whole weekend there and it was definitely a big deal to them. You see the Scouts were like an eclectic group if you were still in and made it through Cub and Webelo ranks and were a full Boy or Eagle Scout. Most didn’t stay in that long but the ones that did were kind of catty for lack of a better term. They all  acted like they knew everything and were on their high horse. Kind of like the way Jr. bowling is, if you were ever in a bowling league as a kid you know what I mean. All those snotty ass kids with their fancy arm brace and spin ball ranking on us who throw the ball straight (normal). Judgmental pricks. Anyway  at the Jamboree it was raining, cold and windy and downright miserable. I figured I wasn’t about that life and promptly dropped out of Scouts shortly after that event considering the only reason I ever joined the Scouts in the first place was The Pinewood Derby!

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My Love for the DMV Continues With Enough Identification to Become A Citizen of Uranus

So now to the current experience at DMV that I have been so reluctant to write about. I brought Morgan in to test for her permit on a Saturday morning (big mistake) after a late night of playing Zombies online which is a variation of a Call of Duty video game for those who don’t know. It is highly addictive and makes the clock magically go from 10:00 PM to 3:00 AM in several minutes. So we are up at 8:00 AM and my eyes are puffy and I’m not in the most patient mood in the world. But we get in the car and off we go!

We get to DMV and pull in the parking lot. I see the line out the back door and think hmmm, I wonder what’s going on downstairs? There’s no way that line goes all the way down the hall and up two flight of stairs, down another hall and into the main DMV room. I would be very, very wrong. That certainly was the line and I contemplated leaving but going during the week was not going to be easy either with all of the other stuff we do all week. I ask the guy if this is the line and it’s a short chubby black dude who thinks he’s a comedian. He starts to mock me and say’s yeah that’s the line – this guy thinks he’s gonna cut all these good people. I gave him a shitty half laugh and smirk, which I quickly wiped off so he knew I was being sarcastic and asked how long this line would take. He said 2 to 3 hours. So we stayed and waited. The line actually went pretty quick and we got upstairs into the main hall and finally received a number.

Connecticut DMV officeThen time came to a complete stop! We waited for what seemed like hours, oh wait it was hours! At least 3 and a half but we stuck it out and then when that number goes off and you see it on the screen – it’s like you just won a super sized hot fudge sundae after a week of binging and you have 10 seconds to get there and claim your prize. We sprung up and bolted for that window like The Flash on speed laced cocaine. Now I had went through everything at home to make sure we had everything on the list. I had her passport, my passport, license, Her social security card, credit cards, her report card from school that was mailed to us and had our address on it, her birth certificate and a check. A tad bit overkill but I presented it all to the clerk. She look at us surprised and says you are her Dad?!? I said yeeeaahh why? She says I don’t look old enough and that she was confused. She though I was there to test. WTF?? Now I may look young but that’s just ridiculous. That was the flattery before the shitstorm.

So I hand her enough ID that a 5 year old could’ve stolen both of our identities and she tells me that I don’t have anything with my address on it that was mailed to us and asks for a piece of mail like a phone bill that proves where we live. What?!? I just handed you licenses, passports and a report card all with our address on it but she says that’s not good enough and asks if I have an insurance card in my car. OK fine, so I walk all the way out to the car which is down two levels and in the back parking lot and look for a card. Sure enough I find one but I’m not good about updating them so it’s from last year. I also grab a bank deposit slip and my vehicle registration FROM DMV. That’s going to have to do. I bring it back and she says the insurance card is not current, you could’ve moved by then. The bank deposit slip was not mailed to me, it was an over the counter receipt and they can’t accept the registration. Now I’m starting to boil again. You mean to tell me that a bank slip from last week with my address on it isn’t good? And you won’t take a document that was mailed to me from this DMV??? I then hand her my gun permit which I just got the month before and needed far less documentation to get. She says, nope can’t take that either. You mean to tell me that I can get a gun license from a state office with my passport and my license but that’s not good enough for my daughter to take a learner’s permit test?

I go back out to the car and rip it apart looking for something and all I find is some junk mail that’s unopened and go back up again. I’ll be damned if we waited for almost four hours and she doesn’t take this permit test. On the way in one of the DMV security guys stops me and says they are now closed and I can’t go upstairs (FLASHBACK to my last story). I tell him my daughter is upstairs in the main hall waiting for me to get some info and he gets an attitude and says well if the door is locked then you’re not getting in. I said yeah the fuck I won’t! He says “what?” I told him to shut up and kept walking, I think I called him a dick too. When I walked into the main hall I grab one of the information sheets with the acceptable ID’s listed and sure enough the bank slip is on there. I walk back in and my daughter is now off to the side and the lady told her she had to move on and we should come back. I say to hell with that and I walk back up to her window right next to the people she is now helping. They move and I whip the sheet down and point right to the bank slip and say it doesn’t say anything about this having to be mailed. She is still shaking her head and I tell her to go check with her boss or someone. She does and sure enough the other woman says yes this is fine. Finally, after giving her enough information to get a home loan and fly to China she accepts the paperwork and allows my daughter to take the test. Now we have to wait in another line for the paperwork to be processed and for her to go in to take the actual test. Once that’s done we have to go back out and wait for her to be called up to the photo booth. Then we have to wait again for the card to be printed. I swear to God this has to be the most inefficient operation I have ever witnessed in my life. One day I will have a smooth transaction at the DMV but I am guessing that will be the day I’m too old to drive and they take my license away.

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My Love for the DMV, Puking Toddlers and Wood Doors

I feel the need to tell everyone of my love of the DMV. My daughter Morgan is now 16 and needed me to bring her to the DMV this past weekend to get her learner’s permit. Waking up early on a Saturday morning to go to the DMV after going to bed at 2:30 AM after playing Zombies all night had the sound of a promising day that I couldn’t wait to jump into!

First I need to rewind 14 years and explain to you Morgan’s first ever  experience with the DMV. Back in 1998 I bought a 1985 Monte Carlo SS which is one of my all time favorite cars for $2500 from a guy who went to tech school and “rebuilt” the engine. I thought I had a good deal on my hands but when I was looking at the car I bumped my head on the corner of the open trunk and had a small cut on my forehead. I should have taken the hint and run away right then.

So I needed to get plates for my car. My wife was out with our older daughter and I had Morgan who was still a toddler with me for the day. I got pumped up and decided today would be the day I go to DMV. I packed Morgan up in the back seat of the van and off we went. She had a habit of coughing until she gagged and she would continue this until she puked. Well about half way to DMV she started coughing and coughing and sure enough puked all over the back of my seat and the floor of the van. So I turned around and drove back home (angrily I might add) and took her out, cleaned everything up and went back for more. This time we drove to DMV without issue.

We get there and get my number, which is of course like 100 away. Waiting, waiting and more waiting – just what everyone knows and loves about our favorite state agency. So 4 hours later and it’s now getting close to closing time and I have about 20 numbers to go. Morgan’s sippy cup is empty and I figure now is the time to go get a refill so I don’t miss my number. I walk out and there is an inspection lane officer standing between the double doors and says “have a nice day”. I say I will but we’ll be right back. I go to the van, refill her cup and go to walk back in. There is a couple standing outside leaning against the wall smoking a cigarette near the door. I go to open the door and it’s locked. I knock and the inspection guy comes over, cracks it open and says “we’re closed”. I said well I have a number and I just came out to get my daughter juice. “Sorry I can’t let you back in” and he shuts the door and locks it! I stand back, daughter in my arms in shock.

The couple looks at me and the guy says “that’s fucked up”. So I wait for a minute for someone to come out, as they do I step in the door and the guy shoulder bumps me (with my daughter in my arms) and won’t let me through. Now my adrenaline is pumping. I start raising my voice telling him that I have been there for 4 hours, my number is almost up and I am getting back in that building to get my plates. He tells me it’s not happening. I start swearing and yelling very loudly, making a scene and now everyone still in the DMV sees me and starts staring. I tell him to go get who is in charge so instead of him getting the person in charge of the DMV, he goes and gets the chief inspection lane officer (his boss) who comes out and I explain the situation to him. He takes his employee’s side and tells me to go on my way, that I shouldn’t have gone out the door to get my daughter juice. Are you kidding me?!? At this point I totally lose my shit and start berating them with a barrage of swears and names (yes with my daughter still in my arms) that makes them all look at me with blank stares and open mouths. I wave my middle finger back and forth and say “wave to the assholes goodbye Morgan”.

As I got in my van I contemplated driving through the doors of the DMV but as angry as I was I still was rational enough to realize that I didn’t want to go to jail. I drove home enraged and held it together until I got there. I see my wife and she says “what’s wrong”? You know how when you are really upset and everything’s OK until someone asks you that? Yeah well I just lost it. I was so angry I couldn’t speak straight, tears streaming down my face, screaming, swearing, shaking. Yeah it was like that. I went upstairs and put my fist through a solid wood door several times until my hand was absolutely throbbing. Had the guy not bumped me with my daughter I might have been OK but that was just not cool. My wife called the Governor’s office and complained and a rep actually called her back quickly and said that there was no reason that should’ve happened, that it was insensitive for them to not allow me to go get my daughter a drink and come back in. You think?? So they send me back and tell me to find the woman who is in charge, tell her who I am and no waiting, they will give me my plates. Gee thanks!  She even dug into the pile of plates to find me an easy number – 111 MXP. I’ll never forget it as long as I live.

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R.I.P. Little Dude

My last post was about my new suit and two Billy’s that featured a section on my nephew Bill. Two days after that post he lost his 16 year old son Joel to a car accident on a slippery road in northern Illinois about an hour north of where I was born. His name was Joel and he was a great kid that I didn’t get the pleasure of knowing as much as I would’ve liked. We live on the East coast now and with a family of 5 travel does not come cheap so we don’t do it as much as we would like. We did travel out to Seattle in the summer of 2008 to attend my Niece’s sweet 16 birthday party. We already had a planned trip to Vancouver that year and just took a few extra days off and visited in Seattle. It would be our one and only time meeting and spending time with Joel.

 

My personal experience with him was when he and I played some basketball in my brother’s backyard. It was just he and I playing although everyone was around doing something. We chatted a bit and I noticed that he was super friendly and liked to smile a lot. I liked him instantly and I could tell that he liked me too. While playing I landed on his foot and he twisted his ankle a little which I felt terrible about. He was like 12 and I was 35 playing rough basketball. What kind of a bully prick does that just to win? Seriously though we played for a few more minutes but he was sore and I could tell so we stopped and just dribbled the ball on the court while I asked him about his life. If he had a girlfriend, what he wanted to be when he grew up – you know the stuff you ask all of your young relatives when you see them.

 

A while later after we were home and when Joel joined Facebook we all became friends with him. I didn’t interact with him too much other than liking some statuses that he posted such as Chicago Bears stuff or maybe some of his posts about work or school. But it was great to watch him grow over those four years and from 12 to 16 is a big growth spurt for any child. He was always posting something silly or funny and I knew that he was a jokester from just the few days that we spent with him. It was very clear from his posts that this was his everyday personality and many enjoyed it.

 

In the days since his passing I read a lot of his friends comments and posts on his wall and some were posting their condolences and getting out those last words that a Facebook wall allows you to do and some were truly devastated. A close friend of his wrote something about how he would ask her why no girls liked him which is something that I’m sure he would’ve kicked her butt for posting but she said that when he found his girlfriend Ashley (who also died in the crash) that she knew they had something special. In fact a lot of people had said that same thing on his wall. They hadn’t been together for a long time but when you’re that young, even a few months can seem like forever. I can relate. When I was young I was kind of “out” with the ladies and while I did have some girlfriends my friends ALWAYS had girlfriends. I would ask the same question he did – why don’t girls like me? When I was 16 I met my wife Lisa and we did some crazy things those first few months. Sneaking out or in to see each other, driving around aimlessly – it was clear that we were in love. I’m glad Joel found that and while his last year of childhood here came much too soon, he will have eternity to smile and love. Rest well little dude.

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2 Billy’s and a New Suit

I saw my old friend Billy at the store the other day. We talked for a few minutes, about some old memories and how we need to get together soon. We’ve been talking about how he, Mayland and I needing to get together for a few years now. He also asked me if I was still writing this blog. I IMG_0012started writing this with the intent of posting every day. That worked for the first month. Then my blog got shut down for a few days and that’s all it took to get me out of the swing of writing every day. Slowly but surely my posting had gotten less and less. Something my friend Kevin loves to remind me of. He said at this rate we’ll be lucky to hit my 20’s by the time the year is up. He may be right but my run in with Billy inspired me to get back to it and write (I’ve got to lay off those video games!). Anyway I digress… seeing Billy reminded me of my old suit. My Mom bought me the suit when I was younger so that I could be dressed appropriately for my sister’s wedding in Iowa.

IMGIt was a tan three piece suit with a blue tie and it was my first one. I liked dressing up, it made me feel important and sophisticated – like a little businessman. After that wedding I still wore that suit. I wore it until it was too small for me to wear anymore. For two years straight on picture day I would put on my suit and walk up Burnside ave to school. I think one year I even brought a briefcase with me. I needed that for authenticity. A briefcase in one hand and my Dukes of Hazzard lunchbox in the other. Hell Yes. All my friends would tease me about it 3001_1082125067703_1059092_nbut I didn’t care. They were jealous that they didn’t have a suit and they didn’t look as good as me. One year Billy even wanted to try it on. After school one day we went to his house and I let him try it on while I sat there and tried to mock him and laugh back at him but I was the one standing awkwardly with a pillow covering my underoos.

IMG_0010My nephew was also named Billy. He and I stood together for my sister’s (his Mom) wedding. He was also wearing his first suit with his little cowboy boots. When I think of Billy and I at a young age I remember our (half) cross country trip. I was at my Dad’s one summer in Illinois and my Grandma Cape picked me up in her RV to drive me home and Billy was with us to come and visit. So it was just us three in her class B RV driving from Chicago to Connecticut. Now you need to understand that my Grandma Cape was a southern woman that was cranky as hell and didn’t exactly have a lot of patience to begin with and now she was dealing with two very impatient little boys.

We asked for everything at every stop we made. She said no every time except one. She bought me a bag of chocolate licorice that I had asked for. I liked Chocolate and I liked licorice so I figured it would be good! I ate one and it was nasty. My Grandma being the woman she was said well you asked for it and you’re gonna eat it! Against my will I finished the bag and didn’t ask for anything else for the rest of the trip. Then there was the rest stop where she completely left Billy and me in the store and took off. Not like she went outside and left us – she friggin drove off! Got back on the highway and left! Maybe it was because we were asking for everything but she claims she just forgot. Just forgot?!? How do you forget two little kids at a rest stop? I don’t know how long it took her to realize it but she came back for us. Now that I think about it – that chocolate licorice was probably her bribe to try and make up for it!

Billy stayed with us for a week or two I think and I wasn’t quite used to another little kid in the house. About mid way through his visit I got a bit jealous and put a sign up on my door that said “I hate myself!!” to try and get attention. It didn’t work. I think everyone ignored me even more. Good lesson – when you act like an little prick you get treated like one!

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Music Education with Professor Who Led Sabbath

Classic-Rock-Collage-classic-rock-5741268-1024-768You’ll notice that music has a pretty prominent role in my life as almost every post I write has something about music in it. As a musician and a lover of all good music it has always been a very large part of my life (as with anyone’s really). The songs that remind you of times in your life, feelings you had, the smells, the people that you don’t see too much anymore or at all. Dare I use the cliché “the soundtrack of our lives”? C’mon I was a child of the 80’s where cheesy and sleazy ruled the day! Learning how to appreciate music over the years was just like learning anything else in life. It starts with an epiphany and leads to you wondering how you never knew what was good before that.

I got my education in classic rock from my stepbrother Greg. I told you the story about how when I was 7 and visited my Dad who’s roommates loved Led Zeppelin. I just couldn’t get into it. It sounded old to me and as a very young mind who liked Kiss and the Wizard of Oz soundtrack, Zep just didn’t fit. As I aged over the next few years and pop metal grew (Motley Crue, Quiet Riot, Van Halen) it became all that I was interested in listening to. Greg was working second shift at a job when he was staying with us for an extended period of time and he used to sleep on the couch in the living room. We only had a four-room apartment and my room was right next to the living room.

When he would get home around midnight or 1 AM he would play his records on the stereo. He only had a few. Black Sabbath – Paranoid, The Who – Who’s Next and Led Zeppelin IV are the ones I really remember. He also had Jimi Hendrix, The Doors and some others I would usually wake up and go out into the living room and hang out with him for an hour or two. I told him of my dislike for Zep and he was on a mission to educate me on classic rock and what was “real” music. He saw all of these bands live and would tell me stories about the shows like the time he went to see The Who and bought two tickets at the window but they gave him three on accident so he went to the back of the line and gave it away. There were many stories about these shows that I would just sit there and soak up like a kid at a campfire.

He would put on Iron Man and have me listen real close on the intro to hear the “I am Iron Man” voice intro. On the original record it wasn’t that prominent and you had to listen for it to hear it. Led Zeppelin IV was not the Zep I had previously heard. I remember hearing the little strum before Black Dog started and then hearing this slow, gritty song about sex and the imagery it left on my young brain. Or The Battle of Evermore and him telling me all about the female folk singer who sings on that song with Robert Plant. Then there was The Who which was his clear favorite. Out of the three I probably had them in third but it was still great. I faded away many a night listening to We Won’t Get Fooled Again or Baba O’Reilly long before CSI ruined it for us all. Greg took the time to explain the meanings of all of these songs to me; how he got into them and the crazy shit he used to do. He enjoyed educating me too. He was happy telling me these stories and that I was interested in it. This whole thing probably only happened over the course of a few months but it forever changed my views on music and would certainly alter my course in the music I learned, lived and was inspired by.guitar

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Parachute Pants and the Carolina Kremed Headhunter

In 1984 my Dad and I went down to North Carolina to visit with my Grandmother, Aunt 145311525446458094_SNysNTjI_band Uncle and cousin. These were the same family that we visited in Olympia Washington a few years earlier that I referred to in my Christmas post –http://altonetheridge.wordpress.com/2012/12/25/12-25-my-christmas-presents-are-hidden-in-the-ez-bake-oven-in-the-snow/ – They had relocated across the country to Winston-Salem NC. I couldn’t help but remember my little cousin as a terror that hit and kicked me as a little kid and I couldn’t do anything about it. I still held the grudge against him for that. I mean come on, Just look at that face in that previously mentioned post with Santa. I knew that most of the week I was going to be with him now that we were a little older.

I was into the heavy music of the day by then but really only owned a few albums. I  Krokus_HeadhunterCDbrought two with me – Kiss Animalize, which was brand new, and Krokus Headhunter which one of my Dad’s roommates had given me before we came to NC. Graham and I spent a lot of time that week in his front room that had the record player and we listened to those two records over and over while playing with Legos. I was starting to warm up to him a little bit but he still had his moments where he pissed me off, deliberately. We both got parachute pants as a gift from our Grandmother. Of course it was 1984 and every kid had parachute pants. This was both of our first pair. I wore them the first day but I think that was it. Graham didn’t take his off for the entire week. It started irritating me and I don’t know exactly why but I asked him repeatedly when he was going to take them off because people don’t wear the same pair of pants every day for a week!!

1307563925_donutBy the end of the week I discovered several things from my first NC trip – Krispy Kreme donuts were the pillowy, sugary food of the Gods and I could seriously live on these if I needed to, I now know how cigarettes are made after my Winston factory tour (a big attraction there in Winston-Salem!), North Carolina was very warm and green, I actually like frozen yogurt, this side of my family loves to go to the mall, and my little cousin wasn’t so bad after all but he was still a pain in the ass!

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Even Drunk Deaf Guys Like Kiss!

My step brother Greg took me to my first concert at the age of 10. Of course it was Kiss on the Lick it Up tour. It was Kiss’ first tour without makeup so it was kind of a big deal. The concert was at the New Haven Coliseum which was about 40 minutes from where we lived. We had round trip tickets on a Greyhound bus and my Mom dropped us off at the bus station in Hartford. I’m sure it took weeks of convincing for her IMGto let me go and I don’t remember how we got her to say yes but she did. The plan was we were going to go to the show, take the Greyhound bus back, which left very soon after the concert would end and she would pick us up around midnight at the Hartford bus station where we got dropped off. Yes – that was the plan…

 

So we get to New Haven and it’s what you would expect at a rock concert in 1983. It was right out of the movie Rock Star – bad hair and jean jackets were everywhere! New Haven had a huge garage next to the coliseum where everyone hung out and partied. If I was 10 then Greg would have been 20. He found a couple of guys in the parking lot and they had booze so he started partying with them. Sounds normal right? Well these guys were deaf. Yep – two deaf guys partying before Kiss in the parking garage. Even at 10 I was thinking, IMG_0001what the hell are two deaf guys doing at a concert in the first place? Secondly they were kind of bizarre looking and could have been mistaken for homeless guys. Leave it up to Greg to find two homeless deaf guys so he could have someone to party with! I was kind of scared of them, I couldn’t understand them when they tried to talk not only because they were deaf but they were also pretty wasted. They just kept smiling and laughing at me.

 

We left the deaf guys and went in to the show and of course we had nosebleed seats way in the top and back of the coliseum. I didn’t care though – I was there to see the hottest band in the world. I had my Mom’s 110 camera and I was ready! The opening band was an unknown at the IMG_0002time band named Queensryche. They were good and the singer had a voice like I had never heard at the time. This guy could wail! About halfway through their set Greg left to go get a beer. He was already pretty shitfaced and I didn’t see him again until the end of the concert.

 

Kiss came on and I was jumping up and down and taking pictures with this little camera and singing along. The only thing that came out in those pictures was the Kiss lights in the back. The concert was great and I got into a debate with a woman three times my age back in nosebleed on how Kiss was the best ever but she was there to see this band Queensryche who I had never heard of. What? How could a band that is brand new to the scene be better than Kiss? And who are you and why are you at a Kiss show to see someone else?? When the concert was over, Greg still wasn’t back and I didn’t know what to do! I was 10 and alone in the nosebleeds of the coliseum far from home. People started filtering out and leaving and I started to panic a little inside. It hadn’t worked it’s way out into a full blown fit yet but it was coming. The place was almost empty when I started looking around and right at the end of the aisle I was in about 10 seats down was Greg – passed out in the chair. So I get him up and we go outside and quickly realize that we missed the bus. Time to find a payphone – Mom – can you come get us… in New Haven? Greg didn’t take me anywhere for a while after that.

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The Buddha that helped me realize that the window HAD to pay!

I was about 9 I think when my Mom and step Father planned a night out. Every once in a while they used to go out to eat to places like Red Lobster or Benihana. My mom use to benihana-hotei-transalways come home with a little ceramic Buddha from Benihana that they served drinks in there and she bring them home and put them on a shelf as a knick knack. They hired a sitter to come watch me for the night. I stayed in my room most of the short time that she was there. It was the first time this sitter had watched me. I had this huge table in my room that Bruce had put in there because I had too much stuff and didn’t like to clean my room. That table was supposed to help me keep my room clean by having a place to put my things. It didn’t work. It ended up being a huge pile of clusterfuck and I always had to dig for things because it was all buried.

So the sitter is in the living room watching TV or on the phone or maybe she had a boy over – I didn’t care and I wasn’t really paying attention as my door was shut. I was a pretty self sufficient kid and I had plenty of important shit to do in my room on my own like matchbox racing and Star Wars wrestling while rockin out to Kiss on my little playschool record player. I was climbing on the big table in my room trying to find something and I punch-glassraised my head up and hit it on the window frame and it hurt like a sonofabitch. I immediately got pissed and threw my fist through the window breaking it and instantly having glass shards sticking out of my hand all over and blood everywhere. The sitter comes in and screams and immediately calls my Mom to tell her to get home. They got there rather quickly and I never saw that sitter again. Hey it’s not my fault  – the window had to pay!

To this day those little Buddha dolls remind me of that fucking window and what it did to me. But I showed it – that window frame never did hit me in the head again.

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1/16 – Hung like an Idol

William-HungSo my 11 year old son downloaded William Hung’s version of “She Bangs” on iTunes and it got me thinking about American Idol. Of course tonight was the first night of the new season so it has been getting it’s fair share of press lately but I digress. So I can’t help but think about poor (or is he) William Hung. As one of the cast outs on an early season of Idol he came out and sang (or tried to sing) She Bangs by Ricky Martin. It was of course an absolute horror show and he became a star BECAUSE it was so bad. The first of the accidental internet superstars or was this all by design?

 

Idol has some pretty good marketing minds at work and let’s face it, they have tons of people audition for this show and many filters to weed out the crap. BUT they do let some through that they think will be good television like hearing Simon totally berate them to their face or the judges trying to hide their laughter. I know many people who just watch AI for the audition rounds just to see these train wrecks. That’s their shtick, they rope you in to watch the hopeless tone deaf wanna-be’s and hope you get attached to the contestant’s story’s that they show ad nauseum and continue to watch the show after the auditions are over.

 

Then I think again about Mr. Hung and the conspiracy theorist in me asks: Was he in on what-if-william-hung-can-sing-well-and-we-are-all-tone-deafit? Was it set up? Surely no one that awful would attempt to get on the show – would they? He was made out to be a clueless, ignorant kid who really thought he could sing. Would they really exploit someone so dumb? Of course they would but I’m thinking not. I’m thinking that they found this kid in a karaoke bar seriously sucking and put him up to it and paid him for it. I don’t think that they predicted how big it would actually become though. The kid got a freakin record deal and made like three albums! And they sold (a little). He also has his own website where he sells autographed 8X10’s, he made a couple of movies and is a paid guest star ever where he goes. Sure he didn’t get filthy rich but here I am 8 years later telling you this because my 11 year old son paid 99 cents for his song on iTunes and I’m quite sure he’s living more comfortably than most reading this.

 

Now Mr. Hung is working for the Sheriff’s Department in LA. I think I am going to go to LA and speed around just so I can get pulled over by him. Maybe I can get him to pull out a rendition of She Bangs roadside next to his CHiPs motorcycle. I’ll be sure to secretly tape it so I can “go viral” and offer up my own 8X10’s signed by yours truly – the guy who got pulled over by William Hung.williamhung

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1/15 – Fresh Eddie Snuck Into the Theater of Dune! (Word)

image.axdThe early 80’s were a fun time to be young. There were all of the new words – more like old words being re-purposed. Like saying something was “fresh” or “dope” if you liked it or saying “word” when you agreed with something or “bad” when you really meant it was good. Of course if you were a little chubby white kid it didn’t come out sounding too cool. Everyone was all about Eddie Murphy where we lived. Everywhere you went people would quote something out of his routines like “I got McDonowwws” (you know you still sing this in your head when you take your kids to McDonald’s) or  “wanna lick – psych!” or blasting “Axel F” out of their boom box and talk about how many times we saw Beverly Hills Cop.

Seeing movies became sort of a bragging point at school. If you saw rated R movies porkys300somehow when you were in elementary school then you had a certain cred that other kids didn’t. If you saw the movie and other kids bragged that they did too then you would quiz them on what was in the movie to find out if they were lying. Thanks to my step brother Greg I saw just about every rated R movie that came through Showcase Cinemas. Friday the 13th 3 in 3D – check, Nightmare on Elm St – check, Porky’s – check. SO many kids lied about seeing these movies. It became sport for me to just go around and bust everyone.

showcaseWhen my step brother Greg came to live with us he taught us all kinds of new tricks at the movie theaters. We used to walk to the movie theater by going down Forbes St and crossing the highway. Of course I was scared shitless the first time we did this because the cars were going so fast. But it beat walking over the bridge and past the mall to get there. The highway was only two lanes on each side so it was relatively small. Now in 2013 that same highway in that spot is like 8 lanes on each side and you could never do it.  There were a few times where he would run across and if a car was too close I would just get scared and wait in the middle of the highway. By that time we could’ve just walked our lazy asses around!

Anyway once we got across we would go buy two tickets to the movies and then one of us would walk out with the two ticket stubs and hand it to someone who would then come in. We would do this Duneas many times as needed to get everyone in. Then there was another way which one of us would buy a ticket (usually Greg) while I and maybe one or two friends would wait by the back doors. We never knew which door would open so we would hang out and wait and when he opened the door we all went in and took a seat. This of course became standard practice after that. Once in we would watch a movie and then exit out the front of the theater. Back then you just walked out into the hallway where all of the other theaters were and there were no ushers to make us exit so we would just go into another theater and theater hop all day long. Once Greg and I watched the movie Dune like three times in a row because we couldn’t understand it all. I’ve never watched that stupid ass movie again.

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1/13 – The NBC Peacock and the Black Eyed Whopper

One time in the Burnside Ave apartments my friends and I had the bright idea that it would be OK spray nbcto spray paint the back wall of the complex. It was a plain gray flat wall that was maybe 20’ wide and about 6’ high up until the brick started. I don’t even remember where we found the spray paint but we all took a section of the wall and laid down our best graffiti. We had all sorts of weird 9 year old drawings up there and my crowning jewel was a big ugly peacock and under it just so everyone knew what it was I wrote “NBC peacock” Trust me, if you didn’t see what I wrote you would have never guessed that it was a peacock.

 

When Mayland’s father (the superintendent) found what we did he yelled and screamed at us asking why we thought that was a good idea. Again, don’t argue with 9 year old logic – it Keep_Scrubbing_Wall_E_by_Arkham_Insanitywas a back wall, hidden and who would know? He did. He had us go out there with old socks and rags and try to scrub it off. We scrubbed for what seemed like hours and it wasn’t coming off. It faded at best but it wasn’t coming off. I don’t remember how exactly it ended but I do know that wall ended up with a fresh coat of gray paint. He didn’t make us paint it (gee I wonder why).

 

Burnside Ave was not considered by me to be very rough at all but to some it was seen as hard. I was growing up there so to me it was normal. Even looking back now it doesn’t seem all that bad. We had our fair share of fights though. One time this kid that lived in the apartments across the way had a beef with me and he was a little guy. He came right up to me and punched me in the jaw and it barely even moved my face. I didn’t know wtf his problem was, maybe one too many yo momma jokes. Then there was the time I got punched in the nose right in front of my apartment. It caught me by total surprise and I got pissed and went right at this kid. I took him down quick and he said – “I was just playin, don’t hurt me but make it look good in front of my friends”. They had all come to watch him fight me. We wrestled for a while and then it got broken up. You never forget the first time you get punched in the nose though.

 

OldTimeBoxerThen there was the fight that taught me what not to do in a fight. It was against this kid who lived on the street across from my apartments and I truly didn’t know how to fight at this point in my life. We started doing the circle where you just walk slowly around and around staring at each other. I had my arms down and hands up around my chest with the “put up your dukes stance like I thought I was a 1920’s style fighter. He had his hands up and before I knew it – bam right in the eye. We stood back and circled again and then BAM again in the same eye. I rushed him and tried to put his head up against the wall but he stepped back and BAM again in the same fucking eye! I stood back and felt my eye all puffed out and knowing I was going to be in the talent show the next week said “that’s it, I’m done, you win”. I went home and my Mom asked me what happened. I said that I fell off my bike and the handlebars turned so I hit my eye on the end of the handgrip. Hey if I was gonna try and lie about it I might as well make it a whopper.

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1/9 – Your blog has been SUSPENDED for bad tires…

So my blog account was taken off line due to a violation of terms for a few days. I racked my brain trying to figure out why – sure I swear on here sometimes and have posted on bongs once but WTF? I read your terms and I have not violated any? I am in Hong Kong on business so I am already a long ways from home and no I am feeling helpless. I frantically email the host website asking what I have done wrong. I have only started writing this blog in November and have about 30 posts since then so it’s a fair amount of writing. I created a Facebook page for this blog (to which my friend completely mocked me for – by the way see that Facebook box to the right of the blog? The one with the thumbnail pictures? Why don’t you click it and become a fan for me. Thanks and shameless plug over) with the hopes that I will have legions of followers and people clamoring to read my next post. Maybe this could turn into some kind of career in writing? Maybe someone will suddenly come across my blog and say “man someone give this guy a seven figure book deal”. But no, I guess this was the site’s way of saying I was getting to big for my britches as my Grandma Cape would say.

So I emailed them every day for the past 4 days, each day becoming a bit more anxious that my posts would be lost. Of course I have them saved but I didn’t want to have to create a new site somewhere else. I would lose the whole 6 followers I have (thanks family & friends) and have to repost everything on Facebook again under the new site (and get mocked again over my midlife crisis by my dear friend who now wants me to get him a shirt in Hong Kong – ha! Happy Birthday buddy – my blog is back!). Then I started getting emails from a couple of people asking what happened to my blog. So I emailed these fuckers 5 times in a row figuring that they would either throw me off permanently for being an obnoxious prick or maybe email me back.

Finally I got an email back this morning. It said that I had a link promoting a site on my blog. I thought to myself – what? I didn’t post any links? They reinstated my account and asked me to remove the link so I went back on and combed through my posts. Sure enough a few days ago I referenced a tire shop that had fixed my RV in Virginia and posted a picture that I got off the Internet. Sure enough this picture had a hidden link so you could click on it and go to their site. I take back what I said about that little lady at that tire shop and her hospitality, how dare they post a link to their picture so that idiots like me can’t copy and paste it without a link to their site and getting credit for it!! That’s it, no more stealing pictures off the Internet for me. Just kidding, I will just make sure the hyperlink is removed beforehand. Welcome back, did you miss me?

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1/5 – The Integrity of owning and selling an RV when you know you screwed it up

I will wrap up my three day RV stories with a bittersweet goodbye to my 32 foot friend. You see we bought this RV with the intent of driving it all over for vacations and trips for years to come but this RV happened to be almost 20 years old now. Granted it only had 38K miles on it, a great interior and everything worked but… several things have led us to decision to part ways with our home on wheels. When we bought this back in 2011 and went to NJ and through the town of who the fuck knows where – I tracked our fuel consumption. We are in the northeast where there are many hills and we were also driving in some city traffic but our gas mileage was less than 6 miles per gallon. A Chevy 454 engine powering over 18,000 pounds doesn’t really sound too economical and it just plain isn’t.

On our trip to Florida with the broken shock incident we got a little bit better mileage because of the flat land driving down South but we were still around 9 or 10 miles per gallon. I had looked at plane tickets for that trip as well and we could have flown for about $300 or $350 per person. In the RV we spent over $2K on fuel – not counting the hotel rooms because there were 7 of us. Oh and we still had to rent a van when we got there because who wants to drive a 32’ RV down route 192 and into the Disney World parking lot? If you’ve been in the traffic on 192 you know exactly what I mean. So we could have flown for about $500 less that it cost us to get the RV down and back. We love our road trips but they certainly shouldn’t cost more than flying.

So there my RV has sat since that trip in July of 2011 – on the side of my garage just waiting for nothing. Tires dry rotting, fuel sitting and aging and insurance deducted from my account every month. The last thing I want is for this thing to sit here and then when I do want to take it out again for a week the tires are no good or the hoses and belts start breaking from dry rot. I could just start her up every week and take it for an occasional drive but what’s the point? It is better to just go back to a van or conversion van that fits us all comfortably, gets us around town and doesn’t cost a small fortune to run. So alas – I have sold my RV to someone who was looking for one to use all the time. I sold it for what I bought it for nearly two years later so I think we made out all right.

Then as I get back from our winter road trip to Ohio and the guy comes over to buy it I am walking around the RV with him, showing him how things work and open up the cabinet where the clean water tank is and I realize that I never drained the tank – meaning that all of the lines to the sink, shower, water pump and hot water are also full of frozen water – recipe for pipe bursting disaster. He buys it with cash and drives away. I proceed to go to the bank, pay off the loan and deposit the remainder in our account. Then he calls and tells me that the water filter under the sink has turned sideways so he’s sure that it was because of the frozen water. I panic and start googling what happens when you leave water to freeze in the tank. Yep – frozen burst pipes that are hell to get to and repair or replace, hot water heaters split in half and a dozen or so other nightmarish scenarios that can happen. Then it all flashes before my eyes – shit I’m going to have to buy this thing back which would entail taking out another loan to get the money back that I just paid off, fix the pipes which could run me a grand or more and other shitty scenarios that I really don’t want to deal with.

Now one could say that I already sold it to him – in the state of CT all used vehicles are sold as is so legally I am off the hook. But morally I just could not do that. I couldn’t stand the fact that I sold this guy an RV that I may have totally screwed up by being stupid and forgetting to simply drain the water and winterize before my Ohio trip. My wife sensing my obvious panic and near heart attack behavior talks me off the ledge by telling me that there’s nothing I can do about it now – just relax and pick it up again in the morning. I call the guy again in the morning – he also has been panicking thinking his new RV is screwed because the guy who sold it to him is an asshole. So he let the RV run all night with the heat on and had an electric blanket on the water tank. I call an RV place and they tell me to bring it to them so they can bring it inside for a few hours and thaw it out. Then they can assess the damage and talk repairs. In the meantime a mechanic and the guy I sold it to thawed everything out and drained it. He calls me and says everything is fine except for the water filter and that they have no properly winterized it. Thank God I don’t have to worry about buying it back or worry about repairing for him or how much more this thing will cost me. I guess I just don’t have what it takes to be an RV owner yet. I’ll try again when I’m an old man. Good bye Winnebago and good riddance.

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1/4 – The Real RV Trip with Glee and southern hospitality

Our next trip in the RV which would be our last was about a month later and it was our annual trip to Florida to our timeshare (yup I done got suckered into buying one). This time we had two more people with us, my Mother and my daughters friend. so 7 of us trooping down 95 in the big RV to Florida. Now mind you there are no slide outs and it really only sleeps 5 comfortable so we would still need to get a room on travel days. Everything seems to be going good, the bathroom is getting used, the kitchen is being used and I am happy – for a minute. It’s a few hours in when I need to make our first fuel stop that I realize we can’t go nearly as fast as we do in a car and it takes me three swipes of the credit card at the pump to fill this tank. At least a 20 minute plus fuel stop. Wait, wasn’t this thing supposed to save time?

So on we go and my daughters are both bugging me to stop off somewhere like a Wal-Mart so they can pick up the Glee DVD season 1 or 2 set so they have something to watch. Around 7 PM or so while we are somewhere in Virginia we stop off at an exit and find a Wal-Mart. I am turning through the parking lot and I hear something underneath thinking maybe I hit a pothole or something, I ignore it and find a spot at the back of the lot. We go in and look for the DVD which of course turns into like a 45 minute shopping adventure. We come out and my wife notices that the RV is slumping a little bit on the drivers side and says “hey what’s that thing hanging down”. I get down on my knees and look and notice that the whole front shock absorber has broken off from the frame. A guy in a Jeep across from me sees this and comes over and looks. He gets out some of his socket wrenches and tries to take it apart but it’s not budging. He tries to call his brother who is a welder but says – It’s Saturday night and he’s probably getting ready to go our partying. Then another guy and his son come over from another RV half way across the lot and ask what’s going on. The first guy from the Jeep says I can just ignore it and get it fixed when I get to Florida, the RV guy says no you can’t drive on that – you better get that fixed ASAP. I’m going with the RV guy on this one.

The Jeep guy’s family comes out of WM and he wishes us luck and goes on his way. The RV guy is this really tall guy who hails from Montana, has some facial hair and scraggly semi-long hair (down to mid neck all around) and a baseball cap and his son who is also very tall and is not the sharpest tool in the shed but he took direction well. Every time his Dad told him to get a tool he happily went back to their RV and retrieved it. So the RV guy and I go into the WM looking for a ratchet strap to at least tie the shock up so it wasn’t bouncing around under there and I could at least drive a little ways – my reality set in that it was now past 8:00 PM on a Saturday night and no one would be open on Sunday for me to get this fixed. We got the strap and tied it up and called it a night. We went to a hotel across the street and got a room for half of us and my wife, son and I stayed in the RV.

The next morning my wife and I got up early and started combing the local yellow pages (i.e. google on my phone) for a local tire place that also does shocks. I found one open that was a few miles up the road and they said they could help me so off we went while everyone else stayed asleep in the hotel room. We arrived and I was met by a little old spitfire woman who was running the place and it was very clear she was the boss. She was ordering people around like they were little children not knowing what to do next. She came out and looked at the problem and said “oh no, we can’t fix that! You will need a welder that can put that back together and we don’t have one”. My hopes again crashed to the ground thinking that we would be stuck in this remote little town in Virginia for a few days rather than sunny Florida.

Then she says “let me make a couple of calls, I need to help you get back on the road”. Sure enough about three calls in she finds a guy with a welding shop about 15 miles away that just happened to be in on a Sunday morning doing a quick job. He said if we got there within 20 minutes he would take a look. We quickly got in the RV and off we went. This place was way out in the middle of nowhere in the farmlands of Virginia and the guy was still there and said “oh yeah I can fix that in a jiffy”. I was sure that this was going to cost me a small fortune. He got under it and made a couple of quick welds and was done in 10 minutes. He also was a family man with kids that had done several RV trips to Florida and could relate. I asked how much I owed him and he said that didn’t take me very long, just give me 15 bucks. What? I offered him 50 but he said no 15, c’mon at least take double that $30. Nope $15. I handed him the cash shook his hand and off we went. We were all in Florida before dark. We thank all of the Virginia folks that got us back on the road and for your southern hospitality. Back in New England that shit would’ve cost me at least $200 and two days! To my girls – that Glee DVD better have been the best damned DVD you ever watched – oh wait, the WM didn’t even have it!

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1/3 – The Used RV and the test run to who the F knows where

We bought an RV back in 2011 with the visions of us travelling all over in our home on wheels. It was a 1993 32’ Class A motorhome with 38,000 miles on it and we got a screaming good deal on it. There were no slide outs or anything fancy in it, just a straight 32 footer. There was sleeping for 6 (4-5 really) and the old timers that we bought it from never really used except for a couple of weeks a year at the Cape. We had always talked about getting a motorhome for the convenience of not having to stop at the bathroom once an hour, or food. Surely if you read my last post on  the December road trip you would guess that these frequent stops kill me.

So we get the RV and took a test run down to NJ for my daughter’s dance competition, it’s all 5 of us – my wife, two daughters and son. Everything seemed OK but I made one crucial mistake – I followed the directions on my phone GPS and ended up on a parkway. If you don’t know, a parkway has low bridges and any vehicle larger than 10’ is not allowed on. Our RV is 12’ tall. So we are pulling up close to an archway bridge when I realize my mistake so I stop in the right lane. Of course there is no breakdown lane either. I put the RV in reverse and put the hazards on hoping that I won’t be the cause of a 32 car pileup. Oh yeah, and we were also on a curve. So here I am backing up a 32’ rig after the curve in the right lane of a two lane parkway where the speed limit is 55 mph. Not my brightest moment.

Luckily I only had to back it up 100 feet or so, after about 10 minutes, which seemed like a lifetime, I was pulling us off the exit and to safety. Now we are diverted into some little mini-downtown area that is very difficult for me to maneuver this RV through which combined with my already being pissed at myself for the parkway incident leads me to yelling out loud – “Great now we’re in downtown who the fuck knows where!” This of course leads to everyone in the vehicle to start giggling at me and my daughter instantly tweets this and puts it on her FB profile. Hey wait, didn’t that “Sh*t my Dad Says” guy make a lot of money?

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1/2 – December road trip: The blizzard and the missing hotel

Taking a break for a moment from the childhood rants. On 12/26, the day after my son’s 11th birthday and of course Christmas, my wife, two of my three kids and I drove to Ohio to visit with my Dad at his place and my aunt who also flew up from North Carolina for the festivities. As I have stated before we love to drive to places on our vacations and this time was no different. It would have been about $2000 for round trip plane tickets for all of us and a 780-mile drive would be much less expense and I figured we could do this in 12 or 13 hours. We have an RV but driving that in the winter with the chance of snow was too risky – front gas engine and rear wheel drive does not make for a good combination in possible winter weather and the fuel would’ve cost us just as much as plane tickets.

 

So we packed up in my Chevy Impala and off we went. My plan was to leave at 6:00 AM, I Impalawoke up at 5:00 and started getting everything ready. We left at 8:00. I could have gotten up at 3:00 AM and we still would’ve left at 8:00. I later found out that my oldest daughter who stayed behind because of her work schedule was on the phone when we left the house and said that we just left but would be back in 5 minutes after we stopped at 7-11 and realized we forgot something. She knows all too well – 5 minutes later we were right back in the driveway. It’s good to have a plan but when you need to get three other people moving that early – the day after a holiday – on school vacation, 6:00 AM does not come without some level of protest. Hell I didn’t want to be up either, especially after being up past midnight for both of the previous two nights and being up early on Christmas morning for presents and now early on the 26th to drive. I could handle it.

 

I checked the weather and it looked like some snow could be moving into the Pennsylvania area sometime during that day – it was also heading towards CT. I had two routes to choose from. Highway 80 across the top of PA or 70 across the bottom of PA. In my logic I figured that the  southern most route was the safe way to go since the more south you go the less cold it is and less chance of snow there is. Makes sense in theory but that “southern route” was only about 60 miles difference.

 

snowI drove for about the first 4 hours and then got hit with a tiredness that was overwhelming. I was chewing sunflower seeds, drinking coffee and moving like I had bugs crawling all over me just to stay awake. It got to the point where I switched with my wife and she drove while I bobbed and weaved against the seatbelt in the passenger seat falling in and out of sleep. Sure enough about 5 hours in we hit the snow – it started slow but by the time we hit Harrisburg PA it was an all out blizzard. My wife wanted to stop but in my male driven need to make good time and put in some miles I insisted that we trudge forward. It took us a good three hours to get through the Harrisburg area.

 

I realized that we weren’t going to make it in one day like I had planned but now I had this 500 mile mark in my head. We needed to make it to at least 500 miles in before we stopped. My wife kept asking when we were going to stop and was increasingly becoming agitated with me because again, I had a goal in mind (unbeknownst to her at the time) and come hell or high water (snow?) we were going to make it. It got to the point where she was so insistent that I started looking for a hotel at around the 450 mile mark. We stopped at an exit that had a few hotels and I walked into the closest one off the highway that I could find which was a Holiday Inn Express. They were completely full and said that every hotel on that exit was also full. Apparently we weren’t the only 1 or 500 people trying to get off the road and into a warm room for the night; imagine that. Of course now we are in the mid-west section of PA where it is all farmland and a good 20 -30 miles or so between exits by the time we need a room. That only happens when 1. You need gas, 2. You are now hungry and are looking for a good place to eat that is not a McD’s, Wendy’s or BK and 3. When you are looking for a hotel room.

 

It took us three stops at these 30 mile interval exits to finally find a room. It was a shitty little Days Inn right off the highway somewhere near Pittsburgh. We made it to about 487 miles (yup I checked) and about 9:00 PM so a good 13 hour day. The hotel was dingy and looked a little rough and the soda machine stole my dollar but it was our home for the evening, out of the snow, off the road and we could actually lie down to sleep.

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1/1 – A paperboy’s pizza anxiety with the Miami Vice

There were two newspapers in our town. The Hartford Courant, which is a morning paper, 7 days a week and the Journal Inquirer, which is an afternoon paper 6 days a week. At some point between the ages of 10 and 13 I had a route with one or the other or both. I think the Journal was my first. I had a route from our apartment complex all the way up to Burnside Musicland. It was easy doing an afternoon paper route – no Sunday papers and no mornings. I was good with that but then I got greedy. I wanted more money so I could buy more posters, buttons and pizza. I got a route doing the Courant in the mornings and I had the other side of Burnside, which was my apartments down to 7-11. Morning papers sucked – and the Sunday paper was so big that I used a shopping carriage. The inserts would arrive on Saturdays and you would have to put them together twice. Once on Saturday (two separate inserts) and then again on Sunday morning when I had to stuff the inserts into the paper.

Collecting was always a pain in the ass. I had so many customers and most lived in one of the apartment complexes on Burnside. This meant that they weren’t home a lot and that I was always owed a lot of money. I used to have at least a few customers that owed me like 6 or 8 weeks and I used to get serious anxiety over it. To this day I have dreams about falling behind in my collection book and people owing me money. First of all I had this huge collection book which was hard enough to keep organized and second, I paid my bill every week so I had already paid for their paper and I was always afraid that I would never get my money back and third I needed enough money to pay my bill on Saturday morning. The DM’s did not like when you didn’t have enough to pay your bill because it meant they had to come back to you later in the day. They had to collect from 60 or so paperboys and girls to cash out and pay their “bill” and when you didn’t have enough they would get highly pissed off. I would learn this first hand several years later when I became a DM myself.

Even though I had to pay my bill on Saturdays – I would have a ton of money burning a hole in my pocket on Fridays. I got into a little routine of sorts. There was a pizza place and bar across from my apartments and down a little ways called Wish’s Pizza. It was mostly a bar and that half was always packed but the pizza side never was. They had a small dining room in back that had a couple of tables and a jukebox. After collecting I would treat myself to a small pizza and soda and a few tunes on the Jukebox – Maybe some Phil Collins (I loved Take Me Home) or some Brian Adams. They never had the good stuff on those jukeboxes. Then I would go home to watch my Friday night shows – Knight Rider and more importantly Miami Vice. Yup I wanted to be Crocket – add it to my list of wanna-be’s. C’mon, how cool was the intro music and sequence to that show?

My son now has a small route with 18 papers in our neighborhood and only three customers to collect from. He doesn’t collect every two weeks like he’s supposed to and I start to bug out when I see customers owing him more than 4 weeks. He’s probably like whatever Dad and doesn’t seem to be bothered as much as I am about it but I found out that anxiety didn’t go away. I did show him all of the cool tricks though like how to tie your carrier bag on your handlebars, how to roll or fold papers and how to throw them. The secret to throwing papers is that they can’t be rolled and banded. You need to fold them in half twice and then put a rubber band on them. That way they’re denser, travel further and don’t roll away. I like to show off by opening the car door to throw a paper and make it right in front of the door. Yeah – my son has a paper route.

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12-25 – My Christmas presents are hidden in the EZ bake oven in the snow

Once I realized that there weren’t many hiding spots for my Christmas presents I began to snoop. One day when I was home sick from school and my Mom was at work I looked in their closet and saw my present on the top shelf. I grabbed a chair so I could see and looked but didn’t touch anything. I saw most of what I was getting that year and I have to admit it was a major letdown by looking ahead of time. It took away the whole surprise of Christmas morning,

You would have thought that I would’ve learned my lesson but the following year I did the IMG_0001 same thing. This time they hid it in the back of the car. They had a hatchback with a vinyl pullover cover that covered the trunk area. Once I figured out that was where my presents were I peaked again. Seeing everything I was going to get. That was 82, the year I got Michael Jackson’s Thriller for Christmas. I remember that Christmas as being the last time I looked for my presents ahead of time. Either that or my Mom just got better at hiding them.

IMG_0004 One year I got a Halloween style make-up set from my Grandmother – for Christmas… Payback from Grandma, I’m sure my Mom was happy to see that. I stayed on the floor in front of the tree and painted my face light 4 or 5 different times. I think I used the whole thing that day. One thing that I always secretly wanted for Christmas though – an EZ bake oven. I mean, who doesn’t want to make delicious cake and brownies all for yourself in their own room. I don’t care if you were a girl or a boy – you know you wanted that shit and if you make fun of me for it then you my friend are in serious denial.

A few years earlier I went to Olympia Washington with my Dad for Christmas. We spent it IMG_0005at my grandparent’s house. My Aunt Kay, her husband Gene and their son Graham also went. I would’ve been around 5 or 6 I think which would have made Graham 2 or 3. It was my first time meeting Graham and he was a little shit. He would pull my hair, hit me and all around just annoy the living hell out of me but he was way too little to do anything back to so I didn’t. That year I also remember cutting my hand on the stone ledge of their fireplace. I just ran my hand across it and ripped a small piece of skin off my hand. It wasn’t bad just a small flesh wound. I cried like crazy and for some strange reason I remember my Dad trying to calm me down and saying “look at that – it looks like meat in there” referring to where the skin ripped off. Yeah that didn’t work too well.

IMG_0002One year I got a sled – you know the old school wooden ones with the metal blades on the bottom and the handle in the front to “help” you steer. We had a park that was about a couple of miles up the road on Burnside Ave. called Wickham park. There was a giant hill that all the kids would go sledding on when it snowed plenty. The hill was so friggin big that after you went down it took like an hour to get back up to the top of the hill! Not really, more like 10 minutes but in the cold wet snow it isn’t pleasant walking your ass back up to the top of that hill in your full body snowsuit and winter boots. We would go down maybeIMG 2 or 3 times and that was kind of it. We would always get into snowball fights and then I’d get hit in the face or in the back of the neck, which is worse. The snow hits you right in between the bottom of your winter hat and the top of your winter jacket right in that small 1 inch area that’s exposed – it’s wet and cold and worse – it drips down your back under your clothes. I’m about to go get some hot cocoa just thing about it. I’d rather build a snowman in the courtyard back at the apartments.

Oh and a note to my family – please do not get me an EZ bake oven – that ship has sailed.

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12/23 – The Burnside Brat Pack and the Stolen Garbage Pail

By the time we were 9 or 10, Mayland, Billy, Brian and I were all over Burnside ave. We used to go up to the music store across from the school name Burnside Musicland which was also where I took guitar lessons (as previously mentioned) from Tony Spada. Tony’s mother Marie had bought the shop a couple of years before that and we always used to go in and talk about how we were going to be rock stars. Marie called us “The Burnside Brat Pack” which was fitting. I think every business on Burnside knew us. We were in and out of all of them – almost daily. We all had our 20” BMX bikes with the velcro pads around the frame to protect your crotch in case you fell forward off your seat. Like that was really going to protect the jewels. Also it was a big deal for the bikes to have freewheel (so you could freely spins the pedals backwards just because) with handbrakes. If you had a bike with a foot brake then you got made fun of as having a cheap bike. I fell into that category. We rode everywhere! Every time we passed a driveway where the curb ended we used these as mini ramps to pop wheelies.

There was a pet store right next to our apartment building. They had a Macaw that we used to go try and talk to all the time. It only ever saw “Caw” back to us. So disappointing. I used to buy a beta fish for $1 all the time too (small bowl included). One time right out in front of the pet store I was riding and I saw this girl walking with her Mom and Dad towards the store. She was new to the school and cute so I wanted to show off a little bit. I sped up on my bike, rode up the curb and went to pop a wheelie. Then my handlebars hit a street sign and completely turned the bike and I smacked the pole and then the ground – about 3’ from where they were walking. Of course they rushed up to me and asked if I was OK – yeah, I meant to do that.

Right next door to Musicland was United Tae Kwon Do. Mr. Lee was the old teacher there and was truly old school. He did not smile – ever. I always thought it smelled like feet in there. I took classes there for a little while. He had a little refrigerator by the front door and they had some sodas and juices in there. There was also a coffee can in there. When you came in and wanted a drink, you threw 50 cents in the can and got you drink. I didn’t quite get the honor system yet and never had any money. There was me and another kid that were always first and we both did the same thing. We would go in and there was always some change and a dollar or two in there. We would go tap the can so it made noise without dropping any money in and take a drink. Of course Mr. Lee is the one who put that money in there and he knew exactly how much it was. So one time during his intro to class he talks about honor and honesty. Then he says I put the soda out for you and expect you to be honest and pay for what you drink. Then he says I put money in that can every day to test you and my heart just sank into my ass. He knew exactly what we were doing and he made us put our feet up on the balance bar and hands on the ground in a sort of slanted handstand – for the entire class!

There was a McDonalds that opened up on Burnside down by Wickham Park. We all wanted to go all the time and it became sort of a status symbol in the school. Kids used to compare how many times they had been to the new McDonald’s like that was some kind of indication of how cool we were. Then there was K&O grocery which was a little convenience store near the school. I swear that guy made no money. Every kid I know used to go in that store before and after school to pocket candy while paying for their 3 cent piece of Bazooka gum. It was also right around this time when I started my collection of Garbage Pail Kids. For those that don’t know, they were a trading card that made fun of Cabbage Patch Kids. I had a huge bag full of them at home. The only store that sold them was the Cumberland Farms way down past the S curve on Burnside. It was a dirty little ghetto store and they had all of the cheap nasty candy that you didn’t find at 7-11 or K&O but it was worth the ride to get my Garbage Pail Kids.

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12/22 – Burnside Paddle Burn and the Spitting Middle Finger

We all went to Burnside school, which was about a half mile up from our apartment complex. It was an old building with huge windows in each of the classrooms. I started there in third grade and went through 6th so 4 years. Right after our 6th grade class left the school it closed. I’d like to say it was because they would never have an elementary graduating class as great as ours but if anything they closed it because we all just kept getting worse. Really it was because they were realigning the school districts and Burnside was the oldest school still operating and the town did not want to put any more money into it (Of course now it’s a huge and completely renovated police station). So much for not putting any more money into the building.

 

In third grade we had a music class and our teacher was Mrs. Santos. She used to have us sing all the time and I sat next to a girl named Felicia. She was a very giggly girl and funny as hell. Every time we sang “Jeremiah was a bullfrog” we would just laugh our faces off until we got yelled at or sent to the Principal’s office. I spent a lot of time at the Principal’s office in that school. My Mom became very familiar with the Principal and all of my teachers there. There was a rumor there that the Principal had a paddle and he used to put some kind of red burn gel on the paddle and spank you with it if you got out of line. In actuality the Principal was a very nice guy who got a bad rap.

 

In 4th grade we had a teacher named Mrs. Willys. She was a crazy old lady that would just absolutely lose her shit when she got mad – and I made that happen often. Both Brian (GI Joe) and Billy were in my class that year. We were all fooling around and got yelled at and the Mrs. Willys thought that Brian gave her the middle finger. She comes bolting over to Brian’s desk screaming at him through her teeth and spitting everywhere saying “you want to give me the middle finger well here” and she held up her middle finger right in his face! Then sends HIM to the office. All the kids in the class just sat there open mouthed and dumb founded. Brian’s Mom tried to get Mrs. Willys fired for that one but I think they ended up just moving Brian to another class and just separating us.

 

For recess we use to have free reign of the entire front lawn of the school. Some kids played on the jungle gym, some basketball, then there was the double dutch girls that just did double dutch jump rope every single day. The then was the Burn kids. We would play “Burn” on one of the brick walls where the blacktop was. The idea of burn was that you would throw the ball against the wall as hard as you could and one of the other kids ran up to grab it. If you didn’t catch it but it hit you somewhere (hand, leg, whatever) the you had to run up and touch the wall before they threw the ball. There were two ways to play this game – one you had to make it to the wall before you got pegged by the ball or two before the ball hit the wall. Either way if you got beat to the wall by the ball then you would get a letter. Once you got all four letters (BURN) you were out. We of course opted for the more dangerous version – and if you really wanted to get ballsy you played with a little blue racket ball instead of a tennis ball because those hurt way worse.  That style of playing quickly became outlawed, as did the blue racket balls. It was down to the tennis ball against the wall but every once in a while a kid or two still got pegged – by accident of course.

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12/20 – Animal House and the Skywhirled Blizzard of Bongs

My Dad had moved in with two (sometimes three) roommates when he left Half Day Inn and went to work at the Marriott Lincolnshire in IL. They lived on the third floor of a large three family house and they called it Animal House. When I went to stay with my Dad that summer I met Dick and Tim. Dick was a thin with curly hair and seemed like a pretty mild mannered guy. Tim on the other hand was a tall redheaded Irish loudmouth that was built like a linebacker. Both were like college frat guys. They hung out in the living room a lot and there was a foosball table in there that they played all the time. Dick’s brother Dave also stayed there for a while on the living room couch. Dave was also thin and he was more of the typical stoner type. Tim also had a part time job at a radio station and would get records for free. This was before I got my Kiss collection at home and only had the one record so he gave me Kiss Alive II which I listened to constantly.

 

They all worked different hours so it seemed like there was always someone there. They would often have friends over and they were in their 20’s so younger than my Dad and very much into partying. Typically they had many beers and foosball matches and it got loud in there. They also had a 3 foot water bong that they smoked a lot. So what is more entertaining than drinking, smoking and playing foosball you ask? How about getting the 9 year old baked because his Dad was at work for the night. They showed me how to use the bong and then packed it, filled it with smoke and had me clear it. I took one hit I think and probably didn’t hold it for more than a second or two, coughed up a lung and then just laughed my face off for what seemed like three hours and they all just watched me and laughed right back at me. My Dad never knew and I surely wasn’t going to tell him.

 

After my laugh session I of course just wanted to sleep. Now they had to deal with the 9 year old’s after high. They always listened to Led Zeppelin and at that time I didn’t like it at all. They knew I liked Kiss so Dick put on his Ozzy Osbourne Blizzard of Ozz album and put these huge tin can earphones on me to listen to it. He didn’t like the album and only bought it because he liked “Mr. Crowley”. At that point I would make it through a song or two and I was out like a light. I’ve heard that record thousands of times now but every once in a while I hear the fade in intro to the first song “I Don’t Know” and I get a flashback feeling back to animal house for a few seconds. Many people may be shaking their heads right now but it’s OK – I turned out all right.

 

The roommates took me to Great America one time that year and they wanted to go on The Demon which was a metal roller coaster with a loop. I had went on the American Eagle every time I was there since it opened but I was deathly afraid of any Roller Coaster that went upside down. I was brave when we started to get in line and waited for a few but once I saw that loop I freaked! They were trying to get me to go on but I was absolutely throwing a fit, screaming, crying and making quite a scene. They finally gave up, frustrated and we moved on.

 

They did get me to go on The Edge though which was one of the first free fall rides. The track was shaped like an L and you went up the tower on the inside, it moved you out and then you dropped at freefall speed and slowed suddenly on the bottom after we went horizontal. There was another ride there called the Skywhirl which was like a claw type ferris wheel and what did they do when we got in the air? Lit a joint. They had the good sense not to try and get me to smoke there which I wouldn’t have anyway. It’s like one of those things that you do and you thought it was kind of fun but knew you shouldn’t do it so you really didn’t want to again. My 14 year old self years later did not agree with that theory though.

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12/19 – Early 80′s Music Develoment Program

When The Rolling Stones concert movie “Let’s Spend the Night Together” came out in the movie theater, Mayland, Billy and I all went (maybe Brian too). We all ran up to the front of the theater and put on our own little show. We all played like we were the Stones and there was only a few people in the theater. No one complained and we got a few laughs of encouragement so we stayed there for almost the whole movie. By this time I was fading out of my two year Stones faze and moving into my heavy metal fixation.

Once I got my Kiss album and started listening to heavier music it really started getting popular. The 80’s hair metal scene was beginning and I was completely on board. Quiet Riot had also just come out with Metal Health and the video of the guy in the metal mask was all boys my age were into and talking about. There was a roller skating rink on Main St in East Hartford and we all used to go there on Saturdays. Mostly we would just play the video games and hang out and the once in a while that a metal song came on we bolted out there like rockets – just to skate around in a circle playing air guitar. We probably looked like a bunch of little idiots but who cares. I was fast on skates thanks to my previous ice skating experience but stopping was one of those elemental things that I was not so good at. I used to skate off the floor and the carpet would slow you down some but my way of really stopping was to just run into something or someone. It looked like the sidelines at an NFL game when one of the players runs off the side of the field and rolls over the photographers.

The next year was big for heavy metal. Def Leppard Pyromania, Motley Crue’s Shout at the Devil and Van Halen’s 1984 all came out in late 83 and we had them all. I still had my little plastic record player but by now I wanted something more. What was good about my record player is that you could play records in reverse. The Motley Crue album had a message on the back that said warning: backwards messages on this album. We tried many times to play it backwards but never really heard anything. I’m sure it was just a ploy to get kids like me to ruin their records trying to play them backwards so that we’d have to buy a new one.

My step brother Greg who was 10 years older than me was staying with us by this point and I didn’t see too much of him because he was like 18 and out doing his thing. I knew some of the guys he hung out with. There was this one guy Lance who had most of the Kiss albums up to like 1980, which was almost everything up to the album I bought, and he wanted the Motley Crue and Van Halen albums that I had just bought. He offered up his entire Kiss catalog for those two albums. Done! I was now the proud owner of almost all Kiss albums. Some were good – some not so much but I was happy with my trade. I went from owning like 4 albums (Wizard of Oz album not included) to like 20. I listened to them all for days, weeks, until I knew them all.

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12/18 – John Denver wants to rip your head off

My music tastes up to this point in my life were basically what I had heard from what other people had listened to. My Mom used to listen to country all the time in the car so when I was around 5 or 6 my favorite song was “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” by John Denver. I would always freak out when that came on. My favorite song when I went to my Dad’s was “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” by The Tokens which I would always play on the jukebox at the bar. I also had the soundtrack from The Wizard of Oz – I would rock the shit out of “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” when my Dad was at work. I had heard some Pink Floyd from my brother and REO Speedwagon from the girls who babysat me but I never really connected with either of those. When we moved to CT and I got my little record player I would look through all of my sister’s old 45’s from the 70’s. She liked a lot of  70’s style folk music and I latched on to the flipside of Michael Murphy’s  single Wildfire which was a song called Night Thunder (heavy man).

When I moved to CT and started watching MTV they had all sorts of new music I had never heard before. Most of it was crap but I still watched it for like half the day. David File:Still Life - American Concert 1981 (The Rolling Stones album - cover art).jpgJohansen had a medley of “We Gotta Get Outta This Place/Don’t Bring Me Down/It’s My Life” that I loved and MTV played the hell out of that. Then there was my brief love of Cheap Trick because of the song “If you want my love you got it”. MTV use to tell you on the top of every hour (with the rocket ship launch) 3 of the songs that they were going to play in that next hour. If one of the songs they mentioned was what you wanted to hear then you were hooked for that next hour. The next band I liked was The Rolling Stones because of the song “Start me up”. That led me to buy the live album “Still Life” (picture disc). I pretty much wore that record out on my little plastic record player. When I bought that Kiss album “Creatures of the Night” that changed everything (yeah I know – I already talked about this).

In my apartments there was a new family that moved in across the driveway. The Dad was a bald biker type (Tom I believe) , the mother was a little rough and had long dark, stringy hair (forgot her name) and they had a daughter that was a few years younger than us. I think her name was Kelly. Well one day one of the older kids showed us how you could pick someone up with your hands on the side of their neck just below their ears and it wouldn’t hurt. We were all trying to pick each other up but we weren’t quite strong enough to lift each other so little Kelly comes walking around the corner. I said – hey come here. So I tried to pick her up but of course she starts screaming bloody murder like I was trying to rip her head off and took off running home bawling all the way.  So I knew what was coming and we took off behind the apartments and her Mom comes flying around the corner and gets in my  face SCREAMING at me – “how the fuck would you like it if I picked you up by the neck? I should beat your ass! If Tom finds out about this he’s going to kill you so you better watch out”! ( I don’t think the “you better watch your back” thing was popular yet). Needless to say I was scared shitless and avoided all of them at all costs from that point forward.

The relevance to music in this case is that I used to put my speakers in the window leading out to the small patch of grass in front of our place and I would play my records while I played outside. Well Tom and his wife were outside with the people in the next apartment over sitting on a blanket and enjoying my Stones album. They were singing along and then lit a joint. I knew what they were doing and they didn’t care that I was right there. They were singing along to The Stones and I thought – Yes! They are over it and I’m OK now because the like my music! So the album ends and I think, well shit now I’m going to throw down some Kiss! That first heavy drum riff on Creatures starts out and they all looked over at me like I was the anti-christ. Tom says – turn that shit off we’re going to listen to her music now. Oh well, all is not forgotten and you sir are an Asshole (but I’m not going to say that to you because your wife will kick my ass!)

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12/17 – Kindergarten and the Butterscotch Dollhouse

For obvious reasons I am going to try as hard as I can to remember my kindergarten years at Clifton Fine school in Star Lake New York. At that age we are so young and do not understand much at all in the way of the world. In terms of my overall memories of my childhood, my kindergarten years and prior make up a very small percentage. As I said in my Star Lake post the school there was a small K-12 school that covered a LOT of geography. The town I lived in really only had about 800 people in it but lucky for us we also had the county school.

My teacher’s name was Ms. Van Gelder and I remember her as being a very nice lady. Back then kindergarten was the full day. We had to bring in a “mat” which was really just a small rug for us to sleep on in the middle of the day for nap time. Nap time?!? Who’s got time for naps when you’re 5 or 6 and FULL of energy. I didn’t sleep ever and usually got into trouble for laughing.

One time I got into trouble for not eating my macaroni and cheese. This sticks out to me because of 2 things – #1 my eternal hatred for mac & cheese. This started back when I was living in Illinois and my Mom’s friend used to babysit me. She would make macaroni and cheese for lunch but instead of real cheese or even the powdered dairy dust that is included in the Kraft box, she instead used cheese whiz. That’s right macaroni with canned spreadable cheese “product” mixed in. To this day I will not eat mac & cheese although one time my wife’s father made some shells with real cheese, bacon and gravy and that was awesome but that is NOT mac & cheese. That would be more like a macaroni casserole. The #2 reason I remember this kindergarten incident was because my “punishment” was to sit in the play area – the girl’s section, in a playhouse, in the plastic kitchen. I was to stay there until I ate some. I was not eating any – wasn’t going to happen no way, no how. So after sitting in there forever and wanting to get out I smashed up some, flattened some and moved it around my plate so it looked like less. It worked and I was free at last, free at last!

Other memories I have of that class is that it was warm. I don’t know if the room was 297x220_Butterscotch_Puddingorange or the heat was always on or what but when I think of it, I think warm. We used to sing songs a lot and I liked singing “The Farmer and the Dell” the most but also enjoyed a good rendition of BINGO (was his name-o). That school seemed so big and like there were so many kids there (really it was less than 300). Another memory is of butterscotch pudding. We went to an open house one night and back then you went to the open house with your parents. They had butterscotch pudding out as snacks for the kids and I ate at least two. I cannot smell butterscotch now and not think of that school.

So young, so innocent, so much to learn so much left to live for.

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12/15 – In a half day my Pac Man will Go-Go

When I went back to my Dad’s that next year he ran the kitchen at a place called The Half Day Inn which was a bar and grill in a suburb of Chicago. I used to go with him to work and hang out. They had a dining room in back that was closed and there was all sorts of old tables and chairs just jumbled around in there. I liked playing around in there but a kid gets bored rather quickly with tables and chairs. They also had a couple of video games that I used to bleed my Dad’s pockets playing. Pac Man, Space Invaders and Asteroids. They also had a pinball machine called Sharpshooter. I became somewhat of a hustler in there because all these old dudes that came in for lunch and a beer thought they could easily beat an 8 year old. They had no idea. I would make quick work of them beating them all easily and pissing some of them off in the process.

It got to the point where I would ask people for quarters and that kind of pissed the boss off. So she did what any boss would do with her chef’s 8 year old, she put me to work washing dishes in the back and paid me with a roll of quarters a day. Now some of you might think that this is child labor but I looked at it as a win-win situation as did my Dad. They had a big tray dishwasher in back and I learned how to use it rather quickly. I would burn through those dishes in no time in order to get my loot. My favorite to play was Space Invaders but I was best at the Sharpshooter pinball machine even though I needed a barstool to reach it and be able to see. I flipped it several times and I could make a quarter go a long time on that machine winning many free games.

I had several shirts from the Half Day Inn, with the saying on the back “located in beautiful downtown Half Day”. It may have been considered beautiful to some but it was really just a small section in Vernon Hills Illinois. It was located at a busy intersection and Monoclehad a big dirt driveway out back. Across the street was a Go-Go bar in a small plaza and I didn’t know what that was so I asked. My Dad told me it’s where girls dance naked but you had to be an adult to get in. I quickly remembered the movie Time Bandits with the little people and I asked if we could go in if I dressed as a man and had a monocle in my eye – I was only 8 so I was short and surely they would believe it! I had the look all planned out in my head and I looked like a 40 year old little man in that vision. Sadly I never got to go.

My Dad was still driving his old brown Cutlass but he had also bought a newer White Cutlass, I think it was an 80 or an 81 and it was a sharp looking car. It was in the shop that summer but he had always talked about how he thought about trading them both in for a conversion van. Unfortunately he never did but my love for conversion vans began there and I went on to get a couple myself later on. He also had all sorts of sayings back then, some of which I still say. Most were word plays like “siss on you pister, you ain’t so muckin fuch” or “I’m gonna go shake a tower” and then there was “snug as a bug in a rug” or when he got really mad like when he hurt himself or something “sh*t – f*ck – turd –ass – piss – c*nt” all in one quick breath. Of course at a young age I found that funny as hell.

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12/13 – Don’t piss on my fortune cookie you sea witch!

Saturdays were all about wrestling. I would wake up and watch my Saturday morning cartoons and eat breakfast and then usually head over to Mayland’s where we would watch WWF for hours. His Mom was also a big wrestling fan so almost every time I went there, wrestling was on TV. She loved Bob Backlund and he was the champ back then. We’d watch guys like Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, Andrea the Giant, Pedro Morales, Jesse Ventura – I could go on for a whole post on all of those guys. There were always a stack of wresting magazines at his house from all of the other wrestling divisions beside the WWF (NWA, AWA) but they all seemed like cheap imitations. Mayland’s Dad took us to see wrestling once at Manchester high school (long before they went big time) and we saw Bob Backlund Vs. The Iron Sheik. It was kind of weird because we’d watch every Saturday and they were in these arenas and then there we were watching them in a high school gym. We were right near where the Iron Sheik came in the ring and I think Mayland’s dad went up to him. We tried to get near him but he yelled at us – Dick!

There were a few girls that lived in the apartment complex as well. Most were older than us and we didn’t talk to them too much unless we were just being pesky little brats. Rachel was a year younger than I and lived with her Dad Rick down near Mayland. Her Dad had this cool van that was dubbed the Sea-Witch. It was an old 70’s style van that had the shag carpet in back and a cool paint job on the outside. We thought Rick was the cool Dad because he had long hair and loved Journey. One time before I went to my Dad’s for the summer Rachel said to me “Don’t forget my birthday Butchie”. That of course became one of the most quoted lines by all the kids as they made fun of us.

Across the hall from me were Joanie and her parents that used to always play cards with my parents. She was a couple of years older than me but we used to hang out whenever our parents were partying and playing cards. We usually hung out in my room and played glow ball. Tara lived upstairs from Rachel and hung out with Sandy all of the time. Because Sandy was Mayland’s older sister we used to torment the hell out of them. Up the complex a little was a girl named Monique who was even older and never could be bothered with us. She hung out with a girl named Chris who lived across from Brian. She was a rocker chick who always had her hair teased and wore lots of makeup. She worked up at Burnside Drug as a cashier. Because Vince Neil from Motley Crue looked like a woman back then I finally said something to her while I was buying candy. I said “did anyone ever tell you that you look like Vince Neil?” She says “Thanks, nobody ever told me I look like a man before”. Ummmm no I mean he looks like a girl, you don’t look like a guy! We never spoke again.

There was an old lady who lived alone in a townhouse at the end of our apartment buildings named Olga who had tons of cats (yep she was the cat lady). One time Mayland told me that she would buy us ice cream and fortune cookies and I didn’t believe him. We all went over and sure enough, she gave us $5 and we walked down to Arirang Grocery that was a small oriental grocery store and bought a big bag of fortune cookies and then next door to Friendly’s and we bought a half-gallon of ice cream. We took it back to her house and she would unfold the carton and slice the ice cream like a cake. We would do this almost every week. One time I went there by myself, she had ice cream and cookies already and gave me some. While I was sitting in the living room I heard a funny noise. I looked back into the kitchen and there was Olga with her moo-moo pulled up squatted over a roasting pan in her kitchen pissing in it! That was the day I realized that Olga was an old drunk. I bolted out the door and never went back for ice cream again.

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12/12 – Santa’s on my toilet and I’m choking on joysticks

I remember back at Star Lake when I got home from school I would come in the back door santaand usually my first stop was the bathroom. Whenever I would come home and see the Santa toilet seat cover and bathmat out, that was the sign that Christmas was close (yeah that and not the calendar). My Mom would usually decorate during the day when I was at school and I’d get so excited to see Santa’s face on my toilet (um…). Then I’d run out and go check out the tree and the rest of the decorations. I still have those Santa covers and they are in our bathroom now as I write this. Hopefully it has the same kind of effect on my kids when they see it.

CombatatarigamepackThat first year on Burnside I became officially cool when my Mom got me my first Atari 2600 for Christmas which came with the game Combat. I didn’t get any other games because I don’t think they realized that you needed to buy most game cartridges separately. I didn’t care though – I got the Atari I had been wanting ever since I saw the rich kids collection back in Fox Lake and one day I was going to have just as many games as him. My video game addiction had officially begun (Thanks Mom).

That Atari became my focal point. Between that and that new channel MTV (you remember, the one that played actual music videos all day) I was content. One time I had a sleepover and both Brian and Billy slept over. It must have been near Valentine’s Day vd_heart breakersbecause we were eating heart breakers. Brian ate a bunch all at once and grabbed his throat – “I’m choking… give me another one”. We laughed uncontrollably for at least a half hour at that one. I fell asleep and woke up at like 6 AM and they were still playing and eating all of my candy.

post-11172-1201834270_thumbI used to get so frustrated when I lost a game that I would repeatedly slam my controller down on the floor. I also would bite the joystick (I’ll show it who’s boss!) and both of my joysticks had chewed tops. I probably went through like 10 of those things.  My Atari never learned it’s lesson though – it continued to whoop my ass for many more years to come.

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12/11 – By the power of Grayskull

Back to Burnside. Our core group was Mayland, Billy, Brian and I. Chris had severe asthma he never really came with us onto our treks into the woods. One of our favorite spots back then was Torza’s miniature golf that was on Hillside ave. We used to cut through the condo’s behind our apartments to get there. There was also an underpass on Hillside ave that we would go through. The mounds of bird shit that were in that underpass were humungous and gross but did that stop us? Nope! At the mini golf we would always play each hole a couple of times and at the end was a clown and if you got the ball in its nose you’d get a free game. We used to always run up and drop the ball in the nose but then they caught on and put up a cage to block little delinquents like us from playing all day long.

There was one time when we were playing in an open area near Torza’s that we got to through the woods. Well in this open area was a small area of quicksand and Brian got stuck in it. He slowly started getting sucked down begging us to get him out. We were all trying like hell to pull him up but we couldn’t – not even with all of us pulling him up. We started to panic and I think Billy ran like hell all the way back to the apartments to get Brian’s Mom. We stayed and just kept pulling but he kept going down. Right when he was almost up to his neck with his arms sticking up, Billy shows up with Brian’s mom. She found the power of Grayskull and pulled him all the way out with one arm screaming the whole time. We were just standing there like “woh she’s strong”! Never underestimate the strength of a Mother in a state of panic.

The courtyard of our apartments wasn’t just a parking lot. It was our wrestling mat, snowman making, tree climbing, hide and seek domain. There wasn’t much grass or many trees in there but we made use of all of it. I think the biggest piece of grass and the easiest tree to climb was right in front of my apartment so that area became like a central meeting ground. That tree was always base for hide and seek. I always lost and I would be “it” forever!!!! It always got to the point where I could never find anyone and just quit. Then Mayland would lead the “poor sport, poor sport” jeers.

The basement below my apartment was the laundromat for our side as was the apartment right across the driveway because we were the middle apartments. The poor people that lived in the one across from me must have wanted to kill us. We would go through the front door and run down the stairs at full speed and out the back door that led us to the backside of the complex – the area where “Halloween” was and the condo’s behind us. We must have sounded like a fleet of elephants going through there and we’d always get yelled at but did we stop? Of course not.

Then there was The King of the Woods challenge. For some reason it ended up just being me and Brian. I think the other kids just wanted to make the obstacle course and watch us so they could mock us. They drew up this crazy course that we had to follow in the woods, then swim and crawl in part of the Hockanum river back there, then crawl up a dirt/clay  mini cliff to the finish line. It was just me and GI Joe – for the win. We took this shit seriously (Me and Brian anyway – I think everyone else was just laughing at us). I thought he was going to crush me – I mean he lived for this kind of shit. I remember wading through the nasty ass river almost to the cliff which was the end, we were neck and neck and both tired and panting ready to fall down. We clawed our way up that clay cliff – wet and nasty and we were both an absolute mess by this point. Brian slipped and reached for me and hit me right in the nose. He fell – I won. I was KING!!! I gloated and beamed and talked all sorts of shit and I think they all said “shut up Butch” and that was it. My moment was celebrated by only me. Then Brian gets up and takes off his shirt and he had all of these black leeches all over him. I didn’t get any for some reason. Maybe I have bitter blood. My moment stolen and outshined by a bunch of leeches, nice.

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12/10 – Tangled in the Tree

So I am going to pause for a moment because I am reading back through what I’ve written so far and I’m mentioning a lot of family that is kind of all over the place so I am going to attempt to make a family tree with me in the center of my family. Of course each branch on this tree has an extension that is probably just as convoluted.

My Mom (Naomi) – Married once before my Dad and had two kids. Marti my sister from another father who is 13 years older than me and Paul my brother from another father who is 10 years older than me. Marti used to watch me all the time when I was a baby which unfortunately I was too young to remember and she started a family at a young age so I really don’t remember living with her too much. Paul was with us right up until he joined the Air Force right out of high school so he was lived with us until I was 7. The funny thing here is that their Dad also remarried and had three more kids so they have brothers and sisters that are not even related to each other (as do I).

My Mom had two siblings –Tom who I never met (yup, that would make him “Uncle Tom” – maybe I’m glad I never met him) – not sure how many kids he has. Then there was Nadine who had one child (Dale). I only met her once and she was married to a different man and not Dales father. My Grandmother was a southern woman that lived in Missouri. I never met my grandfather (Everett Mallory) as he died years before I was born. She remarried Everett Cape who I knew as my grandfather. Now Everett isn’t a really popular name but it must’ve been back then in the South. What are the odds that she married two Everett’s?

My Dad (Alton Jr.) – Engaged once before my Mom and had one child. My sister from another mother Brenda who is 6 years older I think. I met Brenda a few times when I was really young so I don’t remember at all. Brenda lived with her Mom in the Chicago area. We got back in touch about 16 years ago and then off again for a few years and we’ve been back in touch again for the last few years.

My Dad had two siblings – Patricia who was a half sister from my grandfather and Karen who was a couple of years younger than he. Patricia had three kids that I never met and Karen has a son Graham who is my brother. A proud Marine “lifer” with whom I’ll have some stories about later. My grandparents were Alton Sr. and Olga. Alton Sr. was from Savannah Georgia and later Chicago. Olga was a Czech immigrant raised in Michigan.

My Step Father – My Mom married Bruce when I was about 4 I think. He had 3 kids. The oldest was Greg who was 10 years older, Scott who was maybe 5 years older and Eden who was maybe 2 years older. They lived with their Mom in the Rochester area but Greg lived with us on and off for a few years (oh there’s stories there as well). Other than that I saw them about once every few years. Bruce came from NY and had two brothers Ronald and David and a sister Dianne (Mother of Timmy and Stevie) that all lived in upstate NY with their families. These are the families that were a part of my last couple of posts.

My Dad married one other time, briefly to a woman that had four daughters. I went to live with him four a few months when I was in 8th grade that I could (and probably will) write quite a bit about.

I am married to Lisa and we have three children that are now 19, 17 and 11. There will be many more stories about them in the coming months whether they like it or not!

So there you have it – technically I’m an only child.

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12/9 – Get your frozen tongue off my erector!

That cabin in Highmarket NY was a trip. Literally it seemed like it took forever to drive there – Imageespecially from CT but I grew to love long rides in the car. They had a huge barn and they had what seemed like a whole fleet of those old yellow belt snowmobiles. They also had a sugar shack out in the woods and they would make maple syrup. There were plastic milk jugs hanging off of every tree in site in every direction. The smell of that syrup was so good. We use to make our own little maple snow cones (sometimes in our hands with the raw sap). Some of the kids took the snowmobiles out one time and I wanted to as well even though I had never driven one. Seemed easy enough. I was riding and ran right over a small tree. My step Grandfather came out and yelled at me for driving over it and I of course said “no I didn’t”. I guess I didn’t think about the fact that there was a snowmobile trail right over the tree. So much for plausible deniability.

There was also a big propane tank out by the garage. One time Timmy and I did the cliché sticking our tongue on it in the winter and of course my tongue got stuck to it. I was cryingImage like a baby – “Thimmy – help me! Go get thoneone tho they can get my thongue unthtuck”! Of course a little glass of water was all that was needed to release me from my frozen hell. Couldn’t wait to get inside and snuggle up in my Underoos after that one.

ImageBecause my birthday is in late November, it would sometimes fall on Thanksgiving so I would spend my birthday in Highmarket on those occasions. So instead of cake I got my choice of Mincemeat pie or Apple pie – I hate pie. There was one occasion though where they made me a cake – a white cake with white frosting and apples on it. White cake – really? It’s chocolate or its nothing!!! I still mustered up enough to eat it though.

Evenings were usually spent in their living room watching Hee Haw, Lawrence Welk, Little ImageHouse on the Prairie or some other feel good show. We used to sit there bored as hell and watch these shows like tortured little minions. It really wasn’t that bad as we’d sit there on the floor playing with Play-Doh, Legos or writing in our Fun Pads. There was always the loft above one of the bedrooms which had old ass toys from when their kids were young like erector sets and ancient board games. We’d always go up there thinking we were going to find some kind of new fun treasure that was going to keep us occupied for hours but alas, we would go back down after like 15 minutes every time. Wanna play another game of Old Maid?

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12/7 – I want to be Bo Duke in Candyland

The Dukes of Hazzard actually goes back to my Star Lake days. Friday nights were The Hulk Imageat 8:00 then Dukes at 9:00. Then my Mom would watch Dallas at 10:00, which meant time for me to fall asleep on the couch if I hadn’t fallen out already. I watched it religiously every Friday night. I wanted to be Bo Duke. Because my middle name is Bowie I think I actually asked to be called Bo for a while. It didn’t stick. Little did I know I was watching a show about a couple of redneck moonshine runners. To this day I still say “Enos you dipstick”. I also used to listen to a Star Wars weekly radio show (remember those?) – hey when you only have three channels you find whatever means of entertainment that you can. I also remember the show Shazam.

Shazam was only on TV on Sundays. I went to a Baptist church when I was that age on Sundays. I wanted to get out of Sunday School one time and told them that I had to leave to go to “some thing”. I remember doing this clear as day probably because it was one of the first times I really lied about something like that and I was doing it to my Sunday School Imageteachers… to go home and watch a TV show… I am so going to hell.  I called my step Father at home and told him he needed to pick me up for “that thing”. He was like what thing? I held the phone down and looked at the teachers and said with my head cocked sideways, “he doesn’t remember but we do have this thing”. Then I got back on the phone and told him again. I believe that the teachers talked to him as well. At that point he agreed and came and got me. He told me “Don’t you ever pull s stunt like that again”. The first of many times I was told not to “pull a stunt”. I felt like such a shitbag after that but oh well, Shazam was the shit!

My Step Fathers family was mostly in upstate New York and we always used to go visit them at his Parent’s cabin in Highmarket during the holidays like Thanksgiving.  Maybe IMG_0008one or two Christmas’s as well but it was Thanksgiving that I remember. His sister had two boys – Timmy and Stevie. Timmy was my age and Stevie was still in diapers when I first met him. I hung out with Timmy most of the time when we were up there. Timmy was a big Duke of Hazzard fan too. We were a couple of little Yankee rednecks (is that a thing? I think that’s a thing.). We had an imaginary girl that we used to both try to court – her name was Lisa (Hey Timmy, I married Lisa!!). Also sometimes my step Father’s other kids would also come. He had two sons and a daughter. His daughter Eden was the closest to my age so we hung out too. We(the kids) would always play Candyland or Go Fish (Crazy 8’s, Old Maid) at the kitchen table with my step Grandmother. I loved Candyland and think each of my kids had it but they didn’t really latch on like we did, maybe because it was one of the only things we had to do so it seemed liked we were having a blast. I just wanted to eat the board.

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12/6 – Raw Sugar and The Wolfman

I don’t think I realized it until I actually am writing this and telling the story of 1981 for me how significant this year was in my young life. That one year has been my topic of interest for my last several writings now and I’m sure that future years I will talk about will be nowhere near as long. It was a sensory overload for a 7/8 year old and a very formidable time.

I started school in thefall fall in 3rd grade at Burnside School. One of five or six different elementary schools in East Hartford. The school used to talk about the autumn and the New England foliage and heritage a lot. When fall comes around I still get that feeling I had back then – excited for the leaves to change, excited for Halloween. There’s a smell in the air around October and my kids have always recognized it as well. We say it smells like Halloween.

There was a Friendly’s right across from the school and the woods that we played in were right behind the Friendly’s. We used to go into Friendly’s right after school and suck down KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAthe sugar packets that were on the counters for coffee. Nothing like a pack of 7 and 8 year olds full of sugar running all over Burnside. We did this almost daily and no one that worked there ever said anything. We would then go in the woods and take the path home – usually with a few adventures along the way. There was also a Laundromat down the street. They had one or two video games, usually had Kung Fu or Sinistar and we’d always stop in there and blow all of our money and stand there for hours.

wolfman

My horror movie fascination then took hold in school. I used to go to the library  and constantly check out the Lon Chaney books which were basically just picture books of his early horror movies like Frankenstein or The Wolfman. At book fairs I would always buy costume books or horror books. Either that or Dukes of Hazzard stuff.

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12/5 on a plane. Please shut off your phone!!

So today I get to post from my phone on a plane thanks to a friend who’s holding me to my post a day (even though I’ve already blown that). I woke up at 4 am London time which is 11PM my normal time to fly to Dublin for a meeting. Had a 30 minute cab ride, 2 hour meeting, a quick half hour pub lunch and back on a plane to London by 2 PM. I had 50 minutes to make it to my plane in London back to the US which I barely made thanks to the security assholes needing to molest me, but I did and here I sit on my plane sadly texting this out on my iPhone after they’ve made the shut off announcement. Any minute they’ll yell at me. I will land at home tonight at 11:30 PM which is 4:30 AM London time and I absolutely cannot sleep on planes so here’s to being up for 24 straight hours, a plane movie marathon, bad plane food and red eyed glory!!! And I just got yelled at so before they arrest me like Alec Baldwin, I’m out.

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12/4 – Stand By Me (kind of)

The horror movies of the day became something of an obsession in those apartments. The kids would always sit on the swing set that was at the back of the complex after dark and Imagewe’d tell each other stories about all of the scary movies that we’d seen. I was still a newbie and hadn’t seen many of them because of my PBS/CBS affliction so these scare sessions just scared me even more. Of course I kind of liked it and couldn’t wait to see all of them for myself.

I think the next kid I met in the complex was Brian. He was the kid that loved GI Joe, dressed in camo every day and always talked about knives and weapons. Brian was my ageImage and lived right across the complex from me with just him and his Mom. Chris was a kid that was a year older and lived a couple of doors down on my side. He moved shortly after but I remember he was one of those kids that was kind of a nerd, he had an Atari and knew a lot about games though. Next was Billy. He was the crazy little shit that lived next to me. When I say crazy I mean this was the kind of kid that they ruin on Ritalin these days. He used to just come out with the craziest shit and we’d all laugh our faces off. Billy had a young pretty Mom and I remember he always had the best birthday parties out of the group like McDonalds or Showbiz Pizza. I swear Billy’s apartment was always spotless when I went there, I mean where did they keep their stuff? Didn’t he play? Did he just put it all away when he was done? Why would someone do that?

There were these woods behind our apartments that our core group of boys from the complex practically lived in (cue the Stand By Me music). There was a river and downed trees that we used to crawl or walk across to get to little islands. There was also a clearing in one area that just had an upside down shopping cart and some other random junk items on the ground. Billy dubbed this area “Halloween”, don’t know why but that’s what it was. On weekend days we could go into those woods in the morning and not come out until it was dinnertime. I would shower at night and just watch the dirt run off me into the drain. Either Imagethat or the ice cream truck would always get us out of the woods. We used to get the Good Humor truck and the Mr. Softee truck during the summers and they would come by like every other day. It was probably the same guy just switching trucks. Every time I heard the truck I would say it was Good Humor, Billy bet me $100 one time that it was Mr. Softee. You know at 7 years old $100 was like all the money in the world. I lost and still owe him that $100. I wonder what 31 years of interest on that would be?

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12/3 – Movin to the city

ImageIt was still 1981, I was still 7 and when I went home from my Dad’s my Mom and Stepfather had moved us from Star Lake NY (population 800) to East Hartford Connecticut (population 50,000) and my brother went off to the Air Force. We moved into a 4 room apartment on Burnside ave. I remember when my teacher in NY asked me where I was moving and I couldn’t remember Connecticut so I said some place with a long name that I couldn’t remember. She said Schenectady? I said yup that’s it!

When I first got there I was told about cable TV and I was like what?? We got 3 channels in ImageNY with the antenna up on a good day. CBS, NBC and PBS (not even ABC for Christ sakes) so cable TV was beyond my comprehension. The big channel then was called Spotlight (now Showtime I think) and the movie Airplane had just come out on the movie channel and had that image of the twisted plane on the cover of the cable guide. This was very exciting to me! Movies in my house?!? And there were like 36 channels? WTF? I was never going to leave that little apartment.

Then I found out we had a movie theater close by, a mall, bowling alley, arcade – holy shit we moved to a sheltered 7 year old’s heaven. A far cry from the ice-skating rink and a Dairy treat (and the “mountain”) that I had become so accustomed to. I was a pretty good ice skater back in Star Lake. I was in a skit called Grease and the girl I was skating hand in hand with fell half way through it and dragged me down with her. I think that was my first ever bout of embarrassment. It wasn’t because of that fall but because there was so much to do Imagein CT that I never ice-skated again. Back to cable TV. I very quickly learned that the popular movies like Airplane were only on once in a while and during prime time. The rest of the time it was lesser-known or less popular movies but I still watched as much as I could. I swear I saw the movie Popeye with Robin Williams at least 100 times.

The apartment complex we lived in had like 21 doors on each side with a driveway/parking lot in the middle and a very little bit of grass and a couple of trees. There were also quite a few kids that lived in the complex that were right around my age. The first one I met was Mayland who was about a year older than me. His Dad was the superintendent of the apartment complex so they had immediate authoritative cred. He had an older sister Sandy and of course my parents became friends with his parents during the summer before I got there and they lived down on the end on the other side of the complex (we were right in the middle in apt J-1). Mayland was a very pragmatic tell it like it is kind of kid. I still talk to him and to this day he is the same as when I met him when he was 8. His Dad’s name was Mayland too but everyone called him Shorty. He was a short little Frenchman that certainly was a character and there wasn’t a person in that complex – man, woman or child that didn’t know Shorty. All of our parents partied together so by default we ended up hanging out a lot. We only had Spotlight and Mayland had The Movie Channel and HBO too. I remember watching “Humanoids from the Deep” at his house one night and getting the shit scared out of me.Image

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11/30 – Girl bullies and Pabst Blue Ribbon can’t top my pissed in pants

There was a kid that I hung out with at Fox Lake when I went to visit my Dad. I think his name was Ray and he had an older brother and a sister that was about a year older. The girl used to tackle me when she saw me coming up and she would just sit on my chest and slap and punch me. I was always taught never to hit girls so I would just try to get out of it and take the abuse. I Imagetried avoiding her at all costs but sometimes I just couldn’t. I remember I told my Mom about this when I went back home after the first summer (and the repeated beatings) and she told me sometimes you need to hit back to defend yourself.  The next summer when I went I walked right up to the house with all of my confidence (and more importantly, approval) of course she came out running, tackled me and started again. I just swung and popped her right in the jaw. She looked at me and said – “good punch”. She got up, helped me up and she never bothered me again.

One time at Ray’s house he snuck a cigarette from his parents and a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon to Imagecover the smell (don’t argue with 8 year old logic). We went to his back shed and puffed on the butt and drank some of the beer. It wasn’t what either of us expected and I don’t think we finished either. Clearly we weren’t ready to party it up yet.

There was another kid who lived down the street and he had an Atari 2600, and one of those big ass projection TV’s with the projector on the bottom in front of the TV. I walked into his house and he had like 40 Atari games. No one I knew had a big screen and 40 Atari games! When you’re that age and you see that many games it’s like a homeless person seeing a big sack of cash or a druggie looking at a huge mound of cocaine, at least that’s how I felt about Imageit. I told him he was rich and all I wanted to do was sit in his house and play Atari but he was quickly annoyed by me and we didn’t really hang out much after that. I guess when you’re rich you don’t like other people pointing it out to you. Either that or I just became a sniveling little junkie addicted to his Atari.

When I went to my Dad’s for the summer it was always a treat. It was just me and him (unless he was working and then I just had time to find trouble) and we would do things that I still fondly remember. We used to go to the movies a lot, both in the theaters and drive ins. There was no radio stations that broadcast the sound so you just had the 50’s style speaker boxes at the drive in that you would put in your car. I saw Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark Imageand a bunch of Roger Moore James Bond movies which were all great and still some of my favorites but we also saw some really shitty movies. Barbarosa (I know who you are, you’re Mr. Shit), Caveman, Humungous, Zorro the Gay Blade. We would also always get ice cream. I loved going into Baskin Robins as a kid because it seemed like there were a million flavors. Then there was Dog n Suds which was a 50′s style drive in restaurant. My Dad was imparting his nostalgia onto me and these things became very important to me and for me to have things like this to share with my kids. Can’t forget Brown’s fried chicken either. I don’t know if they are still around in the Chicago area but man was that some good stuff.

Then there was Great America. It was an amusement park in Gurnee, IL (It’s a Six Flags now) and that place seemed larger than life. We were driving there in my Dad’s brown Cutlass and it was a hot day so I took my shirt off and was dangling it out the window. He said “don’t drop it!” “I won’t” I said. 30 seconds later and it was on the side of the highway somewhere. We stopped an looked for it but couldn’t find it. So my Dad had to drop $20 on a Great America shirt before we even got in the park (score!).  It was 1981 and they had just opened the largest and fastest roller coaster in the world – The American Eagle. My Dad was dying to go on it and I was scared shitless. After some coaxing I agreed to go on. Going up that first hill and seeing how high we were literally was one of the most exciting moments of my life but what goes up, must come down. I think my face froze in absolute panic when we went down that hill. I had a death grip on the bars, my eyes were shut so tight that my eyelids folded inside of each other and I pissed my pants. Yep Image– the best fucking experience ever! Seriously I mean that. I became addicted to roller coasters from that day forward. I bought the Guinness book of world records just to show everyone that it was in there and that I went on it. So there I was in my pissed in pants and new Great America shirt and it was one of the best days ever.

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11/29 – Summer at Dad’s with Pesky and the Playboy wallpaper

When we moved to Star Lake I lived with my Mother, Step Father Bruce and my brother Paul. My Father was still in the Chicago area and I used to visit him during the summers. Back then I could fly alone at the age of 6, 7, etc. with no issue. The flight attendants (still called stewardess’ back Imagethen) would always walk me to my seat  and take care of me in the air. The first couple of years that I stayed with him he lived in an apartment above a garage on Fox Lake. It was a small three room apartment and it was there that I first discovered Haagen Daaz. He used to buy flavors like coffee, rum raisin and of course chocolate. He would always eat right out of the carton (as did I with him) and he always ate the melting outside first. So each time you would get the ice cream out there would be this mound right in the middle of the carton. He also always use Irish Spring Soap, Aqua Fresh toothpaste and the apartment had sulfur water. Don’t ask me why I remember this stuff but I so and any of those smells always remind me of Fox Lake.

I also had a pillow that I would use exclusively when I would go there. It was a panda head pillow that I called Pesky. He drove a Bronze Cutlass Supreme, one of those big ass 70’s style GM boats and he had a turtle in the back window named Tugbutt. One time we were driving through Imagea bank parking lot and going around a left hand corner and I was screwing with the door handle. Of course out I went and I don’t know how but I landed face first on the pavement and I remember he slammed on the brakes with the back wheels right by my head. I wouldn’t have gotten run over but let me tell you it scared the living shit out of me.

Fox Lake was a cool little place. Right next door to my Dad’s was a small neighborhood bar where my Dad would go sometimes. Across the street was a much wilder biker bar that I was told not to go near. It was usually pretty loud and crazy and I wouldn’t go near the place. The bar my Dad hung out in had a friendly small town crowd and all the same faces. I don’t remember any of them except for one guy named Nick. He told me it was short for Nickel and he wore a bracelet made out of Nickels. I use to always eat Tombstone pizzas when I went there with him. I also always would play “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” by The Tokens on the jukebox. Every time.

Playboy wallpaper – My Dad had a stack of Playboys in his apartment that I use to sneak a look at when he went to work. He knew of course but didn’t really say anything. The house that was behind the garage was owned by a family with two daughters and one day I felt like redecorating. I took some of the Playboys and cut out pictures of the naked girls and started taping them all Imageover the walls and windows. I saw the two daughters walking past the garage to the house from the upstairs window and started waving, mind you with naked ladies taped up all over the windows. They looked up in horror and ran home. My Dad got home shortly after that and for some reason didn’t like what I had done with the place.  Reluctantly I had to take my brilliant work down. It was shortly after that I was enrolled in Kelly’s day camp to spend my days while he was at work.

At the camp we were split up into teams of 6-8 kids per team and it was gender specific. We all had these cool names that we suggested for our team but none of them got picked. There was this small kid with glasses and he always had snot running down his face and he said – “how about the invaders!” We were all like nnnnooooo but of course, we became the invaders. So being on the boys team we never got to play with the girls until free time and even then we really didn’t. There was one brown haired girl I liked and never really talked to. I had a couple of the kids I was with go tell her I wanted to hump her (and probably some more graphic stuff). They all giggled and ran over to tell her and she just started balling. The counselors of course got all over the kids who told her and told them that I put them up to it. I of course blatantly denied it and said they made it up. There’s not much else from Kelly’s that I remember other than me being good at archery there and that they had awesome frosted brownies for snacks. There you have it – sexual harassment, invaders, archery and brownies. You would have thought this was a stoner teenager’s story but nope. I was still only 7. That came later…

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11/28 – Star Lake part II

The snow and thunderstorms in Star Lake were awesome. The snow used to be above my head and the thunderstorms were so loud. To this day I still love a good thunderstorm. My brother and I went back to see the old house when I was 16 and we had to wade through waste deep snow to get to the house and look in. The new owners apparently were summer only.

I also hung out with a kid across the street named Philip Giardino. I called him Philly His Dad was a teacher at the school and I’m not sure what his Mom did. He also had a little sister Elizabeth. They lived right on the lake and had a cool boathouse in their backyard. One time we were in his backyard playing and he was swinging upside down on his yard swing, he hit his head on a cement yard decoration and cut it open pretty good. What did I do? I started laughing, hysterically. It really wasn’t funny at all and I don’t know why my evil little ass was laughing so hard but again I was told to go home…

It was the 70′s man – Again my school was so small and was K-12 so all of the little kids migrated in the halls with the big kids. One time I was in the hallway looking up at a poster for the George Burns movie “Oh God” and this big kid comes up behind me and lifted me up to see the poster better. It scared the shit out of me and I didn’t know who he was. I told my teacher that some older kid tried to give me dope. Philly asked what color it was. I said it was blue and white and it was in a salt packet – he said – yup that’s dope alright. I don’t know whatever happened but I’m sure the teachers knew I was full of shit unless there really was a blue and white dope back then.

And let’s not forget about Homer Dooby! Seriously there was a kid in my class with that name. Every time I used to talk about him my Mom would always say with a manufactured southern accent HOOOOMER DOOOBY! I’ll have to look him up.

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11/27 – Star Lake NY part 1

–> We moved to Star Lake NY when I was very young. We moved from Round Lake IL which I really don’t remember much of other than a surprise party that scared me so bad I cried instantly. Oh and the time my Mom gave me cough medicine and I liked it so much that I went and got the bottle out of her purse and drank it while hiding behind the couch (shit, that’s not a good sign). I think she gave me some ipecac or something to make me throw it up.
Anyways, Star Lake. It was a tiny town in the Adirondack Mountains of NY. I went to a K-12 school that covered so much area the bus ride to school was over an hour long. I only lived a half a mile from the school so I was the first stop and too young to walk. It was the kind of town that had a Dairy Treat (Dairy Queen ripoff) that had a Queen pinball machine, an ice skating rink, one small grocery store and like 6 bars (what else were the adults going to do while their kids were eating ice cream and ice skating?) The house was an A frame on the lake and was actually a very cool house from what I remember. It had a dirt basement that scared the shit out of me though. My brother’s room had a cool little balcony that overlooked the living room and my room was a double room that had an emergency exit with a small bridge outside of the door.

It was in my brother Paul’s room one time – wrapped in foil and calling my name. A Hostess Ding Dong. Remember when they were still wrapped in foil and were so moist and good? I ate that shit and when he found the wrapper with one of them gone he yelled at me but it was so worth it. Whenever I see Ding Dongs in the store, which is rarely I buy them and hope for that same taste but now they’re all dry and wrapped in cheap plastic. Guess I don’t have to worry about that anymore.

I think there were like 5 houses on the top of the hill on the street we lived on. The first house had a hill with a sidewalk that went down to the main road but I never saw who lived there, then our house, the McKay’s house – they had two kids, Megan who was my age (I called her Meegan) and her brother Paul-Pat. There was another house that I never saw who lived there and then the Kuhn’s at the end. My Mother and step Father became friends with Bob and Della and they had 4 kids. Alan (RIP) who was my brother’s age and became his best friend, and his sisters Kathy, Julie and Susie. I remember that Paul and Alan use to always listen to Pink Floyd’s The Wall and the girls were always listening to REO Speedwagon. I was scared shitless of The Exorcist and it was a major TV event when it was on CBS for the first time. The girls were watching me that night that it was on and even the commercial with that haunting piano riff used to scare me. I know that Susie didn’t want to watch it either and I think she took me into the other room so that we didn’t have to watch it. Now every time I hear “Keep on Loving You” I think of their house and The Exorcist.

Luvy Duvy – Meegan and I used to play what we called luvy duvy. We would basically pretend like we were doing it but at 5 or 6 years old and with all clothes on. We really just hugged and stuff but you know how little kids hear about things and try to emulate them. Well we had enough older kids around us to hear about plenty. We had a small hill behind the houses that we called a mountain. I remember one time we were up on the mountain and her older brother was “coaching” us and her mom saw us and was standing at the bottom of the hill with a stick in her hand slapping her other hand with it. She screamed at him and beat his ass all the way down that hill. She also yelled at us and told me to go home and tell my Mom. I didn’t see much of Meegan after that for a while…

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11/26 What do I want to be when I grow up – part II

So I also played some football for the Cardinals of EH. Unlike my unsuccessful baseball team, the Cardinals were a top tier team on all levels (A, B and C teams). I again was a bench warmer up until my second year of B team. That was the year that I remember the coach and a couple of kids called me out at practice for being lazy and not giving a shit. My immediate reaction was that I wanted to quit. But after some conversations at home and from my coach I stuck with it and they continued to piss me off until one day I snapped and started drilling these little fuckers into the ground. They liked it and encouraged me and I actually played the best football of my young career that year. Coach called me out at the end of the year banquet as the most improved player of the year and also said I became one of his best players all around that year. A proud moment for sure but I was still in search for my dream. The next year was my last year of football.

When I was 7 my Mom’s friend’s husband was selling his guitar for $25. It was a cheap blue no name guitar from the 50′s with big sliding selector switches and was just ugly as hell. I was 7 so this guitar was almost as big as me. I started taking lessons from Tony Spada at Burnside Musicland and got the old Mel Bay 1 book to learn from. My feet couldn’t even hit the floor and Tony would tell me to play a note – In my bratty ass voice I would just smile and say nnnnnno. He earned his money. I took lessons for a few months but probably didn’t get very good. When I went to my Dad’s that summer I stopped the lessons and did not start back in the fall. My mom used to give me money to bribe me to clean my room (otherwise I would have lived in filth forever) and one day after getting $10 for cleaning my room I went up to Musicland which was also a small record store and saw a new Kiss album (they still had the makeup at this point) staring back at me with their glowing faces. I was 9 and it kind of scared the shit out of me so I did what any 9 year old boy would do – I bought it.

I went home and played it on my cheap little plastic record player (you know, the kind that you used to play 45′s on) and I was absolutely hooked. It was dark and heavy and they swore a little bit – everything that I hadn’t heard up until that point. I knew that day that my true dream was to be a rock star. I was going to play every instrument and sing every song and write the best songs ever that would change the world! Remember how Bill and Ted ended with their music changing the world and everyone listened to them – yup I thought of it first (what is it with these assholes stealing my ideas?!?). I started taking lessons again from Tony. I needed to learn how to play my ugly ass blue guitar and play it so well that my ugly guitar became cool. I also became Gene Simmons every Halloween onward (I still don the makeup every once in a while).

I’m still waiting for George Carlin to come down in his phone bImageooth to come down and show me the future…

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11/25 – Star Wars wrestlers and the dream stealing prick

As a child we all have tons of things that we say we want to be or are going to do when we get older. Most Imageof us don’t get to do those things. When I was really young I wanted to be a truck driver – something I could have attained if that stayed my goal.

I also wanted to be a wrestler in the WWF (now WWE) and go under the name War Machine inspired by one of my favorite Kiss songs. (There was actually a wrestler back in the late 90′s who dressed like Gene Simmons from Kiss – dream stealing prick).

I had all sorts of Star Wars figures that I used to get for gifts on every holiday or birthday. What did I do with those? Yup, wrestling matches! I never actually played Star Wars with them. Every time I would get a new character they would be the up and coming contender for the belt. My favorite was the Snowtrooper. He was the reigning champ for many years.

Then there was my brief need to be a race car driver. We used to go to the small circuit races at Stafford and Riverside when I was a kid and I remember guys like Greg Sacks and Reggie Ruggiero who just could not be beat but they had ugly cars. I liked Ray Miller because he had the black and orange 01 car but the guy couldn’t win a race to save his life. I was going to be the guy that couldn’t be beat and have a cool car! There was an old gas station on the corner of Burnside and Moore ave right across from the apartments I lived in at the time and they had the old abandoned junk piles behind the station. I use to go over there all the time and pretend I was driving and racing. Then like my Star Wars and wrestling fascination, I also had tons of hot wheels and matchbox cars that I would race on my little plastic tracks. I would pin the tracks up on my wall and just let the cars go. The fastest was the winner. My “champ” was a little orange “uniborn”. I called it UNborn though because it sounded much cooler. No matter how many cars I got, the unborn was always the fastest, and of course, it was an ugly car.

I was also going to be the starting pitcher and 1st baseman for the Chicago Cubs. I was going to be the one who cured the curse of the billy goat and get us the world series championship. I played farm and little league baseball but I wasn’t much good. I was a bench warmer for Calvin Ford – one of the worst teams in EH. The only ones worse than us were Civitan. But in my head I was awesome – I used to play by myself and mimic the bottom of the ninth either as the pitcher or the hitter many times. Of course I was the hero every time. I wasn’t going to strike out every once in a while for reality’s sake – I did that enough for real. When I used to visit my Dad in Chicago in the summers I would watch the Cubs practically every single day on TV. I used to buy the baseball almanac and knew all of the stats of all of the Cubs but no one else on any other team. I only cared about the Cubs. All that baseball and you would have thought I would have been a better player… nope. My Mom was even the team mother one year. Didn’t help – none of my stat knowledge or backyard dreams were to be on the field. Just because you know about something doesn’t mean you can do it well.

Then there was Kiss. The band that fueled my true dream calling – to be a rock God! That’s for next time.

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11/24 – A generic begining.

So I turned 39 yesterday. I am staring the big 40 in the eyes next year and I can’t help but think, damn where did the time go? I still feel like a kid sometimes. You know, that feeling when you’re with a group of people be it friends, coworkers or even strangers and you feel like everyone else has a ton more experience and knowledge than you do. Like when you speak and try to sound brilliant in a conversation and no one really acknowledges what you say. They do of course but you just think that they don’t and way over think the conversations of the day. I just keep waiting for everyone to stop and look at me in amazement and say “oh my God! You are so right!”. Ever happen to you? It does to me all the time and it’s what I mean when I say I still feel like a kid sometimes. I actually like feeling that way though. It makes me try harder and continue to seek knowledge. I may never be the wise man that I think I am in my head but at least I can keep learning and perhaps one day when I do actually grow up… screw this, I’m going to play a video game.

I have noticed that in the past couple of years I have started getting into things that I just never gave a damn about like politics, retirement and world affairs. Not that I didn’t care before but now it’s a little different. I read more closely, actually remember things and quote them in conversations I have. You know, something the old people used to do.

I find myself telling my kids things like “you can count how many true friends you will have in your life on one hand” or some other cliche quote that makes me sound like an old man and I’m sure they are thinking the same thing I did when I was their age – OK enough with the life speech I have shit to do like hang out with my friends who I can count on more that one hand – loser. It takes a few years of experience to actually learn these kinds of things on your own. Maybe my kids will listen better than I did though. I feel like I have made things a lot harder for myself but not listening very much when I was younger. At the same time though the lessons I’ve learned have been my lessons – gained through the inexperience of thinking I knew it all and acting on impulses. The hard way.

Seriously, I’m going to play a video game now – shit’s getting real.

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