Monday, January 31, 2005

Super Trooper

Back in the ‘70’s, if you worked with the stage crew at Barton Coliseum and the union thought you were worth expending any energy on, they had a spotlight certification class they would run you through.

Everything was carbon arc in those days and a lot more difficult to run than they are now with the xenon troopers or whatever they’ve come up with in the past decade while I’ve sat out. We learned how to strike them up without blowing the cores out of the rods, how to adjust on the fly if the auto feed wasn’t working properly (which it seldom was) and how to “trim” the lamps so that the carbons wouldn’t get so short they cracked the mirror.

We learned to focus, we learned the “fade” and the bump to black. We learned to change colors and to fade colors in. And when they thought we were ready, they had a guy race around the coliseum floor in a go-cart while we chased him. Nobody got too bent out of shape if you couldn’t hold your guy in a head shot while whipping and weaving around the expansive concrete floor.

I got my first spot gig when Ringling Brothers Circus came to town. They always used about 12 or so spots and it was hard to find enough operators to fill a week of performances. I was excited but also a little bit nervous. What if I forget how to trim the lamp during the show?

And of course, being the FNG, you get the worst lamp in the house – one of the travelers that the show brought with them. Not nearly as well maintained as the house spots, and they were set up in odd areas around the top rim of the building. Not much standing room. But, it was show business!

My lamp fired up bright and I shined a round spot on the top wall near the ceiling. I focused the beam in and twisted the knurled knob to take the brown out of the edges, I had plenty of spare rods, my leather gloves, a pair of pliers, a wooden clothespin to grip the red hot rods and was good to go. I shut the dowser and settled back for a last minute smoke.

There was plenty of chatter on the headsets as the lighting director talked with various other members of the road crew, discussing the mammalian distinctions of certain members of the audience and sundry strategies for getting them backstage after the show. Pretty soon, L.D. gives us our instructions and numbers us off. The lights go black and the band starts to play.

There were several of us newbies on spots that afternoon, and it became quickly apparent that one of them had a serious problem of not being able to find his target. The L.D. went from irritation to anger to outright fury. And by the end of the first half was screaming and cussing, demanding to know where in the hell spot four was???

I knew we’d get a pee break very shortly and there wasn’t much to keeping up with a lumbering camel with a big-headed clown on top about halfway through the line parading around the coliseum. So, I decided that intermission would be a sparkling time to make fun of the dumbass on spot four. I started counting off just stage left of the L.D. as he had indicated before the show. One, two, three…and as I reached four I realized it was me!.

It was easy to know where four was supposed to be, hell, I heard the L.D. screaming it over and over. I whipped my lamp over to the elephant with the glittery lady on top and adjusted the spot size.

“Thank you spot four,” came the relieved voice of the lighting director. I was too embarrassed to even go down for a piss at intermission and just turned my headsets off for ten minutes, so I wouldn’t have to listen to the comments. Stagehands can be quite cruel. I know. I was prepared to do it myself.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Hot Sauce!

Death's Door posts a complaint about the crazy things things that happen to us guys. What really got me about the whole story was that I could actually feel the stubbed toe and the burning dick when he was talking about them. Man, we've all been there.

And once things start to go wrong, they seem to just keep going that way.

I remember a couple of Christmases ago, my father in law got a bottle of hot sauce from one of his daughters. The man loves hot sauce.

This stuff was called "Dave's Insanity Sauce" and billed itself as the "hottest sauce in the universe." Not in the world, mind you, in the freaking universe! I read the ingredients to satisfy my curiosity about what could make it the hottest sauce in the universe.

Pepper was about four ingredients down the list. How damned hot could it be? I unscrewed the cap, dabbed a little on my index finger and gave it a lick. I have to say, those guys weren't lying. That shit was hot. I re-read the ingredients and saw that pepper extract was the fourth ingredient on the list. They took everything that was mean and evil about that pepper, extracted it from the chaff and dribbled it into that little bottle with a little salt and vinegar to dilute it.

George is watching my antics with amusement and reaches over and picks up the bottle. He follows my lead with a dab on the index finger. A couple of licks and a thoughful pause before he takes another dab and a few more licks. Next thing I know he's racing into the kitchen and chugging milk straight out of the gallon jug.

About this time, daughter says she's going home, so he walks her to the door and before I know it he comes running in and straight for the bathroom. He's in there for quite a while before he emerges looking as if he'd gotten the bad end of an ass whooping.

"I rubbed my eye," he muttered in response to my "Y'allright?"

Rail Rat Exposé

I wrote a check for union dues today, to pay me up for the year 2005. And I know you wonder why I would pay to belong to an organization I haven’t worked with in over 5 years. And the last ten or so that I did work were spotty at best.

Seniority. You never know when you might need it. And the Good Lord knows that Local 204 kept me out of the poorhouse in my salad years. My dream as an eighteen year old boy was to one day be a “rail rat.” One of the old men that hung out at the hemp rail and drank coffee while us young bucks did all the work. I’ve probably got enough seniority to do that now, but I don’t think my conscience would ever let me.

Grandpa managed the stage in the ancient art deco auditorium in town, and daddy worked back stage some until the night he fell off a truck ramp and decided to swear off it for the sake of his back. So I guess I was destined to become a stage hand from the get-go. Besides, when you’re in your teens or early twenties, it gives you some amount of bragging rights. “Yeah, we ate lunch with Def Leppard yesterday. They’re really pretty cool guys.”

Anyone over the age of forty probably remembers the Grand Funk song, ‘We’re An American Band,’ which was the world’s introduction to the now famous groupie, Sweet Sweet Connie. And Connie was always a fixture back stage anytime a rock show came to town. Most of us had a speaking acquaintance with her, though it was tacitly understood that she didn’t do townies. (Except for Bennie. We all heard that Bennie was getting it on the side.)

One night in ’86, I was loitering backstage waiting for some hair band to finish for the night so we could load them out, and Connie came up and draped an arm across my shoulder. She reeked of beer, and even in the dark I could see her eyes were lit like the exit sign at the White Water Tavern. The next thing I knew I felt a wet tongue in my ear and she slurred, “Ya know where I can find a job for th’ shummer?”

I was working for a large printing company at the time for my “real job” and ran a pretty big crew in the mailing area. We were always looking for warm bodies to catch off the conveyors or to sack mail. “Sure Connie,” I said, “Come see me next week.” I didn’t think she would even remember it the next day.

True to form, I didn’t hear anymore about it until one day, a couple of weeks later, I stopped into Miller’s Bar, down the street from the plant, to have a beer after work. WTF? There was Connie waiting tables.

In the convoluted manner that is Sweet Connie, she explained to me how she had come to my office one day the past week and asked for me. They told her that I had gone to lunch and offered to leave a message. Of course she doesn’t leave a message, she doesn’t fill out an application. No, she just leaves.

And as she’s driving down the highway she sees Miller’s and thinks, “I bet he’s in there having lunch.”

Well, I like beer as much as the next guy, but even now I don’t make it my lunch. But that’s the way Connie thinks.

Bless their hearts, the folks at Miller’s, they knew me. And they demanded to know what she wanted before they would acknowledge even that much. Old Jack’s eyes probably lit up when Connie replied, “A job.”

Connie was still a young woman then and not unattractive. She told me that after a ride in his convertible, and a blow job, Jack offered her a job at Miller’s as a bar maid. All of which set my mind racing as to the possibilities for fun with this situation. I told Connie that I was going to bring a couple of guys from work with me next time, and to make them feel special.

Steve was the owner’s nephew and basically my boss at the time. I invited him and the personnel director, Ron, to go have a drink after work. I slipped out a little early, staked out a table and gave Connie the nod. Steve and Ron came in, grabbed a seat, and Connie saunters over to take our drink order.

“Ron, Steve, this is Connie. Connie, this is Ron and Steve.” I said.

Connie grinned from ear to ear, hooked her thumbs in her tube top, gave it a slight downward tug and tumped out a couple of well exposed but nonetheless perky tits.

“Nice to meet you,” Ron stared into her chest, “both of you.”

Friday, January 28, 2005


The first time I ever ingested a psilocybin mushroom was at the North Hall Auditorium in Memphis Tennessee during a Rick Wakeman concert. We were sitting in the balcony smoking some herb when we were offered a sandwich bag of mushroom caps in exchange for a joint. I remember it being the nastiest thing I had ever placed in my mouth, but that it was more of a textural objection rather than one of taste. Needless to say, there were plenty of other substances around worth abusing so that the slimy toadstools didn’t come back to the forefront of mind until some years later.

When Bill and I moved into the place on Potter Street, down by Boyle Park, it became what is now known as a “destination.” There were many people and many types of people that came in and out. Neighbors, friends, acquaintances, acquaintances of friends and total strangers. Some were passing through, others looking to crash.

One day Bill’s cousin, Nathan, came in with a grocery sack full of mushrooms. They had hit a cow pasture right after the previous night’s rain and cashed in. “Gonna borrow your stove,” he said as he headed back to the kitchen. I could hear pots and pans rattling. I turned the stereo up and lit another doob.

About thirty minutes later, Nathan came out and handed me a white Tupper-Ware tumbler half filled with purple Cool aid. Maybe thirty minutes after that I found myself plastered against the back of the sofa somewhat like that ride at the fair that spins and the floor drops out. I remember the buzzing sound and thinking, “is this where they get the term copping a buzz?”

The sounds from the stereo became very intense and I went into a trancelike stupor for what could have been hours or minutes. I really don’t know. I just remember feeling very calm and it still being daylight when I regained movement in my body. That’s when I heard the knock at the door.

Brother Bo was a forty-something black man that lived with his mother across the street from our house. He always wore an olive drab combat jacket and was probably a Viet Nam vet. We called him Brother Bo because that’s what he called himself. He had a habit of coming to the door, “Come’on man, give Brother Bo a joint.” Normally you would give Brother Bo that sad look that says, man I wish I had a joint myself, and shrug your shoulders, shaking your head as you closed the door. I’d usually light one up as I watched him stagger back across the street. He was always drunk. And, I couldn’t afford to support his habit and mine too.

On this particular day, the half gallon jug of grape cool aid in the kitchen tugged hard at the mean streak in me saying, “ooh wouldn’t this be fun!” and I said, “Bo, wait right here, I’ll be back.”

I dug through the cabinets and found the biggest container that looked like a glass that I could find and I filled it up with the semi-viscous fluid and returned to the door. “What’s this?” he asked.

“Shrooms,” I replied. “Drink it.”

Bo slowly gulped the purple drink as only an experienced 40 ounce drinker can do, and handed me back the empty glass. “See ya, Bo,” I said, “lemme know how ya like it.”

It was a couple of days before I ran into Bo again in the driveway after work.

“Next time you gets some of them shrooms,” he said, “be sure to let ole Brother Bo know about it.”

Thursday, January 27, 2005


When my little girl was seventeen, she decided that the day she graduated high school, she was going to move out on her own. She was serious, too. In January of her senior year, she put a deposit down on an apartment in the city where she was going to go to college, and told them she’d see them in June.

And she did.

Last year, she confided in me that maybe that wasn’t such a great deal after all. Not that she wanted to undo things and move back home. No she had made her proverbial bed. But she admitted that the things she had taken for granted – laundry service, live-in chef, and emergency 24/7 on-call cab service – were lacking under the new arrangements.

Got me to thinking about when I moved out on my own.

I’ve always been one of those hard-headed people that would rather ruin their own life than to ever back down from anything. And I was seeing a young woman that was causing me to do things my parents never approved of – staying all night with a girl was one of them. I got the “if you’re going to live under our roof” lecture and determined that I was going to strike out on my own.

Mama listened intently as I laid out my plan, such as it was, and she cautioned me, “Baby, you don’t have to leave. Remember that. But just like the baby birds, once you do leave the nest, you can’t come back.” This had the effect of steeling my determination even more.

Well, my pard Bill was tired of living down with the drug dealers and was looking for a better situation, and a bud of mine had just moved out of a house down near Boyle Park and told me we could probably just take over paying rent at $100 a month and live there. We did square things away with the landlord, who turned out to be an out-of-state absentee, and gave his mother a token deposit.

Bill bought a stove from his soon to be ex-landlady, a mannish, squat sort of woman that I remember coming over to collect rent from Bill one night and sitting down to finish off his dinner while he went back into the bedroom to get the cash. She wore Khaki pants and shirts and looked like a deserter from the Korean War era army. "Where the hell is my chicken," he asked after she left.

That Friday afternoon, I packed all of my things into my ’67 Chevy van, old Kersey, and was fixing to take it over to the “new place.” Bob Speck showed up just as I was putting the last box in and wanted to borrow twenty dollars. Probably for a fix. I say this as an aside to illustrated how things were going for me already. He swore as God was his witness and on his mothers life that he would pay me back by the next Friday. I often consider it the best $20 I ever spent since I never had to see or speak with Bobby again. Last I heard he was a bell hop at one of the fancy hotels downtown. But at the time it hurt and I couldn’t afford it.

That evening, Mama brought over a sack of groceries. Care package, she called it. Kind of looked more like all the stuff that had been working its way to the back of her cupboard because nobody was eating it. There were useful items like crackers, and there were spaghetti noodles and various and sundry edibles, though not really anything that would make a whole meal. Well, unless you consider the potted meat and crackers.

Bill hooked up the stove and lit the pilot lights. But when he tried to light the pilot in the oven, BOOOOM!! Blew the old boy right out the back screen door and singed all the hair on his face and the front of his head. We shut off the gas to the oven since there was about a half inch split in the gas line that made it prone to explosions. But we could still use the range top. And the oven became a great place to stash dirty clothes when chicks came to visit.

Well, Bill fancied himself a cook and he still does, and admittedly most of what I’ve eaten from his kitchen in the last decade or so has been quite toothsome. Like I mentioned, there were only components of meals in the care package, but a determined man can cobble something out of nothing eight times out of ten. I had faith in him. I think he settled on the spaghetti noodles, a can of tomato sauce and some sardines.

We sat down to dinner. I was still laughing about the singed hair, but the smell of cooking sardines pretty much drowned out the burnt hair. I took a bite, which was one of those things that when it happens, you know immediately you have truly made a mistake. A bad mistake and one from which there may possibly be no return. I spit the unchewed portion back on the plate in anticipation of the involuntary expulsion that would surely occur if I didn’t.

“I can’t eat this,” I said.

Bill sat stoney-faced chewing his supper. He took another bite. I sat my plate on the floor and called the dog, Patrick, in for a treat. Patrick sniffed the plate and wandered back off, pushing the screen door open and sauntering out into the driveway.

“Shit, Bill, even the damned dog won’t eat it.” I guess that was enough for Bill, he took both of our plates and tossed them in the trash and said, “You’re right. Let’s go to McDonald’s. I’m buying.”

Friday, January 21, 2005

Mean Girls

I’ve known some mean people over the years, people with deep evil in their souls. We’re talking about people who possibly killed people, not that I would know anything about it and certainly wouldn’t be able to testify in a court of law regarding such matters.

Such complete sociopaths that they wouldn’t think twice about stealing from their mother or brother in order to get a little money for a fix.

But this isn’t about that kind of meanness, though there's probably a direct corollary from one to the other. No, the kind of meanness I want to address tonight is the kind that all school girls are completely familiar with. Especially ones in seventh grade. Unfortunately, some schoolgirls never outgrow this sort of mischief.

In the early 1980’s I worked for a large printing firm in the mailing department. In those days everything was done on a system 38 IBM mainframe and you had programmers and you had data entry clerks, or keypunch operators as they were called. And, we had a supervisor in the data processing department known not so affectionately as “Stumpy Stevens.”

Stumpy was that chunky somewhat awkward kind of girl that clawed her way into her position in life through strict perseverance and hard work. For ladies raised on the other side of the tracks, this was an affront and a travesty.

Deirdre was the ringleader of the misanthropes who entered data and printed out Cheshire labels. And she shared an intense and decidedly pointed hatred of Stumpy Stevens. Granted, Stumpy wasn’t the brightest bulb in the chandelier, but she was competent, and I have it on good authority that she holds a high, well paying position with a major utility these days. But what Stumpy was likely to encounter in those times was a coffee cup full of dirt from the potted fichus tree across the hall to start her morning.

Now, I certainly don’t endorse this sort of behavior, but I have to admit a measured admiration for someone who can dream up the types of pranks these girls did. I was never that creative. But these do deserve a certain ranking in the dirty tricks hall of fame. Two come to mind that were deliciously concocted with that genius that only comes from an intimate relationship with Beelzebub. PUBLIC DISCLAIMER: Circa Bellum in no way endorses or recommends the following be done to any one at any time. This is really sucky behavior and presented for entertainment purposes only.

There was a newspaper war going on in Arkansas in those days. The Arkansas Gazette, the oldest newspaper west of the Mississippi (continuously published since 1819) was duking it out with the upstart Arkansas Democrat (circa 1874). The great thing about newspaper wars is all the free stuff. Free want ads, etc.

Somehow, and I don’t mean to defame any particular person, a classified ad was placed in the newspaper, “Widow selling husband’s lifetime gun collection.”

The kind of person that this ad is targeted at gets up at four in the morning, drinks coffee and reads the want ads, Guns section. They start calling about 4:30 or 5:00 because they know that old ladies are suckers when it comes to selling guns. And someone was nice enough to put the home and work numbers in the ad so that they could continue calling Stumpy after 8:00 when she arrived at the office.

I have to admit, I found that more than a little amusing, though I will state for the record, the statute of limitations has expired and I couldn’t testify about any of the facts anyway. But what happened next should cause the perpetrators to be worms in their next incarnation. Or at least fruit flies.

Towards the end of September or perhaps the beginning of October, a lady called Stumpy at work.

“Hi, this is Debbie Smith with Zales,” the caller stated matter-of-factly, “and I’m just calling to remind you that payment was due on the diamond earrings the 17th of last month.”

“I haven’t bought anything at Zales, much less diamond earrings,” Stumpy said with a smirk, assuming they had called the wrong number.

“Oh my God!” gasped the lady on the other end, “it says here not to call the wife. I am so sorry! Please forgive the call.”

For two months we heard all about the diamond earrings that Mr. Stumpy had bought as a Christmas present. Since he was making payments on them, they must be really nice! Probably with at least half carat stones in them. We couldn’t wait to see them.

I can only imagine what Christmas morning was like at her house.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Hold That Monkey!

I read about a study done some time ago, I don’t remember all of the details but it involved monkeys. If memory serves me, they took a group of monkeys and put them in a caged environment. A step ladder was placed in the middle of the cage and some bananas were placed on the top of the ladder.

Every time a monkey would climb the ladder and attempt to get at the bananas, one of the scientists would spray the monkey with cold water. The monkeys soon learned to ignore the bananas on the ladder.

Variable One. Remove one monkey, and introduce a new monkey who knows nothing about the cold water treatment. The other monkeys watch in amused fascination as he goes up the ladder to get the bananas.

But! This time the researchers spray all of the other monkeys with cold water. Guess what happens. Next time new monkey goes after the bananas, the rest of the monkeys grab him and beat the shit out of him. He soon learns to ignore the bananas.

It doesn’t take long to get the monkeys conditioned to stopping a new monkey from going for the bananas. After a period of time, one by one, you have removed all of the original monkeys and replaced them with new monkeys. Yet, the monkeys, none of whom have ever seen anyone sprayed with cold water, will violently interfere with any monkey who goes after the bananas.

One or two generations and it ain’t the man that’s holding you back, brother monkey.

I thought about this today when I was reading an article about Wal Mart. Yeah, the Wal Mart that we all love to hate. You’ve heard the stories, “no single entity has done more to destroy rural America than Wal Mart.”

“Wal Mart discriminates against women and minorities.”

Big bad Wal Mart. All they think about is profits. And, at the expense of the employees. Yep, they pay them minimum wage, hold them to 32 hours so they can’t get benefits and they don’t stand a chance of advancement unless they’re male and white.

I gotta admit, I’ve participated in this Wal Mart bashing. And I live in Arkansas!

Well, there’s an article where Wal Mart has decided to fight back. The author points out that they have never seen a Wal Mart employee refute any of the articles that point out the good things Wal Mart does for their employees. I guess when you get big enough, folks are only interested in hearing the bad things about you. President Bush is a good example.

Thinking back, I realize the only thing I ever read bad about Wal Mart that was written by an employee (either current or former) was an article a fellow wrote about his miserable experience working there right out of college.

But the striking thing about what made his experience so miserable was not what corporate Wal Mart was doing to him. It was his fellow employees. People who may or may not have completed their high school educations. They were jealous of him and set him up for failure. They got him fired eventually by playing a mean series of pranks on him where they would scan an item from his department so that it deleted from inventory, then replace it later so that his inventory levels would always be off.

Is this a classic case of monkeys holding the other monkeys back from succeeding, just because they’re afraid of what might happen to themselves? How bad is Wal Mart really? Check out the website, look at the benefits and the pay scale. I think it’s better than what the company I work for offers to most of its employees. I know our insurance costs more. And, we don’t have a 401K…

The Bullet Wears Red

Velociman got me thinking about guns and the fact that most all of us down south have stories of close calls and near misses regarding firearms. Some have better endings than others. My friend Mark told me a story of a sergeant when he was in the army that shot a hole through his desk demonstrating firearm safety to some enlisted men. A good friend of ours, a police officer, shot himself through the leg with a .45 while on patrol. To make it more humiliating, when he radioed in for help, of course every officer on duty hightails it to an “officer shot” radio call.

My humble tale begins one uneventful Spring morning. A Saturday to be exact, and I was at work. I worked in those days at a large family owned printing company and the production managers from each division were nephews of the owners. The younger one, Steve, was my boss.

I mentioned to Steve that I was going to slip out around noon and go to a gun show at the local fairgrounds and he told me he would like to go see one of those himself as he had never been. We made arrangements to meet back up around twelve and head on over.

Next thing I know, the other nephew, Mike, has decided he wants to come with us. Hell, those guys were more fired up about this than I was. We all piled into Mike’s little red sports car and head for the coliseum.

I suppose for me it’s always been the thrill of the chase. Looking for that neglected 45/70 that I could whiz up for a tidy $100 profit. Or, the underappreciated photograph of great grandpaw in his Civil War uniform. Really, I’ve done well at gun shows in the past buying things that weren’t guns and sometimes even finding a weapon I can’t live without. But mostly they are carnivals of camouflage, cheap knives and books about converting your AR15 to full auto. And each year it gets worse.

Even if it’s a wash, you get to talk to some of your old pards, because you always run into them at the gun show. And that's worth the price of admission in most cases. This show was no exception, but I wound up at the front door empty handed. My two companions, however, were brimming over with excitement. Practically giddy as a couple of school girls.

They had each bought a 45 automatic pistol and about six million rounds of cheap reloaded ammo and they were ready to do some shootin’, hell yeah.

Thirty minutes later we were at the end of a dirt trail, tossing empty two liter soda bottles into the creek and the boys began to pop some caps. There hadn’t been so much shooting around here since 1863 when some fellers from Minnesota and Illinois came here, shot the place up and raised the American Flag over our capital.

When some of the novelty began to wear off, Mike held a warm pistol out to me by the barrel and invited me to give it a go. I ain’t never been one to turn down an opportunity to raise hell and jeopardize my well being if they can be done simultaneously. This was one such opportunity and I took the freshly loaded .45 down to the creek. The bottles were fairly well damaged, but they weren’t sunk, so I decided to give it my best shot, ahem, pardon the pun.

Pow!Pow!Pow!Pow!Pow!Pow!Pow!Pow! There’s something deliciously satisfying about a finely tuned mechanical masterpiece that operates perfectly, reliably, and blows the shit out of stuff to boot. The slide stays open, no more ammo, time to quit.

“Well, that’s it,” I said as I turned and walked back to the car. Standing in front of the shiny red sports car, I released the slide with the switch on the side and POW!

One last, underpowered, reloaded .45 auto round chambered itself and went off as my finger was still on the trigger, went through the red hood, through the breather, and lodged in the carburetor. Mike's hands went up to either side of his head as he realized the damage that had been done to his little baby.

Steve, who had just finished off a clip at the creek, turned when he heard the shot, saw Mike holding his head and ran back up the embankment in a panic. He just knew that this crazy bastard had shot his cousin. It was practically a fight until I could get him calmed down enough to see that it was Mike’s car that was hurt and not Mike.

You’d think I learned a real lesson about firearm safety that day. But that’s not the case. Really, it was a freak accident. Firearm safety is something that you pretty much learn at an early age in the south. Hey, that’s why the gun was pointed down and not at a person.

No, what I learned that day was that your homeowners insurance covers this kind of thing.

I had a $300 deductible in those days which I was glad to pay since the total bill for repairs on the sexy little red car was over $1500.

And, I have a copper jacketed, forty five caliber bullet with red paint on it in the back of my dresser drawer. Hell, it cost me $300.00, damn right I’m going to keep it.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Walk on the Left, Facing Traffic

After we recovered from the shock of being the only survivors on our inundated planet, we went on to find other playgrounds. The ferry at Sylamore was still running in those days and the last ferry of the day left just about dark. It was an adventure to ride that last trip across because it was a current driven ferry and slid silently across the river on a cable in the dark. It was about a fifty mile out-of-the-way trip to get back where you wanted to be, but worth it for that spooky ride. There’s something close and comfortable about sitting quietly in the dark and listening to the water lap up against the gunwales.

There were mountains to climb, rivers to swim, bluffs to jump off into crystal clear holes, and I can’t imagine 3 fifteen year old boys having a better summer. We explored, or at least partially explored some of the limestone caves that dot and wormhole the Ozarks for miles upon miles. But sadly, a lot of that week is blurred by the amount of drugs I was using in those days. I really wish that I could recall all of the events of that week with the clarity that a fifteen year old should own.

Towards the end of our week, we were heading towards Fifty-Six, Arkansas when the old goat started to make some odd noises and sort of start to “thump.” As we started to ascend the 7 mile hill to Mountain View, the thumping became more pronounced and the car began to jerk and lurch. It became impossible to drive more than five miles per hour as the rear end would pitch and buck.

When we finally made it as far as the Mountain View city limits, we found a pull over place and buttoned down for the night. A snack of crackers, summer sausage, cream cheese and blackberry jelly, a couple of beers and a little toke and we were ready to turn in. I loaded the old pistol and slid it under my rolled up jacket that my head rested on.

In the morning we hiked into the town proper, and found a wrecker service to come and look at the car. “Looks like the rear end’s shot,” he said. We asked him to tow the car to his shop and hold it for us until we could make arrangements.

We packed our clothes, what little food was left, and our sundries into a couple of knapsacks and closed the trunk. The pot was carefully hidden in a flashlight and I dropped the revolver into my knapsack and slung it. Little did I realize that our friend from the wrecker service was still watching us from his office window.

We got out on the highway and started to hike in the general direction of Little Rock, trying to thumb a ride from passing pick-up trucks and cars. As we reached the city limits, a police car pulled up with his windows down and asked, “You boys trying to get back to Little Rock?” I guess Tow-Truck guy had filled him in on our itinerary.

“Yessir.” We were always super polite when it came to the man.

With a fluid upward movement he shifted the car into park and swung out into the gravel. “You fellers got any weapons, guns – knives – atom bombs?” He asked, “Any drugs? Pot, acid, hair-ee-on? Anything I should know about?”

“No sir.”

“Well, I guess you won’t mind if I take a look, then, will you?”

The Sheriff went through my knapsack and immediately found the revolver. “Boys, we cain’t talk here. We need to go on down to the courthouse.” It was my first ride in a police car.

At the courthouse we had “trained” detectives go through all of our stuff with a fine tooth comb. I remember the officer tossing the flashlight onto the pile along with the “extra” batteries and not thinking a thing of it. He did have questions as to why Wyatt was carrying a package of Zig-Zag papers in his wallet. I was told that the gun could be picked up “when you come back with your daddy.”

Then we had to walk all the way back out to the city limits again. “Walk on the left facing traffic.” The Sheriff said as we left.

A couple of rides got us down the mountain to Choctaw and it began to rain. I was awfully glad when a van pulled over and said he was going all the way to Little Rock.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Noah's GTO

Generally speaking, camping shouldn’t involve much more than flopping out in a wilderness place with your blankets and a fire and some food and drink. Fishing is a nice accompaniment but isn’t absolutely necessary. The ritual of camping can be done at any time of the year, but seems most pleasant in the fall when it’s cooler.

Winter camping can be exhilarating, which is why the little bride refuses to camp with me anymore. Suffice it to say, she found no humor in hoarfrost on the blankets in the morning.

The summer I was fifteen, a new family moved in next door. The son, Wyatt, was my age and they were from Greer, South Carolina. For some unknown reason, Wyatt’s dad gave him a ’65 GTO at that age, and it contributed to what I feel was the best summer of my life. Wyatt, Jeff and me were the three amigos.

Wyatt’s goat was red and had an eight-track suspended from the dash which hooked into a couple of box stereo speakers strategically placed on the parcel shelf in the back window that blared Nitzinger, Captain Beyond, and Uriah Heep constantly. It was a hoss that could scream starting or stopping. The V-8 was somewhat loud and required a push out of the driveway and a roll down the street before starting it, if we didn’t want anyone to know we were leaving at 2:00 a.m.

One glorious summer week, the three of us informed our parents that we were going camping and loaded up the goat with blankets, skillets, an ice chest and extra clothes. I tossed in an old pistol for fun protection. The Ozarks were beckoning and we couldn’t resist the siren call.

It’s amazing the old goat held up to the abuse we put it through. Low water bridges, where we drafted water to the rocker panels, rutted dirt roads that snaked up and down knobs overlooking the breathtaking scenery of the Buffalo River valley. A descent down a boulder strewn track that more resembled a roller coaster than a road brought us to the put-in at Morning Star.

We wound up the first night on a grassy point just above a large gravel bar. There was a grey barn and the river was cold and clear and murmuring and there were Indian arrowheads washed up in the gullies and cow paths. We hiked and hunted for relics, explored the old zinc mine across the river at Maumee and dried by the fire after a midnight swim.

We awoke in the morning in the midst of a herd of cattle, grazing unconcerned along the grassy bank. We moved our base of operations down on the gravel bar so as not to interfere with the bovine element, and spent a day in Paradise. In those days the Ozarks weren’t overrun with tourists and city slickers.

The second night came a horrendous wind and the thunder and lightening crashed with such regularity that we sought refuge in the car. The raindrops started as large as Dixie cups and our thoughts turned to being stranded for days at the bottom of a slippery, muddy trail that traversed the mountain nearly vertically. It was then that the decision was made to drive to the top of the mountain to wait out the tempest.

It was late anyway, so we fell into various piles in the car to sleep and regroup at morning.

At first light, I began to regain consciousness and wrapped the wool army blanket around my neck as I sat up to greet the dawn. What I then beheld amazed me then and amazes me to this day. We were completely and utterly surrounded by water.

Calm, pink streaked water that glistened in the budding sunlight. Here and there you could see the tops of distant Knobs poking up from the deeps and I had some feeling as to how Noah must have reacted the first time he looked out of his ark. I caught my breath and shook my companions awake so they could share in my abject despair. I was unselfish like that.

The snapshot I wish I had taken on that trip would have revealed the wide open mouths as we surveyed the destruction that had taken place in our world while we slept. And we knew we didn’t have enough food on hand to wait out this sort of alluvion.

As the Creator had promised Noah He would never destroy the world with water again, as the sun rose above the neighboring mountain, the ether that was the ocean between us and safety evaporated in an instant and our world was restored. The way the light had played across the tops of those low-lying clouds had tricked our eyes into seeing water. I’ve spent a lot of time outdoors, and have never seen the phenomena repeated.

But, that wasn’t the most excitement we had that trip.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Come With Me

Son1 started his first job today. He is officially a fry cook at Sonic. I know this because he came home wearing their shirt and hat. I hope that he learns many wise lessons from the experience that will carry him forward in life. I know that restaurant work did that for me.

The worst job I ever had, bar none, was a hand-me-down.

I was hanging out one summer day thinking long and hard about all the ways I could misspend my youth when a friend, or rather more of an acquaintance dropped by. Mostly folks like him came over when they were looking for a buzz, and I was usually able and willing to accommodate.

A toke or two, I’m kicked back on the bed and he’s sprawled out against the wall on the opposite side. Bear in mind that my room was not eight feet across, so it wasn’t such a stretch to share a bit of herb.

“Want a job?” he asked in a stifled voice.

“Sure,” I said, “where?”

“You can have mine.” Long exhale.

I should have known this was a red flag, but at sixteen you don’t always see things so clearly. Forty-eight years of living and working tell me that you don’t pass your job off to someone else. I know that now.

Timex had their world headquarters in Little Rock and in those days they actually made watches here. They had a huge operation out by Adams Field, now the old airport. He explained to me that I should show up at the back door of the cafeteria at the appointed time, tell whoever answered the door that I was there to take his place. I’m still not seeing anything wrong with this picture.

I show up, tell dude why I’m there, he smiles and escorts me inside. Big, giant red flag. I don’t see it.

Inside, he shows me three or four really large pots. I’m thinking they come up about to my chest. Memory may exaggerate somewhat, but I do know that I couldn’t reach the bottom of them without climbing down inside them. They were designed to be used with a behemoth floor mixer and had stuff like mashed potatoes crusted on the inside. He handed me a large brush, a coffee can full of a viscous soap substance and a hose with a nozzle on the end.

I scrubbed and hosed out the pots into a floor drain until they shined as well as you can get aluminum to shine and I called my new boss over to inspect. “Great!” he remarked, “come with me.”

At this point I was given a cart stacked higher than I was tall with bundles of paper napkins and shown into the dining room. The dining room was cavernous, maybe the size of fourteen or nineteen football fields with rows and rows of tables all with little metal napkin dispensers that needed filling. My mind is a bit foggy about this point because I think I went into autopilot for that one. Autopilot in those days consisted of daydreaming about sex and nekkidness with various and sundry girls I went to school with, mostly Cheryl Honeycutt.

After finishing the napkin filling, I learned to my horror that those bastards had gotten the large pots all dirty again. Brush, scrub, hose, towel, inspect.

Just as I feel that nothing could get worse, the boss smiles and leads me to a large stainless steel table that butts up against a little window. Easily 150,000 people begin shoving dirty dishes through the little window. As fast as fast can be I have to hose off the dishes, fit them into neat little green racks, run them into a large stainless steel box, close the lid, hit a button, repeat steps one through twenty while machine makes noise, then take scalding hot dishes out and stack them in the kitchen. I'm replaying an I Love Lucy episode in my mind.

This goes on for what I’m sure is three or seven days, but I’m no quitter. I finished the shift, whipped like the proverbial redheaded step child and fall into bed at home.

I light up, take a couple of quick puffs and lean back to ruminate on the events of the day. What the hell am I going to do now?

“Hey man, how’s it going?” It’s Ron Nelson sticking his head in my room through the open door.

“Pretty good, man. Come on in and get a toke. Say, man, you want a job?”

Monday, January 10, 2005

Dissipated Youth

I have no recollection of ever sleeping in a flower bed, but I did wake up in the middle of a dirt road one morning. I honestly can’t remember exactly how I got in that position, but I have reconstructed some of the events that led up to it.

We were an aimless and mischievous generation, given to amusements like shutting off the main power switch at night clubs and restaurants. Or leaving custom bumper stickers on complete stranger’s cars – all you need is a roll of two inch masking tape and a magic marker. “Caution: Gerbil in rear!” So, how often do you look at your bumper?

My pard, Bill, had a ’66 Chevy with a V-8 and a four barrel carburetor fitted out with mud grips on the rear wheels. It was well suited for not getting stuck cutting through well manicured lawns in the rich neighborhoods. It had a spacious trunk that was perfect for picking up for sale signs and then re-distributing them to every house on a street. It went up and down mountain roads and city streets. And it was home to two teenage boys a large part of the time.

The night began innocently enough, buying a six pack of beer at Lawhon’s market where the clerks never could get the hang of adding and subtracting when it came to birth dates on drivers licenses. But a couple of steers can only go so far on that and money seemed to be the one thing we lacked.

Brookside was a cut-through between the main roads that we took quite regularly. It seemed odd that night to find both sides of the street tiled with parked cars, but there was no mistaking the implications. PARTY!

We found a place to shoehorn the Chevy into and ambled in through the front door grinning and shaking hands like we knew everybody. “Hey, I’ll catch up with you in a minute, I’m gonna grab a beer in the kitchen.”

What I found in that kitchen brought tears to my eyes. The refrigerator had four or five bottles of wine and at least a case of beer. There was a fifth of Wild Turkey and a pint of Canadian Mist on the counter next to the sink.

Fellas, I know this will be hard for you to believe, but I wasn’t always a nice as I am now. Let’s just say that when it came to people I didn’t know, I was ethically challenged. It wasn’t a great leap at this point for Bill and me to figure out nobody would notice us go out the back door with whatever we wanted to drink that night.

Trouble was, I didn’t know what I wanted to drink that night. We found it therefore necessary to just take all of it, load it into the back seat of the red bomber and go gentle into that good night. Well, maybe after cutting a deep swath across the lawn with the mud grips, screaming “yeeeeehawwww, git nekkid!” out the car windows and throwing out all of our empty beer cans. We wanted them to remember us as something more than just alcohol thieves.

The Little Maumelle River runs cool and clean through the Ferndale community and Ferndale Cut-Off was dotted with gravel bottomed swimming holes and rope swings. This was a favorite place to go, day or night, to be unnoticed by law enforcement officers and enjoy altering one’s state of mind. I can only imagine that was the rationale that got us there that night.

I don’t have any idea what time we arrived there, but it was already hot and the sweat was beading on my forehead when I awoke stretched out across a smooth, red clay track dirt road. The smell of honeysuckle and privet accompanied by the whirr of cicadas greeted me as I blinked and squinted into a cloudless blue sky.

The hair of the dog that bit me was a lot easier to stomach in those days and a warm beer was a great hangover remedy. “Must have been a helluva night, eh buddy?”

Friday, January 07, 2005

The Sorbonne Responds...

No disrespect to Rob but even though I am a very good cook, sometimes for expediency's sake...

A Drunk's Recipe for Chili

Open one can of Kelly's or Wolf Brand Chili (preferably with, beans
Microwave on high for one minute and thirty seconds
dump an handful of sharp cheddar cheese in the center
Open beer, and enjoy.

Hillbilly Autobahn

Velociman posts about car crashes and posits, “What is the worst automobile accident you've ever been in?” Well I’m certainly not one to get involved in pissing contests. I admire the man for God’s sake! But he did ask…

You know, I’ve never been really smacked up, to this point, but there are two crashes that come to mind. When I was somewhere in the neighborhood of 16 or so, a friend down the street had a ’72 Malibu that was more than an adequate conveyance for such shiftless and un-aspiring layabouts as us.

I remember vaguely vividly the ice chest full of beer that sat in the back seat next to Bobby Speck. Bobby was quite taken with Mike’s ability to drive and commented regularly about his acumen in that area. And every single time Bobby commented on the driving, Mike sped up.

In those days, Romine Road was a two lane black top in the county with lots of curves and little pity. I really have no idea how fast Mike was driving when we took the last curve before the elementary school, but he was fudging the curve a little in his favor when the headlights hove into sight. Bright, blinding headlights.

As we re-took our lane the car began to fish-tail followed by a panicked slamming of the brake pedal which led to the ensuing power spin. I last remember holding and clutching at the dashboard for dear life and then being confused by the fact I was sitting on my ass in a cloud of dust in the ditch. You know how the air smells when you let it out of a tire? That smell was strong as I stood and brushed myself off.

Following the voices from out in the woods, I found the ‘Boo right at the tree line, sans tires – which had all been pulled from the rims. I’ve since been told that it takes a hell of a slide to get the tires off of the rims.

Fast forwarding into adulthood, the first time I quit smoking, I think I was about 28 years old, I bought a bicycle along with a couple of friends and took up riding. This was about the time that Breaking Away came out on HBO and we were all sufficiently fascinated with the cross-country thing. Of course we bought the cycling shirts, shoes, hats and all the racks and gew-gaws that go along with it.

One summer day, three of us decided to ride the bikes about 40 miles to a nearby National Park camp ground in the Ouachita Mountains. We packed our sleeping bags, food and cooking utensils and headed out. It commonly gets in the high 90’s in Arkansas in the summer and we went through a lot of water.

We arrived at the camp area around four in the afternoon and began to set up bivouac. The thought began to creep into our minds that a beer would be really good about now. Of course, traveling light, we had no beer, no ice, and no means to get any. But as we were setting up camp I kept noticing a middle aged blonde driving in and out of the camp area in a great whale of a car – a ’69 or ’70 model Oldsmobile convertible.

As luck would have it, she passed close enough to me that I was able to stop her and ask if she intended to go into town for supplies or anything like that. She said she’d let me know.

About 7:00 she drove up to our camp site and told me that she was going to the nearest store. I asked her if she would pick up some beer and ice for us, as we were on bicycles and unable to get any and she said no problem as long as one of us went with her.

A quick game of rock-paper-scissors elected me to go with her and I climbed aboard the U.S.S. Olds. Turns out she was a German woman working here at the University Med Center.

We started down the gravel mountain road at a surprisingly fast clip. I glanced around for seat belts but couldn’t find any. I guess I looked worried because she smiled at me enchantingly and asked, “Dose my drifing skare you?”

“No, I’m okay,” I replied. “Goot,” she said, “Ife neffer had a wreck yet!”

I looked at the speedometer at one point and it read 90. This is a curvaceous gravel road going down the side of a mountain, mind you. About halfway down we started to slide and it really was in slow motion. I’m not going to swear to it, but I think it slowed down to the point that her scream sounded low and base like a man… or was that me?

Déjà vu, all over again as I clutched and grabbed at the dashboard and we slid right over the embankment, down about 15 feet, the car turning on its side and the German woman tumbling down on top of me. I gasped for breath under her weight as the car hesitated and then dropped back down on its wheels.

“Are you allrrright?” She asked. Yep, I think everything is still here in one piece. I’m scratching my head trying to figure this one out when a car comes rounding the curve. It slows and then stops and I swear an entire high-school football team piles out. Those boys had us back up on the road in a New York minute and down the mountain we went.

She never slowed down and I began to pray.

When we got to the Bait Shop/Convenience store about 15 miles down the road I was a nervous wreck. Much worse shape than the door and side panels of the Oldsmobile. I bought two cases of beer, 40 lbs of ice and told my new friend that it had always been a fantasy of mine to drive a convertible. With a laugh, she handed me the keys.

There are still people in these parts that talk about the idiot in the big convertible driving 25 miles per hour down Highway 10 in 1984. And they always mention the attractive blonde, Germanic woman sitting next to him…

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Bayou Des Arc

Flying objects make noises. My bud Bill’s cousin, Nathan, could “whiz” rocks in a way that made them sound like a fat girl’s vibrator. Bullets really do sound like angry bees when they go by. And once in my lifetime I heard a meteor. That sounded something like a volkswagon beetle downshifting on a clay road.

That was the night of the wolves on the Bayou Des Arc.

My parents weren’t rich by any stretch of the imagination. We always felt like we were middle class, but I think we were humoring ourselves. The neighborhood I grew up in is one of the worst “hoods" in Little Rock now, and I never realized it at the time, but it was then too.

Somehow in a fit of straightening out the prodigal son, they found a way to send me to reform Catholic boarding school. This was a bucolic old red brick complex on a self sustaining dairy farm run by Franciscan Friars. I got kicked in the nuts the first day I was there.

During my second year at the school, a new Brother arrived (they call the Friars “brother”) that was the smartest man I ever knew. Brother Quentin taught science, but if you could find a word in the dictionary he didn’t know the meaning of, you were dismissed from class and free until Brother William “Tank’s” class started. He knew the name of every plant, every bug and every rock we could bring him. And, he enjoyed camping.

We would go in groups of 10 or 12, however many could fit in the Chevy Carryall with stacks of olive drab army blankets and boxes of food and skillets. We learned skills like stripping the dead branches from the bottoms of cedar trees, when all the woods were wet, to start a fire. Mostly we slept in a bluff shelter right on the Bayou Des Arc, across a gravel bar from a clear, deep swimming hole. There were Indian arrowheads in the nearby fields.

Tom Turney was a miscreant lad from St. Louis who loved to regale us with stories of sleeping in the jungles of Panama while his dad was stationed there in the service. Of course, we adolescent boys found these stories only interesting from the standpoint that we had to find a way to make him look stupid because of them. And somehow, the conversation around the campfire that night turned to wolves.

Surely wolves would be nothing after exposure to lions and tigers and bears, oh my. But Tom showed a particular interest in the wolves as we unfolded tales of horror and depredation and warned him to sleep with his boots on. “Pay particular heed to this, if the wolves come, do not get up and try to run. Lay as still as possible until they go away.”

Tom seemed a little nervous as he gathered an empty Seven Up bottle, a fork and put a long stick in the fire. Nobody seemed to notice Mike Lueck slip away from camp into the darkness. The wolf stories continued and someone casually mentioned having heard the cries of a wild cat. “They sound like a real woman screaming, you know.”

That was when we heard the growling coming from the creek.

Alarmed, Tom snatched his flaming stick from the fire and held it overhead. I think everyone except Tom could see Mike creeping on all fours in the firelight, grunting and growling in the most un-convincing manner I’ve ever witnessed. I was already doubled up in laughter when he sprang at Tom who immediately whirled around and stabbed me in the knee with the fork.

The entire camp erupted into pandemonium culminating in Brother Quentin shutting down the festivities and insisting that everyone go to bed.

It was while laying there on my wool army blanket, looking up at a black and endless sky, that I saw the large shooting star come low and fast across the trees making that ominous rumbling/buzzing noise and disappearing somewhere in the darkness.

And, to this day, I still have a scar on my knee the exact width of a fork’s tines.

Monday, January 03, 2005

The Myth of Singing Waiters

I’ve only seen a waiter cry one time. That was at Ruth’s Chris in D.C.

The group I was with weren’t crazy because they were drunk. They were drunk because they were crazy. Oddly there were two people named Todd Collins in the group and one became tagged as the good Todd and the other as the evil Todd Collins. The names are only memorable to me because they make me think of the drink. But neither of them saw the humor in that, nor did they drink Tom Collins.

Best I can remember, the evil Todd was crawling around under the table with a Bic lighter, trying to look up the ladies’ dresses. Something about that spooked the waiter and caused him to drop an opened bottle of red wine in the middle of the group. The waiter burst into tears and ran into the kitchen. Shortly afterwards, someone else came out to clean up the mess.

All of this was merely a prelude to Todd being thrown out of the titty bar that was next door to the steakhouse in the late 90’s.

I take that back. Now that I think of it, it was just last Fall that I saw one of the waitstaff cry.

One of the perks of being a salesman is being able to pound a lot of free liquor on the bosses’ tab as long as you have a customer or a semblance of one with you. They get to drink free too, and that somehow makes you appealing to them. Or not. I really have no idea if I ever sold anything during one of these drunken drinking bouts, but I haven’t really avoided the opportunity much either.

Last summer I was working for a large printing firm who believed whole heartedly in the entertainment thing. It was kind of a refreshing change from my previous boss who liked to invite customers out for drinks and then split the tab.

Anyhoo, I’m at a place called the Underground Pub having drinks with some friends an important client when I see our waitress run crying into the kitchen. You don’t often see that (what, twice in 30 years?) so we’re curious. Shortly afterwards a different waitperson comes to see about us and we find out that our waitress was taking a break in the corner next to the life-size statue of George Dickel or somebody that was made of concrete and/or other hard, heavy substance. Apparently the head fell off of this thing and conks the waitperson on her head inflicting grievous pain and suffering on her innocent self. Did I mention she was cute?

A bit later she somewhat composes herself and comes back to check on us. Her eyes are red, wet and swollen. A real trouper. I asked her if a drink would help.

“Oh, we’re not allowed to drink,” she replied, “but maybe nobody would notice a shot.” I’m figuring after what just happened to her, nobody is going to be too confrontational even if she decided to chug a quart of Cuervo and give us all lap dances, but you never know. After taking a brief census around the table, we ordered a round of shots but accidentally asked for one too many. A furtive glance around the room and she downed the shot like a pro. I don’t to this day know if it helped her head, but it sure seemed to help her spirits.

Statistically speaking, waitstaff must be pretty resilient people. My daughter waits tables at the Dixie Café and I’m certain she takes a lot of crap. I probably couldn’t handle it without crying. It’s not an emotional thing, I just start crying when I think about having to schlep plates of food to complete idiots strangers. Be sure to tip your waitperson… they’ll be here all week.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Happy New Year Baby 2005

Inspired by Nixon, I’ve decided to make a list of things I intend to change this year…

1. The weather. Everybody complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it. Until now. I intend to make significant and long-reaching changes to the weather. No more will there be great swings in temperature between summer and winter. We’ll do away with any temperatures over 90 and below 40. Rain will only occur between the hours of 2 and 4 a.m. and lightening will be confined to wilderness areas.

2. Global warming. Since it won’t get over 90 degrees (Fahrenheit) this will cease to be a concern.

3. Earthquakes. I don’t want to have to worry about the New Madrid fault anymore, so we’ll do away with it. We’re replacing the New Madrid fault with a vein of pure gold. Since I discovered this, I get the first claim at the spot where it comes to the surface and you don’t have to dig much to get at it. The line, for the rest of you, forms at the courthouse in Jonesboro.

4. Polar Melting. This stops here and now. If you are one of the ones on Alaskan cruises that is taking glacier ice as a souvenir (and you know who you are), put it back. This is where all the polar ice is going and it’s up to you to stop it.

5. Giant buttocks. Everytime I go to the store I can barely maneuver around all of the really large boomers blocking the aisles. If you are wider than 36 inches, you need to do your shopping after midnight and before seven a.m. Oh, and you drive too slow in your cars too. Hopefully, your new hours will fix that too.

6. Politics. If you had the ear of the President of the most powerful country in the world (like I do) you would likely decide to fix politics too. Don’t rush me, it may take until March or April, but rest assured, I will fix it.

7. Home Improvement Shows. These are some kind of dopamine generators that put my little bride into a trance for several hours each day. Starting Monday they will all be replaced with re-runs of the Man Show.

8. Money. Money will no longer be an issue. So, don’t worry about it anymore.