Freudian Slips: May 2005

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Location: Irony, New Jersey, United States

Life takes us many places. It's a box of chocolates and a Hansel and Gretal trail of candy wrappers. I have filmed as an actor in The Happening, Invincible, The Lovely Bones, The Bounty Hunter, The Greek American, Bazookas, Limitless, TV's Its Always Sunny in Philly, Outlaw, New York, The Warrior, The Nail, Game Change, Cold Case, & commercial work includes The Philadelphia Eagles, Septa, Coors, Turbo Tax & Carnival Cruises. Freudian Slips spotlights irony in short story format.

May 31, 2005

Ticket To Ride

At the age of eighteen, I lost a $10.00 bill on an Ocean City, New Jersey beach. All it means is that one snotty nosed kid treated himself to ice cream and free arcade games but I still haven't forgiven my carelessness. That was my ice cream and pinball games. With that being said, I know little about horse racing but I know a thing about irony to write this story. There is a governing rule of thumb in the horse racing industry that in order to make a small fortune start out with a large fortune. This isn't the case here.
Horse racing's golden event, the 2005 Kentucky Derby, enjoyed an unlikely finish. The break the bank payoff came after 50-1 long shot Giacomo raced to the second-biggest upset in Kentucky Derby history. Giacomo beat a 72-1 long shot named Closing Argument and local hero Afleet Alex, finished a disappointing third. Don't Get Mad finished fourth at 30-1. What does all this mean? Chris Hertzog, 39, of Phoenix Arizona, was one of only seven people in the country who picked the four horses in the order they finished. That is as good as it gets because the winning superfecta ticket paid out a resounding $864,253.50. Although he bucked astronomical odds, Herzog had one major problem. He lost the ticket to the horse race and it became a tail of whoa. Can anyone say cold sweat, hyperventilation, and life altering depression? It was a nightmare and I don't mean the breed of horse. He frantically retraced his steps at Turf Paradise in Louisville, Kentucky, an extensive search that did not spare trash cans and dumpsters. He called off the search after hours of painstaking looking. I doubt he saw much sleep that night.
The next day, a brutally honest mutual clerk named Brenda Reagan noticed the lost ticket lying next to her machine. She stepped forward after she realized she sold it but never gave him the paper ticket. The misplaced slip of paper was still sitting next to the machine where Hertzog had placed the wager the previous day. A slip up if you will for Freudian Slips. To my knowledge, the media never reported if a reward was given to the mutual clerk although it is hard to imagine otherwise. After all, this story cannot be told without properly honoring the mutual clerk. A lesser woman would have been, shall we say, off to the races! I started to think how much of a finder's fee I would have bestowed upon the mutual clerk if my exhilarating bear hugs didn't kill her first. I am throwing this one out to the readers. How much reward is due the mutual clerk? What is fair? What is just? If it were me, I would like to think I would reward her honesty in the amount of 25% or $156,00 after taxes. Then again, I have been called a miser who still owns his first penny. You make the call.


May 27, 2005


Okay, I was forwarded this chain letter by Pax Romano and asked to complete the survey and publish it on my blog. I tried to instill wit while spilling the truth because I don't want my post to be called to the carpet cleaning by blog afficionado Daniel Rubin.
Three names you go by (that won't give away your identity): Dad, Too Much, Hey get over here and fix this.

Three screen names you've had: Pastor Joe Hornet, Hummada Hummada, Bee Man

Three physical things you like about yourself: chest, and the Arm and Hammer combination of biceps and endowment.

Three physical things you don't like about yourself: I do not like my voice which mumbles why I am not taller than 5’10” or can’t grow a rugged beard.

Three parts of your heritage: Italian, German, and last year I found out I was part Jewish.

Three things you are wearing right now: denim shorts that used to be too big for me last year, a polo shirt made by The Arizonia Jean Company, and tattered socks that wish they were on someone else’s feet.

Three favorite bands / musical artists: Springsteen over Evanesence with a side of Meatloaf.

Three favorite songs: Still Haven’t Found What I am Looking For by U2, She’s the One by Bruce Springsteen, I Am by Neil Diamond. Sounds like the jukebox of a schizophrenic.

Three things you want in a relationship: intimacy, sex, and time for both. Give me 22 minutes, I give you the world.

Three physical things about the preferred sex that appeals to you: 1980’s teased hair, pillowy breasts starting with the third letter of the alphabet or deeper, and dumps. Can you say Farrah Fawcett?

Three of your favorite hobbies: tennis, racquetball, and enough balls left over to blog.

Three things you want to do really badly right now: refer to three things I want in a relationship. Call me in the morning.

Three things that scare you: anaphylaxis, stinging insects, motorcycle gangs

Three of your everyday essentials: puns, laughter, and irony

Three careers you have considered / are considering: writer, stand-up comic if not for bad knees, and archeologist if you can dig that

Three places you want to go on vacation: cruise to nowhere, cruise to somewhere, cruise to anywhere

Three kids' names you like: Tatiani, Tabitha, Jennifer.

Three things you want to do before you die: become a published writer, retire healthy, live long and prosper

Three ways you are stereotypically a boy: I am preoccupied with sports, I am attracted to war movies, and I eat the gristle off t-bone steaks like an unruly caveman

Three ways you are stereotypically a girl: I cook, food shop, and do the sewing. Any questions?

Three celeb crushes: Halle Berry, Demi Moore, Drew Barrymore. The Moore the merrier would be Berry nice.

Three people to play next:



May 26, 2005

Meglomania Brought to a Knee

The Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum New York Avenue and the Boardwalk in Atlantic City, New Jersey
In the end, this is too funny of a story not to mention on Freudian Slips. However, I originally intended to not post this story but the keen memories of others are coming back to haunt me. I have been getting emails from people who are asking me if the Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum in Atlantic City, New Jersey is having the grand opening on my exhibit this weekend. Too many of you remember that the event was actually scheduled for this weekend. People were checking my blog for details and there was no mention of it. Let me explain why. First of all, let me set the record straight. I will not be down at the Ripley's Museum this weekend in person for good reason. For anyone who wants to take a jaunt down to the AC boardwalk and pay admission, I assure you that my rare exhibit is in the Survivor's Gallery. It is up and running...or should I say up and standing, or upstanding if you will. Furthermore, the Ripley's museum is indeed having a grand opening this weekend although I am no longer an invited guest. Ripley's nixed me from the star studded lineup and extravaganza. From what I have been told, the museum is hosting a ribbon cutting ceremony, not on the Bee Man of Blackwood as promised, but on the unveiling of a brand new medieval torture chamber exhibit. I am chuckling just writing that I have been axed by....torture devices. This is irony in the archaic making. So anything pointy that Vlad the Impaler kept on hand for his enemies will probably be on display. Left to my own devices, I consider my beekeeper's suit just as much an instrument of torture.
I have been informed why I am not a part of the weekend festivities. Ownership wanted to have two special events a month apart rather than roll me into the throng of masochists reveling in the scrotum vices, tongue removers, and nine inch nails. I understand completely. So what was once a grand opening and ticker tape parade will not only be delayed but scaled back to a book signing at the Ripley's museum on Saturday June 25th and Sunday 26th 1-6pm on both days. That's Hollywood for you! Ripley's is in the process of doing a press release and advertising my name in area newspapers and local rags. Fox news has come to Ripley's events in the past but what will actually transpire is anybody's guess. Heck, they might tell me it is a BYOB affair, Bring Your Own Balloons. Keep in mind that during my last business meeting with Ripley's, the sitdown was interrupted because a frantic call came in of a two-headed cow found in rural Pennsylvania. That's no bull!


May 24, 2005

Planes, Pains, and Automobiles.

Looking for luggage in all the wrong places.
What happens in Las Vegas should stay in Las Vegas. It almost did. It all started when an anonymous member of my family decided to book a gambling trip to Las Vegas through Travelocity over the Internet. Early on, he tries to correct Travelocity's mistake of booking four friends on one return flight and himself on a seperate flight 12 hours later. He was stonewalled by Southwest Airlines, who insisted that the purchased tickets were non-transferable and non-refundable. Travleocity wiped their hands clean saying the restrictions were part of the agreed upon business contract. Southwest assures him that flying standby is the answer. Under advisement from a fly by night operation, he cancels his midnight flight to fly standby for an addtional fee.
Add impatience and $150.00 to your checkout cart.
The 12:30pm plane takes off with his friends. There are no standby seats. Laying his burden down, he puts his luggage on the plane. He waves adios to everyone familiar.
The 1:30pm plane has no extra seats to fly standby either. He continues to sit, wait, and stew. When the 2:30pm plane from Las Vegas to Philadelphia is overbooked, he goes ballistic. The only other Southwest plane going into Philadelphia is the midnight run, which he cancelled himself out of to fly standby for the extra $150.00.
He scrambles to find another airline with a plane that leaves before the witching hour. He books a flight minutes before takeoff on a plane that has already finished boarding. He doesn't care about paying twice for the same flight in the same airspace. He wants to go home.
Add revenge and $330.00 to your checkout cart.
His olive skin and makeshift plans attract a great deal of attention at the airport. Security personnel question his intentions. He tells them of his woeful travel plans gone awry. They frisk him. He questions their intrigue with him.
"You pay cash for a one way trip two minutes before takeoff and board with no luggage carrying only a brown paper bag." mocks a hulking security guard. "You better believe I'm going to search you."
"It's a rented DVD player in the bag." he replies.
A little roughed up and massaged, he runs down the tarmac after the plane. He settles in his seat and enjoys the ride. Several hours later, the plane lands in Baltimore, Maryland not Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Oops. Now he is 200 miles from home without a car, luggage, or means for pickup. Other family members try and pick him up at Philadelphia Airport. Neither he nor his luggage can be found. He failed to tell anyone that he asked the original airline to hold his luggage. Nobody knew he hastily changed plans and boarded a different flight and flew into a different city to the south. So while the luggage has been put to the side by the airline, family members frantically look for it on the carousel. Everything is indeed going round and round...but the luggage.
Meanwhile back in Baltimore, he goes to book a rental car but every vender is completely sold out because the Preakness is in town, one of the biggest horse races of the year. He calls other friends and family members who have not yet been summoned to the airport to reclaim his luggage. One by one people go to the airport to try and reclaim the lost luggage. Eventually, a car is found but it just so happens to be a midsize vehicle. You don't say. So a simple $19.99 rental turns into a $69.00 rental.
Add aggravation and $69.00 to your checkout cart.
"I'll take it." he says.
In a surprise move, he informs the car rental company that he won't be returning to Baltimore. Neither will the rental car. The car is headed due north because his plane landed in the wrong city. After some discussion, he gets permission to drive to Philadelphia International Airport. Little did they know, the airport was where he was headed anywhere because he still had to claim his luggage and return the brown-bagged portable DVD player he rented from his Philly flight to Las Vegas.
The trip home is now on its 12th hour. The dog and pony show is zipping along the Interstate 95 corridor when he sees police sirens following him. He gets pulled over by a Maryland State Trooper and cannot talk his way out of a speeding ticket.
Add insult to injury and $100.00 to your shopping cart.
Thirty minutes later, what does his eyes deceive him? He sees police sirens following him again on the same road. He is pulled over again. Now when this story was being told to me, I asked whether it was the same Maryland State Trooper who pulled him over the first time?
"No, the first State trooper wasn't as nice as the second."
I ask, "So you didn't get a second speeding ticket?"
"I got another ticket but this State Trooper was a whole lot nicer about it."
Add blatant disregard for the law and $100.00 to your checkout cart.
On the ride home, he wonders how long before the speeding tickets will cross state lines. Points have been levied against him. Losing your driver's license is crippling.
Add mental anguish and a conservative $1000.00 in insurance surcharges to your shopping cart.
The City of Brotherly Love contests his arrival. When he returns the rental car at Philadelphia Airport, he was surcharged for taking the car out of state, charged an additional set of state taxes, and was billed for eclipsing the allotted miles at land speed records. He claims ignorance of all of the above and protests mildly.
Add next time read the fine print advice and $169.00 to your checkout cart.
He is beleaguered by now. Flying standby all day, driving an extra couple hundred miles, and paying out the wazoo just to make it back home in a condition best described as shambles. He has been taxed, tolled, fined, and passed over. By now, all of his gambling buddies are sleeping off the jetlag, dreaming of jackpots on one arm bandits. So maybe he wasn't expecting the next question.
"Did you fill up the gas tank?"
"That is going to cost you. We charge $7.00 a gallon."
"What? Come on. Isn't the $169.00 for a $19.99 rental enough already?"
After some argument about the car being returned with a half tank of gas, both sides reach a workable compromise. "I see your point." The sales representative relented. "Leave $10.00 on the center console and I'll forget about the refueling costs." Talk about one arm bandits!
Add levied bribery and $10.00 to your shopping cart.
He walks about ¼ mile back to Philadelphia International Airport. He realizes he cannot lawfully get to the other side of the terminal to return his rented DVD player without a boarding pass or travel documents. He tries to buy something but the fine upstanding kiosk business has a hold on his debit card. He places an emergency call to the kiosk but only one guy is manning the store. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of deny-yourself-nothing customers lined up jockeying for just released DVD movies. Like a bump on a log, he sits inside a security office with a crumpled brown bag between his legs. He figures every security camera must be producing film on him by now. So he sits there waiting for the kiosk guy to take his 15 minute break. He calls family members about his luggage. He learns that even though the luggage got as lost and misplaced as he did, the luggage beat him home by hours. He calls family to let them know he is at the right airport now and ready for pickup. He makes it home light in the wallet and tired as hell.
Add one expensive vacation to Las Vegas to your checkout cart.


May 22, 2005

Stop and Smell the Silk Roses

Extra, extra, read, all about it! UPS delivered four cartons of the second edition of my autobiography, Stop and Smell the Silk Roses this week. Any reader can tell from the hundreds of puns that I wrote this book cover to cover. The book is about deadly insect encounters, their interaction with my rare skin disease, and my unorthodox protection in a beekeeper's suit (see profile picture) until doctors figured out what in creation to do with me. The book description sounds like heavy reading but it is largely off-beat humor juxtaposed with near-death. There is something ironic about a man who sets out to write the story of his life and it winds up an unexpected comedy. I still don't know what to make of that one.
Life inside the suit produced comedic interactions from an infinity of strangers who confused me with every occupation under the sun. Looking back on my life it doesn't seem possible to have been confused with a dogcatcher, carnival worker, anthrax investigator, terrorist, fireman, bubble boy, exterminator, a chef, penguin feeder, part of a Candid Camera joke, Department of Health worker, World Trade Center cleanup worker, gardener, mascot for Canadian Maple Syrup, Haz-Mat worker, Ralph Nader activist, astronaut, butcher, and Mosquito Control Commission worker to name a few. I was once mistaken for a World Trade Center cleanup worker the same day I was frisked by police who suspected me of being a terrorist! I couldn't have been both and yet I was neither.
It is the story of an ordinary man, whose medical condition forced him into a life of extremes. It chronicles a man who got stung by a bee and wound up in a museum, in a comic strip, and on TV. It's one man's journey of self-discovery through mistaken identity. It is about a life given welcome pause and an opportunity to awaken to stop and smell the roses.
I need to reclaim my garage so if anyone wants a book chock full of irony and humor, send me an email at . $11.99 gets you an autographed copy mailed to you. My friend Joe Heller said it best, "You can search The Library of Congress and not find a book like this." You got to love paid constituents!


May 19, 2005

Starry Eyed for Star Wars

Darth Vader battling Obi-Wan Kenobi
I bought advanced tickets for Star Wars Revenge of the Sith as soon as they were made available to the public. I purchased two tickets for Jimmy and I to catch the first show in the country. I have been waiting thirty years to see the finale and I wasn't going to wait a day longer. So what if it was a midnight showing on a school night in May. My stepson Jimmy lives and breathes Star Wars and the closest truancy officer was probably in a galaxy far far away. I admit to being a Star Wars junkie just don't ask me trivia like what galaxy Jar Jar Binks hails from.
By the wizardry of science, the pictured mask can change a voice into that of the evil Darth Vader. You can add the heavy iron lung breathing for children's birthday parties or to scare the bejesus out of toddlers after dark. When I singy-songy into the mask, "I don't want to grow up. I just want to be a Toys R Us kid." it transmitted a raspy spooky curse for the century James Earl Jones voiceover.
Truth of the matter, I don't want to grow up, which is why I dressed up like a ridiculous villain and let my son out till 3am on a school night. Jimmy and I did some role playing. It hit a little too close to home when he recited one of the more memorable lines of Star Wars.
"You are not my father." he denounced.
"I am your stepfather." I deep throated with the voice activated mask.
We arrived at the Cinemark theatre in Somerdale, New Jersey about an hour and a half before showtime. We could see a line snaking from the entrance. Sixteen theatres were playing Revenge of the Sith. By rough calculations that equates to a few thousand rabid Star Wars fans...or so we thought. I swung the car around the front of the theatre to see if lightsaber jousts spilled into the courtyard or maybe patrons were lining up for a best costume contest. Oops, nobody was even dressed for the occasion. There were no patrolling Storm Troopers, no aliens, no hero or villain to speak of. Jimmy and I were the only costumed hardcore fans in this dead unimaginative town at midnight. Jimmy did not want to be a laughing stock, so he stripped off his costume faster than you could sing a title bar from the Beatles' Fool on the Hill. I was forced to follow suit, pun intended, although I resisted being defrocked.
"Take off the Darth Vader mask, Joe." Jimmy prompted. "Yeah, and you can finally take off my mom's winter coat too. Think how stupid you would look out there in a woman's coat."
"Okay. Okay. It will be the world's loss." I relented.
We stripped down to civilian clothes for the sake of normalcy. Jimmy seemed at ease by the time we exited the car. I got tickets to theatre 16, Cinemark's signature wrap around screen. This enabled us first class accommodations. We avoided the long lines and whisked ahead of the plain clothed throng. In the theatre 16, people had been sitting in their seats for several hours. It looked and sounded more like a slumber party. People had actually made acquaintance with those around them. The silly movie trivia questions had been memorized because it played on a continuous loop. People milled about talking Star Wars shop and consuming late night snacks from the gracious concession stands.
Star Wars arrived on this planet in 1977 when I was a pimply 15 years old. I am dating myself but nobody else would date me back then. Ah, the hits keep coming but George Lucas had more. Let's count his blockbuster series in order - Star Wars A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith. Sicence Fiction never sounded more like the word salad of a deeply psychotic patient.
Only George Lucas could get away with releasing the middle installment of a saga thirty years after its conception. Star Wars is a gold mine with a gravy train parked out front for transport. He could have called this movie, Revenge of the Dirty Ashtray and it would not have went up in smoke at the box office. Revenge of the Sith was a bridge movie that links the early installments with the end of the storyline. I thought it was an outstanding movie considering the educated viewer can pretty much script what happens. It tied up all the loose ends like a double knotted tubal ligation. Cutting edge special effects bedazzled the viewers. When Revenge of the Sith ended, deserving applause erupted in the theatre. It was a fitting farewell salute to a three decade story that had me hooked at hello.
You heard it on Freudian Slips first. This blockbuster movie is going to break all-time records at the box office. To the moon, Alice.


May 17, 2005

Big Stone Gap of a Heart

The Internet is shrinking the world at an unfathomable rate of speed. It is difficult for my children to understand that we are living in a technological revolution. The word consumer has an insatiable appetitie and never before has it applied to so much in our ever expanding society.
Recent uprsings in my mind have drifted me back to my childhood when we lived in rural Virginia in 1974-1975. While blog surfing a couple of weeks ago, I came across the wonderful homespun blog of Contrary Goddess. She had a picture of a garden amidst the backdrop of the Tennessee landscape cued up front and center. It was the very first thing I saw on her blog as if it were posted for me. Everything about the picture reminded me of Virginia. Pinny for your thoughts, as Virginians say.
I stared at the picture and part of my childhood unfolded. Its sereness got me a little homesick for the childhood experiences I long to remember in my middle age. The town I lived in was a small holler called Big Stone Gap. I can still visualize the neighboring towns carved out of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the smell of the land, the magnificent foliage of the trees, the 1550 feet of billy goat elevation. There is something about Big Stone Gap that I hang onto but I still can't put my finger on it. Perhaps, the absence of a metropolis and a stronghold on Mother Nature seems enchanting. I can smell rhubarb growing in the fields, the sound of children playing tag in the schoolyard, my green and white Piggly Wiggly uniform scampering around the baseball diamond. All this mental downloading from one 3x5 picture on a stranger's blog? I'm afraid so. The picture haunted me until I emailed the host of Contrary Goddess. We have been friends ever since. Don't you know she lives fifty miles from where I lived.
Memories of Virginia continued. Big Stone Gap is where I bullseyed my first crush on a girl. Her name was Jenny Williamson. The area is only 1% American Indian but Jenny bore physical features to Pocahontas that were only outdone by her contagious smile. What more could a fifth grader ask for other than a teacher's lunch and a sneak peek at a quiz answer key? Too bad I was a northern Yankee. Pocahontas sent me up a creek without a paddle. If Virginia is for lovers, it considered me a youngin and not ready for prime time player. Enough about unreciprocated grade school crushes on Southern Bells who blamed me for the Civil War.
In one of the many emails to Contrary Goddess, she asked me if I have read the national best selling book about my little spittle of a mining town. Read it? I didn't know it existed. How many people have charming novels written about their hometown? Big Stone Gap is only less than five square miles of God's country! Contrary Goddess told me the book was aptly called Big Stone Gap and written by a former resident named Adriana Trigiani. I found it instantaneously on Ebay and had a copy at my doorstep later that week. I am not recommended the book per say as much as I am calling upon the coincidence, the irony of the moment. Sometimes when you are a little homesick, chicken soup for the soul is a welcome treat.
I have my attraction to irony and the Contrary Goddess to thank for curing me of homesickness. So if you want to learn how to build your own log cabin, live off of the earth, or need the best darn chicken soup recipe for the soul, visit the Contrary Goddess blog at


May 15, 2005

The Chronicles of Riddance

In her fourteen years, Gwen has never been confused with an apostle. In actuality, she has never been confused with anyone other than herself at 5'8" 225 pounds with autism, psychotic features, and aggression. She tussles in unpredictable fashion over trivial matters like the bus is late, I don't like peanut butter any more, or why did it snow. Gwen is a triple threat of mixed martial arts using her fists, feet, and iron jaws. The world is her punching bag and I am her social worker. Pock-marked with impressions of her fist, her bedroom walls are autographs of anger. Bedroom walls are defenseless targets when you run out of live sparring partners.
The father is the sole caregiver because the doting mother made the honest mistake of dying first. Things have gone downhill ever since. The father is ill-equipped to care for even a goldfish on a continuum. Gwen has been to the local crisis unit a number of times. Adult Protective Services has an inch thick file on the home, a must read for anyone interested in a social work degree. Home health aides and behavior interventionists have come and gone through a drafty turnstile. I got her under the care of one of the best psychiatrist in the field of developmental disabilities in America but medicine can only do so much. A pound of pixie dust and an exorcism couldn't correct the underlying problem - one old man cannot tame a cyclone. For me, convincing the father to let go has always been the real battle in counseling gone awry.

The father makes an unannounced visit to my office. Chronicling my social work memoirs begets surprises and this is a visit I will never forget. On the phone at the time, I motion for him to sit down. Instead, he whispers that he will meet me outside. He always preferred a lit cigarette when braving serious conversation. I always prefer fresh air when talking about anything. When I find him sitting at a picnic table, his wrinkled face looks as though he had been crying. A wrinkled handheld tissue confirms the emotion.
I ask, "What is the matter?"
The father replies, "I have been thinking about your offer to put my daughter in an institution."
"You mean the offer you declined?"
"Yeah, that offer."
"That's a done deal. It is deadpan. I followed it up with a certified letter asking you to reconsider but you still refused?"
"Yeah, well, I got to thinking, can take her now."
"What do you mean I can take your daughter now?" I said flabbergasted.
"Please, I am begging you. Take her right now."
"Like this minute?"
"Right now, Joe. I'm done. I'm spent." The tissue arrives on the scene and he begins to whimper. I sit down beside him and pat his back. He only cries harder. I get up.
I explain, "I don't have a paddy wagon out back that I can go round her up. It's not like that. It doesn't work that way. I have to check to see if my agency's placement offer is still tender. I can't speak for the funding or if the bed is still available. Why don't you tell me what has changed your mind?"
"She has been giving me hell. Maybe it is a sign from the Lord above."
I wanted to keep the separation of church and State. "Where is Gwen now?"
The father apprises, "I kept her home from school."
"Showing her colors, misbehaving."
"What is Gwen doing now, right this minute?"
"I can't be certain but she's probably tearing up the joint. She donkey kicked the aquarium glass. I got shards of glass, bleeding fish, and water all over the parlor. She was throwing knick-knacks against the dining room wall when I left. I had to get out of there, man."
"Back up. You two live alone." I rationalize. "Who is watching her, quelling the disturbance?"
"Nobody....she is home by her lonesome."
"Oh my God. Jesus, that's not good." I moan in the return of church and State. "You got to get home. If she is out of control, call the police."
"It's okay. Her psychiatrist told me so. He said whenever Gwen acts out, take a walk."
"This isn't taking a walk. This is deserting a handicapped child. You gave me permission to sit in on the psychiatric sessions with your daughter. The psychiatrist recommended a cooling off period. The doc never approved walking to the car, taking off, and driving ten miles to see the social worker."
"Don't worry, I locked the front door."


May 12, 2005

Smug as a Bug in a Rug

undisclosed residence in Salem County, New Jersey circa 1992
This may read like a scene from the TV show X-Files but it happened. I have called my immediate supervisor out in the field of a bad section of town. He accompanied me for backup and to see what the heck I do for a living. A few factors necessitated our visit. The client had just been released from jail, the family maintained no phone, and a certified letter had not been signed for.
As I drive closer to our destination, the terrain graduates from rural to urban. Seated beside me, my supervisor chooses to lecture me on Salem County's rich history dating back to colonial times. He talks about grand daddy oak trees, historical sites, and the antiquity of the period architecture. His rosy upbeat comments serve a purpose. They always did. No word, not even the clearing of his throat, was ever wasted with this man. His smug commentary is his passive aggressive way of letting me know I yanked him from the staple of his desk.
Soon we pass drug dealers working the corner. I turn. I park the company car on a street that does not look passable with a blanket of broken glass and shells of abandoned cars. Half of the homes are boarded up, the other half are half-way houses. People mill about the street looking for something to do at 11am other than wait for the mail. Only the town's graveyard housed less life. The people are curious about us in their neighborhood. They also seem suspect about the government marked car. Cars bearing the same marking have been vandalized. Without any choice in the matter, we exit.
We make passage through a screened in porch to gain entry into a quaint narrow home. The mother of my client answers the door. After introductions, she grandmotherly motions us to sit down on a rough and tumble couch. It is the focal point of an otherwise drab sitting room. A game show competes with snowy static on a television set. A portable fan is pointed in our direction.
We come bearing good intentions. We are primed to talk to the mother about mental health services for her son but we quickly learn that he is not home. His mother cliams he has fatally wrung the neck of a cat yesterday. It is a real conversation opener for my supervisor but I know for a fact that isn't the first cat he has slaughtered. The putrid smell from a bucket of excrement used as a personal latrine lingers down the steep staircase. I have been to his bedroom so I recognize the foul smell carrying in the summer air. We are in the home only two minutes before we are interrupted.
The rap of three savage knocks, the kind heard right before a swat team breaks down the door.
"Open up in there. Department of Health."
The mother saunters to the front door as if her home is raided every day. She opens the front door wide as can be. From where we are sitting we can only hear the authoritative voice of the health inspector.
"I told you I would be back. Lady, you got them bad, real bad."
Smocked in a cooking apron, she digs her hands deep into her front pockets. "Nah, can't be that bad."
"Lady, I'm telling you like nobody's business. You got them bigger than I have ever seen in my life. Nobody around the office even believes me. You are infested. They are in the floorboards, behind the walls, I found them crawling out in the ceiling between floors."
Once we heard floorboards, our feet kind of tippy toed. Once we heard walls, we stared at the four walls entombing us, when the man said ceiling our eyes became glued to the rafters. We were puppets of fear.
Comedy couldn't be scripted any better when the inspector added, "You might even want to toss your furniture but that is totally up to you."
The mere mention of furniture caused our butts to raise off of the couch. We are standing before the mother even turned around. At this point, my supervisor and I both had the heebie jeebies.
The inspector outside the door continued, "I got an exterminator on his way over here. We got to get this under control. Today!"
My supervisor ended the meeting before it really began. "Joe, we are out of here. O-U-T!"
I too shake the mother's hand. "We will stop back when your son is here. We needed to talk to him anyway."
We were out of there in a hurry. On the ride back to the office, I have never seen my supervisor less coy. Gone were the stories favoring the historical area gone to blight. There was no more mention of General Hancock's storied bridge, the soldiery at Fort Mott, or sunken ships in the nearby Delaware River. He was buggin and so was I.
"Do you think she had cockroaches or what?" my supervisor asked not too long in the car.
"Cockroaches? I was thinking vampire bats." I said it smug as a bug in a rug.


May 10, 2005

Easy Rider

A one arm Easy Rider?

While boarding an elevator at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital, my cell phone rang to the X-Files theme song. Fumbling for my bantam phone, I caught an elderly man giving me a cantankerous look. The musical interlude of X-Files did not improve the man's disposition. If looks could kill, I was a corpse. He moved to the back corner of the elevator and rested his weight against the wall. I began to talk on the cell. The trapped acoustics spoon fed an unwanted listener my entire phone conversation. The phone conversation was short-lived much like his biting silence.
The man made a strong first impression on me when he uttered, "You young punks think you got the world at your fingertips. Your time is coming."
The elevator continued its bumpy descent like a slow ride to hell. Was he a doomsayer touting Armegeddon or run-of-the-mill negativity on two arthritic legs? I did not know what his problem was but I had ample time to ask. So I did.
"Whatever are you talking about?"
"While driving to this stinking hospital, I saw a man riding a Harley Davidson motorcycle with one arm. He was talking on his cell phone just like you."
Call if self-fulfilling lunacy, but I often portray the punk I am falsely accused of. "The motorcyclist had only one arm?"
"What are you an imbecile?" The man fired back. "He had two arms. The idiot only chose to drive with one."
I stared at him before answering. The elevator was doing a pretty steady job sending me to hell in a hand basket with this basket case. I played along for the ride.
"Let me get this straight." I surmised. "You witnessed a man riding a chopper one-handed while talking on the phone, and he was heading in this direction to the hospital?"
He grimaced, "That's what I fricking said. Do you have a problem with that?"
I wasn't the one with the problem. I knew it and he failed to realize it. He went looking for America but couldn't find it anywhere. Like Easy Rider, the man who stood before me wanted an America that no longer applied. He was transistor radio old in an age of Ipods. He was a hostage and he perceived me to be taking a free ride. Things couldn't be further from the truth. I rarely take life for granted and I never do it in the confines of a hospital. The elevator binged and the doors slapped open.
I advised, "Easy Rider sounds like an accident waiting to happen. Sooner or later, Easy Rider will be joining us here at the hospital. You'll have both of us to kick around. I would hate to have you all to myself."
When you find yourself near alone in an elevator, it is easy to distinguish the easy rider from the person giving you the shaft.


May 08, 2005

A Family Coming Unglued

It seems there is a running joke in my family that I go overboard in my actions. In my wife's family, my nickname is "Joe Too Much". I will admit to high expectations and a meticulous nature when I put myself to work. I work slow but I have often worked through the night to see dawn after a lesser man has tired. "Too much" expects no less of himself and a man can be called a lot worse by many.
About two years ago, my sister-in-law, Chris, discovered I was on vacation so she asked me to come over to hang wallpaper in her son's nursery. We setup a day and time for my free labor. I brought my tools and materials. I held vigil all day. I am a slow paperhanger and the pre-pasted glue backing dries before I can align it to perfectionist standards on a wall. Call me Felix Unger. In name calling standards, it sounds better than "Joe Too Much".
To counter my slow hand speed, I used a professional pre-pasted adhesive(see picture above) and followed manufacturer's specifications to the last iota. When it was all said and done, my sweat alone could tell you that wallpaper would hold up the house during an earthquake.
Now the wallpaper is being asked to come down, which wasn't part of the original plan or work order. I recently fielded a couple of complaint calls from the homeowner because the wallpaper wasn't coming off. Not with toil and trouble, not with warm suds and bubbles. Apparently, my sister-in-law wanted her money back but all I had received in commission were a few once proud suits that her husband had eaten his way out of.
The debate raged on through the week. Hecklers even asked me to confess to the sneaky crime of using Super-glue. I have never seen family members bond like this! Before I could suggest the wonders of Magic Eraser(See posting 2-3-05 Mr. Clean Magic Eraser), enter my brother-in-law, Joe. Joe owns a painting business and has prepped a few walls in his day. So he became the invited houseguest to take down what I put up. I don't think he has been the same since. It is like Chris James replacing Mike Schmidt at third base for the Philadelphia Phillies.
A day later, I received a call from my brother-in-law Joe. I figured he wanted to report his progress on the demolition but there wasn't any. He asked, "What did you do to that wall?" as if I was a mutt dog who pissed on new furniture.
"I just did my job. That's all." I shrugged off any guilt. "I am getting worried that I won't be allowed back to wallpaper on my next vacation."
Joe tried Dif Wallpaper Remover, sponges, spatulas, scrapers, razor blades, everything but a hand held torch. In the end, my brother-in-law rented a steamer and cursed my work ethic all the live long day. He felt so inspired by my wallpapering talent he scribbled out the following proclamation in King's English then published it amongst family members. So my very first guest blog comes to you with permission from my brother-in-law.
Here are the players in his improbable satire:
I am playing the part of Sir Ripley of Ballantree
My brother in law Joe is Sir Royal of McKinley
The home owners are Jeff and Chris, the Lord and Fair Maiden of Pine and Fritz( I say Chris should have been casted as the damsel in distress but on with our story).
Jake, my nephew, is Master Diego, whose room was armored with the wallpaper.
Here ye those of our clan convene to discuss matters of importance. Recently, Sir Royal of Mckinley journeyed to the far away land of Pine And Fritz. There, was uncovered a viscous deed had been bestowed upon the hallowed walls of Master Diego's Chambers. It seems several calendars ago, Sir Ripley of Ballantree had bee-stowed upon Master Diego's walls a curse that has come to haunt the trade of Sir Royal of Mckinley forever. This banner of decor had become a permanent identity. The Fair maiden of Pine and Fritz took it upon one self to eliminate this unsightly permanence only to be cast aside by the difficulty of ones task. Summoned to Master Diego's Chambers, Sir Royal of Mckinley ( ax, sword, bow and arrow in hand) begins a butcher's march around those dreary walls, cursing the one who banners these walls with such permanent decor. By candle light and torch he floods the walls of Master Diego's chambers with a rain soaked down pour only Noah could weather. And when the last drop had dried, the Fair Maiden and Lord of Pine and Fritz could be heard echoing, "Stone him, Stone him, Stone him". The following morning Sir Royal of Mckinley summoned his army to fortify Master Diego's Chambers and unglue the curse sir Ripley of Ballantree had bee-stowed upon thee. Be forewarned, those that summon the services of Sir Ripley of Ballantree ( sitting at his self-constructed alter with a Grinch-like demeanor), what he built will not crumble, what he attaches will not fall, what sounds bellow from his cello unfortunately are heard by all. Let it be written, let it be done.
Let the Name of Sir Ripley of Ballantree never be mentioned in the same breath as vacation and free labor again.


May 05, 2005

Return of the Law of Even Steven

I have previously written about the Law of Even Steven. Simply stated, whatever I do to improve my life, there follows an equal and opposite sour reaction. Here is the latest example of the Law of Even Steven.

Our master bedroom has spacious HIS and HERS walk-in closets with perimeter closet organizers. For all the husbands keeping tabs at home, my closet is the smaller of the two. Last weekend, I helped my wife clean out her closet. I wound up lugging five hefty bags of clothes to a goodwill store. Never make a household improvement without expecting consequence.

Remember the half dozen pair of new pants from Kmart (see Jean of Arcadia post dated 4-26-05) I ballyhooed over? The Law of Even Steven figured it was time to pay me a ghostly visit. Any regular reader can predict the irony of what happened next.

Think of cause and effect...

Then picture a small home disaster associated with the aforementioned...

As if a poltergeist wrecked havoc, my closet collapsed under the sheer weight of new pants. Not the whole closet organizer just the section supporting my new wardrobe of pants. Fashion court would definitely single out the new pants as the suspect in a trouser lineup.
While minding my own business, I heard the kerplunk sounds of twisting metal brackets, clothing sliding off of hangars, and my 1980's videotape collection crashing to the floor. I kept my composure. There wasn't too much I could do about it at this time.
I commented outloud like a color commentator. " if I'm not mistaken that sounded like my closet falling."

I hated to be right in this case. So the money I saved buying a bevy of $1.50 Blue Light Special pants will now have to be shelled out for minor repairs. Holy take me to a haberdashery in the first place, Batman.

By the time I am through with the new fangled closet, it will boast Roman pillars for vertical support beams. If that doesn't work, I will call in a structural engineer. I am determined to outwit, outsmart, and outplay this mischievous force. One thing is for sure. I am not returning those Route 66 pants to Kmart. A sale is a sale is a sale.

Once I grasp my claw hammer for the reclamation project, this poltergeist better beware. In a pissed off state, I am not afraid to use this hammer. This poltergeist can scare the pants off closet hangars but not me. I'll give you Even Steven. Just peek your head out and it will be hammer time.


May 02, 2005

Love an Intersection, Marriage a Union

The Moshulu at Penns Landing, Philadelphia Pennsylvania

I met her in 1984. We shared an office together working at a private mental health agency. In a harsh manner of speaking, we worked for peanuts while treating nuts. It didn't take a college graduate to figure out from the laughter that we got along famously at work.
She was living with her boyfriend. I had a steady girlfriend.
There existed maybe six feet of desk separation and just as much kindling crammed into the same private office. I listened to her phone conversations. She listened to mine. We had no secrets. We had no privacy. We became friends. Neither of us dared to cross professional boundaries. It seemed a wise decision at the time.
Two years later, she announced that she accepted a government job. Before she jumped ship, she dutifully instructed me how to go about getting a similar job. Five months later, I wound up working at the same institution. I owed a debt of thanks to her for my promotion. We worked in different departments so we saw each other only for the occasional work meeting or casual conversation.
I married. Ironically, her own sister cut my hair on the day of my wedding. The woman that I speak of married not too far behind me. As a matter of fact, we both married the significant other we dated when we first met. Life is often the domino of habit. We worked together for a couple more years before she went to work elsewhere. Time did not stand still.
I had a baby girl. She had a baby girl the following year.
I resigned from my job to take another. Coincidentally, I wound up working on the same campus as her although neither of us knew it right away. By the time our paths crossed again, our families had grown.
I had another child. She had another child. We shared baby pictures and stories.
Shortly thereafter, the doors of my job closed and I took reassignment as a social worker in the community. She stayed put at her job and climbed a career ladder. We kind of lost touch for a period of time.
I divorced. She followed suit in a divorce.
I floundered in and out of relationships. Feeling a little bit lost while driving to a Single Parents Society dance, my attention took my gaze to a familiar sight. A wedding caterer now occupied the very office that I once shared with this woman so long ago. A special occasion balloon store was stationed next door. The same flower shop remained across the street. Flowers, balloons, and a wedding caterer had blossomed from this intersection. A bride to be was the only ingredient needed for the union. I got to thinking of this woman to the point that the dance no longer mattered. Only she mattered and this was a dance I didn't want to sit out any longer. I recalled our common denominators of work and family. The chemistry. Her friendliness. Her pep. The same foxy hourglass figure as the day when I first met her.
On the following Monday, I tracked her down at the office where I last knew she worked. Her voice coming over the telephone receiver allayed my fears. I found her. She gave me her home phone number. Our lives had paralleled for two decades and I refused to waste anymore time. In a brazen move, I asked her out before I even knew if she was dating someone else. She not only accepted my invitation but admitted to having a romantic curiosity about me. We courted for three years. I proposed. We married in 2001. She married right beside me this time. Call me a traditionalist. Her sister cut my hair before the wedding.
Diane, I consider today more our anniversary because it is the day you became mine and I became yours. It is the anniversary of our first date, a union meant to be as early as 1984 and as late as 1998. It is the day our history started to write on the same page and not in separate journals and photo albums. Happy anniversary, darling.

Our relationship is an unlikely love story. Pessimists might point out the following facts:
1) The agency where we first worked filed for bankruptcy.
2) The restaurant of our first date shortly thereafter went out of business.
3) The Penns Landing pier where I proposed collapsed and fell into the Delaware River.
After all, irony is not only the cornerstone of Freudian Slips but it is also the fabric of who I am. Sometimes it just takes patience and persistence for the stars to finally line up. Coincidence is as much destiny as it is happenstance. By being a captain of your own ship, you can catch the fish you set out to. The heart is a hunter. I have beaten the odds all of my life including getting our wedding kiss on national television.


May 01, 2005

Springtime in Suburbia

I have owned three homes in my lifetime and each yard has boasted a weeping cherry tree. It is an ornamental tree great for landscaping because of its slow growth. Its bloom reminds me of billowy pink cotton candy. A full bloom relies on dry weather and a lack of wind to release its beauty. The bloom only lasts a few weeks but it is a heavenly scene in suburbia. I took this picture about a week before the recent rain grounded the cherry blossom leaves. Every year it is a crapshoot whether April showers will bring these May flowers.


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