Freudian Slips: March 2005

Freudian SlipsImage Hosted by


My Photo
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.

March 29, 2005

A Basket Case

"So I got that going for me."
- Bill Murray in Caddyshack.
We bought a house that is literally too big for upkeep. Yes, it is a gorgeous model home on a grand enough scale to receive our share of wide-eyed compliments. The untold story is that we have made ourselves too house poor to contract out repairs. I am forced to learn how to fix what I would gladly pay others to do if I had the money. I can do a lot on my own but everyday there is something to fix. Gasp. I am getting too old to do the more physical stuff and my disease robs my body of energy and endurance.
Which takes me to a principle governing this house that stipulates anytime I fix or upgrade something, something else must break in its place. Jerry Seinfeld calls this the Law of Even Steven. I call it Amtyville Horror. Take just this weekend for an example. I made the honest mistake of buying my wife a new laundry basket. I jinxed myself by announcing to my wife that I was all caught up on my chores: I finished food shopping, the meals were planned for the weekend, I reconciled two weeks worth of bills, and completed grunt work in the backyard in my beekeeper's suit. I allayed to my wife that I wanted to relax for the day.
That is when she walked downstairs carrying another load of laundry in her brand spanking new laundry basket and announced shortly thereafter, "Joe, the washing machine is leaking."
Further investigation proved it was not a loose hose or something simple...the Speed Queen broke her drum, aborted her liquids, and had to be decommissioned. It was all hands on laundry room deck with stringy mops. Before I could even unhook the old machine for delivery of a new one, the stereo I am playing goes down, the buckle of my son's boot rips the vinyl off an upholstered kitchen chair, and the computer goes on the blink. Gasp. I was a basket case.
So there I am monkeying a pipe wrench to undo the washer's water lines as my computer keeps making an annoying beeping sound while I run Norton's Utilities repair, and the stereo is skipping every CD I throw in from Abba to ZZ Top. I walk away from the cursed washer, the faulty stereo, and the flunky computer to check on the dryness of the vinyl patch on the refurbished chair. Out of the corner of my eye, I glance at something odd moving out the bay window. Three squirrels and a chipmunk have conspired to tip over our bird feeder which I just put outside before everything went haywire with the washer. Gasp. If I get one stinking free minute, I am going to rig the old laundry basket to catch the villainous varmints. Now that would be the Law of Even Steven, Bill Murray style.



March 27, 2005

A Carnivale Ride

The season finale of HBO's original series Carnivale lived up to its billing. I may finally stop spitting on my high cable bill thanks to this Carnivale episode of flawless acting and intrigue. Set in 1934, Carnivale is a show about good vs. evil amidst the backdrop of supernatural phenomenom and a religious order. It is season two and the players are all aligned like an apocalyptic chess match. A series of visions tell us that the fate of the planet is on the line. Forces collide when the main characters pictured above , Ben Hawkins and Brother Justin, square off. Yes, good and evil finally got a face, even though I would argue that Brother Justin had a pretty good idea of the face of his adversary thanks to a nifty porcelain mold. Brother Justin and young Hawkins are the antithesis of each other. Each have slaughtered the others father so there was some bad blood, albeit blue blood, brewing between them. To place the two main characters in the same dustbowl, screenwriters forced a traveling carnival to infiltrate a Christian camp. The only thing harder to pull off is starting an ice cream shop in hell. Only Carnivale could pull it off and that they did. Kudos.

Ringleader Sampson set the tone early, when he muttered to Ben Hawkins, "Hogwash! When it comes to living, dying is the easy part."

Yes, things are tough all over in depression era New Canaan when the world hangs in the balance of wayward souls, a rebellious healer, and a religious leader. I thought the best scene was when midget Sampson stood up to a towering Brother Justin. Shorty never looked taller in size 6 challenged shoes. When a leashed Rollo, the contortionist, smacked his own buttocks with his feet squarely behind his head, I should not have been surprised about a twist in the end.

The only subplot that I did not like was the entrapment of Brother Justin on a Ferris wheel of all contraptions. Couldn't they come up with a better climax to the history of the world then evil getting stuck on a Ferris wheel? It is like burning Joan of Arc in the game room of a fun house.

If I could lend an ear to the climatic scene of our main characters running armed through the corn field. Talk about cutting to the chase. It reminded me of Stephen King's Children of the Corn. Hawkins and Brother Justin tangle. White-collar evil wields a sickle while blue-collar Ben Hawkins jabs a shorter inferior knife blade. Hawkins had to resort to impersonating a scarecrow before killing off his nemesis. Ding Dong the devil is dead? No. But wait there is more.

The confused misguided young Sophie served as the omega catalyst. She was forced to choose between Ben Hawkins and Brother Justin. Sophie hadn't even shed the passionate love she and Hawkins made in the backseat of a 1928 model T Ford while Brother Justin had just revealed himself to her as a creepy false prophet with tree vines growing on his chest, black Texas tea oil for eyes, and one who can swing doors closed faster than Linda Blair in The Exorcist. Not much of a choice for me and not exactly reminiscent of Glenn Close in Sophie's Choice but it was exactly that...Sophie's choice. Her answer could have wiped the smile off of gargoyles. "Go to hell." she shouted back to Brother Justin. I have a sneaky suspicion Brother Justin knew how to get to hell anyway. I ask, is that any way to talk to your father? You see, our dear Sophie always knew her mother, Appolonia, was raped by a man of strange influence but Sophie never knew he was now her employer. Could nepotism be the root of all evil? Sophie finally learned the hard way who her father was. I doubt whether I would thank God for learning this naked truth. It is one thing not knowing who your father is. But knowing your father is the devil incarnate makes living as an ignorant bastard more desirable. It is either the devil you know or the devil you don't in this case. Carnivale concluded with a strange surprise ending we have come to expect from HBO who conspire to squeeze another season of monthly payments from their subscribers. Enough griping about management and back to our story. To borrow a pun, what possessed Sophie into doing such a God-awful thing as killing the likeable former gimp Jonesy? The devil made her do it Justin time. After all, blood is thicker than water, even holy water.

Read more Blog Simulcast coverage of Carnivale's season finale by a fellow Blogger at:


March 24, 2005


Armenian Cheese an American Slice of Life

"Armenian String cheese has a mild taste and the color of the cheese is pure white. A Syrian-style String cheese is similar to regular String cheese. This cheese is used as a table cheese and also for Middle Eastern cooking."
Many convenience stores are being bought out by Middle Easterners. Not too long ago, my favorite Wawa fell into the hands of strangers. I remember my first visit to the store after it had been sold. The staff had been let go. Strange music played over the intercom. My nostrils could not detect the smell of hot piping coffee. The shelves were not barren but they lacked brimming inventory. I found only one man juggling the floor, cashier, and deli. He had no business in the deli that day. If only I had no business in the deli that day.
"May I help you?" asked the turban wearing man before walking behind the deli counter.
"I'll take a pound of American cheese."
"Armenian cheese?" he questioned.
I repeated my first cold cut order, "American cheese, thank you."
"Ah American. Good choice. How much, say again?"
"A pound." I was confused. I thought to myself, does Armenian cheese really exist or is he stringing me along?
He acted confused in a scaled down sort of way. "How much is a pound?"
"Sixteen magnificent ounces, why?"
"No. How much cheese please?" He labored in his communication and enunciated only broken English.
"A pound please."
"No. How many slices do you want?"
It was almost time to look around for the Candid Camera. "I don't care how many slices? As long as it amounts to a pound of cheese at the end of the order, I'll be happy."
Then came the real problem. "We no have no, how do you say, scale?"
"Wait a minute. The deli doesn't own a scale? That is ludicrous."
All he did was smile. He did not understand my language let alone the sarcasm embedded in it. What was a patron saint to do?
"The cheese please?" I repeated.
He held his ground, this time without a smile. "How many slices?" He made a violent chopping motion with his hand which approximated a violent beheading. I was floored. He got my dander up and it showed.
"Give me 34 slices." I barked. "That's right. 44 slices. Not 43 or 45. 44 slices of American cheese. Not Armenian cheese, Iranian cheese or Turkey cheese for that matter. I want American cheese. White cheese, not yellow or jaundice looking."
"Yes." he grinned.
I watched a Middle Eastern man slice cheese quite possibly for the first time in his deli career. He seemed timid of the precision spinning slicer. I didn't order any fingers on the side so his hesitancy worried me. Into the store walked a twenty something deliveryman coming off manning a cell phone.
"Can anyone tell me what store number is this? I have a delivery?"
The meat slicer spun to a screeching halt. The foreigner put the block of cheese down. Oh no, I thought to myself. Before he could walk out to tend to the deliveryman, I got questioned.
"Buddy, do you work here?" asked the deliveryman.
"Never." I answered.
"I have a delivery."
"...I hope it is a scale." I remarked.
"No, bread."
The deli man made himself visible. He did not introduce himself and won no leadership points as an entrepreneur. He just stood there raising that same silly smile. I will forever refer to it as a cheesy Armenian smile.
"This is my last delivery of the day. I want to get done. I got a sick kid at home. What store number is this? My chart says this the Wawa?"
The deli man did not answer. He did not move. He was as pliable as Plymouth rock.
"Sharif, are you deaf?" the deliveryman scolded.
No answer. The deliveryman stormed out of the store. His frustration literally spilled over into the streets. I figured that was the end of him but he wasn't leaving. The deliveryman marched through the parking lot and out to the road to examine the store sign. I saw his hands waving wildly. He returned to the store outraged.
"Yo. Yo." He summoned the deli man. Down went the block of cheese. "How long have you been working here, Sharif?"
"One week." he answered.
"You have been working here one week and you don't know the name of your freaking store?"
The turban wearing man raised a single gloved finger. "No, I have been in America one week."
"It looks like your sign used to say Wawa but a makeover reads Pantry. I must know the right name and number of this store so my bread can be signed for?"
No answer. The deliveryman looked to me for help. After all, I was the only one foolish enough to be doing business in the store.
"Don't look at me." I admonished politely. "He is the one new to America and he has got me conditioned into ordering a tray of cold cuts by the slice."
"Ugh, what the frick is this country coming to?" exclaimed the deliveryman before storming out of the store in a huff. He left for good this time taking his delivery cart of bread back to the truck.
My forty four slices of American cheese were ready ten minutes later. I counted aloud in English. Seventeen, eighteen, nineteen...slices. He asked me "how much" at the register.

Labels: ,

March 21, 2005


The Case of Terri Schiavo

Where There is a Will There is a Way
Space is not the final frontier. I believe science is the final frontier. I am convinced that the longer we inhabit this planet, the more complicated life becomes. A nation seems divided on the Terri Schiavo's case. It is gonna take a whole lot of love to get this thing right. At the heart of the matter, is a right to die issue but in this case it is her proxie's interpretation of her right to die in her stead. Another problem is our fleeting existence on this planet. Human beings are not reliable informants on what embodies life or what constitutes the right to die. Our embryonic beginning cannot attest to life's commencement and our last breath cannot punctuate the mystery of death. The right to die has become as much of a question as the timeless controversary over when life actually begins. We still haven't settled that score. In our ire, we bomb abortion clinics over the pro choice vs. pro life battle. There is almost as much fallout from the Terri Schiavo case. This case has divided a family, sparked the nation into water-cooler to religious debate, and will now force the gaveled hand of judicial power.
I have asked myself, would I be able to remove Terri Schiavo's feeding tube if I were her assigned nurse? Negative. Nope. Nada. Not any more than taking employment as an executioner during the French Revolution. Some argue that without man's interference Terry Schiavo was last alive 15 years ago. I am not sure what conclusively constitutes life, a vegative state, or death myself. I have had visitors to my place of employment question why my developmentally disabled clients are being kept alive. One such visitor surveyed the room full of non-ambulatory, non-verbal, medically frail people. He offered up a quick dismissal.
"What an absolute waste of human resources." he commented.
"Consider yourself fortunate." I told that same auditor of life. But I wasted my breath, the same indictment he rendered life on any other planet but his own.
Just because roses cannot be kept in constant bloom doesn't mean you stop watering the rose bush. The reason I work with this clientele is because people who love them can keep them alive. Love needs no affidavit any more than the end of life deserves a subpoena to remove a feeding tube or a judge's landmark order not to reinsert it. People experience life on different levels of existence. We can put a man on the moon and probes in the far reaches of space but humans with all their extraordinary science still can't agree on when life begins and if or when life should end. There is a sad irony and poor commentary on life, in court-ordering the removal of a feeding tube from Terri Schiavo who suffered from an eating disorder. Sustenance and breath are the umbilical cords of life but so is personal choice. Maybe humans were never meant to be in a position to meddle with those things or maybe since science and technology can manipulate life and death we ought to continue to tinker. I do not know if we should. I only know we will because that is the conquistador nature of human beings. One other thing is for sure. One of these days in the not so distant future, I will get around to drawing up a Living Will. Live or die, Terri Schiavo can teach us all that lesson.


March 17, 2005


Second Hand Merchandise

I have been trying to fit this post on Freudian Slips for months. This classified ad appeared in the Courier Post newspaper. It could have been mistakenly printed in the Obituaries. With no disrespect to the dearly departed, I found the manner in which the ad was written not only odd but humorous. At any rate, this classified ad made me want to know a little bit more about the manner of death. I guess I will never know. Talk about classified information.
VHS Collection. Must See. Over 160 full length adult XXX movies. Used videos. Owner died suddenly. Sacrifice. $150.00 or best offer.


March 15, 2005

The Familiar Stranger

Send in the Clowns
Isn't it rich, are we a pair?
Me here at last on the ground, You in mid-air.
Send in the clowns. Isn't it bliss, don't you approve?
One who keeps tearing around
One who can't move
Where are the clowns?
Send in the clowns.
I thought about the indignities of yesterday. Let me count the ways. A prostate exam at one doctor’s appointment, my allergy shot in a hospital thirty miles away, and brunch with a familiar stranger in a foreign land. There is nothing like following an injection of concentrated venom with a prostate probe to rule out swollen property. The day actually ended on a high note with the venom and cavity search. Before the medical maneuvers, I must turn my attention on my guest.
I drove my wife’s minivan to the rendezvous point because her vehicle owned a CD player. Music would serve as a mood stabilizer in the event of getting lost in Philadelphia. True to form, I got lost in the maze of one way streets revealing anonymous rowhouses. A sporty older model coupe pulls up next to me at the corner of Broad and Snyder. We smile to one another. The driver waves a sigh of relief then gestures for me to follow him to a municipal parking lot not far away.
We exit our cars, he a little faster than me. It is his custom to exchange the rousing Italian wet kiss on the cheek followed by a grizzly bear hug. I did as expected of me. As we walked to the restaurant of his choosing, I watched him stop to talk to a brick layer, then a city sweeper, and finally a jaywalker. He turned a two minute walk to the restaurant into a layover at an airport terminal. I bore witness to a man who knew only broken English talk so freely to complete strangers in a heavy brooding Italian accent. He seemed to overvalue his conversations with the strangers considering I was his scheduled company. He went out of his way to talk to these strangers while I stood a quiet familiar stranger before him. Our time was limited so I found his public outreach a heresy of time management.
I believe he had the restaurant open early for us. It was either that or he overthanked the owner in Italian about getting such good seats. I never spoke his language to say the least. The walk to seats of his preference revealed that we were the only two in the fully staffed restaurant. Even before the menus arrived tableside, his voice carried and I complied by listening. I am a good listener. Since my silence has always made him uncomfortable, he carried not only his deep voice but the conversation too. I zigged and zagged with the topics of conversations rifling out as many words as I could before interjection.
The familiar stranger never changed a single diaper of mine or wished me "Happy Birthday" but he felt the insurmountable need to mentor. He voiced parental tones early and often. I fielded his parental tones like an injury plagued first baseman. He began his ramble by letting me know that now as a retiree he detested that I lived my life by a calendar and a wristwatch. I told him appointments and scheduling was how I had to answer to the responsibilities of the day, how he had to once answer to the day. My obsessive compulsive features only took managing life to a synchronization to the minute, every minute.
Somehow the conversation somersaulted. He told me I was not allowed to eat the potato that came with my meal. When I refused to relinquish control over my dining fare, his metal fork resoundingly tapped my plate. Ting. Ting. Ting. He noticed a 42 year old man’s change in expression and he backtracked to a position of concern about my weight gain.
“You are starting to look like a baro.”
I figured that to be Italian for “middle aged guy fallen from caloric grace” but I didn’t press for further explanation. Consider me enlightened. Through further name calling, I realized he was mispronouncing the English word “barrel.” Upon learning that I was categorized as well-rounded did not make me feel any better. My fork stabbed the chive potato with newfound reckless abandon. Hey, let’s roll out the baro and have a barrel of fun. But there was no infectious laughter because he proceeded to tell me how many slices of Italian bread I could have. I dismissed the indiscretion as small potatoes. So I ate double the allotment of bread that he rationed out for me. I hate to break bread but I felt it necessary. After he ordered us another one of his appetizers, he told me we would be skipping dessert. I can take a hint. Waist not, want not.
He asked me about my relationship with my wife. He prefers to go back to the genesis of relationships so this I did. After I reminded him I first met my wife on the job, he reminded me that he never would eat and shit in the same place. I have to believe him since he did not use the bathroom the whole time we were in the restaurant. He also told me he would never have a wife who worked out of the home. He told me a lot of things that only applied to the Old World. The conversation digressed when out of nowhere, he told me he hated the theatre of my creative answering machine messages at home. Apparently, my entire home life was repugnant to him. He demanded a return to a more puritan recording the next time he called a few months from now. He stipulated this while throwing back succulent mussels in red gravy. But it wasn’t all gravy because our conversation inevitably returns to relationships. His frenetic hands seemed possessed telling me that women destroy men’s lives. He then went on a rant about all the women who had ruined his life.
“Joe, you betta watch you back.” he warned with a scowl.
When an Old World Italian man issues you such a warning in a South Philly restaurant cleared of other patrons, one might wonder about a Mafia hit. I knew that wasn't the case here. I differed, “I can't see anything with this baro belly so I can’t make you any bold promises.”
At any given time, I could have stormed out of the restaurant and left him high and dry. He had nothing on me. These meetings are his chance to get to know me. This is what he chooses to do with our time. The truth is our interpersonal relationship was little more than a broken record. The prick of a sewing needle should move beyond first blood. This meeting ended no different in dynamics than any of the dozen impersonal ones before it. I took the conversation like I did my meal- with a grain of salt. I held my ground until he searched for more common ground. Our impasse has always been the treacherous footing. This is a man who denies responsibility for his first failed marriage to the extent he named his second son the identical name as his first born. It was as much a part of my destiny as happenstance that I first met him the year of my emancipation while I was standing on a Philadelphia street corner in the middle of a grand parade. Emerging from the many strange faces in the crowd, this man called me son. He is then as he is now; the enigma of my biological father. Send in the clowns, maybe they are here.

Labels: ,

March 13, 2005

Get This Man A Piano Teacher!

this is an audio post - click to play


March 10, 2005

The Interrupted Telephone Call

“I’m afraid to die,” Freddie told Daniel. “I don’t know what’s down there.” “We all fear what we don’t know, Freddie. It’s natural,” Daniel reassured him. “Yet, you were not afraid when Spring became Summer. You were not afraid when Summer became Fall. They were natural changes. Why should you be afraid of the season of death?” -The Fall of Freddie the Leaf by Leo Buscaglia
I wish to share a telephone conversation that I had with a colleague last Friday afternoon. I have tried to recall all of it but I am afraid I have left something out. It was an ordinary conversation but one that ended too soon. All week long I have been trying to hang my memory on every casual word spoken in its brief lifespan. I can hear the voice on the other end of the phone. I can feel the pressure of the receiver against my ear. Some words fade in and out like a bad cell phone call but the ubiquitous conversation both haunts and consumes me. It teases me into remembering. It teases me into forgetting.
Readers may remember my gregarious client Luigi. I have written about Luigi in a previous posting (1-30-05 Wanted Dead or Alive). Ed, his vocational counselor, and I, his social worker, grappled with the stark reality that Luigi had become medically non-compliant. We were unanimously failing to get Luigi to the point of remedial action. Medical problems were piling up and Luigi’s diabetes complicate his health matters. Scheduling, transportation, advocacy, and emotional support wasn’t doing dork. Luigi had become a pagan to reason and an atheist to his medical model. Schedule Luigi for surgery and he would return the favor by disappearing on the day of the procedure. I don’t like to give up on people but Luigi waved his own flag of surrender. Ed and I speculated how long Luigi had to live despite us constantly pumping life into his lungs.
I fretted, “I don’t want Luigi to die on my watch.” To a listener my commentary may sound contrite and self-serving but trust me it was spoken from pure exhaustion of efforts and resources. I continued, “Luigi is a high risk candidate to die from something undetected, something that could be treated in the long run.”
“What else can we do? You know our Luigi. He is playing us.” scoffed Ed.
I re-stated my position. “I will rue the day if I come to work and learn Luigi died.”
“That is a call neither one of us would want to take.” admitted Ed.
I remember chewing on a York Peppermint Patty when Ed and I thought the unthinkable out loud. Right before someone is going to die, I could have done without sounding cavalier all the while chewing a chocolate bon-bon with my mouth open. With eyes wide shut, I have all that foolishness to look back on now. Life is like a rearview mirror.
Ed chuckled, “I guess whoever retires first, the other is stuck with working with Luigi.”
“Then it’s settled.” I agreed. “It’s a race to the finish line. Hey, Ed, staff are starting to lockup the building over here. How about we take up this unsettling conversation on Monday? It will give us the weekend to think of novel ways to motivate Luigi into keeping himself alive.”
“Yeah. Talk to you on Monday, Joe.”
“Have a good weekend, Ed.”
God works in mysterious ways . Ed died unexpectedly on Sunday. Ed, you left me a lot of fond memories…and Luigi. It will take me a long time to accept your forced retirement. I can’t even get to sleep tonight. I can't retire, if you will, and you…are gone forever. In loving memory of Ed. K. 1955-2005.


March 08, 2005

...a Sterling episode in the making


The Twilight Zone

"It is difficult to produce a television documentary that is both incisive and probing when every twelve minutes one is interrupted by dancing rabbits singing about toilet paper."
-Rod Sterling
On the evening of March 2, 2005, I received a frantic call on the telephone. "Joe, you better turn on the television because you're coming on the Sci-Fi channel."
“The Sci-Fi channel? Why? What do you mean?” I asked.
“Later.” he parted.
I decided to believe the caller and risk embroiling myself in an elaborate hoax aimed at getting my goad. I hollered up to my wife to turn to the Sci-Fi channel. We did not need to turn on a television because at least two TV sets churn kilowatts at any give time. My stomach began tying knots worthy of a sailor’s approval. I paced in circles at first then Katterina Witt figure eights. A minute later, I canvassed the staircase leading to our bedroom. My wife lay strewn on the bed in disbelief.
The Sci-Fi channel just picked up Ripley’s Believe It or Not in syndication and they were airing my episode. Can there be a more ironic moment than walking into your master bedroom and seeing your own wedding kiss broadcast on the Sci-Fi channel? Gulp. Gulp. Love and science fiction should never be melded together. Add real actors, my beekeeper’s suit, and a Rod Sterling voiceover and Prest-O Change-O you have the makings of a stellar Twilight Zone episode.
I started to get fan mailed emailed to me later that night from television viewers. Never doubt the power of a Google search. Dave Morejon of Tampa, Florida gave me permission to reproduce his letter to me.
Mr. Tornatore,
After seeing your story this evening on Ripley's Believe It Or Not television show (airing March 2, 2005 9:00PM Eastern) I was struck by a saying we use during many a wild evening. While my cousins and our friends, and fathers and their friends, are drinking together we usually end up in a game of enthusiasm. We break into two even numbered groups, face each other and chant a saying back and forth, getting louder each time. As we chant louder each time we also get more daring, say by jumping around and/or ripping our shirts off for the next round (females included), until one team is outdone by the other and can no longer top their crazy antics. Our chant is what I would like to pass on to you because it applies to many aspects of life in that it means that there are no problems with us, we have no chip on our shoulder and we are not afraid to stand up and face the challenge. I imagined you saying it as you bravely shed your suit for your wedding day. The saying is: THERE AIN'T NO FLIES ON US, THERE AIN'T NO FLIES ON US, THERE MAY BE FLIES ON SOME OF YOU GUYS, BUT THERE AIN'T NO FLIES ON US!!!
David Morejon Tampa, FL


March 06, 2005


They Oughtta Not Made This Comic Book

They Oughta Have Bells is considered one of the most offensive reprehensible comic books ever published. If anyone out there knows more about the specifics of this comic book, please drop me a comment. This 1960’s comic book mocked disability in living color. Its message lampooned disability and disregarded human compassion. It never reflected the public rights of being disabled in America nor political correctness. Instead, it found its way into American pop culture promoting the kind of hurt that could make Helen Keller speak. To borrow symbolism, it lit the torches carried by the hate mongers to Frankenstein’s castle. This comic book may have setback disability rights a generation. I hope the comic book’s circulation was small and its shelf life short.
Thankfully, disability rights have come a long way in the last fifty to a hundred years. Nonetheless, diehard prejudice still finds a warm cozy home by the fire with some people. As a social worker, I receive a high volume of mail. I recently received a complaint letter from the neighbor of one of my clients. Its content left me aghast. The letter awfully reminded me of the comic book.
Let me preface the introduction of my client by saying that I admire Nat. Nat functions in the mild range of mental retardation but he does his best to negate cognitive limitations. He is gainfully employed as a porter. Furthermore, Nat has been recognized in the local newspapers for his dedicated work as a porter. In unheralded fashion, Nat helps his sister raise her children and even does the family laundry. Nat is a member of society in good standing. He lives in a 600 unit apartment complex, the nosy kind of residential community where everybody knows your name. It sounds like Cheers but it is far from the Norm.
Human beings are indeed different but shouldn’t be treated differently in terms of civil rights. For the sake of argument, let’s talk about Nat’s individual differences which came under scrutiny. Nat looks a little different but I guarantee you, he wants to be treated fairly and not judged based upon his appearance. Nat has an idiosyncrasy of talking to himself whenever he spends time alone. He mumbles and perseverates out loud. He can often be found humming and singing to himself as a way to fill the silence of being alone. Self-talk is no crime against humanity in any state in the country. I do it myself and do not want to be imprisoned because of it. Nat, you see, is as harmless as his namesake.
In so many words, the neighbor apparently finds Nat abnormal and repulsive. She felt so strongly about Nat that she went in writing to the apartment complex. The venomous letter found its way to my desk but not before the neighbor further reported Natty to the Division of Youth and Family Services for babysitting her nephews without supervision. Slack-jawed, I read the letter through a few times before my Marty Feldman eyes subsided. The neighbor’s letter indicated that her safety was being jeopardized sharing the same laundry room as Nat. Leaving nothing to interpretation, I include only a couple of her comments:
“The creature roaming the laundry room is downright scary.”
“He scrapes the bottom of the barrel of society.”
Talk about airing dirty laundry! As part of the dehumanization, the neighbor never referred to Nat by name. Let me assure you that this letter was not penned from ignorance. Rather, this was hate mail born in the witching hour. The neighbor would have been better served if she referred to Nat as Whatshisname. I wouldn’t be surprised if this neighbor had an entire collection of this comic book. I guarantee you Whatshisname doesn’t own a single copy.


March 03, 2005

Koo-Koo for Koko Puffs

WOODSIDE, CA-February 21, 2005 — Two fired caretakers for Koko, the world-famous sign-language-speaking gorilla, have sued their former bosses, claiming they were pressured to expose their breasts as a way of bonding with the 300-pound simian.

"The suit, in any case, says that Patterson would interpret hand movements by Koko as a demand to see exposed human nipples. She warned Alperin and Keller that their employment with the foundation would suffer, the suit says, if they "did not indulge Koko's nipple fetish."

As reported on Good Morning America and the Rush Limbaugh show, Koko the gorilla has been characterized as having a “nipple fetish”. This bizarre story may turn out to be sour grapes squeezed from disgruntled employees but it is interesting from an inmate running the asylum perspective. There is no debate about Koko being an extraordinary gorilla. I do not want to detract from the valuable research but have human beings gone too hard to domesticate a ferocious jungle animal? Teaching Koko to smoke a cigarette is a primal example. With the lone exception of a tobacco company, who would introduce a gorilla to a cancer stick? That is Koo-koo for Koko puffs!

For readers not familiar with Koko’s real talents, this world famous gorilla has done video dating for a suitable (pri)mate. Koko has even participated in interspecies online chatting with humans via a computer. Koko has befriended cats. In 1988, William Shatner spocked in on Koko and the two had a sit-down encounter which paled only in comparison to The Beatles visiting the Mahareshi Mahesh Yogi. Koko reportedly knows over 1,000 signs in American Sign Language and experiences many of the same emotions as human beings.

Emotions are at the heart of where this story is headed. If we can believe the platform of the lawsuit, one sign that Koko knows is to request females to show their private parts. Irony has tied a bow around this twisted story. When you force a naked gorilla to live among humans, it is a reasonable request for the naked gorilla to want humans to take off their campy costumes. Oh, those bare necessities, the bare necessities of life. However, any Ethics Committee might warn that humans shouldn’t oblige a talking gorilla not even after a few beers at a local tavern.

I am a tad surprised about Koko’s surly behavior since he was a fan of watching Mister Rogers on television. It just goes to show that any gorilla forced to watch Mister Rogers to model human behavior is a SOS for society in its own right. Maybe they should have stuck to the original Star Trek. Funny, I don’t remember Mr. Ed, the talking horse, asking to sleep with the upright natives. But that was a horse of course of course.

The firing could have been avoided if the caretakers read the fine print in the job description. I managed to pull the actual job description off the Internet. The sordid details are buried on Page 7, paragraph 6. Worker shall sexually arouse a 300 pound ape by performing timely semi-nude peep shows then successfully vacate the cage unharmed and unhinged quicker than a banana split. Management is an equal opportunity exposer and expects the paring away of clothes from all Class 3 Zoological Technicians. Viewer discretion is strongly advised.

Regardless of the litigation, gorillas definitely speak our language. If this case ever snakes its way to court, you got to wonder if Koko will be called to testify for the defense. That would be a sign of the times in its own regard. I believe Koko will need a nice vacation after this lawsuit is settled. Maybe Koko could go to New Orleans for Mardis Gras. Now there is a vacation to remember. I can just see this gorilla going ape on Bourbon Street.

Just one more thing…Koko is a female gorilla. The breast lay plans of ape and men often go astray.

Visit the websites for yourself.

Labels: ,

March 01, 2005

Wintry Weather

Our backyard invited me to take its picture at twilight during the snow storm. When my camera shutter clicked, it was snowing like gangbusters. I was surprised about the absence of snowflakes in the photo. The deck is a massive structure built fifteen feet above the ground jutting out our family room. It reminds me of a tree house for adults. No matter what the season, it offers a breathtaking panoramic view of our wooded property. I installed the perimeter rope lighting to give small airplanes a snowball's chance in hell to emergency land.


Free Image Hosting at