Freudian Slips: June 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.

June 30, 2005

A Phillies Keepsake Souvenir

Last Friday night, I had the dubious distinction of going out to Citizens Bank Park to watch the Philadelphia Phillies lose their 9,999 game as a major league baseball franchise. They convincingly lost 8-0 to the World Champion Boston Red Sox. The Phillies showed no signs of life and got only the whimper of three hits in front of a capacity crowd. When the high point of the night is the mango water ice and seventh inning stretch, something is drastically wrong with the chemistry on this Phillies team.
Just one loss you say, albeit the 9,999th? At least, it wasn't the Phillies historic 10,000 loss. Fans didn't have to wait long for that one. The Phillies conquered that hurdle the following night thus becoming the first professional team in history to record 10,000 losses. They remain entrenched as the losingest professional sports team on the planet. Call me a glutton for punishment because I remain a loyal Phillies fan.


June 28, 2005

An Eccentric Life

A few months ago, I had a sensational dream that I was a guest on the Oprah Winfrey show. A vivid dream, I have a trace memory of Oprah supportively resting her hand on my leg. Enough about dreams and back to reality.

Regular readers might recall me announcing my inclusion in Ripley’s Believe It or Not; Planet Eccentrics hardback book due out this fall(see 12-16-04 post called I recently received a mind-boggling email from the publishing company. The publishing company is asking me to go on a promotional tour for their book, which includes appearances on some noteworthy television shows. Trust me, I am not dreaming. Here is the email.

Dear Joe Tornatore

I am representing the Mint Publishing Group and we are publishing the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not; Planet Eccentric book this October. We are currently preparing our promotional campaigns for the Fall and we would like to know if you would be interested in participating in upcoming promotions for this new title? These promotions would primarily be on National TV such as Regis and Kelly, Oprah, Good Morning America, Montel Williams Show etc.
Your transportation, food, hotel etc would be covered, but please keep in mind I cannot answer any further questions regarding payment at this time, I am just enquiring about expression of interest at present.
If you are interested in participating in the promotion of our new book or you require more information, please contact me as soon as possible at xxxxxxx or via phone at xxxxxxxxx. I have attached a PDF flyer for you to view.
I do not know if congratulations are in order because I suspect there is a further selection process to make the promotional tour. I did express splendid interest. Who wouldn’t want to be pampered as a paid guest on television shows? When there exists no promotional tour for your own book, living a high profile life promoting somebody elses book may be a pretty damn good substitute. Not bad for a guy getting stung by a bee.


June 26, 2005

Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs

This weekend, I assumed the persona of my alter ego, The Bee Man of Blackwood. No, I didn't put my beekeeper's suit back on but I did complete my first book signing at the Ripley's Believe It Or Not Museum in Atlantic City, NJ for Stop and Smell the Silk Roses. I am free publicity for the Ripley's museum. They sell my book in their gift shop and I make free personal appearance to boost ticket sales. Quid Pro Quo.
I learned a lot about public relations this past weekend. It is not that easy to sell a book even in a museum housing your exhibit and playing your TV episode on a continuous loop. Yes, I moved some books but it was far from a circus maximus arena. The museum averages one thousand customers during the summer but the gate was lighter this weekend. Advertisements appeared in the Atlantic City Press and Atlantic City Weekly magazine so can I blame the picture perfect weather that would not drive vacationers from the beach and into air conditioned buildings? Enough excuses.
Back to the learning experience. I learned that if I charged $1.00 per autograph and scrubbed the book signing I would have been a better business man than author. Nevertheless, I signed about 500 free autographs this weekend and met people from all walks of life. Sitting tableside, it was awkward asking people if they wanted my autograph when I really didn't know if they gave a flying frock. Likewise, it was awkward being asked for my autograph when I doubted myself of being in a position of celebrity to dole it out. But autograph I did. I even autographed the bikini top of a sun worshipper but please don't tell my wife. It may sound like a whole lot of guilt-ridden rationalization but I pressed lightly and scribbled as fast as I could. I also learned that people spell their first names so differently that this unalienable right should never be taken for granted by a signer. I also never once envisioned myself being a part of another family's scrapbook but I posed for pictures with vacationers from as far away as Columbia and Spain. I got a chuckle by an adept interpreter explaining in sign language to a deaf man that I was the Bee Man of Blackwood.
I had almost left the city to enter the Atlantic City Expressway, when I began wondered how many people are in a position to even have a book signing. I felt fortunate. That is when I saw a frail homeless man holding a cardboard sign that read HOMELESS, I'LL DO ANYTHING FOR FOOD. I was signing books for cold cash and this beggar owned little more than the one cardboard sign. Back to the learning experience. Signs come in all shapes and sizes.


June 23, 2005

It's All Gravy Now

The Life Plan Summary of an Individual Habilitation Plan identifies personal dreams. It is an outline of aspirations. Every meeting I coordinate on a client relates to their Life Plan Summary. The question is entirely too abstract for most of the mentally retarded population to cognitively tackle but the topic of conversation remains. My job is to facilitate clients achieving their Life Plan Summary or in some fashion working towards their goal(s). I help fill largely empty buckets.
In my career, I have received all kinds of unrealistic answers from “I want to marry Pamela Anderson.” to “I want to catch a great white shark with my bare hands.” I have had a client deathly scared of heights wanting to become an astronaut, a woman with hepatitis begging to flip hamburgers at McDonalds, and a blind person longing to walk to work. I have become largely desensitized to the unrealistic answers I get for this important question and the appropriate answers no longer come gift-wrapped with any element of surprise.
Arlo would change that. In 2003, I had the privilege of sitting at the kitchen table with Arlo, a new client on my caseload. I asked Arlo to state his goals and aspirations. He gave me a pensive stare. I re-phrased the question in concrete terms he might better understand. Only mildly retarded, Arlo didn’t need me to ask him the same question twice. One could argue that he didn’t need me as his social worker either because he was doing a pretty good job with his own life. Arlo sat forward in his chair, leaned against the table, and folded his hands not unlike prayer. His speech labored through an overbite but his life force emanated from within.
“Joe, that’s a tough question because I am living my life plan.”
“You are? In what way?” I asked in earnest.
“All of my life I have dreamed of working in my hometown for the Department of Public Works. Since I was a boy, I wanted to grow-up to become a fireman, and I always wanted to visit Graceland, Elvis Presley’s home.” Arlo paused. “You see, I have worked for Public Works since 1988 and I have been a volunteer fireman for nearly as long. I have already been to Graceland to ‘see the man’ so anything you do for me is gravy.”
His words rang true with the weight of a proclamation. My pen came to a screeching halt. I got up from my seat and offered him a congratulatory handshake.
I recently used a voucher stipend cash subsidy to send him back to his beloved Graceland. When it comes to accomplished realized goals, the best a social worker can do is refill the same trusty bucket.


June 21, 2005

Starsky and Hutch Parental Guidance Recommended

One recent Saturday, the family gathered for a Comcast On Demand family movie night. For the ambitious readers who still go out and rent movies, we are stationary slugs. Comcast has taught us that Blockbusters video is as far as the movie theatre. Like spoiled debutantes, we bickered over what movie to rent from our remote control. Diane wanted to see Starsky and Hutch, a cheese ball comedy starring Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson. Rated PG-13, I voiced mild objections that this movie could be inappropriate for our two younger children, who are three years younger than the suffix in PG-13. Diane overruled me and we ordered Starsky and Hutch through the live feed of a remote control. Parental guidance can be a split decision.
Back to our movie. The sexual content was not explicit but it had its fair share of adult references and two uncomfortable scenes. Diane kept prompting the children to turn their heads but our son seemed to be mighty interested in a cheerleader undressing in a locker room. I was torn between shouting comments like "At a boy" or "I told you this was inappropriate for younger viewers." I did neither. When our son kept perseverating "I got a funny feeling inside." I knew this particular movie rental was a bad decision even though my wife did not want to venture off of the trail of denial.
The following day, we took the family to South Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. South Street has an interesting medley of records stores, tattoo parlors, and street urchin squalor. The diversity of people and culture was evident in sight and sound. Though you would never catch me piercing my skin in an erogenous zone, the non-conformity was refreshing to see. We ate at Johnny's, the birth home of Larry Fine of the Three Stooges. The connection between good food and a stooge remains a mystery although one of our kids claimed their hamburger was just Fine.
Evidently, Starsky and Hutch had permanently imprinted on our son. We heard "I got a funny feeling inside." repeated more than once although it was far from the line of the day. While passing by a kitschy storefront, he asked his mother if can we go in that store and see what it is all about?
"What store?" clarified Diane.
"Condom Kingdom." He said with innocence and determination.
I asked my wife. "Are you regretting your decision to rent Starsky and Hutch?"


June 19, 2005

The Price is Right

The Price Is Right, television's longest running game show and winner of over a dozen Emmy awards has come to the Showboat Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey. If you happen to be in Atlantic City for my auspicious book signing at nearby Ripleys Believe It or Not Museum on June 25-26th, this live game show may be more entertaining but don't let me talk you out of a book sale. This knockoff version of the real McCoy is a hoot. The price of admission is a steep $25.00 per person to sit in the audience but you actually get a bona fide chance to play for real prizes. The price was right for wife paid. The show is well scripted and includes the same props, games, and music. Funny outtakes from the original show entertain the audience.
The Showboat's The Price is Right is emceed by Todd Newton, whose previous experience hosting TV game shows like Whammy! shines through. He is no hug machine like Bob Barker but he is eloquent, funny, and disarming. Pink-coated comedian Daniel Rosen is the able announcer who excites the crowd not unlike prized foreplay. Twiggy eye-candy twins demonstrate the products with the usual hand waving, manufactured smiles, and flesh revealing curtsies. A camera crew produces the show across big screen televisions to add silver screen authenticity. Contestants are hilarious when materialism is on the line but watch who you laugh at because you will wind up on the big screen looking pretty silly. It wiped the spectator smile off of my face.
The show's battle cry of Come on Down heralded the lucky contestants to take the stage in a competition of shopping knowledge. The audience resembled a bingo hall with the occasional young couple sprinkled between aisles wrangled with wheelchairs, walkers, and canes. Senior citizens turned an hour show into an hour and a half odyssey without commercials. True to form, four players comprised Contestants Row, where they each guessed the retail price of a featured item. The contestant who guessed closest to the retail price joined the knockoff host to play for knockout prizes on stage. How did my wife and I fare? We couldn't get to Contestants Row if we had to guess the cost of a postage stamp on a first class letter. I overestimated the actual price on almost everything but I have always paid dearly for my mistakes in life.
The highlight of the show was capturing the winners faces beam with unrehearsed joy. Somebody won a refrigerator, another contestant treated themselves to a matching washer and dryer. We saw an all exclusive trip to Las Vegas won too when a woman sank a 15 foot golf putt. Tiger Woods would have taken a couple of practice swings before trying this putt. After she figured out which end of the club to use, she struck the dimple ball airborne over the hole. The ball ricocheted off of something on the set and returned to land in the hole. Talk about a stroke of luck! The geriatric crowd went so nuts that dentures rattled. The Grand Showcase included a brand new SUV, if you guessed it to the dollar. I wouldn't have been able to guess how much for the Turtle Wax used to shine it.
I applaud any casino, who is creative in taking my money. After The Price is Right, it was back to the nickel slots for me even though two gambling wrongs never make it right.


June 16, 2005

Bridge Over Troubled Waters

They say what you don't know can't hurt you but Alfie calls into question that theory. When I reviewed Alfie's file, I quickly determined that he was going to be the smartest guy on my caseload. He functioned between mild retardation and normal intelligence. He was definitely disabled but could function in society and made every conscious effort not to associate himself with a disabled population. He lived with his fiancee Bridgett and Alfie showed a comfort zone in allowing her to assume a caretaker role over him. How I was placed in the role as conscientious objector to Alfie's life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness is a fantastic tale.
Allow me to start with the seemingly innocuous event of losing my combination lock at Bally's gym. I decide to scour their Lost and Found, which is nothing more than a primitive cardboard box thrown in a rarely used walk-in storage closet. The receptionist wasn't at the front desk for me to ask permission to rummage. She was nowhere to be found or so I thought. Regular gym members often entered the closet without fear of reprisal. So I swung open the closet door and found the receptionist I was looking for. She was allowing herself to be groped underneath her uniform while she shared traces of saliva with another member. Membership apparently had its privileges. I do not know who was more surprised them or me interrupting their makeout session. They gave back each other's tongue, the man's hands finally appeared, and she wiped the smeared lipstick from her face. Nervous giggles abound. Like a chastity belt undone, I found my combination lock at the feet of their passion.
I telephone my client to go out to his home. Alfie tells me he needs his fiance home because she takes care of him. He doesn't even want to handle the phone call and gives the receiver to Bridgett. Bridgett introduces herself then explains that she schedules Alfie's appointments, reads his mail, does his banking, and genuinely looks after him. She has been working a lot so her next day off isn't for another week. We dartboard a day on the calendar and the appointment is set in stone.
A few days later, my eyes capture a curious picture in the Courier Post newspaper. A charming looking couple has won Boscov's Vacation Getaway Contest, an all expense trip to Aruba. I stared awkwardly at the photo and read the caption. After all, it was the first time I saw a picture of Alfie but the second time I eyeballed Bridgett. You guessed it! The photo comprised the receptionist from the gym and my client Alfie, who was NOT the man with octopussy hands canvassing the storage closet. What you do know can hurt you still. My coffee seemed to sour all at once. I put the newspaper down.
So I am looking forward to this home visit like a return of the chicken pox but the day comes despite my moral objection. Every dog has their day, right? I ring the doorbell and my client answers it. We shake hands. I can feel the coarseness of his hard working hands. Alfie and I scale a set of stairs to get to the upstairs apartment. He talks the whole way up. I am told that Bridgett is in the bathroom sprucing up. Alfie and I sit on a couch in an otherwise empty room. Alfie presents as friendly and upbeat, a personality trait a certain health inspector should embrace(see post called Going to the Well Once Too Often).
"Wait till you meet my Bridgett. I am going to marry that girl." Alfie complimented. He was spilling with emotion and I likened it to sap blindly running out of a Maple tree.
"Is the marriage before or after you two go to Aruba?"
"How did you know I won a trip to Aruba?"
"Oh, your social worker doesn't miss too much." I scoffed. "I saw your picture in the newspaper. Congratulations."
"Bridgett, come out here." Alfie said. "Joe is here. Bridge, Joe saw our picture in the paper. Isn't that cool? I only filled out one entree form?"
"Entry form." I corrected.
Bridgett shouted, "We are going to have such a kick ass time, aren't we Alfie?"
It seemed so ironic that she formulated this into a question while she was behind closed doors. Questioning included, Bridgett did a lot behind closed doors.
"You lucky dog." I overstated to the beat of a double entrende. Entree Alfie might have erred.
I heard footsteps and then a figure loomed. Alfie said invitingly. "Joe, this is my fiance, Brigett. Isn't she a looker?"
When Bridgett photo framed my face, she tried to hide her horror. She had entered the room with a steady gate but looked as if she hit the Manyunk wall with nausea. She longed to swallow an invisibility pill if ever there was one. She could do nothing to conceal the same color lipstick. Bridgett had unwittingly arranged a sit down meeting with the only person in the world who knew she was cheating on her fiance while a marriage and pre-paid honeymoon hung in the balance. Bridgett knew she inserted the 'getaway' in the Boscov's Vacation Getaway contest. The room teetered on its axis between winners and losers.
"Oh, we have met before." I shook Bridgett's hand nonetheless. Her hand was cold and clammy but I expected nothing less from a Bridge over troubled waters.
"Get out of town." Alfie asked. "Where do you know Bridge from?"
The ornery side of me wanted to blow a referee's whistle right about now and scream STORAGE CLOSET but I refrained. "Over at Bally's gym." I simply answered.
What a perfect segue this would be for a sadist. When Alfie turned away from the conversation, Brigett engaged in non-verbal communication by giving me the shush sign with a finger to her lips. She could have done better than to accentuate lipstick lips to perpetuate betrayal. Lipstick lips shot me an adrenaline rush of flashback. On the other hand, Bridge had little umbrella drinks, orange cream sickle sunsets, and a golden bronze tan on her mind. Life is a beach.
Do I spill the beans? Do I take away Alfie's love of his life with a five second eyewitness report? I didn't want that power to begin with nor did I know what to do with it now that I had it. I had misgivings about the whole charade. Since I wasn't really sure what to do, I issued her a pass. Bridgett thanked me when I left and we both knew she meant the Get Out Of Closet Free card. As I walked back to the car, I heard their conversation through the kitchen window screening.
I heard Alfies's booming voice. "Now that we are done with that, how about you and me go out for an ice cream cone?"
"Sounds good, Alfie." Bridgett replied as I disappeared into the night.
Social work is often a single person judgment call. Sometimes you never know whether you got it right until much later. Even with a multiple choice scenario, there sometimes are only wrong answers to choose from.

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June 14, 2005

Knock Knock. Who is there? Free Publicity

My printing company, JustBooks, asked me to forward a copy of my autobiography Stop and Smell the Silk Roses. JustBooks was contacted by a newspaper agency who wants to do a grassroots story on self-published books. I have been told my book will be considered for the story. The piece will run simultaneously in 24 different newspapers in the country. Keep your fingers crossed for free publicity thrown my way. It would be a long shot for my book to get selected but when opportunity knocks, I am the ears-a-plenty guy pressing a glass up to the front door. The book went out in first class mail today.


June 12, 2005

Going to the Well Once Too Often

An empty well doesn’t necessarily mean it went dry. Maybe there was nothing in the well to begin with.
One of the day programs that serves individuals with developmental disabilities received an impromptu visit from a health inspector. I just happened to be in the building at the time of the inspection. I wondered what irony bestowed this chance encounter. Clipboard in hand, the female inspector approached the cluttered desk, where the center supervisor and I stood finishing up a conversation leading to nowhere.
“I’m here to test the well water.” The health inspector stated authoritatively.
“We will be only a couple more minutes.” informed the center supervisor. “Can you wait?”
The health inspector looked like she wanted to bail out of the situation and it would not have been all is well to end well. To make matters worse, the phone rang and it detained the center supervisor from dealing with either one of us. In a side conversation, I introduced myself to the female inspector making mention of someone I knew, who worked for her same employer. I tried to make small talk but she offered me a cold calculated silent treatment. In so many words, none, she was anti-social to a social worker. She offered nothing more than the acknowledgement that she, in fact, is a co-worker of the person I mentioned. The inspector adopted a disgusted look on her face as inquisitive developmentally disabled clients began to filter into the meeting room. She took a few steps backwards toward the door.
“I’m going to wait in the car.” she snorted cantankerously.
Only the well water could have been colder. I didn’t expect a standing ovation for mentioning someone we both knew, but she would have done Vanilla Ice’s song Ice Ice Baby proud. I thought her behavior was odd so I studied her quick retreat to her car. A couple of the clients infiltrated the room striking up speech-impaired conversation with me. Ever the inspector, she sat lumped in an idle car watching us finish the business at hand. She stared awkwardly through the big bay window as if we were fish in an aquarium. Only the aquarium water could have been colder.
Later that night, my relentless soul placed a call on the telephone to our mutual contact. I mentioned that I had met his unstylistic co-worker, who did not embrace the importance of first impressions.
He parleyed the bad vibes. “You did not leave a good impression with her either.”
“No way. What did she say?” I was perplexed by the categorization since I had been both friendly and inviting.
He reported secondhand what she concluded about me. It was recalled with pity and indifference to human life.
'I had no idea your friend has to work with a bunch of lousy tards.'
Tard is an archaic and offensive slang for retard. Evidently, she seemed put off that I was contributing to society. Oh, well. Inspectors of wells shouldn’t be dry of compassion.


June 09, 2005

Vacation Getaway

It was Christmas Day in the workhouse. -George Robert Sims
Depending on your perspective, I am on vacation from work this week. By my own choosing, I have grown into the annual habit of taking one week of vacation by myself. I engineer the timing of this grand event in June before the kids get out of school. So with the wife working and the kids receiving their educational entitlements, the big house of a hundred things to do is all mine. I never go away for this week so where do I start? In anticipation of this week long workfest, robust mental faculties are always utilized to round out a prioritized chore list. vacation consists of cranking the stereo and doing house projects. What a fireball of forty something homebody fun I am, huh? In actuality, projects are relaxing and I enjoy keeping up the appearance of our house. During my vacation I have stepped away from the house to play tennis, catch a Phillies game, go out to lunch with friends, and take in a movie the wife didn’t care to see. I stepped away long enough to convince myself that I am not an indentured slave to my own home.
I completed most of the wretched items on my pre-fabricated checklist by Thursday. I have laid sod, done concrete work, replaced wood decking, weeded all the gardens in our yard, washed second floor windows on a 25 foot ladder, scrubbed down the stucco, pruned trees, caulked anything that didn't move, and gave the hedgerow a precision haircut using my laser level. And that was just the outside work. I endured the high humidity and the humiliation of working in my beekeeper’s suit and nearly paid dearly without it whenever I left caution to the wind(see June 5, 2005 posting called School of Hard Knocks). All I have left to do is sand and paint two wooden porch rockers then cook side dishes for two upcoming picnics. Not bad.
A sense of completeness must have settled in because I found myself sitting on the porch tonight just enjoying an ice topped glass of lemonade. The farthest tool rested at a good ten feet away. The last bit of mortar was drying as darkness preyed upon the land. It felt good to relax and take in the sightlines of my own hard work. That is when my son came outside and just stared at me. Unless I am hunkered down at the computer, I suppose he is not used to seeing me idle. He kind of paced behind me for less than a minute.
“I don’t know how you have the attention span to just sit still like that and do nothing. I would be bored out of my mind!”
Sometimes doing nothing is harder than the actual work. Doing nothing isn’t for everyone and it can be overrated.


June 07, 2005

Sink or Swim

Naivety is a welcome mat for youth but a pulled rug out from under the feet of any adult. Allow me to digress to my late teens to lay down myself and the law of the land.
When I picked up my girlfriend for a picnic in her distant hometown, I naturally relied on her on where to go. Medford Lakes, New Jersey is a secluded retreat where space outnumbers people. It is a town of forestry and picturesque bodies of water. We made several turns but each road had a knack of looking innocuous and sharing a lack of landmarks. Along the way, she urged me to slow down the car before showing me a secret entrance to a hideaway place. Over the squeak of my brake pads, she told me what must happen next. I put the car in park and exit. I lifted a split rail log effortlessly off the fence post. After I drove the car through, I repostioned the rail back into place. It is a decision I would come to regret. My car snaked its way across a sandy foot path.
"Turn left. Joe, follow the path right. Slow down. Do you see the lake?"

"Yes. You better believe I see the lake."

The car wound up parked about 75 yards from a glistening lake on the eve of an amber sunset. I was a willing virgin to both the town and its beauty. I tossed a blanket down to buttress the sand. My girlfriend spread a picnic basket full of edible delights and the obligatory six pack of spirits. Her smile doesn't tell the truth. Neither does mine. The day and relationship were fading away. She was about to leave for studies at Ohio University. I would be attending a local college like a pot luck hick afraid to leave home. It was sink or swim by the lake. Both of us sensed it but neither one of us wanted to embrace the thought for very long.

About thirty minutes of food and conversation later, we noticed a police cruiser riding up and down the rural road but by then it was too late to reverse our fate. The police officer cannot figure out how we gained entry to the lake. Without my girlfriend as a travel guide, I wouldn't be able to find my way back to civilization. The policeman abandoned his car and resorted to foot patrol. By the time he walked the country mile to our horizontal hideaway, he was hopping mad. A word to the wise, never ever make a cop walk not even for donuts and coffee. When he came upon us, we had every stitch of clothing on. We were not drunk but there were evidence of open bottles. What he found were two lovers prolonging the relationship and the inevitability of its likely demise.
The police officer questioned. "Do you two know you are trespassing?"
Strong introductory words I thought to myself. I stood up. "No." I answered.
"How did you get your car inside the private property?"
A good boyfriend doesn't spill what the frightened mind conjures up. My lips didn't move but a part of me wanted to. I toyed with uncorking something to the effect of "She told me to do it. She showed me how to jimmy the fence. Arrest her!"
Instead, I took the high road. I replied, "There was an opening in the fence."
"Uh-huh, just enough to slide your Camaro through? Don't lie to me. There is no downed fence. What do you think I was doing out there while you were pussy footing around?"
The gig was up. This quickly turned into no picnic and no day at the beach. I did not know what else to say. My girlfriend kind of rolled to a standing position before coughing up an honest to God explanation. "Okay, I come here all the time. There is a bum rail that can slip through the post."
Suddenly, the amber sunset didn't seem so special and the private lake seemed like Main Street USA. Bob Seger's Do You feel Like a Number would have been the primo soundtrack for my girlfriend's comments. I felt worse without thinking that were possible.
The officer puffed his chest to the acknowledgment of repeated offenses. "Let me tell you what I am going to do with that confession. I am going to give each of you a citation for trespassing. Now take all of your possessions and get out of here. O-U-T, Out! I'll see you both in court."
The policeman was right and wrong. He was right about the trespassing but wrong in that he did not see both of us in court. My girlfriend moved to Ohio. She avoided prosecution as a fugitive who crossed State lines. The September court date made me public enemy #1 and maybe the only wily trespasser left in Medford Lakes. Looking back on our brief relationship, boundaries may have been a definite problem with this otherwise sweet girl.
As my case was called before the Judge, I felt a double swallow move up and down my throat. I moved into a standing position before the Judge. Frilled brow alone, the Judge looked like he had been protecting the provincial ways of Medford Lakes for half a century. I lost the speckle of hope I had and now seemed doomed to pay the piper.
"Where is the other Defendant in this case?" The Judge asked in a no nonsense voice.
I answered, "If I may, your honor, she moved to Columbus, Ohio."
"Are you sure of that?"
"Absolutely sure. Our relationship is pretty much over. The only thing between us is this matter before the court."
"No lawyer, young man?" he growled.
My suit never felt so darn tight. I thought to myself, maybe I made a huge mistake by not hiring legal counsel. I hoped that I could talk my way out of trouble but that remained to be seen. My next hundred words would decide my fate.
"No, I'm representing myself." My voice was too weak for the occasion.
The Judge raised his hand, "Very well then. Tell me your side of the story."
Wet concrete set in around my ankles. Here goes. I glanced over at the police office before beginning my defense, which started with the admission of guilt. The world had seen better lawyers at a middle school mock debate.
"Judge, I was wrong. I am from Turnersville, New Jersey and our only two lakes are public. I am not familiar with Medford Lakes. It is my girlfriend's home town. I moved a rail to get beyond the fence. That I did. I regret doing it. Our intention was not to steal anything or destroy property. We were renting the beauty of the lake. I didn't see any signs warning of private property although the perimeter fence should have been enough of a clue. The police officer explained where we went wrong." I was running out of things to say. "Ugh, I wish my girlfriend were here to..."
The Judge possibly tired of my rambling. "Young man, have you ever been in trouble with the law?"
The Judge tilted forward his high back chair. Oh boy, here comes the guilty verdict. It is time to go to jail or at the very least get out my checkbook and start encircling zero after zero. The Judge rendered a decision. "The fact that you showed up, knowing your girlfriend left you high and dry shows some character. It sounds like you learned your lesson and if future travels take you through Medford Lakes, will you respect private property?"
"Yes, sir. No more trespassing."
The Judge briefly paused. I can still hear the 25 year old decision as if it were yesterday. "Case dismissed."
Any time I have ever appeared in a court of law, I have represented myself Pro Se. This was my first of four improbable victories in court. Don't ask me how, don't ask me why. It is material born for Freudian Slips. As for the incident by the lake, the Judge is probably deceased by now and the police officer undoubtedly retired. As for me, I have never been back to Medford Lakes. Travel on my wayward fun.


June 05, 2005

School of Hard Knocks

I feel like my life is on a swing in that I can be knocked off at any time. Knocked off is the operative word. I have had two close calls with stinging insects in the last week and I hope it is not any indication of what the summer will be like for me. I haven't been stung by a bee in four years and my skin disease, Mastocytosis, is enjoying the time off. Knock on wood. I attract bees like a honey magnet and the freak encounters mess with my fragile psyche. If I were a superhero I would call bees my arch enemy and be done with it. The Bee Man of Blackwood, as Ripley's Believe It or Not has dubbed me, is anything but an ordinary life kept on guard.
Last Saturday, I went out with friends to play tennis. I took timeout to lean against the metal post of a tennis net. A red wasp started to buzz my face. I had no food, don't wear cologne, and I wasn't bothering the insect. It remained annoyed and darting. It would not relent until I moved backwards to stand against a chain link fence. After I obliged, I noticed that the wasp flew into the slither of a crack atop the metal post. Wasps had nested inside the warm confines of the metal post. My hand had been covering the entrance to the nest. With wasps coming and going, I do not know why I was not stung.
While doing repairs to our wood deck, I had another close call with bees. Knock on wood. I had just removed the rope lighting from underneath the overhang and gave a deck plank a whack of the claw hammer. Knock on wood. I reached my hand underneath and tried to pry the planking off. Carelessness caught me without work gloves. So much for a life on guard! Without protective gloves, I felt a foreign papery substance in the corner of the planking. Wait a minute the coarse feel of paper can mean only one thing. A bee's nest! I jumped backwards and landed on my butt about five feet behind where I took up shop. With splinter's wedged in my buttocks, I crawled forward to investigate my fears. Not only did I put my hand on a bee's nest but the nest was inhabited by a mindful yellow jacket. I have no idea why the bugger didn't sting me when I all but crumbled its nest.
I should be in a hospital emergency room right now. I could be dead. I am alive for a reason. Life is a bunch of hard knocks. Knock on wood.

Who said all hands on deck?


June 02, 2005

Tickling the Itch in Deep Throat

One of the last enduring mysteries is over. The identity of Deep Throat has been revealed as Mark Felt, the first assistant to the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Over the years, Deep Throat has been suspected of being a number of high ranking individuals including not only Mark Felt but Fred Fielding, deputy counsel to former President Richard Nixon. How many of you had Marilyn Chambers as Deep Throat in the office pool?
Can Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein keep a secret or what? We are talking three decades of not revealing your source. Some Roman Catholic priests have less holy of a track record in receiving confessionals. It is being reported that Mark Felt is 91 years old and in poor health. Carrying the sandbag weight of the legacy of a President on my shoulders, I would have died young. So why drudge all this up to torment a tormented old man? Why reveal and promote the most anonymous source in American journalism? I got to wonder. Humm, call me cynical but this sounds like a death bed confessional, a money maker for somebody in a position to gain after Felt’s eventual demise. I am not doubting the veracity of the admission but the timing of it smells like rotten flounder left on a sun-soaked dock.
The secret information Mark Felt leaked to Washington Post reporters brought down President Richard Millhouse Nixon. I do not hail Felt as a hero to this country nor am I any great fan of President Nixon's totalitarian ways. Let’s put on our revisionist history caps for a moment. Watergate was about scandal; the absolute abuse of executive power exemplified by a bungled burglary. Now that the story has broke, will Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein offer the American public some closure. Little more has been gained than Hal Holbrook knowing who he actually played in the acclaimed 1976 movie All the President’s Men. I hope more details follow. What was Mark Felt thinking in his clandestine operation as Deep Throat? Did Felt look at becoming an informant as the lesser of two evils? Did he become a traitor to his employer, the one and only FBI, for the sake of outing a President who toppled every messenger of contrary opinion?
It is a lesser known fact that Mark Felt authorized the 1980’s “Go and Tell” illegal home invasions of suspicious individuals. Freudian Slips is all over this peculiar irony. Felt must not have owned mirrors in his home and not been a big believer in history repeating itself even as his own historian. For this, Felt was indicted and convicted before another President, Ronald Reagen, issued him a pardon. Sounds like grossly similar crimes to me except for...the punishment. Resignation for Nixon and a pardon for Felt. Do you think President Reagen would have pardoned Felt if he knew he were Deep Throat? Benedict Arnold is turning over in his grave right now. This is a case of don’t poop or get off the pot you are calling black. It may have been better not to tickle the itch in a deep throat.
I consider both Felt and Nixon interesting but tragic misunderstood figures in American history. With this mystery falling by the wayside, all I got to find out is where Jimmy Hoffa is buried.


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