Freudian Slips: May 2006

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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 30, 2006

Taking A Hit for the Team

- from left to right. Baseball cards from 1986, 1997, and 2006.
Barry Bonds just passed Babe Ruth’s for second place on major league baseball’s All-Time Homerun list. While Bonds is making history and grabbing headlines, steroids continue to be the argumentative subplot throughout baseball. Make no mistake. Babe Ruth’s portly body was no temple. Ingesting hot dogs and beer, Ruth managed to hit 715 homeruns for basically the love of the game. The bodies of professional player’s bodies today are worshipped but are not houses of the holy either. Players have become multi-million dollar insurance policies who canvass every nook and cranny for fair and unfair advantages over other players. Because of peer pressure to protect their investment and major league baseball’s call not to play hardball with a steroid policy until 2002, baseball players resorted to employing not only trainers but chemists in their diets.
The use of steroids is a question of ethics when levied against the history and sacrilege of the game. My problem with Barry Bonds is his denial of steroid use if he has been a user and benefited as such. Barry Bonds denies the implications. A guilt-free carefree Barry Bonds told a federal grand jury he only ever ingested Flintstones vitamins. Looks and testimony must be deceiving. I do not want to be called a sycophant for taking a shot at a star because I fear that too many baseball players sold their soul for a chance at fame and fortune. However, changing the chemical constitution of your body can be categorized as cheating by some word aficionados. Using steroids taints the record book and it eats at the uniformed fabric of a game synonymous with America.
A homerun is the culmination of an enormous physical feat of coordination, strength, and execution. There is something so grandiose about hitting a 90 plus mph baseball beyond the confines of the designated playing field that the feat is revered. Steroids have become a non-quantifiable part of the equation. Nevertheless, watching Barry Bonds circle the base paths after an upper deck moon shot seems like a hollow victory for a man and the tradition of baseball. A defiant act that should sicken any baseball purist or baseball historian is witnessing Barry Bonds pointing a single finger digit towards heaven after tagging one. No matter what your shareholder’s stake is, thanking your magnanimous creator without recognizing your diabolic chemist seems jaded.
Barry Bonds has had a pedigree upbringing by former baseball players but while his jeans have changed to larger sizes, he is not uncomfortable with his genes. Willie Mays is his godfather and Bobby Bonds is his father. If you cheated the system Barry, was it awkward when you zoomed past your godfather in the rankings on the All-Time Homerun list? Did Mays ever stop to say hey, kid, what are you doing? Is it okay with dear old dad? There is an inarguable striking difference to Barry Bond’s physical appearance from when he first entered the major leagues to now. I hate to judge a book by its cover but Barry Bond’s body has morphed. The above photos were taken a decade apart and it is no wonder that there are strong suspicions that Bonds intravenously injected the equivalent of cattle into his system. He looks like a waterlogged bloated bovine that can hardly run a straight line without gimping.
Years from now, long after current player careers are over but before natural causes claim them off waivers; our children’s heroes may be dropping dead from complications of steroids. Parents will have serious explaining to do and the truth about which players did steroids will seem like an injustice if it only edges out as small print in the obituaries. Somebody ought to start crying foul. I might not be able to hit a baseball out of a major league infield on the fly but I might outlive professional baseball contemporaries who can. I am a baseball purist and I am not too vein to admit it. The All-Time homerun record of Hank Aaron is now in sight so all eyes will remain glued on Barry Bonds. Barry Bond’s home run trot around the baseball paths has never looked so lonely. In his chase of baseball immortality, Barry Bonds may also be killing himself. For all the other baseball players not singled out by name here, let us not forget that Barry Bonds is taking a hit for the team.

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May 28, 2006

Pride and Prejudice

“It is wrong what you are doing. People should be with there own kind.” admonished a man of normal intelligence to an interracial couple not as fortunate as he.

“We are!” insisted the loving wife. “We are both retarded, ya know?”

That mentally retarded's woman's rebuttal trumping miscegenation colored my world. Love is blind.


May 25, 2006

Darn Those Socks

Look at him working. Darning those socks in the night when there is nobody there. What does he care? All the lonely people where do they all come from? All the lonely people where do they all belong?
-Eleanor Rigby by The Beatles
With great distinction, I know a client named Lavernius, who has severe mental retardation and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Deftly aware of his surroundings, I consider Lavernius a shrewd individual. You would not know that by looking at him. A former caretaker nicknamed Lavernius “The Fresh Prince” because of his resourcefulness in picking up new behaviors. When trying to modify his behavior, a new behavior often would surface to fill the void of the extinguished one. He could teach an old dog new tricks. Alarmingly, The Fresh Prince responds equally to both positive and negative attention. Tell The Fresh Prince not to do something that may jeopardize his well being and he will repeat the undesirable act until you wish you had not corrected his actions in the first place.
The Fresh Prince started to wag a domestic war by destroying his personal property in an unusual manner. The Fresh Prince was not punching holes in the walls or ransacking his bedroom. Instead, he was covertly shredding his socks one tendril stitch at a time until nothing was left of his socks. His disposable income was diminishing just putting socks on his feet. This maladaptive behavior was not a question of supervision. The Fresh Prince deprived himself of sleep to darn his socks through the night.
Withholding personal property can erupt into a human rights issue so I recommended the purchase of thermal insulated socks. I fathomed that The Fresh Prince’s puny fingers were not strong enough to single-handedly pick apart the high-grade socks. I was right. However, The Fresh Prince not only out foxed me but he socked it to me. Apparently needing something to pick at, The Fresh Prince chose a material he would never exhaust. He started to pick at himself. A scratch expanded to a sore, a sore graduated to an open wound, an open wound turned into a nasty hole that wound up infected.
Since I was the architect behind the nightmare, I traveled out to see my work. Upon visiting him, The Fresh Prince caught me incredulously staring at his remarkable self-inflicted wound. The Fresh Prince issued me a look like I should have left well enough alone. Indeed. I realized then that I never knew how good The Fresh Prince had it. We are going back to those cheap socks so he can be darning his socks in the night when there is nobody there. Darn those socks. Damn those socks.


May 23, 2006

The Looking Glass

In the 1980’s, I worked at an antiquated institution that housed behaviorally involved individuals behind locked doors. The long commute coupled with the physically and mentally taxing work ran its course after a couple of years. I found employment closer to home at another antiquated institution. Filled with the smell of “the grass is greener” philosophy, I looked forward to starting my new job.
On my lunch break, I started walking to the commissary for a bite to eat. There is something about giving your two week notice that has a way of putting pep in your step. Brighter pastures seemed ahead of me literally and figuratively.
A fellow behavior modification program technician, waved me down. Headed in opposite directions with different time constraints, Dillon Menk stood no closer than shouting distances.
“Joe, I heard through the grapevine that you’re leaving us.”
“All true.” I shouted. “It’s going to happen the next pay period, if they release me as planned.”
“May I ask where you are headed? What you will be doing?”
I told him. Dillon moved close enough for me to see the seriousness etched on his face. It would be the last time I ever saw him. He had the best intentions in the world when he marshaled up a word of warning.
“Joe, that is one dangerous place that you are headed. You be careful. Watch your back. A client assault could end your career on your first day of work.”
I scoffed. Jobs came and went under the same employer. Twenty years of safe passage pass into the sunset.
Not too long ago, I received an unsolicited phone call, from somebody, who had just been promoted to a temporary position at the same institution once heeded to me as a warning.
“How did you land that job?” I asked. “I thought they just filled that position with a staff member who accepted a transfer from another institution.”
“The position was filled, briefly.”
I implored an explanation. “What happened?”
"The new hire didn’t make it past his second day on the job. A client attacked the guy from behind and savagely beat him unconscious. He is in critical condition. Doctors worry that he may be brain injured. If Dillon Menk even lives, I doubt he will ever work again.”
“Dillon Menk!” I mouthed. “Oh, my God!”
It was as if Dillon Menk pre-cognitively realized his own fate two decades earlier.


May 21, 2006

Exercise in Futility

What is going on with doctor’s privileges?
I saw a news report about a clunky robot making hospital rounds with only the live video feed of the treating doctor. Where is the personal touch in a patient talking to a moveable television screen? How robots are going to improve the bedside manner of doctors is a question not worthy of scientific investigation.
While driving in my car, I also heard a report on talk radio about doctors using treadmills while on duty. These working stations allow doctors to exercise while reviewing charts, etc. Proponents are lobbying the efficiency of multi-tasking. I am all for saving steps but this is a step in the wrong direction. If my doctor fails to dispatch a robot then winds up walking in place anyway, why not walk towards me? If the trend is towards robotics and doctored treadmills, it sure won’t do anything to improve the penmanship on new prescriptions.
There is something inherently wrong with a good doctor not having the good time to talk to you in person. Something is amiss with doctors sending metallic effigy proxies or increasing their own health when talking about what ails you. If I called my doctor and heard the gangbuster roar of a treadmill, I might think that I wasn’t receiving undivided attention. But that is just me. If my doctor has to talk to me about something of life and death importance, I prefer it not to happen at eight miles per hour on an intermediate incline. That is how accidents happen.
I do not know which is more impersonal: talking to a hunk of metal housing or working doctors striding fit on treadmills in the far wing of a hospital. When robots get all the exercise in hospital rounds, it’s an exercise in futility.


May 18, 2006

All In the Cards

As a kid, I found collecting baseball cards a wondrous hobby. Long before baseball cards were issued in numerical order complete sets, baseball card collecting was a mind boggling and time consuming hunt. Card collectors could wind up with 37 cards of an over-hyped rookie whose major league career lasted for a cup of Sanka coffee. By the same token, collectors could spend a lifetime chasing an All-Star player on a quality conditioned card that never reached your best friend's bicycle spoke.
My childhood featured familiar treks to card shops whether I walked, bicycled across town, or bummed car rides off of my mother. Like chasing the heels of heroes, every card added to my prized collection felt like it moved me closer to the Holy Grail. I used to memorize the statistics on the back of the cards and spent what seemed like an eternity playing with cardboard. Regrettably, I haven’t done anything in the last two decades to add to my baseball card collection. Life makes a habit of getting in the way of what we take for granted.
Low and behold, the wizardry of Ebay has made completing baseball card sets possible without ever leaving the home. Everything a collector needs is a fingertip click away. So I scouted for the lone card needed to complete a 700 count 1972 Topps baseball set valued at approximately $2000.00. High number cards are commonly scarce and this set had a limited high print run. In my day, finding star cards in a high number series of the 1972 set used to be as easy as setting out to uncover a dinosaur bone in the backyard. No bones about it, I have been looking for card #686 Steve Garvey since I was ten years old. In 0.02 seconds I found 23 quality 1972 Steve Garvey cards to choose from. The market was saturated with virtually any baseball card imaginable and the only thing missing was the stale bubble gum the cards might have been packaged next to.
After only a few minutes of online shopping, I found the right card to complete my set. If waiting 34 years constitutes an impulse purchase, I double clicked on a BUY IT NOW option for a pristine Garvey with four razor sharp corners. I didn't care too much about the cost factor. I longed for this card before my first girlfriend, before my first wife, before my firstborn. Nah, this wasn’t an impulse purchase. This was a middle-aged man reclaiming a piece of his rightful youth before his first mid-life crisis.


May 16, 2006

Throwing in the Towel Rack

In the midst of re-screening windows and cleaning sills, my youngest daughter trailed me into the foyer with window cleaner and a roll of paper towels. I didn’t even know we had company so the noise coming from the downstairs bathroom startled me. When one of my son’s friends busted out of the bathroom, I feared we were out of toilet paper or something.
“Whoever took the time to place silk flowers inside the see-through bathroom towel rack is talented.” complimented our guest. “That looks really nice. Who thought of that decorating idea?”
“I did.” I grinned. “Thank you very much.”
“It is really cool. How did you get the flowers all the way in there?”
“I pushed the flowers through with a shish kebob skewer. I worked from the center out on each end of the towel rack.”
“I like it. I like it a lot.” He ran out the front door and disappeared as quickly as he appeared.
I shot an admiring look to my daughter, who laughed and rolled her eyes.
"What?" I asked.
She drew upon our just laid to rest conversation which defied my explanation. “Dad, thank God you didn’t admit to carrying the pink comb in your back pocket. It's embarrasing.”
If the silk flowers aren't over the top, there is a pink comb in my trash can that is.


May 14, 2006

Hidden Message

The yellow smudge in the green thicket is an approaching motorist's warning. On a winding downhill road with no shoulder, the sign reads HIDDEN DRIVEWAY. What good is a HIDDEN DRIVEWAY sign if its warning is cloaked by the same underbrush?


May 11, 2006


Even shallow relationships are crossroads in life.


May 09, 2006

Turn for the Worse

My Ford Taurus recently accomplished what years of curling free weights in my gym could not. An unheralded exercise program in my car actually gave me needed definition to my middle-aged biceps. Let me explain. About two weeks ago, my power steering took a turn for the worse before coming to a screeching halt. While I waited for my mechanic to return from vacation, I operated the vehicle on roadways with only manual steering. I fool heartedly took to the road and put my life into my own hands. Traveling on only familiar roads and limiting my local miles, I developed a newfound appreciation of the previously underestimated luxury of power steering. Meanwhile, my car drained itself of power steering fluid and my driveway turned into a Valdez oil slick.
While driving could be best described as an accident waiting to happen, my biceps never looked so stallion. Steering took two sturdy hands and the strain of stomach muscles. Every mile turned out to be an upper body workout. Pulling out into traffic caused me to cross the double yellow line. I don’t know what was louder my grunting, my screaming, or the hydraulic whining of the steering column. Steering aside, parking two-ton Betsy was like a pilot trying to stop an aircraft on a Buffalo nickel. Needless to say, I saved my shopping trips for non-peak times because I couldn’t park the car unless the lot had two consecutive spaces open. I hopped curbs like Tony Hawk and came dangerously close to plowing over rural mailboxes. Going around traffic circles without able steering made the time I bungee corded a car door that wouldn't close shut seem risk-free. (See 1-24-06 post called Bungee Grumping) My pot-luck travels included getting stuck down a dead end road I had every business to be on. Owning a newly defined turn radius that of a luxury liner, I K-turned my car for the next several minutes just to reverse my course.
Without enduring personal injury, my car has made it to the repair shop. There is a price to pay for everything in life. My cost for the addition of stallion biceps is a whopping $700.00. Things should be turning around shortly.


May 07, 2006

Supermarket Tabloids

Next to green leaf produce in the supermarket, two lovers sprout a passionate kiss. I admire their public display of affection. I am not alone. A young girl notices the couple from her seated position in the shopping cart. I watch for the girl’s reaction. Full of inquisitiveness, the girl looks to her mother for answers.
“Mommy, look at that man and that woman.” she pointed. “Can you kiss like that?”
The mother strokes her daughter from temple to pony tail. “Darling, that is how you got here.”
Even surrounded by nothing but vegetables, the world is an oyster.


May 04, 2006

Tillman Death Do Us Part

Pat Tillman 1977-2004
Give blood but you may find that it is not enough. Give blood but don’t expect to see reward.
-Pete Townsend
Pat Tillman turned down a $3.6 million professional contract with the Arizona Cardinals of the National Football League to enlist in the United States Army in May 2002. In the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Tillman decided he had not done enough to serve his country. So what is a ruggedly handsome pampered professional athlete to do? He left millions and the hero worship associated with pro football to volunteer to go fight in the Iraqi war. He abandoned the creature comforts of home and his friends. He tossed aside a privileged life for the ultimate sacrifice.

I have learned to choose my battles. Selfishly speaking, just imagining all that Pat Tillman gave up might have kept me a non-enlisted self-centered coward. It is an unfathomable proposition to me to go from the end zone to a war zone. Free-spirited Pat Tillman took off his snug fitting football pads to hump as a grunt for his country for a cause that he believed in.

The circumstances surrounding Tillman’s death remain shrouded in mystery. The military continues an internal investigation and a full report has not been publicized. Some of the facts are indisputable. After coming under fire, Tillman’s patrol got out of their vehicles and gave chase. As they moved toward the spot of the ambush, gunfire sustained for several minutes. There exist reports that Pat Tillman realized Americans were shooting at him and desperately tried to signal for a ceasefire. The truth may never be known but one thing is for sure…the firefight mortally wounded Pat Tillman. Like an enemy within, Tillman died accidentally by his own purpose. The rampart violence of war, the bullets must have tore Tillman up inside physically and figuratively.
If Pat Tillman got killed by friendly fire, there is absurd irony and profound tragedy in that. Football has a line of scrimmage but war adheres to no mark of demarcation. Getting taken out by your own teammate is as unfitting of a death for a pro football player. Friendly fire can cost you your life on the battlefield but getting hit by a teammate isn’t even a five yard penalty on a football field. A general manager of his own life, death was a trade Tillman was willing to make off of the football field.

An uncommon man of principle, Pat Tillman’s funeral must have spilled into the next day. No eulogy would ever be complete. His courage and commitment should not come into question. Impossible to forget, difficult to replace, Pat Tillman leaves a legacy as a model of heroism. I can see the making of a Hollywood movie about Pat Tillman’s life that will need no glorification. I admire Private First Class Tillman for his valor in wanting to make a difference in this world and I am not forgetting the unheralded soldiers who continue to do the same. While some may prefer to question Tillman's beliefs, nobody should forget about his life. One of the five people I expect to meet in heaven is…Pat Tillman. Tillman death do us do meet.


May 02, 2006

Under a Microscope

- Joe Tornatore, standing in the second row fourth from left.

God must have a damn good sense of humor. Nobody can make sense of irony because it just happens. Maybe God wants it that way. I have encouraged my readers to look for irony in their lives. Irony can function as measures of purpose and levity. On a personal perhaps mystic level, I believe that irony is God’s way of talking to me. Although irony has broad sweeping tentacles in my bizarre life, I needed a magnifying glass to uncover this irony.
While scrapbooking, I came across a 1974 group picture of Gloucester County Times newspaper paperboys. Like yesterday’s news, in studying the dated photo it takes me longer than it should to find myself, a former paperboy. Dressed in nothing but shorts and a short sleeve shirt, my sprouting body shone summery flesh. What first caught my attention was my flesh. I grab a magnifying glass to check out the integrity of my skin. I wanted to see what my skin looked like prior to developing the connect-the-dot blemish pattern of my rare skin disease, urticaria pigmentosa. Now magnified under glass, my eyes scan to find myself. The lens tracks to the center to settle on a familiar figure standing in the second row. I do a double take then violently pull away from the magnifying glass.
“That is impossible!” I utter in disbelief to nobody but myself.
I take a deep breath. A Curious George, I return to the lens. My eyes zoom in on the irony needing magnification. I am wearing a Ripley’s Believe It or Not imprint shirt! I stare at the time-stamped picture. Despite my present affiliation with Ripley’s Believe It or Not, I completely forgot that I once owned their tee shirt. As my poly/cotton blend recollections return, I realize that I am an unwitting billboard for the television show that I would appear on thirty years later and for the book that I would write about my disease. Call it a weak moment but this is too much irony for even the host of Freudian Slips. I need a witness to my viewpoint.
So I entice my son to look at the group picture. My son finds nothing unusual about the picture. He does not even recognize me in it. I point to a lad in the photograph then hand him the magnifying glass for closer inspection. He provides a carefree look but cannot see anything out of the ordinary. I impatiently grab the magnifying glass from him. Through a squint, I can now even make out the signature Ripley’s logo across the top of the shirt.
“Look at the Ripley’s Believe It or Not shirt.” I proclaim. “Doesn’t that beat all?”
This may have been the most ironic folly since the discovery of Fool’s Gold. At that exact moment in time, the landline phone rings.
My wife greets, “Hold on…” She passes me the phone.
With one hand pressing the magnifying glass to my eye, my other hand cradles the cordless telephone. I do not pay much attention to the caller at first. While my left eye marvels the ironic picture of myself wearing a Ripley’s Believe It or Not tee shirt, my right ear catches the purpose of the phone call, a rare book order for my book Stop and Smell the Silk Roses.
“…You want to what?” I asked into the phone.
Everything came into focus. Albeit an eerie coincidence, the timely phone call connected my past to the present. Life is like a trail of tiny bread crumbs that can only be seen under a microscope. Just ask my magnifying glass.


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