Freudian Slips: June 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.

June 29, 2006

Don't Hold Your Breath

Although my body was not feeling up to the task, I convinced myself to do another set of ten. So with my back planted on a weight bench in my gym, I grunted disproportionately to the small dumbbell my arms lifted overhead. Suddenly from the far end of the gym, I glimpsed the blur of a Super-sized man approaching my reclined position. A pair of massive Popeye forearms snatched the 30 lb. dumbbell from my grasp in the middle of my exercise routine. Not comfortable with the brazen maneuver, I jerked upright to see if this were some kind of prank from somebody I knew. I did not know the guy before me, who owned only more muscles than tattoos. Without introduction, the man told me to lie back down so he could show me something. I strangely complied. I then watched his hands manipulate thirty pounds of weight easier than a sixth grader twirling a pencil in between fingers.
“You will get more range of motion in your extension if you cup your hands like this on the weight.”
After he finished modeling proper technique, he returned the dumbbell to me. Then he took the liberty of repositioning my hands into proper alignment.
“There. Feel the difference?” he asked.
“I’ll give it a try.” I offered.
“And don’t hold your breath this time.”
Taken back by his forwardness to weigh in on the moment, I completed two more sets before rendering technical judgment. I dropped the weights to the padded floor and sat upright again. The same man now tended to his own business moving Herculean 45 lb. plates on each side of a bench press barbell.
“Yeah, there was less torque on my arms. It felt more natural.” I agreed. “Thanks for the tip.”
“You’re welcome.” He replied.
I have been known to ask one question too many too many times and this time was no different.
“Hey, who taught you how to do it that way?”
“Convicts. I did five the hard way at Rahway prison.”
I’m not holding my breath but I want this to be the last time an ex-convict tells me to lie down, cup my hands, and comply.


June 27, 2006

A Purrfect Crime


June 25, 2006

Passing the Torch

We just returned from a family vacation getaway in New York City. Commandeering a minivan through the congestion and changing traffic patterns of New York City proved to be an adventure full of conundrum but short of mishap. Taxi cab drivers all but tossed me the middle finger as they zipped by while I rigidly honored the posted speed limit. A school bus nearly sideswiped our minivan as it saw fit to haphazardly change lanes around the Lincoln Tunnel. Children screamed but upon inspection they were all mine.
Not to be confused with a world traveler, I had never before visited New York City on vacation. We stayed overnight at the Doubletree Suites on 7th Avenue overlooking Time Square, the heartbeat of New York City. Decent accommodations with fluffy pillows presided but our guest room felt overpriced by a couple hundred dollars. In my humble opinion, location, location, location was ninety percent of the bang for the buck.
Considering my sheltered existence, I experienced so many gratifying first experiences while in New York City. I devoured a yummy Reuben sandwich from an authentic New York City delicatessen. If I am not mistaken, I got some loose change back on my crispy twenty-dollar bill for the purchase. I strolled through Central Park for the first time and never once found reason to look over my shoulder. Discarding our thirty-three year age difference, my youngest daughter and I both saw our very first play on Broadway. We were excited to snare discounted boxed seats for the Tony award winning musical Hairspray right before show time. The rest of the family scooted off to an AFI punk rock concert wearing funeral black garb and mohawks. We also visited three museums never frequented before which gave opportunity to expose our children to the arts.
I reconciled that this busy city that never sleeps doesn’t sleep because its inhabitants can’t close their wallets long enough to get some shut eye. I paid $50.00 to park one vehicle for three measly hours with no reentry privileges. That was a first. I paid $20.00 for an a la carte salad that was almost lettuce alone. That was a first. I window shopped in Times Square for the first time. A quick downpour of rain did not put a damper on commerce but it did cause the city to smell like a wet dog fond of the sewer. On the crowded streets of Time Square, a topless cowgirl played lousy guitar at a busy intersection. Her exploits with a g-string raised the eyebrows of my embarrassed daughter. If cowgirl wasn’t a first for me, I’m not telling a different story here.
What is a trip to New York City without paying rightful homage to the Statue of Liberty? Maybe I picked the wrong school days to get sick as a child but I never before had been to the Statue of Liberty. I couldn’t have been walking through Battery Park for more than a few minutes when I saw her standing tall outside the ticket booth. Not thee Statue of Liberty but an honest to goodness landlubbing Statue of Liberty character dressed in full regalia. All seven feet of her from flesh to fabric were colored the familiar green of oxidized copper. Her waving arms invited tourists near. Something about even an effigy of a statue symbolizing liberty demanded my respect. So I hopped up on the standing box before her. My wife steadied the camcorder on us for what seemed like a New York minute. Her Majesty’s inviting arms delicately wrapped around my large frame. She held me tight then handed me her mighty torch prop to behold. Protected by her embrace, I hoisted that torch up for the family and crowd to see. My beaming smile supplanted the words of how proud I felt to be an American. That is when I heard a startling baritone voice whisper instruction in my right ear.
“Now get down and put $5.00 in the drop box.”
I didn’t move at first because I continued to make a stand. The moment took time for the naivety to come full circle. Lady Liberty was a streetwise man dressed as a woman and she was shaking me down for money. Her grubby hands stabbed me in the back to nudge me off her high perch. A sucker is born every minute. In New York City, the gateway to our nation is no different. I have home movies to prove it.
“Welcome to America.” I muttered to myself while fumbling for my tired wallet. “The land of opportunity.”


June 22, 2006


Sensational Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard with Joe Tornatore. Howard, who leads the major leagues in homeruns and runs batted in, signed my baseball bat last weekend. Doesn't Ryan Howard look excited to be in my picture?


June 20, 2006

When I'm Sixty-Four

A belated happy birthday to ex-Beatle Paul McCartney, who turned sixty four years of age yesterday. Ironically, Sir Paul wrote the song When I'm Sixty-four. McCartney, like his song When I'm Sixty-four, have withstood the test of time.

When I'm Sixty-four

When I get older losing my hair, Many years from now.Will you still be sending me a valentine Birthday greetings bottle of wine. If i'd been out till quarter to three Would you lock the door, Will you still need me, will you still feed me, When i'm sixty-four.You'll be older too, And it you say the word, I could stay with you.I could be handy, mending a fuse When your lights have gone.You can knit a sweater by the fireside Sunday mornings go for a ride, Doing the garden, digging the weeds, Who could ask for more. Will you still need me, will you still feed me, When i'm sixty-four. Every summer we can rent a cottage,In the isle of wight, if it's not too dear We shall scrimp and save Grandchildren on your knee Vera chuck & dave Send me a postcard, drop me a line, Stating point of viewIndicate precisely what you mean to say Yours sincerely, wasting away Give me your answer, fill in a form. Mine for evermore. Will you still need me, will you still feed me, When i'm sixty-four.
When I'm sixty-four, I hope to be retired.


June 18, 2006

Father's Day

I wish to take timeout from my wonderful Father's Day to make mention of those less fortunate.
Father's Day must feel more like a day of judgment than a holiday to all of the deadbeat fathers who shirk paying child support. Father's Day must feel hollow to all of the children who grow up not knowing even the identity of their own fathers. Father's Day must feel vacant for all of the single mothers raising children without a male role model.
While Father's Day means many things to many different people, chronic absenteeism can only make for a failing grade.


June 15, 2006

Circle Talk

The annals of work took me to a home of a client whom I had not met before. Not familiar with my destination, I kept my directions close to my vest since I have been known to get lost going to the commode. I placed an invisible checkmark next to each step of the directions in my crowded head. Pass the firehouse. Check. Pass the blinking light. Check. Pass the railroad tracks. Check. Pass a bank on my right. Check. Turn left into the Aloha Farms development. Check. When you can’t go straight make a right or a left. Check. Look for the only boat in the neighborhood. It’s a big Betsy parked in the double padded driveway. You can’t miss it. The housing development shone gorgeous although oddly situated in one looping circle comprising about 300 spacious homes. I had plenty of time to admire my surroundings since I steered my car around that circle three times before I saw my landmark. I finally saw a boat that I swear was not docked on my last two passes around the circle. Checkmate! Any bigger of a boat and it would be an injustice not to call it a schooner. I exited the car throwing my briefcase backpack over one shoulder and my laptop computer over the other. I hustled to the front door a few minutes late of my appointment time.
After the sound of footsteps cascading in the foyer, the door swung open. A woman greeted me with a smile. “Joe, I presume. Were my directions okay? I was expecting you earlier.”
I replied, “Your directions were flawless. I was bad. You see people say I miss the boat all the time. Today is no exception.”


June 13, 2006

Every Picture Tells A Story

- Joe Tornatore, through the years.

Things never turn out exactly the way you planned. I know they didn’t for me. Still, like my father used to say, “Traffic’s traffic, you go where life takes you,” and growing up happens in a heartbeat. One day you’re in diapers, the next you’re gone, but the memories of childhood stay with you for the long haul. I remember a time, a place, a particular Fourth of July, the things that happened in that decade of war and change. I remember a house like a lot of houses, a yard like a lot of yards, on a street like a lot of streets. I remember how hard it was growing up among people and places I loved. Most of all, I remember how hard it was to leave. And the thing is, after all these years, I still look back in wonder. -Series Finale of The Wonder Years
I am exultant. I just finished an ambitious computer project that took eight months and six days in the making. I devoted about 30 minutes a night to produce a DVD of all the still pictures in the Tornatore family. I diligently worked over 100 man hours on a project that started with pouring through my own photo albums. After sifting through all of the pictures, I scanned a representative sampling of pictures taken of the same event. I discarded all the blurry pictures and those dangling thumb unsalvageable outtakes. I tossed aside the pictures of people once so important to me to warrant a keepsake picture that I cannot even remember their first names today. After narrowing the field, I manually scanned over three thousand pictures into the photo shop matrix. Scanning had its tediousness but mouse dragging each picture in chronological order to establish an accurate timeline was not only time consuming but downright mind boggling. There are some things to be damned about the Tornatore family. Outside of one ex-communicated former wife on a brother’s side, no Tornatore ever wrote pertinent information on the back of pictures. I resorted to using a magnifying glass to examine identical elements in pictures to sequence them.
Here is a helpful tip for anyone out there wanting to try this at home. Periodically back-up your work on a permanent medium or risk being sorry. While working blurry-eyed late one night past David Letterman and a reasonable hour, I accidentally deleted my original folder containing 1200 pictures. Poof. Gone. Zippo. Nada. No recovery. As a testament to my obsessive compulsive nature, I buried my head in my arms, whimpered myself to sleep, then woke up and literally started over at picture numero uno. About two months later when I inched past the 1200 count watermark again, I finally stopped crucifying myself for the costly mistake and looked to the future.
Upon learning of my strange time consuming hobby, my helpful mother invited me to borrow her photo collection to add to the obsessiveness. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Out of a mothballed closet came a see-through zippered garment bag full of a few hundred loose pictures. The precious memories of my childhood had been scrambled inside a giant plastic bag. Once I got the pile home, I weighed the garment bag on a scale. Through a soft deliberate mantra, I then convinced myself that I only had 21 more pounds of pictures to scan. After returning unscathed from mother’s picture gulag, I then collected the dusty photo albums from my brothers to see what assorted memories they were hanging onto. I scanned their family photos then individually placed them in the correct timeline.
Each and every scanned picture had to pass diagnostics. My editing included captioning, scissor cropping, red eye reduction, highlighting, horizon tilts, focusing, sharpening, colorizing, etc. Then I started to get real cute. I added speech bubbles to choice pictures begging for humor. I tinkered with special effect shots by modifying the format of the pictures. I even made multi-exposure collages of each member of our family from birth to present day. I crunched the numbers and rationalized that special effects and collaging would add only about a week to the project. Time well spent they must say in OCD rehab clinics.
Like a crazed scrapbooker striving for hobbyist perfection, I started to rummage through closets to collect the children’s artwork to scan. I then scanned vital statistics like birth certificates, death cards, greeting cards, brochures, and report cards. Eventually, I scanned everything non-edible that would lay face down on my scanner’s tired 11x14 bed. As a tribute to my affliction, I traveled across South Jersey visiting the various houses where my family lived. I took pictures of my former homes and let’s not forget snapshots of the landmark street signs for prosperity. I even rounded up Time magazine covers for each year dating back to the 1930’s. I craftily used the magazine covers as year-end bookmarks.
Time hurls itself forward beckoning a mind to behold the memories. Reflecting on the thousands of catalogued pictures though, I wonder about the dichotomy in the years gone by. Life seems to be both a fleeting grand illusion and a long journey with a point of no return. When I realize how many cups of coffee I drank from the coffee cup bearing my daughter’s picture and the years it took for the caustic dishwasher to erode her image from it, life feels long. But children grow up much too fast even though picking out baby names seems like yesterday. When I stop to think about the countless hours I dedicated just to this project, time slows down to a baby’s crawl even though I did not spend enough time cherishing the same fond memories in real time when they happened. Perhaps it is because life happens so speedily that left readily onto itself it is only the pictures that tell the story.


June 11, 2006

The Goodbye Guy

-Scott & Joe, friends reunited

Joe, John, Scott, and Jeff
We were four seemingly inseparable teenage friends until I relocated with my family to a different town in 1978. A part of me died when I moved away from my three best friends while a smaller part of me strangely never looked back. Too much time has passed for me to remember which one of us shared his goodbye optimism but nonetheless I remember hearing the following words that the four of us embraced:
“In a short time we will all have driver’s licenses. Distance will no longer be a factor. So we will always be friends and stay in touch.”
A short time can turn out to be never. Jeff moved across the country to start an alternative lifestyle only to never be heard from again. John died before his fortieth birthday. Scott disappeared from plain sight.
From a high school alumni website, I tracked down Scott’s home email address in 2005. We exchanged a flurry of emails but it took another seven months for our busy schedules to jive. Four marriages and seven children between us both, I got to see my friend Scott for the first time in nearly thirty years this past Thursday. It was about time. In the blink of an eye, we went from worry-free pimply faces to mid-life decisions. It is always about time in this game called life. Manage it well or watch it say goodbye to you.


June 08, 2006

Eye for an Eye, Truth for a Truth

Loreille Machover was born during the Great Depression. So when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivered his first fireside chat to a national radio audience, the Machover’s learned that their newborn daughter required special needs. Loreille was born a mildly retarded female, whose life took a dramatic bitter turn when she went blind at the tender age of nine. Her family gave her up before her tenth birthday. Loreille has lived in many different places throughout New Jersey with varying degrees of success.
No residential placement quite felt like home until she moved to a family owned and operated boarding home in the 1960’s. This boarding home prides itself on outstanding homespun food and the sense of family that is instilled in its residents. Chef Pedro keeps the stainless steel kitchen humming and he rarely receives a complaint. A nurse is on staff for medication administration, arranging medical appointments, and patching up boo-boos. There is even a swimming pool on the gated premises. Although seldom used, the boarding home even keeps a small library of important literary works. Every summer, the boarding home goes mobile and the clients are treated to a week long vacation.
By the late 1980’s, sixty three year-old Loreille had lived in this same boarding home for the last quarter century. Taken care of by wonderful people, Loreille considered herself content. As her social worker, I wasn't about to change that. Although her roots go back to the days of family radio, the world had undergone an enormous transformation. Since scientific advances had been made in restorative eye care, the boarding home saw fit to arrange Loreille a comprehensive eye consultation at Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Wills Eye name has stood for excellence in eye care for more than one hundred and fifty years. Upon examination, Loreille was considered a prime candidate for corrective eye surgery. Doctors were optimistic that Loreille’s vision would return after half of a century absence. Loreille could still recall the colors of the world from her childhood so it was no wonder that she consented to the surgery.
After the surgery, her caretakers hovered by her bedside waiting for the time when nurses could carefully remove the patches of bandages. Tension filled the room as the bandages were lifted. The miracle awaited.
“Can you see?” asked the male proprietor of the boarding home.
“Can you see me?” begged his wife.
Laying on her back, Loreille slowly opened her chestnut brown eyes. She raised her head and quizzically peeked over the foot of the bed. The world must have slowly came into focus because Loreille did not say anything for the first minute. Loreille recognized the voices emanating from her hospital room but something bothered her.
“Yeah, I can see ya both.” muttered Loreille as if she saw a sight for sore eyes.
“What is it then? Tell us. Why are you looking at us like that?”
Loreille told it like it was. The axiom an eye for an eye a truth for a truth ruled. “Wow. All these years, I thought you two were African-American.”


June 05, 2006

Sickening Feeling

So I worked myself sick at work trying to get my caseload in order before I went on vacation this week. Not feeling my best, I kept pushing myself but gradually only felt worse. It took me eleven days to admit to myself that I needed to see a doctor. The doctor quickly identified the problem. I have bronchitis.
Now I enter the well-earned vacation with barely enough lung capacity to string together two grammatically incorrect sentences. I had planned to take the week off by myself to complete home projects. Now a crucible awaits. Can an obsessive compulsive personality scrub charted home projects for a wellness program or will he risk pneumonia by trudging through the physicality of the chores just because it will be more maddening to interrupt the schedule and not accomplish his goals? I feel like the ignoramus of a man planning his own funeral. It makes me sick every time I think of it.


June 04, 2006

How the Ball Bounces

-Joe Tornatore in over the calf matching tube socks.
The 1979 Washington Township Intramural basketball All-Star team had already been announced and I wasn’t selected. I dreamed of making the All-Star squad but I understood the numbers game. Clearly the best team in the league, we went on to win the championship without really being tested. Two of my teammates could have played high school basketball in a smaller town. We averaged 70 points a game and with 22 Wins and only 2 Losses we were nearly unstoppable. I was only the fourth best player on my team and our top three players had been named to the All-Star squad. A hard working forward with a few skills, I was still the odd man out of the coronation.
We were playing our last regular season game, a meaningless contest before our team geared up for the playoffs. One of our guards had been battling the other team’s top guard all game. They had been jawing at one another and trading points on both ends of the hardcourt. A couple of hard fouls were called during the game. It seemed like an innocent private competition until things turned ugly.
With only a few minutes left in the game, the two players simply had no interest in the bouncing ball between them. They started slinging fists at one another like two boys fighting over the same girl on Valentine’s Day. People left the stands. Some stormed the court to help and some had other intentions. Family members too spilled onto the court shouting instructions to their sons. Coaches tried to seperate the engaged players.
Other hyped up basketball players, including myself, moved closer to the scrum. They say in a bench clearing brawl to pick out a person on the other team to tangle with. If they make a move, it is your responsibility to stop them from piling on. I kept my eye on an opposing player, who looked eager to join the fracas. With the exception of some minor pushing to let my presence be known, I was not directly involved in the fighting. After a few tense minutes, the coaches and referees restored order. The referees saw fit to call the rest of the game off. They blew their whistles and ordered everyone to go home.
I remember walking off the court amidst the disorder. Out of breath, my coach rushed up to me.
“Joe, are you doing anything Saturday afternoon?” he asked.
“No. Why?”
“You are now. Billy just received an automatic one game suspension for fighting. Joe, you just made the All-Star team. You were first alternate. Congratulations.”
Making any All-Star team takes hard work. Sometimes it even constitutes the blood, sweat, and tears of others.


June 01, 2006

Road to Nowhere

-A grave marker to say the least.


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