Freudian Slips: September 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.

September 28, 2006

The Puck Stops Here

A perfectionist rarely appreciates something for what it is. Enormous negative connotations and drawbacks exist for this personality type. Allow me to expound on a positive element of perfectionism. I often look at something and idealistically try to improve on its existing condition.
Three years ago, I purchased a secondhand Super Chexx bubble hockey arcade game that came off a shore point vending route at the end of summer. The dome proved virtually scratchless to the naked eye and wear and tear on the gears was minimal. Although the eccentric acquisition was a steal at a discounted price, it exhausted my disposable income for quite awhile. Nobody is perfect.
Readers familiar with this popular arcade game know that the manufacturer, Innovative Concepts in Entertainment, only produces two teams, USA vs. Canada. I decided to customize the game. I made an all Pennsylvania bubble hockey game pitting an all-time greatest Philadelphia Flyers verses an all-time greatest Pittsburgh Penguins team. Of course, I rigidly assigned the players their natural position on the ice without any deviation. After two sleepless nights deciding which players should take the ice based on downloaded statistics weighed against personal preference, I cleaned and polished the game inside and out. I then removed all the moving parts and arduosuly handpainted the hockey player figurines to represent official team colors. Using a dainty brush, it took me 30 hours over four weeknights to painstakingly paint, shellack, decal, and nametag the hockey players into playing shape. Everytime my wife came down the basement to check on me I was burning the midnight oil brushstroking another bootstrap to a marvelous sheen.
The custom Super Chexx game is a real conversation piece for parties. I couldn't be happier with the results although I must endure other people's scrutiny about my need to be so meticulous. So be it. The game came out absolutely perfect. That is until this very moment. I just remembered that when this game came off its vending route I forgot to remove a handful of errant quarters in the base. So I got that to do tonight.



September 26, 2006

The Empty Cupboard

Ronnie and Reba Hubbard lived in a cupboard and had their children taken away. Like an accident waiting to happen, the family courts ripped Reba’s children one by one from her arms. The Hubbards continued to thirst for a child of their own so much so that their lives became single purposed. Blessed or not, their union created life over and over and from it children did grow to thirst. The children might have grown up to have more sense and sensibility than their parents did but adoption took care of that. Adoption supplied surrogate parents forcing each child to grow up not knowing their biological parents. The defrocked parents harbored extraordinary hurt and anger and what flesh and blood human wouldn’t?
Never in a million babies would I question their resentment of the government but I unanimously supported each of the court decisions terminating custody. Every good intention in the world cannot mask incompetence. Love only takes you so far. Their failure to satisfactorily pass parental training classes exposed their glaring deficiencies under a Hubble telescope for judge and jury. Their lack of judgment and uneducable nature provided the potential for grave consequences detrimental to a child’s welfare. Anticipatory care of a living breathing human being with vulnerable needs was not part of their constitution. Quite frankly the Hubbards didn’t always dress the porcelain figurines in their baby doll collection. Not a foolproof formula, Hubbard family planning amounted to subtraction by addition.
The woman of four vaginal childbirths groveled. “Joe, why can’t they let us keep just one baby? Just one, that’s all we want? Just one.”
Reba’s juvenile pairing of words were covered by a baby’s blanket of denial. It was a loaded question on a slippery slope atop heartbreak hill. Her plea tugged on my heavy pumping heart and she caught me stumbling out of the gate.
I preambled, “……Ugh, I know you both disagree with the court decisions but by God for the sake of argument and anguish, you know the answer to that question. By God, we have been through this so many times.”
I gauged their reaction. Forced to confront their still unrecognized dream, their shoulders mightily slumped. Ronnie rattled off a few curse words while teary-eyed Reba turned away from me. They hugged one another in a united front against the system. From their perspective, I represented the system that egregiously wronged them. I, the enemy at the gates of their empty cupboard.
Years passed. The screw turned.
In a natural outgrowth, this childless couple turned to babysitting other people’s children. It may boggle a mind the kind of parent who would entrust their children with Hubbard supervision but it happened. I once got an eyewitness report of the Hubbard’s idea of babysitting. They were haphazardly pulling a weeble-wobble child in a little red wagon on a busy road facing the teeth of oncoming traffic. Early intervention became necessary all over again. It took equal parts counseling and divine intervention to convince them that being responsible for other people’s children was not a substitute to fill the parenting void in their life.
Years passed. The screw turned.
One day I made an unannounced visit to their small apartment. Unscheduled drop-ins allowed me opportunity to look for warning signs of trouble like the evidence of baby toys in their home. There were no traces of human life. The instant I felt relief, I peered down at a small furry animal in a wire cage. In a natural outgrowth, this childless couple turned to caring for a pet. While I cannot attest to the care given to that caged animal, it looked like the critter wanted out.
Reba interjected, “We named her after our first born, Georgina. Say hello to Georgina.”
A slide show of their lives played in high definition resolution and the gravity of the moment sank in. A social worker without words is not a good social worker.
Before I could respond, Ronnie Hubbard asked a seemingly straightforward question from his empty cupboard. “What do you think about our guinea pig?”
I seldom waste breath stating the obvious but literally and physically in the purest sense of the word…this was a guinea pig.


September 24, 2006

Vehicular Imbecide

"Gee ma, you mean we should have still waited 30 minutes after eating grub before going swimming in this there Ranchero?"

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September 21, 2006

Bench Warmer

-an oasis behind rusted, twisted metal and weeds
The background noise generated by dozens of special needs clients rivals a busy day care center. My open-aired cubicle has been situated in the orchestra section of center stage for the last fourteen years. The non-verbal clients emit vocalizations that would surprise a midwife. From my ordinary desk, mental coping strategies allow me to block out virtually all noise without any training by a yoga master. The only time I hear background noise is when someone brings it to my attention. Such was the case when a parent of a child on my caseload paid me a impromptu visit and pointedly asked me how I can get any work done with that noise. My answer was patented honesty to the visitor who brought the high decibel level to my ear’s immediate attention.

“What noise? I didn’t hear anything until you mentioned it.”

Once tuned back into the soundtrack, however, I have difficulty turning it off. After my visitor left with her question answered, I listened to the sounds for several more minutes before I got annoyed at myself for not being able to regroup. I walked outside for a breath of fresh air. Severed from the sounds, I strolled behind the building turning near some rusted storage sheds on the property to the end of a hedgerow separating work from an apartment complex. Then it revealed itself. A wooden bench shaded by a magnificent tree. All these years that I had not even ventured this far from my desk and there was the habitat for humanity right next door inviting my duff. I walked over and sat down on the bench. No noise. No stress. No pressure. No phone calls. No visitors. My bump rested peacefully on the wooden plank slats. I stretched my legs out in the grass. A gentle breeze filtered through the leaves whispering to the evening shade of my career. I inhaled heavenly serenity and wondered how in the hell this bench got here.


September 19, 2006


-Paintballers, the last line of defense in an alien invasion.


September 17, 2006

The GI Joe

It is challenging to draw a sense of accomplishment from my job when I invest the majority of my time migrating from meeting to meeting on a non-stop carousel. What I do enjoy about a career in human services is that my clients give me the opportunity to view life from a different perspective. There is a lesson to be learned when a developmentally disabled person takes timeout of their life to inject humor into the lives of those more fortunate.
Prescott Hinkling is a severely retarded client on my caseload worthy of such admiration. He makes me feel alive and thereby makes my own troubles pale in comparison. An adult male, his mannerisms remain child-like but he is affectionate, loving, and a pleasure to be around. He employs such a flamboyant manner of speaking that it bends ears listening to him. His voice can be described as a high-pitched squeal and his language incorporates indisposable nicknames for people. Understanding his speech and locomotive labeling is a listener’s challenge.
At a meeting, I began to review the list of professionals who are involved in Prescott's medical care. Under an umbrella of tender loving care we identified his primary physician, dentist, psychiatrist and neurologist. The father assured team members that the current list was complete. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Prescott squirm in his wheelchair before uttering a single word.
“Don’t forget the ass man.” reminded Presscott.
“What did you say?” I asked half hearing him.
A smiling Presscott repeated the omission. “Don’t forget the ass man.”
The father clarified, “Ugh, that would be the gastrointerologist.”
Prescott added, “The GI Joe.”
At the risk of sounding ass backwards, I will defend to my wit’s end that human intelligence cannot be solely measured by standardized testing.


September 14, 2006

Pirates for Life

- Joe Tornatore to the right of his friend Mike, at Mike's pirate themed 50th birthday party celebration this past weekned. Happy birthday, matey!
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September 12, 2006

9/11 Pledge of Allegiance

Negotiating a car on congested New Jersey roads offers many opportunities for reflection. In commemoration of the five-year anniversary of the horrific terrorism that occurred on September 11, 2001, an FM radio station rebroadcast sound bites in actual time as they unfolded. As my car radio played chaos of a scrambling nation, I looked up in the sky and observed no less than a passenger airplane disappear behind the clouds. The quite natural event startled me because my ears were taking in soundtrack of people running for their lives amidst World Trade Center building collapse caused from kamikaze hijacked planes.
When the radioed sound bite ended, the plane innocently emerged from cloud cover. My thoughts returned inward, I peered into my rearview mirror only to see a cab rolled up behind me in the snarled traffic. An olive skinned man wearing a turban headress guarded the wheel of the taxi whose center roof marquee spelled none other than Liberty. As I mouthed the word “Liberty” in disbelief, I finished the pledge of allegiance with “and justice for all”.


September 10, 2006

Life is a Cabaret

-Talk about wallowing in your own filth


September 07, 2006

Iron Supplements

"I'm going to be murder at the gym when I get older, Dad."

In the sweaty recesses of my gym, I often overhear an extraordinary case of verbal abuse. The situation repeats itself as two workout partners double as sparring partners with the general public as their captive audience. A man, who could be mistaken for Napoleon’s identical twin, follows the boot camp instructions of a muscular gladiator who is missing a neck. Not exactly a public display of affection, the gladiator yells and screams at his workout partner. With an in-your-face attitude, he belittles his partner under the guise of motivational speaking. As if the public facility were his private gym, the gladiator’s tone is obnoxiously loud. Operating on a short fuse, the gladiator seems to sadistically benefit from slapping Napoleon across the face with insulting words.

The poor excuse of a gentleman angers me in the despicable manner that he treats this other human being. Sworn enemies are treated better upon surrender. If I tried to correct or question the pumped up gladiator, I suspect that they would assault me on a united front before returning to their own argument. In favor of my own safety, I just stay out of harm’s way.

The gladiator mocked his partner. “Look at the baby carrying his ditty bag into the locker room. Baby.”

“Leave me alone.” groveled Napoleon. “I just want to get changed then stretch out before we start our workout.”

“You’re wasting time changing your diaper. Bak. Bak. Don’t be afraid of hard work, old man. Bak. Bak”

Thirty minutes later, I witnessed tight-limbed Napoleon getting hurt while pumping iron in the free weight room. Clutching his bicep, the older man started whimpering. Crying was apparently not within the rules.

“You ought to be bleeping ashamed of yourself.” chastised the gladiator. You bleeping sissy. Sissy.”

“Give me a minute. I felt something pop. I hurt my arm.” moaned Napoleon with a pained expression. “I told you last week that rack is too much weight for me.”

“Cry baby. Cry baby.” dismissed the gladiator. “I survived a bleeping helicopter crash into the side of a mountain and you can’t bench press 225 pounds for 12 reps Band-aid free? What a loser you are! Loser.”

The gladiator sported a grating way to repeat his insult in the same sentence. The original disbelief to the listener’s ear became replaced by outrage after hearing the repetition. The gladiator followed his wounded partner out into the hall to continue the verbal abuse. By the decibel level of his hollering, nobody needed to be out in that hallway to know what was going on.

The tirade continued, “Look at your pathetic self. You are a pansy. A Nancy boy. You’re old and weak. Get back into the free weight room you bleeping quitter. Quitter.”

I had enough. “That’s it.” I dismissed. “I’m going upstairs to another workout room. This sideshow destroys my karma.”

A man working out his chiseled triceps replied, “What a pair, huh?”

“A pair you say?” I asked rhetorically. “I don’t know how or why in the world that old guy is friends with that vein popping maniac. They are water and oil.”

“They are father and son.”

“What did you say?”

“They are father and son. I know that for a fact.”

I had trouble pairing the words together. “Father and son?”

The father-son duo re-entered the room. Their arguing provided ironic background noise to the surprising revelation. The gladiator chastised his father over to semi-supine position on an incline bench. To think human beings look down on the animal kingdom for killing their young.


September 05, 2006

Steve Irwin, Life At Large

The recent sudden death of naturalist Steve Irwin is a tremendous loss for the people who remember his exuberance and flair for quite simply put…living. Of worldwide popularity, Steve Irwin made a celebrity living hovering dangerously close to untethered wildlife and he died doing just that. From one of the ocean’s most gentile creatures, Steve Irwin received a stingray’s poisonous barb in the heart doing what he loved wholeheartedly.

You can imagine that a guy like me who runs scared from bumble bees appreciated Steve Irwin’s daredevil antics interacting with dangerous animals. A cautionary tale, I used to say to myself that because of the way Steve Irwin lived his life that he would never live long enough to grow old. I considered his life on the edge a tempt of fate while counterintuitive emotions marveled at his zest for life at large. Steve Irwin utterly loved life so while his freakish death by a stingray is profoundly sad not many people can exit this plane of existence doing exactly what they love and that brutal unity makes the circumstances of his death no accident to me. Most people remote view life from sedentary perches on compressed couch cushions. So few people can really say they earnestly experienced life to the fullest! Steve Irwin was an extraordinary carefree man lucky enough to celebrate life in all its boundless glory. If the Crocodile Hunter is not forever remembered as a man who habitually hunted what life had to offer, his obituary alone will be a crock.


September 03, 2006

Park Place

- This signage at a McDonald's restaurant says it all in this hectic world that we live. At least Burger King wants you to have it your way. McDonald's wants it both ways. Give me a brake.

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