Freudian Slips: February 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.

February 28, 2006

All Fired Up!

That's got to hurt.

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February 26, 2006

A Man of Principle

It boggles my mind to hear people admit that they don’t know what they are going to do with themselves when they retire. The bottle of my retirement glass is three quarters full. I do not want to stay indentured longer than I have to. If there exists a deal to opt out for an early retirement package a decade from now, I will be all ears. Don’t get me wrong. My vocation as a social worker is important but I want to retire while relatively healthy. I dream of a golden parachute buffering my landing for a new chapter of life. I don't invision retirement as a stare in the mirrow until I can figure out a clever way to re-invent myself. Instead, retirement for me means playing tennis, going to the gym, devoting block time to writing, more social time with friends, uninterrupted sleep, expanded hobbies, and vacation getaways.
Allow me to digress. Before I had hair on my chest, I used to work in an elementary school as a night custodian. A lesson in life, the least important person on a job carries all the keys. The school principle was an older man who carried with him in some circles the nickname of Hoyt. Hoyt ran the show and he could be considered Old School in his managerial style. It came as a surprise to everyone the day that Hoyt announced his retirement because he often bragged that he would never retire. Slinging mops and hauling trash for just enough to get by, well I didn’t really understand that mentality coming from a seasoned principle who logged enough years in the pension system to retire.
Nevertheless, retirement was a dirty word to Hoyt. A man of principle, the school was his life. While his retirement was not based on reduced competency, Hoyt still viewed retirement as surrender and banishment by a society rendering him useless. The faculty learned that Hoyt’s wife felt like her husband was now stealing quality time from her. Hoyt described bowing down to his wife to join her at home for what he negatively perceived to be mindless chitchatting over tea and crimpets.
As his last day on the job approached, Hoyt went kicking and screaming. To celebrate his career and retirement, the Sunshine Club purchased a young cherry tree in Hoyt’s honor to be planted on school grounds. The custodians planted the sapling in the school’s courtyard for all to admire. The eager roots barely had been afforded the time to spread out in their burlap sack before the tree was stolen. That was sad enough but Hoyt didn’t fare much better than his stolen tree. Hoyt died weeks into his muddled retirement.
For the life of him, Hoyt told us he didn’t know what he would do with his retirement. Hoyt knew this about himself and stated as much in so many words. I, for one, should have believed him. On less than hallowed ground, there grows a stolen cherry tree once planted in Hoyt’s honor. I often think of Hoyt in the same tragic sense as the uprooting of that dedicated tree. I suppose it is because I know now what I didn’t then. Some people aren’t meant to retire and need to work to feel alive. I just may not be one of them.


February 23, 2006

Oh Brother, Where Art Thou Screwdriver?

-Tornatore brothers in arms.
There are sentinel events in my life that I consider to be crossroads. One of these life altering episodes happened on a particular summer day. It gives me pause to reflect on what transpired that day and how it could have changed the course of my life.

As a sports-minded teenager, the backyard basketball court was a focal point for my brothers and I. While standing on the top rung of a ladder, I fumbled to adjust a basketball backboard. The bold sun seemed rude in its stare. Its rays caused the sweat to glisten off of my shirtless back. My struggle with rusted hardware convinced me that I needed a better tool. My youngest brother stood below me. As did I, he wondered if a game of hoops was in our near future.

I requested, “Go get me the biggest screwdriver from the garage.”

Be careful what you ask for in life. While I expected to be handed the tool, the screwdriver arrived by air mail before I knew what hit me. Let me explain. From the side yard a great distance away, my brother threw the screwdriver end over end high into the sky. For the precious seconds that the screwdriver propelled through the air, my future hung in the balance. I felt a conk upside my head and almost blacked out. I still do not know how I even managed to stay atop the ladder. I figured that something had fallen from the sky. I felt my head for blood, a gash, or an impaled attachment. Nothing. I looked around. The screwdriver that I requested lay by its lonesome on the concrete court.

Thankfully, the screwdriver’s wood handle clobbered me and not the pointy end. By the grace of God or the luck of the draw, it could have been worse. One half revolution more or less might have changed the course of my life. The other end of the screwdriver could have killed me or fractured my skull resulting in brain damage. If I even looked up at the wrong moment, the projectile could have pierced my eye and blinded me. I could have fallen awkwardly from the ladder to my death. A lesson to be learned, there are no positive outcomes from throwing screwdrivers like javelins towards people.

My brother came rushing to my side. “Joe, are you okay?”

I held my throbbing head, where a knot was quickly forming. Piecing the events together, I seethed.

I screamed, “What the hell were you thinking?”

“Geez Joe, I never thought the screwdriver would hit you.”

“It only goes where it’s told, you bleeping $#%&!”

Apparently, the loose screw on the backboard paled in comparison to my brother’s momentary lapse of reason. It took me awhile to completely forgive my brother. No matter how much tooling, that is the part of being hard-headed that I don’t relish.


February 21, 2006

Fat Tuesday

As I observed a short order cook wrapping a strange looking sandwich on the counter of a pizzeria, a feeling of gluttony came over me.
“What the hell is that?” I asked the cook with astonishment.
“That is one of our Fat sandwiches.”
“I can see that it is fat.” I replied. “What are you putting in that monstrosity, a side of beef?”
“It depends on which fat sandwich you order. We have a whole line of them. That was the Fat McNabb.”
“As in the Philadelphia Eagles’ Donovan McNabb?”
“We have a Big Mouth T.O sandwich. You figure it out.”
“Is the Terrell Owens stuffed with hot dogs?”
The smiling cook hands me a menu that is full of celebrity. Apparently, its author lives on the philosophy that all food ends up as neighbors in the same intestine.
“Can you tell me what went into that Fat McNabb?”
“Chicken fingers, mozzarella sticks, onion rings, French fries, and marinara sauce.”
A short order cook churning out all-in-one full service sandwiches seemed like bad business.
“Come on? A medley of appetizers stuffed in a single sandwich?”
I commentated, “No wonder Donovan McNabb is reluctant to run. You need an ambulance stretcher to carry the Fat sandwich out the front door.”
I doubted whether Donovan McNabb knows there is an obese sandwich named after him. This reminded me of the Curb Your Enthusiasm episode in which Larry David feels honored to have a deli sandwich named after him. Larry has a change of heart when he comes to find out that the rather unorthodox ingredients are distasteful.
“Try one.” the cook encouraged.
“No thanks.” I scoffed. “It could be the only game in town and it would not wet my whistle if I were referee.”
“You’re missing out on the party, guy. I sold 350 Fat sandwiches last week alone.”
“How many of the customers walked out of here on their own recognizance?”
He wasn’t taking no for an answer. “All of them. If sport sandwiches aren’t your forte, we sell a Luca Brasi?”
“Luca Brasi of Godfather fame, huh? What delicacies constitute that sandwich? Don’t tell me horse head.”
“Nah, meatballs, sausage, steak, pepperoni all on a hoagie roll.”
“Sounds like deadmeat to me.” I laughed. “I’ll pass. Give me two plain slices to go.”
I can eat with the best of them but even a Luca Brasi was a deal I could refuse.


February 19, 2006

Human Bulletin Boards

Chantel Archemede Spiggizoi is a multiply handicapped woman, who demonstrated a failure to thrive in her developmental years. Chantel has defied doctor’s expectations because she wasn’t expected to see her tenth birthday. While she has survived into adulthood, Chantel still requires as much anticipatory caregiving on a continuum as an infant. Severe cerebral palsy and profound mental retardation are but a few of her challenges in life.

Day program staff brought to my attention an unusual complaint involving Chantel’s nursing home. For over a week, staff hoped that the problem would simply go away. Once staff recognized it as habit forming, they invited the involvement of myself, Chantel’s social worker. In dubiously, I left my cubicle office to greet Chantel as she came off of the bus. The platform lift lowered her wheelchair with a familiar hydraulic sound. A bus aide handed the rails to a day program staff member, who wheeled Chantel inside the building. Asleep in her wheelchair, Chantel looked angelic. I couldn’t help but notice, however, a rather loud note pinned to her pretty blouse by a nursing home staff.

“Change me!” shouted the note.

The following morning, staff summoned me again. I marched to the staging area. Chantel unwittingly carried further instructions. The instructions were again scrawled on a note and attached to her body by a universal paper clip.

“Feed me!” it read.

I answered with a grimace, “I get the message now. I will address it.” I made one telephone call to that nursing home and the reminder notes stopped. My vocation often calls for more diplomacy than I can muster. In this instance, I was able to successfully state the dehumanizing aspect of the issue without emotion. My mind, however, has a damning duality to it. I started to imagine a different scenario. If Chantel possessed enough faculties to write, this is the note she would staple to her chart at the nursing home.

Dear nursing home,

Please note that I did not eat Gerber’s baby food every day for the last twenty six years to now be used as a human bulletin board. I deserve more dignity than to have notes pinned on my lapel. It is challenging enough to go through life confined to a wheelchair without becoming an unwilling participant in a game of Pin the Tail on the Donkey. Albeit malformed, my body is as much a temple as yours. It should be respected and not be used for the convenience of staff. When an issue arises in my care, please extend me the common courtesy of utilizing the communication log book that is kept in my backpack. Thank you for your anticipated cooperation.


Chantel Archemede Spiggizoi

While driving to work the following day, introspection resurfaced. I started to think about what it truly would be like to be Chantel. I sunk so deep in thought that the road in front of me appeared in soft focus. A minute later. I snapped out of my altered state to pay attention to the road. A late model conversion van caught my attention as it moved at a dangerously slow speed in front of me. I leaned on the brakes. Blanketed in pollen and grime, the van desperately needed a bath. I noticed a handwritten message scrawled across the back window.

“Wash me!”

…Yeah, that is exactly what it must be like to be Chantel.


February 16, 2006

Word Cloud for Blogs

Here is the advertising gimmick that the intelligent folks at Snapshirts came up with for bloggers. Their software quickly scans your blog to create a random sampling of words. This is what my sampling looked like. Of course, the purpose is to imprint the word salad on tee shirts for a nominal fee. The pricing seems reasonable so don't worry about them taking the shirt off your back.

I know what your are thinking. Anything with a Slip should be worn as an undergarment but that would not be effective advertising. So I am looking into outfitting my friends with an army of Freudian Slips shirts. No wardrobe would be complete without a punnery made of cotton blend. It could replace the standardized uniforms in Catholic schools or be the mojo for dress down Fridays all across working America. You never know.

Truth be told, if I had more readers I wouldn't need to advertise at all. Google Me Moogle Me, Batman.


February 14, 2006

Flexible Flyer

-Joe Tornatore, not showing his age.

Not to be confused with a medal event at this years Winter Olympics, I took my son, nieces, and a few of their friends sledding today. The real estate of Blackwood, New Jersey's Valleybrook golf course offers sledding par excellence. This golf course is a popular playground after a snow storm. The undulating course has something for everybody with beginner, intermediate, and challenger hills.

Most of the parents took to the sidelines. I hung out with the kids on a 200 yard long fast track. The snow was packed real tight and the sleds glided effortlessly. The shallow creek at the bottom of the hill put an unwelcome chill on a few youngsters. I really felt my girth when I belly-flopped onto the sled. I did a total of nine runs then it was all downhill for me. Like a flexible flyer no more, fatigue set in. I could have used a ski lift to the top of the hill and a cup of hot chocolate. Instead, I stayed at the bottom of the hill and turned the event into a spectator sport. Henceforth, I observed the fun of others and took wonderful action packed photos to (winter)boot.

If not for the extra pounds weighing in on middle age, the day evoked childhood memories of sledding. As a child, I used to sled on a gold course too during a time when Flexible Flyer sleds dominated the landscape. Nowadays, it has been taken over by plastic saucers, foam sleds, and snowboards.

Present company not included, I only saw one Flexible Flyer all day. I caught the bright red handle bars coming down the course right away. The girl couldn't have been more than twelve years old. Seated firmly on the antique sled, her feet steered the sled down the snow covered course. She had no other choice. She was talking on her cell phone. Now that sleighed me.


February 12, 2006

Sinky Feeling

Lately, work has been tumultuos with proposed changes. Nobody likes change. I am no fan of change in the least. I wish to give the reader insight into how much I tolerate change. It was a big deal for me the year work forbid the use of blue ink on paper documents.
Let me outline the nimbus clouds in a gathering storm at work: an added workload due to shortage of staff, hiring freezes, cases unraveling at the seams, swirling rumors about office relocation, reorganization, and shifting job duties.
While scrapbooking this week, I came across this picture of myself at the Titantic musuem in Nova Scotia, Canada. I looked closer at the picture of me relaxing on a replica lounge chair from the doomed ship. It fit my sentiments exactly.

Somebody throw me a life jacket. My job feels like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titantic.


February 09, 2006

The Truth Lies Within

Anyone care to pick out the single lie among a dozen truths? Freudian Slips might say that the lie truth withins.

I keep an internal clock that makes it virtually unnecessary to set an alarm clock for sleep.

I make daily visits to my favorite blog, Anonymous Rowhouse.

I was once charged with criminal trespassing.

I purposely overpay on my one and only credit card to mockingly use it as a debit card.

I lost my virginity at age seventeen and never once looked for it.

On Christmas Eve, a bank teller once gave me an extra $500.00 gift with my transaction.

When people speak, I visualize their words like a teleprompter scroll.

Three different women asked me to have casual sex during the course of the same day. I refused each of their sexual advances then had trouble sleeping that night.

Onboard the Carnival cruise ship Ecstasy, I experimented with a substance by the same name.

My Rolex watch didn’t cost me a dime.

I once sold my home FOR SALE BY OWNER on New Years Eve to a woman wearing bedroom slippers.

As a child, I laboriously counted up to 18,704 in spiral notebooks.

Under hypnosis, I sang a Rolling Stones song on stage in front of a live audience.


February 07, 2006

As Far as the Eye Can See

-Last summer's view of the Atlantic Ocean from our cruise ship.

As the Royal Carribean cruise ship, Voyager of the Seas, sailed along the Atlantic Ocean at an impressive nautical speed, we were seated around an elegantly dressed table for our first sit-down dinner. Every family member welcomed the vacation and appreciated the premium seating near the huge portal windows. With nothing but deepwater surrounding us, the oceanic view became intoxicatingly endless. I longed for a glimpse of a dolphin or whale.

Our ten-year-old son Jimmy, made a startling revelation starboard side. A knee-jerk reaction propelled him to stand and move towards the windows. Jimmy pointed across the ocean. He beckoned his mother to come hither.

Jimmy shouted, “Hey, I see a Toys R Us store!”

Miles away from coastal commerce, a speck of that trademarked neon sign was indeed visible to the naked eye. As far as I can sea, that takes a trained eye.


February 05, 2006

Teeing Off

-First hole of Pitman Golf Course June 4, 1989 9:20am tee time
On a wooden bench by the first hole, sat two middle aged women sporting touches of grey. One woman looked vaguely familiar. While I stared, I scanned my memory banks.
“Mrs. McLeester?” I asked. “Is that you?”
“Joe Tornatore?” the woman replied.
“Yes. How are you? You haven’t changed a bit” I greeted. “What on earth is your son Byrone up to? I haven’t seen him since high school.”
She rose from the bench like an old Judge. “Byrone and his male lover moved to Washington State.”
Her reply came from the warning track of deep left field. Coupled with the crisp air and the serenity of the golf course, I failed to recognize the shrewdness behind her choice words. From someone who last saw me when I was fifteen years old, her confidences in casual conversation came unexpectedly. Could she be looking for shock value? Standing on the raised tee box, it had the trappings of the fool on the hill. So I walked towards her but it did not make for an even playing field.
I replied, “That is cool.”
“Cool?” She walked closer to me wielding a golf club. “That is all you have to say about the situation?”
A thousand thoughts ransacked my brain at warp speed. Although I did not know about Byrone’s lifestyle, the little she said finally made sense to me. I was Byrone’s close friend for four impressionable teenage years. Never in my presence had Byrone mentioned or placed himself in the proximity of girls. Moreover, Byrone often talked about moving far away. All that had to count for something. To Byrone, Washington State must be a shiny apple.
“What would you like me to say about his life?” I asked miffed.
“I’ll tell you, Joe. I didn’t spend my whole life raising him proper to turn out this way. Byrone had to move clear across the country to hide the ugly truth. What kind of life is that? Living in sin with a man! You know that he was my only son. I am devastated. Do you have any idea how empty my dinner table looks around the holidays? Byrone robbed me of the opportunity to be a grandmother. I will never see Byrone raise a family. I may never see my son again.”
Mrs. McLeester reminded me of Beth Jarrett, the mother in the movie Ordinary People, whose only surviving son failed to live up to her expectations. She felt justified in her rant but she was completely out of turn.
I heard the sound of a sweet golf swing behind me. My friend Mark timely summoned me to the first tee box. “Joey, you’re up.”
My turn on the tee box prevented Mrs. McLeester from continuing to tee off on me. She left me, however, at a complete loss for words. All I could muster was a tight smile and a retreat back to the tee box. With the landscape of the first hole before me, I settled into my golf stance. I put my best foot forward. With a perfect swing, I guided the ball out of my fold. I spanked that little dimpled ball, which spent so much time in the cozy comforts of my pocket, out in the world. Despite my best intentions, the wind took my ball over one hundred yards wide left. I felt powerless in the grip of circumstance watching the ball sail away from the hole. The flight of a golf ball has been known to drift irregardless of center. The fool on the hill concluded that the same limitations are true about parenting.

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February 02, 2006

Darkness on the Edge of Town

In 2002, I completed a two year long immunotherapy program at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital. Graduating to a maintenance model enabled me to shed the beekeeper’s suit I wore outdoors and resume a relatively normal life.
Among other things, I looked to resume playing outdoor tennis, a game I had basically given up for two years. After not discovering the game of tennis until my adulthood, my passion to return to the game had no rival.
They say you can control everything but the weather. The weather made a believer out of me. Every time I went to play tennis, inclement weather interfered. I had been forced from the hard courts by pouring rain that wasn’t in the forecast, drizzle that was in the forecast, aggravating sun showers, puddling on the courts hours after the rain stopped, and high winds that kicked up suddenly. Name a force of nature and it interrupted my plans.
I harbored resentment and disappointment at forces beyond my control. My skin disease and the beekeeper’s suit had limited my outdoor activity the last couple of years so I had gained extra weight that I now wanted to shed through vigorous exercise. By the tail end of summer, I still had little tennis under my feet. I was determined to right the inequity and put the love back in tennis.
My partner and I picked an absolutely gorgeous night for tennis underneath the lights of Bethel Mill Park. A comfortable seventy degrees and emerging stars in the night sky had me certain that Mother Nature would not doom play. An end summer’s night dream, it looked to be a can’t miss opportunity for tennis. In fact, the ideal weather had invited everyone outside and into the night. Couples walked arm and arm. Bicyclists, roller skaters, and skateboarders took to the illuminated paths. Basketballs bounced on the blacktops.
Early in the first set, the cool perspiration sliding down my torso felt invigorating. I was pounding the felt off of the ball. My faulty knees felt spry and I covered the baseline with reckless abandon. Nothing but a sandstorm could stop me! While volleying break point in a pivotal game, the screech of tires could be heard from the road. Crash! A flicker ensued before every street light went out in the park. The switch to pitch black proved quite startling. Coal miners enjoy better lighting underground. We couldn’t even locate the stray ball we had been playing with. We found our way back to bunk on the courtside bench. After a few minutes of utter darkness, the gravity of the moment came full circle. I wasn’t meant to play tennis.
My friend asked, “Joe, do you think the lights will come back on?”
“This must be a sign from God. I think we’re done playing tennis tonight.”


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