Freudian Slips: March 2006

Freudian SlipsImage Hosted by


My Photo
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.

March 30, 2006

The Weak Minded

In the bowels of the free weight room at my gym, I noticed a huge weight lifting belt supporting a European looking man. He seemed to be walking gingerly back and forth between vigorous sets. It wasn’t the free range of motion associated with heavy lifting. I struck up a casual conversation. It soon became apparent that English wasn’t his best language on the planet. Since he knew only broken English, I asked him straightforward questions.

“Why are you wearing that big belt?” As if he were deaf, I pointed down to his belt apparatus.

He replied, “Weak back.”

“I’m sorry. When did you hurt your back?” In believing that he was hurt, I pointed to his back.

Again he said, “Week back.”

Wanting to clarify that he had been injured a week ago, I asked, “All right, tell me when you hurt it?”

“Week back.” He grunted. “Weak back.”

In a last ditch effort to salvage sense, I tried a different approach. I queried, “How long do you have to wear it?”

“Two hours, it’s week today.”

I went back to doing my sit-ups. There was too much insult to injury with this guy. Call me weak-minded but his workout sounded too damned complicated. Let somebody more caring than me figure it out.


March 28, 2006

When It Rains It Pours

In the 1980’s, I worked at an institution that housed behaviorally involved individuals behind locked doors. My commute from home was far. By far and away, the work responsibilities were the most physically and mentally taxing that I have had in my life.
While walking on the campus en route to the Personnel Department, anxiety wrangled my inner sanctum. A whirling dervish of negativity, I rehashed the several things going wrong for me at once. I just returning from a work-related injury, elements of my personal life were in disarray, and nobody seemed home whenever I did soul searching. When it rains it pours. The world seemed to be passing me by. So I stopped dead in my tracks to say a short prayer. My head bowed in reverence. I bypassed asking God for inner strength. Rather, I selfishly asked for a sabbatical from grief. Before I could get out an Amen for a closing statement, a bird flying overhead literally crapped all over me. I must have stopped on the bulls eye target. I ended my prayer by resurrecting the name of Jesus Christ.
When birds of an omen flock together, you are better off moving along and counting your blessings.


March 26, 2006

Kodak Moments

-Joe Tornatore, age four
I have to embrace the optimistic people left at work. They came up with this wonderful bonding activity of inviting colleagues to bring in a childhood picture. The pictures were posted anonymously on a bulletin board to garner dartboard guesses in a Whose Who of Social Work. Anything that can depressurize a think tank is worth its weight in gold bullion. Most people brought in black and white dinosaur pictures. I singled out this 1966 colorized gem from Christmas morning to help conceal my age and identity.
While scanning the bulletin board of baby pin-ups, it reminded me that we were all glorious human beings before being tainted by bureaucracy. All of these people with their whole lives before them wound up in the same vocation. I marveled at the commonality. The bulletin board provided a time stamped photo essay. I saw white picket fences and intact families, porcelain smiles and glass slippers, dreams of success and hopes for Prince Charming.
As I stared at my bike riding picture among the flock, the future seemed brighter than what it turned out to be. The world was innocent as the driven snow and I wanted it back. Dark shades have long replaced my rose-colored glasses. Only faint glimpses of this person emerge when I drop my guard. Tarnished by age, stress, and experience, this picture makes me long for simpler times in a less complicated world.
As writers will do, I sat down to explore this jaded feeling about life. There are times that my strength has less air than the compression in my bike tires. A deflating thought, that pretty much sums it up. After typing this analogy, a stranger awkwardly riding a bicycle stops in front of my house. My head turns to the side as I quizically watch him dismount off of a rather large bicycle. He pinches each bike tire in a check of the air pressure. The bicyclist then leaves my windowed field of vision as quickly as he came. I exhale. My trembling hands return to a normal typing position as I wonder about a pipeline to a collective consciousness. My analogy was poignant enough before the theatre arrived! There was no need to send in the clowns.
Irony aside, it was tough terrain riding a tricycle through a bi-level house. From this unleveled first ride, I became a participant in this challenging existence we call life. I can only conclude that life is a tough road to travel and that we must constantly strive to do our best. Just peering out my window at the appears no easier of a ride for anyone else. Tired or not, sometimes we need to pause to appreciate the very air that we breathe. Otherwise, life would become only disconnected strings of Kodak moments until we aren't part of the big picture at all.

Labels: ,

March 23, 2006

Pejoratively Speaking

"You can't fool me, shoot is sh#t with two o's."
- Comedian George Carlin
The use of euphemisms attempt to make something negative seem more palatable. Their mere repetition in our language perpetuate acceptance. After careful inspection, the following terms annoy me.
clean fill wanted. It’s dirt. Dirt isn’t clean. It’s like calling mud wrestling a cleansing experience.
slain civil rights leader
. When those with purpose die nonsensically, this has got to mean that nobody is spared from violence.
justifiable war
. This pairing of words is overstated. It implies that the end justifies the means.
Final Solution
. When a weaponeer hits the panic button to start a nuclear war, Armageddon isn’t solution but the final curtain.
breast reduction
Men would never do this to themselves not even on a hard day's night.
obedient rotweiller
. If overused, this terminology can end up biting you in the behind.
reality TV
If there is a script, actors, sponsors, takes, editing, and rehearsals…it is really television.
former pedophile
Recidivism rate makes this an oxymoron.
A military term that refers to times of peace with violent phraseology. Robert Duvall’s expression in Apocalypse Now, “I love the smell of napalm in the morning!”, would be its antithesis.
recovering alcoholic
. Thirst is hard to conquer.
same day surgery
. The insurance industry must have had something to do with mainstreaming this term. Despite all the patients in the world, I confuse same day surgery with a procedure.
family planning
. When planning starts with unexpected pregnancy, you are behind the eight ball.
Too much grunting and awkwardness prevents me from associating it with rest.
Assistant to the Assistant
Call me jaded but the way I see it, earning a promotion only makes you the middle man.
reformed compulsive gambler
– It is a safe bet that your bookie remains on speed dial although he hasn’t heard from you in awhile.
assisted suicide
- Do you really need to recruit an accomplice with a Help Wanted sign when all you have to do is die trying?
non-dairy creamer
. Show me a non-milking cow and I'll show you a four-legged virgin.


March 21, 2006

Curb Your Enthusiasm

This story is about three minutes of innocent driving in 1980.

I couldn’t wait to burn rubber out of the parking lot at Washington Township High School following graduation ceremonies. Goodbyes have never been my forte. I couldn’t even stick around for all that cheeky yearbook signing and impractical plans to always keep in touch. Despite good intentions, I realized that diametrically opposed circumstances were going to prevent seeing most of these people ever again. I hopped in my car ahead of most graduates. I defiantly threw my cap across the front seat, cranked the radio, and set sail for destination parts unknown.

Washington Township was a growing metropolis. Our graduating class alone had over four hundred seniors. The steady influx of transplants made it next to impossible to know all of your classmates. With that being said, a strange thing happened when I went to leave the parking lot. Everyone and I mean everyone waved goodbye to me. Friends, classmates I barely knew, and some people whom I never met all waved bon voyage to me. It is hard to put into words their heartwarming send off. Maybe they were just being polite but I was loving it. I waved passionately back to my suddenly friendly classmates. What a whirlwind day! The last minute attention surprised this recipient. I had my own friendship click but never before have I been so popular. The car moved along. I waved to admiring frock like the grand marshal of a parade. A curvaceous classmate walking single file gave me a look. She waved wildly at me. I made kissy poo to the wide-eyed girl, who never gave me the time of day before. My exodus through the parking lot had so much love. I returned the favor by pointing, winking, nodding, smiling, and waving. With all of the grandstanding going on, it was taking my attention away from the road. Ah, I felt a sense of triumph leaving the high school for the last time. No good at reading lips, I imagined what the onlookers were saying.

“There goes cool cat Joe Tornatore. Let me say hi. My, what a guy!”

I arrived home. I realized the miserable wretched source of my soaring popularity curbside. I actually closed the car door without reeling in my long graduation gown. My classmates were enthusiastically trying to alert me that I was dragging my gown on the road. I rubbed my hand over my depleted gown hoping that I could make the whole incident go away. In my embarrassment, the irony did not escape me. I was a high school graduate entering the real world. If this freaking folly was any indication on probability of success in life, the world was going to chew me up much like my gown. My mind raced. The faces of the onlookers returned in picture quality playback.

“There goes that idiot Joe Tornatore. He thinks we’re saying hi. Laugh until you cry.”


March 20, 2006

A Brush with Death, A Toothbrush for Life

I heard my wife asking me a remedial question while I lay sound asleep. A foggy notion, I couldn’t figure out why the question warranted the interruption of my sleep. Diane exited the bathroom and stood bedside awaiting my conscious reply. Not really prepared to move my lips yet, I stirred restlessly underneath the comforter.

“Joe, why do you own so many new toothbrushes?” my wife repeated the question.

“So I don’t need to buy toothbrushes for the rest of my life.” I mumbled groggily.

“That is ridiculous.” Diane commented.

Some questions are better off left unsaid. Never ask a person, who has obsessive compulsive traits, a silly question like that. Some answers are better left unspoken. In this case, the real reason tops even the eyesore of neatly stacked packaged toothbrushes. I charted toothbrush changes bi-annually over my normal life expectancy to come up with the comfortable purchase in bulk quantity. My wife says there is medication for that. She has told me this…even in my sleep.


March 16, 2006

You the Man

About a month after Harold’s admission to the psychiatric hospital, I picked him up. I found him wearing a bow tie, black loafers, black socks, denim cutoffs, and a coffee stained shirt with a floral print. He looked like the groom in a last minute Hawaiian wedding. Harold’s depressive episode required hospitalization. After he stabilized, Harold had no home to return to so he stayed there involuntary on discharge pending placement status. The hospital administration, however, shook enough olive branches with my employer to subsidize Harold’s move to a supervised apartment. The spoken word is often the spoke in the squeaky wheel. Harold looked like loneliness was his only friend. He has had no visits from family. He has had no money and no Medicaid card in his possession. The traveling carnival he worked for has fired him and left town. All he has to his name is me and my name signed him out. On our way to the car, I caught Harold looking over his shoulder as if his official discharge was a mirage.
Inside the car, Harold’s showed his first smile. “Thanks for bailing me outta dare, Joe.”
“You were in a hospital not a prison.”
Harold remarked, “When you can’t leave when ya want to it ain’t a hospital.”
“Point well taken. The prosecution rests.”
Harold watched me buckle my seatbelt then did the same.
“So the hospital told me ya got me an apartment. Ugh, how much is the rent?”
“You don’t pay rent, you follow rules. The rent is paid for.”
“I’m not good at following rules.”
“You have to follow certain rules where I am taking you. Do you understand?”
He exhaled violently as if allergic to parameters. “I don’t need rules.” he repeated.
I asked him to face the hospital. I pointed back to where we came from. “Harold, you have three choices. We march back into that hospital that you consider a prison, and you will go before a Judge. Without a placement, a crotchety Judge may send you to a mental institute which you will like less than that hospital. Or, you can follow simple rules in a supervised apartment. I can explain the rules. You be the judge. No pun intended.”
Harold was quiet for a moment contemplating choices.
“What are the rules?” he asked.
I read him the riot act about house rules. I explained why they are in place for all clients. I reassured him they are reasonable demands. By the end of the conversation, Harold understood that he can be evicted for elopement, fighting, or criminal activity. Anything he does in between will offer margin for error. I still needed Harold to buy into a training component.
I further explained, “Staff will teach you how to cook, food shop, do laundry, etc.”
“I am a man. I don’t need no help doing that crud.”
“Ya just go to McDonalds, no need to food shop or cook.”
I asked, “You want staff to just super size you until your arteries clog?”
“Yeah, and not many people know this but if you hang your dirty laundry on a hangar, no need to wash the clothes but once a year. Damn skippy.”
I reacted, “I think you’re right. Not many people do know that. These ought to be some sweet smelling clothes we are picking up today. Are you okay with the house rules?”
“I will try.”
“Thank you, Harold. I guess we really can leave now. Let’s go pick up your belongings.”
We traveled across South Jersey picking up belongings like gypsies before a great pilgrimage. I flashed my badge along the way to facilitate the recovery operation. We extracted a leather jacket from a leaky shed, a raincoat from a house, the left sneaker from a niece, the right sneaker from a cousin. I picked up his Medicaid card from his brother, whom I did not know he had. Since eloping from a previous living arrangement when he was a teenager, Harold has lived with countless friends, family members, and strangers over the last five years. Harold dangles his monthly check like a carrot for a hot and a cot and the gamble has resulted in financial exploitation by multiple takers. He is now an adult with growing pains.
Harold then directed me to a dilapidated house in Mount Royal, New Jersey. It was located next to an all night gas station and a motel known for its seedy crime. I rolled the car to a stop on a gravel bed. A Rotweiller chained to a post emerged from a dog house. The dog charged forward and showed his teeth. To get to the second story apartment, we climbed some rickety stairs that needed replacing before Hurricane Hugo. Discussion ensued. I whittled down the family album to two relatives, each pointing the finger at the other for having possession of his disability check. A few minutes later, I heard cars pulling up in the driveway. His adoptive mother entered the Hobbit house. She waved Harold’s disability income check at me. The money tree had arrived.
Through the door now, Mrs. Fedorkztly addressed me. “What do you need this money for?”
“I don’t need it.” I deflect. “Harold wants it. It is his.”
“Why do you want you’re money, Harold?”
It seemed a silly question. Speechless, I turned to Harold for help.
“Because I’m getting my own place, mom.” He explained. “Today, I become my own man.”
“What are we going to live off of?” his mother asked rhetorically.
“Not my problem, mom. Find a social worker.”
I interrupted, “Salvaging his clothes is appreciated but the check is what we came for Mrs. Fedorkztly. I mentioned that on the phone.”
She gave it up. Harold put it in the front pocket of his hand-me-down shorts. The mother watched the check go into Harold’s pocket in the manner a sly pickpocket would. The mother excused herself to the kitchen while we hauled garbage bags of clothing from a closet reeking of mothballs and spilled beer. I asked for directions to our next stop. The family spilled outside after we got everything into the car. Four family members emerged from the small apartment where I had met only three. Everybody kind of stood in place but nobody really said goodbye. We left. A few minutes down the road, I noticed a trail of cars. Four cars totaled. Two cars were from the house we just left.
“Who is following us?” I wondered out loud.
Harold is slow on the mark but he gives the trail a closer look. “Ugh, that would be the folks I owe money to.”
“You are kidding me, right?”
“No.” Harold squirmed in his seat. “Joe, I forgot to tell you. I owe them all a little money here and there.”
“Where are they coming from?”
“Mom must have called them on her cell phone.”
“I don’t blame them for wanting their money." I remarked. "Hey, will there be anyone else joining us?”
“I think that just about does it.”
“Should I turn on my headlights and drive slower? It feels like a funeral procession.”
Harold takes me seriously. “Nah.”
Never before had I become the lead car in a caravan to a Check Cashing store but Harold wasn’t free to leave town without squaring his debts. He owed money for cable, money to another for unpaid long distance calls, this one money for food, this one for copping rides into town. Harold admitted to all of the outstanding debts, which saved me aggravation and possibly a call to the police. Harold has survived because he has great panhandling skills. This was just the flip side of artistry.
He knew the clerk in the pharmacy where we picked up his medications. He recognized the people waiting in the doctor’s office too, where we stopped for his physical exam. He even claimed that the counter girl at the Check Cashing Harold was his aunt. Despite his notoriety, I do not know whether to believe him. Harold has always persisted that he has fathered five kids. He has fathered none. Nobody has come around for child support, no paternity suits, no pictures with toddlers, no phone calls from women period.
“I want my own place, Joe. Anyone who has five children, should have their own pad. I am my own man. I can take care of myself.”
“We are about two miles from your new apartment. Is there anything about the house rules that you don’t understand or that I didn’t make clear?”
“I want my own apartment so bad. As long as they don’t baby me about chores, I’ll get used to them.”
“Good. Can you think of anything that you're forgetting?”
“Joe, I ain’t got no problem living by myself. I am my own man.”
I kept at him. “You still need help in certain areas.”
Before Harold could disagree, a look of terror shot across his face.
“What’s the matter?”
“Joe, can you stop at the drug store for D batteries? They are the fat ones.”
“It will be dark in a few hours.” He worried extemporaneously.
“I’m no good at riddles. What does batteries have to do with nightfall?”
Harold whispered, “My flashlight needs new batteries. I'm still afraid of da dark.”
“Yeah, Harold. Sure.”
Harold said, “You the man.”
I replied, “No, you the man.


March 14, 2006

Spring Forward and Don't Fall Back

A contemporary picture of the nighttime view of our home. I recently added soft 7 watt electric candles in each of the windows facing the street, repositioned the landscape lights to accent the growing shrubbery, adjusted the candelabra bulb wattage of the house lights, and standing atop a twelve foot ladder I staked the two spiral evergreens that actually fell over during the last snowstorm. Planted on each side of the walkway, the spiral evergreens serve as an extravagant gateway to our home so my prayers are for the tandem to survive winter’s abuse. I synchronized the candles and landscape lights on timers. It is shaping up nicely. After a few more rounds of litter patrol, I’ll be able to rest. I don't think the neighbor's have ever seen anyone precision trim hedges in the winter. If they didn’t know it before they surely know it now. An obsessive compulsive lives here.


March 12, 2006

The Am in Lamb Chops

"I don’t agree with killing little baby animals, but this sure is delicious!” spouted my son after tasting my lamb chops.

by Joe Tornatore
¼ cup of Marsala wine,¼ cup of white cooking wine
½ cup of crushed Italian or Caesar croutons, 1/2 teaspoon of rosemary spice, 1 tomato, 1 small onion, 4 cloves of garlic, ¼ cup of steak sauce, 4 tablespoons of melted butter, salt and black pepper to taste
Pour both wines into bottom of a large casserole dish. Using a fork, wet both sides of lamb chops in the wine. Set aside. In a food processor, combine rest of ingredients to form a paste topping. Coat top of each lamb chop with topping.
Cook at 375 degrees in the oven for 60 minutes.
Makes 6 lamb chops.
Works great with wild rice and fresh cranberries as a side dish.


March 08, 2006

Smokey and the Bandit

I have penned blog postings about my client Luigi before(see posts Most Accidents Happen Close to Home and Footing the Bill ). While Luigi remains deserving of print, pallets of aspirin continue to be shipped to his social worker to combat headaches. Before Luigi received Housing and Urban Development government funding to offset his rent, he dwelled where many of us would consider inhabitable. Luigi’s housing choices have run the gamut from boarding homes to homeless shelters. Only Luigi’s remarkable survivor skills have kept him alive. He survived one cruel winter by living in the rusted shell of an abandoned oil tanker that had been dumped in the deep woods. When his loitering was reported by a concerned citizen, Luigi was vanquished from the woods by the local police department and placed temporarily in a motel. That is how I got him on my caseload. When I arrived to meet him, a sinewy prostitute had just left his hole-in-the-wall motel room a few dollars richer. Luigi greeted me with a grin on his face. By appearance sake, first impressions were hard to come by.
About ten years ago, a friend of an acquaintance of an enemy of Luigi’s rented him the unfinished basement of a suburban home for a rock bottom price. No hots and a cot. Luigi felt like he would bring me on the scene to make home improvements. From the outside, the place looked like it had never seen a homemade apple pie. A single pull on the chain of a 60 watt light bulb in the basement formed the basis of a second opinion. It revealed a dank basement terribly cursed by the sound of dripping water. A sagging clothesline held laundry not from yesterday but yesteryear. Dust balls were not scarce.
“What da ya think?” asked Luigi.
“Humm…you are going to be hard pressed to coax a prostitute down here.”
“You remember everything, Joe.”
“Let’s get down to business.” I commented. “The way I see it we have two choices.” I transversed around the nooks and crannies of the basement. “I can complain to your landlord, the guy taking your money to bunk here. You risk him tossing you to the curb knowing your social worker is on his back. Or we can look at this basement as a roof over your head that is keeping you from hitting the streets. In the interim, we can do the best we can to make you more comfortable here.”
He torched a cigarette. “I want to live here, Joe.”
“Thanks for shedding light on the issue. Okay then. You make a visit to Catholic Charities. I will look around my house to see what I can donate to you.”
Before week’s end, I obtained an emergency voucher for $250.00 from work and from home I gathered some clothes, odds and ends, and a 19 inch color TV. The TV was the first set I ever bought and sentimentality kept me from getting rid of it sooner. I delivered the goods to Luigi, who showed appreciation with multiple handshakes and back slaps. I could tell from the expression on his face that he really liked the effort. He didn’t have to hit me.
About two months later, Luigi got evicted for disorderly conduct unbecoming of a domicile. On the day of his move out of the basement with frills, I picked up Luigi at his soon to be former home. He strangely didn’t want me to help him move things from inside the house and asked me to wait outside. Luigi appeared to be nervous about something as he carried his stuff out in green trash bags(see post A Hefty Move to Olfactory Purgatory). I thought there might be improprieties going on in the house but I couldn’t do a thing about it. After Luigi’s behavior resulting in his eviction, I wasn’t about to go to bat for him. It would have been like the spot calling the zebra black.
Luigi continued to act anxious. He filled the backseats of the vehicle to the gills. We maneuvered things around to make them best fit. Space was hard to come by(see post Bringing up the Rear)
I reassured him. “We can make additional trips if we have to.”
“No. That’s everything, Joe. Let’s get out of here.”
“Are you sure?”
Luigi lowered his head in a gesture that looked much like shame. It has always amazed me how non-verbal communication universally extends to all human beings regardless of handicap. Luigi’s mannerisms remain jittery. I tried to figure out what was suspect.
“That’s it, Joe. Can we just drive off?”
Then it occurred to me that we had a problem. “Wait a minute.” I cautioned. “You forgot your television.”
His confessional came with reluctance. “Joe, there is something I have been meaning to tell ya… Now is as good of a time as any. I sold your television for $5.00. I needed a pack of smokes in the worst way.”
My neck whipped around to face him. I vented. “But….but that was my first TV.”
“Who are you kidding?” Luigi fired back. “That was my first TV too.”


March 07, 2006

Framing the President

After removing the prized March 19, 1971 Life magazine from weather resistant plastic, I carefully slid it from the additional safety of its hard acrylic sheathing. With hardly any noticeable wear and tear, the magazine had survived the last 35 years by having somebody like me babysitting it. There was no line at the customer service counter for picture framing and I had a coupon. This started out as a good day.
The framer brings glasses up to her face before introducing herself. In pristine fashion, I laid my memorabilia out across the counter. With a smile, the framer recognizes the pride I take in handling the magazine. She exacts the same soft touch. She spins it around and moves it towards her work bench. To add to the nostalgia, celebrity Frank Sinatra took the cover photography from his ringside seat. The photo depicts two biggest names in heavyweight boxing squaring off. I wanted to remember this moment forever. I aimed to mount Joe Frazier's autograph underneath that Life magazine on a custom mat.
We chit chat as her tape measure works the necessary vertical and horizontal sweeps. We both agreed that a clean layout would provide ample margins for a 16x20 frame. I choose a stock frame rather quickly. Frames have always been easier to choose than mats for me. We debate the pros and cons of Pharaoh blue matting with a white pinstripe. I mull over the decision like a fickle person contemplating a bride. A lady arrives and she starts waiting her turn in line none too patiently. I can hear her getting antsy behind me. She mistakes my collectible for free reading material off the rack at a doctor’s office.
She remarks, “Look at those pugilists going toe to toe.”
The framer was off on the computer ringing up pricing. I was in no mood to argue with an old lady. I threw out something agreeable.
“Yeah, it’s a violent sport.” I add.
“Both of them look like they can take a licking.” She sasses.
She snatches my magazine from the counter. She leafs through the fragile magazine as a young kid would rush to find the centerfold in a pinup magazine. Over the next 1:26, my obsessive compulsive mind went haywire. Oh no. Lady, don’t touch my magazine. Oh, my God! Her hand wipes film from her nose onto my memorabilia. Heavens to purgatory! Joe Frazier had survived Muhammad Ali’s punches but he just got slimed. The same hand now opens the pages. I am paralyzed in fear. She is carelessly flipping through the brittle pages with reckless abandon. Her elbows firmly plant on the open spread of the large magazine. Oh no! She is fondling the heirloom. She is so rough. Oh my God! My eyes zoom in to see if the staple is shaking free from its binding. So far so good but this lady could break hardboiled eggs reaching into an Easter basket. This lady doesn’t know where she is in the world. I don’t think she has any idea she is playing with my memorabilia.
She says aloud. “Why are they talking about Richard Nixon in this article?”
“It's because you’re reading a 1971 magazine.” I answered. “Be careful.”
“For goodness sakes.” she scoffed. “Is that all that they have around here when you got to wait all day for framing?”
She wasn’t kidding. Her hand in an electric socket, Ben Franklin would call her a live one.
“It’s my magazine.” I declare.
She acts like she didn’t hear me. Instead, her head bends lower to the print. Her lips move but do not say anything.
“Sovereignty.” She hooted all at once. “Hah! I am going to rip out this article and send it to President George Bush. Somebody ought to assassinate that mother f%^$#(!”
Talk about margin for error. She spared no mind in wanting to frame the President. I had to act now or be a doormat.
“Oh no you're not. Lady, let go. Please give me back my magazine.”
She slammed the magazine closed. No matter what my politics, my memorabilia wasn’t becoming evidence in a death threat on the President of the United States. Two things were for sure. All of the boxing pictures in the world couldn’t take the fight out of this fireplug and I would remember this moment forever.


March 05, 2006

Save the Last Dance for Me

It became the kind of day that felt more like an out of body experience. The strong gusts of wind literally move a middle aged man across the parking lot. His broad shoulders harness the load of a bulging briefcase but it is a saddle that grows heavier with each passing year logged on the job. The keen observer can detect stress on his once carefree face. His gait is slower then it once was. He recognizes his untimely disquiet on this anniversary date.
He remembers back to when it all started. Twenty years ago today he was hired. The drive home from work prompts more reflection. He pipes classical music in the cabin and it provides an apropos soundtrack to his memories. He dwells on the mile marker to his career and the road traveled. He tries hard to untangle the memories of a thousand clients. He recalls his rare skin disease and each of the four homes occupied by a rotating procession of wives and children. The flashbacks are much like time spent on Earth. An hour and a half later, he is home before he knows it.
Not twenty steps inside the front door, he finds waiting for him an urgent message to call work. The fire he had been battling with a water pistol finally exploded. He looks up at the clock which reads quarter till Friday night. He tries to stand tall but his eyes momentarily close to seize the irony of the moment. His mile marker lauding twenty consecutive years of service was premature because the work day was not over. He crumples that little piece of paper in his bare hand before trashing it. There was no reason to celebrate because its riddance felt like a twisted blend of damnation and liberation. When work never reaches completion, it is difficult to derive sense of accomplishment. For achievement is a dance with oneself and its song can sound no better than muddled muted attrition.


March 02, 2006

Bazooka Joe

In this day and age, electronics products sell for a fraction of the cost, bulk, and weight of their predecessors. Electronics are so inexpensive that some products are throwaways in this consumer driven society. In the 1980’s, however, the first camcorders to hit the market were pricey contraptions the size of an infantryman’s bazooka. It cost me a whopping $1200.00 for my first camcorder. I was happy to pay for every penny. Little different than a bazooka, I cocked the camcorder on my shoulder to shoot flawless cinematography. I felt like a junior movie producer of my own home movies. A couple years of heavy use later, the camcorder broke down. I could all but hear the director of my own life yell, “Cut.”
I made a phone call to the manufacturer. I was instructed to mail the product back to a regional repair center. In a seemingly unrelated matter, we put our twin home up for sale. Weeks passed. I initiated many calls to the manufacturer about the repair of my bazooka. I was told to be patient. They were reloading it.
The house sold relatively quick. Cardboard boxes soon inundated the house. As we were towards the end of packing up to move, I noticed the camcorder had not been returned. I called but information on its status or whereabouts was not forthcoming. We finally got the word.
“We delivered it.” stated a customer service representative.
“What?” I fretted. “My wife and I both work. I hope you did not leave it on the porch.”
“Sir, our records reflect a delivery. Are you sure it didn’t arrive?”
“Strange.” answered the representative. “Our drivers are instructed not to leave packages without somebody signing for it.”
“Then where is my camcorder? Neither my wife or I signed for it at this address.”
The only thing certain was that the tracking system indicated a delivery. They checked with the deliveryman but he did not remember the package. That is equivalent to recalling the size of the eye of the needle in a haystack. Weeks passed. I was instructed to submit a damage claim. I argued mightily for a replacement camera but the shipper was responsible only for reimbursing a cash value. After a consumer rights campaign, they promised to issue me a check for $1200.00. Leaving nothing to chance, I gave them our settlment date and the forwarding address.
On the day that I received the check in the mail, I had just returned from shopping for a new riding lawnmower for our home that was almost built. Sears had a sleek Craftsman riding lawnmower. Before my walk to the mailbox, I had convinced myself that it was too expensive for our household budget to absorb the cost of the luxury mower AND all that goes with moving into a new house. Money is a great seducer. I take great pride in lawn care so the addition of the lawnmower felt like a guilty pleasure. It was like adding a Rolls Royce to a long driveway. The home movies would wait.
Literally days before our move, I received a telephone call from our realtor. Over the last couple of weeks, office staff have been tripping over a package with my name on it. Could I please come pick it up? I went to pickup what I imagined to be a manila envelope with legal papers. A secretary lugged a large box across the floor.
“Just what I need another cardboard box.” I said sarcastically for nobody’s benefit but mine.
I left their office carrying a package containing my fully repaired camcorder. I suppose that the deliveryman saw the Sold on the realty sign and with nobody answering the door he assumed that we moved. The quick thinking deliveryman stopped at the realtor office up the street and dropped shipment. Who would have guessed?
No stranger to irony even back then, one of the first things that I did was take some streaming video of my new riding lawnmower. Yep, good as new.


Free Image Hosting at