Freudian Slips: July 2008

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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.

July 27, 2008

Bottleneck of Rubbernecks

The same visitors to our special needs center returned to the scene. I was ready for them. Loading the occupants onto the special needs buses this afternoon brought equal emotion from these youngsters as unloading did this morning. They peeked around the corner of the building to canvas the parking lot. They held one eye open while closing the other. Curiosity brought them to the edge of observation, fear of the unknown kept them just out of sight.

Several short yellow buses idled in a row. The boys pointed and chattered amongst themselves. They seemed confused at the humanity gathering before them as each bus lowered lifts. I exited a backdoor, approached them from behind, and caught them completely off guard.

I asked, “Can I help you boys?”

One look at me, and the trio ran away scurrying for cover behind the neighboring apartment complex.

I yelled, “I’m not going to hurt you or get you into trouble? I work here.”

Eventually, they returned to their waypoint not collectively as a group like you might think but as stragglers one by one.

The first to return asked, “Why do they all look that way, mister?”

“They have a condition called mental retardation.”

“Can we catch it?”


A sigh of relief passed through the group. Hands came out of deep pockets and they began to feel a little more at ease around me.

The smallest boy asked, “How or why did that happen to them?”

“They were all born that way is how.” I answered. “Why is more difficult to answer. Maybe it is nothing more than an accident but maybe it is to remind the rest of us to carry compassion in our hearts for them.”

“We never saw so many people who can’t walk in one place.”

“Yeah what else can’t they do?”

“I cannot give you personal information about individuals but nobody can talk, walk, or toilet.”

“But Mister, this morning we saw two of them hobble on their feet but they didn’t have wheelchairs. Did you run out of wheelchairs?”

“They need staff assistance to ambulate. In their cases, there is no reason for a wheelchair unless when traveling long distance.”

By now, I could tell that two of the three boys were listening with open hearts but one held no sentiment. He had coal for eyes and his expression was tighter than taut rope.

He said dismissively, “Ah, they look like monsters to me.”

“No, they are special people. They just have different challenges in life. You just can’t judge them by what they look like.”

I stared at the boy who was having difficulty accepting their reason for being. He wanted to go back to his perch watching a vaudeville show and jeering. He took exception to my presence and took my teachings like a bitter pill. I noticed an unsightly scar that stretched from the middle of his forehead down to his right eyebrow. He saw me looking at it and it made him so uncomfortable he rubbed his hand over it like a pint of blood poured from it yesterday.

I asked, “What happened to your face?”

“Mom was drinking too much one night. My little brother’s daddy told her to knock it off. She got pissy and threw the bottle but it hit me in the head.”

“I’m sorry about that, kid. I’m sure your mom wishes she could take back that moment. Accidents happen. The important thing is that I will never treat you any differently from your buddies here, right?”

He shot a stare to the handicapped clients being loaded on the buses. A light bulb when off in that kid’s head and I bet he thought about what I said for the next couple of days.


July 24, 2008

Enemy Vine

My friend Rich is a professional gardener whose love of the land is as rich as the soil. For my vegetable garden this year, he recommended that I plant a new breed of tomato plant all the rave called a Rutgers. Named after the school that developed and patented her, this breed of tomato is known for its heartiness and robust taste.

So after searching what seemed like the world for a select tomato plant invented not too far from the neighborhood, I found four plants at a shore point Home Depot after coming up empty-handed everywhere else.

The plants were not even into the ground and I could not wait to bite into my first ‘mater. Low and behold, between the four plants planted and spaced evenly apart, yellow jackets decided to nest underground. In the spring, my stepson sprayed a can of Raid around the opening but it not only did not touch the cave dwellers it voided the plant's chemical free advertisement.
Soon it looked like an insect airport with the yellow jackets coming in for a landing at the base camp one by one. They had scouts, spies, worker bees, and a couple of hit men perched on the side of the house wary of intruders. The success of the underground hive made a mockery out of my garden’s tilled ground, new mulch, and hankering for fresco tomato gravy.
When my bumper crop of green tomatoes started to disappear, I started to scratch my head. Even my safety dance in between the insect flights to water me ‘maters must have looked silly to the animal watching me.

Not too long into my sleuth invegitative reporting regarding the missing tomatoes, I spotted the thief, a burly groundhog wandering up the hill from the woods. He walked over to my garden as if he had been there before. Hanging upside down on my metal cages, he wrestled green tomatoes from the stalks and ate me ‘maters on my wood deck as I cursed him from behind the patio glass.
When the groundhog decided to burrow right in between plant 2 and plant 3 on a later forage, he discovered what I had worried about all season. The groundhog dug right into the yellow jacket nest and imploded it. I have not seen the groundhog in awhile for reasons I can only nightmarishly imagine but his hole, the bees, and my suddenly growing green tomatoes remain.
I doubt they had this much trouble in the Rutgers laboratory but it is a jungle out there. Now it is back to me verses the yellow jackets in the race for a later taste of this frigging mater.

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July 22, 2008

Gin Blossoms Straight Up

Rob Wilson
The House of Blues in Atlantic City, New Jersey is an intimate arena to experience live music. My wife and I recently saw the rock band the Gin Blossoms play there. I managed to finagle my way to the front row of this general admission standing room only event. Concertgoers brag that the closer a spectator gets to the stage, the more intense the show becomes. My first time in the front row made me a believer through sight and sound. Outside of a small group of drunken women trading kisses with their tongues to my immediate right, I could not look away from the stage.
Enough slight of tongue. The Gin Blossoms boast a terrific sound. They played an assortment of pop rock songs with their trademark blend of melancholy embedded in their lyrics. The band gets regular radio airtime for “Hey Jealousy, Found Out About You, Follow You Down, and Allsion Road but I truly appreciated the tempo of every song they played.
The lead singer, Rob Wilson, showed a lot of charismatic energy. When he jumped from the stage to mingle with the crowd, my wife and I smacked him rousing high fives. The Gin Blossoms had straight up great sound. At least up close and personal, I had to hand it to them.


July 20, 2008

Birthday Wishes!

A joyous happy birthday goes out to dear old mom. Mom turned a Methusal-like seventy years old yesterday. Despite her pressing medical issues, she keeps her mind ripe tackling daily crossword puzzles using an unerasable gel pen. Last week alone, she uncorked the obscure answer of Hootie and the Blowfish for 17 across.
As for her health, mom has been working out with lightweight free weights and her grip makes you think she is looking to enter arm wrestling tournaments. In comparison, I have been to the gym only one in the last six weeks. When your elderly mother has firmer biceps than you, it is time to get back into exercising.
Happy birthday mom! Next time I see you, do not hug me so hard.


July 16, 2008

A Sucker Punch Born Every Minute

While tailgating with friends before an Eagles rock concert, a non-credentialed man approached us in the parking lot. He resorted to the voice of a salesman after an initial hello. He handed me a bumper sticker with a provocative slur on it. He likewise handed out stickers to the other members of our party. He encouraged their placarded use and made liberal commentary. He filled our hands and I wondered if he wanted us to fill his.

Upon receipt of a decal he probably bought on Ebay for 65 cents in a bundle pack lot, he asked us to open our wallets and provide donation to his worthy cause. He promised that proceeds would benefit forsaken battered women in shelters. I almost crinkled the sticker seemingly given to me for free only a moment ago. My sticker read Spank Me I’ve Been Naughty!
When the other members of my party provided an instant cash flow to someone I considered a sticky con man, I wondered if I was missing the charitable side of being human. However, I reasoned that nobody with compassion for victims of domestic violence would salute the stickers he handed out while voicing politically incorrect gibes. It left me incredulous and irritated coming from my mindset as a career social worker. I did not have the words for it then but I can tell you the experience felt like a sucker punch and it gave me sticker shock.

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July 13, 2008

Over The Counter Medication

Moving a handicapped individual into a group home is a stress-laden experience for all parties involved. Beatrice Dungstone's unpopular move into her new communal digs produced ripe stressors. As a registered nurse and I stood in the quaint country style kitchen of Beatrice’s new home matching volumes of medication vials to physician prescriptions, our criss-crossing hands looked like a giant game of medicinal concentration as we laid the scripts on top of each bottle to signal a match. As group home staff gathered around the kitchen table, Beatrice saw the control in her life slipping away.

Ingloriously, I started to separate the many over the counter medications from the generic flock of anti-psychotic and anti-convulsant medications. Beatrice looked on with displeasure that rooted in her scowl. She didn’t want anyone overseeing her medications but, while living on her own terms, her standards produced a stockpile of over 1000 pills of an anti-convulsant medication alone, some of which dated back two years and the medicine bottles were still stapled inside white pharmacy bags. Consequently, pill counting group home staff would be responsible for Beatrice's medication administration whether she liked the dependency or not.

Before the array of medicine made sense to all parties involved, Beatrice grabbed my wrist to gain my attention. “Don’t do that, Joe. Don’t separate my pills like that.”
“Let go.” I requested from my kitchen seat. “I need to put aside your over-the-counter medication.”
Beatrice vented, “You big shot people are making such a fuss about when and where I have to take my medication. I lived alone for years without a problem." She raised her walking cane like a weapon. "I can pill pop faster than you can pill count. If you want me to take them pills over-the-counter, I will. I’ll take them over the sink or at the kitchen table for that matter. I don’t care where you make me take them pills.”


July 06, 2008

Blog Closed

Dear Patient Readers,
Taking a week's vacation from blogsphere and being a social worker for other endeavors. Blog will resume July 16th. Thank you.

July 03, 2008

The Brush Off

2008 is half over and my semi-annual report card bemoans failing grades for accomplishing the goals I set forth for myself for the year.
In the year that I dedicated solely to re-writing and finishing a novel, other ventures have placed my pen down and my time, energy, and creativity is being channelled elsewhere. Painting hockey miniatures for customers spanning the globe has dominated my free time and acting gigs further take me away from my love of writing.
All I am doing now is finishing one job to start another. I have enough painting orders to work 24 hours a day save a few knockoff hours for sleep. My wife now calls me narcissistic when I act and Jepeto when I paint. Somewhere between narcissism and Jepeto is an overworked social worker who believes that deep down he is truly meant to be a published author.
As I paint away in my toyshop, I often guiltily stare at my hand that manipulates an artist paintbrush and not a writer’s pen. Crafting art has replaced crafting words. I need to return to the art of storytelling but cannot find my way back despite the repeated promises I make to myself. My word, like my words, isn’t good enough.

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