Friday, August 31, 2007

Weenies!! (part three)

Florida is like America’s basement and South Florida is the sump pump. All the losers and scammers seem to flow naturally south, and of course I hired many of them at Big City Dogs.

It all seemed to start out OK. Our first employee was a friend of Marks who we’ll call Beavis. We liked him and he caught on fast. Mark would even leave Beavis there alone at first because business was so slow.

Rule number one for an employer is never give an employee an advance on his pay. Unfortunately I learned that the day after I gave Beavis an advance on his pay. That day my phone rang and it was Mark, “HE DIDN’T SHOW UP. I’M ALL ALONE. MY ASS IS ON FIRE.”. Well actually the last part might not be accurate. We never did hear from Beavis again, but one of our other friends said they had seen him at a fourth of July cookout and Beavis had brought a case of Vienna hot dogs. Time to do inventory.

Our next employee was a young guy from Guatemala, who we’ll call ‘Butt Head’(Culo Cabeza). We didn’t pay him as much as Beavis because all I had to say was ‘immigracion’ and he would do what I told him. One day he just disappeared.

After Butt Head we went through quite a few people. Some would leave because Mark is so hard to work with. Others would leave when they discovered they would actually have to work. Many walked out right in the middle of the lunch rush after having a disagreement with Mark. I witnessed one such incident that involved Mark losing his temper and squirting the help up and down with mustard. The employee retaliated with a condiment shower on Mark before he walked out. Sometimes if Mark didn’t scare them off I would have to fire an employee. Firing someone is not a pleasant task and it made me feel like Mr. Potter in it’s ‘A Wonderful Life’. Especially when they cried.

Thursday, August 30, 2007


Now Please Read On.
New Story Below.

I'll Have Nun of That.

I don’t remember my first day of school. Maybe it’s because my mind is blocking a horrible time. Or maybe it was just such a non-event to me. A Catholic school can be a traumatic place for a five year old. Not only do you have to learn real stuff like the ABC’s and arithmetic, and how to write these things down, but you also have to learn religion things. I might not remember the first day of school but I can remember my first catechism class. It started with "Who made me? God made me." and went down hill from there. The nun who taught us, over time, told us so many wild stories that didn’t seem possible that I became totally confused. One such story was that people lived for hundreds of years in biblical times.

My first teacher was Sister Mary Ellen. She was a really nice person who, however to a five year old, seemed old. I think she was about twenty years old. One time, in second grade, a girl in our class had a temper tantrum and as Sister Mary Ellen was trying to calm her down, the girl got on the floor and bit her on the ankle. I remember thinking, you can do that? She eventually quit the nunnery and got married (to a man).

For third grade we got Sister Mary Frances, who was obese, and apparently never used soap or deodorant. I found that as we moved up from grade to grade the nuns got meaner and meaner. I guess being married to a dead guy can be pretty frustrating.

In my adult life I have tried to avoid nuns, not because I don’t like them, but because I just don’t understand what it is they’re doing.
Of course you can’t avoid coming in contact with nuns all the time. My former job with Cardinal Health brought me in contact with all sorts of people in the hospitals. One day at Holy Cross Hospital I was being accompanied by a pharmacy tech up to one of our med machines. While in the elevator I was doing the small talk thing when a ‘damn’ got slipped into the conversation. Everyone in the elevator went quiet, and when we stepped out on our floor the pharmacy tech told me, "Those were nuns in the elevator. Try to watch what you say around here.".....damn it, stealth nuns. Nuns without habits. I thought they were retired professional lady golfers. You know, if they are going to be so offended by a mild oath, I think they should be required to wear that habit so I know when they’re around.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Weenies!! (part two)

Mark has always had a hard time dealing with disasters, calamities, and anything out of the ordinary. ‘The Hot Dog House’, which we renamed ‘Big City Dogs’, was run on a day to day basis by Mark while I continued in my regular job. If Mark had a problem he would call me. My phone would ring and a hysterical voice on the other end would be screaming at me, "THE ICE MACHINE IS BROKEN. GET OVER HERE NOW I THINK IT’S GOING TO BLOW!" or "THE LIGHTS DON’T WORK, I THINK THE PLACE IS GOING TO BURN DOWN!" or "THE SKY IS FALLING AND MY ASS IS ON FIRE". It didn’t matter where I was, I had to find a way to get over there and fix the problem, which usually turned out to be nothing more than a circuit breaker.

Mark also had a running battle with the homeless street people. They seemed to think our hot dog stand was a homeless shelter. Every morning it looked like there had been a big beer and wine party at ‘Big City Dogs’. There would be nasty old clothes and shopping carts full of crap. Mark would open up in the morning and within ten minutes there would be a guy taking a sponge bath in the washroom. But the worst of it was the smell of urine. We had to wash down the place every day with bleach.

One day while I was working at Memorial Regional Hospital, my phone rang. It was Mark, "I CAN’T TAKE IT ANY MORE! I’M LEAVING AND GOING HOME! THEY SHIT ON THE TABLES!" (followed by the sound of gagging). And he hung up. By the time I got there he was gone. He had left our one employee alone to run the business. Mark has a very weak stomach, and can’t even stand to see the cat cough up a fur ball without gagging and puking. I went around to clean up the table, and there it was. One single turd. Not even a large turd. It was about the size of a medium dog turd and I washed it off with the hose in thirty seconds...........................This was not the hot dog stand I had envisioned.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Curse of Big Al

I was watching Bob Saget on HBO the other night and he was cursing a lot in his act. His act seemed to hinge on his cursing a lot. I guess so people will know that ‘Full House’ and ‘America’s Funniest Home Videos’ wasn’t the real Bob Saget. Denis Leary on the other hand seems to use cursing as a first language. He uses cursing almost like punctuation. In fact if he didn’t drop the ‘F’ bomb into almost every sentence I’m not sure we would even understand what he was saying.

Potty mouths run in my family. I truly try not to use vulgarities when speaking in public, but sometimes a situation just calls for it.
At home however when confronted with a frustrating moment, a string of horrible words can come streaming out. It’s not that the words have never been heard before, it’s the way I might use them. The wrong people will have the wrong parts shoved up the wrong orifices. Peoples parents will be of questionable lineage species-wise. Where did I learn this? Well like in ‘A Christmas Story’ it wasn’t from some kid I hung out with fifty years ago. No I heard it every day from my dad. He was a master at cursing. He cursed at us. He cursed at people in other cars. He cursed at inanimate objects. I assume he learned it from being in the military during WWII, because I never heard words like that from his mother.

Now my mother also cursed. Sometimes you would have thought the fleet had come into town and the sailors were in our house. My mom swore differently from my dad. She could let loose with a short string of goddamn this and sonofabitch that when she was angry with you, but this was understandable having to raise eleven children. The best was when she was truly frustrated. That’s when she would let loose with her patented "SHIT, SHIT , SHIT, SHIT , SHIT, SHIT , SHIT, SHIT , SHIT, SHIT , SHIT, SHIT , SHIT, SHIT , SHIT, SHIT ". When you heard that you either hid, ran, or were the target of her wrath in which case she would come after you with her ‘balloon stick’. It was probably better to get whipped with the balloon stick right then and there. If you managed to escape, the alternative was when dad came home and my mom would sic him and his magic belt on you. By magic I mean because it would come flying out of his belt loops at you faster than you could realize what was happening. This was the law of the land when we were growing up. If you fucked up, you got smacked. If you were good, things were nice and dad would do that turn into the Tastee Freeze and we’d all get nickle ice cream cones.

No my parents weren’t perfect but they had eleven kids to worry about. I’m sure if it weren’t for the fear of ‘Big Al’ I would have got into a lot more trouble as I grew up.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Why Michael Vick Found Jesus so Quickly

I'm Waiting For You Vick.

Weenies !! (part one)

The following is a touchy subject between Mark and me.

I always thought I would like to own a hot dog stand like ‘Willies Weenie Wagon’ at 159th and Crawford in Markham, Illinois. I first went to Willie’s when my brother David took me there after he got his drivers license. I had never had a hot dog like that before. A poppy seed bun with a plump Vienna hot dog nestled in it. On top of that, yellow mustard, bright green relish(neon green), fresh chopped onions, two tomato wedges, kosher pickle spear, two sport peppers, and celery salt, piled so high you can’t get it all in your mouth.

One of my favorite hot dog stands in Chicago is ‘The Wiener’s Circle’ at Wrightwood and Clark. Many a night after leaving a bar at four or five in the morning I would stop and get a dog there. This place is quite a zoo at that time of the day, but the women that work there are definitely up to the task of handling the drunks who show up after the bars close. I think they recruit the help from ‘Cabrini Green’ exclusively.

Do not challenge or even remotely show impoliteness to these ladies. They will give you a verbal whipping like you’ve never had. I’ve seen big mean looking guys leave there doubting their own gender. Nobody is safe, including your grandmother. You give your order accurately and quickly and wait politely for your order to come up. Regular customers are filled with glee when a new drunk shows up and says something stupid.

In April of 2004 Mark and I purchased a business called ‘The Hot Dog House’ in Oakland Park, Florida. I had run the numbers and was sure we could make it work. The day we took over the business I was very happy because we made more money than the seller said she made per day. The deal was, she would stay and help us for the first week while we learned how to run it. The second day was a different story. We didn’t even clear $100, and the seller disappeared and never showed up again. I’m pretty sure that the day before she had told every one of her friends to show up and buy a hot dog.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Dog Days of Summer

I don’t know exactly when Molly’s birthday is, but some time this summer she turned twelve years old. I got her in the fall of 1995 as a three or four month old puppy.

For the first year that Molly lived here, Carlotta the cat was terrified and stayed in my bedroom closet. The only time she would come out of the closet was when she heard Molly being put into her kennel before I went to work. At that time Carlotta would fly out of the closet to her litter box where a look of relief would come over her as she stared out into space. Eventually Carlotta realized Molly wasn’t going to eat her and within a few years they even have been seen sleeping on the same sofa together.

Molly has been bad at times. She almost killed a neighbors Maltese once because she thought it was a danger to her and her friend Sophie. That cost me $750 and was really scary. Then there was the time Mark thought Molly was a convenient garbage disposal and fed her all, yes ALL of the leftover turkey from Thanksgiving. A dog will eat something like that until it explodes. She did. This resulted in one of the only two times she has pooped in the house. Of course it wasn’t ordinary poop. It was the worst of the worst diarrhea, which of course Mark didn’t help clean up.

But mostly she’s been very good. The vet says she is as healthy as a much younger dog. I hope I’ll be writing about her thirtieth birthday someday, with many squeaky toys and chewy strips in the interim.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Alan The Carpenter (Finishing the Deck)

It is really irritating to see a horror movie with Mark. He runs out of the room just before the gory stuff happens, then comes back in and wants me to recap the bloody scene for him. He’s even worse when it comes to real blood. I’ll be in another room while he’s cooking and hear screaming like a white girl in an ‘Elm Street’ movie. The first time I heard this I was sure that he had sliced off a finger with the expensive ‘O. J. Simpson’ kitchen knives I had bought him for Christmas. Of course when I ran into the kitchen he had a tiny cut with one drop of blood barely oozing out of it.

He is the same way watching me work, as he is about horror movies. Mark is so scared I’m going to cut off an arm or drill a hole in my leg that he stays away (the cursing may have something to do with it also). God help me if I ever do really get hurt. I’ll lay there for hours bleeding to death before he discovers me.

While building my deck, I did injure myself many times. The worst being when I was hauling the demolished deck out to the curb. I slammed my shin into the cart I was using, causing me to lose my balance and slam my arm into the fence. That of course was followed by the requisite cursing and swearing.

One life threatening clutz moment happened while sawing the ends off of the deck boards. I ran the circular saw right over the power cable. I can see myself shorting out the electricity and Mark is in the house assuming the power is just out (happens a lot here) and leaves to go somewhere with air-conditioning, while I’m fried on the back deck.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

New Poll

No White Sox fans among us. Cubs win by far.
Check out the new poll to the right.

Alan the Carpenter Part One

Some people in our family are very skilled and handy. They can build anything. Like Al B., Judy P. (dolls), Mom (cakes) and (great)Grandpa W.

When I was young and we lived on Ravinia Drive in Tinley Park, Grandpa W. would come out from Chicago and stay at our house for a few weeks during his vacation. I still remember him making a small tin box one time in our back yard. He had all of his tools with him including some kind of little stove he used to heat up his old fashioned soldering iron. After he worked on it for a while, it looked fine and finished to me. Not him, he worked on it for another hour until it was perfect.

Then there are the rest of us. Like my dad. When I was very young my dad was building a bookcase in my sisters bedroom. At one point he decided to take a break and sit down to rest, directly on a bag of #8 nails. Seared into my memory is my father bent over in the bathroom with my mom applying bright orange mercurochrome (an old time disinfectant) on each little puncture wound. It looked like a hairy dot-to-dot drawing from Highlights Magazine.

I recently rebuilt my backyard deck. The wood was getting so rotten that I feared one of my tenants might fall through and sue me. I looked at the project and decided, "piece of cake". I was wrong. It took me three hours of hard labor to demolish three feet of the old deck. So I hired one of Marks friends, Willie, to help me and we finished demolishing the old deck in one day. I received one laceration, one rusty nail puncture, and my legs now look like a relief map of the Ozarks.

Yes Mark did help me............He brought me a beverage.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Who Left the Barn Door Open?

You don’t like to think you’re getting too old but there are some hints. Like my eyebrows starting to look like Andy Rooneys.

I walked Molly half way around the block yesterday with my fly unzipped. I stopped and talked with Nanny, the old lady across the street. I also said hello to my neighbor walking her two dogs down the street and waved to Sharon Kerwick as she drove by. I was totally oblivious until I turned the corner and started walking into the wind. My fly wasn’t just unzipped, it was gaping open. It caught the breeze like a spinnaker on an America’s Cup boat. There is no discrete way to zip up with a seventy pound dog pulling you over to smell where her best friend just peed five minutes ago.

The reason my fly was open is because of another old man trait. When I watch TV I like to loosen my belt and open my pants for the sake of comfort. The trick is you must remember to re-secure yourself before leaving the house.

I guess my neighbors are used to me and Molly doing our daily walk. "Well here comes that guy who falls with his fly unzipped again."

Monday, August 20, 2007

Rats Again!

Here’s an email I sent to Peggy a few months ago.

Here in south Florida we have rats, lots of rats. Last spring I was having a rat problem. It seems we have rats every spring. They eat the fruit off the citrus trees and swim in the canals and it never gets cold enough to kill off the weak ones. They get in our attics and try to get into kitchens by following the pipes to the sink. Twice I have witnessed rats popping up in the toilet. Once at my next door neighbors house and once in our main bathroom. They come down the vent pipe on the roof because they can smell the water down in the toilet. You should have seen Mark when he found the rat swimming in the toilet. It was straight out of 'Our Gang Comedies'. Picture Buckwheat screaming and running out of the house. I grabbed Marks favorite kitchen tongs because they are really long, and grabbed the rat and ran outside and beat its ugly little head on the pavement until it stopped wiggling.

You would think with all the cats here (2 outside, 1 inside) I wouldn't have this problem.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Have a nice trip

My brother Dave the plumber, while in a customers garage, stepped on pebble the size of the period at the end of this sentence . He turned on his ankle, fell to the gound and shattered his wrist.

I don’t know why but some of us have weak ankles. Dave says he has high arches, but I know that’s not my problem. I’m pretty sure I’m flat footed. Over the years I have turned on my ankle many a time. Once when walking home from a Cubs game with my cute little nephews, I stepped in a hole in the sidewalk on Clark Street. I hit the pavement like a sack of potatoes. The pain shot through me and I let loose with a string of profanities that would make Big Al (my dad) look like a nun. I of course blamed the Mayor of Chicago for not maintaining the sidewalks. To this day the Fanning boys think Harold Washingtons first name was Mother F**ker.

A few times I have turned on my ankle and hit the pavement while walking my dog Molly. She of course thinks we are playing and starts running. I of course am being dragged around at the other end of her leash further scraping me up. The neighbors are getting used to it and call their children inside so as not to pollute their little ears.

The last time I fell was at the River Walk in downtown Fort Lauderdale. My foot stepped ¼ inch off of the sidewalk and I went flying into a vendors booth. The vendor was selling wind chimes.
With the sound of a hundred wind chimes ringing, two old ladies came running and tried to help me up. “Sir are you alright?” they asked. Insult upon insult, being called sir by someone who I think of as ‘old ladies’ while wind chimes call the crowds attention to me.