Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Klutz (klŭts) –noun Slang

1. a clumsy, awkward person.
2. a stupid or foolish person; blockhead.





I hope that I’m not the second definition, but surely I am the first. This trait runs through my family starting with my dad. Many a time as a kid I’d be sitting in the house and out from the garage would come the familiar bellow of my father followed by cursing. He had slammed his head into the overhanging garage door rails again and would come into the house with blood streaming from the bald spot on his head. If you went out to the garage you’d find the flesh from the top of his head hanging off the end of the rail. He would do this over and over again. To this day I still don’t know why he didn’t wrap the rail ends in some kind of a cushion to protect himself.

Not to be outdone was my sister Peggy who had a habit of walking around barefoot in the morning. The scenario would be very much like my dads. I’d be upstairs in my bedroom or some other part of the house when the morning quiet would be broken by a long, loud, lingering shriek. If you didn’t know better you’d think she had just had her finger-nails ripped off by a mad torturer. The cause of these spine chilling cries were my sister stubbing her toe on a chair in the kitchen. She did this quite often and never seemed to learn that those chairs were waiting for her.

I wish I could blame all my clumsiness on my bad eyesight. The truth is that I was a klutz long before I started going blind. The difference is that it has really picked up in frequency. Now I walk around constantly with a mass of contusions and bruises on my elbows and shins. This house is set up for Mark and his skinny ass, with the furniture arranged so that a ‘larger’ person like me can’t just walk through without my elbows bouncing off things. I smash my shins into low tables and my head into cabinet doors that Mark has left open, while he flows through the house like Loretta Young breezing through that door every week (check her out on You Tube kids).



Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A Studebaker is not a Ford.




















This past Saturday Mark and I went to the Florida State Studebaker meet in West Palm Beach. Mark drove there it was a bit nerve wracking with Mark driving scared and making weird noises every time a truck or car larger than ours passed him. The most interesting thing is that Mark makes the same hisses and noises, and says the name Jesus a lot whether he’s driving or I’m driving. The Jesus part is weird since he’s an atheist or maybe that’s just one of his old Puerto Rican buddies from New Jersey. One thing that he did, which I really didn’t approve of, was to threaten to slam on the brakes when a huge eighteen wheeler was tailgating two feet behind our car.

I stumbled into my interest of Studebaker quite by accident. When I was fifteen I really wanted to buy a car. Not any car, but a car from the 1930’s, preferably a Ford. There was something about those big old bulbous autos with that deco styling I just loved. Of course at the age of fifteen, not having a drivers license and having a dad who thought I was nuts, I’d have settled for a Rambler station wagon. To my father, cars from the 1930’s were just the old junks of his teen years. So when my dad came home from work one night and said a friend of his had a 1935 Studebaker for sale for $300, and would I like to buy it, I just about peed in my pants with excitement.

In my fevered mind that car was the most beautiful thing I’d ever laid eyes on. It was a huge, black, four door sedan with a shiny deep black lacquer paint job. Of course I bought it on the spot, and rode home in the passenger seat with my dad driving it and telling me what a piece of crap it was. Until I got my learners permit all I could do was drive it up and down the driveway. To extend my driving thrill a few feet more I’d even drive it onto the backyard grass. After getting my learners permit I recruited my buddy Ray Zoberis because he already had a drivers license but no car. This allowed me to drive all over town with as many of my friends and hangers on as we could pack into that old car.
Over the years my life changed and after moving out on my own a collector car wasn’t feasible. There wasn’t really a place to keep it when I was living on a hippie commune, much less the money for upkeep. So my dad sold it for $600 and gave me the original $300 I’d paid for it, keeping the rest as payment for six years of storage in his garage.
Since then I’ve had the occasion to own four more Studebakers, a Willys Overland, and a 1955 Chevy pickup truck. They’re all gone now and all I have is a PT Cruiser that I don’t really drive. Yet every time I go to one of these old car meets, that lust for another old car stirs again. Then I look in Hemmings (‘The’ old car bible), and I see the prices they’re asking for a car I probably won’t really even drive, and the lust turns to dust. Maybe I’ll just drive the PT Cruiser around in my driveway and pretend it’s a big old 1935 Studebaker.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Answers

Well my little experiment is over and tomorrow I will go back to writing my little stories. I already have three in the oven. Thank you all for your kind words, but what I was hoping for were more questions and mean comments......like Peggy gave me.

Peggy said;
This is your saddest entry yet! Of course you need feedback about your stories in order to know if people are enjoying it. Of course if you just want to write a stream of consciousness...blah,blah,blah just to hear yourself talk, you wouldn't care about feedback!


O.K., I’m not sure why you think It is sad that I wanted some input. I was simply feeling dry on Friday and thought this would be an easy way for others to help me write a couple of stories, to juice up my creativity so to speak. It kind of worked.

Peggy said;
Okay Alan, when I told you I didn't mind if you told the universe about my prosthetic eye(that’s how we "eyeballers" call'em)I DID NOT give you permission to use a PICTURE of me!!!


Who said that was your picture? Maybe I was using that to illustrate the one-eyed drunk. At least I didn’t use the worst one I found.

Russell said;
I have enjoyed every one of your stories except the sports. Not that they weren't written well or interesting to people who are sports fans. Just not my cup of tea.


I beg to differ, I think the sports related stories were just as interesting because they weren’t really about sports. They were mostly about me, and we all know I’m really interesting.

Peggy said;
Come on Alan, I told you to ask MB about the scratched-car-in-the-church-lot story. Or ask Patti about riding in the backseat with my kids and Trish as a baby and the "chant" they came up with as Mom drove, speeding around corners! Do you remember when mom learned to drive? Mrs. Nelson taught her as a bunch of us kids stood in the back seat of the old black car. I don't think she'll ever give up her keys, they signify freedom to her.


I think I’d get into trouble if I started doing stories based on other peoples memories. Please re-read my disclaimer, there is nobody to blame when I get it wrong except me. For example, I remember Mrs. Nelson’s car as being Green. The one thing I do remember is that it was a 1955 Pontiac and that the back seat seemed huge to a five year old kid. By the way, isn’t it interesting how you have to strap kids into a car seat these days, and do it right, or you’ll be arrested and the kids put into foster care. We were tossed into the back of cars like so many loose sacks of potatoes. It taught us to hang on and look out for ourselves.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Letters to the Editor

I get an average of fifteen hits on this per day, it's not a high traffic site. At least two of them are mine because I check to see if it's published O.K. and almost always have to go back and fix something. that leaves thirteen. I have ten brothers and sisters. If all of them read it I'd be very surprised. The only people I'm sure read it are Peggy, Laura, Garet, Russell, and Anonymous. The math works out, ten siblings and two friends plus one floater. So my request of anyone who reads this over the weekend is to click on the comment section at the bottom of this post (right where it says Comments) and leave either a comment or a question. Any question is alright, any comment is alright, just go to the comments and say hello if that's all you have. You do not have to leave your name, you can do it anonymously. There is no way I can trace it back to you, so you can be mean or nice. Either way, I would like some feedback. Writing these little stories is fun, but I'd like to hear if it's fun for others or if others have any questions that don't relate to any particular story. I will answer all starting Monday. Thanks.

By the way is everyone terrified of my mother? I got no comments on that story about her driving.
Thank You. No more comments on this post.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Karaoke Night in Wilton Manors.

A thick haze of cigarette smoke, the cloying odor of stale beer, the hideous sound of a screaming alley cat in heat coming from the speakers. Yes! It’s karaoke night in Wilton Manors, Florida.

Tuesday is the worst night of television for my tastes. That is why Mark and I usually watch a movie on that night. Mark suggested that we go out for a couple of drinks this past Tuesday night instead of a movie, and I agreed.

We were sitting in ‘Bill’s Filling Station’ minding our own business, and suddenly the juke box music stopped in the middle of a song. After a few minutes somebody stepped up on the stage and asked for the first singer. We had stumbled into karaoke night. I should have figured it out when I saw everybody with their noses buried in books all around the bar. They were picking out songs with which to torment me. Karaoke creeps me out, and after about ten minutes of listening I feel like taking lime wedges out of the vodka drinks and stuffing them into my ears. Usually it’s a lesbian doing a bad Melissa Etheridge or a gay man with a phony twang singing Country and Western. Please, don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I’m saying I could do any better, I can’t. As for Mark, he sounds like a badly rusted wheel slowly turning on its hub.

After sitting through three ‘American Idol’ rejects, I suggested we go to ‘Boom!’, the bar across the street. When we walked in the music videos were playing, and I ordered our drinks while Mark made a quick toilet stop. After a few minutes the videos stopped. I looked around and asked "What’s happening?" The bartender looked at me and said "karaoke".

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Would You Like Fr'eyes' With That Hot-Dog?

When Mark and I had our hot-dog stand, we had to endure many idiots in the name of good business. We had the lady from Jamaica who ordered a hot-dog and then complained because she saw Mark grab hot-dogs with his bare hands and throw them into the boiling water. I explained to her that Marks hands were clean (We were clean freaks) and anyway boiling water would kill anything that might have got by the hand soap. When it became clear nothing would calm her, I stepped aside and turned it over to Mark. He promptly opened the cash register, threw some money at her and told her to "Get the hell out of here". We’re still not sure if her refund was accurate. Then there was the crotchety old white man who was leaning in the window over the grill complaining about how our cook, John, made his sandwich. No matter what I offered the old fool, he didn’t care. All he wanted to do was bitch. So as I took the mans food away, Mark opened the cash drawer, grabbed a handful of money, threw it out of the window at the old bastard and told him to get lost. Again, we’re not sure his refund was accurate. All I could hear as he walked away sputtering, was the word ‘nigger’, I had to grab the knives from out of Mark’s hand.

I of course was much more calm with customers than Mark. After years of dealing with frustrated computer users in my previous career, I developed a knack for handling people. I believe my dad used to call it ‘bullshitting’. One drunk seemed intent on causing problems and wouldn’t leave the ordering window, so I took him aside to have a conversation. Half way through our conversation he did something that he thought would really get a rise out of me. He popped out his glass eye. My employees and customers all ran away screaming as if somehow the eye would come after them. It didn’t bother me at all and I finally convinced him to leave.

There is good reason it didn’t shock, scare, or upset me. When I was a kid my older sister had to have her eye removed and replaced with a glass eye. As kids we were all aware of this, to my sister it was like arming her with another weapon with which to terrorize her little brother. When ever I got to be too much of an asshole she’d pop that thing out and come at me, holding the eye out in her hand and showing me the space in her head where it should have been. This would result in me running horrified through the house, screaming for my mother. Of course that only worked so many times before I got used to it and after a while all I’d do is snitch, "Mom! Peggy’s got her eye out again!".

You learn a lot of things in life and never know where you can use them. So I guess I owe my sister thanks for preparing me to deal with one eyed drunks.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Hell on Wheels

"Well, she's gonna get a ticket now, sooner or later
'Cause she can't keep her foot off the accelerator!
And everybody's saying that there's nobody meaner,
Than the little old lady from Tinley Park
She drives real fast and she drives real hard;
She's the terror of Oak Park Avenue"
'Jan and Dean, Little Old Lady From Pasadena, 1964'



I was talking to my mom today and she was telling me all about church on Sunday and her ‘Diversity’ group that she belongs to. I’m sure she is a special member of that group because not only is her son a ‘gay’ but his ‘partner’ is black. Never mind that when we were kids she hated the ‘Polacks’. When I mentioned that I hadn’t seen St. George church in many years, she replied, "Well next time......".
I know what that means ‘next time’. Every time Mark and I visit her she gets us into her ‘Scooby’ van under some pretext. She then proceeds to, as Mark calls it, ‘kidnap’ us and take us on a long tour of Tinley Park. I really don’t mind because I find it interesting how that place has changed over the years, and yet enough is still there to bring back memories. For Mark it’s an exercise in terror. He has never ridden in a car driven by an eighty five year old white woman before. Once on our way to my sisters house with Mark in the back seat screaming in fear like a little girl, she made a maneuver that made me proud. With every last bit of horsepower that old Dodge van could muster, she whipped around a corner just ahead of an oncoming vehicle.

Mark thinks her driving is related to her age and maybe that her eyesight is not as good as it used to be. I, however, know that she drives exactly the same today as she did when I was a kid. If you want to know where I got my stellar driving skills, it’s because she was one of my driving instructors when I was fifteen years old. The last time we visited her I suggested that we all go out for breakfast. Mom was happy to go, in fact she insisted that she drive. It took us about forty five minutes to get from her house to Oak Park Ave. and Ravinia Drive. Not because she drives slowly, no, because she was zipping all around Tinley Park. Up and down the streets of my childhood at a speed that made it a little hard to keep up with the narrative. Meanwhile in the back seat Mark looked like Buckwheat in the ‘Our Gang’ comedies after he’d just seen a ghost. He swears there will be no next time.

She drives fast and hard, she takes no prisoners, just get the hell out of Lila’s way.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Deviant Behavior




I have a deviated septum. I’m pretty sure I got it when I was walking home from St. George Catholic school almost fifty years ago. There was a kid from Bert Fulton public school walking past me in the opposite direction and when he went past he said "Catholic Schmatholic". I have no idea what that means, then or now, but I did know he meant it as an insult. So I did what any eight year old would do, I turned around and yelled back "public schmublic". Once again, I have no idea what it meant but it proved that I was a master of the witty comeback. As we kept moving further apart, we walked backwards yelling equally pithy insults about our respective religions at each other. At the time I didn’t know that the kids who went to public school weren’t members of the ‘Public’ religion. I figured each religion had its own school, Catholics, Lutherans,Methodists, and Publics. It made sense to an eight year old. When we were almost a block apart and the insults were nothing more than faint, distant, nonsensical gibberish, I felt it was safe to turn around and go on my way having stood up for the religion my parents had chosen for me. I was sure God and Jesus were proud of me.

I turned around and at that precise moment a tree that I apparently had been walking backwards toward met my nose and face with a force that knocked me on my ass. With blood and snot gushing from my nose I made my way home realizing that God and Jesus really didn’t give a crap if somebody made fun of the Catholic Church.

In those days parents didn’t coddle children and rush them to the emergency room for every little bump and scrape. To my mom the fact that blood was squirting out of my nose, and I had a perfect imprint of a tree trunk from my chin to my forehead, didn’t seem that out of the ordinary. She put some mercurochrome on my face and told me to "walk it off". That is why to this day, even though it’s not apparent looking at me, inside my nose the septum actually does a right turn. This causes me to have a very hard time breathing at night.

To rectify this I started using Breathe Right nasal strips when I go to bed. These are the strips that you stick on the outside of your nose and they pull your nostrils open for better air flow. Me being ‘Big Al’s’ son, I of course opted for the cheaper generic brand and not the authentic Breathe Right strips. That is until last week when I splurged and bought the real thing because the cheap ones kept falling off in the middle of the night.

They worked very well. The name brand strips stick tightly to the bridge of my nose. So tight in fact that yesterday, when I pulled it off in the morning the skin came off with it. This has resulted in giving me a really nasty appearance until the scabs go away. Maybe I can get some makeup and fix it up enough to show my face in public. Like in high school when the yearbook photographer airbrushed out all the pimples on my face including the one on my nose that you could see from outer-space.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Marlena

198? - 2007

What am I doing on this damn Amish farm?


Cheap bastard won't buy me bottled water.

'Dreaming of mouse stew'

Sitting up with her deathly ill sister, Amada.


Damn! I hate when I forget my shampoo.

How do I always end up at the end of the chow line?


Damn I love this Christmas thing, but why do they bother putting my paper around those boxes?


In 1989 Garet found an almost feral cat of indeterminate age scrounging food from the dumpsters behind the Marlin Beach Hotel. He managed to lure it over to him and talked her into his car. This was probably the start of Garet turning into a ‘Crazy Cat Lady’. I named her Marlena, this was probably the start of my mini ‘Crazy Cat Lady’ phase. She was a cranky cat who would slice you up with her claws, then bite you on the hand for good measure. I knew no one else would put up with her behavior so we kept her and over time she mellowed. She got along fine with the cats we had at the time, Amanda, Nina, and Terazza but after about thirteen years with me she developed a bad allergy to something in my house. Maybe she was allergic to me, I don’t know. I sent her to ‘Garets Home for Retired Cats’ in Michigan, where she lived her last five or so years in bucolic splendor as the dowager Queen of all Garets cats. She went peacefully This past Wednesday morning.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Hump Day

Another week, another hump day and another gigantic pizza. Every Wednesday Humpys Pizza has a special that I just can’t resist. For $9.50, including tax I can get any twenty inch pizza that Humpys makes. Twenty inches is huge, I have to open the hatchback on my PT Cruiser and slide it in there to get it home. It doesn’t fit in the front seat with me. This is our dinner every Wednesday evening, our post bar snack later that night, and our lunch Thursday afternoon. Even Molly gets exited and all I give her is the crusts, but then again dogs get exited over almost anything.

Yesterday Mark and I were wandering around Wilton Manors and stopped into a new pet store on the Drive. It was really cute, with puppies kept not in cages or pens, but in actual baby cribs with Plexiglas sides. The Plexiglas sides prevent them from getting their heads caught between the bars like real babies do in Chinese made cribs. Mark and I both fell in love with a pug that seemed to be begging us to rescue her from puppy hell. We totally fell in love with Pugsley, and you can’t put a price on love. Unless that price is $2,000. When I started asking prices on the puppies in the store, I tried not to look like a deer in headlights. The man casually told me that the puppies ran from $1,400 to $2,400. After I dragged Mark out of the store (He still thought there was a possibility that the pug would be ours.) I explained to him that no way would I ever pay for a dog when perfectly good dogs are being given away at shelters everywhere.

Which brings me to Ellen. Ellen Degeneres apparently got a dog from a shelter then ran afoul of their rules resulting in them taking it back. I’m sure she has a good heart and was doing what she thought was right until things went wrong. I have no feelings about Ellen and her problems with the dog or the shelter where she got it. My problem with the story is that I was watching the NBC Nightly News the other night and their third story was a sobbing Ellen and how she sobbed on her TV show. Putin is shaking hands with Ahmadinejad, Bush is talking about wanting to start world war three, the polar ice caps are melting like an ice cube on a Florida sidewalk and NBC decides that Ellen sobbing is worth a three minute chunk the nightly news.

And they wonder why ratings for the evening news shows are falling.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Alan Rides the Short Bus

In the past I was often accused of being lazy and driving to places I should have walked to. Dennis swears that once I drove to the corner food store from my apartment on Halsted Street. The store was less than fifty yards from my front door and I don’t remember any such drive. I think he’s full of crap.

The truth is that I used to love to walk everywhere when I lived in Chicago. The only problem was whether or not I’d get to where I was going. Every spring in Chicago, as the temperature rises, well meaning folks who were reported missing after going off to the store are found in the thawing snow drifts.

The problem here in Florida is the opposite. For at least seven months out of the year we bake in a superheated, humid steam bath. I live three blocks from the supermarket, and only one block from a seven-eleven. The last time I walked to the store in the heat of August, I returned home with my clothes soaked in sweat and I needed the paramedics to administer oxygen. It’s true, I can hear the sirens all day long. It’s paramedics rushing to the latest fool who thought ‘it’s not that far, I’ll walk’. I was quite pleased to learn recently, that my little town was instituting a free passenger shuttle through town. The best part is it runs almost directly past my house and ends up in the middle of the ‘entertainment district’. So yesterday I decided to give it a try. Not too bad, just a short walk to the bus stop in front of the old peoples home behind my house. While I waited it did start to rain but the bus was on time and I didn’t get too wet.

The bus was driven by an old black man, and he had the radio on very loud. I assume because at his age his hearing might not be that good. That would not normally be a problem with me because most old black guys like the same music that this old white guy does. Unfortunately for me this old black guy was listening to Rush Limbaugh. I think I said something like, "Gee, I see your listening to Rush Limbaugh" or something innocent like that. His reply was, "you have to hear all sides of the issues". Damn liberal!

Before the bus made it’s way to my destination, in the ‘entertainment district’, it weaved it’s way through the entire town of Wilton Manors, to pick up the rest of the passengers. The only problem is I was the only passenger during the entire trip (the other person in picture was his relief driver). So for forty five minutes I sat and listened to Rush Limbaugh really loud, while I looked out the window at all the foreclosed houses for sale just to travel six blocks. I think next time I’ll bring ear plugs. Next time you ask? Yes, you don’t expect me to walk that far do you?