Friday, November 30, 2007

When Did They Build That?

Our visit to Sawgrass Mills shopping mall yesterday had me thinking about the frailty of our world. Sawgrass Mills was a state of the art shopping mall when it was built in 1990, and actually has been one of the top five Florida tourist destinations for years. Yet it has already been surpassed by another mall south of it in Miami.

When I was a teenager we hung out at Dixie Square Mall in Harvey, Illinois. It was the state of the art mall of it’s time, the first totally enclosed mall that I had ever seen. It opened in 1966, coinciding with me getting my drivers license, a perfect storm. That was where I bought all my records (old fashioned recording devices before I-Pods and CD’s), did all my Christmas shopping and picked up the fashionable clothes of the time.

In high school all the boys were wearing skin tight pants that left nothing to the imagination, and Beatle boots that had pointy toes with inch and a half heels. After one trip to the mall I came home looking and feeling really ‘groovy’ in my new Beatle boots. My dad had a different opinion, and told me that I looked like a ‘broad’, and made me return the cool shoes and go back to get some respectable ones.

Dixie Square lasted only twelve years before it went belly up, mostly because the town it was in had turned almost all black and the mall became known as a place whites didn’t go to. It will live on forever in film however, because it was used in the movie ‘The Blues Brother’s for the scene where they drive through it, destroying it. The problem is, they really did destroy it. The last I heard it was a derelict wreck still sitting on Dixie Highway, because the town of Harvey can’t afford to tear it down.

One of the things I don’t like about South Florida is that they have no respect for the past. One day you drive by a cute little house that’s been there for sixty or seventy years, the next time you drive by it’s gone and a new cookie-cutter townhouse is sitting there. Sometimes I sit in my yard and look at all the trees I planted and wonder what will happen after I’m gone. Will a bulldozer turn it into a flat vacant lot, perfect to build another townhouse? Or will it will find its way into the arms of another tree hugger like me. I'd like to think that the oak tree I planted will be here a hundred years from now.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Driving Miss Crazy

Alan: "Let’s take the expressway home."
Mark: "Okay."

Mark: "Do I turn left here?"
Alan: "No, do you see an expressway here?"

One mile later at the expressway.
Alan: "Turn left here."
Mark continues going straight.

Alan: "left, left, left, left, Turn left here!"
Mark: "Stop screaming at me."
That exchange happened yesterday while I was being driven around by the worst driver in the world, Mark. I do admit I might get a little sarcastic, but Mark brings that out in me. Yesterday Mark talked me into shopping at Sawgrass Mills, a super, duper, mall built ten miles out west, next to the everglades. Sawgrass Mills was built some years ago on what was once considered cheap, worthless swampland. This was before the politicians figured out that if you cram almost five and a half million people into an area, you had better protect the source of their drinking water, which is under that swampland.

Water is the last thing Mark was thinking of as he headed into the mall. He, as much as anybody, has taken George Bush’s encouragement to "go shopping more", to heart. As always when shopping with Mark, I forewarned him not to wear my feet out traipsing in and out of stores that we don’t need to go into. I have asked him in the past if he would just get one of those carts, with the chair on the front of it, and push me around the mall. That way he could shop even longer because I wouldn’t be worn out from walking. His reply is, "Wouldn’t you be embarrassed having your fat ass pushed around by a skinny little black man?" No....and I think I’d also like a beverage while I ride.

My tolerance for shopping is low. I get what I need, at the store that I know has it, and get the hell out. Mark has to look everything over, he needs to ‘compare’ things, he has to make sure he’s getting the absolute best price. It can take him thirty minutes to pick out a piece of crap that will soon end up as more clutter in our house. No matter how many times I tell him we don’t need something, he will still find an excuse to buy it.
So now after today’s trip to the mall, we have another set of dishes. that makes four sets of dishes that we only ever use one of. Also, Mark bought another watch to add to his collection of watches that he never wears. I think he bought some other things, but after an hour and a half, I went out and sat in the car and listened to some music until he was done. Sitting in the car was okay, but it is irritating, every two minutes, to have people drive up, honk, and ask "Are you leaving?". I had the keys, I could have.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

You Fight Like a Girl

It’s amazing how children are over-protected these days. They have to wear helmets when they ride their bikes, competitive games in gym class are discouraged. Parent’s think they’ve protected the kids from porn with computer programs and V-Chips, but trust me, they are like little Einstein’s when it comes to getting around things like that.

When I was a kid I learned not to ride my bike at breakneck speed, around a corner with gravel in the middle of it, because I slid twenty feet on my face and side through that gravel. I also learned about dodge ball and justice from Mr. K our gym teacher. One kid pulled another boys shorts down as he was throwing the dodge ball. Mr. K made him play the rest of the game in his jock strap, and made him stay in the middle no matter how many times we hit him. By the time we were done his ass cheeks were crimson. As far as porn for kids in the 1950’s, we had Paul, a neighbor kid down the street. He apparently knew all of his dad’s hiding places. I’ll never get over the deck of porno playing cards, especially the joker.

You can’t protect your kids from outside influences if they don’t want you to. The biggest event in Tinley Park when I was a kid was the ‘Labor Day Fall Festival’, or the ‘carnival’ as we called it. It included carnival rides, a parade and fireworks. One year they also had ‘ladies wrestling’. My best friend at the time, Arthur, and his dad made plans to go see the lady wrestlers, and they invited me to go along. At first my mom said no, but I worked on her for hours, telling her all kinds of reasons she should let me go. I then tried my dad, and for some reason he thought it was a fine idea for me to go see ‘lady wrestlers’. So it was that my mom was over-ruled.

We pushed our way up front to the side of the ring which was set up in the middle of the carnival midway. In the ring were two of the meanest and hardest women I had ever seen, and would never see again until I met drag queens. The bell rang, and I stood there totally mesmerized at the scene unfolding before me. I was totally impressed with how the one woman, after being almost beaten, came back and kicked the ass of the other. The fight did include hair pulling, which I considered totally fair and in hindsight should have realized doesn’t work in a real fight.

You see, I was so impressed, I figured I could do exactly what that woman did in a fight and beat anyone. To test my theory a few days later, I challenged a kid in my class to a fight. The kid I challenged, I thought, would be an easy mark. He always seemed sort of meek and quiet, also he had red hair, which for some reason I associated with wimps. At the appointed time, at a location halfway between school and my house, we met to fight. There was a pretty good crowd of kids anticipating a good fight. They didn’t get one. I didn’t even get one punch in, because as I was going for his hair to pull it like I saw at the ladies wrestling match, he punched me in the face. I fell straight to the ground and he jumped on me and proceeded to beat the living crap out of me.

So what was the lesson I learned from this? Don’t fight like a girl.....No. Pulling hair is not a good strategy.....No. Professional wrestling is fake..... No.

No, I learned that getting your ass kicked is really humiliating, and that you really shouldn’t ever pick a fight. Let them pick it.....then run.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Ku Klux Klowns

For most people clowns were an amusing distraction until John Gacy created an image problem. We all grew up watching Bozo and before Bozo there was Clarabell on the Howdy Doody Show. To this day McDonalds is still trying to put a clowns face on it’s unhealthy food. In our house we learned early on that clowns weren’t always funny. It didn’t take John Gacy to wake us up.

My dad and three of his buddies from the Knights of Columbus, (I don’t think they’re affiliated with the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan) started a little clown troop back in the 1950’s. The reason given was to entertain children, but I think it was a way to get out of the house and knock back a few beers while they ‘rehearsed’. Sometimes for adult parties they would do a skit dressed up as gorillas, and other times they would dress up as women. I distinctly remember trying on my dads falsies that he kept in his clown trunk in our basement. For the young people, falsies were what women used before silicone implants.

My dad and his clown buddies would provide entertainment at various functions like parades, Christmas parties, picnics, and children’s wards at hospitals. Before he would leave to do this, he’d put his makeup and costume on at home. Because we didn’t put a hold on our bad behavior while he did this, often times he would have to mete out discipline while in full clown makeup. There is nothing scarier than a clown in big shoes chasing you around the house with a belt. What really bothered me about my dad being a clown was that he would be really nice and funny to all these strange kids, and they would laugh and be having a good time. I just wondered, why couldn’t he be that funny at home? The answer of course is that if he had spent more than a few hours with those kids he’d be chasing them around, cursing at them, and probably blow his big clown-hair wig.

I do have to admit that he and his clown buddies did throw pretty good parties. They just never had any clowns at them.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Turkey Shoot

Thanksgiving is a great holiday. After a morning of inane Macy’s Parade coverage merging into afternoon football games of questionable interest, we all sit down to a table overflowing with great food that I didn’t have to cook.

When I lived alone, I always had the philosophy that food should never take longer to cook than it does to eat it. This is why I stayed skinny back then, and probably why I’ve had health problems in the past. The last ten years have changed that somewhat. I now think, if Mark hasn’t been in the kitchen cooking for the last hour, dinner will probably suck.

Thanksgiving around here is much like it was when I was a kid. My mom would get up at four a.m. to start the turkey. That was because she had to cook a fifty pound turkey to feed about a hundred of her children, relatives, and friends. Mark starts his turkey at eight in the morning and continues cooking all day. He doesn’t get stressed because he started the process of Thanksgiving dinner the day before and many of the dishes are already done. Still he is in the kitchen for most of the day preparing more stuff to eat, and believe it or not he is happy to be there. I of course am happy he’s in there, because I’m sitting in the living room dozing off while watching football and not being bothered by Mark.

One thing about Mark, is that he loves to feed people. Unfortunately, he loves to feed our dog Molly too. What Mark doesn’t understand is that a dog will keep eating turkey until it explodes. A few years ago, while I was at work, Mark decided that Molly was a better garbage disposal than the actual garbage can. After four days of eating leftover turkey, he took the carcass and stripped it of all edible meat. Then he gave all that meat to Molly, who Mark says really wanted it. Molly has a brain about the size of a walnut, and most of that is used up as the senses of taste and smell. A few hours after Molly’s turkey banquet, she gave Mark back the gift that kept on giving, diarrhea. Diarrhea so bad that she couldn’t get to the door and convince Mark to let her out in time. Like an out of control fire hose, she let loose, covering parts of the living room and kitchen. Mark has a weak stomach, so his solution to the mess he now had to deal with, was to leave the house. Leave it until I came home from work and cleaned it up.

I’m glad that it didn’t actually happen on Thanksgiving day, because the smell and mess that I encountered upon entering the house would then always be linked with the holiday. Like the smell of pine always reminds me of Christmas, I’d always think of Thanksgiving while picking up Molly’s poop from a neighbors front yard.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving Weekend

"The news media is sick and needs help badly"
Tammy Faye Baker.

News organizations and reporters are among the laziest people in the world. Every year they trot out the same old stories and tell you it’s news. On the fourth of July they show the video of a dummy getting it’s hand blown off by a firecracker. On December 26th you’ll see footage of the big earth shaking story, people returning Christmas presents. This week we will be told that traveling is going to be tough and they’ll show long lines at the airport with people laying around on the floor because of canceled flights. We’ll see video of traffic jams all over the country. On the Friday after Thanksgiving we will see the familiar story of people getting up in the middle of the night to stand in line to go shopping.

I’m positive that for all these stories, they are showing stock footage that they shot in 1998. They probably update the video every ten years or so, only because of changing fashion and the automobiles would look too dated, otherwise we’d still be seeing film from the mid seventies.

I hope everyone has a safe and uneventful trip to Thanksgiving dinner this year. My trip will be short, from in front of the television to the table. The only hard part will be the cleanup. Mark cooks dinner and makes an enormous mess in the kitchen and I clean it all up afterwards. You’d think that Mark had to mud wrestle the turkey before he put it in the oven, from all the mess he leaves behind. But what the hell, it’s a small price to pay for a good meal. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


I don’t believe in karma. If it did exist we’d see certain people paying dearly for their offenses, instead they just seem to live on and die a normal death without ever receiving their just deserts.

I can’t complain too loudly about the morons and numskulls that I had working for me at our hot dog stand because when I was a sixteen year old kid, I was one of those morons and numskulls.

A neighbor from across the street, Ray Burns, hired me when I was fifteen for one dollar an hour to work in his pizza parlor in Oak Forest, Illinois. This was my first experience working at a real job. Working with older men at the pizza parlor (they were seventeen and eighteen) was new for me. They told dirty jokes, talked of girls they had conquered and picked on me mercilessly. This helped me learn to have a thick skin and let certain things just roll off of my back. By the time I had worked there for a year, I learned to give as good as the older guys gave to me.

One day as I was being harassed by the pizza boy and the delivery boy, I came up with a good insult that apparently hit a nerve. I don’t remember what it was, but after I returned to my business at the sandwich counter, a wad of pizza dough came flying from across the kitchen and smacked me in the back of the head.

!Attention!, this is where I become an asshole and moron!
I went into the back room where the dough was kept in large refrigerated vats. Digging into the first vat I came up with a large handful of raw dough and from my defensive position in the back room I let it fly, hitting the delivery guy directly in the back. He of course retaliated. This went on back and forth for quite a while. When I’d run out of doughy ammunition, I’d pull another vat out of the refrigerator and continue the battle.

When it was all over, I looked around the store and realized what we had done. There was dough everywhere, hanging from the clock, dripping off of the equipment, it was a mess and it needed to be cleaned up before the boss came back. For my part, I simply slipped off my apron, walked out of the door and went home, never returning.

Now if my name was Earl, Ray Burns would be high on my list of people I have to make things right with, but it’s not, and he’s probably dead by now. So in my wizened old age I just try to be as nice as I can be to people, especially people who live near me and I have to see every day.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Dog Day Afternoon

I don’t like high maintenance people. Sometimes Mark is too much. He’ll see me moving around the house doing things and for some reason it bothers him, probably because I’m not doing those things for him. When he sees me running around he stops me and insists that I come talk to him. This usually interrupts my train of thought enough so that I forget at least one thing I had intended to do.

That’s why I love my dog, Molly. She lays around like a lump most of the time, needing only food in her bowl, a place to poop and chewy strips. She is a low maintenance dog, no foo foo hair-do’s for her. She doesn’t require constant combing and brushing, her hair doesn’t need cutting every month, and she definitely is not a picky eater. Although she can eat beef stew and leave all the vegetables uneaten, and licked clean on the bottom of the bowl.

One thing Molly does require, is a bath at least every once in a while. When I can smell her from the other room I know it’s time to bathe her. She knows it’s coming when I take off her collar and get a pile of towels. It’s like I’m taking a condemned man to the electric chair as we head out to the backyard.

Once I get her hosed down and covered with soap she is resigned to the fact that it’s a done deal. Her only revenge is to do the doggy shake when I’m least expecting it and spraying me with soapy water. Today was Molly’s bath day and She’s been scrubbed up all clean, even her feet and tail washed. Now that she’s been bathed and dried and it’s over, I think I might hose down Mark. He’s been a real stinker lately.