I felt a little bad about making my dad look like a loudmouth who
swore a lot in yesterday's post, so here is my attempt at softening him
up a bit.
I was about four years old, maybe five, when dad and mom took us on a
trip to an exotic land. Wisconsin. Now it might not seem so exotic, but
to a gaggle of kids who never went further than grandma and grandpa's
house it was a land of wonder. Early on a Saturday morning we were all
piled into the 1953 Plymouth for the trip. My spot was in the rear
window-well where I was expected to sleep the whole way. I didn't, it
was too exciting. After hours of driving on hilly two lane roads we
arrived at the lakefront cottage, or I should say, nearly lakefront. It
was a small shack at the top of a hill, the lake at least a hundred
yards away. I remember walking in and looking up. There was one large
light bulb in the exact center of the 'cottage', and below were walls
that did not go all the way up, that divided the thing into four rooms.
It didn't matter that the place was a dump, we loved it.
thing we had noticed as we drove through the small town nearest the
lake, is that they were having a carnival. My dad managed to tamp down
the clamor for stopping by promising we'd go the next day. Well the next
day came and instead of going to the carnival, and riding the
tilt-a-whirl until we puked, dad took us to go visit some old friends of
his from the army. We were not happy, so dad again promised that we'd
stop on the way back to the cottage. After an afternoon of beer and
adult conversation, punctuated by frequent calls of "When are we
going?", dad finally put us all in the car for the ride back.
Unfortunately, as we rounded the curve on the road where the carnival
was being held, it was obvious that it had closed. They were already in
the process of tearing it all down. The cries of anguish must have got
to my dad, because he turned into the field where the roustabouts were
busy dismantling the rides. He parked the car, and got out. From the
back seat I could see him talking to various men. They were pointing and
gesturing, and after a few minutes dad started to walk back to the car.
Behind him I could see the tilt-a-whirl, and the merry-go-round blaze back
to life. I don't know how much he paid those guys to open it up just for
us, but if you knew my dad it must have hurt. He wasn't the kind of guy to throw money around.
This morning while I was walking the dogs, I started thinking about my dad. He left us twelve years ago today, and certain sayings he often used came to mind. Dad was a Rembrandt when it came to cursing and spewing out cliché expressions of disgust, or impatience. It is from him that I learned most of my favorite swear words. But he was more than just a cursing, potty mouth. He had set lines that he would use all the time. For instance, I remember riding home from my grandmother's house in our old 1953 Plymouth. Each time my dad caught a red light he would start cursing, and say "Turn Irish already." This is how I learned that the Irish were a race of green people, and that if you turned into an Irishman you were always free to pass through an intersection. It took a few years for me to realize that I might have made an incorrect assumption.
Dad had a lot of other quaint, if not vulgar, expressions that he liked to use. If you were supposed to be doing something, and dad caught you just farting around instead of doing the task at hand, he would tell you to, "Shit or get off the pot." And then there was one of my favorites that he would use on me a lot when I was a teenage punk. When I would act the fool, dad would look at me with a withering stare and ask, "Whaddaya, fuckin' goofy?" Now I had a smart ass reply for that one, though I never used it. But under my breath I'd always reply, "No, he's a dog."
If any of you, meaning my ten brothers and sisters, or anybody else for that matter, has a favorite 'dad-ism' please share it with all of us in the comment section. 'Mom-isms' are also encouraged.
I am standing up in my bed sucking on the bolts that my dad has used to keep my broken crib together. It is a line of five bolts and nuts along the left hand side of the split railing that is supposed to keep me safely in the crib. I'm pretty sure that is the earliest memory that I have of my life, standing up in a bed that today would be called a safety hazard. There was no Consumer Product Safety Commission back in 1950, no recalled cribs, no test to see if the thing could even hold my hefty little ass. Dad did the best he could with it, he patched the thing up with hardware from the Western Tire and Auto store. I'm pretty sure that at least three of my younger sisters, and brothers used the same crib. The bolts didn't seem to hurt them either.
Another ancient memory that I have is my dad taking me, and my older brother over to the lumber yard to buy us a set of bunk-beds. At least I think it was a lumber yard. I was only about three years old so it could have been a furniture store that sold lumber too. Anyway, I ended up sleeping in those bunk-beds until the day I moved away from my parents house. I never knew what a good bed felt like until many years into my adult life when I started having 'sleepovers' at other peoples houses.
Mark and I are planning our next home improvement project. It involves redecorating our bedroom, maybe installing new windows, and best of all, getting a new king sized bed. Sure a queen sized would be fine if all I had to think about was my fat ass, and Mark's extremely skinny ass, but we have others to think of. First there's that gigantic dog, Chandler, who likes to sleep at the foot of my bed, who rolls back and forth all night until I am pushed to the edge. Then there is Sasha. She sleeps first on my pillow, and then moves over to Mark's pillow. It goes back and forth like that all night until I am scrunched halfway down the bed, and over to the edge. I figure a king sized bed might just take care of that problem. Although it was for that reason I didn't adopt little Lola earlier this year. No room on the bed.
Sorry, no photo today. One of my brothers was telling me a story this week about how he got in trouble at home when he was a kid. Actually he was a teenager, and he did something that pissed my dad off so much that my dad was going to belt him. Being wise about such things after so many years in that house, my brother took off out the back door with my dad in pursuit. What amazed me is that my dad chased him on foot for almost a mile and a half. A 40+ year old man almost caught up with a teenage boy. Which is why I always kept my car keys with me when I was a teenager. Here is a sketch I made of one of those chase scenes. It's me running out of the house with my dad in pursuit brandishing his belt, and his mother screaming out the door at him.
About a month ago I was sitting in my big, fluffy, red recliner and I noticed that I was sweating. A quick check of the thermostat revealed that sure enough, it was seventy eight degrees in the house. I like it around seventy four. In fact I can detect a variance of two degrees out of my comfort zone by the amount of sweat on my brow, or as I like to refer to it, glow. That evening I was glowing.
Something was obviously wrong so I checked the circuit breakers. They were fine. I checked the settings on the thermostat. They were right where I wanted them. Finally I opened the door to the closet where the air handler sits, and checked the condensate pump. Checking the condensate pump consists of giving it a little kick with my foot. Sure enough, as soon as my toe hit the thing, the air kicked on. So I took the cover off the pump and fiddled with the little switch in there, and for a week or so it worked fine. Then it started acting up on a daily basis, and I started fiddling with it every day. Finally it would quit hourly, and I decided to try and fix the thing. Now I worked on computer equipment for twenty five years, and I always think I can fix anything, so I reached in and grabbed the little switch that was causing all the trouble. Sparks flew off my finger tips, and a burning, tingling sensation ran up my arm. I had neglected to disconnect it from the electric. I've been shocked many times during my career as a computer technician so this didn't really bother me. I simply blew out the flames on my fingers, dipped them in some cold water, and continued my attempt to repair it.
Funny thing about these condensate pumps. It seems that they are all made quite cheaply over in China. Out of the thirty one consumer reviews on the Home Depot web site, twenty five rated the pump they bought there as crap. I can't wait to review the one I just bought.
I liked the high school I went to way back in the 1960's. It was relatively new, and modern, and best of all I knew most of the kids from grade school. One thing that my nephews and nieces who have gone there since might find odd, is that there were only two black students in the whole school back then. One of them was a boy who rode the short bus, and the other one was an attractive girl whose name I cannot remember. You would think I could remember her name because she was responsible for one of my more embarrassing moments in that school. One day while sitting in the school library this girl and I were holding hands across the table, and talking. Suddenly she loudly blurted out, "Your hands are soft as a baby's ass. Don't you ever do any work?" Of course I worked. I had a part time job in a pizza joint after school, and besides that I did chores around the house. But she was right, I had soft hands. I don't know why, but it runs in the family. We have soft skin.
What got me thinking about this girl Monday afternoon, was Mark. Mark wasn't even in the house, but he had me working. I had been out in the yard tending his tomato patch earlier, and I had cleaned up the mess he made in the kitchen that morning. It was when I was on my hands and knees, scrubbing his bathroom floor with a sponge and a can of Comet, that I flashed on that black girl back in high school. Oh if she could see me now, scrubbing, weeding, and washing dishes. She would probably remark on how soft my hands have stayed all these years. It must be the lotion.
Sometimes your day just starts out so weird you feel you possibly should have stayed in bed. Friday started out raining, so I fed the cats, and told the dogs they'd have to wait for their walks. You see the rain was coming down in torrents, and when I checked the radar it showed that there would be a break in about fifteen minutes.
"Fifteen minutes Chandler, and then it's your turn."
Chandler knows a lot of words, and wait is one of them. However waiting is not one of the things he does well. So while I was out back feeding the cats Chandler was at the front gate ready to go. In fact he was whining, and pawing at the gate. When I opened it, the reason was obvious. A half drowned rat was lying on it's back wiggling, and waving it's legs in a death throe just outside the gate. I immediately went back into the house to retrieve one of Mark's kitchen tongs, and a plastic bag. With the kitchen tongs I picked the poor thing up by the tail and deposited it into the bag, which I then deposited into the garbage.
The scent of a dying rat must have got Chandler's instincts up into high gear because within two minutes of starting our walk he lunged into the bushes. He was so proud of himself when he came out of the bushes with a lizard dangling from his mouth.
"Drop it!" I yelled.
"C'mon Chandler, give daddy the lizard."
He wasn't giving it up, and continued strutting down the street with the lizard squirming and fighting to get free. It was not to be. With a quick shake of his head, Chandler dispatched the lizard. In the process of dying the lizard released his bladder. He pissed in Chandlers mouth, I could see it running out and down his jowls. This caused poor Chandler to vomit the contents of his stomach all over the street.
One good thing about the cloud burst that happened while Chandler was retching. It quickly washed the vomit from the pavement, and when I walked Sasha an hour later it was all gone.
It's kind of spooky late at night when I walk Chandler. From the strange cars that occasionally pass by, to the crazy critters that meander around in the dark, it can be scary. The spook factor is probably why Sasha refuses to go for a walk at night and relieves herself in Mark's shower instead. During one walk last year Chandler stopped by one of his favorite sewers. Every time we pass it he has to stop and sniff the thing, only this time when he put his nose to the sewer grate a strange growling sound came from below. Chandler and I both jumped back. Not knowing what the hell was down there, an alligator, a snake, or maybe some kind of exotic lizard, I decided to grab my dog and get gone.
Over time that incident faded from my thoughts, and Chandler continued to sniff the sewer grate when we'd walk by it. Last night he paid special attention to that sewer. He started whining, and pawing at the grate, so I shone my flashlight down there. Looking back up at me through the holes in the sewer cover were two cute little bandit eyes. There was a raccoon down there, and instead of running off into the sewer pipe, it reached up and tried to touch Chandler's nose. Who knew? There are raccoons living in the sewers. Rabid, flea infested, yet extremely cute raccoons. What a crazy thing to see down there. Next thing you know, there will be alligators in the New York sewer system.
Six and a half years ago Hurricane Wilma blew through here, and in the process leveled the fence between my house and the house to the west of me. The storm also left me without water for four days, and no electric or phone for two weeks. It was not pleasant, and if I had the means I would move back to Chicago in a heartbeat. Unfortunately I'm stuck here in this false paradise called Florida.
For these last six and a half years I have been trying to get the woman who owns the property next door to go halves with me on a new fence. Right after the hurricane my brother and I, screwed, nailed, and duct taped the damn thing back up. That was supposed to be temporary, yet here it still sits. My neighbor's excuse for not putting up a new fence is the same every year, "I want to wait until after the hurricane season. A new fence will just be blown down any way." The fact is that the old fence is falling down from it's own weight, and I'm afraid it might crush somebody. As dangerous as it looks, I refuse to pay the full bill seeing as it sits on her property. So I've taken a stop gap measure. Yesterday I took a box of three inch screws, my screw gun, and went over into her yard and did my best to keep the damn thing from falling over the next time a possum crawls along the top of it. I think I did a fine job.
Seven thirty in the morning and Chandler and I are just rounding the corner of our street, finishing up his walk. There in the middle of the street are a gaggle of my neighbors. There is Mandy and her dog Dandy, the guy from Saint Louis whose name I've never learned, and the nice, black lesbian couple who live five doors down. On the lawn of the triplex, across and halfway down the street from my house, sit a half a dozen black SUV's. All around the SUV's are men and women in black t-shirts with various acronyms emblazoned across their backs. "What's up?" I ask. The guy from Saint Louis fills me in. "I heard it all. They told him to open the door, and before he could open it, they beat it down with a battering ram." "It's the guy from New Hampshire. The guy who lives in the back apartment. They got him for kiddie porn." Mandy adds. The guy from Saint Louis excitedly continues. "The one cop told him that they had been chatting on the internet for months, swapping dirty photos of kids." "He goin' away for a long time. I don't like cops, but I'm glad they got him." One of the girls from the corner chimes in.
I know. Ewwwww, what a piece of shit this guy is. None of us like this sort of thing, and I would never defend somebody who would take advantage of a child. My question is, what is it that makes these guys think the guy they're chatting with isn't a cop? It's like the newscaster here in Miami who made a date with a fourteen year old boy to meet in a K-Mart parking lot and was busted. Turned out that the 'kid' was actually a cop. Honestly, I don't think any fourteen year old girl or boy sits around thinking it would really be cool to do it with some grizzled old dude. Unless that kid is another grizzled old dude, with a badge.
Sure I learned a few things from the nuns when I was a kid, but nothing that was relevant to my future. They taught me how to take apart a sentence and put all the words on little lines that forked off from each other. I think they called it diagramming the sentence. To this day I have never had an employer ask me to do that. But never mind all that, I'm talking about what I've learned from life that I am able to apply to the here and now.
First of all I've learned that I don't have to answer the ringing telephone. I have an answering machine, and it works real nice. If the call is important I will get back to that caller sooner or later. Now if I could only get Mark to realize that. He loves to pick up the phone, hit the on button, and hand it to me without finding out who the hell is on the other end.
I've also learned that I don't have to be nice to the people who come to my door pushing their religion. They are just like cats, if you are nice to them they just keep coming back. When I lived on a hippie commune back in 1971, Jehovah's Witnesses used to come by and try to sell us their load of crap. Just for entertainment value we would invite them in, and sit around the kitchen table arguing points of fact with them. We never got them to crack, but a number of our hippie roommates did eventually convert and go all Jehovah's Witness on us. As far as I know they still follow that craziness.
Finally, one of the most important things I have learned in my sixty two years, is that farts aren't always farts. I don't think I have to explain that to you, other than to say I've been kind of sick the last few days.
Over the last few weeks folks have been dropping around me like flies in an insecticide factory. Not dropping dead, but succumbing to the 'bug', the dreaded winter cold. All day long you could hear the coughing, hacking, and choking of the infected, but I continued to go my merry way, totally free of this plague. Every where I went somebody would be missing, and when you asked what happened to them the answer would always be, "Sick, out sick." Well that all ended this past weekend. It started with a little tickle at the back of my throat, and slowly built up to a racking cough. Uncontrollable coughing jags that would ultimately end up in a gigantic phlegm ball popping up from deep in my lungs. It seems to be subsiding as of Monday, and the green balls of sputum are growing increasingly smaller. I'm just glad it never moved up into my sinuses, and I didn't have to suffer the watery eyes, sneezing, and rivers of snot that come with a head cold. I am so lucky.
When we last left Alan on Photo Friday, I was posing for a nice photo of me trying to wire up a new ceiling fan in the rental unit. The instructions to the damn thing were wrong, identifying what was a white wire with a red label as a white wire with a white label. Instead of figuring out what the hell the instructions were actually telling me, I returned to our apartment and posted the nice photo of myself. I figured that if I took a break and returned to the job after a while, the instructions might make more sense. About an hour later I was back at it. I climbed up the ladder and continued to fiddle with the connections when suddenly the wires disappeared from my hands. The fan was falling.
It's funny how accidents can seem to take such a long time to unfold, yet in reality they only take a second. As slowly as it moved in my mind, my hands couldn't come close to catching up with the fan that was now plummeting towards the floor. It crashed with a loud clang, and bounced across the room.
Shit I thought, How bad could it be? I climbed down off the ladder, and picked up what was left of the fan that Mark had purchased.
As I walked into the bedroom of our apartment Mark asked, "How bad is it?"
Apparently the loud crash of the fan hitting the floor, and the sound of my cursing had alerted Mark that there was trouble. I looked around the room and both dogs were cowering in the corner.
It was bad, really bad. The flying saucer shaped motor had been flattened on one side. A small dent decorated the other side, and the part that the fan blades attached to was seriously bent.
"That's it! I'm through.... hack, hack..... I'll never again.... wheeze..."
As Mark tried to choke out his rage, I made a quick exit back to the other apartment.
After four hours of bending, twisting, and pounding with a hammer, I managed to get the fan nearly back to the shape it was when it was removed from the box. It isn't quite symmetrical, and one of the fan blades comes precariously close to rubbing against the housing, but it works. Mark came over, took a look at it, and gave it his blessing. Luckily for me he only looked at it from the good side.