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Archive for January, 2010

I like Friday mornings, with it’s finality to the work week and the promise of two whole days without dead lines and profit margins. Fridays are also special in that the Boys of the Breakfast Club meet every Friday at The Butcher Block, a tradition that goes back over 25 years.

At 6:00 in the morning it’s  probably a good thing the sun hasn’t had a chance to cast it’s illuminating presence over this end of town. Bits of litter from a Western Waste Management Truck blow down the empty street that passes behind the building. The din of the traffic from the elevated portion of Interstate 70 whines in my ears. The rhythmic thump of rubber tires  speeding across the expansion joints of the highway above makes its way to the neighborhood down below.

My nose burns as climb I from the warmth of my truck, I take my first deep breath of a mid winter morning air.  The smell of packing houses and the sewage treatment plant assault my nose. Have you ever filled your lungs with the  aromatic  pungency of rendered animal fat and human waste?  What better way to prepare the olfactory glands for breakfast at The Block.

Pot holes dot the parking lot like craters on the surface of the moon. In the early morning hue that period before dawn and midnight; I can see the red glow of a cigarette  intensify as someone draws in, giving life to the ember. Choreographed by years of practice, the man flicks the filtered end knocking the ash to the ground. A plume of smoke and vapor rise upward from his face, he exhales directing the cloud from the side of his mouth.

White frozen puddles display intricate designs that resemble delicate unfurled ferns etched in paper thin glass, I shatter them as I make my way across the parking lot. The windows of the Block are opaque with dew, as the moisture inside condenses on the cold plate windows.  Like a proclamation in Black Sharpie on cardboard scotch taped to the glass door, the business hours are posted;  Mon. – Sat. 5:00 am to 2:30 pm; Now Open on Sundays.

I stomp my feet in an effort to knock any remaining bits of etched ice from my work boots, at my feet I see the image of a pink concrete pig inlaid into the side walk, I have no idea what the image means, or why it is there. I enter my private sanctuary, the smell of grill cooked eggs and bacon replace the unpleasant odors saturating the air in the parking lot.

Mickey, the owner is wearing a blue and white  soda jerk hat, grease stains make the original light blue, dark in areas. Mickey gives me a shout, I give him a nod, I can detect a hint of North Dakota in his greeting. Seated in a booth next to the door, a man in a green field jacket cradles a warm cup of coffee with both hands. His nap sack has a folded card board sign sticking out from the zippered flap. Folded in half I can only make out part of the message Veteran ….. Needs a little… God Bless. Mickey seems like a fair man.

Seated at “our table” in the back I can hear Woody describing last nights episode of South Park to the group. Our waitress, Lisa is about 45 years old, trying her best to look 23. In a denim skirt and flowered top, she’s not exactly dressed for January. She keeps us in coffee, puts up with our crude jokes, and occasional offers.  I think we’d be like the dog that caught the car if she ever said yes to one of our suggestions.

Alone in a Crowd

For the next hour or so we”ll talk about the worlds problems, bitch about the leadership of our nation, and our local union. We talk about our kids and our spouses. These are men I understand, but scarcely know, and I find that sad. We’ll attend graduation parties, maybe even a wedding. We see each others wives once a year at the Local Union picnic, and comment how we need to get together sometime, but we never do. In the end I’ll attend their memorial service, if I don’t go first.

The older I get the more I realize, I only have one friend and I married her, and that makes me feel good.

Talk to you later.

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We open the scene with Jim Phelps (played by Peter Graves) seated at a booth in a diner. A waitress  with a pencil protruding from her beehive hairdo, hands him what appears to be a typical menu. He opens the menu, taped to the inside flap is a 3 inch magnetic tape reel, casually our IMF agent assess the situation,  he removes the recorded message, rises from his seat and makes his way to the mens room in the back of the establishment. A man in a sombrero, wearing a pencil thin mustache sits at the counter, he watches as Jim enter the mens room, the metallic click of the dead bolt is drowned out by the crash of a plate as it hits the tile floor behind the counter. The man in the sombrero flinches, turns toward the noise and scowls as the waitress kneels down to pick up the broken pieces of stoneware that lay on the floor. Bits of eggs over easy and crispy hash brown potatoes make the task difficult.

With the space now secured Jim walked over to the cloth hand drier, the kind you might find in a  Texaco Service station, out on Route 66. The sanitary cloth fabric was far from sanitary, with blacken hand prints and unidentifiable smudges on the feed roll, Jim hesitated before grabbing the soiled cloth and giving it three quick jerks. Attached to the underside of the fabric leaving the white enamel housing was an 8″ x 11” manilla envelope. Carefully removing the package, he turned it over, in red lettering the words IMF TOP SECRET.

Walking to the stall on the far left; the words “Out of order” are found scribbled on a piece of paper and taped to a battered yellow door. Entering the vandalized sanctum he closes the door, clever poetic verses clutter the walls in black magic marker. An interesting offer with a phone number catches Jim’s eye, he makes a mental note. Removing the dual rolls of toilet paper from the dispenser then sliding the small spindle through the 3 inch tape reel; he feeds the magnetic tape from the 3 inch wheel up into the dispenser and back down securing it the now empty spindle where the second roll of toilet paper was located.

Seated on the toilet, Jim flushes but instead of the rushing sound of water sweeping the bowl, the modified toilet paper dispenser on his right hums into action. In a monotone voice the details of the IMF mission are spelled out.

“Good morning Mr. Phelps, on Saturday a first time apartment renter, and spatially challenged young woman, purchased her first couch.” Flipping through the documents from the IMF  folder  Jim located the pictures of first time apartment renter and the couch.

The tape continued to play.

The Couch

Jake Jabs, seller of furniture

“The couch was sold to her by this man; Jake Jabs, American Furniture Warehouse King, and exotic pet collector.” Working through the packet of photographic data, was the picture of a balding old man sitting on a couch holding a Siberian White tiger. A lecherous smile was on the face of the old man, the tiger was not smiling.

“The couch in question measures 90″ long, 39″ high at the back and 36″ from front to back. Your mission Jim, should you decide to accept it, would be to assemble your IMF team and figure a way to get this 90″ long, 39″ high 36″ deep piece of furniture, into a fourth floor apartment, without cutting it in two.”

Thumbing through the remaining information in the packet our agent finds drawings of the elevator, and building floor plans. The elevator door has an opening 78″ high, 36″ wide. The floor area of the cab; is 48″ deep and 66″ wide. The hallway leading to the apartment on the fourth floor is 48″ wide, it makes two 90 degree turns before gaining access to the 33″ wide apartment door.

“If you or any of your IMF team is captured or killed during this mission, this agency will  deny any knowledge of you, your team, or the mission. This tape will self destruct in 5 seconds. Good luck Jim.”

Seconds later a cloud of white smoke erupts from the toilet paper dispenser, destroying any evidence of the 3 inch tape reel. Fanning the plume Jim tries to disperse the chemical cloud. He tucks the packet of images and drawings into the pocket of his beige sports jacket and leaves the mens room, nearly colliding with the waitress with the pencil in her hair.

“Hey are you smoking in there? You can’t be smoking in there!

Epilogue: The first time renter and spatially challenged  victim was contacted and advised that a 90″ couch was not going to fit through a door that was only 78″ high 33″ wide, nor was it going to make a 90 degree turn from a 48″ hallway into a 33” apartment doorway. The furniture order was cancelled. So the search continues for the elusive love seat.

Talk to you later.

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Today is the day! With her money order in hand and her name on the lease  our youngest is moving out this weekend. I’ve arranged for the use of a company truck to haul the larger items to the fourth floor apartment. I can’t tell who is the more excited my daughter or my wife.

Boxes of dishes, pots and pans, a sewing machine; I had no idea the amount of stuff that she and her mother have been setting aside for this day; four frickin floors I hope the elevator is working. When I got my first apartment the only thing I worried about was my Pioneer Turntable, two JBL 50 speakers, and the 75 Watt Kenwood receiver that tied them all together, it didn’t get much better than that.

Do you remember your very first apartment?

I do, kinda, although some of it’s a bit cloudy.

Manitou Springs, Colorado 1978; it was Haight-Ashbury meets the Wild Wild West. I was about eighteen years old, I had just graduated from high school. My drinking and recreational drug use had seriously strained my relationship with my parents, and in the blink of an eye I was in my own apartment, freedom at last. It was a small place, I paid $135.00 a month furnished; 123 Ruxton Ave, just up the street from The Magic Mushroom a little neighborhood head shop, at the corner of Manitou Ave. and Ruxton was the “Pioneer Bar”.

The Pioneer was a ‘quaint’ little biker bar; on Friday nights Harleys’ would line the street in front of the bar. The sounds of a local rock band playing cover tunes of Lynard Skynard, Led Zeppelin, and CCR, could be heard as the cool summer breezes carried those familiar melodies up Ruxton Ave. It was classic rock before they called it classic. Like a town clock chiming 2:00 am, closing time; the sound of two cylinder engines would bark and cough as fifteen or twenty slightly toasted bikers would kick start their iron horses to life, cracking their throttles as they announced their early morning departure. I lived on the second floor of my apartment building and faced the street, the sound of the mass exodus would rattle the windows of my bedroom.

I remember a woman named Sarah, that lived down stairs, a friendly girl with a serious opiate   problem. Usually on or about Wednesday she would ask me for $10.00 to get her through the week and I would oblige her. On Friday around 6:00 p.m. she would knock on my door and pay me off in “Ludes”,  Rohrer 714s. It was a great relationship that wasn’t helping either of us. It was a summer of lost memories, occasional black outs, and waking up in unfamiliar places; eventually I moved on, leaving that apartment and thankfully that fatal life style behind.

Like dutiful parents doing a walk through of our daughters college dorm, my wife and I received a formal tour of her new place, a walk in closet, new appliances, engineered wood floors, and a free standing fireplace. How will she manage, no head shop with in miles, the closest Biker Bar a good five miles away, G-d only knows what she will  do for entertainment. We attended the lease signing as the apartment community manager read through twenty five pages of legal dos and don’ts. My youngest, a little naiveté, I prefer to use the word too trusting, is growing up; I think she’ll do just fine.

I just hope my back is up to her moving out.

Talk to you later.

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Yesterday she wasn’t going to school because the style of her shirt clashed with her jeans, today she couldn’t get her hair to flip just right, tomorrow she is gone.

Maren

It seemed like it happened that fast. “The Lovely Seven of Nine” has found her own apartment, and as soon as the paper work goes through she will be moving. Today she is cleaning her room attempting to throw away 23 years of accumulated clutter. The pile of discarded remains belie her age, a James Taylor Poster once thumb tacked to her bedroom door, the coveted ink pen collection now 800 strong, a gallon size zip-lock freezer bag full of Crayola crayons nestled in a green plastic jack-o-lantern. Posted on Craig’s list, they sit on our front step waiting for some secretive hoarder to come by and collect them. With all the urgency of a Katrina evacuation, she attacks the task of arranging the elements of her life, stacks of books and DVDs cover the floor, somewhere under a heap of dirty laundry her bed sits unrecognizable.  In the crawl space, boxes of Pyrex cookware and dishes she’s been collecting just for this day. When it’s all packaged and gone, the hollowness of the empty space will echo from the walls.

Dads like feeling needed. Pushing stuck cars out of snow banks, changing flat tires in the middle of the rain, reassuring her that she’s the best flute player in the front row even if she can’t quite get that flutter tonguing down just right. Conducting memorial services in the backyard for a favorite pet. I imagine I’ll still be called upon for the occasional navigational emergency, Hell that hasn’t changed for the two children that have moved out. But I’m sure they’ll be less frequent and I will miss that. No more laying in bed waiting for the sound of the front door to click shut at 3:00 a.m. Oddly enough I’ll miss that too.

In the darker shadows of my mind I see the occasional image of her boyfriend, as he anticipates the unfettered freedom of “the apartment”. Shit, I remember twenty something!

Always remember and never forget, Commander Kirk; old age and wisdom, coupled with a bit of treachery, will win out over youth, and enthusiasm every time. Be very careful!

Talk to you later.

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Cold… Cold… Cold. I’m talking stick your tongue to the flag pole cold. I really don’t hate cold weather, but it can test your metal. Today I saw one of the stupidest winter accessories I think I’ve ever seen. A nose warmer, in short it’s a crocheted sock for your nose. Sadly it was being worn by one of my offspring, The Lovely Seven Of Nine. She looked like a bipedal red nosed reindeer. I figured it was something that she had crafted up, she has some real talent in that department and I just assumed.

Does this make my nose look fat?

I later found out that her boyfriend bought it for her as a gift, nice guy. I did a Google search for the item and found them. They also have pantie air fresheners for you car, which come in watermelon, green apple, and cherry scents. The ultimate gift in their portfolio are the Poetic Jeans. These designer jeans have a poem, or short inspirational story printed on a label sown inside the jeans.  Just the thing for those times when you need a bit of inspiration while sitting on the john. So if your looking for that special something for the guy or girl in your life, don’t despair. From nose warmers, to warmers for your Willie, they’ve got you covered.

G-d help us we’ve truly lost our way!

Talk to you later.

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She had made me a promise, the date had been set, and today was the day; I had waited all week anticipating this very moment. They lay there together, one on top of the other, they fit together perfectly, as if cut from the same loaf. They looked golden brown against the stark white surface. Glistening with a special oil that had been liberally applied to each, they needed to be consumed.  I could hardly wait to enjoy the taste of the sweet nectar that was pooled between them. I leaned forward and slowly brought it to my open lips, it was as good as I had remembered. The sweetness of them lay warm against my moist tongue, I wanted more. G-d I love French Toast for breakfast.

My News Years Day could have been better, Lenny the Octogenarian, and Alice, Remember Alice;? decided that New Years Day would be a good day to go to Kaiser Permanente, to have his bladder professionally drained. The day was long but thankfully they were able to return home together. Slowly the inevitable march of the aged moves on. A pendulum that silently swings back and forth, lapses in memory, and the need for catheters, mark it’s  progression. I hate seeing people I love get old. It’s not the thought of loosing them that torments me, although I will miss them. It’s that little voice inside my head that says, please make it fast, make easy. How long do we need to endure their wasting away? It all sounds so selfish, and admittedly some of it is, but part of those sentiments are self reflective. How will I behave when I begin to feel the silent arc of times pendulum? Will I be fearful, or angry, will I be alone, how will I know when it’s my time?

Getting old probably doesn't look like this.

Their march to the end still has many footsteps before it’s completion. It’s a path that everyone must go down, comforted in knowing that all paths lead to the same destination. Uncertain as we traverse through territory that is unexplored and foreign to each of us. As we move forward unsure of what lies beyond the next turn, occasionally we glance back over our shoulder in an effort to see who follows, only to find that this is a journey that we take on our own, forever hopeful that when we arrive we will be ready. Crap I’m way too young to be thinking like this! I think I’d rather have another slice of French Toast.

Talk to you later.

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The end of a another year, this one coinciding with the completion of a decade. As  decades go I think it was pretty good. However this year has been on life support since October, 2008. Last night the cleaning crew came into the ICU at 11:58, tripped over the cord to the ventilator, and by 11:59:46; 2009 was pronounced dead. Thank G-d for careless janitors.

Happy New Year!

I must be getting old, I had fallen asleep on the couch and was roused from my slumber by automatic weapons fire. I’m not sure what they were celebrating, the arrival of the new year, or the end of 2009.

When we were kids we would stay up late and wait for the count down. Chips and dip, with plenty of M&Ms, Sparkling Cider, we were running on youth and sugar well into the early morning hours. When we lived in Colorado Springs, we would look outside to the west on New Years Eve and try to see the fireworks display from top of Pikes Peak. Every year a group of mountaineers, calling themselves the AdAmAn Club (spoken as Add A Man because they add a member each year), climbs to the summit of Pikes Peak 14,110 feet; so they can shoot off fireworks on New Years.

I remember the year our family spent New Years Eve with another family in the tiny town of Sparta Ohio, located just north of Columbus. Even with it located near the center of the state, it had a very folksy, West Virginia, banjo pickin’, marry your first cousin, kind of feel to it. My parents had left for the evening with the couple that lived there, leaving the collective tribe of ten to fend for ourselves. Our ages ranged from 17 years to about 5, I was about 14 or so at the time. Things were pretty tame as far as that goes, with Dick Clark and his big glass ball poised to descend on Times Square, we were having a good time.

The evening got real interesting at the stroke of midnight. That’s when Dale their oldest and Danny, his younger brother who was developmentally disabled,  jumped from the couch and ran to the closet in the front room. Reaching into the thicket of winter coats, they pulled out a pair of 12 gauge shot guns. I had seen guns before, but only in the presence of adults and usually only in the act of hunting.

Perfect for ringing in the New Year.

The two thrust open the front door and ran out unto the front lawn with their 14 year old companion in tow. As if they were hunting Canadian Geese at night, they directed the barrel of their shot guns to the air and started blasting. I was captivated by their actions, as an orange flume erupted from the end of the barrel, the deafening sound from the blast rang in my ears, and the smell of gunpowder burned my nose. I looked around concerned that some of the neighbors would call the police. Two houses up, a Morrow County Sheriff was parked in the street. Out on the front lawn I saw the image of a man silhouetted by his porch light, taking aim to the sky. He appeared to be doing his part to rid Sparta, Ohio from those pesky night time Canadian geese as well!

Some traditions are best left to fade away, an isolated incident brought on by a lapse in good judgement. It has been added to my list along with, lighting farts with friends, licking sleds in January, and sprinting around the outside of the house, naked, on a dare. But that is a tale left  for another time. Happy New Year everyone, I hope this year proves to be more prosperous than last.

Talk to you later.

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