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Archive for December, 2011

The conversation was probably meant to be private, however given that he had taken the call in a restaurant, seated with six co-workers, was in the vicinity of eight other patrons, and was shouting into his cell phone, that wasn’t very likely.

Nick has been a single father for as long as I have known him, that didn’t necessarily mean he qualified for Dad of the year. It merely meant that he could take full credit for the mess he had created. The conversation taking place was a familiar one, although I was only hearing one half of the verbal exchange it didn’t appear to be going well…  again.

“Anthony”.

“Anthony”.

“Anthony”.

“Anthony! I told you I’m not doing this again”.

“Anthony… okay.. Anthony, I can’t talk right now, we’ll talk about it tonight”.

The argument had been lost to a thick skull, but Nick didn’t know it yet.

He sounded like that twenty something parent, putting his three year old into time out. The difference being Nick is 61, and his son nearly 30.

I recall similar struggles with my Dad, as he sought out control mechanisms that he could use to hold me in check. When I moved out of the house there was little he could do about the way I lived. It was the late 70’s early 80’s; cocaine was treated like a party condiment, a double Gin and Tonic was a sports drink. My parents, like most could see the train wreck on the horizon. They raised the red lantern and waved the red flag, but could only stand by and wait for the deafening crash.

I Never Saw It Coming.

I entered a Pipefitters Apprenticeship in the summer of 1979 I was 19 years old; I moved to Denver to be closer to the oil refinery where I was placed for my first job. A refinery under construction is like the wild wild west; travelers, the hired guns of the industry, came from across the United States and Canada working to rebuild the Conoco Oil Refinery. An explosion in the summer of 1978 that registered 3.5 on the Richter scale had all but taken it out.

I was on the demo crew, working side by side with men using note worthy names like Earl the Squirrel, Steady Eddy, and Jack Garrison who’s claim to fame was documented in black Magic Marker on the San-O- Let walls.

Paydays were on Friday at 3:30 p.m. On Friday mornings, and only on Friday mornings, at 6:45  sharp, a  shinny black Lincoln would pull up to the construction gate; with his wife behind the wheel, Putt Putt Povitch would get out. Putt Putt was a Pipefitter who stood 5′-6″ with his Red Wings on, and weighed about 150 pounds, he towered over his wife by three inches, but she out weighed him by an easy 100 pounds. The razing and heckling from the 150 or so Pipefitters, Boilermakers, and Ironworkers on site, would follow him into the break shack, he never said a word. Every Friday afternoon at 3:15  the same shinny black Lincoln would pull up to the gate. At 3:35  Putt Putt would walk out of the construction gate, up to the driver side window of the gleaming black sedan; it would slowly roll down and he would hand over his paycheck. The window closed as he walked around to the passenger side door, waiting until the door locks had made their familiar thump, he would open the door and climb in. Everyone snickered, some made off color remarks as she pulled away, but in reality the only one laughing was Putt Putt, or at least his wife, all the way to the bank. I had been making more money than I ever had, and not a cent to show for the effort. I didn’t have a checking account or savings account, hell I didn’t even know where a bank was.

On each payday about twenty of us would get into our vehicles and drive to the other side of the industrial wasteland, Dino’s Nightclub and Lounge at 6 & 85. It was an oasis, the closest bar in the area, they cashed payroll checks, and they were my personal banker. The policy was, if you cashed your check at Dino’s you received a buy one get one free coupon for any beer on tap. With my coupon in one hand, and $175.00 stuffed into my wallet, less the $75.00 I had stuck in my sock, I walked out of the men’s room ready go. The sock was my security system, a drinking man’s version of a safety deposit box. Thinking was, if I held out $75.00 dollars I should have enough to make it through to next week, even if I drank the rest up, or lost it playing Liars poker, I was a terrible liar.

What seems easy to see now, but lost in the fog of the past, was my steadfast determination, to do as I damn well pleased. Try as hard as a parent  might, there will never be an argument so shrewd, or a plea so heartfelt, to cut through a thick skull.

It took two years and an ultimatum to finally brake through. Not from my parents, or from a court of law, but from my future wife who left the choice to me. A life of that, or the one with her, but not both.

The only one bit of advice I have for my kids…. never call on seven aces, when you’re holding three.

Talk to you later.

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It’s been too long, the sound of that phrase doesn’t even come close to describing what it feels like.

My Father in-law Lenny; of Alice and Lenny died last month.

Leonard Ruback; 21 Tevet 5684 – 28 Cheshvan 5772

We; my wife, her mother, my daughter and I went to Feldman’s Mortuary to pick out Lenny’s coffin. It was a Friday, the day after his death, it was also the day after Thanksgiving. Amid tears and irrational conversations between my wife, her mother, and the funeral director, we were able to determine that he was to be dressed in an undershirt, underwear, plaid shirt, and blue denim jeans. A pair of socks and slippers were added as an after thought, because he always suffered from cold feet. “Yeah but he’s; never mind”… I didn’t get it either. We had also convinced Alice that the small coffin on display was merely a mock up and they would not be folding Lenny into thirds in order to fit him in the coffin. Not only is my wife’s side of the family directionally challenged, the concept of a mock up seems to escape some of them as well.

Being a pallbearer is one of those things that you don’t have much time to prepare for, a few brief instructions 10 minutes before the service is about all you get.  A plain pine box was what he had requested, it was a soft yellow pine with wooden rails for lifting.  Images of someone dropping a corner, or one of the wooden hand rails breaking off kept popping into my mind. The tiny staples holding the corners together suddenly separating when it strikes the ground, at 32 feet per second squared. These are the Nightmares and Horrors of a first time Pallbearer

As I listened to the Rabbi’s service I found myself staring at his coffin; the workmanship was simple, and I was distracted from the service as I looked at the tiny pneumatic staples that had been used to secure the corner nearest to me. The Rabbi spoke with confidence as he recited what he had prepared, it was the perfect service. It had indeed captured those things that lovingly described the man in the plain pine box; evidenced by an audience nodding and tearfully remembering with the Rabbi that which was Lenny. I nodded and smiled too, as I counted staples; two staples to a board, eight boards high, two panels to a corner; thirty two staples per corner. I was about to calculate the volume of the box when a sharp elbow from my wife brought me from my Mensa Moment, as five men stood to take their place next to the coffin.

By getting caught up counting staples and boards per side I had missed most of the Rabbi’s service; but it didn’t really matter as I had lived most of it with Lenny, Alice, and my wife.

Talk to ya later.

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