Being The Real, True Story Of Heroics In Over My Head

•July 24, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Remember Klinger? Remember how he was trying to get out of the Army on a Section 8? They don’t call it a Section 8 anymore. I’m not sure what they call it now, but it’s particuarly relevant to this story.

In college, I spent a bit(which can be read as waaaaaay too much) of time in the C&O wing, in the games club in particular. I was even vice president for a while–long story. This isn’t the place for it yet. Also resident in the Wing was the martial arts club. The GPC and the martial arts club had quite a bit of overlap, as most of the gamers in the club were martial artists to some degree. My best friend, Brian, is one of these guys. I, despite a few weeks of kung fu training by my next door neighbor and a month of training at my son’s school, am not a martial artist. This point must be made perfectly clear. I am NOT a martial artist, nor do I play one on TV.

One night, it was decided that we should all go to South Street in Philadelphia. GPC and the martial arts club. For those who don’t know, South Street is the equivalent of the boardwalk at the beach, only slightly better paved.

Now, there was a girl. I know what you’re thinking–and THIS time, you’re wrong. I wasn’t madly head over heels in love with her. She was nice, I liked her, that was it. She’d managed somehow to get a boyfriend who wasn’t very pleasant or nice. He was quite the jerk. More details coming on this guy. So, several martial artists, their girlfriends who were in the GPC, and this girl and Mr. Wonderful.

There are several cars involved. My two friends are in the back of mine, and Mr. Wonderful is next to me, his girlfriend is in another car. He’s not happy about this. Not so much about being in the Excelsior with us, but being seperated.

We get down to South Street. Now, I’m a fairly big guy. Over six foot, broad in the shoulder area, but remember, the closest thing to martial arts training I had then is reading every GI Joe comic written. So we’re traveling en masse down South Street, checking out different shops. The girl asks me if she can stay by me since she’s dumping the guy and she’s afraid. Do I point out that there are others in our party more capable of defending her honor and person than myself?

You’ve MET me, right?

So, she stays close to me. The boyfriend, who is ALSO six-footish and broad of shoulder, is getting angrier and angrier. I take my new responsibility very seriously, never letting her out of my sight. Thank God we didn’t have to have a potty break. Mr. Wonderful is rapidly approaching critical mass. Still, I have my arm around her shoulder whilst thinking “Yeah, um, what? What am I DOING?” Mr. Wonderful is at this point ditching the whole group.

It’s decided that we should hit Denny’s. At that point Denny’s was the destination of choice when we were either hungry, bored, or in a town with gravity. So, the girl and I are in my car driving as the other cars are going, too. That’s when she springs it.

Mr. Wonderful had been in the Navy. They threw him out on whatever the current Naval equivalent of a Section 8 is. Serious anger issues. I’m nodding, thinking, “Sometimes this hero stuff is for the friggin’ BIRDS!” So, someone too nuts to be in the Navy has been stalking me and her all night, and she chose ME to hide behind, even though all the other guys in the group were martial artists. ME. I made her feel safe. I made me feel like I had brains of Jello.

I tried to kiss her that night. She said, since she was Jewish and I wasn’t, we couldn”t date. She then said it wouldn’t stop her from sleeping with me.

SECOND time my mind reeled that night.

Who’s to say?

•July 14, 2014 • 1 Comment

Over on Amazon’s Alien review listings, in the one star part there’s a guy who talks about unhealthy images on impressionable minds. Beyond the fact that an R-rated movie usually isn’t seen by minds considered impressionable, that started me thinking. Granted, the reviewer’s opinion is so much in the minority it isn’t funny. But what if there were something that someone pointed out was similarly unhealthy that actually WAS? I play around with good and evil and good in a lot of what I’ve written. This could be an interesting angle to play up, like Carrie’s mother having lunch with the televised preacher from Dawn of the Dead, only they’re both dead-on? Forgive the pun, unintentional for a change.

Overestimating Advancement

•July 10, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Everyone who knows me well enough knows that I’m kind of a science geek. If you didn’t, for SHAME! But, anyway, I am. A lot of the time at work when there’s nothing going on, and in master control, that’s a LOT of the time, I’m bouncing around sites like Space.Com.

There are people who look at the people in the past as less intelligent because they didn’t know as much Science With A Capital S (if you didn’t notice) as we do now, and look down on anyone who believes in the paranormal as uneducated and ill-informed.

Let’s look at the first case. Say there’s an island tribe, for instance. There’s a VOLCANO. Volcano erupts, destroys the village, paves over the crops, and generally ruins Sunday afternoon. Now, the People In Charge in the village might look at the volcano and say, “How do we keep this from happening again?” Someone who might be anthropomorhphizing the volcano may say, “Well, the mountain was PISSED. Maybe it was hungry. I know when I get hungry I get pissed. Maybe if we give the mountain an early lunch, it’ll be like me and take a nap.”

Now, remember the Sciencey people I was talking about earlier? Sure you do; you’re a smart audience. They would SCOFF at this assumption. “A volcano erupts because of pressure from inside the Earth,” showing all the hubris and the bad linguistic habit of saying THE Earth. Does anyone say, “THE Jupiter?” Or “THE Mars?” Sure they say THE Sun, but shut up, okay? These villagers are a nice bunch, clever, but they’re in subsistence mode, not research mode. Gathering pineapples and fishing all day leaves NO time for geophysical research.

Now, eventually, after tossing goats, pineapples, virgins, more pineapples, live sharks, good grief Charlie Brown MORE pineapples and another virgin into the lava the stupid mountain erupts AGAIN. Maybe they’ll realize living on the corner of Krakatoa Lane and Vesuvius Boulevard is a bad idea and move. But once upon a time, ALL society was in that place, including the scientists. Don’t pat yourself on the back too much because you were born into a supposedly enlightened time.

Rain and wind

•June 18, 2014 • Leave a Comment

I’ve been playing with some scenes in my head and the only thing so far that’s connected them is driving rain and wind gusts. There’s at least one leaking building.

I don’t know where this is gonna take me but it’s kinda cool.

Showing Kids The Magic In The World

•June 11, 2014 • Leave a Comment

In the second of our run up to Father’s Day—

Do you guys remember waaaaaaaaaaay back when, when I had my Chryslers? Of course you do!

Greencar and Greycar, named after their colors, aren’t I clever? There were remote controls for the locks and the trunks. The trunks are where this story lies.

Back when Brian was a lot younger, he looked at everything in the world with wonder, his sense of awe palpable to everyone. I wanted to nurture that, so whenever we were coming toward the car and needed the trunk open, I wanted him to help.
“Bud,” I’d say, “ask the trunk to open.”
First time he looked at me as though radishes were sprouting from my nostrils. “Huh?”
“Say,’Please open, Mr. Trunk,’ and see what happens.”
Like the obedient tyke he was, he said his line and MIRACLE OF MIRACLES, the trunk would spring open!! There was shock and wonder and “Wow, that’s cool!” to be had.

So for the next few years, every time we were at a store or the beach or wherever, “Please open, Mr. Trunk.” SPROINNNNG!

“It only works for you, Best Friend,” I’d tell him. “You’re special, and the car knows that.” Okay, so I was pushing it.

Time came that both Chryslers went to the Big Car Farm To Live Out Their Days. Brian was still convinced that his voice, sorry, Voice, could open the trunks. I eventually spilled the beans when he was a little older, but I don’t think he bought it. There was evidence; he’d seen it happen. So, Mr. Science Whiz looks at everything and wants to understand it, but he still knows how to just see something and accept it.

That’s not a bad thing.

Fatherly Heroics

•June 10, 2014 • 2 Comments

I’ve posted before about my dad.  There’s a story that I thought I’d put up here, but evidently I had not.  So, for Father’s Day, here you are.

So, you guys remember Dad, right?  Tall guy, looks like me, tough, good guy.  Remember how he tried to drive to work on a compound fracture?  Yeah, that’s not the biggest thing he ever did while not 100%. 

Dad had colon cancer.  So, he ends up getting three hundred and fifty miles of intestine cut out of his abdomen.  Still, he was more worried about Mom.  That’s not this story.  So, he gets out of the hospital.  Finally gets cleared to go back to work.  With me still?  This is gonna turn into a slight history lesson, so bear with me. 

This was 1996.  He worked at the MOTBY in Bayonne.  The base was one of the ones they decided to close in the 1995 Base Realignment and Closure actions.  So, being an Army base that’s scheduled to close at some point in the future, what do they do?  They removed the security from the checkpoints.  Eh, what could be the problem there?

So, here’s Dad, sitting in his office.  There’s a commotion outside the office.  He gets up to see what all the hubbub is about, and he sees a large fellow hitting one of his clerks.  He yells, grabs the guy’s arm, and throws him against the file cabinets.  Peter, one of the other guys in the office, grabs the guy’s other arm.   Only then does the fresh-out-of-cancer-therapy-and-getting-most-of-his-guts-removed fellow look at the hand he’s holding against the cabinet.

You know, the hand, holding the big knife that even Paul Hogan would respect. 

I never verified it, but I’m quite certain the thought that went through is head was something to the effect of “Hol-eeeee shit!” 

One of Dad’s other clerks was a, ahem, largish woman.  They called her Miss Piggy behind her back.  Dad and Peter wrestle the guy to the ground and Miss Piggy sits on him until what security is left and the police and ambulance get there. 

After making statements and telling everyone who asks, that’s when Dad had to do the really risky thing.  He had to tell Mom.  He calls her and tells her, “Something happened.”

Mom thinks his incision’s come open, he’s in the hospital, some horror along those lines.  No, no, nothing like that, he tells her, and proceeds to explain.  As they told us later, Mom’s response was, and I quote, “You stupid son of a bitch!”  She calmed down by the time he got home.

When he goes into work the next day, there are banners and cards and food and all across the banners and the cards everyone is calling him Hulk.  The general put Dad (and the others) in for the highest civilian medal the Army gives,  the Distinguished Service Medal.  The whole family, my aunts, my uncles, Stace, my sisters, wwe all go to DC to see the cermony.  They’re the last ones to go up. 

That’s the kind of guy he was.  That’s what my kid has to look up to, and I couldn’t be prouder of either of them.

Dad Getting His Medal Small

Time Travelling To Lancaster sans DeLorean, TARDIS, or Lopsided Doughnut

•May 27, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Some time ago, we got a paper from Brian’s school, saying the sixth grade would be going to Lancaster for a field trip, with the prices and everything. Joy.  For some reason, I asked the kid if he wanted me to volunteer for chaperone.  His positive response, coupled with my exhausted state, led me to volunteer.  Never thought they’d use me.  They used me.  We were both gonna go to Lancaster—

Prepare for a flashback–cue swirliness—
Many wisecracks were made by me at the time, since, after our first date, my Lady Wife informed her family that I lived in Lancaster. Her less-than-good-person stepfather informed her that I COULDN’T live in Lancaster. Upon our next meeting, she said, maybe Langhorne. I said, no, I live in Yardley. Well, whatever.

Flashback over. Everyone adjusted to now? Good.
Bright and early this morning, I’m in the school office with the other parents who got conned–nay, volunteered–to chaperone this thing.  I can’t help but reflect that I didn’t get to take a tour bus for a school field trip until 10th grade, and that field trips weren’t all that common where I came from.  Brian introduces me around his class, a bundle of nervous energy if there ever was one.  Not only for the field trip, mind you, as tomorrow evening he gets tested for his red belt in karate.

Mrs. Reich(pronounced rich, so get all thoughts of Germany out of your head) finally succeeds after five tries to get the class in their seats to take role.  I meet Anna, one of the other parents for this shindig.  We’re presented with lists of who our charges will be.  Unsurprisingly, the Clone is on my list, with five others.  I’d already subjected my kid to a few lines about holding doors for people–remember Field Work III: TSFB?  Yeah, he didn’t think it was all that funny either.  They line up in a (sort of) orderly fashion, I give him a thumb, and we’re off!  Well, across the school’s lawn, at any rate.  As we were near the rear of the pack, most rows had at least one person in them, and sixth graders, being the remarkably territorial twerps they are, Brian and I were separated by a few rows.  We winged our way to that artery of Pennsylvania convenience, the turnpike.  RIGHT into traffic on the artery of convenience, with nary an automotive cardiologist in sight.  Shortly after, Brian’s teacher threw Finding Nemo on the bus’s DVD player, and we all kind of relaxed into it.  Traffic eventually cleared up, and the trees on the side of the turnpike started flying by.  The bus gets off via an exit I vaguely remember from the Ren Faire and a wrestling meet.  As we drive further, it all looks familiar.  Then I recall that the meet in question was snowed out, which no one learned until they got there.  I doubt Lancaster will be snowed out, since the temperature is hovering around the high sixties.  Still, after then winter we had, anything was possible, right?

So, we drive.  And drive.  I see several Bible-promoting billboards, including one, “Many books can INFORM, only the Bible can TRANSFORM.”   Leads me to think of a book from Cybertron.    And we drive some more.  There’s a load of road out there, followed by a lot of fields on either side.  We see several (presumably) Amish people on horse-drawn plows working the fields.  The girl sitting behind me, presumably an equine advocate, starts complaining that it’s animal abuse.  No one lends this theory much credence.   Finally, just when I had begun to think that we’d been trapped on a scenic Moebius road, we turn into a place with a sign emblazoned, “THE AMISH EXPERIENCE.”  A similar sign that I glimpsed had the subtitle A MULTIMEDIA THEATER.  I enjoy combining words in new and unusual ways, however, AMISH and MULTIMEDIA were not two that ever volunteered themselves to be close bosom companions.

Brian’s seatmate, after a moment, starts complaining that no one at that point had gotten off the bus.  The fact that said bus was still slightly in motion could have been why, but it didn’t seem the time to overtly expose my wise nature to these kids.  Finally, we did get off, and marched en masse into the theater behind a gent whose temperament was first trademarked by Fred Rogers.  Hard wooden benches lay inside, with mockups of barn walls on the front and left walls, with a kitchen mock up beneath a pseudofarmhouse wall with a swinging door on top.  In my learned opinion, at some point in the presentation, that door would open to reveal–what?  I wasn’t sure.

We sat through Jacob’s Choice, where different scenes were projected different places.  Smoke came up from the floor where appropriate, there was a cannon shooting with more smoke, and ghosts appeared holographically.  And who knew the Amish liked baseball so much?  After this, we took a tour of the house, complete with coffin upstairs.  The clone informed me that THAT was gonna give him nightmares, whereupon I reminded him that his grandfather lived in a funeral home, it’d be cool.  After we left the house, it was ON TO THE GIFT SHOP!  They had birch beer, again, see Field Trip III: TSFB, but we didn’t get any.  We DID get several cinnamon sticks, I know, I need a 12 step 13 stick program.  We found, since her birthday is in two weeks, a present for Stace–a sign saying “If You Could See In MY Head, You’d Get It” and a unicorn sun catcher and a carved keychain that says MADISON for, well, guess who, since her birthday is around now.  There were also shoulder high carved walking sticks we were both looking at, but I didn’t wanna spend twenty more dollars.

It was time to go further, so we headed to the busses, surrounded by the smell of manure.  Took me back to elementary school, which was next to a farm.  I LIVED next to a farm, but it never smelled like that.  Weird.  Lots of kids remarking about it, complaining about it, these kids are too sheltered.  Brian shouldn’t be; he’s smelled my cooking.  So, packed onto the busses, off again!

By this point, I was starting to get hungry.  My buttered bagel, as cream cheese is icky, was starting to not be enough.  Fortunately, our next stop was a largish restaurant.  The other busses let off their loads, and we troop in.  An old, I may even be tempted to say olde, but fear not, I won’t, fashioned place.  Hanging light fixtures, dioramic art on the walls show various rural scenes, seems like a nice place.  We all find tables, looooong tables, to sit.  The clone and I sit near the wall, with his friends at the next table right behind us.  I notice a little placard on the table that the tip is not included in the price, and it should be 18 percent–“if the service warrants.”  I generally try to tip higher, but I can’t say I like being told what it SHOULD be.  There was also a sign toward the front that food was not to be taken home.  Heaven forbid you don’t finish your meal that you pay for.  Contrary to these two signs, the red-bonneted waitresses were all pleasant, and the food was good.  Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, bread with apple butter, good stuff.  Only thing to drink was lemonade, but at least it wasn’t too watery.

It’s amusing to listen to a group of 12 and 13 year olds talk around a lunch table.

Lunch, now digesting in several stomachs, was to be followed by a Visit To An Actual Amish Farm, rather than the Imitation Farm we’d seen.  I doubted there’d be multimedia.  There was some confusion with the four bus drivers for some reason, so the more observant students either wanted to hit the restaurant’s petting zoo (as an aside, a restaurant that has a petting zoo makes the meat very suspect) or throw each other down the stone stairway.  It’s probably for the best that the busses were worked out and we started travelling again.  More fields on either side!

One of the teachers gets on the bus microphone to inform us that we’re going to take a bus tour followed by a visit to a farm.  She’s holding the mic WAAAAAY too close to her mouth, but then, she’d probably criticize my teaching technique, so I say nothing.  It’s also the better part of valor to keep your trap shut when you’re two hours from home on someone else’s bus.

We bus through Lancaster county, ending up back at The Multi-Media Experience.  Is the farm next to it and we’re just not seeing it?

No.  Turns out we just had to pick up Tangina from Poltergeist as our tour guide.  We tool around the countryside, and Tangina, prior to proclaiming our bus as clean, tells us that there’ll probably be some Amish kid with pretzels.  It’s okay to take them.  The pretzels, not the kids.  We get there an lo, there is a purple-dressed girl with fresh pretzels.  There’s all kinds of animals penned up next to the house, chickens, a turkey, a llama(where the hell’s Cleese?) ponies…Brian’s in heaven, but I have no change to buy feed.  Well, poopy.  (THAT is in the pen, too, obviously.)  We go inside the little shop after Brian gets enough of his classmates being annoying.  He wants to get Stace a quilt and a soft Winnie the Pooh book.  The quilt is sixty bucks, and the book is for infants and is fourteen bucks.   He plays with a wooden car track for a few minutes, and I see some gorgeous logs that have been turned into jewelry boxes.  If Stace liked jewelry, I’d have been tempted.  I was tempted just because they were really nice.

Before too long, it was time to head home.  Brian and I got to sit together this time.   I tried to rest as much as I could on the trip back, seeing as how I had to work.


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