Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Cage the Eloquent

I finished my early morning pre-work preparation by affixing a pair of polished silver cuff links to my black button-up dress shirt. That was the last thing I did that required zero thought that day (although it did take a considerable amount of dexterity). The CEO of my multi-billion dollar, 12,000+ employee company was scheduled to visit my office, and I needed to be mentally prepared for any interaction that could occur. For those of you who have not sold your soul and accepted a job in Corporate America, a visit from the CEO is equivalent to a Catholic meeting the Pope (or a Protestant meeting the President of Chick-fil-A).

This particular visit also to included a pair of of the CEO's minions. They were the VP of Eastern Operations and the VP of Marketing. Our CEO is a man of average height, with average male pattern baldness, and an above average mustache. The VP of Operations stood about 6'6” tall, and walked around in the standard “Obama casual” ensemble (button-up shirt, no tie, and a sport coat). The VP of marketing (aka the “Salesman in Chief”) was not what I expected. His eyes seemed too close together, his hair was thinner than I anticipated, and he didn't smell of Axe body spray. All that aside, I already knew this day would not be filled with joy and revelry. The stars had aligned and we foresaw one of the busiest days on record for our office. I had already prepared for the inevitable unwinding session at my favorite watering hole that evening after work. Keep in mind, it was only 7:15 am and I was already looking forward to a tall glass of blended scotch (I'm a sophisticated gentleman, but a gentleman on a budget).

The morning went just as expected. The “big wigs” sequestered themselves in the conference room for the better part of four hours. While they were in the room discussing revenue projections, profit margins, and the future-state of our company; we handled our daily business out on “the floor.” As previously stated, this was not an average day. Our clients flooded the phones with calls, overloaded the email server with correspondence, and mounted an electronic assault on our fax lines. Nothing was beyond the realm for which we had prepared our mouse-clicking troops. Or so I thought.

Our team of twenty some-odd payroll specialists keyed in hours, salary amounts, garnishments, and every other form of wage or deduction that day. Unfortunately, one of the incoming calls brought with it the voice and personality of a very angry “gentleman.” He was not having a glorious experience with our service, and his business was in dire straights. After he had expressed his discontent to one of my specialists at great length and volume, he requested to speak to a supervisor. The lucky recipient of the escalated call was yours truly.

Just as the call was transferred to my extension, I overheard the pitter-patter of executive loafers coming my way. It had been nearly two years since I last had the opportunity to converse with my CEO, and it seemed as if the perturbed client would possibly thwart my chance to end that streak. I listened intently to the client as he vented about his struggling insurance business, and the perils of the current market. It is a market that has a new player, and that player is my company. His concerns were valid. He is a small business owner that is being outmaneuvered by a multi-billion dollar corporation. I continued to listen and express my empathy for his plight, all while explaining the benefits of our service to the payroll side of his business. We carried on into what eventually became a mutually complimentary discourse. Once he felt as if his concerns were appreciated and alleviated, he thanked me for my time and understanding. I hung up the phone, and looked up to see the CEO and the two VPs staring at me through the glass window of my cubicle. They nodded their heads in recognition of my efforts. I felt like a zoo animal that was being observed by a tour group dressed in professional attire. I didn't know whether to return their gesture of approval with a head nod of my own, or by rubbing my feces on the glass. Luckily for my career and the office cleaning crew, I chose the former.

It was one of the most stressful conversations to which I had ever been subjected. Knowing full well that the “Payroll Pope” was within earshot, I had to ensure every word that escaped my mouth was both eloquent and free of negative tone. My manager would surely hear of any missteps or verbal stumbling I let slip out during my dialogue. At that moment, I was representing my entire company to the client and my collective branch to the CEO. My cubicle does not have a door, but there was still no escaping the enclosure for safer surroundings. I was a cuff-link clad, caged animal. Luckily, I was spared any further ogling, and the group of executives made their way to the next group of cubicles.

My mind wandered as the adrenaline subsided. I envisioned an entire zoo filled with assorted professionals in a maze of enclosures. I pictured a Boiler Room-style cage of sales monkeys shouting “buy, sell!” as they jumped around in a frenzy. Their pressed pinstriped coat jackets snagging on the branches, causing them further angst and fury.

In an open air enclosure, the IT geeks would sit quietly at their cubicles. Pausing their coding and Mountain Dew sipping whenever they heard a sound. They would peek over the walls like Prairie Dogs, look around for a spell, then return to creating a log-in page or adjusting the search algorithm.

A reinforced glass window would separate the administrative assistants from the onlookers. They would require 100% soundproofing, so they would not be interrupted. This is mutually beneficial; because they can not be expected to type 100 words a minute whilst being interrupted by every zoo patron, and the spectators' safety could be at risk if they happened to disturb their focus (Minesweeper is intense).

The interns from the mail room would roam free and aimlessly, but only because the zoo cared not about their health and well being. Plus, nobody really comes to the office zoo to see them anyway.

In the distance, a sawdust-covered plain would be inhabited by the free range trainers and project managers. Their constant squawks would be arrested by the occasional sip of coffee or tea. The open area where they roamed was seemingly endless, but they would always been seen congregated in one small area, for they are a social people.

Betwixt a jungle of wires, cubicles and assorted decorative desk adornments would sit the payroll specialists. Each would have staked a claim in the organized chaos that was the centerpiece of the zoo. For the most part, they would be busy with assigned tasks, but they monotony would be broken up by occasional outbursts. Those would manifest themselves in any overwhelming emotion that came over them. This was why they were the most entertaining species in the office habitat.

Spread evenly and strategically throughout the jungle, you would find the supervisors. They were similar to the specialists, but you could tell by their markings and the size of their jungle claim that they were slightly different. They were also the only ones you would find wandering from one area of the jungle to another. Their wandering would seem aimless, but there was a certain purpose to the zig-zag patterns they followed. They would also be the only ones with permission to leave the jungle for any significant period of time. Their trek would normally lead them to the conference cage, where they would spend hours at a time barking and spitting at one another. That show occurred every Tuesday at 9:30, but sometimes would be repeated throughout the weekend unscheduled.

There would also be executive suite cages for upper management types. Inside of which; there would be an uncomfortable couch, a sectional desk, and it would be strategically covered with paperwork that was really only for aesthetic reasons. They would spend their time staring intently at laptop screens. The patrons would assume something very important was going on, but really they were just watching videos on YouTube of monkeys peeing into their own mouths. Occasionally, they would find their way into every other section of the zoo to just “check-in” on the other animals. Once any interaction would get too intense, they would retreat to their suite to read the paper or watch the monkey video again (it really never gets old to them).

By the time I awoke from my day dream about the office zoo, I was startled by the ninja-quiet CEO standing behind me. He had made his rounds about the entire office at that point, but he made sure to double-back and come see me. He wanted to shake my hand and personally thank me for my efforts on the call he overheard. I was taken aback, but eventually I was able to summon up a few words. I explained the situation to him, and we discussed the client's concern for a few minutes. I am sure he had some poignant points, or at the very least, a few words of wisdom for future interactions of that sort.

However, all I could do was picture him as a lion in his own zoo enclosure. The space would be vast, and filled with many leather chairs and perhaps one of those globes that opens up into a small single malt whiskey-filled bar. I imagined he would sit regally in his swivel chair behind a desk made of rich mahogany, with his pride of VPs surrounding him looking up in admiration. As they gave status updates of their respective business divisions, he would ask pointed questions and challenge their reasoning. He would do all of those things whilst licking himself intently for the meeting's entirety. He can do that because he would be a true titan of industry, ruler of the masses, and a master of self-reliance. From under his majestic mustache he would announce confidently with a roar, “It's good to be the king!” Yes, it is (but it is ever more rewarding when the royal tongue can reach the crown jewels).

Monday, July 23, 2012

Foil Hat Bucket List

Sometimes when you go for a walk with the sole purpose of finding something to write about, you end up stumbling over pure gold. Other times, you end up stepping on a piece of aluminum foil. This particular stroll consisted of a three or four mile jaunt from my house to the waterfront area along the Manatee River. I needed some time to gather my thoughts and look for some inspiration. It came in the form of a wrinkled up piece of paper underneath what could only be described as a foil hat. I stopped to observe the now crushed, but formerly cone-shaped metallic crazy-cap. It was only upon further inspection that I exposed the following list of assorted ramblings.  It was the bucket list of a deranged individual to whom I am now eternally grateful. Please do enjoy the awesomeness that I uncovered.

Things to do before I die:
  1. Throw an eye patch party, invite a Cyclops, and play pin the tail on the donkey.
  2. Start a four-piece fart band and book a gig at a Mexican restaurant.
  3. Take a group of senior citizens to an underwater hideaway, and feed them prune juice intravenously.
  4. Invite Sasquatch to a State Dinner at the White House, and sell the movie rights to Dreamworks with a stipulation that Robin Williams plays the role of a sassy Michelle Obama.
  5. Dress up like a Hacidic Jew rapper, book a music gig on the Sabbath, and just stand on stage staring at my watch until 12:01 am.
  6. Invent a new form of dance that consists only of a series of convulsions followed by considerable amount of drooling.
  7. Give all my current friends the nickname “Jeff”, and only establish new friendships with people already named Jeff.
  8. Propose a bill in Congress to make bacon the official food of every state in the nation. Then buy the world's largest pig farm and quickly learn what comes after Trillionaire.
  9. Distribute magnetic lawn gnomes strategically throughout the country, and activate them on my birthday every year to change the tides in my honor.
  10. Pit Lady Gaga against Madonna in a death match for ultimate weird-whorry greatness. Provide the winner with a lifetime supply of flesh-eating bacteria and spider bites.
  11. Convince all my friends to burn all of their possessions in a bonfire at my house; except the bonfire is a 3-D hologram. Yay, free stuff!
  12. Impromptu jug band competition at a strip club on amateur night, but first learn how to play 'Hot for Teacher' on a washboard.
  13. Have a cookout where I provide giant servings of food, but the only utensils will be cocktail forks and toothpicks.
  14. Build a cabinet out of groceries, and stock it with different samples of wood and granite.
  15. Organize a charity marathon run that consists of 17,292 laps around an eight foot round track. Then donate all the proceeds to Vertigo research.
In honor of this momentous occasion, please feel free to add your most random “foil hat bucket list” inspired entries in the comment section below.  The author of my favorite entry will receive a significant prize (Hint: the prize will probably be a foil hat and a high five).

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Cardinal Sins

I was approached in the parking lot outside of my work this week by a short man wearing a faded baseball cap. His voice was effeminate and his shyness was nonexistent. I was leaving work for the day, and all I wanted to do was get in my car and drive home. I had a twenty five mile commute from South Sarasota to Northwest Bradenton to make, and this tiny roadblock was not welcomed.

He was standing over by the retention pond about 50 yards from me as I made a beeline for my car door. He saw me, and walked at an angle so he would meet me at my vehicular destination. I tried not to make eye contact with him, but he didn't seem to care. Once he was within lisping distance, he called out to me.

He said, “Hey, do you live around here?”

I replied, “No, I live down in Bradenton.”

“Don't you mean up in Bradenton?”, He said.

I hated him even more for correcting me. First, he was interrupting my getting home and out of my work clothes, and now he was telling me how to talk. He obviously needed some information from me, and this was his way of opening that dialogue. He was not winning any hearts or minds.

He continued, “Well, I rent a room in a house down the street, and I was hoping you knew of someone else that might be looking for a roommate or had a room for rent in their house. The people who live in the house with me have a lifestyle that I don't approve of.”

What I wanted to say was, “No, and I wouldn't recommend you to any of my friends or acquaintances anyway. I don't think they would want to share a home with someone who ends their sentences with a preposition.” I wanted to correct his misuse of language too, but I feared that would elongate our encounter, and only continue to keep me away from the tall glass of vodka and cranberry that my parched palate was requesting.

What I did say was, “No.”

I'm not sure if he sensed my increasing frustration with him, or if this actually happened, but what he said next abruptly ended our conversation.

He said, “Oh, I gotta go. A cardinal just flew into my car.”

Wait, what? I was happy that the distance between our beings was increasing, and that I was released from the prison that was our interaction. However, I was not sure what the hell just happened. I have ended most of my conversations with random strangers with a quick, “Goodbye”, “No thanks”, or “Sorry I don't have any spare change.” But never in my life had one ended with “A cardinal just flew into my car.”

The tiny stranger flew off toward his black Pontiac Solstice, and paid me no further attention. I didn't stick around to see how everything worked out. I just got into my bird-free automobile, and headed home.

During my thirty minute drive, I thought about that tiny man and his housing predicament. I wondered how he ended up renting a room with other strangers in a house where one's lifestyle is evident to the other. Most of the rented housing situations of which I am aware involved separate entryways with lockable doors and very little communal space. This fella was obviously in a different position.

I also wondered what kind of lifestyle his roommates had that offended him so badly that he would lurk by a retention pond waiting to ask random strangers if they knew of any rooms for rent? I know I shouldn't judge him based on his effeminate speech pattern, but I did. I generally associate that with gay men, so I can only assume that the lifestyle he spoke of was not the alternative type. It had to be something else.

Is it possible that this bird story was the first thing that came to his mind when he wanted to sever our conversation? Is it also possible that it was a Freudian situation, and his obsession with birds was what caused that to be his first choice of excusing himself? I can only assume that had to be the case.

This tiny lisping gentleman was obviously a down-on-his-luck and out of work bird watcher (or birder as they like to be called now). Hence his lurking by the pond. That area was well known by the people in my office for having a raft of ducks, a family of Sand Hill Cranes, and an occasional Spoonbill or two. He wasn't lurking, he was observing. How could I be so judgmental?

His love of birds was matched only by his hate for his roommates. They were most certainly a gaggle of duck detesting, lark loathing, heron hating, pelican punching, skimmer scorners. And this avian enthusiast wanted nothing to do with them! I now understand his need to find a new domicile to rest his hat-covered head. He could not stand to spend one more night fluffing his feather pillow and tucking himself into bed beneath his down comforter (which by the way would be way too hot to use in Florida).

I felt sorry for him, and I wished I knew of a place where he could stay. Somewhere far away from those awful people. I also knew that he would eventually find someone that will take him into their home, or rent a room to him over their garage. Someplace where he can nestle in, and hang his collection of watercolor paintings of water birds and other feathered subjects. I just hope that place is up there in Sarasota, and nowhere near me.

I've always wanted to end a story with a little "Free Bird."

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Planned Parent...

I was invited to an event that was being labeled “Half Thanksgiving.” The real Thanksgiving was approximately six months away, so the moniker made sense. My friend Amber was the hostess of this get together, and I was one of about eight people she invited. I brought along my wife, because she too like to occasionally eat food around dinner time. We got in the car about fifteen minutes before the event was to begin, and made our way over to Amber's house.

We arrived and were greeted by the mixed scents of all that is delicious. My nostrils filled with hints of cinnamon, basil and onions. We made our way through the kitchen, and into the dining room. My eyes relayed signals to my brain of what was awaiting us, and my stomach growled in anticipation. Across the tablescape was a cornucopia of standard Thanksgiving fare. A mountain of mashed potatoes was flanked by a crisp-crusted dish of green bean casserole. A platter of sliced white and dark turkey meat was nestled in between sun-colored cheesy baked macaroni and haphazardly stacked cubes of browned stuffing. I was beginning to like this idea of Amber's recently created holiday called Half Thanksgiving.

We each made ourselves an overflowing plate of all the available vittles, and then found a place in the living room where we could shovel the food into our salivating mouths. There was plenty of conversation to be had, but most of it was commentary regarding what was on the television. At first we watched a pop culture/geek chic program, but it was over by the time we had finished our food. Very little commentary occurred due to the current practices of chewing and swallowing. The next program was “Cops” (an American classic). I'm not sure why nobody changed the channel or even just shut off the television completely. As it turned out, I'm glad they didn't.

Amber subscribed to a service called “Caller ID on TV” through her cable company. This feature allows you to see who is calling your house on your television instead of having to look at the phone itself. Generally, one would consider that to be a very convenient feature, and would think nothing of the possible setbacks. Amber would soon learn about one of them.

As we all sat in her living room, digesting our food and watching the television, the phone began to ring. After the first ring, a text box appeared in the top left corner of her 46 inch wide screen TV. In that box were the words “Planned Parent” and the phone number of the incoming call. Using the Pythagorean Theorem, I determined that if she had a 46” wide screen TV with a 16:9 aspect ratio, and 12.5% of the screen was taken up by this text box; then Amber was experiencing exactly 113 square inches of pure embarrassment.

Her immediate response was, “That call is not for me, I promise.”

That did not quell the snickers and comical jabs aimed in her direction. One person muttered, “Guess who's coming to dinner” and another person chimed in with, “Amber, is there something you need to tell us?”

Amber is a fair-skinned redhead, and the color of her cheeks was in a race with her auburn locks to see which could reach the higher level of red. Her cheeks ended up winning by a nose.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Aged to Imperfection

I have no idea what this is, or what it once was.  I do know that time and moisture has created visual art out of the written word.  I thought it was worth sharing nevertheless.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

"Make It Rain" Economics

If you got money, and you know it
Take it out your pocket and show it
Then throw it like
This a way (uh huh)
That a way (uh huh)...”

Those were the words that I heard blaring from the stereo of a late model Chevy Impala on my drive home one day. The car had two distinguishable characteristics. It had huge wheels with spinning rims, and a paint job that depicted an epic battle between the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and their main nemesis Shredder (seriously, you can't make that shit up). The wheels were so large in comparison to the size of the car that it looked like a giant roller skate.

Once I got past the aesthetics of the vehicle, I started to think about the lyrics of the song that I heard. They were contrasted with what was emitting from the speakers in my car. I was listening to “All Things Considered” on National Public Radio. The story was about the Republican primary election. The two front runners, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, were debating the practice of trickle-down economics during the Reagan administration in the 1980's. They both took turns giving a metaphorical hand job to “The Gipper” (a literal one would be deplorable and really hard to do without access to a backhoe). They also shot many a verbal arrow toward Barack Obama and his 2008 campaign comments about how the “old trickle-down theory has failed us."

A quick explanation of the the trickle-down theory is as follows: It is an economic theory which states that investing money in companies and giving them tax breaks is the best way to stimulate the economy (www.investopedia.com). In the 1980's, “Reaganomics” was born. It took that theory and expanded it to include decreased social spending, increased military spending and the deregulation of domestic markets. Basically, it said that if you lower the taxes for corporations and the higher income earners that run them, eventually the money will “trickle-down” to the consumers and other people with lower incomes.

The opinion of Barack Obama and many other Democrats is that the theory is flawed and is only “thinly veiled social Darwinism.” This being NPR, they showed a thinly veiled bias toward the Obama camp on the subject. Obama went on to aim his comments at Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis) by saying, "For much of the last century, we have been having the same argument with folks who keep peddling some version of trickle-down economics," He said, "They keep telling us that if we'd convert more of our investments in education and research and health care into tax cuts, especially for the wealthy, our economy will grow stronger." That being said, I don't really have anything to say about the discussion or rhetoric. However, I do have an idea of my own.

I call it the “Make it Rain” theory of economics. Instead of giving tax breaks to corporations or on the capital gains that investors have received since the 1980's, I propose we give tax breaks to monies earned from rap record sales. No other subset of American multimillionaires has shown a similar affinity for spending money on goods and services with reckless abandon. I return to the words of Lil' Wayne in his song “Got Money.” If he has more money, he will most surely know it, and he will in turn take it out of his pocket and show it. It will “trickle-down” as he “makes it rain” this a way and that a way (uh huh).

Once the “make it rain” tax policy is enacted, a satisfied young gentleman named Soulja Boy will wake up the next morning, hop up out of his bed, turn his “swag on”, take a look in the mirror, say “what's up” and announce to his accountant, “Yeah, I'm getting money!”

The industries that would see the quickest jump in consumer activity would be jewelry stores, strip clubs and car dealerships. “Big timers” will fill their closets with Gucci suits, gator boots and Coogi sweaters (ironically, the Big Tymers will have moved on to more expensive brands). More precious gems and metals will be invented by alchemists. Their funding will come from the likes of Jay-Z and Kanye West. They might have “99 Problems”, but a luxury tax wouldn't be one. Sales of Escalades and Hummers will skyrocket, and the American companies that make them will need to hire new employees to keep up with the demand.

The economic effect will be immediate and sustained. That is, until we experience a downturn in the country's interest in rap music. At that time, we may have to expand it to include the earnings of boy bands. Hopefully that cycle is at least another fifteen to twenty years away. I'm still getting those N'Sync songs out of my head from the last great musical depression.

I just solved the economic crisis, you're welcome. Vote D3P in 2012!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

April Fools... You're Adopted!

Alcohol is like a slow working truth serum. It gets the same effect as sodium pentathol, but with less than guaranteed results. I have seen it work wonders though. One such occurrence was a year ago today; when a group of people came into the bar where I was sitting, enjoying a quiet drink. They were already pretty well saturated with what smelled like whiskey-based truth serum. They were close enough to me that I could identify the alcohol they were drinking, and therefore they were also close enough for me to hear their conversations. The combination was sure to bear fruit.

There were two rather tall members of the group that were perched directly to my right. One was a skinny fellow who was wearing a Foxy Shazaam t-shirt and skinny jeans. He was extremely demonstrative with his hands and his facial expressions followed suit. The other was a more burly type, who stood about 6'5” tall. His hands stayed still on the table, and his thick black beard hid any smile or frown that he could conjure up.

The skinny guy's name was Tom, and he was the more visibly intoxicated of the two. He was also the one doing most of the talking. He was discussing his recent failed relationships, his disgust with his current job, and pretty much just complaining about his entire life at that moment. The odd thing was that he was making all of these sad comments and observations with an ear-to-ear smile pasted on his face. The bearded gentleman was like a hairy statue, whose sole purpose in the “conversation” was to listen and occasionally nod his head to show he was still awake.

Tom continued to express his loathing for his boss at work. He talked about how he was simultaneously an arrogant prick and a know-nothing micro manager. Tom spoke about the women who had left him for other men in the recent months. One girl broke up with him because he was “too clingy” and the other said he “never wanted to spend time with her.”

I thought to myself, “Either he went from one side of the spectrum in women he dated, or he over compensated in his approach to being a boyfriend.” Either way, I felt like this conversation was building up to something worth hearing. I was right.

Tom quickly changed course, and became exponentially more adamant about his new line of verbal assault on the ever listening ears of his bearded friend. They shared a round of Jagermeister shots, and Tom got to his new point. He said, “And today is my birthday. God damn it, it really sucks having April 1st as a birthday!”

His bearded brother said, “Oh yeah, I knew that. Is that why you called me to meet you up here?”

Tom interrupted him, “Yep, but that is only part of the story. Today my parents told me I was adopted. I thought it was yet another April Fools joke for my birthday. Unfortunately, it was not.”

His friend could only say, “Wow, dude. That sucks.” His friend was good at growing a beard, but really not so skilled in the art of empathy.

Tom jumped back in, “Yeah, they basically just said, 'Happy birthday son, your biological parents didn't want you. Have some cake.' I didn't know how to respond.”

I wished I had some sort of way to interrupt their conversation and supply Tom with some support, or maybe act as his friend's empathetic Cyrano de Bergerac. Alas, it was only my job to listen. And so I did.

Tom went on to explain how his parents had actually always wanted a son, and his adoption was planned shortly after conception. Luckily neither his adopted or biological parents gave him any details on the conception. That would be rather awkward for all involved.

What I couldn't get over was the fact that he initially thought it was an April Fools prank. Were his adoptive parents really big jokesters, or did he have to question everything that ever occurred on his birthday? What a horrible set of affairs that would be. Most people just get to enjoy their birthdays by eating cake and hanging out with friends and family. Tom had to stay on his toes and wonder what trickery was in store for him that year.

I imagined an eight year-old Tom waking up on his birthday to find a saddle in the living room sitting next to a book about how to care for a pony. His parents would blindfold him, buckle him into the minivan, and head east to the farm where his birthday pony was waiting for him. They would drive in circles for twenty minutes or so, stop the van, open the sliding door ceremoniously, and have him remove his blindfold only to find out he was standing in front of his own house. His parents would be rolling on the ground laughing after shouting “April Fools!” and then lead him inside so he could open up a Lego set or G.I. Joe action figure. Most kids just got the set of blocks or action figure without the emotional roller coaster. Not Tom; he got the full treatment.

Did a sixteen year-old Tom find a cherry red Ford Mustang waiting for him in the driveway, only to later find out they had just taken it for a test drive with the sole intention of tormenting their son? Was he subjected to this kind of torture every year, or did his parents have to wait a few years in between the cruel practice of dashing his hopes and dreams on the anniversary of his birth?

I wondered what kind of effect that would have on my psyche. I quickly realized, I would probably end up just like Tom. Not knowing what the next birthday would bring. Not knowing how my next personal or work relationship would pan out. And probably not be able to trust anyone to whom I grew close.

Tom's parents could not be trusted. I had only know about them for a few minutes, but I questioned their motives and parenting skills at every corner. I even wondered if this was actually their April Fools opus. Were they going to let this joke go for an entire year before revealing the elaborate gag?

Tom would spend the next 365 days asking questions about his “real” parents, and they would answer all of them with vague and political responses. Tom would slip into deep depression, but his parents wouldn't let him on to their clever ruse. Each day they would greet him with smiles and comforting hugs. He would lose weight from not eating. He would quit his job, and become a recluse. His skin would grow pale, and his face would lose any semblance of vibrancy.

A year later, Tom would emerge from his basement lair to see his parents sitting in the living room with another pair of adults. They would introduce them as "Mr. and Mrs. Jones."  They would call him to sit down on the couch between them. He would slowly come to realize that these were not just house guests. These were the two people who gave him life, then gave him up. They were his biological parents!

The morning would be one of the most eye-opening experiences of his life. He would learn about how his father was a classically-trained guitarist, and his mother was a ER nurse who saved the lives of hundreds of people every year. If they would have kept him, then their lives would have been more ordinary, and he would not have gotten the support and love he deserved.

His being adopted was not something that he needed to think about ever again. It was a great thing for everyone involved. His biological parents got to live their lives and make their mark on society, while his adoptive parents got the son they always wanted, and most importantly he was the recipient of love and admiration from those parents. Tom would finally feel like he knew his place in the universe.

Tom would rush to go get the poetry notebook in which he had written his every thought and feeling over the last twelve months. It would be his final act of cleansing. This was going to be the cathartic moment he had been waiting for, not just in the past year, but his entire life!

Upon his return to the living room, notebook in hand, his smiling face would be greeted by the puffed cheeks of all four adults in the room waiting for him. Their cheeks would deflate and a loud roar of laughter would fill the room, fingers pointed in his direction. His father would stand up to walk over to him. Tom, standing bewildered and wondering what was so damn funny, wold begin to speak. His father would interrupt him before he could get a word out, and scream, “April Fools!”

The whole thing was an elaborate hoax, with the sole purpose to further push Tom into solitude and distrust for the entire human race. It was at this moment that he would come to the realization that it was not the entire human race that was to be distrusted.  His parents were just assholes. The rest of the world knows how to just say, “Happy Birthday” and take you out to dinner or to the bar for a drink.  Luckily, Tom eventually found a bearded friend who could be there for him. And even more lucky was that on the day where he first told that story to another person, I was there to hear.

Happy birthday Tom!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

If Your Facial Hair Could Talk...

If facial hair could talk, what would it say? I believe I know the answer to what should have just been a rhetorical question. This is not a beard chart or just a list of facial hair types with silly names. No, this is what the beard says about the man (or woman) on whose face it resides.

I will use Wooly Willy as a model to provide visual representation to my arguments herein. These views are strictly the opinions of the author and in no way reflect the views of the bearded community as a whole. However, you can feel free to take these views and claim them as your own. I will not sue you.

Let’s start with the shortest beards first, then we’ll get into the standard types, and eventually we’ll work our way into the more intricate face garden types.

Clean shaven face, “I am either in sales, or I haven’t learned that I can grow a beard yet. There is no other excuse to leave my chin bare. I am a blank canvas that needs to be painted with fuzz. I am a patch of land just waiting to be cultivated into a follicle farm. I am kind of cold; can you pop your collar to block the breeze? Ah, that’s better.”

The 5 O’clock Shadow (at 5:00 pm), “I shaved either last night or this morning. I am not sure if I will make that terrible decision again tonight or tomorrow. I don’t want to, but I heard that 70% of women prefer clean shaven men. I care too much about what other people think.”

The 5 O’clock Shadow (all day, every day), “I trim my beard 3-4 times a week, but only down to stubble. I read an article in GQ or Esquire that said that this was fashionable. I also care too much about what other people think. However, I don’t much care for women.”

Full beard #1 (beyond stubble to 1” in length), “I am not afraid to be a man, but I may be afraid of razors. I have a job that allows some facial hair, but nothing out of control. If that were not the case, my beard would be a force the likes that have never been seen this side of the Mississippi.”

Full beard #2 (1” to 2” in length), “I could be any kind of person, but I am generally in a transitional period in my life. I could be taking a year off from school/work to ‘find myself’ or ‘write the great American novel.’ I could be just some dude who stopped caring about how the world views him, and decided to cultivate a wonderful face garden to show it.  I probably won’t ever be clean shaven. That’s ludicrous!”

Full beard #3 (2” to 6” in length), “I am either homeless or in a rock band. Offer me a dollar. If I say “thanks” and put it in my pocket, then I am probably in a rock band. If I dance around and thank Jesus, then I am homeless (unless I’m in a Christian rock band, then your guess is as good as mine).”

Full beard #4 (6”+), “I am either a homeless person or a wizard. Either way, I will be chanting random things. Whether that is the booze talking or not, will not always be immediately evident. I would run away, just to be safe.”

Quasi full beard (without beard-moustache connectors), “According to my genealogy, I am not to be trusted. I want to be real man, but God has forsaken me. If my beard is red, then it is probably hiding freckles, therefore I have no soul. Point me to the nearest hallway, so that I can eat my lunch in solitude.”

Mutton Chops, “I generally exude awesomeness, and the people who have jobs that do not allow them to grow mutton chops are jealous of my existence. If I also a have a mustache connecting my chops (aka 'Friendly Mutton Chops') be careful, I could be a time-traveling salesman. Would you like to buy any mustache wax or hair tonic, sir?”

Slim side burns, “I have either never seen how stupid all the tools on Beverly Hills 90210 looked in he 90’s, or I still have a poster of Luke Perry in the room I rent from my parents in their basement. I pay my rent by mowing the lawn, and giving foot rubs to my Nana. Someone please kill me.”

Chin Strap (with or without a wispy moustache), “I think I have a real beard, but I actually just have a stupid line of hair along my jaw line. My beard is high maintenance, and low reward. Women hate my chin strap, and I hate myself.”

Fu Manchu, “If I am Asian, I can probably kill you in over 1,000 different ways. If I am Caucasian and over 40 years old, I can probably quote the lyrics of any Queen song. If I am under 40 years old, please put a mirror in front of my face so I can see how crazy I look. From that point, I can either embrace my lunacy or grow a different beard. Either way, thank you citizen!”

Goatee, “I apparently didn’t realize that beards come in men's sizes too. I am a Fisher Price beard; a starter kit on which to build. Please provide me with feedback as to how I can improve. I need direction, because I started to be beard, but then decided to be ½ a beard after getting so close. If I don’t listen to you at first, please feel free to raise your voice or physically shake some sense into me.”

Soul Patch, “If I am not Bruce Springsteen, Billy Bob Thornton, or Howie Mandel; then I am a pretentious douche bag.  If I exist ironically or for some other type of political or creative purpose, tread lightly, there is a thin line between genius and douche. I would recommend discussing this with a licensed beard consultant before continuing on with this charade.”

Neck beard, “I am an enigma wrapped in a mystery, surrounded by a riddle. The fact that I exist has perplexed men and women alike. I am neither fashionable nor functional. I am basically a dust ruffle for your face; without accent pillows or matching drapes. I would rather just be side burns.”

Cop Stache, “If I am not a police officer, then I probably drive a Ford Crown Victoria or a Dodge Charger. If I am a police officer, then you are most likely not happy to see me. Feel free to compliment me on my moustache, but do not attempt to stroke it. Cop or not, you don’t stroke a man’s stache without an invite.”

Handlebar moustache, “I have either watched too many Spaghetti Westerns, or grew up in the 70’s as a big Rollie Fingers fan. I spend a lot of time making sure my ‘bars’ are trimmed neatly and waxed to perfection. Free moustache rides you say? Not on this work of art! If I did offer such a service, you couldn’t afford my rates.”

I am sure more than a few beard and moustache types were omitted from this exercise. I would be happy to read your addendums, corrections, and amendments as well. Please feel free to post them as comments or email them to me directly. Just please don’t take your facial hair decisions lightly. A good beard is a terrible thing to waste.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

St. Patrick: The Patron Saint of Hygiene

I never thought that soap could be at the forefront of a political discussion. At least, I didn't think that until I witnessed a conversation on St Patrick's Day. As is the case on March 17th each year, there were more than a gaggle of drunken Irish and non-Irish alike, gallivanting along the main thoroughfare. As is also the case, many of these people are what I categorize as “amateur alcoholics.” You know, the kind of people who culminate most of their weekend nights by going to bed by 11:00 pm. Their idea of a rowdy night out involves a nice dinner at a restaurant, where they may even order a bottle of wine (to be split betwixt the table of four). If they are feeling extra saucy, they may even go out for ice cream afterward (oh boy!). But on this day every year, those people arrange for a babysitter, and guzzle down green beer with the rest of the part time partiers until they pass out in the car, or regurgitate the contents of their stomachs into the nearest receptacle.

Along with such an onslaught of amateurs comes the wondrous verbal diarrhea that emits from their slurring faces at every table. It is generally too much for my voyeuristic ears to absorb. I have to hone in on a few, and hope I choose wisely. In this case, I did just that.

It was only 10:30 pm, but this table of wobbling babblers was fully intoxicated, and having a discussion that encompassed both of the cardinal sins of drunken conversation. They were vehemently covering the topics of religion and politics. Rarely does that conversation end well for any of the participants. This was not an exception to that rule. Luckily for me, I was not a participant, but rather just a smiling bystander.

The table was occupied by two couples that looked like they were in their early thirties. The women had the shape of those who had experienced the wonder of childbirth, and had the hips to prove it. The men had the streaks of gray hair and the pre-wrinkles associated with a consistent furrowed brow. These were obviously two sets of parents out on the town for one of their very few opportunities to “let loose.” They were taking full advantage of the occasion.

On the table sat two glasses of green beer, one pint of Guinness stout, and what could only be described as the fruitiest drink I have ever seen. The green beer and Guinness fell right in line with what you would expect to see on a St. Patty's Day high-top table. The super fruit drink did not. Further confusing my sensory observation skills, the super fruit concoction sat directly in front of one of the male occupants. I assumed that this was simply just misaligned on their tablescape, and one of the women would soon reach for it to enjoy the sugary mixture. My assumption was inaccurate. No sooner had I cemented my analysis of these people, that one of the gray-haired gentlemen grasped the stem of the martini glass, and took a sip of it. My mind was officially blown.

Drink selection aside, he was as manly as one would expect a patriarch to be. He spoke with a deep booming voice without any hint of a lisp, and not once did he utter a “fabulous” or “fierce” phrase. I guess he just liked fruit. He also was the most adamant (a.k.a. inebriated) one at the table, and he tended to be the leader of most of their conversations.

He would say things like, “Did you know that St. Patrick's Day is actually supposed to be a religious holiday? Yeah, it was to celebrate the arrival of Christianity in Ireland, and was later used to mark the end of Lent. I read that on Wikipedia.”

I looked it up, and he was right. Or at least that is what it says on Wikipedia.

The people at the table would chime in, and offer their points. I saw their mouths moving, so I assume their was some sort of language emitting from their faces. It was loud in the bar, and Gray Fruit was the only one I could really hear. It made for an interesting half conversation to overhear. They would stop talking, and he would resume. But rarely was it in line with what I anticipated to hear next.

In my mind, I was expecting something like, “That's true, but just as time passes and the meaning of holidays must evolve, we too must not forget about the true purpose of these traditions.” What I heard was straight out of left field.

He said, “In the Middle East, they refer to it as the 'Arab Spring.' I'm wondering if the origin of this was ever called the 'Irish Spring.' Furthermore, is that where the name of that soap came from?”

How did he get there from where they started? Only in an alcoholic stupor could anyone logically get to the naming of a soap from a Christian insurgence in the 5th Century. I was amazed, and quite frankly dumbfounded by the leap this conversation had taken in just a few short minutes. My mind tried to fill in the gaps of the conversation I had missed. I was saddened by the fact that I didn't hear their exact points and logic.

The other man at the table was a quiet sort, who was much more apt to smirk and nod than to contribute to the conversation. The two heavy-hipped woman were the ones providing additional conversation and counterpoints.

I imagined the woman sitting to his immediate right was his wife. She had a more sheepish demeanor. I originally suspected that just was just her normal disposition. After hearing the nonsense her man was spouting, I believe it was just concealed embarrassment. Her words were probably just verbal attempts to pull the reins, and save her husband from a shameful morning. If she hadn't, he would most certainly have woken up on March 18th asking, “Why did you let me keep talking? We'll never be able to go out with them ever again.”

The other woman was smiling from ear to ear. I'm pretty sure she was just goading him into further ridiculous comments. Her efforts were not in vain. All she had to do was lead that horse to drink, and he was surely gulping down one fruity bit of nonsense after another. Was she the one who brought up the “Arab Spring”, and its non sequential association with the current conversation? It seemed as if such things were true. I also believe that she was having just as much fun antagonizing him as I had watching her do so.

She weaved a magical web of meaning out of a seemingly meaningless string of “facts.” And he was along for the ride. She took him from the origin of St. Patty's Day, to the way we celebrate it today as a appreciation of all things Irish (mostly their affinity for alcohol), and guided him to a ridiculous conclusion that a brand of soap is a commemoration of Irish independence. She was my new hero (move over Chuck Norris and Pat Morita).

After a another half hour or so, and very little else being said at that table (much to my chagrin), they made their way to the exit. I was sad to see them leave, and hopeful that he would give us all one more gem before calling it a night. He did.

Just as he approached the threshold of the bar, he stopped and turned toward his friends. By the glint in his eye, and the grin on his face, it looked like he was about to say something magnificent. But the only thing that came out was a liquified mixture of corned beef, cabbage, and a colorful assortment of fruits. He aimed for the garbage can, and with expert marksmanship, he left the surrounding area relatively unscathed. The stream was powerful, and the smell was surprisingly pleasant. He may have started the evening with metaphorically colorful verbal diarrhea, but he ended it with literal rainbow of vomit. It would seem fitting for there to be a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow on such an occasion. However, I wasn't about to see for myself. I'll leave that to the barback who has to take out the garbage later. If there is a treasure to be found, I'll leave it for him to collect. He deserves it.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Putting the Orphan in Dextromethorphan

I did just what I always do when I am looking for inspiration. I went for a bike ride. You miss so much when you are traveling in a car. You can see big billboards or street signs, and maybe even a raving homeless person or two. But you don't get a chance to fully observe the smaller things, or hear just what that particular homeless person is raving about.

Well, just as I had hoped, my two-wheeled ambling jaunt gave me just what I needed. It came in the form of garbage. That's right, garbage. I saw a pile of refuse just off the sidewalk, and upon further inspection, it turned out to be a significant combination of items. There were three empty bottles of Robitussin and three half empty bottles of chocolate milk. They had been discarded in a small clearing amongst the bushes behind a Walgreens. It was obviously the site of a teenage party that was held the night before. I can only imagine how that party would have progressed.

As a married father of none, it has never been my inclination to worry about what “kids are doing these days.” My only glimpse into the shenanigans of today's youth are through the stories from my wife's work. She is a counselor for runaway and homeless kids. Her duty as a clinician is not to reveal names or explicit details about her clients, so I am forced to accept nameless generalities in lieu of the “real” story. It would only be through extensive Googling and taking grains of salt from Wikipedia that I would learn about why Robitussin is the drug of choice for middle class suburban tweens. I tried to find a connection to the chocolate milk, but alas, I think this particular sect of teenagers just had a random craving. Upon further reading, I came across the phenomenon known as “Robotripping.” I learned that it was predominantly groups of young females who partake in this activity. They do so with hopes of getting high and possibly even bringing on a hallucination or twelve. Knowledge is power, the internet is its outlet, and young minds are the blender where that knowledge gets made into a chocolate cough syrup smoothie.

I couldn't help but to picture three teenage girls sitting “Indian style” in that tiny clearing behind Walgreens. Each taking a turn guzzling the Robitussin first, then chasing it with the watered down chocolatey deliciousness. I assume they were kids that could have used a few more hugs in their earlier years, and are frequently seen at the mall perusing the latest fashions at Hot Topic. It was a misguided attempt to feel better about themselves, or just to feel something other than the pressure a teenager must endure every hormone laden day. Gone are the days where you can get a dime bag of pot in study hall, go back to your friend's house, saunter past his hippie parents, smoke a bowl, eat some generic brand iced fruit cookies, and laugh hysterically whilst playing Mario Kart until two in the morning. Here to stay are the days where the next generation huddles in bushes behind Walgreens, swilling cherry-flavored cough syrup, and sipping chocolate milk. I prefer the Eightfold Mario Kart path, but that's just me.

I was never a full-fledged stoner (although the details above were inspired by a true story), but I did not skip my teenage mistake making either. I have also done my share of over-the-counter drugs in my 30+ years on this earth, but only when I had a sore throat or stuffy nose. I also followed the recommended dosages. Even so, I have felt the side effects of those dosages. Many a sick day on the couch I have muttered odd things to my caretakers, and had many peculiar comments mumbled in my general direction as well. Whether it is the occasional “my face feels numb” or the once spoken “I feel like sunshine”, those things are to be expected when someone is under the influence of cough medicine. I can only imagine the nonsense that would ensue if someone (especially a young someone) were to consume an entire bottle of that powerful elixir in one cross-legged sitting.

I have heard the phrases “Out of the mouths of babes...” and “Kids say the darnedest things” applied to the random shit that young people say. What if those babes' mouths or kids' brains were under the influence of 4 ounces of dextromethorphan? I imagine they would emit some pretty crazy ramblings. An attempt to enter into the brain of a teenage girl is not taken lightly, mind you, but in the interest of science (and short story fiction) I delved deep. For the sake of flow and identification, I will refer to the three faceless females as Emily, Taylor and Hannah. Emily would be the leader of the pack, and that is only because I know and respect more adults named Emily than I do Taylors and Hannahs (sorry ladies).

Emily would arrive at the rendezvous point (a.k.a. the clearing in the bushes behind the Walgreens) with three recently stolen bottles of Robitussin. Taylor would bring the chocolate milk, because her mother believes it is never too early to start fighting the war against osteoporosis. Hannah would show up empty handed, because she is a useless human being. God, I hate Hannah already, and I just made her up.

From there, the night would go as planned. They would get really high, pretend to hallucinate, sweat profusely, vomit until their stomachs were empty, and go home to their respective homes only to realize the next side effect is violent diarrhea. It is not a fairy tale in the least, but possibly a cautionary one. Hannah would get the coup de grâce though. She didn't bring anything to the party, but she would leave with the knowledge that she was extremely lactose intolerant. The reaction to the Robitussin is one thing, but the ongoing pain and discomfort of having a pint of milk sloshing in her digestive tract is just what the karma doctor ordered.

The moral of the story is twofold. The first is for the kids themselves. Drugs are bad (m'kay), and no matter whether you buy it from the smelly kid in study hall or steal it from the shelf of your local pharmacy, you are in for a rude awakening (and a hurried trip to the bathroom). The second is for the parents. Don't name your kid Hannah. Seriously, you're just damning her (hopefully not him) to be the girl who shows up to the clearing in the bushes empty handed, and leaves with a terrible case of “the runs.”

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Relics of Rock

I was sitting among a gaggle of Baby Boomers around the Tiki Bar at Tarpon Point Grill last night. We were shivering around the heaters while getting belted by the chilly winds off the Manatee River. My mother was in town, and we were enjoying an alcoholic nightcap. As we sipped our drinks, we listened to the musical stylings of a jam band. I do not remember their name, but that is just another sign of their mediocrity. They were a foursome of 50 and 60 year-old gentleman who were content playing to a sparse crowd of fifteen to twenty. Their beer bellies swayed back and forth as they strummed their guitars and pounded their drums. Smiles were pasted across the faces of the entertainers and entertainees alike as they belted out covers of tunes called “Frigidaire Woman” (which contained numerous sexual innuendos about home appliances) and “Hit Her with a Brick” (which was rather literal in its interpretation). Their song choices were as suspect as everything else that occurred on stage last night.

I wondered if this was just a hobby for the entertainers, or if this was a continued pursuit of a life long dream to be a rock star. I can't imagine that this was what they pictured when they first picked up an instrument. Is it possible that a young fifteen year-old held aloft a cheap plastic pick or splintered wood drum stick and said, “Some day, I'll be playing a Bradenton tiki bar on a Thursday night in front of dozens of people. That's right... dozens!”

I continued to wonder. I have seen plenty of local bands that were made up of “kids” in their early twenties. What goes through their minds as they get ready to play a show? Are they satisfied with the crowds of fifteen to twenty? Do they hope for a packed bar of 40 to 50 half-interested and fully inebriated patrons? Or do they still dream of playing in front of sold out crowds at Madison Square Garden or the 1-800-Ask-Gary Amphitheater?

I have seen plenty of aging rockers in their twilight years playing a multitude of local venues.
I see the bands that grew up listening to and idolizing Ronnie James Dio and Mötley Crüe. They have receding hairlines, protruding guts, and a certain air of failure exuding from their pores. They have a devout following that never exceeds fifty people, and through my brief research, the entertainers have blue collar day jobs. Once upon a time, they were skinnier and their dreams were larger. What happened? Did they get a groupie pregnant? Were they popular enough to have groupies? Or did life and their metabolism just catch up with them?

I don't actually worry too much about the current crop of dream-crushed musicians. No, I care more about the current wave of young musicians that are in that all important stage of life where they must choose to shit or get off the stage. Shitting being the figurative symbol of “making it” in the music business. I want all my friends to be able to have the opportunity to shit (once again, figuratively). My amateur ears tell me that they are talented, and just need the right opportunity to really “make it.” But that is not the reality. The odds are that opportunity will never arise, or will be missed. Life will happen, and making music will become an activity of the past or just a hobby. I just hope they don't become tomorrow's sad sights at a tiki bar on a Thursday night way into the future, playing Green Day covers to a smattering of drunken patrons.

I picture the Gen-Xers and Gen-Yers in their Emo glory, traipsing around a small stage some twenty years from now. I assume they'll still be wearing eye liner and skinny jeans just like they do today. Or the metal heads would be smearing blood on their faces just hours after finishing their TPS reports. It would be a sad set of affairs. Then again, I don't think they care. They are still doing what they love, and I doubt they see themselves in the same vain that I do.

I imagine they would still see themselves as rock Gods. Looking down on those who partake in karaoke, just to bellow into a microphone on stage. No, they are being paid (albeit in small increments) to entertain. They will most certainly picture themselves just as they looked in their twenties. They would have to do that. Dreams and positive self-image are for those who hang on to what could be. Reality is for those who have given up.

My final question is this; when is it appropriate to hang up your spurs (or more accurately, your Converse)? At some point you have to hit a figurative musical wall, and the choice has to be made. Do you heed the signs that it is time to move on, and join the ranks of the other white collar workers of the world? Or do you ignore them and continue pursuing your dream until you become the subject matter for some snarky blog writer who couldn't play a lick on a guitar? I'll leave that decision up to them. For now, I'm going to continue going to shows to cheer and support local music. God speed; you rulers of rock, you masters of Metal, you purveyors of punk.

PS- If you are in a Sublime cover band, please stop... now.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Is This Racist?

Sometimes my inner thoughts turn into crude MS Paint creations. This what what occurred in my brain cake today.  My only question, is this racist?


Saturday, February 11, 2012

Richard, You're a Dick!

Dick was a dick! That being said, there is a reason why I refer to him by such a name and with such an irreverent tone. He was my neighbor when I lived at my dad's house for a bit. He was an outright son-of-a-bitch, who would one day get the comeuppance he deserved. This is the prologue to said comeuppance.

His name was actually Richard, but I called him “Dick” because I felt it was more applicable. He was a terrible neighbor. He once called Animal Control, because my dog barked at the water birds in our back yard every morning for about fifteen seconds. An annoyance, yes. But one worthy of calling animal control, I think not. I came home from work one day, only to find a notice saying my dog was being a “nuisance.” The story of how Richard became Dick starts here.

Part of the deal for me to stay in my dad's house rent free (thanks dad) was that I paid the utilities and kept the yard in immaculate shape. One of those chores was cleaning up hundreds of mangoes that fell from the tree in the backyard. It was an especially fruitful season of mango precipitation that year. It seemed like there were over a 1,000 of them strewn across the yard when I finally made the effort to collect and dispose of them. Because I had delayed the chore, they were no longer solid orbs, but more of a plasma-like substance that emitted an awful stench. I spent an entire laborious weekend scooping them up with my gloved hands and placing them into garbage bags. I had to use gloves because I am allergic to the sap and juices of the mango. The worst part of that chore was dragging the 50 pound bags of mushy mango pulp to the road.

I believe I amassed over a dozen oversized industrial strength garbage bags full of the itchy and scratchy skin and pulp during that two-day escapade. And due to my supreme exhaustion, I haphazardly piled them by the road for the disposal gentleman to sling into their chariot of waste. At that point, I thought my job was done. I would soon find out that it was not.

The next day, I came home from a long day's work, and tried to relax on the couch and watch some television. My relaxation was interrupted when I heard a light knock on the front door. I turned my head to see who was standing on the doorstep, and I saw no one. I got up and walked toward the entryway, and when I arrived, it was empty. I only saw Dick standing at the end of my driveway. I assumed he was not the perpetrator, and that my mind was just playing tricks on me. I returned to my couch perch in an attempt to continue my workday decompression.

Less than 60 seconds later, I heard the ring of the doorbell. I glanced quickly, only to see the blurry streak of Dick scurrying away like a cockroach when the kitchen light comes on. I sprang from the couch to make sure my eyes had not deceived me yet again, and caught him mid-retreat.

I opened the door and said, “Richard, what do you want?”

His only response was to turn away and wave at me to follow him. I was confused.

I shouted at him again, “Richard, what is going on?” Again, he just looked at me oddly, then continued walking away. I reluctantly followed him.

He did not turn back or say anything as he walked to his house next door and into his driveway. I wasn't sure if he thought his house was a neighborhood embassy, and that he was safe from any harm as long as his feet were touching “base.” As I approached, he looked down at his driveway and ominously pointed his finger toward a tire track stain behind his car. There was a Latino gentleman sweating bullets next to the car, with a wash bucket resting at his feet. This man was obviously under Dick's employ, and had been working hard to scrub away the tire track stain to no avail. Dick would explain the rest in great detail.

He said, “Wade, did you see that your garbage bags are leaking?”

I responded, “No, I hadn't noticed. I'll go check.” Before I could go check, Dick stopped me.

He continued as if his question were rhetorical, “Well, they are. And worse yet, whatever is in those bags is leaking into to gutter and got stuck on my tires when I drove through the gutter and into my driveway last night. I came out here this morning, and found this stain. YOU caused it, and I want to know what YOU are going to do about it.”

I muttered, “Nothing, I guess. It's your driveway.”

He grew angrier, and explained why he was in such a tizzy, “Wade, YOU let whatever this garbage is leak into the gutter, therefore it is YOUR responsibility to clean it up. I have had my friend here trying to clean it all morning. He has tried regular cleaning supplies, turpentine, bleach, and nothing has worked. YOU are going to have to get someone out here with some industrial strength supplies to clean this, and I expect YOU to pay for it! What is in those bags anyway?”

I responded quickly, “Well DICK, those bags are filled with mangoes. I can't imagine anything besides water is needed to clean up this stain. Have you tried water yet?”

Dick replied, “Wade, I already told you. We have tried everything. If bleach and turpentine won't work, what makes you think that water will miraculously wash away this toxic stain?”

I calmly exclaimed, “Because this is mango juice, not tar. Go get your hose, and I'll show you.”

He said, “I don't have a hose long enough” (laces out, Dick).

I returned to my yard, and dragged my hose over to the spot where his man-servant had been scrubbing all morning with unnecessarily strong chemicals. I unleashed a steady spray of the earth's most plentiful resource and watched it immediately chip away the sticky stain, bit by bit.

Once I was 100% positive it was working as expected, I stopped staring at the stain, and aimed my gaze right at Dick's eyes. He was blushing, and I was smiling ear to ear. I did not look away, I just kept smiling at him and washing away the nuisance stain without looking. His cheeks became flushed, and my grin expanded to the point that I felt my cheeks stretching. I had not smiled this big in ages. It was the most satisfaction I had felt in quite some time. All the while, Dick said nothing.

I told him that he should finish the job himself. I would even let him borrow my hose. I wanted to stand next to him, and bask in the glory of my immaculate win. But it felt even better to watch him from afar. He stood there in the gutter, freeing the rest of the mango juice from its dry state into a river of orange liquid. I watched out of the corner of eye as I put the leaking bags into a garbage can. He was amazed, angry and embarrassed at the same time. It was wonderful!

After he has ushered all the mango remnants along the gutters, and into the drain. He returned the hose to where it belonged. Needless to say, he did not come over after he was finished to knock on my door and apologize or offer any sort or thanks for my brilliant remedy. He just coiled up the miracle rubber tube by the water spigot, and went on his way.

I assume he went inside after that and took a long shower to wash off the shame and embarrassment. I also assume he did so after a short spell of rocking back and forth while lying in the fetal position and crying. I should have felt bad about being such a dick to him. But hey, one dick deserves another.