Friday, December 30, 2005

I Want To Thank The Prosecutor's Wife

INTRODUCTION

Thirty years ago, when I was 23, I had a harrowing experience with the Delaware Township Police Department in Sergeantsville, NJ.

I had gone out that night with a friend of mine. We hit a couple of bars and settled in at a place in New Hope, PA, called John & Peter's Place. There was a cafe in front and a small listening room in the back. As small as it was, they had some pretty big name bands perform. One of the local favorites was a band out of Philly called Johnny's Dance Band. They were very good. Once in a while, Bruce Springsteen might be there doing acoustic sets. These nights were never announced, when big name people were there. It doesn't matter who was playing that night. We were having a good time until he dropped me off at my apartment.

THE BUST

My place was right in the center of one of those blinking light towns. In and out, just like that. Directly across the street was the municipal building and also home to the police department. We sat there for a few minutes discussing what the rest of the week was looking like, sort of like planning another night to run around, drink a few, and hit on some babes. Slowly, a police car crept up across the street and parked. Two officers got out and started to walk toward us. I wasn't afraid of anything. Neither of us were drunk and we certainly weren't doing anything wrong. I recognized one of them, Rich Sands, from my high school days. I got out and stood at the front of my friend's Dodge van. Rich and I started to talk. We first greeted each other and shook hands and progressed to simple talk about what we had been up to since the old high school days. The other officer went over to the driver's window. Both Rich and I were oblivious to what was transpiring there until we both heard, "I smell marijuana. You are under arrest!"

Rich and I looked at each other with surprise. I turned to face the other officer and said, "Hey, what's this all about?"

He said to me," You are under arrest, too!"

He made my friend get out of the car and ordered us over to the police car, where he told us to empty our pockets. I didn't respond in the split second time he wanted, so he thrust me down onto the hood of the car, knocking the wind out of me. He immediately cuffed me and emptied all my pockets, where he found a frog, a couple of marbles and not much else. Nothing illegal, as a matter of fact, and nothing was found in my friend's pockets either. I asked him what we were being arrested for. He hesitated and said, "For being drunk and disorderly!" I knew right then and there we were being charged with something trumped up. We weren't drunk and we weren't disorderly. Had we been drunk, this stupid officer, Jack Demeo, should have been smart enough to charge the driver with a DUI (or DWI back then.)

They marched us up the stairs and into the police station. "Watch them," Demeo said to Rich, as if we were escaped murderers he had just apprehended. He went outside and returned with the ashtray, He dumped it on his desk and went picking through the cigarette butts. Lo and behold, he pulled out a marijuana roach that amounted to...2/10 of a gram! Whoa! The biggest bust of the century! "Ha, ha, ha...I gotcha now!!!" I think he was thinking we were facing life in prison. "So, on top of being drunk and disorderly, I've got you on a CDS charge, too!"

"What's CDS?" I asked.

"Controlled Dangerous Substance," he snapped back, with an arrogant glee. That roach could have been in the ashtray for weeks, for all we knew. Had we known it was there, back then, we would have smoked it long before the cops showed up.

I had to pee. I asked him if I could go. "NO!" I asked him several times and got the same dictatorial response. Finally, I pulled something out of my head...

"As a U.S. citizen and subject to rule number 17 of the U.S. Constitution, Section C, Part 203, I am allowed to use a restroom facility whenever I deem it necessary, under penalty of law."

"Take him into the men's room, but watch him."

As I was peeing, Rich was apologetic. "Hey, Dave, I had nothing to do with this."

After all the paperwork and all that crap was done, they loaded us into the back of the squad car and drove us to the Hunterdon County Jail. The entire ride consisted of Demeo making wise cracks and telling us we were the lowest and vilest sub-humans of the community. We laughed.

DELIVERANCE

Finally, we arrived to the fanfare of the hungry jailers. They took mugshots and our fingerprints. One of the jailers was a high school teacher and he remembered us, although neither of us had him for a teacher. He took us upstairs and put us in a cell. He said, "I'll come back and put you in a better cell as soon as we get rid of these asshole cops." He did.

When we awoke in the morning, the TV was on an old science fiction movie. There was another guy in with us. We introduced ourselves and I asked him what he was in for. "Murder." I didn't want to pursue that conversation, so, we all just settled in. At one point, he got up and switched the TV to American Bandstand. I wasn't about to tell him to TURN IT BACK! I WAS WATCHING THAT MOVIE! Later that morning, we were released to freedom, fresh air and sunlight. Whew.


THE PLOT THICKENS

We knew we had to get legal representation. My friend got a lawyer and I talked to an attorney friend of mine, Jay Thatcher. We were in the JAYCEES together. I told him I didn't have money to hire a lawyer. He asked me to tell him what transpired that evening. I told him. He said, "Dave, this is the most ridiculous injustice I've ever heard. I'm going to represent you for free." He got in touch with the other attorney and they both agreed to file a Motion to Suppress Evidence, a request to a judge to keep out evidence at a trial or hearing, often made when a party believes the evidence was unlawfully obtained.

The judge at this hearing was Thomas Beetel. My aunt used to work for him. We shared the same last name. They did not get along and I think he might have fired her. This fact alone should have caused him to recuse himself, on grounds of prejudice, but, he did not. We requested that both officers not be present in the courtroom when each was to give separate testimony. The judge did allow that. Both cops gave conflicting reports of what happened that fateful night. I assumed my old high school "friend" would set the record straight. He did not. He lied through his teeth even more than the arresting officer did. I could not believe what I was hearing. Then, Demeo told the judge he was trained by the Marines to smell marijuana better than a dog. When I took the stand, I noticed the judge was doodling stupid little pictures, as if he wasn't paying attention and had already made up his mind. I guess he did, because, he sent it on to trial. Motion to Suppress Evidence denied.

THE TRIAL

On the morning after our arrest, the trial judge, Jacob Chantz, was attending a funeral with my grandfather, the Reverend George W. Landis. They were very close friends. He should have also recused himself, but, he didn't either. The night we went to trial, the judge was there, along with the police officers involved, the prosecutor, and our respective attorneys. They were to be separate trials, but, lumped together. The attorneys for both of us approached the prosecutor. Before the onset of a trial, lawyers and prosecutors will try to work out plea arrangements. This is what my lawyer was doing. He came back to me and said, "Dave, here's what the prosecutor wants. He's willing to drop the drunk and disorderly charge if you plead to the CDS charge. This means that after a year, you apply to have your record expunged, and it is erased. It's as if you were never arrested. You pay a fine now and there is no jail time. What do you want to do?"

"No way am I going to plead guilty to anything. I am innocent of all charges."

"That's what I was hoping to hear you say." He went back to the prosecutor and said so.

"Oh no," the prosecutor told him.

"What do you mean?" my lawyer asked.

"My wife is 99.9% pregnant. I came up from south Jersey tonight. I'm just filling in. She can have the baby any minute. I want to go home. How long is this going to take?"

"At least seven hours as far as I'm concerned. I'm going to pick every legal trick out of my hat on this one." Here's where it got very interesting.

"You're kidding. This isn't that important of a case to me. Let's just drop the charges."

That was it. It had absolutely nothing to do with my guilt or innocence. Case dismissed. All on account of the prosecutor's wife being pregnant. Now that was justice. My friend had the drunk and disorderly charge dropped but someone had to take the rap for the 2/10 of a gram. It was his vehicle, so he did, and later had his record expunged.

So went my first foray into the legal system. The judge later told my grandfather it never should have reached his courtroom. It should have been dropped at the Motion to Suppress level and he would have dismissed the charges against me anyway.

AFTER ALL THIS

Oh, yeah, good old Jack Demeo. He got himself into a little trouble after that. He was accused, on several occasions, of flashing his badge out of jurisdiction and trying to pick up women he'd pull over. I guess it was up to certain authorities to deal with it, but, it's my understanding nothing much was done. Good ol' boy syndrome. I'd heard of him planting pot in cars, although, had he done that to us, I'm sure more than 2/10 of a gram would have been found. The clincher was when he was in Atlantic City, at a casino, where he flashed his badge to the wrong people. He told them he was with the Alcoholic and Beverage Commission and was doing an investigation. What kind of favors can you do for me? The manager promptly called his brother-in-law, who worked for the ABC, and asked what this was all about. That guy sent some big nasty officers over and arrested him on the spot. He could never be a police officer again. He did try, years later, but his old police chief put the screws to that. He's probably head of security at some Dollar General store somewhere in Podunk, Arkansas. I ran into Rich Sands many years later. He wanted to make peace with me. I told him that, "as an officer of the law, you were there to tell the truth. You didn't. I don't want to have anything to do with you again." I must say that years later he approached me at the restaurant where I worked and did get me a really good deal on a Jaguar XKE, so, time kind of softened things a bit and I guess I kind of, sort of did forgive him after all.

The guy we spent the night in jail with who was charged with murder? He was found innocent. I'm sure the prosecutor's wife wasn't pregnant when he went to trial.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

New England Clam Chowder - A Square Meal?

Here's a letter I e-mailed to a food manufacturer in Baltimore. I am not looking for anything in return.

To whom it may concern:

I recently purchased your New England Clam Chowder from an Albertson's store in Longwood, Florida. I was encouraged when I read that your first ingredients are "clams and clam juice." The clams were plump and moist and I will say that I found it very enjoyable for a frozen product and I will buy it again.

However, on the microwave directions, you state: "Remove container from carton and lift one corner of the film to vent steam."

I was just wondering, how does one lift a corner of the film when both the film and the plastic bowl are both round? No matter how hard I try, I just can't seem to find corners on round objects.

Perhaps you could say, "Peel back film slightly to expose product to vent steam" or something like that next time you are printing the packaging containers. Or you could tell me to go stand in the corner of a round room. Squarely, the decision is yours.

Then I signed my name.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Beets Me

While I was up visiting my brother and his wife, near St. Louis, Tim brought up some interesting questions about food...

Why is it, when you eat chicken, you're eating chicken?


When you eat turkey, you're eating turkey.


But, when you're eating a cow, you're eating beef. Same with buffalo. You're eating bison. Lamb is lamb. Goat is goat. But, a pig is pork. You don't go out to the shed to feed the porks - you're feeding pigs. When was the last time you ordered hog chops in a restaurant or prime rib of cow or calf marsala in an Italian eatery? Try ordering a chopped up dead cow sandwich the next time you go to a burger joint. Or dip your meat in the cooked blood of cattle cuts instead of au jus. There's that fancy French. Did you ever eat slimy snails? Au contraire, sacre bleu! No, it's escargot. If it sounds too awful to eat, give it a fancy French name, unless, of course, we're talking about sweetbread, the culinary term for the thymus gland (in the throat) and the pancreas (near the stomach) in calves, lambs and pigs. Sounds delicious, doesn't it?

What about cooking methods? What's the difference between baking and roasting in the oven? You can eat baked chicken or you can eat roasted chicken. How come you never eat baked turkey, then? Was that escargot baked or roasted?

Language is very funny when it comes to food. On that note...Peas on Earth, I'm going to go roast an apple pie.

Friday, December 16, 2005

The Case of the Missing Glasses


I used to wear glasses for near-sightedness. Now that I'm in my fifties, my eyes have made dramatic changes. I no longer wear glasses to see far distances. I can read things from afar that used to be nothing but a blur. The downside to it is that I now need reading glasses. My up-close vision used to be incredible. Alas, no more.

In the mid-nineties, I worked for a company called Southern Wine & Spirits. It's the largest supplier of alcoholic beverages in the country. I worked for the on-premise division, as opposed to the off-premise one. The difference between the two is that on-premise is alcohol consumed on the property, such as a bar or restaurant and off premise is a liquor store or supermarket where you can't drink it there. I designed and implemented wine lists found in restaurants. The rule was that if we supplied the majority of wines over the competitors' selections, we got to do the list. That meant sitting around sampling various bottles in expensive wine glasses and cleansing our palates with 25 dollar cigars between tastings. I know, it was tough and I was getting paid to drink on the job. Next time you peruse an exquisite wine list, remember someone had that awful task of writing the descriptions. You know, soft buttery notes with hints of fresh apricots and plums, with a light, crisp, cinnamon finish that lingers in the mouth.

I also did specialty drink cards of microbrew beers and liquors we supplied. The kind you might find in establishments that cater to the college crowd. They always seemed to like those concoctions. Still do. They were called table toppers or T-tents. They'd fit inside those plastic things that sit at tables or on bars. Some were just paper folded in the shape of a triangle.

Most of these things I sent out to a commercial printer. It all depended on the size of the establishment and the quantities they needed. For some of the smaller jobs, we had a big and fancy copier that jammed all the time.

One morning, I went up to the copier with my master printout of a job and the fancy colored paper I'm going to print it on. Yup, just like that, it jams. At this time, I'm still wearing glasses for being near-sighted. I open the doors to expose the mechanisms of the copier to find the jam. I had to take my glasses off to see up close. I find the problem, fix it, close the doors and go about my printing job. The rest of the day, I'm working on other things. I had a project that needed to be delivered the next morning, so I stayed well into the night. When I went to leave, I couldn't find my glasses. I never had to wear them as I sat in front of the computer. I can't see well enough to drive home without them, certainly not at night, anyway. What am I going to do? I look everywhere. I retrace every step of the day. There was a district manager still working. It was just the two of us and she started to help look. We couldn't find them anywhere. I remembered taking them off at the copier, but they weren't there. I didn't remember if I'd worn them elsewhere. Well, she had to go home but didn't want to leave me stranded. She had two offers. She would give me a ride or loan me her pair of prescription sunglasses. Her eyes were very similar to mine. I opted for the glasses. I'm glad it was dark. If anyone saw me in those girly things, I would have died. Unfortunately, I did have to wear them to work in the morning. It seemed like everyone was staring at me. I probably looked like a young version of Truman Capote.

I stopped at one of those one hour eyeglass centers. I had an eye examination done and picked out my frames. My eyes were so dilated driving back to work, if I had been stopped by a cop, he would have arrested me for driving under the influence of something illicit. The light was so intensely bright, too. A couple of hours later, I picked them up and I was back in business. The new and improved Dave, with a new prescription and brand new expensive glasses.

Two weeks later, I'm sitting at my desk when this woman who works in accounting, I can't remember her name but she was very nice, walks into my office with her hands behind her back.

"Dave, didn't you lose your glasses a couple of weeks ago?"

"Yes, why?"

She brought her hands out in front of her holding - you guessed it - my old glasses. She explained that the copier tech had come by earlier for routine maintenance and when he opened the doors, resting on a small ledge inside the copier, there they sat, neatly folded.

As you can clearly see, that wasn't one of my most brilliant moments. I tried to be more focused after that.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

It's Like Phishing In The Dead Sea


Why do these idiots keep phishing with no lure?

That's not my e-mail address in the picture (if you can read it.)
How does it still, then, get sent to me?


I don't even have an ebay account.
I don't have one with

Citigroup
, SunTrust
or any other spam you send me, for that matter.


No! I do not want V1 agra, C1a lis
or any of your other counterfeit drugs.

I don't even need the real thing.


For my name and credit card information,
including ALL passwords, e-mail me at this address:
phishinginthedeadsea@yahoo.com

Monday, December 12, 2005

Thanksgiving Times Two or Three

My brother-in-law, Bud, spent Thanksgiving in a hospital room at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. He and my sister had gone out there for a routine check-up that was only supposed to last a few days. That turned into a month. The doctors figured that he picked up a nasty little microbe in his bloodstream through one of his catheters. He ended up with pneumonia and came within minutes of dying. Literally. It was some kind of miracle that he happened to be out there, under the best care, when this problem arose. Had he been home, he would not have made it. This is due to the many thoughts and prayers from family and friends and people throughout the world, many of whom visit my site. Thank you so much. And his strong will to live. My poor sister. All of these problems and she didn't have the best of Thanksgivings, either.

Me? I had a great one. My brother, Tim, and his wife Kate, flew me up to spend it with them outside of St. Louis, in Shiloh, Illinois. They made a fabulous meal. The stuffing my brother made had enough butter in it to keep dairy farmers happy for years. On my final night there we ate filet mignon with a rich mushroom and shallot sauce made with wine, brandy and heavy cream. Oh, and lobster tails with drawn butter. Poor me. It's nice country up that way, but, a little too cold this time of year for my Florida blood.

Since my sister didn't get a chance to do the Thanksgiving dinner she loves to cook each year, she did it yesterday. Lot's of family and friends were there. She is an excellent cook and everything was delicious, including her pumpkin cheesecake. This coming Sunday, my brother Sam and his wife Lindsay are doing a big meal.

'Tis the season to gain weight.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

I Never Would Have Imagined It


It was a typical December morning in New Jersey. Cold, but not brutally so. The snows of winter had not yet begun to fall. I was in the restaurant business and usually rolled into work around 8 in the morning. The two young women who were my breakfast crew would see me pull into the parking lot and start making my breakfast. Margie Taylor and Erica Daniel. It was their decision to make me anything they liked. Sometimes eggs with bacon, sometimes waffles. We opened at 6 in the morning and it was always a pleasure for them to surprise me each morning. At least, the weekday girls. The weekend crew, well, let's just say I made my own breakfast. Such is life when you own your own business and work seven days a week. Margie and Erica were a dream team. Not only were they best friends, they worked well together and increased my breakfast trade twofold from when I took over the establishment. And when I took over, my old boss told me I could pick any two girls from his place to take with me. Any two. I chose them. I think he always resented that I took his best ones. Best looking, too. My typical work week consisted of somewhere between 80-90 hours. Once in a while, my friend, Stewart, would come and work for me so I could take some time off to maintain my sanity. I liked to drive into New York and go to Sardi's for drinks and Little Italy for dinner. That was my escape, my release. Sometimes, I took the girls who worked for me, other times, I took my girlfriend. Sometimes both.

This particular Monday started out like any other day. Who would have known how tragically it would end? It was routine. We had our breakfast, lunch and dinner crowds. Most customers were loyal regulars and we always maintained a friendly banter. New customers were always greeted with open arms and a sincere hello. I had three shifts that worked every day. I was there for all three. I closed at 10:00. Some nights, I stayed open to 11. Of course, there was still a lot of cleaning up to do, so sometimes I didn't leave until 11:30 or so. That was the case this night.


I couldn't wait to get out, to get home and shower off the grease and raw onion smells of the day. After so many years in this business, you kind of become oblivious to what you smell like, but I knew I still did. Kind of like a hot dog. With chili. And cheese. I would shower at night and then again in the morning. I never felt comfortable without my morning shower.


On the way home, sometimes I'd listen to cassette tapes of Pink Floyd or some other band. "The Wall" was one of my favorites. On this night, I had a New York or Philadelphia radio station on and a Beatles song was playing. I always loved the Beatles, but, this must have been one of those songs that wasn't on my personal best seller list. I mean, the Beatles had hundreds of hits. How could I possibly love every one of them? I switched stations. Another Beatles song. I went to a different station. More Beatles. What's this? I sensed that something was wrong. I felt this inner tingling of apprehension, that something terrible had happened and a certain panic was beginning to overwhelm me. Wherever I went on the dial, it was nothing but the Beatles. Beatles. Beatles. Beatles. Before long, an announcer stated the gut wrenching news that John Lennon was dead, gunned down by a crazed assassin in front of his home in the city. I felt this lump go down my throat and into my stomach, which began to churn. They were my favorite group and John Lennon was the best. I grew up with them, from their early rise in 1964 with their performances at Shea Stadium and the Ed Sullivan Show to their subsequent breakup as a band in 1969. I followed each and every one of them throughout their solo careers. They were Fab. I had recently purchased John and Yoko's latest release, "Double Fantasy" and loved every one of his songs. I wasn't crazy about Yoko's. I played it religiously since its debut. He had been a house husband for so long, it was about time he came out with something new. He was like a world leader to me - an icon - not in a religious sense, but, because of his unselfish love and faith in humanity and how much he preached for world peace. I believed in his message. I was sick.


I pulled into my driveway and walked into the house, stripping off my clothes. I stood naked in front of the bathroom mirror, staring at my numb and emotionless face. How could this be? It wasn't true. The world had just lost a friend. I jumped into the shower as memories swirled about my head. All speculation and wishful thinking of a Beatles reunion was washing down the drain with the sweat of my workday. I knew it wasn't me who caused his death, but, I felt weak and guilty. And hurt. Guilty about how we as humans could do such a thing. Hurt because I had lost a mentor. I was too weak and dazed to cry. I hoped that by the time I dried myself off, it would have been just a bad dream. Was it just a dream? Realization sunk in when I woke up the next morning.


It was 25 years ago today when Howard Cosell told the nation of his death during "Monday Night Football." The beast that slew the beauty of John Lennon's mind could not harm the dream. It never should have stopped for him at #9. It will never stop for me until my last breath. We can still imagine. We can still dream and that's a beautiful thing.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

A Date Which Will Live In Infamy

Let us never forget what happened on this day, 64 years ago. Never were men braver.

The following is reprinted from the Department of Defense. 50th Anniversary of World War II Commemorative Committee. Pearl Harbor: 50th Anniversary Commemorative Chronicle, "A Grateful Nation Remembers" 1941-1991. Washington: The Committee, 1991.

The road to war between Japan and the United States began in the 1930s when differences over China drove the two nations apart. In 1931 Japan conquered Manchuria, which until then had been part of China. In 1937 Japan began a long and ultimately unsuccessful campaign to conquer the rest of China. In 1940, the Japanese government allied their country with Nazi Germany in the Axis Alliance, and, in the following year, occupied all of Indochina.

The United States, which had important political and economic interests in East Asia, was alarmed by these Japanese moves. The U.S. increased military and financial aid to China, embarked on a program of strengthening its military power in the Pacific, and cut off the shipment of oil and other raw materials to Japan.

Because Japan was poor in natural resources, its government viewed these steps, especially the embargo on oil as a threat to the nation's survival. Japan's leaders responded by resolving to seize the resource-rich territories of Southeast Asia, even though that move would certainly result in war with the United States.

The problem with the plan was the danger posed by the U.S. Pacific Fleet based at Pearl Harbor. Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, commander of the Japanese fleet, devised a plan to immobilize the U.S. fleet at the outset of the war with a surprise attack.

The key elements in Yamamoto's plans were meticulous preparation, the achievement of surprise, and the use of aircraft carriers and naval aviation on an unprecedented scale. In the spring of 1941, Japanese carrier pilots began training in the special tactics called for by the Pearl Harbor attack plan.

In October 1941 the naval general staff gave final approval to Yamamoto's plan, which called for the formation of an attack force commanded by Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo. It centered around six heavy aircraft carriers accompanied by 24 supporting vessels. A separate group of submarines was to sink any American warships which escaped the Japanese carrier force.

Nagumo's fleet assembled in the remote anchorage of Tankan Bay in the Kurile Islands and departed in strictest secrecy for Hawaii on 26 November 1941. The ships' route crossed the North Pacific and avoided normal shipping lanes. At dawn 7 December 1941, the Japanese task force had approached undetected to a point slightly more than 200 miles north of Oahu. At this time the U.S. carriers were not at Pearl Harbor. On 28 November, Admiral Kimmel sent USS Enterprise under Rear Admiral Willliam Halsey to deliver Marine Corps fighter planes to Wake Island. On 4 December Enterprise delivered the aircraft and on December 7 the task force was on its way back to Pearl Harbor. On 5 December, Admiral Kimmel sent the USS Lexington with a task force under Rear Admiral Newton to deliver 25 scout bombers to Midway Island. The last Pacific carrier, USS Saratoga, had left Pearl Harbor for upkeep and repairs on the West Coast.

At 6:00 a.m. on 7 December, the six Japanese carriers launched a first wave of 181 planes composed of torpedo bombers, dive bombers, horizontal bombers and fighters. Even as they winged south, some elements of U.S. forces on Oahu realized there was something different about this Sunday morning.

In the hours before dawn, U.S. Navy vessels spotted an unidentified submarine periscope near the entrance to Pearl Harbor. It was attacked and reported sunk by the destroyer USS Ward (DD-139) and a patrol plane. At 7:00 a.m., an alert operator of an Army radar station at Opana spotted the approaching first wave of the attack force. The officers to whom those reports were relayed did not consider them significant enough to take action. The report of the submarine sinking was handled routinely, and the radar sighting was passed off as an approaching group of American planes due to arrive that morning.

The Japanese aircrews achieved complete surprise when they hit American ships and military installations on Oahu shortly before 8:00 a.m. They attacked military airfields at the same time they hit the fleet anchored in Pearl Harbor. The Navy air bases at Ford Island and Kaneohe Bay, the Marine airfield at Ewa and the Army Air Corps fields at Bellows, Wheeler and Hickam were all bombed and strafed as other elements of the attacking force began their assaults on the ships moored in Pearl Harbor. The purpose of the simultaneous attacks was to destroy the American planes before they could rise to intercept the Japanese.

Of the more than 90 ships at anchor in Pearl Harbor, the primary targets were the eight battleships anchored there. seven were moored on Battleship Row along the southeast shore of Ford Island while the USS Pennsylvania (BB-38) lay in drydock across the channel. Within the first minutes of the attack all the battleships adjacent to Ford Island had taken bomb and or torpedo hits. The USS West Virginia (BB-48) sank quickly. The USS Oklahoma (BB-37) turned turtle and sank. At about 8:10 a.m., the USS Arizona (BB-39) was mortally wounded by an armorpiercing bomb which ignited the ship's forward ammunition magazine. The resulting explosion and fire killed 1,177 crewmen, the greatest loss of life on any ship that day and about half the total number of Americans killed. The USS California (BB-44), USS Maryland (BB-46), USS Tennessee (BB-43) and USS Nevada (BB-36) also suffered varying degrees of damage in the first half hour of the raid.

There was a short lull in the fury of the attack at about 8:30 a.m. At that time the USS Nevada (BB-36), despite her wounds, managed to get underway and move down the channel toward the open sea. Before she could clear the harbor, a second wave of 170 Japanese planes, launched 30 minutes after the first, appeared over the harbor. They concentrated their attacks on the moving battleship, hoping to sink her in the channel and block the narrow entrance to Pearl Harbor. On orders from the harbor control tower, the USS Nevada (BB-36) beached herself at Hospital Point and the channel remained clear.

When the attack ended shortly before 10:00 a.m., less than two hours after it began, the American forces has paid a fearful price. Twenty-one ships of the U.S. Pacific Fleet were sunk or damaged: the battleships USS Arizona (BB-39), USS California (BB-44), USS Maryland (BB-46), USS Nevada (BB-36), USS Oklahoma (BB-37), USS Pennsylvania (BB-38), USS Tennessee (BB-43) and USS West Virginia (BB-48); cruisers USS Helena (CL-50), USS Honolulu (CL-48) and USS Raleigh (CL-7); the destroyers USS Cassin (DD-372), USS Downes (DD-375), USS Helm (DD-388) and USS Shaw (DD-373); seaplane tender USS Curtiss (AV-4); target ship (ex-battleship) USS Utah (AG-16); repair ship USS Vestal (AR-4); minelayer USS Oglala (CM-4); tug USS Sotoyomo (YT-9); and Floating Drydock Number 2. Aircraft losses were 188 destroyed and 159 damaged, the majority hit before the had a chance to take off. American dead numbered 2,403. That figure included 68 civilians, most of them killed by improperly fused anti-aircraft shells landing in Honolulu. There were 1,178 military and civilian wounded.

Japanese losses were comparatively light. Twenty-nine planes, less than 10 percent of the attacking force, failed to return to their carriers.

The Japanese success was overwhelming, but it was not complete. They failed to damage any American aircraft carriers, which by a stroke of luck, had been absent from the harbor. They neglected to damage the shoreside facilities at the Pearl Harbor Naval Base, which played an important role in the Allied victory in World War II. American technological skill raised and repaired all but three of the ships sunk or damaged at Pearl Harbor (the USS Arizona (BB-39) considered too badly damaged to be salvaged, the USS Oklahoma (BB-37) raised and considered too old to be worth repairing, and the obsolete USS Utah (AG-16) considered not worth the effort). Most importantly, the shock and anger caused by the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor united a divided nation and was translated into a wholehearted commitment to victory in World War II.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Let's Talk Turkey

When I worked for an ad agency, I would meander up the street to Beefy King. Black Friday was one of their busiest days. At lunch, I would go there to help out. One of the most popular sandwiches that day was turkey breast. For the life of us, the owner and I could not figure out why turkey would be such a big hit the day after Thanksgiving. You'd think people would be tired of it by then after eating so much the day before, or, they would have enough leftovers that they wouldn't want it from a restaurant. Nope, they ordered it big time.

Roland and I went back and forth, over and over again, trying to understand why people would want turkey. We went a couple of years thinking about it.

Finally, it dawned on us. We figured these were people who had to work Thanksgiving Day. The ones who took your gas money at convenience stores. The wait people at restaurants who served dinners that day. Bartenders. Maybe some car dealerships were open. They were shortchanged on Thanksgiving and were just fulfilling their cravings for what they did not get to eat. Maybe some people ate ham instead, yet they still missed the traditional meal. They needed that turkey fix.

That's the only reason we could think of.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Should Money Really Matter?

I was inspired to write this today by David W. Boles, at Urban Semiotic . One of today's articles is titled, "10 Million is Beneath 50 Million."

In the early nineties, I dated a woman for many years who came from a wealthy family. I mean very wealthy. Her parents were divorced and remarried. Her father is a cardiologist and owns thousands of acres of citrus groves. Her mother is married to a man who owned car dealerships. He grew up with the Ford family. They live in Isleworth Country Club, home to Tiger Woods, Shaq and other celebrities. Gold faucets set in ornate porcelain sinks are in all the bathrooms. The master bath is the size of a small house.

When I entered her life, she was aware of my financial situation and it did not matter to her. I mean, I wasn't by any means broke, but, no way did I come close to what her family was worth. The first time I met her mother was for dinner at her multi-million dollar home. We ate lobster tails that were brought up from the deep. Natives would dive off her yacht somewhere in the Caribbean and bring up the crustaceans. Needless to say, we didn’t dip them in Squeeze Parkay. Her father would go to his ranch every afternoon to tend to the groves. He was a very hard worker and not afraid to get his hands dirty. He had his main house, the ranch house, an oceanfront house just south of St. Augustine, and his other ranch house in south Florida. There, you could see nothing but tomato plants as far as the eye can see, and that’s not counting his citrus trees down there, too.

As we got closer, her parents treated me like a son. There never was a monetary barrier between me and her family. They felt if their daughter was happy, then that is what mattered. I was very good to her daughter as well. She was around ten when we met. I helped her with her homework and other family chores. I loved it. Her father never factored into the equation, so, I was about as close as you could get. These were her formulative years and I tried to do the best job ever as a sort of surrogate parent. I never cared about her family’s wealth. It was only her and her daughter who mattered.

Alas, after a long relationship, things soured. Of course, I missed some of the amenities, but, they were nothing compared to the loves I lost. I dropped from 200 lbs. to 140 lbs. in three months flat. I got over Ms. X a long time ago, but I still love her daughter. Unfortunately, that had to go by the wayside, as Ms. X went on to other relationships. I would love to run into her one day. She is now in her mid-twenties. Heck, I’d even treat her to lunch.

Monday, November 21, 2005

A Lesson To Be Learned, But, Did It Soak In?

As the holidays approach...and I am leaving town, I want to leave you with this thought:


All the years I was in the restaurant business, my employees were allowed to eat pretty much whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted, for free. Of course, that didn't include times we were busy, like during the lunch or dinner rush. I never thought about charging them half price. They were there, they were pretty much stuck there, and they had to eat. I know, not all restaurants are alike, but, that was my policy.

I recently spoke to a dear friend. She told me she was on a two week probation period from work. That meant two weeks off, without pay. She is a bartender, and I must say, one of the best around. She told me she had consumed a few drinks while working and a fellow employee noticed her peculiar condition. That person then notified the manager, who conveyed the message to shut down for the night. Right now. He contacted her the next day and they met to discuss the situation. He put her on probation with a condition that she attend five Alcoholics Anonymous meetings during this two week period, requisite for her return to work. Each meeting she went to had to be signed by the person in charge. If it took more than two weeks to complete, then so be it. You may return only after you fulfill this obligation.

She said to me, "Dave, I'm a bartender, for cryin' out loud, what do you expect me to do? That's part of my job."

I said, "No, it's not." I told her that I, too, work for a living, but I don't drink on the job. Just because you are there and are pretty much stuck there, that doesn't mean you have to drink. No one should drink on the job, any job.

"But, but, Dave..."

"No! Suppose you're a doctor or a nurse. Does that give you the right to take drugs on the job?"

"It's not the same thing."

"Why not? You're both dispensing some sort of 'medication,' aren't you?"

"What if I work in a restaurant? Can't I eat?"

"I don't think anyone ever got a DUI from eating a cheeseburger. Did you ever drink sausage gravy on the job?"

"No."

I told her a job is a job. Period. You are there to work. Period. If management allows you a drink or two after you complete your shift, well, that's a company decision, not yours to make. And bartenders, of all people! What happens if you are not cognizant of your surroundings? Suppose you serve one too many to a patron and they drive off. Or someone comes in who is already quite inebriated. You may be too wasted yourself to know how bad their condition is. Wouldn't you feel at least partially responsible for that person's safety, or the safety of the innocent people who might fall victim to a drunken driver? As a consummate professional in your field, isn't it an obligation, a requirement, to be in top form at all times on the job, to be keenly aware of the people you serve?

Everyone knows that alcohol softens your perception. Suppose you forget to card someone. The establishment may lose their license because of it. If you or someone else is injured on your watch and the insurance company finds out that alcohol consumption by an employee likely factored into the overall equation, well then, you can pretty much kiss that coverage goodbye. They won't have to pay. That is true anywhere you work. Honytonks and gin mills are not excluded.

What you do on your time is your business. What you do on company time is theirs. Besides, who's going to drive you home?

Saturday, November 19, 2005

BUD

My brother-in-law, Bud, has gone through a terrible bout with AML (leukemia.) He underwent chemo. He had a bone marrow transplant by an anonymous donor. None of his siblings matched. Now, he has a nasty microbe inside his blood. It's been almost two years since he was diagnosed. He has pneumonia.

I would never ask you to pray for me. Ever. Please save a prayer for Bud. This is my sister Maggie's husband. He is my brother. I love him.

I beg of you.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Am I Just Alone for the Ride?

Todd Gendron is my guest writer. Trust me. Read how good he is.

Where to start, I have no idea!!! My feelings are mixed, just like the rest of the world. Who I am writing this to is a mystery. I think most of all, I am writing this because I have something to say about the rest of the world as I know it. Which, by the way, I don’t know what that is.

We all have difficulties in the world to deal with. We have people who tell us how to deal with these difficulties, and yet, it never seems to go anywhere. No matter how many drugs you take or how many doctors you visit, they are just blankets of security. To me, it seems that people have lost a sense of compassion with regard to what we’re really all about. Not that I would know, but, I have met my share of people to form an opinion.

I think that people as a whole have something to say, but it never really gets voiced from an individual point of view. Whether it is because they are afraid to speak or maybe they have experienced too much in life to say something. Maybe no one ever told them that it’s okay to speak your mind.

I am one who falls into the category of just sitting on the sidelines and observing the life I know. It has come to mind that life is short and the relationships you form define who you are.

Case in point: You are sitting at work and the only thing you can think of is what you can do after work. Or maybe you are sitting at home on the weekend and think to yourself, “What am I going to do for the rest of the day?” This, my friends, is called a lack of presence in life. Welcome to the world of being single.

If you have read this far, perhaps I am describing you, too. I hate to be the person on the sidelines or the one at the corner of the bar, but, there are more of us than most even know. Perhaps, one of the reasons why a lot of us are single is because we have a fear of commitment and a willingness to grow. Maybe we are just too willing to accept that we don’t want to move on in life. Whatever it may be, I personally have been affected by this just like the rest of the world. I just wanted to know if anyone else felt the same way!!!!!

By the way I have nothing else to do tonight!!!

Monday, November 14, 2005

Step Rite in for your Free Shoes!


Back in the old days, when I was young and full of vim and sometimes vinegar, I was sort of a practical joker. I never tried to do any serious harm to anyone. Well, I tried not to.

Late one morning, my best friend, Stewart and I were standing around the old Weiner King restaurant, in Flemington, NJ. We would go in around 8 AM to chop onions, make burger patties, and do just about everything else the business needed to prep for the day. Our boss, Jack, had gone somewhere, so it was just the two of us. I think we opened at 10:30 AM. This was before then and we had nothing else to do. I think it's a big mistake to leave a couple of 19-20 year old kids alone in a business with idle hands and busy minds. It creates a breeding ground for trouble, especially when both are pretty good at setting up and executing practical jokes.


I don't remember which one of us came up with the idea of making prank phone calls that fateful morning. It was probably Stewart. You know, the old "Does Prince Albert come in a can?" "Yes." "Well, let him out!" kind of thing. I guess it doesn't matter, either, which one of us conjured up the idea about what kind of prank call it was going to be, I just know that I was going to be the one making the phone calls. I had one of those voices that sounded like it came right out of your AM radio. I could turn on that voice and people would swear they were listening to some DJ from the Big Apple. We decided to give away free shoes. There was a store in Flemington called Step Rite Shoes. Shoe stores in that town were few and far between, so we assumed most people we called would know about it. They were all going to be local calls anyway.


"What should we ask them, Stew?"


"I don't know, come up with something." Hmm. I thought about a question they probably wouldn't know the answer to, like, who is the present ambassador to the United Nations from the United States? It was George Bush (1971-1973.) No, not this one. His father. We figured that this time of morning it would pretty much be housewives who would answer the phone. Back then, it was like that. Husbands were the breadwinners and wives did the ironing after sending the little kiddies off to school.


We grabbed the phone book and randomly pointed to numbers. I started dialing. Initially, most calls went unanswered. Hey, maybe more women worked than we thought.

Finally, the whole thing started to connect.
"Hello?"

"Yes, good morning. This is John Smith, from Step Rite Shoes in Flemington. We picked your number at random from the phone book. Are you familiar with us?"


"Yes."


"If you can answer this question, you'll win a free pair of shoes of your choice. Any size, any style, any price. Are you ready?"


"Yes!" I sensed an overall glee from the prospect of winning something.


I asked the question. The first few had no clue what the answer was, just as we suspected. I mean, we didn't really expect to give away free shoes, it was just the fun of making prank calls Stew and I were interested in. I thanked them for their time and reminded them to keep Step Rite in mind when thinking about their next shoe purchases.


At some point, a man answered and I posed the question. "George Bush," he responded almost immediately. Uh oh.


"Yes! You're absolutely right!"


"Now, what do I do?" he asked. Well, golly gee whiz, we hadn't thought about that. I had to think fast.


"Er, uh, come into the store any time today or tomorrow. What is your name again? Uh, okay. Yes, any time today or tomorrow. Give the manager your name and feel free to choose your shoes. I'm very happy you won. You're the first to know the answer."


"Thank you. Thank you very much."


I guess we made several more calls, assuming that guy was a fluke, but, I'll be doggoned if a woman didn't get the answer right, too. Not because she's a woman. I just didn't expect anyone to know the answer. I gave her the same response about coming in.

All in all, I think that out of the dozen or so calls we made, they were the only two who knew who the ambassador was.


After our fun, Jack returned and we told him what we had done. "You boys are sick."

Then we imagined what's going to happen when the first person arrives to pick out their shoes...


"What, is this some kind of a joke?" I could almost hear the manager scream, as he tells that person to leave the store before he calls the cops. But, by the time the second person came in, well, I just don't know. A conspiracy of some sort? Maybe he did give them shoes after all.


Thirty-some years later, I'm still wondering what the outcome was. I'm glad I'm above that sort of thing now. Good thing they didn't have *69 back then.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Thanksgiving Dinner 2005


Every Thanksgiving I try to be creative with my cooking.
I can't understand why no one will ever join me.
It's lonely eating by myself.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

A Straight Forward Approach to Slants

Every day in the news media we are bombarded by reports that lean one way or another. Pro this, anti that, so to speak. Very seldom do we read, see or hear any type of news that isn't slanted. You'll hear from friends or co-workers who felt the coverage of a particular news item of interest was so biased for or against a particular issue. You might sit there and think to yourself, "Hey, I saw the same thing, on the same station, and I didn't feel it was as bad as what they just said." Of course, we all have our own opinions on just about everything, and sometimes we run into people who are just so animated over how the news is reported, they seem to lose track of exactly what they heard, saw or read, and, by inflection, they inject their own personal views to create a new slant on the slanted news. These reporters tend to be pariahs in their minds and thusly, they misconstrue what was actually said in the first place. A lot of it has to do with wishful thinking. As was the case with Clinton, people either like Bush or they hate his guts with a vengeance, so out of their mouths come some pretty nasty words.

A lot of times, someone supports a cause. Save the Whales! These writings can be twisted into a sort of political agenda because the reader interprets conservation or animal rights organizations to be in cohorts with liberals. Trust me, it works both ways. Over time, too many issues have been twisted and warped into weird concepts, when, in reality, one more than likely doesn't have anything to do with the other. I've heard that what used to be called a jungle is now called a rain forest. To my recollection, a jungle has always been a jungle and a rain forest has always been a rain forest. Tree huggers? I don't think so. We tend to get more excited when we somehow feel it might affect us as individuals, but, when did a rain forest ever affect you? Ha! It will when they no longer exist.

Slants take on many forms, not always of a political nature. They can delve into the philosophical or religious views of the writer. They could be based on one's own experiences. How many writers, especially movie critics or restaurant reviewers, may or may not like a movie or restaurant based only on their particular tastes? Clearly, there's nothing political about them. Maybe we saw that movie and ate at that restaurant and enjoyed them both. Below are three different takes on the same fictitious event. One is a straight forward report and the other two are slants. Each slant will infer something different. Read between the lines.

(1) A two vehicle accident occurred on Wednesday, at the intersection of Main Street and Vine Avenue, in downtown Orlando. It was reported to the Orlando Police Department at 10:15 PM. One person did not survive. Dennis Walker, 15, of Orlando was pronounced dead at the scene. His father Michael Walker, also of Orlando, was transported to ORMC and treated and released. The driver of the other vehicle, Scott Wilson, 22, of Taft, and his passengers, suffered minor injuries and were treated at the scene. Cause of the accident is pending a police investigation.

(2) A 15 year old boy died in a two car accident on Wednesday here in Orlando. The accident occurred at the intersection of Main Street and Vine Avenue. Dennis Walker, of Orlando, was pronounced dead at the scene. His father, Michael Walker, also of Orlando, was flown by helicopter to the Trauma Center at ORMC. The driver of the other vehicle, Scott Wilson, 22, of Taft, and his passengers suffered minor injuries and were treated at the scene. Mr. Walker had just pulled out of the parking lot of the First Methodist Church, where he had picked his son up from a Boy Scout meeting. An officer at the scene was quoted as saying, "I can't say for sure what happened, but, empty beer cans and bottles were found in the other vehicle." A witness said that the second vehicle had just pulled out of Bill's Tavern, a block away, and was exceeding the posted speed limit of 35MPH. Blood alcohol levels have not been released and an official report will not be disclosed until the investigation is completed.

(3) An accident which caused the death of one person occurred at the intersection of Main Street and Vine Avenue in Orlando. Dennis Walker, 15, of Orlando, died at the scene. His father, Michael Walker, also of Orlando, was transported to ORMC. The driver of the other vehicle, Scott Wilson, 22, of Taft, and his passengers, were treated for minor injuries. There have been many accidents at this intersection over the past 10 years, according to state statistics. One person was quoted as saying, "This is ridiculous. We've protested to state, county and city officials about this for years. We've signed petitions. We need a traffic light here! No one heeds the 4 way stop signs. At least two others have died in the past three years." An investigation is pending and weather did not seem to be a factor.

Do you see how easy it is to write a slant? You can slant a story any way you want to suit your own opinion. Many blogs are written from an extreme political perspective. I've read that Bush is the equivalent of Hitler. I've also read that Hillary is a lesbian communist. Why must there be so much vitriolic hatred spewed from the hands of such writers? Do we really, deep down, actually subscribe to such coarse and vicious thoughts? Can you actually prove any of it? Have you ever seen President Bush at a Nazi rally? Have you ever seen Hillary Clinton in bed with another woman? Of course, voice your opinions, but, why not write a less virulent diatribe? Most blogs thrive on comments from their readers. Allow them to air their thoughts to their heart's content. Don't be so prejudiced.

Of course, that's my unbiased opinion.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Ad Floormats & Biblical Cords

Soon after I moved to the Orlando area, I got a job at Stonebrook Advertising. I was a hardline and ad layout artist. I drew everything but fashion. Shoes, TVs, stereos, furniture, jewelry and that sort of stuff. We did work exclusively for the Belk Lindsey department store chain. My boss was Glen Stone. There was another office in Tampa which was headed by a guy named Doug Middlebrook. Doug had his own single engine plane. One time he flew us from Orlando to Daytona Beach and let me pilot it for a few minutes on the way back. My boss, Mr. Stone, turned as white as a ghost. I went up and down and left to right. It was neat. Mr. Stone was known as just that, Mr. Stone. No one ever called him by his first name. I think his wife even called him Mr. Stone. He was quite the character. For a guy who had been in the advertising business so long, you would think he would know the term 'format.' No, they were 'ad floormats.' He always wore those shiny silk suits. Quite the fancy dresser, he was. One Saturday morning, one of the employees dropped by his house for some reason. There he was, outside cutting the grass, in a white shirt and tie. He was from Kentucky and was awarded the ceremonial title of Kentucky Colonel. Another one of his quirky phrases was biblical cord instead of umbilical cord. Oh well, he was from the back hills of Kintuk.

Every morning, he would come in at 10 o'clock and make a beeline for the freezer. We could hear him cracking the ice cube tray and dumping a few in his glass. He would then go into his office and pour himself just about the cheapest vodka you could buy. That was his day. He didn't really do anything else but drink. He'd come up to me sometimes and ask if I could do a design for him. It was usually personal, like the time he wanted something for his son's flying club. They were glider pilots and I think it was for t-shirts. I came up with 'Easy Glider' or something like that. "Now, I'm not in a hurry or anything. I know you're busy, so next week or the week after is just fine with me," he would insist. It only took me one time to learn that he meant DO IT NOW! That afternoon, he asked me if I had done it yet. "No," I said. "Well, GD it, why not? I told you I wanted it!" One time. That's all it took.

Mr. Stone got into a little DUI trouble a couple of times. I remember they took his license away for 5 years. Guess who had to drive him everywhere? His wife would drop him off in the morning and pick him up later. The part I hated the most was being forced to drive him to his girlfriend's house every day at lunch. His girlfriend brought him back. Because of that, I really started to dislike the man for what he was doing to his lovely, church-going wife.

I guess the state made him go into some sort of substance abuse program. They put him on a drug called ANTABUSE . Here's where it gets tricky. Once he went on that drug, he had to give up drinking. Antabuse has some really serious side effects, like copious vomiting. I knew it wouldn't last long. Well, he did give up drinking vodka. He no longer drank at work. I never heard the clunk of ice cubes again. Instead, he would go to his girlfriend's house at lunch and drink wine, probably a rotgut varietal. As soon as she dropped him off, he would race into the bathroom and puke his guts out. I had the misfortune of sitting on the other side of the bathroom wall. I could hear everything, and I mean EVERYTHING. We won't go into that. His daily ritual went on for months. Every day he'd come back from "lunch" and rush into the bathroom. I knew it had to be bad for him, especially his heart. At 66, he was developing heart trouble that his doctor kept in check.

One morning I came in. At 9 o'clock, everyone went out for breakfast. I stayed in to answer the phones. We all took turns doing it that way. The phone rang. It was his partner in Tampa, Doug Middlebrook. He asked me, "Dave? Are you sitting down?"

"No?"

"Well you need to."

"OK."

"Mr. Stone passed away last night."

Silence.

"What happened?"

"He and his wife retired for the evening. She went into the bathroom to take her shower and when she came out she checked in on him, but he was already gone." They had slept in separate bedrooms for years, unbeknownst to me. "It was a massive heart attack."

I was shocked, but not surprised. I had warned him of the damage he was probably doing to himself, to no avail. I had the unfortunate task of sitting everyone down when they returned to pass on the sad news. In spite of his quirks and cheating on his wife, I guess I really liked him. The funny thing is, the day he died, he didn't go to lunch and I sat in his office for hours, chatting up a storm. I was the only other male there, so he had a penchant and fondness for chewing the fat with me. I'm glad I had that final chance.

A month went by and someone had to take his place, although I'm not really all that sure why. A woman who worked there for many years was promoted to his position. He had a little cubby hole in the back of his office that no one (except me) was allowed to go into. He had his stacks of Playboy magazines and God knows what else. Another woman I worked with asked me if I'd take her in there to see what it was like. I said, sure, why not? There was an air conditioner duct that was exposed directly under the ceiling with, maybe, a half inch gap. She looked up and said, "What's that?" I told her I didn't know. I reached up and pulled out an envelope. Inside were very, very graphic Polaroids of his very, very naked girlfriend. I won't elaborate. She looked at them and gagged. I ran them out to the dumpster, tearing them up along the way. No way did that girlfriend ever want to have anyone else look at them. We went back to work and never spoke to anyone about that incident. It remained our secret.

A few weeks later, we hired a handyman to renovate the office and open up that tiny room. While the guy was in there working, he came out with another envelope. Good thing for his honesty. Inside, was $3,000. The guy's name is Steve Somerset. I'll never forget it because of his honesty and work ethic. The guy was just plain good at what he did. We called Mr. Stone's wife and told her of the windfall. She said, "You know? I'm finding all kinds of money hidden all over the house. In a sock in his dresser. Taped up on the bottom of the tray in his tool box. All kinds of weird places." I think he used this stash to buy things for his girlfriends over the years.

He's been gone for 15 years now, so I don't really feel I'm infringing on him personally by relating this story. He was cremated and there was no service of any kind, so it's not like I'm walking on his grave or anything. His wife moved far away. Besides, I think he would want people to know what alcohol can do to you if you let it take away your life.

Good ol' Mr. Stone. He sure was a quirky guy.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The Mushroom Incident


Ever since I was a little kid, I could spot a hair on my plate. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see it if it was halfway buried under the food. They were usually from cats or dogs, since we always had one or two of them running around the house.

When I owned my restaurant in New Jersey, there were a couple of provision houses where I bought my food items. After all the years of serving the same food to customers, I would get a little sick of eating the same things, day after day. Oh, don't get me wrong, I spiced things up a bit. One day, I would eat a burger with lettuce and tomatoes, the next day, I'd make it with marinara sauce and Parmesan cheese. Same thing with chicken. You're kind of limited with hot dogs. French fries, back when they were still called that, I'd dip in ketchup one day and mustard the next. But, I'd still get bored. Sometimes, I'd send someone out to get me a good steak or seafood of some kind. Hey, while you're at it, get one for yourself. On me.

One of the nice perks of being in the restaurant business is the free sample stuff. A sales rep would come in and say, "Hey, this product might sell well here. You want to try it out?"

Sure.

Most of them were pretty good, but, I never really added much to my already existing menu. They would always bring you fliers of new products and what's on sale. One time I saw something for frozen breaded mushrooms you deep fry. I loved deep fried breaded mushrooms. Heck, how much are they? How many pounds? I'll take one. I couldn't wait for my next delivery to bring me my goods and that brand new box of mushrooms. I think I waited out by the road when I saw the truck coming.

I carefully opened the box. I think it was 10 pounds. I didn't want any of them to spill out onto the floor. I threw a whole bunch into the deep fryer. Who cares if it was lunch time? It was my restaurant, my lunch rush and my mushrooms. Of course, I offered some to my employees after I hid them from the view of the customers. I said, "Eat them now while you can. The rest are mine."

When I closed the box to put into the freezer, I noticed it said PRODUCT OF THE PHILIPPINES. Who cares where they were from? See? Even back then we were outsourcing. All I needed to know was that every day I could eat deep fried mushrooms. I would bite into that crisp breading. Those soft, succulent mushrooms were delectable to me. Every day, for a month, I cooked up a batch. Sometimes, I'd share. Usually, I'd eat them in the afternoon when the lunch crowd was gone. It was slow then. I'd only have one other person working until dinner time.

I was probably about halfway into that box when I had an experience that would change my mushroom eating habits for the rest of my life. I had cooked up a few. Bear in mind that I was not even close to getting tired of them yet. As I popped one into my mouth and started to chew, I could feel a hair in there somewhere. I managed to grab the end of it without losing any of the mushroom. I started to pull the hair out. Out and out it went. I started to move my fingers away from my mouth. The farther I got, I realized this was no ordinary hair. It was long and straight. And black. It must have been 2 feet long by the time it was completely out. I spit the mushroom into the garbage. Oh, that poor Filipino woman losing her hair like that. How did something that long get wound up into one mushroom? I didn't want to think about it. My appetite was gone. I threw the remainder of that box right into the garbage and I've never eaten one again. I still love mushrooms, but, the thought of breaded ones, well, it makes my hair fall out.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Birthday Card



Stewart and I have been very close friends for about 40 years now.

Well, not
that close.

This is the e-mail birthday card I made for him.

You don't want to see the one I made for his wife.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

A Volvo Kind Of Guy


A few years ago, I had a Volvo 240 DL. It was a very good car and I had owned it for years with minimum problems. Eventually, it started to nickel and dime me and Volvos were never cheap to fix anyway. I decided to get a new car. I got one and still owned the Volvo. I figured I could probably get around $500 for it.

In the meantime, a woman I know is a waitress at an Orlando restaurant. She came up to me one day and told me about this co-worker whose wife left him and cleaned out what little money he had. The car he owned was a real clunker. Would I consider donating the car to him? He's really a nice guy and he can use a big break like that. I told her I'd think about it and get back to her the following week. I did. I gave it some serious thought, and being the good guy that I am, I said, sure, I'll do it. I wasn't really hurting for money or anything at the time, so why not?


I cleaned it out and set a date for him to come get it. They came up and I signed the title over to him. In Florida, titles don't have to be notarized any longer. Off he drove. I didn't care that he put a phony tag on it. He had the title. It was no longer my car. At least, that's what I thought.


Months later, I came home from work. In the mailbox was a postcard from the Orlando Police Department. It stated that my Volvo was left abandoned on a street and it was towed to the city (but privately owned) lot. I had to pay the $46 towing fee plus $15 a day in storage. Or my license would be suspended by the state after 31 days. Hey! I didn't even own that car anymore.


I called the police department. The dispatcher was very nice. I explained the whole situation to her. She told me the phone number of the towing company and wished me luck.
Apparently, the new "owner" never transferred the title. Technically, to the state, I still owned it.

The dispatcher at the towing company was nice, too. I explained the whole thing to her. I told her that I could have sold the car, but, out of the goodness of my heart, I gave it to someone who subsequently, just abandoned it. I asked her how much the storage fee was. She told me, and I think, it was $195, plus towing. Wow! I then asked her if she could waive the storage fee since I didn't think it would be all that fair to me. She said she didn't think so, but she would explain the situation to the owner and let me know. In the meantime, before I could pay anything, I had to show proof of ownership. I said I don't have the title and I don't remember who the guy was. Plus, I had to turn in my old registration in order to transfer it over to the new vehicle. Kind of like a Catch-22. I said just the mere fact that I got the letter and that the vehicle was still in my name proved that I was the owner. Why do I need to show you anything? Because you do. That's it. I was perplexed, but I knew I would figure it out.


I called the tag office and told my story again. The lady there said, sure, it's still in your name. Yes, we can print out proof that you own the vehicle. That should work for them. Great. I went and picked it up (free!) and returned home to call the towing company again. She said the owner felt bad for you and said that if you can get down here today and today only, he will waive the storage fee, but, someone's got to pay the tow truck driver, so the $46 stays. I would have to pay that. I drove down and paid it. I thanked them for being so nice. After all, they didn't have to give me any kind of break.


When I ran into my old "friend" again, I told her what I had just gone through. Hey, don't get me involved in it, she said. I said, you got yourself involved in it when you came up to me in the first place. I'm not blaming you. You were just trying to do a good thing, too. Would you please tell him and see if he's willing to at least pay me something? Yeah, yeah, right. I never heard another thing about it again. Some friends.


I'm probably the only person who ever gave away a car for free and then had to pay for it. I learned my lesson. I will never just turn over a title to anyone again. Ever.

Friday, September 30, 2005

To Be Frank, Times Have Changed. Let's Get That Straight.


My good friend Frank, who I've written about before, used to be married to a woman named Donna. Donna had a close friend, Jim, who was gay. I say that in the past tense because Jim is no longer amongst the living. Frank and I used to try to get him to go straight, with no luck, so we finally gave up and accepted the fact that he was never going to be into women. Jim was really a very good guy and I always enjoyed his company.

Whenever Frank and Donna had parties, Jim would be there. He really made the parties more fun. Frank would do his ostrich impersonation. He could do a fly, a frog and probably a couple more. They were fun times.


Early one evening, Frank & Donna had a dinner party. He was always a good cook and every time we went for dinner, he made some kind of gourmet meal. On this particular evening, later on after most of the guests left, Jim convinced the women, including my girlfriend, that we had to go out dancing. To a gay nightclub. We had to go. The women said so. Disco was the rage back then and Frank and I hated disco.

We hopped in cars and drove to this club called January's, in New Hope, Pennsylvania. Boom, ba boom boom boom. We could hear the pulsating sounds of the intense music in the parking lot as we pulled in.

"Oh, boy. Can't wait," Frank and I said to ourselves.


In we went. I probably never held on to my girlfriend that tightly before. We noticed that to the left was a room that had a pool table or two and a few TVs probably playing a Bette Midler special. To the right, was the lighted dance floor. "Come on! Let's go into the dance club!" the girls exclaimed. So we did. I had never seen men in platform shoes dancing together before, gyrating their ugly rearends to the rhythm of heavy drum beats. Black lights. Strobe lights everywhere.


"Let's dance," the girls screamed.


Frank and I looked at each other and said in tandem, "There's no way I'm going out on that dance floor with a bunch of gay men!"


"You have to."


"No. You made us come here. You can't make us dance." Besides, those men would have made me look more spastic than Joe Cocker on his worst day.


"Fine, then." And off they went, disappearing into the bowels of Disco Heaven. Jim was already out there somewhere.


I asked Frank, "What happens if we need to use the men's room?" He freaked.


We decided to go into the other room to play pool. It was much quieter. Maybe it was a Donna Summer or Barbra Streisand concert on television instead. Back in those days, you could line quarters up all around the table, to keep it. We did. That pool table was going to be our security blanket for the rest of the evening. We started to play. Frank was always a better pool player than me. I was singing "Shoot, Frankie, Shoot, doo, doo, doodle-ee-yoo," to myself to the tune of "Fly, Robin, Fly."
He was winning most of the games up to that point, until...

Well, I was standing there as Frank was shooting, leaning against my pool stick in front of me. All of a sudden, I felt something brush against my arm. Some guy was nudging me with his. "Hey, I've been watching you. You're a really good pool player." Hmmm. I thought about it. Now, I was on his turf. I wasn't about to yell, "Get away from me, you faggot!" I had to think fast. Besides, I was never quite the homophobe Frank was.


"You see my "friend" Frankie shooting?"


"Yes?"


Frank was going to be my squeeze that night whether he liked it or not. "He's got a pool table at home and he has a really big stick."


"Oh, OK," and off he went.

I went up to Frank and asked him if he saw that guy.


"Yes. What was he doing, trying to hit on you, Dave? You might have had a fun experience."


When I told him how I got rid of him, Frank yelled, "Ew, yuck. That's disgusting," and a few other choice expletives. He never won another game that night.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Government In Action?


Stolen_Tag
Originally uploaded by Marinade Dave.
I was working for a company in south Orlando. I lived north of the city in another county. Late one morning, one of the sales reps came into my office to tell me my license plate was no longer on my vehicle. Well, what should I do, I thought. I decided to call the Florida Highway Patrol to report that my tag was stolen. The dispatcher asked me what county was it stolen from? I said, I would assume Orange since that was the county I was in. She said I needed to call the Orange County Sheriff's Department. I did. Of course I had to look up these phone numbers since this wasn't a 911 emergency call. No big deal, right?

"Yes, I'd like to report my tag stolen."

"Where was it stolen?"

"Orange County." At least, that was my story and I was sticking to it. I didn't think I could have driven all the way from home to work without being detected by an alert law enforcement official. She asked for my information.

"You live in Seminole County?"

"Yes."

"Then you have to report it stolen there."

"But I think it was stolen here."

"It doesn't matter where it was stolen. You have to report it to the county in which you reside." I didn't want to argue with her about that and she did give me the number of the Seminole County Sheriff's Department. So I called and told her of my predicament. This time, the dispatcher sounded like she didn't trust me. Like I was guilty of something.

"You need to have the vehicle towed to Seminole County and call us from there." She was not being friendly.

"What do you mean, towed? Why don't I just make one of those 'Stolen Tag' signs and affix it to the back of my car and drive it up?"

"That is illegal. You can have your car impounded for an improper tag if you are pulled over. You must have it towed."

"But that's going to cost me $80 for something I had no control over." I was already trying to figure out alternatives. "Anyway, after I call you back, then what happens?"

"Within 2 hours a deputy will arrive and take your statement and write a report about your tag being stolen. You will have to purchase a new tag, plus pay a $10 fee for writing up the report. Upon receival by the state, they will issue you a $10 refund through the mail."

I said, "That's not very fair. I have to pay $80 to have my car towed, some $10 fee, plus the cost of a new tag? Suppose my tag was stolen in Miami? I'd have to have my car towed here from all the way down there?"

"Yes, sir."

Again, I said that it wasn't fair.

"That's your problem."

"OK, then. Is this phone call being recorded?"

"Yes, sir."

"Good. Then I want to report that my license plate has been stolen. Thank you." Click.

There was a motor vehicle tag office right down the street from where I worked, so I called them and explained my situation and what I had just gone through. She laughed.

"Don't worry. Get yourself a ride down here. Bring in your registration and we'll issue you a new tag."

That's what I did. I saved $90 by not doing it the official "police" way. But, I was absolutely legal with the state, and to me, that was all that mattered. If someone used the tag and got into trouble, I would refer to my official government recorded conversation.

With all of the hurricane damage and response time, I wonder if it works the same way. One agency nails you to the wall and the other one unscrews you. And none the wiser to each other. Bureaucracy.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Heaven Sent


Well, well, Three Angels Gourmet did it again. I got a package of their Heavenly Jam Bar Mix and promptly gave it to my mother. I'm one of those fortunate ones who, at my age, is lucky enough to have both of my parents around. And, I'm certainly blessed that my mother has always been an excellent cook, so it was no problem coaxing her into making something with it. She thought about making jam bars, but then she saw another recipe suggestion for Heavenly Apple Crumble. She just happened to have a few apples laying around, so no arm twisting was required. She sprinkled cinnamon over the sliced apples and added water. Then she melted a stick of butter and stirred that in the mix. After pouring that over the apples and baking, voila! A perfect dessert treat! By the time I got there, it was about half gone. It was only by divine intervention that I got the rest of it. I told my folks that at their age, they shouldn't be eating this kind of stuff. You see, I'm still young enough to eat it, and so I did. By the next day, it was gone. All of it. I had it for breakfast. I had it for lunch. I would have had it for dinner, but it was too late. Darn. If you've ever had apple crisp and you know how much you like that, you'll just love this stuff.

Trust me. It would be a real sin if you don't try Heavenly Jam Bar Mix.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

What's Whiskey Got To Do With The Price Of Gas?


When I was in the Jaycees and sold advertising for a newspaper, the editor was very active in the YMCA. They wanted to build a world class center and the first part was an Olympic size pool. He asked me if we could man the phones and solicit donations. The local phone company was willing to give us an area to make calls. I said I would bring it up at the next meeting.

We ended up with about 9 members willing to participate. When we went to the phone company, we each got a stack of 3x5 file cards with names, addresses and phone numbers. I started off by asking people for $25-50 toward the building of this pool. They all said, "No, we can't afford it right now." After about 4 calls, I knew I had to change my spiel. I then told them that we needed $150,000.

"Well, how much do you want from me?" they asked.

"Oh, $1,000 or $2,000 would be nice."

"NO WAY!" they screamed.

I said, "OK, how about $50?"

"Oh, OK, I can handle that."

I ended up collecting the most money that night, and the editor told me he had given me all the deadbeats because I sold advertising for his newspaper. He wanted to see how good I was. That is not my point, though. My point is that if you aim really high, invariably, you will get some amount from people. Sometimes, more than you thought you would ever get.

In the mid-seventies, I had a roommate who worked for a family owned liquor store. He told me about a name-brand whiskey that played mind games with its consumer base. It might have been Jack Daniel's. I don't remember for sure. A few years earlier, I had gotten sick to the point of wanting to die from drinking way too much Wild Turkey. Ever since that time, I can't stand the smell of whiskey of any type, let alone drink it. It's kind of like lamb. You either like it or you don't even want to smell it cooking.

In any event, Pete, my roommate, told me how this whiskey outfit would charge about $8.00 (back then) for a quart or whatever for most of the year. That was before we went metric. Then they'd jack the price up to around $12.00 a bottle. It would remain that way for a couple of months, then go back down to $8.00. What this, in effect, created, was a false sense that you were getting a really good deal when the price was at $8.00. People would scoff it up in anticipation of the impending price hike. This made product sales skyrocket through the roof. People would horde the stuff like it was going to disappear forever. Of course, being the gluttons that most people who need to horde alcohol are, they soon ran out and the price was then back up to $12.00 and they'd buy it again anyway. Eventually, they'd leave the price at $12.00 and raise it to $16.00 and start the whole cycle over again. At that point, people would think they were getting a good deal at $12.00, because over time, they adjusted to and had become comfortable with the $12.00 price, since they had seen it time and time again.

I think there are similarities here between that whiskey deal and what's going on with gas. Gasoline prices have been hovering around $3.00 per gallon of late. All of a sudden, I saw a gas station selling it for $2.49. WOW! Such a deal. I know the whole thing works on supply and demand, but, I kind of think of those gas guzzling SUVs as the heavy duty gasoholics of the world. They just can't seem to get enough. So, will we get used to, let's say, $3.00 a gallon, then $3.50, then back to $3.00 a gallon for a while, until it finally goes to $3.50 and stays there until the next price hike? Just a thought, but, it's not like I've never seen it happen before.