Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Night I Screamed On Halloween

Recently, I was telling my mother about my scariest Halloween moment. She questioned whether she would have let me venture out on my own at the tender age of 6. I was with a friend from the neighborhood and we were in the same class at school, so I wasn't really alone. I told her, sure, why not? Times were different then. You left your windows open at night. During hot summer months, most houses were without air conditioning and the only thing that separated you from the rest of the world was a screen door. Crime wasn't something that was ever present in your mind. It was a different time...

It was a chilly autumn night, that 48 years ago when I lived in Somerville, New Jersey. It was my first foray out with a friend on Halloween. No moms allowed! I was a man this night, or so I thought. Howard and I went out to make the rounds just as darkness fell. There were lots of kids in all sorts of costumes running around, stopping at each house. Some homes were decorated and they seemed like the most inviting, the ones that would give out the best candy! We saw the flickering of candlelit pumpkins with each eerie twist and turn throughout the neighborhood. Skeletons hung from trees and porches, swaying in the gentle breeze. We talked of ghosts and goblins and tried to stay away from dark alleys and back yards. No way! Oh yeah, houses with their lights off, too, because that meant they were going to grab you and take you to the basement where you'd never be seen again. Or else, they weren't home.

I had a double shopping bag to stuff all that tooth rotting goodness in. There were no paper or plastic options at the grocery store back then. These were the days of old when the milkman left glass bottles of milk at your doorstep and on freezing winter morns, the cream would expand and push the paper cap up and out a few inches. Brrr. Rabbit ears were the best way to watch your round screen black & white TV.

Howard kept insisting that we finish the night at his house. OK, I said, you already stopped at mine when you came to get me. That was our first treat and my mom always had good ones. He lived four or five houses up and across the street from mine. When you're six years old, that's pretty far away and I wasn't too crazy about being almost out of sight of my own place. I was approaching unmarked territory. At least, at night. Halloween night! We'd been out long enough and had plenty of goodies to last a long time. We probably had bewitching hours, anyway. There might have been school the next day.

"OK. Let's go to my place," Howard said.

"I'm ready," I replied. Besides, I was getting tired from all that trick or treating and having to rip off my mask to show everyone who I was.

We walked up the sidewalk and up the stairs of his front porch. It was dark and spooky and I sensed evil lurking about. We rang the doorbell and his father answered.


"I want to see a trick," Howard's father told us. A trick? I didn't know what he was talking about. Saying trick or treat meant I was going to get candy. What was this trick thing all about? I asked him.

"When you say trick or treat, I can ask you to do a trick first. Then I give you a treat. Do you have a trick?"

Howard and I gave each other a puzzled look and said, "No..?."

"Well, then. I have a trick for you," and just like that, his top teeth popped out and back into his mouth in an instant. I froze in my tracks and just stared up at him. Then he did it again. Those teeth popped out of his face and dangled for a second and then zipped right back into his mouth.

I let out a blood curdling scream that woke the dead at the cemetery down the street. Every S.W.A.T. team in the county would come running if they heard it today. I turned to run, when all of a sudden, Howard's mom came from behind his father and quickly came out the door to comfort me. Whatever his name was, she sure did scold him.

"He shouldn't have done that." The guy was rolling on the floor in laughter. Howard didn't know what to do. "Sometimes when people's teeth go bad, they get pulled and new ones won't grow in like after your baby teeth. They're replaced with fake ones so you can chew your food. That's what happened to Howard's dad." She turned to him. "Apologize right now!"

I don't remember if he said anything or not. He was still laughing. I was pretty rattled and couldn't stop shaking in my boots. She said she would walk me home. I was not about ready to venture out of that neighborhood by myself. When we got back to my place, she explained to my mother what a horror filled trauma I had just gone through. I sensed a snicker or two and I'm not talking the candy variety.

"Mom? Can I sleep with the light on tonight?" I asked. "I'm never going back to that house again," and I never did. "Mom, would you lock the front door, just in case?" For the longest time, I wouldn't even look at that place and I sure was glad when we moved.

When I was older, I wondered how the father of a six year old could have lost his teeth so young. Maybe, he ate too much Halloween candy.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Dirty dishes and other poop

An old girlfriend of mine got her degree in child psychology. One thing she always told me was that children's minds are not completely developed. You should never treat a child like an adult peer because their brains aren't quite up to it. Oh, they may try to act adult-like, but deep down inside, they're not even close. They're like apples and oranges that may look mature but aren't until fully nourished and ready to fall from the tree. I found this to be true. For example, once they reach a certain age, children think their parents are pretty stupid and have no idea what's going on in the world. Of course, their world is only as big as their circle of friends, school, the local hangout and whatever else is going on in the realm of TV and music in the social center of their brains. They might like to think their parents are smart because it only means they are smarter. Somewhere around 13, they turn 30. They're way smarter now and remain so for a number of years to come.

My younger brother recently told me of an experience he had with his 16-year-old daughter. The basement in his home is finished and she has her own virtual apartment down there. Every night, she takes her dinner down to her little "world" and watches TV or whatever. My poor brother and his wife have to eat all alone. Later at night, he checks the house to make sure everything is OK, that the doors are locked and all is well. In her bedroom, he saw the dinner plate and glass sitting on her nightstand. The next morning, he went down to make sure she was getting ready for school and noticed the dishes were gone. Great! She put them in the sink where they belong. How responsible! He went about his business preparing for work. In the meantime, she left for school. When he went into the kitchen, the plate and glass were not in the sink. Hmm. He went downstairs and looked all over. No dishes anywhere. Then he got down on his knees and looked under her bed.

Here they are, that little stinker." He left them and placed a note on top of the plate that said CAUGHT YOU! It was his subtle way of saying there's no need to start a collection here. It reminds me of a time past...

Years ago, my old girlfriend, her daughter, Hannah, and I lived in a
2 bedroom, 1 bath apartment. We always ate at the dining room table and afterward took turns doing the dishes. Normally, we didn't dirty enough in one night to run the dishwasher. One evening, when it was Hannah's turn, we thought she was washing them as we went about our business. Later on, I went to take the garbage out. As I lifted the plastic bag from the container, it felt pretty heavy for just household trash and I could hear the clanging and clinking of dishes and silverware as they banged into each other. Stupid parents. They'll never know. I called her into the kitchen and told her she would have to pick through all that yucky rubbish to remove each and every plate, glass, knife, fork and spoon.


"Oh, yes you will, young lady. Right now. Did you think your mother and I would not notice that we're running out of dishes and we'd have no idea where they went because a certain someone around here doesn't like to wash them?" I asked. "Oh, by the way, now you'll have to scrub them even harder because they're loaded with all that stinky, smelly, germy stuff ." I gave her a sickening look. She wanted to puke. "Keep looking!" Watching her rummage through that garbage bag with germs worse than cooties was punishment enough and guess what? It was, because she never did that again.

When Hannah was younger, she sometimes forgot to push that very important handle on the toilet, which was never a good thing. Then, one day her "friend" dropped by for the first of many monthly visits and things started to slowly change. She began to pay more attention to her appearance. "Booger" and "poop" weren't funny words any more. Thunderous belches and other loud discharges followed by hysterical laughter were no longer emanating from what used to be quite the tomboy. From then on, they became something only dads and boys disgustingly do. How embarrassing! Girls politely burp. Occasionally, they poot. Big difference, I guess.

Fortunately, my brother's daughter has her own bathroom. I asked him if the counter is cluttered with all kinds of cosmetics; facial creams, makeup, sprays, gels and whatever. Yup, he said. Typical teenage girl stuff. Thank God she doesn't have to share it with anyone else. Maybe, that's why young ladies always look so fresh and clean - it's all that sugar and spice and everything nice they keep scattered around the bathroom. Snips and snails and puppy dog tails, and maybe a dish or two, are kept under the bed, until one day...

Time goes by rather quickly as they grow older. Before you know it, you realize there are a lot more memories and one less plate to wash. She's got her own set now. She's turned out to be quite the peach and her mind is no longer child-like. You take one last look under the bed and there's nothing there.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Mike Tyson Challenges Stephen Hawking

"It was fun, that's my first time boxing since my last fight."

- Mike Tyson, following last night's four-round exhibition against Corey "T-Rex" Sanders, a former sparring partner, in Youngstown, Ohio. He has said he will fight anyone, including women and children.

After the fight, he brazenly challenged Stephen Hawking, the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge, and a Fellow of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. He is known for his significant contributions to the field of quantum physics, particularly his theories regarding theoretical cosmology, quantum gravity, black holes, and his popular works in which he discusses his own theories and cosmology in general.

No word from the Hawking camp as of yet.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Old Joke

A good friend of mine e-mailed me this. I changed the school, year and the denture part and sent it on to my aunt in New Jersey. She's got a really good sense of humor. I think you'll enjoy it.

Have you ever been guilty of looking at others your own age and thinking, surely I can't look that old?

Well, you'll love this one!

I was sitting in the waiting room for my first appointment with my new dentist. My dentures needed some adjusting. I noticed his DDS diploma, which bore his full name. Suddenly, I remembered a tall, handsome, dark-haired boy with the same name who had been in my high school class 46 years ago. Could he be the same guy that I had a secret crush on, way back then?

Upon seeing him, however, I quickly discarded any such thought. This balding, gray-haired man with the deeply lined face was way too old to have been my classmate. Hmm... or could he???

After he examined my dentures, I asked him if he had attended Hunterdon Central High School. "Yes. Yes, I did. I'm a Red Devil," he gleamed with pride.

"When did you graduate?" I asked.

He answered, "In 1960. Why do you ask?"

"You were in my class!" I exclaimed. He looked at me closely.

Then, that ugly, old son-of-a-b*tch asked, "What did you teach?"

Friday, October 13, 2006

Gimme A Brake

My father has always been one very good auto mechanic. He used to help fix seemingly unfixable problems on stock cars that would run the modified NASCAR circuit. Of course, he's been retired for years now. Back in the seventies, he owned a front-end alignment shop in Flemington, New Jersey. It didn't take him long to gain the reputation of being the best around. People from all over would bring their cars to him. There was another guy in town that had been there a lot longer and did the same thing, but there was plenty of business to go around. As a matter of fact, the two liked each other. One day, the other guy suffered a terrible accident at work and went to the biggest and best alignment shop in the sky. That really bothered my father.

I remember when I was 17, let's see, that would be in 1969, I bought a 1965 Mustang. With air conditioning and an 8-Track cassette. AM-FM, too. I was the man! FM had come into vogue around then, but most cars from 1965 only had AM. It gave me enough confidence to go get me a genuine girlfriend, a real knockout, to boot. Unfortunately, Mustangs were not known for having big back seats. The following summer, I needed new front shocks. I had never worked on a car up to that point and never planned to, not with a father who knew pretty much everything about them. Besides, cars were still a new thing to me, after riding bikes most of my life. He used to let me "help" him when I was a kid, to make me feel good, but I never really did anything because I really didn't help all that much.

One day, I called him and asked if he could put new shocks in for me. Sure, go over to Carver's Auto Parts, get what you need and come by Saturday morning. OK, great! I was getting tired of getting seasick every time I went over a bump in the road. So was my girlfriend.
That Saturday morning, I stopped by, parts in hand. He told me, "See those tools over there? They are all you're going to need to replace those bad shocks."

"What do you mean?" I protested. "I thought you were going to put them in for me."

"No, you're going to have to learn how to work on a car and this is a good place to start." When he told me that, I began to dislike him for thinking I was ready to work on my own vehicle. I wasn't and I think he sensed if he had told me beforehand that I was going to do the work, the job would never have gotten done. "I'm going to be right here to give you any help or advice, so don't panic."

One thing about my father's tools, you could eat off them. They were always neatly arranged, too. AND YOU'D BETTER RETURN THEM THAT WAY! Oh, he didn't expect me to remember where they all went, but they'd better be clean. "No one wants to reach into a toolbox and grab a dirty, greasy wrench." He was right. He was right about something else, too. I learned how to work on my own cars over the years and I've probably saved tens of thousands of dollars because of it.

In the late seventies, my good friend Frank had a little Japanese import. I think it was a Subaru. Frank sold industrial coatings for Dupont back then and needed a small, fuel-efficient car that was very dependable. Because of all the miles he'd put on it, the rear brakes finally wore out. Front brakes wear out three times as quickly and those he maintained. After so many miles it was time to do the rears. I called my father and asked him if I could use his shop on Saturday to do the job for Frank. He normally didn't work weekends so it wasn't a problem. These were drum type brakes and the shoes were what needed replacing. Since Frank wasn't all that educated when it came to working on cars, I figured we'd both go to the parts store so I could make sure we got the right parts.

My father had a rack you'd drive up onto. "OK, Frank. Slowly drive up the ramp and I'll tell you when to stop." So far, so good. After removing the tires, I unbolted the wheel drums. After they've been on a car for some time and been subjected to the elements, they can be really tough to remove. They were. After finally getting them off, I started to disassemble the brakes. I compared the old parts with the new, to make sure everything matched up. Everything was going well. I installed all of the new parts. I checked and checked again to make sure everything was correct. Then, I tried to put the drums back on. No way. They wouldn't fit over the new brakes. I thought of everything. I looked again to make sure everything was correct. Yup. I compared old parts with the new. Everything was on right, but, those drums would not go back on. No way, no how. I even thought of sanding them down. I must have spent hours trying to figure the mess out. Of course, Frank didn't have a clue.
I phoned my father and explained the dilemma. "Are you sure everything is right?" he asked me. I told him yes.

"Could you please come down and take a look? I mean, I've tried everything." Reluctantly, he said yes and Frank and I waited. When he pulled up and got out of his car, he immediately went over to the exposed brakes on the left side
to do a little inspecting. Then, he walked up to us. Clearly, he could see the looks of frustration and anticipation in our eyes. Methodically, he opened the driver's door, reached in and disengaged the emergency brake.

"You think you two dodos can finish the job without any more help?" I felt really dumb.
I told you Frank didn't know much about cars. Apparently, I didn't either, but I sure did learn a good lesson.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Bumper Stickers that were Never Meant To Be

"It's vile. It's more sad than anything else,
to see someone with such potential throw
it all down the drain because of a sexual addiction."

- Rep. Mark Foley, R-West Palm Beach, on Monicagate

A new chapter in the life of ex-Congressman Mark Foley (R-FL) unfolds. I don't want to know what page he was on, but let's book him for writing and sending sexually explicit e-males and IMs (Instant Massages?) to young boys.

Alcohol, my foot. Next week, he'll be bipolar. Big Bubba don't care.