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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Things I Hate, Volume 1

Behold the Chigger. No, can’t behold it, because it’s so fucking tiny as to be nearly invisible. This Lilliputian invader is the source of my current state of being, which is so very itchy that even places that don’t fucking have bites are itching. Hell, even places I don’t fucking have are itching. I itch 3 feet to the right of me, for fuck’s sake, and that is confusing everyone who walks by my desk.

After a fun day of Airsoft, I now have to pay the dues of living in the great Midwest by having a belt of bumps like a relief map of Appalachia stretched across my midriff, and both calves reduced to the site of a smorgasbord for tiny terrorists.

The chigger, for those of you who don’t know, is the larval form of a mite. The bite flares up and itches because it fucking turns part of your body into a goddamn Crazy Straw. We aren't even what they are supposed to feed on...they prefer birds and reptiles, which means they are tiny fucking idiots. If they were celebrities, they'd be Snooki and Paris.

It’s funny, I can low crawl through poison ivy with impunity, but chiggers find me as irresistible as Yogi does pick-a-nick baskets. They lay in wait, ready to ambush some poor unsuspecting bastard. And there I am, like a catering service for the little pricks, the Promised Land waiting for them to conquer me via Manifest Destiny.

And so, as I wallow in freakish misery, I salute you Chigger. But I salute you with one finger. Guess which one.

You have earned my undying hatred, and I hope someone kicks you right the hell out of your phylum. The spiders and scorpions don’t like you either, and should vote you off the island at their next council.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Weather it Shakes

Today's exciting tale is from The Company.

Imagine the was two years ago, and a small tornado had spun up the night before, doing some F1 damage about a block from our office. It dominated our morning conversation...VIolet was discussing some family member of hers visiting from California, who had a freak out attack about the twister, thinking she was going to die. Or maybe she was just afraid of munchkins...we'll never know. Well, the conversation turned to whether we'd rather live in Ohio, land of the tornado, or California, land of the earthquake.

Me: "I'd take here. You can pretty well get away from a tornado if you need to...they're relatively small, whereas an earthquake has sort of an area affect."
Voodoo: "Yeah, that's true." (Voodoo lived through the San Fran '89 quake, and so has feelings on the subject"
VIolet: "What weather goes with an earthquake? Isn't it usually raining in an earthquake?"
Me and Voodoo: Blank stares

They say truth is stranger than fiction...maybe they've met VIolet.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Today’s post is inspired by the lightning strike on Big Butter Jesus last night. Having been a high voltage electrician when I served in the Air Force, I can tell you that electricity can do some pretty amazing things. Path of least resistance my ass…it does what it wants to do with no regard to logic.

I worked in those days in a pretty decent shop, but my favorite standby partner was Pup. Pup was an airman from Wisconsin, and he got his name by running with the big dogs. Pup was the only guy I’d work with drunk. Which is good, or we’d never have gotten anything done.

On this particular Sunday, Pup and I got paged to come in and fix a power outage on the base…the West Ramp was completely dark. Since that included the control tower for the airfield, it was a very high priority item. The air traffic control guys don’t like using the semaphore flags. We dragged ourselves in, making sure to put on uniforms for this one, since we’d be in the more visible areas of the base, and both of us had proven to be allergic to screaming colonels.

Without boring you with details, we quickly figured out the outage was one whole circuit, all the way back to the 64,000 volt monster called “The Switch” at one of the substations. It could be an easy fix, just throwing The Switch, or it could be headache time. We went straight to The Switch, and got ready. Pup approached said Switch, turned his face away from the equipment, and grabbed the handle. I took a few prudent steps away from the Switch, lest it bite me in anger. He pulled down on the handle like a senior citizen in a reservation casino…and the circuit held. Jackpot. Power restored.

After a quick high five, we had to perform part two of the outage, which was to ride the line and try to find the cause, so we weren’t back in a half hour. Like having dessert after Chinese food. Riding along, we passed some of the Fire Dogs putting out a small brush fire…right at the base of a utility pole. Now, I’m no genius, and Pup sure as hell isn’t…but it looked like this might be related. We drove on, seeing no power problems on that pole.

A full half mile down the line, we found the cause of the outage, and it was fortunately something that we could put off for Monday. A blown lightning arrestor (which had done its job) had created a short circuit. It bears mentioning that a short circuit with high voltage is much different than one in your microwave, by a factor of holy-shit-that’s-a-lot-of-volts. Pup and I looked at each other, looked at the popped porcelain, and looked back at each other.

“Think that made the fire?”

“Yeah, Pup, I do.”

Here’s how: pay attention, class. When a short circuit happens, for a small amount of time you have what’s called infinite potential. Laymen’s terms: Ouch that’s fucking hot. Every single utility pole has a ground wire on it, for taking this fault voltage to ground if needed. Our fault voltage had skipped a full half mile of these ground wires, gone around a corner, then jumped off the pole itself: leaping like a drunken spider monkey across 3 massive insulators to ignore about 70 chances at the least resistance of copper and take a ride down a steel “guy line” (those things that keep poles standing up straight.) It had heated that steel up so hot, that it had caused the brush fire we passed.

Now, most of you are not electricians…but I’d bet you understood what I just said there. As the man said, “It ain’t rocket science.”

We got back in the truck, noted the cause, and decided we’d replace the arrestor on Monday, so as not to interrupt Pup's plans of intimacy with a 12 pack. And we headed for the site of the brush fire.

We pulled up to the site, seeing a perfect charred circle around the base of the guy line, two fire trucks, and one of the base cops. Little did we know we were about to meet Sergeant Fife. We got out of the cab, and just as feet hit ground, we were challenged by the cop. His hand on the butt of his pistol, he put one hand out to stop us as if we were charging groundhogs.

It bears mentioning, to truly set the scene, that we had just pulled up to a fire at the base of a power line pole, in an obvious 60 foot long power line maintenance truck, with power line tools all over it. Some of the more astute members of the human race might have put this together. Not so Sergeant Fife.

“You know anything about this fire?” he queried.

Pup spoke up. “Ayup. We caused that fire.”

Sergeant Fife crouched a bit, his hand sliding lower on the butt of his pistol.

“Whaddya mean?” he asked.

I explained it to him, just as I did for you a few paragraphs ago.

“Whaddya mean?” he repeated, his eyes narrowing at us suspected arsonists.

“Well, there were a lot of volts that made that steel get really hot, and it caused a fire”, I said.

Unbelievably, his knees bent more, his eyes narrowed more, and I was sure he wouldn’t go for the hat trick. He did.

“Whaddya mean?” he asked Pup, since I was obviously not to be believed.

Pup had hit his limit. He started walking away, and tossed “JFM!” over his shoulder. I think some of my more prescient readers can predict the next piece of dialogue here…
“The category…great quotes in idiocy…the answer…Like a skipping record”

Thank you, Alex. Ah, Sergeant Fife has buzzed in…

Sure enough, his laser-beam-intense gaze swiveled to me, and his mouth opened…
“What does he mean?”

“Just Fucking Magic” I replied, and walked off. Pup and I talked it over with the firemen, and then headed back to the truck. We passed Sergeant Fife, his hand still on his gun, staring at the top of the utility pole as if waiting for it to produce a rabbit from its hat.

Sometimes, it’s just fucking magic.

Friday, June 11, 2010

How Archvillains Are Created

I'm not exactly certain yet, I'll have to check with costuming, but I may have become an Archvillain this very morning. What is it that will release my rage upon an unsuspecting public? The morning commute.

I don't live in L.A., so my morning commute should never be akin to a tour of duty in Afghanistan. But alas, stupid people can be just as dangerous as IED's. Perhaps I should up-armor my minivan, or at least mount a .50 cal on it.

While driving, the vehicle only slightly ahead of me and to my right drifted into my lane at the speed of smell, and proceeded to coast down to about 40 miles per hour in a 55 zone. When traffic finally gave me the gap I needed to get around Zippy The Wonder Slug, I of course decided to give the offending moron the Death Glare, which surely would cause her head to explode spontaneously in a veritable bouquet of pyrotechnics and gore. Unfortunately, upon seeing the cause of her speed change, my disbelief caused my mental bolts of fury to backfire, and I may have had a minor aneursim.

She was reading a cookbook.

I shit you not, in the middle of morning traffic on one of the most accident prone pieces of asphalted real estate in town, this Future Darwin Winner was browsing recipes in the slow lane. I drove on, my powers drained, leaving her head intact.

For now.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Setting the Tone

They say you never get a second chance to make a first impression. They say it, and it happens to be true. Our firsts often set the tone for a whole chapter in our lives. So it was with my first night on base.

It was 1992, and I was a fresh young airman, just out of training. To say I was skinny is an understatement, like saying Wesley slightly annoys Trek fans or Kermit’s a little green. (Wheaton fans back off…I like him too.) (For that matter, Kermit fans back off…I know it’s not easy being green.) I was so scrawny, if I’d turn sideways and stick out my tongue, people would think I was a zipper.

I don’t need to wonder why I didn’t go career military…Barry and Ray messed that up for me but good, all in the span of three hours. It bears mentioning that I was a little greener than most noobs. At the tender age of 18, I had never been…a lot. I had only recently been exposed to many things, including alcohol and sex.

For those who don’t know, arriving at a new base was made easier by a sponsor in your shop or section. Ray was my sponsor, and not only had my “welcome package”, but the key to my dorm room. And so with trepidation I met Ray, and his buddy Barry, as they picked me up from the airport and started grilling me with questions. Now, I’m not talking about your everyday questions…I would have been comforted by anything so ordinary as “What’s your favorite food”. Instead, I found myself wondering just what the hell a donkey show was.

Ray handed me his driver’s license and said “Memorize that birthday. It’s yours today.” In my sudden panic, I may have looked at him like mouse looks at a cat, though I prefer to think of it as doing my eyebrow exercises. He handed me a tall Budweiser that had been obtained for the ride home. “Drink up”, he said, exactly the way it had been said once upon a time to Socrates. I was sure this was a test. Certainly these airmen were checking to insure that I had the right moral fiber to perform my duty. I attempted to hand him the beer unopened to prove I was a model serviceman.

The can was opened and handed back to me. “Drink up, or you don’t get your room key tonight.” Oh. Or maybe they were just fucking with the new guy. And so, ten minutes into my first duty assignment, I’d already broken two laws, with an open container and the whole drinking under age thing. Of course, that was only the beginning.

I spied a sign on the roadway for The Base, and thought perhaps we were headed there. No. Such. Luck.
Trebec, I’ll take Purple Hazing for $200.

“Answer: More Cellulite Than MGM’s Archive.

The question is: What identifies the afternoon shift at the worst titty bar in town?”

Thank you, Alex.

We pulled up, amidst a blizzard of my protests, to what is inarguably the worst strip club in town. Within moments, the diabolic duo had hustled me into the establishment, taking me around to the bar, plopping me onto a bar stool, and flanking me on either side. The grizzled manager, whom Ray introduced as “Mother”, carded me. I recited my new birthdate when questioned, and she gave Ray a look that probably could have removed paint. Maybe, just maybe, I wasn’t blushing looking around the room at the strippers, perhaps it was the heat from that glare.

They ordered me another beer and I paid Mother my cover charge, adding to my growing list of legal transgressions. In my mind’s eye, my own mother looked on disapprovingly. Unfortunately, she didn’t have my dorm room key with her. Ray did.

If you’ve never been to the afternoon shift of a hole-in-the-wall titty bar, allow me to paint for you a picture of horror. The term “Butterface” could be applied so liberally that Fabio can’t believe it. One of the dancers was so far along I thought they should have bartowels ready in case her water broke during a pole trick. Suffice to say, it wasn’t a grand first titty bar experience.

Ray leaned in a bit, and pointed out a dancer. “Would you do her?” Being an 18 year old who had only recently had his first sex ever, I of course said yes. Barry leaned in, pointing out the second, and actually the last, of the attractive women in attendance. “Would you do her?” Of course, I answered in the affirmative, and began to wonder if they were about to try hookering me up for the night. My horror wasn’t nearly complete enough, though. Ray pointed to the crushing sight of a burned out coke whore gyrating on the 3 square feet the place referred to as “the second stage”, and asked the question a third time. “Would you do her?” Even 2 beers in and as horny as only an 18 year old boy can be, I couldn’t justify it. It would have been too much like hitting on an elderly Eskimo with bad acne and a beer gut.
“No way.”
In perfect unison, they stood up and shoved their stools in, shouting in stereo “What are you, fucking queer????” I immediately did more eyebrow exercises. I could only have been more red if my name were Clifford. In retrospect, it was a good setup and likely not bad as practical jokes go. However, being the focus of Mother and her sad shift of soured showgirls as they wondered about my sexual proclivities was just overwhelming.

I actually don’t remember much else about that night. I do know that eventually, after choking down a few more Budweisers, I earned my key and was able to move into the dorm. It wasn’t an auspicious beginning, but not all of them are.

By Way of Introduction

I suppose I should let you know a bit about myself. I’m a man who collects many hats and titles, letting them sit on the mantle in my mind to collect dust. Or is that dandruff? Moving on…

In my time, I’ve done many things. I served in the military, both active and guard. I worked construction. I’ve taught theatre. I’ve done a lot of community theatre, and ran one for a couple of years. I’ve never worked on a crab boat. I’ve been in sales, tech support, IT, and all of those at the same time. I’ve run a laser tag joint. I’ve been a waiter. I use the serial comma and points of ellipsis. I’ve never been to Spain. I’ve lived, and hope to do so for a long while. As you can imagine, I’ve had a lot of experiences in life, and that’s given me a lot of stories to tell.

Well, like so many, I’ve decided to carve out my own piece of the series of tubes, and make a homestead here on the internet frontier. I’ll try not to die of dysentery, and have enough bison on hand.

I’m hoping to bring you a lot of humor. I may sometimes share other thoughts, and show my serious side. But mostly, I’m hoping to bring the funny. I will be changing names and a few details to protect the innocent and the not-so-innocent, but I look forward to you getting to know some of the characters in this little play called my life. Also, be it known I am the son of a sailor, and worse, a riverman…so if language offends you, begone and get thee to a nunnery. There’s a lot of material to draw from, so buckle up and come along…here we go!
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