Saturday, March 7, 2009

You gotta shake rattle and roll

One of the highlights of my non-illustrious career was the creation of a half-million dollar commercial for a regional grocery chain. My good buddy and copywriter, Uncle Lemme (video-store-story-teller extraordinaire), and I conceived and produced this animated :30 second spot. And as good fortune would have it, both the film AND animation houses producing the piece for us were in California. DAMN the luck! We had to travel to both Hollywood AND San Francisco in 6 months time. Tough job. Some body's gotta do it. We sacrificed ourselves.

This particular week, we were in Hollywood. Literally. West Hollywood. We didn't know about West Hollywood. I've never had guys whistling at me before. That was certainly different.

We'd gone out to dinner and had 2 or 3 bottles of Dom Perignon champagne and I'd had other liquid entertainment as well. So on the walk back to the hotel, I tried to sarcastically whistle back at the "guys" on the street and wound up more like spitting on them. Drinking and whistling don't go hand-in-hand. I'm lucky they didn't try to hit me with their purses. Hell, I'd have just hit them back with mine.

So we're back at the hotel pool. Lemme and I are in the pool floating like a couple of over sized, inebriated corks. Neither of us smokes cigars but I think we were because it fits the image of Big Wig Movie Producers in Hollywood floating in a pool, sipping on champagne.

We were feeling absolutely NO pain. Remember when your Mom told you NOT to go in the pool for 1 hour after eating? Well we ignored that advice. But Mom never told us to NOT drink champagne or smoke cigars in the pool either, so at least we were safe on the latter two.

It was a perfectly still, beautiful Hollywood evening. And I remember a sudden "gust of wind" as the palms by the pool rustled. I think a bird squawked for effect too (after all, we were in Hollywood, so special effects were to be expected even in the pool by our hotel).

And moments later, our Account Executive, Scott bursts through the courtyard door and yells, "DID YOU FEEL THAT?!"

Uncle Lemme and I looked at each other, blew snot out our noses guffawing, and said something unintelligible, but basically replied, "No, felt what?"

"WE JUST HAD A 6.2 EARTHQUAKE!!! IT'S ON THE NEWS RIGHT NOW!," Scott yelled - he was so easily excited – what's the big deal? We were all standing at that moment under a high-rise hotel tower on the largest, most unstable fault line in the U.S. – a fault line that had just burped minutes ago. Oops. Actually Lemme and I are floating on the fault line. Scott was turning red and flailing his arms on it.

Lemme and I blew snot again and took a puff off our cigars and another swig of champagne, "You're shitting me?"

We'd been hit by a 6.2 earthquake and bobbed up and down with it in the pool like a couple of fishing bobbers on the verge of catching a couple of whoppers. That, apparently is why the palms rattled. And the bird squawked. Lemme and I hadn't felt a damn thing. Nada. Of course a meteor could have crashed into our heads and we wouldn't have felt it either.

Fortunately, the epicenter was far, far away from habitation. I think a cactus fell over at ground zero. And as the cactus met its demise, Lemme and I continued to play the Big Shots, partying the night away.

Those were the days, weren't they, Lemme? Naaaaahhhhh.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Big Doggies go BOOM!

I can still see the poor frozen thing swinging back and forth in the noonday sun, like a grizzly scene from Edgar Allan Poe's 'the Pit and the Pendulum' ... but I'm getting ahead of myself ...

One of the saddest, but also most rewarding periods of my life was when I worked at a large Midwestern Humane Society as part of my college work-study program (yes, I picked up dog poop to put myself through college AND carried a hot potato in my pocket to keep my hands warm on cold days). I really LOVE animals. Unfortunately I got to see how badly humans mistreat animals. Believe me, in most cases, it's the HUMANS that should be caged and put to sleep, NOT the poor animals. I also had the EXTREMELY disheartening task of handling the carcasses of animals that had to be euthanized.

But as with any profession that has to deal with death (medical, law enforcement, etc.) you learn ways of coping with it. I'm not sure that I ever accepted it, but I learned to cope with it. It was either that or go nuts. And sometimes one of those methods was finding humor in situations that others not IN that profession may not understand or may even find tasteless. But as you read this, please trust me, we treated those animals with GREAT respect, dead or alive.

So with that in mind – I give you the Frozen Saint Bernard Story (This really happened and it's been trapped in my twisted mind for years trying to work its way to the surface and escape. Today, it finds its freedom so it can leave me and go and bother someone else. Sorry.):

After euthanization, the carcasses were always bagged and kept in a freezer until they could be transported. But a Saint Bernard doesn't fit in a bag. And we couldn't lift the rigid, 175 pound, frozen Saint Bernard into the truck so we had to use a front-end loader to pick it up. We did NOT like doing that, but there is NO way to pick up that dog by hand.

But at the same time that this was going on, a tour group of grade school kids had just arrived to tour the facilities. Generally, we didn't schedule tours and body transport on the same day. There's a damn good reason for that:

The kids shouldn't have been able to see anything, but as the front-end loader began to lift the Saint Bernard, the bucket kind of jerked and the dog slipped out of the bucket into plain sight and was dangling by its frozen back legs for the entire world to see. At that exact moment, the kids started getting off their school buses.

I looked at the dangling dog. I looked at the kids. And everything went into slow motion in my mind. As the bucket went higher it jerked more. The dog began swinging back and forth, back and forth, like a clock pendulum. I was praying to myself, "Please God, please don't let the dog fall." And at just about that moment the bucket gave one last little jerk and the frozen Saint Bernard began it's earthward plummet (in slow motion). Oh, CRAP! This was going to get ugly.

It didn't just go THUD when it hit ... it SHATTERED ... BLEW UP ... like a Saint Bernard Bomb. Saint Bernard shrapnel flew everywhere.

And of course, the kids were watching. The teachers, who also looked on in horror, yelled, "LET'S GO SEE THE KITTIES, KIDS!" and they hurriedly shuffled them away from the carnage and into the cat house (as we lovingly called it, actually that's what the big wooden letters above the door said CAT HOUSE, see what I mean about humor?).

Can you imagine the conversations that went on at home that night? "Mommy, I saw a BIG doggy go BOOM today."

"Now, now Timmy, doggies don't go BOOM."

Yes they do. I saw it too.

Is it just me?

Have you ever noticed that when you go to the doctor they ALWAYS make you pay your copay BEFORE you see the doctor?

Why can't you pay it AFTER you see the doctor?

Are they afraid the doctor is going to do something that might kill you and they won't get their money because you can't sign the check? Because he/she killed you?

Not a big confidence builder there.

A good restaurant doesn't make you pay for your food BEFORE you eat. Understandably, fast food places MIGHT kill you before you pay, so they don't count. But can you imagine a fine dining place saying, "Sir, would you mind paying for that swordfish first? We're afraid you might choke on a bone and die."

Besides, if I could pay the copay AFTER I see the doctor, I might feel inclined to leave a tip.

Is it just me?

(And if you're my check-in nurse from today, present company IS excluded, of course. It's all in jest. Welcome to my strange little world. And THANKS again for your help today!)

This is probably the weirdest damn thing you'll ever read

I'm not quite sure how to write this one, but I simply MUST write it. Today I had an experience unlike any I've EVER had before. If you've read any of my posts on this blog, you'll know this is saying a lot. But how do I go about telling you what happened today without:

A. Getting kicked off Blogspot


B. Grossing you out completely

Here goes, I'll be gentle.

I opened and closed a rose today AND made a bird chirp repeatedly with just my butt.

... while I watched it all on a video screen. Sort of the like the weirdest video game you could EVER imagine. How did you do this, you ask? Actually, you probably aren't asking that, but I'll tell you anyway. This is where the telling gets tricky.

My physical therapist, we shall call her Inga because I swear she used to work for one of those Communist Block countries and could torture information out of Jack Bauer. Anyway, Inga straps a few electrodes to well, let's say, "down south" and fires up the computer.

And then she asks, "Would you like dolphins or roses with birds?"

"Excuse me?" I hadn't read about dolphins or roses and birds in my literature.

"You can choose dolphins or roses with birds for your bio-feedback. I like the roses and birds, but some guys don't like the sound the birds make."

"OK," said I, "my wife and I have 17 birds in our house – 2 of them are cockatoos, they make more noise than you can imagine so I doubt that will bother me. Let's do the birds and roses. But what am I supposed to do?"

Oh God was I was sorry I asked that.

Remember when you were in grade school and you really-really-really had to go to the bathroom but the mean teacher wouldn't let you go, and no matter HOW much you waved your hand he/she still wouldn't let you so you had to HOLD IT!? Same theory here.

When the computer told me to "WORK" (with a Japanese accent) I had to well, uh, tense those same muscles to make an animated picture of a friggin' rose close on the screen and a stupid bird chirp for 10 seconds. The better I tensed, the tighter the rose. If I didn't tense the damn bird was silent - smug, little, feathered bastard. Then the Japanese voice told me to "relax". And the better I "relaxed", the more the rose opened and the stupid bird shut up. I'm freaked out by the whole thing so during the "relax" part, the rose, rather than opening up and staying open, looks more like a fan fluttering in the breeze. OPEN DAMN YOU!!! So much for relaxation.

Then of course, the little Japanese voice was on me again like a Drill Sargent, I'm chanting sing you damn bird, SING!!! Now I want to KILL the bird. "Relax" says the Japanese Drill Sargent. Relax? How the hell do I do that? My butt's in the air for the world to see, Inga's typing away over there, a bird's chirping only when it wants to, the rose is spastically opening and closing and I've got wires attached where no guy ever wants wires attached. I've become a human Playstation 3!!!

But I AM getting to open and close a flower with my butt. Now I'm wondering if that's how God does it some times. I mean He's GOT to be busy with a GAZILLION other things to do every SECOND, "Oh I'll just open that flower with my butt since my hands are full." Not that I'm God or anything. But maybe in a super-mini-microcosmic sort of way, I've had a teensy-weensy taste of what it's like to have that much power. I can control a flower with my butt ... wow ... AND a bird. I think I'll run for President. I'm highly qualified now.

Can't WAIT to see what Inga has in store for me next.

"It's the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man"

Today I purchased a piece of movie history. As Dan Akroyd puts it in the movie Ghostbusters, "It's the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man." I had to shell out a whopping $4.99 for him at an antique store. But it's worth it. He now proudly stands in my display case alongside a 19th century bronze and stained glass lamp. Ahhhh, at last, the center piece of my collection.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

And now a confession for you, Dad.

My own police officer story.

I was on my way to Nashville late one beautiful summer evening.

There was no moon. The stars were out. It was warm. As with most of my cars, the air conditioner didn't work, so I had the sun roof open. What WAS unusual about this evening was that I had the dash lights turned off so I could see the stars as I drove down the interstate at 70+ miles per hour. Having the dash lights off also helped me spot the flashing blue lights immediately as they appeared behind me. They weren't quite as pretty as the stars. Nor was the star on the side of the trooper's chase car.

Oh crap.

"License and registration."

"Yes, sir."

"Know how fast you were going, son?"

Here I was faced with a dilemma. I had no earthly clue how fast I was going because I had the dash lights off and was looking at the stars! But my parents had taught me to be honest. And I am. Almost to to a fault. But in this case, honesty is going to sound pretty damn stupid and just might get me tossed into a Cave City Kentucky jail. So maybe it would be OK to lie just this once and not admit how stupid I had been ... but my genetic upbringing won out and I chose honesty:

"No sir, to tell you the truth, I have no idea how fast I was going, I had the dash lights turned off and was looking at the stars through the sun roof." Probably NOT the best answer to give a police officer that is cruising a high-speed interstate, but it's the one I gave.

I began wondering what handcuffs would feel like. Do they cut off the circulation in your hands? Do they leave telltale scars that I could flash at people kind of like a "don't mess with me" warning?

To my complete surprise, the police officer handed me back my license, registration and a ticket for $250 and answered his own question, "You were doing 88 miles per hour, but I've knocked you down to 85, now turn on your lights and slow it down boy."

I left Kentucky with a lot less money but ALL my lights on.

Once again. Thanks, God.

PS. the stars were GREAT!

My dad sent me this - thanks, Dad!

Montana State Trooper

In most of the United States there is a policy of checking on any stalled vehicle on the highway when temperatures drop to single digits or below.

About 3am one very cold morning, Montana State Trooper Allan Nixon #658 responded to a call there was a car off the shoulder of the road outside Great Falls, Montana. He located the car, stuck in deep snow and with the engine still running. Pulling in behind the car with his emergency lights on, the trooper walked to the driver’s door to find an older man passed out behind the wheel with a nearly empty vodka bottle on the seat beside him. The driver came awake when the trooper tapped on the window. Seeing the rotating lights in his rearview window, and the state trooper standing next to his car, the man panicked. He jerked the gearshift into ‘drive’ and hit the gas.

The car’s speedometer was showing 20-30-40 and then 50 mph, but it was still stuck in the snow, wheels spinning. Trooper Nixon, having a sense of humor, began running in place next to the speeding (but stationary) car. The driver was totally freaked, thinking the trooper was actually keeping up with him. This goes on for about 30 seconds, then the trooper yelled, “PULL OVER!”

The man nodded, turned his wheel and stopped the engine. Needless to say, the man from North Dakota was arrested and is probably still shaking his head over the state trooper in Montana who could run 50 miles per hour.

Who says troopers don’t have a sense of humor?

Monday, March 2, 2009

Die, human! HAH, HAH, HAH, HAHHHHHH!

It would probably be a good idea if I just put a disclaimer at the top of this blog saying something like: "Almost everything you're about to read was in some way influenced by the consumption of alcohol." I'm certainly not proud of that, it's just the way it used to be.

This is yet another of those instances.

Uncle Ed's Cabin. Private property. Boy's weekend out. That should tell you something right there. Boats, guns, liquor and stupidity. I'm only an expert in the fourth category.

First a brief story within the story, I became a dubious legend that weekend for what has become known as, "The Upside Down, Between the Legs, Annie Oakley Shot". I'm told the clay pigeon sat reverently on Uncle Ed's mantle for years as a reminder of that famous shot. A .22 pistol, which I fired bending over, between my legs, from 50 feet away. They thought I missed. I didn't think so. When we checked, it had gone straight through the center of a clay pigeon target without shattering it and left a neat hole. First shot. Only shot. End of contest. Nobody wanted to try to top that. I autographed it and it went on the fireplace mantle.

The weekend deteriorated as planned.

Saturday night, Sunday morning, I don't know, LATE, many, many drinks later! I'm on the pond in the boat with my friend's oldest son and he's showing me the fine art of frog gigging. Only he's not using a gig. That would be cruel. Instead, we're using a different plan. I man the boat's motor and hold up a flashlight, he spots the frog's eyes glowing in the dark and yells, GO! I gun the motor and drive the boat and him into the bank, trying not to skewer him with a tree as we hit. He grabs blindly in the dark at the eyes. Sometimes he was successful. Sometimes not. All I know is eventually he had a cooler full of live frogs in the boat. I wasn't ABOUT to try that shit no matter HOW much I had to drink.

We switch places, he's driving, I'm in the front playing George Washington. I spotted a jug floating in Uncle Ed's pond. That will never do. We can't have these sacred waters sullied by trash. So I grab the jug to toss it in the boat. But it's tied to a cord. And the cord is stuck on something. So I grab the cord. I pull on the cord. Now I'm a pirate hauling up tray-zhure, ahhhrrrrrr. And then KLUNK. The treasure hits the side of the boat. Remember, it's 2:00am and dark so I can't see the treasure yet. It's REALLY heavy and scrapes along the side of the boat as I drag it up. I give it one good yank, it flops over the side of the boat and WHAMMMMM into the bottom of the boat between my feet. The treasure HISSES AT ME, HAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!! See the picture at the top of this article? That's similar to what was between my legs. OH HOLY, HOLY, HOLY, HOLY, HOLY, CRAP!!!! It's a snapping turtle. I've never seen one before and I sure as hell am not happy about meeting this REALLY PISSED OFF one now at 2:00 am in the dark, eying my crotch like a midnight snack. I lunge backward to protect "Bob and the Boys" as the damn thing is flopping around trying to eat me and in doing so, the boat lurches knocking the cooler of frogs over into the boat.

So now we have a homicidal turtle bent on killing me (or at least ending my child-rearing days), with frogs jumping everywhere and my friend trying to catch the frogs yelling, "DON'T LET THAT THING BITE YOU! HE CAN TAKE A FINGER OFF!" It wasn't my finger I was worried about. I'm yelling, "AHHHHHH! AHHHHHHHH! AHHHHHHHH!" And one of the flashlights is rolling around in the boat. Fog on the water. It is utter chaos in the boat for about 30 seconds until I scrambled over the seat into the middle compartment with the BEAST in the first compartment hissing like Satan himself. It's all so surreal. Kind of like watching the movie E.T. with a really good buzz. Only E.T.'s not cute. And he wants to kill you.

In the end. We, my friend's son and I, survived, albeit not due to our intelligence. But I can't say the same for the BEAST. All but two of the frogs got away. Poetic justice there. I'm pretty sure Darwin's Theory fits in here somewhere but I'll be damned if I can figure out how.

But I'll never forget Uncle Ed's Cabin. Thanks, Bob. Miss ya, brother.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

No thanks Scooter Store, this is more what I had in mind

Jet Powered Wheelchair
* 0-300 mph in 4.2 seconds
* Run-flat high pressure tires
* Rear airfoil for added stability
* Wind sock included
* Curb feelers for easy parking
* EPA Economy: .0002 / .000012 mpg Highway/City

I got an invitation from the Scooter Store to join in on their SPECIAL SALE... WHAT?! I'm not even a member of AARP (yet)! I may not be running any marathons, but I'm not ready for wheels. But IF I were, THIS is more what I had in mind.