Saturday, April 4, 2009

Something stinky this way comes

I couldn't wait, but I was terrified - all at the same time. I'd been invited on my FIRST caving trip. My college room mate, who had fewer brain cells than I DO, was also along for the ride. Both he and the guy coming were experienced cavers.

Let me stop for a second and explain that I've ALWAYS been claustrophobic. When I was a kid, my brother zipped me up in a suitcase and left me there for what seemed like a half hour, when it was actually probably only 30 seconds or so, but THAT did it. NO more confined spaces for me. So why did I want to go caving? I don't know. I really have no clue. (But I'm VERY glad I did say yes as I would take many, many more caving trips, lead a number of expeditions myself and even lecture on caving at grade schools later on in life.)

Back to the story - the other guy, the leader of the expedition, shows up and I'm spooked because he looks JUST LIKE ME!!! They say, whoever the hell 'they' are, that everyone has an exact twin someone in the world. I met mine that day. That didn't bolster my confidence however. Here we are being led by a guy that looks like a brain dead guy, me, and another even brain-deader guy, my room mate and of course, yours truly. This is NOT starting off right.

Oh God, we were in trouble.

We get to the cave. Only it's not a big hole in the ground as I thought. We drop down a little-bitty hole, then sideways for a about 100 feet, then DOWN a short shaft by rope. I didn't sign-up for ropes. Getting down was bad enough, but even I could figure out we needed to get back up later on. I would find out that this was nothing compared to what was coming next.

What was coming next was me coming face to face with my fear of being confined in small places. We had to remove our small packs, tie them to one of our feet and then belly crawl through a coffin-sized passage for the next hour and a half. I could have stopped and said, no damn way. But I chose to face my fear and press on. I'm glad I did because I overcame claustrophobia THAT day. But the "fun" wasn't over yet.

We crawled on through mud. I came to love mud during the coming years of my caving career and picked up the nickname "Cavehog" because I'd rather wallow in the mud than simply walk across a path. Anyway, back to the story. At one point, the crawl got so tight, we had to shimmy through a very shallow stream with water up to our chins.

Finally, we broke out of the coffin-sized passage into a chamber large enough to kind of sit up in. It was a welcome relief. We ate lunch there. They taught me the importance of NOT leaving anything behind. They were good cavers.

The only problem was my room mate, having very few brain cells, was having trouble with his carbide lamp. Carbide lamps are the type of lamps miners used to use in which a flame shoots out the front of a polished disk and provides illumination. Sometimes carbide lamps can be finicky and clog up. My room mate's lamp was misbehaving and rather than checking it in a sensible manner, he took his helmet off and held the lamp to his ear to listen for escaping carbide gas. His ear, which was covered by his LONG curly hair. His LONG curly hair, which promptly ignited in a flaming fireball 500 feet below the surface of Bloomington Idiana. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!! A lot of WOOOFING AND POOOOFING and cussing later and we got his head extinguished. But now the entire cave smelled like burnt hair. And this particular cave have almost no air movement through it. So we had to live with the smell for quite a while afterwards.

We finished the expedition and made it out alive. And from that day forward, I continued to use carbide, but I NEVER held it to my HEAD to hear if there was gas coming out. Thanks for that tip there, Bill.

The Learner's Permit Story

I'd just received my Learner's Permit to drive (this is, of course, back in the days of the Flintstones).

And I got pulled over for speeding.

I didn't even have my damn Operator's License yet and I've already been arrested for a moving violation.

I was SO NERVOUS when the officer approached the car I nearly pissed my pants. Calm down. Calm down. OK. What is it they said in Driver's Education Class I was supposed to provide a police officer when asked? License and registration. I don't even HAVE a license yet. Well, I'm off to a bad start.

And that's what he asked for, "Let me see your license and registration ... Boy." They always have to use the obligatory, Boy. If you're a male, that is.

I reached into my wallet, hands shaking, and pulled out the paper Learner's Permit and handed it to the police officer. What I didn't know was that I'd accidentally picked up a folded $20 bill that was tucked in my wallet BEHIND the permit. I'd given that to the sunglass-wearing officer too.

Oh shit. Now my simple traffic violation has turned into a felony.

He, of course, commented on the $20, "What's this for ... Boy?"

Three things:

1. I wasn't trying to bribe him and told him so.
2. If I HAD been trying to bribe him, I sure as hell wouldn't have tried with a mere $20.
3. I didn't have enough money to give away $20.

Fortunately, as proof, my face turned white, my pants were wet and I was shaking so bad my voice was cracking, "N-n-nothing, S-s-s-sir. It was just in my w-w-w-wallet and I I I..." He cut me off, gave me back the $20, told me to slow it down and let me go.

Ever tried to push in a clutch with wet pants?

Friday, April 3, 2009

Jac's a dyl boy...

My wife collects snakes. Not big ones - otherwise I wouldn't be living here. Just little ones. I've learned to live with them and actually, they're kind of cute. But NOT when they're loose in the house.

Such was the case years ago when one of hers pulled a Houdini routine and vanished. This one's name was "Jack Asp". Jack was non-venomous and completely harmless. We looked for that snake for days. We set "safe traps" in the heating ducts of the house. No snake.

We stored an electric typewriter underneath a dresser in one of the bedrooms. I joked one day that I was moving out if that snake were to show up typing on that typewriter, "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work... etc." The line, of course, is from the movie the Shining in which Shelly Duvall finds her maniacal husband, Jack's (Jack Nicholson) typewritten novel, which consists of hundreds of pages of nothing but the line "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." typed over and over and over again. It's an EXTREMELY freaky scene in the film.

It was an extremely freaky moment when I pulled our typewriter out to look on it, "just for the hell of it" and there laid that damn snake, Jack, all curled up. No typing, thank God. He was alive and well and gave us one of those non-committal, bored looks as only a snake can give before being returned to the slammer.

Oddly enough, for the last 6 months, my health has made it impossible for me to clean up the back yard, so we've got a nice little hedge/maze thing going on back there. Thank God the axe handle rotted and broke in two last year. I DO have my Grandpa's old handsaw however, but I guess that wouldn't have the same terrifying effect - SHUNGKA, SHUNGKA, SHUNGKA, SHUNGKA, SHUNGKA - WHEW, THIS IS TIRING - HERRRRRRRRE'S JOHNNY! SHIT, NEVER MIND, I'VE GOTTA TAKE A BREAK.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

How to pay $50 for 2 FREE drinks

My wife and I had an informal wedding. We rented a train station. True. And we both wore white suits. Well, off-white. It was a second marriage for both of us - no need for hoopla - we were spending what money we had on our honeymoon in New Orleans.

On the flight down, we wore our suits. We were so cute. Sitting in the back of the plane. Two love-birds in our snazzy little outfits. We had to fly to Birmingham first, so it was only something like a 45 minute flight for the first leg. The flight attendant asked if anything special was going on (the flowers and white suits were kind of a tip-off). We giggled and told her it was our honeymoon. She made special plans for us - a FREE drink, compliments of the airlines! The people around us were PISSED. There wasn't enough time to serve drinks of any kind to anyone else, but the grinning ninnies in the white suits got refreshments. Wasn't that sweet?

I don't recall what my wife ordered, but I DO remember what I got - red wine. There's a reason I remember what I got. The plane suddenly hit a BIG, DEEP pocket of turbulence and our drinks shot straight up out of the glasses. It happened in slow motion in my mind. I watched the dark red column rise from the plastic cup, the burgundy shaft of fluid glistening in the sunlight ... it rose until it SLAMMED into the overhead console at which point it exploded ALL OVER our white suits. KERSHPLATT!!!

The people that didn't get drinks did their best to keep straight faces, but I could tell, they were laughing their asses off inside. Bastards.

Ever tried to get anything dry-cleaned while staying in a nice hotel? It can be done. But it takes a small-car-sized loan to do so, about $25 per suit as I recall. And this was over 20 years ago.

So much for FREE drinks.

FAIL! ENNGGHH! (The sound track MAKES this video)

I peed my pants at the 2:30 thru 2:40 mark. Really.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Why can't Hollywood read a book?


I didn't want to read this book because I'd heard it was a tear-jerker. I expected Old Yeller rehashed. But I took a chance. I like to savor my books and read them slowly. Steadily, but slowly. I read Marley and Me in one day. On a business trip to Tucson. I finished it during the worst turbulence I have EVER flown through - and I LOVE turbulence - I sit in the back of the plane so it's rougher. Everyone on the plane is hanging on for dear life and I'm back there with my reading light turned on, doing my best to keep the book stationary relative to my face as the plane pitched and dove. I wasn't sure WHO was going to die first, Marley or ME. But I wasn't ABOUT to put that book down.

The thing I liked so much about the book was how the author John Grogan made Marley a subplot to the story. This was a story about a FAMILY, not a DOG - a family that just happened to have the "world's worst dog". In the book, there are a series of events that happen that give LIFE to the story. They are the CHARACTER of the story itself.

In the movie, the schlock screen-writers took these wonderfully funny events I referred to and condensed them into a 30-second monologue delivered by Owen Wilson's character (the real author, Grogan) with the sensitivity of a machine gunner mowing down the enemy. He was speaking so quickly I couldn't even follow what he was saying, and I'D READ THE BOOK! These two bozos all but eliminated the meat of the story!!!! All they left was the dog crapping out at the end. That's what I'd feared the book would be, some schumltzy tear jerker with absolutely no substance. But the book wasn't like that at all. Yes, it was sad, but it had substance. The movie - zero substance. It was the Twinkies of Marleydom.

I also feared the book would just end with Marley dying. It didn't. It ended, as I recall, with a wonderful scene in which John Grogan goes back to work writes about Marely's death and the next day after the column appears, discovers hundreds or thousands of emails, and letters from his readers about how THEY had lost their pets. And how much his column helped them remember their furry friends. It was a give and take of human emotion, strength and love. It MADE the book worth reading. And the way Grogan tied it all together at the end was truly heartwarming.

Now THAT's how you END that story. At least the true story, written by a real writer.

In the movie, they dig a hole, dump the dog in, say a few contrived lines and the screen goes to black. None of the emails or letters from the column readers appear anywhere. Even in the Extra Features section, that WONDERFUL part of the book is nowhere to be found on this movie. The Gag Reel however, was appropriately named - Gag.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Electric Grocery Cart Drag Racing

This, of course, is NOT an electric grocery cart. But I LIKED the idea.

Having just had some nasty surgery, I'm having fun with all the various types of electric carts at the different stores. Some are much better than others. The one yesterday at Kroger had like an elephant-sized bump on the front tire so as the tire rotated it would thumpa-thumpa-thumpa nearly demolishing all my surgeon's fine work.

The horns, in general, really suck as they sound more like digital watches going off - beepie-beepie-beepie - than a horn. I may buy one of those battery powered truck horns in Walmart, you know, the kind that sounds like an 18-wheeler and strap it to the shopping cage on the cart...NOW let some woman cut in front of me again! AAAOOOOOOOGAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!

Kids are FASCINATED by people in carts. So I show off. I pride myself in being able to "thread the needle" and drive the suckers through impossibly small spaces at top speed. But I cut it a little too close the other day and WHAM!!! I smacked the rear bumper hard on the frozen squid case. No kids watching though - thank God. But the fact is irrefutable that a 55 year old guy, wearing diapers, driving a shopping cart irresponsibly so as to thrill little kids speaks VOLUMES toward my mental condition. Maybe I should start seeing that shrink again.

So yesterday a guy pulls up next to me in a matching cart. He was a bit older than I. Looked kind of like a Viet Nam vet. Actually his hat said he was. I looked like I worked for a pizza magazine, my hat said so. I eyed him. He eyed me. I looked at his cart. He looked at mine. I was sizing him up. I began planning, "I unplugged my cart when I came in the store so I've got a FRESH charge. Even though it DOES go thumpa, thumpa, thumpa, it's pretty fast. I wonder if he got one that was just lined-up against the wall? Thus MINE would have MORE POWER!" I COULD TAKE THIS GUY! So there we sat in front of the Fresh Fish counter side by side with a clear shot down the back aisle at Kroger. You can't rev your engine in those things or I would have. You could smell the tension in the air, either that or it was the fish or my diapers. The Miami Vice theme song was roiling through my loins. I was READY to put the pedal to the metal and ROCK AND ROLL. I'm gonna' WHOMP THIS SUCKA!!! ... then he had the bad manners to order fish. Well hell, I'm not waiting around for him to get his order, I gotta' PEE! THIS drag race is officially CANCELED!

I headed off toward the Depends section. Thumpa, thumpa, thumpa ... disappointed, but winner by default.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Great Sock Conspiracy

Everybody loses socks. It's just one of those mysteries of life. Somewhere, there's a planet on which you'll find single socks with no mates. But my wife recently discovered a bizarre sock conspiracy within our own home. Let me explain, if I can.

I found a dirty, dog and cat hair-encrusted sock of mine laying on the kitchen counter yesterday - YUCK!!!! It was disgusting so I threw it over the pet gate back into the living room to deal with later (we keep our pugs in the kitchen so they can't destroy the REST of the house - just the kitchen). Little did I know I was starting the "cycle" all over again. What cycle? I didn't know there was a cycle. My wife brought it to my attention tonight:

She had found the nasty sock in the kitchen several days ago and tossed it over the rail too. But the next day, it mysteriously reappeared as the center of the pug's attention. So she tossed it over the rail again. How in the hell do the pugs keep getting that sock?

The next day, she caught our smallest cat, Smokie, stealing the sock from under the coffee table, standing up at the pet gate and flipping it over the rail to the pugs like a Sea World trainer tosses a sea lion a fish! The pugs, of course, played tug of war with it, drug it through their food and committed general mayhem with it before Sue took it away and put in on the kitchen counter to put a stop to it. Then I FOUND it, tossed it BACK OVER the rail and started the WHOLE damned thing ALL OVER AGAIN.

Mystery solved. I wonder if the little bastard stole my leprechaun socks. I can't find either one of them.

Now you see why this site is called Crazee Magnet. Some houses attract ghosts. Ours' attracts insanity.

And if you're asking, "Why don't you just put the sock in the laundry?" My answers would be:
1. My foot and THAT sock shall never meet again.
2. "Why? This is TOO DAMN MUCH FUN!"