Archive for October, 2005

A Tight Spot

I was snooping around for Halloween stories recently, so I asked the people who sit near me at work if any of them had any memorable Halloween experiences. 

My friend and coworker Jim stepped up to the plate.  “I got arrested on Halloween once,” he said, “It was in 1981, I think, and I was a student at Kent State University in Ohio.” 

Bingo!  I started taking notes as he continued. 

“I was dressed up as this guy named Lokai, from one of the original Star Trek episodes.  I used grease paint to make the left side of my face white and the right side of my face black.” 

I stopped taking notes and searched for a picture of Star Trek Lokai on the internet.  What I found was a picture of an actor wearing the above mentioned face paint and some white tights that are, to put it politely, inappropriately tight.  I showed the picture to Jim and asked if the tights were a part of his costume. 

“Nooo, I think I had jeans on.  I wasn’t a diehard Trekkie or anything; I just thought it would be an easy costume.  I’m not really a ‘tights’ kind of guy.” 

Sure Jim, whatever you say. 

“Anyway, it was still daylight when my roommate and I left the dorm to go to a party.  My roommate was dressed up as the scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz.  I remember that the parents of Kent used to drive their kids to see the freaky college students every year on Halloween, so the streets were packed with cars.  And there, in the middle of the street, were Batman and Robin directing traffic. 

“We’re talking old school Batman and Robin:  Batman in the gray uniform and Robin wearing those famous green hot pants.  They were jumping out in front of cars to stop traffic while shouting, ‘Citizens of Gotham, it is now safe to cross the street!’ 

“We crossed the street and went to some house party where I had to explain to everyone who I was.” 

See?  You should have worn the tights. 

“Anyway, when we left the party we decided not to go back to the dorms, so we roamed the streets of Kent for a while.  We were standing on some side street and I suddenly heard a ‘FOOM!’  It seems that my roommate, the scarecrow, had decided to light a dumpster on fire.  Almost right away, there were flames leaping into the sky; it was really intense.  If you’ve never stood near a burning dumpster, you should know that the stench is truly unforgettable.  Despite the stink, we all just stood there watching the fire until the dumpster got so hot that the paint was bubbling.  That was about the time that the police showed up. 

“The police arrested everyone who was anywhere near the dumpster.  I was booked, fingerprinted, and photographed.  Somewhere in a police station in Kent, Ohio, there is a mug shot of me with half of my face white and half black. 

“After I was booked, they threw me into the holding pen, where I saw my old friends Batman and Robin, who had been arrested for blocking traffic and disorderly conduct.  Being arrested hadn’t calmed them down, though:  They were banging on the bars and screaming, ‘We know Commissioner Gordon!  You fools!  The Joker must be STOPPED!’ 

“In the end, I pled ‘no contest’ and had to pay a 60 dollar fine.  In the end, I learned an important lesson from the whole thing.” 

What’s that? “Grease paint doesn’t come off very easily with just soap and water.  You really need to use makeup remover.”

Back in the Day Tim 28 Oct 2005 No Comments

The Show Couch

About a month ago, I stopped by my old friend Rick O’Shea’s house for a visit. He called for me to come in, and I walked into the TV room. Rick was in the kitchen getting drinks, and I sat down on his couch. It was then that I noticed a laminated piece of paper resting on the center cushion.

I picked it up. There was a single column on the sheet that read: “No dogs. No sitting. No ball playing. No eating. No sleeping. No jumping. No direct sunlight.”

I looked up just as Rick came into the room carrying a beer for each of us. “Wait a minute, partner, you can’t be sitting on that couch,” he said, waving the beers in a “get up” motion.

I stood up quickly and looked down at the couch. It looked to be brand new. Why can’t I sit on the couch? Is it broken?

“Nope, it’s the same old couch. My uncle paid to have it re-upholstered as an anniversary present last week, so we want to keep it looking nice. If you sit on it, the new upholstery might get worn, or dirty, and then we won’t have a beautiful couch any more.”

I have to admit that it does look really nice, but isn’t this the same couch that we’ve been sitting on, eating pizza on, and drinking beer on for years? I’ve even slept on this couch after a couple of your parties.

“I know. There was always a house rule against using the couch, but we were pretty lax about enforcing it. Since my uncle went to all the trouble of having the couch re-upholstered, though, we’ve decided to be very strict about keeping the couch in a pristine condition. Think of it as a ‘passive’ couch.”

What do you mean a “passive” couch? How can this couch be passive when it is so full of memories? I’ve rooted for the Red Sox on this couch. You’ve rooted for the Yankees on this couch. Before you had kids, you and your wife ate dinner on this couch every night. Your grandmother lost her dentures between the cushions of this couch; dentures that your dog later found and buried in the yard. If you’re so concerned about protecting the thing, why not just take the extra step and buy a plastic cover?

“We considered that option, but a plastic cover would take away from how the couch looks. We want our couch to be the jewel of our living room, and it would hardly look like a jewel if it was wrapped in an oversized Ziploc bag.”

Where do you sit these days, seeing as the “jewel of the living room” isn’t available for that sort of activity?

“I put a small TV in my office, and I’ve mostly been hanging out in there. The kids and the wife have been sitting on the floor when they watch TV in here now.”

I have to tell you, the whole thing sounds totally ridiculous to me. For years, you’ve enjoyed having a couch that everyone sat on, and now you want a pretty couch that people can’t use. Is this a living room, or a museum?

“Do what you want with your own living room. We want to keep the couch looking nice, and we don’t want to be vacuuming potato chips off of it. If that means that people can’t use it the way they have for years, so be it.”

It was at that moment that Rick’s daughter came walking into the TV room, followed closely by Derek, the family dog. She looked up at her father adoringly and asked, “Daddy, can I go out and play?”

Rick looked down and patted his daughter on the head. “If you wait just a minute, sweetie, I’ll take you to the softball park to play with Derek.” The little girl nodded and bounced out of the room, again followed by the dog.

I watched her leave and then looked at Rick. Your yard is fenced in; why not just let her play with the dog out there?

Rick rolled his eyes. “You’ve got to be kidding. Have you seen how nice my grass looks? I’d be crazy to let kids and dogs play out there.”

I shook my head and headed for the door. Don’t forget to post a sign, Rick.

The Day to Day Grind Tim 21 Oct 2005 No Comments

The Pig

My father and I were just getting home from a Red Sox victory in the summer of 1982 when we were met at the door by my mother.  From the somber look on her face, I knew that something had to be wrong, and indeed it was. 

“I hate to tell you this, but I think that The Pig died while you were gone.” 

“The Pig” was the name we had given to our family guinea pig.  Early in his life, we had tried out other names, like “Guinea”, but they just hadn’t seemed to fit (never mind potentially offensive).  He was just The Pig. 

I walked over to The Pig’s cage, which was just around the corner from our turquoise oven.  I didn’t really want to look, but I gathered what little courage I had and peeked inside the glass cage.  Sure enough, The Pig was stretched out and motionless on his pile of wood shavings.  A quick poke with my finger confirmed that he was as stiff as cardboard. 

Upon the confirmation of The Pig’s death, the first thought that occurred to me was:  “Well, Jim will be pleased.” 

Jim is my older brother.  He had been The Pig’s sworn enemy since the fateful Friday afternoon years earlier, when Jim balanced his paycheck on the corner of The Pig’s cage.  By the time Jim returned, The Pig had innocently nibbled the signature off of the check. 

Jim had to wait until Monday to get a new check issued.  One does not curry favor with my brother by chewing up his weekend spending money.  From that day forward, no one dared to speak of The Pig while in Jim’s presence. 

Grief counselors weren’t all the rage in 1982, so my parents sat with me in the living room and tried help me deal with the loss of our pet.  They reminisced with me about how The Pig had originally been a gift to my sister, Lauri.  He was such a cute little guy.  We remembered how, the first time I held The Pig, he had relieved himself all over my shirt. 

When Lauri moved out of my parents’ house a short time later, she claimed that her apartment had a “No Vermin” rule.  This left me as the de facto caretaker of The Pig. 

For the rest of his 5 years, The Pig and I were pals.  I would sit for, well, minutes at a time and watch the adorable little guy rub his teeth together.  Guinea pigs spend a considerable portion of their lives attempting to wear down their constantly growing teeth by grinding them against one another.  If the grinding should stop, for even an instant, the teeth will leap from the mouth and poke the guinea pig in the eye. 

Every so often, it would occur to The Pig that there might be some lettuce, carrots, or one of Jim’s paychecks in the house that were not being fed to him at that very moment.  This thought would make The Pig very sad.  When The Pig was sad, he attempt to cheer himself up by filling the house with his song.  For those who have not heard it, the song of the guinea pig is a shrill, high pitched squeal that pierces even the thickest doors and keeps insects out of the yard. 

Oh, the good times we had. 

My parents tried to cheer me up by suggesting that we take The Pig’s remains to a campground in New Hampshire and bury him in the forest.  It would be more peaceful for him there, they assured me. 

But, I said, it was only Monday, and we wouldn’t be going to the campground until at least Saturday.  What would we do with The Pig until then? 

Wrap his remains in a dishtowel and store him in the downstairs freezer, naturally. 

Well, it rained that weekend, so we didn’t go to the campground.  We didn’t go to the campground the next weekend, either.  In all, The Pig spent about three weeks in his miniature Alcor storage facility before I gave up on the campground idea and decided to put him to rest in the backyard. 

I was grimly digging the grave that would hold The Pig-sicle and his dishtowel shroud in perpetuity when I stopped to wipe my brow.  I took a deep breath of the fragrant summer air and stopped for a moment.  I realized that I was breathing clearly.  For the first time in 5 years, my nose was not running, it wasn’t stuffed up, and my eyes were not the least bit itchy. 

I had gone for an allergy test years before, and it was determined that I was allergic to cats, dust, and dust mites.  They never mentioned guinea pigs, but I have not had an allergy attack from that day to this. 

I sure miss The Pig.  May he rest in peace.

Back in the Day Tim 07 Oct 2005 No Comments