It is college graduation season. On a local radio news show, they mentioned some speakers who were giving graduates their send off speech. Traditionally, politicians would have littered any list of graduation speakers. The list I heard was trending away from the political realm. Among the speakers mentioned were a retired NFL kicker and Darius Rucker, the singer from the band Hootie and the Blowfish.
I like Rucker. He comes across as a personable guy and he co-wrote “Only Wanna Be With You.” He and Hootie also recorded an absolutely wicked version of the Bill Withers hit “Use Me.” I would invite Darius to speak based solely on how hard he rocked “Use Me.”
But the bigger news is that if singers and NFL kickers have wrested control of the graduation speaker market from politicians, it is only a matter of time until obscure bloggers are holding forth before graduates. Once obscure bloggers get their chance, it is a short drop to me. Read the rest of this entry »
The Wolf was a block and a half away when I turned toward the coffee shop. There’s a sunny spot on the street where I see him on cool mornings. That’s where he was, sitting on his walker, soaking up a little extra warmth.
I make a point of not driving up to him in a police car when I spot him. Back in the day, me pulling up in a police car was often the start of a bad evening for at least one of us. It just works out better now to let him come around on his own.
When I walked out of the shop with my hot chocolate (with blackberry syrup, trust me on this one) he was out near the driveway. “Good morning, Sarge, God bless you.” I returned the blessing and he turned back toward the street.
I walked toward him. As I got close I spoke quietly – “coming up behind you.” He laughed and asked why I didn’t warn him like that twenty years ago. “You know damned well why I didn’t” I said. He grinned and admitted that he did. Read the rest of this entry »
Today, I was hesitant to get on an elevator at work.
There’s not much I hesitate to do at work. Wearing body armor and various weapons does tend to make one more bold. But today, I got a little tentative in our headquarters building.
So There I Was, Minding My Own Business
Fifty percent of good stories start with someone minding their own business. All the rest start with someone sitting in a bar. I was at work, so I was minding my own business.
I slipped in to the building through a secondary door and hit the up button to call the freight elevator. The freight is my preferred ride because it is faster than the main elevators, and the big bosses rarely use it. The car came up from the basement. The doors rattled, then opened. I stood there, looking at him. Read the rest of this entry »
“One, two, one, two, three, four.” – Billy Joel, 1986
My dad taught me to drive. Yes, I took drivers ed, but I drive the way my dad taught me.
We were out for a drive one afternoon when a bird zipped across the path of the car. I hit the brakes. “Never do that” my dad told me, “no one wants to hurt an animal, but you don’t want to cause an accident either.” He went on to tell me that animals will mostly get out of the way. “Birds, no one ever hits them. Don’t worry about it.”
I took it as a matter of course. No one hit birds. My dad told me, that was enough to make it so. But when I thought about it, it just made sense. If I got too close to one of them, the bird could go up or down in any direction. I’d ridden in cars for sixteen years, I’d never seen anyone strike a bird with a car. Read the rest of this entry »
On Saturday, I went to a farmer’s market. That’s the kind of guy I am. A guy with a wild, wild life. I walked around and spoke of sweet potatoes with people who wore bib overalls. Not everyone can maintain my lifestyle and its demanding pace.
I wandered the aisles and bought…lasagna. You might wonder why I’d make that choice. It is mostly because I didn’t want ravioli as much. Pasta with squid ink was also available. I didn’t want that at all.
Yelling In A Convertible Is Not A Private Act
While I gave my dinner a ride home, my mind wandered. I found myself pondering my future. But this time, my pondering was productive. I yelled “AHA!” Read the rest of this entry »
Yesterday, I was at my parents place for dinner.
Here is where the story goes back in time to the part that is spookily like the movie A Christmas Story.
Lets Go Back To 1969
When I was in third grade, my dad got a new job. His first assignment was in Charleston, West Virginia. There were a lot of differences between Charleston and my previous home, Hoboken, New Jersey. Differences like I could play outside and I couldn’t see Manhattan. I was a kid, so I adapted and made friends.
One of the friends I made had a bb gun. I thought that was the coolest thing ever. What’s the best way to get the coolest stuff when you’re a kid? Ask for it for Christmas.
Well, that worked. My dad bought me a bb gun and put it under the tree. I later learned he did it over the objection of my mom and grandparents. It wasn’t just any bb gun, it was a double barrel gun. Even the coolest kid in the neighborhood had never heard of such a thing until I showed him my Daisy Model 21 Double Barrel bb gun.
My father showed me how to use it in the back yard. I used it to knock over cans and bottles across the yard. I never fired it toward any animals and I did not shoot my eye out.
Here comes the part where the story returns to yesterday. Read the rest of this entry »
A few days ago, I saw the Harlem Globetrotters play. It had been quite a while since I’d seen them last, but they are still fun to watch. In case you’re wondering, the Trotters won.
At one point, the Globetrotters’ mascot, Globie, performed. He had a child from the audience with him, dressed just like him. I thought about what a fun opportunity that would be for a child. A child, or anyone else. Anyone else, for instance, me.
“Why not me?” I thought. I’ve got experience as a costumed mascot character person. Not enough experience to come up with a better job title than “costumed mascot character person”, but I’ve got some mascot street cred. Perhaps enough credibility to land a mascot job when I retire.
I put some thought into the applicable experiences that I’ve had and could list on my mascot resume. Here is what I came up with.
McGruff, The Crime Dog
You remember McGruff, right? He reminded us to “take a bite out of crime” by following his crime prevention and safety tips. I work for a police department, we had our own McGruff costume, so my first mascot experience was as the crime dog.
McGruff was the best of my mascot gigs in many ways. The costume wasn’t very complex: a big dog head, matching gloves and booties and a heavily lined tan trench coat. It was by far the cleanest costume I wore. Read the rest of this entry »
During the last year and a half of my time in college, I lived with a family who had a home a few miles from campus. They had a spare bedroom for rent. The university matched us up and it worked for both sides. Steve, Claire and their kids were very good to me.
This was in the early eighties, so there are a couple of things that are important to know. I shared the house phone, which was in the kitchen. This was in the pre-cell phone era, so I’d talk to my parents once a week or so. Long distance calls were expensive. I couldn’t afford many of them if I wanted to pay for things like school, rent, food and dates.
Also, I had a mustache. My mustache has nothing to do with the story. But, as a visual artist, I know that you’ll see the difference in how I portray myself in this post.
During this time, my grandfather was very ill. His time was short. I’d been to visit him and was back in school for about two weeks. My routine was back to normal, but grandpa and my mom were on my mind.
One morning, I slept in later than usual. There were no classes on my schedule until close to lunch time and I’d worked late the night before. The phone rang in the kitchen.
Claire answered it. I could hear her talking as I dozed. Then she called up the stairs – “Oma, your mom’s on the phone. Are you up?” My mind started racing as soon as she said it was my mom.
There was no doubt what this call was. I jumped out of bed, put on my glasses and zipped down stairs.
Claire knew about my grandfather’s condition. She handed me the phone, touched my arm and mouthed, “I’m sorry”. But when she did it, she had the oddest look on her face. It was almost like she was stifling a laugh.
I stood in the kitchen and consoled my mother over the phone. We discussed arrangements, then I went upstairs to take a shower. By the time I came back down, Claire had taken another call from my family and gotten my flight arrangements. She even offered to drop me off at the airport.
On the way to the airport, I had a disturbing realization. I was asleep when the phone rang. Claire called me and I jumped out of bed. There was something missing in that sequence. There was only one way to clear up my concern.
This horrified me. I offered to move out. Claire would have none of that. She told me she knew I would never have stood around in the kitchen in jockey shorts on purpose. When I came back home, she and Steve both went out of their way to make me feel welcome.
They also got in their share of jokes until the day I graduated.