Friday, June 29, 2012

Stories I Like, Yet Am Not Entirely Convinced They Are True, Part One

Years ago one of my ex-wife's friends told us a story about how her and her brother would cause all sorts of trouble for their parents growing up. Not even photographs were safe from hijinx.

"Our parents wanted a family photo. Before they took the pictures, we went to the kitchen and each got a plum. When they got the pictures developed, we were both holding a plum at waist level and laughing."

The parents made the mistake of mentioning something about the sneaky fruit in the photos, which inspired the kids to take as many plum pictures as possible. So there'd be pictures of Christmas morning with the kids slyly holding plums, or photos of the family at the Grand Canyon or whatever holding the fruit and ruining the pictures.

As much as this story cracks me up, especially thinking of these parents getting a pack of pictures back and flipping through each one, saying, "Dammit, why can't we just have ONE normal picture of you two,"  I do have several areas of concern. First of all, if they were that upset, why would they continue to buy plums? And did the kids just carry plums with them everywhere they went? Wouldn't the parents notice the kids holding plums while taking the pictures? And yes, the storyteller stressed that only plums would work. Not apples, oranges or pears. They had to be plums. Which only makes sense. Plums are much funnier than apples.

Weighing the evidence, I have decreed this story to be Mostly True. I'm thinking there were times other fruit was substituted, or perhaps even photographs when no fruit at all was displayed. This should not stop you from trying this trick on your own, especially with Instagram giving your plum photos a vintage sheen.

Next Episode: My Great-Uncle's War Stories.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Marathon Man

An ex-coworker has half-convinced me to run a marathon in December. I figure I did a 15K and didn't die, and a marathon would only be three times that, so how hard could it be?

Since I'm already setting goals I might not reach or even attempt, why not aim higher? I could write up my experiences into a book. You know, like the one where the guy read the whole Encyclopaedia Britannica or the guy who lived a whole year strictly adhering to the Old Testament*. Hell, people buy that stuff.

I could start talking about my shitty diet and general out of shapeness, and how I end up using the self-confidence and goal setting learned through long-distance running to solve my problems and become a better person. It would help if I were working through something big. I got divorced, but that's been a while. Haven't had anyone close to me die. Maybe I'll just make something up.

In between the fascinating chapters on me, I could have a history of marathon running, from the Greeks up to the rediscovery of distance running in the '70s. I could have interviews with ... I dunno, who's a famous runner? Yeah, them. And maybe someone who could humble me and teach me life lessons, like a vet who ran a marathon on a prosthetic leg, or a grandma who set a record after losing her husband of 40 years.

But the real spotlight would be on me, just like in all those other books. I would use my runs as springboards to give readers long discourses on my fascinating inner life. Like, running through Avondale could start me talking about my fears of growing old with no money. Seeing a family could get me talking about my relationship with my parents. Throughout, I could examine my fears and anxieties, and my history of poor decision making. Like, for instance, starting on  a whim to train for a marathon with very little knowledge or willingness to learn in the middle of a Florida summer.

The big payoff will come after I get this phantom book printed to thunderous acclaim. I can hear my NPR interviews  now - I'll be charming and witty, yet reverent when I talk about the grandma or the vet. That oughta be enough to get me on TV. And if I get an interview on Conan or something, I'd have a much better chance of meeting Scarlett Johansson than I would as a disgruntled librarian in Jacksonville.

From there I could launch my career as a humorist. Yep, no longer would I be a dude telling the same stories over and over (seriously, have you people ever actually read this thing? It's either me embarrassing myself, or getting drunk, or talking about how I like the Minutemen), I'd be a social critic shining a light on today's problems, using my wit and humor to inform the public like a modern day Mark Twain.

Plus, I'd be making bank and cruising with Scarlett.

Actually, that all sounds like a lot of work. I'm already possibly maybe running a marathon, what more do you people want from me?

* That was the same guy? Wow, he really has the market cornered on that stuff, huh?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Green Door, What's that Secret You're Keeping?

Took a trip to Atlanta last weekend, due to my poor reading comprehension skills and lack of anything else going on in Jacksonville.

It wasn't a crazytime explosion like my last few vacations, but I was fine having a laid-back weekend hanging out with old friends, meeting new people, eating a ton, and trying to forget the speeding ticket I got on the way up there.

Oh yeah, we also discovered a secret Korean bar.

OK, it wasn't really secret secret, they had signs and stuff like any other bar, but it still felt like we discovered it. Sort of like Columbus "discovering" the Americas when people had been hanging out here for centuries. So yeah, we were totally like Christopher Columbus.

The first thing the bartender said to us as we looked around was, "It's OK, we've had white people in here."

So we felt right at home. There was a bit of a language barrier, their English wasn't the best, and our Korean was rusty. They also didn't seem to know too much about their drinks. We'd ask what was in certain drinks and either get an "I don't know" or two fingers crossed in an X warning us away. Which sucked, because I really wanted to try something called "The Hulk." But we ended up with something called "The Junebug," which was highly recommended and I think the only drink on the menu they knew how to make.

As we drank our flourescent green girly drinks we looked the place over. It was huge - much bigger than the outside would have us believe. There were also a couple groups of Korean guys hanging out here and there, a few of which were slumped over their table while their friends continued drinking. The waitresses would come sit next to us and brush up against us which was a bit strange, but hey, you get used to it.

There were also secret rooms. Again, they weren't secret secret, but they were closed doors that we imagined all sorts of fun was going on without us. Was there gambling going on back there? High stakes karaoke? Secret sexy stuff? There were at least handjobs being distributed, we were pretty sure.

Sadly, we never got to see behind the doors, even after one of us gave what we were sure would work as a password, "Do you even KNOW about the Misfits Fiend Club?"

Maybe next time.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Hate the Police

As a skater and punk rocker I had to hate cops. It just sort of went with the territory.

Honestly I didn't really have too much against them, other than just generally disliking them in principle as yet another set of authority figures keeping me from doing what I wanted. Usually they'd half-heartedly yell at me and my friends for skating somewhere, we'd leave, wait for them to drive away, then come back. They probably didn't care.

Besides, this was Bradenton, it's not like I was getting beaten by the LAPD. And I'd like to think that I was smart enough to realize that many of my problems with them (and most authority figures) had more to do with me wanting to bad stuff and them having to put a stop to it than anything they were actively doing to keep me down.

Every once in a while, though, you'd run into some real dicks.

I was about 17 and parked at the beach with my girlfriend around 10 or 11 PM. This was a regular thing for us since we desired privacy and didn't have an apartment, and I drove a 1977 Lincoln Continental whose backseat was about the size of one of those Japanese love hotels.

I was probably playing something romantic, like that live Bauhaus album "Press the Eject and Give Me the Tape." Man, I wish I still had that - "Rose Garden Funeral of Sores" was all kinds of awesome. And you know, for a band that was pegged as gothic and depressing, Bauhaus had some kick ass songs  - "In the Flat Field?" "Dark Entries?" Those songs kick ass. And while we're at it, while that first Joy Division album is supposed to be all depressing, there's some rock jams on that, too. Is "Novelty" on that one? You know, "When people listen to you.."

Wait, what was I talking about?

Oh yeah. So the music was working and we were in the backseat. We weren't actually having actual sex sex yet, but second base had definitely been rounded.Things were going pretty well.

Then there was a metallic tap, tap, tap on the backseat window.

"Shit! This is just like those stories where the hook-hand guy comes back from the dead to kill the teenagers having sex on the Indian burial ground," I thought, reasonably enough.

Within seconds of the tap, as I was trying to remember how the kids outwitted the hook-hand killer, the entire back seat was illuminated by a high powered flashlight being held by an angry looking policeman. Actually the beam was mostly focused on my girlfriend's chest.
"Step out of the car," a voice commanded. "Now."

The cop continued to shine his light on us. Well, mostly on her, as she scrambled to put on her shirt.
I got out of the car wearing only a pair of shorts.

"What are you two doing here," the cop asked. "Do you know I could arrest you right now for public nudity and lewd and lascivious activity?"

"No sir, I...No. I mean, I didn't. No."

"Do you want to go to jail tonight?

"No, sir."

"How much money do you have on you?"


"How much money do you have?"

"About three dollars."

That was true. I pulled out my pocket to show him. For some reason I never carried a wallet in those days, preferring my bills all wadded up in my pocket Spicoli style.

"Get out of here and don't let me catch you here again," he said, as he glanced back towards the backseat, I guess in hopes that my girlfriend had decided to keep her shirt off during this conversation.

My hands were shaking as I got back in the car. "I think that cop just tried to get a bribe from me," I said to my girlfriend, more astonished than angry. After the initial shock wore off, I had lots of plans of reporting him and getting him fired, or writing a stirring letter to the paper, letting the people know just what the police force was up to on Anna Maria Island. Of course, I'd have to change some minor details. Like, maybe we were having a fully clothed picnic on the beach. In the daytime.

"They can't do that to me," I ranted. "I'm an American. What is this, the Gestapo? The KGB? Luckily, I got his badge number. Yeah, he didn't count on that. Let's see...there was a 45 in there...Was there an R?"
Naturally, I didn't end up doing anything, and we ended up finding another place to park at night.

One of my friends would relate this story to his friends in college later, employing the "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend" maxim from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. In his version, the cop made me do push-ups and recite the Pledge of Allegiance before letting me go. I sort of wish that happened, as it makes a much better story than me driving off shaking and dreaming up revenge fantasies for a couple weeks until I moved on to other distractions.