Memory Lane

I consider myself lucky. That statement is open for opinion of course but in my mind I feel I am lucky. I have the freedom to chose any course in life and for right now I have the opportunity to chose wisely. Hearing the death rattle of my twenties isn’t as scary as I thought and in comparison to many (which you shouldn’t do) I feel that the pieces are finally starting to fit just right.

I also consider myself lucky to live only 30 minutes from the neighborhood I grew up in as a child. After I turned 18 I pretty much left and never looked back so it has only been recently that I returned to drive through the old block . It really puts your life in perspective to get out of your car and touch the same tree you fell out of some 20 years ago. It is as close to time travel as we can get and of course I’m going to drag you all along.

The first stop is this little yellow and green house on the far coldasack of Heritage Glen. This was the home of my first best friend, Toby and his little sister Jenny. Toby and I were inseparable and in 1984, Cobb County was a smaller town so we were in the same class from kindergarten to the third grade. Just looking at this house, which hasn’t changed in the slightest, all these memories came flooding back. Maybe it was the smell of the foliage or maybe it was the eye-twitching Sprite themed colors of the house but I felt pain in my knuckles from Toby accidentally shutting my fingers in the trunk of the car. I felt the sweat on the brow after breaking the back window of his parents car with a rock where I learned from my father, “once a rock leaves your hand….you have no control over it“. A confusing and empty feeling in my stomach after watching the Challenger explode in the living room and listening to his mother as she explained that the astronauts went to Heaven while the pieces fell into the Atlantic Ocean. And I felt that familiar lump in the throat when his aunt explained that Toby and I should not be friends because he was black and I was white. The end of innocents happened in that house when I was eight. Wouldn’t it be a great world if if we could have that back?

Toby’s dad was hit by a drunk driver while driving a company car and won a million dollar law suit. They moved shortly after the settlement and my best friend left for Texas. Just looking from my car I could see myself shooting baskets in their driveway hoop the afternoon after they left. Even though I didn’t realize it then, there was a lot of growing up in that yellow house. But then again, does anyone realize it? Moving on……

Here we are at my other best friend’s house, Darian. I was in the fifth grade when he and his family moved to the neighborhood and we instantly bonded, like lamb and tuna fish. His dad was in the Airforce and getting his PhD from Georgia Tech so he and his three siblings where only there for a short duration but no matter. He left an indelible impression on me and made the fifth grade more of an adventure than it really should have been.

Darian found out girls where not walking diseases long before I did. I wanted to set things on fire, play home-run-derby with an aluminum bat and tennis ball and play MegaMan until my thumbs separated from my hands. He, on the other hand, wanted to call girls from our class and ask them questions like, “What’s up?” and “Do you like someone in school?”. Personally my patience for this was always thin and I remember sitting in his room whining that we should go outside and throw rocks at empty bottles or something. That is until he found out there was a girl who liked me and her name was Heather Wood.

“Heather Wood?!?!?!” It is amazing how quickly priorities shift when the cutest girl in class has a crush on you. No longer did baseball take center stage and after an intense third party negotiation between Darian and Heather’s best friend it was official. We were going out. Pretty amazing, huh? I didn’t even talk to her and now we where an item. That is until that following week when her crush turned to Keenan and I experienced my first heartache. Easy come, easy go when I could always find happiness in GI Joe and Taco Friday.

Looking at that center window of that house my pulse skipped as I remembered the feeling of a first crush. I don’t think anyone forgets that no matter what the duration or circumstance. I didn’t have to see Darian move because we soon moved to Phoenix but I don’t think the sadness was lessened. He was a shitty athlete but man could that dude pull some tail. Even if was in the fifth grade. I wonder how he turned out?

The fam and I moved back to the same house after a 2 year move to Phoenix, Arizona and the neighborhood hadn’t changed in the slightest. The only difference was a few occupants and I was now a teenager. And with teenage years comes a higher sense of responsibility and the need to make money. So I became the lawn mowing kid of the block and the house above was one of my clients. Now I am not proud of this story but I feel that 14 or years have passed so now I can tell it.

The guy that lived here was a bachelor who was about 32 years old and quite Magoo. He reminded me a lot of Jon Arbuckle from the comic Garfield.  The type that would probably chose Bingo over Texas Hold ’em, use a tip calculator when the check comes, order from a fast food restaurant with about 10 special requests and explain to the cashier it’s because of the medication he is on, and sexually harass female co-workers not because he means to, just because he doesn’t know better. It was a hunch but that is how he struck me. Even at 15.

Well with that aside, his front lawn was pretty small and his backyard was 90% dirt so it was an easy $20. The only real problem was his dog, Winston. Winston was an English Setter that was about 400 in dog years. He didn’t have much hair, blind, constantly had his mouth all the way open and wouldn’t bark but howl loudly like a deaf guy being electrocuted. Oh yeah, and did I mention he had a blown out o-ring so he shits at a trot? Winston was walking death and I was a little afraid of him but my encounters were brief. That is until I was asked to look after him for a weekend while this dude went out of town for the weekend.

Keep in mind that I love dogs so don’t judge me for this. After school that Friday I went directly over to check on Winston only to find him laying in the backyard. I called to him so I wouldn’t have to go over and touch him risking the 1 in a million chance of catching English Setter dog death but Winston wasn’t moving. I approached the poor dog and found out what I hoped would not be true. Winston was dead and his owner wouldn’t be home until Sunday night. What to do with a dead dog?

Now I had a dog and he was put to sleep by the vet and I didn’t know what they did with him afterward. For some reason or another I felt responsible and I didn’t know what to do. So like the dumb kid I was I did the only thing I thought was right. I buried Wilson. Now if you have ever been to Georgia you know that most of the ground here in clay and it’s not the easiest ground to dig in for a 100 pound teenager. By the time I was finished there was still a snout and a rear paw sticking out of the ground.

I went home to try and explain to my father that Winston passed and my first real responsibility had had passed with him. Like the amazing dad I have, he assured me that Winston was just old and there was nothing  that could have been done. Then he went to call the vet and asked where Winston was so we could bring him in. Then I told him I buried him. In my mind I believe Dad’s confidence in my decision making ability was shaken from that moment on.

Well, on Sunday I had the great pleasure of explaining that the only company Winston’s owner had died in the backyard. I handed him his collar and gave my condolences. With the same tact as I handled Winston’s death I told the broken man that this weekend was on the house. God, what a awful thing to say.

Ah…Sandy’s house. This guy (yes, Sandy is a guy) had all the cool stuff. He had a mo-ped, bb gun’s, a drum set, a tree house with electricity, a pool, and parents who were one of the kids. I had more fun in this house than anywhere else. There were a lot of sunrises that were witnessed from here, I can tell you. I guess every kid had the one friend that was liked only for the stuff they had. I feel a little guilty about that but then again Sandy was never that bright so I only felt so bad. I mean when the guy was 16 he was in an accident because he was changing the radio station, ran through an intersection and ended up in the luggage compartment of a Greyhound bus.

The last I heard from Sandy he was in a band as a drummer touring in Germany. He dropped the name Sandy and went with Sanders so I nick named him “The Colonel” and it stuck.  I saw his band’s flier with the roster of the members on it. His name read, “Sanders Satler aka “The Kernel”. Oh Sandy, you never did get it, did you?

And this was the house I grew up in. I had so much to write about but now that I am, there isn’t much that will do to give it justice. I found myself staring without concern to how it must look to the current residence. I wondered if they knew that next to the refrigerator under a few coats of paint there are penciled measurements of my growth. I wondered if they knew there was a pet fish cemetery in the backyard.  I wondered if they knew about my thinking spot outside the window on the roof. I also wondered if they ever thought about the people who lived there before. My guess is probably not.

It’s a great thing to drive through the neighborhood that forged a lot of what I am today. Unfortunately at the entrance there is a large construction advertisement and Heritage Glenn has been bought by a business park development and soon it will all be gone. Every tree, every house and every quirky thing in this 1970’s subdivision will soon be replaced by two large buildings and a parking deck only leaving these memories behind. I guess that is what happens so I am grateful for the chance to visit one more time.

I’m Committed Now

  

So, I did it. I have signed up for my first triathlon in almost six years. Most people would do this after extensive training but if you are like me the only way to guarantee that race day will include my body in a Speedo means the paper work had to be turned in now. I’m not saying I am totally unprepared for this. I have been working out and even swimming for the past few months and I have worked the run back up to the 6-8 miles a day. The biking is a different story. First off I don’t own a bike. Mere details my friends. Mere details.

I didn’t decide that training for a triathlon is an attempt to have resolve for 2008 or even a motivational goal to keep Gatorade in and Michelob out but really I am so sick of saying “someday”. 2008 is the year of the now and damn it, there is no tomorrow. I will keep people abreast of the training status and I am sure that race day will be reminiscent of my Special Olympics story, but now it is going to happen.

As for the biking goes, I think my skills are much like this kids but I still have time for improvements. I need to find a kick ass helmet and goofy sponsors. What’s the worst that could happen?

Perfect…

 So today I was in a face to face meeting with three people who really have no sense of humor. I try to have a wit to lighten any situation but my comments fell flat on every level. So, when that happens my mind tends to wander. Much like sitting in church I think about everything except what I need to be. Today I was thinking about this:

 If monkeys could talk, do you think they would provoke eachother into a fight by saying “fling it” instead of “bring it”?

 Then came the awkward smile that I tried to yawn away only to look like I was stroking out. I say the meeting was a success.

Bought The Farm In 2007

I don’t know why but every year that passes I reflect on those who are not here to see the new turn of the calender. Call me morbid, call me a sad sack, call me what you will but I always try to mention to anyone who will listen the great people who have died so that at least their spirit will be here to see 2008 arrive. Here are a few of the shocks of 2007 for me. I hope I can do them justice but if you read VeggieMacabre often enough you know I may be a little lowbrow.

Lady Bird Johnson: 1912 -2007. I don’t know too much about her life other than her thrust into First Lady status with her husband, the former President Lyndon Johnson. Every time a first lady passes I always think about the Secret Service guys/gals who have done something below standard in their career to have protection duty of a first lady. I imagine coming back to headquarters for reassignment maybe something like the pet detectives of the LAPD. It is an important job but it is still funny.

Coincidentally the dog on King Of The Hill, Ladybird, also passed away on the same day.

Evel Knievel: 1938 – 2007. I figured this guy was “circling the drain” but like any kid of the early eighties who had many Evel Knievel toys and t-shirts, it is always sad to see a legend die. They say he died of natural causes. I think it would have been fitting to see him do one more stunt and depart the Earth the way he should have done 1000 times before. They should have at least shot his casket over the Grand Canyon. (Now I am truly going to Hell.)

Calvert DeForest: 1921-2007. What a guy. He was a long time pop culture hero and a David Letterman favorite of mine. He always posed the question of gender to many people but to me it was always a question of teeth. First off did he have any and if he did, how small where they? Did he eat plankton? Well, at least this picture can clear up that question for me.

Joel Siegel: 1943-2007. This one turned me on my ear. Joel was always the voice of the cinema for me and by and large we agreed. Except he canned Beetlejuice and it was tough to talk dad into going after that review. Regardless, he was my favorite part of Good Morning America (sorry Lunden) and he left us much too early after losing the fight to colon cancer. I give cancer a thumbs down and a middle finger up.

Dick Wilson (Mr. Whipple): 1916-2007. “Can you squeeze it?” Another icon gone but not forgotten. He embodied the importance of sqeezey soft toilet paper that as a child, forced me to hug every package of Charmine to insure Mr. Whipple wasn’t full of shit. I was wondering how I would tie in toilet paper with shit and there you go.

Tom Poston: 1921-2007. This was unexpected too. I remember watching Newhart with dad in the livingroom while he did push-ups as I sat on his back. Besides of course “I’m Larry, this is my brother Daryle and this is my other brother Daryle” I only really remember Tom. He seemed like the one actor that was a really nice guy and possibly an ice fisherman. He just strikes me as one.

The Fabulous Moolah: 1923-2007. She was the female thunder of the WWE. Her thirty year career of semi-kicking ass led her to the longest title holder in any professional sport. Maybe it is the feminist in me but she could kick Sting’s ass any day of the week. When I was little I had Wrestling pals which were pillows with arms shaped like your favorite wrestler. The neighbors older sister was always Moolah and she repeatedly fucked us up to the point that I gave up any hopes as a career WWE wrestler. I just couldn’t get over that hump.

Brad Delp:1951-2007. Oh Brad, why did you have to leave us? Not like that! If you are not familiar with Brad Delp he was the master mind and beautiful vocalist for the band Boston. I will never forget listening to their first album and I was just blown away. That is really all I could say….blown away. If you don’t have that album go buy it. Go buy it right now and listen to it with headphones. It will change you.

Brad committed suicide. He left us with questions and no answers other than his talent not being recognized for what it was. I will admit when I heard of his tragic end I sat in my car and shed a few tears. He was my Lennon.

Robert Goulet:1933-2007. “Goulet!” I must admit that I was never a huge fan of Robert Goulet until Will Farrel’s SNL impersonation. Actually, anyone my age is probably in the same boat. I do remember him as the potential investor, Maxi Dean, in the movie Beetlejuice but other than that…nope. His legacy will live on through many elderly ladies who remember Robert on his Broadway hit, Hamlet. And of course many early 30 year olds who sing “The Thong Song” with Goulet vocals.

Yvonne De Carlo: 1922-2007. I know this picture doesn’t do her justice but this chick was beautiful. She (to me) was best known as her role on the TV series, The Munsters but her filmography stretches from here to Indonesia. She has been in more films including one of my favorite 1977 occult classics, Satan Cheerleaders. If you ever star in a movie with a title like that you will always be a star to me.

Tammy Faye *: 1942-2007. As far as TV evangelists Tammy was the most famous to me. I always thought of her as a pioneer in the plastic surgery field and there was something to be said for that because she was the most popular Halloween costume of the eighties. That maybe a stretch but in my neighborhood that costume didn’t lead to a bag full of raisins and pennies, I can promise you. I do feel bad because I saw her last interview and she looked so frail. I take everything I said back after that. I wonder where TV evangelists go when they die? They would kind of be old news up there, don’t you think?

Richard Jeni: 1957-2007. Another candle blown out too soon by his own accord. It always makes me especially sad when a comedian dies before their time. They spend most of their lives filling ours with laughter and joy and we never see it coming when they go. Apparently he was diagnosed with severe paranoia and depression and took his own life. I will miss this guy because his stand up is something to stand up for.

Dan Fogelberg: 1951-2007. Not a dude you can bang your head to but definitely a dude you could get laid to. That sounded bad. You know what I mean. His folk music was so melodic it would be instant death if you were driving through the night but in the right spot, nothing beats it. If the moon is right and if you hold your hand to your ear facing east, you will faintly hear me singing “Leader of the Band” on Karaoke night at Smith’s Old Bar. He passed from prostrate cancer just weeks ago. I hate cancer.

I know many others have been lost in 2007 but these few have impacted me in someway and I wanted to share. So in some conversation in the future, bring them up. Maybe they can still be with us in 2008 if nothing more than spirit and memories. I want to thank them all and send my deepest condolences to the families. You guys made life great before 2007 and will make it great for many years to come. That’s pretty cool when you think about it.

New Year Review with Pics!

  Can you believe it is 2008? Where did the time go and how do we get it back? Well actually fuck that, I don’t want it back. This new year has to be time for growing and meaning. It has to be less self indulgent and more towards leading a life of purpose. I don’t want to be hit by a truck and have my life flash before my eyes only to see majority of bars shots, computer screens and Everybody Loves Raymond episodes. As you could probably guess from my previous posts, 2008 will be the year I say farewell to my 20’s and hello to my 30’s. I’m on a path of uncertainty as far as my career is going and who knows what will be even a month from now. But as unsettling as that may be I am excited as well. My best friend Joe is getting married to a wonderful girl and he announced I would be his best man. See? Only a few days into 2008 and already it is riddled with meaning. I found this out on New Years Eve in Atlantic City. Here is the story.

Every Christmas that I can remember we go to Philadelphia to visit my Mom’s side of the family. Partly because my Grandmother hosts the annual family reunion where every cousin, great aunts and uncles come to mingle, drink high-balls, eat until semi consciousness, and have the same conversations as the year before. I swear I am asked about the Atlanta Falcons no less than 500 times and when Mike Vick was indited on Dog fighting charges the first thing I thought was how many questions I will get in December. But I threw them a curve and concocted a theory we was set up by Donavan McNabb and he was the fall guy to the real culprits; the Philadelphia Eagles. Take that.

Here is proof that my Grandmother still thinks I am the number one grandkid. Except for that giant crack in the picture I still have a spot on the dresser. I think one of my cousins tried to bump me from my spot but MomMom wasn’t hearing it. I’m still standing in my striped shirt and faggy pose.

Even at 29 this doll in the guest bedroom haunts my dreams. It has one black eye for Christ Sakes! This nightmare stands almost 3 feet and I’m pretty sure has it out for me in some fashion. Many years ago my father moved that doll from the guest bedroom to the foot of my cot in Uncle Marks room. Approximately three am I woke up to the outline of a midget in a dress staring at me as I slept. When I realized it was the freaky doll I had a definite episode. It scared me so bad I swear I had a penal inversion. To this day my dad still feels a little bad about it but it all good. My junk worked it’s way back to the normal position.

And for the last stop of the Grandfolk’s house we end in the basement. This is where I spent the majority of my visits because Uncle Mark has more cool shit than any other hoarder could. If anything has the tag “As Seen On TV” it was down in the basement. A kid could go bananas in this place and through the eighties and early nineties I pretty much did. But this year Uncle Mark had the place torn up as he was getting rid of most everything. I couldn’t understand how he toss all that history when Ebay was obviously a much more lucrative alternative. Of course he had never heard of such a thing. It’s my Uncle Mark. Nothing comes as a shock to me when it comes from a guy who pronounces Karaoke, Karookee and also pronounces the “t” in fillet. I love that dude and now he is the proud seller of everything strange.

Well, before I knew it the visit was done, gifts were given, hugs were exchanged and now it was off to the rental car place  to get a shitty white Grand Am that smelled like dead hooker from the trunk and proceed south east to Atlantic City. My best pal Joe was there with his lady Andrea and we were going to bring in 2008 the way it was intended to be brought in. So, I got to the Wyndem with surprising ease because I will be honest, when I’m in a new city my sense of direction sucks. I orientate my self by the sun and the ocean. So that guarantees that I will be at least a half a day late. Regardless, I got there and met up with Joe and his new love.

That is Joe and Andrea. They live in the D.C. area and both are in the medical profession. I know Joe is madly in love with this girl because Andrea told me when she returned from a business trip Joe had cleaned her litter box and brushed the cat and Joe hates cats with a passion.  When I had my cat Snooter he refused to come over because everytime he did, Snooter would chase him around the apartment only wanting to be pet. I know that sounds silly but I know this dude better than anyone and I can tell that is a testament of true love.

This is us at the beginning of the the first night with me (left), Joe (middle) and Jeff (right). Jeff runs a Dojo and can kill a man over 1,000 different ways so it is wise to stay on his good side. Actually Jeff is a stand up dude and I am really glad I have him as a friend. Besides, he got us this kick ass suite and VIP passes at the Borgota. Just kidding, he’s a great guy period.

As you can tell this is much later in the evening. You may have noticed the white pullover is off and that is with good reason. See, this past December hasn’t been the greatest and I didn’t want to compound issues by getting hammered so my tolerance was much less than I had anticipated. After many drinks at dinner, Joe had the idea to take shots and the worst thing happened. Ever heard of a boomerang shot? I had one. It went down and under no power of my own it came right back up. This has never happened before so I did the only this I could and that was put my pullover over my face. Even in a drunken state the mind can still work. The Tommy Bahama shirt saved me from a one way kick out of the club and luckily for me I was wearing my KISS shirt rather than my “Powered By Pancakes” IHOP shirt. God does love me after all.

Here we are, The Bash Brothers. Joe asked me to be his best man so you can see the pride on my face here. He is as close to a brother to me as one can get and I’m not going to let this guy down. We haven’t always seen eye to eye and at times we bicker but at the end of the day, if he needed a heart transplant I would be on the top of the list as a donor. He’s a good shit.

Joe and I have our own style of dancing and some music just doesn’t mix well. Luckily for Andrea there was a gay guy cutting the rug and those too cleared at least a 20 foot radius. The only thing two white guys could do was sit in awe wondering what would go out first, our back or our knee. Here are other pictures…..

Jeff. What a dog! Right after this picture was taken I left to go to the restroom leaving Jeff to mack alone. When I came back I accidentally washed off the stamp on my hand and the line was probably a mile long. I stranded my wingman but it was OK. He got a long fine, I’m sure.

Still can’t figure this one out. Is that the moral support chair? Do girls really sit next to each other like that?  And for guys that looks danger close to the stream. Besides, one would have to face the other. If you don’t get pee shy from that than nothing will.

The end of 2007 and now we go home. Getting up a few hours later, driving to Philadelphia, catching a flight home was painful but I must say it was completely worthwhile. Next year will be different I am sure . Who knows where I will be or what I will be doing. Perhaps it will be spectacular or maybe not but I can guarantee it will be with purpose. Life is all what you make of it and if you don’t stop to look around once in a while, you could miss it. (That was cheesy I know but come on, it’s Ferris.)

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