Magical Mystery Tour

Globe with focus on Europe

There is a chance you may never read me; or maybe, you may be an “alternate universe you” following an “alternate universe me.” You see… In 1998, I almost fled the country. No, I was not an escapee on the run from the authorities.

I was planning a bicycle tour around Europe; or at least as many countries I could see in three summer months. (I told everyone I planned on returning… Really?) I spent a long, cold winter in New England planning it out. Planning my route. All I really knew was I had no doubt.

I took the steps to obtain my passport and looked into open-ended airline tickets to Heathrow Airport in London, England. They didn’t have such a detailed website back in the day. I didn’t even have a bicycle at the time but that was a minor detail. I had plenty of loot and I had done my research, one pixel at a time served over our dial-up modem. I did learn how to and how much it would cost to pack and ship a bicycle and all the gear by airplane. I’m not sure if Rick Steves had a travel site back then but I had his book.

I chose the United Kingdom as a jumping of point with vague ideas of visiting Liverpool, something about the Beatles and growing up during the “British Invasion.”(Read this fun article from Rolling Stone Magazine online.) Maybe I just wanted to hit a pub and toss back a couple (dozen) pints of warm stout.

I really did want to travel through the Channel Tunnel (Chunnel) from Folkstowne (Kent, England),to Coquelles (Hauts-de-France, France.) at 160kmh/100mph. That was about as exciting as the world got in the 90’s. The “World Wide Web” did have a large amount of information readily available even 30 years ago. I found the prices of Eurail passes and schedules and I could bring my bicycle on board and tons of stuff I should have put in a journal years ago.

My itinerary was rather vague. My planning did extend beyond entering France at blazing speeds but now I think back and maybe I didn’t want my 4 years of high school French going to waste. I couldn’t speak much, but I sure could, “Parler Vous.”

That is how most of my travel plans begin; more of a direction than a destination. You know, France, Spain, Italy, Belgium…. Belgium? Of course Paris for the wine… Um… The Louvre, Eiffel Tower…. I even researched Hostels. I wasn’t sure how I would fit in there but I am sure I would have fit in there.

After visiting REI websites touring checklist, I found I would have been woefully unprepared for a bicycle tour. I figured, panniers, backpack, tent, sleeping bag, cooking device… Maybe some food? Hydration? A flat tire would have left me stranded and dead. (Are you reading this?) I imagine I imagined France had Perrier pumping stations and raven-haired maidens offering platters of bread and brie every 20km/12m along the county roads? It seems I would need a travel van following me with a pair of assistants for a weekend trip from reading that checklist. I was planning on months. I think part of my plan involved asking farmers if I could set up a tent in their field. Comment dites-vous? Puis-je dormir sur votre fille (If you are reading this; I did not die in that farmer’s field.)

Who am I kidding? If you’ve read my blog you know where I would end up eventually. The beach! Côte d’Azur! Maybe somewhere close but less expensive. Drinking some fashionably unfashionable, RED wine, laughing my ass off while pissing off the locals with my stupid, “Quel fromage!” jokes. (ohhhh… Mon petit beaujolais…) Later stumbling home alone at night to write, “Postcards from the Edge.” (I love you Carrie Fisher)

If you are reading this in English, you know who I am. If you are reading this in French, I don’t know who I am. (Unless you are reading a translation; then none of us really know who we are.)

Another reason you are reading this (are you reading this?) is I may have ditched my plans for a woman I was in love with the idea of being in love…

There are a million choices I could have made at a million points in my life where I would not have what I have now. I am being provided… I am being watched over…

Rainbow Bridge

Black Labrador Retriever looking for tennis ball in ocean
Has anyone seen my tennis ball?

Blue Moon Rising was a dog that only came around once in a blue moon. He was a year old when we got him so we kept the name. I guess we had to keep him too. We shortened his name to Blue and sometimes Blue Moon if we wanted to get him to sing.

We adopted him from a couple who lived in a small apartment. They loved him but they had a newborn and said he had too much energy. I would soon find out they were telling the truth. He was content lie around the house for a couple days (Usually taking up most of the couch or wishing he could get on the bed.) but then he needed to run… And I mean run! If it wasn’t outside than it would be around the house. Knocking over tables, lamps, chairs, refrigerators… You get the idea?

Exercising him was no problem in the summer months. We lived near the beach and that was his favorite place. It was my favorite place also. (In the summer) The best dog toy ever invented was the Chuckit! stick. (No affiliations) It is a two foot long plastic handle that grips a tennis ball. I could “chuck” a tennis ball a country mile with that thing! Blue would get down low and bark at me until I let it fly and the chase was on! He would take off in a four legged dog sprint and almost catch up to it before it hit the ground; catching it in his mouth on the bounce and planting all four paws in the sand, sliding and spinning to a stop and full speed back to me. He was fast!

Like I said, it was no problem in the summer. Wintertime was a different story. He needed an hour of this almost every night to burn off his energy or he would destroy the house. There I would be after work; the only asshole on the beach in February and 5 degree weather with the ocean winds blowing. (That’s minus 15 Celsius for those of you who live in less civilized countries.) Chucking that tennis ball until after the sun went down. The problem came when he learned he didn’t have to go home if he had the ball in his mouth. He knew when I had enough and wouldn’t drop it in front of me. Instead he would go into the ocean and lie down to cool off! I’m about to get hypothermia and he’s too hot! Lying in the water, tongue hanging out past the tennis ball, panting with steam rising off his back!

Well, I’m smarter than the average dog. I started bringing two tennis balls. I kept one in my back pocket until he pulled his trick and I pulled mine. “Blue, Blue.” He would perk up. Suddenly my ball was much more interesting than his and he would follow me back home.

He loved to swim. In the summer I would chuck the ball into the ocean and he would bring it back. Unless he lost it. Then he would swim around until he found it. If he couldn’t find it I would have to throw stones in the general direction. That is when I found out he liked to dive under the water and retrieve the rocks I threw. Yes, he was multi-talented.

He loved the beach a little too much. He had a one track mind. He would pull on his leash almost choking himself. We tried everything but eventually had to settle on letting him pull us around by his harness. If someone left a door to the house open a crack, that was all he needed to make his escape. After a while someone would say, “Where’s Blue?’ Of course he was on the beach. But which direction? I would flip a would walk to the right and look the length of the seawall and then go back to the left. He was easy to find. (Relatively) All I had to do was walk a mile or so until I saw a big dumb dog barking at someone until they threw the ball, Frisbee, stick, rock or whatever he found. “Yes, he’s my dog, sorry about that…”

Sometimes I wouldn’t have to go find him. The animal control officer would knock on the door. He knew us well… “Where was he this time? Sorry… ” Technically he was supposed to be taken to the doggie detention center and we would have to go down and bail him out with a hundred dollars. But come on… Did you see the picture? He would never make it in jail.

Blue would freak over “B” words. Of course his name. Blue? Beach? Ball? Bunny? Baloney? You get the picture. Inside the house he just wanted to be loved. If he wasn’t allowed on the couch or bed he would lie next to you and sigh…

If you don’t believe Labrador Retrievers are the best dogs, don’t take my word for it; ask the American Kennel Club. Labrador Retrievers have set a nearly 30 year record as most popular dog. Most because of their temperament. (As long as you don’t take them near the ocean I guess.) They are popular hunting dogs because they “retrieve” ducks from the lake which they love to swim in.

Some things I didn’t know about Labradors is they are commonly used for bomb, drug, cancer and diabetes detection. They are also the most popular service dogs or seeing eye dogs for the blind. Pretty darn smart for a big, dumb dog.

I got the idea for this post when Microsoft sent me some “on this day” photos and one was of him. Blue lived the life of Riley for 12 short years. The average lifespan of a Labrador.

I thought of the Rainbow Bridge Poem. I linked to it because I didn’t want to make anyone cry. But that is where Blue (and yes, your dog too) is waiting, just this side of heaven.

Snow Day!

Snow on forest road
Photo by Simon Berger on Pexels.com

I woke up and looked out the second floor window of my grandparents house. A foot of snow had fallen overnight. The whole world was covered in white. I didn’t need to turn on my A.M. radio to know the school bus was not showing up that day to take us away.

My brother was still sleeping. I slid out of bed and creaked down the 100 year old staircase; running my hand across the Lady Liberty hand-carved newel post at the bottom. She had seen better days, with well-worn, cracked and chipped lacquer but still held her mahogany soul. She must have been a later addition, lifting an electrical socket towards the sky. No need to screw in a bulb, it wouldn’t shine.

Into the kitchen, I dragged a chair across the smooth linoleum floor. I needed it to reach the Frosted Flakes hidden behind the cupboard door. My cousin came in and clattered the bowls. My brother and his sister were always the deepest sleepers. But it wouldn’t take them long. Mom would be last.

I opened the closet near the front door and dug into the jumble of winter clothes that sat in a heap. Everything was mix and match and came from somebody else. If it fit, that is what you wore that day. I found my favorite pair of boots. Ski boots, cross country I think. There were no skis in the house. They looked like a pair of hiking boots with a thick hard rubber, square toed sole. I liked the process of looping the laces around the curved metal hooks. I loved those things. I wore them everywhere that year; even to school; they weren’t shit for keeping your feet warm but I thought they were cool. (I wasn’t cool)

Everyone gathered in the kitchen, hustling and bustling. Putting on two pairs of pants, two pairs of socks, a sweater or whatever. Most of us had hats, wrap a scarf around my brother’s head and he’d walk around like “The Mummy.” (Creature Double Feature, Saturday afternoons) We all had good winter coats. One more thing before we were allowed outside. My mom ALWAYS had old household tricks that NEVER worked. This one was to keep our socks dry. Wonder Bread bags over our feet before we slipped them into our shoes. Where did they all come from? How much bread were we eating? Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.

Then we were out the door, trudging up the hill towards “South Road”. It was the first road cleared in the town however many hundreds of years ago. It was really a one lane dirt cow path through forest. It must have been surveyed because it was straight as an arrow. As far as I can remember we were the only ones who still used it. It was a mile walk through the unbroken snow to get to the sledding hill. Farmer Brown’s cornfield. Yes. That was his name. He would sell vegetables in season and use his tractor to plow everyone’s driveway in the winter. He charged by the job but my grandfather wanted to pay according to how inches of snow were on the ground. After every storm they would stand at the bottom of the driveway and have heated arguments. I not sure who won. I mean, we needed the snow removed and Brown had the only tractor in town but my grandfather was always adamant.

Farmer Brown had an accident earlier in his life. He was trimming a tree limb above his head when the chainsaw kicked back and the chain caught him in the mouth. He wasn’t disfigured but his tongue didn’t heal correctly. It affected his speech and the harder he argued with my grandfather, the louder and faster he talked. Until it was impossible to understand what he was saying. We would mimic him and crack each other up. MMMFFF! MMMFFF! MMMFFF! I guess it wasn’t very funny.

Finally we reached the end of the trail. Our socks already drenched (Thanks Mom.) and our jeans soaked up to the knees. Who cares? We were there! We only had two sleds so the two oldest would lie down faces pointed forward and the youngest would sit on our backs. We would play “Mad Max” and try to knock the other rider off. That was fun.

We were usually the first kids to get there after a storm and we would prepare the runway. Most kids started at the edge of the clearing and had a smooth ride. We blazed a trail from the very top of the hill that twisted and turned with built up banks on the curves. We fucked around and found out one day, if the snow wasn’t deep enough you would just go in a straight line. My cousin met a tree head on. It’s not funny. I’m not sure if we more worried about him being unconscious for a minute or how we were going to drag him back home and explain it to our parents. He recovered and got back on the horse the same day. Maybe that is why the other kids didn’t start at the top?

When the sun touched the tips of the trees on the other side of the road, that was our signal we had just enough time to trek home before it got completely dark. That was when we would notice the temperature. Looking at each other crusted from head to toe in frozen slush.

What a motley crew.

Back inside to sit by the heat and eat and pray for another storm.

Lunatic Fringe

Anyone else remember when they used to let you smoke in the “Behavioral Health Unit”? The Portsmouth “Pavillion” used to have a “smoking room.” Seriously! It wasn’t really a room, more of a plexiglass enclosure in clear view of the nurses station. It was like ten by twenty feet with a folding cafeteria table and matching chairs. Standing room only. As long as you were inside and they could see you, they didn’t give a fuck what you did.

Cigarette lighters, shoelaces, belts? Not a problem. Thirty of us puffing away. I don’t even think it had any ventilation. Borrowing butts from each other, “I’ll get you back tomorrow…” Where the fuck were we getting all these butts? I came in handcuffs, the cops didn’t buy me a carton. You weren’t allowed to have cash… Where the fuck? Was Marlboro sponsoring the asylum? Did we all have numbers on our backs? Some kind of race to the end?

I didn’t spend much time there. I was busy walking, walking, walking. “V” Shaped hallways. Left wing for men, right wing for women… Filled to capacity… My bed was always empty. I was always walking, walking, walking. Stopping in for a cigarette and a minute of bedlam. Where the fuck did they come from?

Yeah, yeah, that was where we ate our meals. That is how I met everyone. One at a time, once in a while. Always together, always alone.

I remember everyone but only one. P==, She was on top of her game but when she came back from electroshock she was lame. She had to relearn and remember everyone’s name. Every day the same. Until one day she sat by the elevator with her head slumped in her customary aftershock position. Nobody noticed! When the door opened she rolled out. Her moment of opposition. She escaped from the mental hospital in a fucking wheelchair!

The staff was livid! We had the telephone line going… Passing along scraps of information. Ear to Ear to Ear. The dusky ward lit up with manic laughter. Adults acting like kids who grew up thinking the underdog always wins. Just for one night the inmates could run the asylum. We were all so happy, but she didn’t get far, they got her, caught her, hiding under a car. They dragged her back in and the next day she had to begin learning everyone’s name.

The next day I escaped in a different way. I used my brain. I sat down and calmly explained to the doctor why I should be allowed to leave. I can’t believe he believed me! I can’t believe I believed me! I also can’t believe I got a bill in the mail because insurance doesn’t cover discharge “AMA” (Against Medical Advice) Smoke up Johnny!

People who know me for years think I do this shit on purpose. Like I just don’t care. It’s a fifty/fifty toss-up, what ‘s better on or off your medicine.

Ruined my credit for 20 years. Inpatient treatment for manic episodes and psychosis doesn’t come cheap.

Grandmaster Flash

J– was the first schizophrenic I added to my “collection”. I was still in high school. He was ten years older. Already on disability. I walked in looking to my left. He was seated in his continuous position. Sheltered in his lair between the cast iron bed-frame and the hand built, floor to ceiling bookshelves to his left. Only room enough in the small corner for him and his roll-away chair.

He had a welcoming affectation to his voice, “Bill, Bill, Hey, How ya doin’? How ya doin? I haven’t seen you in a dog’s age… Where ya been hidin’ yourself? Nice to see you again… ” (I’m there every weekend, He’s my best friend’s brother)

I sat down in the chair on the opposite side of the chessboard in front of him. Always set up for someone to make the first move. (Advantage white, right? Never with J–) Behind me stood a longer wall of the same book shelves. Filled with all the books they proffered in school and many more that had long since dropped out of any curriculum. All the books I had read and all the books I hoped I would have time to read. All of them well worn. Where did he find the time?

I thought it would be funny to “challenge” J– to a game since I had just dropped a hit of checkerboard blotter with his brother an hour ago.

I pushed my queen’s pawn forward two spaces; he reached and did the same. I slid my bishop pawn alongside my first. “Hmm… Very interesting, very interesting…” (Bullshit… It’s the Queen’s Gambit, he can beat me six ways from Sunday, this is what he does)

He accepted!? (This is interesting… Is he fucking with me?) My brow drew down and I looked slowly left and right, then up at J–. His eyes sparkled behind his horned rim glasses and his tight-lipped mischievous smile wasn’t quite hidden by his wispy beard. I once asked him if he had never shaved. “No, no, I used to look just like you once, Bill, just like you.”

He set his meerschaum down on the shelf, reached down blindly, pulled up a small case and opened it. It was his smooth finished, deep-grained briar… His most expensive pipe… He tilted back in his chair and slowly started packing it with his favorite tobacco. This is interesting! He’s taking me seriously? He knows I don’t know anything.

J– didn’t say anything, he wasn’t looking at me, he wasn’t looking at the board. I was looking at the board. I don’t know this game. He never takes; that does give me the advantage, right?

The blotter wasn’t very overwhelming; in fact I believe it was helping me concentrate. I studied the board for ten minutes before my next move. He immediately leaned in and countered. That’s how the game went. Both of us silent, me taking forever, him going by rote. I’m making all the right moves, right? I can’t see any flaws; but I can’t see the end.

Then I saw it! I take his Knight with my Queen; forcing him to accept my sacrifice. I’m going to win in five moves! J– quickly sat up straight. “Interesting.” (This time he meant it.) He stroked his beard.

Now J— was taking his time. I had never seen him do this before. He can beat a roomful of people simultaneously while carrying on rapid fire conversations with each opponent individually.

I kept examining the remaining pieces. I had him! I thought it through as I waited for him to make his next move. This was it… Then he did it!

He was one move ahead of me the whole time.

Checkmate.

Prufrock

D— came rolling into the bar; I mean “rollin”. High on his own supply. “Godsmack is playing at the Casino! Ten bucks at the door!” Nobody paid attention. D— was always yelling about something. I was interested. They were the only good music being played on the local radio station. “Classic Rock” was getting old.

WHEB was promoting them hard because they had just signed a deal but their album hadn’t come out yet and they were from Lawrence, Massachusetts. That was a big deal in our corner of the country.

“Fuckin’ right! I’m in!” I tilted my glass back until it was empty and walked towards the door. D— was trying to round up a few more but I guess nobody wanted to leave their drinks. Fucking slackers!

When D— was in the mood he wanted everyone to feel the same and didn’t mind sharing. I’m not sure if he ever broke even. We both took the E-Train for a mile and a half to get to the Casino.

We arrived just in time to beat the crowd. A quick stop at the ticket booth and ten bucks later we were at the top of the stairs on the second floor of the ballroom with a clear path to the stage. We headed straight to the front and grabbed hold of the railing. Soon we were smoshed by the crowd behind us. Everyone trying to be the closest to the action.

That asshole from the radio was talking some shit into the microphone. “Number One Morning Show in New Hampshire?” You are the only fucking radio station in New Hampshire. Guy thinks he’s a celebrity. My friend met him and he offered to sign an autograph. Da faq? I think my friend should have given him an autograph, it would probably be more valuable today.

Then came the real surprise. The lights dimmed and a bunch of kids walked onto the stage and one of them said into the microphone, “Hey, we’re Reveille” and that was all the introduction they needed before they proceeded!

They all jumped into the air and simultaneously their feet, the drums, the bass, the guitars hit! That is all it took! On the next downbeat two thousand pairs of feet landed on the ballroom floor. That’s how it went for the next hour. Long hair swinging, heads banging, and the joint was jumpin’! You could feel the floor flexing with all of us bouncing in unison. It felt like the place was going to collapse!

Reveille? Who the fuck are these guys!?

Oh yeah, I guess Godsmack was pretty good too.

[The Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom was built in 1899, it is a post and beam construction with hardwood floors. When people say a band “brought the house down”, in this case it could have been quite literal.]

— I don’t tell this story a lot. Usually when I meet someone and we talk about music and they say, “Oh yeah, I love Godsmack! I’ve seen them live 5 times…. (That’s it? That’s your story?) Oh yeah, I saw Godsmack once… They are usually not interested in hearing about how Reveille blew them off the stage. But they like when I end with “My claim to fame is I got kicked in the head by “Sully’s” Redwing boot when he dove off the stage.” (It’s true, that is my one brush with greatness) Don’t get me wrong, I like Godsmack, I have them on my playlist. I don’t have any Reveille because the albums don’t capture the live experience.–

–I put Godsmack on to get me in the right frame of mind when I started writing this and I started thinking about “Euphoric Recall”, people telling me I only thought I was having fun because I was drinking and drugging. I wondered if anyone had filmed that show and put it on YouTube. That happens a lot. I couldn’t find that show but I did find Reveille Live at the “Palladium” in Worcester, MA. (2001) Ummm… Yep. Pretty much exactly what I remember. I planned on only watching a few minutes but ended up pouring another coffee and bouncing in my chair until the end. Then I was really ready to write! I don’t know? Click on the link and take 45 minutes out of your day and tell me if it looks like a good time.–

every time a bell rings

Photo by Mario Wallner on Pexels.com

“Mim” died this morning. N====’s Grandmother. She was 98. She has been in a nursing home for a few months so it’s good. She told me a little bit ago. It was sad and I cried a little. She says she is fine.

I didn’t see any of N===’s family for a long period of time but they were all great people. She was very nice.

I put her on my gratitude list today. They used to stay with us in the summertime and live in Florida during the winter. I think she only watched the Red Sox because her husband was a fan. She was funny, when they would show a replay of a home run, she would say, “Oh look, he hit another one, good for him.” She always had a package of Kraft Singles in the drawer of the fridge and she would “accidentally” drop a slice on the floor for Kelsey, the Boston Terrier. She would rather die in her sleep before she ate a Kraft Single. I swear Kelsey would gain 10 pounds every summer. She was a good cook and the only time I would eat fish is when she made baked stuffed haddock. But that wasn’t her specialty. Lemon Squares, blond brownies and OMG 7 layer bars!

My favorite was we had a thing at the house and everyone had a couple glasses of wine and a a few of us in the living room were joking about they are in their 80’s do you think they still do it? “Mim” walked in and N=== asked her. She said, “Of course! We’re old… We’re not dead!”

Ten Spot for Your Thoughts?

Big Linda was a barfly. She was a fixture at the end of the bar in The Bowery. She collected a commission for every drink some drunk dude bought her thinking he was going to take her home. As far as I know, Linda may have died a virgin but I do know one thing for sure. She never paid for one drink in her life. I’m sure you can guess where she got the name “Big Linda.” Every time we saw her we would shout, “Hey Linda, get your fucking elbows off the bar!” and she would tell us to get bent and we would laugh our asses off. Those weren’t her elbows, they were her huge fucking tits! I would guess that’s how the commissions added up. What do you want? I was 6 and my cousin was 9.

Linda is one reason I have never bought a drink for a woman at a bar unless I was already friends with her. Not because she might be collecting commissions but I have heard this same refrain a thousand times, “Asshole thinks I gotta fuck him cause he spent five bucks on a drink!”

My cousin and I were precocious and Linda was in on this con. The Bowery was on Salisbury Beach and it was a little kid’s wet dream. Amusement park rides, carnival games and arcades lined with pinball machines on one side and Skee-ball on other. When we ran out of quarters for pinball we would go into the bar and start whining to Linda. “Mom! Mom! We want to go home!” She would answer, “Okay kids, right after I finish this drink.. “, “But that’s what you said an hour ago!”, “Okay, mama’s gotta get up early for work tomorrow, go wait in the car and I’ll be right out after this drink.”, “But I gotta peeeee!”

Right around that time, whichever dumb ass sitting there thinking he was gonna get Linda drunk enough to fuck him would start to worry and come up with the brilliant idea to offer us a couple bucks to go play pinball. There’s the payoff!

Are you fucking kidding me? Two little kids up after their bedtime in a town designed to be their play land begging to go home? Right!

One night we accidentally made the big score. We went back to the till too soon and the same guy was still sitting there. He was wise to us but he didn’t let on. He pulled a tenner out of his fat wallet and started teasing us. “Which one of you is the oldest?” Obviously my cousin, he’s a foot taller than me, “I am.”, “I know you kids. If I give this ten to you, you won’t split it with your brother.”, “Yes I will!”, “No, no, no, I don’t trust you, tell you what, ” He tore the ten dollar bill down the middle and handed half to each of us, “There, now you both got five bucks.” He laughed and turned back to looking down Linda’s shirt.

Ten dollars! That’s two slices of pizza, WITH extra cheese, two Cokes, a ride on the SkyDiver AND pinball for the rest of the night! We went running out of the bar straight down to Christy’s!

I wasn’t going to write this story until I figured out where the fuck we found Scotch tape at midnight on Salisbury Beach? We had a problem. We had ten bucks but it was torn in half and nobody believed it was real. We couldn’t buy anything! I still can’t figure it out but we found it and taped that bill together and had a blast!

of Witches and Black Magic

Every word of this story is true… Goodwife “Goody” Eunice Cole was the only woman in New Hampshire ever convicted of witchcraft. Legend has it, after she was finally released from prison because no commonwealth wished to support her for the rest of her seemingly never ending life, she ended up in Hampton, NH, living off the kindness (pity?) of others and shellfish she scrounged out of the marshlands behind the town. This is where I come in…

When I was in first grade parts of my family lived in a house on the shores of those very same marshlands. It was a rectangular shaped neighborhood, except for one odd street that extended diagonally into the swamp and simply dead-ended.

There were several houses along the street but for whatever reason one lot still held the remains of a house that had burned to the ground, many years before. We made up our own, “Legend of Goody Cole” and terrorized each other with stories of how that is where she used to live and still haunted the grounds.

Without giving away my age, in those days a pack of cigarettes cost fifty cents. Hell, we could find that in the cushions of the couch, or slip it out of our parent’s tip jar or even from “Uncle” Ray, who would pay us each a quarter to leave us alone. A quarter doesn’t sound like much, but that was twenty five Tootsie Rolls!

There was no smoking age back then. Us kids could drop two coins on the counter, ask for a pack of cigarettes and the man would ask, “What kind?” And even give us a couple books of paper matches to light them.

By “remains” of a burnt house I mean, most of a huge brick fireplace and part of the chimney. Huge fireplace! Large enough to hold six of us kids sharing a package of Camel “Straights.” We weren’t even old enough to know how to breathe in the smoke. We just liked to let them dangle from the corners of our mouths or hold them between our fingers, gesturing to emphasize our points, in our latest stories of “Goody.” Each of us trying to top the other.

Everything was going great until “Randy” probably accidentally inhaled a little too much and went home sick and puked all over the house. That would have been fine but I guess he was scared and when his parents questioned him, he cried and he cracked and he told everything… Everything! He ratted us out! Big time! First names, Last names, Parents names, Addressees! How the fuck did he know all this shit? He was only 7 years old.

The next day when my cousin and I got home from school, we got our asses kicked by our parents! Didn’t even know why we were getting our asses kicked? And I mean, KICKED! Out on the deck, down the second floor stairs, rolling down the short slope and into the very same waters where Goody would scavenge for horseshoe crabs!

After that we needed a note from our parents to buy cigarettes.

Would you trade an ass kickin’ for a story like this?

No Hard Feelings

Robot Brain

This has been on my mind for a bit. I’m not really sure where to start. I know…. When I was about 4 years old, my dad punched my mom in the face and knocked her 4 front teeth out. That was the last time any of us saw his dumb ass. No child support; two kids. Nothing. I have no memory. Nobody talked much about. I never gave it much thought. Lots of kids didn’t have dads around.

But his parents, They are rich. Maybe they felt bad, they like to take my brother and I on some weekend trips. Okay, whatever, we had fun, we were little kids, but these people don’t really mean much to me. My grandparents are my mother parents. But not even they would mention my dad. I never thought much about it until a few years ago. (wait, once my brother and I were playing football at their house, some guy pulls up, starts throwing the ball around for a few and goes inside.. After our grandparents ask if we had fun with our dad? Dad? Pretty sure he wasn’t expecting us to be there)

Getting a little sidetracked. They got money coming out their ass. My family was poor. Nobody asked them for money. Maybe she could have used some for her broken dentures she has needed since she was 22 years old, never had dental insurance? Whatever, they don’t owe us shit, right? (oh shit, I”m laughing! I just had to come back, I remembered this. No Christmas gifts, or birthday, not even a card in the mail?)

Finally my mom gets in a position she can buy a house, ask for a little help… They tell her to fuck right the fuck off.. I’m only only 10, I don’t know what’s going on in life but we stop seeing them.

Just a backstory, (like I said, I never put much mind to it) here is the fucked up part.. In 2017 I got hit by a car and almost died. They visited me in the hospital…. Nothing weird about that except they start telling me my life story. Haven’t seen them in 40 years, but they know I’m married, I have a kid, everywhere I have lived etc… Now they want to have a reunion, meet my daughter, She was 12 at the time. What’s been going on. (Almost forgot this part… Oh. BTW, your dad died a couple years ago)

I’m still amicable at this point. I make the arrangements, my mom my daughter and I show up at their house on their schedule. Okay, no big deal, friendly, reminiscing, but my grandfather kept interjecting at unusual times, “No hard feelings.” Maybe I”m dense why did he say that at least 5 times.

Then it hit me… He is saying, “No hard feelings”, He forgives us for not making the effort to connect with them! They’ve been keeping track of us my whole fucking life! I”m still friendly, we visited them a few more times. They’re going to dies soon.

This was fucked up. I guess every year on Father’s Day, the whole family throws a huge party for my grandfather and they all show up and kiss his ass because he is rich. Maybe I’m wrong, but there is no big mother’s day party for my grandmother?

This year they were putting pressure on me to go to this father’s day party. Uh, I don’t fucking think so. Do what I did on Father’s day? I went to my daughter’s house to visit her and her mom and her step-dad and we had a great time!

Should I go on? One more thing. I sent my grandmother an email telling how excited I was when my daughter got her license. She wrote back, oh good! Now you two can come see us all the time! I think, why the fuck would my 16 year old daughter want to go see a couple people in their 90’s. I was nice and replied, She is 16, has a car a job and a boyfriend, I am afraid I will never see her again.

Haven’t heard back… That was last July.

I kind of like it because I would get anxiety trying to coordinate 5 people’s schedules so my daughter can do this bullshit she doesn’t care about. Same with me. I didn’t ‘forget’ about them, but I kind of did. They showed up in my hospital room after 40 years. Like okay? Thanks?

I shouldn’t but I’m really laughing right now. I don’t think about it much until it just pops into my head. It’s ridiculous. I had to write it because it pop into my head. I was afraid to start because I’m not looking for pity. This is the kind of thing that makes me laugh.