Archive for the ‘Dave Barry’ Category

Shine On, Spring Break!

March 10, 2013

Back in 1980, when I was studying at Ball State University, the two main spring break destinations were Ft. Lauderdale and Daytona Beach. College students from across Indiana would flock to the sunshine state for sun and fun. However, my love for the outdoors combined with a keen sense of adventure overrode this natural instinct to migrate south that year. Instead, my friend Bruce and I made plans for a fishing trip to the back hills of Kentucky and Tennessee on Dale Hollow Lake. We had all of the ingredients for a successful trip — gas money, a boat, enough tackle to stock a retail store, and a lifetime of fishing experience. Notice I didn’t mention anything about money for food? We didn’t have any. The lack of money, we reasoned, would not be an obstacle. We would eat like kings for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, on the bounty we pulled from the lake. What fish wouldn’t want to be caught by two blindly ambitious eighteen-year-olds? The lake was full of fish and the world was at our feet.

The Ford LTD Station Wagon was jammed to the gills with fishing tackle and camping gear yet scarcely contained enough food to fill the glove compartment. No problem! We set off from Indianapolis to lose ourselves on the water and tame this giant reservoir. Nearing the lake we noticed that the countryside was dominated by simple homes. Seemingly forgotten for decades, these cabins lacking in paint had rusted tin roofs and cluttered front porches. They conjured up thoughts of the movie Deliverance. For two boys from the suburbs it was a culture shock. Surely, we naively thought, every cabin had a still on the property! The idea of buying a jar of moonshine to drink in the evening as we ate our catch became the topic of discussion. We stopped at a small country store that had a wood plank floor covering half the space and dirt covering the rest. We wondered out loud where we could buy some moonshine. How much could that stuff cost? Let’s ask the guy at the counter! Cutting our nonexistent food budget was the only way to afford some. So that’s just what we did, opting to purchase only a bag of potatoes, peanut butter, jelly, and bread. The potatoes, we reasoned, could be baked, fried, or diced and wrapped in foil with the fish adding diversity to our diet. Oil and foil we brought from home. Wisdom and his close friend common sense were left at home.

On day one we awoke before light. Full of energy and peanut butter we set out to conquer the lake while discussing the idea of stopping mid-day on some island for a shore lunch consisting of fried fish and potatoes. Arriving back at the campsite that night, our growling stomachs announced to the campground that we hadn’t eaten a shore lunch. Not one fish had been caught. Nothing too small, nothing that got away, not one hint of any aquatic dweller…turtles included. We fished from sun up to sun down without even a hint of a fish. The weather was great though, and as slumber came we were confident that day two would be different. Both days two and three ended in much the same way. By the end of the third day we were over the potatoes and peanut butter. It was time to find the fish. So we lit the lantern, opened the lake map and pored over it looking for a solution. Midway through day five we started discussing Plan B.

Finding someone selling moonshine had met with much the same fate. Every night we drove around in the dark looking for a cabin that had a moonshine vibe. (As if there would be some sort of rusted arrow pointing at the roof from the sky above with a sign that read…Get Your Corn Liquor Here!) The process went like this: Bruce would pull up to a shanty, let me out, I would walk up as if I were selling vacuums door to door and coyly ask if they knew of anyone selling sour mash. Sour was the look they gave me, and the conversation was over with the slam of the door. It didn’t bother me. I didn’t know them. In retrospect it was great training for both comedy (tough crowd…said like Rodney Dangerfield) and sales. In fact all sales people should have to do that as a rite of passage; if you actually talk your way into buying a jar then you are immediately promoted to director of sales!

As we drove further into this wild goose chase we continued talking about our empty stomachs. Small farms dotted the hillside. Farms have chickens we reasoned. I knew how to butcher chickens. My grandmother raised them and we butchered them every year. If we could find a chicken coop I’d sneak up, grab a chicken, wring its neck, throw it in the trunk and we would eat like kings… if kings stole chickens. As we rounded a curve we came across a big pig laying at the edge of the road — just a random pig…on a random gravel road…in the middle of nowhere. Bruce stopped the car and for a moment the two of us pondered the idea of butchering that pig. With our fillet knives. Thankfully that ridiculous idea was dismissed — as if stealing someone’s chicken wasn’t ridiculous.

Just beyond the pig we spied a chicken coop on the side of a hill between a barn and farmhouse. Our plan called for Bruce to stay in the car with the motor running and the lights off. I would sneak off to do the deed. Wearing denim from head to toe I was dressed for this covert operation…or a bluegrass festival. All was quiet as I crept up the hillside in the shadows. Slowly I snuck closer while listening for the sound of roosting hens. As I reached the door to the coop I was giddy with the thought that we were about to pull this off. The building was as weathered as the shanty homes. The door to the chicken house was on the side that faced away from the farmhouse. As I slowly opened it the hinges creaked. The silence was broken. Their dog started barking. Dog! Yes the dog! The chickens rustled and clucked in surprise. I quickly shut the door. My adrenalin spiked. The dog sounded big and he was on a mission to protect the farm. His bark was like a shot from a starter’s pistol. The race was on and I was off with a dog somewhere behind me. With the slope of the hill beneath my feet I ran like the wind so fast that I nearly ran out from under my legs. Unfortunately, I didn’t see the fence that separated the pasture from the barn area. Running full stride through the darkness I hit the fence at waist height and in an instant was flipped and hung up on the opposite side of the fence on the barbed wire that was strung across the top. Both of my arms were extended out in either direction from my body as if I were strung up on a cross. The sleeves of my denim jacket were trapped in the barbs. I struggled to break free. The dog was barking somewhere behind me. Suddenly Bruce was at my side helping to free me. He was laughing nervously having seen me run straight into the fence. How could I not see it, he wondered? It was plain to him, as he sat there comfortably in the car with nothing chasing him except the thought of flame-grilled chicken. Struggling to my feet I stumbled my way into the passenger side of the car and we sped off into the darkness with the lights still off, laughing. I never saw the dog. I never touched a chicken. We never ate meat the entire trip.

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The Faucet Episode

October 29, 2011

I like doing home improvements (drip, drip, drip) I embrace the challenges and I gain satisfaction from a job well done.  I also understand my limitations.  So if it’s a repair I haven’t done before, there will be some type of… learning curve.  Before I start one of those projects I make sure my girls aren’t around because odds are good that at some point in the heat of the learning curve… the words that roll off my tongue …are four letters and commonly shouted by every football coach and fourth grade boy in the Western Hemisphere.  The girls would chastise me more than they already do…they think they are steering the ship. (drip, drip, drip).   I’ve noticed that the more challenging improvements in our home seem to come in groups rather than being spread out over time.  Lately they have all involved plumbing.  (drip, drip, drip) The tough ones are deceiving.  They appear to be simple half hour jobs and yet somehow they are magically transformed into an odyssey that requires an attitude adjustment, two hours of YouTube instructional videos, a part that is on back order, and schematics designed by engineers…for engineers. (drip, drip, drip)  I think I just realized that maybe I don’t understand my limitations.  However I’m not talking about installing a new furnace, or rewiring our house.  The latest task was…wait for it…fixing a dripping faucet in the girl’s bathroom.  Seriously, now that you know the repair, would you expect the fix to take…two UPS shipments, and seventeen days?  It’s important to highlight the fact that even though it appears I’m in denial about my capabilities…I didn’t discontinue the model of our faucet, I didn’t decide to only label the schematics in Chinese, Latin, and Mayan, or take the replacement parts off retailer’s shelves…I did however turn off the hot water in that bathroom until the parts arrived because the drip became a small stream after the third time I partially took the faucet apart (see learning curve for details).  So every day it wasn’t fixed…there was more of a sense of urgency to do so.

Several years ago we remodeled our home.  Our bathrooms were rebuilt from the studs…by studs.  I say that because they did a great job.  I draw the line at totally rebuilding a room because frankly that kind of construction project takes a lot of knowledge, resources, and time.  Time that I need to devote to working so that I can pay for the stinking upgrade!  I’d love to do a project like that, but I’d also love to keep my marriage, keep my job, keep my sanity, and the list goes on. 

So the new faucets were all higher end Brizo Faucets by Delta which look like this.  They’re nice…when they aren’t dripping.

 

 

They come with a lifetime warranty.  Our model was discontinued sometime between installation and malfunction.  So Delta replaced the bad parts for free.  That makes the repair inexpensive, but we had to wait for them to fill, ship, and deliver the order, which takes about ten days.  Thanks to technology upgrades in plumbing you don’t simply replace a washer to stop a leak.  The top of the handle slides off revealing a set screw, unscrew the set screw to take off the handle.  That leaves the inverted bell shaped thingy (in the schematic it’s called a 鐘形片) I had to unscrew the bell from the base.  That reveals a cartridge that is held in place by another part that screws…since I didn’t do this installation I didn’t know the bell had been cemented to the base with clear calk.  So my attempt at unscrewing had me a little… screwed.  The bell wouldn’t budge so I was stuck, and puzzled.  Could the schematic be wrong?  I was forced to regroup.  After two trips to Economy Plumbing for advice, a pair of vice grips, and some choice words, I was able to separate the base from…my life which revealed the cartridge.  Under the cartridge was a spring and a rubber ball like thing.  Thanks to my first UPS shipment I could replace the spring, ball, and cartridge.  Then I screwed everything back in place, slid on the handle, set screw, cap, and…presto change, no drip.  I get to undo it again in ten days when the new bell comes in.  At least now I know what I’m doing. 

Each time I worked on that drip I had to clean everything out from under the cabinet. That way I could get under the sink to bang my head and wrench my neck.  I didn’t realize the cabinet had accumulated so much stuff.  There were two hair dryers (two?) A curling iron, a flattening iron(?)…why the curling iron if you need a flattening iron?…two rags, tampons, pads, sponges (the cleaning variety), toilet cleaner, Clorox wipes, half of a fresh water clam shell, fifteen swear words, some of my thinning hair, and several hours of lost productivity.  The last three are relatively new additions.

Pets Part 1

February 25, 2010

Driving home from ballet yesterday Grace was talking about the cute little lap dogs she wants.  I would interject, “When you move out you mean?” with a smile.  She would ignore that comment and continue on about these little dog hybrids and how badly we need one.   I can see it now; she’ll be walking down the streets of Manhattan with a little dog in a big purse.  The dog will be wearing a hat, cape, and go go boots.  It will have one of those names like Mrs. D.  It will only eat a certain type of food from a can and only when Grace feeds it to her with a certain spoon.  It will develop skin allergies and lose all of its hair.  The vet bill to fix this with steroids and follicle implants will be more than she makes dancing for SAB, but that’s OK.  She takes a third job to pay that bill and together they live happily ever after.

Then the conversation shifted to accusations that I hate all animals because I won’t drive right then to buy her this little furry bundle of love.  I hate animals?  Why do we have two cats?  We’ve had dogs, other cats, snakes, hamsters, and fish.  I don’t hate animals.  I have a full schedule and it doesn’t include adding more responsibilities to the list.  I’m not a pet person right now.  I don’t want to have to let dogs in, out, clean up after them, and feed them.  “I will,” she said sincerely.  Yeah she will for a week or less and then it’s on me.  We’ve done this experiment time and time again and it always comes back to me so…when you live in New York and you are dancing for SAB you can have a Puggle, Wiggle, Fuggle,  Piggle or any of the list of little shark bait dogs and I will visit it.

As a kid we had four dogs.  The first, Coco, was a brown poodle who didn’t mind.  The only way we could get it to come in the house was for me to run around yelling “charge!”  It would eventually follow me and I’d run in the house.  Once when we were visiting my grandmother Coco ran next door, knocked down a little girl, and bit her arm.  It was nothing serious…just a nip.  After that he took a ride with my dad and never returned.  Then they bought a poodle who behaved.  We named her coco # 2…because the kids were in charge of naming her.  We had cats.  I saw kittens born.  We had a Samoyed.  Those are white sled dogs.  She was hit by a car in front of our house, in the winter, on a snowy day.  I witnessed it.  Then our house burned to the ground and Coco # 2 and all of the other pets perished. 

My kids have seen their share of heart ache when it comes to our pets.  Nick, our lab, died of a heart attack in front of them.  That was…a life lesson.  Our coolest cat Henry was killed by a hawk on Father’s day.  Our oldest pet Tater just went to the white light earlier this month.  He was 22.  Yep he lived a long, grumpy life.  The older he grew, the grumpier he became.  He was older than Grace and Carly.  He missed Henry.  After Henry was buried Tater began this annoying habit of howling.  Not a normal cat howl.  This was more like a dying wolf.  It started low and would build like a storm siren.  It jolted you out of bed at three AM like a storm siren too.  Some times he’d do it when I was on a business call.  The person on the other line would always say, “Do you need to evacuate?” or “What is that sound?  Is everything OK?”  I’d cover by saying, “They are testing the sprinkler system in our office building.”  Tater had a stroke.  I had to use an axe to cut through the frozen tundra and bury him in a short ceremony in the back yard.  We are left with two cats, Tina and Tyler.  We rescued them when they were two weeks old.  We bottle fed them along with their brother Tim.  Tim lives with my brother…Tom and his kids.  Don’t worry none of them have names that start with a “T”.  It’s a hassle to keep the girls on task with the litter box.  I’m over the pet experience.  I like fish.  They are like living art and when they die…you flush them end of story.

Valentine Hints & Jane Seymour

February 11, 2010

Jane Seymour’s ‘Open Heart Collection’ is based on designs Jane developed several years ago through a series of watercolors titled “Open Hearts” from her “Healing Hearts” collection of original paintings.  If you buy this for your loved one this Valentine’s Day do me a favor, before you wrap it up, take it to your favorite river or lake, tie it onto your favorite fishing rod, bait it with a night crawler, and cast it in.  I bet you catch a fish.  Then it will be too slimy and covered in penetrating fish smell to give to your special person.  You should then go back to the store and buy something that isn’t so god awful.  I’m glad Jane’s career has been so successful that she can take up a hobby like water color painting.  I’ve seen the open hearts paintings.  They would look wonderful stuck to anyone’s fridge with tape or a magnet.  Even better if there was a palm print in the lower right hand corner accompanied with a sloppy first name signature.  It’s not that I hold a grudge, I don’t.  I call it as I see it and these paintings are nothing more than a doodle found in any kindergarten class.  This jewelry inspired by those panting is best used as bait…for fish…not women.  I like her little saying, “If your heart is open love will always find it’s way in.”  That works for me.  It sounds a little soft when you say it out loud, but if you live by it…not a bad thing.  Selling a set of bad jewelry priced from $40.00 to $3000.00 because of it…different story.  If you do happen to by the ring priced at $3000.00 I have one question for you.  Is your name Flav o Flav or are you in some kind of trouble with your wife?  If you’re Flav…OK I can see it.  This has rap bling written all over it.  Seriously you should see it… here’s the link  http://bit.ly/aobPhp look at the one on the left and tell me that doesn’t have clueless NBA star written all over it!  The one on the right looks to me like something an ex boxer would buy.  If you are spending $3000.00 on this ring because you are in love please get a second opinion.  Actually here are a few hints you should try.  Following them will help you avoid the need to make this purchase on Valentines Day. 

  • Do a little house work.  Helping around the house works like an aphrodisiac!  Trust me on this.  I’ve been married for twenty years.  I know it works.
    • A Swiffer is very easy to use.  Just put on the little static cloth and push it around your house.  You may have to clean it off after each room or just throw it away and get a clean one. 
    • Occasionally empty the dish washer.
    • For the more advanced – Learn how to separate lights from darks and do a little laundry
    • Pick a night each week to cook a nice, simple meal.  Then clean up after your self.  Make breakfast on a weekend morning…even breakfast for dinner works.
  • Tell your wife/girlfriend you love her every day.
  • Tell her she’s sexy.  If you don’t think she is….did you marry her at gun point?  If you’re not married…find someone else.  If she isn’t sexy or pretty to you now…she won’t grow into it!  Leave on Feb 15th.  If you don’t then you’ll be miserable and that’s not good.  Just ask John Edwards wife.
  • Every once in a while rather than watching sports, watch something she wants to watch.
  • Leave her love notes.
  • Romance is like saffron…just a little goes a long way, but it’s so worth it.
  • Surprise her with a treat several times a year.  I don’t mean something that’s in your pants….something else…it doesn’t have to be expensive…it may be a cupcake…just something different.  Even if you are the busiest man on the planet you have time for this…trust me….I’m telling you… it’s an aphrodisiac!

I’m not saying give up your masculinity.  I am saying appreciate her.  Why else are you with her?    If you make her feel special through out the year then Valentines Day becomes a no pressure, fun day.  You won’t have to take her out to eat in a restaurant packed with amateurs who are paying twice the price for a limited menu.  You won’t be stressing over jewelry, she’ll be fine with the little heart shaped candies and a card.  Even if you have a limited amount of time, you can make it fun.  You could even make your own card and she’ll think it’s special because you were visualizing love when you made it.  Don’t think I’m going all Martha Stewart on you I’m not.  You can use crayons and printer paper…just make it from your heart not Jane Seymour’s. 

If your name is Flav o Flav, Eminem, or any other rap artist that sounds like food, follow the link and hints listed above and …Jane Seymour says…peace out!

Coffee, Zest, Blocks & Stalls

February 4, 2010

His glasses were so crooked they formed a diagonal line pointing across his face from his temple to his ear lobe.  I haven’t seen glasses worn like that since Grace played dress up as a three year old.  Was this a test?  Was he baiting me?  Should I pluck the glasses off his face, straighten them, and put them back on him…with a straight face no pun intended?  It was hard to take him seriously yet the conversation was just that.  Finding your passion, living with zest, eliminating blocks and stalls from your life.  So you can achieve your goals and thrive.  He was a life coach and he spoke with passion while wearing crooked glasses.  I wasn’t paying him for this lecture.  I hadn’t signed up for his seminar.  He wasn’t my coach until I sat down at the table next to him inside the Borders on the corner of Randolph and State streets in downtown Chicago. 

I believe God sends people into our life for a reason.  He sent this gentleman, Dr Richard Talsky motivational lecturer extraordinaire, to me.  I had a fresh cup of coffee and no where to go for the next hour and a half.  He seemed entertaining, insightful, and passionate.  So much to my wife’s chagrin I listed to his teachings while she studied grad school stuff across the table from me.  I was as much held captive as I was captivated because I already believed everything he was preaching.  There are random times these days when my motivation lacks high octane drive, but I do a lot more than just get by.  That day I’d planned on writing a blog about zest and as luck would have it, he was teaching, preaching, to me about it.  My blog had more to do with the opposite of his lecture, but irony is good, God is good.  Dr Talsky has good intentions, so for that hour and a half I became a student.

He was the poster child for the word savant.  Smart guy, disheveled look, books piled around him in disarray.  I can’t confirm this, but it looked like he was using the Borders as a library.  There were easily ten books, two magazines, and one newspaper scattered around him on the table.  He was studying about successful business people like Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple.  He wanted to know their philosophy on business and how they cultivate that special zest that separates them from everyone else. 

He told me he was renting a turn of the century theatre on Chicago’s west side.  That theatre would become the epicenter for all things motivational.  People would flock there to hear all types of successful people teach about zest.  I’m sure they would serve only the best popcorn at the snack bar…ok I made that up.  Any way this will be the only theatre of it’s kind…all motivation…all the time.  I bet it the resulting positive energy will cast light in that neighborhood 24/7.  He believes the area will become a cultural haven for zest.  One of the components for spreading the word is a radio show on WIND 820 AM.  He also has a web site for all things positive, http://www.thewowcenter.com.  He has a vision of the cost, the profit, the future.  He has eliminated the blocks and stalls that prevent success.  He wants me to eliminate blocks and stalls that hold me back from experiencing my ultimate success.  At this point my wife and everyone around us want me to eliminate the blocks and stalls that are preventing me from breaking it off with Dr Talsky so that he will go back to studying quietly.

He is a published author.  His book, 50 Ways to Thrive, is available for $15.00.  I didn’t have cash, so I bought a Borders gift card for $15.00 and gave that to him for a copy of the book, which he signed.  My wife sighed.  I didn’t care.  I want him to reach his goals.  I want to see him on Oprah discussing the 50 Ways to Thrive.  I want him to notice that all wildly successful people wear glasses horizontally across their face.

Movers & Shakers

September 25, 2009

Call me judgmental, but nothing says “white trash movers” like the bed of a pick up truck piled to the sky with family items.  I’m not talking about moving a TV or a washer and dryer.  You know the look, a mountain of possessions pieced together a bad game of Jenga and held in place with 900 feet of rope effectively cocooning the items in place until they hit a big bump.  They always have one or two chairs precariously balanced on the side defying gravity with other possessions nested in the seat. There is a bike, stroller, or a car seat sitting on the top effectively crowning pile.  Since Houdini didn’t tie the knot that holds everything in place you see that random bark-o-lounger on the side of the road.  I always wonder who was behind the truck when it was jettisoned from the pile.  What kind if evasive action did they have to take?  One minute your singing a little Dave Matthews, “Place them in a box until a quieter time…lights down you up and…crap!  A chair!”  Screeeeech!

I thought my days of needing to phone a friend with a truck were long gone.  Then my wife went to grad school.  She spent the first semester living forty-five minutes from campus with my mom.  As school progressed it became obvious that she needed to live closer.  She broke it to me slowly one night on the phone.  “I’m moving to Ft Wayne.  Check your schedule and let me know what weekend works best for you, the sooner the better.”  OK I may be paraphrasing it a little.  So last weekend with the help of a friend and his truck I moved my 49 year old wife in with two, twenty something class mates.  She’s the house mom.  They have a girl pad…which sounds wrong now that I say it out loud.  They are actually really nice.

I was looking at the move with a mild case of dread because it was the two men and a truck method of moving.  My friend wasn’t that thrilled either because…he’s the guy with the truck.  He owed me some favors so…at eight AM Sunday morning he pulled up ready for a fun day of Sanford & Son.  Our list of items was small and included one head board, one foot board, a queen sized mattress and box spring, and an old oak dresser that we used for Halloween costume storage.  The dresser came with the house my wife bought before we met.  Both the house and the dresser were…um…fixer uppers.  There were actually two dressers that matched.  Together the dressers were worth slightly less than the house.  OK that’s a little strong.  The house was worth much more unless the dressers were full of clothes.  Then it was a tie.  We sold the house 17 years ago and kept the dressers if that tells you anything.  The bed is nice.

The mattress and box spring were wider than the bed of the truck so they were placed at a slight angle.  The dresser was placed on top, facing drawers up. The bright side, we didn’t have pots and pans bungeed to the side of the dresser.  Everything was secured in place with ratchet straps, because we are advanced white trash.  When you have ratchet straps you have security.  I thought about creating the illusion that we’d tied everything down with a garden hose, but that idea was vetoed.  We checked and rechecked the straps, dresser, and bed…all checked out.  We headed up I-69 for Ft Wayne.  My wife was behind us in her little red Yaris  hauling the smaller items and a bike on a bike rack.  She looked trendy we looked…the part.  Somewhere between Anderson and the north Muncie exit, mid conversation, the dresser flew out of the back of the truck at 70 mph.  I had no idea.  I was a passenger.  I had no rear view mirror.  I was the one talking.  My friend broke it to me with all of the subtly of a shot gun blast.  The cars and semi behind us took evasive action.   Thankfully no one was hurt and nothing was damaged….except the dresser which exploded on impact.  So did my bowels.  I became the idiot you see running after loose furniture on the side of the interstate.  The next time you pass a chair or a dresser on the side of the road and you wonder who the hell does something that stupid.  You’re looking at him.  We should have used rope and duct tape.

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