Archive for the ‘Psychology’ Category

Stuck In a Well With Moonshiners

February 23, 2013

In June we had our well pump replaced by the guys from J & L Well & Pump Service.  I’m pretty sure their relatives are Jim Tom, Tickle, and the boys from Moonshiners.  They dress like them, talk like them, and their dental programs seem to be more reactive than proactive.  The head of J & L’s crew is a… tooth challenged guy named Leon.  Leon is the “L” in J & L. He told me so with a thick southern Indiana drawl that rolled off his tongue and out of the hole between missing teeth. Leon called me Craig. (When you say Craig you should put heavy emphasis on the “ai” sound…Craiiiiig) 

If you’ve never seen Moonshiners the concept for this show is similar to several other Discover Channel reality shows that rely heavily on the personalities and extreme circumstances of the characters and their extreme profession.  If you’ve seen Deadliest Catch, Swamp People, Ax Men, or Bering Sea Gold you know what I’m talking about.  Who wouldn’t like a show about avoiding the cops while brewing illegal high octane sour mash whiskey in some random woods that is 50 miles south of indoor plumbing and 180 miles west of common sense?  I know of one…my daughter Grace.  She will tell you without hesitation that I have a problem. Southern accents, overalls, and moonshine are not her cup of…sweet tea.  Refusing to allow myself to be governed by the rants of a sixteen year old…I tune in.    My dad’s side of our family is from a small town named Acorn, Kentucky.  Acorn is in the heart of moonshining country down in a holler near Summerset.  Having been there I’ve witnessed firsthand our moonshining relatives in their native habitat.  Watching the show is a trip down memory lane.  To me it is an hour of mindless entertainment… combined with the possibility of connecting with a lost relative.

It appears that cool spring water is important in the brewing process.  Wait a minute!  We are on a well…we have cool spring water pouring from our taps. My mind began to wander…after all…the Acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree! 

Then it all changed.

Saturday morning I kissed the Phelps women good bye.  Grace went off to ballet class and my wife left for a day of work in the ER. (Treating people like Jim Tom and Tickle)  I had a date with our apple trees.  Winter is the time of year to prune apple trees.  Pruning improves apple growth in the summer.  While I’m in the midst of pruning I’m usually inspired to have a talk with God about life, love, and all things good.  As I was pruning nature called so I went back into the house.  I went to the faucet.  Not one drop of cool spring water came from the tap. Our neighborhood is prone to power outages.  I glanced at the clock. It was working…that could only mean one thing.  Something was up with our well…again!  I naively thought that once the pump was fixed in June we would have another twenty plus years of cool clean goodness pouring from each faucet.  Wrong!

I called Leon the pump guy aka Jim Tom.  With assistants who mirrored the cast from Moonshiners in tow he showed up and began to diagnose the problem…He turned on the faucet.  ”Hell it looks like you ain’t got NO water.”  Then he hooked up a meter and did some electrical voodoo on the pump wires.   It seemed that our current problem was lectrical in nature. “Dat ware (wire) dat run from da foundation to da pump …done gone bad.”  In no time they transformed part of our yard and front porch into a mud bog and found the problem wasn’t the ware it was the pump.  Luckily the pump had a two year warranty.  There was one slight problem…Moonshiners don’t honor warranties.  Showing them the receipt seemed to me to be the logical step.  The problem, Moonshiners aren’t logical.  They argued, they pondered, they strategized, and they argued some more.  Eventually I had to forcefully point out that I paid them $2300.00 in June to do the job right and they needed to make good on that work.  Day three without water had become a pain.  We showered away from home.  Grace went to a friend’s house, I went to the gym, and my wife was in the ER taking sponge baths with patients…ok not really.  I can tell you she wasn’t taking sponge baths with me because…we had no water.  Days without water at my house had a limiting effect on “sponge baths”…if you know what I mean.  As if I didn’t have enough incentive to get the water hooked up before…I certainly did now. 

Later that afternoon they came to the door to talk payment again…which had grown to $1250.  My friend, neighbor, and attorney happened to drive by as we debated the reality of this payment.  I pointed to the car and said, “There goes my attorney.  I’d hate to have to get him involved.” Jim Tom turned to the crew of two and motioned. They started packing up.  The dead pump lay lifelessly next to one of the mud piles that surrounded our well.  Frustrated I went inside to call other well companies to get their opinion on pump warranties.

As I was on the phone the moonshiners took off with my new pump …and my old pump! I called the police.  I called my attorney.  I called the moonshiners to negotiate.  Then I called out to God asking what had happened to the peace, love, and good will we discussed Saturday morning as I stood cradled in the braches of my apple trees! 

This was beyond ridiculous!  I’d begun drawing water for flushing from the nearby crik (creek).  We had jugs of water for cooking and drinking.  Without running water our lifestyle had begun to transform into that of an Appalachian shanty dweller.  Suddenly whittling and playing the banjo by candle light had a strange appeal. Oh my god I was becoming one of them! 

Then Jim Tom and the boys came back with a new attitude and a new pump.  My wife, armed with a double barrel shotgun and a fresh wad of chewing tobacco had a different opinion of how this would play out.  She stood on the porch and hollered at them to git (get) their sorry asses off our land…then she spit and took aim…ok that didn’t happen.  Here is the truth.  They broke something in the well shaft while installing the new pump and left us at the end of the day without water.  I fired them and called in the cavalry…aka Hamilton Brothers, Inc.  They arrived the next day as I was making rabbit stew and sloppin the pigs…ok not really…I had plenty of slop, but no pigs…I’d fired them the night before.  The new guys tossed out a flurry of sarcastically tinged rhetorical questions about the moonshiner’s quality of workmanship. Then they got to work.  After four hours of work with high pressure tools and hydraulic wenches they came to the door with news.  The well had been rendered useless, by Jim Tom and the boys.  We had two choices; drill a new well for $6,000.00 or hook up to city water for what turned out to be $3900.00.  I was beyond pissed. 

Later that day as I was sitting at my dining room table discussing the process of hooking up to city water with my wife and our licensed and bonded contractor (that’s important) when Jim Tom called back.  He wanted to let me know that they’d be taking me to court to collect the money I owed for the new pump and the work they’d done.  He also wanted me to know that firing them had voided the warranty on that pump. At that point my calm disposition left the building.  I said, “Listen to me you fucking hill jack, if you call our house one more time I’m going to grab that pump, take it to your house, and shove it up your ass in front of your fat toothless wife.”  Then I hung up and looked over at my wife and the contractor and said, “I’m sorry, where were we?”  He didn’t bat an eye.  

Jim Tom called back.  I let it roll to voicemail.  Then Carly called from Chicago.  She’d been mugged by four teenagers.  She wasn’t hurt but, she was shaken and crying.  Suddenly everything that had just happened was put into perspective.  This episode with Jim Tom and our Moonshiners needed to become water under the bridge.  There were more important things in life that needed my attention.

 

 

Where the Wild Things Are

September 27, 2011

One evening recently I was working on my computer when Grace shrieked and in a panicked voice called for me to quickly come over and kill a bug.  The Phelps women hate bugs in the house.  Especially anything that might be a spider…I say might because two of the three Phelps women wear glasses.  If they aren’t wearing them at the time…anything including the cat looks like a spider.  Grace doesn’t wear glasses.  So when I got there and saw what it was…the term, “overreact much?” came to mind.  I could understand it if she was calling me to get rid of some rain forest freak of nature or a killer mantis from a 1960’s horror movie.  However this wasn’t a mutant 350 pound cricket with the voice of Barry White.  It was your standard half inch cricket, not rabid, carnivorous, or venomous.  Thanks to one of our killer cats this little guy was missing both hind legs.  So he couldn’t even kick to defend himself.  He was an emasculated cricket who was reduced to crawling around with his stubby front legs like a beetle.  None of that seemed to matter to my five foot seven inch, sure footed, dancer.  She wanted me to send him to the white light post haste.  I didn’t kill him.  I like the way they sing at night.  I picked him up and tossed him out in the back yard to sing for his supper.  If he was a millipede, different story,  I’d have smashed him in a…Tell Tale Heart…beat.

My grandmother was the Anne Oakley of Greene County.  She bought fur from the trappers, butchered chickens, processed deer, and yet she was scared to death of snakes.  Her mother chewed tobacco, dried it on the window ledge, and smoked it in a pipe.  So she wasn’t raised by softies, but the sight of a snake, even one the size of an earth worm, made her scream like a high maintenance debutante.  They must have sensed her fear because every summer at least one would end up sneaking in into her house.  She found them in her bath tub, curled around her sewing machine, and curled in the branches of an indoor tree like a baby boa.  I think they were trying to say, “Embrace us.  We will eat your mice.”  She never got their message, but she gave them one at the top of her lungs.  I’m sure her scream could be heard all the way in Brown County.  After she recovered from the initial shock she would flip them out the door and show them the business end of a garden hoe.  “Take that you no good varmint”, she’d say.  Then she’d fling it out in the field.  There were so many snakes on her farm the dead snake probably landed on one of the live one’s who were lining up to take his place.  When I was little I remember thinking, “Never tell her I don’t like liver and onions.  I could end up like the snake.”

Several nights after our cricket episode the Phelps women were sewing while watching some show about murder.  My wife loves those shows, Unsolved Mystery, Criminal Minds, Forensic Files.   She’s a walking encyclopedia of ways to kill your spouse.  Paul Simon sings that song, Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover.  Keely could kill me fifty different ways and have fifty more to use on the next husband.  Not only does she know ways to do me in, she can sew a tasteful burial cloak too.  It’s no wonder she got along so well with Grandma Mengele, the snake killer.  A stitch in time…kills nine.  So as they watched the latest episode of murder by numbers (while taking notes) they heard a high pitched whine.  It grew louder and louder until they saw one of our cats with a mouse in its mouth.  Keely opened the door to the screen porch.  The cat ran out and dropped the mouse.  Thinking the mouse was dead, she picked him up in a towel.  Carly looked at him, cried a little, and named it Mickey.  That mouse needs to thank they were wearing glasses that night.  Just then Mickey opened its eyes, leaped to the floor, and began scurrying around the porch.  Carly opened the door and it scampered off into the night only to trip over a legless cricket and break its neck…kidding…or am I? Mwa hahahah!

The Spy Who Dumped Me

February 18, 2010

Keely’s oldest sister, Cheryl seemed to be living the dream.  She met a guy named Al when she was twenty.  They fell in love.  Her parents didn’t like him because he was…Catholic.  Yeah I hear the gasps.  I’m not sure what their issue was with the Catholics….world domination?  No they were from a small town, Newark, Ohio.  This was after Russian Missile Crisis by a couple of years so world domination wasn’t an issue.  It may have had to do with the fact that Catholics gambled at church or drank openly.  Some religions prefer to keep those things under wraps.  It’s a sin if you do it in public.  If you do it at home or at a private club…they won’t judge you, but judge the Catholics all you want. 

This all took place back in the early sixties.  Cheryl is older than Keely by more than a decade so she was more like an aunt/big sister than a sister who grew up with her.  Al and Cheryl moved to the suburbs of Washington DC where she worked for the FBI.  He worked as an agent for the CIA with some type of Top Secret clearance.  He couldn’t really tell you what he did, but it involved a lot of high level sneaking around in different countries.  When unrest would happen around the world he would kiss Cheryl on the cheek and disappear for months with out communication.  Then he would return, go through debriefing, call her on his shoe phone to let her know he was back, and they would resume their suburban life.  I tried to speak with him about it once.  Since he really couldn’t tell me what he did he told me that he was constantly going through debriefing and background checks and different clearances.  I’m sure he was thoroughly interrogated once they saw him talking with me.  I was doing stand up at the time and George Bush senior made for good fodder.  I took a box of matches from a bartending job once too.  In the spy world you can’t associate with a known match thief who bad mouth’s the president.  I’m sure he was water boarded for hours. 

From what I could tell he led the life of a Tom Clancy novel…without all of the fist fights or hot actresses.  When Keely introduced us I said, “You could kill me with your pen right now couldn’t you.”  Then his shoe rang and he had to leave town.  OK I made up the part about a shoe phone.  I’m sure his phone was implanted in his brain or doubles as a button.

Cheryl struck me as a little too dingy to work for the FBI.  She came to visit once.  She drove from DC.  She called from the car and said she was lost driving around Indianapolis and needed directions.  I asked where she was and it turns out…she was in Columbus OH.  She had been driving around the wrong city, in the wrong state, for an hour, without noticing.  That’s when I asked, “Does she work for the FBI?”

Eventually Al grew tired of sneaking around the world so they took early retirement and moved to a golf course community in North Carolina.  He consulted while Cheryl …learned to read maps.  Anyway she developed coordination issues and after many tests was diagnosed with ALS.  Weeks later Al left her for his sister-in-law in Chicago.  Apparently even though he was retired the top secret missions continued…at his brother’s house!  I’m sure it started out innocently.  He thought she was a Russian operative with a top secret vagina that needed further investigation.  He interrogated her at some clandestine hotel in an evening filled with Hummer’s, hand cuffs, and other military hardware used in this type of espionage.  Man!  Some guys buy red sports cars others…do their brother’s wife!  They fell into lust and he packed up and moved at a time when his wife needed him most.  Her health is deteriorating and so are his morals.  Ironic that he worked in intelligence his entire life yet shows a certain lack of it now that he’s retired.

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.

Grandmas & Pat Boone

January 28, 2010

During the Nutcracker I got to know most of the parents of the young dancers. One little girl was always accompanied by her grandmother.  The mom was non existent.  I thought it was so cool that the Grandmother took such an active roll in her granddaughter’s life.  One Saturday afternoon I was sitting with Grace outside the third floor studio in Lilly Hall.  There was a break between rehearsals.  The Butler students had left the building. The young dancers and parents hung out, ate lunch, and chatted.  The elevator door opened and the little girl’s mom stepped out in an outfit that was …tragic at best.  She was trying to reclaim youth that….had also left the building…years ago.  She seemed startled at the laughing kids.  As she navigated the hall she looked at them like they were piles of dog poop in the back yard.  Later that day she belittled her mom, the helpful grandma, in front of me and the stage manager.  She accused her of being unorganized, less than helpful, and a bunch of other garbage.  The distasteful barrage was reminiscent of a tantrum thrown by a spoiled thirteen year old.  I couldn’t believe it.  I had the grandma’s email address.  After the verbal flogging I sent her an email saying I thought she was doing a great job.  I didn’t see that woman again until the week of the shows.  She was an ass during that week too.

Apparently I endeared myself to the grandmother because she started sending me emails.  They weren’t personal emails.  They were the ones you get that say, “Microsoft is giving away a free vacation to Disney if you forward this email to everyone in the world”.  Or…”Traffic cops in California were using a radar gun to catch speeders when an Air Force jet on a training exercise locked onto the gun, thought it was enemy radar, and nearly fired missiles at the cops”.  You know the emails.  You get them too.  If there was a fake news story circulating on the web, she would send it to me with a note saying, I thought you should know this.  Today she sent me one that said Barack Obama is anti Christian.  It was a speech by Pat Boone…the singer.  First of all I thought Pat was dead.  Apparently just his career died.  As proof of our president’s anti Christian views Pat’s speech sites quotes from speeches Mr. Obama has given around the world like this, “You might say that America is a Muslim nation.”- President Barack Obama, Egypt 2009.  I love quotes that are taken out of context.  Kennedy said, “Ich bin ein Berliner” He was a Berliner?  What a commie!  What was President Obama supposed to say when he was in Egypt trying to find common ground with a different culture?  Should he have said, “You’re not welcome in America unless you eat happy meals and drive a Ford F150?”  My first reaction was to send her that picture of Pat Boone in leather from his heavy metal CD, No More Mr Nice Guy. (See photo below) I thought about adding a caption that said, “Jesus died for his sins”.  Apparently Pat wasn’t talented enough to write his own metal songs so in 1997 he covered songs from Guns N Roses, AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Metallica, and Judas Priest in an attempt to revive his career.  You know Christian artists.  He wore the dog collar, leather, and fake tattoos on stage because that outfit is commonly associated with god fearing Southern Baptists.  Now he should wear a straight jacket because he’s crazy if he thinks I’m buying into this publicity stunt.

I’d like to turn the table on her.  The next time she orders a frosty for her granddaughter I could say, “She only feeds her granddaughter Frosties.  See, here is a photo of her buying one at a Wendy’s on 86th street on January 28th.  The poor child needs real nourishment”!  I could also remind her that America is a melting pot.  I could show her that there are Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, Atheists, Jews (several danced in the Nutcracker!) and a host of other cultures.  I should remind her that the Pledge of Allegiance ends by saying, “With Liberty and Justice for All” – key word – ALL which includes bone heads like Pat Boone, Pat Robertson,  spamming grandmas…

The Boys of Fall

September 26, 2009

About 6 years ago I was raking leaves in the fall when a pack of boys Carly’s age came walking down the street tossing a football.  I heard my mom’s voice, “Please play touch. No one needs to get hurt.”  The truth is any time a group of boys get together someone may get hurt.  It has nothing to do with sports.  If there are five boys in a room full of feathers one of them could end up with a quill sticking out of his eye.  We played touch if the game was up near the house where parents could see.  We always played with three rules.  Defense had a five apple rush and no blitzes.  The offense couldn’t use running plays.  Running plays led to an endless string of touchdowns which took all of the challenge and fun out of the game.  A five apple rush is this; you have to count out loud, one apple, two apple, three apple, four apple, five apple, before you rush the quarterback.  It made up for no blocking.  Those are really universal rules for any sand lot game, any where in the country.  The count may change from apples to Mississippi’s, but everything else is the same.

Playing football in a house full of ballerinas just doesn’t happen.  My girls love to watch it, but that is where it ends.  I felt the need to get grass stained and sweaty.  When they made it to our yard I said, “Are you done playing or going to play?”  They said, “Waiting on some other guys before we play.”  I really wanted to play. I went straight for the justification. I can rake these leaves Monday evening. So I said,” Come get me if you need another player.”  One of them said, “Mr Phelps, you’re funny”.  I said, “Seriously, come get me if you need another guy.”  They never showed.  The following week there were even more of them walking down the street with football in hand.  Again I was raking.  Again I felt the tugging of childhood. So I threw out the offer…again.  They stopped, “Seriously?”  I said, “Yeah!  I wouldn’t offer if I was kidding.”  “OK Mr. Phelps we’ll call you before we play”. They agreed just because they are nice.  I had just finished raking when my wife came outside saying, “Some boys from the neighborhood want to know if you can come down and play football?”  She thought it was cute.  I thought it was cool.  I’ve known them since they were in preschool.  Now they were old enough I didn’t have to worry about hurting anyone.  On my way out the door she said, “Honey, please don’t play tackle.”  It had come full circle. 

Our neighborhood has a creek that runs along one border.  The homes that line that creek have perfect back yards for football.  I walked down there wearing a T-shirt about ballet, jeans, and tennis shoes.  I wasn’t even thinking about it.  That’s what I was wearing to rake leaves.  They were all dressed in NFL jerseys and athletic shorts.  I could tell by the looks it was like showing up wearing black socks and dress shoes.  Half the kids were from our neighborhood and the other half were school friends who rode their bikes or were dropped off by parents.  I think our neighborhood kids were embarrassed.   “Ballet shirt?  Jeans?”  Wisdom taught me that at this stage of my life, Russian Pointe shoes at $85.00 a pop, are a better investment than a Polamalu jersey.  I was picked last.  Truth be told I was picked at all because they felt sorry for me.  The dad who lived there came out and tried to convince me not to play.  He was permanently on the “Physically unable to perform” list.  Said another way, he was too old to play.   He wanted me to be too.  He tried to talk the kids into making me the all time quarterback so I wouldn’t get hurt.  I knew him.  I like him.  I said, “Bill I’m not ready for the wrinkle ranch.  I came down here to have fun.”  He mumbled, “Make sure you guys play touch,” and went back inside.  I had a blast.  Mr Ballerina shirt could still play ball.  They saw me as something more than a stale dad.  I came home dirty, wet with sweat, the knees ripped out of my jeans, and the feeling of youth in my heart.  It sounds funny, but I was happy to be accepted.  I hadn’t been one of the guys, since college.  Carly thought it was funny.  They talked about it on the way to school Monday.  “Your dad can play!”  From that point forward I was on the list.  Friday night we went to the high school football games and every Sunday the phone rang.  My wife would answer, smile, and say, “The boys want to know if you can play.”  For the last five years we played.  This year it ended.  Most of them have responsibilities that come with getting older.   Others went in a less productive direction.  For a while I was given a second chance at childhood, another opportunity to be one of the boys.  It was cool.

football

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.

 SSPX0133[1]

Protesting a High School

September 23, 2009

This week Carly’s high school is being picked by the members of a church because of a play they are staging.  I’ll let you digest that one for a minute…a school of kids…will be picketed …by adults from a “faith” based organization.

I’m all about faith.  I should get that out in the open right now.  I believe in the golden rule.  I teach my kids to live with love and treat people they way they wish to be treated.  Ask and ye shall receive – we live it, practice it, believe it.

This group has a bee in their bonnet because our high school is producing The Laramie Project.  This is a play about the brutal slaying of a gay University of Wyoming student and how it impacted an entire community.  They have a problem with the gay part of that play.  Not the beating part…and here’s the kicker.  It’s not a local church.  These “God loving souls” are driving from Topeka, Kansas to the north side of Indy because they are so offended by the content of this presentation.  We’ve been warned by the school that it’s going down…so to speak.  Maybe they can warm up by picketing one of the adult book stores along the way.  Those book stores are popping up along the interstates like rainbows in a gay pride parade.  I bet we passed 5 or 6 on I-65 south between Indy and the ABT summer intensive this summer.  No family trip is complete without a quick stop at the “Lions Den” for furry handcuffs and an X rated copy of, Woody the Wood Pecker.  OK…I’m going to hell for that.

This church must have someone who monitors the internet in search of sinners.  Talk about job security!  Seriously though how else did they find out about this play?  They must have some type of software that locates sinners using gaydar because Topeka is no where near the north side of Indy.  I Googled Topeka…yes it is now included in Google maps…just barely…but it’s there.  Topeka to Indy is 544 miles.  They also said it’s eight hours and twenty-two minutes by car.  I’m not sure how long it takes by Conestoga wagon or what ever time machine they are using.  Let me say that again, “Eight hours and twenty-two minutes away…by car”.  The twenty-two minutes are probably spent stuck in traffic on 86th St. between Meridian and Westfield Blvd.  I have a tip for all of you picketers.  Just incase you are monitoring me now that I have a kid who is going to hell for attending said high school.  You guys and gals should avoid 86th street and come around on 465 to the Keystone exit and then go west on Keystone.  After you’re done picketing there is some really great Satan free shopping at Keystone at the Crossing just east of the school.  However they do have Victoria’s Secret.  It’s common knowledge that lacy panties lead to fornication.  So you may want to avoid the North West wing of the mall.  Oh, and there is probably a gay dude or two working at the finer men’s stores because they have infiltrated the culture of our city and they know how to dress.  Now that I think about it they are probably working in the home furnishing stores too because they are great at decorating.  I guess you probably shouldn’t go to that mall unless you want another reason to picket. 

So I assume this “church” wink, wink, nod, nod teaches the quote, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”  Is there an unpublished part of that quote that adds, “Unless they’re gay.”  I’m not sure Jesus would have said that unless it was a different Jesus.  You know the switch hitter who played for the Astros back in ‘69. 

So why did they decide to use their resources to travel here to picket a school with a play that is staged for only one weekend?  Haven’t they ever heard of Broadway?  How about San Francisco, Key West, or any gay neighborhood in any city in the country?  I bet they really want to come to Indy for a Colts game.  If they stop to picket they can write it off as a business trip.

sometimes dads cry

September 19, 2009
I was at an Indiana Pacer Game with a friend back in the nineties.  They asked everyone to rise for the National Anthem.  A young kid with leg braces and crutches shuffled out onto the court to sing.  He had the confidence of a pro.  He belted out that song with such emotion and power that it made me cry.  Women are great with crying.  If a Hallmark ad hit’s them the right way – BAM – tears.  I can count on one hand the number of times tears came to my eyes in the last decade and still have fingers to spare.  Yet here I was at an NBA game with a buddy and I couldn’t look his way because I was sobbing.  I couldn’t use the, there’s something in my eye ploy because it was both eyes!…like sprinklers.  So I covered it by acting like I was looking all around the arena.  He was talking to me and I was talking to him, but I couldn’t make eye contact until my face was dry.  Watching that little boy sing was just one of those perfect moments that will live with me forever.  Those times are so special to experience. I think about how grateful I am to be there.

Last Friday the Butler Ballet had an open call for young dancers.  The Ballet was casting parts for the party scene in the Nutcracker at Clowes Hall.  Most of the cast is filled with Butler Ballet students.  Some years Clara is a Butler Ballet student, other times it’s a younger ballerina.  For young dancers in Indiana a part in this ballet is an honor.  Getting the part of Clara is the Holy Grail.  Clowes Hall seats a crowd of 2500ish.  There are eight shows and most are sold out.  Grace went to the open call on Friday evening and made call backs on Saturday afternoon.  After the call back you’re told… don’t call us we’ll call you.  They said we wouldn’t hear anything before Tuesday.  I mentioned the audition to that friend who went to the Pacer game.  To give you a little background on him, his exposure to culture takes place at the doctor’s office or when he walks down the world foods isle at Meijer to buy pasta.  His only interests are hunting and fishing.  The day they stage a deer hunting ballet with camouflage tutus and antlers is the day he MIGHT attend a ballet, but only if it’s realistically portrayed….if it’s interpretive…forget it.  He said, “Could she get a speaking part?”  I said “No it’s a ballet, not a musical,” which made him defensive.  “Why are they doing the Nutcracker again?  They did it last year.  Can’t they get a little more creative with their show selection? What about A Christmas Carol” He grumbled.  “That’s not a ballet.”  I said beginning to see where this is headed.    Do you ever have conversations that start well and then they slowly suck the life out of the moment to the point you make something up just to get off the phone?  I did that.  “Let me call you back.  I think I ruptured my spleen”.   Then tried to shake off the funk like a dog that was caught in the rain.

We didn’t hear anything on Tuesday.  Wednesday morning I wondered if we’d get a call then quickly forgot about it because I was so buried at work.  So when the phone rang and the ID said Butler University I thought it was work related.  The guy said his name and that he was with the Butler Ballet and I thought, “Cool, they want us to do some DVDs” He said, “We’d like to offer Grace the part of Clara in the Nutcracker.  I was puzzled….I remember thinking, that has nothing to do with DVDs.  I said, “What?”  Still trying to figure out how this was a work related call.  He said it again and it started to sink in.  I said, “She’ll be thrilled and so am I.  That’s when it hit me.  My daughter was going to be a featured ballerina at Clowes Hall.  I started to cry.  I have no idea what else he said.  It didn’t matter.  It is one of those moments I’ll never forget.

http://www.cloweshall.org/calendar/event.lasso?-KeyValue=175&-Token.Action=

Grace - Les Sylphides
Grace from Les Sylphides

Grace - Les Sylphides