Daily thoughts by a guy that doesn't like to think deeply too often!

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Bless Her Heart

I once had a friend named Jennifer. She was young, and beautiful. The girl that inspired most of the blond jokes you've ever heard. She was dumb as a post. You couldn't have a five minute conversation with her while trying to keep a straight face.
One time we went to Dairy Queen for banana splits. Jenifer couldn't finish hers, so she took it back to the counter and asked if they could put it in the freezer for her and save it until she came back the next day to finish it. They laughed at her and said that they couldn't do that. Jennifer didn't understand why they were so mean to her and we left.
While walking down the street, we passed a telephone pole-- it was covered with leaflets and ads-- garage sales, lost dogs, etc. Each of these papers were stapled to the wooden pole. Jennifer stared at the pole and shook her head. She said: "weren't they scared of being electricuted when they stapled the phone pole?".
Honest to God, true stories!!!
Bless her heart--

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Chicken Gravy

Mommo and Granddaddy had just finished eating a big supper-- fried chicken, mashed potatoes with gravy, etc. While Mommo was clearing the table, Granddaddy decided to take the garbage out. Just before he got to the door, Mommo yelled "Wait just a minute-- take this leftover gravy with you". With that, Granddaddy untied the garbage bag and she poured the remaining gravy in the bag. Granddaddy picked up the bag and opened the door. He didn't know it, but the back steps had iced over while they were eating. He hit the top step and lost his footing. Bam, bam, bam, bam-- twenty one times, til he reached the bottom step. Hearing the commotion, Mommo rushed to the door, looked down and saw Granddaddy lying in a pile of trash at the bottom of the stairs. His entire face was covered in chicken gravy. Mommo asked "Ernie, did you fall?".
"Hell, no! I come down this way all the time!", he answered.
Mommo didn't check to see if he was hurt, or dying, or anything. She was laughing too much at the time. She ran to the phone and called her mother, Mamie, who lived next door. By the time Mamie arrived, Grandaddy was already making his way up the slippery steps. The two of them had a great laugh at his expense when he came through the door covered in chicken gravy. Luckily, he hadn't hurt anything, except his pride.
Later that winter, the Atlanta Journal was sponsoring an essay contest and the subject was "Ice Storm Memories". Mommo wrote her story and mailed it in. She won first prize, and Granddaddy never lived it down.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Time for a Laugh!

I don't who the comedian was that said these lines, but they have stuck with me for decades! I still remember every line, word for word, after all of these years. I hope you get as big of a laugh out of this as I still do:

"My grandmother used to bring us Jell-o every week, because we told her we loved it-- ONCE! She'd say 'I don't know what you girls are going to do when I die.'

I said, 'I guess we'll have to read the back of the box-- a half cup cold, a half cup hot-- why did Grandma have to die?' ".

Smile-- it increases your face value!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Little League

When I was about 7 years old, my parents decided it was time for me to try out sports. They had determined that baseball would be my sport. I was actually pretty good, despite the fact that I couldn't hit or catch. I did manage to get on base every time I was at bat, but it wasn't because I could hit. The fact was that I was very short for my age. While at bat, I had a way of holding my body that made the strike zone only about 1 inch square. None of the kids could pitch to me. Even if they threw the perfect pitch, it would be called a "ball" because my strike zone was so small. I only swung the bat one time-- it was the last game of the season so I figured I should at least try. The pitcher threw the ball and I swung and the bat actually connected with the ball. The ball flew far into the right field. I dropped the bat and started running. As luck would have it, my shoelace was untied and I tripped on it. As I lay on the ground somewhere between home plate and first base, trying to retie my shoe before procedding, the other team managed to get the ball back into the infield and tagged me out. My moment of glory was extinguished within a few seconds.
I was selected to play left field. A safe position since very few little leaguers ever hit a ball to the left field. I didn't mind it- I felt like at least I could play the part and no one would notice that I was bad at it. There were clover patches in the left field and I spent most of my time looking for four leaf clovers, and hating our 2nd baseman, who's name was Booger-- swear to God! His Mom would be sitting in the stands and cheering for Booger the entire game. Of course he was great-- he could hit any pitch or catch any throw. He looked like an overweight, shrunken down, childish version of John Denver- complete with the round eyeglasses and the string blonde hair. He didn't care if the ball hit him- I was terrified of the ball hitting me. What if I got a bruise or a black-eye or something- I could be disfigured by a baseball. My looks were all I had going for me at the time, I felt. I guess that's why Booger was a better baseball player- he had nothing to lose. And with a name like Booger, you've got to be good.
When it was determined that baseball wasn't my calling, we contemplated our other choices. I explained that I was really good with a Pogo stick and a jump rope. Maybe we could leave it at that. No, the parents wanted me to be involved in team sports, so we moved on to basketball. My growth spurt hadn't yet kicked in and I was still a shorty-- about 2 feet shorter than anyone else on the team, or in the entire league. I didn't have a prayer. The worst part was that I had to wear orange shorts and a purple tank top. It was a bad wardrobe, combined with the fact that I didn't look good in purple and orange. The shorts were very short and they accentuated my skinny legs; the tank top was huge and I just looked pitiful. I only played basketball for one season, but that was enough. I don't think I ever touched a basketball-- no one ever passed it to me, not even in practice. All I did was run back and forth between the nets- trying to keep up with the other kids. Hell, I didn't even know the rules or how the scoring went-- I must've had a really bad coach if they didn't even explain to me how the game was played or give me a chance to at least try. I don't blame myself for that failure, it was truly the coach's fault that time.
The next sport was bowling. Thank God-- I was finally good at something. At the age of 12, I had a 180 average. I rocked! Of course it couldn't all be good-- the drawback was that I had to use my grandmother's bowling ball-- it was black with pink polka dots. It wasn't my choice. Mommo donated her old ball to the cause. It was even mongrammed with her name, just to add a little more shame. Despite the appearance of the ball, I was good and that feeling of excelling in something never left me. I finally knew what it felt like to be Booger. He had learned it years before, and I finally got it!
I bowled on leagues throughout highschool and college. When I moved back to Atlanta, I found a few friends that would commit to bowling with me once a week. I always said that I loved any kind of sport that allowed smoking and drinking, and I found that sport in bowling.
That was years ago- those friends are no longer in my life for one reason or another. I moved to a city that doesn't have a bowling alley- it burned down five years ago. I tried bowling last month for the first time in years and I didn't do a great job. It was a combination of being out of practice and not having Mommo's bowling ball.
But-- at least I understood the rules, I got to actually touch the ball during the game, and I didn't trip over my shoelaces again. I guess that's progess!

Welcome to the World!

If you were at my birthday party last month you probably met, or noticed, my friend Lisa. She was the very pregnant one! I just got an email from Lisa and found out that her baby was born last week-- Brandon Christopher Bender (hey, I just realized that not only does he share my middle name, but he shares my initials!). Mother and baby Brandon are doing fine. He's a real cutie, huh? Welcome to the world, baby boy!

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Dear Whitney...

Look what you've become! It's time to "lose that zero and get yourself a hero!". Kick him to the curb, honey-- he's bringing you down!

Journey to the Deep South

I went on a cruise in 1986 and met some of the funniest people in the world: Jennifer, Cynthia and Kathy. We had the best week of our lives, but afterwards we all went our seperate ways: Jennifer to Pennsylvania, Cynthia to Kentucky, Kathy to Mississippi, and I to Atlanta. We kept in touch for a while and one day, we all received wedding invitations from Kathy. I got in touch with the rest of the gang and we all made plans to meet in Jackson, Mississippi for the wedding.
Out of the trio, Jennifer was always my favorite. We met on the dance floor of one of the bars the first night of the cruise. It's amazing how much I remember of that night! They were playing Katrina & the Waves "Walking on Sunshine". It just so happened that I had recently learned a line dance to that song and I gathered several strangers, including Jennifer, and taught them the dance that night. Later on, after several pitchers of Long Island Teas, Jennifer and I got married. It wasn't a legally binding wedding, but something we decided would be fun. We quickly threw a wedding party together- including bridesmaids and groomsmen. We didn't have a preacher and it was too late to disturb the captain, so we found a girl that had several earrings in the shape of crusifixes and decided that she could perform the ceremony. For the ring, I fashioned a cocktail stirrer into a circle and slipped it on her finger at the appropriate time during the ceremony. Years later, when I met her fiance, Jennifer introduced me to him as her first husband!
Cynthia was the makeup queen of Bowling Green, Kentucky. She loved her makeup and at any time of the day or night, she would put Tammy Faye Baker to shame! She loved to wear the brightest blue over her eyes-- not just her eyelids, but all the way up to her eyebrows. She traveled with several makeup bags and a trifold mirror, complete with those big round lightbulbs that surrounded the frame. She brought all of that crap with her on the cruise, and to the wedding in Mississippi. Cynthia was a former beauty queen- she had won the "Little Miss Bowling Green" pageant at age 6, but her success was never repeated in future pageants. Twenty years later, she could still feel that tiara on her head, like an amputee might experience during a "ghost arm" episode. She still referred to herself as the former Miss Bowling Green (she learned to leave the "Litle" part out of the esteemed title).
I didn't know Kathy all that well. If it weren't for the others going to the wedding, I probably would've stayed home- but I was looking forward to the reunion-- it had been months since we had seen each other! So, I made the long drive from Atlanta to Jackson and picked up the girls at the airport. We stayed in a hotel in Jackson, but the wedding was in Hazelhurst, about an hour away.
The day of the wedding, Cynthia got up at about 5am to start getting ready-- of course that meant that we all had to get up-- who could sleep with all of those bright lights reflecting off of the trifold mirrors? Jennifer and I were dressed and ready to go within the hour, but Cynthia was only on her first coat of facepaint. We decided to go have breakfast, while Cynthia put her finishing touches on her work of art. We came back an hour later, just as Cynthia was finishing up-- she had already put down the spatula and was applying false eyelashes at the time.
We got to Hazelhurst a couple of hours early and decided to kill some time at a little roadside diner named "Evelyn's Cafe". We enjoyed a great meal and still had about an hour til we were due at the church, so we decided to order dessert. We each got a slice of pie, but I was informed that the cherry pie was in the freezer, so it'd have to defrost a little while. No problem, we waited. It was worth the wait- probably the best cherry pie I ever had.
On to the church. The service wasn't that memorable, but Kathy was beautiful, as all brides are. Sometime during the service, I noticed that Jennifer was wearing the cocktail stirrer wedding ring that I had placed on her finger the night of our shotgun wedding! I couldn't believe that she had kept it!
After the wedding, we went to the reception in the home of a Ms. Montrose Mitchell. The house was incredible and it just screamed antibellum. The driveway was lined with live oaks dripping with spanish moss. There were also the obligatory azaleas, magnolias and dogwoods covering the rest of the yard. I expected that at sunset we would be able to witness Miss Scarlett crouching on the ground by an oak tree reciting her monologue from Gone with the Wind: "If I have to lie, cheat, steal or kill, I'll never be hungry again!".
As the only people that came from out of town, we were the hit of the wedding. Everyone at the reception wanted to meet us-- most of them had seen us at Evelyn's Cafe earlier and wanted to know which one of us had ordered the cherry pie that Evelyn (herself) had to defrost. I love small towns- I love the way that every person in a small town knows every detail of everyone else's lives. There are no secrets in a small town, especially one like Hazelhurst.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Good Fences

They say that good fences make good neighbors! Here's proof!
The following story is mostly true (with a tad bit of embellishment), but the names have been changed to protect the innocent:
My friend, Tess, is an avid gardener- or at least she used to be. She loves gardening so much that she founded and became the President of our local gardening club. She has a huge backyard and the first time I saw it I was inspired to go home and weed & seed! It was incredible-- huge azaelas, elephant ears, calla lillies, ginger, irises, tulips, etc. Beauty was found in every square inch of the yard. Tess used to spend all of her free time working in the backyard- meditating and relaxing as she felt Mother Earth in her hands.
The complete opposite type of yard could be found just next door at Leo's house. Leo and his family have lived in their home for years, and it shows. The backyard is overgrown-- not a flower in sight. This didn't bother Tess- she had some hedges that were tall enough to block out the view, and Leo and his hillbilly family mostly kept to themselves-- staying indoors, drinking their beers and passing out early in the afternoon.
Then one day, everything changed- Leo's son, Bubba, won the lottery-- $600,000! White trash with money is pretty bad, but white trash with money living right next door became Tess's downfall. At first it wasn't too bad. New cars started showing up next door-- Camaro's, Trans Ams, pick up trucks. Then they invested in an above-ground-pool for the backyard. They spent all of their time on the deck by the pool, overlooking Tess's backyard. No matter what time Tess went into her backyard "sanctuary", Leo or one of his boys would be sitting on the deck- just above the height of her boundry line hedges. "Hey, Tess, you working in your yard again?", they'd holler at her. Tess would try to retreat into her serine gardening atmosphere, but it was useless-- "Is them petunias your planting there, Tess? We gotta get us some of them", as if petunias would grow in soil that was covered in empty beer cans and cigarette butts. "You wanna come swimming with us? The rule is 'No bathing suits allowed'-- hahahaha!". It got to the point that Tess could no longer go into her backyard, at any time of the day or night without one of the hillbilly's commenting on her every action, so she gave it up. Her backyard became overgrown, her peace of mind and sense of tranquility had vanished. Tess turned her attention away from the backyard and focused on potted plants for her front porch instead. And every night, Tess prayed to God that termites would infest the deck that her rich, white trash neighbors valued so much.
After a few months, Tess's prayers were answered. We had several big storms and after-effects from the hurricanes that bombarded the east coast. The above-ground pool overflowed, folded and collapsed, taking most of the deck with it. It looked as if peace would finally be restored and Tess thanked God for lending a helping hand in her time of need. As Tess lay in bed, dreaming of retaking her backyard again, Leo was online ordering lumber from Home Depot, using up the last of his son's lottery winnings. The lumber was delivered a couple of days later and Leo & his boys undertook a huge task-- building a bigger, better deck than before. They didn't even consider replacing the pool- they never used it anyway because no one would ever join them in it. Who in their right mind wants to go skinny dipping with a bunch of drunk good-old boys? But they loved having a deck and decided they wanted one the size of their backyard. They spent days and weeks building-- hammering and sawing all day and night. They ended up with a deck that was bigger than their house. This time it was a few feet higher, just so they could get a better view of Tess's backyard. They filled the deck with white plastic lawnchairs, all situated to look towards Tess's once beautiful backyard in hopes that she would fix it up again soon.
These days Tess only visits her backyard occasionally-- just to water the boundry line hedges with extra strength Miracle-Gro, in hopes that they will someday hide the view from next door. She's a patient woman and she feels confident that within 10 -12 years, she will regain her privacy and she'll once again be able to work in her yard unnoticed.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Stonewood Village

My father owned a coin-operated laundry located in Stonewood Village Shopping Center, on Memorial Drive, near Stone Mountain. The shopping center didn't have any big stores- nothing that would draw anyone in. The center consisted of Dad's Laundry, a small pet store, a dry cleaner, Merle Norman's Make-Up Center, a Crystal Shoppe, a real estate office, etc. This was my universe growing up. My parents spent long hours there: cleaning the place, refilling the change machines, collecting money out of the washers and dryers. Of course, my brothers and I were always with them, trying to help where we could. We'd mop and roll quarters, wipe down the washers and clean the lint from the dryers. That was always the funnest part. Cleaning the lint was gross and nasty, but our reward was that we could keep whatever money we found in the lint compartments. People always left change in their pockets and it would end up in the lint compartment. We knew the secret places to look-- especially along the top rim where the change would usually land on a ridge. Sometimes we found paper money there, too. We were the best lint cleaners in the world, and on an average day we'd bring home at least a dollar each. Later, Dad's policy changed and we began putting all of the found change in a jar-- the first night of vacation each year, we'd roll the change and divide it and that would be our spending money for the week. Can you imagine the hassle of spending a week at the beach, with a pocketful of rolled change in you bathing suit pocket?
People were always leaving loads of laundry behind. Dad would lock them in the back room and save them for 30 days. If anyone reported missing clothes, Dad would lead them to the "vault" and let them look through the clothes. On day 31, the leftover clothes came home. We'd all sort through the sizes and try everything on. Once a month, we'd get a new wardrobe! We always had to be careful not to wear the found clothes if we were going to the laundrymat, just in case the former owner came in and recognized the clothes that once belonged to them. That happened once, and it was too embarassing for words: "That's my son's shirt!" the lady pointed at me as I wore a shirt with the name "Tommy" embroidered over the front pocket. We learned our lessons fast.
Stonewood Village Laundry supported our family for the first 20 years of my life. Later, Dad got sick and wasn't able to take care of the store. I would still go there before work each morning to open the place up, and my brothers and I would take turns locking up at night and doing the cleaning, counting quarters and refilling the change machines. Dad sold the store shortly before he died. The last time I drove past Stonewood Village the Crystal Shoppe, Merle Norman's, the pet store and the real estate office were gone, as well as Dad's laundrymat. Time marches on, I guess, but these memories remain.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Scenes From the Salon

I've been getting my hair cut at a high end salon lately. The price for a basic haircut is between $28 - $48, depending on the experience of the hairdresser. I don't pay that, because my hairdresser is an apprentice. My haircut is free; my dye jobs cost about $8. While I'm sitting in the chair, I get a chance to look around and soak in how the "other half" live. It's amazing.

I watch as they come in the door- exhausted from the long walk in from the parking lot, bitching about their day and clutching a picture of the latest celebrity-- hoping to get a haircut just like the celeb. It doesn't matter to them that they have short hair on a big body- they want to look just like Britney Spears when they leave. I guess that's the reason these women are served wine during their visits. Maybe after a couple of glasses of wine, two-ton-Tilly will think that she looks like a teenage popstar.

In the high-priced salons, the hairdressers are dressed in black from head to toe. Lots of them wear black framed glasses which just add to their air of arrogence. They have names like Monique, but they pronounce them as Mon-ee-cue. The male hairdressers always use their full name-- no nicknames are allowed in the male hairdresser world; it's always Kenneth, William or Frederick, never Kenny, Billy or Fred. Of course, if it is a name like Kenny I'm sure they would pronounce it "Kee-ahh-ne", or something like that.

The apprentice I see is currently named Matt. He doesn't even wear black. I'm sure when his apprenticeship is complete, he'll invest in the wardrobe and rename himself as Matthew and come up with a pronunciation that I can't even imagine.

I guess they have to do what they can to make their lives appear glamorous. These people deal with complaining rich bitches all day long- it must get old. Last week I watched a lady that insisted on talking on her cell phone during her entire visit. There's a sign in the window that says: "This is a cell phone free zone", but she didn't care, or she decided that it didn't apply to her. If the hairdresser worked on the right side of her head, she'd talk on the phone using her left ear. When they moved to her left side, she switched the phone to her right ear. I watched her do the same hand-switching technique as she got a manicure afterwards, too. I guess if you're paying $48 for a haircut, you feel as if you can call the shots.

Matt's apprenticeship will run out in a few months. At that point, he'll be an official hairdresser and will start charging $28 for a basic haircut. He'll get some dark rimmed glasses, a new wardrobe and a new name. Hopefully, I'll be able to get a new apprentice when he graduates into a career.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Hunting For Diamonds

I was just a kid when Mom lost her ring. I don't remember what it looked like, but I do know that it had a diamond in it. It must've been pretty valuable, because my Dad offered a $100 reward to anyone that found it. Dad was the cheapest man ever put on this Earth- for him to offer money for anything was a pretty sure sign that he wanted that ring back. The ring had been a gift to my mother from her parents, so on top of the monetary value, it had sentimental value. Plus Mom was scared to death of her parents- if they ever found out the ring was missing there would be hell to pay. At first the reward offer was made to my brothers and me. We turned the house upside down in hopes that we would find the ring. After several weeks of searching, my Dad offered the reward to all of the neighborhood kids. Every day, my brothers and I would search everywhere for that ring. We were joined by the Mogan boys and our other neighbor Amy- the topless bicycle riding girl. She was young, so it was ok with her parents if she rode around topless. We didn't even notice, or think it was wrong either. Anyway, since Amy never stopped riding her bike, she covered lots of territory- although at such speed, I don't know how she would've ever seen a ring if she passed it.
The Mogan boys looked in the most unlikely spots: they climbed a ladder and looked on our roof, they climbed trees and looked in bird nests, they even went in the VanDykes crawlspace in search of the ring. I tried to picture my mother losing her ring while climbing trees, or crawling through the neighbor's basements. The images never added up, but we didn't care. The goal was for one of us to find the ring first- we didn't care where the other kids looked.
Out of desperation, Mom went to see a psychic- "Sister Serena". She explained her plight and Sister Serena nodded, knowingly. "I see the ring- it is near an air vent", the Sister smugly said. Mom gave us the clue and we spread it throughout the neighborhood. Soon all of the kids abandoned the outdoor search and moved the search to the inside of any home that Mom had ever visited. That being fruitless, we started going with Mom anywhere she went-- grocery stores, hairdressers, anywhere that had airconditioning and air vents. We'd search these businesses high and low, searching for their air vents and hopefully finding the ring. No luck.
It had been about a year and my parents gave up. Dad called off the search and cancelled the reward offer. They confessed to my grandparents that the ring was lost and it didn't look like it would ever be found. Mom wasn't written out of the will for being irresponsible, as we all expected. Instead, my grandparents bought her a new diamond ring for her birthday that year!
As luck would have it, the following week the ring was found. Dad was tilling the garden and he saw something shimmering on the ground. The ring had probably slipped off Mom's finger while she was picking vegetables the previous year. Now Mom had two diamond rings and we were left with a great memory of the year we spent hunting for diamonds in our own back yard.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Bad Week For Customer Service

Janice, from the Gas Company, rocked my world last week.

I thought my experience with customer service couldn't get any worse. Then I met Kamat:

I was lying on the sofa Saturday afternoon-- watching a Roseanne marathon on TV. I hadn't eaten in about 24 hours and I was nursing a hangover with coffee and chocolate kisses. I decided I needed to eat. At first I thought of Taco Bell. But then I've eaten at Taco Bell at least three times a week for a few years now. I wanted something different. I went to the kitchen drawer and fumbled through all of the carry-out menus that had amassed beneath my silverwear container. I called Pizza Valley to place a to-go order. I ordered an antipasta salad and bread sticks & I was told they'd be ready to pick up in 20 minutes.

I took a shower & changed clothes and headed to Pizza Valley. When I got there I saw a lovely woman wearing a beautiful sari. Well, I had a hard time seeing her- she was behind a mirrored glass with a very small hole cut out in it-- just big enought to push cash through and receive change. Her name was Kamat, according to the name tag that was carefully pinned to her sari. Kamat informed me that my order would be ready in about 2 minutes. I sat down.

After 10 minutes, I went back to the mirrored windo and and asked Kamat if my order was ready. Suddenly she didn't speak English any longer. She held a finger up- indicating one more minute, I guessed. I sat back down again and waited for another 10 minutes. I asked her again when my order would be ready-- hell, it was only a salad and bread- how long could that take? It had already been 45 minutes since I originally placed the order. Kamat told me to wait a minute longer. I waited 15 minutes longer and by then I was starving. I had smelled pizza and cheese and bread cooking for an hour and this was getting rediculous. I approached Kamat one final time and asked where my food was. Kamat regained her use of the English language and told me that the driver had taken it by mistake and if I could wait for him to return I would have my salad within 30 minutes. Out of frustration, I cancelled the order and walked out. Then it occurred to me that they had been stalling- they knew my food wasn't there and they were just waiting for it to return. But why didn't they just make me another salad and send me on my way? Again, how long does it take to make a salad? Wouldn't it have been easier to just remake the order and not make me wait for the driver to return with the salad?

I drove towards home with no food in my car, a nose full of Mozarella and a deep craving for antipasta salad. I stopped at Chick-a Loe's. They had salads and breadsticks, but they didn't accept credit cards and I didn't have a penny in my pocket. I walked back to my car- cursing the sky and questioning, "What have I done that's bad enough to deserve not getting an antipasta salad when I NEED one?".

After several hours of searching for food, I finally settled for Taco Bell. I should've gone there to start with, I guess.

By the time I finished eating lunch, the sun had gone down and the Roseanne marathon was over. I slept on the sofa and dreamed visions of revenge- I envisioned Janice freezing in the North Pole and Kamat starving in Ethiopia. I know it's cruel, but it made me feel better.

Jackie DeLorean

I met Jackie in 1984, in Athens, GA. I was a freshman at UGA-- young, cute and funny. I was definatley not gay acting then. No one knew- at least I thought no one knew. A friend of mine from work (Suzanne) invited me to a bar named "Cloud Nine", to help her cheer for a friend of hers that was in the Mr. Athens contest. I didn't know Suzanne that well-- I didn't even know that she was a lesbian (although all of the signs were there, I don't know how I didn't recognize them). I'd never heard of "Cloud Nine"- it turns out it was a gay bar. I had never met her friend Rick, but I joined Suzanne and her friends that night to cheer him on to victory.

I probably realized within 30 minutes that this was a gay bar. I felt dirty just being there, but I was having a good time. Several times I would find myself alone at the table, and men would come to talk to me. They'd offer to buy me drinks and I'd accept. At one point, I had about 5 guys sitting with me- all intent on getting me drunk. Out of the blue, this amazingly large woman walked to my table and told them all to leave me alone- and they did. She sat down on the stool next to me and introduced herself as "Jackie DeLorean". She was obviously a man in a bad Tina Turner wig, but she had saved me and I appreciated it. We had a great talk-- she told me all kinds of interesting stories about her travels and her loves.

I returned to Cloud Nine (later made famous by the B-52's in the song they named after the club-- in the song they called it the "Love Shack") just about every night after that first initiation. Jackie would always be on the sidelines, ready to pounce on anyone that got too close to me. It was nice to know that I was protected, but I felt a little too protected. I wanted these men to buy me drinks- -I loved the attention they gave me and sometimes I resented Jackie for stopping their advances. But I loved Jackie. I loved going to her trailer after the bar closed. She'd perform Eartha Kitt and Tina Turner numbers for me til the sun came up; she'd cook her specialty (Chicken Divan) for me on Sunday nights. We were never more than friends, but it was nice having a friend that I could open up to for a change.

Jackie and I were the best of friends, and I'd never seen him out of drag. I didn't have a clue what he looked like as a man- without the wigs and make-up. I could've walk right past him on campus and I wouldn't have recognized him. About 6 months into our friendship, he revealed himself to me. I showed up for Sunday dinner and Jackie wasn't there. The man that answered the door was Thom, Jackie's alter ego. The relationship didn't change at all-- I just saw a new side of Jackie. Jackie and I were the best of friends for a couple of years. Even after I moved from Athens to Atlanta, I'd get letters and pictures from him. I visited him a few times over the years, but we eventually lost touch.

Sometimes I think of him and wonder what he's up to. Is he still living as Jackie and protecting young boys in the bars? Is he even still living? The last time I heard anything about Jackie, they said that he was touring with the band REM as Michael Stipe's assistant. I hope that was true. I miss Jackie and I especialy miss his Chicken Divan!

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Attack of the Iguana

When I was about 7 years old, I got my first exotic pet. I had gone into the pet store and the man inside was holding an Iguana. It was about a foot long, including it's long tail. He was bright green, and kind of "scaley looking". The man asked if I wanted to touch it and I did. I took my little finger and rubbed down the length of the Iguana'a back. I fell in love with the lizard. I brought Mom back to the store to see it and asked her if I could have it. I expected her to say no, but she didn't. She asked "You're not scared of it?". No I wasn't, I loved it. She must've been having a weak moment, and she told the man we would take it. She bought the lizard and the plastic cage and everything else one needs to make a foot long lizard feel comfortable in your home. The iguana was put into a cardboard box with holes in it and we loaded everything into the car and headed home.
On the way home we discussed names for the Iguana. Mom had a rule that the name of a pet had to start with the same letter as the species. We had Chester the Cat, Georgette the Gerbil, Freddie the Frog, Terrance the Turtle, and Happy the Hound (we couldn't think of a name that started with "D" for Dog). Coming up with an "I" word for an Iguana wasn't easy. We thought about calling him Larry the Lizard, but I finally came up with Iggy the Iguana, and Mom said that was good.
Mom had a hair appointment that day, so she dropped me off at the house and instructed me to put Iggie in his cage while she was gone. I carried the cage and the box in the house- proud of my new pet and ready to show it off to my brothers. We set up the cage and got ready to introduce Iggy to his new home. I opened the cardboard box and Iggy jumped out. I was terrified of him. I remembered Mom asing me if I would be scared, and I had said no. I wasn't scared as long as someone else was holding him and he was calm. But this monster that was in my house was not the same animal that I had gently stroked an hour earlier. Iggy started running through the house, while my brothers and I chased him around -- wanting to catch him, but not wanting to actually touch him. But we knew that we had to get him in his cage somehow, and soon- before Mom got home. We enlisted the help of the Mogan kids next door: Paul, Patrick and Peter. They were our age, and no better at catching Iguanas than we were. As Iggy eluded us, I went back next door to talk to the Mogan kid's grandmother, Mrs. SanAngelo. She was a crass old Italian lady- never nice to anyone and she had a mouth like a sailor and a big mole on her wrinkled face. I didn't want to tell her that I had a loose lizard in my house, just wanted to feel her out and she if she had any experience with catching lizards. Coyly I asked, "Are you good at catching Iguanas?". As if she even knew what an Iguana was! I finally admitted that I needed her help and she was nice enough to help. She grabbed several pairs of oven mitts, some empty shoe boxes, a spatula and some tongs and we headed back to my house, all the while muttering "Why in Hell would anyone want a GD lizard for a pet?". Everyone got a pair of mitts and a shoe box and we went in hunt of the lizard, with Mrs. SanAngelo screaming obsenities at the lizard the whole time: "come here, you little bastard", etc. Suddenly the roles were reversed-- the Iguana was chasing us and we were doing our best to keep it away. At one point, Mrs. SanAngelo instructed us to put the f***ing cage on the ground and maybe Iggy would hop into on his own. He didn't, he just kept chasing us through the house- occasionaly running across the piano keys and making his own joyful noise as he hissed and stuck his tongue out at us.
About an hour later, Mom pulled up. As she walked into the house, she found 6 kids (ages 5-10) and a foul-mouthed Italian Senior Citizen running for their lives. Then Mom saw Iggy- the bright green lizard was sitting on one of the cushions of Mom's brand new, crushed-velvet white sofa. Mom grabbed the beast and threw it into the plastic cage. But-- Iggy wouldn't go easily. he grabbed onto the sides of the cage with his four little claw-like feet. Mom gave him a karate chop to the back and he fell into the cage and the lid was quickly in place. Iggy would never know freedom again, but he seemed content to live the rest of his short life eating dead flies and looking at us with his huge eyes- all the while I'm sure he was plotting his big escape- dreaming of playing the piano again and sitting on the white sofa in peace.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

My Thermostat, My Enemy

I'm not a cold-natured person. I have nice coats that I never wear, even on the coldest of days. I have nice sweaters that I never wear. My house is not toasty- I hate what gas heat does to my skin and my sinuses.

That being said, I received my gas bill today and almost cried: $368. No past due balance included-- just 30 days worth of gas! My house is drafty, my furnace is a dinasaur, but oh my God!!!! The gas company checked my house for leaks a few months ago and found none. I guess I could call customer service and talk to Janice again, but what good would that do? She'd probably suggest I hire another independent contrator to build me an igloo, or invest in parkas and long johns.

I think I could find better use of this money. A 30 day supply of gas equals:

  • 122.66 bottles of beer at the Corner Tavern
  • 52.58 pitchers of beer at Flashback
  • 1 car payment
  • 1/2 mortgage payment
  • 1 months Cell Phone/Satellite TV/ DSL/Power/Water/Sewage/Car Insurance
  • 1 year supply of dog food for 4 dogs
  • 168 gallons of gas
  • 36 visits to the movies, including popcorn and coke
  • a round trip ticket to about anywhere in the USA, Mexico or Canada
  • 994 first class postage stamps

Oh well, it's just money but look at how much fun I could've had. Now I'm motivated to just turn the thermostat off and spend the next month at the Corner Tavern. I'd actually save money by not staying home.

Brush With Reality

PJ coined the phrase "Brushes with Reality" today, and I love it. People like me become so obsessed by Hollywood and celebrities that once in a while we forget about "real" people and "real" life. Every so often we need a brush with reality for a change.
That being said- I do love reality TV. I have for years. I know it's a trend. I know that many people hope it's a trend that will end soon, like variety shows of the 70's. Although, I used to be a huge fan of the variety show format: Carol Burnett, Sonny & Cher, Cher (alone), the Mandrell sister's, Tony Orlando & Dawn, etc. Every celebrity had their own variety show in the 70's.
In the 80's, the variety shows gave way to talk shows: Oprah, Ricki Lake, Jerry Springer, Jenny Jones, Sally Jesse Raphael, etc. If you were a celebrity, you automatically got your own talk show.
The 90's saw most of these talk shows fade way into non-existence, and we got our first tastes of Reality TV with shows like Cops and Judge Judy. The "Judge" shows began to flurish, and most of them still exist today: Judge Joe Brown, Judge Hatchett, Texas Justice, Judge Mabeline, and of course Judge Judy (my favorite). After the viewing public got this taste of reality, the networks offered us more.
We soon got to see shows like "The Real World" (7 strangers picked to live in a house and see what happens via live video feed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week), "Big Brother" came along next-- same premise except it was more of a game than a documentary-- strangers living together that got to scheme amongst themselves and vote off one member each week. Soon we got "Survivor"- pretty much the same thing, but set on deserted islands, where the contestants not only schemed against each other, but they had to do it while not bathing or eating for months at a time. Along came "American Idol" and we got to vote off our least favorite singers each weekby calling into a 1-800 number. Soon we were flooded with Reality shows: "The Amazing Race", "Fear Factor", "Joe Millionaire" and of course, "The Bachealor" and the "Bachealorette".
I am the first to admit that it's gone too far- who wants to follow Ozzy Osbourne's life 24/7? Who cares that Michael Knight (formerly Peter Brady on "The Brady Bunch") is having a hard time deciding if he should get engaged on "My Fair Brady"?
Andy Warhol once said that we would each get our 15 minutes of fame. I think he is right. The reality show that I'd like to see is a follow up on all of the contestants that appeared on reality shows and how it effected their lives after the cameras stopped turning. That would be some good TV!
OK, gotta run-- "Dancing with the Stars" is having a 2 hour premiere tonight and I wouldn't want to miss that!

Brian vs. the Gas Company

I got home from work yesterday and found a big pink notice hanging on my front door. The notice was from the gas company, letting me know that they had replaced my gas meter. The notice also let me know that for my "convience" they had left my gas turned off. Visions of no heat and cold showers ran through my head, so I quickly called the gas company.
I had the pleasure of speaking to Janice in the customer service department. Why Janice ever decided to go into the field of customer service still amazes me. Being friendly and helpful were not her strong points. Problem solving is not her forte. Janice explained to me that they had to turn off the gas to replace the meter and they could not turn it back on since no one was home. I questioned why they would turn it off in the first place and she explained that they probably thought I was at home when they started working. I asked when they would come back to turn the gas back on and she told me that the gas company doesn't do "return visits"; she said that I would need to call an independant contractor to come back and turn on the gas and relight my pilot lights. I argued back and forth with Janice for almost 45 minutes, but she stood her ground and said there was nothing that could be done- I needed to call an HVAC company if I wanted my gas to be turned back on. By this point I was speachless and I said goodbye. As I was hanging up the phone, I heard Janice ask "Is there anything else I can help you with?". Obviously not.
I waited a few minutes and called back. This time I got an operator named Porsche. I immediatly asked for a manager. I was put on hold for a few minutes and then Porsche came back to tell me that there were no managers on duty, but she offered to help. I explained my situation and before I could finish, Porsche interrupted and asked if someone would be home for the next 4 hours. I told her that I would be here. Great- she would have someone out to my house within the next 4 hours to correct the problem. My phone call to Porsche took about 2 minutes; my call to Janice was about 45 minutes. Why couldn't Janice have the same ability to solve the same problem? Janice was content to let me sit here in the cold with no hot water for several days; Porsche worked it out in a couple of minutes. I hate Janice.
As promised, 3 hours and 59 minutes later, the repairman showed up. It was after 11pm, but I was so glad to see him. The repairman turned on the gas and came inside to relight all of the pilot lights. By midnight, I was warm in bed. I can only hope that Janice was at home by that point too-- hopefully reading the latest edition of "Customer Service for Dummies".

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Shock Jock

My favorite radio talk show host was David Paul. He was very silly. He loved to bring up something controversial everyday, and the audience would call in to talk about it. They were often angry, and often funny. I called in one time and I think I was very funny.
The subject was whether or not dinasaurs ever existed. I called in and played like I didn't understand the question. I said I knew for a fact that Dinah Shore existed because I'd seen her TV show before.
I got my love of talk radio from my grandmother, Mommo. She'd sit up all night long, playing solitaire, while chain-smoking and listening to the Ludlow Porch Show on the radio. She didn't know it, but my brothers and I would be listening to the radio in the bedroom-- waiting to hear Mommo on the radio. She called in nightly to talk to Ludlow-- she usually called herself Catherine when she got past the screener. She would come on the radio and play the part of a twenty year old single woman-- she'd discuss sex and politics without skipping a beat. She had a young voice for an older woman- you'd never guess that the catty woman on the radio had a husband and three grandchildren sleeping in the next room. Sometimes I'd creep into the unlighted living room-- and watch "Catherine's" back as she talked on the phone to the radio host. She'd shuffle her cards, and puff on the filterless cigarette as she enjoyed her 15 minutes of fame each night, while a 7 year old Brian watched her backside with admiration. She was the coolest thing you ever saw, or heard on the radio.
She inspired me-- if not for her, I never would've made friends with Ophelia on the local version of QVC. Years later, I started watching her show on cable. This was before all of the home shopping networks sprang up. Ophelia was on a local channel- all of her products were crap- and she was a crappy hostess. But, because I was raised by a "spotlight-addicted" grandmother, I would call Ophelia every night and order a Cappa de Monte vase, or a painted ceramic mask and get a chance to talk to Ophelia herself. I'd even record it on my VCR, as if this was a real brush with greatness.
My brushes with David Paul and Ophelia never measured up to my grandmother's secret calls to Ludlow, but I think I come close sometimes. I'm still fascinated by celebrities- even B-list, or C-list ones. I work with Jeffery Dewberry from "Hell's Kitchen" and tonight I shared a booth at the Tavern with "Rock Star INXS" star Heather Lutrell. I know they are reality celebs, but so what. Ludlow Porch was never a household name. I think Mommo would be proud of me for trying.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Lucy Burnett

Here's a picture of Joel's dog, Lucy-- taken Christmas morning:

The Burnett's Red Lobster Invasion

One year we all decided to take my grandmother, Mema, out to Red Lobster for her birthday. She was pushing 80 years old, suffering from full-blown Alzheimer's Disease, and even before her illness she was never a big fan of seafood. But to our family it made perfect sense to take her to Red Lobster for a festive night of crab cracking with her daughter, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. Why stay at home and have a quiet birthday amongst the few people and suroundings that you recognize, when you can be taken out in public to sit with the loudest family that God ever put on this Earth and eat food that you don't like? I suppose that most old people with memory problems enjoy lots of confusion and bickering. Anyway, it was my Aunt Evelyn's decision and we all went along with it. Of course, Aunt Evelyn didn't think to make reservations in advance, so getting a table for 20 wasn't the easiest thing to do on a Friday night. Eventually we were seated and the waitress asked if we were ready to order. It was then that we realized that our cousin, Tommy, hadn't arrived yet. Tommy was famous for being late-- every family get together, every holiday, every occasion. We could never start a dinner, because we had to wait for Tommy. This was to be no exception. Aunt Everlyn told the server that we were waiting on one more person. About an hour later, Tommy arrived and we were allowed to order. Mema decided that she would eat a hamburger, which infuriated her daughter, Aunt Evelyn. "No one orders hamburgers at Red Lobster", she said. In hindsight, I guess people probably do order hamburgers there, otherwise why would they keep them on the menu after all of these years? In one of her moments of clarity, Mema relented and ordered a shrimp cocktail and mentioned that she'd just go by McDonald's and get a hamburger on the way home and give the shrimp to one of her cats (although, she hadn't owned a cat in over 15 years).
After we finished eating, it was time for presents. Most of her presents were nice-- pajamas, robes, slippers, etc. Things she could use and enjoy. Between presents, Mema put her uneaten shrimp in her napkin and slipped it into her purse. Then Tommy gave her his present-- not a present really, just a card. She opened the card and tried to read it, but couldn't-- in big letters it said "Feliz Cumpleano" (happy birthday, in Spanish). The whole card was written in Spanish with a handwritten note that said "Buy yourself something nice. Love, Tommy". He had enclosed a $1 bill. Tommy and his side of the family just hooted and hollered- Tommy was the funniest thing since Jerry Lewis, to them. Mema thanked Tommy for the gift, folded it and put it in her pocket. She probably intended to use the dollar at McDonald's on the way home from her birthday dinner.

Sunday, January 01, 2006


I have many. Generally, I want to sleep more, eat better, and exercise more. I want this year to end on a higher note. I want to be fit: physically, mentally, financially and spiritually. I want to relax more, and worry less. I believe that I have untapped talents, and I want to discover them. I want to set goals and achieve them.
Pretty simple, I guess. Pretty generic, too, but heartfelt and genuine.