March 2009


When you think about it, money is just really arbitrary. Here’s a sheet of paper. It has a 5 on it. That means you have 5 dollars. If it had a 10 on it, you’d have 10 dollars.

Why is it arbitrary? Because sometimes businesses will accept Canadian money. That’s not legal tender here in the U.S. of A. But they’ll accept it. Oh, they won’t accept all types, mind you. You couldn’t pay for anything with a Canadian bill. That’s just not right. But a Canadian dime? Or a Canadian quarter? Or penny? They have no problem accepting that.

Case in point. There is a Family Dollar close to where I work. I can get a 20 oz. Diet Coke for $1.15 there. That right there is a bargain with a capital B. But I found out a way to get it cheaper.

About a week or so ago, I picked up what I thought was a quarter from the parking lot of a local Target store. But it was a Canadian quarter. I was initially disappointed because the vending machines at work (and everywhere else for that matter) simply do no take Canadian. I was about to give it to my kid when I had the grand idea. I would see if I could use this to pay for a 20 oz. Diet Coke at the Fam-D (as I like to call it). So, I took a crisp one dollar bill and my Canadian quarter and went to get a Diet Coke. The cashier rang it up at $1.15, I gave her the dollar and the “quarter”, and I got a dime back. So, when all was said and done, I got me a 20 oz. Diet Coke for a grand total of 90 cents American.

As I said earlier, I probably couldn’t have done this with a Canadian dollar bill. But with the change, that’s a different story. Apparently, if it looks close enough to a quarter (or dime or penny), it will be accepted.

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OK. So, on the other day I took a small break from work and went to the Family Dollar store that’s close by and got myself a Coke and a box of Bite Size Frosted Mini-Wheats. When I got up to the line, I saw that only one register was open and it was backed up. Apparently, Family Dollar was THE place to be on that afternoon. Anyway, about 6 people back from the register, there was a display case of some sort, which would obviously cause the line to have to bend in one direction (or the other) and any new member of the line would then have to approach it from the side.

Well, there was a little girl…I’ll say about 6 or so…standing with a cart full of things. She may have been in line (because she was coming from the side) or she may not have been (because the space between her and the person who was DEFINITELY in line seemed to be right on the cusp of that imaginary demarcation line that would make the answer obvious). I didn’t see a parent with her so I figured I’d just go ahead and ask this little girl if she was in line. After all, I wouldn’t want to cut in front of her if she was.

So I asked her, “Are you standing in line?”

She looked at me like a deer caught in headlights. “Huh?”

So I asked again. “Are you in this line or are you just standing here waiting for your mom or dad?”

She just stared at me.

I said, “This is what I’m going to do, OK? I’m going to stand here (taking the place behind the last, obvious person in line) and if it turns out you ARE in line, I’ll let you and you go in front of me.”

And that’s when this happened:

“GET AWAY FROM HER!”

Everybody stopped what they were doing to see what was going on.

This woman came running up and put herself between me and the little girl. “WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO DO?”

“I’m sorry, was this your place in line?”

“DON’T GIVE THAT BULLSHIT! WHAT WERE YOU SAYING TO MY DAUGHTER?”

“I was just trying—“

“TRYING TO WHAT? HUH? WHAT WERE YOU TRYING TO DO?”

“—figure out if she was in line or not.”

“YEAH ,RIGHT!” She took the girl’s hand and started pushing the cart away and down one of the aisles. “OUGHTA CALL THE DAMN COPS ON YOUR ASS, TRYING TO WHATEVER WITH MY LITTLE GIRL!”

And then, in a gesture that I’m constantly amazed at, the people in line offered to let me go in front of all of them since I only had 2 things. The person who was next to me in line offered his support by saying that he knew I wasn’t doing anything wrong and that the woman was overreacting. I gave the cashier (who sees me often, as Coke and Mini-Wheats are my standard purchases a couple of times a week) my business card with instructions to give it to the police in case the woman decided to “call the damn cops.” I think I’m in the clear, since I haven’t heard anything.

BUT, it does bring up an odd issue: pedophilia and the hysteria surrounding it.

I’m going to ask you to go here and read the article.

Done? Good. I’m going to come right out and say that I would probably have done what Mr. Peachey did. In fact, I’m SURE that I’d have done what Mr. Peachey did, because I have. Twice in the last year. Both times had to do with witnessing a kid have a bike wreck. The first time, my wife was in the van with me. We saw a girl fall off her bike. It looked spectacular, but the girl sat up and was holding her knee. I drove on by, and only stopped at the behest of my wife, who made be back up so she could see if she was OK. And she was, just had a scrape on her knee. The second time was pretty much identical. A kid fell off his bike. Again, it was pretty spectacular looking. But I drove on by.

Should I have stopped? Probably, yes. It would have been the decent thing to do. But I didn’t. It’s not an action I’m proud of. And, unless I know the child, I most likely would behave the same way in the future. Other personal instances, which you can read about in my March 19th 2009 note, and news stories like THIS and THIS and THIS and THIS are what make it very easy for me to understand WHY Mr Peachey did what he did.

I HATE television shows that end with “To be continued…”

After spending approximately an hour going through the emotional ups and downs of the characters as they search for one of their friends who had been kidnapped by an elite criminal organization…and that friend is being tortured and about to be force fed raw chicken through a beer bong…there is nothing, I mean NOTHING, more frustrating than to read the words “…to be continued” on the bottom of the screen.

How’d my feeling about that come to be?

I was about 8 years old and we (my mom, dad, and I) were in Toledo, Ohio on our yearly visit with my mom’s relatives. There are 2 reasons I liked going to Toledo. I usually got to stay with my cousins at their house while my parents stayed at my grandmother’s house, and the show Ultraman was on TV in Toledo.

This one particular trip to Toledo was going to include a visit to Cedar Point Amusement Park on Friday, so I had to stay with my parents at my grandmother’s house. Thursday morning I watched Ultraman, as I had all week long. It was a really good episode, too. Ultraman was fighting some kind of monster and he lost his beta capsule. That’s the thing that gave Ultraman his power. So, Ultraman is getting weaker by the minute and the monster thing is really beating up on him. But, this little kid finds Ultraman’s beta capsule and runs to the battle. Ultraman is on the verge of collapsing when the kid shows up with the beta capsule and then….TO BE CONTINUED! This is high drama! It doesn’t get any better than this. I just have to wait until tomorrow morning.

Tomorrow morning came, and my mom woke me up to get ready to go to Cedar Point. We were going to leave at 8am. But Ultraman didn’t come on until 10! I begged and I pleaded with my parents to let me watch Ultraman. We could leave at 10:30. But they wouldn’t hear of it. I started crying, screaming about how unfair the situation is. I was really upset. I wanted to see what was going to happen. Was it going to be the last episode of Ultraman? Or was he going to be saved? And how? These were questions that BEGGED to be answered. Finally, my parents told me that Ultraman would be at Cedar Point. Well, that’s all I needed to hear. I was ready to go. All the way to the park, I was thinking about seeing Ultraman. If I couldn’t see the episode, at least I could ask him what had happened. At the park, I kept asking where Ultraman was. I kept being told things like, “He’ll be here later” or “Let’s go through the mirror maze first.” But ya know what? Ultraman wasn’t there. I had been duped. And the worst part about it, in my 8 year old mind, was that I had missed Part 2 of the show. I didn’t get to see the end.

And that’s why I hate “to be continued.” I don’t want to risk being that disappointed again. Of course, I could just plan on being in front of my TV same bat-time, same bat-channel next week, but I don’t want to feel I’m being held hostage by a stupid TV show. So, I’ve generally stayed away from hour long dramas that have ongoing story-arcs. I know that, with the advent of TiVo and DVR’s, the disappointment factor has pretty much been addressed. But I still don’t want to invest that kind of time in an ongoing show such as “Northern Exposure,” “Desperate Housewives,” “Lost” and “Battlestar Galactica.”

Just in case you feel pity for me for not ever having seen Part 2 of that Ultraman show, you should know that…a few years ago…a couple of good friends from work who were aware of this tragic childhood trauma of mine, called upon the Internet and the power of EBay and presented me with 4 DVD’s that include all 39 episodes of Ultraman. ALL 39! Yes, even PART 2! After almost 30 years, I was able to see how Ultraman survived, how he gets the Beta Capsule back, and how he defeated the monster and saved the day.

Every year, for the last 8 years, I have been stopped at least once by an employee of the school wanting to know who I was, what my business at the school was, if I was a parent of a child at the school, yada yada yada.

The first time this occurred was way back at the end of 2001. And I didn’t mind. It was our first year to the school, and I felt good that there was concern for the safety of the children.

The second time it was a different person stopped me, but what bothered me the most about it was that she had followed me through the school and then waited in the hallway while I was talking about something with a teacher. She stopped me when I came out of the classroom and began her interrogation. I copped a little attitude because, c’mon…I was just in there speaking with a teacher for several minutes.

In succeeding years, I’ve displayed more attitude and indignation when asked because, Jesus, I am at the school at least 4 times a week. One particularly bad incident was when I was standing with my daughter looking at a map of the neighborhood on one of the walls. There was a Walk To School program going on, and everyone who typically walked to school had chosen a color to highlight their route on the map. Now, we don’t walk to school. We live too far away. But when I was a kid in the neighborhood, I would walk to school and I was showing my daughter the route that I would walk. Well…apparently someone interpreted this as me trying to get a little girl to show me where on the map she lived. The only information I gave this person was that yes, I was a parent of a child in the school and she just so happened to be the little girl standing right next to me.

When my oldest daughter was in 5th grade, I had taken her to school earlier than normal one day because she had some elective type class. My wife called me and asked me to wait at the school (instead of going to work right away) in order for me to help her carry some stuff from the van up to the second floor. So, I waited outside, leaning up against the school and playing games on my cell phone while I waited. Eventually, she called to let me know she had arrived but was parked on the other side of the school grounds on the opposite side of the building. I put my phone away and headed across the grounds to meet her, passing first through the area of the playground where the intermediate grade kids were, around the corner and then through the section where the primary kids played. Just then, I heard someone yelling, “Sir? Sir! What’s your business here, sir?” I turn to look around and it’s the playground monitor who followed me from the other side of the school. “Yes! You, sir. Don’t move!” Nearby was the primary grade playground monitor…a woman whom my wife and I are familiar with. I said, “Kim, will you handle her for me? L is waiting for me to help carry some stuff.” So I kept walking and I heard, “Sir! I told you not to move and if you don’t stop I’m calling the po…” I looked back to see Kim speaking with this woman explaining that I was not a threat.

So…I’m glad they are on the lookout for dangers to our school children, but after 8 years it gets annoying.

And then there was the time, in my own neighborhood, when I was walking my girls around selling Girl Scout Cookies. We started off going up the street with the girls leap-frogging each other while going house to house. They went to houses 1 and 2, then the girl who went to house 1 went up to 3, the girl who went to house 2 went to house 4, etc etc etc. Well, due to a combination of one girl getting a couple of sales while the other did not, they eventually ended up on opposite ends of the street. So I stood on the sidewalk halfway between each one so I could keep and eye on both. Next thing I know, I hear from behind me, “Can I help you with something buddy?” I turned around to see a guy who had come out of his house and was standing in his yard, his wife behind him in the doorway on the phone.

“Nope.” And I turned back around to keep and eye on my girls. At this point, I had NO IDEA what this guy was thinking.

“What do you mean, ‘nope?’?” He had an indignant tone in his voice. “What are you up to?”

“Just selling some Girl Scout Cookies.” Perfectly logical (and true) explanation.

“Girl Scout–?” I turned back around to face him and he started walking toward me with a scowl on his face and pointing his finger. “You better tell me what the hell you’re doing around here, bud!”

“I told you. Girl Scout Cookies. I’m walking my daughters around the neighborhood.” I indicated my one daughter down the street, and then my other daughter up the street.

That calmed him down. “Oh. Oh. It’s all good. I was just…Hey, honey?” He turned to his wife who was still on the phone in the doorway. “It’s OK, he’s just taking his kids around selling Girl Scout Cookies.” Then his wife said into the phone, “Oh! Oh, it’s ok. It’s just some people selling Girl Scout Cookies. Sorry about that. Thanks.” Then she hung up. The guy explained to me that he was just watching out for things in the neighborhood.

“Yeah, sure. I understand. Did you want to buy some Girl Scout Cookies?”

“Uh, no. No thanks. Have a good day.”

So I’m stunned. This dude tried to interrogate me, got a bit angry with me, had his wife on the phone with what I assume to be the police, and then doesn’t buy a box of cookies???? What a fucker.

Have you ever seen anyone overreact to the performance of a magician? I’m not talking about a typical response of “Wow! That was a really good trick!” or even a “Ok, THAT was cool!” I’m talking about the kind of reaction where someone maybe screams or runs away or starts crying.

I’ve always loved watching magicians. I much prefer the close-up kind of magic and sleight of hand stuff as opposed to the big spectacle of disappearing tigers or national monuments. My fascination with magicians was big enough at one point for my mom to take me to a magic store so that I could get the tricks and perform them myself. That was utter disaster. I quickly found out that being able to do the trick immeasurably paled to experiencing the trick. I didn’t want to KNOW how to do it. I wanted to watch it and be amazed, even though I know it’s not really “magic.”

So it amazes me when I see someone freak out over some magician making a coin disappear or “magically” know which card you picked out of a deck. A while back, there was this guy in the racquetball league at the YMCA. We’ll call him Walt. Seemed like a good guy. Funny, bright, easy to talk with. Well, one evening while hanging around in the hall waiting for our court times, one of the other league guys (Ed) brought up the fact that he knew a wizard. A wizard who he could call on the phone and who would be able to tell what someone what card they were thinking of. Of course, everyone demanded proof. So Ed asks Walt to say the name of a card. Walt picked one, let’s say the 6 of hearts. Ed borrowed a cell phone, put on the loudspeaker so we all could hear and called The Wizard. He made some small talk, saying where he was and asking if the Wizard had heard from some sort of mutual friend yada yada yada. Then he went ahead and told The Wizard that he had a guy there who was thinking of a card and no one believed that The Wizard could guess it. The Wizard said, “Well, I’ll prove it. 6 of hearts.”

That was pretty fucking awesome. Everyone registered the amount of shock and surprise you would expect them to show at how such a spontaneous and unplanned event played out. It was fun and of course there were the questions. “How’d you do that?” “Oh come on, really! What’s the trick?” and so forth. But Walt was stunned.

Now, it just so happened that Walt was the guy I was scheduled to play that night. Our time came and we went into the court. As soon as the door closed, Walt said, “How did he do that?” I was smiling (cuz it was a good trick) and told him I didn’t know. Well, because I was smiling, Walt didn’t believe me. He started getting angry. “Don’t tell me that! You know! Tell me, please!” I assured him that I didn’t know and that there was certainly some trick to it. That’s when Walt said, “Things like that are unnatural. Black forces like that can cause big problems.” He was visibly shaken.

So at this point I was thinking, “Cray-zee.” But I told him that there was obviously some kind of code in the small talk or something that Ed said to tip off “The Wizard.” Walt wanted to know what that code was, because he sure didn’t hear any code. So I explained, “That’s the whole point of HAVING a code. What fun would it be if the code was blatantly obvious?” Walt didn’t want to hear any of it.

It ended up with Walt quitting halfway through the fist of what was supposed to be 3 games. He said that he was dropping out of the league and would not rejoin if Ed was going to be in it. He didn’t want to risk being around that kind of stuff. And he never came back.

Now that’s something I just don’t get. I mean, really. In the 21st century, how can anyone honestly believe that mystical, dark forces were invoked and psychic abilities were called into play just to tell someone which card they were thinking of?

So, I’ve got this story. It didn’t happen to me. It happened to someone else. But I was there. And to this day, I think it is the funniest thing I have ever witnessed. Of course, it’s at the expense of someone else and laughing about it is probably a cruel thing to do, but he was a friend of mine. And we all know that, in friendships, it’s totally OK to laugh once you’ve determined there is no phyiscal trauma. The cast of character’s in this little tale are Johnny, Sarah (Johnny’s sister), Chris, Stevie, a handful of other friends and a dog named Wilbur. Names have been changed to protect the humiliated.

When I was 14, waaaayyyyy back in 1984, a bunch of us were sitting on Johnny’s porch goofing around, listening to the Purple Rain soundtrack cassette on the ghetto blaster and talking about how cool it would be to be a ninjas. Chris and his younger brother, Stevie (about 10 years old) lived two doors down from Johnny. They had heard us playing the music and had come out of their house with their dog, Wilbur. We all liked Wilbur. He was a medium sized dog with short, jet-black fur. He was very friendly and would let anyone and everyone pet him. Wilbur didn’t mind playing a bit rough and it was not unusual for someone to be wrestling with him, at least for a few minutes, whenever he was brought around.

As I said we were talking about ninjas and had gotten into a debate as to who was better…Sho Kosugi (from Revenge of the Ninja) or James Ryan (from Kill and Kill Again). Chris had joined in, siding with the Ryanites and Stevie was down in the yard with Wilbur. As the conversation continued, Stevie gave his two-cents about Sho Kosugi being better because, “he took those guys with the guns and was, like, ‘Hiiiiyaahhhh, heeyaaah boff’ and they were all hurt and stuff and dropped their guns and ran away. If I was that Sho Kosugi guy, I’d have been all ‘yah yah oyyyyyyyy!’” While he was saying this, he was demonstrating his own…let’s say “martial art style”… with Wilbur. Stevie eventually got down on the ground and was rolling around with Wilbur, who was yipping and crouching the way dogs do when they play. Stevie was grabbing Wilbur…Wilbur was slapping at Stevie with his paw.

That’s when things got out of hand.

Stevie was on his hands and knees and charged head-first at Wilbur. Wilbur reacted by rearing up a bit and getting his paws on Stevie’s shoulders…and then he began humping. Unfortunately, Stevie was not able to get out of this position. Wilbur was just too heavy. Stevie was screaming and flailing his arms trying to get them to a place where he could push the dog off, but Wilbur wasn’t about to be disuaded. We could hear Stevie calling for help, but we were too busy laughing. Wilbur kept right on humping and, eventually, Stevie stopped flailing and screaming and just collapsed…no longer fighting the inevitable. Wilbur continued his humping and we were laughing so hard that we were crying. Sarah ended up peeing her pants because she was laughing so hard.

Finally, Wilbur stopped. Through our tears, we could see Stevie get to his knees. He had that shell-shocked, thousand yard stare and his hair…my God, his hair…on one side…had a glazed look to it. He sat there like that until Chris was able to get his laughter under control. As Chris was helping him up, Stevie silently looked at him with eyes that seemed to say, “Where am I? What just happened?” Chris led him home and the rest of the day was filled with our reenactments of the event.

I recently had a discussion with some people about consequences. It started off with us talking about our kids and teaching them consequences, but rapidly turned into a big share-fest of personal stories about consequences.

For one guy, it was touching a hot stove. For another, it was throwing snowballs at cars and hitting a police car with one. For another, it was getting cut when handling a pocket-knife for the first time. Mine had to do with throwing rocks. At windows.

I was about 9 or 10 and our house was next door to small apartment building. I always thought that was odd, considering it was the only apartment building on the whole entire street, but I’m told it’s because the neighborhood was built before certain zoning laws were established and, well…there you have it.

ANYWAY…I was about 9 or 10 and my next door neighbor (other next door, NOT the apartment next door) and I were playing in his back yard. We got to wondering if we could throw rocks all the way across my backyard and hit the window on the apartment building. This was not a big pane window, it was divided into small squares.

So, we spent some time throwing nickel and quarter sized rocks at this window until one of us, I can’t remember who, broke it. Yay! Mission accomplished! Whaddya wanna do now? It never entered our heads that this was vandalism, or it was wrong, or that someone was going to have to pay money to repair it. We just wanted to see if we could do it.

WELL…as you can probably guess, we were caught. Turns out the old woman who lived in the apartment had spied us through the window and she told my dad. I was the older one, so I MUST have been the ring-leader. My dad paid for the pane replacement and I had to spend an hour each day for a week helping this lady with some chores. I vacuumed her floor, washed her dishes, mopped her floor, took out her garbage, etc. But I was OK with all of that. In my mind, my punishment was just being around her.

Those of you who know me well are no doubt aware that I’m rather quite, introverted and uncomfortable when it comes to interacting with people whom I do not know very well. That hour each day was the longest hour ever. Being 9 or 10, I wasn’t very good at the chores I was doing and she was constantly talking to me about how to do it. Looking back, she was actually trying to teach and help me. She was very patient and she didn’t criticize, she’d dry the dishes while I washed, she’d get the bucket and mop ready…pretty classy. She could have been a mean old bitch, but she wasn’t.

But, damn, I hated it. I would have just rather done the chores and not said two words to her. But no. I had to talk about my school and things I liked to do and listen to her tales of changes the neighborhood had gone through. ::Shudder::

When the week was over, my dad asked if I had learned my lesson. I said yes. He asked what it was that I learned. I told him that you shouldn’t throw rocks at windows because you might have to be with someone you don’t know and talk about things. I remember him agreeing about the rock throwing and was satisfied that I wouldn’t do it anymore. He wasn’t too thrilled with my reason though. He explained the whole “vandalism” and “respect for others” to me, which was all well and good. But I don’t think I would have gotten as much out of the punishment if it was just going to rely on those concepts. The “having to be around and talk with someone you don’t know” thing is what really drove the lesson home.

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