Basements

Remembering people after their demise is especially difficult when you really don’t know them at all. When I heard of a woman’s departure from living, I did remember one specific item…her basement. It was one of the worst days of my life.

The Players:

Tom: He’s my brother and a bonafide master of dictating decisions for others even if it may end up with you having four railroads with his Broadway and Park Avenue. He was a Monopoly bully.

Shayne: A Viet Nam War Vet who wished to be no part of this mission in Spokane, Wa. Yet, he followed Tom’s orders.

Norm: An accomplished high school wrestler with a degree in strength, intelligence and generosity.

Me: Just a pawn in the game of Tom’s life.

Receiving a call from Tom on a Saturday, it was one of those many reasons when you make the poor decision of answering the call.

“What are you doing today?” Not having my rolodex of excuses, I replied with a feeble, “Not much. Maybe watching some college..(interrupted almost immediately by my brother, “Good, so you can help us.”

“Help who do what?”

“We need to move a freezer for someone. It will take about ten minutes.”

“Ok. Whose freezer?”

“Oh, you know her. Elenore.”

“Elenor Roosevelt? I know of her.”

“No. Tracy and Mike’s grandmother.”

Tracy and Mike were friends of ours, but I didn’t know Elenor at all unless knowing someone was witnessing her in the stands watching us play baseball. I still thought ten minutes couldn’t be too much trouble. This is before logic and reasoning skills were still in the premature levels of my tiny brain. I’ve since learned to multiply numbers practically when it comes to helping those in need. Ten minutes turned into six hundred minutes. That’s ten hours.

Tom picked me up. Tracy and Mike had other obligations, so it was, Tom, Mike and Tracy’s step dad, Shayne, and Norm. This should be easy.

Entering Tom’s truck, I asked, “So where do they live?”

“It’s on the North Side.” Well, that eliminated the ten minutes because we lived, on a Saturday, at least thirty minutes away. I then developed a hatred for child proof locks. So, I was indeed in for a treasure chest filled with surprisies including no air conditioning in the car.

Thirty five minutes later, we arrived to the house. Shayne was on time, Norm was on time…so at least the moving should be simple. Not so fast. I began asking logical questions to Tom. “Where’s the freezer?”

“In the basement.”

“I thought this was a one story house.”

“So did I.”

“You didn’t ask? Seems like a pretty small house.”

“Yeah.”

The house was quite small. The staircase was smaller. After walking down the staircase and greeting the freezer, it was clear the house was built around the freezer. And, the freezer looked bigger than the Ark of the Covenant.

The basement didn’t have snakes. It also didn’t have a hand truck, an elevator or a Star Trek, “beam this freezer up” device.

Once there, and also greeting Eleanor, a very lovely person, there was no choice. We needed to get this freezer out of their house. I just wish I would have known why at the time.

Since the house was so small, and the freezer so large, I did have some thoughts about the simplest way to extract the freezer without anyone sweating too much. Let’s blow the house up, with Elenor in safe distance, so we can just carry the freezer out with no complications. Dealing with the staircase just seemed unreasonable, much like my prior idea.

Step one A: (These instructions are written in English. Since we had a Viet Nam vet ordering us around, I wish the instructions were written differently, say, Gaelic)

Step one B: Disassemble Freezer.

Step 2: Use profanity while disassembling freezer.

Step 3: Thaw Freezer before carrying it up a flight of stairs.

Step 4. Continue profanity to elevate testosterone level so you can proceed to the next step.

Step 5: Disassemble banisters from staircase trying to be patient with a former Marine shouting orders.

Step 6: Lock former Marine in nearest bathroom.

Step 7: Squeeze enormous monolith up one flight of stairs without fracturing any ribs.

Step 8: Refuse medical attention upon arrival of the first floor unless the attention is alcohol.

There was no step nine.

jWe did complete our mission. Beers followed for another ten hours.

I’d like to say this was a giant fish story, the freezer representing Jaws, maintaining frozen meats, vegetables, TV dinners, and Swansons chicken pot pies. But I Can’t. It was a story. Just a story I wish Enenore could have stuck around to read. From what I’ve read, Chuckling is allowed in heaven.

Guilty

Recognition of Evil doesn’t prevent Evil. Sadly, it almost embraces it.

I’m guilty. I’m guilty of watching the news, reading the paper, and know not to believe anything on the internet. Forgive me for being interested. I, rather, we, should also be discerning.

My value regarding the shootings in Texas may fall deaf upon those who can’t hear or discern anything. Sadly, those who can’t hear or discern live in areas of the United States where logic, understanding, and rational behavior doesn’t exist. It, gun violence, boils me to the core of what is clearly unacceptable, clearly disgusting, and yet ignored by some or heard with indifference.

A close friend of mine, “Craig”, brought up the topic this morning. He’s a respected and excellent teacher who arrives to work every morning trying to accept the idea of him or his students dealing with the possibility of such behavior which is beyond comprehension.

I wish he’d take up a new profession. You know, like law enforcement, firefighter, EMT, the Marines. Painter. Corn Hole construction or aviation. Safe avenues. He would nail them all. Instead, he chooses to be a teacher. Much to my dismay, Bravo, Craig. You are a better man than I.

What are the solutions to this sickening behavior? I don’t know. It’s so tricky. Fewer assault rifles? No. That’s too easy.

Craig believes eliminating the glorification of shooters is at the very least an a attempt for the Media to speed up the attention for settling down the possibility one shooter may not be so inclined to kill so many innocent children.

My other friend, Mark, has a much easier and morbid solution. Mark is in his nineties and works as a crossing guard at a local elementary. He loves the children almost as much as they love him. His, not so popular solution, is to wish for a gun yielding teenager to bust a cap in the asses of those approaching death, almost wishing it, in his retirement community, thus sparing the lives of precious children. Since I love him dearly, and I am anti guns, my response to him was to purchase a bullet proof afghan and avoid the shooter. Unconventional, yes. Practical? I have no idea.

Either way, we are all screwed if AK whatevers are still being sold to people of any age, race, religion or AARP members. We already sell them cars. Isn’t that enough?

The In Crowd

What is the “In Crowd”? I’ve never been in. I’ve never been out. I’ve just chosen to fly or drive away from those in and out of that crowd.

A terrific friend of mine, Marshall St. John, approaching 90 something years old, is in the “In Crowd”. To his credit, he maintains an age appropriate sense of humor.

These are the official qualifications for the “In Crowd”.

(Choose your weapon.)

Incontinence

Infirm

In Traction

Incompetence

Incomplete

Incomplete sentenes

Incoherent

In diapers.

Incoherent

Inheritance? Nope.

Either way, they are all quite rewarding results of growing. The AARP members are just experiencing puberty at a different angle.

Derby Alternates

With the Kentucky Derby running on its last stretch of degenerate gamblers, I’d like to give you the names before the odds. If you wish to place a bet with me, you can visit www.youaregoingtolose.com..

  1. Elon (Owner owns an electric Horse)
  2. amazon.com (the owner will be watching from Mars)
  3. Don’t Touch Me (owned by a group of 1000 flight attendants)
  4. Top Gun (owner: Shirtless Tom Cruise and some male beach volleyball enthusiasts)
  5. Bitch Slap (owner: Good Will Smith)
  6. BitchSetMeUp (Owner: Marion Barry)
  7. My Family Matters (Owner: Tom Brady)
  8. MyFamilyDoesn’tMatter: (Owner: Tom Brady)
  9. SayMyName: (Owner: Walter White)
  10. YouShould@#$%Me! (Owner: Mel Gibson)
  11. Boring (Owner: Joe Biden). with due respect.. “and it’s Boring by a nose!”
  12. SmithAndHestin: (I think we all know the owner…..Tom Selleck)
  13. Don’t Say Gay (owner: Florida)
  14. Manscaping (owner: millionaire, and former jockey, Jose Sasquatch)
  15. I’m Weird (owner: Johnny Depp)
  16. I’m Angry (owner: Johnny Depp)
  17. I’m Drunk (owner: Johnny Depp)
  18. You’re Fired: (owner: George Steinbrenner Jr.)
  19. DelBocaVista (owner: Seinfeld’s parents and his uncle Leo)
  20. Yada Yada Yada

Goodfellas of Nowhere Middle School

While serving time teaching Middle School, I was introduced to students with autism. All different kinds and degrees of autism, but my favorite memory is about a boy named Nique. He was indeed unique.

When Nique was integrated into my seventh grade classroom, I wasn’t sure I’d be capable of educating and engaging him. I also worried about how the other students would respect or treat him. Unsure of how to best support this student, I did the next best thing. I enlisted other students to look out for him.

Nique was a quiet young man who seemingly wanted to be left alone, yet also wanted to belong in a classroom with peers who accepted him. In truth, Nique was in a class in which many of the students had challenges far worse than autism. Some could be clinically diagnosed as assholes.

Poor teaching was allowed in my class. Bullying wasn’t. I knew at some point, I may lose my cool and verbally abuse a bullying student. That would result in one or more outcomes, the most likely of which would include termination. Now, as The Godfather of this classroom, I gained the respect of some tough and influential students. They knew I wouldn’t take any of their crap, and if I didn’t reciprocate that respect to them, they wouldn’t take any of mine. Think of them as my middle school street capos.

Just before Nique arrived, I informed these capo students of a few conditions I needed their help enforcing. Nique didn’t like loud voices, argumentative behavior, pencil sharpening, or the incessant use of erasers. Humor would be tolerated but may fall flat. In short, we’d pretty much need to change the atmosphere of our classroom completely. The capos nodded, knowing they had the order from the boss.

It’s worth noting that Nique didn’t make these requests. I was informed of these needs by request of his Special Education Teacher who did have a well constructed IEP, (individual educational plan) for Nique. Before he entered the class on his first day, I informed the class we’d be welcoming a new student. I then described how the classroom was going to change to make him feel welcome, and provided some clarity on what would happen to any student who wandered from the guidance. “You’ll be sleeping with the fishes,” yaddy yada, they got the point. Fortunately I didn’t have to be too threatening. It wasn’t because I was a ruthless, violent middle school dictator. They simply knew that I wouldn’t like them if they were mean to this boy. In that regard, Nique was a ‘made’ middle school man.

They day he arrived, and without the bribery of sodas, the Capos did just as I had hoped. They kept a keen eye on Nique, and the loud pencil sharpener. They made sure it was clear to the rest of the classroom how this was going to work. The best Capo I recruited was not just the toughest girl in that school. She was flat out the toughest student in the school. In addition to being tough, Hannah was wildly smart, a great athlete, and someone I didn’t want to mess with on any period of the week. She was also extremely funny, and I could trust her. You could say Hannah was my Joe Pesci.

Once a week, our class would spend an hour in the computer lab. (Yes, this was over a decade ago, and before the proliferation of laptops and smart phones.) Fortunately, for the students, I wouldn’t be teaching them any computer skills since I possessed none. Therefore, a different educator with computer skills would teach them a lesson each week on how to use the computers properly. The computer lab teacher was pretty fixated on rules, and ran a tight computing ship. In fact, she spent most of the time lecturing the students about what was forbidden on the computer, rather than showing them how the internet could be useful and educational without assuming every student in the school was a pervert. (Why not just teach them how to not accidentally download porn, and to erase your web browsing history?!)

To move things along, I suggested she show them something useful, such as how to create a power point presentation. I only suggested it because I didn’t know how to create one, and I had only heard the term powerpoint once. It sounded cool. Even though agreeing with me, I could sense she was slightly offended that my students were more interested in my suggestion than the lecture. So, I left the room to give her some space and get some gummy bears in the teacher’s lounge. Ten minutes later, I received a frantic call from this teacher in the lounge stating Nique had gone a bit nuts in the computer lab. What happened?

One, this teacher was very loud. Two, she spoke extremely quickly as though she was announcing the Kentucky Derby while taking them through the proper steps for this PowerPoint procedure. Three, she wasn’t particularly forgiving to students not keeping up or asking questions during the process. It was clear the majority of the classroom couldn’t follow her instruction. At some point, after a legitimate question from Nique resulted in a terse response from the teacher, he blew a gasket. Raising his keyboard over his head, he crushed it on the table making the keys resemble scrabble pieces all over the lab.

I arrived in seconds to witness him crying, actually bawling, and the teacher said he would never be allowed, under any circumstance in the lab again. Escorting him back to my classroom, I calmed him down, let him breathe, and waited a few minutes to speak with Hannah regarding the incident.

Hannah described the incident, and I believed every word she spoke. Sounded like every example of computer instruction I’ve ever received. . . too fast, confusing and questions are greeted with a judging look that seems to say, “Why don’t you get this?” Before I had to calm her down, (she wanted to beat the hell out the teacher), I told her not to worry about Nique or the ridiculous notion he would be restricted from the lab. I then asked her, “In retrospect, knowing Nique is going to be just fine, was it pretty funny?” She said, “Come to think of it, it was. He told her off and basically said, and did, what the rest of us felt like doing.”

Nique, still shaken, received a hug from Hannah, and I reassured him he would be allowed back into the lab. That day, Nique did something I’ve always wanted to do and Hannah was probably more mature about the situation than I would have been. I was proud of them both, and I learned more about how much truth there can be in the behavior of those with autism.

During that same year, my wife had the privilege of meeting both Nique and Hannah. When my wife arrived to our classroom, I introduced her to each student, one of which was a Spanish speaking student named, Porqua. She also spoke perfect English, yet I insisted on introducing her to my wife and showing off my two years of high school Spanish education. “Feliz Navidad, seƱorita.” (It wasn’t Christmas time. This was in the month of June.) I intentionally proceeded in making a fool of myself which students generally tend to love. “Ehh, Todos los nones. Mi estsomago es muy largo!” (My stomach is very long). “La vaca es en el bano?” (The cow is in the bathroom). Porqua began laughing and Nique became tired of my silly banter, rolled his eyes, and once again said what everyone else was thinking. “She speaks English, Mr. Gannon.”

He shut my gringo ass up and rightly so.

Anti Masking (I’ll Take a Cup)

The olympics have come to a close. Sadly, I didn’t watch much, but I remember when the Winter Olympics closed in 1980. I was seven, and it wasn’t over for us.

My brothers, friends and I took the closing ceremonies to a different level after the US Hockey team won the gold medal. We took it to our basement for the next year.

At seven years of age, I was chosen to be the goalie, because I was stupid and respected Jim Craig, the goalie for the US Hockey team, and I also wanted to block shots with a mask adorned with a Shamrock. That dream ended when I became simply a target for my older brothers and their friends. My mask didn’t have a shamrock tattooed on it. It was far worse. In our basement, I found something resembling a mask covering your nose and mouth. After placing it upon my mouth with a rubber band and electrical tape, someone said to me, “You idiot. That’s a cup.” At age seven, I didn’t know the difference between a mask and a cup. Let’s be clear. I’m already stupid……but can you imagine how dumb I was at seven?

As premature baseball players, one was required to wear a cup protecting their genitals from being hit, swollen, disfigured, malnourished or even ruptured. I didn’t know this. Not sure if I even had balls then.

I wrapped it around my head as though I was a motocross racer. It was quite similar, and at a much smaller scale, resembled a goalie’s mask. It had holes for breathing. Not sure why nuts required that. I guess it was a sweat issue.

We also didn’t have hockey sticks. These were replaced with golf clubs donated by my father’s friends from a country club which he was not a member. No pucks…. Only used golf balls. Ice? Negative. The concrete floor was as close as we could get to Lake Placid.

Everyone but me chose their weapons. The forwards chose two, three, four or even five irons. Anything above that would elevate their slap shot above my ribs or head. A pitching wedge was just unmentionable, because it may break the already dim ceiling lights in the basement.

I was left with a putter, cup and a catcher’s baseball chest protector.

I don’t know if I was more terrified of the golf balls aimed at me, because the opposing team didn’t seem interested in scoring, or the basement shrapnel flying from the floor. (By the time mom discovered what we were doing, it was too late to stop us or call for help) I did also have a baseball glove in hand and some athletic tape surrounding my forearms to disguise any bruises.

Never finishing a game with the USA Flag wrapped around me, rather, I paraded around the basement with something more like a beach towel we found at a local river covered with sand, hair, and cheap suntan lotion.

Thanks to the “cup”, I never suffered a broken nose. And, I never finished a game with a red, white and blue flag. Black and blue was fine with me.

What are the Odds?

Gambling is fun, if you have the funds, or proper representation just large enough to save your thumbs.

The Super Bowl awakened us, hit us, and some quite hard. Therefore, so does gambling. Personally, I don’t really care about the bet I made with a friend. In fact, I’m happy I lost the bet, because, he will say, “No big deal, you can buy me lunch after this covid stuff subsides.” I guess I’m in the clear for another couple years!! What a chump!

That easy ride takes me to a thought of betting with people during the Super Bowl. Common people….you know….morons. Me. (I stole that line from Mel Brooks in Blazing Saddles,)

People, or, “morons”, still make resolutions. My very simple belief is people make new year’s reservations before the Super Bowl. Anyone who bets on that, like me, is a simpleton. It’s ok to be stupid, as long as you admit to being stupid yet having the money to choose poorly. That’s where it becomes confusing for some.

The most money I’ve ever made gambling was betting against a very smart roommate with a bad habit. I won’t identify the roommate and close friend, nor his legal habit, but he did buy me a Chinese dinner annually after losing the bet. Even if his check bounced at Tom Yung Fhoo Mee, he wasn’t stupid, decided to finish his pharmacy degree, became a quite successful pharmacist, and never bet with me again.

A Winter Ornament (Action Figure)

I never wanted to be famous. Perhaps, that’s why I’m not. With my action figure past, I could have been famous…so so famous.

G.I. Joe was famous because this plastic model of destruction convincing his company to accept him and many children wanting to be like a doll, yes, a doll, embracing an arsenal and no conscience. This doll carried a bazooka, hand grenades, machine gun, and bug spray. G.I Joe was an action hero to many.

Action figures are defined as play time boy toys made out of silicon, rubber, and asbestos. Sometimes, toy makers would inject a little maple syrup to increase the intensity required for to secure a hill.

In the mid seventies, I became an action figure. Yet, I was a real life action figure for my brothers. Not supplied with hooks, knives, grenades, or guns, I was succumbing to mental suppression and physical abuse because I was wearing leg braces at the age of five. Wearing the braces lasted two years. The fun my dear brothers had with me only lasted a few months.

The leg braces were fine for a few days. I learned to live with them. They were funny looking. Leather shoes, a triangular crotch separating my legs with leather straps wrapped tightly around my thighs and shoes with tire tread soles. To be honest, although wildly uncomfortable, I didn’t mind the attention at all. Even if the attention would come with a form of torture, a term I loosely use.

Going in depth with how wonderfully my family treated me during this time I was supposed to feel so helpless and sorry for myself, they made it properly clear they would help me if necessary and I shouldn’t feel sorry for myself. Some of them also said, “Since you’re getting all the attention, you are going to pay a price for it.” During the winter months, I became a three and a half foot tall Christmas tree ornament hanging vertically with my brothers and neighbors taking aim. Yes, they’d hang me upside down dangling from a tree. Other than the wool gloves covering my face with one hand and my genitals with the other, I was defenseless.

I didn’t know what “paying the price for it” meant until I was swinging from a tree in my braces, only to be targeted by snowballs during the “Happiest Time of the Year.” My silver bells weren’t ringing. They were stinging. After a long half hour, I could only wish for the balls to cease. Eventually, they did.

Entering high school, the stories grew like a beanstalk. Teachers would ask me if I was pelted with baseballs, footballs, hockey pucks and even golf balls as though my father would drive us to the nearest golf course allowing my brothers to hang me from a tree on the driving range. None of those things ever happened.

This is a bit foggy, or snowy, but I’d like to remember two of my oldest brothers showing up one day to witness the public display of humiliation. Brothers Steve and Glenn arrived one day and put a very stern and prompt end to the snowball throwing gallery, telling them, as my father would sometimes say, “If this happens again, we’re going to kick your asses up beneath your shoulder blades.”

I neve dangled from a tree again.

Shared DNA

Appreciating the State of Arizona is easy. Arizona has a rich history, pristine views of a particular canyon I’ve not properly visited or even researched, many golf courses, outlaws depicted in movies, pickle ball glory, and my favorite, minor league baseball. Arizona also has zoos. In fact, some of the best zoos just west of New Mexico.

Much like my Irish history, I hadn’t given much thought to zoos as being a part of my culture. Those silly DNA ancestry results about me and my fellow shillelagh swinging Micks always resulted in nothing but potatoes and drinking, even tossed in with a few bouts of gambling. Yes. I get it, and I’m not particularly proud of my cultural stereotypes. That’s when I thought of going to a zoo in Arizona, which couldn’t be further from my heritage, or so I thought. Allow me speak and embrace a bipedal departure from my tarnished history.

After being licked by camels, giraffes and toucans, my wife and I headed to the primate section of the park. As God and my wife’s witness, she thought I encountered one of my relatives.

Yes, it was a monkey. At first, I thought it was merely a cute, long armed species wanting everyone’s attention. My wife then pointed out, “hey, I think he likes you.” As a sensitive hetero-primate myself, I’ve never been approached or attacked by a lower chain of species, so I felt safe, as I was at least four feet taller than him. So, I wandered around his confinement to see some of the many others also in this chain linked environment. They paid me no attention. The one taking a shine to me kept following me as if he recognized me. My wife’s amusement was clear, and so was my curiosity along with his. While the monkey, wearing no goofy shriner’s hat, nor carrying a pail for tithing, it was evident he was dancing, prancing, and even did an uncomfortable magic trick for me pulling a banana out of his “fur”.

I could have moved on to the elephant exhibit, but my wife convinced me to stay and entertain the monkey, or her in the process. It was an experimental way of convincing me and everyone else at the zoo that it was as if I was more of a primate than a human.

The monkey was far more talented than I could ever be, but I did look around me and found each human in the zoo almost as interesting as the monkeys. The humans were walking around with something called corn dogs. Even the thought of eating what may be considered a “corn dog” seemed quite medieval. They also carried change in their pockets for something called a wishing well. Get Real. As I realized how interesting this “human exhibit” was to me, it became more clear the monkey and I had a good deal in common. At this point I purchased the monkey a six dollar beer, which I didn’t pull out of my somewhat hairy chest, and offered it to him. He then drank the beer, ate the cup, and we parted as similar, yet different bipeds. Our only difference was clear – I don’t eat plastic.

After further analysis, I get it. A DNA kit determined that I was 30 percent Irish, and 70 percent monkey. It was displayed properly within the ancestral family tree. All of my ancestors were not just beating down trees filled with Apples (to make Apple jack), they were also swinging from those trees.

A Simple Blasphemous New Year

Along with colds, coughs, and oxygen tanks, not to mention Covid or computer malfunctions, and intentionally not responding to texts, those days still remain. I’m guilty of not providing a blog for those who give a crap. Just like Christmas Cards, I’m late, but that doesn’t mean I don’t remember New Years of the past, present and future…making me a prophet.

Do you remember when the first day of the year meant something, other than hangovers? #bowlgames.

Now, it’s merely just breaking your new year’s resolution.

In the late 70’s and early to late 80’s as well as the early 90’s breaking into the late 90’s, there was a reason to wake up at the crack of clam dip. We watched the Coton Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl, and ended the evening with the Rose Bowl. Not to make light of it, but the “Me Too Bowl” was something I couldn’t properly relate to, similar to my favorite bowl, the “What About Me Bowl”, which still is pending charges, depending on the outcome of certain judicial decisions.

Our mother always made clam dip for us to end her cooking for the New Year’s Day. It came in a casserole dish as large and loud as our catholic and quite pious father using phrases such as “God Damn it!” or “Jesus Christ!” while watching Notre Dame piss away another National Championship. Our brother, Greg, would utilize the same profanities only to be asked to go on the lawn with the other dogs. It was blasphemy and hypocrisy at its finest. Tom and I just ate and enjoyed the games

I miss those days. Simple. Fulfilling. Profanity included. Not giving a damn about resolutions at the age of 5 through 18, we were merely enjoying the games, eggnog and clam dip.