Full Circle.

I heard on the news that PETA and animal activists around the world are celebrating today that the Naugah has been removed from the endangered species list. For those of you unfamiliar with this docile animal, the Naugah is from South America and resembles a Yak only hairless. Killed by the millions back in the seventies for their soft, multi-colored hides, they were made into furniture called Naugahide. If not for the fact that it soon went out of style by the early to mid eighties, the animal would long be gone. That fate came to the Corinthian. Also throughout the seventies this moose like creature from the Boom Bala Peninsula of Greater Southeast Baquay was destroyed in one decade alone to make the Corinthian leather interiors in Chrysler cars. Ricardo Montelbon raved about its elegant appearance on TV commercials and Lee Iacocca had no remorse or feelings of guilt about removing a species from the face of the earth, for interiors of crap cars that didn’t appeal to anyone. When’s the last time you saw a K car?  Yup!  Now I’m not going Paul McCartney on you about this, killing an animal for furniture and cars to me is wrong.  But eating, is another story.  The word Vegetarian is derived from the tribe of the Lost Fah-kowie Indians.  The meaning was ‘One who cannot hunt.’    The term ‘Lost’ in their name came from the fact each time they came into town, they would chant “We’re the Fah-kowie… We’re the Fah-kowie.” But I didn’t have to worry about my part in animal cruelty. The only thing becoming extinct with my car was the car itself.

I had a blue 1974 Chevy Biscayne four door sedan. I had a old blanket covering the springs and cushion foam of what was left of the front seat. No Corinthian leather here. I decided to go out and meet my friend Otter MacPherson at the local watering hole. I went out to the car. The door made a metallic squeal as I opened it.  The seat springs crunched as I sat and put the key in the ignition. A low sound of a buzzer became audible like a dying bee behind the dash as I turned the key. Two red lights flickered on the speedometer trying desperately to stay lit. The AM radio came on. This was irritating as the tuning knob was broken and it could only play a Spanish speaking channel.   I turned the key to the next click. A slow grinding sound of the starter protested loudly as failed to reach its objective and stopped in a low whining moan. I stomped the gas pedal and tried it again, only to receive the same results.  I tried one more time.  The old six cylinder engine suddenly came to life, coughing, wheezing, and sputtering to get going. The rattling and chattering of tappets and lifters came from the old motor.  The smell of exhaust came up from the holes in the rusty floorboards, blue smoke belched out the back.  I turned on the headlights.  The knob came off in my hand.  One dim light aimed down in front of the bumper, the other shot its hi-beam up into the trees.  the only working dash light illuminated the pedals down by the floor where it hung by the wire.   I pressed down on the clutch pedal.  Before I could get the column shift into first, the pedal broke off beneath the dashboard.  The radio was playing ‘La-Kooka-Rah-Cha’ as I assessed the situation.

“Well, that’s that.”  I said turning off the ignition. The engine convulsed, dieseling and gasping in a last ditch effort not to quit. Hard to get it to start, now can’t get the damn thing to stop. I couldn’t get the knob back in to turn off the lights, so I tossed it in the back seat.  I got out of the car thinking the battery should be dead in another ten minutes anyway. I went back into the house, opened a beer and turned on the TV. Just as luck would have it, a commercial for a car dealer started.

“Hi folks! Are you in need of a new or quality pre owned car? Come on down to Krotchpheeler Chevrolet. We are conveniently located downtown next to House of Wang Mexican Food Emporium. Test drive any vehicle in our inventory and receive a coupon for a free sesame chicken taco. Bring the Wife and Kiddies to meet our sales team Dewey Screwem, Ann Howe and our sales manager Ben Dover. On Saturdays we have free ice cream, prizes and balloons. Fun for everyone. Tour our state of the art service department. Our Service Manager Ben De Bumper and his associates Denton Fenders and Louis Screws will be available to answer all your questions. Our bad luck is your good luck. Do to a problem with our paint booth, We are offering a huge sale on select models. Just because the colors don’t match doesn’t mean it’s not a good car. Save big. Krotchpheeler Chevrolet where you’re not only our customer, you’re our friend.  This week only we will give you $5,000 for your trade in, any condition.  C’mon down”.

Well that did it for me. The next morning I was up to go meet my new friends.  Superglue and Gorilla Tape got the clutch pedal back on good enough to work.  With a jump start on the battery, I was off to get a new car.  As I turned left into the dealership, the turning signal arm broke off and the light continued blinking as I pulled up and parked.  The light kept blinking after I turned off the car. I got out, walked back and opened the trunk to make sure I didn’t leave anything.  I looked  in  and saw the parking lot and my feet, no floor.

“I wonder how long ago I lost my spare tire and jack?”  I murmured closing the lid. That’s a problem for the next owner. Then a voice came from behind me.

“Hi, welcome to Krotchpheeler Chevrolet. I’m Fast Ernie. What do I have to do to get you into a new car today?” He said with a overly aggressive handshake.

“Hi.” I replied rather noncommittal. “I would like to see your sales manager Mr. Dover.”

“Well, I can assist you myself in any way.” He smiled eagerly.

“OK then, what’s your lowest price you’ll take on that yellow Malibu SS over there? Rock bottom out the door lowest price, period.” I asked.

He hesitated a moment with this surprise, puzzled look on his face. He looked over at the car, back at me, over back to the car and shrugged.

“Let’s cut the crap.” I said.  ” This whole game of psychology, holding me hostage for hours running back and forth to his office, acting like my advocate to get the best deal ever. I want his lowest price. Then I either buy it or not. Either way I’m out of here in 5 minutes.”

He froze, not knowing what to do. I honestly thought the poor guy was going to piss his pants.  He just put up his hand extending his index finger in a sign to wait a moment, then ran into the building.  I walked around looking at some cars.  I get a kick out of the marketing they use.  No prices on the cars, just how much down and how much a month.  One car stated $249.00 a month.  That’s it.  Is that for two months or two hundred?  That would be some handy information to know.  Then out the door comes my new best friend I saw on TV last night.

“Hi, Ben Dover Sales Manager.  Can I have your name, address, phone and email? Glad to meet you. Have a job? Good credit?  Three references? Which car are you interested in?”  He asked with another overly aggressive handshake.

“What’s the bottom line on the yellow SS?”  I asked.

“Do you have a trade in?”  He came back.

“What’s that got to do with it?  What’s your best price?”  I repeated.

“Well, are you a serious buyer, will you buy it today.” He started (the dance.)

“Like the trade in, what does that have to do with giving me your best and only price?”  I asked.  (If we’re dancing, I’ll lead.)

“Uh-are you paying cash or financing?”  He came back.

“All you need to know is I’m buying a car and you’re getting the money, period. Anything else is irrelevant.  No extended warranties, gap insurance, paint protection, rust proofing, dealer add ons, special financing or anything else your finance manager comes up with.  Bottom line, lowest price and sign the papers for only that.  How much?”

“You won’t sit and discuss your purchase with our finance manager?’  He asked somewhat confused.

“Especially that.  Only sign the papers. Point to where I sign, no communication.”  I demanded.

He stood there perplexed, confused, baffled, stumped and bewildered.  Like the salesman, he held up his finger to wait a moment, and made his way back into the building, bumping into the door before opening it.  He came back out shortly.

“I met with Mr. Krotchpheeler and we called our district office of General Motors.  Sorry to say without the information to the questions I asked you, we have no idea how to price the vehicle.  We recommend you make your purchase from a private seller or CarMax.” He said.  As I was leaving I noticed a guy  I haven’t seen since high school walk on to the lot.  Thinking quick, I approached him with a offer to good to be true.

“Bongo-lips… Bongo-Lips Bruebaker.”  I called out.  We called him that because his lips were the size of Kim Kardashian’s ass.

“Hey, how’s it hang’n?”  He greeted me.

“Buying a car today?” I asked.  He assured me he was.  I asked if he had a trade in.  He shook his head no.

“How would you like to take $4000.00 off the price of any car with a trade in?”  I asked.

“Sure, but how?”  He inquired.

“This week only they are giving $5000.00 on any trade in.  That’s my car over there.  Give me $1,000.00 for it and you can trade it in and get $4,000.”  I said.

A broad smile came to his face.  He took out a wad of $100.00 bills, counted out ten as I signed my title over to him.  As I was leaving the sales manager came running up.

“Did you just sell that piece of crap to that guy with the bad cologen job for one thousand dollars?” He asked.

“Sure did.”  I replied, putting the money in my wallet.

“That’s genius, I want you to work here with me.”  He said.

“Well, only if you can tell me what the best price is on that yellow Malibu SS with my employee discount?”  I smiled, leaving.

Seeing I was downtown I walked over to ‘Stazlowski’s Polka Palace’ on Adams St.  Actually the place didn’t have anything to do with polkas.  It was a strip club.  I inquired on it once and was told if you ask anyone of polish decent what a ‘pole dance’ was, they would say a polka.  At least that was what my Uncle Stanish told me. He was a Polish psysic. He only predicted the past and was 85 percent accrurate.  He married my mother’s sister Gert.  I sat there with a beer talking to ‘Runt’.  She was the day shift bartender  She was a midget, or to be politically correct a dwarf or size challenged.  Who can keep up with that crap. OK you’re offended. Get over it,  there’s a lot bigger stuff in this world to worry about.  Her real name was Antoinette O’Houlahand.  We would spend hours discussing various subjects such as world economy or devaluation of the Canadian Loon.  She knew all the names of the ‘Munchkins” from the Wizard of Oz. Their real names.  I remember the first time we met.  I came into the bar and ran right into her.

“Oh, I’m sorry.  Are you alright?”  I asked, reaching down to help her up.

“I’m not happy.”  She replied.

“Oh?  Which one are you?”

Man did she get pissed. But after time we became good friends.

“Hey, lookit dis. My Kemosaube.  What you do’n here dis early?”  It was my pals Hurley and Ricky.  The sat down at the bar and ordered beers.

“Heard you got a job.”  I said.

“Yeah, started last week.”  Hurly replied.

“What do you make?”  I asked.

“Plenty of mistakes and a few improper remarks.”  He said.

“No, I mean how much do you make?” I asked.

“I don’t make nothing.  I work in a office.”  He replied.

“I mean how much are they paying you?”  I was now getting frustrated.

“Hell if I know, I haven’t got my first check yet.”  He shrugged.  “By the time they take all the deductions out, I don’t know what’s left for me.”

“You working anywhere?”  I asked Ricky.

“I had a interview this morning with this good looking gal.”  He laughed.

“How did the interview go?”  I asked,  thinking this should be good.

“She asked me why I want to work at Goodyear Tire and Rubber.”

“And you said.”

“It would be good year before I’d get too tired to rub her.  Besides, I want to fly a blimp.” He exclaimed.

By this time the place was starting to fill up for the afternoon show.  We took a table across from the stage, against the staircase.  We got another round of beers as the show began.  The first gal out I recognized worked at the Waffle House outside of Spooner on Old Hwy 41. I remember that missing front tooth when she would smile and give me my check. She took off her clothes like she was going to take a bath.  When the music started she began this river dance thing with her arms dangling down her sides and her legs going like crazy.  Then the others came out.  If you like boobs flapping, veracious veins that look like street maps of a major city, more stretch marks than a taffey pull, and cottage cheese cellulite, this was the place to be. Don’t get me wrong, I believe every woman is beautiful in their own special way.  It’s just some should give more thought about becoming an exotic dancer.  Then who should I see come walking in but the sales manager at the Chevy dealership.  My new buddy.  He must be off duty as the cheap tie and Sears Sansabelt slacks were replaced with a Rolling Stones t-shirt and shorts.  He stopped as he walked by the table.

“Hey, my new partner. Who are these guys?  Ben Dover, how you doing?  Hey Ben Dover, got a job? Youse guys need a car?”  He asked, shaking their hands. “Good credit, bad credit no problem. Hey, that guy with the plunger mouth that bought your car?  He bought the yellow Malibu SS.”

“How much did he pay for it?” I asked.

“Search me, all those numbers on all those forms confuse the hell out of me.” He shrugged.

“I don’t need a new car, I need a new dog.”  Hurly said.

“You need a new dog?”  I asked him.  “What about Ol’ Nitro?”

“He’s way up there in dog years.  Instead of barking at strangers, he stands at the front door, pees the carpet and wheezes.”

“Hey, you wanna trade him in for a new car?  We’ll take anything in trade, including a asthmatic dog.” Ben said.  “You gotta job?”

“Yeah, I keep sex out of the movies.”  Hurly replied.

“Oh, a censor?” He asked.

“No a usher.” Hurly answered with his usual humor.

“How much you make?” He asked.

“NO, WE’RE NOT GETTNG BACK INTO THAT!”  I interrupted.

We assured him we didn’t want a car and he was off bothering other tables, handing out business cards like a priest giving communion wafers.

“Who was that Asshole?”  Hurly asked.

“Sales Manager at Krotchpheeler Chevrolet.  Forget him.”  I said.

“Car dealer?  My apologizes to any Assholes who were offended by my comparison.”  Hurly laughed.

“Hey, I just ran into Bongo-Lips.” I said.

“Bruebaker? No shit. Last I heard he got his lips caught into a trumpet mouthpiece.  Took six doctors fourteen hours to free him.  For the next two weeks his lips were puckered up like a fish.” He laughed again. “Looked like he was applying for a job at a kissing booth in Atlantic City.”

We continued watching the show. When the song ‘Copa-Cabana’ by Barry Mantilow started playing, a couple girls came out flinging their arms and legs and bumping into the other dancers.  The whole thing looked like it was put on by the same people who produced the old Jerry Lewis Telethons.  In fact some of the customers watching called the bar and pledged money.  We ordered another round of drinks. Just as we got our beer the phone rang.

“RICKY, IT’S YOUR MOTHER..”  Runt yelled from behind the bar.  We could only see her arm holding up the receiver.

“Who’s mother would call her son at a strip club?”  I wondered aloud more to myself than anyone.  I watched the expression change on his face, then he tossed the phone back to Runt and headed for the door.

“Damn, got to run. I forgot I had a date for lunch with the daughter of my Mom’s best friend. Be back as soon as I can.  Have my beer.”  He exclaimed, running out.

It was a moment later Hurly bummed a cigarette from a guy at the next table.  I watched him light it and my curiosity got the best of me.

“What are you doing?  You don’t smoke.”  I said.  He didn’t say anything, just looked at me then up at the stairs.  I followed his gaze and standing right above us was Ben Dover, getting a better view of the dancers.  I looked back at Hurly and he got this sinister looking smile on his face.  I looked up again and saw right up Ben’s shorts leg.  He wasn’t wearing underwear and his left testicle was hanging in clear view.  Hurly took a long-deep drag off his cigarette getting the tip glowing red.  He wiggled his eyebrows at me and raised his arms in a fake yawn, carefully moving the cigarette up between the stair rails and inside his shorts leg. When the hot tip touched his testicle all hell broke loose. Ben let out with a blood curdling scream that drowned out the music and crowd. He sailed right over the rail, cleared the bar and landed on the stage in front of everyone. He did cartwheels, spun around the poles still screaming and did moves the other dancers couldn’t keep up with. Everyone began cheering.  Within a minute he ran to our table, grabbing the Beer Ricky left and sat down placing it under the table, soaking his scrotum in it. He couldn’t speak, just sat there wide eyed.

“What was it, a bee sting?” I asked.

“I-I-Dunno!” He replied unblinking. “I smelled something burning.”

He placed the beer on the table, carefully tucked his junk back in his shorts and made his way to the men’s room. It wasn’t a moment later when Al Packa  our former high school guidance counselor came in and sat down with us.  He looked just like Simon Cowell from American Idol, only he didn’t have as nice of a personality.

“Well now, what are you two losers doing here?” He asked.

“Ah yes, you haven’t stopped instilling young minds with the cofidance to succeed ”  I said, recalling the speech he gave at our commencement ceremony.  Standing before the graduating senior class wearng a t-shirt that read, ‘Today is a good time to GIVE UP.’  He spoke:

“Today after graduation, You might as well enlist into the Armed Services as the high school dropouts already beat you to the best jobs.”

I slid Ricky’s glass of beer to him.

“Here, Runt brought it by mistake.” I smiled.

“Can’t turn anything down free on my salary.” He mused.

I was really impressed with Hurley that he could keep from laughing while Mr. Idiot downed the beer a car dealer soaked his scrotum in. Then a sudden commotion erupted with screaming and cheering when a dancer spun crazily upside down on a pole and lost her grip, somersaulting off the stage and crashing behind the bar. The sound of glass breaking, loud laughter and applause filled the place. Runt and the other girls tried getting her dressed before the paramedics arrived, so they wouldn’t be too shocked or scared to help her. When the Paramedics did arrive Hurly and I tried talking them into taking Ben Dover too.  They saw him sitting at the table with his shorts down around his knees and a bar rag on his lap.  They were not interested in getting involved with a guy’s crotch area in a strip club. We ended up  taking Ben to the Urgent Care ourselves to have his junk checked. He was alone and couldn’t drive.  I did feel somewhat responsible seeing we caused the problem.  Hurly believed nothing was sacred and nobody’s safe.  If there was a laugh to be had, everybody’s fair game. We waited outside the curtained off area where he was being seen. The doctor on duty was a female urologist, Dr. Tess Tickles. She was a looker.  We listened through the curtain as she treated him.

“Mr. Dover, I’m afraid we have to have a discussion on your over impulsive, masturbation habit.”

“Why Doctor, will it eventually hurt me?” He asked worriedly.

“No but I can’t help you while you’re doing that.” She answered.

Right then Hurley and I were asked to leave by a large, burly, mean looking nurse who didn’t find the situation as humorous as we did. We figured Ben could find his own way back and Hurly took me home. We agreed to meet for breakfast.

The next morning Hurley Picked me up bright and early with Leland Lardnutz, Oily Miller, Otter McPherson and Ricky.

“Where do you want to eat?”  Hurley asked.

“Anywhere but the Waffle House. I don’t think I can eat there anymore.”  I said, thinking of the dancer last night. Hurley laughed and agreed.

We went over to Bedroll Betty’s Breakfast Round Up. We took a seat at a table and looked over the menu.  As I was deciding between the Lasso Lunch or Breakfast Bonanza,  a shadow was cast over from the waitress standing behind me.

“Howdy Pardners, what cha’ want?” She asked. I froze. I heard that voice and felt a chill run down my spine. I slowly turned and looked. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was the same waitress I had at that supper club with Emerck , the food critic awhile back.   She was just as I remembered… big, blonde, and chewing gum with that disgusted look on her face.  Only now instead of the hula grass skirt, cocoanut bra theme, she was made up in a Dale Evans – Annie Oakley type cowgirl outfit. I looked at her name tag. ‘Olive DeUdder-Raindear.’

“I’ll start.” Hurley said. “Gimmie the ‘Big Wahoo’ breakfast special.”

“What kinda eggs?” The waitress asked.

“Chicken,” Hurley continued, “Hard boiled, with the grilled ‘Hop – A – Long Ham’, a buckwheat waffle with fruit ruloo, and a side of the ‘Stage Coach Sausage Gravy’.” The waitress wrote it all down on the order pad.

“Toast?” She asked.

“Sure!” Hurley agreed with his usual humor. He stood raising his water glass and chimed “HERE’S TO YOU!”

I lowered my head and placed my hand over my eyes as the others stood, and clinked their glasses together .

“HIP-HIP-HOORAY” They shouted, then sat down.

She just kept chewing her gum, becoming more and more annoyed.  She took all our orders and I knew it was all over when she asked:

“How do you want your check, all together?”

“HOW DO YOU WANT YOUR CHECK?” They replied, all together. Well that did it.

The order pad was stuffed in Oily’s mouth. She put her gum in Hurley’s hair, smashing it down with her hand.  She took the glasses of water and threw them at Leland and Ricky as they ran like mad for the door, Otter dove under the table and then she looked at me.

“I see you are hanging out with normal looking assholes now. “ She gave me the finger and walked away.

So much for breakfast.  Otter and I walked out, the others already left.  We strolled down the sidewalk when Otter started talking.

“Hey, you know Thelma Thudthacker?”   He asked.

“Yeah, thin, lanky girl, flat chest and freckles.”  I answered. “What about her?”

“Her Dad’s gonna kill me.”  He said.

“OK. Why?”

“Well, we went out parking on Scray’s Hill last night.  She got her foot caught in the horn ring on my steering wheel.  I had to call the fire department.”

“Let me guess, she was in a compromising position?” I asked.

“Well I doubt her Dad will find it as funny as the firemen did.” He said. “After laughing and taking cell phone pictures, they got her foot out.”

My folks house was on our way and it was a while since I visited the family.  I said good bye to Otter and walked to the house. My ninety seven year old grandmother was sitting on a rocker on the front porch.  I always enjoyed the moments we shared.  Curious on the good old days, I asked her how things were back in her day.  She said she couldn’t comment too much on those times because she didn’t do much, and she was still a virgin.

“But Grandma, you had seven children.  You must have spent some time in bed with Grandpa.” I said.

“That didn’t count because I didn’t participate.” she answered.

“Do you have any words of wisdom you can share with me?” I asked.

“When you buy a casket don’t bother getting the extended warrenty.”

Well so much for that.  I walked around to the back of the house and stopped in disbelief.  There parked by the garage was my old 74′ Chevy, only now it was painted bright pink.  There was a large decal on the back window that said, ‘Mary Kay Cosmetics.’  I walked around in a trance.  It was my old car alright.  My dad came out of the garage shaking his head.

“Dad, what’s this?”  I asked.

“I bought it this morning at Krotchpheeler Chevrolet.  Reminded me of your car.  Took it to Costco and had it painted.”  He said.

“I didn’t know Costco painted cars.”  I said, momentarily distracted.

“This one does. I just had one car painted, but I still had to pay for twenty five.”   He said.

“What did you do this for?  You already have a car, you didn’t need another one.  And pink?”  I was at my wits-end.  I stepped over putting my arm around him thinking he lost his mind, when a thought struck me.  “It’s Mother isn’t it?”

“Your mother told just about everyone in town she won a pink car for selling that damn make up of hers.  She didn’t think down the line everyone would want to see it.”  He said.  “This was the best I could do on such a short notice.”

“Have her go to Ringling Brothers Clown College and sell that stuff.  She’ll earn her own car in no time.”  I assured him.

“That’s a great idea.”  Dad said. Hey, you want a car, you can have this one.”  He handed me the keys.  So I drove the old Chevy home, listening to the news in Spanish, smelling exhaust coming up through the floor, with the directional light still blinking. Things seem to go full circle.

 

Standard

It’s not ordinary if it isn’t real.

“Problems we face every day as members of the human race are largely attributed to misunderstanding what we see due to everyday optical illusions. Conformation of comprehension is always required to insure a true recollection of reality. The mind is constantly and continually accessing the confines of our current surroundings to meet compliance of an ordinary situation. Average, ordinary, everyday reality in the mind is the soul routine we become accustomed to in the logical aspects of our daily life. Without such balance of relevance say for instance living in a fantasy, or not seeing the world around us clearly, would ultimately create distrust, uncertainty, misjudgment, and fear. Not to mention it would scare the shit out of anyone observing this behavior. One must come to terms with one’s own comfort level of trust in how he or she perceives the world around them.”

This was part of a lecture I attended by world-renowned Professor of Abnormalities Dr. G. Newton Sorbay PhD, at the esteemed Henry J. Hoefacker Community College in Rhinelander, Wisconsin.  It was a study on how the mind can be given misinformation caused by overly fantasizing, day dreaming, or most important the appearance of optical illusions. When I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Sorbay, I asked him to interpret this piece in layman’s terms.

“Your eyes will play tricks on you.” He said, “Another example is stop thinking about sex every few minutes with every girl you see, that’s fantasy. The girls you’re looking at aren’t interested, believe me. Now that’s reality.”

“Is that anything like Optic-anal-sybrosis?” I asked.

“No, that’s a shitty outlook on life.” He replied.

Every time I see a car mirror that says, ‘Objects in mirror are closer than they appear I think of him. Dr. Sorbay believes how we see the world and each other, determines how we will interact together as a society. I attended classes there only one semester in 1969. Then I received a full ride offer from the Hudsucker Correspondence Art School on a football scholarship. This was long before home computers. Each week they would mail me a play. I was a line backer. I would write down what I would do and mail it back to them. When they got back the letters from all the players, they would put them together to see if we made a touchdown or not. We played other correspondence schools. I got my varsity letter for my school jacket in my first year, and we went undefeated for the season.I was even a pen pal with one of the cheerleaders. I had to quit the team the second year because I ran out of stamps. But I always remembered that first semester at HJHCC. Recently I had a friend of mine, Seymour Sudsack ask me for a ride home from the airport. I arrived early and went up to the airport lounge to wait.

“What’ll ya have Buddy.” The bartender asked

“Gimmie a Bacardi.”

“Here ya are Pal, that’ll be $37.25.” He said, setting down my drink.

It was then I noticed a rather striking young lady come in and sit at the bar near me. My first impression told me she was a proper, refined lady with upstanding morals and standards. A good christian woman I believe. At least that’s what I thought I saw.

“Hey babe, what’cha want?” The bartender asked her.

“I’ll have a beer.” She replied.

The bartender grabbed the Budweiser tap handle

“Anhauser-Busch?” He asked.

“Fine.” She replied with a big grin. “And how’s your dick?” They both had a good laugh.

So much for first impressions at a quick glance. He charged her $12.25 for the beer. You got to love airports. I got up to meet my friend at the gate. As I made my way down the concourse, I was approached by an airline pilot.

“Did you see Clarence?” He asked somewhat panicked.

“Clarence?” I thought. “Clarence who?”

“You know,the guy in charge. I can’t push out,taxi,take off,or land without getting Clarence first.” He said.

I told him I saw Clarence in the lounge behind the bar, talking to a young lady with a beer. He took off in a rush and I continued on my way to the gate. It reminded me when I flew. My problem was getting lost. Your eyes are always playing tricks on you when flying. I would have the charts spread out all over the cockpit, trying to set the VOR which looked more like a gunsite than a navigational instrument. I remember receiving calls from the tower.

“What was your last known position?” They always asked.

“Uh.. first in line for take off.” Was all I could say.

“What is your altitude?” They asked again.

“Either I’m at 24,500 feet, or it’s 2:45 pm” I answered. Why do they make altimeters and clocks look so much alike?

See? No visual references up there to go by. A cloud may look like a horsey or duck, but you can’t use it for directional purposes. And forget flying at night. You can’t see anything up there but tiny lights that could be any town. The last time I landed was at the General Beauregard Tallywhacker International Airport in Iron Mountain, Michigan. When I arrived the tower had the emergency equipment meet me. They saw me land on one engine and assumed I had a problem. Thats believing your eyes and not assessing the true situation. What they didn’t know is I have a single engine pilot rating. When I fly a twin-engine plane, I’m not allowed to start the other engine. No emergency. As Dr. Sorbay explained, poor eyesight and assumption are a dangerous combination. Common sense has to come into play to meet the true sense of reality. Now back to the premiss of the original story. The lesson in vision I learned from Dr. Sorbay’s lecture, may also apply when one’s perception includes the mind believing everything it sees in pictures or on television. Case in point. When I reached the gate Seymour got off the plane and was upset.

“What’s the problem?” I asked.

“When I get home I have to throw out my atlas, maps, and globe.”

“What on earth for?” I asked.

“Nebraska isn’t purple. I asked the flight attendant where we were. She said over Nebraska. I looked out the window and everything was yellow and green. All my maps at home show it’s purple. We got into a big argument over it, and the Captain almost had me restrained.”

See he believed the colors on the map were actually the colors of the real countryside. Granted whoever would do this isn’t operating on all eight cylinders to begin with, but the illustration they saw, to them was real.
I guess what I’m trying to say is the world would be a better place to be, if people would stop to think more about what they actually see, and not just go off on what they think they see. Don’t expect reality to mirror fantasy. My next talk will be on the problems with hearing and how the ears play tricks on you.

“What you think you heard is not necessarily what I thought I said.”
A lecture by Dr. Willingham Wormwood PhD. at the newly remodeled Motel 6 in Escanaba, Michigan. I have a couple extra tickets if you want to attend.

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Three bored boys with a Buick

Early teens and boredom. A stage one enters through adolescence that enables an acceptance of any opportunity that comes along, regardless of risks, to satisfy the urge to have something to do. Usually in the cases of laughter and fun. One such opportunity came to me one day unexpected.

I was always looking for something interesting and exciting to do. There wasn’t much growing up in West De Pere. One day I was walking along Lost Dauphin Rd with the sun on my back and the smell of hot asphalt coming up from the road. An occasional bee would buzz by, a butterfly dancing in front of me in the breeze, birds chirping. As I strolled along the Fox River, I saw a reflection of the sun on something off in the distance. Curious, I left the road and jumped over a fence. Walking closer I recognized it as a car. There in all it’s glory was a 1953 Buick Super two door sedan sitting up on a hill behind Oily Miller’s house. I approached the car, tried the door and it opened. A blast of hot air came out with an old car musky smell. It was a faded baby shit green with worn grey cloth interior. What caught my eye though was the fact this particular Buick had a three speed manual transmission. This was very rare since almost all buyers of new Buicks in 53’opted for the extra cost Dyna-Flow fluid drive automatic transmission and four doors. Try to go from a dead stop to sixty miles per hour in an old Buick Dyna Flow. It takes half a day, the thing is a dog. It also had the Buick ‘Fireball’ flat head 8. Now with a standard transmission and the ‘Fireball’ straight eight engine, you could take away some weight, beef up the motor and this could be a serious Hot-Rod. Thoughts raced through my mind as I went to the house and knocked on the door. Oily’s dad answered. He was short, overweight, with messed up hair, and needed a shave. He always had on the same light blue bath robe.

“What do ya want?” He grumbled.

“I want to buy that old Buick you have sitting up there.” I replied.

“Well, ” He said rubbing his chin. “It ran fine when I parked it there nine years ago.”

“What can you tell me about it?” I asked.

“It has loose connecting rods, shot rear end, and many other extras.” He said, rubbing his head.

“I’ll give you forty dollars.” I offered.

“Hell it has factory back up lights, that’s an extra cost option.” He grunted, scratching his rear end.

We settled on fifty dollars. I went home and called two friends to help me get the green beast back to my place. When Hurly Buck and “Little’ Ricky Fricke came we went up to Miller’s place with the fifty dollars. I paid the money, got the title and keys, and off we went. When we got to the car Hurly was the most excited, but Little Ricky was annoyed.

“That thing is ugly. What color is that?” He asked disappointed.

“The color doesn’t matter.” I told him.

We had to get this thing started and get it home. I looked and it was a straight down shot on the hill to the road. I elected Ricky as he was the smallest to sit in the car and steer, while Hurly and I pushed.

“Now once you begin rolling leave the key on and ‘pop’ the clutch. After it starts, put it in neutral and stop.” I instructed him. I had a false sense of confidence in my belief this would work. Hurly and I began pushing.

The old car started to roll. I heard a buzzing sound coming from the bottom, but figured it was the rear end or something. Slowly it picked up momentum and began rolling on its own. The buzzing became louder and the clutch pedal was thumping when Ricky started waving his arms around and screaming. The driver’s door flew open and Ricky jumped out, followed by a swarm of angry wasps. The car careened down the hill and came to rest after bouncing in a ditch by the road. Seeing this scenario unfold from an upstairs window, and after laughing his ass off, Mr. Miller came out on his tractor.

“What’s the matter with you little shitheads? I said it hadn’t run for nine friggin years.” He barked, still wearing the bathrobe and smoking a cigar.

We hooked the car to the tractor and he towed us home, cussing and complaining all the way. When we got back we spent the morning changing the battery, oil, plugs, distributor, and adding fresh gas. That afternoon was like NASA counting down for lift off. I got in the car and tried the starter. After several attempts, numerous backfires and plumes of blue smoke, the old car came to life. I got out of the car, patted my hand on the fender, and smiled.

“All we have to do is eliminate some weight and this thing will scream.” I said.

“How?” The guys looked at each other and asked.

“The body on this tank is the heaviest part. Undo the body bolts and I’ll show you Tomorrow.”

We worked the next several hours preparing the Buick for its weight loss and turned in for the night. The next morning Hurly and Ricky came over bright and early. I brought out a chain I borrowed from a neighbor the night before. It was a heavy gauge chain, although it was 150 feet long.

“What are you going to do with that?” Hurly asked. “Tow a boat?”

“Is it long enough?” Ricky chimed in.

“It’s all I could find, it’ll work.” I said.

We secured one end of the chain around a large tree, and backed the car up to it. We ran the other end of the chain through the back side windows, securing it to the rear roof pillars. Measuring the distance by speed and chain length, I calibrated the room we would need to pull off the stunt. With the length of the chain we had there was plenty of room to work with. Once again, I elected Little Ricky to do the driving.

“WHY ME?” He shouted in sheer panic.   Hurly busted out laughing.

“Because you are the smallest. Don’t worry it’s all figured out.” I assured him.

“Nothing better screw up or my Mom will be pissed.” He said getting in the car.

“You’re OK. Look just take off as fast as you can in a straight line. When the chain tightens, duck down. The body will pull off the chassis over you and ‘W00-H00’ we have a hot rod.” I instructed.

The car started and Hurly and I stepped out of the way. Ricky floored the gas pedal and released the clutch. The old Buick took off with the chain unraveling behind it. He wound out first and shifted into second.  When the chain snapped up straight and tight, the old tree creaked, branches and limbs fell with a shower of leaves, the old car jumped almost four feet off the ground in an abrupt, instant stop. The chain bent the rear roof pillars in a sideways ‘V’, exploding out the back window, caving in the top and killing the engine. Both headlights popped out of their housing, the windshield too, with both doors flinging open and breaking off. About a ton of rust and dirt broke loose underneath, along with the exhaust system and a hand full of dead wasps. The car crashed to the ground in a cloud of dust and debris. All four hubcaps flew off in different directions like run away Frisbees.

“HOLY SHIT!” Hurly and I yelled, diving into a ditch to avoid shrapnel.

Shit was flying everywhere.  One of the chrome portholes from the front fender took out a squirrel, the only casualty.  The clock ended up on the roof of the house. We waited a second and carefully looked up at the car sitting quiet and still. Some leaves and sticks continued dropping from the tree. We got up and walked over to the car. Ricky’s head went through the steering wheel, denting the dashboard and impaled the speedometer needle into his forehead. His neck was caught in the horn ring. Luckily he was out cold so we didn’t have to hear him yelling again. The radio ‘popped’ out of the dash and caught him in the groin.

“Well, he ducked.” I said to Hurly.

It took us about a half an hour to free him. We discovered in our haste the night before, we missed two body bolts. We removed them and went over the car a second time. Little Ricky came to just as I finished beefing up the engine.

“There, all fixed and ready to try this again.  It’ll go a lot faster now and the body will come off for sure.” I said.

“No…NO…NO!” Little Ricky hollered as Hurly and I carried him back to the car.

“Relax, you’ll be fine, we fixed everything.” We said assuredly, tying him into the seat with a rope and putting a old football helmet on him.

What we didn’t know or stop to check was it only had one working brake. The right front, and it only worked once in a while. Once again the car started going.  Only this time when the chain tightened, the body came right off.  Ricky shot across the back yard like it was the Bonneville Salt Flats, just missing the garage. I could see his eyes bulging out of their sockets, with his mouth wide open but unable to scream. His face was twisted and contorted in a grotesque expression of fear. There was a ‘thump-thump-thumping sound as his foot hit the brake pedal repeatedly. The car just missed hitting a tree and skipped over the driveway landing on the road. The engine roared as the car picked up speed. The telephone poles looked like a picket fence. The dash marks in the middle of the road became a continuous white line. He just held on to the steering wheel for all he was worth, crying like a little girl. Ahead a county sheriff was hiding behind a billboard conducting a speed trap. Suddenly a blur shot across his windshield, followed by a gust of wind, then the sound of an engine. His radar gun registered in triple digits. By the time he could turn on his red lights and siren, Ricky managed to get the car turned around and headed back. As the squad car began to pull out, there was another blur, gust of wind, and a engine roar with thumping and screaming sounds. The officer turned off his car and lights, and threw his radar gun out the window.

Just as he was approaching us the brake finally grabbed and locked up, causing a series of events in physics only Einstein could explain. The chassis spun around several times, becoming airborne and cut through a corn field. Ears and stalks of corn flew everywhere like they were the victims of a runaway weed eater. The rope holding Ricky in broke, sending him summer salting through the air into the Fox River. The next sound was a loud crash as the chassis hit old man Swenson’s silo. That tipped over and crushed what was left of it.   We found the engine two blocks away. It landed in Mule Dickner’s out house. We knew nobody was going digging down there to find out what destroyed it. Later It was believed to have been from a meteorite. Good thing Mule or his wife Eunice wasn’t in there at the time. The transmission went six hundred yards in the opposite direction killing two of Ennis Spunkdump’s cows, did a bounce over old man Smedley who was out back pin striping a El Camino, just missed hitting a truck from Cheeser’s Furniture land and Septic, before sinking in Weller’s swamp.   Well, that certainly was fifty dollars worth of entertainment. We borrowed the tractor from Mr. Miller and dragged the body of the car down to the swamp and sunk it also. After burning the title, there was no evidence at all there ever was a Buick. When he turned sixteen, Little Ricky was the only boy I knew who didn’t want a drivers license.

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Lunch with Irene

I took Irene to lunch at Mc Donald’s. I figured a casual lunch was in line since we were co-workers. I met Irene that morning. She was just hired and assigned to product development at my office. She had just moved to town from Davenport, Ia. I found her to be attractive in a Jerry Springer kind of way. She told me she was divorced. Seems her boyfriend tricked her into marriage by telling her she was pregnant. Shortly after she was uncertain she was the real mother and left him.

“So, tell me Irene, what did you do at your previous employment?”

“I spent three years at Hudsucker’s Bakery test kitchens in Davenport inventing pickle bread.”

“Pickle bread?” I asked amused. “You actually make pickle bread?”

“Our top seller.” She said proudly.

“Three years to bake a pickle in a loaf of bread?” I asked.

“No silly, the secret to good pickle bread is the dill-dough. Once I got the technique down and got it the way I liked it, I used the dill-dough all the time.” She said.

‘I would love to have been on your corporate advertising team with that synopsis.’ I thought.

We went to the counter to order. Irene looked over the menu board taking her time. So far nothing was out of the ordinary. The place was full with the usual lunch crowd. A young girl came up before us to take our order.

“May I help you?”

“It says the Mc Rib is back.” Irene said, placing her index finger to her mouth thinking. Turning her attention to the girl, Irene pointed to that on the menu board.

“Where did it go?” She asked.

“I-I don’t know.” The girl replied, appearing shaken.

“Well, if it returned it had to be somewhere. Where was it? I can’t order something if I don’t know where it was can I?”

The poor girl behind the counter took two steps back, wide eyed staring at Irene and yelled for the manager. Now on the outside there wasn’t anything particularly wrong you could see with Irene. She was articulate, well educated, and interesting.

“What seems to be the problem lady?” Asked the Manager.

“You have a sandwich that returned. For how long was it gone?” She inquired. “How old is it?”

“I don’t have a clue what you’re talking about.” He shrugged his shoulders.

“Is there anyone in this facility I can speak with who doesn’t have a name on their shirt?’ She asked.

“Uh- Ronald, Ronald Mc Donald. He’ll be in tomorrow.” He replied.

“I’m asking him about that Shamrock Shake also. Says that’s back too, and it’s green. ”

“Lady, it’s suppose to be green.” He replied.

“When was the last time it was here?” She demanded.

“Last year, Uh-around St. Pat’s day.” He answered getting annoyed.

” Do people return this stuff and you resell it?” She asked, “Or does it leave then come back on its own?”

Everyone around us started looking at their food, then back at us, then back at their food. I could tell they were thinking over the points Irene was making, and questioning their own meals. Things were going down fast.
We had to get out before she started a riot.

“ANSWER THE LADY” Someone yelled.  “YEAH, WHAT’S WITH THIS FOOD?” Another chimed in.

“Hey I know a place we can go for wings.” I said, taking her arm and heading for the door.

“I love wings.” She told me eager to go.

“HEY, DID MY BIG MAC RETURN FROM ANYWHERE?” A man shouted from a table in the back.

“I DON’T CARE IF ANYTHING RETURNS EXCEPT HER.” The manager yelled back pointing to Irene.

“DON’T YOU YELL AT MY HUSBAND.” The man’s wife yelled getting up from their table. She was balling up a Filet O’ Fish with both hands ready to throw. Taking her lead, others began preparing their food as projectiles and getting up.

All the minimum wage employees promptly headed for the exits, scared to death. The manager was yelling at everyone, and everyone was yelling at him. If there was a ‘Happy-Meal’ there earlier, it wasn’t happy now.
I hurried Irene out to the car. Just as we got in and closed the doors, it began raining French fries. We took off just in time. As I turned out onto the street a Quarter Pounder with Cheese bounced off the back window, with Chicken McNuggets hitting us like machine gun fire. There was a full scale food fight going on like Belushi started in the movie Animal House. I tried to make sense of what just happened, but nothing logical came to mind. I was going to a sports bar a few miles away famous for it’s fifty types of wings.  What could possibly happen there?

“I’m glad we left. This is so much fun.” She said. Her mood completely changed.

We enjoyed a normal conversation driving over there like nothing was amiss.

“So you have been married?” I asked . “Ready to try it again?”

“Oh-no, uh-uh. That’s something one should never rush into.”

“Just haven’t found the right one yet?” I smiled.

“A woman has to be very particular and selective when it comes to a husband.” She said. “After all, this is the man my children will be spending every other weekend and holiday with.”

“I never thought of it that way, and I know what every woman wants.” I said.

“Oh yeah.. What’s that?” She laughed.

“Security.” I replied. “Because every time I approach a lady anywhere in public that’s what they yell.”

“And what type of girl are you looking for to settle down with?” She asked.

“I’m not particular. She has to have the looks of a super model, loves sex, is rich, and her father has to own a liquor store.” I answered. “I might be limiting myself a little.”

“My sister is having a baby and I can’t wait to see if it’s a boy or a girl, then I’ll know if I’m an Aunt or a Uncle.” She exclaimed.

I let that one go as I parked the car and we went into the restaurant. I always take a seat by the women’s restroom. That way after a little time, I see every girl in the place without walking around. You don’t look like a stalker that way. If there’s a line to get in, it’s easy to talk while they wait. We were seated at a table and everything seemed normal, until the waitress came to take our order.

“Hello, my name is Bambi and I’ll be your server.”  She said.

“Hi Bambi my you’re such a dear. I’m Irene and I’ll be your customer. I would like to order fifty wings. One of each flavor. Oh, and make them left wings only, no right wings please and have every other one char-grilled.”

The waitress and I looked at each other without saying a word.

“I’ll have 10 of the Bar-B-Q wings.” I ordered, “With a pitcher of Coke and two glasses,”

“Oh, and a bag to bring the bones home in.” Irene added.

The waitress and I exchanged glances for a moment again and she left with our orders.

“What is your favorite movie?” I asked, just for conversation.

“I haven’t seen it yet and it drives me crazy. It’s only shown at outdoor theatres in the winter. When I go they are never open. It’s not at other places, never on TV, and not played in the summer.”

“What’s it called?” I asked.

“Closed for the season.” She said. “I can’t find it to rent anywhere either.”

I looked over to a TV behind the bar. There was a news break showing a riot at a McDonald’s. The police swat team was called in, and the Governor had the National Guard on standby. When our orders arrived I witnessed something right out of the Twilight Zone. First she arraigned all of the wings in alphabetical order beginning with the first letter of the flavor.

She took a sip of ranch dressing out of a cup then put a whole wing in her mouth. She chewed it for awhile, leaned over and spit the bones out on her plate. Then ignoring the glass, drank the Coke right from the pitcher. Rod Serling couldn’t make this up. She repeated this endlessly, sometimes putting two or three wings in her mouth at once, chewing on them five minutes or more, spitting the bones on the plate and sipping the dressing. She kept at it until her order disappeared. Her plate had so many bones it looked like a dinosaur exhibit at the museum. When I finished my meal she was licking her fingers, burping and downing the remaining ranch dressing.

“I think my favorite is the garlic pimento.” She said, wiping her mouth with the paper bag.

It was like watching a pack of hyenas on a Zebra carcass. Lunch with Irene was like watching an old episode of Wild Kingdom. We went back to work. From that day on until I retired, I packed my lunch and ate at my desk.

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Another Chapter

Early retirement came not by design, but by the means of Corporate greed and downsizing. Luckily I was 55 years old and had 33 years in aviation. I was one of a few in this industry offered a pension. Realizing I was out of the workforce by my age, I pondered usage of my new found time. Instead of depression, panic and the surge of emotion that can consume a person alive, I decided to try to achieve all the things I didn’t have time for before.

I have played drums for 50 years, been a cartoonist all my life. Although I have succeeded in being in various bands and sitting in with others, I was also fortunate to have cartoons published. But with neither could I make a living. Now I was excited to have the opportunity to do things that I liked, and not what I had to do.

This could not happen without the support of a beautiful and understanding wife. The only thing irritating me was the endless questions of ‘what are you going to do with yourself?’ I wrote a poem to
answer everyone.

I would rather go on
to do other things
and go through life as me
than to just be remembered as part
of something that used to be.

It’s not where you’re from
it’s where you’re at
I’m too busy to look behind
there are so many new places
and many new faces
in the future I still need to find.

Though I am too old
by some I am told
to stop living would be such a sin
for it’s never too late
to do what you can
to be what you could have been.

– Jerry Johnson

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A visit back with myself.

Hello old friend,
just checking back again,
as I like to time to time,
just making sure you’re still OK,
and everything is fine.

It’s been awhile,
and makes me smile,
to think of things we did,
all those laughs and crazy things,
you do when you’re a kid.

I remember listening to your thoughts and dreams,
and wishes that won’t come true,
I encouraged and supported them,
because they were from you.

We celebrated good times,
and cried together through the bad,
everyday was going to be,
the best we ever had.

I shared with you your failures,
and bad decisions that you made,
and throughout times of loneliness,
so you wouldn’t be afraid.

So continue on,
through beyond,
the realm of time and space,
back to another existence
in a very special place.

Where those who have gone are still living,
and places are back to brand new,
everything is how I remember,
when I come visit you.

For now I am old,
or at least I am told,
living here day after day,
life is so much busier now,
it’s hard to get away.

Time seem to go so much faster,
than when I was with you,
the world is so much different now,
everything is new.

So go on drawing,
playing drums,
and do the things you should,
and rest assured when I tell you,
our life turned out darn good.

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Food Snob

In high school Emerick convinced the editor of the school paper they needed a food critic column.  After just three issues we lost four of our school lunch ladies.  One had a nervous breakdown, one quit cooking completely, and one left to work the food counter at Woolworth’s downtown, the other at the lunch counter at H.C. Prange’s. Yes he was the self-appointed cafeteria food critic.  The remaining lunch ladies would try to bribe him with extra portions or eat free, but he wouldn’t have anything to do with it.  He would critique each entrée served each day and print his opinions for the week in the Friday edition of the paper.  It was never flattering.  Our Principal Mrs. Prudence Ducksucker, would have words with the boy.  She tried explaining to him prime rib and lobster were not on the school budget.  We just couldn’t serve  au-jus with hamburgers.  I wasn’t practical.  But he continued ranting and raving in blistering articles over issues with tartar sauce being to runny or hot dog buns that were not the best deli breads, but that Bunny Bread BS.  God forbid, if the service was bad. His latest column was a half page complaining when he got his food it wasn’t on a warmed plate.

When he expanded his column adding local restaurants in town, complaints came in and Mrs. Ducksucker had no choice but to pull him from the paper.  In protest against the Board of Education and Mrs. Ducksucker, he dropped out of school. He disappeared for the longest time.  Some say he went into the Army, but got a dishonorable discharge.  As the story goes he tried to close the mess hall at Fort Dix. He had the Sergeant in charge crying like a little girl.  He almost succeeded and this was before he finished basic training.  Rumors went around town about unconfirmed sightings, like Elvis.  The latest was from Mrs. Irene Spudnump saying she saw him at six o’clock one morning.  He was behind the downtown post office, sitting against a dumpster in his underwear, eating packing peanuts.  Nobody else saw him, or for that matter wondered what Mrs. Spudnump was doing behind the post office that early to begin with.

So when he finally did appear it was no surprise his picture appeared in the Green Bay Press Gazette as the new Northeastern Wisconsin Restaurant Critic.  He covered territory from Oshkosh to Pembine.  His articles were written the same as they were in high school.  Blistering, sarcastic written words complaining about anything his gourmet pallet didn’t find appeasing.  But on the other hand, if he liked the food, the establishment would triple its business overnight.  He became so popular he also got a weekly TV show on Saturday afternoons called ‘The Food Snob.’  It was broadcast locally on WBAY-TV.  Here he established himself as a connoisseur of fine foods and dining, traveling all across the region stopping in Antigo, Lena, Sobiski, Coleman and Pound critiquing every diner, restaurant, supper club and burger joint he came to. His claim to fame was the catch phrase he started after tasting his first bite…

“O-O-O-O-H-H-H-h-h-h-h, that’s GAMIE!” He placed his hands on the sides of his face in mock surprise. That referred to the wild taste of whatever was shot out in the woods and cooked. In fact there were many places to eat from the Mom & Pop stands to the fancy restaurants that got their meat from the woods and seafood from the lakes. Of all the places he’s eaten at over the years, he says there isn’t anything living in the woods he hasn’t tasted. That’s a pleasant thought. This was before Reality TV and Chef Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares.  He would argue and fight with the waitresses and cooks, sometimes in out and out brawls. In fact his TV show was so popular he quit his column at the paper.  Curious as to what a food critic does besides eat and complain, I accepted an invitation to go along on his next assignment this Thursday night. The place was called Nubnester’s Supper Club. It’s just outside Little Rapids, just south of West De Pere off Lost Dauphin Road. I lived there previously for several years, and never seen it.

“Is it new?” I asked.

“No, been there for years. I just found out about it myself.”

Thursday rolls around and I just got ready when I heard a thundering low rumble of flow master  mufflers slowly becoming a deafening roar as tires screeched in front of my house. The engine stopped and I heard loud music I recognized as ‘That’s the way I like it’ by KC and the Sunshine Band. I looked out the window and uttered “Oh-my-God.” Parked out front was a faded orange 72’ Corvette with the wheel wells cut out to fit fat, oversized bald tires on rusty chrome reverse wheels. The fiberglass body was cracked in so many places it looked like a piece of Dedham pottery. It was a good thing Emerick was gay, because he wasn’t going to impress any chicks with that piece of shit. I walked out opened the door and jumped back startled at what I saw inside.  Emerick was behind the wheel wearing his hair pulled back into a small pony tail with tape on the sides of his head pulling his eyes into slanting, narrow slits. He had fake buck teeth in his mouth and wore a Japanese kimono outfit, sword and all.

“What the hell are you made up for?” I asked, getting in the car.

“I’m in disguise. I do this all the time so they don’t know who I am. That way I’m not treated any differentially, and I can make an honest evaluation.” He said.

“Oh yeah, a six-foot four gay Japanese guy driving a Vette, looking for a supper club in the middle of nowhere, that nobody ever heard of.” I replied, “You’ll blend right in.”

Emerick popped a Carpenter’s tape into the 8-track and with the roar of the mufflers and squealing tires we were off. As we left the city limits I heard Karen Carpenter sing the words “We only just begun”…   No shit, I thought. In no time at all we were through West De Pere, along the Fox river, then driving past the old Hickory Grove Sanitarium

“Hey Emerick, remember back when Hugh Hefner was going to buy that place and make it a PlayBoy Club?”

“Yeah, back in the mid sixties.   That would have been something out here, I would have loved to critique that.”

“Yeah, would have been a half mile closer to my place than the Bow-Wow Club.”

To give you an accurate time line of when I used to hang out here,  Joe Bowers at the Bow-Wow was getting seventy five cents for a quart of Pabst and a quarter for a long neck bottle.  It was a while back.

We drove through Little Rapids, it was already dusk and getting dark quickly when Emerick suddenly hit the brakes. He turned the car left onto an old dirt road, through some cattail and reeds and across a railroad track. The old Vette bounced and bottomed out and I thought we lost the under carriage, but we continued on. We crossed over the Fox river by the dam and followed the road into the woods for about a mile.

“There it is.” Emerick said.

A faint light appeared ahead through the trees and we came into a clearing onto a gravel parking lot. There was a old white single story concrete block building with no windows. Above the entrance a flickering red neon sign hummed and buzzed the word eat. We got out of the car. The gravel crunched as we walked towards the door. To the left of the parking lot was a pole with a dim-lit Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer sign on its last fluorescent bulb. On the bottom of the sign was the name ‘Nubnester’s Supper Club’. It was being swarmed by a million bugs and moths. Something scurried to the left into the brush and the sounds of crickets and an owl pierced the night. The only other light came from a frosted glass panel in the door.

“This must be the place.” I said, noticing there wasn’t another car in the lot but ours.  We went in and I was shocked.

I felt like I was in a H.G. Wells book. It was like going back in time. This was exactly the way I remember a Supper Club looking when I was a kid, only this was a lot older.  Everything in here had to be at least fifty or more years old. The linens and drapes had all yellowed over time from cigarette smoke. The red carpet was mostly worn out and faded with numerous cigarette burns.

There were a line of booths running along the walls that had their maroon leather cushions cracked, ripped and torn. The tables in the center of the dim-lit room had a table-cloth with faded stains the washer could no longer get out. Each had a relish tray with pickles, olives, radishes, and peppers along with a scoop of cheddar cheese on a small plate with a basket of assorted crackers.  The dining room itself had the musky aroma of old age and cigarettes. On one side of the room the smell of hot grease came from the kitchen. On the other side, a smell of stale beer came from the bar. I looked into the bar and there was a Hamm’s Beer motion water sign on the wall. The light was flickering, making the scene look like it was in a thunder storm. Another old Miller High Life sign had bouncing colored lights moving across it. These were antiques. The place was completely empty with no one in sight. As we stood in the foyer I looked at a sign on the hostess stand that said ‘Please wait to be seated.’ I turned and looked down and was startled by a little old woman standing right behind me. She had to be in her late seventies, short and thin with blue-gray hair, horned rimmed glasses and Tammy Faye pancake makeup. She wore a cocoa nut shell bra and grass skirt with a string of silk flowers around her neck.

“Aloha.” She said. “My name is Agnes.”

“Uh-Ah, H-Hi.” I managed to blurt out with a shocked look on my face. “We, a… We need a table for two.”

“Do you have reservations?”

“Yes, but we’ll take the table anyway.”

“Let me see if I can squeeze you in.”   She said, going around behind the hostess stand. Emerick looked at me and shrugged his shoulders. The place was empty.

“You seem to have a few open tables.” I pointed out.

“It’s Hawaiian Night. Every other Thursday and we’re sold out every time.”

The phone on the podium rang with two long and one short rings.   A party line? I thought.  And who uses the old rotary phones anymore?

“Aloha, Nubnester’s this is Agnes. Oh Dear, I’m sorry to hear that. I’ll cross you off.  Take a couple of aspirin and an enema. You’ll feel a lot better.”

She hung up the phone and lit a another cigarette off the one she just finished.

“You’re in luck, we just had a cancellation.”

She grabbed two menus and said “Follow me.” She seated us at a table in the middle of the room. The ceiling fan above us clanked, creaked and whirred as is spun madly around like a helicopter about to crash. She handed us each a tattered and brittle menu yellowed with age. It must have been from at least 1965. Everything on the menu remained the same since it was printed, except for the quarter of an inch of white out built up over the prices where they changed over time.

“When did this place open?” I asked.

“May of 1956, I started working here that July.”

Suddenly the juke box, a 1954 vintage Wurlitzer came alive on its own playing “Tiny Bubbles” by Don Ho. While we were scanning over the menus, an irritating clanging and banging sound form the bar began from an ancient pinball machine. Bells rang as the old mechanical numerals ‘clacked’ as they spun adding up the score. The thunk-thunk thunk of the steel ball hitting targets and the ratta-tat-tat of the flippers was annoying enough without the string of profanities that followed the ka-chunk sound as each ball left the table. A waitress was playing the machine. I watched as the hostess approached her hesitantly and point over to us. A few moments later there was a loud crash. The pinball machine was laying on its side, and the waitress put her cigarette out on the floor. She began walking over to us with her order pad in her hand. She was a rather large and overweight woman in her late thirties with short curly blonde hair. She wore the same outfit as the hostess, only her cocoa nut bra was bouncing insanely and her belly rolled over the top of her grass skirt.  She looked annoyed, chewing gum and acting bored.

“Aloha, What-cha want?”

I could not help but notice she was wearing light blue panties through  her grass skirt. I tried not to look, believe me. I studied her carefully, trying to get a handle on where she was coming from.

“Ah-so, what would you lecomend?” Emerick asked in his best oriental accent. The waitress jumped back startled.

“What’s the matter with him?”

“He thinks he’s oriental.” I replied.

“What is he?”

“Insane.” I said. “Now, what do you recommend?”

“The KFC in town. They have a Nancy Kerrigan (that ice skater) meal deal going. Two small breasts and a battered leg for $3.95.” She answered, not taking her eyes off Emerick.

“So wadda ya want to drink?”  She asked.

“I have Pabst Brue Libbon.” Replied Emerick.

“I’ll have a vodka and grape Nehi.” I said as she left.

“Do you think she recognized me?” Emerick asked.

“No, she just thinks you’re out of your mind, whoever you are.” I replied. She came back with our drinks and prepared to take our orders.

“I would rike the pineapple duck with plunes prease.” Emerick said bowing.

Now back in the sixties most if not all supper clubs served a choice of soup or chilled tomato juice with the entrée. This was no different and Emerick must have missed it on the menu.

“Would you like soup or juice?” The waitress asked.

“What?” Emerick asked, somewhat confused.

“Would you like soup or juice?” She repeated.

Emerick looked totally bewildered. He looked at me, then back at the waitress with a blank expression on his face. “What?” He asked again.

Now, by this time the waitress is really getting pissed. She repeated again, this time speaking very slowly, enunciating each syllable carefully and raising her voice.

“WOULD…YOU…LIKE…SOUP…OR…JUICE????

Emerick sat perfectly still looking like one of Jerry’s kids on telethon day.  Finally turning to me completely stumped, baffled, bewildered, confused and at wit’s end, he asked…

“What the hell is Super Juice?”

I hadn’t laughed that hard since I could remember. I was doubled over in my chair.  The waitress broke her pencil in half, threw her order pad across the room yelling “I DON’T NEED THIS SHIT!” and went out the front door.  Yes, here the famous food critic of Green Bay is blown away by an incompetent waitress asking a simple question. Priceless.

The hostess came out of the kitchen sipping a Mai-Tai and carrying a Limbo bar.  She saw the waitress leave and spit out a pineapple garnish.  Afraid she would have to do the hula alone while waiting on all the tables, she downed the drink and promptly quit. We left right behind her.  With the gravel crunching under our feet we had totally pissed off one person, ended a career of another that began in 1956, and with Emerick’s column in the next morning’s edition, put a restaurant I never knew existed out of business.

Not bad for an evening out.  I have to wonder about this food critic thing. Another family got out of their car and passed us on their way in.

“Hey, that’s the food guy on TV… HI EMERICK.” They waved.

“SCREW YOU!” Emerick retorted.  Well, so much for the disguise.  We got in the car and started on our way back.

“Got any Don Ho tapes?” I smiled.

“Screw you too.” Emerick replied.

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