Monday, March 31, 2008

Are you a Turtle?

Back at West Springfield High School, and probably at every school, some of us have a right of passage which is the beginning of drinking alcohol. When I went to high school, the legal drinking age for beer was 18. Because of that, beer was not too hard to get. Someone always had an older brother or sister, that they had caught doing something that a parent might not find as amusing. This would depend on the family, but some activities might be breaking curfew, getting caught with a member of the opposite sex in a compromising situation, finding their stash of cigarettes, seeing them get a speeding ticket, purchasing explosives. Anything that could be used to coerce them into buying you and your friends a case of beer, would be used. Because beer was hard to procure, we never had very much and getting drunk was not much of a problem. If someone had too much, we’d figure out a way to get their car keys. Get them started to sober up, drive them home, and generally try to keep them from killing themselves.

Please understand this is all very foggy. At the time of this being written, 33 or 34 years have passed. And beer was involved. Somewhere along in there, someone, somehow, became a member of the Turtle’s.

For some strange reason, becoming a member of a drinking club, appealed to us. We decide that we must also be initiated. How to accomplish this where we won’t kill ourselves and most importantly, not get caught by the police? Or, a fate worse than death, caught by our parents? Sounds like a ROAD TRIP. Not just any road trip, lets make this a camping trip. The guy who is going to initiate us is a total masochist. The plan starts to come together. We pick a three day weekend in the spring, so we hope to have some decent weather. We obtain permission from out parents to go camping. He scouts out a mountain that we can go hike and climb on. He picks a dozy. Old Rag Mountain in Virginia.

On the appointed Saturday, we get together with enough camping gear for the weekend and head out to the mountain. He’s decided that we must each carry up about eight beers, so we don’t run out during the initiation. He’s also decided that we will hike up the rock scramble way. This path included several places where you were doing rock climbing. Handing each others packs up and such. One spot, the trail required us to remove our overloaded packs and crawl on hands and knees, through a semi-cave. We spend the entire day driving out to the mountain, climbing up to the summit, and then backing down a little bit to find a camp site. He thought about performing the initiation on the summit, but thought better of it. Shoot, we almost fell off when we were still sober! We set up camp, put the warm beer someplace to get it a bit cool, and cook something to eat.

Once dusk starts to settle in, the initiation is explained to us. What have we gotten ourselves in to!!! He informs us that we must first chug an entire twelve ounce beer. He tells us that once we do that, we will then play a game. A drinking game called One Red Hen. There are a few renditions of it. He further explains that he will recite a line of the poem, and there are ten lines. We then take a SWIG of beer and recite the line. If he thinks we are not taking a large enough swig, we have to take another one. If we mouth off, or don't follow his instructions, we swig more beer. He informs us that while the three of us carried up eight cans of beer each, he carried up a flask of bourbon. This is used in case we run out of beer. At the time, I don’t think I’d ever drunk more than a beer and a half all at once and this guy is talking of running OUT at eight beers. So, we take turns. Swig, repeat “One red hen”. This is looking easy. Next person. Back to the leader. Who then says you take another swig and must repeat “one red hen, two cute ducks”. We proceed. We are doing just fine past round three and round four. Three Brown Bears and Four Running Hares. By the time we get to number five, we are popping the tops on our third can of beer and our leader lets this one fly!! “Five Fat Females sitting sipping scotch and smoking cigarettes”. Remember, you still repeat the first four! It was all downhill after that. Well, not really, we fell down the mountain, but not off it. I have no idea how we got past

Six sloppy slop shooters slopping out the slops
Seven Siamese sailors sailing the seven seas and singing sea shanties

Eight Allegheny alligators eating African apes

Nine naked Nanook natives, nursing Napoleons’ nipples

Ten, slit sheets, slit by Sam the Slithering sheet slitter.

But we did. They are burned into what is left of my brain.

After we finish this, our leader then asks us to attempt to sit back up and listen carefully. We then learn that we STILL have to attempt to answer the Turtle Initiation Questions. Then, and only then, will we be told the secret reply to the International Order of the Turtle question. OH man! Six or eight beers down and we just NOW get to the actual initiation!! I think we tried to hit him, but fell in the fire, tackled the tree, rolled into the poison ivy. He finally gets us sitting up, or at least within ear shot for his questions. Our replies to the standard Turtle questions, are probably the same for everyone. We blurt out all sorts of sexual answers and groan when we are told the “correct” answers, which are all bad jokes. Somehow, we survive this and head to our tents.

Rooms spin around when you are drunk off your keister. So do stars, tents, trees, and mountains. It was not a good night. I remember staggering off to a tree and throwing up burned hot dogs and beer. My tent mate was not as fortunate. He passed out in his sleeping bag and proceeded to throw up IN the bag. We had to drag him and the bag out. He had no recollection of this the next day, but quickly made his way down to the stream to wash himself and his bag. We laid our soiled bags out on some big rocks and tried to make our heads quit pounding. Our fearless leader decided to cook up some powdered eggs and bacon he’d brought up. Just looking at it, was enough to start another round of dry heaves. He then takes a shot of bourbon and has the nerve to ask us it we were ready to start drinking again. Around noon, we started feeling a bit better and climbed back up to the summit. It was funny looking down at the rocks below and seeing our gear laid out in the sun. By the end of the day, we we not feeling too bad. The next morning, we broke camp and decided to climb back down using a forest service road and skipping the rock scramble.

What was really funny, was when some jerkola friend asks me "Are You a Turtle" in front of my parents. I give the standard reply. My mom looks shocked, my friend and FATHER bust up laughing. Mom want’s to know what this nonsense is all about. My FATHER then reminds her of being a Turtle and proceeds to ask about where and when we were initiated.

Are you a Turtle? YBYSAIA….

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Making community coffee is rocket science

So I’ve already discussed the making of water, ice water, melted ice water, whatever it is people are making in the break room at work. The next interesting thing to observe is the making of coffee.

This should be very easy. I think it is. We have the coffee machine. The people who run the cafeteria, stock the supplies. They put the regular packets of coffee in one drawer. They put the decaffeinated packets in another. Decaffeinated are the green packets. Not to be confused with the regular packets, which are red. However, you should make the decaf/unleaded coffee, in the urn that has the Orange top. The regular coffee has no special lid, just black. Why don’t they make the top GREEN, so it matches the coffee packet color? They have coffee filters also. Maybe this isn't so simple after all. It all looks like this.

They even have posted up instructions on how to make coffee. Some people can’t read very well. The only confusing part is on the machine itself. There is a “FULL” and “HALF” brew buttons. Pushing Half, means half the water, or double strength coffee.

So I’ve wasted half an hour over the last four years making note of how many ways you can screw up coffee.

First, what the instructions say:

Remove and empty the ground holder, preferable into the trash can over by the wall.
Place a new filter, one, into the ground holder.
Choose ONE packet of coffee. Regular goes in the unmarked urn. Unleaded into the Orange topped one.
Push the “FULL” button and wait for the coffee to brew.
Place cup under urn. Push button to dispense coffee.

Let’s go over some of the other amusing methods.

I’m too stupid to make coffee.
These people walk up, peer at the vile that shows if there is coffee or not. Even when it doesn’t show any, they still grab a cup, put it under the urn and push the button. No coffee comes out, or a few drops with some grounds in it. They look at the empty cup, toss it on the counter, or in the trash if we are lucky. They then walk off to go find the next break room and see if their mom has made any coffee for them in that break room. Why someone born into a home with a butler to make their lazy keisters coffee, is now working in data processing is another puzzle.

The double bagger into the full pot
These people like coffee and like it strong. At least they try and make coffee. They follow the instructions, but they use two bags and not one, making the coffee double strength. This places it up on the StarBucks meter. It's bitter and with a full pot of this stuff......

The single bagger into the half pot
These people like coffee also and like it strong. They push the “HALF” button to only make half a pot. This is probably a good thing, as there is much less double strength coffee to pour down the sink when it starts to solidify. I think these people are a tad lazy. They only want to be bothered with opening one packet of coffee. Hey, they get theirs. You get yours.

The double bagger into the half pot
You can tell when someone is really into coffee as they take two packets of coffee and put them both into the hopper and then push the half button to only dispense half the load of water which makes the coffee look like melted Hersheys chocolate they are not lazy because they really like to open up the two packets of coffee but they are usually in a hurry and only want to wait around while half the water dispenses they never stick around to see when the hopper is so full of coffee grounds and water that it overflows all over the place but they do love their coffee strong and looking like sludge

The double bagger into a full pot. Followed by another push of the button, for a diluted batch of double strength coffee
This is an interesting method of brewing coffee.
First, you empty the hopper into the trash. Then, you place one filter into the hopper. You then add two bags of coffee. You then place the hopper into the machine and press FULL, for a full load of water. You stand around and wait until it brews. You then press the FULL again. So you first brew a double strength batch, followed by a half strength batch, all in the same urn. WHAT?! Isn’t that just regular coffee? I guess the people that brew it this way have a lot of time on their hands.

I hope none of these people ever try and work for StarBucks, or is it StarYucks.

I think I’ll start always making Cowboy Coffee. Know what that is? Unfiltered. Let your cup set a bit, so the grounds drop to the bottom.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Hot water over ice – neat

So I do contract work for a large company. They have a cafeteria and also a large break room at each end of the building. With some smaller break rooms in the middle. The break rooms have a sink, with no disposal. At least one built in ice maker. And a coffee maker. Because the ice makers are built in, the only people that know how they get water to the ice maker, to make ice, is the facilities person. They aren’t talking. I suspect there is a ¼ inch flexible tube coming off the water line from the sink. The coffee maker sits on the counter and is very simple to use. Wait. No it isn’t. I’ll cover how many different ways people can “make” coffee, in another post. Running to that coffee machine, is a ¼ inch flexible water line. Pretty slick really, as it has a little cut off valve on it. You need that when the seal lets loose and the coffee urn starts pissing coffee all over the place. My point is, you can SEE the entire water line. There is no filter on it. So, we have pure city tap water running to the coffee machine. Since I’ve never yet seen facilities yank out the ice machines and replace a water line filter, I have to conclude there is no filter on there either.
Where does all this leave us? It leaves me wondering what some people fill their lives with. When I want a glass of water, and I try to drink two or three a day at work, I take my plastic glass down, and put ice in it. I do it the nice sanitary way. I remove the ice shovel from the neat holder on the side of the inner ice compartment. I plunge in to get a shovel full of ice. I then dribble the ice into my glass. I don’t touch the ice shovel to my glass. I don’t want your germs and you don’t want mine. I return the shovel to the holder. I do NOT toss it into the ice, like about 25 percent of the people do. The one person I want to stop doing this, is the last person out at the end of the day. See, the ice maker makes ice all night long, until it reaches some sensing point to stop. You toss the ice shovel in there and by the next morning, that baby is plowed under. Now, you get some one (like me), with their hand all in that ice looking for the ice scoop. I hope they washed their hands after using the bathroom, and before they dug around for the ice scoop. OK, now I have a glass of ice. Ice made with tap water. Unfiltered tap water. I proceed to the sink and turn on the tap and fill the glass. I have now magically made “Ice Water”. I’d put it on my weekly status report, but I don’t think they care.
Here is how some people make Ice Water. Someone explain this to me. They bring in their glass, or even better, use a Styrofoam coffee cup, and fill it with ice. Ice made with tap water. Remember, unfiltered tap water. They then proceed to the coffee machine. See the coffee machine also has a Hot water dispenser. Remember that ¼ inch line running to the coffee machine? The one with no filter on it either? It tinkles out water. First it has to bring in the water from the unfiltered ¼ inch line. Then, it must heat it. Then, when you push the button

you get a heated, unfiltered tinkling stream of water. It takes about 2 minutes to fill your average sized drinking glass. With unfiltered water. So what is the point of pouring HOT water over ICE!!! Room temperature water?

Meanwhile, the coffee that was making came to a complete standstill. Seems the hot water dispenser gets priority over the actual brewing of coffee, by the coffee machine.

Again, what is the point? Other than to prove you can melt ice by pouring hot water over it.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Electrical Science experiments

My friend in high school was the son of an electrician. That came in handy once. We were having a party at someone’s house. Somebody got drunk. Maybe most people did. One person fell over the couch and hit the electrical plug for the record player, breaking the wires. Without the music, the party was in trouble. Well, not too much. Mostly, people started laughing. Most everyone was well into the “necking on the floor” mode by then and not listening to music. The music was handy to “cover” the kissing and smacking going on. I hear my name frantically called by one of the girls. My friend has about 3 beers in him and a mischievous grin on his face. He has declared that he will “fix” that record player. He’s pulled out his knife. His date for the evening is not real comfortable about this. She doesn’t know us very well. I get over there and he explains that while he has had a few beers, he is still quite capable of fixing the electrical plug. He gives me a wink and a nod to his dates partially open blouse. I know he is about the only person at the party that can fix the plug. I put it together that he is NOT as soused as he wants the date to believe. As long as she thinks he is half soused, he can always blame the beers for anything that she thinks gets out of hand! So I go about explaining to his girl that he probably isn’t too drunk, that he can fix it and let’s leave him alone. She isn’t too sure, but I get her to sit on the couch with me for a minute. It’s not two minutes later and errrRRRRWA….the Rolling Stone’s
You Can’t Always Get What You Want, starts back up. The people start cheering. He jumps up from where he’s been crouched down fixing it, doing a Rocky Balboa dance two YEARS before the movie comes out. I glance back to see what he did. He cut the entire plug off! With a pocket knife. He then had stripped back both wires and stuck the bare wires back into the wall socket. OSHA compliant it wasn’t.

Fun with Electricity, part II. The school used to place everyone in the same grade, on the same halls for their lockers. Freshmen on these two halls, sophomores on these. One year, our class was mostly in the science hallway. There are some issues with this hall. It’s in the lower level of the building, mostly underground. I guess they figured that with the Bunsen burners and science experiments taking place down stairs, they have more chance of killing the kids in the English or history classes meeting above them, when we catch the place on fire. The head of the science department looks like Zelda Rubinstein from the movie Poltergeist.

Except this teacher wore a starched white lab coat and black horn-rimed glasses. Maybe they were safety glasses and she never took them off. I never had her, but kids that did, said she was a very good teacher, just no-nonsense. We excelled in nonsense. During passing time between classes, she patrolled “her” hallway. Keep It Moving, was a key phrase. You remember Zelda’s walk in the movie? She probably copied it from this science teacher. Quite a waddle. Like her underwear was as starched as her lab coat.

A different friend, a VERY deviant type, was usually pulling some wild prank. He’d been experimenting with foil gum wrappers. Back in the 1970’s, they didn’t have any paper in them and the foil was about twice as thick as it is now. Holy Great Electrical Conductors, Batman! He’d been experimenting with folding these wrappers up into a tight thin strip. Which you then folded a few times until it was thick enough to stay lodged in an electrical outlet. He’d then fold them into an L shape, like a hockey stick. This way, you could insert them into an electrical plug and not give yourself a shock. He’d wind up with two wrappers sticking out of the plug, just ready for something to hit them and get a shock. One day, he decides that he’s had enough of Zelda and “move along”. Time for action. Totally inappropriate action, but action none the less. There are no lockers at the very end of the hall, but there is an electrical outlet. There are a lot of people about also, so crouching down to insert your gum wrappers in the electrical socket, can work. My friend is one of the shorter kids in the class, so he can vanish even quicker in a sea of kids. He dashes down and sets up the wrappers. What can be used to short them? We had trash cans. We had big trash cans in the hall. Like the one’s you use to put trash out to the street in. Metal. Galvanized metal. This thing

He takes it, half full of trash, positions it in front of the gum wrappers stuck in the electrical outlet and shoves it to short them. Except he uses his shoes, which are sneakers and rubber, so he doesn’t get the shock. ZZZIIIIITTTTT!!!! Smoke and the electrical burning smell flood the end of the hall. The lights flicker about two times and then the hall is totally dark! Remember, this part of the building is mostly underground, so there isn’t much light left. People start trampling up the stairs pretty quick. We hear a bellowing from the-teacher-that-looks-like-Zelda, “WHAT IS GOING ON HERE!” My crazy friend yells out a line from Moby Dick. “THAR SHE BLOWS!!!” You just thought the hall was clearing quickly. In 4 more seconds, the entire hallway is empty except for Zelda and a smoking trash can.

I think the janitor got the lights back on about five minutes later. There was an announcement over the PA that everyone with a class on the science hall, should be reporting to class. That an investigation as to why the science hall had a complete electrical failure, will start immediately. I returned to the hall at the end of the day, to get something from my locker. I slowly walked past the scene of the crime. The trashcan had a black mark burned into it. The electrical socket was burned.

They never caught him. I don’t think they knew where to begin.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Hand Washing

Different cultures must teach hand washing differently. I know different parents do. I work in Information Technology, IT. Some also call it Data Processing, DP. It’s all the same. The industry used to be full of geeks. Still is. They just don’t work here. Well, a few do. Most of the geeks must work for Micromess, or gaming companies such as EA. We are the groups that write the code that prints out your bill, pays you, accounts for stock, real exciting stuff. We are big time excited when a computer screen has more than 4 colors on it. In this part of the business, there are about 50 percent of the positions filled with people from other countries. Green card holders, H1B Visa people. This is due to a number of factors. The one that business lies to Congress about, is that the poor multi-billion, multi-national companies, just can’t find skilled help in the United States. Maybe that is true. Five years later and we can’t find bin Laden. But some of the congress people can find hookers all night long. Maybe the companies find the hookers for them? That would explain why they can’t find skilled workers, they are spending time finding hookers for politicians. I mean they can’t find skilled IT workers. I figure the high priced hookers are very skilled. I have no trouble finding skilled workers for IT. I know of three looking for jobs right now. The guy who sold me some furnace filters from Lowe’s last week, he’s one. I found him. The lunch shift manager at McDougall’s, he’s another one. Laid off when cell phone usage doubled but all the companies collapsed under poor management.

Let’s return to Potty talk.

Recently, the place I’m working at, decided to install all new bathroom mechanicals. Everything is now these automatic sensor rigs.

You walk up or sit down, when you move away, the motion camera flushes for you. At least they tell us they are motion sensitive cameras. I wonder if somewhere in India, this isn’t a control room of people monitoring those cameras and moving a joy-stick to “flush” for us. Thank goodness, they got the ones that also feature a little push button so you can still flush away. When you wash, you wave your hands under the soap dispenser and water faucet and they turn on. It takes the soap dispensers about fourteen waves before they let go with a squirt of precious soap. I keep wanting to charge the company an hours time every week, waiting for the soap dispenser to return from its break. It all works out in the end. Of the four faucets, one is ADHD. It just turns on whenever it wants. I’ll be sitting in there, all alone, and the water goes on. Off. On. Off. On…. On again. OffonoffONOFFONOFFONOFFONOFF. Then the air freshener will join in and emit a POOF. I’ll pass some gas and flush once. It’s just like a symphony. Quite amusing in a strange way. The towel dispenser, one of them, is also a motion activated one.

Does anyone else think these things make you feel like an idiot? I mean, you stand there with dripping hands, waving at this towel thing. I can hear it talking right back to me. Take your pick. “Hey! Sailor! Nice WAVE!” Or (think of Robert De Niro in the movie Taxi Driver here) “You Waved? You waved at ME? Were you waving AT me? Did you WAVE at me?” I’ve tried different waves. The least effective is the Queen Elizabeth of England wave. You know the twist of the wrist one. She must not have these contraptions at Buckingham Palace. Half the time, I give up and go use the manual towel dispenser.

These strange devices don’t seem to bother most of our guest workers. I don’t think most of them have seen indoor plumbing anyway. I know they have not. Seems they were flushing all the paper towels and clogging up the toilets. The company sent out an email and then posted signs in every toilet stall, advising us NOT to flush rolls of paper towels. I mean, the TP in the place is one step softer than copy paper. But that must still be too soft, as our guest workers go for the course paper towels to clean up with. Maybe we should accommodate them. Have management run yet another survey and decide what type of bamboo leaves should be provided.

So lately I’ve noticed two types of hand washers. The people who DON’T. One guy, he had an entire method whereby he avoids touching anything. Except himself. I think he has to touch himself. But I don’t have positive proof, nor will I seek it. Let’s not draw any false conclusions here. Oh, why not, it’s just the Intermess. Some people, will wave at the paper towel dispenser, and then use that paper towel, so they don’t touch anything, to touch everything else. This guy, he goes one better. Back when we still had the old manual flush urinals, he would zip up, stand back and then pick up his foot and STEP on the flush handle. Just think of how many wonderful germs he transferred from the floor to the handle. For the next person to spread around. I hope he loves the new automated flusher. I kept wondering if he stomped on the flusher with just a tad bit of gusto and broke off the handle, would the bathroom flood?

The next group seems to be a small faction of our guest workers. To them, there is something magical about the left hand. After they finish expulsing bodily liquids, they zip up. The left hand then goes into the left pocket. They start waving at the water faucet. It starts running. They run the right hand under there, splash their faces, splash the counter tops, the floor. Then, head to a get a towel. Leaving behind a good half gallon of water everywhere. But NOT ONE DROP on that magic left hand. I’ve not figured it out. Don’t plan to.

To get out of the bathroom, you can open the door by hand or wave at this spot on the wall and the door does an “open sesame” deal. I enjoy doing Open Sesame.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Burning rubber in a 1970’s Ford Pinto

One of my best friends in high school wore several hats. He was the lead photographer for the student paper. He was a schemer. He could destroy property with the best of us. He was a hellion. He also drove an early 1970’s Ford Pinto. Sometimes, on two wheels.

I’ll explain. I’m not sure what year the car was. We got our drivers licenses in 1974, in the summer of our sophomore years. His dad and mine wanted their kids working. They probably hoped to keep us out of trouble. It was also pointed out to me that on my dad’s military salary, there wasn’t much left over to fund college educations, so I’d best get to work. Because of this, we got our licenses at 14. His car was a used Ford Pinto. Ford started building them in 1970, so it must have been a 1970, 71 or 72. I doubt it would have only been a year old, 1973 model. It wasn’t his choice in a car, but his dad refused to consider the Pontiac Trans–Am 455 Super Duty.

Wise father. I can barely recall what the Pinto looked like. I believe it was either white or a very light blue, with a blue interior. Roll up windows, four speed, I think it had air conditioning. The trunk had a spare tire and jack, jumper cables, some oil, explosives, duct tape, Playboy magazines, cigars, a can of warm beer, loose tools rattling around. Just normal items for teenage boys. Probably an AM or an AM/FM radio. He added an 8-Track tape player. Remember those? I thought that was so cool, I had to have one. He helped me add one to our 1969 Mustang. We sawed a hole in the glove box door to add it to the Mustang. I still have that car, but no 8-track in it. The 8-Track is factory in our other Mustang. Tales for another day. What did we listen to on that 8-Track? Simon and Garfunkel’s greatest hits.
The Beach Boys greatest hits.
The Eagles,
Led Zeppelin,
The Beatles,
The Rolling Stones,
The Grass Roots and I don’t remember much else. Remember those 8-tracks when they switched to the next track? You’d be rocking along to a song, and all of a sudden, you and he are the only one’s singing. Badly and very off key. The next sound would be a Ka-CHLunk as the 8-track switched to the next track. And the song would pick up were it left off. Or there would be a minute of silence as you realized that it had caught the tape and was destroying it. I got pretty good at unwinding the tape from inside all the roller wheels in the player. At 45 MPH.

It was hard to hear the music over that four cylinder engine revved up as high as it would go. We were always in a hurry. Going to the game, going to the pizza place after the game, going to see some girl’s house. Not to see her. We’d just cruise by. I’m sure he had gotten speeding tickets, but never when I was with him. I don’t think the cops thought a Pinto could really go that fast. Plus, he was usually just 8 over the limit. 38 in a 30 residential zone. Thing was, he didn’t slow for the corners. Well, maybe from 38 down shift to second, slow to about 35 and round the corner onto the next street and accelerate back to 38. He also loved to practice different driving moves with the car. He’d practice the 180 degree turn, sort of like James Garner did in The Rockford Files.

He’d get up to about 30 or 40 MPH, punch in the clutch pedal, crank the steering wheel full left, while he or I would grab on the parking brake. The car would do a neat 180 degree turn. You’d release the parking brake, pop out the clutch and nail the accelerator and take off. We thought this would be a great move to have when some senior took exception to our sophomore prank, comment yelled out of the car about their mother. Remember, extracting yourself from trouble is more important that how you got there in the first place.

Let’s move ahead to burning rubber in a Pinto. Burning rubber is a term for applying so much power, that the driven wheels become overwhelmed, loose traction and start to spin, overheat and burn. Makes sense? Ever seen the smoky burn outs that drag cars do? Remember that semi truck you cut off today? The one that had to lock up his brakes to keep from running into you? All that smoke was tire smoke. My friend liked to burn rubber for fun. Maybe because no one thought a Pinto could. He would practice smoking the tires. It was fun to see all the white cloud rolling off the tires. It stank. It made a lot of noise, with the revving motor and the squealing of the tires. It was the perfect hobby for teenaged boys. It has been since the 1950’s. He practiced a lot. Remember that spare tire? That was better known as “the next victim”. He would wear out a tire, we’d put on the spare. He’d go down to the wrecking yard or the used tire store and get the cheapest tire he could get. He’d always try and mount the tire the same. White wall or black wall, I don’t remember. The point was, it could not change back and forth. His parents would notice and then the inquest as to just why there was an ever changing back tire situation on a Pinto would commence. I have no idea how many tires he ruined.

There was one very memorable tire killing day. I don’t know why we didn’t wind up in jail. Our area in Virginia has a lot of streets with cul-de-sacs off them, or “courts”. These were designed so teen aged boys had a place to practice smoky burn outs. In Pinto’s. See most cars with enough horse power and torque, could smoke the tires from a standing start. You just braked the car, revved it up, let loose of the brake and one or both of the rear tires would disappear in a cloud of burning tire smoke. A Pinto had enough horse power to scare a small mouse. There had to be another way to burn rubber, scare people, make a stink, practice our hobby. We found that by driving around in a circle on one of the cul-de-sacs, that we could get enough speed up and enough pressure on the tire, which it would smoke up! Success! So this one day, he decides to have a “take no prisoners” event. We head down a cul-de-sac and he lights up the one tire. We must have gone around about ten times. People were coming out to see what was on fire. The cloud of stinky burning rubber was drifting up over a house, by the time he pulled off the street and we vanished. There was quite a lot of burned rubber left on that cul-de-sac.

The adrenaline then took over. He heads down the very next cul-de-sac and does a repeat command performance. We streak out of there after another ten circles, another billowing cloud, and more ladies out on their stoops shaking their fist at us. We now have a pretty good head of steam up, so he heads down yet one more cul-de-sac!!! This time, he reversed the direction of the circle, to burn off some rubber from the opposite tire. After that, we decide that the cops are going to arrive very soon and we must exit. He heads to my house to drop me off. We get out of the car and I take a look at the passenger side rear tire. I call my friend over. His eyes get a bit big. There are some metal cords of the tread sticking out, zero rubber tread is left. He burned it right down to the cords! A thrilling achievement to add to our manhood. Something to brag about to the geek with the Trans-Am. He decides that we’d best change that tire out right now and he stops off at the used tire store for a new victim, I mean spare.
We talk the next day about returning to the scene of the crime but decide that would be unwise. Criminals often screw up by returning too soon to the site of the escapade. But we do have a problem. This is Virginia. It rains. A lot. We need to get back to that second cul-de-sac before too much rain happens and washes off our masterpiece. Like all good forensic scientists, we need to examine the bite marks on the victim. That would be the rubber “scratch” we’d left behind on the road. We decide to wait at least a week. In the smoky aftermath of the events, we doubted anyone got a good description of the culprits. “Springfield Police, Sergeant Smith. Lady, you saw a car burning rubber for 5 minutes on your court. What type of car? A what? Pinto! Is this some sort of joke??? No mama, I’ll take the report. No need to ask for my supervisor”.
So a week goes by and we quietly drive down the second cul-de-sac. This is where we are sure the tread worn down to the cords at. We slowly circle the street, parking on the out-bound side. In case we hear approaching police sirens, we can get out of there without executing the 180 maneuver. We get out and walk over to the five or eight perfect donuts, which is what the burned rubber circles are called. We are able to identify where the start was, as the scratch was black all across the foot print. By the second or third circle, the inside of the black, starts to vanish and by the time the rubber trailed off on our exit, only about half the tire was still laying down any rubber. We were thrilled. What an accomplishment.

He had one other noted accomplishment in that Pinto. It almost killed the car. I wasn’t with him. Somehow, I’d gotten to drive our Mustang that night. He pissed off some seniors by pointing out that their girlfriends were probably needed back at the circus. He took off in the Pinto. They took off after him. The lack of horsepower in the Pinto meant he could only outrun a Volkswagen so he had to rely on his driving skills to get away from some very ticked off seniors. Afterwards, he told me he was loosing ground quickly and in a moment of brilliance, he drove down one of the country roads behind the school. See, his family had settled into the area right after World War II, so he knew every back road for miles. This one dead ended in a creek. Yes, desperation ruled. He drove that Pinto INTO the creek, went down it about a block, banging and crashing the entire time, up the next opening and vanished into the next neighborhood. None of the seniors were enraged enough to follow with their cars into a creek. He escaped to live another day. The Pinto suffered a bent wheel, a cracked oil pan, loosing oil all the way to his house. I think it also damage the rear axle case. He hid the car in one of their barns and enlisted one of his older brothers’ help for a ride to the junk yard for new “old” parts. I think he told his parents that he hit a slick spot of oil puked out by the Trans-Am, and hit the curb. I wonder why they didn’t ask about the mud, leaves, and dead frogs, the car was dropping on the barn floor.

Oh, and Time Magazine thought so highly of a 1971 Pinto, they named it one of the fifty worst cars of all times.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A riot at a basketball game

I went to high school in Northern Virginia, Fairfax country. West Springfield High to be specific. I started in 1973. My sister had started in 1971. This was the age of racial integration in northern Virginia. Our school had some percentage of minorities, not many. But about half the school kids, had parents that were military, government or state department, so we didn’t think about integration too much. Most of us had been in the minority at some other school. One of the schools that we had to play sports against was TC Williams High School. We were the Spartans, and TC Williams is the Titans. Does that ring a bell? Have you seen the movie Remember the Titans ? That took place in 1971, the year my sister started at school. In the movie, they reference playing football against Herndon, Hayfield, and other schools that we also played. TC Williams is probably 50 percent black and Springfield was probably 10 percent, at most. Our football team was average when we went there. TC Williams had been undefeated, second in the nation in 1971. They kicked our team from one end of the football field to the other. The game was over by the kick off. Half-time! Time for me and our marching band to shine. We were average also. Mr. Wynn was our director. He loved orchestral music and just put in the minimum for marching band season. He used to let us design the shapes we’d form marching. We march out while playing the first song. We drummers then “click” as the band forms the next geometric shape. Real complicated stuff. We considered it a great success when our square, wasn’t a triangle or a pentagon. We had a blast. We did do something that today’s marching bands don’t seem to do. We played music geared to brass and drums and we learned new songs and formed new shapes every other week (home games). So we go through some shapes and some songs, mostly John Phillips Sousa stuff. Mr. Wynn might let his hair down and let us play a horn version of Yesterday, by the Beatles . If you wake up in a nightmare, dreaming of that disaster, well, it’s not my fault. The best song we could do, we always did in the stands. The Theme from the movie SHAFT . Yeah, we were bad. We fire up the Spartan fight song and march, crookedly, off the field. Yielding the field of battle to the Titan marching band. They proceed to kick OUR hinnies from one end of the field to the other. Our drum major’s big move was to stiff-leg run out in front of the band. Theirs had the dance moves of a Broadway show. We stood and played and if we were lucky, we walked in almost straight lines AND played at the same time. They DANCED and played. Every song. Unreal. After we picked up our jaws from the ground, we decided to remove our band jackets and eat nacho’s. Mr. Wynn didn’t like nacho cheese smeared on the brass, so when we’d show up with that, he’d not bother to make us play SHAFT again. We’d just be a large group of kids eating nachos, incognito.

Fast forward to basketball season. Read the prior post on our team heading to state? Our turn to kick TC Williams around our gymnasium. Have you seen the move Hoosiers with Gene Hackman ? He coaches an underdog basketball team. There is one scene where he is talking with his team and mentions not to get taken in by some little sweat-box gym of their opponent. That was how the gym was at Springfield. Shoot, we couldn’t seat all the kids, let alone parents. Or another team! It seems that everyone wanted to come see our team play, as we were very good. The Titans were also very good, so it was destined to be a match up. The winner goes on to divisional eliminations and possible state. Except no one bothered to control the ticket sales. They managed to over sell the seats in our gym. On top of that, TC Williams is in Alexandria, so many of their supporters had also purchased a bus ticket to get to the game. They are arriving to find that their bus ticket was spent for nothing, as there are no seats left either.
It was my turn to be in the small band that played the Star Spangled Banner at the start of the game and then play the school fight song once or twice. We band members were still on the floor, watching as the entire gym is packed in. We used to get dismissed so Mr. Wynn could go listen to Bach and we could party with friends in the bleachers. Not this time, as there are no seats. It is somewhere in the first quarter, the gym is packed, the temperature from all the bodies, has it about 85 degrees in there. It is very loud. All of a sudden, the closed doors burst open and about 50 more people storm into the gym, spilling onto the court. There is a lot of shouting and animation. More people enter. The referee stops play. The few police in the place rush over to the people on the floor, trying to restore some order. Mr. Wynn instructs us to stay right there by the door, but to get our instruments ready to exit. The first fist is thrown and all heck breaks out. The coach’s try and get their players heading to the bathrooms, the stands start to sway (remember the pull-away-from-the-wall bleachers?). More fists are thrown. Mr. Wynn heads us out that side door with the instructions to stick together and make for the band hall. We hit the door and start excusing us through the people who are packed into the halls. Somehow, we stick reasonable together, as there are probably only ten of us. We make the band room, Mr. Wynn unlocks it and we hustle in so he can lock us in. After a time, it starts getting quiet. I don’t remember how we got let go. Eventually, they called the game off and got people dispersed. They then reschedule the rest of our scheduled games for the big new high school gyms. Where everyone’s ticket was still good for a seat.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Great Library caper

Another flash-back blog. From prior blogs, you remember that our high school basketball team is so good, we are heading for the state championship. Rewind, maybe a month before that. My sister and her friends are all seniors, I’m a lowly sophomore. I’m mostly into band and swim team. Girls in bathing suits, even the one piece ones, never played a part in my decision to join swim team. Next question!!! My friends are into destroying property, cruising, you know, normal stuff. My sister’s friends are much more mature. They hang out in the school newspaper office, the yearbook office and the library. The school should have been so proud. Remember the 1970’s? I didn’t think you did. I think they encouraged us to smoke at school! The school had two outside courtyards. One was designated as “smoking”. If they had taken an aerial photograph between classes, the rising smoke would have obscured the shot. The teachers joined the smokers in lighting up. The janitor probably thought it was great. One less courtyard to mow as the discarded butts was two inches deep. Shoot, in Virginia, I’m surprised by late summer, the courtyard wasn’t three feet high in sprouted tobacco plants.
Back to the library. For some infraction, my sister and her tribe are persona-non-grata at the library. They were probably sleeping on the sofa, playing footsie, whispering or something. They decide to start The Great Library Caper. Here’s their plan to wreck havoc with the librarian. They start checking out a book. Every time they go to the library, they check out a book. It doesn’t matter what the book is, just check it out. Stop by before school, during lunch, at break time, after school. Get four or five books a day. One of the culprits probably works at the library, as we are informed that they have no way to keep up with how many books you have out. There is no policy that says you can only have out X number at a time. Stash the books in your locker. Take a few home, what ever it takes to keep them from being noticed. My sister shares the scheme with me. It sounds like a lot of fun. I don’t remember if she asked me to have my friends help with the caper, of if I asked her for the OK to check out a few books. So, my 15 closest friends and I start checking out books. Pretty soon, there are probably 100 kids checking out books. Since it is just a few at a time, the librarian isn’t too suspicious. I’m not sure what other people checked out, but I went in on a mission. I decided to pretend I had to write a paper about air craft. Specifically, World War I aircraft. I used to build scale wood replicas of WWI planes, so I didn’t even have to fake the interest. All the WWI aircraft books, fit on one neat shelf at the library. I decided that it would look better in the bottom of my locker. I began by checking out about five of the books at once. Then returning to get “another for the paper”. In a week, I had about 40 books stacked up in my locker and the library had a totally empty shelf. Others heard of this tactic and followed suit. I vaguely remember someone checking out all the books on whales. Someone else checking out all the books on electromagnetism. This went on for a few weeks as the library looked thinner and thinner in the book shelf department.
At this point, I was still unsure of just what point we were making. It occurs to me, that if I DID have to write a paper, there was no way to find the books, as they were probably checked out. It was amusing to stroll through the library and note the empty and almost empty shelves. I’m sure the librarian was not amused.

With so many books checked out, the teachers and administrators are beginning to wonder what is going on. Inquiries are rumored. My photographer friend, as one of the top five rebels in the school, is one of the first to be called in for interrogation. He doesn’t crack under the pressure. He always knew all the schemes, even those he wasn’t partaking of. Panic does start to set in. We all must now be carrying most of our text books, as there is little room left in lockers. There is a rumor that a teacher had noticed an open locker and all the books. We start using all those great stealth moves we’d learned watching movies about World War II POW camp tactics. Secret hand signals for “coast is clear, open the locker”. Knowing nods as books are ferried to places other than lockers. Some of the World War I aircraft books are ferried into the drum storage room, which I had legitimate access to.
I decide to ask my sister for the next steps in the PLAN. She fills me in, so I can fill in all my friends. The trap is now set. The librarian won’t know what hit her, except it was a lot of books. On the Friday before the state basketball game, we are to start dumping off the books. All of them. New meaning to the term “mass dump”. You can slide them through the mail slot at the library door. Turn them in directly at the desk. Under the main library desk, is another book slot. There are two or three mail boxes out in the building, which are drop off points. I think on the Thursday before the bombs-away date, my photographer friend went and took pictures of the very empty shelves in the library. All under the guise of “Gee, what is going on? this might be a story. First I’ve heard about this”. Even though I’m sure the librarian was fully aware that he had already been interrogated by the high command. On the appointed Friday, the books start pouring back in. By first break, there are four or five stacks of books, three feet high, inside the library at the drop off point by the door. By lunch, the book drop boxes have overflowed and books are stacked up beside them. By the last class, my photographer friend returns to the library to shoot one last picture. You can’t get within 4 feet of the main library desk. The librarian has this deer-in-the-headlights look about her. The library helpers have all bailed out to head for the buses and the state B-Ball game. We are not sure if the librarian can even get out from behind the stacks of books, except maybe with rock climbing gear. Wait, there is a book about that somewhere!
By the next week, there is an announcement made and signs posted all over the school. There is now a limit of no more than five books to be checked out by any person without a written reason from a teacher. The rumor has it that over one-third of the library had been checked out. All of it returned in one six hour time period. I think it took several weeks to file all those books.
I don’t think they ever figured out who started it, or why.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Fair weather sports pondering

How come, when the sports team you like, is doing well, everyone says “MY team is doing well”. When they suck bilge water, then everyone says “YOUR team” or “THAT team”.

Basketball and March Madness

I mentioned being in high school and renting an entire bus to transport my friends from West Springfield to Charlottesville Virginia for the state basketball championship. When a team does well, everyone enjoys it. We did. Unfortunately, our team reached the finals, but lost. See the other team was from Petersburg VA. They had this player named Moses Malone. He was the first person to exit high school and go pro. Best I remember, they had one play. “Throw the ball to Moses”. It was still great fun.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Renting a Bus - In high school

I believe that most teenagers have wonderful minds. They are sharp, quick, have great ideas. And some are really bad ideas! I had a great idea, once. The stage is about 1973 and the place is West Springfield High school in Virginia. Our basketball team is very good. We call them McCool’s Mighty Midgets. How totally UN politically correct! Coach McCool was the, well, coach. And he taught math also. We called the team, with their blessing, the Mighty Midgets due to the fact that the tallest guy was just a tad over six feet. But they made up for it in talent. So the team is smoking hot and advances through district play. All those games are local and the school provides school busses for the kids, or we can get to the games anyway we can. When they reach state, the games move to southern Virginia. This means, commercial busses are to be rented. Down at the cafeteria, they have a table set up where you can buy your ticket to the game. A bit farther down, they have a table where you can buy a seat on a Greyhound or Trail ways. What ever they were doing, it was a first-come basis. All you had was a ticket and a bus number. They were not letting you pick seats or anything. This would not do! I asked one of the ladies, if it would be OK to reserve an entire bus. This causes her to have some sort of slight seizure, but she goes and checks with the supervisor. They convene a short time and decide that there would not be anything wrong with them holding back an entire set of tickets for one of the busses. Shoot, if they didn’t sell, then the bus doesn’t go! They tell me that they would hold a bus, but I’d have to pay for it all at once to get all the tickets. No partial sales. OK. Fine by me. I get a pad of paper and start going to all my A-list friends and telling them of the plan. They sign up and hand me their bus money. Everyone seems to think this is a grand plan and start signing up their girlfriends etc. Once the bus fills, I go and buy the entire bus for my rowdy friends. I then track them back down and hand them their ticket. They show up on time for the bus, with their bus ticket and game ticket. They forget or loose it? Too bad, so sad. I work through my A-list. By the time I get to my B-list, the bus is almost full. People are searching me out and I’m having trouble even getting to classes on time. Meanwhile, my sister hears of the plan and she and her boyfriend start doing the same thing. So I finally sell out the bus. I have a wad of cash, a list of names, and go rent the entire bus! My sister is working on it, and I hear rumors that other groups have heard of this and are also attempting to reserve entire busses. For some reason, knowledge of these activities is now taken by the bus ticket NAZI’s to be some covert attempt at taking over their powerful job of OFFICIAL STATE BASKETBALL BUS TICKET SALESPERSON COORDINATION OFFICER and they shut down the activities. I think the next morning they even made an announcement that there would be no more attempts at renting an entire bus. I was surprised that we didn’t hear that renting entire busses was a communist plot or something. To me, it still made so much sense. Instead of 42 transactions, one for each seat on the bus, you had one kid, a wad of cash. You counted the cash and handed the pimple covered kid every ticket for the entire bus. One transaction, no fuss, no mess. So, the appointed game-day arrives. My bus is packed with all my friends and their girlfriends. We have coolers for snacks and drinks. We have blankets in case our girlfriends get “cold”. We are ready. We have a great trip down. Lots of talking, laughing, and having fun. The game gets played. I don’t remember if they won or lost. I do remember a very dark returning bus, with the AC out those little airplane/bus personal vent deals, being all turned on by the guys, as we were all “hot and sweaty from cheering on the team”. I remember most of the girls were cold and the blankets were put to good use.

Friday, March 21, 2008

The BS Boating club meets its maker.

After we had our photo shoot, we all returned home and didn’t give much thought to what might happen yet. Pretty typical for teenagers. Consequences of our actions? Why think past the instant gratification of a job well done. Our photographer went and developed the pictures. He caught me at lunch one day and told me to be ready the next day, as I needed to help him right after school let out. We would be taking the completed edition of the high school paper to the printer. So, I arranged to have him give me a ride home afterwards. My parents didn’t think about it, as he often gave me rides. So we meet up in his Pinto. That Pinto will be covered in a future edition. We pull back to the back parking lot at the school. He proceeds to take the cover off the correct paper and substitutes on the BS BOATING CLUB goes sailing photographs. The one with the moon on it is included! The entire cover has the main photo of us on the sunken boat, looking like Washington crossing the Delaware, with a gorilla. Down in the very bottom, cut in, is the photo with the Moon rising over Lake Accotink. The headline makes sure no one misses this. The headline is BS BOATING CLUB SCRAPES BOTTOM. Off it goes to the printer. I questioned my friend if they would actually publish this, and not call up the school paper sponsor about a bare ass hanging out on the front cover of a high school paper. He just said that we’d have to chance it.
By the next week, we are first in line at that Friday lunch to pick up the latest edition of the West Springfield High newspaper. There is a great uproar at the school, as people laugh uncontrollably, shriek with disgust, and teachers and the administrators begin the inquest as to why and how a bare “moon shot” could appear in the paper, who is this boating club, who is involved. It was decades before terrorist were an everyday topic, but with the Vietnam War still going on, they thought we must surely have been infiltrated by the Viet Cong. The members of the BS Boating club became instant celebrities when we were identified. We all went home that Friday with our heads held high. At least until we got home, the adrenaline wore off and realized that the school administrators will figure this out and calls to our parents would commence. We figured we had the weekend to live, executions would surely begin the following Monday.
True to our predictions, by 10 AM on Monday, we are all being summoned, one by one, to the principles office. He notes each of us and points to the error of our ways. Some of us, such as me, had never been in trouble. Well, at least not CAUGHT. Big difference. I’m informed that this is a major strike, that my parents will be notified of this activity, that I’m on probation, but can still be in the band functions. Some people, such as the photographer, who was a well known instigator, are in a bit more trouble. We all liken it to being on double-secret probation. Nobody really knows what double-secret probation means. This was back in the days when our parents would probably dish out double the consequences than the school would. I march home and present the evidence to my parents, 10 minutes before “the call”. I found that being up front, was usually the best action. My parents have shocked looks on their faces, and reply to “the call” with a lot of “um hum. I’m shocked. Ray’s USUALLY a good kid. Yes, we understand. Oh yes, he will soon rue the day he was born”. I get a big lecture about such antics, but I get off surprisingly light. I think I have no dates for one month, and have to do all dishes and trash duty for the month. My hanging around with “Those friends”, is also quite a topic. While my sister sat and sneered while watching me doing her chores. We usually had to split those duties.
End of the story? Not quite. They never figured out who had the moon shot! They had interrogated each of us. But I know when the principle talked with me, that he’d given up getting a straight answer out of us. It was easy to figure out, but they missed it. A quick count of the heads, perhaps drawing a line between the two photos’s, to see who was “missing” in the moon shot, would have led to the missing person. Maybe it was because we had all moved about, but they never figured out that General McArthur was missing in the second photo, but his derrière was present.
So another week goes by and a new paper is printed. Has the hubbub died down? Would we let it? Never say Never! Well, we would, but our photographer would not. How he kept his job with the paper, was beyond us. The next edition has a notice of yet another sailing event by the BS Boating club! Plus, it has a quote from the principle that clearly stated that the student newspaper was not the place for such things and that there would never be another bare-A** again in the paper. We didn’t get in trouble for that one. End of it? Now how could we let that one just lie? Nope, one more blip in the paper. We declared the BS Boating club to be defunct due to lack of interest.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Fun with SPAM.... and bourbon....or was it gasoline?

In the last few days, I've gotten the same email from some friends and family. They are sending it due to the high cost of gasoline. It is classic SPAM. I decided to change it and send it back to them. Hope they like it!

Here's my version.

Don’t buy Bourbon for a week!!!


This was sent by a retired Coca Cola executive. It came from one of his
engineer buddies who retired from Halliburton. If you are tired of the BOURBON
prices going up AND they will continue to rise this summer, take time to
read this please.

Phillip Hollsworth offered this good idea.
This makes MUCH MORE SENSE than the "don't buy BOURBON on a certain day" campaign that was going around last April or May!
It's worth your consideration. Join the resistance!!!!

I hear we are going to hit close to $16.00 a gallon by next summer and it
might go higher!! Want BOURBON prices to come down?

We need to take some intelligent, united action. The distillers just
laughed at that because they knew we wouldn't continue to "hurt" ourselves
by refusing to buy BOURBON.

It was more of an inconvenience to us than it was a problem for them.
BUT, whoever thought of this idea, has come up with a plan that can really
work. Please read on and join with us!

By now you're probably thinking BOURBON priced at about $9.50 is super
cheap. Me too! It is currently $20 for any gallon worth drinking.

Now that the distilleries have conditioned us to think that the cost of a gallon of BOURBON is CHEAP at $18 to $22, we need to take aggressive action to teach them that BUYERS control the marketplace...not sellers.

With the price of BOURBON going up more each day, we consumers need to take action.

The only way we are going to see the price of BOURBON come down is if we hit
someone in the pocketbook by not purchasing their BOURBON! And, we can do that WITHOUT hurting ourselves.

How? Since we all rely on a good stiff shot after work, we can't just stop buying BOURBON.

But we CAN have an impact on BOURBON prices if we all act together to force a
price war.

Here's the idea. For the rest of this year, DON'T purchase ANY BOURBON
from the biggest companies, Jim Beam, Jack Daniels and Seagrams.

If they are not selling any BOURBON, they will be inclined to reduce their
prices. If they reduce their prices, the other companies will have to follow

But to have an impact, we need to reach literally millions of BOURBON buyers. It's really simple to do! Now, don't wimp out on me at this point...keep reading and I'll explain how simple it is to reach millions of people!!

I am sending this note to 30 people. If each of us send it to at least ten
more (30 x 10 = 300) .. and those 300 send it to at least ten more (300 x 10
= 3,000)...and so on, by the time the message reaches the sixth group of
people, we will have reached over THREE MILLION consumers.
If those three million get excited and pass this on to ten friends each,
then 30 million people will have been contacted!

If it goes one level further, you guessed it..... THREE HUNDRED MILLION

Again, all you have to do is send this to 10 people. That's all!

(If you don't understand how we can reach 300 million and all you have to do
is send this to 10 people.... Well, let's face it, you just aren't a mathematician. But I am. So trust me on this one.

How long would all that take? If each of us sends this e-mail out to ten
more people within one day of receipt, all 300 MILLION people could
conceivably be contacted within the next 8 days!!!

I'll bet you didn't think you and I had that much potential, did you!
Acting together we can make a difference.

If this makes sense to you, please pass this message on. I suggest that we

Keep it going

This message brought to you by

I sank a ship, on purpose.

Technically, I didn’t sink it. But I was a part of the sinking. Actually, it was one of those memorable high school stunts. Yes, we did it on purpose. The US Coast Guard was not involved. The US Navy did not authorize the sinking for coral reef purposes. No, no one drowned or was injured. Except for some fall out that would happen a few weeks later. I’ll get to that.
The time frame is about 1974. I’m in high school in West Springfield, Virginia. I’ve got a group of friend’s and we are getting more and more freedom from our parents. I think they even knew we “were going sailing”. The place is Lake Accotink, in Fairfax Virginia. Not too far from Mount Vernon. Calling it a ship is probably more than a stretch also. A friend had this two person sailboat. We called them two MAN boats then. He could get a friend and we’d lift it onto the top of his car, tie it down and go to the lake. The boat is two plastic pieces, called a “top” and “bottom” glued together. You had two places to sit, a rudder to attach, a mast and single sail. I remember it was this tan, UV decomposing plastic. But it still floated. We had no intention of actually sailing it. One of my best friends just happened to be a rebel, and the senior photographer for the school news paper. Well, maybe we all were rebels, but it was in a fun kind of way. Unless it involved throwing trash or shaving cream. Another day, another mess. Some of my other friends had been kicked out of some snooty high school glee club. Some friends hadn’t been allowed to join some other club. Remember, this is 1974. Way before it was politically correct to let any one in any club or organization they want. We decide to seek revenge. We formed our own club. We named it. Somehow, someone convinced a teacher that we were for real and they agreed to sponsor us, making us official and legitimate. Or so they thought. Some weeks later, I know they regretted that. I don’t think they got fired. With a sponsor, that meant we were a for REAL club. We called it the Boating And Sailing Boat Club. Yes, boat is referred to twice. Isn’t that the point? Besides, we could then refer to it as the BS Boat Club, which still rang of some civility. Our fearless photographer, then placed a two line announcement in the paper, which was published every week or so. The announcement simply stated that a boating and sailing club had formed and that teacher X was our sponsor. We prayed that no one else would actually want to join. Placing this in the newspaper, would give us some legitimacy, as if we cared. So on the appointed Saturday, the eleven of us join up, pick each other up and arrive at the home of the boat owner. We are loaded for fun. We have rubber gorilla masks, we have scuba gear. One guy, his dad was some naval officer and he swiped one of his old Officer hats. We had a corn-cob pipe for that General McArthur look. We had swim fins and flippers, floats, water-wings, beach balls, volley balls, paddles and oars, fishing poles and tackle. I think we even had some spears. We hoped that in mass, we had the balls to go thru with this. We caravan over to Lake Accotink. I don’t recall any issues with transporting to the lake. I think I’d remember if we received any infractions from the local constable. Upon arrival at the lake, we find a secluded place to park. We unload the ship, don our get ups and proceed to push the boat into about 2 feet of water. We then all piled on, which immediately sunk the ship. We proceeded to strike various poses. Such as, the General Washington crossing the Delaware, but with a gorilla in the background, pose. Sailors fighting for Truth, Justice and the American way pose, with a gorilla in the background. The Joe Cool High School Stud pose, with a gorilla in the background. Our resident photographer shot up some photos. After a bit, one of our more ambitious team members decides that there has to be a photo to make the be-all, end-all statement. He turns and drops his pants and moons. Photo duly recorded of his posterior, for prosperity. We then drag the poor ship back to land. We were all surprised when the plastic hull popped back into shape. The owner was disappointed, as he’d hope to abandon it at the park. We dry off and head back to sanity.

Stay tuned for Part 2. The BS Boating club meets its maker.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

I love those 4 AM phone calls

I've worked in data processing, or as we abbreviate it, "IT", since 1981. I'm used to those middle of the night wake up calls. I've actually gotten pretty good with the one's that happen between 2 AM and 4 AM. Before 2 AM, I've only been asleep about 2 hours, so my brain says "OK....Now that I have your attention with that phone call, lets wake UP". I have trouble getting back to sleep after that. After 4 AM, the problem is usually the old brain saying "OK, Look, you're up now. That alarm will go off at 6 AM to go to work. You won't get back to sleep now anyway, just get up". So, this past Monday night, Tuesday morning, the phone rings at 4 AM. I bail out of bed and grab it, expecting to hear the usual data center voices. Instead, I hear some back ground noise and the person goes "Darrel? Is that you?". My brain immediately goes to full alert. The brain recalls some old Bob Newhart show and I hear myself saying "Hi......I'm Larry. This is my brother Darrel and this is my other brother Darrel........". I mumble out, "I'm sorry, who do you need?". The voice on the phone, at 4 AM, says "Ummmm.. I was trying to call Darrel back. Is this the Indianapolis bus station?" Brain again starts processing this new bit of information. I realise that this isn't going anywhere, so I simply reply "No, this isn't the bus station". The voice says how sorry he is for waking me up and says a very polite "good Night". That was very decent of him. I head to the bathroom, the wife is now awake also. I finish up, look at the clock, and start trying to convince the old brain that it is only 4:10 AM, that we can get 2 more hours of sleep. I lay down. The brain starts playing banjo music. I realise that in Indianapolis, there is a Darrel waiting for a call-back. I'm laying odds that there is a Chevy El Camino involved, it's raining, there is a mullet. Come on brain, lets go back to sleep.