Loves Spark Extinguished Online

**From 2001, originally appeared in a UK short story collection**

“It was revealed to me many years ago with conclusive certainty that I was a fool and that I had always been a fool. Since then I have been as happy as any man has a right to be.”

Alistair Sims 30th August ’76

I have recently embraced this quote by Mr. Sims and it has afforded me great comfort. I am now separated, after a long relationship, and have joined the multitudes of the unattached. The last time I was in this position, George Bush’s father was president and tattoos still meant you had served time in prison. Piercing was meant for the ears, now they are everywhere, it is much like the Earring Fairy has been cruising about the country since 1996, visiting young ladies in their sleep and causing them to awake with rings appearing in their belly buttons.

There was also no Internet dating which has caused the genesis of this piece. Like so many of my peers, I have visited this cyber landscape with trepidation but also with hope. Being a parent, and having a career which occupies an inordinate amount of time, how can you meet other people? You place a singles ad online and try to get the essence of yourself in 2 paragraphs with a photo. Then you begin the laborious task of looking through other profiles, seeking those that strike some interest and ask them to look at your profile then respond and so the cycle starts.

I now consider myself a ‘savvy’ veteran of such profiles and have noticed some striking similarities. Almost eighty-percent list, moonlit walks on the beach at night as a favorite pastime. Recently I went to the beach at night expecting to see a throng of people walking arms-linked under the moon. I was there, alone! This distortion between reality and fantasy is all too common and is one reason this process is severely flawed. I can encapsulate, for you, what most women are seeking online as:

” I like a sense of humor and also he should be honest, romantic, sincere. Someone with a nice build who is masculine, but can also communicate his feelings. A man, who is passionate about life, has a good job and likes walks on the beach at night.”

I am sure it is the same the other way around, however, I can only speak from the male perspective. Sitting alone, at 3 a.m., in my underwear, I began the process of sorting through the profiles and sending out my letters. What follows is a small sampling of my experiences, and why I am considering following a monastic lifestyle!

My first was from AOL, at their site LOVE@AOL. I sent out a reply, to someone in my age group with similar interests, and chose an ad with a picture that showed someone I was attracted to. I received a response to my letter the next day and we began e-mailing each other and then moved to chatting on the phone. Since this was my very first experience, I thought things were going well and after 2 weeks, we decided to meet for a drink, at a local restaurant. I arrived early, as I always do, and got a vibrating beeper to alert me, when my table became available. I then sat myself by the door, with my mental image, waiting for her to arrive.

“Bob!” I heard my name called and scanned the crowd by the front door, no recognition.
“Bob!” This time I saw someone smiling and walking towards me. I was quite confused as I was looking for someone of average build and possessing the face that I had seen. This person knew my name, extended her hand, and said the name I expected to hear. I shook her hand mechanically, not knowing what else to do.

Bzzzzzzzzz’. My pocket vibrated and our table was ready, we were seated. In silence at first, as I had still not uttered a sound, I was looking at someone 100 pounds heavier than stated and the only thing that matched her description and picture was that she had brown eyes.
“So what do you think, are you as happy as I am? You are so much better looking in person.” She said.

Our waitress arrived, and mercifully took our order, allowing me to organize my shattered thoughts. I finally said. “I must admit, you look somewhat different than your picture. I almost didn’t recognize you at first.” She then launched into a diatribe, about how it was taken before her baby and really, it’s what’s on the inside that counts, and she could tell that I was above all that anyway. I nodded, made a mental note that she was indeed wrong. Then I was assaulted, for the next half-hour, with tales of her former marriage and how her ex-husband was a no-good drunk; always had jobs that took him on the road, and she knew he was unfaithful. After a mere 30 minutes with this lady, I understood this man’s need to drink and travel!

Finally, our drinks over, she asked if I want another. I said that unfortunately my babysitter had asked that I make this short, as she could not really watch my son that long. Although it was springtime the weather that evening was actually quite chilly and we emerged into a whipping wind and rain. She asked where I was parked and I pointed to a distant lot, as it was packed when I had arrived. As fate would have it, her car was directly in front of the door.

“Let me drive you to your car, you will be soaked if you walk to it”, she said.
The ride was a short one and she was right, I would have been soaked. I said ‘Thank you’ and ‘I am sure we will talk again real soon’. I began to open the door, felt a hand on my shoulder and I was pulled backwards.

“You don’t have to be such a gentleman, I kiss on the first date.” She said, eyes twinkling. With that said, I saw her come in, lips puckered, and then her hand moved to the back of my head. I ducked and her lips brushed my forehead. I escaped the grasp and opened the door. I waved quickly, jumped into my car and, as I drove home, just pondered the meaning of it all.

I received e-mails for the next 2 weeks, 30 in all, and numerous phone calls. She even shared in one of them that she had bought me a razor and shaving cream, because, next time, I would be staying over. Finally, she realized we would not be picking out china patterns, and it stopped. I then moved to a pay-site, as I felt it was better because AOL accepts everyone for free, perhaps a more serious clientele could be found if one paid.

I joined MatchMaker.com, again filled out the profile, answering essay questions this time, and again posted a picture. The gimmick here is you are matched, based on your answers, to those who match you best. I put in my search and the names appear in match order: the first one on the list said 89% and I was intrigued. Although she did not have a picture online, I read her essay and answers, and I was even more intrigued. I wrote her a response, and it was answered. The same email protocol was followed, then again the phone-call and I could tell this was a very witty and intelligent lady.

We decided to meet at Starbucks, for coffee on a Saturday morning. I again arrived early, this time armed only with a written description and the type of car she drives. The car arrived on time and she emerged. Absolutely perfect, petite, well dressed, and truly attractive. We had our coffee and enjoyed each other’s company, for over 2 hours. When we parted, she suggested that we would see each other that Monday evening, for dinner. I heartily agreed and waited impatiently for Monday to arrive.

This time I picked her up at her apartment, we departed for a local eatery and enjoyed some wine and Italian food. As we lingered over our coffee, she kept looking at her watch. Of course, my first thought was she could not wait for this to end, so I asked her. To my utter shock, she said she would rather go down to the beach, as it was a beautiful night. My inward smile was a broad one and I quickly paid the bill to honor her wishes. I suggested several beaches that I knew,  but she said she knew the perfect place, and then proceeded to direct me. It was several towns away and quite deserted. She knew her beaches!

She exited the car and beckoned me to follow her. We started to walk, holding hands, and I must say, I could understand why this is in so many profiles. However, she kept walking for what seemed an eternity, and then in the distance I saw what appeared to be a fire. She pointed and said it was our destination. I was slightly perplexed; however, the lure of her was too great. As we started to get closer, I noticed people, about 30, in a circle around the roaring fire. In the light of the blaze she turned to me, looked into my eyes and said. “This is my coven, we are celebrating the new moon tonight, that is why I wanted to see you Monday. I wanted to show you, rather than tell you. You are one of the first I thought that would understand. Just watch, this is a beautiful ceremony.”

Getting caught pulling the fire alarm in 7th grade, and this moment, both produced the same feeling within my stomach. She was a witch! She drifted off and joined hands with the others. Then the chants started and I sat down on a dune; I had no idea how to leave and with my mouth still open, I think, I watched. Besides my Laura Ashley-dressed date, the rest was the stereotypical lot. All in black and with that peaceful look of those who feel they understand something that you don’t. There was a leader, wearing a robe with a hood, and looking mysterious.

After the hood came down, you could see the result of lost battles with acne, the scraggly beard and the long hair. Obviously High School had been cruel and this was where his search for identity had landed him. He spoke a stream of mindless drivel about Nature, the Moon, the Land and the Power around us. The believers listened, heads bowed, occasionally nodding.

When it was over, she came back, flushed and excited. ‘I want you to meet xxxx ‘ and she mentioned the head-man’s name. I was brought to him and shook his hand; it was then that I was informed that he had instructed her to bring me. It seemed a spell had been performed and then I appeared in her life, as he had predicted. We met some others and although it was hard to part this magical place, we left.

Safely back in the car I asked her about the spell. I knew we would never see each other again and this was my last chance. This was was a love spell, one that takes several days to perform and should not be taken lightly! The following is a brief description:

Two red candles are placed within two circles. At sunset, they are lit and moved a little closer together every day, until the third day when they should be touching. The circles are then joined. Next, cookie dough is placed under your pillow for three nights and then planted in soil. Then you will find your love.

I asked if it was called the Pillsbury spell. She was not amused! I then said I had temporarily stopped dating pagans and perhaps we should be friends. She exited the car quietly, and finally. I received an e-mail the next day, saying the planter with the dough was overturned that morning and that meant it would be over anyway. Those who believe will always find a reason to keep their beliefs. Perhaps there is something to it; I have had cravings for cookies for several weeks!

Although I have found humor in such instances, is does leave me wondering as this new frontier I have been thrust into, is so different than when I was younger. Attitudes and values have indeed changed and I think we are lessened by it. It seems we chase ideals that cannot be attained and cannot find happiness in our own realities.

I think I will go down to the beach so I can be alone and think about it, but never during the new moon!

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Guitar Case Keys and Amber Dreams

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Young men of 20 years of age should not have many burdens placed upon them. Biologically they are distracted by far greater urges and their thought process is greatly affected. The insurance industry knows this and charge a premium for young men in this age group.

I was once 20 years of age, a lifetime ago, it seems, and I proved the Insurance industry assessment correct. I was a college student and had to seek employment to fund my higher purpose. My lifelong friend suggested security work, as it would not tax our energies, and what job could be easier? This was before licenses were required. I wonder if our security careers had any impact on that sensible law.

We went to Pers-Eval Security in Huntington, Long Island, a since closed firm: I also wonder about our impact on that, as well. We filled out applications that consisted of name, address, and shirt and pant size. The office consisted of 2 women, Phyllis and Carmen, the latter being the subordinate. Both were divorced, and were “Older” women, they dressed in what I call Deer Park couture: something peculiar to Long Island. It consists of tight pants, loose shirts, big hair, high heels and noticeable makeup. Accessories vary, but gold bangle bracelets and gold chains are preferred. There is also a certain attitude associated, quick talking and a sachet that suggests experience in the feminine arts.

After glancing at our applications, we were hired and Carmen then bustled getting us uniforms. We were informed that our careers would begin that night, the third shift, 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. at the Freeport Marina. The job paid 5.50 an hour and would last for 4 nights; we received .50 over the going rate, because of the overnight hours. In less than 30 minutes after our arrival, we were leaving, outfitted and trained for our new careers.

The month was September, and the night was clear and crisp, we arrived at 8:30 and met our contact. He had worked at the marina for 35 years by that time, in a maintenance roll, he was a short, bald and had a pronounced shuffle: he looked like Muddy Waters the blues singer. We called him “Borkum Riff” after the pipe tobacco that he constantly smoked. Borkum sized us up and then went through the list of things we were not to do.

Pipe clenched between his teeth, he had an amazing gift of conversing this way. In a nutshell, we were not to touch anything, we were to be separated at all times, on opposite ends of the complex, and use the walkie-talkies only when necessary. No one should be there for any reason, and for any problems, call the police via the pay-phone. He said he would see us in the morning and then shuffled off in a cloud of smoke.

We were alone. It was immediately agreed we would never be separated and thus began our systematic breaking of the rules. The reason for our presence was the Freeport Boat Show, a yearly event, and the marina was crowded with tents and exhibits. We perused the covered tables, sampling the candy and wares. After our first tour we went back to the bathrooms and main office area, and then we noticed them. Golf Carts! 25 of them, all plugged in and humming.

We went to the first one, and to our dismay learned you needed a key to operate them. We quickly tested my keys and all were too big, next we tried my companions, his keys also didn’t fit, but then an epiphany, he has his guitar case in his car and that had a small key. When we came back, I watched as he slid it in and the cart sprang to life. We unplugged it and off we went to more effectively patrol the grounds.

There are few better things in this world than feeling the wind in your hair as you cruise in a golf cart. Unlike our walking tour, we really explored this time, going all over the grounds. The exhibits were in the gravel area, and the tents made it seem as if you were circling a figure eight, then there was a grass area with porta-johns and the food-vending facilities, and then the dock with all the boats.

Dawn was starting to creep in and we felt the cart should go back, and we should split up for our relief, and end our first night. Borkum pulled up in his Red Maverick 20 minutes early, no doubt, to see if we were performing as we should. When he approached with pipe blazing, he seemed pleased and told us we could leave, and he would see us that evening.

Our second evening began, and, as soon as we saw the headlights of his car disappear, we went to our chariots. This time we each took one and decided to make a circuit of the grounds again, today marked the first day the show was ‘open’, and there were a few more exhibits and the food areas were also occupied. As we were making our tour through the food court we saw it and both applied our brakes. A Budweiser trailer was parked on the lawn!

As we approached, we could smell the stale beer that had spilled throughout the day. It had what appeared to be a 30-foot garage-type door protecting the treasure inside, and we could hear the trailer humming, no doubt keeping it chilled. The door had a handle and, as we expected, it was locked and secured. This time we tried the guitar-case key first and VOILA!

The handle moved and we pushed the door up, all the way, there were several flickers of lights and then they caught. We were standing before 40 Budweiser taps gleaming in the fluorescent light. There are moments you remember forever, this, and Christmas mornings when I was a child, produced the same effect, utter joy! Each tap had a stack of cups next to it and we each took one and filled our glasses. It was wonderful!

After downing several glasses, and starting to feel very nice, we decided to empty the thermoses of coffee our mothers had given us, and fill them with beer. We closed the door and set-off on our carts, chasing each other at full speed. We wheeled through the exhibits and spun out on the gravel, even crashing into each other a few times.

At about 5 am we realized we were exceptionally drunk and needed to lock up the truck and our carts, not an easy feat in our condition and, once accomplished, we both got very sick. It was too much of a good thing and we needed to practice moderation. Borkum arrived that morning and saw two bloodshot and weary young men; he attributed it to not being accustomed to overnight shifts and advised we should get some sleep.

Before we went that evening we raided our houses and took every possible device that could hold liquid, and put it into my Chevy Malibu’s trunk and back seat. We had 100 bottles between us, my friend being the main contributor. His father had a passion for milk and bought gallons at a local store. He never remembered to bring back the gallon, glass containers. Every bump we hit, on the ride there, produced a loud, clanging noise, but we were careful to cover the back seat with a blanket, to hide them.

We arrived, and Borkum seemed tired this time, his shuffle was almost at a standstill, he left immediately and did not admonish us once. This time we took my car to the trailer and began our labors; filling each bottle, capping and carefully stacking it. The back of my car sagged a little from the weight and the process took us over an hour, but it was a labor of love. Once finished, we got our carts and rewarded ourselves with several cold drafts.

Our lesson in moderation was not heeded, and soon we were again, feeling good and racing around. Hours passed in this fashion and it wasn’t until we stopped that we realized how truly inebriated we were. The night had flown by, quickly everything was put back and Borkum arrived on time and sent us away. We drove home exceedingly slow and stacked our booty in my friend’s garage; it was an impressive sight. It meant our meager paychecks could go much further, as beer was a major drain on our funds at that time.

We drove to work that day in a melancholy mood, it was our last night and we had really enjoyed our time there! When we entered the parking we noticed several cars and people milling about. One car was marked Pers-Eval and the assembled group turned to us as we stopped. Immediately we knew something was amiss, I figured they found out that we raided the beer truck.

A tall man, dressed in a Freeport Marina shirt and hat, excitedly jogged towards us and, as the words, “Are these the A**holes” exited his mouth, I knew it was more than that. My friend and I had heard this phrase directed at us before and knew that what was to come would not be pleasant. This man reached us, put his arms on his hips took two deep breaths and announced he was the director of the Marina. Then all his pain and anguish came out.”Do you two know what happened last night?” He asked but did not pause for a response. “A goddamn yacht was stolen, from the end, goddamn berth. How could you both miss a 50-foot boat going that distance? How ******* stupid are you?”

He let out a web of obscenities that might still hang in the universe and concluded with: “So what do you two have to say about this?” Luckily my friend and I had attended Catholic school and we gave him the blank stare we had learned there. It was impossible to combat, impassive and emotionless. Frustrated, he turned and kicked the gravel as he stomped away. Next a supervisor, from the company who employed us, told us we were relieved and no further assignments would be forthcoming. Security career over, at the age of 20, is a blow to any man, However, we had a cache of liquid treasure to comfort us, and it did.

Actually, my friend still worked there for a year, before becoming a police officer for New York City. They forgot he had worked the Freeport Boat show and gave him regular assignments. I still have my old badge tucked away in a box somewhere, now a memento of of a misspent youth. I think of that experience often and would like to offer an apology to that man, to whom we caused so much pain.

He learned the hard way that 20-year-old males are not responsible, he should have listened to the Insurance companies!

 

My Old Personal Advertisement

 

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Before I knew the joys of wedded bliss, I would seek companionship in the classified section of Newspapers and online. Since I can no longer use this, I wanted to post one last time..

Well spoken, good looking, salt and pepper haired hazel eyed Professional seeking abundantly Rich Woman (beautiful, please) to shower me with money and drinks poolside. I in return will answer phones, skim/ clean the pool area, and check all dates on perishable food in fridge, and I am SURE to enrage your Ex Husband. I am an expert at playing with dogs, and can identify many illegal drugs by smell alone. I can manage two intimate sessions daily, but this requires extra sleep and medications, so price will be subject to change. If you are missing the feeling of coming home to someone already poolside with a drink, look no further, I am your man. I also make a great “drinking buddy” and several other services depending on my level of sobriety. I am also a Writer, peripatetic, and a man about town

 

Valentines Day memories

**From 2001, originally appeared in a UK short story collection, now 11 years removed, sans ToughSkins, my name was finally called”

The Tao of ToughSkins

It looks like the bottom of a tied balloon, so round and soft and utterly mine.

I have recently learned to appreciate my bellybutton more, and try to spend some time with it, on a daily basis. So often, at times or moments, emotional pain inspires us to retreat into the world of the known: the comfortable. Perhaps, pondering where the umbilical cord attached us, is one of those exercises. Anything that occupies our mind, everyman’s great tormentor and our one solace, is that, and it allows us to trick ourselves.

I have also recently known true pain and have sought any way to divert my attention: to imagine that tortured thoughts are like a beachball. When occupied, the ball is submerged in water but the moment the concentration breaks, it zooms to the top and pops out, and the cycle perpetuates itself unabated and never ceasing, or so it seems, until the shirt rises and I see my old friend.

Life is a cyclical event and at these times I often go back to the beginning of the circle. For this purpose, I go back to the burgeoning of puberty, that most confusing time for all of our species. When all problems were of a grand proportion and would never be recovered from. Now they seem so small, but the seared memories prove the voracity of the emotions felt.

I was 12 years old, and enrolled in the 7th grade at Memorial Junior High School, home of the Wildcats. For me, the transition from the friendly confines of my Elementary school was not an easy one. It was, as now, a venture into the unknown, unfamiliar faces, new surroundings and new expectations.

All one wishes for, at such moments, is to blend in seamlessly, and do nothing to warrant the label of ‘different’. I arrived on my first day and immediately felt different. Let me qualify my comments first. I always went to school clean, neat, and prepared for anything I needed. I always had new and clean clothes, but it was the choice of clothes that made me different!

I wore Toughskin pants by Sears Roebuck, a since forgotten line that had a reinforced knee which could be seen from the outside. It looked as if you had a metal plate under your pants, attached at your knee. This was during 1979 at the height of the denim revolution; Sassoon, Jordache, Gitano et al and my peers were right in fashion, and most bore a name on their derriere. I bore my mark on my knees, an indelible one!

There were several other unfortunates, although we averted eye contact and did not have a group, we knew of each other. I think we consciously did not wish to be seen together. Why draw more attention to our condition? If it were today, we would have had a support group and counselors to assist us. Perhaps even our own alternative high school, to cater to our special needs, and a separate prom!

Discovering the opposite sex is difficult enough, without any added burdens, but my school had an especially cruel Valentine’s Day custom. It allowed students to purchase carnations with messages to their peers: white for friendship, pink was a secret admirer, red for love. A huge flower-laden cart would be wheeled down the hallway, into your homeroom and names would be called.

I knew the outcome, and dreaded that day, as you would wear the flowers pinned to your shirt for the remainder of the day. The beautiful people would look like a parade float, completely bedecked in flowers, from neck to waist. I was more fortunate as my movements were not in anyway restricted! However, I did listen to all the names, and hoped that there would be some superior female who could see my inner qualities, but my feeble attempts with the opposite sex were rebuffed initially. I was labeled ‘a weenie’, equal to those in the A. V. squad or the Dungeons and Dragons club.

I now find myself again in that very same position, recently separated after a 10-year relationship. I am far different from the young lad in Toughskins: outwardly I am fairly good-looking and possess advanced communication skills, honed, no doubt, from persuading louts not to pummel me in Junior High. However, the feelings are still the same, and I have yet to find the person who can see ‘the light within’.

I learned from my early experiences that outward appearances mean little, and it is that which lies under the reinforced knee that counts. Even now, 20 years removed, I can see that few have learned that lesson with me. In bars, or in personal ads, everyone desires the same thing, an ideal rather than reality.

However, I am an optimist, still listening to the names, and knowing that some day I will hear my mine called.

Late Night CVS

Last week, I found a 24-hour pharmacy that’s located near my house. I wish I would have known about it sooner, because buying Astro-glide in the middle of the afternoon was starting to get a little embarrassing. The last time I was at the drugstore, I purchased a few more things than I could comfortably carry up to the register and I ended up fumbling with them and dropping everything as I tried to put it all on the counter. I went to pick it up and noticed that I was about to purchase baby oil, Kaopectate, condoms, and a blank videotape. It must have looked a little strange, because everyone else in line was trying to get their children to look away.

Dylan, Haley-Ruth, why don’t you go wait for Mommy over by the one-hour photo counter?

Hey, if they had any parenting skills at all, they already would have had the talk with their kids about using baby oil to whack off instead of shampoo. You wouldn’t think so, but shampoo hurts. Somebody should tell kids that in school instead of pushing all that other useless information on them. Let’s face it, no one will ever need to know how to do long division by hand or know who our first president was, but I think we should spread the work that shampoo will remove the epidermis from your cock. This is the kind of thing that could really spare someone some trouble later on.

Anyway, I figured everybody was standing there on line, thinking to themselves that I must get a little nervous whenever I’m going to videotape myself sodomizing the girl who works at Hallmark. They probably thought that I get agitated and it upsets my stomach or something, in which case I would need the Kaopectate. But that’s not true. I don’t get nervous at all. My stomach was upset from eating shellfish, and I hate having an upset stomach when I’m trying to perform on tape. It really ruins the mood. By the way, you’re taking you’re life in your hands when you eat shellfish. That shit is poison.

Anyhow, what was I talking about? Oh yeah, so if you’re talking about sodomy, I think it’s the woman’s responsibility to provide the baby oil. I mean, it’s more her concern than mine, right? I think I read something about baby oil causing condom’s to deteriorate and rendering them ineffective. They say you’re supposed to use a water based lubricant, but I’m sick of paying $14.95 for that shit. Hey, I’ve got a water based lubricant for you. It’s called water. If you’re going to engage in any kind of intimate activity with me, you’re probably going to want to use some water to rinse off your soul afterwards, so you’ll probably have a bucket handy anyway. As long as its not bottled water. I’m not paying for that.

Getting back to the 24-hour pharmacy, I purchased one 40 pack and one 12 pack of prophylactics and then the woman at the counter gave me a buy-one-get-one-free coupon, charged me for the 12 pack and gave me the 40 pack for free. Isn’t that great? Now I have enough contraceptive devices so I can use half of them to make Christmas tree decorations with, and the other half to fill with urine and throw at Quaker meeting houses. Yeah, maybe you’re saying to yourself “he shouldn’t so that sort of thing,” but don’t worry about me. What’s a Quaker gonna do? They don’t even fight back when you hit them. Seriously, have you ever fought a Quaker? It’s easier than beating up a 13 year-old, or a Canadian.

I guess what I’m really trying to say is, wasn’t that a nice lady that gave me the buy one get one free coupon? I would’ve kissed her if she didn’t look like Gregg Allman had all his teeth knocked out. But on second thought, what’s a woman need teeth for? I’m not looking at the face anyway. Teeth are just weapons she can use against me when she finds out I’ve been using her credit card to pay for phone sex. I don’t really like phone sex though because you can’t see the disappointed look in the eyes of the woman afterwards, and that’s half the fun. Without it, what’s the point?

Basically, everybody should be friendly and obliging like the lady who gave me the free coupon. It takes a kind heart to give someone free condoms. How difficult would it have been for one of those slovenly soccer Moms to help me pick up my lubricant and anti-runs pills? Or use the opportunity to educate her 4-year-old on the merits of contraceptives? Is that too much to ask? It’s because of people like this that I seek the comfort of an empty 24-hour pharmacy. The people there understand me. They avoid making eye contact with me. And they give me free stuff in order to spite the corporation that employs them. They know how to treat people.

So I ask you, my friend, if you see me in your local drugstore in the middle of the day and I drop the items I’m about to purchase, please help me pick them up. You’ll feel better for doing it. And if you work the night shift at CVS, I’ll see you soon.

Raising Children and making change

“So what’s your favorite position?” she shouted over the din of some ubiquitous Nelly song.

 “Mostly I like to just pull their hair while I jerk off on them,” I replied.

 “What?” She stopped gyrating on my lap for a second and looked back over her shoulder at me.

“I said doggie-style.”

 “Oh, ok. I like to be on top,” she said in an attempt to make conversation, assuming I cared anything about her likes and dislikes. A lot of people make that mistake.

I was on my fourth couch dance of the day and so far, I’d only been flashed one crotch and zero boobs. Maybe the dancers should be commended for adhering so closely to the state of New York’s guidelines for strip bars. Still, it was better than being at the office, where I was supposed to be. And I guess I could do without seeing crotches. Let’s call it the eggplant parmigiana factor, which is an epidemic among exotic dancers, believe it or not. However, I’m not here to discuss overused female genitalia. Actually, I don’t know what I’m here to discuss.

While we’re on the subject (sort of), does someone want to explain the whole bar concept to me? Why would I get in the car and drive out to someplace for the privilege of paying five times as much for something that I could’ve bought at a liquor store and drank in my backyard? $2 dollars for Pabst? That’s slightly less than a 30 pack costs. Not that I’m much of a drinker, but I just want to point this out to you people filing into The Artful Dodger Bar every weekend. Granted, bars are rife with cheap skanks, but I can pick those up at the Laundromat, and they’re usually just as drunk there. Speaking of Laundromats, what a great invention those places are. I just discovered that they existed about two weeks ago and have been going there every few days to steal women’s unwashed underwear that I can then take home and sell on E-Bay to pasty men that didn’t have any friends when they were kids.

When I have children of my own, I’m going to take the little farts to bars and utilize the patrons to help create my kids’ unbreakable self-esteem. You see, self-esteem will be the reason they can have social interaction with people without standing around intoxicated at a place that smells like pee, so it’s an important quality to develop. I saw a diner placemat ad for a nursery school that stated that they “build self-esteem through creative learning.”  What the hell is that supposed to mean? Finger-painting is going to improve my son’s self-opinion? No the best way to do that is to show him a few dozen guys who don’t see their families because they’re too busy making love to Miller Lite.

“Son,” I’ll say to him, “Son, you see that woman over there? See the desperation in her eyes? She’s about to go home with the man who can tell her the best lie about what he does for a living. And see that guy over there? He can’t get life insurance on himself for his kids because he can’t stop drinking long enough to pass the physical. And that guy over there? He owns the bar and charges the rest of these slobs an 85% markup for vodka that they top off with water every night. One of these people is better off than the other two.”  And in twenty seconds he’ll learn more than three years of algebra can teach him. (Note: In the event the aforementioned child is a girl, replace the word “son” with silence, and replace the rest of the paragraph with me buying her something pink and frilly).

The point is, if you have children, make sure you spend time with them and take an active role in their lives. Since kids don’t learn anything in school besides how to catch the flu every winter, parents have to teach their kids anything they don’t want them to learn on the playground from that fat kid that snorts Kool-Aid mix. With that in mind, remember to talk to your kids about how to corral poontang, exploit weaker people, cheat the IRS, deal cards from the bottom of the deck without being noticed, and how to make sure a hooker isn’t actually a cop. Also, don’t forget to teach them correct forgery technique, the proper way to talk down to stupid people, and for the really promising youngster, how to inflate corporate earnings reports by including unpaid stock dividends in gross profits.

Above all, maybe the most important things kids should know to get them through life is that hard work doesn’t really get you anywhere, everybody wants something from you, and if you’re careful, the cops are too stupid and/or lazy to ever catch you. Also, don’t forget to hug your children often…if you want to turn them into sissies.

And speaking of sissies, is there any stronger evidence that a man is a card carrying limp-wristed pansy than if he rides around on one of those neon green and yellow Suzuki motorcycles? Originally, I thought the best evidence of this is if a man had sex with another man. Now, I’m pretty sure that these Suzuki riding guys are at the top of the list. Why? Because it’s a major financial commitment. You’ve got to make a down payment, get on a payment plan, they’re going to check your credit, maybe give you an interest rate in the teens. You’ll probably end up paying thousands over the already high list price if you get a loan to pay for it. All for the privilege of looking like a homo. By the way, what’s the difference between a Harley and a vacuum cleaner? On a vacuum, the dirtbag is on the inside.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, the stripper. So we got to the end of my song and a half — which is always the rap song of the week, and then “Sweet Home Alabama” for some reason — and I handed her a fifty.

“Is that a tip?” She asked me, hopefully.

”No. It’s the smallest bill I have. I’ll just need thirty bucks now.”

That’s another thing my kids are going to have to know someday. Always get change

Atlantic City: “America’s Favorite Playground”

I often think to myself, “Where can I find discourteous dealers, poor service, and unattractive cocktail waitresses? Where can I go to hear hundreds of old people complain at once, like a cantankerous symphony orchestra? Where are their overpriced restaurants that serve microwave entrees and hire foreign waiters that don’t know what orange juice is? Most importantly, I’m looking for invulnerable 8-deck blackjack games with rules that heavily favor the casino. Does a magical place like this exist?”

Then it hits me.

Atlantic City: “America’s Favorite Playground

11:00 am: Atlantic City 
Sitting on the stool at the left end of a blackjack table, I waited for the dealer to finish the ridiculous card shuffling/inspection procedure that takes place before a table can open. The rest of the early morning degenerate gamblers and I continued to wait, since this dealer was particularly slow. One man remarked, “I could give birth faster than this.” A good laugh was had by all, except the dealer. Middle-aged Hungarian women have no sense of humor.

Mercifully, Helga shifts to another lucky table and is replaced by someone who can count two cards at a time. Everyone nods in approval and orders more hard liquor from the cocktail waitress.

Eventually, play begins. The dealer immediately draws a 10 and ace. The players groan in unison, then each man mumbles quietly before looking at the other players in a clockwise motion, shaking his head and pounding his right hand against the table. Each time the dealer pulls a good hand, we repeat this process like synchronized swimmers.

An effeminate bald man in a skintight powder blue shirt sat down with us. He placed his bet, received a hand totaling 12, and began to cry out, “Show me a nine and I’ll drink some wine!”

Show me a nine and I’ll drink some wine!”

He prepared to hit his hand of 12 against the dealer’s 10. The rest of us silently cursed the hate crime legislation that prevented us from pummeling him.

“Can I get a glass of wine this early Randy?” he said, wrists flopping around furiously.

Randy, our distinguished pit boss, mumbled something unintelligible while shaking his toupee.

The dealer dealt him a queen for a total of 22. The wine was not necessary.

“Do you play a lot?” he asked, turning to me.

I replied by wiping my nose with my sleeve.

“I don’t mean to interfere, but you’re messing up your betting strategy,” he said.

Facts and mathematics have never stopped certain intrepid blackjack players from playing their hunches, and many of these imbeciles are happy to share their knowledge. Without the gambling jargon, the conversation would go something like this:

Player: “I’ll split these.”

Advice guy: “No, never do that with those cards. What you should do instead is flush your chips down the toilet. Then light your remaining money on fire and slam your genitals in a car door. After that, I’ll punch you in the kneecap. See why that’s better? Hey, I’ve been playing this game a long time.”

Player: “I’ll split these. Look, I won.”

Advice guy: “You got lucky that time.”

To amuse my fellow gamblers at the other end of the table, I decide to humor the blue-shirted fruit with the ‘betting strategy’ advice.

“What don’t you like about my betting?” I asked.

Excitedly, he shared his betting system. But it was more than just a betting system. It was more like a philosophy of life. “When you win, you should be moving those bets up to thirty or forty. That way you can parlay it into a big win. I was up $500 last night doing that.”

“Uh huh. How much have you won this morning?” I wondered out loud.

“Well, I’m down so far this morning.”

“Uh huh.”

Several of us at the full table mockingly feigned surprise.

The complete attention of the pit boss is fun for any card counter, and nothing gets the attention of Randy and his hairpiece faster than candid discussions about betting strategy. However, even Randy must know that it is impossible to win at blackjack with a betting strategy unless the player is also counting cards. Just in case, he’ll watch us a little more closely. I attempt to change the subject by asking Randy how long the $10 Van Halen chips have been around, then hint that the chips must be hard to get rid of because they have Sammy Hagar on them. A good laugh was had by all, as Sammy is a walking punch line.

Next, the effeminate man was dealt two tens, and the man directly to his left was dealt an ace. He protested, reasoning that it should be his ace because he had intended to split the tens, a move that hasn’t been attempted since the 1950’s, when telepathy was an acceptable playing strategy and blackjack was a guy who worked at the shoe store.

“Randy, he passed me up without even a hand signal. I was going to split those,” he said, deciding against the more accurate statement of ‘Randy, I’m trying to scam you.’

Our dealer — an angry fellow who had taken over for the Hungarian lady — looked at the guy in a way that expressed his displeasure. The rest of us looked towards Randy and waited to see what he had to say to the guy who was holding up the game.

“You can split them, but you’re not getting that ace, I’ll tell you that,” Randy replied. And that was that.

The game moved along until a few hands later when the effeminate man was dealt two more tens and shouted to the dealer, “Wait, I want to split those! Ah, Just having a little fun with you!”

Our dealer answered, “Do I look like I’m having fun?”

I think we’ve found a new slogan for the A. C. Expressway welcome sign.

Welcome to Atlantic City: America’s Favorite Playground 

Welcome to Atlantic City: Do I Look Like I’m Having Fun?