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?


Toilet Seats and Potato Salad

I don’t know the reason why women want men to put the toilet seat down. I mean, let’s suppose that one night I get up to use the bathroom, it’s dark and I forget to put the seat up before I pee. I’m going to pee all over the toilet seat (in all honesty, I’m probably going to pee all over the seat even if it’s up — it’s just more fun that way) and if you’re a woman, you are most likely going to go in there later and sit on a seat full of urine. I’m assuming that women just sit down on the toilet without looking, because if you girls walked into the bathroom with your face pointed in the direction of where you’re going to sit then none of this would be a problem.

So what’s going to happen is you’ll probably end up sitting on the seat that I just peed on, since I’m certainly not going to be cleaning it up. That’s someone else’s job, like the girl who delivers the mail or someone from the escort service. If she’s from the escort service she’s going to have plenty more things to clean up, like her own vomit, so she probably won’t mind a toilet seat. But the point is, I’m not cleaning it. That kind of thing is woman’s work, like mowing the lawn or taking out the trash. And when I say trash I mean actual garbage – not immigrants.

Speaking of immigrants, don’t ever go for that Russian mail order bride shit. I mean, you get them all the way over here and they don’t even want to have sex. If I wanted a woman who doesn’t like sex I would have gotten an American woman. Anyway, after you manage to talk them into it with rational discussion / threat of pistol whipping, they’re gone the next morning when you wake up, never to return. I don’t think I’ll ever figure out how she managed to cut through the ropes. Now, the woman being gone in the morning — or preferably that night — is fine with me, but getting taken like that really made me look like a sucker in front of my girlfriend. I’m telling you, stay away from those Russian broads, and Russian cuisine too for that matter unless you like antique pickled cabbage. Oh well, at least Katrina’s facial hair covered up the cold sores. Meanwhile, I’m out $1200 bucks. That was the worst weekend I’ve had since that time I went to that place in Pennsylvania, and when I say “that place,” I mean anywhere.

But the good thing about weekends is you get a lot of chances to make up for a bad one. Weekends always come back, just like herpes, except you don’t have to tell people about weekends before you have sex with them. I think. In any case, the drugs they use now to treat herpes make people vomit and destroy their livers, but if they’re real Americans, they probably spend their weekends vomiting and getting liver damage anyway. And with the drugs, it’s still possible to transmit herpes — you just can’t see the little bumps. Way to go Valtrex!

So what was I talking about? Oh yeah. What does any of this have to do with putting the toilet seat down? I don’t know. But the thing about toilets is you can’t catch herpes from them, which is good, because I like to use them to clean myself up before dinner engagements if the facility isn’t equipped with a bidet. Just to be on the safe side though, I think I’ll stay away from toilet seats, which means I’m not touching them to put them down after I pee. It also means I’m not touching them to put them up before I pee. As for number two, I’ll probably just shit under the couch cushions like I do when I spend the night at a woman’s house. Hey, I’m only kidding. I never spend the night at a woman’s house. I leave after I ejaculate on her roommate and/or sister and then go into the fridge and piss in the potato salad. Why do women always have leftover potato salad in their refrigerators? Probably because it’s gross and nobody likes it, but gals, if you leave a big bowl of potato salad in your refrigerators, you might as well put a sign on top of it that says, “piss in here.”  I just can’t pass it up.

Anyway, I think I was talking about urinating on hookers, right? I like to do it in the bathtub if possible, because I still haven’t figured out a way to get the smell out of my car. But that’s my problem I guess. What I’m really trying to say here is, I would appreciate it if you or someone you know cleaned my bathroom. If you do it, I’ve got some nice potato salad that you can take home. Don’t worry if it tastes a little like Miller Lite.

In conclusion, stay away from my toilet.