One Last Job

Quick backstory on this thing.  I live in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, and we’ve had one of the worst winters ever.  No, seriously.  Record amount of snowfall, record low temperatures.  Hell, one week the average temperature here was lower than either of the poles and all of Canada.  Absolutely true.

But then…suddenly…spring!  50 degrees!  Sunshine!  Melting snow!  And then…our dreams were dashed once again.  Tonight it’s supposed to start raining.  That rain will become sleet.  The sleet will become snow.  Up to seven inches worth, total.  Then, as the Midwest would have it, our high on Friday is once again near fifty.  It’s cruel, giving us a taste of Spring before hitting us in the nuts again with Winter.  And Winter isn’t going anywhere any time soon.  No, there are forecast highs in the 30’s off and on for the rest of the month of March.  It’s a goddam Greek tragedy.

As a bit of therapy, I had this little short story form in my head and decided to try and put it down in writing.  The formatting is shite because WordPress doesn’t let you import MS Word formatting without a great deal of coding and plug-ins and I’m sort of just throwing this together, so…try and enjoy it nonetheless!

    The bar was small and dim. Not pitch black, as there was a small rectangular pane of glass in the front door.  The glass had long ago been covered with what at one point must’ve been khaki canvas, but now resembled yellowed, dusty muslin.  It glowed faintly, but not enough for true illumination.  One interesting side-effect was the clear, black silhouette it presented whenever someone arrived at the doorstep

     At that hour, not quite midday, the place was almost empty.  There was Delores behind the main bar, her Salem hanging from the corner of her mouth and dropping ash while she perused the latest ‘Us’ magazine.  Slumped across her bar, sleeping or worse, was Dan.  Dan showed up each morning with a bag of McDonald’s breakfast burritos, sat down on his stool, and ate the burritos while drinking gin. He’d stir sometime after noon, shuffle to the men’s room for about fifteen minutes, then return and order rye. Nobody knew what Dan did (or had done) for a living or how old he was.  He was just there, and everyone was okay with that.

     The old man sat at one of two round tables near the front wall.  He could’ve picked one of the dirty, dark green-leather upholstered booths in the back.  That’s what he’d do if he were some rookie, some young fucker that’d seen too many movies.  He shook his head and smiled at the thought.

     “Who does that?” he mused.  “What dumb son of a bitch sits back there with no escape route, no way to outflank ‘em, no way to even see ‘em as anything but shadows against that bright light from the street?  Stupid.  Stupid fuckin’ kids, that’s who.”

      The old man couldn’t even recall being a kid, so ancient was he.  Anyone that knew him would agree:  he’d always just been…old.  An old man. 

     A dangerous old man. 

     That’s why he’d chosen that table.  It had a full view of the entire bar, and if someone were to burst through the front door, they might blow right past him. He’d be at their right rear-quarter, and have them dead to rights.

     He waited. He sipped his water, stirred the disintegrating piece of lemon until the seeds separated.  A rivulet of condensation ran down the outside of the Mason jar mug.  Another sip.  A glance at Delores and the immobile Dan.  Another sip.  Any second now.

     The room grew slightly, almost imperceptibly, darker.  A shadow at the front door.  It was time.

     The old man tensed.  The door swung wide, seemingly all by itself.  A pause, a beat…then the Company Man stepped in.  Double-breasted grey suit and matching fedora. He turned immediately and made eye contact.  He smiled.

     “Hello, Winter!  Sorry for making you wait.”  The Company Man doffed his hat and started towards the table.  Old man Winter’s tactical advantage was for naught, and both of them knew it. 

     The old man lifted his glass, finishing off the last of the water, eyes locked on his adversary.  He didn’t quite slam the empty jar, but brought it down with conviction.

     “What now?  What more could you possibly want?” He half-whispered.

     A bark of laughter flew from the well-dressed figure sitting casually on the other side of the table.  He had one leg folded, resting across the other, like he was sitting down to breakfast and the paper.

     “Well, you certainly get right to it, don’t you?  Got somewhere to be, Winter?  Hot date, maybe?”

     “None of your concern.  Don’t matter.  We had a deal.  Now it’s done.  Done, y’hear? I got no time for the likes of you, and don’t give a shit what you think.”

     “Don’t you?” the Company Man whispered.  His smile left his face, which somehow made him look less menacing. 

     “No,” came the terse reply.  The Company Man sighed.

     “You can save your glare for someone else.  This isn’t my fault, not my decision.  You know the way this goes.  You work until we say stop.”

     “I’ve done enough!  More than enough” Winter’s hands clenched into fists, and his nails pressed hard into his palms.

     “Not so.  We need one more job.  One more, and I swear you’re done for a while.”

     “One more.  It’s always one more.”

     “One more.  Then you can go, until we need you again.”

     Old man Winter leaned back in his chair, knowing that his protests were useless.  The Company would get their way, they always did. 

     “Why?  Why so much?  Why so…hard?  What have they done to deserve this?”  his old voice cracked, thinking of those that had already suffered and those that would continue to.

     “Not your worry.  Or mine. The Company doesn’t let us in on their plans, their schemes.  You know that.  It’s above our pay grade.”

     The Company Man leaned back as well, a reflection of old man Winter.  But while Winter’s body language whispered ‘resignation’ the Company Man’s stated ‘confident repose.’  They both sat, silent, unmoving.  After a minute passed, then another, the Man stood and replaced the Fedora on top of his head.

     “For what it’s worth, you know what I think?  I think this is more than a hit.  This is something else.  Do you ever question what they’ve done to deserve this?  Like, look at what they’ve done to Her.  Maybe we’re sending a message this time.  Maybe it’s payback.   I’m really curious to see what happens when they let Summer off the leash, if they ever do.  Just a thought.  An observation.  Maybe it’ll help you sleep.”

     The old man watched him go. 

     “One more job,” he muttered.  He wiped a hand down across his face, pinching the bridge of his nose.  One more.  Then it would be done.  Didn’t matter that Spring had jumped the gun.  It was cruel, sure, but not his concern.  The thought occurred that perhaps the Company had arranged that little bit of cruelty.  Give the poor bastards in the Midwest a chance to catch their breath, to let hope grow in their hearts, before slamming the frigid hammer down once again. 

     Cruel, yes.  But not his concern.  The Company Man was right about that.  Winter no longer cared.  The job.  One more job.  That was what mattered.  Then he could rest.  His cold, tired, aching bones could rest.

     One more job.

     He stood, and nodded at Delores, who, engrossed in the latest Brad and Angelina scuttlebutt, missed his parting glance.  Dan snored softly and gurgled.

     Winter turned and pulled open the front door.  The light was blinding, but he stepped out into the cold sunshine with ice in his heart.  The job.  The job was all that mattered.

     One more.

Beatin’ Them Wintertime Blues.

Look, I don’t just like wintertime:  I LOVE it.  I really do.  The brisk air, the clothes that cover my fat, the snow…it’s all really awesome.  It is.  But here’s the thing:  for the last nine years I’ve lived in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, and our winters can be trying.  I know, I know, there are worse places.  A friend of mine hails from Fort McMurray, Alberta.  It starts snowing there in goddam SEPTEMBER.  In my defense I’ll point out that for the three years before living in Da Fort (as it is sometimes called) I lived in New Bern, North Carolina.  Carolina ain’t Florida or Hawaii, but one story sticks with me about my time in NC.  My lovely wife Heidi and I were at the gym, using side-by-side treadmills or something, watching the television.  The local news was reporting that there was a two-hour school delay the following morning…for snow.  The thing is, and this is what caused Heidi and myself to look at each other and giggle at these poor Carolinians in raw, Midwestern condescension was that NOT A SINGLE FLAKE HAD FALLEN.  They were delaying school over a forecast…FORECAST…two inches of snow.  Possibly.  We guffawed until a friend native to the area remarked that they literally had no salt trucks in the county and probably no more than a handful of snowplows in the entire state. It made sense.  Indiana does not post hurricane evacuation routes, and I’ll bet most people in New Mexico don’t carry flood insurance, so…yeah.

My Sweet Baby.  On a boat.  In the Caribbean. I feel better now.

My Sweet Baby. On a boat. In the Caribbean. I feel better now.

The point of this whole intro is to underscore how different the snowy tundra of Northern Indiana is to the mild barely-frost-covered winters of North Carolina.  And while I was very grateful for the prospect of a White Christmas again, I’m afraid that this winter has been harder than most to bear, probably because it’s been so damn mild.  “Wait…WHAT?” you ask, all perplexed by my contradictory statement.  It’s true.  A few weeks ago it was 60 degrees in Ft. Wayne.  I’ve used my snowblower maybe twice this season.  There wasn’t any hockey for the first half.  It just hasn’t felt like winter, and the motto I like shouting at my friends and family is “shit or get off the pot,” usually yelled as I sit reading on the toilet, not actually defecating.  (Makes your legs fall asleep, so it does.)  So I’m ready for this “season” to be over.  No snow?  Fine, then.  Turn up the sunshine, baby.  Break out the shorts.  And if that ain’t happening just yet (fuck you, Punxsutawney Phil!  YOU LIED TO ME!!) then allow me to offer these tips for getting through the mid-winter hump.  They work.  Trust me.

Video Therapy

This encompasses all manner of stimuli.  The go-to, easy method is to browse Netflix for shows and movies that are set in a warmer, preferably tropical, location.  This winter the wife and I have begun watching Burn Notice, and love it.  Not just because the characters and story are fun and smart (and Bruce Campbell.  ‘Nuff said, baby) but because all the transitions/cutscenes are footage of Miami.  People on Wave Runners, beach umbrellas to the horizon, and tons of eye-candy.  I mean, they oughtta call it “Butt Notice,” amirite? And for the ladies, well…Michael Westen is often shirtless.  But I’d also recommend “Point Break” or “The Endless Summer” along with episodes of BAywatch or even that one show where Hulk Hogan had a powerboat.  But don’t stop with the TV and movies.  I have played the holy hell out of “Far Cry 3” not only because it’s fun and immersive, but let’s face it…you’re on a tropical island that could be anywhere between Hawaii and Papua New Guinea.  Gorgeous, and you can imagine you’re actually swimming in warm azure waters (while trying not to get shot.)

Hi, ladies!  Want some yogurt?

Hi, ladies! Want some yogurt?

Audio Therapy

This is easy.  Got some Bob Marley on your iPod or Pandora channel?  Crank that shit up, mon.  Now, personally, I try to avoid this when it is the absolute dead of winter with the sun going down at 4:30 in the afternoon and a foot of snow on the ground.  When I do chance it,  I hear a voice made of cold, frozen tears tell me “Your magic will not work here.”  There definitely has to be a proper setting.  Daytime, perhaps.  Or when the first snowmelt begins.  Then, the music is a catalyst.  It’s a power-up of epic proportions.  And if there’s an unusually mild and sunny day, one where you briefly consider cracking the window on your ride, and you just happen to throw on anything by Sublime or Jimmy Buffett, then no power in the ‘Verse can stop you.  Feels good, man.  Let it flow.

Of course, listening to Marley or Sublime sometimes makes me want to, uh...what were we talking about?

Of course, listening to Marley or Sublime sometimes makes me want to, uh…what were we talking about?

Aroma Therapy

Perhaps the most powerful of these methods is the one most closely connected to memory.  Scent.  Smells. Aroma.  A long time ago, I even blogged about how powerful your olfactory senses are and how a whiff of perfume can send you right back to the night you lost your virginity, or how sniffing a roll of cloth tape can transport you to the hockey locker room.  For me, the smell of a bar of surf wax is magical.  It is EVERYTHING that I love about the beach.  Likewise, when I go by the Yankee Candle display and smell their line of summer/tropical candles..holy shit. Makes me wanna cry.  Coconut?  Coconut/Lime?  Beach Walk?  Seaside Resort? Surf’s Up?  Coral Sand?  Tropical Mango?  Coconut and Lime?  GAAAAAAAHHHH!!! Even the old-school, simply named “Ocean Water” makes me swoon. And in fairness, there’s not much better during the month of December than all the spice/mint/pine/cookie/pumpkin/hearth fire scents.  But after, oh, let’s say January tenth, THAT SHIT HAS GOT TO GO!!!  SO LONG, CRANBERRY CHUTNEY!!  HELLO, BEACH PARTY!!  There’s one more bit of therapy I have for you, and it’s not really a good idea, but I’m throwing it out there anyway.  We’re all adults here, right?  So let’s just get this elephant out of the room already…
Like actual summertime, many Yankee Candles apparently smell like booze.  Awesome!

Like actual summertime, many Yankee Candles apparently smell like booze. Awesome!

Tanning Therapy

I might as well call this “cancer therapy.”  You know this, right?  You know that there’s a decent chance that not only is your skin going to dry up like a stale pork rind, but you stand a better-than-average chance of melanomas and other potentially hazardous/deadly health concerns, right?  We’re clear on this?  Okay.  Okay, I thought so.  Just wanted to make sure.  But here’s the dirty little secret: sometimes that ultraviolet light is good for you.  Or at least “not so goddam terrible for you.”  Quick story: I worked the overnight shift at 103GBF, a radio station in Evansville, Indiana for about a year or so.  It was dark when I got home around 6:30 every morning.  I wouldn’t leave the house until at least three in the afternoon, meaning that in the winter months I had maybe…maybe…two hours of sunlight.  I fought depression.  I felt like a vampire.  And then someone mentioned the “Light Therapy” that doctors have recommended for people in places like Alaska or Siberia that are affected by the appropriately-named SADs.  Seasonal Affective Disorder.  It’s a real thing, and part of the treatment is basically putting your head under an ultraviolet light, tricking your brain into believing that it’s being bathed in lovely sunshine and kicking in some seratonin or whatever and making the “blahs” go away.  Another friend in the conversation mentioned “sounds like a tanning bed for your head!” And BINGO!!  GREAT IDEA TIME!!  I booked myself a couple of sessions in the ol’ cancer closet at a local gym and…now, bear with me here…I felt 100% better after one session.  It was sort of a revelation.  I’m also willing to consider that maybe the “treatment” was all placebo:  I thought I would feel better, so I did!  Whatever.  It’s like people with colitis learning that nicotine can help keep their symptoms at bay and then have to wrestle with the idea of either smoking cigarettes or spending a fortune on (and becoming addicted to) nicotine gum.  Not an easy choice.  Another motto I love to scream out at passers-by is “Everything in moderation.”  A glass of wine a day is beneficial.  A box of Franzia is not.  I’ve read articles about how kids today are vitamin-D deficient because over-protective parents slather 100-SPF sunblock all over their kids.  As a result, NONE of the sun’s rays penetrate, resulting in deficiency.  Like Ramirez sang to Connor MacLeod, B-A-L-A-N-C-E.
But aren't seals already sort of, um...brown?

But aren’t seals already sort of, um…brown?

That being said, I think we’ve had enough of you, Winter.  Thanks for coming by.  Four months is plenty.  Buh-bye.  Good seeing you, old friend.  Don’t forget your hat. (Of course, everyone is invited back to check out my forthcoming blog entitled “Jesus, Summer…Why You SO HOT?!?” to be published sometime in July.  Balance.)

Presto-Chango!

Hey guys!  Remember when I told you about slicking your hair with pomade and how cool it was to rock the old-school haircuts of the 40’s and 50’s?  Yeah, well…I kinda look like this now…

Ironically, I'm still using Murray's for this haircut.

Ironically, I’m still using Murray’s for this haircut.

I guess the lesson here is “don’t get comfortable.”  Or maybe “try something different.”  Perhaps a better slogan would be “What the fuck did you do to your hair?  Don’t you realize that you’re 42 years old, for God’s sake?”

Maybe it’s not about my comfort.  Maybe it’s that I enjoy making other people uncomfortable. The problem, for me, is that people are so used to my stupidity that they seldom react with the shock or chagrin that I so desperately love.  This hair, for example?  People in my stuffy office said “Oh!  Cool!”

Bottom line is, I like change.  As much as I enjoy old-school style elements and music, I also love vivid surf-themed clothing and punk rock.  At Christmastime I’m just as pleased to hear Bing Crosby as I am to hear that one song by the Waitresses. The end of the year is a good time to explore change.  I think that’s especially true since (at least here in the tundra of Northern Indiana) the landscape ain’t gonna change much for the next four months.  So change it up your self! LIVELY UP YOURSELF, MANG!!

You should!  Get that haircut!  Read that new novel!  Download some new music!  Buy some new slacks (or trousers!)  Go a little nuts! Damn, it feels GOOD to go a little nuts, and this is the perfect time to do so!

In closing, I would like to share this video of myself being silly with a leaf blower.  Carry on.

Randomity!

Getting ready to go camp out at McDonald’s for Ronald McDonald House, so I thought I’d throw a quick blog together.  It’s sort of like leftovers…and it ain’t even Thanksgiving yet!  Bing!  In other words, no rhyme or reason here, just more random thoughts and observations. Such as…

Winter is Coming.

Those are the Stark words, and living in the wasteland that is Northern Indiana, it’s a fact that’s on everyone’s mind.  me?  I love winter.  LOVE. IT.  I love it for many different reason, but one of my guilty pleasures is leaving work after it’s been snowing and using my arm to clear a little space on my windscreen.  Not the whole window, mind you: just a patch.  Then I pretend I am driving an old Sherman tank like in Battlefield.  I suggest you try it.  however, please try not to be too terribly drunk when you do so.

WEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!

Nazis in my shoe

Sometimes the seam of my sock loops over my little toe.  It’s one of those things that I try and tell myself is no big deal at first.  “I’m sure it will shake itself out before long.  No big deal.  It’s just a sock, after all.”  After about thirty minutes, it feels like there is a little Nazi sneaking up behind my toe with a wire garrote.  Little bastard is totally trying to cut my piggy’s head off.  I hate Nazis.

Get...out...of...my...SHOE!

Ethnic names

Some people make a big deal out of “ethnic” names.  You know what I’m talking about: Daekwon, LaToya…names that tip you off  to the far-away origins of the person’s family history.  You know, names like Ian, Connor, or Josh.  Aboriginal names like Braden, Caden, Jaden, and Binladen. (Okay, that last one was a joke.) It goes in cycles, though.  I would say there was a 100% chance that the white kid serving you pretzels at the mall in 1998 was named “Josh.”  And here’s another little insight into my situation:  in college I briefly squatted with some fellows in the campus apartments at the University of Southern Indiana.  Turner Watson, Marcus Gresham, and Micah Hawkins all sharing a room.  People would look at the housing rolls and assume we played for the basketball team.  Racist? Possibly.  But absolutely true. Later in life I had a surfing buddy named Lawrence Hawkins.  Also terribly white.  Never judge a book by its cover, people.  (Notice I didn’t say you people.)

Wu Tang is not a group of troubadours to be trifled with lightly, good sir.

Bachelorette fun!

Adult bookstores are great places to stock up on gag gifts.  Funny cards.  Bachelorette party supplies.  And Avatar-themed Fleshlights.  The bachelorette stuff always strikes me as funny.  You girls are so nutty!  A straw that looks like a penis!  HOW CRAZY IS THAT!  LOLZ!! See, when guys go on a bachelor party, they drink and look at titties.  It’s what you do.  Some cool bachelorette parties do the same thing.  Hell, my lovely wife and I actually ended up at the same strip joint the night of our respective parties.  Got his-and-her lap dances.  It was awesome.  ladies, THAT’S how you begin a healthy marriage.  Which makes me wonder about how much actual materiel the adult bookstores sell every year.  My guess?  A crap-ton.  And there’s a very simple reason: camouflage.  Say a gal wants a personal sexual toy or marital aid.  She goes to the bookstore.  She shops around.  Finally, after exhaustive research and hours of self-debate, she settles on the $250 double-ended Taint Ranger with vibrating love rabbit, perfect for those nights at home watching Twilight!  Only now she feels a little self-conscious.  As she approaches the checkout, the young lady wonders whether the cashier will thin she’s a deviant (hint: no.  No, they won’t.  Those employees see REAL deviants every single day.) So to confuse and obfuscate, she grabs a “#1 Bachelorette” tiara, some penis straws, and a colorful “Bride to Be” feather boa.  She’s going to pass the $250 Vadge-inator off as a gag gift.  And God bless her.

This exists.

Front-clasp bras

While on the subject of femininity, what the hell ever happened to these things?  I remember the first time I ever encountered one in high school…fumbling around under her shirt, prolly clawing the shit out of her back in a vain attempt to smoothly undo her brassiere and free her budding teats into my waiting, eager hands.  After about ten minutes of this nonsense, she pushed me back, lifted her shirt, revealed the magical mamary-constraining mechanism, and out came the globes.  It was very anti-climactic.  I was trying to be all George Clooney.  I was not.  Good riddance to these abominations, now that I think about it.

Whaddayouknow! Heaven has a front gate!

Red Cream Soda

What the fuck is that? Strawberry?  It’s not cherry.  I know that shit for damned sure.

Don't know what it is, but I drank the shit out of it in college art class.

Cracked Pavement

Ever see a parking lot or side street with a spiderweb of cracked pavement…that someone has painstakingly gone over and caulked with that rubbery black stuff?  What the hell, dude?  I understand that you don’t want big asphalt chunks laying all over and the resulting ever-widening holes and whatnot.  But how about just re-paving that shit?  Can it really be more troublesome?  I don’t get it.  I don’t. Then again, it’s pretty obvious that there’s a lot I don’t get.  Life is a mystery to me.  Like a front-clasp bra in eleventh grade.

No problem! We'll have this banged out in about twenty years.