Knaus and I

            Since drafting ‘Thies and I’, it became apparent to me that some of the characters found herein and such probably require similar tales to be told. Chances are that in the collected edition, the T&I story will follow this one and thus what I am writing about probably makes no sense at all, unless you are a clever enough monkey to skip about or perused the formidable table of contents. If not, I’m certain you are already confused and having made your way this far, you might as well continue, as my words, I am certain delight to you even more than fresh cherry cobbler.

            Though it is probably of little interest to the reader, I met Knaus the same way I met Psycho, at one of the Wargames meetings. He had somehow, and without my knowledge or consent, been brought in by Louis to help ‘run the day to day operations’; something I was perfectly capable of pretending to do. Although threatened by the intrusion, I discovered early on that he was mentally in the same magnitude of bizarre that I was; something that I found strangely comforting. We also found ourselves taking the same art class in sophomore year, which is where he picked up the long discarded moniker, Mouse. As each of us took to the comic book style of art, I introduced him to Collector’s Inn, pleasing Jim to no end, as Knaus always seemed to have a wallet full of cabbage every time he walked in.

            That year I also managed to create another connection by bringing Dave to the art show where Knaus and I were showing off our wares. Within 5 minutes of meeting each other the two were wrestling like dogs in heat in the parking lot. A beautiful bromance was born, and one frankly, that I sometimes became the third wheel in. This was my first and only successful attempt at integrating groups of friends from previous periods in my life with newcomers, probably because it is usually something I try to avoid.

            The first time I stayed over at the Knauses over night, I knew I had met my match in oddness. The kitchen table was covered with newspapers, atop which were a collection of batteries in various stages of disassembly. Knaus revealed that he was performing detailed dissections on them, and although I had abandoned my childhood attempts at alchemy, I resolved to put my chemist hat back on and see what forbidden substances I could take apart at home, resulting in many burns. Knaus also revealed that day his own particular brand of logic when making scrambled eggs. I witnessed him dumping in quantities of vanilla extract into the mix, and when I pressed him on why, he stated that vanilla made things taste better, end of story. It was a principle that could simply not be argued with, though I will say they were pretty sucky eggs.

            That first sleepover was also memorable as it revealed Knaus to be as daring an intrepid explorer as I was, perhaps even more so. We decided to walk over to the old Thruway Mall from his house, taking a back channel along some old abandoned rail road tracks, something Dave and I used to do ourselves. After screwing around there for a while, we headed back utilizing a “shortcut” Knaus claimed to have intimate knowledge of. Somehow we became lost in this area, readily observable by entering these coordinates (42.904482,-78.786821) into Google Maps. This delightful looking “park” area is in truth nothing of the kind; the area is actually an industrial dumping ground amidst a swamp treacherous with piles of corroding hulks of strange machinery and murky channels of slightly frozen over sludge and water filled ditches. Did I mention it was February?

            Knaus led us deep into this wasteland with was what I feel were deliberate intentions to cause me the maximum amount of discomfort possible. We scurried around the piles, snagging our jackets and flesh on the razor sharp edges of rusty metal and frequently plunged one or both legs into one of the horrendous bogs. A mixture of snow and drizzle started to come down, further obscuring our limited view and sense of direction. For several hours we wandered, forced back to the center by the presence of trains or some insurmountable obstacle. Eventually we found our way to one of the side streets and took the by ways back, ending up in Town Park on Harlem. There we were accosted by an angry gentleman we affectionately referred to as ‘Dickhead’ afterward. With our muddy disheveled appearances he mistook us for a pair of sophisticated second story men who had been doing some breaking and entering in the local area weeks prior. We managed to convince him otherwise, but he banished us from the premises anyway.

            Despite the horrendous trip through the bog of doom, I let him convince me to accompany him through the tunnel that runs beneath the Galleria mall shortly after it was built. We began the journey in the mall proper and had Jeff along in tow. We got some cheap flash lights at the Dollar Tree, the kind that you have to hold down the button to keep lit, and ventured to the start of the tunnel, resembling old timey Roman catacombs. Jeff freaked within the first few feet and pledged to meet us, if we emerged alive, around the other side. Creepy does not begin to describe it. Pitch black, sterile, with a slow creek running through. At some points you could look up through a grate and see the happy shoppers walking above in a very different world. Near the end we found a side tunnel and began to venture down. An indescribably horrific noise, however, led us to believe a cult of Satanists was looking for fresh sacrifices, so we bolted out of there post haste.

            We managed to maintain a tight friendship through high school even to the point where I hooked him up with my cousin Ann for the senior prom. He was actually supposed to return the favor hooking me up with his cousin Lin, but fate intervened and I ended up going with Ende’s girlfriend’s friend instead. Before high school ended and after we both got accepted to UB, we made arrangements to become dorm mates the following fall; a service UB was willing to provide as roommates with prior friendships were less likely to cause administrative headaches by requesting room changes mid-semester. We were assigned to Schoellkopf hall on the South Campus on the fourth floor reserved exclusively for freshmen men. Not an ideal choice by any means, but it was a start.

            Our living arrangement was an interesting one, defined by the contract we drew up on the first day that allowed for privacy with female visitors (never required) and the settling of disputes on the field of honor. The field of course turned out to be whatever manner Knaus chose to enact his insidious revenge. In order to shield myself from him better, I constructed an enormous wall from the top of my desk, almost to the ceiling that I referred to as my ‘fire hazard’ as it consisted of mostly paper. Knaus respected the wall to a minor degree, though would often tear pages out of the phone book to turn into paper airplanes and launch them over in miniature raids. Fortunately for me, he had not yet stumbled on the notion of lighting them afire just yet.

            At least once a week we would trundle down to Shirley’s O’Aces, with or without the Irish Club, and stumble back in the wee hours of the morning. It was a grand tradition that later moved to Anacone’s but always followed the same pattern of cheap beer, some sort of bar food, and a traditional playing of William Joel’s classic, ‘Only the Good Die Young’ on the juke. On the walks back we would wax into bizarre conversations, such as what we would do if we stumbled upon a patch of decapitated heads on stakes. Knaus, I recall, immediately concluded that he would take as many of them home as he could carry. Hmm… it occurs to me that this post, as well as some of the others, will probably be deposed as evidence against the defence argument that he is sweet and silent as a lamby-pie.

            As a gift that year, Knaus procured for me a small collection of mice, one male and two females. By April the collection had grown to 42 mice and stunk up the room with great aplomb and all too frequent defecation. One weekend, when we least expected it; they made a bid for freedom. I came back to the room Sunday night and immediately noticed something different. The large tank I kept them in now sported a hole where there had been none before and no mice where there had been 42 before. Looking over at my desk I bore witness to the one named ‘Stripe’ after the Gremlin’s character dive into the moldering water in my hot pot, swim across, and jump out the other side slick with putrid grease. Furious, I called Knaus’s house to get him to come help round them up, but no one picked up. By the time he returned that evening at 11, I was sweaty, disheveled and had managed to recapture 3 of the slowest; the rest defeating my best efforts with ridiculous ease.

            Knaus did manage to help me capture the rest in a comedic run about, John Hughes style, with head clonking, crashing falls, frequent collisions, and all manner of events that would indicate the mice were far cleverer than we. At the end it was Knaus and I against Stripe, the lone hold out, and we were hopelessly outgunned and maneuvered. At some point the little bastard made it into the hall and we happily bid good riddance, but he made a surprise return a millisecond before we shut the door. Finally, improbably, Knaus got the mouse and a day later the lot was taken to a pet store with the most likely final destination in a large reptile of some sort.

            Knaus at this point, and for years on forward, became the prime initiator of trips down to Alleghany to get lost, camp, or make every attempt to get injured in course of photographing wildlife and wee pretty flowers. Most of these trips simply involved a lot of hiking, though there were several traditions that had to be met each trip. One was a visit to Thunder Rocks where we would climb around and scale the impressive boulders. Second was the trip to the legendary beaver damn, the jumping off point where we all got lost that epic journey recounted in ‘How I Became a Horseman’. If this chapter precedes that, well, tough luck. Finally, no trip was complete without a stogie enjoyed usually on the trail leading down from Thunder Rocks to the stream that led to the dam. Due to our impoverished condition, these were usually Dutch Masters, but on one occasion toward the end, we enjoyed authentic Cubans.

            Despite the abuse suffered at his malicious hands, and in spite of the fact that he took to calling himself Malfeus for some reason, we decided to room together the following year rather than take chances on a devil unknown. Common adventures shared between all the roommates in that situation are recounted far too often elsewhere, so I will concentrate on a few items unique to point of this post. While it didn’t trouble us in the past, at least not me anyway, a point of contention came up regarding both my habit of snoring loudly and engaging in distracting sleep talking that made little to no sense. These things enraged Knaus and from time to time I would awaken to see him standing over me gritting his teeth in fury. At site to keep you awake at night assuredly.

On several occasions I did some sleep walking as well, always to his inconvenience. One happy night he was treated to being awakened by me piling the contents of his desk on his sleeping head as “they were about to start air brushing”. Another night I somehow found myself in the hall way, locked out, necessitating a furious pounding on the door until he unhappily let me in. His remedy was to play the same Nine Inch Nails CD on auto repeat each and every night; a condition that kept me from ever really falling asleep soundly and led to many missed classes after sleeping through them on the 5th floor of Lockwood.

Knaus also had an excellent habit of distracting me from schoolwork; something I heartily embraced. He’d look over at me from his desk, exclaim, “I have waaaay too much work to do”, then pull out the latest issue of ‘The Mask’ and commence to reading. This always resulting in me aping his behavior as Matter Eater Lad was far more engaging than BF Skinner. He also had a way of dragging me out to Anacone’s and such on nights before an early morning class. Always with the one-upmanship, if I had an important lecture, he would claim a critical final. He probably did as it was shortly after this that it was strongly suggested he change majors from aerospace engineering to something more his speed like basket weaving or photography.

Knowledge of fine and classical music was an area in which Knaus felt I was severely lacking and attempted to educate me in. Prior to knowing him, I was completely unaware of the iconic 90’s superstar band Transvision Vamp and how they rocked the air waves with such classics as Trash City. We had the opportunity to see them in concert once and to this day I contend that lead singer Wendy James was looking me dead on with the hairy eyeball, such was my magnetic presence in the crowd. I also learned of other enduring legends such as Savatage, Shriekback, and was treated often to the cat like wailings of a post-Blondie Debbie Harry. I’m sure it was musical ignorance that I often sought out knitting needles to end the agony.

When we finally all moved to Comstock, Knaus took on a more reclusive role especially once Aaron and I began our reindeer games and intimidation campaign. Still, on occasion, he would emerge from his oft locked sanctuary and announce he was on a quest for alcohol and trundle down to Anacone’s with or without anyone else in tow. Despite his apparent either shyness or unwillingness to speak in general, with a few beers in him a charismatic demagogue emerged who drew in the enfeebled masses. Often in such circumstances we would find him amidst a crowd of drooling hangers on, gulping up his every ill spoken word. If anyone thought to supply him with endless brandy the world could easily have another JFK or David Koresh, such was his inebriated cult of personality. 

In those heady days of yore he introduced us to one of my favorite summer festivals of all, Allentown. His enthusiasm for going downtown on the subway, slurping raw clams and beer, and looking at all the art we couldn’t afford was infectious! Since those days each trip back is a search to recapture the raw joy of Buffalo’s first summer festival of the season. We used to badger Knaus about entering his own photography as the camera apes down there were pulling down serious green for the same tired old shots of the Central Terminal and shit, but he was unwilling to lay down the cabbage to rent some space despite being able to command four digits a pop for abstract snaps of me eating dog food or Litter Box Jam. Even now I hope to run into him down there, but so far he has declined to compete.

As time progressed he emerged less and less unless it was to bang away on the worlds oldest word processor or not clean the cat box which had become an impressive tower of feces. Once, however, he emerged in a manner most unusual. I came home and was surprised to hear a small commotion and a female voice coming from behind Knaus’s door. As ¾ of the house, a demographic to which both Knaus and I belonged, were not currently being seen with female companionship, this stuck me odd. A bold enquiry led me to believe that Aaron and my cousin had ensconced themselves in there, apparently without Knaus’s knowledge or permission. I began to sweat at what he would do to them, or so I still contend, and when he came strolling through the side door like a thundercloud of death I gently broke the news to him in order to bear the brunt of his immediate wrath.

To my surprise he remained nonchalant about his sanctum sanctorum being so rudely violated. I could only imagine that he was saving his volcanic outburst for the soon to be damned. I threw myself in his path, but he simply stepped over me, the ashes from the cigarette dangling from his lips blinding me from making further pursuit. I managed to come up behind him just as he opened the door and prepared to bludgeon him before he could blast them with his eyes with a bolt of eldritch energy, but while I looked around for an appropriate tool, it became clear that the three of them were really in cahoots. The story, as I was led to believe, was that Knaus egged on by Aaron and Ann in their little exclusionary ka-tet, used a bed sheet tied to his handcuff ring above the bed to shimmy down the side of the house if for no other reason than to annoy me.

When the Comstock project wrapped up and Knaus moved back to his folks, much to their soul crushing dismay I’m certain, we worried he would become a fixture in our past; more of a relic than the hideous goat lamp we absconded with. In the final months we saw very little of him as he spent his time elsewhere and discouraged questions as only Knaus could. At times he would bring Malice, his familiar, along with him as they embarked on dark and mysterious deeds. Instead we were delighted to find that he now actually chose to spend more time in our vicinity, often making the long haul over to Princeton and joining us for our very frequent beer and movie nights. The newest recruits to the Whole Sick Crew, like Jenn with the tongue, Mary, Rob, Chet, and even Dave’s new interest Jennifer took a shine to him. It was the silver age of Knaus and we thought it would last forever.

When things at Princeton degenerated in the last year or so, Knaus, perhaps feeling the Discordia when mom and pops were on the outs (I’m pops by the way), kept his distance. Meetings with him became consigned to long evenings of coffee with myself, Dave and Jen or old school excursions to the forest where to my dismay, increasingly longer periods of time were being devoted to setting up complex equipment to photograph wild posies. When I broke the silence about my intended enlistment to him and Dave, I received open support, though some degree of skepticism as to my true intentions. Anyone who knows me well has difficulty pinning me as a ‘Yessir!’ style military man, except perhaps in the tradition of ‘Stripes’.

While in Basic training Knaus became my most frequent writer, a condition I was intensely grateful for. Basic was a dreary place in which I received frequent verbal comeuppances and days would pass without hint of a smile. Knaus, however, managed to coax out of me the very first laugh out loud with his long and convoluted tales of his wanderings with Dave in the land of UB looking to fulfill the Celestine prophecy. I attempted to share with the other folks, who could all use a giggle as well, but apparently I was the only one cracked enough to appreciate the mad ramblings of shellac headed penman.

Despite the distancing he displayed prior to my departure, he certainly made himself available on a near constant basis when I managed to make it home on leave. Although he had a full time job, not to mention achieving high year tenure at Work-n-Gear, he still managed to drag himself out each and every night until the wee hours. Not only that, but since I didn’t have a car at my disposal, he even drove. Fun nights of pool and beer were spent at old Anacone’s, Bullfeathers, old favorite Caputi’s, and of course our new favorite down on Franklin, the Sanctuary (or Spankuary as it was sometimes known) with its midget bar tender and gothic crowd who moved in from the now defunct Icon.

When I returned for good, Knaus came by to help move me in, although he conveniently showed up just as the very last box was removed from the truck, but had a bottle of SoCo in hand and was forgiven. I don’t recall much after that due to the illness, except that the annual Christmas exchange with Dave resumed and that a screening of our old classic ‘Eric the Viking’ was made to break in my new digs. Next thing I knew I was waking up in a hospital, bored from my near death experience only to have it relieved by a considerate Knaus shipping me a hefty load of books overnight.

In the year or two after my return, Knaus was around for a time, but gradually began to slip away into the night. He was a force to be counted on when Tiffany came to visit, once again eschewing work (since I couldn’t, new in my crap ass job at GP:50) in order to entertain her during the days. He was around often in those days and I think made one last epic trip to Allentown with us. He was also instrumental in decorating my pad with his home grown bonsai trees, necessitating me to line up someone to water them every time I went out of town.

What I Learned as a Postman

So this blog does not totally morph into Mike’ Air Force Reunion Tour I will break up the military tomfoolery with a civilian post. This post will walk down the path of my curriculum vital. While most of my employments led to interesting stories of some sort, however I have either forgotten some or for one reason of legality will leave absent a few.

What better place to start than at the beginning. My first paying job, aside from trivial chores around the house which I spend more time avoiding than it took to actually complete, was as a paperboy. While the classic arcade game of the same name would lead you to believe the job is a high-paying, fast-paced adventure. Mine, at least, was nothing of the sort. Being a normal teenager in wanting to collect money for my schemes with as little effort and time spent as possible I shunned the high profile Buffalo News for the far-from-prestigious Penny Saver. The Penny Saver was delivered but once per week. I had a scant 500 papers to deliver on Saturday. The Penny Saver was as frugal as it’s name implied. I earned a meager $20/week for what was 3 hours of shoddy work. There was no pride. Being a youth I felt my time was better spent in pointless goofing off, and as such I sought to reduce my work time as much as possible. Towards this end I employed Louis to aid, after all he was around most of the time anyway. Given his meager physique I still was burdened with almost 400 papers still, but it was less than 500. I was magnanimous in my tossing of as few dollars Louis’s way for his effort – usually taking the form of some Mountain Dew of Ho-Ho’s on the way back. Given the cost of these items I was being screwed. My life as a hard-working paperboy only lasted a few months before they, with great regret, let me go and moved on to a wide-eyed go-getter who had no appreciation for doing nothing.

My next dive into the pool of the employed was a local pizza joint. This served me well, as I was later able to work the hardships of food service into conversation. I experienced the perpetual smell a deep-frier leaves upon your clothes. I lived the joy of making a pizza for my own family, bringing home the dough. My obtained skill of flipping the dough is put into occasional practice today. I spent my break pumping quarters into the lonely Shinobi pizzeria arcade game. I will forever remember this job because I was working the day Jim Kelly dove into the end zone to beat the Dolphins, thus beginning the greatest era of the Buffalo Bills. But mostly I spent my time chopping up lettuce. My time fetching things from the freezer ended after 4 months.

As I compose this post I have remembered a 1.5 day job I will place here rather than re-write my already written prose. During a period where I spent a lot of time at Showbiz Pizza Place (the anti-Chuck-E-Cheese) I was “employed” to work in their haunted house. Within a gang of a few friends we adorned costumes of Dracula, Wolfman, and Mummy classics while jumping out of closed coffins, running down a strobe light hall, and screaming. honestly the idea of being haunted house “staff” and scaring people was most of the benefit. Our real “pay” was all the crappy (as I later learned in life, not all pizza is good pizza) pizza and $20 worth of tokens. As the pizza was at a quality just above soiled, wet cardboard, and we where pumping the token back into their own games the only value we received was life experience, and that was not usable until years later.

It was not until into college that I attempted real work again. I was hired by Parkside Candies on Main Street. This was the same location that was used in the movie “The Natural”. People often came in to ask what booth Robert Redford sat at during the scene. We told them the nice booth in the corner, but the truth was that the movie filmed outside the store, but they never used anything they filmed indoors.

I worked as a waiter/cook (few knew we sold homemade soup and sandwiches). Most people came in to eat from the ice cream bar or purchase candies for which Parkside was known – especially their sponge candy around Easter. The family that ran joint where cheap to monumental levels. They would pay you to the exact minute of the time card, so if you where clocked in from 2pm – 6:58pm you got paid for 4 hours and 58 minutes. As an employee you received a 10% discount, but only while working only, no discount if you came in off duty. Customers often came in with coupons for a far larger discount. As such we took free food on duty, and my friends come in to eat dinner on sundays (the shift I always worked) where I slipped them my employee discount and gave them free candy.

My manager kept us insulated from the owners. He liked working with me because I worked fast, so we could close at 10pm and be done and gone by 10:20, instead of anyone else who would keep him there until 11pm. I was eager to be promoted to shift supervisor for the extra pay, so I volunteered to work a day in the factory when they where short. It was like walking back in time. Parkside crafted and sold lollipops all over the world, so I saw giant metal vats, like you see pouring molten iron. These where heated to red hotness and poured into a conveyor of molds. This conveyor worked it’s way into another room where it was fed through a crazy Rube Goldberg machine that wrapped the lollipops. Three people manned this device to feed wrapping material into it. As the lollipops came to the end they fell onto he ground, into a box. I sat at the end to swap out the full box for an empty one, and then took out any broken lollipops. One other figure occupied the room, I think he was chained there. This was the old, Russian. He spoke a few words of English, pointed and grunted a lot when communicating, but mostly sat silence. He was the maintenance man whom we occasionally saw in the restaurant to fix a dish washer or some such. His de-facto job was to sit and wait for the Rube Goldberg machine to break, at which time he would fix it. I worked in the factory one single day, and the machine broke no less than four times! Most of the time the crafty Russian had it up and running in 5-10 minutes, but once it was down for 40 minutes. Judging form the reaction of everyone else, this was status quo. The 5-10 minute breakages where fine, but when it was down for longer than that, the molten vats had to be stopped. This caused a lot of extra work when they then may have to be heated up again if the lien was stopped long enough. The week after I worked the factory I was promoted to shift supervisor.

One benefit, aside from the free food, candy, and ice cream was changing the window display. Be it a far cry from a Macy’s window, it was still a taste of something few in this world ever experience. I was also able to rummage through the lost and found. The only item I took was a purple cumberbun which I later used in a Halloween costume.

The owner had a son that was a traveling salesman for their candy. He was the worst of the lot as you never knew when he would show up and he would criticize everything you had done, then leave. As such, we learned to ignore him. I theorize he was such a dick because his cheap, cold-hearted family gave him no love as a child. Also leading to his life as a traveling salesman, in order to play out his childhood fantasy to run away from home. Once he entered while I was slicing meat in preparation for the day’s sandwiches. He immediately walked over and inspected my sliced ham with an angry eye.

Brandishing a piece in my face he said,
“Look at this! Would you eat this?”
“No.”
“Right! And why not? It is took thick!”
“No. I don’t like ham.”

That turned out to be my last shift.

Thanks to my connections, in part from Mike, I was next able to gain immediate employment at the UB Norton Cafeteria. I won’t go into this as several of the stories to come out of this place have already been told: FSA Follies, Big J.T., etc.

I eventually transitioned into my first field-related job, as a computer lab consultant in the UB public labs. This was before the time when the combined the consultant and the printer operator into one job. This was a good job. I helped people learn how to check their email, and on one occasion I got to deny help to a student because I felt he was asking me to do his homework for him. This job has many benefits. One, I did not smell like food after a shift and two, I was able to do my own work for part of the time. You got the occasional freak, like the guy who walked into the lab and just repeated “games”. I eventually headed out to see his terminal and he had repeatedly types “g-a-m-e-s” at the prompt. The worst place to work was the Baldy hall, because they had a Windows lab, and this is where the non-computer literate came to check their email. All these arrogant liberal arts folk who thought they where better than everyone else, but needed help to check their email. The best public lab to work at was Bell. This was the largest, but had only terminals, and was in the Computer Science building, so most where capable themselves. This was a good place to work in the summer as it was one of the few labs open during the summer, and I was one of the few consultants around, so I got all the shifts I wanted. I came in, cleaned up the pizza boxes and cigarettes that where clearly posted as prohibited, then sat in the office and did whatever I wanted until 5pm. Another benefit to working over the summer was you could get paid up to 40 hours/week. During classes you had to bank hours over 20 that you worked to be paid when breaks/summer arrived. I quickly worked up a large bank so my hourly pay became a predictable pay check. I often skipped classes to pick up shifts.

As I live off campus, near Main Street, I was the only consultant that wanted the 5pm – 11pm shift in Crosby. This worked out well, because I got this shift almost every day, and nor a lot of people knew where this lab was, or that it existed. Another good thing about this lab was the consultants office was in the middle of the Mac lab, and as Mac users know what they are doing and the terminal users could not find me, I was left alone. This is where I met Chet. He was a regular, there until 11 each night. Eventually we became friends, and after I closed the lab we would go to Subway and talk for a few hours. Once he even brought the Blood Bowl board game into the consultant’s office during a shift to show me how to play. Another benefit to this job was I had keys, and could open the lab at any time. I often went to the lab to work on a project, or just to play some games with Louis, Chet, and Matt. If Public Safety came in I just showed them my badge and they left. This was one of the best overall jobs I had.

My next job was due to Rob. He is the convenient store king, always quickly attaining the position of assistant manager, but never manager. This way he avoids the responsibility, but gets most of the benefits. He was able to get me a job at the Noco on the corner of Maple and Sweet Home. I suffered through the tedium of the 4 hours Noco training at their HQ on Sheridan, near Putt-Putt. I had the night shift, from 11pm until 6am. Since not many customers visited the store during these hours I was to spend my time cleaning and re-stocking. Given my faster than normal speed at work I was able to get this done in the first 2 hours. Leaving me 5 hours of boredom to stave off (5am is when customers started showing up again). I quickly learned where the security cameras where, so I could avoid them. I had not laptop or iPhone or anything else. I should have gotten a book to read, but I preferred to spend the time trying to get into mischief. The occasional customer came in, which provided humor because they where always in some state of stupidity. This is where I had my first Slim Jim. I was bored one night, and after staring at the Slim jim display for 15 minutes I ate one. This led to eating pretzel sticks frequently. I only stayed at Noco for two months. During that time my manager did grow to trust me long enough to divulge the affair he was having with his bosses wife. He showed up in a state of stupidity with her one late night. I never worked there long enough to make use of the information.

I left non-technical jobs for the last time, or so I thought (more on this later). My next job lasted only 1 month. It was in East Aurora. I have never before or since been to East Aurora. It was 1 hour commute each direction. I sat in a room by myself and did boring shit. I was paid hourly. It was bad.

Now we jump to my first real-world field-related job. I met Chris here. We sat in a room and made “magic”, or so everyone else in the company thought. We sat around playing games a lot. On my first day of work I learned a valuable lesson about corporate America. A senior engineer, Jack, came over to show me how to fix the server when it broke. He turned the literal big, red switch off… waited 30 seconds, then flipped the switch back on. His final step… “Pray”. We prayed because the version of the server OS was so old that as it started up you would see many, many error messages flow by. The server had long ago given up giving useful error messages, and now they simply said “I AM WOEFULLY OUT OF DATE! PLEASE UPGRADE ME!” The boss was cheap.

The boss was so cheap he would not even pay for dial-up. Instead he had me setup dial-up service for the company using my own UB account, which remained active for years after I left UB. I only did this so I could use the Internet. The boss wanted us to only connect to push out emails at the top of the hour 9-5. Also, when an “authorized” individual request, such as the senior engineers needed it. They would enter our office and ask for the connection to be turned on. We would tell them give us a few minutes, and then go back to using the Internet because I kept it up all the time I was there. As a result of setting up the dial-up I had a tool to monitor the email. This tool told me who was sending/receiving email, and how long the transmission took. Chris and I could read everyone’s email if we wanted, but never did, except once (later). The secretaries did ask us if we read their email, and even though we did not, and told them such, they convinced themselves we did. What they mush have sent I wish I knew for they seemed very nervous.

Since this was my first 9-5 job I had to build up the stamina to stay awake. For the first few weeks I would fall asleep around 3ish. For the first 6 months my department consisted of 3 people. My initial boss would often announce to the rest of us “They do not pay us enough to work 40 hours per week. Do whatever you like.” Not that we had enough to do for the whole week. On this job I also learned to assemble computer hardware. I learned I was not interested in assembling computer hardware, and as such I was not very good at it. I did manage to order a new computer for Louis with our company discount and assemble it so poorly that when it arrived the motherboard was scrapped to hell – causing a permanent flaw.

The boss was one of those guys that reads an article and then wants to immediately implement this. Luckily he was out of the office on sales calls 3 out of 4 weeks every month. The productivity of the entire company dropped tremendously when he was in the office. One of these innovations was the “paperless office”, which is not a reality now, let alone over ten years ago. Another idea was that the boss demanded everyone’s email username be their first name + last initial. This was completely backwards to us so we also setup alias for the normal last name email username. His reasoning was to make the office more personable; I sent email to good, old Joe@ instead of faceless Schmoe@. If it was more personable I would walk over and talk to good, old Joe’s face. This did give us some humor. For instance, there was a Mike with a last initial of R, hence Miker – he was more Mike than the other Mike’s.

This is the place that help the infamous Factory School, of which has already been detailed in another post.

The office manager ran the place when the boss was out of the office. He slept a lot. He was the cousin of the boss, my first exposure to nepotism as several employees where related to the boss. The secretaries could see into his office and would ring him to wake him up. Another character was the phone support guy who was like scatter-brained Dilbert, and had papers all around his desk in a 6 foot circle. He would rest his coffee cup on his bulbous belly as he stood and spoke at you. He was always the guy who sent out massive files over dial-up, sometimes taking over an hour to send.

One year into my employ the boss completed construction into our own building. This also meant more purchases, like a new server. The old server had a 1G HDD, which was the literal size of a concrete brick. I thought it was cool, an HDD so old, and I took a picture of it with my camera as it sat on the spare desk in my office for months. The company’s tattle-tale saw me do this and told the manager, who confiscated my camera – paid to develop the film, and then returned the developed pictures. It was a disposable camera with only a few pictures so I did not care, it was just so ridiculous; what was I gonna get with a picture of HDD? I had it in my office for months, and could have done anything with it! But so ended my stint as a corporate spy 🙂 After I had left the company Chris took the HDD and gave it to me 🙂

When I finally decided to leave the company I told the office manager. As soon as I got back to my desk Chris said,

“Hey, looks like Paul (office manager) just sent my email to the boss. You gonna read it?”
“No, I shouldn’t do that.”

A minute later I received and email from Chris. It contained Paul’s email. He told the boss I was leaving, and a year form now I would be sorry I left. I was not.

I next worked at a place that published phone books, but had an actual web based workflow system. This was a 3 shift/24 hours a day (except weekends), large company. I was one of the support people for all the workers who created the phone book ads, and constructed the phone books. This had a lot of people my age, and there where more women than men, so I got a few dates out of the whole thing. It was a good job, as my boss learned my and the other support guy knew what we were doing, so he left us alone. I was one of the few people who did not get the job because I knew or was related to someone there. The upper management was nepotism galore. One Xmas the older ladies that worked the second shift gave out chocolates to everyone. At the time I did not eat chocolate, to I left it on my desk, in a metal tin. When all other’s chocolate was long gone mine was still there. The women of the office soon learned I had chocolate free for the taking. I observed this, and began replenishing the chocolate to keep them drawn into the woman trap as it were. I had many welcome interruptions during the day, especially 1 week a month when they descended in droves 🙂 There are good stories form this place that I’ll expand upon in another post.

My next job I only mention because I was here during the .com bust, and lost my job, along with several others. I have already told the hot tub story from this employment era. But due to my lay-off I was unemployed for 8 months, and while unemployment was getting closer to running out (even with the 9-11 extension we all automatically got), I needed something.

I applied to be a “casual carrier” for the post office. I took the job as much for curiosity as for boredom. The first week was training where we watched videos (like the “Winter Walking” safety video: use the handrail, etc.), heard lectures, had a tour of the main Buffalo post office near the train station (in typical Buffalo fashion, if the main office had been built 1 year later it would be by the airport – where most of the mail goes now anyway), and practiced sorting mail. At the beginning of the week there where 20 in the class, and by Friday there where 7. The best question asked was,

“What if I have to deliver in a bad neighborhood?”
“Even drug dealers need their mail. We have never had an incident with a mailman being attacked.”

During training they tell you to cut across lawns (this saves a LOT of time), unless the owner specifically asks you to. I had one guy on my route who did this. His lawn was bright green, and immaculate.

Another safety tip from training is to push, not pull. Especially when you have completed your morning sort, and go to pick up your cart of packages.

We where all sent to work at post offices relatively close to us. Most of us where assigned to the Amherst post office on Maple. Within a few weeks only I remained.

The first few days I was assigned to work with a real mailman. As soon as we left the post office on delivery he said,

“The first rule is to always ring the bell. Most packages you delivery you can just leave, but always ring the bell. You never know what you will see.”

He was right. It is amazing the state a person will answer the door in. I delivery many times to a work-from-home man who answered the door in a towel every day. I saw a few women half dressed. I saw strange freaks and creepy freaks. It was a wild ride. I was never asked for my post office ID. A side corollary of this is that if you bring their mail, people have instant and amazing trust in you. They let me in their house immediately because they wanted me to bring the mail in the front door and leave it on the coffee table, even if they where not there.

Sorting mail sucks, especially when you are a casual carrier, hence you are thrown around to fill in for whoever is out. you never get used to the route, which slows down the sorting and the delivery time. I was lucky in that one postal worker was injured around the time I started, so they kept giving me his route. I was able to master it, cutting my morning sort time almost in half after a week, and cutting my delivery time down so I could sleep in the mail truck for the last hour, before driving back to punch out. We had until dark to finish delivery, but could not punch out earlier than 4pm. I only failed to complete my route once, and that was when there was a shit-ton of show, and the route was the farthest form the station but still in our area of coverage, and the houses where far apart. Our start time depended upon how much mail we had coming in, but was usually 5:30-6:30; finding out the specific time at the end of the previous day. Also, as regular postal workers have Sundays off, and a rotating 2nd day off each week, us casual carriers had only Sunday off. Even the one holiday I worked the casual carriers where called in to sort for half the day. Needless to say when Saturday work was over I was too exhausted to do anything. The geeks still came over Saturday night, but I barely participated – falling asleep while 5 geeks yelled. The oversized items are the worst to sort, therefore all mailmen hated the old format of the Oprah magazine, which was non-standard size.

One of the benefits was being able to drive a real mail truck around. These things where built to last 25 years back in the mod 70’s. They take quite a beating, al the start and stopping when you have curb-side deliveries. Postmen love curbside mailboxes, or collection boxes with the mailboxes for many apartments/offices in one place. The curb-side mailbox or collection box is how all modern complexes are built. It save a lot of time. Sometimes I was sent out to delivery mail that was not delivered the day before. This would be a portion of a route. They would pay me extra for using my own car and I would fill my back seat with mail and shuffle off.

Delivering in the rain blows. In short order you end up with letter fragments soaked onto your clothes. Mail slots suck! All mailmen hate them, especially in winter. They are hard to find, they are often placed in strange spots, sometimes vertical, sometimes horizontal. In the winter, they tear up your fingers. If you have a mail slot your mailman hates you. There was a house that never shoveled their walk. I nearly killed myself every day, even armed with my “Winter Walking” safety video knowledge. To exasperate the situation this “person” (they do not really quality) had a mail slit literally 3 inches off the ground, so I had to bend over to use it. This house also had a dog that liked to chew the mail up as soon as it fell threw the slot. As a result of the “person” making it dangerous and as big a pain in the ass to deliver their mail I took great pride in slowly feeding each piece of their mail through the slow slowly, so the dog had ample time to destroy every piece entirely.

Speaking of dogs, do they really attack postmen? Not really. I ran into very few dogs, and they quickly get to know you. A large portion of training is devoted to dealing with dogs. You are instructed to use your mail bag as a shield, and each bag is equipped with dog spray. This will irritate the dog;s eyes for 10 minutes, and leave a temporary orange color of the sprayed fur. I never had to use it. They do tell you that if you are approaching a house with a dog that the owner does not have on a leash/control off you never trust the owner when they tell you “Oh, he is OK. You can come here.” I was looking forward to denying someone mail for this, but never happened.

I had two bad experiences with dogs. One the dog charged out at me, as I was walking on the sidewalk, but the dog stopped because they had an invisible fence. The owner yelled to give me their mail as I walked away, but their did not approach me to hep out. That was the only time I exercised my right, as instructed in the videos: I wrote “DOG” on their mail and took it back to the office with me. If this continues to happen, and they person calls to complain, they are told to keep their dog under control. They where angry I did not deliver their mail that day.

My other dog story is that time I mentioned previously, when I delivering to the farthest route. I pulled the mail truck up the curb, and once the engine was off two giant dogs ran at the mail truck. I sat inside and at my lunch while they where round up by the owners. I was not even delivering to their house.

You really learn the value of layers when you deliver mail in the winter. I 5 top layers and 3 bottom layers. Sounds like a lot, but when you are outside for several hours at a time it make a massive difference. Your outermost layer is soaked with snow/rain, and the innermost layer is soaked with sweat.

You learn a lot more than you would think about people by their mail. Who is divorce, who likes adult content magazines, who collects social security checks, etc.

A few times I delivered to my old bosses house, the one who was super cheap and labelled me a corporate spy (see above). I was shocked at how mundane his house was, given how much money he had.

Everyone thinks mailmen get paid real well, but I can tell you that their pay rate is not that impressive, but they have excellent benefits, such as basically 100% coverage of health insurance on just about anything. As for my compensation, after all that work and long hours I only made $10 more a week than I would have collected on unemployment, but at least I could have continued indefinitely. Every 6 months causal carriers shifted from delivery to unloading trucks all day. I never got to experience that. My casual carrier status would have also gotten me pushed up the list to take the civil service test; while the list to hire is quite long, a lot of postmen across the country, where due to retire in the next few years.

One final items I learned about was that you could actually mail a letter with nothing more than the zip code (+4) on the letter. I also learned of some of the strange things people mail. An experienced postman told me of someone who shipped their entire back porch, literally brick by brick. This guy delivered a single brick (with an index card tapped to it with the address) every day for months. The strangest I delivered my saw was a 2×4.

Long ago my wife got tired of my mailman stories. Good thing for her I only worked as a postman for 1.5 months or else I’d have plenty more stories. She also quickly grew tired of me pointing out places I had delivered mail to, like a stretch of Transit Road.

I have had some more jobs since, but I will go into that at a later date.

Progressing through my employment history invariably makes me think of the various stages of my life, and the differences between set stages. This caused me to reflect upon what is lost in adulthood. Thrills are different. The best thing as an adult is having your own washer/dryer – no more laundromat. Remember when you where a kid, and your parents tell you they will order pizza Friday, and today is only Wednesday. The pizza was the highlight of your life. You would wake up Thursday hoping it was Friday. It was like *mas. Now, I can get pizza anytime I want. The thrill is gone. Remember when you would sleep on the couch? Not anymore, unless it is a mid-day nap. Enjoy your life in whatever stage you are in now, for it will change before you know it. Take that Aesop.

Special Delivery

The bane of Matt

The bane of Matt

No, this is not about Dan’s ill-fated dive into the movie business. You will have to wait until later to hear that story. This is a different kind of story. This is the story of faint, eerie, and mysterious echos emanating from the far reaches of a dark, misty cave. This is a story of that which pierces a man’s heart like a icy toothpick. This is a story of feelings.

As we have grown and plugged into “normal” life more and more, my friends and I have scattered across the country. Perhaps we are burrowing deep to hide until it is time to explode in world domination! Are any Homeland Security Paranoids listening? While technology has given us a good measure of contact, there is a non-filthy touch that is missing. I choose to satisfy this urge with the vehicle of the U.S. Postal Service, of which I was an employee for a very brief time. Put simply, I send weird shit to people.

This started when the first of us left the motherland. Louis was in Illinois, attending grad school for a subject he selected “just because”. As frequent readers of this blog may remember Princeton was the era before Mike left for the Air Force. He and I shared an apartment, and entertained frequent guests. One day we where overturning all the couch cushions for a reason I cannot recall, but it was a long and difficult process given the three long and elaborate couches we owned. As an aside, we left all three when we snuck out in the middle of the night. I hope they are all safe and well still at Princeton, or at least that big, metal fucker left a dent in the wall or someone’s knee (spellchecker knows “fucker”).

While exploring the couch crevasses we discovered a very smashed brownie. It was luckily still sealed in clear plastic, but there was no labeling of any kind upon the wrapper. Mike and I were nought concerned for how it got there, but what kind of brownie it was. Like a bolt from Valhalla the idea hit us.

“Louis is in grad school for chemistry. He must have access to a lab for analysis!”

With that we grabbed a free USPS Priority envelope, crammed the brownie in there and shipped it off to Louis. We forgot about it shortly thereafter, only reminded when Louis called a few weeks later…

“What is this?”

“A brownie we found in the couch for you to analyze.”

We are still waiting for the report.

Here we reach a time of long pause between “shipments”. I picked up the practice again when I was in Japan, knowing Mike’s affinity for weird foods. I shipped him some freeze-dried squid, and strange shaped Japanese candy. He was very thankful. Whenever I find some odd food idea I grab it for Mike. I have sent him a few things over the last few years.

Another friend of mine always raved about how great Ikea was, and invited me to travel up to Toronto, the closest Ikea to Buffalo. Why do I want to drive 1.5 hours and waste the entire day just to get a couch? It was only years later I visited an Ikea and learned they have all kinds of stuff. Things that would have been vital for me, especially at a cheap price, as a college/just out of college individual. As a result I purposely placed the blame on the very man who tried to introduce me to Ikea. Realistically he is the last person I should take revenge upon, but who said “shipping” is logical. For his actions my revenge took the form of a smashed Ikea fountain drink cup from my first trip to Ikea. That son of a bitch got his.

The next example is a personal shipment. Those familiar with those of this blog well know Louis’s fanatical addiction to Mountain Dew. Because of this, while on a drive to his home in D.C. we left a 2 liter bottle of the Nectar of the Gods on his door step, rang the door bell, and hid around the corner. Moment’s later we heard the door open and the expected “Uh!” I suspect that if we had not then emerged Louis would have cradled his sweet liquor back inside, leaving us for dead.

The camera on your cell phone makes the perfect tool for “shipping” pictures of weird findings to others. I often send pictures to Mike of weird foods that he loves so much. I sometimes buy these to send him, like the tiny, dried fish snack I found in Japan. Weird beer labels also make their way in digital format to Mike. Louis gets pictures of oddly-shaped containers.

When I find these items my wife used to shake her head and call me weird, but she occasionally links a product to a person before I do. The most recent was when Louis was visiting us. Where were in Chinatown, waiting for our Ghost Tour to begin. We wasted the time inspecting the isles of a Chinese trinket shoppe. My wife found a whined up masturbating monkey. No sooner had she pointed this out that she said, “That would be perfect for Dan!” And right she was. A week later I found a comment on this blog as to Dan’s confirmation of receiving this shipment.

I may be forgetting some of the other shipments I have sent over the years. I’m sure my fellow posters will remind me.

Some advice. Do not include any letter, label, or explanation with your shipments. Just smile as you drop them in the mail, and wait to get the inevitable email. You need to link the trinket with the person you send it to. The USPS has free Priority envelopes and boxes to ship your “hello old friend” package. I urge you to stay connected by shipping unannounced items to your friends. I have received threats of being sent shipments in return, but nothing yet. Since I am far more organized than any of my friends I will believe it when I see it. Will this post be the billboard material they needed to follow through?

Only last week did I happen to come across some plastic eyeball glasses, which today have found their way into the mail, addressed for Matt. I am hoping this will scare him out of his hermit state. Why is this a match for Matt? Matt has a fear of any eye being poked. In the past I was taken along to Darien Lake with Matt and his girlfriend, and her friends. I bought a large, inflatable eyeball hammer to torture Matt with. After arming his girlfriend with the information she promptly bought an eyeball keychain, which she used when appropriate. We all have a little Dan in each of us. Anyway, if I hear some response from Matt I will leave a follow up.

Dan sent his own special delivery to a girlfriend many years ago. Back in the time of Goodyear, Dan was in the pickle (not his mom’s pickles) as to what to give as an Xmas gift to his girlfriend of maybe a month. This girl had the proverbial everything. What did she not have? Dan thought of it! A double-ended dildo (why is dildo not in the spell checker?) A nice “gag” gift. Unfortunately for his girlfriend’s shame, and Dan’s relationship, she opened the gift in front of her parents. The next time she saw Dan she walked up to him and poked him in the eye. And such is the origin of the lens in Dan’s glasses that forever fell out.

Dan’s relation to this post is not yet complete. Like the other authors on this blog my writing has improved greatly, but one of the least frequent authors has always possessed a certain skill with the pen. Dan has been drafting elaborate stories well before I ever met him. You have read a scant few of these on this blog, but arguably his greatest tale saw little light. Let me remind you of the Dashwood Society, or was it the Church of Unconscious Revelations (I never know which took responsibility for what as they had the same membership). Whatever group it was, they decided that pornography was the channel of choice for their creative outlets. You see, a group like CUR needs to have a project to focus on at all times, lest they be distracted into apathy and drinking. Within minutes Dan had constructed a marvelous script.

Knock on the door.

House Wife answers. She sees a delivery man holding a package, but no pants.

Delivery Man: “I seem to have forgotten my pants. Do you have any place I can put this?”

Activities ensue.

The project was titled “Special Delivery”, and Dan selflessly volunteered to play Delivery Man. A woman was cast as the House Wife, but when she read the “real” script she left.

“Special Delivery” will never sit beside “Taming of the Shrew” or “The Merchant of Venice” as it should, but you – the loyal reader – will know.

All About Larry

Mike’s recent line of Air Force stories has inspired me to document the stories of our friend Larry.  Larry is ten years older than us, and spent time in the army.  Some of these stories are from him time in the military, while others are simply centered around the continual chaos cloud that lives around Larry.  These events are in rough chronological order.  While my recollection of the stories I was not present for may not be entirely accurate, I hold my versions are better due to Chris’s proclamation, after hearing Larry tell one of these tales himself, “Aaron’s version was better!”

Many of these stories have lasting one-liners, sometimes that is the only remarkable aspect of the story.

Real Ninja’s Don’t Die
Set back when Larry was still in him home town, he and his friends used to walk home near a construction site.  To reach this they crossed a bridge that was above a stream.  They would tempt fate by balancing on the edge, precariously above the stream, ready to drop to at least a broken arm.  Being young and stupid Larry had the bright idea to sneak into the construction site and balance across the steel, frame five stories up.  Brushing off the fear of his friends Larry proclaimed, “Real Ninja’s don’t die!” and promptly make like Spider-Man.  The events of this story are not particularly interesting, just punks being punks, but the quote is everlasting.

We now move forward to Larry’s time in the U.S. Army (motor pool).  Larry was a notorious troublemaker in his home town, and got away with a few more activities only because the town authorities knew he was leaving for good in a short time.

The Mad Shitter
Someone in Larry’s barracks would leave a shit in the toilet that emerged out of the bowl like a great tower.  Soldiers were shocked.  No one knew who it was, and over the course of basic training they could never find out who it was.  The brown tower appeared every week, without fail.  There was a period of several weeks when no construct was found, and the barracks thought they were rid of the “Mad Shitter”, but just as they felt safe it appeared again.  Some think it was a soldier fomr another barracks.  We will never know.

The New Roy
It was the last day of basic training.  The next morning they would all be shipped out to their respective assignments.  What else you gonna do, but party?  Larry’s entire barracks (two-stories) was turned into a beach house.  Lounge chairs, Hawaiian lays, even sand on the floor.  The party was in full swing.  The barracks had a central hallway down the length, with rooms off to each side.  Larry and some other hooligans where drinking in one of the second-story rooms.  Suddenly his buddy stands up, turns, yells “I can make it!  I am the new Roy!”, and runs out the room, across the hallway, into the room across the hall, and out the window!  Everyone rushes to the window.  They see and imprint in the snow (I forgot to mention that) of a spread-eagle body.  Ten feet from that imprint, and a bit skewed, they see another body imprint.  They watch “The New Roy” stand up, walk in a staggered fashion, then collapse in a snow pile.

*SPOILER*
No one ever knew who Roy was until many years after the incident, when the story was told for the millionth time.  The listener of the story stated, “Roy is the first name of Evel Knieval.”

Fast forward to Larry’s stint in Germany.  Who says you don’t see the world?

The Russian Judge Game Him a 9
Larry’s squad was packing a tank (amazing right).  They pack them in these giant pieces of hard foam.  In the middle of this process a piece of this foam, that was to go under a tank, was positioned on the grounds in from of Larry’s barracks.  Larry was struck by a brilliant? idea.  “Private Sims, I never heard that.”  Larry climbed up to the roof of the barracks.  He climbed to the edge of the roof and entered a driver’s position, complete with folded hands.  He played to the crowd a bit with some bobbing and hesitation.  Everyone on base within view was staring up at him, including at least one Captain.  Larry jumped off the roof of the two-story building only the GIANT foam, 6 foot tall.  He would have been entirely safe, except he somehow managed to miss anywhere near the middle, and hit his body on the edge.  The foam compressed and his body was fine, but his head danged off the foam, so when the foam compressed it bounced off the pavement.  Thanks to another chaos miracle he was OK.  More proof that Larry will some day die in a remarkably mundane manner.

Mr. Jack
Larry and his buddies left base for a night of drinking.  I should mention Larry’s drink of choice is Jack Daniels, something that I often find myself drinking at events.  Larry returned to base past curfew.  The base gates were closed and guarded.  He was going to be in big trouble if he returned now, especially in his inebriated state.  Pondering what to do he turned to his buddies, “Men, Mr. Jack said we’re going over the wall!”  Larry then moved down the fence line, away from the gate, in a relatively secluded section.  He gathered all his concentration and began to scale the 15ft fence.  A challenge for a drunken man by itself, but nothing compared to reaching the summit only to face the barbed wire.  Using his “drunken toughness” he somehow traversed over the barbed wire without cutting himself to ribbons (even when something crazy happens to Larry he often manages to pull off an impressive feat). The hard part over, or so he thought, as upon starting his decent he found his coat inescapably tangled in the barbed wire.  A final grasp by the defense had landed.  In a sobering moment he realized base patrol would be passing at any minute.  Larry was not about to find out how much trouble he would be in when they found a drunken soldier hanging from the fence.  Mr. Jack, as he is want to do, said, “You are on your own son.”  Larry’s solution was to spin, twist, and kick until his coat ripped free.  Success!  The wire released it’s grip, and Larry fell 10ft into some bushes, where he passed out until 5 minutes before morning formation.  The nearby gate guard ran to investigate, but never thought to dig through the bushes.  BTW, his buddies used the distraction to scamper through the gate and sneak back ot their barracks.  I don’t think they ever formally thanks Larry.

I’m a Professional
Larry’s squad was clearing the area and positioning multi-ton blocks for a foundation.  They had already successfully positioned three of the four blocks.  They positioned the last, but due to a bout of idiocy it was several feet off.  This does not sound like much, but it was a huge deal, and given the “their just a bunch of screw ups” reputation they had, harsh punishment would fall to them if this was not fixed pronto.  The problem was the crane used to position the blocks was long gone.  They were screwed!  Larry had a plan, and the CO on site was left with no choice but to let him try.  “Private Sims I never heard this.”  With quiet permission, the CO was probably just as curious to see the outcome as anyone, Larry got behind the wheel of the massively heavy military truck (dusen?).  He carefully backed her up, then slammed on the petal, heading at full speed headlong into the misplaced block!  So much for Larry.  Just as he was about to end his life in once of those Darwin Award winning moments he stood on the brakes and twisted the wheel.  The truck spun around and slammed sideways into the block, hitting with a tremendous crash!  The CO taking a measurement found the force of the collision had moved the block the few inches into perfect position.  Larry was now a professional.

Sometimes a Picture is Worth More than a Thousand Words
Larry was no Paul, but he did have a period where he carried around a camera.  In a very Paul-like moment, he thought it would be incredibly artistic to take a picture of someone pissing down a chimney.  Larry gathered up to comrades who had nothing better to do than indulge him.  They climb onto the roof of a three story building and Larry straddled the apex while one guy peed down the chimney.  What the third guy was doing just hanging out on the roof, who know.  As the peer zips up and the acrobatic trio begins decent the two peers slip and slide down the roof!  They managed to knock each other further along until they both grabbed the last pipe protruding from the roof.  Larry stood over the apex and laughed.  Destinic karma punched him in the face as he too fell and slid rapidly towards the edge, a three story plunge, and certain brig time.  He failed to grab anything to stop himself, including the outstretched arm of his buddy, not tha the drunk coudl hold Larry – he could barely hold himself.  Larry finally succeeded in grabbing the edge of the roof, his last chance.  Luckily Germany houses do not have flimsy aluminum gutters.  The three managed ot pll themselves up and climb down to ground level without further incident. The inhabitants of the home must have been dead, drunk, or gone.  The camera fell off the roof in the slide down the roof.

German Fourth of July
It was the German Fourth of July equivalent.  Fireworks were all over the place.  Larry, drunk as you might expect by now, lit an explosive, stuck it in his jacket pocket and ran screaming down the road.  Moments later it exploded, as explosives are want to do, sending Larry flying head-long into a street water fountain.  After recovering, a newly sober Larry inspected his jacket.  Luckily it was winter, for he had four layers on, and the firework had blown a large hole through all of them, leaving a large red circle.  If he had been wearing only three layers, or even two, he may be dead.  Another point on the side for his forthcoming extremely mundane death.

That is enough “Larry in the army” stories.  Now fast forward to his time as a game store owner.  These next stories took place at or near “The Black Store”.  It was called so because it was opposite “The White Store”.  The White Store was in a very nice neighborhood were people had money – very clean, and the Black Store was in a far less affluent part of town – dirty.  Hence the crew of employees came up with the names.

The reoccurring theme to the Black Store was the halfway house at the corner.  We would hang out at the Black Store for hours at the time, which lead to the inevitable trips to Wilson Farms a block away for supplies.  This meant running the gauntlet of the halfway house druggies who always wanted a handout or the more hard-working ones would try to sell you some piece of crap from the dumpster, which they tried to pass off as some relic escaped from a museum.

Torque
The back room of the store had a giant table, made of a piece of plywood. Some argument ensued, as it often did, about something weird.  This time, could you shovel with no thumbs.  Larry was adamant that he coudl do it.  He grabbed a snow shovel and help it with only his fingers on each hand.  As proof to the table he categorically held it out to the table.  With his un-muscled pinky finger Louis barely touched the edge of the shovel blade, sending it spinning.

Louis, “You forgot about torque.”

The following stories highlight a few of the more unusual people who appeared regularly at The Black Store.

Baby Paw was the most pleasant of the corner’s half-way home residents.  While the others flat out begged for money, he would always offer to do some pathetically trivial job for some cash.  Free the sidewalk in front of the store for snow or leaves, which took all of two seconds, was one of his common offers.  This was refreshing at first, but as the other half-men “graduated” the home and left, we were always left with Baby Paw.  Sometimes he offered to clear the already cleared sidewalk several times in the same day.

What the hell kind fo name is “Baby Paw”?  The guy had thick speech, and not one understood more than 30% of what he said, except when he wanted money, in which case he was as eliquent and clear as ever a Human has been.  Baby Paw was some common phrase he used.

“Break me off a piece of that Baby Paw.”

As best we can tell, it means “Please, can you spare me some cash kind sirs.”

Baby Paw was seen a few times walking past the store, then walking back again later.  On his return pass he was seen with a TV under his arm, “as if he owned it.”

A rare treat was when he entered the store to barter.  Once he entered with a rusty metal box that contained ribbon and an open condom.  He explained it was some valuable Chinese treasure, but he would part with it for $5 US.  His only successful transaction of this kind was “The Artifact”.  It was a giant yarn-woven pattern.  Larry was in a generous mood that day, and still has “The Artifact” hanging the wall of his pool room.  “The Artifact” played a biut part  in a previous post about Larry’s parties.

James was a guy who hung around the store constantly and sponged his was into everything we did.  Other than being exceptionally weird he was harmless, and mostly in the background.  He did forever ingrain a place in our memories by licking the dirty, metal pole in the store.  No reason or prodding for this, he just did it.

Rico the Blood Letter obtained infamy for two reasons.  One, he was in the paper for going to a BAD part of town, stripping himself almost naked, and walking down the street just so he could be beat up and experience the blood, which turned him on.  He got his wish.  The second reason was he would tell anyone who entered the store of his pierced penis.  Why?!  Either he was pierced, and therefore a waste of oxygen, or he was making it up for attention.  Either way he was clearly a folder, and not long for this world.

Erin was an attractive girl, who was not too bright, not Sue the Boot dumb, but not a lot better.  She liked Larry, so hung around the store frequently, generally interjecting a dose of estrogen.  Initially a pleasant change of pace, her discussion of feelings and continual talking about her problems, only to ignore any suggested solutions drew ire quickly.  None of this is surprising.  What was of interest was the fact that she changed her name from “Erin” to “Aryn” because she felt “Erin” was a fat girl’s name.  She was by no means fat, in fact she was rather skinny, but she was not starving for lack of crazy.

These last few stories are in the modern era (2000+).

Larry is a BIG Fan
When Larry falls asleep it is like a bear who passed out on his back, spread eagle.  Often one hand would be draped over his face.  Larry was also prone to placing large fans very close by.  Can you see where this is going?  You would think a fan is not a problem because they all have a housing to protect any clumsy passer-by, however Larry is want to last out sometimes, sending his fist anywhere out to meet anything within range.  Many times I was sitting across the table from Larry when a snide comment sent his fist out on another mission, but since I was out of range he hit the guy next to him.  Most of the time his fist missions resulted in nothing, but if there was a fan nearby he was sure to hit it – breaking the fan guard.  The end story is that Larry would fall asleep, and in mid-slumber his hand would seek out and find the fan, either breaking the fan guard, or jetting himself awake as his fleshy appendage found the spinning blades.  Lucky he never had a metal fan.

Kissing Death
Our final tale involved Larry and myself.  It was a Thanksgiving even, and Larry volunteered to teach me to sky.  We piled into my car and he led me to Kissing Bridge.  The entire dirve was slow.  The wind was kicking up snow across the windshield, leaving visibility low.  I was having doubts.  Was my first ski trip also my last?  Bah, we pressed on.  Nearing our destination, or so I was assured, we wound our way up a hill.  Up and up, and up a little more.  As we finally reached the top, and began to wind down the other side we reached a fork.

“Go left.”, a confident Larry stated

About 50 feet down the left fork we discovered this was assuredly NOT the correct path.  We had discovered a dark dead end.  I stop, and put it in reverse.  As we rolled backwards something was amiss.  What was it?  We were instead slowly rolling forward!  After a few heart heart-palpitating moments the car stopped rolling down the hit.  We got out to assess.  The front of the car was aat the exact edge of the cliff by the road!  In fact, my front, drivers tire was hanging off the edge.  Thank god Larry was on the passenger side (for he is much heaver than I).  We both looked at the situation, then looked at each other.

Larry: “Dude, we almost died.”
Aaron: “We still might.  Be careful.”

I got back in the car and Larry carefully pushed where he could until the car went in reverse reverse.  I breathed a heavy sigh of relief when we got to the main road.  After this skiing was easy.  What?  Break a leg?  Better than plunding over a cliff to my death, or better yet to survive the fall and slowly freeze to death in the dark.  Likely with Larry falling on top of me.

Just to finish the story, when we arrived he went down the bunny hill with me twice, then ditched me for some girl who was trying to learn, but her boyfriend lacked the patience to stay, so he headed off to the real hills.  By the time Larry was done with his failed courting there was just enough time for us to reach the top of a real hill.  I did pretty well if I do say so myself, considering I fell on ever turn until I was 3/4 down the hill and noticed I should my lef when turning lest my skis cross and force a fall.  Larry never filled me in on this important detail.  This only lengthened the last run of the night, aggravating the Ski Patrol who was following us down the hill.  Certainly not a fate anywhere near death.

How to Save a Life

While this blog has documented many a humorous or bizarre situation which occurred in the Comstock era, there were also occasional moments of high drama. The following tale may lack the raucous humor of some of the other posts (particularly the fictionalized Saving Schultz) but certainly reflects one of the most messed up situations I ever personally witnessed or participated in. It begins with tragedy and ends with a farce. Gather round…

Some time during the time while Matt was dating Mandy, there was a major party planned at Comstock. I do not know who provided the beer ball, who launched it, or when it was. I know only that the night began with Matt informing me that I would have to “keep an eye on him” because he was going to get good and drunk. Since I didn’t drink, this was not an unusual request; I would bring my trusty 3-liter of Mountain Dew and witness the hilarity as everyone else got stumbling drunk. I did not count on the X-factor of the Franks. 

Matt proceeded to go around drinking and chatting up people; I lost interest in following him for a while and socialized with more interesting folks (Matt got boring after a few drinks). At about 1030pm someone ran up to me – I think it was Mandy or Carrie – and says “Quick! You’re sober! Come outside, we need a driver! A girl passed out drunk.” Naturally, I went outside, but I was quite unprepared for this scene. In the center of 8-10 people was a sprawled out very very underage girl, blitzed out of her mind and in fact unconscious. I had never seen her before in my life. Chaos was breaking out everywhere as it seemed she was pretty much unresponsive. Now, any responsible adult would have called 911; but there were none to be found. Certainly such an action would have resulted in a stampede of drinkers exiting the premises and probable arrests for the hosts. So, instead came the standard cry: “GET HER THE HELL OUT OF HERE!”

Big problem. No suitable drivers. Wait, I’m sober. So is Pete O. I want nothing to do with this situation, so I get Matt’s keys and give them to Pete. Quickly, the girl is loaded into the minivan along with Pete, me, and Klausen – it turns out that ‘Niki’ (probably not her name) is 14 and dating this 18/19 year old guy. Why the hell I got into that car I’ll never know. I was certain we would be arrested as we sped off. We had been sent with the instructions to “take her to Patrick’s brother’s house, he is a paramedic”. This did not seem right – I demanded that Pete head to the nearest hospital. Sure, we would be locked up on sight, but neither of us had been drinking and we really had no idea how she got into this state. In my naievete I assumed we would be cleared, and that the house would be cleared out before much damage could be done by the police. In any case, this didn’t look good. Pete drove towards somewhere (I have no idea where he would have taken us), Klausen cradled ‘Niki’ in the passenger seat, and I flipped out in the back seat; he was trying to get her to say something, anything, and it wasn’t happening. I reached forward and touched her neck… I swear I held my hand there and felt no pulse at all. That had to be one of the worst HOLY SHIT moments I have ever experienced.

Suddenly, Klausen got an inspiration. He shook ‘Niki’ violently and yelled in her ear:

“IF YOU DO NOT WAKE UP RIGHT NOW, I WILL TAKE YOU HOME TO YOUR MOTHER!”

I have no idea what kind of f**ked up home life this girl must have had, but the effect was instantaneous. I swear that she sat up instantly and began projectile vomiting. From limp and unresponsive to rigid and puking in 1 second flat. The only thing I can compare this whole thing to was the adrenaline shot scene in Pulp Fiction; and I swear that this happened 2 years before that movie came out. One, two, three… seven times she retched and fouled the front seat of Matt’s car. Gasping and choking, she was clearly revived after this purge. Instantly, Pete turned the car around. There was no way we were getting arrested if she wasn’t dying. It was off to the fabled house of Patrick’s brother, where the care of two EMTs awaited our alcohol-poisoned passenger. We pulled into this house – containing several large strangers that I (again) had never seen in my life – and deposited our cargo, leaving the drunk (and crying incoherently) Klausen there as well. I returned to the back seat, opening the window to relieve the stench of vomit, and felt sweet relief as we drove to the safety of Comstock … or so I thought.

For reasons which I cannot explain or contemplate, some time later I drove with Matt back to the paramedic’s house. I do not know who else came on the trip there, but when I arrived the count of lifeforms was as follows: Me, Matt (completely shit-faced drunk and incapable of conversation), Klausen, ‘Niki’, some other female friend of ‘Niki’, and 3 large burly EMTs including “Pat’s brother”. They asked me to come inside, with car keys, while Matt laid insensate in the minivan. I had a bad feeling about this, and it was soon confirmed. I was informed that ‘Niki’ had continued vomiting while at the house; this was good for her BAC but revealed the source of her inebriation to be the unmistakable fruit of the vine, red wine. Klausen and the other female informant had determined that the only person who had wine at the party was none other than the same Matt now lying in the minivan, awaiting his fate. They demanded street justice be delivered for the crime of providing so much wine to a 14-year old that she nearly died. A trial was convened on the spot and the EMTs gathered to judge. One of them, 250 lbs on a light day, was clearly ready to deliver a beating Matt would not soon forget, if in fact he retained any brain capacity post-concussion. “Patrick’s brother” and I sat across a table: it was clear that if Matt was to avoid a beating then I must act as his attorney.

Boy, is his ass lucky that I don’t drink and was fairly quick with my reasoning. It’s also probably a good thing that Patrick’s brother was not aware that Matt was allegedly boning Patrick’s girlfriend. I began by vouching that I had “been with Matt the entire evening” and had not observed him interacting with ‘Niki’ in any way. Furthermore, I reasoned, how were we to know that he had administered wine to her personally? Could he be held responsible, if he set his wine down and she obtained it? It seemed reasonable, I thought, that the person who brought the 14-year-old to a drinking party bore more moral responsibility for her condition. Fortunately, Klausen was out of earshot as I tried to divert any possible culpability with Schultz, although I did clearly hear his protestations that he was going to “kick Matt’s ass for giving her wine” in the other room. One of the EMTs wisely kept guard between Klausen and the exit door, else Matt would have received a premature sentence of an ass-kicking in the van. Given Matt’s state there was no chance for him to use his legendary quickness to escape a cudgeling. For a full 30 minutes I wrangled verbally with the “prosecution”, using every excuse possible for Niki’s state: Matt may have left the wine on a counter, I saw Matt drinking beer, someone else gave her the wine, maybe more than one person had wine, Matt was never outside while Niki was found there, etc… Finally, it came down to this: the guy said to me “I don’t really know you. Why should I believe you?” I reasoned with him, I was an honor student and a non-drinker. I had no reason to support or condone the provisioning of alcohol to some 14-year-old girl (who I had never met), and I claimed that Matt wouldn’t have done such a thing either. I also reasoned with them that they really weren’t the kind of guys who would be pummeling a reckless drunk, and Klausen would calm down after he sobered up… in any case, it would be best if the whole matter left their property. With a stern warning and a sigh, the accusers relented and I was permitted to depart with Matt’s sorry ass intact. His only punishment was the fact that he had to clean up a vomit-stained van the next day. Other than to acknowledge that I saved him from a beating, we have rarely discussed this for two reasons: one, I doubt he remembers anything; and two, every TV show has told us that a good defense lawyer never asks his client if he is guilty. I might not like the answer. I will stick with my perfect record: 1-0 in the court of street beatdowns.

Jolly Old Joe’s

           While much has been written about the college days and after, given that they were significantly more interesting than high school which lacked the dramatic punch of say a Bayside or West Beverly, it is worth mentioning some of the Joe’s stories which have been alluded to here and there. My thought is publish them quickly and let Louis rail and denounce, making empty threats of furnishing the “real” story. Most of these, however, are extremely innocuous and pose little threat to reputations, though perhaps I will be proven wrong by some poor tool whose employer makes decisions based on a blogged account of events 20 years prior writes to fuss.

            Though I already told the tale of how a grand number of people mentioned herein met up, I’d like to revisit freshman year and how I met Louis, the catalyst for this group forming in the first place. Come to think of it, chances are it would have anyway but just without me in it which we all can assume would have been a dreary affair indeed. Both shoved into the honors program due to being scholarship recipients, we had most classes the same that year and happened to sit next to each other in Music Appreciation and established a consensus between us, and with Jim Matuzak next to Louis, that the class did indeed truly suck as a complete waste of time. We also began talking during the long trudges back and forth between the freshman building and the main campus.

            Our inaugural year was the last in which the Freshman Building (the basement of the church across the street) was utilized. The building held our homerooms as well as a few different classes, but the good Brothers arranged it so that it would be necessary to send us out into the cold, rain, and all manner of foul weather to get to gym, lunch, and of course music appreciation. As Louis was really the first person I talked to that year, I took to making the voyage while talking to him; a risky endeavor at best as it often seemed likely that we would be tardy. Louis was in the habit of lugging around a bag intended for hockey equipment in which he had stashed the books and material for every class. I never understood if it was an anathema to utilizing the lockers or he just preferred to be a heavy traveler. I also need to mention that he was only 12 at the time and had not hit any type of growth spurt, possibly a byproduct of his heinous diet, so going was slow as he struggled under the impressive weight.

            He did most of the talking, in these trips and at lunch when I was treated to the sight of him dinning exclusively on products made by Hostess, Hershey, and the powerful Mountain Dew conglomerate. My apologies; he also participated on pizza Wednesdays electing to grab a slice of La Hacienda, extra greasy with a tongue drying layer of flour underneath. His grand scheme was to launch a war games club apart from the war games club that already existed and roped me into talking to Mr Scott for permission to start it. I liked the idea of having my name associated with starting something and having to do relatively little work on behalf of it, so I went along willingly enough. You all know how the rest of losers were drawn in like moths by the most brilliant beacon of geekishness this side of Trekkies. This reminds me of one of Louis’s best quotes of the year, uttered in Br John’s religion class, “I’ve been called a nerd so many times I’m beginning to get a superiority complex.”

            One of the more notable things worth mentioning was Knaus’s ability to crack the combination of anyone’s locker within 15 minutes using a simple algorithm and taking advantage of the degree of ‘swing’ for any of the combination numbers. Although he didn’t have the propensity to steal, he did enjoy the power of being able to get into anywhere he pleased. Occasionally he would leave little indicators that he was there. Although many suspected he had this talent, he refused to confirm it. I was fortunate enough to catch him in the act once and thus became a co conspirator as the alternative was that he would direct his attentions toward my stuff. I once convinced him to play a prank on Sean O’Donnell by completely emptying his locker contents into Luke Pryzbla’s along with a note announcing his wishes to cohabitate cozily. As expected, much of his stuff was scattered and destroyed, Luke having little patience for our little games.

            The most memorable occurrence was when he began screwing with Mike Ende by breaking into his locker several times a day and rearranging things. He sidled up to me one day in the commons and announced his suspicions in a hushed voice. He had a plan though, and quite a reaching one at that given the frivolous nature of the intrusion. Mike elected not to take Doc Breem’s physics class but instead opted to take the electronics course instead; St Joe’s version of ‘shop’. As they had to design a simple project as part of the class, Mike used it as an opportunity to design a locker alarm that would emanate an annoying beeping sound when triggered. Although I was already in cahoots with Knaus as the time, I decided to play mum enjoying the idea of him being caught in his fledgling endeavors as a second story man. Mike finished his project, tested it, and set it up one day staying late after school.

            There are a few reasons why things went wrong. The first mistake was that he thought he could outwit Knaus at his own game, though in his defense none of us understood the extent of his manic tendencies. As predicted, Knaus broke into his locker the next morning, but immediately detected the presence of the trap, disabled it, then re-enabled it so that simply banging on the door would set it off for a several minute period. He did his usual rearrangement, shut the door, banged it with is fist a la Fonz, and stalked off.

The second mistake was the Mike picked a day when he would not be coming in until lunch time due to a doctor’s appointment. The third was that his locker was in fairly close proximity to the faculty lounge. Word spread quickly that a quick pass and bang of Mike’s locker would set the thing off to the growing irritation of both the lounge and the classroom beside the offending space. By the time Mike came in, a faculty posse had formed ready to lynch him then and there. Fortunately his father, a history teacher there and possessor of the worst comb over in history of bald denial, was able to have his life spared. In the end, he was still never able to prove it was Paul, who continued his daily harassment until graduation.

Knaus did, however, decide to punish me for not warning him of Ende’s alarm as he was correctly convinced that I knew about it and enjoyed the idea of him being caught. In his usual style he bided his time until I was no longer expecting it. A bunch of us were hanging out after school for a reason I can’t recall and remember O’Donnell and possibly Louis being present. In any case, at some point my bag disappeared causing me some amount of consternation since my assignments were within it, including a famously long Doc Breem lab report. No one would own up to having hidden it and I had to leave that day without it, and under the impression that it had been locked in the library behind a book shelf. O’Donnell pointed the finger at Knaus and Knaus at O’Donnell.

That night I spent more than a great deal of time talking to each of them on the phone trying to get some notion of the truth. By the end of the evening, Knaus in his crafty way had me utterly convinced that not only did Sean maliciously screw me, but that if I didn’t manage to grab my bag at the moment the library opened, it would likely be discovered and stolen or disposed of. I was enraged and spent my last call of the night hurling threats and slander against an obstinate O’Donnell. I spent the remainder of the night trying to recreate the lab so I would have something just in case, not getting to bed until 2:00 AM, with my alarm set for 4:00 AM. I wanted to get to school by 5:30 AM you see, which is when Knaus told me the library opened up. Bleary eyed and miserable, I made it there, only to sit waiting until 7:30 when it actually opened. I rushed in, pushing the librarian aside and combed the aisles. It wasn’t there! I demanded she tell me where it could have gone, and mid-frantic appeal I suddenly caught site of Knaus’s smirk though the window. He was holding my bag up like the prize marlin, having stashed it in his car the evening before.

Since I had to go and mention Doc Breem, and enough people have asked, I’ll go ahead and devote a little time to this character whose over the top style landed him a place amongst the most memorable of our instructors. Aaron is anxious to hear about the English long bow, and I have to admit, he told a memorable story about it. Doc in his fairly high pitched voice began the story with the adaptation of the longbow by the Welsh under Prince Llewellyn and how well they used it to give King Edward Long Shanks (yes, the same one from Braveheart) a really hard time until Ed managed to starve them out and adopt the weapon himself, much to the dismay and defeat of Mel Gibson; though Doc neglected to mention that part. He went on to brag as if he had been there, of the great battle at Crecy during the 100 Year War in which the English longbow proved to be a far more powerful weapon than the soon to be outdated crossbow. In this case Edward III and his son known as Edward the Black Prince for some reason, laid a clever little trap, setting up a small force of archers on high ground above a whole lot of muck. The French force, outnumbering them 3 or 4 to one, managed to wipe out perhaps as many as 10,000 men while only losing a few hundred by firing a seemingly endless volley of arrows through the Frenchies old timey plate armor.

Doc truly enjoyed his tales of mayhem and often made such claims as having seen such things as a man nailed to a tree with shrapnel from 40 yards away, although he refused to explain the circumstances in which his was treated to such a site. While he never directly claimed he was at Crecy himself, he offered no indication that he was not either. His experiences taken together indicated a man with a richness of experience far beyond his years. It also occurred to some of us that when he told of his bad old Brooklyn knife fighting days, the impetus of the story may have been that he caught ‘West Side Story’ on the tube the night before.

In addition to his personal experiences, he also had a great deal of knowledge concerning assassinations (presumably by the Russians) of leading scientists working on secret government projects. I believe it is possible his tales served as the inspiration for the conspiracy nut legend that the oil companies killed the man who developed a car that ran on water. He went so far as to offer sanctuary, no questions asked, if assassins ever came after any of us as he had been in that situation and knew what to do. Still to do this day I occasionally get the urge to don a battered trench coat and show up at Doc’s door some windy rainy night clutching a folder full of papers and sporting a haunted look. I don’t know if what stops me is the idea that I would give the old man a heart attack at having his bluff called, or that he would whip out a 9 mm and start firing into the night. Either way not much good could come of it.

I will round this hodge podge of memories out by coming back to Louis; a tribute to the most impressive prom date story as modesty seems to be preventing him from telling it, and because I suppose I owe after pulling the gruff on the bespectacled old goat so many times before herein this blog. It all started between our Junior and Senior year when Louis and I both signed up to take a summer AP English course at Canisius with Prof Butler. Once we both realized we were both in, we made arrangements to have his mom drop him off at my house and I’d drive him too and from school every day. I was never quite sure why either his mom couldn’t drive him all the way there, or why I didn’t just pick him up if that was a problem. In any case, such were the arrangements.

The class itself was fairly small; apparently not a whole lot of kids entering their senior year were all that jazzed to learn about the western in disguise in a stifling classroom during the best part of the year. Most were geeks like us with one notable exception: Miss Kara McKunn. She sat in the front row, was bright and engaging with golden curls and frame most appealing to the adolescent eye. It was clear that every male in the class was focused more on her than old Butler, and he too I believe than on the rest of us. Her presence was bewildering; a geek in disguise? In case she was not, I believe no male attempted to engage her fearing the simultaneous whammy of scorned laughter and spontaneous erection. No thank you! The summer ended with nary a word between her and me or her and Louis.

We rocketed though senior year at a stunning pace and inevitably prom season came around. My previous girlfriend and I broke up right before the junior prom, making it an unpleasant experience since she insisted on coming anyway having bought the dress, and my attempts to replace her had fallen short; one of the trials of being at an all boys school. Many were in the same pickle and began creative ways of searching out dates before the magic of the internet. I managed to hook up with Jody Schulebein, a friend of Ende’s girlfriend. Knaus, considered to be one of the least likely to score a date was hooked up with my cousin Ann.

Louis, two years our junior, president of the war-game geeks, 1590 SAT scorer egghead, was predicted to remain home that night. One evening he called me up and asked me if I remembered what part of town Kara from Butler’s class lived in as he couldn’t find her in the phone book. I knew then what he intended and told him it was madness. Undaunted, he asked again to receive a sterner warning. Still obstinate, I capitulated on the third request and revealed it to be Grand Island. Ah ha! The Niagara county phone book was needed! He set forth for the library on his bike for it was well before the internet and gathering information verily was still a sucky process.

Despite my admonitions, he called later that day to announce that he had indeed cold called her. She as expected remembered him not, but to my amazement had agreed to go to the prom with him anyway. There were some, I imagine who expected Louis to show up with his sister or cousin that night and may have had a bucket of pigs blood nestled up in the rafters. Doubt was silenced as he strode though the door with the lithe beauty on his arm, the crash of brass monuments thundering each time he took a step, looking smugly confident amongst the predators for the first time in memory. Lucas had scored his touchdown.

The prom was a fun night and memorable, and if I can get my scanner working again, or get around to buying a new one, I’ll post the pictures that you all know the truth of the power of the coup he pulled off. As it so happened, she ended up attending UB and was in a number of my classes where she was universally hated by all the rest of the women present. Later on JP started a rumor that she became a full fledged member of the LGBA, but was never able to back it up with corroborating evidence. Even if so, it would only add glory and mystique to the legend of Louis’s prom.

Excess Fluids

For some time, I have been berated by the other posters here to put my thoughts down in writing, and I have struggled with a unifying theme. I now give up on that and present you with a few barely related tales for your amusement. Much of the detail may be at Wolf-like accuracy although I am pretty clear on the final story.

Despite our limited means, the group of us (or some combination thereof) often found ourselves eating at restaurants (usually at an ungodly late hour). Naturally, the most common habitats were Perkins, Denny’s, and Mighty Taco. As you may imagine, these excursions were not marked by a sudden improvement in the behavior of the participants, despite the public location. Mostly, we were treated to the usual stares befitting a group of gamers ranting publically about whether a single goblin (summoned into a closet) could slay the entire group with just a short sword. There were one or two times when behavior went well beyond the pale.

One day, for some odd reason, Dan was eating with Aaron and I at Mighty Taco (others may have been present, but forgotten). It was generally agreed that we should not act out too much in Mighty Taco, as we needed the comfort of returning endlessly for more bean burritos and Cherry Coke (consumed by all, except for Aaron with his frequent nacho fixation). Despite this, Dan as usual would not be restrained and insisted upon speaking freely whenever he sat down with us. As I recall, Dan’s philosophy in this matter was that free speech was his *right* and anyone attempting to restrain him would pay the price – to quote Dan, “PUBLIC HUMILIATION!”. On this particular occasion, prompted by Aaron, he began to elaborate (while we ate) upon an alleged experience with fisting:

Aaron: “So what was it like, Dan?”
Dan: “Well, first I got myself slathered in lube up to the wrist. Then, after working up a good lather, I squeezed my hand together and RAMMED IT IN HER ASS!” (shouted)
(At this point, the nearby family was quite startled at this exclamation. I recall looking around sheepishly.)
Aaron: “And then what? How did she react?”
At this point, Dan was in full out acting mode and stated in no uncertain terms:

“Well, you see, first there was a RUSH OF EXCESS FLUIDS THAT POURED OUT!”

This led to full out flight by all parties seated near us. We nearly immediately had half the restaurant to ourselves. This incident stands out in my mind as far more inappropriate than the “In The Brown” proclamations at Tops, and should form a significant part of the legend of Mooney. If anyone asks why he was not at my wedding, they should probably re-read this tale.

Another story which seems to have been forgotten is the tale of Matt and the “guy who only wanted to have a drink with Matt”. Recent speculation on this topic leads me to write it down, and those in the know will smack their foreheads and wonder why they did not embellish upon this tale first. Matt began his college life at ECC City. However, at end of a semester (1st, 2nd, whenever) we asked Matt when he would be ready to move up to UB. He explained that he would be going to ECC North the following semester, because he did not like it at ECC City and as a result was not doing as well as he should. Despite Matt’s other oddities this came as a surprise, because he was known as having a decent Intelligence (but, according to some well-regarded observers, low Wisdom). Knocking it out of the park at ECC City didn’t seem like a big stretch. Further inquiries led to the astonishing result that he had apparently received 4 F’s and a D in his coursework, because halfway through the session he had stopped attending and never went back to finish the courses (I have always wondered about the professor who still awarded a D). However, much more interesting than Matt’s poor decision to not drop the classes was the reason for his sudden avoidance of the place.

As the story goes, Matt was trying to leave one of his classes on the top floor of the ECC City building. However, he encountered a guy (whether street person or classmate was never clarified) who was strung out on drugs – allegedly PCP or something of its ilk. The unnamed, undescribed individual wanted Matt to go across the street for a drink with him. Matt deferred, being below legal age at this point and uninterested in the company of said crazed, stoned individual. However, the junkie would hear nothing of Matt’s denials, and insisted forcefully that Matt accompany him to the bar. In a classic move, Matt proceeded to run down the stairs. Now, as described to me (I have no firsthand knowledge of the place), the City campus building had a stairwell or atrium which was up to 4-5 stories high. Matt fled downstairs to the lobby, while the acid tripper watched him run. At the bottom, Matt made the mistake of looking up at his pursuer. To hear Matt tell the tale, at that very moment his future drinking buddy smiled and leaped right over the railing. One imagines this guy assuming a skydive position, falling in slow motion, grungy clothes flapping, until WHAM! he lands sprawled out in a heap right at Matt’s feet. Seeing someone hurl themselves off a balcony onto a hard floor would be bad enough; as the story goes, however, thanks to the drug-addled state of this daredevil, he immediately stood up and seized the helpless Matt. They proceeded across the street for a drink, after which Matt was released, his paranoia leading him to never return to the site of this shocking incident. I’m pretty sure Matt also got fake throat cancer shortly afterwards, which might have helped prevent the dropping of classes.

Having been scarred for life by the sight of a man leaping from 4 stories and surviving (or 4 steps up the stairs, if you take other people’s version), stricken with swollen glands misdiagnosed as possibly fatal thyroid cancer, and crawling around his house for days with a near-bursting appendix, Matt eventually still recovered to attend ECC North and UB, putting him well in-line with the rest of the group. This was also very convenient for Dan, who was able to obtain an ECC North ID with Matt’s name and info on it, but Dan’s picture. That was a bucket of laughs until Matt got the overdue library notices and figured it all out. Interestingly, Dan was also known to identify himself as “Matt” when he needed an alias for the occasional casual encounter; a tactic which he must have taught to Eliot Spitzer. (For those not in the know, Eliot Spitzer used the alias “George Fox” for his interactions with the escort service; George Fox is a “good friend” of the ex-governor’s in real life. When I read this, I thought immediately of Dan and Matt). I will not reveal the details of those casual encounters here, other than to note that if you are going to hook up with a random chick at a Metallica concert, using an alias is probably best practice.

So, having now seen how Matt became reunited with the rest of the group school-wise (myself excepted), we must turn our attention to a final legendary encounter. One evening, I met up with a fairly large group at Denny’s on Niagara Falls Boulevard. This was a place we knew well – the same place where I recall Matt once emerging from the restroom and stating point-blank to his girlfriend, “No matter how good you are, you will never be as satisfying as a good dump.” Ever the romantic! In any case, the group this night consisted of Matt, Sue (the Boot), Dan, myself, and some additional meat sacks. I have no idea who the meat sacks were and they might even have been people who mattered; but my memory of this night only consists of what transpired between the four named individuals. We were seated in the following pattern:


      Dan  Others..
      ————–
Sue  |
Matt |
      ————–
      Me   Others…

Of course, Sue was with Matt at the time. I do not recall if this was before or after she went from Dan to Matt to Dan or Matt to Dan to Matt or whatever that whole incident was. In any case, Dan, Matt, and I were having some type of deep conversation – most likely about Spelljammer – when we noticed that Matt seemed distracted. Now, Matt did occasionally tend to get a dumbfounded look on his face, but this one seemed like his eyes were glazed over. It was then that I noticed that Sue’s shoulder was moving. Matt’s breathing seemed somewhat affected and I quickly looked away and back at Dan. Dan, no stranger to porn, also detected the tell-tale signs of some “manipulation” going on – under the table and presumably inside Matt’s pants. Here we all were, in a Denny’s, only 2-3 feet away from the too-intimate couple. There was no escape for me either, as I was in a booth. Dan looked at me, shook his head and said in a relatively low voice, “I can’t fucking believe this, man.” For some reason, I picked up the small, white package of liquid coffee creamer at that point. I twirled it in my hands, looked at Dan, looked at Matt, and looked back at Dan. At no point in my life was I more in sync mentally with Dan then at that moment. Instant recognition of my thoughts appeared on my face as Dan said loudly “JUST DO IT, MAN!!!”. I looked again at Matt’s face; he seemed puzzled by the fact that I was holding forth a coffee creamer, since I was drinking Coke.

In a moment of misplaced compassion, I turned back to Dan and said “I just can’t”. Well, one thing I can say is, Dan is a man of action. He immediately seized the creamer from my hands, ripped open the package and proceeded to hurl it into Matt’s chest and lap with perfect aim. The effect was instantaneous; Matt’s eyes widened as the white drops of creamer splashed a line-like pattern up his body, contrasting sharply against his prized black trenchcoat. Before Matt could even object, Dan followed up with a shout:

“SORRY MATT, DID YOU HAVE A LITTLE ACCIDENT!!”

Naturally, the rest of the table which had been oblivious to the situation was now staring at Matt, dripping creamer from his chest, as he said “Dan, what the hell!” Sue seemed to be having quite a laugh over the situation, which only made Matt angrier. I do not recall the exact exchange between Dan and Matt, but it boiled down to the following points:

Dan and I: “What the hell did you expect to happen, doing that right next to us at Denny’s?”
Matt: “This trenchcoat cost $300 and you threw creamer on it!”

Matt refused to even give Dan a ride home, declared him an ex-friend, and stormed out with Sue in tow. Fortunately, I had driven to the restaurant and gave Dan a lift, with much rejoicing on the way home. This part of the story was classic enough as-is, especially if you could have seen the look on Matt’s face. However, the real payoff came a day or two later when we reconciled with Matt. He admitted the humor value of the entire operation, and moved this into the category of legend with the following summary:

“The sad part is, Sue really thought I had finished.”