Tops Never Stops

Before we discovered the gloriousness that is Wegmans we frequented Tops. It has been well noted already that during the Princeton Era Mike and I made at least a daily trek to Tops since it was so close. Another beacon to the hospital white walls of Tops was Matt’s long-time employ at Tops on Delaware.

Matt was one of the first employees to this branch of the Tops franchise. He had an interview in the trailer on the lot while the building was still being constructed. Some relative of Matt was involved so it was an easy position to acquire, not that cart-boy is an excessively hard job to get. Matt started work in Spring. His plan was to work until the first day of snow, and then quit. “Matt doesn’t work in the snow” was his mantra.

Months later the Matt was pushing carts when he was called into the office. The Tops lords had vision enough to see that Matt was more than a cart-boy. He was immediately reassigned to an inside position in the Butcher’s Block. At the close of his shift that day Matt stepped outside and gazed up into the sky. The first snowflakes of the season gently fell upon his brow. The gods had smiled upon our hero. He was not longer a cart boy. But you must pay the gods a price; Matt was still employed at Tops, or in an indirect way Ahol (the parent, and appropriately named, company of Tops).

Speaking of Ahol, the scuttlebutt is that the local mafia allowed Ahol to purchase Tops as long as they maintained control of the Tops Union. This is all hearsay, so if I wake up with the horse head in my dead tomorrow you will know the arm of the Buffalo mafia extends to the West Coast.

On our way to Comstock to waste time, we took great joy in visiting Matt during his work hours. This was particularly true when he was a lowly cart boy. On one of the rare occasions we had Sean with us we made such a trip for supplies. Sean was known for his fearless driving and his habit of stopping at Noco to “fill er up” with whatever change he had in his pocket. I was once a first-hand witness to his purchase of 32 cents worth of fuel. Today that is not enough for them to let you lift the nozzle.

We spoke to Matt on the way into Tops. He had just spent a considerable amount of time in the classic “stack a fuck-load of carts together from all across the parking lot” so he could push them all back at once. His cart-stack lot was near the Tops entrance, and when we returned from purchase of our supplies (Mountain Dew, pretzels, frozen burritos, etc.) we found Matt no where to be found. As we left Sean took the opportunity to drive his car into the cart-stack Matt had painstakingly constructed. He pushed the cart-stack to the far corner of the parking lot. At first he drove at a slow pack, until we saw Matt running at us, at which time Sean sped up. The exceedingly heavy cart-stack was left in the farthest corner. We sped of laughing. At least we gave Matt something to do for the last hour of his shift.

Once inside, Matt quickly rose to the rank of 95% Butcher. What is 95% Butcher? After a year of working primarily in the Butcher’s Block Matt observed that the only difference between an official Butcher and an experienced meat man, like himself, was knowing how to properly cut 5 specific meats. As there 5 meats are expensive, they did not let anyone slice them, nor were they purchased frequently enough for Matt to get enough practice. We all spurred him on to complete his training and have a viable skill. Eventually Matt was able to get in enough practice in two of these elusive meats, so he settled at 97% Butcher. As I conclude this section it strikes me that this post will burn a few of Matt’s bridges.

Matt was a valuable Tops associate for nearly seven years. He quit before hitting the seven year point because that would be when a part-time associate would be granted a 401k. While the rest of us saw this as an obvious fruit to grab, Matt saw this as a sign he had been defeated by the preverbal Man.

Continuing this HR showcase of Tops benefits we come to the period when Tops began selling Tops branded apparel. Tops management required employees to wear this apparel initially, no doubt to spur on the awaiting masses who couldn’t possibly hold back from spending thousands on Tops sweatshirts. The slap in the face was that associates were required to pay for these required textiles. What a joke.

Tops exposed us to several characters, and once again showcased the intelligence of the average person. The most memorable example of this was when Matt related some story of some random activity of our crew. “What does phallic mean?” interjected one of typical Tops zombies. Matt was befuddled that he did not know what phallic was? He now had is shift project. He left the blob with no better knowledge and spent the rest of him shift polling all his co-workers as the meaning of phallic. To his astonishment one one other employee knew the word. During his polling he even received commentary that phallic was not a common word many people would know. Matt left his shift to relate this happenstance to the rest of us. Until this incident we did not know it was possible to NOT know what phallic meant.

Matt mined a number of girlfriends out of seven year stint. I recall one who became a vegetarian because she was fat. Success! She lost weight. Unfortunately she was still not satisfied, so she pushed the envelope even more, and became vegan. This relationship did not last long.

Matt also met the same girl that absconded with Matt and James in the infamous “I’ll never set foot in a gay bar” story that was the first post on this blog.

An experienced Matt sat in the Tops atrium enjoying his mandatory earned break. A frantic woman ran up, “There is a used condom over there!” “Really? Where?” The woman took Matt half-way across the parking lot to what was absolutely confirmed as a under condom, still filled with a “rush of excess fluids.”

Matt concluded his inspection and headed back, but to the dismay of the woman, he did not return with any cleaning equipment. Matt, instead, plopped himself back on the atrium bench. “Aren’t you going to clean that us?” she explained. “Lady, I’m on my break.”

The bulk of Matt’s time at Tops had him stationed in the Butcher’s Block, or as we more affectionately referred to it – the Meat department. Matt divulged two secrets of the Meat department. One; they kept a small Igloo cooler ready to go at someone, ironically usually one of the professional butchers, cut off a finger and was rushed to the hospital, finger piece encased in the Igloo cooler, to have it sewn back on. The success rate was quite high. Two; the Meat department kept an open bowl into which they threw any scraps, be they on the floor or wherever, into this bowl. When the bowl was full, then they ground up the scraps and sold it under the label of “meat”. Funnily enough, years before, during the Goodyear era, I had spied one of these and bought it for the label humor.

Matt enjoyed a time where he was double employed. His second job, the more prestigious one, was the all powerful Mighty Taco on Sheridan and NFB. Mighty Taco gives you a week to study the menu before taking a test. You have to know all menu items, and their component’s with amounts from memory. Matt passed and became a Mighty Taco employee. We gave him a goal of finding out what the beef was, as he felt Mighty Taco was superior to Taco Bell in every aspect, except the beef. Since this was sacrilege we was to solve the mystery now that he had access.

Matt soon grew to dislike the manager. She ruled with an iron fist, holding weekly meetings that Matt was 2 minutes late for once. She fired him for this. Matt suspects that he was really fired because he was telling the other employees how the manager had terrible skills, and was a bitch to boot. He did not notice until too late that she was in the building, and overheard, walking in on his conversation just at the end of Matt’s tirade. He never solved the “Riddle of Beef.”

Like the recent rash of professional athletes that pretend to retire, Matt too had an encore tour at Tops. I made a visit to him once during this tour. He was working the night shift stocking the frozen foods isles. Like the athlete that plays one more season when he should have walked away, it was sad to see Matt, the once lord of part-time associates, reduced to a zero visibility position.

Another of our crowd spent some time employed at Tops, Chester. He gleefully gave us reports as to his rapid rise to the “Express Lane”, giving us tips as to how he became one of these best of the best. He switched sides from making bewildered fun of the Tops cashiers who wore rubber thimbles to wearing one himself.

Having been a Tops associate for such a long time, Matt was well versed with the employee handbook. There was a statute of limitations on anything you did of five years. The exact day the limit was us, he spilled the beans of what he had done to his co-worked in the back of the store, as he was leaving for his shift. It took Matt 2 minutes to walk our the front of the store, and by then the news had traveled faster than his ironically unmeaty legs could carry him. An example of just how efficient the Tops grapevine is.

What was Matt’s hidden crime? Back when he was still a cart-boy he abandoned his post, walked across the street, and saw a movie at the old Super Saver Cinema. When the movie was over he walked back across the street and took his break.

Saving You More?

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Courting the Ladies

Readers of this blog will have picked out the various, highly-successful courting tips that we have dropped across various posts.  If you are a new reader, or someone of poor memory you can read about meatballs, multi-colored sneakers, and the $300 wardrobe.  Aside from those colossally effective tips I have some more for those still on the auction block.

Often you can learn even more from failure than success.  By now we should have volumes of useful knowledge.  Unfortunately we are left a pile of failures, but we like to think of some of these as sort of successful.

The first of these tips is more for camp counselors.  I was at a week long camp in the Catskill Mountains.  This was a co-ed camp for budding young adults between the ages of 13-15. They could have called it “Caligula Camp” given barely supervised new teens about to burst with seminal fluids. The best example is a game I call “Blind Grope”.

They took us all into a large, flat, open grass field. The camp counsellors stood at the borders to keep us corralled in the field. They blindfolded all of us and set us out. The object was to find the murderer before everyone was dead. A few people were murderers and a few more police, and the rest where bystanders. When you touched a person you both paused a moment. Bystanders say nothing. If someone whispers “murder” then you scream “MURDER” (causing the other bind players fleeing the area – only walking, no running). The police whispered police and if you were a murderer you where then caught.

The real “objective” was simple. Grab some boob. As you would expect, and as I confirmed when I was finally “murdered”, hence leaving the field of play and removing my blindfold with the other victims, was the boys expended one are out to encounter boobage, and the other arm jealously guarded the package. The boys moved about quickly to cover as much area as possible, obviously spending more time if they ran into a girl. The girls were well informed to take small, quiet steps and used both arms to fully protect their upper assets.

When you were “out” and got to watch the field of play it was very entertaining. The climax of the game was one girl who took the offensive. She had either played this game before, or was well aware of the perverted minds of young boys. Instead of guarding herself, she moved with brisk steps of force with her arms pistoning forward in a downward angle. This action felled more than a few boys. She seems to have a sense for boys approaching as she never caused damage to another female. I expect she is a CEO somewhere today.

The next tale of courtship also took place in a camping situation. This time there where only a few of us, and we took a canoeing trip for a week in Canada. We spent most of the week on a peninsula on one side of a lake. The lake was bordered by mostly permanent residents, but a few homes rented out for the summer. The one directly across form out camp site was rented to two older women who we watched for two days as they utterly failed to use a canoe. They were drunk every time we saw them. While some people drunk dial and others wander the Tops isle, still other try to get into a canoe. They continuously fell into the water and screamed at each other.

After two days they managed to get into the canoe, but also padding in the same direction, thus managing to propel themselves across the lake and towards us. As they approached all staring in order to get a closer view at what a train-wreck looks like close up. Suddenly they came into focus. Our eyes were torn asunder by the vision of two nasty old drunks that were topless this entire time. As we averted out eyes to avoid permanent blindness, we heard the cry of the Northern Light Hag, “Get a good look perverts!”

I cannot leave this particular story with such a crime against nature. During the canoeing to the peninsula we portaged (that means carry your fucking canoe over land) across an all girls camp. Enjoying the brief time, but soon forgetting about it we were surprised a few days later, to see some of the females from this camp canoeing towards us. They setup camp no more than 20 yards away. Their 19-ish women counselor was as lacks as our 19-ish male counsellor.

I should mention that there is normally a qualified staff member with these canoeing expeditions, but they ran out of staff and since our guide lived in the area, was 19, and had been on the trip a few times they deputized him. He lead us away from the normal paths, and into a den of disgust (the old women above) and love (see below).

The female campers were no match for the combination of Canadian wildlife, a sparking lake, and dirty boys catching frogs. Through some Druidic magic the even closed as were paired up around a roaring fire. Each couple encased in their own blanket. Being a gentleman I shant disclose what may or may not have occurred that night under the stars.

Now we will leave the romantic camping settings and escape to a simple phrase handed down from a guru of lotharioism. The proper procedure, according to this casanova is to whisper gently into a woman’s ear, “I want to eat you into utter submission.” Like an angry Republican from Texas the shock and awe of this statement will roll over her with such speed as to leave her defenses shattered. I cannot give any further details, but I will back up the perhaps surprising performance of this quip with a statistic. Two out of three times this has been employed it has bet with success.

The occasionally mentioned, but universally loved Rob gives us our next parable of love. Rob had been in a prolonged dry spell when New Year’s Eve rolled around. Many of the usual crew were gathered at our beloved Anacone’s. After the compulsory toast at the stroke of midnight we actually engaged in a round of declaring resolutions. When it came upon Rob to make his decree he raise his glass and gleefully yelled out, “I declare this The Year of Rob!” He consummated the proclamation by grabbing the mammary gland of the woman next to him. Again we witnessed shock and awe. It was a good thing the woman was a friend of ours. As this was out of character, and he had imbibed several quotas of intoxicants there was no rebut. Over the next year Rob made good. He found a new girlfriend that lasted several years.

The New Year’s following the successful year of Rob leads us into our final tale of seduction. I made a similar decree as to being “The Year of Aaron.” holding more of a strict character than Rob I set forth a rule. “I will ask out at least one new woman a month.” In January I asked out Chris’s sister, but given he pervious exposure to my juvenile antics there was not surprise on either part to the answer. February I asked out some woman I can’t recall other than this we of a slightly more serious attempt that the paper-attempt of January. No dice. With March approaching I had used my two options for asking out a woman without any fear. Now I knew I had to actually encounter a real life situation.

In preparation I read “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” This seemed to be a useful skill to acquire, no matter what kind of “conquest” you were out for. The point from this well-known tome that stuck with me is the tactic of asking a person two questions they cannot say no to before getting to the real question on the third try. The idea is that they are in the habit of saying yes with the first two questions, so that when you get to the third they will reactively say yes.

I set my sights on a buxom woman who was playing volleyball in Delaware Park. This is when Chris and I had been playing weekly volleyball with the alternatives. I later learned they did not like this woman. During the game I managed to flirt successfully with her. Before I knew it the game was over and people began to leave. She was only an occasional player so I knew I had to make my move. I volunteered to stay and help take down the equipment. Chris and JP where present and both knew what I was up to. They left, hiding out in the nearby parking lot so as to be the first to find out what happened. I continued the flirting, ask me not what I did exactly as I was in a haze. As I walked with her to her car I entered stage one. Damn! I was still surrounded by a cloudy haze. I had asked question one, but I did not know what I said! I have blown it already!

I saw her mouth move, and hear a “Yes.” Somehow I had not shot my self in the foot. I had to expunge this cloud out of my hear and think clearly. Before I could clear my head entirely I found I was already half way through my second question! What the hell was I gonna do now? I had no choice but to complete my question. Now I was done for sure. I managed to clear my head, now awaiting a sure-fired denial to an unknown question.

Somehow my luck held as I was gifted with a miraculous second affirmative. Now I was where I wanted to be. I finally had a clear mind. I had put in the pre-work, and all I had to close the deal with deliver my closer. I took a breath and confidently fired my final salvo. “Do you eat?” Her response was a collage of confusion and smirk. “What?” was her reply. I then asked he out, to which she told me she was engaged. I was still elated as I had executed my plan and it did not end in catastrophe. We parted and i started the trek towards the parking lot to make my after action report. As I strutted away, proud in my own accomplishment, I heard her yell. “Hey!” I looked back, her voluminous upper half protruding from her car door. “Nice line.”

And with an Aesoply ending I leave you with this. Into every life a little love must stumble, even if by remarkable luck, but place your bet upon a tactic of shock and awe.

My Half Day of Hell

This is the real story not the Official Story of my break up with Carrie. With a fictional one around, passing itself off as believable, now the truth can be told. 

One long. One short. Being a romantic interest for anyone has never been on my short list of things-to-do. I often find myself completely oblivious to the attentions and flirtations of the opposite sex. Since so much of my private life is spent in intense solitary study, when I do make a public appearance it I go full bore to capture as much fun a possible. I don’t do anything to impress or show off; my sole objective is to amuse myself, usually at someone else’s expense. As I’ve stated before, it’s one of my natural geniuses. This has tended to cause a blind spot where women where concerned, as I simply never noticed their interest.

As such, my relationship with Carrie was stumbling and odd. Generally, as my fun-time activities were insulting others, drinking, and reading for 8 hour stretches; the rest of the time I went along with whatever the hell she wanted.

“Let’s go here,” She’d say.

“Will there be booze and people to pick on?”

“Yes.”

“Well, what are we waiting for?”

The entire affair was viewed through an alcoholic haze. We’d go out, get drunk, have sex at someone else’s house, recuperate for a day, and do it all over again. This was fun, but Carrie’s ambition was a life in the army, and I was wasting my life in college. She enlisted and I was rather upset. I didn’t want to let go of the good times, so I made a desperate play to hang on. Having brilliant hindsight skills, I see that it was doomed from the start. I had an inkling at the time as well, but thought fuck it. It sure seemed like a good idea at the time. We became engaged two weeks before she went in, and all of her relatives seemed to embrace me. So all was well with the world.

A lot of the problems with our relationship came from the fact that we generally had different views on life. To her, people acted a certain way, listened to certain music, , thought a certain way, talked a certain way, and only watched certain types of TV and music (mainstream, i.e. crap). And I… well I did and thought whatever I wanted without constantly gauging what others did. It’s not just that she had rigid views , it’s that she seemed terrified of going outside of the. A class xenophobia I’ve noticed in people whose education doesn’t extend beyond high school (and nearly everyone I’ve met who’s a Southerner.) In short all she wanted was to fit in (the army being a perfect place for that) and I couldn’t care less about the whole thing. Which is my blessing and my curse.

Let’s face it. It isn’t that I just enjoy crossing these invisible social lines. It simply is that I often don’t see them. This can cause all sorts of odd and embarrassing situations. Only embarrassing though if you care.

The departure was a tearful affair, and it threw me into a depression that lasted days. I was lonely. My one outlet was getting stoned and drunk at Rocky Horror. By that time I had made friends with a new group of people, the core of which founded the Dashwood Society. Our motto was, “Anything for a laugh,” and we attempted to fulfill this at every opportunity.

This is pivotal to the story, because through Rocky Horror I made the acquaintance of a wonderful new individual, who is now a trucker through America’s heartland, Rob. At the time, Rob was just some guy with long hair, that showed up regularly at Rocky, with a laugh like a braying mule. I wasn’t until I attended the luxurious Erie Community College North Campus, and was part of it’s famous Honors Society that Rob and I became fast friends.

Through him I met a host of other people: Ian, Atomic Don and Mary, plus many sundry others. He lived at, the then infamous, 64 Windspear. The parties at which made Comstock’s pale in comparison. I later became friends with several of them, but was chiefly known as “that weird guy Rob hangs out with.” He lived there with Ian and a number of others, who had established it as “THE” party palace, where alcohol was on tap 24 hours a day. Many times I met fascinating inebriated people, had long talks and formed deep ties of friendship, then never saw them again.

My first remembered meeting with Mary was at Rocky Horror. She and Rob came in, said, “Hi,” and sat down. Quite a ground breaker. Still what do these things matter? Mary had moved in with the 64 Windspear crowd, after an altercation with her parents, about her dropping out of college.

Rob and I became fast friends. We hung out, gamed, shot-the-shit, drank and generally fucked around. Then tragedy struck 64 Windspear, like a tragic thing doing tragic things. All of the purchasing and distributing of alcohol caused people to shockingly come up late with the rent. A couple of months after I met them, they all got evicted. Rob and Mary were homeless, and I, again always generous with things not mine, offered them a place to stay at my mothers. My Mom, after coming home and meeting two strangers and being told that they would be living there for an undetermined amount of time, welcomed them. Rob was given the upstairs room, next to the attic, and Mary the basement apartment. If you think Mary got the raw deal, I have to point out that it was summer and the un-air-conditioned upper floor became incredibly hot. This is something Aaron can certainly attest to, when he lived in it for four months one summer in 92, only to pay for one month, and now has finally paid the back-rent in 2008. My mother says , “Thank you,” Aaron.

Life turned as normal. Rob bought his infamous mail truck, and joined the NOCO team. Mary got a job at Wilson Farms. They stayed for a bout two months and then found a place in the upstairs apartment of 84 Windspear which had been repopulated with friends of the originals, so the parties kept on going. The only problem was that Rob and Mary had neglected to tell the landlord that they were moving in, so on periodic occasions they would have to franticly pack up their stuff and scurry below decks, when the owners brought perspective tenants by.

I sent and received various letters to Carrie all through boot camp. She had come home briefly, and we spent two weeks together before she left again.

Mary’s and my friendship endured, and without my noticing it, expanded. At the time, of course, I didn’t see the tell tale signs of Mary’s initial attraction to me. As I spent most of my life just drifting along and only half paying attention, I tended to miss subtle hints until they were thrust upon me. It culminated one night when we drunkenly exited the Windspear apartment and walked down the unlit back stairs. I was a step below her, talking inanities, when she said,

“Dan?”

I turned around, replying, “What’s up?”

When she grabbed my head and attempted to kiss me. Due to the landlords being too cheap to supply light bulbs, she misjudged where my mouth was and slid a probing tongue up a nostril.

As dignified as the scene was, she quickly recovered and apologized. We had a nice heart to heart where I explained that I was engaged, had genuine feelings for Carrie, and that we should just be friends. The phrase “head up my ass” should probably surface here. Not to say that I wasn’t flattered and into Mary, but I had made my choice and decided to stick by it. With perfect hindsight this was the right and wrong thing to do.

Still we continued on having a good laugh and enjoying life as much as we could. I can say that with Carrie, I probably enjoyed the idea of being engaged more than the actuality of it. Still a time of reckoning came, and I saved up some cash and offered to fly down to some hellhole in Virginia, where Carrie was stationed, to stay a few days on her base. She seemed genuinely pleased with the idea.

From what I understand, if all of the military bases in Virginia were shut down, the state’s entire economy would collapse. Nice, and it shows. From what I saw, the entire state was filled with greasy, ill-kempt rednecks, wandering around, getting drunk, and beating on each other. “You don’t want to mess with me man. I’m a hurricane, locked inside a box of tsunamis!” Flaunting some idiotic macho posturing best left in the school yard, but seems to occupy the majority of unofficial military discourse. Bluff, bully, big talk, drink, fight, such is a soldiers life.

I flew into some airport, and sat around for a few hours waiting to be picked up. Finally she and some others did arrive. We embraced, but I noticed a certain hesitation in her hug. Like she did really know what to do. She introduced me to some of her friends, with whom I didn’t fit in at all. My hair was long and curly, pulled back into a ponytail, and my dress sense was haphazard. As one black guy stated, “Boy sticks out like a sore thumb around here.”

It was later explained to me that Carrie’s actions over the next few days were quite deliberate. She didn’t want to be attached to me anymore, but was too immature or passive-aggressive to tell me. She decided to piss me off in order that I would end it, without her having to.

Right away she acted as if I were a fifth wheel. She would go off and talk to people, and not introduce me. Didn’t want to go anywhere or do anything. I was staying at her barracks on base, which was verboten, so I was not to do anything when she wasn’t there. The days passed in excruciating boredom. Lucky for me I enjoyed reading, or I would’ve gone crazy.

I was only there three days and it was the longest of my life. We went each night to the club on the base, where she went out of her way to dance with other men in front of me, and then tell me about it. She often got massively drunk, talked a lot of shit, and often slipped off; leaving me behind to do whatever.

It wasn’t all bad. I met a couple of good guys, and we hung out and drank. However, having little knowledge or interest in military culture, our conversations were somewhat limited, whereas that’s all they talked about. Looking back at it, I think they only enjoyed my company because I listened to what they said, without trying to one-up them, and agreed with whatever they said. Which is my habit when confronted with an area beyond my immediate understanding.

Still I was pissed. This “fucking bitch” was acting all kinds of assholic for reasons I didn’t understand. But I thought, I’m out of here in a few days, just let it slide and go home. She was always funny and didn’t react to changing situations well. What’s a decent man to do? It’s all for love (or desperation).

It all came to a head the night before I left. She was drunk of course, needing a few belts of Dutch Courage to face the moment. It started with her bitching at me for sitting on her bed too hard. Making some bullshit claim that I could break it, and that she would wind up paying for it. An obvious attempt to create an argument that would lead to a break up.

My “whatever” attitude, refusal to rise to the bait, and sprawling on the bed with shoes on (ala Mike’s dorm); all of this took the wind out of her sails. So she sat down, and said,

“What do you think’s going to happen between the two of us?”

I outlined a naïve plan that seemed plausible at the time. She sat there stupidly looking down, and shaking her head as if in a Rain Man state.

“I just don’t think it’s going to work.”

I sat up. “What do you mean?” Knowing full well what it meant, but deciding to drag out the agony even longer.

“Us. I don’t see it happening.”

“Umm … uh.”

“Sorry.”

“Okay.” I said, not winning her over with eloquence. I took her hand, kissed her and started to take the engagement ring off of her finger. She snaked her hand back.

“What are you doing?”

“The engagement is over. Give me the ring back.”

“But this means so much to me and…” Blah blah blah; she went on. I don’t remember the specifics, but it was sappy, drunken and sentimental. By that time I was passed it. It was over. My heart was broken and I was dying inside, but I wouldn’t show it. I was determined not to give in and go out with some class and dignity. In the end, I had to wait for her to pass out and then take the ring off of her finger. Very classy.

She woke up the next morning and the ring was never mentioned again. I assumed that she forgot about it, but perhaps not. Neither of us having transportation, we had to catch a lift to the airport from a totally obnoxious prick, who spent the entire time bragging about how great he was. He would then ask me a question about my life, and go on about how he would never do anything like that, and how beneath him it was. A perfect end to a perfect evening. She was quiet on the journey to the airport, held my hand in the cart and gave a long kiss just before I left. Actually, I got to the airport three hours early, but she didn’t want to wait around, and I wasn’t in the mood for anymore nonsense, so I just said goodbye.

One might think that a period of mourning is in order here, and there was about twelve hours worth, from break up to hook up. Moving on was a lot easier than one might hope. First of all, living in another state, it was easy to cut her out of my life. I wasn’t going to accidentally run into her again or anything embarrassing like that. Plus, most of her friends got on my nerves so I didn’t socialize with them, when I wasn’t with her. Thirdly, in the back of my mind I felt that it wouldn’t have lasted anyway, so I guess I was just glad the entire thing was over with. As for Carrie, well, she should have tried harder. Still I was alone, and didn’t like the feeling.

I flew back to Buffalo re-reading James Thurber’s “My Life and Hard Times.” My mother picked me up at the airport, and was relieved to hear that my engagement was over. We never talked about it after that. I was depressed and needed cheering up. After throwing my shit in my room. I wandered over to 64 Windspear for some liquid cheer.

Rob was watching TV and Mary was sitting on the floor reading a book. They both greeted me warmly.

“Hey Dan,” She said, “How did it go with Carrie?”

“We, uh, broke up.” I said softly.

“Really?”

She smiled, and I caught a glint in her eye. Well what do you know? I thought, looks like my half day of hell is finally over.

Not Gary Trudeau

            By the title of this piece you are no doubt expecting some type of outrageous adventure featuring an encounter with the celebrated author of Doonesbury and his wry look at the political landscape. You are wrong, this has nothing to do with him, and if you ended up here searching for said person as did hundreds of idiots to my ‘Academia Waltz‘ post looking for Berkley Breathed, you obviously have a taste for self indulgent drivel and should linger to read this and the rest of my excellent posts.

      No, this post is about Celeste Trudeau, who already found this blog and commented, thus forcing me to a tad more genteel than normal if I want to avoid once again issuing sincere groveling apologies. The vast majority of my time in the Air Force somehow got spent playing big brother and paling around with a younger female airman who really liked me, but just not that way. Celeste fell in between Carrie Pierce and Tiffany and our time of hanging out together was limited to the brief period after I moved into Cordoba and had the place to myself before shipping off to Saudi.

      She came into the shop like all female airmen do; an object of much speculation and interest from the males and immediately threatening to most of the few females who had grown used to the status quo and feared a reduction in the scarcity of their kind. Plus she was the only blonde and thereby rare and threatening. She ended up in my area, TISS, on dayshift and I managed through some well executed cockblocking to be the one to show her around as none of the women were raising their hands. She also didn’t have a car so like a slavish drooling fool I volunteered to schlep her around anywhere she wanted to go; a condition she enjoyed many times a day.

      Please understand that at the time I was still under the impression that women could be won over through over the top kindness, accommodation, generosity and infinite patience. Ha! The perils of being a nice guy in the prime of youth, cluelessly pummeled with passive rejection until the aggressive beast finally comes forth and puts down the decisive foot she was secretly seeking all along. There will be none of this in this tale as I was not done finishing last quite yet. I attribute my marriage, among other things, to the fact that when she originally suggested we start as friends I made it clear that we would certainly not, having had enough of that sort of thing. Perhaps Dan will one day learn the lesson to be less tender and don the shackles of marital bond as well.

      In any event, she became a near constant companion for a few months, generally engaging in animal related activities. Please still your filthy thoughts; I feel I have disclosed my negative progress in that area clearly enough! No, we instead spent time searching out various zoos and nature type museums and parks. I had never been that big a fan of the zoo but my need to accommodate the modest request of a comely young woman to stare at unmoving caged beasts potentially even less enthralled than I to be there.

      One of the things I had begun to notice was that I was universally volunteering to pay for these excursions and usually the meal or meals that inevitably came along with them. In the words of Bill the Butcher, “You pay to enjoy the presence of my company”; how apropos. Having run into nearly the same situation with Carrie but a year prior I initially determined this would not be a repeat, at least until we started dating, were that ever to occur. She countered this deftly; her feminine sensibilities no doubt tingling at the prospect of an uncomfortable money discussion. She had a mother, you see, on grave disability that no where near covered her expenses and thus she sent nearly the whole of her paycheck home each 1st and 15th that the sainted woman might eke out an existence. Faced with such a touching example of familial sacrifice I stifled all impulse to slide the check over to her side of the table with a triumphant look. I do believe the claim was true, if only to feel less a patsy.

      I started looking for more free activities to engage in to ease the strain on my wallet and found a little nature preserve in Poquoson to hike around in that didn’t charge admission. From there we began an earnest and concentrated effort to attempt to steal turtles. We noted the little turtles swimming about by the shore down a steep embankment and she became obsessed with having one. Although I knew it would be foolish or worse to face court martial for smuggling a salmonella ridden reptile in my pants, she was so enamored with the idea that I knew winning her over might just be so simple as poaching the little varmints. My failure then was maddening as despite two trips back to the site with various bits of equipment and containers I never even came close to netting one of the buggers.

      Like every woman I met in the Air Force, and despite keeping trim, she sure liked to eat and I was encouraged to develop my cooking a bit further. Knaus used to always say, “The fastest way to person’s heart is though their chest”, a bit I think he nipped from Mad Magazine. I was a traditionalist, never quite mastering Knausian philosophy, and focused on the stomach to bend others to my will.

      Prior to the AF my cooking experience was limited to the sardines sautéed in soy sauce and parmesan cheese I tormented the Comstock residents with, as well as a seafood potluck dish I brought to some function of Megan O’Boyle’s that ended up making a lot of people sick. I vehemently denied it was my tasty concoction of well aged shrimp cooked rare and cast suspicion on the potato salad, but in truth, my guilt was obvious. Months prior to meeting Celeste I got into a jam and needed help from some of the shop guys to help fix my car. As a bribe I promised good food; no take out, as what passes for pizza, wings, and subs in Virginia was ghastly. Somehow, I became inspired and concocted spicy hot chili, pulled pork in the Crockpot, and what was to become my signature dish for years after, my special Greek pizza. The success of it all inspired me and I became the uncontested master chef of our group for the duration.

      Celeste somehow managed to throw my mojo off but good with that as I’m fairly certain that everything I made for her in this timeframe was complete crap; a crushing circumstance as I was relying on my culinary prowess to shake her apples just a bit. I invited her for dinner one night, Bryan safely in Saudi, and offered to cook anything she liked. She settled on fried chicken and garlic mashed potatoes. Both I claimed significant expertise in preparing and was confident I would meet expectations. The chicken I burned to a crisp somehow, but still the better dish. The garlic mashed were atrocious as I apparently selected the most pungent bitter head and mixed in quantities far too vast. She spit out the first bite, though I was adamant in refusing to admit error and consumed a whole plate. I’m sure my breath thereafter was pleasant wafting the stench of the corrupted potatoes about the room.

      I attempted to impress her with food once again as we had mutually decided to get on a health kick, work out each day, and bring fresh salads topped with grilled chicken to work for lunches. I volunteered to prepare the chicken. She had some hesitation but no kitchen, so reluctantly agreed. I bought a family pack of chicken tenders and was determined to come up with 5 unique and succulent marinade recipes: Italian dressing, garlic and oil, Asian (using sesame oil and soy sauce), spicy, and lemon basil. I don’t know what happened. The Italian came out OK but the rest were a nightmare of bad taste. The garlic was once again pungent enough to ward away vampires as far as London. The Asian were stygian strips of mystery meat not even fit for the Navy (a friend of mine in the Navy told me about loading supplies on to the ship and noting that the packages of meat were labeled ‘Fit only for animal and military consumption’). The spicy were too hot and vinegary and the lemon basil just plain weird.

      I had split up the results between us and she returned her half with regrets soon after and I could not blame her in the least. Any ideas of becoming charming in this manner had long set sail and it was well another year before she would consent to eat something I had a hand in. The bad fingers were consigned to my freezer where they lurked waiting for a hungry drunk until the place was finally vacated. No one was every quite that hungry or quite that drunk to enjoy the Virginia equivalent to Mrs Mooney’s pickles.

      The peak of summer hit and with it came the annual mandatory fun day, otherwise known as Wing Sports Day. The purpose of said event was that each shop would field individuals or teams to compete in a sort of Langley Olympics. Since the prospect of playing tug of war against the missile goons and other such silly contests lacked universal appeal, the Wing King (the cleverly rhyming name for the base commander) brought in Budweiser trucks that dispensed 50 cent drafts. The lines were always long with those of us wisely imbibing in 100 degree heat in between athletic contests.

      I would like to make the observation that the Air Force, and probably the military in general, is the alcoholic’s wet dream. I can’t think of an event, no matter how small or insignificant that didn’t have free or very cheep beer or booze provided. On top of that, every single base has a fully stocked liquor store called the Class 6 that is open from the early morning hours to late at night, and is generally situated somewhere remote enough on the base that everyone has to drive there, especially from the dorms. Yet even more telling is that aside from all the name brands of hard liquor, they also stock ‘Military Special’ brands of all the spirits that are significantly cheaper. Why spend $30 on a liter of Dewar’s when you can get two liters of Military Special Scotch for $7.99, tax free? None of us were brave enough to try that swill, preferring to stick to safe old beer. As a side note they carried good old Genesee Cream Ale as a premium beer; the same cheap suds we got at the Unity Mart for $5 a twelve pack fetched $8 a six.

      Celeste and I paled around at the sports day doing our best to avoid getting pulled into any athletic contests. It was pointed out to us by people of rank that participation in something, anything, athletic was mandatory given the theme of the day. Celeste and I, as well as a few other lazy folks brainstormed for a bit and decided to go bowling. Although not on the official roster of events, bowling was a sport, wasn’t it? It certainly looked so on ‘Kingpin’, so were it discovered that was what we decided to do; no one could fault us for non-participation, right? We headed over to the base bowling ally, nicely air conditioned, rented some shoes, got a couple pitchers and bowled a few games to while the time away.

      We wandered back to the sports day events afterward and came to conclusion that things were going to start wrapping up soon. Most importantly, our assistant shop chief and fearless leader, SMSgt Wood, was no where to be found. She was a force to be reckoned with; the epitome of senior noncommissioned officer leadership, tough as nails, yet wise and fair; we were lucky to have her. Crossing her was not recommended. Assuming she left for the day, Celeste convinced me to take her back to the dorms. I was hoping to hang out with her longer, but she claimed heat exhaustion.

      A half hour after I got back to my apartment, I got a phone call from Celeste. Sgt Wood had busted her at the dorms and “forced” her to give up me, Tiffany and Harley as well. I wasn’t very pleased about this at all and reported into work. We got quite a dressing down, me most of all as Wood apparently viewed me as the most respectable of the bunch, and sentenced us to the rest of the day working in the shop rather than seek more formal military discipline for our desertion. The three of us were quite unhappy with Celeste for breaking the code of junior enlisted non-disclosure. We had endured over a year of Charlie Ford’s horrid rhino attacks in stoic uncomfortable silence only to have our own minor misdeeds revealed by a newbie songbird. I began to question my pursuit just a bit.

      I questioned it a hell of a lot more a few days later. Tiffany, still probably irritated over being busted, revealed to me that the reason Celeste was so eager to get back to the dorms was because she had plans with another fellow she had been seeing. While she and I were definitely not dating and therefore she was technically doing nothing wrong, her complete lack of mention of this shadowy douche bag drove me toward a hasty conclusion that the deliberate omission may have been a calculated move. I was providing transportation; frequent meals (now from restaurants) and I dare say quality companionship. I was understandably feeling less than charitable at the notion that some punk with a full head of hair was doing all of the receiving as I continued to give. I immediately made myself much less available offering no explanation; though I think Tiffany, now becoming a much closer friend, told her off on my behalf.

      I went to Saudi (the next story to follow) and when I returned found she had an official boyfriend to supply all of her needs and was happy with the outcome, as my interests had moved on as well. We remained cordial friends thereafter and she even moved to the midshift team I lead for a time. That in itself was an interesting experience, especially when one of the others, a skinny high strung punk named Black declared she would never have as small an ass as he, forcing me to both beat him down and discuss with her the better qualities of her caboose in as professional a manner as one can in such situations.

      History has a strange way of repeating itself. Around the time I was leaving I found that Jeff Lawinger, arguably the nicest guy anyone has ever met and somewhat resembling Jerry O’Connell, had taken my old role as her cabana boy. I was sorely tempted to step in to warn him, “You are too nice Jeff! This approach never, ever works!”, but decided to mind my business. To my astonishment, I later received word that the two had married; a fact that I cheered to the heavens that a genuine nice guy finished first. Hm, I guess it was me.

Xmas, Hot Tubs, and Gloves

Recently my wife and I saw a promo for the Fox show “Moment of Truth”.  They ask someone questions while hooked up to a lie detector.  In the normal format of TV game shows now, the more questions you get correct, in this case answer honestly, the more money you win.  This puts the contestant in the position of admitting they peed in the soup in order to win $50,000, but living with the shame as everyone they know is aware of that urine is their special ingredient.  My wife and I have often said you must be an idiot to appear on this program.  Unless I was single, there is no way I would appear on this show.  Even then.  You know they dig out everything they can find to make you squirm, because that is good TV, and after all this is FOX – the channel of the lowest common denominator.

On this particular promo the contestant was asked “Have you ever had a relationship with a co-worker?”  This caused me to wonder if during a lie detector test you can ask for clarification.  I know your final answer has to be YES or NO, but what if you do not understand the question, or just need context.  Think the national spelling bee, “Could you us it in a sentence?”  I imagine you cannot, and your YES/NO answer is based on how YOU interpret the question.  The point of this case of the show was to get the guy to admit he cheated on his wife, but what if he says YES to having a relationship with a co-worker, but he was single at the time?  In my case, I would have to answer YES, but it was a date. I had long forgotten about this incident until this promo jogged my memory, and since I am running out of “Comstock” stories I am raking my lobe for more recent stories.  This leads me to my story.

I have had dates with co-workers, but this is not one of them.  Several jobs ago, I was still the new guy when the Christmas party rolled around.  As the new guy I did not know anyone well.  The party started at the bar across the street from the office.  Strangely enough this as near ODS White (Larry’s Snyder store).  Maybe this was why weirdness ensued.  The party started good.  I had some beers with some people and we played darts.  One of the QA guys brought his girlfriend.  On one of my trips to the bar for another i got into a conversation with her.  Nothing special, just normal chit-chat.  We ended up talking for awhile, until the boss decided to move the party to his place, just a few blocks away.

Nothing strange so far.  It is coming.

I followed some co-worker to the boss’s house.  It was a pretty cool place.  People were everywhere.  In the kitchen, of course, inspecting and drinking from his impressive wine collection.  In the finished basement there was a foosball table, and even more people hanging around the living room.  There were a lot more people at the house than had been at the bar, I later found out that the boss had turned it into a full blown party, inviting the neighbors and his other friends.  Almost as soon as I walked through the front door I was hounded by the girlfriend.  I said hello, but unlike our conversation at the bar, this turned creepy.  I am not known for being an observant man when it comes to the signals of women, so only the most brick-over-the-head signals get through (I hope I am better now), but even I could immediately tell she was hitting on me big time.  I lost her by quickly moving from room to room “surveying” to party.  This plan worked well until I was brought to a sudden halt when I got to the hot tub the boss had on his enclosed back porch.  He boss’s wife getting into the hot tub wearing a bikini.  She was an attractive woman.  To make me gasp more, there where other co-workers in the hot tub, and the the wife, and the boss himself, were inviting everyone to join in the hot tub!  I felt like I had walked into “Boogie Nights.”

I turned to leave the scene and ran right in to the girlfriend, who was in her bathing suit (WHY DID EVERYONE HAVE THEIR BATHING SUITS?!) and was trying real hard to get me in the hot tub. “I don’t have my suit”, I said.  “Don’t worry about it!”, she replied.  I already had enough clues to beat feet, but that was over the top, down the hill, and over the top of the next hill.

I found successful hiding in the basemen playing foosball.  At one point the girlfriend, apparently done with her swim, came down to find me again, but left due to my faked engrossment in foosball.  After a few games everyone was tired of foos and headed upstairs.  I took the opportunity to leave the party, before I was cornered in the basement; never a good place to be.  Such ended my Friday night.

The next Monday I was asked about my conversation with Patrick’s girlfriend (only now do I remember his name and I am too lazy to re-write the above).  My inquisitor was Shea, another QA person, one of the few people at the job I spoke to on a regular basis, if you consider IM “speaking”.  I told her the story, and she agreed it was an odd scene with the hot tub.  Oh, I forgot to mention the boss’s wife also worked in the office (WRITER’s NOTE: I am too apathetic to fix prepositional phrases).  I consulted She on if I should tell Patrick.  I wanted to, but I barely knew him.  She relieved me of the duty by volunteering to tell him herself.  The girlfriend had a history of cheating on him already.

In the end Patrick confronted his girlfriend about it.  She denied it.  He dumped her.  They got back together.  I saw her once more when she delivered cookies to the office several months later.  She quietly and shamefully said hi to me as she offer me a cookie.  The cookie was not memorable in any way.  I lost a glove.  It was the first and only nice pair of gloves I have even owned.  I was upset I lost the glove.

The Official Story – Anguished 12 Hours

In the guise of Wolf I am attempting to force Dan’s hand. The most anticipated post, after the creamer story, is “The Anguished 12 Hours“. Readers of this blog will recall that “The Official Story” is the one we make up because those involved will not disclose the real details. I bring out this trusty old reliable once more.

Dan is a man. A man of strange tastes, and even stranger company. In the past, I often said their is much to dislike about Dan, but he is a strong magnet for entertainment. I have also said I don’t feel bad for Dan when he suffers. The clear exception to this is his luck when exposing real feelings. You didn’t think he had feelings, if you discount anger, spite, cruelty… I can go on and on, but you have all read the stories. I would even classify a new emotion of “bile” with Dan.

Any who. There were only two times Dan ever exposed his gushy insides. The first was with Carrie, of the Frank sisters. We have already told of the whirlwind romance over the summer, and her leaving for the army. We have also hear of her rebuke of Dan when he visited her in sincerity, and the end of their engagement. This is the first (of only two) times I felt sorry for Dan. He exposed his heart form the deep, dank cave it survives in; much like the ere depths where Frodo found Golum. In return he received a terrible shun. We thought he would be in recovery for a prolonged period. At least we would have thought that if anyone of us had learned of this before the end of the Anguished 12 Hours.

After returning from visiting Carrie, Dan sunk into a pile on the floor and wept in a manner of legend. To his aid came the (at this time) reclusive Rob. Rob drove Dan around and during that time Dan met up with Rob’s roommate – Mary. sparks flew from coast to coast as a true beauty and the dirty, filthy, beast encounter occurred. This was the most improbable start of a multi-year relationship.

It was several days after before any of us learned of this. When interviewed, as was a requirement in a situation like this, Dan was asked how did this happen so fast? Weren’t you upset?

“I was in inconceivable pain. I was inconsolable. It was the most anguished 12 hours I ever spent, but I am good now.”

The moral of the story? Even the “worst thing that has ever happened to you” will only last about 12 hours or so.

Animal House

            The title of this post is designed to waste the time of eager googlers seeking further information on Otter and Bluto, whose names I included to make the search more relevant. Since out little blog does not have the glitz and glamour to attract people in large numbers legitimately, from time to time we must resort to outright deception; a tactic I learned well from the other authors. All aside, today’s dissertation is a frank and truthful expose of these 4 dudes in my shop at Langley who paved the way for the antics we would continue once freed from the oppressive dorms.

            Kent, Dario, Jake, and Harley arrived at Langley about 8 to 12 months before my crew and were the first wave of young airmen to arrive en masse in some time. All of them still lived in the dorms when we arrived and served as guides for my group when we got there and I would like to advertise that our corruption could not have been begun by a finer group of mischievous tosspots. Kent was the undisputed leader; a Clay Aiken look alike with both the most vibrant personality and highest alcohol tolerance of anyone I have ever met. Dario seemed along for the ride and both the most temperamental and loyal of the group. Jake was a young father, had the driest wit and a proud misogynist, referring to all women, ex’s and relatives alike as “dirty little whores”. Last came Harley, actually Christened ‘Walter’ from the deepest backwoods Arkansas whose speech became increasingly hillbilly to the point of unintelligibility the further sloshed he got. They later folded Josh into their group; a strange red head who would sing your praises to the heavens when drunk, then despise your very presence on earth when momentarily sober once again.

            Independently, each on his own was a party animal and I can think of near countless experiences full of blurred and fuzzy details, so will only bother with those I can recall with some coherency. My first experience partying with Kent was in the early days when he still lived in the dorms. Kent like to switch things up to avoid tedium and we all awaited the call to arms each weekend, usually to be disappointed when he chose others and we would be stuck with the losers who lost the draw. On one of my first weekends I was in the right place at the right time and got the call forward along with my roommate Jim, another called Krusty (Kent liked to make cute little names for everyone) and some other idiot I can’t remember. Bryan, John and the rest looked on kicking the dirt with sour grapes as I was pulled, albeit temporarily, into the circle of greatness.

            The planned adventure that evening was a trip down to VA Beach, a thrilling place to go everyone’s first year on post until downgraded to too much of a nuisance after due to the 45 minute drive time. Beer in hand, Kent volunteered to drive and pulled into the first gas station outside the gate to get a 12 pack of road beers for the trip down. Though there were only 5 of us and some only had one beer, the pack was cashed by the time we hit the parking lot behind ocean avenue, Kent having consumed the lion’s share; his right as our driver for the evening. The suspicion was somewhat confirmed as we stood watch as he voided a good half gallon of processed suds from his bladder on to the side of a van.

            The time down there was your basic pub crawl with little to note that probably would have gone on indefinitely until the majority of us decided we were tired of paying tourist prices and insisted Kent take us back to Hampton. He agreed on the condition that we stop for another 12 pack for the ride back and that the evening was by no means over. Once again, the beer was gone by the time we hit Harpoon Larry’s, about 3 or 4 miles from the south gate. I don’t remember any of us in the back even so much as touching one, though Kent made a bee line to the men’s room the moment we got inside. I had decided well before then that I had enough and simply wanted to go back to the dorms, but Kent wouldn’t hear of it. I was forced to pull the first of one of my many famous disappearing acts; an inspirational feat that actually landed someone in jail, but that is a tale for another day.

            On the pretext of having to use the bathroom, I ducked out the door though an incoming crowd and slipped around the back of the place as not to be seen though a window. My area of greatest risk of discovery was to take Armistead, the main road back to base, so instead I cut down side streets to reach the much lesser used LaSalle gate, where I knew they would never look for me. It would be a significant blow to my self described prowess as a sneak to be discovered by the drunken posse. Once though the gate, I cut across a series of fields until I reached the dorms and finally collapsed on the couch after the 5 mile trek.

            The next day I found that my disappearance did indeed baffle them and a search was mounted up and down Armistead to no avail until it was assumed I was either dead or had gotten lucky. Jim told me that he and one of the others had also wanted to come back, but Kent refused to attempt the gate after having consumed some 20 odd beers and dropped them off at some disreputable friend’s of his where they crashed uncomfortably on an uncarpeted floor. Kent and Krusty had gotten the hotel address of some girls they met at the bar and decided to try to make good use of the information. The address was poorly written, however, and they were chased away by a security guard for making a ruckus. Rather than call it a night, they went to the store for eggs and tormented the man with well lobbed slime grenades until he finally called the real police. While he claimed not to hold my desertion against me, I never again received the tap, and truly, it was all right by me.

            Before the rise of the House of Shame, Kent also began a new mid-shift tradition by finding the one place in town that served beer at 7:00 AM. Understand that mid-shift, or ‘mids’ was the graveyard shift of 11:00 PM to 7:00 AM that I worked most of my time at Langley. It was eternally punishing on the body, but included the least amount of supervision, making it ideal for those of us not so enamored to the showier parts of military tradition. In any case, before Kent, those of us who might wish to sip a beer after a long shift on Friday were out of luck. Then he found Fertitta’s.

Fertitta’s was a little diner in a strip mall on Mercury that served greasy bacon and eggs to the good folks in town who liked a little hot breakfast on their way to work. Whether it was originally in the standard offerings or not, Kent persuaded Mercy behind the counter to draw fresh brew from the tap early in the morning and keep ‘em coming. We would occupy the far end of the counter, sucking down beer and cigarettes while playing the pin ball machine or trivia game, always in full uniform of course. The looks we received were priceless. Once she got to know us better, Mercy revealed a hidden talent that she could only be coaxed into on rare occasion and only for people who had been there at least 10 times. It was known as ‘what’s behind door number 3’.

I was not a frequent enough attendee to receive the show for quite some time and those who had seen it were sworn to secrecy, never breaking the vow, but marveling at the spectacle in guarded language. Finally I was trusted enough to be initiated in the club. Mercy would open the door to the third walk in cooler behind the counter (hence door number three), remove an enormous frozen sausage of length and girth to put Ron Jeremy to shame, and deep throat the thing right down to the tips of her fingers. It was a sight both nauseating and awe inspiring at the same time. I have a picture of her with the sausage in question that I will have to post in the near future. Toward the end of my tour I convinced Mercy to show my friend Tiffany who was so impressed that she tipped her $10 out of sheer wonderment.

mercy-whats-behind-door-number-3-at-fertittas

The dorms could not contain Kent and the rest for very long and they were granted funding to move off base just a half year after I got there. Kent, Dario, Jake, Harley and Josh rented out a big old house about 10 miles from base that rapidly became known as ‘Party Central’, ‘Animal House’, the ‘House of Shame’ and most alluring, ‘House of Ill Repute’. It reminded me so much of Comstock that my blood boiled in jealousy while my more rational side was eternally grateful that I was to be trapped in the dorms until less outrageous living arrangements were available. They didn’t exactly have a Jason, but Harley filled in nicely to a point as he was certainly the messiest, but also the strongest, probably saving him from the types of torture his Buffalo counterpart received.

The House, like Comstock, was a fantastic place to go any time day or night to party, where you were guaranteed to become inebriated quickly, for the full duration, and meet all manner of interesting folks. Small gatherings were always the best. They had a living room/ bar area set up between the two wings of the house that looked out into the yard and offered full view of the shed where Harley brewed his homemade moonshine. There was absolutely nothing about the lad that wasn’t pure hillbilly and he once even disclosed that the Air Force made him take speech classes upon entering so that ordinary people could understand him. For some reason the house members took a particular shine to playing the collected works of the Steve Miller Band, the words and lyrics I became intimately familiar with after many a long night and long way home.

The best events were the annual Halloween parties they threw, two of which I was able to attend. The great part about these parties was the natural talent Kent had to recruit women into coming. Not just Air Force women but genuine civilian townies. He would bring Alex with him, the undisputed pretty boy of the group, and convince all manner of pretty lasses that coming to his rambling old house in costume was a goodme-and-tiffany-halloween-1999-at-animal-house idea and even managed to achieve an unprecedented ratio of women over men that had ever been achieved in a military party which were by rule sausage fests. Furthermore, he offered incentive for many of the attendees to come dressed as Catholic school girls which they took up, but unfortunately, so did some of the guys.

My own costume for these events was appropriately lewd to the point where even Dan might nod his head in agreement. Feeling spunky, I decided to go as a Private Dick, the slang term for a private detective that went out of favor in the last 20 years, so likely a term unknown to Aaron. I decided to make use of obvious pun and after donning a trench coat and fedora, I added to the ensemble a spent paper towel roll that I stuffed for firmness and strapped to my leg. I created a magnificent head with duct tape and Styrofoam and gave the appearance of a very well endowed man just super glad to see you. Most men at the party gave me a considerably wide berth and animal-house-halloween-guy-in-dress-josh-dario-fernandez-kent-lambrecht-will-the-thrill-front-some-womandespite all expectations to the contrary, I received the greatest amount of spontaneous female attention of any event I ever attended, up to and including my bachelor party. I recycled the idea twice more, such was the animal allure it held.

Attendance always included a nominal fee, but the refreshments were never short of spectacular. Aside from the expected kegs of swill, multiple brands of liquor were available, as were mixers, specialty drinks prepared by Kent himself, Jell-O shots carried about by random women they would press into service and even a fabled ice luge. The luge was a huge 200 lb block of ice they would have delivered, then carve channels into with hot water shortly before the party. The block would be set up on a table in the garage ramping downward. Interested drinkers would press their lips against one of the channel outflows at the bottom and receive a well chilled shot of Rumple Mintz poured from the top. The block lasted most of the night until someone came up with the notion of doing flaming shots, which led to both rapid deterioration of the luge and the idea man being cast from the gathering.

The boys ran a tight ship at the parties. If you knew them, you were usually pretty safe, although more than one was forcibly brought back the following day to repair some minor damage. If you were a relative stranger, best mind your manners. In the best cases, the offenders and their friends would be given the boot for causing a scene, starting trouble, or sassing one of the house members. Starting a fight was a much worse idea and I recall one poor fool starting with Dario, leading to the unfortunate slob being held down and repeatedly slammed in the face until nearly unconscious before being dumped on the front lawn. Ejected people often felt the need for revenge and would call the police on the party. Each time this happened, Kent would go out, talk to them and everything would be all right with the responding officers invited to swing on by after their shift.

What was also not a good idea, Halloween or any other party, was to fall asleep on the premises unguarded. The risk of having one’s eyebrows shaved off, nails painted or twirlly moustaches drawn on with permanent marker was just too great. Such acts were usually perpetrated by the Magnificent Seven; the seven last people standing after everyone had either left or passed out. I only once managed to achieve such distinction, and usually managed to find a ride on other occasions. Once, tired beyond belief, I sought out my ride only to find him passed out and decorated nicely in a corner. Fearing the worst, I found a large closet on the second floor, crawled in and managed to jam the door from being opened from the outside. Entry was attempted more than once, but I kept silent as the door jangled violently and my prospective attackers eventually went away.

If you survived there until the following morning, usually red eyed and exhausted even if sleep was obtained, Kent would always be up, chipper, and usually sipping a beer which he referred to as a ‘morning pop’. He would then pass around shots of apple schnapps to ease the hang over and begin suggesting activities for the day as if the previous evening had been spent playing Scrabble with some tea and biscuits. We simply never had the strength and he would head off to find someone who couldn’t attend the bash while the rest of us staggered home to recover with perhaps a stop for some nail polish remover or an eyebrow pencil on the way.

Aside from the normal hospitality and abuse of guests, female visitors, particularly those who chose to engage in a dalliance with one of the housemates, often had their picture taken on the way out the next morning. The Polaroid of the poor maiden who made the obvious mistake of sleeping with one of those swine was hung on the ‘wall of shame’, a cork board over which was installed a locking glass case to discourage take backs. Aside from these as there were not enough to fill all the space, were pictures of the rest of us caught in a moment of stupidity or simply looking foolish.

I myself made an appearance there from a New Year’s Eve party in which I imbibed much of John Tokarcik’s Smurf Piss – a blue alcoholic concoction with 18 alleged ingredients, none of which John would disclose. Though one glass would do ya, I had two or three that night, still a sight better than Bryan who spent the midnight hour spewing electric blue over a white picket fence. I somehow ended up dancing the evening away with a scantily dressed African-American woman of very generous proportions. Kent managed to get a perfect shot of her grinding herself into my thigh. It became known as the “Bonita Chiquita” picture and was passed around the shop, photocopied and otherwise distributed to anyone interested before ending up on the wall. Fortunately, the much more embarrassing antics of others surpassed this in days.

Eventually even I got tired of the big party scene and extricated myself to spend more time with smaller groups who generated considerably more drama but allowed me to play more of a starring role; at the House, the best I could get was minor character status like a Burns, or at best a Schultz. It would have been much more fitting if this tale ended with a big bust or some type of explosion, but like Comstock it really just faded away rather than go out in any type of spectacular fashion. Kent went back to Texas where rumor had it that he went into selling cars and managed to make a years salary in just 3 months, leaving him time to pursue a Pharmacy degree. Harley disappeared to Arkansas to take up residence in a double wide in his parent’s back yard. The rest just vanished off someplace never to be seen again, until of course I run for office and my wall of shame appearances emerge along with dozens of compromising Knaus pics.