I’ve reached the age where a “good hour” is a nap, and a “bad hour” is missing a nap.

The other day my wife was on her way out to do some errands, and when I asked how long she’d be, she answered, “A good hour.”

As I was wondering how long that would take it struck me that a good hour could change into a bad hour with one simple deviation from the plan. For example, snuggling with someone you love on a thick, soft blanket in front of a glowing fireplace would certainly be considered a good hour; however, a sudden spark that ignited the blanket, forcing you to scramble around frantically trying to contain the fire would change it into a bad hour in an instant.

Or, if you’re dining at your favorite restaurant and you dip your fork into your entree while engaging in pleasant chatter with good friends, it would be a way to spend a good hour; but dipping your fork into the dish and finding something alive wiggling on the other end would quickly change that from a good to a really bad hour.

The more I considered this the more I began to think of past good and bad hours I’ve had. Considering all my friends and family, the one person who I’ve shared the most good and bad hours with was, without question, my cousin Frankie. Those of you who have read my past blogs know that when he and I were together I never knew how a given hour would end up. The one thing I did know was that good or bad, it would be, far and above, one of the most unpredictable and entertaining hours I’d spend with anyone. What better way to begin the story of how the most fun hour I ever anticipated turned so dramatically into one of those times in my life that continues to haunt me to this day.

Both of us being twenty at the time, Frankie and I decided to go to a summer resort called Klub Kablooey for a weekend. It was one of those places in the mountains that catered to young single guys and gals looking for a brief escape from the daily grind and a no-commitment weekend of fun and sex. On the first night they had a costume party as a way for everyone to loosen up, meet each other, and have a good time. To entice everyone to dress up they gave a prize to the person with the most imaginative costume. I had no idea what or who to become until Frankie came up with an idea that both excited and frightened me at the same time.

“Joe, I discovered a room below the auditorium filled with amazing props and found an old wooden coffin. You know, the kind you see in all those old 1940’s monster movies. If you dress up as Count Dracula and we carry you in like pall bearers you’ll blow the other contestants away. Think about it: first prize could be a lot of money.”

 “Uh, sounds okay, Frank, but why don’t you dress up as Count Dracula?”

Duh, because I’m a blond, and your hair is black. Has anyone ever seen a blondCount Dracula? I don’t think so.”

And that was enough to convince me to become Count Dracula for a night. While others were dressing up as superheroes, cowboys, and numerous other interesting characters, I was slicking my hair back, donning a tuxedo, and getting ready for what I anticipated to be a really good hour. Then Frankie came into the dressing room excited as hell with four other guys trailing behind.

“I have it all set up, Joe; you’re gonna love it. Meet Barry, Gary, Harry, and Larry. They’re your pall bearers. They’re brothers, they own a funeral home, and best of all, they’re whizzes at making dead people look alive again… except in your case they’re gonna make YOU LOOK DEAD!”

 I have to admit, that was my first moment of trepidation. Had I known then how the evening was going to end up I would have run like hell, right then and there. Frankie continued:

“Now they’re going to carry you into the auditorium inside this coffin. I have a gal waiting for you in the audience. She’s dressed as Snow White so you’ll know who she is. When they set the coffin down you raise the lid slowly, and the lights will go off except for a spotlight that will be trained on you. Stand up, point to her, and she’ll walk to you slowly as if she’s mesmerized. When she reaches you, you hold her in your arms, bite her neck, and when the blood spurts you pick her up and carry her out of the room while the band plays Highway to Hell’ by AC/DC.”

 At that point my trepidation turned to fear. “Wait a minute; what the hell do you mean, `WHEN THE BLOOD SPURTS?’”

 “Not to worry; you’ll have a balloon filled with ketchup in your mouth, and when you bite down it will cause the ketchup to spurt, looking like blood.”

 That sounded reasonable enough except that no one thought to bring balloons to a weekend of drinking and sex.After ten minutes of deep thought, Frankie as always came up with an idea that was not ideal but nevertheless a solution.

“Okay, I didn’t want to waste any of them, but we can use one of my condoms. We’ll fill it with ketchup, blow it up slightly, and put it in your mouth just before you get in the coffin.”

Now the thought of putting an inflated condom in my mouth was not something I particularly looked forward to, but after Frankie convinced me that if we followed the plan to a T we’d have a good chance to win first prize I agreed to go ahead. A half hour later I was lying in the coffin with a condom in my mouth, experiencing a weird sense of exhilaration and apprehension, and waiting for Barry, Gary, Harry, and Larry to lift the coffin.

Then the band started playing “Hotter than Hell”by Kiss, and as they carried me on stage the bottom of the coffin fell through and dumped me unceremoniously on the ground, looking back up through the inside of the coffin at the four brothers, who were looking down at me trying hard not to laugh. That was the moment that my anticipated “good hour” turned very, very bad.

It took all my self-control not to jump up and beat the crap out of them, but I quickly gained my composure and stood up, holding my cape in front of my face, trying to be as creepy as possible. When I looked for Snow White the situation became even worse when I saw a number of Snow Whites in the crowd. I took a deep breath, pointed to the one closest to me, and she looked back and forth as if to say, “Why the hell are you pointing at me?”I got the same reaction from the next one and the next until I heard a voice from behind me yell:

“HEY ,COUNT KNUCKLEHEAD, I THINK YOU’RE LOOKING FOR ME!”

Smiling as if it were part of the act, I pointed to her, and she proceeded to walk slowly towards me as if in a hypnotic state and slumped into my arms. Thinking things can’t possibly get any worse, I put my lips to her neck, bit down on the condom and things did get worse… it didn’t break. With the crowd looking on in anticipation I chomped harder still, again and again. Each time I bit down half the condom shot out of my mouth like a strange red banana trying to escape and snapped back in when I inhaled. Then I heard someone in the crowd yell:

“HEY, ARE YOU SUPPOSED TO BE COUNT DRACULA OR JOEY CHESTNUT, COMPETING IN A HOT DOG EATING CONTEST?”

That’s when I lost it.I put my head back and bit down so hard that one end of the condom flew into her mouth while the other remained in mine, causing us to stand there nose to nose with each end of the condom extended like a bridge between her mouth and mine. Her startled reaction was to bite back even harder, and we spent the next couple of minutes propelling the condom back and forth between her mouth and mine. I don’t know how long we would have kept that back and forth battle going on had the band not started playing “Share It”by Smokey Robinson. At that point she pulled the condom from our lips and smashed it across the top of my head, causing the ketchup to splatter and run down my face like a spewing volcano. When the crowd started laughing hilariously I was so humiliated I picked her up, threw her over my shoulders, and ran out of the room with her pounding me on the back screaming:

“HEY, DRACULA, YOU KNOW WHY YOU’RE NEVER INVITED TO PARTIES? BECAUSE YOU’RE A PAIN IN THE NECK!”

 When I got out of the room and put her down Frankie was waiting with a big smile on his face. He wrapped his arms around both of us and said jubilantly, “You did it, guys… you were great.”Then I heard the MC calling for us to come out and take a bow. I had no desire to go back out there again, but Frankie took us by the hand and led us out to a standing ovation – and as I stood there red in the face from ketchup and embarrassment I heard the MC’s voice booming through the loud speakers:

“I don’t think we need to debate the winner of this competition, do we folks? It’s Count Dracula and Snow White – and it’s my distinct pleasure to present to you the first place prize in this year’s costume contest – A YEAR’S SUPPLY OF OUR VERY POPULARKLUB KABLOOEY’S COLOR-COORDINATED CLASSIC CONDOMS!”    

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Of all the things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most – Mark Twain

I like having a small nail clipper in my pocket at all times. I’m very fastidious about keeping my finger nails clean, trimming a ragged portion of my nail that insists on snagging and fraying my favorite sweater, or prying a AAA battery from one of my battery-driven gadgets that’s died and left that corrosive white crust all over the battery and terminals.

Unfortunately for me, the need for a nail clipper comes at a price that often “drives me up the wall,” “makes me nuts,” “irritates the hell out of me,” and “pisses me off.”(Feel free to accept any depiction of aggravation you choose. I find it eases my stress considerably when I can describe my frustration with a colorful phrase.) Anyway, the unvarnished truth is that for some reason I’m constantly in an ongoing struggle to find where in the hell my nail clipper went. I think of the numerous nail clippers I’ve owned and lost as the “Where’s Waldo”of the nail grooming world.

Unlike socks that traditionally disappear from the clothes dryer, my nail clippers seem to take their leave from anywhere and everywhere imaginable. From the pocket of my pants, from the drawer in my night table, from the ring on my keychain, to the top of my desk, it’s as if their most important purpose in life is to forge a battle of wits with me to show who is smarter. What worries me is that I think I’m losing.

What really “ties my shorts in a knot,” “frosts my cookies,”oops, here I go again, suggesting a myriad of ways to describe irritation. Well, as long as I’ve started I might as well continue and give you a comprehensive list of anger-describing phrases that you can use anytime and anywhere you feel the need to “tickle your pickle.”(Please take this last phrase in its G-rated version only.) The phrases are:

That really grinds my gears… Salts my apples… Bamboozles my booty… Cringes my hinges… Triggers my figures… Spanks my angst… Fries my thighs… Totes my goats… Crocs my socks… Flashes my ashes… Wilts my stilts.

I understand that my personal quandary, the act of losing nail clippers at an alarming rate, is probably not of any interest to you, and that the last thing you want to do is waste valuable time reading about it, but for those of you who are steadfast readers of my blogs I ask you please to continue. If you do I will be forever grateful. You see, I believe that if we slog through this confusing conundrum together it could turn out to be one of the most important things we’ve learned since we were told that if we burped, farted, and sneezed at the same time our ass would fall off.

I’ve been thinking recently that I can’t be the only one who suffers at the hands of this bizarre phenomenon, so I’ve decided to address the issue with you in the hopes that if anyone has experienced and resolved the manifestation of what I call “Clippers I have loved and lost,”you can share the solution with me. I in turn will post it in my next blog, and we can all finally rid ourselves of this calamitous clipper conundrum and spend the rest of our lives with clean, smoothly filed nails and the confidence that a nail clipper is always within reach whenever we need it. Thank you in advance for your service.

Please check out my next blog: I thought about losing weight, but I hate to lose.

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My parents taught me to never take candy from a stranger so on Halloween I’d knock on people’s doors, say, “Trick or treat – no thank you,” and walk away – Rita Rudner

 

Halloween has never been one of my favorite holidays. I think my aversion started the time I knocked on a door while trick or treating with my cousin Frankie and my friend Philly when we were ten, and what we thought of as someone playing a Halloween joke on us turned into something so frighteningly real that I was forever traumatized.

It started innocently enough when the man dressed as Superman who answered the door had a large bowl of candy in one hand and kept pointing behind him with the other. When I reached for the bowl he lowered it. When I reached again he lowered it some more and continued to point behind him. I didn’t realize until we had performed the same reaching/lowering dance a few times and we were both down on our knees that he was trying to show me something. Assuming it was part of his Halloween gag I ignored it completely when he fell face down in front of me with a large axe protruding from his back.

 “GOOD ONE, MISTER,”I said as I reached into the bowl, grabbed some candy along with Frankie and Philly, and was about to walk away when Philly exclaimed in a shaky voice:

“Wait a minute, guys; I don’t think he’s faking. I THINK HE’S REALLY DEAD!”

 “HOLY CRAP!” I screamed, and we bolted out of there and didn’t stop running until we were far enough away to feel safe.  

As we stood, panting as if we’d just run the marathon,Philly’s face changed from fear to anticipation to jubilation, as if he’d just won the lottery and started babbling uncontrollably.

 “Hey, guys, what if that wasn’t a gag? What if that was a real axe in his back? What if he really was dead? What ifhe was murdered, and we were witnesses to the crime? What ifour testimony helps find the murderer? What if we become heroes, and our picture appears on the front page of the newspaper? OH MY GOD, what if there’s a reward, and we get it and never have to work a day in our lives?”

 Philly got more excited, and his voice got higher with each “what if,”and it looked like his eyes were about to pop out of his head when Frankie grabbed him by the shoulders and shook him, responding to his rising excitement in such a steady voice that it immediately eased my anxiety and made me thankful that he could keep his wits about him and address the situation in such a calm, deliberate way.

“Philly, are you nuts? Calm down; we have to think this through. If the guy is actually dead there’s only one sane, appropriate thing to do.”

 I wasn’t used to Frankie thinking so clearly and being so grownup, but as surprised as I was I was glad that one of us was able to act like an adult at that scary moment.

“WHAT, FRANK, WHAT SHOULD WE DO?”Both Philly and I bawled out the same question at the same time.

“GO BACK RIGHT AWAY, GRAB THE BOWL, AND GET THE HELL OUT OF THERE BEFORE ANYONE ELSE GETS ALL THE CANDY!”

When the headline in the paper the next morning read, “NOT-SO-SUPER SUPERMAN FOUND DEAD IN HIS DOORWAY,” we went to the police station and told the police what we saw. To Philly’s chagrin we never received a reward or got our pictures in the papers. Frankie never stopped ragging at us for not going back for the candy, and I vowed never to go trick or treating on Halloween again.

Thinking back on that night I have to admit that as stunned as I was at Frankie’s desire to go back and grab the candy there was something reassuring about him maintaining the very essence of who he truly was. The guarantee that Frankie would always choose a path that was different from anyone else’s, a path that would result in the most fun and involve the most danger, made our years growing up together always exciting, unpredictable, liberating, rewarding, and most of all, never, ever dull.

He proved that once again the following Halloween when he dressed as Superman with a huge axe sticking out of his back and convinced us to knock on that same door again. Philly and I both thought the idea was crazy, but did it anyway and the unbelievable scenario that occurred as a result of his idea convinced me never to say no to anything Frankie wanted to do ever again. When the door opened a man wearing a T-shirt with the words, “AXE ME NO QUESTIONS, I’LL TELL YOU NO LIES,” and a woman dressed up as Lizzie Borden, the famous axe murderer, took one look at Frankie/Superman, and when she saw the axe sticking out of his back something mindboggling happened to her – she lost all sense of reality, and a wild look came over her face. She seemed to snap, lose control, panick, and fell to her knees, screaming at the top of her lungs:

“OH MY GOD, I’M SO SORRY. I DIDN’T WANT HIM DEAD. HE WOULDN’T GIVE ME A DIVORCE SO HE AND BRUNO GOT INTO A FIGHT. I TRIED TO STOP HIM, BUT I COULDN’T. BRUNO DID IT. BRUNO KILLED MY HUSBAND!”

As stunned as we were her words scared the hell out of us, and we took off like banshees to the police station. When we got there Philly ran to the first cop he saw and yelled:

“COME WITH US; WE KNOW SOMETHING YOU NEED TO KNOW!”

I followed by shouting: “WHAT HE SAID… WHAT HE SAID!”

And Frankie, with measured calm, said: “If you give us that box of doughnuts on the desk we’ll tell you who murdered Superman.”

“The next day the man and woman were arrested, and what Philly had hoped for came to fruition. Our pictures were on the front page of the papers, and we actually received a reward. It didn’t amount to very much. Philly and I gave it to our parents to put in the bank, and Frankie used his to buy enough candy to cover all that he’d lost the year before.

A couple of days later we were talking about what happened, and Frankie said something that convinced me that trick or treating on Halloween was something I would definitely never do  again.

“You know, Joe, I was just thinking that Halloween is by far the safest day to kill someone and leave them in a chair on your porch.”

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We apologize for unusual delays; normal delays will resume shortly.

So, I’m sitting in the airport waiting to board my flight when the announcement that no one wants to hear comes booming from the loudspeakers:

“Ladies and gentlemen, we’re sorry to inform you that your flight is going to be delayed for a short period of time. There seems to be an issue related to maintenance.”

Now, that doesn’t inspire much confidence, because a maintenance issue could be anything from maintaining the cleanliness of the bathrooms to making sure the plane is able to stay in the air – but I tried not to read too much into it and hunkered down with my iPad to continue reading a novel I’d recently downloaded, ironically titled After the Crash, when ten minutes later the same voice announced:

“Folks, we’ve discovered the problem – it’s a missing part. We’re waiting for it to get to the airplane and when it does we’ll be able to board and get on with the flight. It should be here shortly.”

The announcement of a missing part made me even more nervous, so I sidled up close to two whispering stewardesses, trying not to appear to be eavesdropping, and heard one ask the other:

“Do you know what the missing part is?”

 “Yes,” answered the other.“It’s probably Sky Flyerson, the pilot. Sky tends to forget things when he’s off his meds.”

 “They let him fly a plane even though he takes meds?”

 “Yes, but it’s no big deal; he takes meds because he has a fear of heights.”

That information, believe it or not, scared the hell out of me and reassured me at the same time. It frightened me to think that my pilot might be on meds, but the fact that they wouldn’t think of taking off without a pilot in the cockpit kind of eased my angst, so I decided to make the best of it by listening in to the conversations of the other disgruntled passengers. I find it difficult to talk to people I don’t know, so I’m always in awe of people who find it easy to strike up conversations with strangers.

 “I’d wait at the bar and have a couple of shots if the drinks weren’t so damn expensive,”a young man said to a woman in the seat next to him. He was sporting a t-shirt that said, “CHOOSE BOOZE OR LOSE.” His hair was black as coal, straight and long, and tied together in a ponytail that hung down his back almost to his butt. He had a nickel embedded in one earlobe and a dime in the other.

“I know what you mean,”the woman answered, with a slur in her voice. She looked prim, proper, and appeared to me to be a small-town librarian who probably hosted a weekly church group, so I was astonished when she answered:

“I had a couple of rum and cokes earlier that cost me twelve bucks each. Darn if it’s not enough to make you stop drinking.”By the unsteady sound of her voice I couldn’t help but think that twelve bucks a drink definitely wasn’t enough to stop her.

“Anyway,” she said, “I hope it doesn’t take too long to get the part.”

“FIVE WILL GET YOU TEN we’ll be here all day,”he answered, pointing to his ears, and then flashed a big smile that revealed quite a few missing teeth. It was obvious that she approved of him and his humor when she pointed to her mouth, opened it, and divulged almost the same number of gaps between her teeth, which I guess was enough to form a kind of kinship, so she asked:

“Where are you from?”

 “My mother’s womb,” he responded cackling out loud,which I was sure would earn him a kick in the ass, an eye roll, or at least end the conversation, but instead she followed with:

 “That’s amazing; I am too… why, we could have been wombmates.”

That captured my attention even more, so I kept listening while their conversation continued. They went on to talk about things like failed relationships, bosses they hated, and cars they owned and loved.

“I own a Kia Sorento,” she said. “Love that car; it will last forever. YOU JUST CAN’T HURT IT!”

 “I OWN ONE TOO,” he responded excitedly. “You’re right; YOU JUST CAN’T HURT IT!”

 “I feel the same way about my Samsung Galaxy smart phone,” she replied. “I’ve had the same phone for years. YOU JUST CAN’T HURT IT!”

 While I sat there trying to figure out how you could possibly hurt a car or a phone’s feelings, he shook his head vehemently, initiated a thumbs-down gesture, and gave her a Bronx cheer, which I assumed she found offensive because she suddenly flipped him the finger as he opened his mouth to speak:

 “Samsung Galaxies suck! I’m an iPhone guy myself; YOU JUST CAN’T HURT IT,” he said as he pulled out his phone, flipped it from one hand to the other with a smug look on his face as if he was mocking her, and then lost the handle and dropped it to the ground a couple of feet in front of him. I don’t know whether it was the embarrassment of losing his grip on the phone or the fear that something would happen to it, but he jumped up, took a quick step forward, proceeded to step on it accidentally, then froze, looking down at his now-broken iPhone. That changed her mood instantly, and the smug look seemed to leap from his face to hers, at which point she promptly stood up, pointed to the now-scattered pieces of his phone, smiled, and said:

“I THINK YOU JUST HURT IT!”

Then she poked at her Samsung Galaxy a couple of times and walked away with the sound of Linda Ronstadt singing “HURTS SO BAD” booming from her phone.

As I looked on incredulously at what had just transpired, a gentleman in uniform ran past, carrying a bottle of pills in one hand and a cup of water in the other, leapt over the guy who was on his knees picking up the remains of his phone, and disappeared into the runway leading into the plane, which started the boarding process. Fifteen minutes later, after we were all safely strapped into our seats, a voice from the speaker stated:

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. I’d like to welcome you all aboard flight uh, um, 0000. Just kidding, folks; that’s not really the flight number, but it will do until I remember what it is. Please make sure your bags are all stored safely in the overhead compartments because they are padded specifically so no harm will come to whatever is stored inside. When you fly with us you can be assured that whatever is inside your bag, YOU JUST CAN’T HURT IT!” 

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The difference between an enemy and a friend is a simple handshake.

He was a huge man. Big-boned, as they say about men who are larger than most. Arms like steel pistons, shoulders and chest looked to be chiseled from granite, and when he looked at you his deep blue eyes seemed to be able to see into the darkest secrets of your soul. At first glance he appeared tough, formidable, and even a little scary, yet there was a sense of warmth, comfort, and protection you experienced when you were with him; a feeling that no harm could ever come to you when in his presence. He worked in a used car garage keeping the place clean, doing whatever menial tasks were required of him, and he lived in a small room in the back of the garage. Everyone called him “Large Louie.”

Occasionally on our way home from school my friends and I would see him sitting at the entrance to the garage whittling at a weathered piece of wood, and we’d often sit down around him and hang out for a while, marveling at how he could magically transform that piece of wood into an amazing-looking bird whistle that when blown into would duplicate the sound of the feathered creature it represented.

Whenever we hung with him he’d spend a few minutes asking us diverse questions ranging from who had the record for the most home runs in a season in baseball to the meaning of civil rights and human rights. Besides our learning a lot in the exchange he made it even more fun by gifting his latest bird whistle to whoever answered more questions correctly. Large Louie taught me that human rights are rights we have simply by being human beings, and civil rights are rights that are granted to us as American citizens legally by the U.S. Constitution.I’m not sure why, but the things I learned from him made a greater impact than what I was taught in school.

After the quiz he’d regale us with wonderful stories that touched us in different ways. Some of my favorite times were sitting on the ground after school next to Large Louie, listening to him, laughing uproariously, and eventually walking the rest of the way home with a feeling of elation and a wonderful lightness in my step – until that one particular day and story that I believe influenced the person I would eventually become.

He had just given my friend Mattie a humming bird carving which actually hummed when you blew into it, when an Asian family, a mom, dad, and their two children, walked by. When Cheech, one of my other friends, saw them he made a hateful face and raised his middle finger at them. They didn’t notice his contempt, so I thought no harm, no foul. Not so with Large Louie, and that was the first time I could remember Louie putting the fear of God in me. His face flushed, his eyes turned dark, and he lifted Cheech up off the ground with one hand, held him nose to nose, stared into his eyes, and in a voice that was pained yet gentle, asked softly:

“Cheech, why would you do that?”

 “Because they’re Japs, the people we fought against in the war.”

 Then he composed himself, put Cheech back down, and said:

 “First of all, Cheech, the war is over; remember what we fought for and keep those ideals in your heart and mind, and this is important, know who people are before you pass judgment on them. Those people aren’t your enemies; they’re your neighbors. The phrase `Love thy neighbor’ isn’t something that should be taken lightly, but taken to heart. I hate to think of what could happen to this country if we let hate overcome love, and divisiveness become the norm.”

 Then Large Louie let out a sad sigh, shrugged his massive shoulders, and continued:

 “This is something I never thought I’d talk about, but I believe it’s time you guys learn a little more about me…”

 It unsettled me when I saw his eyes mist up; then in a voice that belied his gruff image he told us a story I would never forget.

LARGE LOUIE’S STORY
“You don’t know it, but I was a helicopter pilot during WWII, and I’d like to tell you a story.My mission was to fly behind enemy lines, pick up wounded warriors, and transport them back to U.S. military hospitals. I never flew attack missions, but I would have had they asked me. On a day I can only describe as life-changing I was flying over the island of Okinawa, below radar, hoping to remain unseen, when my helicopter suddenly exploded in a ball of fire. I remember reaching for my cockpit ejection button when everything went black. The next thing I remember was waking up in a lot of pain, not being able to move, and hearing muffled voices from close by. Not knowing how long I’d been unconscious or where I was, I felt a sense of relief that I was still alive wash over me like a caressing wave on a warm sunny beach. Then my mind shifted to my circumstances, which seemed completely surreal when I realized that I was lying in a haystack completely covered with hay – and I lapsed into unconsciousness again.”

“Wake up, wake up. You do good by staying quiet while men here.” The voice seemed to be coming from a million miles away but getting closer with each word.“I uncover you now.” I could feel hands softly brushing away the hay that had been covering me. “Herro, soldier, I found you unconscious in my lice paddy. What your name?”

 “I’m not a soldier, I’m a pilot, and my friends call me Large Louie,”

 “RARGE ROUIE THE PIROT? That a funny name you got.”

 “No, it’s not Rarge Rouie, it’s Large Louie.”

 “That what I say, Rarge Rouie. My name Kin Ko.”

 For some reason a premonition flashed across my mind that someday in the future there’ll be copying and printing stores all across the U.S. owned by Mr. Kin Ko, but it disappeared as fast as it appeared, and I was left trying to decide whether or not to correct him once more – then mercilessly, I passed out again. I have no idea how long it was, but the next time I opened my eyes a woman was holding a spoon and a bowl of soup to my lips.

“Herro, Rarge Rouie, my name Cin Ko, wife of Kin Ko; here, have some soup. It good for you.”

 I have no idea why, but for some reason I pictured Cin Ko with a child named D’mayo. That thought vanished instantly when I took a sip of the most delicious soup I’d ever tasted. It took weeks before I was finally able to sit up by myself, and almost three months before I could walk on my own. During that time Kin and Cin cared for me, read to me, and spent hours talking to me about our philosophical, religious, and humanitarian beliefs. It was quite an eye-opener for me to realize how much easier I could learn to love someone when I knew more about their likes, needs, and dreams for the future. Although I held back for weeks I eventually had the courage to ask the question that had been burning deeply inside me for many months.

Kin, since our countries are at war with each other why did you bring me to your home and take care of me instead of turning me over? Aren’t I a prisoner of war?”

 “Ah, Rarge Rouie, that where you wrong. To me and Cin you not a plisner of war… you a human being wanting what we all do… respect and honor. In your case, also in pain and in need of medical tleatment. If evelyone thought of each other as human beings, not enemies, there’d be no need for war. Now stop asking such sirry questions and answer most important question… will Rucy will ever let Charie Brown kick the football?”

 Large Louie turned to each of us, looked into each of our eyes, nodded affectionately, and said:

“Now think hard on what I’m about to ask you, guys. If that wonderful Japanese family had thought of me as their enemy instead of as a person in need, do you think I’d be here talking to you right now? No, Kin and Cin taught me the very lesson that our sixteenth president, Abraham Lincoln, tried to convey when he said, `With malice toward none, with charity for all.’ I hope you can all believe in the importance of the way you treat others, respect one another, and I hope you will spend your lives trying to spread those beliefs and reward those who do. Now get your asses home and do your homework before your parents come looking for me with malice and no charity whatsoever.”

We’ve all had people in our lives who were very special and meant a great deal to us. For me Large Louie was one of those people. I truly believe his influence made me a better person. I will always remember him and some of the things he taught me. I hadn’t thought of this before, but the words he said to us that day: “I hope you can all believe in the importance of the way you treat others, respect one another, and I hope you will spend your lives trying to spread those beliefs and reward those who do”has stayed with me all these years.

Wherever he is I think Large Louie would be proud of me for saying that I can’t think of a better time to heed his words than now. So, to Liberals, Conservatives, Independents, and everyone who wants to make this a country we’re all proud of, the fall elections are incredibly important. Please take the time to learn what the people who are running stand for and vote for those who represent what you believe in. If you’re on the fence about whether to vote or not I’d like you to remember one thing…

Bad officials are elected by good citizens who don’t vote!    

Posted in Humor | 3 Comments

Insults are arguments employed by those who are usually losing theirs.

“DAMN IT, HE GOT ME AGAIN!”I’m talking about Jimmy-John, a guy from the old neighborhood who had this infuriating habit of responding with some unpleasant, worn-out phrase that had nothing to do with the conversation, whenever he wanted to stop the interchange, cut you off, and leave you wondering what the hell he was talking about.

The last time he did it we were in a disagreement about the difference between a conservative and a liberal. As I was stating my case he took a step back, held up his hand, and said mockingly:

“F – – K YOU, JOE, AND THE HORSE YOU RODE IN ON!”

Needless to say, I was temporarily stumped. I hadn’t ridden in on any horse. We were having a beer at Manny’s, our neighborhood bar in Brooklyn. The only time I was ever on a horse was at the age of five when I was placed on a small pony at a carnival to have my picture taken. My mom always loved that photo of me as a five-year-old cowboy wearing a ten-gallon hat and chaps, and it angered me that he made me think of that moment in such derogatory terms. Besides, if he wanted his insult to be conversationally correct he should have said:

“F – – K YOU, JOE, AND THE DONKEY YOU RODE IN ON!”

 At least that could have given me the opportunity to offer a rejoinder such as:

 “WELL, SCREW YOU, JJ, AND THE ELEPHANT YOURODE IN ON!”

 Democratic Donkey or Republican Elephant aside, I had to wonder if he was making fun of a cherished memory, insulting me in a way I didn’t understand, trying to get under my skin, or diverting me from the point I was trying to make. Thinking about it now I realize it was all of those things. He was exceptional at creating confusion at the precise moment that made me lose my train of thought. That was what always happened after one of his expletive-filled, offensive, conversation stoppers. “DAMN IT, HE GOT ME AGAIN!”

Another time we were deep in conflict about whether there is life after death when he folded his arms in front of his chest, turned his head to the side, let loose a resounding fart, and moaned:

“FRANKLY, JOE, I DON’T GIVE A RAT’S ASS!”

Have you ever been in a situation where you can’t NOTthink about something you don’t want to think about? This was one of those times. My mind was diverted immediately from a beautiful vision of the pearly gates to an abhorrent image of a rat’s ass. First of all, who in the hell knows what a rat’s ass looks like? I certainly don’t, but there it was, floating brightly in living color, right before my eyes. I remember wondering how anyone in their right mind could even conceive of giving someone something as vile as a rat, no less a rat’s ass. By the time it took to remove that appalling image from my mind I’d forgotten what we were so deeply in conflict about. To my consternation, from that day on the word “RAT,” either in written form, or voiced in any way by anyone, conjures up that awful image. “DAMN IT, HE GOT ME AGAIN!”

Another time I had just beaten him in the dart championship that Manny’s bar held annually, and when I reached out to shake his hand and congratulate him on a game well played he pulled the old “hand-pull-back-smooth-the-hair maneuver,” smirked, and said:

“I CAN GIVE TWO SH – – S THAT YOU WON, JOE!”

 For some reason a lot of his put-downs had to do with giving things, which was surprising because giving in any way was far from what Jimmy-John ever did, in any way, to any one, for any reason. If we were out in a group he’d never share the bill. If we were driving somewhere he’d never use his car. If we got together at someone’s house it was never at his. That’s why I particularly disliked any of his conversation stoppers that referenced giving – and why I was so pissed when he said what he said that I lashed back in a way that was unlike anything I’d ever done before.

 “I’M SO GLAD TO HEAR THAT, JJ. ON MY WAY HERE I WAS HOPING THAT BY THE END OF THE NIGHT I’D END UP WITH AT LEAST THREE SH – – S. SO WITH THE TWO YOU GIVE ME I CAN JUST ADD YOU,AND THAT WILL GIVE ME THE THREE SH – – S I WAS HOPING FOR.”

 Immediately after my retaliating interchange I felt so terrible that I grabbed him, gave him a big hug, and with deep conviction apologized to him profusely.

“JJ, I’M SO SORRY. THAT WASN’T ME TALKING. I DON’T KNOW WHAT CAME OVER ME.  I WANT YOU TO KNOW THAT THERE’S NOTHING YOU CAN SAY TO ME THAT WILL EVER MAKE ME RESPOND LIKE THAT AGAIN.”

 He answered surprised me. He held me at arms-length, looked at me with a hint of sadness in his eyes, and rsponded:

“THAT’S ALL RIGHT, JOE; I UNDERSTAND HOW IT MAKES YOU FEEL. YOU SEE, THE REASON I PUT SUCH AN ABRUPT STOP TO OUR DISCUSSIONS THE WAY I DO IS BECAUSE I FEEL SO INFERIOR. I’M NEVER A MATCH FOR YOU, YOUR UNDERSTANDING OF THE SUBJECT, OR YOUR ABILITY TO CONVINCE ME THAT YOU’RE RIGHT AND I’M WRONG.”  

 Jimmy-John’s confession made me melt. It was so heartfelt and honest I valued him even more as a friend, and as we walked off arm in arm feeling the warmth of our renewed friendship I smiled and said:

“JJ, I CAN’T BEGIN TO TELL YOU HOW HAPPY I AM THAT WE’RE FRIENDS AGAIN.”

 “ME TOO, JOE… I WANT YOU TO KNOW THAT IF WE WERE EVER ON A SINKING SHIP AND THERE WAS ONLY ONE LIFE VEST LEFT… I’D MISS YOU VERY MUCH!”

 “DAMN IT, HE GOT ME AGAIN!”

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A person can sometimes learn more from a foolish question than from a wise answer.

The anger and animosity filling the room was almost as thick as the cigar smoke wafting up in circular gyrations as Vinny Vincianetti addressed all the east and west coast mob bosses as they listened intently to his voice, which remained steady even though his rage, as he vented, was obvious to everyone:

“I’m telling you guys, we can’t let this continue. We may have our differences, but we always treat each other with the respect we deserve. We don’t call each other names… we don’t make fun of each other… we don’t try to embarrass each other publicly. This numb-nuts is making each and every one of us a laughing stock. We’ve got to do something about it, but I’m not sure what that is. Now does anyone have any ideas as to how to deal with this revolting miscreant and the inexcusable situation he’s put us in?”

 For a few minutes all you could hear was rustling and grunting from the contingent of pinstripe-suited, cigar-smoking wise guys who filled the room.        

 “Permission to speak, Vinny.” A voice from the back.

 “The boss of all bosses passes the puttana; ha, ha, just kidding, Donny… passes the baton to Donny Dongiovanni.”

 (For those who don’t understand Italian, `puttana’ in English is bitch, tart, or harlot).

 “We can do what Michael Manicostta did to his brother Martino when he got too big for his britches. If you recall, he stripped him of his britches, made him wear a dress and enter the Miss Italy beauty contest.”

 “That seemed like a good idea, Donny,” countered Vinny, “but Martino won the goddamn beauty contest and was so thrilled to be Miss Italy that he became the first mob transgender Wise Guy. If that wasn’t bad enough, when he insisted on being called a Wise Girl and married the cop who arrested his Father, his brother Michael had a nervous breakdown and excommunicated himself from the family.”

 “What does excommunicate mean, Vinny?”

 “How the hell do I know. I think it has something to do with refusing to talk to your ex wife. Anyone else?”    

 Willy Wisonello stood up, bowed to Vinny, took a handkerchief from his jacket, wiped his brow, spit loudly into the spittoon next to him, and in a voice that sounded like pebbles being ground in a tin can, grumbled:

 “We could do what they did to Salvatore Salvantino some years back, when they took that old 57’ Cadillac he loved so much, tied cement blocks to it, and sunk it in the Central Park lake. Man, was he pissed – and got even more pissed when he had it lifted from the lake and the body of the consigliore he’d whacked was found under the hood of the car, which was followed by the cops arresting and ultimately convicting him of murder. Now if that wasn’t the ultimate transgression I don’t know what was!”

 “What the hell does transgression mean, Freddy?”

 “I think it’s what was missing from the Caddy. When they opened the hood the transgression was gone. That’s how they were able to stuff the body into the car.”

 “THAT’S IT!” bellowed Giovanni Gianitto, jumping up from his chair and spilling his cup of demitasse over Frankie Francolla’s brand new white fedora.

 “Do you have an idea, Giovanni?”

 “No, it was Willie’s idea. He used the word.”

 “What word, Giovanni?”

 “WHACK!!! Why don’t we just whack him, boss?”

 Vinny Vincianetti stood there silently, looking back at his fellow mob guys for a couple of minutes, then took a deep drag from his cigar, flipped it over his shoulder, and proceeded in a voice that concealed the frustration rising up through his body like bile.

 “Because as much as it angers the hell out of me that they say he behaves like a mob boss, treats his staff like a gang, which reflects badly on us, to the point that people could possibly believe that we’re anything like him, we can’t just whack him.”

 “Why not, Vinny – why can’t we whack him?”

 “BECAUSE — AND LISTEN CAREFULLY, GUYS… HE’S THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES!”

 “WHAT? YOU MEAN YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT DONALD – THE ORANGE – TRUMP?”

 “Yes, Bruno, I am – and after further thought I’m beginning to think that there’s only one solution –  and that is to hope that eventually, they’ll do the right thing and impeach the bastard.”

 “What does `impeach’ mean, Vinny?”

 “That one’s easy – it means to strap him inside a peach crate and send him floating off in the ocean until he ends up sleeping with the fishes!”

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