Gothenburg, Part 2 – Rainbows, Butterflies and a Kiss on the Lips

I’ve attended well over 100 Bruce Springsteen concerts. If you count all the hours then it probably works out to, at least, 15 full days of Bruce shows.

I’m pathetic. 

I understand that. 

In my defense, the shows are really good.

Bruce Springsteen concerts are not unlike taking a hike up a familiar mountain trail by yourself.  You have a pretty good idea how your hike is going to go and you’re fully aware of how it’ll end. The twists and turns of the trail are expected and even reassuring. You tend to look inward although you’re quite aware of your surroundings.

However, each hike is unique and brings plenty of new insights. The details in those twists and turns are different. In the end, you’re always better for the experience. 

I may be reading way too much into the entire thing. 

Not that I know anything about hiking.  My idea of hiking is walking a quarter mile to the local coffee shop and the closest thing I get to communing with nature is staying at a Holiday Inn Express.

The last time I went hiking up a mountain was with my niece. It took a little longer than 5th grade for us to get up the mountain, then we went down the wrong side of the mountain, so we had to climb back up the mountain and walk down the other side of the mountain. After the first four hours, my knees were swolen and my hips were locked in place so I was waddling around like a penguin. Plus, I was exhausted. I spent the rest of the hike staggering over the mountain like Frankenstein’s monster after a 10-day tequila binge. My niece was having a blast.  She loves hiking. Oh, she was having a grand old time. For me, the whole thing was turning into a religious experience. The hallucinations weren’t so bad until I saw Mother Teresa looking at me, shaking her head and saying, “Loser.” 

In the mid 80s, Springsteen used to play quite a few roles on-stage. In three and a half hours, he was a clean-cut patriotic young American, a very energetic carnival barker, a socially conscious man of the people, a class clown, a highly-intense moralist and an extroverted party boy. The one role I don’t think he played on stage was himself. Off-stage, by most accounts, he was aloof, unapproachable and depressed. The stage was his refuge from himself, maybe. From experience, I can say a stage is an excellent place to escape the person you really are. Or, the person you think you are. The light that can shine very bright while you’re on stage can get pretty damn dark when you’re not on it. It reminds me of Robin Williams or Marilyn Monroe. Or, me. Back in the day, at least. 

On this tour, the opening song was always “Born in the USA.” It’s sung from the point of view of a Vietnam Veteran who was kicked around as a child, got drafted by a government that couldn’t care less about the lives it destroyed, flung into the middle of the Vietnam War and returned traumatized for life. As the song progresses, he comes to the very reasonable conclusion that, in the game of life, he lost. At the end, he admits,  “I got nowhere to run. I got nowhere to go.” 

However, it seemed no one actually heard the lyrics because the audience, as was the case with all audiences, erupted with joyous dancing and singing. Even Butt-Hair was dancing or, at least, attempting as much.  Helmet-Head, who had spent the entire day bouncy and silly and giggly and annoying, stood very still with her arms crossed. She gave an angry glare towards the stage. 

At the song’s end, I touched Helmet-Head’s elbow and asked if she was okay. She jumped back into her happy-happy-joy-joy character and assured me she was altogether “fine and dandy” which was another phrase of hers I could have lived without. 

A few songs into the show, the band played “Atlantic City.” Atlantic City’s a beach town in the States where a gambling paradise was built in the early 80s but, as is generally the case with man-made paradises, it didn’t take long for it to start on its road to Hell. The city has been teetering on the brink of bankruptcy for a long time, the violent crime rate in Atlantic City is one of the worst in the US and the percentage of its citizens living under the poverty line is more than three times the national average.

There’s a line in the song where the down-and-out protagonist declares to his equally down-and-out wife, “Now, our luck may have died and our love may be cold but with you forever I’ll stay.” That line hit me right between the eyes and has stayed with me. A statement of devotion, an acknowledgement that their shared dreams were well beyond their grasp and an acceptance of a bleak future about which they had very little say. Although, the little they could say would be said together. 

Maybe it was the nobility of that statement. Maybe it was the rawness. Or, both. At that moment, Helmet Head looked at me and smiled. It wasn’t her goofy, cheerleader smile. It was sincere but I wasn’t sure what she was smiling about.

During the song, Butt-Hair and Daniel were making googly-eyes at each other,  surreptitiously holding hands and making the occasional, but quick, kissy-faces. I found this sight nauseating because they were acting like 14 year olds. However, they were happily enjoying each other’s company so who was I to pooh-pooh their special kind of love.  

Helmet-Head got teary-eyed again during the next song, “The River,” which is a first person recounting of someone who has managed to fuck up his entire life. She noticed that I noticed she was looking weepy again.

I said, “It’s okay. It’s a sad song. You’re allowed.”

It was too late. She had already reverted back to her bubbly and ridiculous persona for the remainder of the first set. 

Sweetheart, dump all this infantile, simple-minded, overactive, shallow, up-with-people who-ha and just pretend to be a normal human being.  

“Thunder Road,” the final song of the first set, concluded with Springsteen running into the open arms of his sax-player, Clarence Clemons, for a long kiss and embrace. Butt-Hair frowned at the sight of this and muttered something about this behavior setting a bad example for the young, impressionable Swedes in the audience. She wondered why popular musicians insisted on encouraging their fans to “turn into homosexuals.” Butt-Hair wanted to know my feelings about it. 

What is it with people like you spending your waking hours hyperventilating about what the rest of the world is getting up to in bed? Get a hobby. Get a life. The rest of the world doesn’t really care what you think. Give it up. Then, shut up. 

I smiled, shrugged and replied, “It’s not like they’re having sex on stage so I wouldn’t get too torn up about it and I’m sure the young, impressionable Swedes will, in all likelihood, get over it.”

Butt-Hair, with Helmet-Head in tow, immediately stormed off to powder her nose which was a relief because it meant I didn’t have to sit with Butt-Hair and Daniel playing slap-and-tickle to my left and Helmet-Head to my right telling me all about unicorns and rainbows and candy canes and just shut up, Honey.

While the young ladies were off doing whatever they were doing, Daniel and I bantered a bit about his new-found love interest. Daniel was quite taken by Butt-Hair so I figured it’d be best to not give my honest assessment because I found her to be a judgmental bitch. Plus, I had forgotten her name. I mean, I knew her name probably wasn’t Butt-Hair. Although, I didn’t rule it out because you never know. She could have been the daughter of one of the numerous low-life, amoral Hollywood actors who’ll do anything to keep the public’s attention and if it means cursing their children with names that will ruin their prospects for a happy childhood then, kid, too bad. That’s the price of fame.

I asked Daniel about his new found faith. He assured me he was now a God-man through and through. He wasn’t making heavy weather about it. No over explaining or justifying. There wasn’t any Amway song-and-dance and no salesman would be knocking on my door. None of the usual signs of pretense. He thanked me for modifying my behavior so as not to offend anyone’s tender sensibilities. I was glad he noticed. 

I’m pretty good at reading between the lines and I can usually find the pony under all the horseshit. Probably because I spent the first half of my life burying myself under enough horseshit to fertilize the Sinai and still have enough left over to create my own political party. I know what to look for. I found Daniel to be genuine. 

“I’m glad you found each other. She’s very pretty. Striking, actually.” I was trying to be nice. I didn’t like her but no one said I had to like her. On the other hand, we didn’t have to talk about her, either. 

So, it was my turn to change the subject. “Not that you need to tell me but…Africa. Wha’ ‘appen? And, what is up with her agonizingly happy lil’ friend?”

“Jen? You don’t know her. You may think you know her. But, you don’t. Trust me, you don’t.”

Jen. Okay, name’s Jen. Good to know. But, she’ll always be Helmet-Head to me.

“Don’t you get seriously ill of all the giggly-touchy-feely slop? Anyway, Africa. Wha’ ‘appen?

Daniel said he didn’t want to talk about it. 

“Fair enough. Will give that one a miss.”

Then, Daniel told me all about it. 

Seems Daniel, who had a habit of doing this, decided to join a foreign aid agency on a trip to distribute food and supplies to people who couldn’t afford to buy either. So, he hooked up with some agency and off he went to, of all places, Ethiopia. Specifically, a little place along the Red Sea called Eritrea. This is where things get somewhat untidy because, according to Daniel, Eritrea, even though it was already in Ethiopia, was being invaded by Ethiopia. 

(Think about that for a moment. Imagine the Good Ol’ USA of America invading Maine. We send out our troops and kick Maine’s ass. What’s the point? I mean, we’ve engaged in some stupid activities in this country but, at least, we haven’t invaded ourselves.)

Invading yourself makes no sense, of course, and if something makes no sense then a government is usually involved. In the case of Eritrea, a lot of governments because the United Nations managed to slither into the fold. In 1950, the UN, according to Daniel, decided it would be a really, really, really good idea to take Eritrea, which was an independent country, put it in Ethiopia and create some sort of half-baked federation between the two. This meant Eritrea would no longer be a country. It would be part of Ethiopia but would maintain its sovereignty. Daniel said Eritreans were given the promise of independence and autonomy. Unfortunately for the citizens of Eritrea, the promise came from the United Nations.

The memo from UN to Eritrea was, “So, like, the whole thing is, I mean, you do whatever, okay? It’s cool. Like, you do you. The pressure’s off because you don’t have to worry about having to be a real country on accounta you’re in Ethiopia which is great, pretty much. So, now, you can just be you. And, just be out there, you know, doing whatever.  So, it’s cool. And, you know, Ethiopia is all good with it. They’re really excited to, uh, not get involved in your stuff, as such. And we can just, basically, keep it loose. Kinda, just out there. In a tubular kinda way. But, you’re good. Totally independent. Completely. No question. This’ll be great. Pretty much. And, we got your back. Honest. We promise Ethiopia won’t mess with you. The UN will always be there for you. Forever! We promise. Always and forever!”

All seriousness aside, I have no idea who the hell thought this would work and, of course, it didn’t. After ten years of Ethiopia’s harrassment, Eritrea said, “Adios.” 

Ethiopia said, “My ass.” 

And, so began the invasion of Eritrea. I’m guessing the UN boldly stepped up by issuing a memo to Eritrea stating, “When we said ‘forever’ we didn’t mean THAT ‘forever.’ Sorry for the inconvenience.”

That was in 1961. Daniel’s trip was in 1985 and Ethiopia was still trying to take over Eritrea. Twenty four years seems like a long time to fully invade a country the size of Ohio. Especially when it’s not a country but just a place already in your country. Ethiopia was ten times the size of Eritrea, had twenty times the population and its invasion was being generously funded by the Soviet Union. However, after twenty-four years, Ethiopia still couldn’t get out of the parking lot with its own invasion.  

So, what was the major malfunction? I mean, come on. The theory I expressed to Daniel was Ethiopia was just taking the Soviets for a ride to keep the Russian money flowing. The Ethiopian government knew the Soviets wanted Eritrea for themselves. I figured Ethiopia couldn’t have cared less about Eritrea but they really liked getting boatloads of money from the USSR so they, the Ethiopian government, pretended to invade Eritrea.

However, Daniel felt the invasion was quite real but the Ethiopian army kept stepping on its own collective dick everytime it tried to accomplish anything. The Ethiopian military’s tactic was to send a bunch of mercenaries to random Eritrean villages for the sole purpose of committing hideous war crimes against the villagers and, once they were done, running away. If you had money on Ethiopia then that strategy was a little disappointing. Plus, it probably wasn’t the best way to win the hearts and minds of the locals especially because the level of atrocities committed by the Ethiopians against Eritrean citizens would have caused Joseph Stalin to hide under his bed and whimper for his binky. 

This is the setting where Daniel met Helmet Head and Butt Hair. Helmet and Butt were part of a team of Christian missionaries who distributed food, medicine and spread the Good News to those Eritrean villagers willing to listen, which, thanks to the Ethiopian mercenaries terrorizing random Eritreans, happened to be just about everybody. More than once, Daniel and the mission team were caught between invading Ethiopian gangs and Eritrean villagers scrambling for safety. 

In the chaos of one such instance, Helmet got separated from the team, stepped into some sort of dwelling to hide and found herself face-to-face with four armed Ethiopian thugs.

I can’t imagine the thoughts racing through her mind other than the terrifying realization that she’d been caught with her pants squarely around her ankles, with nowhere to run, had no one coming to her rescue and now needed to come to terms about her immediate future which was looking, to be mild, bleak.

As you can guess, she was dragged off somewhere and tossed around like a rag doll among the four fine young men. Daniel started giving me details of her kidnapping. 

“Fortunately, you found her. Or, someone did.” I interrupted.  I didn’t want to hear the details. 

“We didn’t find her. Two days later. You won’t believe this but the four mercs who kidnapped her. Two days later. Brought her back. Right? They patched her up. Carried her back. “

“Huh? I’m guessing that’s not usually how these things go.”

“Oh, no. No, no, no. They sell the women they kidnap. End up a sex slaves. They break them. Right? The girls get locked up and they….”

“Happily, that wasn’t the case here.” Interrupted again. “Did someone intervene or was she able to negotiate on her behalf?”

“She prayed.”

“With ample justification but how did…..?”

“The whole time. She sang worship songs. Recited Bible passages. Praised God.”

“While being gang-banged by a bunch of animals. Who then brought her back and said, ‘Have a nice day. ‘” I tried to not sound skeptical.

“See. I knew you wouldn’t believe it. I didn’t. Believe it. Then.”

“I’m not getting my arms around this one. And, you witnessed them bringing her back.”

“Uh-huh. Exactly. The mercs who took her. Four murdering rapists. In two days. Right? Came back, Born-Again Christians. All four. Begging for forgiveness. Begging God and Jen. She converted them. Right? Then they turned themselves into the [Eritrean] police. And, she did.”

“Did what?”

“Forgive them.”

“Whoa, hang on there. They kidnapped her at gunpoint. Raped her. Repeatedly. Slapped her around. Repeatedly. During which she sang gospel songs and thanked God for her abundant good fortune. Really? No, wait. There’s more. She forgave them. And, no, wait. There’s even more where that came from. She converts them. From Saul to Paul or do I have that backwards? Okay, good. They find God, patch her up, give her tea and sympathy, bring her back, apologize and fall on their swords. All within 48 hours, give or take. That a fair reading?”

“I was there. Right? When they brought her back. All of it. It was real. Most real thing I seen in my life. It was a miracle. Right?”

“Well, maybe not up there with the Jets beating the Colts but it’s….. I’m sorry….that was wrong. It certainly sounds miraculous.” I felt like a fool trying to make light of all this.

“Me and Vicky. As soon as we could. We took her to a hospital in Göteberg. Twelve days. In hospital. She screamed and cried. And, prayed. For twelve days. We stayed with her. Right? They’ve been staying with me for the past week. She’s going back in a couple weeks.” 

“What?!” I was loud enough to turn quite a few heads. 

“We tried. Talking her out of it. No one can talk her out of it. Right? Me and Vicky can’t go with her. Not yet. Vicky needs to go back to the US and see her parents. Her father’s dying. My passport expired.”

“She’s going by herself?”

“I know. I know. She won’t budge. She’s going back. She promised God. She said that. Now you know. Right? That’s who you’re dealing with.”

“So, what’s with all the fake happy-happy-joy-joy crap? She seems to be in a mighty good mood, all things considered.”

Daniel snapped, “Because she feels….”

“Oops, here they come. Did we have this conversation?”


“Will they figure out we did?”


They both looked much more relaxed but seemed a bit too anxious to find out what Daniel and I were talking about during their absence. 

“Oh, trading war stories none of which Daniel and I can repeat until the statutes of limitations have expired, what with the arrest warrants and all.”

The girls looked very concerned.  

“Kidding. I’m kidding. No warrants. Honest.”

They both tried, and failed, to appear amused.

Butt-Hair, sorry, Vicky, seemed to have lightened up quite a bit. I was about to ask Jen if she pulled the large stick out of her friend’s whatnot. Luckily for all involved, Bruce started the second set.

The concert was, as expected, great fun but I spent most of the time keeping an eye on Jen, wondering when the rubber-band would snap and hoping I wouldn’t be around the day she’d climb the tower in order to gun down as many people as possible.

It’s only a matter of time.

After the show, Daniel and the girls announced they were too tired to go out and play.  We walked for about a mile to Daniel’s car. The three of them would be going back to his place and I was going to walk a couple blocks to my hotel.  Just before they hopped in his Volvo (imagine my surprise), Daniel gave me two tickets for the following night’s concert and casually announced he and Vicky would be joining Jen and me at the show.

Knowing I wouldn’t be receiving this news well, he spouted off the name of a restaurant where Jen and I would have dinner before going to the stadium for next day’s concert. He quickly got in the car and closed the door. They waved.

I was not pleased and didn’t take kindly to them dropping Jen on my lap.  After hearing Daniel’s description of Jen’s adventures the previous month and after observing her ridiculous behavior, I came to the quite sensible deduction that she was a deeply disturbed individual.

Psychotic? I can’t imagine otherwise. Deranged? Who wouldn’t be. Maybe she just went nucking futs from the experience. Two days of the worst possible hell and she’s walking around like nothing happened. Who recovers from something like that in a few weeks? No one I’d trust.

I walked back to the hotel dreading the thought of have dinner with her and reviewed all the possible ways the whole thing would turn into a dumpster fire.

Okay, I’ll make sure the restaurant hides all the knives. Forks. Gotta hide those. No glassware. Plastic spoons and sippy cups for the Chardonnay. Need a strategy. What’s my strategy? Gotta have a….alcohol! That’s my strategy. Get drunk ahead of time. What a brilliant idea. I’m a total genius.

Okay, maybe not. But, at least I had a plan.



Hong Kong, Part 1 – The Concrete Jungle

There was a very respectable and responsible reason we ended up in the Walled City of Kowloon.  Because that’s where the good cocaine was. 

At least, that’s what Gary, my laconnic and wayward pal, insisted at the time. “I know a guy.”

Upon hearing “I know a guy,” I should have put the brakes on immediately.  Nothing good happens when someone knows a guy. 

But, I wanted the coke.  So we went to the Walled City about which I knew nothing. 

I should have asked first but waited until we were half-way there before hitting up Gary for, what turned out to be, the dreadful reality of place.

The first thing he told me was the place was commonly referred to as “The City of Darkness” and things could get “a little rough by the local standards.”

“So, let me get this straight.  We’re already in a violent town, we don’t speak the language, we’re sticking out like two stupid round eyes and going to a place called the City of Darkness where things could get a little rough.  Have I captured the salient points?”

“Sounds about right,” he said way too casually for my liking. 

“Great. Fantastic.  What could possibly go wrong?  Other than being kidnapped and forced to work 28 hours a day making fake Rolex watches or, just on principle, being shot in the face, this’ll be a fun little nature walk. What the hell are we getting ourselves into? May I ask you a very serious and timely question?”


“How good’s the coke?”

“You’ll see.”

I immediately felt better. 

Just to give you perspective on Kowloon’s Walled City, it was so horrific that the Chinese government had it demolished a few years after my visit. The whole city.  Gone. And, replaced by a park where you can walk your dog. 

According to Gary, it seems someone built a rectangular concrete wall. I’m guessing he was drunk at the time because I’ve seen two year olds draw better rectangles. The wall was about 13′ high, ran 700′ by 400′ and was built to provide protection from the typhoons. 

If you’re looking for protection from typhoons then you’d think a roof would have come in handy at this point but my guess is the guy who built the wall finally sobered up, looked around at his creation and had a lightning-bolt of an epiphany. Probably something along the lines of, “What the fuck am I doing?”

Then he went home. 

Shortly thereafter, according to Gary, the government  decided it was time to take action. Whether it was the British government or the Chinese government was a mystery.  It doesn’t really matter because one fundamental principle remains true regardless of nationality, race, sex, color, creed, religion, sexual orientation, lifestyle or culture and it is simply this: 

If the government gets involved then the whole thing is going to go sideways and there’s nothing you can do about it. 

Were it my shot to call, I’d go one of two ways:

  1. Tell the guy who built the wall to come back and make it go away. 
  2. Hire someone to put a roof on it on accounta the typhoons. 

Well, the government officials, who’d also been hitting the sauce hard for a few months, decided let people build a city within the wall. In an area no larger than 280,000 square feet. A whole city. There ain’t no “Suburbs of the Walled City” because there is a wall where the suburbs would have started. 

You see where I’m going with this. 

Your first question is probably, “Okaaaay, who is going to want to actually live within a wall with no roof that was built because of all the typhoons?”


Morons would have been my first answer, too, but, having been in the place, I didn’t spot any.  Any morons, that is. I guess Hong Kong didn’t have many morons. 

What Hong Kong did have was drug dealers, rapists, addicts, alcoholics, prostitutes, gamblers, pimps, gang members, murderers and convicts on the run.  Oh, they had plenty of those and they all moved to the Walled City of Kowloon.

Remember, within this rectangular wall you’ve only got 280,000 square feet to play with. If you allocate each person a 6′ by 6′ area, then you’ve got room for a little over 7,500 people.  The actual number of people living inside the wall eventually went over 50,000. Think of being in the pit of a Bruce Springsteen concert except you’re there for four decades instead of four hours.

This is where both governments really stepped in decisively by refusing to assume any responsibility for this disaster and sending memos to each other saying, “I’m not taking it.  You take it.” I guess they came to the very sensible agreement of pretending it wasn’t there in the first place. 

The city residents probably should have hired an outside architectural consulting firm to work out ways to build nice high-rise condos. They decided to go DIY all the way. Yet again, massive alcohol intake must have been involved when it came to the vertical expansion because you had this tangled mess of rooms teetering on top of each other up to 150 feet high. The tops of these buildings were being held in place by leaning on the building next to them. In a place that gets hit with typhoons.

Here’s my favourite part of this whole catastrophe.  The wacky Hong Kong city planners decided something that transcends alcohol abuse.  These people must have been living on a strict diet of pure heroin, speedballs, LSD, paint thinner and angel dust.  There could not be any other reason behind making the decision to put an AIRPORT a half mile away from this mess of high-rise buildings.

Airplanes were probably flying thirty feet over these buildings in an attempt to land or take-off without killing anyone. 

That’s the history as I understood it at the time. 

Getting anywhere in Hong Kong was always a nightmare. The island part made Manhattan look like Boise, Idaho.  And, it was getting mighty crowded as we approached the pretty little town called the City of Darkness on the mainland. We were in the middle of a mosh pit.  It was getting difficult to move. 

Now, I don’t mind fear. I kinda like it. I have a fear of heights. Always have.  My way of dealing with it is to go sky-diving, zip-lining, parasailing and hot air ballooning.  But, I was seriously scared and not enjoying the experience. 

“Uh, Gary.  We don’t seem to be moving.  I think we’re stuck here permanently or until someone kidnaps us and forces us to work 49 hours a day making fake Gucci purses….”

“Stop. Just stop.”

I had no sense of relief once we finally entered the Walled City.  Actually, I had no sense at all because the place itself made absolutely no sense. The locals were, at least, a foot shorter than I was and they were all scrambling, shoulder-to-shoulder, in random directions like 1,000 cats on adderall and anabolic steroids. The buildings were separated by a maximum of three feet and water was pouring down the sides of them. There was a maze of small tunnels and alleys all of which smelled like spilled bong water.  It kind of reminded me of my freshman college dorm room.  

We were moving at a pretty good clip which was a challenge because it was dark and the walkways were built for people under 5’4″. I was staggering along hitting my head on drain pipes, concrete ceilings, door frames, light fixtures, cross beams and all sorts of wires hanging from the ceiling.  Plus, I kept tripping over everything so I started lifting my feet higher when walking which resulted in me stepping on things like rodents, dogs and little old ladies. I ended up walking like a cross between the Phantom of the Opera and Igor from Young Frankenstein except I was dancing around trying not to step on someone’s grandmother. 

“You’re sure this is the right place.  I mean, you’re really, really sure we’re not going to get kidnapped and forced OUCH!!!”  I had hit my head on a flower pot that was stuck on the ceiling. “What the hell is a flower pot doing…”

Gary interrupted, “Shut up. Be cool. Try blending in, Scooter.  Everyone keeps looking at you.” 

“Try blending in?!?!  The only reason they’re staring at me  is because they need a center for the basketball team.  They’re probably going to kidnap me and force me to play basketball 361 hours a day just so….”

“Would…you…please…SHUT…THE…FUCK…UP? Now, wait here. I gotta go upstairs and score and there’s no way we’re getting shit if YOU’RE anywhere near me. Don’t wander off too far.  Oh, don’t make eye contact with anyone. They serve great dog meat over there if you’re hungry. Tah-tah.”

I stepped backwards to put my back against a building but not before hitting my head on some bricks where the bottom of the second floor of the building stuck out over the first floor. 

I looked around. 

It wasn’t chaos I was watching.  It wasn’t even lunacy. It went well beyond that.  This was a city that caused your frontal cortex to stop and just go black. It defied intellect. It was a city that made it impossible to think. I was in the fight-or-flight part of my brain but quickly realized I was screwed either way so I just stood and watched. 

Gary ran up a ladder as I continued looking around.  Brothels everywhere. Tons of opium dens. Gambling parlors. There was, of course, Dogmeat R Us. People scattered on the ground in various states of drug withdrawal.  Enough sex trafficking to feed the Russian Army. Masses of pickpockets running around. Pimps getting in scuffles with other pimps.  And, a Pentacostal Church.

That last sentence is not a mistake.

There were a couple round-eyed white women leading a room full of locals in singing some sort of very serious and quiet hymn.  The song started in English and ended up with everyone going into random psycho-babble. And, they kept babbling. Some were jumping up and down. Others were falling, getting back up and flailing around for a while before falling down again.  A few were laughing, dancing and crying all at the same time. Then they all got ecstatic. At the same time. Deliriously, so. 

It was a room full of around 40 people going off the rails. 

My first thought? “This is fucked up.”

Second thought? “This is totally fucked up.”

Now, here’s the strange part. No one, other than me, noticed. It wasn’t like there was a closed door.  There were these forty-odd people piled on top of each other flailing around screaming in ecstatic baby-talk and no one batted an eye. The masses just kept walking past this place with facial expressions that said, “I wonder if I’ll have duck sauce on my dog-meat taco today.”

Just as quickly as it started, it ended and they went back to singing the same hymn that started this riot in the first place.  The round-eyed women were putting their palms on the people singing presumably to take their temperatures. It would have made for a great Lithium commercial. “As a doctor, I recommend Lithium to all my patients otherwise they’ll go bat-shit crazy like these nut-jobs in that church.”

I tried not to stare. I really did but I couldn’t help it. I didn’t intend to but I made eye-contact with one of the round-eyed women so I gave her my standard plastic smile but received no acknowledgement. Instead she summoned the other round-eye over so both could stare at me. One of them, looking very displeased,  started marching directly towards me. I wasn’t sure what was up her silo but I figured she’d tell me soon enough.

“You’re the press.” She wasn’t asking. 

“Uh, me? Press? Uh, no. Definitely not. No. Okay. Actually, my colleague is upstairs at the moment trying to score some blow and I came along just to pick up a couple dog-meats on rye.”

“You expect me to believe that.”  Still not asking and looking quite stern.

“Uh, yeah. My previous statement, as I reflect upon it,  was made on an expectation-free basis and is, in fact, accurate except I’m thinking of giving the dog-meat sandwiches a miss.  But, definitely not the press. My current ambition is to get the hell out of here very soon.”

She looked around briefly and said, “You better come with me.” She grabbed my arm and led me to the room where forty people just had simultaneous orgasms. 

“I’m Jackie.” She still looked annoyed. 

“I’m mystified.”

“Your name.” Still not asking.  She sounded Australian. Or, British. 

“Mine? Uh, yes. Right. Wait, it’ll come to me. Uh, Drew, actually. I mean not ‘Drew Actually.’  Just Drew. I actually need to stop saying actually all the time. May I ask a question?”

No answer.  Just raised eye-brows.

“What just happened in here?”

She paused. “So you’re not just here to be demeaning and cruel?” Finally, a question somewhat in the form of a question but one that surprised me. 

“No. Not at all. No. Just wasn’t sure what to make of it all. I was watching and wondering what in the world was going on.”

She almost smiled. “It WASN’T of this world.”

Well that really narrows it down, thanks a lot, Sweetheart. (I didn’t say that. I just thought it.)


“We can discuss while you wait for your colleague.”

“Oh, him. Yeah. As I said, he’s completing a, uh, little transaction. His attorneys are probably reviewing the paperwork as we speak.  He should be back once the contracts are notarized.”

Almost a smile again as she motioned towards a couple chairs. 

We sat down. 

She was ready to explain.

And, I was ready to listen. 



Hong Kong, Part 2 – Losing My Religion

The setting was simple enough.  I was sitting on a folding chair by myself.  In a church.  In the middle of the most deranged and lawless city I had ever visited.  Jackie, the woman who corralled me, had stepped away.  I sat alone while Gary went upstairs to buy some, allegedly, top-shelf cocaine.  I wondered what Jackie had on her mind. 

Other than no altar, no stained-glass windows, no carpet, no pews, no enormous crosses, no drapes and no religious statues, this looked like any other church.  

It was a rectangle space around the size of a two-car garage with some very old folding chairs. The total lack of froo-froo scored some points with me.  The walls had some torn up posters of Jesus in happier times. Otherwise, the place looked like shit. Definitely, Better Trailer Homes and Gardens material. The room was at an angle and looked ready to collapse at any moment but so did the rest of Kowloon City.

Everyone in this church was suspiciously happy and friendly which was something I had never seen in a church. I was used to over-dressed people looking highly annoyed.  Folks came over and to speak with me about what I have no idea because they only spoke Chinese but they were smiling at the same time so I figured it was all good. I felt welcomed there which was more than I could ever say I felt in a church before. At least, these church folks were thrilled to have this time together. I probably hit my head on the ceiling 6 times when I’d stand up to greet one of them. They found that very amusing.

The other round-eyed lady approached me.  Apparently, Jackie had an urgent issue to tend to. My guess was she went with the duck sauce on her dogmeat taco and probably had the runs. Anyway, I stood to greet the replacement round-eye and, for the 7th time, hit my head on the ceiling before following up with a resounding, “Jesus Fuhhhhh….uh. I mean, Heavenly Father, forgive this ceiling for it is low.”

The RREL (Replacement Round Eyed Lady) frowned while looking me over.  It tried to look composed but I had hit my head hard enough to see stars and was having some balance issues.  I must have looked drunk. She asked if I was okay. 

“Me? Uh, yes, right, well, once I get my bearings….gotta cut out the vodka martinis before 9am.”

I was hoping she’d find some amusement with my reply.  She didn’t. 

I was so tempted to ask her, “What’s a nice girl like you doing in a dump like this?” If I had then she most likely would have, with ample justification, pimp-slapped me upside the head.

What I did say was, “I really didn’t mean to stare.  The noise and….activity….threw me for a loop.  Spirited bunch of folks.  Couldn’t help but notice.  And, couldn’t help but wonder….well….I mean….wha’ ‘appened?  Uh….a church?  Here?  I mean, this place makes Vegas look like Vatican City.”

She gave me a look to clearly indicate she thought I was a moron and said, “When was the last time you saw a Meals-on-Wheels truck in Beverly Hills?”

“Point.”  I hate rhetorical questions.  

She said people in this walled city came to this church in a last-ditch effort to end their drug addictions.  The idea was to end the addictions through Jesus and communicating to God which was what all the yelling and screaming was about.  Before I could say anything to pooh-pooh her, she wanted me to tell her what I knew about God and Jesus.  Got downright pushy about it when I tried to disregard the question.

Out of annoyance, I said, “You probably don’t want to know.”

Oh, yes she did. 

So, I told her the cold, hard truth. 

For a couple years, as a child, I was shoved out the door every Sunday morning to go to church.  My parents had absolutely no interest in going but, since all the other kids in the neighborhood went to church, they felt it was in everyone’s best interest to keep up appearances.  For reasons I’ll never know, I was, at first, quite interested in learning about church and God.  It looked communal.  Being part of a community was something I hadn’t experienced in my life.  I wanted to be included, for once. 

It was not a sentiment shared by anyone else in the entire church.  The adults were all too busy trying to manufacture facial expressions to clearly show they were serious and very holy people of God.  To me, their sour looks made them appear as a bunch of people sitting on the toilet and whatever they were trying to accomplish while sitting on the toilet wasn’t working out well.  And, they were not nice at all.  Mean, in fact, in all their holiness.

Constipation will do that to you. 

The priest-type guy wasn’t much better.  He’d glare at me with a look that said, “What are YOU doing here?” I never got too close to him, anyway, because he had the worst case of dog-breath on the planet.  It was horrifying.  You could smell it from 20 feet away.  With a single belch, he could immediately remove all the wallpaper in a 5,000 square foot house.  

As I learned years later, there was a reason all these church people were so pissy.  It seems my father angered a couple members of this church.  I don’t know the circumstances but the conversation among them went south one day.  Now, my father had a frightening ability to completely figure someone out in under thirty seconds.  And, he was never wrong.  I’m serious.  He knew you better than you knew yourself.  

If Dad’s assessment was negative then he’d never let on.  He’d continue a conversation without giving you a hint of what he thought of you.  He’d keep it to himself UNLESS you were stupid enough to commit the following act:

Piss him off. 

If you did manage to get him to that stage then there was no going back.  You were not going to put the toothpaste back into THAT tube. Reconciliation was not in the cards. 

Well, it seems these two yahoos said something because my father told them both their major character failings.  Succinctly put, he body slammed them. I have no doubt he included all the words and phrases below when he described their distinguishing characteristics: 

  • Hypocrite 
  • Two-faced
  • Masterbating
  • Vacant
  • Limp
  • Flatulent 
  • Pigs-in-clover
  • Parasite 
  • Penis envy
  • Perversion 
  • Toilet training
  • Moral impairment 
  • Dysfunction

When it came to arguments, you didn’t stand a chance against Dad for the simple fact that he was bigger, louder and more intimidating than you’ll ever be. I am certain he was bang on target with these two and they must have cringed hearing it.  I’m guessing he hit to close to home for their comfort. 

Well, word got around so when the congregation saw me coming, I think everyone remembered I was the son of an EHSM (Evil-Heathen-Sinner-Maggot) thereby making me an EHSM-in-Training and obviously highly unfit to attend their very exclusive church.  So, they decided not to roll out the welcome mat. 

Another significant challenge was priest-boy’s sermons.  They flew well over my head. Plus the Bible isn’t the most child-friendly reading on the planet. Passages the priest-dude would quote made no sense to me.  He’d stand up there and say something like:

“Then the king’s countenance was changed and his thoughts troubled him so that the joints of his loins were loosed and his knees smote one against another.  The king cried aloud to bring in the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers. And, the king spake and said to the wise men of Babylon, ‘Whosoever shall read this writing, and shew me the interpretation thereof, shall be clothed with scarlet and have a chain of gold about his neck and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.’”

I’m not sure what an 11-year-old is supposed to do with this information but the guy wanted me to solemnly consider how that passage applied to my life. I might have spent some time in deep reflection wondering who put joints in the guy’s loins but that probably was the extent of my contemplations on the subject.  

Still, I tried to be in their club.  I think I just wanted to belong somewhere. 


Priest-dude had a horrendous fixation on sins. Everyone had to cut it out with the sins.  And, if we kept up with this tacky sinning then we had to confess them to God before asking for forgiveness and we had to sound convincing or else.  Problem was he never really told you what qualified as a sin that required this request for forgiveness.  I finally came to the conclusion that everything I did was a sin.  That message seemed to be directed at me because, while the rest of the congregation nodded in eager agreement, I just thought about the massive lifestyle change I’d have to make in order to catch up with everyone else. 

I mean, this wasn’t a “think I’ll cut down a little on the booze” or “I’ll stop being so mean to the kids” lifestyle adjustment.  If I was going to make the cut then I was going to be climbing a very steep hill which was only made more difficult by priestly-type-dude not telling me what I was doing that was so sinful.  This meant I had to ask God for forgiveness for actions that may not have qualified as sins which was probably a sin so, either way, I was screwed. 

Getting right down to it, the sum total of the message, the overwhelming message, I received over the 2 years of church was that, as far as God was concerned, I was a class-A fuckup.  Highly unworthy and, based on the behavior of all these church people, unwanted.  Plus, I’ll be going to Hell because I wasn’t working hard enough asking for forgiveness in the proper manner for all the sins I wasn’t aware I committed which were so bad that Jesus had to suffer and die thanks to all this  sinning on my part that, chronologically speaking, hadn’t actually occurred yet so I must really suck and I could do a better job praying but it probably wouldn’t help because me going to Hell was pretty much a done deal.  PS, I should stop staring at girls wondering what they look like naked on accounta covetousness. 

That was the extent of my Christian education.

Judaism, by the way, made my head explode.  I say this because my exposure was limited to two events I attended when I was 12 years old:

A bat mitzvah

A bris

Becky was a classmate and the center of attention at the bat mitzvah.  She was obsessively shy and would barely say a word to anyone during school.  However, as I found out, once she felt comfortable around you then she would not shut up.  Anytime she saw me, I knew I was in for a 20 minute deeply-disturbed monologue about being the victim of some recent atrocity such as her mother being 5 minutes late to pick her up after violin practice. 

My father did a very elegant job explaining what a bat mitzvah was as we drove there.  He said this was considered a “coming out party….or…..some damn thing” but it really was just another way to make people give money to Jewish families because, “Jews make a federal case out of everything including the fact that blood is coming out of your friend’s vagina on a periodic basis.  Then there’s a party where a bunch of drunks dance in a circle. Probably have some nice kosher fruit juice and kosher pie at the party so it won’t be a total loss.”

Now, I was pretty young at the time and this new fun fact about Becky and her bleeding vagina caught me way off guard.  I wondered how he knew about this issue.  I thought that might be information she’d want to keep to herself. I’d considered asking him how badly it was bleeding but I figured it was a detail I could live without.  I was thinking I should ask her if she was okay but quickly overruled that idea.  As conversation starters go, “How’s your vagina doing?” just sounded wrong.  Besides, if I did ask her then I’d get a 20 minute rant about all the blood everywhere.  

Hopefully, it was just a paper cut.

Regardless, does this not seem like a very feeble excuse to have a party?  (“Oh, look!  Someone’s vagina is bleeding!  Let’s put the guest list together!”).  On the other hand, I mean, whatever flips your pancake.   At the time, I had the impression Christians never had a party so this was a step in the right direction. 

Before I got out of the car, my father gave me an envelope with money in it.  “Here, give her this.  A little something for the college fund or the abortion, which ever comes first.  But, don’t tell her that. If they try to give you gefilte fish, run.  Call me whenever you want to get the hell outta there.”

The ceremony was weirder than church.  Becky came out with something that initially appeared to be bagpipes but turned out to be a large roll of wallpaper with words on it.  Becky looked about as comfortable as someone sitting in the electric chair.  She read the wallpaper for a while and then started to sing.  Or, attempted to sing.  The noise coming out of her mouth sounded, at the time, like someone who either was intentionally singing as poorly as possible or like someone trying to sing properly but was unable because of the blood coming out of her vagina. I checked the floor for blood splatter but didn’t see any so I figured she was singing like that on purpose. 

The party wasn’t very enlightening, either.  It was true that a lot of adults and children were joyful dancing around.  Laughter certainly filled the dance floor.  I was amazed how one little vagina could bring so much happiness to so many people.  

I stayed on the boys side of the room.  It just seemed safer.  Across the way Becky appeared in fine form except when some adults would descend and talk at her all at once.  Sometimes a pair of parents would take her aside for a very serious conversation. (“Listen, Becky.  If you ever, ever need anything at all….for your vagina… then you can call us anytime.  Day or night.  Just remember we’re always here for you….and your vagina.”)

While the bat mitzvah seemed weird, I thought the bris was just downright fucked up.  I mean, talk about pulling a reason out of your silo to have a party.  Circumcising an infant didn’t sound party-worthy to me. 

It was about a month after Vagina-Gate.  The scene of this crime was about a half-mile away from my house. Eddie lived a few doors from me. We walked together to the poor little fella’s home with various adults 20 yards ahead of us.  

Eddie’s father ran a trash removal company during the week and was a preacher on weekends.  He conducted Saturday night revivals in a big tent where you could buy fireworks during the week. Eddie’s father gently and kindly helped Eddie in seeking God by repeatedly beating Eddie to a pulp until he got with the program.  Eddie decided, as I would’ve, that it was in his best interest to follow his father’s footsteps by using his classmates as his test market for spreading the Gospel thereby making himself insufferable.

Just before we left, I asked my father what this shindig was about and why we had to get all dressed up for the occasion. 

He explained it was just another way to make people give money to Jewish families because, “Jews make a federal case out of everything including having someone stop by to cut a little skin off a baby’s dick.  Probably have some nice kosher soft drinks and kosher cupcakes at the house so it won’t amount to a total loss.”

“Why would they tell people to come over and.…”

“First thing’s first.  Very important. I’ll never survive the party without this.”  He grabbed a bottle of scotch, slammed two very large gulps, and let out a very expressive, “Ahhhhh….., whoa. Jesus. That should do the trick.”

“So, why does everyone have to be there?”

He pondered this question.  Staring out the window,  he said, “Something about Abraham….and a covenant…some damn thing…so you can claim more descendants which is useful knowledge for estate planning purposes, I suppose….but if you don’t have it done then you can’t have Passover dinner.  Makes a lot of sense to me, too.  Probably in some scripture. ‘Thou shalt not eat thy gelfilte fish less’n thou hath thine wee-wee sliced for why we do not know.  Amen.’   Better off going to McDonald’s in the first place.”

“Does blood come out of anyone’s vagina at these things?”

“Hell, you never can tell.  Wouldn’t surprise me.  We can ask around just to make sure.  Probably be a little blood on the kid’s dick.  Good question.”

The event itself involved a very strange little man who marched in the house, did the deed, muttered something and left.  Everyone was so thankful for his presence.  I’d have had him arrested.  Then, everyone started congratulating the parents and telling them how happy we all were.  You’d have thought condolences would be in order. (“Gosh, David. Sorry about your kid’s penis. Just remember, if there’s anything… ANYTHING….Gladys and I can do for you….and your baby’s dick….then let us know.”)

Back to Christianity, I walked with Eddie to the penis-slicing. Eddie was certain about two things:

  1. When he dies, he’ll go to Heaven.
  1. The rest of us won’t. 

Eddie was never subtle.

“These Jews have not accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and savior and they will die and burn in Hell for all eternity!”

“Do they know that?”

“I told the Coleman’s like 20 times they got to get their minds right and either accept Jesus with all their hearts or end up in agony forever because of all their sinning.”

“What’d they say?”

“They got a lawyer.” 

Eddie didn’t seem like the best person to attend a bris. 

I told him, “I don’t want to go to church anymore.  They don’t like me there and I don’t think I can be mean enough to join their club”

He spewed out a ten minute reply.  His monologue ran something along the lines of the fact that my parents didn’t go to church and they really weren’t believers so I couldn’t be, either, because faith is hereditary so that’s why he [Eddie] would be going to Heaven but not me plus people in the congregation didn’t like my parents because they were all certain that,  while my parents had values, they didn’t have the right values so I must have been sent to bring Satan into the church and only Godly people should be allowed in church and I was bringing impure thoughts to God’s House as evidence by the fact that I wondered what girls looked like with their clothes off and if I wasn’t allowed in church then I’ll be going to Hell because I didn’t go to church. 

I knew he had no idea what he was talking about and I didn’t blame Eddie for saying any of this because it was a matter of survival in his case. But, he did sum things up rather well by confirming for me that Christianity was a game I stood no chance of winning and, from the moment I stepped into church, everyone knew it was just a matter of time before I’d throw in the towel which would verify what they firmly believed all along:

When it came to strength of character, I didn’t have nearly enough to join their club. 

The priest-guy, the church leaders, the congregation, the church staff, the janitorial department and Bob from accounting unanimously agreed that I was well below the standards to which they had become accustomed.

Their strategy to remedy this problem (me) was three-fold:

  1. Treat me like a low-life
  1. Pretend I’m invisible
  1. Hope I go away

With Eddie’s very clear and logical message ringing in my ears, I went to church that following Sunday for the last time.  The people I saw around me were no longer the clergy, the choir and the congregation. 

They were the enemy. 

I glared at them as they prayed and sang.  I thought, “Fuck you.  Fuck your club.”

Then, I gave up. I got up and left half way through the service. 

When I got home, I told my father I didn’t think church was working out for me. 

He shrugged as he rummaged through the pantry. “Hell, run these things up the flagpole.  Sometimes they salute.  Sometimes they don’t.  No great loss. I wouldn’t give anyone in that dump the sweat off my balls.  Give us more time to get ready for football.  Where the hell does your mother put the popcorn?  Nothing is where it was two days ago.  No more church?  Good.  Fine.  Their loss.  Not sure I remember why the hell we wanted you….A-HA!!! What hath God wrought?!?  Finally!  Some popcorn.  What was the question?  Oh, church.  Right.  Hell with them.  Bunch of losers.  Speaking of losers, when are the Cowboys playing?”

I was glad.  He summed it up perfectly.  

I relayed all this, with significant editing, to the round eyed lady whose name, for the life of me, I don’t remember as a way of explaining how I lost interest in Christianity and really wasn’t entertaining the idea of revisiting it.  I was glib.  And, casual.

The first sentence of her response got my attention. “That was not a church.  Tell you why.  Want to know why?  I’ll tell you why.  I will.  When those people rejected you, do you want to know who else they rejected?”

“Pat Boone?  Guy has ‘Satan’ written all over him. ”

Nothing. No chuckle. No smile. Nothing.  

I started feeling very itchy to get out of there. She was making me very uncomfortable.  Plus, I wasn’t ready for a religious lecture on how I was an evil heathen sinner boy.

“Jesus.  They rejected you?  They rejected Jesus.  That was never a church.  What kind of church rejects Jesus?”

“A synagogue?”

“You know what?  I’ll tell you. Think of a raft with people in it.  Floating in the middle of an ocean with no sails and no udder.  And,  you know what?  That’s where you went instead of church. And, do you want to know something else?”

“Not really.”

“There’s no humanity in a church without Jesus.  That place you went was inhumane.  You stayed human.  And, I’ll tell you something else.  You want to know something?”

“Actually, I think I need to flush the car radiator.  It’s urgent.  So I’ll just be….”

“You’re angry.”

That was news to me.  I thought I had made it clear this was all something I dismissed with bemused scorn a long time ago.  

But, she wouldn’t let up.  “Let me tell you something.  You want to know what?”

“Well, maybe next time.  You see, I need to go back to the island to get my medication.  It’s urgent….”

“I’ll tell you something.  I will. Let me tell you…”

“It’s just that I have acute Twenty-Four-Hour-Tourette’s-Syndrome and if I don’t….”

“You try to be funny but that bitterness won’t go away….”

“Uh, oh. The Tourette’s. It’s coming back.  I really….”

“You’re taking on all that shame. It’s taking a toll….”

“NippleScrotumCunnilingusOrgasmDogMeatTaco.  I’m sorry. It’s the Tourette’s talking.  I wish I could….”

“But, you won. Want to know why? Let me tell you why. It’s very simple you….”

“Hey, Gary’s back.  Looks like he scored, so I’ll be shoveling off…”

She kept at it.  “You kept your humanity.  They couldn’t take it from you.  Your soul.  You wouldn’t let them…..”

“Now, you know that cocaine isn’t gonna snort itself so….”

“Because you knew you didn’t want to become one of them. Know what? I’ll tell you.  I think you rejected them more than they rejected you. Want me to tell you why? It’s….”

La-la-la-la, I can’t hear you….”

“Jesus didn’t play their game. Neither did you.  You kept your humanity.”

Well, she had a point.  I never did let myself play their game. I had plenty of opportunities to truly integrate myself with them but I knew enough not to. I rejected them, too.  It wasn’t a one-way street. 

It was her mention of my humanity that hit me.  Humanity was something I thought I lost long ago.  Probably, in a custody dispute.  I was always the aloof, semi-amused, cavalier hiding behind my mask of light-hearted disapproval aimed towards…well, humanity.  She was still talking while I zoned out. 

Humanity. I thought maybe that was the sub-text of the message the old-boy was trying to get across before getting crucified for his trouble.  He maintained his own humanity under circumstances you could mildly call inhumane.  My conclusion was I had no reason to have faith in someone else’s humanity. 

But, I just needed faith in my own. 

Gary barged in and said, loud enough to be heard by everyone in the church, “Let’s get the fuck OUTTA HERE!  C’mon, Dude. This shit ain’t gonna snort itself.”

I stood up without hitting my head on the ceiling and shook the woman’s hand.  I probably stared at her for 10 seconds before saying, “Thank you.”  It was at that point I turned away and took one step before hitting my head on a cross-beam that was holding the ceiling up.  Big time.  Drew blood and everything. Everyone there laughed. I shrugged, took a bow and left. 

Gary and I managed to finally get out of Dodge and back on the island part of Hong Kong where, for about two and a half days,  we partied like it was 1999.  

But, during that whole time, all I thought about was my humanity. The same one I assumed I lost a few lifetimes ago.



Hong Kong, Part 3 – The Fish of Wrath

Actually, before Gary and I went on our little two day debauch, we decided the allure of the dog meat smell at the Walled City made us a bit peckish.  So, Gary insisted we have have some authentic Hong Kong cuisine.   

He decided on the perfect place for me.  That’s what he told me while supressing very obvious urge to start giggling.  I knew I was in trouble.

Don’t ask me where we ended up.  I have no clue. The best I could understand was it was along the coastline to a body of water I think they called “Junk Bay” which pretty well gives you an idea about how dinner went.  

You know those hole-in-the-wall diners you occasionally see in small towns with a beat up sign outside that just says “Eat”? Presumably, because the owner didn’t have the cash for a sign with the name on it or didn’t care enough to even make up a name at all?  That was this place. 

I knew I was in for a real treat when I stepped into the restaurant and hit my head on the door frame.  However, I felt better once we got inside.  It looked a lot nicer than expected and had close to a full house.  

The ceiling in the entire place was six feet high.  This was done specifically to ensure that all tall American half-wits would hit their heads on EVERYTHING. Every time I stood up, my head went through a ceiling tile.  It didn’t matter where I walked.  My head would periodically hit something strategically placed by management as revenge for a history of ancestoral round-eye indiscretions.  As we stood waiting for a table, the customers kept glancing at me briefly before discussing, among themselves, the various aspects of my inferior white-round-eye-running-dog heritage.  

There was a large fish tank ahead of us which I guessed was management’s idea to add a little atmosphere.  The maître ď, looking way too happy to see us,  started making some excitedly odd gestures while pointing to the fish tank indicating that whatever we wanted for dinner was currently swimming IN THE FISHTANK.

The idea was to identify the one out of 50 fish frantically swimming in the tank for honorable chef to prepare it and for me to eat it. 

Now, we’re not taking any fish.  These fish were considered delicacies. Delicacies, in the fish world, are, evidently, fish caught at the sewage treatment facility right next to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.  

I mean, these were some seriously fucked up looking fish: eyeballs in various places, thorns sticking out, horns, fluorescent colored skin with major league deformities.  


I asked for suggestions from Gary.

“Like I care. It’s fish. Pick one.”

So, I looked around for the least offensive looking one of the bunch and selected it before being guided to our table by a stunning looking woman. I was staring at her while we walked before hitting my head on a piece of wood protruding from the ceiling much to the amusement of the other patrons.

The woman gave us menus and I prayed they would have anything I could actually eat which they didn’t. I knew this immediately because the first item on the menu is something called FISHLIP CASSEROLE.  You think I’m kidding.  I am not kidding.  

The other appetizers didn’t look much better.  Fish Balls. That was next on the menu.  The house speciality was Chicken Feet.  Oh, if Chicken Feet wasn’t bad enough then they could’ve always rustled up a basket of Chicken Testicles.  We could always have gotten some Stinky Tofu.  What could be better then some good old Stinky Tofu and spending a couple hours next to a guy cooking dog meat?  I was advised by the waiter that I probably wouldn’t care for the Turtle Jelly as it was a bit of an acquired taste.  We went with the Snake Soup which smelled like wet mulch. It definitely did not taste like chicken.

It tasted like shit.

We ordered a couple rounds of the stiffest drinks they had.  I was hoping there’d be enough booze to kill my taste buds.   I could only handle two drinks because, even though they put in plenty of grain alcohol, the taste was an unfortunate blend of Diet Mountain Dew and formaldehyde.

“Dinner” consisted of something that may have been the totally disgusting fish all cut up but looked no less horrifying than it did in the tank. There were some weird things that look like oysters but were so slimy that I couldn’t transfer it from plate to mouth without putting my mouth on the edge of the plate and shoveling them in. There was, also, some sinister looking yellow, grainy mass.  The idea was to put a little of this yellow crap on your fish before eating to give it a kick. 

This is something you must never do. 

Now, I’ve had spicey food in my life but NOTHING like this.  It was so hot I literally jumped to my feet (putting another hole in the ceiling) much to the amusement of everyone in the place who enjoyed watching Loser-American-Maggot explode into little pieces.  This stuff made my toes hurt.  I was drenched in sweat within two seconds. 

Once I came off life support, I had to eat the rest of it just to show I wasn’t some stupid American who couldn’t handle local cuisine which, as it later turned out, I couldn’t. 

Oh, yeah, desert.  I think the desert was their take on flan.  You’ve heard the saying there’s no difference between good flan and bad flan?  Oh, yes there is. You don’t know for bad flan until you’ve tried THEIR flan.  THEIR flan looked like someone with a horrendous sinus infection sneezed into a bowl a half dozen times and someone with a sense of humor put a cherry on top of it. 

It wasn’t long after we left the place when I threw it all up. Dinner didn’t taste any better the second time. 

It didn’t taste any worse, either.  

I considered the visit to the Walled City earlier that day to be an eye-opening experience especially since it was me that I was eyeing. 

Anyway, we went back to the island where we partied our blues away for the next couple days with 20 or so of my new best friends.  Way too much fun. I’ll spare you the details.  I survived. 

Best we leave it at that. 



Stranger in a Strange Land: Raeford, NC.

There was a time, in the not too distant past, when God hadn’t yet created mobile phones or GPS.  

When you needed driving directions, you looked around until you spotted a pedestrian who looked like he or she knew the area and asked for help. 

I never could find the right person to ask. For example, if I were to ask some random person for directions to Route 66, then I’d get these sorts of responses:

  1. Oh, yeah….uh, you gotta go….some…where…north, probably on…a…road…pretty much south from, yeah, then you turn…I think…I’m not sure…anymore.
  2. I’m not telling. You need to go buy a map, just like everyone else, and figure it out for yourself. You can’t just rely on others to fix your problems. That’s the problem with this country. People need to learn a little self-reliance….hey, come back here
  3. Deutschland wird wieder auferstehen, du Amerikanischer Schweinehund!  Heil Hitler!
  4. Hey, Baby. You wanna go out on a date? I know you wanna go on a date with me. You wanna have a date?

People got lost all the time.  If you couldn’t find a pedestrian for help then you’d use the position of the sun to get an idea where to point yourself.  Sometimes you followed the cars whose drivers seemed to know where they were going. 

You could buy maps but, after the extensive unfolding process, you had this very detailed and intricate 5′ x 5′ map which did you absolutely no good whatsoever because you had no clue where you were vis-a-vis the map. There was no YOU ARE HERE arrow on the map. Not that it mattered because you couldn’t read the names of the streets on accounta the names were written in 0.0025 point font.

Here’s a map.

People generally scoured the maps for an hour before throwing them in the trash. 

Here’s where you put the map after giving up trying to use the map.

The next step in the process was to call people you knew who might help. This meant finding a “phone booth” which was a very small enclosed space where you stood and used a landline connected phone to place your call. 

The multipurpose phone booth.
The zero-purpose phone in the phone booth.

This was a real hit or miss process for a few reasons:

  1. The handset was often nowhere to be found. All you had was bare wire indicating where the handset used to be. 
  2. The “phone booth” was identified as the “bathroom” by people too drunk to notice the difference and the odor was used as a weapon of mass destruction in wars until it was banned by the UN.
  3. It was also identified as “the office” by drug dealers and pimps who stayed in the phone booth 12 hours a day conducting business. 
  4. Federal law prohibited anyone from cleaning a phone booth so the whole phone apparatus was converted in layers of slime, hair, snot, dirt, beer, vomit and dead flies who got stuck on the slime.
  5. You had to drop in a quarter to make a call unless the call was to someone outside a 500′ radius of the phone booth. If that was the case then you were making a “long-distance” call which required additional quarters at random times and if you didn’t put in enough quarters in time then your call was cut off.
  6. Even if you were able to actually call and actually reach someone then the call would go like this:
  • You – I’m lost. Can you give me directions?
  • Person You Called (PYC) – Where are you?
  • You – I don’t know. 
  • PYC – Uh, well, what city are you in?
  • You – I don’t know. 
  • PYC – Let’s see if I’ve got this right. You want me to tell you how to get from “there” to “here” but you’re missing the minor detail of where “there” is. Not a lot to work with. 
  • You – Okay. This will help. There’s a Citgo on one side of the street across from an office building with two benches in front of it and sitting on one of the benches is a guy wearing a green….
  • PYC – [click]

One day, in the late 1970s, I drove into a town in North Carolina called Raeford. I had no idea how I got there and no clue how to get the hell out. Raeford was quaint, small, quiet, provincial and very Southern. The people were really nice. They’d smile and wave as I drove by.

I did ask a few natives for directions but I couldn’t understand a word anyone said because every man, woman and child in Raeford had a pound and a half of chewing tobacco in their mouths. They couldn’t use consonants. When they spoke, they sounded as though they were at the dentist and the novocaine had kicked in. Plus, pieces of tobacco came flying out of their mouths and huge amounts of brown slobber ran down their chins and onto their shirts.

I thought about the beautiful Raeford bride walking down the church aisle in a gorgeous white dress with brown slobber all down the front of it. Then, I thought about the 20 member church choir singing elegant hymns with pieces of tobacco and brown saliva flying in all directions of the church.

My first official act in Raeford was to find lunch. Easier said than done. The restaurants, such as they were, didn’t look appealing.

One place had a boarded up window and a homemade sign on the door saying, “Beer to go. French Ticklers. Food.”

Another rustic emporium had no name. Just the “Eats” sign above the door with a sandwich board leaning next to the door with pink letters that said, “Today’s Special: Meat.”

I spotted a convenience store. It was rustic, too, mostly because it was gross. There was a flashing neon sign behind a window. It was difficult to read because the window hadn’t been washed since the Roosevelt Administration. Teddy Roosevelt. I was about 4″ from the window before I could finally see the glories awaiting within. “Bait. Tobacco. Beer. Homemaid [sic] Donuts. Enemas – 99 Cents.”

I imagined myself walking into this southern, rural, redneck store and saying, “Yes. Hi, there. I’d like a Perrier with a lime twist, please.”

Then, I imagined the guy behind the counter looking at me and responding, “You pretty sensitive, ain’t cha boy.” Just before hitting me on the head with a crowbar.

I found a place called, “Quick Stop.” Except “Quick” was spelled “KWIK.” Wow, “KWIK,” isn’t that cute? Oh, just the cutest thing ever. Sooooo, cute.

I was desperate so I rolled the dice and entered the KWIK (K….W….I….K….) Stop.

Inside, there were two people who may very well have been employees. Both were sitting, glassy-eyed and practically catatonic, behind the counter watching a TV rerun of, ”The Munsters.” They looked like they had just finished a 14-day, sleepless heroin binge. 

They were friendly, in their own way. 

I asked the two fine young people if’n this here KWIK Stop (K…W…I…K…) had anything to eat.  One of them slowly turned her head and opened one blood-shot eye. Her tongue was hanging out and there was some crusted vomit on her lip. She managed to say  “Ffffffffffffffffffuhhhh,” before her head rolled back. She fell off her chair and went to sleep on the floor. The other employee, looking quite bewildered, slowly turned to me and whispered, “Y tha’ lil’ friggin’ ought ripiz lungs out.” He fell face-first into the TV, crashed the screen with his face and ended up with his head stuck in the TV. Then he went to sleep. 

The “deli” aisle included “pressed meats,” bologna with holes in it, something that looked like it had already been digested called a “pork roll,” and a semi-melted yellow-ish thing with green chunks in it with the sign CHEEZ propped up next to it   (C….H….E….E…Z….). The soup-of-the-day started out, I think, as tuna-salad that had decomposed into a grey, thick liquid with dead flies around it.

Along the wall, a sign said something like SNAX (S…N…A…X…). Under it was an open bag of Doritos covered in chocolate sauce, a few piles of fried dough under a sign saying DONUTS (D…O…N…U…T…S…) and a pink, glow-in-the-dark condom.

I lost my appetite.

A sign saying KOOL DRINKS (K…O…O…L…) was above the refrigerated section which was chilled to a crisp 88 degrees.  Behind the greasy, snot-stained, bullet-hole-ridden glass doors were gallon jugs of PREMIUM WATER with handwritten labels saying, “Water Out Of A Garden Hose.”  I did manage to find a couple bottles of Gatorade that didn’t have any hair on them. 

I brought the Gatorades and some gum to the cash register where the female employee, having scraped herself off the floor, stood.  She attempted to enter the information on the cash register.  But she had on 6” long press-on nails so she kept hitting 3 different keys but not the one she wanted to hit.  She decided to resolve the issue by hitting the keys harder. So hard that her press-on nails started flying in all directions. I hid under a table so I wouldn’t get hit by one. One of them got embedded in the ceiling. Another flew into the glass door and shattered it. Another hit her co-worker who still had his head stuck inside the TV. This caused him to wake up, pull his head out of the TV, change the TV station and go back to sleep. 

The cost, once she finally mastered the cash register,  came to $1.50. I gave her a $5 bill. She stared at it, clearly stunned, and didn’t know what to do.  I don’t think she had ever seen a $5 bill. Plus, she couldn’t figure out how to open the cash drawer. Anyway, girlfriend took the $5 bill and slowly backed away to talk with her co-worker who, having urinated on himself when he was hit with the press-on nail, managed to regain consciousness.  They huddled and whispered trying to figure out what to do next. 

She looked at me in sheer terror and said, “Uh, uhnnn, mmmm, gotta talk, errrr, to, uh yeah, like talk to my manager errr somethin’.” She went to a back room and, after about 15 minutes of crashing noises, out comes this guy with jet black hair hanging over his eyes wearing nothing but a necktie, black loafers and a jock strap.  On his chest was a very large tattoo of Betty Boop sitting on the toilet, smoking a cigarette and reading the sports page.

I explained higher mathematics to him and said he owed me $3.50. Another five minutes while he tried, and failed, to figure out how to open the cash register. He went to check his pants pockets for a key to the register until he realized he was only wearing a jockstrap. Finally, one of the press-on nails fell from the ceiling and landed on the cash register causing it to open. 

There was another ten minutes during which the manager just stared at the cash drawer before, after much research, he determined he owed me $3.50. 

I made a solemn vow to myself that if it comes down to KWIK Stop or death then I’d go with death just to avoid the aggravation.

With my hunger issue fully resolved for quite awhile, I hopped into my car, drove a block and turned onto Main Street where, two blocks later, I got pulled over. I was probably driving 0.0001 MPH over the speed limit but the car had New York tags so I’m sure Mr. Nice Policeman Guy (MNPG) couldn’t resist. In my rear view mirror I saw him slowly get out of his car.  This guy looked exactly like Sheriff Buford T. Justice from “Smokey and the Bandit.” Down to the sunglasses and cigarette.

It took him about five minutes to walk from his car to mine. Once he finally made it, he scanned the interior of the car before finally looking at me. 

“Lah-since ‘n reg-stray-shun.”

I gave him my license and registration. He stared at them for a minute and said, “Don’ ‘member seein’ yew in mah fahn city before, Son.” 

“First time I’ve had the pleasure.”

MNPG threw me a sardonic smile. “Well, well, well, ain’t dat sweet. I dew trust yew have found us most accommodatin’. Have we met yo high standards of decorum ‘n grace?” 

“Well, if I actually had high standards then the folks here would have exponentially exceeded them.”

He lifted up his sunglasses, stared at me for a few seconds and let drop back onto his nose. “Yeah, we’ll see ’bout dat. Tell me, Son. To wha’ do we owe duh pleasure of a visit from a dazzlin’ young urbanite such as yo-sef in the humble, God-fearin’ town uh Raeford, Nothe Car-LINE-uh.”

“Me? Right. Yes. Trying to find Fort Bragg to visit a friend but I got lost.” This was a lie but I thought I might score points if I said I had a friend in the Army. Plus, Fort Bragg was close by so it sounded plausible.

“Oh, reeeeely. Wuz his name?”

“Jack Tatum.” Jack Tatum was a safety for the Oakland Raiders. It was the first name that came to mind.

Please don’t ask me any more questions about this.

I thought that. I didn’t say it.

MNPG looked puzzled. “Thought Jack Tatum played fo the Raiders.”

“Different Jack Tatum.


“Highly unlikely.”

“Wha’s ‘is rank, if Ah may be so bold as tuh ask?”

“Private First Class.”

I’m screwed. He’s gonna trip me up. 

He paused, looked all around my car, frowned and asked, “How long yo friend been servin’ in duh Army?”

“Little over a year.” I knew I had to reroute the conversation. “Oh, while I think of it, and if you don’t mind me asking, then….”

MNPG stepped back in mock-surprise. “Now why would Ah mind yew askin’ me anything? Ah would be honored to provide duh answers yew longin’ tuh git.”

“What’d I do wrong? I mean, honest. I’m not sure what I did to get your attention.”

“Glad yew asked cuz Ah wuz quite alarmed seein’ yew cuttin’ in and outta lanes, burnin’ rubber in our thrivin’ bidnis district in yo effort to git outta our fine, provincial, church-goin’, lil’ hamlet. You’ll pardon mah ignorance when Ah ask yew, ‘That how yew people drive in the big city?'”

“We have to drive that way. Less likely to get shot. Survival tactic, really.”


I thought this was the moment he’d pull the cuffs and say, “Boy, yew got duh rat to git duh fuck outta dat car and come meet some mah ‘sociates.” 

Instead he frowned and said, “Whadda you got in duh trunk? Got a broad in there?”

“She didn’t fit. Besides, her father made me give her back.”


“Well, nice legs. Shame about the face.”

I finally got a chuckle out of him. “Yew funny. Ah believe Ah dislike yew a little less. Mo than Ah kin say fo most yew people. Gimme yew wallet.”

I gave MNPG my wallet. After carefully inspecting the contents, he pulled out a $50 bill, put it in his shirt pocket and tossed the wallet onto the passenger’s seat. 

“Ah b’lieve duh appropriate restitution has been made. Ah thank yew. An’, Son, may Ah sincerely say, on behalf uh duh good, decent, patriotic an’ highly Christian folk of Raeford, Nothe Car-LINE-uh, the followin’: GIT DUH FUCK OUTTA HERE. An’, God bless. An’ don’ say one fuckin’ word.”

Seemed like good advice. 

He started slowly walking back to his car, pivoted towards me and said, “Give yo friend at Fote Bragg a kiss for me and tell him I’ll write.”

“Would it be okay if I killed myself instead of kissing him?”

Got another chuckle out of him. “Ah dew b’lieve Ah dew not dislike yew even mo'”

I was still lost, of course. No clue where to go. I looked back towards MNPG as he slowly sashayed back to his car. He stopped, turned around and said, “Drive straight ahead. Then, keep drivin’ straight ahead. Then, go nothe on 295 until yew arrive at the enchanted village of Fote Bragg, Nothe-Fuckin-Car-LINE-uh.”

Then, he belched, turned back and continued walking. 

“Ah, thank you, Sir. Thank you, kindly.”

He looked over his shoulder and said, “N’ ‘member to always keep yo ass to duh sunset.”

This is advice I give people to this day. 

I drove, very slowly, out of Raeford. People smiled and waved. I passed six churches and six bars in the course of five blocks. So, it evened out. Plus, it’s convenient because, when the earth quake hits, all the people in the church can quickly run to the bar and vice versa.

At the last stop light in town, a young mother walked by with a baby girl in a stroller. She walked up to me to say hello. The baby had brown slobber on her bib and pieces of tobacco on her pacifier. 

She, the mother, was very nice especially when she nicely asked me if I had any money I’d care to give her. She looked flat broke. No wedding ring. This was back in the day when single motherhood was quite frowned upon. I thought her story may not have been a happy one.

“Your baby is gorgeous!” I was being nice. I mean, the kid looked okay. I could have said, “Your kid isn’t horrible looking, so that’s good. Potentially, inoffensive. Wouldn’t suggest pursuing a career in modeling unless they’re looking for a ‘before’ picture.” But I went with “gorgeous.”

“Why, thank yeeeewwww.” Where upon she gave me the brightest, most expressive, sincere and saddest smile I have ever seen.

I asked her if everyone in Raeford was a nice and friendly as they seemed to be.

“Why, yes, Sir. We try to be nice to everyone. Do unto others….” She kept up with a smile that was heartbreaking. She was doing her best.

“Is everyone always nice and friendly to you?”


She looked at her baby and shrugged.

I said, “I’m sorry.”

I gave her the money MNPG didn’t shove in his pocket.

“Oh, thank yew, Sir. Bless you. Thank yew so much.”

As the light turned green, I looked at her, smiled and said, “Mah pleasure. And, just remember, Honey, to always keep yo ass to duh sunset.”

She laughed. “I guess yew met the Sheriff.”

I drove off. In the side mirror, I saw her smile and wave. For that moment, at least, her smile was a happy one.


The Spy Who Came in from the Casino

Hello, Darnestown Elementary School Students! 

Welcome to Gambling 101.

Now, you might think 4th grade is a little early to talk about gambling but this school system is progressive, Baby, which is why we taught you responsible alcohol consumption last year, why we had you participate in the year long safe-sex lab when you were in first grade and why, in second grade, we taught you all about how you shouldn’t take drugs and followed up by giving you drugs to make you wake up or pay attention or go to sleep or just get you to shut up for a while or to quit acting weird all the time. 

Thanks to the public schools, you now know all about sex and drugs and booze. So, now it’s time to learn how gambling at a casino works. Or, doesn’t work. Depends on whether or not you own the casino.

Okay, you youngsters probably already know governments in every. village, town, zip code, city, municipality, county and state in this entire country want more money. Especially, more of your money. Casinos generate taxable revenue which is why all these government entities are falling all over themselves opening hotels with casinos in them, race tracks with casinos in them, river boats with casinos in them, stadiums with casinos in them, casinos with casinos in them, day care centers with casinos in them and, hell, I dunno, you’ll probably start seeing churches with casinos in them so the congregation can bet the OVER/UNDER on the number of sins you’ll commit this week as well as bet on whether or not you’re gonna go to Hell once your ticket gets punched. For the record, this school recommends everyone take the OVER on the number of sins you’ll commit this week.  Also, the odds of you getting into Heaven are about 2 to 1. That’s if you’re a girl. If you’re a boy then forget about it. You’re gonna go to Hell. No question. Fait accompli. After what YOU will do as a grown up. Oh, you are so going to Hell. 

Anywho, when it comes to gambling, the adults around you are fine, rational, sensible, upstanding, conscientious people who demonstrate moderation and self-control by racing into the casinos and becoming gambling addicts who’ve gone into serious debt because they blew all our cash, including their children’s dialysis money, at the Craps Table to which this school proudly says, “Way to go, A-Hole!”

Now, when you’re an adult and have kids of your own, you don’t want to be the one to suggest to your daughter this would be a good time to drop out of Harvard Law School and become a full-time sex worker because you borrowed, and gambled away, money from a guy named Nunzio who happens to be a lieutenant in the Gambino Family and now you can’t even pay the juice on the loan so Nunzio has discussed an organ donation plan with you even though you may not be done using those organs. 

You youngsters need to understand guys like Nunzio aren’t exactly delicate when it comes to renegotiating a mutually agreeable payment plan. Their way of meeting you half-way is to break only one of your legs.

Anyway, if you turn into a gambling addict then you can end up spending your adult life so far in the hole that you’re living in a single room where the only furniture is a 13″ TV and a roach motel. And, the room’s right above a Texaco station in the northwest section of Detroit. Plus, you’ll spend most of your waking hours hiding in dumpsters in order to avoid process servers, ex-family members, bill collectors, law enforcement, ex-friends and Nunzio.

Now, Kids, raise your hand if you wanna be THAT guy. 

Yeah, didn’t think so.  

First, let’s review the lesson plan for the semester and then we’ll jump right in.

At the end of the semester, you’ll learn how to gamble responsibly at the casinos by using the simple strategy of not gambling at the casinos:

Lesson 1 – The house always wins.

Lesson 2 – Contrary to what we’ve constantly told you since day-minus-one, everyone is NOT a winner. We lied. Sorry.* 

Lesson 3 – The house ALWAYS wins. Period. 

Lesson 4 – If the house always wins then it means someone, somewhere….LOST. 

Lesson 5 – There’s a reason the casino has all this expensive glittery gold stuff everywhere and you don’t. 

Lesson 6 – The house ALWAYS WINS which means someone, such as you, is always losing.

Lesson 7 – The direct causal relationship between you praying to God that the dealer hits you with an Ace and the dealer actually hitting you with an Ace is….ZERO.

Lesson 8 – God doesn’t work that way.

Lesson 9 – You do not stand a f***ing chance….do the math!!! YOU WILL NOT WIN….ever…not happening….give it up.


Lesson 11 – “Always,” for our purpose, means “100% of the time.” (Auxiliary lesson – You know how all those athletes talk about giving 110%? They say that because they failed math.)

Lesson 12 – You know how all the big casinos get people like Madonna and Cher and Elton John to do residencies there? Wanna know how those casinos can pay these people  $1,000,000 a night? Because a bunch of losers went there and lost all their money which is why they’re living at the Texaco, sitting in their undershirts, eating chili out of the can with their fingers and drinking Mad Dog 20/20 from brown paper bags. 

Lesson 13 – Don’t spend money you don’t have on something that will make you look around for more money you don’t have that you end up losing to the casino causing you to steal and lose someone else’s money just so you can knock over a liquor store by gun-point and lose all THAT money and lose all your friends who let you “borrow” their money that you also threw in the casino’s toilet and lose the money you got from Nunzio (which explains the broken legs and missing (formerly) internal organs) and lose your job because you got arrested for robbing that liquor store and are now doing 6-to10 at Rahway State Prison where all your cell-mates let you gamble away all your money to them putting you in a very unfortunate negotiating position.

Lesson 14 – You’re not going to win the lottery, either.

Lesson 15 – A review of possible signs a family member of yours is a gambling addict (Kids, chances are it’s your father…it’s true, we checked….why?… because, as you’ll learn next year,  men are scum, that’s why…which is why all you boys are going to Hell):

  1. He pays your allowance with car wash tokens and a post-dated check.
  2. The family car has a sign on top of it advertising “Nunzio’s Bar and Grill featuring Today’s Special: Broken Leg of Lamb.”
  3. He has opened 17 Fund Me sites under different names asking for donations claiming you’re gonna die next week and your last wish is to visit Disney World but it’s too expense because, per doctor’s orders, it must be a non-stop flight, on business-class with an option to upgrade, the hotel room must have a wet bar and the doctor strongly recommends the annual pass to Disney World with free parking included.
  4. He’s taken out 4 life insurance policies on Mommy but he told you not to tell Mommy on accounta “it’ll spoil the surprise.”

Lesson 16 – On-line gambling sites? Please tell me you’re not serious.

Lesson 17 – Increases in depression, bankruptcy, alcoholism, evictions, drug dependency, divorce, child neglect, suicide, spousal abuse, foreclosure, unemployment, homelessness, murder, destitution, isolation, Class-A felonies and other social benefits that casinos consistently bring to all communities.

Lesson 18 – How to find an advertising agency that is also a total, complete, 100% morality-free zone to put a TV ad campaign together that shows people in the casino laughing, dancing, hugging, displaying their expensive jewelry, wearing designer clothes and throwing tons of cash in the air even though the people at the ad agency know casinos do nothing more than bring, to a significant majority of the community, abject misery.

Oh, extra credit is available, too:

Extra Credit – You know all that gambling tax revenue the local politicians swore would go to public schools which is why they insisted we just had to have all these casinos here in the first place? Remember the press conferences where the politicians would stand in front of the American Flag while holding The Bible and, surrounded bunch of pathetic looking 6 year olds, tell us that children were their number one priority and if we didn’t get these casinos then all these children wouldn’t have a school to attend and would soon die due to lack of education?  

Happen to notice that schools still haven’t received dime-one?

Cite examples.

Extra Extra Credit – Compare and contrast how the state politicians implied if you were a bad, bad person who refused to support public education by not going to the casino and losing your life’s savings then there’d be no money for public schools so children would be stranded on street corners unable to cross the street because they didn’t go to school and never learned how to read so they didn’t know when the pedestrian light said WALK versus the same politicians who implied if you were a bad, bad person who refused to help the elderly by not spending (and, losing) your life’s savings on state lottery tickets then there’d be no money to keep any of the old folk’s homes open so Grandma would be thrown out on the street and forced to survive by selling cigarettes that “fell off the back of a truck” at 2am in the parking lot behind the 7-11.

* I know we kept telling you everyone’s a winner, including you, and gave you trophies saying you were a winner even though you did nothing to earn the trophies other than you’d occasionally inhale and exhale. Well, just to set the record straight, you weren’t a winner. You showed up. That was the extent of it. They weren’t real trophies, anyway. Real trophies are for people who actually accomplish something. We just gave these fake trophies to you so you wouldn’t go crying to your parents about not getting a trophy because, instead of using the moment to teach you about aspiring to greatness, your parents would sue the school claiming you’re life was ruined because you didn’t get a trophy as a reward for doing nothing.

Do you also know how we tell you, everyday, that all children, including you, are special? Uh, well, actually, no. You’re not. I mean, not in the grand scheme of things. That was just some more smoke we blew up your silos. Probably because you would go crying to your parents about not feeling special and your parents would sue the school.

What you have probably discovered is 95% of the lies adults have told you were because it made the adult’s lives easier.

The take away here is children are just like adults: you have a few winners and a whole bunch of losers. I mean, it is what it is. The entire “special” thing was just a bunch of happy horse poop we adults flung at you because we couldn’t think of anything useful to say. That’s our bad. Sorry. But, you know….children….not special. Okay?


Critical Update from the CDC


Dear American People, 

We, we at the CDC, have been providing you daily updates so you can have all the necessary data to make informed decisions for you and your family concerning the Corona Virus. 

Now, we’re quite aware you don’t read these updates and that you are fully dependent on getting your news from two sources:

  1. Three year olds on Facebook where total ignorance of subject matter is considered a resume item. 
  2. Idiot talk show hosts who give you medical advice even though they failed 8th grade biology….after four tries.

We understand that. You’re Americans. And, really, it’s fine. All good. I mean, God bless. We have no doubt Whoopi Goldstien, Kelly Clarksburg, your anonymous Facebook friends and Chance The Rapper all have their medical degrees and are fully qualified to inflict medical advice on anyone who will listen.

But, we need to provide you critical updates.

Updates about death. 

Specifically, yours. 

You could die after getting the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.  It’s true. Trust us. You could waddle on out to I95 and get run over after getting the shot because that’s what you people do. You are too busy starting at your phone to notice you’re walking across an interstate where cars are going 85 miles per hour. 

The upside to you kicking the bucket is your family will get an attorney to sue Johnson and Johnson claiming the reason you walked in front of a truck in the middle of I95 and got your ugly ass run over is because you suffered from Post Traumatic Shot Disorder which caused you to act more stupid than usual. 

You being dead is actually not that bad because the truth is you’re much more valuable, in most cases, dead. Believe us on that one.  As long as you’re alive, you’re of no value. We, at the CDC, have already verified this. We have thoroughly reviewed your medical records, work history, personal references and social contributions. It’s true. No one on this entire planet has benefited from you being here. We, at the CDC, have completed a full investigation and came to the same conclusion your family and coworkers came to years ago: you bring absolutely nothing good to the table. In fact, given your narcissism, stupidity, wastefulness, immorality, inflated ego and horrendous personal hygiene, you’re just making things worse. 

Once the curtain has run down and you’re officially dead, you’ll finally bring some value to your family on accounta the lawsuit. 

You see, the CDC believes in openness and transparency. We tell the truth. We understand you’ve lived your entire life with  parents/teachers/clergy/politicians/media/advertisers/talk-show-hosts all telling you how special and important and valuable you are. 

The problem is all these people told you this because they wanted something from you. 

We don’t. 

The numbers are the numbers. There’s no delicate way of putting this. Society will improve once you’re no longer in it. Plus, your family will get rich because Johnson and Johnson will lose the lawsuit for the obvious reason, as our studies at the CDC have clearly indicated, your family’s sleaze-bag attorney will find 12 morons to be on the jury. 

But, that’s not what we wanted to discuss so forgive us that little digression.

We, at the CDC, just wanted to get that off our chests. 

Anyway, we have fielded many inquiries about the 4 people who died from blood clots after getting the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. That’s the 4 out of the 7,200,000 people who got the shot. We realize all the newscasters had to put on their frowny-faces to describe these 4 deaths as “a crisis of epic proportion” because if they said “no biggie….probably just a coincidence” then you’d get bored and switch back to whatever TV shows you usually watch which, as our studies here at the CDC have repeatedly confirmed, are one of the following:

  1. “C-List Celebrities Eat Bugs for Money”
  2. “Vaginal Discharge of the Rich and Famous”
  3. “Hot-Tub Trailer-Park Butt Sex Starring Roseanne Barr and Charles Manson”
  4. “The 24/7 Panda Cam Starring Those Loveable Pandas Sump-Pump and Yung-Dung plus 80 National Zoo Employees Trying to Force Them to Have Sex”

Anyway, let’s do the math on this one, kids. Well, we will do the math because we, at the CDC, understand you don’t know how to do math.  Even with the calculator on your phone, you still don’t know how to do math so it’s a good thing we’re here. 

You have a 1 out of 1,800,000 chance of dying from a blood clot as a potential effect of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. In terms of percentages, the likelihood of you dying due to the vaccine is 0.00006%. This also means you have a 99.99994% chance of NOT dying from the vaccine. 

Of course, we don’t actually know if the vaccine actually caused the blood clots. That’s because, in the US, an average of 200,000 people die from blood clots each year. 

The risk of you dying from a blood clot this year is around .06%.

So, higher mathematics (.0006/.0000005), you are ONE THOUSAND TWO HUNDRED times more likely to die from a blood clot that you came by honestly then die from the possible blood clot that may have been caused by the vaccine.

But, that hasn’t stopped half of you people from refusing to get the vaccine because you think it’s too life threatening which is a puzzle for us at the CDC because 500,000 upstanding, family-value-oriented Americans died from covid in 12 months. 

Well, your crisis is our crisis. You’re panicking about this vaccine and we’re here to support you because your irrational fear keeps the CDC funded.

So, all Americans must be aware of the following dangers which are all more likely to kill you when compared to the vaccine (statistics courtesy of For your convenience, we’ll put in the number of times you’re more likely to die from each item below vs. the chance of getting a blood clot as a possible result of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine: 

  1. Stuck by lightning (17 times more likely to die from a lightning strike than die from a blood clot due to the possible side-effects of the vaccine)
  2. Falling down the stairs (3 times)
  3. Getting sun burnt enough to get skin cancer (900 times)
  4. Pogo Stick accident (2 times)
  5. Dog attack (20 times)
  6. Bee sting (50 times)
  7. Gun shot (125 times)
  8. Drug OD (250 times)
  9. Bicycle accident (10 times)
  10. Slipping in the shower (2 times)
  11. Drowning in the bathtub (3 times)
  12. Car accident (22,000 times)
  13. Sexually transmitted disease (10 times)
  14. Walking across the street (60 times)
  15. Workplace “incident” (75 times)
  16. Food poisoning (2 times)

In summary, don’t drive, don’t ride a bike, don’t fly, don’t eat, don’t drink, don’t go outside (except when you’re running from lightning), don’t take the stairs, don’t have a dog, don’t go near people, don’t take any medication, don’t take a shower, don’t have sex and don’t go close to Pogo Sticks. Just one of those activities is much more likely to kill you than getting a covid shot ever will. 

Wear plenty of sunscreen, bug repellant, snake repellant,  bear repellant and human repellant. For human repellant, we, at the CDC, recommend applying plenty of Aqua-Velva aftershave and wearing an anchovy necklace. 

The alternative is living normally and enjoying the fact that you’re alive for another day. 

That’s what we, at the CDC, do. 

Otherwise, the stress will kill you. 

But, we, at the CDC, will remain in panic mode because of the simple fact that you’re 75 times more likely to die from the vaccine than win the mega-millions lottery.*

It’s true. We checked. 

Oh,  yeah, while we’re at it, don’t forget we, at the CDC, believe children are our future. Not that this should surprise anyone since children tend to be younger than their parents (except in West Virginia). I mean, you parents out there are gonna be dead and your lovely kids will still be lingering around doing God knows what. Well, that’s been the going assumption around the office, at least. 

Sooooooo, as a reminder,  the CDC has mandated that all parents must obsess, to the point of complete psychosis, over the safety of their tax deductible children. So, all children, until the age of 25, must wear the following prior to any activity: ear plugs, nose clip, mouth guard, fly swatter, arm pads, mobile phone, hand pads, helmet with multiple floodlights attached, knee pads, hip pads, 9 bottles of water, flack jacket, antenna sticking out of the helmet, sneeze shield, 37 layers of sun screen, shin guards, embedded microchip, elbow pads, dog tags, hip pads, panic button, bulletproof vest, goggles, shoulder pads, butt plug, golf umbrella, thigh pads, GPS tracking device, chastity belt, asbestos suit, 6 cans of mace, steel-toed shoes, a note from his or her doctor saying he or she is permanently disabled due to “bad-bad chafing” on his or her inner-thighs, oxygen-tank, back-up mobile phone, ankle braces, flea collar, plus a chaperone and another chaperone for the chaperone.

These measures must be adhered to for ALL activities. Doesn’t matter what. It could be to see his or her sister in the next room. If the child wants to go to the bathroom then the child must wear all of this crap.

And, don’t forget the chaperone.

And, the chaperone for the chaperone.

We’re glad to see pretty much all parents are adhering to these guidelines.

Keep up the good work. 



* You’re not gonna win the lottery. It’s not happening. We don’t care how lucky you think the numbers are because there ain’t no such things as lucky numbers on accounta it doesn’t work that way. And, praying to God you’ll win the lottery isn’t going to help. Stop that. God doesn’t work that way. Cut it out. 


Riggo and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

For most of my life, a cat has been involved. Mostly Siamese cats. Siamese males act like dogs. They truly enjoy the warmth of human contact. They like to play. They greet you at the door. They are unique and have personality to burn. 

Our current cat is called Riggo. Riggo was the nickname of a famous National Football League running back from the seventies and eighties named John Riggins who was, also, unique and had plenty of personality. 

As a running back, Riggins was atypical in that he didn’t try to run around the opposing player. He ran over the opposing player. It wasn’t just the other team’s players, either. You could be a teammate, cheerleader, coach, family member, townhouse, heavy mining equipment or the Virgin Mary. 

It really didn’t matter. 

When it came to running with the football, John Riggins did not clown around so if you were in his way then it was incumbent upon you to do something about it. If you were a defensive player and Riggins was running at you then you needed to make, as it is referred to in the NFL, a “business decision.”

Business decisions involve a very brief cost/benefit analysis. In this context, they run something along the lines of, “Do I really want to try tackling this guy knowing full well I’ll end up as roadkill just to show I’m willing to lay it all on the line for my teammates thereby earning their undying respect and admiration? Or, are there future considerations upon which I might contemplate thus allowing me the latitude to determine a creative alternative such as getting the hell out of this guy’s way.”

This really is a moment of thorough personal analysis and deep reflection because, when it came to tackling John Riggins, those future considerations would inevitably include the following:

  1. Eating with utensils
  2. Keeping internal organs internal
  3. Not being dead all the time

We figured naming a big, boisterous, outgoing, fearless Siamese male cat “Riggo” would be highly appropriate.

We were wrong.

As it turned out, our Riggo was nothing like the football Riggo. Our Riggo is meek and mild. Wouldn’t hurt a fly. If he tried to hurt a fly then the fly would slap Riggo around because he has absolutely no self-preservation skills. None. 

When we first got him, Riggo was scared of….everything. Ten years later, he’s still scared of everything except people. Oh, he loves people now. This is because my wife and I are pathetic cat parents and cater to his every whim. 

Our Riggo loves playing fetch whenever we sit down to have dinner. I’m serious. He insists on playing fetch. We have to throw a little fuzzy ball down the stairs. Then, he scrambles down the stairs, picks up the fuzzy ball with his mouth, brings in back to us, drops it on the floor and stares at us until with throw the ball down the stairs.

This process repeats itself 15 to 20 times every day. My wife assures me playing fetch is something that Riggo finds cognitively and physically stimulating. I assure her there’s a fine line between “being cognitively and physically stimulated” and “being a moron.”

Cats do help us feel better about ourselves because we can always say, “I may have destroyed my personal life, lost all my friends and forfeited any chance for a promotion but I never fell down the stairs chasing a fuzzy ball and pick it up with my teeth. At least, not while sober.”

One day, we thought he might enjoy watching something called “Cat TV.” Cat TV features tranquil nature scenes where birds and other small animals come and go. Your cat is supposed to find this very calming. 

So, we turned on Cat TV to let him enjoy some serene television. 

Riggo looked at the TV, saw a bird on the screen and proceeded to go, and I’m being mild here, nucking futs. The cat who’s afraid of bugs attacked a 50″ television.

He jumped off the couch, sprinted towards the TV and flew, headfirst, into the TV. He smashed his face on the TV screen, bounced off it and crashed onto the floor.

He looked around for a moment with a facial expression that said something along the lines of, “Huh?”

Remember those old Road Runner cartoons where Wile E. Coyote kept crashing into a brick wall whenever he tried to catch Road Runner?

Well, that was Riggo.

Now, when we first got Riggo, I don’t remember any of the medical certificates saying, “Potential MENSA-candidate.” He has a walnut-sized brain. I understand that.

But, I would think he’d have gained a little wisdom what with crashing into a television to get a bird who really wasn’t IN the television. 

However, even though he’d clearly established there was no actual bird behind the TV screen, Riggo backed up, got another running start, launched himself, headfirst, towards the TV, smashed his face on the screen, bounced off and crashed on the floor. 


Remember those old Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons where Bullwinkle kept trying to pull a rabbit out of his hat but kept screwing it up? But, he kept trying and would always say, “This time for sure,” right before he’d screw it up again and pull a rhino out of his hat instead of a rabbit?

Well, that was Riggo.

In his infinite struggle against reality, he took another stab at it before I turned the TV off which really confused the hell out of him because he couldn’t figure out where the bird went. 

My wife and I became suspicious. We checked the liquor cabinet just to make sure he wasn’t drunk. We didn’t see any of our prescriptions missing.  So, we figured the needle must have been stuck on “dumb” and wrote it off. 

Later that day, we opened the desk drawer where we keep his toys and noticed an entire bag of catnip was missing. 

This wasn’t just your cheap Mexican-Dirt-Weed catnip. This was some serious high-octane, Bob-Marley-Type ganja catnip. 

After discovering the catnip was missing, we casually asked him if might have taken it by accident.

Riggo replied, “Uh….catnip? Ummmm. What’s catnip? Is that, uh, like….uh, never heard of, whoa, anyth.., ‘cuz I wouldn’ta known, like, huh? I don’ unnerstand, who, ME? Take the, uh, can’t remember….ummm, I gotta go to, uh, the, uh, can you turn on Cat TV again?”

Riggo proceeded to go to the basement for about 20 minutes. When he came back,  he was looking a little wobbly and unfocused.

We asked him what he had been up to. 

“Oh, yeah, uh, nothing. Haven’t, err, done, like, so, like, whoa, heh-heh, are the floorboards moving? This…I like Chinese food, and, so, why is France so far away? I think the new iPhone cameras suck. So, if you’re traveling the speed of light and you turn the headlights on then do you see them? I’ve always wondered about that and, oh look, a chicken.”

And, he stumbled off. 

Our cat has been smoking catnip.  

He’s a niphead.

It was a shocking discovery but explained some of his recent behavior.

The last few nights, he’d been asking us to go to McDonalds and get him 3 or 4 cheeseburgers because he’s always hungry after dinner.

One time, after we said no to the cheeseburger idea, he tried to steal my phone and order from Grub Hub.

We couldn’t help but notice he’s been repeatedly listening to a vinyl copy of “Dark Side of the Moon.”  It has the album cover that opens up and in the middle we found some catnip seeds. Plus, he always gets startled when the alarm clock goes off on that one song even though he’s listened to the record 400 times by now.

We just found a lighter, rolling papers and some of his catnip stash hidden under his cat box. There was a little kitty-bong behind a couple books. One book was “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. The other book was “Alice in Wonderland.” Let’s face it, you’ve got to be high-as-a-kite in order to read either of those books. 

Smoking all the catnip has killed his taste buds. We spotted some empty Keystone Light beer cans mixed in the trash along with a big half-full bottle of a Carlo Rossi cabernet that smelt like a cross between a sewage treatment plant and a couple of month-old dead bodies.

Then, there were the Altoids.  And, the Visine.  And, the rolled up towel to keep the catnip smoke from seeping out from the crack between the floor and the bottom of the bathroom door.

We know it’s bad because we saw a spiral notebook where he tried writing some poetry. The first line said, “There once was a cat from Nantucket.”  Everything else was in ashes probably because the catnip joint he was smoking fell out of his mouth, landed on the notebook and set it on fire.

So, we decided to have a little discussion with the young man and have him explain himself.  

All he said to us was,  “Uh, whoa….dunno where all, of, you know….this stuff, uhnnn, came from on accounta this is, like, out there…. and, uh, yeah, no, um, kinda like, you know, out there….but, in a tubular kinda way….uh, whoa, this ceiling is completely, like, outta hand.  So, yeah, it’s like, pfffffffffft, gotta….I think I gotta lie down and, for, uhhhhh, can you make me some home fries?….[pause]…wait…..what was the question?”

We’re not sure how to handle this.

We could ground him but he’s an indoor cat so that won’t accomplish much.

We sent him to bed without his dinner but he was stoned to the gills and, on accounta his taste buds were shot, he ate some cardboard out of the recycling bin and did not even notice.

Plus, he was so blotto that it took him all night just to find his bed. Once he did find it, he needed to jump to get on the bed because his bed is our bed.

Due, I’m sure, to his condition, he totally misjudged the jump.  His first attempt was well short of the mark and he crashed, head first, into the side of the bed and belly-flopped onto the floor.

For his next attempt, he got a running start and, perhaps, over-compensated just a bit because, instead of landing on the bed, he went flying over the bed and crash landed on my wife’s vanity which is about 10 feet from the bed.

He managed to crack the mirror, smash about 20 bottles of very high-class perfume, cave in the top of the vanity and break the chair. I can’t quite describe the sound this made but think about that large chandelier in the Commodore Hotel in Vegas. It has about 2,500,000 crystals, is about 500,000 cubic feet in size and weighs, I dunno, a few thousand pounds. Now steal it, take it up to the top of the Sears Tower (you may need to take it up the stairs depending on the size of the elevator) and drop it off the side of the building. 

Think about the sound it’ll make when it hits the pavement. THAT was the sound the vanity made after Riggo flew into it. 

After hearing that noise, a non-stoned cat would have panicked and, out of sheer terror, sprinted out of the room. Riggo, instead, surveyed the damage while still on his back and said, “Cool. Can we watch ‘Beavis and Butthead?'” Then he grabbed a perfume bottle and started drinking from it. 

I just looked at him for a minute and finally asked, “Who wants nachos?”

Hey, I was in high school once. 


My Sincere  Apology

I’d like to sincerely apologize for my recent statement in what may or may not potentially and/or conditionally be construed or, most likely, misconstrued, within reasonable limitations, as somewhat lacking in human sensibility or perhaps, given agreed upon definitions, “insensitive.”  

This highly sincere apology is made even more sincere in that any misunderstanding on your part is not my fault plus the statement I may or may not have made was taken entirely out of context but, to the best of my recollection, I can’t seem to remember what the context actually was.  

That is to say, to the best of my recollection, I do not recall.

But let me be clear to the American people on this important point:  There WAS a context.  I’m almost certain of it.  Identifying this context is my top priority.  And, yet, this hostile, disingenuous, radical, so-called news media will not disclose this reputed context and, instead, are promoting their. Right-wing-and-or-left-wing agenda. Be it right or be it left, my fellow Americans, the key is a wing is definitely involved.

However,  I’m willing to boldly step up and take provisional responsibility with this extraordinarily sincere apology for any theoretical harm my statement could have conceivably been misheard by those who possess a high level of cognitive insufficiency. 

This apology, this sincere apology, is made even more sincere as this alleged statement was entirely, completely and totally due to the Percocet addiction caused by media-bias as well as terminal irritable bowel syndrome due to workplace stress and severe childhood trauma when Mom was 15 minutes late picking me up from my equestrian lesson one day about which litigation is pending.  

This really, very sincere apology is my first step to recovery along with my everlasting, unquestioned, exemplary and magnificent faith I have in my Lord and Savior, Jesus H. Christ, who is my top priority and who has forgiven me even though many have chosen to incorrectly understand my above referenced statement which means I really didn’t need to be forgiven in the first place. 

Now that I’ve overcome these dark and troubled times, I will make it my top priority to move on. The American people have spoken by their silence that it is time to end this witch hunt over some illusionary, relatively non-heinous and non-contextual expression as I proudly defend all our First Amendment rights because protecting the Constitution is my top priority.

But, let me be very clear. No one is sorrier than I am in that valuable time has been spent on this witch hunt even after my previous statement wherein I clearly stated, “As I was given to understand, a rigorous internal investigation by this office has been conducted and there seems to be the outward appearance of a latent, contingent probableness that, perhaps, pending a full audit and subject to modified situational conditions as outlined in my previous statement, within this office and/or third party contractors, it may cause some to conclude that somewhere, within this very large office, mistakes were made. Maybe.”

Getting to the bottom of this situation is my top priority.

And, yet, I am taking a stand and am offering this heroically sincere apology which, of course, absolves me of any misperceived transgressions over my 20 years of public service in as much as her library card said she was 21.

On a personal note, this witch hunt has taken a terrible toll on my all-American family who are my top priority including my all-American-family-value-oriented wife, who, I’ve been advised, is most likely living in Paris at the moment.  But, no one has suffered more than my all-American son who is an altar boy with excellent personal hygiene habits and my all-American daughter who loves ponies and is, based on her recent testimony, a virgin.

And, I remain resolute in my love for this country and my commitment to defense of our sacred institutions which is my top priority while my critics continue their mission to destroy this great democracy by accusing me of saying things I may or may not have said pending this office’s internal review of processes and procedures in this office. 

Besides, I thought this was America!!! What ever happened to, “innocent until proven guilty”?  Isn’t this America? I thought we were in America.  What happened to America?  The real USA of America. Where Amber waved her grain and we could proudly sing, “This is the home of the land and the land of the bombs bursting in air.”   

My critics, most of whom are adulterers, refuse to take on the tough issues of our times such as the fact that the shortage of 256GB iPhone 12s in blue is an escalating national crisis .  Because, instead of helping this office do the work of defending the American people, they are burning the American flag in our churches during services.

I have proof of this and will make it my top priority to share it at the appropriate time based on poll results.

Further, there have been reports of my critics being fully funded by Russian Muslims and telling children in Sunday Schools they are no longer allowed to believe in the time-honored institutions in that made this great country the envy of the rest of the world such as Punxsutawney Phil, the Great Pumpkin, Ken and Barbie, and the Electoral College.

Well, I’m on tentative record saying children are my top priority and they deserve to be protected from this witch hunt conducted by my critics who, we’re given to understand, are financing their witch hunt by selling child pornography to ISIS.

I have suffered enough by apologizing with extreme sincerity and utmost integrity for previously retracted statements I did not make because my political future should not be negatively effected by statements I made especially if I did not make them.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I gotta go pray.


The Spanking of the Lambs

I’m not a parent.  To the best of my knowledge, that is. I mean, if I was a father then someone would have mentioned it by now.  I know I’m not very good with details but I think, within the first 3 years, I’d notice a child especially if he or she was around all the time.

Young children are hard not to notice.  They keep getting underfoot so you trip over them all the time.  They scream and cry over the least little thing.  Babies display very little in the way of subtlety and nuance when it comes to communicating. They’re programmed to have hissy-fits during the following times of day:

  1. Waking hours
  2. Sleeping hours
  3. All other times
  4. Twice on Sundays

And, they smell like, well, like, well, not good.  This is because they are highly inconsiderate and don’t use the bathroom.  Now, you, being of sound mind and tolerable personal hygiene, wouldn’t choose the exact moment when the bride and groom were exchanging wedding vows to let forth while in the 2nd row of pews.  Which is precisely what some 6 month old baby once did.  

No courtesy announcement beforehand. No two minute warning. Dude just went boom and the odor quickly disintegrated any shred of social order.  People were trampling each other in order to get the hell out of the church.  The stained-glass windows started cracking. The priest got as far as saying, “Do you, Carl, take Ellen to be your WHAT THE HELL? WHAT DID YOU FEED THIS LITTLE RAT BASTARD?! Forget it. I just retired. Bye.” 

Carl and Ellen should have gotten the divorce right then and there because their marriage was doomed thanks to some baby who couldn’t be bothered to wait until an appropriate time to use the restroom.  

This failure on the child’s part to use the facilities is generally blamed on “toilet training.”  Or, the lack of it.  This “explanation” is widely used to excuse this behavior to which I say, “How about LEARNING how to use the toilet, you lazy maggot?”

As far as I’m concerned, this “I can’t help it because I’m not toilet trained” is a stalling tactic and only encourages irresponsible behavior in later life. If you let this toilet training issue slide then what’s next? Well, I’ll tell you what’s next:


Because children won’t get an honest job since being toilet trained is usually a job requirement so they will sit around and collect disability because some politician will get a bill passed to say “the untrained” are too disabled to work plus they’re being persecuted so they’ll spend all their time getting Hollywood actors to wear brown ribbons and they’ll get lobbyists to force all us God-fearing, patriotic, hard-working, Americans from the USA of America to replace the word “toilet” in all buildings with the phrase “commode of oppression” in order to destroy yet another sacred institution plus we won’t be able to call them “the untrained” because that won’t be politically correct so we’ll have to call them “practitioners of otherly enabled hygienic achievements” and our hard-earned tax dollars will go to a large segment of the population who are simultaneously pooping on themselves and burning the American Flag because, instead of getting toilet trained, they’ll just vote for Bernie Sanders. 

Anyway, got no kids. This leaves me free to play with other people’s kids. I use the opportunity to get the children completely wound up.  Once the kids are fully foaming at the mouth, bouncing off the ceiling, speaking in tongues, destroying anything not nailed down and gnawing on the furniture, I give them back to the parents.

“Here, I’m done. Gotta go. Ciao.”

The parents just seeth with gratitude.

In the early 1980s, I was friends with a couple who had a son, Michael, and a daughter, Victoria. Not Mike and Vicky.  None of this nickname nonsense. The parents were very clear about that. Michael and Victoria were two of the kindest and most conscientious children on the planet.  Suspiciously well-behaved, these two. Occasionally, I’d come over and play babysitter on weekends so the parents could get some alone time. 

On one such weekend, I arrived at 5pm Friday and the parents were already flying out the door. Just as they were getting in their car to take off, the mother stands up and, in front of the children, yells, “Okay, Drew. What are your most important rules for this weekend?”

“Uh, I dunno…buy low, sell high?”

“I’m serious. There needs to be some rules that can not be broken under any circumstance.” 

“Huh? What are….oh, uh, how about this?  Don’t do anything that might injure yourself and don’t do anything that might injure someone else.”

I had no idea where this was going. 

The kids immediately said, in unison, okay. What I said seemed fair and, given the kid’s good-nature, fairly benign ground-rules.

The mother then yelled to the kids, “Okay, you two. Those are the rules. And, if you break one of those rules then Drew will have to give you a spanking.”

The kids immediately said, in unison, okay. 

I immediately said, “Huh?”

“Drew, this is important. They need to learn that actions have consequences.”

I was ready to say she was completely out of her mind but they were about to shut the car doors and leave so I just said, “Yeah, sure, fine, great idea, whatever.”

“Okay, you two.  You heard what he said.” 

Again, they both immediately said okay.  In my defense, this is back in the day when spankings were a standard free service offered by most parents so, at that moment, I really didn’t think anything about it

I figured Michael and Victoria were such sweet kids that there’d be no issue so I didn’t think it worth an argument.  Michael was 6 at the time. Victoria was 7.  As far as I was concerned, they were old enough to know how to keep within the lines. 

I do remember thinking these two youngsters were a little too cooperative.  It didn’t concern me but it didn’t seem quite right, either.  I had encouraged them, here and there, to act up but they were having none of it. 

The parents were spastic about the rules.  Bedtime was, I think, 9pm on weekends which meant being in bed at 9pm. 9:01 was too late. Not negotiable. 9pm. 

Only acceptable television shows were allowed to be watched. I was given a list of them. 

Subjects of “questionable content” were never to be uttered by them or me. I wanted to tell them to give me a little credit. I knew to keep it clean in front of the youngsters.  

For example, I had a girlfriend, Carolyn, in college who had a 6 year old step-brother called Jason.  When I first visited her house, I made sure to tell Jason, in a very family friendly way, I was going to Carolyn’s room to study and he shouldn’t worry about the noise coming from her room because that was just part of the studying process which was something he’d understand once he got to college.  

Also, in the mildest terms, I once told him, “Carolyn especially enjoys doing her BIOMECHANICS homework and she might get really excited testing her theories on, well, CARDIOVASCULAR SYSTEM DYNAMICS and on…oh, let’s call it TISSUE ENGINEERING.

“And, Jason. Just a heads up, if we’re able to, well, RESOLVE properties of kinetic energy with the muscle responses to external forces in stimulated, uh, I mean, simulated conditions then you might even hear her delightfully scream….in the…….of….academic…..accomplishment.”

Can’t get more subtle than that. 

I figured this weekend would be fine and we wouldn’t get sidetracked by any spanking controversy. 

Well, wouldn’t you know….

It wasn’t even 6pm when Michael, during a momentary yet horrendous lapse of total reason, tossed a very sharp knife at Victoria.  He didn’t throw it hard. It was an underhanded toss but, had it hit her, could have done real damage. It was completely out of character and, once he did it, he looked mortified. The knife was barely out of his hand before he looked around to see if I noticed.  I did notice and I also noticed that he noticed that I noticed while Victoria noticed that I noticed and Michael noticed that she noticed that I noticed.  Then both kids stared at me. 

I was staring at the ceiling and saying, under my breath, “I need a beer.”  No booze in the house. Another rule.

Again, I’m not a parent. I didn’t know much about kids but one thing I did know was when you tell a 6 year old that if X happens then Y will result then Y had better result should X happen.  Kids catch on to adult inconsistencies faster than adults. And, when they do, they’ll lose all respect for you and for all those things that make this country great such as whoopee cushions, government corruption, racial hatred, glow in the dark condoms and credit card debt. 

Which meant I was now going to have to spank a child who wasn’t mine (to the best of my knowledge).  I immediately got angry at myself for so casually agreeing to such stupidity. 

“Uh, yeah. Right. Right-o. So. Okay. Okee-dokee. So. Hey, Victoria. Would you like to go back outside and play a little more soccer with your pals?”

She looked very concerned.

“It’s all good. Have fun. We’ll join you guys in a couple minutes.”

She slowly walked back outside while Michael looked at the floor. 

I suggested he and I sit on the living room couch so we might review the current state of affairs.  I still had no idea how I was going to handle this.

I decided to keep the temperature as low as possible just in case Michael decided to aggressively defend his actions.  I started with, “Well, maybe a career in family relationship therapy isn’t in your cards but…”

“I’m sorry.”

“I’m thinking ‘mob enforcer’ could be a profession you should consider…”

“I’m sorry.”

“Right. Right-o. Got it. Message received and understood. You’re sorry. Let’s cast our minds back in time,  shall we?  Do you remember the part about not doing anything to injure anyone?”

“I didn’t mean to.”

“Ah, I see. Well, we all do stupid sh….things we didn’t mean to do.  Drunk drivers generally don’t mean to run people over. But, they were careless and, after sentencing,  ended up being voted the Sweetheart of Cellblock C.”

“I don’t get it.”

“Good. Point is, if we do something then we gotta deal with the sh….stuff that comes after. Drunk drivers still end up paying for their recklessness by going to jail.”

“I’m sorry.”

Maintaining my friendly demeanor, I said, “Yes, I remember you mentioning that. Alot, now that I think about it.  Just because we’re sorry we fu…..did something wrong doesn’t mean we don’t have to deal with the sh….what was the word your mom used?”

“Consequences.”  He sounded defeated. 

“THAT’S the word.  Thank you. There’s a lesson in this for both of us, isn’t there.  Yours is we’re all still accountable for what we do if it breaks the house rules.  Wanna know what my lesson is?”

“Did you do something wrong?”

“Oh, yeah. My lesson is not to agree to do something I know I shouldn’t agree to. That was a bad move on my part. I know that now. And, please believe me, I’m really sorry, too. I hope you accept my apology.  I didn’t think we’d be stuck having to do this thing.  I’m feeling pretty dumb at the moment”

“It’s okay.”

“I really don’t want to do this thing except we both promised your parents and we don’t want to be known as people who don’t keep their promises. I know you don’t want that.”


“So, now we gotta do this thing.”


“Okay, let’s do this thing so we can go outside and play.  You know I hate the idea of doing this thing….we gotta do. “

“I know.”

“You believe that, yes? I mean, this just seems wrong.  This thing. I really don’t want to do this. You know that.”

“I know.”

“Okay, right. So, uh, got a question. How are we supposed to do this thing?”

Michael explained the process involved him lowering his pants, lying over his father’s lap and getting his naked bottom spanked for awhile with a large wooden hairbrush which, if very distant memory serves, stings like hell.  On a desk across the room was a hairbrush big enough to use in a street fight.

He was way too forthcoming for my liking. I admired his honesty about the family spanking process but come on! Really? Had I been in Michael’s shoes, I’d have said we referred these matters to our attorneys and, after interrogatories followed by sworn depositions, a mediator would make a ruling which usually resulted in me paying a fine plus court costs. And, in cases where the mediator ruled against me, the spanking would be carried out using the trial documents.

Now, I did agree to spank these poor, terrorized children but I never agreed to follow the family’s prescribed process. So, I said, “Yikes. Well….ouch. Right. Right-o. Okay. Well, so….hmmm. Let’s give the hair brush a miss and, please, PLEASE, keep your pants on because ick.”

What followed was a very quick and cursory effort on my part.  A mild experience, to be sure. Especially compared to what the poor kid was used to.  I threw in a reminder to cool it with tossing knives at people or else I’d have to spank him for real but, instead of a hairbrush, I’d use a folding chair.

Michael was fine. I was relieved and very happy I wouldn’t have to do anything like THAT again. We went outside to see how soccer was coming along. 

We just stepped outside when I looked up and saw Victoria run into the street, without looking for cars, chasing the soccer ball. I tried to yell for her to get off the street but, thanks to the total terror that took over, I couldn’t get one word out. She picked up the ball, turned around in time to notice that I noticed that she noticed that I noticed and the other kids noticed that she noticed that I noticed that they noticed and now I was in deep.

Because it’s one thing for an adult male who’s not the father to spank a boy. It’s another thing if the spankee is a girl. Long term consequences can be pretty ugly. I knew this because the above-referenced Carolyn talked about the humiliation she endured with the numerous spankings from her father. All aspects of her life were negatively impacted but none more so than intimacy. It screwed her up quite a bit. Our first attempts at sex resulted in her shutting down and sobbing.  

I sure as hell wasn’t going to be the cause of any shred of damage.

And, yes, thank you, I fully realize she could have broken down in tears due to the magnitude of her disappointment with me in bed so shut up. Besides, we barely got to the clothes-off part before she fell apart so I didn’t have enough time to disappoint her. Fortunately, she sought some highly intense psychotherapy so she could feel at ease with her clothes off. Unfortunately, she identified me as her psychotherapist so she never addressed the cause which was her father was a miserable piece of jet-trash who should have been locked in a public Porta-potty that hadn’t been cleaned in 90 days and, 96 hours later, tossed over the White Cliffs of Dover (while still in the Porta-potty) and buried in a landfill (while still in the Porta-potty).

The good news was we worked out some useful strategies that helped her jump over the intimacy wall. This meant she was able to be fully disappointed by yours truly in bed. Those strategies and their implementation is a story for another day. Or, maybe not.

So, there I sat.  On the livingroom couch. Again.

Victoria chose to stand. 

Starting the conversation with an inspiring and informative statement, I said, “Well……”

I had no clue what to say.

“Hmmm, I was….uh….what the…..well, sh…..shucks.  Ah, got it.  Let’s see if we can agree on….this. To me, running into the street, something your parents really don’t want you to do, without looking for cars and possibly getting run over kind of equals ‘doing something that might injure yourself.’  I’m guessing you knew it was against the rules because you looked guiltier than Richard Nixon when you saw me.  So, uh, what are your thoughts on that?”

“I’m sorry.”

“Yeah, I heard that alot from my previous customer.  But, no fair apologizing.  It’s this learning actions have consequences thing that has your parents ridiculously….I mean, seriously concerned.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Would you please stop apologi….”

“I was bad.”

“Whoa!!! Time out!!! Stop. Who said anything about you being bad?  You aren’t bad.  You have never been bad. Never, ever, ever. Uh-uh. In this case, you would be, how do I put this, WRONG.”

Silence. She stared at the floor and looked sad. Not the staged-sad look that kids will give you. Just sad. And, scared. Just as Michael was. She was putting up no fight or argument. Just as Michael didn’t. 

There was something in the way she said, “I was bad.” It hit me. I didn’t say anything for a minute. I just stared at the floor.

It was plain to see the message they received from their parents early on was, “If you don’t do what we tell you to do or act the way we tell you to act or speak the way we want you to speak or not be perfect all the time then we will make you suffer.”

They were operating in fear. 

I asked her to sit next to me and she did. 

“What I’m about to say is important because it’s something you have to remember for the rest of your life. Always. Listen very carefully. Are you ready?”

Quick nod. Still looking down.

From about 2 inches from her ear, I whispered, “You have never, never, never been bad your whole life.”

She thought for a moment and gave another quick nod.  No eye contact.  I figured it was the first time any adult ever mentioned this to her. 

“Repeat after me: ‘I am Victoria.’ I’m serious, just say, ‘I am Victoria.'”

After a pause, “I am Victoria.”

“‘And, I am good.'”

Another pause. “And, I am good.”

It took some prodding but she said the entire sentence while continuing to stare at the floor. 

“Now, Victoria.  This is going to be hard but you need to look at me and say that whole sentence.”

That was a challenge. But, she managed, eventually. 

“Keep looking at me and say it like you mean it.”

She was doing her best not to cry.  She tried a couple times but not convincingly. Then, she started crying. 

I was thinking how absurd this had gotten. I was about to say, “Young Lady, you are NOT getting a spanking until you convince me how good you are!”

To her credit, she was finally able to say it with a little conviction.

I threw out anothet challenge. “Let’s replace ‘good’ with ‘strong, beautiful and wonderful.'”

The big silence followed.

And, it took awhile but she said it almost as though she meant it which was good enough for the moment. I was thinking it was time to get this over with because Michael was probably wondering what I did with his sister. 

“Here’s something I think you should do every day. Look in the mirror and say, “I am Victoria and I am strong and wonderful and beautiful.”

She said she’d “try.” “Try,” in kid-speak means, “Don’t hold your breath.” That was another thing I knew about children.

There was a handheld mirror on the coffee table. I held it in front of her and pestered her to repeat the sentence a few times. She did and didn’t look quite so fearful. 

I did the same preamble as before: this isn’t about you, it’s about actions and consequences, I hate being put in this position and I really apologize but a promise is a promise and blah, blah, blah. 

I should have mentioned her parents were completely deranged but I didn’t. 

“Right-o, let’s do this thing and let’s go back out and HEY! NO. DON’T TAKE YOUR PANTS OFF. NOT GOOD. And, let’s give the hair brush a miss, too.”

We went through the motions and decided we’d do pizza and ice cream for dinner. We capped off the festivities by throwing ice cream at each other in the front yard while singing “Play that Funky Music” which was annoyingly popular at the time. I made sure they completed all the necessary rituals before tucking them into bed….exactly at 9pm. I went downstairs to knock off some homework while hearing “Play that Funky Music” being sung from their rooms.

I thought about the things I said to Victoria and decided that it would have helped to have someone tell me I was strong and good and wonderful when I was 7 but no such luck. 

Because, as a child, walking around thinking you’re worthless and bad is a bitch. 

Not much fun as an adult,  either. 

THE END except…

There’s a post-script. 

The reason I’m writing this is, not long ago, I got a call from Victoria. Out of the blue.  We completely lost touch when she was 8. Her family moved and we hadn’t spoken since. But she tracked me down. 

To thank me for how I handled that very awkward moment. She told me, ever since Spanking-Gate, she repeated, “I am Victoria and I am strong, beautiful and wonderful,” everyday. In front of a full-sized mirror.

She is in a management capacity for some big bank. Happily married. Two children. Two happy children who were never afraid to be themselves.  Her parents were at the very edge of her picture. I got the impression she didn’t have much to do with them. 

Her friends, family (excluding her parents) and co-workers all call her “Vic.”

“Mike” said hello, too.