Wednesday, October 30, 2013


So.  Somehow, because of past GOP affiliations my wife has been getting the mailers sent out by the Republican Party for this upcoming state and local elections.   Normally, I find mailers complete and utter wasteful bullshit.  What is the point of effort to making bills and things paperless if these are just going to be mailed out?  The thought that these heavy poster magazine print flyers the size of a legal sheet are being mailed out DAILY to voters across the state is stunning.

But I find myself looking forward to receiving these flyers.  Like they are episodic parts to a story that I receive once per day by junk mail.
I get it. Christ.  Red white and blue.  Okay. Sure. You are fucking American.  Find some more crayons in the box now. 

This is the first one I can remember getting.  Everyone in this photo looks uncomfortable.  The top caption reads "Keep New Jersey Moving Forward."  I unfortunately do not see how anything in this picture portrays that.  I suppose on some women's empowerment level they are achieving "forward".  But the I don't feel that having three women in different levels of power in government is inherently a "forward" action.  So once I cut that out from the theme what is "forward?"
FORWARD: The assemblage of vapid smiling rocking chair sitting color coordinated women talking to an elderly woman on an open porch.
Is the act of talking to constituents a forward action?  If these three women showed up on my porch with those dead looking eyes and open mouthed smiles I would quickly pull my grandmother inside the house until the zombies went away. 

So after they visited this old white woman on her porch they changed their clothes...
Looks like someone splurged for the big box of crayons!

And proceeded to talk to some nicely dressed white lady and presumably her 4 perfect white children. The caption reads "Rebuilding our economy, one step at a time."

You might ask: "But Tom, what does this picture have anything to do with rebuilding the economy?" The only answers I have are:
1) They are rebuilding the economy buy purchasing more clothes.
2) Talking to white blonde women and little Timmy. 
3) Having Beck put her hair down and having Casagrande color her hair.
4) Dead, soulless smiles. 
5) The mailers could have been printed in the state which would help the economy but there is no mention of that.

I love fake candid.  But this is tactical candid.  This photo looks so genuine.  Three ladies...hitting the town/village/strip mall and striking up conversation with a faceless beautiful woman and her perfectly dressed faceless family.  This family is so perfect they organize themselves precisely as to not obscure Jenn, Mary, and Carol for their photo op.  Nailed it.

How do either of these photos make me feel these candidates represent me?

Do the colorblind see this flyer as a sea of blue, grey, & white?

I love this one.  It has an anecdote about how she was in the hospital after giving birth to her second son on the phone trying to fight for funding for woman's and children's health in the state budget.

Spoiler alert.:  She did it.

She increased funding by $135 million for a budget in 2014.  Then she called the nurse over to bring her "new born" and realized he was already 3-4 years old.
There is only one person I can trust in this picture and that is little Teddy.  His expression is perfect for how I feel about state politics.  Even Mr. Casagrande (or as I like to call him Steve "I-Love-It-When-You-Call-Me-Big-Casa"...Grande.) looks like he is strong arming little Harrison by pulling his shirt.

I need to practice my open mouthed smile.  They must have taken this photo the same day Caroline was talking to that old lady in the rocking chair because she hasn't changed her outfit yet.   She should know better because wearing the same clothes won't stimulate the economy.  But investing in big flags, rocking chairs, glossy white paints, and blue textiles might...

On the reverse sides of these flyers are generally negative attack ads, similar to the the ones Caroline Casagrande was offended by as a wife, mother and taxpayer.  The only difference is that her attack adds hit democratic opponents.

My favorite attack ad of theirs is this one:
I've never seen something so NOT RACIST appear to lick at being racist.  You have four suites.  Two red suites.  Two black suits.  Shown here are the heart, club, and diamond. If those staged photo op images have precisely arranged wardrobes and people, one must assume the use of Photoshop has to be equally if not more thought out.  I feel like they had a point on a globe that they wanted to avoid desperately.  In that effort, they nearly circumnavigated the globe and hit the point from the other side.
Don't get me wrong.  I am in no way supporting these three guys simply because they are supposed to be the antithesis of the three women.  I am sure all six of them have their faults.  But, I don't get fliers from the three dudes, just the GOP.  And even with that said I don't think the primary color wearing women have made much of an argument in favor of them.  Maybe I should hang out in rocking chairs more often?  Or maybe this guy might have a point...

I will update this post as I receive more flyers.  I am curious how this story is going to end.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

annnd...for my next trick...

My email...which failed to send after typing it up.
In an effort to lose weight and take advantage of a great sale a month or so ago I bought two boxes of your wholesale sized 100 calorie right bite variety packs from a Costco near me. 

Let me hand it to you those things are delicious. 

But...I would have to say...AT LEAST 50% of the cookie products (the fudge stripes or chocolate chips) the packaging is ALWAYS open.  It's as if the seal on the package wasn't even there. 

So I will reach in to the box, grab myself a tasty snack, only to find that what I thought would be one of your delicious Keebler Elf (TM) crafted ambrosia is nothing more than a stale foul tasting 100 calorie portioned bag of garbage.
I doubt this is an effort to get me to eat less than 100 calories per bag.  Because if it is...its pretty ingenious except for the fact I am probably just going to forgo purchasing your product ever again that way in addition to cutting calories I can cut expenses as well. 

Thank you for reading.  If needed, I can include pictures of said packaging if need be or a link to my blog where I complain pointlessly about things to a bored and nonexistent audience. 

Tom Minor

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Hot Dog.

"It's a hotdog cart. Brand new." A disembodied voice shouts from nearby.

I pulled Dante's leash and he moved away from the tow hitch. On its flatbed was a large mystery item wrapped in tarps and a dozen stretched faded bungee cords. His momentary interest in this item will now cost us a conversation with Tony.

"Yeah. Curb your dog. Heh Heh." He said as he got up from a plastic deck chair on his balcony.

"He wouldn't have peed on it." I said under my breath.

He leaned over his second floor balcony. A plume of cigarette smoke floated from a hand that rested on the railing.  "I'll sell it to you. Twenty one hundred and it's yours."

"That's it?" I said. 

I was able to gaze across an infinite prism of alternate realities. A reality where I had $2100 of disposable income to buy a hot dog cart. This alternate Thomas also had a desire to make hotdogs instead of simply eating them. In fact, I want to make hotdogs so badly that I am willing to quit my job as a nurse to become a purveyor of fine street meat. In this reality all these qualities coalesce to create an alternate Thomas who comes home, swings open his apartment door, and throws down a heavy bag of wholesale Sabbrett brand hotdogs on the floor. He calls out to his wife, Sam, that he just gave Tony $2100 for a gently used hotdog cart and quit his job.

Alternate Reality Sam doesn't kill me where I stand. What a woman.

I pull Dante away from the deflated tire of the tow bed again, "I think the nursing thing is working out for me right now, Tony. But I'll let you know. I'll talk to Sam tonight."

"Yeah. Ask her. Ask your friends and stuff. I'll throw you some money for a finders fee. Three hundred bucks cash."

"Sure. I'll ask around."

"Tell them I have papers for it and everything. I just have to find them.  You know?"

"Yeah. I would probably need those." Dante pulled me away.


I have read stories about how some people drastically alter their careers.  This vignette is in no way a criticism of people who have done such changes.  I am in no way saying someone should not or can not drop what they are doing and become hotdog vendor.  In fact, if you are interested I can talk to Tony for you. Perhaps we can talk him down a little and then we can split my finders fee commission right down the middle.

One fifty will buy a lot of hotdogs.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Breakfast of Champions...

Hey "Bread-company",
Let me first come out and say I really love your 100 calorie Flax seed sandwich breadflats.  Last night in the dark I opened a fresh pack of these and made myself a sandwich in the dark, peanut butter and STRAWBERRY jelly.  ( I work nights so I am a bit of an insomniac on my days off).  I love PB&J.  My wife thinks my love for the sandwich and that I could literally eat one for any meal is slightly obnoxious.

Anyway, my midnight snack sandwich was so delicious, that this morning...SIX hours later.. since I was so pleased with the sandwich I had last night I decided to make myself another one for breakfast.  When I split the bread I nearly vomit. White larvae resembling maggots, about a centimeter in length were crawling/pulsating in and out of tunnels carved in my sandwich flat.

The bag contains at least a dozen of these "maggots".  For posterity, I took pictures.  There were no holes in the packaging...and the package was open for less than six hours.  Eggs were laid in or on the bread in the factory...they hatched and started eating.  (I would imagine they would have had to eat a lot in order to get as fat as they were on low carb bread.)

Now fattened on my delicious 100 calorie flat bread  I then... unknowingly slathered them in chunky peanut butter and ate them.

If I was on a reality show, in which contestants were challenged to eat maggots to hopefully win a prize I would not complain to the company after eating them.  

The facts remain:

Peek a Boo.
A) I am NOT on a show.
B) There are no prizes.
C) This IS reality.

I ate worms that you fed me.

Thinking about it right now it hard for me to separate the love I have for peanut butter and strawberry jelly sandwiches...and the thought I ate this STAPLE of my diet with maggots.

This is my first time writing to a company in order to complain about a product.  I know this was not done maliciously.  But it will have unintended LASTING consequences and has left me with many questions...

1) Can/will I ever eat my beloved Sandwiches again?
2) Do I have to prepare foods with the lights on in my kitchen from now on?
3) Do you account for the maggots when calculating the 100 calorie estimates?
4) How many likes or comments am I going to get when I post my mildly amusing anecdote with pictures on Facebook and my blog?
5)And most importantly since it pertains to your company, will I EVER buy a Arnold product again?

I could take a stab at answering these:
1) Probably.
2) Yes.
3) You tell me.  Google yielded mixed results...and it's true, I am not sure just how many larvae I ate.
4) If I post it, I'll let you know.
5) Hmmm.

I am very displeased with you right now, Arnold.  Mostly because I was not on an episode of fear factor, but I still had to do the leg work.

Thomas F. Minor

PS. I am sorry I do not have the dates and UPC numbers.  I was so angry that I threw the WORM INFESTED bag away in the dumpster at the earliest chance I had.

ADDENDUM:  So.  I playfully emailed this to the Arnold comments and concerns website around 11:15am or so before I posted this blog.  By 12:45  they contacted me by phone to apologize and get more information.  They assured me that how the bakery is built that the "pests" were probably introduced after it left.  The ingredients are fumigated and the oven cooks things at a temperature that would destroy anything in the bread.  Apparently, both of us were the  victims here-  me, the maggot  eating consumer and they the company attempting to distribute a quality product.

 "Carl" was a very nice man who swore that there was a hole in the bag and that they were stored near something that was also infested.  This obviously was not my cabinets.  So it had to have happened at the store or in transit from the factory.  He promised that if I were to take the bag, fill it with water, I would assuredly find a hole...somewhere. His argument was so convincing...that after I got off the phone with him I went outside to walk my dog and to fish my trashbag out of the dumpster.  I threw the infested flats away and took the bag back into the house.  I filled the bag with water...and sonofabitch he was right.  There was a small tear in the seam near the top of the bag.  I can not blame Arnold bread for this.  But, I've decided to leave up my blog post as a warning (and a laugh) for others.

So to revisit:

5) Will I EVER buy a Arnold product again?

Probably.  Not right away...but I do love PB&J.  A lot. 

Friday, June 7, 2013


I don’t know who abandoned who.  Did I abandon my original godfather or did my godfather abandon me?  Mike Frick was a nice enough man.  But after I left his employment at an antiques business in Miami one summer he faded away.  I am not sure how necessary a godparent is once you become young adult.  He was never terribly religious so I am not sure what sort of spiritual guidance he could have provided me in the event my parents could not.  In fact the last time I attempted to visit him, I was thwarted by his incredibly and needlessly rude wife, Sorne.  (There is an accent on “Sor-ne” so it is actually pronounced “shyt-hed”.)

Over time I was essentially adopted by the godfather of my other siblings, Reginald Sermersheim - A big, heavyset,  flat footed, incredibly kindhearted, gay, midwestern former college friend of my parents.  He liked country music.  He took me to several Miami Heat and Marlins games.  He would take me out for lunch.  There were a couple of times he babysat me and my siblings.  He was always wiping ketchup off my face.  

Reg led a very simple frugal life and over the years Reg became very Catholic.  The word “very” should sit in your mouth a moment in order to grasp just how Catholic he was compared to me.  He gave me relics and crosses for birthdays and Christmas.  I have received several pewter statues of St. Thomas.  

As I grew older and became more aware that relatives also functioned as individual people, I could tell he was a lot more depressed than he was when I remembered him as a child.  He would have these long bouts of depressions and he would sort of cut off contact from people for a few months then reappear on the radar apologizing for having disappeared.  My parents could list several of the times he had done this to them and just sort of accepted it wearily.  

Last time I saw him was before that was in August 2011 before the wedding.  He was living in a small studio apartment in North Miami.  He had no car because his car was stolen, replaced by insurance then subsequently stolen again a month later.  (I will never forgive you Miami for doing that to him.) He never bothered getting a new car and relied on carpooling to get to and from work.  We went out for ribs, we caught up, and reminisced.  He wiped BBQ sauce off my face.  He told me he would see us in November..  

Reg RSVP’d then, missed my wedding and quite literally, vanished.  

After the dust settled from the wedding Sam and I started asking what had happened to Reg.  We did not have much to go on.  I tried calling cellphone numbers and old phone numbers I had on old cellphones.  I spoke to people in Miami.  Someone drove by his apartment discovered he was no longer there.  Someone contacted an old supervisor at work and we learned he no longer worked at the hospital and it was believed he had moved to Indiana.  

Reg had an unusual last name that to this day I still don’t think I can spell correctly even if I have the name in front of me.  Sermersheim.  If I spelled it correctly, you can be sure as hell I still probably did not pronounce it correctly.  I ran searches for his name and found a few.  I found a internet yearbook listing a Gary and a Reginald in the same high school together in Ireland Indiana.  My mother told me he had a brother named Gary.  Using google maps I virtually stood in the front yard of one of the suspected locations of a Gary Sermersheim in Jasper, Indiana.  

I zoomed in on his house.  I stalked him from across state lines.  

I tried calling.  No answer.  

Nearly 2000 miles.  31 hours of driving. Penis shaped.
For about a week, Sam and I debated a drive out to the address I voted as “our best bet”.  Plans for a week long vacation had fallen through a few weeks prior, so Sam and I charted a roadtrip to Chicago by way of Jasper Indiana.  We packed some food, a few days of clothes, Dante, and left for Indiana.  

This must be the place.
The drive was long mostly because we had to stop to walk Dante at regular intervals.  We spent the night in a hotel just east of Louisville, KY.  We would get some rest then head to Jasper during the day and try to figure things out.

Left it in my glovebox.  I found it while cleaning my car.
We pulled up to the house shortly before noon on a cold blustery Friday.  We knocked on all the doors we could find.  We detected a flaw to our plans immediately, the house was dark; they were at work. We got back in the car and considered our options.  At this point I still felt like Reg was hiding from me and he was using his family to help hide him.  Against my better judgement I started writing a note to leave.  I did not know what to say and it required multiple attempts.  Midsentence someone pulled into the driveway behind me in a pickup truck.  A man resembling Reg got out of the car.  

It was Gary.

 I have no idea why 
we looked suspicious.
He said someone had phoned him to let him know that someone was in his driveway.  So he drove from work to see who I was and what I was doing.  Everyone, stand and bear witness to the power of small town neighbors.  I explained who I was and he remembered me from a wedding I attended in Indiana when I was seven.  He said Reg was up the road from his house.  He had me follow him to St. Charles Health Campus a mile or two away. Sam waited in the car with Dante because I was still convinced he might not be happy to see me.  

The Miss Taylor definitely nailed the hair.
I could not have been more wrong.  As Gary walked into his room and said, “Look who I found.”  I stepped into the doorway and his pale face lit up.  He was speechless.  I asked if this was okay, if I could come in and he invited me in.  

He was in a wheelchair.  He was missing his left leg below the knee.  We hugged and started talking.  He told me it was because of his diabetes his wounds would not heal and he had been losing his leg in piecemeal.  He was happy to see me and spent long pauses just sort of staring. Eventually I went outside and got Sam and Dante.  Gary said he had to head back to work but we traded cellphone numbers and he insisted that we spend the night at his house.  
Reg apologized for missing the wedding.  But I said it did not matter, I understood and I did not need any apologies.  I was glad that he was getting better.   We hung out there until well into the evening.  Gary and Charlene let us spend the night in a spare bedroom back at their place.  We had some surprisingly good Mexican food that night and went back to the facility in the morning and stayed until late into the afternoon.  

We just talked.  Exchanged stories.  Told him about the wedding, what we were up to now and what our plans were.  He explained that I saying Louisville wrong.  

“It’s Lu-heh-ville.  Not Luw-wee-ville.”
Way to ruin the picture Dante...
The nurse took a picture of us before we left that afternoon.  We made promises to stay in contact but he was already telling me how he was thinking about cancelling his cellphone.  He said it was to save money because he was just going to use the landline in his nursing home room.  He just wanted to cut himself off further.  

Last February, I called him to let him know my grandfather had died.  Before that, I called him to wish him a merry Christmas.  There were a few times that I called him and he said he could not speak because he was about to eat or he was receiving physical therapy or he was with a nurse.  Whether that was true or not was anyone’s guess.  

Last week, someone at work asked me about a roadtrip I took last year and I retold the story about the novice detective work and the impulsive roadtrip to find him.  The mixed feeling of joy and melancholy of finding him.  

“Yesterday” I was at work.  My phone rings and flashes that it is Gary Sermersheim calling. I had not even answered and I knew what this phone call represented.  

It was Charlene.  “I hate to be the bearer of bad news...”

It was such a long involved history that I had to take notes.  

Always the nurse.  

The nurse came in at 5:30 am to check his blood sugar.  He seemed fine.  When she came back to bring him breakfast they found him unresponsive in his bed.  

“He died very peacefully.”

I tried to think of the last time I told a patient’s family that he or she died peacefully; debated where innocent alterations to the story could have taken place to concoct this serene scene.   Did the nurses have to scoop him up off the floor, clean him up, dress him up, and make him look peaceful and cozy in his bed?  Did the nurses and EMTs wrench on his chest for a little while and crack a few ribs before accepting he was gone? Perhaps Charlene or the staff accepted this was a detail she could leave out for me?  I’ve since accepted that my godfather peacefully passed away in his bed undisturbed by my paranoid delusions.  

I was angry, upset, and confused.  After I got off the phone I started calling family and disseminating the unhappy news to them.  Then, carelessly admitted I had just lost my grandfather to a few coworkers before I realized I was being childish and stupid.  This was my grief; why was I telling other people?  Soon, I was essentially alone for the remainder of my shift thinking about Reg and what he left behind. Eight hours alone with my thoughts.  

While organizing a case cart full of hip replacement trays without warning I started crying.  Leaning on the cart, I quickly pulled away from it because I was worried my tears might contaminate a tray.

I did not sleep when I got home.  I spent much of the day digesting everything and debating what I was going to do if Charlene sent me funeral information.  After about 30 or so hours of contemplation I have come to the conclusion Reg’s death is:


For such a simple word I don’t think I have ever grasped the true gravity of everything it could offer.  “Unhappy” is seems sort of blanket word that can cover all non-positive emotion.  “Depressed” always struck me as a very focused word.  A single person is depressed.  A situation can be depressing but it does not really express depth.  A very happy person can encounter something depressing but the does not mean they cease to be happy. 

This was just sad.  Really fucking sad.  Every aspect.  Every point of view.  Every flavor of this whole event has been sad.  I could easily bullet each sentence as a separate thread of sadness making up a sad intricately sad woven tapestry of sad saddy sad sadness.  

Charlene had to spend much of the day scrolling through her and Gary’s cellphones making choices on who she was going the bear her news.  She undoubtedly been doing “death” things all day.  Now, nearly sixteen hours since Reg passed away,  she is scrolling through the last few random contacts on her phone deciding if that person should know if Reg died. If I had not made the trip out to see Reg, my cellphone number might never been saved in Gary’s phone.  Charlene was Reg’s Sister in law; she did not have to call me and I would have had NO CLUE anything had happened to Reg until I tried to call him again.   In fact, if the number just rang as I was used to I would just suspect Reg was seeing my number on the caller ID and choosing not to pick up.  I probably would have just thought Reg was just being a jerk again.  

If Charlene had not called, I would not have gotten the baton to pass to my mother.  Without that we would not have been able to reach the rest of my family with the sad news.  My mother and I divided up who we were going to call and make sad.  I called my brother and spoke to him on the phone for the first time in months. I spoke to my godmother (another person who is not REALLY my godmother but adopted me) another person I should keep in closer contact with but don’t.  I sobbed in my wife’s arms for the first time in my life.  

He was deeply religious and spent his moving between hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities, and home all the while missing being able to attend church.  Reg loved to eat, so God gave him diabetes.   Charlene told me he was a non-compliant diabetic and would hide cookies in his room.  God took away one of his legs.  He would suffer from non healing ulcers.   He had to wait months to use his prosthesis because his amputation would not heal.  When it finally did heal he would get ulcers on the stump so he could not use the prosthesis.   He made staying in bed painful and the felt times he did attempt to walk were made painful as well for good measure. 

A young nephew died in a car accident early the year before and he spent an undetermined amount of time wishing he could have somehow died in place of him. As though God had a quota of Sermersheim’s he had to achieve by a certain date and simply made a mistake which one he was supposed to have taken.  His body nonvoluntarily struggled to live while his mind and heart voluntarily wished it would cease.  

Then there are a collection of sad things that I can only define as assumptions.  I remember him telling me how much he liked it at the nursing home.  It was more expensive to stay at a nursing home than receive home care so I assume he liked the nursing home rather than being at home with family. I assume he was somewhat lonely, because I can not recall the last time he had a significant other. As far as I knew or understood the Catholic church has never been the most accepting of homosexuals.  So he loved a church that did not unconditionally love him back.  He wanted to get healthy to attend church while at the same time prayed he would die.  

From his perspective, he was praying to a celestial body who did nothing but test him and seemingly torment him.  He was asking forgiveness for sins while at the same time questioning the meaning or message in everything God was INFLICTING on him.  What was the fucking point of any of it?

To give my sadness another layer of grief I can not help but to wonder why his death is having such an effect on me.  I did not cry when my grandfathers died.  I remember crying when my grandmother died but I feel that was only because I was watching how sad my mother looked.  Surely these people whom I loved deserved my tears.  I've sobbed over dead family pets.  Why did I not cry any for them?   I don’t think a death has ever upset me this much. 

My kind tenderhearted godfather died physically alone in an uncomfortable plastic lined hospital bed with cold chrome side rails in a nursing home at sixty four years old.  That is just sad.  If it wasn’t so mind numbingly sad I might be able to think of another event in my life that rivaled how purely sad I feel right now.  

I was waiting for an email from Charlene telling me about funeral arrangements when my mother told me they posted his obituary.  She mentioned it seemed like they hardly knew him.  Of course, they probably knew him well, but it really felt like that.  It was like someone was asked to fill out a social media profile.  They filled out all the subjective things but when they got to the “About yourself” section they accidentally hit enter and forgot to fill it out.  

I suppose everyone deals with their sadness in different ways.  

Goodnight Reg.  I love you.  I will miss you terribly.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Without further ado...

So last week I went to walk Dante on the train tracks and I always take my camera because you never know what you might find or see.  As I leaving the complex I bump into Tony.  I knew I would probably never get another shot at this so I asked him if I could take a picture of him with Dante.  I could already tell he was drunk.  It was about two in the afternoon.  He patted his pockets and insisted he go inside for something to make him "look cool" for the picture.  So I waited, Dante grew more and more impatient.  Just as I began walking away, chalking up Tony's disappearance to him going into his apartment and forgetting to come back outside.

Tony returned.

And I managed to put together a pretty quick photo essay.

So please allow me to introduce you to my neighbor, Tony.
The moment I handed him the leash.  Dante took off out of the frame.  I don't know how he managed it but he pulled off a fantastic Criss Angel levitation shot here without even trying. 

 I was curious why Tony was struggling with the leash so much. 

 As you can tell, Dante does not like him. He has NEVER liked him very much.  Maybe it is because he never could get his name right.  But here he looks genuinely panic-stricken.  He kept running back to me every time I backed up to take the photo.  This would throw off the focus of the picture.  I wondered if Tony reminds Dante of his previous owner.  Dante was a runway and was found along the side of an interstate with another dog in Virginia.  He was picked up by animal control and taken to a kill shelter. 

Throughout these shots I am sure Dante was positive I was giving him up so he can live with the alcoholic man he sees in his doggy nightmares.

Yes.  The reason I had to wait for him was so that he could go inside and get his flask/three fifty milliliter bottle of Jeremiah Weed Sweet Tea Vodka and his cigarettes.  These are the accessories that make one "look cool."  He was now insistent on me getting a photo of him attempting to give my dog his booze and a smoke.
He thought it was hilarious.

Dante, ever-gullible and sweet-natured was probably thinking he was trying to give him food cautiously smelled it while wagging his tail slightly.

Please.  Just make it quick. 
But Dante knew better, he pulled away and simply resigned himself to a state of complete and utter hopeless despair.  He just stood there making no attempts to flee.  When I saw this picture through the view finder I announced we were done and that it was time for me to give him the walk I promised him.

 Tony thought the idea of getting a photo of him PRETENDING to give alcohol to a dog was hilarious.  After all he usually has a great time when he himself drinks alcohol.

Now that I am looking at this photo I feel terrible.  Like Dante has been violated in the most cruel manner possible.  He has this dead, distantly vacant stare as though he is trying to imagine himself in a place where his shitty owner whom he thought loved him did not just thoughtlessly hand him over to a scary man who is now trying to get him drunk. He has given up.  He is back in that kill shelter in Virginia.  Except this time the SPCA of Monmouth County is not rescuing him and his roadside Irish Setter buddy.

I took about ten photos.  Many of them were out of focus.  The whole session could not have taken longer than two minutes to shoot. 
Two minutes too long.
Dante started out as a prop to get a photo of Tony and Tony ended up being a prop to get a photo of my Dog. 

I promised to never do that to him ever again.  We took a long rewarding walk.  I let him jump in the mud and we ran after deer together on the train tracks.

And with that, I think I am done with Tony for a while.  I can not promise that I will never write about him ever again.  He is too "unique" to never get another story.  But ever since we moved I have been slowly emptying a dwindling pool of Tony encounters.  And believe it or not there are still stories I haven't written. It is true, I do not see him nearly as often as I used to.  Which makes me think he is hidden in that apartment with Bonnie or he really is spending several days a week somewhere else. On the rare instances I do run into him he is assuring me that he only stays here a couple days a week and that I am absolutely forbidden to tell the the rental office people. 

But once the story pool is empty, then what?  I feel all I do is write about him and I know I have more stories.

*Like did you know Tony and Bonnie were facing eviction once because of a massive flea and bed bug infestation?  True story.  They tried to blame us and our dog for giving it to them.  They told the rental office we were dirty people and our dog gave them fleas.  We had to have an exterminator come and inspect our apartment and everything.  He told us that he had been an exterminator for ten years and he had never seen an infestation like the one we had living directly above us at the time.
*I never wrote about the night Tony got taken away in an ambulance last August in the middle of the night.   When the paramedics lifted him up in the stretcher $1.27 in change spilled out of his pockets like a big drunk alcoholic pinata.  Weeks later when he came back he told it it was just a little heart attack.  He was fine now. 
*Did you also know that Tony got arrested for attempting to break in the door of two young lesbians living in a few units away?  One of them threatened to slit his throat with a knife while standing in her open doorway. 
*Speaking of homosexuality, were you aware that Tony is convinced the people who moved into our old apartment are a "bunch of homos"?  Fact.  He told me that he happened to be walking by their window and he looked in and the he said there were two men sitting on the couch together so close that they could have been "kissing cousins".  Which I suppose is fine except one of them is married.  To a female.  Tony told me one day the wife caught them and she proceeded to make a big scene and  destroy the husbands Subaru station wagon.  Despite Tony's stance on keeping problems "in house" they still called law enforcement on them.  Believe it or not, Bonnie is bigger hateful homophobe than Tony.  She called them "faggots" to their faces.  While Tony has a sort of live-and-let-live-policy - so long as you are not trying any "kissing cousin" stuff with me, we're cool.  For once, Tony seemed like the rational one. 

I could keep going but that is what most of my stories are of him.  Small fragments which could be explained in a sentence or two.  The fragmentation is an embodiment of Tony.  I have to take these fragments of encounters and cobble them back together so they make any sort of coherence. 

 Always the nurse...

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Eatontown Picker

I saw Tony dragging this down the street while I was running errands the other week.  The same street I saw him being accosted by the police a few weeks before that.  He was struggling to drag it over a curb as the nose of it was stuck.  It was pretty obvious it was missing its front wheel.  It does not look like it is the the most current design but I would imagine they are still expensive.
It almost looks like it might be one of those fancy fusion powered basketed hovercrafts I've been hearing about.
 Nope, its just broken shit. 

But I am also pretty sure they are very worthless if nonfunctional. 

But Tony is able to see worth in things that to the common person seem to have none.  Just like how he saw worth in the fenced in abandoned military housing that the apartment complex sits next to.  While we might see over hundred units of perfectly functional apartment units falling into a state of complete and total unusable disrepair, Tony sees easily penetrated structures full of potential copper piping and scrap metal.

So Tony brought back the broken personal scooter device back to the complex.  Where he placed it in front of one of his neighbors apartments.  I got the impression they did not appreciate it because it was moved to a more natural habitat.
Behold!  The native Rascalis Ambulaticus in its indigenous habitat.  I was given special permission by the people of Eatontown and Wild Electronic Preservation Society to photograph this mystical creature.  Malls and rehab centers have ravaged the indigenous population of these rare beasts through poaching and capture. 

Eerily enough. It looks just as fitting here as it did next to the trash cans where Tony found it. 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Passenger

I picked up Tony on the side of the road few days ago.  I am not sure what possessed me to do it but I can only chalk it up to unchecked masochistic morbid curiosity.  I was just returning from work around four when I saw him walking towards me along the road.  Sometimes I will see him walking "into town" with Bonnie.  She trails behind him usually by a dozen feet caring her purse and reusable grocery bags folded neatly in her armpit.   But he was alone today.  Hands tucked in the pockets of his worn green and black NY Jets jacket.

I slowed down and waved.  He waved to me before he recognized me.  He stepped off the sidewalk and I felt this sudden expectation I supposed to stop and say hello. I was presented with a choice.  I could press the gas and accelerate and just leave our exchange at the polite wave and acknowledgement most neighbors give one another.  From there I could go home and watch TV, play video kids, or write a short two paragraph blog entry.
What good is a short, two paragraph blog entry?  Not a whole lot.  But a short two paragraph blog entry is probably infinitely better than the blog entry I don't write because I am laying naked and dead in some creek bed after he kills me and steals my car.

But I am a sucker for a good story.

I slow down along side of him as my window slides down it catches the fresh rain drop drizzle on the glass.  He hovered on the sidewalk for a moment until my window was fully down then he leaned into my car.  His eyes moved about the interior of the car before making eye contact and for a moment I pondered who was closer to my wallet or phone.

"Well, if it isn't Mr. Deserter. Where is Mrs. Deserter?"
"Heh.  She is still at work."  I am pretty sure I heard what I thought I heard.
"Yeah? Mr. and Mrs Deserter, that's what Bonnie and I call you guys now."
"Because you guys left us!"
"We never left.  We are only in the next building over."
"Still you never told us!  You never came to my party."
To be honest I did not even give it a second thought. It's April now, how many New Years will he keep holding that over my head?   "I wasn't even in town for New Years."  I lied.
"Yeah Yeah." 
"Alright."  I repositioned my hands on the steering wheel. 
"You just getting home from work?" He pulled me back in.
"Yes.  From the surgicenter in Shrewsbury."
"I thought you worked in Long Branch, Tom.  You are the nurse."
"I do.  I am a nurse. This is my second job."
"Two jobs?  Good for you.  I've always had a few jobs."  This conversation was as boring as what I imagined it would sound like in the blog entry I had not written yet.
"Well.  Yup." There was a pause and he looked about the cabin of the car again.  I knew what he wanted and part of me communicated that it was time to flee.  I said moving my hands again on the steering wheel.
"Were you on the way to your apartment?"
"Yup.  You remember the place."
"Tom, do you think you could help me out?"
"Finding my apartment?  I don't think you need any help." I said hinting pointlessly at the package he stole, opened, and subsequently returned weeks later to our apartment door last winter.
He guffawed.  "No. No.  Do you think you can give me a ride?"
"I want to get some cigarettes. Up the road."
"Up the road where?"
"Well, I'll show you."  He reached for the door latch and it snapped back.  I sighed, audibly and unlocked the doors while clearing the seat moments before he nearly sat down on my hand.  It smelled like a damp ashtray climbed into my car.  For a moment as his back pushes into my upholstery and he fastens his seat belt I wonder how often what must be his favorite (or only) jacket gets washed.  He fastened his seat belt and we started to move in the direction he was walking.
As we rolled passed the fenced in abandoned former military housing of Fort Monmouth he offered advice about handling local law enforcement that occupy the road.  He pointed out all the locations cop cars like to hide.  He warned me to never go above 30 mph in the 25 mph zone.  He said that if you are drinking and driving to always drive with the windows down especially in cold weather.

Of course I asked why.

Because if you wait to roll your window down until the cop comes over to you the moment you open your window the cold air will pull the warm air in your car out.  The cop will be able to smell the alcohol easier.  That will give him probable cause to do whatever he needs to do.

This of course is what is known as Tony's Fourth Law of Thermodynamics.  A car that is in motion will remain in motion back home from the bar so long as there is an equilibrium between the temperature and alcohol vapor inside and outside the car.

Tony's Fifth Law then states: Unless the cop is a dick and just wants to fill his quota.

Just after our first turn, we passed a house where two weeks prior I saw Tony getting questioned by the cops.  I asked him what had happened.

"I was just going to see a friend.  I must have fit the description of someone in the area who was breaking into apartments."
"Were you breaking into apartments?"
"No.  I don't even know why she called the cops on me."
"My lady friend.  I went to see her and then when I left she called the cops."
"That makes no sense Tony.  "
"She saw a suspicious looking person in the neighborhood but since she had just seen me that is who was fresh in her mind."
"A friend of yours "accidentally" accused you of doing something illegal?  Are you still friends?"
"No.  But I got a lot of lady friends if you know what I mean. Hey Tom, pull in there."  He said pointing at a nearby parking lot.  A sign over the back door into a rear entrance to a store front read "7 Up Smokers Den."
"What kind of cigarettes are you getting exactly, Tony?" I asked.
"Marlboro's."  He answered unflinchingly.

The location was the cross between the snack aisle in a 7-11 and glass pipes and bong aisle of a head shop.  The selection for both was shit.  The floor was carpeted but the paneling on the underside creaked.  There was a spot by the cooler that felt like I was only standing on carpet suspended over an open floor.  The store was empty of people.

"How's it going Hadji?" Tony asked waving at a man at the counter. 
He was a dark skinned indian man with a mustache.  He stood at attention by the register.  The
"Good. Good. How are you Tony?"
"Eh," he said sort of fanning his hand to indicate he did not want to bother about talking about it. "The old lady is on my case again." He said regardless. "Hadji, This is my friend Mr. Deserter.  I mean Tom."
"Hello.  Nice to meet you Hadji."  I said as politely as I could muster as I held out my hand. 
"Harry." He shook my hand. 
"Hairy?"  I said bouncing between homophones and debating if I was losing something in his accent. 
"Harry." He said gesturing to himself with his other hand.  "Good to meet you too."
"Oh. HARRY!  I am sorry." Still lost.

Tony was opening up the cooler to get a energy drink.  "You know, Hadji.  It's a nickname!  You know from that cartoon?"
I immediately felt like shit.  This fucking asshole is calling him Hadji and introduced me as his friend.  I started weighing where on realm of racist nicknames this one rested.  I was so blinded by how embarrassed I felt I could not even remember the name of the cartoon.  I pulled away and made sure I looked like I was casually browsing, politely to make up for my indirect racism.
"Hadji, do you have any single Marlboros?"  
"Yes."   He opened a drawer behind the counter and pulled out an opened hard pack.  They were talking among each other and I tried to mind myself in the wares.
"Hey Tom.  You want something?  Get whatever you want, I'm buying!"

The goods he had were the sort of things I see when I go to the Englishtown Fleamarket.  Stuff that almost appears to be name brand but when you look closer the colors look a little off or you realize is spelled differently despite appearing in the same font.  I told Tony that I did not want anything but he still asked me again when I approached the counter.  Harry was busy counting through a fist full of change that Tony had spilled on the counter.  From the looks of it Harry was working on trying to take the smallest coin denominations first.  On the counter was a purple colored vitamin water and six individual white cigarettes.

They looked familiar.  I was pretty sure he smoked the same brand my parents did before they quit a decade ago.

Harry held out his hand as though Tony had the capacity to count the coins without repeating or losing count.

"I trust you! Ha! Thanks for helping me get rid of all that change, Hadji."
I wondered how cognizant he was of his own behavior.  It is this sort of social symbiosis.  If I tolerate him being a glaring asshole his visits will be less memorable or at the very least, shorter.  If he knew he was being an asshole all the time but people just sort of accept that something was wrong with him and keep on going.
"Harry." I said under my breath while glancing and the store-owner for a flinch. 
"Oh Tom, I know his name.  It's a nickname."
I wonder if he knew his name.  Or of it's like how he never can remember my dog's name despite repeated reminders.  We left the store and into weather that was floundering between drizzling and raining. I unlocked my car with my remote.
"This car doesn't have an automatic start?  You should get one of those automatic car starters."
"I don't need that."
"I know someone that puts those in.  He does real good work."
I would have gotten away with it too...

...if it hadn't been for those damn storms.
"No thanks.  I've gotten this far in life without needing it."  How many copies of my keys would he make?  I ran through all the torture I could be dealt if he had access to my car.  Would he smash up my car and blame it on teenagers like he did for the van? Would he smash in my headlight and then blame it on weather phenomenon like he did for the neighbors sedan?
"Hey, Tom.  If it's not too much trouble could we make one more stop?"
"I wanted to pick up some Lairds."
Now, writing it here, in this blog right now it makes perfect sense what he wanted.  But if someone asked, verbally, out of the blue for you to pick some Layereds/Layers/Lairs/Lairds up would you know what they were saying?  If he had said, Grey Goose, Smirnoff, Svedka. hell, I would have known Popov.  It wasn't until recently I realized that Lairds is made right here in Jersey, and that is probably why he thought I would know instantly what he meant.

"What? What is that?"
"The liquor store, where do you go?"
"Anywhere.  Usually the Spirits over there." I said while pointing in the general vicinity. 
"Which one?"  There were two Spirits liquors in that direction.  Of course he would be right.  I refused to take him to the liquor store I go to.  Not that my store was special or anything but if he came in with me I would not want to be associated with him.  I drove a little further to the second Spirits liquor all the while debating the moral-do-no-harm implications of me assisting this man in the acquisition of alcohol.
I asked a few probing questions, like when the last time he drank and often he feels the urge to drink.  He told me he hadnt had a drink for a while, but how a demented alcoholic defines "a while" is anyone's guess.

We pulled into a space in the parking lot and he pulled out a twenty and held it out to me.  I furrowed my brow at him quizzically.

"Get me two of the small Laird vodkas."
"Why can't you get it yourself?"
"The owner doesn't like me."
"What do you mean the owner doesn't like you? What did you do?"
"He called the cops on me.  I was just trying to help him out.   Someone was breaking into his car I went back in the store to let him know and he called the cops.  He thought it was me.  When the cops came they threw me in the back of the car."
"Why did he call..." I took the twenty knowing this was the wrong question and I started over. "How did you know it was the owner's car that was being broken into?"
"I didn't.  But when he was describing who did it, since I was just in there buying some beer he remembered my face.  So he thought it was me who did it."  This story sounded oddly familiar.  He was breaking into that guys car just like he was probably breaking into apartments a few weeks ago.  His bullshit "I look like everyone" story sounds like something a lawyer tells you to say on the stand when you sit accused of something you obviously did.
"Two lairds. Small Bottles?" I asked. 
"Two lairds.  Three Fifty Bottles.  They keep them behind the register.  Buy anything else you want with the change.  My treat!"

Fat chance of that, I thought as I got out of the car.  I would not even buy a pack of free matches with his money.   He is like some deadbeat stepfather taking me out and offering me the world so long it fits within the loose change in his pocket or the leftovers after I buy him his medicine.

It was a dirty, naughty feeling, being in line at that liquor store.  At any moment the cops were going to kick open the door and ask who was buying alcohol for that man outside.  The owner will be forced to describe a crude likeness of me to a sketch artist.   Unfortunately, he will describe me because I was just in the store and I will seem familiar. The artist is going to screw up my handlebar mustache and my hair line I just know it.  How are they going to find 5 other people who look like me to stand in a line up?  What sort of insulting thing will Lenny Briscoe say behind the double sided glass once the owner points me out?  Jack McCoy is furious with me.  Treating me as a hostile witness without asking permission from who ever is playing the Judge this week.  

Oh no.  I know nothing. Your Honor.  I plead the fifth.  
"Two of the lairds."
"The three fifty bottles.  Two of them."
"Nine-ninety." the clerk said before he even rang it up.  He knows.  I do not exude a "drinks flasks of cheapass Lairds vodka look", but the asshole he got arrested in the parking lot sure does.   I kept a close watch on his hands facetiously...waiting for him to reach for a panic button.   I put the crumpled bill on the counter, Old Hickory stared up from the scratched and faded faux-wood laminate counter-top.  He took the money and placed a small paper bag in its stead.  He typed away at the register and I quickly asked if I could get a receipt. He sighed as he strenuously hit another button.

Smooth.  Like I am going to deduct this from my taxes.

Line 144: Total Adjusted Gross Alcohol expenditures from Line 143a Beer, 143b Wines (Nonsparkling and Sparkling143c Cheap Applebees Margaritas (Adjusted for Drink specials) and 143d Distilled Hard Alcohols (Includes Lairds Flasks)

He placed the ten, dime, and receipt in my hand and I took the bag gingerly as the two bottles clanged together. When I got outside Tony wasn't in the car.  He was nearby, smoking looking at a Mustang parked off by itself.  Part of me wondered if he had done anything to it yet or if he was still working out in his head what he should do.
He moseyed over to me taking a long drag of his cigarette then pinched the tip off. 

"Here." I held out the bag.  I wanted nothing to do with it anymore.  He rubbed the ashes off the end of his cigarette on the side of a parking lot lamp post.  I walked another 6 or 7 steps with my arm held out like a child, he did not move from the post. I felt like an complete asshole by the time I made it over to him and handed him the brown paper bag.  I had to wait for him to stick the stub of a cigarette in his jacket pocket in order for him to empty out my other hand with his change. 
He looked in his hand.  "Did you get anything?"
"No. I got you a receipt."  I said this just in case he thought I was ripping him off.

Immediately it occurred to me that he knew exactly how much change I should bring back to him.  Like the time he asked Sam and I to buy him a particular beer and handed us a five dollar bill.  He knows all the cheap alcohols and how much they would cost with tax.  He has worked all the math out in the past.  He may not know names and conversations, but his important elements of his life whether it be crime, cars, or getting drunk; he knew unquestioningly.
I was angry at him but sympathetic enough to realize:  What does he have left?  Two flasks that will buy him a night or two of ephemeral bliss.  He tells me that he gets drunk easier nowadays.  I wondered if it was because it conflicts with his medications or its because his liver is so cirrhotic it can not process alcohol anymore.  

The car ride back to the complex was one filled with stories about how he was going to have to sneak around Bonnie tonight.  This man is going to outlive Bonnie.  That is just what good alcoholics like Tony do.  They just keep living, fading away slowly.  But, he keeps telling me he does not live there anymore.  He lives in a home somewhere, he only stays with Bonnie a few days out of the week but that is a secret.  I am not allowed to tell the landlord or the owners because that is not how we do things around here.  If I have a problem with something or someone we solve it amongst each other.

Fuck you, Jonny Quest.