379.Unglued

Unbelievable. My second vinyl fake wood floor is letting go of the subfloor again, and I am getting perturbed, which is a combination of per(fume) and turb(ulent), i.e., turbulent smelling, in the Australian dialect, “Crikey Mate, don’t maaahke may explaaain.” I am mystified yet again why flooring adhesive that is universally accepted by other subfloors and composite vinyl floor products refused to bond in my office hallway. It’s not in vitro fertilization here. It’s basically just a big peanut butter sandwich on the floor… but the peanut butter is mysteriously disintegrating. What?>>>??

I imagine the chipper sales guy at the big flooring store is going to have to get tough and throw down on this one. He was quite accommodating on the first floor failure, a regular Guy Smiley. “Hey, it happens now and then. Chet probably didn’t let the glue set up long enough. We all make mistakes. Sorry about the inconvenience.” I’m thinking that this time it won’t go as gently and he will have to blame the customer for crimes against plywood substrates or something just as ludicrous. He’ll probably send out his fixer dude, like the Mafia does, to clean up messes with a lot of bleach.

“Hi, Lawrenc Proctor, from CSI… ” chews audibly on spearmint gum, “Customer Service Intervention. Friends call me Larrrrry. Enemies don’t call.  Heh, heh. After  a cursorory inspection, I can see clearly that your building has excess moisture and/or vapors that seep into our very reliable products. Bottom line is this: the failure of the adhesive to bond is exclusively on your side of the equation, my man. See, my company has paid two unrelated guys to install quality flooring twice already. We can’t go three.” Demonstrates with fingers next to a menacing face.

Continues, “Makes me wonder if we don’t have Munchausen’s vinyl floor syndrome. Ever hear of it? Only known cure is full exposure to the light of truth.”

“I’m aware of Munchausen’s Disorder and Munchausen’s by proxy. Both involve the  factitious presentation of illness in order to gain unjustified attention from high status medical personnel. What on earth does that have to do with your flooring not sticking twice?”

“I think you do know what’s up, Doc. I am a doctor too, in a manner of speaking. Floor doctor.  Flooring people are drawn to my aura like moths to flame.  But the flame is hot, let me tell you.”

Whipping around dramatically with a finger in my face, “Did you spray a silicone product on your floor prior to the first installation. You installed the subfloor, right?”

“No! I mean, Yes! I did install the subfloor, but your own installer actually complimented my subflooring installation. I know in my spleen that’s not the problem. No, I did not spray anything on it. Besides, why would I sabotage my own floor for which I paid your imbecilic company $800?”

“Simple: Attention. You work alone all day. I’m sure it gets hard and lonely at times, huh Buddy? You’d like to hang out with the big dogs, right?  Maybe write your own blog. I get it… but there are healthier ways to relate to flooring professionals. You could go to the annual conference in Rochester, just for starters.”

“I can’t believe this. Don’t start patronizing me, Larry. You are welcome to inspect my subfloor after you remove your second sucky vinyl floor application. Munchausen’s!! Unbelievable!”

“Lemme tell you why that’s not going to happen. I believe you know that the silicone would have been absorbed in the first layer of vinyl and left a residue that polluted the seal of the second. You are good, Mr. Burrito. Crazy good, leaving no evidence except the faint scent of WD40, which I detected as soon as I reached the top step here. Ahh, yes, the almost perfect flooring deception. You nearly pulled it off.”

“I’m willing to grant that one of us is insane, but I’m not surrendering to that label just yet, okay? Ever hear of Lawsuit Syndrome? It happens when a jerk contractor  defrauds his customer and tries to slink away from contractual obligations and product warrantees. It’s only known cure is expensive litigation in court.”

“Now, let’s not get testy here, sir. No need to get upset. I’m sure our regional manager can help you reach resolution to your problem. He’s in our Harrisburg office, next to the state hospital, and I ‘m sure he’d be glad to meet you up there or at the coffee shop of the hospital, just off Second Street and Chestnut.”

“No. You are not going to pawn me off onto someone else who lies better than you do. What is he? A floor surgeon or a floor psychiatrist? Here’s what’s gonna happen:  You are going to replace my floor and get it right or else refund my money and I’ll have a competent floor installer do the job. Or we can do this in court over an expensive lawsuit with court costs that you will pay. This is not my first rodeo with a bad business dude.”

“Are you threatening me? You need to know that I have a permit to carry and discharge a 50,000 volt Tazer. If I were you, I’d stop resisting.”

“Okay, that’s it! I’m calling the police. And I need to warn you that I am carrying idiot spray, also known as bug and hornet foaming pesticide. I can accurately shoot a disabling jet stream within a two inch target radius from 22 feet, Larry. Draw!!”

Before the crackles and zaps of Larry Tazer even began to sputter, I had hit him with a liquid ounce of Spectracide Wasp and Hornet spray at the bridge of his nose. Predictably he began to gasp and cry that he was blinded and could not breathe. I grabbed him by his ear and he begged for mercy. “Take me to the hospital, man, for the love of God!”

I told him to take a message back to his boss– “Larry Proctor does not sleep with the fishes… yet. Don’t send fools to do a wise guy’s work.”

Baron Burrito von Munchausen

 

 

347. DARKLY

 

We tied fishing rigs for the morning, sure to hit the bluefish that feed voraciously in the Cheasepeake Bay.  Point Lookout, Maryland had been used as a prison camp for the Confederate soldiers during the Civil War.  Hard to imagine now.  It was just a narrow spit of land that jutted into the dark bay water. No signs of tortured troops and squalid conditions from the old days. A lot of men died here from neglect and exposure to the elements.  Nowadays there is no evidence that anything unpleasant ever occurred on these shores.

“That’s Virginia on the other side,” said Cork with as much authority as he could muster.  The fishing trip was his idea.  It was his boat, his truck, his tent, and so forth.  I had never been out on the water, so I accepted the invitation and everything else at face value.  Foolishly, as I would later discover.  But on that warm Friday night in August, the upcoming fishing trip seemed like a sharp memory in the making.   We had worked together painting houses and barns all summer.  This was a reward and a chance to build another area of friendship. Cork and his son Biff had been here many times before, and they enjoyed putting into practice the rules and tips of their recently completed boating safety course.  So I thought.

Around 10 p.m. we decided it would be exciting to go for a short ride on the bay.  There was no moon. The bay was calm and smooth.  We shoved off under the orange glow of the mercury vapor light at the end of our dock.  It felt a bit eerie to me, casting off into the black sky on the black water, sort of what I imagined crossing the River Styx might be like in Greek myths.  Quiet, to be sure, but not safe.  I felt as if there were fish beneath us that could be as large as our little 18 foot Bayliner.  Maybe a sea monster or two.  The fact that we had no lights on the little boat did not seem to be an issue as we put out into deep water.  Captain Cork was in command.

We cruised the bay for an hour or two.  It was fabulous.  I lay down on my back to watch the stars glide overhead.  Every once in a while we checked our poles, but not a single bite.  I lost track of the time and our location.  I never doubted the seaworthy skipper who, by the way, had grown up next to a cornfield in a landlocked county in Pennsylvania.  Not a problem when you are as smart as our skipper.  The intellect is a fine thing when it is not caught in a net of pride and self deceit. It must have been midnight or near 1:00 a.m. when we decided to head back to our familiar dock with the orange mercury vapor light. No problem.  “We’ll just head back in now, fellas,” said Cork matter-of-factly.

That’s when the fabulous dream turned into a harrowing nightmare.  It started slowly and innocently enough.  “Is this Virginia…” asked Captain Cork hesitantly, and then pointing across the miles of dark bay waters, “or is that?”

“Which direction are we headed in?”  I asked.  “If we’re going south, then Virginia will be on our left, the other side of the bay.”

“Hell, if I knew which direction we were headed in, I wouldn’t have to ask you!” declared Cork with a bit of tension and disgust rising in his voice.

“Don’t you have a map or compass?”  I asked.

“Yeah, but they’re back in the truck.  I forgot to put them in the boat.”

Biff calmly pointed to the orange glow emanating from what I was coming to believe was north.  “Isn’t that the dock light up there on the left?  I remember we pulled out from there and circled the bay a few times, but that’s it.”

“Can’t be.  This is Virginia we’re looking at.”  Then he spied a faint dot of orange on the other shoreline, miles away.  “I’m afraid that is our dock light over there.”

I asked, “Well, what are we going to do?  Can we call the Coast Guard on the radio?  Maybe they’ll be in the area and set us straight.”

“No.  I’ll get written up for no lights and no maps,” responded Cork.  “Son of a bitch!”

Now Cork’s anger had kicked in.  It was quite familiar to Biff and me.  On land it was manageable; you  could walk away and generally not have to deal with it.  It was different here.  Here in the dark Cork was at the helm, in control of the boat though not of his own emotions.  A stream of angry epithets preceded him gunning the throttle as we roared toward what he believed was Maryland in the distance. 

I was terrified.  We were literally racing in the dark.  I took our camp flashlight and moved to the front of the boat.  I could see pelicans coming at us like spooks from Hell.  Somewhere I knew there were old target practice ships that the Navy airplanes shot at.  And I recalled seeing the occasional netting strung around telephone poles as some kind of breeding area or hatchery.  Any one of these things could destroy our little boat that was speeding along under the angry blindness of Captain Ahab. Image result for dark water at night pictures

As we raced across the bay, the little orange dot became fainter instead of stronger.  Soon it was gone from sight. “Damn it!”  And various other expletives were hurled at no one in particular, the gods, I supposed.  Cork was often adamant in his agnosticism.  Others’ sins kept him out of church the past twenty five years.  “Goddamn hypocrites!”

I was becoming a believer, a scared believer as we raced back to the previous shoreline.  Maybe we could figure out where we were by a boat registration or a sign on a dock.  Maybe we could even meet someone on the shore and ask for directions.  Maybe one of us could get off the boat and knock on someone’s door at 2:00 a.m.  “Excuse me, is this Maryland or Virginia?  You see we’re lost and really stupid.”

After perhaps an hour and a half of frustration and terror, Cork finally quit.  He angrily surrendered the helm to Biff.  “If you think you’re so goddamn smart, go ahead!”  Biff quietly motored the boat toward the original marker.  Sure enough it was our dock.  The same dock Biff had identified two hours earlier, before the mad scramble in the darkness had begun.  I was relieved that reason had prevailed over anger.  I had already resigned myself to staying out on the water till daybreak.  At least we would not get hurt this way.   Image result for dock light at night pictures

I guess this is just one more example of anger limiting one’s intelligence.  When we get angry we get stupid, stubborn and stuck.  I have had several clients who seem to be driving an unworthy craft through the dark of night, directionless, angry and very, very lost.  Instead of seeking the light and the right direction, they seem to angrily toy with the unforgiving dark.

 But not us, Bogmateys. We are scrupulously careful navigators of life. Dark pride never crosses our stride, right?

 

333. Plumbing Adventures

It’s an odd topic, I’ll grant you that, since I am not a plumber nor much of a handyman. Some men are born plumbers; some achieve plumbing training; and others have plumbing thrust upon them. [Malvolio said something close to that in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.] I am in the last category. (I know how to call a plumber. “Hey, Plumber Boy, come here. Closer.  I sprung a leak and I need you to fix me up”, or in a raspy Janis Joplin voice… “I need you to come on, come on, come on,  Take it! Take another little look at my sink, my sink now baby. You know you’ve got it, if it don’t drip no more.”) Okay, that tangent is getting awkward for everyone. Time for some plumbing dope. It stops even hard to control neural and verbal leakage.

This morning as my wife and daughter scurried about responding to Work’s siren call, two things stood out: the first one I have already forgotten, and the second one was that the sink in our master bedroom was leaking, a lot.

The Wife: “I don’t need this. The Gestapo at work are now logging precisely when we swipe into the building and we’ll be written up if we’re a minute late. I’ll just eat breakfast in the car again. Forget the fact that I have to work at home every night to keep up with the kids’ IEP’s.” (I can attest to the veracity of this last statement. My bride’s face has the equivalent of a tanning booth cathode ray burn from her laptop’s screen. I’ve been shopping for computer sunscreen ointments, but these have apparently not been invented yet. I am concerned, however, at night after she shuts the laptop down, that her face continues to glow like a fog-covered moon in autumn.) “I’ve had too much of tirement.” She says, ” I need to get to that re- prefix and soon… Will you look at the vanity downstairs and turn the water off? Oh, and the hair dryer stopped working this morning, of course.  Ahhhh!!!”

(I could attest to the truth of that statement as well since only the right side of her hair was dry. It was a different look that might work if she were a 20 year old punk rocker with blue hair.)

“And don’t forget to let Johnnie out before you go.”

(That’s what I forgot! Head slap.)”Oh, and we’re out of coffee, so can you pick some up in Greencastle or at your coffee shop? I like Sumatran.”

“Yeeeahhh.”

“Yeah what?  Yeah, you heard me? Yeah, you agree with me? Yeah, you’ll check the sink?  Yeah, you like my hair, which I know is not true, so don’t even try that. Yeah, you’ll let the dog out? Or yeah, you’ll get the coffee?”

“Yeah, all of that. Yup. I’m going to write it down this very instant.”

“Okay, I’ll see you tonight. Don’t forget to pick Jess up after choir and send that insurance check off, okay?.”

“I, uh, dang pen won’t write… Let’s see. Number one is, uh, let the dog out. [Yeah, fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on you again.] Okay, bye.”

Silence.

Fear rising.

Nothing but blank checks bouncing across my brain’s screen saver.

Alone and scared. Clothed and Afraid.

“Oh no. I sense my memory banks are all bankrupt!  Wait, I remember something about coffee. (I have to pee when I get nervous and when I’ve had too much coffee.) Oh, yeah, let the dog out to pee. Got that. Oh, and let him back in. I guess that’s understood. If you go to the bathroom it’s a given that you will come back, unless you have a seizure or die there. Actually, I did have a seizure in the bathroom, this very bathroom almost exactly 12 years ago. Wow. This is like an anniversary peepiphany for me!! I may need to re-assess my opening claim and claim a different sort of plumbing competence.

“I will boldly plumb vaguely connected concepts, tiny and tenuous threads of relevance. I will get the dope out. I’ll solder the disjointed joints. Run the gradients. Snake the trapped. Flush the commodious. And hook you up with high pressure hyperbole.

Plumb, verb with object:  to examine closely in order to discover or understand:

to plumb someone’s thoughts. 
“Yeah, baby, baby, baby!!! Who’s the Plumber Boy now? Excuse me for just a second. I need to get up and shake my plumber butt around. Whooohooo.!!! Shake, shake. Oh yeah. Cue up “Macho Man” by the Village People. Where is my toolbelt? “I want to be your Macho Man.
“Okay, focus. Breathe deeply and slowly. Remember your yoga intention for the day. I wrote that down on a yellow sticky note upstairs, I think. OOoooh, the list. What was next?
“The sink. I sink I can, I sink I can, I sink…huh, looks like this big gray cap nut is loose.”  Turn, turn, turn. “Hmmmm, let me dry it out and see if the drip is done.”  Wipe, wipe, wipe.
Silence as the dehumidifier does its magic. An hour later our hero, me, slides a baking dish beneath the pipe.  Two hours later not a drop in the dish. Victory is mine. I let out a powerful exhale and strut around my bedroom like Mick Jagger singing “Midnight Plumber”…
Did you hear about the midnight plumber?
Everybody got to go
Did you hear about the midnight plumber?
The one that shut the kitchen door
He don’t give a hoot of warning
Wrapped up in a black cat cloak
He don’t go in the light of the morning
He split the time the cock’rel crows
Talkin’ about the midnight plumber
The one you never seen before
Talkin’ about the midnight plumber
Did you see him jump the garden wall?
Sighin’ down the wind so sad
Listen and you’ll hear him moan
Talkin’ about the midnight plumber
Everybody got to go
Did you hear about the midnight plumber
Well, honey, it’s no rock ‘n’ roll show
Well, I’m talkin’ about the midnight plumber
Yeah, the one you never seen before.
Ahhh, delirious Amen.
 
 
 
 

 

271. Unpaused

My toilet has been running in place for weeks now like a watery treadmill. How much, you ask?  The Boro meter ticket guy wrote me an orange  “abnormally high water usage” ticket a couple of weeks ago. It’s a warning not a fine. But it’s the same guy who has written me at least 100 parking tickets over the 10 years I’ve been parking around my fair boro. Rod, MMC, the meanest man in Chambersburg. I average two per month; that’s $10 a month or $120 per year or $1200 plus per decade.  Hmmmm. I shudder to calculate my coffee and lunch tabs for the same time frame. So let me return to the sprinting toilet. It just won’t stop slushing and gurgling on the other side of the restroom door. There is no rest going on in there.

Now those who know me well know that I am not a handy person. I don’t even operate a tape measure precisely, let alone cutting boards or pipes. I tend to cut things short. But I also am cheap. I know the plumber charges $90 to drive over to my office, and then the money meter starts running. So I figured if I came in with a solution for less than $100, I would be ahead…if I didn’t charge myself any labor or mileage, aka, opportunity costs.

I went to Lowe’s the first time and bought a new float device for $8.00. Turned the water supply off.  I swapped out the old float for the new one. I turned the water back on. Nope, not gonna fix it. Dang! Actually I only swapped the top part because I couldn’t break loose the lower half without a larger left-handed pipe wrench and some pretzel gymnastics moves and a dental mirror.Image result for toilet parts pictures

Back to Lowe’s. I bought a new flush pipe doohickey shaft thingy. I turned the water off and began to install that device. Like the other piece, I could not get the bottom part to move, so I just replaced the only critical part that seemed to matter– the soft plastic seal around the bottom. I did not pay precise attention to how it fit; I just made it fit. Replaced all the other parts; turned on the water. No fix. It kept running. The float kept dropping after it shut off and then it would run again. Even Alec Baldwin would be frustrated with this scenario.

Image result for frustration pictures

Now a handy man would have realized that the water was leaking out at the soft plastic seal on the doohickey shaft. But I already told you that I am not handy. So I decided to pull out the float shaft. I got a pair of big plyers and turned the water supply wing nut. It snapped. Okay. Back to Lowe’s to buy a new water supply hose. I bought the wrong size and could not figure out why this plastic wing nut would not dance with the float shaft that protruded out of the tank. Back to Lowe’s.

Finally I figured out that the shaft was a notch or two wider. I had to laugh at my stupidity and ruthless incompetence. Yes, ruthless. Now after I had all new parts in place and the tank kept leaking, I knew I’d have to actually think rather than simply replace parts. I had $30 in parts, four trips to Lowe’s and a couple of hours in this task. I took the tank lid off once more and stared at the float. The water keeps running after the float lifted and stopped. It’s got to be going somewhere. I revisited the soft plastic seal again. It had to be the culprit, I knew. I played with the ring and got it to fit the hard plastic collar. I reassembled the flush pipe doohickey shaft thingy and waited as the  water filled up the tank… and stopped. No more hissing or schlurping or dribbling. Just quiet. It was a beautiful moment, blog flushers. Progress is often seen as the presence of new positives; in this case it was the serene absence of the aquatic hissing and hiccupping I had grown used to.

I put the few tools and extra parts away in my storage closet, feeling very janitorial and victorious. .. janictorious. There you go. It was a good outcome, unlike the time I cut all the phone lines or blew up the hot water heater. Mr. Handy capped that schwizzle… and the music of life came unpaused.

Image result for victory pictures

 

174. Shadows across the parking lot

PictureOutside my second story office window is a charcoal parking lot that holds maybe thirty spaces. Beyond that is the unspectacular three story beige southern wall of a large church. It looks like a rectangular cruise ship stuck in asphalt and concrete. A rusted green dumpster sits at the left side of that wall where the alley runs through north/south behind the church for easy trash pick up on Monday mornings. There is a utility pole exactly halfway between my window and the wall, with utility wires running horizontally across the townscape framed by my square window. Traffic rumbles up and down the poorly paved alley and zooms by the opening of Route 30, between the end of the church wall and what used to be the Salvation Army store. It’s the sort of view that only a New Yorker could love. In the upper left quadrant, blue sky completes the picture. Two streaks of grey-bottomed clouds stretch diagonally northeastward this October morning.

Image result for dark october clouds over urban buildings pictures

Before noon the shadows run right (East) to left (West). They straighten out and move backwards as the day wanes. I look out on this intersection of boxes planted around the black macadam streets, trying to supply the missing beauty. It could be beautiful in an urban sort of way, but no one seems to want to put on shutters or hang a nice sign in front of their building. No plants or flowers are evident. The paint choices are tedious– white, beige, green. Not that it’s worth the effort, but I think a hipster urban decorator could easily jazz up this boring patch of boro.

In the left third of my view is a narrow opening between two buildings that reveals a green patch of unpaved ground. It’s a little gem of a park in the middle of downtown Chambersburg where a branch of the Conococheague Creek tumbles past the remains of an old mill wheel. I think of a cherished ruby presented in a stained old cigarette box; the heart of our town deserves better presentation. Instead, the prettiest spot in town is surrounded by parking lots and the backs of sad buildings. Poor planning, I think.

Image result for urban alley pictures

That beautiful spillway was a primary reason for the rest of the town’s existence. But now it’s just an afterthought, after the streets were paved and lit. After the industry had come and gone. After the money had been extracted from the intersection of Commerce and Greed streets. Still, it remains defiantly beautiful, like a prisoner who grows younger and more vibrant behind bars, wrongfully convicted by impatient, aging jurists.

It’s a funny thing, beauty. It seems to be reborn every year if not every season. Take that rusty dumpster, for example. Last fall I was walking by it and noticed an intense bluish-purple dash of color against the beige background wall. Growing up out of the gap between macadam parking lot and concrete block wall was a purple iris which had somehow taken root. I imagine that funeral or wedding flowers had been dumped sloppily and a single tuber had found its way into the sheltering gap. I took a picture of it with my cell phone. This accidental drop of beauty spoke to me of hope.Image result for purple iris growing out of concrete pictures

Then there is the stream that cuts through our town. I walk by it every day and wonder why it is not esteemed. It could be and should be so beautiful, except locals dump mattresses and shopping carts in its pure waters. There is your basic littering and then there is raping and scarring a landscape. I think willful polluting of a pristine stream deserves more than a civil citation. But then, we’d have to jail the strip mining companies, wouldn’t we? I wonder what the land would look like if it could be returned to the First Nation folks for one hundred years. That stream would be honored, I’m sure, because it provides water and fish and game and direction and transport, i.e., life. But we don’t see that any more. It’s just that wet thing below the bridge.

Again, we have jewels, pearls buried in the excrement of swine. Like old relationships that are taken for granted, we don’t even see the beauty of our blessings. We are a faithless bunch. This town owes its birth to the Falling Spring that feeds the stream that nurtured it… and we have literally turned our backs on it in the pursuit of speed and greed. Now the town fathers look to the torrents of Interstate 81 for more. Prime farmland is paved over for gaudy strip malls and convenience stores. No expense is spared to grease the path of the big chains who promise concrete jobs and progress. We are now a mecca of box warehouses that supply box stores along the arteries of rail and roads. And this display of beauty is the equivalent of a bleached blonde Hooters waitress. Alluring? Yes. Real? No. Come back in ten years and check it out when it will be as sexy as a cigarette butt.

I’m thinking about trees in planters out there. Heavy pots full of flowers. Window boxes spilling out petunias and ivy and such. Spots of beauty that say, “I see. This matters. I am renewing this urban desert.” Now I’m wondering about setting these signs of hope outside my office. I can’t stand vandalism, but I can’t let vandals stop beauty and hope. Yes, I could certainly add two more flower boxes, two potted trees and a whiskey barrel of flowers. These will not be accidents or after thoughts, not prisoners but free exclamations of life being lived. Isaiah 55:

You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.
Instead of the thorn bush will grow the juniper,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the Lord’s renown,
for an everlasting sign,
that will endure forever.”

I need to go to Lowe’s.

170. Adolessons 1

Blazing blognacity! Humor, like fireworks, should only be handled by professionals. Even then, someone may lose a finger or an eye due to a tragic mishap. Nor should adolescent males be left unsupervised…ever. Many a full grown man is today hobbling around due to some foolish stunt he pulled as a teenager. Some have scars. Some have skin cancer ’cause they didn’t use sunscreen. A neighbor, Steve Murray, lost his sight in one eye when a cherry bomb he threw out his window caught the frame and bounced back into his face, forever altering his life. Lots of lessons are learned in male adolescence. Lots aren’t.

One summer night in high school we were hanging around my Fairfax County front yard, bored yet energetic. It must have been 11 p.m. or so. Richard Cooper, Dwayne Beatty, me, and maybe Johnny Emrico and Bobby Doering were mulling over teen angst. It was dark, okay? Richard still had a cast on his foot from a rope swing accident earlier in the spring. While we were skipping school, and he was under the influence of Boone’s Farm Berry wine, he swung fast and hard off his 1967 Volkswagen Beetle’s hood and flew into space above the Occoquan River near Woodbridge, Virginia. Unfortunately for him, as he let go and flipped a flawless backward gainer, he landed on a large rock and shattered his ankle.

So here we were a couple of months later, unrepentant. Someone babbled that we should drive to Ocean City, Maryland, a four hour car ride back in the day. Like another adventure I blogged about, (the x-rated movie scam Blog #73. Unerringly), the motion to be purposefully stupid was unanimously approved. Dwayne said he’d drive his dad’s gold Pontiac Bonneville. It easily sat six with room to spare. Each guy went home for a towel, no sun screen, some food, money, and maybe left a note for a sleeping parent. I grabbed a half bag of charcoals and a pack of hot dogs.

Away we went at high speeds. On a different night Dwayne had pushed his dad’s Pontiac up to 125 mph on the Beltway. Not on this night. In fact, on our way through small towns in the Eastern Shore of Maryland, we all fell asleep until the car jumped a railroad track and slammed down on the other side. For dramatic effect I’ll compare it to a space capsule full of monkeys re-entering Earth’s atmosphere, jolting the animals awake. From there on one of us was assigned to keep Dwayne awake.

When we got to the boardwalk, it was 3:00 a.m. and we imagined we’d just sleep on the beach. The cops had other ideas. They told us we could not sleep anywhere except a hotel, not even in our car. So we sat on the benches until sunup, at which time we were allowed to sleep on the beach. We were tired and hungry. I made a little pit in the sand and lit my charcoals for roasting the wieners. The cops had other ideas. “You can’t have a fire on the beach, kid. Put it out.” I was stunned and still hungry. I kicked sand over my combusting charcoals not knowing that I was simply creating a sand furnace. Later in the day I walked right over my buried charcoal and burned my right foot. One of the other guys had the communal brain at that time, I guess. We all laughed hard at our own stupidity. Somehow everyone survived the sunburnt trip, sort of. Richard got tired of his cast, though, and walked into the waves. In a matter of minutes the plaster softened and he took it off. Bad idea. The ankle was not ready for duty, and pain began to school him again. Apparently he was a slow learner.

It could have been the same summer but a different cast of characters. The only common factor was me. Again, adolescent males bored on a summer night. It was Sam, Chris and Dwight this night. After squirreling around our local haunts, Sam or Chris said, “Let’s go to Dulles airport and watch the planes come in.” All in favor got in Dwight’s green bug and away we went. There was a full moon as I recall because on the way west Dwight turned his lights out and drove by moonlight. Once we got to the terminal we noticed that it was just about as empty and boring as the place we’d just left.

Back in Dwight’s bug, back on the access road, again no lights. As we approached the Beltway, one of us suggested turning on the lights for safety. Dwight did so and, lo’ and behold, a large doe stood right in front of the car, but not for long. Boom! The deer slammed into the hood, the windshield, and rolled over the roof of the car. Mrs. Deer flew up and into history. The trunk, which was in the front of bugs, flew open and bent back on its hinges as Dwight tried to slow down and not crash any worse than we’d already managed to do. He was blinded by the hood, however. In slow motion I recall the VW’s headlights illuminating the woods which we wound up driving into and Dwight’s spare tire bouncing merrily through the trees in the moonlight. It was death defying and hilarious at the same moment. We got out to inspect the damage. Not too bad for us. The deer was nowhere in sight. We fetched the spare, pulled deer hair out of the rear view mirror and hood handle, and bent the hood back into closed position. Somehow, and only God knows how, we made it home alive again.

 

Mommas, don’t let your babies grow up to be adolescents.