Saturday, August 29, 2009

A Fish Story

While I was on vacation last month, out in the farmland outside Toledo where I grew up, I had a chance to do a little pond fishing. Talk about one of life’s simple pleasures… We were just catching and releasing… My buddies and I caught a couple bass and a whole mess of bluegills… Big fun down on the farm! But it reminded me of another time back in my youth… waaaaaay back in the day… when we crossed pond fishing with a commando raid and it produced the story you’ll find below.

I first must admit that some may have seen this story before. I sent it around back when I first wrote it in 2002 and I’d posted a link to it on the old
Darwinfish, but I’ve been meaning to bring some of my favorite posts over to this site. There’s no sense in letting a good story go unseen. Plus, of course, it’s a cheap way to knock out another post.

The Fish Story
One summer, my parents went on a trip to visit relatives, taking my younger brother and sister with them. Because I was the oldest, and had a part time job, I was allowed to stay home. (Rank has its privileges.) I was just out of high school and this was the summer before college started, so it was a given that there was going to be a party of some kind. It was just a small one… my few buds and some neighborhood folk.

One of us got a wild hair and decided we should have a breakfast fish fry the next morning. Catching the fish would be no problem. Our neighbors directly behind us had a pond, in which we were allowed to fish. In fact, we helped stock it by depositing in it catfish, bass and bluegills that we had caught elsewhere. But why do something we were allowed to do, when instead we could have an adventure? See, there was a pond behind theirs belonged some other neighbors who never let anyone fish or swim in their pond. You could see the fish in there; bluegills the size of a loaf of bread, enormous bass… all kinds of things, doing all but poking their heads up out of the water and going “pppbbbbhhhhhhhhhtt!” We had no choice. We were provoked.

So about 10:30, we staged our little fishing raid. A handful of us crept out, rods and lures in hand, and began stealthily fishing in the pond. We could see Mr. And Mrs. Neighbor up in their house, about 75 yards away. The lights were on, so while we could look in, they couldn’t see us out in the dark.

We began pulling bluegill out of there immediately… it was just too easy. It was much easier, in fact, than getting the hooks out by moonlight. We had a big bucket that we threw them in, once freed, and in no time we had about 5 or 6 in the can. At some point, we saw some motion up in the windows, so we made a dash for it, grabbing up the bucket and hauling butt. I didn’t even have my line out of the water. I just ran, with the line dragging out behind me, the hooks pulling up little chunks of grass.

Anyway, we got back to The Barn, (where we always had our parties… but that’s another story) and counted up our half dozen monster fish. The fish fry was on, so now, who knows how to cook a fish? (We weren’t much for thinking these things through in those days.) We knew we could just filet and bone it, but we wanted a little something extra. Our friend Rob, who worked with me at the neighborhood grocery store, said he’d call home to his mom and ask for a good breading recipe. Of course, she wanted to know why, so he told her and came away with the goods. The next morning we had quite a tasty little bluegill feast.

My parents came home that evening, and over dinner, I told them about our little party. Near the end of dinner, the phone rang, and the caller asked for me. It was Mrs. Neighbor, who proceeded to tell me she saw me out there fishing last night and wanted me to pay for the fish we pulled out. She said something like she wanted a dollar a pound.

Of course, I denied everything. “What fish? I wasn’t fishing!” She proceeded to describe what I was wearing, right down to the hat on my head. Still denying I was out there, that I was fishing and that I even owned a hat, I finally said something brilliant like, “even though I didn’t take any fish, I’ll still pay you for them if I have to.”

I sat back down, and then told my folks about the fishing part of the party, which I had neglected to mention earlier. They basically said, “she gotcha, now ya gotta pay up.” I was resigned to my fate.

Before the table was even cleared, Rob and my other friend Rik pulled up in the driveway. I dashed out of the house and told them everything… I mean, I wasn’t the ONLY one out there and I wasn’t going down alone. Then I started noticing, as I described the phone conversation, how neither of them would look directly at me. They seemed to be biting the inside of their cheeks. I stopped talking and looked at them, and they just exploded with laughter.

I gave them a right good cursing out, but laughing the whole time. It seems it was Rob’s mom who called, who described what I’d been wearing and heard me lie my ass off to her. Actually, I was relieved not to have to go show up at Mrs. Neighbor’s door.

I ran inside to tell my folks the good news, that it was just Rob’s mom, yanking my chain. My dad said, “Now, what are you going to do to get back at her?”

Hmmmm. I agreed that I couldn’t take this lying down. Then my dad gave me the best advice I’d ever received. He said, “The best revenge for a practical joke is to make it seem that it worked too well.” Genius!

We sent Rob back to tell his mom that my dad got so mad at me that he marched me right over to the Mrs. Neighbor’s house and made me pay her off. Then he grounded me from the car for a month.

She was crestfallen when Rob told her the story… she never meant any harm. Rob must have given quite a performance too… she even woke him up late that night, trying to see if she could shake his story while he was half asleep. Rob held up though and stuck to the plan.

So, cut to the following weekend, as we were both working at the grocery store. She came in for her regular weekly shopping. I knew she’d want to ‘fess up, busting with guilt. Naturally, I did everything I could to avoid her. She came up once, with big sad eyes and a mournful look. I put on a look like someone just killed my puppy, all sad and forlorn. She asked me how I was doing. I just said, “not so good Mrs. B., I got in pretty big trouble this week, but listen, I can’t talk now… I gotta go.”

That’s how it went for the next half hour: her stalking me to try to confess, with me trying to avoid her.

The payoff was set for when she checked out. I arranged to bag her groceries and this was the day and age when bag boys still took your stuff out and packed your car. As we went out to the car, she just spilled it. “It was me on the phone,” she said, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to cause any trouble. I’m sorry, it was just a joke, I’m sorry, I’m sorry…”

I just stood there, jaw dropped open, looking shocked.

Finally, I smiled and said, “that’s OK, Mrs. B, because I didn’t really get in any trouble, I was just getting a little payback.” Her response was typical of her upbringing as an Italian mother from Brooklyn.

“YOU SONOFABITCH BASTID!” she screamed at me in her high-pitched Brooklynese. “How can you do that to a poor old woman? I oughta kick you right in the ass for that, you had me up all night with guilt…”

We ended up having a great laugh, and happily called a truce. Meanwhile, I was giving mental high fives to my dad. He was most pleased by the way it played out, when I told him the story.

I went on to employ this tactic on numerous occasions, although it was often in the form of advice to others who’d been tricked. It has never failed me yet.

Recalling this yarn makes me remember how many stellar practical jokes I’ve been a part of. Someday I’m going to have to get those stories down as well. Stay tuned…

Note: All photos courtesy of ME, although they were most certainly NOT taken at the time of this story. Digital cameras were not invented yet, nor were Windows PCs, CDs, MP3s, or string cheese. We had nothing to do all day but think of ways to torture each other. Those were the days...

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Odd Bits - Color Me Jaded Edition

In a story that came out this week, former Homeland Security Chief Tom Ridge stated in his new book (coming to a discount rack near you) that he was pressured by the White House to raise the terror alert prior to the 2004 presidential election, for purely political reasons.

Let me pause while the shock of that revelation sets in.

The sound you just heard was that of me going, “No Shit, Captain Hindsight!”

So maybe we skeptics weren’t so paranoid about the Bushies’ shenanigans after all. Why am I not surprised these clowns would manipulate a supposed public service to further their clandestine efforts to maintain their grip on power? It’s what they do and it’s emblematic of their entire administration.

Ridge went on to write that he wasn’t invited to the really good meetings and was frequently blindsided during daily morning briefings with the Shrub.

I wonder if that’s why he wrote the tell-all book… because he didn’t get to sit at the cool kids’ table.

It’s not like the old color-coded Terrorism Chart wasn’t without problems of it’s own… I was watching a Lewis Black HBO comedy special (Black on Broadway) from 2003 where he went off on having 5 color categories thusly…

“All we really need are three…

Jesus Christ!

God Dammit!

Fuck ME!”

Speaking of institutional misinformation, how do you like this health care reform debate? You know, the one that’s rolling along like a monkey screwing a football?

First off, I don’t claim to be any kind of expert in this particular field, but I do know when something is seriously wrong. This “debate” has the greasy fingerprints of big business and their political lackeys, the conservative Republicans, all over it.

Just look at all the misinformation willfully disseminated to the public… Death panels, euthanasia, covering illegal immigrants, health care rationing, government-sponsored abortions… it never ends.
None of these issues are actually in the bills being considered. None. And one issue, we already HAVE… Do you think the insurance companies don’t ration health care? You KNOW they do… it’s not even a secret. Who hasn’t had to fight their insurance company over paying for a doctor-prescribed procedure?

You have to remember that the people putting these idiotic notions out there are NOT trying to protect the public; they’re trying to protect the status quo, meaning the obscene profits being made by the insurance, drug and medical industries. They have a dog in the fight and it is in their best interest to kill anything resembling real health care reform.

The public health option scares the hell out of the insurance industry. If they had viable competition that provided care without the drive for profit, they’d be forced to make changes in their policies that would lead to lower profits. They’re going to do everything in their power to make sure that doesn’t happen. So they lean on their lapdogs in Congress (or certain northern backwater outposts) and suddenly our Pols are demonizing policies that they themselves were
on record as having supported.

Another disconnect, and I’ve harped on this one before, is all the fuss now about the deficit… like the Republicans finally remembered that they are traditionally against deficits. It’s just that they had 8 years worth of amnesia while their guy was turning a surplus into the largest deficit in the country’s history on tax cuts for the rich, a giant gift to the drug industry with that no-negotiating-for-lower-drug-prices bill, 2 wars that enriched the defense contractor industry THAT AT LEAST 2 CABINET MEMBERS HAD TIES TO, and many other programs that benefited the few at the expense of the many.

So now that the Democrats are trying to spend some money on things that benefit the ENTIRE country, now they want to be all “Oh the deficit, the deficit.”

Their transparency is showing.

It surprises no one then, that these outrageous claims are getting thrown out there and are getting taken up by people that are still trying to redo the 2008 election. (Note: when we tried to redo the 2000 election, we actually had a reason beyond, “but we lost.”)

Look at that quote by SC Senator Jim DeMint: “If we’re able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo. It will break him.”

There it is. The last thing the Republicans want is a solid bi-partisan bill. They want to break the President and they’ll take the country down to do it.
So they charge up a bunch of their flunkies and send them to Town Hall meetings with no objective but to shout down the speaker and cause chaos. Don’t get me wrong, they have a perfect right to make their opinions known. Then they have the obligation to sit down and shut the fuck up so that the speaker can actually address their opinion. Shouting down people that don’t agree with you is nothing but parroted behavior learned from talk radio. And we KNOW that they have no interest in shaking things up in the DC/Corporate world. An angry listenership is an active listenership. Inspector Kemp would approve.

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished Dept.
Lastly, I want to let those of you that have been following the PittGirl turned That’s Church saga (see 3 previous posts) know that she got fired from her job after coming out as the author of The Burgh Blog. She is far too talented to remain without a gig, so I know that she’ll bounce back better than ever. But that doesn’t make it hurt any less for her, or any less fair.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

PittGirl is Back and That's Church

Today was the day I’ve been waiting for and I almost forgot about it. I was walking across the floor today when it hit me… “It’s PittGirl Day!” (You know, the day I’ve alluded to in the last 2 posts… the day my favorite blogger PittGirl was to issue her Big News.) As I mentioned in my first ever post on this site, she was a major inspiration for me to begin writing again.

I dashed back to my computer, looked up her site and… wow.

She’s out. All of it. With pictures, even, of her and her whole crazy family.

I could list all the salient details but they really should come directly from her, so you can get the lowdown here, at her new blog,
That’s Church.

Now before you get the wrong idea about the site, know that “Church” has nothing to do with religion… it’s just one of her expressions. “That’s church” means “that’s the bottom line… the truth”. You know, like “Word” begat “That’s Gospel” which begat “That’s Church.”

So it’s a great day for the written word… for the snarky written word, in particular. And it’s a day that serves notice that it’s time for all other bloggers to step up their game.

Welcome back to the Artist Formerly Known as PittGirl. Game on!

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Eagles Have Landed

News broke last night that disgraced footballer Michael Vick has signed with the Eagles.

No word on whether he’ll be able to work out his differences with Don Henley and Glen Frey.

Joe Walsh was unable to comment.
PittGirl Countdown Continues
Blogger and personal inspiration, PittGirl, has posted that she’ll break her big news on August 19, (next Wednesday). In the meantime, she
posted links to some of her favorite items… a Greatest Hits, if you will. Check some of them out; then you’ll understand why I go on about her like I do. I especially recommend the “What They’re Really Thinking” posts, The Giant Eagle story, and the Bug story.

Now, what is the news going to be? If anyone knew, it wouldn’t be news. But I have a prediction.

Ahem… I predict that August 19th is the last day at her job… her job that would be jeopardized if her alter-ego were to become known. I think she’s moving on to a job that has no such peril, and as of August 19th she can resume tickling the funny bone of current and former Pittsburghers, as well as anyone that appreciates good writing.

At least that’s what I’m hoping. Maybe I’m right, maybe I’m wrong. But I’ll be checking in next Wednesday.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Odd Bits - PittGirl Edition

Payback’s a Bitch
I read a
story this week about a married Wisconsin man who planned to meet up with one of his several mistresses at a local hotel but instead found himself naked, blindfolded and tied to a chair with his junk super-glued to his stomach, courtesy of his wife and two of his mistresses.

Not exactly what he had in mind, I’m sure. Yeowwwww!

This maneuver ought to have a name; I’m suggesting “The Green Bay Package.”

Online magazine Salon published an
invaluable guide for people that are fed up with this ridiculous “Birthers” movement. You know… those people that are consumed by the idea that President Obama is not an American citizen and is therefore ineligible to be President.

I’m not sure how much good a guide like this can really do. All it has to offer are corroborated facts and stone cold logic. Since when do the wing nuts like these ever respond to facts, especially when they disprove something in which they believe? (Like all the flack that
Snopes or get when they shoot down a right-wing smear piece…)

You want a more effective way to shut them the hell up? Confiscate their tinfoil hats.

Let’s Get Physical
Yesterday I had my first complete physical in about 20 years… a very thorough physical. You know the best thing about having a female doctor?

Small fingers.

All one can do is try to block out what’s going on and pretend that you still have some dignity left. And I still have a colonoscopy to look forward to in a couple of years...

But now I know how a muppet feels.

PittGirl Returns?
I learned via Facebook this week that legendary blogger PittGirl has restored the archives to her site and has a big announcement in the coming weeks.

PittGirl is an anonymous blogger from Pittsburgh (duh) and up until last November, had written the funniest, coolest, “Burghiest” blog I’ve read. She wrote about all things Pittsburgh, from the sports teams, to the media, to local politics, to her own crazy family and her undying hatred of pigeons. I consider her a major influence and she is a big reason I took up blogging again. She wrote the kind of blog I always wished I could.

Then in November, someone from the local media discovered her true identity and even though they pledged not to spill the beans, she felt compelled to fold her blog and so her site was wiped clean.

I don’t know what the big announcement is going to be but I’m hoping that she’s found a way to continue her old blog. The fact that she’s restored the old postings is a gift in itself. I heartily recommend you
give it a look. You may want to start with the “Lexicon” up top, because the site has quite a number of terms and references that are unique.

Whether you’re from Pittsburgh or not,
The Burgh Blog is highly entertaining for all. I can’t count how many times she forced me to laugh out loud at work, after which I usually have to clamp my hands over my mouth, forcing my ears to pop.

The Internet is a much cooler place with her on it.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Odd Bits-Horsing Around Edition

I apologize for the length between posts. There was 10-days vacation in there plus a busy weekend back at home. So let’s see what’s new…

There was a story this weekend about a
Penguins fan that tricked his way onto the ice in Detroit for the Pens celebration following Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. He then got pictures of himself with various Pens players, coaches and The Cup.

I have two conflicting thoughts:

* I hate him.
* He’s my idol.

This guy showed creativity to get on the ice and extraordinary balls afterwards. Here’s how it started:

“So I go over in position where a family member might be, and after about 15 minutes, (defenseman) Philippe Boucher skates over and points to the guy in front of me. When that guy raises his hand, I raise mine. The security guard sees both of us, opens the door and everyone just assumes I’m a relative.”

Brilliant! Quick thinking… he’s in the door. If it were me that managed to get on the ice, I probably would have stuck to the periphery and maybe taken a couple of pictures. Not this guy:

“A couple players pick me up and swing me around. I’m spraying a bottle of champagne. Amazing. I’m in the hallway to the locker room and (Mario) Lemieux is walking right toward me. My heart is racing, getting ready to pound out of my chest. I put my arm around him, put my camera out and snap the picture. That might be my favorite.

Holy crap. This guy goes up and clamps an arm on Le Magnifique… Hall of Famer. Team Owner and 3-Time Savior. One of the best ever to lace’em up. No shit it’s his favorite shot. Then he goes into the locker room and gets a shot of himself hoisting The Cup.

This exemplifies the
Wedding Crashers model… Act like you belong there and no one will ever question it. Dude’s going to have a story for the ages. If he gets enough attention for this stunt, though, he may have to worry about Matt Cooke showing up at his door one day and belting him one in the mush.

“C” Sickness
I read this Salon article about a shadowy DC organization known as
the C Street House. This is an organization that is propping up (mostly) Republican conservatives with undisclosed cash and providing cover when their peccadilloes come to light. (See Sanford, Mark and Ensign, John and many others.) Their core belief is that, and I’m paraphrasing, “If you come to power, it’s God’s will; therefore anything you do while in power is excused. Rules for the common man don’t apply.”

There they are again… God’s Chosen: staining the lives of millions with their callous power plays.

They have been around for 74 years, remaining in the shadows and twisting “God’s word” into a rationale to amass power.

Read the article, linked above. Also, Jeff Sharlet, the guy that wrote the Salon article, was on
Real Time with Bill Maher this weekend; you can catch a replay. If my memory of the broadcast is correct, he worked undercover at the C Street House and he knows of which he speaks. If it doesn’t make your skin crawl, true believer or not, I don’t want to know you. I was on vacation when I read the Salon article myself, it made me drink for 9 solid days in a row, just to numb the pain. (OK, it wasn’t just the article.)

Doonesbury is also running a story arc on C Street House this week. Access it here if you don’t get the newspaper.

Say what you want about religion, and I usually do, using this holy halo to obscure the very common quest for money and power is an insult to all that are true to their faith. Last I heard, Jesus threw the moneychangers out on their well-fed asses. We ought to do the same to these ass-clowns.

Bugger and Fries
Speaking of horse fuckers, I don’t know if this guy is a high-level conservative but maybe the C Street House can help out a brother with a big PR problem. If you think boning your staffer’s wife or shagging an Argentine babe is a prickly problem, what if you were
caught on tape screwing a horse?

A lady in Columbia SC kept finding stuff moved around in her barn and horse was acting strange and getting infections, so she set up a camera to tape the horseplay. She went back through the tape and there it was… Dude ambles in, piles up some dirt and hay behind the horse, and has at it. She didn’t call the cops yet because she was sure he would come back. (Apparently, once you go mare, you just don’t care.) So she staked out her barn with a shotgun and sure enough, there he was again…THE SAME GUY THAT HAD BEEN CAUGHT BUGGERING HER NEIGHBOR’S HORSE earlier this year! She chased him into his pickup truck and held him there at gunpoint. And that’s what they charged him with… “buggery.”

First, I have to admit that it totally cracks me up that there is an actual crime called buggery. Hedley Lamar would be impressed.

But geez… I’ve heard of guys addicted to horse, but this is ridiculous.
Mr Ed was not available for comment.

Drink Comes With Free Prize
On a lighter note, there was an amazing foul ball catch by a fan (aside from my previously related one-bounce foul ball a couple posts ago) at a Phillies/Diamondbacks game, in which said guy one-handed a foul ball on the fly, while holding his toddler son, who was in turn holding a giant Pepsi cup. You can see the
video of it here.

This is the kind of catch that should be heartily applauded. However it should be noted that the game took place in Arizona, and not Philadelphia. Otherwise he might have been tempted to throw it back and probably end up tossing his son back onto the field.