Category Archives: Knuckleheads

Daily Prompt: The Very, Very Long Awkward Phase

Going with the old WordPress Daily Prompt here, which is:

You receive a gift that is bittersweet and makes you nostalgic. What is it?

Photographers, show us GIFT.

And this one’s easy, because I really did get a gift today that was bittersweet and made me nostalgic. Want to see it?

South of the Border 

Yes. I received this gift on Facebook today, although it was really a gift from the guy on the far left to the guy in the white shirt. We were all 17 in the photo except one of us, which makes this photo twenty-five years old. As you probably guessed, I am the one wearing the stolen hat.

Here’s what happened. For some reason, despite being all children, all of our parents allowed us to take a five-day trip down to Myrtle Beach. I forget which one of us was 18, but that was the reason we were able to rent a motel room. Please bear in mind that six years before, my mom wouldn’t let my sister go to Grad Night at Kings Island overnight. At the time this photo was taken, me and basically the same crew had already been on a weekend trip to New York City, where we ran afoul of stolen merchandise vendors, and were nearly arrested in Chinatown.

Napoleon Dynamite and PedroYes, a bit of a parental double standard, but that’s cause I was a big strong guy, right? Who’s going to mess around with a man with his middle school pants still strapped on over tiny, chicken legs, wearing a baggy sweater in May? You should have seen my arms – like bones with panty hose on them.

Who cares. We drove down, checked in, and there was actually a fifth guy with us at first named Jeremy, who went sort of crazy after drinking a ton of alcohol, and brought a strange, self-proclaimed beach bum back to our room. He was an African-American male with long, tightly braided hair who was in his thirties, told us his name was St. George, and who – although ostensibly there because he had promised for no reason to buy Jeremy more alcohol – kept telling us that he could really use some marijuana.

None of us had any marijuana. It’s unlikely any of us had cigarettes. We had absolutely no idea what we were doing down there, but we had just been talking about the urban legend regarding cops, and how they had to say “yes” if you asked if that’s what they were.

Now, I’m not saying that’s a true urban legend, but I am saying that when I asked St. George finally, after he hung around our room for twenty minutes, if he was a cop, he said, “Yeah. I’m a cop. Psshhh.”

Rolling his eyes. Too early, culturally, for him to make a “W” with his hands, but I’m sure he would have.

That’s odd, I thought. A couple of us froze, exchanging looks. I said, “No seriously, say ‘no’ if you’re not a cop. I’m asking you if you’re a cop.”

Undercover Brother SolidSame answer. “Yeah – I’m a cop. Pshhh.”

And Monte and I freaked.

“Hold on,” Monte repeated. “St. George, we’re asking if you are a law enforcement officer. If you are, would you please identify yourself?”

“Pssshhh. Yeah – I’m a cop.”

Like a recording. Holy. Donkey shit.

So we all leapt to our feet and told him, sir, we do not want you in our motel room anymore. Please leave. We have no marijuana, nor any interest in any alcoholic beverages. We are but pilgrims traveling to learn the complex ways of this world, etc. etc. etc.

And St. George left, with Jeremy trailing him and telling him, come on, man, those guys are dicks. You’re not a cop, you’re my new beach bum pal. Let’s go to the liquor store, forget those guys. But alas, St. George was offended, and left.

Well, not completely. A half hour later, we spied him behind the front desk of the motel, making a phone call. That’s what you had to do in 1989, actually find a phone, and do you suppose the motel made a habit of letting beach bums use the phone whenever they wanted?

It didn’t take Jeremy long to find a couple of dudes who were willing to take him to the liquor store and buy him some much-needed liquor in exchange for paying for an extra bottle for them. Awesome – so off they went, and when they came out of the liquor store, there were cops waiting for them, nice and conveniently. Off to jail for Jeremy!

Now, it may alarm you to learn that we did basically nothing to bail him out. I’m not saying we were intoxicated teenage children who had no interest in going near a jail, but let’s just say it didn’t seem like a good idea to go poking around the police station, and let’s just say it seemed to us Jeremy had basically called a cab and asked to be taken there.

Dazed and ConfusedSo – off to the beach. We screwed around for four more hours, and then all crashed back at the room.

Jeremy arrived not long after, very upset. For a moment, I thought he was going to kick my skinny ass, but Mike explained to him that he would be doing no such thing – thanks, Mike! And then we all slept, and Jeremy slipped out in the wee hours of the morning, leaving a note explaining that he was pissed at us (!), that he owed some guys money (!!), and that they would probably be around looking for it and to “deal with them(!!!)”

Actually, it turns out, Mike has been walking around with the Actual Note From This Story in his wallet this whole time. I know, because he scanned it and sent it to me:

Awesome Curse of Future Tom Letter

So, we all sprang into action. The universe began playing hilarious banjo music while we threw all of our crap into the only car we had left, trashed the room like rock stars for no reason other than being idiots (and now that I think about it, that might have been Jeremy’s credit card), and then we screeched out of the parking lot without so much as checking out.

We got lost on the way home – again, we were jackasses, and there were no magic map phones, there were just maps and eyeballs and signs – and at some point we ended up at a tourist trap called South of the Border, which is where the picture up there was taken. Who took the picture? So far, none of us has any idea.

So today’s Mike’s birthday – he’s the actual first kid I met in Kindergarten, and we lived together in college, and the last time I saw him was a couple years ago, when his wife was frowning at me for stomping around their house in bare, filthy, Huckleberry Finn feet – and because I’m so sentimental, I put up a hilarious photo on his timeline from Killer Klowns From Outer Space. Monte followed suit with this one, and so there I was, looking at my own unbelievably awkward, jackass self from the past.

Wasn’t easy walking around high school looking like some kind of Third World freedom fighter, but it could have been worse and as you can probably guess, I’m like, Super Cool now. Note the blogging and the Star Trek knowledge and the long, bald guy hair – Cool City. Ah yes, we all go through an awkward phase, just for some of us, it lasts decades.

Stand By MeVery Stand By Me. Very nostalgic and bittersweet. Normally what I’d say, if I were in a country song or if I were an introspective writer returning to Castle Rock, is something like, “Man, what I wouldn’t give to go back and do that again.”

No thank you, though. It was fun fellas, but let’s go do something in our forties, with our brains working, and preferably, without our old pal Jeremy. Or I guess if he’s also in his forties and not a jackass anymore, Jeremy can come too.


Posted by on May 21, 2013 in Knuckleheads, Writing/blogging


Tags: , , , , , ,

Future Tom Blog Force: The Riddle Of The Whiny Students

It was a pretty big deal, and it had happened in the blogosphere – that was why they’d called us.  Spang and I were tough-as-nails blog detectives, heartless and uncaring in our relentless pursuit of the truth.  We didn’t care who we had to hurt as long as we cracked the case, and no one understood us but our women.  And they were all like, whatever, dorks.

So when Pennsylvania teacher Natalie Munroe was suspended from her position for her blog posts about “whiny” students, we started drinking whiskey and shooting pool right away.  Then we took cabs, went to our respective homes and woke up our wives at one-thirty in the morning by noisily making hand-cut French Fries in our kitchens. We hadn’t even called each other or mentioned French Fries at all the whole night – isn’t that crazy?

I caught fire to my kitchen, but Steve’s kitchen was fine, and 66% of my daughters are Red Cross Certified Babysitters, so I guess they must have put it out.  Then we forgot about it for a day although we did exchange unrelated texts.  Then I’m afraid we hit the bottle again, and woke up the following afternoon on a boxcar to Philly with that Golden Voice guy, except he wasn’t singing anything because Spang had broken his jaw with a length of two-by-four, in one of those Kirk Vs. Picard arguments. 

And so anyway, we figured, hell, while we’re here, why don’t we look into that Class Three Blog Crime we read about?

And it turned out we didn’t need to go to Pennsylvania to do that.  Some of the story is at this link – Teacher Natalie Munroe Defends Blog Comments About ‘Whiny’ Students and if you’d prefer not to have CNN give you the gist of it, you can go to Natalie Monroe herself at Bloggate Day 1: The Scandal Begins.

For our part, we got into a high stakes card game and ended up eleven hundred dollars in the hole, and Spang almost lost a toe and there was a trip to the Western Union and a lot of people yelling over telephones, and then finally we got back to our investigation.  Using the Internet, which is really where most Blog Detective Work takes place anyway.

Spang said, “I like how she got fired for blogging and the first thing she did is go home and blog about it.”

“Absolutely,” I agreed.  “And her blog is called Where Are We Going And Why Are We In This Handbasket.  I’m pretty much ready to call this one in her favor right now.”

I looked at the camera.  “Hey you stupid parents of whiny kids – don’t read her blog if you don’t like her blog.  And furthermore, please reflect on the irony of whining about your kids being called ‘whiny.’  Gee, I wonder if they’re really whiny and where on Earth they might have picked up that trait?”

But Steve cleared his throat and moved around a little in his hammock.  I forgot to tell you he has a hammock set up in our office, and he likes to get up in there wearing one of those fuzzy zip-up one piece pajama things that you usually see on toddlers.

Hey I don’t tell you how to work so don’t get all over Spang for whatever he needs to do to get in his groove.  In this case, I knew he was right.  He said, “That would not be a very thorough analysis, though, Tom.”

Sigh.  “All right.  I guess we can walk through it.  What exactly are we arguing about here?  Did she mention these kids by name or what?”

Spang consulted his laptop and said, “No.  She did not.  She doesn’t even call herself by her name, just by the not-very-clever Natalie M.”

“Yeah, that’s not very anonymous.  But it’s not like it’s called Ms. Munroe’s Dipshit Student Round-Up or anything.”

“Before she made the national news, you had to go looking for her and then surmise that she was who you were thinking of, and then she also didn’t say anyone’s name.  So it wasn’t like she was saying, ‘Tom’s daughter is whiny.'”

“Well, right.  But the thing is, every single one of my daughters is whiny, sometimes.  You might even say, depending on what part of their lives we’re talking about, that they are whiny often or frequently.”

“If you say so,” Spang said.  “That is certainly right in line with my limited experiences with children.  I know that when I was a child, and I wanted something I didn’t have, I would frequently try whining about it.”

“You stick with what works.”

“The squeaky wheel gets the grease.”


I had my feet up on my desk, eating a turkey leg in my bathrobe, while Spang creaked back and forth above me, popping Pez in his mouth from a Mr. T Pez dispenser.  We chewed and looked at the ceiling and thought and chewed some more.

Finally I said, “Are these parents suggesting that their children are never whiny?  Or is it that teachers are supposed to pretend like they’re not whiny, on their blogs?”

“I’m sure I have no idea.”

“Hold on a second.  Computer!”

Everything was quiet for a few seconds and then Spang said, “We’ve never had a computer like that, TC.  One named Computer, that you could talk to.  I don’t know why you keep doing that and it’s freaking me out a little bit.”

So I had to use my mouse to click back to the article and see if CNN bothered telling me what the specific problem was with saying something so obviously true on your blog.  “Holy shit, it doesn’t tell us what’s wrong with it.  It just says that she said a lot of her students were lazy and whiny and out of control-”

Spang squinted, considering the words.  “All of those terms seem like they would very likely fit the average high school student.  That seems like a good description of me or you as a teenager.  That seems true of a lot of modern teenagers I’ve met in my – again, somewhat limited – experiences with them.”

“-and then we’re left to simply assume that teachers are not allowed to say such things on their blogs.”

“That would be troubling,” Spang said.  “If being a teacher meant that you forfeited your freedom of speech and self-expression.”

“Troubling indeed.  Why would we want to limit the minds of the people forming our young minds?”

“I mean, if she was calling them that in class, or by name, that’d be one thing.  And I guess you could argue that since she was identifiable – I mean, obviously, right? – she might have actually been talking to some specific students.  She took the relevant posts down-”

“And I don’t blame her,” I said.

“-but that being the case, we can’t really read them and find out if she was being petulant on her blog.  You know like how you can be a petulant little bitch with your blog, Tommy C?”

“Yes, I know.”

“Like when sometimes you sound like a thirteen year-old girl who didn’t make the cheerleading squad, you know what I mean?”

“I do.  Thank you.”

“I mean I know you got a lot of girls over there but do you even wear boy’s underwear anymore or what?  Half the time you sound like Jan Brady when Marsha’s getting too much attention.”

“All right, Spang.  Let’s move on.”

“Well, I think it’s possible that she could have been pulling a Tommy C. on her post, and that’s what drew attention to her blog.”

“See, I just – I’m going to need you to quit calling it that.”

“I’ll bet she got that Blogtastic God Complex you get, where you just sort of drag a soap box right out into the middle of the Internet and start ranting like a preacher at the park.”

“Yes, that’s possible.  But we can’t assume that.  All we can go by is what she says now.”

So we went on back and read her most recent post, in which she says no she wasn’t doing that, but again, of course she’d say that.   “Well, someone must have figured out who she was talking about, or we wouldn’t be reading about it in the news.”

“Let’s assume she did,” I said.  “That’s the safest thing to do.  Let’s assume she got a little too specific in that last post – that’d be the worst case scenario, right”

“Well I think a name would be-”

“But if she’d said a name, they’d be saying SHE SAID A NAME!  They’re not.  So at worst, she implied it, which means she isn’t a very experienced blogger, but I’m not sure it means she’s a bad teacher, and I’m not sure it means she needs fired.”

Spang snapped at me and pointed and kept doing that until I saw the Pez on the desk and tossed him a new clip.  He said, “You show me a high school teacher who doesn’t think a good chunk of high school students are lazy, rude, or whatever else she said, and I’ll show you a high school teacher who’s abusing some kind of prescription medication.”

“That’s what I’m saying.  Why can’t she vent?  Anyone else want to spend a freaking week in her shoes and then watch your mouth every day when you get off work?”

“Well, anyway, it does appear that she detailed some stuff about ‘canned comments’ on report cards, which maybe she shouldn’t have gone into,” Spang said.

“That’s correct.  She’s talking I imagine about how tedious it is to come up with comments, and how they are encouraged to use the general ones that you find all the time.  The same ones you remember from when you were a kid.”

Spang snapped his fingers.  “Ah. Like ‘works well with others.’ or ‘a pleasure to have in class.'”

“Yes.  Apparently it outraged parents to hear that these were canned comments, and not personal messages for their own special snowflakes.”

“I am losing patience with parents and their special little snowflakes.  You guys all know, nobody’s going to teach school at all if the rule is you have t 24/7 shut your word hole and pretend everybody’s kid is special little snowflake.”

“Agreed.  And you know what else, writing is – blogging is – separate from life.  For example, have you ever noticed how much I appear to be hammered on my blog?  But I think it’s obvious that as a father of three, that’s all an act.  It’s tongue-in-cheek.”

“You think that’s obvious, do you?”

“I think we’ve arrived at the bottom of this case, Spang.  It’s like this – did she call your specific kid whiny?”

“If not don’t worry about it.”

“Right.  And if she implied your kid was whiny, then axe yourself – Is my kid whiny?  Ever?”

“And if you’re saying no, then blast your head against the wall as hard as you can, because you’re a filthy liar.”

“Correct.  And if you’re saying yes, then again – don’t worry about it, except to the extent that your whiny kid reflects poorly on you.  Get to work butching your kid up a little bit, so he or she doesn’t start getting regular beatings.  Also – is this woman a good teacher?”

“That does seem to be a relevant question, and not surprisingly, it does not appear to be addressed in CNN’s crappy tabloid paint job.  You know, I’m starting to hate those guys?”

“Yes.  I know.  I am, too, Spang.  The fact is that if they had a single shred of evidence that Natalie Munroe was a bad teacher, off of her blog that is, and in the actual classroom, then it would be on the front page of CNN with that one loud-mouthed hairdresser girl who always sounds like she’s in a bar stool next to you at Rooster’s circa 1am, bitching at the television -”

“Nancy Grace.”

“-Nancy Grace, yes. Nancy Grace would be plastering a Natalie Munroe parking ticket on the screen right now if she could squeeze one out of her.  And if there’s no evidence that Munroe’s a bad teacher, I mean not a single shred-”

“Then maybe leave her the hell alone.  We’re short on teachers, yes, especially good ones?”

“Yes,” I tell him firmly, and it’s true.  “And you know what else?  Remember that teacher in Ohio who burned a freaking cross into a kid’s arm and got fired for it?  Well, he sued them and won – got $800,000.  So I have to imagine Natalie will do the same, and so is that going to be a big victory, Parents of Whiny Kids?  You’re going to pay her for not teaching the next twenty years?”

“So then everybody just stay off her blog if you don’t like her blog.  I’m pretty sure she’s going to extra super watch herself from now on.”

“Another case cracked, Spang.  That was a tough one.”

“Not really, TC.  A lot of your fellow parents are simply morons with staggering entitlement issues and delusional attitudes about their whiny-ass kids.  I wonder if these parents realize for even a second how fortunate they are to have been born in a country where they have teachers at all, even if they are the kind who accurately diagnose whininess sometimes.”

“Aw, that’s mean.  You’re mean, Spang.”

“But I’m allowed to be.”

“Thank God,” I tell him.  “That’s what freedom of speech is all about, right?”




Earlier:  Future Tom Blog Force: Crisis On The Internet

And:  Onward, Christian Science Teacher


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Let’s Go Have a Christmas Beer With Shawn

Just a quick beer or two – we’ll go and see him at the King Avenue Five while he’s working, that way we don’t get pulled into his icy cold gravitational pull and end up blinking at each other all bleary-eyed in a few hours, wondering how we ended up in jail.

I need to drop off this copy of Inception for him anyway, it’s a Christmas present and also once he watches it, he can explain to us what happened in it and who Keyser Sozzey is and all that.

If you don’t know who Shawn is, then buy my book because me and him and God are in it, about four pages in.  It’s not really God, though, it’s a Blogographic Simulation.  Ah, here we go, a spot at the bar, and some uncomfortable looks from some staff members – I’m in here a lot, busting stuff up, burrowing under booths to sleep in secret, and eating chicken wings with my mouth open, so not everyone’s happy to see me all the time, you know?

There he is, here Shawn, have a copy of Inception, Merry Christmas.  Shawn say, yeah I figured I should ask you before handing you a copy of Starcraft 2 for Christmas, because of what happened with the first one, when it enslaved your soul for several months.

I said good idea.  Maybe April 10, 2011, when Future Tom Year One is over, you ought to toss me that thing, and I’ll crawl into my basement for a week and do what needs to be done.  It’s hard enough getting 800 words a day up on here without the greatest game ever conceived by man at my fingertips, you know?

Shawn says a bunch of OSU football players just got in a bunch of trouble for selling stuff they owned, and for some reason they’re not allowed to do that.  I blink at him – you mean those guys who got tattoos for autographs?

That’s what he means.  Shawn is a former football player – Princeton, in case you care – and he doesn’t have any tattoos at all.  Unless they’re on his butt or something, I’ve never asked.  Back then the Internet really was a system of tubes, operated by ropes and pulleys and hamster wheels, so Shawn probably got away with all kinds of crap while these guys were here in the future with us, getting crap for being popular.

I imagine Shawn was probably like one of the Goodfellas back then, chicks, guns, trampolines, etc.  Did you know he climbed one of the Grand Tetons?  That’s mountains, is what the Grand Tetons are.  He saw a bear, but he didn’t kill it cause he’s nice.

He doesn’t talk about any of that mountain climbing Goodfellas stuff much.

Still, think about that.  Shawn’s a pretty educated gargantuan six-four Zen Master, who likes to drink beer and play video games and explain particle physics to me, over and over again.  The reason he received that education is that he was a big football player.  I mean, he’s smart, obviously, but that’s just the reason he understood what they were telling him.  They were telling him because of football. 

We’re kind of thinking, the OSU football program pretty much pays for every other athletic program at OSU.  Fencing?  Bowling?  Throwing the javelin?  You’re welcome, say these football players – now why can’t we get tattoos for free again?

Anyway, neither of us really cares, that’s just how it seems on the surface.  This doesn’t seem like a horrifying scandal to either of us, just sitting here pushing it back and forth on the bar.

Oh, and look!  There’s local musician James Ranke, who is the only conceivable reason why you might want to set foot in the Grove City Applebees on Wednesday nights.  He just pretended like he doesn’t know me, but he does.  We’re like BFFs – he’ll be back.

I gave him my number ages ago, so I just like KNOW he’s going to call.

One time, when James was asleep in Shawn’s living room, he was so knocked out that when his phone went off in the morning to wake him up for work, he couldn’t hear it, and James became the second person that I’ve ever had to physically pick up by the collar and shake awake, in my whole life. 

Really, I shook him like John Cusack shook that drunk guy at the party in Say Anything.  You must wake up, James!  You must wake up right now!

His phone was in his front pocket, you know – it’s not like I’m going to reach in there and turn it off.  Wake up, local rocker – that’s what you get for hanging out with Shawn in the first place.

You bought your ticket, you knew the risks.

Okay, so we’re approaching eight hundred words, and I hope you’ve enjoyed having a beer with Shawn.  Tune in tomorrow, when I’ll detail a conversation that we had about the unbelievably complicated codes that computers can generate these days.

Like for instance, supposedly they can create codes so complicated that if the entire universe were made of computers, and all those computers worked until the end of the universe, they still couldn’t break the codes.

And then I’ll tell you about something Shawn told me about – I’ll call it the Parallel Universe Infinity Drive – which can probably break them.  And that means civilization is either going to collapse into chaos, or blossom into Utopia.

A tasty couple of beers with Shawn.  I’ll let you know what he thinks about Inception, too.

Leave a comment

Posted by on December 24, 2010 in Celebrities, Knuckleheads, Phoning It In


The OSU-Michigan Time Warp

It seems like it was just yesterday that I was recovering from eating eight pounds of tasty Thanksgiving food, and realized Actual Greeno was in town from Chicago.  So I knocked out a quick post about my King Kong glass, and then jumped in a car to drive out to Springfield and get him.  This was of course followed by a delightful dinner in the Short North, a few tasty glasses of Stella down at Mac’s Cafe, and then six hours of bar stool wiseassery at the King Avenue Five.

But it wasn’t yesterday.  It was two days ago.  Alien abduction-style, I am missing a full day, and it’s all because of the OSU-Michigan rivalry, which goes way back several centuries to a dispute over which state had to take Toledo.  Obviously, we lost and we appear to have never gotten over it.

So all of the sudden, it’s the next day and Greeno and I were suddenly sitting in a bar again with bloody marys in front of us, and the entire city was also sitting in bars, acting like that was a perfectly normal thing to do at ten o’clock in the morning.  It’s not, you know.

It turns out, this ancient rivalry is expressed in the form of football.  Given how excited everyone was, and given what time we were all in a bar, I had assumed it was a big military conflict, something on the scale of the Iraq Invasion. 

Football games are quite long, but I think that I did a lot better than normal, for a dude who knows about as much about the game as I do about Harry Potter.  For example, I was almost always clapping at the correct time, and for the most part, I could tell you why I was clapping.  Sometimes, there was a little confusion with regards to how long I ought to be clapping – I feel kind of silly clapping at a box on the wall for more than a second or two, even if everyone else is doing the same thing.

I remember the effect this game has on the city quite well, from my days as a campus bartender back in the early nineties.  A normal shift for a bartender on a day like this is sixteen hours, and one thing I can tell you is that you will be doing yourself and your bartender a big favor if you figure out what the hell you want to drink before you get the bartender’s attention.  They’re in kind of a hurry back there, and they don’t think it’s cute or funny when you call them over to observe you as you chew on your lip and think about various drinks and giggle.

You might also think it’s funny to simply order “beer,” the joke being I think that you don’t care what kind of beer, you just want beer.  Unfortunately, bartenders do not have the option of choosing for you – there are typically a hundred different kinds of beers back there.  It’s not nearly as funny or admirable as you might think.  Not very funny, and somewhat time-consuming.

Also, do not drink and drive.  That’s true anytime, of course, but even more so on the day of the OSU-Michigan game, since the cops are out in full force and they’re low on cash.  They can literally pull people over at random and score DUIs, like plucking trout from a stream.

No, a better solution is to call your wife circa eleven o’clock and admit that you seem to be in a bar again, and just maybe add that a ride home would be super, but maybe not for five or six more hours.  Then, forget to eat any meals and try to talk louder and louder each hour.

When the game is over, be certain to notice who won.  I’m pretty sure it was OSU because nobody ran outside and started flipping cars over or burning couches.  Even if you brought it up a few times, it was like it just wouldn’t take hold.

When my wife arrived, she failed to bring any fried chicken despite my brother’s very clear and repeated requests for it, but that was fine.  No problem.  I had, after all, left to go out with Greeno something like twenty hours before that, so all in all, we had to admit that she was being a pretty good sport.

Really, it was like some kind of trap.  There was no reason to allow or condone my behavior, but she seemed to think it was pretty funny and perfectly fine.  In the car, I said, from now on, I’m not going to go out twice at the same time, and I’m always going to remember to eat meals, and once we get home, remind me to post something on Future Tom because I haven’t done that yet.

Then it was eight hours later.  Still no fried chicken.  Still nobody angry at Tom or hollering at Tom, still a decent weekend.  So I just posted something about the time warp I just went through, and that counts as Saturday.  Even though Saturday’s almost gone.

Leave a comment

Posted by on November 28, 2010 in Fried Chicken, Knuckleheads, Time Travel


Tags: , , , , ,

So You’ve Decided To Hang Out With Shawn

Well you did the right thing by picking up this informational pamphlet.  Having cocktails with Shawn is not a decision to be made lightly, and there is a lot of misinformation out there which can get in the way of the facts.  Whether you’re making a long term decision to hang out with Shawn on a regular basis, or you’re just going to wind up doing so by chance, as a one-time thing, you want to arm yourself with information so that you can be prepared.

Let’s be blunt, shall we?  This is most likely going to hurt, even though it won’t seem like it at first.  In the same manner that blasting around on a waverunner all day doesn’t seem to hurt while it’s going on, what’s going to happen is it’s going to hurt the next day.  You think you’re having fun because you are, but you are also physically assaulting yourself.  You’d do well to clear your calendar tomorrow.

Also, forget about driving.  You will not be able to drive your car tonight, since you’ve made the decision to hang out with Shawn.  And chances are, you will be ready to go home long before he is, so it’s wise to protect yourself from your Future Hammered Self, and get rid of your keys.

The best strategy – especially if you’ve selected the long term policy of hanging out with Shawn on a regular basis – is to get yourself a FedEx account.  Then, when you get to the first bar with your new pal Shawn, you can drop your keys in a FedEx envelope and overnight them to yourself for a priority AM delivery. 

This is considerably cheaper than a DUI, maybe twenty or thirty bucks.  As long as you’re out before seven or eight o’clock, you can have the FedEx guy come and pick them up, and then however you get home, your keys will arrive the next morning, when you are no longer in the feral, terrified survival state a lot of folks end up in, late at night, in the course of attempting to keep up with Shawn.

Wise preparation is the bane of poor decisions.  Don’t be a jackass.

Also, it’s a good idea to duct tape a bottle of water to your shin, under your pants leg.  Wherever and whenever you wake up, you’re going to be so dehydrated that when you get your first gulps of water, your eyeballs will go “splick, splick!”  Don’t make them wait – there’s no way to tell exactly where you’ll wake up.  It’s like spinning a wheel.  You’re going to need your eyeballs to get a fix on your own location.  Water is your friend.

Now let’s get some of the misinformation, fallacies, and urban legends out of the way.  This is serious business and you want to keep your eyes wide open.

Myth:  Shawn is a regular dude.

Fact:  Shawn is at least eight thousand years old.   His body is maintained by billions of Egyptian-Alien Hybrid Nanites which are powered by Jagermeister and pork chops.  Much like Wolverine, Shawn is not certain what the hell he was doing during the French and Indian War, but he’s kind of got the feeling it wasn’t anything nice. 

Myth:  Shawn doesn’t mind if you ride around on him like Master Blaster from Beyond Thunderdome.

Fact:  This is a case-by-case kind of thing.  Certainly you shouldn’t count on it. The biggest thing to be careful about is that although you would be the weird-looking tiny man in that scenario, you don’t want to imply for a second that Shawn is the child-minded brute.  Frequently, Shawn is milling around explaining particle physics to people while I am riding around on his shoulders screaming about pig shit and methane embargos. 

A good general rule is, don’t climb up on his shoulders.  If he feels like you are moving too slowly, he will put you up there like a toddler.  Once you are up there, however, you are a big, big man.  Feel free to pass out insults and to pick fights with whomever you think Shawn should fight in Thunderdome.  That’s what justice is all about, you know.

Myth:  Shawn has a British accent.

Fact:  Don’t be ridiculous.  Nobody has a British accent.

Myth:  It is possible, using the concept of moderation, to just have a couple of beers with Shawn, and not get swept up in a sixteen-hour marathon culminating in chirping birds and highstrung, nightstick-poking cops.

Fact:  Sure, in the same sense that it is possible to punch through a cinderblock wall with your bare hands.  In other words, it takes years of training and refined discipline to successfully and predictably disengage from whatever the opposite of the Wrath of Shawn is.  Don’t kid yourself.  You’re calling in sick tomorrow.

Myth:  Shawn will keep track of you and babysit you all night.

Fact:  Shawn may or may not decide to do either of those things, but he will assume that you are an adult.  If you vanish, he’ll figure you grabbed a cab or something.  If you are worried about losing the powers of speech and direction simultaneously, and becoming lost in the city, you should duct tape your phone to your wrist and program your spouse’s or significant other’s phone number into it as every possible speed dial, so you can call them by banging it randomly against your face.  You might also consider tying a balloon to your shirt, so you’ll be easy to spot in a crowd, or from a few blocks away.

Myth:  Shawn wants to hear all about how much you like Clash of the Titans and Jumper and She’s Just Not That Into You.

Fact:  No, he does not.  And if you keep doing that, he’ll buy you shots until you shut up (see below).

Above all, relax and have fun.  It wouldn’t hurt to bring along a plate of lamb chops and au gratin potatoes and maybe a side of broccoli and a double Filet-O-Fish sandwich – he likes to have a snack before a night out on the town, and what’s good for Shawn is good for you.  I’ve hung out with Shawn when he’s in a bad mood before and guess what – you end up in a bad mood, and there’s nothing you can do about it cause the FedEx guy’s got your keys.

A final hint for you.  If he offers you anything called a Mule, you’re going to want to decline that.  It is a drink which makes you feel as though you have been kicked by a mule, and for some reason, you are only allowed to have an even number of them, so you’re going to get kicked at least twice.

Zero is an even number.  Shawn knows this, but he probably won’t remind you.  Keep it in mind – knowledge is power.  Talk to you around four o’clock tomorrow afternoon.


Posted by on August 19, 2010 in Knuckleheads


Parenting Back In Time

Sitting around the living room, my roommates and I have gone all out tonight – Shake and Bake chicken, cheesy potatoes and green beans.  We’re sitting around the television tearing it all up like a pack of wild dogs, and then the front door opens, and in walks Heather, a tall, curly-haired friend of ours, carrying a purple Adidas bag.

She doesn’t live with us, that’s just how people are around here, barging in like Lenny and Squiggy.  Nobody knocks.  She kind of peeks in at the four of us, though, as if unsure anyone would be home. 

She says, “Oh my god, I’m starving!”

We’ve made a lot of food, so I get up and get her a plate and a beer and she takes my chair while she’s at it, and I end up eating on the front porch, talking to everyone through the front door.

It’s a nice October night, and I’m feeling pretty comfortable in jeans and a sweatshirt, out on the porch, watching everyone on Patterson Avenue make each other nervous.  This is the very edge of north campus, so half of the people are regular folks who own their homes and have kids and like to work in their gardens, while the other half are knucklehead college students, who like to turn their music up and sit on the roofs of their porches.  There’s peace tonight, but there’s tension, too. 

We’ve got some people coming over later.  Inside, Jason tells Heather all about it, his flannel shirt hanging open, his chest hairy with maybe a little bit of Shake and Bake sprinkled in it.  There are people coming over just about every night, but we always portray it like it’s a special occasion, because people seem to like that.

Mike and Rob there, too, a lot more interested in chicken and the mob movie on television, than Heather or any plans we might all have later.  Some kind of thing going on maybe, between Jason and Heather, we don’t know.  The guy never makes a move toward any of the girls we meet and yet they flock to him, landing on him like pigeons, making little noises – he barely cares.

Heather finishes dinner and then unzips the Adidas bag and says, “Hey, you guys mind if I use your bathroom?”

We don’t mind, and she takes the bag with her, rustling around in it as she creaks up the stairs.

She’s gone for a little while, and pretty soon, I have to go to the bathroom, so I go upstairs and the door is open, and Heather’s standing there in front of the mirror with some kind of bag over her head, patting paste all over her scalp. 

There’s not a lot to say to that, so I just stand there in the doorway, and she turns to me, eyebrows up, like can I help you?

Seems like I’ve got all the information I need to figure out what she’s doing, but I still look around a little bit and notice the box of hair dye on the sink, and tell her, in case she hasn’t noticed, “You’re dying your hair.”

I’d like her to put those eyebrows down now, is what I’d like her to do. 

“I’m dying my hair,” she agrees.  With a weird tone, like I’m in her bathroom instead of her in mine.

So I go into Jason’s room, and urinate right through his screen into the back yard, getting the attention of a dumpster cat out there, hearing the noise.  And then I stop in the bathroom doorway again, and Heather simply ignores me now, no eyebrows, no nothing.

That’s fine, I creak back down the stairs, and I forget to mention to the other guys anything about hair dye or urinating out windows, and after a while, Heather comes back down the stairs, her hair bright blonde now.

She drops her Adidas bag by the door and asks us what we think.

Mike and Rob don’t think anything; they don’t even look away from the screen. 

Jason says, “Looks good.”

And I get up and ask her if I can stick my fingers in it, and she says, sure, so I do.  Feels kind of stiff.  I take my fingers out, rubbing them together, looking at them.

Huh.  “Looks good,” I agree.

She says, “I might see you guys later tonight,” and then gets her Adidas bag, and another piece of chicken, and she walks right out the door eating it.

Then we’re just sitting there again, zeroing in on the leftovers, scraping the casserole dish, watching the end of the mob movie.  People start to show up – we’re right out of high school, so some of them are still in it, and have curfews to worry about.  Mike’s got an enormous amp that he’s hooked up to a little discman, and he cranks the Sanford and Son theme song – wherever he got it – nice and loud, and we all scuttle out to the porch to get frowned at by the neighbors.

A few hours later, it’s getting pretty crowded.  There are probably twenty people there, but it’s a big house, and everyone’s spread out through different rooms.  I’m standing on the front porch when a Baby Boomer in a long black coat gets out of a Lexus with a very stocky sidekick, wearing a suit jacket.  They stop and have a muttered conversation, out there on the sidewalk, looking at us, and then they approach.

We’re right out of high school, so a lot of our guests are underage; they disappear like roaches, and then I’m standing there with Jason, who just leans against the wall to watch.

“Can I help you guys?”  I ask.

The sidekick is security.  He puts himself right in front of me, looking me in the eye.  Shorter than I am, but gargantuan just the same, shoulders like a small car.

The taller guy has salt and pepper hair, mostly salt.  He says, “I hope so.  I’m looking for my daughter.  She’s taken off.”

Five guys living here, this could be bad.  “Who’s your daughter?”

He tells us, and it’s Heather.  “Heather’s nineteen, isn’t she?”

Now the security guy speaks, leaning nice and close to me.  He says, “That don’t mean her dad don’t care about her.”

Heather’s dad nods at me.  “Yes, she’s over eighteen,” he says.  “That’s why we’re here, and not the  police.”

Smiles when he says it, too.  Both of them smile nice and wide, wanting me to know how simple things are.

“Well, okay, guys, she was just here.  She didn’t say anything about running off or anything.  She just showed up, ate some chicken, dyed her hair…”

Trailing off now, my face falling down around my neck.  Oh.  Dying her hair.

“We know she hangs out here,” Heather’s dad explains, “because she’s got your address written down on some things, in her room.”

So I blow out a lot more air than I inhaled in the first place, and tell them, “Look, I can see you want to come in and check the place out, make sure your daughter’s not here.  So, to be clear, that’s all you want, right?  You aren’t worried about how old anyone is, if they’re standing there with a beer, or what that smell is, or anything like that, am I right?”

“That’s right,” her dad agrees, showing me his hands now.  Is that supposed to mean, look I’m unarmed?

So I glance over my shoulder at Jason, and he very casually wobbles away from the wall behind him, and strolls inside to spread the word, Tom’s about to bring someone’s dad inside with his thug for a tour.

It’s a three story house, but they don’t scour it.  If Heather were here and wanted to stay hidden, she could have just hopped in a closet or under the bed.  It’s more that we’ve showed them we have nothing to hide and so they believe us.

Back down on the porch, Heather’s dad gives me his business card.  He tells me again that he’s worried about his daughter, and that he’s not going to go into why, but that he needs to find her. 

I figure, it’s about fifty-fifty.  Either Heather’s got a good reason to want to stay away from her dad, or she’s a dipshit nineteen year old girl, with a stupid reason for wanting to stay away from her dad.  I spend a couple of seconds looking right in his eyes, trying to figure out if he’s genuinely concerned, or some kind of control freak.  

Seems to me, I either help him find her, or I don’t, and either way, it’s going to be really good for Heather, or really bad.  Doesn’t seem to be any way to know for sure.

I tell him, “Go down to South Campus at around eleven o’clock.  Go into a dive bar called Purity.  It’s an underground bar on the east side of High Street, just south of 11th Avenue.  It’s huge, so just go on in, and walk around in a big circle, and there’s a good chance you’ll find Heather.  If that doesn’t work, try Crazy Mama’s, around 9th and High, except this one’s on the second floor.  You want to try Crazy Mama’s around 1:30.”

Now we’re all pals.  They shake my hands and tell me that I’m all right, and they get back into their Lexus and drive away.  And I stand there watching them, having just made the first paternal decision of my life without even realizing it, and I never get to find out if it was the right one.


Posted by on April 25, 2010 in Knuckleheads


Pork Chop Dawn

I hear a guy cough, right next to me, and it wakes me right up, because, who the hell is that?  Let’s get these eyes open, see what’s going on here, if I’m in jail or in a shrubbery at the park,or what.

The eyelids creak open.  Hmm, I’m in my own room.  Kind of bright, so the sun’s all the way up.  There’s a hissing sound, too, like static on the radio, turned down really low.  And some vague bit of urgency in my head, somebody in there waving a flag about something.  Got to do better than that, little mental flag guy, whatever you’re talking about.

Headache.  Very bad headache.  I close one of my eyes again, lifting my head just an inch or so, moving only my neck.  Son of a bitch, there’s someone right there, under a blanket, on the other side of the bed.  Seriously, who the hell is that?

Check myself for pants, see if I’m gay all of the sudden.  I’ve got pants on, okay, so far so good.

Not really judging the idea of sudden gayness – I mean, if you wake up gay, then you’re probably pretty excited about the idea, because now you’re gay and it sounds awesome.  The great thing about being gay would be, then you’d be after dudes instead of girls, and dudes really, straight or gay, not a bunch of tough nuts to crack.

But that’s not it at all.  I don’t want to be gay any more than I want to be awake, and the pants tell me, I’m only one of those things.

Well, we’re not quite positive yet, are we?  I sit up and yank the blanket off the snorting, coughing figure beside me, check to make sure he’s wearing pants too.

It turns out to be The Pork Chop Kid – a guy named Jason from Skyline Chili.  I don’t know why we call him The Pork Chop Kid, except that I’m the one who named him that.  And the other thing I don’t remember about him is why he’s passed out in my bed.  But the good news is, he’s wearing pants, too.  So, neither of us are gay, unless we’re really shy, or just really bad at it.

“You comfy, there Pork Chop?”

Now he turns around, one eye open just like me, and we size each other up, come to terms with our situation like Popeye looking in a mirror.  He says, “What the hell are you doing here?”

I point the eye around the room, at the desk, the typewriter, the big cardboard cutout of Clint Eastwood from Unforgiven, that I stole from Blockbuster.  “This is my bedroom, Pork Chop.  You’re in my bed.”

Pork Chop shakes his head doubtfully, closes the eye again, turns back around to get some sleep.  Hard to blame him. 

But no, I think if we both went back to sleep right now, we’d run the risk again, of waking up gay, and as cool as I’m sure I’d be with that after the fact, it doesn’t sound very fun while I’m still straight.  People are so mean to gay dudes, you know?

So I get a hold of one of my pants legs and pull myself up to a sitting position, and I spot a bottle of water on the floor, pick it up.  When I drink it, I feel my eyeballs rehydrate.  Splick!  Splick!

An afterhours last night, that rings a bell.  Let’s see, we threw some cards around, watched Animaniacs, made two loaves of bread worth of French toast – the pieces really aren’t hooked together meaningfully, just some stuff that happened, very late. 

The Pork Chop Kid says, “Something smells bad.  What smells bad?”

Not going into that right now, way too tired.   “My first guess would be me.  Second guess, you.”

“Smells like something’s burning.”

Which reminds me of the hiss I was hearing, when I woke up, so I crane my neck and there’s the problem, my lamp has been knocked over, the shade’s off, and the light bulb is cooking a sizzling black circle into the carpet.  I reach over and set it up again, pour the rest of the water on the smoking crater.

Well, that was close.

I get up and my brain starts pulsing out my eye sockets and ears.  Into the bathroom, wash my face, brush my teeth, and then downstairs, where I find five other knuckleheads sprawled around in various chairs and couches and even on the floor. 

So back on up and into my room again, and I sit at the desk in the only chair possible, in the whole apartment, looking at the Pork Chop Kid, shaking my head.

He seems to hear it, speaking without moving at all.  “You were bitching about a Final all night last night.  Don’t you have a Final, like right now?”

Ah, yes, I recall, that would be the urgent mental flag man.  I grab my clock and turn it around, and it’s ten-thirty.  I’m a half hour late for my Psych exam, and they only give you an hour to do it.

So I take ten seconds to think it through – that’s not going to make or break anything, ten seconds.  I figure, I can get over there now and use what time I have left, or I can clean myself up, go straight to the guy’s office in a couple hours, start tapdancing.  That second option would be more likely to work if I actually knew the guy, but I don’t think I’d recognize my Psych professor if he woke up between me and The Pork Chop over there.

I give myself one more sigh, and then I spring into action.

Out the front door, unlock the mountain bike – it’s raining a little bit, but that’s good.  It’ll be like a shower.  Then I’m pumping pedals, sizzling down 13th Avenue, right off the curb into High Street.  The cars go crazy, honking, screeching, a really loud noise that might be an accident I just caused.  You got to drive defensively, man, people are nuts.

Hop the curb on the other side, between two girls in rain slickers; they have to leap apart as my tires whine between them.  Cut right through the Wexner Center, my body not liking it, little spots floating in front of me, stomach saying, let’s leave a trail of French toast so we can find our way home. 

Move your dog, move your dog, move your dog.

Bump right down a set of concrete steps.  No watch, no phone – it’s 1993.  Can’t keep checking my time every minute, just have to pedal.

Got to take the extra twenty seconds, lock the bike up when I get to the right building.  Run now, and it’s way back in time – Hungover 1993 Tom does not like to run, nor does he do it well, or quietly.

A girl I know from class, just vaguely, is leaving the building as I hit the doors.  She says, “Oh my god, what are you doing?”

“I’m late.  What time is it?”

She tells me – I’ve got less than fifteen minutes.  “Here,” she says.  “You’ll need this.”

Holds out a number two pencil.  Hell, yeah, I’m going to need that.  I snag it and thank her and then blast through the door of the sprawling classroom, drawing expressions of alarm and surprise from the several dozen students who aren’t finished yet.  Who wants to make eye contact?  All right, that’s what I thought.

There’s the Psych professor, Mister Whatshisname, easy to spot behind the big, big desk.  He’s got a beard – for stroking in deep thought, I imagine – and he wears a sweater with a tie under it, and someone needs to make a decision about his hair for him, long or short. 

My tennis shoes squirk all the way up to him, leaving a trail like a snail.  Hard to see out of my glasses, because of the rain, so I yank them off, looking around somewhat theatrically for an exam.

For a Psych professor, this guy’s not very calm.  His face shaking, he says, “What are you doing?

There’s no reason to screw around.  After today, I never have to see this guy again.

“I need to start,” I tell him.

He looks at his watch.  That’s what a lot of folks did back then, before everybody had a phone.  Wore clocks on their arms.  Crazy world. 

“The exam’s almost over!”  Using a whiny voice, but I’m not cheating.  I’m the opposite of cheating.

“Almost,” I agree, sort of pointing at the word, in the air.  “I need to start.”

He snorts a little, sounding like old Pork Chop.  “Well, I don’t have any more exams,” he says.

Like a kid telling me he’s not going to be my friend anymore, or that he’s out of cookies.  I shake my head at him; find yourself another sucker.  “See, that doesn’t make any sense.  What would you have done if I got here on time?  You telling me, you didn’t bring enough for the whole class?”

Now I get a nice, satisfying honking noise, like a very tired duck.  He gets an exam out of a little attaché case by his feet, and I snap it out of his hands, and when I sit down in the nearest desk it sounds like someone just dropped a trash bag full of squids.

Fifty questions, matching and multiple choice.  Let’s do this thing.   Twelve minutes, that’s about thirteen, fourteen seconds per question.  Bam, bam, bam.

When I turn it in, I pick up half of the exams in the stack, slide mine in the middle, and drop the rest on top.  Like hiding a card in a deck.   Don’t hate me, baby.

I tip him a wink and he does not return it.  And two days later, I find out I got a B-.

Go Bucks!

1 Comment

Posted by on April 23, 2010 in Knuckleheads