Archive for February, 2011

Oh, Wisconsin, Oh, Boy


Little do we know the faint stirrings beating in the hearts of some politicians after Election Day.  We trust them with our tax dollars, and they spend it on solid gold faucets and luxury cruises.  We hope that they are in the office working, and they pose shirtless looking like Tarzan about to beat his chest and send the shot to a woman on Craigslist who thinks that Tarzan is single.  They are supposed to do our bidding, and they sometimes do the bidding of the Koch brothers. 

Lately it’s been those Wisconsin Republicans.  When the good, and perhaps disgruntled, citizens of that state elected Scott Walker and other Republican yahoos to represent them, they had no idea they’d be out in the cold protesting and holding placards at the capitol building three short months later.

Now, I have nothing against Republicans because I registered as one myself.  But trying to break the backs of the unions is something up with which we should not put.  Clearly Governor Scott Walker is either crazy, fell in love with his reflection while looking in Lake Mendota or has been spellbound by the Koch brothers, who’ve poured millions into his campaign war chest on the road to becoming our next president, or so he thinks.  And why wouldn’t the billionaire brothers help having embraced the phrase, “He who dies with the most toys wins?” a la their future factories in Wisconsin.         

David H. Koch and his brother, Charles own oil refineries in Texas, Alaska and Minnesota, 4,000 miles of pipelines and the companies that produce Brawny paper towels, Dixie paper cups, Georgia lumber, Stairmaster carpets and Lycra.  They clearly aren’t any slouches; but their politics also make Stalin look like Smiling Jim.     

So not having enough toys, they want to break the backs of the unions while standing on the laborers’ backs.  A little recall, anyone?


Smarter than the Average Bear

I have a theory about education after spending years in that environment.  Even the average bear could get a degree provided he has a social security card and a current mailing address.

The theory took root after hearing about the hospital patient whose surgeon amputated the wrong leg.  It blossomed after reading about the man whose stomach pain after surgery was caused because someone left a sponge in his stomach that had to be retrieved. And it was confirmed when a medical student, who didn’t really want to be a doctor and referred to himself in the third person, was in the program because his father had donated huge sums of money to the school.  Hopefully, he ran off to join the circus or was carted off by a band of gypsies before graduating.

But the main area where my average bear theory springs forth is with social workers and others of that ilk.  The fact that that the flunk out rate in these programs is nil considering what some of their graduates do speaks volumes.  During my teaching days, I once called the Department of Children and Family Services after a child in my class said that his uncle was smoking dope in front of him.  The caseworker asked me if the uncle ever offered the boy any.  When I said I didn’t think so, he refused to investigate.  Maybe he could have helped because a few weeks later, the boy was sent to jail for assaulting another child.

Had Florida caseworker, Andrea Fleary been in the right job, then maybe ten year-old Nubia Barahona would still be alive and her twin brother, Victor, wouldn’t be hospitalized with severe chemical burns.  Days before their final attack, the seven year-old granddaughter of Jorge and Carmen Barahona, who were the twins’ foster parents, told an adult that her grandparents were keeping the brother and sister in the bathroom and that they sometimes kept Nubia in the bathtub all day as punishment.  Four days after Child Protective Services had been contacted, caseworker Andrea Fleary went to the home.  Covering for her husband, Carmen Barahona said that she and her husband were separated and that she didn’t know where the twins were.  Fleary never bothered interviewing the other children in the house because it was 9:00 on a Friday night.  She should be charged with negligence and as an accessory to child abuse.

The stories go on.  The grade school boys who complained that they were being sodomized by their grandfather, a sergeant in the Chicago Police force who lived with them.  A school social worker called home to question the grandfather, but he and his wife denied it, so she sent them home for the weekend.  The Elizabeth Smarts and the Jaycee Dugards of the world and the caseworkers who failed to look for them in the right places.

These people aren’t smarter than the average bear because the average bear would do better.

Holy Moly?


I never expected to get through life unscathed, but lately, things have been going wrong on almost a daily basis. 

The last incident started after a weeklong trip to visit my mother.  We had a lovely time together, so the fates took a rest there.  But a few days later, they started acting up again when I noticed that the latch to my door lock had cracked.  Naturally, I blamed the last ne’er do-well locksmith who charged me $300.00 for a $35.00 lock.  After learning that I could buy a door with a lock in it for that price, I tried sweet-talking them into a refund, though sweet-talking doesn’t always work when certain people have your money.  Remember that.  It is a cardinal rule of life.   

I called them three years after the installation and asked them what kind of an outfit they thought they were running, but that didn’t change anything, either, though venting made me feel better.

Thinking that the broken piece would leave a glitch in my home security system, I decided to replace it.  The owner at a nearby hardware store examined it and declared it to be the work of a burglar.  I’d asked two people to check in on my place when I was gone and suspected them before launching into some musings about true friends and the meaning of life, et cetera.

I mentioned it to someone in my building who told me of other units that had also been robbed.  The landscaper suggested I install an anti-theft device resembling a metal ruler that would make it hard for anyone to jimmy the lock with a credit card.  It was brilliant.   

Lowe’s didn’t have it security lock, but the salesman referred me to a locksmith who did, so after buying a new lock, I drove to his shop.  He found it on a dusty shelf, opened the package and explained the installation process.

“This will work even on a metal door frame?” I asked.

“Of course, but if you need any help, give me a call, and I come do it for you.  I only charge you $75.00.” 

Wondering what kind of a rummy he though I was, I took the package and left.

Later that night while installing the new lock from Lowe’s, I managed to lock myself in and started sweating especially after noticing the hole where the doorknob had been.  I thought about calling that locksmith but decided against it because it was late.  I was going to call my building’s security guard, when remembering the credit card trick, I sprung myself out and installed the new lock.

The next day, I went to work on that metal guard unaware that the nails in the package the locksmith sold me were the wrong kind.         

Back at Lowe’s, a saleswoman pinpointed the problem as we went into a whole diatribe about locksmiths and how this one tried setting me up to get more business.  Then she armed me with the right screws and a new drill bit. 

But I had trouble drilling the doorframe outside my place and found the building’s maintenance man and asked for his help.

“No one tried to break in,” he said examining the damage.  “If they did, then why isn’t the door scratched?  Did they use a special drill that bends?” 

‘Good point,’ I thought. 

“You can’t drill here anyway because it isn’t yours.  Anything inside your unit belongs to you.  Anything outside belongs to the building.” 

I abandoned the project and returned the lock and the remaining screws.  The moral of the story is that even hardware store owners can be wrong, that locksmiths are seldom choir boys and that maintenance men are often smarter than the average bear.

Pepper and the Friendly Skies

Anyone who’s known me more than a week knows that I am a wanna-be pepper spray aficionado.  I don’t leaf through magazines or think about entering contests or anything.  I just like it the way some people like leafing through  cookbooks.

It’s become so that I’ve been thinking of collecting those little cans, the way some people collect mugs or saltshakers when they go on vacation, then building a shelf in my house so I can put them on display for when company comes.

But one night, it nearly got me in trouble.  It started with a 5:00 a.m. shuttle ride to the airport for a trip to see my mother.  Because I was afraid of oversleeping and having that shuttle take off without me, I had trouble falling asleep and wound up staying up all night.

So I used the time to try squeezing my things for the weeklong trip into a tony red faux croc carry-on case I’d bought on sale but turned out the be useless as a suitcase.  The same for another bag I planned on using to avoid luggage fees.  No matter what, I couldn’t close either even after sitting on both.  So I opted for wearing several outfits at once.  I was a little warm, but at least the suitcases closed.

Then, and this where the argument for getting a good night’s sleep comes in, I put the spray in my pocket and went to the garage to check on my car.  The security guard with the low forehead was there, but in case he or someone else got funny, I was prepared.

He smiled, waved, and I went back upstairs and continued working on the suitcases until the shuttle arrived.  The driver, a tight-lipped man, barely made eye contact with me as he hoisted my bags and computer case into the rear of the van before darting back into traffic.

I leaned my head against the cool glass and shut my eyes.  Moments later, I suspected something was not right and reached into the pocket of one of my sweaters and found the canister.

“Sir?” I said to the driver.

His eyes appeared in the rearview mirror like small brown slits.

“Can we go back to my house?  I think I accidentally brought something with me that I’m not supposed to have.”

“No,” he said.  “Another passenger has a seven o’clock flight, and we’re going to be late.”

I slumped into my seat.  I didn’t want to throw it away because I’d just bought it and I didn’t want anyone else coming across it, either.  “It’s getting hot in here,” I said.  “Can you turn on the air?  Is anyone else in here hot?”

Everyone else felt fine, but he turned a dial anyway.  The next fare was a woman and child headed for Hawaii.  They shared their plans with me while I tried closing my eyes and thinking of ways to get rid of the canister before being questioned by airport security.  I grunted in return.  Didn’t they realize that the woman next to them wearing all those outfits was in a potential jam?

We stopped at a terminal and he let me out while I paid, though it was my first time ever stiffing someone.

I asked a baggage handler if the airport had a Post Office.  He said that they took them out after 9/11, which only shows how detail oriented I sometimes can be.  Searching around, I spotted a garbage can and realized that it was about the only way out, other than a possible meeting with airport security, was to part ways with Pepper.

The moral of the story is always get a good night’s sleep, empty your pockets upon returning home and choose a more kind and compassionate driver so this sort of thing won’t happen again.

Pepper and Empowerment

Most teachers think that there are three major learning styles:  the audio learner, the visual learned and the kinesthetic learner. 

But they overlooked the pepper spray learner. 

I learned about this after walking my dogs, two friendly terrier mixes named Bitsy Boo and Mookie Moo.  While taking them out on their daily sojourns, I happened upon some kids and a few adults who used to stop and pet the dogs and ask for the names and ages. 

Included was the aunt of a seven year-old boy, whose mother had lost custody of him over drugs.  It appeared that the apple didn’t fall far from the tree on that one because the aunt appears to be from the same tree as her sister.   

Yet I was polite enough anyway and limited my conversation to “hi,” “bye,” “nice weather we’re having” and “Gee, you look so happy when you’re walking your nephew to school.”   

After that last one, she stopped talking to me and ran into the house and shut the door whenever we passed by.  You’d think I had leprosy or a social disease or something.  Believing I didn’t, I thought about it for a second, digested it and moved on.   

Then about a fortnight after the last door-shutting incident, I see her prancing around my building as I descend the steps with Bitsy Boo and Mookie Moo.  Her hair is long and stringy, her skin is pink and puffy, and she has bad posture.  She is in need of a makeover.  I see a scene coming but keep on walking because it is late and it is time for the dogs’ afternoon constitution.    

I open the gate and hear her say, “You said my nephew has problems,” which is something that I never even uttered.  I did, however, offer to find counseling for the boy after I noticed him fighting with the other kids on the block and isolating himself and after he told me he didn’t think he was very smart.  That and a drug-addicted mother did it for me, so I broached the subject with his father and offered to hook them up for low-cost counseling from a list from my job, but he was ahead of the game and said he had already gotten help.              

But the aunt doesn’t appear all that interested in my attempts to do good, so I keep walking and lay my hands on pepper.  For a while, it was just me, that spray and the dogs, who have no idea what it going on because they’re thinking about eating, relieving themselves and other dog-like things. 

I walk to the end of the building and see her friend who also starts yelling at me and telling me to mind my own business.  The irony of this is not lost on me because she’s never seen me before that.  One thing is certain, though.  They are both higher than a NASA space shuttle.

A neighbor pokes his head through the gates of the garage and tells them to bugger off.  The mail lady stops sorting the mail and starts yelling at them as well. 

The friend lumbers after me like a drunken welterweight.  The power surges through my veins, and I let pepper do its trick by letting her have it right on the jaw.  When she doesn’t flinch, and I realize that this isn’t what the manufacturers had in mind. 

That’s because of some unforeseen glitches in my use of the product.  One was that I didn’t know that it is better to shake the canister every-so-often.  The lady at the weapons shop told me that a person’s skin would turn colors with this spray, which didn’t happen because she gave me the wrong information.   

But something must have worked because they left and trounced down the street never to be seen or heard from again.   Afterwards, I went to the police and filed a report against this Bozo pf an aunt and her Bozo as a friend leaving so small detail spared. 

Empowerment is a many splendored thang.

Pepper and Me

I recently put myself in the 4% of the population (making it 4.0001) by buying some canisters of pepper spray.  (That figure may be a lot of malarkey, but my reasons for the purchase are not.) 

The decision came after interfacing with a neighbor with a brain like a badly constructed do-it-yourself bookcase where the edges don’t quite match.  We met when I was walking my dogs, two terrier mixes named Mookie Moo and Bitsy Boo, past his domicile a few blocks away from mine, and he thought they left their calling cards on his lawn. But alas, they are not those kind of dogs, and I am not that kind of owner. He spied us from his garage and began beating his chest and rumbling.

“You missed a spot,” he said.

“Where?” I said. 


“I cleaned it up.”

“No you didn’t. There’s something there.”

He pointed a rusty shovel like a caveman with a javelin and came out to look. Not finding anything, he beat his chest and bounded back to his turf. For my part, I called the police, who later interviewed Cro-Magnon man and filed a report for disorderly conduct. After that, he couldn’t stay away from the three of us, a woman with a plastic bag and her two trusty companions. One time, he even drove in front of my house and uttered his opinion about me using words etched on the bathroom wall in a high school. I neither appreciated it nor agreed and called the police again.

“What’s his dysfunction?” the sergeant said.

“I don’t know,” I said going into a synopsis of what the neighbors had told me and about his brawls, his fights with his wife, his fist fights.

She promised to talk to him, but I have little idea how that turned out because she never got back to me. Either that, or something didn’t stick because his wife later got in the act about the proper disposal of the refuse as well.

Then the idea of pepper spray came to me, and I went out and bought some. Deciding to practice, I went outside, opened the latch and sprayed. But there’s a trick about pepper spray. It is better to practice when the wind isn’t blowing into your face, as you will get a snoot full. On the positive side, though, it really works.

But I never got to use it on him because he one day disappeared. I believe one of four things happened to him.

He joined the mafia.

He got an Italian kiss.

He’s still at the police station.

He’s wandering around the forest leaving a trail of pumpkin seeds eaten by raccoons and squirrels.

This goes to show where the adage that “Success is when preparation meets inspiration” is true because I soon had the chance to use the stuff and was prepared when that moment came with the Cro-magnum woman living nearby.

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