Monday, August 27, 2012

EDELBLUM MYSTERY THEATER: THE ELEVATORS DON'T GO DOWN?

This past Thursday, my son Andrew took his first baby steps into the real life Cracker Jack box of the collegiate experience, The College of New Jersey, (TCNJ).

August 23, 2012 was a date I anticipated and dreaded for years.  When Andrew entered high school, the idea of him going far away to a university became less abstract but easily ignored.  Then time got caught up in a whirlpool and gained momentum as it swirled towards the inevitable separation.  Yes, before I knew it, the years were months, months were weeks and the weeks were days.  As "move-in day" crept near, I was so torn between what was good for him and bad for me that it was a miracle that I kept my emotions in check...until the next to last day.

August 22nd was my mom's birthday, (she would have been 82). I became misty-eyed when I thought how great it would have been for her to witness and/or be a part of Andrew's momentous step into adulthood. 

All summer, my wife Sue shopped for the tonnage that Andrew would need.  Soon our family room, bedroom and garage were littered with piles of necessities.  On the morning of the big day, I packed the van (jigsaw puzzle-style as the term boobie-trap lingering in my mind).  When I victoriously slammed the hatch down for the last time, there was almost no room for Andrew.  So even in the best of times, bringing Grandma would have been out of the question.
WHERE WOULD THE "BEVERLY HILLBILLIES" HAVE BEEN WITHOUT THEIR GRANNY (IRENE DUNNE)?

Of course I don't drive a 1921, four cylinder, Oldsmobile flatbed with a roped down hood and glass-less headlights.  But our cars resembled each other by the time I crammed in the multitude of Andrew's crap essentials.  Unfortunately, one important piece, his folding gorilla didn't make the cut.
DON'T BE ALARMED BY THIS ORIGAMI APE BEING LOST IN THE SHUFFLE.  A "FOLDING GORILLA" WAS A MYTHICAL PLAYTHING AND ONE OF THE COUNTLESS INSIDE JOKES THAT ANDREW AND I SHARED.

We did forget a bunch of real stuff but in any event, there wasn't enough space for it, (perhaps that was  mom's ploy to guarantee a return trip to TCNJ the following day).
WHEN WE WERE DONE LOADING, I COULDN'T SEE OUT THE BACK WINDOW AND ANDREW WAS FORCED TO HOLD HIS COMPUTER, GUITAR AND THE PRECIOUS CARGO OF KIRSTEN'S COOKIES ON HIS LAP.  LUCKILY BY THE TIME WE HIT SHAMONG, THE CHOCOLATE CHIPS WERE EATEN SO HIS HANDS WERE FREE TO USE HIS iPHONE.

Our ninety-minute, north by northwest trip went smoothly.  Then with the help of the google maps APP, we discovered a shortcut on Farnsworth Avenue in Bordentown, to Route 130, to 295, to nirvana, a.k.a., TCNJ.

Despite the staggered move-in schedule, at 11:AM, it seemed all 1,300 freshmen were unloading at the same time. Even before I parked, we saw the chaos surrounding the earlier arrivals as they wandered  around like zombies, trying to figure out their next (first) move.

We got out of our car and encountered the disorganization immediately.  I soon realized that the recurring theme of the day would be; hurry up and wait.  It seemed that people were so frustrated by the procedure to borrow the all-important rolling bin that rather than wait, they carried their belongings like worker ants building a nest.
MY REQUEST FOR ANDREW TO POSE WITH OUR ROLLING BIN FELL ON DEAF EARS.  INSTEAD, I WANTED TO USE A PHOTO OF COUSIN WENDY PUSHING HER BIN AT THE UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI BUT I COULDN'T FIND IT.  WE'LL HAVE TO SETTLE FOR THIS RANDOM SHOT FROM WHIPPY-TIPPY U.
Even though the bins seemed scarce, I decided that we would NOT be making a gazillion trips back and forth so I proclaimed, "We are rolling Andrew's stuff in!"  When we got to the rolling bin station, the first thing you notice is, there are no rolling bins. I could see why so many other families were pissed-off enough to allow themselves to become human pack mules because we were turned away and told to check-in first. 

We were so stoked to get started but annoyance of being directed away from the cherished bins, through a labyrinth of dark, unair-conditioned hallways was overwhelming.  These stuffy byways, cluttered with anxious people carrying, TV's, microwaves, fans, furniture, clothes, food and personal items, led us through the bowels of the next two buildings, (Wolfe and Travers Hall).
WOLFE AND TRAVERS ARE TCNJ's TWIN, TEN-STORY FRESHMAN HOUSING CENTERS.
Along the way from the garage to Wolfe, volunteer TCNJ student ambassadors held these sweaty, agitated incoming toters in lines at strategic points, to prevent grid-locking the lobby and making the elevators more accessible.  Of course we were still empty-handed while bypassing all these lines but it became clear to me what we were soon to be up against.

Once we arrived at the getting-started registration booth, the three-step procedure was a simple.  Kudos indeed to the friendly, helpful faces there.  Too bad, this abundance of positive energy wasn't positioned in the parking garage, thus making the rolling bin station, a fourth step. DUH!

Next, we got sent back against the grain of the unhappy, refugee-like swarms waiting for their line to advance forward to the next line until they got to wait in the lobby for an elevator. Then we walked across the sky walk, to the garage and up that elevator, to apply for a rolling bin.

Six families were ahead of us on the rolling bin line.  Even though we hadn't lifted anything yet, the next half hour, waiting in the shaded garage was uncomfortably hot.  One of the ambassadors commented, "It's 80 degrees...just imagine doing this when it's 95."  Then her cohort added, "Actually, the weather could've been a lot worse, last year's move-in day was during Hurricane Irene."
TCNJ MOVE-IN DAY, AUGUST 27, 2011.  HURRICANE IRENE DUMPED 3.91 INCHES OF RAIN ON ADJACENT TRENTON. THE STORM CAUSED FLOODING AND POWER OUTAGES AS WIND GUSTS HIT 55 MPH.
The rolling bin staff held Sue's drivers license as a deposit.  The three of us took the bin one flight up and unloaded the van.  We decided on making two trips with Andrew pushing the bin and mom and I lugging as much as we could by hand.  Just maneuvering the bin in and out of the elevator was an ordeal.  We then crossed the sky walk into Wolfe and started waiting in lines.

When we finally stuffed ourselves into one of the three Wolfe elevators, the ambassador operating it implied that Andrew (we) were lucky that he was on the second floor.  By the end of our stay, I understood that kid's wisdom.

Andrew's dorm was easy to find.  We acquainted ourselves with his roommate (and parents) as we dropped off our stuff.  We like waited like idiots at the elevator bank with the empty bin for about fifteen minutes.  Mysteriously, none of the three stopped.  Sue and Andrew thought I was crazy when I said, "It's only one flight, let's carry the bin down."

It was crazy, a rolling bin off its wheels is like a fish out of water.  The stairs were filled with folks hauling their belongings up by hand.  I ignored the dirty looks of these desperadoes who had no patience for waiting for bins or elevators. When there was a break in the traffic, Andrew and I were tortured as we lugged our cumbersome burden.  At the first floor landing, an ambassador told me I went down, the "up staircase."

We pushed our empty bin to the sky walk that linked Wolfe to the garage.  We were denied entry because even though there was nobody there and I could see the elevator fifty feet away, the sky walk was one way and that one way was, in! 

We retraced our steps to the Wolfe elevators.  Even with an empty bin, we were accused of cutting into the line.  Therefore none of those impatient people were going to let us in, to go one flight down.  So we went back into the "up only" staircase, carried that stupid bin to the ground floor, wheeled it outside, back to the garage elevator, took it back up to the third floor, got the rest of Andrew's stuff, returned to the garage elevator, got off at the second floor, crossed the sky walk legally, waited in all those lines again, got into the Wolfe elevator, went up to the second floor and unloaded.

Technically, only then, did our day start. I might have loaded the van at home, we all might have unloaded the van in the parking lot together but mom alone was in charge of organizing and decorating the room.  At first, the job seemed so monumental that I thought we'd never leave. 

During the process, two ambassadors poked their heads in offer help and answer questions.  When they were leaving the taller one said, "I'm jealous (of Andrew), I'm a junior and I'm halfway done.  I wish I was in your shoes.  I love TCNJ so much, I wish I could start all over again."

An hour later,while struggling with the temporary complications of getting Andrew's printer online, another ambassador encouraged me to bring the rolling bin back.  But we were accumulating a ton of empty boxes plus there were several items (see behind Andrew in the photo below) that we took home.

Mom did a great job.  While she was putting the final touches on her masterpiece, I decided to bring the unwanted items back to the van and return the rolling bin.  At the Wolfe elevators, it was uncanny, I waited another fifteen minutes without an elevator stopping. These elevators didn't have the little numbers to track the progress of the cars and as hard as I strained, I couldn't hear them in action. Rather than try to solve the mystery, I went back to Andrew's dorm and asked him to help me drag the bin down.  This time, an ambassador stopped us from entering the "up staircase."

When he left, we bounced and crashed that bin down those steps anyway.  Downstairs, I was covered in perspiration as we wheeled the bin down the still crowded hall, to the sky walk.  At the sky walk, an ambassador reminded us that it was one way.  I was tired and frustrated and didn't relish the idea of schlepping that baby all the way to the down staircase, bouncing down another flight, and walking back outside to the elevator that was already right in front of me.  To the dismay of my son, I apologized to the ambassador for disregarding his authority and forged ahead, the wrong way, across the sky walk.
THE DUST FINALLY SETTLED AT 4:PM WITH EVERYTHING IN ITS PROPER PLACE.

For Sue and I, it was difficult to say good-bye.  As for Andrew, it's safe to assume that he couldn't wait for us to leave.  His classes wouldn't be starting for five days, so he was entitled to be anxious about exploring his new surroundings, socializing and starting to gather the great prizes that are in his anticipated Cracker Jack collegiate experience.
CRACKER JACK, IS MOLASSES-FLAVORED, CANDY-COATED POPCORN AND PEANUTS.   INTRODUCED AT THE 1893 CHICAGO WORLD'S FAIR AND SUPPORTED BY THE GIMMICK OF A PRIZE IN EVERY BOX,  IT'S UNOFFICIALLY, AMERICA'S FIRST JUNK FOOD.

Interestingly, after we said our good-byes, Sue and I waited for the Wolfe elevator down as Andrew continued to the down staircase, at the far end of the corridor. If you believe that three times is the charm, you are wrong.  After standing there like a couple of rubes for two minutes, an ambassador saw Sue and I and said, "If you're going down, please use the down stairwell, at the end of the hall."

At the door to those steps, we saw Andrew meeting other kids.  I said, "We didn't feel like waiting for the elevator...again. Then some guy told us to use these stairs."  Andrew said, "Of course, the elevators don't go down."  I said, "The elevators don't go down?"  He said, "On move-in day, they only go up." I wanted to say; you knew that and didn't tell me.  But I appreciated how poised and polished he was while introducing himself to strangers.  So against my instinct, I took the high road and didn't put him on the spot.  Hopefully, that level of common sense will be one of the prizes TCNJ provides. 

A few minutes later at the van, I reflected how awful it was to bring that bin down one flight of steps  Then I thought; I would have thrown ours out the window if Andrew was on the tenth floor.

Sue and I were exhausted and mentally drained but we took the scenic route around campus before leaving.  It gave us a good vibe to see the wooded areas, two lakes, fancy upper classmen housing and the enthusiasm for ongoing sports activities.

For a while, the whole process of dropping my only child off at college seemed so natural.  Then about halfway home, I was hit with a general malaise.  To soothe the melancholia, Sue and I ate in an Italian restaurant that advertised; the best spaghetti in the world.  Like Andrew and I's inside joke about the folding gorilla, he would have found their sign funny.  I sighed as the first pangs of depression hit me. It was obvious, I missed my best buddy. And the feeling was solidified by the absurdity of the spaghetti statement because it marked the first time, we couldn't share a mutual chuckle.
FOR SUCH A HARROWING DAY, WE  GOT THROUGH IT TOGETHER.  EVEN BETTER,  I AM CONFIDENT THAT SUE AND I HELPED ANDREW FIND AN EXCELLENT FIT FOR HIS TALENTS ON THE PATH TO SUCCESS.

The next reality check was waking up the next morning and seeing a solemn Sue going through the cabinets and trashing Andrew's half-full cereal boxes and other kiddie treats.  To brighten her spirits I said, "I'm not losing a son, I'm gaining his car till June."  She said, "Not funny."  Then I said, "You're not losing a son, you're gaining closet space."  She ignored the joke and said, "I just texted him, we're going up on Friday." 

To all of Andrew's friends and their families embarking on their own college careers, good luck, have fun but mostly take advantage of the opportunity to create your own bright future. 

P. S. - In addition to the rolling bin or instead of it all together, if you have access to hand truck on move-in day...take advantage of that too!

Monday, August 20, 2012

DAN DORAN, THE DISCOUNT SHED MAN

Yesterday, I got hoodwinked!  I was confident that I had fulfilled my contractual obligation of going to the beach once in July and once in August...but a loophole was discovered.  The chain of events that followed led to a flimsy caveat in the small print and an unreasonably liberal translation of the sanity clause.  I responded with a weak and unprepared rebuttal, and was immediately blown away by a spousal filibuster.  Ergo, forty minutes later against my will, I found myself amid an inland breeze, swatting green head flies whilst yawning on Brigantine Beach.

Before the intense tedium of being at the shore set in, I went through my usual routine   First, Sue (the loophole bloodhound) teased me about my "farmers tan," as I smeared sunblock over my pale body. Second, I ate a Genoa salami, yellow American cheese with heavy Gulden's mustard sub and washed it down with an icy, diet cherry Pepsi.  Third, I stuck my left big toe in the ocean, declared the water, "too cold" and returned to the blanket, for a nap.

On this unnecessarily added beach day...there would be no nap!  NO NAP?  That's right, no nap. The pesky dagger in my side that prevented the omnipresent sandman from helping me fade into oblivion...came from the heavens.  No, God wasn't upset with what might have been deduced as laziness...after all,  he alone knew of the exaggerated technicality that landed me there.  This annoying sleep blocker came from the continual roar of fighter jets.

Lucky me, I got caught in an Atlantic City Air Show rehearsal, (a.k.a., Thunder Over the Boardwalk).
THIS ANNUAL AIR SHOW,  (EVERY AUGUST SINCE 2003), STARTED AS A TRIBUTE TO THE 100th ANNIVERSARY OF POWERED FLIGHT.  BEAUTIFULLY JUXTAPOSED AGAINST THE OCEAN, ATLANTIC CITY'S BOARDWALK AND CASINOS, THIS FREE EVENT IS EXPECTED TO DRAW BETWEEN 800 THOUSAND AND A MILLION PEOPLE.  THE SHOW FEATURES FLYBYS AND AEROBATIC DISPLAYS FROM THE AIR FORCE THUNDERBIRDS. THE NAVY BLUE ANGELS AND THE ARMY GOLDEN KNIGHTS.

I gave up trying for slumbering bliss as the sight of these fly boys brought out the stronger patriotic side of me.  For an hour, I watched with pride as different glistening single jets and organized clusters zoomed by, did loop-dee-loops and climbed so high into the cloudless sky that they seemed to vanish.  When the practice session was over, I rolled over, closed my eyes and recalled one of my father's favorite day trips, the Rhinebeck Air Show, in upstate New York.
THAT'S GRAMMA BESSIE AT THE AIR SHOW, (JULY 1972).  SINCE 1966, THE OLD RHINEBECK AERODROME HAS BEEN A WWI-ERA AIRCRAFT (AND AUTO) MUSEUM, IN RED HOOK NEW YORK, (IN THE ALBANY AREA). DAILY SHOWS ARE PERFORMED FROM JUNE TO OCTOBER.  THERE ARE ALSO BIPLANE RIDES AVAILABLE.

I never had the pleasure of Rhinebeck but my dad liked to fill the car with other relatives and friends and go. So in 2002, with that air show in the back of my mind, it wasn't an off the wall concept when one of the all-time knuckleheads I ever met, told me that a modern version of it was coming to Atlantic City, the next year.

It was between Christmas and New Year 2001 that a neighbor asked me for a lift, to pick up his car.  He was moving away and needed a hitch attached to his Buick, to pull a U-Haul trailer.  A few towns away, we pulled into an independent gas station that did the work for him. 

The automotive service garage was big enough to house four bays but only one was equipped for repairs.  The rest of the space was used for retailing; beach ware, souvenirs, flags, custom mailboxes, dollhouses, patio furniture and anything that related to moving, (i.e. corrugated boxes, blankets, rope, adhesives and gigantic rubber bands).

Above the office entrance was a shiny wooden plaque that read; F. DANIEL DORAN, PROPRIETOR.  Inside, through a thick veil of bluish cigarette smoke, a huge, lone man, badly in need of shave was picking up the phone.

I was wondering if this was a one man operation as this man boomed into the receiver, "Dan Doran...the discount shed man."  I noticed through his graying stubble that it looked like he just had his throat slashed.  Then I noticed the stitches on a wide, surgical scar that went under his right ear and across where his chin and neck met.

Doran winked at us and said to the caller, "Dat's right, I sent it back cause I told youz to drain it!"  He hung up in a huff, lit an unfiltered Pall Mall and smiled, "I got tons-a-shit on my mind and if yuh ain't caf-ful, a pound-o-cole slaw is half juice."  Then as if he had never seen my friend Doran said, "Whadayuz need?"

Dan Doran seemed a little older than me.  His hulking six-foot-four frame was neither fat nor muscular.  I guess if he was a woman you'd call him big-boned?  Doran's dark complexion and chiseled facial features suggested he was a Native American.  But his office was adorned with Irish artifacts and a flag that I later learned was from the Netherlands.  I scanned the room and found photos stapled to the wall, of mechanics working on jet engines and model airplanes dangling on strings from the ceiling.  On his cluttered desk, the one item that looked clean was a golden-framed, newborn baby picture.


LATER, I FOUND OUT THAT I GOT TWO OUT OF THREE RIGHT.  DAN WAS IRISH AND DUTCH  BUT NOT AMERICAN INDIAN.

Dan seemed hard of hearing too because he always talked so loud.  Plus he had the annoying habit of invading my neighbor's personal space and lightly tugging his jacket when emphasizing a point.  When they were all settled up, my friend excused me.  Before I could go, Doran (reeking of tobacco)  grabbed my elbow, blasted my face with bad breath (dominated by scotch) and said, "Yuh evuh need a high quality Amish-made out-building, Dan Doran the discount shed man, is here."  He pointed to two sample sheds that were along side the garage, handed me a business card and pounded my back.

By the end of January, the idea of buying a shed came up.  My wife and I investigated several agencies...I intentionally left Dan Doran for last.  My neighbor said Doran's personality was an inconsistent blend of okay, irritating and evil. So I was hoping another shed outlet would be so cheap that I wouldn't have to go back there...but the competition's prices were pretty much all the same. Then coincidentally, I was driving (alone) near Dan Doran's and decided to drop in on the Discount Shed King.

Dan was pumping generic gas as I pulled in.  When I approached, he was clutching the customer's left forearm as he proclaimed, "When Dan Doran the discount shed man says, Percy makes the best meatballs in South Jersey, yuh gotta know it's true."  The driver shrugged, "Thanks, I'll remember that."  When he turned away and put the car in drive, Dan increased his grip and added, ."And they got roasted peppers to die for."  As soon as Doran sensed I was behind him, the driver sped away.

I introduced myself by mentioning my friend's name and saying, "He said you can give me a great deal on a shed."  Dan stunk of booze and cigarettes as he pulled me closer.  He then put his nicotine stained index finger in my face and proclaimed between a series of quelled coughs, "Dere ain't no negotiatin' with Dan Doran."  He stopped to cough harder before continuing, "because I'm the discount shed man!"

I angled off towards the samples outside but he pulled me into his office.  The phone rang.  He picked a burning, unattended cigarette out of a filthy ashtray and answered loudly, "Dan Doran, the discount shed man."  After a pause he said, "Oh yeah, you!"  He took a long hit off the last nub of his Pall Mall and then angrily blasted,  "Listen and listen good.  Youz didn't put enough Parmesan cheese in.  Yuh don't make it duh same way fuh five years and den start gettin' cheap wit yuh best customer..."

While Dan blithered on, I looked at his jet engine pictures and soon realized that he was in them all.  There was a label on one that identified everyone.  When I read F. D. Doran, I thought; He hates his first name. There's nothing wrong with the name Frank or Fred?  Jeez, maybe his name is Felix or Forrest.  Then I speculated; if my name was Ferdinand or Floyd I might want to hide that too.  Then I remembered a hockey player named Fern Rivard and choked back a laugh. 
A CAREER MINOR LEAGUER, FERN RIVARD BECAME A MARGINAL NHL GOALIE.  FROM 1966 TO 1975, HE APPEARED IN ONLY 55 GAMES, (IN FOUR SEASONS) ALL FOR THE MINNESOTA NORTH STARS.  I REMEMBER THIS JOURNEYMAN AFTER ALL THESE YEARS BECAUSE ...BEFORE MY MATURITY LEVEL REACHED THE ZENITH THAT IT IS TODAY, I THOUGHT IT WAS HILARIOUS THAT A MAN HAD A GIRL'S NAME.

My daydream ended when Mr. F. Daniel Doran screamed into the receiver, "For crissake Henry, what's the big deal if I want my roast beef sandwich cut on an angle and toasted..." He was fuming so badly that white gauze was forming at both corners of his mouth.  Doran then interrupted his obscenity-laced telephone rant to yell at me, "Hey you," as he flung a catalog, Frisbee-style my way.  In it, I found Adirondack chairs, other wooden outdoor furniture, lacquered address plaques and sheds.
IN THE BOOK, THE LAST GLOSSY, CIRCULAR  ADDRESS PLAQUE HAD VISIBLE TREE RINGS AND THE NAME, BANE, 48 WOLF COURT ETCHED INTO IT.  THE NEXT PAGE STARTED THE SHED SECTION.

Doran was still raving as I noticed that his 8x12 sheds were $300.00 less than the cheapest comparable ones we had priced AND he didn't charge for delivery.  I was thinking Dan was only the way to go when suddenly, he slammed the phone down and asked me, "It's an insult to be called a Gypsy, right?"  I said, "I dunno." Doran crowed, "How dare that bastard, I'm full blooded Mick and half Dutch."  In disgust, he threw an emerald-colored disposable lighter across the room and knocked over his Notre Dame Fighting Irish leprechaun statue.  I could see he was pre-occupied so when he calmly said, "Wait a sec, I gotta call this asshole back up,"  I left.

I reported my findings to my wife.  A week later, in mid-March, we succumbed to the allure of Dan Doran the discount shed man's cut rate.  Together with my seven-year old son, Sue and I returned to sift through the catalog and buy a shed.

There were still ice patches from a previous snowstorm around the pumps as we pulled up.  I could see that Dan was in the middle of broadcasting his nonsense to a disinterested victim having his oil checked.  Doran stopped talking when a coughing spasm erupted.  Dan noticed me as he turned away to spit a bloody clump on the ground before continuing, "Yuh know buddy, dey thought I was a psycho on account I beat the daylights out of that prick who called me Francis.  So I wasn't thrown out of the Air Force, they called it an 'other than honorable discharge.'  Everything's duh same as an honorable except people readin' my file think I'm a headcase, so dat leaves me out of government jobs.  Oh yeah, and I ain't eligible for VA bennies." 

When Dan turned to acknowledge me, the driver took off.  So Doran grabbed my wrist and said, "That Bozo left without his change.  And I didn't finish tellin' him that I jus' found out, my third lawyer won't take my case.  Yuh see, I wanna sue the Air Force cause in Nam, I started loosin' my hearin' from repairin' dem jet engines." 

At the same time, Sue and Andrew came around from behind my minivan and Dan said, "What can I do for you nice folks?"  My son ran between the diesel pump and propane station to stomp a slushy patch.  Doran screamed so loud, "Can't you control your damned little animal!" that Andrew was scared, Sue was shocked and I was pissed-off.

We should have just left but didn't.  Dan kept staring my poor kid down.  And as bored as Andrew was, he never made a sound as the ordeal of picking out our black trimmed, white "Ipswich" shed, lagged on.

I was dictating our personal information when a tow truck pulled up and the operator bought a can of soda.  He came in the office, shook Dan's hand and said, "How's my favorite newlywed feeling?" Doran said, "The diabetes is okay, I guess..."  The man said, "You got diabetes too?"  He then pointed to the desk and said, "Where's Nadine's picture?"  When I noticed that the fancy-framed photo was missing, Dan took the man aside and whispered loud enough for us to hear a few choice words like; paternity test, not my kid, divorce and she's going to steal my house. The man was leaving as he said over his shoulder, "Dude, the Kennedy's have nothing on you."

I hadn't paid yet and Dan's hostility towards my son was sharper than ever. I said, "Sue, it's really smoky in here.  Why don't you take Andrew back to the van."  Dan lit a Pall Mall as he returned the catalog to his desk drawer.  In the drawer, I caught a quick glimpse of an off-brand fifth of scotch as he asked me about my yard. 

The phone rang and he said, "Dan Doran, the discount shed man."  Then he said, "Oh, hi doc."  Doran was dabbing at the scar, now hidden by his full beard and said, "Don't worry about me, only a real moron would ever have another cigarette."  After some more pleasantries he hung up.  Dan took a hard drag off his Pall Mall and said to me, "You need a minimum of ten feet for me to drive my flatbed through."  I said, "I have a double-wide gate that is exactly ten feet.  He said, "It'll be tight but I can do it."

Dan paced nervously while I wrote the deposit check.  Suddenly, he apologized for yelling at Andrew.  I really wasn't listening as he spewed gibberish about a filling station being no place for a kid.  "That's all I need," he thought out loud,  "is a little devil slippin' on the ice or gettin' hit by a car on my property."  Then he said to me,  "I wish you wouldn't have told the boy to go back to the car so fast.  I was gonna show him my planes.  Then from behind a green satin "ERIN GO BRAGH" banner draped over a map display, he showed me an advertising placard for an air show, coming to Atlantic City, the following year. I said, "That's nice," and left. For the rest of the day, it ate at me that I didn't storm out when he first went off on Andrew.

A week later, Dan dropped by my house to double-check the width of my fence opening.  He said, "To be sure, I'll need to unhinge one side of the gate because I'll need every inch I can get."

On delivery day, Sue and I came out front and confirmed that the white and black Ipswich was the right shed.  Dan looked like hell and reeked of booze and tobacco.  He was coughing and wheezing the whole time he detached the right gate.  Then I thought he was crazy as he whipped his truck into reverse, bounced onto my lawn and backed up at an unsafe speed along the side of my house.  It looked like he was going to crash into the fence but he slammed on the brakes and stopped. 

He got out and gauged the gap between the truck and the fence post.  He called out to me, "How does your side look?"  It would be hard to fit a credit card in the narrow slit so I said, "There's no room."  He came around to my side and scoffed, "It's about the same as the other side...a drop less but about the same."

Dan Doran the discount shed man got in the driver's seat.  It seemed natural that the truck lurched forward for a second...then suddenly, he accelerated in reverse, right through that incredibly narrow gap.  Even though he slightly scraped the fence post next to me, he was past it safely before I could react. Then I looked back into my yard and saw him swerve around the one tree that he apparently forgot was there.
THAT'S MY SHED, THE ONE TREE AND THE FENCE TODAY.  DAN BENT THE LEFT GATE BEHIND THE FENCE AND TEMPORARILY REMOVED THE RIGHT ONE.  WHEN HE SQUEEZED HIS FLATBED INTO MY YARD WITHOUT LUBRICANT OR FORCEPS, IT WAS THE GREATEST FEAT OF DRIVING I EVER SAW...ESPECIALLY BECAUSE HE WAS UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF CHEAP HOOCH.  HE THEN PARLAYED THIS ACCOMPLISHMENT BY ACTIVATING THE HYDRAULIC FLATBED AND DROPPING THE SHED PERFECTLY CENTERED AND FLUSH WITH MY BACK FENCE.

In the end, despite the unfortunate fellow's numerous flaws, we were glad we stuck with Dan Doran the discount shed man.
ELEVEN YEARS LATER, OUR DISCOUNT SHED STILL LOOKS NEW.  PLUS, IT HAS NEVER LEAKED OR BEEN INFECTED BY VERMIN. AND LIKE THE ATLANTIC CITY AIR SHOW, THE SHED  REMAINS A MONUMENT TO A STRANGE MAN WHO FACED THE RIGORS OF ADVERSITY HEAD ON.
Down through the years, I never visited Dan.  But on the rare occasion that I passed his place, I always looked for him and usually saw him.  About two years ago, I noticed the sample sheds, the trailers and souvenirs were all gone.  Then recently, the entire garage was converted into a convenience store...with no sign of Francis "Don't Call Me Francis," Dan Doran...the discount shed man.

Monday, August 13, 2012

TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT...HEAVY ON THE NOT.

Ernest Hemingway liked to use the the Spanish word cojones. Its meant to describe audacity or nerve but we all know, he really means balls!  So with guarded confidence and a pair of guarded cojones, I announce to the world that the three and a half star, (sometimes four star) movie from 1944, "TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT," was disappointing to me.

I'm sure Hemingway won't be rising up from the dead bend on avenging this slander because in my case, he couldn't possibly be offended. You see, his novel was so badly butchered by the screenwriters (including the highly esteemed William Faulkner) that the film barely resembles the book.
NINETEEN YEAR-OLD LAUREN BACALL, IN HER HOLLYWOOD DEBUT, STARRED OPPOSITE HUMPHREY BOGART (45).  THEY SIZZLED SO WELL ON CAMERA THAT AN OFF-SCREEN ROMANCE ENSUED, FOLLOWED BY A SOLID 12-YEAR MARRIAGE THAT LASTED TILL HE DIED.

I've seen this cinematic stalwart a gazillion times and always loved it.  This last time, I listened to TURNER CLASSIC MOVIE (TCM) host Robert Osborne, chat up this film up.  He called it was one of the greatest movies ever and supported his assertion by mentioning that the AMERICAN FILM INSTITUTE (AFI), included it in their 1998, 400 Best Movies list.

Osborne's description made me look beyond my appreciation of the Bogart persona and the shoot 'em up excitement of the adventure.  When the movie was over, my critical eye left me disappointed.  The tough guys weren't tough, the humor (the Walter Brennan character) was forced and key factors in the plot were unclear.  Most importantly, the so-called torrid sexual tension between Bogart and Bacall wasn't exactly cutting edge.

It would be easy to say the movie is dated.  But this WWII, romantic drama, set after the fall of free France, in Martinique, (under the Vichy regime), featured laughable local police. Dan Seymour as the captain was fat, dull and not the least bit intimidating.  Plus, his lieutenant, played by the usually reliable Sheldon Leonard, seemed giddy throughout his performance.  To make their threat even less believable, both officers were closely scrutinized by a nearly invisible Gestapo overseer.

Walter Brennan added some comic relief as Bogart's drunken right-hand man.  But there was too much of it and it detracted from the serious nature, of what was basically 1944 current events.

Where I have the biggest problem is the story itself.  In addition to some prolonged tedium, the issue of smuggling political people must have been common knowledge back then. So, I know little about it and the rationale behind it, wasn't made clear to me.  The cloak and dagger stuff worsened when the VIP (a black-ops agent) being sneaked into Martinique is weighed-down by the added baggage of his trophy wife?  And this high-maintenance bitch comes complete with a king-sized attitude. 

I guess the screenwriters needed to insult the intelligence of the allied partisan audience, by spelling out the gravity of the war effort with Bogart's character straightening-out this hero's wife, (afterwards to prove her understanding, to support the Resistance, she hands over her family heirloom jewels...that she just happens to be toting into battle).

This brings us to the issue of provocative Lauren Bacall.  She was a hot number, no doubt about it.  But due to the mores of the time, theatrical censorship and the difference in their ages, Bacall and Bogart aren't as white hot today as they were, nearly seventy years ago.  More over, the only reason why her character was at all necessary was, at the height of WWII, the formula for making a war movie a commercial success required a romantic angle.  Otherwise, women viewers wouldn't be attracted to the theaters...and thus, neither would their men.
THE BOGART-BACALL CHEMISTRY WAS EPITOMIZED WHEN SHE SAID, "YOU KNOW HOW TO WHISTLE...JUST PUT YOUR LIPS TOGETHER AND...BLOW."  THAT PIECE OF DIALOG WAS INCLUDED AS #34 ON, AFI's TOP 100 MOVIE LINES LIST.

Unless you are a die-hard Bogie fan, I could never recommend this movie.  I was so annoyed by my latest conclusions that I decided to read the novel...because the book, is ALWAYS better than the movie.

It seems inconceivable but this book was worse that the movie! Yes, I realize that just because I write, it doesn't mean I am qualified to take cheap shots at one of the world's most renown authors...but here I go. Gulp, I already imagine Hemingway coming up out of his grave and taking phantom swings with a machete, aimed at my skull.

The book's theme starts off the same as the movie except it's set in 1937 Cuba so there are no Nazis.  The Bogart character is the same honest, hard working Harry Morgan.  The contrast begins, due to circumstances beyond his control when he is forced into illegalities, to support a wife and three daughters.

The first half of the novel is a real page turner.  Then the Morgan character loses all sympathy from the readers when he unnecessarily murders his client after getting paid. Later we learn that a wound in the ensuing skirmish results in him losing an arm.  Later, his heroic nature returns when Cuban revolutionaries rob a bank in Key West and boat-jack his charter. In that sequence, far out at sea, he kills all four perpetrators but is shot in the belly.

A chapter is reserved for his mindset as he drifts in the waters waiting to be rescued before he bleeds out.  Hemingway is specific in reminding the readers how rare it would be for someone to survive  that situation.

Incomprehensibly, Harry Morgan isn't mentioned again for several chapters.  The second half of the book is dedicated to describing rich people in Key West trying to keep their silver-spoon lifestyle afloat during the depression, (they are the ones who have and have not)..

Here, against my better judgement, I'm saying it...THIS BOOK SUCKED! The only reason I kept reading was the expectation that Morgan's recovery would mesh with those rich, insecure, suicidal softies...but didn't. 

In the last ten pages, he is rescued and rushed to the hospital.  While the police investigation suggests that he was one of the robbers, he dies on the operating table.  His widow is inconsolable, she becomes another example of having and having not.

I told my son Andrew, the second half of, "TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT" was awful and I thought it was futile to continue reading because I could predict the dead end.   He laughed because he's reading (and hating) a pre-assignment for incoming COLLEGE OF NEW JERSEY, freshmen.  His book is, "REVOLUTION 2.0," by Wael Ghonim.  It has to do with the 2010 overthrow of the Egyptian government which was organized on FACEBOOK.

Andrew's assessment of his book was almost the same as mine.  He understood the point within the first third of the book and thought it was ridiculous to read the rest.

My boy then went as far as mentioning how much he disliked his book, on his newly launched cyber-venture called, "THE ABSvlog."  This ABSvlog, available on youtube, is a cooperative effort between Andrew and his friends Billy and Sean.  In it, they want to individually share a four-minute snippet of their college experience with insights from Andrew each Monday, Billy on Wednesday and Sean on Fridays.

To find Andrew's first posting to the ABSvlog click on the link below. Otherwise, you can become a subscriber or go their main "THE ABSvlog," youtube page and use the archives to find a particular entry.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZnIPmKuNyw&feature=plcp

I hope you like THE ABSvlog and regularly view Andrew's contributions as well as his friend's.

Deep in my heart, it bothers me that I didn't like, "TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT."  I had read and enjoyed two of Hemingway's other works, "THE SNOWS OF KILIMANJARO" and "THE OLD MAN AND SEA," so I was left with the fear that I wasn't smart enough to "get" this one. To ease my pain, I researched the novel and the movie. I was pleased to find out that the book received mixed reviews.  I felt even better when the movie's director Howard Hawks (a big Hemingway fan) considered it, Hemingway's worst book.  Then he specifically said, "It was a bunch of junk."

Hawks' statement validated my opinion.  In the future, his agreement with me, will make me more confident in my cojones, to be more open with my criticism. So take my advice, the next time you need a fix of Bogie and Bacall, try their 1948 movie, "KEY LARGO."  If not, take it from me, your time would be well spent if you check out Andrew every Monday, Billy every Wednesday and Sean every Friday...and become a regular to THE ABSvlog.

Happy viewing.

Monday, August 6, 2012

THE LESS YOU BET...THE MORE YOU LOSE...WHEN YOU WIN

This blog is based on excerpts from my short story, "LOOKING DOWN AT LAS VEGAS."  It's a mosaic I patched together from observations, the principal character's drunken admissions and other bits I heard.

This past week, I was waiting for the dental hygienist to come in when I noticed the poster of smiling young adults with pristine teeth.  Their teeth were so perfect that it seemed unnatural. It didn't take long before I realized that even after my cleaning, I could never have that gleam unless I went to Benjamin Moore and bought some White Antiseptic Hospital paint.

My mind wandered as I got comfy in the chair, to my childhood dentist.  By the time I was ten, the dental experience was always painful.  Then in junior high school, I earned the privilege of keeping my own appointments.  The three city-block walk home from school was bad enough but Dr. William Riis had his office on the other side of Canarsie.  So to add insult to agony, I had to walk six short streets and six city-blocks, in the opposite direction.

For a while, Riis made a fortune off me.  During my adolescence, I had so many cavities that by ninth grade, I ran out of healthy tooth space.  To make matters worse, I stupidly refused anesthetic.  I guess it was because Riis was a fellow New York Jets fan and I wanted to come off like a tough guy.  So it became a tradition for him to give me a few tissues for me to squeeze as his drill tortured me.

Today's dental awareness is eons ahead of the 1960's. But I can't make excuses.  I knew what had to be done and due to laziness, it infrequently got done.  However, in my defense, Riis and probably many dentists provided a bowl full of sugary lollipops for their victims patients.  This substantiates the fact that due to poor education all around, kids like me were victims of circumstance.

You my recall that back then, sugar was advertised as an energizer.  Just on the level of breakfast, the idea of kids eating candied cereal like Trix, Frosted Flakes and Fruit Loops was not only approved but it was considered something that would better prepare students, to be alert in school.  Hell, I had friends that added sugar to their Lucky Charms, Apple Jacks, Cocoa Puffs etc.
I ERODED MY TEETH WITH SUCH BYGONE, HEAVILY-SWEETENED CEREALS AS; "RICE KRINKLES," "CRISPY CRITTERS" AND "PUFFA-PUFFA RICE."  WE WERE ALL SO BACKWARD 40 YEARS AGO THAT THE ENRICHED GOODNESS OF "SUGAR POPS" WAS ANNOUNCED BY INCLUDING SUGAR IN ITS TITLE.  RECENTLY I NOTICED THAT  "QUISP" HAS MADE A COMEBACK.  IT AND IT'S MIRROR PRODUCT "QUAKE" BEGAN ROTTING TEETH IN 1965.  QUAKE DISAPPEARED IN 1969.  THEN IN 1976 QUAKER TRIED TO RESURRECT A NEW SISTER PRODUCT, "QUANGAROOS," (AN ORANGE-FLAVORED SUGAR FEST SHAPED LIKED KANGAROOS), BUT IT DIDN'T LAST.

My hygienist and I had some small-talk before she started.  Then my mind wandered to a friend in Las Vegas, Jeff Holland.  I remembered meeting him in 1981 at the Valley School of Gaming.  Another friend Dick Paynlewski had gotten a job there as a craps instructor.  Dick encouraged me to come down when I was out of work, to maybe get a job there.

At the school Dick was reading the DAILY RACING FORM as his students were left on their own to correct one another.  It was like the blind leading the blind until someone had the audacity to disturb Dick's "research" with a question.

Dick saw me, sprang to attention and yelled nonsense at his students.  He said the owners weren't there but he got me an application.  When I finished filling out the paperwork, he introduced me to Jeff Holland.  Jeff was ready to graduate so Dick asked me to take Jeff aside and give him a workout.

Jeff, (a year older than me), was a high-rise window washer looking for a career change.  He was  trim, good-looking and resembled a young George Peppard, (except Jeff's hair was much lighter and prematurely gray at the temples).
GEORGE PEPPARD BYRNE JR., a.k.a. GEORGE PEPPARD (1928-1994) WAS A MOVIE AND TV ACTOR.  HE SPECIALIZED IN HEROIC ROLES.  I BEST REMEMBER HIM IN FILMS LIKE 1959's , "PORK CHOP HILL," 1961's "BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S," 1964's "THE CARPETBAGGERS AND 1966's "THE BLUE MAX."  HIS VAST LIST OF TV CREDITS INCLUDED 1956's, "BANG THE DRUM SLOWLY" AND "THE A-TEAM." 

I gave Jeff some pointers during my drills but we were strictly business.  Jeff was nervous but remained polite as if I was a prospective employer. He also was over tired and apologized for yawning so much. When he did, I couldn't help but notice he had no fillings in his teeth.  Then when he smiled, I noticed his teeth were immaculate.  So when our practice session was done, it was oral hygiene that broke down the walls of formality.

We became friends.  When I got hired at the Vegas Club, I tried to get Jeff in too but they didn't need anyone else.  Dick Paynlewski was still at the Holiday International but he said the casino had a strict policy of not allowing students to work with their instructors.  Also, the school didn't offer a placement service so I took Jeff to a few of my old casinos, to try landing him a craps dealing job.  We had no luck.  In the lowest depths of the casino minor leagues, I couldn't even get him an audition.

I didn't know anyone at the Jolly Trolley Casino but it was a break-in joint so we tried anyway.  They weren't hiring.  I got bold and asked the pit boss, "My friend is a good dealer but he has the jitters.  Could you give him an audition just to give him a taste of live action?"  The man looked at me like I was crazy, "Please, don't waste my time."

To drown our sorrows, we had the famous Jolly Trolley 49c hamburger.  I knew where to sit so we were aligned with the curtain and the stage. So every time someone went in or out of the showroom, we got a few seconds of cheap thrills from the nudie show. 

While there, I got the inspiration to take Jeff to the Holiday International.  I realized that casino applications don't ask who your instructor was, so as long as Jeff didn't mention Paynlewski, he wouldn't be breaking any house rules.

At the Holiday, I received a hero's welcome.  My old pit boss Paul "Shag" Darrow didn't hesitate to give Jeff an audition.  Jeff went as the stickman first.  He got off to a bad start by calling the wrong number.  I saw him struggling so to reduce his peformance anxiety, I went to the pit stand to chat with Shag.  Shag got me up to speed on the guys I used to work with.  He then said, "That idiot Dick Paynlewski is still here.  He's always broke, so he got a part-time gig as a craps instructor...his students suck so bad, I told him not to bring any more here."

Jeff was dripping in perspiration when he rejoined us.  Shag left us to confer with his under bosses.  "I did shit.  What an embarrassment I am," Jeff whined, "I'm not ready.  I gotta go back to school and practice more."  I didn't say anything because Shag was coming back...and he wasn't smiling.  Jeff was staring at the ground when Shag said, "You were a little nervous, eh?  And you have some rough spots that need to be ironed out..."  Jeff was shaking his head as Shag continued, "But we're willing to take a chance on you."

A couple of weeks later, Jeff's window washing friend Rocky met us at the Ambassador Inn.  Jeff cashed his first casino pay check ($96.00) and to celebrate, we all played a little blackjack.  Rocky kept asking about Jeff's girlfriend Loretta.  After Jeff said, "She's a cool lady in the living room and a hot bitch in the bedroom," he became annoyed and clammed up.  Rocky suddenly left.

Jeff was getting his money's worth from his three-dollar bets as he swilled one double Dewar's after another.  He was winning but I stopped because I was running out of money.  I occupied myself on the nickel slot machines but after I while, I wanted to leave. 

I wanted to tell Jeff but he was on a roll.  I didn't want to jinx him, so when I saw he had big stacks of chips in front of him, I decided to leave him alone.  I couldn't even go because we had taken Jeff's pick-up truck, so I retreated back to the nickel slot machines.

An hour later, Jeff yelled my name across the small casino and said, "This is the first time since I got back that I am winning!"  Jeff was wasted.  He slurred his words and had trouble putting his money into the betting circles. I did a quick scan of his messy chips and estimated that he had over a thousand dollars.  I said, "This is the perfect time to leave.  Color up and let's go."  He burped, "Okay but I wanna make one more bet.  What's the house max?"  The floor supervisor said, "One hundred."  Jeff pushed an arbitrary amount forward and said, "A hundred goes."  The dealer neatened the pile and handed back the excess.  A horde of bigger bosses gathered to stand over the game and stare at every move Jeff made.

I said, "Jeff, a hundred, you're crazy."  He said, "My girlfriend Loretta told me, 'the less you bet, the more you lose, when you win.'"  It took me a few seconds to figure out the Yogi Berra-like wisdom of his statement as the cards were dealt.  Jeff won the big bet. The drunkard gave the dealer a $54.00 tip after she "colored him up" and handed back $1,279.00.

Jeff almost fell when he got out of the chair. The pit boss wanted a shot at recovering some of what Jeff had won. To keep us there, we were offered a meal ticket to their dinky coffee shop.  The boss saw we weren't interested in two, free, $3.99 steak dinner specials so he upped the ante by saying, "I could give you a room for the night, even the honeymoon suite..."  As sloshed as he was, Jeff still laughed as he said, "No thank you sir."

A security guard came over and propped Jeff to a pillar while I cashed out his chips.  The guard also helped me take Jeff to his truck.  Despite being intoxicated Jeff had to give me instructions on how to drive a manual transmission.  We were bucking and bouncing east, on Flamingo Road when Jeff said how pissed-off he was that he failed to become a fireman.  Next he told me about his near-death experience as a high-rise window washer in New Hampshire, plus the inability to sleep it caused and the nightmares.  Part of his psychological recovery included a trip to Las Vegas.  As an aside, he mentioned, "That's when I met my girlfriend." 

I was still bouncing at fifteen miles per hour when he went into vivid details describing Loretta's insatiable libido.  I had just turned onto Tropicana Avenue when he screamed, "Stop the truck."  In front of the Liberace Museum, by the bright glow of the white neon sign, he stuck his head out the window and vomited.  He finished his thought with, "My girl, little Loretta Logan, can suck the porcelain off a toilet bowl..."  Then he passed out.

When I worked at the Stardust there was another craps dealer, an admitted wife-beater, named "Hostile" Artie Logan. The possibility that Jeff was seeing this asshole's ex crossed my mind but Jeff was twenty-eight and Artie had be twenty-five years older.  So I had to figure that a studly young buck wouldn't be seeing a fifty-year old...besides, Logan is a common name.

I was shocked to later find out that Loretta was indeed "Hostile" Artie Logan's thirty-seven year old ex-wife.

I knew Artie well from the Stardust.  He was a street-wise New Yorker but his harsh Brooklyn accent and talent for misusing bigger words made him come off as dopey. I had few direct dealings with him so at first I thought he was decent.  However, to most others, he was nothing more than was an arrogant, bullying hooligan.  He looked tough, talked tough and was tough.

Logan had been a decorated fireman.  His career ended when he had to be dragged out of a burning building.  Artie had cheated death and was receiving a sizable pension so dealing craps at the Stardust was a walk in the park for a man who wasn't afraid of anybody or anything.

In his private time, Artie hoped to open a bar on Catalina Island with some of the Los Angeles King hockey players he knew.  He also liked body building and golf but his true passion was being a motorcyclist.  He liked to tell people that he was going to join "Hell's Angels," when he retired...and when he died, he wanted to be buried with his Harley.
THE HELLS ANGELS IS AN OUTLAW MOTORCYCLE CLUB THAT WAS FOUNDED IN 1948.  THEIR MOTTO: WHEN WE DO RIGHT, NOBODY REMEMBERS.  WHEN WE DO WRONG, NOBODY FORGETS,  EPITOMIZES ARTIE LOGAN.

At work, the permanent damage to Logan's lungs left him with a monstrous, gravel voice. He used it together with cutting sarcasm to intimidate craps players into tipping, scaring fellow dealers into soliciting tips and preventing the lower bosses from ratting him out.  Artie was a brawler, if anyone got in his way, he verbally or physically knocked them down.  Nobody I knew ever saw Artie lose a fight. Even if someone was stupid enough to go through the proper channels and turn him in, Artie was protected by upper management because he was long time golfing buddies with them.

Artie's home life started to evaporate when he increasingly failed to achieve erections.  His wife Loretta became frustrated and began cheating on him.  Artie wasn't smart enough to handle infidelity any other way, so he beat her.  Artie even bribed a window washer named Rocky to spy on Loretta at work.  Rocky continued his covert activities even after the Logans divorced.  So when Jeff and Loretta took to each other, Rocky befriended Jeff and reported her carnal improprieties to Artie.  Rocky hoped Jeff was just bragging because the caliber of Loretta's sexual desires were so extreme that Rocky downplayed the lurid details because he was afraid Artie might kill somebody.

Unfortunately for Loretta, she was Artie's prime target.  But she had been unfaithful so many times when they were married that towards the end, she wasn't always sure which transgression she was getting beaten for.

I thought our night at the Ambassador Inn was over when I dumped Jeff on his sofa and went home.  But when I saw him in the hospital a few days later he told me, "I was playing possum."  Apparently, after I left his apartment, he rose up from the dead, staggered to his truck and fate led him to the Silver City Casino.  Silver City was directly across the street from the Stardust and was the number one after hours hang-out, for their casino workers.

Jeff went to the blackjack tables.  He continued drinking scotch as he lost all the money he won at the Ambassador Inn.  He also lost the money from his first paycheck as well as whatever else he had on him.  When he was penniless, they cut him off.  Jeff went berserk.  He cursed the dealers, management and security officers.  Security was waiting for an okay to evict Jeff when the shift change across the street brought in the first few Stardust employees.

Just outside the store front casino's entrance, the intense vroom, vroom of Artie's Harley signaled his arrival.  When Artie advanced to the bar, he stood next to Jeff.  When Jeff slammed his palm down on the bar and cried, "I just lost two-grand in this shit hole and you won't give me a damned fifty-cent beer!"  Artie caught eye-contact with Jeff and smiled, "Don't take no bull from dese scumbags.  Give 'em hell Harry."  Jeff lashed out at Gene the bartender, "I'm not Harry!  Do you who I am?  I'm Jeff Holland..."  A rush of anger bolted through Hostile Artie as Gene called out, "Security!"  Artie handed-off a twenty dollar bill to the bartender and growled, "Gino, he's just a little inebre-ized, I'll take care of dis kid."

Artie took Jeff aside.  Rocky had told him that Loretta was screwing a new guy at work with the same name. But he wanted to quiz Jeff before making a big mistake.  "I know you.  Ain't yuh da winda washa?"  Jeff hiccuped, "No! I'm a craps dealer."  The tension ran out of Artie's face until Jeff added, "I'm a craps dealer but I used to be a window washer."  Artie's eyes turned a demonic red as he said, "I see.  Yuh know dese pricks ain't givin' yuh no more booze but I got an ice chest fulla beer right outside."  On the way through the door Jeff said, "Once I started losing, I remembered what my girlfriend always says, 'The less you bet, the more you lose, when you win.'  I did what she said and I was down to nothing in no time."  Artie fumed, "What a co-winky-dink, dat's exactly what I used to tell my whore of an ex-wife."  Jeff's eyes completely opened.

Hostile Artie jammed his hand under Jeff's armpit and hurried him along.  Behind the building, Artie cold-cocked Jeff.  Jeff went down like a rag doll. Logan then kicked his steel-toed motorcycle boot twice into Jeff's ribs.  Artie heard his name being called as he readied another kick.  The other three men from Artie's craps crew grabbed him and led him away.  Artie pulled free for a second and wailed, "That candy-ass piece of shit has been spodomizing my wife..."

When Jeff recovered, he returned east and never came back to Las Vegas.  Whenever anyone asks him about it he says, "Vegas is not a nice place to visit and you definitely don't want to live there."

Like many people who relocate to Las Vegas expecting their lives to be a continuous vacation, Jeff was chewed up by the town and spit back out. In 2010, FACEBOOK reunited us.  Jeff told me that Loretta filled in the gaps of the  gory details ...even the coincidence of them being in the same hospital, at the same time.  It's too bad neither of them prosecuted Artie.  But to his credit, today, Jeff Holland is a little more than a year away from retiring as a lieutenant in the Hanover New Hampshire fire department...and, he still has all his perfect teeth.