Monday, November 25, 2013

PHIL KENNEDY GOT SHOT?

It doesn't seem possible but today, November 22, 2013, is the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Where does the time go? Even harder to believe is that the truth behind the biggest tragedy of my lifetime…remains an unsolvable and polarizing mystery.
OUR THIRTY-FIFTH PRESIDENT, JOHN F. KENNEDY (1917-1963) WAS BELOVED BY THE AMERICAN PEOPLE AND GLOBALLY RESPECTED.  A HALF CENTURY LATER, THE MEMORY OF HIS UNTIMELY DEATH STILL ILLICITS HIGH EMOTIONS, SADNESS AND GUILT. 

We all should know that the evidence of his murder points to BOTH a lone gunman and a multiple-shooter theory. Therefore NOBODY can be 100% certain whether Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone or if a complicated conspiracy resulted in this heinous crime. All I’m clear on is...I’m easily swayed and confused by the excellent case made by both sides.

I never bought-in to the Warren Commission's lone gunman conclusion, (years later, the US HOUSE SELECT COMMITTEE ON ASSASSINATIONS...further muddied the waters by asserting that the Warren Commission report was flawed...and that a conspiracy was probable).  Additionally, "experts" wavering in the breeze and/or twisting the evidence while ignoring other vital information to support their position makes me want to barf. However, I'm still heavily influenced by recent findings by the scientific community.
LEE HARVEY OSWALD (1939-1963) WAS A WALKING CONTRADICTION.  HE SERVED AS A U.S. MARINE BUT DEFECTED TO RUSSIA.  A SMALL, UNIMPORTANT MAN, HE SEARCHED FOR AN IDENTITY THROUGH MANY POLITICAL CAUSES AND SEEMS JUST AS LIKELY TO HAVE WANTED TO MAKE A NAME FOR HIMSELF AS HE WAS THE PERFECT "FALL-GUY."

I watch enough cop shows to have faith in forensics.  So the science behind Oswald being the lone sniper is quite believable. But my heart can’t get me past the psychology of such a zero, single-handedly "taking-out" our adored leader. So, depending on which side I hear from last, I waffle between the contemporary fact-based, lone gun theory and the incredible, multi-tiered conspiracy that I had faith in for decades...which included Oswald as the fall-guy…or in his own words, a “patsy.”
(PARDON THE FADED IMAGE). IN 1976, I TOOK THIS PICTURE OF THE KILL-ZONE FROM BEHIND THE STOCKADE FENCE ON THE GRASSY KNOLL.  WHEN YOU STAND BACK THERE, YOU CAN'T IMAGINE A SERIOUS ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT COMING FROM ANYWHERE ELSE.  BUT THE MORE I LEARN, IT SEEMS INDEPENDANT RESEARCHERS HAVE SCIENTIFICALLY RULED OUT THIS, "SHOT TO THE FRONT OF THE HEAD" SCENARIO.

This takes us to a deeper, hopefully more solvable puzzle…why does the mere mention of the John Kennedy assassination make me think of two of the least significant people in my life. So far my only explanation has been an off-shoot that I have devised from my buddy Joe Pythagoras’ theorem. I call my bastardization…GK²+PK²=JFK².
JOE PYTHAGORAS (570 BC-495 BC) WAS A GREEK MATHEMATICIAN AND PHILOSPHER.  THE BUST OF HIM (above) CAN BE FOUND IN THE CAPITOLINE MUSEUM IN ROME ITALY. 

Remember learning A²+B²=C² in middle school? I do. At first, I was so buried I said, “Say what?” The teacher told us that Pythagoras gave us this theorem nearly two thousand years ago. While the history lesson on math continued, I wondered, “Why does it work?” I was so dumbstruck that I might have been the first person to ever say, “WTF!”

I raised my hand and said, "It looks so simple but why does it work?" The weaselly teacher probably wasn't bright enough to explain so he looked at me with scorn and said, “It just does.” The other kids were convinced that he made sense. So in atypical fashion, I fell in line with popular opinion.
PICTURE ONE YELLOW DOT IN THIS PHOTO.  MY MOTHER ALWAYS TOLD ME THAT IF 99 PEOPLE SAY ONE THING, IT'S OKAY TO BE THE ONLY ONE WHO DISAGREES.  BUT IF YOU'RE GOING TO BE STUBBORN AND MAKE A BIG DEAL OVER IT, BE PREPARED TO DEFEND YOUR OPINION.  AND IF YOU'RE PROVEN WRONG, YOU MUST BE A MAN BY STANDING UP AND ADMITING YOUR MISTAKE.

I still don’t know why it’s correct, so don’t ask me for an explanation. All I know is, when I had a chance meeting (at the Piercing Pagoda in the mall), with Pythagoras, (he prefers to be called Joe), I said, “Joe, say your theorem ain’t so.” But Pythagoras sighed, “It’s so.”  When I got distracted by someone else, he scurried away before I could ask why it works.

So as long as I’m taking a leap of faith with it, I ask my readership to take a similar risk when I assert, GK²+PK²=JFK².

Now it's your turn to say: WTF!  But GK and PK are real people. In GK's case, we hung-out in seventh and eighth grade, (1967-1968). 
IF YOU PICTURE ME WITH HAIR, MY BOYISH FACE HASN'T CHANGED SO I'M EASY TO SPOT.  IF NOT, ONE OF MY ADMIRERS TURNED AWAY FROM THE CAMERA TO CHECK ME OUT.  THEN NOT FAR FROM ME, YOU CAN SEE GK.

A budding friendship developed but soon GK and I went our own ways. I have no idea whatever happened to him. So for the sake of this blog, I investigated my high school yearbook and concluded that he didn't attend Canarsie High School or he moved away. Out of curiosity, I also tried FACEBOOK and there’s a good chance he’s living in Garden City, on Long Island (New York). However, my curiosity isn't strong enough to contact him because other than the story I about to tell you, there really wasn't another defining moment that we shared.

Our golden moment happened during a weekly (Wednesday) assembly, at John Wilson Junior High School (JHS 211).

An assembly was a formal meeting that required all the kids had to wear a white dress shirt.

On this particular day, I was sitting next to GK. He stood-out in the student body’s endless sea of white shirts like a sore thumb because he was wearing a nearly black, midnight-blue shirt. After singing the National Anthem and being subjected to the usual hum-drum announcements, we were scolded on our apathy towards the continuous fund-raiser...selling Polly-Doodles.  Polly-Doodles were a shitty sub-par chocolate covered marshmellow candy with nuts, shards of glass and pieces of frog inside.
EVERY CANDYMAKER AND THEIR MOTHER MAKES CHOCOLATE COVERED PEANUTS.  WHY THE JHS 211 HIERARCHY CHOSE A BRAND THAT INCLUDED SAWDUST AND MAGGOT WINGS IN ITS INGREDIENTS...SCREAMS OUT FOR A CONSPIRACY THEORY.  WHO KNOWS WHO REALLY PROFITED FROM A SALES CAMPAIGN THAT ODDLY NEVER ENDED? ALL I KNOW IS THE COMPANY IS NOW DEFUNCT AND NO ONE IS WILLING TO ADMIT THAT THEY EVER HEARD OF POLLY-DOODLES...ACTUALLY WHILE TYPING THIS, I'M UNCERTAIN WHETHER I SHOULD FEAR FOR MY LIFE FOR NOT? 

If that wasn't bad enough...then we were bored to tears by the propaganda tactics of the school’s principal. On this day when the Grand High, Exalted Mystic Ruler got to the podium, he peered out into his legion of yawners. Two words into his sermon, he scanned the far left hand corner of the auditorum, where GK and I were. In the split second that his eyes moved away from us, he did a double-take. With a disgruntled huff, our fearless leader silently left the stage. With great purpose in his stride, he made a bee-line (as fast as the old-timer could) towards us.

Everybody turned and followed his anger-driven path, (you know me, I had such a guilty conscious because there were a thousand reasons why he could have been coming at me).

I was shivering in my Hush-Puppies as the principal aimed his vengeful gaze on me.  When our boss-of-bosses arrived, an electric impulse of fear slashed through my nervous system as he pointed an accusatory finger past me, at GK.  In a ruffled tone he exclaimed, “Don’t you know you’re supposed to wear a white shirt on assembly day?” GK was not a major wise-ass but on this occasion he cracked, “This IS a white shirt…” Our head master blew a gasket when he roared, “WHAT?” GK calmly said, “It’s a ‘dark’ white shirt…” A throbbing purple vein in the principal's ample brow looked like it was about to burst.  Then he screamed, “GET OUT,” in a voice reserved for one of school’s many juvenile delinquents and the Charles Manson Fan Club (they were actually older teenagers and other losers in their early twenties called, "HITTERS." They had been excommunicated from the New York City School System long ago...so the principal's ire was used to shoo them off the property).
(FALL 1960) ADJACENT TO MY JUNIOR HIGH, WAS A PRISTINE PLAYGROUND AND BALL FIELDS.  BY THE TIME I ENTERED THE SCHOOL, (1967), "HITTERS", (THUG-LIKE, DRUGGIES) HAD VANDALIZED EVERY INCH OF THIS PARK AND BURNED DOWN THE ADMINISTRATION BUILDING.

My lack of commitment to our friendship was proven when I smirked in relief that it wasn't me as GK austerely shuffled past me to the aisle. The principal instinctually grabbed his ear. He tugged him for a second before realizing his folly could be construed as an assault. Instead he prodded my defeated friend in the small of his back until they disappeared through the exit.

What does that have to do with the JFK assassination? Well, nothing but it’s the first part of the GK²+PK²=JFK² equation I was telling you about.

Phil Kennedy (PK) was an even more insignificant character in my life. Over twenty years ago, PK was a tolerable coworker of mine. We never approached a friendship yet every time I think of GK, I think of PK. The only reason is…PK was a dead ringer for GK, (I once pointed out the uncanny resemblance to my friend ZIMBO who was also acquainted with GK from childhood...but he thought I was crazy.  I fought for my opinion and suggested the concept of a time elapsed picture in his mind...of a twelve-year old as a thirty-something but Zimbo still thought I was nuts).

Nevertheless, I thought and still think they were twin-like so any image in my mind of either GK or PK will lead me to the other and then to JFK…hence…GK²+PK²=JFK².

If that wasn’t enough of a coincidence, in 1990 when I worked with PK, a group of other employees and I, (not including Phil Kennedy) were talking about the JFK assassination. One fifty-year old guy said he was working at a gas station when he heard the bad news. Another man about forty said he found out from his mom. I said, “I was eight. Older kids told me outside my school but I didn’t believe them.” Junie, (an immature nineteen year-old) was absorbed with playing with her split-ends. She wasn’t listening to our conversation so she was caught off guard when somebody asked her, “Where were you when Kennedy got shot?” As if shot herself she gasped, “Phil Kennedy got shot?” And a legend was born.

I doubt we’ll ever know exactly what happened to President John Kennedy. But I have one question for the lone gunman people that I never heard addressed. Kennedy was killed on Elm Street in Dallas’ Dealey Plaza. His motorcade approached the Texas School Book Depository along Houston Street. If Oswald was indeed the only shooter, why from his perch on the sixth floor, did he not shoot when the target came to nearly a complete stop in front of him as it turned off Houston onto Elm? If anything, by waiting till it passed the grassy knoll, it reduced his chance for more shots if he missed.  Plus, by waiting, it was a farther shot with no guarantee that the motorcade would speed up.
AN AERIAL VIEW OF DEALEY PLAZA. HOLY CONSPIRACY THEORIES BATMAN, THERE ISN'T A SINGLE PHOTO ON THE INTERNET SHOWING A VANTAGE POINT FROM THE 6th FLOOR OF THE TEXAS SCHOOL BOOK DEPOSITORY, LOOKING UP HOUSTON STREET AND INCLUDING ELM TO THE RIGHT?

It must say something about my willingness to disagree with the masses but between the the supposed kill-zone up Elm Street and a nebbish being responsible for taking down one of our greatest presidents, it's hard to think that a colossal conspiracy wasn't responsible.

Equally, I can’t get by the strangeness of thinking about such insignificants as GK and PK whenever I think of the assassination.  Of course when I bumped into Junie, (2009 in Las Vegas, she was exactly double her age but still immature), she not only had no memory about saying, "Phil Kennedy got shot?"  ...but she didn't remember me either.  I guess I should have asked her if she knew who JFK was...

Monday, November 18, 2013

SURVIVING "THE MENTALIST"

It's incredibly sad to look at the devastation from last week's typhoon in the Philippines.  My heart goes out to victims and hope those who lived through this disaster can recover.  If something like that happened to me, I wonder how I would fair.

I remembered seeing the 2000 movie “CAST AWAY” and marveling how the Tom Hanks character (Chuck Noland) used his wits to cope with desperation after a plane crash.
THE TITLE IS TWO WORDS BECAUSE NOLAND (GET IT...NO LAND) HAS BEEN 'CAST AWAY' FROM SOCIETY AS OPPOSED TO BEING A 'CASTAWAY' ON A DOT IN THE PACIFIC.

From plane wreckage, Noland uses creativity to make fire without matches, build a shelter and find food. I have zero survival skills, so the old slogan; need is the mother of invention...might work in my favor…but I doubt it.

We find out even with the comforts of home, that four years of isolation takes an enormous emotional toll. But the small successes that allowed Noland to physically persevere for so long eventually fade.  Hope is replaced by despair and soon into resignation. The audience learns that Noland was prepared to jump off a cliff.

In his shoes, I would NEVER have considered suicide because it would be obvious to me that I'd have a short shelf-life, on my own, under horrific conditions. A nervous breakdown wouldn't have had time to fester because I would have died from exposure, starvation, dehydration or hyperthermia by day-three.  However, under far less brutal conditions, I think I could last four years of being alone...because, when I talk to myself, I've been told that I can be rather entertaining.

The documentary-style TV show “SURVIVORMAN” must've been influenced by that movie.
LES STROUD (above) WAS "SURVIVORMAN."  DURING THIS ULTIMATE REALITY SERIES', 28 EPISODE RUN, (2004, 2007, 2008 AND 2012), HE VIDEO-TAPED HIMSELF AS HE DISCRIBED HIS SITUATION IN THE HARSHEST ENVIRONMENTS, IN THE MOST REMOTE PLACES WITH LITTLE OR NO FOOD, WATER OR EQUIPMENT, (YES, A RESCUE PARTY WAS CLOSE ENOUGH TO SAVE HIM IN AN EMERGENCY).

Before "Cast Away" and "Survivorman," I remember KURUDAVE used to play a board game that was based upon answering survival skill questions. He bragged about being able to apply a tourniquet, treat a venomous snake bite and convert his own urine into drinking water. My reaction always was…trust me, I know a moot point when I see one…I know how to keep safe…by not going camping in the Amazon, picnicking in Antarctica or hunting scorpions in the Sahara.

Hypothetical, one-in-a-million survival scenarios are too abstract. I have a deeper appreciation for how ordinary people protect them self when a normal situation spirals out of control.

I developed part of that appreciation from a *1971 movie, (spoiler alert). The ultra-violent, psychological thriller, “STRAW DOGS,” has a more realistic approach to how your average Joe Schmo rises up to survive acute danger.  * Don't get roped into the 2010 re-make.
STRAW DOGS IS A MAN'S MOVIE.  I SAW IT IN THE THEATER WHEN I WAS SIXTEEN AND IT MADE MY HAIR STAND ON END. I SAW IT ONCE MORE A FEW YEARS AGO...ALTHOUGH MY HAIR DIDN'T STAND ON END...I THINK IT WOULD HAVE IF I HAD ANY.

Dustin Hoffman plays David Sumner, a nerdy mathematician who is disturbed by the violence that has disintegrated American society. Together with his hot, English wife Amy, (Susan George), they move back to the serenity of her small, peaceful, (fictional) coastal village Wakely, in Cornwall.
IN ENGLAND'S SOUTHWEST CORNER, CORNWALL IS A PENINSULA-SHAPED COUNTY SURROUNDED BY THE CELTIC SEA, THE ENGLISH CHANNEL AND THE COUNTY DOVER.

The Sumner's move into a farmhouse in need of repairs. While wimpy Hoffman craves quiet to do his work, his wife hires some local handymen. Unfortunately primitive savagery can exist beneath any surface. This is especially true because the workers selected include her ex-lover and his less than genteel friends.

In a combination of being bored and angry with her husband, she flirts with the repair gang. She even parades past an open curtain to haughtily expose her self.  The workmen don't appreciate the teasing and begin a campaign of petty harrassment.  Amy wants her timid husband to stand-up to the goons.  But his naive diplomacy nets him a friendly nighttime hunting trip with them.  They set-up Sumner to wait in the woods and go back and gang rape Amy.

Days go by and gullable Sumner has no idea he was deceived into staying behind or that the hooligans had their way with his now withdrawn wife.  One night, the drunken workmen return to the farmhouse.  In an odd set of circumstances, Sumner must defend his house against them...but for the wrong reason.  In the mini-war that follows, unprepared Sumner "mans-up" in a life-or-death struggle to survive.

I couldn’t imagine doing well under these circumstances. I’ve been so brow-beaten from my childhood till now by controlling neat-freaks, (like the highly punishable necessity of wiping my feet before coming in the house), that the idea of actually throwing the kitchen sink at attackers is beyond the scope of what my well-trained mind can handle.

Another example of survival techniques is the current TV show, “THE MENTALIST.”
THE MENTALIST IS A POLICE PROCEDURAL TV DRAMA THAT DEBUTED IN SEPTEMBER 2008.  IT FEATURES SIMON BAKER AS PATRICK JANE, A CONSULTANT FOR THE CALIFORNIA BUREAU OF INVESTIGATIONS (CBI).

I have been duped by this show for six years. My strong attraction is based on the psychological survival skills of Patrick Jane. 

His back-story includes being brought up by his coniving father, in a carnival.  In that atmosphere, young Patrick learned the craft of mind reading and other parlor tricks to become a con man.  He then parlayed those abilities to become a more lucrative psychic.  Unfortunately, his grandstanding antics resulted in the barbaric murder of his wife and child, by serial killer, "Red John."

Jane is hired by to CBI to use his sharpened observational abilities, perceptive powers and understanding of human nature to solve murders.  But he uses his position to camouflage his hidden agenda...revenge on mysterious Red John.

The show's cleverness is confined to when the crime solving ensemble cast tip-toes through its normal (yaddy-yadda) cases while injecting clues about Red John.  The typical viewer (such as myself) is teased by these clues to continue following the story. Along the way, we see past the mask of Jane’s upbeat façade. Thus making him more sympathetic as his inner angst deteriorates into inconsolable remorse. When that happens, the usually unflappable crime consultant becomes crippled by his crazed, stubborn determination to both identify this anti-Christ-like villain and wreak wrathful justice on him.

The Mentalist got off to a great start in the ratings. I would like to think the huge fan base was curious to how the story was to play-out...specifically who is Red John and what will Patrick Jane do to him.

Until Red John is caught, the audience relates to troubled Jane. If the viewer has a heart, they must wonder, how far we would go, to mentally survive under such grave circumstances. But something tells me that most viewers just like watching because lead actor Simon Baker is so good-looking.
BORN (1969) IN TASMANIA AUSTRALIA, (WOW, TASMANIA IS A REAL PLACE) SIMON BAKER (THE LITTLE DEVIL) HAS APPEARED IN OVER 20 FILMS AND AS MANY TV SHOWS.  WHILE THE MENTALIST HAS SPUN INTO DULL, SOAP OPERA-LIKE SUB-PLOTS INVOLVING LESS INTERESTING (LESS BELIEVABLE) CHARACTERS AND (LESS COMPELLING) ACTORS, HE REMAINS MY SINGLE "GO-TO" GUY ON THE SHOW.
Now in its sixth and final season, (122 episodes to date), the show has become watered down. In struggling for originality, the plots have become increasingly far-fetched. Had I not invested so much time and thought trying to unravel this whodunit, to save my sanity and mentally survive, I would have dumped the show long ago. Now that I perceive what direction the last three installments are going…I fear that I must protect myself with a force field against disappointment.  Yes, I expect the worst because the writers can't possibly profit by simply having Colonel Mustard use a pipe in the conservatory to end the series.
TV's "PERRY MASON" AND THE BOARD GAME "CLUE" WERE MY EARLIEST EXPOSURE TO CRIME SOLVING. BUT CONTEMPORARY VIEWERS ARE MORE SOPHISTICATED AND NEED GREATER DEPTH TO THEIR MYSTERIES.
So, it doesn't matter what I guess will happen.  The Menatalist's writers have had a great run but they have now painted them self into a corner.  That means that the only way out will be a spectacular (stupid) ending that NOBODY...even Perry Mason could have pieced together.

Lord help me, starting tonight and extending for two more Sundays, I will finally be freed from my perceived Mentalist torment.  While on the other side of the earth the real survivors of the Philippine typhoon face the life time struggle of honoring the dead, repairing their lives and dealing with trauma of out-living their family, friends and neighbors.

Monday, November 11, 2013

PRAYING FOR MS. TREEFART'S GIANT SLAYER

I hadn't seen Lynn for a couple of years until we spotted into each other on the grocery store line. We pushed our carts outside as we reminisced about the old days when we worked together. At her SUV,  I helped load a forty-pound bag of dog food. On the back hatch, I noticed a tampered, “WHO RESCUED WHO” bumper sticker. I said, “That decal looks new. Why did you try scraping it off?”
A LOT OF PEOPLE THROW THE TERM "RESCUED" AROUND AS IF THEY PULLED THEIR NEW PET OUT OF A BURNING HUMANE SOCIETY BUILDING.  LYNN TRULY LOVED DOGS AND IN AN UNRELIGIOUS WAY CALLED THEM BLESSINGS. I SOON FOUND OUT THAT SHE HAD JUST RESCUED HER THIRD POOCH.

Lynn shook her head and sighed, "If you have time, it’s a long story about my bitchy Church-Lady next-door-neighbor. At first, I was positive she tried tearing it off...now I don't care.”

Lynn went on to say that she had been at odds for years with a mid-sixty-ish spinster named Irma Arborgast or as she liked to call her, Ms. Treefart, (or as I say MTF).

MTF lived alone in an unkempt house next door. She always wore an over-sized, opaque, plastic crucifix that dangled from a lanyard around her neck. To Lynn, that meant the old girl thought her devoutness gave her free reign to complain about everything...to anybody who crossed her path.

Lynn said, “Way back when, I was still on a nodding basis with Irma.  Then everything changed when she knocked on my door. We (she and her husband George) had friends over that afternoon and the battleaxe demanded that I turn down the music.” As an aside Lynn chuckled, "I’ve only met a couple of Irmas in my life and they were all space cases."

The music wasn’t crazy loud so Lynn politely refused. When MTF threatened to call the police Lynn shrugged, “Go ahead, call the SWAT team too.” When the cops arrived, MTF stood in the street kissing her big cross as the officer thanked Lynn for turning the volume down. Lynn pointed at MTF and said, “That bible-thumper is out of her mind…I never turned it down.  You know why?  Because it was always like this.”

Another time MTF phoned her house to complain about Speedo-clad George smoking a cigar while mowing the back lawn. Lynn said, “How can that bother you? You only leave your house to go to church! And if the aroma is so offensive why are you spying at George from an open window in your upstairs bedroom?”

The real problems seemed to revolve around MTF’s hatred of dogs. Lynn’s first dog was a beagle mutt named Julio (all her dog names were inspired by Simon and Garfunkel).
PAUL SIMON (left) AND ART GARFUNKEL WERE FOLK-ROCK STANDOUTS FROM 1957-1970 AND AGAIN FROM 1981-1983.  IN 1990, SIMON AND GARFUNKEL WERE INDUCTED IN THE ROCK-N-ROLL HALL-OF-FAME.

Julio got loose once and dug at MTF’s two rose bushes that sprang-up in the weedy wildflowers along side her house. MTF with God as her witness claimed to have witnessed the whole affair. She accused Lynn of "coveting her beautiful flowers" and purposely letting Julio out because she knew the mongrel would destroy her prized possessions. Lynn said, “Your ‘landscaping’ looks like a vacant lot. And your damned roses weren’t disturbed…if anything…now, your so-called garden looks better.” When MTF threatened to call her lawyer Lynn scoffed, “Sue me!”

A couple of months later, two-year old Julio mysteriously died. It seemed impossible that MTF could have poisoned the dog. But Lynn figured that the spiteful old biddy threw something like aspirins, chocolate or onions over the fence. But Lynn found no evidence to support her allegations.  Still, she wanted to confront Ms. Arborgast but her husband calmed her down. Instead, they went through the great expense of having a vet see if Julio was poisoned but the tests proved negative.

Lynn and George went back to the Humane Society and rescued a Shetland Sheep dog that they named Cecilia. This puppy liked the backyard.  She spent a lot of time there and stood like a noble sentinel as she guarded her turf…and family.

George liked to toss a beach ball around with Cecilia. When the ball sailed over the fence, he wasn’t intimidated by the witchy neighbor’s reputation. He pleasantly told her the situation and she graciously went outside and threw it back over the fence. When he recovered the ball it was deflated. Upon closer examination, it had been punctured with (he guessed) a scissors.

George referred to MTF's evil eyes, wild white hair and pancake make-up and began calling her Baby Jane Hudson while keeping the beach ball incident to himself.
BETTE DAVIS WAS THE EPITOME OF A VICIOUS, DEMENTED OLD LADY IN THE 1962 SUSPENSE THRILLER, "WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE."

Weeks later, Cecilia’s preference to exclusively use her backyard territory as a toilet caused MTF to go ballistic over the wafting doggie poop stink. The old hag banged on Lynn's door and ranted about plague and pestilence. When she stuck an accusatory finger in Lynn's face and proclaimed, "You're a sinner!" Lynn said, “Shut up!” She was about to slam the door when mild-mannered George screamed at MTF and shooed the holier-than-thou zealot back to her property.

One afternoon this past March, Lynn came home and Cecilia was gone. George was certain that back gate was closed when he let her out back. A shadow of doubt was cast on MTF even though the gate couldn’t be opened from the outside. Despite searching the neighborhood, putting up reward fliers and notifying local veterinarians, Cecilia never turned up. After a frustrating two weeks, it was Lynn’s turn to pound on MTF’s door, point an angry finger and scream profanities...and it was the drone’s chance to laugh in Lynn’s face.

The feud quieted down until summer. Then Lynn rescued a huge, ugly, bullmastiff mutt with a scary bark. She named this behemoth, “Here Comes Rhymin’ Simon” but just calls him Simon.

Simon loves people. He might be frightening to look at due to his size and scraggly coat but he’s a cuddly, warm and friendly bugger.
SIMON PROBABLY HAS ROTTWEILER BLOOD COURSING THROUGH HIS VEINS BECAUSE HE WAS OVER TWO-FEET TALL AND SEVENTY POUNDS WHEN SHE GOT HIM...AND STILL GROWING.

Lynn liked to linger in front of MTF’s house when she walked Simon. The rest of her loop included a desolate, undevelped wooded area at the far end of her subdivision. In case of emergencies, she got in the habit of clutching her key ring in case she had to gauge-out an assailant eyes or use the mace spray she carried.

Lynn also kept mini-plastic bags in a sleeve attached to Simon’s leash and always disposed of his droppings properly. It was disappointing that her little boy had a favorite spot at the edge of the woods so he never left a symbolic offering for Arborgast to stew over.

One afternoon, a workman appeared between the houses and started cleaning up a modest section of MTF’s untamed wilderness. In a shady spot, he erected the skeleton of an enclosure that looked like it was going to be for a large dog. Later, around the bare wooden struts, he wrapped chicken wire. The man built a rudimentary doorway.  He then used one nail to secure a block of scrap wood that when twisted, served as a simple locking mechanism.  Later, he added a smaller, plastic shelter inside.

The next day, Lynn was watering the plants on her rear deck as the old woman pulled up in her beat-up Chrysler K-Car. Lynn made no attempt to hide as she watched the she-devil get out holding an all-white bunny. MTF placed the tiny animal in the enormous cage, looked up at Lynn and growled, “Damn snoop. Mind your business.”
THE CHRYSLER K-SERIES LASTED FROM 1981-1995.  LIKE THE 1987 ARIES (above) THE K-CARS WERE HYPED-UP TO SWEEP THE NATION AS A HIGH-QUALITY, ECONOMICAL ALTERNATIVE TO JAPANESE IMPORTS BUT FELL FAR SHORT OF MAKING HISTORY.

Lynn was walking Simon around the corner when one of her lady friends was getting her mail. The friend patted Simon’s gargantuan head as he slobbered in delight. She knew of Lynn’s difficulties with MTF and confided, “Ms. Arbotgast is getting a rabbit.” Lynn said, “I saw it. It’s pretty and pure white.” The woman said, “She told me it’s a rare breed called a Flemish Giant.” She intensified scratching Simon’s head and added, “I guess she wants to compete with this bundle of joy.” Lynn said, “I didn’t get much of a look…but it seemed like normal size to me.” “Well, I don’t have to tell you how pixilated she is but…you'll never guess what the goofball named it?” Lynn smiled in anticipation, “What?” “She named it David…as in David and Goliath…I swear. That’s what she told me.”

For several weeks, a period of peaceful coexistence developed between the women. During this time, Lynn googled Flemish Giant rabbits and found out that these monstrosities are actually docile even if they exceed twenty-five pounds.
AS WARPED AS MS.TREEFART WAS...SHE COULDN'T POSSIBLY EXPECT HER RABBIT TO SLAY SIMON.

Lynn was unthreatened but was curious to watch the bunny's growth spurts. Every few days, from the only clear vantage point (her rear deck) she looked over the fence. But David always seemed about the same size. By the beginning of June, Lynn was convinced that MTF had lied to the neighbor about the bunny's pedigree. So she lost interest in the transformation.

Later that month as storm clouds hid the sun and the howling wind dropped the afternoon temperature, Lynn heard the unmistakable sound of MTF’s rickety screen door slam. From the upstairs window, she watched her nemesis open the rusted-out rear passenger side door of her K-Car and set a small valise on the back seat. Lynn was watching her back into the street when she noticed a wind gust move her backyard gate. Seconds later another fierce gale pried the gate slightly ajar. She immediately flashed-back to Cecilia and realized how the closed gate might have opened enough for the slender dog to get out.

She reported her findings to George and he promised to repair the gate on his next day off. But before that could happen, Simon disappeared from the backyard. Lynn investigated the gate and was convinced that the small gap could be forced wider by the stouter dog.

In a misty rain, panic-stricken Lynn drove all over the neighborhood. From her cell-phone she made a dozen calls. She explained to suspicious friends that this couldn’t have been the handiwork of MTF because she had already been away for a couple of days. And that the wind probably opened gate.

Lynn was mentally and physically exhausted when she got home but was happily surprised to see Simon lounging on her dry porch, atop the welcome mat. When Lynn got out of her car, she saw something white, furry and quite dead in Simon’s mouth. “Jesus H. Christ,” Lynn wailed. It was David. She hid the dead rabbit in her bushes, took Simon in the house and ran between the houses. Lynn saw her worst fear…David’s cage was open and empty.

Lynn was uncertain when MTF would return so she went on an inspired mission (from God). After measuring David, she raced to the pet store. Lynn bought an all white rabbit that was the same size as the decedent and replaced it in the empty cage. She got a shoebox, placed David's carcass inside and drove to the lonely edge of the woods where Simon did his business. She used her SUV to shield away possible witnesses and in a steady drizzle, dug a grave.

MTF returned home early that same rainy evening. It would rain for the next two days. On the first nice morning, Lynn was walking Simon. Lynn was worried that MTF would realize that Simon killed David and that she supplied an imposter rabbit. Lynn wanted to maintain normalcy so she and Simon lingered as usual in front of MTF’s house. Suddenly, MTF bolted out her front door. She was charging, at senior citizen speed, towards them in such a menacing way that Lynn readied her aerosol mace can. Even Simon recognized the potential danger and used an uncustomary growl. Up close, Lynn saw something she never saw…Irma Arborgast was smiling.

Ms. Arborgast exclaimed, “Do you believe in miracles?” Lynn was afraid to say anything. Then she was completely stunned when MFT massaged behind Simon’s ear and said, “David has ascended from the dead!"  Lynn said, "What do you mean?" "It was an abomination, I happened to look outside and saw a gopher or a possum or some such critter carrying him off. It was horrible, David must have put up a struggle..."  Her voice cracked until she continued, "I-I-I then watched the heathen shake my poor baby to death.” Lynn cautiously said, “No way…” MTF gestured behind her house and bleated, “I buried my angel out back." 

There was a long awkward pause until MTF added, "I was so upset that I went to my sister and together we prayed for guidance.” Lynn smirked, “He was dead...and now he's alive?  You have no idea how happy I am for you.” MTF sniveled, "I-I-I checked his final resting place and it was undisturbed.  I'm telling you, praise the lord, it's a miracle!"  Lynn was thinking that Simon didn't kill the rabbit, he dug it up after it was already dead.  And all that rain might have filled in the hole enough to fool the nut-job.  Then as MTF knelt down and hugged Simon’s head Lynn thought; This old screwball really lives in a fantasy world.  That's when MTF looked up and said, “It's just a matter of faith.  David is my savior and all pets truly are blessings.”

Lynn looked at me as she fiddled with the frayed edge of her "Who Rescued Who" bumper sticker and concluded, "Maybe I saved Ms. Treefart too."  Then as she got in her car Lynn grinned, said, "Nah!" and drove off.

Monday, November 4, 2013

FREDDY THE FINGER

Father’s Day 1998 stands out in the highlight reel of my life. On that day, I had a one-on-one, Philadelphia Zoo road trip with my four-year old son Andrew. One of the golden moments of that day was the two of us riding on a camel. It was remarkable because Andrew had difficulties with motion, (I saved a fortune by never putting quarters in the mechanical horsey ride at the supermarket.  Andrew did like climbing on but all he wanted to do was sit…still).
AMAZINGLY, BY THE TIME ANDREW WAS EIGHT, HE HAD GRADUATED TO HEAVY-DUTY ROLLER-COASTERS.
I saw the camel ride up ahead and thought it would be cool for him to see. We watched for a minute then I said with tongue in cheek, “How about me and you riding that camel.” He said, “Okay.” I was in shock. On one hand, I wanted to strike quickly before he came to his senses…but on the other hand…just going on wasn’t good enough for me. I rolled the dice and took a gamble. I scanned the benches in the shady spectator area along side the ride and scoped-out the most trustworthy looking senior citizen I could find. I approached a kindly looking gentleman and asked him if he would mind using my camcorder to chronicle our three-minute odyssey.
I DON'T HAVE ANY STILL PHOTOS OF THIS WONDERFUL MOMENT IN PARENTING, BUT YOU'LL GET THE IDEA OF WHAT WE DID FROM THIS SHOT.

In adulthood, I have prided myself as being as excellent judge of character. Had I not trusted my thousand-dollar photo equipment with this man, I would have lost out on a tiny segment of film that’s worth a gazillion dollars to me.

This great moment in my life came to mind last month but for the wrong reason; this time my usual sharpness about people let me down. I’m certain when Charlieopera hears how I missed spotting a hump in the crowd he’ll say, “Oy vey! Are you stunod or what?”  (Of course there’s still a glimmer of hope that I’ll be proven right, but until that happens, it seems that my random act of kindness has come back to bite me in the ass…to the tune of a thousand dollars).

I won’t bore you with the details of my poor judgment until a final decision is reached, (maybe a lot will change until I go to press…in 48 hours). Until then, I will demonstrate a 1981 example of how I developed my ability to judge good character.

The following is an excerpt from my short story, “FREDDY THE FINGER.” This story is significant because it represents why I turned to writing out my Las Vegas adventures. I rarely told my father any details of the craziness I was exposed to while living out west. I was afraid he wouldn’t approve of my associations and the situations that I got into. After dad died suddenly in 1995, I realized how much he loved, “Freddy the Finger.” I should have had more faith in him and shared all my experiences with him. So, as a legacy to my son, wife and friends, I started writing these stories, (there are twenty).

I was twenty-four when I started dealing craps at the Stardust, on the fabulous Las Vegas strip. That’s quite an accomplishment considering I had no connections and only fifteen months experience. The other dealers were savvy and much older than me.  The low-level managers (boxmen and floormen) were rarely under forty and many were over seventy.

While I was still trying to fit in when my boxman (the immediate supervisor sitting between the dealers who regulates the game) fell asleep while our craps game was in progress. During his snooze, unattended cash buy-ins were strewn in front of him...and the other dealers weren’t rousing him. I wasn’t sharp enough to realize that Freddy Cantor was widely disliked. Far worse, I was witnessing him getting “jackpotted,” in the hope that this dereliction of duty would get him fired. When he started to snore, I nudged him and said, “You okay?” He sprang to life, plunged the money into the drop box and murmured, “I’m just a little tired.”

On one of our mutual breaks, Freddy profusely thanked me and added, “I owe you big time.” I shrugged it off but he said, “Lemme give some thought on how to repay you. You might have saved my job.”

In the days that followed, I was told that he was the most hated guy on our shift and that everyone called him, “Freddy the Finger.” I guessed his nickname came from the middle finger or giving someone the finger. But instead, it pertained to him, because the staff thought he was a rat, (a weasel that collaborated with management to “finger” malcontents, thieves and poor employees). Interestingly, Freddy was also missing his left ring finger, (even stranger, he wore his wedding band on his middle finger).
FREDDY TOLD DIFFERENT PEOPLE DIFFERENT STORIES ABOUT HIS MISSING FINGER.  THE MOST COMMON VERSION WAS IT WAS CUT OFF WHILE SCREWING-AROUND WITH THE MACHINES IN HIS UNCLE'S LEATHER GOODS FACTORY.  BUT HE ALSO TOLD A SELECT FEW THAT IT WAS SHOT OFF IN A POLICE RAID WHEN HE WAS A BOOKIE.  THE DRIBBLE HE SAVED FOR ME WAS, THE LEADER OF A PUERTO RICAN YOUTH GANG CUT IT OFF AFTER FREDDY IMPREGNATED THE GUY'S SISTER AND REFUSED TO MARRY HER.

Freddy didn’t help his cause by smoking effeminate, thin, brown cigarettes and speaking with a creamy lisp. But what galled the casino staff much more was that he was sarcastic and had the swagger of a tough guy. Plus, he was also a namedropping braggart who implied he was so well-connected that he was untouchable. I learned right away that the possibility of this assertion being true saved him from getting his ass mightily kicked. I was so young, I thought Freddy was interesting. But just about everyone else thought he was a boorish exaggerator and a chronic liar.

Part of what made Freddy interesting to me was that he was from the Bronx and we shared many cultural similarities. So when we worked together and had laughing fits that bordered on being unprofessional, his enemies assumed that he was taking me under his dastardly wing.

One afternoon, the skies blackened as a wind-driven rainstorm ravaged Vegas. At 4:00PM, it was so dark that the automatic street lights cut on. An hour later, the power went off and I couldn’t get a dial tone. Huge palm fronds flew off the trees and smacked the exterior walls of my apartment. I kept imagining that a tree was going to crash into my kitchen. I couldn’t even take my mind off the situation by reading the newspaper because I had no candles or a flashlight. I was too nervous to sit there by myself so I got ready and left for work early.

The walk to my car was treacherous as rain and debris pelted down on me.  I must have looked like a mime struggling against the gale as I side-stepped loose household garbage, branches, rolling trashcans and a plastic chair. I turned on the car radio to hear a weather report but the Allman Brothers, “RAMBLING MAN,” caught my interest.

My two-block drive down Harmon Avenue to the strip was like viewing a nightmare through a kaleidoscope. My defroster didn’t work so I had to use my dealer’s apron to constantly wipe away the condensation. Up ahead, in the odd eclipse-like darkness, between the sweeps of my hyper-speed windshield wipers, I noticed something curious. Through the blurry, surreal mosaic, it turned out to be the twirling rack lights of a police cruiser. I was going five miles per hour as I zig-zagged around the obstacle course of fallen crap in my path. When I reached the cop car, a crew of fluorescent yellow-slickered workmen attended to a downed telephone pole.

On the next street, I saw a single dim, auxiliary light at the back of the Aladdin Casino. I made my right onto the strip and couldn’t believe that the daily glut of pedestrians (tourists) was missing. It felt apocalyptic without all the glittery neon signs as I crept without having to compete with other traffic past the MGM, Caesar’s and Flamingo. Next I went by the equally eerie, unlit Desert Inn and Sands. At the Frontier, their majestic marquee publicizing Roy Clark’s week-long appearance was half lit. On the brighter side, I caught a glimpse inside and it seemed like normal casino activity.

Before I reached the blackened Silver Slipper Casino, Roy Clark came on the radio playing, “GHOST RIDERS IN THE SKY.” What a coincidence to see his name and seconds later hear him sing on the radio. A sense of normalcy hit me as I pounded the steering wheel to the beat. Suddenly, I slammed on my brakes as an inside-out umbrella flew by me, across from the Stardust’s parking lot. That’s when I noticed one billboard completely lit-up…advertising that the circus was coming to the Convention Center.

Sheets of rain and howling wind made me scurry to the Stardust time office. But as the storm continued outside, it was business as usual inside. And that meant finding Freddy the Finger in the break room telling a group who didn’t care (but politely listened) how he used a hacksaw for two hours, to cut away the branches that hemmed his car in. His captive audience rolled their eyes and snickered as he claimed to have driven onto his neighbor’s lawn, to get around a UPS truck, in order to get to work.

Freddy hustled me away for a private conversation. “I haven’t forgotten my debt. How about me and my wife, taking you and your girl, to the circus next week?” I groaned, “Nah.” “Who are you, Mr. Maturity? A friggin’ circus is too juvenile for you?” I said, “Really, you don’t owe me…” “I get it,” he said, “you’re afraid a clown is going to put cotton candy in your hair…oops bad example. I should have said cotton candy on your head.” I laughed, “You’re an asshole.” He said, “Okay, no circus. But how about lobster…you aren’t afraid of the best food on the goddamned earth are you?” I said, “Lobster is good.” Freddy said, “It’s settled, me and Estelle are taking you and your girl to the Tillerman…for a soup to nuts lobster dinner.”

A week later, two hours before our big date with the Cantor’s, Freddy called.  He lived up to his reputation of being a liar by saying, “Estelle isn’t in the mood for seafood so we’ll eat chinks instead.” I was in no position to say no. He said, “Do you know Jung Jie’s ? They make a great lobster Cantonese.”

In the restaurant’s bar, Freddy made the introductions. Estelle Cantor was wearing her gold Century-21 blazer. She was especially unattractive and a rather large woman. But that was no reason to dislike her, her personality did that as soon as she opened her big fat mouth. In an overly loud, shrill nasal voice, she announced that she could only give us two hours because she had a final walk-through on a Tudor, on Alta Drive.
IT'S NO COMPLIMENT, ESTELLE CANTOR SOUNDED JUST LIKE SHEILA BROFLOVSKI FROM TV'S "SOUTH PARK."

While sipping a tropical drink out of a plastic pineapple, she never stopped babbling about real estate.
ESTELLE WAS A PLASTIC PHONY, JUST LIKE FREDDY.

Freddy idolized his wife.  He stared in awe of her as she rattled-off celebrity clients and awards she won. When she finally paused I tried to get Sue (she was my girlfriend back then) into the conversation. Estelle interrupted, “Did I tell you that Tudor on Alta is going for 175K? Frederick darling, tell me, what’s the commission going to be?” Instantly he proclaimed, “Ten-five!”  Frederick? I was gagging from all her pretense and was about to puke in my beer when the maitre d came to escort us to a table.

I thought we were saved from Mrs. Cantor’s yapping but she started blithering to the maitre d in Mandarin Chinese. When a waiter came by with menus after we were seated, Estelle shooed him away and announced for the entire dining room to hear, “I hope you don’t mind, I already ordered for the table.”

Estelle NEVER stopped talking as the plain wonton soup arrived. She was still jawing as we each ate our one egg roll appetizer. When she finally stopped talking about herself she said, “On the way out, I must compliment the chef…he’s really out done himself.” Sue and I looked at each other and controlled our laughter.

We were all served the same entrée, roast pork egg fu yung, (a Chinese omelet). This was not lobster at the upscale Tillerman. Nor was it lobster Cantonese. Sue and I were not from Mars. In fact as New Yorkers, we are required by law to know all the ins-and-out of Chinese food...and what we had…was the most basic, cheapest things on the menu.

Freddy saw the disappointed look on my face. He cut-off his wife as she explained the value of a valley view, “Did you know Estelle made the newspaper by risking her life with an armed robber at Albertson’s?” She broke in, “It was nothing! They called it passive resistance but nobody was going to makes moi lay on a filthy floor.  Besides, I knew that runt was going to give me the gun as soon as I saw those weak, beady eyes.” Sue and I looked at each other in disbelief as she continued, “You kids should drop by my office. You can see all my awards, read the newspaper article and the framed letter of thanks I got from the supermarket.” At that point, I was positive Mahatma Gandhi would have strangled her and felt no remorse.

You'd think it couldn’t possibly get worse but it did. Estelle started a sales pitch, “You know renting is a terrible waste? What’s your combined income? Do you have any outstanding debts? Are you planning a family?”

She never came up for air as she plowed-on about a fenced-in yard, a two-car garage and the curb appeal of nice landscaping. That’s when she finally got to her point, “Because…I can work with anyone, to put them into their perfect home…”

Two bites into my omelet, I decided I had enough. I held my stomach and croaked, “I feel lousy!” In her typical nagging tone Estelle chimed in, “Listen Bubbula, you ate too fast. Take a rest, have some dessert, you’ll be okay.” “No,” I snapped as I stood. “I have terrible stomach cramps.” I turned to Sue and said, “C’mon doll, we gotta go.” Sue followed my lead. She thanked them and sharply whispered, “He can only ‘go’ on his own toilet.”

Estelle loudly said, “I understand, I’m lactose intolerant myself.” We were halfway to the exit when she blared loud enough for them to hear in the kitchen, “I’ll take care of the check.” Sue and I were at the door when she boomed again, “Wait, you forget to take my card.” I opened the door to freedom, looked back, held my hand on my belly and bleated, “Thanks.” Estelle shot up out of her chair and yelled, “Freddy’ll give you my number. Call me when you’re ready to buy.” In the sanctuary of the car I joked, “That was nothing but a friggin’ commercial. That’s why nobody at work likes Freddy, he must have promised them all lobster dinners with his wife.”

I dodged Freddy for several days. During that time, I confided in one of the elder dealers and told him how much of a douche Freddy turned out to be. He wasn’t shocked about my ordeal in the Chinese restaurant. But I got his attention when I leaked that Freddy said he was afraid of losing his job after I woke him up. That meant he wasn’t “untouchable” like had implied. This dealer concluded, “Good, I’m glad you figured it out on your own. Because it’s not a good idea to be associated with…well, you know what I mean.” I nodded but I didn’t know what he meant.

A few days later, I worked with Freddy for the first time since our date from hell. I tried not to laugh but he knew how to push the right buttons. So I settled into the idea that he was a fun work friend but not a friend outside work.

Later in that laugh-filled shift, we were standing dead. I saw Freddy staring down at the bankroll, straining to hold back laughter by covering his mouth with his hand. For a second he looked up with his hand still firmly clasped over his mouth. He looked like he was going to explode into another laugh spasm as he pointed with his eyes to the far right. He then resumed staring at the chip bank. When I saw what he meant, my head involuntarily sprang back to the left as I too became paralyzed with Freddy’s laughing affliction.

This kind of childishness was not tolerated at the Stardust and I didn’t want Freddy to get me in trouble. I composed myself and concentrated my gaze on the center of the craps game. Freddy had calmed down too but at one point, our eyes met and we started all over again. We had gotten away with our petty silliness all night but this was different, everyone near our table stopped to gawk at us.

Our floor supervisor leaned between us. In a condescending tone, he asked in his southern-accented baritone voice, “Are you two boys all right?” It sounded pretty funny coming from a man who reeked of cheap booze every night. Nonetheless, we assured him that we were all right.

To reduce the risk of a relapse with ten minutes left before my break, I stood erect and stared straight ahead. The next few minutes took an eternity. Then I heard the last thing I wanted to hear, another dealer (the stickman) on my crew calling out, “Hey little buddies, wanna play craps?”

That dealer was Walter "Disaster" Lemaster.  He earned his screw-up nickname by being a burnt-out Vietnan War vet with a talent for saying and doing the dumbest things. I knew what this moron was referring to so my mind screamed, "Don't turn around..." but of course I did.

In a split second, I looked, saw my worst fear and turned away again.  I muffled my laughter as saliva flowed into my palm.  But when I heard Freddy roaring, I too was howling.  With hundreds of eyes on me, I squeezed my stomach muscles.  Then from the diaphragm, I took three deep breaths. I maintained my composure even though Freddy was still in stitches.

Through my teary cararact-like eyes, without laughing, I watched the proceedings on the other side of the table.  This would be the day that I learned the difference between midgets and dwarves.

These two four-footers were a father and son.  They were dragging slot machine stools to our table when I got my first good look at them.  The dad was excited and cheerful but the son who seemed to be going through the motions to please his dad was austere.  From his attitude, I gathered that he knew they was getting laughed at and didn't like it.

Despite my new choir-boy pose, the son who was now positioned on his knees atop the stool, kept giving me dirty looks. 

The dad was shorter.  So to play, he had to stand on the stool and hold the craps table rail with his hand.

It was decided that the father would shoot the dice first.  I am clueless (even thirty-plus years later) what possessed Freddy to tell Walter, "Give him the 'short stick.'"

Freddy was kidding.  But Walter's military background compelled him to follow orders.  He was so buried by the absurdity of Freddy's statement that he left the dice a bit too far away from the dad, (this ploy was saved for women in low-cut blouses.  So when they reached for the dice, they further exposed their cleavage). 

The dad would have had trouble getting the dice under normal circustances.  So when he strained to pick up the dice, he lost his balance and tumbled onto the table.  Now everyone was hysterical...with Freddy screaming the loudest.

The son was doing a slow burn as his dad writhed like a turtle on its back.  Each time the poor man tried to flip over, his foot bumped the concave rubber lip that rims the table.

Our pit boss Chick Halversen rushed over and exclaimed, "What the fuck is going on?"  Now nobody was laughing!  The dad was now standing on the table as he set himself to climb the table's wall.  Chick repeated himself, "What happened?"  The dad peeked over his shoulder with a cute chuckle, "This always happens to me."  Chick shook his head, "Just when I thought I saw it all..."  Chick came around to greet the dad in the aisle and offered them a meal ticket.  As the two men walked away, the son turned back and gave me a harsh glare.  But because his dad took the high road...none of us were disciplined.

At quitting time, my crew along with Freddy, decided to have a drink across the street at the Silver City Casino.  I was tired and turned them down.  While they lingered until everyone was ready, I left. 

On my way to employee lot, I found out there had been another downpour during the night. I hopped over puddles and walked around the mini-lakes.  Then I heard my name called.  It was that idiot Walter.  He was excited and happy as he ran straight towards me.  I back-pedaled so I wouldn't lose my homeward momentum.  I was shaking my head in disbieleif as I watched the Neanderthal splash through every puddle in this path.  Then I carelessly stepped into a water-filled crater.  The bottom of my left pant leg, my shoe and sock were sopping wet.  I was hobbling when Walter said, "Are you okay?"  I was surprised he didn't laugh at my mishap and had enough sense to ask about my well-being.  I said, "I'm lucky I didn't twist my ankle."  Walter had a perplexed look as he stammered, "N-n-n-o.  Are y-y-you okay from b-b-b-before, when you clocked out?"  I knew he hated being called by his nickname and said, "Disaster, what are you talking about?"  He said, "Then you're okay?"  I said, "Heh?"  He said, "Hey man I j-j-just wanted to know before I said anything..."  "Said anything about what?"  Walter slapped my shoulder and said, "They fired the finger!"