Sunday, October 27, 2013

Dear Halloween Detractors, Part II

When I was growing up, Halloween was a big deal.  Where I lived in both Pennsylvania and Delaware, kids owned the night on October 31.  Great care was taken in picking out the perfect costume, and rigorous tests were performed on whatever pillowcase or satchel you planned to use to haul all of your candy home.  The truly entrepreneurial kids would plot out the best route, taking into account the houses with the best and worst candy from years past.  When I started school in Maryland, the school even took part of the day out to do a "Costume Parade" where all of the kids got to show off their Halloween costumes before the big night.  You'd think that it might seem uncool to the kids to do that, but we were always excited, because Halloween is that good, only perhaps eclipsed by Christmas and summer break from school. Even parents would get involved.  Houses were always decorated, and someone would throw a haunted house or try their level best to scare the hell out of every kid that came for candy.

Look at this.

I was freakin' adorable.  And awesome.  Not much has changed in the ensuing years.  Sure, a fat white kid could make some better choices than Dracula or Zorro, but whatever.  I was doing what I wanted, and having fun. Side note- the eye patch in that picture was stolen, years later, by Aaron Barrett of Reel Big Fish. 

Flash forward to now, and I don't know what to think.  I live in the middle of farm country, so for the past few years, I go into town and sit in my friend's driveway while we pass out candy.  That's all well and good, except only twenty or so kids come through all night.  This is a big development located near restaurants and other developments.  There is no call for such a lackluster showing.  Worse, we seem to be the only ones even trying.  Barely any decorations are out, and only half of the houses have jack-o-lanterns.  I grew my own damned pumpkins the last two years.  That's commitment, you jerks.  I asked my friends what the deal was, and was told that it's the way it is.  The schools have the kids come in for a "safer" Halloween thing if they so choose, but it just isn't what it used to be.

I stood, aghast.  Safe?  Halloween is not supposed to be safe.  Kids dress as goblins and witches as a safeguard from the things that go bump in the night.  It is every adults given right to scare the children mercilessly, and then reward their fear with candy treats.  Halloween is that first taste of delicious fear that lets your blood run cold, and lets you know, "Yes, I am alive, and I have a glittered up pillowcase full of tiny Krackle to prove it."  This is how participation trophies start, by taking away Halloween.

I  only to became angrier when I found out that this seems to be a symptom of the county I live in, not the world at large.  I have been assured by friend that live elsewhere that Halloween is alive and strong outside my twisted burg.  Maybe, but I look on tv, and I don't see the great Halloween specials I used to see growing up.  The networks still give lip service to It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, but that's because old people find it non threatening.  This year, there will be a Toy Story Halloween special, and there was a Shrek one a few years ago, so maybe there is a small effort being made.  AMC does their FearFest thing for the adults too, but I still weep for the days when The Halloween That Almost Wasn't was a television staple. 

I remember driving with my friend Jefe, of TheAngryScholar fame, to Atlantic City in October of 2006.  A favorite stop of mine along the way is the Woodstown Diner in Woodstown, New Jersey.  Jefe and I were awestruck as we drove through Woodstown that day, because every house had up Halloween decorations.  The town had decorations on every post, and banners across the street.  That drive, seven years ago now, is probably the last time I can remember getting a feeling of Halloween like when I was little.  As hokey as it sounds, it was the community feeling that Halloween is something special, something that we can all do to make things just a little cooler for the kids, and for everyone.

I like to think maybe my friends aren't lying, and that Halloween is still thriving away from where I am.  Maybe I just don't see it, because I stick around here, and the only time I got away in the past decade, I got to see that not everyone is pooping on the parade.  It would be a shame, because as much as I complain about kids, they deserve to have Halloween be as great as it was for me.

Last year, around 7PM on Halloween, prime trick or treating time, I was on my exercise bike, watching Hell On Wheels on Netflix.  That's no way to do things.  I should be ashamed as much as anyone else. This year, I need to go for the gusto.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Dear Cigar Store Owner

If I am going to pay your exorbitant prices on cigars, I should be able to smoke one in your lounge.  I've been buying cigars and pipe tobacco from you since I was 18.  Back when I smoked cigarettes, I would occasionally splurge and buy a pack of Gauloise from you, and those really weren't cheap.  Yet somehow, any time I sit down with my friends to enjoy a fine tobacco product in your lounge, we are made to feel very unwanted.

I am not advocating a "Do The Right Thing" situation here.  It is your store, and I know and respect the fact that you can do whatever you want with it.  If you don't want some twenty or thirty year olds hanging around, that's fine.  However, just say it.  Don't wait until I buy something, and then act like a dick. 

See, you like to spend the day with you retired and unemployed redneck friends, smoking away on the plush leather sofas and chairs of the recently renovated splendor of the lounge.  Even before, years ago, when you had an old beater couch and some plastic folding chairs, you still acted like we had no right to be in there.  Granted, you show a crass indifference to me when I am actually shopping in the humidor, but you tolerate me enough until I hand over my cash.  Once that happens, you can't get me out of the store fast enough.  It's bad enough that I have never actually had a cigar in the new lounge, the one you advertise all over town as being "classic, comfortable, and relaxing".  I just can't stand the looks from your friends, and how they whisper like inebriated, hillbilly schoolgirls until I leave.  This is not the behavior of a businessman, or what should be his grown up friends that are old enough to be grandpas. 

I guess it wouldn't be so bad if I didn't know what a good cigar store is like.  See, I was at the Tinderbox in  Northfield, New Jersey before it closed.  A place that had a bare room with twenty plastic chairs lining the walls, and a back room with sandwich fixins and drinks that they let everyone enjoy.  The regulars there were happy to chat me up, talk some Phillies baseball, and give me some tips on where to find the best raw bar.  When that moved and reopened as The Cigar Boxx, I was there too.  It was more plush, but they let me and my friends put whatever we wanted on the bank of TVs.  They also had a stunning collection of tattoo magazines and Hustlers.  I was at the Union Cigar Company in Gettysburg, PA, where they let me play chess with my buddy Karl Spackler for three hours because it was too rainy to walk the battlefield.  I've also been to the John B. Hayes Cigar Store in Winchester, VA, where they blend the finest pipe tobacco I have ever tasted.  I spent a wonderful night in there trying to ward off the head sweats I got from the Jamaican curry I bought down the street.  The regulars there invite me to their monthly pipe night every month, and I will have to get back there sometime to partake.  So, obviously, I enjoy cigars, and the culture around them.  You've just made it to where I will travel these long distances to to this, and not three miles from my house to your store. 

I have gotten to the point where I won't support you, a local business, because you've convinced me time and again that you don't want or need my support.  I buy my cigars from a small cigar maker in Pennsylvania, and they are cheaper priced and better tasting that anything you are marking up by five bucks in your place.  Enjoy your lounge and your buddies, because they are about the only ones who will come back a second time.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Dear Electricity

I find you to be much like the majestic velociraptor or actress Roma Downey: I like you much better when you are restrained, and not as much when you are actively trying to murder me.  At this point in my life, I have been electrocuted almost half a dozen times.  This is not a "whoops, got you with some static electricity" Sunday school shock.  This is home outlet or worse, better-than-a-cup-of-coffee-in-the morning kind of cattleprod to the nervous system.  It's not even like I am actively doing anything to warrant this abuse.  You have simply tasted my blood, and it is a sweet wine to you, indeed.

Twice I have been electrocuted trying to fix an outlet.  Yeah, ok, shame on me.  I had a screwdiver on an open outlet, and sometimes my hand shakes like a dachshund getting over a meth addiction.  That's on me.  Another time, I got it from grabbing a frayed TV cord.  Not totally my fault, but I will let that slide.  However, there are two times I will not abide, and I demand an apology.

The first case was a few years back.  I was living in an older house with a few housemates. The lady of the house, who we shall refer to as Slagathor, had a penchant for eating every hot dog in the place, and for leaving her clothes on the dryer.  I inadvertently knocked one of her tiny striped socks behind it as I loaded the dryer with my clothes.  Being a caring housemate, I tried to reach back and retrieve the sock.  My impressive reach was not enough, and since I am a human, and therefore superior to all things, I used my toolmaking skills to bend a coat hanger.  It grabbed the sock, then proceeded to enter an open area of the back of the dryer as I tried to lift it.  Electricity turned off my lights, and I went through the wall behind me.  Worst of all, the superpowers I gained from the experience were limited to slurred speech and muscle fatigue.

The worst experience I had was the summer before I went to college.  I was working for a golf course.  The way the golf cart barn was set up, all of the golf chargers were set in the rafters, and the cords dangled down to plug in the carts at night.  One of the chargers had been malfunctioning, so I got a ladder to take it down.  The chargers are secured to the rafter by screws, so I unplugged the charger, and started unscrewing the brackets.  Three things went against me.  First, I had mistakenly unplugged the charger next to it, since the cords were a tangled mess.  Secondly, the ladder I used was a rickety mess, which led to the third thing, that I took a frail boy named Ike with me to hold the ladder steady.

Ike was about an 80 pound ball of anxiety and gangly nonsense.  Granted, I spent much of my free time at that job antagonizing him, and pouring small amounts of salt into his sodas when he wasn't looking.  To this day, I am not sure he knows what a real Coke tastes like.  One time, I put golf club grip enhancer, a foul smelling goop that looked like Smurf ejaculate, on his chair at lunch.  That ended as well as could be expected.  Not to say I was a bully, or that he didn't think some of it was funny.  He was just an easy target, and I couldn't seem to stop myself.

Since I literally weighed over three times what Ike did, he wasn't doing a great job holding that ladder still.  My hand slipped, the screwdriver went into the charger, and I fell down to the cement floor, landing on one of the screws.  I did not black out, but I could not move.  Ike, being the loyal coworker, ran as fast as his chicken legs could go to get me help.  Apparently, his chicken legs were not fast at all, because ten minutes later I was able to get up, pull the screw out of my arm where it had embedded itself, and shamble the quarter mile from the barn to the pro shop.  Bleeding, fuzzy headed, and dirty, I asked the assistant pro if I could go home.  He said yes, but wanted to know what had happened.

See, he had no idea where I had been, because when Ike got to the pro shop, he ran to find the assistant pro.  When he found the pro, he was about to tell him I was laying hurt and broken in the cart barn, but the pro spoke first.  He told Ike that lunch was up.  So, Ike forgot what he was doing, grabbed a chicken sandwich, and happily washed that down with a refreshingly non salted Coke.  When I had full use of my nervous system back, I rat-tailed him so hard he probably still stings from it.

Ok.  So, maybe I did deserve these electrocutions.  Maybe we could just limit them to once every other year?

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Dear People Who Call Themselves "Nerds"

I am not a nerd.  I bet you're not one, either.  I would bet my left foot you aren't.  Yeah, sure, diabetes will probably take that foot in a few years anyway, but as of right now it is still a valuable betting commodity. 

Buying big thick glasses doesn't make you a nerd.  It makes you a trendy asshat or a high school aged idiot girl hipster, especially if there isn't a prescription in it.  Liking comic book movies doesn't make you a nerd.  Those are the most popular movies out there today.  You aren't ostracized for liking them, which proves the point already.

Let's do the lame thing and look at the Webster's definition of "nerd".
Nerd noun \ˈnərd\ : :  an unstylish, unattractive, or socially inept person; especially :  one slavishly devoted to intellectual or academic pursuits

99% of people who have called themselves a nerd in the last month were just proven wrong.  Liking things that nerds like doesn't count, and wearing things that nerds wear doesn't either.  If I put on a policeman's uniform and call myself a cop, I go to jail for impersonating a police officer.  Get it?

Nerds are people that can sometimes barely even function in society.  They are introverted and so inadept at effectively communicating that most just don't even bother.  These are people that have most likely worn some sort of cape in public during their lifetimes.  Why would you want to pretend that this is you? 

Revenge of the Nerds was actually fairly accurate in their portrayal of nerds, with on exception: Booger.  They threw in one character that actually had some charisma to make it easier for people to root for the nerds.  Booger's problem wasn't an inability to fit in, he simply refused to. That might make him a sociopath, but not a nerd.  Last year one of the cable networks ran a show called "King of the Nerds".  Again, they had him pair up with Robert Carradine, because Robert Carradine and a bunch of people that look like they have never seen the sun isn't going to make for more than a couple of episodes of perverse TV watching. 

It mainly frustrates me that the people latching on to this supposed "rise of nerd culture" are the same types of people that would be administering melvins to and mentally torturing the real nerds.  They are the same girls that would never date a nerd, and would take special care the let a nerd know exactly how disgusting they think they are.

Lets put it this way: I think Laplanders are stupid, and I would never want to be around them.  Suddenly, Laplander culture is really popular, so I'm going to get one of their ridiculous native costumes, herd some stinking reindeer, and mouth off about how "my people" created Santa Claus.

Makes you want to puke, doesn't it?