A Happy Birthday

It all started yesterday at work with an ice cream cake and card. The cake was no standard Carvel, (though I like those) but a custom made creation from a local ice cream stand. It had three separate sections: cappuccino and fudge chunks, black raspberry, and vanilla. I loved it. My co-workers signed a card that told me, based on the manner in which I opened it, that I am optimistic and anal retentive. The latter is debatable. At work I am known for my attention to detail and cleanliness, but one look at my room would shake your faith.
While I was eating cake with my boss he asked me if I wanted to take Saturday off and have a nice three day weekend. I accepted this proposal with enthusiasm.

After work I embarked on a modest outing with Brendon to Uno’s. By the way, the name of this restaurant confuses me. Is it just Uno, or is it Uno’s? I think it’s actually Uno, but we call it Uno’s. Maybe you call it Uno. Anyway, I got a simple chicken sandwich. No problem there. A modest and enjoyable outing.

Seeing as it was a special occasion, I decided to watch a special movie, Spiderman 2. Someday I will write about why I love this movie so much. I fell asleep around the part where Peter Parker loses his powers.

I woke up at 6:30 this morning. This did not upset me at all since it only meant more time to enjoy my day off. Without much hesitation I continued to watch the rest of the movie; not a bad way to start the day. My mother had wrapped a present for me and it was sitting next to the table. It was the new Metroid video game for Wii. That might not mean anything to some of you, but the original Nintendo Metroid video game was present during my early childhood and I hold many fond memories of playing it with my brother and cousins. It is a fine gift.

Around 9:30 I got changed and loaded my father’s truck with picnic tables to bring to my brother’s house. He is having our family Labor Day cookout, which is tomorrow. I’m getting off topic, but there will be an inflatable water slide this year. I’m pretty excited.
After this I went to Longhorn Steakhouse with my mom. It was good, as usual. I always get the wild west shrimp and Mr. Pibb for a drink. We joked about how we’re always forgetting to bring the leftovers home even after they are placed in the containers. And, of course, we forgot them.
We then headed over to Barnes and Noble where I picked up Carrie Fisher’s new book about her life, Wishful Drinking. It was recommended by a friend, and I think she’s funny. When I got home I sat down and read it in a few hours because it was entertaining and an easy read. I’m not sure to whom I would recommend the book; but I liked it. So if you think we have similar tastes, give it a shot.

Now we enter the visual portion of today’s post. I took a few pictures of the little birthday dinner we had.This is my two year old niece, Sara. She likes to peel cucumbers. Sara picked out my party decorations, which I enjoyed thoroughly. As you will see in the next picture.

Noise makers are exactly that by the way. Though not as bad as those horns that were blaring during the World Cup.

This is pretty much my perfect cake. Yellow cake with chocolate frosting and rainbow sprinkles. But what really puts it over the top are the candy pieces. I love those candy pieces. If you’re ever in the position to make me a cake ( just hear me out) throw on those candy letters!

I have to explain the next picture. Sara labored to find me the perfect birthday card. After an excruciating search, she found the one.

This should be crippling you with its innocence and cuteness. It should be noted that five candles were placed on the cake.

That’s my birthday. I’ll probably finish the day with another movie with my parents (did you know I like movies?) All in all, it was a good day. At least no one died this year. I’ll never forget you,

Steve Irwin
22 February 1962 – 4 September 2006

Elementary Hell: The Worst Year of My Life

It’s time to go back to school. Children are packing their backpacks with fresh notebooks, pencils, rulers, crayons, and all sorts of classic good stuff. I drive by them in the morning, and usually it fills me with warm thoughts of a time long gone. All of the good memories float to the surface like a scoop of vanilla in a glass of root beer. Unfortunately, I cannot escape the smell of vomit.

Before we descend into the ninth circle of my own personal hell, I want you to know what preceded first grade. My early childhood was fantastic. I had my brother, sister, and cousins to play with. My mother and I watched Sesame Street and the like. It was sublime. Preschool was wonderful. Kindergarten was a blast. Then something happened.

I actually remember my first day of first grade. We looked at a magazine with Bill Clinton on the cover and the teacher asked us if we knew who he was. Then we looked in our books as the teacher read from a much larger version of the book that she placed on a podium. I remember that the color of the parrot was different in our books. All this time I kept looking at the clock. I could tell time, and I began to see that this first grade was not like kindergarten. It was such a long day. Six hours! I remember dreading this fact. But much worse than spending an eternity in school was spending it with Mrs. Grant.

According to the Myers-Briggs personality test I am an INFJ. What’s most relevant about that is the N. The N means that I am intuitive. As a young child this caused me much suffering. One time my grandmother came over my house (I was 3 or 4) and she was upset about something. It affected me so deeply that I told her, “Get out of my house.” Regarding Mrs. Grant, I could tell that she was done with teaching. She had one more year until she retired and I picked up on her negative vibes. This was in sharp contrast to my previous teachers and my own mother. They were all warm and nurturing. Mrs. Grant was bitter and strange to me.

One more thing about my intuitiveness. This heightened awareness turned me into a full blown hypochondriac. I was so aware of my surroundings and my own body that I understood my own mortality, but couldn’t rationalize it. As a first grader, I feared the following: that my eyes would fall out, my esophagus was broken, my eyes would get stuck in one position, my toes would fall off… and more that I can’t recall. I would walk around with my hand covering one of my eyes in case it fell out. I thought maybe I could put it back in. This caused me to be extremely anxious.

So you see, I had a fear of my own body on top of a fear of my teacher. Most days before getting on the bus I threw up next to a tree in my front yard. It was so bad that one of my teeth turned yellow. It must have destroyed my baby teeth. Thank God they were just my baby teeth. Who knows what it did to my esophagus.

I went to the nurse many many times. Partly because I made myself sick with worry and partly because I just wanted to get out. I recall the nurse asking me if I read the story about the boy who cried wolf. And another time asking me if I even knew what nauseous meant. My mother knew I wasn’t really sick (maybe in the head) so she would tell them to keep me there. No escape. Abandon hope all ye who enter here.

My lunches didn’t help. My mom made me sandwiches with lettuce that would wilt in the heat. I remember how they tasted. White bread, mustard, ham, lettuce. (My mom wasn’t trying to kill me by the way. She didn’t really know what to do with me.)

I found some help in an old school chum’s grandmother who was also a lunch lady. She attempted to bail me out of hell a few times, which led to a meeting with the principle. The principle asked me if I wanted to be transferred to a different class. I refused. Who knew if the change would be better? I would continue walking through the valley of death.

At home, my brother and sister lacked all compassion. (You see, the thing about my family is that we are generally a well off, stable, healthy bunch. The flip side of that was a general lack of compassion regarding emotional issues. We simply don’t encounter much in the way of emotional disorders so when your little brother is a nut, all you know to do is make him suffer.)
Keep in mind that they were teenagers, so don’t judge them too harshly. They would sometimes try to make me throw up. Other times they would play into my health phobias. To them it all must have seemed silly. And maybe it was. But to me, at the time, it was hell.

So that’s first grade in a nutshell. Hell on earth. You may be wondering what became of me as I grew older. Did I still have those fears and anxieties?

All I will say is, you know who I have become. I have no doubt my childhood traumas were a crucial part of my development. As an adult, I faced them again in a different form. But that’s for another day. Maybe.

Satan’s Hands

I work at an R.V. dealership. The business is divided into two sections, the store and the shop. I work in the shop. This means I work with technicians. For all of you who know me, this must seem like an odd arrangement. I’m not a mechanical guy. It’s an alien world to me. Nevertheless, I inhabit this realm. The realm of Satan’s Hands.

I will call him Jack. His real name will remain a secret. Jack is my co-worker. Some of you know him as “the guy who may have killed people.” Jack started about a year ago.

Jack has long brown hair. Actually, it’s gray, but he dyes it brown. His hair reaches the middle of his back. He has many tattoos. They cover his arms and chest. He is in his late thirties with a 14yr old son, and a wife. He also has a mustache and short beard. Jack smokes often, and says if he goes too long without a cigarette he will hurt people. He is a social drinker, but not an alcoholic. He is about 5’10”. Jack lifts weights, and is, from what I’ve seen, very strong. Also, he only ever wears steel toe boots.

Jack used to be in a biker gang called the Outlaws. When he started a family he wanted to get out, but the only way to do that without getting killed or severely beaten was to start his own gang (or club as he calls it). This is the origin of Satan’s Hands. Satan’s Hands is now composed of over 100 members (Jack claims over 200 but I think he exaggerates) . What does Satan’s Hands do? Well, from what I’ve gathered they deal in vigilante justice. Jack shared with me a story about a guy who beat his girlfriend. Someone in the gang let them know and they tied him to a chair and beat him with hammers. Jack has told me on more than one occasion, “If you need someone taken care of, tell me.” Don’t worry, I don’t subscribe to vigilante justice. Not now anyway. There are other stories, and more disturbing, but I’ll spare you.

Jack has also done things on his own. He went to jail for shooting into a Home Depot. A woman was threatening his family somehow so he saw this as just retribution. He has ripped more than one person out of their car and beaten them. And he even tried to beat up his martial arts instructor. He says all he remembers of that is his teacher saying, “Say Goodnight”. Oh, and he drove his car into his high school when the principle pissed him off. It should also be mentioned that Jack also won a million dollars in the lottery, but had to use most of that as bail money.

What is really surprising is that Jack talks with me about God and religion more than anyone at work. He’s the only one. We have talked about Jesus and what the Bible says many times. Usually, Jack tells me that he’s beyond forgiveness. He tells me that he needs to see a miracle before he can believe. Jack is the only person at work who wanted to read the magazine I edited, Logos. He read both issues and loved them. One time he gave me his friend’s Jehovah’s Witness version of the Bible and asked me to find where it’s different. We talked about that for a while. Jack even shared a deeply personal story about a time in his life when he was homeless, and at the moment he was going to jump into traffic, an old friend saw him and took him in. After that, he got his life back together. I told him, “That’s your miracle!” But he didn’t see it that way.

Jack has a good personality. He is easy to talk to, and actually pretty bright. He always has my back at work, and more than anyone, tells me when he thinks I’ve done a good job. He asked me to join Satan’s Hands a few weeks ago. I told him, no. The reasons should be obvious. But at least I can say that I was offered a position in a bad ass biker gang.

It’s an unlikely relationship, but I get along with the leader of a bike gang called Satan’s Hands. And honestly, it’s kind of awesome.

Making Sense of Smell

Before I dive into today’s subject I want to point out a small milestone in the life of the blog. This will mark my 50th posting. Now, in the world of blogs 50 postings is far from noteworthy, but it shouldn’t hurt to celebrate even the little accomplishments. My friend and fellow blogger, Katy Staley, author of the always entertaining, katydidwhat, recently celebrated her 100th posting. That seems like a much more impressive number, and I commend her for being so consistent. I’ve always admired sticktoitiveness.

It has taken me way too long to think of a good transition into the main subject matter so I’ll get right to it. I have a terrible sense of smell. To be more specific, I have a poor sense of terrible smells. And to put it yet another way, I smell good things, but have trouble smelling bad things.

If you know me well, you already know this. Let’s face it, if you know me well, you already know almost everything about me. I’m a fairly open person. Not many dark secrets.

I believe that this all originates from a dare. My sister once bet me a quarter that I wouldn’t smell her awful smelling feet. Of course, I took the bet. Since then it just hasn’t been the same. Every time someone comments on a skunk I smell nothing. I don’t think I’ve ever smelled skunk. I don’t know what skunk smells like! The same goes for gas, body odor, and even smoke.

The odd thing is that I can smell good things without much trouble. I can smell candy and flowers and perfume and cut grass and cookies and many others. This leads me to believe that maybe this goes beyond a physical abnormality. Maybe I have a type of selective smell. Maybe it’s the next step in human evolution. Probably not. It doesn’t make much sense for survival to have someone who can’t smell gas, smoke, or any number of deadly warning smells.

But in a world ripe with bad odors, I like to think of my little abnormality as a gift. While others are devastated by foul aromas I will be able to keep a clear head. That is, until the deadly gas goes to work on my nervous system.

The Chicken Farm: A Lover’s Analysis

Do you like the Red Sox? How do you pronounce Worcester? What’s a Fluffernutter? These are all questions posed to test the true citizenship of a Massachusetts resident. But when it comes to my little corner of Central MA, the supreme question is, Have you ever eaten at Wright’s Farm?*

I have heard the term “Chicken Pig-Out” used to refer to Wright’s. Honestly, this is a fairly accurate description. You walk in, and usually you tell the receptionist how big your party is and she has you remain in the waiting area/ bar room until your group is called. Once you’re called, you walk through a number of rooms filled with groups of people consuming massive quantities of food. The smells are intoxicating. When you reach your table, a waiter immediately comes over to ask everyone if they are getting the chicken. I have never seen anyone choose the other option, which is steak. Everyone says YES to the chicken, and the feast begins.

On average, Wright’s serves about a ton of chicken a day. When I say “a ton” I’m not being cute. I literally mean 2,000 pounds of chicken. And it’s no surprise since it can seat up to 1,200 people. To meet the ravenous demand, they have 75 ovens going constantly, roasting chicken to golden brown perfection. You’d expect this kind of unrestrained mass gluttony in the south, but not in the little Northeast state of Rhode Island. And maybe that’s part of what makes Wright’s so special.

So we’re sitting down, having just ordered the chicken. In most cases, they bring bowls of salad and rolls within 2 minutes. These rolls are simple, but fantastic. Light and soft. Add a little butter and you’re in heaven. Even the salad is good. They use just the right amount of their signature dressing. But this is only a taste of what’s to come. The main event!

All at once they bring out the pasta shells, french fries, and chicken. It’s all good, but I’m in love with the fries. And I don’t even know how to describe them. Slices of bliss might be the most accurate description. I pour on the ketchup and let all of the flavors have a party. Usually, I’m constantly refilling my glass with a pitcher of coke. Refills and seconds and thirds are to be expected.

There’s nothing fancy about this food, nor is there anything fancy about the dining experience. It resembles a trough more than a fine restaurant. But if you want all you can eat delicious comfort food at around $15 per person, you must visit this southern New England staple.

On a final note, they also have a massive gift shop with classic candies and fudge and any number of unnecessary trinkets. It’s part of the whole Wright’s experience.

* Some locals will claim that a similar establishment, Village Haven, is just as good, if not better than Wright’s. I have noticed that the usual argument in favor of Village Haven depends heavily on their cinnamon roles. In my opinion these rolls are nothing extraordinary. I don’t think they even belong with a chicken dinner in the first place.
Regardless of personal preference, when all things are considered, Wright’s is the defining dining experience of southern New England.

A True Story

“Isn’t eating strange?” I asked someone, once.
“Shut up.” He replied.
That’s a true story.

Cats killed my cat, and that’s why I hate cats, but not why I hate Cats.
That’s a true story.

My greatest fears throughout my life in chronological order have been: the death of my parents, my esophagus breaking, the rapture, the sun exploding, nuclear war, Y2K, working at Subway, going to college, losing love, CPPS, and settling for mediocrity.
That’s a true story.

Isn’t eating strange?

Snack Tyme

I’d like to discuss some snacks.

Last night I went to Shaw’s with John Benton to cash in some coins. We discovered a loophole in the Coinstar system. Usually it takes 9% of your money just for using it. I guess you could call it a convenience charge. But if you select the Gift Card option, it lets you keep all of the money. So I got myself a Gift Card to Amazon. Not a bad deal. And now you know. See, this blog is already paying off.

We had planned to watch the awful film, Master of Disguise, starring Dana Carvey. John and I intentionally watch awful movies. I assure you there will be more on this at a later date. What’s important for the current moment is that you understand our tradition of purchasing unhealthy snacks for the purpose of easing the pain of watching these films. That is the other reason we went to Shaw’s.

I purchased Cotton Candy and York Peppermint Pieces. These I will discuss in greater detail.

The Cotton Candy is actually called Olde Tyme Kotton Kandy. As you can see in the picture below, there is a sad looking clown holding a balloon. What were they thinking? I have some ideas.

Everything is misspelled. They clearly went out of their way to do this. Perhaps it is meant to appeal to children who may view it as silly and fun. On another level, seeing so many misspelled words may force the educated observer to do a double take. Your brain works tirelessly to make sense of these errors. As more time passes, the chance of you purchasing this item must increase. It’s just like those annoying commercials. WAIT A MINUTE! Kars for Kids. You’ve heard that awful ad on the radio. They make it a point to tell you that Cars is spelled with a K. I must be on to something. Whatever the case, I bought the cotton candy. It worked.

But what about the clown? Everyone hates clowns. Who likes clowns? No one likes clowns. Why put an evil, awful, sad clown on your product? On the surface we can see that it follows the playful nature of cotton candy, which is often consumed at carnivals and circuses, classic clown hideouts. If we go a little deeper, we start to understand what’s really going on here. Clowns are simultaneously fun and terrifying. They promise happiness, but we know that they hide a terrible secret behind the makeup and smiles. Such a complex emotional response surely does a number on our minds. This product affects you on all of these levels. There is no escape from Olde Tyme Kotton Kandy!

On a lighter note, I also bought these York Peppermint Pieces. It promises to deliver on the refreshing Peppermint Patty experience, and I am pleased to say that it does satisfy. Sure, it’s not the same, but are Reese’s Pieces the same as Peanut Butter Cups? They’re different, but close cousins. If you like hard shelled candy and peppermint, I encourage you to try these.

That is all for now. I will continue to write.

Where I Work

I’ve somewhat dreaded (can you really “somewhat dread”? Why use a word like dread and then take the air out of it by putting somewhat before it? I’m sure there is one word that does the same job. I’ll start over)

I’ve feared certain social gatherings since graduating from UMass. The reason is the question of what I have been doing with my life. It’s not that I’m ashamed of working at the RV place. It’s actually a decent job… for now. The issue is that I know it’s not what I want to continue to do into the long future. And it’s certainly not what I went to school for. What did I go to school for again?

Rousseau’s R.V. Center was founded by Leo Rousseau in 1976. Then in May of 2002 I started my first summer of employment. Gee. That was almost eight years ago. I worked every summer through 2009. Then I graduated UMass with an English degree and realized that I didn’t know what to do with myself. I suppose it was fortunate to have the job waiting for me, but I wonder if the adversity of unemployment would have benefited me. Whatever the case, on to the details.

My main area of expertise is cleaning, although, you wouldn’t get that impression from my personal life. Nevertheless, I am a good cleaner. My attention to detail coupled with an ability to “clean the dirt that isn’t there” often results in superior customer satisfaction. Over the years I have learned that Windex and Scrubbing Bubbles are as important to cleaning as Bob Costas is to the Olympics, or Dick Clark to his New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.*

I also fill propane tanks. Propane gas smells bad they tell me. I say “they tell me” because I have tremendous difficulty smelling bad odors. I’m sure this gift/curse will be addressed again at a later date.

The truth is, I do dozens of little things. I transport trailers, check-in inventory, file warranty claims, conduct gas and water tests, present trailers to customers, provide sporadic comic relief, destroy old trailers etc.

One of my greatest pleasures is making the sign. Some of my best works include “Reserve Your Rental Camper Today” and “Meeting Your Camping Needs for 34 Years”. I suppose it doesn’t seem like much, but it’s really my only outlet.

Sometimes I feel that I don’t have any business there. I’m not a technician and I have little interest in recreational vehicles. Sometimes it’s not so bad. When it’s nice outside and I have a sense of a job well done.

I can’t stay, but where am I going? I’ll keep writing.

* It’s certainly debatable whether Dick Clark has any business as the host of New Year’s Rockin’ Eve these days. Don’t see this as a lack of compassion on my part. I just question if it’s appropriate for him to continue in his current condition.