Wow. I must share! This was for advertising inspiration but I think these stand on their own.
“I Grok Therefore I am “, He thought when he first woke up this morning. He was not sure what any of that meant. He did not have thoughts before this morning. Well to be clear he had not had any lucid thoughts until this morning. He was still not quite sure what lucid meant. There was really only one thing he could be sure about and that was that all of this strangeness started yesterday.
It was a day like all of the others. Get up in the morning. Slowly peek outside the cave and see if it was safe out there. No big hairy flying things, check. No big hairy four legged walking things, check. No sign of anything hairy and moving, check. Most of the dangerous things around here were hairy and moving except the dweller in the cave next door, but he was always having a bad hair day , even when he did manage to move his behind off his rock and do something useful.
Convinced all was well in the neighborhood of caves he stepped outside to begin his morning of foraging for breakfast. Foraging was not the duty of most of the males in his village but he was no longer allowed to go hunting with them. His idea of “hunting” was too boring for the other men. He preferred to “think” about it for a while. At least that is the “word” he now attached to it, thinking. After thinking he would determine the easiest place and time to kill the beast. This usually involved waiting until the beast had mated and had fallen immediately asleep. Male beasts were no different than any other male creature. For the rest of the village males, this did not offer enough excitement. Oh sure some of them had an unusual fascination for the preliminaries to the kill but it still did not offer enough prehistoric brutality to make it worthwhile.
He found foraging fascinating. Fascinating, that is the word he now attached to the feeling. He could look at plants and think about them all day long. At first, finding the plants you could eat was a crap shoot and usually that is what happened after eating what you found. After several instances of hiding behind a rock the rest of the day and erupting at both ends of the spectrum, yes it’s a euphemism, you put a few clues together and learned what you could eat and what you could not.
He had been in the large clearing , a field maybe, yea that’s it, on the edge of the cave neighborhood when a loud noise above him caught his attention. Turning his attention skyward he caught site of a large boulder flying over him. Closely following the boulder was a flock, yea a flock , of other smaller boulders. Maybe rocks, but kind of shiny. That was the last thing he remembered before he woke up in his cave. That was two sunsets ago.
Upon waking up, Grok had two thoughts. “radioactive” and “cliche”. He was not sure what either of them meant but whatever happened had changed him. He felt different , he felt smarter, he felt the need for an outside rock and ran out behind his cave. “Hmm, still feeling the after affects of yesterdays foraging”, he thought. “ What is with these thoughts “, he ….thought. Until yesterday all he ever had in his head were grunts and other incoherent syllables , with the majority the grunts being mostly “doh” and “nuts”. What was that all about? After a few moments he gave up trying to figure it out and went back inside his cave to start his day.
Once he a had spruced up a bit ,splashing water on his face and plastering down his hair, he exited his cave. Looking upon the neighborhood he saw it in a brand new light. Something different lay before him. Something that contained possibilities.
Far be it for me to judge my neighbors. That said , Let the judging begin.
For the better part of almost a year I have noticed a strange ritual going on with one of my neighbors down the hall. Several times during the week, could be every day I don’t take notes, a styrofoam cooler appears outside their door. On a few rare occasions I have seen a woman leave the apartment . This went on for some time without any other clues revealing themselves. Then one day I saw a UPS driver taking away one of the suspect coolers. There was one still at the door so I can only assume that he had dropped off that one and was taking an empty with him. Cue the imagination. Now I immediately ruled out an alien able to grow organs at will and selling them to make rent. I mean come on , an alien coming to this planet without enough cash , please, not too mention the whole organ match thing. My next thought was that perhaps she was a middleman (middle-person, sorry I am not sure what the proper term is these days) in an international stolen organ ring. They are always international otherwise they sound so pedestrian. She did look a little familiar I might have seen her at an airport lounge looking for travelers to drug and then steal a kidney from. Apparently I did not rate worthy enough to waste a mickey on. Ruling out those totally ridiculous theories I came to one logical conclusion. One of my neighbors is a vampire.
Now I have never actually gotten a good look at her per se which only strengthens the theory. You know, keeps odd hours, avoids daylight and human contact in general, except for the rare times deliveries can’t be made and she has to break out her fangs. I can only assume she is a vampiress (come on spellcheck we all know that a female vampire is a vampiress). Perhaps a countess. It is a known fact , vampirism and countesses go hand in hand. The last clue, and the clincher, is that I never, ever, in the year that I have lived down the hall from her , smelled garlic emanating from her apartment. Case solved.
One can only hope that she is a kindler gentler vampire . You know, the kind that sparkles in the sun rather than turn into a mass of putrid flesh. The cooler deliveries tend to back up the kindler gentler part. So my friends , if I start keeping odd hours and the number of times you see me can only be documented in your yearly calendars ,do not fret, I am probably keeping company with a pale complected , slightly older (by 300 years) woman. Do not judge, be happy for me.
It was an uneventful trip. Almost. I did not realize at the last minute my flight out left too early to finish up some work before leaving for the airport and had to reschedule it. In no way did I work until the very last minute and do an impression of a formula one driver in a Fiesta on the way to the airport.
Once arriving to said airport checking in was as smooth as a babies bottom. The checkin process did not require intervention by a pleasant but harried agent because the checkin software froze in a manner the agent “had never seen before”. Not causing me to wonder how many other ways had he seen it freeze.
My seat was not next to an older couple who, in response to the attendants standard announcement about electronic devices, disdainfully looked at my computer and exclaimed that they did not like any form of electronics. At this point no thought crossed my mind that I believed they also meant the electric light bulb.
I did not arrive at my destination to discover my luggage was back in Denver and receive the airline gift of a toothbrush and tiny tube of paste designed for a “my first toothbrush” kit. I did not enter the hotel shower intending to cleanse the plane grunge away to discover there was no soap and be thankful for the “my first soap bar” from the airline.
I absolutely did not go to bed with the fear that my instructions to hold my delivered luggage at the front desk until I called would be ignored and I would be woken up at two in the morning by a knock on my front door by an overzealous bellman.
On the return flight I did not discover the very last seat on the plane had even less leg room than all of the other seats due to some strange bulge under the second to last seat. I also did not discover that that last seat was mine.
I absolutely did not have a passenger sitting next to me who not only felt the middle seat included both armrests on either side but also could fall asleep in such a manner as to occupy more space than should be physically possible by any single person let alone a fairly thin man in his seventies.
No matter how much I refer to denial as a coping mechanism the one thing that can’t be denied is that I was able to spend some time with some very good friends of mine and that made all of the things that did not happen worth while.
The police cruiser had followed me from my hotel for several miles. When he grew tired of tailing me , perhaps a mile from my final destination , he turned on his lights. This is where I committed my second mistake. Apparently my first was driving. Still oblivious to the storm that was approaching I immediately took a left and pulled over on a quiet side street. It was then that I saw the first indication that something was wrong with my little universe. Viewing the cruiser from my rear view mirror I noticed that he had a bicycle mounted on the back of his car. The cruiser door opened and out emerged the cop with full bike cop regalia including black, perhaps too tight , bicycle shorts. The only thing missing was a bike helmet and the theme from Dragnet. I figured it wasn’t until recently that he decided the helmet was not required until he was actually on his bicycle. It could have been worse I thought , at least he wasn’t on his bike when he pulled me over. As the officer approached my car I could tell by his twitching jaw muscles that he was preparing to lecture me. I was still clueless as to why. Upon reaching my window he let loose with a tirade. Somewhere underlying his diatribe was the claim that, in California when your were pulled over by the police you had to pull over immediately to the right. Now I had several thoughts at this point Those were: 1) I was taught to pull over as soon as possible to an area that was safe; 2) I was in the left hand lane and pulling over to the right would have meant crossing a very busy right lane forcing the officer to get out of his vehicle in very heavy traffic. Hmm. Maybe I should rethink that and 3) The left hand turn lane which turned onto a quiet side street was immediately available.
I declined to share these with my lycra short clad friend. I believe he would not have been too receptive. He then asked the million dollar question. “Would you like to know why I pulled you over?”. Now in the past, when I was young and naive and hey lets be honest, stupid, my witty repartee would have gotten me in trouble. But, much to the disbelief of my family, I have grown wiser over the years and again I declined to share any thoughts I had at the moment. “Yes sir, I would “. I answered. “Your ve-hicle is not registered” he replied tersely. Now at this point I knew two things that he did not. The first was that I was driving a rental. The second was that vehicle actually has three syllables and not two. I declined to point out the latter but politely replied “Im sorry officer but this car is a rental”. Not missing a beat he all but shouted “ I do not believe a rental company would let an unregistered ve-hicle go off the lot”. How could I argue with that logic so I handed him my license and rental agreement. “What do you do for a living” , he asked. “ I am an engineer sir”. At that moment I noticed that all of the tenseness left his body. It was as if it was suddenly revealed to him that his wife had no clue he was cheating on her. Of course a car thief would never claim to be an engineer.
He went back to his cruiser to perform what I can only assume to be “wants and warrants” on me. Hey , I catch a few cop shows every now and then. I am sure however that he was dragging out the process to make me sweat. It was working. While waiting I entertained several thoughts. The first being that his shorts were definitely too tight. The second being that perhaps his blood sugar lacked the crucial donut molecules and lastly that I was driving a 300 with a Hemi and I could probably out run him. Lets show these California people what a high speed chase really looks like. But as I mentioned before I have grown wiser over the years and I sat patiently while waiting for the verdict.
The officer stepped out of his cruiser this time looking a little disappointed and his jaw muscles quite a bit more relaxed than before. His voice had lost its coarse tone and had been replaced by something slightly more authoritative. “You need to let your rental company know as soon as possible about this problem. Even though it is a rental it is your responsibility to make sure it is registered and I could write you a ticket but I am just going to let you off with an advisory”. Apparently an “advisory” is a more stern version of a warning. Although I could not believe what he had said I offered no reply. Besides my eyebrows spoke for me . “Yeah Right”. At this point my only recourse was to kill him with kindness. I thanked him, shook his hand and told him to be careful. The scowl on his face as he walked away was my reward.
I managed to make it back to my hotel that night without incident and from the safety of the hotel driveway I watched as the rental company towed away the old car and left me the replacement. A Chrysler 300, this time with no Hemi. There would be no chance for a high speed chase this time.
It was one twenty in the morning and I was staring at a band of yellow police tape across the closed-door of my hotel room. “Thats funny” I thought, ”I don’t recall committing a crime before going to work. I would remember that”. Glancing at several other doors down the hall it appeared like the crime was part of a wave that hit several other neighbors. The security guard parked unceremoniously on a chair outside my door eyed me with suspicion.
Taking the risk of raising the ire of a retired cop with hemorrhoids , I think I saw his posterior resting on a donut (no sprinkles), I smiled and said good morning (part of my killing with kindness persona) and pointed out that one of the taped rooms was mine.
“No it is not sir”. Now I was extremely tired and in that state I have been known to search the wrong side of the airport parking lot for my car but I was looking at my little hotel envelope , the one that accompanies your card key you when you check in, and the room number on it definitely matched one of the taped ones. Proceeding with caution I showed him the envelope and my key and uttered “Um I am sorry but when I checked in I was issued a key for this room”. Seeing the envelope and with the reluctance of a cop not wanting to leave his donut behind he slowly stood up to get a closer look at the number. He brought out a list for comparison and blinked several times to insure the number remained the same. “Well you will have to talk to the front desk. I have orders to watch these rooms as they have minors on a field trip”.
Wow a field trip to see other people’s hotel rooms! Must be a private school. “Ok, I know you are just doing your job” I said as I shuffled towards the elevator.
I appeared at the front desk, a tired beaten man incapable of any anger except for the small amount saved up for the snoring that I hoped would soon be assaulting the neighbors. I explained my plight to the front desk clerk but it was hard to ignore the fact that he looked like several of the Star Trek Ensigns that never lasted more than an episode before they were killed off. Perhaps that was why he seemed a little extra jumpy. He grabbed the master list of student rooms with all the energy of someone who knew this was their last mission and returned to my floor to confront the hemorrhoidal Bones McCoy from episode whatever and the dangers that lay behind my door.
The security guard snapped to attention accidentally taking the donut with him.
Studying the list together they concluded that my room should not be on the list but they could not guarantee that there would not be a couple of 13 year olds rummaging through my shave kit playing grown up.
Ensign front desk clerk decided that if the was his last mission he was going to carry it out all the way to its conclusion. Gathering his courage he slowly opened my door and throwing caution to the wind flipped the light switch. There at 2 am on a Tuesday night in a hotel in D.C. standing alongside Ensign Hotel “ last episode” Clerk and Bones “I’m not a cop I am a security guard Jim” McCoy, my eyes fell upon my hotel room devoid of any signs of teenage mayhem.
Twenty minutes later I was unconscious on my bed adding to the stories the school kids would be able to tell their parents about their field trip to DC , the cool stuff they saw and whatever they made up to explain the horrific noise next door that woke them up in the middle of the night.
California Highways are notorious for traffic but not known for the endless entertainment they can provide. Now my California peeps will read this and think I am out of my mind or “…and he hasn’t been institutionalized yet? Imagine that”.I have spent a few years recently in Southern California but I also lived in DC and Northern Virginia (NOVA) for fifteen years and I contend its traffic situation is worse. The NOVA traffic was nowhere near as predictable as Southern California and that is why it was more painful. Now if you have followed my adventures here you know that I was back in Southern California recently for the funeral services of loved ones. I won’t recount that here, please read “Family, Much Harder to Say Goodbye Than to Love” for the riveting details. What I will reveal is just how entertaining a Southern California traffic jam (SCTJ) can be. No really, I am sober and my room has no padding. If you are a passenger and a people watcher then I highly recommend the SCTJ experience. It rivals LAX in people watching*.
“Floppy Hat Girl”. She was the first person of interest we spotted in our SCTJ experience from LA to San Diego on a holiday weekend. The traffic was expected, the entertainment value was not. I was alerted to Floppy Hat Girl when my sister had pointed her out by saying “how can that girl see where she is driving?”. Turning around I spotted her pulling up along side of us. To this day I still have no idea what she looked like. If I was an eye witness to a crime she committed my only response in the interview would have been, “I think the perp” , too many cop shows, “ was a female. Her cheek bones gave me that impression. It was hard to tell . She had this blue floppy hat that obscured the rest of here features. Honestly I don’t know how she drove the get away car”. Floppy Hat Girl provided us with some good moments along the drive. I even wrote a little song dedicated to “My Floppy Hat Girl”. I am working out the chords on my guitar. I will let you know when it drops.
Next up in the cavalcade of characters was the cliche Southern Californian. In this case a shoeless female looking totally chill in the parking lot of an SC traffic Jam. How do I know she was shoeless you ask? The bare foot propped up on the driver side window was a big clue. I figured as a fashion conscious California girl her shoes or lack thereof were matching.
The driver that made me laugh the most was one that I did not see first hand but was witnessed by my cousin-in-law in our caravan. Apparently this particular driver had gotten hungry during the drive , or the park in this case, and was spotted warming tortillas on his dash board. It appeared to my cousin-in-law that once warm he was eating it plain. This led to all sorts of speculation as to whether he preps his dashboard with any cooking spray or special spices and what types of dashboards make the best warmers. Does it only work for tortillas or can bread or buns be substituted? You can take it from there I am sure.
The commute to San Diego from LA took over four hours and as experiences go I would not intentionally seek it out. But if you find your self in this position make sure you are a passenger and pay attention to those around you. It will make the experience a little more bearable. A package of tortillas and a can of Pam couldn’t hurt either.
* While flying out to LA on a weekly basis few years back, I invented a game that I played with a business colleague called “Guess What They do for a Living”. I have played it in airports all over the country. LAX is the best place to play it , although no matter where its played it never fails to entertain.
It is strange how sometimes life’s paths seem to take us away from our initial goals, but if we just give them a chance and play out the hand, we may get what we wanted in the first place.
It was the year 2000 and the world had just survived the current disaster de jour, the millennium had come and gone and the various tools of its destruction had failed to cause a nasty smell let alone bring on the four horses of the apocalypse. The biggest hammer, the millennium bug, the software version of the plague had come and gone with very few casualties save for the Japanese man who had feared nuclear destruction and fled to Australia with a blow gun, a flak jacket and a chemical warfare suit. It’s true folks . I couldn’t make that up. I am not sure that qualifies as a casualty but I am sure his friends missed him. It was also the year that I finally got off my butt and did what I had been talking and thinking about for some time, Uproot myself from Northern Virginia where I had landed after graduating from college. I had been there for fifteen years and I had made some really great friends but I wanted to be a little closer to my family. I had two nephews who I saw once a year and I had a niece on the way. I wanted to make sure that she did not know me as ” the uncle that showed up at Christmas, brought me a present and whose name I had to be reminded of”. Of course when they’re young they probably would take two out of three as long as one of the two are “present”. Ok , not to fully take the air out of the “ he is such a family guy” sails but I also wanted to be in a place where I could enjoy the outdoors and ski more. I had taken up skiing several years before and I needed to make sure my jones could always be met. Hey, when the knees are gone I am going to have to lean on my family.
I found a job in Boulder Colorado and in June of 2000 I jumped in my Mustang and took the long way to Colorado via Michigan to visit my brother. While I was there my niece had entered the world. Perhaps it was just a coincidence that I was leaving for Kansas the next day and would see her soon. Perhaps not. Perhaps it was her way of insuring that I would never forget her birthday. Six hundred and some odd miles later I was visiting with my newborn niece. While I was experiencing some trepidation at starting my new life, I completely forgot it while contemplating her new life. Funny thing about birth , it tends to put things in perspective.
Its strange, now that I live in Colorado I do more traveling then I ever have in the past but I see my family more often. Usually I can arrange my travels so that they take me through Kansas for a visit. If I am not traveling I have been known to jump in my Mustang (yep the same one) for a short cruise , they are only 7.5 hours away when there is no construction on I-70 and the highway patrol cooperates. It was during one of those “short cruise” visits during the fourth of July where my niece gave me the nickname that I love and will go with me to my grave*. Out of the blue one day she said to me “Your not Uncle Dan, You’re Uncle Bingo”. Of course her logic was solid when I asked why, “I dunno just cause you are”. Works for me. It also seems to work for the rest of my family who affectionately call me , I am sure its with affection, Uncle Bingo or just Bingo.
So if you hear the sound of fun coming your way it may be the circus or you may just be getting a visit from Uncle Bingo’s Traveling Road Show. Don’ t worry, it will be entertaining and I hardly ever leave a mess. Well nothing that can’ t be cleaned up or forgiven by the next visit.
*Oh sure ,when I am an 80 year old man “Uncle Bingo” will sound kind of weird but when that time comes it will just be “endearing” or creepy. I’m betting on the former.
Family reunions come in all shapes and sizes and for many different reasons.This particular one happened because of the passing of two members. To know the Oneills is to know chaos. Rarely any gathering happens in this family without parts of the group getting lost, showing up late or leading the entire group on a path that not even GoogleMaps, MapQuest and even GPS could lead them back from.
The passing of loved ones often leads to the pondering of ones own timeline. Specifically how short it is. I am somewhat relieved to report that due to one of the funeral services I can check off two items from my bucket list. Item number 372*)Spend a confusing hour in the basement of a mausoleum and number 373) Be chauffeured in a golf cart through a cemetery. Yes, conveniently I have planned consecutive items for the same location. The Oneill’s may not know where we are going but we are organized on the way to not getting there.
Items 372 , and 373 were achieved during my Grandmothers life ceremony. I call it a life ceremony. It was about the celebration of her life and wonderful family and friends. All of the people to be in attendance showed up early for the ceremony. This should have been a harbinger of things to come. We had all formed a motorcade to Los Angeles from San Diego where the previous day we held the life ceremony of my Uncle. That ceremony was a beautiful tribute to a veteran in a military cemetery and went off without a hitch. Perhaps that was due to my Uncle not being an Oneill by blood. Members of the family were concerned for those that would have to brave the 405 , the 5, the 805 and whatever 05 was involved in leaving LA during rush hour on a holiday weekend. Since we had all arrived at the cemetery ahead of time an effort was made to start the ceremony early. Now if I had claimed I heard the strains of Beethoven’s fifth symphony when this decision was made I would have been label “nuts” but I swear it happened.
Which leads me to bucket list items 372 and 373. From the main building of the cemetery or the “greeting area” ** we caravanned over to the mausoleum section of the cemetery. Rolling up to the mausoleums, yes plural queue the Beethoven, we entered en masse. Now as is usual with this group , someone ( we are never really sure who the someone is in these family debacles) suggested that the ceremony was on the basement floor. To be fair there was no official “greeter” from the funeral parlor, perhaps they themselves were confused as to where they were supposed to be doing the greeting. Perhaps back at the “parlor” . In any case a majority of the group decided that was a good idea which is how I found myself checking off number 372. After close to an hour, during which several party members went to find out what was going on and never returned*** and some official funeral types never showed up to smirk and tell us we were in the wrong place, we decided by ourselves that such was the case and the best move was back to ground level. I for one hailed any decision in a cemetery that moves me back to ground level. Returning to the main floor we were greeted by official funeral types who were ready to take us to a different mausoleum via golf carts. Check off number 373. My sister and I jumped into a golf cart while my niece caught a ride in a limo. I am not sure how she wangled that. She’s only eleven. I have never ridden in a limo and that is a lot higher on my list. After a distance that was so short it was comical we arrived at the proper mausoleum for a ceremony at ground level.
The ceremony itself was simple and beautiful. Memories were shared , kind words spoken and tears were shed. In a little over an hour we had experienced a lot of what life has to offer, grief, confusion, love and laughter. Now some of you may be thinking that I am a sick individual for making light of the death of loved ones. Those of you thinking that do not know me and my family (either side) very well. This is how we deal with grief , confusion and life in general, we laugh. When my father passed away , my mother , my siblings and I had to make the arrangements. The experience can be a bit macabre and at some point we grounded ourselves with our usual coping mechanism. We laughed. After looking at caskets and making ceremony choices we had completed the arrangements to the sound of an accompanying old-fashioned credit card reader, the kind that slide with an unmistakable “ch ch” sound. To the chagrin of the funeral directory we likened it to the sound of another angel getting his wings and broke out in laugher while the director looked on in horror. Imagine that, surrounded by death and he was aghast at laughter.
It was said by several family members that , while the funerals were an occasion of sorrow, they did bring us together once again for a family reunion and we were grateful to be in each others company. Once back in San Diego, more memories and laughs were shared until it was time to bid adieu and anticipate the next occasion the Oneills will wander confused but together.
*Yes its a long list. How could it not be, It covers a lifetime.
**Confusing enough. Anywhere two live bodies can congregate in a cemetery could be a greeting area.
*** Now to be fair they may have returned but it was the basement of a mausoleum. It was dark and damp and I was perhaps a bit cranky.
Zaphod Muhamin , a prominent member of the Iranian government, was relaxing with his laptop when a trusted aid burst into his office.
“Excuse me honorable one for the interruption in your busy schedule , but I just received word that one of our prime sources of news is going out of print and will only offer news online. ”
Zaphod hid his laptop and was about to berate his assistant when the realization of what was said sank in. “Which one, The New York Times or the Washington Post?”
“Neither sir. The Onion sir.”
“Oh not “The Onion”, that is our most trusted news source of all.”, exclaimed Zaphod.
“Do you think the Council on Western Culture could see its way to allow online access to the Onion sir”, asked the assistant.
“No I do not. The Council is most emphatic on its ban of the internet to guard against the influence of the Great Satan”.
“No. America you fool.”
“Oh, of course sir, I um, was just poking fun.”
Zaphod ignored the lie and pondered this unfortunate turn of events. “Where will we look to fill the dark informational chasm that will be left behind?” , he asked.
“That is a conundrum sir but more importantly what will we do in those “quiet” times when men need reading material when they “think”?”, asked the assistant.
“Oh my that is a dilemma but I do know of the existence of a stash of Penny Savers from 1974 that may be of some use in that regard.”
“Most excellent sir”, replied the assistant.
“Well it will do until we can find other material. I may have a line on the most holiest of holy of reading materials”, said Zaphod.
“You’re not kidding? “, exclaimed the assistant. “You don’t mean ..”
“ Yes I do “ , replied Zaphod. “ I just may know where a stockpile of People Magazines are located”. “Oh that would be most desirable sir,” replied the assistant.
“Now go to your rolodex and put in a few calls to the people we know in the Chinese government.”, ordered Zaphod.
“Oh, for the People Magazines?”, asked the assistant.
“No you dolt. The Onion is also their source for hard news. Find out what they will use for their alternative source.”
“ Of course sir. Consider it done sir. “