COLD

I have a cold. The war between Russia and the Ukraine is still raging, and I have a cold. China’s tyrannical geopolitical death grip is tightening in Asia, and I have a cold. The Georgia senate runoff election is too close to call, and I have a cold.  A famous singer just died, and I have a cold.  World Cup, the Eurovision of the sports world, is not even half over, and I have a cold. Two volcanos in Hawaii are simultaneously erupting, and I have a cold.  The world keeps spinning at an out-of-control pace and all I can selfishly think about is this god-awful miserable cold.

Yet I feel like a spoiled baby obsessing about my minor, soon-to-pass, misery. I don’t want to be that stereotypical guy that acts all macho and tough until the smallest drop of discomfort or pain reduces them to a whiney little mush. I mean, ‘common cold’ is spelled with little lower-case c’s. My brother recently dealt with the big capitalized upper-case, three exclamation points ‘C’, cancer. And he did not complain or wallow in a woe-is-me pity party. I just feel it would be wrong for me trudge around like Eeyore grousing about the little inconvenient interruption to my normal healthy go-go existence. But it’s hard to focus and function when you feel like feces. I know it’s not the end of the world, but dammit… I have a cold.

I’m sure in a few days I will feel fine, but for the moment I am dealing with that all-too-familiar raging raw sore throat, achy phlegm-factory chest-twinging cough, and the repulsively disgusting sinus slop that can’t decide if it wants to gush out of my face like a cracked water main or clog up into a swollen throb-fest of discomfort. My brain can’t focus, my eye is twitching, even my thighs hurt and I have no earthly clue why… Oh yeah.  I have a cold.

These days, a simple stray sniffle often draws confounding covid conclusions and can quickly make you as popular as a flea-ridden rat during the bubonic plague era. Not wanting to earn the Typhoid Mary-like moniker ‘Wuhan Dan’ for being the neighborhood epicenter of spreading disease and pestilence, I took one of the nose poking home tests. Luckily the only thing on the test strip glowing like my red clogged nose was the Control Line.

I did not really believe it was anything serious. I have been getting this exact same common cold once or twice a year for as long as I can remember.  It always follows the same throat to chest to head pattern and lasts the same five to six days from onset to final drain.  Yet every time I feel it coming on, I optimistically hope, dream, and do the Dan version of praying, that this will be the one time that the tingly throat tickle does not lead to multiple days of discomfort.

The ramifications of getting sick are more pronounced as an adult. When I was a little boy and caught my usual cold, I felt like a king. I got to spend the day lounging in mom and dad’s big king-sized bed; away from everyone else but where it was easy for mom to keep track of me. Sure, I had to deal with being sick, but I also got to stay home from school, not get picked on by my older siblings, and watch cheesy weekday afternoon TV shows like The Price Is Right. Plus, my chores and homework were all put on hold. And best of all, mom brought me a steady stream of hot tea and toast. Ever since then, that is all I crave when I’m sick. Even this week, I have probably consumed a Boston Harbor’s worth of tossed tea and a ‘Jesus feeding 5000’ parable amount of toasty bread.

Lost amid the excitement of my first taste of independence, when I originally moved out from under Mom’s wing, I had not given a thought about how newly released from nest Dan would adjust to not being doted on when I caught a cold.  With the college cafeteria a half mile hike away from my Animal House-esque freshman dorm, the first time I felt under the weather there, it became obvious there would be no steady stream of delivered bedside tea and toast. Rather than finding homey comfort foods, in that crazy building, it would have been infinitely easier for sick Dan to wander the halls and obtain a stray wide-mouth Mickeys, a Montezuma tequila shot, or an invitation into someone’s smokey dark room for a wake and bake distraction from being ill. Maybe there was a downside to the freedom of adulthood? In the real world, there was no simple note from home that erased my missed responsibilities.

After my best buddy / dorm roommate Mike left Florida State to pursue his dreams in California, I spent the next couple of years at college pretending I was a grown-up, semi-living with my girlfriend.  Officially I had moved into a dumpy cheap student ghetto apartment that I shared with three ROTC Air Force wannabe flyboys (oh I fit in well there), but I spent 99% of the time at my girlfriend’s oversized daddy-paid-for apartment. I never really moved in with her because we thought neither of our parents would have been happy with that… particularly her intimidating fiery dad who referred to me only as “The Jew” for the first year I knew him.  None-the-less, we went through the motions of being a stable normal average couple, but we were clueless about the real world and spent most of the time putting the funk in disfunction.

One winter we shared cold like it were an oversized umbrella on a rainy day. Back and forth it went like a diseased ping-pong game, as we repeatedly got each other sick. When I first got the bug, to taunt me in the future, she laughingly took a picture of me looking all blotchy and miserable. I got my revenge taking one of her in the same uncomfortable position the next week. It was funny at first, but then it just kept going and going. We did the best we could to take care of each other, but we were both still ill-equipped to even be taking care of ourselves. Our carelessness and inability in not being able to get over a simple cold without reinfecting the other one, was symbolic of our relationship. We had the best of intentions but mostly just found new and creative ways to hurt each other.

Throughout that season of sickness, we tried every remedy from herbal to tribal to get over our ongoing illness. But each time I re-caught it, I would go through the same phases, and it would take the same amount of time to pass. That was actually the first time I really started noticing that my colds were always the exact same. And that is still the case today.

Over the decades, I can’t tell you how many times I have had that same damn cold. It’s not something I have ever thought to keep track of. My colds all just blend together except for a few notable exceptions. I recall feeling really guilty when I caught one while visiting my brother Neil. Although being a hypochondriac, you would have thought he would have been the most understanding, but I don’t think he liked someone stepping on his turf.  

During the worst two days, I crashed in my brother’s guestroom trying not to breathe on his family. His wife Martha was crazy sweet and tried doting on me like my mom used to do, but that just made me feel more guilty about spoiling my visit. All I kept asking her for was tea and toast, but she wanted to be extra nice so she brought fancier food to my bedside. Unfortunately, on my worst mediciney belly, snot filled night, she served me a large bowl of murky lamb stew. To this day I still associate the smell of lamb with being sick.

One time I visited my friend Charlie during the latter stages of one of my colds.  I still felt like crap but was on the upswing and certainly not contagious anymore. While headed over to hang out at his friend Terrance’s funky upstairs apartment, I stopped to pick up a loaf of plain white bread. Then when we arrived, I immediately asked T if he had a toaster I could borrow. The entire time I was there, as we all chatted and listened to music, I sat on the floor away from everyone with the machine by my side, happily eating slice after slice of comfort food toast. It was the best I had felt in almost a week.

My wife and I dote on each other when the other gets sick, but we are pretty good at protecting the other from catching the creeping crud. I guess feeling guilty is theme of mine when I am sick, because for the past couple of days I have felt bad about dramatically disrupting my wife from her normal routines. But I know my colds well, soon I will be back to pulling my weight around the house again. Tomorrow I will be much better and the next day it should pretty much be gone. But as for right now, I still can honestly say… I have a cold.

WINTER OF SICKNESS. WITH A COLD AT MY COLLEGE GIRLFRIEND’S APARTMENT
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AN ORANGE PEEL FLAVORED BACHELOR PARTY

My wife just got back from a two-week business trip to India. A lot of her direct report employees work at her company’s large office in Hyderabad, so it is always a well-received and rewarding trek. She has made this journey a handful of times before, so I know the routine.  About two weeks before leaving, her stress level starts to rise, as she preps for all the work that has to get done while she is over there. Then about seven days prior, the real arduous task begins of trying to pack. Her clothing, toiletries, and computer barely fill the smallest bag. The hard part is cramming all the gifts for her team into her two huge other oversized luggage.

As the week goes on, more people drop off things that they want her to deliver. Re-re-re-packing becomes the norm as she battles to keep each bag under the allowable weight restrictions.  Last time she went, she brought 80LB of very in demand American mini chocolate bars with her… yes 80 pounds! This time there was slightly less candy but more dolls, shirts, books, mugs, and other assorted stuff. She tells everyone to make their gifts small and light, but there is always at least one boss type person she can’t refuse, that ignores her request and at the last minute asks her to deliver something ridiculously large, lumpy, and heavy across the globe.

I go through a weird emotional rollercoaster ride when she is off galivanting on another continent for so long.  A few days before she leaves, I start anticipating the exciting phoenix like re-emergence of Bachelor Man Dan. The selfish shlub who can hog-cheese the center of the bed, set the thermostat at whatever uncompromised temperature he wants, can control the TV remote with reckless abandon, can emit an array of unpleasant bodily noises and odors with no guilt or excuse me-s, and can guilt-freely consume all manner of foods that my wife despises (as long as I air out the stenchy tuna-melt smell and finish all the tomato products she is allergic to, before she gets back).

As usual, it only took about two days of falling back into my old single-guy caveman-like slogging around the house routines to be reminded why 22 years ago I fell into a deep pile of mushy, nauseating to others, head over heels, love with my wife. Simply put, my world is better when she is around. So at the risk of being called a whipped wus by the ‘macho manly men doing manly things’ club, after 48 hours, I was ready for her to come home. I guess, it’s not a bad thing to occasionally be reminded that the grass is plenty green enough on my side.

The other thing that usually happens before she goes on a lengthy trip like this, is I put together a long list of Dan-centric things I want to get done while she is away.  Some are long procrastinated pet projects, others are a surprise for her, but mostly it’s just stuff I’d prefer to do when she is not here, so if I completely screw it up, I have time to redo it before she sees the complete and utter mess I have made of things.

There is another touchy issue too. I like doing some of these things when she is away because we live in an older house and the flippers we purchased it from did a lot of half-assed short-cut ‘lipstick on a pig’ repairs. This infuriates my wife, so I try to address some of those general maintenance headachy things when she is not around. This helps us both avoid the ramifications of her getting all wound up again about the “house fighting her” or regretting we did not buy elsewhere (I am running out of good excuses to throw at her when she brings up the gigantic run-down fabulous fifties house with the groovy sunken living room, oversized entranceway wet-bar, and roman statues around the pool, that we passed on just before buying this one).

Knowing I like to get stuff done while she is away, my wife also left me an ample sized ‘honey do’ list too. Her list items were written on individual post-it notes attached to Pavlovian-like yummy treats that she suggested I eat as a reward when the accompanying task was completed.  Number one on both our lists was to fix, fill, finish, and paint the numerous cracks on the front inside walls that had developed after we recently had major foundation work done. We also both wanted some ceilings repainted. But our lists diverged from there, she had a lot of sillier small projects that I thought would be easier to accomplish if we both were home, so I skipped a few of my treats and mostly did the ones I wanted to do… I guess that feeble rebellious spirit was all part of the Bachelor Man Dan attitude.

Her first full day away was a Saturday, and I chose that day to revert back to being Cro-Magnon-Dan. I did nothing but sit on my butt (on HER usual spot on the sofa), drinking beer, dozing, and overeating at irregular hours, while watching football, old 70’s cop shows, and documentaries I knew she would hate. Sunday, I started working projects. I did the first difficult step of refinishing the bathtub in the guest bathroom. Then when my back started hurting from contorting and bending, I switched to stretching on the ladder to spackle a bunch of wall and ceiling cracks.

You might have noticed I used the word selfish a few times already, which sounds funny as I am writing about doing husbandly chores and missing my wife. The problem I have with prolonged alone time is it gives me way too much time to climb inside my head and overthink things. I get overly introspective, hyper-analyzing, and excessively worrying. I just do better when she is around, she keeps me level and somewhat stable. But then I worry that those are selfish reasons for missing her. To avoid all this, I try to keep my brain busy by throwing myself into all those projects. But unfortunately, that often backfires into a bit of a mental head trip loop. I am doing handy-man home repairs to forget about my inadequacies, but my lack of ability to successfully do handy-man home repairs to perfection, reminds me of my inadequacies. And so the spin goes until she gets home.

I know I developed the belief I should be able to successfully do all these projects, from growing up watching my Dad successfully tackle every home repair task that came up. Of course, he did all those things himself out of financial necessity and being a kid, I did not really notice how half-assed a lot of his work was. But none of that stopped me this past two weeks as I overly-optimistically started multiple new projects.  Even when I knew halfway through, I would be questioning why I just did not pay a professional to do it.

Honestly, I really don’t know what I am doing half the time. Beforehand I always study online ‘how to’ videos but slogging through those clips is miserable. Everyone seems to have conflicting methods and techniques. I never know who to trust.  I try to find the tips that everyone seems to agree upon but usually the only thing they have in common, is they make it look way easier than it actually is for a layman novice.

Worst of all, no matter how much research and preparation I take, I still always seem to fall into the home repair time vortex. If everyone says the job should take an hour, it most assuredly will end up taking three or four. And that’s not counting the unplanned additional trips I make to the hardware store for additional supplies, tools or materials I forgot or did not know I needed.

So most every day while my wife was away, after I finished my real job, I did a few hours of work around the house. Whenever I got overwhelmed with the seemingly insurmountable bigger jobs, I’d stop and do one of the short easier tasks, like mounting new locks on a couple of doors, winterizing the pool, or repairing the master bathroom toilet paper dispenser that has a tendency of tossing the roll onto the floor and out of reach at the most inopportune times.

Repairing the zillion wall cracks was a slow-paced job because of all the ‘stop and wait 24 hours’ steps. Spackle – wait – spackle – wait – sand – wait – match the wall texture – wait – paint – wait– redo wall texture because it does not match – wait – paint – redo the wall texture a third time because it still does not match – wait – paint -wait –  find the spots you missed – wait…

You might have noticed I had some issues with matching the wall texture.  The person that invented Orange Peel wall texture must have bene an evil sadistic bastard hellbent on torturing every handyman and painter that ever picked up a brush or roller. I almost wish I believed there was a brutal horned Beelzebub ruling a fiery awful afterlife hot spot, so I could wish the human that decided to cover every surface in my house with orange peel texture, to spend an eternity of misery there.

Trying to exactly match that look on a small area without repainting the entire wall or ceiling with a fancy expensive paint sprayer is a near impossibility. Previously I had tried the spray can textures, sand-like paint additives, textured paint rollers, sponged joint compound, and free-hand dabbing, all with about as much success as Wile E Coyote had catching the Road Runner. Of course, this did not stop me from trying over and over and over this past two weeks, but most times instead of orange peel, it looked like orange smear, orange blob, or orange mess. Now that I am finished, I can honestly say it looks great… when the lights are really, really dim.

But Orange Peel was not Repair-Man-Dan’s biggest nemesis while my wife was away. Remember when I said I did little easy fix-its when I was getting frustrated or overwhelmed by the gargantuan jobs. Remember how I mentioned the loose toilet paper holder.  Yeah, that simple job ended up being the worst of the bunch. It should have been a quick easy half hour of simply shifting the dispenser to the right a half inch. But no, No, NO, NNNNOOOO. I will spare you the gory details about my multiple self-flagellation outbursts and discovery of a companion for the Orange Peel guy’s trip to Hades-ville. Lets just say I spent well over three hours across four nights patching golf ball sized holes that had previously been carefully hidden behind the dispenser. The thing wobbled and dropped the rolls because it was precariously being held on the wall by an array of mangled massive molly screws clinging to barest thread of remaining drywall.

But it’s all done now… kinda’.  Truth is, I only did the repairs in the more obvious rooms. There is still a bunch more that needs to eventually get done. But maybe I’ll just call a real handyman. My wife is not traveling for awhile. Plus, I dont thing my ego can take any more beatings for awhile.

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SAY IT AIN’T SO, G.I. JOE

Based on the amount of TV ads and SPAM email / texts I have recently been bombarded with, apparently a lot of people must think my car warranty ran out while I was using the water at Camp Lejeune to wash off the excessive amount of Round Up I was exposed to. It sort of feels like I’ve hit maximum exposure to the triple trifecta of trendy class action suits and sucker scams. It makes me miss the hilarious deception ads of old, like Tom Vu standing on a cheesy yacht surround by bikinied bimbos as he pitches his get rich quick seminar.

Whenever I see one of those annoying adverts on my phone, computer or TV, I always think of what my Mom told us when we were little. To combat the endless flow of advertising aimed at her children, she tried to convince us anything that that had to be promoted was not particularly good. She would say, “if it was really worth it, they would not need to advertise it’. And she was convincing too; we were all hoodwinked for a while. I know I believed her right up until my friend John got his first Hot Wheels.

When I was growing up, there were very few similar aged little kids in my immediate neighborhood. After Voula and Donna from across the street decided dorky boys were too yucky to play with (and I was definitely a dorky boy… and kinda yucky), John became my de facto best (only) friend for a few years. His strict old-world parents might have constantly scolded him in German (he did misbehave a lot) and frequently spanked him with the wood and leather strap that hung on the wall in their family front room (that always shocked me) but they did shower him and his older sister with a ton of the latest greatest heavily advertised toys. And you know what? For the most part mom was right; they were nowhere near as cool in real life as they looked in the ads.

John’s parents had mixed feelings about me. Though much of their complaining was in their native Deutschland tongue, there was enough English said that I understood they disliked that their son was playing with a Jewish boy. But like I said, there was slim pickings in the neighborhood those days. John was already forbidden to even talk to Eric next door because their parents were in a bitter feud and even though I was the “bastard Jew”, I was at least a better influence then his always in trouble Catholic school, older kid, mini-hoodlum friends.

For a while, GI Joe was John’s favorite toy. Even at that young age, the irony of what his parents might think about a Jew and German playing war together was not lost on us. John had a ton of GI Joe stuff, but I was not really into it. I remember thinking, just like Mom had said about heavily advertised stuff, that it all kinda’ sucked. It was the era when the doll (ne oversized masculine ‘action figure’) had an overly coiffed 1970’s porn-star style beard and life-like permed hair akin to that of the dad on the Brady Bunch during its last couple of more groovy seasons. Rather than a tough fighting soldier, he looked more like a peace-time camouflage-wearing flamboyant member of the Village People.

Riding the new wave of martial arts popularity (literally, “everybody was Kung Fu Flighting”, haaaaaa!!!), the big deal in all the toy’s new ads was that GI Joe now had ‘Kung Fu grip’. We might have been young, but we were not stupid.  What a dumb thing to advertise to little giggling boys. We all knew what Joe was doing alone behind the barracks with his Kung-Fu grip. But even my constant mocking of the ridiculous rubber bendy fingers feature, was not enough to dissuade John’s love of GI Joe.  

Maybe it was to make up for all the beatings, but John’s parents just kept buying him more and more GI Joe stuff. He even had the incongruently colored, orange and yellow flimsy fold-out plastic Army home base that looked more like a Bhutanese fire station. And even worse was the rickety army jeep, that was strangely similar to Malibu Barbie’s beach car, only painted green instead of pink. Like I said, I did not have a lot of friends. So sure, John and I played with all this crappy stuff, but it did nothing to disprove my mom’s theory.

But then one Christmas John suddenly outgrew his love of GI Joes and his family then started showering him with his new favorite. They gave him mountains of way cool Hot Wheels cars and tracks. They were awesome!!!! They made my clunky (rarely advertised – significantly cheaper) Johnny Lightening race car set look mega lame.  John’s Hot Wheels were even cooler in real life than they were in the ads. We could make his miles of flexible track do crazy twisty loop to loops that ended with the cars soaring through the air smashing into his basement wall. Or even better, when we had them crash into his older sister’s long abandoned doll house. We talked about it, but we never did figure out how to make a car fly through a ring of fire, but that probably was for the best.

The super coolness of John’s Hot Wheels proved to me that Mom was fibbing about the whole TV ads thing. Not only did I no longer buy into her nonsense about advertised stuff always being junky, but it taught me that my folks did not always tell me the truth. But even with that insight, the crap your parents preach has a way of lingering and worming its way into your brain for the rest of your life. Even all these years after mom’s brilliantly evil scheme was long-ago exposed to me in a Hot Wheels haze of lies and deceit, her words “if it was really worth it, they would not need to advertise it.’ still bounce around my noggin and cause me to question and doubt advertising claims that I see today. No matter how impressive looking, I still don’t blindly believe Flex Seal tape will save my leaky boat from sinking, that burnt melted caramel will simply slide off a scientifically superior copper coated pan, or that the Turbi-Twist will change my life forever.

I do not think it’s a coincidence that I eventually got my college degree in Advertising. Originally, I was an English major but they wanted to just turn me into an English teacher not a creative writer. Next, I became a Psychology major because I was fascinated with what drives and motivates people to do things. But after a Brain And Behavior class that ignored the textbook and instead focused 3 months on one of the natural timers in rat brains that the teaching professor had discovered, I was done with that department. Advertising seemed to be the best of both. Using creativity to manipulate people that have a predisposition to distrust everything you say. I recall thinking, I could have fun doing that!!!

I imagined myself being the guy coming up with the next “where’s the beef” or “I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up” catch phrase. But alas, it was not meant to be. I dabbled for a bit at my friend T-Bone’s agency, but I never seriously pursued it. My wife tends to ignore the constant stream of advertising that surrounds us. And she always seems perplexed that instead, I am constantly analyzing it. But since the days of Mom saying it was all fake, it’s what I have always done. And likely always will do.

CLICK TO SEE GI JOE WITH KUNG FU GRIP

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DOODLES!!!!

The hardest part about writing a weekly (hopefully somewhat entertaining) blog for the past 16 years is constantly having to come up with new topics. There are just so many times I can talk about getting older and losing my memory… although I don’t mind repeatedly using that one because it proves its own point.  More than one person has suggested that I could just chop up old entries and cobble together a retrospective one, like a “best Of’ album or how older sitcoms do those filler episodes consisting of edited rehashed bits. But I always hated those and it kinda’ felt like cheating.

Usually, if nothing new and exciting to write about happens to me during the week, I delve into my deep dark murky past.  Unfortunately, after the first few years I burned through all my juicy dramatic stuff like when I disturbed a senate hearing, being hijacked to Cuba (that was a 2 parter!), cracking a rib falling ‘up’ stairs, and having my first new big-boy bike stolen at knife point. Ever since, I’ve been forced to sometimes dig a little too deep into my childhood tale arsenal.

Does anybody really want to read about mom driving me up to Bronx to a family friend doctor to get a creepy wart burned off my thumb or that I had a major unrequited secret crush on Stacey Hoffman in the third grade.  I mean, I could get an entertaining paragraph out of the time John Yonke and I dragged a found back seat of a car into a tree, in the wooded area abutting the Interborough Pkwy, and called it a treehouse. But there is not much story beyond that. Yet those were the only three (lame) ideas that popped into my head Tuesday morning as I sat floundering without a hint of an idea for a blog topic.

Then out of nowhere, it suddenly hit me. Doodles Weaver.  And I was off and running. I’m guessing these days I can count on my fingers and toes how many people consider themselves Doodles Weaver fans. But surprisingly enough, I am one of them.

It’s no secret that my whole life I have been a huge fan of some odd stuff. I mean in my mind, Vernon, Florida is the absolute top, no comparison, best movie of all time. To me, it’s better than The Godfather, Gone With The Wind, Star Wars, or that old rosebudy one about the fat egomaniac politician made by a fat egomaniac director. The strange hour-long documentary was originally supposed to be called Nub City, when the director Errol Morris read an article about Vernon, the tiny Florida panhandle town which per capita had the most people with nubs (missing digits, limbs…) in the US.

When he got there and started interviewing people, his original concept was quickly scraped because he found so much more to make a movie about then it just being a nubby nirvana. The film is a real-life tour de force of quirkiness. I fell in love with that movie upon my first viewing and have enjoyed it hundreds of times since. I mention this, not just to drag things out longer as I fish for a decent weekly topic and somehow try to connect it all to Doodle Weaver popping in my head, but more so as an example that my tastes are very different than most other humans.

My parents and four older siblings had lots of music records around the house for me to listen to when I was growing up. Sam liked 1960s mostly horn based pop music, Neil was into folk and singer songwriters, Ellen into prog and hard rock, Arthur liked… well… I don’t know what Arthur liked. His only two records were comedy songs by Lou Monte and Soupy Sales. Yet I recall once when he came home from college after a nasty break-up, he spent a lot of time being morose and listening to my Three Dog Night album on the headphones. Nowadays, he is way into K-Pop, so again… who knows?

Dad used to blare Beethoven and Tchaikovsky so loud Sunday afternoons, the windows would rattle, and you’d have thought the Andrews Sisters were still the biggest thing since sliced bread the way mom constantly had sappy 1940s and 50s music playing on her kitchen transistor radio.  With so many influences, I got a great appreciation for all kinds of music. Anything by The Beatles was my favorite, but not far behind were a slew of unusual, odd, old, and straight-out novelty records. To me it seemed perfectly normal to listen to Surfin’ Bird, The Witch Doctor, Kung Fu Fighting, or Dead Puppies in the same sitting alongside more traditional serious fare.

As most fans of strange fringe music eventually do, at some point I discovered Dr. Demento’s famous radio show. I loved it!! Two hours a week chuck full of all sorts of oddities that traditional radio never played. Not only did the show introduce me to a boatload of songs and artists I still consider my favorites, but more importantly it helped me realize I was not alone. There were other folks out there with the same unique tastes as me. That was an important lesson for a dorky kid without a lot of friends. I felt less strange and isolated knowing plenty of others out there also appreciated non currently mainstream artists like Cab Calloway, Allen Sherman and Barnes & Barnes as much as I did.  

Like so many other fans of Dr. Demento, I originally taped songs right off his radio show that I later shared with my friends. It was not long before I started digging through stacks of vinyl in used record stores to track down other obscure recordings by the artists the show introduced me to.  Eventually, Dr Demento started releasing compilation records and CDs filled with favorites from his show. No shock I have several; as recently as 10 years ago, my wife gave me another one. Oh course, nowadays you can just dig in the hidden corners of the internet to track down most any of these previously hard-to-find songs. But it was from the good Doctor that many of us learned what and who to look for.

Of course, one of Dr. Demento’s favorites was Weird Al Yankovic.  I was a fan of his stuff too, of course I had to be different though. I bought a copy of his early 45 Another One Rides The Bus, not for the famous overplayed parody hit, but for the crazy obscure flip side song, Gotta Boogie, a peppy disco-ish dance tune with a chorus that repeats “Gotta Boogie” several times before tossing in the punch line “Gotta boogie on my finger and I can’t flick it off”.

I never really gave it much thought, but as a kid I don’t think I ever envisioned myself as an older middle-aged bald guy still laughing at Gotta Boogie or enjoying sitting around listening to the Shaggs, Hank Ballard’s Annie songs, King Missile, or They’re Coming to Take Me Away Haaahaa (forwards and backwards). But I do. More frequently than I should admit too. Which is why I jumped at the chance to attend the fancy shmancy world premiere of the New Weird Al Yankovic (faux) biopic movie. The single opening night showing was being simulcast into a handful of theatres nationally before the film was being dropped on-line for streaming a few days later.  

It was a good wacky fun-filled film, with all the roll-your-eyes goofy humor you would expect. They gave out souvenir Weird Al wigs and Hawaiian shirts, then made the audience pose for a goofy group shot.  Before the movie, they showed the cheesy low-budget NYC red carpet walk, and after the film there was live Q&A with the cast and director moderated by none other than Dr. Demento himself.

I texted a couple of photos I took while the event was going on, to a few of my friends that are well aware of my dorky tendencies and somewhat suspect music tastes. They were happy for me, but there were not a lot of signs of jealousy. I also got the same tepid response from my wife when I got home. After work the next day, I noticed some folks were talking about the movie preview in an on-line chat group dedicated to the bizarre music duo Barnes & Barnes, that I am a member of (I told you I was a geek… so none of this should surprise you). On a whim, I posted the pic of the post-film Q&A that I had sent to my friends with a quick line about me liking the movie and the Dr. Demento interviews.

The next morning, I happened to glance at my post. I had to laugh and pointed out to my wife that my life had gone full circle. Of the 35 Like and Love responses people had clicked about my photo overnight, one of the Loves was from Dr. Demento (Barret Hanson). My wife said, “you should take a picture of that and write a blog about it”. I responded, “I have no clue how I would drag a whole story out about that, but you never know how desperate I might get some time.”  As usual, she was right.

Okey, mission accomplished. I managed to turn absolutely nothing into 14 paragraphs. But there is one loose end here.  What about Doodles Weaver??  Well, from the 1950s to the early 80s he was a constantly working character actor appearing in a zillion movies and TV shows from The Birds and The Nutty Professor to The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Monkees and Fantasy Island. But before all that he was a comedian who played with Spike Jones, the 1940s-50s crazy bandleader whose wacky music was frequently played on the Dr Demento Show. But I first learned about Doodles Weaver when I was in High School. That’s when I purchased Dr. Demento’s first compilation album. And on that album was a completely horrible (so of course I loved it) rendition of the Beatles song Eleanor Rigby… sung by Doodles Weaver.  

CLICK TO SEE DOODLES WEAVER

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ZIMMERLING, METZ, AND STORCH… OH MY!

Sometimes I feel like I am crazily careening down the highway of life, flying at a breakneck speed without any working brakes. When I was young, I acted as if I had nothing but time, wasting it all willy-nilly like I had a Methuselahs worth ahead of me. Now That I am old enough to realize how precious and elusive it is, the days fly by in a blur. Just yesterday I was questioning how it got to be November already; I think I lost a summer somewhere?  Then it hit me, 2022 is almost over… Twenty-twenty-two!!  When I was a kid that year sounded so far away and futuristic. I expected it to be the era of Jetsons’ flying cars, intergalactic peace treaties, and non-fattening tasty bacon.

I know my focus is supposed to be optimistically looking ahead to the future through the front windshield, but I often find myself irresistibly peering into the rearview mirror enjoying the comforts of the past.  But the farther along I get down that road of life, the more distant and distorted my memories become. Especially when I am looking into my side mirrors where some “objects in the mirror are closer than they appear”.

I guess part of the problem is, who knew back when I was a wide-eyed idealistic kid, that the future would be so lame? We not only don’t seem better off, things seem worse. Or maybe that is just the cranky ‘you kids get off my lawn’ old man in me?  But world-wide crises seem no better, people still can’t figure out how to get along, and there is still not even a cure for the common cold. Sure, nowadays we all have interconnected little crazy powerful computers in our pockets that have astounding unfathomable powers with space-age picture phone communication capabilities, yet 95% of the time they are only used for watching 10 second videos of people yelling at each other, baking camouflaged cakes, taking the black-out challenge, or dancing to the next Baby Shark like craze. No wonder I seek comfort in the past, the future stinks… even if it has electrolytes.

Both currently in their 90s, my parents are sitting atop a tall unbelievable mountain of experience, wisdom, and knowledge. They must feel these same things I do, only much more so. Surely somewhere along the way they figured out how to positively look towards the future while simultaneously slowing down to appreciate life. I assume years ago they tried to tell me, but I was too busy making my own mistakes to listen. Tips from the older generations about how to successfully navigate life are typically lost on the young. Part of the cockiness of youth is thinking you know better. It’s not till your knee-deep into adulthood that it becomes obvious that you didn’t know shit.

I’ve always enjoyed chatting with my Mom and listening to Dad tell a goofy story, but now as time races by, those moments seem even more precious and important. I don’t think they understand how much I truly enjoy taking a break from my normal rush around day to day, to just leisurely sit and chat with them, like we again did when I recently visited.

My parents used to constantly travel, socialize, and dine out. There was always a steady stream of new experiences.  Now, between their walkers, wheelchairs, and oxygen tanks, just going down the street can be a difficult and painful ordeal. It has sadly made their world much smaller which is particularly frustrating to dad. I would feel the same way too. Because of this most of our conversations now involve looking backwards, stringing together the tales shrinking in their rear-view mirror distance.

Two weeks ago, while sitting on the sofa listening to Dad start to spin a long tangly yarn, I was again reminded that I inherited my father’s love of telling meandering stories that jump around. I do it here in my blog all the time. I think I am doing it now!  Dad’s train of thought has always switched tracks a lot, but he used to inevitably find his way back to the original point. Nowadays there are definitely more complete conversation derailments. Mom tries to nudge him back on course, but at a cantankerous 94 years-old with a bad back and failing hearing, his old dog ways are resistant to new tricks.

As we sat down to talk, dad originally started following up on a story he started a couple of hours earlier about an interesting man his Dad did business with decades ago. That led to a sharp U-turn, to a story about a guy with a name like Pinocchio (I did not really catch the name though he and mom said it several times) who owned a parking garage in the old neighborhood where he and my mom grew up.  Apparently right near it was a funeral home run by a guy named Zimmerling.

Dad paused and then smiled, recalling the wacky business cards Zimmerling gave out with sayings like “when your time is up, call me”. Dad’s smile softened and you could almost see his mind searching for something, as he said, “I wish I still had one of his cards.”  Then his focus tightened again as he explained how Zimmerling used to park his hearses in Pinocchio’s (??) parking garage. Apparently, they had a service where they washed the cars that were parked and dad told about the day a cleaning guy ran out of the lot never to be seen again, after he came eye to eye with a body in the back of one of Zimmerling’s cars.

You could see the waves of 70-year-old memories hit, as he recalled other nearby places to Zimerlings on Jamaica Ave under the erector-set like ‘L’ train elevated tracks. He looked at Mom and said, “remember on 102nd St, next to Metz’s fish market, was Schweetie’s Ice Cream parlor.” Mom smiled with him at the thought of the long-gone place, but then quickly tried to correct him about the location. But dad was on a roll and forged on undeterred, “and the butcher next door… his name was Storch.” Then he recalled seeing Storch pluck the feathers off chickens he had just slaughtered, behind the store.

Dad was on a roll, but mom stepped in again to say, “that was not 102nd St, it was 104th.” As usual, dad’s voice got louder and his attitude got spicy as they corrected each other about the place being on 102st St. or 104rd St. Too appreciative of the time I was getting to spend with them, I chose not to blurt out ‘does it really matter, all those business shut down over 50 years ago!!!’  Of course, I have caught myself doing the same thing with my old memories, so I really can’t say much. Instead, I let them go about convincing each other who was right like have done thousands of times before.

Eventually I tried to be a mediator seeking a compromise, chiming in with “maybe it was 103nd St”. My plan briefly worked as they both quickly became a happily united front again as they immediately shot me down saying ‘I was absolutely wrong because there was no 103rd St’. Then the memory lane rundown of what businesses were located where, raged on.  I tried to change the subject to simply discussing the bizarreness of there being a 101, 102,104, and 105, yet no 103 street. But dad would have none of my silliness and forged on, though now his story had suddenly morphed again.

As Dad continued on, I found myself wondering about the accuracy of my old memories. I’m just as confident as he is, that I recall where things were in my old stomping grounds, yet it has already been proven that sometimes my ancient recollections are already jumbled. If these are the coming attractions to my future, it’s going to be an interesting show. I almost said, ‘I wished that the Google maps car had been driving around taking pictures decades ago’, but then I thought better of it when I realized the rest of the afternoon would have consisted of me trying to explain what that meant to my luddite-minded father.   

Suddenly I realized Dad was now telling a story about how during World War 2, gasoline was heavily rationed and the five gallons his father was allotted a week would have scarcely got him across town once in his big petrol gobbling DeSoto. Dad said, my grandfather had recently purchased the car from a client of his, who owned the local dealership. Since cars were in need elsewhere and there was plenty of public transportation in New York, grandpa made a deal that he would trade-in his car now for a new one when production started back up after the war.

Many months after V-E Day, the dealer let my grandfather have one of the first five new post-war cars delivered to New York from Detroit. My dad was sent to pick up the brand new snazzy green car. Dad told me about the amazed reactions of all the people on the street, not only to seeing a new car on the road for the first time in almost a decade, but also that it was driven by this punky looking 18-year-old. He even drove by my Mom’s house, who he was dating at the time, to show it off.  Sitting there I recalled when I was around the same age Dad was in that story, and he let me borrow is fully restored late 60’s convertible muscle car. I drove around with the top down all that afternoon showing it off to my High School buddies.  Sometimes it takes a lot of time and perspective to realize just how uncomfortably close that apple actually fell from the tree.

Like when I was an impertinent kid thinking I knew better than my elders, I assumed dad’s meandering story was completely off the rails and going nowhere. I was, yet again wrong. Apparently, all of Dad’s recollections that afternoon were tied together because then he said, after driving the brand-new car around showing it off all afternoon, he had to finally park it at the garage Grandpa used. The one owned by the Pinocchio guy, where Zimmerling also parked, near Schweetiee’s, Metz’s, and Storch the chicken-plucking butcher’s place, on either 102st or 104th… but definitely not 103rd St.

My folk’s stories that afternoon about Zimerling and green DeSotos did not impart onto me any new wisdom about how to balance the fading memories of my past with a focus on the future. But I still would not trade that day for the world. As time keeps whizzing by, I hope to make it stop for afternoons like that as often as I still can. But I worry about them and the future.  I will admit it is always a bit of a head trip flying home after those visits. As I sat on the plane, the past and the future tangled and the darker less savory side of getting older crept into my mind. And I thought, for better or worse, objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.

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A DAY AT DUFFY’S

My pal T-Bone and I had just road tripped seven hours from Atlanta to our friend’s, recently deceased, parent’s fancy Gulf-front house in tiny Terra Ceia, Florida. People grieve and mourn in different ways and sometimes taking a break from reality is the best method. I am not sure that was the only reason for my invite, but in some circles at that time I had a reputation for being a wise companion during an E-Ticket wild-ride into an intoxicating vortex. 

Even with being known more for carefree chaos over following a tightly pre-scripted gameplan, our arrival from north Georgia was still quite a bit later than expected. Since it was a last-minute invitation, that morning T-bone still had some business loose ends to tie up and had yet to pack. Loading my car with my usual massive quantity of traveling possessions was always a slow ordeal. And even our “quick” roadside mid-drive break somehow turned into a prolonged relaxing lunch and liquids stopover.

We again got bogged down when I swung by my house in Orlando to drop off most of my work traveling stuff. It was already getting dark, and the coast was still two hours away, but before I forgot I needed to call my folks. I had loose casual plans to see them the next day and I wanted to give them some warning that I was postponing my visit by five days.

Had I talked to mom, that call would have taken about three minutes.  But since Dad answered the phone, his usual uncanny ability to turn the simplest thing into a huge long-drawn-out ordeal, created another lengthy delay for us. During my repeated attempts to explain my five-day postponement, T-Bone got to overhear my father famously saying, “Whoa Whoa Whoa slow it down to a waltz”, which is how my pop prefaced his frustrating third request… for me to again explain… in exact blow-by-blow… slow detail… that I would not arrive… for a visit… the next day… as originally planned… but instead… would arrive… five days later. This was a habit of his that drove me crazy.

Eventually we made it, and moments after we finally arrived, Winnie greeted us with the unrefusable offer to join an ongoing scientific research project. Earlier that week, her brother and a few of his friends purchased 12 bottles of different top-shelf premium brand vodkas. With the goal of determining which one was the best, they set up a blind taste test that was tracked on a series of fancy graphs and charts that graded the vodkas on a complicated weighted-category, multi-tier ranking system from initial smell and taste through post-sip smoothness and face contorting reflex.

Ample consumption was required to complete the survey, which left several gaps in the data and clouded the final results. But thanks to our love of science, self-abuse, and psychopathy, that night we did our very best to contribute as much data to the project as possible. Like I said, everyone handles the death of a loved one differently, though I had a hunch her family might have done this whether grieving or not.

Late the next morning, the three of us headed down to Duffy’s on nearby Anna Maria Island; A 40-year-old unairconditioned wooden cracker shack dive-bar burger joint with large thick metal screen windows across the front, six little tile topped wooden tables, and an eight-seat bar with a few older refrigerators behind it showing obvious signs of saltwater-air rust. The place was worn and weathered yet felt cared for and clean. The sweaty little watering hole sat across a sand-swept two-lane road from a public beach and was run by a boisterous ex-mayor of the island who treated everyone that walked in the creaky tight spring-loaded raw wood front door, like her best oldest friend.

Duffy’s had a rare special vibe, that I believe can only organically grow over a prolonged period of time in the exact right location. It was only open 5 days a week from 11-7. But it was so popular that during those hours, a constant stream of cars pulled into their ground-seashell parking lot next to the scary outside-entrance bathrooms. Drivers in both white- and blue-collar work clothes would run in past the relaxed beach-going regulars to chug down a quick mug of cold tap brew while waiting to pick up to-go burger orders (they had no fries, just chips). Local or tourist, rich or poor, young or old, everybody is equal when they are sidled up to a warm bar sipping an icy cold beer in a bathing suit with beach blown hair and rosy sunburnt cheeks.

The wooden shack felt like something out of an exaggerated Carl Hiassen novel. Winnie said her family had been going there for years, and I could certainly see why. I immediately fell in love with the place. She and T suggested we sit on the wooden stools at the cinderblock fronted bar where we could chat with the staff and play the game they created on their last visit there. They told me the game involved drinking beer and scratching off numbers from an oversized multi-game bingo style lottery ticket that they sold for $10 behind the cashier counter. I immediately agreed, even before they assured me I would quickly catch on how to play.

As a big free-standing fan slowly pushed around the salty smelling warm Florida air, morning lackadaisically turned into late afternoon.  Not having anywhere else we needed to go, we leisurely drank beer, nibbled our burgers, and shared multiple small bags of potato chips. I was in relaxation carefree heaven… except for one little problem that kept bothering me. I thought maybe it was the woogy fog from the previous evening’s vodka, but try as I might, I just could not figure out the rules to their “easy” game.

Occasionally one of them would announce that it was again time for us all to scratch off another number, which then somehow determined how much beer we each would need to drink. I tried to keep track of the time intervals and the numbers scratched but I could find no pattern.  Nor did I understand the correlation between the seemingly random exposed numbers and the beer consumption amount they represented. About two hours passed before I finally gave up, confessed I was completely clueless, and asked about the exact rules of the game. That’s when they told me “there weren’t any rules.” To which I immediately replied, “well then we certainly need to scratch off another number and have a sip of beer.”  They told me it was about time I caught on.

That all happened well over 20 years ago. It was an unusually perfect amazing day during a generally unhappy period in all three of our individual lives. Each of us was dealing with some depressing real-world issues that were shoving our lives off their happy planned track. But none of those woes reared their ugly heads in Duffy’s that day. We just laughed and joked and had fun, which made it that much more special. But moments like that are elusive and hard to plan or recreate. And time always keeps moving on.

The gregarious bar owning ex-mayor has long since died. Her daughters lost the lease to the old ramshackle building and moved Duffy’s to a more traditional bigger spot down the road with inside entrance bathrooms and air conditioning. But despite my frequent visits to the area, I have never been to the new restaurant. While I’m sure the burgers and beer are still tasty, I’m afraid to tinker with my idealistic memories. Besides, it was not just the place I adored, it was the moment, the feel, the people, the day, and the circumstance.  A new restaurant later opened in the old Duffy’s building, but I have skipped going there too.  I feared it would be as unrewarding as visiting your old high school two years after graduating.

I flew down to Florida to see my folks this past weekend. They are both in their 90s and a few years ago moved to a house with my sister about an hour north of Terra Ceia and Anna Maria. I know I am blessed they are still around, and I have felt that way for decades. It sounds funny, but I started bracing for the inevitable way back in the 11th grade when my close friend Allyson’s Mom passed away. Since then, I have always worried about losing them. Over and over, like during that day at Duffy’s with Winnie, I have watched my friends deal with the passing of their parents in whatever way works best for them. Some like to immerse themselves in memories while others try to temporarily forget. I don’t think there is a right or wrong method, but I do know each time I am around it, I am reminded how crazy lucky I am.

Sometimes when I visit my parents, especially when my wife comes along, I take an extra day to drive down to carefree Anna Maria to stir up some old memories and make new ones. But last week’s family gathering was more about sitting, talking, and enjoying each other’s company. My folks both have some health issues, but mom rolls with the punches and still lovingly cuts to the chase while dad, on his good days, continues to drag out a meandering story for miles and miles.  But unlike all those years ago, when I got frustrated with Dad’s long slow roundabout circles of conversation, now I’m perfectly okay to “Whoa Whoa Whoa slow it down to a waltz”.

THIS PAST SUMMER, A FEW MILES SOUTH OF DUFFYS AT A HOTEL WITH MY FOLKS AND SISTER
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RE-REGRET

Like a singer or actor taking their well-rehearsed spot center stage on the precise location where the spotlights will hit them, I too knew the exact place I should stand, toes on the threshold between the doorjambs of my sister’s room, where I knew I would remain completely unharmed when she inevitably slammed her door on my face. I had a lot of practice.

Growing up, Ellen was constantly throwing all four of her sometimes pesty brothers out of her bedroom. But being the youngest, I was far more persistent and obnoxious than my much older siblings. Since ‘technically’ she had no control over me (nar nar nee, you’re not the boss of me) except to evict me from her space, I would carry on with my bothersome brattiness mere millimeters outside of her room in the hallway until she finally got fed up, and with a few emphatic mature* words, again slammed her door shut on me.

I was a bit of an unplanned whoops baby, born over seven years after the last of the previous kids.  With no one my age to play with, I was constantly seeking the attention of everyone or anyone by whatever means necessary. The family stories of dealing with my obnoxia were legendary. As I have referenced before, the most retold example took place on a family trip to Washington DC when I was 5.

So eager to get a break from me, my brother and sister offered to play hide and seek in the big hotel. After I quickly found my sister in the main lobby during the first round, I discovered a super amazing hiding spot behind a plant near a second floor employee elevator and waited. And waited.  And waited. Feeling victorious when no one ever found me, I finally left my spot and looked for my siblings to gloat. But I could not find anyone. After looking all over, I finally went back to the room only to discover everyone sitting around watching TV.  Apparently right after I hid, they ditched me so they could all have some non-Danny peace and quiet time.

My oldest two brothers were already knee-deep in building their own lives, and my easy-going brother Arthur (Ellen’s twin), who I shared a room with for many of my earliest years, seemed to be either accepting, unaffected, or just oblivious to my irritating ways. Or maybe he was the smartest, because ignoring me just caused me to move onto someone else. That meant, aside from mom, my sister caught the brunt of it. Things only got worse when she hit her teens and started bringing boyfriends around the house, which I just saw as new meat to taunt, tease, and torment in my efforts to get more attention. 

But then something strange happened. As I got a older, I started to shed some of my more irritating traits and behaviors, though obviously not all. In my pre and early teens I slowly turned into a somewhat real human with my own personality that people did not hate being around. (Some still don’t hate being around me.) Suddenly, my siblings who had spent so much time trying to get away from me, were now having fun taking me under their wings to introduce me to new things, broadening my horizons, and inviting me along to do things without my mom demanding them to do so. 

Ellen was the first to really start actually listening to me like real people do with each other.  She paid enough attention to know I really wanted a Beatles album, so the next holiday she gave me my first one. A few years later she used her own money to purchase me a cool trendy Levi’s ‘dungaree’ jeans jacket.  It was her attempt to help me not get beat-up as much when I started classes at our local rough(ish) Queens Junior High public school. It made me look like slightly less of a dorky target versus when I just wore the goofy dated knock-off Brady Bunch looking crap mom purchased for me at the discount department stores. Unfortunately, I hit a huge growth spurt later that year and it quickly did not fit anymore. Ellen ended up wearing it herself, and I always wondered if that was her plan all along. But either way, I still really appreciated and briefly benefited from her gesture.

During those transitional years when I was moving from unendingly annoying impertinence to just moderately mischievous jackanapes, one of the things Ellen, Arthur, and I somewhat bonded over was watching Monty Python. Even though we already had very different personalities from each other, we all found the outrageous over-the-top comedy hilarious and most every week the three of us gathered around my parents’ TV to watch. My entire family’s still ongoing prank of hiding a can of Spam in each other’s house is a direct result of us being hooked on Python back then (I don’t like Spam!!!).

Maybe it was in our genes, since my parents loved their generation’s version of cutting edge outrageous wacky comedy too. My father adored madcap Ernie Kovaks’ old TV shows and my folks even went to see Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis live at the Copacabana. They sat close enough to overhear Jerry feed a very drunk Dean his lines and later, on his way to the restroom, Dad discovered Dean Martin passed-out in a phone booth.

Ellen was a bit of a wild child and unbeknownst to Mom, went to her fair share of cool shows too. Besides all of the amazing rock concerts (some she snuck into and others she had a cheap ticket but pulled the old fake crying, I’m lost routine to con the ushers into letting her right near the stage), she also saw the National Lampoon produced off-Broadway Woodstock parody show, Lemmings.  It was co-written by not yet famous Anne Beatts, Doug Kenny, and Harold Ramis and starred Chevy Chase, John Belushi, and Christopher Guest, several years before Saturday Night Live went on the air.

Around that time, for my birthday, Ellen surprised me with hard-to-get tickets for us to go see an extraordinarily rare live show by the Monty Python troupe at City Center. I was over the moon excited. They even recorded that performance and released a popular live album of it. I could not wait to go and bragged about having tickets to anyone at school that would listen. I thought it was the absolute coolest thing anyone had ever done for me. But there is a reason you never hear me talk about it. I caught the flu earlier that week and, despite Ellen and my adamant protests that I was well on the mend, my mother still forbade me to go. I was completely distraught, and it was only compounded afterwards when I woke up the next day feeling completely better.

A lot of times things that seem so important or soul crushing at one point, later in life fade into irrelevancy. It was not long after I finally started dealing with my siblings as a real human, when just my folks and I moved to Miami. At the time I was completely dismayed, but eventually my world got better, and I realized it was the best thing that could have happened. Several months later, I finally started to make some friends in Florida and got cast with some of them in a school play. It was my first real after-school activity in my new town and I was hoping it would make some of those just starting friendships grow. But I was forced to quit when we found out it was the same weekend as my brother’s wedding back up in New York. I was really disappointed, but again in hindsight, it really was not a big deal. Soon I finally started dating girls, and while my first broken heart was upsetting, even that too, got better with time. But you know what?  It’s been a zillion years and it still feels like a really big friggin’ deal that I unnecessarily missed that damn Monty Python show.  And I am still not over it!!!

Earlier this month, I was thinking about that special type of festering regret I had for missing that once in a lifetime show. The New York Yankees were in town for a few games that had been postponed from earlier in the season. It looked like Arron Judge was close to breaking Roger Maris’s American League home run record. He had gone homerless a handful of games since tying the record and was certainly due. I figured playing a weaker Texas Ranger’s team would be the perfect recipe for his success. I guess I was not the only one because ticket prices shot up.

Hoping to see history (and root for my old hometown team) I got an amazing seat for Monday night’s game. Blaring loud cheers erupted each time the famed slugger stepped up to the plate. Then just prior to each pitch the entire stadium got quiet and most everyone had their cell phones out to record him breaking the 61-year-old record. Roger Maris’s surviving family members were at the game as was Judge’s mother. Four times he got up to bat… and four times no home run. I assume 36,000 people have a lot of photos of Judge striking out three times and getting a line drive single.

Even though I did not get to eyewitness history, it was an exciting game and I had fun. I even considered going again the next night, but tickets were pricey, and it was a long haul to the stadium, and it was no sure thing it would happen, and blah blah blah…  I should have gone. Tuesday night he hit a dinger and broke the home run record. Watching on TV, I saw all the fans in the packed stadium go absolutely crazy and there was a prolonged celebration. Clips of that night have been shown and reshown constantly on sports TV programs ever since. And I just missed it.

I did not think it would bother me much, but a couple of days later when it was still constantly being talked about, I started getting that same feeling I had after missing that Monty Python show. I worry that for the rest of my life, every time that I hear about that famed home run or someone else comes close to beating that record, I will feel that same nasty regretful twisting-knife-in-the-gut twinge I get whenever I see a copy of that live Monty Python recording of the show I missed.

When I was a young dumb unexperienced teen, I recall telling people ‘I was going to live my life with no regrets’. I arrogantly assumed I’d learn from every mistake and not dwell on any heartbreak no matter how big or small. I was stupid. As a middle-aged man on the back 9, let me announce to the world that I have a barrel full of regrets and they all slowly gnaw away at my carefree soul.

There is an old song with the line “it’s better to regret something you have done, than something you haven’t.”  And maybe that’s true. As silly as it sounds, missing that damn Monty Python show ranks much higher on my personal Regret List than most of those really dumb things I wish I hadn’t done. But thinking about it, I do have one regret that I can still make right. I can apologize to my family for being such a really annoying brat for so many years. Thank you all for putting up with me then, and now. And thanks Ellen for the birthday gift tickets, even though I never got to enjoy them.

* One of our other frequently told family stories involves a preschool little Danny running down to my Mom in tears because Ellen and Arthur were calling me “a bad word”. Mom dragged me by hand up the stairs to confront them for cursing at me and demanding they apologize.  But they just kept on laughing. Finally, they repeated the “bad word” to Mom in the same snide mean voice they had used when they kept repeating it to me. Trying to hold back her laughter, Mom tried explaining to me that yes they were being mean, but not really being mean.  In a voice as if they were actually taunting me with foul language, they were saying “you’re mature… you’re matuuuuuure.”

Look Who Is Making Faces At The Camera
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PARANOIA AND PACKING

My wife has frequently stated she married me because, by comparison, I made her look like the sane normal one.  That was something she rarely experienced prior to hooking up with me.  There were plenty of other lovey-dovey sappy reasons we got married, but as for that point, it’s hard to question her success. I am very familiar with the sly smirk she gives me as I try to convince someone she is just as loony as me. Almost everybody, including my family and old friends, assumes I am the dominant nutty ‘bad’ influence dragging her down the freakshow freeway.  

I understand that due to the oft re-told somewhat exaggerated tales of my slightly-debauched, semi-delinquent, pseudo-derelict bachelor days (some of which I will proudly admit to, most of which I will adamantly deny, and others I really wish there were no filmed evidence of), it is often assumed I am solely responsible for the moral decay of my wife’s pristine upright character. Now, while I am comfortable admitting that at times, I have been a bad influence on my wife, I think there is more here than meets ear, eye, nose, and throat.  But instead of spending multiple paragraphs defending myself to a libelous lynch-mob with a predisposed jury bias, today I would rather focus my attention on two small instances of my bad influence on my wife that I freely admit to: paranoia and packing.

During high school, my wife spent a semester as an exchange student in France. As an underaged non-drinker, to suddenly be served wine with dinner every night was certainly an eye-opening experience (and again defends me from the assumption I first exposed her to all vices, but I digress). Then later she went to college in London for a while (don’t get me started with the stories she has told me from that era… but again, not my point here). The concept of doing things like that, never even came close to crossing my worrisome globally myopic teenage mind.

After finishing her studies in England, she shipped her small amount of brought possessions home in a couple of cardboard boxes, then adventurously trekked all over Europe completely alone. Traveling from city to city by train, she lived out of a small backpack and stayed at unsecured hostiles filled with complete strangers. With little spare spending money in her pocket, she visited museums on free admission days and made multiple meals from easy to carry inexpensive items like a bag of clementines from a farmer’s market or a loaf of bread from a bakery. This was the pre-cell phone and tablet era, so the only way anyone knew remotely of her whereabouts, were from her occasionally snail-mailed post cards to her parents.

Certainly she was an independent soul, as I was, though maybe growing up in an Iowa small town fanned my wife’s flame of desire to immediately see more of the world then being raised in New York City did for me.  Certainly, an abundance of youthful spirit and a lack of real-world responsibilities contributed to her carefree wanderlust, and I certainly felt some of that too. But whereas that Iowa background made her more open and trusting of others, growing up in Queens made me far more paranoid and dubious of most humans’ intentions. Which raises the question, although obviously that trip was a life-changing world expanding adventure for her, was it also a risky endeavor if she did not possess the constant all-present fears of the world that I had.  And I guess that is where my bad influence begins.

When I was at a somewhat similar age to when she went on her European trip, I had my own version of traveling that I was into. I drove all over the country visiting friends and relatives, but never even considered going overseas and was rarely completely out of pocket for more than a day or so. I enjoyed the freedom and independence of the road and did not mind being alone, but being disconnected for too long made me uneasy.

I lived out of what I called the ‘clothes log’, a massive jam packed six-foot long zipper-topped canvas duffle bag about the same size of a filled battlefield body bag.  Despite it only containing a bunch of cheap toiletries and a mountain of assorted season’s clothing in various stages of laundered, I still guarded and protected that bag like it was full of valuable family heirloom jewelry and a retirement’s worth of stacked Benjamins.

Although I liked to considerer myself a free spirit, in reality I was far from it.  The thought of not sleeping somewhere 100% predictably safe, like someone’s secured home or behind a double locked better grade hotel door, gave me great angst. When staying at a roadside motel, I would always park where my car was visible from my window, so I could repeatedly check on it throughout the night. On my frequent trips to New York, I never considered leaving my car parked in the dangerous city, so I used to leave it all the way up at my brother’s suburban Connecticut house and then take the long two-hour train ride back into town. Later when I had some coin in my pocket, I parked it at a nearby overpriced secured garage that charged more for monthly parking than I paid for rent back in Florida.

I rarely traveled lightly and had a tendency of taking a lot of ‘what if’ and ‘you never know if you are gonna need’ stuff. My penchant for over-packing only got worse when I started traveling as a consultant. I was never sure how long I would be away from home and in what climate I might be working, so I used that as my excuse to heavily pack for multiple seasons. I also tended to visit friends all over the country between gigs, so I packed as much casual clothing as business suits. Also, I dragged along a pile of electronics, books, music, and movies so I had all the creature comforts of home, even if I was living in a hotel or corporate apartment for several months.

But this just made me even more paranoid, because now I had more to lose if I got robbed. My friends called it the “parade of possessions”, because even if I was staying somewhere for a single night, I still slowly dragged in this hugely massive pile of stuff. In my head this made my things more safe and my car less tempting to break into.

I assume that fear of robbery was from growing up in a big city where our front door had multiple sturdy locks and deadbolts. The house my wife grew up in was rarely locked at all and the one time they decided they needed to secure it before an extended vacation, no one even knew where one of the keys was. My experiences were different. When I was 12, my new bicycle was stolen from me at knife point. I remember my brother being real shaken up after he got mugged and they stole his wallet leaving him stranded with no money to get home.  After that, everyone preached to me to always be hyper-aware of my surroundings and to not keep all of my cash in my wallet, so I would always have a few bucks left over if I was held up. These things make a hard impression on your brain that is hard to shake.

But then one event pushed me even farther off the paranoia cliff. Not terribly long after I started traveling for work, a friend in Utah got an exciting new job offer in Houston. The only catch was that he had to be there the next week. Desperate to get out of The Mormon State, he quickly packed up everything he owned into a big U-Haul truck, hitched his car to the back, and drove straight through to Texas. He arrived just after sunset at the nearest hotel to his new job where he had a mandatory meeting with his new bosses set for the next morning.

After checking if it was okay with the night manager, he parked across several spots in the back row of the busy La Quinta Inn parking lot under a large streetlight. He got a quick nearby bite to eat, grabbed his little overnight bag from the front seat, and collapsed in his motel for the night. The next morning, he went out to grab the dress clothes he had set aside only to discover a little pile of glass where the truck had been. It had been stolen. Everything he owned in the world was gone. Every piece of clothing, every stick of furniture, his business files, his car… everything was gone except for the clothes on his back and his tiny overnight bag of toiletries. Every time I stopped my packed full car for the night, to get a meal, or to just run into a gas station restroom, I always thought of that story.

It was not really noticeable during the first couple of little trips my wife and I took together. But as time passed it became more obvious that we packed very differently. She had that backpack through Europe mentality, and I had that living out of my trunk for months-on-end attitude. She packed the barest minimum possible into a tiny bag and I was the opposite loading up with piles of ‘you never know if you might need it’ stuff.  We both found a balance in the middle, but I definitely was the bad dominant influence on that one.

When I first moved in with her, she did not immediately see my paranoias about security, but once we picked out a place together, they were hard for her to avoid. I wanted a second-floor apartment where it would be harder for someone to break in a window, like what had happened to me a few years back in Florida. Luckily the dumb crackhead that came in my place must have gotten interrupted or spooked, because all he got was an ancient industrial grade VCR that looked far more impressive than it really was.

She had no desire to deal with stairs, but I convinced her when I told her about another friend’s break-in. Johnny was upset when someone broke into his house and stole some of his stuff, but his big issue was they left the broken window open and his two frightened cats got out. I knew she would not deal with stairs everyday just because of my far-fetched fears, but for her cat’s safety, my wife would do anything.

Our current house has a complicated alarm system, deadbolts, and security cameras. Again all originally my idea, but because of our now multiple pets, it was an easy sell to her. But here is where my bad influence has become more obvious. Again, I might have used the pets as a rationalization for all the security stuff. But then she got hooked on using the security cameras to check on their status. She got frustrated when one was not visible, so she kept buying more cameras for inside the house so she could always watch them when we were not home. The place is now so wired up now, you could film a cheesy realty TV show in there.

Okay, with the packing stuff, she might have gotten more loosey-goosey like me but still can trim back to next to nothing when she needs to. My wife still packs in half the time as me and with way less angst if she needs to trim back.  But I feel bad I have permanently inflicted my paranoias onto her. She is nice and says we exchanged fears, I picked up some of hers and she some of mine. But I know my influence is heavier and more life altering.

She would never remotely consider an off the grid backpack trip staying at hostels anymore. And maybe that is just a typical age or responsibility thing, but I worry I have inadvertently killed some carefree spirit within her.  Yeah, I admit to being a bad influence, but I worry it’s not in the fun corrupt her morals way you all assume.  I fear I have taken some of the adventurous fearless insouciant spirit out of her.  And that’s a shame.

On Vacation In The Maldives, But Still Connected to The House Back Home
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WRITING,  A SENTI…MENTAL DREAM

It’s hidden like an elusive rare white truffle growing in the thick woodsy shadows of a remote green forest of fertile French oaks. But there, on a dusty dim path, past my occipital cortex and bilateral hippocampus, tucked away in my mushy gushy grey matter, is a dark alcove, where a barely alive, old faded, imagined dream of mine still resides. It’s almost completely buried and mostly left for dead by the somber realities of time and age. Yet, like a lone last glowing ember from a once roaring fire, the remotest last vestige of my dream still slightly burns and lives within me.

So what is this deep, distant, dwindling dream that still secretively exists within me? It is my continued hope to still one day write something of true long-lasting entertaining interest to the world. Maybe that sounds funny to say, since anyone actually seeing this, is in fact, reading words smushed together by my brain. But my self-posted wacky blog ramblings are not really the stuff this particular dream is made of.

When my over-active imagination first lit this little spark, I was imagining something more along the lines of writing a novel, play, movie script, manifesto, short story, essay, late-night cable TV talk show comedy bit, haiku, provocative letter to the newspaper editor, a Reader’s Digest’s Laughter Is The Best Medicine submitted joke… ANYTHING tangibly published or broadcast that had a modicum of thought-provoking merit, that would either inspire, be re-quoted, or simply make someone somewhere repeatedly smile when it was happily recalled months or years later. 

My little writing dream never really included fame, fortune, or mass notoriety. Credit would have been nice but was not integral. I just always loved those exciting moments when the spark of inspiration hits while creatively writing. And I daydreamed about others enjoying, appreciating, and recalling something special I wrote, the same way I do with lines from my favorite books, movies, TV shows, music, comedian routines…

It would even be fine if I were not around to see it, like with John Kennedy Toole, where nine years after he died at the age of 31, his mother found a messy carbon copy of his beloved only manuscript. She persistently shopped it around and 11 years later, A Confederacy of Dunces was published to much lauded acclaim, winning Toole a posthumous Pulitzer. Of course I would actually have to write an amazing manuscript first, for that to happen to me.

As open book as I am about my life, I feel funny confessing to everyone that even at my age, I still have a dream like that. It’s uncomfortably embarrassing, like the time years later I divulged to an old friend that I once had a secret crush on them or finally admitting my long held hidden guilt to my mom about once stealing a dollar from her to buy Wacky Pack stickers. I mean, is it strange to still cling to a dream like that?  As I trudged deeper and deeper into responsibility-laden reality-based adulthood, most of my childhood fantasies long ago disappeared. Yet while all the others dreams faded, this one has persistently hung around. 

I never had dreams of being a pro athlete, politician, astronaut, cop, or cowboy.  The little boy daydreams I had, were about becoming an entertainer, like a musician, actor, comedian, cheesy talk show host, or just a beloved well-listened-to raconteur. I didn’t realize at the time, that I had no love of those crafts, I just craved the attention they would bring me and assumed any level of fame would make me infinitely more desirable to girls. 

But those dreams all vanished once I was old enough to realize I did not have the talent, focus, drive, or dedication to be any of those things. As a young adult, when many of my friends were still chasing their dreams, I was quick to say, ‘the idea of paying a lifetime of dues for a long-shot pipedream, does not appeal to me’. But I guess if I am being honest, I was always jealous of the ones with the gutsy strength and more blinding self-confidence then me, to at least take a shot at reaching their dreams.

Fresh out of college, I initially took a job in the business world because, besides not possessing the raw talent, deep pockets, egotistical persistence, or insider connections I thought it took to succeed in the performing arts, I also suffered from a bit of motivational laziness and fell prey to the old ‘if you don’t really ever try, then you never really fail’ syndrome.  Yet, I never completely lost the belief that I could possibly write something decent. I am well aware it’s unlikely my words will ever be quoted by someone in the far future, but since my brain still believes it could theoretically happen, my writer dream has never completely disappeared.  For now, at least the few Grandma Moses ‘it’s never too late’ type examples keep my ever fading faint hopes alive.

I first got attracted to the written word when I was a little kid and started reading a lot. The stuff they had us read in school did nothing for me, but my older brothers had paperbacks by Vonnegut and Kerouac on their shelves and down on the basement bookcase I found a copy of Idiots First by Malamud. I might not have understood everything in those books, but I loved that they all introduced me to places, people, and activities I had never conceived of before.

A good book would stick in my head and twist the way I thought. I started noticing that when I was knee-deep in a book I liked, the cadence of my conversation and the choice of descriptive adjectives I used, would bend to the phrasing of that particular author’s voice. Of course I liked the performers on my favorite TV shows, but I also started appreciating the writing and made a point of watching the show’s credits to see who was behind it. Yes, growing up I worshiped Get Smart, Fernwood Tonight, SCTV, and Monty Python and later I could not get enough of David Letterman, Steve Martin, and John Belushi, but I knew it was a team of writers who put those great lines I still quote, into their mouths.

I did a lot of trifling theatre work in high school. I mean, let’s be real, we were kids. There were some in our group with more talent than others, some that even went on to become quite famous. But overall, none of the work we were doing was particularly special except to biased friends and family. It was great for me personally though. It built my self-confidence, pushed me to be more creative, and allowed me to meet a lot of other artsy-minded people that also did not fit in with the mega-brainiacs or the jock / cheerleader set.

My buddy Mike and I started writing comedy bits we performed together that parodied our classmates, teachers and the hypocrisy in our little world. And later I wrote some lame jokes for the introduction segments between the acts of a couple of talent shows. Then one day, after getting tired of seeing everyone repeatedly perform the same play scenes in drama class, I got the idea of writing my own stuff under pseudonyms and passing them off as the work of obscure little-known playwrights that I discovered. Although she never mentioned it, I assume our drama teacher figured out that authors like Wendal Bleny and Ynned Labwel were just the letters of my name reshuffled. I guess it was during those years when I realized I enjoyed writing.

My first declared major in college was English. But it did not take long to realize it was not going to help me write the great American novel.  It was just going to prepare me to become an English teacher, so I quickly moved on.  After a brief stint as a Psychology major, I shifted to Advertising where my writing creativity was not only appreciated but encouraged. After graduating, I still hoped to eventually find a career that allowed me to develop my creative writing skills, but for the moment I placed a priority on finding a job that would allow me to do more mundane things like feed myself and pay rent. Then life got in the way, and I never did find that writing job.

I lived a fairly non-traditional eclectic life for many years when I traveled for work. Often during that time, I thought about setting up a writing schedule but mostly I just wrote one-off stuff to amuse myself. Certainly nothing of any value or consequence. (Though my buddy Charlie might argue Dude Ranch Blues, my parody rewrite script of one of his ill-fated student films, was a work of twisted sub-genus.) Then I just kinda’ stopped.

The whole reason I started writing this weekly blog 16 years ago was to start flexing my writing muscle again and to do something creative within the comfortable confines of my then recently settled down, suburban homeowner, fairly ordinary day to day existence. When I began, I did not fathom that I would have 855 of these posted without missing a week. Yet even hitting that milestone this month, was not enough to fulfill that little ebbing dream of writing something uniquely special and lasting.

When I was a kid, I did not realize that most hopes and dreams have a shelf life. While there is often no obvious expiration date, most early-in-life dreams disappear or eventually get replaced with more pragmatic ones. Dreams of strolling on the surface Mars, singing opera at the Met, or hitting the walk-off grand slam to win the World Series are replaced by a progression of more grounded hopes, from career success to financial stability, then your child’s well-being, and finally the dream of being able to retire with wealth, health, and sanity.

Even though I rarely mention it to anyone, I am glad I still have that writing dream. It brings me a lot of enjoyment. I like that every time I read a good book, I am still inspired to try putting my own words on paper. I like that when I click on an old Late Night With David Letterman bit on YouTube, I still believe in the right circumstance I could write something as brilliantly funny.  And who knows, maybe one day you will go to see your great-grandkid’s school performance of a wacky old English farce comedy and realize you are the only one in the audience that knows the real identity of its obscure author Wendal Bleny.

HIGH SCHOOL DAN PROUDLY POSING WITH THE PUBLICLY DISPLAYED COPY OF THE 1ST PLACE PRIZE WINNING STORY ‘THE ASS OF WAGGA’. A TALE I WROTE WITH THE MAIN GOAL OF SEEING HOW MANY TIMES I COULD USE THE WORD ‘ASS’ WITHOUT IT BEING REJECTED BY THE DADE COUNTY YOUTH FAIR VOTING COMMITTEE. APPARANTLY, I DID NOT USE IT ENOUGH.
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MYFTICAL MARFA

Hot, tired, and very, very hungry, my wife and I got into the single blinking traffic-light town at 2:05pm this past Saturday afternoon… maybe. No one in Marfa, the isolated far west Texas sorta’ bohemian, kinda funky, mostly rundownish, pseudo-artsy community with a population of less than 1800 humans and at least one ghost, could really confirm the actual time.

Presidio country, where Marfa is located, might or might not change with daylight savings time based on where you read or who you ask. The internet, my watch, our cell phones, our car’s satellite connected navigation system, our hotel room clock, and the bartender at the first place we stopped, could not really agree on whether it was 1:00, 2:00, or 3:00 o’clock.  But at the time, that was not our biggest concern.

Listed as the least light polluted National Park in the lower 48, Big Bend, and it’s more rugged less paved state-park stepsister Big Bend Ranch, are towards the top of every list of the best places to stargaze in the continental United States. The problem is, the far southwest Texas region hugging the Mexican border is as famously remote as it is dark, so getting there is not easy. But that did not stop my wife and I from making the nine-hour drive for a long weekend.

The first night we spent at a mountainside campground in the middle of nowhere, wedged between the two parks, about 10 miles from the ghost town Terlingua.  We slept in an 8’ wide white canvas-sided, see-thru clear topped climate-controlled dome (sort of a cross between a yurt, tent, and a sun-roofed cabin), where we spent most of the night marveling at the astoundingly clear night sky. The only other time we recalled seeing as many stars, and the Milky Way so clearly, was when we spent the night on a small scuba diving boat two hours off the Australia coast, anchored above the Great Barrier Reef.

We got up early enough to watch the velvety black night sky turn into a beautiful sunrise, then did a bit more sightseeing in the parks, before heading down the scenic twisty road cut into the side of the majestic Chisos mountains above the Mexican border muddy Rio Grande River, passing right next to the Hoodooos balanced rock formations. There was more to see and debate about than we expected, so we got to Marfa later than originally planned… maybe.

We had done quite a bit of research before arriving, so we already knew that despite being a tourist friendly town, there were only about a dozen restaurants and most closed at 2:00pm.  At that point we had not yet learned that time in Marfa was relative, or more specifically time there was like that crazy relative no one likes to invite to Thanksgiving because they show up four hours late drunk and sweaty wearing no pants and a gorilla costume head accompanied with an unannounced 380-pound guest named Poodles dressed in an uncomfortably ill-fitting bikini under a dangly brown cowboy fringed clear plastic full body poncho.

Though tired and weary, our first priority was to find food. We got to the blinking red light center of town and made a left because that seemed like the busier main thoroughfare thus theoretically might have an open restaurant. It did not take long to give up on that idea. We made a quick right so we could double back. Since that road immediately dead-ended, we made a second right turn where we saw a few cars parked in front a wooden building that looked like an out of commission grain depot. The wooden placard in front read ‘Spirits and Food’. Not wanting to look an emaciated slump-backed scraggly gift horse in the mouth, we stopped to look.  The paper stapled to the wall outside the door listed a menu with four food items, so we went inside the small unairconditioned wooden barn-looking establishment.

An out-of-place old Bruce Springsteen song blared a bit too loudly from the cheesy old stereo sitting on a counter behind the 13-stool room-dominating wooden bar. The bartender slipped drink menus in front of us printed on the back side of a wrinkled edged piece of poorly recycled paper. They had no beer, wine, or soda. Just coffee and really strong specialty frou-frou alcohol mixed drinks. My wife ordered a fancy hand-shaken daiquiri while I tried an immediate headache inducing bitter tasting concoction made from locally grown desert sotol plants.

We noticed another handwritten food menu on the wall but this one unfortunately said on the bottom “served after 3:00”. Thinking it was only 2:15, I asked the hipster (man bun wearing type) bartender to confirm that we would have to wait 45 minutes to order food. He replied “sorry, unfortunately he is running late and I am not sure when he will get in.”  I did not know who ‘he’ was, but more importantly, it was my first indicator that something was wonky with time in Marfa, since he made no mention of it being too early.

We finished our drinks and walked across the dusty quiet street to The Sentinel building. Apparently, the only way the local newspaper could survive was to creatively add other services, so their press offices also now served as an art gallery, gift shop, coffee stand, and bakery. As we read later, they seemed very proud of this innovative accomplishment. There was a big sign that read ‘open’, but you know what they say about the news media… they lie… it wasn’t.

After driving down almost every street in town, a task that takes less time than for me to take a shower (which I desperately needed to do), we finally found Para Llevar, the one restaurant in town open between 2:00 and 5:00pm on a Saturday (although we were just starting to wonder exactly where we were in that window of time).

On either side of the order counter, there were mostly groovy looking very friendly people in tousled thrift-store miss-match clothing but very well-thought-out contrived and trendy haircuts. The menu was limited, but everything sounded tasty. I assume, most of the tables were full because it was the only place open, but luckily there were only four people in the order line in front of us. Still, we stood there for almost 15 minutes because everyone had to slowly repeat their order several times as the overly gregarious cashier chatted, answered unasked questions, and fumbled with their POS system. They had a big wall cooler full of self-serve beer, but I regretfully opted for the ‘when in Rome’ local favorite Ranch Water, my second unsatisfying beverage of the day.

People in hot climates tend to move slow. People in tiny, small towns tend to move at their own pace. People in artist colonies tend to move to the beat of their own drum. People in a particular hot West Texas small town artist colony, working in the only open restaurant, apparently move slower than the long dead and buried decomposed corpses of James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor, and Rock Hudson, who all famously stayed in Marfa during the still locally bragged about filming of the movie Giant 70 years ago (a dozen miles outside of town on the site the movie was filmed, a local artist erected an art instillation featuring multiple massive plywood ‘Giant’-themed murals with accompanying solar powered music by Michael Nesmith)

Despite the sunbaked sandy desert climate, for some reason, all the casual eateries in Marfa have mostly outdoor seating. The restaurant’s three indoor tables were filled, so we sat under the bright blue sky in the buggy mid-afternoon heat in uncomfortable plastic chairs waiting just shy of an hour for our single side salad and personal size small pizza to arrive. After we wolfed down our food, we drove the block and half to the fanciest place in town, The Hotel Saint George, where we checked in and finally showered, cooled off, and napped. (Originally, we were going to stay at El Cosmico, the self-proclaimed “bohemian nomadic hotel’, an odd roadside complex of teepees, yurts, and old retro camping trailers, but their exorbitant prices, three-night minimum, and bad TripAdvisor reviews thankfully scared us away.)

At that point we did not notice the earplugs on the nightstand atop the note mentioning the constant stream of mile long freight trains that pass by across the street from our window all night, but it is when we finally confirmed the whole wacky time thing. The room clock, our cells, the internet, my watch, and our car clock could not seem to agree what time it actually was. And honestly, we never did figure it out and simply attributed it to the town’s famed quirkiness.

But maybe time was not really off, and it was just us. On one of those unmarked quiet gravelly dirt roads, maybe we slipped into a weird vortex. I mean, we did notice several things move and change in our room throughout the night, like the curtains and unexplained water all over the floor. We laughingly attributed it to a ghost, but there certainly did feel like there was some strange juju in the air.  My wife and I are usually very much in-sync and like-minded, but all day we had both been out of sorts and not catching each other’s cues.

We were enjoying relaxing in the comfortable room, but we knew if we waited too long, nothing would be open for dinner. So come nightfall, whatever time that might have been, we ventured out. We had previously looked up the two nicer places to eat in town, but while driving around earlier in our quest for food, we kept smelling Bar-B-Q in the air, though at the time, we never found its source. 

Mr. Google might not have been able to give us a straight answer about the current time in Marfa, but he did help us find the rickety BBQ restaurant on the far edge of town that was only open two days a week from 5 to 9. Convenience West was located in what looked like a long-abandoned service station with a couple of round drum smokers and picnic tables in the side yard.  We had to order our food through a closed screen door and as expected, they only had outside seating. But the food was great!

With stomachs filled up and the sun completely down, we then drove nine miles east of town to stand in the pitch dark with a few dozen other very wacky folks at the formal side-of-the-road viewing area, waiting to hopefully see the famous mystical Marfa Lights. For over a hundred years, people in the area have claimed to see unexplained multi-color glowing sparkling orbs of light that dance, dive, and dart in the far distant desert night horizon. No one has ever exactly explained the phenomenon, or confirmed it really does exist, though theories to explain it range from atmospheric conditions, campfires, and car headlights, to wandering aliens, UFOs, or ghosts of the conquering Spanish conquistadors.

My favorite part was eavesdropping on everyone else’s crazy conversations. Listening to each person’s theories of what the lights are and when the best time to see them is. We milled around for a while but unsurprisingly didn’t see any out of the ordinary lights in dark starry west Texas desert. I did see some flashing ones in my rearview mirror on the drive back to the hotel. Luckily the local cop had pity on the tired tourists and did not give me a ticket for doing 59 in a 45 zone on the edge of town.

The next morning, we had a nice brunch (SITTING INSIDE!!!!) at Buns and Roses, another local place in a sheet metal hanger building that is only open a couple of days a week and only from 7-2. Then, before starting our long trek home, we drove 25 miles west of town to see the famed Marfa Prada. An odd art instillation that consists of a single, isolated, sealed, fully stocked Prada store sitting completely alone on the side of a desolate two-lane desert’s edge road.

We knew before we left, that this would be an odd quirky adventure, but I should have realized in advance just how strange it would be. When we were planning it, I kept glancing at that weekend on my wall calendar, but something just did not seem right. Eventually I realized the calendar had a printing error and instead of saying that Saturday was the 24th, it had a second ‘14’ in its place. Apparently, time really is wonky in Marfa.  

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