FernGutter

Once I was a Boy Scout in Wisconsin. It was great. For some merit badge we had to build a shelter out of stuff from the woods. Our troop didn’t earn a lot of merit badges but for some reason we decided to get this one. Our scouts were known for things like bringing more boxes of matches than underwear. We all had multiple boxes of “strike anywhere” matches and would sit around the fire flicking them at each other so they would ignite in midair. We had many shorts and lawn chairs with burn holes in them.

 Since the Boy Scout motto is “be prepared” we waited until the last day to get it done. Instead of making our own shelters (like we were supposed to) we decided it would be easier to do one big one together so we could all get the credit with minimal effort. The scout leaders were so happy we were doing anything they agreed that it would count.

Our plan was a tepee covered in fern bushes. After we set some logs against each other, we needed mounds of ferns. To speed up the process we cut them at the stem instead of cutting them at the frond. It was faster to stick the fern bushes in stem first (as if the log gaps were vases) than to lay the fern fronds lengthwise across them. By then the rain was already falling. 

We were supposed to sleep on the ground and things seemed to be going pretty good until we saw rain water pooling around our tepee floor. We waited until the leaders went to bed and snuck some cots in the tepee. Problem solved. But not really. A completely soaked cot and sleeping bag woke me up at about 3am. I realized that plants, by nature’s design, are shaped to catch as much water as possible then funnel that water to themselves. The way we placed them between the logs caused the ferns to funnel rain into the teepee. This may have caused us to get even wetter than we would have if we had just slept outside. Nobody wanted to wimp out after wasting all afternoon building, so nobody left the shelter. 

Our determination did not pay off. We did not get that merit badge for several reasons. As mentioned, we totally cheated by using cots. And, as it turns out we were only allowed to use materials that were already dead, as opposed to recklessly harvesting Wisconsin’s bounty. Usable materials were old dead trees or branches that had already fallen off. Not only did we cut down somewhere between 50-100 newly growing fern bushes, we also felled a whole living tree for the center support. We needed a center support because none of us could lash well enough to make a real teepee.

Cutting down a living tree is super against the rules for the merit badge for the camp, and just for life in general. You can’t just cut down trees, that’s usually illegal. Plus we were only supposed to use our personal knife, not an axe. When the leaders found us,  we had already chopped through half of it (the tree wouldn’t survive after that). They compromised by saying we could use it as long as we didn’t use the hatchet anymore. Maybe they thought we’d give up. But instead we had one of the scouts climb up as high as he could and the rest of us rocked it back and forth until it broke and he fell. As I said, we did not get that merit badge.

2 Plymouth Breezes Pass in the Afternoon

I drive a peeling red 1998 Plymouth Breeze. I did buy it on purpose, it was not a hand-me-down car. It is the second Plymouth I have owned. Please don’t do this to yourself unless your only other option is a Saturn.

Over the last 8 years, my kind friend Ryjan and I have fixed almost every part of this squeaky doored, crooked belted, Chrysler embarrassment. It’s not an easy car to work on due to its strange design and poor quality. For example, the car battery is in the wheel well and you have to jack it up and remove a tire to get to it. It has power steering. That is its only feature. No power locks, windows, not even anti-lock brakes.

One day in 2018, I was driving in a neighboring city when my phone’s gps routed me through an area I had never been before. While going around a curve I saw another red Plymouth Breeze coming from the other direction. It quickly caught my attention, because I have rarely seen even a similar model/year of the Breeze since I have owned it. It wasn’t a very desirable car when I bought it in 2010. It probably wasn’t even a desirable car in 1998. I have put a lot of work into keeping this thing running, and by 2018 I had good reason to believe that I was the only person who still had a functioning version of this crappy car. In fact, I cannot recall a single instance when I saw the same car in the same color as my red Breeze. Once I realized what I was seeing I looked closer and could see the clear coat peeling off the red paint of the other car. Just like mine. I felt like I was somehow seeing myself.  A rare glimpse of what I look like while going about my day to day in my stupid old car.

As we passed each other it was apparent that my identical car had caught the other driver’s attention as well. We both had our heads turned with slightly puzzled looks on our faces. We both had medium beards. One of us was bald.

After we passed I stuck my arm out the window to give him a wave of solidarity, like I used to give other motorcyclists back when I was cool. As I did, I looked at the rear view mirror and saw he was already waving to me too.

Normally I wouldn’t have the windows down because the air conditioning technically still works. But I had manually rolled them down because it was a really hot day – high 90s – and sometimes the car dies when it’s too hot and I run the A/C. Since we passed and were out of each other’s sight so quickly, I wondered if he had the same situation as I, and therefore already had his windows down with time to wave as well.

I also wondered if he had spent hours and hours fixing his Breeze. Since many mechanics won’t work on a car so old and rusted out. They always say, “if we try to fix this we’ll just end up breaking something else in the process.” And that’s true. Every time I fix the car I break something else and have to fix that too.

I wondered If he saw my bald head and thought he was getting a glimpse of his future. A future where he had lost his hair, but somehow still had that terrible car.

Shart Support

At this time in my life I was working Technical Support over the phone for H&R Block. I hadn’t yet gotten to the point with my Crohn’s disease to be full-on pooping my pants. However, I was perpetually on the brink of shatting myself on a fairly regular basis.

To protect my underpants I usually wore one of my wife’s feminine pads. But on this day I had forgotten to wear one. I was sitting at my semi-cubicle and like usual I had to pass some gas.

I don’t ever hold in my flatulence. I have enough intestinal discomfort naturally, I don’t need to add to it by trying to be polite. So I farted, as per usual.

And I shat my pants; as happens on occasion.  It would normally be fine. I just would go clean up in the bathroom and put in a fresh pad.  On occasion some mess gets outside the pad. In those cases, I would either just get another pair of clothes from my car, or just try to clean up as much as possible and then just stuff a bunch of paper towels in my pants. You know, like most people do.

But this time there was a lot of intestinal mucus mixed in. By the way, a Crohn’s shart is mostly intestinal mucus that smells like poop. This time there was enough that it went all the way through my underwear, pants, and into the call center’s padded chair they provided me.

So I called my supervisor over to let him know what happened and I ask what we should do. I figured they would clean the chair or something but he just wheeled it outside and tossed it in the dumpster.

That’s the whole story. I shat my pants, it leaked all the way into my chair, and they threw it away.

Epilogue

Later on, in that same company I was promoted into workforce management. I was charged with giving an introduction to the new hire classes about our department. For an icebreaker I would ask for everybody’s most embarrassing (work appropriate) story. I frequently set the bar high by telling this one.  

It seemed like a good choice, since I had never met any of these people before and I was supposed to make a good impression for the company. But let me tell you, on occasion one of these brand new employees would tell something even more embarrassing than I to this group of people they just met, and their new manager. And they were my heroes.

Naked in the Rain

One time I decided to go streaking. I was with my friend Joseph and we lived near the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. It was one of those warm evening summer thunderstorms that would inspire even Thor to bare his cheeks.

No, there weren’t any girls with us. And no, we hadn’t been drinking. I don’t know why we did it. I remember that I wanted to. But I don’t know why Joe came with me. What a great guy.

It was obviously a bit awkward because, even though we were in an instrumental funk band together, we had never seen each other naked. And, as far as I know we still haven’t. At least, I didn’t look at him and I assume he didn’t look at me. Although I did see a photo that his ex-girlfriend took of him doing a naked kickflip in a hotel hallway in Barcelona.

Did we streak past the college dorms? Yes we did. Were there sexy college girls there impressed with our manhoods? No there weren’t. This was during the annual EAA convention. (The Experimental Aircraft Association). That is the week that Oshkosh’s population goes from 60,000 to 300,000. And I believe it’s during spring break or in between semesters, so the dorms were full of old men who love aviating. I saw a couple of them walking to their rented rooms. They were super old, and really into airplanes.

So, I was a sober 20 year old, streaking with his bandmate in front of old dudes in dorms. To be truthful it felt kind of gay.

Besides that, it felt amazing. I had never streaked before and I came to realize that it’s not all about the exhibitionism (at least not for me). I felt natural and free. That sounds stupid. But it was something like that. Especially during the lightning and the rain.

When Joe and I got back to the house, we didn’t talk about it. And we never have.

Weiners Ole’!

I want to share a recipe that my mom got from her mom. It’s jam packed with sodium, almost all the ingredients come from cans, and it is topped with hot dogs. It’s called Weiners Ole’.

You will need several of “cream of” cans; such as cream of potato or cream of mushroom soup. The can should have at least 800 milligrams of salt per serving. Mix that with a couple of cans of sliced potatoes (not fresh potatoes), and canned green beans.

Then add the piece of resistance; take a handful of hot dogs, slice then the long way, and delicately place them on top in a fancy pattern or shape. (If you have small hands, get two handfuls.)

Bake that mess, probably, at 350. Basically, by the time the hot dogs are starting to curl up it’s good. All that stuff in there has been cooked already so the cook time is up to you.

This delightful fall and springtime delicacy can be cooked in a glass hot dish or a cast iron dish. My momma puts it into a stoneware dish because we classy like that.

As mentioned, once those hot dogs are curled you got yourself a big fat helping of carbs, fat, crude protein and sodium that the kids will love. But only when they are kids. They’ll crave the texture of baked hot dogs until they realize it is stunting their growth, receding their hairlines, and supporting terrorists.

I probably cannot eat this anymore, but maybe you can?

Epilogue

The concept of “hot dish” is apparently foreign outside of the Midwest. I did not know that other places don’t have “hot dish”; or maybe they call it something else. But in Wisconsin we put whatever we got in a casserole pan and it becomes hot dish. In my family’s case it’s Wieners Ole’!

Birthday Tea from Me

     It was coming up to be my birthday. Some people don’t like to celebrate their birthdays, but I love to make a big deal out of it.

     I was turning 22 or 23 (it doesn’t really matter after 21) and I decided that I was going to have a tea party. I had been doing self-taught calligraphy and buying weird old tea sets from thrift shops in the area. Therefore, I had all the makings for a fancy tea party with fancy invitations.

     My band mates, I, and another musician, lived in a tiny house on a tiny street. There were 4 of us total. Each of us had our own room. Mine was the back room with the water heater. It was so small I put up ceiling corner hammocks (normally used for extensive stuffed animal collections) to hold my clean and dirty clothes.

     The Lincoln house, as it was called, was a great place to live. It wasn’t unusual for us to be drinking, smoking pot, or jamming (that means playing music). And so this tea party was obviously going to be more than just drinking tea–especially since it was going to be my birthday.

     I bought some fancy cards to make the invitations, and did all the invitations by hand with my calligraphy pens. On the back of all of them I splattered ink so that when you put all the invitations on the floor together they would all fit together like a puzzle. I also gathered my European and Japanese tea sets.

     I invited. I think,  8-10 people. It wasn’t going to be a big party like we normally had. And I wanted to make sure that people didn’t come that weren’t invited. This gathering was going to be a bit different. It was crucial that I knew exactly who was eating these scones and drinking this tea. Because… I baked hallucinogenic mushrooms into the scones.

Birthday Tea from Me (part 2)

Everyone was to dress in formal attire. Everyone did. And we all looked fabulous in that old boxy house. There were at least 2 girls and 6 guys in attendance.

I had to make sure that each guest ate a scone and that nobody ate 2. I announced that everybody had to at least try the scones because I made them myself for the party, and it was my first attempt at baking scones. There were 2 flavors, just in case someone didn’t like one. One was orange and honey and the other was cinnamon raisin.

No one suspected the scones.

Everyone at least tried a scone and most of them ate the whole thing. I ate one too. After about maybe 15-30 minutes people started feeling weird. Some looked curious, but most were beginning to furrow their brows in confusion. I had decided to keep my cool for as long as possible before I let everybody know what happened, or better said–what I had done to them all.

I went upstairs to the restroom. My good friend Jordan followed me up there to inquire privately about what the crap was going on. Josh came as well. They inquired along the lines of,

Hey man, what’s going on here? Because something obviously is.

I told them what I did and they were relieved to realize that they weren’t going crazy. Although they had incorrectly assumed, still, that I had put something in the tea.

“Not so my friends,” I said “nobody suspected the scones.”

Jeremiah came up at that point and saw our smiling faces.

He looked right at me.

“You son of a b***h”

We busted up laughing

“This is awesome, but… you son of a b***h.”

Continued in Part 3

Birthday Tea from Me (part 3)

As the evening went on I was pretty proud that no one had a bad trip and that I pretty much kept track of everybody. Jordan was arranging tea sets and taking pictures, I carved a jack-o-lantern to look like it was puking out its pumpkin guts…

That was of course until Scott threw open our front door and it slammed against the living room wall.  

“What is happening to me?” He shouted, slurring. “I can’t get drunk!”

Oh no. Scott.

Apparently I had not noticed that soon after eating the scones Scott had left and went to a couple keggers around the neighborhood. I guess he had been drinking all night and in his heightened or elevated mental state he became under the impression that alcohol was having no effect on him. Obviously I felt bad. I still do. As he stood in the front doorway Jordan and I quickly explained that there were mushrooms in the scones. As soon as the information sunk in he leaned back against the corner of the wall, slid down until he was sitting, and promptly fell asleep or passed out.

Other than what happened to Scott, and that this weasel kid sneaked in and stole the rest of the scones, the party was a success.

The Closet and the 300 lb Dog Part 1

I once lived in a room that was a closet.

 

It was about 8 feet long 4 feet wide and 10 feet tall. Even though it was technically a closet, the door locked from the inside, there was a window, a lightbulb, a light switch, and three shelves under the window.

 

There were 3 other roommates in the house: Derek, JC, and Alex. Derek was a punk rocker in a local band, JC liked classic rock like Led Zeppelin but wasn’t in a band, and Alex had a girlfriend so he didn’t need to be in a band.

 

They were already living together and I was looking for a place to stay. They had previously mentioned that the hall closet wasn’t being used for anything and that I could live there. I think they were joking but I took them up on the offer anyway. We decided I would live in the closet and just pay the utilities bill, which was about 90 bucks a month. It was a pretty sweet deal.

 

People liked to hang out in my room more than the rest of the house even though It was real small and you had to sit on a mattress. But it had a space heater in there. Plus, any time there was more than 1 person inside it would heat up pretty quick. It was really cold that winter in WI and nobody wanted to sit around our cold living room for very long, even if they were drinking booze.

 

In other words, after acclimating to the temperature in my room guests didn’t like to leave. Or maybe people wanted to hang out in my closet room because I was the coolest roommate. Probably both.

 

One time when Derek and Alex came home they found the house empty, except for me and 8 friends crammed in my closet room, drinking and having our own little party in there. It was odd to feel their slight envy of my situation, since they were the ones doing me a favor in letting me live there.

 

One night we finally all got drunk together outside of the closet my roommates included. They had some sort of principle against hanging out in their rented closet of their own house. However, my closet parties helped my housemates realize that we should have more people over and needed turn up the heat a little bit. They must have supposed that if people were willing to party in the closet, they would be willing to party in the house itself as well.

 

Continued in part 2…

The Closet and the 300 lb Dog Part 2

After a bunch of beers, Alex, JC, and I decided that it was time to steal some lawn decorations. I had recently seen some concrete wolves that would make a good addition to our living room; so, we went in search of them.  

 

We found way more than wolves at that abode. The house was across the street from a full service Citgo station. It had eight foot tall evergreens fencing in the garden of statues. It was like the ice Queen’s statue garden from Narnia. Luckily the wolves looked light enough to swipe. We took two. Unfortunately we weren’t done yet.

 

Further down that country road was a quaint house with a statue of a german shephard. This statue was much bigger than the wolf statues but we figured that the three of us could handle it. Unlike the hollow wolves, this statue was solid concrete, with a solid concrete base, and was probably about four and a half feet tall. I’m not great with guessing weight, but i’d wager that that dog was at least 300 lbs. It was obviously not meant to be moved without the help of a jack or dolly of some sort. (And even when I was able to use a dolly later on, it bent the dolly.)

 

If we hadn’t been intoxicated we would have thought better of our plan after we trying the initial lift. But we did no further thinking. We were able to lift it enough to drag the a corner of the base across the lawn. While lifting I felt like my belt had somehow stabbed into the side of my belly, According to my doctor I most likely weakened a spot in my abdomen and will maybe have a hernia there some day. But we managed to get it into the trunk of JC’s car and head back to the homestead.

 

Once there, Derrick and somebody else helped us get it up the stairs. It was not as bad carrying it when there were five people–but the same could be said for a piano. The next day I started to feel pretty bad about what we did. Especially because the dog had a hand print, signature, and (I think) the dog’s name on the bottom (we didn’t see that till later). So, it was likely made special for the owner, by someone they knew, in remembrance of a family dog that had died. That really made me feel like a douche. I knew I had a bad habit of stealing weird things when I was drunk. The sign from a chiropractic center, lawn chairs and paintings of fish from a retirement home, a Hardee’s sign. They all tended to be large and mostly useless items. I don’t drink anymore by the way and that’s a good thing for everybody.

 

Anyhow, I started feeling pretty bad about the whole thing. But there was no way I was going to be able to return it myself. I had to convince my roommates to help me. I was able to recruit my good friend and drummer of the band I was in to help me return the wolves. Scott was a good guy and understood that I did stupid things when I was drunk. Together we got those wolves back where they belong. But they obviously weren’t a personal as the dog. That’s the one I really felt bad about taking. And Scott and I were not going to be able to move that without at least 2 more people.

 

For the next couple nights my roommates were busy or just weren’t up to the arduous task. Then one night they got some beers and watched “The Warriors”. It’s a classic gang film. This got them pretty pumped about, well nothing really, and by the time I got home they had spray painted warriors graffiti on 2 of our doors and on the german shepherd. They put mardi gras beads around the dog’s neck as well.

 

The dog wasn’t a solid color statue like the wolves were. It had been painted with great detail and the hairs were carved into the concrete as well. Basically, I couldn’t imagine a way to get that red paint out or paint over it well enough. And that is when my last glimmer of hope to return the world’s heaviest german shepherd died.

 

When we moved out of the house the roommates did help move the dog, but only to the attic. It was only 5 stairs to get there and we just slid it as far as we could to the back and just left it there. Most likely it would eventually fall through the ceiling on a humid day and kill a family. But that’s not the end of the story.