Sunday, March 27, 2011

Padded Sell

Okay, I just read that Abercrombie and Fitch is making something called a "padded striped triangle" for little girls.  It's, essentially, a push-up, padded bra for the pre-tween set. 

Not pre-teen.

Pre-tween.

Seven and eight year olds.

I have one, and only one, response for this:

We are one step closer to the apocalypse.

Period.

I know that A&F likes to court controversy; it gives them an edge in a highly-competitive industry where every retailer is vying for those discretionary clothing dollars.  But, really?

What marketing genius decided that this was a good idea?  Isn't childhood difficult enough without having eight year-olds wonder if they're boobs are too small?

Well here's a shocker:  Most eight year-olds don't have breasts, unless you count the baby fat that's slowly disappearing from their little Hannah Montana-watching bodies.

Can you imagine the marketing meeting at A&F when this decision was born? 

"Okay, folks," says a mid-level marketing guru.  "I need you to brainstorm, gimme some out of the box ideas and come up with something good, really good to kick-start our Summer campaign."

"Smith, whaddya got?"

Smith, a twenty-something third-year marketing guy looks down to his laptop, starts to speak, stops for a second and then spouts this bombshell:

"Hey, just an idea but I think we're missing out on a whole new market here.  What about a padded bra for seven year-olds?  We'll call it a 'push-up triangle'!"

And, as opposed to getting his perv-ass kicked to the curb, the rest of the suits pause for a moment, think of the new demographic and unanimously sign on to the idea.

Instantly.

Now Smith is being proclaimed a genius as opposed to the guy who's placed the human race one step closer to its self-induced, self-inflicted, and self-fulfilling armageddon.



Why does our culture love youth so much?  Why are we attempting to sexualize babies?  I mean, isn't it enough that every woman on the planet now feels that she must shave off every bit of body hair?  Trust me, as a photographer I've seen plenty of naked women in the last six months.  All over 21, every one of them sans pubic hair.

Without exception.

What's the deal?  This unhealthy fixation with being, feeling and looking young?

Where, and when, will it stop?

Because the way I see it, at eight-years old the only "push-up" a little girl should be concerned with is that messy orange pospicle that melts all over her young hand on a hot Summer day.

So Abercrombie, Fitch and all the other trend-setting fashionistas that think sexualizing little girls is a good idea, know this:

The human race has been diminished just a little bit due to your "striped triangle."  Even if the product is pulled from distribution due to the outrage that's sure to follow, just the existence of the idea of a padded bra for kids is abhorrent.

Thanks for lowering the bar some more, A&F; what could possibly be next?

Thong diapers?



More Info:

http://www.fox8.com/news/nationworld/ktla-abercrombie-kids-bikini-controversy,0,4959523.story



*

Safety Clown.

I've got a great idea.

I was driving the requisite twenty miles an hour through a few school zones yesterday.  I get the whole slow-thing-through-a-grade-school-zone, but why do we have to crawl past a high school?

I would hope, that by the time these kids are in the ninth grade, they would know not to walk out in front of a two-thousand pound hunk of steel going twenty or thirty miles an hour.

And if they don't, do we really want these people polluting the gene pool?

I say raise the speed limit.

We should, all-Autobahn-style, zoom past a high school. 

If some mongo steps into traffic he deserves to become a hood ornament.

It would improve the graduation rates at some of our high schools.

And we'd be a healthier species to boot.

Darwin would be proud.




Thursday, March 24, 2011

Prints Charming

I used to travel a lot.  I was in sales and routinely put 85,000+ miles a year on my vehicle.  When I wasn't driving all over three states I was in the belly of an airplane on my way to Tucson, Vegas, Northern California, Southern California, and Buffalo.

Buffalo?

Well, it was the birthplace of the chicken wing so I felt some piety when I made my semi-annual sojourn there.  Plus, I fell in lust with a French-Canadian stripper named Rebekkah, who sported the finest mane this side of Jackie Kennedy.

Ya ever see a stripper work that pole wearing a pink pillbox hat and nothing else?

Anyway, one March day my boss informs me that we have to attend a lunch meeting in Chicago.  It wasn't too out of the ordinary to hop on a plane and go somewhere with little notice, but usually we stayed for a few days.  This trip, however, was a five ay-em flight, lunch, and then back to Cleveland by mid-afternoon.

So we get to the Windy City, do our thing, and go back to O'Hare.  Our flight, of course, is delayed for a few hours due to some technical stuff.  We make our way to the bar and decide to pass the time with a few cocktails.

A young bartender, mid-twenties, asks me for some ID.  I chuckle and pull out my license.  My boss, who resembled a cross between Joe Pesci and a bad case of shingles, saunters up to the bar as well. 

I need to see some ID, says the mixologist. 

My boss thought he was kidding.

New law, said the bartender.  We have to check every ID.

He grumbled all Joe Pesci-like and decided if he wanted his vodka he'd better behave.

That day, almost ten years ago, was my introduction to what has become life in the twenty-first century.

When did common sense leave the building?

A few years later I had some prints developed at a local photo lab.  They were vacation pictures of me and my family and I was in pretty much all the pix.

I had a twenty stuck in my pocket but had left my wallet in the car.  As I approached the counter, the clerk put down his magazine and sauntered up. It seems that I was putting a dent into his reading time and, with a vaguely pissed-off stare, he let me know that in no uncertain terms.  I told him I was here to pick up my photos; he started to look through the bin without even acknowledging me.

I saw them before he did.  Somehow my last name had been left off the front of the envelope.  I told him they were right there; if they were a snake they would have bit him in his raisin-sized testes. 

After about five minutes of him fumbling through the pile I finally said, "Dude, look down.  See the picture of me staring back at you?  Those are mine."

He opened the package and, sure enough, there I was.  He said he couldn't give them to me because there was no bar code on the package. 

I asked why I couldn't pick up my pictures. Well, he said, he wasn't sure that they were mine.  So I had to go out to my car to get my wallet to get a photo ID.  Which, by and large, he was holding in his hand. 

About four dozen of them.

He smiled one of those fake, fuck-you lip curls as he looked at my driver's license, up at me, and then back down at the ID.  Yep, that's you all right, was his minimum-wage-drunk-on-whatever-little-power-he-had-over-a-customer retort.

I grabbed the pictures, disgusted at the lack of common sense displayed by this minimum-wage monster.

I went to the front of the store and asked to speak to the manager.  I told him what just went down. I mentioned how the clerk had almost fifty photo IDs of me in a little white envelope.  He replied that they needed to check all IDs so they're sure to give the proper photos to the right customers. 

I laughed.  Who the hell would want photos of me in my bathing suit, sans a tan, on purpose?

He spat that response to me like a well-rehearsed line;  it was something out of a corporate handbook designed to disarm a customer.  He then told me that I was free to call their 800 customer service number if I had further questions. He said it with the same, albeit more-refined, smirk the clerk had given me five minutes before.

When I repeated to him what I said to the lab tech, he didn't budge.  Most folks would at least acknowledge the absurdity of such a request, but he toed the company line.  It was a corporately-mandated rule; so either they have a huge army of clerks like this guy all over America giving out the wrong envelopes to their customers or it was just another rule in an absurd handbook of rules, designed to further dumb down our culture.

When I left the store I pondered what was worse: The epidemic of thinly-veiled contempt these folks had for their customer base or the corporate idiocracy that's become an assembly line of stupid rules that makes common sense an outlaw?

My son, while in middle school, was at the lunch table with his friends.  Steven, a good kid, called my son a name.  Alex shot back to Steven that he was a "pompous anti-Christ."  Kudos to my kid for such creative word-usage. 

To make a long story short, both Alex and Steven got in trouble for their lunch-table escapades; they both had to serve detention.  I was pissed.  I called the assistant principal, who doled out the punishment.  Mr. Lumley, she said, we just can't allow our children to behave that way.  Why would he use such language?  I said that he was a huge Monty Python fan and/or there was a likely chance that he probably heard it from me.  I added that I was impressed at the descriptive vocabulary of a fifth grade student.

She disagreed. 

Two weeks later I saw her at the school's talent show, rocking out to a pre-adolescent band singing AC/DC's "Shook Me All Night Long."  She was all smiles and clapped at the end, not realizing that these kids had just pulled one over on The Man.

"...Knockin' me out with those American thighs.
Taking more than her share
Had me fighting for air
She told me to come but I was already there
'Cause the walls start shaking
The earth was quaking
My mind was aching
And we were making it and you -
Shook me all night long..."

Four fifth graders are on the stage, grinding on their guitars and screaming these lyrics to an auditorium full of beaming parents?  Yeah, so "Pompous Anti-Christ" is detention-worthy but a song about some dude banging the shit out of some chick all night was considered family-friendly entertainment?

I've seen first hand how debilitating menstrual cramps can be to a high school girl.  However, in most schools across this country they're not allowed to bring Midol to school because of the district's zero-tolerance policy regarding drugs.  So a girl suffers, miserably, for a week every month.

Yet, two black trench-coat, Hitler-loving gun-nut kids in Colorado talk of killing everyone in their school and when they finally bring armageddon to Columbine everyone shakes their heads.

How could this happen, they endlessly ask us in a loop playing on every news outlet for days afterwards.

A friend of mine said that she coaches fourth grade basketball.  If one team is annhilating the competition and there's a fifteen-plus point difference in the score they turn off the scoreboard.

Now I know that some of these anecdotes aren't the same as the loss of common sense, but it's all stirred in the same big pot.

We're afraid of hurting someone's feelings.  That's why a fifty-five year old man is forced to show his driver's license to a twenty-three year old.  Because if we have to card an eighteen year-old to buy alcohol, or cigarettes, or a porn mag, then we have to do the same to a guy much closer to earth than birth, right?

Screw that.

If a team is getting their butts kicked by, oh, twenty or thirty points it's time the coach sat them down and gave them one of those speeches that most coaches practice in front of a mirror.  What good does it do a kid to lower everyone's expectations?  If he sucks at basketball, let him know now.  He can join the band, along with all the other asthmatic, X-Box-playing "non-athletes."

And I mean that with respect.  Not everyone can be Michael Jordan.  So if they can't, why pretend?  If they're getting mopped up you either replace the coach or look at the team's overall strengths and replace the low-scorers with the kids who can get the job done.  And, hey, this is coming from the kid who was left for dead in left field all summer and got one goddamn hit during the entire season, so I learned on my own back in 1977 that my future probably wouldn't include an induction trip to Cooperstown.

I would tell the same thing to a kid who sucked on stage.  If some jock was trying to play Hamlet in a high school production and he was butchering the Bard I'd tell him to trade in the cape and go back to his set of smelly shoulder pads.

Because, once again, not everyone can be Olivier.

That's why Olivier was the man, and got to bang Scarlett O'Hara for a while.   Larry got some primo tail in his younger years...

Losing teaches kids a life lesson.  I see so many college grads today thinking they're primed to earn their first mill by the age of thirty.  No one taught them any differently. 

From their earliest years scoreboards were turned off.

They got a participation medal, or ribbon, or trophy just for showing up.

Score wasn't kept at pee-wee baseball because, ya know, the kids were there to have fun.

They were told they can be anything they wanted and, with determination, could do anything they wanted.  Well, that's impossible because no matter how much a boy might want to give birth to a beautiful baby daughter it just ain't in the cards.

Or your niece wants to pee standing up just like her brothers.  Well, I suppose that could happen but not with the same bullseye efficacy-of-aim that most dudes have.

Plus, who wants to clean up all that pee just to prove some nonsensical point?

My boss didn't deserve to be anally-probed for a tumbler of Ketel One.  He's old; he's worked hard his entire life to get where he is today, only to be put in his place by some ridiculous law that takes any common sense off the table?

We've been lawyered to death; I know I have a hard time telling whether some chick is 19 or 22, that's why we check their IDs.  But when a short Italian guy with slicked-back hair and crow's feet approaches the bar with a briefcase and a Blackberry, I think I can take a wild guess that he's a tad bit over the legal drinking age.

This is the same mentality that denies girls small dosages of a drug that can't make you high; there's no buzz factor for Midol, but it can make them focus on their school work and ignore the cramping of their abdomen. 

The mentality that turns a blind eye to swastika-sporting teens with a grudge and access to some heavy firepower.

What happens when we lessen expectations? 

I'll tell you:  We have a zero-tolerance factor for things that don't really matter but give a pass to the things that do.  Blind eyes are turned to the kids who are either a threat or a real nuisance while twenty-somethings can ask a an old man for some ID to buy Scotch that was distilled twenty years before the bartender was even born.

Or scoreboards that remain lifeless.

But as we forty-somethings know sometimes too well, life does keep score. 

Daily.

So maybe it's not about common sense at all.  Maybe it's more about feelings.   Somewhere between the caustic Blue state/Red state politics and the Dr. Phil meltdown a new breed of apologetics has arisen; it's a notion that's become ingrained into our children and even our society as a whole.  It's more important to feel good than it is to confront certain realities.

I'm not saying we should dash our children's dreams at such a young age.  No, they'll experience that as they get older and make their way into the world.  What you owe your kid is a modicum of sense when helping them make decisions.

If the reality is that your kid sucks at basketball, isn't it better to tell him now than wait for him to realize it, when he's working at a local drug store, reading a magazine, bothered by my presence and pissed at the world because he's not banging Scarlett O'Hara and making three-pointers at the buzzer?

But hey, unlike my niece, at least he gets to pee standing up.


*

Monday, March 21, 2011

Reds

I saw an interesting plea on the internet this morning.

A new group has proclaimed Fridays as theirs.  In support of the U.S. troops serving overseas, this group wants everyone to wear the color red each and every Friday.  Kind of like casual Fridays at banks and other financial places, but more like Team Jersey day.  Facebook has well over a million "Likes" for this new phenomenom.  And it seems to be growing.

I've always been fascinated by symbols and how, sometimes, they become more important than the people or ideas they're meant to represent.

Look at the Christian Cross or the Stars and Stripes.  How many millions have died defending the honor of just those two representations?

I understand the need to rally behind a cause or belief.  One of the basic human needs is to belong to something. 

Back in the old days if you weren't in Og's tribe and another tribe attacked there was a good chance that you'd get a saber-toothed spear stuck in a rather unpleasant place.  Usually by a member of Bok's tribe who was trying to get ahold of Og's wife, or daughter, or the half-eaten mammoth carcass that Og's posse had taken down the week before.  And this is before refrigerators or ziploc bags, so those mammoth filets got kinda ripe pretty fast.

Being a part of something bigger than yourself was not just a want, but a crucial part of your very survival.  So when mammoths went extinct and were replaced by boy bands, National Socialism, and tramp stamps, it just felt natural to want to belong to them.  Don't blame a kid for wanting to be a part of the Hitler Youth or your niece for getting some Asian symbol inked above her ass crack, there's a whole lot of Homo Sapiens collective intelligence being passed down, unbeknownst, to them.

Of course, there's always an exception.  I'm still mystified by our now-extinct cultural fascination with the Backstreet Boys and NKOTB.  We'll just chalk those up to some little collective defect in our DNA.

I love how symbols can change their meaning as well.   Nineteen hundred years ago you didn't dare share your affinity with a little cult called Christianity.  If you whipped out a crucifix the next thing you knew you were being tossed into a big pit and a lion was making a lunch out of you.  Rome's version of NASCAR was the constant bloodletting of these monotheistic idiots who carried around a few sticks at ninety-degree angles to each other.  Romans spit on the Christians as they were fed, en masse, to the whim of the emperor.  One day lions, the next a mass crucifixion on some Roman hill.

Now I dare you to go to Rome today and not see crucifixes everywhere.  A little while after the last lion burped up the remains of a Christian smorgasbord, Romans realized that this whole Christianity thing was pretty cool.  Fairly soon everyone had a crucifix in their house and they started killing all the people who didn't have one hanging over the fireplace.

So, back to Red Fridays.  Ask your grandparents what "Red" meant to them.  Ask them about Joe McCarthy and what he did to Reds.   Ask them how just the accusation of being a Red was enough to destroy careers, ruin marriages, and destroy entire lives.

We have short attention spans.  Even shorter memories.  A few election cycles ago the pundits started dividing up our country into both red and blue states.  I wonder if they understood the significance of that?

I wonder if the GOP likes being called "Red?"  Joe McCarthy, one of the most conservative senators from the last hundred years, would spin in his grave if he knew what GOP real estate is being called.

Or worse yet, what red symbolizes.

Anger.

Hate.

Fear.

Communists.

Blood.

I understand the idea that Red Friday is meant to signify the blood our soldiers are losing on foreign soil to an almost-invisible enemy.

But for every symbol there's also multiple interpretations.  If you use red to denote the blood they're hemorrhaging, you also have to account for the blood they're spilling.

So, to our enemy, the color red has a completely different meaning. 

Democrats have been assigned a rather undignifying color.

But, unlike commie witch hunts and oceans of blood, what's the worst thing that can be attributed to blue?

Hmmm, maybe the unfortunate state your balls turn when your planned hookup fails to materialize.


*

My Summer Story, the Sequel

It's seven o'clock on an early August morning.  My head is pounding and my roommates are laughing at the verbal ass-whooping I just took from a bony-fingered old man. 

I thought about it for a second.

Sixty-eight complaints!

Jesus, what'd you guys do in here last night?

Human sacrifice?

Karate tournament?

Paintball?

Perry smiled.

Rox giggled.

Cyndi guffawed.

I dunno just had fun, was all they could muster.

I was still reeling from the night before.  I sat down, looked around and buried my head in my palms.  The place was trashed; beer cans littered the condo.  Red wine stains blanketed the carpet like a Compton drive-by.

There had to be two hundred beer cans everywhere.  Doesn't anyone know what a garbage can is?

It was the second week of shooting on "Jurassic Park" and I had to be on set by 8:30.  I went back upstairs, peered into the tub and turned on the shower.

Cyndi's wine-laced dried barf, fourteen pounds of sand, and my dignity all swirled down the drain at once.

As the hot water filtered through the remains of the beach sand, the smell of regurgitated wine started to abate.

It's funny how I couldn't smell the vomit several hours before.  But I guess the pheromones being exuded by a horny, nasally-voiced East Coast transplant overpowered the barfed-up vino.

I took a forty-minute shower, draining all the hot water from the tank.  I sobered up a bit, drank about a half bottle of Scope and made my way to the set.

We shot the sick triceratops sequence that day.  It was pretty cool to see Stan Winston's full-sized dinosaur before me, but I was nursing some chafed inner thighs and a penchant to dry-heave most of the afternoon.

I got home at about five that day.  I was spent, exhausted, and  ready to cliff dive into my bed when the phone rang.

What time are you guys coming over, said the voice.

This was before the days of caller ID.  Unceremoniously I said, "Who the fuck is this?"

The male voice shot back a response.  It's Ray, he said.  My party's tonight, what time are you guys coming?

Oh crap.

I totally forgot about it.

I peered over the railing down to the living room.

Rox looks at me with a "You almost ready?" look on her face.

I smile back.  Weakly.

Cyndi's standing there with her date, some white dude with dreadlocks and an attitude.  If Bob Marley had been reincarnated as a pale-faced Caucasian, this guy was him.

Hey mon, the dude said.

Hey, I shot back.

You comin' wit' us or what?

Uh, yeah.

I got dressed and made my way down the stairs. 

We went to Ray's birthday party.  My attitude got worse with each beer I drank. All I wanted was to go home and go to bed. 

I left at ten after wishing my inebriated best friend a happy, happy birthday.

Rox, Perry, Cyndi, and white-Bob-Marley stayed at the party.

I stumbled up the stairs to my awaiting bed.  I smiled as I did a swandive right into the sheets.  As my right cheek and nose slid across the pillow case the hard reality ground another four pounds of sand into my face.

Fuck it. 

I'll clean it in the morning.

I'm awakened by voices.  My left eye cracks open to a distant light.  More voices.  Laughing.

I glance at my trusty alarm clock that I've had since the seventh grade.

Its red digital numbers tell me that it's one in the morning.

I peer over the rail.  My roommates are playing quarters.  Bob Marley is losing.

He's very vocal that he's losing.

I whisper over the rail.

Hey, natty dreads, can you keep it down a bit?  We almost got evicted last night and you guys should really shut the fuck up.

They mutter unhappily at my stick-in-the-mud intrusion to their game.

About an hour later the revelry wraps up.

Bob Marley's too drunk to ride his bicycle home so, apparently, he crashes on our couch.

Cyndi's asleep.

I'm in that nether region, somewhere between REM sleep and wide awake.  My eyes are closed and I'm just about to nod off again when I hear footsteps, the rumbling of our sliding glass door, and the very-recognizable sound of someone vomiting over the lanai railing.

My head pops off the sand-encrusted pillow in a nano-second.

I run down the stairs to see Bob Marley barfing his guts out all over the guy's towels drying on the railing below us.  Ya know, the guy that I gave a "Fuck You!" shout out to the night before?

I tell Bob that if he has to puke, the toilet is right over there.  I walk him to the bathroom, holding his hand and pointing to the bowl.  He apologizes profusely and says that he feels better, mon.

I direct him to the couch and he falls into it face first, like a Giant Sequoia being chopped down.

I make my way upstairs, past the windows.  A slight breeze is blowing in through the louvered windows.  There isn't much air-conditioning in Kauai; the temps hover at about 78 every day.

The windows are long and thin, like venetian blinds.

After feeling the cool wind, I get a chill.  I crawl back under my sandpaper covers, looking forward to a long, uninterrupted slumber.

Within thirty seconds of my eyes clamping shut I hear the sliding glass door again, a horrible wretch, and then a gigantic crash.

Preternaturally, I fly back down the stairs. For a brief moment, the sand-chafed leg pain abates.  I look around.  There's blood on the windows, six of the panes are broken, and Bob Marley is barfing his guts out, all over Fuck-You-Guy's beach towels.

In his need to puke up the seventeen beers that he drank at Ray's party, Bob ran out to the lanai, tripped backwards (how he went backwards still perplexes me after almost twenty years), his arm crashing down all-karate-chop-style through our window panes.

At this point I grab him by his natty dreads and forcefully eject him from my apartment.

He's swearing at me in a mishmash of California white-boy English, a mock Jamaican accent, and a little bit of Kid-n-Play's "House Party 2" lingo.  All heightened by a drunken stupor.

I tell him to get out; he's worn out his welcome here.  Cyndi stayed in bed, her head covered by her blankets and her fingers in her ears.  Rox begged her to deal with her boyfriend, but she elected to stay within the security of the loft bed, unfettered by the finger of doom that would be pointed in my face less than five hours later.

After being ejected from my condo Bob bangs on the door again.  "I need my bike, you fuckin' asshole!," he bellow-slurs at me.

I open the door and give him his two-wheeled limo.  How the hell he took Cyndi on a date on a ten-speed is beyond me, but it's provided me with almost two decades of good-natured ribbing at her expense.  I guess that's her punishment for not getting out of bed that night to deal with her Schwinn-sporting Bob Marley.

So I survey the damage:  Six broken windows, a blood trail that resembled something you'd see when a mountain lion drags some poor unsuspecting jogger into a pile of leaves after jumping on her surprised ass, and a waterfall of chunky, Bud Light-colored barf cascading onto the Bugs Bunny beach towels directly below us.

I was fucked and I knew it.

Somehow I'd been designated as the representative for our condo.

My pinkie swear didn't mean shit now.

I crawled back into bed, awaiting the rising of the sun and the verbal maelstrom that would accompany it.

Seven ay-em came too fast.  And with it the bony finger from the morning before, except this time it was a mere four inches from my face.  Myles, the local groundskeeper, was there with John.  I guess he was the muscle in case the coloreds jumped him or something.  I got the impression that John didn't really care much for the whole Civil Rights Act.  He had the hairstyle one would connect to a guy who came of age in the mid-'50s.  A brown mat, bryl-creamed down and swept with a slight duck's tail perched off his left brow, in need of an oil change.  He looked like a cross between an older James Dean and a road-weary Donald Rumsfeld.  As he yelled at me I thought whose hair looks that well-coiffed at seven on a Sunday morning?  Even if it was a rockabilly holdover from a bygone era.  More thoughts raced through my head:  How much time does he need to spend to get that dip over his left eye just right?

He was from the Deep South originally, and it mystified me why a guy like him would move to a place where white people were in a minority and Jerry Lee Lewis was virtually unheard of.

As I was taking this verbal smackdown, Perry stood behind the door mocking the old man.  Every time John would say something important, his finger trailed up and down like a metronome, accenting how pissed off he was at me and my irresponsible cronies.  Perry stood behind the door, raising his finger the same way in an attempt to get me to burst out laughing.

There were seventeen more complaints that night. 

So, two nights, eighty-five complaints. 

We were hated by everyone.  The guy below us, Gene, was a high school guidance counselor from San Francisco.  He was also a first-class dick.  He wanted me to pay him $100 for his stupid Bugs Bunny towels.  I went to the local surf shack, purchased two towels for ten bucks, and smiled as I gave them to him.  I told Cyndi she could either sleep on the beach or clean up the vomit on his second floor balcony. 

She cleaned it.

The beauty of living in a condo complex full of time share refugees?

Everyone who complained about us was gone by the following weekend.  So, we got a fresh start with a new bunch of mainlanders. The smiles returned and most of that night's events were forgiven after the hurricane.

Perry and I helped clean up the roof tiles that littered the beach, hot tub and parking lot.  We pulled a tree from the deep end of the pool and the snapped remnants of palm trees from the other older residents' cars.  I even helped John remove a large branch from his car's rear window. As I yanked the splintered wood from his car's backseat I made a joke that I'd be happy to help remove the large stick from his ass as well.

He didn't think that was very funny.  But he laughed a bit, which told me everything was forgiven.

I thought, briefly, that we would be homeless.  I was scared at the ramifications of that weekend and the very real threats of being evicted.

But looking back at that weekend, and that summer as a whole, proved one thing that I've really taken to heart:

Don't sweat the small stuff.

And the worst part of those 48 hours?  The thing that's stayed with me the most after all these years?

Do you know how difficult it is to remove dried palm fronds from glass?  Man, they're superglued on there once that little leaf dries out. 



*

Sunday, March 20, 2011

My Summer Story

I was cleaning out a desk drawer the other night and came across a small stash of photos from the Summer of 1992.  Or more bluntly, THE summer of 1992, emphasis squarely placed on the article the.

Doesn't everyone have one summer that kinda defines their young existence?  Kid Rock had to poach some Warren Zevon and Skynyrd to define his, and, yep, that song really captured what mine was like too.

It's funny; I'm a photographer now but during that seminal summer I didn't take one picture.

Not one.

How many summers do you get to spend wandering around a Spielberg-directed movie set, gawk at humpback whales frolicking two hundred feet from your bedroom window and go through a hurricane that would almost put Katrina to shame?

Yeah, I wasn't very forward-thinking.

The stash of pix that I have came from Rox's mom, after her death.  Roxanne took pictures of our condo, perched three stories up, facing the ocean, inhabited by four Ohio kids getting drunk on the aloha spirit.

And boy did we drink.

We worked a litany of jobs just to get by; I think I made about $20,000 that year at my Blockbuster Video management gig.  Rox worked as one of my employees and she held down a second job, with our other roommate Cyndi, at Baskin Robbins.

Sometimes the owner couldn't afford to pay the girls so she'd give them their wages in ice cream.  We thought it was pretty cool at first, but unfortunately you can't make the rent payment with Chunky Monkey.

Perry, Rox's boyfriend, did double duty as well, managing a Pizza Hut and slinging subs at the Subway right around the corner from our condo.

So, needless to say, we rarely crossed each other's paths.  Our shifts never coincided so there was a good chance that I could have the condo pretty much to myself on my day off.  Once, and only once, did the four of us have a night off together.   

On a particular Thursday afternoon, we discussed our upcoming work schedules.  It occurred to us that the following evening, a Friday night, we all happened to have off from our various jobs.

What to do?

Why, what else?  Let's have a big party!

Little did we know that the next few days would pretty much change our future, and reputations, on the Garden Isle.

There are very few peoples on the planet as warm, loving, and open as Hawai'ians.  First and foremost, they describe themselves as Hawai'ians.  Secondly, as free spirits, and thirdly, as Americans.  Their removal from the forty-eight contiguous states gives them a perspective that most land-locked Americans lack.  They live for the land, the sea, and more importantly, the moment.

I'm not trying to say that they live like the Indians in "Dances with Wolves."  My friends didn't throw leis into the ocean or sacrifice a chicken to Pele', the volcano goddess; they just had an affinity and appreciation for the beauty around them. 

Yep, they could be assholes if they didn't like you; I knew one white guy, a stoner dude that made Spiccoli from "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" look like an amateur.  He rankled the feathers of some of my friends so much that they booted him from inside the relative safety of our Blockbuster Video shelter during a Class-Five hurricane.

I watched as they opened the door in gale-force winds, threw him out and watched him blow away, literally gone with the wind.  He fought his way back, pressed his nose up against the  plate glass window and begged to be let back in.

He fell through the door, soaking wet and humbled.  For the rest of the storm he sat against the Pepsi cooler and didn't mutter a word. Once the storm abated, he left on his own accord before they decided to open a can of Hawai'ian punch on him.

Back to our party.

So we invite most of our local coterie to this little shindig, nestled in our third floor condo with a terra cotta roof, loft bedroom and walls as thin as Japanese rice paper.

Prior to them arriving at our nest, the roomies spent an hour or so of quality time discussing how our cheeseburgers in paradise were tasting.

Perry grabbed a beer and opened the lanai door.  I followed him with a beer of my own and closed the sliding screen door behind me.  It rumbled on it's semi-rusty track; nothing made of metal lasted long from the assault of the salty breezes that constantly blew in from California.  The windows were always coated with a slightly greasy crust comprised of salty air and the occasional palm frond that would get super-glued to your window if it was allowed to dry.

We sat talking on our lanai, a slight breeze blowing in from the East.  It was early, perhaps 8:30, when a voice from below thundered "Would you shut the fuck up there!?"

Perry looked at me.

I glanced back at him.

Not to be put in my place from some short-time tourist renting the condo below us for a week, I tossed my head over the rail and shouted back, "Fuck you!"

The lanai door slammed shut with a ferocity of a pissed-off mainlander, apparently in bed early trying to sleep off his white-boy sunburn and aloha hangover.  Most tourists would imbibe too much of Hawai'i in one visit; they'd saunter off to bed at dusk and wake with the sun's first light, off to discover some pineapple plantation, a forest of mango trees or the remains of the place where Elvis shot "Blue Hawai'i" back in the '50s.

So my date arrives.  It's about nine-thirty and we have a few beers.  She looks a little like the lead singer from that band "Swing Out Sister."  She has a pageboy 'do and a nice little butt for a Philadelphia transplant.  Her mom killed herself in Philly a few years before so her dad wanted a change of pace. 

So, six thousand miles from Pennsylvania, she arrived with a great butt, a college education, and a nasally, high-pitched voice that, when properly engaged, could make unripe coconuts fall prematurely from their berths.

I grabbed a bottle of wine, a six, two glasses and a handful of Durex.  We flip-flopped down two flights of stairs to our hot tub by the sea.  The waves, in syncopated trios, would melodiously crash upon the beach, drowning out her Philly accent. 

As we made our way to the ocean my friends started arriving.

In droves.

We decided to go back up to the condo and at least greet my coterie.  As I made my way back into the living room I counted ten, fifteen, twenty-two heads.  The music got louder.  The alcohol flowed freely.

I said my hellos, gave the quintessential Hawai'ian handshake, and grabbed Erin's hand.  We made our way back to the hot tub and drank the whole bottle of wine.

And three beers apiece.

In my hundred-and-four degree jacuzzi.

We left the heat of the heavily-chlorinated waters behind for the cool ocean waters and the romance that would ensue. 

Anyone ever see "From Here to Eternity" when Burt Lancaster bangs Deborah Kerr in the Hawai'ian surf?  Really romantic music, the surf rolling in as they laugh and canoodle against the backdrop of the impending Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor?

Yeah, it's nothing like that.

As a matter of fact, it's like something out of a Jackass movie.

After ten minutes of frolicking naked on the beach I had sand in every orifice, and I can't imagine the places where she had sand.  Not only did I have friction burns on the inside of my thighs, but sandpaper marks where the rubber had hit the road.

Three times.

So, nursing a jacuzzi-induced wine headache and second-degree friction burns we hobbled back to the condo at about four in the morning.  The place was quiet. 

Eerily so.

It looked like the beaches of Normandy on the morning-after of June 7th, 1944.

Bodies were everywhere.

There was no blood, but red wine was spilled on the carpet that could, I suppose, have been mistaken for a Kamehameha-style massacre.  We stepped over people everywhere on our way to my bedroom.  There were still a few Durexes left so we crept through the drunken crowd, tiptoeing and giggling at the scene before us.

As we made our way into my darkened bedroom I saw two, three, four people passed out.  Their loud snoring was, thankfully, drowned out by the waves as they crashed on the beach fifty feet from my twin-sized bed.

After all, we didn't want that cacophonous snoring to disturb my sleeping neighbors through the thin walls of this complex.

We looked at each other.  Where could we finish off the roll of condoms?

She led me to the bathroom as dried sand slowly filtered out of my bathing suit onto the carpet.

She peeled off her suit and climbed into the tub.  I jumped in right after her.  She whispered that something felt squishy underneath her. 

I told her not to worry about it, and we finished off the Durexes in a quiet, yet efficient, manner.

So, after an hour we tiptoe back over the crowd, which has thinned a bit by now and I kissed her goodnight at the front door.  I make my way back upstairs; my bed is now mine.

Three hours later I awake to the sun rising in the Eastern windows.  My head is pounding like a kettle drum during Tchaikovsky's 1812.

I ask myself what the fuck I was thinking last night.

I look down at my thighs.  It looks like someone took an industrial belt sander to them.  They're raw, red, and a little blood is dripping from my left leg.

I limp into the bathroom.  The "squishy" feeling Erin complained about?  Apparently Cyndi had too much beer and she barfed in the only available space the night before.

My tub.

Everywhere I look there's beer bottles.  A wine bottle and several shot glasses are on the lanai.

I hear footsteps coming up the stairs to my loft.  Perry tells me there's someone at the front door to see me.

Who the hell wants me at seven in the morning?  Then, my synapses start firing up and out off their hung-over sabbatical.

Shit. 

This can't be good.

I open the door to a flood of white, blinding light.  A figure slowly comes into focus.  The first thing I see is a bony finger pressed about six inches from my face.  And then I hear a voice.

A really, really pissed-off voice.

John, the condo superintendent, starts screaming at me in his white-guy-Hawai'ian-transplant-slightly-Southern drawl.

He wanted to know what the HELL happened here last night.

I feigned stupidity.  I dunno.  I wasn't here last night.

Which, technically, was true.

He wanted an explanation.

I said I would look into it and get back to him.

Apparently they had a few complaints about noise, music, towel-slapping fights, and, oh yeah, noise.

A few complaints?  Actually it was a little more than a few.

Sixty-eight, to be exact.

I gingerly shut the door after explaining to John that I was very sorry and it wouldn't ever happen again.

He was ready to start the eviction process right then and there.

I had to give my word, which I guess to a retired Southern guy who still called my black friends "coloreds," was a big thing.  Kind of like a pinkie swear to the kids in "Stand By Me."

Of course, the next evening, a mere fifteen hours away, it happened again.

And, Jesus, you should have seen his face at seven o'clock the next morning when he banged on my door again.

Except this time I was ready for him.

Even if my legs were still aching and chafed from the Black and Decker sandblasting from the night before.





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