Thursday, December 30, 2010

Pot Luck

When I was 12, I lived in Lake Villa with my Aunt and my best friend, Rick, lived in Johnsburg. Rick was the son of my Aunt's best friend, so whenever my Aunt and his Mom would get together, Rick and I would hang out. Rick was a great guy and whenever I hung out with him I'd always do all kinds of amazing things that I'd never get to do with my friends back home. Like one weekend I'd take up smoking cigarettes, the next weekend we'd throw rocks at oncoming traffic and on my next visit we'd dress up like women and go out on the town. Luckily, that last adventure was on Halloween.

One warm summer day, my Aunt dropped me off at Rick's house to visit and she planned to pick me up later that evening. When I went inside, Rick's parents were both at work and there were three other guys hanging around. Right away, Rick tells me, "Hey, if I show you something, you gotta promise to keep your mouth shut about it." Of course I said yeah, so he takes me to the kitchen and opens up the oven. They had taken all but the bottom rack out and there, piled all the way to the top, was a gigantic mound of pot. Well, I didn't know it was pot at first, I just said, "What the hell are you guys cooking?".

"It's the weed I told you about", Rick said. Last time I was over, Rick had gone on an on about a friend of a friend of a friend who had cut through a local cornfield a couple weeks earlier and managed to stumble upon an acre or so of mary jane planted smack in the middle. He had asked me to come along, as he and some other guys had plans to sneak out of their houses in the middle of the night and check it out for themselves. I had said I was busy and ditched on the plans because frankly I thought the whole story reeked of urban legend, and Rick always loved that crap.

Well, Rick and a few buddies had gone out there and actually found the spot and managed to get away with some weed. Now they needed to dry out as much as they could before his parents came home. Truth be told, at 12, my knowledge of the "curing" and preparation of marijuana was minimal, but we all acted like we knew what we were doing. Sure, everyone knows it needs to be dried, then you have get the buds off the stems and get the seeds out. We all grew up watching Cheech & Chong, didn't we?

Rick then tells me, "You've gotta take some of this pot off my hands though. If my parents find it, they'll kill me." I didn't see the big deal, "If you four guys split it up once it's dry, it'll probably only be like a couple ziplock bags each". "Oh yeah, the stuff in the oven will be no problem..." he says, "but come here". Rick then leads me out to the shed in the back yard and opens the door. Once my eyes adjust to the darkness, I see that there are 6 or 8 black garbage bags piled in the corner. "holy crap!"I couldn't believe it, "yeah" is all he could say. I told Rick I'd have to pass. My Aunt was picking me up a little later, and hiding a quarter ounce would be one thing, but I was pretty sure she'd notice if I threw a garbage bag of weed into the trunk.

In the end, I'm not sure what ever became of the bags of weed. At 12, I didn't have any interest in pot yet. If I had it today, though, I'm pretty sure I could retire.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

On Thin Ice

I grew up in Island Lake, Illinois. It's this tiny little crap town that, oddly enough, has a lake.In my high school years I lived there with my Dad at my Grandmother's house, which was right on the lake. It always seemed like there were NO cool people who lived on my side of the lake and all of my friends lived on the other side. For this reason, most days, I'd ride my friend's bus home from school and get off at their stop, hang out at their house for a while and then walk around the lake to get home. During the winter months this trek was significantly shortened since the lake was frozen and I could just cut across.

In the winter of my sophomore year I was taking the icy shortcut daily and because it was sooo much shorter, I continued well into March, long after any sane person would walk on the ice. The ice was still pretty thick in most spots but there were gaping holes in other areas.

One evening I left my friend's house and started out across the lake. I knew right away that is was risky because I could feel the ice sink a little with each step, like walking on a mattress. I was able to see well enough to avoid the holes and just tried to keep moving. I made it about three-quarters of the way across the lake when I suddenly heard a loud wet crack. Luckily, I was able to grab onto the closest ledge of ice as I fell in so that I didn't slip under the ice. I tried to stay calm and made many attempts to pull myself back up on the ice, but the ice around me was just too thin to support me and would crack off each time.

This is when I began to scream for help for what seemed an eternity. Finally a girl in the neighborhood heard me and called the police/fire department/ambulance. Again, it felt like a year passed until any of them arrived. All during the wait, the girl talked to me, trying to make sure that I didn't pass out or go into shock or something. The whole time waiting, I was constantly flexing my toes and fingers. I didn't think I would die or anything, but I was scared as hell of losing anything to frostbite. The rescue teams had some difficulty reaching me, first trying a boat, eventually ending up using a diver dragging a rowboat. Once I was out of the water, I was fine, just insanely cold. I was rushed to the hospital to be treated for hypothermia and shock. It took forever for the violent shivers to stop and to actually feel comfortable again.

Once I was calmed down I received phone calls from concerned friends and family. My friends were planning on coming to the hospital to visit the next day, so even though I felt ok, I told my Dad I thought I should stay another day, just in case. When my friends showed up they brought gifts and cards, it was the best.

It was nearly time to leave the next day when my Dad came in and said, "Hey Son, can I talk to you?". "Sure", I said. "We found what was in your bag". I had no idea what he was talking about. Then from behind him he pulls out this book titled "Teen Depression & Suicide". I nearly laughed out loud when I saw it. I had been working on a report for Health class and that was the topic I'd been given. Once I explained the book, he was relieved, and we did have a little laugh about it.

I didn't give it any more thought that day, but later, once I had my own kids, I thought of how terrible that must have been for my Dad. First, to go through the trauma of finding out I fell in the ice and then to believe that it may have been an attempt at suicide. I've pictured the nurse or doctor pulling my Dad aside, saying, "Sir, we found this in your son's school bag". That makes me feel the worse than anything.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


Tis the season for traditions and I love a great tradition as much as the next guy, maybe even more. I don’t intend to get up on my soapbox to criticize the youth of America today, but I feel that it’s my duty to at least point out a severe injustice that is taking place each and every day. This near-criminal act of negligence is the fault of parents, cousins and older siblings all across the country. I believe that it is our responsibility to pass on the sacred schoolyard traditions of our youth, and that’s not happening people. For the sake of keeping this fine art form alive and well, I beg of you, please find it in your hearts to instruct the little children of the world. I know that if you try, really try, you can all remember those sweet poems, affectionate pet names and the fun play on words that were really special. In case you come up empty, I’ve supplied a few to give you a warp-speed trip down memory lane.
-          I’m rubber and you’re glue. Whatever you say bounces off of me and sticks to you
-          No cuts, no butts no coconuts
-          I don’t grow up, I look at you and throw up, then you come around the corner and lick it up
-          (for the ladies) look down the front of your shirt and spell attic
-          Me Chinese, me play joke, me go pee-pee in your Coke
-          Cootie-spray
-          Fatty Fatty two by four, can’t fit through the bathroom door, so she did it on the floor, licked it up and did some more
-          Please?! I’ll be your best friend!
-          Some fun pet names: gayrod, gaymo, Gaylord, homo, dickweed, queerbait, test tube baby, dicksmack, cock-knocker, pole-smoker, butt-humper, crack baby, dickless, dillweed, & dillhole
-          Do you like me/will you go out with me, Circle Yes or No
-          Hold your tongue and say “I was born on a pirate ship”
-          When you really get someone good, say “Burn!!”
-          “Same to you and more of it!”
-          Up for grabs, down for safety
-          “Did your Mom have any kids that lived?”
Ok folks, that should get you started. Now, please treat this phenomenon seriously, get out there and bring it back!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

See No Evil

Growing up, I was never a big fan of super heroes or comic books. I tolerated episodes of Superman, Captain America and Spiderman, but only if nothing else was on tv. My main issue with the super hero concept was the whole do-gooder aspect of it. The thought of having these amazing abilities and putting them to use so unselfishly for the good of all seemed ridiculous to me.

I never dreamed of flying or having super strength to pummel my opponents, although, I'm pretty sure I achieved super speed running from some dudes in jr. high. There was one super power that I did fantasize about though...invisibility.

I spent countless hours of my youth contemplating the amazing feats that I could accomplish if only I could make myself invisible. I wondered how a day with this power would be, just 24 hours was all I wanted. I planned out such a day:

8:00 am - I wake up and I'm invisible, so of course I don't get dressed, because everyone knows that if you're invisible and you get dressed, people will be able to see your clothes.

8:30 am - I walk to the nearest McDonalds, slip unnoticed behind the counter and grab myself a couple egg mcmuffins and hash browns for breakfast, WITHOUT PAYING!

9:00 am - I continue down the block to the house of Melanie, the cute girl that I have a secret crush on but pretend to hate because she calls me "Stinky Travis" when she sees me in the halls. Of course, I have timed it just right and as I sneak invisibly into her room, she is undressing to take a shower.

10:00 am - I actually go to school, but not with good intentions. I unleash all sorts of shenanigans on unsuspecting teachers, the Principal and students that I loathe.

1:00 pm - I stroll into the girls locker room after gym class for a little shower show. This is clearly what having super powers is all about!

2:00 pm - I walk to the local bank, slink into the open safe and grab several bags of cash. In my pre-adolescent mind it either somehow did not occur to me that someone would see the "floating" bags of loot, (or mcmuffins, for that matter). Perhaps I conjured up some amazing "cloaking" device for concealing the bags.

The rest of the day went pretty much like this. As you can see, maybe I didn't have the great imagination I thought I did, since I'm pretty sure this was also the plot of some teen movie, like "Zapped" starring Scott Baio.

As an adult, being invisible would never work out. Whenever there was something you didn't want to do or didn't want to help out with you would likely make yourself invisible. This would just piss everyone off and when you showed up again, they'd say, "Where the hell were you?!" I guess the old adage that 90% of the job is just showing up is also true about life.

Now, having yourself cloned...That's the way to go!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Run Out Of Town On A Rail

Have you ever wondered how you got where you are? Where you live, I mean. For some of you, maybe it was a like a fairytale, once you found the love of your life, the two of you spend endless summer days on romantic drives in the country and discovered a sweet little village that you just fell in love with, so you bought an old farmhouse and moved in.

And then there are the rest of us, who looked at towns within about a 20 mile radius from where we grew up, and then found the town that was the best... only to discover that you can't afford the taxes there, let alone a house, so you lowered your standards a bit and ended up where you are now.

We live in Cary, and while there is nothing notably bad about the town, there's nothing notable about the town, period. I'm not complaining about where I live, I'm rather ambivalent about the whole thing. I don't think I'd be any more or less content living in Hampshire, or Woodstock, or Barrington.

We are here for the same reason as most, it's where our family is. Family is great and I don't ever regret moving close to the family. I just blame them incessantly for the fact that I'm here.  After all, I can't see any good reason why you live in the suburbs of Chicago, unless you loved going to Chicago. This would make sense, right? If generations previous said, "I love going to the city, but want to live in a safer place with more room and less traffic." There's only one problem, NOBODY in my family likes going into the city, nobody. Even we go maybe 3 or 4 times a year, tops. So why do we live here again?

Some folks would say I'd feel more of a connection to my town if I were more involved in civic functions, but those people can go to hell. This would be like telling a girl, "we have to have sex before I will know if I can love you", which probably wouldn't work either.

Don't get me wrong, there are many nice things that I like about our town, like the many parks and trails nearby, Silver Lake, and that sweet little bakery that just opened up by the Cary Diner. But I won't be too sad to leave the town either.