Land O’Lakes

Who doesn’t like butter?

No one, except psychopaths, obviously.

I love butter.

It’s amazing.

I’m not lying when I tell you if it was socially acceptable to eat a tub of butter in public that I would do it. On a couch, on a mouse, on a house. It doesn’t matter, I’m the fucking Dr. Seuss of butter.

Butter was involved in all meals when I was growing up. My mom is a great cook but due to the strict standard of Irish ancestry, every meal needed to have a starch. It didn’t matter if it was bread or potato it was on the table and you goddamn bet butter was sitting there waiting to be melted on it.

Hell, even pasta was served with butter.

I can still remember the feeling of pure adulation when I saw the blue container with the white frosted plastic cap that protected the stick of butter from fridge debris.

People will argue that stick butter is better than tub butter, but I really don’t give a shit either way. Well, that’s not fair, I had to care to some degree because I remember when our family switched from stick to tub butter. In fact, as a child, I was so attached to stick butter that for some time my mom would buy both stick and tub butter to keep my sister and I happy at the dinner table.

I really had no care in the world what kind of stick butter my mom would buy. I do remember that Breakstone’s was the brand of tub butter that would most frequently occupy our table. That dark, ominous blue carton sat there basically telling you heart disease was in your future.

For the record, anything in tub form isn’t good for you. Maybe that’s why tubby became such a harsh nickname.

One day things changed drastically.

Most children are afraid of things they have no idea about. Ghosts, aliens, adulthood. When I was a kid I had a fear that, as far as I know – and I’m completely open to support groups if they are available, no one else in the world has.

I was afraid of the Land O Lakes lady.

land o lakes

Her. Not kidding. 

This completely unfounded fear is still a mystery to me. I have zero idea why I was afraid of her, where the fear came from, and why this fear caused me to literally gag at the site of her.

I would sit there and shake with fear. I couldn’t handle the site of her. If the tub was facing me when I sat down I had an existential breakdown that was more confusing than whatever Kurt Vonnegut was trying to get across in Slaughterhouse Five.

I’m proud to say that I’m completely cured of this fear today. The residual effect of this is that my family won’t let me forget that I was scared of a Native American woman sitting holding STICK butter in the middle of a field on the label of a food product.

Hmmmmmm…maybe it’s that I wasn’t scared of her, but that I’m actually scared of terrible, non-sensical design.

 

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The Attic

I’m into paranormal stuff.

It’s fascinating to me that collectively, as humans, we can’t seem to hammer down if these things are actually happening or not. Millions of people claim to see ghosts, aliens, and faces of wannabe politicians who would absolutely destroy our country in ways that aren’t even conceivable to the human mind in vegan butter spreads.

I can pinpoint the exact moment that my lifelong obsession (debilitating fear) with the paranormal began and the point in which my sister decided that she loved torturing my very existence with her knowledge of this.

I was always a scared kid. Like always. I don’t think you can fully understand how scared I always was. I don’t know why I was always scared but everything terrified me. If a thunderstorm rolled through I would latch on to my mom’s leg like barnacles on a ship’s hull.

I grew up in the ’90s which, let’s be honest, was a pretty fucking great time to be a kid. Nickelodeon was at the peak of its dominance, the Yankees were forging their dynasty, and Unsolved Mysteries and Sightings were shows that absolutely scared the shit out of me.

(Honorable mention to watching Rescue 9-1-1 with my Grandma)

Now, let’s get back to Unsolved Mysteries and Sightings…

For those of you unfamiliar with those two series they’re the ones that would cause me to run out of our living room, find a corner to hide in, cover my ears and close my eyes. I would wait there until my dad came and got me and he had a predilection for falling asleep for hours in his recliner.

At seven years old you only glean the most necessary information from programs like those and don’t have the opportunity to see the humor in the CGI that depicted events like UFO landings, alien sightings, and, of course, the indisputable proof that Big Foot is an entity that actually exists on this planet and that every person that ever took a picture of the creature just happened to be the worst photographer ever.

For hours I would be subjected to repeats of these two shows enduring the creepy, deep voice of Robert Stack who looked more like a wax figurine than an actual human being. Seriously, I think that dude talked perfectly with his mouth closed.

For what it’s worth I did like Unsolved Mysteries over Sightings for the mere fact that Unsolved Mysteries tackled other things outside of the paranormal. Typically they would show some kind of story about a horrifyingly real serial killer that continued to roam the country looking for red heads and was last seen in Valley Stream. Those VERY REAL stories didn’t bother me as much as the shaky camera work and incessant screaming, heavy breathing, and shouts of “did you see that? DID YOU SEE THAT?!” that accompanied any “raw footage” of a U.F.O. or ghost sighting.

The show that really got to me was Sightings . That show was torturous for me and my sister couldn’t give a shit about how I felt. I’m pretty sure the Geneva Convention would’ve outlawed this if they were aware of what was happening inside the walls of the Peterson household. I endured these episodes feeling like that guy at the end of A Clockwork Orange having his eye held open and watching horrific videos of worldwide atrocities, but without any of those things actually happening. In fact, I’m pretty sure my sister didn’t give a shit either way and would’ve been completely unfazed by my exiting the room at any moment.

One scene from Sightings really burned itself into my brain and, frankly, even thinking about it now stirs up memories that will have me closing the blinds to my bedroom like I did as a child.

During this episode a woman in, uh, Kentucky, because that seems right, heard some noise outside of her house. She figured it was the wind causing tree branches to brush against the side of her home and ignored it. As time went on the sound persisted and the woman had an eerie feeling something was amiss. She slowly made her way to the window on the side of her house and took a deep breath before opening the blinds. A swell of heavy synthesized music blared from the television when she pulled the blinds up to reveal an alien looking directly at her.

The emotionless white face of the alien’s beet shaped head stood there completely overtaking my television and staring directly into my soul. I swore in that moment it could see me and would hunt me down like that serial killer on Unsolved Mysteries. I was hypnotized and completely frozen and when I snapped out of it I ran out of the living room and into the kitchen where I latched myself on my mom’s leg to which she replied “I didn’t hear any thunder.”

After my mother pried me off her leg with a broom she calmed me down and sent my sister and I to bed. As we made our way up the stairs I was apprehensive due to the amount of windows on the second floor of our house. My sister must have noticed my slower pace and cooked up a story in her head to guarantee I wouldn’t sleep until I was 18.

We both turned the corner and made our way down the hallway toward our respective bedrooms until my sister grabbed my shoulder and stopped me. It took me a nanosecond to fully comprehend where we were. Directly above us was the seldom visited attic. I had no idea what was even up there. All I knew was my dad would go up there from time to time and start cursing a lot so I figured at best there was a homeless vagrant living up there and at worst it was the secret hiding place for Santa Claus and my parents kidnapped him for ransom.

My advantageous sister knew that I had deep routed fears of the attic and that I was already on edge from what happened on Sightings earlier that evening.

“You know monsters live up there, right?”

My eyes widened and my heart raced. I couldn’t move and felt helpless and vulnerable. I threw myself against the wall trying to flatten myself as much as humanly possible, doing all I could to shrink myself down to ensure that I couldn’t be reached by the monsters.

When I finally worked up the courage to run into my bedroom my sister stood in the middle of the room with her arms crossed and a Cheshire grin tattooed on her face.

“I heard some scratching on the window, I wouldn’t open the blinds if I were you.”

The dichotomy of her dead pan delivery and smiling face gave me the chills. And even though I knew she was lying I didn’t open my blinds for about 3 years out of fear that an alien would’ve found a ladder (or levitated, I mean they did make it to our planet) set it against our house and decide to stare into my window. I knew in my heart that it couldn’t possibly be true but closing the blinds also helped shield me from thunderstorms too.

Because I Got High

“If you do it, I’ll do it.”

Those were easy words for me to say. If there was a comparable bet it would be the Cincinnati Reds in the 1919 World Series. There was no way I would be forced to smoke weed and I made the bet as if I was up a couple grand at the blackjack table. I was playing with house money and I couldn’t lose.

It was a dark, cold night in Oneonta, NY which means it was Saturday. My friends and I all agreed to venture to the only attraction in the surrounding area and go bowling.

To be fair there was a WalMart, but after 20 minutes of getting yelled at to stop riding the kid’s bikes through the aisles there wasn’t much else to do. Plus it put all the small mom & pop shops out of business so we needed to save-face in order to do our weekly shopping there.

I’m a bowler. I’ve bowled my entire life and I never shied away from telling (bragging) about my skills. Outside of my – errrr – “bowling friends” I could get away with impressing others with tales of bowling a 250 game here, a 240 game there, and then hitting them directly in the mouth with the time I bowled a 275. Mouths agape I felt proud secretly knowing that my less-than-stellar 180 average was impressive among the bowling commoners I surrounded myself with at school.

With my confidence at an all time high we took to the lanes. I scoured every rack, every lane, for the perfect compliment to my bowling arsenal that I left behind at Woodmere Lanes. I came across a ball that I claimed as my mistress for the night, feeling ashamed I resorted to cheating on my equipment in order to claim victory over such easy targets.

This wasn’t shooting fish in a barrel it was throwing a stick of dynamite in there.

The first few frames I needed to find my groove, which is an acceptable part of the game. I threw a couple of shots, missed a few spares, but overall I was in the hunt, like a champion jockey holding back his mighty steed until the home stretch, I knew I had it in the bag.

I took a deep breath to calm my nerves, I had a steely demeanor that I needed to preserve, and I took off toward the foul like. The ball left my hand and spun out to the 2nd to last arrow on the right side of the lane. As it continued its course through the oil, the ball eventually found a dry spot and snapped back toward the pins. I threw the perfect shot and all ten pins scattered to the back of the lane like a pack of teenagers from a house party broken up by the cops.

A smile came across my face and I let out a sigh of relief. I certainly wasn’t proud of my 134, but I got to claim victory and, despite what younger generations are being told, it is EVERYTHING.

As I turned toward the commoners I needed to collect myself and appear angry. Walking back to them I gave a light kick to the ball return – a commonplace act for bowlers everywhere frustrated with their game and taking it out on random pieces of plastic that are minding their own business – which created a collective gasp and resulted in us leaving after just one game or as the front desk guy said, “destruction of property is prohibited and we must ask you to leave or we will call the police.”

It was a veiled threat, for sure, but the police really didn’t have much to break-up around there so arriving at a bowling alley to apprehend an “angry red-head” would probably cause them to look at each other and say “this is what we’ve been training for.”

With our activity for the night coming to an abrupt end we were faced with a dilemma:

“What do we do now?”

We sat in silence and all pretended to think of things we could do but secretly hoped someone else would make a dumb suggestion so we could make fun of them and then just go to Taco Bell.

“I think I want to smoke tonight.”

This is the point where you need to re-read that sentence, widen your eyes, and hear a record coming to a screeching halt.

We all snapped our heads around and looked at Steve inquisitively.

Two out of the four of us applauded with huge smiles on their faces. Steve sat there with a grin that was reminiscent of a child recognizing the oddly shaped present they asked for was sitting under the Christmas tree. I hoped my sheer terror would go unnoticed.

Once the applause quieted down and all the particulars of who had weed and where it could be consumed were figured out I thought I was home free. No one had brought up my promise and I kept my mouth shut.

“Bob, you’re in right?”

Goddammit.

I thought of every excuse I could’ve but at that time I thought my word meant something important and I gave in. On the 10 minute ride back to campus I had to set a strategy and make sure to follow it thoroughly if I was to survive this night.

My mind was already racing a mile a minute and it certainly didn’t help that upon arriving back at our dorm that there was a cop car sitting in the parking lot – they must’ve heard about the angry redhead after all.

As the preparations were being made multiple people joined the foray and I started to calm down. If my math was correct – it wasn’t – I would only have to take a few hits, get buzzed, and then be on my way for the night.

As to not bore you with the laborious details, the horde of us all created a circle – or sypher, if you will – and smoked and I felt fine.

SUCCESS!

Walking back to my dorm room I was good to go and ready to throw on “When Animals Attack Really Stupid People Who Attempt To Confine Wild Beasts For Their Own Entertainment 7” so I could enjoy a good laugh. In the stairwell I ran into a neighbor of mine and at that precise moment my body said “hey, what does this lever do?” and I was transported into an almost comatose-like state that was reminiscent of Johnny Depp’s depiction of Hunter S. Thompson in “Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas.”

Overall I was pretty chill though. At one point I had to go to the bathroom so I left my room and made the arduous journey to the community restroom down the hall. On my venture I passed my R.A.’s room and heard a quiet voice say “there goes Rob!”

Side note: people call me different names, I’m aware I used “Bob” earlier.

The tone in her voice wasn’t dramatic enough for it to register as anything more than her pointing out that I was walking past the room. Which, thinking about it now, is TOTALLY FUCKING WEIRD!

Anyway…

I get done doing my business and open the door to leave the restroom. After I walked through the door frame and turned the corner I saw my R.A. standing in the hallway.

Nothing phased me and I continued on smiling the whole way. I even nodded and said a cheery “hey!” to him as I passed which, to be honest, was a suspicious activity coming from me.

My entire world crumbled around me as soon as my hand touched the “when was the last time this thing was cleaned?” doorknob to my room. Everything hit me. The cop car in the parking lot – that, let’s be honest, was probably just a security guard sleeping – the girl’s voice saying “there goes Rob!” and the menacing look my typically sheepish R.A. gave me as I walked by him.

I entered the room and immediately stripped my clothing off. It didn’t matter that there was 12 people packed into a room that was the size of a Hollywood jail cell, all that mattered was me not getting caught by that shifty cop (security guard) or having my room raided by the F.B.I. (my R.A. just gazing in and determining that there was nothing in plain sight so a full search of the room wasn’t necessary – also, he didn’t really give a shit)

For the remainder of the night I laid in the fetal position with my bed sheets pulled over my head. I was in a cocoon and not ready to emerge from my dwelling until morning where I could stretch my arms to accurate complete this analogy.

It was probably around 4 a.m when I drifted off into my psychedelic dreamscape. Actually, that’s bullshit. People try to make it seem like psychedelia occurs when you smoke weed, but it doesn’t. If you’re looking for an experience where your face is melting off of your skull and you meet care bears that are really cops telling you to get out of that tree that you thought was a friendly octopus engulfing you in its loving embrace, acid is the way to go.

I woke up around 1 p.m. later that day with a weed hangover. I felt like garbage and from that moment on I made a very strong decision.

NEVER. TRUST. STEVE. AGAIN.

Oh, and the R.A. in the hall? He was looking to see if I was going to my own room or the room across the hall from mine. Turns out they were having quite the party and he was seeing which door I would choose. At least I made one good choice that night.

 

For The Future Of Mankind

It’s tough to find flowers in a hurry around here. It’s Mother’s Day and, as per usual, I’m late to the foray. Prices have skyrocketed and I have to buy two bouquets – one for my mother and one for the “blind date” I am being set up on.

It’s amazing how one nuclear war brought us to this point. Restarting humanity isn’t easy. We are set up on “blind dates,” which is really just a politically correct way to say fuck buddy.

The process is awkward and clunky. It’s not like the old days when the 3rd date is the sex date. Now you sit across from a catalogue selected mate and get as comfortable with one another as you can before being sent into a room to procreate.

All the fun in sex is gone now.

I’m expected to impregnate, or at least attempt to impregnate, a new mate once a month. The irony is that in college I would’ve loved those stats, but now it means nothing. We are all given cards with baseball-like statistics on the back that show our height, age, weight, dick size, and sperm count. Females don’t have these cards and, in a way, humanity has taken a large step backward “For The Future Of Mankind.”

The outrageous price for flowers is worth it when I see my mom smile from ear to ear. My date seems less enthused when I present them to her. She’s uncomfortable and so am I. The flowers were meant to calm her down, make her feel at ease, and maybe, for a split second, make her feel like a woman again.

Her name is Miranda and we had little interaction before this day. We went to High School together but both ran in different cliques. I rode the line between jock and nerd; she was a loner who would get stoned underneath the bleachers during lunch. There was always something about her that interested me but I never had the balls to pursue it because of my delicate social standing.

She sat there with a stoic look on her face as I handed her the flowers and forced a smile that ended up being a cross between a bitchy valley-girl and The Joker. I politely smiled and took the seat across from her. Between us was a coffee table filled with various aphrodisiacs and one tablet that officially sucked the joy out of the room.

Because we all had to commit to repopulating the human race there was an official documentation process before and after intercourse. It wasn’t shocking to find a Documenter in the house either; masturbation made it easy to trick the program into thinking you’ve done your part and filled your quota for the month.

Documenters were horrible and boring. They sat outside the room with a stopwatch and would knock on the door if you took too long. Intimacy had no place in the world and thinking that both people creating this human life would play any part in it further down the road was laughable.

I scanned the room for an unwelcoming, pale face and fortunately I only found one, Miranda.

The mystery surrounding her made her more and more attractive. There was a sadness that I wanted to cure; I wanted to unlock something inside her that would lead to unbridled happiness. She discarded her normal wardrobe of Leftover Crack tee shirts, skinny black jeans and high leather boots that earned her the reputation of being a neo-Nazi. Today she opted for a white sundress that hid her body. A muted protest to what would transpire today.

We caught eyes for a moment when we both reached for the tablet to start the trail of paperwork that needed to be completed before we got down to business. We touched hands and my heart warmed, a sensation flowed through my body telling me none of this was right. The sullen look of her eyes explained everything I needed to know about her. She was just a scared girl being forced to endure a savage ritual that has become commonplace.

We reluctantly signed the documents and walked into the bedroom with no words shared. The door closing behind me sounded like the bars on a jail cell being slammed shut and then it was locked from the outside ensuring there would be no escape.

The bed was neatly made in accordance with military instruction. We stood in the middle of the room facing each other and making eye contact. It’s customary for the male to make the first move but I was frozen. I couldn’t go through with this. Every piece of me wanted to give in to all preconceived notions of what I built up in mind about Miranda but I was a statue.

“What’s wrong? You don’t want to fuck me?” Miranda asked.

“No, I do. That’s the problem.” I gave her this veiled answer hoping she would understand.

“Now’s your chance, Cowboy. Throw me on the bed and fuck me silly. I’ll scream loudly too, that’s what most of you like.” She was starting to get angry at this situation.

“I don’t understand what you mean by ‘you.’”

“All of you. All men. You’re sick. We’re nothing to you. Just rag dolls you get to stick your dick in. After you convulse on top of us you salute and say “For the Future of Mankind” like some kind of send-off that’s supposed to make us feel better. Like we’re doing our civil duty by laying there and taking it and then we are expected to just move on with our lives.” Miranda began to tear up as she spoke.

“This is what it is now though. It’s awkward for us too.”

I hadn’t put much stock into what I just said and suddenly Miranda was charging at me with her hand raised and she swung it at me. I grabbed her wrist before she could make contact with my face and drew her close to thwart any sudden attacks. As I held her close she began to cry.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to say that.” I did my best to calm her down and console her.

“You don’t get it.” She said as he pushed me away.

“Tell me what I don’t get.” I pleaded with her.

“You won’t understand.”

“Try me.”

“It’s not what everyone thinks it is. Sure the instructions say what you’re supposed to do but we’re still humans. We all still remember what life was like before and yearn for it. Sometimes you can just block everything out and it’s over in five minutes and sometimes people take it too far. Women are treated like prostitutes now. Even when Documenters are present, men don’t care. They hold us down, they choke us, they call us ‘sluts’ and ‘whores.’ The hit us, spit on us, degrade us. They sneak in handcuffs and rope and outfits they want us to dress up in. It’s only sex to you all. No one is concerned about what the women go through. It’s torture and when we carry a child for nine months. It’s a constant reminder that after we heal we are sent back out there like a pitcher takes the mound. We have to smile and be polite when our “blind dates” walk around free committing atrocity after atrocity.”

Her words hit me like a brick and I’m left dumbfounded and silent.

“Exactly. You can’t say anything. You thought you would just have your way with me. Get to live out the fantasy you had in your head about me. Do you think I don’t remember you? The stares you would give me in the hall, the whispering to your friends about what you would do to me if you had the chance. You’re just like everyone else. Those flowers were a good touch, I’ll give you that, but it doesn’t mean shit.”

Then I kissed her. I don’t know what came over me but I had to do it. I had to know what I was feeling was real. I had to let her know that I understood and that I would care for her. She pushed me away and had a look of anger on her face. She wanted to scream but I cut her off.

“I love you.” I said. I don’t really know why but I wasn’t lying. I felt something deep inside for her. Miranda was always this enigma, a Rubik’s Cube of a human being that could never be figured out.

She stood there frozen staring a hole through me. I felt exposed.

“What?”

“I don’t know why I said that.” I quickly snapped at her. “But I’m not sorry.”

“Why?”

“I want to be there for you. I want to protect you. You’re right. Everything you said is right. There’s a sadness in you that I want to rid you of. I’m not saying I’m the answer here. I’m not saying us together will be perfect. I’m not saying we are soul mates or any of the other crap that Hollywood wanted us to believe as kids. I don’t want “fuck” you. I don’t want to have sex with you. I just want to be with you.”

“I need time to process this. It’s insane what you’re saying. You know me for 10 minutes and you love me? That’s what psychopaths say on the third date to get laid.”

“No one is as surprised as me. I just see so much pain and how much there is to fix and I want to be that person. Maybe it’s old feelings coming back. Maybe something in my subconscious connected when I saw you sitting there and now it has manifested itself into this feeling. I’m not even sure myself how it happened, but it did and now we’re here. It’s us being human. This is what everyone longs for but can’t commit to.”

The door begins to unlock and I instinctively stand in front of Miranda to protect her from whatever threat may be entering the room. She doesn’t question the move and does her best to stay completely behind me. I notice the fact that she is close to me and leaning her head on my back, I can’t help but smile.

A man in full military garb is standing in the doorway with my mother in the background being handcuffed to a chair by another man.

“What’s going on here?” The man said in a deep, booming voice that was distorted to sound more authoritative by a microphone in his shielded helmet.

“It’s just taking a while to get acquainted.” I replied.

“Where is the girl?”

Miranda pokes her head out from behind me to show that she is there. Her body is still pressed on mine; I’m still her protector.

“These actions are punishable in accordance to the Union Regulations. Failure to complete your obligations for the future of mankind will result in incarceration and, if deemed necessary by an overseer, may be considered a treasonous act punishable by death.”

A palatable silence filled the room. Despite the blacked out visor I knew the militant was waiting for me to act and he would put me down if necessary. My mother was now bound to a chair, the other militant behind her standing with his arms behind his back. A few more tense moments pass and suddenly the militant in the doorway established he’s the commanding officer when he raises his arm up causing the private to shock my mother with a cattle prod. What must’ve been three seconds felt like an eternity as the electric current coursed through her body making her convulse and flop like a fish out of water. She slumped over and appeared to be unconscious.

“This will continue to happen until you yield to our orders.” The commanding officer demanded.

I did all I could to compose myself before I spoke. My knees felt like Jello as I watched the private pull my mother’s head up by her hair and wrap his arm around her neck as if putting her in a choke hold.

“Please, stop, she’s innocent in all of this!” I pleaded.

“By allowing you longer than the allotted time she has not upheld her responsibility and therefore measures are to be taken to encourage you two to uphold your obligations to the future of mankind.”

His speech sounded rehearsed and practiced to the point where his cadence and delivery was polished. Despite the situation unfolding in front of me I was somewhat impressed by this.

“Okay, we will do it.” Miranda stepped out from behind me and began to disrobe.

“No, Miranda, don’t.” I put my hand on her shoulder to stop her from undressing.

“This is your only warning. Either you fill your obligation or you will feel the full wrath of the Union.”

I wanted to give up at that moment but everything in me told me I shouldn’t. I loved this woman. Each second that passed I knew knocked down a domino that would eventually lead to her feeling the same way. I took a deep breath and collected myself.

“Do what you have to do. I will not…”

A gunshot rings out and I look over to my mother who is slumped over in the chair motionless. I yell but no words come out. I want to run over to her but I can’t move. Tears stream down my face and I feel arms wrap around my waist holding me back from moving. I fall to my knees and sob into my hands as they cover my face.

“It will all be over shortly.” Miranda’s sweet voice whispered into my ear.

I look up and see no gun in either of the militant’s hands and then see the blood on Miranda’s as she lets go of my waist. I collapse to the ground face first and can feel my heart slow down, each beat reminding me there are fewer and fewer left. Miranda rolls me over to my back and straddles me.

“I’m sorry I had to do that.”

“Why?” I ask.

“You’re weak. Love is an emotion that has no value in this world anymore. This was a test. Your mother noted it on your last performance review when you spoke about your female mate.”

“What about everything you said?”

“I meant it and it’s true but that’s the world we live in now. I’m committed to reestablishing humanity. I have ideals but they have no place now.”

“Ma’am we must go.” The commander said.

Miranda leans in closely and kisses me on the lips.

“I love you, too,” she said, “I’m sorry that cost you your life.”

So You’re Going To Drown Me, Huh?

The stillness in the air meant only one thing, there was a witch trial afoot and, if the people of Hamenmed, Maryland were lucky, possibly an old fashioned caged drowning.

Mary Stimple put on the attire required by law to be worn to trial. A strange loophole found that stitching “I’M GUILTY OF BEING A WITCH” was well within the rights of the seamstress if she deemed the situation appropriate for such action.

Mary, despite the unshaved, uninhibited life she lead, was considered to be the finest maiden by all the men in Hamenmed and the surrounding towns of Shempertville and those lowly souls living in the rotten egg smelling city of Omelet.

Because of her looks most of the women preferred to call Mary by her nickname, Slut. Mary didn’t mind the name and wore it proudly in the clothes that she ordered from the seamstress who stitched “Slut” into the back with the number 69 as if it were a sports team’s jersey.

The ladies of Hamenmed were quite amused by the seamstresses attempt to humiliate Mary and would often huck pickles at Mary when she walked about the small town. Mary was hardly lonely though and often found herself in the company of many men who found the number 69 alluring. Couple that with the name slut and you would swear in the warm summer breeze the faint smell of rotten egg got stronger, which it did because those disgusting Omeleters somehow scaled the muddy wall constructed purposely to keep them out of Hamenmed.

One last look in the mirror and then Mary was tied into her corset. Making the situation all that much worse for Mary, the corset built a kind of shelf that put her breasts on display like Mrs. Elmer’s delicious apple pie at 5 pm. Even worse, right below her breasts was “I’M GUILTY OF BEING A WITCH,” only the women in the town remember seeing it.

All 16 people that lived in the town found their seats in the bakery that turned into a courthouse at 5:05 pm. After they all finished Mrs. Elmer’s apple pie the trial began.

“Judge, can we please start the trial?” Shouted Phillis.

“I breast my case.” The judge said.

“That doesn’t make any sense. You do understand that one, the trial didn’t even start and, possibly more importantly, two, you’re the goddamn judge, not her lawyer, right?!”

“Yes,” the judge then cleared his throat, “let’s get this over with.”

Phillis stands up and she is holding a rolled up piece of paper. She approaches the counter that serves as the judge’s desk and hands it to him. The judge takes it, unrolls it and scan its contents.

“Today we bring forth charges of sluttery? C’mon guys you can’t be serious. Sluttery? What the hell is sluttery? Is that a word? Sluttery?”

“She’s a common slut!” Shouted Mildred.

“Yeah a flirtatious Filly!” Added Esther.

“She’s got amazing boobs!” Yelled Wendy.

Everyone turned to Wendy. She shrugs her shoulders, “yeah, she’s a big ol’ slut!” Wendy makes eye contact with Mary, “sorry, honey! Mommy still loves you!”

Exacerbated the judge laments into reading the charges once more.  “Today we bring forth charges of sluttery compelled onto Miss Mary Mack by way of – you HAVE to be kidding me – witchcraft.”

“She’s a witch!” The seamstress shrieked at the top of her lungs. “It says it right there on her shirt!”

“You stitched this shirt!” Mary stood up and yelled.

“See! Witchcraft! Her boobs all out and we all know the law says the defendant cannot speak during the trial.” The seamstress argued.

“Unfortunately this is true, Mary, you cannot speak during your trial. For some reason there is a law that says only witches need to defend themselves on the stand.”

The judge stands and addresses the town’s people.

“The people of Hamenmed please raise your hand if you find the defendant guilty of witchcraft, keeping in mind, of course, this will lead to a sentence of caged drowning which will act as her appeal to this verdict.”

All 8 women raise their hands giving them majority vote. All the men were too fixated on the defendant to even notice a trial has happened.

“Well I guess that’s what we get when we have a law that says there needs to always be at least one more woman than man in this town. Let’s set up the cage.” The judge stated.

Everyone fled the bakery/courthouse and made the 100-yard walk to the cliff.

The tattered cage hung three feet above the ground built with saturated sticks strung together with leftover leather straps and rope.

“The slut needs hel -”

Mildred was cut off by the men volunteering their help and over-eagerly grabbing Mary, lifting her off the ground and into the monstrosity of the cage that should have been retired as soon as it was built.

The cage was swung out over the cliff. Mary sat there blankly staring into the distance with a certain malaise reserved for zoo animals stashed away behind glass walls.

“Any last words?” The judge asked.

“You know it’s low tide, right?”

The cage was slowly lowered the thirty feet and entered the water. The entire town peered down from their ivory tower and their eyes laid on an image they couldn’t believe. The cage sat safely with only a wash of water flowing through it barely covering Mary’s feet.

“WITCH! WITCH! WITCH! WITCH!” The women chanted.

My First Driving Infraction

I recently ran into some trouble with the law. I wrote that sentence for dramatic effect. I just want you guys to think I’m a bad ass.

I’m not.

I got two speeding tickets recently.

That’s my “being in trouble with the law.”

I like to think of myself as a good driver – who doesn’t? – I try to obey all the traffic laws and do my best to not run every person off the road when they piss me off – who doesn’t?

Road rage really isn’t my thing but I would be lying if I didn’t fall victim to the temptation to flip someone off. If they are an old person even better because, let’s be honest, they don’t see me doing it and that limits the chances of me being yelled at when we are next to each other at the light that just turned red.

My middle finger, like most normal human beings, is the tallest finger on my hands and is an interesting metaphor to where my road rage peaks. Once I flipped someone off on the highway and they slowed down, rolled down their window, and I took the next exit to avoid them at all costs.

When my fight or flight intuition kicks in I’m in first class to Hawaii.

Most people probably remember the first time they got pulled over by a cop. I believe I was around 19 years old and just left one of the best restaurants I have ever eaten at, Taco Bell/Pizza Hut. I never thought “Mexican” and “Italian” food could go together but, trust me, they do. I loved that place so much that I still remember my go-to order:

#4: Personal Pan Pizza with Pepperoni, Order of Breadsticks, and a Large Diet Pepsi and then I would go to the Taco Bell side and order two soft tacos.

It was my personal heaven.

During my meal nothing could bother me, including a call from a friend. I was alone in my own glory and I wanted nothing to distract me.

I finished my meal and left the restaurant in a hurry to get home because it was Taco Bell so I hopped in my car and took off.

As I was driving I called my friend back. This was the summer of 2004 and nothing could be better. I was on a weekly routine of picking up and dropping off a girl I was head-over-heels in love with and got some real quality time with her up until I arrived at her boyfriend’s house. Oneonta, NY was selected as the college I was going to after a year at Nassau Community College. The radio was an eclectic mix of perennial R&B favorite, Usher, and new rock gods, Nickleback.

Combine all that with the sumptuous meal I just consumed and I couldn’t want for more.

Oh, one more thing, New York just passed an extremely rigid, albeit smart, hands-free cell phone law and they were cracking down…HARD.

I was 19, naive, and didn’t have a care in the world. No traffic infractions up until that point and I was on cloud 9. No one could stop me, unless it was an undercover cop parked on the opposite side of the road with a clear view of me holding my cell phone to my ear.

The conditions were perfect for my getting caught. I had a white car that just got washed, I was – for some inexplicable reason – the ONLY car on a usually busy road, the weather was perfect – blue skies the color Chris Pine’s eyes, the kind you could just get lost in and dream about running off together and getting a small hut on a Tahitian beach where you sell petrified starfish to dumb tourists. Basically the cop could easily see me holding my right hand up to my ear because it’s the MOST OBVIOUS move ever!

I saw the cop but it was too late. I dropped my phone, which thinking about it now probably made it more obvious that I was on a phone, thinking that maybe the cop wouldn’t have the proof he needed to give me the ticket.

Spoiler alert: you already read the title.

I was scared. Like get me on that plane to Hawaii scared. The cop came over to the window and asked me all the typical things cops ask.

“License and registra – why does it smell like you run a small Taco Bell franchise out of your car?”

When I handed my license to the officer I had a PBA – not Professional Bowlers Association – card behind it and my all my praying to the Taco Bell/Pizza Hut gods – mostly cashiers – finally paid off. I remember thinking to myself “wait until he gets a load of this!”

I went to move my right hand and I was paralyzed with fear. I don’t know why, to this day, that I couldn’t give him the card. I was given specific instructions to hand that card to ANY cop who would pull me over – I guess the person who gave it to me didn’t have much faith in my driving – and tell them “my Uncle is an NYPD officer.”

In my head everything went magically well after I handed him the card. The officer and I become quick friends, he shakes my hand and then gives me a small badge he carries around for little kids and I clip it to my shirt with pride. We then go get some milkshakes at the nearby McDonald’s and then off to the shooting range where I find out I’m a natural at killing paper.

I worked up the courage to pull the card out and when I looked up only a cloud in the shape of his body stood there, somehow I ended up in a cartoon.

Once he was done doing his thing he came back and handed me my citation. “Operating a vehicle without the use of a hands-free device.” At that moment I was trying to catch the light with the plastic window thing that covered the PBA card to draw his eye to it.

Nothing.

“Be safe,” was all he said to me and then he walked away.

I put my license back over my useless PBA card and then drove off. I arrived home and immediately scanned every inch of the ticket trying to find someway out of it. There were a lot of options on there. I could plead Guilty, Not Guilty, or No Contest which is really just pleading Guilty so I don’t know why that’s on there twice.

I collected all my money – which wasn’t a lot considering I worked at a bowling alley – and stormed out the front door and made my way to the courthouse. After about a half hour drive, I arrived to learn the courts aren’t a 24/7 operation.

WHAT AM I PAYING – a small amount – OF TAXES FOR?!?!?!

At that age I didn’t understand that the burden of proof was on the dang government so off I went – at the appropriate operating hours after that harsh lesson – to the courthouse to pay my ticket. I paid the fine and walked away with a clear conscience and wallet fully knowing that I would NEVER talk on the phone and drive again.

Every now and then I think about that day and wonder why my friend called me in the first place.

Gotham Comedy Club – 5/4/15

I haven’t been doing many shows lately. As I’ve talked about before, bringer shows are becoming increasingly difficult to book because they require you to actually bring people to the venue you are performing at. Plus they aren’t cheap which is a major deterrent for people who barely want to see you at work let alone see you perform on-stage more than once in their lives.

It’s not for lack of love it’s probably just fear when you really dig down to the core of it. The dreaded open mics that I can’t stop talking about are my biggest fear.

Silence.

Plain, dry silence.

I could keep going but, honestly, I’m getting sick of myself talking about them so I can only picture what it’s doing to you.

Bottom line is that I hadn’t planned on doing a set and then my sister told me she was coming up to New York. She lives in Maryland so the only exposure to my comedy – outside of the hilarity of having me as her little brother – was through what I posted on here and on YouTube. She asked if I had any shows set up and that translated to “you really need to do a show because I said so.”

The big sister dynamic was back.

So I booked a show for Monday, May 4th and was actually excited about it. Not that I’m not excited by every show I’m on but this time I had a little more at stake with my sister there to watch. A little more added pressure to make sure I was at my best.

I got to the club and something happened that usually doesn’t that often; all the comics were getting along and talking with each other. Most comics tap into something else when on stage and are typically introverts so this sudden burst of extrovert expressionism took me by surprise.

Once the show started everyone calmed down and sized up the other comics, this was a competition after all, and the talent was through the roof. Everyone was performing really well and getting great reactions from the crowd. I started to get nervous and looked for an emergency exit or fire alarm to pull. I planned on testing out some new elements of my set and with the added pressure of trying to make my sister proud I almost succumbed to the lizard brain telling me to quit, take a cab to the airport, and go home because I can’t afford a plane ticket anywhere.

I was next and it felt like someone was squeezing my heart and ringing out my stomach like a towel at the same time. There’s a moment right before you take the stage where it hits you that you’re about to stand in front of a group of strangers and attempt to impress them. Then they call your name and you have to go up there and perform like a trained circus animal except you didn’t get taken away from your natural habitat and, also, you put yourself in that situation.

I took more risks in this set. I trusted my instinct and acted more than I had before and, at least I think, it worked brilliantly. There was also a moment where I had to wait for the audience to catch up to a joke I told and I was completely exposed. It’s a risk because you’re standing there waiting for people to laugh and if they don’t then you completely lost them, but it’s absolutely thrilling when it starts to build because then you completely have them.

I didn’t win the contest and that’s fine because all that matters is that the show went well and I know I made my big sister proud.