I stood fourth in line at the Quik Mart this morning with nothing but my customary 20 oz coffee in hand. A ritual that I’ve been following most mornings since becoming a working member of society.
While my thoughts were fixated on the day ahead and the consumption of hot, golden deliciousness I happened to notice the plethora of items that sat neatly on the store counter available for quick purchase.
There were small, red plastic bottles filled with a fluid that promised an extra boost of energy in the event you found yourself dragging during the middle of the work day. Bags of Swedish Fish beckoned to my inner child with fairy tale urges of sugar rush. Truthfully, had it not been for the fact that it was 5:30 in the morning, a package or three would have left the store with me and my coffee.
As I continued to stand behind customers purchasing everything from gasoline to cigarettes, I discovered that one of the patrons in front of me was also purchasing a pack of Freedent chewing gum along with their Marlboros.
Now there is one of life’s greatest mysteries. A 5,000+ year old product that has always confused me. For no matter how often I chew it or how many bubbles I blow, inevitably two questions always come to mind whenever I consider gum of any sort:
First of all, why is it that we as a society can invent things like the Internet or build a hover craft the size of a pea and land it exactly where want it to on the surface of Mars, but still can’t figure out how to make a stick of gum’s flavor last more than 15 seconds?
Second, and even more importantly: Has mankind ever really considered the true power of gum?
Gum itself has been taboo for years. Back in my school days it was contraband and one of the quickest ways to earn a visit to the principal’s office. It was off-limits on school grounds, and only the fool would dare risk life and limb by sitting in an Earth Science class chewing like a cow on Hubba Bubba.
Of course, that didn’t deter
In between classes, when no one with a teaching degree was looking, there was plenty of gum to be found. Sometimes it was bartered in bathroom stalls or doled out behind locker doors. I confess, I was one of the offenders and did partake in the reverie. And yes, there were many times I raided my mother’s purse before school just to bring the goodness of spearmint to campus.
Gum’s power was just to big for me to ignore.
For aside from the short-lived flavorful chew just before it became a bland piece of rubber, gum synthetically gave me something more. Why just having gum in my possession gave me popularity, courage and the confidence to do things I’d normally never do.
Case in point: The only time I ever had the nerve to talk to any of the girls in school was if there was a pack of gum in my pocket. And any attempt to open the line of communication without it was only met with sweaty palms and heart palpitations.
I was never one of those guys who could ask a cute girl what she got for question three on a homework assignment, much less invite her to a dance. But put a pack of Fruit Stripe in my Garanimals and I instantly became a teenage Casanova. Because as long as I had a five-pack of gum, I knew that I could fearlessly ask her if she wanted a piece, and nine times out of ten knew that she was going to answer in the affirmative.
Which leads me to this conclusion. Stronger than any threat of a nuclear mushroom cloud or zombie apocalypse, I really believe gum might be the one thing that could bring about world peace.
What if John F. Kennedy had offered Nikita Khrushchev a stick of Bubblicious fifty years ago? I’m thinking Kroosh (I would’ve called him that) would gladly have accepted and instead of having a Cuban Missile Crisis there might have had a bubble blowing contest.
What if Ronald Reagan had offered Mikhail Gorbachev some Freedent at one of their many summits? Not only would it have not stuck to their dental work, but I also believe it might have ended the Cold War sooner. What if all the differences amongst all the nations could simply be resolved over a stick of gum?
The truth is, we may have only just begun to scratch the surface of what gum can do for the good of mankind. But whether it encourages young love in school classrooms or summit meetings between rival nations, one thing’s for sure:
The simple pack of gum has five chances to turn any enemy into a friend.
This Thursday, millions of American families will once again come together for the annual tradition of watching football and devouring as much tryptophan as possible. I too will put forth my own best effort in an eager attempt to fall into a deeper state of food coma.
For me, the Thanksgiving holiday has always been a particular favorite, especially while growing up. I have fond memories of my grandmother rising early Thanksgiving morning and beginning the process of stuffing the bird and making side-dishes. Aside from getting the turkey out to thaw the night before, nothing was ever done or prepared ahead of time. On the contrary, everything was done on the actual Thanksgiving day.
By mid-morning, every nook and cranny of our kitchen would be cluttered with empty bags or cans of vegetables and cranberry sauce. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade would be slowly winding down and I would be glued to our 19″ portable TV just waiting for a Kermit the Frog or Superman balloon to float down the streets of Manhattan.
Pies of many different varieties would be cooling on the stove and the smell of pumpkin and spice would begin to fill my senses. I remember looking outside of our kitchen window and seeing the last of the brown, wilted leaves falling from the trees and realize that the year was officially beginning to wind down. A feeling of home and family would wash over me as the cold winds of November blew across our little South Side Easton home. The heat given off from Nan’s all-day cook fest would be more than enough to warm a pilgrim army on their way to their own bountiful celebration. Looking back now, it surely WAS home.
As you can see, there are many things that I remember about the holiday. But as we all prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving 2013, and before I recall all the years I challenged my brother for wishbone supremacy, I’d like to share with you the five favorite memories I have about Thanksgiving while growing up.
5. Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Special: It just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without ol’ Chuck and his pals. The “wedge” between Great Pumpkin (my favorite of the series) and Charlie Brown Christmas, watching this show was a treat. Snoopy duking it out with the chair was hilarious and making popcorn for Thanksgiving? Well that’s just sheer genius in my book.
4. Godzilla Marathons on Channel 9. Laugh all you want, but this was one of the highlights of turkey day for me. Godzilla was actually the predecessor to MMA if you really think about it. You knew that when the big guy met the Smog monster or some other nefarious creature, there was more to it than just a desire to kick the crap out of each other. No, those guys in rubber suits really wanted to kill each other.
For me, nothing compared to the idea of filling my plate mile-high with buttered mashed taters, stuffing, beans and one of the drumsticks from the turkey and then scurrying over to the tube to watch my boy go toe to toe with King Kong. Channel 9 out of New York used to run marathons of Godzilla movies all weekend long and it didn’t get much better than that.
3. The Peace Candle. The day after Thanksgiving is always the busiest shopping day of the year as hordes of crazy people line the stores to find an elusive $50 laptop. You know, the stores that only have two in stock at that price, but 600 people out to get it.
But Black Friday is also the night the 106-foot tall Civil War monument in the center-square of my hometown is lit up and transformed into a giant candle. Dedicated to all the men and women who served or are serving our country, it also represents one of the best meanings of Christmas: Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Man.
2. Easton/P’burg Football and Bonfire. Unless you were born and raised in the area this one probably won’t mean anything to you. Every Thanksgiving morning for the past century, our high school football team and their cross town (actually cross-state) rival battle it out on the gridiron for football supremacy. And every night prior to the big game, Easton would light a huge bonfire at the high school to rally the troops. This is the one thing, aside from graduation that any student of Easton looks forward to their senior year.
It certainly wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without this tradition and I remember listening to it on a crappy old AM radio we had lying around. Sometimes, even on the clearest of Thursdays, you could barely hear the game amidst the static of the signal, but it didn’t matter.
And now the number one memory I have about Thanksgiving growing up:
1. Family: Aside from the shows, the football, the parade and the turkey, my favorite Thanksgiving memories growing up are about family. The best ones being spent with my grandmother and disabled grandfather. He had suffered a stroke and due to his paralysis was unable to join us downstairs, so we would always bring Thanksgiving to him. Some of the happiest times of my childhood were spent sitting on the couch next to him breaking bread (and if I was REALLY lucky, getting him to watch Godzilla with me).
Although nowhere near the same now, I suppose I can still thankfully celebrate these “traditions” every year. DVDs can be put in and the football game and Peace Candle ceremony can be attended. But even though technology evolves and the participants in the football game change, one thing will always remain.
So, as you gather around the table to continue your own Thanksgiving traditions, my wish is that you be surrounded by good food, good health, good memories and most of all…family.
I’m sure the last thing you’d probably expect to see me do is waste a blog post talking about some of the cars I’ve owned over the years. But, I’m very nostalgic (as most of you already know) and considering that it’s been more than a quarter century since I really came into my own as a solo driver, I decided to take this opportunity to tell you a little bit about two of the first automobiles that got me around on the highways and byways of this land that I love.
After you first receive your official drivers license, one of the coolest things you can do is go used-car shopping with your parents. There are aisles and aisles of horsepower as far as the eye can see, and having a say as to what car you’ll be showing off at school is one of the most important social decisions any new conqueror of the K-turn can have.
My very first car was a gray 1973 Toyota Corona wagon that my Mom purchased for $500 (along with some money I had made from working at McDonalds). It was 1986 and truth be told, I didn’t even care what kind of engine was under the hood. Four? Six? Eight cylinders? None of that nonsense even mattered to me. For all I knew, it could’ve had hamsters running in those wheel thingies for power (and if you must know, sometimes the car really did seem to drive that way).
As new drivers often do, I drove my gray Corona everywhere. Always looking for any excuse or opportunity to take it on some errand, whether up the street or across town. And considering that gasoline was around .89 cents a gallon at the time, it only made sense. Yes sir, once I became legal walking and bicycle riding went the same route as the dinosaur as far as I was concerned.
I still remember the very first day I drove it to school too. With my trusty neighbor Mike riding shotgun, we drove the back roads of Easton in the early morning sunshine. Windows down and the radio blasting Ozzy, we slowly made our way into the upper parking lot of Easton High School.
Once parked, we gathered our brown paper bag covered text books and made our way inside, making sure to give a salute to the poor unfortunates who had just arrived via the dingy, yellow school bus. It was the least I could do to let them know I still cared a bit for their plight.
Sadly, my beloved Corona began to deteriorate over the course of the school year. In December, the headlights just stopped working for no apparent reason. The following March, the right front fender began rusting off and peeling away. Fortunately for me, duct tape was the same color as my car and worked well to hold things together, but rust eventually would become my Corona’s worst enemy. At one point, the passenger side door would not open at all and in order to get in you literally had to pull a “Dukes of Hazzard” and climb through the window.
Shortly before graduation, the poor Toyota was involved in a wreck (would you believe I was turning into on coming traffic and someone just hit me?) Sadly, it was time to say good-bye to my beloved friend.
But that was when fate stepped in.
Because around that same time, my Aunt sold her well maintained 1974 Ford Torino to my brother. Bro had been driving the car for a few months, but started moving on to Mach 1 Mustangs and pick-up trucks. In a true example of brotherly love, he entrusted his beloved Torino into my care.
I was so in love with this car that I even had my picture taken next to it right before I went to attend graduation and get my HS diploma.
This car provided me quality transportation for many months post high school; being my trusty steed on youthful excursions to the mall and spending late nights parked at the Starlite Drive-Inn watching movies.
But one evening, while coming home from the mall with a bunch of friends disaster struck. I remember we were driving on the highway, just a few miles from home when I heard this blaringly loud “pop” and the engine light came on. The car was slowing down rapidly, and it felt as though I had just run over some huge piece of metal. I was fortunate to get the car off of the busy highway and onto the shoulder just as the engine completely shut off and would not re-fire. All of the love I once had for this car immediately turned into rage.
A day later, after the Torino had been towed back to the house, my brother freaked out on me. He just couldn’t understand how his well maintained 14 year old car had suddenly blown up without warning. He did some quick checking of things under the hood and then asked me the one question that to this day I still don’t have a proper answer for:
“WHY DIDN’T YOU EVER CHECK THE OIL??”
Oil? OIL? I had driven the car for months and months and honestly, the thought of checking the oil level had never occurred to me. In my defense though, this was 1988 and you would think technology had developed enough to at the very least have a warning light come on to alert me that the engine was almost out of oil. But it wasn’t meant to be. Not a drop of oil was found in the engine and it had seized; blowing a piston into the crankshaft and destroying it completely. The car was dead.
The formerly “well-maintained” Ford Torino would now sit in silence on the hill outside of our home until I could afford the $300 to put a replacement engine into it. But even with the engine replaced, the Torino never ran quite the same again and, much like it’s predecessor, eventually went to junk car heaven.
I thought of this story again today (in November of 2013) when the “Maintenance” light came on my 2012 Toyota Corolla. Needless to say, I have a 15,000 mile appointment tomorrow morning.
I’m taking no chances.
It wasn’t long after finishing our first children’s book together [Doodle], that Michele Quinn and I started pondering ideas for a second story. What we didn’t know at the time was that our next book about the adventures of a little girl and her dog would be one of both love and loss.
The story of ‘Doodle Meets the Pound Pup’ is a very personal one for Michele as Cocoa, the guest star of this installment of Doodle books, was the Quinn family’s very own dog.
While the timeline and some details have been arranged to fit the “Doodle” theme, the heart of the story is quite true. Cocoa was adopted by the Quinns two days before Michele’s birthday, so they were especially close, as Cocoa was her special birthday gift.
Cocoa had spent her first years of life chained outdoors with another dog and by the time the animal rescue had her in their care, she was already afraid of men, had hip dysplasia, as well as separation anxiety.
Through no fault of her own, Cocoa was shifted to six different foster homes over the next six months, the last of which having her back outside on a large run.
The Quinns traveled for hours to bring Cocoa from Amish country back to their home in Eastern Ohio, never once regretting the decision to take her home (even after a $400 vet bill on her second full day with the family!)
Cocoa spent the next eight and a half years with her new family, who loved her deeply. Sadly, she began to suffer kidney failure at the end of March and the Quinns had to make the heartbreaking decision to end her suffering. She is now running free, finally catching up with the squirrels and bunnies that she loved to chase.
In keeping with our theme of giving back, from now until December 31st Michele and I will be donating 100% of the profits we receive from sales of “Doodle Meets The Pound Pup” to The Center For Animal Health & Welfare, a no-kill shelter located in our hometown of Easton, Pennsylvania.
For more information on “Doodle Meets The Pound Pup” and to keep up with future book signings and events, be sure to check out our website by Clicking here
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Today is October 5th, 2013: My 44th birthday.
Truth be told, it’s sometimes hard to believe that I’ve made it this far. Especially when you consider the fact that it was only yesterday when I was the youthful teenager laughing hysterically at my parents for being in their 40′s.
I suppose there’s a certain sense of immortality you have when you’re younger that lets you make fun of your elder’s age without fear of retribution (or karma ever catching up with you).
Little did I know.
When we’re young, the whole world seems to be filled with endless possibility, and I was one of those kids who couldn’t wait for the chance to break free and start my future. The only problem was, that future always seemed like it would never get here.
Last night, I stumbled upon my 1980 Easton Area Middle School ID Badge under a pile of old memories and immediately recalled the day I first received it. Although I didn’t care much for the goofy grinning picture of myself on the front, I do remember it was what was printed on the back of the worn, laminated card that really caught my attention.
For the first time, I saw the words “YR GRAD-87″ and believed that the year of my high school graduation (1987) was so very far away. To this shy, cheesy-grinned, eleven-year old boy, seven years seemed like seventy and the idea of me one day living in the year 2000 was equivalent to being in a Star Wars movie. It was impossible for me to even comprehend it ever happening.
Fast forward, and here I am celebrating a birthday twenty-six years post graduation and nearly fourteen years beyond 2000. A brand new century. When did I close my eyes and wake up a middle-aged man? Back in 1980, it seemed like all I had was time and now, it sometimes feels like time is running out. Why just the other day, I was given the sad news about a high school classmate who had unexpectedly passed away at the young age of 43.
If what you’ve read so far sounds a bit depressing or makes you feel old, I apologize. This post wasn’t meant to bum you out.
On the contrary, 2013 has actually been one of the best years of my life. In just these last few months I’ve been able to accomplish something I’ve always wanted to do with a dear friend – write and publish my very first book.
In addition to that, I’ve had the opportunity to interview and write articles with many of the artists and performers I admire most. A pipe dream for the little boy you see in the above picture.
I’ve also made a conscious decision to start doing something different for my birthday every year. Beginning this October, I’ll be using my age number as a benchmark to do something to help others in some way. This year, I decided to use the equivalent of my age (44) in dollars and use it to hopefully put a smile on a sick child’s face.
Who knows, maybe next year I’ll take the “45″ and divide it up into hours; donating my time over the course of the month to volunteering or raising money for charity. Then maybe at “46″ I’ll donate forty-six signed copies of my #1 New York Times Bestseller (hey, it could happen) to a charity auction. Nothing is too small and anything is something.
Which got me to thinking, what if every one of us did something similar? How about instead of just receiving well wishes and birthday cards for making it through another year, what if every person used their own special day as an opportunity to do something for the greater good? Instead of making it a day all about ourselves, what if we made part of our day about helping someone else? One day set aside that you’ll always remember (I mean, how could you forget? After all, it IS your birthday). What better feeling can there possibly be than knowing you made this world a better place, and did it on the day you were born!
Here are some ideas of things you can do to really “celebrate” your birthday:
1. Volunteer a few hours of your time at a local food bank/soup kitchen/animal shelter.
2. Walk (or run) in a marathon to raise money for research.
3. Spend part of your day gathering up unused clothing to donate to a needy family.
According to my calculations, most good work would be done on September 16th (the most common birthday) and the least, February 29th (leap year).
As for me? Well, you can add candle #44 to that birthday cake. This year, I’d like us all to imagine a world where someone is doing something to help someone else, every single day of the year.
Impossible? Maybe. But then again, that’s what I used to think about 1987 and 2000 too.
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In life, there are only twelve months to any given year. A dozen different containers of days divided up evenly into four seasons. Each month, its own thing of beauty. Each one a chance for new beginnings.
I’m sure at some point along the way, when all of these months first got together, there must have been arguments over which of them should be considered the greatest.
I can already picture January bragging about the fact that he’s always been first. The first month to ring in a new year. The first month where resolutions are made. Then February would chime in about being the lover’s month; April would mention something about “showers”; May would talk about Moms and June would talk about summer and being the month that most weddings occur in.
And I’m quite certain December would eventually state his case for being great because of the whole Christmas thing.
Not one to brag or voice his discontent, October would just smile and watch the others bicker. For you see, he (much like I) already knows which month is the greatest.
October is the GREATEST month of the year, and here’s why:
1. October is National Breast Cancer and Rett Syndrome Awareness Month: Thirty one days in which to raise funds and awareness to help find cures.
2. Columbus Day: It’s the day America was discovered….. DUH!
3. Oktoberfest: Time to get your drink on.
4. October is the only month where Count Chocula, Frankenberry and Boo Berry cereal are all readily available in stores. THAT alone is cause for celebration!
5. For baseball enthusiasts, October means only one thing: The World Series.
6. October is the month when fall colors are at their peak. Sure, the Autumnal Equinox “technically” starts in September, but leaves are still green for the most part in September. And by November, the foliage has turned into a dull, brownish color. For those of us in who live here in the northeast, the best days of all are actually when the weather is overcast with a threat of rain. Seeing bright-colored shades of red, yellow and orange leaves beneath the gray sky is one of the most beautiful sights there is.
7. Halloween. Nothing more needs to be said. The final day of the greatest month of the year is the only day where it’s OK to get dressed up and scare the shit out of people. It’s also the only day of the year where you can go walk the streets and beg for candy and not get arrested. Trust me, I’ve tried.
But the absolute real reason October is the greatest month of the year does not lie in days of awareness, cereal consumption or trick or treat. No, October is the greatest month of the year because of what happened on the 5th day of it back in 1969….
I was born.
I can’t say that I remember it as if it were yesterday. Heck, I was just on the verge of turning four on September 20th, 1973 and about the only thing going through my mind at the time was probably wondering whether or not Sesame Street was coming on anytime soon. Although I have no personal recognition about that day in particular, I still feel as if I were somehow there.
It’s hard to believe that forty years have passed since the lives of Jim Croce, Maury Muehleisen and four others were tragically cut short when the twin-engine plane in which they were traveling crashed shortly after takeoff. Croce and Muehleisen had just finished performing a show in Natchitoches, Louisiana and were en route to another show in Sherman, Texas when the crash occurred.
As I look back now, I wonder if Jim and Maury were aware of the impact they were going to have. Because I can still remember the very first time I ever heard their music.
It was sometime in the mid 1970′s when my father took me and my brother on our first overnight camping trip to a place called Camp Hugh Beaver.
At the time, I recall being extremely excited about going camping; that is until after we had actually arrived at the campsite and the realization of being away from home hit me like a ton of bricks. From that moment on, I immediately wanted to go home and let my father know it every chance I could, through both tantrum and tears.
Dad initially ignored my pleas, but by the next morning just couldn’t take it any longer and finally gave in to my childish demands. Shortly after breakfast, we packed up our things and began making the long drive home.
Why do I remember this you ask? No, it’s wasn’t because it was one of the many times I was being a spoiled brat (although I was). Rather, the real reason I remember this so vividly is because on the drive home the song “Bad Bad Leroy Brown” came on the car radio…and I was mesmerized. I distinctly remember asking my father who it was that was singing the greatest song any seven-year old had ever heard in his life and finding out all about Jim Croce.
Dad told me all about Jim and his other great songs like “Time In A Bottle” and “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim”. How Jim had appeared on television shows and how his songs and stories related to the “common man”.
Then he told me about the plane crash and how Jim and his lead guitarist, Maury had both died. In the naivety of youth, I didn’t really understand what he was saying to me at the time. I thought Dad telling me that Jim and Maury “died” just meant that they went away and would eventually be back. Sadly, it wouldn’t be long until I discovered what death really meant and realized that we (the world) had lost two of the greats.
Less than two months after Jim and Maury’s untimely deaths, Croce’s “I Got A Name” album was released. Songs like the title cut (which still gives me chills listening to it to this day), “Workin’ at the Carwash Blues” and “I’ll Have to Say I Love You in a Song” only remind me of what could have been.
“I Got A Name” is also an apropos title, considering the names Jim Croce & Maury Muehleisen won’t soon be forgotten. Sure, it may have been the last album from two guys whose careers were only beginning to take off, but here I am still thinking about them and their music, forty years later.
Since I assume many of you are already wondering what you should get me for my birthday next month (October 5th), I’ve taken the liberty of posting my list here in order to give you an early jump on your shopping duties.
Unfortunately, none of these items can still be found in stores, so you’ll have to poke around on E-bay in order to find them. But in an effort to help you in your search, I’ve already scoped out and gone through the trouble of pricing these items in order from low to high, so you shouldn’t have any concern over whether or not you’re spending enough. But when you think about it, can you REALLY put a price tag on a gift?
I now present to you the Five Best Presents you can get me for my birthday. Things I received as a child and would love to see again.
Chutes Away ($45) Ah, nothing beats looking through a scope and dropping plastic parachutes from a plane into fox holes on the battlefield as it spins around in circles.
4. Magic Window by Wham-O ($100) You want to talk about mindless entertainment? Look no further than this plastic circle filled with different colored sand. You maneuver it around and the sand magically transforms into different patterns. Let’s see the X-Box Kinect or Wii try to top that! Hours of fun here.
3. Weeble Haunted House ($300). Since there’s no Count Chocula action figure, this is the next best thing. Who ever invented the Weeble was a true genius. They always wobbled but never fell down. I love the glow in the dark ghost.
2. Mego Spiderman ($400) It just wouldn’t be my birthday without a visit from good ol’ Spidey. I’ve had several different Spidey action figures over the years, but never an original Mego one. So, please do what you can to make a 44-year old boy happy this year!
1. Stretch Monster ($800) – C’mon, you know I’m worth it. Stretch Monster was the coolest thing ever. Much better than Stretch Armstrong. I suppose that’s why I’d only let my sister play with Armstrong. She’d NEVER be allowed to touch my Monster. Me and Stretch Monster were tight. We did everything together. Right up until that one day when he fell on some rocks and bled out.
That syrupy stuff inside him got all over, and no amount of band-aid or bandage could save him. To see him again this year would be the ultimate!
If the law of survival was such that the only way you could get food on the table was to do some kind of “handy” manual labor, I’d starve. I’ve never been much into taking things apart and finding out what makes them tick; let alone fixing appliances or cars when they break down.
You want me to write you a story, fix your computer or paint you a Bob Ross masterpiece? I’m your man. Heck, I even take pride in the fact that I’ve been successfully mowing lawns since I was thirteen. But if you want someone who can build you a house from a set of match sticks well, you’ll need to look elsewhere. I even cringe whenever my wife brings home a new lighting fixture and asks me to simply replace the old. My first thought on situations like these is to let her know that’s its been quite a while since my brother last visited.
My brother is the handiest person I know. He finished my entire basement pretty much all by himself. He laid the sub flooring, framed the entire thing, dry walled, primed and painted. About the only thing he didn’t do was hook up the electric and carpet the floor. When it comes to being handy, there’s pretty much nothing he can’t do.
Me? All I’m good for is holding a flashlight, a ladder or making a lunch run. But I’m OK with that. It’s not like I don’t wish that I were more handy around the house. The fact of the matter is, bad things usually happen when I am.
Take the other day for example.
It’s late at night and I’m lying in bed fully engulfed in a Stephen King novel (which in retrospect, should have been a red flag) when my wife comes in and informs me that the dishwasher isn’t working. It won’t power on at all and the entire thing is full of dishes that need to be cleaned. It’s an older unit that has seen better days, but perhaps it’s something that could easily be fixed.
The next day, I scour internet sites looking to diagnose the problem. I discover that the symptoms affecting this particular model indicate one of two things: either a faulty thermal fuse or a bad system board. It also notes that the thermal fuse is a cheap part and is a relatively easy thing to replace by yourself. That’s when the light bulb goes off in my head and I decide to tackle the job myself.
<insert ominous music here>
After obtaining the replacement fuse, I turn off the power associated with the dishwasher and slowly pull out the unit; being careful not to pull too hard to unseat the copper water line or return tubes. With screwdriver in hand, I methodically remove the eight tiny screws from the inside cover, exposing the guts of the unit where I am am quickly able to replace the thermal fuse all by myself. Feeling immortal and with a sense of job well done, I return power to the dishwasher and press the power button, fully expecting to see the green lights return.
I double-check all of my connections to prove that I did the repair properly, but still nothing. The only alternative now is that the system board has failed and will need replacing. If that’s the case, a new dishwasher certainly makes more sense. Dejected, I piece the innards of the dishwasher back together and slowly begin pushing the unit back into place when suddenly, I hear this slight hissing sound; starting out slowly at first and then getting progressively louder.
For a moment, all thought is concentrated on fire. Perhaps I screwed up the wiring after all. But as my eyes gaze down to my now sloshing feet and liquified floor, I quickly realize that the copper line has burst and water is now rushing uncontrollably into my kitchen. Sure enough, I pull the dishwasher back out and see the large crack that’s become source of the flood.
Sometimes when disaster is unfolding before your eyes, one tends to lose track of reality and oddly enough, it was at that exact moment when the legend of The Little Dutch Boy who stuck his finger in the dyke to hold back the water came to mind, and for some reason I decided to try his hypothesis.
Coming to my senses again after quickly realizing the legend was bullsh$t, I was able to turn off the main line water to the dishwasher and spent the next hour cleaning up the handy mess I had made.
Not only does this incident only reinforce my belief that me and tools are simply not compatible, but also that any job that requires the combination of the two of us together should instead be handled by professionals.
Don’t get wrong. I would love to have the euphoria of completing a handy task all by myself. I just don’t like the thought of drowning while in the process of getting there.
Christmas came early this year. Or is it Halloween? Well, in either case, my inner child is doing one heck of a happy dance this morning. As most of you fellow cereal connoisseurs already know, The Monster Cereals have been my absolute favorite ever since I was but a wee lad. I still remember how cool it was to go with my mother to the local Food Lane and see my homies sitting there on the shelf just waiting for me.
Not only did the boys get me through some rough hunger spells growing up, but I also attribute the psychological benefits of having breakfast with a monster with helping me to overcome my introvertism. (Ok, I made up that last part).
Sadly, my beloved Count Chocula, Frankenberry and Boo Berry buddies were exiled to the latter part of the calendar year; only making their appearances on store shelves now when the weather gets cooler and monsters and trick or treating become all the rage.
Don’t get me wrong, I still do ravage local supermarkets and Target stores every September to stock up on as many as I can for the winter, and always lament the boys taking an extended vacation starting November 1st. But much like seeing the first robin in spring, I always look forward to that first box of Boo on store shelves every Autumn.
But this year will be extra special.
A few days ago General Mills (the ones who magically brought my cereal hombres to life) decided to do something special for the fans and this year are bringing back two more monsters; one of which has been MIA for more than thirty years. Just when you thought breakfast in the fall couldn’t get any better, Frute Brute and Fruity Yummy Mummy will be joining the Holy Trinity of Cereal this year!
Fruit Brute (or now, FRUTE Brute for you politically correct people) was discontinued in 1982 and is considered by many collectors to be the most sought-after vintage cereal box. Not only because Brute’s a cool wolf who wears colorful suspenders, but also because the box was used by director Quentin Tarantino in his films “Reservoir Dogs” and “Pulp Fiction.”
Yummy Mummy, no stranger to succumbing to the endangered sugar list, has been gone for more than two decades himself. His triumphant return will mark the first time in history that all five boxes of Monster Cereal will be available at the same time.
When asked to comment on the return of the childhood favorites, Julie Anderla, integrated communications senior manager at General Mills had this to say: “The love for the Monsters that we make available each Halloween continues to be huge and the passion for all of them across social media is incredible. We’re bringing back Frute Brute and Fruity Yummy Mummy in an effort to give our fans what they asked for.” Can’t argue with that.
But WAIT!! – It gets even better!!
As part of a special promotion with Target, all five monster cereals will be housed in their original retro art packaging!!! So it will indeed be like those days of yore when a young 44 year-old boy sees his childhood friends on the shelves, looking exactly as they did way back when.
I tried to find a way to properly express my emotion for the return of this quintet, but I decided to let Dinosaur Dracula explain how big this news really is in his review of the “new” cereal. Thanks dude!