Tag Archives: unfair

Gone Fishing

Once upon a time I was asked to leave school and not come back.  There, I said it.  It’s something I hate to bring up.  Not only is it embarrassing but I would hate for someone to think that I’m somehow proud of myself for reaching that level of troublemaking.  Sure, I joke all the time about how I once did this or that, and while it’s fun in its way it’s almost a punishment to myself.  Like I want people to realize I’m not trying to hide from my past, or blend in with the good, honest folk.  Many people don’t believe it.  They say, “I can’t see it.  You just seem like a nice guy.” Well this is how it went down.  Keep in mind I was a teenager, which is to say I was confused, angry, lost, bored, frustrated, hopeless… you know.  We’ve all been there to some extent.

I’m going to skip ahead a bit here.  There’s no reason why readers should have to sit through the story of my life from the beginning, though as with any story the beginning shapes the end.  My senior year.  That’s where this story begins.  I was struggling (remember, I struggle).  My problems in school have never been a secret.  Sitting in a desk all day and listening to someone talk.  For those of you who can do it, I envy you.  It drives me nuts.  By the twelfth year of it I had had enough.  Problems at home and depression had taken their toll on me.  I discovered skipping school. 

Now it wasn’t like I had never skipped a class before.  Many times before I had decided to avoid the boredom and went searching for some entertainment.  This year however it seemed like the only option.  I couldn’t sit there anymore.  I’d fight with my family all night and spend my free time smoking and drinking with friends.  When I tried to sit quietly and listen to the teacher… I can’t really explain it.  I wanted to scream and flip desks.  Drama was becoming my drug of choice.  I needed the screaming and lying and debauchery.  Turmoil fit my mood. 

So I started missing classes.  At first just one or two here and there, always carefully chosen so I could have a longer lunch, or a shorter day.  In the first few weeks of senior year however it escalated.  I started missing classes regularly.  Sometimes I would even forget what class I had and when told to “get to class” I literally didn’t know where that was.  I had to go to the office and get my schedule again almost a month into the semester. 

This did not go unnoticed.  I was talked to by my parents, the guidance counselor, and the principal.  Would you be surprised to hear that I didn’t listen?  I didn’t have it in me to listen.  Not right then, and not for a while yet.  The principal told me I had attended thirty-three percent of my classes.  Not good.  Really not good considering I had called myself in sick or had my friends in the office mark me present many times.  I was told that if I was absent anymore I was out of school.  Though I made some effort at that point it was hopeless.  I was hooked on skipping.  I could no longer sit through a class. 

So began an interesting time for me around school.  The principal was after me.  Literally.  He was chasing me.  I’d see him in the hallway trying to flag me down.  I’d pretend not to see him and the chase was on.  I’d turn a corner and as soon as I was out of his sight I’d break into a sprint.  Eluding him became a game to me.  Friends would help by stopping him to ask random and frivolous questions.  If I felt he would try to corner me during a class I wouldn’t go to it.  Any notes I received to go to the office were ignored, though I did use them as an excuse to break free from my classroom prison.  It was a losing battle and I knew that.  It’s something I chose not to think about. 

Then one weekend in early December, nearly the end of the semester, myself and my two buddies were feeling down.  Things weren’t good for us.  That our problems were largely of our own creation didn’t matter.  The fact is we were pretty miserable.  We knew a reckoning was coming.  The world wouldn’t abide our disrespect for long.  We decided a vacation was in order.  Just an escape from our dingy little world.  In the span of a couple of hours it was decided that we would set course for Cleveland where my friends older brother had an apartment.  When you’re a kid anything other than home seems cool I guess.  Plus that guy was known to drink upwards of twenty beers in a sitting, which gave him legendary status by our ranking system.  We set out immediately.

In our defense, our admittedly weak defense, we made an effort to inform our families.  We didn’t want anyone thinking we had died or something.  One of the guys  just boldly told his family, “I’m going, that’s it.” He was told he wasn’t welcome back.  Another tried to make up a story about spending the night at a friend’s house.  Unfortunately he made that call from Cleveland and was busted by the caller i.d..  Watching him trying to lie his way out of that was a highlight of our night. “Hey Mom, I’m fine…What? I told you were I was going….I don’t know why it’s a strange number… I’m not lying!… Mom! Wait… Mom! I’m in Cleveland!… No I can’t come home!… Because I didn’t drive!  Whatever! I’m eighteen. You can’t call the cops!” Poor guy.  He wasn’t welcome home either.  I chose to keep it simple and to the point, with just a hint of humor.  On the counter I had left a piece of notebook paper with “Gone Fishing” written on it.  Just enough so they knew I hadn’t been kidnapped.  I’m not proud of myself but it was kinda funny.

We stayed in that apartment for several days.  We wanted no part of what awaited us back home.  We even discussed getting jobs and settling in.  Eventually we wore out our welcome.  It was time to head back and pay the piper.  Our first stop upon arrival was the school.  We burst into the gym during volleyball class, quite pleased with ourselves and our adventurous ways.  Everyone wanted to know where we had been.   This was before social networking, hell before even before we had cell phones.  No one knew where we were.  We started bragging about our trip and sudden departure.  The story telling didn’t last long.  It was interrupted when the gym door opened and the principal walked in, looking straight at us.  Word traveled fast I guess.  Perhaps we should have made our entrance a little quieter.  He didn’t play any games this time.  We were given no chance to escape.  He pointed and his voice boomed, “You guys are out of here!”  He didn’t answer our questions or allow us to argue.  He ignored our insults.  We were marched to the front doors and quite literally expelled into a wintry afternoon. 

I can’t really explain how it feels to suddenly not be welcome.  Whether at home or at school.  Try to imagine.  Snow falling and there’s nowhere to go.  Your cold and there’s no available warmth.  Tired with no bed.  It’s a terrible feeling when the world casts you out.  We hit bottom that day.  The world was done with us.  At least our tiny little worlds.  I could tell you about sleeping in a cold car in the parking lot of my workplace hoping I woke in time for my 6:30am shift.  I could tell you about walking icy railroad tracks at three in the morning because we heard a rumor that a girl might let us sleep in her basement.  Or trying to camp in a field where we just couldn’t get warm no matter how big a fire we made.  But those things aren’t important.  Well, not to this story anyway.  This story is about how I ended up expelled from school.  I think we’ve basically covered it. 

If there was anything else to say it might be this.  The way I was feeling at that point in time was valid.  It was very real to me.  I was trying to find my way and failing.  Adults need to be very wise when dealing with troubled teens.  There is a paradox.  You can’t force them anymore, they’re not kids.  But trying to be overly sympathetic only enables them to make bad choices.  You can’t be too hard or soft with them.  Instead you have to wisely choose when to lean on them and when to bend to them.  Let them mess up but quietly be guiding.  Most of all love them, no matter what.  That’s how I see it at least.  If I didn’t learn something from this mess then what good was it?  But I don’t have kids yet, and I’m sure somewhere there is a parent just shaking their head thinking, “He’ll see…”


Bird Conservation: Now with Betrayal, Wrath and Forgiveness.

If your going to know me at all one thing you must be made aware of is my love for animals.  My whole life I’ve had pets, and without a doubt some of my best friends have been of the K9 variety.  I was lucky enough to have parents that allowed my sister and I to embrace our passion for animals.  At various times we had dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, a real pig, horses, fish, tadpoles, a newt, and we rescued orphaned lambs multiple times.  I learned so much from my experiences with those creatures.  I remember each and every one and my heart aches to think of those that have passed, including the ones I will tell you about here.

The idea started due to a very interesting neighbor we had.  I remember him as a rugged, hippy, outdoorsman but I can’t be sure that’s accurate.  I was very young.  I can tell you for sure that he had a possum in a live trap at one point and that creepy looking thing made me pretty nervous when it started hissing.  I can also tell you that he had a dog  and I remember it playing with me in the snow a few times.  And I can tell you that he hatched and raised pheasants which he released into the wild in an effort to  increase the population of the birds.  There was a chicken wire pen built behind his home and I would often wander over to stare.  Over the months the pheasants would grow and begin trying to fly within their enclosure.  Eventually he would open the gate and shoo them into the field, thereby making the pen available to the next batch of birds.  It was all pretty fascinating to a kid.

A few years and a move later my mother came in to the living room with an unusual carton of eggs.  We were thrilled to hear that we were going to be raising our own batch of pheasants.  The eggs were placed in a white styrofoam incubator.  The incubator had a clear plastic window on top which allowed us to peer down inside.  The whole setup was wonderfully exciting.  We made sure that everything was just right for our unborn chicks.  Unfortunately after setting up there’s not much to do for almost a month.  Which in kid time is equivalent to forever.  But we kept at it, turning the eggs, keeping the temperature and humidity right.  In the basement we built a small pen with a feeder in the middle and straw on the floor.  We were as ready as we could be. 

This is one of my favorite memories of being a kid.  I was looking down at the eggs one day, through the little window, when something shot across my field of vision.  I yelped and hopped back, and then, pulling myself together, leaned forward once again for a better look.  There was a small yellow and black chick in there, running around on top of the eggs.  After a moments thought I decided to take it to its new home.  I slowly opened the top, reaching down and gently wrapping my fingers around the tiny ball of bones and fluff.  The incubator was in my parents room on the second floor and the pen was in the basement.  I went down the flights of stairs as carefully as I could, carrying the chick out in front of me.  As soon as I had it safely in its new home I turned on the heat lamp and tore back upstairs.  Sure enough two more chicks were running around in the incubator and I saw beaks poking through the shells of many other eggs.  I didn’t feel confident taking two at a time so I grabbed one and ran for it.  By the time it was deposited and I was back upstairs I was breathing hard, but there was no time to rest.  One after another the newly hatched pheasants were transported.  Eventually there was just a couple of chicks left stuck halfway out of their eggs.  I wasn’t supposed to help them, but I did.  I couldn’t bear to watch them struggle.  After those guys made it to the pen I stared at the remaining eggs for a while.  They didn’t seem to be doing anything and eventually I left.  At first I would check back frequently, and then not so frequently.  They never did hatch.  I guess they were duds.  I wasn’t too choked up about it, I had a whole pen full of chicks to stare at. 

Over the next few weeks the chicks grew rapidly.  It wasnt long before signs of feathers popped up on their little bodies.  We got to work on their flight pen, where they would grow to adulthood.  This was just a tall chicken wire pen out near the barn, big enough for them to spread out and move around as they grew.  The day of the transfer came quickly and the whole family was excited to get our pheasants into their final residence.  We’d worked hard on building it and it was perfect for their needs. 

We carted the birds out and sat watching them for a bit.  Things weren’t going as smoothly as we would have liked.  Instead of exploring their new situation they were just freaking out and throwing themselves at the fence.  They didn’t seem to understand that there was a barrier there.  It wasn’t hurting them and we weren’t too worried.  We figured it would take them a while to settle in.  What we didn’t figure on was our dogs. 

We were the owners of two wonderful dogs.  An older Cocker Spaniel (Mr. Snugs), and a young Golden Retriever (Alexander Casapalus Gold: Alex).  Unfortunately these are bird dogs.  I don’t know how to put it except to say that when they were let outside they went nuts.  I watched my two sweet dogs turn into blood-thirsty monsters in an instant.  They came charging up to the pen, jaws slavering.  I saw a pheasant stick its head through the fence only to have my beloved, gentle Alex bite it and pull it off.  We were all screaming.  The dogs had no interest in listening to us.  We tried to get in their way but they just ran around us.  When we’d go after one the other would race in.  Instead of staying in the center of the pen, out of the reach of the dogs, the frightened birds threw themselves against the fence in an effort to escape.  My mother realized it was hopeless and screamed at my sister and I to get inside, where our fragile little minds wouldn’t be maimed by the sight of our chicks being ripped to pieces. 

Some time later my parents stumbled in.  They had managed to get the dogs in the kennel finally.  My mother explained to me that it was in the dogs nature to do what they did, and that they weren’t bad.  She told me the birds that died had died so quickly that there was no pain.  Moms are great for that kind of stuff; making the most horrible experiences tolerable.  I had not forgiven my dogs though and I planned to teach them a lesson.

 I went out to the barn in a rage.  I came out with a horse crop and stomped towards the kennel.  I didn’t care if they were bird dogs, they would learn to listen when I said “stop”.  They had the nerve to leap about and wag their tails as I approached.  I slapped the crop against the gate as hard as I could and they jumped back, realizing that I wasn’t here for games.  I opened the gate and entered, closing it behind me.  I slapped the crop on the wooden floor. “You killed them!”, I screamed. “Why would you do that! Your bad dogs! I hate you both!”  I raised my weapon.  They wagged their tails timidly.  I looked at Alex and he grinned his gorgeous Golden grin.  There was no evil there.  I dropped to my knees and hugged him tight against me, crying into his soft coat, shamed by what I had almost done. 

We managed to release nine pheasants into the wild.  They didn’t want to leave and I spent the day chasing them off the property.  It was good to see them go.  They turned out to be nasty, dirty things.  We decided we weren’t bird people.  It was a great learning experience though.  Besides witnessing the life cycle of the pheasant I now knew that dogs were not people, and in fact what separated us from animals was our ability to deny our basic urges and control our behavior.  I was able to come to terms with the idea that an animal can not be evil.  Only humans, with our ability to decifer right from wrong, can achieve that.


I struggle…

I have another pizza delivery story.  Evidently pizza delivery is fertile ground when it comes to memorable moments in my life.  Who would have thought?  I guess when you get a bunch hungover twenty-somethings together and pay them minimum wage to create and deliver food hilarity ensues.  Well it’s funny to me, so whatever.  Prepare for a brief glimpse into the mind of an idiot.

I had to deliver an order to a trailer park.  The same trailer park I had delivered to hundreds of times before.  People in trailer parks really seem to like pizza.  Is it ok to call them trailer parks?  Trailer community maybe?  I pulled into the trailer community and began trying to figure out which lot was which.  If you’ve ever done this, you know.  It sucks.  You pull in and the first trailer you see is 249 and your like, “Ok, so 248, 247, wait… 109.  What the hell? Ok, so here’s 109 and I need 17… so if I go this way its going down.  Wait, the other side of the street is going up.  Um, that’s the 300’s  soooo.  What the hell is going on!?  Are you serious!?  Who organized this place?  How dare you!?”  I apologize.  Evidently I’m still a little angry.  I’ve lost hours of my life in places like that. 

So after passing the trailer three times I finally located it and rather than go around the block again I stopped, and figured I’d walk back to it, maybe four trailers behind me.  Ugh.  This is embarrassing.  I jumped out of my car, grabbed the warmer-bag, and slammed the door behind me.  I started walking but glanced at the ticket and saw that they had ordered a 2-liter.  A quick glance into my window showed no sign of a Coke, so I put the warmer-bag, containing two large pizzas and a cheese bread, onto the top of my car so I could dig around under my seat.  It took a moment of pawing through months worth of trash to come to the conclusion that I had not brought the drink.  Not to worry however, there was a gas station right at the entrance to the trailer park, excuse me, trailer community.  In an effort to salvage my tip I hopped into the car, which was still running, and took off.  At that moment I glanced in my rear view mirror just in time to see the door to the trailer open and a guy step onto the porch, cash in hand.  Evidently he had noticed me as I passed his home repeatedly with my delivery sign shining in the darkness. 

So I’d been spotted.  I bet you think I went back and apologized, explained my error, and returned in a few minutes with his drink.  Nope, I floored it.  I panicked I guess.  It was a gut response.  I don’t know.  But I did, and as I navigated the twists and turns of the neighborhood I tried to think of how I was going to explain my actions to the customer.  If you’ve read previous posts you’ll know that it was time for a conversation with myself, and yes I do say these out loud.  Well I kind of mumble. 

 “Ok man, nice.  You just take off, you’re so stupid.  The guys probably calling the store right now.”

“It’ll be fine.  I’ll just say I didn’t see him.  I’ll have to explain about forgetting his Coke, but he’ll be ok.”

“If he called the guys at the store are going to be giving you shit for weeks.”

“Yep. Oh well.  What am I gonna do about that now?  It’s done.”

“You’re a moron.”

At about this time I was pulling out of the neighborhood and onto the highway.  As I accelerated up to fifty-five I heard a strange noise from my roof.  I glanced in my mirror just in time to see my warmer bag, stuffed with pizza boxes, go flipping down the road.  Cars swerved to avoid being struck. Yep.  That’s right.  I had left the pizza on the roof.

So a rational human would stop and get the bag, go back to the store, explain the series of events that lead to this unfortunate happening and get his night back on track, but I’m just not that guy.  I kept driving.  My mind was racing as I tried to figure out an excuse, or better yet a believable lie, to explain what had happened.  But there was no way to fix this.  The voices in my head went silent.  It was pretty much just white noise.  And I just kept driving. 

Eventually I pulled into the parking lot of my restaurant and parked.  It was time to make a decision.  I was pretty well screwed.  I kept thinking about that guy seeing me drive past his window over and over, and then seeing me get out and put the pizza on the car only to jump in and take off with his dinner still up there.  Finally I narrowed my options down to going back for my pizza-bag, or committing suicide.  It was a toss-up for a minute but I decided to go back. 

A few minutes later I rounded a bend in the road, holding my breath. I expected to see the bag shredded on the shoulder, cheese and sauce smeared obscenely on the concrete like some kind of delicious breed of animal hit by a semi.  But there was nothing.  No sign that anything had happened.  I wondered if I was going crazy.  Had I completely lost it?  I wonder things like this sometimes.  I fully believe that my mind has the potential to completely come unraveled some day.  Hopefully not.  But what had happened to my warmer bag?  There was nothing to do but head back to the store. 

I walked in the back door with no excuses.  I’d decided to just tell the truth and try to laugh about it.  Sometimes that is all you can do.  I figured I’d have to pay for the bag at least, and I might be fired.  I was greeted by my missing bag sitting on a prep table.  It still contained the pizza boxes and had held up pretty well.  Just some scrapes.  Evidently one of the cars behind me had stopped and brought it back to us.  How lucky for me that so many people had been witness to my bumbling that evening.  I had some explaining to do.

I told everyone what had happened.  It wasn’t easy.  “Well I’ve been gone so long because I forgot a drink, ran from a customer, drove around with pizzas on my car before dropping them in the road… and then I kind of just drove around for awhile.”  There was a variety of reactions.  My least favorite of which was a look of disdain.  A look that says, “Is there something wrong with you?” But mostly people laughed.  My only real punishment was having to re-deliver the food.  So the customer that witnessed me embarrassing myself earlier got a chance to meet me in person.  He didn’t ask me any questions.  His friends just gathered around the door to get a look at me.  I stared at my shoes and prayed for our interaction to end.  Believe it or not he gave me a small tip.  I think he pitied me.  I obviously wasn’t a smart man.


Why won’t you believe me!?

I’m willing to admit it.  Some of the reputation I carried as a young man was undeserved, either good or bad.  One learns while traversing the treacherous corridors of public schooling, and if one is wise it will become apparent that a reputation can be used to pave a way for yourself with minimal effort.  Being wise (arguably) I would fan any little flames I came across pertaining to myself.  For instance,  if someone said, “Hey I heard you beat some guy up outside the mall”, I would say “Yes, that was me,”  or even better, a mysterious, “Which time?”.  And so I became a tough guy without the bloodshed.  Unfortunately, like most things this seemed to work both ways, and while I reaped the rewards of lies and exaggerations the universe seemed to find ways to tarnish my character.

My sophomore year a friend of mine moved to my school.  We had met at catechism.  He loved mischief, I was thrilled to have him.  From this point on, for both the sake of awesomeness and anonymity I will refer to him as Snake-Eyes or SE. 

Around Christmas of that year I went to his house for our first ever sleep over.  That’s just good innocent fun.  Around 11pm another friend of ours called and asked us to swing by for some ice basketball.  Yep, that’s just basketball on a very icy court.  Its fun as long as you avoid a concussion or a shattered elbow.  Which we usually did.  Due to the fact that we doubted we would get permission to go it was decided not to tell anyone until we got back.  At that point we would fall back on the old, “Oh, we didn’t think you guys would care.” excuse.  Kids are devious.  Never forget that parents. 

We were only gone an hour.  We were walking back to SE’s house, which was only around the corner, when I heard a car coming up behind us.  I glanced back over my shoulder, noting that with the way the headlights were positioned it could be a police car.  I was hoping that we wouldn’t be stopped and questioned, which had happened before.  Evidently after midnight its common practice to stop teenagers who are wandering, even in the country. I heard the car begin to slow.  I figured this was going to happen so I stopped and began to turn.  Suddenly, I was struck by something on the side of my face.  The car sped off, the sounds of laughter trailing behind.  SE spun towards me.

“What the hell was that?” he asked.

“I don’t know. I think it was a water balloon,” I said.

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m good. Just wet and freezing.”

“Those guys were dicks.”

“Screw those guys.”

“What’s that smell?” SE asked.

And it hit me.  There was a smell. 

“Did those guys piss in the balloon dude?” SE asked me nervously, brushing at his lightly wetted sleeve.

I sure hoped not. And I didn’t think so.  It seemed familiar.  But that wasn’t quite right.  Not piss…

“That was a beer,” I said.  I scuffed my feet around in a circle and sure enough kicked a dented can we hadn’t been able to see in the dark. “Ugh, I’m covered in beer.”  I took off my hat and shook droplets of beer out of hair.  They’d got me good.  My left side was drenched, my over-stuffed winter jacket quickly soaking up the liquid.  We ran the rest of the way back to his house.

We burst into the living room having completely forgotten we hadn’t been given permission to leave in the first place.  We were greeted by his parents on the couch, looking grim.  We quickly started to explain how we had “just walked around the corner”, and looked to garner some sympathy by describing how I had been assaulted.  If anything this seemed to make them more angry.  We didn’t get it.  It wasn’t that late.  We had only been two-hundred yards away.  Why did they seem so upset? I was kind of expecting to be coddled a bit.  I had been attacked and I’d gotten wet, and it was very cold.  That can’t be good for a kid!  Didn’t they know I could catch my death? Not to mention the fact that  I had taken a blow to the head, and those are pretty dangerous.  They ordered me downstairs to change while they talked to Snake-Eyes.

When I came back upstairs things were getting pretty heated in the living room.  Evidently, in their opinion, teenaged boys sneaking out and coming home soaked in beer does not match up to our version of the nights events. But that’s what happened!  I was there!  I promise you!  Not only did they not want to hear it but the more we defended ourselves the angrier they got.  This was not the impression I wanted to leave on my friends parents.  As I tried to sleep that night I thought about how to redeem myself.

The next morning I was extra friendly.  Smiling till my face hurt, complimenting everything. It didn’t seem to be defrosting the parents whatsoever.  By the time I left I was glad to get out of such an inhospitable place and I was feeling badly for SE who was stuck living with those grumpy people.  Never before had I had any trouble with parents.  I was a favorite guest of several other families.  What could the problem be? Later I found out.

You see, his mother had the exact same first and last name as my mother.  That summer I had made a very stupid decision which had led to me getting busted stealing from the mall.  My court paperwork had arrived at SE’s house, not mine.  His mother opened and read about my court date.  This was after she had agreed to me spending the night, and it took a lot of work on his part to get me into the house.  I guess they decided to give me a second chance.  So, from their perspective, I was a thief who befriended their son and then after being allowed in the house got him to sneak out to some sort of drinking party that was so wild it left us completely covered in alcohol.  Then we burst in with some weak story about a drive by beer dowsing.  I was no longer welcome in their home.

As I’ve grown up I’ve become more than a little embarrassed by the way I conducted myself as a teenager.  I know we all make mistakes and it’s all ancient history but still, it makes me shudder to remember. I think it’s better to look at the humor and disregard the truly dark moments. And for those who thought I was evil, I never was. I understand why you thought so. But sometimes a fifteen year old covered in beer is innocent, and sometimes a bad kid is just a good kid covered in circumstance.

p.s. For those who are wondering.  Of course we asked them to smell our breath!  They weren’t having it.  Their minds were made up.  Not fair you say?  Tell me about it!