A lot of you youngsters
may not know about this, but comedian George Carlin debuted a brilliant routine
about free speech and censorship in 1972.
It was called the “Seven Words You Can Never Say on
Television,” and you can see what they are in the meme above. Like a lot of people my age, I was inspired by
Carlin’s on-point social commentary about a lot of issues, and I used him and
my musical idol Frank Zappa as inspiration for a speech I gave to my college
English classmates at ASU a decade later in 1985. Carlin was arrested for delivering these
words in a comedic routine to an audience in my hometown of Milwaukee (how
embarrassing for Milwaukee, imho!), and the case actually made its way to the
U. S. Supreme Court in 1978 where the court ruled against Carlin, and the
uptight crowd embarrassed itself yet again! The topic of my speech was freedom versus
censorship, and what more relevant issue could I possibly come up with for a
college Public Speaking class?! (And you
know how I feel about freedom!)
In 1985, the idea of censorship again caught the public eye when a group called the Parents Music Resource Committee (PMRC) reared its ugly head. It was led by Tipper Gore (congressman at the time Al Gore’s wife), and they actually held congressional hearings about rating so-called “obscene” records similar to the way movies were (and still are!) rated today. Heavy metal was big at the time, and the religious poser types in Congress hated all that “satanic” crap about sex, drugs, and “the Devil,” and they didn’t seem to like Prince too much either. Of course, my musical idol Frank Zappa was front and center at the congressional hearings speaking out against such anti-freedom foolishness, and that put the issue of freedom versus censorship on my radar as a particularly relevant topic for a speech I was assigned to give in my Public Speaking class at Arizona State.
One of the things you were graded on was your ability to come up with an attention-getting opening for your speech, and boy did I have the perfect one in mind—Hahahaha!!! I must confess that I considered several possible openings before deciding on the one I really wanted to give. On the one hand, a more perfect opening than Carlin’s “seven dirty words” could not possibly be had since his routine and story were quite well known in 1985, and it perfectly illustrated the theme of my speech. But on the other hand I had to consider whether I would flunk the speech, fail the class or suffer some other disciplinary action if the teacher didn’t like it. The English teacher was an older dude, but he appeared pretty socially liberal to me, so being the WTF kind of guy I was, I decided to go for it. After all, they were only seven words, and if you listen to the entire George Carlin routine, he actually defends the idea of verbal freedom quite well and makes censorship of mere words look pretty absurd. So I already had a defense prepared should things go south with the teacher; and I knew that I was taking a bit of a chance, but I think you know by know that I’m pretty much wired that way!
The day of my speech arrived, and I was starting to feel pretty nervous (not about public speaking like most people, but about doing something banned by the U. S. Supreme Court in a college classroom instead of in a nightclub or a theater!) I had actually written an alternate “wussy” opening in case I lost my stones at the last minute, so I could wait until I got up on the podium to decide. A few speakers were scheduled before me, and as you might expect in an undergrad Public Speaking class which was required for all English majors, most of the kids dreaded public speaking, had no experience doing it, and just wanted to get their 6-8 minutes over and done with! Consequently, the few speeches preceding mine were boring as hell in terms of both topics chosen and the utter lack of passion or interest that went into writing and delivering them. In fact, they were so lackluster that half the class wasn’t even listening to the speakers and were staring down at their desks reading or writing something unrelated (we didn’t have cell phones then–Hahaha! In spite of the fact that the speakers were pretty boring, there was something almost rude about ignoring them, and this just didn’t sit right with me.
I was becoming increasingly annoyed and said to myself a few minutes before my speech that I sure as hell wasn’t going to be ignored like that! Unlike the English majors taking the class because it was required, I was a Journalism major and took the class as an elective because I actually enjoyed public speaking and thought it would be an easy A. I was on the debate team in high school, had been onstage many times in bands, and I had written what I thought was a pretty good speech on a topic I was quite passionate about (freedom versus censorship), and there was no fucking way I was going to let my fellow students just ignore me. I don’t even care whether anyone agrees or disagrees, or loves or hates what I’m saying, but if I’m standing up there talking, I’m damned sure doing my best to not waste your time and make you want to listen! And that was really the assignment anyway—To write and deliver an interesting speech that grabs the audience’s attention and interest. So with all those thoughts congealing in my head, I took the podium, gave myself a few seconds to become annoyed at being ignored by my classmates, and said without any introduction or explanation: “SHIT, PISS, FUCK, CUNT, COCKSUCKER, MOTHERFUCKER, AND TITS.” And I said it loud so that I made sure even the people at the back of the room heard it.
There were about 30 students (and the teacher) in the classroom, and the gentle buzz of whispered conversations and rustling papers immediately gave way to dead silence as everyone looked up at me in utter disbelief. I can still remember it to this day–The open-mouthed looks on the other students’ faces silently screamed: “DID HE REALLY JUST SAY THAT IN ENGLISH CLASS?” After an appropriate pregnant pause, I think my next line was something like: “Now that I’ve got everyone’s attention I’m going to talk about the important issue of free speech versus censorship, and I’m pretty sure you know which side of the issue I stand on.” I smiled and got a few laughs on that line, and I can say with absolute certainty that the entire class listened to my entire speech and even applauded at the end—Hahaha!!! I also remember concluding my speech by pointing out that even if some of the audience were offended by some of my language, their discomfort was a very minor thing when compared to the importance of a free flow of ideas and discussion in a free society! I also made the point that a college classroom was an ideal venue for the free flow of ideas so that we could all learn as much as possible.
I must admit I was concerned about what the teacher thought, and he was cool enough that he was smiling a bit and at the end of the speech jokingly pointed out that I had certainly gotten everyone’s attention! And since I know you’re all wondering, I did get an A on the speech and an A in the class. As I said in another essay: “No Guts, No Glory!” Unfortunately, I’ve heard from some friends that have kids in college now that things aren’t quite so free anymore. My speech likely would have emotionally “triggered” someone and violated the “safe zone” policy of universities, and I’d be lucky if I weren’t thrown out of school.
So much for the free flow of ideas and all that “old-fashioned” stuff, but it makes me more than grateful that I grew up in the freer era that I did and that the English teacher had the mindset that freedom was a higher value than “emotional safety” or whatever they call the anti-freedom mindset these days. I’m old but I have heard that modern wussies are called “snowflakes” these days because mere words cause them to melt. Apparently they were never taught the “sticks and stones” rule by their parents when they were about 4 or 5 years old. I’m quite grateful for that early life lesson too because if you go around worrying about what other people think and say all the time, you end up living a life of fear rather than freedom. And the ultimate irony is that most people don’t really care all that much what you say or do anyway. Be free…
If you’re reading this, I’ve already left Planet Earth for who knows where. (unless I publish this too soon by mistake–My tech skills may not be up to par and I apologize in advance for that–Ha!) I sincerely hope there is a heaven (“Hi, St. Peter,” if my Christian/Catholic friends turn out to be correct!) and that I get to meet Zappa (again!) and Hendrix in person, but maybe there’s just nothing. Even the Bible says: “Ashes to ashes; dust to dust” and this would seem to imply that there is no afterlife. Or life could just be a giant computer simulation (thanks, Tim!) and the motor neurons in my hard drive got fucked up a little early somehow…
If you know me personally or have read any significant amount of my blog, you know that freedom was one of the highest values I held. I think I was born with it hard wired into my brain, and I discovered this at age 4 in kindergarten (and I posted a story about that of course!) I expressed my love of freedom in so many ways throughout my life in work, friendships, love, and just a WTF attitude in general. Take a chance—”You only live once” was pretty much my motto! I was generally a person who didn’t much care about a lot of artificial, largely self-imposed societal norms that would limit my life, and I was a political anti-authoritarian to the point of preferring anarchist libertarianism to any form of “Red Team”/Blue Team” authoritarianism by those who are constantly fighting over who will get to control the masses at the point of the State’s guns.
The opposite of freedom is fear, and although I had very little social fear, one of my greatest fears in life was the power of the State to lock me in a cage and control me. I had the thought more than once in life that I would much prefer death to a 25-year prison sentence. Of course I completely understand that there is great irony in the fact that I didn’t obey a lot of “the rules” and could have indeed found myself locked in a cage for a hell of a lot longer than the few hours I was actually there! (Read “Fun with the Police—Chapter 2” if you’re curious…) Ironically, I even had fun being locked in the cage for a short while…
But the alternative was living my daily life in fear of the so-called “authority” of the insecure wannabe alpha chimpanzees to make all the rules for me. That’s definitely a master/slave relationship, and I just wasn’t wired to accept a life like that so I simply ignored a lot of “the rules.” Of course, the irony of being imprisoned in my own body by a relatively obscure disease hasn’t escaped me—Life and death are full of the Zen irony of a universe we don’t understand, or maybe my Christian friends are right and I’m being punished for being a “sinner” and breaking some of the rules. But I’ve confessed almost everything good and bad publicly here, so that must be worth something!
That said, I tried to be smart about things and obey the Eleventh Commandment (“Don’t Get Caught!”) as much as I could within the parameters of living a life of relative freedom. But please don’t think for one second that I believed there were no rules for living an ethical, happy and successful life—There are, and for me the oft intertwined values of love, honesty, integrity, kindness, and a spirit of fair play (even with people who made that difficult at times!) were the rules I chose to live by.
I wouldn’t call myself a member of any religion, but I have a strong belief in the Taoist dichotomies of good versus evil and right versus wrong. The Golden Rule always made perfect sense to me as a very real expression of love and respect for others, and although I don’t call myself a Christian, I think that the example of Jesus in the New Testament was also an excellent expression of honesty and love with a definite sense of rebellion against “the rules” of his day. Jesus was a rebel who preached love and empathy as higher values than “the rules” of his day. (And “Jesus Christ, Superstar” totally rocks—It’s my favorite rock opera by far!) I did my best to live by the Golden Rule, and I always felt bad about the times I failed. That’s how you learn, and the faster you learn the karmic lesson that the fewer people you hurt and the more you love, and the happier you are! At least that was my experience in life.
It’s important to me that all of you understand why I chose to end things when I did, so I’m going to do the best I can to explain what I went through on my way out with ALS. I’m well aware that some of my symptoms were not always that visible to my friends, and it may seem to some as though I gave up too soon. You can read about the slow torture of ALS in a few of my posts and there is some in this one too. I know other friends will say that it’s not really my right to choose when I die because that’s up to a god to decide. I don’t share any definite belief in a specific god, an afterlife or any other knowledge about what lies beyond, and it’s entirely possible that there is nothing else after this wonderful (and all too brief for me!) existence. I truly loved life, and I’ve said many times that I’d love to live for 1,000 years and experience at least a dozen more lifetimes. All that said, this one was pretty damned good; I’ve got nothing to bitch about except the painful ending. So please know that I don’t take death lightly, and I need to explain it the best I can and hope that you understand.
For me and I assume most
others who love freedom, ALS was the worst torture imaginable. Having ALS is like slowly being imprisoned in
your own body; your completely sane mind knows there isn’t a damn thing you can
do about it, and it’s only going to get worse (and probably pretty quickly). I’ve recently read a couple of pretty good
descriptive metaphors for ALS that really hit home for me. One person described ALS as “feeling as
though you’re being buried alive,” and another described it as
“feeling as though you’re receiving a slow transfusion of liquid lead into
I’m sad to say that both
descriptions are quite accurate, and mere words don’t really do it justice because
you just can’t imagine not being able to move a body part that is
unencumbered. Sure, you can imagine
clomping down the street if your leg were in a cast, but try to imagine trying
to take a step and your leg simply refuses to obey your mind’s command and doesn’t
move. Your mind still expects it to move
so you lose your balance and fall on the ground. I’ve fallen down about 20 times in the nearly
two years since my symptoms first appeared.
Or worse, imagine that your uninjured leg simply won’t engage the muscles enough for you to get up off a chair. Now take that feeling and spread it throughout your entire body until you no longer walk, talk, write, type, eat with your fingers, or move any other part of your body. You can’t even roll over in bed because the motor neurons in your brain are mostly destroyed and won’t engage your core muscles. For many months now, I’ve slept in a hospital bed and can’t even roll over without a supreme amount of effort grabbing the rails and inching my way around.
And there is always the constant pain from the constant muscle spasms that affect you from head to toe, even while you are sleeping. For me the pain started in my lumbar spine because I had herniated my L5 disc a few years ago, and it gradually spread throughout most of my body. To even stand and limp around for 50 steps on my walker is excruciating on my legs and back. My legs feel like incredibly stiff metal pipes that sometimes won’t move at all if they even have the strength to standing upright. My right shoulder and hand are in nearly constant spasm and pain as well, and it’s spreading to the left side as I slowly and painfully type right now. My hands feel like stiff, tensed up claws that won’t move, can’t grip things, and every day everything gets worse.
At some point, most motor neuron disease victims also lose their ability to chew and swallow. I’m starting to choke on food about now, and as this gradually happens over the course of a couple of years or so (typical but not predictable at all), the walls close in around you and you gradually lose all the things you actively enjoyed doing in your life. (I will make a partial exception here for true “couch potatoes” but even they like to eat while they watch TV!) But the worst thing about the failure of the muscles in your mouth and throat isn’t the inability to enjoy real food–I could live without that. The real issue is that you can no longer swallow at will, so you are always choking or aspirating, and that is the real torture. It is quite literally a feeling of being buried alive. At this point I’m literally afraid to eat, and the only real option is a feeding tube in the stomach. YUM!!!
And of course what kills most ALS victims is when the diaphragm muscles stop working and you can no longer breathe. It’s not visible to others, but I’ve felt the crushing weight of a diaphragm that is slowly losing strength for many months now, and death by suffocation is not something I’m willing to endure as long as I have a choice. It’s gotten to the point that I feel like I’m suffocating fairly often now, and I’ll gasp for as long as I can, but much like smoking, you’ve got to “quit” ALS sometime!
But this process doesn’t happen all at once, and it’s quite confusing at the beginning. Please know that I fought as hard as I could physically and mentally every step of the way. And I owe at least the last 6 months of my life to all my friends and family whose love made me want to go on and fight through the extreme physical, mental and emotional pain. I got to re-connect with some of you after many years, and I even connected with a few people from my biological family that I never would have met otherwise. I am so grateful for everyone’s love and support because it gave me some extra time living the life that I always loved so much!
Fighting through it as hard as I could may have helped me stay functional a bit longer, although the scientific jury is still out on that. The one thing I do believe is that my being an athletic gym rat and trail runner gave me a much higher mountain to fall from, and I think it bought me some time in terms of functionality. It stands to reason that if you start out very strong, it’s going to take a bit longer to bring you down. Of course, Lou Gehrig was in the same spot and 20 years younger than I, and he only lasted two years (the average is about 2.5 years). And it may turn out that extreme physical activity increases the risk of ALS. Older research has shown a 25% greater risk among very physically active people and I read a recent study claiming a 400% greater risk, but that doesn’t really account for many cases overall.
I’ve talked about my decline in a couple of my other posts, so feel free to skim the next few paragraphs or read those posts for more details if you like. It’s important to me that my friends and family understand my journey though and know how hard I fought and lived what was left of my life the entire way. The first motor skill I lost was the ability to run. My right leg suddenly became too uncoordinated to engage in a running gait with the left leg. But I would keep trying to run every day just to see if I could, and once in a while the nerves would work at 70% efficiency. So that day I would run as far as I could and hope that whatever was wrong with me (I thought it was my lumbar spine at that point) was improving. For about a 9-month period, I was able to do an awkward jog for about 100-200 steps at a time, so I alternated that with a few hundred steps of walking and still managed to squeeze out 2-3 miles. But the mileage I was able to go decreased along with my stamina.
I stayed in the gym the entire time, but I had to alter the exercises I did as things declined. Naturally, I fell on my ass at least 10 times trying to do shit I could do the week before but had to modify as my strength and balance deteriorated. I gradually moved from free weights to machines, and from crippled jogging/walking to the elliptical and the stationary bike. For about 3-4 months, I was in the gym and at work with a cane, and at the very end I hit the gym in my wheelchair about a dozen times.
What finally stopped me
altogether was the extreme pain and 3-day fatigue from what had gradually
become a pretty tame workout for me. And
in the past 6 months, my level of physical and mental fatigue has become
unimaginable. Eating a meal leaves me
breathless and exhausted. Having a short conversation is almost overwhelming,
even on the rare occasion when you can understand what I’m saying now.
I also loved my work and kept going until the very end as some of you might have noticed. I was limping around for almost a year and added a cane for the last 3 months on the job. I finally realized I could no longer give my clients and crew everything they deserved from me, and I had to hang it up at the end of March 2019. Man—That really hurt, and I’m not even thinking about the money. I really enjoyed my work hanging out with awesome people in cool places and solving problems quickly and just getting shit done!! It made me feel useful and valuable, but more than anything else I miss hanging out with all of you work friends and making fun of the crack-smokin’ clients—Hahahaha!!!
But being held prisoner in your own body to the point that you can no longer communicate meaningfully and efficiently to other people is absolute fucking torture to a social person like me. For me, the ability to communicate with all of you is really the crux of the biscuit in terms of the meaning of life. Hypothetically speaking, (although it would certainly suck!) if I were paralyzed from the waist down and could still speak, type, write, and engage with all of you in a meaningful way, I would definitely choose to continue living. But living like the people in the photos below with feeding and breathing tubes, having my ass wiped 24/7, and trying to communicate with one eye looking at letters on a computer screen (at approximately 2.3 words per minute or whatever snail’s pace is possible!) would be constant torture for me. For me, the most difficult emotional/psychological thing so far has been the rapid decline in my ability to speak, text and type over the past several months. It’s been totally awesome to have so many friends who want to come over and visit, keep me company, love and console me, and most of all feed me—Hahahaha!!! But when I can’t talk, text or type back to you and fully engage, I get really frustrated, sad, angry and depressed all at the same time. It’s fucking torture, and I can only take so much of that…
And then of course there’s the financial aspect of living like a total criptard on 24/7 caregiver assistance. Based on what I’ve learned, it would cost me between $30K-$50K/month to live like that, and I just wouldn’t want the money I’ve worked so hard for being squandered paying for such torture. I’d much rather be out of my misery and have the time and effort I traded for the money I saved and invested be used and enjoyed by my family and friends. I’ve always believed the expression “time is money” could also be stated in reverse in the sense that the money you save is really the time in life you spent to earn it. And I want my time/money in this life to be enjoyed by others I love rather than used to torture me and drag out death for no good reason I can think of! I was hoping to use my “earned time” for a really fun retirement with all of you, but it was not to be. The next best thing is to give my life/time/money (all the same thing in a very real sense) to others to enjoy. If I can buy someone else some fun time I couldn’t use, then that’s the best use of my life as far as I’m concerned. I’m damned sure not giving it to some fucking MegaMed care company to prolong my agony. No thanks!
The trick to knowing when to end things is twofold. The first decision is knowing when I’ve had enough physical and psychological torture (a very difficult thing when you love life!), and the second is knowing that if I wait too long the State will be in control if I don’t take charge of my own destiny while I’m still able. I’ve been wrestling with how much torture I can endure for the past few months, and I’ve also been mindful of the fact that if I become physically incapacitated from a fall or some other medical mishap and can no longer check out when I want, I will be forced by our shitty medical and legal system to endure yet more torture while MegaMed sucks up my money until I likely suffocate or endure forced starvation for 7-10 days. (I’ve heard this is legal, and my friends with my legal powers know of my wishes.) And this is ultimately why the end of freedom is the end of life. If I no longer have the freedom to control my own destiny and enjoy life with my family and friends, I say: “Peace, out…”
Final update: It looks like what will force my hand is the inability to swallow and breathe effectively. In addition to the extreme physical discomfort, these medical issues create a lot of emotional stress and constant anxiety that isn’t really effectively relieved by meds. And I’m going through regular phases every day where I can’t stand up and walk with my walker, but I could deal with that if I could eat, speak and breathe! I think I’m literally less than a week away from being the bedbound ALS victims in the photos above, complete with breathing and feeding tubes. ALS is literally a head-to-toe proposition–You’re all in but in a really bad way. And I just can’t go there, so I have to end my life the most effective way possible, and I hope you all understand…
Thank you all so much from the bottom of my heart for your friendship, love, and everything else you gave me in life. Whether working or playing I had so much fucking fun with all of you, and I hope you feel the same way about me (even when I was being an irreverent, snarky, obnoxious pain in the ass—Hahahaha!!!) I really do feel lucky and grateful to have lived what I’ve called my “55 rock star years,” and I want any of you who are sitting complacently on your asses to get them in gear and live life to the fullest. Life is far too short to waste, and remember—If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong!
Oh, yeah–And let’s not forget the “after party.” Backstage passes for everybody. It’s on me and I insist!
SUICIDE METHOD SUCCESS RATIOS AND OTHER RELEVANT DATA–I’m including this so you understand things a bit better and I was surprised what my research revealed. Contrary to popular belief, you can’t just take a handfull of pills and go out peacefully. A LOT of stuff could go wrong. I found that very disappointing to say the least…
Ok—I know I’m going to catch some shit for discussing this topic in an unorthodox way and for my somewhat snarky title, but please remember that I was born in Wisconsin in 1962 and that was a very different time and place. So please don’t judge my behavior in 1979 by 2019 standards or I’ll be calling you a freakin’ snowflake!
To be very clear about the different eras, when a cop pulled you over late on a Saturday night in the 1970s or 1980s (and it happened to me three times, once while I was underage) the first question he asked you was how many drinks you have had. The question was not today’s, “Have you been drinking?” because they knew damned well that you very likely had been and you had better not insult their intelligence by lying about it. With that in mind, you had also better not insult the cop’s intelligence by saying “a couple of beers” at 2am. He also knew damned well that you had probably been out partying for 4-6 hours, so the “correct” answer was “I think about 5 or 6, officer.” People’s jaws drop when I tell them that today because that answer would mean instant arrest for DUI. But back in 1980, the cop would talk to you for a minute to see if you were coherent and then give you a few field sobriety tests with the actual intention of seeing if you were capable of driving reasonably safely, not for the express purpose of arresting you for a DUI.
As I said, I was pulled over three times late at night after probably having 10-12 beers in a 4-6 hour period, and I actually could walk, talk, and drive. (More on that to come…) I think twice I had a taillight out and the third cop was just checking to see if I was OK at 3am cruising down our dark country roads. All three stops went pretty much the same–I talked calmly to the cop for a minute or two, he told me my taillight was out, had me walk the line, touch my nose, shined his light in my eyes, etc. and every time I passed the tests and he let me go. During the one stop when I was only 17, I thought for sure the cop would bust me for being underage, but he just made an offhand comment as he gave me my driver’s license back about how I should be more careful having working taillights at least until I was 18 in a few months–Hahaha!!!
We’ve all heard the phrase “lies, damned lies, and statistics,” but I’m going to lay my personal driving track record stats on you and then explain why I’m grateful in a variety of ways.
Eric’s Lifetime Driving
Miles: Approximately 2,000,000 in 40 years
Eric’s Lifetime DUI Miles:
Eric’s Lifetime Auto
Accident and DUI Record: 0
Let me begin by saying right upfront that my heart goes out to anyone who has experienced the potentially deadly result of people who don’t drive safely whether in a sober or DUI condition. (And I do believe that there are actually plenty of sober drivers who are more dangerous than DUIers for a variety of reasons.) Given my current experience with a deadly disease, I definitely have plenty of empathy to go around for anyone’s suffering no matter what the cause.
The first and probably most important thing I’m grateful for is my somewhat Zen ability to be at one with a car and the road, and I think I must have been born with this. From the time I first drove my go-cart at age 10 (Thanks, Dad–You probably saved my life at least once!) to sneaking out in our parents’ cars when we were 14 and 15 (see “Learning to Drive in 1975” if you’re curious), I always LOVED to be behind the wheel and felt totally comfortable from the get go.
When I first got my license, I had already been drinking and smoking weed for a couple of years, but just to be cautious I didn’t smoke or drink and drive for the first few months to see how confident I felt about driving all over town and to places I’d never driven before. Even at age 16 I felt a responsibility to know my limits, and after a few months I felt comfortable enough to enjoy the freedom of driving to bars and partying with my friends. (The drinking age was 18 at the time; I looked about 14; but a few bucks, a friendly attitude and a fake ID would get you into a lot of places!) After all, if you couldn’t drink a bunch of beers and a take a few tokes, why were you going out with your friends on a Saturday night?! And FYI—I don’t think the phrase “designated driver” even existed back then. To us, the “designated driver” was simply the one with the best overall road skills at closing time whether DUI or sober! And due to my overall driving skills and sane attitude, I was usually elected as the “DDD” (“designated drunk driver”).
What made it work for me
was my attitude of focus and diligence behind the wheel, and I’m very grateful
I always had this attitude that driving was serious business. The fact that I was chemically impaired never
altered my personality to the point that I became completely irrational, overly
emotional, or had all my sanity filters removed. I could be in the bar or at the party for
hours drinking, dancing, smoking, jamming, and generally living it up with my
friends and feeling totally free as a bird.
A lot of my DUI miles and years were racked up when I was playing in
bands and going to live music shows from age 16-30. But when the gig or party night was over and
I got behind the wheel, my party attitude immediately switched off and my 100% focus
was becoming one with the car and the road so I could get everyone safely home
without drawing the attention of the police. If I got in a wreck or got busted, my freedom
to have fun would be gone, and that was definitely strong motivation for a
teenage boy! I literally treated every
buzzed drive as if I were taking a driver’s test. My mental routine was to double-check
everything possible in my mind before I even put the car in drive. Headlights on? Check.
The route home? Check—Run it
through my mind (no, we didn’t have GPS dashboard maps talking to us in those
days—Hahaha!) Weather conditions? Check—It’s snowing tonight so be extra
careful in that rear-wheel drive car with the nearly bald tires! You get the idea, and I would never speed,
tailgate, swerve around or drive in any other dangerous or risky way. But I had friends who did, and I’ll be
getting to them shortly…
What you younger readers and many of you from Arizona don’t know is that although DUI was obviously illegal everywhere even in the ancient 1970s and 1980s, the punishment in Wisconsin was a $180 fine and you lost your license for a whole 3 months with an allowance that you could still drive to and from work! And I don’t think they even raised the fine or the loss of license time until your third or fourth offense. While people today would consider that appallingly weak enforcement of DUI laws, the fact is that Wisconsin in the ’70s and ’80s was a drinking culture (and still is), and what me and my friends were doing was pretty much (except for the weed!) what our parents, their friends, and even the cops were doing on their party nights out. I will confess to being a little bit worse than the older generation in the sense that I typically did a “wake and bake” at 7:30 in the morning on the drive to “high” school. Of course, the older generation often had booze in their offices (I know my dad’s office did!), so we were probably pretty even on this score except that they waited until 10am at least—Hahaha!
Having said all that, I did have some incidents that challenged my driving diligence to a pretty extreme degree, and I can honestly say that I occasionally just got lucky. I generally tried not to drive while taking psychedelic drugs, but it did happen a few times. There’s nothing like driving through a storm of florescent purple snow while the road is melting in front of you! (The road where this happened was ironically named “Lake Shore Drive,” and I’ll leave it to you to figure out the irony we saw in that—Hahaha!) Talk about needing all your mental powers of focus… Seeing double from too much alcohol was also a challenge as well. Fortunately, there was a simple remedy for this in that you could close your non-dominant eye and focus on the lines on the road. Voila–No more double vision!
But these were very rare occurrences, and it’s also important to know that in these 2am situations there was generally not much traffic on the road, and any mishap would only injure me and my fellow party animals in the car. And I am so grateful that never happened with me behind the wheel. I wouldn’t be the same person today if I had hurt or killed someone (most likely a close friend) because of something stupid I had done while driving. I tried to strike a balance between my WTF attitude that life was meant to be wild and fun with the idea that life is at risk when you don’t do your best to mitigate the risks you can. I think I did a pretty good job balancing risk and reward, but I am also grateful for the luck that was involved in achieving half a million trouble-free DUI miles.
OK—So that was my attitude
toward diligent DUI in the ancient days, but unfortunately not all of my
friends shared that attitude. Like many
young men, they thought they were Mr. Invincible and Mario Andretti (you
youngsters look him up) all rolled into one whether sober or drunk. I can’t even begin to count the number of
times I’ve been scared shitless by some of my friends’ driving behavior in a variety
of both sober and altered states.
One of my most memorable scared shitless moments came when four of us were driving from high school downtown about 15 miles or so to our friend Marc’s house after final exams one semester in high school. I’m sure we fired up a fattie and popped a cold one in my friend Tim’s car on the way out of the parking lot, but DUI wasn’t really the issue that day. Tim had a souped-up 1974 Firebird that really hauled ass, and he never missed an opportunity to let you know it!
On the way to Marc’s house, we ran into some road construction and an ensuing traffic jam on the highway where they had closed off one lane and only left one lane open. Of course this slowed us down from 70mph to 10mph, and we had a case of cold beer waiting for us at Marc’s house! Well, Tim weaved back and forth for about a minute trying to see how long the traffic jam was, and it looked like it went on for quite a while. The left lane was closed, the right lane was open, and I was sitting in the minuscule rear passenger seat with the rather narrow emergency lane to my right outside the window. Tim kept jockeying in there to see if he could get a look ahead, and this brought my face to within literally inches of the 4′ tall solid cement retaining wall next to the narrow emergency lane. This didn’t bother me much when we were stuck in traffic at 10mph, but Tim quickly became impatient and decided to drive in the narrow emergency lane instead. (Apparently, he wanted that beer pretty soon!)
For the first few seconds
at about 25mph I was cool with my face so close to the retaining well that I
could count the rebar pieces, but as he quickly picked up speed I started to
get pretty nervous. There was literally
only about a foot between the line of slow cars to our left and about a foot
between my face and the cement retaining wall.
All it would have taken was one other curious driver to weave into the
emergency lane for a second to assess the jam ahead, and we (particularly me!)
would be toast.
When we hit about 40-50 with a line of nearly stopped cars to the left and the retaining wall almost touching my nose, I started to get really scared and yelled at Tim to chill out and slow down. Tim kind of laughed at me in the rear view mirror, so I gave a quick glance in Tim’s younger brother Brian’s direction in the rear driver’s side seat beside me and kind of raised my eyebrows as if to say: “He’s your brother-Can you please say something?” Brian kind of shook his head with a smirk as if to say: “Dude, you shouldn’t have said anything—It will only encourage him,” and damned if he wasn’t right about that! My fear and Brian’s knowledge of his brother proved to be accurate as we immediately got going to around 70-80mph because “that was closer to the speed limit” as Tim said later. The stopped traffic was literally a blur on my left as the cars flew by, and the retaining wall was so close I could have kissed it. I yelled a few more times to no avail, and eventually closed my eyes and STFU hoping I wouldn’t feel any pain as I died. The jam turned out to be about a mile long, and at 70mph that meant we made it through in about a minute, but I have to say that was one of the longest minutes of my life! So my gratitude in this situation is for the purely random good luck we were given that no other impatient drivers decided to have a quick swerve to look at the jam or to do what we did and veer into the emergency lane unexpectedly to “beat the traffic!”
A few years after this, Tim and I were college roommates living in downtown Milwaukee. One night we decided to go out drinking at a place called the Midget Tavern (also infamous serial killer/cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer’s regular hangout, and I’ll get to that in a minute!), and my car must have been in the shop because we took Tim’s motorcycle, a rather tiny Honda 350 road bike. The Midget was only about 3-4 miles away, so I thought nothing of it. (I never learn—Hahaha!) Of course we stayed until closing time (3:30am on Saturdays), and we were definitely pretty shit faced! I asked Tim if he was OK to drive us home on the bike and he told me I could wear the helmet! We were in the city so I knew we wouldn’t be going too far or too fast, so I hopped on.
I asked Tim if there was
anything I needed to do as a passenger, and he told me that whenever we stopped
at a light I should not put my feet down but keep them on the pegs and stay
centered on the seat behind him. He
would do everything else, which turned out to mean everything except stay awake
long enough to get us home in 10 minutes!
We got to a rather long stop light only a few blocks from our apartment,
and I noticed Tim was slowly leaning the bike to the right for no apparent
reason. Like a good passenger, I
followed his instructions and kept my feet on the pegs right up until we kept
leaning further right and eventually hit the ground! Of course we weren’t hurt and I apologized
for not putting my feet down and asked him what happened. He rather sheepishly (or sleepily) admitted
to me that he had literally fallen asleep at the traffic light! Obviously, this isn’t a particularly scary
story, but if Tim had fallen asleep while we were going 35 on a main drag, the
story could have had quite a different ending indeed! So I’m grateful for that bit of good luck
Jeffrey Dahmer Wedding Sidebar
Ok–So it’s time for the Jeffrey Dahmer sidebar story here… The Midget Tavern had been a favorite hangout of Tim’s and Scooter’s since our high school days, and they knew the owner Mike very well. The “Midget” was a very apropos name for the place because it was a tiny neighborhood bar that seated literally maybe 20-30 people. Needless to say, Mike the owner was on a first-name basis with almost everybody who came into his bar. When Tim and Kathy got married in the early ’80s, they had a little pre-wedding get together at the Midget for the wedding party. I went to the wedding, but I missed the Midget gathering because I wasn’t in the wedding party. (In hindsight, I certainly wish I had been in the photos below!)
In the photos below, Tim and Kathy are the third and fourth people from the left, and best man Scooter is standing next to Tim. Tim’s niece Becky is the cute little flower girl on the other side of the bar, and the dude in the baseball cap right behind her is none other than infamous serial killer Jeffery Dahmer. He lived only a few blocks away and was a regular patron of the Midget. He and Mike the owner were on a first-name basis, and nobody knew at the time that he had a bunch of dismembered bodies in his freezer that he was scarfing down on a regular basis!
Back on the Road with Crazy John…
Although Tim was often a
fast and aggressive driver, my high school friend John was absolutely nuts when
sober, and he got even worse when drinking.
He would mouth off to guys twice his size, insult entire groups of
people when it was just me and him (and I’ve never been in a fight in my
life—Seriously! And I’m grateful for
that too!), and he would drive like an absolute maniac when alcohol lowered his
inhibitions and removed all filters from his brain (and they were defective to
begin with). John had already gotten in
at least two pretty serious wrecks by the time he was 18, and fortunately they
were both one-car collisions and there were no passengers in his car. Until wreck #3 where I was the passenger…
We had been to a party in
an outer suburb of Milwaukee and we were staying at my house in a different
outer suburb about 35 miles away. So we
had a good long drive ahead of us at about 2am, and the dozen beers each of us
had didn’t help matters. I should stop
and say right here that if it had been one of my other friends, I might have
been offered the keys as the sane, focused DDD (designated drunk driver) and
things would likely have turned out differently. But John had an ego the size of Texas and he
was going to drive come hell or high water.
At that time John drove a ’74 Triumph TR6 convertible, and it was summer so we were riding with the top down. When we left the party around 2am, we noticed that one of our buddies had disconnected the two front seats from the floor and they were completely loose and floating on the floor! We didn’t have the tools or the patience to reconnect them then, so we lined them up in their tracks the best we could and headed out to my house. When we got about 5 miles away from home, we were on a rural road I knew quite well (it was that “Lake Shore Drive” again!), and we were going about 55 in a 35, but it was 2:30 in the morning so I wasn’t too worried until we started approaching what I knew to be a hairpin turn. I mentioned it to John at least ¼ mile in advance and figured he would slow down, but he told his Triumph could handle that “no problem” because it was a “sports car,” it was made for that, and he babbled something about how he was going to “oversteer” or some arrogant driving geek bullshit that would allow him to navigate the hairpin turn flawlessly without touching the brakes.
I started to panic when he
didn’t slow down because I knew a few things he didn’t about the turn, namely
that even in a “sports car” you couldn’t go faster than about 30, that
there was no guardrail on the hairpin turn, the ditch was literally about 6
feet deep, and there were large oak trees planted just beyond the ditch in the
yard adjacent to the road! Knowing this,
I yelled at him more loudly and firmly but to no avail. We hit that turn at about 45 as John hit the
brakes at the last second when he had his “Oh, shit!” moment, and we
of course went careening right off the road and into the deep ditch before we
even made it halfway around the turn. I
can still remember seeing one of the oak trees approaching the window directly
in front of me, and I thought I was a goner.
But by some miracle, the car hit something else underneath a nanosecond
before and shifted the car far enough to the left that I didn’t end up eating
the oak tree as a midnight snack! And
remember, our seats weren’t even attached to the floor and we weren’t wearing
our seatbelts because of that! I would
have likely been launched out of the convertible at 40mph to almost certain death.
We crashed to a stop in
the ditch without hitting a tree, and miraculously neither one of us was even
hurt. I think John may have bumped his
head on the steering wheel, but that was it.
I let out a huge sigh of relief as I realized we had made it through
this potentially deadly disaster unscathed but John was having none of that.
The word “gratitude” did not exist in John’s vocabulary (nor the
concept in his mind apparently either), and the first words out of his mouth
were something like: “Why didn’t you tell me it was a REAL hairpin
turn?!!” as though it were now somehow MY fault that he had crashed his
car! I barked back that I had been
screaming at him to slow down for a ¼ mile, the sign on the road said “15
MPH” with a 90-degree curve icon on it, and I never stopped telling him to
slow down right up until he hit the brakes at the last second when it was
already too late.
That shut him up long
enough for us to think about how we were going to go the 5 remaining miles to
my house (there was no Uber and Lyft in 1980—Hahaha!), and we certainly didn’t
want to hang around until some neighbor called the cops and John got a
DUI. This was rural BFE land in Mequon
(my semi-rural suburb at the time), so there was nobody around at 3am. We started walking down the road and my plan
was to make it a mile or so to the more major intersection and dream up a good
story I could tell my Mom when I called her on the pay phone. As we were walking, a car approached and just
for grins we put our thumbs out to try and hitch a ride. We figured nobody would stop at 3am, but it
turned out to be a cool dude about our age who did us a total solid and drove
us all the way back to my house!
I thought we were home
free, but my Mom heard us come in and I made the mistake of telling her the
truth about John putting his car in the ditch.
I told her we weren’t hurt and we were going to hit the hay and deal
with it in the morning. What I hadn’t
counted on was my Mom’s “play by The Man’s rules” authoritarian side
rising out of bed at 3am and insisting on calling the local police to report
the “accident.” I told her we
didn’t hit any other cars, nobody else was remotely involved, etc. but to no
avail. Mom had to “do the right
thing” in her mind, and although I was a bit nervous (for John really—I
wasn’t driving), I thought the cops would just tell us to sort it out in the
morning since we had already left the scene, and they wouldn’t want to schlep
out there at 4am, etc.
underestimated how little the Mequon police had to do at 4am, and they insisted
that Mom drive us both back to the scene of the accident so they could investigate,
write their report, etc. So into Mom’s
’74 Eldorado we went, and there were four cops there when we arrived. My Mom had figured out by this time that we
were quite drunk and she told us both to shut the hell up and stay near her car
while she went over to talk to the cops.
That actually surprised me, but Mom was walking the tightrope between
trying to follow “the rules” while still trying to protect us from
the wrath of the law. The cops didn’t
have too much trouble figuring out what happened, and we figured John would get
breath tested, arrested, and be on his way to a DUI.
Buuuuuut…We got really lucky in that one of the cops was Robert, our former next-door neighbor for about 10 years, and our families knew each other very well. In fact, Robert’s family were the local farmers who developed our neighborhood and we actually bought our house from them! My Mom confirmed Robert’s suspicions that we were probably quite drunk, and Robert had the kindness to not take things any further. They made John show his driver’s license, sign the report, and arrange for the car to be towed out of the ditch, and my Mom had already told both of us to shut the hell up and be nice to the cops because they were doing us (well really John) a huge favor as long as we didn’t say something stupid and piss them off. For once, John listened to some sound advice! Of course my Mom had to call John’s Mom and tell her what happened, and of course John bitched about that. I don’t think I need to explain the huge amount of gratitude I have for escaping my closest call ever with a premature death. Sure, things are pretty ugly now but that was nearly 40 years ago and I’m very grateful for that near miss with death and several others as well. I’ve already had nine lives, and I’m very glad “Lake Shore Drive” never got me over the years! (And it gave me my “Eric the Nudist” story, so I really can’t complain about the Tao of LSD, er—I mean “Lake Shore Drive.”)
I actually started out writing about this topic before and got sidetracked into how we learned to drive back in 1975. So the first couple of paragraphs will be similar, but I’m not going to talk about driving much at all. The basic point about driving and technology was that in the low-tech “olden days” you had the freedom to go anywhere you wanted because nobody was tracking you with GPS devices, etc. Hell, they didn’t even have cameras on the roads back in those days, and the best anyone could do was check your odometer (assuming it worked, and that was pretty easily remedied if you were inclined to!) The downside was that there was no Uber or Lyft, and if you were out partying you damned well better have great DUI skills because that was the only way you were getting home. (I’m contemplating that essay right now, but my thoughts on that topic will piss a lot of people off in the high-tech era!)
That said, I’m actually quite grateful to have grown up in what were really two distinct technological eras. The reason for that is that both eras have allowed me a great deal of freedom though in considerably different ways. Everyone who knows me knows that I’m a freedom lover, and I’m going to do my best in any era to have as much freedom and fun as humanly possible! I’m also kind of a Taoist at heart, and there is always going to be a balance between the positives and negatives of any given thing or situation, and technology is certainly no exception to that.
Of course human technology has always been advancing, and things were obviously different between birth and death for our parents’ and grandparents’ generations, but the rate of technological acceleration seems to have gone off the charts in my lifetime. I’m amazed at certain things, and I’ve probably said to at least 1,000 people that if you had told me when I was 25 that I would be able to hold a tool in my hand (as I wave my iPhone around) that can access almost all of the world’s knowledge and communicate with over a billion people via the spoken word, the written word, photography, video, music, and ALL PRETTY MUCH SIMULTANEOUSLY, I would have thought you were crazy. And all of this for under $1,000 and about $50/month. Wow…Talk about freedom!
The interesting thing
about the technology of the 1960s-2000 and 2000-present is to me the way it has
impacted the amount and types of freedom I’ve experienced in my life. Back in the “old days” of the
pre-PC era, there was a great deal more personal freedom in many ways because nobody
could “track” you, and there was no digital history of what you were
doing. It’s been said that once
something is online it lives forever, and I think that’s going to be pretty
much true until the world as we know it ends or changes in some very drastic
way. On the other hand, the ability for
immediate personal expression and connection to virtually half the people on
the planet is a hugely liberating thing that gives even a lone individual
degrees of freedom nobody could have imagined before the modern technological
When I was growing up in
the low-tech era, there was so much anonymity that I could easily afford to have
a WTF attitude and take more risks in a variety of ways. You could get drunk and say whatever the hell
you wanted, and the only people who knew about it were your friends and other
people who were actually physically present.
And if you were at a party or a bar where more off-the-cuff conversation
and behavior were likely to happen, chances are that the others in the room
were in a similar state and would either laugh at or join in any stupidity you
might exhibit, or at least wouldn’t remember it very clearly the next day! Hell—even if you offended 100 people (and
most of them probably wouldn’t even know your name), in a week or two all would
be forgotten and perhaps most importantly, THERE WERE NO CAMERAS IN EVERYBODY’S
POCKETS AND HANDS to provide a permanent record of any stupidity you may have
committed. Not to mention, there was no
internet to post it on so that your stupidity (or even just outside-the-box
self-expression) could INSTANTLY BECOME VISIBLE TO MILLIONS OF PEOPLE
The worst that could happen in the “olden days” was that a small circle of your friends would remember “the X story” and every once in a while you would have to hear something like: “remember when Eric said or did such-and-such to so-and-so, and the other person did this or that?” And everyone in the room might re-live a laugh at your expense, but that would be the extent of it. Hell—My attitude was and is so WTF I actually enjoy making other people laugh, even if it is at “my expense.” I’ve told some of those stories here, and I want you to get a charge out of them and think, “that dude is kind of crazy—I would never say or do that!” (But I’ll bet some of you wish you had—Hahahaha!)
Now think about the old days relative to the all-knowing modern era for a minute. I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all heard stories of people who did one thing that wasn’t necessarily even “wrong” in everyone’s eyes had their entire lives negatively impacted by one foolish moment or even worse, a false accusation. I have a friend whose son was falsely accused of something sexually inappropriate by a crazy young woman who has accused at least 4 others (that I know of!) because she likes the attention of being a public “victim.” He was temporarily banished from his college campus and only his parents spending over $50K on a really good lawyer got him back in school. And he went through a shit ton of emotional trauma that he didn’t deserve and could negatively impact his psyche for life. If something like that had happened to me at age 18, I sure as hell wouldn’t have had my WTF attitude and nearly as much fun in life!
Now I’m certainly not saying that all accusations are false (but I know this one was—I’ve seen the digital evidence!), and there has already been a ton of stuff written about this topic online, but think about how modern technology has negatively impacted one’s propensity to take a chance and have a WTF attitude if you don’t even have to actually do something for someone else to say you did in front of THE ENTIRE PLANET. That’s a little scary to me. If a future employer can “Google” your name and find out about something foolish, wild, or a little “outside the box” (or untrue!) decades later and not hire you, I would say that definitely inhibits one’s freedom to take some risks and enjoy life to the fullest. Fortunately, a lot of people are actually human and regularly say WTF anyway. Modern technology just makes the risk that much greater.
Another area that has been impacted by modern technology for both good and for ill is creative license. The propensity for good in the high-tech era can be found in the freedom to create whatever the hell you want and make it available to the world on a moment’s notice. Back in the old days, to make a video, record a song, or write a book and make it publicly available took a huge amount of time and money, which meant that corporate interests tended to exercise much more control over the creative process. And you generally couldn’t get it done without a pile of money! Although this was the case, corporate interests like record companies, etc. really didn’t care about the content itself as long as it sold and made them money. In a way, this gave the artists a lot of creative freedom to say WTF, because they knew their audiences and what they liked. And the old cigar-chomper guys in the office didn’t really look too closely at the creative content while they counted their coin…
Of course there were
certainly do-gooder censorship types who would raise a stink in the local media
or in Congress once in a while (anyone remember Al’s wife Tipper Gore trying to
rate/censor “obscene, violent, sexist, insert your evil adjective here
rock music in the mid-1980s?). My idol
Frank Zappa actually went in front of Congress during the hearings for Tipper’s
bill (and she wasn’t even a legislator, but her husband was a senator, so I
guess that was close enough to censor rock ‘n’ roll!) But the end result of this was kind of ho-hum,
and a few heavy metal albums were rated as “nasty” in some form. Sure, some parents probably became more aware
of what their kids were listening to, but most parents in that era didn’t like
rock music so they would pretty much ignore it.
Mine sure did even though I played it constantly.
Here are a couple of songs with lyrics by a couple of my favorite artists that were released in 1968 and 1978 respectively. The first one is the Rolling Stones’ “Stray Cat Blues.” The gist of it is that the protagonist Mick Jagger is trying to entice a 15-year-old girl and her friend to “come upstairs” to his room for some wild sex. In the live version of the song, Mick changes the girl’s age from 15 to 13. Somehow I can’t see this happening today without a huge amount of instant outrage on social media, etc… (On second thought, perhaps all those wealthy executives and powerful politicians who hung out with Jeffery Epstein on his “kiddie island” might not object to it. Or to Hitlery killing him either–But I digress…)
The second song is Frank Zappa’s “Bobby Brown,” and the gist of this song is that some arrogant jock dude (Bobby Brown) “fucks this dyke” who cuts of his balls and turns him into a “homo.” FYI—I bought the Rolling Stones’ record when I was about 15 and the Zappa record when I was 17 or 18. Ahhh…The creative freedom of the ancient age when nobody was the wiser… Have a listen if you dare. But be prepared to be “offended” even though the song is intended as a complete satire on arrogant Joe Jockstraps, who are certainly a safe target these days–Hahaha! Hell–I even played this song in front of audiences a few times in a band…
Now, I’m not of fan of most modern music (mostly because they play it with computers instead of real humans creating a real groove with real instruments, but hey—I’m an old guy who used to play actual instruments…), and I’m guessing that equally nasty lyrics abound and you can find songs like that on the internet. But, much like the person who holds back from saying something “offensive” or having a WTF attitude, I think that the threat of instant backlash on the internet is going to create a lot of self-censorship even as the songs are being written, particularly if the goal is to sell as much music as possible in whatever format they sell music in these days (digital downloads?)
I’m guessing this self-censorship is similar to the person at the party who doesn’t want to take a risk because everyone has a device connected to the internet, and one mistake could ruin a career or at least one’s social life. I think this is especially true in the current PC era where every snowflake wants to have their 15 seconds of fame on the internet signaling their virtue and being “offended” by something racist, sexist, misogynist, ad infinitum, ad absurdum… Feel free in the comments to point out that I’m completely wrong though. I would love to hear some edgy new stuff very soon!
And finally, the moment
you’ve all been waiting for—Dating in the low-tech and high-tech eras! The first (and rather obvious) thing I must
point out is that the advent of modern technology did not eliminate the old
school ways of dating and mating in any way, shape or form. The great news is that even with Match,
Tinder, Bumble, Fumble (yeah, I THINK I’m kidding on the last one—Hahaha!) and
100 other dating sites and apps, you can still meet new people the
old-fashioned ways at work, at bars, on the dance floor (one of my faves!), in
a store, anywhere else in person, or being “fixed up” by a mutual
friend (how I met my last girlfriend Sherry if you read our stories in
“Imagine”). So technology
hasn’t really detracted from the dating scene at all but only added to it.
I’ve done my fair share of
dating over the recent years when I was single, and I’ve met fun, interesting,
beautiful women in both low-tech and high-tech ways. They both seem to work
pretty well. Obviously, the advantage to
low-tech is that you usually meet in person first, so you already know if there
is a physical attraction at least.
Photos online aren’t always accurate (often by design, and I worked in
advertising so I ought to know!), and people can spend a lot of time tweaking
their profile so they sound more attractive than they really are.
On the other hand, the high-tech method of meeting potential dates is that you literally have the opportunity to meet 1,000 times more people than you would just going about your day, and you can pre-screen people based on 50 different characteristics. I was always very open-minded in terms of age, race, occupation and stuff like that, but I did prefer women who were really into good music or had other common interests like hiking and the gym. Even though you won’t hit it off with the majority of on-line dates, I liked the social WTF nature of meeting new (and potentially “strange”–Hahaha!) women for happy hour (always my first option!) I can say that many people tend to overthink this aspect of things in terms of putting too much emphasis on what a person’s online profile says. Live a little and just say WTF, for Chrissakes! Life is short–What have you got to lose by taking a chance and meeting someone new?
OK—You asked for it. Below are a few G-rated photos of some of the interesting and beautiful women I was lucky enough to meet using both low-tech and high-tech realities in recent years. But I’ve gotten plenty of X-rated ones over the years too which I never once asked for. (I certainly love a woman who shares my WTF attitude in the modern era! But I won’t post them–Scout’s honor…) So now you know why I’m damned grateful for living in both eras. Talk about the best of both worlds! And thank you very much ladies for saying WTF and wanting to meet me. I really enjoyed your company on a date at the very least and sometimes we hit it off! What more can a guy ask from life?
And if you’ve made it to the end, I’ll point out that with only two exceptions all of these women are all in my age bracket (around 50). (And if you try to guess which ones, you’ll probably guess wrong!) I can honestly say that I felt so lucky to have experienced the “dating life” in the modern era with so many sweet, fun, beautiful women my age. And since I was no longer a boy or somewhat clueless young man, I had the time of my life and I think all of the girls enjoyed themselves hanging out with me. At least I hope so because the real beauty of the man/woman thing for me as a straight guy was the yin/yang vibe of hanging out with awesome girls and simply enjoying some time and life together. (Disclaimer: To each his or her own and no judgement express or implied regarding the sexual preferences of others–Hahaha!!)
What’s been interesting about my current situation is that when my old friends have come to visit or have reached out to me via email, etc., they remember old life stories that I had forgotten about. My friend Dano came to visit a month or so ago and reminded me of something that happened when we were about 17 or so, and I can definitely say I was grateful for this fun experience that had completely slipped my mind. It’s nothing deeply meaningful in a cosmic sense, but I think it is funny and does once again demonstrate the WTF attitude I had once I hit puberty.
Dano was lucky enough to
live in an awesome house right on Lake Michigan in our idyllic town of Mequon,
Wisconsin. We used to have campfires on
the beach and party there and in his boathouse all through high school and
college. Where Dano lived though, the
house was actually about a ¼ mile from the lake itself, and you had to climb up
a wooded path through the lake bluff forest to get between his house and the
beach. Dano liked to fish, and one
summer day he had inflated his large rubber raft, dropped it on the beach, and
returned up the wooded path to his house to get his fishing gear. That took about 15 minutes or so, and when he
returned he was pleasantly surprised (I assume!) and certainly shocked to
discover two completely nude girls about our age casually lounging in his raft
which they had launched into Lake Michigan!
Boring rural Wisconsin had somehow transformed itself into a sexually
liberated place like the south of France (or at least Southern
The girls invited him to join them in the raft, but they explained that the raft was now a “nudist raft” and that he would have to “drop trou” if he wanted to get on his own raft—Hahaha! Well, Dano is half Korean and comes from a very socially conservative family so he wasn’t about to do that, particularly in his own back yard! But being the good friend that he is to all his buds, he decided to hike up the bluff again to call his close friend Phil who only lived about 5 minutes away and tell him about the new status of his now “nudist raft.” Of course this was in the old days of hard wired home phones only, and when Phil didn’t answer the phone, Dano had the good sense and kind heart to call his good friend Eric (or “Crickey” as I was known back then) and offer him the opportunity of a lifetime (at least where we lived!) Fortunately for me, I was home and answered the phone on a Saturday afternoon that summer day.
What’s funny is that Dano didn’t tell me anything about what was really going on, but simply asked me what I was doing right now. I replied, “not much, what’s up with you?” or something similar, and he said: “You need to come over to my house RIGHT NOW.” I naturally wondered what the hell was going on and asked if everything was OK with him, and he said: “Oh, it’s more than OK—Just trust me on this and get your ass over here right now before it’s too late.” I’m sure I made another comment, but when he told me again to just “trust me on this one,” I hopped in my car and took the 15-minute drive over there. Dano wasn’t the kind of guy to BS you about anything, so I was game for whatever he thought was so important.
When I pulled into the driveway, Dano had this shit-eating grin on his face so I knew at least everything was OK in Danoville. Of course, I asked what was going on and he still refused to tell me, but said that all would be obvious once we got down to the lake. I must say I was rather intrigued but had absolutely no idea what to expect. When we finally got to the beach, the nude girls waved at us and asked us to join them on Dano’s “nudist raft.” I was beside myself with equal measures of surprise and excitement, and the first thought that went through my head was: “Are you freaking kidding me?!!” and the second was, “Oh, hell yeah!” I started taking off my clothes and was pretty much expecting Dano to do the same. I’m not sure if he expected me to be all in so quickly, but my mind was filled with possibilities, and I had to play this thing out. I’m sure it crossed my mind more than once that these two girls wanted to mess around with we two guys, etc. and that some kind of sex fest was indeed quite possible.
I asked Dano why he wasn’t getting naked to join the girls, and I think he said something about not wanting to have any of his family see him if they should wander down to the lake by chance. I certainly understood that, and tried to act as cool and nonchalant as possible to impress the very free-spirited girls at this point. I got on the raft with them and tried not to stare at their nubile young bodies, which was pretty tough for a young guy like me! But I knew I had to “act cool” like this was no big deal or the girls would think I was uncool and wouldn’t take things any further.
What was interesting was that as we got to relaxing and talking for a while, the thought of sex as a goal or outcome gradually went away and it became clear that the whole nudist thing wasn’t really about sex at all. Being a young man, I certainly enjoyed the view (and I hope they did too—At least the lake wasn’t too cold that day—Hahaha!), but I started to understanding the psychologically liberating nature of nudism as a concept. Dano stayed in the water on the side of the raft and was involved in the conversation while navigating the raft and making sure we didn’t end up too far out into the lake. He did his best to act cool and not stare at the girls.
I think we were all chilling and talking for about an hour when Dano & I noticed a rather large, athletic teenage dude standing on the shore only about 50 feet from us in the raft! Dano later said the guy reminded him of Lou Ferrigno, the actor who played “The Incredible Hulk” on the TV show from that era, and I have to admit there was certainly some resemblance. The dude looked like a high school football linebacker, and I was just a skinny, long-haired guitar player! The girls had told us they were guests visiting family friends a few houses down the road from Dano’s, and when we saw him I thought I was in serious trouble. The first thing that ran through my mind was that one of the girls was his sister, the other was his girlfriend, and I believe that actually turned out to be the case!
But when he shouted out to the girls quite casually that they better come back to the house because it was getting close to dinner, I started to relax a little. I wasn’t going to relax quite yet, but one of the girls (the sister, I think) calmly told Dano to bring the raft to the shore, I started to settle down. At that point I felt a little weird, but as we approached the shore and “Hulk, Jr.” could see I was naked, he didn’t bat an eyelash. We all got dressed, said goodbye, and I never really did find out whether these people were tourists from SoCal or just a family of touring nudists. It was an eye-opening experience that prepared me for some later adventures in life… I was grateful at the time for the liberating experience, the lesson that nudism didn’t necessarily mean sex, and even more grateful about 40 years later for the lesson that it could be about sex depending on who the “nudists” were!
This is a philosophical piece on how freedom and fear are essentially opposing forces in the universe and within ourselves. The more I contemplate my new life with ALS, the more I am learning about philosophical things like freedom and fear. I may be a prisoner in my body to an extent I never imagined, but this has motivated me to free my own mind even more and to try and help others by freeing theirs a bit.
I can honestly say that I’ve had so many experiences for which I’m grateful largely because I haven’t been afraid to take risks, try new things, and meet people all over the various spectra of life. My default position for most things that aren’t inherently bad/evil is honestly: “Sure, WTF—Why the hell not!” For those of you who have already read some of my other stories, you might be thinking: “That guy is nuts—I would never be crazy enough (or dumb enough in some cases—Hahaha!) to take psychedelic drugs, smoke weed publicly in a foreign country (or in a US jail cell), go trail running alone in 112-degree heat, or drive around in a snowstorm illegally at age 14 (or hallucinating on LSD!) And you would certainly be right that this stuff would be classified as “risky behavior” by many people. (And I still have more “risky behavior” stories on the way!)
relationship between freedom and fear is more than that because I think many
people let fear get in the way of doing things that are certainly physically
and legally safe simply because of their own personal insecurities or
“hangups” as the hippies used to call them back in the day (even a
little before my time!). A simple
example of this might be something I have always loved to do, and that’s
dancing by myself in public to live music.
Unlike many guys in particular (it’s certainly more socially acceptable
for women in our culture), I’ve never hesitated to shake it by myself even when
nobody else is out on the dance floor.
I’ve had friends (though not close friends—they get me) and strangers
give me the hairy eyeball as though there were something wrong with dancing if
I didn’t have a female dance partner or wait until other people started
I might be gay (not that there’s anything wrong with that, but this was long
before it was cool!) or that I was just some kind of weirdo who didn’t want to
play by “the rules.” My
attitude (often influenced by the 5 beers and other trendy chemical amusement
aids) was always that “somebody’s gotta get this party started, and I’m
your guy!” I truly loved the music
I went out to hear over 1,000 times in my life.
It made me want to move and I wasn’t about to let some imaginary fear of
“everybody looking at me funny” to stop me from having a good
time. And the irony is that a lot of the
time, when others saw me out there by myself, they would join in.
I ended up dancing with and meeting a lot of fun, beautiful women by having the
stones to get out there and be the first guy shaking it! I actually met Cindy and April, both of my
serious girlfriends in my 20s, doing exactly that. April was someone who would dance alone too,
and we would regularly cross paths on the dance floor of our favorite bands
like The Effects, Walt Richardson, Small Paul, and others. We literally became friends for life by
meeting on the dance floor repeatedly.
At a different show, Cindy saw me dancing by myself to Big Pete Pearson
and the Blues Connection, and it turned out that we both knew Bob Corritore
(Big Pete’s harmonica player at the time and now owner of the famous Rhythm
Room). She asked Bob if he knew me, bought
me a beer on the break, and we were together for over two years after
that. All because I got myself noticed
on the dance floor… (And there is
another story about Cindy and April on the way—Still love you both!)
The lack of
fear influenced my career to a huge extent as well. My friend and former business partner Marc
gave me another piece of advice I didn’t mention in my “Film and Photo
Production–It Beats a ‘Real Job'” story.
This advice was something along the lines of (I’m paraphrasing a bit
here) “If someone on set asks you if you know how to do something you’ve
never done before, just say “yes” and figure it out.” It was probably only my third or fourth job
as a flunkie production assistant (PA), and Richard the producer (who quickly
became a friend as well) asked me if I would go to Grand Travel and pick up the
production motorhome and drive it for the next couple of days on the
shoot. I had never driven one before,
but I had seen plenty of geezers riding around town in those giant boats (this
one was 34’ long), so I told Richard it was no problem and immediately called
Marc to figure out what the hell to do! I
told him I had said yes per his advice and he told me not to worry about a
thing. “If the old geezers can drive
those things, so can you!” was his argument, and I couldn’t argue with his
Marc had driven them before, and he gave me a few handy tips and told me the
rental place would give me a 90-minute crash course on how everything worked (electrical,
plumbing, removing the bed from the bedroom to make room for the wardrobe
department, etc.) and that I should take good notes since I was now officially
the motorhome PA on the shoot! I did
indeed rise to the challenge and the end result was that this new skill was the
impetus for Marc and I buying our own production motorhome and starting a
business called Cinemasters together. We
had it for about 8 years, and it was instrumental in me getting a lot of the
fashion photo production work I got in the first decade of my career as a
producer and location scout. Simply
saying “yes” instead of “no” or “er, ummmm…”
literally advanced my career by leaps and bounds and made me a pretty good
chunk of change in the years immediately following. Thanks again for the great advice Marc, and
the answer is always “yes!”
I would have
to say I took the same approach in terms of personal friendships as well. It seems that the goal of a lot of people is
to find and choose friends who are mirror images of themselves or damned close
to it. While I certainly agree that you
need to have something in common for an initial attraction, the rest of your
interests, personality traits, philosophical outlooks on life, etc. can be
considerably different. I always enjoyed
learning and discovering new interests and new ways of thinking from my
friends. For example, on the political
spectrum “Eric the libertarian” is a complete outlier in that
probably only 1% of people share my almost anarchist philosophy. The fact that 99% of my friends disagree with
me makes for a lot of really great fun in terms of kicking ideas around,
debating, mocking each other in good fun, etc.
And I equally enjoy both the mocking and being mocked! The only “risk” to being mocked is
one’s potentially fragile ego, and you need to get over whiny shit by age 15 at
the latest. As I recently discovered,
taking yourself too seriously is a definite waste of the precious little time
you really have in life, and you have no idea how much time that is actually
going to be!
On the social side of things, I’ve got friends who range from traditional mainstream religious monogamists to atheist polyamorous swingers. (If you’re lucky, I might decide to tell you more about them–wink!) I’ve got friends whose main interests revolve around outdoor stuff like camping, fishing, and building stuff with their own two hands to others who can’t change a tire on their car but speak several languages and read as many weird books as I do. I’ve got friends who are as into musical diversity and esoteric shit in the extreme (love my ZappaHead friends!), while others listen to musical garbage on the radio that would put me to sleep. But I can assure you that I have other things I love about my musically clueless friends, and we focus on that stuff instead and I occasionally mock their lack of musical knowledge or taste. It is pretty safe to say that if you don’t have a sense of humor (no matter how weird), then I probably won’t be a good friend for you! At the end of the day, I urge everyone to take a chance, say “yes” to something new, and remember that you only have one life to live. The only thing you have to fear is fear itself, so get out and dance, dammit!!!
One of the more interesting bands I played in was a political parody band called “The Cartridge Family.” It came together around 1999 when a group of pro-gun types got together for the purpose of political activism during the 2000 election season. It was a mixture of conservatives and libertarians (and to be perfectly clear–I’M ONE OF THE LIBERTARIANS, AND I’M NOT A RED TEAM REPUBLICAN!!! See the memes below…) who agreed that the right to self-defense and the personal ownership of firearms was a legitimate freedom, and we had several meetings to strategize various protests, articles, political action, etc. that might draw attention to the right to keep and bear arms (known to us as “RKBA!”). There was no initial intention of forming a band, but there were some clever people in the group who oddly enough had some parody song ideas written down and even a verse and chorus or two.
As you know, I had played in many bands before and found this idea very intriguing to say the least, and so did a few of the other political activist guys who played or sang. Please don’t hold me to the actual details of how we ended up with the actual band, but after a few political meetings, Craig, Alan, Bob and I ended up forming an actual political protest band and began rehearsing. To keep things simple (OK—We were old and lazy or at least Alan was—Hahahahaha!!) and in the musical vein of the protest bands of the 1960s (think Dylan, Arlo Guthrie, etc.), Alan and I were the acoustic guitar players, and all four of us sang. Our plan was also to be mobile enough that we could show up at political rallies, street protests or almost anywhere else at a moment’s notice and perform with no need for power or piles of equipment.
We took some of the original parody song ideas and fleshed those out and then added a bunch more of our own into the mix. Our opening song (and probably our signature song as well) was a parody version of Buddy Holly’s “That’ll Be the Day” with lyrics supporting the RKBA. We wrote and recorded about 15 tunes, although we never really could sell the record because of complicated copyright issues and the legal quagmire surrounding song parodies in general (First Amendment? HAH!). (And we know because Alan got a law student to research this, and both written law and case law was all over the place!) Some of our other song titles included “Secret Gun Ban Plan” (to the tune of “Secret Agent Man,” “ACLU” (to the tune of “YMCA”), and “The Little Armed Lady from Pasadena.” I’ll attach a few so you can check them out. We recorded them in a real studio and they actually sound pretty decent.
We played all kinds of
gigs in a 15-year period including nearly every “Freedom Summit” and
AZCDL convention, several NRA meetings, and more street protests and other
impromptu things than I can count. We campaigned
against crappy politicians like John McPain and Dianne Swinestein. We mocked local politicians every chance we
got, and it was a hell of a lot of fun.
In case you’re wondering, I believe I thought up the name for the band
(a parody on “The Partridge Family” for those of you old enough to
remember that cheesy TV show from the ’70s!), but if the other guys remember it
differently I’ll be glad to correct the mistakes my feeble old mind may make
from time to time—Hahahaha! We all
naturally took parody nicknames as well—Craig “.300 Win Mag”
Cartridge, Bob “.50 Caliber BMG” Cartridge, Eric “.44
Magnum” Cartridge, and Alan “.22 Caliber Short” Cartridge. Alan had the biggest mouth in the band so we
ironically named him after the quietest round of ammo!
Musically, we did manage to achieve pretty decent three-part harmony on a bunch of the songs, and that was a first for me. My other bands were typically groove oriented rock bands where jammin’ and dancing were the top priority, so this was a really good new thing for me. And it was a hell of a lot of fun to hear people laugh at the punch lines in the lyrics. I’ve been laughed at before, but typically not with full intention in most cases—Hahahaha!
Below are some photos of our gigs and mp3 files of some songs—We weren’t all that visually appealing, but we were pretty funny in the right crowd, and to be honest, I enjoyed the rare performance in front of a hostile audience when they would boo at the punch lines instead of laughing—It really was quite a bit of fun to piss off the anti-freedom crowd!
Unfortunately, this story didn’t end quite as well as the first one, probably because it involved the “big city” Milwaukee police department instead of our local small-town suburban police. Things started out innocently enough with my girlfriend and I and another couple chilling out in a local city park in a place called Brown Deer, WI. I was 17, she was 16, and the drinking age at the time was 18. Not that it mattered a hell of a lot in Wisconsin at the time, and the park was literally deserted on a weekday afternoon in the summer around 1:00. The other couple wasn’t drinking, but my girlfriend and I decided to share a six-pack of beer. No big deal, we thought…
After we were about halfway through our beers, we noticed a couple of middle-aged guys in jeans and T-shirts tossing a football around about 100 yards away from us and didn’t really think anything of it. They gradually got closer, and pretty soon they were pretty much right on top of us in a giant empty park. Just as I was thinking how weird this was, one of the guys whips out his badge and tells us they are cops. I really wasn’t too nervous at this point—In Wisconsin in the 1970s, the cops were pretty lax about alcohol, and I honestly thought they would probably check our IDs, make us dump the beer, and kick us out of the park. But, alas—It was not to be. It turns out these clowns were “detectives” who were busy slacking off in the park, tossing a football around, and busting harmless kids for having a few beers (and getting waaaaaay overpaid to do it!). They carded us all and then started searching our pockets and looking for a reason to arrest us. Well, the beer was technically enough to arrest my girlfriend and I, but I had the misfortune to have the princely sum of about $3 worth of weed in my pocket. Officer Slacker immediately slapped the cuffs on us and radioed for (get this!) an old-school paddy wagon to cart us all the way downtown to the main county jail!
As the cops made us do the proverbial “walk of shame” handcuffed together (I kind of liked that part-wink!) through the park to the paddy wagon, my girlfriend was crying thinking about her parents punishing her (even though they knew full well that she drank beer like many other kids in that era!) In contrast, I was actually pretty pissed off at the hyperbolic response by these two “undercover detectives” looking for an easy day at work on the taxpayers’ dime rather than looking for any real criminals (who existed in large quantities only a few miles from the park!) Of course…Yours truly could not resist offering the cops exactly that opinion of their “work” that day pretty much from the moment they slapped the cuffs on us to when they sat me down in the station for what they thought would be their lecture to me. I expressed my annoyance at their lame lecture and gave them a piece of my mind about “harmless kids” versus “real criminals” and told them that two guys spending 6 hours each busting two kids for drinking beer was a ridiculous waste of taxpayer money!
The detectives did not take kindly to my diatribe and thought they would teach me a lesson by locking me in a real jail cell in the room behind them. I just shook my head and peacefully complied of course, and I spent the only three hours of my life I would ever spend inside a real jail cell. (And it was the old-school kind with rusty pale green bars, etc.—Kind of like this one.)
The jail was nearly empty on a weekday afternoon of course, so I had my own cell (probably because I was a minor I would guess). But there were two other people in nearby cells, and one of them gave me a friendly greeting as the cop led me past him into my cell. He was a white guy a few years older than me, and we started talking for a while about why we were there, etc. He was in the cell beside me so I couldn’t really see him. What I did notice for the first time in my life though was a black dude dressed in drag passed out on his bunk in the cell directly across from me! Being a suburban white dude, I had never seen anything like that before! I asked the other guy what the hell was up with that, and he explained that the passed out drag dude was probably a heroin addict they caught trying to turn tricks in exchange for his H.
I said something like, “Damn—I’m never doing that shit. I’ll stick to beer and weed!” The guy immediately replied, “Oh, you smoke weed?” I reiterated that I did and he surprised the hell out of me by asking if I wanted to smoke with him!!! I said: “You mean here? INSIDE THE MILWAUKEE COUNTY JAIL?!!!” He replied that that was exactly what he meant, and I asked him how he managed to get his weed inside the jail. I told him they took mine from my front pocket during my arrest, and he said: “Well, you should have put a doobie in your sock like I did!” It turns out he even had a pack of matches in there, so I can honestly say that the only time I ever went to jail, I arrived sober and left high. Talk about something that is very unusual to be grateful for—Hahahaha!!! Fortunately, the cops let me cool my heels in there for about three hours before my Mom showed up to get me. They told my Mom I seemed like a good kid who just had a problem with authority (you think?!) and that if I stayed out of trouble for a few more months until I was 18 my record would be expunged. I don’t happen to believe that “expunged records” really exist—Someone probably scanned them into a computer at some point in 1995 just in case… If not, they can read my blog about it!
Needless to say, my Mom was none too pleased as we left the station; she explained that my father was furious and that I would be grounded for a long time to come. Of course I can’t blame someone from her generation from being mortified at having to pick her son up from the police station, but I was still hopping mad about the way the whole thing went down and what I maintained was the cops’ huge overreaction. My Mom and I were on opposite sides of this authoritarian issue (and remain so to this day!), so I received an indefinite grounding as punishment. But a friend of mine was having a party that night (her parents were out of town—imagine that!), so I decided that I was simply not going to accept my punishment.
In my mind, I had done nothing wrong to anyone; I was behaving nicely and minding my own business drinking beer with my girlfriend, and it was the cops who were in the wrong for arresting me rather than simply dumping my beer and booting us out of the park. In that spirit, I went into the basement of our house, walked out the door, snagged my bike from the garage (couldn’t risk Mom & Dad hearing my car start!) and rode my bike to the party in about 20 minutes. To my credit, I called my parents immediately when I arrived so they wouldn’t worry about where I was and told them I did not agree with their punishment and simply refused to accept it. I didn’t want them to worry about me or be an asshole about it, but I had to be true to myself and honest with them. After getting over their initial anger, I think my parents understood that I had a point, and the next day we agreed on a 2-week grounding to keep peace in the household. Hey, even we anarchist libertarians can compromise for love…
I’m not sure all of you will approve of these stories either, but now that you have some idea who I am, you might be wondering whether I had any run-ins with the police in my lifetime. I can honestly say that I had several notable experiences but was fortunate enough to escape relatively unscathed in every sense. I can also say that I was still the same easygoing fun person I am today. I never thought of myself as some crazy rebel who hated the police or anything—I just didn’t (and still don’t!) believe that other people had some magical authority over me in terms of forcing “naptime” upon me at age 4 or telling me I couldn’t drink a beer or smoke a plant at age 16. I guess I was always hard wired to be an anarchist libertarian. At the end of the day, I’m grateful for my run-ins and close calls with the police at a young age because it made the concept of freedom crystal clear to me and gave me a healthy fear of what authoritarians could do to you if you weren’t careful. And holding freedom as one of my highest values allowed me to enjoy life waaaaaay more than I otherwise would have. (And I think they are pretty funny and ironic stories you may enjoy…)
My First Close Call (1978)
It was in 1978, and I was 16 years old at the time. Back in the 1970s, a steady supply of weed was difficult to come by consistently, particularly since we lived in Wisconsin about 1,500 miles from the Mexican border. Since my buds and I were regular weed smokers, it was a bummer when the town went “dry” for a month (usually in the winter when we needed it most!), and this pissed me off considering that we lived in a so-called “capitalist country.” My solution to the problem was quite rational (or so I thought at the time!)—I simply decided to buy quarter pounds of weed instead of smaller amounts (called “nickel bags” and “dime bags” back in the day because of their respective $5 and $10 price tags) so at least my close friends and I wouldn’t have to suffer during the dry spells. I would have enough in my inventory to sell to my friends for a while, and it had the added benefit of reducing the per unit cost by about 40% so I would get to smoke for free! (Yes, I was a capitalist even as a weed-smoking teenager!)
I had just returned to our local burg from my downtown high school where I scored a “QP” (quarter pound) of so-called “Gold ‘Lumbo” (it was probably grown in some hillbilly’s greenhouse in Kentucky—Hahahaha!) and went over to my friend K’s empty house (his parents had put it up for sale but he still had the keys) to divide it into smaller quantities I could share with my friends. We went inside for a while to smoke a quick one and shoot a round of pool, and I divided the bulk weed into 16 quarter ounces in sandwich baggies (how 1970s!!). We locked up the house around 5pm or so, hopped in K’s car, and were just about to take off when literally at least a half dozen cop cars (and at least twice as many cops) pulled into the driveway surrounding us! I was sitting in the back seat behind K, and was quickly getting pretty freaked out! A few thoughts went through my head (none of them good!) as I frantically stashed the bags of weed under the back seat of the car. Not only did I have weed; I had a quarter pound of it, AND it was in 16 separate baggies which automatically made me an evil “dope dealer!” Things could have turned out badly for me indeed!
Fortunately for all of us, K had the presence of mind to jump out of the car and immediately greet the first “Officer Friendly” who was walking up to the car. K quickly explained that he was the owner’s son and that his Dad sent him over to check on things or some BS story. While this was going on, one of the other cops peered through the windows at the rest of us, and I thought for sure he was going to search us or the car or both. Thankfully, K was such a great schmoozer that the cops bought his story and let us ride peacefully away in a few minutes. We were all sweating bullets of course and glad to have escaped unscathed. But that left a really important unanswered question…
I’m sure you’re wondering why all those cop cars would pull into the driveway of a residential home in a small town without suspecting a thing about us. I know I was confused, and it turns out that K’s dad (unbeknownst to K) had given the local cops permission to use his house and 5-acre lot for “training purposes,” and that’s why nearly every cop on the force showed up at once. For a training exercise. Talk about an unlucky coincidence! But it worked out much better than my next interaction in “Fun with the Police-Chapter 2…”
Back in the 1960s, it was
pretty much a parental decision in terms of when one’s child would start
school. I’ve heard they have strict
rules now, but if your parents were sick of you driving them nuts around the
house, they could sign you up for school at the drop of a hat. That’s pretty much what happened to me when
my parents enrolled me in kindergarten at Oriole Lane School back in 1966.
I lived in an idyllic place called Mequon, Wisconsin which was about an even mixture of honest, hard-working farmers, blue-collar folks, and college graduates who wanted to live in a place where they could raise their kids right. It was so idyllic in fact that my kindergarten teacher’s name was Mrs. Apple. Seriously. If my memory serves (sort of), Mrs. Apple was a really sweet 20-something woman who had all the business in the world teaching kindergarten. She was kind, relaxed, had a very chill demeanor in general and could totally relate to young children.
I really liked Mrs. Apple a lot (as did all the kids), but there was a problem in my head when she would declare that it was “naptime” around 11am. I was a very energetic young boy (some things never change!), and I was very perplexed by a “naptime” so early in the day. It didn’t register in my young mind that it could possibly be “naptime” if I weren’t even tired. However, it did register that someone else could not assume the power to make me take a nap against my will. Apparently, the hard wiring in my brain was different than that of the other kids. Although I didn’t have a word for it yet, I realized I was a libertarian at that moment.
Mrs. Apple and I went back and forth about the absurdity of taking a nap if you weren’t tired for a week or so, and she (and my Mom!) eventually convinced me that it would be best for the class (now known to me as “the collective” or “society”) if I would lay down quietly on my mat like a good little chimpanzee and pretend to nap so none of the rest of the chimps would get any ideas about questioning authority. And 52 years later, only I decide when I’m going to ‘take a nap” or wake everyone else the fuck up!!!