Francesco glanced down from his perch 60 stories above the streets of New York City; that translated into roughly 900 feet in the air. As he ate lunch, he talked casually to his companion, Giuseppe, who sat across from him on a ledge about four feet away. Francesco lit a Camel cigarette, tossed the box of matches to Giuseppe and both men lounged on their beds of steel. Francesco took a long drag on his cigarette, keeping his eyes open to maintain his balance on the 18-inch-wide metal plank. A whistle blew, its shrill notes informing the men that lunchtime was over.
Giuseppe pitched the matches back to Francesco. They rose to their feet, now old pros at this daily death-defying ballet they performed. When they first arrived in America, they learned very quickly that the jobs of police officers, firemen or train engineers were not meant for them; those positions were reserved for the Irish and English immigrants. The Italians and others who didn’t speak English were forced into manual labor – jobs in construction or sanitation where grunting and nodding were the main forms of communication. They took pride in their work, the resulting cathedrals and skyscrapers testaments to their skill and determination.
An errant gust of wind made its presence known; it swirled around the men’s feet and scooped up the wrappings from lunch, tossing the papers about before they slowly drifted out of sight. Both men held on to a nearby vertical beam, silently waiting until the wind stilled.
Looking below at the large wind flag, the men saw that it was white; it was safe to continue working. A yellow flag meant to exercise extreme caution while red indicated dangerous weather conditions. The crew worked through many different elements, but if a red flag was up, no one climbed the beams.
There were no harnesses to prevent a catastrophic fall, no safety nets should someone slip … nothing to protect the men, to save them. All they had to help them scale the beams were ropes dangling from above, good balance and guts.
Calmness restored, the men strapped on their tool belts containing welder’s gloves, hammers and tongs. A pulley system was used to hoist beams and buckets filled with iron rivets in white hot coals. Using their tongs, the men removed the rivets one by one from the coals, inserted them into holes in the beams and hammered them into place. After every hole was filled, the men climbed up to the next level and repeated the process.
When the end-of-work whistle blew, Giuseppe reached for the rope to begin the long, slow descent to solid ground. A slight misjudgment caused him to lose his footing and he slid off the beam like a marionette whose strings had been severed. Francesco yelled out in horror “No, Giuseppe, no!!” as he tried in vain to grab his friend’s arm. The crew watched in stunned disbelief as Giuseppe fell headlong to the sidewalk far below, his screams echoing throughout the canyon of steel.
Francesco slumped over, his head in his hands, silently weeping as a single mournful thought invaded his mind: he didn’t even know Giuseppe’s last name.
In this special edition of At The Movies, I am showcasing the film “Sands of Iwo Jima“, a 1949 WWII movie starring John Wayne as Marine Sgt. John Stryker.
Despised by his own men for his rough attitude and exhausting training regimen, Marine Sgt. Stryker is a hard-nosed soldier who will accept nothing but excellence from those in his command. As the war in the Pacific progresses, though, the young marines begin to respect Stryker’s hard-edged outlook on war and his brutal training methods, as it has helped them prepare for the harsh realities of the battlefield. They’ll need all of Stryker’s battle tactics if they want to survive what will end up being one of the bloodiest engagements of the war: the Battle of Iwo Jima.
Among the widely recognized tunes featured in the movie is the beloved “Marines’ Hymn” composed by Jacques Offenbach in…
There is a place somewhere called Paris And I’m going there on vacation today; A city where every useless worry or care is Forgotten and carelessly tossed away.
I don’t need to see the Eiffel Tower Or pray at Cathédrale Notre-Dame. I’d happily pick a delicate wildflower Or caress a charming man’s arm.
I’d love to stroll through Pére Lachaise, Have a chat at the grave of Jim Morrison. I’d play him some tunes like Jimi’s “Purple Haze’’, Just dishing the dirt with that sexy rapscallion.
You won’t catch me near the Seine for dinner; Much too highbrow and touristy for me. Seat me at a bar with the saint or the sinner; We’ll close the place down at quarter past three.
Mona Lisa is enigmatic in a gilt frame so fine But the thought of the Louvre is a total bore. I’d rather be laughing in a park drinking wine Or sharing a smoke on a bench with a whore.
I’ve got nothing to hide; it’s far from a secret: When it comes to Parisian men I’m a big flirt. The playboys in the square whisper “Come, be my pet” And I purr “Oui, oui, mon cheri! Who will it hurt?”
There is a place somewhere called Paris And I’m going there on vacation today. I’ll give life a sultry lingering French kiss; When I’m in Paris I like to do things my way.
Boundary: a line which marks the limits of an area; a dividing line.
Often boundaries serve a purpose, sometimes they are waiting to be transcended.
Every Friday, here at The Rhythm Section, we will explore the ocean of music using the latter as our lodestar: breaking of a boundary.
If you thought we are going to be all zen here at Breaking Boundaries… well, you have another thing coming!
Amps are red hot from overdrive, loudspeakers are vibrating like CERN particles before collision… and… I am pissed off!
Because of the way music industry promotes “emptys” in glamorous wraps and leaves “fulls” desperately seeking a place under the sun. To be honest, yeah… that is the way we have built our societies in general; but I digress.
I told you, last time we met, we are heading south to Palestine for some Hard Rock action. You bet your…
Giving an old dog a new bone for Sadje’s photo prompt challenge. Woof!
“You mangy son on a bitch, get your ass off my lawn! Go on … get the hell outta here!”
That was Old Man Jenkins. He and his wife Harriet live next door to us and the source of his rage was none other than our pet French bulldog, Jacques. My husband Ted would run out of the house, apologizing profusely.
“Sorry, Mr. Jenkins! Jacques a handful but he’s just playing. He’s really lovable once you get to know him. Just look at that grin.”
“Get to know him!? Are you freaking nuts, Peterson? That bastard just crapped on my fruit trees!”
“Think of it as fertilizer, Mr. Jenkins” Ted suggested sheepishly and dragged Jacques away.
“FERTILIZER!?! I think you mean just plain shit!
“Hush now, Aaron!” chastised Harriet. “Using such language … why, there’s children next door!”
“Don’t hush me, Margaret! That damn dog’s a menace! If you can’t control your frigging mutt, Peterson, I’m gonna call the cops. Or maybe I’ll just put a bullet between his beady little eyes.”
And the kids started crying.
“Now, Mr. Jenkins, please don’t say things like that. You’re scaring my kids.”
“Well, that’s just too damn bad! You solve this problem or I will … permanently!”
Ted brought Jacques back inside, promising the kids everything was going to be ok, that Old Man Jenkins was just sputtering angry syllables he didn’t really mean.
The next few days we kept Jacques on a short leash. Old Man Jenkins seemed to calm down and busied himself with his fruit trees.
On Saturday morning Harriet Jenkins approached me in the grocery store. “Thank you, Alice, for keeping Jacques out of our yard. Now Aaron can care for his beloved fruit trees in peace. In fact, he’s been so preoccupied he hasn’t noticed the family of critters living in our wood pile. They’re just so darling, I even named them – Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar!”
And off she went, chuckling suspiciously.
Sitting down to dinner later that day, we suddenly heard Old Man Jenkins yelling at the top of his lungs. We never heard him scream like that before so we knew it had to be something awful. Please … not Jacques! We raced outside, stopping dead in our tracks: there stood Old Man Jenkins, pricked by at least 100 porcupine quills.
So that was the “family of darling critters” Harriet was referring to!
“Excellent aim, my little darlings!” exclaimed Harriet. “Guess they know a prick when they see one, Aaron!”
Promenaders strolled down the sun-streaked boardwalk of Atlantic City, New Jersey; ladies twirled their parasols while gents tipped their straw hats and stroked their handlebar mustaches as they passed each other for it was Labor Day weekend, the unofficial end of summer, a perfect day with sunshine, blue skies and laughing children!
Margaret Wilson and her boy Sam came from Philadelphia for the fresh sea air, to gaze in awe at the hotels built like fairytale palaces along the seafront and to admire the piers dripping with neon lights, the most famous of which was the Steel Pier, known for its dance bands, water circus and other such attractions; in fact, it was revealed that the renowned composer John Philip Sousa and his band would be performing that very afternoon.
There were barkers selling salt water taffy and cotton candy, minstrel shows, fairgrounds and the famous Diving Horse, specially trained to charge up a 60 foot ramp to a platform atop the Steel Pier where a woman clad in a smattering of sequins leapt onto its back just before it plunged off the pier; horse and rider flew through the air, hitting the water to the applause of delighted throngs waiting below.
But one didn’t have to venture far from the boardwalk to sample less wholesome activities in venues like the Paradise Club where tourists could watch nearly naked women dance to jazz music and, if they wanted something not just risqué but illegal, they could visit the gambling dens and brothels catering to every taste; there was the criminal element, too, with occasional holdups and shoot-outs.
However today was a holiday and the children laughed gleefully as they rode the giant carousel on horses painted pink, yellow, white and green, even the smallest tyke straining to reach the brass ring while their parents strolled in their most fashionable clothes and made small talk; with the start of school the furthest thing from their minds, nothing could spoil a day like today.
Suddenly the cacophony of gun shots rang out and people screamed and scattered as gun-wielding robbers ran from a pawn shop, jumped into a waiting car and took off, bullets flying wildly; a momentary silence overtook the Boardwalk only to be shattered by a piercing wail that rose to the heavens and everyone turned to see Margaret Wilson cradling the body of little Sam, shot in the heart by a stray bullet (in his jacket pocket a folded essay, now stained with innocent blood, entitled “How I Spent My Summer Vacation”); the police arrived, removed mother and child and the band played on.
A couple of months ago I was driving north on Weaver Street in Larchmont for a meeting with my publisher in White Plains. Up ahead traffic was stopped in both directions for a funeral procession just leaving Sacred Heart Church. This gave me the opportunity to admire a rather old and impressive Victorian-style house on my left which was situated on a corner lot. The front of the house faced an intersecting street while the side of the house was parallel to Weaver Street. I was impressed by the tall arborvitae along the side of the house; the bushes acted as a natural barrier between the house and Weaver Street. They also camouflaged the rather spartan-looking stockade fence which ran from the corner down the entire length of the house.
I sat in the car listening to the radio and patiently waiting for the traffic to move and that’s when I saw her – a little golden child. She was alone, weaving her way in and out of the arborvitae, and I smiled as she skipped from one tree to the other. She looked to be about 8 or 9 years old with long blonde braids that bounced with every hop, skip and jump she took. I wondered why she was home from school; it wasn’t a holiday and she certainly didn’t look sick but there could be many answers to that question.
There were certain things about this golden child that intrigued me. It was rather chilly with a brisk wind but she wore no coat. Her clothes looked fresh and clean but were definitely old-fashioned. Her below-the-knee jumper-style dress was pink, brown and white plaid; she wore a plain white shirt underneath and ribbed white tights. On her feet were brown lace-up boots which rose above her ankles; her braids were tied with a ribbon that matched her plaid jumper. She reminded me of one of the girls from photos of the turn of the century.
I rolled down the car window to listen for the girl talking or laughing as she ran among the trees but all was quiet. Then I suddenly lost sight of her; she probably ducked into the backyard of the house via a gate in the fence. The last car in the funeral procession exited the churchyard and the stalled traffic began its slow crawl up Weaver Street. As my car inched closer to the house, I looked for the golden child but didn’t see her. Being a curious sort, I quickly turned left onto the intersecting street and parked my car in front of the house; I needed to get a closer look at the fence.
I got out of my car and took a little walk around the arborvitae, examining the fence. To my surprise, there were no gates or openings of any kind. What’s more, the fence continued beyond the line of arborvitae and butted up against the fence of the neighboring house. The only way the girl could have gained access to the backyard of her house was by walking down along the path of arborvitae to the intersecting side street, close to where my car was now parked, and around to the other side of the fence.
There was no reasonable explanation for the disappearance of the little girl. One minute she was there; the next she was gone. She certainly did not walk down to the corner of the property; I had an excellent vantage point and would have seen her. There’s no way she could have escaped my line of vision … unless I never saw her at all. Was this child a figment of my imagination? Were my tired eyes playing tricks again?
As I walked back to my car, a young woman called out from the house. “Can I help you?” she asked. I walked halfway up the front path and replied that I was just looking for something and didn’t mean to intrude on her property or her privacy. I gave her a little wave and started walking back to my car when I heard the woman say something that made me stop cold in my tracks.
“You were looking for the little girl, weren’t you? You’re not the first to have spotted her.”
As you can imagine, dear readers, her comment gave me pause and I was eager to learn more.
“Yes, I was. I saw her from my car. Can you tell me something about her?”
“I can” the woman replied. “I’d be happy to tell you what I know if you’d care to join me for a cup of tea. It’s chilly out here and I’d enjoy the company.”
I hesitated for a second – not because I was afraid of walking into a stranger’s house but because my publisher was waiting for me. The urge to know more won out and I accepted the woman’s invitation. I stepped inside the house which turned out to be as impressive on the inside as it was on the outside. I followed the woman into the kitchen; as she went about preparing tea, I called Gabi, my publisher, and rescheduled our appointment for the following day.
The woman joined me at the table and introduced herself as Denise Gallagher. We exchanged pleasantries for a few minutes and I told Denise I was an author. Before she began her story, I asked if she’d mind if I recorded our conversation; she readily agreed. This is what she told me:
“In the late 1920s there was nothing here except trees and an occasional house; they were very few and far between. Not even Weaver Street was here. In the early 30s construction began on Weaver Street, or Route 125 as it’s referred to on the map.
In 1938 this beautiful house was built; a young couple and their three children moved in. Weaver Street was still very new and traffic was extremely light. It’s been said back then a whole hour would pass without a single car going by – hard to believe in this day and age, isn’t it?
Well, one day the kids who lived here – a little girl aged 9 and her 7-year-old twin brothers were outside playing in the yard while their parents unpacked boxes in the new house. There weren’t any fences and those arborvitae hadn’t even been planted yet. Anyway, the kids were playing and their ball got away from them. The little girl chased after it and without a second thought, ran right onto Weaver Street just as a car was coming around the bend. The driver tried to stop but it was too late and the car struck the little girl. She died right out there in the middle of the street.
Can you imagine how awful that must have been for that poor family? The parents must have been wracked with guilt over their preoccupation with unpacking. I’ve got young children of my own and the thought of something happening to one of them is just too much to bear. Well, the family couldn’t stand living here after that and they moved away. People say that child you saw today is actually that little girl’s ghost and she’s looking for her ball.”
I sat there in stunned silence while Denise nonchalantly sipped her tea; I guess she’d told the story so many times, it had lost a lot of its impact for her. Not for me; while I had a feeling that’s where her story was going, it still came as a shock to me. We sat together for a little while longer and I told Denise I had to get going. I thanked her for the tea and her time, grabbed my phone and headed home.
As soon as I got home, I settled myself at my computer to write down everything Denise told me. I clicked the playback button on the record app on my phone and could hear only static. Damn that free app! I knew I should have checked if it was working before recording Denise’s story! Well, I’ve got a pretty good memory and I quickly typed out as much as I could remember of her amazing story.
The next day as I was on my way to see my publisher, I decided to make a stop at a nursery on Weaver Street where I bought some flowers as a ‘thank you’ for Denise. When I arrived at the house there was a man mowing the lawn. I smiled at him and continued up the path and rang the bell. I waited for a minute, rang again and decided no one was home. I wrote a little note on the card that came with the flowers and left them at the door for Denise.
The man who was mowing asked me if I was there to look at the house. I said I didn’t understand what he meant and that’s when he told me the house has been empty and on the market for months. I stared at him in disbelief as he drove off on his mower. How could this house be empty and for sale? I was just here yesterday drinking tea in the kitchen. Utterly perplexed, I walked back to my car and sat inside for a few minutes thinking about what the man told me. Was I losing my mind? Gabi was going say what she always says: “You’re working too hard, my friend. Time for that long overdue vacation”. I don’t know; maybe she was right.
After my head cleared a bit, I started the car and turned onto Weaver Street on my way to White Plains. I was feeling uncharacteristically cold and blasted the heat. When I arrived at Gabi’s, her eyebrows rose at one glance at me. “What’s wrong with you? Are you feeling OK? You look like you’ve seen a ghost!”
“You have no idea” I replied and began to recount the episodes of the last 24 hours. Gabi knew me long and well enough not to question the veracity of my story and suggested we do a little research. We began by Googling ‘pedestrian accident on Route 125 1938’. Surprisingly, we found very few involving people on the street during that time period. Gabi asked me if I remembered the house address.
I paused for only a second. “Yes. It’s on Briar Way in Larchmont.”
“Do you know the house number?” asked Gabi.
I sipped my coffee, thinking; then it came to me. “Yes, number 1! I remember seeing it this morning as I rang the doorbell.”
“Good! Let’s try that” replied Gabi as she typed in the house address. “Well, here’s the real estate listing from this morning and here’s another listing. What? Wait a minute. Come take a look at this.” As she scrolled down the screen, we saw one listing after another for the house, each one separated by only a couple of years. “This house has been bought and sold ten times more often than any other. Something’s going on to make people leave so soon after settling in.”
“That’s it, Gabi! That’s our answer! Every couple of years the family from 1938 makes their presence known. Apparently the people living there at the time are literally ‘spooked’ away. It’s a veritable ‘ghost house’, Gabs!” I was excited by our discovery yet strangely saddened, too. I couldn’t help wondering why the family kept returning. Could they possibly be looking for the little golden child? Maybe when the little girl was spotted running through the arborvitae she wasn’t hunting for her ball; she was searching for her family!
After my meeting with Gabi, I got back in my car and headed home to Larchmont. As I approached the intersection of Weaver Street and Briar Way, I slowed down hoping to see something, anything. All was still and quiet.
I continued driving toward my house. When I looked in the rearview mirror, I caught a glimpse of the golden child running happily between the arborvitae but this time she was not alone. Running toward her and laughing gaily was a young woman with a handsome man and two small boys. The woman was Denise, the lady who drank tea with me just yesterday.
My eyes filled with tears at the sight of a family reconciled. I will never be able to shake that image from my mind.
One day while on vacation in Montauk, we watched as a woman emerged from her hotel room. She told her young son she was going for a walk by the ocean and to stay with the other kids by the pool. We said we’d keep an eye on the boy and she murmured her thanks. The boy watched his mother walk down the beach until she disappeared behind a sand dune.
Some time later, the boy jumped up yelling “Where’s my mom?! I can’t see my mom!” The boy became frantic and ran toward the beach. Families followed, scouring the area with binoculars. Lifeguards, police and the Coast Guard were called and searched until dark when the hunt was postponed until morning. Jeff and Nina Morgan, the hotel owners, comforted the boy and watched him overnight.
At dawn the search began again. In the afternoon, the woman’s clothes were found about a mile away, neatly folded and almost completely buried in the sand. Beachgoers and boaters were questioned and a helicopter surveyed the ocean with no luck. The mission was halted. When the police talked to the boy, he tearfully explained that his dad was gone and his mom was very sad. We all had the same dreadful thought: suicide.
The boy told the police his name and address; a few phone calls were made, unanswered questions resolved. The father had abused his wife and son, beating the boy terribly. To save her son, the mother attacked the father, hitting him over the head with a fireplace poker, killing him. The boy said his mother cried for the healing waters of Montauk. He had no relatives and after petitioning the courts, the Morgans were granted custody.
The disappearance of the woman was a ghastly experience for everyone yet most of us returned to the hotel the following summer, I think in part to check on the boy. We learned his name was Tobias but the Morgans called him Toby.
We were delighted to see he was physically thriving under the loving care of his adopted family but the emotional scars were deep. And every day Toby would walk down the beach to where the water meets the sand and stare off at the footprints in the distance.
Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head! Such a lovely couple although the mister’s bow tie is a bit starchy.
I remember them as a kid. Do you? Back then they were the real deal – or perhaps I should say “the raw deal”.
Our moms always scolded us about playing with our food and then Hasbro messed with our heads by telling us to do just that. No wonder so many Baby Boomers are now in therapy!
Oh, the irony!
These days The Pot Heads are made entirely of plastic. I admit they’re much less messy but where’s the charm, the appeal, the joie de vie?
Such sweet memories but troubling ones, as well. Whenever we played with the real Potato Heads, there was always a side of mash with dinner that night. When I finally made the awful connection that I was eating my playmates, it was too late.
Oh, the humanity!
RIP, Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head. You gave your all for a tasty cause! 🥔
Tom Bouchard dropped two quarters into the public phone slot and dialed the number he’d scrawled on a scrap of paper. The call was answered on the third ring. “This is Andre Loubeau at Tite Frette in Gatineau. We’re closed now but will reopen at 10 AM. Please call back then.”
Tom chuckled. His old friend Jean-Luc may have changed his name to Andre but his voice was the same – a voice he would never forget. Now Tom finally had a lead to his former business partner who embezzled all the company’s money and pinned the crime on him. Tom lost everything – his wife, his home, his livelihood – and languished in jail for almost a dozen years.
At last Tom had the clue he was searching for! He felt he was due a little celebration for his persistence – some pleasant company at the bar with his old friend Johnnie Walker Red. Sipping his drink, Tom could almost smell the sweet scent of retribution and feel his hands around Jean-Luc’s neck.
Driving home from the bar, his mind racing with thoughts of Jean-Luc pleading for mercy, Tom sped past the sign which read “ROAD CLOSED”. Turning the steering wheel sharply, his car plowed through a fence, bounced off rocks, rolled down a steep hill and landed upside down in a ravine before it burst into flames.
Poor Tom. Just when things were starting to look up. Karma’s a bitch.
Excuse me for asking a very personal questionbut are you practicing the Rhythm Method?
No? Well, what are you waiting for?!
Boogie on over to The Rhythm Section and join me, The Sicilian Storyteller in New York, Mr. Bump in the U.K., DA Whittam in Australia and Spira inHellas where we present seven different music categories and offer up great videos. Every day brings something new, enjoyable, interesting and informative for everyone. There are even a couple of music trivia questions thrown in for a bit of a fun challenge!
If you’re already following us, that’s great! If not, we’d love to have you join us. It’s easy; just click on the link below and you’ll be instantly transported to a new musical dimension.
We hope to see you there!A splendid time is guaranteed for all! 🎶
The scent of her Arpège reached my office before she did. The snappy click-click-click of what could only be stiletto heels making contact with the marble floor echoed throughout the hall. I pictured a shapely calf in fishnets.
The door to my office opened and snapped closed and I realized beads of sweat had formed under the brim of my fedora. My curiosity was not the only thing to be aroused. I played nonchalant and didn’t immediately look up while my index fingers did a slow foxtrot across my trusty Underwood.
“One minute. Just gotta finish this up” I said while staring at the paper in my typewriter. She did not respond and I sensed her walking to the other side of the room to look out the window. This gave me the opportunity to size up my unannounced visitor. I kept pecking away at the keys, pretending to be typing, while taking in the view.
Just as I thought, this dame was some looker; she could have been Lana Turner’s twin! My eyes traveled down to her shoes. Small feet nestled in black open-toed heels. A trim ankle leading up to a gorgeous pair of gams in black fishnets. A pencil-straight skirt of grey wool hugged a shapely rear, heightening my currently aroused state. A wide belt around her black jacket was cinched tightly, accentuating her tiny waist. She wore black leather gloves giving her an edgy, almost dangerous look in contrast to the graceful form of her long porcelain neck. Her profile was elegant: a regal chin, a delicate nose, high cheekbones. Her hair was her crowning glory – light blonde with a few pins holding the top in place while the bottom fell loosely around her shoulders.
I imagined what it would be like to remove the pins from her hair and run my fingers through those golden locks. I wanted to hold her face in my hands and kiss her mouth, her chin, her neck. I sat back in my chair and pushed my hat high on my forehead. I was a million miles away.
When she turned to face me, it was only then that I realized I had stopped typing. I wondered how long she knew I had been staring at her. She struck me as the type of dame accustomed to having men stare at her. Slowly she walked to my desk, her eyes never leaving mine. I removed my hat and gingerly placed it over my crotch. She glanced at my hat, gave a small throaty chuckle, then looked at me with hooded eyes, her burgundy-colored lips slightly parted.
She ran her finger seductively around the top of the crystal whiskey decanter on my desk. “You don’t mind, do you?” she asked with a voice like blue velvet. I motioned for her to help herself and she poured a drink. She took a sip and slowly began to open her purse. I instinctively pressed my arm against my Colt .45; it was secure in the shoulder holster under my left arm. To my relief, she withdrew a silver cigarette case; it would have been a shame if I had to end the night abruptly. She selected a Pall Mall and held it to her lips.
“Light me” was all she said. I reached up, lit her cigarette, then lit one for myself. We smoked in silence for a minute, then she spoke again.
“We need to have a talk, Mr. Logan, a very discreet discussion about my husband and his secretary. Are you interested?”
“Oh, yes. I’m very interested. Let’s talk over a couple of thick steaks and a bottle of bourbon.”
She took a long drag on her cigarette. “I know the perfect place, Mr. Logan. Follow me.” She turned and headed for the door, her body swaying like an unhurried wave lapping the shore.
“Baby, I’d follow you into the jaws of hell” I thought to myself as I grabbed my hat and switched off the light.
Misky whispered in my ear, “Uber story”. Here’s one from three years ago. 🚗
Finding himself suddenly unemployed, Omar anguished over supporting his family – not just his wife and kids but his parents back in Somalia. One would think having a biomedical engineering degree would open many doors for him but the job search proved more difficult than Omar imagined. His wife Waris was trained as a midwife and she was willing to go back to work but Omar was too proud to allow her to be the only breadwinner in the family. He would find work if it was the last thing he did. Waris encouraged him to look outside his comfort zone; it was then that he saw the ad in Craig’s List:
Drive With Uber – Be Your Own Boss. For information call 888-555-BOSS
Omar called the number; a man with a strange accent anwered. “UberBoss” was all he said.
“Um, yes” replied Omar haltingly. “I’m calling about the ad.”
“Email your phone number and driver’s license to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll be in touch.”
“That’s it? Don’t I need to take a test or something?” Omar asked.
“Look, buddy. You want the job or do you want to play 20 questions?” the man replied sarcastically.
“Yes, I’m interested, but what is the pay, please?” inquired Omar.
The man sighed impatiently. “$25 an hour; UberBoss gets 20% commission.”
Omar was stunned. “That seems a bit exorbitant!”
“That’s the going rate, buddy. Take it or leave it” was the gruff response.
Considering he currently had no income, Omar accepted.
“Ok, buddy. Someone will call you.” Click. Within the hour Omar received his first assignment.
♟ ♟ ♟ ♟ ♟ ♟
A woman was waiting for Omar; she wore a burka and only her eyes were visible. She signaled Omar to roll down the window, handed him a thick envelope and quickly walked away without saying a word. Taped to the envelope was a key and instructions which read: “100 Hester Street, Locker #57. Unlock padlock, remove backpack, leave envelope and key, snap padlock shut.”
The destination was a YMCA. Upon entering the building, Omar spotted a hallway with a row of lockers. He found #57, opened the padlock, removed the backpack, placed the envelope and key inside the locker and snapped the lock shut.
The backpack had a tag with an address, locker number and key attached; this had to be his next destination. It turned out to be a bus depot and the locker contained a thick envelope just like the one the woman had given him earlier. Omar determined he had to remove the envelope and replace it with the backpack from the previous locker. He tossed in the key and secured the lock.
This routine continued for six hours at which point Omar received a text from UberBoss requesting his PayPal address. He was advised that his work was finished for the day and he would get a new assignment in the morning. Omar complied and shortly after he received another text, this time from PayPal informing him of a new deposit in his account.
The days were tiring and monotonous. Omar’s ass was sore from driving all around town and he didn’t speak to a single person all day. Being an Uber driver was not what he thought it would be; he was just some tool in a game of hide and seek. But he’d been at it for three weeks and had accumulated more money in his PayPal account than he had in a long time.
Omar was getting very curious about the contents of the envelopes and backpacks but they were tightly sealed – except for today. Noticing a small tear in the envelope, Omar used his pocket knife to finesse the opening just a bit. Peeking inside he saw stacks of neatly bound $100 bills and the hooded eyes of Benjamin Franklin staring back at him.
Omar considered his next move for about five seconds. He drove to the address on the envelope, ripped off the key and shoved the envelope under the front seat of his car. Driving to his destination he located the locker, grabbed the backpack and snapped the lock. Whatever was in these packs had to be very valuable.
As he sped home Omar knew he was taking a huge risk but it was worth it for Waris and his family. He laughed excitedly at the prospect of financial freedom and the more he laughed the faster he drove. The sound of screaming sirens brought Omar back to reality; a police car was chasing him. He was forced off the road and commanded to step out of the car. While looking through the car the police found the envelope full of money. They also found a backpack crammed with bricks of cocaine.
Omar’s world came crashing down around him and he desperately proclaimed his innocence, to no avail. He was handcuffed and hauled away on the spot. Omar never saw the video text that came from UberBoss: “Big mistake, Buddy! Say bye bye.”
At the same moment back at Omar’s house a frantic Waris was tearfully staring down the barrel of the UberBoss’s gun.
Revisited, revamped & republished this 2020 storyof mine for the May 12 Unicorn Challenge 🦄
On a whim my husband and I decided to ride our bicycles to Tarrytown. The village was not far – a little over four miles. We would stop for dinner at one of the charming cafes.
It was a cool Spring evening; we were comfortably warm in cozy sweaters. Horses grazed contentedly in the fields. A pond reflected the soft glow of the moon and an owl hooted shyly as we passed beneath his tree.
Tarrytown appeared as we rounded a bend in the road, a welcoming light from a café in the distance. We leaned our bicycles against the fence of a nearby church and walked to a romantic-looking bistro. After a delightful meal we happily strolled to the church to retrieve our bicycles for the ride home.
This was without a doubt the most perfect evening we’d ever had!
Without warning the sky started turning black and the wind began blowing. Arriving at the church we were shocked to discover our bikes were gone; we had no choice but to walk home. Suddenly thunder and lightning crackled in the foreboding sky and heavy rain began pouring down on us. We trudged on, swearing with every step we took.
We were drenched, our shoes covered in mud. Exhausted, we argued bitterly about who forgot to bring the bicycle locks. We cursed and screamed vile accusations. Everything turned into an abysmal disaster and we stopped talking altogether.
This was without a doubt the worst night we’d ever had!
She’s in the autumn of her life now. While all her friends are winding down, she’s still going strong. A couple of seemingly innocuous messages led to the start of a crazy, sexually charged and mutually intoxicating long-distance liaison. No attachments, no commitments, no worries. Something that could end as quickly as it began but would never be forgotten. Games with one roguish, audacious and charming devil who’s as insatiable as she. Is it love? She laughs at that silly thought. It’s the secrecy, the excitement, the extreme lust. For right now that’s exactly how she likes it.
Rob and I decided early in our marriage not to have children. We were late bloomers; he was 42 and I had just turned 38. We were happy being a couple without the responsibility of kids or pets.
That all changed when my widowed great-aunt Madeline passed away. Aunt Maddy was my late mother’s aunt; the last time I saw her was 11 years ago at Mom’s funeral.
Last month Aunt Maddy fell while out for her daily walk. She hit her head on a stone wall and suffered a concussion. She lapsed into a coma. When she awoke, she was in a very weakened state and unable to leave her bed. She spent her final days in the house she loved with her caregivers around her. I found out about my great-aunt’s passing when her lawyer contacted me.
Being Aunt Madeline’s only relative, I was named the sole beneficiary in her will. I was in shock when I learned that she left me her Victorian estate in Rhinebeck, New York and the staggering amount of $2,000,000 with the stipulation that I agreed to the terms stated in her will: to immediately take occupancy of the estate and make it my permanent residence, maintain it in the same meticulous manner as she and to take on the responsibility of providing a nurturing home for Frankie and Johnny – Aunt Maddy’s beloved scarlet macaws.
Rob and I lived in a small brownstone in Brooklyn; we didn’t know anything about caring for birds. However, for the incredible amount of money and the gorgeous home I inherited, we would learn. How difficult could it possibly be?
It had always been our dream to manage an art gallery; the closest we came was our photography studio in Battery Park. Now we would be able to pursue our dream in Rhinebeck. In recent years, the once quiet historical town in upstate New York had become a cultural mecca boasting museums, performing arts centers, galleries, etc. We packed our bags and headed north to meet the birds and make Aunt Madeline’s home our home. It was all quite intoxicating and a little bit terrifying.
On the drive upstate, Rob searched for info on scarlet macaws. “Hey, hon. Listen to this” and he read from his phone:
“Scarlet macaws are stunning birds and popular pets. They are excellent mimics with an average repertoire of 20 to 30 words. *Hm … that’s kinda cool.* They use their incredibly loud squawks and screeches to communicate. These calls are intended to carry over a distance of several miles. *Miles? Whoa, these are some loud birds!* Scarlet macaws prefer humid evergreen forests and their diet consists of nuts, leaves,berriesand seeds and weigh about 2 to 3 pounds. *Good, they don’t eat rodents and they’re lightweights.* They are the largest parrots in the world with a wingspan of 44 to 47 inchesand are 32 to 36 inches long. The average lifespan of a scarlet macaw in captivity is 75 years. *Wait. What?*”
As Rob read those last couple of lines, his voice got louder until he was shouting.
“Holy crap, Lucy! Did you hear what I said? That last part can’t be right!”
“Yes, Rob. I heard. I think everyone in a five mile radius heard what you said.”
“For Christ’s sake, Luce! These birds have a wingspan of 4 feet. Four feet!”
“It’s not like they’re going to be flying around the house, honey. Besides, Aunt Madeline had them for a long time; they’re probably not going to be around much longer.
“Babe, it says here they can live for 75 years. Let that sink in.”
“You make an excellent point. Well, we’ll just have to be positive about this. Let’s try to relax for the rest of the ride.”
“Oh, I’m positive alright” Rob replied. “I’m positive I’m not gonna like these birds very much.”
And we drove the rest of the way silently obsessing about our new-found knowledge.
As we turned onto the long gravel drive leading to my aunt’s estate, all thoughts of scarlet macaws and 47 inch wing spans vanished. Our new house appeared before us and it was beautiful beyond our dreams. We had seen a lot of Victorian painted ladies in Brooklyn but none were as spectacular as this. We decided to walk around the exterior of the house before going inside; everywhere we looked were weeping willow trees, evergreens and fields of wildflowers. At the rear of the house we came upon a glass-enclosed room – obviously a solarium. The beveled glass was a pale shade of green and there appeared to be large potted palms inside. We inched closer and our jaws dropped; this was the enclosure for the scarlet macaws.
Rob and I stood transfixed; we were looking into our very own Jurassic Park and the two intimidating inhabitants were staring back at us. They were a living Jackson Pollock painting, a startling shock of magnificent colors. They were huge, intimidating and majestic. They didn’t move a muscle and their cold black eyes were locked on us.
“I see you’ve found the birds!”
A voice called out from behind us and we screamed like two little frightened kids. We whirled around to see a tall silver-haired man in an incongruous safari outfit.
“Jeez, man! Don’t ever do that again! You scared the daylights out of us!” Rob shouted.
The man laughed and apologized. “I’m sorry, folks. I thought you heard my Jeep pull up.” He extended his hand and introduced himself as Douglas Farrell, a friend of my late aunt and the manager of the nature center in Kingston. “I wanted to be here when you saw the birds for the first time. Impressive, aren’t they? I figured some explaining would be helpful. Shall we go inside?” and he reached for the large sliding glass door of the aviary.
I noticed the glass panes were hinged and would fold like an accordion when opened. “Hold on a second. Won’t the macaws fly out when you open up the room?”
“I assure you they will not. Please, follow me … and there’s nothing to fear. These scarlet macaws are harmless.”
Douglas slid open the panes and strode inside; the birds were undeterred. Still, with great care Rob and I followed closely behind. When we were within arm’s reach, I whispered in awe “So, this is Frankie and Johnny.”
“Actually, no. It’s not” replied Douglas as calmly as you please. “You see, shortly after your aunt’s accident, there was a delivery of new plants and trees for the aviary. The people from the nursery inadvertently left the glass doors open when they were done. Frankie and Johnny, doing what comes naturally, flew out the large opening, took off into the wild blue yonder and haven’t been seen since. Surprisingly, it’s rather amazing a macaw sighting was never reported; they are not common around here. It was agreed upon by me and everyone who works at the house that, given your aunt’s failing health, it would serve no purpose telling her about her beloved birds. Instead we replaced Frankie and Johnny with life-size versions of the stuffed variety and no one was the wiser.”
Rob and I were dumbfounded and we blinked at Douglas in disbelief, allowing what he just told us to sink in.
“See, I told you an explanation would be helpful. Well, enjoy your new house.” Slapping Rob hard on the back, Douglas climbed into his Jeep and took off, leaving a cloud of dust in his wake.
“Well” Rob offered weekly. “One problem solved.”
“From now on this room stays closedjust in case Frankie and Johnny decide to make a return visit” I declared.
“You don’t really believe they’re anywhere around here, do you” Rob asked.
“No, of course not” I laughed trying to sound convincing.
We retreated into the house while scouring the skies overhead and closed the doors behind us. With feigned nonchalance, Rob took the key and stuck it in the dirt of one of the potted palms. Rubbing his hands together, he said “And that is the end of that!”
But sometimes at night when it’s very still and quiet, I can almost hear the sound of flapping of giant wings.
I’m the type of person who can easily be consumed by laughter and I’m talking about the whole ball of wax: doubled over, tears rolling down my face, unable to catch my breath. My family is so used to it, they just say “There she goes again” and laughs along with me.
So today let’s all laugh together. Who cares if it causes laugh lines? Not me!
I’d love to read your jokes or see your funny videos. Leave something in the comments box so we can all have a good laugh. After all – laughter is the best medicine.
Resuscitated and reworked for DA; We both needed something edgy.
“Welcome, friends. You’re listening to Dr. Grey, ‘The Night Owl’.Let’s talk about what’s keeping you up at night. Caller, are you there?”
“Yes, I’m here and I feel a little foolish calling you about my problem. It happened so long ago.”
“Let me assure you, caller, there’s no reason to feel foolish. Obviously whatever happened is still haunting you. Maybe it’s time to let it go. Whenever you feel comfortable, I’m here to listen.”
“Ok, here goes nothing. You see, I was born deformed. Growing up in a small town in the Midwest, I was teased mercilessly, especially by the other boys.”
“I can see how painful that must have been for you. Please continue.”
“High school was a living hell. There was a group of guys who beat me up every day. The only friend I had was a sweet girl who wasn’t disgusted by my deformity. It was real easy to fall in love with her. But she had a boyfriend – the guy who treated me the worst. How I hated him! I started thinking of ways I could hurt him like he was hurting me.”
“Caller, I can only imagine your pain. May I ask, have you called in before? There’s something familiar about your voice. Please, go on.”
“Nope, I’ve never called before, Chief.”
“What did you just call me?”
“Oh, did that nickname ring a bell, Chief? Yeah, big man on campus back in Madison, Indiana. It was you, Chief, who made my life a living hell, you who tormented me every chance you had and eventually turned my only friend against me .. my sweet Maggie. Do you have any idea how much I hate you? “
“Oh my God! Fred Waldron! Fred, I’m unbelievably sorry for all the pain I caused you. I was an idiot with a big mouth. But now we have a chance to….”
“To what? Talk it out? Forgive and forget? I don’t think so. Too late, Chief. See, I’m dying. That’s right. My deformed body is riddled with cancer. I had one last thing to do before I die and believe me, it wasn’t to hear you apologize. It was to hurt you in the worst possible way.”
“Fred, what do you mean?”
“You’ll see. I paid a little visit to your house tonight, Chief. That’s right. And I saw your sweet little Maggie. Boy, she was surprised to see me. The way I made her scream and beg for mercy was exquisite. I’m never gonna forget the pleasure I got from her agony. I’m telling you Chief – it was some of my best work. By the way, you’re outta duct tape. Well, I’m gonna hang up now, Chief, and put a bullet in my brain. It’s been great talking old times and I’ll die happy knowing you’ll be in hell for as long as you live. You really should go home now, Chief, and check on your sweet little Maggie. There may still be something left.”
When something too good to be true lands in your lap, go for it! I’m using snippets from a story I wrote a few years ago for today’s Unicorn Challenge hosted by Jenne Gray. Here we go!
Justice was all alone in the world, first orphaned and now his mice siblings Eustace and Fergus were gone, too. He packed a few items he simply couldn’t live without and bid farewell to the barn, the only home he ever knew.
Along the way Justice came upon a young couple enjoying a picnic. Reaching into her basket, the woman produced a small piece of cheese and gingerly offered it to him. Tentative at first, Justice looked up into the woman’s twinkling blue eyes and was immediately besotted. He took the cheese in his tiny hands, placed it in his little hobo sack and ran off.
Justice had been served.
Once he was far enough away he sat down and nibbled happily on the cheese, staring at the wispy clouds and reminiscing about his siblings, now gone.
Eustace, his sister, had been a little floozy just like their mom. She took up with one of the Hamster Boys from across the road; for Eustace size really did matter. They took off together and were never seen again.
Brother Fergus was the runt of the litter and a bit dimwitted. He was chasing crickets around the top of the farmer’s well when he lost his balance and fell in, departing this mortal existence with a small splash.
Justice was on his own, but he had no fear. He was excited. There was still much for him to explore, to experience in this vast world.
Boundary: a line which marks the limits of an area; a dividing line.
Often boundaries serve a purpose, sometimes they are waiting to be transcended.
Every Friday, here at The Rhythm Section, we will explore the ocean of music using the latter as our lodestar: breaking of a boundary.
Music made without a soul yearning for connection – just cookie-cutter(ing) its way to the bank; yet it is plastered all around us like an ad desperate to become an earworm.
Music made from a soul transforming its inner struggles into a connection hub, using the currency of recognition, I see you, I know; yet it hardly gets any airplay.
It is this kind of music Nathan John Feuerstein creates.
Known as NF, he is an American rapper, singer, songwriter and record producer.
Despite the connotations rap music may have, this artist achieved a huge worldwide following
Breathing new life into a story from 2021 for Jim’s “Space” challenge.
Marcy Grey was sixteen, neither a kid nor a woman. She was one of those unpopular girls, just her unlucky lot in life for which there was no explanation. A wisp of a thing, she had a constant look of sadness in her eyes. Having no friends she’d spend most of her time alone, often on the roof of her apartment building gazing at the stars, dreaming of space travel and listening to her parents Beatles CDs. Their music and message resonated with her more than anything else in the world and it was the only time she didn’t feel lost and scared.
Her parents worried about her, as parents are wont to do, and they encouraged her to pursue activities in school or join a club of some sort. Marcy half-heartedly tried a few times but never felt accepted or welcome and eventually gave up. School was almost over for summer break and while others were chit-chatting about going to camp or planning a family vacation, Marcy knew the long days of July and August would be no different for her than any other day in her life. Her parents worked hard, barely making ends meet; there was no time or money for recreation.
One night Marcy overheard her mother talking on the phone with her sister, Marcy’s Aunt Rita; from the snippets of conversation she knew they were talking about her. “She really needs a diversion … We’re worried … She’s so sullen … Well, that sounds wonderful – are you sure? … I have no idea how she’ll feel about it, though … Yes, I’ll talk to her and call you back.”
Not surprisingly a few minutes later Marcy’s mother knocked on her bedroom door. “Aunt Rita bought a little beach café in Atlantic City and wants to know if you would like to spend the summer with her. Rita would love the company and could use some help at the new place.”
Marcy frowned and told her mother she’d think about it; at least that wasn’t a flat rejection. And she did think about it, weighing her options. The pros: she really liked Aunt Rita; Marcy had never gone anywhere, ever; she was stuck in a small apartment with her parents; she could look at the wide-open sky at night and the stars dancing off the ocean; she might actually have fun. The cons: leaving her rooftop comfort zone. The next morning she shocked her parents by announcing she would spend the summer in Atlantic City with Aunt Rita.
Marcy was met at the bus depot by Rita all decked out in her bright pink sundress, straw hat, Ray Bans and sandals, giddy and happy as a clam. As she drove to her house Rita talked non-stop about her fabulous new beach café, The Pink Flamingo. Even Marcy found her aunt’s enthusiasm contagious and couldn’t help smiling.
There were seven other teenagers waiting tables at the café; all of them were nice and greeted Marcy warmly. Work wasn’t easy and it took Marcy about a week to get accustomed to her new life but she found she actually liked it. Surprisingly Marcy enjoyed being with her co-workers and meeting new customers every day. But the best part was climbing the dunes at night, sitting on a blanket and gazing at the stars while listening to “Rubber Soul”.
One night on the beach Marcy saw someone approaching. She got nervous until she realized it was Adam, one of the guys she worked with. He asked if he could join her and Marcy said yes. Adam had an MP3 player, as did Marcy, and she asked him what he was listening to. He smiled shyly and answered “Revolver. I was raised on the Beatles”. Marcy grinned and handed Adam her earbuds. Music wasn’t the only thing they had in common; Adam spent most nights back home gazing at the stars. He was a loner with no real friends and this was his first time away. And to their complete amazement they discovered they both lived in Queens, NY.
Marcy and Adam met at the beach every night after work and talked about everything. The end of summer was drawing near and their time together in Atlantic City was almost over. They rode the same bus back to Queens, exchanged phone numbers and gave each other a quick hug before going their separate ways.
Late that night as Marcy sat on the roof of her apartment building she got a text. It read “Hey, Stargazer. Dream sweet dreams for me”.
Smiling, she quickly wrote back “Dream sweet dreams for you”.
A little step back in time as I recount a true story of events experienced by me in the hospital after hip replacement surgery. The hallucinations were as real as my 2008 accident and I remember even the minutest of details. Originally published in 2021.
“Use the call button on the side panel of your bed if you need a nurse. My shift is almost over. Can I get you anything before I leave?”
It took me a few seconds to remember where I was as I stared at the friendly face of the nurse standing over me.
“Pain meds would be lovely” I answered, grimacing.
“You’re hooked up to a morphine drip; you should begin to feel much more comfortable very soon. Until then, try to get some rest” the nurse suggested.
I had been in an accident a day or two earlier, falling off a three-foot-high deck and landing on my left side with tremendous impact. As I lay stunned on the hard ground, my face resting on my outstretched left arm, I felt absolutely nothing. I thought I had survived the fall unscathed. Then I realized I could not move my feet or wiggle my toes. When the emergency medical teams arrived, they tried to gently and ever so slowly shift my body in order to slide a stretcher under me. That’s when it hit. Moving even a millimeter caused the most excruciating pain I had ever experienced in my life. It shot all the way down my motionless leg to my unmoving Apple Green painted toenails.
My hip was not broken; it was demolished.
I’m a firm believer that copious amounts of pain medication should be dispensed frequently to patients in need. I smiled wanly at the nurse and asked for my iPhone; while I waited for the morphine to take me to another dimension, I would lose myself in my playlist.
If you’re sick or injured, a hospital is the last place you want to be. Trying to rest is next to impossible. Patients pleading, buzzers buzzing, machines murmuring, carts careening, elevators elevating, doctors discussing, nurses needling. Even the mourning doves who kept watch on my windowsill were cooing ceaselessly.
I slipped in my earbuds and cued up The Beatles “Helter Skelter“. No matter how horrendous I may be feeling at any given moment, listening to that masterpiece makes life perfect for 4 minutes and 29 seconds.
Someone wheels in my dinner cart. Lifting the lid I see a salad, a medium-rare hamburger, a beverage and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Not feeling hungry just yet, I go through my collection of albums trying to decide which one to play. Ah, “Revolver”. You can never go wrong with that beauty. I close my eyes and revel in the brilliance of “Tomorrow Never Knows”.
I’m suddenly aware of a rush of air and find I am now outside floating uptown over the streets of Manhattan, my hospital gown flapping like laundry on a clothesline. I hear the old Klaxon car horn sound of “AHOOGA!” behind me and swivel round to see a flying ice cream truck being driven by none other than John Lennon. Somehow, as bizarre as it all is, it seems perfectly normal.
“You getting in? We don’t want to be late” John says.
“Late for what?” I ask.
“For whatever comes next” John replies with a grin and I slide onto the seat beside him. “It’s very rude to be late, isn’t it?” and we zoom off.
“What’s on your bucket list, me darlin’?” John asks me and I answer without hesitation “To go to Liverpool!”
“Ah, lovely Liverpool. I won’t be going back there again, I’m afraid. Next stop: The Dakota!” John calls out and we swoosh away.
“No, John. You mustn’t!” I beg him and I start to cry.
“Oh, but I must! Now dry those green eyes. It is my destiny and we can’t change that.“
He was silent for a moment, deep in thought, then he spoke very quietly to me:
“Nancy girl, listen to what I’m going to say. Aim for the stars. Love with your whole heart. Work hard. Be the best person you can be but never ever forget to have fun. Time is fleeting and tomorrow never knows so always eat dessert first. Got it?Good! Now, let’s be on our way.”
As I nod in agreement I can hear the faint words “Turn off your mind, relax and float downstream.”
And in a flash John and his flying ice cream truck are gone.
I open my eyes and gingerly prop myself up on my hospital bed pillow. Dinner is still there, right where I left it, and I find I’m suddenly starving. Ignoring everything else on my tray, I go directly to the Ben & Jerry’s, pop open the container of ice cream and dig in.
And in that moment I realize nothing in my life ever tasted so delicious.
“‘Cattle Decapitation‘?! What the hell kind of music are you into now, Colin? Sounds like another really depraved rock band from Sweden or Britain – that’s what you’re listening to these days, isn’t it?Like that other group you worship – ‘Liquid Graveyard’. What the hell does that even mean, Colin? Your mother and I have had it with this heavy metal music, if you can even call it music, which you insist on blaring down here; we’re losing our minds. You have absolutely no respect for anyone else. Your poor grandmother is afraid to come out of her room and eats all her meals behind her locked door. Frankly it’s nothing but noise and I can’t blame her one bit for keeping herself locked away. I mean, it was bad enough when you were into ‘Motörhead’ and that Lemmy freak but we kept our mouths shut; kids go through phases, I know that. Then you started getting into some pretty disturbing stuff, groups like ‘Autopsy’ and ‘Cannibal Corpse’. Really, Colin! It’s damn upsetting to the whole family and we’re seriously on the brink of kicking you out of the house. What do you have to say for yourself? What do you want to do with your life?!” Colin’s father, Mark, was apoplectic with rage.
“I WANNA ROCK!!” Colin wanted to scream at the top of his lungs but he wouldn’t give his father the satisfaction. Instead, he looked up at his father from the beach chair in his basement bedroom and calmly asked “Are you done spewing your uninformed and ponderous statements, Dad, or do you have more to say? If you’re done, I’m gonna ask you to leave my room and let me enjoy my music. If you’re not, feel free to continue your rant. You don’t mind if I put on my headphones, do you?” Colin knew he was adding gasoline to the fire but at this point he didn’t care any more. Obviously his father had been going through his stuff; he never takes the time to listen to what he has to say and has absolutely no idea what he’s talking about. Actually comparing ‘Cattle Decapitation’ to ‘Motörhead‘ – what a pedestrian misconception!
“Why you little son of a bitch! You’re telling ME to get out of YOUR room? This is MY house; I just let you live here! We fixed up the basement for you when your grandmother moved in. We could have easily had you share a room with Kyle but we realized you needed your own space. And how do you repay us? By turning this place into a shit hole! Look at your crap – magazines, posters, CDs, video games, boxes of God knows what spread out all over the place. No wonder your mother practically has a panic attack every time she has to come down here to use the washing machine. She’s almost as scared as your grandmother! It breaks her heart seeing what you’ve done to this room. You know, she always wanted to make this her arts and crafts area but gladly gave up the space to accommodate you. Have you ever shown your appreciation, even once? No, you haven’t! You’re such a selfish and spoiled ingrate!” Colin stared at his father, fascinated as he watched his eyes bulge with every word and the throbbing veins in his neck looked like they were going to explode.
“Since we’re talking about me, Dad, other than my taste in musicand the fact that you think I’m a selfish ingrate, have I ever done anythingyou‘re ashamed of? I’m a good student and I’ve got a job. All the stuffyou call “crap” – I bought everything you see here with my own money. I never asked you for a dime to buy CDs or video games. That’s a lot more thanyou cay say about other kids my age but you‘ve never acknowledge that. You just constantly browbeat me about my music. Dad, let me ask you a question. Didn’t you have your favorite groups when you were my age, maybe even some your parents didn’t approve of?” Colin asked.
Mark was momentarily caught off guard; he’d never heard Colin talk like this before. In fact, he couldn’t remember the last time they actually had a civilized conversation; they always just screamed at each other. Who was this kid?
“Of course we did, Colin. We listened to lots of different groups like ‘Guns N’ Roses’, ‘Mötley Crüe’, ‘Whitesnake’ and ‘Quiet Riot’ but that music is no comparison to the crap that’s out today, especially this garbage you’re listening to. Yeah, maybe my father gave me some grief now and then – it’s a father’s job to keep his kids in line – but back then the music we listened to was really good. You know, your mother still loves The Beatles? You can’t get any better than that.”
Colin sprinted out of his chair. “Dad, do you honestly think you’re telling me something new? I know all about those groups you used to listed to. You think I’m only aware of what’s popular now? Give me a little more credit than that! At least my mind isn’t closed off like yours.I like ‘The Beatles’, ‘Stones’, ‘Led Zeppelin’ and ‘Deep Purple’. But I accept the fact that my music isn’t for everybody and you should at least acknowledge that and try to be a little more broadmindedinstead of sticking it to me every chance you get. Did you ever think the reason I stay down here listening to my music is because you and I never just talk about stuff?”
Mark exhaled deeply. “You make some valid points, Colin, you really do but at least the names of the groups we were into weren’t twisted. Tell me, what the hell kind of name is ‘Cattle Decapitation’, for crying out loud? It’s not normal! What the hell am I supposed to make of that?”
“Come on, Dad. It’s just a name. Didn’t you listen to ‘Poison’ and ‘Fine Young Cannibals‘ and ‘Nine Inch Nails’? And since you mentioned “twisted”, what about ‘Twisted Sister’?What kinds of names are those? Besides, you don’t know the first thing about ‘Cattle Decapitation‘” Colin replied.
“Well, it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out what the name means, Colin. It’s repulsive!”
“And there you go again, making a judgment call with no real information to back it up! Dad, can you cool down long enough to let me tell you something about them?”
Mark sat down heavily on the side of Colin’s bed. “Go ahead, Colin, but it’s probably not going to change my mind.”
‘‘Well, you might be surprised. And I’m not making any of this up. It’s all on the internet so Google it if you don’t believe me. ‘Cattle Decapitation’ is an American group, not Swedish or English. That’s right – from right here in the US of A, just like your good old boyTed Nugent! And they aren’t famous for cutting off the heads of innocent cows or sheep. Their songs actually protest the mistreatment and consumption of animals and the abuse of the environment. I’m sure you’ll be shocked to hear that the members of the band are vegetarians, just like me – or haven’t you noticedI gave up eating meat two years ago? They aren’t savages. When you think about it they’re not all that different than ‘that fab little group’ Mom loves so much; they’re just expressing themselves in a different way.“
Mark looked at his son with skepticism. “I don’t know, Colin. That just doesn’t make much sense to me. I mean, listen to them; that lead singer sounds like he’s possessed by demons!”
“That’s because they’re angry about the situation of the worldand they’re trying to get our attention! Their song ‘Bring Back the Plague’ is all about COVID-19 and is the painful, truthful humor we all need right now. And it was filmed responsibly on cell phones while the band was in self-isolation. Do us both a favor, Dad. Forget the music for now and just read the lyrics to their songs, then compare them to thegroups you listened to. That’s all I ask; think of it as a compromise. After that, if you still want to kick me out of the house, that’s your right.”
“Ok, Colin, I’ll take a look but I can’t promise anything.”
Mark went to the fridge and grabbed a Bud Light. He climbed the stairs to his den, flipped on ‘Metallica‘ and Googled ‘Cattle Decapitation‘.
“Well, I’ll be God damned! he said after reading for half an hour. “The kid actually knew what he was talking about.” Mark switched off ‘Metallica’ and searched YouTube for ‘Bring Back the Plague’. Putting on his headphones, he took a swig of his beer and for the first time in ages he actually paid attention.
Originally published in 2020. Resuscitated, reprised and revamped to complement my post for today’s edition of In The Groove at The Rhythm Section. Please stop by and check it out. https://rhythmsection.blog/