As I stated in a previous post, “I am a magnet for strange people and odd events. I always have been. If you’re reading this, you could very well be one of those people, be a participant in one of the events, or most likely both.”
A random vagrant-type man in Grand Marais turns around on the sidewalk, crouches down like a werewolf from a B movie with his claws out, and growls at my children. Our family stops and stares at him. He straightens up, turns around, and goes on his way.
A traveler, allegedly from Australia, accosts my Dad for no apparent reason at a Greyhound bus station as he’s dropping me off. My favorite part of the exchange was when the Aussie said “God, you look stupid. Look at that, you’ve got two holes in your pants!” My Dad, wearing a pair of holey work jeans, calmly responds back “You’re right, I put my feet through them every morning when I get up.” Then, suddenly, the tension drains away like someone pulled the plug on it and the traveler decides he likes us and he starts giving us gifts from his suitcase along with some smiles and pats on the back. I got a grey woolen scarf that I wore every winter for many years. My Dad said “No, thank you.” to all of the offerings. He was apparently satisfied to not have to beat the guy up. My friend got a paperback novel.
A twenty-something in an alley in Manhattan walks up to me in a tie-dyed shirt with a mouse on his shoulder and asks me for $5 saying “…my mouse hasn’t eaten for a week. I haven’t either.” I said “You should eat the mouse and solve both of your problems.” He just stared into space for a few long moments and then turned to look at me as I walked away. I’m not sure if he was considering eating his friend or if the drugs in his system slowed down his processor that much.
A beautiful hooker split off from a group of working girls and walked up to me, obviously drunk, in a short tie-dyed dress. This was within a day of encountering the mouse eater and also in Manhattan. She put her hand on my shoulder and said “Hey, baby, do you want to rent a hippie?” In a very Minnesota-nice voice, I said “No, thank you, I’ve already got one.” as I kept walking. She paused a beat or two and then turned to ask me “You do? Really?” I think she may have been concerned that her unique marketing position was in danger or else she was just confused. Maybe she tried a different look the next day.
While visiting Los Angeles, a group of us decided to check out Laguna Beach and it was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. I don’t swim and it’s pretty likely that I can’t swim. I hope I never fall off a cruise ship and learn the answer to that question. Regardless, my friend Doug told us that he was going to take a quick swim and he retreated to a cloth sided changing booth on the edge of the beach. A few minutes later, I heard the door creak and I turned to see Doug emerge from the booth in a full sprint. He took large majestic strides across the beach with his arms pumping up and down like you would imagine Batman doing if he were in hot pursuit of Catwoman in a comic book. Also, my socially conservative friend was unexpectedly wearing a very small Speedo as his swimwear. This combination of interesting developments caused me to burst out laughing. When Doug reached the surf, his running slowed slightly and he dove powerfully forward with his hands clasped together like an Olympic diver. I laughed harder. And, as he fought the incoming waves with great muscular strokes to swim out from the shore, I could not stop laughing. Ten or fifteen minutes later, he returned to us walking out of the surf like a Greek god. He walked up to the group and grabbed a towel from his bag. We were all barefoot but otherwise fully clothed and it was really funny to watch everyone staring Doug directly in the eyes, myself included, as we talked to him. In this story, we are the insecure freaks. Doug was perfectly normal albeit pretty much naked.
I met a guy in Montana who wouldn’t let me take his picture because he believed the government had devices that they could load your picture into that allowed them to transmit diseases into your body and kill you. “Radionics” he called it. I just Googled radionics and Wikipedia describes it as a pseudo-scientific healing modality that is as effective as a placebo.
At that same campground, I met an old German man who claimed to have been in the Hitler Youth as a child. Interestingly, he wore a Hitler Youth belt buckle despite the fact that he was quite old. Apparently he hadn’t graduated to full blown national socialism yet. Maybe he was taking night classes with the hopes of becoming a full Nazi someday. As we were visiting, he told me that a person has to be willing to do whatever God tells them to do. “For example, if God told me to pick up a little Jew boy and smash his head against a rock, I would do it”, he said. Interesting example. I asked him why God would ever ask him to do that, specifically, and he said “You never know.” I don’t think he was on the welcoming committee at his church. At least I hope he wasn’t.
A guy I know in the Twin Cities cleans out his chimney by creating a large chimney fire. He gets the stove really hot, opens up the windows in his house, and opens up all of the intakes on his stove. The super-heated stove along with the buildup inside the chimney eventually shoots flames up the chimney and out the top. He says that the flame is something like eight or ten feet above the chimney. Most people clean out their chimneys with brushes or by other methods to avoid having a chimney fire. He precipitates a chimney fire to clean the chimney. This practice alarmed the customers at the Domino’s Pizza across the street enough that they called the fire department one time. As they rolled up to my friend’s house, he walked out and asked them what was going on. They told him he had a chimney fire. He told them that it was fine and that he was just cleaning his chimney. He told me that after things cooled down, he could just go up on the roof with a chain and lower it into the chimney while spinning it around and hitting the sides of the chimney and all of the buildup would just fall off. He’s been doing it for years. I’m sure the fire fighters were confused. Their training didn’t cover this.
I helped this same man clean out his brother’s house after his brother had passed away. His brother was bit of hoarder and I was tasked with cleaning out one of the garage stalls that was packed tightly with a variety of things including four of the identical tools sets in four identical tool boxes packed in at regular intervals and forgotten. My friend’s son, also a friend and closer to my age, called me over to where he was cleaning out a shed in the yard. He showed me a shoe box that he was holding. It had a strip of masking tape across the top as a label and in black marker the words “Grandma’s toenails” were written. I looked at my friend and simply said “No.” He shook his head yes as he also gently shook the box back and forth which caused it to make a noise similar to a partially filled box of cereal being shaken in the same manner. I was speechless as he opened the lid to reveal about an inch of toenail clippings filling the bottom of the box. We will never know whether Grandma herself had both saved the toenails and written the label in third person or, more strangely, the deceased uncle had done so. Either way, my stomach turns even as I type this. The decision was quickly made to consign this saved treasure to the burn pile.
I was studying at Mankato State University when my friend came in and excitedly asked me to come outside with him and build a snowman. The conditions were ideal, I was told, but I had too much studying to do so I declined. I was in a study lounge on the second floor of McElroy dormitory. I-2. The I-2 Zoo. After fending off his many attempts to recruit me, I went back to studying and lost track of time. Some time later a snowball hit the window in front of me. Then another. And another. And another. I got up to see if someone had terrible aim or if someone was trying to get my attention. My friend was there waving his arms to get my attention and when I made eye contact he gestured to his right. I gazed to my left and saw the largest penis that anyone has probably ever seen. At least I hope I’m right about that. I’m not sure how the snowman building turned into snowpenis construction (dare I say erection), but it had. The penis was around eight feet tall and amazingly detailed. My friend was an artist. Who knew? As I stared and laughed, two girls who were assisting him were rolling two large snow “balls” (for lack of a better term) up to the base of the penis for the artist to shape into testicles. When finished, this phallic sculpture was impressive in many ways. First of all, the audacity alone was noteworthy. Secondly, it was really big and visible from hundreds of windows in the dorm, library, and several academic buildings. Third, it was honestly very artistically rendered. It was so nice that none of the other students knocked it down like they did the rest of the snowmen and women that were built that day. In the end, a school employee demolished my friend’s penis. (Yes, I wrote that intentionally.) An announcement was circulated from the University that this sculpture had not been appropriate and that this type behavior should not be repeated. Nobody admitted to knowing who had done it. I’m hoping that I’ll be going through a box someday and find a picture of it. It still makes me laugh with or without the picture.
I have another friend who always makes me laugh. One time, he called me over to the railing on the second level of a mall. There were hundreds of people down below as he turned to me and loudly sang “You give me love, lo o o o o o ove!” from the song You Spin me Round (Like a Record) by the one hit wonder 80’s band Dead or Alive. (CLICK THE LINK TO HEAR IT.) Most of the people turned a looked up at us. Many of them clapped. I walked quickly into Abercrombie and Fitch but not to shop. On our way to a concert, he was talking about a dog that he had as a boy and he said “I hated that dog. I would gladly have catapulted that dog into a lake of acid that was on fire.” He also gave me a tittie twister once that dropped me to my knees. We were in our thirties. He had another dog years later that was pretty fat and I called it Sausage Dog. He invited me over one day and then he wasn’t there when I arrived. Bad idea. As I waited, I found some sidewalk chalk on the ground that his kids had abandoned. I used it to write “Sausage Dog” on the concrete block wall of his garage in large letters. By the time he noticed and tried to clean it off, the chalk had bonded with the concrete and much time passed before the words faded. To be clear, this was not even close to payback for the nipple damage he inflicted on me regardless of what he may tell you.
I was in a thrift store with another friend who is a minister. I decided to buy a heating pad I found to use at the pizza restaurant I owned during the winter to warm up the delivery bags when they came back from deliveries. As I waited in line to pay, my friend was browsing nearby. An elderly woman in line ahead of me turned around and looked at the heat pad and then she said to me very loudly in the quiet store “Is that one of those vibrators? I have a vibrator at home and I love it. My husband bought it for me years ago and he likes it as much as I do. I have to hide it behind the piano so he doesn’t take it for himself.” She went on extolling the virtues of her vibrator even after I explained that this was a simple heating pad without the vibration option of fancier models. Now, I try to think pure thoughts as much as possible, but sadly I and pretty much everyone else in the world except this woman thinks of an altogether different apparatus when they hear the word ‘vibrator’ these days. And, as I conversed with this sweet, old lady I exerted a Herculean amount of respectful self control in not bursting out laughing. The rest of the customers and employees were either laughing, smiling, or staring at me to see if I was going to laugh. My friend turned away and covered his face when the woman said “Is that one of those vibrators?” As she continued on with her seemingly endless positive points about her personal equipment, my friend was forced to take a knee at one point and then flee to the parking lot where I found him leaning against my car a few minutes later. I love that lady for her naivety and I love it that my friend was there to witness it. God bless her. When I related the story to another friend some time later, he said that Thrift Store Vibrator would be a good band name and that he should get full credit if I ever used it. James, this is all the credit you’re likely to ever get.