Evidence of the Freak Magnet Hypothesis – Part One

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.





The Poop Mound

In the winter of 1987, I was working as a lift attendant at Wild Mountain in Taylor’s Falls.  I worked there for three seasons, but this bizarre occurrence happened that season.  Overall, it was a pretty terrible job that involved a lot of freezing, low pay, bad hours, and one particularly annoying manager.  We were also subjected to Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” album on a loop for a few weeks straight at one point.  I think the CIA Psychological Warfare people had something to do with that particular torture.  The album is nearly 47 minutes long, so in a single shift that equates to about 10 rotations.  Even music that you like can turn into water boarding with that much repetition and I’m not a huge Springsteen fan, but enough on that topic.  The two redeeming qualities that the job offered were the free skiing / free water park access and the great people that I worked with.  I made a lot of friends, had a lot of fun, and did some growing up there too, but the one story that has come up the most over the years happened one Friday night/Saturday morning when I was working an “all night ski” event.  One these nights, Wild was open until 4am.  Once we closed to the public, we would come down off the hill and help the chalet staff clean before we went home usually around five or five thirty.

This night/morning, I walked into the chalet with the guy who had been working the lift with me.  I don’t remember who it was, but I’m leaning toward Rich since we were pretty much always together during this era.  A few people thought that we were brothers, actually.  We put our company coats away and went to ask Norm what our cleaning assignments were.  Norm was our manager along with being a great guy and occasional surrogate Dad to the guys.  But, this night, we drew the worst assignment on the list which was cleaning the upstairs bathroom.  It was the worst because it was the largest bathroom and it was also located in the quietest area of the chalet, so all manner of nefarious activities took place in and around it and this night was no different.

We would usually split the cleaning duties between cleaning the stalls and cleaning everything else when two of us cleaned this bathroom and unless someone volunteered to clean the stalls there was usually a coin toss involved.  I won the toss and chose the “everything else” part of the cleaning because the stalls were usually pretty gross.  As I was cleaning the mirror and the sinks, my companion cleaned the first stall, the second, and the third without incident.  When he opened the door to the fourth and final stall, he cried out “Oh my god!  I am NOT cleaning that!!  Get over here, you’ve got to see this!”  I was already laughing pretty hard by this time and it took me a moment to get over there.  When I did, I witnessed an amazing spectacle that, to this day, amazes me and gives me faith that humans can accomplish just about anything, good or evil, if they set their minds to it.

When the door was pushed open, I saw a plugged toilet.  It was REALLY plugged.  It was filled to an extent that I would never have dreamed possible.  The mound of poop in the fourth toilet completely filled the bowl and was just about even with my stomach in height.  I am 6′-5″ tall.  Rich was freaking out at the prospect of having to clean it and I probably would have fallen the floor with laughter if my germaphobic tendencies had allowed it in a public bathroom.

After the laughter wore off, there were so many questions.  Who did this?  How was this feat achieved?  Had this been done before in other places?  How many people did it take?  Was there an organizer who explained the project to prospective poopers and recruited them to help?  Did he do this regularly?  Was there an exchange of money involved?  How did the last few people physically accomplish their additions to the mound?  I pictured guys in ski boots carefully standing on the rim of the porcelain while making their deposits to this bank of filth.  I was captivated by the creativity as much as I was disgusted by the gallons and gallons of waste that stood before me.  It was a primitive engineering masterpiece like a crude and miniature version of the Great Pyramid at Giza.  Like a tourist in Egypt, I was mesmerized by the sheer size of it while I wondered how and why it had been created.

Eventually, we brought this issue to Norm and he didn’t believe us until he saw it with his own eyes.  He followed us up the stairs and grumbled about how this better not be a joke.  Upon seeing the mound and after invoking the name of the Savior in a non-worship related manner, he kindly told us that we could go home because “this looks like a good job for a plumber.”

I wonder now if the architect is still alive and if there is some chronicle of his work.  An old photo album with 35mm prints stuck to the pages behind sheets of clear plastic?  A journal with times, dates, and dimensions?  A spreadsheet with an alarming amount of data about each incident and lifetime totals calculated at the bottom?  It’s an intriguing idea.

Decades later, I still think about it.  When I swing the stall door open in a public bathroom, there is a little part of me that hopes to see a contender.  If you run across one, let me know.  

Uncle Ray, Santa Claus, and the Goldfish. (Featuring a graveside oath.)

My Dad had one brother.  He’s the Best Man in the photo.  Raymond Lewis Thomas.  He and my Dad were lifelong best friends and constant companions, so my Dad and I spent a lot of time with him before I went to kindergarten.  My Dad didn’t work outside of the house when I was little and when my Mom was at work we visited Uncle Ray or he visited us quite often.  The guy I remember worked at a bar in south Minneapolis called Abbey’s Tap. He was tall and thin.  He slouched a lot when he sat.  He smoked Pall Malls and blew the smoke in my face fairly regularly and laughed as I coughed and blinked away the sting.  He was the first divorced person I ever knew which was very confusing to me as a child.  He lived in a series of small apartments and drove simple cars like Ford Falcons.  He was also a disabled Vet from the Korean war just like my Dad.  They both drank too much.  They both had brain tumors removed in the 1970’s.  They both told good stories and jokes and laughed a lot.  And, both of them were occasionally cruel to the people that they loved while being overly generous and kind in the next moment.  Maybe they were making up for the cruelties and maybe that’s who they actually were when their demons weren’t winning.  I’d like to believe the latter.  What I know for sure is that they saw terrible things in their family as children and they also saw terrible things during the war.  Both conflicts changed them and broke them in ways that never completely healed.  They were racists by today’s standards, but they didn’t really hate anyone.  They were terrible fathers by most standards, but they loved their children deeply, I believe.

My Dad saw the look of anger, hatred, disgust, fear, and pain on my young face one time after I had witnessed another of his terrible outbursts against my Mom.  He said “You think I’m a pretty bad father, don’t you?” in a voice that was too forceful to use on a child and trapped somewhere between pain and rage.  I stared at him and though I still don’t understand where I got the courage, I shook my head.  Yes.  My small head shake hurt him.  I remember the look on his face and my adult self understands him in that moment more than the terrified child ever could.  He said, after a long pause where I wondered if he was going to hit me or if he would ever talk to me again, “Well, at least I never beat your Mom in front of you.”  That was the lower limit of his standard for being a good father.  His Dad had done that.  He swore to himself that he never would.  Therefore, he was better than his Dad in his mind and he could live with himself on some level.

My Uncle Ray was similar.  My cousins have alluded to it and I’ve assumed it based on the whispered conversations and occasional comments I overheard as a child.  I hope my cousins have healed from it as much or more than I have.  I don’t know them as well as I would like to, but they all seem like good people and great parents and proud grandparents.  With all of the baggage, we still had much better upbringings than our Dads.  Our loads are lighter.  We carry less and we have more places to rest.  We saw a lot less horror in our wars.  My cousins cared greatly for my Dad before he passed.  I particularly remember Pam kneeling at his bedside and holding his old hand while Tim prayed for him to be strong.  He loved them probably more than they know.  Likewise, my Uncle Ray cared for me and my brother and showed us many kindnesses that I hope he showed his family too.  He also joked around with us and played a lot of pranks on us before the night he was killed in a car accident in the summer of 1978.  I was seven.  My Dad was broken in yet more places.

Pretty depressing, right?  Well, let’s shift gears and talk about Santa Claus and the dumb goldfish for a minute before we attempt to bring this sucker around.

Ray was visiting our house in Eagan one afternoon.  As he was leaving and we were walking him out to his car through our garage, he knelt down in front of me like a baseball catcher and asked me if I knew where he was going.  I said no.  He said that he was going down to Sears to visit Santa Claus.  I was five or six years old, so that was pretty exciting news.  Then he asked me if I knew why he was going to visit Santa.  I don’t remember what I said specifically, but I’m sure I assumed it involved him telling Santa what he wanted for Christmas.  This, however, was not the case.  Uncle Ray had a different mission altogether.  He told me that he was going to visit Santa so that he could pull his whiskers REALLY hard.  He was going to pull them so hard, as a matter of fact, that it would make Santa cry.  I was horrified like you would be if your smiling friend told you that she was a serial killer on her way to grab her next victim.  I remember saying “Why would you do that?!”  Still grinning, he calmly said that his plan was to tell Santa that I had told him to do it.  That way, Santa would never bring me another Christmas present for the rest of my life.  My young brain and heart were completely incapable of processing this atrocity, so they passed the work along to other parts of my body.  Most notably, the task was taken up by my right fist which balled up, reared back, and punched my Uncle in his big Irish nose.  Crouching like a catcher isn’t the most stable stance, so his balance was no match for the less-than-mighty blow that his little nephew inflicted on him and he fell back onto his rear end and started belly laughing while he grabbed his nose.  My Dad jumped off the step where he’d been holding the screen door open and as he lurched toward me he said my name in a way that indicated he was not at all pleased with my course of action.  Ray sat up and as he waved my Dad off said “No. It’s okay, I earned that one.”  I was crying and breathing hard and trembling with outrage, so Ray took a knee in front of me and told me that he was kidding.  He was actually heading home and he wouldn’t be assaulting Santa on my alleged behalf.  Christmas, as many a corny movie has stated, was saved.  Later, my Dad told me that I shouldn’t have punched Uncle Ray, but that it had been a pretty good punch.  This was my Uncle and this was my Dad.

Side note:  After a brawl with one of the neighbor boys when I was eight or ten years old, the boy’s Mom called and chewed out my Dad because I had beat up her son.  (Sorry, Steve, but not really.)  My Dad apologized to her and said that he would talk to me about it.  He hung up the phone and told me to go outside because we needed to talk.  I was pretty sure I was not going to like it.  My Dad took a knee in front of me out in the back yard and grabbed my forearm while staring me in the eye.  After getting the details of the latest incident, he presented me with probably my favorite piece of parental wisdom that he ever gave me.  He was supposed to tell me that fighting is wrong unless there’s a really good reason and that there are better ways to solve a problem, right?  It takes a bigger person to walk away, right?  No.  He said “David, if you have to fight, do it in town.  Don’t beat up the neighbor kids because their Moms call me and bitch me out and it’s annoying.  Okay?”  Again, that was my Dad.

Ray came over for supper one evening in either the summer before or the summer after Christmas had been imperiled.  He said hello and quickly walked past me and over to my fish bowl where he bent down and stared at my goldfish.  Standing up, he pulled his wallet out of his slacks and opened it.  I was confused.  I walked over and asked him what he was doing.  Simultaneously, he was pulling a toothpick out of the wallet.  He said that he was going fishing.  That sounded fun, I thought, but I still didn’t understand the toothpick.  As I stood there, he uncoiled the fishing line that was wrapped around the toothpick until he had it fully extended and I could see the little hook at the end of it.  “You’re going to fish with that?”, I said.  “Yeah”, he said.  “Where?”, I asked, not getting it.  “Right over there”, he said pointing at my fish bowl.  I was horrified, of course, and explained to him that there was only one fish in the bowl and it was mine.  He said that he was hungry for fish and that he was going to catch mine and fry it up for supper.  I pleaded with him and tried again to explain the situation, but he went ahead and dropped the hook into the water and moved it around so that it was always right in front of my fish.  I cried.  He persisted for a little while longer as my Dad smiled and my Mom shook her head with a smirk on her face.  How could they not understand that this was wrong?  My Mom mentioned that she was making something else for supper and that he could have that instead of fish if he wanted.  After protesting a bit and saying that what he really wanted for supper was fish, he finally relented and agreed to eat whatever it was that my Mom was serving.  My fish, like my relationship with St. Nick, was saved.  (Later, my Mom accidentally killed the fish with softened water that had too much salt in it.  The little hummer was doomed regardless, it seems.)  My Uncle Ray…

I cried a lot harder the night that he was killed and even harder at the funeral and cemetery.  I cried harder than I had for Santa or my fish.  I also saw my Dad cry for the first time.  My Uncle was buried at the National Cemetery with an American flag draped over his casket just like all of the other broken soldiers who had passed before him.  I remember the living soldiers folding the flag and I remember feeling hot and miserable and very alone as I stood there in the sun in my little suit.  The people that comforted me were in need of comfort at the moment and I didn’t know exactly what was going to happen.  Then, another relative knelt down in front of me.  I wasn’t pranked about Santa or a goldfish and I wasn’t told to fight in town instead of beating up the neighbor kids.  My cousin Moe was there this time and he told me that I should stop crying because he had an important job for me.  He said that he didn’t like funerals either because they were sad and he didn’t want his funeral to be sad.  He wanted it to be a party.  I was distracted by this idea and as I wiped away my tears he got to the job he had for me.  Moe said that he wanted me to promise him something.  He was very serious and intimidating with his size and beard and I was focused on his words.  He said again that he wanted his funeral to be a party and that my job was to “throw the first beer can” and get the party started.  He made me swear an oath that I would do this thing for him and I swore that I would.  We shook on it.  I don’t know how to explain how hard this idea stuck with me, but I never forgot it.  The memory has always been vivid.

I drove fast to St. Cloud with my oldest daughter to see Moe when he was dying, but I missed him by less than twenty minutes.  He was gone when I walked into the hospital room and his dead body was lying there with his family around it.  Days later, we were sitting in a funeral home in Anoka and listening to “Old Time Rock and Roll” by Bob Seger instead of “What a Friend we have in Jesus” or another classic hymn like most funerals feature.  It was more like a party in that way.  The priest didn’t look comfortable.  Afterwards, we did have a little party in the parking lot.  A few of us had brought some beer and I cracked one and told the story of my oath to Moe at Ray’s funeral.  There were a lot of good people there and a lot of good stories told about cousin Moe.  I know that was not the type of party that he had in mind and I hope that I can talk with him again one day to hear how disappointed he was with my poor fulfillment of the oath.  I had a bottle of beer, not a can, and I didn’t even throw it.  I can hear him saying “That was a poor excuse for a party, young one” with a cigarette burning in one hand and a cheap can of beer in the other.  Like my Dad and Ray, he came from some rough circumstances and carried his share of baggage and wounds while inflicting his share on his family too.  But, also like Ray and my Dad, I loved him and I miss him.  I would gladly trade my goldfish or future Christmas gifts for another chat with any of them.

I hope as I raise my kids and torment my nephews (especially Joe, sorry man!) that my pranks and jokes, which it appears are genetically programmed and inevitable, don’t hurt them too much.  I’m divorced, broken in places, and a lot like those three guys in a lot of good and bad ways.  And, I’m thankful for the opportunity to raise the bar a little.

Tracking the Rolex Salesman

It was the spring of 1990 when my friend Jason and I decided to travel to New York City for spring break during our freshman year of college.  “Here we are now.  Entertain us.” Curt Cobain sang the next year about kids like us.  Most of our friends were either going to a beach location to seek entertainment or going home to relax.  Jason and I chose New York because we were proud nonconformists in search of more meaningful experiences.  We rode the Staten Island Ferry past the Statue of Liberty, went to the top of the Empire State Building, toured the Metropolitan Museum and saw one of VanGogh’s Irises while nearly being thrown out for entering an exhibit of a South American temple that was, who knew?, just for looking at (It was pretty cool on the inside, I have to say.), saw the twin towers of the World Trade Center 11 years before they were destroyed, walked most of Manhattan and saw sights like Radio City Music Hall, Central Park, Greenwich Village, etc.  We attended The David Letterman Show, met hundreds of fascinating people, ran away from a gang, got stranded on a subway platform in Queens for three hours in the middle of the night until we were saved from probable murder by a homeless guy who may or may not have been an angel, saw some amazingly talented street performances, and got swindled and extorted more than once.  It was a crash course in culture, race relations, labor relations, economics, and geography that I will always remember fondly.

Other than the birth of my children, that 1989-1990 school year was probably the happiest year of my life to this point.  I got to be myself for the first time in my life.  I hope you know what I’m saying.  I’m not talking about sexual orientation or any of the other interpretations of “be myself” that someone might use in 2019.  I mean that I grew up scared in a home with a war vet who alternated between love and violence both physical and verbal.  I have no question that it would be called PTSD or some variant of that today, but in the 70’s and 80’s it was called “Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about!” etc.  Consequently, I was permanently “OK” and happy and quiet at home in order to stay invisible and not be the reason for more violence and more pain for myself and my Mom.  My brother was in the Army in Germany or Korea, I believe.  Moving out and going to school in the Twin Cities was  wonderful.  I had great friends, I loved a smart girl who took my breath every time I looked at her, I was actually doing my school work and getting good grades and exercising my talents.  I think I took my first deep breath that year and relaxed for the first time in my life.  It was on this personal high and a cresting wave of newly found freedom that I took this trip.

Having grown up in rural Minnesota, we weren’t ready for the many pressures that the City exerts on a person.  We didn’t understand that all people aren’t the same as we’d been taught in school.  There are wolves and there are sheep and you can guess which role we played on this trip.  Baa!  Jason observed at one point “I feel like we’re the poop and they’re the flies.”  An old guy at the bus station, “Old Pops” the others called him, told us that we were only still alive because the City hadn’t gotten all of our money yet.  That was a less than comforting lesson to receive as we got off the bus.  He also told us that women don’t have Adam’s apples.  This was also news to me.  “Make sure you check.  You’re a couple of good lookin’ boys and you might want to get you some ladies while you’re here, but once you’re in that room with the lights off you don’t know what you got.”  Disturbing.  Old Pops proceeded to charge us $20 for his advice, and for helping us carry our bags, which his gang friends insisted that we pay.  We paid him, but some gang types chased us to the YMCA anyway.  This type of thing continued off and on throughout the next week.  Although we tried our best to dress modestly, not shave, be casual, and blend into the City, it was like the City knew we had wandered into a foreign place and were vulnerable.  My friend, having reached his boiling point on the second or third day, finally shouted “F@&! You!” at one of the seemingly thousands of people trying to sell us junk or contraband at every moment.  The individual moved on as though he had said “No, but thank you for asking.  Have a fantastic day!”  We were both a little confused and as understanding dawned on Jason, he said “I think ‘F@&* You’ means ‘No, thank you.’ here…”  I agreed.  We tested the hypothesis on the next hustler with the same result.  No anger, no fight, no angry retort.  He just left us alone and moved on.  The Minnesota boys had learned something about New York culture.

Our budget was around $200 each.  $88 of this unimpressive sum, plus tax, was expended purchasing round trip Greyhound bus tickets.  While people we knew were spending hundreds of dollars on flights, we took the economical choice that we’d seen on a TV commercial.  The ad failed to mention that the low fares were a result of the regular Greyhound drivers being on strike and that we would be harassed and possibly attacked at every stop by disgruntled drivers shouting “Scabs!” at the replacement drivers while throwing trash, rocks, and various insults that could seriously impact a person’s self esteem.  In some places, replacement drivers were beaten.  A number of them were shot.  Several of our buses had bullet or arrow holes in them and most had cracked or broken windows from the impact of picket signs and other objects that pummeled the bus at nearly every stop.  These added amenities were over and above the already opulent accommodations that Greyhound was known for during this era.  The trip was advertised to take 24 hours from St. Paul to the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan.  It took 42 on the way out and slightly less time on the way back.  Perhaps the ticketing agent had dyslexia.  At one point on the way back, the driver got lost in rural Illinois and went on the intercom to ask the passengers if anyone knew how to get to Milwaukee.  A near riot ensued until a large man walked up to the front of the bus.  We thought that he was probably going to stab or punch the driver, but he turned around and told the rest of us to shut up and then sat next to the driver and guided him to Milwaukee.  A woman behind us was beating up her child and I restrained my friend from attacking her and getting us killed.  In short, it was a rough trip in both directions.

Having seen movies and TV shows featuring New York scenes for most of our lives, we felt fully equipped to handle this trip on our measly budget.  After all, if we ran out of money we could just sleep on a park bench in Central Park and eat at McDonald’s, right?  Old Ronald was having a sale on burgers in Minnesota and they were 69 cents.  We quickly found out that they were also on sale in the Big Apple.  They were $2.49.  A room at the YMCA in Manhattan was $80/night.  We stayed there the first night locked in our room and trembling after outrunning the local welcoming committee from the bus station.  We actually pulled the bunk bed in front of the door for extra security.  The Village People were there in spirit, it’s fun to stay at the YMCA, right?, which we realized while utilizing the communal showers the next morning.  Gosh, those guys were friendly.  In short, as previously alluded to, this trip had a large educational arc.

Another aspect of this trip which amuses me now is that I had the humble goal of acquiring a fake Rolex watch on my already lavish travel budget.  This was the one souvenir that I wanted.  I had the $10-20 price range in mind for this expenditure having no idea that an actual Rolex cost thousands of dollars and a good fake on the streets went for something like $80-100 at that time.  (Side note, the second hand on a genuine Rolex watch sweeps due to the extremely high quality Swiss movement it contains while the cheap Asian ripoffs tick as they jump to each new second.  So, when you’re buying a watch on the street and you notice that the hand is sweeping, the watch is stolen and I would recommend against buying it if, like me, you’re not excited by the prospect of having a felony charge on your record.)  Keep in mind that I had roughly $120 left after buying the bus ticket in St. Paul and I needed to sleep somewhere and eat for a week in one of the most expensive places on Earth.

One of the first days in the city, Jason and I walked past a vendor on a crowded street near Time Square who was selling watches from a briefcase on legs.  I tugged the shoulder of Jason’s Army surplus jacket and led him back to the guy while navigating the flow of countless other humans.  The man had about thirty watches in his case and probably 1/3 of them were Rolex knock-offs.  I think they are referred to as “replicas” today.  Smooth.  Anyway, I wanted a silver band, blue face watch with the day and date displayed in separate windows on the face.  He had one and I asked if I could look at it.  He handed it to me and said that it was $100, I think.  Economic realities forced me to be a tough negotiator, which is not natural to me AT ALL, and I put the watch down and started to walk away.  The price changed to $80.  I turned and exchanged a look.  When I turned away, it dropped to $40.  I could work with $40, I thought, so I walked back and said that $40 was still too much for me.  I offered $10.  While saying “F@&* You” to most street vendors got no reaction whatsoever, my $10 offer surely did.  The man was offended, he said.  “$10?!”  I said “You’re offended?  You just cut your price from $100 to $40 in like 10 seconds!”  A moment passed.  $30?  No.  10.  $20?  No.  10.  “You’re killin’ me, man.  $20 is as low as I can go.”  I checked my wallet which was probably nylon with velcro holding it closed, did some quick calculations involving starvation, hydration, and recreation, and decided that I could go $17.  (Just like Tony Curtis on the famous KQRS Cash Call.  “$17, how’s dat?”)  I told the dude that $17 was all that I had.  After a moment and a look of supreme annoyance coupled with a hint of “where did I go wrong in my life to be standing here haggling with this skinny moron?”, he nodded and I became the proud owner of a genuine fake Rolex watch.  Rolex watches are complicated and I didn’t know how to set it, so I asked the vendor if he would show me how to wind and set it properly.  He may have decided right then to go back to Veterinary School, but he took a few moments to set and wind the watch after asking me to keep an eye on the guy at the end of the block in the brown leather coat.  “That’s a cop”, he said.  I took this opportunity to rib him in what I thought was a humorous way by asking him “This is a genuine Rolex, right?  Not some fake?”  Of course, Sir.  “So, it has the full lifetime Rolex warranty?”  Of course.  “So, how does that work exactly?  I just bring it back to you to invoke the warranty and have it repaired or replaced if anything goes wrong with it?”  Yes, just bring it back and you can pick out another one.  Any watch in the case, he said.  ha ha ha, I chuckled as he thought about doing surgery on a St. Bernard’s anus and asked himself which situation was worse.  I mentioned that the guy in the leather coat was heading our way as I put on the watch, thanked him again, and started to turn away.  The vendor shut the case and grabbed it as the legs retracted up to meet the bottom of the case.  Then, he was gone and so were we.  We walked past the brown leather coat and he looked at us and kept going.

A few days later, the watch stopped.  Forever.  I wound it.  Tapped it.  Hit it.  Nothing.  Dang.  “I guess we’ll have to head back there an invoke the warranty” I joked with Jason.  ha ha ha

In 1990, there were roughly 7.3 million residents in New York City proper.  By the end of the week and the end of our money, I feel like we’d either said “Excuse me” or “F@&* You” to most of them.  I wore the dead Rolex as a souvenir all week, but it ticked me off that it quit working.  Then, in our mostly aimless wanderings through Manhattan, we found ourselves in Washington Square Park by NYU which is a few miles as the city pigeon flies from Time Square and the theater district.  And, there he was.  The vendor.  Same coat.  Same case.  He was standing on the side of the park under some large trees and being ignored by a lot of hip looking young people.  After convincing Jason that I wasn’t insane and that it really was the same guy, I approached him to invoke my Lifetime Rolex Warranty.  I walked up and said “Hi, I’m not sure if you remember me, but I bought this Rolex from you earlier in the week and it quit working so I’d like to exchange it for another one.”  I think he instantly decided on the dog’s anus.  His eyes rounded as they got larger and he said “Are you a cop?”  I said no.  Long silence.  “How did you find me?”  This is a fair question all things considered.  I said “I’m from Minnesota.”  Longer silence.  “I don’t understand”, he said.  “We’re from Minnesota, we know how to track people”, I said.  Resigned and utterly confused, he said “Go ahead, take any one you want” as he waved his hand toward his case.  Sadly, he didn’t have another blue faced watch, so I was forced to pick a boring cream colored one with a fake leather band that looked like a Timex.  At least it worked.  I handed it to him again and asked him to set it for me while I went through the same questions as before.  His answers were similar, although they lacked the energy of our prior exchange as he was probably devoting some of his mental resources to thoughts of Student Loans, long hours of studying a fat textbook on cat anatomy, and dissecting a fetal pig or some other creature that reeked of formaldehyde.

I’ve always wondered what he made of that amazing coincidence.  Did it change his life or did it just make him vow to never go anywhere near Minnesota?  Or, did he repress the memory and eventually forget it or choose to believe that it never happened at all after the memory blurred with time?  It has always amazed and amused me.  I wore that watch for about six years.  After a few years, the Rolex logo fell off and bounced around inside the case whenever I moved.  It was fun to wiggle it around and try to get it lined up on the correct spot that wasn’t quite as faded as the rest of the face.  I left it in the sun on a window sill a few times hoping that the heat would reactivate the glue and make the logo stick again, but it never did.  I got a lot of scratches and paint on it working construction too.  It’s upstairs right now in a tote with other things that I probably should have thrown away years ago.  Sentimentality and minimalism are always sparring, aren’t they?  But, I have a hard time throwing it away because I may return to New York at some point with that watch in my pocket or even on my wrist.  There are roughly 8.5 million people there now, but my favorite watch vendor may still be one of them.  He may be standing in the same neighborhoods with the same case containing the same watches.  He may glance up one day and see me approaching and get a wide grin on his face as he says “Are you having trouble with THAT watch now?”  And as he waves his wrinkled hand toward the time worn and battered case with its wobbly scissored legs, he’ll say “Go ahead.  Take any one you want, my friend.”

WSP to TS map

Stories Either Mercifully or Sadly Untold

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.  I’ve decided to list some of these situations below in a shorthand form to jog my memory when I decide to write about them.  You may read the list and remember the very thing that it references.  You may be amused by the titles themselves.  You may appreciate the list as one long work of abstract poetry.  Or, I may have just wasted some of your valuable time that you could have better spent investigating the inner reaches of your refrigerator or figuring a way out of the world’s brave new precipitous slide into 1984.  Or, if you’re an avid multitasker with a “smart” refrigerator, both again.  Either way, here you are.  And, again, just like the band names incubator, if you have something to add please let me know.  If one of the titles strikes you as particularly intriguing, ask me to write that one first or buy me some type of drink and I’ll dump it on you verbally.  Have a great day.

The law of 2’s.

The Poop Mound. (Written 4/2019)

Too Many Free Bagels.

New York, yes that New York.

Los Angeles, yes that Speedo. (4/2019)

The Injuries and Near Death Experiences of a North Branch Youth.

The Danise Setup: Betrayal and Near-Fatal Embarrassment in Mankato.

Son of Donald.

Uncle Ray, Santa Claus, and the Goldfish. (Featuring a graveside oath.) (Written 4/2019)

Big Nasty Swedish Fellow.

The Barney Lesson.

Tracking the Rolex Salesman. (Written 3/2019)

Mississippi Music Fest and a Brush with Fame and the Law.

Where’s the Town Sign?

Wiener Dog -vs- Death.

My Life of Crime Begins (and ends): The Bombpop and Tim the Sociopath.

The One Day Colon Cleanse.

Pizza Delivery Confidential: The Great Pizza Stomp of ’08.

Jason and the Eight Foot Penis. (4/2019)

Not Too Much Pork! Only One Pork!!

The Cult Chronicles.

How to Dislocate Your Knee Twice in One Day and How to Fix it.

You Broke the School Bus, I Murdered Your Favorite Cat.

Attacking the Neighbor’s Dog with a Mower Blade.

Cliff the Scary Rooster and David the Scarier Dad. (Featuring Ben and the Welding Gloves.)

Sheldon the Wizard and How to Cast the ‘Lose your Friends’ spell.

Stephanie said “You’ll never be alone, David.”

Uncle John and the Ketchup Bottle.

Uncle John’s Solution to Ronald Reagan.

Uncle John in General.

The Darnedest Thing I’ve Ever Seen x5 or more.  (Mr. Johanson and the airplane, the roller rink airplane, Julie in Chicago, Again with the Rolex, AGAIN with the invincible wiener dog, etc.)

The Unwelcome Mantel of the Stranger on the Train / Scarred for Life is the “Camp Counselor”.

Big Black Bugs Bleed Big Black Bug Blood and Big Black Slug Bugs Bleed Big Black Slug Bug Blood.

The 1957 Les Paul in Jason’s basement.

Strange Arguments with ER Receptionists (2) and Wal Mart Employees (with a special appearance by the knee-jerk mother of the year).

NEVER Use an EE Cummings Poem as your Answering Machine Message.

The Punting Baxter Worship Experience.

The Heat Pad and the Old Lady at the Thrift Store. (4/2019)

School at -40 degrees.

Jesse hated that dog.  He would have gladly catapulted that dog into a lake of acid that was on fire. (4/2019)

Synopsis of the strange character arcs of some of the strange people that I know.

Burning Ben and Lance’s Grandma’s Toenails. (4/2019)

Emil and the Pillar of Fire. (4/2019)

My Dad and the Drifter at the Bus Station. (4/2019)

Going to the Bathroom Alone in Chicago.

Serving and Navigating the Residents of Appleton.




Key’s Cafe Roulette.

Breakfast is my favorite meal. There’s something about a great breakfast that makes everything right in the world. My world, anyway. Obviously, it hasn’t done much for making things right for the rest of the world. Maybe a lot of you aren’t doing it right. Regardless of humanity’s failings in light of the morning meal, when I find a good breakfast spot I remember it and return at some point. Cold brew coffee holds a similar rank in my hierarchy of happiness. (My daughter has pointed out that I generally say “This is one of the best cold brews I’ve ever had” pretty much every time I have one. I get a little overly exuberant sometimes while living in the cold brew moment.) Yesterday, I had breakfast at Key’s with my friends Prashant and Troy and we had some great food and some better conversation. Prashant’s superhero name is The Master while Troy is The Angel of Death or El ángel de la muerte. I cannot reveal any more than that at this time, but let’s just say that having breakfast with either one of these guys is an honor and sitting through a few thousand calories with both of them is transformative.

Anyway, Key’s Cafe is a small chain in the Twin Cities and surrounding area that does a great job with pretty much everything and I eat there whenever I’m near one. But, odd things happen to me fairly often when I eat at the Roseville location. At this point, I’m a little on guard when I go there. Here are two examples:

Ass Pancakes

My friend Brian was going through a difficult change in his life a few years ago and he asked me to come into the cities and spend his birthday with him. I did. We had supper, saw a decent movie, and had a good chat. I stayed over at Brian’s place and we went to Key’s the next morning for breakfast. It was packed and the hostess eventually shoehorned us into a two person table in the back corner. I got my usual; Coffee, eggs, toast, hashbrowns, and a pancake on the side. And, as usual, I pushed the pancake to the side to save it for the end. So, there it sat patiently waiting to be eaten while Brian and I talked about health, religion, geopolitics, school friends, engineering, technology, and women. About halfway through the meal an elderly couple was pointed toward the table to our left. They slowly shuffled to the table where the man in his pork-pie hat and overcoat pulled out the chair for his wife and helped her get seated. The restaurant was so overloaded that the woman’s back was about two feet from my left elbow. The man took off his hat and overcoat and started to slide between his wife, our table, and more precisely, my pancake which resided on the left side of our table. His age related balance issues were compounded by his heavy coat, his efforts to protect his beautiful hat, his large buttocks, and the close proximity of his bride to our table, and again, my pancake. So, losing his balance on the journey, he sat directly on my pancake. To be clear, he plopped on it. He didn’t gently contact it. He crushed it. And, while this event was alarming enough, the fact that he stayed there for quite a while made the event even more surreal. I looked at my pancake, his bottom, Brian, the pancake again, Brian again, and still he sat. Brian covered his mouth to keep from spitting out his food while I said “Hey, Brian. Someone is sitting on my pancake.” Still, he sat. I looked at the pancake again. I looked at Brian again. Brian was tearing up at this point. Then, he said, “Yeah, I see that. You’re right.” I said, “He’s still there.” Brian said, “Yeah, he is.” Then, we looked back and forth a few more times and that humor washed over us that comes when you really want to belly laugh, but you really shouldn’t laugh at all and this makes you want to laugh even more. As all of this awkwardness was transpiring and just as the amount of time was leading me to believe that the man might just be staying there for the duration, he stood up and finished his trek to his original destination. I looked down at my squished pancake, rearranged the dishes again, took a few deep breaths after LNOL (laughing, not out loud), and moved on with breakfast.

It took a few minutes for the laughter to pass and the strangeness of the lack of acknowledgment of anything out of the ordinary happening by the man and his family, but Brian and I got back to our conversation. Brian is a really smart and interesting guy and I get drawn into our conversations. In this case, we were both so occupied with it that neither one of us thought it was strange that I was eating the pancake until I only had a few pieces left. Brian said, “Um… You’re eating the pancake?” I said, “Yeah, I guess I am.” And, I did.

This event is now referred to as “The Ass Pancake Incident”.

The Hustler

After selling some restaurant equipment a few years ago, I stopped at Key’s for breakfast again. I sat at the counter since I was alone and ordered the usual. An older lady came in a few minutes after I had ordered and I made eye contact with her as she walked toward me. She came right over to me like she had been looking for me all day. Later on, I realized that she had. She said, “How are you?! It’s really nice to see you!” I said that I was fine and then I made a large mistake. I said, “How are you?” This question was the cigarette butt casually discarded out the car window that lit the entire mountain on fire. As it turns out, she was not well at all. She had just gotten out of the hospital after having a surgery that hadn’t fixed the problem and also her family had abandoned her at this time of need. In addition to her medical and personal problems, she had some legal problems that were keeping her from getting her check and, consequently, she was also experiencing some housing issues because she hadn’t been paying her rent. With her hand on my forearm and a tear in her eye, she concluded this dirge by saying that she “barely had enough money for a cup of coffee.” But, she had come here, to Key’s, to get out of the house and away from some of her problems for a short time to spend some of her last dollars on the simple pleasure of that aforementioned cup of coffee.

My good side felt sorry for her because I generally believe people are telling me the truth and I would like, as though I’m the Minnesota representative for the Miss America pageant, world peace and for everyone to be happy. My bad/realistic/jaded/experienced/worldly side thought “Arg!” as if I had just stepped in a cow pie that had that hard crust on top that leads you to believe it’s all dried out where in reality, like a great chocolate Bismarck from a local bakery, it has a custard-consistency liquid on the inside. Also, you’re barefoot and a Norwegian germaphobe. You get the picture.

My breakfast mate, let’s call her Evil Oprah, then moved on to the point in the conversation known in sales circles as “the close”. She timed this perfectly because it coincided with the delivery of my overly large breakfast. EO looked at my burgeoning plates and, fixing her watery and world weary eyes on me, said “You wouldn’t be able to help me out a little, would you?” As naive as I am sometimes, I saw this one coming like a Monday morning. For one of the first times in my life, I decided to say no. But, as I learned from my Dad, there’s nothing wrong with helping someone out as long as you’re actually helping them. So, I said, “I can’t give you any money, but I will buy you breakfast if you’d like to have breakfast with me.” Evil Oprah was not pleased with this turn of events. The look on her face told me that I was just another stop on the disappointment train’s schedule. But, her words revealed her character issues and the cracks in her tales of woe when she said “Really?! You can’t give me anything?!” I confirmed her understanding of the situation and offered breakfast again. She accepted with a sigh as though she was doing me a favor and asked for a menu. Evil Oprah then ordered about $25 worth of food and then added to it with “a slice of that German chocolate cake in a bag to go.” By this time, I had concluded that EO was not a nice person, but I had promised to pay for her food and I was going to keep my word.

As I ate and as the Evil One waited for her personal buffet to be delivered, she turned her stool toward the aisle and hustled every single person that got anywhere near her for the next ten or fifteen minutes. I don’t know exactly how much money she was given, but as I heard the exact same well-rehearsed story she had foisted upon me I saw her pocket at least $50. My resolve to keep my word was tested. I was angry both at EO and myself. I finished my food and stood up to leave without having received the bill. I turned to her and said “I hope things change for you in your life, you evil pile of steaming, putrid yak vomit. Have a good day.” (Okay, I didn’t say the yak part.) I walked up to the cash register and got ready for the financial hit that Evil Oprah had inflicted on me. The waitress asked me how everything was and I told her that the food was great. She gave me a look that said she knew exactly what I was saying. She said “That will be 14.53.” I knew that the bill should have been at least double if not triple that amount. I said “Are you sure?” She looked at me, turned to look at Evil Oprah who was busy hustling someone else, looked back at me, smiled, and said “Yes. 14.53 is what you owe.” I gave her a $20 and a smile and said “Thank you. Keep the change.”

As I walked to my truck, I once again engaged in a battle within myself as my good side was saying “…but, you promised to pay for her breakfast. You gave your word.” and my bad side was saying “…she’s a scammer and you don’t owe her anything.” I started the truck and drove past the restaurant as I was exiting the lot. Oprah was standing at the cash register engaged in an animated discussion with the waitress who, apparently, knew her well. I burst out laughing and laughed off and on for about five minutes as I was driving away and the anger was leaving me. The “good” and “bad” sides of my personality still discuss her sometimes and wonder where she is and what she’s doing with her life.

If you’re looking for a great breakfast and possibly an anal assault on your food or an extended encounter with a devil, give Key’s Cafe in Roseville a try. I’d love to join you.

I’d bet Rudy and Lola ate at Key’s regularly.

Band name incubator

I’ve been in a few bands in my life as many people have, but I’ve found that naming a band can be stressful and cause conflict among the members. So, as a former member of Tunnel Vision, Broken Trust, and The Punting Baxter Worship Experience, I have decided to record some band names here, on the internet, in this blog, in a brainstormed fashion that, like everything online, will be judged harshly and insulted without regard to consequences. Like firing a bullet into the air, feel free to launch you ballistic commentary or even provide suggestions of your own.

1. Raped by Cheetahs

2. Free Beer (I stole this from a guy I worked with. Latent marketing genius.)

3. No Lives Matter

4. I Survived 9/11 (Stolen from Ryan and Jake)

5. Herbert (Like Elvis or Rihanna)

6. Hulda and the Swiggums

7. The Nude Eel

8. Trump Pet

9. The Letters F and U

10. Made It

11. Maiden China

12. Luscious Mullet

13. Grandma’s Toenails

14. Flatulence Champion

15. Solar Powered Sex Machine

16. The Rabid Mollusks

17. Super Sphincter

18. Arse Cynic and Old Lays

19. Thrift Store Vibrator

20. Justin Tyme and the Lates

21. The Woodchuck’s Wood

22. Evil Oprah