Ake's Pains debuted in the University of Akron Buchtelite in September of 1977. The school's reputation as an institute of higher learning has still not recovered. Ake's Pains returns after a brief 32 year hiatus. It's back, baby!

Monday, December 5, 2016

I Fooled Around And Fell In Love (The Blunder Years – Part 3B)

You should read part 1 “You Know I Won’t Dance” - before reading this one.

Part 1 Summary – Don does not want to go to his senior prom in 1976, however the senior girls are pressuring him to ask Rhonda.  Don does not want to take Rhonda, so he decides to ask Sarah, a beauty queen, instead.

"Ah, but since I met you baby, love's got a hold on me
I fooled around and fell in love"*

Asking Sarah Edwards to the prom is one of the craziest decisions I have ever made, but I was desperate and not thinking clearly.  I my mind, my plan had little chance for success, but it was the equivalent of a “Hail Mary” football pass. If it was successful, my Rhonda problem goes away. If it falls incomplete, at least I knew I tried to do something. And when I’m standing at the altar, and Rhonda starts walking down the aisle, I will be thinking “If only Sarah Edwards would have gone to the prom with me, I wouldn’t be in this mess.  This is all Sarah’s fault, not mine.”

Monday, after the newspaper staff meeting, I followed Sarah to her locker.  I was mildly nervous, but I fully expected to be rejected, it was just a matter of how and when.  I envisioned she would first be a bit startled when I approached her, then slightly amused after I issued the invitation. She would then say she wanted to check her schedule, and would decline my offer on Tuesday.  I wasn’t concerned if the rejection became public knowledge. It would not be embarrassing to be turned down by Sarah Edwards. The worst-case scenario would be if she laughed in my face, “You silly boy!  Go ask Rhonda like you’re supposed to and leave me alone.”  I hoped she was too classy to do that.

I acted like I was a worthy suitor and approached her confidently.  I looked into her eyes with my best “Oh baby, you know you want it look” and delivered the invitation flawlessly, without any hint of fear.

I knew something was amiss almost immediately, she smiled subtlety at me and was highly amused, even pleased, at my request. I studied her face intently for her next response.

Then her large, gorgeous, blue eyes widened.

(My pulse quickens)

Her luscious lips turn from a grin to a full smile

(My adrenaline starts to flow like a raging river)

“Sure, it would great to go with you!”, Sarah gushed.

(Of course, I act as if that was the answer I had expected)

“That’s wonderful! “We will discuss the details later”, I exclaim, as I flash my signature big, fake, smile.

I turn quickly to leave, not only because of what just happened, but because my next class was one floor up, on the opposite end of the building. I take two steps and then I fully comprehend what just happened. The left side of my brain screams out to the right:


At this realization, I become literally weak in the knees (this has only happened a couple times in my entire life).  Now it would be a travesty to collapse in the hall right after such a manly display of bravado. Somehow, I am able to take five more steps, with no feeling in my knees and duck around the corner to the left of the stairwell, an area which is not visible from the hallway.

I lean hard against the brick wall for support and start to hyperventilate.  I wait a few moments for the feeling to return to my knees and my breathing to recover. Then I rush to my class. 

I had never mentally prepared for an immediate, enthusiastic, positive, acceptance.  Two weeks ago I was dead set against even going to the prom, now I was taking Sarah Edwards, go freakin’ figure.

Most guys who scored this coup would have would have immediately announced it to everyone they encountered it the school. “Who has two thumbs and is taking Sarah Evans to the Prom? This Guy!”  “Oh yeah Tom, I guess taking a cheerleader to the prom is kind of nice. I’m happen to be taking a beauty queen.” 

But I react to this unexpected situation like a jewel thief who had pulled off the heist of the century.  The only person told I ever told about my prom date without being asked about it first, was my mother, and that was only because I needed cash to pay for everything.

By the next morning, the rumor was spreading like wildfire throughout the school.  At least Sarah had told her friends, I was worried she might keep it secret also.  And it was only a rumor at that point, because of course, few people actually believed it.

I spent the entire day confirming the news. The girls would say, “I heard you are taking Sarah Edward to the prom” (meaning “is it true?). I would answer. They would say “that’s great” and then smile.  And all this sudden female attention was great, really great.

Now the guys would approach me with an expression of skepticism and bluntly ask, “Are you taking Sarah Edwards to the prom?” When I said “yes”, they would say “Wow!” (with an expression on their face that said: “I didn’t know you had the balls to do that!”)

 Yes, suddenly I was a stud muffin, a big man on campus, and I had the balls. (With apologies to Dr. Seuss) “And what happened then? Well, at Kenmore they say, that Don’s small balls grew three sizes that day." 

Strangely, I was enjoying my new notoriety. People were showing more interest in me and giving me more respect.  I now started to strut down the halls with a new manly gait, although with my hips set wider to make room for my bigger, well, you get the idea.

My strategy for prom night was simple: Don’t do anything to screw things up. Make no mistakes. 

Remember, I never wanted to go to prom in the first place.  Taking Sarah Edwards made things much more interesting, but not that much more
enjoyable.  I commandeered my father’s Ford Galaxy 500 for the evening, the closest thing I had to a limo, and hoped I could keep my composure in a pressure situation.

My fortitude was tested as soon as I picked Sarah up.  She was wearing a light-blue, stretchy, clingy, dress that held tightly to every beautiful curve of her body.  There was nothing at all immodest about it, but that body poured into that dress, oh my. Oh, my, my, my! (Excuse me, I still get the vapors thinking about it).  And she was even more imposing in her high heels, which she could wear, because her date (that would be me) was so tall. 

When we walked into the hall, it was like making a grand entrance.  The noise level literally dropped as people stared.  I relished this, even though  all the attention was focused on the eye-candy on my arm.  It didn’t matter how much the other girls spent on their dresses or how much they had primped, no one looked as good as Sarah that night. I felt as if I should be wearing white gloves, like the guy in charge of escorting the Stanley Cup.

The evening went well.  I did not make any big mistakes.  I was standing by the punch bowl when they sloshed in a large refill.  Not the place to be when wearing a white jacket.  I didn’t make a fool of myself of the dance floor and I even let a couple guys have dances with Sarah, which just added to my stature. “You want to dance with my date, fine. No, sorry, I really don’t want to dance with yours”.  

I only made one request of Sarah the entire night. It was announced that   professional photographs of couples could be purchased for $25.  Oh, I wanted a photo of this. I wanted it more than I have ever wanted a photo in my life. (Okay I have to say at this point that I really wanted my wedding photos more, but you be the judge) At that moment, I couldn’t even speak to ask her. I just stared in her direction with the best “begging” face I had.  She turned to me and asked, “Do you want a photo?”  I nodded affirmatively several times.  I do have a huge smile on my face in the picture, and let me assure you, there was nothing fake about it. It was the best $25 I have ever spent in my life.

I was really feeling special by the end of the evening and surprised myself by actually enjoying the prom.  I took Sarah home and received an obligatory “friend kiss”.  Very slight lip contact, there’s been more passion when kissing my cousins.  Ah, wait, that came out wrong.  Hey, I live in Ohio, Northern Ohio!  Well, just forget it.

In the days after prom, I couldn’t stop thinking about Sarah Edwards. Being with Sarah Edwards had made me popular.  Sarah Edwards went to the prom with me.  I liked having Sarah Edwards on my arm. I looked very manly when I was with Sarah Edwards.  Sarah Edwards is stunningly beautiful and nice and tall and a redhead and, and, and (well ladies you know what happens next, you guys not so much).

Yes, I fell in love with Sarah Edwards.  As irrational as it was for me to ask her to the prom, it was even more irrational for me to fall in love with her.  Of course, falling in love with anyone is not rational.  If it were, the human race would have ended a long time ago.

In actuality, I didn’t really fall in love with the person of Sarah,  just the image of Sarah.  We had nothing in common, I mean she didn’t even like football, for Pete’s sake. This was a poor match, but when you are 18, your emotions (and hormones) can spin out of control like a hurricane.

A few days I saw Sarah at a school-sponsored, senior class party. I swaggered up to her exuding an attitude that said, “Hey Baby, remember me? We had those magical moments at the prom”.  But Sarah treated me like a, like a, friend, a mere acquaintance.  How could she?  I was crushed.  My true love, my soul mate, was spurning me and moving to Puerto Rico, where I might never see her again.

Lest you think those emotions were not real, it took me about two weeks to recover, hormones and teen emotions being what they are.  I did manage to get her a print of photo before she left. And then she moved to Puerto Rico, with her splendid blue dress, and I never heard from her ever again.

Now if you are keeping score, and I hope you’re not, my first love moved to Middle-of Nowhere, Wyoming after our relationship ended and my prom date moved all the way to Puerto Rico.  At least neither of them became a nun.

One More Prom Story

Eight years after the prom, Bob (yes, that Bob, who was mentioned 22 times in my book, and who often causes me problems) and his wife Diane, had paid a social visit to our recently purchased first home.   At some point, the conversation turned to our high school days, Bob and I graduated in the same class, Diane attended the same school, a couple years behind us. My wife (who is not Rhonda) attended a different school. I have no idea how the subject of senior prom ever came up.

Bob: (to me) Did you go the senior prom?

Me: Yes, I did

Bob: You did?  Who did you take?

Me: Sarah Edwards

Bob: (with a scornful look of disbelief) You did not take Sarah Edwards to the prom!

Me: Yes, I did

Diane: (laughing – I told you it was laughable) You, most certainly did not ever take Sarah Edwards to the prom!

I know it was silly to argue about something that happened eight years prior and at first I didn’t care if they believed me or not.  But now I had a woman laughing at me and my wife was wondering why I was lying about my prom date and upsetting our guests. 

I excused myself and quickly found the prom photo (easy to locate because we had just recently moved) and triumphantly presented it to Bob and Diane.  Literal stunned silence.  Bob looks up at me with that same look of admiration that the guys gave me eight years ago.  Finally, he gasps out a comment, “Yeah, that’s Sarah Edwards”. Diane just stares down at the photo in total disbelief.

Bob hands me back the photo and of course my wife wants to see it.  I give it to her, but I fail to see her reaction because I am too focused on gloating over proving that I did indeed take a beauty queen to the prom.  We all talked for a while longer and then Bob and Diane left.

Now my wife is not the jealous type.  She has only expressed jealousy a few times during our many years together and on most of these occasions, believe it or not, I have been totally innocent.  But when she gets jealous, she expresses her displeasure in a very passionate way, very passionate, as a tornado is passionate.  I don’t know if it was because I found the photo so quickly. I don’t know if it was the awesomeness of Sarah Edwards in that tight blue dress. I don’t know if it was my huge, intense smile in the photo.  But Bob and Diane weren’t out of my driveway when my wife expressed her intense reaction to that photograph.  Thanks, Bob.  Thanks so much for bringing this up, you stupid sunavabitch.

Now I know you all really want to see that photo of me and especially Sarah Edwards, poured into that clingy blue dress. But that photo is now buried somewhere deep in the attic and I would need my wife’s help to locate it.  So, you are not going to see that photo and I am going to continue to live.

(This concludes the Blunder Years)

*Elvin Bishop

Monday, November 28, 2016

You Know I Won’t Dance – (The Blunder Years – Part 3A)

You know I can't dance, you know I can't dance*

(As always, names have been changed to protect everyone of everything)

The announcement that tickets were available for the 1976 Kenmore High School Senior Prom created quite a buzz at the school. The event was much more important to the girls than the guys.  To senior girls, it was the social event of the year and it was essential to be there to maintain your social status. To most of the guys, it was just another dance.  Now if you had a girlfriend, you were obligated to go. Some of the other guys actually enjoyed these events and might even invite a girl in hopes of sparking a new relationship.  

Almost immediately, The Question, was asked of me:

“Don, are you going to the senior prom?”

Consider that this event involves slow dancing, wearing fancy-smancy clothing, and being serious and refined for an extended amount of time.  I abhor all of these things (my lack of dancing skills has been previously blogged about) and I didn’t have a girlfriend (things had cooled with Connie by this time), so I had no reason or desire to attend, none.

Now when a guy asked me The Question, it was because he didn’t want to go this thing either and wanted assurance that other guys were not going. He also didn’t want to be the only one not going, because it would look like he couldn’t get a date and that would be bad for his image.  Image was important to most seniors and this prom thing was the ultimate image test.

When girls asked me The Question, I thought they might me fishing for an invitation or just curious, because the event was so important to them.  But soon I thought there could be a craftier, even sinister, motive for the inquiry.  I can’t prove it, but I suspected that somewhere in Cindy Nolan’s basement was a blackboard with the names of senior girls needing dates on the left and uncommitted senior boys on the right.  A team of girls then met in secret to share information on how to pair couples up.  It was a primitive form of Match.com. It was similar to the NFL draft: With the third pick in the 1976 Kenmore High, Senior Prom Draft, Becky Hollins selects Troy Maynard!  Once the names were matched up, they launched their diabolical plan.

One day after Physics class my friend Janet asks me The Question but with an added twist:

Janet: Are you going to the prom?

Me: No, I’m not.

Janet: Well, I just want to let you know that Rhonda Sandling wants to go with you.

Me: (looking perplexed) Thanks, for letting me know.

It was no surprise Rhonda Sandling wanted me to ask her to the prom.  Rhonda had a huge crush on me and had been trying to spur my interest for a while. Rhonda was pretty, tall, and pleasant.  We may have made a great couple.  The problem was that Rhonda came on way too strong, stronger than your Aunt Gertrude’s perfume, strong.  She made no secret that she wanted to marry me and have my babies, and maybe not in that order. 

Rhonda scared the hell out of me.  I was only 18 and not ready to make any babies.  I needed the opportunity to get to know her, woo her and then see where it led.  If I took her to the prom, I feared she would interpret this as an expression of my desire for her and create a magical moment for her. This act might commit me to a relationship for the entire summer.  If I was unable to extract myself from her clutches, or if babies were involved, we could be making wedding plans in the fall.  In my mind, asking her to the prom could be equal to a wedding proposal, so there was no way I was taking her.  
There was now an organized campaign directed against me, but there was absolutely no way I was going to the prom, NO WAY. However, I had greatly underestimated the strength and commitment of my adversary.

Almost every day, senior girls asked me The Question and kept tightening the screws:

Random Senior Girl: Are you going to the prom?

Me: No

RSG: Well, Rhonda Sandling really wants to go with you.

Me: Thanks for letting me know.

And then they added the sad look of disappointment, when I didn’t show interest.  A look that said:  You are a mean, horrible, jerk if you don’t take Rhonda to the prom when she wants go with you soooooooo much.  You disgusting piece of crap.

Worse yet, they were picking off my fellow prom holdouts one by one.  Troy Maynard did ask Becky Hollins to the prom.  Phil Cooper invited his designated date, Ann Nichols.  These victories must have encouraged them to turn the heat up on me.

Indeed, I was weakening and they could smell blood.  Friday, I got The Question in the morning and then they hit me again in the afternoon, a cute cheerleader delivering the inquiry, with a very convincing sad look of disappointment.  When the bell rang at the end of the day, I rushed to my locker, grabbed my stuff, and sprinted out the door.

But that evening I was still upset and I couldn’t stop thinking about the prom problem.  At that moment, I realized I had lost this battle.  Unbelievably, I would have to attend the senior prom.  The pressure was just too much.

However, whenever I’m forced to do something, I want to do it on my terms, a conditional surrender if you will.  Therefore, if I’m going to the prom, I’m going to decide what girl I would like to take.

However, my options were limited. All of my preferred options already had dates.  I couldn’t ask an underclasswoman without drawing the heated wrath of every senior girl in the school. 

I considered inviting Barb.  She had asked me The Question a couple times and she appeared to signal to me her availability when I didn’t show any interest in taking Rhonda.  However, there were issues here also. Barb was very short and had large bazoombas. Matched against my height, we could have inadvertently engaged in “dirty dancing” at the prom.  And she also happened to be fat, which now I realize was a shallow reason to reject her, but I was fearful that Walt and Keith would make fun of me.  This seems so ridiculous now.  Walt and Keith were losers then and they are still losers now.  I would not value their opinion on anything today, so why did I care so much about their opinion then?  Truth be told, Barb would have been my best choice. 

Then I came up with a totally illogical, bizarre, thinking-outside-the box, choice: Sarah Edwards.  I reasoned that Sarah Edwards might still be available because she had a physical abnormality. 

I know what you’re thinking: “Ahh Don, this is going to be a very heartwarming story about how you took the ugly girl with the cleft pallet to the prom because no one else would and gave her a precious, lifetime, memory.  That is so sweet and you are such an awesome person.”  But of course, you would be wrong, so, so, wrong.

Sarah Edwards’ physical abnormality was that she was stunningly beautiful, drop-dead gorgeous.  Excuse my sexist, flaming heterosexual, description, but she was five-foot-eleven-inches of curvaceous excellence topped off with striking features and flowing, fiery, red hair.  If she were a road, she would be lined with “Dangerous Curves Ahead” signs.  She was also intelligent, talented and dignified.  This was not just my opinion, Sarah had won the regional beauty pageant and would soon compete for the state crown.

Sarah and I were both on the newspaper staff and she was more of an acquaintance than a friend, but we did know each other and occasionally talked. No one at our school was worthy of dating her.  Her family was moving to Puerto Rico by the end of summer so she probably didn’t have a boyfriend out of school either.  

She had not talked about going to the prom during newspaper meetings and the senior girls probably left her name off their board because they figured the beauty queen didn’t need any help getting a date.  But she did, because the all the guys were intimidated by her.  Sarah was 5’11” and she was not a frail, skinny, girl.  She had filled out perfectly into a desirous creature, she was a woman among girls.  However, her size did not intimidate me. At nearly 6’ 4” I could look her in the eye, provided I could keep my eyes off the rest of her.
But it was a totally ludicrous idea to even think about asking her to the prom.  

This would be a futile and possibly embarrassing effort.  This option was
I didn't smile for this photo to spite my parents, but 40
years later I'm left with this!
outrageous, insane and had little chance of success.  It would have been literally laughable if I had shared it with my friends, which is of course why I didn’t. It was just plain silly.

However, I was under extreme pressure and not thinking rationally.  I reasoned that Sarah was a good option because losing out to a beauty queen would not embarrass Rhonda.  Also, if Sarah Edwards somehow fell for me, she was moving to Puerto Rico, so a breakup would be easy. (I said I wasn’t thinking rationally, right?)

As hare-brained as this decision was, Sunday night I developed my plan for asking Sarah to the prom on Monday. No guy at the school had the guts to ask Sarah Edwards to the prom, but that was soon about to change.

(End of Part 1)

-         Who will Don end up taking to the prom?

-         Will Sarah Edwards laugh in Don’s face?

-         Will Don end up engaged to Rhonda? (Were there babies involved?)

-         What prom night incident gets Don in trouble eight years later?

Watch for the thrilling conclusion to be posted next week!

*Leo Sayer

Monday, November 14, 2016

I’m Hooked On A Feeling – (The Blunder Years - Part 2B)

More bad 70’s music:

I, - I,I,I,I -  I’m hooked on a feeling, I’m high on believing …..*

You really should read Part 2A – Feelings, Nothing More Than Feelings before reading this one:

Summary of Part 2A : My old flame is at my 40th high school reunion and despite my attempts to avoid her, she is sitting at the same table with my wife and I.  This causes an issue, because of the joke Stuts and I are planning to tell on stage after dinner.

The Joke:

Stuts: “Connie lives on a ranch in some place called Middle-of-Nowhere, Wyoming and rides horses every day.

Me: You know, I really liked her in high school.  In fact, I planned to marry her.

Stuts: Well that explains it!

Me: Explains what?

Stuts: She obviously moved to Wyoming so you couldn’t find her and those horses are for a fast getaway if you ever did!

Part 2B

In a crazed panic, I rush over to tell Stuts we have to pull The Joke from the routine and why.  I’m so flustered I’m not sure I’m even making sense.  Stuts has been a good friend since we were nine years old and he knows me very well. He is initially amused by my concern and assumes I am joking. 

Stuts (grinning widely): Well, you weren’t serious about wanting to marry Connie, you made that part up, right?

Me: (With a wide-eyed, panicked, face, I shake my head, indicating I had not made that up)

Stuts (Still smiling):  Yeah, but it’s still okay. I mean, she’s not hot, is she?

(Conveniently Connie was talking to some people the next table over)

Me: (Motioned with my head for him to judge for himself, panicked face still in place)

Stuts (No longer smiling, deadly serious expression): Oh $h!t, what are you going to do?

But Stuts was not really asking me for a decision. When a guy in the Kenmore Class of 1976 asks you that question, with that expression, in that tone, he is challenging you to be a man and not be a wuss.  This is how we developed our manhood in high school, it was how we learned to become men.

Of course, the wise decision was to not tell The Joke, there was no question The Joke needed to be cut from the routine. And I have had 40 years to define and develop my manhood and I am very secure in my masculinity, so there was really no need to ask me that question. However, we were at the high school reunion and we were reliving our high school days and Stuts had just challenged my manhood. 

My fearful expression was transformed into something resembling Dirty Harry. My chin jutted out, my chest puffed, as I gritted my teeth. I pointed a finger at Stuts and said with bravado, “We are doing that joke and I will deal any consequences” and then I spun and marched away confidently.  I had only taken a few steps when suddenly logic returned. Deal with the consequences? How are you going to deal with those consequences? What the hell were you thinking?

I made the pre-dinner announcements and then retreated to my place at the table, seated right between Connie and my wife.  Connie and I immediately began conversing. We didn’t have to catch up on a lot of things, being Facebook friends keeps you up to date on many important details.  I’m not even sure what we talked about. It was one of those times that what you talk about is not nearly as interesting as who you’re talking with. Like when you are young and in … oh. 

If high school reunions are supposed to take you back to the past, Connie and I were sure going back in time.  At some point, it was if we were the only two people in the room.  Which of course is odd since my wife was right there.  And Connie and I were physically very close during this conversation, but that’s only because the room was very noisy. I’m sure that a body language expert observing us would have obviously come to the wrong conclusion, because I have no feelings, no feelings, none whatsoever. And I was sure Connie had no feelings either.

Dinner ended and it was “show time”.  It did feel a big strange combing out that long wig and primping in the men’s room.  Fortunately, only one guy entered while I was at the mirror and for some reason he left rather quickly.

We started the routine and it was going well, but we were nearing the end and The Joke was coming up.  As Stuts started The Joke, I took a deep breath, there was an adrenaline rush and it seemed like we were speaking in slow
motion.  Stuts delivers the punch line, I make an offended expression – and the audience breaks out in raucous laughter.

Personally, I don’t find a joke about a woman moving thousands of miles just to get away from me, that funny at all, but the crowd sure loved The Joke. And incredibly, the person who laughed the loudest at this joke was my wife, so loud in fact, I could discern her laugh from all the others.  While I was very relieved that The Joke had not upset my wife, I was a bit offended that she found a joke about a woman moving thousands of miles away just to avoid me, so freakin’ funny.  I started to worry that Connie might have a guest room on the ranch.

The routine ended and I returned to my seat. Connie complimented me on the performance, so I knew she was not embarrassed.  Things were good!  I had survived in a Gloria Gaynor type way, but the night was not over.

A few minutes later, David visited our table and wondered how I had the guts to tell that joke with my wife in the audience. Before I could speak a word, my wife jumped in to defend me.  This seldom happens. But hey, it was a funny joke at my expense, that featured her new best friend Connie, what’s not to like?

I then told David that Stuts thought the part about me wanting to marry Connie was not true, when it really was. As I said this I caught a glimpse of someone on my left, nodding.  I turned and saw Connie. In the excitement of the moment I had forgotten she was still sitting there.  And she was beaming, almost glowing.  It’s difficult for a man to spark that type of response in a woman, especially a middle-age woman.  What had I done to elicit this response?

This was much too complex to discern at the moment, but my best “post-game” analysis is this:

Our relationship is high school was typical of “first loves”. It was bumpy, awkward, muddled, frustrating and painful.  I was horrible at this game, and Connie while better at it, was not good enough to make up for my deficiencies.  As a nervous, insecure, self-conscience,17-year-old, I was never able to express my true feelings to her.  And as a blossoming young woman in an early relationship, she needed to hear those words, she needed this affirmation from me, and it never came.

Until I delivered it, just a few minutes ago, albeit 40 years too late.  It didn’t matter that I was wearing a stupid wig, it didn’t matter that it was part of a joke.  No, I had said the words and they were true. She knew they were true and that’s all that mattered. And better yet, they were proclaimed on stage, into a microphone, to a hundred of our peers, no less.  Just as when a letter is lost in the mail for many years, it still brings you joy when it is finally delivered.  Those words were special, special enough to cause a glow.

(If you are keeping score: I thought The Joke would upset my wife and embarrass Connie. The result was my wife found The Joke hilarious and Connie felt honored.  My ability to understand women and anticipate their reactions is astounding.)

After David exited, it was just Connie and I left at the table, seated semi-across from each other, similar to a heads-up poker match. I looked at Connie and our eyes locked on for the second time that evening. She was no longer beaming but there was a light burning in those eyes.  It was at that moment I realized that she had brought some old feelings with her to the reunion that night, which I found odd, because I have no feelings, why would I have any feelings whatsoever?  

I stared at Connie with my best poker face. A face that said, “I have no feelings now, absolutely none.  I am so totally devoid of any feelings that I’m numb. My whole body is numb. I’m so numb, even my skull is numb. Please believe me, don’t call my bluff. Do not call my bluff".

Well it’s no surprise that the women who know you best, can read you well.  She was not fazed by my facade.  She indeed called my bluff and then raised the stakes by giving me The Look. Back in high school, I was powerless to resist The Look. It was The Look that always made me melt.  It was The Look that kept me coming back to her. And now I was face-to-face with The Look, albeit with a couple of added wrinkles, once again.

My plan for the evening was to conceal any feelings that I might still have.  Connie had already revealed her feelings and now her plan was to entice me to express mine. She had put my great master plan to the ultimate test.

Now, in over 40 years of time, I have grown into a very manly man, a man with strong resolve and tremendous inner strength.  A man who could easily pass this acid test without blinking.

Okay, so I failed a little, in the same sense that the Cleveland Browns failed to win the Super Bowl this year.  If I were an iceberg, the hall would have been flooded, so maybe a feeling or two leaked out.

Now after all these years, all the cards were finally on the table. It was intriguing that so much had been expressed by two people without a word being spoken. I guess this is how animals in the wild communicate, right before they --- well, that is not going to happen here.  If it had, do you really think I would be writing about it? This ain’t no made-for-TV-movie.

It took me until the next day to understand the significance of that moment.  I had always viewed The Look as something Connie did to manipulate and control me and I had resented her for that.  I now realized that The Look was her positive, primal reaction to me.  It was a natural response that she had no control over.

It was now obvious that back in high school, if only I had been able to do the right things, say the right things and act more like a man than a boy, this courtship could have turned out much differently.  For 40 years, I had felt like a loser regarding this relationship, but now I know this was not the case.  I had not lost; I was a winner who failed to claim the prize.  There is a huge difference.

But I have no regrets, unless I can regret ever being 17. And that of course is fruitless, because the only way from 16 to 18 is by Route 17, even if it is a bumpy road.

And in no sense, is Connie “the one that got away”.  There is no “one that got away” if you are happy with “the one you caught”. Consequently, the best part of this story is that Connie found a husband much better for her and my wife is a superior match for me. Therefore, life has worked out so grand for both of us.  No, Connie’s not “the one that got away”, but she is “the one who could have been”.

At the end of the evening there was a long goodbye, but it is important to note that there was nothing salacious or prurient about anything that happened that evening. Just a couple of old friends, expressing some old feelings, resolving some old issues.  There was no heat in this old flame.

Still, it’s probably a good thing Connie lives in Middle-of-Nowhere, Wyoming, just saying.

*Lyrics by Mark James

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Chicago Cubs Suck

I see many Cleveland Indians fans on social media congratulating the Chicago Cubs and their fans on the dramatic Game 7 victory in the World Series.  This is a great display of sportsmanship and I too would like to offer my acknowledgement.  I would also like to express my feeling that the Cubs suck.

Now it’s not that I am a sore loser or anything like that, but it is clearly obvious to even a novice baseball fan that the Cubs do suck. In fact, they suck bad.

Any reasonable baseball team would have realized when it was down three-games-to-one, that it should pack it in and let the Indians win the series.  But not these bastards. Nooooooooo, they just kept hitting, pitching, and playing stellar defense, until they end up winning the final three games.  This is just unacceptable baseball behavior.  It is uncouth, impolite and unfair and it is why the Cubs suck.

These vagrants kept playing so hard, that all our good players tired themselves out and could not play at the highest level in Game 7.  The Cubs even slowed down and let the Indians tie the game so they could totally exhaust them by playing extra innings.  That’s just plain mean and a further reason why the Cubs suck and suck big time.

And their pitchers are all jerks too!  Throwing all their fancy cutters and sliders on the corner of home plate repeatedly.  And our poor catcher can only hit fastballs, so these slobs throw him six curves in a row.  Are you serious? What is the sport in that?  I also think that there should be a speed limit on how fast a pitcher can throw.  If it works on the highways, it should work on the diamond.  Boy, do the Cubs ever suck. Suck big time.

And don’t give me this crap about not winning the World Series since 1908. The Indians last won the series in 1948 and I wasn’t even born yet, so there is absolutely no difference between those years to me. It could have been 1808 as far as I’m concerned, which coincidentally was the first year the Indians won the series. I watched Jose Mesa blow the save in Game 7 in 1997 and at this rate I will never see the Indians win a World Series, so I have to say, the Cubs suck.  Yes, you do, you suck.

I don’t mean to be a poor sport about this, but the Cubs suck. And all the Cubs fans suck, except for my friend Jimmy C, he’s okay, but the rest of you Cub fans suck, because the Cubs suck.

And the World Series umpires, all six of them, suck.  The replay officials suck. Wrigley Field sucks. Bill Murray, when he is cheering for the Cubs, sucks. Joe Buck sucks, of course you already knew that. And John Smoltz, the commentators, and the cameramen, all suck.  Not that I am bitter or anything like that, I’m just saying what needs to be said.

So enjoy your trophy and parade Chicago, although I bet the parade is going to suck. You may be World Series champions but you are very sucky ones at that.  My final comment, the Cubs suck.

Nothing More Than Feelings (The Blunder Years – Part 2A)

(Let’s start a post related to the 70’s with some bad 70’s music)

Feelings, nothing more than feelings,
Trying to forget my feelings …...*

One of my responsibilities for our 40th year high school reunion was to collect ticket money for the event.  It was exciting to see which classmates were attending when the mail arrived each day. Some of these people I had not seen in 40 years.  But one envelope caught my attention before I even opened it.  I stared at the return address. Connie is coming, wow, all the way from Wyoming. (name and location changed)

This was somehow significant for me.  She could be considered a first love, an old flame, or whatever, and I had not seen her in 40 years.  As I recorded her reservation, I noted that her husband would not be traveling to Ohio, but her sister would be attending the event with her.

For some unknown reason, I kept thinking about Connie and our past relationship over the next several days.  Not because I still had feelings for her.  Obviously, I did not.  If I did, that would be ridiculous because it had been 40 years and there is a definite statute of limitations on feelings.  So definitely no feelings, no feelings whatsoever. 

But it did bother me that I was unable to remember how the relationship actually ended.  We had casually kept in contact for a time after graduation.  Connie was going to a nearby college and we exchanged letters, though not love letters, throughout the summer.  The romantic interest had faded by that time, but I guess we were both just keeping our options open.  However, the letters stopped in the early fall, 39 years ago.  I didn’t know who ended it or why, but I didn’t think it was me. Of course, I have no idea why I can remember these old details when I can’t even remember important stuff that happened last week, but it is definitely not because I still have any feelings, because I don’t.  No, no feelings.

Then surprisingly, the mystery about how the relationship ended was soon revealed.  A couple weeks before the reunion, Stuts (his real name is Tim, but he deserves a cool nickname), had published an e-directory of information he had collected from our classmates. I read that Connie has been married for 39 years.  Now I don’t need my MBA degree, my keen data analysis skills or even a calculator to figure this one out.  Still, I took some solace in the fact that I was not rejected, but replaced.  And this fact  was meaningless in the big picture, since all my other options closed a mere seven months after the letters stopped when I met my wife-to-be.

As the reunion approached, I felt some uneasiness about seeing Connie again.  Not because I still had any feelings toward her, because I don’t, but because I thought it could feel awkward.  And I hate feeling awkward, because it’s so awkward feeling awkward.  It’s even awkward for me to write about feeling awkward.

In order to deal with this anxiety, I told myself that the relationship was not substantial, was brief and really hadn’t meant anything to me.  Maybe we were both just pretending. In actuality, it wasn’t even real. This new perspective was effective and I calmed down.    

So, there was absolutely no reason to fear anything about Saturday night. Connie’s husband would not be there, so there would be no awkward comparisons.  Not that I was worried about that, being a noted author and all.  And there were no feelings, none at all, hey no worries, no problems.

Still, just to make sure there were no awkward moments, I thought it best to devise a master plan on how I should interact with Connie that evening.  Not that I am a control freak, or anything resembling a control freak, because I’m not.  The plan was necessary to make the evening go smoothly and not because I have any old feelings for her, because I don’t.

I would greet Connie with the obligatory “It’s so great to see you again” and customary hug.  I then would tell her “we’ll talk some later”.  As one of the hosts for the event, I would then excuse myself to greet other new arrivals.  After dinner, I would go over to Connie’s table and engage in short, polite, conversation and then disengage. I would not introduce her to my wife, because there is absolutely no need for that.  Because that would be extremely awkward and I really wanted to avoid that.

The big night arrived and I was in the middle of a lively conversation, when I glanced over and saw her. Our eyes did not meet as much as they locked. I think engineers used this type of human response when they invented missile radar locking systems.  My current conversation ended abruptly. Can’t remember who I was talking with or what I was talking about, heck I don’t know, maybe I even stopped mid-sentence.

I was immediately drawn across the room, I think this is the concept scientists used when they invented magnetism. No words were spoken before the hug.  The hug was surreal, there was no tension, it was relaxed, it was totally natural.

Feelings, wo-o-o feelings,
Wo-o-o, feel you again in my arms*

Connie seemed delighted to see me. Of course, I was happy to see her, but not that happy, because I have no feelings. No feelings, nope, don’t feel it.
After the hug, I told her how good it was to see her and that we would talk more later.  Just as planned, more guests arrived and I excused myself to greet them. I love it when my plans work perfectly. I was feeling good and even a little smug, at this point.

But the evening was about to take a bizarre turn and spiral completely out of control.  I was in the back corner of the hall munching on some free appetizers (they were homemade by classmates) and talking sports with the husband of a classmate, when I almost chocked on my cheese chunk.

Way over in the far opposite corner, all by themselves, I saw my wife and Connie engaged in conversation.  How was this even possible?  As planned, I had not even introduced them earlier, but they had apparently met on their own and were now talking up a storm.  My superb plan had started to unravel like an old sweater.

“What could they be talking about?” I wondered. My first inclination was to sprint over there and put a stop to this.  Then I realized they might be talking about me. That possibility made me consider running out the back door and never coming back.  

And this just wasn’t polite, “I just met you” conversation, either.  There were laughing and chatting just like best friends.  Again, how is this even possible?  They just met and they have nothing, absolutely nothing, in common, right?  Oh --- oh, oh, oooooh.  Okay, so apparently, I have a “type” – a personality type, if you will.  I would strongly have denied this was the case before that evening.  But now it appears that obviously, I do, and I never deny things that are obvious.

It was impossible for me to concentrate of my conversation with this distraction happening in my sight line.  I was glancing over every twenty seconds or so, hoping desperately that Connie and my wife would stop yacking away.  Finally, after what seemed liked hours to me, they had parted.

However, a few minutes later, as I continued to hob nob with my classmates, I noticed my wife quickly walking towards me with a big smile on her face.  She obviously had something important to tell me, what could it be?  

“Good news, Connie and her sister are going to sit with us!” she exclaimed.  I smiled wildly and proclaimed. “That’s great!”  She then turned and departed.
Great, that is just great. Really, really, great. It was amusing that my wife was so happy that her new best friend was going to sit with us.  But now my seemingly perfect plan was holding together as well as a seeding dandelion in a tornado.  I began to experience a mild panic attack.  My pulse quickened, my breathing intensified and I felt my blood pressure rising.  I attempted self-talk to calm down “It’s going to be okay. You can do this. Everything will be fine”, I told myself.  And that worked, the panic attack stopped, for about all of 30 seconds, until I remembered:

The joke, the joke, THE JOKE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

After dinner, Stuts and I were doing a short comedy routine (with me wearing a hippie wig).  We would state some interesting facts about our classmates (from Stuts’ e-directory) and then make some funny quips about them.  Stuts had
insisted we include that Connie now lived in Middle-of-Nowhere, Wyoming to the skit. I initially had trouble coming up with a good joke about this, so I went with this:

Stuts: “Connie lives on a ranch in some place called Middle-of-Nowhere, Wyoming and rides horses every day.

Me: You know, I really liked her in high school.  In fact, I planned to marry her.

Stuts: Well that explains it!

Me: Explains what?

Stuts: She obviously moved to Wyoming so you couldn’t find her and those horses are for a fast getaway, if you ever did!

There was no way, absolutely no way, to tell that joke with my wife and Connie seated a few feet from each other.  I knew the joke could upset my wife, and was taking an obvious risk.  The joke could also embarrass Connie, but I never anticipated her sitting at my table.  This had the potential for a huge disaster.  My master plan was now subject to a nuclear explosion, fortunately I was in control of the detonator.

As a more severe panic attack started, I needed to find Stuts right away to tell him we had to cut that joke from the routine!

-      Will Don be stupid enough to actually tell that joke?

-      What is going to happen at that table during dinner?

-      What 40-year old secret will be revealed?

Watch for the thrilling conclusion in Part Two of this post coming to the blog site soon!

  * lyrics by Morris Albert