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!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Going “Blog Dark” In Order To Finish Book Two

I have good news and bad news. The bad news is there will no new blog posts for a while in Ake’s Pains.  The good news is I am doing this so I can finish the manuscript for my second book “Will There Be Free Appetizers?”

You might remember I tried to write shorter, rougher, posts while completing
Sammich tastes so good!
the manuscript for “Just Make Me A Sammich. The plan was for me to be able to keep posting while spending less time writing, so I could focus more on the book.  That plan failed miserably, I ended up actually writing more under the new format. 

So this time, I will stop blogging temporarily.  I am quitting cold-turkey. I am going “blog-dark”. This will be a traumatic transition for me.  I have been writing this blog regularly since May 2011.  A large part of my identity is that of a blogger and bloggers gotta blog!  I’m sure I will suffer intense blog withdrawal. I will see something, or read something, or have some weird experience and think, “I’ve got to blog about this!”.  I will then curl up in the fetal position and watch old episodes of “South Park” until the feeling subsides.

I do not know how long it be before I post again.  I would estimate a break of three or four months.  However, I will make two exceptions during this “dark time”.  There are two events that could happen during this period which are so significant, I would need write posts.   One involves a possible wedding and the other a possible death. How about that for a wide range of subjects?

I want to thank everyone who bought Just Make Me A Sammich.  It’s difficult for me to express just how much you are appreciated.  I hope for and am asking for everyone’s support when “Will There Be Free Appetizers?” is released.  That release date, depends on how productive I am in the next few months, which is why I need to go “blog dark”, so I am signing off for now. 

Goodbye, until I’m back.

You’re still at the keyboard, aren’t you?

Yeah, cause I might come up with a great blog idea or a witty comment ….

Step away from the keyboard, now!

I will, just give me a moment, oh I just thought of something else …..

I’m pushing the power button and shutting you down.

No, no, no. Just got this great, funny idea. It’s so funny. There was this woman and sh

Monday, June 26, 2017

Sleeping Nude On A Business Trip – But Getting No Action

This trip is going real smooth so far, I thought, as a I relaxed on my short flight into Sevesta. (All city names were changed to protect the incompetent.) I know I should never think thoughts like these because it often foretells impending doom.

I was traveling to a conference of trucking fleet executives to give a presentation.  A wonderful part of my job is when organizations fly me to a luxury resort and pay me to speak.  I am considered an industry “expert”, which means my head is a huge coconut and people are eager to tap the milk of my knowledge. 

My connector flight into Connersville was flawless and I was looking forward to my presentation tomorrow.  The first sign of trouble was some unexpected turbulence (we had maybe a two-minute warning from the pilot).  This was rocking-and-rolling the large aircraft. So much so,the woman beside me started cussing up a storm.  This would have been disturbing except she was a smokin’-hot, chicky-babe, so I will admit this was kind of ah, stimulating.

After the second outburst, I looked at her with eyes that said “Me lapa es su lapa”.  I was willing to comfort her for the entire flight, to touchdown and beyond, if necessary. Because that’s the type of guy I am. But, she rejected my offer, her look saying – “no lapa, you sapa” and then let out one final stream of obscenities.

The turbulence ended. The pilot announced we would be landing in 15 minutes and the flight attendants should prepare for landing, blah, blah, blah.  But, I knew something was amiss 20 minutes later when the plane had not descended.

Then came the fateful announcement: “There is a bad thunderstorm right over Sevesta.  We have determined that it is not safe to land, therefore we are returning to Connersville.”

Many passengers started yelling and complaining, a few even swearing.  I’m sitting there thinking, “You people are fools. Do you really want the pilot to give it a try?”  If he is uncomfortable landing the plane in these conditions, then I am mega-uncomfortable with this.

One goofhead started vigorously explaining to the flight attendant he had a better solution and that we should just land in Johnsville and wait out the storm.  The flight attendant listens patiently and replies “Sir, you do understand you are speaking with a flight attendant?”  With that, Mr. Goofhead returned to his seat.

I assumed we would return to Connersville, wait out the storm, and then make a second run at Sevesta.   However, upon landing the flight was cancelled and I was rebooked on other flight. Unfortunately, my new flight didn’t leave until tomorrow morning and I would not get to the conference before it ended.

I texted my contact that I would miss his meeting.  The Connersville airport was chaotic.  The storm had knocked out power limiting the airlines ability to serve the thousands of displaced passengers.  

I was trying to book a flight back home so I wouldn’t spend the night in Connersville.  But, when I explained that I was a coconut-head with vast knowledge and people in Savesta were paying to tap it, everything changed.  Suddenly, I became a V.I.P..  A better designation would be D.I.P. (Desperate Important Person) because people already regard me as a big D.I.P..  The agent then booked me on the next flight to Sevesta.  I would need to hurry to the gate since the flight was  delayed, but could take off soon. I also needed to get a boarding pass.

I make a mad dash, hoping to blow right through TSA Precheck and make it to the gate fast.  Alas, like so many things this day, there was a problem.  My briefcase was flagged.  I was stunned because this same briefcase had gone through scanners dozens of times over the years with no issues.
Security Officer: Do you have any sharp objects in your briefcase Mr. Ake?
Me: No, there is nothing unusual in there.

Then they checked the bag and found an 8-ounce bottle of water.

Security Officer: “Did you know this was in there, Mr. Ake?”

Me: “Yes, I mean no. I mean, I forgot it was even there. I planned to drink it later.”

Truthfully, I was innocent on this one.  The flight attendant had given me the bottle on my first flight because she wanted to get rid of them due to storage issues.  I had stuck it in my briefcase and forgotten about it. However, I had never, ever, expected to go through security again and wouldn’t have if the second flight had landed as expected.

But now I was the “water-bomber”, trying to sneak 8-ounces on Dasani onto the plane and I had to be interrogated.  The officer then searched my entire case.

Security Officer: “What are these Mr. Ake?”, he asked, holding up a plastic food bag.

Me: Those are my snack bars, in case I get hungry.  

I was now answering each question soberly because I was not sure just how much trouble I was in.

Security Officer: “They look very tasty, very crunchy”. (I swear I am not making this up)

Me: Yes, they are very good.

And I am engaged in all the %#*ing chit-chat, while my flight might be taking off.

However, the attitude of the TSA guy totally changed when he asked what my job was and where I was going.  As soon as he realized I was a coconut-head on my way to getting tapped, he smiled and treated me with respect. Yeah, he knows a real D.I.P. when he sees one!

I was wheezing by the time I got to the gate.  Relieved that the flight had not boarded and there were only two people in front of me to get seat assignments.

I became disheartened when the agent told the first woman that although she had a ticket, the flight was overbooked by 22 people. The agent explained that the woman had mistakenly been issued a ticket because of the mass confusion going on at the airport. Even though the woman protested profusely, she didn’t get a boarding pass.

As the agent repeated the same story to the guy in front of me, I felt like crying.  Both persons had received their tickets well before I had. I wasn’t getting on this plane.  I would be returning to the ticket counter and trying to get a flight home. I would be going through security yet again, fortunately they had confiscated my water bottle. Maybe the security guy would recognize me and detain me since this would appear suspicious.

I sheepishly handed the agent my ticket and hung my head. I couldn’t even look at her, literally unable to face rejection.

Agent: Here you go, Mr. Ake. You’re all set.

Me: Really? (slightly gasping)

I glanced down at the paper she had handed me, realized it was a boarding pass, and scampered away before she could change her mind.  I felt like the guy in the “Membership Has Its Privileges” credit card commercial.  Being a member of the “coconut heads” also has its privileges.  I texted my contact in Sevesta and informed him I would in fact be speaking in the morning. The coconut-head had landed!

I realized during the flight that my luggage was probably not on the plane due to the hectic situation at Connersville airport.  My assumption was correct, but I was joyous when told my bag was on the next flight and would be delivered to the resort that night.  

I arrived at the resort around eight, tired and hungry, but darn glad to finally arrive.  I told the clerk my luggage would arrive in a few hours, she made note and said I could get some amenities if the luggage hadn’t arrived by bedtime.  I straggled into the hotel restaurant famished, those tasty snack bars digested long ago.  There, I feasted on a new dish, Seafood Pot Pie, which combines two of my favorite foods in one scrumptious dish.  This was the high point of a very arduous journey. 

I call the desk around 11 p.m. and request their “complete amenity package” less the comb.  “Will you be needing the feminine hygiene items, Mr. Ake?”  “Not tonight, thank you.”  I nap partially clothed, cell phone by my ear, waiting for the luggage call, until 1:30 a.m.  I then strip naked and retire for the night.

I don’t think I ever slept in the nude ever before in my life.  I always feared there could be a dire emergency where I would have to run outside or confront a burglar.  If I’m fighting a burglar, I want my loins fully girded.  I am also so disappointed that a story involving me sleeping nude on a business trip at a fancy resort, is not much more spicy and scandalous than this one.

Early the next morning, I go down to the front desk to get my luggage.  They search the area, then inform me it did not arrive.  I call my contact and he gets me a new polo shirt left over from the conference hand-outs.  However, I will be giving this presentation dressed in jeans, polo shirt, and tennis shoes.

You may recall that in an earlier blog post I said only “dicks” dressed up for flights when it wasn’t necessary.  I said there were only a few situations when that made sense.  This was my first business trip since that post, and losing your luggage before a big presentation happened to be one of those situations.  Somewhere, these dicks are laughing hysterically at me right now, but that’s what makes them dicks.  Karma had its teeth firmly attached to my posterior.

But, there was no problem giving this presentation in this attire.  The people who work in the trucking industry are the best people in the business world.  They were totally fine with my appearance under the circumstances.  The presentation went splendidly.  My friend Chris was supposed to take a photo of me during the presentation, but he forgot, no doubt mesmerized by the enormous amount of expert knowledge flowing from my coconut-head.

Now you be wondering how my underwear held up during the trip.  Fortunately, I was wearing my Mac Weldon’s because I knew it would be a long day.  If you remember from my blog posts evaluating men’s underwear brands, the Mac Weldon’s contain actual silver for the ultimate in odor control.  Yes sir, I was packing the Mac’s and they performed spectacularly.  After 35 hours of wear, less five off for sleep, the Mac’s may not have been minty fresh, but they did not stink!

I checked on my luggage one last time before departing the resort, instructing them to decline delivery since I was checking out.  But, when I got to the airport, the airline baggage agent told me my bag had  been delivered to the resort.  Could my luggage have passed me on my way back to the airport and got there after I checked out.?

I called the resort and here is the play-by-play:

Me: (Explained the situation and then ….) The airline said they delivered my bag to your resort, but I’m at the airport now.

Resort person: Hold on and let me check. (Hold for a couple minutes) Mr. Ake, we don’t have your luggage.

Me: (Giving her one last chance) You do realize the airline is telling me you have my bag and you are telling me you don’t. My bag has to be somewhere now doesn’t it. (Maybe not, it could have gotten sucked into a black hole, right?)

At this revelation, the airline woman rushes to the office next door and retrieves the signed delivery slip.

Resort person: I’m sorry, but we don’t have your luggage.

Me: The airline has just handed me a receiving slip signed by a Kathy Rogers.

Resort person (audible gasp) Oh my, that was at night. Hold on, let me check.

I had been unusually calm throughout this entire ordeal. But, this news pushed me over the cliff.  It was interesting to watch the faces of the three airline employees as I melted down in front of them.  Had the resort had my bag the entire time? Did I give my presentation in casual attire while my nice business clothes sat only a few yards away? Noooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!! This could not be possible!!!!!. What the @$#*!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!?????

Resort Person: Good news Mr. Ake, we do have your bag. (speaking quickly and somberly) We will ship it today, FedEx second-day air.  I just need to confirm your address. (address confirmed). I am very sorry about what happened.

Me: Thank you (click)

Of course, I wanted to say more, but screaming obscenities at a woman who probably wasn’t responsible for this major clusterf**k, didn’t seem prudent.  

And yet I had questions:

Where was my bag all this time? Why didn’t anyone ever check that location when I asked several times about my luggage?  If I hadn’t called to ask about my luggage (with proof), just how long would it had sat there before someone noticed? What, maybe ten years later when the resort is being remodeled? “Hey, what’s this bag doing here?  Who is the Don Ake guy?”

To make this story extra special, my luggage did not make it home in two
Reunited and it feels so good!
days.  It was the Memorial Day weekend, so a Thursday shipment, plus the weekend, plus the holiday, adds up to a Tuesday, 5-day, delivery.  In all, I was separated from my luggage for 6 days and wore none of the clothes  on the trip.  I hugged my bag when it arrived – “Reunited and it feels so good”.

Post presentation pic

Sunday, June 11, 2017

They Are Never Going To Print This – The Making Of A Humor Writer (Part 2)

By far the most difficult task in my becoming a humor writer was learning how to write well. The humor part just comes naturally.  I may not have popped out of the womb holding a quill, but I may have had a smile on my face.  Laughter is firmly rooted in my DNA.  

My father loved to laugh at the odd circumstances and peculiarities in life.  While most veterans tell war stories involving blood-and-guts, dad’s tales were about spiking the sergeant’s canteen with castor oil and then locking the latrine.  For the longest time, I thought “Hogan’s Heroes” was a documentary.  His sense of humor was bizarre and sometimes he even made jokes about inappropriate things. I’m sure glad I didn’t inherit that trait.

My mother’s family had a devilish ornery streak.  My grandfather loved to play tricks on his grandchildren and would always end up having more fun than the kids.  One of my enduring childhood memories is when my grandfather convinced me that a relative actually lived in the basement of the old family farmhouse we were visiting.  One late night he convinced me to open the trap door to the basement so me and my cousins could meet our kinfolk.  It took all my strength to lift that heavy door. I raised about six inches, when grandfather yelled “Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!” The door slammed shut as we all ran terrified out of the room. My Uncle Bill also had a warped sense of humor.  He was an expert storyteller who could turn a simple trip to the store, into a mesmerizing, hilarious yarn.  I’m just glad I never write about such trivial things.

If you mix all this frivolity together, you get one weird, wacky, humorous guy. I’ve always had a quick wit and can come up with funny quips at a rapid-fire pace. Of course, sometimes these witty sayings come flying out of my mouth too quickly and are deemed inappropriate, offensive or just plain stupid.  However, my humorous comments have never gotten me punched in the face (okay, probably because I’m a big guy), nor have I ever been reprimanded at work by HR. (well, I’ve just been plain lucky here).

I would like to tell you about the moment I discovered how to blend my humor and writing talents together, but I can’t. Someone else did that, and this is how it happened.

I took Journalism as an elective my senior year of high school.  It was unusual to take an English class for an elective, but I enjoyed writing and had an interest in newspapers due to the influence of my parents. Our family subscribed to two daily papers and my parents read them intently every day.  Consequently, I became an avid newspaper reader at an early age. 

Journalism was taught by Mrs. Maher, an experienced, skilled instructor in her
mid-50s.  She was very patient with her students, with a kind and caring heart.  This served her well in teaching this class because it was considered one of the easier English classes, attracting a wide variety of students, including some “stoners”.

Mrs. Maher announced on the first day of class that she needed writers for the school newspaper and this would be a good way to put into practice what you learned in class.  I immediately volunteered.  The time commitment was not excessive. Instead of going to study hall after lunch, I went to Mrs. Maher’s classroom to write and work on the newspaper with other staff members.   I wrote a couple of articles about the sports teams and earned my very first bylines.

But then everything changed ……

It was the day before winter break. There was nothing to work on, so the five of us (I’m sure my friend Shipe was there, whose sense of humor is more warped than mine) put our desks in a circle and engaged in friendly banter as Mrs. Maher stood reading at a lectern by her desk.  I was really on a roll that day, causing raucous laughter with my witty comments.  I thought Mrs. Maher had joined in on the frivolity when she said, “Don, write down some of those jokes and we will print them in the paper.”  Mrs. Maher didn’t joke around much, but when she did it was usually hilarious. Everyone began laughing at this ludicrous comment, but then I noticed I was the only one still laughing. I looked up and my friends all had the same astonished expression.

That’s because they could all see Mrs. Maher but I couldn’t, because she was directly behind me. I whipped around in my seat, still smiling because of her silly remark.  But she was not smiling. This was no joke. She was stone-cold serious.  The smile left my face, replaced by a look of disbelief.

“Really?” I gasped.

“Yes, that’s your writing assignment over the holidays,” she affirmed.

However, I was not excited over this proposal.  “They are never going to print this,” I thought. No way, no how, never going to happen.  The student editor Diana, was not present to hear about this brand-new feature for “her” paper.  She was as straight-laced as a librarian in a convent. She rarely laughed at my jokes and I knew she would be dead-set against this. There was absolutely no chance of this happening in my mind.

I didn’t make writing this a priority during the break because I thought it was a total waste of effort, because of course, They are never going to print this. Then one evening I realized vacation was ending soon, so I sat down at the typewriter at 12:15 a.m. and belted out some copy.  I labeled it “Giving The Bird” because the newspaper was named “The Cardinal” (our school mascot).  It mattered little that the name was provocative and would never be approved by the school administrators because: They are never going to print this. No way, no how, never.

The first day back at school, I wondered if Diana had been told about my new project. It didn’t take long for this answer. As I entered the newspaper room, Diana glared at me.  I slowly walked over to her, paper in hand. Before I could say a word, she thrust her hand out, fully extending her arm.

“Let’s see it,” she demanded in full librarian scowl.

I handed her my work.

She read it intently, the scowl now turning more into disgust. At no time was there any hint of a smile.

“This looks like something you would write very late at night, right before you go to bed,” she barked.

I shrugged my shoulders with a sheepish look on my face. Busted! However, I liked what I had written, for the same reason I blog today. Because IT WAS FUNNY.  Yet I still felt foolish for even spending my time on this because I was surer than ever that: They are never going to print this.

I would have loved to hear the discussion between Mrs. Maher and Diana about Giving The Bird.  An average teacher transfers knowledge and provides an environment for learning. An extraordinary teacher recognizes potential that a student doesn’t even realize he or she has and then provides the avenue for developing that potential. I’m sure Diana vehemently protested, but if you remember, Mrs. Maher did not say they “might” print my quips, she said “will”.  To my utter astonishment, Giving The Bird made its debut, mostly unedited, in the January edition of The Cardinal.

The column was an instant hit; the students absolutely loved it. The jokes were all about things at the school. (I wish I could give you examples, but those newspaper are buried deep in my attic) It was so popular, that I was the speaker at our Senior Banquet, presenting a final oral version of “Giving The Bird”.

Those 15 words uttered by Mrs. Maher in 1975 had a huge impact on my life. It gave me the confidence to join the Buchetlite staff at the University of Akron as a freshman. I then had the gumption to convince Jane the editor to give me my own weekly humor column, Ake’s Pains, as a sophomore.  It was also a huge hit.

Without an Ake’s Pains column in college, there would be no Ake’s Pains blog many years later and there would be no “Just Make Me A Sammich” book. (Side note: I met my wife as a direct result of working on the Buchtelite my sophomore year, so my entire life ended up being impacted)

I am a humor writer because of Mrs. Maher. I am an author because of Mrs. Maher.  This is all the result of Mrs. Maher. It’s perplexing how at the time you don’t realize the great things people are doing for you. You don’t see how much people influence your life, in real time.  This humor writer may have been born with some natural talent, but he was made in Mrs. Maher’s classroom at Kenmore High School.

For info on my book: http://www.donake.net/ 

Monday, May 29, 2017

I Done Got Played! - The Making of a Humor Writer (Part 1)

Skilled writers are made, not born.  Your DNA certainly provides some talent, but you do not exit the womb grasping a quill.  While what you write is a function of imagination, emotion and life experience, how you construct those thoughts is the result of teaching and learning.  Therefore, every one of your writing teachers had some influence on your craft.

I was reminded of this after my last post regarding the closing of Kenmore High School.  The post generated a record number of hits for my blog in the first week.  Many of the readers posted the names of their favorite teachers, a name mentioned often was that of one of my writing instructors, Miss Jameson.

In one of my high school years, I faced a scheduling dilemma.  The school had mistakenly offered the college prep math class and the college prep English class during the same time.  I wanted to take both that term, but I had to choose.  I reasoned the math class was more important, so I took the “mid-level” English Composition class for my other requirement.

There was a consolation in this. English Comp was not nearly as difficult as the class I wanted to take.  It was the mid-level course and I considered myself top-level.  I smelled cake! Ake was going to get some cake.  I anticipated cruising to an easy “A”.

English Composition was taught by Miss Jameson.  She was in her late 50’s, short, stocky, resembled a fire hydrant in an unfashionable dress.  She was everything you would expect from an aging high school English teacher, and less.   She had taught English at Kenmore since the 1950’s. 

We got our first assignment and I put my normal amount of effort into it.  Which means just enough effort to typically earn a “B”.  That was my basic strategy, I never really put much effort into school work until my junior year of college.  Up until then, I didn’t get by on my good looks, I got by on my good brains.  However, I did not expect to receive a “B” on this paper, I expected an “A”.  There is no grading on the curve in an English class, but I was confident that my “high-level” writing skills would be judged superior in this “mid-level” course.

That morning when Miss Jameson handed back my first assignment, is one of my most vivid high school memories. I looked at the paper and was surprised by the flood of red ink poured out on it.  I raised my eyes to the top of the page to see the unthinkable. My “A” paper had received a grade of “C-“.  What the heck?  What is this? THIS IS AN OUTRAGE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It would have been amusing to see my expression as I absorbed the reality of the situation.  I grabbed the paper in both hands and just stared at it, I’m sure I began to shake.

“Maybe she’s just a really hard grader on the first assignment”, I reasoned.  I whipped around in my desk and looked at the paper of the girl sitting behind me, incredibly it was marked with a “B”.  “Can I see that?” I asked. And then I rudely snatched it right out of her hand before she even had a chance to answer.  I quickly, but carefully, skimmed her paper.  It was well-written and fully deserving of the “B”.  However, I mean HOWEVER, it was not nearly as good as my paper. Which means I deserved an “A”, but somehow, some way, it got mistakenly marked with a “C-“.

After class, I bolted up front to protest the heinous injustice that had been inflicted on me.  I was prepared to argue arduously to get my grade changed.  However, I was not given the opportunity.  This conversation was bizarre, and certainly not what I expected. Miss Jameson didn’t explain my grade, she didn’t defend the grade and definitely was not going to change the grade. She was a real, she was a real bi….., okay out of respect I will use the word, “biddy”.  She was a tough biddy and this biddy, no budgie.  

However, without a valid justification for my grade, I wasn’t ready to give up yet.  I still had one card left to play, the “Mom” card.  As I mentioned in my previous post, my mother had been a secretary at Kenmore High School years before.  She knew Miss Jameson and they had been friends, a fact I had been made well aware of.  Somehow, I was able to persuade my mother to meet with Miss Jameson and question the grade.  I would like to believe she did this out of devoted, motherly love. Most likely she did it to end my persistent whining, but I’ll still go the love thing, yeah.

I was sure my mother would have success, but she returned from their meeting to inform me the grade would stand and that I better improve “because “C”- work is not acceptable”.  At this news, my intense anger turned into intense fear.  I had received a “C-”  on an “A” paper and not been given any explanation why or given much instruction on how to improve.  I was in danger of receiving a “C” or lower, in this “cake” course.

Even worse, I had not been paying much attention in class or to the textbook, because of course, I considered the stuff to be boringly easy and had expected to receive an “A” on the first paper, not a “C-”.  However, after that things changed dramatically.  I studied every one of those red marks on that paper.  I read and reread the textbook assignments. I took copious notes during class.

It was then time for the second writing assignment.  I wrote it, then rewrote it, reviewed it thoroughly, and then wrote it a third time.  I spent more time on this assignment than on my college-prep math homework, more time than I had devoted to any previous school assignment.  I tried to appear cool as Miss Jameson handed back the papers, but my palms were sweating, my heart was racing and I gripped the side of the desk so I wouldn’t quiver.  I nonchalantly took the paper from her hand, but as soon as she turned her back, I quickly flipped it over. It was a “B”.  Big sighs of relief.  I wasn’t even upset that it wasn’t an “A”.  This time I didn’t look at anyone else’s grade.  All I cared about is that it wasn’t another “C-”.

And this is how the class progressed, with me putting strenuous effort into each assignment and receiving a “B” grade in return.  I never received an “A” on any assignment.  I did manage to get “B+’s” on my final two papers.   This enabled me to cancel out that dreaded “C-”  and receive a “B” for the class.  I was still very bitter towards Miss Jameson when the class ended.  I thought Miss Jameson did grade on the curve, except she had a much more difficult curve for me.  I thought she didn’t like me for some reason, which was perplexing considering her relationship with my mother.  Miss Jameson smiled at all the other students, but she did not smile at me.  She was one tough biddy in my book.

For nearly 40 years, I regarded Miss Jameson as my worst high school teacher, by far.  The biddy had unfairly gave me a “C-” on my “A” paper and I had always resented that, but then something changed. Miss Jameson passed away in November 2014 at the age of 97.  The obit was posted on several Facebook Kenmore alumni pages.  I was puzzled by the large number of comments from former students lavishing praise on Miss Jameson.  Some even stated she was their favorite teacher at Kenmore, others wrote she was the best teacher at Kenmore.  Many similar comments were posted on the original obit.  People looooooooved Miss Jameson, they adored her.

“What is wrong with all these people?” I wondered. How could so many people love this stupid biddy? This caused me to reassess what had happened in her classroom so many years ago.  Only this time it wasn’t through the eyes of a na├»ve high school student, who thought he knew everything about life.  No, now it was carefully inspected by a much, older, wiser man. Someone who was putting together his first book  (Yes, I said “first”, big announcement soon) and beginning to appreciate all the people over the years that contributed to my work.

What you have just read is my new recollection of my experience in Miss Jameson’s class.  At some point in the narrative you smiled, perhaps even laughed out loud, when you realized I had been played. I had been totally played by a fire hydrant in an old flowery dress.  Miss Jameson was a playa and she had played me like a fiddle.

She had read my first composition and had perceived two things.  First, she recognized that I had potential. Maybe enough talent to one day be an author? Second, she saw that potential was in danger of being wasted by a pronounced lack of effort.  Some teachers would have marked my paper with an “A”, but lectured, “Donald, you have a lot of talent, but you need to try harder”.  However, that wouldn’t have had any effect, now would it?  Miss Jameson instead used what she no doubt called the “C- maneuver”. I wasn’t the first student to get this treatment and I suspect I wasn’t the last.  Long before that television commercial, Mrs. Jameson held that fishing pole with the “A” on the hook, taunting “Ooooh look, a B+, you almost got it that time!”

I had no idea that I walked out of Miss Jameson’s class a much better writer than when I walked in.  I realize now that I learned so much more in her class, than I would have in the upper-level English class.

I still don’t know how she was able figure me out by reading just one composition.  The word I use to describe such ability is brilliance. Therefore, I was privileged to study under a brilliant writing teacher.   So, Miss Jameson was not my worst high school teacher, she was one of the best.  She’s still not my favorite however, some bruises can’t be washed away.  


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Oh Kenmore High Forever – Not Really

I started writing humor my senior year of high school in a monthly column titled “Giving The Bird”. Yes, they actually let me call it that because the mascot at Kenmore High School in Akron, Ohio is the cardinal. Or should I say, was the cardinal, because the school will be closing soon.

My friend Fred suggested I write a final “Giving The Bird” in this blog as a tribute.  I thought that was a lousy idea, but I have been following Fred’s outrageous ideas since we were young pranksters terrorizing the neighborhood.  If this post turns out to be terrible, you can blame Fred. 

Officially, they are not closing the school, but “merging” it with our arch-enemy Garfield High.  However, the new school building will sit on the site of the old Garfield High and they will bus the Kenmore kids in, so they are in effect closing my school. You bastards.

Combining these schools is a horrible idea. It’s like making the Greeks go to school with the Turks, the Hatfields studying with the Mc Coys, the Trumps playing ball with the Clintons. It just ain’t right.  We were taught in grade school that Garfield kids were stupid, smelled bad and had serious cooties.  This had something to do with football games and rivalries or such.  

The acrimony was drilled into us so deeply that it was still anathema to date a Garfield girl even after you graduated.  Even if she was cute, it didn’t matter.  You would be ostracized, and besides that, who wants to visit the medical clinic to receive treatment for a bad case of college cooties.  I have only had one friend from Garfield High my entire life.  Interestingly, she was a former Garfield cheerleader who I met through work.  I overlooked her heritage because she had uh, she was eh, - let’s just say she had a lovely personality. Did I mention she was a cheerleader?

Mixing these schools into one is just plain wrong. You bastards.  The school names, mascots (Cardinal and Ram) and colors (red/black and maroon/gold) are not easily combined for the new school.  Potential new names such as Kenfield and Garmore do not easily roll off the tongue. The worst combo would be Garken, which sounds too much like gherkin, where the school would be the home of the “Fighting Pickles”. Love that mascot! 

The school is closing since enrollment is now less than a third of when I graduated.  The environment inside the school has become more violent.  The mean kids beat up all scholars and the scholars transferred to the nearby suburban district in droves.  Now there are only a few students left and no one 
to beat up.

But don’t feel sorry for the mean kids, the plan is to transfer the Garfield students into the Kenmore building for a year while the new school is being built (the school will have some combo name for one year).  This means the Kenmore hooligans will have a fresh bunch of kids to beat up!  This should work out really well. You stupid bastards.  If the fighting is too intense, there may not be anyone left to attend the brand new Garken High. 

The conditions outside the school walls have deteriorated also.  The community is sliding downhill.  The potheads, turned into meth-heads, who turned into opiate addicts. Convenience store parking lots are  littered with used needles. There is a guy running loose who poops on people’s cars during the night (I am not making this up). In my day (used to hate this expression, but for some odd reason I’m using it more every day), you could walk the length of the main drag, The Boulevard, and feel safe at any hour of the day. Now, people get robbed at gunpoint in mid-afternoon.

My connection with Kenmore High School is tighter than most alumni.  My mother was a secretary there in the 1950’s.  It was a job she dearly loved, however she chose to give it up when she became pregnant with her only child (bonus points if you can guess his name).  She often lamented that her old high school had been closed in the early 80's.  I used to consider these comments as just the aimless ramblings of an old person, needlessly yearning for days gone by.  Ironically, I am now the same exact age as my mother was when they closed her school.  Suddenly, those ramblings are not so aimless and I yearn. Yes, I yearn.

Sadly, the first line of the alma mater is “Oh Kenmore High forever”. Well, now that’s a lie. Thanks, you bastards.  Now we need a new song.  Maybe one titled “My School Was Gone”. No, that sounds too close to “My City Was Gone” and that song was written about a totally different place, what city was it? Oh, Oh, Oh ….. Uh, Chrissie Hynde, could you please write a fourth verse, “I went back to Ohio, but my school was gone”.  
My gratitude to this school runs so deep.  I received a tremendous education there, of much more value to me than I could ever realize at the time.  What America provides you is opportunity and Kenmore High School gave me the opportunity to thrive, and I took it and ran.  First, at the University of Akron where I was the top Marketing student my senior year (“line up behind me, you suburban kids”) and then in the business world.  I’m not sure how high I stand on this corporate ladder, but be certain, the first rung is painted red and black.  Just as important, as mentioned previously, my humor writing began in a classroom there and ultimately lead to me being an author.

I desperately needed that great education, because as LeBron James said “In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have.” You may understand what his words mean with your head, I can feel what his words mean in my heart.  And while LeBron is “Just a kid from Akron”, I will look out at the awesome scene from my hotel room, at a fancy resort where some group has flown me in to speak, and think to myself, “Not bad for a Kenmore kid”.

Now I have a deep, gut-wrenching pain.  The agony you feel at the funeral of an old friend.  A friend with whom you shared many great times, a friendship full of cherished memories.  A friend who departed much too soon.  The administrators who made this decision will claim the school died, I would argue they strangled it to death over many years.  But what these highly-paid, educational poohbahs will never, ever, realize, is when you close this school, you are closing part of me.  And for that, I will give you the bird. Rest in peace Kenmore High, rest in peace.

And three guys I admired it’s true
Senuta, Fortner and coach Wendschuh
They locked the door, the key they threw
The day the Cardinal died

And we were wailing
Bye, bye, school on Akron’s south side
Tried to study, got too bloody
And that spirit has died
Them Buckey boys passed the ball one last time 
Saying this’ll be the day that we cry

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Writing Huge Checks Is Taxing – But Patriotic

I gasped as I signed the final check on the morning of April 15th. I don’t have to tell you what the check is for, because it is one of the few days that is so distinctive that we use the actual date to mark the occasion.  It is in effect a national holiday.  We should think of April 15th as America’s birthday, even more so than July 4, because on this day the citizens in the land send the government gifts, pay their literal homage to this great country.  And this year I paid dearly, very dearly.

I was extraordinarily generous this year, by writing four (one fed, one state, two estimates) ginormous checks, involving many zeros.  I know it’s wrong to complain, since the reason I owe so much is because I had a prosperous year.  It’s wrong to complain, so, wrong …. BUT I WROTE BIG F#*%!N& CHECKS! BIG, BIG CHECKS!  BIG ONES!

You may contend that I should have prepared for this better, but preparing for this extraction of funds is as futile as preparing for a root canal, there is still going to be pain, lots of pain.  Planning for this is difficult because my taxes are complicated. Why are they complicated? Well, I’m not telling you and I’m not releasing my tax returns, because people named Donald just don’t have to do that and that’s the truth, pbbtttt.  

Regardless of my situation, sending the all this money to the government creates feelings of intense dread.  I sit there numb after sealing the final envelope, as my bank account cries out in anguish: “Stop, make it stop!  Please, I’m begging you!  You’re killing me, you’re killing me …….”.

Some people claim that paying your taxes is your patriotic duty.  In that case, I feel like Paul Revere, Patrick Henry and Nathan Hale all wrapped into one! Oh, I am sorry.  I just compared myself to real patriots, many who fought and died to found this great country and provide these freedoms I enjoy.  And what were they fighting against?  A corrupt and greedy government that taxed them excessively ….. Oh crap, - let’s just forget I ever brought this up. 

Isn’t it interesting that politicians advocating this patriotic tax paying are always the one’s “making money off of other people’s taxes”.  They are strongly sucking off of the public teat and they won’t budge.  They are addicted to taxes as strongly as junkies addicted to crack. They wail and scream if someone tries to reduce their stash. They are filthy rotten tax whores, that’s what they are.  And they keep sucking that teat, yeah they suck. They really suck.

Maybe it wouldn’t be as painful if so much tax money wasn’t wasted.  If my money was used for something important, maybe I would feel better.  I fantasized that maybe I bought one of those Tomahawk missiles (why do they call it a miss-ile if it’s supposed to hit something?) that were fired off recently?  Yeah, kick a$$!  Yes, boom, boom! But then afterwards there was just a was just a hole in the ground, ehh that doesn’t quite do it. My daughter suggested that maybe my check was so large that I actually paid for the “Mother of All Bombs”, also recently dropped.  Now we are getting closer, except it feels as if they extracted that bomb from my rear orifice.

The taxes are collected by something called the Internal Revenue Service, which has to be one of the worst misnomers of all time.  Your great government has external revenue and we also have internal revenue.  We are so glad that you had such a prosperous year Mr. Ake and that you will be sharing some of your goodies with us! Remember, sharing is caring and we are so glad you care! 

You can take the term “THE IRS” and eliminate the space in between and you get “THEIRS”, because it’s theirs, whatever they want, it’s theirs.  A better name for the agency would be the Tax Bastards, because that is truly what they are. It might even help people feel better if they actually wrote the check to the Tax Bastards.  Of course, since my tax return has not been approved yet, please understand that I am using this term in a very affectionate, endearing, kidding-type way. I love you guys, I really do.

I do employ a tax accountant to do my returns.  I have to, or I would begin my 1040 in February and finish up around Thanksgiving.  I have noticed something peculiar when my accountant Tom delivers the much-anticipated verdict concerning my return. He always has the same big goofy grin on his face, no matter if I owe a lot or I am due (a rare) refund.  I think he does this with everybody as a defense mechanism, so people don’t shoot the messenger.  I bet someone, somewhere, at some time, has literally shot their tax accountant after getting the bad news.  I have never wanted to do that, but I will confess I’ve been tempted some years to kick Tom square in nuts. But I don’t, because he smiling so broadly and it’s difficult to do this to someone who seems so happy.  And Tom knows this, oh does he know this.

Regardless, it is not a good idea to ever kick your accountant in the nuts, no matter how much money you may owe.  Because you could get audited by the Tax Bastards (love you guys) and you desperately need a guy like Tom there to fight with you.

I can imagine sitting in the IRS office for the audit, wondering why Tom is so late, when his assistant sashays in:

IRS Guy:  Is this your accountant?

Me: No, she’s Bambi his secretary.

IRS Guy: Why isn’t your accountant here?

Me: Possibly because I kicked him in the nuts, sir.

IRS Guy: Bambi, how are you prepared to help Mr. Ake settle his dispute?

Bambi: Cash me ousside. Howbow Dah?

Moral of the story: Never kick your accountant in the nuts.

Well, I’ve complained more than enough for one post. I need to get back to work, so I can make more money, so I can pay more …… I’m such a patriot, such a patriot.          

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Working Naked From Home

Everybody is freaking out about so called “Fake News”, but there is an even more serious danger lurking on the Internet.  I will call these the Pure Bullsh*t Advice Article (PBAA).  This drivel consists of some phony know-it-all advising you about a wide variety of topics. The writer’s argument sounds logical, practical and believable to the unknowledgeable, but in reality, it is pure horse hockey.

Recently I came across two PBAAs giving advice on the proper way to dress in certain business situations, something I have considerable experience in.  Sadly, I’m sure there are some poor saps out there that are actually following the advice from these ridiculous articles.

The first one promotes the idea that you should always wear a suit and tie when flying for business purposes, especially on intercontinental flights.  The reason? The writer always does this and one time he was able to close an enormous business deal because someone commented on his fancy duds.
I doubt that this story is even true.  Even if it is, it was pure luck.  If the clothes didn’t initiate the conversation, something else would have.  While there are situations that dictate dressing up on a flight, an important meeting soon after you land for example, for the great majority of flights, there is absolutely no need for this.

The two most important things when being jammed into a tight metal tube with a hundred strangers for a few hours, are to be comfortable and to not stink. These far outweigh any slim chance of closing some magical business deal with a random stranger.  No thanks, I’ll just wear comfortable, respectable clothes and buy a lottery ticket.

Besides that, based on the photo of the guy in the article, this guy is a real d*ck.  I can recognize a d*ck because I have worked with many d*icks over my career.  They dress so fancy and are always bragging about their house, their car, their wife, their investments, their travels, etc.  If you tell an interesting the story, a d*ck will immediately jump in with “That’s nothing, …… and then tell some d*cklike story.  The laughable photo shows this d*ck with his colleagues d*ckhead and d*ckster, all suited up, yucking it up in the front row on the plane. 

I think the real reason this d*ck dresses up for flights is to “chase tail”. Most of the d*cks I’ve known like to chase tail and business trips provide prime opportunities.  Some women (now I’m not saying all women, because that would be sexist) are very attracted to men dressed to the nines.  If you dispute this statement or find it offensive, I will refer you to the ultimate authorities on this subject, ZZ Top, who once proclaimed “They come runnin’ just as fast as they can, ‘cause every girl crazy ‘bout a sharp dressed man”.  

The other PBAA, but there are many articles on this subject, instructs people how to dress if they work from home.  The gist of most of these pieces is that you should dress like you would if you worked in an actual office and working in your pajamas is strictly verboten in all circumstances.

This is total hogwash and bullsh*t in its purest form.  These articles claim dressing up for work at home helps you maintain “professional perception” and boosts your productivity”!  

Now there have been numerous research studies (people seem obsessed with this subject) and all they all tend to conclude that office business clothes must be worn when working from home.  Why is this?  These “scientists” are extremely jealous of people who get to work from home. You see, the researchers work in laboratories and have to wear very uncomfortable lab coats, even in the summer, when the accountants won’t let you turn up the air conditioner and you sweat in your shorts all day and go home all stinky.  Yeah, these squinty, egg-headed nerds are very envious  of us work-from-home people, enjoying our comfy, casual work attire.  I can hear them yell as they finish their “scientific study”: “If I have to be this uncomfortable at my workplace, then everyone should suffer!”

Could be a productive worker? 
I will concede that “dressing up” will benefit a few work-from-home people.  The key word is few.  Every home worker must determine for themselves the best mix of comfort and productivity.  For me that means, sweat pants in the winter (no lounge pants) and canvas-type cargo shorts (no athletic shorts) in the summer.  Tennis shoes, (no slippers) but I often will work barefooted in the summer, with absolutely no impact on my productivity whatsoever, oh the audacity.   However, these are my personal standards. I will not judge anyone who can be productive working in their pajamas.  I will also not criticize someone who prefers to dress up, if they work better that way.  There are no universal rules.  That’s why all these articles and studies are rubbish.

Unfortunately, the shenanigans don’t stop there.  I found an article that gives recommendations on stylish, comfortable, clothes for work-at-home woman.  There are the cashmere sweatpants for $498 – “cashmere for comfort – the ribbing makes you look cool!”.  The Gucci sneakers for $695. The silk shirt for $153.  This article says these clothes have the powerful ability to make you feel internally professional and increase your productivity! 

One of the benefits of working from home is that you can spend less money on clothes.  To spend $1300 on one outfit that no one else will see, makes you look externally ridiculous and decreases your bank account.  And, oh, better not spill any grape juice on those cashmere sweats.

To prove how bogus these articles and scientific studies are, I did a little study of my own.  I decided to work completely naked for one day to prove I could still be productive without any clothing at all.  Hey, if I can work fine with naked feet, then I can go full monty, right? Centerfolds and porn stars work fine like this, so why can’t I?

My Naked Productivity Study

I log on my computer and begin the day.  I start working but get distracted by the feeling of my butt cheeks nestled against my leather chair.  Mmmm, ooooh, that feels sooooo goooood, sublime even. Ohhh baby  --- Whoa, snap back, let’s get going on that spreadsheet!

Mid-morning, I realize I have the curtains closed and the dark room is stifling my creativity. No one can see me while I’m seated, so I decide I can walk over and open the curtains ……  Oh, no!  Hello, neighbor Sue, out there walking her dachshund. Well, I got to see neighbor Sue’s wiener dog and she got to see my ……. I hope neighbor Sue doesn’t call the authorities because explaining the situation would really put a crimp in my productivity.

A few minutes later, my dog needs to be walked, guess I really didn’t think this one through.  I throw on my robe and sneak him out in the backyard.  But the dog doesn’t want to do anything in the backyard, even though the world is his bathroom, he prefers the front yard.  It’s rather uncomfortable outside because it’s a bit nippy, especially with that gusty wind.  The dog finds his spot and then … Whoa, holy Marilyn Monroe!  Sure hope the widow Cooper next door didn’t see that.  She’s been feeling rather poorly lately and a shock like that could push her over the edge!  Would hate to have people whispering and pointing at the funeral, “That’s the guy, the tall, bald one.” 

I put on a nice corporate business shirt for the big video meeting after lunch.  The boss is rolling out a big, important, corporate initiative.  At the end of his presentation he declares, “We need total buy-in on this. So I want everybody here and those patched in remotely, to all stand up in a show of solidarity!”.

“Ake! You’re not standing!”

“I’m standing in spirit, sir. I’m standing in spirit.”

After that unfortunate event, I run downstairs to grab a cup of coffee when the doorbell rings, but I don’t have time to go get my robe.

I crack the door slightly, stick my head around the corner, and see a nicely dressed man and woman.

“Good afternoon!  We are Jeneeva Watchneses and we need to talk to you about your spiritual condition.”

Me: I’m sorry, I can’t talk …

Woman: (trying to peak around the door - you naughty girl) Are you naked, sir?

Man: Is your wife at home?

Me: No

Man: Then who are you in there naked with in the middle of the afternoon?

Me: No one, I’m just working, really, I’m working.

Woman: I think someone as sinful as you needs to read every one of our tracts, twice!

Man: Here you go. (throws the literature through the slot) Make sure you read all these carefully and we will stop back next week to talk with you, when you are not “working”.

Alright, I learned that working in the nude is not a good idea and does hurt your productivity. I also learned you should never fart while sitting naked in a leather chair.  Regardless, I still believe that you are most productive, when you are comfortable (but not too comfortable) and people should not follow the fashion advice of these misguided know-it-alls.