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, October 17, 2017

Transforming Into The Perfect Gentleman

I’ve reached the point in my life where I don’t need to compete with people and I can put the needs of others in front of my own.  I can be more charming, gracious, courteous, polite, well-mannered and chivalrous.  I strive to distinguish myself by carefully listening to what others say and then reply in a wise, well-spoken manner.  Yes, my personal goal in life right now is to become a “gentleman”.

Of course, this is how I should have behaved my entire life, but that didn’t always happen.  Okay, that didn’t happen enough. Alright, there were times it didn’t happen at all.  But now I am older, and wiser, with a much-improved perspective on life.

The peculiar thing is that most women expect men to act like gentlemen and are attracted to those who do.  But few men exhibit these traits. We don’t do this, because we are men, and we have a male brain, we have testosterone, and man parts.  Add that all together and we seldom resemble gentlemen. Sadly, from what woman tell me and what I see on social media, gentlemanly behavior is decreasing.   The older generations have forgotten how to be chivalrous and I sense that Millennial guys don’t have a clue on how to treat women.

For example, a few months ago, I attending a reception at a fancy country club (Yes, they invited me and I didn’t crash it for the free appetizers). I waited and held the door for a gorgeous young woman. She was so surprised by this gesture, she actually blushed.  Hey, when a guy my age can make a damsel blush, in a good way, it’s a great day.  Likewise, when I was polite on a recent flight, the foxy flight attendant cooed, “such nice manners”.  So Millennial guys, listen up!  If you want to differentiate yourself from the pack, work on your manners!  

I believe a major reason there are less gentlemen, and especially younger gentlemen, is the attitude of some “ultra-liberated” chicks.  These women feel the need to criticize men who hold doors open for them or perform other polite gestures.  Being criticized by a woman, and especially a beautiful woman, in public is crushing to the male ego, particularly the young-male ego.  But let me say this to the younger guys: If a woman berates you when you are doing something good, what do you think will happen when you do something bad?  You don’t want this type of woman, so why do you even care what she says.  Better to let her go become some other poor guys problem, regardless of how she looks.  And at my age, I am done with apologizing when I do the right thing and someone else has a problem with it. D-O-N-E - done.  If I encounter one of those ultra-libs, I just smile and say “You’re welcome” and if that fizzes them off more, uh, good.

So, I am making significant progress on becoming a perfect gentleman, but there are forces, nefarious forces, working against me.  This struggle is going to be much more arduous than I ever imagined when you consider this ……

Recently I joined a group of people playing euchre on Monday nights.  My first night there I was quiet and reserved (I’m serious) by design because as you know, Don Ake is an acquired taste and most people can’t handle the “full Donnie” right away.

Near the end of the evening, there was important hand in which Linda, a sweet, quiet, reserved lady, needed to take the final two tricks (the fourth and fifth) to win the game.  The fourth trick started with Linda playing third and me last. When it was Linda’s turn, she had a difficult decision about which card to play. She looked at the cards on the table, then looked at her cards, then more thinking, more hesitation.  Well, I knew by her indecision that she could not beat both of the cards I was holding. She was not winning the game. But she was taking way too long to decide. Finally, she looked at me for an indication (a tell, in poker terms) on what card I was going to play next. Without changing expression, or looking directly at her, I discretely lifted up my hand on the table and revealed my cards to only her.

“YOU @SS!” she shouted as she threw her cards on the table.

The players at our table were stunned.  Play even stopped at the other tables, everyone starring in our direction.  Andy, the group leader, rushed over to find out what despicable thing the “new guy” had done to elicit such a bad reaction from this pleasant woman.  But when he learned I was innocent, he still had a problem; a first-time player had just been publicly insulted.

Andy spun over to me with a worried expression. “You okay?” he inquired.

“I’m fine.  It’s nothing I haven’t heard before. However, I usually have to say something to get that type of response.  Maybe she’s just very perceptive,” I reasoned.

He looks at me incredulously, “You’re not upset?”

“No, I’m fine,” I assured him.

Andy grinned, and we have been friends ever since. Even Linda likes me, well tolerates me, now.  My nickname in the euchre group is now is “@ss”

I thought that was just a fluke, but the following week I was at a party, talking to my friend Lori. I was relating a recent conversation I had with a colleague. “You are such as @ss”! she exclaimed.

Then I realized my wife had recently used the term several times when she had been displeased by my behavior on our recent vacation.  When you’re in your 20s and women refer to you as an @ss, it’s a good thing. When you are in your 50s, not so much.

This was not a fluke, but a trend!  I couldn’t accept this characterization so I looked up the definition of @ss to see if my accusers were correct.  Well, according to the slang dictionaries an @ss is “a foolish or stupid person”. I knew this didn’t fit.  These women were not implying I was a dolt.   Definitions do evolve and even the Internet is slow to keep up sometimes, so I kept looking.

Then I saw the term “pompous @ss”.  Could this expression be changing in that people leave out the pompous part and just say @ss?  I was confident that in no way I am at all pompous, but I googled the definitions just to be sure.
The search returned: self-important, imperious, overbearing, domineering, magisterial, pontifical, sententious, grandiose, affected, pretentious, puffed up, arrogant, vain, haughty, proud, conceited, egotistic, supercilious, condescending, patronizing, portentous, turgid, vainglorious.

Come on guys, it’s just one word. If you take 23 other words to define one word, you are obviously trying too hard and you don’t know what you are doing.  I’m a busy, important person and I don’t have time for your cute, little word games.

But I am relieved that after quickly perusing this list that I am definitely not pompous.

Magisterial? – Never practiced magic in my life.

Pontifical? – I’m not even Catholic.

Sententious? Well maybe, but I’m an author so I have to use lots of sentences.

Turgid? Absolutely not! I use 24-hour deodorant daily and my Mary Kay cologne.

Egotistical? Come on, I’m better than that.

The sentence example used was:  "a pompous @ss who pretends he knows everything".  Of course, this doesn’t pertain to me, because I don’t need to pretend now, do I?

To be absolutely certain that I have no pompousness whatsoever, I made a list of these words and asked my wife if any of them remotely described me.  I read them to her one at a time. On the first two she just looked at me bug-eyed. After the third word, she started laughing hysterically, face red, gasping for air.  I decided to stop there for strictly health reasons.

I then read the list to my co-worker Ron, a pleasant guy who never says anything bad about anybody.  This time I started at the other end of the list.   It was weird.  Ron was silent until I got to the fourth word and then he claimed he had forgotten to finish a critical report and had to go. And strangely enough he had told me at the beginning of the call that he had plenty of time to talk!

I must conclude I have reached the age where I don’t care so much about what others think of me.  While this is liberating and has positive aspects, it also enables some of my irritating qualities to leak out.  Maybe I’m not as careful in hiding these deficiencies, or it could be I am now less skilled at it. At some point in life you accept who you are and concede that you are not going to change.  Call it the Popeye Principle: “I yam what I yam and dats what I yam!”.

So as I strive to become the perfect gentleman, I am also naturally transforming into a greater @ss.  As I exude more charm and graciousness, I also show more arrogance.  I guess trying to figure out who you really are never ceases, it literally takes a lifetime.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

My Devices Are Now Managing Me

Sometime around 2003 I traded in my portable CD player for something called an MP3 unit to listen to music while jogging.  I felt some remorse at this change because it was a high-end CD player with cool anti-skip and water-resistant features.  But it was bulky and I wore this ridiculous contraption called a “tune-belt” across my chest to hold the player when I ran.  I’m sure it looked like I was wearing a sports bra to passing motorists, but it did provide the secondary benefit of stabilizing my man-boobs when jogging over rough terrain.

I did like my new MP3 unit.  I was glad I waited until the “3” came out, which I assumed was an improvement over the MP1 and the MP2.  I was successful in magically “ripping” my CDs into a digital file.  I must be very good at this since I can still rip CDs without even damaging them at all!  The MP3 player was easy to carry, had superior sound quality, and stored all my music in one place.
Although I did not realize it at the time, I now had my first “device”.

Number of Devices = 1

In 2007, I got my first personal cell phone.  Up to this point the family had shared pre-paid phones.  I really didn’t think I needed my own phone, but we signed up for a family plan and I had my very own mobile phone number.  At first, I only used the phone to place an occasional call and no one but family had my number.

But then in 2008, my mother fell seriously ill and I had to give the hospital my cell number so I could be reached anytime.  I took my phone to work and placed in right next to my business phone so I could answer it quickly if necessary.  That morning I needed to go talk to a co-worker on the far side of the building.  I became anxious because I was concerned the hospital might call my cell phone (sitting there on my desk) while I was gone.  I actually sat there pondering this troubling situation before coming up with a solution.  Yes, they call it a mobile phone for a reason and being a middle-age person in the digital age has its challenges.

Number of Devices = 2

In 2010, I bought a Kindle.  It is my favorite device and is so wonderful I will never read a physical book ever again if I can help it.  Strangely, some of my writer friends don’t want one because they enjoy holding, feeling and smelling books.  This sounds a bit too kinky for me, could it be “50 pages of Grey?”.
I felt so technically advanced when my millennial co-worker Tim found out I owned a Kindle (he didn’t) and asked me a bunch of questions about it!  I even brought it to work the next the next day for “show and tell”.

Number of Devices = 3

I got a laptop computer in 2011 so I could type my blog posts while I watched television.

Number of Devices = 4

I was issued an i-Pad for work in 2013.  I had to learn “Apple-stuff” and I took my first selfie!  Beside work-related functions, I use it to download the daily newspaper if the delivery guy is late.

Number of Devices = 5

I bought my first fitness band in 2014 because apparently it is important to know the number of steps you take every day. For the first 20,000 or so days of my life I was oblivious, totally oblivious to my step count. But now I am obsessed by it. So much so that I will saunter outside at night in my pajamas just to make my “goal” for the day.

Number of Devices = 6

Of course, there have been upgrades and replacements over the years. Most notably the addition of the iPhone, the iPhone 6, (now the 7) in 2015 and the Apple Watch a couple months ago.  Now I am the proud owner of six devices, but maybe the devices own me? It is vitally important to manage all these devices on a daily basis. I have to keep them updated, upgraded, accessible and most importantly, charged so they don’t “die”.  It is a modern tragedy when we need one of our devices and it won’t work because the battery is drained.

Keeping them all charged is most challenging. You must monitor the battery icon and then find the right charger for the device.  Some bass-turd thought it would be a great idea to make each charger different. So I throw all the chargers in a drawer and try to remember which one I need.  Unfortunately, when I replace a device I don’t throw away the old charger.   After a while I forget what device the charger belongs to.  Then I can’t throw it out because I might need it to charge something, even though I have thrown away the device it belongs to a long time ago. Over time the number of obsolete chargers grows and grows.

So, these old chargers go in the drawer with the cables from my last five televisions and radios and cassette players and head phones. I bet I still have the one for my CD player!  But they do not just lay there peacefully.  Within that drawer all these cables engage in an orgy of Roman proportions.  The cords become spectacularly tightly intertwined into one large ball.  This is my best explanation for this phenomenon since it would take days for me to purposely entangle the cables this much and yet it happens naturally in that drawer. It gives a whole new meaning to the term hot cable sex.  Here is what my cable ball looks like. 

This massive cord entanglement caused a problem last week. I was on an important conference call using my speakerphone, but there was a motor running outside my home office which made it difficult to hear. I opened the drawer to get my headphones, but instead spent the next three minutes trying to remove them unsuccessfully from the cord orgy. Unfortunately, the meeting conversation continued and I wasn’t listening because I was distracted, desperately pulling and tugging at these cords every which way to get the head phones.  And then I do hear:

Boss: Ake, what do you think about all this?

Me: Uh, ah, uh … I think it’s a tangled mess, sir.

Boss: Brilliant observation Ake! That’s why you’re a V.P.!

Now if you are away from home and need a charge, it can cause some interesting situations.  When you need juice, it’s the most important thing that moment.  Every day, in a coffeehouse or airport somewhere, the same conversation takes place.

Guy: Can I plug my hub into your port, baby?

Girl: Why are you asking?

Guy: Just need some of your sweet juice, girl. I know you have what I need.

Girl: But I don’t know you.  Is it safe?

Guy: I’m clean. I use protection. My anti-virus software is up to date.

Girl: I guess you can stick it in.  Will you text me tomorrow?

Guy: Sure, if I have enough battery life. But I could be plugged into another girl’s port by that time.

And I do worry about how this device obsession interferes with human interaction as people interact more with their devices than other humans.  This may be why millennials are not getting married. You can’t form a relationship unless you actually talk. “Dude, did you see the way that beautiful woman is looking at you?”  Of course you didn’t, because you are staring at your phone. You poor pathetic putz, you. It used to be men search earnestly for a good wifey. Now they just settle for finding good wi-fi.

Who ever thought that “managing devices” would be part of your daily routine?  You know it’s bad when you try to send someone an email from your MP3.  And if you get “locked out” of your device, it causes you to panic until you get back in. I take solace in knowing that I am not the only one overrun by my many devices.  A speaker at a recent seminar claimed that there are now over five billion devices, more than the population of the earth.  If you are worried about the machines taking over, they already outnumber us.

I know you techno-masters are laughing at me right now for not using my iPhone for multiple functions which would eliminate some devices. But that would be too much work learning how to move all those files around.  I know that sounds stupid, but that’s the way an older brain functions.

At one point I had no devices and was in control of my life and my time. But over the years my devices grew in number and importance, and now to a certain extent control me. So now you could say ---- I am left to my own devices.

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.