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

Monday, December 26, 2016

But There Will Be No Chicken

I was all giddy with excitement anticipating going to a fantastic holiday party that evening, when I received disturbing, gut-wrenching, news.  An email appeared mid-morning announcing the party had been cancelled due to “severe” weather.

I was perplexed by this and quickly checked the forecast which said the evening temperature was expected to be around 9 degrees.  Now I was really befuddled, because in Northeast Ohio, 9 degrees is something we refer to in wintertime as, “chilly”.

When I realized the full implication of this ridiculous decision, I became enraged.  The party, put on by an organization I belong to, features a delicious potluck dinner, including chicken which is paid for with our dues. 

But this is not any ordinary chicken, it is maybe the finest chicken ever made. I had been anticipating this scrumptious chicken all week.  The party was just a few hours away and I was already craving devouring that chicken.  And now: I have paid for chicken, but there will be no chicken. None, no chicken.

Broasted to perfection!
I assure you, I am not being unreasonable here.  This chicken is exceptional.  It is “broasted”.  I have no idea what that means, perhaps that a bro roasted it?  It is covered in a tasty, crunchy, delightful coating which melts in your mouth.  The chicken itself is not too juicy, not too dry, it is perfect chicken. They carefully package it in aluminum containers,  which keeps it hot until that luscious juice hits your taste buds.  This is chicken nirvana.  However, I will not be experiencing this joy, because: I have paid for chicken, but there will be no chicken.

Of further concern, I had bought and wrapped a present for the white elephant gift exchange, but I won’t be able to exchange it with anyone because the holiday party is cancelled because someone in Northeast Ohio mistakenly believes that 9-degree temperatures are “severe”.

Unfortunately, I cannot give this gift to anyone as an actual Christmas present, because it is in fact a very sh!++y gift. Big sh!++y, woefully sh!++y.  And it is a sh!++y gift because of the pitiful, cheapo, $6 limit.  What the hell can you buy for $6 that isn’t just a piece of sh!+?  You end up spending valuable holiday time shopping for something sh!++y, in order to get something equally sh!++y in return. What sense is that?

I can’t even give something this sh!++y to my newspaper delivery guy, lest I risk next Sunday’s paper being strewn all over the street, imprinted with tire tracks when he repeatedly backs up over it. Likewise, if I give this sh!++y gift to my boss, I can kiss my Christmas bonus goodbye.  And I don’t want it for myself, because it is so sh!++y. The plan was to stick someone else with this awful piece of sh!+, not me.

Making matter worse, I had even bought something better than stale chips to take to the party.  I didn’t have time to go to the dollar store for the usual awful snacks, so instead I had bought some festive Christmas cookies.  Of course, these are just regular cookies, with red and green icing and sprinkles on them.  In July, you can buy the same cookies with yellow icing and they are labeled just “cookies”.  But put some red and green icing on them and by the magic of the season they are miraculously transformed into Christmas cookies! This means that they cost more, but they do seem to taste better, because it is Christmastime, after all.

However, now I am stuck with all these cookies, because 9-degree weather is too severe.  Normally, having many leftover cookies would be a great thing. But my house is currently filled with an enormous amount of homemade “real” Christmas cookies which will last me until mid-February.  Regrettably, these store-bought cookies are technically only Christmas cookies due to the icing and sprinkles.  While these cookies would be considered tasty when covered with yellow icing in July, they are downright awful when compared to genuine Christmas cookies.  They are, what’s the word…. what is it? Oh yeah, they are sh!++y.  Very, very sh!++y cookies.  So sh!++y, that I will have to feed these to the dog.  The dog will eat them too fast and then ralph them up on the carpet. Not to worry, the barf will be red and green, Christmas barf if you will.  Which somehow makes it better and adds to the joy of the season.

I will also miss the comradery of celebrating with my fellow group members. Last year’s party was so much fun. Especially when a few of the young women drank a little too much “holiday punch” and started to get a bit “frisky”. I had to step in and maintain all of their attention so that some of the young guys in the group would not take advantage of the situation. Yes, it was burdensome, but that’s just the type of guy I am.

But the worst part by far is: I paid for chicken, but I will get no chicken. None

To be fair, the wind chill was -6 degrees.  Of course, it is only that cold if the wind hits your skin.  When it is this cold, many people use some recently invented garments for protection, including the winter hat (invented around 1870) and the winter gloves (invented in the 1600’s).  These would be adequate to keep someone from freezing during the brutal 50-foot walk from the parking lot to the building. 

Reportedly, breathing air this cold can be damaging to some individuals.  And that’s fine, they could have stayed at home, while the rest of us dined on scrumptious chicken.  It would have even been preferable, because if fewer people show up, there would just be more chicken for everyone else.  Maybe there would even be some leftover chicken that I could take home with me after the party.  I know the right thing to do would be to drop off the extra chicken at the homes of the unfortunate people who were not able to attend the party, but trust me, that was never going to happen – even at Christmastime.

Lest you think I am overreacting to this most heinous infraction, may I remind you that this is the antithesis of getting free appetizers.  This is money I have paid in membership dues, which is supposed to be used for incredibly delicious chicken, of which I will not get any.  You see: I have paid for chicken, but there will be no chicken.

And there will be no refund of my membership dues since the year has ended.  No chicken and no refund. Yes, I have contacted my attorneys Buckham, Duckem and Fucarelli, but they are not returning any of my calls.  No doubt, they are attending holiday parties that were not cancelled due to “severe” weather and feasting on higher class foods such as shrimp, lobster and pâté de foie gras. 


To conclude, my entire Christmas experience this year has been severely diminished by one unfortunate incident, in which: I paid for chicken, but I got no chicken.

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Prayer That Almost Ruined Christmas

Gather round children (all you adult children, that is), your Uncle Don has another heartwarming Christmas story that is sure to become a holiday classic.  Christmastime is all about miracles children and this here miracle happened just last year.

I was pleased to see the invitation to the writer’s guild annual Christmas party appear in my email.  I had made my first appearance there a year ago and had a most splendid time.  There was a delicious potluck dinner, a gift exchange and lots of festive fellowship of the season.

And we call it a Christmas party, children.  None of that political correct stuff for us.  Because it’s not a holiday party, it’s a Christmas party.  This saying Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas is just plain silly.  Flag Day is a holiday. So when I say Happy Holidays, I am really wishing you a joyous Flag Day in December, when Flag Day is actually in June. Now tell me that isn’t just plain stupidity, children, just plain stupidity.

But I was afraid that calling it a Christmas Party this year could present a problem.  Hannah was a new member and one of my best friends in the guild.  She is a fine writer and a wonderfully pleasant woman.  But Hannah had a secret, children, a secret few members of the guild knew about.

I had become Facebook friends with Hannah several months ago, and had noticed something peculiar about some of her posts.  I confronted her about my suspicions in private after last month’s meeting.

 “Are you Jewish?” I asked

“Yes, I am.” answered Hannah

Now I do think it is delightful to have Hannah in the guild. One of the best things about this group is that you get to meet a wide variety of different people, all united by their love of writing. I only asked her this question because she is my good friend and friends share that type of stuff.  

But now we had invited a Jewess to a “Christmas” Party.  I hoped so much that she would attend, but I was worried she might stay home.  I thought about emailing her, but what would I say? “Hey, I know it says “Christmas” Party, but Jews are welcome too!” Awkward, very awkward, children.

Now, I have a strategy for potluck dinners, children. I buy a bag of off-brand chips at the dollar store. Yes, they may be greasy and stale, but I don’t care, because I’m not going to eat them.  Then I get to the dinner early, so I can sneak my cheap chips on the table without being seen by too many people. Finally at dinnertime, I stuff my face with all the expensive shrimp and fancy cheeses other people bring.  When you do the math: $6 worth of classy food, minus $1 of stale chips, equals “Free Appetizers”!

I was so glad to see Hannah arrive at the party.  I hurried over to greet her and said:

Me: I will wish you a Happy Hanukah, if you wish me a Merry Christmas.

Hannah: Merry Christmas!

Me: Happy Hanukah!

And then we embraced in a cross-religious, unification, diversity hug.  That’s how it should always be, children.  We should be able to celebrate our differences and not hide behind all that “Happy Holidays” crap.

Everything at the party was going wonderful, children, until Stella announced it was time to begin eating and then she said the horrific words that threatened to ruin the entire night and even Christmas itself:

“Everyone bow their heads, Hannah is going to say the blessing for our meal”

WHAT? Back up the sleigh, Santa!  Hannah is giving the Christmas prayer?


I strive to be as tolerant and inclusive as I can be, children, but this was just too much.  There are no circumstances or conditions that exist where it would be permissible for a Jew to give the Christmas blessing.  This was wrong, so very wrong.

I thought about speaking out, shouting “Stop the prayer.  Abort, abort, she is a Jew!” But Hannah had already started to pray, and it would be highly inappropriate and rude to interrupt at this point.  Besides, I was famished and somebody needed to eat all those delicious shrimp.

I thought about the negative consequences of this prayer.  There was no way that God was going to ever bless a Christmas meal prayed over by a Jew.  He would more likely curse it.  Well, in that case, I’m sure as heck not eating the egg salad.  I can see the headline in tomorrow’s paper: Ten Hospitalized With Salmonella Due To Jewish Prayer At Christmas Dinner.

I was distressed by the situation.  It was unacceptable. It was un-American.  There is no place in the Christmas story for any Jews and therefore a Jew should not be praying at a Christmas celebration.

To make things even worse, I noticed someone had brought ham to the dinner. Nice black forest variety, thinly-sliced, great sammich-making meat. I’m fairly certain that a Jew should not be blessing ham.  A single prayer that violates tenets of two major religions at the same time, cannot be a good thing.

Fortunately, I wasn’t going to be cursed by this prayer, because I wasn’t praying.  Stella’s announcement was so shocking that I failed to bow my head.  Instead, I stared intently at Hannah, carefully dissecting and evaluating every word she prayed.

I had never heard a Jew pray before, so I did not know what to expect.  However, my former years in the Baptist church made me more than qualified in identifying a good meal-blessing prayer.   

But by now Hannah was halfway into the prayer and there was something peculiar about it.  It started off like a normal Christian prayer and so far, it sounded good, it sounded right.  I was certain though that at any moment she was going to mention a menorah and throw in some strange sounding Yiddish terms all starting with the letter “Y”.

As she continued, unbelievably, it still was indistinguishable from a good Baptist meal blessing.  But we were nearing the end of the prayer, when she would have to state who we were praying to.  Hannah was approaching a literal “come to Jesus” moment, because you can’t have a Christmas prayer without mentioning the baby Jesus – just ask Ricky Bobby.

My throat tightened and I held my breath, as the prayer came to the end.  We had reached the moment of truth.

And then a miracle happened, children.  An actual, wonderful Christmas miracle, right there in that room.

In concluding the prayer, Hannah went “full Jesus” on us.  Not just “baby in the manger Jesus”, oh no, she went “savior of the world Jesus”, and even ended the prayer in Jesus name.

It was a mericle, children. It was a tremendous Christmas mericle!

But how, how, was it even possible?  How could a Jew pray like that? Except for the fact it was delivered by a woman, Baptist judges would have given this prayer very high marks.

You can't pray like that!
I was so stunned, that I stared across the room at Hannah in utter disbelief.  She noticed my expression and being irritated at my reaction, mouthed “What?” back at me.  I wanted to yell across the room, “Nice prayer, Jew girl!”, but though better of it.

I was so dumbfounded that I even forgot to get in line, which meant that scoundrel Dave got to the shrimp before I did.  I bet that cheapskate is the one who brought the hard, stale, day-old, muffins for dessert.  I did manage to get a couple shrimp, as well as some exotic cheeses and ham.  I even ate some egg salad, but only a couple bites, because, well, I still had my concerns.

After dinner, I confronted Hannah privately and asked her how a Jew could pray like that.  She told me she happened to be a messianic Jew.  Well, I certainly agree.  You have to be one messed up Jew so participate in antics like that. 

But the beautiful thing children, is that Christmas was saved.  Christmas could have been ruined by this prayer, but God intervened by a miracle to send his Son as a baby into this prayer and save it.  I can’t remember where, children, but I think I’ve heard something similar to this, somewhere before.

To all my readers and friends: Peace on Earth, Goodwill to All Men!

Monday, December 5, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then her large, gorgeous, blue eyes widened.

(My pulse quickens)

Her luscious lips turn from a grin to a full smile

(My adrenaline starts to flow like a raging river)

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One More Prom Story

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

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

Me: Yes, I did

Bob: You did?  Who did you take?

Me: Sarah Edwards

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

Me: Yes, I did

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

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

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

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

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

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

(This concludes the Blunder Years)

*Elvin Bishop