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

Monday, November 28, 2016

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

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

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

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

Almost immediately, The Question, was asked of me:

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

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

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

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

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

Janet: Are you going to the prom?

Me: No, I’m not.

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

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

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

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

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

Random Senior Girl: Are you going to the prom?

Me: No

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

Me: Thanks for letting me know.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(End of Part 1)

-         Who will Don end up taking to the prom?

-         Will Sarah Edwards laugh in Don’s face?

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

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

Watch for the thrilling conclusion to be posted next week!

*Leo Sayer

Monday, November 14, 2016

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

More bad 70’s music:

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

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

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

The Joke:

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

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

Stuts: Well that explains it!

Me: Explains what?

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

Part 2B

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Lyrics by Mark James