Friday, April 30, 2021
Tuesday, March 16, 2021
In the 80’s and 90’s before
the big Hard Rock Hotel was built on the Seminole Reservation. If you were
traveling south bound on State Road 441 in Broward County, Florida from the
intersection of Griffin Road, you’d come across their giant bingo hall. Large signs
affixed to the side would announce the 100,000’s of thousands of dollars for
the next bingo jackpot.
I never played at that bingo hall or at that time any bingo. But I grew up watching bingo. My dad allowed me to tag along while he took his mom and her friends to the Seminole Bingo and other pickup games. Like poker tables of today. I like to remember those elderly ladies my father chauffeured around as the Golden girls of the bingo hall. Those ladies went to play bingo 3 times a week. Their desire to play the game made me so curious as to what I was missing out on.
Like a thief with a stolen purse, I would rifle through the bingo bags and look at all the different color number markers my grandmother had. There was also penny size multicolored transparent discs she would use as number place marks over the called numbers. They reminded me of communion wafers.
For fun I would peer through them at the world around me to change the technicolor into shades of green and orange.
The liquid markers were cool. They were in a bottle with a sponge head. I was told they were for speed bingo and made marking easier when the Bingo ball caller would rapidly announce the numbers in rapid succession during speed bingo. This allowed her to speed down and plunge that sponge on each card marking her numbers.
Then I learned they won money! Seems so damn cool to win something by marking numbers on a card. I was told jackpots on pickup games could be $50, $100 or $200! Big jackpots to this child. But nothing more than the Seminole jackpots.
But if my grandmother didn’t win money it was fine by me. I mostly loved when she won food passes to the Morrison’s Buffet.
Then the whole family could all go and devour her winnings in a couple sittings.
Once my dad allowed me to sit in on a game and watch this form of gambling. I was amazed watching the sea of ladies work over their bingo cards at a feverish pace. And the first time I heard someone shot out, “bingo!” It scared me. Like a dog in a deep sleep reacting to fireworks.
I didn’t see my grandmother and her friends, the Golden girls, as old when I was a little boy. I didn’t understand my own youth let alone an advanced age grandparent. To me, my nana was cool as the inside of a refrigerator.
My favorite golden girl was her friend, Ida, a fiery redhead who loved to go to Bagel Nosh. She also loved to squeeze my cheeks. She used to tell me I “was so gorgeous” that I “should be in pictures.” I remember her so vividly many years later.
Those Golden Girls are gone, but man do I love reminiscing about their bingo days and my indoctrination to the game that they loved. I do not recall ever winning a game of Bingo myself. Maybe because until this very day I have never played. But I give a shout out to these women who loved that game so much.
Hey Golden Girls, BINGO!
Blake and Max clowning around in the bathroom. March 15, 2021.
Sunday, January 31, 2021
I was a 12-year-old boy when I got a job at a local fair. This yearly event was small, but they had fun rides and carnival games. As a pre-teen though, going up there to hang out meant everything to me because due to it being close to my house my parents allowed me to go on my own.
I liked to linger around the fair grounds and watch the ride owners assemble the rides. The ferris wheel would tower above me, its shadow casting black lines that looked like fingers spreading across the terrain. Every time they added a new car to the structure, they would spin the wheel to the next level. The sun would pass through and the bright light would flicker as the metal beams sliced its powerful rays. my parents were happy I had a job to keep me busy for a few days. I loved to get there before the start of the start of the fair and watch them assemble the rides. There was nothing cooler for me than to see those rides come to life. One the day before the grand opening I was walking the game section and met the owner of a game named, Gus.
Gus owned more than a few game booths on the midway.
"You’re looking for work or do you want to just linger around here and make no money?" He said to me in a deadpanned tone.
"Never thought about earning money," I said.
"Well, I need someone to work this fishing game for me? Are you 'game?' "
The fishing game was a balance game. The player had a ring attached to a fishing pole by a long string. The point was to loop the ring around the neck of a beer bottle. Once around the bottle neck, the player had to slowly lift the bottle to a standing position. If it fell off the platform, you lost. The platform board has a slight cantor to it. The rope was precisely cut. The poles all the same size. The ring was a smooth. It was not an easy game. And even though I did not totally buy into the game. I thought it would be fun to run it. Me, a twelve-year-old kid.
“The job is simple, really,” Gus said. “Collect the $5 and allow the person to play until they raise the bottle up or it falls off the pedestal.”
“That’s it?” I asked. “Seems simple.”
"Oh it is, but when people aren’t playing. I need you to get their attention by shouting out, ‘Raise a bottle, win a prize!' "
Although I wasn't too keen on shouting out the slogan for the fishing game I agreed to work it.
On most nights there were good crowds shuffling through. The range of fair goers were families, friends and loved ones who would flow back and forth in front of my tent. It seemed like everyone and their mother would walk by me but my parents. Maybe it was the beer bottles that parents didn’t want their kids to associate with. Maybe my demeanor sucked. But, there was down time so.
“Raise a bottle, win a prize!"
Some people would stop, asked me for clues on how to win. When they didn’t believe me, they would ask me for a demonstration. I wish I could write here and tell you that I crushed it however I failed miserably.
My poor game play was a common reoccurrence for me whenever I was asked to show potential players how to play. The good thing was Gus never fired me and since I sucked so badly at the game there was no fear of being asked to runaway with the fair.
“Raise a bottle, win a prize!”
The fun part of working the active fair was watching all he people walk by me. People do some weird things and for a 12 year old being exposed to people watching, the weird and strange behavior of people made the night move quickly.
During the breaks of my people watching I would become in tune with the sights and sounds a fair brings. Squeals from the people on the wild rides played the best white noise amongst the bells and whistles of other games. The music would tumble down the midway at different points and over take the senses but then when the crowds thicken the music was held at bay unable to penetrate the throngs of people.
Oh wait I forgot, “raise a bottle. Win a prize!”
I can surely tell you that I learned a lot in a weekend. I may have sucked at that game, but I learned lessons about the people around me. Their stories, laughter, and weird eccentricities have lasted during my time on earth.
Yes, I guess it is fair to say that in the end. I did win. Win in the game of life.
“Raise a bottle, win a prize!”
Thursday, December 31, 2020
Warning: this blog egregiously uses the word shitty.
Good riddance to the end of this no good, shitty year. Thank your favorite deity that 2020 is coming to a close, and you made it. Hopefully the stench of yesteryear is being cleansed the moment you are ushering in 2021.
The cloud of Covid-19 was not too far in the distance when we last visited ushering in 2020. I was in Madrid, Spain ringing in 2020. Who knew how bad this year would be, other than our politicians, of the incoming death? They failed us without notification. Why are we surprised whenever government treats us as collateral damage?
You’d think the Covid virus would be the kickoff to a shitty year but we didn’t take that seriously until March. A San Francisco 49ers’s fan may argue with you when the shitty year started when they lost the Super Bowl in the beginning of February to the Kansas City Chiefs. Most people identify January 26, 2020, the death date of Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and the 7 other souls aboard his helicopter towards as the beginning of the end of this no good, shitty year.
Covid decimated us. The death of the people we care about is the number one reason why most of us felt hopeless during this year. Followed by separation of loved ones to avoid the spread of the virus. And then, total isolation because separation was not working. How cruel 2020 has been during this no good, shitty year.
For me, I had the birth of my 4th son, Max. We were lucky because they lifted some restrictions in May and I was able to see his birth. If she had given birth the week before, she would be alone in the operating room. Little Max is my glimmer of hope during this no good, shitty year.
The first half of the year progressed into the summer and then Minneapolis happened. That S.O.B. refused to listen to bystanders while he placed a knee on George Floyd’s neck. No matter who you were, I believe the sight of it made us sick to our stomach. The civil unrest that followed was sad. Everyone was willing to listen but then the death and destruction in the wake of good will resonate in future history books by the time my kids own children are growing up. Needless to say this was a no good, shitty year.
Mother Nature unleashed on America a record breaking hurricane season. She ventured off into the Greek alphabet, ending with Hurricane Theta So many landfalls into the Louisiana area. What a no good, shitty hurricane year.
Billy Joel wrote a song he named, We Didn’t Start the Fire. The lyrics spanned decades of news making headlines. A new songs lyrics could span the past 12 months in this no good, shitty year.
Capping off my no good shitty year. I failed my final research paper. Thus having to take the entire class again in 2021.
Ugh, this no good, shitty year.
My soul hurts for those who are alone tonight on New Year's Eve and fearful of 2021. But rest assured with each new day, there is renewed hope. With each new day, we will rebuild. With each new day, we will get better. And with each new day, we are further away from that no good, shitty year, 2020. Good riddance.
Happy New Year, everyone! May 2021 bring you good health and fortune. Hopefully we will have some normalcy.
Saturday, December 19, 2020
December 19, 2020
There was light chatter amongst the elves that Santa might have Covid-19. A whisper here. An innuendo there. But where could the fib have started?
I’m not a detective, however the rumors may have began when Parnell barged into the head trainers office and exclaimed.
“Santa may have Covid!”
Startled, Papa Newell, leaped to his feet. “Wha-wha-what,” he stammered.
“No one is telling us that Santa has Covid! It makes me upset because I work so close to Santa. I have a right to know.”
“You mustin’ say a word, Parnell. There are rules that govern us, regarding health issues and privacy. And Santa is protected by those rules.”
Later that evening, during the winter feast to celebrate the hard work the elves did this past summer and fall preparing the toys for shipment on Santa’s sleigh. The elves were merry. They danced and sang their favorite songs. The same songs their ancestors had sung for a 1,000 years.
“We work and work, we play and dance, our lives are complete. We tend homes, raise our family, and rise to our feet, while we celebrate life everyday.”
Parnell didn’t care about the governing rules. He decided to tell everyone out of fear of the viruses spread.
Parnell rushed into the crowded ballroom. Pushed elves over and other elves, he moved out of the way.
“Shmop” he shouted.
His hands placed out to his sides, palms out.
“Shamta howes Covend.”
The party going elves still danced about. As their bodies bumped into Parnell they would look back at him with a puzzled look on their faces.
Little Ernie looked up from the ground, from where he was knocked over by Parnell.
“What?” His voice squeaked out.
“Shamta howes Covend!”
The music stopped.
“Take off your mask,” a voice from the back exclaimed.
He grabbed his mask and ripped it off his face. And with intensity and strength, he shouted again, “Santa has Covid!”
He stood before them in a stoic stance. And stared intensely as if there was a camera in front of him.
Everyone stopped what they were doing. The mood deflated and the festive air changed to despair.
“Who says,” Priscilla, the lead elf demanded.
A murmur of great concern traveled amongst the rest of the elves.
“Covid?!” Tanner, the assembly elf shouted before he fainted.
“But we have been practicing social distancing on the toy floor. We wore our mask. We have sanitizer. We have protection!” Dibs, the toy making foreman proclaimed.
“Umm, well it does not matter, Dibs,” Juniper the lead toy maker started, “if Santa is sick with Covid, we must quarantine because he was in the workshop 2 days ago. And we can’t risk spreading Covid.”
The other elves bowed their heads.
“There goes Christmas,” Jenny sobbed.
Most other elves nodded their heads in agreement as they sided with Jenny’s decision.
“We cannot disappoint the people of the world!” Benny proclaimed. “With our proper precautions we must still have Christmas.”
“You are correct, Benny. We have taken proper precautions,” Priscilla said. “But traveling around the world isn’t the safest thing to do now. Especially since the big guy has Covid.”
“We need a plan,” logistics manager, Frawn said.
Priscilla was calm because she already knew what to do. That is why she is the big boss.
“Okay Frawn, we are going to have to tell the parents that they have to get their kids the Christmas presents this year”
All the elves simultaneously looked around in disbelief. The thought that parents would now assume control of the gift giving perplexed them.
“They cannot be trusted with the spirit of Christmas,” Parnell quipped.
“People need hope,” Leighbo said. He’s been working with Santa for 190 years. “Children need Santa more than ever. Adults too! They are scared and sad. A pandemic has taken over the world. Even the idea of Santa can stimulate hope.”
Pricilla stood up on top of the gathering table. She looked around at the faces of the other elves who looked to her for guidance. “Chin up, Luna,” she said while bending over and lifting the chin of the scared elf.
She straighten up and looked around. “Leighbo is correct,” she began to say. She scanned the crowd and looked at them in the eyes. “We must get the word to all the parents in the world and tell them, it is on them, to make Christmas happen this year.”
“But they don’t know how!” An elf shrieked from her chair.
“They’ll ruin it all,” Terrance the spirit monitor said. “Parents have forgotten that, Christmas spirit. That is why we are here. Our likeness in movies and stories. The tales the humans hear about us all here in the North Pole. It is to remind everyone on the joy of Christmas. The spirit of giving. The love we spread. And to remind the humans, of His birth. How would we even tell parents and charities that Santa won’t make his way this year?”
Through all their chatter, the sound of silver bells rang out. The elf’s attention was brought to the rear and they all turned towards the door.
Donner and Prancer, Santa’s reindeer’s, were in the door way. Rudolph’s red nose, oh, so bright, illuminated the door way.
“It’s true, Santa has Covid.” Mrs. Claus said.
The elves cried and screamed. They hugged one and other again. The festivities had officially ceased.
“What do we do?” Pricilla asked.
Mrs. Claus looked about the room. She saw that the elves motivation was gone.
“First, we get it together. You’re elves. Each one of you make Christmas possible.”
The group stood up and faced her.
“Secondly, we get word out to the Elves on the Shelves, and communicate to them that they must somehow get the message to the parents, loved ones, guardians and charities, that they must provide that Christmas spirit this year. And do it without Santa’s help.”
“I can communicate that,” Saint Pierre exclaimed. He’s the head of communication.
“Third, I need someone to help me as I travel the world in Santa’s place. Not to land, not to give out presents. But to be seen and become a beacon of reassure for those that are frighten during the quarantine. Christmas (she paused)...is here. And we must spread love to all those who see us. No matter what, Santa is seen as hope, that there can be some normalcy in this year. The sleigh and reindeer will remind them of the spirit of Christmas and to show the world that we did not abandoned them. Santa will be still here, sharing peace and love, and most of all, recovery.”
The elves cheered wildly!
“Let’s hear it for Mrs. Claus. She saved Christmas!”
“Now get to work,” Priscilla said.
Saint Pierre ran to the communication room. Ronnie, the reindeer keeper, sprinted to the barn to prepare the reindeer’s trip. Beverly, followed Mrs. Claus back to her room to help prepare her trip. Danny, got his favorite decorations and styled the outside of the sleigh. Franny, grabbed her tool box to prepare the inside of the sleigh.
As word got out to the parents, loved ones and guardians, to prepare for Christmas without Santa, a sense of calm began to refill the air. Christmas conquered despair. Christmas was to be saved, regardless of our fear of Covid. Mrs. Claus let it be known, that all of us are in this together. Christmas has new meaning of unity to all, and to all, a good night.
Monday, October 26, 2020
The Black derived from a black hole in space. A fragmented piece of space debris bounced off the rim of a black hole before it could be sucked in for eternity. It spiraled out of control until it made its way to earth. The piece pierced earth’s atmosphere and finally embedded itself into the wooded area of New York’s Central Park on the Upper East Side. For decades, the piece absorbed the water and earths nutrients as microscopic entities grew on its surface and begin to morph into an entity, a plague.
The Black thrived in our world. Like bacteria in a humid petri dish, the plague found existence. It only needed a host. Luckily for The Black, Phil happened to be jogging by and he would become its unwilling host after getting his ass kicked by some punks.
“Sorry, sorry,” Phil said as he side stepped the 2 men and 2 women that were blocking the path.
“Nice shoes, dummy,” one man said.
Phil didn’t hear him. He was lost in his mind during his jog. The noise cancelling headphones blocked out the world around him, however it couldn’t block the sucker punch to the back of his head as he passed one of the lovely ladies.
Phil turned back and shouted,” hey not cool, girl.”
“What do you say to my lady?” The other male demanded.
“Look, I didn’t do anything wrong for you to punch me in the back of the head.”
“You did. You invaded our space.”
Phil turned to continue his jog and while his back was turned another girl sucked punched him in the side of the face.
As the quad of men and women started to kick Phil’s ass, he laid helpless on the ground. The Black watched from its rock. Phil rolled over and spooned the rock as he attempted to shield himself from the onslaught of punches to the head and body. He was called names like, “pussy, wimp. ” and “bitch.” And those were the kind words.
The Black observed. Took in the words of the assailants. It monitored Phil’s breathing. It could sense his weakness. He was a feeble man that could be manipulated.
Kicks and punches rained down on Phil. He was helpless. He did all he could other than fight back. And then it was too late. With a kick to the back of Phil’s head and the pressure applied to the rock. His neck broke. Unbeknownst to the violent 4, they killed. So they stopped to check why he wasn’t moving.
“Yo, yo, yo, stop. He’s done. He’s done.”
“Done as in that bitch may be dead.”
The 4 walked away leaving Phil’s body to rot, eaten by some strange park animal, turn into fertilizer or become a piss magnet for dogs until someone saw the sorry sap dead. The four idn’t realize they left the perfect host for The Black.
The Black moved in. Jumping on Phil’s torso. Phil’s lifeless body lurched up and forward. The Black poked a hole in his belly button and sunk its body inside of Phil. Phil gasped. There was life again.
“That dude, he, he had it coming, right?” One of the 4 killers said to ease his conscience regarding the killing.
“Yeah, agree,” the female, said. “If you can’t handle New York, you can’t make it anywhere. You know, like that song by Frank Sentra?”
“It’s Sinatra, you idiot. And the song totally doesn’t mean what you’re thinking.”
They all laughed.
“You’re in my path,” Phil said.
The quad stopped. One of the guys looked back and saw Phil looking at them.
Phil was bloodied. His nose was broken. Hair disheveled. Clothing was saturated in sweat. You could see the sneaker tread stamped all over his body, like tattoos.
“Haven’t you had enough,” one of the men asked him. “Are you looking to get your ass kicked?”
“Kicked? I thought we killed that mother.....”.
“I’m not dead. And you’re in my way,” Phil sneered.
One of the 4 went to sucker punch him in the face again. Phil turned his face forward into the punch. The fist struck his mouth. Phil inhaled his fist and began to chomp down. Eating his hand. Then his wrist. Up his forearm. And then ripped off the rest of the elbow.
The other 3 shrieked until shock set in, then there was silence. They were so scared they didn’t run. Scream echoed the park from the dude who couldn’t believe he just lost his arm.
“You didn’t think you’d sucker punch me twice?”
Phil reached out and inserted his fingers into the eyes of his victim. Lifted him up and threw his body into the other three, which sent them tumbling to the ground. Phil stood in one spot. He failed to let go of his eye socket grip from the bad guy who had killed him earlier. When he threw the body as hard as he could. The head detached. Phil stood there. The head dangling from his fingertips.
“Whoops”. He said.
Phil tossed the head and gradually walked to the 3 remaining, would be killers. They preyed on Phi, and left their impending death behind.
Phil lunged to the ground. The Black left Phil’s body through the belly button. It moved towards the left over 3.
The 2 women and 1 man wailed.
1 woman demanded, “leave me alone! Asshole.”
The Black inhaled all 3 bodies simultaneously. A loud whooping sound could be heard as each body was quickly moved into The Blacks purview and consumed alive.
Hallowed screams were heard. Birds scattered. The trees swayed. The evening was in the twilight. The Black had just begun its purge.