Sunday, July 1, 2012

Where The Buffalo Roam

For the first time in years, I did something that has been long absent from my life; since high school actually. 

For the previous two months, I engaged in an age old tradition; a rite of passage, equally anticipated by school age children and adults alike.  Summer vacation!

Modern society adopted the notion of a summer vacation from the ancient Romans.  After engaging in the daily grind for nine months out of the year, the Romans decided that a break was in order; a well earned physical and mental rejuvenation period so that they might relax after doing stressful things such as taking over the world, constructing tourist attractions,  drinking wine, incest, crucifying the son of God and murdering elected leaders.**

**Note: The Romans do not recognize Spring break for obvious reasons.  (See Ides of March)

The tradition of summer vacation can be traced even farther back…to the ancient Mayans. 

Each year, the Mayans would gather up a few dozen live chickens a rolling taco stand and Corona before piling into converted school busses, Honda Preludes and Chevy Impalas and head to Cancun for an uninhibited, alcohol laden beach bash…With the exception of Pedro Sheckman.  Pedro was the rarely seen Jewish-Mayan. 

The Mayans are well known for their incredible predictive powers such as lunar cycles, tidal activity, knowing when the world will end, etc.   So, Pedro predicted Jewish persecution ominously looming in the future…even though it was the year 1413!

Of course, with all of their fortune telling abilities, the Mayans, oddly, did NOT foresee their ultimate eradication by European explorers, which is why I do not place a tremendous amount of stock in their end of the world summations for 12-21-12.**

**Politically Correct Clarification:  For the record, the ancient Mayan’s income tax returns were always perfect…right down to the Peso.  Pedro Sheckman?  Perhaps, but that’s for history to judge.

I began my first day of vacation by sleeping in; which is to say that I slept until the sound of a screaming cat awakened me.  It turns out that Michelle’s 5-year old wondered if the cat might be more comfortable in a zipped suitcase. 

I lay in bed for a few more moments before finally being roused by the sounds of a screaming 5-year old who wore claw marks on his forearm and on the side of his face.  I suppose that he learned first hand that cats do not, in fact, enjoy luggage as much as Paris Hilton.

So far, my first day of vacation was off to a less than desirable start.

Desperately searching for something to pass time, I spent several subsequent days editing a fiction book that I wrote a few years ago, which may be found at:
Feeling a bit incomplete about spending a summer break writing and editing, I decided to completely shelve the computer for the remainder of vacation time to do vacation things.  I did what any adventurous person would do… I decided to donate plasma after seeing an advertisement on the back page of a local newspaper.

Did you know that they pay $40.00 for plasma??  This especially caught my attention.   I’m amazed that I can help to save a life WHILE I earn the exact amount for a bottle of fine Irish whiskey with enough left over to purchase a pack of cigarettes!  Actually, I’m amazed that they accepted my plasma now that I think about it.

When I checked in with the receptionist, I asked if I might be allowed to donate ALL of my plasma for a flat, negotiated fee.  Apparently, that's not how it works.

I was asked to answer a bunch of invasive questions, such as:

“Have you ever had sex for money?"

"Does this photo of Ewan McGregor do anything for you?"

"Have you ever had sex with a man?"

"Have you ever seen the movie Less Than Zero?”

"Have you ever traveled to The Congo, Zambia or Atlanta, Georgia?"

"Have you ever seen a pornographic film featuring sex with a man …which takes place in Zambia?"

"Have you ever thought about having sex with anyone?"

As an important note, I passed the screening with flying colors and was well on my way to earning the “blood money.”

Afterward, the helpful LPN instructed that I should drink plenty of water and have a quick meal.  She also advised that I avoid alcohol for the day.

For the record, it is perfectly okay to consume Taco Bell and alcohol so long as you wait for 20 minutes after donating plasma.  It’s apparently the same rule that applies to swimming

Since the plasma excursion only ate up two hours of my vacation, I accepted an invitation from my friend, who is a landscaper.  He was short on workers and asked if I might assist him with a gardening project for a client.  Subsequently, I caused approximately $2-thousand dollars in damage…long story.

At this point in my, so far failed, vacation itinerary, I figured that summer break might be a good time to catch up on cleaning and maintenance projects around the house.

As a matter of important note, cleaning up after a working mother with a 5 and 12-year old holds the equivalency as that of being trapped inside of an impossible video game.  One of those games where the aggressor pummels the player from every side imaginable until they eventually cry uncontrollably before meeting their demise in a fiery death.

Spending extended amounts of time around the house also provided subtle reminders of certain nuances that I’ve often overlooked throughout the other nine months out of the year.  For instance, I live in a house full of “fast talkers.”  I don’t mean slick, cunning, fast talk…I mean another language which is unknown to man;  My girlfriend,Michelle, and her oldest child being the worst perpetrators.


Michelle: “Adkeojgfkdknfsjkjd  lksjdlksaknfans and then kdsafsandfk…what do you think Jim?”

Me: “Um…”

Jack: “Yeah, that’s dsmfjdfnbcxvbcxnjbj,xzm…you know?”

Me: “um…okay.”

Michelle & Jack: "Hahahahahahaha!!!!!

Me: "um..."

The 5-year old, on the other hand, speaks quite slowly and explicitly…especially when he decides to share his poop activities in minute detail.

Actually, I also have interesting conversations with Jack...when he speaks English.

I completely forgot what it was like to be a 12-year old boy, in that they have the attention span of a death row inmate who is minutes away from being executed.

Me: Don’t forget to take out the trash and clean your room as your mom asked.

Jack: Can we go to the Nike outlet store?

Me: Later.  Did you clean the litter box?

Jack: Check out that Camaro!!

Me: Yeah, it’s cool.  How bout the litter box?

Jack: Is the Nike store open until 7? 

Jack, along with his peers, have been raised in what I like to call the “protective mom” society, in that their parents force them dress appropriately for outdoors time:

Fire-proof race car skull rag

Knee pads

Elbow pads
An English suit of armor

Kevlar vest
Finger pads

Shin guard
A police attack dog


And, a tee-shirt (for cool comfort in the summer heat)

This explains Jack’s visible discomfort when I recently tended to a knee scrape which he’d incurred in a rollerblade mishap.  I administered age old, tried and true field emergency care to ensure that he would make a full and successful recovery.  I poured a half bottle of rubbing alcohol on his knee.

After he came to, I assured him that he did not need crutches. 

Jackson often pries about my childhood, specifically as to how we knew that cuts and scrapes wouldn’t become infected and that we would be alright.  I authoritatively answered: “Because we didn’t die.”**

Note: Except for Jeff Miles.  He had a shellfish allergy that none of us were aware of.

Jack’s mother, on the other hand, tended to the scrape in her own, special motherly way when she returned from work later in the day.  When Jack emerged from the bathroom, he looked like a Mummy…with surfer dude hair.

As a kid, summer vacation represented a time of exploring.  We rode bikes, got hurt and played baseball for 8 hours.  We also shot one another with pellet guns, bottle rockets and slingshots, pushed the fat kid off the creek cliff when he wasn’t looking…and experienced an interesting moment in time which involved Tyler Heflin and Tonya Knott.

While us guys took a break from baseball, Tonya had prepared some lemonade and brownies in her “Easy Bake Oven.”

Tyler, somehow, coerced Tonya into showing us her…um…private spot.

As I was recently informed, Tanya’s private spot is also referred to as the “Easy Bake Oven” these days.

 As an adult, my previous summer vacations meant that I would arrive to the beach bar at 9am, watching sports as my ex-wife spent all of my money on key chains which were etched with every single family member and friend’s name translated to Hawaiian

When I was a kid, summer break meant being shipped off to the country to my grandparent’s house so that my mom and dad could do important things such as work, host parties, have sex without locking the bedroom door, allow the grass to grow to approximately 5-feet in length so that I could mow it upon my return and save about 10-thousand dollars on groceries.

As I recall, my uncle, cousin and grandpa availed themselves to my services** when I visited the country each summer (**Pronounced: Slave Labor.)

They would put me to work doing, what they referred to as, character building exercises…such as, splitting logs for 9-hours, feeding livestock, being bitten by snakes, falling from horses, digging potatoes, rebuilding tractor engines and slaughtering a cow. 

My lawyer friend suggests that the above activities constitute child abuse but, since they’re all dead, I can’t bring formal charges against them.

My other uncle was much more fun to hang out with as he’d take me to concerts at the state fair.  At least I thought it was fun, until I reached my senior year in High school.

As a 17-year old sitting around the mall parking lot talking with the guys about first cool concerts there’s something decidedly NOT cool about informing them that one’s first concert memories are those of Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton.

As I slowly emerge from summer break, I fondly reminisce about summer breaks of long ago, one of which is located in a tiny spot just past the middle of nowhere.  A beautiful, pristine and unspoiled countryside with rolling fields as far as the eye can see.  It’s a blip on the map in Tennessee where my mother was raised.

I often wonder how exciting it would be to grow up in an environment which is surrounded by scenery that one can only imagine or view in a movie.  An environment where families raise their own food, sit on the front porch and visit with family and friends at the end of the day-- never seeing an automobile for days. 

Her's was a setting where bald eagles soar high above, water was drawn from a spring house, mountain lions routinely snatched the occasional runt puppy or small child while an area prison chain gang dug holes in a nearby field.  It must have been heaven on earth.

I fondly shared my childhood memories with young Jack about the land where my mom and her family before her settled and that it’s now a federally protected wildlife sanctuary.

Down a winding gravel road, there’s even a national buffalo sanctuary where adventurous tourists might come and briefly understand how things used to be before the age of skyscrapers, smog, traffic jams, Charlie Sheen, urban blight and American Idol.

After a few moments of awkward silence, I sensed that Jack found himself less than engaged in my stroll down memory lane.  So, I fumbled over my words, trying to enhance the story for a modern-day young man. 

I explained that the buffalo range no longer exists due to the fact that a young woman sneezed in close proximity to the fence line, causing a massive stampede which resulted in her and three other tourist’s tragic death.

 Jack: “Cool!!!  Hey, do you think Academy Sports might have a better selection than the Nike Outlet store??"


Copyright, Pontchartrain Press 2012
Two children with thousands of questions.  They'll make excellent lawyers one day.  Meet Lucien and Jack