Thursday, February 26, 2009

When I grow up, I'm going to go to Bovine University.

It's been relatively quiet here for the brave bald wonder in this New Year. Truth be told I'm feeling a bit lethargic and add to that terribly horribly bored. It has very little to do with MS, though. I wish I could blame the brunt of my current malaise on the disease. A little, maybe, but I would be a liar if I used it as any sort of crutch. I suppose you could accuse the bitter bitter temperatures here in the great American North East, but that wouldn’t be fair either, although I do hate the cold. I would love to blame it on the resemblance between our current fiscal solvency and a first class ticket on the Titanic.

“Ahh, she’s a fine ship sir, unsinkable. No need for these life boats, and please pay no attention to that iceberg”.

As disheartening as it all is, it just wouldn’t be true.

Sadly no incurable disease, impermanence of weather, or easily avoidable iceberged economy has created my miasma of conscious. If we are being honest (which I hope we are, I mean we’re all friends here, right?) it is my place of employment that is bringing this generally upbeat bald guy down to his reasonably hairy knees.

The winter time is traditionally very slow for my line of work. Apparently high paid rock stars and comics don't like going outside when it's cold and snowy, leaving the touring to the warmer months (perhaps it has something to do with Buddy Holly's fateful February, or the fact that their non-foreclosed on mansions are kinda cozy this time of year. Whichever.) Leaving my summer jammed packed with every two bit act that you can imagine clawing their way to my stages. That, however, does very little for me now. (It does very little for me then as well. Most of the acts I have to deal with, while international celebrities and the like, give me a very clear picture of why our country and globe are in the situation that we are in. This is who the masses have chosen to look up to? But that is for a different discussion at a different time.) The reality that I am currently facing is down right bleak, at least in my office. Getting up in the morning has started to feel more like the Bataan Death March then the better part of my childhood dreams and wishes. Sitting here in this cubical, staring at this computer helping further the goals of the uber-rich has surprisingly grown very hollow.

I know, I know I shouldn't be complaining with the way things are in the streets right now. People are loosing their jobs left and right, financial institutions are busting at every turn of the newspaper page, kids are being gunned down on train platforms by cops, cats and dogs have begun to move in together, and NPR is still bugging me for a dollar every chance they get. You would think if anybody would understand it would be NPR, but I guess in all that proselytizing they forgot to actually read their own copy. Well, as my grandmother use to say, "Why buy the cow, when you can get the milk for free?" She had an odd way of talking about the radio.

It’s just that in my current situation, time has become a precious commodity.
Eight hours at my desk reading about the finer points of who did what and what did why on the internet, and the at least three hours commuting back and forth pushing my Ipod in a Mr. Scott/Star Trek reminiscence, “I’m given her all she’s got cap’tn” hardly seems worth it. I see my boys for about 40 minutes in the morning, and if I’m lucky, 30 minutes before they go to bed, which leaves me with no energy to actually give to my wife. Most evenings end up with me mindlessly staring at the television leveling inappropriate jokes at “The Biggest Loser” (Well sometimes they are inappropriate. Most of the time they are dead on.). This is no way to live.

I was never some sort of slave to my profession before MS. Before MS I was out working in photography and film, following my heart. It was only after I was diagnosed that this slave mentality began to win out. That heart on my sleeve began to beat a little slower and began to resemble an old greasy hamburger. In my own defense I was left with little choice, you see, this world showed up with benefits, and I’m not talking about lots of perks of the personal type that come with being employed at a hip swank place. No, I mean the benefit of some sort of medical coverage that my employer will supply me with in return for a pound of my flesh.

Everyday I force myself into this cubicalled slaughter house to appease an anarchistic immune system. Somehow I have become a hostage in my own body. I’m all for anarchy and all, but let’s take a step back here. By any means necessary? Hell, I’m not even sure what we’re fighting for anymore. The white flag is waving here buddy and I’m ready to talk treaty. I would think that we would be better allies then enemies. Let’s think about the pros and cons here. If the Israelis and the Palestinians have been able to read from the same torah, why can’t we?

But there are silver linings, the clouds do part from time to time, and I realize that you must revel in the joys that present themselves no matter how little. You know, making lemonade from lemon shaped rocks or scaring a cow so badly that it gives you chocolate milk instead of white. Come on Bald Ben that’s not nice, what has a cow ever done to you? Funny you should ask because it isn’t really what a cow has done to me, but in all honesty what I have done to a cow. Hey, hey, hey get your mind out of the gutter. It’s nothing like that. No, it’s actually far worse. It’s not that I have anything against a cow, I never really had a feeling about them one way or the other, but one night in boredom I found myself in well over my then hairy head.

To understand you have to get a better picture of where I come from. I have lived in Philadelphia for the past ten years, but I grew up about an hour from here in a town called Reading, PA. If you have played Monopoly you are well aware of us. Our illustrious past has been forever immortalized in the iconographic game as one of the four coveted railroad spaces.
Just for safety’s sake and your own personal knowledge it is pronounced "reding" as in “I read that book” not “Now you want me to read this book? No, I’m just gonna use it to level the table.”(which is what you hear most often in my hometown). I know, it’s spelled the same way but it has two totally different tenses, weird.

Anyway, Reading (see above pronunciation chart) is a moderate size city but on the edge of the “sticks”. A lot of farm land bounds in what was once was called “the outlet shopping capital of the world”. (I’m serious, I don’t think I ever owned a pair of jeans that didn’t have some odd stitching, a poorly tailored hem, or a third leg where the seat was suppose to be. It wasn’t embarrassing though, everybody shopped at the same places.) My first job was on a farm. Giving this now citified bald guy an over inflated sense of the country. A false notion that mending a fence, bailing hay, or breeding horses is some how part of my blood (but who am I kidding I can’t even breed sea monkeys.). That information is inconsequential, but the reason I tell you this is because if you ever find yourself in the situation where a bunch of your idiot friends think it would be funny to go out to one of these farms and “tip a cow” under no circumstances go with them. Turns out it is not near as “funny” as it would seem.

A quick biology lesson: Cow’s sleep standing up (this is one of the things I learned on the farm) and if you get a few able bodied young people you can push one of these slovenly slumbering bovine to the ground. Somewhere on some timeline, kids who have nothing better to do, figured out that this might be a rip snorter. I wouldn’t have necessarily thought it to be as such, as a matter of fact I had never really thought of it all, I just had nothing better to do that night. I suppose this is what my mother might call “running with the wrong crowd”. (I always assumed it had to do with smoking drugs or premarital sex. She never said anything about cows.)
So it was in the middle of a moon lit field, up to my ankles in mud, in the middle of the night when it dawned on me that I had made a big big mistake, however being the sort to make apples out of lemonade or whatever I figured I may as well finish what I started.

Long story short, we creep up to the unsuspecting napping animal, although creep is a relative term. Have you ever tried to “creep” with your Converse threatening to permanently disappear deep into the brackish earth that is sucking to your ankles like a Hoover on overdrive? In our best attempt, we quietly make it to the catatonic cow and with our skinny sixteen year old hands push with all our might this poor sedentary creature to the ground.

This is where things get interesting. You see in our adolescent minds the cow would wake up, right itself, moo in an annoyed cow fashion, (Which of course was some sort of cow swear word) shoot us a dirty look, and moove on (sorry). This would send us into hysterics as we jumped back into the car, put on our sunglasses, slap five, turn “Bad to the Bone” up to eleven and make off to our next great adventure. (George Thurogood was big in Reading.) The truth, sadly, was hardly that and was anything but laughable. When we finally made it back to the car there was no “next great adventure”. Most of us were changed in a way that we had never anticipated, and all of us smelled worse than any swamp rat that crawled from the primordial ooze.

You see when we knocked the cow over, which fell with surprisingly little force, it hit the ground, oh and it mooed. It seemed in that first second everything was panning out exactly as we had thought, but what we had never anticipated was at impact the cow also broke most of her ribs on the left side of her body. The physical truth suddenly came screaming into our pounding little hearts. That son of a bitch Newton was right: To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction and that reaction resulted in the cow evacuating her bowels all over the dumb bastard who was standing at the wrong end of a bad day. I have never truly bared witness to the actual personification of a phrase before, but this was literally “getting the shit scared out of you”.

We stood there stunned for a second. Which in my analysis was a reasonable thing to do, our world was just turned upside down. A defenseless animal lay writhing on the ground, the guy who had driven us there was unexpectedly doused in a dark viscous stew that hadn’t been pasteurized, and getting my GED in juvie seemed like a real possibility. Chaos ruled the moment. The next few moments are hazy to say the least, but as we turned to run physics kept getting in the way. The molasses of the wet pasture at our feet had regained the upper hand and deftly illustrated the properties of suction. One of us fell face first into the mud, I’m not gonna say who, others never saw their shoes again, and the muddy naked footprints back on the road lead me to believe that there are a few tube socks permanently interred in that field of horror.

Needless to say “Cow Tipping” is not a victimless crime. The poor animal probably had to be put down after our exploits and that car never smelled the same. So I moved to Philadelphia and put all that behind (err?...) me. At the very least I am glad I have that off my chest. There are very few pastures I pass by that I don’t think of the horrible night and the terrible thing that I had taken part in. I suppose it would serve me right if reincarnation is the way of the universe. If Karma exists I would come back as a cow, an American cow, not an Indian cow. Those animals are revered as Gods there; here I would just end up as food. Although, come to think of it, I do have MS. Karma? Son of a….

Anyway, the point I’m trying to get at here is my job, while totally cow free, (although there are a few people here I would like to “tip”) is bringing me down like a milk cow on a Saturday night in Amish country. I suppose I will abide, I always do. There isn’t much else I can do at this point. And to abide I must notice those perfect moments when the fates smile upon me. When the powers that be, allow this brow beaten bald man to actually remember that life is a pretty wonderful thing, even if those reasons I find aren’t exactly the way God had intended. Even say in the men’s bathroom.

It was an average day. One where I had already accomplished the twenty minutes of actual work I needed to do, and noticed my inbox was overstuffed with viral videos. I was in for a long afternoon, but nature called. First up, a trip to the men’s room. It was a quick one, just had to visit a urinal, and as I have explained before the bathrooms here are huge. I took a spot near the middle of the long row of porcelain containers and set to my work. Behind me stretched an equal number of stalls, as per usual many of them were occupied.

While I was finishing my “business” one of these stalls lit up with a cacophony worthy of my first car stereo i.e. tinny, overdriven, and a slight odor that I couldn’t quiet place. I quickly realized this 20 seconds of repeating, bland, muffled rap music was originating from someone’s cell phone who was utilizing a toilet behind me.

Now, contrary to what it seems, the bathroom stall is not a phone booth. I realize that any small enclosed box that often gets used as a bathroom may resemble what many of us remember as a phone booth. Just because most of these “booths” have gone the way of a dinosaur carrying a pager does not mean that all improvisations are welcome. I’m not sure what Emily Post has to say on the subject of cell phone etiquette, however, I have a feeling fielding a call while taking a squat just isn’t kosher. (Although, I have heard that LBJ had a phone installed in the White House bathroom for some “state business”.) Past the obvious sanitary concerns that might emanate from such an action, one is already in a vulnerable state. Why complicate the situation by putting a piece of electrical equipment to your face? Although, on this day I give this “gentleman” a pass, his actions no matter how uncouth have given this bald guy a smile.

The phone was quickly answered, and by the lack of the common courtesy of a “Hello” or a “What’s up” it was apparent that the caller ID had already informed the recipient of the person’s identity. As the phone clicked to life and the electrical pulses whirled above my hairless head, transporting a living voice into the walled fortress of flush I heard the six words that made me thank God for being alive at such an amazing time.

He answered the phone while perched on a porcelain throne doing what I would say is safe for us all to just assume, and like he couldn’t expel the words fast enough from his mouth he said, “Dude, you ain’t gonna believe this shit.”


Dude, you ain’t gonna believe this shit, indeed.


Heather said...

The labels on this post are priceless.

You know, I don't know if I had ever heard this story in such detail before. Who were your partners in crime? I can take a few guesses....

I have a solution... let Angela and I get our twin business up and running, move back here to Reading and retire. You in?

Bald Ben said...

I wish. I want to be back there so bad. I need my mountains around me. One day.

Partners in Crime? You actually didn't really know them. They were jackasses that I would see in the summer from the swim and dive team. Exeter kids. That should explain it all.