Aunt Barbara's Wagon

Back in the late 80s, my Aunt Barbara gave me her behemoth of a station wagon and my friends and I had an awesome time driving it around and causing all sorts of distress and that's the end of the story.

Except that the station wagon never made it to me. I never got to opportunity to create shenanigans in it.

Steve intercepted the wagon and I never got to drive it.

I think the station wagon was about 60 feet long and the back end of it could hold 23 people and 12 kegs. I assume that if it ran into a telephone pole, the driver would feel a slight bump and only notice later that the station wagon was covered in a telephone pole quantity of toothpicks. Its gas tank held 500 gallons of gasoline that would get it to go 45 miles. Aunt Barbara had multiple sclerosis so her station wagon was outfitted with an aftermarket accelerator and brake control on the steering column which made for interesting feet-out-the-window driving opportunities. I could be wrong about these descriptors, but I choose to ignore the truth,

I know for sure that some of you reading this are aware of the station wagon and probably ended up passing out in or under it. You have your own story. I know of two.

Steve had the station wagon for a while when the brakes started to go out. Like any good Powhida, he ignored the problem and hoped it would go away. It did not go away and, again, instead of fixing the problem, he created a work-around. As he was driving the station wagon through Toledo, he would watch the crosswalk signs in the distance. If he saw one of them start to flash, he knew that the light would soon be changing. To come to a stop, Steve would do the following:
1. shift from Drive into 2
2. shift from 2 into 1
3. press the brake pedal to the floor just for show in the hopes the brakes would kick in
4. engage the parking brake
5. shift from 1 into Park
6. swear
7. steer the wagon into the curb for a frictional slow down
8. shift from  park into reverse
9. drive up the curb and on to the grass
10. let the final momentum take the wagon off the curb and to the stop bar

Steve did this until he did get the brakes fixed or the wagon died

The Wagon Died
The wagon died. Steve knew it was going to die, it was just a negotiation with fate as to when. For Steve, it was on a road trip from Toledo to Ohio State. The wagon let the ghost go along the side of 23 South. Fortunately, it was a caravan of cars headed to Ohio State, so they were not stranded. Steve gave the wagon last rites and his buddies stripped or obscured every single VIN code from the wagon along with any paperwork that might point back at him or poor Aunt Barbara. They left the smoking husk next on the side of the road where nature would take its course. There are some that say that rusting bits of the wagon are still on the side of the road or that an auto mechanic from Detroit found the wagon and brought it back to life as a bus to take kids to school. Me? I think that the highway patrol had a semi tow truck haul the beast to Lake Erie where it was used to shore up part of the coast and keep erosion from pulling Cleveland into the lake. The wagon couldn't stop itself, but it can keep Cleveland from floating away.

(Please come back in a few days for photos of the wagon. I have reached out to Cousin Andy for photos. If you have photos, please contact me at

The Between

My brother's 50th birthday was celebrated on August 21st, 2017. His birthday is actually on August 12th, but birthdays are never convenient, so they are celebrated whenever it makes sense and when you can fit in an awesome pool party! Miss Sally and I took the kids to Toledo and we drank and swam and had a great time until we had to leave, because we are responsible adults and knew that the party was only going to get more outrageous. So we went home.

Steve died 27 days later on September 17th, 2017.

No one wants to remember the day someone died. You celebrate the birthday. And you lie to yourself that the anniversary of their death doesn't mean anything and that you'll almost forget.

But I've got this weird thing where I cannot stop thinking about the time between when I last saw him and when he died. The Between. I feel like this is an episode of Black Mirror or The Twilight Zone and I am watching his last 27 days and unable to change the outcome. I only know what he did those 27 days through what people are now posting on Facebook and saying, "I can't believe this concert we went to with Steve was just last year," and the inevitable, "This was Steve's last Rocket's game." I'd like like to think I could slip in between one of those moments and do something that would change the future. But I can't. And I find myself dwelling here in The Between.

I'm sure that many people have Betweens with their loved ones' deaths. Like if it was flipped, with his passing first and his birthday second, we'd be thinking about the time leading up to the birthday he wasn't able to celebrate. Or if someone dies around a major holiday. Those days Between are much shorter than waiting a whole year to celebrate the birthday or trying not remember the death.

I'm not counting down the days. It is possible I will wake up on the 17th and not immediately remember. But at some point, The Between will end, and I will remember it is the day I didn't want to make special by remembering. And I will put on my brave face. And I will graciously thank the people that remember, because I am thankful that they do. And I'll look back on those 27 days and realize that there was nothing I could do then and nothing I can do now.

Personally, I don't think Steve would be at all happy that I'm feeling like a miserable lump of sadness pudding. I guess I am in my own Between. And I look back and see my own 27 days ago when I was blissfully happy and look ahead to when I can deal with Steve's passing and be at peace. I've been up and down. I think I've got a handle on it... I think that it is all behind me... and then I am a mess. I look up and I am still in my own Between. And I'm waiting to be on the other side of that Between.

What is a Story?

This is how is starts. This is how it begins. A story begins at the start and then once the start recognizes what it’s done, then it’s the middle. The middle wanders around a bit until it gets bored and then the end comes along. The end usually shows up right about at the right time, which is always the wrong time when the story is good. When the story is bad, well, the end is like a smothering pillow and we all look away as business is taken care of.

Sometimes there are characters and they really screw up the middle and the end. The characters are either people or they are not or they are both. Characters tend to change during the story, so try not to fall in love with them. If you are disappointed in how a character turns out, you can go back and read the story, but stop before they change.

The thing the characters always seem to muck about with is the plot. While the middle of the story wanders around, it is usually holding hands with the plot. The middle and the plot are happy just passing the time, but characters usually end up kicking the plot and the plot drags the middle around or vice versa and then the pillow comes in and smothers them both.

But before you can start, you have to know when to start. And even that gets confusing when the start isn’t really the beginning and later in the story they go back before the start and the start starts to get a complex. The start is now the middle and the middle is all over the place.  The plot’s arm is sore and the characters start to doubt that this was ever a good idea and the pillow looms above. But luckily, many stories play it straight and their "when" is somewhere reasonable like the 1800s or the 80s or now or in the near future or future future.

Don’t get me started on where stories take place. All stories take place by a lake. Lakes are nice and provide everything a story needs. Any story that doesn’t take place near a lake isn’t a story and is not long for the pillow.

Fortunately, I’m not a writer and I don’t get caught up in all of this. I'm just the guy with the pillow.

Forgetting the Unforgettable

(Author's note: I'm not ruining this article by telling you that I am now at peace with myself and Steve's death. It still hurts. And his family is still hurting. But I'm not kicking myself anymore about it. I think Steve would say that I've sucked it up. I won't forget, but I'm over the forgetting.)

I need to write this and you will be the surprised and unprepared reader of my sadness. HolyJuan usually makes you forget about all the horrible things that life has to offer, and HolyJuan usually does so through such self-referential methods as making fun of people who speak in the 3rd person, even when the 3rd person isn't even a person. But I would appreciate if you would stick through this and then we can all go back to irreverent, relevant nonsense.

I keep forgetting that my brother is dead. I will forget, time passes, and then I remember. And while those instances of remembering are not as shocking as the initial revelation, it's just as debilitating in a numb sort of way. I am endlessly forgetting. Then I remember. Then I feel sad. And then I move on with forgetting again.

And here, outside of him being dead, is the worst part about it: I feel guilty that I keep forgetting. If I would have been closer to Steve, I think that I wouldn't forget as often. That there would be a constant Steve haze of sadness that wouldn't leave that would cause a constant ache. Instead, I keep remembering that I forgot and I feel terrible about it.

I would like to get to the stage where I feel guilty about beginning to not think about him, except that I immediately know he's gone. Right now, those few milliseconds of remembering never start with him being dead. They are filled with the next time I see him. Then I remember, I realize I've forgotten, and then the guilt. I know it's a horrible analogy, but when I think about Santa Claus, I don't think about him as someone who is real and then I remember that he isn't. He's not real right from the get-go of thinking about him, even though a younger HolyJuan believed differently. I want to remember Steve, knowing that he is dead. And I can't. Not yet and seemingly not ever.

Did I ever tell you that I absolutely hate wind chimes? Their only purpose is to piss off the neighbors and possibly to keep the Local #45 Less Than 16" Long Pipe Union in business. My favorite noise a wind chime makes is a tie between when it isn't making noise or the clattering thud it makes as it falls in the bottom of a trash can. I do not like wind chimes.

After Steve died, Susie and Larry bought us a set of memorial wind chimes. They are silver tubes with black lettered poetry about how you are going to have a difficult time forgetting the deceased with these things clamoring all day and night. We sent a nice thank you card and I never thought they would leave the box. But they did make it into the sunlight and I hung them on the deck. "Sunlight" and "on the deck" being merely suggestive as they are tucked off the side in a low-to-the-ground corner where neither sunlight or wind make their presence known and they would remain silent.

But somehow the wind does swirl up and give the dangling weight enough momentum that it creates a few notes. Quiet and gentle notes that creep into the house when I am having my morning coffee. For just a brief second, they will tinkle. And I will be reminded of Steve. While my sadness at the beginning of all this was about remembering Steve, this wind chime reminds me of Steve. A subtle difference. I'm OK with being reminded of Steve by wind chimes or by friends or by Steve's family or Facebook posts. I love being reminded of Steve. I fucking hate wind chimes and the set that Susie and Larry gave us will always be hanging from somewhere near my home because they now remind me of him.

That is where I want to get with my own internal struggle: I want to be reminded. A gentle nudge that makes me smile or that makes me sad he is gone. Like on a chilly spring day, when the sun is forgotten behind the clouds, but then it secrets through, and nonchalantly hits the peripheral. Eyes closed you can turn into the light, welcome it, and take in the warmth. Then it moves on and so do you. The chimes warm me. The stories keep his memory alive. All these reminders I appreciate, welcome, and love.

I just want to stop forgetting.

What No One Tells You About Moving

Moving is highly underrated. Both in time and treasure. I’ve helped several friends to move and here’s what I’ve noticed that you should consider before moving.

0.5 The PLAN
(It’s best to have the PLAN in the #0.5 spot so that you can sneak up on the #1 item.)
Create a PLAN for the move. Write it down. Stick to it. Even if you are wrong, because once people begin to doubt you, they’ll start to argue and that is a time suck. Be willing to take advice, but don’t let anyone tell you what to do. This is why you do not invite your dad to the move.

1. Packing takes 20% longer than expected
OK, you’ve heard this before, but no matter how you plan, packing will take 20% longer. Even after you read this, you might think, “I’ll just increase the time by 20%.” Wrong. Because it will take 20% longer than that. It’s a losing proposition. It is in your best interest to schedule five hours to pack so that it will only take six. (And don’t think you can plan on five minutes of moving so that it will take six. Fate is not stupid.)

2. Pack Everything
Put as much as you can in boxes. It makes packing the truck so much easier. Leave stuff in drawers if you want, but make sure you cover with cardboard and tape. Take this opportunity to throw out all your lamps. They are hard to pack and just not worth your time. DO NOT PACK THINGS IN SUITCASES. It is a well know fact that suitcases are the number one item that get lost both at the airport and in a move.

3. Don’t Pack Everything
Screw that last bit. Take the time to get rid of stuff. Have your friends take stuff. Call the local charity that will haul it away. Put it on the curb so the local junk-truck-guy can come by and take the good stuff. Especially those lamps.

4. Color Code
In the end, you will be much happier will all your crap in well marked, color coded boxes You can write the details of the box in small letters, but use large words or color to help guide the unpackers to the room they need to go. The night before the move, go to the new house and make signs with arrows. Color code rooms and doors. This will alleviate you standing at the front door of the new house, blocking the door deciding what the hell you were thinking last night when you wrote KT BT 9 FR on the box.

5. Rent the bigger truck
Rent the biggest truck you can get your hands on. Find a friend with a Commercial Driver’s License if you have to. Two trips SUCKS. Spend the extra money because you will save it in the end with mileage and time.

6. You can have too many people to help
It’s easy to understand that if you are the only one moving your furniture, you are screwed. But is it possible to have too many people? YES. One of my favorite economics terms is “diminishing returns.” It basically means that the more people you throw at a job, at some point, the amount of work that can get done is reduced. When you have too many people standing around, they will have the time to stop and criticize your PLAN. If you invite too many people to help, divide them up into smaller teams for continued packing, labeling, cleaning, lifting or send some over to the new place to get rid of them. Have them buy the beer and put it into the new refrigerator. Part of your PLAN should be a list of things for the ne'er-do-wells to do while the real help is doing their job.

7. Inside help / outside help
Your job during the move is to coordinate. Try not to get stuck moving anything. You should be able to freely move in and out of the house. If you have the personpower, have someone in the house, who is familiar with the PLAN, that can guide the movers or get you in a hurry if there is a question. You can then be near the truck to help with loading, unless you suck at Tetris.

8. Tight Pack
If you are crappy at Tetris, I would suggest getting a friend who has move experience to pack the truck. You want a tight pack as this means less damage and more stuff on the truck. Have room outside the truck for staging items that should go on later or when you have a futon shaped hole to fill.


Damnit! I’ve seen it a hundred times. Towards the end of the move, little stuff is still lying around the house and the owner will say, “I’ll get that stuff later.” Don’t do it. MOVE IT NOW. You’ve got the people and the truck. For fragile stuff also have a fleet of cars that will be going to the new house. Just do it now. If you are moving across the country, you might want to keep personal items or papers with you, just don’t overthink it, champ. Move it now.

10. Don’t Feed in the Middle of a Move
Hungry people work harder. Full people nap. Don’t schedule your move around a meal time. Wait until the move is over to order the pizza. Even if it is late. By then, people will be sick of you and they will leave so you can order less pizza. Only keep cold water at the house you are moving out of. Make sure that beer is only at the new place so they have a goal. Drunk people drop shit and argue with you.

11. Don’t get fancy

Provide water. Provide Pizza. Provide Beer. Don’t try and cater. Don’t even think about cooking out. Your friends knew this when they volunteered to help. They will move someday and you will get the same crap from them.

12. Unpack Now
If you do not unpack a box, it will remain packed until you move again. This falls in line with Move Everything Now. People are there. Unpack.

13. Thanks

You need to thank your friends for helping. If someone loaned you a truck, fill it with gas or leave a $20 in the glove compartment. A real friend will not take money if you hand it to them, so if you really need the $20, try to hand it to your friend instead of putting it in the glove compartment. Thank your friends that night and the next day for their help and apologize for being a dick and not listening to them and not having beer at the house and for making them work so late.

14. Take the next day off work
You will definitely want to take then next day off from work. All the stuff that you are too tired to take care of at midnight will be there for years unless you take care of it immediately. If you go to work, you are going to come home, exhausted, to unpacked boxes and no cable. If you take the next day off, you can sit around and unpack boxes while you wait for the cable guy to show up three hours late.

Christian Group Plans to Change the Names of the Days of the Week

COLUMBUS (FD) – Did you know that many of the names for the days of the week are based on old pagan beliefs and mythology? One Ohio Christian coalition group didn’t until recently and now they plan on doing something about it. The Christian Guardians of His Word is a collection of churches from around the state of Ohio. Church leaders meet on a quarterly basis to discuss regional issues and politics. An emergency meeting was called when one of the members read their child’s English language book and realized that the days of the week are based on, “weird gods and heathen worship.”

The group decided to create a new set of Christian friendly names for the days of the week and then petition their local representatives to force the government to make it official. The team of representatives from 37 churches gathered at Our Peoples of God’s Church in Columbus, Ohio to decide upon the new names.

Debate started immediately when someone suggested changing Sunday to "God's Day." At first it seemed like a positive change, until one member realized that every day is God’s day and they should not narrow it down to one single day. For a few hours, debate raged between going with the assumption that everyone would understand that everyday is God’s day and the opposite end of the spectrum of calling Sunday, "God's Day 1" and going through the week in order "God's Day 2", "God's Day 3" and so on. In the end it was decided to call Sunday “Church Day” with the understanding that everyone knows that every day is God's Day.

For the next several hours, the rest of the days of the week were pounded out. Monday would become "Work Day." Tuesday would become "Spirit Day." There was a difference in opinion if Wednesday or Thursday should be called "Wash Day" as different people bathe and do laundry on different days of the week. As many members attend their individual churches on Wednesday as well, they decided to replace Wednesday with “Wash Up Day” to play upon the words sounding like “worship day.” Thursday is to become known as "Love Day" and everyone agreed to call Friday "Pizza Night Day." Saturday, of course, will be known as "Cartoon Day."

The Christian Guardians of His Word have put together a statement of suggestion and will begin petitioning their representatives in the new year on Love Day the 1st in God’s Month 3.


(Author’s note: Any condolence you give is a good condolence. Don’t let my irreverent explanations seem glib; I cherish everyone letting me know that they care, no matter what form it comes in. Writing is how I cope.)

Steve’s death this year made for a real shitty 2017. The five stages of grief have been less of a path and more of a game of Twister where I spin the dial and deal with a new emotion every day (Left Hand denial!) Acceptance is there one day and fleeting the next. I still cannot imagine what it is like for Kelly, the kids, and Steve’s close friends.

I can’t speak for anyone else in Steve’s circle, but I do appreciate everyone who offers their condolences today, through the holidays, and moving forward. Steve pops into my head several times a day and someone mentioning him isn’t unwelcome.

There are five types of condolences I’ve encountered: the pursed lips, the standard condolence, the friend condolence, the meandering condolence, and the smile.

Pursed lips
This is the condolence the consolee receives when the consoler isn’t sure if they should say anything or doesn’t know what to say. He will greet me and then pause with his lips pressed firmly together, either because he doesn’t know what to say or he does know what to say, but wants to keep from saying it. I see this and I thank all of you who desire to say something, but don’t or can't. 

Standard condolence
This is the standard expression of sympathy. The person gets in, says the thing, and gets out. All business. Similar to how the people at the funeral home do it: Eye contact. Hand shake. Say it. Move on.

Friend condolence
It’s good to be surrounded by people who know you. They can quickly judge if you need a distraction or an opportunity to vent or a hug. These people know how to say sorry without saying sorry. They also know how to jump in when a meandering condolence has been initiated. 

Meandering condolence
This is what happens when a pursed lips condolence giver starts talking, but doesn’t know how to stop. I feel sorry for these folks who say one thing out loud and another thing in his or her head. Then the silent thought becomes a spoken thing and a new thought spills out in reaction to the last one and then it’s a line of dominoes until the person stops when their pursed lips take over again or when a friend jumps in to stop the next domino from falling. I really appreciate this condolence because it gives me a chance to console them, which is helpful when maintaining denial.

The smile
Smile is the best condolence. This person will start out with a standard condolence, but they can’t help smiling a bit as they continue with a story or a memory. I’m still hearing new stories and value each and every one of them.  Even better is when someone overhears this conversation and then is drawn in, adding what they know or jumping into the conversation by saying, “No way!” or “I didn’t realize that is what caused the Detroit power outage!” Smiles, followed by stories, help the most.

When you see me, if you feel like you need to say something, say it. I won’t mind. Even if it is the eighth time or you keep saying the same thing over again. I appreciate it. And when you don’t say anything and you stand there with pursed lips, I’ll know that means that the most, because words cannot express how you feel.

Religious Backlash against saying “Turkey Day” instead of “Thanksgiving”

COLUMBUS, OH (FD)– Joyce Withers stands outside the Kroger’s grocery store in the 43 degree weather with her three year old grasping on to her leg. The sign Ms. Withers holds reads, “Thanksgiving: Thanks to Jesus.” Her daughter’s sign, which is lying forgotten against a row of carts reads, “It’s not Turkey Day, Give Thanksgiving to the Lord!”

Ms. Withers is part of a growing group of religious devotees that believe Thanksgiving is losing its religious focus. “Saying Turkey Day is just as bad as saying X-Mas or Bunny Day. It’s downright evil.” She and tens of others plan continued protest today across the United States and Texas.

"As many are aware, the Pilgrims sought religious freedoms when they came to America," Ms. Withers explains, “The dinner with the Indians was a lot like the Last Supper. Bread was broken in the name of the Lord. Nowadays we celebrate in a similar way: The Turkey represents God. Jesus is the gravy and the Holy Spirit is the stuffing. I like the Holy Spirit part the best. Especially when it is cooked inside God.”

Ms. Wither’s plans on protesting up until Turkey Day. “We’ll be here through that Thursday night and then we go and stand in line at the Wal-Mart so that we can get in on the early morning sales for Christmas.”

The REAL 13 Things Your Pizza Guy Won’t Tell You

I read an article on the 13 27 Things Your Pizza Guy Won't Tell You. They were pretty much bullshit. Here's a list of the REAL 13 things the pizza guy wont tell you:

1. The sauce really stings the open sore on his finger.

2. The cheese that misses the pizza and lands all over the place will make it back on top a pizza at some point in the night.

3. Pizza ain’t all he’s delivering.

4. The soap is still out in the employee bathroom.

5. If you do not tip him well, your next delivered three topping pizza will have four toppings.

6. He does wish you would come to the door topless.

7. The delivery guy is not en route and you are going to get the next thing that pops out of the oven.

8. It is hard to wipe a runny nose with the plastic gloves on, but he'll keep trying!

9. 30 minutes or less is a suggestion and not a goal

10. Long, scraggly hair is in. Hair nets are out.

11. Its hard to catch the flying disc of dough, but luckily the floor has enough flour on it to keep most of it from sticking.

12. Pizza guy is always very happy and he always seems to have red, bloodshot eyes.

13. You won’t believe some of the shit that will fit in the dough presser machine.

Two Days

My friend shared some terrible news about a person in their life that might have a very poor diagnosis and a limited time to live. For the next few days, their family and friends are in limbo while the outcomes of the tests are determined. How much time to live. What possible medical actions to take. What to do. What they don’t have time to do. Helpless. That maybe hoping upon hoping that just maybe it’s nothing. Hopeless. Heartbreakingly sad.

And while we were talking, I thought about recent events in my life and how it would be interesting if friends or relatives could appear to you and explain that they would be dying in 48 hours. That you could have two whole days to spend with them and prepare. The deal would be that you cannot change the future events; that they are given those two days on the promise that they could spend them with loved ones, but that after 48 hours they would die.

Then I thought about what I would do with that time. What would I do with those two days? What would I do and who would I try to see before those 48 hours were over? I have a bad feeling that I would completely waste them. I have poor time management skills and near alcohol addiction and I can see myself getting people together for a party that I get completely drunk at and wake up, hungover with just enough time to say something cryptic before I die.
So here’s my 48 hours.

0:00 The 48 hour Death Courier appears and lets me know that I have 48 hours left to live.
1:30 I get done having the Death Courier explain for the 48th time that no, it’s not a joke and that I’ve wasted 90 minutes.
1:31 Post of Facebook that I have less than 48 hours to live and I want to say as many goodbyes as possible.
1:32 Unfriend all the people that I really never liked in the first place, but felt obligated to follow.
(Not you.)
3:57 Realize that I just wasted two and a half hours watching YouTube videos.
5:00 Gather my immediate family close and let them know how much I love them and that I will miss them horribly.
5:01 Break up the kids from fighting about who gets to hold the kitty at the funeral and who even said that the cat could come to the funeral!
6:00 Friends begin to arrive. Many of them to collect debts. (Redhead Jen still wants that $100.)
6:01 We start to drink.
7:00 I make some poor decisions.
7:30 More poor decisions. Damn you Sailor Jerry’s!
8:00 Additional poor decisions, but I’ll be dead in just a few hours, so what the hell!
28:00 Oh shit. I wake up in my car trunk. I pull the emergency latch and crawl out and into the house. Into bed.
32:00 I’m finally not hungover anymore and crawl out of bed.
32:01 I remember that I haven’t watched Season 2 of Stranger Things.
32:02 I do the math and realize I can watch Season 2.
40:00 Holy crap… completely worth it.
40:01 I eat a whole bag of Swedish Fish
40:02 Shower
40:03 Sex
40:03:30 Nap
42:00 Sign my will. Buy a $1,000,000,000 Life Insurance policy.
42:05 Delete my internet history.
42:06 I make a final blog post, listing my grievances against my enemies and thanking my friends.
42:15 I forgive my enemies. They had their reasons for disliking me. I have to honor that.
43:00 We go out to dinner. I’ll probably get steak.
44:45 Damn, it took a long time for the bill to come.
45:00 Two large Frosty’s. That F*cking no carb diet is out the door.
45:10 I gather my wife and kids and my arms and hold them until the end comes.
45:25 My arms get tired and we take a break.
46:00 We decide to put on “The Princess Bride” and watch it until my time comes.
47:50 There’s just enough time to watch the prologue of “The Royal Tenenbaums.”
47:55 A quick debate about what was actually in the ball shaped present that Royal gave Margot. (It was a ball!)
47:58 My regrets! So many. And now at the end, they stand like an army before me, shouting taunts and curses. In my last despair I look up, and there is my wife, her brilliance destroys those countless demons and all that is left is pure light.
47:59 And then with one minute left, my wife suffocates me with a pillow. “No one is taking this away from me.”

Second Hand Cigar Smoke

Several years ago, Sally and I were driving to a Christmas family event. On the way, we passed a car with a man driving and a woman in the passenger seat. They both looked like they were in their sixties and, we assumed, had been married for forty years. It was cold out and their windows were rolled up. As we passed, we both couldn’t help by notice that the man was smoking a big ‘ole cigar and that the car was filled with thick smoke.

Both Sally and I both felt sorry for that poor woman. Who knows how many years she had to live with that cigar smoke? How many times had she pleaded with him to at least crack the window, Harold? Is that abuse? On the day of his funeral, will she throw all his cigars in the grave and yell, “Take these with you to hell and smoke them!”

A few minutes later, we were stopped at a traffic light. The same car pulled up next to us. It was still filled with smoke and we got a good look at the poor woman and the swirling fog of obnoxious cigar…

…the woman lifted her hand to her mouth. She also held a cigar.

How to Leave a Party Early

As soon as you are invited to one party and you accept the initiation, inevitably, a better offer comes around. There is an art to leaving a party early without offending your host. Here’s how you do it.

1. The BEST way to leave is just to leave. Don’t say good-bye. Don’t tell anyone. Just leave. You will not be missed. The next day, if the host asks you why you left, claim that you got into an intense discussion with a person whose name you cannot remember and that you left about ten minutes after X person puked. If the host says that X person didn’t puke, laugh and say, “Oh crap, they told me to promise that I wouldn’t tell.”

2. Ask the host for Imodium AD. 10 minutes later excuse yourself. No questions asked.

3. Ask the host if you can lie down in a spare bedroom. Use the jackets on the bed to make a fake you under the covers. If the host looks in, they’ll see a fake you. When guests leave, they’ll take their jackets and you will have disappeared without having to make an excuse.

4. Ask the host if they have a really, really expensive brand of wine. (I don’t know any myself, but ask for a late 90’s six syllable French sounding something and it will pass. Start with château and you’ll be fine.) When your host says no, say you are going to run out and grab a bottle. Call from wherever you are at later and say you are still searching for it. Next day, leave a bottle of wine on their porch with a note saying, “Found it!”

5. Browse the snacks. Get a dip or white sauce that might have milk in it. Walk up to the host with the bowl and say, “This soy dip is awesome!” When they correct you and say that the item is milk based, get all wide eyed, cover your mouth and run for the door.

6. If all else fails, be honest and truthful with your host. Walk right up to them, take a deep breath and tell them your mother just called and that your father has had a massive heart attack and you must leave. If this is your second party you are bailing on, make sure mom is having the heart attack this time.


Just before the summer of 1993, my brother Steve called me and asked if I wanted a job for the summer. It was at the Hunt-Wesson plant in Toledo where he worked as an engineer and I would help with tracking labor and doing product tests around the plant. Back then, during the summer, the plant went through a period called “The Fresh Pack” where fresh tomatoes were brought in from the surrounding farms for three months straight so they could make ketchup. The plant stayed open 24/7 and only closed down during Labor Day for cleaning. I said, “Hell, yes,” packed my toothbrush, acid washed jean shorts, two-year-old condom, and drove to Toledo, Ohio to go live with my brother for the summer.

The first thing I learned upon showing up at his house was that he was living in sin with a pudding girl.

The second thing I learned walking in the door was my brother’s relationship with Kelly, the previously aforementioned pudding girl, was to remain quiet and that I was not to spill the tapioca about the secret relationship between the big tomato and the pudding girl.

The Hunt-Wesson plant in Toledo made ketchup and it made pudding. The people on the ketchup side did not interact with the people on the pudding side and vice-versa. Well, they spoke with one another, but there was not to be any cross ketchup/pudding interactions if you get my meaning. (I’m currently raising my eyebrows up and down in a suggestive manner.)

I kept it a secret. But it was difficult. Kelly is very pretty. In a pudding plant, there wasn’t much to look at, but Kelly’s beauty reflected off the giant stainless-steel tanks, created flickering illusions between the fast-moving foil sealed containers flying down the conveyor belt, and made the railroad tankers of modified corn starch derail and dump their contents all over the tracks in a cute, but embarrassing fashion. Rumors of a ketchup guy like Steve dating a pudding girl like Kelly would be quickly dismissed and swept away like a spilled tanker of modified corn starch. I mean, come on… pudding and ketchup don’t go together.

But they did go together. And that is a story for another day. For now, let’s go to Doug and Steve negotiating rent at the dinner table.

I was sitting at the dinner table with Steve in preparations to negotiate rent. He brought out a piece of paper, two pens, and suggested that we figure out what I was going to pay for room and board at his house per month for the summer. This “rent” part of the deal was not mentioned when he said, “Come to Toledo for a job.” He tore the paper in half and invited me to write down what I thought was a fair dollar amount for a room and board. I wrote down a number that was not generous, but reasonable. He wrote down his number. We placed our numbers face down on the table and pushed them at each other. I looked at his number. He looked at mine. He said, “Nice try. We’ll go with mine.” I agreed because Steve was not someone you could disagree with unless you were willing to spend a few hours failing at it.

At the ketchup plant, my job was pretty simple: catch people trying to sneak in late, test the tomato pulp moisture, and check to see if the temporary summer employees were throwing out the wrong kinds of tomatoes OR trying to save ripe tomatoes from ketchup death via a Disneyesque escape. The people coming in late is pretty easy to visualize. Checking the moisture was a multi-step process, but I got to learn some Spanish. The tomato escape requires a bit of explanation and ties in to part of the end of this story, so lean in and listen closely to the tale of the ripe tomato…

The farmer surveys his tomato field. He is pleased. The tomatoes are growing. Ripening. Alive! Their sickly green begins to transform into a rosy pink that will someday become a brilliant, glowing red, like a hot coal in a fire. But the farmer knows that he just can’t magically transport ripe tomatoes to the ketchup factory. He’s got to time it perfectly: pick the tomatoes as they ripen. Send them to the plant and time it so they are bright red as they enter the factory gates; the bright red tomatoes ready to sacrifice themselves to be made into ketchup so that a 7-year-old kid will eat his pork chop once it is covered in that thick salty, sweet, acidic, red goodness. The farmer knows that he will be paid based on how many tomatoes he brings, but also on how many of them are peaking on ripeness. Green tomatoes are acidic and evil. Overripe tomatoes have an abundance of sugar, which might sound like a blessing, but no one wants an overripe tomato, just like no one wants an overripe banana. The farmer does his best to time it perfectly: start the harvest so that he can gather the tomatoes as they are ripening, but before they get too ripe. And because you want to go to the ketchup plant with the tomatoes you have and not the tomatoes you might want or wish to have at a later time, he will pick the tomatoes a little too soon and a little too late and ship them to the plant with the highest chance of bring him home the most money. He sends off a truck filled with tomatoes, their ripeness changing like the odometer on the truck, speeding off to Perrysburg, Ohio.

The truck arrives at the ketchup factory and immediately the plant representative is suspicious of the truckload of tomatoes, because that is his job. He takes a sample of the tomatoes from the truck and frowns, his brow furrowing, reminding the tomatoes of their earthen home of dirt rows. He and the driver get into a disagreement about if there are 80% ripe tomatoes or only 8 out of 10 ripe tomatoes. In the end, they agree upon a price that neither agrees with and the driver dumps the load of tomatoes from the truck into a hopper. The tomatoes fall because gravity calls them, but they also know they have a higher purpose. Slightly green, perfect red, and too red tip earthward and follow the siren call of the center of the earth. Into darkness. Conveyors take them forward through the darkness.

Inside the plant, the temporary workers, who think they have a chance of getting into the union, sift through the never-ending parade of multicolored tomatoes. Their job is to get rid of the green and really red with black spots tomatoes. Green tomatoes might be great for lesbian movies, but in a ketchup plant they are bitter with acids. The over-ripe tomatoes might seem perfect, but they are bursting with sugar. Both ends of the spectrum are bad. They grab the green, squish the really red, and drop them into chutes which lead to a water filled trough that is a quick rafting trip to a dumpster which will take those inedible fruits to the fertilizer or dog food plant. In the Toy Story version of this tale, a green tomato and really red tomato would make their getaway, instead of being turned into dog food, holding stems as they float down the concrete trough.

The end product of this sorting is supposed to be a sea of equally ripened tomatoes with an assumed pH level that can be divided by mass and fill the recipe that my brother has spinning in his head. But the workers miss some of the green and some of the really red. Odds would suggest they would cancel themselves out, but reality doesn’t believe in odds and the pH tends to lean one way or the twain. This can throw off any carefully prepared recipe and make the pH wander.

In the ketchup kitchen, (really, it’s a cooking deck with several giant stainless-steel tanks where huge volumes of tomatoes, high fructose corn syrup, vinegar, spices and “natural flavors” are brought together, mixed, heated and persuaded to turn into ketchup,) Steve is the conductor to an orchestra of chemistry. Really, he’s a chef accountant, as Steve’s job is to make ketchup, but he wants to do it using the smallest amount of resources possible, saving the company money. OK, really, this was all about Steve and how far he could walk the thin line between making ketchup and getting fired.

There is a recipe to making ketchup. You put in the right amount of everything in a certain order, cooking it at a certain temperature, and then ketchup comes out the other end. But it can’t be ketchup until it passes Quality Control. Quality Control says that ketchup must be in a within a certain pH range. Quality Control knows the pH of the ketchup because Steve will take samples during the cooking process, put them in the pneumatic delivery system, and the QC Ladies on the low-pressure end of the system will test the samples to see what that pH level is. And when Steve is sending down the samples, they are wary and their language starts to trend to the inappropriate. And they have good reason to be inappropriate.

Ketchup is acidic. Hunt-Wesson pays the Quality Control people to make sure that rogue engineers, like Steve, wouldn’t make ketchup that didn’t have that pH level that lived between (I’m guessing here) 3.48 and 3.98. They would get his samples, grit their teeth, and measure the pH…

(pause to build excitement)

…and most of the time, the pH would be right in the middle and all was good.

But sometimes, it was right on the edge or over. Those part time tomato sorters wouldn’t be doing their job and the pH average would teeter-totter from one side to the other. The QC team would get on the phone and punch in the maestro’s number in the kitchen, “You are running high, Powhida!”

“I’ve got it.”

Steve would then consider his options. To lower or raise the pH, Steve could add sugar or vinegar or any number of bulk ingredients. But those bulk ingredients cost money. And money is money. So Steve would run that fine line and try not to add any additional commodities, knowing that he could cook down the acidity or add more tomatoes to raise it. But you couldn’t cook the ketchup forever and you can only add so many addition tomatoes of unknown pH. If the pH was out of tolerance, they might have to dump the whole batch. That is that fine line.

At the tail end of the cooking process, Steve would send down the last sample to be tested. He would then race behind it to the QC lab. I was in the lab several times a day, doing moisture tests, so I could hear the QC woman complain about Steve running the pH edge. Steve would come exploding through the QC doors and quickly scan the area for his sample being tested.

Steve, “What is it?”
QC woman, “…. 3.92!” Just within tolerance.

Steve would then take both his hands, raise them up above his head, and pull down dual, imaginary slot machine handles and yell, “Cha-ching!”

He would then release a roar that was part laugh, half yell and a bit of something I would later remember is called a “barbaric yawp.”

And then back to make the next batch.

On one occasion, I saw a QC lady making the “Cha-ching” gesture when she was pissed off at Steve for running the pH too high. “… that Steve coming down here with his cha-ching, cha-ching.”

Minutes later he raced in.

Steve, “What is it?”
QC woman, “…. 4.08!”

Steve, “What!” He ran to the phone and called up to the cooking deck and told them to add X amount of Y to bring the pH into check to the lamentations of the money people.

And then back to make the next batch.

I lived with Steve and Kelly for the rest of the summer. Steve and I worked every day, he a 12 hour shift and me an 8.  We compared paychecks one day and my gross pay was what he was paying in taxes. (Note to self: in next life, become an engineer.) I almost cooked their cat in the broiler. I drank a lot with my friend Jeff and his law student buddies. Skinny and I got together once at the Blind Pig. I learned a Spanish phrase that I will never forget from one of the pulping machines, “No meta las manos en la máquina por la operación.” I learned that the real union workers did not like to have their time cards pulled. And lastly I learned that one of the hardest tasks in the world was to throw out bad tomatoes.

I’d like to think that there was some kind of magical end to that summer. That my tomato had turned from green to red. My pH on the edge, brought back into check with subtle acts of chemistry. But in the end, I think I packed up my acid washed, cutoff jeans and left town, still green.

The big tomato and the pudding girl got married one year later. Cha-Ching.

Stephen J. Powhida Obituary

In the past, I've written about how people should write their own obituaries. You can never leave that up to someone else, or they will probably get it wrong. A few years ago, I came up with the idea of people writing their obituaries every five years as a way to track goals and see if they were happy with how their life was going. Through this, I've thought about my own obituary and the last words for my parents.

I never, ever thought about writing my brother's obituary. He was invincible. Invincible people don't die. They just don't.

He suddenly and tragically died in a motorcycle accident on September 17th.

This is my tribute to my brother, Steve. I hope I got it right.

Stephen J. Powhida

Steve Powhida was a living legend and irrevocably touched the lives of his family, friends, and anyone who was fortunate enough to encounter him. His death on September 17, 2017 was sudden, unexpected and has greatly saddened us all.

He received his Bachelor and Master Degrees from the University of Toledo and currently owned a consulting firm.

Steve was a father, a husband, a son, a brother, and a friend.

Steve was a father to Sydney, Lexi, and Zachary. As a role model to his children, he taught them to never give up and to fight for the important things. Steve was very supportive of their athletic events and very vocal in his communication with referees when they made, in his opinion, unfavorable calls.

Steve was a husband to Kelly. A great team that raised three wonderful kids. Kelly managed that inevitable chaos that followed Steve wherever he went.

Steve was a son who made his parents, Jane and Greg Powhida, extremely proud. They both gave him the intelligence, personality, and bullheadedness we all knew and loved.

Steve was a brother and was the leader of the siblings: Amy, Doug, and Karen. Their lives were made easier due to the path he carved. Steve got blamed for 75% of the trouble the siblings got into, which is not saying much as he was the cause of 95% of it.

Steve was a friend. There are many who can claim that Steve was a powerful force in their lives. His friends will say the best moments and the most memorable times of their lives were spent with Steve at a game, a tailgate, on a motorcycle trip, in a bar, at a kid's sporting event, at a party, at a graduation, during a family event, in a golf club, during a game of cornhole, poolside, inside/outside/on top of an RV, during a road trip, or off on an adventure. Steve was a terrific host, a great cook and if he wasn't telling you a story, he was probably in the middle of making one.

Steve was a huge fan and supporter of the University of Toledo and their sports program. You couldn't miss him tailgating with his friends and family in the RV at the stadium. The decibel level at the Saturday football games will surely be diminished with his passing.

Steve is a legend and we ask that you carry on his memory. Tell his stories. Cheer louder at the Rockets’ games. Be a great friend. Scream "Detroit, baby" at the top of your lungs. Live life to the fullest.

Friends may visit at the Coyle Funeral Home, 1770 S. Reynolds Rd., on Wednesday September 20, 2017 from 2-8 p.m. Funeral services will be held on Thursday beginning at 10 a.m. in the funeral home followed by the Funeral Mass in St. Joan of Arc Church at 10:30 a.m. Interment Resurrection Cemetery. Memorials may take the form of contributions to UT Foundation-Football Rocket Fuel:

Rocket Fuel account at the University of Toledo Foundation
2801 W. Bancroft St., MS# 319
Toledo, OH 43606

Please view and sign the guest registry at

Photos from the Visitation and Funeral:

A few Steve photos:

Detroit, baby!

Goodbye Ladies' 80s

(Editor's note: Due to this article, Skully's decided to start Ladies' 80s night again. I wield that kind of power people.)

There are ghosts in here. Thousands of memories layered up like the dust on top the dust; begging to be brought to the surface and remembered so they can stay alive for one more year or month or day or night. And because they are intertwined with music and friends and laughter, there is a good chance they will live a very long time.

I like stories that give away the ending at the beginning. It twists the storyteller’s arm and forces him to work harder to make things interesting. No easy ways out. That being said, Skully’s is halting their Ladies’ 80s Dance Night this Thursday, September 7th, 2017.

In the late 90s, our newly formed group of friends spent a lot of time drinking $2.50 32oz beers and dancing to The Digital Underground, Will Smith, Sugar Ray, Ace of Base, Snap!, Blackstreet and Montell Jordan in a basement bar called Clancy’s. The humidity was always just under 98%, there was a pole on the dance floor, and it’s where the phrase “too many witnesses” was created. We had an extremely fun time at Clancy’s over a period of two years.

On July 30th, 1998, Clancy’s closed suddenly and like the Israelites wandering in the wilderness, our poor group of friends blindly traversed Columbus, looking for a new bar that could take the place of Clancy’s.

In November of 2001, a bar called Skully’s started an 80s music dance night called Ladies’ 80s. What would have been nice is if someone had told our group of wandering souls about it, but we didn’t find out until late 2002. But once we went once, we were hooked.

Early on, a Skully’s night follows a pattern similar to this:
  • Assume everyone will be going to Skully’s .
  • Meet at a bar around 6pm. Any bar. It helps if they have food. It really helps if it is within walking distance of Skully’s. Have some drinks. Eat some food.
  • Around 11pm head over to Skully’s.
  • Walk in and buy X - 1 number of Miller Lites. (X = number of people with you. Minus 1 because John doesn’t drink.)
  • Have the contest where everyone guesses what band will be played first that night. (Saying “The Cure” or “B-52s” was a sure winner. Bonus points for risking “The Outfield” or “Yaz.”
  • Head to the dance floor. Our spot is to the left of the stage, about one staggering drunk person back.
  • Form a circle. Dance.
  • When a crappy song comes on, head outside to cool off or smoke a cigarette.
  • When you hear New Order come on, run back inside. Dance more.
  • Buy more Miller Lite. Put the empties in your back pocket until they can be properly disposed of.
  • Try to find some of the regulars.
                -Old Man
                -Doug in Five Years
                -Terminator Guy
                -Shake Weight Guy        
               - Making Out Couple
                -Zach Starkey (Zachery Allan Starkey)
               - Goth Chick

  • Leave at 2:30am, sweaty, drunk, and exhausted. Regret is for tomorrow morning.
Of course, that was early on. Now, we are 15 years older; things are a little bit different:
  • Plan to go to Skully’s once a year, twice if Dave comes back in town.
  • Meet at a bar if you can, but usually you have to put the kids to bed, so you get there late or not at all.
  • Around 10pm head over to Skully’s.
  • Walk in and buy 1 Miller Lite. You are the only one there so far.
  • Wait for a bit. Friends arrive!
  • Head to the dance floor. Our spot is to the left of the stage, about one staggering drunk person back.
  • Form a triangle because only three people have arrived so far. 
  • Dance.
  • Remember to have the contest where everyone guesses what band will be played first that night. (Saying “The Cure” or “B-52s” was a sure winner. Bonus points for risking “The Outfield” or “Yaz.” Text Dave so he can be a part of the conversation.
  • When a crappy song comes on, head outside to cool off, but none of us smokes anymore.
  • When you hear The Cure come on, run back inside.
  • Try to find some of the regulars.

                -Older Man
                -Doug Now
                -Terminator Guy (still there!)
                -Shake Weight Guy (What ever happened to that guy?)
        -Making Out Couple (they will always be there
                -Zach Starkey (Zachery Allan Starkey) (Not there, on tour.)
                -Chick dressed up like Madonna

  • But somehow, more friends do show up after working late or getting kids to bed or watching a soccer game. 
  • And we dance. Empty beers still go in the back pocket.
  • Leave at midnight. Got an early day tomorrow.

We'll try it again this Thursday. We'll dance. And then that will be it. No more Ladies’ 80s. It’s over. The end of the story.

Goodbye, Ladies' 80s.

But it’s not over. Not that easily.

It was never really about 80s music. Or the characters. Or the beers. It was about friends. It still is about friends. It is about laughing and taking the opportunity to be together. And we don’t need 80s music to do that.

I will miss you Ladies’ 80s. We are moving on. But not far. You will always be a photo, a story, or a memory away. And who knows… we danced to 90s music in the 90s, we can do it again. Maybe we will see you and your dusty-self, again. Me and my friends.

A pool ball, pinched on Clancy's closing night.

My earliest photo from Ladies' 80s. Lacey and I in a beer ad. (Top center)

The Old Man with John

Terminator Guy

Zachery Allan Starkey with Freckled Jenn wearing Zachery Allan Starkey.

And friends who helped to make these memories: