Showing posts with label Dad. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dad. Show all posts

Weed Tea

Many years ago, when I was about 10, my brother and I decided to smoke the dried, tubular, hollowed out weeds that grew near the creek in our back yard. We’d pluck a nice fat one and break it down to a cigar sized length. Then we would light blue tip matches off of the dry rocks and attempt to fire up the hollow weeds. The weed really didn’t light and we would end up inhaling more blue tip match sulfur than smoke.

My brother got the completely logical idea that we should use the hollow weeds as a medium to smoke something else out of. Sort of a hard cased cigarette. Since we did not have any tobacco in the house or in the seven miles radius of desolation and country farms that we called home, we opted for the next best thing: tea.

We went in the house, opened up four Lipton tea bags and dumped the contents into a plastic sandwich bag. We disposed of the external tea bag material, string and paper by stuffing it way in the bottom of the trash can because we were sure mom or dad would figure out what we were up to if they found the remnants.

In the back yard we stuffed the hollow reeds with some of the tea. We used smaller weeds to pack the tea in cannon ball style. We fired them up. He coughed. I choked. He wheezed. My eyes dripped tears. It was smooth.

When we finished (fifteen seconds after we started) we went back inside and most likely played Atari. He probably won and punched me in the arm because that's how it always was.

Three years later I was in the living room (probably playing Atari) when my mother called to me from the kitchen. I entered. Dad was sitting at the kitchen table. Mom was standing. Between them at the table was a plastic sandwich bag filled with three year old tea.

Mom did the talking. “Is this yours?”

My mind raced back. I ended up tossing that plastic bag of tea in my underwear drawer, way in the back. I’d see it every so often, but didn’t think much of it as it was only tea. I never threw it away. Mom had been going through my drawers, diligently looking for weed, and low and behold she hit the mother lode.

I answered her question, “Yes. It’s tea.”

“Is this marijuana?”

“No! It’s tea!”

My parents wouldn’t know tea from weed so I was in for a bit of trouble.

“You have one more chance… is this marijuana?”

“No! It’s tea! Steve and I tried to smoke it years ago!”

Dad finally spoke up, “You smoked tea?”

“Yes. Out of the weeds by the creek.”

“The hollow ones?” Dad didn’t drop his apples very far from the tree.

Mom couldn’t believe that her snooping was proving fruitless. “There’s only one way we can tell that this is tea.”

Dad put a pan of water on the stove. I was made to sit at the table and wait forever watching for the water to boil. He dumped in the contents of the bag. We all waited more. I distinctly remember Dad wafting the steam to his face and saying, “Well, it smells like tea.”

That was all the proof they needed. The weed tea was disposed of. I was given some sort of punishment that involved not being allowed to play Atari.

My recollection of this story sounds brave, but I’m sure I was whimpering and high pitched stammering and I bet I ratted out my brother in the first ten seconds of the interrogation. When he came home that night, he got three years of backlogged reprimands. His punishment was probably worse because it always was.

The Last Bolt

For years, I have kept a backlog of stories and anecdotes in the steel reinforced folds of the back of my brain. It is the place where my beliefs and certain truths hang out along with the fog of bad memories that can’t or shouldn’t be forgotten. Many of these sayings were put there by my father. Whenever I come upon and instance that cannot be undone or a tough problem that needs solved, I reach back there and pull one out to explain the situation away or to get me working on the task. Sayings like, “You can’t get all the oil out of an oil can,” and “Make potato salad chunky so that people can pick out what they don’t like.”

One of these certain truths is “It’s the last bolt that always sticks.” It is a saying that is part Murphy’s Law and part Bad Luck that has cursed my family for years. Or at least it did until a few weeks ago.

The summer break before my junior year of college had me living at home, roofing during the weekdays and going out just about every night. On this particular Saturday morning, I woke up from four hours of sleep with a bit of a hangover. Dad was calling for me to get dressed and ready to go. Sitting mostly up in bed, I remembered that Dad’s 1987 Reliant wagon had broken down on the 270 outer belt in Columbus and we needed to go up and fix it. I was needed as monkey boy and to drive the second car back.

As we drove up to Columbus, Dad explained that the alternator had been going out and it finally gave up on his way home from work on Friday afternoon. After he called mom to pick him up, he called the Columbus City Police to tell them he’d be back up the next morning to get the station wagon. They said they would not tow it.

To get to the station wagon, we had to drive past it on the opposite side of the road and loop back around at an exit. We parked and got the tools out. I stood around and half listened as Dad spoke of car engines in Korea and how back in World War 2 “the Japanese were awful bastards” and “they were smaller and would shoot you in the knees.” It was then that the family curse snuck up on us again. There were four bolts that held the alternator in place. And just like the last bolt or last screw or the last nut from times before, the last bolt was stuck. Dad applied force and more force. He Liquid Wrenched and tapped. He bruised the back of his hands and split his knuckles open. He pleaded and cursed. He went so far as to have me try to remove it. The last bolt was stuck. So we stood on the side of the road, taking turns at giving it one more try with dad lamenting, “Why does it always have to be the last bolt?”

And then, with a crack , Dad freed the stubborn last bolt.

And in that split second, the world was good and everything was going to be all right.

We took the part to a dealership and Dad asked how much a replacement would be. He laughed at the lady though the window, “You’ve got to be kidding?” The dealership cost was four times what it cost at the parts store in Lancaster. Dad was outraged! Dad was also not in a place to bargain. He paid for it and we left. In the car he said that he would install the new alternator, go back to Lancaster and buy a cheaper replacement and then return the expensive one back to the dealership. Clever!

As we drove past the broken down car for the second time that day, we couldn’t help but notice that this time the car’s front end was elevated and attached to a City of Columbus tow truck. Dad tried to roll down the window and yell, “No! No! No!” but at 65 mph it was impossible. We zoomed up and over the exit with dad’s incredulous mutterings filling the car with rage. By the time we reached the spot, all of the tow truck and most the station wagon were gone. We had left the nuts, bolts and tools sitting on top of the engine and some escaped through the bottom of the engine with the help of gravity when the tow truck pulled away. The parts lie there on the side of the road like a police outline of a dead body. The others were probably leaving a trail, like bread crumbs, around 270 and to the impound lot.

Dad was so enraged that he could not speak or yell. I didn’t say anything for fear of giving his anger purchase. Without a word he drove to a phone booth and called the police. They said there was nothing they could do, pick your car up from the impound lot and have a nice day.

We drove to the impound lot and paid for the car’s release and several fees. Dad mentioned that we needed to put a part in the car and the lady said that no work was allowed to be done on the lot and that we would have to pay to have the car towed off the lot and to the side of the road. Dad said, “Oh… no thanks. We’ll just drive it off and repair it.” As we walked out, I said that couldn’t drive it without repairing it. Dad flatly smiled, “We’ll see about that.”

Dad marched alone into the lot with a wrench and the new alternator, his pockets clunking with the escaped nuts and bolts.

And somehow, in less than eight minutes, he drove the mostly functional station wagon around to the parking lot. By some means, using the remaining parts and tools that had remained in cracks and crevices of the engine, he got the alternator partially installed, slapped on the belt and tightened it enough to get to the lot.

He spent a few minutes tightening the existing bolts and re-adjusting the belt. “That will be enough to get us home. Follow me.” And then we drove off separately together.

Fast forward (or go back in time) to three weeks ago. In a conversation with my sister concerning the welfare of my father and the deteriorating state of the home we grew up in, I had a revelation. The fourth bolt is NOT the one that always sticks. Sure it’s got a 1 in 4 chance of being the stickiest, but it’s usually not. What happens is that when I come upon something that creates a road block, I save it for last and do the easy things first. It might be subconscious, but in this case, if the first bolt sticks, I’d move on to the second. When I get back around to the first bolt, it is no longer the sticky first, but The Last Bolt.

And the curse was lifted.

There will still be sticky bolts in my future, but I cannot allow myself to think that it’s The Last Bolt or there by fate. When I come upon something difficult, I need to face it head on instead of moving on to the easier tasks.

These writings are not a backlash upon my father or his faults. He has taught us valuable lessons and shared with us endless stories (not all of them involving war and death) that have crafted me into the person I am today. But he has faults and it is time that I started to recognize these. By recognizing them, I can see them in myself and correct them before my children become engrained with them. From this story alone, there are several instances:

If you know a car part is going bad, don’t wait until it breaks before you fix it. The same goes for teeth and internal organs.

Get all the necessary parts together before you start a project. If you don’t know what parts, ask.

Be patient and follow directions. (That can of Liquid Wrench said to wait twenty minutes to allow it to work. Just about the same amount of time we hopelessly worked on the bolt.)

Cockamamie schemes cost time and money (Dad never returned to the dealership to return the high priced alternator.)

So before you leave these writings with a heavy heart, let me remind you that Dad never gave up. As much as it is a fault, he wanted to take care of his problems himself. When he was told he couldn’t work on the car at the impound lot, he bucked the system and fixed it. Proud and stubborn are strengths as much as they are flaws.

I still keep a backlog of sayings. My new one is, “Do your difficult homework first,” which I will impress upon my son and daughter through word and by deed. It sits right in front of “Last Bolt” which has since been un-fogged and reclassified as a good memory.

Air Hockey Table

My parents did something amazing once. Normally the stuff they did was one step down from amazing. It wasn’t their fault. We were not rich and they always bought what they could and not what we wanted. They bought the Sears Atari knock off when they could have bought the original. They bought the TI-99/4A computer when we could have had an IBM. They bought an Apple //c when we could have had an PC. You get my drift.

One year they bought something awesome. They bought an air hockey table. It might have been used (some dents and some larger dents filled with bondo,) but it worked great. We would play for hours. I think I was born with six fingers, but luckily I lost one of them on the air hockey table, so now I look normal.

One weekend, my buddy Russ got to spend the night. Russ and I did a lot of spending the night at each other’s house. It was great when I got to go to his house because I got to watch Monty Python and Benny Hill. At my house, we got to play air hockey.

During one morning at my house, we decided to play a game of air hockey. I’m not sure if it was the corn flakes for breakfast or the pizza we had the night before, but something crept through my bowels and waited to pounce.

During a very hard fought game, I let loose a very quiet, but very deadly fart. It left my butt, snuck through my dirty underwear and pajamas. Right before escaping unto the world it was pulled back under the table and into the fan that sucked air up and through the hundreds of holes in the air hockey table surface. As it was a hard fought game, Russ was bent over the field, intent on winning. The fart was pulled up and pushed right into Russ’ face.

Here is where I mention that Russ had a weak stomach.

Russ puked. First on the table and then on to the floor. The air didn’t mind having puke on the table so it just kept on bubbling through. Yeah. Gross.

I ran downstairs and got mom. We unplugged the table and cleaned it up. Unto this day, Russ will swear that the Devil himself crawled up his nose and pulled forth the vomit from his gut the stench was so bad.

The table withstood the vomit and only lost its value with its legs buckled under the constant leaning and smashing it had to endure. We tried propping it up under some chairs, but they were never even and someone always got the uphill bonus.

My son, Greg, and I play air hockey when ever we get the opportunity. Sometimes, Russ is there with his kid and we watch them play. I know what we both are thinking.

Like Father, Like Son

Greg is in first grade and one of the activities for his first day of school was to draw his teacher:

Not bad. I often dreamed of my teacher with a snazzy skirt and no top on, but I never took the time to draw it.

That's my boy!

Cheese, Egg and Pancake Sandwich

Greg was hooked on the McGriddle and we couldn't afford his habit. A month in the St. Bernice of the Heathen Springs Rehab got the toxins out of his system, but the boy still craves the carbs and cholesterol.

So now we make the Cheese, Egg and Pancake sandwich. It's cheap, easy and takes less than three minutes.

You'll need:
2 Frozen Pancakes (or one bagel)
bowl (soufflé cup for bagels)
non-stick spray

Stack the frozen pancakes and microwave for 55 seconds.

While they are nuking, spray the bowl with non-stick spray. Add one egg in the bowl.

Beat the egg until it reveals the secret hideout.

Remove the pancakes from the microwave. I separate them so they begin to cool.

Nuke the egg for 20 seconds. It will still be a bit runny.

Add a godawful amount of cheese.

Cook for 20 - 25 seconds until the cheese is melted.

Use fork to help slide the melty goodness on to the pancake.

I leave the pancakes apart until Greg saddles up to eat it, otherwise the top pancake traps the heat on the inside and it remains too hot to eat for way too long.

Greg Eats


You can also make an egg and cheese bagel using the same method. Instead of a bowl, use a soufflé dish or otherwise the egg will spillover out the sides of the bagel.

Follow all the same steps except you might want to toast your bagel. The cheese may take a bit longer to melt in the more narrow confines of the soufflé dish.

Pro-Tip: Put 1/2 the bagel insides down on the inside the soufflé dish and turn upside down instead of trying to pull the egg and cheese goodness out.


Top it and admire your work.

HolyJuan Eats

Watch the nuclear abomination that is formed when egg, cheese and microwaves meet.

Creepy Face

Greg and I were playing around with Mr. Potato Head parts. He took this photo of me. I think I've scarred him. Again.

Greg Eats: Lemon Head - The Face Puckering Memory of Taste

Sadly, Erik was killed during the last Erik Eats segment, so now I'm being forced to use my son as food taste bait. Today on Greg Eats - Lemon Heads!

This type of Lemon Head is the individually wrapped, gumball sized version. Packed with Sourifiticky.

Not exactly round, but when you are filled with such delicious sour essence, it tries to force itself out of its round cage.

He pops it in his mouth. Maybe it's not so bad...


He's starting to get used to it...


The sour has overcome him!

He's down, but not out. His conclusion? Lemon Heads are AWESOME!

The Baby Bird that Flew Away

A few weeks ago, Greg and the neighbor girl happened upon a baby bird that was hopping through the back yard. I had them watch it from a distance and said not to bother it. The bird didn’t look injured and was hopping and then flapping it wings. It seemed like it was a day or two away from flying if the cats didn’t find it.

Lunch was served and we went inside, the bird forgotten.

Mom left to run some errands and Greg and I stayed home. I was vacuuming the living room when I noticed Greg trying to get into the doors leading from the deck. It takes him two hands to get the door open and one of his hands was occupied with holding an orange, plastic beach bucket. So without both hands, he was just yanking on the door handle, yelling at me though the glass. With various hand gestures and yells back and forth, I finally gave in and ended up turning off the vacuum and opening the door for him, warning him not to bring in a bucket that was probably filled with dirt and worms.

He said, “The baby bird is sick,” and showed me the contents of the bucket. It contained one, very dead baby bird.

I said, “Greg, this bird is pretty sick. I don’t think he is going to make it.”

Greg looked very sad. I immediately said, “You know what… I’ll give him a drink of water and put him in the front yard in the shade. Maybe he will feel better.” Greg agreed with my medical assessment and treatment. I sent him on his way to the back yard.

I gave the bird a little water and put him and his bucket in the shade in the front yard.

A few hours later, Greg happened upon the orange bucket.

Greg came running in with the bucket and said, “Dad! The bucket is empty! The bird flew away.”

And I said, “He must have felt better and flew off!”

I sent Greg back outside to rinse out the bucket with the garden hose.

Food shopping

I went shopping tonight. It was not the fun shopping where I meet Erik out for drinks first and then go shopping second. In the winter, you can shop first and then grab a drink with your car trunk acting as a refrigerator. In the summer, you have to shop after drinks or else the milk gets warm and goes the way of the cottage cheese. When I shop after drinks, Greg is more likely to get fruit roll-ups.

Tonight though, I just went shopping.

But I was reminded that when we were kids, mom did most of the shopping. We always had diverse meals and it seemed that we never got tired of what we were fed. On the same note, mom never bought anything fun.

We loved it when dad went shopping. He’d come home with frozen waffles and honey with the honeycomb still attached. You’d help bring the groceries in and there would be a frozen turkey in the middle of July. Beans in a plastic bag that you had to soak for twelve hours. Brown eggs. Spam. It was like the carnival except with the four food groups plus a mysterious new canned food group that was either La Choy or canned brown bread. (Yes, there is such a thing as canned brown bread.)

Now that I do most the shopping, I wonder if I am a Mom shopper or a Dad shopper.

I think I’ll head to Dad’s this weekend and take some photos of the pantry. I bet there is still food coloring from 1976 in there when we made the Bicentennial cookies. Right there next to the bag of beans and the Deviled Ham.

Not Everything Dad Said was True

My father is a smart guy. He’s an engineer and chock full stories that I always took as the gospel truth. While I look back fondly on those endless conversations, it turns out that some of the stories that I took as if from the mouth of God, were wrong. Let’s see what dad said and how it stacks up to the facts.

Here’s what Dad said:

Out of every five miles of interstate, there will be at least one mile that is straight so that planes can land during war time.
Answer: false

Dad said that Eisenhower, being a war guy, had the foresight to see the need for planes landing in out of the way places or in an emergency. Sadly, this is just an urban legend .

The military got fiber optic technology off the ground
Answer: not really
Dad said nuclear bombs create Electro Magnetic Pulses which knock out electronic circuits. Fiber optics were developed by the military to communicate with their nuclear missiles so that even if we got hit first, our missiles would still be able to be launched. The only thing I found on this was that “In 1975, the United States Government decided to link the computers in the NORAD headquarters at Cheyenne Mountain using fiber optics to reduce interference.” So, yes he’s right, but fiber optics had many other possible uses and researchers working on it way before 1975. Though I’m sure having the military throw almost endless money at a technology can’t hurt.

You can never get all the oil out of an oil can
Answer: partially true
With enough time and patients, you could get every last drop of oil out of a can. I believe dad’s lesson was to know when to balance time against money. At some point, you begin to lose the value of using all the oil in the can as you endlessly watch that spider web thin stream of oil flow out. More advice than fact, but I’ll give him credit.

During World War 2, The Japanese soldiers were awful bastards
Answer: true
True in as much as you can call an entire group of people awful bastards. As a child, I was familiar with Japanese culture only through Godzilla and samurais. Dad would speak at length of the atrocities that were committed to POWs and especially the Chinese. I didn’t really believe him. Turns out he was right. But, as he also said, we bombed them back into civility.

We bombed the Japanese back into civility
Answer: kinda true
But only by anecdotal evidence. Article 9 of the 1947 US enforced Japanese Constitution did not allow them to build the armies capable of waging war. Through nuclear bombs, we also allowed the creation of Godzilla which protects their sovereign shores.

Glass is a solid
Answer: true!!
I remember seeing old panes of glass that were thicker on the bottom that at the top. Someone told be that is because glass is a very thick liquid and over time it will flow due to the pull of gravity. Dad said that was nonsense. He was right.

The flag raisers on Iwo Jima were all American Indians
Answer: 5/6th false or 1/6th true
Ira Hayes was the only Native American that helped to raise the flag in the historic photo. Now dad also said that the historic photo was actually the second flag to go up. The first was taken down and replaced with a larger flag. He was right about that!

Bridges over interstates are built to an exact height so that ICMBs on the back of tractor trailers can fit underneath

Answer: 99% right and 1% undecided
I thought that dad was blowing some smoke here, but he was right. My assumption is that the bridges would be built to a certain height and then the military would figure out a way to go under them. I just read on the Federal Highway Administration site that all interstate bridges need to be 16.07 feet tall in coordination with the Department of Defense. Matt Rosenburg at says differently and I contacted him with a very terse letter that went something like this: MY DAD IS RIGHT AND YOU ARE WRONG!!! My dad could so kick his dad's ass.

There once was a diet pill where you would eat a tapeworm to lose weight
Answer: Undetermined

Want to lose weight? Take this pill. Want to stop losing weight? Take the second pill. Dad said the first pill had a tapeworm in it. The second pill had the medicine to kill the tapeworm in it. Here what has to say about it.

Henry Ford used shipping crates to build his Model T
Answer: true??
Dad said that Henry Ford would have his suppliers ship him product in crates with very specific dimensions. Odd dimensions with holes and cut outs in odd places. The directions were very specific and contractors, not wanting to lose business, built the crates without question. Then at the Ford factory, these specialty designed crates were emptied of their contents, disassembled and installed into Model Ts as floorboards. I’ve seen anecdotal evidence of this, but not any proof. I’ll give Pa this one.

Overall, Dad did pretty good. I’m sure he’d argue that he was right on most of these or that I wasn’t listening to what he really said. Then the conversation would drift to the Korean War and where he got that rash from deep in the jungle.