Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Short South Bend Story

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. You all have no idea who I am. Not for real. I know that.

Well, my last novel was published in 2007. Wow. Has it been that long? It has. Pathetic.

Anyway, the publisher booked me on a live morning television talk show. One of those Good Morning America types, without the ratings, or viewership.

I packed a bag. Went to the airport and and flew, first to Chicago, and then over to Indiana.

A limo met me at the tiny airport. And by limo, I mean black Lincoln Town car. The driver held up a sign.

It would have been really cool if more than three people were in the airport.

I stayed at a hotel not far from Notre Dame's campus. In fact, I was told it was walking distance from the hotel.

Seeing the campus would have been awesome, I imagine. But by the time I arrived at the hotel it was nearly 7:00 PM. It felt like it was ten below zero. Everything was frozen solid. I wasn't going to walk--I didn't have clothing for it. I had a leather coat and jeans, that I came in, and a suit for the show in the morning.

Instead, I found a Chinese place that delivered, and watched television in my room.

I did the show the next morning. It went all right. Was cool being on the set of a morning show. The background was just that, background. The set sat in the center of an almost black-wall warehouse. Camera's and cables all over the place.

This isn't a blog about the show, though. Not even a blog to promote my novel -- because you don't know who I am. But a blog about going home.

Ah yes, going home.

After my interview a taxi whisked me back to the airport. This was awful, actually. It was barely 9:00 AM, and my flight wasn't until noon.

But it didn't make sense to go back to the hotel.

I had a book with me. Figured I'd get some coffee, lunch, sit and read while I waited.

So I get back to this tiny airport -- which resembled the airport on the old TV show WINGS, more than a real airport. But I am not well traveled. Maybe the was the norm. Rochester International Airport is a good size, but it resembles a ghost town any time I've been in there ... But I digress.

I buy a sandwich at the ONLY open sandwich place -- and pay Airport prices for it, despite airport size -- and find a comfortable chair among the three in the lounge. Reading is going well. Eating, equally well. And then I look at the time. Still over three hours till my flight.

I think.

My plane tickets are my bookmark for the novel I'm reading.

I look at them.

Hmmm. Seems I am going to fly out of Indiana at 12:20. Won't get back to Rochester until almost 5:00 PM. Have a stop with another couple hours lay-over in Chicago.

I would arrive in Chicago at ... 12:05.

My stomach drops. My PR person at the publisher messed up my flight. Thank God I found the error!

I gather my things and wheel my suitcase up to the airline counter.

The woman behind the desk smiles. "How can I help you, sir?"

Maybe I am tired. I know I am upset with my publisher. Either way, I feel this entitles me to sarcasm.

With that entitlement, I ask, "Ah, yes. My ticket says my plane leaves here at 12:20 and will then land in Chicago fifteen minutes before it even takes off. I only have some college, but I am not sure how is that even possible?"

Without missing a beat, the woman -- still giving me that big smile -- says, "You fly through a time zone ... sir."

Hmmm. A little added emphasis on, sir?

Ah-yeah. I heard it. Deserved it.

It was the longest ten yard walk from the counter back to the chair I'd been sitting in.

Only now, I don't want to sit there. I want to hide. Sit someplace else.

Guess what? There is no where else. Think WINGS. One sofa. A few chairs. I'm waiting for Tony Shalhoub to walk in, partly as Monk, partly as a Taxi driver ... whatever.

So then, just as I sit. Just as I open my book and use it as a hand-held wall to block the woman at counter from seeing the red in my face ... I hear, "Sir? Excuse me, sir?"

I slowly lower the book. Eyes dart around. Trying to find out, One--is someone talking to me? Seems logical, since I'm the only one here. (Di Nero anyone? Anyone? No? Ok?)  And Two--if someone is talking to me, then who is it?

But I know, One, someone was talking to me, and Two, who it was.

I recognized the voice. Last thing it said to me was ... "sirrrrr".  Hard to forget.

"Ah, yes?" I say. Stand. Set my book down.

"We can get you on a flight to Chicago. Leaves in twenty minutes, and then a flight from Chicago to Rochester -- have you in Rochester by 2:00 PM, if you'd like?" Smile is still there. It might have been painted on. I am not sure I saw her lips move when she spoke.

"Um. Yes. Okay. Ah-yeah. That would be great." Then I became Jerry Lewis.

I went up to the counter.

"I need your tickets, sir."

I spin around. Hands pat my shirt. There is only a breast pocket. I pat my dress pants. Nothing.

I smile at the woman. And spin again. A One-Eighty. The tickets are sticking out of my book. I walk toward over, slide them out from between the pages. Head back, hand them over to the woman.

"And your suitcase?" She says.

I try to smile. "Of course."

For whatever reason -- maybe because I was too fucking stupid to recognize time zones -- I pat my shirt.

No suitcase in that breast pocket.

I go back and get my suitcase. Wheel it over. Smile.

I smile, not to be friendly. But because my book and suit coat are still over on the chair. I have to head back there a third time.

I will not spin, I think. I will not spin.

I wait until she tells me I am all set, hands me my new tickets with instructions to Gate 1, because best I can recall -- that was the only gate and I can see it from where I am -- but I sure as shit am not going to say anything sarcastic. No way!

That is when I return to the lounge for my book and suit coat, and I wave and thank the woman as I head to Gate 1, anxious to be home, but thankful to be out of Indiana's airport!

Hey you know what? That's the end of the blog!

Phillip Tomasso

Monday, October 10, 2011

Iron Maiden Is Waysted!

It was early March 1987, when I heard on the best local rock radio station that the infamous Iron Maiden would be doing a show at the War Memorial as part of their ‘86/’87 Somewhere On Tour, tour. Redundant, I know, know.
As a junior in high school, next to seeing Van Halen, Boston, Judas Priest or Rush – Iron Maiden would be a hot show. One you wouldn’t want to miss. One I know I did not want to miss. At the time I was a bass guitar player, and thought next to Geddy Lee, Steve Harris had the fastest fingers ever. I’d seen Rush. Several times. This would be an awesome opportunity to see Harris, the rest of the band, and listen to some fantastic heavy metal.
A group of bought tickets for the April 13th show. I’m going to be honest. Right now I remember that I went. My buddy Mike. And some tall skinny kid, possibly named Steve. Could have been Mark. But more than likely it was Steve. Definitely not Mark, though. Definitely not. There were more. Maybe three other guys. Possibly four. But definitely at least three. I’m thinking four, though.
We met at Mike’s house. Or I did. When I got there, everyone was already there. It had to be around 1:00 PM. They were drinking. Smoking. And doing whippets. I drank. Smoked some. But stayed away from the whippets. That was where they sucked nitrous oxide out of a whipped cream canister. The effects, or affects, were powerful, but short lived – and could seriously destroy brain cells. (And by the way this blog reads so far, you might think I did whippets-a-plenty. I did not. Ever. That I can recall).
The show was to start at like seven, or eight. More than likely seven. The opening band, Waysted, came on at seven, I think. Iron Maiden, the main bill for the night –the name in the big marque—wouldn’t start rocking until eight, maybe nine. Something like that. I’ll be honest. The time from is not important. It means nothing, and add little to the story. In fact. If anything, it takes away from the whole thing. Destroys my flow. Ruins my pace. My timing. My delivery.
Point is, I got to Mike’s early. We started partying early. And by the time we left for the concert, not a single one of us was in any condition to be headed to a concert. My best guess—yes, yes—I recall this, Steve was driving. Steve/Mark, that is. You know what? For fuck’s sake, let’s just call him, Steve. Steve works for me. How about you? You good? We good? Ok …
Steve drove. How, I have no clue. Why I ever got into a car with a guy I just watched pass out moments ago from doing whippet after whippet with full cans of beer as a chaser, I have no clue. Or actual recollection. I remember hooting and hollering in Mike’s house. Something like, “Yeah! Yeah, let’s go! Maiden! Iron Maiden! Ironnnnnnn Miadennnnnnn, Babbbbbbbby!”
Then the next thing I remember is pulling into an outdoor parking lot somewhere close to the War Memorial downtown. It was close to some vacant buildings. There were other cars. Lots of people. And a whole lot of pot smoking going on. We partook. Passed a joint. Downed several more beers.
I was very excited. Iron Maiden. Loved them. Loved them, man. I couldn’t believe I was hours from seeing a band I practically worshiped for their musical talent.
It was mid-fifties. Clear. There was a full fucking moon in a cloudless sky. I shit you not. That’s exactly how I remember it. But I thought my mind might be messed up some. So I researched it. And guess what? April 13, 1987 – mid-fifties, and a full moon on a cloudless night.
People swarmed the entrances. We all looked alike. Dark T-shirts, tight blue jeans, and Converse sneakers. Cigarette and pot smoke mingled and lingered and stoned anyone not stoned to begin with. We made it through the doors. The ice rink floor was not only covered in wood, it was covered in bodies. The seats around the rink were filling fast. I mean fast. Despite being early, my friends and I found a row together toward the back of the arena. It was the closest we could get, I kid you not.
We stood side by side. Rows of people behind and in front of us. Aside from the car ride to the stadium, this was the most standing still I’d done since we started partying. And it was hot. Very hot inside the War Memorial. Heat came off of everyone and everything. Had to be close to 12,000 people around me. All around me.
I thought I might be melting. Sweat dripped from my brow. Rolled over my face. Burned my eyes.
Some guy stood on stage. He held a microphone. He announced some upcoming concert dates. Roars erupted. I thought I might have been locked in a cage. Felt like I was. Arms shot up all around me. Arms with fists on the end. Looked like bars. Prison bars. Zoo bars.
I swallowed. Hard. My throat cracked. I was so dry.
Then, without warning, the lights in the place dimmed. The man on stage with the microphone—this I recall—asked, “Rochester, are you wasted?”
It was a play on words. Even I knew that. The opening band. They were named Waysted.
Concert lights sprayed the stage, played back and forth over the drum set, amplifiers, then rolled over the mass of people in the arena. Lit lighters. More pot smoke. Fisted raised arms. It all felt alive, like it was moving. Slithering. Quivering. The audience … shivered …
And I felt it.
Oh, it was there.
It wasn’t excitement. It wasn’t me thrilled to be here. Me getting to see Iron Maiden.
It was puke.
And there was no way, no way in hell, I was going to make it out of my row, down the hall and into a bathroom before ….
Ralllphhhhhh  ….
Oh yeah. I puked. All over the seats in front of me. Thank GOD the people in the row in front were on their feet. Because had they of been sitting – let’s just say shampoo might not have helped. And I would have been dead. Beaten to a bloody pulp for sure.
The threat of death was far from gone. At some point these guys in front of me would sit.
I wasn’t worried about it. I mean, I was. But not really. Because I was floating at that point.
My friends had me by the arms. They were pull/dragging me out of the row, into the hall.
“You were about to pass out,” one of them said. I have no idea who. They had my arms draped over their shoulders. Pretty sure the toes of my shoes dragged. I don’t recall my legs working at all.
There were no doors to enter a bathroom. Just a rounded corner. One of them, we’ll say Mike, kicked open a stall door. Timing was impeccable. They dropped me onto my knees just as the next wave of everything I’d drunk, and ate flew forth out of my throat and projected into the bowl. Chunks splashed back at me. Public toilet bowl water and my own vomit mixed with sweat coating my face.
“You gonna be all right, man? We don’t want to miss the show.”
That’s what I heard. Maybe I waved them away. Maybe I didn’t. Maybe I begged them to stay. Regardless, the next time I was aware of anything was when I opened my eyes.
I was no longer hunkered over a puke filled toilet. I was on my back, half in, half out of the stall. Some guy—a big guy in a black t-shirt hovered over me.
I thought, “Ah, shit. I’m gonna get raped in the bathroom at the War Memorial, and I’m too fucking sick to even scream for help.”
Everything about the situation pointed to that. Me getting ass-rammed by some muscle-meathead at an Iron Maiden concert.  I mean, he bent down, slid arms under me, and hoisted me into the air.
I’m sure I tried to fight him. Let’s say I threw limp punches and moaned out a few “No’s” if only in my defense against being a willing participant. Fair? Good. That’s what I did then. I fought him.
“Whoa. Whoa,” he said. “You’re okay. I’m with Heads On Straight. I’m going to take you somewhere to sleep this off.”
Sounded awesome. I wanted to sleep. I didn’t want to wake up.
But it also sounded like a kidnapping tactic. Like he stalked potheads, waited for them to pass out and then snuck them out some side Fire Exit and into the sliding side door of an unmarked, non-descript, windowless white cargo van. A perfect place for rape. Wonderful.
However. To some van in a back alley we did not go. Muscle man brought me into a room. I had to look like some damsel in distress, draped in his arms – my long hair cascading toward the floor …
I tried to look around the room. I saw a sea of cots. Occupied cots. People sprawled out all over the place. If I was right, this guy had been hauling bodies out of bathrooms all night!
“We don’t have any more cots,” he said. “I’m going to put you on this table.”
I don’t remember lying down – or being laid down. (No pun intended).
I do remember being woken up. Shaken. And me saying something like, “Leave me the fuck alone, I’m sleeping.” I remember sitting up then. Feeling much better. Legs off the table, I was ready to go. “I’m gonna go back into the show.”
“Show’s over, son.” It wasn’t Muscle man. It was a guy who looked like someone’s gray-haired grandfather. “It’s time to go home. Did you drive? We would prefer to call you a cab.”
“I didn’t drive. This other guy did. Tall, skinny guy. Steve, I think his name was,” I said. (See, even then I didn’t really know his name.
The old man pointed at a cot. “Him?”
There he was. “Yeah. Him.”
Some woman was in the process of shaking Steve awake.
The old man let me use a phone.
“Mom,” I said. “Would you be able to pick me up from the concert? The guy who drove, he had a couple of beers. I don’t feel safe riding home with him.”
Oh yeah. Threw Steve’s ass under the bus. I didn’t know Steve. Never met him before tonight. What did I care if my mother never wanted me hanging around with “Steve” again?
She came and picked me up outside the War Memorial. I have no clue what happened to the other guys I went to the concert with. I know they found a way home. At least, I know they found their way to school on Tuesday. Well, I am not sure any of us made it to school on Tuesday, I just know I saw Mike again. Maybe later that week. Maybe it was the following week. I really have no recollection other than the fact that, on the way home from the show, my mother stopped off at McDonald’s. Got myself a Big Mac meal. Nothing like two-all-beef-patties-specail-sauce-lettuce-cheese-pickles-onions-on a sesame seed bun, large fries and a Coke after puking my brains out … however, was only a mild consolation for missing both Waysted and Iron Maiden live!
You know what?

That's it for today ...

Phillip Tomasso

Monday, October 3, 2011

A Ghost Named Jenny

I remember after spending a year at SUNY Brockport, that I'd taken an English essay writing class at Monroe Community College. The professor gave an assignment: Write about something that affected your life in some way.

Not very specific. Actually, quite the opposite. It was a very general assignment.

I thrived in English and writing classes. While students asked for bare minimum guidelines, I asked if there was a page maximum. I knew what I'd write about, didn't have to think about it, and didn't want to be held back by word count or page limits.

Although we had a week to complete the assignment, I completed mine that night.

I wrote about Jenny.

I got the paper back the following week with a “D”. Under the grade it said: "Too much like King/Poe. This was not a fiction assignment."

Jenny affected my life forever. So, you tell me, whether I imagined the below tale or not, regardless of what you think, I believe it happened ... therefore, it affected me. Forever.

When my parents bought their second home in Gates (Rochester, NY), I was nearly two-years old. It is where they still live today. Three bedrooms upstairs, a living room and kitchen on the first level, and below, a family room, and under that a full basement.

If you stood in the living room and looked up the stairs, you'd see my sister's bedroom door, on the wall hung a painting. A young girl, in a white dress stood in a field of yellow flowers.

I always disliked the painting. We all know that when you walk by one, the eyes of the person depicted are said to follow you. The girl in this particular painting was no different. Her eyes followed me. Really followed me. I swore I’d seen them move on more than one occasion.

When I was fourteen years old I could stand it no longer. I took the painting down and put it out into the garage. I used a grilling fork--the ones with two long, sharp tines—and forked the eyes out of the canvas, and dropped the framed and ruined artwork into the Dumpster.

Two days later, when I went into the garage, I stopped short. Against the far wall leaned the painting. Eyeless, but somehow still staring at me.

I snatched up a hatchet and hacked the thing to pieces. I gathered the destruction in my arms and once again dropped it all into the Dumpster. My parents had claimed, and still claim, they took the painting out of the garbage that first time. Said they wanted to hang it back up.

But without eyes?

I don't think so.

This was when it all started. My nightmare.

Had my actions caused a stir in the spirit world? Perhaps.

In no particular order, I want to inform you that since that day I never slept in my bedroom again. I spent the next four years sleeping on the sofa in the living room until I moved away to college. And when I returned from school, I still slept on the sofa.


That first evening I fell asleep on my bed. I was on my back. My hands on my chest. I woke up. My right hand was numb. Under it, I felt another hand, a third hand. I lifted both my arms in the air. The other hand was still on my chest. I could not see it, but felt it. Cold. And now my chest, too, was numb.

I screamed. I called for my mom, and for my dad.

When my bedroom door banged open, the hand flew off my chest, and a cool wisp of wind blew by my face.

I fell out of bed and scrambled for my father, who told me I'd just had a nightmare.

I was prone to nightmares. Walking and talking in my sleep. My waking up screaming was nothing new. But this was different. I knew the difference.

Something of a slob, each morning I took my blankets off the sofa and rolled them up in my arms. I'd go up to the hall closet. Open the door, throw the blankets in and slam the door before the ball of fabric rolled back out. One day when I did this, a corner of blanket got caught in the door jamb. My sister was right beside me. Laughed at the fact I'd have to open the door, and try again. When I opened the door, we both gasped. Literally, gasped.

Every blanket in the hall closet was folded and neatly stacked. Including the ones I'd just tossed in. There was no corner of a blanket by the door jamb.

One night when my parents were out, some friends were over. It was winter. I was sixteen. They were headed to Blockbuster to rent a movie. I stayed home. In the living room I watched TV. Alone. I heard floorboards creak. (The house was carpeted. No hardwoods). Someone was behind me on the stairs. I was dressed in shorts and a T-shirt. No socks. No shoes. I needed to get out of the house. My legs didn't seem to work. I couldn't turn around. Wouldn't.

Instead, when I could finally stand, I stood. I kept my back to the stairs. I moved along the back of the couch slowly, and when I reached the door I booked out it. Into the snow. Feet cold, and ran for the street. Once in the street I turned back to the house. The front door slammed shut.

I waited outside for nearly twenty minutes, shivering, waiting for my friends to get back home. They all had a good laugh at my expense. I laughed along with them. Inside, my heart beat wildly against my ribcage.

It was on one night in particular that I learned Jenny's name.

I was asleep on the sofa. This may have been a dream. Felt like one. I'd opened my eyes, and seated on the chair across from me was a girl in a red robe. Her hair was wet, long, worn down over her face. (I wondered later if her hair covered her face because she had no eyes...)

She told me her name was Jenny. That she was not here to hurt me, but that she wanted a friend.

A friend.

One weekend when I was home for the weekend from Brockport, I'd brought a friend. She and I were in my room. We sat on my bed. She opened up to me, told me that she "saw" things no one else could see. I just politely nodded and listened as she counted off strange things she'd encountered. Know what? I didn't believe her. But I listened. Why not. I was just waiting for her to shut up, and take her shirt off. Figured I could stomach a few minutes of jibber-jabber.

And then she looked at me with wide eyes. She told me, we're not alone. I almost laughed. She wasn't joking. She asked me, "Who's Jenny."

My breath caught in my lungs. "What?" I asked.

"Jenny," she said. "Who's Jenny ... because she's not happy I'm here."

I grabbed the girl's hand. I got to my feet and ran for the bedroom door, pull/dragging her with me. As we stepped out of the bedroom, the bedroom door slammed shut. We practically flew down the stairs. Up in my room, things banged, and thumped and fell.

We ran out of the house ... breathless ...

Jenny might have wanted a friend, but she was jealous, it seemed. I don't think she liked me having a girl in the room. In fact, I think she was pissed.

Unfortunately, I never looked into Jenny, to try to figure out who she was, why she was haunting my parents' house, the way people do in movies, and in books ...

After getting married, and moving out of the house, I never saw signs of Jenny again. I've been back to my parents' house, have spent nights there, and nothing. Nothing.

I wonder if Jenny left; if she actually was a figment of my imagination, or . . . real?

To be honest, at this point -- I just don't know.

What I do know is, from the time I was 14, until I was 21, something kept me from sleeping in my room, kept me from ever getting a solid night's sleep. And, from the time I was 14 until I was 21, Jenny was as real as any ghost ... real. Whether she existed or not, whether you believe me or not, it happened.

That professor giving me a D was uncalled for. And I fought for a better grade, explaining all of this to the professor who, decidedly, changed my grade to a B.

Phillip Tomasso

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Water Parks

I had a different blog planned for today's post. One about a ghost named Jenny, and how she lived in the house I grew up in. You'll still get to read that blog. Just not today.

While at work tonight we talked about, among many, many other non-repeatable topics, water parks. There is a new indoor park opening in Batavia. There is one in Canandaguia, and another in Pennsylvania. I'm sure there are more. I just don't know where they are. And frankly, I don't care.

But I am not just picking on indoor parks. It's going to be on both indoor and outdoor water parks. Like the one at Darien Lake and Sea Breeze.

Did I say, Pick On Them? Oh yeah. That's what I said.

I'll start by saying, I go in them. I love them. I enjoy water slides, and wave pools, and the lazy river. The bigger, the faster, the rougher, the better.

However, this is my problem with them. And maybe you won't agree. Maybe you'll think I'm just too obsessive compulsive. Or maybe, just maybe, you'll see that I am absolutely right.

I'm going to start and focus on Darien Lake. Know this, four of the last five summers, I've been a season pass holder. And more than likely, next spring, I will once again purchase season passes for my kids and me.

So what is my problem? What's my big gripe? What has me so irked that I am dedicating this week's blog to Water Parks instead of sharing with all of you the story of Jenny?

I'm glad you asked. Because, folks, I'm about to tell you.

The wave pool.  Do you know what this is? It's a giant pool. It has a deep end and at the mouth, a shallow end. It's like being at a cement beach. You walk into ankle deep water, and each step takes you out deeper and deeper into the pool. A generator behind a huge wall kicks on every fifteen minutes, and for the next ten minutes waves are pushed out. It becomes like the Perfect Storm, only controlled.

Although lifeguards man the walls, armed with whistles and floatation devices--swimmers are really on their own. Once the waves start, hundreds of people rush into the water. They scream, and jump into the oncoming waves. Their is body surfing, and yelling, laughing and quite possibly many near-drownings.

See, but that's the fun part of it all. The amusement park atmosphere--taken from the rides into the water. And the water and the fun is not where the problem stems from. It's the people. People. Therein the problem lies.

Darien Lake is known for its campgrounds. Hell. Campers get excellent deals. Stay on the campgrounds, and get free access to the park for the day. I'm no camper. In fact, I hate camping. I find it dirty, gross, and filthy. I know. I used pretty much the same word, three different times to describe camping. I did that on purpose. That's how much I hate camping. To think people choose to do this. For fun? Yeah. You'd be seeing me get an MRI, CAT SCAN, blood tests, whatever -- if I ever found myself booking a camping trip.

So now. These dirty campers?

Let me explain. I don't have anything against camping if say--I hung out with Laura Ingells. That would be fun. Cool, even. But once hotels were invented, I'd say fuck camping.

Where was I? Oh yeah. When you are at Darien Lake...You see them. Campers. Greasy hair, unwashed, wrinkled clothes, toe-thong flip-flops on dirt crusted feet -- you see them, a towel slung over a shoulder as they make their way -- not for the showers, screw showering. No. The campers are headed to the wave pool.

Why? Because to campers wave pools are more than merely used for entertainment, as a way to keep cool under a scorching summer sun, the wave pool is used as a fucking shower. A bath.

Hell, I might feel better if I saw the stupid hicks produce a bar of soap as they submerge smelly asses into water meant for enjoyment, and not as a means of sanitary cleansing.

Forget the fact that I've nicknamed Wave Pools, Band-Aid Bowls. Because when you step into one of them, the first thing you see is a band-aid skirting across the floor. Band-Aid's are a lot like cars. Once you spot a fucking Volkswagon Beetle, you see them everywhere. I gave up counting how many Band-Aids I spotted one day. There were just too many.

The worst is when the Band-Aid is floating gauze side up. You can see the dried blood marks, and wonder how much had washed off the gauze, and why the rest of the blood wasn't bleached out of it ... And the reason the blood isn't bleached clean is because there is no way there is enough chlorine in the pool to kill the infestation of germs and viruses thriving in the warm water.

And then, there is the Warm Water.

Where the hell do you think all that warm water comes from? Maybe the pools are heated. Maybe the sun has something to do with it. But my guess--if you ask me? It's people urinating in the water. And why not. You bathed in the fucking thing. Your Band-Aids are ripped off your skin in the flush of waves. Why get out and use a restroom like a normal person.

You're on vacation! Enjoy yourself! Pee in the water.

And that's the adults I'm referring to.

How about the kids, whose parents strap a diaper on them at 8 AM and then don't bother to change the thing until after swim time is all done? Those diapers full of piss and poop just ... you see what I'm saying?

Oh yeah. You have to see what I'm saying.

And this. This blog. It's the explanation. It is why I can not fully enjoy water parks.  Because as you know -- or maybe you don't -- that water, as it passes down the drain, does not get flushed out to sea like it should. No. It simply gets recycled.


In August 2005--1,800 people got sick at a New York water park. Gastrointestinal illness.

Know what that is? Gastrointestinal illness?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the most common symptom is diarrhea, dehydration, stomach cramps, weight loss, fever, nausea and vomiting. "Symptoms typically begin within days of exposure and usually last for two weeks."

Nice. Can you say, "I think I swallowed too much fecal matter?"

According to the CDC, Cryptosporidium is a microscopic parasite that causes the diarrheal disease cryptosporidiosis. Both the parasite and the disease are commonly known as "Crypto."
While this parasite can be spread in several different ways, water (drinking water and recreational water) is the most common method of transmission. Cryptosporidium is one of the most frequent causes of waterborne disease among humans in the United States.

I googled outbreaks. There are plenty. But I won't bore you with numbers and stats. Hell -- I know you can't live in fear. Swimming pools are similar -- I won't get into that right now though.

You know what? It's September.

Chances are, if you were appalled by this blog, you will have totally forgotten about it by summer.

I know I, more than likely, will have forgotten my irk-ness.


Anyway. Just wanted to share :-)

--Phillip Tomasso

Friday, September 23, 2011


A while back I rented Stephen King's 1408.

At the time, I lived alone. Studio apartment. It was late at night when I started the movie. The beginning was creepy. Made my skin crawl. I had to shut the movie--figured I'd never get to sleep, not with the lights off, anyway.

The next day, when it was still light out, I finished the movie. And although it continued to creep me out ... something else happened.

The secondary story became more apparent. That's what a good movie, a good book contains. A secondary story. 1408 had one I did not expect.

See, the movie is about this writer. He visits haunted hotels, and sleeps in haunted rooms, and writes books about the experience.

When he is more or less dared to stay in a New York hotel, specifically in room 1408, it is the first time he ever encounters anything truly paranormal. Usually his writings uncover fakes and frauds. But this time, in room 1408, all of that changes ...

What the "ghost" does, however, is show the writer flashes from his own past. Which, who has a past that isn’t scary as hell, especially when confronted by it in a strange and isolated hotel room?

And it was this writer's past that just wrecked me emotionally.

See, the writer was married. They had a young daughter--this pretty little girl of maybe ten. Without much detail, we learn that the young girl is sick, dying, and eventually, died.

This guilt of not being able to do more to save his daughter ruins the writer's life: he leaves his wife and buries himself in his work. His writing. But the haunted room brings clips of his daughter to the forefront.

And at one point in the movie--she is there, in the hotel room with him. She tells him she loves him, that she wants to be with him and with mommy.

I kept expecting her to change into some horrid creature. Like the child monster that crawled out of the television set in The Ring.

That never happened.

Instead, he hugs his daughter, tells her everything will be all right. He assures her that this time, this time, they can stay together.

And then without warning, she dies in his arms. She just goes limp. Lifeless...Her head dropping, eyes closed. And she is dead. Again.

He lost his daughter a second time.

The point of this blog is personal. I'm divorced. Didn't want to be. But there was nothing I could do. There was no saving the marriage.

I have three kids. They are my life. My world. My everything.

And though I live only a handful of miles away from them, and though I get them every other weekend, and one day during the week, and see them at school and sports events ... I can't help but feel, sometimes, like they have died. Or that I have.

The loss I feel is that great. The pain is that powerful.

And what is worse, at the end of each visit with them, when I take them back to their mother, I feel like they are dying on me a second time, or that I am. Every time.

It never gets easier.

Can't imagine it ever will.

I was that writer. John Cusack's character. Helpless, as I watched my kids slip out of my life. Lifeless am I each time I take them back to their mother ...

So, Cusack writhe’s in agony over the loss and second loss of his daughter -- I was overcome with such emotion. I cried. I sobbed. It was uncontrollable. It lasted for what felt like forever.

It was a horror movie. Supposed to be scary.

And instead, to me, it was the saddest movie I'd ever seen. The realest movie. The rawest.

There is no real point to this blog.

Just that, to overcome the gloom and depression I feel, that constantly sinks in, I thought I needed to write out my feelings. I know other people who have gone and are going through this. And while we all work to deal with such “loss” in our own ways, dealing with it is exactly what we struggle to do—whether people who have been through it can comprehend the constant pain, the overwhelming emptiness—or whether they can’t. It is so real.

There is not a day, not a single day that I don’t think, “Holy shit, I hate my fucking life! I fucking hate it.” I go to work. I smile. I get home, and I almost can’t stomach the thought of an hour alone. Without my family. I do it though. Day in. Day out. For the last five years—and I do my best not to dwell on missing so much from their lives that I am more a stranger than a father. That when I go to bed at night, I am not comforted, because they are not in the bedrooms next to mine. Or when I wake up, I do not get to see their faces. Or when I get home, they are not there to greet me.
The pain is real. The emptiness crushing. You get this, or you don’t. I guess that’s all there is.

I am more messed up than ever imagined, than anyone should ever be.

Enjoy your Friday.

--Chase N. Nichols
Hey, follow me on Twitter, or don't. You know what? I could care less.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Brush With The Law

Ever hear the saying, bad things happen in threes? Yeah, well, my luck tends to disprove that theory.

Back in May, 2009, I was on line at a website called 911tabs. Here you can get guitar chords and tabs to thousands of songs. I was looking up how to play some Jefferson Starship when I clicked on a tab link and was immediately informed that I'd just activated a Trojan virus.


What I thought was my spyware software warning me, was actually something called Personal Antivirus. It's clever because it looked just like Microsoft alerts. I clicked buttons to prevent my laptop from getting sick.What I ended up doing was downloading the spyware directly to my computer.

All these warning popups appeared, demanding my attention, telling me my computer was infected. That my personal data and passwords were being sent to an offshore IP address.Personal Antivirus wanted me to purchase their spyware. Did some research. Turns out, Personal Antivirus does this. Infects your system with their "fake" viruses. Nothing was going anywhere. But the virus wanted you to think differently.

It worked so that so that popups continually interrupt whatever you are doing to make you panic, thinking your computer is infected and needs their software to heal it.

So, that was how the day started.

Got in my car later. It made a rattle sound. Like something was loose. Being not at all mechanically inclined, I fixed the problem by turning the up the volume on the car stereo. Deep inside, however, my mind was going over new bills I'd be incurring in the near future. Fix my laptop, and taking the car to a garage.

Anyway, I was on my way to pick up a friend. We'd made plans to go to the drive-in. Vintage, in Avon. Demons & Angles and Star Trek was showing on screen 3.

I told her about my day. I explained that something else would go wrong. Had to. In writing, we call this foreshadowing.

We found a good spot in the third row--and per the Vintage employee's direction, parked close to one of the white poles. The poles indicate parking spots. At one time I am sure they housed speakers for viewers to listen to the movies. (All done by car radio now, in case you were not aware).

It was after 2 AM when Star Trek ended. I went to pull out of the parking spot. Forgot about the white pole, and ran the driver's side along it. Screamed. Backed up, raking the pole, again across my door. Nothing quite like the sound of metal against metal. Makes nails along a chalkboard sound like a chorus line of Glee characters singing on stage. (Not that I watch Glee. Just heard they sound pretty good, lol).

Laptop. Funny car noises. Scratched the car on a stupid pole.

One. Two. Three. If laws of murphey were correct, I'd be all set. Could call it a day. Knowing, I was three-and-out. No more worries. But nope. Not me.

Once on I-390 North, we saw two police cars had pulled someone over. I slowed from 65 mph, to 50 mph. Road between the two lanes, and both my friend and I developed rubber-neck as we peered at the guy in his car being questioned by two police officers.

We commented. "Some one's in trouble."

Next thing I know, a moment after we pass the traffic stop, a cop is behind me. Lights on. No sirens. But approching fast. I pull to the shoulder.

I looked at my friend. "I know I wasn't speeding," I said.

The officer came to my door, flashlight beam played into the car. Over the back seat, into the front, and stopped aiming directly into my eyes. "You just drive by where we had someone pulled over?"


"You brushed the other officer," he said. "Sent him onto the hood of his cruiser."

My stomach dropped. "There's no way," I said.

"Were you driving in this lane?" He shown his light on the right-hand lane. Then brought it back to my face.

"I was."

"Yeah," he said. He had one hand on the butt of his gun. I saw this, despite his best attempts at forever blinding me by burning out my retina with his flashlight. "You hit the officer."

"Sir," I said. "There's no way. We slowed down to like fifty. I even moved over into the left lane some."

"You were in this lane," he said, again showing me the right lane with his flashlight.

"I was," I said.

"Yeah. You hit him." He walked around my car. Looked at the front passenger side. Came back. "How about your license and registration."

I gave it to him.

"Sit tight," he said and walked back to his cruiser.

I looked at my friend. (I would name this "friend", but recently we had a situation. Got somewhat out of control. She no longer speaks to me. Which is a shame. But not my fault, entirely. So I think sharing her name would only infuriate her. Which is fine. She's the one who deleted me off everything). "There's no way we hit him and didn't know it."

She agreed. We laughed. The situation was not funny.We could hear the officer talking. Laughing seemed like the only option. I've seen way to many movies where some guy is arrested, but innocent. For real innocent. Not convict jail talk -- I'm innocent, know what I mean? Regardless, I did not want to be that guy. The one passed around in jail cells like a Raggedy Ann doll. (Why would toy makers choose to call a female doll, Raggedy Ann? And then, surprise-surprise, the doll is isntantly a classic! Loved by kids. You'd think those Anti-Male women groups would have been up in arms! Fighting for their rights to vote, earn an equal wage, and have Raggedy Ann removed from toyshelves across the country ... ah, but I digress. I do that. Often. Digress, that is.)

"It was a Cobalt? A red Cobalt?" We heard the officer. Not sure who he was talking to. But it is what he said.  And while I was indeed in a Chevy. It was not a Coblalt.I drove an Aveo. Looked similar.

He returned to my window. Handed back my license. He was on his cell. To me he said, "You seem like you're telling the truth," he said. "A few red cars drove past us. Have a nice night."

I tucked my license back into my wallet. The officer pulled back onto the expressway, and gunned the engine.I sucked in some air, realizing I might have been holding my breath. Not at all sure if my crotch was sweaty, or if I'd peed some. Either way, I felt a little wet.

All I could think was, Laptop, funny noise, scraped the paint, and accused of hit-and-run.

One. Two. Three. Four.


I guess if I didn't have bad luck, I wouldn't have any luck at all, huh?

And people always ask, "Where do you get ideas for the stories you write?"

My pat response: "They just come to me."

Have an awesome day!

I'm out!

Phillip Tomasso

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Breakfast And Spiders

Won’t lie. I had it all. And I knew I had everything. It’s what makes everything in life that much worse. Knowing you had the world in your hands. And then, in a blink, watching it not just crumble, but shatter. Having been married for fifteen years to a beautiful woman, three amazing kids, a house in the suburbs, and a solid job with a large corporation—what more can anyone ask for? Not much. And if someone in that position asked for more, than fuck ‘em, they’re just greedy assholes. I wasn’t greedy. I didn’t want more. I was content. No. More than content. I was happy. And when it ended, a horrible evening five years ago, it left me empty. Feeling rejected. And lonely.

How did I handle it? Oh, there were many, many different paths I traveled. Many, many of those paths are bound to wind up as future blogs. This story, however, is unique enough to demand a blog of its own. See what I did, was I joined an on-line dating service. I won’t give the name of the site. But it rhymes with Blenty Bof Kish. You might know it. You might not. The name of the site isn’t important. Not really.

So what happened? Slow down. I’m getting to that part.

I log on. I surf through the pictures of available, seeking women in my area. I read the profiles, of course, but let’s be serious, it’s the pictures that initially will draw a man’s attention. I don’t suppose it’s much different for women. If the attraction isn’t there, what’s the point, right? Of course, right.

This girl is on. She’s blond. Thin. In the photo she is wearing jeans, and a long sleeve red shirt. She’s cute. Not hot. Not a knock-out, but cute. We use the chatting feature. Instant messaging back and forth. Getting a sense of who each of us is. We do this a lot over the next several days. We seem to hit it off. She claims to work as a nurse at an emergency room in a hospital in her town. No kids. Never married. Maybe a few years younger than me.

Sounds good. Trouble is, she lives sixty miles away. Not quite long distance, but far enough away that even if it worked between us, it could never really work. I knew it. But at the time, I ignored that. I wanted to meet. We made plans. It was summer. June, maybe July. I think June, though. Hell, it could have been May. But if it was May, it was late May. You know what? The exact month is insignificant to the tale. The point is, the day I drove all those miles, it was hot. Not warm. Hot. Humid. It’s why I was thinking June or July. But in the back of my head, May just keeps nagging away.

I take the trip. Listen to the radio on the Interstate. My stomach is in knots. It’s been 19 years since I went on a date. Do you understand how long that is, 19 years? But that thought, as much as it made me apprehensive, also excited me. The idea of new love, a first kiss – damn, a first kiss. Is there anything like a first kiss? I mean, it happens once. Once, per each new date, sure, but each first kiss only happens once—so I am excited, no doubt.

The plan was to meet at a Pancake House. Thought it might be like an IHop. Had never been to a Pancake House before.  Neurotically early, I realize a Pancake House is really nothing like an IHop. It’s more like a Denny’s. At least, that’s how I remember it now. Like a Denny’s.

I park. I stand by the main door, under the awning out of the already blazing morning sun. It’s got to be eighty degrees. I’m in jeans and pull over shirt. And pissed. Because, my car doesn’t have air conditioning, and I know I’m sweating. Sweating is never impressive on a date. Especially not a first date. Self-conscious, I try not to think. By not thinking, I can slow my pulse. Hopefully curb the sweating. It’s a thought. Don’t recall it working. By trying not to think, I think I thought all the more.

I went over the schedule for the day. It was me, I know, who suggested since I was driving so far, that after breakfast we should go to a park, or somewhere and talk more. Figured we’d make an entire morning out of the occasion. And why not? Why drive sixty miles for scrambled eggs? As an idealist, I suspected since we’d hit it off so well on the computer, meeting in person would be similar to fireworks on the Fourth of July. There’d be more than sparks between us. There’d be colorful explosions popping between us so intense they’d quite possibly be visible to everyone around us.

And that has always been part of my problem. The idealist. My mind is awesome at making mountains out of mole hills. Of creating amazing times, out of hum-drum plans. I didn’t plan to be an idealist, and I didn’t work at it, either. It’s just my make-up. It’s not a blessing. It’s more of a curse. How much easier would it be to expect nothing, and then occasionally by pleasantly surprised by some unexpected turn of events?

So I see her pull in. I recognize her as she drives around and parks. The blond hair, though, is shorter than it had been in the photo. And when she gets out of the car, she, herself is shorter—heavier. Older. My guess? The picture she had posted on the Internet was at least seven years old. Maybe as much as ten.

I shrug it off. She’s wearing jean shorts, exposing nice legs. I like legs. Legs are very important. And she also has on a white tank top. I freaking love a girl in a tank top. It’s hotter than a teddy, or being all dressed up. And she’s not fat. Just heavier than the person depicted in the photo.

We smile as she makes her way across the parking lot. She’s about ten minutes late. I don’t immediately hold it against her. However, her hair is a bit wet, and messy. You think if you are going to be late, your hair would at least be dry. Not to mention it’s a first date. Why the hell would you show up late to a first date late, and unkempt like a slob? I wouldn’t. But that’s me. The idealist.

I hold open the door to Pancake House, as we say a quick hello and enter. Despite all of this, it is only now – as we are led to a booth, that everything spirals out of control. Badly.

The hostess sets down menus as she and I slide into the booth across from each other. My breath catches in my chest, and I gasp. Literally, I gasp, “Hnnnnnn.”

On her forearm, halfway between her elbow and wrist is a spider. A big, fucking spider. One of the hairiest arachnids I’ve ever seen! And I am a fraction of a second away from slapping it off her arm. I hesitate because, if you don’t already know, I am terrified of spiders. Paralyzing-ly terrified! And it is that gripped-in-fear moment that saves me a most embarrassing moment.

As I stare at the forearm, at the waves of quarter-inch hair sprouting off the back and legs of the spider, I realize … Holy Shit! It ain’t a spider at all. It’s a … It can’t be … It’s no spider … It’s a mole.

The mole is the size of a half dollar. Round as that piece of coin, and sporting a mane a lion would be proud of. And I’ll be damned if the mole’s hair isn’t better groomed than the hair on the head of my date. (And for what it’s worth, I have absolutely no idea what her name is. I could make one up. If only so I can stop using pronouns to describe her. What if we call her, I don’t know, Shelly? That work?)
It looks like Shelly brushed and hair-dried the bush of hair on her arm, maybe spritzed in some gel? I don’t know. It looked, clean, neat. Like I said, well-groomed. Show-dog Poodles would be considered pampered if they had an owner like Shelly, if you ask me.

I’m not shallow. Okay. A little shallow. I’ll admit it. Again, it comes down to attraction. And having a mole might not be something someone asks to have, but neither should it be something shown-off, exposed, out in the open without shame, right? I mean, a tank top? Really? Why the hell would you wear a tank top on a first date if you knew – and you have to know – there is a tarantula posed on your forearm? You wouldn’t. It’s like a guy having a grossly hairy back and going topless to a public swimming pool. Do guys do it? They do. Should they? Hell no!

Raised to always look a girl in the eyes when she’s talking, and not to let my gaze drop, I struggled. I admit it. I wanted to look her in the eyes as we talked, waiting to order. But I was clearly distracted. I don’t think for a second that Shelly was Italian. But she talked with her hands. Waiving them all around to punctuate and accentuate whatever the hell it was she talked about. I wasn’t listening. I couldn’t. And I wasn’t looking her in the eyes as she talked. I couldn’t. I was like a freaking penguin following a beam of dancing on a wall. My head rolled, neck twisted, eyes locked on watching the bounce of the hair on the mole. Got to the point where if she didn’t shut the fuck up, I was going to get dizzy and pass out.

When the waitress returned to take our order, I had two things on my mind. I knew what I was going to have. Shelly ordered what she wanted it. I couldn’t help wonder if I should get a half-stack for Charlotte. (Oh yeah. I named the tarantula. Charlotte. Like from that kids’ story about the spider and the pig).  Charlotte might be hungry. And if she was, I’d rather she fill up on hotcakes and syrup than risk the thing sucking blood from my veins. Sounds melodramatic, huh? Well, I thought it. And the other thing I was thinking, if my phone rang, regardless of who was on the other end, regardless of what they said, I’d proclaim an emergency back in Rochester. And I’d run the hell out of there! (I’d drop a twenty on the table. I’m not a jerk). I even recall pulling my cell out of my pocket and setting it on the table. Trying to will it to ring.

(And from this I did learn to set up the fifteen minute first-date alarm. It’s apparently not new. Just new to me. Someone who’s been out of the game for nearly two decades. Just in case you are not familiar with it, and I can pass down some words of actual wisdom . . . Have a friend call fifteen minutes into a first date. They are basically just checking to see if you need and out, or to ensure things are going okay. I’d also suggest having a pre-escape plan prepared. Nothing like taking a call. Saying you gotta go. And then when they ask what’s wrong – and they’ll ask what’s wrong – you’re not put on the spot. Grandma fell and has been rushed to the hospital, or your house is on fire, something, anything, just have an excuse planned. Trust me).

But you know what? The phone, it never rang. Not once. It didn’t even chirp to notify me of a dying battery. Not a sound. Not a peep. And I still resent that phone till this day!

The bad thing? The part your might have let slip your mind. I planned out the morning with Shelly. Breakfast was just the beginning. We still had the park to go to.

And after we ate, she offered to drive. She brought us to a park. A nice park, mind you. There were trails. They snaked through the woods. She wanted to walk them.

I’m the guy. I’m the stranger. She’s supposed to be weary of me. Apprehensive and cautious right? Not the other way around. But she’s all aggressive. She drove. She found the spot at the park. She picked the trail we’d walk. It was hard for me not to be suspicious of Shelly and Charlotte. What might they have in store for me? The fact that she didn’t carry a duffel bag with us on the walk was somewhat reassuring. A duffle bag definitely would have made me curious as to intentions.

The walk was, to be fair, nice. Hot. I was working up a good sweat, but still, nice. We continued to talk as we walked. She was a sweet girl, Shelly. I’ll admit that.

It still boggled my mind though, the more she talked about work. As a nurse in a hospital, you think at some point she’d be close enough to some doctor to ask if they could cut Charlotte the fuck off her arm on a coffee break or something, right? Or is that crossing the boundaries of friends? Mixing friendship and work? It might be. But if it were me, I’d risk tainting a friendship for a few swoops, and slashes of a sharp scalpel.

When we emerge from the trail, the parking lot yards away. Her vehicle is like sanctuary from the heat, and sanctuary to the fact that soon this date will end and she will drive me back to Pancake House for my car. Unfortunately, at this point, she reaches for my hand.

It’s not the hand attached to Charlotte. It’s the hand on the end of the opposite arm. Or her “good arm” as I’d begun to associate to her limbs. Good arm, fucked-up arm.

I was too stunned to pull away. I let her fingers lace through mine as we walked back toward her van. Each step I took I cursed myself. Why did I still have to be so charming and funny? Why didn’t I just leave when I had the chance at the restaurant?  I could have excused myself to use the john, and then crawled between rows of tables to the exit. I coulda, shoulda, but didn’t. And now, now we were hand holding.

Thankfully, the front of the van separated our latching hand-hold. She went to the driver side. Me to the passenger side, resisting an urge to wipe my palm over my jeans just in case Charlotte liked to limp-hop from forearm to forearm or something. Maybe, to ensure that Charlotte’s eggs hadn’t transferred from her digits onto mine. Irrational, but again, it is the thoughts that plagued my overactive imagination.

We drive back to Pancake House. She parks next to my car. And what follows is that awkward good-bye silence. Usually, it is the guy anticipating whether or not a first date will end with a kiss or a hand-shake. I am not anticipating shit. She, Shelly—that is, seems to be silently asking for a kiss goodbye. She keeps leaning a little closer. Keeps the conversation kind of going. Like she won’t say goodbye until we seal the morning with a smooch.

All I think is, if I lean over and kiss her, she might wrap her arms around my neck. And if she does this, where will Charlotte wind up? Brushing up against my skin? What if the thing starts giving me a hickey or something? It could. I swear at one point, I swear I saw a mouth and fangs – this after a good breeze ruffled the mane. Damn right it’s what I saw!

I didn’t oblige. I didn’t kiss her. I shook her hand, undid my seatbelt, unlocked and opened my door, all in one Jackie-Chan-style fluid motion.

On the drive back to Rochester, I was a gentleman. I sent Shelly a text. Thanked her for the nice morning. Told her there was no love connection. Sorry. And when I got home, I deleted my Internet Dating Web account, and burned my computer.

Until next time—have an awesome day!

--Chase N. Nichols
Follow me on Twitter, or don’t. I really could care less!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

First Daze of School: Gates-Chili (Part II)

So hopefully you read part one of this blog, First Daze of School: Cardinal Mooney. If not, read it. I’ll wait. Go ahead. Seriously. I’m waiting.

Read it? Comment on it? No? Go back. Comment on it. Anything. Praise. Hated it. Whatever.

We good? All set?

Good. Now. I am working like a dog. Freshman and Sophomore year. I’m basically working to pay my tuition, and expenses to a Catholic High School, Cardinal Mooney--but you already know this. You read Part I, right? Of course, right. Still clocking in up to forty hours a week. While going to school full time. Of course full time. Not many high schools offer a part-time status. They might. I just never heard of it before.

Naturally, working all these hours, and going to school, my grades tend to suffer. I wind up on academic probation for most of the two years I attend. C’s and D’s and the occasional F plot the pages of my report cards each quarter. I don’t go to parties. I don’t go to football games. I mainly socialize at work with the people I am spending 40 hours a week with. I hardly know any of the students at Mooney. Don’t get me wrong, I had friends at school, just never got to bond with them outside of the institution.

I realize as I am completing my sophomore year that, I am indeed retarded. I can go to Gates-Chili for free, and be banking, or at least enjoying the thousands of dollars a year I am making as a kid fifteen years old. (Not to mention I am saving for a car. But that car, that first car—that’s an entirely different blog yet to be written).

So I decide to make the change. I head on over to Gates-Chili. I register. I tour the campus. I ask the advisor all kinds of important questions. “And jeans? I can wear … jeans? And T-shirts? How about sneakers? Can I wear sneakers?” Having to wear a tie since I was five years old, the idea of going to school without one, baffles me. Doesn't seem possible, really.

As that summer ends, and my junior year looms on the next calendar page, I go back-to-school shopping. No more cowboy boots for me! Nope. This year I buy Guido boots. These are like cowboy boots, but they are only ankle-high, and zip up along the inseam. I also purchase a pair of two-tone jeans. White on the front of one, leg, grey on the other. Then opposite that on the back. Grey and white. I grab a turquoise mesh tank top, and a gray cotton sport coat—one where I can roll the sleeves up to mid forearm. I’ve grown a bit of a mullet, with naturally curly hair, and don’t look too different from John Oats from Hall and Oats, while mentally thinking I look more like Don Johnson from Miami Vice. And if you are too fucking young to get these references, google them.

Always plagued with a touch of O.C.D., I drive myself and my brother to school in what is my new car. A 1976 Plymouth Valarie. It’s 1986. And this car never should have made it off the assembly line. But it’s mine. It runs. What more does a 16 year old want, besides a black Trans-Am with T-Tops and buck-seats?

Early, my brother goes off with friends and I slink around hallways, completely lost and looking for the cafeteria. (I am not worried about my locker. I found where it was the day before. And I had mastered Master combination locks. Could open mine in mere minutes now! Three to the right, two to the left, once to the right! That’s right. I got it). There are a few people inside the cafeteria. I mosey into a short line, pick up a tray. Select a doughnut (this is long before the bagel craze ruptured the doughnut spotlight), and a thingy of chocolate milk.

I pay, exit the line, and choose a table near the cafeteria entrance. And why not. I’m looking good. Decked out in new duds. About 5’8”, 110 pounds. Lean with muscle from busting my ass at the party house. The zippers on my Guido boots are un-zipped, because I saw cool kids in the mall wear them that way, and dammit, I’m cool too. I keep my car keys on my cafeteria tray, because if I put them in my pocket, no one is going to know I have a car – and didn’t have to take the bus to school like some common surf.

Looking around the cafeteria, scoping the babe situation, I shake my chocolate milk carton. I grab onto opposite ends of the waxed tabs and pull …

And by pulling, I really mean, jerk.

And when I mean jerk, I actually mean, flounder with little show of muscle control.

The carton parts, splitting open – to me it is in slow motion, so everything should be fine. However, this is not what happened.

Instead, I pulled open the corners so hard that chocolate milk exploded from the mouth of the container. Stains covered the white of my jeans, the stomach of my mesh tank-top and the rolled forearms of my sport coat. Spots of chocolate spray the lenses of my glasses, hiding from immediate view the new horrors bestowed upon me and my fashion statement!

I pick up my keys, the tray of untouched purchases forgotten, and lumber Frankenstein-ish out of the cafeteria in search of a bathroom – of which I have no clue where a one might be!

Eventually, I do find one. And, despite five minutes until homeroom, douse paper towel with water and attempt to rub out stains, ignoring the fact that I am soaking my pant legs, so that it looks like I just finished thoroughly pissing in my pants …

And like my first day at Cardinal Mooney – unfortunately for my readers – the remainder of that day of school is blacked out, blocked from my memory. Beatings? Might have happened. Stuffed into a locker? Surely, it’s possible. Swirley’s, I don’t recall …

Till next time …


Chase N. Nichols
--Follow me on Twitter, or don’t. I don’t really care!

First Daze of School: Cardinal Mooney

I thought it only fitting that since school is starting I would tell all of you about my first two days of high school. Not consecutive days, mind you. See, growing up I went to a Catholic elementary school. St. Theodore’s. From kindergarten through eighth grade. Now, where I live there were three Catholic High Schools to consider, and only one public school. My choices, in order of price-tag were, Bishop Kearney – which was an all boy’s school – was immediately scratched off my list; Aquinas – also at the time an all boy’s school, cheaper admission than Kearney, but still all boys – was scratched off the list as well; and Cardinal Mooney. Then there was Gates-Chili. Free.

Gates-Chili seems like the obvious choice, right? Wrong. The idea of going to a public school after spending nine years in a Catholic environment scared the hell out of me. I’d heard horror stories. Looking at a kid passing in the hall the wrong way surely led to beatings, or books pushed out of your hands, or cafeteria food trays slapped from your hands, wedgies, swirlies, being stuffed into your own locker … That’s the kind of thing I heard happened at public high schools. And me, I wanted no part of it.

Money was tight. My family was far from rich. They seemed to go broke trying to put me and my three younger siblings through St. Teddy’s. I wanted to continue that education – private school. If only to save my ass from unnecessary, and what sounded like, humiliating torture, I planned to pick up where my parent’s had left off. The only plausible way to accomplish this was to help pay tuition costs.

At the end of eighth grade, I turned 14. I contacted a family member who owned a party house, and applied for a job as a bus boy. Tuition was $1,200 a year. This was back in 1984. I made, I believe just over $3.00 an hour, or just under. I can’t remember, and am far too lazy to research labor laws to see what minimum wage was back in 1984. Regardless, if any labor laws had been followed at this unnamed party house, I’d never have made enough money to buy cigarettes without a loan. Thankfully, I worked fifty and sixty hour weeks all summer long. Fifteen hours per week on the books. The remainder paid in cash. No time-and-a-half available, apparently. Maybe the thought of paying a teenager $5.00 was too much for a Mob-facility, pulling in hundreds of thousands a year. Whatever.

I took and pass the entrance exam to Cardinal Mooney. I worked my butt off all summer to save for tuition costs, clothing, and books. And as September rolled around, figured I was golden.

I had/have this tiny bald spot on my head. It began to itch. Went to the doctors and learned a layer of “skin” had grown over the spot, and needed to come off. My grandfather took me. The procedure was performed in the office. Two days before school.

I focused on the fact that I no longer had to wear strict elementary Catholic school uniforms—the yellow shirt, navy blue tie and pants. That I could now wear any color shirt, tie and pants—as long as they weren’t jeans. Wow the freedom of individualism!

And while the doctor jabbed ten times into my skull needles filled with Novocain, I cringed, and maybe cried, and possibly cursed. When the doctor said, “Oops,” and “Hmmm,” I closed my eyes. Pretended not to hear him. Figured it was my overactive imagination. I mean, everyone dreads hearing a doctor say “oops,” and sound perplexed. It can’t just be me.

“Son,” he said. I was not his son. In fact, we were not related. “The needle is broken. None of the Novocain is coming out. I’m going to have to do this over.”
Uh-huh. After a total of like twenty stabs to the head, my skull numbed. I was informed I’d feel scraping, tugging and some pulling, but little pain. I didn’t believe him. He was right though. The procedure was painless. Then. When I have nightmares about it now, it hurts like hell. So the doctor was only half right. But that also makes him half wrong.

Afterward, he wiped the blood that dripped all down my face and the back of my neck, and with gauze, wrapped my head. And cringed—more than when the needles were used—as he told me I’d have to change the bandages, and keep it wrapped like this for the next three to four days. No showers.

School. The first day of high school. As a Freshman. At some new school. Two days away.

Oh, the horror! Sanctuary! Sanctuary!

Of course, this guy was a pro. He’d wrapped my head tight. Looked like a Mummy head, on the scrawny, awkward body of a teenager. The morning of the first day of school, my mother and I wrapped my head. Hair jetted out between strips of gauze. Tufts billowed here and there. I also wore glasses—making this tremendously shameful headgear that much more nerdy.

So with slick cowboy boots (yes, cowboy boots. Up to just below the knee. And no, we did not live in Texas, Arizona, or any southern state where cowboy boots were acceptable. And for the record, I am Italian, with more Mafia in my blood than cattle rustler…), corduroy pants, a white dress shirt, and a tie that looked corduroy and was the same color as my pants (no clue what color. Possibly some shade of maroon), and gauze that resembled what might happen if I let a blind person bandage me, snaking my skull, I went to school.

I will tell you, unfortunately, I do not remember much at all about that first day. I do not recall one second of the bus ride. Or any of the classes. The only thing that stands out is the lockers in the hallway. Mine was right near my homeroom. At St. Teddy’s we didn’t have lockers. We had desks. They opened. We stuffed are junk in there, and in the cloakroom—a dark alley in the back of each classroom, with rows of hooks for jackets and book-bags and lunch boxes.

Next to me was, I would later learn—after the bandages came off and the memory of having seen me wear them voided from people’s memory with the help of the mind eraser Will Smith used in M.I.B.—was Debbie. So as I struggled to figure out how the hell to work a combination lock, figuring out left from right without actually pretending to pledge allegiance, and refrain from kicking the damned door—she seamlessly scrolled through numbers, and unlocked her Master. And then helped me with mine. I’ll give her credit. And for a moment it worked. She smiled at me as she helped.

I thought I was almost clever by not knowing how the hell to align three numbers under an indicator arrow. As if I’d planned it. A slick way to meet women.

Until I realized two things. I pathetically attempted the lock unsuccessfully and frantically for too long to be cool. And I looked retarded.

In watching Debbie Release Her Lock (that is not a movie title, the caps just make it seem so), and then stepping aside to watch Debbie Do My Lock (again, not a movie title—just saying), I completely forgot that on top of my head was a Greek Medusa of gauze and flailing fingers of hair …

Need I say more about that particular first day of school? Ah, no. I think not!

Till next time …


Chase N. Nichols
--Follow me on Twitter , or don’t. I don’t really care!