My Adventure at Sears

November 22, 2010

Well, this week I found out that my “top-of-the-line” vacuum cleaner for the apartment isn’t so top-of-the-line after all. As I attempt to vacuum up all the dust from the base of our apartment heater, which obviously is long overdue, I realize that the dust is not going anywhere. Well, I cup my hand over the vacuum hose as if I were a five-year old kid learning this for the first time, and to my sadness, it has the sucking power of an Elephant with congested nostrils!! In fact, rather than sucking things up, it’s spitting them back down!! Go figure.

So today I decide to go thru my filing cabinet and look for the warranty. To my surprise, the warranty is still good. So I look up online where I can go drop off my vacuum at the nearest repair center. Well, from my title above, the place we’re talking about is Sears – the land of Kenmore products. Why don’t I ever learn? Anyways – being the guy that I am, I wait until I have less than an hour to rush across town to drop off my vacuum at the repair place, but when I get there IT DOESN’T EXIST! Yeah, it’s gone. So being the super-duper thinker that I ams, I rush back across town to where I live and go to the Sears store just down the street with only 15 minutes to spare. On with my mission!

I walk in, ask where drop off repairs are handled and the guy at the counter gives me the look – yeah, the look like “uh, we do repairs?” look. So he says to go down to Appliances because it’s clear that he has no clue. Well, downstairs I go and wham, I walk right into 3 sales people kicking back doing nothing and looking as bored as a guy taking his woman to a DSW shoe store, since I’m finding out that Sears is really a last ditch effort for shoppers or the place to go if your family has been going there since 1975. (I just happen to fit into both categories – lame.)

So I speak to the person who sadly makes first eye-contact with me. Yeah, she’s thrilled … NOT. So I ask her my question; she looks around (always reassuring) and then tells me that they don’t handle repairs here and that the closest center would be 45 minutes away. Nice. To top it off, in the middle of her talking to me, her cell phone goes off with some junk ring tone and she then tells me as she’s walking away that she’s sorry she can’t help me. Really?!? Dog out the customer and talk to your friend about what suckie reality show you’re going to watch tonight? AWESOME! Way to go Sears!!

Yeah, I’d probably do the same thing if I had to wear khaki pants and a polyester suit jacket all day long, too. Sploot!



The Parachute

January 1, 2010

After my stunt with the tricycle when I was two, you’d think I’d learn my lesson and retire as a test pilot. In the years that would ensue, that simply would not happen. Case in point – when I was in the 4th grade, which would make me around 10 yrs old, I had a friend in school whose name was Jordan.

Now Jordan was an interesting kid – to me he was like the professor. He was always drawing up plans to build spaceships in his backyard, which I thought was pretty cool. Star Wars – the original 1977 version, people – was out now for almost two years and he seemed to be able to draw the Falcon and Battle cruisers with such detail that it left you thinking that if you had the right materials it could be done. He also invented all kinds of other things, well, mostly talked about them, anyway. Perhaps he was more like Inspector Gadget! So, with all this babble being said, on a typical sunny day at the playground during recess, Jordan comes up to me and says “Dude, I invented a parachute! You wanna come over after school and test it out?” Parachute?! Test it out?!? Really? Do we really have to ask? So my simple reply was “Uh-huh.”

“So tell me about this parachute,” I asked him as we walked with purpose to his house after the final bell rang for the day. His vague reply should’ve been my first “red flag” to abort! “Dude, it’s a parachute.” Yeah, but my question was more angled on what was this parachute made of – are we talking durable materials here or what? Still, I didn’t question his reply. After all, this is the kid who draws spaceships during class!!  So we get to his house and head straight for the backyard. Once there I ask “Okay, so where is it? What’s your plan for testing it out?” He then tells me to go ahead and climb up onto his roof and wait there; he’ll go get the ‘chute and meet me up top and explain all the details then. Uh, yeah, second “red flag” to no avail!! So there I go, climbing onto the roof of his one-story house without a second thought. Now when you’re 10 yrs old, 14 ft on top of a roof might as well be 40 ft – uh, this is kinda high, I thought. And to top it off, there was no grass, just cold, hard concrete!!

So up comes Jordan with his invention. It was at this point that I looked at him with my combination face of “Are you kidding me?” and “Hmm, could this really work?” and said “Dude, that’s a PLASTIC TRASH BAG!!”  —RED FLAG NO. 3—

Jordan looks at me and calmly says “I know, but I have a feeling that it’s going to work.” Oh yeah, I think to myself, I’ve gotta hear this one. So he goes off into his professor talk and explains to me that he’s split the bag down the middle so as to make it one large square and that if we each grab two corners and then jump off the roof at the same time, “in theory” – because the parachute/trash bag is now larger – it will be able to slow us down and give us a soft landing! “Oh. Okay, that sounds good. Let’s do this!”

Red Flag No. 4

See, it’s at this point that I should’ve thought about my little army man collection back at home. Remember those? Little green figurines that came with string and plastic squares so that you could make little parachutes and then either throw them in the air or drop them off high places and watch them sail safely to the ground …. Yeah, right! Those things never worked!! I’d throw them up as high as possible and they’d come back down just as quick!! Regardless, Jordan and I were to quickly become life-size Little Green Army Men!

So there we were, two kids atop a roof holding two corners each of a large brown plastic trash bag split down the middle and Jordan then says – “On the count of three. One, (pause) Two, (pause) Thrrr…”

A blink of the eye – literally, that’s all it was. The concrete never came so fast!! Gravity had made its point and won. There I was, flat on my back, the wind knocked out of me so quickly it must’ve been to the moon by now. All I could do was roll to my side and groan as I looked at Jordan, he doing the same. My body hurt from head to toe, yet miraculously no bones were broken in either of us! I then glanced over a few more feet at the parachute – yes, the large brown plastic bag – and then back at Jordan and yelled out to him, well, more like at him and said “Dude, it didn’t work!!!”

That afternoon was a long, painful walk home. Still, I couldn’t help but think to myself – “Yep, chalk one more up for the Test Pilot.”

The Tricycle

December 30, 2009

When I was around 2 yrs old – yes, you read that right – I decided that I’ve waited long enough and that it was now time for me to enter the world as a bonafide “test pilot.” How I remember that, you might ask? Keep reading and you’ll understand. Back then it was something more like “Hmmf, what trouble can I get into today?” So without any further delay, I grabbed my sky-blue tricycle and headed up top the driveway to “push the envelope”.

Now to paint the picture here, where we lived at the time was comprised of 12 apartment units, 2 units attached by a common wall, six units on one side, six on the other and a driveway that ran between them. To make it even better, this was all located on a hillside that had, oh, I’d say about a 35-degree angle on it and 50 yards of concrete that ran wide open into the street at the base. At the top of the hill was a parking lot and an area where one could dry clothes on a line. So put simply, as a kid, that’s where I was “allowed” to ride my tricycle – away from the crowds and more importantly, the street.

So on this particular day while my mother was up top hanging clothes, I decided now was the time to find out how fast this little bike of mine could go. So up the hill I went, my little Kid Power tennies diggin’ in hard, my lungs huffin’ and puffin’ in anticipation of how this was all going to unfold. Now at this point I must recount my mothers’ version of the story …

Moms: “There I was, hanging clothes like any other day, and here comes my little son with his tricycle. He brings it to the top of the hill, so I figured he was going to ride around until I was done. I turn my head for a few seconds, literally, then turned back around and HE’S GONE!!!”

Man, that tricycle was cool! Remember back in the day, in my day it was the early ‘70’s, when little bikes and big wheels had peddles that were on the wheels themselves, and when you got to peddling too fast you’d lift your feet off and just watch the peddles go Loco, and at that point all you could do was hang on for dear life and hope you don’t eat it … see where this is going?

So what Moms didn’t see was that once I got to the top, I turned my tricycle around and faced it downward toward the street – have I mentioned that I’m a brain scientist, too? – I then proceeded to sit my little body down, plant my Kid Powers on the peddles and gave it a go …

So down the hill I go flying and within a matter of seconds the peddles are spinning so fast I have to lift my legs off so that they don’t detach!! The street at the bottom of the hill, which seemed so far away when I was at the top, was now fast approaching!!! Hair’s blowing in the wind and my eyes are wide-open because at this point I realize that I didn’t plan this far ahead – how was I going to stop once I got to the bottom? Oops.

So down the hill I go – I make it to the bottom only to exit the driveway and run straight into the street. I go zipping across to the other side – thank God there were no cars at the time – and I run smack-dab into the curb that’s waiting for me, flip over my handle bars and swan-dive/face-plant into the grass lawn near the sidewalk!!

Was I fazed? Absolutely not! We “test pilots” laugh in the face of danger – ha, ha, uh, ha. However, as I’m picking myself up off the grass in total disbelief that I actually survived “the hill”, it so happens that a parking meter attendant had seen the whole thing and had now jumped out of their little cart and was running over to me to make sure I was okay. At the same time, all I could hear was my mother screaming my name as she frantically ran down the hill thinking “what the heck is wrong with you, child!!” It’s at this point that I reverted to what any kid would do if they knew that in seconds they were either going to get the beating of their life or, if they played it right, pull the sympathy card and be pampered for the rest of the day – I CRIED!!

Didn’t work, though – I got smacked for doing something “so foolish” and now that I come to think of it, I don’t remember seeing that tricycle ever again ……

The Hot Dog and The Hamburger

November 16, 2009

I had to be about 8 years old, which would make my best friend growing up, Chili Bean, around 7 yrs old. What would take place on a sunny day at Venice Beach would explain a psychological pattern that would show itself in various ways over the next 30 years!!

My friend’s mom decided that it would be good for us kids to take a long walk down the beach; you know, mellow us out a bit. Now, mind you, being that we’re just kids, starting the walk from Bay Street in Santa Monica and making our way down to the Venice Circle might as well have been a hundred miles, but the payoff would be huge – if we didn’t kill each other with our antics and maintained a small measure of civility along the way, we would be rewarded with a hot dog from the local food stand. Well, what seemed to be hours later, we finally arrived, surprisingly with no cuts and bruises. I can still remember my hands churning within each other like a mad professor as my anticipation grew for the “hot dog of the century”. My best friend felt the same – “Bro, we’re so getting the killer hot dogs!!” Well, Moms made good on her promise and there we were, two surf rats, salty and sandy, brimming with stoke as we’re about to eat our own hot dogs loaded up with the works.

Now stop for a moment and allow your minds to go to “Slo-Mo” vision – you know, like in the movies. So I’m watching my friend as I’m eating my hot dog and as he takes a bite of his own, the hot dog itself teeter’s up and out of the bun, does a double-tossed backflip and blam, hits the sandy concrete below our feet!!! Now being the best friend that I am, I immediately double over and bust out in laughter. As for Chili Bean, he does the complete opposite – as if wearing a pink tutu and stubbing his toe while attempting to twirl, he breaks out in this wussy cry and makes a total scene!! Yeah, it only makes me laugh harder! Well, as you can imagine, Moms comes running over and cradles her little baby girl, asking him what’s wrong and what happened. And so pointing to the ground and spilling out words through his “sincere whimpering”, he tells her how his hot dog dropped and that his entire world is shattered! No worries, Moms to the rescue – “Babe, would you like me to get you another hot dog?” Now at this point his wussy whimpering gets even louder – uh, are boys supposed to hit such high notes? – and while shaking his head from side to side to convey “no”, Moms suggests to him that perhaps “he would like a hamburger instead!?” Oh yeah, now his head is going up and down! Hold up, how is this fair! Why does he get to upgrade? This wasn’t part of the deal. Whatevers. So there we were minutes later, sitting down, me eating my Hot Dog and Chili Queen eating his Hamburger – all the while he’s looking at me with this snide grin and saying – “Ah ha, you got that lame hotdog and I gotta hamburger!!” I could do nothing but shake my head in disgust and think “Sissy!!”

In the years that would follow, that one day would set the tone for Chili-Ana always trying to “one up” me, no matter what we would be doing. If I came over to show him my new precious Star Wars Yoda figurine, he’d bust out the entire set – figurines and spaceships and smack they didn’t even have in the movie- most likely because he broke out the pink tutu and cried to Moms that he had to have this!! At the time I’d be like “Dang, homie, you’re a spoiled punk! Oooh, lemme play with Chewy!!” When I showed him a hand-me-down surfboard that my uncle gave me, he pulled out a board that his brother bought him while they were in Hawaii from a famous “brand name” company! And the list goes on and on.

A few years ago we were at the gym working out and I just cranked out some bench presses.  So Chili asks me – “How many did you do?” With my body shaking from exhaustion I claim “10” and so what does he do? Yes, you guessed it – he struggles past 10, barely making it to 11!! With that same stupid grin, which showed itself so many years ago down at Venice Beach, he looks at me and gives the nod. Yes, things have come full circle, my friend – it’s all about the Hot Dog and the Hamburger!

The Sky Rocket

November 11, 2009

What is it with men and fireworks? Perhaps it’s the same as women with flowers – it simply warms the heart; the only difference with fireworks is that on occasion it burns, too!!

Years ago, the Peoples Republic of Santa Monica allowed fireworks on the beach for the fourth of July. Man, that was genius! The beach would literally be transformed into a scene out of Apocalypse Now, less the helicopters. The air was full of energy and well, fire, along with the occasional boom – Fire Rockets shooting into the air, bursting into all kinds of colors and followed by outbursts of “Oooohs” and “Aaaahs” by onlookers. Then there were the things that spin – sorta like flaming Chinese Stars of Death. And for the kids, oh yes, the kids – we had Snakes, Flowers and Sparklers – how’s that for child safety!

For those who don’t remember or who have been shielded their whole lives, Snakes were these little black nubs that looked a lot like pieces of licorice – you simply put them on the ground, take a box of matches or steal your dad’s cigarette lighter, spark ‘em up and watch them smoke and burn as they “appeared” to be rising out of the ground. Of course, we as kids were always being screamed at by our parents to step back away from the smoke and watch at a safe distance – “Uh, Mom, does 8 inches count?”

Flowers, or Ground Bloom Flowers, were these objects that looked like a giant firecracker, but instead of exploding they would just spin around and around, changing all kinds of colors in the process. As the years would go by, these simple eye-treats would eventually become hockey pucks of pain! But that’s another story.

As for Sparklers, who doesn’t remember Sparklers!?! Wire hangers dipped in what appeared to be like gun powder and that when lit, would produce sparks that would burst all over your hands and clothes for what seemed to be like an hour (although, in real time more like a minute) as you waved them in your hands as if holding cheerleader pom-pom’s and then eventually dying down only to leave you with a orange-glowing piece of metal that now became a branding iron – “Mijo, stop chasing your sister, you’re making her cry!!” Ah, memories. The poor beach would be littered for weeks, but it was like treasure hunting for us kids. We’d be looking for things that didn’t light or fizzle – yep, the fourth of July all over again.

To make a long story longer… I love fireworks. And as I sit here thinking about it, over the years it’s becoming very clear to me that I haven’t learned a thing! Let’s take a stroll down memory lane in reverse to make my point:

Around the time I was 24 yrs old, I was chucking Flowers off a balcony 15 stories high, making bank-shots off a church roof into an empty school yard. It just so happens that one falls into an oversized tire and catches fire in the empty gunny sack that some kids left within the tire itself!! I had to put down my beer, run down 15 floors of steps, hop a fence and dump sand from the children’s sandbox to put the thing out! Nice.

When I was 22 yrs old, I was rooming with 3 other friends of mine in Hawaii when the fourth of July came rolling along and wouldn’t you know it – a Fireworks booth is set up right in front of our house along the street. Need I say more? Later that evening we had the bright idea of getting into a fireworks war. We were lighting packs of firecrackers and throwing them like grenades – FIRE IN THE HOLE!! It got so bad that at one point my buddy and I who teamed up against the others were running for our dear lives while those giving chase were launching missiles at us from a Roman Candle! It’s amazing nobody went to the hospital.

Around the time that I was 18 yrs old, my buddy and I had a bunch of Piccolo Pete’s that we were lighting down at the beach. Upon watching the fuse zip down before a blink of an eye, I had the wonderful joy of having that firework go off in my hand – smoke, screaming noise from the Pete, and melted skin. With lightning quick thinking, my friend hands me an ice-cold beer and makes it all better. No hospitals that night, either.

Ah, and then there was when I was 11 yrs old. I was on a Baja excursion with my dad that seemed like forever. Still, when in Baja, you have to take advantage of the fireworks! They’re everywhere. In fact, go buy a six-pack of beer and they throw in a couple of fireworks for free! How’s that for trouble?!? Anyway, my friend and I now have these massive M500’s, which are just about the power of a half-stick of dynamite. Well, my turn to light it, right, so I put it in some rocks, light it up, turn to run and yep – trip on a stinkin’ boulder and fall to the ground within feet of the …..BOOM!! My ears rang for the rest of the week, but you should’ve seen the rocks we blew up!

This now brings us to The Sky Rocket, perhaps the starting point of all my troubles. I was around 7 yrs old and down at my second home – Baja California. We were visiting relatives during the summertime and it was melting hot. If you ever want to touch the sun, just go down to San Felipe during the summer and your desire will flee! Anywho, the whole family is outside trying to enjoy a peaceful summer night. Well, guess what I have? Yup, when in Baja …you get the point. So my dad lets me hold my bag of Sky Rockets and tells me to “be careful”! Who, me? Of course I will. The next demand was simple – “ …and don’t shoot the Sky Rockets at the car!!!” Easy enough; the car, an old Dark Green Ford Maverick, is like 50 yards away in the dark with all the windows down because it’s hot – how’s a sky rocket going to get into the car? They’re made to go high up into the sky and pop, right?!

So I’ve got this all figured out – I take an empty Coke bottle (back then they were made of glass), placed my Sky Rocket within, which at this point is aiming straight at the moon, call out to my parents and say “Hey, watch this!” and then light the fuse …

With the entire family watching, mind you, the Sky Rocket sparks for takeoff, leaps from the Coke bottle about 3 feet into the air and then decides that the moon isn’t good enough and so whips around parallel to the ground, flies 50 yards into the dark in the WRONG direction, enters the beloved Maverick through the WINDOW that’s rolled down and goes haywire like a raccoon in an animal box, bouncing here and there, high screech belting out smoke and BAM! – explodes INSIDE THE CAR!

With my head down, completely defeated and now praying to God to spare my life, I can still now hear the words that came from my fathers’ mouth – “MIJO!!” Yes, I know. No hospitals that night; and no ice-cold beer to cool my behind from the whippin’ that ensued. Still, for a very brief moment I thought to myself: “Man, that was cool.”