The Wrestler that made Milwaukee Famous

Some of my earliest recollections are of waiting.  I’m sure most kids have to deal with this, but it’s my story so I’ll talk about it as if I’m the only one who ever had to wait.  It could have been worse.  I know my older brothers’ sometimes wished they could be waiting instead of translating for our parents, but my being the youngest had perks.

Usually, whenever we had to wait, we would go outside.  For example, if my mom had a hair appointment, I would go outside and wait.  If my parents were with the tax people, I would go outside and wait.  Apparently, pedophiles weren’t as common back then so it was safe for a little kid to wait outside.  Besides, I usually had an older brother or two to wait outside with me.  Pedophiles prefer single kids.

We generally didn’t travel far for most things.  The grocery store was just a few blocks away, the bank was just next to that, and most other things were just a little further.  It seemed like church was the only long trip we had to take, other than my aunt and uncle’s house in Grafton.  Whenever we went somewhere new, it was an adventure.  At least it was for me.  I loved maps and geography and it was exciting to compare what I knew to places I had never been to.

One day we had to make a trip to South Milwaukee.  We generally didn’t head in that direction, but there was a loan place my parents had to go to and someone had told them about a place that would help them.  I was young enough not to care about the reason, nor understand it, but thought it might be my only chance to see South Milwaukee and I was all for the trip.  When we got there, I was disappointed to find that South Milwaukee looked a lot like the south side of Milwaukee, where we came from.  There were more trees, but the houses looked the same.

As usual, my parents and my oldest brother went in while my other brother and I stayed out.  We amused ourselves by kicking little rocks on the sidewalk.  The discovery of a little anthill in the crack of a sidewalk interrupted the rock kicking, but there are only so many ants you can step on.  We were back to rock kicking before long.

After five days, it might have been only five minutes but felt longer, we were about to advance to the next step.  Throwing rocks.  You know how it goes.  You start with a light pole, argue about who hit it first, then move on to rock warfare.  We never made it that far.

On the corner, there was a bar.  This is not too uncommon in Milwaukee and the same holds true for most towns in Wisconsin.  You can find a bar on at least half the corners of Milwaukee, or at least it seemed that way growing up.  In fact, on Halloween, bars were some of the best places to get candy.  Anyway, on the corner there was a bar.

One never knew, especially as a kid, what kind of person will walk out of the bar.  It could be a drunk.  They were fun to watch.  It could be an angry wife after failing to talk her husband into coming home.  It could be a nice old couple that only went to the bar to socialize.  Or it could be a famous wrestler.

I had mentioned earlier that we were a family of wrestling fanatics.  If there were somebody that could stop us in our tracks or rock-throwing in this case, it would be a famous wrestler.  Not just any famous wrestler, but THE famous wrestler from Milwaukee, the Crusher.  Later I learned he was really from South Milwaukee and that explained why we met him that day.

He walked out of the bar and headed right toward us.  We froze.  Words escaped us.  This was undoubtedly the greatest day of our lives.  Then he spoke to us.

“Throwing rocks?” he asked.  We were speechless.  Even sign language would’ve failed us.  We just stood there.  He nodded and smiled slightly.  Then he looked at a car that was parked near the pole we were throwing at.  “Did you hit dat car?” he asked in a strong South Side of Milwaukee accent.  His gaze returned to us.  I nearly crapped my pants and both of us let the rocks fall from our hands.

“N…n…no, S…sir,” my brother answered.  I was so relieved that he found his voice.  Now I could enjoy another of those “being the youngest” perks.  I stood there cowering.  The man seemed larger than life.  He squinted an eye.

“Are you sure you didn’t hit dat car?” he asked again.  We both stood there shaking our heads.  I was sure he was going to body slam us.  I slid behind my brother.  Better him than me.

The wrestler’s big hands suddenly darted out towards our heads.  Here it comes, I thought.  He was going to crush our little, or in my case fat, skulls like they were paper cups.  Instead, he roughly tousled our hair.

“Dat’s okay,” he said with a smile.  “Dat’s not my car.”  We relaxed a little.  “If it was, I’d a crushed your skulls.”  We tensed back up.  He quit rubbing our heads and walked down the sidewalk laughing quietly.  We watched him go.  He turned the corner and we just stood there for a second before looking at each other.

“You were scared,” my brother said to me.  “You probably crapped your pants.”

“No, I didn’t!” I yelled.  I knew where this was headed.  I reached down for the rocks I dropped.  I was never able to use them because my parents and oldest brother came out of the building.  We both started blabbering and signing at once, but I’m not sure if anyone believed us.

Once we started driving, my brother sniffed a couple times and said, “I smell crap.”  This was not one of the perks of being the youngest.

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Moving sucks

I’ve had to move a lot in my life. Some were moves for the better, some were moves out of necessity, and a couple were “Quick! We have to get out of here!” moves. The one common factor in each of these moves is…moving sucks.

With the exception of the military, we’ve had to do all the moves ourselves. It’s tedious, back-breaking, and no matter how much you plan ahead, something inevitably goes wrong or breaks. There’s only so much bubble wrap and packing materials you can use before turning the item into something unidentifiable. You’ll be loading the truck and then come into the house and see a blob of bubble wrap.

ME: What’s this?

WIFE: What’s what?

ME: This thing, um, this giant ball of bubble wrap?

WIFE: I think it’s just extra bubble wrap.

ME: Oh, okay. I’ll just move it out of the way. (This is followed by the sounds of breaking glass).

WIFE: What was that?

ME: Um, does bubble wrap break like glass?

Some of the other hazards of moving are accidentally packing something you need at the moment.

ME: Have you seen my toothbrush?

Appliances are some of my favorite things to move. Besides the bulkiness and stairs, they sneakily cause other problems.

WIFE: Why are these boxes of clothes wet?

ME: What boxes?

WIFE: The ones that were next to the refrigerator in the truck?

That’s when I’ll find out that all the defrosting and shaking of ice-maker lines failed to dislodge a giant bubble of water somewhere up the line. That bubble waits until everything is packed and cuts loose. It’s kind of like taking a long trip with kids.

ME: Everyone ready to go?

KIDS: Yeah!

A few minutes later, usually just after you entered the freeway.

KIDS: We have to go pee!

ME: Can’t you hold it?

KIDS: Oops…

ME: Really? All of you just peed your pants?

DAUGHTER: Not me.

ME: Good girl.

DAUGHTER: I’m wearing a dress.

ME: Um…

Another fun thing to do is change your address, transfer utilities, cable, and internet.

ME: Hi, I’d like to move my cable and internet to my new house.

CABLE: Are you aware your bill is due?

ME: Oh, yeah, I’ll get it paid by the end of the week.

CABLE: You have 24 hours.

ME: Well, I’m in the middle of moving and…

CABLE: Would you like it if your job decided to pay you whenever they wanted?

ME: Um, no, but…

CABLE: It’s important for everybody to do things promptly and on time.

ME: Um, ok. I’ll pay it today. Now when can I get my new service at my new house?

CABLE: Our first opening to send a technician out is 3 weeks from now.

ME: 3 WEEKS?

CABLE: Yes. We’ll need you to be available from 8 am to 6 pm.

ME: ALL DAY?

CABLE: Oh, I’m sorry.

ME: I would imagine…

CABLE: It’s 8 am Monday until 6 pm Thursday that you’ll need to be home.

ME: Wait, WHAT?

CABLE: Also, keep your phone near you in case we’re running late.

ME: LATE? You mean like, Friday?

CABLE: Oh, no, you couldn’t possibly have somebody on Friday. It’s deer hunting season, you know. It would be the next week from Monday through Thursday. We’ll call if that happens.

ME: WHAT?

So there it is. Moving sucks.

Not on My Watch

Sometimes I get a kick out of civilian use of military terms. Phrases like “Not on my watch” or “In the trenches,” get used a lot. I know there are plenty more like “I got your six” or “On the frontlines,” but we’ll just make fun of the first two…unless I get on a roll, then we’ll add some more.

Now please don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying these terms can’t be used by civilians, freedom of speech means just that, freedom to say what you want. I’m just saying that sometimes it’s just plain silly how these terms are used. As usual, I’ll give some examples.

UTILITY MAN: I’m here to shut off your power.

HOMEOWNER: Not on my watch!

UTILITY MAN: You didn’t pay your bill.

HOMEOWNER: Yes I did.

UTILITY MAN: Not my call. You’ll have to talk to someone up my chain of command. I’m just the guy in the trenches.

HOMEOWNER: You can’t do anything? That’s FUBAR!

UTILITY MAN: Hey, I’m just the guy on the frontlines. Um, is that an old lady with a shotgun behind you?

HOMEOWNER: Grandma?

GRANDMA: I got your six!

UTILITY MAN (on his radio): Charlie Mike, I have a situation…I might need some air support on the double! (pause) Roger that!

HOMEOWNER: Grandma! Stand down!

GRANDMA: Like hell! (cocks the shotgun).

UTILITY MAN (on his radio again): Mayday! Mayday! Use the nuclear option! On my coordinates…

Sounds silly, right? I might’ve exaggerated the situation a little, just a little, but I’m sure you get my point. Like I said, I get a kick out of it.

What I don’t get a kick out of is when politicians use the terms to describe what they do. I have to admit, it irritates me a little.

POLITICIAN: I’m in Washington for you every day, fighting for you! I’m kicking and clawing my way through the trenches, boots on the ground, on the frontlines, fighting for you! When I get back there, I’m going to roll my sleeves up and work tirelessly, fighting for you!

CROWD: Yay!

Then when I look up their history, or bio, I find this: Graduated from Ivy League College, Captain of the Rowing Team, Interned for Congressman so-and-so, Served on State Assembly, Elected to U.S. Congress, Inherited stock from family fortune, Really doesn’t have to work a day in their life, but works tirelessly for you, Sacrifices daily to make sure your voice is heard in Congress, then votes to erode your benefits and raise your taxes at the same time for our greater good.

Sorry, I didn’t mean to rant and I certainly don’t mean to put down all politicians. There are some good ones out there that actually have been one of us in their previous lives. Some are veterans, some come from blue-collar backgrounds, some had to earn their way through college, and some really do work tirelessly…although I’ll bet they take a nap on occasion, like on the flight to Washington every week, but I won’t begrudge them that. I also sleep on flights, but I don’t claim to be tireless. I feel tired all the time.

It’s the politicians that have never had dirt under their nails or had a sore back from actual labor that bug me when they use those terms. If they want to relate with us, they need to come and spend an actual day with us. All of us. Workers, laborers, office people, manufacturers, assembly line workers, law enforcement, firefighters, military, farmers, fishermen, nurses, clerks, stay-at-home moms and dads, and so on and so on. You know, people who actually work hard just to make ends meet.

Narnia

One of the earliest series I read as a kid was “The Chronicles of Narnia,” by C.S. Lewis. Even though I didn’t realize at the time that these were Christian based books, the lessons in the stories truly rang home with me. I enjoyed these books so much that I re-read them every five years or so…they just never get old. Also, as an older person and a Christian, I can now clearly see the connections to my faith that was implied in the writing. Even if you aren’t a Christian, these are just excellent books.

In these stories, C.S. Lewis is able to entertain us with simple basic lessons without getting preachy or theological. The biblical messages are there if you really look, but the stories are entertaining without knowing anything in the bible.

When I first read the books it was Summer and my favorite reading spot was in the backyard on a lawn chaise. Next to me was an old tv tray where I kept my soda and box of Mr. Salty pretzels. Also, strangely enough, I liked to read while listening to music back then. Because of that, certain songs will remind me of those books and I get the urge to read them all over again.

I eventually got my best friend to read the books as well and he became as smitten as I was. We were still pretty young, so our imaginations were on full speed. Near our house was a patch of woods by the train tracks that lied between the tracks and the AMC plant. To play there, we just had to sneak past the watchful eye of the train watchman at the switching station where the tracks split. We called this patch of woods “Narnia.”

A group of us would often play in these woods and we even built a treehouse. Whenever we played Narnia, the treehouse would be Cair Paravel, the famous castle of the kings and queens of Narnia. We would all play different roles with my best friend always picking Reepicheep, the valiant fighting talking mouse from the books. The smaller kids were usually dwarves with an occasional talking animal thrown in. We had a blast.

Sometimes we would get invaded by some rotten kids from the other side of the woods and it would turn into a fight of sorts. Lots of rocks were thrown but things really got serious when I brought my slingshot one day.

What made the train tracks so cool was that they were used by the iron ore companies up in Northern Wisconsin and the Upper Penninsula of Michigan to transport little iron ore pellets to places like Chicago and so on. The pellets were the size of marbles and heavy, the perfect slingshot ammo. They also hurt like heck when you were hit by one, even without the slingshot.

Anyway, the day I brought my slingshot was the day the fight turned ugly. I had hit a couple of the rotten kids in the legs and they ran off crying. We thought we had finally won and freed ourselves of those kids, but they came back. They came back with some big kids. Two of the big kids had BB guns. The previous skirmish had turned into a full-fledged war.

We all ran from the BB gun onslaught, but me and my best friend stopped and climbed into the treehouse. We decided to fight. The rest of the kids kept going. So now it was the two of us against about seven rotten kids. I had a full bag of the iron ore pellets so I knew we could last a little while.

We would duck behind the larger tree branches after every shot, me firing my slingshot and my friend throwing rocks and whatever he could find up on the platform…mostly though, he ducked. I was hit twice in the arms by BB’s but since we were a distance away, it didn’t hurt as bad as it could’ve. I managed to hit each of them at least once and you could tell it hurt by their screams. Then we were assaulted on a different front and the rotten kids ran away. We had forgotten about the train watchman and his salt rifle. He was yelling and chasing the rotten kids and never noticed us up in the treehouse. When he was far enough away, we slipped down the tree and ran home. I wasn’t about to use my slingshot on the watchman.

Just like the children in the books, we got older and we grew out of hanging out at “Narnia.” The world took over and our innocence deserted us like it does for most of us. To this day, however, the lessons I learned from reading those books remains.

Johnny Cash

My wife absolutely adored Johnny Cash. She saw him as a good Godly man who had done a lot of bad things when he was younger but redeemed himself later in his life. His songs almost always had a meaning behind them. In other words, the lyrics always had substance. Whether he was telling a story or singing a cover, it always felt like he meant what he sang about. He also never shied away from controversial issues in his songs.

When she was very young, she began a scrapbook with everything she could find about Johnny Cash. It was something near and dear to her and something she could claim as her own. Everything else she had, dolls, toys, money, and even clothes were subject to being taken by everybody else in her family. They didn’t seem to have an interest in her scrapbook.

One day her mom picked her up from school along with her siblings and she had a new car with a trailer behind it. They couldn’t afford to pay rent that month so her mom wrote a couple of bad checks and decided it was time to move. My wife asked about her scrapbook and her mom told her it wasn’t important enough to go back for. My wife was in disbelief. It was, up to this point in her life, the only thing she had that was valuable to her. She still talks about missing it to this day.

For me, Johnny Cash made me a fan with just one song…”A Boy Named Sue.” I loved that song and it caused me to look for other songs he had written or sung. I loved the stories. Don’t get me wrong, I like a good riff as much as any other metalhead, but I also love lyrics. Johnny Cash was the king of lyrics as far as I was concerned. I could listen to his stories all day long.

What made me write this post at this time was my wife. She was in the kitchen making Strawberry Banana Bread…mmmmmmm, yum…when she played some music by Johnny Cash. She began with the cover of “Hurt” that Johnny Cash basically made his own when he recorded it. Then this was followed by “The Ballad of John Henry.” We love that song and we love that story. When it comes on, I find myself stopping what I’m doing just to listen to the story…again.

One of our favorite movies is “Walk the Line,” starring Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon. Even though Joaquin couldn’t copy Johnny Cash’s voice perfectly (who could?), he pulled it off as good as anybody could. We also both agree that Reese Witherspoon sings better than June Carter Cash ever did. Of course, June Carter Cash always said she didn’t sing as well as the rest of her family so she decided to be funny. I personally think she was good at both.

So there. Now you have my review of Johnny Cash. Now I must leave this post because I believe the Strawberry Banana Bread is finished. I know you’re supposed to let it cool, but who can honestly do that? I just need to wait until my wife isn’t looking…

Can’t touch this

My dad and some of my friends thought I was destined to be a nature boy. For some odd reason, mosquitoes leave me alone, bee stings don’t swell (they still hurt though), poison ivy doesn’t affect me, and you can put me in the woods and I’ll find food, whether growing or running or crawling. I’m not afraid of spiders, snakes are cool, and rodents I like on a case by case basis.

Now please don’t misunderstand all of this, I’m not boasting that I’m not afraid of anything out in the woods because I can be if the situation presents itself as dangerous. I certainly respect all the things that can kill me. Mama bears, poisonous snakes, rabid animals, and Sasquatch are some of things I’d like to avoid. Well, maybe not Sasquatch…

Another thing that would give me pause in the woods is a big city person with a gun going hunting for the first time. They can be trigger happy, indecisive, and dangerous. They don’t think about whether they have a good shot or not, just that they see something. They also don’t consider where the bullet may land when they miss their target. Bullets can travel a long ways.

I remember when I was trying to go to college for my second time, in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. My dorm window overlooked a local Kmart store where they had a tagging station set up to register your deer. I was with a couple of my friends when we saw a station wagon pulling into the line. I have excellent long-distance vision and I saw something on the roof of their vehicle that definitely looked too small to be a grown deer. We decided to investigate.

We reached the vehicle and sure enough, it wasn’t a deer. It was a tan-colored goat. The vehicle had Illinois license plates and the dealer sticker in back said the vehicle had been purchased in Chicago. I knocked on the driver window and the driver rolled it down.

ME: That’s a goat.

DRIVER: …

He rolled his window back up and we decided to hang around until he reached the tagging station. Five minutes later, we joined the DNR employees in their laughter. They had to get all the information of where the goat was shot so they could try to find the owner of the goat so they could be reimbursed if necessary.

I also remember a story my dad told me about him and my uncle when they went hunting. They were out on my uncle’s land when my uncle, who could hear, tackled my dad because shots were being fired and the bullets were whizzing by their heads. One bullet actually hit my uncle’s rifle stock and splintered it. When the bullets stopped, my dad and uncle left the area and reported it to the police.

Later that night, they were at my uncle’s bar where he was bartending and he overheard a conversation between two hunters at the end of the bar. He noticed that their gear was all new, not weathered like most hunters, and they had a distinct city accent…yes, a Chicago accent. They were boasting loud enough that all could hear that they just missed two large bucks on some land nearby. My uncle joined the conversation.

UNCLE: Whereabouts you say you were?

1ST HUNTER: Just outside of Vesper on the road leading in.

UNCLE: North or south of Vesper?

2ND HUNTER: North or south? Hell, we don’t know.

UNCLE: Was it this side of Vesper? Did you actually drive through town?

1ST HUNTER: It was this side of Vesper. Why? You thinking of going after our bucks?

UNCLE: How many shots did you fire? About ten or so?

2ND HUNTER: Um, that sounds right. Why?

My uncle went to the back of the bar and pulled out his rifle with the shattered stock and brought it back to show them.

UNCLE: I think I found your bucks. They were on private land and didn’t appreciate being shot at. Get out of my bar before I decide you look like bucks.

Now, I didn’t mean to disparage hunters from Chicago. I know there are plenty of responsible hunters that come from there. It’s just a coincidence that both stories involved Chicago people. Like any place else, there are stupid people and there are smart people. I just wish the smart people could take the guns away from the stupid people. Whether you are pro-gun or anti-gun, we all can agree that we need to keep guns away from idiots that don’t know what they’re doing. If it was as easy as just pulling a trigger, the military wouldn’t spend weeks refining the skills of their recruits. They would just give them weapons and send them out to kill each other on accident.

Delinquent Revenge

When I was in high school, I was bored. Some of the classes intrigued me and I went to those, but the ones that bored me, I skipped. For those, I would just show up on test days and take the test. I still scored well on the tests so my immature teenage mind didn’t see a problem with it. Apparently, to the mature minds of the high school staff, I was wrong. I spent a lot of time in detention for skipping classes.

I had one class called Advanced Math that covered Trigonometry and Calculus. The teacher was about as boring as a teacher could get. He had various nicknames like “Cowboy Kiley” or “Deputy Dog.” All I know is that he just went along with the book so I figured I could read the book just fine without him. I just showed up for tests. What made it funny was he never took attendance and never seemed to notice I only showed up for tests. What’s even funnier is that he was the Cross Country and Track Coach and never seemed to put together that I would show up for practice, but not for class. The funniest part is, I got an “A” in his class.

Teachers like that made it easy. Some teachers weren’t so easy. I remember my Physics teacher who always took attendance. His class was right after lunch and there were times when I really just didn’t want to go. He was the cause of many of my detentions. Personally, I thought he took it personally when someone lit a joint and passed it around during a particularly boring movie we had to watch. It was do that or sleep. Of course, he blamed me. That was the only class I ever failed.

That same Summer, his son was one of my merit badge seekers at Boy Scout Camp. He was a good kid and a smart kid and I passed him with no problem. On Parent’s night, you could imagine the horror on his father’s face to see me. I politely told him his son was wonderful and went on my way. It wasn’t the kid’s fault his father followed all the rules…and that I was too immature to follow them.

All of my truancies finally caught up with me when my parents received a letter from the school to meet with the Vice-Principal for what was to become a pre-expulsion meeting. My mom wanted nothing to do with it so it was only my dad and I that went. My dad was very angry with me, but I was still his son and he was prepared to fight for me.

We went into the office at the set time and sat in the chairs in front of the Vice-Principal’s desk. I was a little nervous because the reality of my choices was finally settling into my thick head. I was a smart kid, but even smart kids who don’t have a high school diploma are limited with what they could do with their lives. I screwed up and I knew it. Then the meeting began.

VICE-PRINCIPAL: What We have to talk about is very serious.

ME: My dad said…

VICE-PRINCIPAL: You need to be quiet. I’m talking to your father.

So I shut my mouth and let him talk. He talked about all my truancies, how I was wasting everybody’s time, and my disrespect for the school and the teachers. He went on for about ten minutes non-stop. Then he finished with asking my dad if he understood. My dad responded by pulling out a notepad and writing into it. He ripped out the page and handed it to the puzzled Vice-Principal. The note said, “I am deaf. My son was supposed to interpret for me, but you told him to be quiet. Can you write everything you just said down for me?” Then the Vice-Principal said something very stupid.

VICE-PRINCIPAL (looking skeptical): So you’re having me believe you’re deaf? Then why isn’t your son deaf?

I told you it was stupid. He basically suspected that my dad was lying. I tried to crawl into my chair because I was afraid of what my dad might do. I shouldn’t have doubted my dad’s handle on the situation. My dad turned to me and in his booming voice that was obvious with his speech impediment asked me to confirm what was just said.

DAD: Did he just say what I thought I saw he said?

I nodded my head in answer.

VICE-PRINCIPAL (looking a little worried since he heard my dad speak): What did he say?

I couldn’t help myself.

ME: So I’m allowed to speak now?

This was followed by a stern look and then he started writing on a pad of paper and handed the sheet to my dad. My dad nodded and we left. When we got to the car, my dad handed me the sheet of paper with a slight smile on his face. It said, “We will give your son another chance. I’m sorry for the misunderstanding.”

DAD: Don’t mess this up.

I didn’t mess it up.

Feeling Weird

Do you ever have those days where the world has suddenly become a fuzzy place and you can’t decide on even the simplest of decisions? It’s like having a cloud over your head and you just feel weird? You know you have things to get done but you find yourself unable to decide what to do first so you just do nothing? Having a clear thought is just out of reach and you suddenly feel irritable at everyone and everything?

I woke up this morning in a haze and 2 hours later, I’m still in a haze. For the life of me, I couldn’t come up with a single thing to write about. I even referred to my list of writing ideas and couldn’t make a decision on which idea to write about. Normally, I would go to my wife and she is usually good at giving me ideas, but today it didn’t quite work out…

ME: Hi, you doing ok?

WIFE: No. I can’t seem to think of a thing to write about for my class.

ME: Oh, um…

Yes, the worst case scenario has happened. We’re both indecisive and listless. I even got desperate and asked my cat, but I couldn’t even get a “meow” out of her. She just lifted her head, blinked twice, and laid her head back down.

I looked out the window, hoping to draw some inspiration from something…anything. I finally spotted a squirrel doing what looked like burying some nuts for winter, but he just rolled over and looked exasperated at the day. I looked up to the trees and all the birds are just sitting there. I decided enough was enough and went outside to get them out of their funk. I picked up a pine cone and tossed it up near the trees. They didn’t move.

BIRDS (in unison): You missed. Now go away.

Wow. Even the birds and squirrels are listless today, I thought. I even strained my ears to hear a dog bark in the neighborhood. We live in a neighborhood where there’s almost always a dog barking somewhere. Nothing. Silence. Even the wind took the day off.

My next stop was the tv. We hardly ever use it but I was desperate. I found a channel showing my favorite college football team, the Wisconsin Badgers, playing the Ohio State Buckeyes. It was close at first, a real defensive game, but then the Buckeyes seemed to find their energy and ran all over the Badgers. This wasn’t helping, I thought.

So now I’m sitting here, writing about my inability to think of something to write. I thought that writing about not being able to write might help me get out of this listless funk and think of something to write. So far, and I made it so far, I can’t think of anything to write. Even now, as I’m getting ready to wrap this post up, I still have nothing…

Excerpt from The 24th Chromosome (by Andrew Clark)

He could sense an enormous change coming on.  After months of floating peacefully in liquid, he knew something was going to bring it all to an end.  It didn’t surprise him, however.  Ever since he could remember, the walls had been closing in on him, or he had been growing, he wasn’t sure which.  He just knew that something had to give before he was crushed within this confining chamber.

There was the pulsing pressure again.  It was as if something was trying to squeeze the life out of him.  Then it occurred to him that this pressure was forcing him upwards, pushing his head into a passage of sorts.  It also occurred to him that this passage wasn’t big enough to accommodate his head, let alone the rest of his body.  Without thinking, he began to fight.  Then the pulsing pressure went away.  He associated this with his resistance and realized he would have to resist again if it came back.

Nothing he did could move him back where he had been.  His head was firmly positioned in the passage and he could not move it out.  Accepting this, he waited.  The wait wasn’t long and he soon found himself fighting again.  This time, however, the pressure changed tactics on him.  It began to push from beneath him as well.  As hard as he fought, it was of little use.  He was moving up the passage.

Just as he gave up his physical fight against the pressure, his mind began to react.  He suddenly felt the stress of the situation, but he couldn’t determine where the stress was coming from.  It seemed to fill his body with anxiety.  This was then followed by something he couldn’t identify, but it seemed to dull his senses as well as numb the pain of the physical pressure.  He felt himself losing control of his body and mind.  Everything was becoming hazy.  He fought this feeling for as long as he could, but it was of little use.  He was being defeated by whatever was happening.

The moment came where the top of his head appeared to find an opening.  A final thrust of the pressure pushed his head free.  His mouth was forced open by something he couldn’t see and filled with a solid object that offended him.  Then he could feel the ever-soothing liquid being sucked from his chest.  The pain was unbearable, but not as unbearable as his inability to fight this thing, whatever it was.  Then an enormous pain in his chest interrupted his thoughts as the solid object was removed from his mouth.  Something expanded within him and was immediately filled with a gas.  He coughed in pain and the sound alarmed him and intrigued him at the same time.

Once again, his thoughts were interrupted by pain as the rest of his body was pushed and pulled from the passage.  He reacted to this pain in a new way.  He screamed.  When he opened his eyes, all he could see was a few hazy outlines of objects that made noise.  He screamed again.  Then the worst thing of all happened.  He felt what was surely his lifeline being severed by a sharp object.  The noisy objects were trying to end his existence!  He screamed again.  It was only when something warm was wrapped around him that he realized he was still alive.  He screamed again anyway.  Then a loud sound stopped his screaming.

He tried to clear his vision and saw large fleshy objects moving all around him.  Then he was placed next to one of the large fleshy objects and felt an immediate comfort.  He was alive and he was still fully aware of what was going on around him.  Then he heard another loud sound and realized it was coming from one of the large fleshy objects.

“It’s a boy,” it noised, “and very beautiful.”  The large fleshy object next to him gave him a soft comforting squeeze.

“Very beautiful,” it noised.  Then he looked into what were surely the fleshy object’s brain receptors.  He felt comfort from them.  “And very alert.”

“Yes, he is,” the other fleshy object noised.  “It’s almost as if he knows what’s going on.”

Ah, he realized.  These fleshy objects had the ability to think together.  Very interesting.

“What’s his name?” the other fleshy object noised.  Then the fleshy object he was looking at did something strange with the large opening beneath the brain receptors.  The large opening went from a straight closed line to an open arc, exposing a bunch of bright shiny objects.

“Michael,” it noised.

Ah!  That’s where the noise was being emitted!  However, he also felt a different kind of noise.  It was a silent noise coming from behind the brain receptors.  It was filled with images and symbols.  Very interesting, he thought.  He set to work trying to figure out what it all meant.

Animal Torture

I just re-read a book called “The Plague Dogs” by Richard Adams (Thank you, Eric). It’s a story about two dogs that manage to escape an experimental laboratory that performed experiments on animals for “man’s greater good.” The cool thing about the book is that it’s told not only from a human point of view but also the dogs. I finished it nearly a week ago, but it’s still on my mind.

I kind of understand that some experiments that can’t be done on humans (because we’re supposedly humane) are performed on animals to discover cures that could someday potentially save the life of one of my grandkids. Seriously, who wouldn’t want that? Those are not the experiments that bother me as much…well, they still bother me, but I’m conflicted.

Where I’m not conflicted is when the experiments are to determine if a certain perfume is harmful or eye shadow or blush or whatever that is not detrimental to human life. Or the experiments that are performed are just to see what happens. Or the worst yet, experiments that are performed to determine the best way to kill millions of people like germ warfare or other biological weapons.

In the book, one of the dogs, Rowf, is dunked into a tank of water every day and he’s forced to swim until he drowns, then they resuscitate the poor dog so they can do it again the next day. Supposedly, they did this in the name of science to see if repeated drownings would increase endurance. They were going to do this continuously until he couldn’t be resuscitated any more.

The other dog, Snitter, had a chunk of his brain removed. The book never said what they hoped to learn from this. Another animal, a monkey, was forced into a sensory deprivation tube where he was force-fed and left there for 45 days until he was rescued.

There was a sense throughout the book that these scientists were so self-convinced that these experiments were necessary that they lacked any sense of empathy whatsoever. In one part of the book they talked about how they took a bunch of rabbits and secured their heads so they couldn’t move then sprayed hairspray into their faces until they all died. Their reaction? “Well, we’re going to need to get more rabbits.”

Seriously, anybody who has a cat or a dog knows that they actually possess feelings. They can feel pain, they can feel fear, they can feel love, they can express emotions, and they are much more innocent and pure than we’ll ever be.

I’m sitting here writing this with my cat in my lap. She’s purring and occasionally looks up at me with what I can only describe as love. She’s a smart cat, but I don’t think she would understand it if I started drowning her or spraying hairspray in her face. I’m pretty sure the loving look would be replaced with a look of fear. This is something I feel in my soul would happen, but I know I’m not willing to try it just to see if I’m right.

I’m pretty sure God put us on this Earth to care for the planet and all its inhabitants…not to torture them. I’ve often heard that many violent psychopaths began their crimes by torturing and killing animals before moving on to humans. So my question is, how is this so different?