Ice Cream Man

JoeYears and years ago I experienced the first of what would be a modest number of stints on the unemployment line.  This first time was different than some of the others, though, in that it was by choice.

You see, the summer before I graduated high school I took a three-week trip to Australia. It was my first real exposure to something other than what I’d grown up with and it opened my eyes just a little.  I got back home a week after my senior year of school had started, determined to make some changes.  Looking back, it seems somewhat ludicrous that I would already be trying to fix mistakes that I’d made in life, but if there’s one thing I excel at, it’s making bad decisions and completely fucking myself over.

I worked at McDonald’s back then.  I’d probably worked there for one year when I decided that it was beneath me and I needed to find something more suited to what I believed to be the awesomeness that was me.  I didn’t quit right away, but the seed was planted.  As so many life changing decisions originate, all it took was the kernel of an idea to lodge in the fertile soil of my mind where it would grow into inevitability.  

McDonald’s was an okay job for a high school boy, but I was going to be a college man and damned if I was going to enter the university as a minimum wage lackey who smelled like fast food and wore a horrible polyester uniform and paper hat.  No fucking way.

So the months flashed by.  You’d think that I would form some sort of plan about what to do after I quit.  But that was not happening.  I was going to join my friends on a graduation trip to Hawaii and then I was going to hand in my two week’s notice and set the world on fire.  Well, all that went more or less according to plan . . . to a certain point.  I graduated high school.  I went to Hawaii.  I quit my job.  But I had overlooked one key aspect when formulating my plan.  What now?

That summer was rough.  It was fun, but it was rough.  I was “juggling” two girls for the first time in my life (“juggling” might be grossly overstating things, but it’s my story so I’m going with “juggling”). I had no job, so I had lots of free time, but I was miserable.  I had no money.  I had no ambition.  No drive.  One of the girls I was “juggling” didn’t even like me all that much and it was pretty clear that the one that did wasn’t going to work in the long run.  Easy to see in retrospect.  At the time I was a mess.

Things came to a head when my dad spotted an ad in the local paper that he thought sounded like a fun summer job: driving around an ice cream truck.  I figured, “What the hell?” So we drove down to Seattle to pick up the truck and the ice cream, sign papers, and whatever.

It was bad enough to drive the gaudily painted Jeep ninety miles north on Interstate 5.  Worse was the fact that you couldn’t turn off the music, which in this case was “Pop! Goes The Weasel” over and over and over again.  Madness set in around mile ten.  But I made it home in one piece and began unpacking the ice cream to the family freezer.

For some reason the ice cream truck didn’t come equipped with a freezer for the, you know, ice cream. Instead you had to store the ice cream separately, load up a supply in the cooler and hope it didn’t melt before you sold it all.  We got about half the ice cream novelties unpacked before I realized that it wasn’t all going to fit in the family freezer.  “Start eating!” I screamed, panicked, still unhinged from ninety minutes of “Pop! Goes The Weasel”.  My logic was impeccable.  The ice cream was going to melt.  Nobody was going to buy melted ice cream.  So just eat it.

The first thing we had to do was find a better solution than eating half the inventory.  My dad and I drove out to where they had cold storage and rented a unit, where we put what we could salvage of the novelties.  It wasn’t much, but I had at least a week’s worth.  Maybe more if I really stunk at being an ice cream man (spoiler: I did).

The next day I got an early start. Now, in my defense, there was no training. I had no idea what I was doing. I had never been an ice cream man before. My only interest in ice cream to this point had been in eating it.  But how hard could it be? You drove around in neighborhoods with kids and the product pretty much sold itself, right?

But that music . . . . It was just the worst.  Maybe it would have been different if the tune switched up every now and then, but no.  Just “Pop! Goes The Weasel” on infinite repeat. I couldn’t take it. Being somewhat handy, it didn’t take me long to wire my Walkman into the vehicle’s sound system, where I promptly started playing Van Halen’s “Ice Cream Man” (I had no problem being too on-the-nose here). Finally the madness could stop and I could get to selling ice cream novelties. However, and if you saw this coming a mile away pat yourself on the back — you outsmarted a teenage moron — one of THE biggest, if not ONLY marketing tool at the disposal of your humble Ice Cream Man is the organ grinder-type music that blares from the speakers. That sweet siren’s song that brings the children running, wads of money clutched in tiny fingers. And I had replaced that with nearly indecipherable hard rock.  Needless to say: the kids were not exactly lining up around the block.

It probably didn’t help things that I was almost hopeless behind the wheel of the ice cream truck.  It could have been (and probably in an earlier lifetime was) a postal truck, complete with the steering wheel on the right (ie. wrong) side of the car.  My only previous experience driving with the wheel on the right was one fuzzy night in Australia some months earlier. It wasn’t difficult, but it was different and, combined with the different weight distribution of the truck, I almost flipped it a couple of times, once riding on the right two wheels for some distance.

I did manage to sell about $50 worth of ice cream, which is really amazing considering how enormously I’d botched the whole enterprise.  Did I have higher hopes for Day 2?  Not really, but I didn’t have a lot of choice in the matter. That said, I pretty much gave up halfway through that second day. I had a complete emotional breakdown when I got home. I realized that I’d made a huge mistake quitting my job before obtaining a new job. I was screwing up my relationship with my girlfriend by deluding myself into thinking I had a shot with the second girl. I felt like a complete and utter loser and being the world’s absolute worst ice cream man was not helping my mental stability, despite the endless line of fudgesicles going into my mouth.

Together my parents and I determined that the ice cream biz was just not for me and made arrangements to return the truck and the remaining inventory.  I called up my friend Jason, who agreed to follow me to Seattle in his car and give me a lift home after I’d dropped the truck off.  Solid plan. So we loaded up the meager number of ice cream novelties that were still in sellable shape and started back down I-5.

We got about 3/4 of the way down when something snapped on the truck (miraculously, not me).  Fortunately, I was able to coast to a service station, where I found a payphone and gave my parents a call. Now, I can’t really remember what happened next. My shaky recollection is that we called Joe (the ice cream company) and told them to come get their shitty truck. We left it there, ice cream melting in the back, and Jason drove me home (where we probably shotgunned a case a beers, which would explain the shaky part of my recollection).

Perhaps needless to say, the good people a Joe Incorporated were not overly pleased with me. One, they did not like that I only got the truck 3/4 of the way there. But they did understand. It wasn’t my fault the thing was a piece of shit. That was on them. But they were not so understanding when it came to the diminished returns on the ice cream novelties. Not only did I have next to no money for them, but the inventory was down quite a bit from the ice cream that had melted on day one. But that was also on them. I had “I don’t know what I’m doing” written all over every exposed bit of skin.

I ended up ending things with the second girl (yeah, I’m going to go ahead and stick with that version of events) and my girlfriend and I went out for another year and change. I spent the rest of the summer doing odd jobs here and there and, really, I didn’t get a stable job until spring of the following year.

I’m not one to learn a lesson or look on the bright side of things, but I did glean one valuable thing that summer: ice cream is a lot more fun to eat than it is to sell.


You die! You die! The Lost ColuMn™ Articles

Five years ago (well, actually 2/29/08, but close enough) I decided to start a blog.  I’ve talked about the origins of ColuMn™ here and here.  I won’t go into it again.

Given that I haven’t posted anything since last Halloween, I decided that this anniversary wasn’t really one to celebrate.  But I wanted to acknowledge it and maybe use it as a relauching point of sorts for the site.  So what I’ve decided to do is dig deep into the archives and showcase some of the posts that didn’t make it for one reason or another.

If you have a device with Android 4.0 or above, you probably have something called “Currents”, where you can subscribe to various sites, kind of like an RSS reader.  Well, I have one of those for ColuMn™ and discovered, much to my dismay/amusement, that several “articles” that were never meant to see the light of day were featured on Currents in their incomplete form.  Most of the following come from there, but I’ve also thrown in a couple that have just sat in the queue, waiting to either be deleted or finished.  The wait is over, my children.

ADRIANNA’S G1 (7/28/11)

For some unknown reason, I used to watch the new 90210 on the CW (okay, it’s not unknown — I’m a sucker for anything that appeals to tween girls).  When the show debuted, it was around 2008 and Google had just released their first Android phone, the G1. I had one.  So I was surprised to see one of the show’s main characters, the bitchy/hot pop star, Adrianna, using a G1.


This was cool at first, I guess.  A hip, young, attractive TV starlet using the same phone I had.  Okay.  It wasn’t cool.  But it was something.  But as the show continued on season after season, that something turned into unbelievable.  At the time this post was written (7/28/11) she was STILL using the G1! Nobody that rich and hip is going to use a three-year-old phone.  With technology, three years is an eternity.  I got a new phone way before Adrianna did, and I didn’t even have a job.

Why this post was never, uh, posted:  First, aside from the fact that she used the same phone for a little too long, there’s nothing really noteworthy about a character from a show nobody watches using  a G1.  I could never get an angle on the funny side of this, so it just sat there, forgotten, until a picture popped up on Google Currents.


This was back when Sparks was still on the writing staff, doing his “Sparks’ Sandbox” bit.  He started a post for our Halloween spectacular that year that just wasn’t very good, so it wasn’t published.  Here it is, in it’s entirety:

I call to you from another dimension.  The dimension of the dead . . . uh, robot dogs . . . with a warning.  October is here which means that Halloween is right around the corner, stalking you, waiting for you to make one wrong move.  Much like I did when I chased that robot mouse into traffic.  BlackJack Voorhees says that he can reanimate my dead robot body, but that I might not be the same when I come back.  I might be . . . sinister.

Why this post was never, uh, posted:  You read that crap, right?  And no, I don’t know why it’s titled “Nightmare Shack”.


The concept behind this one was to predict fictional characters as winners in the then-current election.  I got one written before I realized it was a stupid idea.

ColuMn has no political bias, but we do have an interest in who wins.  Will it be the old white guy or the black guy?  The old bore or the sorta hot moron?  Is anything, including alien domination, worse than Bush?  ColuMn sent ace reporter Sparks to the future.  January 20, 2009 to be precise.  His assignment:  report back who won what.

Sparks here, reporting live from the exact center of the country, or somewhere in the middle of nowhere.  Seriously.  There’s nothing here.  I’m not even sure I can get the internet here.  Hopefully you’re reading this.

Without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, the winners of Election 2008.


President David Palmer and First Lady Kasidy Yates.  I have no idea what Palmer’s positions on any of the issues are.  Probably not gun control, anti-torture, or pro-terrorist.  I’m just guessing.  But, as you’ll recall from the 2008 Presidential Campaign, Yates, stranded in Earth from the mid-24th century, is quick with a phaser, disintegrating opponent Thomas Whitmore in an apparent blackmail attempt gone wrong. Still, they’re both better than Bush.


Why this post was never, uh, posted:  Pretty obvious.  It was fucking stupid.

TOP 7 BOOKS I READ IN 2012 (12/31/12)

cmsof’s articles tend to be a bit more cerebral than BlackJack’s.  BlackJack is all about the comedy.  cmsof is all about the journalism (or something like that).  I started drafting this back in October last year and I think it would have been a good throwback to the early ColuMn™ posts where I did hilarious stuff like book reviews.

Ranked in the order I read them:

1.  Supergods by Grant Morrison

I’ve enjoyed Morrison’s comics work immensely. The Invisibles is one of the best series committed to paper.

2.  The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

3.  Reamde by Neal Stephenson

4.  Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

5.  It’s So Easy (And Other Lies) by Duff McKagan

6.  Memory by Donald Westlake

7.  John Dies At The End by David Wong

Why this post was never, uh, posted:  Just didn’t get around to it.  Which, in reality, is probably why most of these things never made it onto the site.  I’m lazy.


Let’s get this out of the way right off: I love The Cannonball Run.  But I also recognize that it’s profoundly stupid.  So I thought it would make a great “Watch With ColuMn™” post.  So I started writing it.  Then I ran some of the jokes by a friend and he hated them.  So I scrapped the post.  Judge for yourself:

Hey, gang!  It’s time for another installment of Watch With ColuMn™.  In previous episodes, we’ve watched The Mysterious Monsters and Free To Be You And Me.  This time out, it’s something a little less obscure:  1981’s immortal crowd-pleaser, The Cannonball Run.

The Cannonball Run, as you may or may not know, occupies space in a healthy, much-loved genre: the coast-to-coast race movie with a huge all-star cast. Picture It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, if you replaced all the actors with jabbering idiots.

Burt Reynolds movies usually follow a very specific formula:  a) they co-star Dom DeLuise, and b) they suck.  The best compliment you can pay The Cannonball Run is that it’s not The Cannonball Run 2.  The best compliment you can pay The Cannonball Run 2 is cursing whatever God you believe in.

Beepers were invented solely because Burt Reynolds performance in this movie didn’t meet the standards of “phoning it in”.  The only analogy for something as stupid as The Cannonball Run is The Cannonball Run.  The Cannonball Run is to 1981 movies starring Burt Reynolds as The Cannonball Run is to human misery.  That said, it’s still one of the best things Terry Bradshaw has ever been associated with.

Without further ado, let’s begin our race by meeting the colorful cast of imbeciles who we’ll be forced to share the next 95 impossibly long minutes with.

J.J. McClure (Burt Reynolds)
Dom DeLuise (Victor Prinzim/Captain Chaos)

Roger Moore (Seymour Goldfarb, Jr.)

Farrah Fawcett (Pamela Glover)

On the bright side, starring in The Cannonball Run made cancer the second worst thing that happened to her.

Dean Martin (Jamie Blake)
Sammy Davis, Jr. (Morris Fenderbaum)

Jack Elam (Dr. Nikolas Van Helsing)

Adrienne Barbeau (Marcie Thatcher aka Lamourghini Babe #1 –
seriously, that’s how it’s listed on IMDB)

Terry Bradshaw (Terry)
Mel Tillis (Mel)

Both apparently students of the Tony Danza School of Acting.

Jackie Chan (Jackie Chan – Subaru Driver)

Jamie Farr (The Shiek)

00:26:  The first of way too many times we’ll hear Burt Reynolds’ signature fake laugh.

They keep threatening to remake The Cannonball Run, and I just wonder why?  Does the world really need another celebrity-driven ensemble piece where the various actors smirk their way through a ludicrous feature-length movie that seems more like an excuse to get paid to hang out with other smirking douchebags?  I mean, other than the Ocean’s Eleven trilogy, of course.

The fact that there’s a novelization of The Cannonball Run proves that literacy isn’t necessarily a sign of intelligence.  On one hand, dogs can’t read.  On the other hand, dogs can’t read The Cannonball Run novelization. Edge: dogs.

Why this post was never, uh, posted:  I don’t know.  I think it’s funny and it’s inclusion here is one of the primary reasons I wanted to do this “Lost Articles” post.

DAMN YOU, CANADA (4/29/10)

Sometimes it takes me a couple of stabs to get a post right.  That’s what happened here.  A friend sent me the photo from a playground and I thought it was hilarious and wanted to create a post around it.  This was my first try:

Okay, Canada.  We let you beat us at hockey because, well, it’s all you’ve got.  We may be cowboy dicks down here, but we don’t like to see grown men cry.  We may have only won the Silver in hockey, but we got the Gold in being awesome.  So no sooner do I get back from your country, than I see this alarming sign at the local children’s playground.  (note: there are reasons for a middle-aged man to be alone in a children’s park that aren’t technically “illegal”).

What does that mean?  There are really only two possibilities, and they’re equally disturbing.  The first is that children born and/or living in the United States are developmentally retarded by 6 months at the age of 18 months.  I’m not sure if I believe that, but having not been around a child since I was seven years old, I have no idea if that’s an accurate representation or not.  No big deal, I guess.  By the time we hit five, we’re caught up.  I can only assume that accelerated growth continues in all areas for the remainder of the average American’s life.  So by the time we’re 50, the poor Canadians are only 45.  Damn.  Canada wins again.

The other possibility is that the United States government has a vendetta against Canadian children between the ages of 18 months and two years of age.  Who knows how many accidents pre-two year old Canadians have had to endure as the government sits in silence, probably from across the street in an unmarked van, gathering intelligence.  We know your weakness, Canada.  Do you dare us to exploit it?  DO YOU?

So, in closing, I think either Canadian children between the ages of 18 months and two years or American children in the same age bracket should launch a class action lawsuit against the US government to right this agregious case of isolationist ageism.

Not bad, I thought, but I can do better.  And I did.

Why this post wasn’t, uh, posted: Fairly obvious.


THE BOX OF TACOS (12/2/10)

The plan was to eat a box of Taco Bell tacos (12 in a box) and write about my experience, with (hopefully) hilarious results.  This image is as far as I got:


I can’t say I regret not completing this one.

Why this post wasn’t, uh, posted: I wanted to live and I wanted that life to be without shit-filled pants.

Happy 5th Anniversary, ColuMn™!  Looking forward the the next post in, say, 2018.

Five Puzzling, Yet Popular, Snack Foods

I’ve reviewed a few snack foods during my time at ColuMn™, so I understand how people can grow to like things like ketchup-flavored potato chips and bubblegum soda. But I’ll never understand how anyone with working taste buds can like these five inexplicably popular “treats”.

1. Raisins

Let’s start off with a fairly controversial food, because raisins aren’t a complete disaster. I guess I’d rather just have a grape. Or nothing. You can smother them with sugar and toss a couple scoops into a box of bran flakes, pour chocolate on them, or just eat them out of that tiny, sticky box. But no matter how you serve ’em up, there’s a guaranteed better snack option out there. Raisin Bran? Try Frankenberry. Raisinettes? The next time you’re laying down $10 for a box of candy at the movies, at least make them work for it and demand Frozen Junior Mints.


Mini box of raisins? You’re better off filling your mouth with the barrel of a gun.


Never forget.

2. Wax Lips


This, thankfully, is not a common candy. Pretty sure you can get these at Halloween still, and I do occasionally see wax coke bottle candy at some of the sketchier convenience stores. Wax lips have some value as a comedy prop that gets the wearer instant laughs stemming from the appearance that he/she has humorously over-sized, bright red lips. Genius. But it’s not candy. It’s a fucking candle that somebody forgot to stick a wick into.


Or worse.

This is candy like shoes are candy. There’s more actual foodstuff in feces. If you eat a wax-based snack product, you deserve to suffer through the 30 years it takes for the human body to digest it.*


Alright. I take it back. These look delicious.

*I’m assuming.

3. Carob

We can all agree that chocolate is awesome. People who don’t like chocolate are responsible for every single act of aggression throughout history. They’re not like you and me, and definitely should never be trusted. I get that some people hate white chocolate. That just means they’re wrong, probably with alarming frequency. But what sick bastard came up with carob? It looks like chocolate and feels like chocolate, but definitely doesn’t taste or poop out like chocolate.


As with chocolate, carob is a bean, but everything that makes chocolate edible is completely missing from carob. It’s like comparing The Dark Knight Returns to Batman and Robin. Don’t. Even talking about carob or Batman and Robin will make your mouth taste like shit. This “snack” exists solely to make fun of stupid children and make clueless parent look like assholes.

4. Popcorn

I assume that here is where I lose most people. And I get it. Popcorn can be good. It’s a movie theater staple. But I say it’s a lousy snack and even worse Christmas decoration. The microwave version smells like a bag full of Taco Bell farts that have been fermenting for a year. The movie theater version is so grossly overpriced, it makes my cable bill look like a good value. And is there a worse snack for the film-watching experience? Combine the decibel level of a jet engine with the tooth-chipping prowess of a mouthful of rocks, and you get popcorn.

The nutritious part of a bag of popcorn.

Is there no better method to basically slurp down a stick of butter (or whatever unpronounceable liquid cancer they inflict on you at movies)? Here’s an idea: skip the popcorn and just bring a stick of butter and a junkie’s used needle.

5. Aplets and Cotlets

Ahhh. After the whole popcorn thing, I won you back with this entry, didn’t I? I’m not entirely sure what an aplet is and have absolutely no idea where they grow cotlets, but I’m pretty sure both words are synonyms for shit. This is the candy that your grandparents always bought in preparation for your visits when you were a kid if a) they hated you, or b) you were adopted).


Believe it or not, it’s worse than it looks.

Looking at their website, I discovered three things. They’ve been disappointed kids (and adults) since 1920. Aplets are “Apple-Walnut” and Cotlets are “Apricot-Walnut” ‘candies’. And they’re manufactured in Cashmere, WA, just however many miles from ColuMn’s™ home base of Seattle (I can’t be expected to know where every city in Washington is, nor can I be expected to bother doing a routine search on Google Maps). But I don’t want to rip into a more-or-less local business, so I’ll let them off with a warning. They can thank my grandma.