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.

image

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.

NIGHTMARE SHACK (2008)

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”.

ColuMn™ ELECTION PREDICTIONS (11/4/08)

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
President

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.

Vice-President

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.

THE CANNONBALL RUN (7/28/11)

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:

image

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.

Marvel Masterpieces 2 Unauthorized Sticker Set

Way back in the early 90s, I was REALLY into collecting things.  Comics, Spogz, trading cards, action figures, and Star Trek memorabilia were my core obsessions.  I suppose my collector’s mentality really has it’s origins in 1977, when I became almost too obsessed with collecting Star Wars trading cards.  I was pretty sure than my collections would help me not only buy a mansion, but coast through retirement once I got super old and decided to sell everything.  That’s not so much the case now that the speculator bubble has burst, but I still have a bunch of valuable collectibles that will at least afford me a box of tacos and half a tank of gas when I get desperate enough to sell.

In the mid-90s I moved from Washington to Illinois.  It was kind of a crazy, ill-advised move, sight unseen, to Charleston, IL.  Not exactly an urban mecca overloaded with high-paying jobs, I pretty much did every job known to man in an effort to keep feeding my comic book addiction.  Somehow, through numerous bouts of unemployment, and jobs that paid about as well as cancer, I rarely missed an issue that I wanted to collect, and even found time (and money) to expand my collectibles into stickers.

But not just any stickers.  We’re talking stickers than cost fifty cents out of the vending machine at Walker’s Supersaver Foods.  When I first spotted Wolverine in prism sticker format glaring up at me from the plastic case that anybody whose ever bought anything from a grocery store vending machine is familiar with, I knew that I would not rest until I had them all or I was broke(r).

These stickers seemed to combine everything I was into back then.  Comics, trading cards, and the X-men.  This was at the height of the X-men Animated Series popularity, which I was way into.  All of the main cast of the cartoon are represented in sticker form here except for Professor X and Jubilee.  Magneto gets his own sticker, but Xavier doesn’t?  Score one for the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.

Every time I’d hit the grocery store back in late ’94/early ’95 I’d plug a buck or so into the machine and anxiously flip open the white cardboard protector to see if I’d get a NEW sticker or yet another Rogue sticker.  I must have spent $25 on Rogue stickers alone, and probably close to that on Sabretooth.

And what’s up with the character selection?  Cyber?  Shatterstar?  Over such mainstays as Spider-man and the Fantastic Four?  Carnage and Venom each get their own sticker, but other Marvel villains such as the Green Goblin and Ultron get no love?  I do secretly love that there are two 2099 stickers in this set, but I’m pretty comfortable stating that the lack of the non-2099 Doctor Doom is an oversight punishable by death in many countries.

As the weeks went by I amassed a pretty good collection.  I had 25 stickers.  Now, this was just as the internet was starting to enter the mainstream, so it wasn’t until 2005 that I came to find out that there were actually 30 stickers in the set.  Collectors refer to them as “Marvel Prism Series Three”. And not only that, but these were unauthorized stickers based on a select number of cards from the Marvel Masterpieces 2 trading cards.

I didn’t exactly spend every waking moment scouring the internet for the missing stickers from my collection, but I did spend a big chunk of time searching for them.  It took me five long years. but a few weeks ago I finally found somebody on ebay auctioning off a handful of these stickers.  Included in that auction were all five stickers that I didn’t have.  I contacted the seller to see if we could strike a deal for those five stickers and, after an exchange of emails, we agreed to a price and less than a week later, my collection was finally complete!

One thing I discovered was that the Beast sticker that I owned was NOT the Beast sticker that is considered a part of Marvel Masterpieces 2.  I have no idea what series it belongs to, but for 15 years I thought it was a part of this series.  Looking at it now, it’s clear that it’s quite different from the rest of the stickers, but if you compare the Captain America sticker to the Hulk sticker, they don’t exactly look like they belong in the same series either.  Five of the stickers are, for reasons unknown, die-cut.  The Iron Man sticker is the only sticker with the name as a separate sticker.  Unauthorized sticker sets seem to make their own rules.

The collectors out there no doubt know the feeling you get when you FINALLY complete a collection after years of searching.  Very few things in life ever come to a definitive end, where you can say, “That’s it.  It’s done.”  When you’re talking about obscure copyright-infringing vending machine stickers, that sense of accomplishment is about a thousandfold.  I seriously never thought I’d complete this set, and yet here I am, 15 years older, relishing a Doom 2099 sticker than I never thought I’d actually get to hold in my hands.

These stickers probably mean something to exactly one person in the entire world: me.  They bring back my time in Charleston: a very specific time in my life that was tough as hell at the time, but that I look back fondly on now.  These stickers real value are being a touchstone to that time and a link back to the person I was all those years ago.  Of course, it doesn’t hurt that they’re worth $8 per sticker, individually, and god knows how much as a complete set.  Since I may be the only person in the world with a complete mint condition set of these stickers, I place their value at $100,000.  They’re for sale at that price.  Email me.

The moral of this story is never give up.  Dare to dream big.  Everybody has there own metaphorical (or actual) Doom 2099 sticker.  Never quit.
Never surrender.  If I can complete this sticker set after fifteen years, then I’m sure you can do whatever terrible waste of time and money you want to do.  Maybe not as triumphantly and kick-ass as I, but probably well enough.

Checklist:

*numbers in parenthesis correlate to the Marvel Masterpieces II Trading Cards card number

Archangel (#16)
Beast (#17)
Bishop (#57)
Cable (#18)
Captain America (#15)
Carnage (#19)
Colossus (#38)
Cyber (#53)
Cyclops (#7)
Darkhawk (59)
Doom 2099 (#43)
Gambit (#31)
Ghost Rider (#13)
Havok (#84)
Hawkeye (#70)
Hulk (#1)
Iron Man (#4)
Jean Grey (#75)
Magneto (#39)
Punisher (#26)
Rogue (#27)
Sabretooth (#28)
Shatterstar (#76)
Silver Surfer (11)
Spider-man 2099 (#41)
Storm (#10)
Thanos (#35)
Thor (#3)
Venom (#45)
Wolverine (#6)

8/14/13:  UPDATE!!!!

Well, well, well.  Looks like somebody is offering a complete set of these stickers for the low, low, low price of ONLY $700.

Marvel Masterpieces 2 Sticker Series ebay

Gee.  I wonder which blog the seller was referring to (though I have to take some minor objection to the phrase “tons of money”.

Check out the auction here while it lasts (and no, it’s not me selling my prized set)

UPDATE!! (4/16/15)
Another set is up on eBay for just under $500 (again, not my set). Also references this post. Glad to help, fellas.

The 2010 Winter Olympics: A ColuMn Special Sports Report

For the past two weeks, the entire planet has been abuzz over the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, BC.  Now that Bush is out of the White House, the planet is free to celebrate the spirit of competition that unites us all as human beings.  As you, the ColuMn reader, knows all too well, ColuMn strives to deliver the utmost in cutting edge journalistic integrity, be it gritty political reporting, compelling undercover crime exposes, or top level sporting events.

Last year I contacted the Canadian bureau of The Association and ordered them (begged, really, I guess) to procure us tickets to an Olympic event.  Klaus and The Instigator were already on the case and after an arduous and mind-blowingly bureaucratic process, we had tickets to one of the semi-final hockey games.  I was thrilled and packed that day.

Nine months later I hauled that suitcase out of my closet and took a taxi to the Amtrak station in Seattle.  The plan was the meet Klaus and The Instigator at an acquaintance’s house.  Since we didn’t want to spend thousands on a hotel, we were quite grateful to, uh, “Don” for opening up his doors and extending us his hospitality.  If we’d only known what nightmarish events would unfold over the next 17 hours.  If only.

Since the Olympics is a huge terrorist target, understandably extra security measures are enforced.  Why a terrorist would take the Amtrak I cannot begin to guess, but the heightened security was immediately apparent.  Dogs sniffed around, while security officers armed with automatic weapons patrolled the station.  Once aboard the train, a dog was lead through numerous times, always accompanied by the M-16-wielding officer.

The only terrorist on the Amtrak was a man who insisted on clipping his nails in his seat.  This lasted an excrutiating ten minutes.  If this man has any nails left at all, I’d be amazed.  Seriously.  Where do people get off grooming their nails in a public venue?  This has to stop.  These people are every bit as much of a danger to our way of life as Al-Queda.

Public Enemy #1

Once in the Vancouver Amtrak station, we were informed that they would only be unloading one car at a time.  I was anxious to get off and the progress was extremely slow.  I noticed a couple being allowed to disembark early because they had tickets to the USA/Finland game at 12:30.  My tickets were for the Canada/Slovakia game at 6:30, but I was wearing my USA hockey jersey, so I went with it and, while not outright lying, subtly encouraged the train officials to believe I too was going to the earlier game.

Once through Customs (never an easy feat for me — I think I’m on some sort of list), I took the SkyTrain to Burnaby, where Don was waiting in his truck to drive me back to his house, where we would meet up with Klaus and The Instigator.  I was pretty hungry, but Don was in a hurry to get back to watch the early hockey game and I couldn’t really argue.  So to his house we went, where he made me feel at home and I cracked my first Kokanee.

Klaus and The Instigator arrived soon after, and once they settled in we got to the drinks while watching the Women’s Curling Gold Medal game. I may or may not finally understand curling. I guess we’ll see if I remember what I learned when the next Winter Olympics comes along in 2014.

Soon it was time to begin our journey to Canada Hockey Place. We made our way by bus to the Sky Train station that took us within walking distance of the arena. We could have gotten closer, but Don arranged it so we got to see a little bit of the city and really take part in the Olympic experience. It really was awesome.

As we approached the security area that surrounded Canada Hockey Palace, Don pointed out the Inukshuk that lined the shore. He explained that people had begun to build their own inuksuit  and literally hundreds packed the rocky beach. It was an impressive display of spontaneous public art, made all the more wondrous by the simple fact that nobody had knocked them over.

The security check was easy and almost jarringly polite. When my belt set off the metal detector, the security guard asked, “May I have permission to give you a light pat-down, sir?” We were through quickly and made our way into the arena.

We grabbed two beers each (Molson, of course) and made our way to our seats. They were near the back of the arena, but the sightline was still very good.

Originally I was a little disappointed that we didn’t end up with tickets to the USA/Finland game, but that disappointment was minor and brief. I still wore my Team USA sweater. I endured plenty of shots, but surprisingly not insulting or threatening. Of course, everybody was supremely confident in the eventual Gold Metal victory of Canada, so a smattering of Team USA jerseys weren’t seen so much a threat as the minor annoyance of a pesky little brother.

The game finally got underway and we enjoyed 55 minutes of great hockey. As time was ticking away in the closing minutes of the third period, Slovakia scored a goal, bringing the score to 3-2. The last couple of minutes were fast and furious hockey with the outcome in question. The Canadian crowd was on edge. They had no idea what to do if their team was relegated to the Bronze Medal game. The thought hadn’t crossed their collective minds. They couldn’t accept the possibility now. They wouldn’t accept it.

And, as it turned out, they didn’t need to. The final score would stand at Canada 3, Slovakia 2.  Canada would go on to meet the USA team in the Gold Medal game, and defeat the Americans in an OT thriller watched by a record television audience.

But I didn’t know that then. I was sure the US would find some way to pull off the upset. For the moment all any of us could do was look forward to the Gold Medal game we’d all wanted.

Drunk and excited we made our way out into the light rain and hopped on the SkyTrain with too many of our fellow revelers.  Don had pretty much started in on the portion of the evening where he gets loud and obnoxious and we all try to pretend we don’t know him.  When a girl on the bus from the SkyTrain to his house asked me, “So how do you guys know each other?” I stammered and muttered something along the lines of, “Well, we don’t really know each other that well,” and slunk even lower in my seat.

Finally we arrived back at Don’s house and cracked some more beers.  Don grew more and more obnoxious, cornering The Instigator in one of his patented unintelligible conversations and basically creeping everybody the fuck out.  Mercifully, despite the fact that he had no more to drink than the rest of us, he passed out on his sofa shockingly early.  Enjoying the brief respite, Team Association decided to try to put the uncomfortableness behind us and continue partying.

About an hour later, the three of us were standing in Don’s kitchen, sipping drinks, listening to music, and enjoying ourselves.  Out of the corner of my eye I spotted movement on the sofa.  Don was stirring.  Eyes still closed, he drunkenly rose up off the sofa.  I put forth a tentative, “Hi, Don,” to which he did not respond.  In lieu of response, and in front of our horrified eyes, Don reached deep down into his jeans.  The thoughts raced through my head as my brain tried to find some reason in the madness unfolding before me.  Did he have an itch?  Was it some sort of elaborate game of charades?  Should I shout out my guess of The Crying Game?

But no.  It was none of these things.  Out flopped Don’s dick and he began to urinate on his coffee table.  The very table that I had eaten nachos off of mere hours earlier.  Klaus sprang into action, tackling the pissing madman and violently dragging him into the bathroom.  But the damage had been done.   The, uh, cat was out of the bag.

The rest of the evening was spent in near-silent disbelief at what we had been forced to witness.  It would be bad enough if this was an isolated piss-related incident, but sadly it was not.  Don had pissed on plenty of things (and people) in the past in his typical state of drunken stupor.  But this was the first time I had been present for it.

For a minute there, I really wished I could trade places with this guy.

We finally shuffled off to “bed” (I actually spent most of the night in a chair) after I changed my reservation to leave early the next morning.  Around 5:30, Don re-emerged from his alcohol-induced coma, turned on the lights, grabbed a fresh beer, and loudly announced that he was ready to continue partying.  We were not, and after a few angry words were exchanged, I carefully crashed in the back bedroom while Don rocked out to music videos on his computer.

The return trip home was difficult, hungover with almost no sleep (and on the bus to top it off).  The bus was nice though, more a tour bus than a Greyhound, and I grabbed a front seat and got to “enjoy” the trip home wihout somebody sitting next to me.

It had been a whirlwind trip.  It had been great to see The Instigator and Klaus again.  It had been awesome to attend a Team Canada hockey game during the Vancouver Olympics.  The city, the people, and the experience won’t soon be forgotten.  The only downside was Don, and a huge downside it was, but I had learned a valuable lesson: rock out with your cock out is just a dumb saying and never intended to be taken literally.  If I had it to do over again, I’d cough up the cash for a hotel and leave the waterworks where they belong.  In the toilet.