The Man Cave

The Man Cave
Jack's Man Cave (Click on the photo to enter the Cave)
Showing posts with label Humor. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Humor. Show all posts

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Any Cars Coming?

Any Cars Coming?

It took less than a cell phone to distract kids in simpler times

Photo by Andhika Soreng on Unsplash

It was the weekend before Halloween, and there was still a sense of mourning in the neighborhood for the end of the Indian summer. It was overcast, and the air was crisper and cooler than before. People say there are no real changes of season in Southern California, but they are wrong.

We kids were riding our bikes in the semi-circular driveway in front of the Johnson house. When neither of the parents’ cars was parked in the driveway, we rode our bikes in one entrance and out the other back into the street.

Lifting the front tire over the lip of the driveway, we veered left up a gentle slope past the front of the house and rolled back down onto Sunray Place. It was like the drop-off in front of a hotel, but in my imagination, it was a suburban Velodrome.

In the middle of the semi-circle was a garden of sorts protected by a tall hedge with waxy leaves. The arc-shaped bush was bookended by brick columns on either side, one of which had a mailbox in it.

The hedge created an enchanted hollow, with ornamental Chinese grass and miniature footpaths, which would have been a perfect place for a few half-hidden garden gnomes.

Photo by Sarah Brink on Unsplash
Eric Johnson, or “E.J.” as we called him, was in the garage fixing his bicycle. I was bored waiting for him, so I rode my bike around and around the driveway. I imagined I was Speed Racer, competing against an evil motorcycle gang in a surreal cartoon landscape.

E.J.’s younger brother Colby climbed up on the brick column, which had the mailbox in it. Colby dangled and alternately kicked his legs as he held a paper towel under what looked like a soup can. He jabbed a fork into the can and shoved the contents into his mouth.

“Yuck! What are you eating?” I asked Colby.

“‘Beanies and Weenies,’” he said, holding up the can for me to see.

“Gross!” I said, completely stopped in my tracks. I gagged a little.

“Aren’t you supposed to put that in a pot and heat it up?” I asked.

“I like ’em cold,” said Colby.

I straddled my bike and stared up at Colby on his perch, contemplating the slippery, cold pellets in his mouth. I thought of my mom spooning ALPO dog food into the bowl for our untrainable Kerry Blue Terrier named 'Finn MacCool.'

I almost vomited.

To get some fresh air, I resumed my laps around the driveway. Colby was on my left as I came around the semi-circle down the slope of the driveway, then out onto the street again. As I re-entered the driveway, E.J. was still bent on one knee, working on his bike. The Styx song "Renegade" blasted from the radio on the smooth garage floor.

I came back around the front of the house, and this was the most fun part of the trip, reaching the top of the driveway and then hauling ass down the incline into the street. The problem was that the hedge of bushes blocked the view of the road.

"Tell me if any cars are coming, okay?" I said to Colby as I approached him.

"Uh-huh," he grunted, slurping some slime off his chin.

I popped out onto the street again and turned left, starting another lap. I entered the driveway, passed E.J. in the garage, went up the slope, and came around the turn.

"Any cars?" I shouted.

"Nope," said Colby, hunched over and engaged like an ape cracking open a coconut.

As I exited the driveway, I looked to my right and saw our teenaged neighborhood hero Pete Overlund hugging, and just about to kiss a girl near the Knudtson's lawn. Pete stood about two feet taller than the girl, and I found that funny, but I dare not make a sound.

I pedaled again up Sunray Place and entered the driveway. In the East County, a kid's BMX bike was as vital to him as a horse to a cowboy, or a surfboard to a beach kid. Unfortunately, I had a piece of crap bicycle at this stage.

It was a Huffy bike that was more of a toy than a real dirt bike. I longed for a Redline, Torker, or even a more lowly Schwinn. My bike did not even have hand brakes. Pedaling up the street took all my effort because the crankshafts were so short on the pedals, and the bike so heavy and unwieldy.

Exhausted, I made it back into the driveway, to the top of the curve, and I started cruising towards Colby again.

"Any cars?" I asked Colby.


I stopped cruising and stood to pedal harder down the slope to gain maximum speed. I exploded out of the driveway.

That’s when I crashed into the passenger side of a Lincoln Continental barreling down the street at about 35 miles per hour.

My front tire slammed into the car, like a Jet Ski into the side of a battleship. I felt like the guy falling off the ski jump on the introduction to ABC’s The Wide World Sports. Instead of flying over the hood of the car, however, I simply hit the steel beast head-on and helicopter-spun in a 360-degree turn, falling directly to the street.

The landing was gentle, all things considered. In fact, the collision went well but for the fact that the back tire of the colossus ran over and crushed my right foot.

The Lincoln Continental slammed on its brakes, laying down ten feet of smoking tire tread marks, then it stopped. I lied on the ground staring up at the dark gray sky.

Colby dropped his can and slid off the brick mailbox column. Eric ran out of the garage. I was whimpering but not crying. When Pete Overlund and his babe walked up near me, I leaned up on my elbows.

“Jackie Blue’s hurt,” said Pete. Pete’s nickname for me was Jackie Blue, after the AM radio song. It sounds cool now, but it irritated me back then. Pete would never have called me that if I liked it.

The girl wore Dolphin shorts over a one-piece bathing suit. She never spoke, but simply clung to Pete. I’d never seen her before, nor would I ever see her again. I wanted to hear her talk. We had no girls in our neighborhood.

“I’m not hurt,” I said.

“Yeah, you are Jackie Blue . . .” said Pete, with a smirk that told me he knew I was not going to die, and that whatever injuries I had, it was already a funny story.

“No, I’m nooooooooot,” and at that point, I started heaving and sobbing uncontrollably. Pete’s wisecrack broke the seal, and I started bawling.

I reclined back on the street and gave in to crying, not so much out of pain, but out of a primal realization that I had just escaped death.

The driver was the neighbor Mr. Avery. He had dark, slicked-back hair, big round eyes with thick glasses, and he looked like Lon Chaney. The Averys lived in a house on a hill that loomed over the cul-de-sac, at the end a long steep driveway. To us kids, it was like the house from Psycho because it was hidden, and we rarely saw its inhabitants.

Mr. Avery got out of the car, marched up the street, and scooped me up off the asphalt, like the Tall Man from Phantasm. He lowered me into the dark velour back seat, which had sconces on the padded sidewalls, like a haunted house. Placing my bike into the trunk, Mr. Avery pushed the door down gently, and the diabolical death mobile engaged and shut the trunk itself automatically.

Mr. Avery turned ‘The Car’ around and drove it up the hill to my house on the corner. As the hearse pulled into the driveway, my mother was where she always was, at the kitchen window, working over the sink doing dishes or cooking. I saw her eyes bug out of her head.

Mr. Avery walked my limp body up to the window and lifted me up, like Frankenstein offering up to the villagers the child he just suffocated by accident down by the lake.

My mom dried her hands, ran through the garage, and opened the side door for Mr. Avery to carry me into the house, and put me down on a couch.

 . . . 

Colby had failed to spot a Lincoln Continental, the largest U.S. production model of car ever made available to a non-President.

We did not call my Dad because it was the early 80’s, and you never called Dad at work unless it was a real emergency. I was still alive, so my Mom, my brother, and I all agreed there was no sense in pissing Dad off.

Dad was a doctor at the same hospital where they would put me in a cast. Mom figured we would probably see Dad in the parking lot anyway.

Photo by the FDA

Copyright © 2020 Jack Clune

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

The Only People Who Like My New Car Are Men Who Own Car Washes

The Only People Who Like My New Car Are Men Who Own Car Washes

Women don’t find my car sexy

Photo by Grahame Jenkins on Unsplash

I’ve leased the same car for nine years in a row

I’ve leased the same strange, niche model of BMW for three times in a row, amounting to nearly nine years with the same car. I have to get the identical car all the time because it perfectly suits my need to put surfboards in it on the two or three occasions per year now I actually go surfing.

I don’t like to put my precious surfboards on a roof rack because I do not want them to get stolen. These surfboards are not the foam boards from Costco. These are McCoy surfboards from Australia, and they are works of art. Never mind that I’m so fat now, the boards can hardly float when I’m sitting on them.

                                   The Author

The model car I get is called a 335i GT, and the “GT” stands for "Grand Turismo." The car is basically a 3 Series BMW, stretched out and plumped up into a hatchback, for more storage than a standard 3 Series sedan.

In exchange for losing the world-class sportiness and agility of a standard 3 Series, the GT has incredible storage space when you put the back seats down. The GT drives more like a truck on rails, and you sit much higher on the road than the standard 3 Series “Saloon” (fancy word for a car with a fixed back seat and trunk).

It’s not a sedan, or a wagon, or an SUV

In America, we have a stigma against station wagons, so BMW built the car to suit a niche market that I fall into. The Germans stretched out the chassis on the car, to make it longer and roomier.

The chassis is referred to as the “Chinese chassis” because, supposedly, in China, the people like all their cars stretched out with big back seats, so they feel like they are riding in limousines.

I like that concept too- the huge back seat. The backseat in my 335 GT feels even more roomy and luxurious than a 5 Series BMW, and, on the BMW blogs, it is more often compared to the enormous 7 Series back seat. Now, whenever I drive any other car, I feel like the rear seat passengers are sitting on my shoulders.

Europeans, and American car magazine writers, however, love station wagons. They make fun of my GT as being an ugly “Frankenstein” car, for stupid people who aren’t smart enough to like station wagons. The magazines and the blogs laugh at how supposedly unagile and awkward looking the 335 GT looks compared to a wagon.

Crusty old Douchebags (with a capital ‘D”) who have driven BMW’s for decades make fun of my 335 GT and say that the model is an insult to the BMW brand (“rondel” in the trade- meaning the emblem on the hood of the car). These bastards are all wrong, of course, and I am right, and I love the car.

BMW, unfortunately, must have listened to all those cretins, because in 2019, they decided to discontinue the car. So now I have to decide whether to keep mine at the end of my lease.

I may become that guy you see driving a SAAB from 1983. The SAAB that’s out of alignment, going sideways down the road, with the leather bra on the hood, the bent antennae, and the Supertramp bumper sticker.

. . .

I had to upgrade my car when I switched from being an insurance defense attorney to a plaintiff’s personal injury attorney

I used to drive a Mazda Protégé wagon that fit my surfboards just fine. I didn’t mind getting sand in the Mazda, or when the surfboard wax melted on the carpet in the back or on the back seats. The Mazda Protégé was my real “surf wagon.” The trusty ‘ol Protégé suited my job too.

Insurance companies don’t want to see the attorneys working for them driving fancy cars or wearing nice suits. The insurance claims adjusters report back to headquarters, “Hey, Clune seems to be living high on the hog.” Then you get the call from the CEO telling you to cut your fees or they’ll move the account to a cheaper law firm.

All of that changed when I switched to the other side to do exclusively plaintiff’s personal injury cases.

. . .

When you’re a plaintiff’s attorney, the clients want to see you have a nice car

Nearly fifteen years ago, I switched away from defending insurance companies to exclusively representing people injured in accidents, making claims against the insurance companies.

One day, I got a call from a man injured very badly when he fell in a poorly lit area outside a business. Both his arms were broken- so before you make any smart-ass remarks, this was no “Brady Bunch” episode about a fake neck injury. This man was very seriously hurt, and missing time from a high paying job, with his benefits running out.

On the way to the man’s house in my Mazda Protégé that evening, I was nervous and excited to sign up one of my first personal injury cases. I pulled up to the stately mansion in the fancy Banker’s Hill neighborhood. The city skyline lights of San Diego twinkled in the background. I saw a curtain draw back, and two men were staring outside at me as I approached the front door.

Photo by Ján Jakub Naništa on Unsplash

The potential client and his older husband looked me over in the foyer.

“What kind of car is that you drive?” asked the older man, dressed in a silk evening jacket.

“Excuse me?” I said.

“What kind of car is that?” he asked again.

“Um, it’s a Mazda Protégé,” I said. “Limited Edition, with the rubber floor mats.”

“A what?” asked the younger man, whose arms were in two casts, popping out from his silk robe.

“A Mazda Protégé. Silver.” I said.

“I don’t think I’ve ever even heard of that kind of car,” said the older gentleman, with a mildly disgusted expression.

“It’s sort of a hatchback. A sporty hatchback. It’s really good for my surfboards.”

“Oh, . . . “ the older gentleman said with a withering eye roll and a side glance at the younger gentleman.

They signed up with me, but I felt like I was on my heels the whole time. I knew I needed to get a nicer car.

. . .

When I decided to get the BMW GT, my wife Tracy was unusually supportive even though it was expensive

“Yes, that’s a perfect car for you,” said Tracy, lying in bed.

I was leaning over, showing her the YouTube video on my phone. The car reviewer was explaining that even though lots of people thought the BMW 3 GT was ugly, the car had amazing storage room and was fun to drive.

Something seemed off.

“I’m not going to lie, the monthly payments are going to be way more than the Protégé,” I admitted.

“Well, you’re a plaintiff’s attorney now. You said the clients want to see you drive a nice car — otherwise they think you’re not successful,” said Tracy, turning up the T.V. volume way too loud.

It’s true. I had said that. But now that Tracy was saying it back to me, I didn’t like it. Or I was suspicious, I should say.

“And plus, you’ll be able to fit all your crap in it. When you go to the beach.” Tracy said, over the T.V.

I turned back to my side of the bed. I could not believe how easy it was to convince Tracy I needed to upgrade my car.

“Now Shhh! This is the Housewives Reunion Finale. No talking! This is important. I need to hear this.” said Tracy.

. . .

It’s a very niche audience who likes my car

On a former friend’s advice, I used a car broker to help me lease the BMW GT the first two times. That’s a story for another day, though. Sadly, the story ends with my broker declaring in a very public place that he wished I go blind and develop low testosterone. I thought that curse was very Old Testament, and way too extreme of him.

The first few weeks driving the BMW GT, I got a couple of compliments- but far fewer than I expected, quite frankly.

“She’s a beauty!” came a gruff voice from behind me.

I was at the car wash, leaning in to grab the three or four straw wrappers off the passenger seat before I turned the keys over to the guy to vacuum the interior. I turned to face a gentleman who looked very much like Yassir Arafat.

“That’s the one with the big back seat- eh?” said the gentleman.

“Yeah. Yes sir,” I said.

“Very nice, very nice. We don’t get many of those here,” he said, making clear to me he owned the car wash and mini-mart.

“BMW’s, yes! Hatchbacks, no!” he said, laughing uproariously.
. . .

A few weeks later, I was pumping gas. Again, a male voice came from the distance behind me.

“Is that one of those new hatchback ones?!” said the voice.

I turned to look, and it was a guy who looked sort of like Brett Favre. He was in a work uniform, coming from a tanker trunk, which said “Danger! Explosive Contents Under Pressure! Stay Back!” on an odd-shaped storage tank.

“I ain’t seen one of these in person yet,” he said, wiping his hands with a small towel as he approached.

“Yes sir. It’s the ‘GT’,” I answered.

“You mind poppin’ the hatch for me to see?” he asked.

I proudly pushed the button on the key remote, and the hatch opened smoothly.

“Oh yeah, look. It’s got plenty of room!” he said. “Plenty of room.”

“Yep,” I said.

“And you know what?” he asked, putting a piece of gum in his mouth.

“What?” I responded.

“It’s not half as ugly as they said it was either.”

. . .

The day my whole world came crumbling down

Around the time I leased my first new BMW, a colleague of mine leased a new car too, so he called me to come and see it. Michael got a Jaguar, one of the real sleek, sporty two-seaters, and he was eager to show it off.

“I’m here, where are you?” I asked Mike, talking to him on my cell phone as I got to the office building downtown.

“I’m in the parking garage, coming up through the gate now,” he said.

Sure enough, there was Michael, rolling up the ramp to the street in a silver Jaguar that looked more like an Aston Martin “supercar.” The car was sleek and elegant, but like its namesake, it looked like a predatory animal. It really did look like a Jaguar on its haunches, doing that scary stalking thing that a cat does before it explodes off running to catch its prey.

Mike is about ten years younger than me. He’s a bachelor, and he’s about six feet two inches tall, dark-haired and handsome. Mike speaks with a syrupy Texas drawl, kinda like Matthew McConaughey.

Mike pulled the car up to street level, then he opened the driver’s side door and stepped out, dressed to the nines in his lawyer suit. I could not believe he even fit in the low slung car. The overall impression Mike gave made me think of just two words. Tom Brady.

“Why are you getting out of the car?” I asked.

“You wanna drive?” he said, smiling.

“No, I’ll ride shotgun. I want you to show me what this thing can do.” I said, teasing.

I scooted around the front of the car and got in the passenger seat.

. . . 

My God, this is such a tight squeeze, I thought.

I can barely fit. And the center console is so big and bulky. I can’t even get my left arm all the way up on it. I feel like I’m in a race car. I’m glad I don’t have this car! It’s uncomfortable! And I feel so low to the ground. Whew, Thank God! Thank God I didn’t buy a car like this! If I were in my car, I’d run right over the top of this thing.

Mike made a quick right turn onto a busy downtown surface street, then he accelerated fast through the first green light.

“Wow, great acceleration, this is awesome! It’s like the Batmobile!” I said, feigning enthusiasm, but really secretly happy that I liked my car better.

“What kind of wood is this?” I asked, running my finger along the lacquered wood trim on the dashboard.

“Dude, hold on a second,” said Mike. “Check this out.”

As we pulled up to a stoplight, three young women in office attire were standing on the right-hand corner, seemingly on their way to lunch. 

 “Watch what happens here,” said Mike.

The women gradually took notice of the car. Soon all three were all staring directly at us inside the car. One of the women lowered her sunglasses and made eye contact with Mike.

“Dude, what the hell is going on?” I said through my gritted teeth.

“Yeah, funny isn’t it,” said Mike. “This car’s a babe magnet.”

One of the other girls bent down to look past me and get a better look at Mike.

The light turned green, and Mike peeled out, chuckling and looking in the rearview mirror, smiling.

I looked in the side-view mirror and saw the women all turn to each other and start talking. About Mike, no doubt.

“Awesome, isn’t it?” said Mike.

. . .

At the next light, a car pulled beside us on the driver’s side. Two middle-aged African American women were in the car, and the passenger rolled down her window.

“Hey there! That’s a very nice car you have!” shouted the woman.

Mike pushed the button, and the automatic window rolled down smoothly. The driver of the other car waved at him from behind the passenger.

“Thanks! You ladies havin’ a nice day?” said Mike, with his smooth, goddamn Huckleberry Hound voice.

“We sure are. Did you just get this beautiful car?” the passenger asked Mike.

“Oh, I’ve had it for a little while now. You know, I’m just being lazy with putting the license plate on.”

“Well, that car looks really, really fine on you,” said the passenger, batting her eyelids.

I found myself blushing behind Mike.

“Wow! That’s very kind of you to say,” said Mike. “Well, the light’s green. Sorry to have to say goodbye, ladies!’ said Mike, as he slowly pulled into the intersection.

I thought I saw the passenger blow Mike a kiss, but I might have imagined it.

. . .

I was in complete shock. I felt like the curtain was ripped open to a secret new world I never knew about, or like someone had slipped me a tab of L.S.D. Not that I’ve ever taken L.S.D- but I have seen Yellow Submarine.

“Dude. Does this happen everywhere you go?” I asked.

“Yeah, it’s kinda nutty- huh?” said Mike. “I call this car the ‘Panty Dropper,’” he said, looking over at me smiling in his aviator glasses.

I don’t have any nickname for my car. It never occurred to me to give my car a nickname. What would I even call my car?

‘Bubble Butt?’ ‘The Pack Mule? ‘ ‘Daddy’s Home? ‘ ‘The Surfboard Stuffer?’

“How much is the lease on this car?” I asked Mike.

It was about $150 less per month than my car.

Now I’m pissed.

. . .

Confronting Tracy to get to the truth

“Tell me again why you think my car is so good for me?” I asked Tracy, in the kitchen.

Tracy was opening the mail, not paying attention to me. Finally, my question registered in her brain.

“You can fit all of your crap in it,” she said, distracted by whatever bill she was looking at.

‘Yeah, and what else?” I asked.

“Well, I don’t know, your car is just like you. It suits you perfectly,” she said, opening another envelope.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I asked.

“You know, it’s kind of oblong and chubby. You can shove a lot of crap in it, but it still looks presentable. You know, like when you put on a nice suit and go to court.”

“You just wanted me to buy that car because it’s not sexy!” I screamed.

“What?” says Tracy, looking up at me now.

“The only people who like my car are middle-aged Middle Eastern men!” I shouted.

“What are you talking about? Are you insane?” asked Tracy.

“Nobody compliments me on my car! Nobody except car wash owners!”

“You’ve seriously lost your mind!” said Tracy, now yelling back at me.

“Do you think my car is sexy?!” I screamed.

“What do you need a sexy car for?” Tracy yelled, now standing and folding her arms across her chest.

That’s when I was especially glad I hadn’t told Tracy that Mike called his car the “Panty Dropper.”

“That’s not the point. Don’t turn this around on me! Just answer my question, is my car sexy?!”

“No, it’s not sexy. Of course it’s not! It’s not sexy at all,” Tracy admitted.

“Ah ha! That’s why you encouraged me to buy it isn’t it?!” I asked, indignantly.

“What the hell is wrong with you? You bought that car to shove your dumb surfboards in it. The ones you use once a year!” said Tracy.

“Well, maybe I wanted a sexy car too! Did you ever think about that- huh? Do you realize how expensive the lease is on that car out in the driveway?” I yelled.

“Buy whatever car you want, what do I care? You buffoon!” shouted Tracy.

“Well, maybe I will next time!” I said.

“Good! ’Cause my lease is coming up in two months, and I’m definitely buying whatever car I want!” said Tracy, leaning into me and staring me straight in the eye.

Oh, God. I thought to myself. Oh, God, no. What sort of trap did I just walk into here?

“And my car’s gonna be real sexy! Real, real sexy. In fact, I’m thinking about getting a Maserati!”

Oh shit! Oh, God. Oh please, God, no. No!

“And guess what?!” said Tracy.

“What?” I asked timidly.

"I’m gonna nickname my car the 'Pole Position!' said Tracy with a wide grin.

Copyright © 2020 Jack Clune

Thursday, September 17, 2020

An Update from The Man Cave

 An Update from The Man Cave

This writing stuff ain’t as easy as it looks

      Photo by John Barkiple on Unsplash

Just wanted to thank the Followers

Yes, you know who you are, you wonderful and patient people. You took the plunge and hit the “Follow” button on the Medium Publication Jack’s Man Cave. Since then, it’s been nothing but cricket sounds. What happened?

I got a little ahead of myself. That’s what happened.

I just wanted to drop this line to update you that over the last two weeks, we here in the Home Office (still just me) have been working on the very technical stuff of setting up a Website, Blog, Newsletter, and the Email list, which are all considered necessary tools in the world of online writing.

Very soon, I hope to be cranking out weekly dispatches of such groundbreaking creative genius that you cancel your cable and Netflix subscriptions, and just wait by the computer for your inbox to “ding.”
I promise I’ll try my best not to leave you hanging like this again!

Exciting developments

In the meantime, the story about me getting bigger and bigger during the Pandemic was picked up and curated by Medium, on the Humor, Lifestyle, and Style pages.
“Curation,” though, is a bit more of a “slow burn” than I thought at first. I’m really learning something new every day about this whole “influencer” “blowing up” world of online publishing.


I would like to thank San Diego Porsche & Audi for honoring the 3-days “cooling off” clause of the contract.

I do see now that my Medium weekly earnings report is in, Tracy might have been right, and it was too soon for me to commit to a four-year lease. 

I promise though, Hans, what I said to you in the Manager’s Office is true. I really am sorry about the commission, and I’m going to make it up to you. I hope you will eventually respond to my texts when the time to buy is right.

Stay tuned for the full rollout soon!

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

What Not To Do On Your First Day of Elementary School

What Not To Do On Your First Day of Elementary School

Don’t wear a neck kerchief

 Next week was my going to be my first day of First Grade. This was the summer of 1976, and my family had moved into a new house, in a new neighborhood. In the kitchen, my mom was reading a letter from the new school.

“Oh, how exciting! Your new school is having a Bicentennial Celebration the first week back. They’re having a costume contest on the first day. You can wear your George Washington outfit that Grandma Clune made for you!”

An electric current shot through my body, and my face got red and hot.

“I’m not sure about that one, Mom. I don’t think I want to wear that on the first day to a new elementary school,” I said.

“Oh God, are you kidding me? You have to wear it. Everyone will love it.”

 . . .

On the first day of school, we pulled up to Avocado Elementary School in Mom’s white Chevrolet Monte Carlo. Low flat buildings sat squat with a listless American flag hanging in the front. Yellow school buses pulled up and dropped kids off. I scanned the crowd, desperate to find someone in a costume. I did not see a single costume.

I was wearing a replica George Washington Revolutionary War outfit. I had a filigree neck kerchief, a vest, and a long coat with lace wrist cuffs. Grandma Clune made me the outfit when I was on a Revolutionary War kick. I used to wear it when I played ‘war’ with the kids in the street in the old neighborhood. That seemed like a very long time ago on this sweltering morning.

The Author

“Mom, nobody else is wearing costumes,” I said.

“Sure they are, look at that girl over there.”

A girl stepping off the bus was wearing some sort of Little House on the Prairie outfit, with a scarf around her head. One or two other girls, dressed similarly, climbed out of their mother’s cars or appeared walking along the dirt shoulder of the road from their houses nearby. No boys had dressed up. I sat frozen in the car.

“Yeah, see. There’s plenty of costumes,” said my little brother from the back seat.

“Shut up, Brian!” I shouted. “Mom, I wanna go home and change clothes,” I pleaded.

“Stop it. Get out. I have to get your brother to Kindercare.”

“Mom, I’m serious. I wanna go home,” I begged.

“Get out of the car, now! I don’t have time for this!” said my Mom, reaching over and undoing my seatbelt. “I’ll come back to the school with a bag of clothes for you, and I’ll leave it at the principal’s office.”

I climbed out of the car like a pilot getting out of a fighter plane that had crashed behind enemy lines. I closed the door, and looking through the car window, I saw my brother grinning like the kid in The Omen in the back seat.

. . . 

First day at a new school and I’m dressed in a Revolutionary War jacket with gold buttons, cravat, tri-corner hat, wrist kerchiefs, and buckled shoes, I thought. I’m basically asking to be bullied for the next six years at this elementary school.

I gulped and, carrying my Mead notebook and lunch sack, I walked away from the car into the fray. At first, the kids did not notice me, as they were too busy greeting each other after a long hot summer. Slowly, however, I felt the bright glare of kids staring at me.

“My what a wonderful outfit!” said a little old lady, as I walked by her near the Principal’s office.

“You’ll be in the running for best costume for sure,” the lady said. She looked like my Grandma McHugh, not the one who made my outfit, but the other Grandma. Then it dawned on me, this ancient lady was a teacher at the school.

Two or three boys and girls standing near her looked at me in complete bewilderment and horror. They were not in costumes.

Inside the school, I reported to my First Grade class with Mrs. Sanders. She too seemed very old to me, with her white hair. But her eyes sparkled with youth, and she smiled warmly when she did attendance roll call, and she saw me sitting there in my outfit, with my hat still on.

“Andy Bloom, there you are, . . . . John Clune, oh, there you are… .what a wonderful costume John!” said Mrs. Sanders.

I blushed.

“John, I have a note here that you like to go by the name ‘Jack’ is that correct ‘Honey?”

A couple of the boys sniggered.

“‘Jack Off, Jack’. ‘Jack Me-Off’ . . .” I heard them whisper.

“Yes, M’am,” I said.

“Well ‘Jack’ you are then!” said Mrs. Saunders.

All the boys laughed. Mrs. Sanders looked around with slight confusion. Even my name causes me grief. And now I’m sitting here in this costume, I thought.

Why do my parents torture me like this? Why is it my fate to endure things no other kid does?

“Charles Schmit . . . Charles, please take off your baseball hat,” said Mrs. Sanders.

“Why does he get to keep his hat on?” asked Charles Schmit, pointing at me, in my tri-corner hat.

“Charles, I am not going to argue with you Sweetie, take off your hat,” said Mrs. Sanders.

Charles Schmit looked at me with contempt. Charles was shorter and smaller than me.

I’ll call him ‘Charles Shit’ if he keeps this up, I thought to myself. I’d have to get the lay of the land first, as this was a new school to me.

 . . .

The rest of the morning went okay, as the kids in my own class got bored staring at me. There was a 15-minute break, however, where we had to go out on the playground and that was a different story. I tried to hang out in the classroom, but it did not work.

“Jack, Dear, you have to go outside. The janitor is coming by to vacuum the class, and he needs all students outside,” said Mrs. Sanders.

This school was weird and different from my old school. All the classrooms had moving walls that the teachers could push around and reconfigure. The moveable “walls” were like thick vinyl drapes that moved on tracks.

I heard the janitor’s vacuum coming closer. Then he came around the corner, and he was scary looking. Dressed in a dark green work outfit, like a military man or car repair mechanic, the janitor had a flat top haircut and he wore big black boots. Tall and menacing, the janitor had a permanent scowl on his face. The overall impression on me was that he was Michael Myers from Halloween, without the mask on.

I willingly ran outside after I saw him.

 . . .

Standing in the prison yard now, I hugged the wall and ate the cheese and crackers snack my Mom packed for me. I was digging the cheese out with the red plastic stick when Charles Shit and the two or three other boys approached me.

“This is Jack Meoff,” said Charles, seemingly introducing me to the other kid next to him.

“Where the hell did you get this costume Jack Meoff?” said the tough-looking kid.

“My grandmother made it for me. I didn’t want to wear it, but my mom forced me to,” I said, regretting the words the moment I uttered them.

“Actually, the costume is pretty cool. Do you have a gun?” said the tough kid.

“Yeah, I have a musket but I left it home,” I said.

“Do you like Led Zeppelin?” said the tough kid.

He had a shock of black hair, twinkling light blue eyes, and a crooked smile like Mr. MaGoo. He reminded me of Charles Bronson.

“Yeah,” I said.

“What’s your favorite song?” he asked.

“That’s hard because they’re all my favorite songs. “Kashmir,” “The Ocean” “Trampled Under Foot.” But right now, ‘Dancing Days’ is my favorite.”

“Cool. That’s a good one. You know a lot of Zeppelin.”

The bell rang, and we went back to class. Knowledge of Led Zeppelin songs and trivia had saved the day for me for the first of many times. I had no idea that Chuck and the tough kid Paul Otis would become my good friends for the next eight years.

The Author

 . . .

Back in the classroom, Mrs. Sanders was teaching us something, when a woman came around the corner holding a brown paper grocery bag.

The woman approached Mrs. Sanders and whispered in her ear. Mrs. Sanders pulled back and looked shocked at the woman. Then both the women talked under their breath to each other and then turned to stare at me.

“Jack, would you please come up here, Dear,’” said Mrs. Sanders.

I got up and walked up the row of kids to see Mrs. Sanders.

“Jack, your mother dropped off these clothes for you,” said Mrs. Sanders pointing at the bag.

Thank God, I thought, reaching for the bag.

“But I simply will not allow you to change out of that wonderful George Washington outfit until after the Bicentennial celebration. I am in charge of the ceremony, and it would disappoint me so very much if you changed now, do you understand me?” said Mrs. Sanders, looking deep into my eyes.

She looked and talked like the old lady in the Sylvester and Tweetie cartoons.

“Can I change after it’s over?” I asked.

“Well, yes. After the costume contest is over, you can change in the boy’s bathroom if you still want to, after all the wonderful attention you are going to receive.”

“Can I have my bag now?” I asked.

“Yes, but do not change your clothes until after, do you understand?”

“Yes. I promise,” I said.

I clutched the bag to my chest, like Linus from Peanuts gripping his safety blanket.

 . . .

At lunch, all the classes gathered in the open-air courtyard for the Bicentennial celebration, and the costume contest.

My teacher, Mrs. Sanders was the master of ceremonies, and she approached the microphone.

“Students and teachers, welcome back to the Avocado Elementary School, welcome to a new school year, and welcome to our 200 Year Bicentennial celebration!”

Everyone clapped politely.

“We are going to have a few speeches from some of our Sixth Grade students on the meaning, and importance of the Bicentennial of our great country. But first, please stand for the Pledge of Allegiance, and if you are wearing a hat please take it off.”

Chuck Shit leaned over and made sure I took my tri-corner hat off. I put my hand up to my heart, still holding tight to my grocery bag full of clothes.

“Thank you, students. Now, before we start the speeches, I would like everyone who wore costumes to please stand up and be recognized,” said Mrs. Sanders.

Oh, God.

I stood up and looked around. Five or six girls stood up, and they were all dressed the same, in their Melissa Gilbert Little House outfits.

“Would those students now please come up here to the stage, so they may be properly recognized,” said Mrs. Sanders.

There was no use trying to run and hide. I just had to go face the firing squad.

 . . .

The girls and I filed onto the “stage” which was really just the sidewalk in front of the cafeteria. We climbed a few steps up from the open-air courtyard where all the kids were seated on plastic chairs and picnic benches. I still hugged my grocery bag with the clothes in it like it was a parachute.

“Now please stand on the chairs if you would children. Thank you to Janitor Bruce, and the Sixth Grade boys for providing the chairs.”

Bruce, the Michael Myers janitor, and a few Sixth Grade boys dragged seven or eight plastic chairs behind us to stand on. I heard one of the boys behind me whisper “Pussy” in my ear as they pulled the chair up behind me.

“Initially, we were going to have a costume contest, but so few of you dressed up, and the costumes were all so good, we simply want to recognize everyone who dressed up, ” explained Mrs. Sanders.

I stared out at all the faces and realized the worst-case scenario had come true. I was the only boy in the whole school who was dumb enough to wear a costume.

“The only boy who wore a costume is Jack Clune, and what fine costume it is. Jack please stand on the chair and be recognized.”

I heard the crowd laugh at my name ‘Jack.’ I put my grocery bag down, and I climbed up and stood on the chair. I felt like “Carrie,” under the gaze of every child, teacher, and administrative person. I looked out and saw Bruce the janitor staring at me, chewing on a toothpick.

“Now girls, would you please stand on the chairs as I call your name . . . Suzanne Coke . . . Melody James . . . .”

Soon it was me and all girls standing there. Like Bob Barker and the Price is Right girls.

“Let’s give these students a big round of applause,” said Mrs. Sanders.

The sea of kids applauded very weakly.

“Okay, thank you, students, you may return to your seats.”

I dropped to the ground, grabbed the grocery bag, and ran for the boy’s bathroom.

 . . .

In the bathroom, I saw myself in the mirror as I ran to one of the empty stalls.

Jesus Christ. Why did I ever have this suit made?

I bounded into the stall and began taking off the hat, jacket, the cravat, and the vest first. Afraid the floor might be wet with pee, I started removing the costume from top to bottom.

I stood in a dry corner of the stall and got my corduroy pants on. Next came my favorite terrycloth shirt. I threw the buckled shoes in the paper bag and got my sneakers on. I felt relieved.

Then I heard the bathroom door slam open against the wall, and someone entered clearing their throat with grotesque sounds.

. . .

The intruder walked over to the sink, then it scraped up from its throat a big loogie and spit it out, retching. Then it turned on the water.

“Urgh. Urgh. Oh! Ooomph,” the creature was making guttural humanoid noises. Then it finally spoke.

“Urgh. Someone’s in here already taking a shit huh?” said the Klingon.

Whatever had just walked into the bathroom, it was talking to itself. I felt like I was in Jack and the Beanstalk, hiding from the giant.

“Hey how long you gonna be? I gotta take a shit too!” said the monster.

There’s another stall in here. Why is this happening to me? I don’t dare say anything, I thought.

“Hurry up! I want that stall!” said the beast.

Using two fingers, I turned the disc opening the stall and I stepped out tentatively.

Standing in front of me was a big kid twice my size, with an ugly face, narrow forehead, with strangely receding stringy hair. He looked like Ben Franklin, except he was dressed like Shaggy from Scooby-Doo. He wore maroon corduroy pants and a puke green T-shirt. The boy’s eyes seemed to droop, and it looked like his red face had been scalded- recently. His mouth hung open.

“You’re the kid that was in the costume . . .” said the Toxic Avenger.

I gave up lying after the incident in Georgia when I got caught for breaking into my father’s car and stealing his doctor’s stuff- tongue depressors and penlights. I was on the spot here. I did not know what to say, but I instinctively knew to deny I was ‘costume boy.’

“No. No, no, no, that was not me,” I said, trying to buy time to think of what to say next.

“Yeah, it was you. And your costume’s in that bag,” said Quasimodo.

“No. No. No, there’s no costume in here,” I said, stupidly.

“Then what’s in there?” asked The Hills Have Eyes.

“This is my lunch bag. I have my lunch in here,” I said.

It was partially true. I had thrown my lunch bag in with the clothes.

“Let me see,” said the inbred from Deliverance as he reached over to grab my bag.

The bathroom door slammed open, even harder than when The Goonies came in.

“David!!! What did I tell you before, David! Are you ever allowed to go into the bathrooms without a teacher David?! No, no, no, you’re not!” shouted some angry man who looked like Neil Sedaka from the album cover Greatest Hits.

‘David’ cowered in fear and made whimpering noises like Marty Feldman in Young Frankenstein. It would not have surprised me if Neil Sedaka started whipping him. I ran out of the bathroom without even washing my hands.

. . .

That night I had my mother zip my George Washington outfit in a plastic garment bag in a permanent retirement ceremony.

Thankfully, within a day or two, Patty Hearst was captured by the police, and everyone forgot about me and my costume.

The Author

P.S. This story is an excerpt from an upcoming Novel which will be edited by someone who knows what they are doing.

Copyright © 2020 Jack Clune

Friday, August 28, 2020

I Can't Live Up To The Size XXL Shirt I Just Bought

I Can't Live Up To The Size XXL Shirt I Just Bought

I gotta lose weight

Antoine Da cunha on Unsplash

Romantic Getaway, COVID-19 style

My wife Tracy and I are getting ready for a short weekend getaway trip for our 16th Anniversary. We’re also visiting friends who are having a BBQ for their son, who is going away to college.

Because it is 2020, we’ll be wearing facemasks on the airplane, and we’re flying into an area that was decimated by wildfires. “Romantic Getaway” COVID-19 style!

The hotel gave us a significant discount just to thank us for coming, so we didn't even have to use our AAA benefits.

. . .

A new shirt for the trip

I’ve worn pretty much the same Dri-FIT exercise clothes every day since about mid-March. So when Tracy said she was going shopping and would I like her to pick me a new shirt for the trip, I said, “sure.”

Even though I wear elastic-waisted workout shorts every day, I haven’t actually had a chance to exercise since the pandemic began.

“What size are you now?” Tracy asked, somewhat witheringly, and really overemphasizing the word ‘now.”

Actually, it was a pretty good question. There were whole swaths of shirts in my closet that I’ve subconsciously avoided trying on in the last few weeks. I know they won’t fit, or they’ll fit tight.

“I’m an XL. You know that!” I said, jocularly.

Tracy did not laugh. She looked me up and down. Then she rolled her eyes and walked away.

That got me to thinking.

. . .

It took me a while just to get used to being an XL

I’ve often marveled at the fact that I am an XL shirt size. I don’t feel like an XL. I look around, and there seem to be so many bigger and chubbier guys than me stumbling around. What size do they wear, if I’m an XL? 8XL?

But I’ve temporarily had a potbelly the last few years which threw the whole sizing thing off. Tracy reminds me that I have skinny legs and no butt. But the belly throws the sizing thing askew, and that’s why I go XL on the shirts.

I say temporarily, because any day now, I am going to go back on the Atkins diet. Yes, long before there was Keto, Paleo, and all these other rip-off diets, there was the Atkins Diet. It seems like nobody gives Dr. Atkins the credit he is due anymore, except Rob Lowe.

. . .

I need to get back on the Atkins diet

I did the Atkins diet hardcore for two years in a row, about 15 years ago, and I really trimmed down. I got thrown off track, however, when Boston Market went into bankruptcy and closed down most of their locations. Up until then, I was eating Boston Market’s chicken (taking the skin off, sometimes) and creamed spinach two or three times a day.

I’d also go to Costco and eat the hot dogs without the bun, or drive through Jack-in-the-Box and eat the Supreme Bacon Cheeseburger, also without the bun.

“Dude, you’re diet is horrible,” my jealous friends told me.

“All I’m doing is eating all the same stuff I ate before without the bun. And I’ve lost 12 pounds,” I’d say, popping another Altoid. Your breath can get pretty intense eating all that protein.

I was giving Rob Lowe a run for his money. It sucked when Dr. Atkins himself died of a massive coronary.

The problem with the Atkins diet is if you slip and have just one french fry, potato chip, or piece of garlic bread, it’s over. That french fry becomes the best tasting french fry you ever had in your life. You immediately slip into a carb binge. You wake up two days later in a parking garage, surrounded by carbs.

. . .

Tracy texts and calls me from the clothing store

Tracy texted me two photos from the store.

“This one’s a Large, and this one is an XL,” said the text with photos of two shirts.

Tracy liked the patterns on these Hawaiian-style shirts. One had hot dogs on it, and the other had bananas.

“The one shirt shows what you eat every day, and the other shows what you drive me — bananas,” Tracy said.

Hardy har har, I thought. Tracy was not “getting the vibe” of the type of shirts I like. Nonetheless, I told her to bring them home, and I would try them on.

. . .

The “Grand Theft Auto look” I invented and everyone stole

A few years back, I went on a Hawaiian shirt kick. When it comes to fashion, I get an idea in my head, and I really beat it into the ground. I decided I wanted to dress like the characters in the videogame Grand Theft Auto (“GTA”).


It was back when there were GTA advertisements on T.V. The commercials showed car thief criminal characters running wild through a Los Angeles landscape. The characters wore white sneakers, jeans, and sleazy Hawaiian shirts. I don’t know why this look appealed to me so much. These fashion whims just sort of come to me sometimes, and I go with them. Before this GTA phase, it was safari shirts with epaulets.

I wore jeans, Adidas Stan Smiths, and the sleaziest Hawaiian shirts I could find. That became my uniform for the past few years. We were on the Disney Cruise one year, and the entertainment director called me out on my outfit while Tracy and I were performing on “The Dating Game” in the pub in front of all the parents who were relaxing away from their children.

“Look at the outfit on this one! Nobody dresses like this anymore,” said the British lady host, pointing at me and trying to get a laugh. “Who are you supposed to be, Magnum P.I.?” The crowd roared laughing.

The next day on the pool deck, I was looking at my phone and Dolce and Gabbana, and all the other fashion designers had stolen my idea and were using my GTA look in their shows.

Don’t worry. I got that British entertainment director back good. That’s a different story.

These hot dog and banana prints Tracy was picking out, however, were too cutesy, and not sleazy enough. But I humored Tracy and said bring them home, and I’ll try them on.

. . .

The fashion show at home

I tried on the XL shirt with the bananas print, and the shoulders fit and the length was good. But it looked like there was a watermelon pushing out from the middle of the shirt. And the bottom did sort of hang a little bit like a maternity dress.

I walked out to the garage where Tracy was working out in the home gym.

“Oh God, that’s horrible,” said Tracy, before I could get a word out. “How did the XL fit?” she asked.

“This is the XL,” I said.

“Oh, Jesus. Turn sideways,” said Tracy

I saw myself in the big home gym mirror. It did not look so good.

“I guess it’s not that bad. You might be able to wear that,” said Tracy. “Just don’t turn sideways when we’re at the BBQ.”

Back in the man cave, I tried on the L sized shirt- just for fun. I got my arms through the shoulders, but I could barely get it buttoned. I gave up and let it hang loosely unbuttoned.

I turned to the mirror above the tufted leather couch. I looked like Robert Plant at the height of Led Zeppelin, when he wore those little girlie half shirts. I looked like Robert Plant if he had a big pot belly.

. . . 

Take these shirts back, please

Tracy took both the XL bananas shirt and the L hot dog shirt back to the store.

“Do you want me to see if they have any good XXL shirts?” Tracy asked.

This was the moment of truth. Was I going to take that next step on the evolutionary chain? The classical music from 2001 A Space Odyssey played in my head.

“Sure. Send me a photo if there’s an XXL you think I’d like,” I said. As soon as I said it, the music in my head switched to the Baby Elephant song.

Tracy got to the store, and the texts started coming. The first was a photo of a really cool bright pink shirt. It was sobering to see the XXL on the label inside the shirt.

I was in the middle of a Zoom meeting for work. My face on the screen looked so pink and blotchy, I was playing with all the Zoom settings to see if there was something wrong with my computer camera.

Everybody else in the meeting’s face seemed normal complexion, except mine. My face seemed really, really red. In fact, I was already researching Rosacea on the Mayo Clinic site on my second computer screen. That’s when Tracy’s text of the pink shirt came in. The shirt was kinda sleazy and right up my alley, but . . .

The Author (XXL)

“I like it. But I don’t think that hot pink it will complement my complexion,” I texted back.

Tracy sent me a photo of a second shirt. This one was white, with wispy black palm fronds on it. It seemed pretty simple and elegant.

The Author (XXL)

“Sure, bring that one home.”

. . .

Graduating up to the XXL shirt

Tracy put the shopping bag down on the kitchen counter and pulled out the XXL shirt.

“Oh my God. It’s like a bedspread!” I chortled.

“Don’t get ahead of yourself, ‘Chubs. Sometimes when I hold up your shirts in the laundry room, I feel like I’m folding duvet covers,” said Tracy.

I grabbed the shirt from her hand and took it back to the man cave. After some mental preparation, I put the XXL shirt on over the Dri-FIT I was wearing.

The XXL shirt fit like a glove. It was twice as comfortable as the XL. Oh my God. I’m an XXL.

I walked back to the kitchen and showed Tracy.

“It’ll probably shrink once you wash it I said,” twisting and posing side to side.

“I hope it doesn’t shrink too much,” said Tracy. “It fits perfectly right now.”

. . . 

Getting used to my new XXL life

I had to go to the grocery store later that day. As I masked-up and walked to get the shopping cart, I looked around to see if there were any other XXL guys around.

Just then, as I was crossing to the front of the store, a lifted truck came barreling towards me, running over two speed bumps without slowing the slightest bit. I jumped back and let the truck go past.

I saw the big angry guy driving the truck, with his arm hanging out the window, and it was obvious he wears XXL or larger. He had Oakley Blades on, a baseball hat backwards, and a Fu Manchu mustache. He had a really big and burly wife or girlfriend in the front seat, and you could tell she was just as grumpy as he was. She was drinking a Big Gulp and had a bandanna on. She probably wore XXL too.

The driver “mad-dogged” me, staring at me the whole time as he tore past me. Then he was gone.

Man, if I’m going to be wearing XXL, maybe I need to start acting like that guy, I thought.

. . .

Trying to “fit” in

When I got home from the store, I went online, and I started shopping for things to fit my new XXL life. I went on Amazon and started looking for some of the items that I thought I might need.

I browsed for a leather knife holder that would fit on my belt. Then I shopped for obnoxious wrap-around blade sunglasses, the kind that guys with Mullet haircuts wear. I checked out the cowboy boots too. Expensive.

Maybe I should have a toothpick in my mouth all the time, I thought.

Then it dawned on me.

I’m not really cut out for this XXL thing. I can’t pull this off, nobody is going to believe it. For chrissakes, my dad drove a Jaguar XJS, and had a man purse. I myself leased two Miatas, and still wished I had one.

I went back to the grocery store and headed straight to the meat aisle. I bought a bunch of protein- hot dogs, chicken, and steak. I picked up some creamed spinach and walked right past the bread aisle without even stopping. At the register, I grabbed a tin of Altoids.

Back home I looked at myself in the home gym mirror.

I gotta lose weight.

© Copyright 2020 Jack Clune 

Saturday, August 22, 2020

The Epic Saga of the Biscuit with the Loose Trucks


The Epic Saga of the Biscuit with the Loose Trucks

It’s a miracle more people weren’t hurt

The Author 

The skateboards looked so cool. Like surfing on the street!

One day I was scrolling through Facebook when an advertisement came up and magically transported me back to my youth. The ad was for some skateboards that looked like giant surfboards on wheels.

The ad showed skinny, blond-haired surfer kids using these skateboards to “land surf” all over the boardwalks, and parking lots at the beach. The kids were “hanging ten,” twirling around, and grabbing the rails of the boards and making deep carving turns like the way surfboards turn in the water.

There was even a video of a big chubby guy who kinda looked my same age (50), riding the tiniest version of the surfing skateboard, the model called “The Biscuit.”

If he can do it, I can do it, I thought.

 . . . 

I don’t get to the beach as much as I used to

These days, I only go “real” surfing during the summer, when the water gets warm. There was a time when I was going surfing every day after work. Three or four years ago, however, some sleaze shattered the back window of my car and stole my laptop bag with all my banking information in it while I was surfing.

As fun as it was working on the project of canceling all my credit cards, and re-doing all the paperwork for virtually every single aspect of my personal and business life, I found it hard to regain my surfing  mojo after that. I don’t know why.

 . . .

One of those skateboards would solve all my problems

I have to get one of those skateboards, I thought. Then I can just go outside my house in the cul de sac, and go “surfing.” I won’t have to park the car at the derelict beach ever again. I won’t have to wake up early in the morning and put on a cold wetsuit.

The videos showed some of the kids using these special poles to push themselves along on the longboard skateboards. The whole set up was meant to approximate paddleboarding on land.

I’ll get that pole too. After a few weeks of pushing myself along with that pole, I’ll have a six-pack of abs. Thank God I saw this ad for these skateboards today. This is going to be killing two birds with one stone. I won’t have to get sandy at the beach anymore, and I won’t have to go to the gym, because I’ll be so ripped from using that pole to push myself along in the cul de sac.

. . . 

The purchase

Hearts were popping out of my ears as I went straight to the website and bought the cheapest, smallest model of skateboard called “The Biscuit.” I ordered the purple one, called the “Deep Space” Biscuit.

I was kinda shocked to see that the “Sweeper” pole cost nearly $150.00.

What the hell? Why is this pole so expensive? Oh well, I’ll probably be canceling my monthly gym membership, and it’s cheaper than a Peloton.

I ordered the pole too.

. . . 

The arrival in the mail

When the day of the Biscuit arrival came, I ran out to greet the UPS truck like a kid at Christmas. I ripped open the box and delighted at the psychedelic purple skateboard. It was short and fat and ready to go.

Wait a sec. Why are the trucks so loose? Is that what makes the board turn so loosely, like a surfboard in the water?

The “trucks” are the T-shaped metal axels which are bolted to the bottom of the board and have the wheels on the end of them. These were super duper trucks, much more substantial than regular skateboard trucks. But for some reason, these trucks were bolted onto the board very loosely, such that I could jiggle the whole truck far too easily it seemed to me.

Can this be right? Is that how that girl in the bikini was able to make such sharp turns?

I jiggled the trucks and filmed it with my phone. I sent the video to a few of my friends with whom I used to skateboard 35 years ago. Pardon the bad language on the video.

I got a return text.

“Cool. Crazy looking board.”

“ . . .”

“Don’t kill yourself.”

. . .

The maiden ride and the “stick”

The next day, the “Sweeper” pole arrived in the mail. It was made of graphite, and thus, it flexed and provided some thrust when I planted it on the ground and pushed off.

It was time to make the maiden ride on the Biscuit. In no time, I was pushing myself around like a pro. I was so proud, I even had my wife Tracy film me.

As you will hear, unfortunately, Tracy ruined the audio on the video when she made a bunch of smart-ass comments. She insisted on calling my Sweeper pole, “the stick.” Please try to ignore her comments if you watch the video link here:

“Oh my God, you’re going to kill yourself on that thing someday,” Tracy said off-camera.

. . .

The incident at the park

The next day Son #2 had soccer practice at the park near the beach.

What a perfect place to really stretch out and ride the Biscuit and use the pole, I thought.

When we got to the park, I began riding the Biscuit, first without the pole, because there were people around, and I was a little embarrassed to use it.

The Biscuit was enough of an attention-grabber as it was I guess because people were staring and pointing at me a lot.

It was a hot day because I got really sweaty after only 4 or 5 minutes of riding. Then involuntary thoughts flooded my mind, some of which seemed contradictory. I could not shoo the thoughts away:

Time to quit. You haven’t killed yourself yet, so that’s great. How long are you going to keep riding? Until you fall down and hurt yourself?... But you haven’t used the pole yet. You gotta try the pole. It cost so much money. Just a couple of rides with the pole, to get a jump start on that six-pack of abs.

I got the pole and rode back over to the open space around the bathrooms. Round and round I went, pumping and unweighting, and using the pole to push off whenever the board threatened to stop. More involuntary thoughts entered my head.

That’s good enough for today. You should wait until the helmet arrives, it’s coming in the mail soon. Let’s quit while we’re ahead . . . Let’s just go one time down behind the bleachers for one long run beside the baseball third baseline. Then we’ll come back and put everything away.

So I rolled down an incline and headed behind the bleachers along the third baseline. I pushed down on the pole a couple of times and got lots of speed.

That’s when the two front wheels hit the crack in the pavement, and the board came to a complete stop, while my body kept going, flying in mid-air.

 . . .

The Wreck of the Biscuit with Loose Trucks

As my body transitioned from an upright surfer stance into a Pete Rose head-first slide into home plate, I put my arms out in front of me but neglected to drop the pole.

The pole now served as a sort of rolling pin. Like a giant rolling pin from the Spanish Inquisition, that they used to force confessions from people accused of being witches and heretics. As I landed upon the medieval rolling pin, it slowly and methodically cracked all of the ribs on my right side.

As the pole cracked my ribs, a sound emitted out of my body. It was not the cute little sound the Pillsbury Dough Boy makes when the finger pushes against his rib cage. Instead, it was the sound that the lady reporter made when she fell down, squishing grapes with her feet, on the first video ever to go viral on the internet. Please click on the link provided that is underlined, it’s really worth it to refresh your memory of that sound.

I sprawled out on the sidewalk twitching like a fly smashed with a fly swatter. A guy from the softball field ran over and asked through the chain-link fence.

“Dude, are you okay?! That was gnarly!” he asked, genuinely concerned.

I looked up at him, and for some odd reason, my first impulse was to say, “Thank you.” But there was no air in my diaphragm, lungs or mouth. There was no air in my bloodstream for that matter.

Any air that had been in my body when I slapped against the pavement was expelled from my body on a molecular level. This was more than just “having the wind knocked out.” This was something more serious like “the bends” that a deep-sea diver gets.

I stared into the guy’s eyes, and I made a wheezing sound like the cartoon dog Muttley when he laughs. Like a carny holding the lip of a balloon, letting the air out slowly. Both the guy’s eyes and mine got wide when we heard the sound I made.

I picked up my Biscuit and my pole and started walking to my car. I sobbed a little bit, like Ben Stiller in There’s Something About Mary.

As I walked, I could feel there was something wrong with my body. There was definitely something very, very wrong. It felt as though I might have exploded my kidney or something. It felt like my spleen, or some other organ was in the wrong place. I felt misshapen and cold.

I knew a kid in elementary school who exploded his kidney doing a jump on his BMX bike. He never grew after that. I was worried. Not that I am still growing or anything.

I went to the car, and put the driver’s seat back, turning it into a makeshift hospital bed, or dentist’s chair. I felt my chest, trying to assess whether I needed to drive to the hospital. I might have passed out. Son #2’s soccer practice came to an end, and he opened the back seat door.

“Dad, are you sleeping? What’s wrong, Dad?” Son #2 asked.

“I think I have internal bleeding son.”

God, is there any way I can avoid telling Tracy about this?

. . .

The pain, the excruciating pain

When we got home, I told Tracy about it.

“It’s not my fault. I’m telling you the trucks on that board are too loose! Ow. Ouch!” I buckled over in pain.


“I told you you’d get hurt. What kind of person takes up skateboarding at age 50? You really are a buffoon!” said Tracy, going back to cook the boys dinner.

“It wasn’t my fault!” I said, gripping my chest, because it hurt when I got excited.

I had to sit down. Sitting hurt too much, so I laid down on the couch in my man cave. The only position I could find that didn’t hurt was lying down, but not with my head propped too high. I had to lie like a corpse and stare straight up.

“There’s a delivery at the door!” Tracy yelled from the other room. We have a doorbell at our house that makes no noise, it only rings to Tracy’s cell phone. Nobody else can hear it. That’s a subject for another day.

I tried to sit up.

Oh my God. I can’t move. The pain in my chest felt like a butcher knife. I whelped in pain. This is the worst pain I’ve ever felt in my life.

I had to slide sideways off the couch. Like I was limbo dancing at a Sandals resort. Then I had to grab onto something, like a chair or an end table, and sort of do a corkscrew motion to get myself fully upright. Electric jolts of pain shot through my chest, into my brain.

I staggered into the man cave bathroom and threw two Advil liquid cap gels into my mouth. Then I was ready to go greet the UPS man. By the time I got out to the front gate, he was gone.

The box was left on the front step. It was my helmet. The manufacturer of the helmet is called Nutcase.

The Author

. . . 

The letter in the mail

Somehow I went to work the next day, even though I felt like I’d been hit by a truck. I got home and resumed lying like a corpse on the couch.

“Here, this is for you,” said Tracy, throwing an envelope on my desk in the man cave.

“What is it?” I asked, whimpering.

“I don’t know, but it’s from the skateboard company,” said Tracy.

I pretended like I did not really hear what she said. Of course, I wanted to jump up and get it and read it, but I did not want Tracy to see the process I had to go through to stand up. As soon as I was sure she was gone and occupied with something else, I got to work.

I limbo’d sideways off the couch and gripped the ottoman. The process of me sliding off the couch, and crawling towards the desk was similar to the scene in The Wolf of Wall Street when Leonardo DiCaprio gets into the Lamborghini.

I ripped open the letter. Inside the envelope, there was a plastic baggie filled with some sort of nuts or bolts. I opened the plastic baggie and unfolded the letter inside it.

The Author


We have had a few complaints that the truck mounts on our Biscuits were loose. If this happened with your Biscuit, we are sorry for this inconvenience. We think we’ve figured out the root cause and we’ve made corrections at the factory. For your board, we also have a fix. We have provided you with 8 split lock washers, one for each bolt that holds the trucks to the deck. If your board has loose truck mounts, please remove the lock nuts, install one split lock washer and then tighten down. You’ll need a Philips screwdriver and a #10 metric box wrench. Your board should be fine from there.

By way of explanation, when we built and assembled these boards, they were perfectly tight. We think that what happened was that, over time, the plywood glue cross-linked, and the natural wood moisture level dropped causing the plywood to shrink a little bit. When it’s hot, the bolts expand and “get longer.” We think that these tiny changes combined to cause the connection to loosen.

To be honest, we don’t have this happen all that often, but we hear about it on the Biscuit more than other boards. If you recently purchased a Biscuit and there was an extra set of silver bolts included, those bolt threads don’t match the locknuts. Please discard those silver bolts and use the split lock washers.

We’re very sorry for the inconvenience.

CHEERS — Donnie

. . .  

Agonizing vindication

My bottom lip trembled as I finished reading the letter. A tear fell from my eye onto the letter.

I knew it. I knew it wasn’t my fault that I crashed.

I was overcome with emotion. At first, I was happy. Happy that the accident was not my fault. Then I was mad. Mad that they almost killed me. Then I was astonished. How could they write such a dumb letter?

As a personal injury attorney myself, I know that this company must not have an attorney working for them. No attorney would have ever let the company mail this letter. This was a bald-faced admission that they had sent me a defective product and nearly killed me.

“Hey, Tracy! The trucks were loose. I told you the crash was not my fault!” I screamed.

“Hoo-ray,” said Tracy. Then I think I heard her say “You know it was still his fault right?”

“Yep,” I heard Son #1 say.

Then I heard some sarcastic slow hand-clapping too.


My email to the company

I climbed into my chair and opened the laptop. I wrote the skateboard company an email. I described the fall at length and told them I did not want to fix my “Biscuit,” I wanted a new one, free of charge. I was really proud of this paragraph:

I don’t want to sue or make any sort of claim against [Skateboard Company]

I am a personal injury attorney. That’s what I do for a living. I appreciate [Skateboard Company’s] laid back marketing and family-owned business culture. But I gotta tell ya, receiving an envelope in the mail with eight (8) washers in it made my jaw drop. I felt like I was living out an episode from the first couple seasons of Saturday Night Live, the ones where Dan Akyroyd played a crooked business owner that sold ridiculously dangerous defective products for kids.

One episode features him selling a “Bag o’ Glass” for kids to play with. I am not interested in suing or making an insurance claim against [Skateboard Company]. I can guarantee you if I was more seriously injured, I would do it, and I would win. That’s not what this is about.

. . .

The Skateboard Company’s response

The Skateboard Company responded quickly, saying they would give me a full refund, and send me a box to mail the “Biscuit” back to them and they would fix it.

I emailed them that it was okay, they did not need to fix my “Biscuit,” as I was permanently retiring it, and hanging it on the wall of my man cave.

Tracy’s brother, who is a contractor, and almost as handy as Tracy, fixed the “Biscuit” later. He sat in the man cave and used his drill to take the board apart, and then put the washers on in less than a minute. Then he held the “Biscuit” up and inspected it, with an amused look on his face.

“You actually tried to ride this thing, Jacky?” he said chuckling, as he put the “Biscuit” back up on the wall mount he had installed too.

The Author

“Next time you’re gonna ride it, can you give me a call, or film it? I don’t want to miss it!” he said.


. . . 

Later I broke down and bought the “Logger” model, and it’s a beauty

The Logger model arrived, and I promptly hung it right on the wall. I didn’t actually ride the thing until months later. Only months after my ribs finally stopped aching, I finally took it out for a spin.

The Author

It took no less than 8 weeks for my ribs to finally heal and stop aching after the fall off the Biscuit.

I sneezed exactly seven times during those 8 weeks.

Copyright © 2020 Jack Clune


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