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Note:  This was not an easy essay for Richard Rodriguez to write.  In fact, it was in development for six months before he decided to go ahead with it. 

The results reflect a profound courage to confront the pain, anger and confusion of grieving for lost loved ones. It’s a real credit to Rich that he opened up like this. It’s well worth your time to read.

My first time dealing with death and grieving was with my maternal grandfather.

My grandparents lived with us in a two-family house, and one morning my dad and I went into their apartment and my grandmother said my grandfather was still sleeping.

We went into the room to wake him up.

As soon as I walked through the door I froze as I saw his pale face.

My dad went over and tried to wake him but I knew he was dead even though I had never seen a dead body before.

I never went past the doorway that day and was always wary of going in there for years after.

Many years later, my mother had complications after heart surgery and ended up in a vegetative state for a year before she finally died.

I have never had closure with her death.

Prior to the surgery we hugged and figured all would go well. After the surgery, she never regained consciousness. The day after, she had a cardiac arrest.

Her heart was restarted but the damage was done as the time her brain was without oxygen proved to be devastating. I was never able to say goodbye.

I was away at a job-related workshop when she entered the hospital a few weeks before, and the night she went to the hospital in an ambulance I was awakened abruptly in my hotel room by a “presence” in the room.

It could have been a dream but I woke up screaming. The next day when I called home, my brother told me of mom’s condition and that she was in the hospital.

I still wonder if somehow she was reaching out to me. I never saw her at home again.

Years later, I remember having a dream that she had come home. She seemed so relieved. In the hospital prior to the surgery that is all she wanted: to come home.

She was fearful of having the surgery. I think she knew she would not make it.

Among her things at the hospital, my father found individual letters addressed to us.

In them she expressed her love, words of encouragement and about my upcoming wedding and my brother David’s wedding.

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She spent the time to write her last thoughts and wishes for us. I can’t imagine how hard that was for her. I still have my letter tucked away in a drawer. I’ll never forget it.

We visited her every day with hopes that there would be a miracle and she would come back to us. Numerous doctors and specialists evaluated her and they all concluded that her brain was too damaged to recover.

The doctors approached my dad with a DNR (do not resuscitate) and he was so upset he would not sign it. He was angry and demanded they do everything in their power to keep her alive

It was heart-wrenching to see her every day and hold her hand and try to communicate with her and hope to get a response.

Deep down we knew the chances of her coming back were very slim. I knew my mom would not want to exist in this state when she was so vibrant and full of life before.

She was eventually removed from life support and was able to breathe on her own and transferred to a nursing home.

I stopped coming to see her, as it was so painful to see her this way.

My father was unhappy with me. He was there every day. I couldn’t do it anymore. I would pray and ask God to take her and end her suffering.

She remained in this state for over a year before she succumbed to an infection and died.

The funeral was a blur. Her one request was not to be buried underground.

She did not want to be below the dirt. She feared it. I’m not sure why but she was adamant about it.

We were able to place her in an above-ground mausoleum. I have never been back to visit it. I know it should have been a relief to finally let her go, but the whole experience wrecked my feelings of my mom.

I still think of her every day. I still have no closure and I’m not sure if I ever will.

Fast-forward about 20 years later to my oldest brother’s illness and death.

He was sick but had gotten better and we were all together for Thanksgiving.

He seemed to be on the mend, but being a longtime rheumatoid arthritis sufferer on immune system-compromising medications, he needed to be very careful and concerned whenever he was sick.

He had lost his wife some years earlier to a bad infection that hospitalized her and eventually took her life. It was a devastating loss for him.

He relapsed that week after Thanksgiving. Eventually his daughter needed to call an ambulance to get him to the hospital. His condition deteriorated quickly and he ended up in intensive care with a bad infection.

He was on a respirator and it was hard for him to speak but at least he was still present and fighting. The one thing that truly disturbed me was that he was in the same hospital room that his wife died in. Deep down, I knew he would never leave this room.

His conditioned worsened and his organs began to shut down. They had to start dialysis as his kidneys stopped working.

I could not believe that this was happening and he was going to die in that same hospital and that same room. I hope I never need to step into that hospital again — ever.

Christmas was awful that year. His children stayed with him at the hospital on Christmas Eve when we traditionally all got together.

Two days after Christmas his son and daughter decided to stop the machines and treatments.

He went quickly. I did not make it to the hospital before he died. I did not get to say goodbye.

They kept him in that room until I could get there — my poor brother in that same room that his wife died in. I hope there was some connection for them and they are together now.

I have not sent out Christmas cards since his death. I also used to do a yearly Christmas letter and have not done that either. I’m not sure when I will start those up again.

Is this still mourning? I can’t imagine what it is like for his two kids: They lost both parents way too soon.

Unfathomable.

Fuck you God. What the fuck is wrong with you? You suck. Sorry that’s just how I feel right now.

I know these feelings are raw and harsh even after the years since these events, but my mom and my brother were the most influential people in shaping the person I am today.

My brother was a sort of surrogate father to me growing up as for many years my father worked two full time jobs to provide for us and save in order to purchase a home for his family.

I spent a lot of time with my brother who taught me how to work on cars, build things, etc. All things that a dad would typically would do.

In my dad’s absence, my mom took me to the park and taught me how to hit and throw a baseball, ride a bike, and many things you would think your dad would do.

I’m not knocking my dad for not being around as he did what he needed to do to provide for his family but the other members of my family stepped in and filled the gaps and helped each other with our everyday lives.

My mom and brother were more important to me than I can begin to describe here.

Related content:

Remembering Mom and Dad

Sleep-Deprived As a Way of Life

Note: This week we will explore the issue of sleep  — or lack thereof. Why do we not get enough sleep and what toll is it taking on us? We’ll have three installments, starting today with Richard Rodriguez.

About nine months ago I changed jobs.

It was not for advancement or more money but for a shorter commute and better health insurance.

I also changed my work hours from a regular day shift to a 3-11 a.m. shift, which I actively sought.

I knew it would be a tough transition but the very early hours would help me to help with the kids and transportation needs in the afternoons and early evenings.

The old job was during day hours but the long commute kept me away from home for 12-plus hours a day, I felt useless to my family and it stripped me of all energy to do anything when I got home.

So I landed a position that cut my commute from two hours to about 45 minutes each way.

I just needed to transition to those new working hours. Staying up late was my thing. My brain was most active at night and after the kids went to bed, I would watch my TV shows, write, surf the net, etc.

I was still able to get enough sleep to go to work the following day. Now I have an early bedtime that I almost never comply with, which leads me being sleep-deprived for most of the week.

By the end of the week I am so exhausted I usually pass out on the couch trying to stay up.

I had one very scary instance caused by this sleep deprivation.

Driving home one Saturday afternoon I had stopped for a red light and then I opened my eyes and saw the car in front of me coming closer really fast. I could not fathom why this was happening but my reflexes kicked in and I pushed hard on the brakes and literally stopped inches from the car in front of me.

Holy shit that was close!

I could not believe that I had drifted off to sleep so quickly, but was lucky that it was for only a second and I was able to recover before smashing into the car in front of me.

I hope for this never to happen again.

I have since then kept caffeine pills in my car and use them when I don’t stop for coffee and feel like I’m overly tired. I do have to say that the cup of coffee typically is more effective than the pills.

So nine months in, I continue to stay up too late and feel like I can never get everything done.

I sometimes take a nap in the afternoon when I get home but need to be careful as sometimes it just makes you more tired.

Overall I like these hours. I enjoy commuting during the off hours and not dealing with any traffic whatsoever. I also like the time in the afternoons I have to deal with family responsibilities.

My workweek also shifted to Tuesday-Saturday with Sunday/Monday off.

I miss my freewheeling Friday nights but having Monday off makes Sundays so much more relaxing.

It is what it is. I just keep plugging along.

The Meaning of Manliness

In ancient Greece, men were encouraged to let the tears flow. Dudes in the 17th century looked for a virile, masculine edge by slapping on a pair of high-heels, and it was perfectly masculine for a man to wear a pink silk suit with floral embroidery in the 18th century.

As the cultural ideal of manhood continues to change in profound ways – and some would argue at an accelerated rate these days — Chris and Pedro try their best to understand what it means to be a “manly” man in 2017.

Also on this episode, our very first CONTEST GIVEAWAY!

When you hear the AMR “secret word”, be the first person to post it on our Facebook page for the chance to win a copy of the brand new book The Illustrated Art of Manliness by Brett McKay and the team at ArtofManliness.com.

Fellow AMR posse members (I’m looking at you Father John) and employees of HeadStepper Media are not eligible to play.

(About Men Radio is not affiliated with the Art of Manliness site…we just dig what they do.)

BONUS EPISODE: We Really Are Getting Too Old For This

It seemed like such a good idea at the time.

Chris and Pedro were just planning on having a drink or two after work at a local dive bar. What could possibly go wrong? Listen in as two (very) hungover old friends are hit with the sudden realization that they may be too old to party like rock stars.

Enjoy this hilarious bonus episode of About Men Radio!

Locked and Loaded

I busted Father John’s chops for not wanting to join the rest of us at the shooting range. He took it in stride — as he always has — and just casually lit up his cigarette with the air of a man who’s heard it all before. You see, John dislikes guns and he wasn’t going to fire one. I had never fired a weapon until that day and the experience left me shaken. Halfway through, I wanted to just get the hell out of there. It was clear that our moral compass had the right idea.

On this episode, Chris and I talk guns and how our perspective on them changed one rainy afternoon in rural Pennsylvania.

Cutting It Close With Sal the Barber

As a kid, I’d watch my dad put the can of Barbasol under hot water and then squeeze off a little golf ball-sized foam and spread it on his face.

He’d always dab me on the nose with it.

Then he would take out his razor, the kind in which he had to add the blade. Our apartment bathroom had a slot for disposing of the used blades. I never figured out where that hole went.

Dad also had one of those electric hair cutting kits.

Every couple of months, my brothers and I would sit in the living room for our haircuts with a smock around us. It was nothing fancy, just crew cuts for us all.

That high-pitched buzzing of the little gray electric razor seemed to make everyone’s hair stand upright and dad would just whisk it away.

I was 4 but my eldest brother was 14 at the time. Then we’d pose for a photo. I still have one of the four of us with freshly cut crew cuts.

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There came a time when dad stopped cutting our hair and we’d all walk over to the Korvette’s shopping center for haircuts. There was one barber, “crossed-eyed Joe,” who would be in charge of cutting our hair.

Getting a haircut from my dad was actually preferable at this point. The only added feature was getting a lollipop.

As a teen, I’d go to the local barber shop. I found this one gem on Olmstead Avenue that had dollar haircuts on Wednesdays.

It was a small shop with three barbers.

On Saturday, the line would be out the door because the shop had half-priced haircuts. Men would stand on line for an hour, go in and sit down for another hour and get to read the paper or magazines before they were up for their shave and cut.

One of the barbers was Sal. He was a thin fellow with a big bushy mustache.

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All you would hear is the clickety-click of scissors from the three barbers. I’d thought you could probably make a barbershop song from the noise.

I continued to go to Sal every couple of months until college. During college, my friends went to a stylist on Castle Hill Avenue. I went to her a few times but I’m guessing that my friends went for the ambiance: a well-endowed woman.

I just wanted a good haircut.

I only get my haircut every four to six months, so I’ll have it cut short and let it grow. The longest I’ve let my hair grow was five years and then I had it dyed and put in a ponytail to donate to Locks of Love.

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Somewhere in that time, Sal’s barbershop closed. The landlord wanted too much rent and it was just Sal. He used to be the only barber on the block, but within a few years there were more than seven salons on three blocks.

I caught up with Sal about six years ago at a candy store that had been remade into a salon that mostly catered to women’s hair braiding and waxing.

I saw a sign that read “Sal the Barber is here.”  Finally, I found him.

I’ve continued to see him since.

He still has a following, albeit no Twitter feed. Check out Sal Monday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

A haircut will run you eight bucks.

Now that’s a bargain.

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You Might Be a Guy If…

You might be a guy if…

You feel it is against the laws of nature to make more than one trip into the house from the car after a trip to the supermarket. Gather up all of those plastic shopping bags into two clenched tomato-red fists and get them into the house in one trip or die trying.

You spear a piece of food from your plate and hold it up to your wife and ask: “Do I eat this?”

You can recite from memory most if not all of the lines from “Airplane!”

You can be immobilized by a head cold and need round-the-clock care but if you fell six feet off a ladder and hit your noggin, you would tell your wife, “Oh, I’m fine.”

A bowl of cereal counts as dinner.

You have a beloved sweatshirt from 23 years ago you wear regularly but still have new shirts with tags on them stowed in your closet.

You see nothing wrong with picking up food that fell to the floor and eating it. Dropped a fork? Wipe it off on a napkin — or your pants — and keep going.

You see belching not as a sign that you ate too fast and swallowed too much air, but as opportunity to see if you can recite the alphabet while burping.

You see a well-timed joke that causes a buddy to laugh so hard that he snorts soda or tequila out his nose as a job well done.

Among friends, you announce ahead of time when you are going to fart. And when you do, they score it like judges at the Olympics.

You believe mozzarella sticks are a major food group.

You use your keys to slice open the tape on packages because getting scissors is too much bother.

You use a wet paper towel to stanch the bleeding from a gash on your hand but a paper cut on your finger requires gauze and a Band-Aid.

You see “jury-rig” not as pejorative verb but as a misunderstood craft.

You can readily sing the lyrics to the “Gilligan’s Island” theme song or “Bohemian Rhapsody” but have to think pretty hard to recall your kids’ birthdays.

If you are unsure if food in the fridge is still good, you open the lid, sniff it and declare it to be fine. You do this every single time regardless of how long it’s been in there.

You believe in only making right-hand turns out of parking lots.

When it comes to gifts, you use more tape than wrapping paper.

You have at least once said after making a repair: “Well, it works now, doesn’t it?”

You have singed your eyebrows either playing with fire or barbecuing.

Your idea of drying a dish is to wave it around. Better yet: Leave it in the drying rack until it is ready to be used again.

You appreciate the Three Stooges as high art.

You have said to your friends: “Hey! Watch this…!” (Cue “Lone Ranger” theme music.)

How Antidepressants Changed My Life

Back at Christmastime, I had a chance to play “Pie Face” with two of my nephews.

The game borrows a concept from other games of my childhood like “Don’t Break the Ice” and “Don’t Spill the Beans.”

If you are not familiar with “Pie Face,” here is how it works:

You stick your face into an oval cardboard cutout and rest your chin on a plastic stand. Facing you is a plastic hand that can hold a glob of whipped cream.

On either side of your face are two knobs that you crank.

You turn the knobs a designated number of times depending on what number comes up on a spinner.

With each turn of the knob, the catapult of cream may or may not be released into your kisser. It’s like Russian Roulette but without the potentially fatal consequences.

Playing the game struck me as a good metaphor for coping with anxiety and depression.

Before you accuse of me of being a party pooper for equating a kids’ game with mental illnesses, hear me out.

Anxiety, like the game, fills you with a certain dread of anticipation, a rising sense that with every crank (or turn in life) something bad could happen.

More than a year ago I wrote of my trials with depression and after having thought I had it “under control,” found myself in a trough of it starting in December.

Maybe it was the buildup to the holidays.

Maybe because it was the start of the darker days, with less sunlight.

Maybe it was because I was overextended on a project for work.

Whatever the cause(s), my wife saw signs of my disconnect from the world.

I cannot speak for others, but when I am like this, everything is turned inward and I’m fixated on my “gottas” and “shouldas.”

It reaches a point where I am not easily accessible to others.

My wife had to “knock” to make sure I was still around.

Which brings me to my doctor’s visit:

I finally resolved to get some kind of pharmaceutical treatment because December, right up to Christmas Day, was just a bouillabaisse of darkness and anxiety.

For 15 years (at least) I had been trying to beat this on my own. I figured through regular exercise and just powering through it that it would subside.

All of December proved me wrong.

I have never tried mood-altering drugs of any kind. While I am quick to applaud those who have sought medical treatment, I was reluctant to seek “better living through chemistry.”

But I am glad that I did. From the very first dose, I could feel an immediate difference. I also attended regular talk therapy sessions.

It has been several months since I started the drugs, and I feel like the medicine, a low dosage antidepressant, has “evened” me out.

I am not prone to anxious thoughts and feel more clear-headed.

For those of you who seem to be enveloped in sadness, or feel on the brink of crying often or who cannot find joy in things that have in the past brought you happiness, go to your doctor.

Get help. Seriously. You will be glad you did.

Related link:

How I Dealt with My Depression

Silvio’s Worst Job

In the spirit of Labor Day, Silvio La Frossia shares his worst job from when he was 23:

I worked for three months as a shipping supervisor in a leather hide processing plant.

It was a union shop and as a supervisor — a young supervisor — I was faced for the first time overseeing union and nonunion labor.

It was a very unfriendly atmosphere with all the supervisors of various departments constantly sniping at each other, and as the youngest and newest, they all came to me.

I was inexperienced in handling and overseeing experienced workers who were much older.

My strengths were in organization, timelines and structure, but not in people management and especially not in a combative and tumultuous labor divide.

I could probably handle it a lot better today with years of project management and, well, years under my belt.

 

Memorable Guy Movie Monologues

I love movies and I am a guy.  So I really, really love guy movies.

There are a few things that are undisputed that make up a guy movie and one of them is it has to have one or a few memorable quotes.

It’s the quote that gets repeated anytime guys get together. I wrote about it at About Men Radio. But there are movies that are guy movies determined not just by a quote but rather an entire monologue.

I selected these five not as the top five best ever but simply as five great and memorable monologues.

 

Wall Street – Michael Douglas Gordon Gekko (1987)

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Ahh, the 80s. When corporate greed was acceptable, allowed and admired. The divide between the robber barons and the rest of the population was wide but accepted because the economic meltdown had yet to occur.

In this came an antihero who in his famous monologue explained why greed was good. And we all applauded.

Key quote: “The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good.

 

Animal House – John Belushi John Blutarsky (1978)

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Classic movie monologues don’t always have to be serious. They can also be from one of the greatest comedy movies ever made. This infamous monologue is delivered brilliantly by the late great John Belushi.

The director John Landis said Belushi had the most expressive face he had ever had the fortune of directing. Think to the laughs he generated in the cafeteria food line scene without ever speaking a word but then near the end he gives one of the most rousing comedic monologues ever delivered on the big screen.

Key quote: “Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?”

Blade Runner – Rutger Hauer Roy Batty (1982)

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What would a guy movie be without a great villain? In the great sci-fi adaptation of Phillip K. Dick “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep,” the villain of the movie, now titled “Blade Runner”— because really, electric sheep?! — delivers a monologue in the pouring rain.

As scripted, the monologue was fantastic and masterfully delivered.

But then Rutger Hauer, playing the part of the replicant Roy Batty, improvised the final line, “Like tears in the rain,” transforming a great monologue to a masterpiece!

Key quote: “All those moments will be lost in time. Like tears in the rain

Silence of the Lambs – Anthony Hopkins Hannibal Lector (1991)

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And while on the topic of villains, has there ever been a larger than life one than Hannibal Lector? Watching the great Sir Anthony Hopkins perform it simply freezes my spine, and it isn’t even the famous Chianti line. It is his final farewell to Clarice. Even though there is an interaction with the film’s protagonist, the delivery of the questions can be pieced together into a single, unforgettable and bone-chilling monologue.

Key quote: “You think if Catherine lives, you won’t wake up in the dark ever again to that awful screaming of the lambs.”

Jaws – Robert Shaw Quint (1975)

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The Indianapolis speech from the blockbuster “Jaws.” Very little introduction or explanation is required of this monologue. Any true card-carrying guy can almost completely recite this one. But no one can ever deliver it with the gravitas that the late great Robert Shaw did. Reportedly Shaw did not like his first delivery of it. The following day he re-did the scene and was supposedly very drunk.

Key quote: “…and the ocean turns red and spite of all the poundin’ and the hollerin’ they all come in and rip you to pieces.

 

When I Drive, the Dead Are Always With Me

I am never alone when I drive.

I do a lot of chauffeuring of my kids, but I also spend a lot of time alone behind the wheel and I always have some unseen passengers.

In my front console I have a variety of items ranging from pens to Chapstick to an eyeglass cleaning cloth, but there is also a number of memorial cards for people whose funerals I attended.

I find myself deeply affected by them all.

I feel for the deceased and for their family, even if I don’t know them all that well.  I may have worked with them or known them through family or a friend, but I take their mourning to heart and I truly have empathy for them.

I know what it’s like to lose someone you love and it is devastating, and it will always be with you.

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So when I drive around with my carload full of people who I remember and feel this connection to,  I hope they are looking out for me in some way.

This does not stop at the cards in my console.

As I pass by roadside memorials of where people had fatal accidents, some of whom I have known, I think of these poor souls as well.

Many of them were young and taken before their time. They had many more years of life and family to take care of.

One memorial I am deeply affected by is of a woman who I do not even know but the circumstances were so unbelievable I just cannot stop thinking of it every time I pass by this spot.

It started one morning on my way to work when I was detoured around an area that was closed to traffic.

When I finally got to work, I checked the news reports and found that a woman had been killed by a gas tanker that took a curve too fast and overturned onto her car as she was driving the other way.

The timing of this accident could not have been more perfect.

If this woman had been a minute later or a minute earlier, she would have most likely missed the truck.

She was coming home from work and was killed by this person who went down this hill too fast to negotiate the turn.  The driver of the truck survived, but he left a child motherless.

I guess we never know when our ticket on earth is going to be punched and we will leave this place, but we should try to live and get as much done before we are taken prematurely.

I pass by this spot almost daily and watched as the area was cleaned up because the tanker spilled gas.

The work was completed but someone still has left a small arrangement of flowers at the spot that marks where this woman died.

I’m sure most people drive by and do not notice, but I see it and think about her every time.

For other ruminations about mortality and death, listen to this AMR podcast (“No One Gets Out of Here Alive”) and read these blogs posts about close calls on the road (“Remember: Thou Art Mortal”) and mourning (“Where Do You Put the Pepsi and the Pain?”)

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Why the Fuck Is “Fuck” So Overused Today?

WTF dudeI saw this cartoon shared on Facebook recently and it really made me laugh.

It is so the truth in how we as parents end up teaching our children curse words and phrases that in a perfect world we try to protect them from and set a better example.

Way before I was even married and had kids, I was instrumental in teaching my very young nephew the “s” word and exactly how to use it.

I remember that I was dressed for an interview and making some eggs for breakfast and I almost spilled everything in the frying pan on myself. My clothes escaped ruin but my reaction was quick and loud.

“OH SHIT!” I shouted and stomped my foot.

Of course, my 2-year-old nephew was right there and took it all in and immediately started stomping his foot around the kitchen and shouting “OH SHIT, OH SHIT, OH SHIT!”

All I wanted to do was laugh, which of course was not the right thing to do because it would only encourage him.

So began my start teaching children how to curse.

I have four children, and for most of their young lives my wife and I tried our best to keep our language curbed around them. But we all know that situations with kids can get heated and we lose our cool and words slip.

For the record, I do not take full responsibility for teaching my kids how to cuss, since they are exposed to it elsewhere, such as on the school bus and at school with their friends.

But anytime you use that language within their earshot, it gives them a permission to use it around you and at home. You hope that they also learn judgment about when not to use this colorful language.

Here is where I am at odds with the current generation and its use of the F bomb, compared with how I was raised.

Listening to the music of today and how my kids communicate with each other, I notice that the word “fuck” is used casually and often — much more so than when I was younger.

Back then, “fuck” was a powerful word. It demanded respect and was used selectively and sparingly.

I remember listening to songs just to hear that one utterance of the F bomb because it had so much power. The music of today uses it like any other word, which dilutes its impact.

I would really like to think that in exposing my kids to the F word I instilled in them that the power and responsibility of using it properly has been passed into their hands.

For related blogs on cursing and swearing, be sure to check out Chris Mele’s ode to his old man, a first-class swearing champion, and listen to the podcast of when Chris visited a haunted Halloween attraction and screamed a blue streak that would make a sailor blush.

Read more blog posts at www.aboutmenradio.com and at http://aboutmenradio.net

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Have a question or a comment? Write us at amr@aboutmenshow.com

 

How a Symbol of Love and Loyalty Saved My Finger

“All kings should have scars.”

That was what Queen Cersei said to her son Joffrey, who was soon to become king on “Game of Thrones.”

As hated as both of those characters were by fans, I have to agree. Scars are reminders of a battle, won or lost, that have left their mark.

Scars have a strengthening quality. For instance, where skin scars, it becomes tougher. All successful marriages have them — they are healthy and necessary for the longevity of the union.

My marriage to my high school sweetheart started with an eight-year courtship, and in May, we celebrated our 26th  wedding anniversary.

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This story, though, is about some of the physical scars that I carry on my wedding band.

I had been taking it off regularly to play guitar.

It felt a little weird while I fretted certain songs and then I sometimes forgot to put it back on when I went to work.

In fact, it was at work when my ring got some of its scars.

There were metal filing cabinets, each about six feet tall, filled with CDs, tapes, disk drives and other media.

Suffice to say, they were very, very heavy.

Building operations people were scheduled to move them but I decided to do it on my own.

I put two cabinets in place, and was moving a third when it slipped off the dolly and caught my hand between it and another one, right on the corners of both cabinets.

Thankfully I had remembered to put my ring on.

If I didn’t have the ring to absorb most of the impact, I shudder to think of what would have happened to my finger.

It was crushed onto my finger.

I used a set of channel lock pliers to reshape it and get it off.

But I won’t fix it with a jeweler.

That physical scar is a forever reminder of how a symbol of love and loyalty saved my finger because I remembered to put it back on.

Now I don’t remove it anymore.

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Men Who Are Miserable, Join the Fight Against Shopping!

An Instagram account called “miserable_men” documents the silent suffering that is the scourge of all men: Shadowing their wives or girlfriends as they go shopping.

You know the scene I am talking about, or perhaps you have lived this nightmare yourself.

Your significant other wants you to go shopping at the mall, which means you sit at the edge of a raised display stand, sharing what little space you have with a mannequin, as she peruses the racks of clothes.

If you are really, really lucky, there is a bench somewhere you can park yourself and people-watch to kill time.

But to complete the humiliation, you are asked to hold the purse or handbag of your wife/girlfriend/partner while she ducks into a dressing room to “just try on a few things.”

Time passes as slowly as a turtle on Quaaludes. All the while you are trying not to make eye contact with your fellow man.

But members of our tribe will not judge you harshly. They will look at you and silently say a prayer of thanksgiving: “Dude, better you than me.”

I am relieved to say that my wife has not once ever asked me to go shopping with her for clothes. She is content to make a marathon solo bid for what she is looking for. She will make a strategic strike at a particular department store, scoop up dozens of outfits to try in one swoop and then get out.

And in further proof that she is a candidate for the Nobel Prize for Patience, she has gone shopping for clothes not only with me but with my two sons as well.

My late fiancée, on the other hand, was a shopper extraordinaire. A visit to the mall was like a hobby to her. She would eye the latest styles, check the feel of fabrics, look for sales and then bring an envelope full of coupons to the register.

I recall one time we were at the mall for eight straight hours. Yes, eight hours. Elephant pregnancies take less time.

Too many men are afflicted with SAD, Shopping Adjustment Disorder, as captured in the miserable_men Instagram account.

A report in The New York Daily News summed it up: “The feed features miserable men of all shapes and sizes — despondent dads, bummed-out boyfriends and even a couple of gloomy granddads — painstakingly waiting to escape from the insufferable purgatory that is the mall.”

This is why today I am founding an organization called CRITICAL MASS: Coalition of Responsible Individuals Taking Into Consideration Always Leading Men Against Superfluous Shopping.

We need to demand that outlet malls truly have outlets for men: Wet bars. Big TVs. Arcade games. Nap rooms.

Think of it as a daddy daycare where men could be dropped off for hours at a time.

Join with me and together we can raise our voices to ask the question that is burning on the lips of all men who are made to endure trips to the mall:

“Does this handbag I have to hold make me look fat?”

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“Mansplaining?” Let Us ‘Splain It to You

Just because Pedro and I are men does not mean we can explain everything about what our gender does.

Take for instance “mansplaining,” the way men will insert themselves into a conversation and talk to a woman like she was a 4-year-old and the man was the Great Wizard of Oz.

Or at least that is the way Pedro explained it to me. And that is his understanding.

But the truth is, neither one of us quite understand it, though we are both pretty sure we have at one time or another (or maybe still do) engaged in this kind of behavior.

Mansplaining is one of the many tangents — I mean topics! — that Pedro and I explore in this week’s show.

We somehow veered from mansplaining to a freewheeling conversation about white privilege and other timely subjects.

With the About Men Radio crew, you just never can tell where we are headed. In fact, neither can we! But hell, that is half the fun.

So buckle up cowboy, put your ear buds in, press play and listen to the greatest podcast about and for men where we have the uncomfortable conversations others do not.

A Visit to the Penis Museum

There has not been this much news coverage and public conversation about penises since Anthony Weiner’s campaign for New York City mayor flamed out over some too-revealing selfies.

Donald Trump’s allusion to his manhood — in no less a setting than a Republican presidential debate — and Hulk Hogan’s recently concluded trial against Gawker (“Hulk Hogan lied about his penis size”) propelled penises into people’s living rooms and into water cooler chatter.

So I feel it is my current-events duty to tell you about our visit to what is billed as the world’s only penis museum.

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I say “our” because my wife and I visited.

During our honeymoon.

Yeah, I know, I’m just a hopeless romantic.

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My wife Meg checking out the goods.

Here’s the background:

About 30 miles from the Arctic Circle in the fishing village of Húsavik (population 2,200) is the Icelandic Phallological Museum.

It is housed in a non-descript two-story building. There is no hint about what is inside except for perhaps the giant wooden phallus standing sentry outside.

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The museum has a collection of more than 200 penises and “penile parts” (ouch!) that belonged to almost all of the land and sea mammals found on Iceland.

Among those on display are ones from a polar bear, seals, walrus and 17 different kinds of whales.

I’ve got to say that I’ve never given much thought to the male anatomy of mammals but this was truly eye-opening.

And let’s just say that some mammals are quite, um, gifted.

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Sure, the museum is a bit of gimmick (I’ll leave it to your imagination about the souvenirs on sale) but still, it was genuinely informative and certainly unique.

Years after our visit there in 2010, I heard of a documentary called “The Final Member” about the museum curator’s quest for a donation from a homo sapien.

The movie took some peculiar turns.

For instance, there were two donors vying for bragging rights to be the first to have their member enshrined in the museum, including an American who named his “Elmo.”

The other donor was a 90-plus-year-old Icelandic man who went so far as to have a mold made of his privates.

Let’s just say that was painful to watch.

The museum’s curator, a guy named Sigurour “Siggi” Hjartarson, had two requirements for the donation of a human specimen: A legal document (letter of donation) signed by three witnesses, and proof that the penis was of “legal length” — at least 5 inches.

He based the minimum length requirement on an Icelandic folk tale called “A Legal Length,” in which a woman requested a divorce from her husband because his penis was less than 5 inches long.

The documentary does, unfortunately, perpetuate a myth of masculinity that links the length of a guy’s member with his character and standing in society.

To which I say, don’t confuse the measure of a man with the size of his penis: A leading presidential candidate is proof of that.

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The Verizon Strike, Men and Job Insecurity

Seeing Verizon workers on strike picketing outside company offices made me think about 1971.

My dad was working for what was then New York Telephone Company (this was years before the breakup of AT&T into the “Baby Bells”) and the union he belonged to, the Communications Workers of America, went on strike.

It ended up dragging on for seven months.

I was 7 at the time but I can recall well the feeling of stress in the household over making ends meet. Dad collected picket duty pay from the union, and after nine weeks, he got unemployment benefits and qualified for food stamps, but even then, things were financially squeaky.

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Me with a picket sign.

Dad hustled whatever odd jobs he could — cleaning windows, for instance — and Mom was already babysitting kids in our Bronx building.

It’s bad enough to face job insecurity when you are young and have a family. What I have discovered though is that it’s even worse to face that kind of unpredictable future when guys hit middle age.

I recall in the mid-1990s reading news accounts of layoffs at IBM in New York and stories quoting guys who had been with the company for 25 years who wondered where they were going to get a job now that they were in their 50s.

I was not quite yet 30 and I remember thinking: What could possibly be so bad? How tough could this be?

Now that I am 51, I have a deeper appreciation and understanding for the stresses and worries of job insecurity. I work in news, an industry that is undergoing titanic changes and is shedding jobs faster than cat hair.

Like many men, I have equated my career with my life. But beyond that is the overwhelmingly sense of responsibility imbued in us to be the breadwinner. (Yeah, I know it’s an antiquated term but it’s one I grew up with.)

So many guys my age that I personally know have either lost jobs, faced the prospect of losing their job, been demoted or lived in the fear of any one of those things happening.

I asked a friend, Joe McNulty, who is a Verizon worker now on strike, to share his thoughts on job insecurity. This is what he wrote:

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Joe McNulty on the picket line.

Today I walked approximately six miles around a tight picket line in front of a Verizon Wireless store in Portchester, N.Y. At 51 years of age and 20 years on the job, I am not the senior man or close to it. I am better off than most in that my wife has a good-paying job, we live in a modest apartment in the Bronx and have no children. Still, I am anxious.

During the Great Recession, the stories on the nightly news that always tugged at my heart strings were the middle-aged workers who ended up out of work after years at one job and not a clue what to do next. There was no way I could find a job with the same pay and benefits, not to mention the thought of leaving my dear co-workers.

Working for the phone company gave me an identity. I was the phone guy. Whenever family or friends need something phone-related, they call me. Now I’m thinking those poor middle-aged workers on the nightly news were also victims of a kind of identity theft. How awful to be asked 10 years before retirement, “So, what do you do?” and have to start your reply with “I was….”

This strike will end and I will continue to be a phone man. Everyone walking the line knows that technology can make us obsolete at any moment. We just want to be the last dinosaurs to die a natural death before the mass extinction.

(For a related post about the tension and frustration of searching for a job after you’ve been downsized in middle age, check out http://aboutmenshow.com/is-it-worth-finding-and-keeping-a-job/)

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The AMR Posse Reunites in Florida!

The About Men Radio posse recently got together for the first time as a group since 1985.

Thankfully, the intervening decades have not changed us: Stupid jokes, endless ball-busting and side-splitting laughing were all the rage for our get-together.

Here then is an array of the photos from our get-together, with my snarky captions.

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Rich is like: “Whatchoo talkin’ ’bout Willis?!”
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Manly men in Silvio’s backyard.
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Do these headphones make my head look fat?
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Be the Buddha!
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Do not mess with these Sith Lord Dads.
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Is that a pink drink Pedro has? Why yes. Yes, I think it is.
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Just pucker your lips and whistle.
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Before we set out on a Florida fan boat ride through an alligator-infested lake.
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And if you don’t survive, tip your captain overboard.
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Our ride.
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Holy crap. They were not kidding about the gators.
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The ear protection is so I cannot hear myself screaming.
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Pedro evidently had something in his eye.
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Good friends and good times!

The Words to Avoid When Fighting With Your Wife or Girlfriend

I have a very interesting relationship.

I’m an American with a German girlfriend. Not only that, but I now live in Germany.

Maya and I met in Manhattan in 2007 – she was an au pair – and I
decided to move to Germany in 2013.

Over the years, I have flown over the Atlantic Ocean more times than I can remember, spent unthinkable sums on long-distance phone cards and eaten enough bratwurst for a lifetime.

Like most couples, Maya and I have our fights.

But when I first moved to Germany, we were really fighting.

Small things, like how frequently the dishes should be done, how to
train our dog or who should run which errands, were leading to huge
blowups.

We didn’t know what to do.

The fights got so bad and so frequent that on several occasions we considered breaking up.

But then we actually found a solution, a kind of strange one, but a
solution: We decided that we would only speak in German.

I’m fluent in German, but we had always spoken English.

Our hope was that switching to German would somehow set us on a better track.

And it worked.

What we found was this: If we spoke in German, our fights would be resolved much more quickly and wouldn’t be anywhere near as intense.

Interesting, right? But why?

Personally, I found that when I didn’t have as much language at my
fingertips, it was harder to get angry.

I was forced to think more about what I wanted to say, which drew my focus away from my anger.

Also, I used fewer or no curse words.

My girlfriend thinks that speaking in German did the trick because it
forced us to communicate at a much more basic level, which eradicated the kinds of ambiguities that had led to previous fights.

Though the tack Maya and I took to try to reduce our quarreling might be unusual, its reason for having worked does make sense, according to François Grosjean, emeritus professor of linguistics at Neuchâtel University in Switzerland and author of several books on bilingualism.

Grosjean said that when Maya and I switched to German, we both,
consciously or not, began to be more careful with what we said, which probably led to our being more patient with each other.

So I guess the takeaway is this: If you’re looking to reduce the number of fights you have with the missus or if you are looking to reduce the intensity of the fights you’re having, learn German.

Kidding!

Just measure your words more and try to be more patient.

Such actions have got to be universally effective.

Editor’s Note: Or as they say in German Eine neue Sprache, um eine Beziehung zu heilen. (Finding a language to heal a relationship.)

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Chad Smith is a freelance journalist and English teacher who is originally from Queens, New York. He now lives in Hamburg, Germany. Some of his hobbies include swimming, chess, reading and photography.

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Getting the Band Back Together

I’ve always been pretty good at making friends in school and work, but none of those relationships are as close as the ones that I have with my About Men Radio posse.

As I look back, Pedro and I worked together in two different jobs as did Pedro and Chris.

Chris and I worked together briefly and I was his backup newspaper delivery boy when he went to Disney World with his family. Silvio and Rich also worked together on a neighbor’s food truck.

Oh the stories….

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Chris was the first to get married and moved way upstate. We’d exchange cassette tapes to give him an inkling of what we were doing.

Pedro was the next to take the dive.

Upon his breakup and with no place to go, he called me, and Father John’s chalet was open for him until he was back on his feet.

Pedro may have seen it as me helping him out, but he helped me through the grieving process of losing my dad.

Several years later, I was again cleaning out the apartment for my then-wife.

Joe McNulty, another longtime friend, helped paint and install some phone extensions in the house. Once the apartment was cleared out, my wife then thought it was suitable to move in.

The apartment was then redecorated with most of her things, which she took with her when she left.

What I didn’t realize is that Pedro and the guys would email me, but my wife (now ex-wife) was deleting the emails.

I eventually met Pedro for lunch and we re-connected. After my divorce, Pedro, Rich and I were driving around and I had a million questions of what I had missed over the previous three years.

Surprisingly, not very much.

Back in college hanging out with Pedro, Gary and Rich became relatively the same each weekend.

We’d get into the car and Pedro would say, “Rich, where do you wanna go?”

Rich: “I dunno. John?”

John: “I dunno. Gary?”

Gary would say that since he was driving that we could pick a place. Pedro would usually offer his suggestion, which was fine with us because we didn’t really have anything in mind.

Chris and crew-3

Years later when we reconnected, it was the same. It felt a bit like “Waiting for Godot.”

Godot never came and I thought in those three years that I missed out on things. Yes, there were moments that I did miss but rejoining the posse felt good.

The same thing happened over 10 years ago when I reached out to Carla, Chris’s then-fiancée, and Pedro and I drove out to Pennsylvania.

Upon seeing Chris, there was a feeling of no passage of time.

The band was finally back together.

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Friendships That Endured Through Moves and Time

In my youth, going out after school down the block or to the park was where we met up with our friends. Even kids we just met, after a spirited game of war, or tag or anything else, those new acquaintances became friends.

Through my childhood years, I migrated back and forth between the Bronx and Buenos Aires, Argentina. Each of these moves usually had us staying a year or two in a city before packing up and moving back.

This happened a few times during my school years. So I would harvest a circle of friends and then leave them to start anew.

My earliest friends I have pretty much forgotten by name. I remember some activities and a few kids from the block, but nobody that I would contact today.

But in one of my returns to the Bronx, I met a group of guys that I would never forget.

Our moves were always disruptive of the school year.

With the switch from southern to northern hemispheres and of seasons, a migration to the United States usually meant coming in the middle of a grade and being that kid that was introduced to the class as “… joining us from Argentina.”

In sixth grade at PS 36, I did not make any enduring school friends.

Instead I met a kid from around the block who happened to go to the same school but we never interacted there much.

Anyway, Rich and I hit it off pretty well, sharing a love for comic books, Legos, science fiction and classic horror. These similarities bonded us as friends despite being polar opposites in our baseball love. (He is a rabid Mets fan and I am a diehard Yankees fan.)

Regardless, our friendship grew.

We played pickup softball at the schoolyard, sometimes just him and me hitting and catching for what seemed like glorious hours days on end.

When we weren’t outside, it was games, comics and pool — he had a great pool table in his family room. We battled constantly at 8-ball, with him besting me probably 85 percent of the time.

When the next school year started, I went to a Catholic school that was two parishes away from home.

On Day One, the kids in the yard lining up by grade all knew each other.

This was seventh grade and many of these kids knew each other from kindergarten at St. Raymond’s. I had left all of those early friends behind after several relocations, and my friend Rich was at a different public school.

So I scanned the faces for another guy who also looked new. I found him: Pedro. We chatted briefly and said maybe we would get lucky enough to end up in the same class. We did.

Once we were in our class and lined up again, I was standing behind a flattop-haired kid, taller than me and with a jacket with Boy Scout patches. Having enjoyed my Cub Scout years, I tapped his shoulder and asked him about his troop and patches.

We hit it off and Chris and I became friends. He later introduced me to his longtime friend John and a new kid he met that also lived nearby in his neighborhood: Pedro!

We became close friends and I was fortunate to spend some after-school days with them, but my neighborhood was about 14 blocks away, so my after-school days were spent more with Rich.

Through birthday parties and other gatherings at home I introduced both groups and we became five best friends.

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After two full school years I once again whisked off down south, starting high school in Argentina.

Two years later we once again returned.

This time though I had kept in touch with my “bros.” The long-distance friendship back then was through letters, cards and packages. Phone calls were prohibitively expensive and, of course, no one knew what an Internet was yet.

We traded letters, books, photos and cassette tapes. I wish I kept one of those. I still remember the one where Chris recorded latest hits off the radio and had everyone, including his sister and mom, talk up a song. I know I played that tape incessantly

When I returned, and with heavy long-distance help from Chris, I was able to attend the same Catholic high school as John, Pedro and Chris. Rich was at the Bronx High School of Science.

We all again went our separate ways to college, but we were all still in New York City, so again we did everything together, until again I departed.

This time it was of my own accord, testing out my future plans in my native Argentina. Since conscription was still a thing then, I had to complete a year in the Army there.

But the country was still in disarray after regaining democracy, and it stood on the verge of a takeover at any time (two failed coups did occur), so once again I returned to the United States.

Together with my new wife, we moved south again, but this time staying in the northern hemisphere and landing in Orlando, Fla. It would be 16 years before I got back together with the gang.

I located each of my AMR pals and connected through Facebook.

This led to a reintegration with a group of guys with whom I shared so many experiences and an online gathering space allowed us to catch up.

After a while, it’s as if we never went our separate ways.

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Although it’s been harder for me to meet up, I have taken full advantage of trips made to reconnect with one friend at a time or the group as we did for an elementary school reunion.

Now we share our anecdotes in our writings and podcasts. I look forward to those like a kid waiting for Santa.

And this week there will be a full reunion of the original AMR boys in a visit to sunny Florida.

I am so thankful for my friends, the real ones with whom I have shared a childhood and early adulthood.

I now look forward to those middle-age memories still to come. I don’t want to call it a bucket list, but when we get to those formative years, I hope I will still have these AMR brothers to share them with.

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‘I Love Them Like Brothers’

​I was deeply unnerved by what I read but I could not deny the truth of it:​​ A significant number of men have no close male friends they can turn to for help or advice.

An article in The Telegraph also suggests making close friends as adults is rare, and for​​ some guys, almost impossible.

Careers, marriages and kids eat into our free time and myriad distractions like television, the Internet and video ​games become substitutes for real, person-to-person, non-virtual social interaction.

Playing Fallout 4 or binging on Netflix during your downtime, rather than​ ​developing new relationships, is just easier. ​

​While 11 percent of single men said they had no friends to turn to in a serious​ situation, that rose to 15 per cent among married men.​

I’m no math wiz but that is 26 percent of adult men who have ZERO male friends to turn to​ ​when they need support.

The harsh reality is that there are some things​ ​a wife or a  mother just can’t help us with.

That brings me to the About Men Posse.

I’ve known Chris, John, Rich and Silvio since we were in grade school and while we​ ​​have occasionally drifted apart for a few years, I know every one of them would be there for me in a crisis.

Let me rephrase that.

Each and every one of them HAS been there for me in a crisis​ ​and they know that I have their back 24/7. ​

At the risk of a being on the receiving end of a merciless roasting from the dirtbags, I will go on record as saying I’m honored to be their friend and I love them like​ ​ ​brothers.

 

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Action Figures of the 60s and 70s: Where Are They Now?

With the news today that Mattel is updating its line of Barbie dolls to be more diverse and realistically representative of the population at large, I bring you these updates on popular boys’ action figures from yesteryear:

* Action Jackson: Now in his late 60s, AJ ain’t getting any action without the help of a little blue pill. But he still makes the ladies swoon in his one-piece jump suit.

* Big Jim: The epitome of a hunk, Jim was muscle-bound, ripped and had a full head of hair. Today, Jim is divorced, beer-bellied and balding. He still answers fan mail, however.

* Six Million Dollar Man: His bionic eye developed cataracts and his bionic leg short-circuited, giving him cramps. The special effects sounds you heard and saw of Steve Austin moving in slow motion when he was doing superhuman feats is the way he is now all the time: In slow motion.

* Planet of the Apes: Cornelius left Zira for an ape 20 years his junior and went on to have offspring who refer to Cornelius as “gramps.” Zira became a millionaire marketing frozen bananas on a stick.

*GI Joe With Kung Fu Grip: Sidelined with arthritis, GIJWKFG opened a pottery shop.

*Stretch Armstrong: Became homeless and an alcoholic after being repeatedly mistaken and abused as a substitution for Silly Putty.

* Major Matt Mason the Man in Space: Following budget cutbacks at NASA, he retired and is now working as a guest services representative at Disney’s World of Tomorrow.

* Evel Knievel: Went on to write his autobiography, “Bag of Bones.”

* Ben Kenobi: After watching the “Star Wars” prequels, was arrested after threatening to “go all Death Star on George Lucas’s ass.”

* GI Joe: After valiantly serving his country, still trying to collect proper veterans’ benefits for the government.

* Ken doll: Lacking any male genitalia, was divorced by Barbie and later underwent reconstructive surgery and now goes by “Kenya.”

Get Up or Die: Surviving a Trampling at a Rock Concert

The next thing I knew I was knocked down to the dirt and panic filled me…

This is what I felt in 1992 at the Lollapalooza music festival in Waterloo Village in Byram, N.J., as the headlining band The Red Hot Chili Peppers began their set.

I had been at the traveling music festival all day drinking crap beer and enjoying the music, which featured popular and upcoming alternative, metal, punk, rap and hip-hop bands.

A friend and I had skipped out of work for the day and we were having a great time until the Chili Peppers finally came on stage sporting helmets that spouted flames out of the tops of them and I heard the beginning drum beats to their rousing anthem “Give It Away.”

From those first beats, the whole crowd surged  toward the stage.

This took me by surprise as I was enthralled watching the band members with their flaming helmets, and I was shoved forward and knocked off balance.

Ten to 12 seconds into the song, I was driven to the ground on the field, my glasses flew off and people were tripping over me as they rushed the stage.

I was about to be trampled and I knew if I didn’t get my ass up quick, I could get killed.

“Shit! Where the fuck are my glasses?!” I thought, and quickly swept the ground with my hands.

Miraculously, I put my hands on them and I tried to get to my feet.

People kept pushing and stepping on me.

This is how people die at these things: They get knocked down and trampled to death while no one in the crowd stops to help.

I couldn’t let this happen.

I had been married for less than a year and had loads of stuff yet to do in my life.

I don’t think Anthony Kiedis had gotten through singing the first verse of the song and I was finally able to get a hold of myself and pushed myself up.

Thank the Lord I was able to stand up and finally get my balance.

My glasses were a bit mangled but I put them back on and I could see the band again.

Shit!

Of course now with the forward surge of the crowd, the mosh pit had expanded and now I was actually in it.

Time to retreat, take cover and save myself from getting killed.

I survived Lollapalooza 1992.

Now, every time I hear “Give It Away” I think of this time my life flashed before my eyes and I knew that I needed to get up or die.

Read more blog posts at www.aboutmenradio.com and at http://aboutmenradio.net

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Have a question or a comment? Write us at amr@aboutmenshow.com

 

 

The Musical Edition of About Men Radio: “That’s Amore!”

Welcome to the musical interlude at About Men Radio.

C’mon! Sing along! You know the words!

“In Napoli where love is king
When boy meets girl here’s what they say…”

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“When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie
That’s amore!”

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“When the world seems to shine like you’ve had too much wine
That’s amore…”

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“Bells will ring ting-a-ling-a-ling, ting-a-ling-a-ling
And you’ll sing “Vita bella…”

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“Hearts will play tippy-tippy-tay, tippy-tippy-tay
Like a gay tarantella…”

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“When the stars make you drool just like a pasta fazool
That’s amore!”

Like us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AboutMenRadio and follow us on Twitter at https://twitter.com/aboutmenradio

Have a question or a comment? Write us at amr@aboutmenshow.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Battle of the Bulge: The Struggle to Eat Right and Exercise

Every man has had a battle of the bulge.

No, not THAT bulge, you perv! Get your mind outta the gutter!

I’m talking about the bulge ABOVE your belt.

The spare tire.

The love handles.

The beer gut.

Whatever you call it, by the time a guy reaches middle age, his metabolism isn’t what it used to be.

Take me, for instance.

I watch what my teenage son eats at home and I am positively aghast at what he inhales. And when his older brother was home, his butt was constantly sticking out of the fridge, his muffled voice crying out that there was nothing to eat.

But then I recall what I used to eat and drink when I was a teenager.

Back in the day, it was nothing for me to chug almost an entire 64-ounce bottle of Coke.

My food pyramid looked more like a pie chart, with the emphasis on “pie.”

Pizza. McDonald’s. Hot dogs. Fudge brownies.

And Friendly’s ice cream. Those Reese’s peanut butter cup sundaes that come in a goblet big enough to fit both of your fists? Oh yeah, that was my go-to dessert when I was in college.

Through my early to mid-20s, I was able to keep my weight fairly under control. But then came kids, long hours at a stressful job, home ownership and more stress.

Doughnuts and coffee at 3 p.m. followed by peanut butter and chocolate with a Kahlúa-and-milk chaser at midnight did little for my health or waistline.

And here’s the thing: Deep down, I knew I was doing destructive things to my body. I felt it in my bones (literally), my clothes and my energy.

By 2001, I was around 220 pounds and feeling every last ounce of it. I was getting winded going up the stairs.

I buckled down and on my 37th birthday, I put on a 30-minute exercise video. I got through 10 minutes of it and – as Roseanne-Roseannadanna used to say on “Saturday Night Live” – “I thought I was gonna die!”

Fast-forward, and next month I’ll mark my 14th year of my “exercise sobriety.”

I work out an average of four to five times a week. I’m doing P90X and Tony Horton workouts, lifting weights and doing a variety of cardio and other exercises.

Pedro is a similar success story. He’s literally half the man he once was, having lost about 130 pounds. He looks great and dresses like a boss!

In this episode of About Men Radio, Pedro and I discuss our struggles with our weight, what our stress eating habits are like and how we modified our lifestyle to live better.

None of this is easy but it’s to point out that Pedro and I are just like you — dads, husbands and worker-bees with a thousand different push-me-pull-me stresses in our lives.

Share with us stories of your struggles, setbacks and successes at amr@aboutmenshow.com

If we can do it, so can you.

Like us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AboutMenRadio and follow us on Twitter at https://twitter.com/aboutmenradio

Have a question or a comment? Write us at amr@aboutmenshow.com

A New Feature: ‘Ask Us Men’!

Introducing a new feature at About Men Radio we call “Ask Us Men.”

The concept is simple and is offered especially as a service to our female listeners and readers:

What do you want explained about inexplicable guy behavior? What questions have you always had but were too afraid to ask? What things about what we do and how we do them just leaves you mystified?

We invite you to raise any topic — no matter how far-ranging or embarrassing.

Why we like porn? Bring it.

Why we don’t open up much emotionally? Sure thing.

Why we are genetically incapable of asking for directions? HEY! Wait a minute! Now that’s crossing a line…!

Anyway, send us your questions, comments and unwanted Halloween candy to amr@aboutmenshow.com or post your questions on our Facebook page.

Enlightenment is only a few keystrokes away!

Like us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AboutMenRadio and follow us on Twitter at https://twitter.com/aboutmenradio

Have a question or a comment? Write us at amr@aboutmenshow.com

 

Vermin Speaks! An About Men Radio Podcast Interview With “The Warriors” Star

A blowout reunion of fans and cast members of “The Warriors” is set to take place Sunday in Coney Island, the home turf of the fictional gang from the 1979 cult classic.

One of the gang’s leading men — memorable for his flirtatious overtures with the ladies and his comedic touches — was a character named Vermin, played by Terence Michos.

Christopher Mele of About Men Radio interviewed Michos in his native Poughkeepsie, N.Y., about his life as an actor, the staying power of “The Warriors,” how God called to him and transformed his life and some funny behind-the-scenes stories about the filming of the movie.

We met an outdoor pavilion in a park in the Town of Poughkeepsie neighborhood where he grew up. (Special shoutout to one of Poughkeepsie’s finest, Detective Garth Mason, for connecting us with Michos.)

Michos was gracious and down-to-earth, the kind of guy with whom you could get lost in conversation and not realize how much time had gone by.

Indeed, daylight was waning as our late afternoon chat was wrapping up.

One of the humorous asides to emerge in the interview: How Vermin’s character came to repeat things twice when he was excited or in a jam.

Fans of the movie will recall Vermin saying things like “Hurt me, hurt me,” or “OK, OK.”

Michos said he was imitating a verbal tic from a character who was a sidekick in the 1960s animated series “The Mighty Hercules.”

The sidekick, a young centaur named Newton, had a distinctive speech pattern of saying everything twice.

Michos talks about this source of inspiration and other nuggets in this latest podcast of About Men Radio, about which all we can say is: Listen, listen!

Knucklehead Is as Knucklehead Does…

Do you remember when you were a kid and you did as you were told and you didn’t get into mischief and do stupid stuff?

Yeah. Me neither.

In fact, as it turns out, the entire About Men Radio posse has quite a history of engaging in first-degree stupidity both as kids and as not-so-much-kids.

If being a knucklehead were a crime, we’d be serving life sentences.

What kinds of crimes against intelligence are we talking about?

Richard Rodriguez throwing batteries from his eighth-floor apartment window and hitting a buddy in the head.

Pedro Rafael Rosado kicking in the doors of abandoned buildings in the South Bronx and getting chased by junkies.

Christopher Mele building “squirrel traps” of holes dug into the ground, laced with thorns from a bush and camouflaged with a layer of grass on top.

And, oh yeah, there’s the story of a huge box of gay porn exploding open before a group of New York City firefighters.

To learn more, you will need to listen to the latest episode of About Men Radio.

Give it a listen and see how your shenanigans match up to ours.

And remember: Let he without shenanigans throw the first battery from a window.

The Many Faces of Father John

Today for something different, we bring you a gallery of the many faces of AMR contributor Father John.

Step right up and be prepared to be amazed and bedazzled.

We certainly were!

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Sporting the silver fox look. Go John!
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What can you say about this photo? Nice dining room set in the background.
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Before the silver fox, there was this dashing look.
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Heavy metal hair band member. Ron Jeremy doppleganger. Words fail us.
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Look deeply into my eyes…you’re getting sleepy, sleepy…
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Who is this tyke?!
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Glasses made from the bottoms of Coke bottles.
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Ruh-roh Shaggy!

 

Spare the Rod, Spare the Child

In our latest podcast of About Men Radio, AMR posse members Richard Rodriguez, Pedro Rosado and Christopher Mele discuss discipline.

No, wait. Not discipline in a BDSM kind of way. Though, of course, there’s nothing WRONG with that. Just sayin’… (By the way, Rich, you left your whips and gimp mask at my house.)

The discipline we’re discussing is the kind we were subjected to as kids growing up at home and at school. Some of that has been discussed in previous blog posts by me and by guest blogger John Roche, who shared his experiences as a student at a Catholic high school in the Bronx.

In this show, we revisit those bygone days when Pedro and his older brother would be told by their 4-foot-tall grandmother to stoop down so she could smack them in the head.

Or listen to stories of one of Rich’s older brothers getting a whuppin’ with a bamboo stick by their mom.

(Rich, for the record, professes to have been such a goody-goody that he was not subjected to such punishment, but does say that his mother merely raising her voice was enough to make him tremble and toe the line.)

As for me? Well, let’s say I was a smart-alecky, moody kid who met the business end of a spatula or a belt. Once or twice. OK, maybe more…

“This is going to hurt me more than it’s going to hurt you,” the saying goes. Really? I’m pretty sure I’m the one walking (barely) around with a sore behind.

We also address what kind of discipline we have meted out as parents. Can there be too much of the “tough” in tough love? Do we regret some of the steps we’ve taken in the name of enforcing order? And what triggers us as fathers to engage in such behavior?

On a less serious note, for the first time ever, we provide a (way too-belated) parental advisory about our content and use of bad language on the show.

This advisory leads to a diatribe by Pedro that, in turn, leads to me hyperventilating from laughing so hard. Seriously, I’m pretty sure I passed out at some point.

So put on your headphones, get a paper bag to breathe into and press play.

Enjoy!

Mission: Impossible — My Love Letter to Tom Cruise

If you are looking for a movie review of the fifth installment of the “Mission: Impossible” blockbuster movie series, “Rogue Nation,” this isn’t it.

No, instead this will be me delivering a sloppy wet kiss to Tom Cruise for what he demonstrated in MI5.

The dude just crushed it in this movie and yet, to borrow a phrase from my father, “He’s showing his age.”

And therein lies my admiration.

To watch Cruise at age 53 – 53! – carry out the stunts he did was jaw-dropping.

(Only a mild spoiler since it’s already revealed in the trailers and on the movie poster, but he hangs off the friggin’ side of an Airbus 400 as it takes off! And yeah, so what if he was harnessed in and had all kinds of other safety precautions in place? The guy still hangs off the friggin’ side of an airplane!)

I won’t give away some of the other breathtaking (literally) set pieces in MI5 that Cruise also performed. You will have to see – and appreciate – them for yourself.

But consider that Jon Voight, who starred in the first “Mission: Impossible” movie in 1996, was only five years older than Cruise is now.

And let’s be honest: Jon Voight even at Cruise’s current age did not exactly look athletic.

(I am two years younger than Cruise and get winded pulling on the refrigerator door handle.)

In the current movie, there is the obligatory shot of Cruise shirtless and he’s in stunning shape.

There’s an escape scene that demonstrates his incredible physical prowess. The guy runs, leaps, fights and performs all kinds of other daredevilry that absolutely earned my admiration.

All of that said, though, here’s the thing I think I appreciated the most about the movie: The movie doesn’t try to portray him as the aw-shucks heartthrob of Cruise movies past, such as “All the Right Moves” or “Top Gun” or even some of his more recent starring roles.

Nope, for the first time ever, I found myself going: Yep, he’s showing his age.

Close-ups of his face (to my eyes anyway) revealed some of the wrinkles and plain weariness that comes with being a guy in his 50s.

No Botox here.

What I also appreciated was how in some situations in the movie he either needed to be rescued or his best effort to get a job done (as in a perilous motorcycle chase) does not work out exactly as planned.

In other words, real life happens.

MI5

Cruise came across as vulnerable and susceptible to the kind of overreach that guys are known for: “Oh, I can do this” or “I can fix this” and suddenly you are Chevy Chase in a scene from a “National Lampoon” movie, falling off a ladder or recovering from some other act of first-degree knuckle-headedness.

If I had been watching this movie in my 30s, none of these insights would have occurred to me. But being older gave me a different perspective on some of these subtleties.

For what it’s worth, MI5 was a top-notch summer tent pole of a movie but, in my opinion, not as good as the previous one, “Ghost Protocol.”

But if for nothing else gentlemen (and ladies) go watch it to see how Tom Cruise is showing his age but doing it with such style!

 

 

 

How You Can Show Your Love For About Men Radio

Hi friends and listeners,

We want to kick off the unofficial start of summer by thanking you for your support.

We are truly thankful for the feedback and readership and downloads.

For those who have not yet, we would ask that you rate us on Stitcher and offer your comments — good or bad. We can take it. We are, after all, men!

Rating us is painless and about as simple as putting up a posting on Facebook.

Here is what you do:

Click on http://www.stitcher.com/podcast/pop-tech-jam/about-men-radio?refid=stpr

Scroll all the way to the bottom and you will see a link that says “Write a Review.”

From there you can assign the number of stars you think the show is worth and then there are four simple fields to fill out with your exceptional prose praising the show.

Then all you do is click “post review” and presto! You have done us a solid and performed a service for the podcasting universe.

What else can you do to show your love for About Men Radio?

Funny you should ask!

Like us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AboutMenRadio and follow us on Twitter at https://twitter.com/aboutmenradio.

If you have a question or comment or concern or want to send us paper bags stuffed with cash, you can write us at amr@aboutmenshow.com.

And, of course, you can continue to come back to www.aboutmenradio.com to read more blog posts, see goofy photos of us when we were younger (mostly these images of us are depicted in cave paintings) and download the podcasts.

Thanks, as always, for your support and patronage!

Throwback Thursday at About Men Radio

In keeping with the spirit of Throwback Thursday, About Men Radio’s Richard Rodriguez reached into the archives and pulled out some vintage photos of the AMR crew circa 1987 in Saranac Lake, N.Y.

As you can see, we were mere lads back then.

But we were rocking the ’80s look hard.

Chris and crew-6
Left to right, Pedro, Gary, Rich and Chris (who either was cold or trying to look all gangsta).

Perhaps too hard. (What the hell is with that Hall & Oats look, Rich?!)

Here too are some of the comments the AMR crew made when Rich shared them with us.

Enjoy!

Chris and crew-3
Top left, Gary (doing obscene things to Pedro’s neck), John, rocking that pleather jacket, Pedro and Chris.

* Did we plan on looking like gay hustlers or was that a happy accident?

* Gary looks like he stepped out of a 70’s porno. (Cue up syntho/guitar music track…Boom-cheekie-bow-wow...)

* John, you look like such a hardened soul in this pic.

* I can only imagine what Gary is doing to the back of your head Pedro.

* Chris looks like he just walked of the set of Happy Days.

* That was my favorite pleather jacket….Heyyy

* John looks well hard in that photo. Badass.

* Pedro has an evil Gene Simmons look.

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Silvio (fresh off a performance with the Village People), John, Pedro and Rich, who pioneered jazz hands before it was popular.
Chris and crew-4
A camping trip in 1987 of epic proportions — fodder for a blog post in the future. Left to right: Gary, Rich, John (nice legs), Chris (wearing a camo cap AND a plaid shirt! WTF?!) and Pedro.

 

 

 

About Men: Yes, Slappy, it Really is Harassment

This controversial public service announcement video created by Hollaback, an organization dedicated to ending street harassment is intended to be a social experiment highlighting the routine sexual harassment females deal with daily. It features a young woman walking around New York City for 10 hours and the unwanted attention she gets despite not being dressed provocatively or engaging with the men she encounters on the street in any way.

I first saw the video posted by my fellow AMR contributor Pedro on the About Men Radio Facebook newsfeed. Shortly thereafter it had gone, as the hip kids say these days, viral.

Quite frankly I was disgusted more by the YouTube commenters than by the extra creepy guy in the video that follows the girl uncomfortably close and silently for 5 minutes. A typical New Yorker walks a block in a minute so unless my math is off here…this guy shadowed her for 5 blocks!

I am a fiercely proud Argentine and spent my late teens and early twenties in Buenos Aires.  Argentine men (just like Italians, which is also in my blood) are piroperos fond of throwing out piropos, a catcall, to passing women.

In its most traditional sense el piropo is supposed to be a very complimentary, flattering and non-rude line. Sort of like a well crafted pickup. When employed correctly it should be almost poetic. The intended effect is to bring a smile to a woman’s lips. Sadly, most modern piropos are lacking in poetry and too many piroperos in Argentina are just plain rude and harassing.

I recall hanging out with friends in Buenos Aires and some of them throwing out the occasional piropo. I refused to. One day I spoke up against someone in my group who let fly with an especially rude piropo that visibly upset the recipient but titillated the rest of the guys I was with.

I was verbally pounced on after suggesting to the graceless piropero in my group that they should have some respect. Things escalated with harsh words and threats hurled my way by several of the others. Before things became physical I countered (in Spanish), “How would you fu@#ing feel if that was your girlfriend or your mother?”

That certainly defused the situation but I never really hung out with some of those guys again.

I’m not suggesting I wouldn’t take an admiring glance and quietly comment to myself or a buddy on a fine figure walking by. I would.  I just never felt that urge to piropear and I most certainly wouldn’t be pressured into it by some clueless lunkheads.

Some commenters on YouTube felt the woman in the Hollaback video should have felt flattered by the attention and just let it be. Really?!?! Let who be?!?! The creep walking with her for 5 minutes. Or the other guy continually asking her why she didn’t want to be friends? Or any of the other creeps who kept hurling UNSOLICITED comments her way?

It’s all unwelcome and it is most definitely harassment.

But don’t take my word for it, ask your sister.  Ask your wife.  Ask your mom…

Photo: American Girl in Italy by Ruth Orkin

Strangest Summer Jobs: Part One

It is hard to imagine a world today without our cellphones. For many of us, they have become a permanent attachment to our hand or hip.

Does anyone memorize phone numbers anymore?  I know I don’t, but I can remember phone numbers to places where I lived more than 20 years ago yet I can’t remember my own children’s cell numbers.

During one summer when I was in college, I got a job with New York Telephone, after the monopoly break-up but prior to the industry proliferation of wireless devices in the marketplace.

How did we communicate when on the streets back in the pre-historic, pre-cellular days?

Pay phones were the way of the world. They were prominently positioned on the streets, at airports, bus stations, businesses and gas stations.

Today’s generation wouldn’t recognize a phone booth or understand having to dig change out of their pockets to call their BFF.

That summer I worked in a warehouse on the west side of Manhattan counting coins collected from all of the pay phones from the Bronx and Manhattan.

Each week this facility filled up a room with bags of nickels, dimes and quarters totaling over $100,000 —   not a bad take but I’m sure nothing compared to how much the cellphone industry rakes in today.

The counting room had a security guard who ran a metal detector over you when you left the room, so all your own coins, keys, and any metal objects needed to stay outside in your locker.

Cameras were also placed throughout the facility and at each counting station.

I was told that some employees in the past had developed a system of dropping coins down into their boots while they were counting, thus prompting the video surveillance.

I noticed that security rarely wanded you all the way down to your shoes.

On my first day, I was trained by a man who on one hand had a thumb and no other full fingers. He was the fastest counter in the place.

The counting machines were along a complex conveyor belt where the upper level brought you full banks of coins to be counted, and the lower level belt took away the full bags of counted coins.

The counting machines were pretty cool.

Each pay phone bank had a tag with info that you entered into a computer, and then you dumped out the change into a large tray and sifted through it to remove foreign coins and slugs.

Next, you lifted the tray and dumped the coins into the machine, which had a large spinning platter that pushed all the coins to the edge where they were lifted off the tray according to thickness and flew through an electric eye that counted them and off they went into a bag.

When a bag was full, the machine beeped and you would tie it up and throw it on the conveyor belt.

Attach a new bag and the counting continued.

That’s how the day went: pretty repetitive and mindless.

The place had a Musak system that we would commandeer and play our own mix tapes, yes tapes. So we would boogie to counting thousands of coins.

I remember that one of the favorite tunes that summer was the theme from “Beverly Hills Cop.”

One afternoon everyone was leisurely counting and we saw some people leaving early! We found out later that they had counted a certain number of banks and were allowed to go home. Damn!

The next day, we were all flying through the counting, knocking out those banks in record time and yeah, I got to go home early but this only lasted a week.

All the regular employees were brought into the boss’ office one at a time and got chewed out for not counting fast enough and the going home early thing was only to get production up.

Now that the coin counting was going great, us summer guys were expendable and we were transferred to escorting, but that’s another story…