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The House speaker, Paul Ryan, recently lamented how his personal SUV parked back in his Wisconsin hometown had been “eaten by animals.”

He said woodchucks chewed the wiring out from his Chevrolet Suburban. “And so my car was eaten by animals, and it’s just dead,” he said, according to a story in The New York Times.

Well, Mr. Speaker, you ain’t got nothin’ on AMR’s Richard Rodriguez who has his own tales (tails?) of woe involving critters and cars.

Fasten your safety belt and read Rich’s stories: 

Being born in raised in the Bronx, I had little opportunity for encounters with wildlife.

My wife and I moved out to rural Sussex County, N.J., and it was culture shock.

It was pitch black dark at night, and so quiet I couldn’t sleep. I missed being lulled to sleep by Cross Bronx Expressway traffic.

Over the years we have had numerous encounters with animals and our vehicles.

On a snowy evening, I was following my wife driving home when a deer ran out in front of her car and she hit the brakes but she slid and hit it.

The deer slammed down on the hood and bounced off onto the roadway.  I pulled over and checked on the deer and it was alive but surely had broken legs.

I had no idea what to do.

A truck pulled up behind us and a guy got out and said he could take care of this.

I thought he had a knife and would be able to put this poor animal out of its misery.

Then he went back to his truck and came back with a small sledge hammer and to our horror he proceeded to beat the poor animal’s head in.

Unfortunately, the first hit did not do the job and he continued to slam the hammer down until I finally heard the skull give way and the deer was finally done.

I then helped him pick up and throw it to the side of the road.

We were in shock as to what we just participated in, pristine clean white snow now marred with blood and brains.

Welcome to Sussex County.

This was just the beginning of our vehicle encounters with animals.

My wife proceeded to hit a number of deer in the years to follow, including a scary high-speed encounter on the way to work one morning.

The front of the van was smashed but only the top of the radiator cracked and she was able to drive back home.  It was close to being totaled but the insurance company fixed it.

This van became the Red Baron of the road.  I should have placed stamps on the side to represent all of its kills over the years.

I hit a deer with it, or actually the deer ran into me, almost came through the driver’s side window.

I also ran over a poor cat with all the kids in the van as I brought them home from daycare. Nice job, Dad. Now I was known as the cat-killer to my kids.

Last year the car I used for commuting to work started smelling like a small animal nest.

I checked under the hood by the air intake, and inside the car where the air comes through the vents.  Nothing there but some leaves and debris.

Not a good sign.

I hoped a mouse was not using my car as a nest.

The nest smell turned into the smell of death and decay and I was still unable to locate the culprit.

I used car fresheners that I attached to all the vents and it only masked the smell as the underlying stench still came through.

No one wanted to drive in my car with me.

I started to use my truck to avoid dealing with the dead animal smell.

I wondered how long it would take for it to decompose to nothing so it would stop stinking up my vehicle.

Winter came and I think whatever was in there froze and provided some olfactory relief.

I am now happy to report that after almost a year I am able to drive around without death in the air.

Glad I did not have to set the car on fire.

AMR 29: Happy Halloween Edition

No doubt you’ve all read Chris’s tale about how, despite his general distaste for Halloween haunted houses, he girded his loins and joined posse members Rich and Father John at  the Haunted Scarehouse in Wharton, N.J.

Whaddaya mean you haven’t read it?!?!?! Stop wasting time and check it out here. I’ll wait.

Monster_Movie_intermission

As luck would have it, our intrepid lead blogger had an audio recorder with him during his jaunt through the fright house.

Listening to Mad Mister Mele’s girlish screams and incredibly foul language had me wishing I was there.

Sadly, I, um, had to wash my hair that night. And I felt a tickle in my throat and couldn’t risk exacerbating it. Plus, I hadn’t dusted off my CD’s in awhile and was concerned about allergens…..

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Our Breakfast Club Therapy

It started out as a single get-together about three years ago.

My buddy Rich, who lives about an hour away, was going through a challenging time, so we got together for a breakfast to talk.

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That might not seem so monumental on its face but consider that for us to meet, we each have to travel about 40 minutes to reach a place somewhere convenient for both of us in rural New Jersey.

But the travel was worth it since the purpose was to talk — about our jobs, our families and our anxieties.

That meeting turned out to be just as important for me as it was for him.

One of the things that I’ve come to realize as a guy north of 50 is the almost impossible challenge of cultivating new friendships and the importance of maintaining existing ones.

At this age, there is so much history and so little time to get involved with others, thanks to the commitments of work and family.

By contrast, with Rich, who I’ve known for close to 40 years, there is a built-in intimacy and understanding of our shared experiences.

That breakfast meeting has led to many more since then.

The one-on-one conversations have a different dynamic than when the larger group of my buddies – the About Men Radio posse — gets together.

In a group of three or more, the conversations will inevitably devolve into hilarity of penis jokes, double entendres or a marathon of chop-busting but seldom anything heavy.

But when there is time and space for just two of us to talk, a stillness pervades, the kinetic energy subsides and a focus on more serious topics takes over.

Rich and I do not solve all of our problems over omelets and toast, but we do engage in connected conversations about our families, jobs, aspirations, limitations, etc.

How the hell are we paying for our kids’ college?

What roles are we playing as dads? As breadwinners?

What do our futures look like? What keeps us up at night?

The meetings were an epiphany that it’s O.K. to ask for help or simply just vent.

During our last get-together, Rich replied to a note I sent:

“Good to see you too. …It’ll be interesting 20 years from now when we walk into a place with our canes or walkers to have toast and coffee together. Need to keep taking pics so we’ll have a chronicle of our meetings.”

Indeed, Rich. I look forward to it.

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A Sign of Friendship

In a coming blog post, I will talk about the “Breakfast Club” therapy that About Men Radio contributor Richard Rodriguez and I have created.

For now though, I want to share something that happened at our most recent get-together in Allamuchy (yes, it really is a place) in New Jersey.

When we were done with our meal, Rich said to me, “Come with me to my car. I have something to give you.”

What he brought out from his car was the shape of a loaf of Italian bread and wrapped up.

What you see here is what was inside: A touching tribute to our shared passion for coffee and to an enduring friendship!

Thanks, Rich!