I used to be friendly with a movie star (though her career was in a slump at the time I knew her), and once, when we were talking about road rage, she said, “I always feel funny about flipping people off. I think it might be someone who can give me a job.”

For similar reasons, actors tend to be unnaturally upbeat in interviews. What did you think of the director? Oh, he’s great; he’s a genius. And the cast? They were wonderful, all of them; I was in heaven every day on the set.

But actors in private are a different story. I think such-and-such is awful, they’ll tell you; it’s bullshit that he got such great reviews. Of course, it also works the opposite way: actors love as much as they hate, though they might not want their enthusiasms broadcast, knowing how easily they can be misconstrued.

Business has been absolutely booming this summer at Greg Boose’s Personalized Swimming Pool Signs, Inc. Below are a few recent orders that we’ve completed.

Pool Rules for Zombies

Dude, I’ve Seen Your Balls

I called an old high school buddy to give him my new phone number. It was a business call. In and out. I wasn’t in the talking mood.  

His wife answered the phone. Tammy’s a good woman. Thoughtful. Funny. Pretty good pool player. I met her for the first time last year and we got ripped on margaritas. 

“What are you doing?” I asked her. 

“Oh, drinking a beer. You?” 

“Nothing. Hey, this is my new number. Tell your man if he wants to talk to me then he’ll have to dial those numbers.” 

“Hah. You’re an ass. Do you want to talk to him?” 

“I guess.” 

Musso got on the phone with his usual what-do-you-want tone.

“What’s up?” I asked. 

“Drinking a beer.” 

“You guys getting drunk?” 

“How do I know, dude?” he snapped. Just opened the first one.” 

“Great. Well, this is my new number. Scratch that other one. All right, I’m out. If you get lucky tonight think about me.” 

“Why would I do that?” he said. “I’ve seen your balls. It’ll fuck up the moment.” 

I paused for a moment. It’s not often a man tells you he’s seen your nuts. In fact, no dude has ever said that to me until now. I gave a nervous laugh. What the fuck is he talking about?  Then it came to me. 

“That’s right,” I said, remembering that day.  

Spring Break. Somewhere in the late 80s. San Clemente. Two girls. Musso and I. Strangers holed up in a small RV with a large bag of good weed and bottles of booze.  

One of them was named Stephanie. Blue eyes. Real cute. I can’t remember the other girl’s name, but I remember she had a tattoo of a four-leaf clover on her ankle. They were local girls, going to SDSU. We were sitting having beers at our campsite when they walked by. They sat down and the rest, as they say, is history.  

Stinky weed.  

Jim Beam. 

Vodka. 

Beach babies. 

Sex. 

A letter showed up in my mailbox around a week later.

“I can’t believe what we did,” Stephanie wrote. “I never did that before. I hope you don’t think bad of me.”

I didn’t think bad of her. I don’t think Musso did either.

“It’s funny,” I told him. “We lie all the time. About everything. But the truth is the truth. And the truth is that really happened. I can’t lie. Guilty.” 

He took a drink of his beer.

“Guilty,” he said.  

 

What the Hell?

I’m a pretty good neighbor. I keep up my yard. I don’t have broken appliances or cars sitting on blocks on the side of the house. I don’t wave guns around or light off fireworks just because I had too many Bud Lights.

I say hello. I smile. I keep my amp at a pleasant hum. I’m boring.

The day I moved in my neighbor was under the hood of his car. I looked at him and nodded. There was something about him I didn’t like. It was in his face, his shoes. And it was in my gut. And my gut said he was some emotional wreck, a drama king. 

A couple of days later he introduced himself to Cookie (my aunt), and asked how she was doing. 

“Fine,” she said. “And you?” 

He took a deep breath and dropped his head in tortured reflection. 

“Doing a lot better than I deserve to be,” he said.  

She told me what he said. 

“What?” I said, as his response tumbled around in my head. I started fuming. “Huh? What does that mean ‘better than I deserve to be’? Why would you tell a complete stranger something weird like that? Don’t say another word to that asshole.” 

Around a week later, I was writing yet another horrible poem when I heard yelling coming from outside. From my window it sounded like it was coming from my other neighbor. The one on my right. Not the crestfallen martyr on my left. 

“…better than I deserve to be.”

Oh, for chrissakes. 

What the hell? 

Then the yelling got louder. Then I heard glass breaking. I got up right as Cookie was coming down the hall. 

“The neighbors,” she said. “They’re arguing.” 

I looked out the screen door. He was standing in his yard wringing his hands. His hair was standing on end like a porcupine. He gathered himself and then started hurling insults at his girlfriend. Ugly names. He took a small break and then started up again and then stormed down the street. 

“I told you he was an asshole,” I said to Cookie, feeling good because my first impression of him was right on. 

Soon after the fuzz showed up. It was a two-cruiser hassle. They whipped out their flashlights (it was night time) and scanned the property, looking behind the shed, in the bushes. They flashed up in the trees.

It reminded me of a news article I read years ago where some guy who just robbed a liquor store climbed a tree to hide from the cops.  

The cops thought they had the dude pinned down when he suddenly disappeared. Then one of the cops flashed his light in some trees and there was the dude, stiff as a branch, holding a handful of loot and a plastic gun.

As of this writing, there haven’t been any more hassles from Mr. I Say Weird Things. No screaming. No cops. No hauling down the street pissed off as a motherfucker. No nothing. And, it seems to me, he fixed his car. Haven’t seen him under the hood.

It’s all good.  

 

The Mormon in Me

The economy is in the crapper. Bailouts are stacked high. Jobs are few. People stopped going to the mall. But it seems to me that the Mormon Church is doing just fine despite the hard times. Their bike riders are everywhere. Their Word is hitting all corners and all spaces in between. 

God business is good business. 

I moved to the California desert in my junior high years. That’s when I was first introduced to the Mormon Church and its bike riders who I saw riding down my street one day.  

“Those are Mormons,” a friend told me later. “My dad hates them.” 

The bike riders are the messengers of the church. They go around peddling through neighborhoods talking God. Last week, I counted between ten and fifteen of them cruising my neighborhood. It was the usual scene: Nice bikes. White shirts with black ties. Helmets. Slacks. Backpacks. White faces.  

I’ve been watching these fuckers for the better part of my life. Hell, they’re a part of my life, my landscape. 

I lived in the South for a few years and didn’t see one rider. Not one Mormon. I found this a little sad. Not many Mormons in the South, I guess. Right after I moved back to Vegas I saw a few riders sweeping through the streets doing their business. Clean shoes. Sunglasses. Salvation. 

It was a welcomed sight. 

My experience with Mormon folk has been a good one. Went to school with them. I’ve sat at their dinner table. Worked along side by side with them. Befriended their sons. Got to know some of their daughters. 

I was amazed at all the fuss that was made about Mitt Romney being a Mormon. Where’s the story? I wondered. Mormonism? That’s the story? I’m no fan of the Mormon Church or any church for that matter. But they’re just people. Just as kind and messed up as any Protestant, Baptist, or—God forbid—atheist I’ve ever met. 

Anyhow. 

The riders. 

They’re out in full force in my neighborhood. I guess there’s a lot of sadness and despair where I live. There’s a need here. The Devil has us doing and thinking horrible things. He’s overrun the land and it stinks like shit. 

So God has sent in his troops, his dawgs, to clean up the mess. 

The other day I saw a couple of them at the house across the street. Their heads tilted and nodded in thought. Their hands flipped through the air in reassurance. They reached in their backpacks and handed out literature. 

I wondered if my neighbors were listening to the things they were saying. I wondered if they were in the market for God or were they just being polite?  

I wondered if they were curious how these young men were so knowledgeable, so well-versed in all things God. So much that they were put in the position to give God to others. 

That’s pretty amazing when you think about it.

A miracle if you will. 

Hell, these guys are more than mere bike riders with nicely ironed shirts and heavy church agenda. These guys are angels. In the flesh. 

Right?

Who’s to say they’re not? 

Sam Harris?

Tom Cruise?

(Now, don’t be glib, Tom. Dickhead.)

George Foreman? 

I don’t know.

I don’t have the credentials.



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Picture the Scene:

It’s that time of year when the fifth graders at my elementary school get the puberty talk.

The thing is, the school doesn’t have a regular health teacher.

That left the nurse to talk to the girls.

The fifth grade boys were another story.

Prior to this year, a senior teacher had always given the talk. Since he had his own children, he was extremely comfortable discussing puberty with alternately wise cracking, painfully shy fifth grade boys.

But that teacher had recently retired.

Which left me to give the puberty talk.

The only problem: Unlike Paulie the Penis, I’ve never given anyone the puberty talk.

“Are you sure you want me to do this?” I asked the school nurse.

The diminutive woman, with her sweet and innocent, toy-like smile said: “Don’t worry. You’ll do fine.”

Photob

I wasn’t so sure about that.

I was convinced I’d say something wrong.

Something that would make those boys spontaneously sprout breasts and get periods, instead of growing bigger testicles and penises.

Truth be told, my puberty was a disaster.

In middle school choir, I got canned from playing Tony in West Side Story because my voice began cracking so much.

Photoc

My face became a war zone of acne.

Anything and everything would give me erections.

Even when my seventh grade earth science teacher would utter the word “Symbiosis.”

BAM

I’d get an erection.

And when it came to pubic hair, forget about it.

My genital area was a barren field.

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In the middle school locker room, I was constantly comparing that barren field to other boys whose pubic hair growth seemed more like jungles compared to mine.

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Still, traumas and all, I felt I owed it to my fifth grade boys to give them the clearest and most concise talk possible, regarding what they’d be experiencing, mentally and physically, over the next few years.

“All right,” I told the school nurse. “I’ll do it.”

“Good,” she said. “I knew I could count on you.”

She handed me a video and a shopping bag filled with packets for the boys.

Each one contained a pamphlet entitled Always Changing: Puberty and Stuff along with a stick of Old Spice Aqua Reef scented deodorant.

Photof

“One thing, though,” said the nurse.

“What’s that?” I said.

Suddenly, worry lines appeared around the edges of her toy-like smile.

She leaned in close and said:

“Try to stay away from the sex talk. Leave that for when they go to middle school. Try to keep things strictly related to puberty—you know perspiration and…”

She paused, leaned in even closer and added: “Erections.”

It was strange to hear this sweet little toy of a woman utter the ‘E’ word in the hall of an elementary school where cute little kids sporting Spiderman and Dora the Explorer backpacks were scurrying about.

Photog

What was even stranger, though, was the idea of having a puberty talk where I could discuss erections, but not sex.

That would be like trying to discuss Scientology without ever mentioning Tom Cruise.

“All right,” I told the nurse. “I’ll do my best.”

“Well good luck,” she said. “Now I have to get back to work.”

She left me standing in the hallway, that video in one hand, and a shopping bag chockfull of Puberty door prizes in the other.

I glanced down the hall. Facing me at the end of it was a bulletin board featuring a picture of Martin Luther King Jr. along with the words: I Have a Dream.

I had my own dream, all right.

I dreamt that my students and I could make it through the puberty talk with our sanity and all our original body parts in tact.

Coming Soon: Part II – The Puberty Video.