Clay Chucky

You know how when a person starts off with,

“no offense, but…”

what follows is bound to offend someone?

No offense, but, I hate Las Vegas.

First, there’s everything it stands for:  The greed, excessiveness, raunchiness, and wastefulness. The elevated importance placed on money and status. The incredibly insensitive display of indulgence when there’s so much suffering in the world. It represents the worst parts of America.

Then there’s the whole “anything goes” mentality that turns it into a giant frat house on crack. Its famous “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” mantra on the one hand is true, as you leave a part of your soul there. And even more of your salary. On the other hand, this concept turns even polite, quiet types into raving lunatics and cranks up the level of douche-iness on the already douchey to 11. There was a douchebag convention when I was there recently. It was called “March Madness.”

Vegas is an assault on all senses simultaneously. And everything about it is strategically set up to lead people to make bad decisions. Vegas is designed so you lose all sense of time, place, and manners. You can’t even walk the strip without losing your way (and your mind) because of all the ups and downs and twists and turns. You rarely sleep, and when you do, you have crazy, disturbing dreams. You become confused and overstimulated and tired. Finally the city breaks you down. “OK, fine,” you concede. “We’ll just sit in the one place that has chairs (casino floor) and put some damn money in a damn slot machine.” You tell yourself,

At least it might be fun to pull the lever and to carry around a bucket to collect the change!”

Oh, wait…

Vegas is too much of everything. Too many people, noises, lights, and children. What a great place for kids! The dancers on tables, and the hundreds of naked boobs pictured on cards littering all the sidewalks. And what kid doesn’t love a clown? Or a drunk! Plus, there’s the dangerous thrill of all the second-hand smoke.

I found myself mimicking the Jimmy Fallon “Ew” countless times on this trip. One small word sums up this monstrosity.

Cirque du OK
There are some positives. I actually felt thin there. Correction, I was thin during “day Vegas.” And not just thin, but classy and put-together. Stepping out in “night Vegas,” however, I was an old, frumpy fat-ass who might as well be wearing a track suit.

The food, even the “cheap” food is pretty damn good. And you can eat at the restaurants of all the chefs you know from reality TV. Also, the fountains at the Bellagio are surprisingly lovely.

Finally, there’s the entertainment. Not Celine, who perfectly represents Vegas on so many levels, yet, none of them positive (except that she knows she belongs in Vegas, and I respect that.) But the Cirque shows, which are visually stunning, and yet sufficiently eerie to be worthy of the city in which they have permanent homes. Beatles Love is a spectacular event that makes you feel like you are on psychedelic drugs, but in a good way. Except they have a character who looks like a cross between Clay Aiken and the Chucky doll; a miniature, psycho Clay Aiken. During the show, Clay Chucky walks around with a bouquet of flowers looking as frightened and confused as the rest of us. He could easily swap the bouquet for a knife and change the entire concept of the show.

Almost immediately after we left the theater and ventured out on the “night Vegas” strip we saw an adult wearing a Chucky costume. It was as if I expected him. In fact, I would’ve been surprised if we hadn’t seen a life-sized Chucky. It was time to go.

Not my town
Vegas is like that Clay Chucky. Cheesy, campy, confusing and creepy. Ew.


154 Rose Lane

(For Sue, 1940-2014)

When I think of Green Bay, Wisconsin, I think of summer and my favorite aunt Sue. She had the best laugh in the world – it was a chortle – goofy and hearty, wholesome and infectious. Quite often she threw in a snort, just for good measure. My brother and I spent a few weeks every summer in Green Bay with Suzie, my uncle Dick and my cousins Bryn, Lee and Heather. I absolutely loved it. Green Bay was summer. I was young, out of school, not a worry in the world, and I was away from home. I felt more than free; I felt carefree. Green Bay was Bay Beach, cheese curds at Kroll’s diner, Sue making me pizza and chocolate pie. It was Lynn and Nancy, who lived just down the road. It was magical.

Rose Lane seemed idyllic to me. It wasn’t a cul-de-sac but the lane itself went up, around and down forming a bell curve of sorts. 154 and 139 (where Lynn and Nancy, my “summer best friends” lived) both fell in the top part of the bell – in this analogy we weren’t A’s nor were we F’s. Years later I would find myself explaining this basic bell curve to one of my graduate school professors. “It’s a bell, you see? Not a ‘U.’ You are grading unfairly.” She changed my grade from a 2.1 to a 4.0. She still didn’t grasp the idea of the bell but with my 4.0 in tow, I smiled and walked away, offering no further explanations.

My uncle had a glass-blowing studio in the backyard. Us kids would form a line on the grass hill in the yard and watch in awe as he would take the glass in an almost liquid form and it would shape, mold and move, as he spun it on the end of a big metal rod. We asked a thousand questions and he answered all with astounding patience. I have a few of the pieces he made and whenever I look at them, I am transported back to a member of that audience on the lawn.

For me, life on Rose Lane was all about Lynn and Nancy and their older brother Steve, my secret crush. His senior picture hung on the wall in their living room and one day I snuck in there and snapped a photo of it. “Isn’t he so cute?” I would ask my friends, proudly displaying this picture of the framed photo on the wall, off-centered and blurry, with a bright flash in the middle, reflecting off the glass in the frame.

All out of love
Lynn and Nancy used to iron for hours. They ironed absolutely every article of clothing – from t-shirts to underwear to towels – everything. I have zero memories of my mom ironing so this was both fascinating and appalling to me. They would iron and we would talk about boys, giggle and listen to 45s. During the “Summer of Air Supply,” all we listened to were sappy love songs. My brother and cousin would sling Sue’s purses over their shoulders and pretend to be Air Supply, insinuating they were effeminate. So when a bully who lived down the hill (on the “F” side of the curve, I presume) shot my brother in the butt with a BB gun, I thought it was the funniest story I’d ever heard in my life. At the end of that summer Lynn and Nancy sent me off with the 45 of “All out of love,” by Air Supply, and they had both written messages to me on the outside sleeve. I cried all the way home on the Greyhound bus back to Minnesota.

Lynn and Nancy had a German shepherd, whose name I have blocked from my memory. I was terrified of this dog, and with good reason. This was a trained watchdog that guarded their father’s business. They loved to demonstrate how the dog would protect them by having me pretend to attack them. I really hated that dog. I would get upset and stomp back along the curve to 154 and to where my aunt and uncle had a beautiful collie named Farrah. I always thought that was such a perfect name for a collie and this dog was so sweet, except when my cousins would wrap bologna around the cat’s neck and Farrah would chase the cat to try to eat the bologna.

Sue would come to the cat’s rescue of course; she always stood up for the underdog (or undercat as it were), which is one of the many things I loved about her. And not just the undercat, Sue was always my ally. No matter what , she was on my side. She made me feel like we were in it together; we had a special bond and we were a team.

I was surprised that she seemed so genuinely happy to have these extra two kids join her brood of three. But Sue adored children. When she would take us kids to Bay Beach and later – the ultimate – Great America in Chicago, I don’t know who enjoyed it more. She loved to see us having fun and she would laugh and laugh – all my memories of Sue are of her laughing and smiling. She was always so generous with her love of us and made us feel like we were absolutely welcome in her home. But more than anything, she was generous with that wondrous laugh of hers.

Because she was also a teacher, countless children got to hear her laugh, have her on their side and have been graced with the opportunity to bask in her glow of their own happiness.

I cannot explain in words how much my summers at 154 Rose Lane meant to me. Or how much she meant to me. Rest in peace, dear Suzie. I know wherever you are, you are laughing.


Aunt Suzie

You win, I’ll place…whatever

I am not competitive. That is, until I get behind the wheel. In my car I’m a completely different person; I throw trash on the floor, talk to myself, scream obscenities at others, and become extremely aggressive. I take great pride in winning a race or a battle that I have decided I am in with another vehicle.

One day, stressed and crazed in stop-and-go (mostly stop) traffic in an exit-only lane, determined to not let anyone in, at any cost, I thought to myself – WHY? Why am I letting this get to me? I am only hurting myself.

Then I remembered a line from the Jerry Seinfeld special “I’m telling you for the last time.” About horse races, he says:

I’ll tell you one thing the horses definitely do not know.
They do not know that if you should accidentally trip
and break your leg at any point during the race
we blow your brains out.
I think they’re missing that little tidbit of information.
I think if they knew that
you’d see some mighty careful stepping coming down that home stretch.
“Take it easy, take it easy.”
“You win, I’ll place… whatever.”
“The important thing is your health.”

Since that day I have changed how I drive (for the most part.) I take deep breaths and chant, “You win, I’ll place…whatever.” I try to play nice with other drivers, because it’s dangerous not to, and the important thing is your health. But I can only tolerate maybe three random acts of niceness – aka ignore three complete asinine moves of other drivers – before I hit my limit and revert back.

“REALLY???” I yell. “R.e.a.l.l.y.”
“You’re gonna pull out in front of me and go 10. Niiiiiice.”


“Nice fucking blinker, asshole!”

Or, my favorite in its simplicity,


You get the drift.

Here are five of the worst offenses, in my opinion:

5. Blinkless
Did you know that blinkers come standard on every car? And they are free! They are also quite helpful to other drivers. One of the most annoying of the blinkless are the ones who turn at the last second and I could have gone minutes before, had I known you were turning. If only there was some way of alerting the other drivers that you are going to make a turn. Some sort of signal. Oh, wait, there is. It is called a blinker.

Then there are the ones who, after the light turns green, realize “oh, hey! I have this strange wand-like apparatus, what does this do?” and turn on your blinker. So now, stuck behind you, I will probably miss the light. Thanks, ass-wipe. Where are your manners?

4. Ass-riders
The ass-riders are especially annoying because I tend to drive fast. But if someone is on my ass then I purposely slow down. This is hurting both of us, so back off and we can both move forward. Literally and figuratively.

3. Sneakers
The sneaker comes in various forms. The most common are those who try to sneak in (or out) of an exit-only lane at the last moment, cutting in front of all the drivers who have followed the rules. This is frustrating to both those who have waited in that lane, and to those who do not wish to exit, but have to slam on our brakes because you decide to cut into a lane where the traffic is going zero mph from a lane where the traffic is moving at 60 mph. This is intentional and we all know it. You are an asshole. And you probably also use the HOV lanes illegally and think we do not notice because you have tinted windows. No one is falling for that banana in the tailpipe.

2. Lefties
Lefties are those people who camp out in the left lane on the freeway. You know who you are. The left lane is a passing lane. Even if you are going faster than most people, there will be someone who is going faster than you. Or who would go faster if you would move the hell over.

1. Slow pokes
As my dad would say,

“This guy went for a walk and took his car along.”

Driving slow is just as unsafe as driving fast.

There many forms of slow pokes but I dedicate the number one spot for the slow mergers, because they are equally annoying and dangerous.

Merriam Webster defines merge as:
verb. 1. to become combined into one; 2. to blend or come together without abrupt change: merging traffic.

The key here is “without abrupt change.” When you merge into traffic going 30 mph, and that traffic is going 60 mph, someone is making an abrupt change, by slowing down to let you in. This is not the intent of the merge. And of course you continue to go 30. Thanks, shit for brains. Smooth move ex-lax. You take the #1 spot.

[Honorable mention to those who block intersections OR sneak in on a red light in front of someone who stopped at a green light to NOT block the intersection. You suck.]

This post is dedicated to Scurvy (the person, not the disease.)