Anecdotes


These snippets from my life are not in any chronological order, and anecdotes get added as they come to mind. All of them are true, to the best of my memory. Most are humorous (at least in hindsight), but don't be surprised to find stories without punch lines...


"Are Those Bugle Boy Jeans You're Wearing?"

I'd driven down to my friend Dawn's house in Bound Brook one day during the spring of '91. We were going to take the train into New York and make a day of it. Which we eventually did, anyway. But on the way down, my 1980 Ford Mustang overheated several times and finally died on Route 22. I called Dawn from a payphone, and we arranged for a towtruck to take the car to a shop that promised to have it up and running by the end of the day. So we happily took the train to the City and had a great time.

Only to find out, when we called the shop near the end of the working day, that they hadn't even looked at the car and couldn't get to it for a week or so! I was aggravated, but there was nothing I could do about it, so I spent an unprepared night at her family's home. The next morning, we had the car towed to another shop, and in the middle of the afternoon we were told that it was ready. Relieved, I had Dawn drive me there, and after paying an arm and a leg, I drove off, with her following. Luckily. For, not eight blocks down the road, the car died again. It took half an hour to get it back to the shop, because it kept overheating and dying on me. Two mechanics argued over the cause, then told me they'd fix it.

By now the afternoon rush hour was beginning. I took the theoretically-repaired auto back from them, a bit skeptically. This time, Dawn took off ahead of me into traffic. This was unfortunate, because the car died yet again, and I had no way of getting in touch with her (this was before the age of widespread cellular phones, kids). I pulled the car off onto a side street and parked it, then walked up the highway a few blocks on the other side, hoping to see her return. I was wearing the same outfit I'd worn the day before, as I hadn't packed for an overnight stay: a red tank top, a black and white rose shirt, and my tight black bondage pants, and black Ray-Ban Wayfarers. I suppose I made for a bit of a sight...

A car passed by on the other side of the road and got into the left-turn lane, waiting for a break in traffic. A young woman got out of the back seat and yelled a question at me. It didn't register, and I yelled back, "What?" "Excuse me, but are those Bugle Boy Jeans you're wearing?" she repeated. In disbelief, I shouted, "No!" and she giggled and got back in the car, which then turned... Dawn returned to retrieve me shortly thereafter. As for the car, well, by the time we got it back to the shop (again), everyone had gone, so we left it overnight with a note, and Dawn drove me home so I could get a change of clothing. She spent the night on the couch, and the next morning we returned to Bound Brook and finally got Maybellene the 'Stang fixed, and I was able to go home on my own.

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Stuck Inside of Boston With the Jersey Blues Again

In 1991, I began going out with a girl from Paterson, NJ who started school at Boston University two months later. Liz didn't have a driver's license yet, and I drove her to Boston a few times; I also drove up to visit her occasionally. And on one of those visits, as we were preparing to head back to Jersey for the weekend after I'd spent the night...

We were heading out of Boston and back to Jersey, in the fast lane of Storrow Drive and about to make a left towards Route 90, as rush hour was building to a swell, when the Bitch died. The Bitch being my 1985 red Ford Tempo, of course. Heh-heh... Traffic wasn't moving anyway at that point, but it started up again soon enough. I managed to get the car started up again, too, but it died again shortly thereafter, and people were now honking their horns and giving me the finger as they drove by. Eventually, we got the car pulled over to the side, and after letting the engine cool down a bit, it started again, and I was able to make that left... and then the car died again. I was very frustrated at this point, but fortunately a couple of bicyclists happened by, and they helped us get the car to a parking meter. Later, a cop pushed the Tempo (with me steering) with his car into a parking lot, and we called a tow truck to take it to a service station. By this time, it was dark out, and I ended up having to spend another night in Boston. Unlike the 'Bugle Boy' incident, however, this time the car was repaired the next day, and Liz and I were able to head home.

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Mall Brats

My friend Autumn and I decided to take a trip to Woodbridge Center and put up some Underground Giraffe flyers, and just generally 'hang out,' as people our age did. Of course, I donned a black shirt, my black bondage pants, black Doc Martens boots, black studded fingerless gloves, and my trademark black Ray-Ban Wayfarers before leaving the house to pick her up. Autumn, sporting a preppy look, and I listened to new wave and electronic music all the way to the mall, then put our flyers up outside before entering. After a few minutes, she noticed that we were garnering stares. Well, I was, anyway...

Autumn confronted the next woman she caught looking at me, an older lady, and inquired rather business-like, "Can we help you with something?" The poor woman sputtered and stared like a deer caught in headlights, and finally stammered, "No- no, I, uh, you look nice," at which I thanked her and we walked away, breaking into laughter shortly thereafter. We repeated this with a few other people; one guy was not amused and asked us gruffly, "You got a problem?" Autumn replied, "No, we thought maybe you did" as we continued walking. A minute later, he sailed by between the two of us and muttered as he passed, "I could beat the shit out of both of you. I'm not in the mood for you!" Autumn made a comment about not being able to read minds; I marvelled at the idea that someone had to be in the mood for us. Heh-heh-heh... Autumn replaced her preppy sweater with my Toys "R" Us smock before we headed out to Bridgewater Commons, where we attracted some more attention.

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An Autumn Day

Around my twenty-first birthday, I'd mentioned to Autumn that Sting's The Soul Cages was the only album by Sting or the Police that I didn't own on vinyl, and that I'd have to get my hands on it someday. Lo and behold, after my birthday had come and gone, she told me she'd tried desperately to get a copy but couldn't find it anywhere; she'd buy it for me, she proposed, if I took her to Sound Exchange up Route 23. This was the wonderful record shop where I'd seen it before, and Autumn and her boyfriend Rodney didn't have a car at this time. So off we went, with her driving the Bitch and me navigating...

I got my long-playing record, which I still have, and we headed for Tower Records on Route 17 to look for other music, then took the long way home. I had a fairly realistic-looking toy gun in the glove compartment (yes, I realize it was a stupid thing to do), and as Autumn was driving and we were talking, I took it out and held it in my right hand. It being a warm autumn (!) day, I had the passenger window rolled down, and after a few minutes, I noted with horror that, while I was talking, the Italian in me was coming out, and I was waving the hand holding the gun out the open window. Yes, I realize that that was a stupid thing to do, too, especially after Autumn started heading down a one-way street the wrong way. Could've been big trouble.

We each headed to our separate homes for dinner, then I picked her up again afterwards and let her drive to a café called Enigma (in Edgewater; it's now Archetypus, a bit removed from the original location) for dessert. Enigma was very cool; once you stepped inside, it looked like you were in a cave, with life-sized female figures carved in the walls and ceiling. We sat at a table, and while we were waiting for our order, Autumn kept starving the candle flame of oxygen by covering the opening with her hand. After moving her hand away just in time to let the flame recover two or three times, the candle finally went out. She relit it with a page from my ever-present memo pad, then dropped the page inside the candle and watched it burn. We continued our conversation, and were suddenly interrupted by a loud CRACK! I looked at the table in time to see a river of hot wax flowing down the table from the broken candle straight at my crotch! I jumped out of my seat really fast... but a day or two later I noticed a few drops of wax on my bondage pants and realized I hadn't been quite as fast as I'd thought. (Yes, I wore bondage pants a lot back in those days...)

After dessert, Autumn drove the Tempo into New York, and immediately after exiting the Lincoln Tunnel she entered the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Oops! We managed to extricate ourselves without any bus collisions... We spent some time walking around Greenwich Village, then headed back for Jersey; while conversing in the car on 495, she unknowingly got on the New Jersey Turnpike, and we didn't notice until we were just a few short miles from the George Washington Bridge! Eventually, though, we turned around and ended the night without a return trip to Manhattan... or questioning by the police.

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Boo!

I've spent some time creeping up on and startling people. Mostly people of the feminine persuasion. I don't know, it's just this thing I used to do... I'm usually very good at moving stealthily and sneaking up on someone without him or her noticing, and I'm also usually good at noticing other people trying to do the same to me. But one time...

During my three-month employment in the produce department at Pathmark, I got along well with most of my co-workers, including the two women in the department. Wendy Silvers was out with chicken pox when I first started, and a little while after she'd returned, I came down with it, and the rumors flew. Kids... Albina Soriano was a wiseass like me, though, and we hit it off right away. One day, I was wheeling a table full of produce out into the aisle, when I noticed one of my friends. I stopped and turned to talk with him, with my back to the table. Unbeknownst to me, and despite the fact that there were only about two feet between the table and me, Albina quietly slipped into that spot and waited patiently. When the conversation ended and I turned around to continue pushing the table out, she was only inches from my face! I jumped, I admit it... She got me good. Heh-heh.

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Remember... Walking in the Rain

During my two months in the Dean's Summer Scholars Program at Rutgers University (College Avenue), I met two of my best friends, Barbara and Dawn. I had several adventures with one or the other (or both, or their respective roommates Sue and Noelle), but this one explains why I'm not so perturbed about walking around in the rain without an umbrella.

Barbara and I had taken to swinging in the park (no, not after dark) near the campus, and one day we brought Dawn along. It started to rain. Undaunted, we kept swinging anyway, and eventually the rain stopped and the sun came back out. As we had a couple of hours to kill before dinner, Barbara suggested we hike up Easton Avenue and visit her friend Jennifer, about three miles away, and as it seemed to now be a nice summer day, we set off. Along the way, though, the sky began clouding over again, and the rain returned. And got heavier. And heavier. We were too far along to turn back by then, so we trudged forward, even when the thunder and lightning started.

Soaked, we finally arrived at Jen's, only to find her getting ready for work. Her father was driving her, but couldn't drop us back off at Rutgers, so we headed back out into the black weather. Walking alongside Easton Avenue again, we obviously looked like targets who weren't wet enough, because some jerk went out of his way to move over into the right lane, hit a puddle and splash us with water, then move back into the left lane. By the time we'd walked the three miles back to Tinsley Hall, we'd probably each gained ten pounds of water weight...

We heard in the news the next day that two tornadoes had struck central Jersey while we'd been out and about. So, no, I'm not terribly concerned about being rained on a little...

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Creepy...

Barbara and I went camping at Assateague Island, Maryland, in 1994, and it was a great trip at a great location. It started raining shortly after we set up the tent, though, and we had to huddle inside until it stopped. The next day was nicer, and that night started out very clear, so we walked out onto the beach to see the stars. Much better vantage point than either of us had at home... It started getting misty and foggy again, however, which reminded me of a Ray Bradbury short story, "The Nine Billion Names of God," so I recounted the tale to Barbara.

In the story, there is a monastery in Asia (in the Himalayas, I believe it was) whose monks believe that there are approximately nine billion different ways to express the name of God in earthly alphabets, and the universe and man exists solely to discover all those names. They've been working on the task for centuries, but have only written out a small percentage of all the possibilitiess. The current generation of monks has decided to utilize modern technology to achieve their goal, and so they buy a computer and hire technicians and programmers to set it up with their task. As two of the techs are leaving on a train through the mountains to return home after installing the equipment, they discuss the monks and their religious beliefs, and one asks the other what the monks thought would happen when they discovered all the names. "Why, the universe will come to an end," replied the other man. They share a chuckle over that, and the first man asks how long the program would take to run. The second man looked at his watch and said, "Well, it should be finishing up around now..." That's when they noticed that the stars in the night sky started winking out, one by one...

And as I got to that part of the story, we noticed that the fog was now blocking all the stars. Coincidence, but somewhat creepy... I don't think this was the reason for it, but that night, I was awoken from a sound sleep (and it takes a lot to wake me from a sound sleep) by Barbara, who was wide-eyed and had her finger to her lips. I asked her what was wrong, and she asked if I'd heard that noise. I strained my ears but heard nothing, and she eventually went back to sleep, as did I. The next morning, she apologized and said she'd woken from a nightmare, then heard (or thought she'd heard) a noise outside the tent. Well, there were wild ponies roaming the island, so there might have been an intruder at our campsite...

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Snagged

One of my co-workers at Toys "R" Us, Shawn Williams, was the lead singer of a thrash-metal band called Snag. They were very popular in Clifton and Totowa, and recorded several demo cassettes in addition to playing many, many shows. I wasn't really into thrash, but eventually I bought one of their tapes, and I did end up enjoying it, so when Snag was slated to do a huge show with lots of other bands at the Queens Theatre in New York, I enthusiastically agreed to go.

Many T"R"U employees met in Clifton that night, and the band had hired a bus to get us all there, so we rode in to Queens, arriving in plenty of time. The show rocked, and Snag kicked ass. Heh-heh... So we had a great time...

Until we went outside, prepared to leave, and discovered that the bus driver had abandoned us. Apparently, he'd shown up, decided that we weren't coming out, and left without us. Many angry phone calls were placed, and attempts were made to get the bus (or another one) to come get us, but to no avail. Several of us walked around a bit, but that part of Queens wasn't the friendliest place for young white metalheads at 2 in the morning. Heh-heh... One of the buttons I was wearing read "Wanna Trade Problems?" It really hit home for several people.

Finally, we gave up and called for a few cabs, splitting the costs. We arrived in Clifton, where it was pouring, at around 4 AM, and I drove Laurie Lanza home from there before heading home myself. It was all SOP for Snag...

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New Jersey Turnpike

In late June 1997, my then-girlfriend Karen and I were heading back up north from Kearny one Sunday afternoon after visiting her mom and doing some grocery shopping; as usual, I was driving her Nissan 200SX. We were in the acceleration lane and getting on the Turnpike when I noticed the car in front of me swerving wildly. I reacted indignantly, wondering what kind of an idiot would pull such a stunt, but when he'd moved out of the way I saw why he'd done it, too late to easily avoid it myself: there was an orange traffic cone in the middle of the lane.

I, too, swerved so as not to hit it and risk damaging the undercarriage of the car. We were already doing at least 40 miles an hour. If I remember correctly, I veered hard to the left, then back to the right before I could head into traffic. Before we hit the guardrail at the edge of the highway, I swerved again to the left.

We travelled halfway across the Turnpike, and the car spun at least 360 degrees. I don't know how I managed to stay as much in control as I did... but the car finally stopped moving, with the engine shut off, facing oncoming traffic. Including two or three rather large trucks. Luckily, all those drivers were paying attention, saw what was happening, and stopped well before they reached our spinning vehicle. The car started right up again, and everyone waited for me to turn around and move out. We were shaken, and stirred, but not injured.

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Tequila!

In May 1996, my friend and co-worker Yesika and I went to Cancún, Mexico together. We had a great time, and enjoyed the beaches, the ocean, the food, the ruins at Chichen Itza... and, of course, the tequila. Heh-heh...

Our first night there, we didn't want to do anything too strenuous, so we bought two tickets for the Cancén Queen, a Mississippi-style riverboat. We had some rum punch when we boarded, then moved on to piña coladas, and then to the tequila-based drinks, like tequila sunrises and margaritas. We danced, and drank, and ate, and drank... They poured flavored tequila down our throats as we danced to "Tequila." I learned, more or less, to do the Macarena. And we drank some more...

At the end of the night, the band asked for four couples to come up. We didn't know what they were going to do, and we weren't a couple, but we went up anyway, and found ourselves engaged in a contest in which we had to pop three different balloons between both our bodies before the other couples did. And we won! When our victory was announced, I picked Yesika up and spun her around. Unfortunately, I still had a quart or so of tequila and rum in my bloodstream, and quickly lost my balance and fell onto the carpet, bringing her down with me.

Yesika still has a scar on her knee and loves telling people about how I 'dropped' her in Cancún.

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"Holy Cow, I Think She's Gonna Make It...!"

Dawn and I made several trips to New York City together. Some were uneventful, but others, like the Bugle Boy story above, were not so much. We were once stopped by doormen and velvet ropes while trying to smuggle two menus out of the then-new Planet Hollywood restaurant. On another occasion, Dawn threw her empty Snapple bottle towards a trash can in Central Park, and missed, gand got bawled out by a vendor with a subcontinental accent; we ended up picking up broken glass while trying to maintain our balances on our rollerblades. Another time, we walked over 120 blocks in the City, including "a romp through Central Park," but failed to find either Strawberry Fields or FAO Schwarz. And, on another trip...

It was drizzling as we walked downtown from the museums to the Hard Rock Café. We needed to get across Columbus Circle, which is not the easiest task in the world; when traffic started moving, we both sprinted across the lanes, and Dawn was still running when she hit the sidewalk. Only this wasn't any normal sidewalk. It seemed to be polished granite or marble or something... In any case, it was smooth, and it was wet...

And Dawn slipped on it, fell forward, put out her hands to catch her fall, and kept sliding! I caught up to her, careful not to repeat her performance, and grabbed her shoulder. Once I saw that she was OK, I told her that what I'd wanted to do was throw my arms out, umpire-style, and yell, "Safe! She's safe!" Regardless, we were still laughing about it hours later...

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"We Have Liftoff!"

I was at work at Toys "R" Us one evening, and as this was during my Black Period, I was dressed all in black. Back in those days, our store had what we referred to as the Tower, a small enclosed area with a short flight of stairs and a locked room at the top; this was where the safe and the cash register tills were kept. I'd just brought a few tills up, carrying them stacked upon one outstretched palm, pizza-delivery-guy style, as was my wont. As I started back down the stairs, my foot slid out from under me... or as I wrote in the accident report they insisted I fill out: "Suddenly, my slick-soled dress shoe slipped sickeningly skyward."

Nothing was injured but my dignity, fortunately, but that black outfit was covered with dust.

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I'm Not A Toys "R" Us Kid

Five years as a T'R'U employee proved to be my limit. I spent much of the last two of those years telling people how I'd be leaving once my five-year anniversary came and went and I was fully vested in the 401k and profit-sharing plans, and while I may have been half-kidding at first, it wasn't long before I was dead serious about it. I was unhappy with a lot of the Company's, and our individual store's, policies. I worked in the customer service area, and as an occasional DKC and money counter; this meant that I was responsible for the front end of the store, for giving customers refunds and exchanges on merchandise, for servicing cashiers with change, register tape, plastic bags, and anything else they needed, for counting down the register tills at night, and for preparing the registers for the next morning. Yet I was finding myself more and more often given other, non-front end 'busy work,' when we didn't have enough people on the front end as it was.

One afternoon, I showed up to work in the customer service area, and was put on register. When they finally took me off, I was told to go fill the seasonal area at the entrance with merchandise. I was steamed by this, and Cathy Lee, my manager at the time (who was younger than me - and I was 21!), came over to talk to the obviously angered Andersen. I told her that seasonal didn't thrill me, and she asked, "Well, what thrills you?" I struggled to keep the smirk from my face, but she saw it and exclaimed, "Work-wise!" Heh.

I wrote a detailed letter of resignation, which came to six double-spaced pages, and intended to quit on my 22nd birthday, two or three weeks after my fifth anniversary at the store. A nice gift to myself, I thought... When I gave my two-weeks' notice and handed in the letter, Sharon McCusker, the assistant store director, asked me into her office and had me sit there while she read the entire letter to herself. When she finished, she told me that I'd made some valid points and brought up some issues that did need to be addressed, and she asked me to stay a bit longer and give them a chance to work on those issues. I reluctantly agreed.

In the meantime, I patched together the last Underground Giraffe/first (and only) Foogar issue, and the "Life... of Death!" issue, and handed out copies to my fellow employees as a parting gift. After some time had passed, and I realized that things hadn't changed at the store and weren't going to, I finally went home one night and decided that I wasn't going back. So I didn't. But I didn't tell anyone that, either, figuring they'd get the hint when I didn't show up to work the next couple of days I was scheduled. I eventually stopped in, almost two weeks later, to pick up my last paycheck, and was greeted with questions like, "Are you all right?" and "When are you coming back?" Apparently, no one had made the connection that I had walked out on the job; they seemed to have thought that I was so deathly ill that I couldn't make it to work, and couldn't even call in. Pretty sad, really... Well, I made it clear then.

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Tennis, Anyone?

Late summer, 2005: I'd barely played tennis over the past six years, occasionally managing to get some volleying in with Barbara, so when the opportunity came up to play with my colleague Mahj at a Microwize function, I grabbed it. We both brought our racquets, and then Fred and Jeremy jumped on the bandwagon, bringing theirs, so we were psyched.

After the business portion of the day was completed, Mahj and I headed onto the courts. Turns out I should have done a little warming up, I guess; we started practicing our serves and volleys right away, and almost immediately, as I moved back to try to take a shot at a fast-moving serve, I fell backwards onto the court and hit my head. Ouch. I recovered quickly, though, and went on to play a good doubles match with Jeremy against Mahj and Fred. I don't think there was any permanent damage...

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"Welcome to New Hampshire, Sir"

The first time I left the Totowa Toys "R" Us was when I was going away to Glassboro State College and transferred to the Cherry Hill store as a part-timer. I'd made a lot of friends at Totowa, and fourteen of us went to Pizzeria Uno one night after work as a going-away party.

Donna Kowalsky and Stacey Garofalo were two of my fellow customer service area employees, and we got along well and worked many looong shifts together. When the time came for me to leave, the girls decided that they would take me out for dinner as well, only they did things a little differently. I picked up Donna, who didn't drive, and brought her back to my house, where Stacey met us. I was then blindfolded and helped into Stacey's Nissan Pulsar. They drove to Quik Chek first, and told me when to wave at people outside; I obliged, grinning. We drove around some more, then I was led out of the car and into Toys, where I heard another front-end employee, Lorraine Salzano, ask, "What are they doing to him?" Heh... They helped me back into the car, and after some U-turns and zig-zags and other moves to throw off my sense of direction, we parked, and I was once again led out of the car and into a building that smelled of seafood. I heard a young man say to me, "Welcome to New Hampshire, sir," just before I was allowed to remove the blindfold, but it turned out we were actually at Red Lobster in Wayne. Those crazy girls...

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"...And Stay Out!"

I've only been bounced out of a joint once. So far. Heh-heh... One night, Yesika and I went to the Greenman Lounge in Hoboken (the former Faces, where I'd seen Serious Pilgrim a few times). Her friends were promoters for the place, and we'd gone there a few times; while the music (Latin dance music, mostly) wasn't quite my favorite, I could deal with it and even dance to it after a few drinks, and anyway the neo-Gothic interior was pretty cool.

On this particular night, I hadn't really had anything to eat beforehand, but I wasn't planning on doing a lot of drinking, so I wasn't too concerned about it. However, we ended up doing several shots, including vodka and Goldschläger, and the friendly bartender even gave us one on the house, a smooth little number called a Sicilian Kiss. Well, Yesika disappeared for a while with one of her friends, leaving me to pickle. The next thing I knew, I was being escorted outside, politely but firmly, by a burly bouncer, who wouldn't let me back in, even to get my jacket from the coat-check. I stood outside in the cold air for a few minutes until Yesika realized that I wasn't in the club anymore, then listened to her argue with the bouncer for a while before giving up and getting our jackets. We went next door to the diner to get a bite to eat, which was perhaps not such a great idea, since I ended up being sick at the table. Come to think of it, I was asked to leave there, too. D'oh!

Oh, why was I ejected from Greenman? People get drunk in bars and clubs all the time, right? Well, I still have no recollection of this, but it seems that, in my shot-induced haze, I got a little frisky with the barmaid, and she didn't appreciate it...

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Night of the Living Rednecks

Maybe you'll recognize that title as a Dead Kennedys recording... What happened to me wasn't quite as disconcerting as what allegedly happened to Jello Biafra, but it could have been. I attended the Underground Press Conference in Chicago in 1995 (during my brief stint as a 'zine editor), and included in the registration price was admission to the Saturday Night Underground Ball, held at the Bop Shop in a part of town I'd not yet visited. It being an Underground ball 'n all, I showed up in my bondage pants and Docs; the crowd was very mixed, and I blended in just fine. I stuck around a while, checking out the musical stylings of Jenny Magnus and the Vulva Club, and some of the 'zines sprinkled liberally throughout the place, but when no one asked me to dance, I decided to leave. lol

I stepped outside, where there were other revelers smoking or just getting some air, and some of their appearances were rather less conventional than mine, many of us being into punk and alternative music and culture. There was also a carful of apparent rednecks heckling them from the street, and when I started walking the ten blocks back to the CTA station, the car started following me, its occupants taunting me along the way. There weren't many other pedestrians on the sidewalk with me at this point, and I just kept walking, ignoring the rabble, but I realized that they might decide to pull over and get out. Luckily, their following me at my walking pace was holding up traffic behind them, and after a few angry hornblows and yells from other drivers, they took off and left me alone, and I got back to the subway without incident.

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Work That Skirt

During my sophomore year of high school, in June 1986, a number of students decided to 'organize' a protest of the school dress code, which banned shorts for either sex but allowed young women to wear skirts. It was deemed unfair that we males couldn't also bare our legs to keep cool during the hot weather, and so, on June 6, many young men came to school carrying skirts to wear later.

While the protest had my approval from the beginning, I wasn't originally planning to take part. As the day drew nearer, however, I had a change of heart, and I came in that day with a pair of gym shorts on under my pants, and my sister's black skirt in my bag. Some teachers were expressly forbidding the boys from wearing skirts in their classes, and some administrators were sending students home or even suspending them; I waited until Mrs. DeBellonia's English II class, and quickly changed before the class started. She walked in as I was doing so, looked shocked and exclaimed, "Oh, my God!" and quickly turned around and walked out. My friend Mohammed Huq also changed into a skirt, but as we stood there grinning, Mrs. van Rensalier, the Dean of Women, walked in and asked us to go with her to her office. Busted!

We were lectured and then taken to the office of Mr. Roberto, the vice-principal. While we waited for him to arrive (doubtless from putting another offender in the stockade), a girl peeked in at us and made amazed comments about the "straight A student" who'd been caught in a skirt. Roberto came in, took our names and our skirts, and told us we could pick them up at the end of the day in the principal's office.

Mr. DeFeo, the principal, already knew me, as I was an honor roll and principal's list kinda student. He was stunned that afternoon when he looked up from a pile of paperwork and heard me sheepishly ask for my skirt. Heh-heh...! He returned it and spared me from too much additional lecturing, but he did warn me never to try a stunt like that again. And, a few months down the road, the school did relax the dress code and allow us to wear shorts, so... victory was ours!

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Juan Silva, Two Silvas...

AA World Class had a company-wide (as opposed to intra-departmental) grab bag for the holiday season of 2002, and everyone was asked to list three items, each under $20, from which the buyer could choose. After some thought, I put down a book by Neil Postman, an Anakin Skywalker lightsaber (the toy and not the replica, obviously), and One Beat, the then-new album by Sleater-Kinney. I'd heard much about the band but never actually heard their music, and I'd read some rave reviews of the new CD, so I thought that maybe I'd get to check it out without having to pay for it. Marsha, who drew my name, surprised me by buying me the album, and I enjoyed it so much that I bought myself a ticket to see the band in New York the following February.

I arrived at the Roseland Ballroom twenty minutes before the doors were supposed to open, and went in to pick up my "will-call" ticket. Standing on line, I eventually approached the table and was asked for my name. When I gave it, the short guy next to me looked at me and asked, "What's your name?" I repeated, "Andersen Silva," whereupon he told me that he was Juan Silva. We and the employees behind the table chuckled over the odds of two Silvas showing up at the same time and almost getting each other's tickets. On the way back outside, Juan, who told me he was of Peruvian descent, invited me to hang out with his little party, including his girlfriend and his cousin, and I graciously accepted. While I'd had every intention of enjoying the show alone as I usually do, I had even more fun with this group of strangers. Silvas everywhere...!

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I'll Have Your Cake and Eat It, Too

I was at work at Microwize Technology one May, talking with a co-worker about my plans for celebrating my then-girlfriend Gina's birthday, which was that day. A few hours later, I was again discussing her birthday, when "Radar Ears" Robert piped up from his office: "Whose birthday is it? You mean it's not your birthday?"

He informed me that he'd hastily arranged for a cake after overhearing the earlier conversation and misinterpreting it as meaning that it was my birthday, despite the facts that he and I had known each other for twelve years at that point, and my birthday was five months away in September, when it had been since at least 1970. I initially thought he was joking, but then they produced the cake...! I brought it home and gave it to Gina, who laughed at the story and asked me to thank Robert. We thought he should give me two cakes every year...

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He's Got the Jack

Ah, my bad luck with cars... A group of my friends and I went to the Jersey shore in the summer of '99, as was our tradition; because it was silly (and expensive) for everyone to bring his or her car, I drove to the Dittmars' and left my Corolla at their house. Over the weekend, we listened to WRAT-FM, 'the Rat,' a great radio station for hard rock which unfortunately only comes in when you're in south Jersey. We heard a lot of music we just never got to hear on the stations up north, including a great old AC/DC song, "The Jack," which I'd not heard in years. Well, it turns out it was an ill omen, because after we'd returned to Karen and Adrian's on Sunday and I got in my car and headed home, one of my tires blew out on the Garden State Parkway. Luckily, I was able to pull off to the side of the highway without further mishap, but guess what I had to drag out of the trunk? &bsp;:::pause for effect:::  That's right: the jack. Heh-heh-heh.

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Black, Black, Black, Black Number One

I was standing at the bus stop on Broad Avenue in Ridgefield one late April afternoon, shades on against the sun, watching the traffic going by, when I heard a car horn and I turned to look. Now, I occasionally catch a woman's eye, and I've my received my share of raised eyebrows, and smiles, and grins... and even frowns. But I was surprised to see two teenaged goth girls giving me the eye (and I wasn't even wearing Bugle Boy jeans!), and when I grinned and waved at them, I was not expecting the raven-haired driver to blow me a kiss...

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Dinosaur-Tamin' Military Man

While Barbara and I were in London in March 2000, we of course did most of our sightseeing and exploring together, but we took a day apart to do our own things. My own thing included riding the London Underground (or Tube) system at random, visiting stations and areas of Greater London that Babs and I just wouldn't have had any reason to visit. Dressed in black vinyl pants and a German army jacket (bedecked with "Jurassic Park" and Clash patches and a few fake military insignia), I didn't discover anything too exciting, but I did have fun just walking around and being gawked at. I suppose many people just took me for a German... ("Hey, let's take that guy over there, for a German!")

In the mid-afternoon, as I was approaching Wembley, a group of schoolchildren boarded the train. I soon noticed a few of them looking at me, and then I overheard the oldest of them, who couldn't have been more than eight or nine himself, explaining with an air of authority that I was obviously a soldier and had actually worked at Jurassic Park (the park itself, not the movie) with the dinosaurs. I had to struggle to keep from grinning, but seeing the awe on their faces, I didn't want to disappoint them with the truth.

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"Hello, Boys..."

Back in '96 or so, Jon and I (and some of our assorted and sordid friends) would occasionally haunt a Lyndhurst club called Aldo's Hideaway. It was duly famous for playing some great '80s and '90s new wave, punk, industrial, and 'modern' or 'alternative' rock, and if I'm going to dance at all, that's the kinda music I'd prefer to dance to. On one particular evening, Jon and I arrived at Aldo's an hour or so before our friends were due to meet us. We paid our cover charges, then encountered an Uncle Fester lookalike (complete with coat!) at the door, who stamped our hands and said, "Hello, boyyys..." After gaining entry to the club, Jon and I looked at each other and laughed, but didn't think anything more of it...

We ordered our beers and settled in at the bar (at the time, I more often than not found myself sitting at the corner of any bar I patronized), and remarked how there seemed to be rather more men than women in the place. Again, a chuckle, maybe a joke or two, the observation that women generally need more time to get ready to go to such places, and then it was promptly forgotten.

By the time Kelly and her friends met us at the bar, though, it was painfully obvious that women were very much in the minority at Aldo's that night. Jon and I asked our group if they noticed anything odd, and they looked around and observed the disparity promptly, which elicited more joking. Jon and I ordered a second round of drinks, and I'd only had a few sips of mine when a guy stripped down to his underwear and started gyrating around the pole on the dance floor. That was the fastest I've ever downed a Sam Adams Boston Lager; less than a minute later, I was guiding my friends out.

We found out later that the club was trying out a "Gay Night" one night a week (I don't remember whether it was Friday or Saturday), and it was just our luck to stumble upon it. Heh-heh... It didn't last long, though, and we did go back there after, though sadly it burned down in 2004.

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Again with the Silvas...!

In April 2003, my friend Barbara, her friend (and now my friend) Stephanie, and I made plans to meet in New York City one evening after work for a book signing by Michael Palin. I left work a bit early that day and grabbed the bus to New York. I hadn't felt like lugging my iBook around in Manhattan all evening, so I'd left it behind at the office, bringing only my Nomad mp3 player to occupy the time. Too bad I didn't have a digital copy of "The Lumberjack Song..." Anyway, I was listening to an energetic mix of stuff, and EMF's "Unbelievable" was about halfway through when I felt something small and light bounce off me. Reaching over, I picked a button off the floor, made sure it wasn't one of mine, then pulled the earbuds out and turned towards the flutter of activity I saw from the corner of my eye.

Turns out a pretty young woman across the aisle and a seat back had thrown the button at me, and she now asked if I'd gone to a particular school, which I hadn't, and I said so. She claimed that I looked a lot like someone she'd known, but obviously I wasn't; she told me to keep the button anyway, which advertised the Web site of a comedienne she enjoyed, and so I offered to reciprocate and gave her one of my buttons. Well, she let out a little gasp when she looked at it, and asked me, "Your last name is Silva?" When I confirmed it, she explained that her last name was Silva, too, and she proceeded to prove it by pulling out her driver's license! Alice Silva and I then had an animated and fun conversation the rest of the way into New York, about music, live shows, mass transit, and other things. In fact, as we were both heading for the subway, we continued on together through the Port Authority Bus Terminal, only parting when she came to the entrance to the 7 platform. We shook hands and stated that it had been a great pleasure to have met, and she told me she'd E-mail me sometime with some bands I might want to check out. I went on to the book signing in high spirits.

And, of course, never heard from Miss Silva again. Heh-heh... Oh, well, we had an enjoyable hour or so together, anyway!

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Going Once, Going Twice... Sold!

One day during the Dean's Summer Scholars Program at Rutgers University back in 1987, Barbara and I visited one or three of the music stores that then inhabited New Brunswick (Cheap Thrills, o how we miss thee!). After buying something, Barbara took the $4.99 sticker off the record and put it on my shirt. I, of course, decided to leave it on and try selling myself once we got back to Tinsley Hall. I explained to several people that I'd been marked down from $12.99, to no avail. No one was buying.

At least until Barbara's roommate, Noelle, saw me. Curious, she inquired, "What do you do?" to which I replied, "Anything; I'll do housework, homework... I can hold open doors!" She asked me to wait while she signed in to the building, then retrieved a five-dollar bill from her friend Alicia, who was holding Noelle's money. She paid me, accepted the penny I gave her as change, and promptly took possession of me, leading me to Alicia's room, where she proceeded to...

...fix up my hair and make me up with lipstick and nail polish. Alicia helped her douse me with perfume. You'd think two women could think of better things to do with a purchased male...! Noelle did up her own hair and gave herself whiskers with the makeup, and then we paraded up and down the halls, hand in hand. Finding Barbara in Jeff's room watching a Dungeons & Dragons™ game in progress, Noelle asked her if she'd like to play dress-up. Barbara grinned mischievously in reply, but never did show up to join in the shenanigans.

After an hour or so, Noelle started asking around for nail polish remover. Fifteen or so girls later, Mary Jo offered some up, and most of the polish was removed. Noelle was stunned when I returned her five dollars, but since she hadn't kept me, I didn't think it was fair to keep her money.

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"Which One Are You Again?"

Our receptionist at AA World Class quit suddenly on a Friday in early June of 2003, and we had to hire a temp until Yesika and I found a full-time replacement. The temp agency sent Paola on Tuesday, and within two or three days she was handling the switchboard like a pro.

Because we'd had no advance notice, the ad didn't make the newspaper until the following Sunday, so Paola started her second week with us while the résumés started to fly in. Wednesday morning, I was running around distributing reports, and I breezed through the reception area on my way back to my office. I looked over at the desk and thought to myself, "Paola looks different today..." Then I noticed that she was wearing different glasses than I'd been used to seeing on her and decided that was it. I gave her a little wave and a "Mornin'" and she responded with a smile.

A few minutes later, though, while I was working on another report at my desk, within earshot of reception, I heard one of our other employees explaining to her how to do something that I knew she'd already learned! I was perplexed, but as I listened to the training, it finally dawned on me that this wasn't Paola.

Sheepishly, I went back to the reception area, but as I stood there, the board became busy, so I went away and returned a few minutes later, asking my co-worker, "So, aren't you going to introduce us?" She laughed and had me say hello to Rosanne, and I felt obliged to explain that I'd not realized that she wasn't Paola, at which point I was told that she was Paola's sister. It all made sense then...

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"Wait, Those Aren't Pink Bathing Suits..."

One summer, Barbara and I headed to Sandy Hook, at the northerly end of the Jersey shore. There are several different beach areas with their own parking lots, and we arrived to find the first few lots filled up already, so we kept driving until we found an empty one. After parking, we grabbed our gear and started walking out to the waterline... which turned out to be really far away. A lot further than either of us remembered it being, and further than seemed reasonable.

Or at least until we came to the sign, anyway. For those of you not familiar with Sandy Hook, there is also a nude beach there. Which we both knew, but neither of us had even given it any thought, and so we were both taken aback when we read the sign advising us that, beyond this point (to the right), it was a clothing-optional beach; adjacent to it, on the left, was a 'normal' beach.

We'd trudged too far with our stuff to go back, so we headed onto the clothing-required beach and enjoyed the day, and tried not to watch the volleyball game going on to our right. Ever notice how most of the people on a nude beach are not the people you'd like to see in the buff? Heh-heh... Or how parts of the body that don't normally get much sunlight are more sensitive to it, causing some nudists to look like they're wearing pink bathing suits?

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Dirty Girl

Back in '99, I spent time with a circle of friends, including two future roommates, Kim and Jon, and various of their friends. We'd head out to bars and clubs to see bands, make weekend shore trips, and just generally hang out. One of the circle was a pretty Chinese girl named Michelle, whose parents were stereotypically strict Asians.

On the Opie and Anthony radio show, which was becoming popular in the New York market at the time, one of the guys (I don't remember which) would do a deep, husky voice chastising women with, "You're a dirty girl, aren't you? You're really a dirty girl..." I found myself saying this to Michelle, just to make her laugh; she really wasn't a dirty girl at all. We didn't hold that against her, of course.

So, as she'd given me her phone number at some point, I left a message on her answering machine one day, as a lark, all done in that creeper voice. She called me back that night to yell at me. As it happened, when she came home from work and played the message, her mother was standing in the doorway and heard it, and demanded to know who'd left that one and why I was calling her daughter a dirty girl!

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"Is There Anybody... Out There?"

For Halloween 1991, I decided to shave off my eyebrows (as I'd done the year before) and dress up as Pink, the rocker at the heart of "The Wall," despite (or perhaps because of) my then-girlfriend Liz's strenuous objections. As she was in Boston at the time, she really didn't have much say in the matter, but we had a nice little fight about it over the phone. I went to work at Toys in my black outfit, bringing my guitar along to complete the look. Autumn and I went for a joyride in my Tempo after we got out that night, and I ended up taking us out to Rockaway Town Square Mall. There was a Toys "R" Us located there, too, and we parked the car so she could take a few pictures of me playing guitar underneath the store sign. Autumn noticed a huge mock radio on a trailer bed outside the movie theater for some local station, and we headed over that way to take some more photos.

To our dismay, we discovered upon re-entering the car that it wouldn't start again! I let Autumn wear my Hard Rock sweatshirt, as it was getting late and cold; we were informed by the parking security guards that they couldn't give us a jump start even if they (or we) had had cables, then we were informed by a disinterested and unhelpful police officer that we'd get ticketed for loitering if we didn't leave the premises soon! I finally remembered that our friend and co-worker Judie Wrobleski didn't live too far away, and managed to get her on the phone at around 1:30 AM. Judie came out and we jump-started my car, with more photos being taken of this process; it died again before we'd even gotten out of the parking lot, though, and the cop watched us jump it a second time. The three of us were pretty giddy and punch-drunk by this point...

We did manage to get onto Route 80 and started heading east, but eventually the engine died again and wouldn't accept another jump. I rode with Judie as she pushed my car with hers to get it off the highway; poor Autumn was left to steer my car, with one hand out the window holding my flashlight, as the car had no power even for the headlights. We left the car, with a note on the windshield, in a parking lot on Route 46, and Judie drove us to Autumn's boyfriend Rodney's apartment; she called him (he was working the overnight shift at the time) and I called my sister, and I spent the night, what remained of it, on a mattress in Rodney's living room.

My dad and I got the car to a garage the next day, and had the culprit, the alternator belt, replaced. The negatives to the pictures were exposed by Liz during a subsequent fight, sadly, so I was never able to get them developed. Good times...

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Oops!

I used to have allergies, not as bad as some people I've known, but bad enough where they could ruin a whole day for me if I didn't take any medication. Which of course I am loathe to do by nature... This being the late '80s - early '90s, we didn't yet have Claritin and the wonder drugs which exist today. One had to shop around trying different products, hoping to find something that provided relief without causing drowsiness.

One day, I'd made plans to drive down and visit my friend Barbara, and it turned out to be one of these allergic reaction days. I took something, I don't remember what it was, and then I headed out, cruising the Garden State Parkway southbound. I came to one of our hated tollbooths (all cash back then), and was forced to wait while an attendant walked across the roadway from the booth I was at to the next.

Well, whichever medicine I'd taken had in fact made me a little drowsy. As the attendant walked in front of my car, my foot slipped off the brake. My reflexes were still speedy enough for me to jam my foot back down on it before the car moved more than a few inches, but the guy turned and gave me the dirtiest look and some of the dirtiest epithets of my life, threatening to report me to my insurance company and keep me from ever driving again. I made a hasty apology, and he eventually moved aside and let me drive on. I never heard from either my insurance or the State Police, so I guess he cooled off eventually.

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Oops! Again

My old roommate Kim had more good-lookin' cousins than I could shake a stick at. Not that I ever tried shaking a stick at them. I met one of them, Christa, at one of Kim's parties, and a few months down the road, she came with Kim and me and maybe another friend or cousin or two to the diner one night. Later, she and I instant-messaged each other, and she E-mailed me her phone number. The next day, I E-mailed Karen, another of the cousins, and told her that Christa and I had been in touch and gotten along well; jokingly, I added, "I think she wants me.  ;)"

It wasn't until about seven milliseconds after clicking SEND that I realized I'd sent it to Christa herself and not Karen. I think Kim, Karen, and Christa all got a big laugh out of it, but boy, did I feel stupid. Heh-heh... Christa was gracious about it, though.

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"What the-"

My friend and former Toys co-worker Kelly was a big fan of the Meadowlands Fair (now known as the State Fair), and she would always try to get Jon and me to go with her and whichever other of her friends she could drag out. Once, a few of us were there, and we ended up at the petting zoo, where the girls were fawning over the cuuute little animals. While they did so, I leaned up against another pen, waiting, without really paying attention to what was behind me.

The tugging at the leg of my jeans caught my attention, though, and when I turned, I realized that goats really will chew on anything.

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"Take That Job and Shove It"

After working my senior year of high school at Toys "R" Us in Totowa, NJ, I shipped off to Glassboro State College in the southern part of the state, and I transferred to a store in Cherry Hill, not wanting to give up my meager benefits or start from scratch at a different part-time job. I soon regretted that decision. The store did much less business than the one from which I'd come, and the people moved less quickly and seemed generally less enthused about their jobs, and I never quite felt like I fit in there.

During my first few weeks at Cherry Hill, I was instructed to train a new cashier on register. I probably should have held back a little on Tina's first day, but I was displeased with the store and its employees' attitudes, and I guess that came through in the training. Came through too clearly; Tina never did come back...

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Arming the Squirrels

Gina and I decided to take Hannah, her daughter, to the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia in July 2004. All three of us had a wonderful time and loved the place, and after we'd explored it thoroughly and then left to find lunch (unfortunately not the Philly cheesesteaks she and I had planned on), we still had some time before we needed to start heading home again. We decided to introduce the little one to the Liberty Bell, and headed there by bus.

While getting ready to join the line of people waiting to get in, I realized that I had brought my little Buck knife with me after all, even though that morning I'd considered the possibility that we might visit the Bell, and I knew from my previous visit that the 1 1/2" blade would cause consternation among the security forces there. With no place else to store it temporarily, I settled on burying the pocketknife, a gift from fellow Glassboro inmate Michael Streahle, in a few inches of dirt under a park bench. We marked it well in our minds, intending to return for it after exiting the site.

Then it started to drizzle lightly while we waited for our turn to get inside to see the Liberty Bell. This of course turned into a steady rain, which developed into a downpour once we were inside, and finally the skies opened up and the deluge really began. Needless to say, I wasn't able to go back for the knife, and regretfully but unflinchingly I abandoned it to the park creatures. Hopefully, the four-legged ones ended up with it and not the two-legged ones.

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"Do You Mind?"

Having been a big fan of George Harrison, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison, and Bob Dylan (I didn't know too much about Jeff Lynne at the time, though I did like the little ELO I'd heard), I purchased a vinyl copy of The Traveling Wilburys, Vol. 1 while at Glassboro. I came back to the dorm suite that night after getting it, intending to show it to my friend and PA, Don. He was talking to one of the building's female PAs, so I waited out in the lounge and started checking out the back cover and sleeve.

Suddenly, a female voice told me sternly that I was reading too loudly. I looked up, a bit startled, considering I'd been reading to myself silently, but I apologized to the young woman. Vanessa Smith (yes, that was her real name) was waiting for Rose, the PA in Don's room, and we started a conversation and a friendship of our own.

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"...And Away!"

My last name, in case you've missed it, is Silva, not an unusual or an uncommon one among the Brazilians, Portuguese, etc. I've often joked about saddling any offspring with awful names, and while some people have been offended for my potential children, some have been titillated. Back in 1995-6, during and after my stint as a 'zine editor, I subscribed to the alt.zine and alt.punk Usenet newsgroups, and after someone posted in the latter about coming across someone named Joe Joseph, I responded, "If I ever have any kids, I'm gonna pick from the following: Sterling Silva (my personal fave), Golden Silva, and (for a girl) Hai Ho Silva."

I received several replies from people who found this incredibly funny, and one who claimed that "I'm not kidding, I'm crying I laughed so hard." Um, I wasn't kidding, either... or was I?

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Sexiest Geek Alive?
I'm too sexy for my mouse, too sexy for my mouse...

In browsing online back in the spring of 2001, I came across the Sexiest Geek Alive contest. It sounded ridiculously silly to me, and I decided to enter online as a joke. I think there was a test to be taken, too. I really had no intention of 'competing' and didn't think I had any chance of getting anywhere near the top prize, and in fact I quickly forgot I'd even entered... so it came as a surprise when I found out a few weeks later that I was in the running for May's online geek.

Mark McGarrity, then a features writer for the Star-Ledger, contacted me because he wanted to do a story on the Jersey entrants; we spoke by phone, and he sent a photographer to my office. In the end, when I didn't make it to the finals after all, his editor decided to kill the story, but for a little while there, I coulda been a contender. Yes, it is scary.

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That's Gonna Leave A Mark...

During my year at Glassboro State College, my two closest friends were Mike Streahle and Vanessa Smith (yes, that was her real name). Streahle had a few inches of height and numerous pounds of weight over me, yet we got in the habit, for a while, of engaging in some friendly hand-to-hand combat. All was well and good, with only minor injuries, until I bent a finger back a few degrees further than it was meant to go. We avoided the combat for a week or two, and then I injured the same finger again, and I think that spelled the end for our street-fighting days.

Before we gave up mortal combat, though, there was another incident. With Vanessa sitting in our dorm lounge, Streahle and I started out with hand-to-hand, then picked up a couple of the big, heavy couch cushions you generally find in colleges. We swung them at each other, and moved from the lounge into the narrow hallway. Mike saw an opening and aimed for my leg, knocking my knee into the wall. The nerve apparently overloaded or something, because my leg just gave out on me and I collapsed. Mike looked at me for a second, then walked back into the lounge, where he spent the next thirty seconds or so while I lay there clutching my leg. I then heard him mutter to Vanessa, "You know, I can never tell when he's kidding," before he came back into the hallway and helped me up. Heh-heh...!

I don't know for certain, and might never know, but I think there's a good possibility that that little escapade is the cause of the pain I've occasionally experienced in my right knee over the years. I don't remember which knee it was that hit the wall, but I also don't remember ever experiencing any other such trauma to either knee.

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That's Also Gonna Leave A Mark...

Laura and I had only been going out a short while when we started seriously discussing her moving in with me. We both decided that we wanted that, but that we shouldn't rush into it; having started dating in September, we figured we should wait until after the holidays. Only, once a few weeks had gone by, we started half-seriously noting that Thanksgiving is a holiday... and so is Halloween. Heh-heh. In the end, it was mid-November when Laura moved in with much of her stuff, and we rented a U-Haul truck to pick up the rest (including Priscilla and Meguilla, the chinchillas) in Pennsylvania during Thanksgiving weekend.

After the long drive back, we started getting a bit silly while unloading the truck and bringing everything upstairs, and there was a bit of horsing around. Laura chased me down the stairs at one point, and I ran to avoid her, and tried to make too big of a leap into the back of the truck. Both my shins smacked hard against the metal edge, hard enough to draw blood, and I had to take a short break from moving stuff (or moving at all. Three and a half years later, the marks are much less visible, but still there...

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Toe the Line

On a trip down the Jersey shore with my family, I was walking along the water's edge with my mom when I noticed a tire being dragged back and forth by tidal forces. Disgusted, I resolved to roll it up onto the beach and keep it out of the ocean, and I decided to just put my foot through the hole in the middle and hold it in place until the water went back out. That was when I discovered that the thoughtful jerk who'd let this item into the ocean in the first place had left the wheel inside, too. I felt a sharp pain and a sharper annoyance, but I still managed to hang onto the thing and brought it out of the water.

My mom and I then continued our walk, but I quickly noticed something from the corner of my eye, and turned to see a red trail behind me. I'd gashed my toe against the wheel, and the blood was flowing liberally (how else?). Mom hurriedly took off after a lifeguard, while I put my foot back in the salt water and held the wound closed. By the time first aid had arrived, the bleeding had slowed, and while I probably should have gotten stitches, I was more than satisfied with some bandaging. There's a bit of a scar there to this day.

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Going Viral

On New Year's Eve in 1991, my then-girlfriend Liz and I went to a party at a Peruvian club in Paterson. Trouble was, I was suffering from a viral infection that left my tongue and the insides of my mouth and throat covered with tiny blisters. It felt worse than it sounds. It hurt to drink water, much less champagne, and forget about eating. That was not an especially fun night...

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The One Ring

Then there was New Year's Eve, 1996, when Jon and I went to a KISS concert, in makeup, naturally... It was an incredibly cold night, and with the show being at the Continental Arena (might still have been called the Byrne Arena at the time, don't remember), we were forced to wait in line outdoors until the doors opened.

I wore a silver skull ring at the time, which was very similar to Keith Richards'. I had gloves on that night while waiting outside, but they weren't the warmest, and my hands still froze, enough so that they were effectively numb by the time we made it inside the Arena. It wasn't until a minute or two after we'd gotten in that I realized that the ring was gone; I'm guessing that my fingers shrank a little from the extreme cold, and the ring slipped off when I removed my gloves, and I just never felt a thing. D'oh!

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Prize Mouser

I lived with Barbara for a while, and brought my cat Ozzy with me, though he and her cat Chloe didn't get along well. Truth be told, neither of them got along with any other cats very well... In any case, Barbara would occasionally take in her dad's two cats Pagan and Alex while he was out of the country, and during one of these intervals where we were sharing the house with four cats, one of them brought in a live field mouse from the pantry.

"Not a big deal," you say. "There are four able-bodied cats here." Well, the four of them were mostly uninterested in the rodent, letting it roam pretty much unimpeded. Once I had trapped the mouse, humanely, under a trash can, then Ozzy came over wit' his big, bad self and started trying to get at it from the other side. Guess cat-and-mouse is overrated...

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Buttons

I worked for a while in the production department at AA World Class Corporation, laying out artwork for embroidered emblems and other types of embellishments. We'd started having different sizes of buttons with embroidered designs made by a factory overseas, and they looked really good.

I got an order for a Pooh button, and I painstakingly detailed the artwork with the thread colors we wanted, as shown below. This time, though, something got lost in translation; what they produced was not a button with Pooh on it but an emblem with my reminder as to what they were supposed to make, the word "BUTTONS!" My co-workers and I were quite amused. Luckily, it was just a sample order.

What they were supposed to make...
What they were supposed to make...

What they made instead
What they made instead

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"Attention, Toys "R" Us Shoppers..."

During my five-year tenure with Toys 'R' Us, I probably spent more time on the loudspeakers than anyone. I made the opening and/or closing announcements if I was working at the appropriate time, as well as the occasional warning about cars which had their lights on or were parked illegally, unattended children, etc. From time to time, I'd assume an accent for a little variety... My favorite announcement was made on one of the extremely rare nights when the store closed early due to inclement weather (we were getting a lot of snow in a very short period of time). I made a ten-minute announcement, then a five, and then a closer, and we watched the handful of customers who were still there wend their ways to the front of the store to leave. Ten minutes later, however, I was informed that there was still someone wandering around! So I delivered something along these lines: "Attention lone remaining Toys "R" Us shopper: we appreciate your dedication, but due to the inclement weather, the store is now closed! Please bring your selections to the front of our store..." He got the hint.

While on my lunch break one day, I heard my license plates being paged. My plate holder had been acting up lately and the front plate was often hanging, so when I went to the customer service area and saw our assistant director holding a crumpled license plate, I just figured that it'd fallen off and been run over. Unfortunately, it turned out that my car had been pummeled by a wayward van and almost hit one of our manager trainees! Some of the guys helped me push the Chevy Monza into a parking spot 'til I could get it dealt with. Damn, that was a really good car, too.

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"Is That Middle Eastern Time?"

A few months after I'd started working at Microwize Technology in 2004, one of the owners, Fred, invited everyone to a party at his new home in Paramus. I accepted, and Gina and I set out that Saturday evening for his place. It took us less time to fight our way northward than we'd expected, though, and we found ourselves in front of the house about ten minutes earlier than Fred had told everyone the party was starting. In fact, we could see him and his wife through the windows, still setting up!

We decided to drive around a bit rather than waltzing in early, so fifteen minutes later or so we made our entrance. And discovered we were still the first people there. And Fred and Abir weren't even dressed for the party yet. Gina and I sat looking at each other and trying not to laugh for a while, then Fred's brother-in-law chatted with us while they got ready, and the next guests didn't arrive for about an hour. I've since learned that Arabs never expect a party to start anywhere near the scheduled time. Ooops.

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"It's the Best"

Laura and I spent two days in Spring Lake on the Jersey shore in 2012, and really enjoyed the town and our time there. While walking around the first evening, looking for some dinner options, we passed a little restaurant, Cafe Artiste, with a pleasant guy outside telling us that the evening's dinner special was great. We kept it in mind but decided to keep walking a bit; in the end, nothing else really caught our eye, and we headed back to Artiste, walked in, and sat down.

Well, we were soon brought bread. And salad. And peas. And soup. Most every time we saw chef Cosimo, he effused about how fresh and how good the food was, insisting, "It's the best! It will be in the paper tomorrow!" It may not have actually been in the paper the next day (though there were articles posted around the place extolling its virtues), but that may very well have been the best meal of my life. Laura and I laughed and enjoyed every course up to and including the Tuscan chicken, by which time a few more diners had joined us inside. No one was allowed to leave until dessert was brought out, as full as we were. By the time we stumbled out of there, we'd spent two hours or so at Artiste, and it was so well worth it.

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Locked Out!

I'm the type of person who always knows where his keys, wallet, and phone are. I won't say I never lose anything, but it happens to me much less often than to most. So when I pulled the apartment door closed in early December 2007 and realized, a split second too late, that my keys were on the other side of that door, I felt scared and ridiculous at the same time. I'd neglected to put said keys back in my pocket after coming back from Dunkin' Donuts earlier that morning, and now I had to just go if I wanted to make the train to visit my parents.

When I arrived back home that evening, I looked around the sides of the building and found a ladder that reached almost to the first-floor roof. It took me three minutes to position the ladder as best I could, and another three minutes to work up the nerve to climb up and scramble onto the roof. Within sight of the Lyndhurst Police Department. Who apparently have better things to worry about than people breaking into apartments, even their own. A few minutes later, I broke into mine, grabbed my keys, went outside the normal way, apologized to the guy downstairs who was coming out to investigate, put the ladder away, and brought my bag upstairs. And five minutes later, it started raining. Whew!

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Locked Out, Too!

In the summer of 2014, Barbara and I were visiting London again and staying at her cousin's home in Vauxhall. I went running along the Thames Path a few mornings, and Barbara accompanied me for a walk a few mornings. One particular morning, I opted to leave the key behind, figuring that Jane would still be there to let us in when we returned. Not so. We got back to the house warm and sweaty, without money or Oyster cards, and with no way to get inside... and with Jane and her daughter both off to work already. Luckily, we did both have our phones with us, and were able to get in after some confused communications...

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"Excuse Me?"

Pam and I had been friends online for a few years when she decided to come visit me in New Jersey for the first time. We were heading out on foot, teasing each other a little, and she thought she'd make a little "Sopranos"-style threat... only it didn't come out quite right. I had to laugh when she told me, "I'm going to rub you off!"

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Fire!

On July 4th, 2009, I was treated to the wrong kind of fireworks, too close for comfort. Despite it being a Saturday night, I was getting ready to turn in around 9:30 PM or so; I'd also planned on getting up early Sunday to head to the laundromat. I smelled a bit of smoke as I brushed my teeth and prepared for bed, but then it always smelled a bit smoky in those days, because just downstairs was Smitty's Smokehouse. Still, it seemed a litle smokier than usual, and I took a peek out the living room window... and saw smoke, which unnerved me. I threw on some jeans and went downstairs, where two boys were looking at the pool business next door, whose building is attached to the restaurant and was leaking smoke through the roof, about twenty feet from my bedroom.

As two police cars arrived, I ran back upstairs and grabbed my laptop and some important paperwork, then headed back out with my neighbors as the firetrucks pulled up. In the end, there was no damage to my apartment or our building, they let us back in after about 45 minutes, and I managed to get some sleep after 3 AM or so. Arson was suspected, though I don't know if anyone was ever prosecuted for it. Not my most fun Fourth...

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"Girl..."

Laura and I weren't even half a block from the Christopher Street PATH station in Greenwich Village when a young black man called out to her, "Girl, your man is gorgeous!" I had to laugh; I am many things, but gorgeous is not among them. Laura didn't miss a beat, however, and called back, "Girl, don't I know it!"

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