Monday, May 30, 2005

Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day.

Going out for a picnic or a barbecue?

Have a day off from work?

It's doesn't mean anything like that to me. To me it means the sacrifices made by my brothers and sisters who've died so that we may live free.

I'm remembering a quote from a WWII veteran... When asked by his grandson id he was a hero, he replied: "No, I'm no hero, but I served with a whole company of them."

What is Memorial Day to you?

Freedom isn't Free.

Lest We Forget

Copyright 2005 Thomas J WolfendenPosted by Hello

Friday, May 27, 2005

My Beat

The town of Athens, WV is kind of small, but a nice place to live. It's home to Concord University, and in spite of that the crime rate is pretty low, so the town doesn't have a full-time police department. There's two officers. One full time, the other part time, and no coverage over night, Hence my McJob.

The pay isn't all that great and my boss knows I'm here only for a finite period because the second I'm hired by a Class 1 railroad, I'm outta' here as the saying goes.

Not that I don't take my job any less serious. It's a pretty simple, no-brainer kind of job and it's bought me back to when I was a twenty two year-old rookie walking a beat. That was the best two years I had on the job. That was my beat, and nothing better happen on my beat without me knowing about it. I knew everyone and everything in a ten city block area. If something happened, I had a pretty good idea who did it and where to find them, and they'd rue the day I found them.

I liked that, it was the closest to being a real flatfoot cop from the old days as you can get. I still have squirreled away somewhere my old brass police callbox key. What I'm doing now is kind of like that too. There's a few businesses I check several times a night and now I know all the owners and employees. I know who and what should be there and shouldn't. I make sure the girls from the diner get to their cars at night after they close up, I know when the paper delivery guys get in...

And I know where to get a free cup of coffee.

It's My Beat.

So, I was off on Tuesday and Wednesday, and the owner of the Deli-Mart told me that his Pepsi Cola machine was broken into on Tuesday night. The week before his son's place, the diner, had several bricks stolen, also on my night off.

I'm taking this personal. It's my beat. Even though it was my night off, I feel like it's a slap in the face. I'm going to find out who's doing this. They've got to be local and I'll find them.

I'm not going into any vigilante mode or anything like that, they certainly don't pay me even close enough for me to get that involved. But I do want to let whoever is doing this they'd better knock the shit off on my beat or they'll rue the day they crossed me.

it's my beat, and I'm going to protect it.

Copyright 2005 Thomas J Wolfenden

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Murphy's Law

I used to be an Army Ranger. I still retain a lot of those qualities, like my uncanny sense of direction. It's like I have a compass in my head. I tend not to get lost, maybe a little disoriented once in a while, but never lost. I've learned to trust in my sense of direction especially when I have what I assume are the proper tools to help me find my way to a new place. Maps for instance. I rely heavily on maps. And directions given to me by what I assume are reputable sources.

This usually works for most of the time, that is unless you neglect the chance of unknown probable being thrown into the mix.

Murphy's Law.

(For those of you living in a cave, Murphy's Law is: "Whatever can go wrong, will")

Myself being Irish can understand. Us Irish love a good laugh, and Murphy, being Irish, always has a good one on me.

This morning for instance.

I had a job interview with Norfolk~Southern Railroad (more like a hiring session, there was most likely 2 positions open and 300 guys would show up, making my interview this morning very competitive) this morning at the Wyndam Roanoke in Roanoke, VA. These hiring sessions start promptly at 8 AM.

I had originally planned to leave last night and stay at a hotel in Roanoke, as I have about a million free nights at Comfort Inns from the time I basically lived in one for a few months. I had a ton of shit to do, and by the time I really had a chance to leave, I was too tired to drive.

So I decided I'd just get some sleep and leave early in the morning, which I did. I set off this morning early, around 5:30 AM so I'd have at least an hour for any problems. Since I had never really been to Roanoke before, I go the driving directions off Yahoo! Which I've never had a problem with in the past. Since I had a general idea where Roanoke was, I just needed what exit to get off at and where the hotel was.

What Yahoo! Gave me:

I-81 north, Exit 153, take I-581 east, exit 3, Hirshberger Rd. hotel on right.

Pretty damn simple, until Murphy came along.

I'll get to that in a minute.

So I'm tooling along from Athens heading east on Rt. 460... And the first of the unknowns creeps up on me.

I'm driving my 88' Ford Ranger pickup. 4 cylinder... 5 Speed manual tranny...

Up some really steep hills.

I couldn't get up to even half the speed limit on some of those fuckers, downshifted into 3rd gear. For most of my adult life I've driven vehicles with BIG V8's in them. Plenty of power. My little pickup is so anemic it can't even get out of it's own way on flat stretches, let alone a three-mile long 6% grade. I had a damn Ford Aspire pass me for Pete's sake! (Those of you who don't know what a Ford Aspire is, the car is so tiny I can strap one on each foot and go roller skating. It's called an "Aspire" because it's aspiring to someday be a real car)

It's taking for ever to reach I-81 in Blacksburg.

I finally reach I-81, and head north. I'm now looking at the mile markers because the exits correlate to the mileposts. As I'm nearing Roanoke, the traffic is getting really heavy and starting to slow down. I'm mixed in with a lot of tractor-trailers and the going is really slow.

I go to pass a whole line of trucks as it's getting on to 7:40 at this time and I'm only at milepost 142...

As I'm mixed in with these trucks I see a sign...


Holy shit! That's my exit! It's NOT exit 153 but exit 143!

Yahoo fucked up!

Now I've missed my exit.


So now I'm switching over to "Cop Driving"... But again, I'm not in the familiar Ford Crown Victoria with a big V8 that I can put the afterburners on... I can't get over and have to go to the next exit north and turn around.

It's 7:50 AM by this time...

I finally turn around and scare myself at a few points, but make my way to I-581...

I get off at the right exit and find the hotel. I go screeching into the parking lot of the Wyndam at 7:58AM...

Not bad, if I do say so myself. And no one was hurt. Steve McQueen would've been proud.

I go running into the lobby, ask where the N&W conference room is. Of course it's on the opposite side of the fucking building.

I go running for it...

I get there, and the doors are closed.

A smarmy faced prig looks at me and asks "You here for Norfolk~Southern?"

"Yes sir" I reply.

"You're too late. It's already started. Get here sooner if you really want the job."

I could have choked him.

I think next time I'll try to ditch Murphy and leave the night before. It really sucked driving all the way back so early.

Copyright 2005 Thomas J Wolfenden

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Weird laws, part II


In Jasper, it is illegal for a husband to beat his wife with a stick larger in diameter than his thumb.

(But if I catch him can I beat him with a 2x4?)

It is illegal to play Dominos on Sunday.

(Another evil gambling game. and it gets in the way of church bingo)

It is illegal to wear a fake moustache that causes laughter in church.

(And that hat the pope wears isn't funny looking?)

Putting salt on a railroad track may be punishable by death.

(But please, lay your head on the rails...)

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Vows of poverty?


This really pisses me off.

A lot of people when they read my posts digging into the Catholics think I'm anti-Christian. Well. I'm not. I still consider myself a Christian, and read the Bible several times a week for guidance.

What I am is anti-organized religion of any sort. It's just too full of hypocrites (any church) and I just don't have the stomach for the bullshit anymore.

I do not want a political speech rammed down my throat on Sunday morning. I do not need some dried up octogenarian "interpreting" the scriptures for me. And the one thing I'm totally pissed off at is the clergy always crying poor-mouth.

Let me tell you this. The Catholic parish I belonged to growing up, St. Katherine's in Philadelphia was always crying poor. The entire interior was decorated in imported Italian marble. The rectory was a four-story Victorian mansion. The priests had a cook and butler. I know they weren't eating ground chuck from Save-A-Lot either.

Then the guilt they would use to get people to give more on Sundays too was sickening. They'd have the weekly church bulletin, and in it, (I shit you not) they'd publish every week the names of all the parishioners and how much they contributed each week. Dollars and cents.

While the rector was driving a brand new Cadillac.

People were homeless in my parish and they were eating steak and lobster, driving Caddy's and crying poor on Sunday.

It sickened me then and it pisses me off now.

Here's what set me off this time. Last night at work I'm reading the Monday edition of the Charleston Gazzette. On the OP-ED page they listed several local churches' construction projects and how much they spent.

Did they sped this money on homeless shelters? On shelters for battered women? Soup kitchens? Clothes for homeless kids?

Fuck no.

Here's the list:

St. Timothy's Lutheran church, $4.6 Million on a new edifice over looking Corridor G.

Cross Lanes Baptist, $3 Million expansion, still under construction

The Bible Center just spent 2.6 Million on vacant land and looking to spend another $4 Million to move

The Tabernacle of Praise of Hurricane, $4 million on a new house of worship

Elizabeth Memorial United Methodist Church, $1.2 Million for expansion

Sacred Heart Co-Cathederal, $3 Million on a new stone wing and another $2 million for a parking lot

St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church in St. Albans, $1 Million for an addition

Maranatha Fellowship of St. Albans, $2 Million for a sanctuary

You do the math. That's 27.4 MILLION...

On new buildings, edifices and a goddamn parking lot, when right here in West Virginia, down here in McDowell County, there's about twentyfive families still homeless from last years record-breaking floods. They're about to get kicked out of FEMA housing because there's no Federal money left, and the "Faith Based" charities don't have the capitol to help them.

Just 10% of that money would get all those families into new double-wides, but do I see any of these churches lifting a goddamn finger to help?

Talk about sinners and burning in hell.

That's a fucking joke.

Tell me I'm a sinner because I don't go to church? You can stuff all your self-rightious indignation right up your ass, I don't give a fuck what you think.

This shit pisses me off to no end. Just look at the Vatican for Christ's sake. How much do you think the spectacle of the the last few weeks with the new pope and all cost the Catholic church, and they actually have the fucking balls to cry poor mouth?

And you wonder why I don't go to church?

I'm a Christian. Christ died on the cross for my sins. But I'm not going to associate myself with any of this. He told me I should turn the other cheek.

I am.

Copyright 2005 Thomas J Wolfenden

Monday, May 23, 2005

Morning People Suck

Or better yet, cheerful morning people suck.

I'm not a morning person. I need at least a gallon of caffeine to get me going. And even though I'm stuck in the purgatory known as the midnight shift, I still hate mornings even though to my body-clock it's 6PM.

Case in point. This morning I'm on my way home from Tazwell, and before I cross the West Virginia state line I decide to stop at a convenience store to get a carton of cigarettes. I go up to the counter and ask for a carton, and the girl behind the counter wishes me a happy Good Morning! With a toothy, ear to ear smile.

It was so saccharine-sweet it made me want to blow chunks.

How can anyone be that cheerful at 6 AM on a Monday?

I'd rather be buried in a cocoon of blankets sound asleep. At my age, sleep is better than sex.

Well, ok. I'm lying.

Almost as good as sex.

The only thing more annoying than a cheerful morning person is a cheerful stupid morning person. This actually happened to me a few months ago. I think it was in January. Early one Sunday morning I left for work around 4:30 AM because it was snowing pretty heavily and I had thirty miles to go, and had to be there at 6 AM.

So after an hour's white-knuckle drive down I-77 in white-out conditions I get off at my exit in Bastian, VA. I pull into the one gas station open at the exit to get a cup of coffee and smokes. It's snowing like a bitch out as I stumble into the joint.

The guy behind the counter gives me a big toothless grin and say: "Hey! Good morning!"


But it gets worse. He then looks at my attire and asks: "You going to work?"

As Bill Engval says, I couldn't resist.

"Nah" I replied. "I always enjoy crawling out of my nice warm bed at 4 AM on Sunday mornings during a blizzard and driving thirty miles just to get a cup of coffee and some cigarettes in my work clothes. Good for the constitution"

"We do make some good coffee! Well, you have a safe drive home then!"

Jeese. Sarcasm is lost on a lot of folks.

How the fuck do these people find me?

And how do I make them shut the fuck up already?

Copyright 2005 Thomas J Wolfenden

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Scratch Tycoon

This isn't another rant about my ex-wife, but she is relevant in the story, albeit slightly so bear with me.

In the almost ten years I was with my ex, she spent God knows how much money on stupid shit for Christmas and my birthday. I never really wanted anything much for Christmas, socks and underwear was about all I'd ask for. Stuff I normally wouldn't buy for myself. I'm pretty simple. I think Christmas is for kids really. And my birthday is the 27th of December, so I never really expected a whole lot there either. But of course, I'd get these really expensive gifts, ones that I knew we really couldn't afford. I won't go into it now, but some shit would just sit in a closet never to see the light of day again.

For my birthday though, for almost ten years, I did ask for one simple thing. My mom used to make me a Jewish apple cake every year for my birthday, and my mom even gave my ex the recipe. So I'd reply when I was prodded every year with the question, I'd like a Jewish apple cake.

Pretty damn simple request if you ask me. The request was made to a woman who'd spend hours in the kitchen making stupid little finger sandwiches and canapes and shit for one of her idiotic little "Girl's Night Out" functions.

Do you think in almost ten years I'd get one lousy Jewish apple cake for my birthday?

Fuck no.

Not a fucking crumb.

Ok, fast-forward to last week.

There's a little diner-cum-hamburger joint right next to my apartment building and I've become a regular there and have made friends with most of the other regulars and the girls working there. They're pretty good to me, and I feel at home when I go in. They even have a pot of coffee on for me when I go to work at 10 PM, even though they're closing up and are done for the night. Pretty damn nice, and it it reminds me why I moved here.

Last week I was telling one of the women there about this little bitch of mine. Just small talk and I really can't remember why we got on the subject in the first place since we started talking about her husband changing a transmission in a pickup truck.

So I bitched a minute or three about my lack of Jewish apple cake for my birthday the last few years, and basically how much of a self-centered selfish bitch my ex-wife was, and I was on my way to work, fresh coffee in hand. Didn't think anything of it.

Till this past Friday. I go into the place, and there she is. She pours me my coffee and says she has something for me. She reaches under the counter and what does she have?

A freshly baked Jewish apple cake. She had looked up the recipe on the internet and baked me a damn Jewish-fucking-apple cake.

I almost cried.


It was the sweetest thing anyone had done for me in the longest time. She really didn't have to do that for me, and I told her so.

Ah, it was nothing she says.

Nothing hell!

I really can't say enough how much that cake was appreciated, but I'll tell you, It's now Sunday morning and it's gone... I devoured it greedily and I didn't share it with anyone.


The one thing my friend said though got me thinking...

How I was going to be rich beyond all imagination!

"I made it from scratch!" she said...




It hit me like a bolt from the blue.

I had an epiphany.

All sorts of things are made from scratch. You can make anything from scratch!

"Hey Phil, sweet hotrod!"

"Yeah, Tom. Made it from scratch!"

"Hey, Bart, nice dining room set there!"

Yep, Tommy, made it from scratch!"

See, you can make anything from it. Look around you some day. You'll see it everywhere... In restaurants, "Scratch-made biscuits" or "Scratch-made flapjacks"

I even saw an ad in the back of Popular Mechanics once: "Make your own helicopter from scratch!"

Anywhere you can get things, people make them from "Scratch".

So all I have to do is corner the market on scratch. I'll be filthy rich. I'll make Donald Trump look like a pauper. Bill Gates? I'll have him installing my IT system in ToFuCo Enterprises, my new company I'm forming to corner the market. I'll hold title to all the scratch mines all over the world.

If you want to make anything from scratch, you'll have to come to me for it.

I'll hold all the world's strategic stockpiles of scratch. Fuck everybody else! You want to make it, you have to see me, damnit!

Frank Zappa can be a dental floss tycoon, but if he wants to make something from scratch, he'll have to see Tom Wolfenden! (I know he's dead, damnit!, his ghost will have ot see me!)

I'll make Head's of State shake in their boots!

I'll have more money that God!

Shit, I'll have more money than the Catholic church!


The UN will be crawling on their knees groveling to me...

Fuck em! Pay me for it!

And for that I'll have to thank a Jewish apple cake for getting me there...

Copyright 2005 Thomas J Wolfenden

Saturday, May 21, 2005

My Toad Exploded!

Now another report from the "I am not making this shit up" file.

As I've reported in the past, I work nights and listen to all-night talk radio for entertainment. If you've ever had the pleasure of listening to George Nory or Art Bell on the syndicated overnight talk show "Coast to Coast AM", take the time. It's one of the most entertaining programs on the radio.

They talk about Bigfoot, UFO's. Ghosts, Government conspiracies... Shit like that. I don't believe this stuff, but the guests they have on the show to talk about these topics are quite a laugh, and the callers are even better. I laugh my ass off most nights and it really make the nights go by quicker.

But last night George had on one of his regulars, the reporter Linda Moulton-Howe. She's a real reporter and goes around investigating all kinds of weird shit, kind of like the character "Kolchak" in that 70's series "The Night Stalker".

This time apparently Toads are exploding all over Germany and Denmark.

No shit.

Check out that link. Pretty bizarre shit. Like the "Raining of the Frogs" (Which I've actually seen) in Honduras.

"Eh, Franz, vat vas dat noise?"

"Och! It vas der amphibians detonating again, Hans!"

"Schiess! I really hate ven der frogs go boom!"

"Ya, it is a mess in der yard!"

"Ya, der lass time dat happened, Heidi vas vashin der yard fer da whole week a frog guts."

"I tell ya, Franz, ist dat George Bush doin it I tell ya!"

But could you imagine it happening here? I can just see it in the paper:

"Tell ya' what! Virgil n' me were down in the holler fetchin' us some nightcrawlers, when BLAM! Frogs is splodin' all over the dern place! Ain't seen nothin' like it since ol' Doc Whittaker's coonhound went up like a roman candle... One a' those spontanus combustibles!"

It tell you, there's some weird shit out there. They always say fact is stranger than fiction, but most of the time it follows me around...

There's a small pond behind my apartment. I'm keeping a wary eye out for any of the frogs there... You never know when a wayward frog will explode. I'd hate to go up in a tragic spontaneous amphibian detonation.

Copyright 2005 Thomas J Wolfenden

Friday, May 20, 2005


A fellow blogger turned me on to Foamy...

Go here:

I pissed myself laughing the first time I saw foamy...

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

More wacky laws...

Here's my first installment of weird and wacky laws I've dredged up from the pits of the internet. I had to post them today...

I was having brain-lock this morning...

In Washington state, it is against the law to boast that one's parents are rich.

(But can you say you're in-laws are stupid?)

In Maryland, it's illegal to play Randy Newman's "Short People" on the radio.

(They've got no reason...)

In Alabama it is illegal to play Dominoes on Sunday.

(what about those felonious canasta players?)

And in Minneapolis, double-parkers can be put on a chain gang.

(This law in Philadelphia would have the entire driving population in South Philly in chains)

An old statute in Kentucky states that men who push their wives out of bed for inflicting their cold toes on them can be fined or jailed for a week.

(What about a wife who's terminally flatulent?)

A 100-year-old law in Willowdale, Oregon makes it illegal to swear during sex.

(I'd be in jail...)

An odd law in Minnesota makes it illegal to hang male and female underwear on the same washing line.

(Ya, sure you betcha'!)

In Melbourne, Australia it is illegal for men to parade in strapless dresses - but they are allowed to cross-dress in anything with sleeves.

(It's the armpits... It's a big turn on for the Aussie... Hairy armpits)

An old law in Russia allows a police officer to "beat a peeping tom soundly."

(and there's a problem with this?)

In Normal, Oklahoma you could be sent to prison for "making an ugly face at a dog."

(and this is Normal?)

And if you're in Hawaii and laughing at these odd laws, stop! In Hawaii it is forbidden to laugh after 10pm.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005


Yesterday was my one-year anniversary of my coming to West Virginia. I've been asked many times why I'm here in and that's kind of difficult to pin down and there's several reasons.

I guess I could say it started when I was a child. As far back as I can remember I loved trains. I'd ride my bike to the Torresdale station and sit and watch the Pennsylvania Railroad passenger trains and freight trains (later to become Amtrak and Conrail) for hours on end. I always wanted to be an engineer. But as I got older, it wasn't "what was expected" of me.

So, for a long time I did what "was expected of me", not for myself. Always doing things for other people. What job I had, where I lived, what kind of house I had...

It was oppressing.

So when my marriage fell apart last January it was time I finally "Shit or got off the pot". I hated where I was, who I was and what I was doing. I wanted to finally do what I wanted to do.

One day last April I was looking in the classifieds in the Prescott, Arizona newspaper and saw an ad for a railroad maintenance company. Free training, travel...

I applied and they actually hired me.

The company flew me to their headquarters in Hamel, Minnesota the first week in May for a two week training session. I completed the training and then they assigned me to a machine in the field. I was to be part of a six-man shoulder ballast cleaner crew and I was flown from Minneapolis to Charleston, WV. My crew boss picked me up at Yeager Airport and drove me to what would become my home for the next few months... The Comfort Inn in Beckley, WV.

I just fell in love with the whole area. The views, the greenness, the people... Everything. It reminded me so much of where I grew up hunting, fishing and camping in Potter County, Pennsylvania. It was also so different from Arizona where the scenery is bland and people are selfish and self-centered.

For the next several months I worked the hardest I've ever worked since I was in the army. Out at 5AM. on the tracks and not back to the hotel until 9 PM, six days a week. I'd come back to the hotel looking like a coal miner. I was so filthy I looked like Al Jolson with the blackface in one of his now very un-PC minstrel shows...


I really have to give the girls who worked housekeeping at the hotel where we stayed a big hand. They had to scour our rooms daily. I'd take hour long showers just to scrub the dirt off and the tub and shower would be black with dirt when I was done. They were definitely underpaid putting up with our dirt.

Anyway, we worked the double-track from Hinton, WV all the way to Vanceburg, KY last summer, straight up though the New River Gorge. Some of the most beautiful scenery in Appalachia. It was some hard work and I was making very good money. But more important than that, I learned so much about the railroad and what I'd need to do to become an engineer and more importantly I learned so much about myself. First thing I'd need to do is move to West Virginia permanently.

So I had a few incentives, one being, well, I'll quote Jimmy Buffet...

"Some people say that there's a woman to blame..."

But that wasn't the main reason. A big reason, but not the biggest.

The opportunities for jobs on the railroad are astronomical here, contrary to popular belief that this is a depressed area with no jobs. The jobs are there if you are willing to work. I got here permanently in September and was working full time in one week. And the railroad it's a little harder, you have to want it bad enough and be tenacious. I've been on three interviews with Norfolk Southern railroad and I'll keep going until they hire me. I've got one this Thursday, so wish me luck.

So now here I am, in the most beautiful area in the country, surrounded by the nicest people. I really do love it here, and I'm happier now than I've been in such a long time.

I feel alive for the first time in a long time.

So I'm glad I let those "county roads take me home to the place I belong..."

West Virginia.

Copyright 2005 Thomas J Wolfenden

Monday, May 16, 2005


Well, another weekend in the coal mine without incident. No more playing with the methane detectors for me! I did have someone with me for part of my shift though and in retrospect, I think I might have rather been by myself.

Let me explain. The guy I was with was ok, it's just that I couldn't understand a goddamn thing he was saying. I was stuck with Boomhower from "King of the Hill". The accents in Tazwell County, Virginia are the thickest I've ever heard.

Don't get me wrong, I really enjoy the southern accent and find it pleasant to listen to. In fact one woman I met back last year in Beckley when I was still working on the railroad has the most sensual voice I've ever heard. I could listen to her all night. The West Virginia accent is one of the reasons I moved here in the first place. I was sick of the homoginized, pastuerized anti-accent in Arizona with their fake sincerity and plastic personalities.

I love West Virginia and the people. West Virginians are the nicest and friendliest folks I've ever met. I fit in here.

But southwest Virginia is a whole different story.

This guy's voice was so thick I barely made out what he was saying.

And he had a lot to say. A whole lot to say...

It got to the point I'd just smile and not my head, laugh when he laughed... It was like pulling teeth.

Now when I open my mouth, you can definitely tell I'm not from below the Mason~Dixon line but I do have this habit of picking up the local accent rapidly. My first duty station in the Army was Fort Stewart, Georgia. I was there for two years and the first time I came home to Philadelphia on leave I was saying things like "Y'all" and "Yaunto" and "Ya' Reckon?" ...

My friends from Philly looked at me and would say:

"Yo! Tommy! Wuzzup wit da' way you talkin'? You sound, I dunno, kinna stoopid!"

Oh, that's great. Sylvester Stallone and Joe Pesci telling me I sound stupid. That's the proverbial pot calling the kettle black.

I for one do not think the southern accent makes anyone sound less intelligent, although I would definitely not want my neurosurgon coming into the exam room sounding like Larry the Cable Guy.

"Weel, This here's how were gonna git r done... We's gonna saw open yer skull and look at yer brain..."

I'd have a problem with that.

But I love accents, one's I can understand though. I met an exchange NCO from the Scottish Highlanders when I was in the Army. Again, I hadn't a fucking clue what the hell he was talking about.

So here I was sitting in the mine office with this coal miner. He was telling me jokes, laughing it up, and I hadn't a clue what he was talking about. It was like I was in a foreign country.

"Hey, dingdang yooze ginna do ma ya'll!"

"He he, yep, I heard that one before!"


This went on for three hours. I was ready to slit my wrists.

Different accents from around the country are one of the great things about our country. I can pretty much pick out where someone came from be it Chicago, New York City, Maine, Georgia... The Midwest where they really don't have an accent... Or Canada, where Peter Jennings is from and tries so hard to mask it, but I can tell... Especially when he's "Aboot" to tell me some important news item...

Some accents are really annoying... Like a heavy Bronx accent... Or the "Northeast Philly Yenta"... That one is really bad. Or the one southern accent I really don't like which I call the "Southern Belle, Mint Julips won't melt in my mouth Scarlett O'Hara" accent. That one is really annoying.

I've got to get out of Tazwell county!

Copyright 2005 Thomas J Wolfenden

Sunday, May 15, 2005

We're from the Government, And we're here to help..

Thanks to Kat Woman who set me straight about the "Uttering" law... How it's used in cases where they had to think shit up to charge someone with. I've had to do that once or twice... Thumbing through a dog-eared copy of the PA Crimes Code and saying; "Wait a minute, don't let him go just yet... I'll find something!" The job is full of euphemisms. Like "APB"... What most people think means "All-Points Bulletin" really means "We haven't a fucking clue"

I'm also going to start later this week posting a few strange and funny laws that are actually still on the books, probably once a week. State by state. Anyone that has some they'd like to share, email them to me at: and if you want I'll credit you for the submission. So check back often!

But she did remind me of some things that had me shaking my head a while back. We had a lot of contact with the Feds... FBI, ATF... All the Alphabet agencies. Most couldn't find their ass with both hands, a map and a flashlight, and no one could fuck up a crime scene better than the FBI, or what we called them; "The Mormon Mafia".

We had a few nimrods going around the district with pennies in dime wrappers too, but the most amazing case I ever saw and what transpired into what I'd call the biggest miscarriage of justice was with the Secret Service.

For almost two years counterfeit cash was floating around all the corner stores in the district. Really, really good copies.

Were they $20's, $50 or $100 bills?

Fuck no.

They were really fantastic duplicates of $1 bills.

One dollar bills! And not a whole lot of them. Over a period of about eighteen months maybe $50 was passed.

My first question would have been who the fuck would counterfeit $1 bills?

In comes the SS, Goosestepping though the neighborhood. After about two months of investigation and untold millions of dollars spent on surveillance and other shit the Feds like to spend our tax money on, like tittie bars and shit, they actually got the nefarious counterfeiter.

Was it some gangbanger?

Drug dealer?

Fuck No.

It was an 87 year old retired engraver from the US Mint in Philadelphia, who just wasn't making enough on his pention and would print out a few bills once in a while to buy a dozen eggs, a loaf of bread or a gallon of milk.

So the Feds threw the book at him. He lived alone and had no family, so he languished in Federal lock-up for ten months because he couldn't get anyone to bail him out. We started a fund to get some money together but it was just too much money. I think the bail was set at something like $500,000. That and the Feds found out what we were doing and complained to the commissioner, so we were told not so politely to Cease and desist.

We just felt sorry for the guy. He wasn't any criminal, just and old guy trying to eat something other than dog food.

So much for years of Federal Service.

I really don't know the exact amount on what this whole farce cost the taxpayers, but it was a lot. A shitload more that $50 in counterfeit bills.

Why didn't they just take his printing press and leave him be?

There is no "Justice" in the Criminal Justice System.

What happened to him?

He died in custody before his trial.

Really gives me warm and fuzzy feelings towards the Federal Government.

Copyright 2005 Thomas J Wolfenden

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Charged with what?

Last night at work I was reading the Beckley, WV newspaper, The Register~Herald. On the back page of the last section there was a list of all those indictments handed down by the Grand Jury in Fayette and Raleigh counties, listing the names, ages and towns of residence of those being charged and the said charges.

That's a good thing, as sometimes shame does have a way of really deterring some crimes. Philadelphia did it a while back. They published the names of the "Johns" arrested for solicitation.

One charge had me baffled though.

What the hell is "Uttering"?


"Michelle Bragg, 26, of Beckley, Uttering, 17 counts"

Well, if uttering is against the law I'd be in jail for the rest of my life. I utter dumb shit all day.

I did a Google search and still couldn't find anything. I know there's some really stupid laws on the books. I remember these from the Pennsylvania Crimes Code. These were still on the books as of 1998 when I left the job:

"Any motorist who sights a team of horses coming toward him must pull well off the road, cover his car with a blanket or canvas that blends with the countryside, and let the horses pass. If the horses appear skittish, the motorist must take his car apart, piece by piece, and hide it under the nearest bushes." (Mr. Goodwrench in your trunk, I presume?)

In Morrisville PA, These two local ordinances:

"women need a permit to wear cosmetics" (There's a lot of jokes I can think of with that one...)

"Ministers are forbidden from performing marriages when either the bride or groom is drunk" (Well, that leaves me out from getting married in Morrisville. I'd HAVE to be drunk to do that again...)

In Harrisburg, PA, local ordinance:

"it is illegal to have sex with a truck driver inside a toll booth" (Someone I know should get a big laugh out of that one, LOL)

Ok, so I need your help. If anyone knows what the hell the crime of "Uttering" is, please let me know?

Copyright 2005 Thomas J Wolfenden

Friday, May 13, 2005


Got the truck fixed today.

It wasn't the brake cylinder, only a brake line. $24.86 to fix. Pretty cheap considering the guy picked it up while I slept today, fixed it then brought it back to my apartment.

It still annoys me that this minor crap I could be fixing myself provided the proper tools. Looks like I know what's going on my list for my next Sears tool department pilgrimage.

Bubba's Flite Skool

This has got to be one of the dumbest things I've heard of in a while.

Apparently this past Wednesday, a student pilot and his instructor took off from Pennsylvania to head to an airshow in North Carolina.

On this little trip they strayed withing the three-mile limit of the Capitol. F-16s were scrambled to intercept the wayward Cessna and had to fire flares to get the pilot's attention before forcing it to land in Frederick, Maryland.

Who was flying this thing, Mr. MaGoo?

Every pilot should know that since 9/11 that Washington DC is about the most heavily defended airspace since the Cold War (I could mention that fifteen year old West German kid who flew his Piper Cub into the Soviet Union and landed in Red Square at high-noon, but I'd be dating myself) They have Patriot and Sidwinder missile batteries all over the place not to mention a shitload of fighters loaded for bear at Andrews AFB.

I can understand the student not knowing where he was, but the instructor? Come on now. Even I know when I'm getting close to DC in a airliner and I'm not a pilot. Couldn't these two mental midgets see the damn beltway? I can spot the damn thing every time I fly into Reagan International.

And what school was this anyway? I'd like to know because I'm going to ask the next pilot I fly with if he's a graduate of "Bubba's Flite Skool" in Podunk, PA.

I can see them now, both of them running it out of a dirt strip somewhere, a rusty Quonset Hut as a hangar and an old Curtis Jenny from WWI with duct tape on the hole in the control surfaces. Bubba walks out wearing a stained T-shirt with no sleeves with 'Git R Done' on the front. He belches, grabs a twelve-pack of Bud and says:

"You fixin' fer yer next lesson there! Have a beer! This time try not to hit the goat on this here takeoff! It roond a dern good propeller last time!"

But the most amazing thing in this story was that they wern't arrested or charged.

I know why...

They weren't white guys in their late thirties with military haircuts.

They had mullets.

Copyright 2005 Thomas J Wolfenden

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Just Shoot Me

Here's another installment in my on-going automotive saga.

Being an ex-cop, I really do try to do things legally. Take for instance driving a motor vehicle. When I moved here to West Virginia back in September of last year I had driven my Ford Taurus from Arizona. At the time it was running good despite being fifteen years old and having well over 150,000 miles on the odometer. At the time it was legal, albeit registered in Arizona. I couldn't register it here because I didn't have the title for it, so I took my chances driving it for the time being.

About the end of October I started to loose coolant in copious amounts but couldn't figure out where it was going. The radiator was solid and the hoses all looked fine. Turned out it was the heater core. A big job. A really big job. Too costly to repair. So I put some stop-leak in and hoped for the best, adding coolant daily. This went on for the better part of the winter with no problems. All I had to do was add about a quart of 50/50 mix of water and coolant once a day.

But by this time my Arizona tags had expired and I couldn't renew the registration due to my ex canceling my insurance on me without me knowing. So now I was driving around with dead tags and no insurance. I had no choice at this point. Every call I made to my ex's attorney to get the title was a waste of time. I got nowhere with him.

Then my transmission started to slip.


I had to do something. I couldn't afford to sink any more money into the Taurus. Blue Book value on it by this time is only $500 and the repairs for the heater core and the tranny would have been well over $2000, not a really smart economics move to say the least.

So, about three weeks ago I found a perfect little get-around vehicle. A bare-bones transportation kind of hunk of crap. A 1988 Ford Ranger pickup. 4 Cylinder, 5-speed manual tranny, manual steering and brakes, no radio, no air conditioning. Perfect. All this for only $500.

A steal!

So I bought this little pickup, get my West Virginia tags and insurance.

I'm set.


Today I go down to the grocery store to get some stuff, and when I get back to my apartment and park, I notice a huge pool of liquid running from behind my right rear tire.

Brake fluid.


The brake cylinder is leaking. I'm not going too far with this now.

What the fuck!

So, luckily there's a garage right next to my apartment building and the mechanic will look at it tomorrow.


Just what I don't need. Another repair bill. The thing that pisses me off the most is that if I had the tools I left in Arizona, I'd be able to do the repairs myself. But my tool kit now consists of a flat-head screwdriver and a hammer. That's it.

The only bright side of this right now is I literally can walk across the street for work. As for the Taurus, I still have that, and I can't even give that to a junk yard because I don't have the title for it and my landlord has asked me about a dozen times when I was going to get it out of the lot.

I'm probably going to abandon it somewhere in the near future. I can't do anything with it without the title.

Here's another thing. I need to get my West Virginia driver's license also. Last week I went to the DMV to get one, finally.

I can't get one of those now it seems.

Patriot Act and all.

I have to have a physical address. Now where I live it's odd. The houses and business' on the opposite side from my apartment have street numbers and get mail delivery and everything.

My side doesn't. I have to get a post office box because I don't have a physical address. So I tell this bureaucrat at the DMV that and she wants to see a utility bill. I explain to her that all my utilities are paid in with the rent. I don't have any utility bills. I need some form of government-issue ID.

Well, here's my Arizona driver's license!

Nope, has to be a birth certificate. Bring in your birth certificate to prove who you are.

Now wait just a damn minute.

Here's a VALID photo ID, issued by the State of Arizona. Isn't that good enough?

Apparently not.

But they will take a thirty-nine year old piece of paper with no photo as proof of identity or a utility bill, again with no photo.

But not a goddamn driver's license from another state?

Again I think it's that all of the terror plots are being formulated buy us late-thirties white guys with military haircuts.

Maybe if I let my hair grow into a mullet (which apparently is the official men's haircut of West Virginia) the powers to be will stop singling me out as an Al Qaida terrorist.

I had to send to the Department of Vital Statistics in Philadelphia for a new birth certificate to let West Virginia know I was really born. That's going to take another four to six weeks.

So now I have two vehicles, neither of which I can drive, and an apparently worthless but valid Arizona driver's license that may or may not be me according to the West Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles.

But did you notice I could register my new vehicle here without proving who I was? I could have registered it to Micky Mouse and they wouldn't have batted an eye.

Please, just shoot me?

Copyright 2005 Thomas J Wolfenden

In A Coma

I don't know what's worse, feeling like shit or sleeping so long your whole body hurts.

The last few weeks I had been working so many long hours and it seemed like they caught up with me the other day. I started getting body aches, headaches, feelings of ague and just plain feeling like shit. I did sleep some the other day but apparently this wasn't enough. I still felt out of sorts yesterday but I did have some things I had to do like go to Bluefield for my club meeting. I'm on a committee and had to be there to help plan some summer events.

I don't remember much from last night but I do remember crawling into bed quite early. The next thing I know I'm awake and hurting and sore as if I'd gone twelve rounds with George Foreman. I must have slept for fourteen hours. The one thing I do know is I woke up in the same position I went to sleep in. I hadn't moved in all that time. My eyes hurt...

I did find out my kidneys are working... I pissed for about fifteen minutes.

Now I'm hurting all over for other reasons. I can't win. Work a lot of hours and hurt from that, or sleep to rejuvenate and hurt from that.

Comas are overrated.

Copyright 2005 Thomas J Wolfenden

Wednesday, May 11, 2005


This past weekend finally caught up with me... No, I didn't get fired for my little bit of curiosity(ha!). I started out last night with a huge headache and by the time I left Wally World with my new air conditioner, I was definitely feeling like shit.

I really haven't been sleeping all that well. The main reason is that since I've gone on to night shift, it's been getting warmer and the water heaters for every apartment in my complex are right under my bedroom. This makes the temperature inside my apartment just a few degrees below the surface of the sun, making it impossible to sleep. Hence, I finally got an air conditioner last night.

The hours I've been working lately haven't helped much either, and this weekend's little foray into Tazwell County had me completely exhausted. Last night hit me like a ton of bricks and I couldn't think straight so I couldn't even have a decent post this morning. That's why I posted the lyrics of that song... I had nothing to post...

I'm feeling a little bit better today. I should, I slept for nearly ten hours. I'm still not feeling %100, but hopefully I'll be back to form tomorrow.

So stay tuned...


Again I've heard a song recently I really like by group called Puddle Of Mudd...

Everything's so blurry
and everyone's so fake
and everybody's empty
and everything is so messed up
pre-occupied without you
I cannot live at all
My whole world surrounds you
I stumble then I crawl
You could be my someone
you could be my scene
you know that i'll protect you
from all of the obscene
I wonder what you're doing
imagine where you are
there's oceans in between us
but that's not very far
Can you take it all away
can you take it all away
well ya shoved it in my face
this pain you gave to me
Can you take it all away
can you take it all away
well ya shoved it my face
Everyone is changing
there's noone left that's real
to make up your own ending
and let me know just how you feel
cause I am lost without you
I cannot live at all
my whole world surrounds you
I stumble then I crawl
You could be my someone
you could be my scene
you know that i will save you
from all of the unclean
I wonder what you're doing
I wonder where you are
There's oceans in between us
but that's not very far
Nobody told me what you thought
nobody told me what to say
everyone showed you where to turn
told you when to runaway
nobody told you where to hide
nobody told you what to say
everyone showed you where to turn
showed you when to runaway
This pain you gave to me
You take it all
You take it all away...
This pain you gave to me
You take it all away
This pain you gave to me
Take it all away
This pain you gave to me

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

An Alarming Aroma...

The last two weekends I've been doing my supervisor a huge favor. I've been covering a guy's shift down in Tazwell County, Virginia. It's about a two hour drive from my place in Athens to this coal mine. I've been working the past two Saturdays and Sundays from 6 PM to 6 AM. Long shifts, made even longer by the drive to and from work.

What makes these shifts even longer is the fact that all I do is sit in the mine office and answer the mine squawk-box and the phones, which never ring.

Twelve hours with nothing to do...

Idle minds do some stupid things, or more like it, idle minds decide that doing a certain thing is a great idea but in retrospect was really stupid.

I did the New York Times Sunday crossword, and had finished the book I was reading. It was 2 AM and still had four hours to go and not even a radio to listen to.

I began walking around the office looking at all the things laying around. Coal miners carry a bunch of stuff with them to keep them safe and to warn them of dangers lurking deep underground. It's a dangerous job, one that I wouldn't do.

I picked up a little metal box with a keypad and belt clip. I examined it and discovered it was a methane detector.

Here's where my idle mind almost got me in trouble...

Hmmmmmm. Methane. Isn't that what the Government spent millions of dollars studying a few years back? Methane from cows?

Or to be more specific, cow farts.

That's interesting. Farts are methane. Methane is flammable, which explains generations of teenage boys lighting their farts on fire for laughs. So hence, the methane detector for the miners. You don't want an explosive gas down in the mines where you are working.

Here's where I should have put the thing down, but boys will be boys...

I turned it on and it seemed to be working. All the lights were flashing green. Said "OK" on the LCD on the front. Now earlier my lunch consisted of two of those frozen Swanson's microwave fish stick & macaroni and cheese entrees.

I was a tad bit flatulent.

So I decided to test it...

I placed the detector in the most obvious place and floated the best air-biscuit I could muster...

This is when I realized two very, very important things:

1) I had no idea how sensitive this methane detector was...

2) I also had no idea this thing was connected by antenna to a central alarm system thought the mine complex...

The alarms went flashing and sounding rather loudly and over the din, I hear the squawk-box buzz. It was the mine superintendent. He asked me to check the computer to see who's detector was going off. I checked and it came back no one's detector was going off ( I had immediately shut the one I was playing with off ) so it must have been a false alarm I told him. He asked me to reset the alarm and write up the report as a false alarm.

At the end of the shift I somehow couldn't look anyone of the miners in the face...

But someone did ask his buddy within earshot of me as he was walking out "Hey, do you smell that?" and turned and winked at me... I've been snagged!

I just hope I don't have to go down there again...

Copyright 2005 Thomas J Wolfenden

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Happy Mother's Day!

I want to say Happy Mother's Day to all those moms out there!

But I want to send out a very special one to two women. The first one is my mom.

Although she's been gone now over three years, I still miss her sometimes and miss her humor. Mom, where ever you are, I want you to know I really do appreciate everything you've ever done for me even though I was, well... Somewhat difficult at times. I love you mom!

Second is to another mom, who has the hardest job of them all. Being a single parent. You are doing an amazing job and I can't tell you enough how awe-inspiring you are at how you've conquered the odds and, even though she probably won't agree with me, you have to be one of the most fantastic moms I've ever met. I'll never mention any names here, but she knows who she is...

Happy Mother's Day!

Saturday, May 07, 2005

The Smoke Nazis

Ok, here we go again. I heard on the news today that now Mercer County is trying to enact the same kind of smoking ban in public places that a few other counties here in West Virginia have enacted.

I can see not allowing smoking in restaurants and movie theaters, as I can wait a few hours for a smoke, and even as a smoker I can honestly say it annoys me when I'm eating. I also respect other people's feelings. I don't go to other people's homes and light up, nor do I do it in their cars. I also tend not to smoke around those who don't. It's a respect thing.

But don't ram it down my throat.

What's the rule now? You can only smoke on the third Thursday of every month that has twenty eight days, but only on a leap year, in your basement, with the lights out, sitting in a wooden crate with a wet towel over your head, the doors locked and only between 4:36 am and4:43 am but only if there's a waxing moon and only if you have the Government approved, six foot flashing neon sign erected on your front lawn warning "Danger!!! Smoker Lives Inside! Keep Back 10,000 feet of all entrances/ergresses!"?

The best one I thought was the last time I went to a Phillies game at the old Veteran's Stadium in Philadelphia. You couldn't smoke in the open-air seats, but had to go into these narrow, enclosed concourses that everyone had to pass through to get to there seats.

Really smart. Who though that one up?

What fries my giblets is the banning of smoking in bars, taverns, pool halls and bowling alleys. I don't frequent bars or taverns nearly as much as I used to. I might stop in a local watering hole about once a month now to play some English darts and have a few ice cold, frosty adult beverages.

While playing those said darts and enjoying a beer or three, I enjoy smoking a cigarette. They go hand-in-hand.

Beer and Butts.

You expect to have a place filled with cigarette smoke when you go into the place. Bars are supposed to be filled with cigarette smoke.

Read any Mickey Spillane novel.

But what I'm getting to is personal freedom. Let me tell you this little tidbit of information. If I owned a bar, especially if I owned the building, I'd be damned if I let the government tell me what kind of legal substance I could use on the premises.


I'll give you another example. Back around 1990 or 91', there was this big law enforcement job fair in Philadelphia that my partner and myself attended. Not that either of us was unhappy with our jobs at the time, we were just curious as to what else was out there.

I don't remember exactly what police department it was, but it was in Maryland somewhere. The recruiter was very persuasive. The pay was 1/3 more than we were getting at the time. Bennies were fantastic, the hours still sucked...

But the thing that got my goat was this little, minor stipulation. "You cannot use alcoholic beverages or tobacco products on or off duty."

Wait a minute now.

On or OFF duty? I don't fucking think so.

For eight to twelve hours a day I can see you telling me what I can't do. But you have no goddamn right to tell me what I do on my own goddamn time. Especially if it's legal.

Needless to say we both told the recruiter to pack sand, as myself and my partner not only smoked like chimneys at the time we also drank like fish.

We had to. It wasn't a butt or a beer, it was a crutch.

These goddamn Smoke Nazis.

They're trying to legislate morality, just like they tried to do with booze back in the twenties.

That worked really well too, didn't it?

It's getting really, really old. I've quit smoking a time or two in the past and I'll probably quit again in the future. I know it's bad for me, but I do enjoy smoking for now. I don't need you to tell me it's bad for me. So shut the fuck up about it already!

Keep it up and you just may find out what tobacco really tastes like.

Copyright 2005 Thomas J Wolfenden

Friday, May 06, 2005

Where's Dr. Doolittle?

A fellow blogger recently wrote about a beagle they had that mooed. Yes, moo like a cow. I asked my best friend up in Philly if his beagle did this because I never heard him do it, and he said yes, his beagle did indeed moo.

Too funny.

But that's not the strangest thing I've heard. I once had a reptile tell me to do a physically impossible function.

Yep. A lizard told me to go fuck myself once.

It happened when I was in the Army going through Jungle Warfare school at Ft. Sherman, Panama in the mid-eighties.

My platoon had been patrolling in the jungle all day, and at nightfall we set up a perimeter and ambush. Myself and another soldier were sent out in front of the position about three hundred meters (I always revert to metric when I'm telling an Army story, I don't know why...) to set up an LP, or Listening Post.

My buddy and I set up in the roots of a large tree where a large log was laying over the roots. If you've never had the experience of being in a triple-canopy tropical rain Forest, let me tell you this. When it gets dark, it gets Dark.

My buddy soon fell asleep, so I was elected by default to take the first watch. I hadn't settled into my position too long when this lizard about the size of my hand creeps up and is about and inch from my nose. We eye each other for about a minute in the growing darkness, then he puffs up this little bag under his chin and makes the most startlingly loud noise for such a tiny little critter.

It sounded something like this:

Faaaaawwkkkk Eeeewwwwweee!

Faaaaawwkkkk Eeeewwwwweee!

I'm dumbfounded. The little bastard just told me to go fuck myself! He stayed there unblinkingly, and inch from my nose on that log almost daring me to stop him.

I smacked my buddy awake... "Hey! Wake up! This lizard just told me to fuck myself!"

"Yeah, right. Lemme git some sleep shithead!"

"No, really. He did. Look!"

Just then the lizard told my buddy just what he though of him too.

Faaaaawwkkkk Eeeewwwweeee!

"Holy shit! Did you hear that Tom?"

"Yes, dipshit! That's what I was trying to tell you!"

We both went to grab it at the same time, and he scurried away. We never saw it again... But heard it's taunting all night deep in the jungle... Almost laughing at us. So did the others in my platoon. The instructor gave us a "No Go" for that night's exercise, and almost pissed his pants when we told him.

Of course he didn't believe us.

That really happened. I wish I could have caught the little bastard to record the sound. I guess he was just telling us what he thought of the US Military presence in Central America.

I keep on thinking though of that old Warner Brothers cartoon where the guy finds the box with the frog in it... The one where the frog jumps up with a little top-hat and cane and sings "Hello, my darlin" and nobody will believe the guy.

Where's Dr. Doolittle when you really need him?

Copyright 2005 Thomas J Wolfenden

Thursday, May 05, 2005

The Bi-Polar Express

When I moved to West Virginia I didn't know many people, but since settling I met a few people and made some friends, but again I find myself the conductor on the Bi-Polar Express.

Today I was supposed to go to Charleston with a friend I met but I just couldn't go at this point. Every time I'd suggest to do something with this person, I'd get "Are you sure you want to?" or "Do you really want to do that?"

Didn't I suggest it?

Well, if I didn't want to do it or spend time with you I wouldn't ask, now would I?

"Hey, I hear there's a good flea-market up in Hinton... Want to go?"

"Yeah, I'd like that."

ten minutes later...

"Are you sure you want to go?"

Pull over. Let me go over to that rock outcropping so I can smack my head against it repeatedly.

Yesterday was the last straw. My friend asked me to ride up to Charleston with them today. I said sure, I'd love to go, I'll just let my boss know I can't work that day.

Ok. That's set. I'm going to Charleston on Thursday.


Right after I was asked to go to Charleston, the questions started.

Three weeks ago.

"Are you sure you want to go?"

Over and over again, almost daily. Then yesterday a terse phone call.

"Look, Tom. If you have to work tomorrow I'll make other arrangements and you don't have to go if you don't want to..."


How many times did I say I was going? How many times did I tell you I was taking the day off so I could go with you? If I didn't want to go, I wouldn't have said I would in the first GODDAMN place!

I'm done. I'm getting off this train at the next stop. You never know when this train is going to switch tracks.

I want to work on the railroad, but I'm definitely not signing up to be the conductor on the Bi-Polar Express!

Copyright 2005 Thomas J Wolfenden

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Electronic Checkout Chick

Since going back on the night shift, I've had a little problem getting my sleep cycle in order. Especially when I have unscheduled days off.

Take last night for example. I received a phone call around seven last night. It was my supervisor telling me I had the night off.

Wonderful. I've just slept the whole day now I'm going to be awake all damn night with nothing to do. I could have done some laundry, but the Laundromat closes at nine, not long enough to do a few loads. I did the dishes, watched the local news, Jay Leno then Conan O'Brien. It was now two in the morning and I was wide awake. The house was clean, dishes done.

Nothing to do.

Oh, wait! I could use some groceries and the Kroger's in Princeton is open all night. So I get dressed, jump in my truck and head off down the road.

I'm on a mission.

I did neglect to tell you I really hadn't eaten anything since about eight o'clock when I had a few cups of coffee and a pop-tart. So here I was going to an all night grocery store at two in the morning, hungry. Not the brightest thing I've ever done.

So I get to the store, park and get my cart. First I have to negotiate a roadblock of shopping carts set up strategically in the front of the store set up no doubt using a plan by the Department of Homeland Security to deter Al Queida, Osama Bin Laden and the others from attacking the produce section as we all know that the Kroger's in Princeton, West Virginia is a prime target for those nefarious terrorists, right up there with nuclear powerplants. It took me ten minutes just to get through this roadblock, all with a passive store employee watching my every move, since we all know that white guys in there late thirties with military haircuts are the prime suspects in all Middle Eastern terrorist plots against the US.

I start off and now my stomach is really rumbling, which is a bad thing. I had only wanted to get a few things to hold me over until my next pay, but an hour later with my cart full of things I really don't need I decide I've had enough. Time to head out.

I steer my cart over to the checkout lanes. They're all closed. I look around and the same employee who was secretly comparing my face to those terrorists he had photos of, silently pointed to the far end, where the "Self Checkout" lane was...

Here we go. I've never used this before, so it was new to me. I tend to prefer a real person checking out my groceries. I can't argue over the cost of linguini with a computer.

I walk up to this contraption and the employee stands by to make sure I use the machine properly. I look at this thing for a minute to figure it out. There it is. The big green button that says "Press to Start". It only took me five minutes to find it since it was right in front of my face. I hit the button and the thing starts to talk to me in a slightly metallic woman's voice. It should have been the voice of some teenager chewing gum with a practiced indifference in her voice.

"please scan item!" it asked me pleasantly. I did and it then said "please place scanned item in a bag to your right." I did and it asked me to scan another item. These instructions went on with every thing I had in my cart. I couldn't scan a new item until I placed the last thing I had scanned into a bag to my right. Apparently it knows when I do this.

I felt like a complete imbecile.

This was taking for ever. After about ten minutes of this, I was ready to pay. It then instructed to use my debit card for payment. I looked over to the bored employee who was still watching me, no doubt at this time making sure I didn't try to steal the frozen corndogs. I looked over to him and said "You know, this would have been a lot faster if a checkout person did this in a regular lane." He then grinned slowly and said "Yep, it sure would. Next thing you know they'll have a machine to stock the shelves."

Really? If they did that, I bet he'd actually have to go out and find a real job.

I swear I heard the theme music from the "Outer Limits" as I pushed my cart out of the store.

That's probably the last time I do my grocery shopping at two AM...

Copyright 2005 Thomas J Wolfenden

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

His what?

Since going to night shift I began to listen to all-night talk radio again. I love Art Bell & George Nory with their "Coast to Coast AM" show... Lots of really bizarre stuff like UFO's, Bigfoot, Pod People, Ghosts, Chem-trails, Government conspiracies, stuff like that.

I don't really believe this stuff, but at 3 AM it's really entertaining.

But the thing that made me sit up and really listen this morning wasn't on the program, it was the local news that had me shaking my head.

Anyone who listens to AM radio a lot knows that at night you get fabulous reception due to the lack of ionisation in the upper atmosphere. I can't get local AM stations, but ones that are hundreds of miles away I get clear as a bell. CBr's call it "skip". I could go on now with a little physics on the difference between AM, or amplitude modulation and FM, or frequency modulation but I wont as not to bore you to death. On really clear nights I can get KYW 1060 out of Philadelphia and I listen to that once in a while to hear what's going on in my home town.

Last night and early this morning I was listening to a station in Indianapolis, Indiana. The signal was crystal clear. I was laughing my ass off at the guest on "Coast to Coast AM" talk about his raw food only diet... He looks and feels great at 6' tall he weighs 140 lbs...

Stick Man.

But that's not what I'm shaking my head over.

It was the local news at the top of the hour. Now I really feel for the parents of this boy, and in no way want to seem insensitive.


Apparently this seven year old, severely autistic boy went missing at a family cookout over the weekend. The authorities were led to where they found the boy's body, a retention pond, behind the boy's home by finding his...

Are you ready?

His Chew Toy.

Chew toy?

a damn chew toy???????

I thought I was hearing things, and maybe the reporter mis-pronounced something. One time while watching the news in Philly, a TV reporter said "Testicles" instead of "tentacles" while reporing a missing mollusk from a local aquarium. I think he said something like "The missing mollusk has eight inch testicles."

I listened harder, and yep, the reporter said it again.

Chew Toy.

Again I don't want to belittle this boy's tragic death in anyway, but what the fuck is a seven year old, autistic or not, doing with a goddamn chew toy?

Was it one of those rubber bones? or maybe one of those squeaky-rats my Fred used to play with?

Was animal control called in? Did you put out a trail of milkbones to get him to come home? Didn't he like his Kibbles N' Bits?

What the Fuck!

Again, and I'm saying this sincerely, I really do feel for the parents. I hate like hell to hear when any kids get hurt or killed and I'm sorry for their loss. I really am.

But why, oh why did a seven year old have a goddamn chew toy?

Copyright 2005 Thomas J Wolfenden