Wednesday, November 30, 2005


I had meant to post this story on Monday but it was set aside for some other things. The picture above is of my best friend Bart (left) and his Potter County, PA record 10-point whitetail he bagged on our last hunting trip the year before I moved to Arizona. I can't remember the kid's name on the right, but he was the nephew of one of the guys in our camp and it was his first hunting trip ever. He didn't do so bad either.
Well, this story is about traditions, and the big one with Bart and myself every year was the annual trek to Potter County in north-central Pennsylvania. As in all traditions, this was huge with us. It overshadowed birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas, Hanukkah, Ramadan... Everything. The world could have been ending, but we were still going hunting, thank you very much.
So rifle-buck season traditionally opens in Pennsylvania the first Monday after Thanksgiving so every year for several years after I got out of the army, Bart and I would pack up our gear in my truck the Friday after Turkey Day and make the six-hour drive to the North Woods... We drove that far because there was nowhere to hunt in southeastern PA, too many people around and two, Bart's father-in-law at the time had a fantastic place to go, and all that was needed to guarantee a bunk at the camp was $50 towards the food and beer.
We'd get there the two days before the season officially opened for a few reasons. One, it was to give us some time to scout around and check out for a spot to hunt opening day, because it was just too far to drive throughout the year to properly scout. From my house in Philadelphia to the camp was exactly 256 miles. Secondly, there was always a continuation of the previous year's poker game that lasted the whole week we were there that started the moment at least two people showed up.
The year before this trip was unusually cold, even for the upper PA Appalachian coal fields where we hunted. It was -36 F on opening day that year and nobody in our group even saw a thing. It was just too damn cold, even for Bambi. This year we planned for a cold one, bringing extra thermals and I even went out an bought a new $200 Carhart insulated hunting suit. I wasn't going to freeze my cajones off this year. But lo and behold, we got to the camp at nightfall that Friday night and it was a balmy 50 F...
That Saturday after we woke up slightly hung-over, we wandered behind the cabin where our host had a nice 100 yard rifle range set up where we could sight in our rifles and check our zeros. We all had the usual assortment of rifles, Bart and I had a 30.06, some of the other guys had .243's, some .30-30's... The usual calibers. But one guy, who I'll affectionately call "The Nazi" had an odd-ball. He had sporterized an old British Lee-Enfield jungle carbine chambered in .303 British.
We got to the range and he realized he didn't bring any ammo with him. He remembered everything but the most important ingredient to the hunt... Something to shoot the deer with!
So as we all sight-in our weapons he runs the ten miles into town to get some. When I say town, it's really not one. The only thing in this "town" was a combination bar-restaurant-gas station-sporting goods store which touted to carry "every caliber ammo known to the Western World"...
So he returns from his quest for more ammo and tells us the place that carries every ammo known to man didn't have .303 British in it's vast inventory. Off he stomps back to the cabin and comes out a while later with three rounds he found in a coffee can in the kitchen. He fires one round at the target, looks through the spotting scope and declares "Close enough!"
Going out on opening day with only two rounds of ammo is a ballsy move. But you didn't know the Nazi like we did.
Monday morning rolls around and we eat a hearty breakfast of eggs, bacon and oatmeal and head out well before sunrise. It's still balmy and I'm sweating buckets as I find my way into my stand. As the sun begins to rise in the east, I check my watch. One minute to sun up. In years past this time, right at sun up, you'd have thought World War Three had broken out as hundreds of gunshots would echo down the holler and over the mountain, but not this year. I only heard a few faint shots off to the west a little but nothing so far in the direction of my buddies. I look around my little spot that had looked so promising with fresh tracks, scrapes and rubs and see nothing.
Then the quiet is shattered by the loud report of a nearby rifle, it didn't sound right though... It had a louder, deeper 'crack' that the usual .30-06 or .30-30... It was a .303!
One shot is all I heard then nothing more. I stayed in my stand to see if the shot scared up some deer, but by noon I still had seen nothing. I climbed down and headed back to the cabin for lunch. When I neared the place I noticed smoke rising from the chimney and a deer hanging from the 'meat pole'. It was a decent sized "Y" buck. I cleared my rifle and entered the cabin to find the Nazi, sitting in an easy chair reading the paper, rum & coke in his hand. A lone live .303 British round was standing on the table next to him. He looked at me and with a dead-pan expression said...
"I still got one round for next year..."
Anyway, the rest of the week for me and the rest of us was pretty much the same as opening day. Nothing moving in the woods, and it looks like the Nazi yet again would be bringing home the only deer in our camp.
The final day as we were packing up to head home, Bart said he was heading out for an hour or so, just one last try at something. The kid decided to tag along. Ok, I said. I'll just get everything here ready so all we have to do when you get back is head out.
I finished packing and sat out of the porch reading the Williamsport Gazette and smoking cigarettes waiting for Bart and the kid to return. I thought I had hear a few shots but didn't think much of it. One, two, then three hours passed with no sign of Bart. I go over to my truck and fetch my blaze-orange vest and put it on with the thought I might just take a walk to see where they got to.
I needn't have worried. Just as I rounded the corner of the cabin, Bart and the kid both appeared over the far hill dragging deer... Bart with his 10-pointer and the kid with a decent 8-pointer. Best deer out of our camp in years.
The look on Bart's face was priceless. He was like a little kid with his first bike.
That was the first time in a long time we had a deer on the roof of my Bronco, and even though it wasn't mine, I was smiling just as broadly as Bart was the whole trip back to Philly. We had a successful hunt.
I miss those days. I may never get to hunt again, but I'll always remember and treasure those days spent after Thanksgiving with my friends in that little cabin up in the north woods. It was more than hunting. It was something far bigger than that. I can't explain it, but I'll always cherish those days and remember them fondly, whether we had a successful hunt or not. Those days were so important to us, they're in the past, but they're not gone. As long as remember them I'll always have something to go back to in my mind on crisp autumn mornings...
Some traditions, if not kept, should be remembered.
Copyright 2005 Thomas J Wolfenden

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Clearing up some misconceptions

For the last few weeks I've been getting several emails about my choice to become a firefighter.
Well, these emails have been positive and I thank you all for those who've written but I do feel it necessary to clear up a few things.
This is not a career choice. It's all new to me. I've never been a firefighter and it's not something I want to do for a living. I have never wanted to be a full-time paid firefighter nor do I ever want to be one. My grandfather was the Fire Chief of Camden, New Jersey a long time ago and he always wanted me to be one, but full time firefighting will never be for me. This is a volunteer fire department. I do this on a part-time, on a when-I'm- available basis. If my pager goes off and I'm at my real job, I do not and cannot leave work. My first responsibility is to my employer. If I'm home in bed, not feeling well or just had a tiring night at work, I'm going to be staying in bed if the pager goes off. The only time I would even consider something like that is if a second or third alarm would be sounded.
I've answered a lot of calls in the short time I've been with the fire department, but not all of them. If that was true I'd never be at work or get any sleep at all. There's over thirty members of my FD, and most of them answer the call most times, but a lot of them are like me, have full-time paid jobs besides this, so if I don't answer every page it doesn't meant a life will be lost or a home destroyed. Someone will be answering the page. I'm not even a Firefighter 1 yet, so there's not a whole lot I can do at many scenes. I won't be one for at least another eight months.
I do it not only for the community I live in that's given me so much since I've been here, but for a little self-satisfaction in helping some people. That had been missing in my life for some time. If I relocate to another area, I find it doubtful that I'll become a volunteer firefighter in that area. This is a one-time deal. The only reason I joined up with this group is I found a professionalism I found lacking in so many other Volunteer FD's and it will probably be difficult to find a group of guys and gals like this again. (Yes, there are a few women on the FD here and they're just as good if not better then some of the males)
You will not find me putting the firefighter decals on my vehicle or getting FD license plates. I probably won't be sporting Firefighter T-shirts (other than one I might buy with AVFD on it) or putting red & blue lights and a siren in my truck. Lights and sirens lost there luster a while ago for me. I don't get a giant chubby and blow a load in my pants when the pager goes off or I hear the sirens. They give me a headache and are annoying.
My main career goal at this point and has been for the past year and a half has been for me getting on the railroad full time, in whatever capacity I can, with the ultimate goal of becoming a locomotive engineer. That's the main reason I moved to West Virginia in the first place (Ok, there's another reason too, but I won't go there... ) and plan on achieving that goal. I'm being a tenacious little fuck in that matter and don't plan on giving up on that just yet.
Again, I appreciate the words of encouragement, but I can't give anyone advice on becoming a firefighter or what it's really like. I hope I never have to fight one or go inside a burning building. I will if called to do so, but again it's not something I really look forward to doing. If you want to be a firefighter, my suggestion to you would be to go down to your neighborhood firehouse and talk with a few professional paid firefighters. Or if you live in a town that doesn't have a paid department, talk to your local volunteer squad and join up with them.
I've found it very rewarding so far, but again it's not what I want to do for a career choice. If you do, my hat's off to you... It can be a very satisfying and enjoyable career. But I've got railroads in my veins, not firefighting.
Copyright 2005 Thomas J Wolfenden

Monday, November 28, 2005

More irony

I had this great story about a deer hunting trip from about fifteen years ago all set for today's post but I'm shelving it until tomorrow.
While I was at work early this morning I'm doing my usual patrols, checking all the things things that I need to check. I get to the diner next door to my apartment and check the doors. The doors are securely locked but upon looking inside the business, I notice the entire floor area filling up with thick smoke. Thinking quick, I drive right over to the fire house where several of my buddies were playing a game of pool. I go in and inform them of the situation and they quickly get on their bunker gear and get the engine fired up while I drive back across the street and go to the owner's house, which is directly behind the diner.
By the time I returned to the scene with the owner, the guys had quickly set up the apparatus and standing ready. The owner unlocked the door and let the firefighters enter. They found the source almost immediately, a batch of rags in a hamper that had spontaneously combusted. They dragged the hamper out to the parking lot where, upon hitting the fresh air ignited. My friends then extinguished that fire, I helped them set up the exhaust fan to vent the building of the thick, noxious smoke. The owner thanked us all and said he was staying to clean up the rest.
Everything taken care of and cleaned up in about forty-five minutes. It didn't hurt that the firehouse was almost directly across the street from the business and I was on duty. Great job by my buddies, as usual.
Now you're asking yourself, "Where's the irony, Tom?"
Here's the irony.
About six weeks ago, right after I joined the department something was brought up at the meeting on Thursday night. Apparently the owner of the diner complained to the Chief that none of the fire fighters could park in the diner's parking lot anymore because he was losing business. Potential customers couldn't find parking because of the lot being filled. This was bullshit and we all knew it, we were only parking there for about two hours every Thursday night and it was his slowest time of business and he closes shop at 9 PM anyway. And there is no parking at all at the station. He had informed all of us if he found any of our cars parked in his lot he would have them towed. You can imagine what everyone's reaction was... A voice who shall remain nameless said something to the effect that the response time might suffer if the owner's property ever was to catch fire... Not that anyone would actualy do that, it was just venting.
See the irony?
Karma's a bitch.
On to a second little nugget...
Apparently over the weekend sometime someone actually STOLE our brush truck from outside of our firehouse...
So if any of you driving around southern West Virginia or southwest Virginia see a 1977 Red Dodge Powerwagon 4X4 pickup truck with a 100 gallon water tank , reel-hose and generator in the bed, red light bar and has "Athens WV Fire Department #8" painted in gold-leaf on both doors, please call the Mercer County WV Sheriff's Office, we'd really like it back as we kind of need it right now.
Copyright 2005 Thomas J Wolfenden

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Thank God for Canada!

They'll save us all from a coming Inter~Galactic War.
Former Canadian Minister of Defense and Deputy Prime Minister, Paul Hellyer, has accused President Bush of planning and preparing for intergalactic war.
Of course it's George Bush's fault, like global warming, avian flu, crotch-rot and the seven-year itch.
Go here for the full story:
Thanks god for the Canadians to pull us out of another one. For that, we just might forget the French & Indian Wars, War of 1812 and a little dustup that happened on a tiny island in Peuget Sound over a pig...
Again, I do not make this shit up.
I believe it's better living through chemistry.
Copyright 2005 Thomas J Wolfenden

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Some people

Have some of the most amazing unmitigated gall I've ever seen. It's that or they're just plain fucking ignorant.
Probably both.
This morning around 3 am I was sitting in the patrol vehicle doing some paperwork (crossword) and a car drives in and parks about fifty feet from where I'm sitting. You can't miss me, the truck is big, red with big decals on the doors, it's running with the lights on. I'm not trying to hide.
I sit there a few minutes just to see what he's up to. He's not breaking the law, but at that time of night you never know what you're going to see. Apparently he's eating his after-bar snack from McDonald's. No biggie, so I go back to my crossword.
It was then I hear a paper cup hit the pavement. I look over and think "He really didn't do what I think he did, did he?"
Sure as shit he did. Got done his medium beverage and just threw the cup out the window.
What the fuck...
So now this little shit has got my interest piqued. I put down my paperwork (crossword) and look right at him. The way he's parked he has to see me. I sit there and watch him down two cheeseburgers, tossing each wrapper out the window as he finishes.
Now I'm getting pissed. Not just that he's littering so blatantly, but he's doing it right in front of me, and there's THREE Goddamn trashcans within feet of his parked vehicle. He's just munching away, oblivious to everything around him. The last straw was when he tossed his french fry carton out followed right after with the empty bag his meal came in.
I'm out of the truck in a flash and by his car looking right down on him. I shine my Maglight right in his face and ask;
"Just what the fuck do you think you're doing?"
"Hey man, I was eating supper!"
Get the fuck out of the car RIGHT FUCKING NOW and pick all this shit up!"
God, I was pissed.
"Hey man, I'll kick your ass!"
"Ok, pal. Do it."
I step back and let him stumble out. The look on his face was precious. I'm by no means a really big guy, but at 6' 2" and 210 pounds I'm by no means tiny either. Here this little fuck stood and looked waaaaay up to me. He couldn't have been taller than 5' tall and 100 pounds. The smell of stale beer followed him from the car. His tuned changed immediately.
I think he shit his pants when I told him;
"Get your skinny little mullet-headed redneck ass down and pick up all this shit you just threw on MY FUCKING PARKING LOT right FUCKIN NOW, or swear you will wake up in a few weeks with a whole now outlook on life!"
Like a bolt he was down picking all the trash up, and then when he was done I made him pick up a few other odds and ends lying around.
I really wouldn't have laid him out, it was just so much fun putting the Fear of Tom into him. I told him after he was finished to get lost and never let me see his sorry ass in Athens again.
It wasn't so much him littering that pissed me off, it was that he did it right in front of me in uniform that really sent me over the edge. To me it was a personal insult I just couldn't let slide. Not only that but I'm still not feeling all that great from a bug I caught over thanksgiving day and it only seemed to acerbate things.
There is a big littering problem here in West Virginia that should be addressed. But apparently some folks are getting their priorities mixed. What this guy did was totally unacceptable but it seems that nobody cares about this kind of littering, but up in Beckley, just last week they enacted a city ordinance and authorized the Beckley City Police to start "aggressively citing" people who toss cigarette butts out the windows. It's a $330 fine and points on one's license.
That's great and all, but when Raleigh County had the highest underage liquor sales percentage in the entire state (52% of all booze sales in the county are to minors) and nothing is really being done about it, I think priorities are somewhat misguided.
Don't throw your cigarette butts out the windows. DO NOT toss your garbage out into parking lots.
But please, oh please ENFORCE THE DAMN LIQUOR LAWS!
Yes I don't like to see litter on my streets, but I like it even less when I have to peel some seventeen year-old's brains off the pavement.
Ok, done my rant. Continue on with your day.
Copyright 2005 Thomas J Wolfenden

Friday, November 25, 2005

I could be wrong

But something tells me this guy just didn't make it...

Happy FFF!

Copyright 2005 Thomas J Wolfenden

Thursday, November 24, 2005


Today is Thanksgiving.
While we're all with our families and loved ones celebrating this day with turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie and college football let's stop for a few moments to remember those out there who won't be having a very happy thanksgiving.
These fine men and women of our armed forces are all volunteers and chose to be away from their friends and families, but from experience, it doesn't make it one bit easier. I've been in their boots and it's not much fun.

They're going without so you and I can live free in the greatest nation in the world. So please, take time out today to say a prayer or two to my brothers and sisters who are thousands of miles away...

While you eat your turkey, they're eating MRE's in a truly miserable place, for you. For without people with there mettle, we'd surely have really nothing to be thankful for.

I have some things to be thankful for this year even though this was supposed to be my day off but now I have to work yet another holiday... I have a job, which a lot of people don't have, I have food in my fridge and a roof over my head... I also have a new group of friends who care about me. So I guess I'm doing a lot better than some...

Myself, I'm cooking turkey today myself and for that I'm eternally thankful to the Swanson corporation... So if you'll excuse me, I have to pre-heat my microwave...

Happy Thanksgiving!

Copyright 2005 Thomas J Wolfenden

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

You'd think

That living all your life in Appalachia, one would know just a little bit about driving in winter weather.
But I could be wrong.
It was almost funny when you think about it. Tonight about six of us gravitated to the firehouse just to hang out. Drink coffee, watch movies in the TV room and shoot the shit. It wasn't planned, we all just showed up separately for the same reason. We've been having a round of wintry weather with temperatures in the teens, snow and freezing rain all day. We all decided by ourselves just to come into the station because we just knew some dumbass would wreck his car tonight. If nothing happened we'd just spend the evening watching movies.
We didn't get to watch a movie tonight.
Ranger Tom's short list of things to remember when driving in winter conditions:
1) You CANNOT drive 20 miles over the speed limit on wet, snow covered roads, especially if the said road is a two-lane winding backroad black top.
2) Slamming on your brakes WILL NOT help.
3) sixty year-old walnut trees DO NOT move, even a little.
4) The majority of cars manufactured in the United States after 1972 are mostly plastic.
I hope this helps!
Copyright 2005 Thomas J Wolfenden

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Due to technical difficulties beyond our control...

There's only a few of my readers who should remember the old Black & White test pattern on the TV so a little explanation is in order...
Many years ago, long before cable and satellite TV with continuous 24-7 broadcasting, TV stations would go off the air every night, usually after Johnny Carson or Dick Cavett show was over. The national anthem would be played then poof! No more signal from the station. The only thing it would transmit was the "test pattern" and a really obnoxious high-pitched tone to let all those waking up at 3 AM to turn off the TV because you fell asleep after Johnny's monologue again.
Other times it was to let the viewer know the station in question was having "technical difficulties" and would be on the air again shortly.
The latter is what happened to me yesterday. My always-connected high speed cable connection went tits-up on me around 10 AM yesterday morning and finally came back up around 3 PM today. It doesn't happen to often, maybe 4 times in the last year, but enough to make me hesitate getting VoIP telephone...
Anyway, I'm back and in rare form, so stay tuned to more stuff!
Copyright 2005 Thomas J Wolfenden

Monday, November 21, 2005

British humor

I've always like British humor, whether it was Monty Python, Black Adder or some other show from the BBC. What I think I like the most about it is their innate ability to laugh at themselves and look at life with a slightly different slant. Especially during hard times.
During the early days of World War Two, the UK was basically in it all alone. They were one step ahead of an invasion, the Blitz wreaking havoc on their cities at night with constant bombing raids from the Luftwaffe.
British subjects were in dire straits, indeed. But they got by, day by day with the classic stiff upper lip and stoic humor.
Like these nifty little beer advertisements from England in WWII, telling what they really thought of Hitler's vaunted Luftwaffe and what he could do with it.

These are fantastic and just show what mettle the Brits had then. A good friend in the Australian Air Force I've know for a while sent these to me over the weekend so I thought I'd share them with you.

So I hope you all had a great weekend, mine was EXTREMELY busy, between work and the FD... Brush fire & chimney fire season is upon us...
And I also hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving with your families and loved ones!
Copyright 2005 Thomas J Wolfenden

Sunday, November 20, 2005

You've got WHAT for sale?

Miss the Soviet Union?

Pining over the destruction of the Berlin Wall?

Want to split Germany back up?

And your life just hasn't been the same since the threat of MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) has slipped away...

You still practice "Duck and Cover" drills with your kids, stockpiled a years' worth of food and ammunition in your makeshift fallout shelter in your cellar?
Well have no fear! You yourself can own your very own little piece of the Cold War!
Want a Titan II missile silo and connecting control bunker? (Able to withstand a direct hit of a 20 megaton warhead from a Soviet SS 22, GUARANTEED or your money joyfully refunded!)
The US Government spent Trillions of dollars building this stuff all over the country, now you can own a piece of it for PENNIES ON THE DOLLAR!
But act now, they're going fast at these prices! They sure don't build em' like this anymore!
Actually, this is kind of neat. There was a Nike~Ajax missile base in Bensalem, PA about five miles from where I grew up. It had long-since been deactivated years before I was born, but when I was 10 or so it was still there... Albeit overgrown and completely overtaken by woods. It was a great place for a bunch of ten-year-olds to play 'war' in... Lots of tunnels and bunkers... I remember it well. That place is long gone now but there's still thousands of places like this all over the country that you can buy.
The odd thing is I really enjoy exploring places like these. Not just military sites, but long abandoned buildings and factories... Some far out of the way deep in the woods. I remember quite a few years ago I was deer hunting in Potter County, PA and I stumbled upon an abandoned farm so far into the woods it had to have been five or six miles from the nearest road. It looked like it hadn't been occupied for a hundred years. Needless to say deer hunting was rapidly forgotten and I explored this old house, barn and other outbuildings. The house was so old it wasn't wired for electricity, and there was even some rusted antique tools still in a shed...
I find that stuff fascinating. Like taking a trip back in time in my mind... I could almost feel the ghosts of the former owners watching me as I explored room to room, trying hard not to disturb anything and leave the place exactly as I found it... Who were these people? Where did they come from? Why did they leave?
But, if that's not your thing and you have a cool 1.2 million to blow on a hardened bunker in South Dakota, here's your chance!
Copyright 2005 Thomas J Wolfenden

Saturday, November 19, 2005

I did something right for once

Any lingering doubts about the other volunteer firefighters I had were completely erased yesterday evening.

One of my main concerns with joining a volunteer squad was from what I had seen in the past, they're filled with boneheads and wannabe's who get erections over the lights and sirens unlike the city fire department that I was used to where the men (and women) knew their jobs.

So last night around 7:15 PM my pager goes off. We're being dispatched for a car fire on Eads Mill Rd, just a few miles outside of town. I throw on my boots, grab my jacket and head across the street to the fire house. It was there I realized I was truly in with a bunch of jokers, one of the reasons I fit in so well. As I was trying to get into my bunker gear I also realize I'm not a fast as the rest of the guys who've done this a time or two before.

So as I'm not even halfway in my gear they pull out of the station leaving me there... One of the guys was looking at me, laughing and then flipped me the bird.


Anyway, it wasn't all that bad because just then the Chief pulled in and got into his gear and I headed out to the fire with him on the second truck.

We get to the scene and the vehicle is fully involved. All we needed was the marshmallows and wienies to have a right good time. It's here where I saw true professionalism. Since I'm not a certified firefighter yet, all I could do was watch, pull hose and learn. And boy did I ever.

It only took about thirty minutes, but in those thirty minutes I saw a professionalism that rivaled any big city paid fire department. All jokes were put aside and they went to work. Hoses out, pumper cranked up... Halagen to pop the hood... Flames extinguished. The vehicle was a total loss, but because of these guys a nearby mobile home was saved.

Riding back to the station I was smiling to myself. All doubts were firmly and forever erased from my mind. I was in the company of professionals. I know some of them might be reading this because I gave them the URL to this little niche of the blogsphere... So if you are,

I'm really proud to know all of you and serve with you guys (and gals).

Copyright 2005 Thomas J Wolfenden

Friday, November 18, 2005


If this isn't the pot calling the kettle black I don't know what is. Sometimes I'm truly ashamed to say I'm an American... Your feet would scarcely get moist wading in this gene pool.

Happy FFF!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Some things

Are better left unsaid...
Isn't that what some people say?
Ever since I was a child I've had the habit of just blurting out what was on my mind. Most of the time it was funny, at least to me it was... But most times it got me in trouble. It got the nuns of the Blessed Bleeding Hearts of the Stormtrooper so cross they beat the living shit out of me from time to time. I'll never forget the look on my mother's face once when I was ten or so... We were at some restaurant that had an all-you-can-eat buffet and I just blurted out "Yeah, like he really NEEDS that fifth plate of shrimp!" When a very portly gentleman was going for yet another round at the feeding trough... It wasn't what I said really, it was how I said it... So loud the entire patronage of the dining establishment heard me... The look on my mother's face was precious. My father on the other hand had his face hidden behind his hands and was shaking uncontrollably in what at the time I thought was tears of mortification but I later learned was muffled hysterical laughter.
I've learned to stifle it most of the time now, but sometimes a little retort will slip out...
Yesterday for instance. What should have been a very solemn moment I turned into an absurdity. I was at the Laundromat doing my wash and stepped outside to have a smoke during the rinse cycle. As I'm standing outside the building a funeral procession passes. And being the gentleman my parents raised me to be, I doffed my ballcap, stood up straight and bowed my head as the hearse drove by. A man who had been shopping at the Deli Mart passed by me at that very moment and asked me...
"Hey, who died?"
And it just came spewing out of my piehole unrestrained...
"The guy in the first car..."
I really wish I could capture the look of that guy's face and turn it into a picture. It was the same vacuous look I've seen so many times but never ceases to make me laugh out loud...
Like I stated earlier, I've got those urges pretty well under control. But sometimes, usually the most apt times they do come gushing forth, consequences be damned. Like the time several years ago I was working crowd-control at an animal-rights demonstration. A fellow officer who was on the detail walked up to me and innocently asked...
"You having fun yet?"
And yet again, I couldn't resist...
"You bet! This is more fun than clubbing baby seals!" loudly enough for several of the demonstrators to hear me...
My dad always did say that I had terminal diarrhea of the mouth.
I could totally keep it under control, but you know what I say?
Fuck em' if they can't take a joke.
Copyright 2005 Thomas J Wolfenden

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


After the last few serious posts I thought I'd steer everyone back to some of my warped humor.

I read the horoscopes religiously every day after I'm done the crossword. I don't really follow them, live my life around them like some people do, I just find them entertaining. With the help of scissors and the flatbed scanner at the firehouse, I'm able to bring you all what yesterday's stars held for me... This is my actual horoscope from yesterday's Beckley, WV Register~Herald.

I just had to laugh. The story of my life...

I had one a few months ago that said "Don't even bother getting out of bed today..." And I wish I had saved that one.

I love those things. I also like fortune cookies... I'm going to my favorite Chinese place on Thursday and if I get a funny one I'll be sure to let you all know!

"Help! I'm being held captive in a Chinese fortune cookie factory!"

Anyway, this moring I leave work. It's only a short 150 to 200 yards from the office to my apartment. It had been threatening rain all night with on and off drizzles. I get about fifty feet from the building and the sky just opens up. A torrential downpour of biblical proportions.

I'm soaked...

My horriblescope was right.

I can't win for losing!

And another note. Kat Woman has finally gotten her blog, "Straight From the Cat Box" up and running. If you enjoy reading my rants, I'm sure you'll enjoy her writing too. It'll have an EMS slant, and should be called "Confessions of a Mad Medic".

Go here:

Drop in and say hello!

Copyright 2005 Thomas J Wolfenden

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The new old me

I knew it was only a matter of time before I was asked this. Last night, like every night at work I stop off at the fire house to chat with my friends for a few minutes and get a cup of coffee. I go in, pour myself a cup and talk with a few of the guys who just hang out there because they'd rather be there than home. And the question just comes out. In fact, I was really amazed that it took this long for someone to ask me.
"Hey Tom. The town cop quit. Why don't you apply?"
Well, first off this is the third town cop this tiny little hamlet of Athens has gone through this year alone. That should tell me the management style the town uses for it's one-man police force.
Secondly, No. The tough-guy macho thing to say at this point is "Been there, done that".
When I first was discharged from the army I did what every Irish kid in my neck of the woods does. I joined the police department. In my neighborhood you either became a cop or fire fighter. It was engraved in stone. So I followed in my brother's footsteps and joined the cops.
My first night on the job out of the academy I was partnered with a grizzled old veteran, overweight, huge bulbous alcoholic nose and a stub of a cigar firmly planted in the side of his mouth. With a voice that sounded like he gargled with razor blades and turpentine I was asked...
"Kid, why'd you become a cop?"
"I, I, I guess I want to help people..."
"Piece of advice kid. They don't want your fucking help."
Wow. Heady shit for a twenty-two year old. I wondered that night how anyone could be that cynical and pessimistic?
Flash-forward about eight years. (This part, my fellow readers I have never told anyone before, you are the first to get this deep into Ranger Tom's psyche, something I've never let out before. It's not real pretty and I'm not to proud of it, but here it is. Thank God I'm not like this anymore)
So eight years go by. I answer a call one night. Disturbance House. (Domestic) I get to the address and find a skinny seventeen year old stabbing a woman repeatedly with a large kitchen knife. I order him to stop and put down the knife... Instead of complying with my order, he turns towards me and launches at me with the knife. In a split-second my service piece was unholstered and one round was decidedly placed into the "X" ring and down he went for the count. He was definitely dead when he hit the floor but the woman, who turned out to be his mother was still alive, but barely. I called for EMS and waited for Fire Rescue to show. I couldn't do anything for the massive stab wounds the woman had in her upper body.
Fire Rescue arrive and does their thing, onto the stretcher, out the door and off to the hospital with lights and siren.
After reams of paperwork and the expected "interview" that would rival anything the Spanish Inquisition would perform with the Gink Squad (Internal Affairs) I was free to head home. But I didn't go home. I went to the hospital where the woman who's son had stabbed her seventy-two times (because she wouldn't give up cash so he could score more crack) had just come out of surgery. I sat by her bed all night that night and every night after my shift and prayed... Seven nights until she finally died, never coming out of the coma she was in.
All the hospital staff and other guys on my squad thought I was a fantastic guy, a real gem for doing that. Praying for this woman, keeping a bedside vigil...
But I really knew what I was praying for. I was a sham. I wasn't Saint Tom of The Suffering.
Know what I was praying for?
That she would die. I was praying she'd never wake up, because I knew in my warped version of the world at the time if she had fully recovered, I'd have been sued for wrongful death of her sweet, precious little boy.
How the fuck did I get that callous and cynical?
Now here I am again. I am not that person anymore. That I can thank a very special dear friend in part for. Making me actually care again. They brought back from the depths of despair that twenty-two year old, bright eyed boy who really thought he could help people. Through this person, in the past year I learned how to care again. My friend is much stronger than me in a lot of ways. I can't face things like that anymore. I know deep down in the bottom of my heart I can't.
But I can try to help.
Maybe I can't help all the people, and in the way I tried on the PD, but if I help one person's suffering I think it'll all be worthwhile. I don't ever want to be put in that situation again so I'll never be a cop again. I'm not running away from it, I'm making an educated decision to not put myself into a position where I'm ever able to become the cynical and angry cop with the startings of a serious drinking problem.
Forgetting the past is a mistake. I choose to remember it and learn from my mistakes and make a vow to never to repeat them. My friend and the other guys on the FD are helping me do just that. I really like the new old me.
God bless you. You're the best thing that's ever happened to me.
Copyright 2005 Thomas J Wolfenden

Monday, November 14, 2005

Busy weekend

I sure picked a good time to join the volunteer fire department.
Two MVA's and three brushfires on Saturday. Those I didn't officially go out on but stayed at the station on "Stand By" but I have been learning a lot. It's going to be a while before I get to really do stuff because the next firefighter class doesn't start again until the spring.
It's also bringing back a lot of memories and I'm remembering at lot of things that I thought I had forgotten but picked right back up on.
Yesterday, for instance. We were paged for yet another MVA just north of town on Rt. 20. I got to the station at about the time when dispatch requested us to set up a LZ (landing zone) for the med-evac helicopter to land at the College. We arrived there meeting the campus cops and set up the LZ at the football field.
Soon the helo arrived and I jumped right in with both feet assisting the flight nurse and paramedics transfer the patient from the ambulance to the helo. I acted as if I had been doing it for years. I knew just what to do and when... Even though it's been over eight years since I've done anything remotely like it.
Maybe this is really good for me. I think it is.
But I do have to get used to that damn pager going off... And sleeping around it. At least it does tell me what kind of call it is, as for right now I'm basically pretty useless on medical calls. There's enough EMT's & paramedics on the squad to cover them, and if I did respond to them I'd just be in the way.
Anyway, I'm learning a lot, fitting in nicely (they're just about as nutty as me...) and I think maybe I'll do this for a while.
I also sorted out the bullshit with my landlord, sort of. He came banging at my door ar 6 PM last night (the reason I didn't make the first page for the MVA) but we did get the misunderstanding straightened out. I am still seriously looking for a new place though. I don't know how much more I can stand of his "memory lapses" and mood swings.
It rained most of the night too, so hopefully there won't be any brushfires in the next few days.
Copyright 2005 Thomas J Wolfenden

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Landlords suck

I'm really beginning to think my landlord has multiple personalities and he really gets his jollies breaking my balls.

I'm not going into a really long-winded explanation now, but I've been having sort of a pissing contest with him for the past several months. My long-time readers should recall he almost had me evicted back in July over an oversight at my bank with a rent check.

Well, it took a while but I got that sorted out, and then the next month it happened again. What it was, I'd deposit my paycheck on Friday, but unbeknownst to me, the bank wouldn't post it until the following Tuesday after I had already written checks on that money. The checks would be returned to my landlord. Ok, all well and good. I write him another check for the rent and now there was "insufficient funds" to cover that check because the bank hit me with fees and penalties for the first check.
Now you know why I say What the fuck so much.
Anyway, I talk to his 'manager', work out a payment plan. There's no fucking way in hell I'm going to be able to come up with two months' rent in three days. I give him, in cash, what I could then, and promise to pay him $200 a month over and above my regular rent until it's paid off. This was in August and it was going great, and I figured I'd have him squared away by the second week on December.
I go to leave for work last night and notice something taped to my door.
To: Tom Wolfenden, past due amount $654.16, due by 12 noon, 15th of November 2005.
Blah, blah blah... It goes on to mention eviction, yet again.
Where the fuck is he coming up with $654? Even if my math is off, including any late fees, I only owe him $260 more.
It's not like I'm a bad tenant either. I go to work, come home and that's it. No parties, no orgies, no cops pounding on my door... This whole place is full of college kids. They have all that shit going on every weekend. I've gone without a Goddamn phone for the past two months so I can pay him off. I've gone fucking hungry so I can pay him off. I let my damn auto insurance lapse to pay this little fuck off.
What a fucking colossal syphillic penis this jitbag is.
Well, just to let you all know if I disappear for a while I'll be living in the lounge over at the firehouse...
Copyright 2005 Thomas J Wolfenden

Saturday, November 12, 2005


I said back in July I was some day going to have T-Shirts made...

Go here for that story:

And I finally did it!

More stuff like bumper stickers, stubby holders and things like that coming soon! Click on the picture to get a pop-up of all my T-shirts available right now or use the link to the right sidebar to go to the store!

And of course more politically incorrect tees to come in the future... No sacred cows will be spared!

Copyright 2005 Thomas J Wolfenden

Friday, November 11, 2005

All in the attitude

I had heard the US Army was lowering the standards and changing the age requirements, but I think this is going just a little too far...
But I really like his attitude!
I thought I'd go with a military theme today, it being Veteran's Day and all...
If you enjoy your freedom, thank a Veteran today.
"All gave some, some gave all..."
Happy Funny Foto Friday!
Rangers Lead The Way!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Quiet Earth

An experiment gone horribly wrong...

Zac Hobson wakes to find he's the last man on earth.

Then it gets worse.

Check it out if you can find a copy. It is on DVD, but hard to find. Filmed in New Zealand (no sheep were harmed during the production of this film) in 1985 it's one of the best though under appreciated Post-Apocalypse movies from the 80's.

I'm bringing this movie up because, not just because I think it's a great movie, starting and I guess age ten I began having this recurring dream. I wouldn't call it a nightmare but it is disturbing.

In the dream I wake up like it's a normal day but it slowly dawns on me just like the hero in the movie, I'm the only one left. Everyone else is gone.

What really makes this dream so disturbing is that it's so vivid. It's like a kodachrome film in my head the colors are so bright, I can smell smells, taste things... And when I wake up from the dream back to reality I can almost still smell the smells, like if I had been walking through a field with honeysuckle, I can still smell them when I wake... If I'm drinking a cup of coffee or drinking a coke I can still taste it too...

And it comes back with no rhyme or reason. It might be a year or a month, or even tonight it'll come back. Nothing triggers it that I can think of. I could be happy, sad or indifferent to things in my life and there it'll be in my slumber.

It's not always the same and I'm not always doing the same things, but the start and end of the dream stay constant. I wake up and I'm alone. I do know that in my dream, unlike the movie Quiet Earth there's still birds and bees and animals and things, just no people. That's all well and good because I always say the world would be a far better place without all the people, but the ending... The end of the dream, or the stopping point or what ever, the part that wakes me...

I'm walking somewhere. It could be a city or town, where ever I happen to be living at the time. It seems like the dream changes with the location I'm at. But I'm walking. Looking for things I can use. And I come across this huge berm of earth piled high. I slowly scramble my way to the top and the view I have makes me gasp... I always gasp even though I know in my dream what I'll find when I get to the top.

I'm standing at the rim of a massive crater... One that the diameter has to be double that of Meteor Crater outside of Winslow, Arizona and twice as deep. If you've ever seen that it would take your breath away too. That one is one mile wide and over seven hundred feet deep.

I've always heard that dreams mean something, and if you can remember them like this one and they're that vivid they really must mean something, but I'm at a loss as to what it's imparting to me, if anything.

It's like it's telling me my beginning and end. My Alpha and Omega...

Any ideas?

Copyright 2005 Thomas J Wolfenden

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

I'm a fountain of knowledge

Or a bottomless pit of useless information.
Last night at work, I stopped over to the firehouse as usual to talk to a few of the guys. One guy in particular I wanted to see because he had a remission in his cancer and had to go to UVA on Monday to undergo more chemotherapy. It was going well he said, he's used to it now. How you could ever get used to that is beyond me, but hey, you've got to do what you have to do. It was then I related a story about a group of researchers at UCLA Berkeley or someplace looking into salamanders for a cure for cancer.
Apparently salamanders regenerate body parts like starfish when they lose a limb or tail. But the startling thing these researchers found was that if the salamander had cancer in a limb and that limb was severed the cancer would not come back, and even if the cancer had mastized to other areas of the salamander's body, in the regeneration process the cancer cells would be converted into benign sells. What the scientists are trying to do is find out how this process works and through gene manipulation, if the same can be done in humans. Not the regeneration process, just the conversion of cancer cells into good cells again.
My friends looked at me in stunned silence.
"How the fuck do you know this shit?"

I don't know HOW I know it, I can't even remember where I heard it but I know it's true. I'm not some Cliff Clavin. I come out with all kinds of useless facts like did you know that the computer in your car has one hundred times the computing power than the Apollo 11 Saturn V rocket? And that the huge mosquitos you see sometimes are the male of the species and don't bite? Only the small females bite. (Hmmm. Sounds familiar) And that the surface of the moon we see never changes because that's the side that always faces the earth? Geese mate for life? The only native marsupial to North America is the opossum? Alligators can't open their mouths with their eyes open? I also know why the sky is blue and stars twinkle at night, but is all this information really useful?

I sit and watch Jeopardy! and answer almost every question, except when the get into opera or some off the wall subject like quantum mechanics. I've been told I should try out for the show, but I know what will happen if I do and actually get on the program...

Final Jeopardy...

Fifty thousand dollars on the line...

Alex asks the question, category "American History"...

This should be a shoe-in. I'll nail American History.

"George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton"

I'm drawing a blank. I've got that same Dan Quale, deer-in-the-headlights look. The 'Think' music is playing and I'm sweating bullets...

"Tom, you were very strong throughout the game, what did you come up with?" Alex asks me...

My answer?

The screen in front of my little podium is unmasked to she what I've written...

"Who are three people who've never been in my kitchen"

And I'm telling ya' Normy boy! The salamander story is true!

But I just know some of this shit and I don't know why. I know all this useless shit but still can't figure women out and wind up saying something stupid all the time...

Copyright 2005 Thomas J Wolfenden

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Seeing ghosts?

I started working on this post Saturday but the more research I did the more stuff I dug up... Pun intended. Most of my long-time readers know I listen to Coast To Coast AM overnights at work a lot mostly for entertainment, sometimes for material for the blog. I poke fun at a lot of it because it's well, ridiculous. Like they guy who is making the "Anti-Alien Abduction Helmets"... I shit you not. This guy believes that aliens are actively using mind-control on all of us, and he designed these goofy leather helmets for all of us to wear to keep Mr. Gray from getting into our minds. Do I believe in UFO's? Yes I do. You live in Arizona and you see some strange things in the night sky. I've seen them myself personally. But do I believe that they're using mind control to take over the world? Hardly.


There are some things they have on the show that I do firmly believe in. Ghosts, for one. I had a Polterghiest in my house growing up so I know they exist. Last week a friend of mine went on a "Spook Hunt" around Raleigh County here in West Virginia with her daughter and mom. What she would do is go to places after dark or at twilight where tragic accidents have occurred in the past and take photographs in the hopes that when the film was developed you might see some things that weren't there when you snapped the picture.

The photos above are a very good example of what I'm talking about. Go here for the full story on those:
Another strange thing that I've actually heard is "EVP's" or "Electronic Voice Phenomena". It's sounds on audio tape not heard by those recording it. I've heard the examples and it's eerie. There's a group of folks up in New England that do it all the time, and to be honest, I think it's pretty neat.
They even went to a place I've been to a few times, Eastern State Penitentiary which is definitely haunted. Go here:
Anyway, the folks up in New England do it all the time. They have a TV show, and if you go here:
And scroll down to "Episode 105" you'll see a really creepy video of something in the old cell blocks of Eastern State.
West Virginia is loaded with ghost stories too, the Greenbrier Ghost is one of the more famous... Testimony from a dead woman's ghost actually helped convict her killer...
And West Virginia has it's own haunted prison, Moundsville, that my friend went to over Halloween weekend with a group from work.
And here's a local (WV) area EVP investigative group:
I just think this stuff is so damn fascinating and fun. My 'son' is going to be staying with me over the Christmas break from college and we plan on going to a lot of the places my friend told me about, an old railroad tunnel that a relative died tragically at several years ago, back to Thurmond, WV where I know I felt ghosts watching me as I worked along the tracks, and also a small graveyard that I found a few miles south of Thurmond hidden amongst trees. It's very overgrown and looks like it hasn't been touched in over forty years. The newest grave is marked 1961... It's really odd that I found it at all, I was working the ballast cleaner and we were shunted onto a siding where we were waiting for a northbound Amtrak to pass and I got off the machine to stretch my legs for a bit, and there it was. I just hope it's not to cold and doesn't snow so we can get to some of these places.
Sometimes I may joke and kid about this stuff, but I really do believe this stuff is real. To be completely honest, I think it would be fun to do this full-time. Just go around the country taking photographs and recordings at spooky places ans see what ghosts and spirits I might see or hear!
Copyright 2005 Thomas J Wolfenden

Monday, November 07, 2005

I've got to start making lists...

Does this just happen to me?
Last night while getting ready for work I realized I was out of everything.
I get up out of bed and stumble to the kitchen to make a pot of coffee. No coffee left. Shit. I need coffee to get through the day. This is not going to be good.
I'm using the facilities and notice I'm completely out of toilet paper. Didn't I just but the huge family-sized eco pack of dingleberry eradication material?
I jump in the shower and the first thing I notice is I'm down to that last little sliver of soap about the same size and thickness as a credit card, the same size that normal people throw out. But those of you who have been faithful readers for a while know that I'm not a 'normal' person.
I'm still in the shower and go to wash my hair. I'm out of shampoo. Great...
I'm finished my shower and go to shave... I'm out of blades for my razor. Go to brush my teeth and I squeeze the last dollop of paste onto the brush...
Go to my dresser to get clothes for the day and notice I'm running low on clean unmentionable underthings, so I do what I've been doing for a while, take all my laundry and bag it up to take to work with me. In the utility room at the office there's a really nice washer~dryer combo I've been using overnight sometimes do do my laundry. Saves time and it's convenient.
I'm out of detergent and bleach.
What the fuck!
Ok. I'll get through this sez I.
I'm putting on my boots and SNAP! There goes a bootlace. At least I did have a spare for that.
Now I'm thinking about yesterday's post where I kind of poked fun at the minister getting electrocuted, not that I'd ever derive pleasure from someone else's misfortunes... And I though God is sure surprising the shit out of me today...
Sad part is that payday is still five days from now and I have a grand total of $3.42 in my checking account.
Well, in Ranger School in the army they taught us to adapt and improvise...
I have some Arm & Hammer baking soda so I can brush my teeth, nasty but effective and I do have a bottle of dish detergent... So I'll just be squeaky clean and have that lemon-fresh scent the rest of the week!
Have a great Monday!
Copyright 2005 Thomas J Wolfenden

Sunday, November 06, 2005

I love

You've probably heard of the minister in Texas that was electrocuted while performing a baptism last week. He was in the baptismal pool with a woman and he reached to re-adjust a microphone so the congregation could hear him, then ZAP!
Electricity and water do not mix well at any time.
But the ironic thing about this whole tragic event other than the fact of getting fried in front of your whole congregation is this. Right before the service the minister spoke with Terry Esau, author and creator of the "Surprize Me" faith experiment.
After reading the webpage and hearing Terry talk on the radio last night it sounds like a good plan and I might even get the book and try it.
But I just could help but wonder what was going through that minister's mind the moment the juice entered his hand...
"Surprize me, God!"... Fwap!
Surprized the shit out of him I bet.
God also loves irony. That I firmly believe...
Copyright 2005 Thomas J Wolfenden

Saturday, November 05, 2005

About my hometown...

I live in the south now, but once upon a time I lived in Philadelphia. I was born and grew up there. It's my hometown and I miss it sometimes, especially the food... Where else can you get a fresh pizza, cheesesteak, hoagie or take-out Chinese at 3 AM? But I'd never live there again. I love it here in the south. But Philadelphia is a pretty cool city as far as cities go. It holds the distinct honor of having the very first penitentiary in the United Sates and it happens to be haunted is a big plus, and continuing with the supernatural, it is the only city in the world where all four corners of an intersection is taken up by a cemetery, that too is allegedly haunted. It's at the intersection of Frankford Avenue & Cheltenham Avenue and the cemetery in Cedar Hill.

So, besides that stuff, it's got all the bells and whistles of the city that is the birthplace of our great nation, the Liberty Bell (Ha!) Independence Hall, the first post office, the first Fire Department...

So I highly recommend visiting one day. It's a fun town but there are things you must know. Drivers in Philadelphia drive just a little bit different than anywhere else so I've compiled this list to the possible dangers and pitfalls of driving in the City of Brotherly Love.

The 20 Cardinal Rules of Driving in Philadelphia...

1) A right lane construction closure is just a game to see how many people can cut in line by passing you on the right as you sit in the left lane waiting for the same jerks to squeeze their way back in before hitting construction barrels. Bonus points are awarded for getting out of your car and moving the barrels.

2) Turn signals provide clues as to your next move in the road battle, so never use them.

3)Under no circumstances should you leave a safe distance between you and the car in front of you, no matter how fast you're going. If you do, the space will be filled in by somebody else, putting you in an even more dangerous situation.

4) The faster you drive through a red light, the less your chance of getting hit.

5) The car with the most extensive body work automatically has the right of way (remember no-fault insurance - he might not have as much to lose as you do)

6) Braking is to be done as hard and late as possible, to insure that your antilock braking system kicks in; this will give you a nice, relaxing foot massage as the brake pedal pulsates.

7) Construction signs are carefully positioned to tell you about road closures immediately after you pass the last opportunity to exit, but just before the traffic begins to back up.

8) The electronic traffic warning system signs are not there to provide useful information, but just to tell time and make Philly look progressive.

9) Never pass on the left when you can pass on the right. It's a good way to scare people entering the highway. Passing on the shoulder is encouraged - that's why they're paved.

10) Speed limits are arbitrary figures to make Philly look as if it conforms with other state policies; these are intended only as suggestions and are actually unenforceable.

11) Just because you're in the left lane and have no room to speed up or move over doesn't mean that a driver flashing his high beams behind you doesn't think he can go faster in your spot.

12) Please remember that there is no such thing as a shortcut during rush-hour traffic on the Schuylkill or anywhere downtown.

13) Always slow down and rubberneck when you see an accident or even a person changing a tire. If you're lucky, you may see the unlucky breakdown victim get mugged.

14) Learn to swerve abruptly. Downtown Philly is the home of very high-speed slalom driving, thanks to The Department of Streets, who put potholes in key locations to test drivers' reflexes and keep them on their toes. Parts of truck tires are left on new highways (where potholes haven't yet been established) for the same purpose.

15) It is considered correct in Philly to honk your horn at cars that don't move the instant the light changes. Our city is founded upon such traditions.

16) Seeking eye contact with another driver automatically revokes your right of way.

17) When in doubt, remember that all unmarked exits lead to New Jersey. (It's free to enter New Jersey, but it's well worth the $2 toll to get out)

18) It's OK to back up along the shoulder of the road if you missed your exit, particularly if it is the Schuylkill or I-95. This gives the other drivers a more challenging "moving target" rather than those stationary barrels.

19) It's not necessary to move out of the way of emergency or police vehicles because, well you know. There's no real emergency. It's just that the next half hour at Dunkin' Donuts the coffee and donuts are half price. But please move all the way over to the right and let all "Pizza City" delivery vehicles pass. Somewhere in the city someone is Jonseing for a pizza and a stromboli.

20) The Philadelphia Department of Streets has two divisions. The "Pothole Div." and the "Bump Div." (See rule number 14) The pothole div. and bump div. work hand in hand in almost ballet-like coordination. They rotate every six months, the pothole div. Leaves potholes in strategic locations throughout the metropolitan area, followed six months later by the bump div., which overfills the potholes with too much asphalt leaving a bump, again to test the reflexes and the adaptability of the area's drivers.

Well, I hope that helps some and I hope you enjoy your next stay in my hometown. Just do one thing though, please do not ask where the soft-pretzel vendor you just bought that tasty local treat from where he uses the restroom... You really don't want to know.

Copyright 2005 Thomas J Wolfenden

Friday, November 04, 2005

FFF, part 3

Something gives me the distinct feeling that this employee is just a tad bit disgruntled...

Happy FFF!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Weird events...

About a month ago a couple around my age pulled into the gas station on my beat while I was at work. They filled up their pickup but as they were getting ready to leave, the truck wouldn't start. I was in a rare "Officer Friendly" mood and helped push the truck over into a parking space. I asked them where they needed to go and they replied they only had a mile to go up Athens Rd. I offered a ride and it was politely but firmly declined, they'd prefer to walk...
And off they go. About twenty minutes later all hell breaks loose at the FD and rescue squad. Apparently a pedestrian was struck by an oncoming vehicle... Since it was close I decided to follow and see if I could be of some assistance. It was when I reached the scene I realized it was the man who I had just tried to give a ride too. It was a messy one. He was definitely deader that shit when I got there and his wife was going absolutely ape...
I could imagine. I know how I would feel. I did my best to comfort the woman, but in the end I was really no help. I kept thinking I really should have given them a ride.
But then, yesterday morning while at work I read the Bluefield Daily Telegraph and see this article...
Tonight I'm most probably going to be voted in to the Athens Fire Dept. as a member and the only thing I can think of right now is the irony of the fact that this 'accident' was the impetus for me to volunteer in the first place...
Copyright 2005 Thomas J Wolfenden

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Apples don't fall

Too far from the tree.
I've been asked on numerous occasions where I get my sense of humor and the ease at which I can be a real smartass. This morning I was listening to George Nory on Coast to Coast AM and he was relating something that happened to him over this past weekend and it reminded me of something... Apparently he was in Los Angeles on Saturday and had tickets to a hockey game. He hailed a taxi and told the driver he wanted to go the "Staples". Well, Staples Center is where the hockey team plays in LA... But after a while the cab left him off at a downtown LA Staples Office store...
Ah, semantics.
My first "real" job, where I went to work and was paid for my time was at the Gulf gas station and auto repair shop at Holme Ave. & Willits Rd. About a mile from my house. I was thirteen and my main duties were to pump gas, check tire pressure & oil in the customer's vehicles and sometimes repair and re-mount tires and fix flats. (Remember "full-service" gas stations? I'm betting most of you don't)
So I would work there a few hours after school and weekends to earn a little pocket money. And I was paid in cash every day which was also really nice. But the Gulf station was more than just a filling station, it was a place for the men in the neighborhood to congregate, drink coffee and bullshit each other, my father being one of the weekend ringleaders in this informal cabal of Gumbas.
One day I was working and my dad was telling war stories, a great black Cadillac with Ohio tags pulls in. I go out and do my job, fill er' up, wash the windshield... Check the oil sir?
The car had four men in it, and they definitely didn't speak English too well... I'm not sure if it was German, Italian or what language they were speaking, but it certainly wasn't English. But they were really rude and nasty, and kept demanding "LIBERTYBELL, LIBERTYBELL!" and that's all I really could understand.
Oh, I get it. They want directions. I wasn't sure so I went and got my dad. He came out and gave them flawless directions to one of our nation's most revered monuments to liberty, the Liberty Bell, which at that time was still housed at Independence Hall in Downtown Philly, about twelve miles south of us on the newly completed stretch of I-95. After paying me they drove off rather happily with clean windows, a full tank (.43 9/10 premium) and in firm control of the directions my father had oh so diligently gave them, heading towards the entrance pamp of I-95 southbound.
I walked into the office to get a coke and my father and his cronies were having a good laugh over something... I asked what was so funny...
"Didn't you see the racing forms on the dashboard, Tom?"
"They wanted Liberty Bell Racetrack... NOT the Liberty Bell!"
With that the group broke out in another side-splitting uproar of laughter...
Liberty Bell Racetrack was a harness-racing track that was only about two miles from the gas station and my house... It's not there anymore, where it stands now is Franklin Mills Mall... So, in my father's mind, because these guys were rude to his son, he sent them on a little sightseeing trip instead of the trifecta window...
Now you know where I get it from!
Copyright 2005 Thomas J Wolfenden