Archive for the ‘The Stories’ Category

Should I Get Onboard with Amtrak?

Railroaders say you haven’t lived until you’ve inhaled the magical tang of “new train smell.” “One hit and you’re forever smitten,” say these inveterate train enthusiasts. However, some question if there is, or ever has been, “new train smell” – given that Amtrak hasn’t replaced their rolling stock in so long, no one is alive who remembers what new trains smell like.


Complicating this is that not everyone has the “new train smell” gene, enabling them to sense this alluring aroma. It’s kinda like the “asparagus” gene that way. Sadly, these scent-deficient souls will never know the pleasure of this intoxicating sinus sensation – and no amount of training can change that.


Anthropologists theorize that those who do possess the “new train smell” gene are descended from hominids whose clans appeased their Gods by forming very long conga lines. This practice of ritualized conga lines was a worshipful form of pan-theism that evolved into a kind of pot-theism and may be the basis for today’s many marijuana dispensaries.


Neolithic carvings indicate that the last person on the conga line was known as the kabus, which eventually morphed into our present-day caboose. This concept of the “new train smell” gene mutating in the conga lines of God-fearing hominids has become known as Critical Nose Theory.



What is New Train Smell?


Nosey railroaders describe the heady bouquet of “new train smell” as, “an intoxicating blend of stamp-pressed steel and outgassed Naugahyde, all swirling together with pleasantly pungent notes of diesel vapors.” Admittedly, it’s a developed appreciation. This salmagundi of smells, this obstinacy of odors, all come together in an arousing perfume of olfactory satisfaction. It summons a vestigial calling within me that says, “All aboard!” Then again, maybe I’m just “a little too” in touch with my inner hominid.



Train Besotted and Loving It


I’m hesitant to admit all this because you might think I’m a little loco, but in my narrow-gauge railroad mind, there’s nothing as nostalgically charming or kinetically gratifying as train travel. My loco-motive for telling you all this, is to share the shiver of infantile delight that shoots through my body while chugging along the tracks in the protective womb of my train car. When I’m warmly embraced in compartmentalized comfort I feel like a little baby traveler, all swaddled snuggly in Amtrak’s ever-lovin’ rails. Alright, so maybe I am a little loco.


Not everyone gets this. But people like me do. Maybe I’m a little off the rails here, but I have a nose for trains and appreciate greatly the intoxicating aroma of riding the rails in cozy sublimity. Some view railroad enthusiasts as inherently disordered and marginalized nerds. It’s taken us a while to turn the tide of misunderstanding among the trainophobic, but we’ve done it. Can a Railroad Pride Day be far off?



3 Quick Train Facts:

  1. Standard railroad tracks are 4’ 8½” apart.
  2. Trains stay on the track because the wheels are flanged on the inside preventing the lumbering behemoths from jumping the tracks.
  3. Years ago, when they were touring, there was an entire train car just for the Osmond’s.

I always like to insert a little useful information whereby you can lower your eyebrows and raise your lower lip and slowly nod your head.   



The Railroad Ties That Bind


We generally dismiss train travel as an antiquated and obsolete mode of transportation rooted in a bygone era. This is not true. Trains are responsible for the original world wide web of connectivity – a web of tracks that were initially spun across the East Coast in the 1840s and began binding together our far-flung country into the United States of America. Trains provided swift, smooth conveyance to a travel weary public. This undemanding mode of transport was manna from heaven – or in some cases, from the Baltimore & Ohio.


In the 1840s, the technologically-advanced introduction of mechanized locomotion was transformative. This is especially true when weighed against the punishing and perilous travel choices of the day: hoofing it, hazardous horseback, risky sailboats, jarring stagecoaches and unpredictable catapults. Alright, maybe not catapults (I got on a roll there), but the other choices were certainly wanting for reliability and comfort. This was a time when 4 horsepower meant it was powered by 4 horses. Where was Uber when we needed it?


If you’re not in a rush, riding the rails is the apex of travel. Where else can one sit on a plush throne with enough leg room to swing a cat? Where else can one witness a moving window on a gritty urban tableau of rusty junkyards, unsightly recycling centers and any number of eyesore businesses operating along the railroad’s right of way? Where else can one pee without having to hit your head on an intrusive and curvy fuselage? Where else can you show-up a bare 30 minutes before you depart and hop on your conveyance from a conveniently centralized downtown location? We all know the answer: it’s Amtrak. Amtrak and its always accommodating passenger rail service.   


These iron horses of the rails were not just transportation. They could double as luxurious hotels on steel wheels. They were a warm and embracing metallic cocoon where one could restoratively sleep, sumptuously dine, pleasantly socialize or profitably conduct business. On some lines you could (and still can) enjoy a shave, a shower, and maybe even a haircut (pic).


You could do all this, mind you, while tooling along the silvery rails in supreme comfort as an ever-changing landscape of inner-city decay and bucolic splendor paraded itself before you. Back in the day (I’m never sure what “day” that phrase refers to, but suffice to say, it was a long time ago), wealthy patrons had Mr. Pullman build them private rail cars. These posh apartments on wheels were opulently outfitted to each tycoon’s specifications and then concatenated to an engine destined for grandeur. You weren’t considered a respectable robber baron unless you had your own Pullman rail car – a ne plus ultra RV for the wickedly wealthy. These Princes of the Pullmans, these Grandees of the Gilded Age, these Regents of the Rails weren’t so much cool jetsetters as they were rakish railroaders; worthy of mention in the Who’s Who column of Collier’s Magazine.


In an odd way, I see the light at the end of the tunnel; and I’d be all too happy if that light was attached to an oncoming train. 



My Dream Job or a Train to Nowhere?


I believe I’ve established my credentials as an unabashed romantic when it comes to train travel, and that’s why I’m considering a second career with Amtrak – our nation’s passenger rail system. In keeping with my over-the-moon love of trains, I thought I’d share with you this email I received from Amtrak. It is my fondest hope that you, my public, can help me (as I carry the railroad analogy too far) stay on track and not go off the rails when it comes to a very critical decision I must make. You see Amtrak is recruiting me very hard to join their ranks as a conductor. Yes, they want me to conduct, but I don’t know. You see I’ve always wanted to direct. In any event, it’s quite a dilemma. They’re making me an offer I don’t know if I can refuse, or if I even have the right to refuse?


I mean, do I have the right to deprive Amtrak (and by extension, the nation) of my services? Could this email be the result of some higher calling or divine intervention? Everybody has a destiny – right? Some are born to conduct, while others are meant to play second fiddle. It’s no mistake this offer is bestowed upon someone so starry-eyed, so utterly beguiled by railroading that his ringtone is “The Chattanooga Choo Choo.” In making this decision, I’ll need guidance from both you and my train whisperer Tonya.


I’ve not been in the workforce for 10 years now, and I’ve never been in the railroad business at all, except as a passenger. Does visiting train museums and watching train videos count as experience? I wonder if I have the chops to work for Amtrak.



Amtrak Dining Cars: Nobody Else Has Them. Nobody Comes Close.


And speaking of Amtrak chops, close your eyes for a moment and imagine yourself riding the rails on the Amtrak’s San Francisco to Chicago Zephyr. While you’re whisked along the rails at a breakneck average speed of 35 mph you appreciate the pleasant day you’ve spent looking at scenery. You’re done complaining about the Wi-Fi that only seems to work in the observation car bathroom. You’re fully satisfied, having celebrated joining the 4-feet high club earlier that afternoon. Now it’s time for your superb dining car supper served the Amtrak way. Nothing could be finer than to be in Carolina dining on Amtrak’s signature Slow-Cooked Pork Chops® lavishly served in their regally appointed dining car smartly decorated in an Early Denny’s motif. These specialty chops are plated on real china with accompaniments of truffled Hasselback potatoes, a medley of vegetables singing the Battle Hymn of the Republic and Aunt Fanny’s homemade apple sauce served straight from her crack staff.


Amtrak’s swanky ambience is on full display in this proper, first-class dining experience featuring freshly-pressed linens, individual pats of butter and teeny-tiny shakers of salt and pepper. This is all presented with unmatched table service. While the sun slowly sets across a ruggedly pristine landscape, you are served impeccably by Amtrak’s renown wait staff – many of whom are hired directly from the Swiss Guard detail that protects the Pope. If I take the job, I’d be getting paid for this experience. Pinch me.  



More Than a Job. It’s a Way of Life.


This Assistant Conductor position pays about $25 an hour to start, plus all the onboard bathrooms you can use – some of which still flush directly onto the tracks. There is probably no better way to cement my legacy, than having my DNA spread throughout the length and breadth of this great country. I’d be a fool not to consider taking the job. Heck, I’m already a fool for considering it.


If I commit to the job, I’d be required to complete an 8-week training class at Amtrak University in Maryland. During my deployment for Basic Train Training I’ll be deprived of my family (wife and cat). I wonder if during my being sequestered from polite society, if anyone will thank me for my service. One doesn’t usually think of train conductors as first responders thrown into urgent situations of inherent danger. They’re maybe 3rd or 4th responders – mostly responding to requests for directions to the dining car or queries as to why the train going so slow? Conductors do, however, wear a very authoritative uniform. That alone should be worth some kind of consideration. Maybe in tribute to my service, a patriotic railroader will secretly pay for my lunch. I can see myself approaching the cashier at the DQ to settle the lunch bill for my Brazier Burger and soft-serve Blizzard, only to find that some railroad angel has already covered it. They sometimes do that anonymously you know. I feel myself welling-up as the cashier informs me of this anonymous kindness. Teary-eyed I blubber to the cashier, “That’s so thoughtful. They covered the tip too – right?”


Upon graduation from AU you’re fitted with a freshly starched conductor’s uniform, a smart conductor’s cap and a symbolic, non-working railroad pocket watch. The job may require me to sleep onboard and I’m onboard with sleeping onboard. Paid to sleep while train glamping – sign me up. One of the perks of the job is free train travel anywhere in the contiguous United States. Wow, pinch me again. I’m sure I’ll enjoy this perk even more once I figure out what the word “contiguous” means.  


So, do I take the job and sacrifice for Amtrak and country, or do I stay home and continue my unbroken record of watching Jeopardy! every night, even though Alex is no longer conducting the show? This is where I’m at folks; on the rails of a dilemma – somewhere between the 4’ 8½” of track 1 and track 2, wondering which course of action I should choo-choo-choose.

Should I get onboard with Amtrak?


Truth be told, sometimes I think I like the idea of this job more than the actual job itself. Your comments are welcomed. Here is the job listing: 


New Jobs from Amtrak


The following jobs matched your search agent at Amtrak and can be found at

Job Matches:
PASSENGER CONDUCTOR TRAINEE – 90303890 – Reno, NV – Reno, Nevada, US, 89501

Remember to forward these jobs to any of your friends who might have interest in any of these position 2:01 AM (2 hours ago)

Cannibals: Harmless Humanivores or Evil Eaters?

Cannibal Quarterly (CQ), a taboo publication found on the Dark Web, is geared towards normalizing cannibalism. Its target market is primarily people concerned about overpopulation and those who view cremation as an unnecessary expense. CQ is a very esoteric and a very expensive publication. Although subscribers complain CQ costs an arm and a leg, most are very willing (almost enthusiastic) to pay it. Those who can’t afford an arm and a leg, instead pay through the nose, and they seem happy to cough it up.


In a poll of CQ readers asking what was their favorite TV show, 99.9% voted for the ghoulish Twilight Zone episode where the technologically advanced outer space aliens present humanity with a book purportedly designed to improve and advance their society. The title of this helpful book, written in an alien language, is roughly translated as “To Serve Man.” As the friendly aliens insinuate themselves into Earth’s society, everything is progressing wonderfully – until the macabre discovery is made that “To Serve Man” is in fact a cookbook. By then it’s too late and humanity has been reduced to livestock. Egad, ghoulish beyond measure.

As to the other 0.1%, they voted for that Hogan’s Heroes episode where Col. Klink is outwitted by Hogan and his band of brothers (wait, wasn’t that pretty much every episode?).  


Although cannibalism has been gaining favor in some quarters, the LGBTQ community has turned down a request by the FYC (Fine Young Cannibals) to graft a “C” onto the LGBTQ acronym. When pressed for comment on the request, an LGBTQ spokesthem said, “Hard pass. We’re currently working our own acceptance issues and while we identify with the plight of minority groups, this one’s a bridge too far.”  



In the latest issue of CQ, it’s editor and cannibal-influencer Dred Taint writes in the introduction:

Cannibalism is something that’s always been eating at me. I never knew quite what that was until I realized…it was my wife. Gloria had been eating at me, behind my back – where I couldn’t see. By the time she told me to ‘get over it and turn the other cheek’ (because she hadn’t finished yet), I knew something was wrong.

People ask me all the time, “Why do you stay with her?” and all I can do is throw my hands up in the air and say, “Eats me.” My wife…she’s a real maneater.

And while we at CQ recognize this long-proscribed topic is anathema to most sane people, it hasn’t prevented dispensaries from formulating specialized strains of cannabis. Cannibal cannabis is a boutique gummi designed to give users the munchies for humans. It creates an atmosphere where “consensual cannibalism” can be practiced by consenting and lunatic adults in a safe and insane asylum – Eat your hearts out normies.

This issue of CQ features an article on the lens through which fellow-cannibals view the world. It’s a fun and nourishing piece called How a Cannibal Sees Celebrities. Enjoy and bon Appetit.

~The Editor



How a Cannibal Sees Celebrities by Dredge Rivers

While the human race is a target-rich environment for us cannibals, celebrities are doubly prized for their tender feelings and tender thighs. Human carnivores have long run in my family. In fact, they run as fast as they can to get away from each other. That’s just the way that it was, growing up in a clan of cannibals (aka clannibals). I had 5 brothers and 3 sisters, but by the time I was 10 I was down to 3 brothers and one sister. We were a close clan. We ate together every night. Some at the table, some on the table.

The following is a list of cannibalized celebrity names as seen through the eyes of flesh-eaters. See if you can reverse engineer the cannibal name to determine their real name:

The Talk Show Hosts

  1. James Corden Bleu… One classy Brit
  2. Jimmy Kibble.… He’s gone to the dogs
  3. Jimmy Phallus…. Guy is such a dick
  4. Seth Meyer Lemon…. Tart humor
  5. Stephen Cold Beer…. Gotta wash it all down with something


  1. Edith Pilaf…. She’s quite the dish. A French side dish.
  2. Adelecatessan…. A tasteful English singer. A very tasty singer.
  3. Parmesean Connery…. I have a special Bond with this celebrity
  4. Drew MoreBerries…. Quoth the Raven, “Barrymore”
  5. Robert Donner Jr…. The Ironman and his party get stranded in the mountains
  6. Tom Cuisine…. He’s a Maverick
  7. BBQ Pitt…. Shoulda stayed with Angelina Jelly
  8. Robert Redfish…. When he’s deeply tanned, they call him blackened Redfish.
  9. Frank Sinbeans…. The Chairman of the Board likes simple fare
  10. Lin-Manuel Melba – He’s the “Toast” of Broadway



Epilogue: This entire story is just food for thought – so to speak. Don’t think about it too hard. It’s just a little something to chew on.

Full disclosure: I pieced this story together by cannibalizing other stories.

Titillating Tales of Tinseltown

Joan Crawford’s luminous peepers light up this Oct. 1931 Photoplay magazine.

These anecdotal accounts of movie mogul misbehavior are both appealing and appalling. They’re drawn from the annals (that’s annals, with 2 n’s) of Hollywood’s Golden Age – back when actors in films were shot in epic fashion; and not accidentally by Alec Baldwin. It was a less enlightened age of entertainment when men were men and women were scenery. It was a time when Photoplay magazine ensured movie stars twinkled brightly in the folds of its pages. It was also an era when fiendish Hollywood reporters (like me), looking for a scoop, sought to expose the seamy and sordid side of the silver screen.


However well-behaved actors were on the screen, they could never fig leaf the apostasies going on behind the camera. A Pandora’s Box of apostasies I’m going to blow the lid off (albeit 100 or so years after the fact). That’s what people like me do. My name is David Fescue of the Hollywood Reporter and if you don’t like what this David is doing, then Fescue



Gung Ho-llywood


Hollywood has been making movie magic ever since Mr. Edison et al perfected the Kinetograph machine in 1892. Undoubtedly there are more comprehensive histories of early Hollywood, but none would be as fun to read as this one. It’s short, funny and laden with gooey, carbohydrate-rich phrases that satisfy the pleasure centers in the hippocampus or wherever that place is in the brain that makes us roll our eyes back and breathily exclaim, “Oh God. Oh God. Oh God. It’s so good!”

And now that I think of it, I believe a hippocampus is a place where hippopotamuses go to school.   


No one covers Tinsel Town like a Hollywood Reporter. This one from 1936.

The cerebrally chubby may be wise to avert their eyes from this sinfully caloric Cinna-bon mots. However, you’d be even wiser to make popcorn, turn down the lights and watch these entertaining words go by. Focus groups all agree, that after reading this tawdry tell-all, you’re going to say, “Not only do I not want these 6 minutes of my life back, I wish I had another 6 minutes to contribute. And that’s why God created sequels, so stay tuned.


Meanwhile, now that the credits are out of the way, enjoy the rest of the show. At the risk of mongering too much gossip or butting too much scuttle or raking too much muck, I’ve decided to tattle on the less savory side of Hollywood – a scandal sheet of celebrity secrets laundered in the purifying radiance of backlit computer screens. So, without further adieu, I mean without further ado, David Fescue presents:



Trivial Tales of Tinseltown: A Tattler Plies His Trade


Whatever It was, Clara Bow had It.

A celebrity is often defined as someone who’s known for being famous. Back in the day that included personalities of marginal talent, such as Zsa Zsa Gabor, Arthur Godfrey or Hedda Hopper. Whatever that elusive quality is that makes someone a celebrity, Jazz Age actress Clara Bow had It. In fact, she had so much of It that she was known as the “It Girl.” Appropriately, her epitaph at Forest Lawn reads: That’s It Girl.  

Read the rest of this entry »

Schrödinger’s Cat and Pavlov’s Dog: An Unlikely Love Story

Sadie and the Tramp

Two of the most famous animals in the field of experimental psychology were Schrödinger‘s cat Sadie and Pavlov‘s dog Tramp. But what most people don’t know is that these two pioneering pets met and fell in love when Drs. Schrödinger and Pavlov attended a conference at the pet-friendly Grand Budapest Hotel in Hungary – or as Pavlov called it “The Buddha Pets Hotel.”


Dr. Schrödinger

Dr. Pavlov

Whenever these eminent doctors traveled they often brought their pets with them – Schrödinger his elegant cat Sadie and Pavlov his mutt of a dog Tramp. That two animals from such different walks of life could forge a loving relationship is testament to the adage “opposites attract.” Schrödinger’s cat Sadie was a prissy pussy from Paris and Pavlov’s dog Tramp was a mangey mongrel from Minsk. Legend has it that their romance may have been the inspiration for Disney’s The Lady and the Tramp which featured canine love from opposite sides of the tracks.



Brief Bios of the Bygone Beasts


Schrödinger’s cat Sadie, a dainty calico, was the instructive feline that catalyzed Dr. Schrödinger’s theory about the paradox of quantum superposition. In quantum superposition, Dr. Schrödinger reasoned, a hypothetical cat unobserved in a closed box may be considered simultaneously both alive and dead – and its location uncertain. This was big news in the1930s. Not so much nowadays with all the cat videos, but back then quantum superposition was a big deal and we owe Sadie a great debt of gratitude for getting into the box and germinating Dr. Schrödinger’s “Eureka” moment.


The above is a quick cat’s claw sketch (as opposed to a thumbnail sketch) of darling Sadie. Tramp, on the other paw, was less refined and kind of an overly alarmist pooch – y’know, the dog who cried “woof.” By regularly pairing the ringing of a bell with a blast of meat powder on the tongue, Dr. Pavlov caused the poor slob to slobber like Niagara Falls. In fact, what Dr. Pavlov discovered was that even in the absence of food, Tramp would salivate like an open fire hydrant whenever he heard a bell ringing. This reinforcing psychological technique is called Classical Conditioning and for a time was the safest way to feed Mike Tyson.


Being born in the old Soviet Union, Tramp may have rightfully expected a short, brutish life – especially after being born the runt of the litter. And how fitting that was, since Sadie was also the runt of her kitty litter – so to speak. When Dr. Pavlov saw Tramp in the window of a “No Eat” animal shelter in famine-ravaged Minsk he knew if he didn’t rescue the lovable Tramp it would dog him forever. When the famine subsided “No Eat” shelters reverted to “No Kill” shelters. In any event Dr. Pavlov was attracted to the marvelous mutt and brought him home to his wife Seraphima, who took one glance at the bedraggled hound and exclaimed, “Great, dinner.”


“No, no,” countered Dr. Pavlov. “This animal will change everything we think about pairing conditioned stimulus (a bell) and an unconditioned stimulus (food) to produce a conditioned response (salivating). This conditioning is destined to become a classic. I can feel it.”

“So were not gonna eat him,” Seraphima asked? “OK. It’s borscht again.”



A Feline and Canine Entwine: Enter Zsa Zsa


Zsa Zsa dahling.

Budapest resident and future glamor gal Zsa Zsa Gabor, then an 18-year-old underemployed Hungarian ingénue, was working at the Budapest Hotel’s Pet Day Care Center where she regularly superintended Sadie and the Tramp’s visits. The middle Gabor sister chaperoned and fed them with great care; even going so far as to conduct her own matchmaking culinary experiment. Zsa Zsa prepared and fed them a big plate of pasta consisting of a single long strand of spaghetti. She gave each of them an opposite end to chow down on. As they hungrily slurped and gobbled the spaghetti from each end it was only a matter of time till Tramp’s slobbering jowls met Sadie’s delicate whiskers. And when they did, it was kismet (actually it was more like kiss-met). When Sadie and the Tramp got to the end of their ropes his snout met her nose and after a moment of recognition, they nuzzled like long lost Eskimos. After Zsa Zsa’s romantic dinner Sadie and the Tramp were inseparable.


And there they’d happily commune. In the pet parlor of the Budapest Hotel where they would frolic with unbridled glee and mutual acceptance. Sadie would overlook Tramp’s torrents of slobber and Tramp would forgive Sadie’s penchant for being both dead and alive. Evidently location indeterminacy was no barrier to Tramp’s passion, and pools of drool none to Sadie’s. It seems when love is your unconditioned stimulus, it conquers all.



Eva. Another glamorous Gabor.

Incidents and Anecdotes


And in a curious sisterly coincidence, Zsa Zsa’s younger sister Eva (of Green Acres fame) would go on to do the silky, exotic voice of the bougee cat Duchess in Disney’s The Aristocats.


There was a noteworthy incident at the Budapest Hotel’s Pet Day Care Center one day when Dr. Schrödinger went to pick up Sadie and couldn’t find her anywhere. He was wracked with anxiety until he saw her little eyes just peeking out over the ö in Schrödinger. So cute he thought – there she was, hiding in an umlaut. Who else but Sadie could cloak herself in a diacritical mark? Amazing! Sadie was eerily adept at quantum superposition. In fact, Dr. Sigmund Freud, who was attending the same conference as Drs. Pavlov and Schrödinger, heard of the cat’s disappearance and wryly observed, “While it is possible Sadie may have been hiding above the ö, sometimes an umlaut is just an umlaut.”  


While being interviewed by Popular Quantum Mechanics magazine, Dr. Schrödinger was asked about Sadie’s little nighttime outfit resting there on the bed. He glanced over at them and replied, “Oh those? Those are the cat’s pajamas.” He pawsed and continued, “It kinda hurts me to talk about the cat’s pajamas. In fact, me ow.”


In Pavlov’s It’s a Wonderful Life world, every time a bell rang, an angel started to salivate. In Schrödinger’s “Wes Anderson” world every time a cat disappeared you didn’t know for certain if it was dead or alive. Could two animals from such different backgrounds bond together without driving each other crazy? No wait, that was the premise for Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple. Nope, it wasn’t that either. Their story was the basis for the unlikely pairing of another more recent Eastern European romance: The Lady and the Trump.


Dr. Pavlov was a Nobel prize-winner and was celebrated for being a self-made man. He had no choice. His parents never had sex. As the time passed Dr. Pavlov grew fond of Dr. Schrödinger and would tease his colleague by peering into Sadie’s litter box and observing, “Look! It’s Schrödinger scat.”


Years later when Dr. Schrödinger was asked about Dr. Pavlov’s experiments he famously responded, “Pavlov? Pavlov? The name doesn’t ring a bell.”



They Really Did Live Happily Ever After


Sadie and the Tramp were by now deeply bonded and this intense affection was recognized by Drs. Schrödinger and Pavlov who agreed to keep them together. They would summer in Minsk and winter in Paris. And although a litter of offspring was out of the question, it never stopped them from trying.


It was brave of Sadie and the Tramp to express their cat/dog love at a time when the mixing of the species was frowned upon. There were laws against this kind of co-mingling – especially in 1930s Berlin and the Deep South.


There was something greater at work here between Sadie and the Tramp. Something trite but true – that love conquers all. Now that may be a hackneyed phrase, but it also has the added virtue of being true. And I’m not hiding behind hollow clichés. If you’re looking for me, I’m hiding behind the é in cliché. I’m in a really good position. You might even say I’m in a quantum superposition.

My Freedom Bowl Rapture

First, a Few Words on Rabbit Holes, Then Our True Story

Rabbit holes have gotten a bad rap lately and sometimes with good reason. Unwary rabbit hole-goers often don’t discover they’re lost in one of these time-wasting tunnels till it’s far too late; and the hole-goer wishes they could have that wasted time added back to their life. Of course it’s not this way with all rabbit holes. There is that rare rabbit hole one tumbles down and comes out the other side much elevated by the experience. And this is my true story of just such a rabbit hole  – of my disappearance into and emergence out of, an unforgettable once-in-a-lifetime rabbit hole located right next to Disneyland.   



We Begin in My Dim, Misty Past


I’ve been a rabid Syracuse University football fan since 1973 when as a 12-year-old some switch was activated inside me and I became enamored of this team located right there in my hometown. Much like puberty, it was found gold. My rabid feelings for the team were the good or nerdy kind of rabid associated with Star Wars and not the bad or face paint kind of rabid associated with storming the Capitol. Unfortunately, when I began following the Orangemen, they were at their gridiron nadir, prompting Sports Illustrated (the preeminent sports publication I subscribed to in the infinitely smaller media world of the early 70s) to publish an article entitled: When You’re Standing on your Head, Syracuse is No. 1. That’s how low the fortunes of these once mighty Beasts of the East had sunk. Syracuse University, the collegiate incubators of Heisman Trophy winner Ernie Davis and future NFL Hall of Famers Jimmy Brown, Floyd Little and Larry Csonka, were ranked a morbid #101st in the country, but they were #1 in my little boy heart – a heart that still resides in this big boy body today. Suffice to say I followed my team with prodigious avidity and even tribal intensity depending on how much Tang I’d drunk that day. 


Cut to 1989 when I’m living in Southern California and Syracuse’s football fortunes have experienced a notable uptick. Following an undefeated 1987 season and a stellar 10-2 mark in 1988, the 1989 Orangemen stood at 7-4 and teetering on a bowl bid. But where might that bowl game be? It set my fertile mind turning and potential rabbit holes multiplying.  Due to being marginally employed, I had time on my hands and began exploring bowl possibilities Syracuse might play in. One bowl venue candidate was right down the road from my San Fernando Valley apartment – the Freedom Bowl played at The Big A (Anaheim Stadium) not far from Disneyland.


As was my penchant for idle exploration, I ferreted out a phone number and called them on a landline and, in the days before phone trees, spoke directly with one of the Freedom Bowl principals. I queried a Mr. Rob Halvaks as to their interest in inviting the mighty Syracuse University football team to their bowl. He said Syracuse was in the mix, but that their East Coast origins, might not be the best fit for a West Coast bowl game. In other words they were a Plan C at best. It was a pleasant and extended conversation that touched on a variety of college football related topics in which we were both most conversant.


Again having more free time than is healthy for a 28-yr-old to have, about a week later I called Mr. Halvaks again to see if the bowl landscape had changed. It had changed and the ‘Cuse was on the outs. He commiserated with me and even gave me the pre-announcement scoop, the Freedom Bowl had enticed the PAC-12’s Washington Huskies and the SEC’s Florida Gators to faceoff in that year’s bowl. We continued talking animatedly and, sensing my keen interest and understanding of college bowl games, he suggested I come down to the stadium for a visit – that perhaps I might apply my acumen to this post-season collegiate endeavor.


What the Freedom was happening here? WTF indeed. I was on the cusp of something previously thought unimaginable – an intimate window on the inside world of a major college bowl game and Mr. Halvaks was perhaps interested in me helping them out in some capacity. The possibility of my full-fledged involvement in a college football bowl game from an insider’s administrative perspective was bewildering. This supreme opportunity was a bucket list item I didn’t even know I had. It had magically populated my bucket in the flash of one phone call. Read the rest of this entry »

NDEs (Near Death Experiences) and Other Easily Understood Stuff

Perhaps the fastest (though not the pleasantest) way to journey to the “other side” is via an NDE or Near Death Experience. NDEs are a transformative event where the souls of temporarily flatlined stiffs leave their bodies, behold otherworldly dimensions and then are miraculously ushered back to their once lifeless bodies. Some say an NDE removes all fears about death and replaces it with an unshakably affirming knowingness, more real than anything found on Earth.

  • Pinterest user Sally Klein, who had a near death experience when a blowfish recipe went terribly wrong, said of her NDE, “OMG. It was like you were permanently perfumed with pumpkin spice. Can you imagine? It was no longer seasonal. It was Pumpkin Spice fulltime! Fulltime all the time!”
  • Comic Con fanboy Calvin Turlock said of his Marvel-ous NDE, “The Marvel Universe is real. Superpowers are real – I took down Dwayne Johnson.”
  • Amazon boss Jeff Bezos recounted his NDE, “It was amazing. I compared my financial situation with the Almighty’s and it turns out I have more money than God…no wait. That was my regular life here on earth.”


When we go over to the other side it seems we all go where we expect ourselves to go. Hmmmm. What if we had no expectation? Where would we go then?  



Whose Side Are You On?


“Man, I have got to stop eating so many gummies before bed.”

Well currently we’re all on this side – at least for now. But eventually we’ll all be on the other side where we discover it’s all one; and there really isn’t, and never has been, an “other side.” Are we clear? NDEs are just the miraculousness of experiencing everything, everywhere, all at once. But is all this heavenly hyperbole really miraculous? – Meh. It’s only miraculous to us earthbound creatures pondering it all from this side.



It’s Just a Job


I’m sure the entities that superintend this cosmic function of bringing souls into and out of this world, don’t come home teeming with tender stories of mythic miracles like NDE experiencers do. More likely they come home smelling of the souls they’re shuttling back and forth all eternity – like a fishmonger might come home smelling of fish or a florist like flowers. It’s a hazard of the profession. Hustling souls in and out of the 3rd rock from the sun is just a job for some. This supposedly extraordinary bookkeeping process of managing departed souls (of which NDEs are probably just a kinked glitch in the system) is only a portion of the overall operating system of the universe and merely the bailiwick these superintendents oversee. (You don’t have to believe any of this, but it’s probably true anyway.)


We poor slobs however, marvel in wonderment at this-couldn’t-be-happening-to-little-ole-me experience. NDEs are not something special happening to you, for you. I surmise NDEs are just part of a process to move souls in and out of bodies around the cosmos. There’s no reason to feel special or anointed if it happens to you. Don’t underplay it either. Just consider it. You’re a big part of the whole shootin’ match whether you think you’re tragically inconsequential or fabulously magnificent. You see the truth doesn’t require your belief. And I mean that in a good way. You don’t have to believe in something in order for something to happen. For example, I don’t believe in Santa Claus, but I still get presents at Christmas.  


On this earth, where we tend to get lost in the need to make permanent our personal identity, we’re regularly privy to maybe 2% of all the magnificence operating on the other side. Why this magnificence of the hereafter is so apparently distant and hidden from us I’ll never know. But it is – generally. The hereafter (hereafter referred to as the hereafter) is kinda like electricity. Most of us relate to electricity through on and off switches; barely cognizant of the humming transmission lines, generating plants and the eons it took to produce the gas, coal or oil (fossil fuels) firing them. The hereafter contains all the hidden electrical infrastructure. We aren’t allowed to see all of God’s electrical magnificence so we can stay focused on our jobs here on earth – whatever that may be. This model I present might not accurately describe matters, but it does provide 2 dimes – I mean “a paradigm.” That’s my 2 cents anyway. Moving on. Read the rest of this entry »

My Visit with Divorced Dad: “Can I return to earth now?”


Dad (biplane in hand circa 1930) during his Lucky Lindy airplane phase.

My father’s peculiarities were prodigious. Of course when you’re young and in thrall of your father, you see no peculiarities – it’s just Saturday with dad. So I never really noticed them till I got older. I knew he was a smart guy, but in many ways he was also a functioning non sequitur. And I attribute most of his eccentricities to his mother Helen’s benign malfeasance (I think she dropped him on his ego – a lot). Inside the bosom of this bleak and scolding woman beat a stingy heart pumping out precious little affection. Consequently, my forsaken father looked askance at all he surveyed and fought mightily to compartmentalize his wounded emotions. The poor guy. It turns out that choosing the right parents is a very important thing. Why so little is done about this is beyond me.



My dad was a depressed person, but he never visited his dysfunction on others. No “woe is me” from that guy. He just withstood the incongruities of life, waiting for someone, or some entity, to respond to his bedrock assertion, “I never asked to be born.” My dad’s philosophy was a slightly darker version of Disney’s. Whereas Disney might be the happiest place on earth, to my dad, life was “the inconvenient-est place on earth.” In his eyes life was such a bother, for something so inconclusive. For better or worse, some of his nuanced take and skewed analysis didn’t fall too far from the tree.



My dad was not a hater. He was a withstander. He was the Chuck Norris of enduring things he’d rather not contend with. And I loved him because, because…oh, I don’t know why. It’s just what you do in this universe of God’s trickle-down Lovenomics. I mean the Almighty is rollin’ in the stuff and we (his adoring children), residing far down stream, get the briny runoff – just enough to hydrate us and motivate us to search for its source in hopes of further slaking our cosmic thirst. Enough I say! I rise up and proclaim “Occupy God,” but that’s perhaps another story I’ll write at another time. For now, this quaint and foible-filled feature is what I want to share with you.   



I’ve chosen to highlight only one of Dad’s oddities because if I listed them all, this chronicle would need to be retitled The Never Ending Story. The following goofily aberrant father-son playdate was indicative of his refracted perspective. In 1970, in the midst of their divorce, my caring, warm-hearted mother arranged a Saturday night sleepover for me with my father. She had to arrange it because he sure as hell wasn’t capable of organizing it himself. Though he may have desired some quality time with his adolescent son, he was genetically incapable of doing anything that wasn’t statutorily required or absolutely necessary for survival. Bowing to convention would be anathema to this man of apathetic appetites – plus it would be way, way too inconvenient. Read the rest of this entry »

A Mellow Gets Harshed, Big Time

In my pot-smoking days of the early 1970’s marijuana was a lot like Tupperware – it was passed around at parties and purchased with great enthusiasm. Pot was so pervasive back then, all you had to do was breathe in and there was a chance you’d get high. Some people didn’t want to take that chance. They were fearful of this “reefer madness.” Then they’d try it, and suddenly, it was reefer gladness. Their transformation was not done with smoke and mirrors – it was just smoke.   


From ages 10-14 I partook of the giggle smoke whenever my elders were around. Now these weren’t parental-type elders. These were just elders who were older than me – older than David-the-Younger. Older, and more importantly, they had pot. It was like elders with benefits. The 1970s were a less judgmental time when you shared what you had without distinction of rank or age (thank you very much Woodstock generation). And from almost 50 years hence I recognize the following strange story might give the impression I’m high right now. I’m not. Except for a few salmon, David-the-Elder hasn’t smoked anything in decades.


In revisiting my cannabis memories, I’ve reanimated that familiar fuzzy state and in the process activated one mother of a flashback. In this case it’s a harrowing incident I’d like to share with you – an incident that is a constant reminder of the importance of choosing the right parents. Of course, as far as I can tell, children have never been consulted on the matter, so it’s a moot point. But what’s a valid point is that you have to play the hand you’re dealt: or, more specifically, the body and circumstances you’re born into. Once the veil comes down…Game On. And this episode I present is just one volley in that game.


This flashback has enduring power and has taught me to practice eternal vigilance. It’s not that I’m forever suspicious, I just try to be aware of my local circumstances – to see around the corners of my actions and anticipate their consequences. And although this bizarre yet authentic tale may sound like the product of a THC-influenced imagination, I once again assure you, David-the-Elder has NOT been smoking anything mind expanding – unless you want to count the salmon. But remember, no matter how much salmon you smoke, it’s just waist-expanding, not mind-expanding. Read the rest of this entry »

Barely Juvenile, Hardly Delinquent

When you’re an adult in a kid’s body you see things differently. So when our gang of little rascals got caught doorbell ditching, I knew I wasn’t on a highway to hell – maybe a highway to hijinks, but certainly not the road to ruin. And not to sound too streetwise, but while some say that being brought home in a police squad car at the age of 11 may have been a precursor to a life of crime, to me it was the smallest of small potatoes. Bogart in Casablanca had it right in another context when he pointed out that these problems, “don’t amount to a hill of beans.” Potatoes, beans…it’s all food for thought.


And as I air this cleanest of dirty laundry, I knew back in 1972 I was far, far removed from ever being churned, put through the wringer and then hung out to dry by the criminal justice system. And not to sound cleanlier than thou, I knew I’d not be taken to the cleaners by the authorities. Nope, I’d just be a little agitated. But by virtue of this “wrong of passage” (as opposed to a “rite of passage”), I’d get to be the coolest “bad boy” in Mr. Campbell’s 6th Grade class for a couple of weeks. Since I was 11 at the time of the “incident” allow me to kidsplain the story to you.   


I understood limits – how far to push against something before it snapped back at you. Even as an 11-year-old stripling I was mightily aware of boundary lines and the importance of staying within them. Life was like a giant coloring book that way and I was savvy enough to stay inside the lines so my life wouldn’t become messy. In advertising my “brush with the law” to my schoolmates I was hoping for a measure of street cred to give the 11-year-old Hardiman brand a whiff of danger and a quantum of Bondian cachet (so much for kidsplainin’).


Yes, at the tender age of 11 in 1972 I was trying to create a buzz in the pre-social media influencer age. Maybe I could have it all at 11. I could be clever, tall, handsome and dangerous. That was the calculus anyway, even if this ego-driven fantasy was built on a sandcastle of collapsing truths. I wanted to be a bad ass, but in the easy, non-confrontational way – to be regarded as a bad ass, not by fighting or stealing, but by reputation so I wouldn’t have to do the heavy lifting required to be an actual bad ass. Read the rest of this entry »

Dissolving Into the Nocturnal Abyss:

Oh the Treasures to Be Found in the Wee, Small Hours of the Morning


Where to begin. It’s 1978. Jimmy Carter is in the White House. The disco hit Boogie Oogie Oogie has us shaking our booties till we just can’t boogie no more. Streaming services are something offered only by a urologist. And yours truly is a wide-eyed 17-year old luxuriating in the endless summer between high school graduation and the start of college.


Having been sprung like a jailbird from the confines of Henninger High School in Syracuse, NY, I felt the dizzying freedom an inmate must feel after serving their sentence and being released into the good graces of society. I had served my sentence – 12 long years (as opposed to the “short” ones?). And I believe I served my sentence with some distinction and even got time off for good behavior since I graduated after the 11th grade (woo-hoo!).

My name is David Hardiman and I’m not using stilts.


This rite of passage complete, any future schooling would be pursued on my terms. I would no longer be a burden to society. In the future, it would be a burden on me. But for now I was happy to navigate in this once in a lifetime twilight zone between high school and college. It seemed bizarre that having dearly earned the sweet release from mandatory public schooling and its free education, I would now immediately plunge voluntarily right back into it, and even pay my own way for the privilege. God works in mysterious ways, and so does higher education.


I mention all this by way of establishing set and setting for what was to be my 1978 Summer of Otherworldly Delights. It was a pleasantly disruptive time for me. One I looked forward to with dizzying anticipation. Up until this point in my life I’d always known what I’d be doing the next year. My GPS had come from the factory with the route of my formative years all mapped out till graduation, upon which it uttered the now commonplace phrase, “You have arrived?”


Really? That was it. That was the journey. Someone or something thinks I have arrived? Well OK boomer. Freed from the restraints of compulsory education, I could now plug in the GPS coordinates of my choice and travel there as I saw fit. This is the freedom everyone so dearly seeks. This is what it felt like in 1978. My choices would be limited only by my imagination and, of course, that sabotaging little voice inside that reminds you, “Oh, you couldn’t possibly aspire to that.”



Four Foremost Factors, Poorly Ranked 

Long term I didn’t know what would occupy me, but in that short term summer I had fertile little plans gestating happily in my still maturing frontal lobes. First and foremost there would be, “no more pencils, no more books, no more teachers dirty looks.” In truth school wasn’t that bad, but I was glad the compulsory part of it was over and I was ready to move on.


Second and not foremost, I would work. Circumstances were such that I could be productively plugged into gainful employment whenever I chose to work (which was often) at our family glass and mirror business. A business my divorced, disinterested and dithering dad ran with all the aplomb of a dust bunny. I had developed a fondness for its mom and pop retail charms as well as an appreciation of its minor commerce with major players like Carrier, Conrail and GM’s Terex heavy equipment division. Anyway, the upshot of my unexceptional work ethic was that I enjoyed my time with dad and always had a little walkin’ around money. 


Third and still not foremost, the “little plans” that I mentioned included one big plan. A strange and wonderful plan catalyzed by my new found freedom and a penchant for out-of-this-world experiences. I resolved to dissolve into the nocturnal abyss and share in the treasures to be found in the wee, small hours of the morning. This would be undertaken in the still of the night within the eerie confines of nearby and dear by Sunnycrest Park.


Fourth and kinda foremost without actually being foremost, my other plans that summer included playing pick-up basketball games, visiting with friends and moving my mother out of our top floor flat at the end of August when I was off to college and she off to a posh one bedroom apartment closer to her work in downtown Syracuse. With mommy lacking any extra rooms, and daddy sleeping on a cot and living in the back of the glass shop and unable to provide adequate shelter for anyone (not even himself), the umbilical cord was cut and I was now an emancipated child at 17. Read the rest of this entry »