Monday, February 6, 2012

Woofer Does Dad In A Box

I've been spending a little quality time with Dad over the past day or so. This may not seem like a big deal to most people but Dad's been moderately deceased since 1992. Which begs the question, "How can you be spending quality time with your dad?" Okay, stop the begging. I'm gonna get around to that eventually. However, it would be totally out of character for me to write a blog and not digress all over the place. As noted in previous blogs and by people that have tried in vain to hold an intelligent conversation with me, I am the poster child for digression. Maybe we could hold a telethon, get Jerry Lewis, raise funds and try to find a cure.......

Did I digress again?

Okay, grab a cup of coffee, a Mai Tai or maybe even a vintage bottle of Everclear and some Welch's grape juice. This could be a long one. If it goes on too long I'll call a recess somewhere in the middle (if I can figure out where that is) and we can all run outside and play dodge ball or something. Depends on whether you grab the coffee or the Everclear.......

Alrighty then. A little background. I can hear you all now, "Oh lord, not the background." The background may help make a little sense out of the rest of this story. Possibly. Alright, probably not at all, but hey, I'm having fun......

Dad and I parted ways by mutual agreement when I was 5 years old. Dad hated kids, Mom didn't. Dad liked to drink (a lot). Mom and I were pretty much in agreement that this wasn't such a great idea. When Dad would drink he would like to play a game called "Professional Boxer," choosing a nearby family member to be his sparring partner. This usually did not end well. It was determined, by some of us, that as a family we shared little in the way of mutual interests. By a vote of 2 ½ to 1 (my sister was almost a year old then so her vote wasn't counted fully) we decided that a little time away might be in order. Just a short break. Like maybe a couple hundred years, or until Hell froze over which may have happened a few years ago.

The above is not a ploy for sympathy. I'm saving that for a totally different blog. A real heart-rending sob story that will have you lining up to adopt me 'cause I'm cute, cuddly and partially housebroken.

But hopefully you do get the idea that we weren't best buddies and life-long friends. In the ensuing decades we spent a total of about 14 uncomfortable, moderately hostile days together. Somewhere along the line he decided that my sister should be executor of his will and that I should be denied the fun and frivolity that attends such an honor. In other words, he did not want me to have his stuff. Which was good, because I didn't want his stuff. Finally a mutual agreement.

As part of his will he wanted no funeral. He wanted his body donated to science and then cremated. Since I had no part in this I soon lost interest and totally forgot about it. Silly me, I should have known this would come back to haunt me some day.

Need that recess yet? Or has the Everclear (and this blog) totally numbed your mind? It is 200 proof, you know. Not the blog, the Everclear.

So I receive a phone call from my sister one day, "Dad's dead, film at 11" or something like that. I have a short attention span and an even shorter memory.

Months pass and I get another phone call from my sister. Seems my nephew was at home playing video games when the UPS truck pulled up. Nephew signs for the box, sits it down beside his chair and resumes playing the video game. Sister comes home, looks at the box and says to nephew, "Oh, I see you've finally met your grandfather." Nephew busts a move that Wile E. Coyote would be proud of and is not seen for days. Not exactly how I'd plan a family reunion.

Next phone call with sister:
Sister: I've got Dad's ashes.
Me: And your point?
Sister: Well, what do we do with them?
Me: No idea. Not my problem. Landfill?
Sister: (several minutes of unprintable profanity and stuff that doesn't sound like compliments)

Let's fast forward almost 20 years. My sister recently passed away and my nephews are cleaning out her house to get it ready to sell. While cleaning out the barn/garage/shed or whatever the hell that 100 year old monstrosity is that sits next to the house they come across a box. Uh.....not good. Oldest nephew calls Donna (my wife, but you knew that.) Says that he has something "of a personal nature" for me and he would like me to stop by. I immediately go into full panic mode. Items "of a personal nature" are rarely good. But at this point I have no idea what it could be and like a cat I let my curiosity get the better of me. I go. I hate cats..........

So here I sit with an ugly brown box wrapped in 800 yards of packing tape with a little sticker thingie attached to the top. Typed on it with what appears to be a 1946 Royal typewriter are the words, "The cremains of the late Mr. Roy Baker." Which, surprisingly, is my name also. Creepy......

Hence (had to use that word, Donna loves it) my great opportunity to spend quality time with Dad. Which is not really creating great amounts of joy in my life. I have no idea what to do with this. I am the last of my line so there's nobody else to foist this off on. Well, there is my daughter, but I'd never do that to her. Or would I? I'm at a total loss here.

So okay Sis. For the time being you got the last laugh -- For the time being..........

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Woofer Rides With The Road Rage King

I was going to write this blog about a year ago but I really needed to take some time and get myself back together. After a year filled with Xanax, Valium and some major anti-depressants I think the time has finally come. Maybe. If this blog ends in the middle it's because I scared myself so bad I'm hiding under the desk until somebody forces me out. I like it under the desk. It's safe and now that I have the Cat Free Zone (hereafter referred to as the CFZ) there are no furry little troglodytes under there to ruin my Zen moments.

Anyway, I'm sure you all are aquiver with anticipation to hear this story. I will attempt not to digress too much although as noted in previous blogs I digress often. And well. And I'm digressing again.......

About a year and a half ago I signed a contract with some very nice people to restore their somewhat horrendously remodeled home in Haddon Heights, New Jersey. Now I'm sure that you don't really care where the house was but it lends a little perspective and color to the tale. Someone had taken a beautiful 3 story home in a high dollar neighborhood, slapped on a little aluminum siding which they later painted with cheap latex paint in a popular color known in the trade as “s**t brown. (I'm trying my best to be inoffensive here. It shows I care, right?) Add in a poorly built addition covered with the finest in puke yellow vinyl siding and you have the beginning of an idea of the horrors that had been visited on this home. I could go on, but suffice it to say that this was a home that was tailor made for a family of bikers who liked to do oil changes in the living room.

Now I live about 2 hours away from Haddon Heights and with a van that averaged about 12 miles per gallon a daily commute didn't seem like the most cost effective method for working this particular job. I decided to partner with “Steve” who lives in the Eastern part of Pennsylvania because I needed help on the job and I could stay with him and his wife during the week and travel with him to the job site every day. It was only a half hour commute and we could use his truck and save a ton of money.

Let me explain a little about “Steve.” First, the name has been changed to protect the innocent, namely me. It should be apparent why shortly. I first met “Steve” in 1999 after his release from prison. His mom had called me and told me that her son was getting out after 5 years and needed a job to meet the criteria for his parole. I've done this before and it's worked out pretty well. What I got on his first day on the job was a long-haired, bearded, pasty (apparently sun tanning is a no no in most prisons), highly aggressive young guy with huge prison muscles and an attitude. He looked kind of like an Italian hit man. All in all the first day was moderately tense. He wound up working for me for almost 4 years and became my almost adopted son. Underneath the tough veneer was a really great person. He was also a really talented carpenter and we had partnered a few jobs together. He fell in love and moved to a small town in Eastern Pennsylvania to cohabit with the love of his life. Gone was the young desperado, replaced by a fine upstanding citizen with a shaved head, seven earrings in one ear and more tattoos than the Illustrated Man. Still looked like an Italian hit man though.

So what does this all of this have to do with road rage? Well, it seems that “Steve” had channeled all of his aggression and love of fighting into one basic area: driving. In just a few short years he had crafted himself into the most pissed off driver ever to ply the highways and byways of the East Coast. I've heard rumors that there is someone even worse in Denver but until I'm furnished with proof I believe “Steve” holds the title of Road Rage King.

Now I'm not used to sitting in the passenger seat of any vehicle. I have extreme control issues that do not do well from the right hand side of any moving vehicle. I have an aversion to being killed by other people. I'd much rather do it myself.

Route 295 between his home and Haddon Heights is a major route for commuters working in Philadelphia. It is chock full of big trucks, motorcycles, half-awake commuters in their Mercedes and Lexi (that is the plural of Lexus, I think) and is constantly under major construction. Your tax dollars at work.

Picture this: 6:30 in the morning, 80 miles per hour, heavy traffic weaving in and out of four lanes, sometimes three. Lane changes and construction barriers everywhere. Truckers that have been driving for 48 hours straight. You are seated in the passenger seat next to a driver who is holding an Egg McMuffin in one hand, a cup of coffee in the other, steering with his knee, looking for a phone number in the pile of paperwork on the dash while his cell phone is pressed firmly in his ear. Screaming obscenities out the window and pausing every few minutes to deliver an invective filled lecture on the stupidity of the average American driver. And this is only practice for the ride home 10 hours later when exhaustion has set in and the Egg McMuffin has been replaced with a Big Mac.

30 minutes can seem like a lifetime. When your bladder is full, your hands are shaking, and there are clawmarks all over the upholstery the idea of becoming a Tibetan monk seems like the best idea you've ever had. Vows of poverty, silence and celibacy seem to make a world of sense. Within the first three miles you learn everything you ever wanted to know about prayer. You pray for things like an afterlife where bicycles and horses are the only modes of transportation. You have entered something worse than the worst the Twilight Zone ever offered.

Five to six days a week for seven months. Through rain, snow, ice and traffic jams. There aren't enough drugs or alcohol to even begin to arm oneself with the coping mechanisms needed. Somewhere around the third week there is a sanity shift. The mind numbs, the brain refuses to function. You begin to admire the extremely fashionable garb that hockey players wear. Hitch hiking begins to seem like a safe hobby to indulge in. And the $150.00 per week investment in Depends seems like a small price to pay.

I have never, to the best of my knowledge, passed anyone's criteria for normal. This experience pushed me so far over the edge that I'm not sure I'm ever coming back. After a few months road rage becomes contagious. You find yourself waking up at 2:00 in the morning thinking about the best semi-automatic weapons to arm a vehicle with and scouring the internet for new, more comprehensive profanity.

I'm beginning to calm, to mellow slightly. I no longer hide in the back seat when my wife drives us out to the grocery store. I no longer jump out of the car at red lights to allow the guy in the car behind us an opportunity to kick my ass. I rarely shoot my middle finger out at little old ladies that do really dumb stuff.

I am healing. I will be well someday. But probably not today.

Long live The King Of Road Rage. As long as I'm not in the passenger seat...............

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Artist Formerly Known As Woofer Inducted Into The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame

Okay, not really. Got your attention though, didn't it?

Okay, I got cojones. Not little ones either. Great big, obnoxious cojones. After better than 20 years away from music I'm once again attempting to tackle the big scary world of music. Have I mentioned yet that neurosis and mental illness gallop through my family?

For the better part of my early life music was my all. My Tao if you will (or even if you won't. This is my blog and I can pretty much say what I want). Like many I started out as a wee one in church choir. Got lots of solos, lots of praise. Beginnings of massive ego problems and I wasn't even 6 yet. Took piano lessons: quit. Took violin lessons: quit. Played baritone horn in the high school band: quit in 8th grade. All I ever wanted to do was play guitar.

Since I had such a reliable record of sticking with things my mom was hesitant to spring for the money for a guitar. She figured I was only gonna quit anyway so why bother. So my grandparents got me one for a present. It was the deluxe Sears model, probably cost about $9.95 then. You pretty much needed vise grips to get the strings down anywhere near close to the fingerboard. But it was a guitar and it was love at first sight. I actually took lessons, practiced and stuck with it. Mama never did quite come out of her state of shock.

Fast forward a few years to 7th grade. Two elementary schools merged into one high school. The really cool kids came from Cape May. I was not one of the really cool kids. I managed to be the very first kid in my class to develop zits. I grew up on a farm and worked every day. I did not hang out at the beach, have a surfboard or know all the really cool slang expressions. And everything then was about cool. I had glasses, zits and looked like a homegrown nerd.

The British Invasion was just getting off the ground. Motown was at its peak. High school dances were the place to be. A group of the cool kids decided to form a band. They had a guy picked out to play lead guitar. Problem: he was the epitome of cool but he did not know how to play guitar. So they asked me if I would teach him how to play. I almost even worked.

Then they noticed that I not only had a guitar, but I had an amp too. They had guitars but no amps. Reluctantly they asked me to join the band. And I could even sing. I still wasn't cool, but at least I got to hang out with the upper echelons of high school society.

The biggest lesson I learned in high school was if you couldn't dance you couldn't get a date. Did I mention that not only couldn't I dance but I looked like someone who had been Tasered three or four times. Hiding behind the guitar on stage meant I didn't even have to attempt the kind of moves you were supposed to make when singing a Temptations or Four Tops song.

But I became a part of something. I learned and I built some confidence. Hard as it may be to believe I was the shy kid in high school. I've been called an egomaniac with an inferiority complex and at the time the two kind of canceled each other out. I guess I've changed. Today some have compared me to Fred Flintstone on meth. But that's a whole other blog.

I played in clubs and other venues through most of my 20's, first in bands and then as a solo act. I got a chance to work with some great musicians and was part of a great musical community. Little by little I found that my musical tastes and song choices were vastly different from the other musicians I had worked with that's pretty much how I wound up as a solo act. Nobody else really wanted to play the stuff I was doing. Fortunately there were enough people around at that time that wanted to listen to it so I at least made some money at it. There is also the added benefits of a solo act: When you call a rehearsal everyone shows up on time. And nobody argues about the material. The downside of a solo act: When you have a bad night you don't have anyone else up there to blame.

So after years of watching people drop off of bar stools at 2 a.m. I called it quits. I couldn't find people who wanted to work with me and I had a very young daughter whose life I was missing out on. I figured I'd sit it out for a while and play a few songs at home and maybe do a little writing.

And for decades I did nothing. I didn't write any songs. I didn't even learn any new ones. I'd pick up a guitar once a month, play half a song and then put it back down again. I lost contact with anything vaguely resembling a musical community. And in the process a large part of who I am died. Slowly and without fanfare.

About 6 months ago economic necessity kicked in. Construction had totally died and there wasn't any real work to be found anywhere. So I folded my construction company and sat down and looked at my options. We sell online, but that hasn't exactly been putting us in the Bill Gates income range. In fact, it was getting me slightly above Bill The Town Drunk's range of income. I figured I'd go out and do a couple of open mic nights at some of the local clubs and see if I still had the ability to get up on stage and put a song across to an audience. The first few nights were rough but I got enough positive feedback to keep going. I started to rehearse again, The feelings started to come back.

My biggest fear was that I was too old to start over again. That the music I do is irrelevant and obsolete. That the years I had let it go would keep me from getting any better. I remembered a story my mother told me. She was a Registered Nurse and was debating going back to school to get a degree. She told a friend of hers that she was afraid to go back to college because she would be 54 years old when she graduated. The friend asked her a simple question, "And how old will you be if you don't go to college?" Point taken........

So here I am. I have the support of my wife who has always been my biggest fan. She tells me the truth but keeps me moving forward. I have met new people in the local music community that have helped support me and build my confidence. And I have a host of online friends that I have made over the years who have been a backbone of love and support and I thank them.

I'm a realist. I will never be a rock star. I will never become a millionaire through music. But those aren't my goals today. Today I just want to play a little music that people will enjoy. And have the opportunity to spend time with people who love music as much as I do.

Monday, February 28, 2011

The Rise And Demise Of The Woofer

Last night I was once again asked, "What's up with that Woofer thing?" Since I've had to explain it several times lately I thought I should probably put a formal written explanation here. So here goes...........

Long ago a young lad (well, younger than now anyway) and his fair maiden traveled to the golden land of Ebay. This was near the end of the reign of the benevolent King Pierre and life there was good. The happy couple settled in to sell their wares and also joined the village known as The eBay Blogs.

As with all good folk who settled into the land the young lad and his fair maiden took a user name. Since at that time they were the proud possessors of two fine golden retrievers they took 2woofers as their name. And in the village of The Ebay blogs they became known as Woofer and Mrs. Woofer. There they met many fine people such as Bay Vendor, DDKitty, PBE (Pretty Blue Eyes), CrazyJeans, and hundreds of others.

Now the village of Ebay Blogs existed in the olden days before the larger cities of My Space and Facebook had appeared, but it worked in much the same way. The villagers would gather and post and comment on other villagers posts. We would wish each other good morning, post a little humor, display our wares to each other and in general have fun.

It became a close community. We would admire each other's wares, cheer each success, offer advice, give holiday wishes, and offer up prayers and support in times of trouble. There was the occasional knave, such as Dinners or Aidan, but we banded together and defeated our common enemies. Through all of this we rarely knew each others real names. Woofer was known as Woofer.

After several idyllic years King Pierre stepped down and turned over the reins to Queen Meg. Rumblings began that bad things were in the wind for the future of the village, but we persisted. And flourished. And became closer.

But alas, at last the power was turned over to the evil Sir John of Donahoe who decreed that the village of Ebay Blogs be burned to the ground and it's citizenry cast to the four winds. Such social foolishness cost money and could not possibly be looked on with favor by the Gods Of The Bottom Line. And so it came to pass.

Cast into the vast wilderness of the Internet the villagers, left without a home, wandered and tried to settle in to some of the new cities. They came to Twitter but could not find a happy life in the land of 140 characters. They tried My Space which was confusing and without a way to communicate. They tried Multiply where they almost found a home but that didn't quite work either.

Fast forward to the present. Most of the villagers have found a home of sorts in the City of Facebook. But here their old names cannot be used. They must be known by the names given to them at birth. And they, villagers at heart, have found the city life to be harsher and more impersonal than the life they had known before.

So now Woofer has again become Roy. Mrs. Woofer has been relegated back to Donna. The user names of good friends have been lost in the mists of time. The wonderful fairy tale that we all lived for many years is gone. We have been returned back to a real world that we all enjoyed getting away from once in a while. The magic of that time will never be recaptured. For most of us it was like having our own little piece of Camelot and we loved it. Now we have been moved away from our time of innocence.

When you've had to explain something one too many times and people look at you like maybe you should get your meds changed after they hear the explanation, you come to the realization that a really good part of your past has died. And you're late for the funeral.

Woofer is dead. Long live.........whoever the hell I am now that I'm not Woofer.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Woofer On The Road To Hell

I like to think of myself as a nice person. Caring, moderate sense of humor, willing to help little old ladies cross the street as long as they don't walk faster than I do. I'm a little on the homely side, but probably not in competition to make the centerfold of the December issue of Hobbit Playboy Magazine. Well, the hairy feet might be a little bit of a turnoff, but if you pretend they're Doc Martens they're pretty cool.

Anyway, I digress. And I digress well. And frequently. In fact, I think I might be doing it again.

Back on there really is one (digression again).

Imagine my surprise the other day when I received an email from a rather irate person stating, "God hates you and he's going to come and kick your ass."

Now I always thought God kind of liked me. When I was just a tiny woofer in Sunday school they taught me that God was a God of love and that Jesus loves me. This I know. For the bible tells me so. Little woofers to him belong........damn, digressing again.

Apparently my church had this wrong. God loves you only if you do certain things and vote for certain political parties. Now I usually don't do politics. First of all I have no party affiliation. I have been asked by all the major political parties not to join. Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, even the PETA Party (do they feel sorry for themselves?)

I have to hate certain kinds of people. I have to write my congressman and request that he pass legislation so that it's legal for all the good folks to shoot these people on sight. Or at least soundly whomp their asses. I have to seriously believe that America, the country I dearly love, is perpetually on the verge of falling, usually by next Tuesday at 10:00. If I refuse to live in eternal fear I will feel the WRATH OF GOD! And there was a whole laundry list of other stuff I could do and couldn't do to stave off this serious ass kicking that God has scheduled for me.

Now woofers in general are a peaceful group. We're basically neither left or right, choosing to pick the best from both sides and kind of leave the bad stuff to others. Unless extremely threatened, the average woofer is not prone to violence or insane outbursts of anger or hate. We dislike intense physical pain and are allergic to bullets. They make us break out in big round holes that bleed.

Sheesh.....I made it through all of that without a digression. Tried real hard too.

Anyway, if you don't hear from me again, and all my blogs, Facebook posts, and tweets disappear overnight you can be pretty sure what happened. God came down and beat me to a pulp. A woofer pulp. A tiny little puddle of fur and ick that probably won't be getting up and walking again. And then I'm gonna be cast into the fiery pits of hell with scary demons using implements purchased from the Spanish Inquisition Surplus store who will torture me throughout eternity. 'Cause woofers are no match for an angry God.

And if He reads this blog it's probably a pretty sure bet that I'm doomed, screwed, outta luck.

Sorry God. Whatever I did I didn't mean to do it.

I'm Woofer, and I approved this message.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Woofer Guide To General Contractors (be very afraid)

I have been self-employed since 1986. To some people this is a major accomplishment. They have worked hard, learned their trade or business, put together a business plan to build a successful business. Notice the word plan.

For me, self-employment was not a plan, it was a necessity. I used to get fired. I used to get fired a lot. I went into business because I was deemed by the community at large as being totally unemployable, morally reprehensible, and probably on the verge of being brain dead. None of this looks good on your resume.

I had been a carpenter for years, with a few segues into some very interesting fields of endeavor that I was totally unqualified for. At times I have been: A loan collector for a finance company, a commercial lending officer for a bank, and a restaurant manager. I have learned over the years that if you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit. Works every time. Except I got fired a lot. I may hold a record for being fired.

So having an extensive carpentry background, I decided to embark on a career as a General Contractor. After all, I had passed the most rigorous tests a carpenter could face. I could drink two quarts of Bud at 7:00 a.m., indulge in a little herbal recreation before lunch, and still almost figure out what was on a blueprint. Close counts, right?

So I got me some business cards, threw an ad in the local paper, did an inventory of my rather meager tool collection and bank account and figured I was ready to take the world by storm. I didn't consider that the fact that I knew nothing about estimating, pricing or contracts might be a liability.

I learned early on that a General Contractor needs one major talent. You must have the ability to convince the homeowner that no matter how badly you're screwing up, you're right, their wrong, give me the check.

In the state of New Jersey you only need three things to get a General Contractor's license: Liability insurance, which they will give to any fool with money, $99.00 for the license, and a hammer. The hammer might be optional. You don't need to prove experience. If you can draw a house on construction paper with a crayon you have just qualified.

So the next time you need a General Contractor, think about this. You might just want to invest the time in watching reruns of "This Old House" and do it yourself.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Woofer's Guide To Social Media (or how not to do Twitter)

I got an email the other day telling me that basically I don't have a clue how to properly use social media. Apparently the fact that I'm having fun is the first indication that I just don't have this thing right. Kind of put me in a tailspin.

So I got up from the computer, made a cup of coffee, swallowed a handful of anti-depressants (woofers don't take criticism well), and decided I needed to do a full out in depth analysis of my social media skills. I came up with this really neat list of things I seem to be doing wrong:
  1. I actually talk to people. Real people. People who, just like me, apparently aren't doing this thing right.
  2. I don't post floods of inspirational messages all day long to keep my fellow social media types motivated to make it through their long intense day. I have been told I can make up for this by quoting several bible verses over and over. Guess I shouldn't have sold my bible on eBay.
  3. I do not follow two or three hundred life coaches. Apparently my life sucks, theirs is better and I should be listening to them.
  4. My teeth aren't white enough. I'm led to believe that tweeting properly will give you white teeth, guarantee you wealth, and a life filled with bliss and ecstasy. My bad.......
  5. I don't follow everyone who follows me. This, I'm told, is bad Twitter etiquette and your Twitter status is set by the number of followers you have. Silly me.......I also believed it when I was told that "Size does not matter."
Well, I like to talk. Anyone who knows me even a little knows I never shut up. It's one of my more endearing qualities. I have never inspired another human being to greater heights. If my life sucks really bad I haven't caught on yet. If my teeth are brown and nasty it's not my problem. I don't look at them all day.

I currently follow a little more than 600 people. I am presently being followed by about 70o, and that's only because I haven't done my weekly blocking. I save that for Sunday mornings. I find blocking to be a spiritually cleansing part of my week.

What am I supposed to do when I get this:
This "person" has 16,814 people he's following. He has 15,285 followers. He's on 96 lists. He's tweeted 16,785 times and never once to another person. He is the epitome (like that word?) of true Twitter status. I should model myself more after him..........

But I'm not gonna do it. I like what I do. I'm not gonna play games all day on Facebook. I'm not gonna send hearts and bears and flowers to hundreds of people a day. I'm not gonna scream my political opinions from the highest nest in Twitter. I may have this whole thing wrong, but I kind of like being wrong.

I am Woofer. Hear me roar!