I’m a fibber

Today, as I was walking into the post office, there was an old man on the sidewalk with a clipboard, I assume to sway peoples’ political beliefs. There’s always one there this time of year. As I opened the door, he asked me if I was a Linn County resident. Without looking at him I said “Nah” and continued inside. But before the door shut, I heard him say, “Oh, you’re fibbing!” So I walked back out the door, knocked the clipboard out of his hand and screamed, “FUCK YOU!” in his face. Wait no, that last part is a lie.

Actually, I continued inside to pick up my mail. I probably wouldn’t have said anything to him, but a lady who works in the post office (one of the higher ups, who gets called to the counter when a customer demands to talk to a supervisor) was at the door and telling him not to do something. She was saying something like he needs to approach people on the way out instead of the way in.

So I stopped and said, “You know, I wasn’t lying to you. I really don’t live in Linn County.”

He says nothing. So I continue, “So you don’t need to call me a liar.”

“Huh?” he replies.

“You said I was fibbing when I told you I don’t live in Linn County and I don’t appreciate it. I shouldn’t have to be called a liar whenever I come to pick up my mail.”

“Oh. Well I was just kidding, buddy!”

By the time he says this I’m getting into my car and the post office lady is giving him an evil look. As I pull away she’s talking to him again. I don’t know how much authority she has over those people who stand out there, but it would be great if she made him leave. I hate having to dodge them every single day.

Oh, and I really am a Linn County resident. Tee hee! I love being a jerk.

EDIT: Just to prove that I’m not a complete jerk all the time, I should point out that in December I give those Salvation Army bell ringers at the post office money almost every single day.

Back in MY day…

I’m going to wave my cane around and tell you how things were back in the day before all this new-fangled internet came about.

Back in my day, there was no email, no cell phones, no twitter, no pagers, no instant messaging. If I wanted to contact a friend I had to call him on a land line and sometimes I’d call and get nothing but a busy signal for hours. The entire family shared a single phone line and they were much busier back then since it was the only means of remotely communicating with friends and family. If your friends and family lived far away, you couldn’t talk to them very often or very long because long distance was expensive. And if you were away from home and needed to make a call, you had to stop at a pay phone. Imagine that, regular people using pay phones all the time.

Oh sure, things like cell phones and pagers existed, but only businessmen and drug dealers owned them. The first cell phone I ever saw was a gigantic bag phone that someone in our church brought in with them in the 1980’s. It was 3 times the size of his wife’s purse. So even if you could afford a cell phone then, you’d look like a douche carrying it around.

Most high-tech communities revolved around C.B. radios. They were huge back then and you could find normal rednecks chatting with each other on a dozen channels in any given night. There were battles between rednecks, just like in chatrooms and online communities today, which sometimes evolved into tire slashing or coax cutting. Guess that doesn’t really compare to the harshness of SWATTING someone, though.

I had to look up facts in things like dictionaries and encyclopedias. There was no instant access to any kind of information I could possibly want 24 hours a day. If I needed some information and the library was closed, I was out of luck. My parents didn’t even own one of those giant sets of encyclopedias so I had to trek to the library to find anything. I couldn’t even access the library’s computer from home. If I needed a library book I had to look in a card catalog that was taller than me, flipping through hundreds of cards manually and hoping to find what I was looking for. The Dewey Decimal System owned me.

Phone books were also a necessity in any home. I couldn’t text Google for a number or look it up online. I either had to find it in the phone book or call 411, which charged money for it. And 411 only handled information in Illinois. If I needed a number across the river in Missouri, I had to call 314-555-1212 for Missouri information. Just to contact information in a different state, you had to know an area code in that state. Sure, 411 could tell you the area code, but then you’d be double-charged for information.

In 1990, I finally got a computer that had a modem (that only displayed green text on a black screen) and I became interested in BBSing. But to connect to one of the dozens of BBSes in my area, I had to get past the busy signal first which could sometimes take hours on the really popular boards. Luckily my modem software would automatically redial a BBS number over and over until it picked up while I did other things. Hopefully I would notice when it connected, before the BBS would hang up on me and become busy again. Oh, and remember 56k modems? Imagine the speed of a 56k and divide that by 46. That’s how fast BBSing was at 1200 baud. When I upgraded to a 2400 baud a year later, I was astounded by the increased speed. And when I finally got a computer with a 40 meg hard drive (that’s MEG, not GIG), I knew that I could never use up all that space.

When I left home in 1991, I didn’t have MapQuest to plot my route to Texas and I didn’t have GPS to bail me out if I made a wrong turn. I had to buy a map to get me there, and at each rest stop I’d have to refold it so I would be looking at the part I was on. There was no little green dot on a screen to guide me anywhere. Once I arrived in a new state or a new city, it was time to buy a new map. By the mid-90’s I had a huge collection of maps that I was dragging around the country with me.

Pornography was not easy to come by. My parents didn’t have any porn in the house, so my brother and I would have to rely on friends to supply us with Playboys and Hustlers. The soft-core images in those magazines was about as good as it got. We might score a new magazine or two maybe once per year. Compare that to the unlimited supply of free porn available to any kid on the internet today. The difference there is just unbelievable.

When it came to watching movies and TV shows, I was at the mercy of cable TV. When the monthly TV Guide arrived in the mail, I would flip through it and highlight the movies that I wanted to watch. Then I would just have to hope that I didn’t forget about it. There was no automatic popup on the TV to remind me that my movie would start soon. There wasn’t even an on-screen guide to show me what shows and movies were playing. I either had to memorize the TV schedule or refer to the TV guide, which was usually buried deep under a pile of newspapers and magazines.

There was no database of movie and TV trivia either. I’m sure there were movie magazines back then, but I’d never seen one. If I wanted to know which actor played a character in a movie or what a song in a movie was, I had to find a time when the movie was playing and wait for the credits to roll. The only problem there was that the resolution on our TV wasn’t meant for reading the tiny text on credits. I was lucky if I could make any of the words out in the credits. And it’s not like I could pause the picture to try and decode the print. Movie trivia just wasn’t accessible back then.

Imagine a life with no Ebay and no Amazon. I lived that life. If we wanted to purchase an item, we had to purchase it at a store and pay full price for it. Our only hope for a discount was to drive from store to store, comparing prices and hoping to save a few bucks. If I wanted a cassette tape, I paid full price. I couldn’t log onto Ebay or Amazon and find a few hundred people selling the same cassette for a fraction of the cost in a store. I was almost always stuck paying full price for just about everything.

And if I wanted to get rid of some old junk I had, there wasn’t much hope of making any money at it. Garage sales were about our only option. My parents had a garage sale once and I put my old TRS-80 computers out, hoping to make $10 off of each of them and some other low prices from the accessories. Years later, I tried selling those same TRS-80’s at a yard sale of my own, for 50 cents each. No takers. Just a few years ago I tried selling all my old TRS-80 stuff on Ebay and I made over $100 from it all. Without the internet, I either had to keep stuff forever, practically give it away for free, or just throw it in the trash. Listing an item for sale in the newspaper was your best shot, but if nobody bought it then I was stuck paying the fee for the classified ad.

If we thought school would be closed due to the snow, there was just one AM radio station we could check to find out for sure. Sometimes it would take up to 30 minutes to finally catch the announcement and we’d wait quietly as the DJ read through an enormous list of closed schools, hoping ours would be in the list. Today, my kids’ school sends out an automatic email or text message to let us know. I don’t even have to wake them up.

People always talk about how great the 80’s were, but how could anyone want to go back to when none of this existed? I love having my entire life’s music collection, my address book, calendar and hundreds of pages of personal notes in the palm of my hand. Being able to take a call in the middle of the woods or at the lake or in your car is awesome. So is instant access to any kind of information imaginable 24 hours a day and an active social life beyond local friends. As a teenager in the 1980’s and even the early 1990’s, I never could have imagined how awesome things would turn out just a couple decades later. And I can’t wait to see how much things have progressed in another 10 or 20 years.

Library books

Went to the library the other day with the kids and ended up finding Mark Twain’s Collected Tales, Sketches, Speeches and Essays. There’s 2 volumes of it so I just picked up the first one for now. Great stuff!

Speaking of libraries…around 1992 I had checked out a book called Steal This Book by Abbie Hoffman. Before I got around to returning it, I looted a 7-Eleven and attempted to flee the state. Somehow this resulted in me never returning the book. When I moved back to the Alton area in 1997, I went to check out a book and they said, “It looks like you never returned Steal This Book” which sounded pretty damn funny. Somehow they let me continue using my library account for the next 8 years without paying for Abbie Hoffman’s book.

Thinking this was a great opportunity for a prank phone call, I called up that library yesterday to check on the status of my account. I was waiting for them to tell me that I’d never returned Steal This Book so I could make a bunch of obvious jokes at them. But nobody I talked to could find any reference to it on my account. I called up several other libraries in the district, since they all had access to my account, but none of them found anything about the stolen book. I guess they just don’t care about a book that I didn’t return 14 years ago.

What was great was that a few years ago I checked that library’s catalog for that book. Right next to the title of Steal This Book it showed the current status of the book. Which was, “Presumed lost/stolen.”

And speaking of library antics! Also back in 1991 or so, Chris Tomkinson and I discovered how incredibly easy it was to get a library card with minimal identification. At the time you didn’t even need picture ID. Just something with your name on it, such as a utility bill. And utility bills were easy to forge. So we starting getting library cards and stealing tons of books. Well, I make the fake utility bills and applied for the accounts. Chris was always too much of a wuss to do any of the dirty work himself. He was just there to reap the benefits.

The maximum you could check out in 1 visit was 8 books. But all the libraries in our district were connected which meant we could check out 8 books from each branch. We had about 7 or 8 branches within driving distance, so that was at least 56 books per fake utility bill we printed up. We spent many evenings driving to every library we could, piling up books in the back of Chris’ car.

The method I used to fake a utility bill was quite primative at the time – I took a real utility bill, applied a light coat of whiteout over the important bits of information, then used my brother’s typewriter to type in new information. Neither of our dot matrix printers would have done that good of a job. The only time this method failed was in the Edwardsville library, when the librarian noticed something odd about the print on the bill. She held it up to the light and could clearly make out the real name and phone number information underneath. I can’t remember how I responded to that, but I know we didn’t get a card that time.

Right around 2001, 10 years later, I decided to return most of my stolen books. Many of them I’d never even bothered to read and they just took up space on my bookshelves which could be going to books that were actually useful to me. So I drove to the East Alton library late one night and dropped a few dozen books into the book deposit. Most of them still had their identifying numbers on them and the stamped card inside, showing the date in 1991 that they were due. I bet the librarians were surprised. If they only knew that many of those books accompanied me as I criss-crossed the country several times in the early to mid 90’s.

He’s got a gun!

At some point in the late 80’s, I purchased a gun at Wal-Mart. No, not a real gun. Just a BB gun. But it was a very realistic-looking, shiny metal gun. It cost around $20.00, plus the several thousand BB’s that I purchased along with it. I’ve seen a very similar BB gun at Wal-Mart recently, but it’s all plastic and fake looking. Mine looked real and that’s the important part. Those BB’s were a lot of fun too. We’d throw hundreds of them into crowds at school or flick them at peoples’ heads in the movies.

Anyway, I carried this gun with me just about everywhere for the next year or so, as long as I could conceal it good. My friend Mike and I shot at everything we could think of. Street signs, buildings, cars, trees, whatever. We’d hang out by the train tracks near his house and shoot at the passing frieght trains. A few times an Amtrak would come by and we’d shoot at it. I remember a guy standing on some platform on the outside of an Amtrak as it passed, extremely pissed at our shooting the train, yelling all kinds of threats at us. No, we didn’t shoot him.

After I bought a car, I started keeping the gun in it so that it was always available to entertain us. Many times, while at a stoplight and with the windows down, Joe would pull the gun out and aim it at my head, screaming at me, “JUST SHUT UP AND FUCKING DRIVE THE CAR MOTHERFUCKER.” And I’d play a frantic, crying hostage as people in nearby cars looked at us in either horror and/or confusion. Luckily nobody owned cell phones yet or I’m sure we would have had all kinds of police excitement.

One day Mike and I were at a nearby train yard, in some kind of abandoned rusted out trolley car, shooting bottle rockets out of the windows. Mostly in the direction of a nearby motel called the Lewis & Clark Motor Lodge. At night, very few of the neon lights on their sign worked, making it Lewis & Clark Orge. Which is almost like Orgy. Which was somehow funny when I was a teenager. Anyway, we ran out of bottle rockets and started walking towards Mike’s house. That’s when I notice a cop car, speeding across the grass field towards us with his lights on. And of course I have my gun tucked into the wasteband of my pants, in the back.

He interrogates us for a few minutes and asks us if we’d been shooting off fireworks or shooting at anything, which we denied. He had us turn out our pockets to make sure we had no fireworks. I’m sure one of us must have had a lighter on us and I don’t remember what was said about that. Maybe I had it in a pack of cigarettes so it looked innocent. He finally seemed satisfied enough and seems about ready to let us go. Then he asks Mike to pull up his shirt. Mike does and does a spin for the cop. Then it’s my turn. Shit. I knew this was the end. I pulled up my shirt, turned around once and then faced the cop. He says, “Okay, get out of here.” I guess I didn’t pull my shirt up enough and he didn’t see it. How lucky was that?? So we headed back to the tracks to shoot more things.

My gun also made several unexpected appearances to unsuspecting passengers of mine. While working at Long John Silvers, my manager asked if I’d mind driving over to K-Mart to pick up the district manager who was waiting in the automotive department because of car trouble. I was so happy to have 15 minutes away from cooking shrimp that I didn’t even think to clear off my passenger seat or it’s floor. The district manager was waiting outside for me so I had to quickly clear a spot for him. First the seat and the district manager got a good look at my gun which was hiding under a bunch of papers and stuff on the seat. I’m like, “Uh..heh…it’s not real. Just a BB gun.” Then I had to clear the floor for him which happened to be littered with all kinds of trash, including Pepsi and Beer cans. Not to mention that I had a clothes bar in the back with all of my clothes hanging on it. I’m sure this guy was feeling really safe getting into a car with me.

We had a pleasant 5 minute conversation as I drove back to Long John Silver’s. I parked in the back and we walked to the back door. I wedged my fingers into the crack around the door and pulled it open, holding it open for him as he walked in. My manager showed up and jokes, “Ohhh, I see Brad is performing a security violation!” Turns out that even though that’s how I got into the building every day, we weren’t supposed to do that and the manager knew it. He told me later that day that he was written up because of it. Soon after I quit that job he was fired. I wonder if my “security violation” wasn’t partly responsible for it. I saw him several months later working at Taco Bell. I jokingly asked if I could have a job and he said, “Yeah right.” I suddenly remember his name being Edward Hogan. I wonder if he’s still got a career in the fast food industry. He must be 50 by now.

When I worked at Circle K in League City, some lady locked her keys in her car. I tried to help her locate the secret key hidden in the magnetic box underneath the car but had no luck. She tried to call home and there was no answer. So I offered to give her a ride home so she could get the spare key and come back with it. As I cleared off the seat, there’s my gun again. I don’t know why I kept it on the front seat so often in Texas. It’s not like I was using it much once I moved away from Illinois. The lady had a concerned look and I told her it was fake and threw it in the back.

Anyway, more appearances of my gun in my life. Hmmmm, what else. I know that my gun was present during my Arkansas Traffic Stop where a fat cop demanded to know if I had any firearms in my car and I told him no. Luckily my car was so packed full of junk that they didn’t happen to find it.

My BB gun disappeared from my life in 1992 while I was visiting Illinois. Chris Tomkinson and I were out causing random trouble when we pulled into a secluded East Alton parking lot. Chris went behind a building to piss and I was just hanging around the car when two cop cars pulled into the lot, wanting to know what we were up to. I think we were there for about an hour, trying to convince them that we were innocent. They split us up, read us our rights and made us tell them everything we’d been doing that night. Hoping to find discrepancies, I guess.

The used car lot next to us had been getting a lot of breakins recently and they thought we were there to steal some car stereos. Looking into my car, the cop noticed that I had a brand new equalizer sitting on the floorboard, hooked up and working. I’d purchased it just a few days before, but the cop assumed that I must have stolen it out of a car and we were back here installing it into my car before we left. He asks if he can search my car and I tell him sure. By then I’d completely forgotten about the gun. I think it was hidden up inside of the seat. The cop found it and exclaims, “Well what do we have here!” He tosses the gun onto the roof of my car, leaving a scratch. My precious 1979 Dodge Colt was scratched! As he pulls the gun out and holds it up, the look of dispair in Chris’ face is so comical. That was the first time I’d ever seen somebody say, “Oh, shit!” without speaking.

The cop locks us both in the back of one of the cop cars while they continue to search my car. By this point I really need to piss and I tell Chris that I’m going to pee in the floorboard. He begs me not to, completely not understanding how hilarious that would be. Looking back, I probably missed my only opportunity to pee in the back of a cop car. What are the odds that next time I’m arrested, I’ll need to pee really bad. Dammit Chris.

In the end, the police let us go. We weren’t really doing anything, after all. The police tells me that he’s going to keep the gun and I tell him that’s fine. He says he may stop by to see me tomorrow about the equalizer since I’d told him that I had a receipt for it. I really did, too, along with all the packaging for the thing. So anyway, those are my gun stories. All the ones I can remember. Maybe I’ll think of some more in the morning and add them.


As a kid I was dragged to church twice every Sunday, including Sunday school. Then many times even on Wednesday. My mother always brought a purse full of crap for me to do while I was there. When I was very young, we occasionally got coloring books and could bring Hotwheel cars. Eventually it all evolved into a few basics to keep me busy – a blank pad of paper, pens, a calculator and an unlimited supply of Juicy Fruit. I think in my later years of church I started bringing books to read. But then my mother banned that once I started getting into Stephen King books. I even brought the books to Sunday school and hid them inside my Bible, reading throughout the class. Looking back, I doubt that was actually fooling the teacher.

But if my parents were so insistant on me going to church, what was the point of bringing me lots of stuff designed to keep my mind busy during the entire thing? I don’t think I actually remember one single sermon or Sunday school lesson from my childhood. I definitely can’t quote any bible scriptures. I do remember all of the songs and how much I hated them. The music service was impressive, with a complete drum set, 3 or 4 electric guitars, piano, etc. But that didn’t change the facts that the songs all sucked and I had to listen to all of the basic same songs for 16 years straight. I don’t care how good a song is – you’re going to hate it after listening to it regularly after 16 years.

Around age 14, I started really getting into church. I went every chance I got, went to Sunday school even when my parents didn’t. I even went on Wednesdays and then to all the after church dinners at Golden Coral. The pastor noticed, I guess, and took me into his office. He had me fill out some kind of forms, applying for official membership of the church and at some point the pastor had me in front of the church, presenting me with something about being an official member. Eventually I even got baptised. The punchline? I didn’t give a shit about the church or anything. I just liked some girl there and wanted to hang out with her as often as possible.

What really sucked as a kid was having Christmas morning fall on Sundays. You wake up, get all these great toys and then you don’t even have time to play with them because you HAVE TO GET READY FOR CHURCH. That was the worst. I managed to quit church forever immediately after turning 16. I got a job and for the next 2 years, instructed my manager to make me work pretty much every Sunday, preferably from open until closing.

1 2