The Woodshop

Posted in Stories on October 2, 2011 by bigdaddygouda

Lately when I go to Morris to visit Keely and the boys, 4-year-old Grayson insists we play his new favorite game, Woodshop.

In the basement of the house Grayson’s dad has a workshop filled with tools and wood. Naturally Grayson also wanted to have a workshop there as well. So, next to his father’s work area, he set up his own work bench along with his own child-sized tools.

The game Woodshop is simple. Grayson is the owner of his very own business. I play the role of various customers who visit Grayson’s Woodshop to have work done. Here is how the first day went.

I arrived at the shop with a broken dirt bike. I introduced myself as John Smith from down the road.

“My son’s dirt bike doesn’t run,” i said, after shaking Grayson’s hand. “Can you fix it.”

“Sure,” Grayson said, enthusiastically. And he went to work, pounding on the bike with his plastic hammer, then wiping it down with paper towels.

“All done,” Grayson said, as he stood before the bike. ( which really belongs to Aidan and takes up permanent residence in the basement, but we can overlook that.)

“Wow, as good as new,” I said, playing the role of good ole John Smith from down the street. “How much do I owe you?”

“Nothing,” Grayson said, casually. “It’s free.”

And with that I left Grayson’s Woodshop only to return moments later as Jim Higgins. I was carrying two pieces of wood I picked up off the dusty floor. After introducing myself I handed the wood to Grayson and asked if he could fashion me a bird house.

“Of course,” Grayson replied.

Again, Grayson went to work, hammering and chopping with his plastic hammer and axe. I pretended to be talking on my cell phone when Grayson stuffed the two pieces of wood under a table and casually picked up a wooden birdhouse from the shelf that his big brother Aidan had made for a Cub Scout project.

“Here ya go,” Grayson said, handing me the wooden birdhouse fit for the Holy Dove himself.

“Thank you sir,” I said. “This is perfect….How much do i owe you?”

‘It’s free,” Grayson said, once again.

I left the woodshop, ready to return for a third time as a new customer. I noticed Aidan’s wooden Louisville Slugger baseball bat in the corner of the basement and picked it up. I stepped outside, then knocked.

“Come in,” Grayson said.

His eyes beamed as he watched me come around the corner holding the baseball bat.

“Hi, I’m Derek Jeter, ” i said, holding out my hand. “Do you know who I am?”

“Yeah, you play for the Yankees,” Grayson said.

I told Grayson that I heard he was the best woodworker in town and my favorite bat was broken. I needed it fixed for the playoffs.

“No problem,” Grayson said, taking the bat from my hand as if it were some glorious, yet fragile,  toy.

A few moments later, after some hammering and sawing and wiping, the bat was done. Grayson smiled wide as he handed me the bat.

“Here ya go Derek Jeter,” he said.

“Thanks  Grayson, ” I said.  “It looks as good as new…. How much do I owe you?”

Grayson held out his little hand, and with a serious look on his face said,

“$10,000.”

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Worth The DRIVE

Posted in Movies on September 17, 2011 by bigdaddygouda

Once in a great while a film comes along and blows the doors off your movie going experience and makes you wanna burn the house down. I mean this in a good way, of course. Drive, the new film staring Ryan Gosling, was that film for me.

First of all the original trailers are misleading. The movie has been marketed as a Fast and Furious type film. It couldn’t be further from that. And let me say, if you like the Fast and Furious movies, and I do, but go in to Drive expecting to seen Vin Diesel rippin shit up then you will be disappointed. This film is more like a cross between The Transporter and Michael Mann’s Heat with a touch of Pulp Fiction thrown in.  Yup, it’s THAT good and worthy of those comparisons.

The film is set in Los Angeles and it looks and sounds like it belongs somewhere in the world of 80s cheese, but it clearly does not. The soundtrack is littered with synthizer driven poppy songs sung by women, that fits the mood perfectly.

Ryan Gosling plays the lead character. His name is never given. I’ll call him the driver.  A stunt-driver by day and a getaway driver for hire by night. It’s apparent from the get go that Gosling’s character is a tortured soul. But why? We are never given his back story. Maybe his parents abused him. Maybe he lost the love of his life to cancer. Or maybe, it’s simpler than that. My theory, the guy is just lonely.

The film begins with the driver on the job. He’s driving two men away from a robbery. The scene is perfect. Minimal dialogue. The speedy cat and mouse chase with police says more than words ever could.

Eventually Gosling meets his sexy new neighbor played by Carey Mulligan. He falls for the woman and bonds with her young son. Things get bad for all characters when Mulligan’s boyfriend is released from jail. His actions put her along with her son in danger. With simple facial expressions and body language it is evident you don’t want to mess with people the driver cares for. And when shits hits the fan and he starts kicking ass, those with weak stomachs may be forced to turn away from the violence.

Supporting characters in this film are a virtual who’s who of TVs most talented stars. Bryan Cranston from Breaking Bad plays Gosling’s mentor. Ron Pearlman from Sons of Anarchy is terrific as a sleazy Jewish gangster and Christina “Big Red” Hendricks from Mad Men shines as a pawn store robber. The best performance in the film however, (besides Gosling) goes to comedian Albert Brooks. He plays a sadistic ex movie producer who kills men in ways you’ve never seen on the big screen.

Get out there and see it. It’s the best film I’ve seen this year.

The Ballad of Jay & Jamie

Posted in Stuff on September 15, 2011 by bigdaddygouda

Now that I’ve had time to decompress from what can only be summed up as The Wedding of The Millenium I’d just like to share a few things I was too nervous to say in front of the hundreds in attendance and the millions watching at home Saturday.

I met Jamie when I was 16. I had a super-duper crush on her friend Becca Clock. Adam and Tai were my best friends at the time and Jamie would invite us to her home on Wilson Road to swim and hangout while I tried to get Jamie to put in a good word for me with Becca.

Years passed, but we remained friends. Spending time together at parties, mostly in Tai’s crowded room or Jamie’s backyard when her parents went away. “Dude, someone better take that bottle away from that kid…Chug! Chug! Chug!”

Our friendship endured into our twenties and then one day I met Jay. He had always been friends with my sis and she vouched for him as ” a cool kid.”

One night, like many nights, I was drinking at the Tavern. Jamie, naturally was there, and that night, instead of leaving with the group, she left with Jay, their arms were  wrapped around each other as they walked to Jamie’s Jeep and my jaw was on the floor. Mostly I was just perturbed that something like this was going on and I knew nothing about it.

“You didn’t know about that,” Tai would say. “They’ve been hooking up for a while.”

Many years later Jay would remark, “I spent my first few years out of college getting blackout drunk at the tavern…somewhere in that haze I met Jamie.” She would later remark that she took an interest in Jay because he was the only one who would do Jack Daniels shots with her.

It was no surprise that Jay and I became fast friends. We shared a love for movies, wrestling and most importantly, The New York Yankees.

To paint a clear picture of my friendship with those two I have to look no further than Valentines Day 2003. I was sitting home alone feeling sorry for myself because the girl I loved, loved someone else. My phone rang and it was Jamie. She asked if I wanted to go to the bar with her and Jay. I declined. It was Valentines Day and not a time for a depressed third wheel. That’s when Jay grabbed the phone from Jamie.

“You’re coming out with us,” he said. “We’re not in to Valentines day!”

Eight years later, that is definetly the best Valentines Day I ever had. I don’t think I paid for one drink that night and every time I turned my head there was suddenly a shot or a Redbull/Vodka in front of me. If I never thanked them for that day I’m doing it now.

A few years ago we celebrated Cooters 30 Birthday with a surprise party at The Village. It was planned by his girlfriend and future wife, Erin. In the middle of the festivities I turned to Jamie and said, “Since I don’t have a girlfriend it’s up to you to plan MY 30th.”

I was only half telling the truth, but sure enough, 5 months later Jamie threw me a rager at her home, preceded by a surprise birthday dinner at Fuji. To this day the best birthday I’ve had in my 34 years on this planet.

Through all the parties, Yankee games, movie nights,  wrestling pay per views, U2 concerts, mutual love for TV shows, and laughing and laughing and falling apart, I must say being a part of Jamie and Jay’s wedding was very emotional for me. I was there from the beginning when they stumbled out of the bar, arms intertwined just starting out on their grand adventure and I was there, front row Saturday, with a lump in my throat as The Imperial March gave way to the wedding march and Jamie, flanked by her father, came walking down the isle looking beautiful as Jay stood at the altar with a goofy grin on his face.

I’m never giving up my front row seat to your life guys. I can’t wait to see where you go next.

All the Best, Enjoy You’re honeymoon because when you get back, we have a Halloween Party to plan.

“Nobody on the road…Nobody on the beach”

Posted in Stuff on September 2, 2011 by bigdaddygouda

Ah, Labor Day Weekend, the official close of the Summer. Here is a brief rundown of my summer.

Memorial Day weekend kicked off the summer in style. I traveled to Mass. to spend the day camping with some friends and had a great time watching the kids play. Later that weekend I caught The Hangover 2 with a big group of friends and laughed my ass off.

Aidan, Grayson and Ollie celebrated their respective birthdays in June with a great party. They also received a swimming pool as a gift and this summer with all the heatwaves I definitely took advantage of that gift through out the past few months.

My mother had a Fourth of July party which also doubled as my niece Bella’s first Birthday party. What a difference a year makes. Last year she was two days old on the fourth of july and barely moved. This year we had to take turns chasing her around the backyard.

Speaking of my mom she gave me a great 34th birthday gift by cleaning my apartment and filling my cabinets with some much needed groceries.

A much needed gift landed in my lap in late July. I was in the process of searching for a second job when out of the blue my cell phone rang. It was my old boss from Nicholas Pizza who offered me a few shifts a week because someone had quit out of the blue and he didn’t want to go through the hiring process. It feels good to be back there, if only for a few nights each week. I REALLY need the extra money and don’t think I could survive financially without it.

But it was the month of August where things really got rolling.

The month kicked off at Infinity Hall in Norfolk sitting in the third row with four of my best friends watching Toad The Wet Sprocket. I believe I stated before, if they ever made a movie about my teen years the music of Toad would provide the soundtrack. (and yes Bub, I know I still owe you for the ticket)

The following weekend I had one of the greatest nights in the last 10 years as we hit up NYC for Jay Marcoux’s Bachelor Party. The festivities kicked off with a Yankee win at the stadium and we pretty much went dark after that. Im sure I could write a great book about that night. The cockroach, Tullock’s front row seats, Bank of America with Chop and the bum, walking the streets in the pouring rain at 4 am searching for a deck of cards….etc etc etc.

Speaking of Jay Marcoux, he and Jamie and a great Jack & Jill with excellent food from Salerno’s in Torrington. We raised the happy couple about $1,500 and that’s not even counting the money I embezzled out of the money box or the booze Copeland drank from the prize table.

Andy and I weathered Hurricane Irene in style. We had plenty of snack food and watched movies all day. That is until Aidan and Grayson came to visit because they lost power in Morris. I introduced the boys to some great Simpsons episodes on DVD and then ate a tasty spaghetti dinner courtesy of my generous landlord.

And that about sums up The Summer of 2011. While I could have used a bit of a summer romance, it was still an above average couple of months…

Maybe I’ll see some of you this weekend, if not… See most everyone next Saturday at, what is sure to be the Wedding of  The Century, where not only are two of my favorite people in the world tying the knot but Ash and I are going to make a baby that very same night.

The Tragic Life of Karen Eckhart

Posted in Stuff on August 3, 2011 by bigdaddygouda

Karen Eckhart worked as a cook at Nicholas Pizza for 20 years. She came to work everyday. She only called out sick once in her two decades of employment and that was to bury her mother 10 years ago. If you were a customer of Nicholas Pizza in the last 20 years then you know Karen. She was the short lady with the short haircut and glasses. . If you didn’t know her by looks then you may have recognized her voice; a high-pitched southern twang. Karen was famous for asking customers if they want “extra cheese, something to drink?” after they had placed their order.

She didn’t talk much to her co-workers, unless of course she was telling them how they screwed something up. She was feisty but fair. Moody and loyal. She rarely smiled but she rarely complained. She was both sweet and sour. She was an odd duck too.

One time she entered the walk-in cooler. I was by the sink doing dishes. She didn’t see me. Karen stopped in the middle of the cooler, put her hands on her hips, looked down at her feet and said, “Hello feet…..what did I come in here for?”

She liked Danny, the restaurant manager. Although she only really asked him two things on a daily basis: “Are the Yankees playing tonight?” and “Did you order this lovely weather we’re having,” the latter question was usually asked during a snowstorm or heat wave.

Karen lived above the pizza place and for the most part she kept to herself. As far as we knew she had no family. If she had friends we never saw them. She was, in all honesty, fiercely private. On her days off she could be seen driving her big old Cadillac to Price Right to shop, to the laundromat and then to the smoke shop to buy a carton of cigarettes. At nights, as she sat in her tiny apartment with her pets, a cat named Silly and a dog named Baby, she often watched Animal Planet.

About six months ago Karen became ill and was forced to retire from Nicholas Pizza. Her apartment above the business was too big and expensive and she was set to move in to Torrington Towers at the end of this month. About 10 years ago when I was a delivery driver for the pizza place Karen would always shoot me a sarcastic smile when I had to take a delivery to the Towers. The elderly residents rarely tipped and they usually complained about the service. Danny used to say to Karen, “Be careful, you may end up there someday.”

Her reply was always the same, “I’d rather be dead.”

Since leaving Nicholas Pizza, the owner, as a sign of loyalty would do Karen’s laundry for her on Monday morning. Sunday night’s the delivery driver would walk up to her apartment, grab her laundry and return it to her the next day.

I worked two Sundays ago and was tasked with retrieving the old lady’s clothes. She hadn’t seen me in about 3 years and seemed generally happy to see me. We made small talk and she told me it felt strange not to be working anymore. It was the most honest thing she had ever said to me.

This past Sunday the employees and Nicholas Pizza found it odd that Karen didn’t call to have her laundry picked up. When they called her she didn’t answer the phone.  The next day when she didn’t answer the door when the meals on wheels arrived the owner of Nicholas Pizza called her landlord. He, along with her long-time boss at Nicholas Pizza entered her apartment.

Karen was dead. It appeared she died of natural causes. She was 65 years old. The ambulance came and took her away. Animal Control came and took away her beloved cat. There was no family to call. And if there is, no one knows about them. There will be no funeral. I don’t even know what the city does with dead people who have no kin.

As I stated, Karen was a private person. It seemed she liked to be alone. That’s how she lived her life and that’s how it ended. Alone.

I knew Karen for 10 years but I didn’t know much about her. She kept everyone at bay. I’m sure she had hopes and dreams and fears but she never shared them with anybody and that’s okay. It was her life and of course, she could live it how ever she chose.

To me though, it just seems wrong in some way that the woman died in her tiny apartment with only her cat for company. But my boss at the pizza place summed it up best when I saw him tonight.

“She did everything for herself and made it on her own,” he said. “I respected her for that.”

I did too. Rest In Peace.

Oh the places you will go

Posted in Stuff on June 24, 2011 by bigdaddygouda

This year, as part of my job, I covered two graduations. Last year I covered three and the year before that I think I set some sort of record by writing about six commencements over the span of two weeks. I really don’t mind covering graduations ceremonies for the newspaper. They are easy. Sit in he audience, listen to the speeches, talk to a few grads, get a few quotes and they are done.

I do take umbrage with the speeches made my the adults at the ceremonies. The quotes and words of advice from the “grown-ups” are phony. Speeches from students are mostly filled with humor and optimism and they should be since the weight of the world has yet to crush their noble spirit. The adults, however, those of us who’ve been there should stop quoting Dr. Seuss and tell it like it really is.

Here’s what I’d say if  I was chosen to give the commencement address:

Good evening graduates. Let me start by saying, if I hear one more student come up here and say how happy they are that it’s over and how they are so glad to be done, I may have to slap them and slap them hard. I’ll leave a red imprint on your face and Ill make you cry.

More than one person has spoken tonight about how exciting it will be in the ‘real world.’ Let me tell you something. I’m going to say it clear and I’m going to say it slow: That, my friends, is a crock of shit.

Agreed, life as you know it is over.  No more teachers no more books no more homework and dirty looks, indeed. But here is what you have to look forward to.

College, yes. But that will end to. Turning 21 and being able to get into bars is fun but it gets old quick. Eventually, the novelty of growing up will wear off. It will be replaced with routine. A job that you must go to everyday. And if you mouth off or skip out you wont get sent to the principal’s office. You’ll get fired.

When you were younger you wanted to be a doctor, or a movie star or a rockstar. Instead, you work at a job you hate. A job that when you were younger you used to laugh at people who had it and say you would never end up here. But it could even be worse than that. Maybe you are relying on Obama for a weekly unemployment check and dreading bumping into someone you know who will almost certainly ask you, “What are you doing for work?”

Bills will start to pile up. A letter will come and say they are turning off your heat. Your stomach will get bigger while your bank account will shrink.

Your parents, who once seemed so powerful and “with it” will get old.  They once had all the answers but now their hair is turning gray and when you turn to them for help, try as they might, the best advice they can give you is: “You’re on your own now, kiddo.”

Still glad it’s all over?

Since I know you little shits love quotes, allow me to quote a line from Diane Cord’s Valedictorian speech in ‘Say Anything’.

“I’ve seen our future and all I can say is, Go Back!”

Happy Graduation Fuckers!

Flip Em The Bird

Posted in Stories on May 19, 2011 by bigdaddygouda

Sometimes I leave my porch door open to let in the fresh air. Last Thursday, some of you may recall it was sunny and 70. The nicest day of the year I would suggest. Of course it turned in to a big headache for me.

Naturally, the first thing I did when I arrived home from work that night was open the porch door. Andy likes to go out there and sniff around while I tend to make frequent trips out to the porch to smoke and spy on the neighbors.

Friday morning around 7 a.m. I was awoken out of a sound sleep by a thump. Was I dreaming. I came out of my daze as I heard Andy’s slow belly growl. The thump had woken him up too. Looks like I wasn’t dreaming.

Andy then shot up like he was spring loaded. His growl turned to a whimper then a frantic run around the house. Something had his interest. I tried to ignore it.  Ususally if he smells an animal outside he goes a bit berserk, fearing the creature is peeing all over his daily marked territory.

Just as I was about to turn over I saw a gray blur jet across my bedroom, followed by another thump against the window. And right behind the gray blur, like a bull in a China shop, was Andy.

I instantly sat up like The Undertaker in the center of a wrestling ring. It was clear to me. There was a fucking bird in my house and Andy was chasing it.

The dog leaped at the window where the bird had crashed seconds before. The second Andy made contact with the blinds the bird flew from behind them, over my bed and out of the room. I’m not gonna lie, I momentarily ducked under the covers and shrieked like a school girl as the bird buzzed over head.

Andy followed, growling and whimpering. I got out of bed, worried that the bird was going to peck Andy’s eyes out.  The winged beast darted throughout my apartment, bouncing off the windows like a rubber ball. Andy gave chase in what I would call the most exciting adventure he’d ever had.

I stood in the doorway between my bedroom and kitchen, on the ready in case the bird came my way. I guess I get the broom I thought and shoo the thing outside. It was no surprise as I reached into the closet I noticed the porch door had been left open. Since the warm weather started last month birds have been attempting to build a nest on the roof and one must have made its way into the house through the open door.

By the time I had the broom in my clutches the bird had already made its way into the spare room, which is a good thing since that’s where the open porch door is. Trouble is the damn thing just kept crashing into the window trying to escape as Andy leapt and barked beneath it. It only had to make a left and it would be free.

I clutched the broom and as I was about to swat at the winged intruder I forget something. Andy HATES brooms. The second he saw me raise the sweeper he turned his attention from the bird and bit into the broom, growling and trying to rip it out of my hands. They say birds are dumb but it must have sensed its opening because the moment Andy and I were occupied the thing bounced off the window and zipped out the porch door and into the world. I dropped the broom as Andy continued to struggle with it and slammed the porch door shut and locked it….as if the bird was going to try to get back in, let alone open the door if it wasn’t locked.

I put the broom away and trudged back to my bedroom. Andy followed as if NOTHING had happened. The damn dog was asleep before I was. Me, I lay in bed, wide awake, staring at the ceiling, wondering….A bird, flying around my apartment at 7 a.m. Really? Really? I guess there could have been worse things to fly into my apartment….like a bee, or a bat…or a 747.