Friday, July 29, 2011


Today I watched a young man around twenty years of age, running around in a parking lot downtown with both hands pressed firmly on his ears, desperately trying to escape the voices in his head… At least it seemed that way to me… No one seemed to be paying too much attention to him really. It just seemed par for the course in the city of Gainesville. Then, a little later, I watched a man walk into a diner I was eating lunch at only wearing a hospital gown, back open with no underwear… He calmly placed his order, and then the person behind the counter filled it with smile… Side note: I did not want to know where he was keeping the 5 dollar bill he produced for payment… After he strolled out and started down the side walk, I thought, I know it takes a lot to be my friend but damn! Being his friend or the man who heard voices 24/7--now that has to take someone with heart. For me, friends come and go in this life… Some come in at just the right moment, they really do… Some are there for tragedy and some are there for laughter, and some are just fun to aggravate… One such friend Tony, I’ve known for many years and have aggravated from time to time because we are as close as brothers… Tony is someone that is extremely ticklish, but I am also someone that is extremely ticklish… Side note, my on personal hell would be, being tickled for eternity by the Devil while having to listen to Celine Dion in the background… Tony had become very leery of me getting within ten feet of him at work… And I’m sure when it was his day off he would have never imaged seeing little ol' me in the grocery store… Because if he did, he would have never placed his arm in the blood pressure machine; letting it tighten down on his arm in an inescapable situation… Yes, to see the look on his face was priceless when he saw my face with eyes full of glee; glazed over by uncontrolled happiness of what was to come… As the profanity laced warnings started to come out of his mouth and the squirming and jerking of his arm trying to break free started, a sense of euphoria settled over me… I thought, now this is what friends are for… As I was within touching distance, I could see he was really uncomfortable, and I think he was saying something about high blood pressure, but I can’t be sure… I decided to let him slide… As much as it was the perfect moment, it didn’t seem right to torture my buddy… Plus, I knew all to well once he got free, he would want pay back…

But I think that’s kinda what friends are for… I know I’ve had my share of squirming from friend’s mischievous ways… The worst memory of this was a few years into puberty, when the awkwardness of being a male can show itself in the most embarrassing ways… When this first occurred, I thought, what the hell is wrong with me? I found myself trying to make sense of this new sensation. I even tried to reason with it, go away! Why are you here? Anyways, this is where a friend did the unthinkable… Well, I think he was thinking of how funny it would be to see me squirm… We were driving over to pick up his girlfriend. Who was a real head turner… He had a small truck with not much room inside… I assumed once we picked her up I would be riding in the back and she would be up front with him… Boy was I wrong… As the truck came to a stop my friend with a big grin says, “Hop in, you can ride on Jason’s lap…” I quickly turned to my friend and looked at him with, please don’t do this eyes. Smiling even bigger, if that was even possible he said, “Come on hop in, we’re going to be late… So there I was, and there she was, and there I was thinking, my good, what is he doing? He is doing this on purpose! Why is he hitting every bump on the way back? I know, he knows, what she may be thinking… Is she thinking? She’s thinking what I’m thinking… Oh no I hope not… But wait I’m not thinking of anything… Oh I wish this was over. This is not funny Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!! Sweat was running down my neck and I know I probably looked like Waldo in the Hot For Teacher Video… It seemed the ride would never end… I thought for sure I was going to have a heart attack right there in the truck… Finally we stopped at her destination and she stepped out… She said goodbye and we drove away… My friend laughed all the way home…

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Under The Skin Of A Friend

A security guard at a place I worked a few years back was telling me that he didn’t like chasing the homeless people off into the woods by himself. I understood his concern yet something stirred inside me… For some reason I wanted to give him a hard time about it. With a smile I said, “You need to be careful, they may tie you up and leave you in your underwear.” To this I got no response. So, then I said, “Better yet, they may tie you up and put their underwear on you to wear. You know that junk is stank…” His face soured in front of me with disgust as he said, “Something’s wrong with you Hodges.” Shaking his head he then walked away.

It’s not all the time I get under people’s skin, just sometimes. But it’s only ‘cause they let me in the most inviting way. I think it’s the eyes that do it for me. The almost gone mad look they have after their button has been pushed. The first time I really remember getting under someone’s skin I was around ten years old. After waiting for what seemed like the longest line on the planet, it was my turn to play the foursquare king. I know, it sounds like a pretty lame game except there were little games to play at the school I was in at the time. Most of the kids there were some kind of delinquent and if they were cool with the game so was I. 

After finally knocking the king off of his spot I began my little victory dance, and speaking the most amount of jive I could about knocking the king off his thrown. Something along the lines of, “Can you feel it? I’m the foursquare king! I’m the foursquare king…” Then I saw something out of the corner of my eye floating toward me like magic, but believe me it was not magic. It was half a red brick that had moments earlier left the hands of the x-foursquare king. I suddenly came to lying looking up at all the kids standing over me with what felt like a watermelon on my forehead.
Although, the brick was brought on by my dance skills and jive-talk, sometimes, it’s my charm that makes people shine through with madness and overwhelming love for me…

My friend Grizzly Madams loves me like a brother… But that being said, our first trip together into the mountains made her want to beat my ass like a brother. I’m from Florida and have spent many days in the thick woods here. It gets cold but not like the mountains. Grizzly being from Colorado knew good and well to bring the right equipment, I did not… I guess looking back; I had spent a lot of my life outside from working in the dirt, to sitting on street curbs after skating at two in the morning. I knew firsthand what cold was and thought I had packed what I needed. It didn’t help that the night before we flew out my friends threw me a going away party. The next morning, hung over as hell, I grabbed an old sleeping bag out of the closet, put it in my back pack with a few things and took off. After a long flight and too many beers in Dallas, I suddenly was starting to set up camp in the mountains. Once it was night time the temperature started to drop rapidly. Climbing in my tent I quickly realized I was in for a long night with a short sleeping bag. In my state of hung-overness I grabbed a youth size sleeping bag. One my son had used years earlier. Being six-foot one made me stick out about three feet… Yeah I was screwed with the night air quickly dipping into the twenties. I climbed out of the tint and made my way to the fire, which was now just a memory. I searched the ground but there was no real wood nearby. So I began walking in a circle around camp trying to stay warm. By this point the beer from the flight had turned into a good hangover. That’s right two hangovers in one day… Suddenly, things went from bad to worse. I heard Grizzly stir from her slumber. I knew I was in for it… “Hodges is that you?” “Yeah it’s me.” “What the hell are you doing out there?” “I’m cold. I didn’t bring the right sleeping bag and there’s no firewood.” "Hmmmmmmmmmmmm errrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr Damn it Hodges… I knew that pack looked light and here I’m carrying an eighty pounder. You know it’s in the twenties out there…” “I know…” “You would have froze to death by morning… I should kick your ass… Come on get in the tent…" Opening her sleeping bag she then said, “Climb in and put your back to me, and if anything even so much as moves or rises in this tent I will beat your ass… I mean it… You won’t be able to get away from me.”

So, there I was sleepless in a sleeping bag, warm, and with my best friend that wanted to kill me… It was good times under the skin of a friend…

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Penguin And The Posty

Mornings are a special type of wonderful in the Dirt Worker’s World, or I should say wonderfully entertaining. I was riding into work a few years ago and a coworker said “I just don’t understand all the bumper stickers we keep seeing.” Which ones I asked? He points to the car in front of us and said, “My Boss Is A Jewish Computer.” This is where reading silently pays off. I see the sticker says, “Jewish Carpenter.” Then I look up to see my boss looking back at me in the rearview mirror. His eyes narrowed with amusement as he tried not to start laughing. Don’t get me wrong, I misread things all the time. We’ve all done it, but answering at this point with a straight face was almost impossible… Somehow, I was able to pull it off with just a slight grin and a nod. “I don’t understand them either, my man…”

Riding with coworkers is always interesting, but riding with my super religious mother when I was in high school, well, that was a trip all to itself. Having a southern accent kinda goes along the territory when you grow up in North Florida… My pronunciation could be at times comical to friends. So, one day a friend, while riding in my car, decided to help me out by writing a word down for me on a posty note that I had been saying wrong for quite some time. As she stuck it to the dash board of my car she said, “It’s Vagina, not Fagina Jason!” I didn’t think much of the posty note at the time, it kinda blended in with all the skateboard stickers on my dash. So a day or two went by and I found myself driving back home after a night out on the town. As I looked down the long stretch of highway I saw a familiar sight, my mother’s car on the side of the road, and my mother, The Penguin standing with her hands on her hip. She acquired The Penguin as a name from one of my good friends that thought she acted like the nun in The Blues Brothers. The one that could float across the room and beat people with rulers and stuff…

I pulled over and asked her if she wanted a lift home. She was coming back from church and it was already mid-afternoon, way too hot for The Penguin to walk in her best Sunday clothes. She climbed in and we started back home. As we rode, she seemed talkative at first, then she became eerily quite. I could sense something was wrong but what could it be? Then I saw it, the posty note with all caps, “VAGINA.” I thought, What? Damn! How can I distract her and grab it before she sees it? Jason, she has already seen it. Even The Penguin knows what that word is. My God, what could she be thinking of right now, "Why is my son riding around with a note that says VAGINA on it? What is wrong with that boy?"At that point of the ride I just watched the road, hoping my driveway would somehow magically appear in front of my car. I can see you haven’t been to church lately! Was The Penguin’s favorite saying when I was growing up. I just knew, I would hear those words, but I didn’t. In a way I wish I had, but instead nothing but silence. A fate worst than any other coming from The Penguin.