Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Family Portrait

The Horwedel kids - circa 1982. (Photo by Olan Mills Studios)

The coupon came in the mail one day in late August of ‘82. Normally, a coupon like that would be tossed in the trash (like 95% of all our other junk mail, and occasionally the actual mail too if my old man got to it first) but for some reason my mother saved this coupon and set it aside.

None of us kids paid any attention to the mail – that was mom’s job – so I don’t think any of us even noticed the coupon or what it was for. We also hadn't noticed the fact that my mother had been scheming to get us into a portrait studio for a few years. The coupon for a free sitting at Olan Mills Studio and a $15 - 8 x 10 was just the final push she needed.

“Kids, we haven’t had a family portrait in nearly five years.” She said to us, seemingly out of the blue one day. “I’ve got this coupon for Olan Mills in Sandusky, I think we should get one done before you all go back to school.”

Looking back, I can see my mom’s point. I was about to be a senior in high school, my sister Dina was off to her first year of college, my brother Lance was going to be a freshman in high school, and my other brother Duke was a seventh grader – it was hard to say when any of us would be living under the same roof again after that summer, and I think my mom wanted to make sure she marked that transitional time in her kid’s lives (and hers too) by having us sit for a formal portrait.

That was where my mother severely underestimated the amount of resistance with which her idea would be met.

“Ahh, for Christ’s sake Mom, none of us wants to wear some stupid monkey suit to some stupid portrait studio so we can roast our asses off under some hot lights for two hours!” I complained.

“Yeah Mom, Lon’s right.” Lance chimed in. “Why can’t we just set up a tripod and shoot one ourselves?”

“Because I know you guys too well.” My mom said. “You’ll probably go and do something moronic … besides, Lon can’t print color in his darkroom and Olan Mills can. Now just make your mother happy and go and do this Goddammit!”

“Fine!” I snorted, “But I’m not wearing a stinkin’ suit.”

As luck would have it, I didn’t have a suit that fit anyway. Nor, it turns out, did my brothers. We’d all been victims of growth spurts that summer (thank God) and my mother soon realized that the $15 – 8 x 10 could well cost her hundreds of dollars is she were to outfit her three sons in new suits for the portrait.

Quietly, we all breathed a sigh of relief, except, of course my mother, who wasn’t so easily deterred.

“Well, just wear dress shirts then.” She said sternly.

“Awww Mom, c’mon!” We complained in unison.

“Look, you’re getting the picture taken and you’re going to look nice.” She fired back.

“Wait – whaddaya mean ‘you’re getting the picture taken?’ Don’t you mean ‘we’re’ getting the picture taken?” I asked.

“Oh no! I’m not getting my picture taken.” My mother said, realizing for the first time that maybe we had the upper hand.

“And why not?” I asked.

My mother fished around for a good excuse, but all she could come up with was: “Because I just got my hair cut and I look like a damned squirrel.”

“Well if you ain’t doin’ it, we ain’t doin’ it!” I said.

My mother calmly lit up a cigarette, gave me her patented "evil eye" and then blew a puff of smoke in my face.

“Guess again!” She said.

It didn’t seem fair. It didn’t seem right. But we kids knew what we had to do. We loved our mother very much. We couldn't let her down. That’s why we knew it was both in her, and our, best interest to directly disobey her.

As painful as we knew it might be, we surely didn’t want to saddle my poor mother with some cheesy portrait - one that didn’t reflect the true, rebellious individuals she had raised. We needed to give her something that was uniquely us … something she could really be proud of … something she wouldn’t soon forget! A photo she would cherish for years to come – one that would more accurately reflect the individual spirit in all her kids, but most importantly, one she would never place on a mantle or a wall anywhere in the house. Even if it meant she was going to kick our asses when she saw the finished product.

Getting all four siblings on the same page was the easy part. None of us wanted any part of a formal sitting anyhow, so once we decided to change “formal” to “abnormal” we actually started looking forward to the photo session.

The first part of the ruse was for us boys to pick out dress shirts and ties from the closet we shared, making sure we complained every step of the way so my mother wouldn’t become suspicious. My sister actually orchestrated the whole thing, and for the first time in our childhood, we actually worked together as a team. It wasn’t exactly "Oceans 11" or anything, but it was pretty exciting. There we were, trying to pull a fast one on our mother – the same woman who had brought all of us into the world - and the same woman who let us know as often as possible she could just as easily take us out.

Picking out clothes we had no intention of wearing was easy - picking out clothes we actually wanted to wear proved a little more daunting. My sister kept waffling back and forth between something slutty Goth, or something slutty punk, eventually settling for a hybrid of the two complete with a plastic lobster. My brother Lance quickly chose a “British rock star” look, which wasn’t much of a stretch since he was a really good guitarist already. My youngest brother Duke had his sights set on a military look, which also wasn't much of a problem until he threatened to boycott the whole thing when we told him he couldn’t bring real weapons to the sitting. We got him to change his mind when we told him he could smoke one of my dad’s cigars instead.

I, unfortunately, had no idea what the hell I was going to wear. I toyed with the idea of showing up in just my underwear since I had been a notorious streaker as a child, but my sister had her reservations about the photographer even taking a photo of us dressed as we were, let alone mostly nude.

Eventually I settled on a very unoriginal “We are the 80’s” look, complete with a dorky headband it looked like I stole from Olivia Newton John, and an open shirt with an arrowhead necklace I actually did steal from my dad.

Once our outfits were chosen, we stuffed them into a gym bag and hid them in the back of our 1976 Gran Torino station wagon. As luck would have it, my mother scheduled our photo session on a weekday in the early afternoon, meaning my dad would still be at work. Our other stroke of luck happened to be the fact that our mother didn’t drive - that and she was more than happy to get us the hell out of the house for a few hours, meaning she wouldn’t be along for the session either.

Unsupervised, it was our responsibility to make good on our promise to our mother, but it was even more important to make good on our mission to remain ourselves.

A mile out of town, I quickly pulled the station wagon off the road into a cornfield I often went parking with my high school girlfriend. Once safely out of view, my brothers, my sister and I, changed out of our dress clothes and into our official portrait session attire. If any of us had second thoughts, none of us voiced them.

We remained nervously quiet the rest of the drive to Sandusky. I think we were more afraid of getting into trouble from the photographer than we were my mom. At that point it didn’t matter. We pulled into the Olan Mills parking lot without saying a word. My sister checked her hair and makeup in the rearview mirror one last time as I grabbed the coupon off the front seat. Lance snatched his guitar out of the back of the station wagon and slammed the tailgate shut. Duke stepped out of the car, glanced out over Lake Erie, and lit his cigar.

The four of us walked shoulder to shoulder toward the studio. As we approached the front door, a well-dressed family of four who had just finished their session, exited the studio. They froze, somewhat horrified at our sight. The dad grabbed up his wife and two little girls, both dressed in pink frilly dresses, and pulled them away from us.

“Excuse me sir.” I said politely.

My brother Duke just tipped his army helmet and calmly said, “Good day, Ma’am.”

Behind us we heard the nice family of four scurrying through parking lot, followed by the sound of slamming doors and tires squealing. Ahead of us we heard the gasp of the studio receptionist when she saw us walk into the waiting room.

“Is my three o’clock here yet Phyllis?” The photographer shouted from the studio in the back room.

Phyllis wasn’t quite sure if we were the three o’clock, or if we were there to rob the joint. My sister and I assured her that we meant no malice, and we were, indeed, her three o’clock appointment. While we were talking to Phyllis, the photographer popped his head in to see what was taking so long. When he caught sight of us he stopped dead in his tracks and did a double take.

Duke snapped his heels together and saluted him.

A moment of awkward silence followed as the photographer looked us over. Phyllis waited for someone to say something or tell her what to do. Silence continued to hang in the air when a huge ash broke off the end of Duke’s lit cigar and flitted down onto the floor. Seconds later, the photographer erupted in laughter.

Soon, we all were laughing - even Phyllis (nervously).

“Come on in kids.” The photographer said, still chuckling and shaking his head in disbelief. “But son, first you have to put out that cigar.”

In the end, everything worked out just fine, and even though he made my brother put out his cigar (he did let him keep it in his mouth) I’d like to think we made that photographer’s day. He still posed us in an awfully formal fashion, but in some ways it made the picture even more funny and unique.

After the shoot was over, we drove back to the same cornfield and changed back into our duds. When we arrived back at the house my mother asked us how things went.

“Ahh … just fine." I said, "It wasn’t so bad after all.”

Like I said earlier, the mail was always my mother’s thing, so none of us knew for sure when D-Day would arrive, we just knew we were in for an ass-whoopin’ when it did. Then, one day while we were watching TV in the living room, we heard my mother crying in the kitchen. Not knowing what possibly could be wrong, we went to check it out, and there, on the kitchen table were roughly eight proofs from our photo shoot.

Slowly, we began backing away, fully expecting her to wield a wooden spoon from underneath the table and start smacking us upside our heads. But she was unarmed (not even a measuring cup) and she couldn’t stop crying. Soon, we realized she was crying from laughter.

We couldn’t believe it, our plan had actually worked! We’d directly disobeyed her wishes by trying to capture the essence of our individualism with our quirky portrait and our mother seemed to truly appreciate it.

My mother liked the portrait so much she proudly displayed it in our house right up until the day she died last March. The week she died, my brothers, my sister and I, found ourselves under the same roof for the first time in a long time, just like my mother had predicted nearly 30-years earlier.

We looked through a lot of family photo albums that week, but I think I can safely say our favorite photo came from that hot afternoon in late August, when we all piled into our Gran Torino station wagon and headed west toward the Olan Mills Studio in Sandusky, Ohio, with the warm summer wind in our hair, and cigars a blazin'!

(For the record, we had so much fun the first time at the Olan Mills Studio; we actually made a repeat performance the very next year – with coupon in hand, of course.)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Pet Peeves - This is no cat fancy!

Meet our family cat Levi - the bane of my existence! (Photo by Lon Horwedel)

I’m not exactly sure when it happened, but somewhere along the line I’ve grown to pretty much disdain our family cat.

It might have something to do with the fact that I’m the only one who actually feeds the damn thing. My kids are so neglectful, I often wonder how long the cat would survive if I did nothing to keep it alive. A week? Two weeks? A month?

There could be tumbleweed blowing around in his water dish and they wouldn’t bat an eye. The cat literally could be sitting half-dead, skeletal-like, with an empty food dish dangling from his mouth and they’d just step over him on their way to the television set.

When I bring this up with the kids, they tell me, “Dad, we give Levi (that’s his actual name) love - that’s way more important than food.”

“Great.” I tell them. “Make sure you put that in his eulogy after he drops dead from starvation!”

Of course, if they can’t bother themselves with something as simple as pouring water into a dish or putting food in a bowl, you can only imagine the amount of neglect they show to his litter box. Yup, that’s right, I’m the lucky one who gets stuck cleaning up not only his litter box, but also the floor next to the litter box where he routinely dumps about 85% of his turds, saving the other 15% to slide down the side of the box in a lovely brown trail of impossible to clean nastiness.

On top of his crap (which I normally let harden into hockey puck status before taking his pooper scooper and flicking it into an open plastic bag with a wrist shot Bobby Orr would be proud of) he also leaves a weekly average of at least three or four piles of cat puke all over the house. (Although in the cat’s defense – he does manage to avoid all carpeted surfaces, aiming for the hardwood floors in the hallway, or the cement floor in the basement instead.)

Even with all the messes, I might be inclined to still sort of like the cat (he was extremely cute as a kitten, after all) if not for all of his annoying “cat” habits. For example, he has this way of driving me nuts with his incessant meowing. I suppose it’s not his fault - it’s not like he can talk and tell me what’s on his mind, but when I’ve fed him, changed his litter, and cleaned up his vomit, why the hell can’t he just leave me alone so I can eat my breakfast in peace?

I’ve come to realize that he’s a very finicky bastard, even by cat standards. He won’t eat anything in his food dish that’s more than 15-minutes old; it has to be fresh out of the bag or he won’t touch it. Have you seen the price of cat food? He obviously doesn’t know he's middle-class.

He also has this uncanny knack of clawing everything in the house that once was made of beautifully stained hardwood until it’s his own personal pile of kindling. Something in that cat’s brain either doesn’t compute, or just doesn’t give a shit when it comes to learning because I could literally shoot him in the head with a blow dart when he’s scratching the hell out of one of our doorframes, and 10-minutes later he’ll be doing it again!

My love for yogurt is gone as well, thanks to the cat. I used to love yogurt. It was the perfect snack for me when I was trying to eat better. But now if the cat hears either the sound of a spoon coming out of the silverware drawer or the lid being pulled off a cup of yogurt, he’ll appear from out of nowhere in a millisecond, and constantly meow until you let him lick the inside of the container when you’re finished. If I don’t give it to him, the kids get all over my case, but those dimwits let him have half the container. That’s all fine and good for them; they don’t have to clean up kitty diarrhea three hours later!

Another one of his finest qualities is his amazing ability to get under my feet at the most inopportune times - like when I’m bringing a load of laundry up the basement steps. It’s no problem for him - he’s got nine lives. If I trip over his fat ass and send him flying down a flight of steps onto the concrete floor, he still has eight more to spare. I, on the other hand, have but one, and the thought of me lying in a crumpled heap at the bottom of the steps with my head bleeding profusely into a fresh load of whites, isn’t necessarily a good one.

But the worst part about that damn cat is that he actually likes me, and I wished he didn’t. If I go to work out, he’s there to annoy me. When I come home from work, he’s at the front door wanting attention. If I take off my shoes or my slippers, he lies on top of them and puts his paws inside the heels. He never gives me any space. Never. I can’t even begin to tell you how uncomfortable it is to feel his stupid, little cat eyes boring through the back of my head while he sits and stares at me from the foot of the bed when I’m trying to get intimate with my wife. YEECCH!!!

I feel like I’m turning into my dad. He’s hated cats for as long as I can remember. My only memory of him even touching a cat was when he was carrying one of them through the house by the scruff of their neck muttering, “Stay out of the Goddamned house!” before jettisoning the poor cat out the back door.

But I never used to be like this. I actually liked cats when I was a kid. We had tons of cats when I was growing up – most were the outdoor variety, thanks to my dad, and some weren’t around long enough to even earn a name, but some were so beloved that not only were they given a name, but we’d sneak them inside the house past my dad where soon they’d became a vital part of our family. Cats like Cupid, Moose, Cisco, Uncle Smokey, Winifred, Fourfeet, and Fandango. I remember them all fondly, even though most of them met some horrifying fate.

Fandango’s death, in particular, was a fairly gruesome one, but it didn’t stop my mother from using it as a learning tool. Apparently, when I was real little I used to play a little too close to the street for my mother’s comfort, so when poor Fandango came out on the losing end of a game of chicken with a Ford Maverick, she jumped at the chance to teach me a lesson by scooping the poor cat’s mangled corpse off the road with a snow shovel, and shoving it in my 5-year-old face.

“SEE –THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU PLAY TOO CLOSE TO THE ROAD!!” She screamed, as one of Fandango’s eyeballs rolled out of his crushed skull and off the end of the shovel.

It wasn’t exactly a fond memory, but I must admit, I did stay away from the road after that.

Cupid arrived at our house shortly after Fandango’s "educational" death. She was easily the prettiest cat we ever owned - a beautiful calico with long hair and green eyes. She also was the meanest bitch of a cat in the entire town of Berlin Heights. Many a dog bore the scar of her claws on their nose, and there wasn’t a tomcat in town she didn’t f#*k up a time or two if they got too close to her when she wasn’t in heat. Still, somehow she managed to birth several litters of kittens in her lifetime, so I guess she couldn’t have been all that bad.

Two of those kittens were Crisco and Cisco. Both were from the same litter and both were snow white carbon copies of one another, only Crisco had long hair, and Cisco had short hair. Unfortunately, Cisco didn’t last long, about a year I guess before he met his untimely demise thanks to the errant riding-mower skills of our elderly and somewhat blind neighbor, Colonel Hine. Crisco, however, lived for nearly 20-years before he died, growing to be so gargantuan (23-pounds) that we actually renamed him Moose.

Moose was always my favorite cat - a big, white, pillowy fella who loved to play with my long blonde hair when I was a kid, especially when it was wet. He was a gentle giant whose only weakness was the taste of fresh baby rabbits. This presented a bit of a dilemma for my siblings and me because we loved Moose a lot, so we hated the fact that he forced us to play goalie on him with a broomstick whenever he would to pluck a freshly born bunny from its nest by our neighbor’s barn and bring it back to our house where he would devour it under our back porch.

Moose - Nice cat? or bunny killer? (Photo by Lon Horwedel)

We were the rabbit’s only hope - his last line of defense. If we could swat Moose upside the head with the broom and make him drop the bunny before he got under the latticework of the porch, we often could save it and return it to its nest. If not, there was nothing we could do except plug our ears to try and drown out the bunny’s high-pitched squealing until Moose delivered the fatal blow and settled in for some rabbit stew.

Uncle Smokey was charcoal gray and actually was Moose’s uncle. He went from being one of the coolest looking cats you ever saw, all fluffy and smooth, to one of the mangiest - and in only a few years! My mom always thought he had some rare feline disease. Whatever the case; he had one serious case of cat B.O. (if that’s even possible). It got to the point where we couldn’t let the poor guy anywhere near the house after a while. I’m sure he didn’t understand it, but he really stunk. We even toyed with the idea of painting a white stripe down his back to see if a family of skunks might take him in. But it was no use; scrawny, smelly, and unwanted, Uncle Smokey disappeared one day in the spring of 1976, only to be found later that summer in the woods behind our house decomposing on the rocks in Old Woman’s Creek.

Winifred was a carbon copy of Cupid, only years younger and much smaller. Her claim to fame was nearly slashing out my brother Lance’s throat one day in a typical fit of cat personality change that made Sybil look fairly balanced. One second she was purring contently as he cradled her in his arms, and the next second, without any warning, she went totally loco and Velcroed herself to his neck with her razor-sharp claws.

Lance never touched Winifred again, but he did write a song about her, changing her name a little and singing to the tune of “Wild Thing.” It went something like this:

“Wine-freeddum, dum, dum-dum, dum, dum … You make my neck bleed!!

Fourfeet was around about the same time as Winifred. Oddly enough, it also was the same time the movie “Dances With Wolves” was popular, so we spent the better part of that year either naming, or renaming everything we saw, Native American style. For example, my brother took to calling me “Head Like Egg” and I started calling him “Breath Like Shit.”

I’m not really sure if Fourfeet was male or female - we never really bothered to check because we were to preoccupied wondering how in the hell it wound up with two extra paws on its front feet. Fourfeet didn’t last long, but I don’t think he (or she) met some horrible end. Come to think of it, neither did Winifred. Maybe the two of them ran off together, I’m not really sure. I just know I came home from college one day and both were gone. From that point on they were known only as “Odd Tracks in Snow” and “Claws Like Razor.”

Maybe I liked all those cats when I was a kid because I never had to anything more than just love them and have fun with them (And boy did we have fun. I’ll never forget the day my brothers and I decided to float a fresh batch of kittens off our sun porch with my G.I. Joe parachute. My mother just about had a coronary when little meowing kittens began floating down past the kitchen window while she was doing the dishes. But we knew what we were doing - they all landed softly, perfectly unharmed in the flowerbed by the side of the house). But my dad didn’t have to take care of them either, so I’m not really sure why he hated cats so much.

Who knows, maybe when he was a kid he liked cats too and he just grew to dislike them as he got older. Maybe it’s just in my heredity to do the same, or maybe I just can’t handle getting too close to a pet that I know will soon go the way of Uncle Smokey (God, I hope not) or Fandango.

Whatever the reason, I can honestly say that none of it makes me feel any better about the prospect of cleaning a fresh load of cat shit off the basement floor tomorrow morning.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Hanging On - Remaining friends through thick and thin

Acting like fools on a King's Island roller coaster - and wearing identical Tubes concert t-shirts too!

I ran into my cousin John at a Super Bowl party in Toledo, Sunday night. We hadn’t seen each other for quite a while, so I asked him how he was doing.

“I’ve never been more depressed in my whole life.” He told me.

“Must be an epidemic.” I replied.

It wasn’t exactly the best way to start off the evening, so for the next three hours we watched the Packers beat down the Steelers and tried to figure out why it was we were feeling so down.

Watching the Super Bowl and talking about sports was easy for us - talking about life was completely different - something we’d never really done all that much before. But there we were, talking more about the way we were feeling than about dropped passes or botched National Anthems - not exactly typical guy stuff.

John and I grew up down the street from each other in our small hometown of Berlin Heights, Ohio. He was a year older and a grade ahead of me in school, but for most of our childhood we were pretty much inseparable. I always considered us best friends instead of cousins, and I made it a point to defend that notion whenever some neighborhood kid would tell me John couldn’t be my “best friend” because we were related.

Growing up, there wasn’t a single thing John did that I didn’t do myself. When he got a basketball, I got a basketball. When he took up golf, I took up golf. I even made it a point to try and have a crush on the same girls he liked. It was probably annoying as hell for him, but he never complained. That’s just the way it was, and that’s the way I thought it always would be. But things change, and our friendship was no different.

It all started when John graduated from high school. Without him around, it really took the air out of my senior year – a year that was supposed to one of my best. I had fun, sure, but for the very first time in my life, I suddenly felt alone.

John went to work at his dad’s gas station while I finished up my last year of school. I rarely saw him during the week, but we’d still get together nearly every weekend to play some kind of sport or go to a concert, or at least talk about them.

When I graduated from high school I got a job working as a bag boy at the local grocery store. By then, John had left the gas station to go to work at a printing press. At the end of each workday, we made it a point to meet up and hang out, usually on a golf course somewhere.

That was a great year for me. We were still young and relatively carefree, and even though we both sensed the end of our carefree days was near, it didn’t bother either one of us because we knew the groundwork of our friendship had been laid and no matter what happened from that point on, we would remain best friends the rest of our lives.

Over the next several years our communication often would flitter between very little to non-existent. It didn’t matter. We’d grown to be the ultimate guys. We didn’t need constant communication to strengthen our bond or know how important we were to each other.

When I got married in 1996, John was my best man. (I had been his in 1987). He had two kids by then and had another one on the way. He was a busy guy raising his young family, working a ton, and stressed to the bone, but he still found the time to be at my side on my big day and I appreciated it. We didn’t speak much in the days leading up to my wedding, or even at my wedding, but we did go out and play golf the day before.

Before the year was over my wife and I had our first kid. Two years later we added our second, by then, John and his wife already had three girls. Not to be outdone, my wife and I added a third child two years later. That was enough for me, but just to be sure I got a vasectomy - it was the first time in my life I actually did something before John did - a few months later, he followed suit and got one as well, but his wasn’t quite as successful and later that year, his fourth child, a girl I nicknamed “Houdini” was born.

For the past 15-years, John and I have lived similar lives in different towns and somehow we’ve managed to carry on our friendship with little or no communication, usually seeing each other only once or twice a year.

We’ve muddled through the highs and lows of life doing the best we can while trying to do things the right way. We bought houses, had kids, and lived our lives clean. Yes, we’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way, but for the most part our kids have turned out normal, maybe even above average, and soon, before either one of us really wants it or expects it, they’ll be out on their own.

We’re older now - much older. We’ve both seen parents die the last few years, and when the economy went down the crapper, we watched our careers go down with it.

On Sunday I guess it really hit him, and me, that not only were we both suddenly middle-aged, but also we had not a single, solitary clue of what the hell we’re doing, or how the hell we’ll cope with the challenges we’ll surely face in the coming years.

When John told me he was depressed, I immediately felt the need to talk about it. Truth is, I’d been needing to talk to somebody starting with the day I went to see a college financial advisor who told me I ought to seriously consider getting a new job – one that pays a lot more, and now I had a captive audience.

“Maybe we’re depressed because our kids are getting older.” I said just before kickoff.

“Maybe.” John replied.

“Or maybe we’re depressed because we’re getting older.” I said.

“Could be.”

“Or maybe we’re depressed because for the first time in our lives we’re parentless and everything we’ve ever worked for in our lives has blown up in our face!”

“Jesus Lon, you’re not really making me feel any better.” He said.

It felt really strange to be talking to John about something besides sports, but it also felt good.

Modern technology had cost us both our jobs. The Internet helped kill the newspaper I worked for, but it also sent a lot of magazines to an early grave too. Since John’s press printed mostly magazine ads and inserts, he never really stood a chance. Both our companies fought valiantly to stay alive, but both eventually threw in the towel.

In many ways John and I are lucky because we both found new jobs doing essentially the same thing we did at our old jobs. But neither one of us is particularly happy with our new gigs and it’s not just because we're making a lot less money.

“Did you ever think you’d work anywhere else at this point in your life?” I asked him.

“Never – I thought I’d retire at my old plant.” He said.

“Yeah, I really liked working at The News too.” I said. “I know taking pictures is taking pictures, but it just isn’t the same.”

We went on to reminisce about our time as kids – simpler times that didn’t involve anything more than a ball, a glove, and a front door to walk out of. No video games, no cell phones, no computers. If we we’re bored we’d sit on my front porch and count cars to see if there were more Ford’s driving down the street than Chevy’s. It was a time I wish my own kids could have experienced, but they too, are victims of the modern age.

“I’ve lost my daughters to technology.” I told John. “They can’t go anywhere without their stupid cell phones buzzing every five seconds.”

“I don’t get this whole texting thing.” He said.

“Tell me about it, Olivia spends half her day texting her damn boyfriend. I asked her why she doesn’t just call him and she told me texting was easier. How in the hell is texting on a microscopic keypad easier than talking?”

“Maybe they just don’t know how to talk to each other.” John said.

“Exactly! Modern technology is bass-ackward - I mean if the phone had been invented after email or texting, people would be saying, ‘You mean I don’t have to type on a keypad anymore … I can just talk to someone on this thing … THAT’S AMAZING!!!’”

“It won’t be long before nothing is printed on paper anymore either.” John added.

“Now John - why would anyone want to read a newspaper or, God forbid, a book, when they can just go online and fry their eyeballs on a Kindle or burn the tops of their thighs reading their laptop on the shitter?” I asked sarcastically. “Christ, people can’t even drive down the frickin’ street anymore without their GPS telling them where to go.”

“This must be how people felt during the industrial revolution when cars started replacing horses.” John said.

“Probably.” I said. “But at least the horses were better off.”

We both sat silently for a while and watched the end of the first quarter, then a commercial for the latest iPhone came on.

“Can you imagine how different our lives would have been if we had that crap when we were kids?” I asked.

John didn’t say anything. Neither did I. We just shook our heads at the thought and for the rest of the game we did what we’ve always done best - we talked about sports.