Like clockwork

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Few things in life have such remarkable consistency, but a cargo airplane is one of them.

The roar usually begins at 11:04 p.m. Other times, 11:07 p.m. Rough weather might slip it back to 11:10 p.m. There must be some amount of finger-drumming and toe-tapping.

This UPS flight always heads the same direction – straight away from my apartment windows, out across the water of the Illinois River and into the night.

I know that it’s an Airbus A300 and I know that it goes from Rockford -> Peoria -> Louisville. I do not know if the pilot and co-pilot are fun folks, with loose neckties and wild keychains.

Maybe there’s music playing once they reach a cruising altitude.

Maybe it’s terrifically boring.

Maybe I’m the only one who notices.

Episode 67: “Blade”

Hey, look! It’s the e-cigs guy! We watch chain-smoking vampire Stephen Dorff (and Wesley Snipes) in Blade. Since it’s nearly summer, we turn our attention to swimming memories – and realize that they aren’t always positive. And speaking of blood, this seems like a good time to question the vegetarian motives of one of our members. We’re not exactly the March of Dimes.

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Episode 66: “Gosford Park”

Oh no! Half of the Movie Night™ members are missing! We soldier on (on Memorial Day) with Downton Abbey’s predecessor, Gosford Park. There’s really no difference between the two period dramas. Even Maggie Smith is identical. Urgent haircut discussion saves us from the early 20th century and we cut the whole thing short. When a man’s as short as you are, it must be difficult to gauge the height of the birds.

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Plasma in the kitchen, peanuts in the brain

There’s a small mica plate in all microwaves called the “wave guide cover.” It’s typically happy to sit unnoticed, but my wonderful model has melted and spewed plasma all over a small bag of popcorn.

“Hi, I was cooking my food in the microwave and I realized the a corner piece was missing from the wave guide after I ate my food! Will this cause any harm?”

No doubt!

I’m told that children learn by the time they quit wetting themselves that a microwave should never, ever, NEVER BE ACTIVATED WITHOUT ANYTHING INSIDE OF IT. Doing so risks a Chernobyl-esque event of unearthly glow and arcing terror. It’s plasma, for Chrissakes! And I am the idiot pressing the accelerator pedal straight to hell.

This little microwave was satisfying. For a device whose entire existence rests on ease-of-cooking, turning that dumb analog dial was terribly efficient. No pecking at numbers, power levels or food types. Twist and go.

I’m running an extension cord toward the river, tears streaming from my bloodshot eyes, my microwave’s door flopping open just as it hits the water.


Episode 65: “Omar”

We get rather serious about world affairs (particularly of the Middle East) with the Palestinian movie Omar. Add a dash of Sandra Bullock/Cameron Diaz/actress/actor hate, then a dead bird that’s hung itself ominously in Downtown Peoria. Hungry for cereal? You only get coffee if you do Brando.

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I’ll never move a piano again.

The author in repose.
The author in repose.

I spotted the 1960’s Yamaha M1 in a Craigslist ad – it had been the basement possession of a Peoria woman who recently kicked the bucket. In other words, it was a Sunday driver piano. No mildew, no rat droppings, no rust. It’s sleek, with no front legs visible and a model designation that also works for a high-caliber weapon. Now $600 and sweating in a garage.

I’ve owned many electronic replicas, but only one other piano – I was just a kid, but I remember my name being listed on the title (warranty?) card for a new Schafer & Sons upright that my parents bought. There had been much harassment over the years about getting a real piano after Santa had gifted me a 49-key smaller model with batteries. The idea of it missing 39 keys of potential (and MIDI, too!) drove me absolutely nuts. I mean, I had catalogues clipped with replacement options! So the day that the real deal was delivered to the Gerik house was a joyous occasion of much merrymaking. Or noisemaking.

Fast forward a bit and watch me move off to college, packing an 88-key controller keyboard, 61-key synth and amp into my little Ford Focus. It kept me in the game, tagging along once again when I finally moved to Peoria, Illinois for my first job.

But that acoustic piano never strayed far from memory, always to be dismissed as something that a renter should never pursue along with a giant vinyl record collection and modern art weighing over 500 pounds. But every man has his price, the moment where a crazy idea seems within reach and obstacles are blatantly ignored. I was finally living in a building with an elevator and a loading dock out back. A 31-year-old should be able to handle complex machinery.

I enlist the help of my friend Chris. He brings his enclosed trailer and plenty of ratchet straps. The seller claimed that he had a piano dolly, but it ends up being a 2-foot square piece of wood on wheels. Chris and I manage to get it up a short ramp to his trailer, but there are a few times wen it feels like he might be doing it all himself. I’m a wuss.

We hustle through rush-hour traffic toward Downtown Peoria, keenly aware that there is precious cargo in back. It’s all elevators and level floors from here! On the final turn toward my building, I hear a noise. Not a terrifying noise of a piano exploding, but the sound of weight shifting. We’ll be okay.

The vehicle comes to a stop at the loading dock, the doors swing open on the trailer and I nearly retch. THE PIANO HAS TOPPLED. THE KING IS DEAD.

I later explain to the piano technician that “a few things went wrong” and that the piano “was in pretty great shape” otherwise. I’m a liar. The legs of the bench have punched two deep holes into the wood underneath the key bed. It’s hopeless – splintered wood, regret for roping a friend into the mess, sorrow for even thinking I was responsible enough for a piano. Two fangs sunk into my dream.

We push the ruined piano upright, carefully pull the piano bench out of the piano and shove it into the elevator. It’s a beautiful paperweight. My hands engage keys, activating the the Rube Goldberg action of bringing hammer to string, and it WORKS PERFECTLY.

The bench, on the other hand, is in shambles. It has taken on the task of supporting 600 pounds admirably. I throw the thing into a corner of the apartment and decide to never use it again except for firewood for a fireplace I don’t even possess.

This brings us forward eight months, with registered piano technician Barbara finishing part two of a full regulation on the trooper and I’ve never been happier. The bench is fixed and I’ve spent about the same amount of money to restore it as to get it in the first place. THIS PIANO HAS HISTORY.

Cheese coincidence


This is a vinegar valentine. It’s not mine, but it could be if I had a talking dog. I do have a blanket that I sleep under at night and a nose to smell farts.

I am that dog at times, though. My girlfriend found this particular valentine funny and so did I. We laughed and, eventually, I started puffing for the first time in my life. Labels are important – especially when we’re talking about euphemisms for bodily functions.

I’m shopping at Target last week, unable to decide on anything in particular while I pick up one object to replace it with another and then go back to the original. It’s maddening and extends to my cheese purchases. I settle on a neat little package of cracker-cut slices.

Later, my girlfriend learns that I’ve purchased cheese and points out my subconscious decision to procure fart cheese.

But it turns out that it’s not Limburger – it’s Dubliner.


The booty, so to speak.
The booty, so to speak.

Powerful words

“Well, when I went for my jog this morning, I thought it was going to be pretty warm. But in the event, of course, it turned out to be pretty cool, really. Uh, then it began to cloud up this afternoon quite contrary to the weather forecast, naturally. And I shouldn’t be a bit surprised if we get a spot of rain tonight.”

Fawlty Towers, s01e05

Episode 64: “House”

The box said something about it being a psychedelic ghost tale, but rest assured that this House (or Hausu) has no rules. Also scary? Moths, apparently. Your neighbors’ wireless network name. Donating plasma. You’re so cool, Kung Fu.

Learn more about Movie Night™. Subscribe to the podcast with iTunes or Stitcher.

A different take on Mother’s Day

photo 1

I’m not a big fan of the phrase “working mom.” That’s a position shared by others, but it does still technically fit my mother in the most literal and traditional sense. She was a flight analyst at Learjet for about a decade before she had her first child (a kiddo named Adam!) at the age of 33.

photo 2While home in Wichita over Christmas last year, she grabbed a box from the attic and pulled out old work mementos. It was a mixture of new and old – saved emails and manual tools for math with names that escape me. Papers with performance curves, equations for how fast or slow or steep these jets could safely attempt. Sometimes with my mom aboard them.

She left work for a time upon the birth of each subsequent child, returning after her boss could convince her back. Eventually, she couldn’t be convinced any longer and she took early retirement.

So on a day when most of us are posting old photos of our moms to social media, here’s proof that my mom had a life before me – one with a bright yellow Camaro and freedom that probably made her a much better mother when she was ready.

She's at far left, identified with question marks.
She’s at far left, identified on an adventure with a question mark.