Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Toilet Papering and French Leather Incident

I was talking with a friend of mine about a week ago and the subject of my dad’s frugality came up. It came in the form of a toilet papering of my house back when I was about 17. The toilet papering turned into a bit of a tricky situation. Especially the fact that during that time in my youth, when discussing the toilet papering incident with my high school friends, I had to leave out a minor detail, out of fear that my friends would keep doing it.

It was a Saturday or Sunday morning, and I woke up to my dad saying in his Dutch accent “Erik! You need to get up and clean the front yard and your car. They’re covered it in Toilet Paper and French Leathers.” French what? I knew what toilet paper was, but what the hell was a “French Leather”?

The sound of my dad’s voice also woke up my older brother Tony. So he came along out to the front yard to see what all the commotion was about. Sure enough, the house, yard and my car were covered in toilet paper, but where in the hell were the “French Leathers?” When I got to my car to inspect more closely, I saw that it was also decorated with condoms. At that point, I knew what a “French Leather” was. I think the perpetrator must have wasted a whole jumbo fun pack on my car and the house.

While looking at the mess, our neighbor Jim from across the street walked over to give us a report of what happened. Jim was a former Green Beret or Commando or some type of Special Forces. He was always up late at night screwing around with something. Having Jim around was kind of like having your very own neighborhood security guard who knew how to kill people. What he had in killer instinct, he lacked in common sense, because sometimes he worked on his car around midnight. However, he was approachable and if you asked him to put off working on his car until the next day, he would easily oblige.

Apparently while doing something late at night he noticed what was going on around our house. So he apprehended the perpetrators about when they finished soiling our house and my car with toilet paper and “French Leathers.” “I took care of them” he said “It was a blond guy and his girlfriend. They drove a Mercury Tracer, and I put the scare of meetin Jesus in them. Don’t think they’ll be coming back any time soon.” I knew a blond guy who drove a Mercury Tracer. It was Bruce Barker and his girlfriend Shauna (RIP). Those two were like two peas in a pod. Damn Them!

After Jim left, Tony and I got straight to cleaning up the place. We cleaned it up fairly quickly and made a large mound of toilet paper on the front lawn. When my dad came outside to see our progress, he saw Tony and me about to get started on placing the toilet paper into the trash can. He put an immediate stop to it sayin, “Godverdomme! What are you doing?”

“We’re throwing the toilet paper away” Tony responded.

“No! It’s still good” my dad replied.

Wait a minute. What? What did he just say? Utter disbelief came over Tony and me. What the hell was my dad thinking? We’re not wiping our asses with that paper! No! No! No! This can’t be happening! We knew our dad was frugal, but this was downright ridiculous. Damn you Bruce and Shauna and damn my dad’s prison camp instincts! How are we going to get out of this situation?

A funny aspect about my dad was that a lot of the time, if it really wasn’t a big deal and it was out of his sight, he would forget about it. My mom would often throw old shirts of his away without his knowledge. If he knew about, he would protest, and if he didn’t, he was none the wiser.

So Tony and I took on this strategy. First, we obeyed our father, who now according to the Catholics, art in heaven. Then we waited a couple of weeks and put it in the trash, right under the kitchen waste, the evening before the trash pickup. It needed to be under the kitchen waste, just as a precaution. Because knowing our luck, my dad would decide to throw some last minute stuff away right before the trash got picked up. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. Double thankfully he didn’t make us save those “French Leathers.”

We never did hear about it again, which was a good thing. Yes, my dad was frugal, but really only for himself. I said it before and I’ll say it again. He wouldn’t give you the shirt off of his back because it was too worn down. He’d buy you a new one. He would spend a load of money on a stranger, but nothing on himself. That being said, I still wasn’t going to wipe my butt with that paper, and I wasn’t going to tell my friends what my dad did. If they knew what he did, they would have risked getting killed by Jim to decorate our house with toilet paper and “French Leathers” on a nightly basis.

Monday, March 21, 2011

My Dad's First Headstone.

It was a Saturday morning about 10 years ago. I arrived at my parent’s house. My mom was home, but my dad was out. She was in the kitchen making some croquettes (a delicious Dutch treat). I walked into the kitchen, greeted her and asked her where dad was. She smiled and said, “Picking up his headstone.”

The confused look on my face prompted her to explain, which she reluctantly did. She told me that one of her co-worker’s daughters had died and they didn’t have enough money to take care of all of the expenses. So being that my mom and dad had a couple of plots at Oakdale Memorial in Glendora, my parents thought it would be a good idea to donate one of them to her co-worker.

Apparently at Oakdale Memorial (I don’t know if all graveyards do this) they store the prepurchased headstones on the prepurchased plots. So my parents headstones were already there, with their dates of birth etched into them. Since my dad’s headstone had a type-o (Or is it an etch-o?), they decided to remove his headstone and use his plot. It was a very nice gesture by my parents, and my mom’s humility made her rather uncomfortable talking about it. But it still didn’t quite explain why he was picking up his headstone.

So she explained further that the error on my dad’s headstone was fixed, but since they could no longer store it on the original plot, they had no place to put it. You would think they would have had some sort of storage area for them, but apparently they didn’t. That or my dad was too frugal to pay for storage. So they called my dad and asked him to pick it up. After my mom explained all of that, an evil thought popped into my head. What if my dad got into a car accident and died? Talk about being prepared. I mentioned it to my mom, and our sick minds started laughing. It was horrible, yet funny at the same time.

When my dad arrived home, he saw that my car was there and recruited me to help him move his headstone into the garage. We went to the back of his Explorer and opened up the back lift gate. There, lying on the carpet was the newly edited headstone that read “Anthony M. Jansen, April 6, 1936 to ___________.” It was a rather haunting site.

“Can you get the dolly?” my dad asked. I did just that and when I got back to the Explorer, we lifted the heavy headstone onto the dolly. We then proceeded to roll the dolly, with headstone in tack, to the back entrance of the garage.

While rolling the dolly, I mentioned to my dad, “This has got to be one of the most morbid things I have ever done in my life.”

Annoyed my dad replied “Your mom and her fucking ideas!” This reply said it all. He loved my mom, but sometimes her ideas would put him in odd situations, and this one topped them all. When we got into the garage, my dad pulled out a piece of cardboard. We place the headstone on the cardboard, and wrapped it up. We then placed it under his work bench for safe keeping. I felt it needed a little more before we placed it in its final resting spot, like a benediction and a sprinkling of holy water. Maybe even a serenading with a Gregorian Chant during this whole process would have been appropriate, but much to my dismay, none of these things happened.

Over the years I and my brothers would mess with my dad about the headstone, but he didn’t really care that his mortality was in the garage. It didn’t seem to faze him. Sadly, when my father actually did pass, we were not able to use this headstone. My parents purchased two more plots at Forest Lawn, and Forest Lawn requires a special type of stone for their markers. Apparently their soil can only use a certain type. I have my own opinions about that, but I’ll leave that be, because quite frankly, aside from that, Forest Lawn was and is spectacular. They are a class act.

The end result is we still have a headstone with my father’s name and birth date on it in the garage at my parent’s house. So, does anybody need a headstone?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Young Rock God (WARNING: This contains a lot of profanity…and I mean A LOT of profanity. My mom might disown me after reading this.)

When I was in the first or second grade, I was totally into Heavy Metal. I loved Van Halen, The Scorpions, Iron Maiden, Ozzy Osborne and a lot of other Heavy Metal acts. During that same period, I was a deeply religious young lad too and often felt conflicted with the music I loved and the rumors of possible Satan worship that went along with it. I never really cared for KISS, but the possibility that KISS was an acronym for Kids In Satan’s Service scared the bejesus out of me. Contrary to KISS, I loved AC/DC, but being that their moniker was suggested to be Against Christ / Devils Control put me into a personal conflict of epic proportions.

Because I loved Heavy Metal so much, I wanted to be the next David Lee Roth. So I quickly got started on my Heavy Metal career by writing lyrics. I loved the music of Satan but wasn’t going to be lured into worshiping him. So my lyrics were a bit different. I decided to remedy this internal conflict by writing lyrics about how I felt about this eternal struggle between Good and Evil or God and Satan. Now there are actual Christian Heavy Metal bands who sing about this. I guess they may have felt the same way when they were young too or maybe they just feel that way now.

At that time I believe I wrote a ton of lyrics, but there is only one that I remember today. I remember it because much like my love for Heavy Metal and God, it was a bit of a contradiction. (Or at least back then it seemed like Heavy Metal and God contradicted each other.) Sometimes I actually find myself singing this song in my head while I’m doing chores around the house. I don’t remember what I titled it or the meat of the lyrics either. I just remember the chorus. It was “Fuck You Devil! Hell Sucks!” Basically, I would sing the “Fuck You Devil” part and right after that the imaginary band would chime in and sing the rest, kind of like this “Hellllll Suuuuooucks!” All together, sing it one time now. “Fuck You Devil. Helllll Suuuoouks!”

I thought it was kind of catchy. At the time I loved it. I was so proud of it. So much so, that I sang it to my older brother Tony, who was also into the Heavy Metal. However, if I remember correctly, he felt I needed to tone it down a bit. So he offered his suggestion of “Damn You Satan” instead of “Fuck You Devil.” I didn’t like it. I couldn’t compromise my artistic integrity and true feelings for the comfort of the masses. No siree Bob. The message was loud, clear and straight to the fuckin point. If you were offended by my words, then that was too fuckin bad. I felt like giving the Devil the fuckin finger and I was gonna fuckin do it.

Now, you’re probably wondering, why the fuck is a first or second grader using such foul language? Well, I learned these naughty words at a young age, partly because the street I lived on had lots of older kids and partly because my dad cussed like a fucking sailor. My mom would truly try to stop it. Bless her heart. But it didn’t matter what the punishment was, I would still cuss a lot. Those naughty words where like gold to me. I didn’t care how much Zest or Dial went into my mouth. I was not about to give up the F word for anyone or for any reason. It just sounded so fucking cool. Sadly, I have yet to be completely cured of my potty mouth. I will often hear my wife Janie say “Erik! Filter!” when she hears me use them during a conversation. Old habits are hard to fuckin break.

When I think back to when I was that young, it cracks me up. It wasn’t just me who was into the Heavy Metal. The neighborhood kids loved it too. We didn’t want those cream puffs Tommie Tutone, Rick Springfield or Toto. We wanted our music to have some motha fuckin balls. We wanted Ronnie James Dio, Judas Priest and Krokus.

Often, we would play air band to Van Halen in the garage too. I of course would play the part of Diamond Dave, Tony would be Eddie, Aaron Walsh would be Michael Anthony and David Mesic would be Alex. We would make guitars out of cut up card board boxes and plastic wiffle ball bats. Mesic’s drum set was actually made out of floor jacks and not so cut up card board boxes. I remember pissing Mesic off once attempting a Diamond Dave jump, because I landed on his drum set and broke it all up. Fucking cry baby.

Back when I was first dating Janie, she found some evidence of my dream of being a rock star. The evidence was in the form of a stack of my second grade pictures. They were all autographed by yours truly. Shit, my imagination back then was boundless. I often wish I could tap into that kid, because he was fucking funny. I guess that’s why I still find myself singing that lyric in my head. The boldness of it cracks me up, but the honesty and the innocent ignorance still makes me fucking smile.

“Fuck You Devil! Hellll Suuuoouks!”