Monday, January 2, 2017

Teaser: The First Date, part 2

Just a quick note that Im currently writing part 2...just in case anyone is still out there lol.

These two buildings have special meaning to me. If you read part 1, you may be able to guess why...and in the process figure out the nicknames of these structures :)

As one final update, Ill pass along that I actually heard from "Ro" shortly after the first part was published. She has given her full blessing to continue on, and with candor, so that is what I shall do! 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Two Guys Walk into Nick Tahou's...

Though I eventually got my act together when I was in my mid-20s, earned a couple degrees, and established a career, one of the best decisions I ever made was to drop out of college the first time around.

By the time I graduated from high school, I was only just starting to really discover who I was. Like many, I chose to attend college right away mainly because I knew it's what my parents wanted for me. It took me until after I was already into the second quarter of my freshman year to realize that I just didn't want to be there. I had bigger oats to sew!

My first significant relationship wasn't until I was 18, and it coincided with my freshman year. Around March, I had a pivotal conversation with my best friend at the time. I don't know that he'd want me telling this story, as not many know about it, so I'll give him an alias to once again protect the innocent. Let's call him XWB. That talk was so important was because we were plotting our escape from our respective girlfriends. Both our relationships had gone sour at the same time, and we were much more powerful strategizing together than we were as individuals. It basically came down to this: 1) break up, 2) run, 3) hide.

(I was going to make a joke here about how we were both scared for our lives, since there's a chance our exes might read this...but I just can't come up with anything funny.)

Once our escape plan was set in motion, the next step was to get an apartment and jobs. Check and check. Fantastic 2nd level pad in suburban Rochester, NY and shiny new positions at Tony Romas - myself a server and XWB a busboy. I really can't think of a better job when you're 18 than being a server. Built-in social life with your coworkers, great hours, and the ability to influence how much you make via tips. I still remember how cool it was when we both were at the Ralph Wilson Stadium ticket office buying season tickets for the Bills in cash. But anyway, I digress. I have many stories about the year that XWB and I lived in our apartment, but there is one in particular that I want to tell today...

For those of you who don't know, Nick Tahou's Hots is a legendary restaurant that has been around for nearly 100 years and invented the "Garbage Plate".

Whenever rock stars and celebs would travel through Rochester, they'd always stop in for a plate at Tahou's. XWB and I had always gone to the one near our apartment, but it was the original location - the one downtown - where it all started. We had heard countless stories about how on Fri and Sat night, the crowds there were just crazy. Not just crazy in terms of size, but in terms of, well...personality. One Saturday night we finally decided it was our time to experience this scene, and off we went.

One thing about Tahou's, not many would argue that it's great food, but it's absolutely great food when you're drunk. There was just no disputing that. Consequently, when you arrived there at around 2am - which was when we intentionally had - there were many patrons who had just finished up a round of bar-hopping or other libation-centric activities. Naturally this only lent itself to even more of the aforementioned personality of the place.

As soon as we walked in the door, we saw a few loud partiers enjoying a round of plates at one table, contrasted with a couple other folks who were obscenely disheveled and passed out snoring at another. We were fascinated. XWB and I placed our order - a cheeseburger plate for him and a hot plate for me, both with extra (hot) sauce and Italian bread. XWB and I never had an official eating competition, but just about every meal we had together resulted in the food being consumed at a very rapid, yet somehow perfectly natural, pace. XWB about 6'3" 200lb, and myself 6'2" and around 225lb...and our 18-year old metabolisms.

As we finished up our meals, we headed out the door with sated bellies but somewhat disappointed. The initial fascination faded quickly, and as we walked back to my 1979 Mazda RX-7 to drive home, we couldn't help but feel as if the scene we'd heard so much about was a bit overrated and a let down. About 20 feet from the car, as I reached into my pocket to get my keys, I caught an image in my peripheral vision. I turned to look, and it was two scantily-clad women, probably late 20's, and smiling at us. They cheerfully said, "hey, where are you guys headed? We were wondering if you might be interested in partying with us!" Probably right now I don't have to say another word and the majority of you who are reading this know exactly what "party" refers to when a strange woman comes up to you out of the blue at 2am in the city. Well, XWB and I did not.  We both looked at each other with what were probably the dumbest, most oblivious, big-headed grins of all-time and said, "sure, what did you have in mind?"  No sooner had we responded, one of them came right up next to me and the other next to XWB, as they walked with us - well, paraded us is probably more like it - to my car.

As clueless as we were about what exactly we were getting ourselves into, I do have to give us some credit here. I'm proud to say that we both snapped out of it just long enough to realize the car we were all headed toward was a very small sports car. It was a back seat, very little headroom, a stick shift in the center, and no trunk. On some level, our common sense screamed from somewhere deep within, and implored us to err on the side of caution. We told the girls we had thought better of it and perhaps another time would be best. Again, exhibiting impeccable reflexes and expert precision, the girls waited for XWB and I to get in the car, and just as we were saying good-bye, found a way to slide into the vehicle - on top of us - and close the doors.

As difficult as it is to imagine this was even possible - four people in the front seat of a small Mazda, with the doors closed - imagine how hard it is for me to convince people it ever happened. I sometimes feel like Maverick from Top Gun in this scene:

Inevitably, the first question I always get after getting this far in the story is an echo of what Kelly McGillis said in the clip above..."uhh, Focker...what were they doing there?" Unlike in Top Gun, however, the answer is far more than just "communicating". Actually, I guess that depends on your definition.  If you define it as straddling us with their bare legs, brushing their hair against our faces, and putting their hands down our pants, then yes, these girls were def-fin-it-leee doing a lot of communicating. It was all happening so fast and they had so many aspects of our physiology confused and flustered, we became helpless for a good five or ten minutes! The best way I can explain it would be to say it was blissfully traumatic. But then it got even BETT...errr, I mean worse....much, much WORSE!

While my circulation was getting very frustrated with me, trying to figure out if I wanted it to flow upward or downward, all of a sudden XWB screamed out and began yelling at the girl on his side of the car. "GET OUT!!! GET THE HELL OUT!!!!", he screamed.  Not only did he startle the bejeezus out of me, but I had no idea what the heck he was screaming about. Did he get stung by a bee? Certainly there was no more room for any other occupants...couldn't be that. He flung open the passenger side door, jumped out, and then made the girl get out along with him. It was right then that he told me the problem. "She's trying to steal my damn wallet!!", XWB proclaimed. As he patted himself down, frantically trying to see if his wallet was still on his person, the girl that was on top of me jumped out of the car and joined her friend. I followed behind and went over to XWB. 

Now my parents were relatively strict with me growing up, but as I moved further into my later teen years they basically trusted my judgment. XWBs parents tolerated a lot of his childhood antics, but when something serious went down they were all over him like a hooker in a Mazda. There is absolutely no *way* he would be able to explain to them that his wallet was stolen by a prostitute in a parking lot at 2am on a Saturday night. Though I didn't confirm it at the time, I am certain this was exactly what was on XWB's mind as he realized his wallet was in fact gone. It was also the very motivation for what he was about to do next...

All of a sudden, just as XWB was confronting the girl about the theft, a shiny black Lincoln Town Car (could have been a Cadillac...not sure) pulled up in front of us. The two girls jumped into the back seat and as the car pulled away XWB bull-rushed the driver's side window, screaming for the vehicle to stop. The window rolled down and a very large African-American gentleman with dark sunglasses looked at XWB, firmly asking, "WHAT!?!"  As he briskly walked next to the driver while the car slowly pulled away, XWB yelled back, "that bitch has my wallet!". The window went back up, the driver peeled out, took a sharp left, and sped away into the Rochester night. 

In a last desperate attempt, XWB started to run after the car, but quickly realized it was futile.  The fact that I still had my wallet was of little consolation to me. My best friend had just been robbed and he was absolutely petrified of what was yet to come once his parents were informed of the night's events. He let out a sigh as he slumped into the seat of the car and I began to drive us home. When I went to put the car in gear, I noticed the parking lot lights were illuminating something near the floorboard of the passenger's seat near XWB's feet. It was his wallet! He snatched it up, frantically opened it, and miraculously everything was still inside of it - including his cash. Our long national nightmare had finally come to an end...XWB had evaded the wrath of his parents, the shame that would have surely resulted, and we could both now rest assured that we would be able to come back downtown and do it all again the following week!  Okay, okay...we actually never went back there again. But hey, we sure got a great story out of it, didn't we? 

Thanks for reading :)

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Senior Prom: Remembering Sharon

I have three different blog posts that I'm in the middle of finishing, but felt compelled to share a quick story from high school. Hopefully some of my fellow HF-L classmates will see this, because many of them will know the Sharon I'm referring to, even if they weren't aware of the story.

Some friends and I were recently discussing senior prom memories, and I thought it might be a good idea to talk a bit about mine. Well, the truth is, I don't really have any memories of my prom because I never went. But while I don't regret at all my decision not to go for "prom's sake", I do regret it very much for another reason.

Having moved so many times from state to state during my childhood, I was always the new kid. It always seemed that right when I was starting to settle in, gain acceptance and establish friends, we'd be uprooted yet again. I talk about this in another upcoming post, so I wont spend more time on it here, but the point is that it wasn't until around the 2nd half of my junior year of HS that I finally started feeling as if I belonged. By the time I got to senior year, I was a much more confident person and I was more engaged with our class.

One of the proudest memories from high school involved our track team. My fellow seniors and I had been undefeated from our freshman year all the way up through our last meet. I was a thrower - shot put and discus. Not all that exciting, but something I was pretty good at, and I contributed to our meet wins on a consistent basis. As senior track season progressed, I had broken the school record and was showing up in both the local and city papers regularly. It was sort of my own niche, as even our coach (who will admit this freely) really had no idea about my particular events. I was essentially self-taught and had to learn by watching people like Olympian Al Oerter and others on video. Every so often my name would be among the others read during morning announcements in homeroom, which for me was really a thrill.

As senior prom approached, several of us realized that we had a real shot at advancing toward the state meet in our respective events. Unfortunately the last tune-up meet - an invitational, not a team meet - was set for the same evening of the prom. It was a very tough decision, but I made the choice to join a few of my friends (Yeckel and Seiler both come to mind, in case anyone from HF-L '90 are reading) in attending this meet, in hopes that it would better prepare us for the road ahead.

Off the top of my head I'm having a hard time recalling the name of the meet, but I know it was one of my favorites of the season. I want to say it was called the East Rochester Invitational, but dont quote me. It was a beautiful night under the lights, and I recall feeling pretty exctied to compete. During one of my early throws, I tripped over the wooden "stop board", which is the part of the shot put circle that marks the front barrier that your foot cannot go beyond or the throw is disqualified. I reaggravated the same knee injury that I sustained earlier that Fall during football season. Not exactly the performance I was hoping for.

While the injury during the track meet was certainly disappointing, it was a phone call I received a few days earlier that really put a smile on my face. A few days before the prom, I received a call from a classmate that I knew and liked, but someone who hung out in different circles than myself. Her name was Sharon B. She was a very outgoing, well-liked, intelligent girl that was always friendly to me and fun to talk with. Much to my surprise, she called me up and said that she hadn't made plans for the prom yet, and was wondering if I might like to go with her. I remember very vividly how it felt in the moment immediately following her question. It was as if I lit up from within. It meant the world to me that she wanted to ask at all, let alone actually making the call!

As you already know my decision on what I actually did, I'll now share the hard part of the story and where my true regret lies.

In the first few years following high school graduation, it's normal to be curious as to what everyone had been up to. Did those with big plans follow through? Who dropped out of college? Who never went to college at all, but chose another path? During one of these conversations with my friend Patrick, he shared some news that absolutely devastated me - that Sharon had died. It makes my heart sink writing about it even tonight, all these years later. I had no idea how to process this was nearly impossible to reconcile this in my mind.

Though Sharon and I weren't close friends, and truth be told we didn't know each other all that well on a personal level, I can say without hesitation that she was one of the most important people of my life....and certainly one of my favorites.

My hope is that one day, a long time from now, I'll get the opportunity to return the courtesy she extended to me...perhaps even take a turn on the dance floor.

God bless you, Sharon...and thank you :)

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Bucket List Reflections: The First Date, Part 1

Since I hit 40 a couple years ago, I've found that I really enjoy looking back on the first half of my life. Like many, I often wish I could write a letter to my 15 y.o. self and share with the teenage version of me all the things I've learned in my 43 years on earth. On the other hand, I sometimes think that would take away from the authenticity of our journey through this world. Mistakes have proved to be just as valuable - if not more so - than successes, and for that reason I can honestly say there isn't much I would change even if I could. 

This is the first entry in what I'm calling "Bucket List Reflections". Essentially it's the process of looking back on my life and examining an experience - positive or negative - that not only shaped who I am today, but in many cases also resulted in a lasting memory to cherish going forward. I created a short list of events that I felt might pique interest, and one in particular that I'd like to share with you first. 

Depending on how successfully I'm able to re-create this for you in words, some of you may wonder if I'm embellishing the story in any way. I promise you I will not do that. What follows really DID happen. The only parts that will not be accurate are the names that have been changed to protect the innocent :) While the other person I'll be discussing is presently, and always will be, my friend, she is very happily married with a beautiful family, and the last thing I would want to do is embarrass her. With that being said, I present to you, "The First Date, Part 1". 

So like many of you, I've had some pretty memorable first dates in my lifetime. From the Summer of 1981 when my friend next door invited me to go with her and her mom to see "Superman II", to the time in 1990 when I told my blind date I was going to use the restroom at the dance club and then just left, I've kept it interesting to say the least. (And before you guys give me a hard time about that second part, YES I know it was wrong and YES I'm ashamed at myself for doing that! lol) In April of 2000, I was 27 y.o. and had just purchased my first computer. I had just completed my first degree the year prior, and now I was nearing the half-way point of the professional phase of my BSN (RN) program. AOL dial-up was the most popular internet service provider at the time, and like many, I was really enjoying chatting online and exploring the internet in between classes and work. 

One night as I sat at the computer at my home in Lawrenceville, Georgia, an instant message chat box popped up. The screen name was "RN" followed by the name of a college team's mascot that shall remain nameless. It wasn't a name I recognized, so naturally I inquired as to who this person was. She told me her name (let's refer to her as "Ro" for the purposes of the story) and that she saw on my profile I was attending Emory University and pursuing a career as an RN. She, too, was an RN and had recently moved to the metro-Atlanta area, and she and her friend were online chatting with other locals. Seemed innocent enough, right? 

(Now this next part is where I think some of you may wonder if I'm embellishing or pulling your leg...I'm not, I promise)

As I chatted with Ro online over the next half hour or so, we came to the realization that we had some things in common. Certainly the fact that we were both RNs was really cool in and of itself, but we also discovered that we were very close in age. I recall mentioning to her that I would be turning 28 the following month, to which she pointed out that her birthday was also coming up next month. Although I've never put much stock in Astrology personally, I've always embraced my status as a "Gemini" for entertainment purposes...and maybe once or twice when it helped get me out of trouble. (Many of the generally accepted Gemini qualities match up quite well with my own personality, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't glance at a horoscope from time to time!) When Ro stated she was a Gemini, as well, I remember finding that very interesting since it meant her birthday was toward the end of May just like mine. In fact, her birthday WAS the same as mine. Hmmmm....that's when I started getting a bit suspicious. 

I distinctly recall seeing red flags popping up, and the very first thought after that was, "okay, someone just made an AOL account and is totally messing with me...very funny!"  Just then I heard a mysterious "popping noise", and out of thin air a mini-version of my Statistics professor from college, Dr Sokaloff, appeared on my right shoulder (figuratively, of course) telling me that if I don't call BS on this soon, then he will! "Okay, got me. Good joke. Come that YOU, Colleen?" "No, really!", she said. "Do you want to see a picture?"  Naturally I did, and a couple minutes later a cropped scan of what she said was her driver's license photo arrived in my AOL inbox. Super cute girl, but no idea who it was. So I said to her, "Look, I know this is very forward of me to ask, and if you aren't comfortable doing it I will absolutely understand...but could we talk on the phone for a few minutes?"  Her (apparent) picture being of no help at all, I figured the only way I could get to the bottom of this would be to actually speak with this person and hear her voice. I offered up my digits and, sure enough, the phone rang a couple minutes later. 

I don't remember how long we spoke on the phone, but it was probably around two hours from start to finish. At the end of those two hours, and as I hung up the phone, I found myself steeped in surrealism to a degree I had never experienced prior and have not experienced since. Here's why: 

Ro: Recently moved to Atlanta and an RN.
Me: Recently moved to Atlanta and in process of becoming an RN. 

Ro: Born on May 2x, Gemini. 
Me: Born on May 2x, Gemini. 

Ro: Real name means "Queen" in native language. 
Me: Full first name, Alan, means "leader" or "King" in another language. 

Ro: German heritage. 
Me: German heritage. 

Ro: Roman Catholic.
Me: Roman Catholic.

Ro: Was living on "Mill Bridge".
Me: Was living on "Mill Ridge". 

And this is not even the full list, because there were at least a few more on top of those that I just can't remember. Needless to say, after that conversation the only person with a more ridiculously perplexed look on his face than me was Dr Sockloff! Not even the good doctor could figure the odds on this perfect storm of commonality engulfing Ro and myself. 

(To Be Continued in The First Date, pt 2!!)

Sunday, April 5, 2015

"Are you a Pothead, Focker?"

Hello! For my first blog post, I thought I'd share some general background on who I am. First, the whole "Focker" thing explained...

Back in the year 2000, a film hit theaters called "Meet the Parents". The lead role, played by Ben Stiller, was that of a male nurse who...well...took a lot of grief. Some of it was well-deserved, some of it was not. But the grief he incurred by being a man in the female-dominated profession of nursing was what I identified with most. One of the gags of the film was his name - Gaylord "Greg" Focker.

So why would I identify with this exactly? Well, in early 1996 I was coming off a very painful breakup with a girl I was engaged to marry. I moved to Philly, PA and decided it was about time I got my act together. I was 23 years old and had basically spent the time since high school graduation figuring out who I was and where I fit in in this crazy world. Upon moving to Philly I enrolled at Temple University and began coursework in "pre-med". (For those who don't know, pre-med isn't really's just a term means you're taking prerequisite courses that likely are what would be required by medical school and, well, it just sounds sort of cool.) I'll probably blog often about my time in Philadelphia, as this was one of the most profound and formative stretches of time in my life.

So the whole pre-med thing led me to a major in Psychology, but I'll talk about that some other time. I graduated summa cum laude in 1999 and decided to move to Atlanta. Why Atlanta? Well, after much soul searching and research (many thanks to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics for the most excellent information on career data and outlooks...please note: even if I blog for the next 50 years, this may be the one and only time I say something positive about the government! lol), I made the decision to get my BSN degree - Bachelor of Science in Nursing.  Emory University - the "Harvard of the South" - was kind enough to throw some scholarship money my way, and when I found out I had unknowingly taken every single prerequisite to enter into the professional phase of the BSN program and finish it in only two years, it seemed like a no-brainer...

...but then it hit me..."wait, you know that this is NURSING, right?"

I don't know if you are the sort of person who believes that things happen in life for a reason, but I am absolutely. I just happened to have a heterosexual, older male cousin who had been an RN for years at the time I was making this decision. By the way, if you're actually still reading this, would you mind just typing "YES!" in capital letters in the comments section? Not only would it be funny having people wonder what is wrong with those who are commenting that they are all typing the same thing, it will let me know that at least one other person is still with me lol. Anyway, so I had arranged a few conversations with my distant cousin, who I really have to credit for helping me through some of those pesky "ego issues" that came along with this whole male nurse thing. I'm sure I'll probably speak more on that in future blog posts, as well.

By the time Meet the Parents had hit theaters, it was the summer in between my two years of nursing school at Emory. The night I saw the movie, I had been talking with a girl online who was (according to her) a model and I thought that might be a great film to see since the previews were funny and lighthearted. Okay, another side note here: one of my next few blog posts will be about why I COMPLETELY disagree with those who say going to the movies is not a good idea for a first date. If you're one of those people, I think I might be able to give you something to think about! So my new online friend the model and I go to the movie, and as we're both enjoying the film and laughing, all of a sudden the 2-minute scene that would absolutely HORRIFY me came on:

Okay, WHAT the...I began to well-up with insecurity and panic. Had I already told this girl I was in school for nursing? What sort of lie could I come up with over the next 90 minutes to get me out of this if I HAD told her? OMG, I chose this as my CAREER! I was just overwhelmed with fear and anxiety, as the life choices I'd made over the last two years and right up to that very minute as I was sitting in the theater came crashing crashing down on me. After all, I'm one of those people who believes things happen for a reason, remember? So the movie ended, and I nervously asked her what she thought. She looked at me with an indifferent expression and said, "yeah, it was ok". Somewhat relieved, I took her for a beer and wings, and by the second round I had pretty much put the absolute shock of that scene out of my mind.

So if you're still with me, I'm sure you're probably thinking, "look Focker...not only do I not get this whole pothead reference in the subject, but you've done everything BUT explain why you have chosen to torture yourself with this name to begin with". So here it is...the moral of the story: I eventually found that all of my ego issues, and especially this scene from the movie, were stepping stones. As I stumbled over each one along the way, I had to either work through it or let it knock me off my path. I chose the former, and by the time I graduated with my BSN, passed my boards, and accepted my first position as an RN at one of Atlanta's largest and busiest hospitals, I was in a good place. In fact, I was in a great place. Because I realized that with the exception of a few buds who enjoy ribbing me from time to time (which is great, by the way), the vast majority of people think the fact that I'm an RN is great. Every so often I even have someone tell me "thank you" for what I do. And it hit me...I'm not embarrassed or insecure anymore at all...not even a little. I am proud...I am happy...I am....FOCKER!


Wow, there it very first blog post! I saw that this Blogger site had statistics. I wonder if there's one for how many people start reading your post but then click it off by the mid-way point? lol  If you're still reading and you took a few minutes (hours?) out of your day to spend with me here, thank you so much. It really means a lot to me!

Oh, and about that whole "pothead" you go :)

**"Meet the Parents" was produced by Universal Pictures, Dreamworld SKG, and Nancy Tenenbaum Films. The preceding clips are THEIR property, and not my own.