Thunder Volcano

Boundless enthusiasm for something stupid

Sometimes There’s a Man…

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While growing up, it never struck me as odd that my closest friend and confidant was somebody who lived 150 miles away, and who I saw a half dozen times a year if I was lucky.  My usual explanation would be to suggest that since I’ve been an asshole for these past thirty-some-odd years, it would make sense that the people I’m usually closest to are people I’m not technically “close to,” but I’m really not sure that’s it.  Looking back on it, he’s been a part of most of my fond memories of childhood/adolescence.  I never expected I’d be fondly looking back on what then felt like endless painfully long hours spent rereading old Garfield books while waiting to open Christmas presents or hunt for Easter candy, but here we are.  In a sense that was the essence of my childhood – wanting to alternately speed up and slow down time: I could hardly wait to see my cousins, then I could hardly wait until Christmas morning, then all of a sudden I wanted time to stop so we could hang out for a couple extra hours before it was Time To Go.  But we were kids, we’d see each other again: though it felt like ages away, there was always Next Time.

What I’m saying is, we grew up together.

Without realizing it, I came to think of he and I as being on The Same Wavelength – it didn’t matter how long it had been since I’d last seen him, I knew things would fall back into the same easy routine and we’d set about being goofy bastards like we always did.  Times that we saw each other became fewer and more far between as we approached adulthood, but that never really seemed to matter*.  Things were always the same between us and they always would be.

What I’m saying is, we’re Family and I knew I could always count on that.

I am, of course, barely scratching the surface here.  He penned our traditional Thanksgiving prayer.  He was the most adamant about maintaining the Christmas traditions that we all, as a family, had developed over the years.  He was there for me during my various periods of unemployment – dropping everything he was doing to come travel around with me while I tried to Find The American Dream or whatever the hell I thought I was doing.  More importantly, he provided some much-needed perspective during what was a bit of a low point for me, explaining that since our respective older brothers had gone through all the trouble to be successful (his brother is a lawyer, my brother is a doctor, both are married with kids), we were home free.  The pressure was off for us.

What I’m saying is, he’s like a brother to me.

Not too long after that, he got some bad news.  I heard about it through a telephone-game of phone conversations with relatives.  Every time I talked to somebody, things were a little to a lot worse.  I didn’t know what to think at first, particularly because I was usually hearing thirdhand information.  Then I talked to my brother and he gave me the down-low on the Bad News: “a few days ago I described a very unlikely, absolute worst-case scenario.  This is what I was describing.”  It wasn’t something I could afford to think about at the time – I was 150 miles into a 700 mile drive on the way to a friend’s wedding.  But it was all I could think about – I’d meant to be there for him a few days ago when it was just lowercase-b bad news but I’d hesitated because of the weather**.  The air in my car started getting hard to breathe.  I felt like such a piece of shit – what if I never got to see him again?  Everything happened all at once and all of a sudden things were never going to be the same.

What I’m saying is, the holidays were pretty rough that year.

There was, eventually, a modicum of luck.  Not exactly a light at the end of the tunnel, but maybe a silver lining.  A silver lining around the calm before the storm, if you catch my drift. Long story short, we got almost a full year with him after the Bad News landed – we’d been led to believe it could be as little as a month.  There’s no denying that it was a tough year from the start.  The person I saw at Thanksgiving – right after the first round of chemo – wasn’t my cousin.  He was a skinny, sunken-eyed, dozy shell of a man who looked somewhat like my cousin and I had no idea what the hell to say to him or what to do.  Did I try and act normal?  I figured he didn’t need everybody in the world getting sentimental and weepy all at once, but it’s not like I have a model for how to handle this.  But after a little while he got back to something approaching normal – he seemed himself and he didn’t need the Heavy Duty pain meds.  For a little while we were almost able to ignore the Dark Cloud hanging over our heads, spending as much time with him as we could while trying to pretend like we weren’t preparing for the inevitable.  He and I even got to take another road trip during one of my all-too-often periods of unemployment and it was Just Like Old Times.  But in the end all we got was a year and much like when we saw each other as kids I was glad for any extra time that I got but it wasn’t enough.  But no amount of time, extra or otherwise, would have been enough.

What I’m saying is, the holidays are gonna be really rough this year.

And now he’s gone.  He’s been gone, and there’s not a day I’m not reminded of it.  It’s possible I think about him even more now that he is gone, but every time I see something dumb and goofy my first reaction is to text him about it and I’m reminded about how I’ve lost one of the best people I’ve ever known.  I’m reminded of how the world – my world – sucks even more because of that and it hurts all over again.  Things don’t feel right without him.  Even our vaunted Family Holiday Traditions will seem off.  Sure, we’ll still drink carbombs on Christmas, it wouldn’t be Christmas without them.  But it’s also not Christmas without him.  And our Thanksgiving prayer of “Thank God for poopies” will be a lot more bittersweet now, turning from something we can all laugh about into something we can’t help but cry about.  My only real solace there is knowing that he’d be pissed off to know that that is his legacy.

What I’m saying is, I miss my cousin.
What I’m saying is, I miss my friend.
What I’m saying is, I miss Brian.

*That being said, we did have a number of opportunities to hang out for longer periods of time while growing up – such as the times we went to music camp, which were as much about getting to hang out without our parents around as they were about furthering our musical abilities.  Such extended times in close contact usually ended with us wanting to punch each other: as I’ve mentioned, we were on the Same Wavelength, and since I’m an asshole…
**Specifically it was Hurricane Sandy, the storm that kind of ruined half of the east coast a few years ago.

Written by Baron Volcano

01/12/2014 at 6:03 pm

Surprise! Mom was right.

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Life Lesson #10: Cookies are a sometimes food.

Written by Baron Volcano

03/03/2013 at 8:52 pm

Posted in Life Lessons

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I Told You That Story So I Could Tell You This One

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Back in high school, my brother Duke was in a creative writing class that he largely treated as a joke because he was in high school and high schoolers are assholes.  A day or so before the end of the semester, it occurred to him that he should probably write something for his final project.  Given that it was Christmastime and that we went to a Catholic high school, he wrote a heartwarming holiday anecdote about animal abuse.  Despite it being a creative writing project, the story was far more grounded in reality than he cared to admit at the time – he pretty much compiled a series of unconnected true events and then got Creative with some of the facts.  I won’t spoil it by telling you which parts are and aren’t true, but to answer the two questions you’ll have (in order): kind of; and no, not really.  Without further ado, here’s Duke’s story:

*************************

It was a clear, crisp, starry night. The temperatures outside were nearly cold enough to freeze Crisco on the back of a dog. Yes, that Christmas Eve was the perfect night to travel around the neighborhood singing carols, reveling in God’s creation. Fortunately, I was inside with the heat turned up watching cartoons. My family had returned from church and had already devoured our traditional Christmas Eve duck. While my parents were ensconced in their room, furiously wrapping the bounty for the following day’s festivities, my brother and I were keeping ourselves occupied by avoiding cleaning the kitchen.
I had just settled down to get my nightly dosage of Scooby Doo’s zany hijinx, when my brother’s dog, Shelby, came waltzing into the room wearing a crazy disco shirt and my brother’s underwear and sporting a three wood duct-taped to her back. Dangling from the club, three feet in front of her snout, was a red Milkbone. Deftly maneuvering the club, Shelby managed to smash my mother’s entire collection of stained-glass angels, before somehow managing to get her feet entangled with the club. As she writhed on the ground, frantically trying to get her paws on the Milkbone, my slightly demented seven-year-old brother (I was nine at the time), Baron glided into the room, clad in his customary ratty green bathrobe and moldy slippers. His eyes glittered and he had a maniacal grin on his face. In his right hand, he proudly held aloft his favorite roll of duct tape – which he frequently claimed to be, “Good for what ails ye!”
Suddenly, there arose a tremendous Crash! followed by the spectacle of plates rolling into the living room. Seconds later, my loyal, if none-too-bright, dog, Leibschen, emerged from the kitchen, grinning dumbly at us from behind the coat of white powder that covered her once-black face. Leibschen then nonchalantly wandered away as if nothing had happened. When Baron and I peered in on what had once been our kitchen, we discovered that Leibschen had been filching some Christmas cookies off the table and had managed to upend the whole table. Baron and I opted not to disturb the scene of the crime and moved on to more important things.
Following floured footprints, we tracked Leibschen down and got most of the powder off her face. While re-fluffing her fur, we decided that Leibschen definitely needed a new Christmas “doo”. I colored her light brown eyebrows a fluorescent yellow and trimmed the whiskers off the right side of her face; Baron used Crisco to stylishly spike the hair on her back. Little did we know that Leibschen used her whiskers to help maintain her direction. We only discovered this when she spent the rest of the night constantly making left turns.
Following that little fiasco, we decided to let the dogs out before they could completely destroy the house. When I opened the door, Shelby came running out at full speed, hit the icy deck, and went helplessly skidding all the way down the stairs with a series of audible thumps. Leibschen, on the other hand, got up a good head of steam and took a left turn right into the Christmas tree, bringing it crashing down on the coffee table, adding to the ever-growing pile of glass on the living room floor. Leibschen scrambled her way downstairs and was not seen for the rest of the night.
Soon, there was a “plumping” sound at the front door. On inspection we discovered that Shelby had materialized with a ham twice the size of her head protruding from her mouth. On any other night we may have considered this strange, but on that particular Christmas Eve, we took no notice. As Shelby was sitting amongst the rubble in the living room attempting to inhale the ham, the doorbell rang. In the doorway stood an enormous woman clad in a fuzzy pink bathrobe roughly the size of our pool cover. She bellowed her asinine story about how our dog had stolen her ham. After listening to this tirade for several minutes, Baron and I declared that we owned no dogs and quickly closed the door.
Back in the living room, Shelby had devoured almost the entire ham before collapsing in a blob amongst its tattered remains. We decided that it would please my parents to no end if we were to wash the grease and the meat off the dog, so we plopped her in the tub. Just as we were finishing rinsing her, Baron mentioned how funny Leibschen had looked with all that powder on her face. On that note, we decided to go for the same effect with Shelby, but to a greater extent. Baron scampered into the kitchen and grabbed the flour which we applied liberally to the dripping wet dog. Voila! An albino porcupine.
Just as we were admiring our handy-work, we heard our parent’s door open. Thinking quickly, we ran out to the couch and casually pretended to be watching the Scooby Doo Christmas Special. As my parents came down the hall, one of them made an unintelligible noise. My dad immediately began to try to scrape the flour off of Shelby, but to no avail; it had quickly hardened into a thick paste. My mom walked over to the couch before very slowly and calmly asking, “What is all this?”
Baron and I gave each other a sidelong glance and then replied in unison, “All what?” My mom just sat there, thinking this over and giving us the frowning of a lifetime. Realizing that the jig was up, Baron burst into tears. When I looked over at him and saw the pasty flour all over his face and that weird yellow stuff all over his robe, I burst into tears, too.
My mother considered us for a moment before coming over to comfort our sorrow. When our tears had subsided, she looked us both in the eye and said, “I’m sure this isn’t as bad as it looks. It really isn’t a big deal. It should only take an hour or two to clean up. And then … you still never cleaned the kitchen.”

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My only complaint with this story is that my mom (who was and still is an English teacher) helped Duke revise it and in doing so convinced him to change the original ending.  The rough draft was the saddest goddamn thing I’ve ever read in my entire life.  I can’t really do it justice here, but originally my mom paused for a long time after coming into the living room and then started slowly and wordlessly picking up the scattered fragments of our treasured family heirlooms.  The End.  I think I almost started crying when I read it.

Written by Baron Volcano

02/24/2013 at 8:48 pm

It Was News to Me

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Life Lesson #9: When you strap a full case of beer bottles to the back of your bike and ride it through a public park, you get a lot of weird looks.
Bonus Fact: also it throws off your balance somethin’ fierce.

Written by Baron Volcano

02/17/2013 at 2:17 pm

Come for the Mustache, Stay for the Awkward Conversation

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After a long night of vigorous manual labor followed by some tedious manual labor, I emerged from the basement at work to finish closing the bar.  As I was in the process of plugging in a phone for one of our regulars, my coworker Billybob excitedly ran up to me.

“Some blond girl at station 28 wants to talk to you.”
“Who is it?”
“I don’t know.  You should go talk to her right now.”
“Uh, yeah.  Just give me one second.”
“No.  You need to drop everything you’re doing and go talk to her.”
“I’m pretty sure Cam would get kind of mad if I just threw his phone on the ground.  Chill out.”

I spent a whole agonizing four seconds plugging in Cam’s phone and rounded the corner to find… nobody I recognized.  There was, however, someone who recognized me.  Specifically, a drunk someone who recognized me.
“Baron!  You probably don’t remember me, you waited on us a while back,” she chirped.
Well, she was definitely right about me not remembering her.  Better to just act like I might remember her.
“Hey!  How you doin’ tonight?”
“Good!  You probably don’t remember me, but I remember really liking your facial hair*.  We were on the other side of the bar, though.  I’m Jordan.”
“Hi, Jordan.  Nice to… re-meet you,” I blurted kind of lamely, offering my hand.
“Well, I thought I’d come in and say hi, since I remembered you.”
“Cool!  Good to see you again.”

It’s worth noting that even if I wasn’t an idiot when it comes to these kinds of situations – and I am – I was tired to the point that this didn’t seem like a particularly unusual thing to do.  Drunk people do some weird shit, who am I to judge?
Anyway, the conversation got kind of awkward, as most of my conversations do.  She kind of just said a few times that she was just dropping in to say hi, and I wasn’t really reacting.  At some point – and there is some contention over the exact details – she gestured at the guy she had (apparently) come in with and made a comment to the effect of “I came here with him, but I’m not with him.
I displayed the full extent of my manly smoothness by responding with a suave “um, ok” and not much else.  Plus, it was well past last call, so I didn’t have my usual easy out of offering her a drink.

Luckily for me, a voice from two seats over chimed in: “it would be a lot easier for him to get in touch with you again if you gave him your number.”

Oh, yeah.  That’s the sort of thing I’m supposed to be doing right now.  It probably would have taken me two days to realize that.

I looked over, and to my surprise I saw my friend Desmond (he seems to turn up a lot when things like this happen, which is weird because I only see him like once every two months).  He spent the rest of the night alternately making fun of me for being a dork and claiming that he has powers that aid him in helping others get laid.  I was feeling charitable enough to omit that his “powers” hadn’t ever actually ended successfully for me.

I saved her in my phone as “Jordan Likesbeard” and she later apologized for how awkward the night had been, as if the awkwardness somehow wasn’t entirely my fault.

**************

The city I live in – Duckburg – is kind of spread out, so a few days later I suggested she and I meet at a bar sort of close to the city center, thus assuring it would be mutually inconvenient for both of us.
Her answer: “Haha you’re cute.  I trust your suggestion!  I’ve heard of that but have never been.  That’s fine with me!  But isn’t it kind of out of your way?  If I remember correctly, you live in South Duckburg?”
Yup, I’m totally comfortable with a stranger having this sort of knowledge about me.
“It’s on the gold line, so it’s really not out of my way at all.”
With that, we agreed to meet at 7:30 on Sunday.

**************

Sunday, 7:00
Just as I’m about to head out, I get a text:
“Looks like I’m gonna be there a little bit after 730.  Is that ok?  I’m wicked sorry.  The buses suck on sunday.”
“Yeah no sweat.  I may be running a bit late too.”
I wasn’t, but figured I’d get there on-time-ish in case I couldn’t remember what she looked like this time either (this is a reasonable precaution for me).

7:35. Another text.
“Ok I’m on the pink line now.  Hopefully I won’t be long.  I’ve been pretty sick today and I’m not even going into work tomorrow.  so getting around has proven difficult.  So I’m wicked sorry.”
That’s… normal.
“No worries, I’ll be at the bar.”

7:54
“Ok.  If I can only stay for a drink don’t hate me.  I feel like I’m getting a fever :/ I’m at central”
I thought about suggesting that we reschedule, but since she apparently needed to take two trains and one or more buses, I figured the window for that idea had long since passed.

8:14
“2 mina”

She showed up at 8:25 or so.

**************

Now, as I’ve mentioned previously and demonstrated earlier in this very anecdote, I’m not the world’s best conversationalist.  Luckily, Jordan had a handy solution for that in the form of talking nonstop the entire time.  Her favorite conversation topics seem to include complaining about how inconvenient it is to get to/from her apartment and people she’s dated in the past.  Both of which provide scintillating first-date material, I assure you.

At one point she felt the need to mention that “I’m surprised you don’t remember me, you were talking to us for a while about beer.  You had some story about the label on a beer bottle.”
That’s a good point.  I can’t fathom why a bartender in a busy beer bar wouldn’t remember the details** of a conversation about beer from two months ago.  It’s a pretty rare conversation topic around the ol’ office.

Anyhow, the night went reasonably well, owing in large part to my finely-honed ability to pay just enough attention to make it look like I’m listening while zoning out enough to preserve my sanity.  It’s a delicate balance, aided by the fact that I was too tired to try and get a word in edgewise (I have to be at work at eleven AM on Sundays, which is inhumanly early for me).

Because of how verbose she was about hating the bus system in Duckburg, I offered her a ride home.  I hadn’t driven to the bar, but I figured the subway ride to my car would be less of a pain in the ass overall.

On the walk from the subway to my car, she completely freaked out because she thought there was a bug in one of the bushes near the sidewalk.  I then drove her to a part of town that I’d describe as “not at all far from anything, particularly the bar we met at.”
Later, she saw fit to tell me via text that “…there is a scary fly in my room.  Not a fan.”
It crossed my mind that this may have been some sort of Freaky Friday type shit and she was secretly a nine-year-old.  I was not disabused of this notion when she pointed out that she had “…about 8 stuffed animals to protect me.”

**************

Despite the fact that the night had been somewhat of an awkward failure, we made plans to go out again the following Monday (worth a shot, I guess).  During the finalization of those plans, I asked if there was any particular place she was looking to go and got no answer.
I waited two days and then just suggested a place.
Almost immediately, she replied with “Hey you.  Hope your week has gone well!  Are you working Monday?”
Um, ok.
So far as I can tell, the options here are either that she’s a total moron or that somehow my texts didn’t get sent/read.  I wasn’t keen to rule out either option.  Somewhat confused, I inquired into option B on Saturday only to receive a paragraphs-long text message in which she cancelled our half-plans and claimed to be “running out the door” and promised a future explanation.  I couldn’t imagine any explanation that would take more time than writing War and Peace on a cellphone, but I just mentally filed this one under Lost Cause and went about my day.

**************

Two days later.
While attending a taco-related event, I received what may well be the longest text message in the history of phones:
“Hey sorry.  I’ve been a bit busy this week.  So.  I still wanted to write back and explain.  Basically, I had a really good time with you and wanted to hang out with you for such a long time.  So I was super excited when we got to exchange numbers.  But I actually met someone the next day who… I didn’t think would turn into anything, but it kind of has.  And I really like the idea of dating one person and I wouldn’t think it was fair to date both of you, so I kind of had to choose.  So thats kind of why I didn’t think Monday night was a good idea. :/ i hope you don’t hate me.  I really did like you… I wasn’t really sure how you felt about me***.  And ugh.  Ya.”
Did I just get dumped via text by a girl I wasn’t even really dating?  If so, is that hilarious? (yes to both)
My answer: “Bummer.  Does he have a better mustache than me?”
“Haha.  Hmm.  I think you might have the better one by a smidge”
“Well I just do not understand where your priorities lie”
“Huh?”
Then soon after she asks “Oh.  Joke?”
I thought about saying something to the effect of “I never joke about mustaches.”  But I have enough painful conversations with dumb people in my day-to-day life that I don’t need to seek them out.

*I had a kind of ridiculous beard/mustache thing that has been referred to as the “fu-man-chops,” though I prefer the term “congratulations mustache.”
**In retrospect I think I know which beer bottle I was talking about (Blanche de Bruxelles), but that’s largely because I tell that story to everybody who orders it.
***I actually get this a lot.  The possible reason was explained to me once by a very drunk friend of my (now former) girlfriend: “I thought you didn’t like me when we first met.  And I was thinking about it – you’ve got all these pretty girls who are used to guys fawning over them all the time, and you just don’t give a shit.  They don’t know what to do with that.”  I found this to be a good explanation, though the real reason this particular person thought I didn’t like her was that I didn’t and probably still don’t.

Written by Baron Volcano

02/10/2013 at 11:18 pm

A Very Difficult Life Lesson

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Life Lesson #8: There is, sadly, such a thing as too much Iron Maiden.
I know, I was as surprised and disappointed as you are.

Written by Baron Volcano

02/03/2013 at 11:23 pm

Posted in Life Lessons

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When I Were Young

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I grew up in a small town in New England called Rumford.  It was small enough that it didn’t have its own high school, so middle school involved a fair number of largely-nonsensical extracurricular activities designed to help make students look more appealing to private high schools.  At least, that’s the only reason I can think of that anyone would even pretend to give a shit about Junior National Honors Society.  But oh man, did my teacher ever give a shit about Junior National Honors Society.  Looking back, I attribute it to the sort of tunnel vision that people get when they’ve been at a particular job for too long – eventually even the mundane and/or nonsensical starts to seem Critically Important.  Given the objective silliness of the situation, combined with the fact that I spent the bulk of my adolescence honing my skills as a smartass, my teacher and I didn’t always see eye to eye.

What I’m saying is that I was thrown out of Junior National Honors Society.  Twice, in fact*.  The first of these two instances happened as a result of a small assignment we were given just prior to induction (yes, I was thrown out before I was formally admitted): pair up with a classmate, fill out a short survey, then write an essay on your classmate based around the answers to the aforementioned survey.  What follows is the essay about me that managed to cause a great stir in the Rumford Middle School community:

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Baron Volcano

By Augustus Smith
Baron Swifthammer Volcano, also known as “that man, officer” was born on September 8 in 1983. He has to live with one brother named Duke. Baron has two dogs named Shelby and Liebschen. As for his favorite sports he likes to watch soccer and play it as well. His favorite sports team is any of the Rumford T-ball teams. Baron Volcano is his favorite athlete. He likes to spend free time by sleeping and eating. Baron’s favorite color is black and his favorite movie is “Herbie Rides Again”. His favorite book is The Signs of Leprosy. He likes to eat brown sugar. The Simpsons is favorite television show. The song Breathe is the song that Baron likes best. He enjoys listening to the music group Rage Against the Machine. His special talent that was recently not known was that he could take off his underwear without taking off his pants. He admires Bob from Bobs Discount Furniture because he is so loud and obnoxious. One day he would like to visit a Vietnamese sweatshop. The best advice that he has ever been given was “don’t put that in your mouth.”

*************************

*The second such occasion, which is a far less entertaining story, resulted in my dad – the most mild-mannered person I’ve ever known – screaming at my teacher and gesturing in such a menacing manner that my mom (ordinarily the hot-tempered one of the pair) felt the need to physically restrain him.

Written by Baron Volcano

01/27/2013 at 2:14 pm

Posted in I am Lazy

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