Archive | September 2012

Top Ten Stories My Dad Used To Tell

My father, Jerry Allen Ciscell, passed away in 2008. I get a lot of exposure as a writer. Sometimes, I even get a few accolades. However, my Dad was one of the greatest oral storytellers that you would ever want to listen to. If it was a Sunday and Dad had some coffee, he could spin a yarn like he was Homer telling the Odyssey. Dad would tell stories about jobs he had. Dad would tell stories about being a soldier during the Vietnam War era. He would tell stories about his own family. I miss the stories. I miss his hearty laughter at the end. They usually were told the same way. They were like recitations of famous skits by the likes of Andy Griffith or Bill Cosby. Here are ten that you hopefully heard but quite possibly may have missed…

10. “I’m Going To Kill Your Car.”

My Dad spent some time being a security officer late night for a local plant in Indiana. There was a guy who did nightly deliveries. He was pretty rude to the employees and would not go to the right dock. Finally, they got my Dad over to the situation to try and settle the dispute. Dad told the delivery guy that Dad was going to beat him up if he continued acting this way. The delivery guy then said “Oh yeah, and after you do that – What are you going to do?” All Dad could think to say at the moment was “I’m going to kill your car.” Dad didn’t see the guy again for three months. One night, Dad’s manager came out to him on his shift and said “Jerry, its cold and we are tired of coming out to the parking lot to pay this guy.” My Dad asked what was going on. The manager responded that the delivery guy was getting paid out in his car because he was scared Dad going to kill his car while he was inside collecting payment. The threat of physical violence to his own person did not bother him at all. As a matter of fact, that was probably a fairly regular thing. However,  the threat to ‘kill his car’ the guy took kind of serious.

9.  “I’m going to buy you a coke…”

My Dad’s security guard days led to some wild situations. At one point, there was a late night screaming match between a supervisor and his former employee. When Dad went into the office, Dad saw that the drunk former employee had actually pulled out a knife and was pointing it at his former supervisor. Dad asked him what he was going to do. The man responded “I’m going to kill him Jerry. I’m going to kill him.” At this point, Dad noticed that he had brought a stick to a knife fight. So, Dad did the only thing he knew to do. Dad said “No, your not going to kill him. Your going to put that knife away. Your going to walk down to the break room with me. I’m going to buy you a coke and your going to go home and sleep this off.” The guy turned to my Dad. All of the sudden, Dad noticed that the knife was now pointing at him. The guy said “Now, just you wait a minute Jerry… Your really going to buy me a Coke?” Dad said “I promise I’m going to buy you a coke. Just close the knife and we’ll walk down to the break room.” Apparently, this was a man who loved a good cold carbonated soda from the break room. So, in fact, Dad did take him down to the break room, bought him a Coke, talked to him. As the story goes, the man did in fact go home and sleep it off.

8. “Spoon That Garbage!!!”

At some point and time during Army Basic Training, my Dad became convinced that the Army was in fact going to kill him before he ever became officially in the Army. Dad was also convinced that part of the plan to kill him was gastro-intestinal. Not only did Dad consider the food to be horrible, he would have drill instructors screaming behind him throughout that entire meal “Spoon that garbage!!!” One day, Dad decided it was just better to throw away the whole meal that eat another bite. Dad took his food and walked over to the garbage can. One of the drill instructors stopped him and asked where he was going. Dad responded that he wanted a seat next to the window before he sat down to eat that fine garbage. Dad would generally also call it one of the worst meals he had had in his entire life. The drill instructor actually sat in the seat across from him just to make sure Dad ate the whole plate.

7. “I Would Wanna Split His Stash…”

Dad would often talk about a California “hippie” named Luckenbill that was in his missile control unit in Germany during the Vietnam Era. They were in classroom training together on gas attacks. The instructor asked the class what they would do if they saw a man down in convulsions on the ground. The intructor further went on to state that their eyes were clearly dialated and their mouth was foaming. Luckenbill was all over this answer. Luckenbill said “Man, I would try and talk to him and find out if he was willing to split his stash.” It just kind of makes you proud to be an American.

6. “What We Have Here Is A Failure To Communicate…”

When my Dad was in high school, he played saxophone in the marching band. This may kind of give you an idea how I thought on some level I could do it. It was the 1950s and apparently in northern Indiana, band uniforms were more of a dress code. My Dad was not paying particular attention when the dress code wass announced. Dad heard that there would be a black shirt with white pants. The rest of the band heard the instruction for a white shirt with black pants. By the time Dad showed up for the parade, it was really too late to change then. The band director even considered it to be a life lesson in paying attention. So, my Dad had to march that whole parade in front of the whole town with a clearly mismatched band uniform. To be fair, Dad did admit that it only happened once.

5. The German Hooker

This is a story my Dad only told me once and when I was over thirty. It was also about three in the morning. Dad was on leave in a German village and really just walking down the street. He comes across one of his fellow GIs arguing with hooker. The GI apparently did not have enough money to pay her rates. The hooker was apparently dressed in only lingerie ( in the middle of a busy street) and by Dad’s estimation not an unattractive woman at all. When the hooker had had enough of the present negotiations, she noticed that my Dad was there. She looked over at him and said in English “You Soldier? You have money?” Dad described it as the longest few seconds of his life. The then told the stacked German hooker in the middle of the road wearing lingerie that he did not have any money on that particular evening. Dad was positive that someone was going to take her up on her offer that night though.

4. “Turn Out That Light!!!”

When we moved to Waverly, Ohio in the late 1970’s, the first night was spent in a house full of boxes. As such, we all ended up sleeping on the living room floor. To this day, I have no idea where the hilarity erupted from. No one was going to sleep after a full day of moving. The light was still on. Dad said “I got just one last thing to say ‘Turn out that light!” The light was turned out but for some reason we all laughed. When we stopped laughing, either me, my brother, or my Dad would then say “I got just one last thing to say ‘Turn out that light!!!’ We had a giggle fit on that for some reason for what seemed like hours. I don’t even remember how we went to sleep that night. We must have repated that same phrase dozens of times that night. The story itself was repeated for literally decades after that.

3. “The same hands…”

Any one who has ever been in a church for any length of time has seen a time in which a new pastor was put in. These are not always times in which the old pastor retires and a new person comes in. Sometimes, the discussions get down right nasty about the future of the leadership. In the late 1980s, there was just such a situation that arose in the church we were attending. There was an emotional meeting after a church service. It was during that particular meeting that my father tried to calm the crowd with a statement that I did and still do consider to be a rare bit of absolute poetry. My Dad said “The same hands that can sling mud can also toss roses.” That one phrase has managed to inspire me… for life.

2. So This Is Christmas…

My Dad was stationed in West Germany during the Vietnam War era in a missile defense squad. Most of the missiles were apparently setup in mountains. One year while my Dad was over there, the Soviets moved an entire battallion westward. They did this on December 23rd. As a result, my Dad and his unit had to be moved directly to a mountain in West Germany in December. The Soviets simply moved their troops back to their former position on December 26th. It seemed to my Dad and everyone else involved that the entire exercise was done simply to completely ruin Christmas for a lot of troops out in the cold. To that end, my Dad would assure you… they were absolutely successful.

1. The Moon Landing

On the day that Neil Armstrong landed on the Moon, my Dad was in a German pub. The TV was broadcasting the event. After Armstrong made his famous line “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind…” a curious thing happened. Dad was in there drinking along with other GI’s as well as Germans. One of the Germans ( a large man by Dad’s memory) stood up. The German started singing. It was what he started singing that would forever make an impression on my Dad. The German started singing The Star Spangled Banner. The rest of the bar as well as my Dad’s unit started joining in. The entire bar was hoisting beer stein and loudly singing the American national anthem in Germany. Dad said that no moment in his entire life ever made him more proud to be a serviceman or more proud to just be an American. And he had to go to Germany to experience it….

 

If you never heard my Dad tell a story, I am truly sorry. You really missed out. Hopefully, my small watered down teases will give you just a taste of what you may have missed.

 

Ten Things The Twilight Zone Tries To Teach You

I will absolutely readily admit to being a huge fan of The Twilight Zone. I have actually sat and watched every episode of the original Twilight Zone series with both my children. I consider it to be an absolutely essential part of development to be able to discuss this show intelligently. I have seen the Twilight Zone in every single one of its incarnations and have very in depth opinions about them. However, I will also be among the first to admit that there are some very weird takeaways to be gained by watching the Twilight Zone. These are even weirder in some cases than the shows themselves.

10. If you say the word “gag,” you are completely screwed.

This is actually especially true if your name in real life is Jack Klugman. There are several Twilight Zone episodes that have a character in the first ten minutes say some sort of variation of the phrase “Its a gag, right.” or “Its some sort of gag?” It doesn’t matter. If you say the word gag in The Twilight Zone, you are screwed for well nigh eternity. At the very least, you are absolutely the character who is now knee deep in what we call the Twilight Zone.

9. XY Chromosones Good, XX Chromosones Bad.

George Clayton Johnson. Rod Serling. Richard Matheson. Charles Beaumont. Jerry Sohl. Earl Hamner, Jr. Notice any kind of trent here? That’s right. No one born with ovaries was allowed anywhere near an authorship credit for The Twilight Zone. As such as well as being the 1960s, you can probably count the positive portrayals of women in the Twilight Zone on your fingers. Women in the Twlight Zone came in the form of shrill nags whom the apocalypse is a welcome relief from or the Devil herself or bloodsucking harpies. Even the woman who is afraid of death seems absolutely willing to let a police officer bleed out to prolong her own life. This is actually an internal discussion. The woman who simply wants to be herself? She is forcibly changed into every one else. The one that they can’s forcibly change on the pig planet? She is sent to live in exiles so that all of the ‘normies’ can be happy.

8. The Devil Is Real And Ready To Deal.

The Devil can take a lot of forms in the Twilight Zone.  The Devil can appear magically in your bedroom. The Devil can have an office next to yours. The Devil can apply for a job as your printing assistant. It does not matter the form. The realization is that there is a real Devil. They will deal with you. The whole experience will also end badly. Even when the Devil was caught in the classic Howling Man episode, the Devil still managed to escape by the art of the deal.

7. Justice – Thy Name Is An Inanimate Object

When the Twilight Zone really needs to impart Justice onto a character, The Twilight Zone will give life and sentience to an inanimate object. This may be a car that was turned into an accomplice in a hit and run. This may be a doll trying to protect a heart broken child. This may a slot machine with a severe attitude about greed. It may be a knick knack from Africa brought for vengeance. There is also a high possibly that you should stop putting pennies into a Devil Headed fortune telling machine. No Matter. Those tied most directly into The Twlight Zone to do its bidding are in fact seemingly inanimate objects.

6.  Aliens Are Out There And They Are Evil.

Aliens are only in the Twilight Zone to kill, eat, or generally screw with you. In Mr. Dingle the Strong as well as The Monsters are Due on Maple Drive, human beings are lab rats. The kindly old man that plays with kids turns out to be an extra terrestial child molester. In To Serve Man, the human race is welcomed to the food chain. There are actually arguments over which race will get to subjugate humans as well. Land on their planet? Welcome to being a permanent exhibit.. be it one dead or alive. In the Twilight Zone, the only thing worse than an alien is a woman.

5. Keep Your Feet On The Ground

Nothing good can come of air or space travel in the Twilight Zone. There are gremlins on the wings of planes. If you have a relatively smooth flight, you will pass through time. You had better follow a creepy premonition that equates a plane to being a morgue. Drive and you … might .. survive. There are no real guarantees on this. However, air as well as space is only asking to be taken to a portal of another dimension in which you might not readily ever escape.

4. If You Are Dead, You Might Be The Last To Know

There is also a better than average chance that you are a chick. Death as well as limbo are kind of transient states in the Twilight Zone. There is a decent chance that you have died and never realized it. This happened at least three times in the Twilight Zone. There was the young woman in a cross country trip hounded by the hitchhiker. There was the old woman in the flop house avoiding Death. There was the mobster who got shot and only thought he was in Heaven. There was also the old hunter who died with his dog in the river. Jack Klugman played a trumpet player who straddled the fence between life and death. Everything might well feel the same, but your circumstances may have been radically different. There is also the episode where Jack Klugman’s crew are in a perpetual loop of crashing because he will not let them just die. I think Twilight Zone was making some sort of comment on re-runs with that one.

3.  If You Are Gene Roddenberry, You Want Twilight Zone On An Actor’s Resume

William Shatner. Leonard Nimoy. George Takei, as well as several guest stars who found themselves at or near the starship Enterprise all took a walk in The Twilight Zone. Now, it is also true that you would see many of those same actors in The Outer Limits or Batman or any number of 1960s television shows. These actors had very real mortgages to pay. Hiwever, if you know both Twilight Zone as well as the original series of Star Trek, there is a lot of fun in pointing out the overlap there.

2. Ghosts Can Help You Learn To Live Life

If a ghost is terrorizing you in the Twilight Zone, then there is unfinished business left over from World War 2. It really is almost that simple. However, in show such as The Changing of The Guard as well as A Game of Pool, ghosts are called down from the Heavenly host to teach people how they should live better lives. Ghosts are often comforting spirits in the Twilight Zone. They really do want to impart the wisdom of their lives on those who still have a chance to enjoy it.

1. There Was A Lot Of Loose Ends Left By World War 2

One thing that The Twilight Zone make abundantly clear is that there was alot left unsettled when World War 2 ‘ended’ in 1945. There were angry sprits. There were old attitudes and grudges that died hard. There were moments that needed to be corrected. There was some things that sadly could not be corrected. In many ways, it was almost as if that War had either created the Twilight Zone (even though it was present in the Civil War so it might be war in general) or just greatly enhanced The Twilight Zone. But for the classic series, the two were inseperable. Of course, in the short lived 2002 series, there is also an episode that deals with the birth of Hitler as well.