Mike's Reporter Blog

Words of Wisdom?

Friday, October 23rd, 2009
Michael McGuire

Not food for thought, just a few boneless nuggets to nibble on:

• They say to pretend the audience is naked if you get nervous in the spotlight. That’s fine (do that when I’m not nervous). But what if there’s family in the crowd? Lock eyes with grandma in her birthday suit, see how good the speech goes.

• You’re supposed to send Thank You notes immediately after someone does something nice for you. Let’s say you don’t (Hello, everyone). In my opinion, it is better to be really late with it as opposed to just a few weeks late. Just a few weeks late says, “I would have got around sooner to showing you my appreciation for your generosity, but I was too busy spending hours of work and free time sending worthless e-gifts to Facebook friends.” Whereas being ultra-late, maybe even a year or more, says, “Life got a little crazy there for a while. A long while. But you were on my mind through it all. And your gift has grown to mean more to me now than ever.” Yes, that last line is complete BS. And you should use it in the note. The lazy and clever rule the world.

• Everyone sings great in the shower. Studio-quality sound. Even the live performances are good (Beneath the stream of a low-flow efficiency head, I laid down a bass solo in Rio that was so heavy all 110,000 in the crowd went deaf and miraculously knew sign language before the song was over.) However, know that thy ability to rock turns off with the water. And if you’re in an apartment building, most likely your neighbors hear every note and can attest to how much you suck.

• Give me a break, ladies. Enough with the naughty nurse, naughty teacher, naughty witch, and naughty she-devil costumes. It was rad the first couple years (heck, it’s still pretty rad). But that kind of dress is common these days. Halloween is about getting weird. Turning the norm on its ear. Want to impress me, dress up as a pleasant DMV clerk. Or a crazy bag lady in a two-piece she made from plastic six pack holders (save the seagulls, she’s always hollering).

• Don’t even stop at four ways. Just roll through. Somebody will be there waiting, looking funny, waving you on anyway.


A Chance Encounter, Part IV

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009
Michael McGuire

Judgment was near. It would be swift and painful, I was sure. An angry shopping cart has the strength of ten Orangutans. Do them wrong and they tear your arms off. Yet I did not run. And there had been plenty of chances to escape. I needed to accept responsibility. I wanted to be punished. The truth came out:

“The operator said the tracking device we found on Barry was purchased over a year ago with a credit card belonging to Mike McGuire,” Rich announced.

The room may have gasped. I was feeling too relieved to notice. The shame and guilt had driven me crazy. To be rid of the secret was a step closer toward feeling at peace.

“The operator said he bought eight trackers, total,” Rich added.

“Is it true? Was it you?” a cart named Mario asked me.

I nodded, solemn. “Norwich had grown tired of you all. You’re too care free, don’t live by their rules. Or any rules. Free love and free corners for all. Well, you don’t fit their picture – our picture. In fact, to us, you represent the worst of everything. Your life, always on the run and in  the wind, seems unproductive and ugly. And it was only a matter of time before we locked you up in a parking lot for good. I didn’t want to see that happen. I thought there was a better solution for everyone.”

“So you just got rid of our friends?” asked Mario Cart, now visibly angry, cage rattling.

“Yes. I heavily drugged Tammy, Rick, Randy, Pocky, Owen, Jan, Bernard and Barry and shipped them on overnight freight trucks to different cities across the country. Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, New Orleans, Oakland. I sent Pocky and Owen to Las Vegas, because I knew they had family there. I figured if respected shopping carts started to go missing and were feared dead, then all the rest of you would get scared and leave town, too. Find a place where you fit in.”

“I get it. But why track us?” Barry finally asked.

“Because I love you, and wanted to make sure you were all right. When your signal died, Barry, I left for New Orleans to find out if you were all right. When I couldn’t find you I feared the worst and hit rock bottom. By the time you found me face down in the French Quarter the guilt had nearly eaten me alive.”

“Along with a few rats,” Barry added coldly. “You tracked us to make sure we weren’t coming back.”

“I guess that’s true, too,” I admitted, sadly. Mario Cart then pulled out a shiv made from a toothbrush. “You feet-having scumbag. The devil’s gonna put you on wheels. I hope he fills you with Natty Ice and diapers like us and pushes you to the hottest corner of hell.” He rolled forward in an instant and stuck me deep.

On the ground passing out, losing blood.

“I didn’t kill that shopping cart from Sherburne,” I said. “I don’t know who did.”

“Probably a copy cat. Some cart-hater taking it a step further than you did. Where are the others,” Barry asked sharply.

“I only did what I thought was right,” I said, ignoring him.

“Where are the others?” he asked again, louder.

“I didn’t tell you the truth until now because I wanted to make sure the other carts were all right first, and that they made it home,” I said, starting to pass out. “I wanted to redeem myself before you killed me.”

“Where are they!” Barry yelled a final time, shaking me.

I handed him a bloodied piece of paper. It was a password to the TrackUsense database: sh0pc4rt.

He ran over to Rich’s built-in laptop, typed in the information. A few seconds later a smile came across his face, he said nothing.

“They’re on their way home,” I said, voice weak. “They’re all OK. Tammy, Rick, Randy, Pocky, Owen, Jan, and Bernard. Well, Bernard almost got used as an outdoor grill in Houston I guess, but other than that it sounds like they take nice care of their carts in other places. I used my life savings to have them rounded up and shipped back. That’s why you had to pay for everything. Sorry you had to sell yourself, man. Sorry for everything. ”

“If only you could’ve learned to sooner,” Barry said, walking out the door. “Before it came to all this.”

A chance encounter, Part III

Monday, October 5th, 2009
Michael McGuire

Barry lay there, tipped over on the corner of Mitchell and Silver streets. Wheels still spinning, pointing crooked toward the sky. Eyes red, puffy. He did not move. A gaggle of carts gathered around him.

“I don’t see anything,” one of them said, poking around Barry’s undercarriage.

“What are we looking for?” said another.

Barry spoke: “You’re looking for some kind of electronic device.” His voice was hoarse. “Something this computer chip fits into.” He held it out for them to see. No bigger than a Wheat Thin. “I think it fell off me while I was tossing my cookies in the honeypot. All that heaving must’ve of jimmied it loose. Busted some blood vessels, too. My eyes are sore.”

They searched. No device. Just a few rust patches, some enflamed. Comes with the irritation and discomfort of growing old. Barry closed his eyes, feeling defeated. It’d been quite a trip – over a year since he blacked out on that snow bank and woke up 1,200 miles away in The Big Easy. He did what he had to in that strange place to make it, to see Norwich again. Broke his heart finding out seven others had been taken, still missing. Tammy, Rick, Randy, Pocky, Owen, Jan and Bernard. Like him, they were some of the oldest, most respected shopping carts in town. Bumping curbs and chilling on the corner before it was hip, even legal. Gone. Barry wanted to know why, but he was tired.

“I found something,” said a cart named Rich, sharp kid, pointing at the advertisement below Barry’s handlebar. “That placard, on the back of your carriage, didn’t it used to say ‘buy one, get one free’ Hamburger Helper?”

“Yeah. Stroganoff and taco,” Barry replied. “Good stuff. Expired back in June 2004, but I dug the design.”

“Well, now it shows some old guy smiling, holding a 32-ounce can of Metamucil. Says you can get one half-off with the purchase of another at full price,” Rich said. “Somebody wanted you to be regular.”

“Nobody more so than me,” Barry said distantly, sadly. He would’ve noticed the fiber advertisement sooner, but he hadn’t looked in a mirror since before disappearing. He was scared to see himself dressed as a woman; a crossed-up, caged heat sin buggy rolling down allies in search of strange men to push him around a little, ride in his basket.

Barry, refocusing on the ad: “Pull it out. Let’s see what they’re hiding.”

When something wanted out of Barry, be it food, beverage, firewood, lawnmower parts, or the occasional used futon, the force of its exit was legendary. And like a griddle exhaust pointed the wrong way in a diner, the old shopping cart’s enraged puking uncovered mysteries that both excited and confused. It dislodged the chip, which led him to the Metamucil advertisement. Behind the fiber ad, as expected, was a circuit board, an empty space where a Wheat Thin-sized chip should go.

“It’s a TrackUsense,” said Rich, pointing to the circuit board. “A popular homing device they put on expensive cars in case they get stolen. You are, or were, being followed.”

Barry: “What do you mean were being followed?”

Rich: “The board is fried. The wires are all burnt and the components are melted. Judging from the corrosion, looks like it happened months ago. Probably got wet or something.”

“For a while there I was selling hand grenades on Bourbon Street for extra scratch. Drunks were always spilling them on me. Sticky business.”

“Makes sense,” Rich said. “You must’ve felt a burning sensation when it flared up. Did you not notice?”

“Kid, after working a few nights in that part of town, I only would’ve noticed if there weren’t a burning sensation.”

“Good point.”

Rich called the customer service number on the back of the device and entered the license number. Like I said, sharp kid.

Rich set down the phone. “I know who it’s registered to. You’d better sit down, Barry.”


A Chance Encounter, Part II

Friday, September 25th, 2009
Michael McGuire

Barry the shopping cart’s old corner was packed. Where Silver met Mitchell. Carts everywhere. In drum circles. Getting high on W-D 40. All looking for peace, love. Fighting oppression. Called the corner their “Haight Ashbury.” Barry – a musician, beat poet and founding member of Carts for Arts, a militant student group – was the face of their wheeled-basket counter culture. He was their god.

They saw us coming by the Murray Mansion. Is that him? He’s alive. He has risen! They laughed. They cried. They rolled to Barry and rejoiced. He had ditched the hooker outfit by now. Took it off in Memphis, after he’d earned enough money for two cheeseburgers from the dining car.

“We were so lost without you, man,” carts told him. They asked about the suicide note, and why he wasn’t dead. Barry accepted the blue and yellow can when it was his turn, took a few pulls from the little red straw sticking out of the top, and told everyone everything. How it had all been a lie.

“It’s all making sense now.”

“What’s making sense?” Barry asked.

“Everything, Uncle Barry. After you were gone things got weird. Scary. Most of us haven’t left the corner. Don’t want to vanish like all the others.”

“Vanish? Like the others?”

“Disappearances – there have been seven so far, eight now including yours. Beatings, too. We didn’t think there was a connection. Just thought the world had gone crazy. But after hearing your story… ”

Another cart spoke up: “Tell him about the murder.”

Native American shopping carts believed that huffing W-D 40 opened the doorway to a spirit world where they could see the past, the future and the present at the same time. See all their was to know.

All Barry could see was the inside of a toilet:

“Blewwwwwachunkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkka! Blewa! Blewaaha! Blewwwwwwwaaaaaaaaaachunkkkkkkkaaaaaa!”

“You all right, man?”

“Too much W-D, is all,” Barry hollered back. He was lying. It was the story about the dude they found dead that made him hork. Gruesome. Poor guy was new in town. His handle bar said “Great American.” Sherburne, maybe. Probably hitched down here after the store closed. Looking for lube. He was beaten to hell, caved in on the sides, and left to rust. Wheels torn off and everything. A note taped to him said ‘Not Welcome.’”

Barry wiped the front of his cage. Nasty in that port-o-john. Everyone called it the “Honeypot.” He went to exit but got locked up on the right side. Tipped him sideways into the wall. Nearly toppled the stall. He looked down, tried to roll forward. No dice. His right front wheel was jammed. Must be something wedged under there. He backed up. Yup. There it was. A small piece of metal, square. Picked it up. Well looky there.

It was a computer chip.

Huge missile-looking things

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009
Michael McGuire

They are not huge missiles. Or rockets or pieces of a nuclear reactor – or at least that’s what I’m told.

Those huge cylinders that rolled through town last week were sections of a windmill. A state department of transportation official confirmed it earlier this week.

The specific destination of the windmill pieces, over three hundred feet tall when assembled, is not known, said David Hamburg, a DOT spokesman in Binghamton. He believes most are coming from a manufacturer in Wisconsin.

“As far as we know there are no missile silos in New York,” said Hamburg jokingly.

The DOT spokesman said some windmills have recently been delivered to the Albany area.

The truckers have permits to haul the sections on state roads. They are not required to give a final destination.

A truck carrying one of the sections damaged a bridge Saturday on Interstate 81 in Binghamton due to its size. Traffic over the bridge, near where it converges with state route 17, has been reduced to a single lane, said Hamburg.


A Chance Encounter

Monday, September 14th, 2009
Michael McGuire

I was bleeding, half on the sidewalk, half in the street. My bike was wadded up next to me, the tire bent into a taco shell. That hot dog cart came out of nowhere. Why was he out so early? I could hear the vendor. He was angry with me. All those buns scattered on the blue stone sidewalk getting soggy and melting back into dough. Hotel porters just hosed down out front, pushing all the broken glass, puke and ciggy butts into the gutter. A few random weenies rolled. It was early, a little after sunrise. Feeling sore and nauseous and generally out of it. There was a woman’s voice. It sounded like a man’s though.

“Look at them buns! No, I ain’t talking about your hot dog bread, Sam! That big boy crumpled in the road with the wedgy – I’ve seen them buns before.”

Coming out of it now.

“I know them buns,” the lady said, quieter this time. She was thinking.

I lifted my head toward her. Ah, a transgender. Huge blonde wig, red highlights. Blue Jean hot pants. Fish-net tube top, tight. Wide base. Not uncommon. Dear God, I hope he/she hasn’t really seen my buns before. Not impossible though. Strange things happen here.

“Them buns used to set in here when your mama pushed me around at The Great American. They were a lot smaller back then.”

The hair on my arms and neck stood. It could not be. He was gone.

“Pick up what’s left of that two-wheeler and put it in my basket, Michael. You climb in, too. I’m going to take your big butt home.”

I drifted off zig-zagging down the bumpy streets of the French Quarter. Jittering to the familiar rattle with a half-drunken smile on my face. Barry was alive. Somehow. My shopping cart was in New Orleans. How? Why? Why was he dressed like Ru Paul?

“You’re too top-heavy to be riding bike and drinking Dixie beer, Michael. Why with all that foam people thought you were an escaped Barnum and Bailey tricycle bear — rabies! At least wear a helmet, anyway,” Barry was saying from the kitchen.

The bed was comfy – wow, it was mine. But it was made, fresh linens. Wounds – elbows and knees mostly – were cleaned and dressed.

Barry came in the room: “I found a pay stub in your wallet, had your address. It was a hell of time piling you into the streetcar. What a mess. Lucky I found you, didn’t wind up in jail.”

I saved the cross-dressing questions for later.

“Last I knew, Barry, you were on a Russian freighter somewhere, Vladivostok?”

“What no thank you for wheeling you home? That was a night of horror all by itself. I’ll tell you about it some day.”

“God I’m so sorry, Bare. Thank you, so much. For all you’ve done. I’m just confused is all. In the diary the cops found on Silver Street last year you wrote that you’d been Shang-haied and tortured. And the last entry – that was grim – led everyone to believe you had committed suicide? I, everyone, thought you were dead.”

Barry was whisking Hollandaise sauce in a bowl. From scratch. Something was sizzling. Smelled like Canadian bacon. Eggs Benedict, my favorite. He shouldn’t have.

“All lies,” Barry said emphatically. “I didn’t write any of that.”

He raised his eyebrows coyly. I waited.

“I’m illiterate,” he said, not the least bit embarrassed.

“Had no idea,” I said acceptingly – a little surprised, but not shocked.

“I mean honestly; a shopping cart that can read and write? Have you ever heard of anything more absurd?” he asked rhetorically.

I nodded in agreement as I watched him drizzle Hollandaise over two perfectly shaped sunny sides over bacon and an English Muffin. Hell of a cook, that cart. His cage was a bent in a few places, not bad. His wheels where chipped a little. Even so, I’d seen him look worse.

“You should have known it was bull,” Barry said in between chews, pointing his fork at me. “Someone, some human, wrote that mess and planted that journal. I woke up one day – same as you in the Vieux Carre this morning – without a clue as to where I was or how I got there. Except I was drugged against my will. You – you’re just dumb.”

“Yes, I am dumb. Hungry too. Thanks for breakfast, by the way. Looks great. You’re too good to me.”

“Breakfast,” he laughed. “You are crazy. This goodness is mine. Hell, you should’ve cooked it for me, all I’ve done for you! No, you need to pack your things. We have to catch a train back to Norwich. Time to find out why I was written off, sent down here – believed dead.”

“Wait. Why are you going back now. Why didn’t you go back when you first woke up down here. Why do I have to go with you?”

“I needed a friend. A friend I could trust. I need you to help me,” Barry said.

“Okay… but how did you find me.”

“Not sure. When it matters things just work out, I guess.”

“Seriously?”

“No, I went on Facebook.”

“Why are you in drag?” I quickly asked, unfazed to learn this was no coincidence.

“Because, as the carts down here say, “Les Bons Temps Rouler!”

The problem with loose change …

Monday, May 12th, 2008
Michael McGuire

I’ve never gotten less than 93 cents in coins back on any monetary transaction. And it’s always in the same breakdown: one quarter, four dimes, five nickels and three pennies – a combination that sounds like there’s a 12 horse sleigh rally in your pocket. Cashiers know that, too. They do it on purpose. It’s their little way of saying, “This is for all the jerks that question my basic math and reading skills when I make a mistake.”

That’s why loose change bothers me.

Vacations are annoying, too.

Yeah, it’s nice to get away. But a vacation, in reality, is like getting mugged at knife-point by a stripper: It’s over quickly and fun in a new, different sort of way, but you still feel a little violated in the end. Especially when it’s time to go back to work. The enormous back-log waiting on your desk, and that feeling in the pit of your stomach when you realize the beach isn’t there to save you makes you wonder if taking the week off was even worth it.

But you can’t just not take vacations, right? Or throw away loose change? They’re both important. One helps us be flexible and accurate when exchanging money for goods and services. The other keeps us from freaking out at work and quitting, thus slowing down productivity. Without both, our economy would fold.

We need to think positive, and remember how helpful change and vacations can be.

Change is a lifesaver when you’re getting on a toll bridge, using a rest-stop bathroom with a novelty dispenser, or buying a gallon of milk that costs $4.07 (change itself, if used responsibly, can break the cycle of too-much change abuse).

Vacations are helpful reminders that there’s a world outside of work that we should try to find time to live in every day – or that unemployment insurance is just one well-conceived plan to get yourself fired away.

A sincere apology

Friday, March 28th, 2008
Michael McGuire

Sorry for the long break in between blog updates. I was suspended for two weeks, nearly fired, in the wake of my controversial Tom Petty and Bobby Brown opinion pieces.

The break gave me time to think, long and hard. And I’m here today to apologize and, with your blessing, to start over.

I made two unfortunate, and clearly damaging, mistakes. Both Mr. Petty and Mr. Brown are American heroes. You folks made me realize that. For attempting to tarnish their legacies, I am truly sorry.

As an act of contrition, I’m enrolling my five-year-old son in a Bobby Brown drug seminar. No, no, Mike Jr. doesn’t have a drug problem, yet. This was a preemptive measure. My hope is he’ll learn from the best how to be a man and how to do the right thing. Clearly, I can’t offer him that. But after finally hearing all the songs Mr. Brown did with his childhood group, New Edition, I’m confident that he will get my son started on the right path (giving my boy the chance I never had).

As for my personal thoughts on Mr. Petty. I love Tom Petty. I own all his records. The truth is, Jeff Lynne, his former and least known band-mate in the Traveling Wilburys, forced me to write all that bad stuff about him. If I didn’t, Lynne, also the frontman for Electric Light Orchestra, was going to make me wear a wig afro and dark tinted sunglasses at gunpoint and videotape me singing “Don’t Bring Me Down” and put it on YouTube. It was all part of his sinister plot to get back at Tom for not only overshadowing his role in the Wilburys, but for Tom’s overall status in the music business. (Lynne never got over being underrated as a guitarist, lead singer, songwriter and producer). The national embarrassment I would’ve faced couldn’t compare to the pain I caused. Sorry.

Never the less, I must choose my blog topics more carefully, given the sensitivity expressed by my readers. So I’ll quit chasing waterfalls, and stick to subjects I’m used to. Like deep-fryers. That said, If they dunked salad in bubbling-hot peanut oil, I’d eat it. And I’m not afraid to say it…

Bobby Brown: It’s my prerogative – to be a mentor?

Monday, March 3rd, 2008
Michael McGuire

It’s not shocking that the once-famous R&B singer Bobby Brown got busted for having cocaine.

What is shocking is that anyone, a judge no less, would think Bobby’s got something to teach kids about the dangers of drugs.

Brown was court-ordered last week to be a mentor to teenagers as “punishment” for possession. Reports say that’s the judgment he “wanted” anyway.

This case is proof that the patients are running the asylum.

Not only does Brown escape punishment, but the court puts him on a pedestal as someone people, kids, should look up to. Exactly what he was hoping for! (What better way to reinforce negative behavior than by letting it go unpunished and giving it a seal of approval).

So what if he used to be a celebrity? The question is: What positive message can he send to teenagers about drug use? That, apparently, we don’t have to held accountable for our actions. And that before we’ve even proven we can overcome our addictions, we – if we had a few hit singles almost 20 years ago – get a free pass to be the voice of sobriety.

If the courts want to let celebrities skate the law, then just let them. Let them go free and don’t even give a reason. But don’t add insult to injury. Don’t make them mentors!

What’s next? Will Joe Francis, the creator of “Girls Gone Wild,” start teaching seminars on the importance of morality in order to skirt his legal troubles.

Kids are smart. They can see right through BS, better than most adults. If we keep giving them role models that aren’t credible, they’ll keep following our lead.

If you want to make an example out of Bobby Brown, about the consequences of drug use, send him to jail.

You say it’s my birthday?

Tuesday, February 19th, 2008
Michael McGuire

Don’t feel bad if you forgot my birthday.

I didn’t remember it either. Not until I got to work this morning and a co-worker reminded me.

Nice.

Can’t say how or why I’d forget such a milestone. Birthday’s used to mean so much.

Maybe I’m too busy. Career driven and working long hours, it’s easy to forget about the things that matter most.

Maybe it’s because I’m at that age – 26 – where my mind and body are starting to go through certain “changes.” For example: Mentally, I don’t feel a day older than 15. Physically, I don’t feel a a day younger than 40. My actual age is closer to the average of the two. Just doesn’t feel right. It has my internal clock all spun around (the hot flashes haven’t come yet, but they’re not far behind).

Or maybe I’ve just gotten old and crotchety in my ways. I’ve already caught myself watching daytime episodes of “JAG” and yelling at kids who ride their bikes on the sidewalk out front after dark.

Maybe my memory’s starting to go. Sometimes I’ll dial the phone and when someone answers I have no idea who I called. It’s happening more frequently.

Or maybe I’m just an idiot who can’t remember anything unless it involves free Pabst and inner tubing.

Who knows?