Monday, 27 August 2012

the towelmaster

my computer has been really playing up lately. i guess i shouldn't be surprised it's a 2005 mac... it has had a pretty good run it's just no longer capable of updating any software and runs at a snails pace. while i was going through files trying to find stuff to delete that might...just maybe... make it run faster, i found this story i wrote about my dad years ago i thought i would post because i never write stuff anymore.

i love my dad…i really do. he has always had a very interesting perception of honesty within his survival. He IS a very honest person. very he’s honest about a lot of things like with his feelings if I am pissing him off, he won’t HESITATE to let me know or when someone else is pissing him off, again… no problems with expressing that.

this other perception of honesty I am talking about, is like, for example, years ago, when we would go grocery shopping in montana in the big bulk-buy places and the first thing he’d do is fill his pockets with some assorted nuts etc…just to “tide us over” during our shopping experience. Or, we’d eat a bag of fresh peas, shucking them as we shopped..and in his mind,”as long as we finished them before we walked out the door, it wasn’t stealing”.

when I was 14, maybe 15, he worked for this chemical company… a product supplier for service stations, laundromats etc… we were pretty poor living in a single wide and there wasn’t any money for luxuries. my brother Jason and i started to notice that conveniently and much to our advantage, there seemed to be a lot of boxes of “damaged” goods “unsuitable for sale” that would somehow end up in our possession.

the trailer slowly became crammed full of enormous boxes of toilet paper, laundry powder and industrial-sized cans of assorted cleaning supplies and room fresheners with names like “smells like spring!”. they pretty much took over every kitchen cabinet leaving very little room for all the cans of expired salmon and other assorted expired goods my dad was so fond of. the amount of conversations jason and I had with him about shopping at close-out stores fell on deaf ears. but, I guess really.. looking back, they kind of had to.  So we just turned a blind eye to the whole entire scene because they were essentials.

then one day…it got completely out of control.  I walked in from school to find my dad, tool belt around his waist,  proudly eyeing his handiwork on the newest addition to the trailer… the “ towelmaster”. usually more at home in gas station bathrooms, with a few pumps on the old lever, the “towelmaster” dispensed paper towels with a texture not far off coarse sandpaper.
and now… lucky us…we had one of our very own…mounted right on the kitchen wall.

if that wasn’t enough, right next to it was “the soap something or other”. the “towel master’s” companion. massive cartons of paper towels and liquid soap littered the floor, torn open with the grace of an over anxious 5 year-old at christmas. my dad just looked at me, and beamed, as if suddenly, his life was complete, and said “ i’ve put one in the bathroom too!!!!”

i was totally speechless…. to my 14 year-old self, it was beyond embarrassing. even worse than being dropped off at school in the pimp car with the gigantic semi-nude mermaid hood ornament. slowly, our house was turning into the type of place where long-haul truckers could stop and use the facilities. scenes ran through my head of answering the door in daisy dukes, an 18-wheeler parked out on the lawn, as I called out, “hey clem…what you haulin’ today? how’s that purdy lil’ wife of yours? well, hey… come on in… git yourself cleaned up, there’s plenty a paper towels…here hon……take a roll for the road… this ones on me”.

the long running joke between my brother and i after the towelmaster episode, was to constantly ask the old man when we were going to get the condom and tampon dispensers. you know… just to round it all out…no sense doing it half-assed. truckers need condoms…the scary thing was, I did whole-heartedly believe one day they’d appear.

when I was seventeen and moved into my own place, you know,  when parents usually give their kids, I dunno, furniture, a toaster, maybe even some money to help them get started, my dad presented me with a 75 pound industrial-sized box of laundry detergent, a few enormous cans of aerosol sprays and my very own towelmaster. i could see it was a very proud moment. there were tears in his eyes. what worried me was i’m pretty sure it wasn’t about me growing up and moving out on my own, i’m pretty sure it had to do with the towelmaster…

fortunately for me, in my mundane existence, this wasn’t my dad’s first “stroke of genius”.  it was one of numerous little projects he dabbled in to keep himself busy and me entertained. the thing i loved most about him was he would have one of his little brainstorms and would never… ever… really stop to think, “ is this a little insane? should I really do this? maybe this isn’t the best idea.” NOPE…not papa p…he’d just do it. i was becoming increasingly reluctant to come home after school because I never knew what to expect.

His passion was watching TV. the TV was his best friend. they spent a lot of time together. he would frequently even have conversations with it. for example, whenever he would watch the opening sequence of “little house on the prairie” where “half pint”, laura ingalls, is running through a field, i’d hear him screaming, “don’t fall down…don’t fall down!” obviously she did… every time… then he’d say to her, “you never learn.” the few times i observed him watching TV in silence, concerned me. i would ask him whether the two of them had a little disagreement and whether he thought they’d patch things up.

one wednesday  I remember well, i walked in to find him, in his underpants, sat in front of the TV. i remember it was a wednesday, because it was “western wednesday”…the day of the week he would sit and watch westerns he had seen more times than I could even begin to count. he seemed to know all of these obscure actors that no one else had ever heard of. he would read the credits aloud, “oh…dirk hutzenbiler…hmmmm…haven’t seen him in anything for while…I wonder if he’s related to so and so hutzenbiler that was in blah blah blah”

this day though, i almost subconsciously noticed that something was different. it took me a minute or two,  but then… these huge straps of silver on the arms of the recliner caught my eye and suddenly… i noticed… that he had duct taped the tv controllers to his recliner. he had positioned them just right so they were aimed perfectly at the signal on the tv and then he had actually DUCT TAPED them to the arms of his chair. he sat there like a bastardised version of captain Kirk aboard the enterprise.

i just stared at the whole scene in… i guess… disbelief. had I not been looking at it with my own eyes, i wouldn’t have believed it. i tried to imagine the moments that led up to this. at what moment did he think “SCREW IT… where’s that duct tape?” what was that process like? he looked so smug sitting there. so…content. i said,
“ dad…um…what the hell is this all about? what have you done?”

at first,  he didn’t even seem to know what I was referring to. then, seeing my stunned stare fixed on his crazy chair, he casually said, “oh…yeah…i got sick of not being able to find those fucking things!…problem solved”. that was it. he took a swig of coffee and placed his mug back onto his electric coffee warmer he kept at the side of his chair, and went back to watching tv. like it was the most normal thing in the world…I just shook my head and went to my room. 

ps... f you read this papa pransky... it is written with big love in my heart and a slight sense of revenge for telling pretty much every potential boyfriend i had in my teens the story about how i liked to "ride" my stuffed donkey toy when i was 2!