Archive for May, 2013


My childhood friend, Fritz, had a Grandfather named Ganst (short for Ganstas), and a Grandmother named Ganny. Ganst was Mayor of Harpers Ferry; but he found time to play games and tell stories with us kids. Although I was not related to Fritz, these neighbors were like family to me; because my own grandparents had lived far away, and all but one had passed away; in fact all of my family relatives lived far away. We had neighborhood parties, and everyone had a lot of fun back then.

Fritz always loved vehicles, he could name any car on the road; and we often played many games involving ‘driving’. We both loved ghosts and monsters; and Ganst was always willing to play the ‘monster’ that chased us around the neighborhood, yards, and houses; in a sort of horror hide-and-go-seek. It was amazingly fun!

One evening Fritz and I had just watched the movie Amityville Horror, at his house. We had wandered around his mansion and property; running, playing, and even going so far as Harper Cemetery, and the old town well, by the junk car parts and old VW Beetle covered in ivy vines. Now his mother, Freddie told us to get in the jeep (Cherokee) and she would drive us up the street to Ganny and Ganstas house.

We knew that visits with Ganst meant playing ‘Monster’, and hearing spooky mysterious stories. Playing Monster was (as I said) like hide-and-go-seek, but Ganst would make monster sounds, and we hid and ran in terror. Sometimes we had to attack the monster, because he had found or caught us. But no amount of hitting, punching, kicking, or biting would stop the Ganst the Monster for very long. Although sometimes we would land a good strike, and we would hear “Ouch, dammit you little shits!” or something like that, which was as close to victory as it got! There was a real thrill from the fear I felt hearing the monster noises, voices, and being pursued and gripped by a giant white polar-bear (or whatever else we pictured him as)!!

Time playing with Ganst was one of our favorite things to do in town, besides exploring, messing with toys, and watching movies. We also loved stuffed animals. Fritz had a favorite one that he kept with him as a ‘security blanket’, named Clowny. We both had enough stuffed animals that sometimes we slept in piles of them. When we grew up we knew we would be ghost-busters, so we did what we could with what we had at the time.

Ganst was in his back yard, watering the lawn, plants, and flowers with the hose. We begged the mighty Ganstas to tell us a story. Ganst said “Oh you don’t want to hear a story do you!?” And we would say “Yes, yes please!!” And so he would say “The Ganstas will now tell you a story. Are you ready to listen?”

And so our story began…

Fritz has a four wheeler, and Walton has a three wheeler. They are driving down the dark highway at night. It starts to rain. Lightning strikes, and thunder booms!! Soon they come to the edge of a cliff, overlooking a huge sprawling Haunted Mansion. They decide to race down the cliff, and up a jump on the other side of the cliff. They full-throttle their vehicles!

They woosh down the slope, and pop up on the other side. Clowny goes flying high above their vehicles, and suddenly the ramp opens up under the boys, and a Giant Coo-coo (Cuckoo) bird swoops in and nabs Clowny! The bird carries Clowny up and away, before the boys can do anything! The Coo-coo bird then flies into the highest tower of the Haunted Mansion. Fritz and Walton fall into the opening in the ramp. The pitfall becomes a slope underground, leading towards the basement of the Haunted Mansion.

The boys manage to regain control of their steering, and the underground slope levels out into a long tunnel. The tunnel is miles long, so they drive and drive. Their headlights work well, and they avoid traps of all kinds; dodging this way, and that. They come to a parking garage, and come to a halt. They stop their vehicles, and turn off their ignitions. Using their flashlights, they find a set of old stairs.

Eventually they climb all the way up the old stairs to the Mansion. The see a closed hatch above them, and hear a rocking-chair rocking above them, and a cold wind blew past them. Then the strangest thing happens! An old lady in white descends the stairs, and she passes right through them!! “A ghost!!!” They yell, and push open the trap-door hatch quickly, and rush into the front hall of the Mansion.

All the windows are boarded up, and there is a thick layer of dust and cobwebs on all the antique furniture. Walton sees a stairwell leading to the high tower, but Fritz stares frozen in terror, as he spies a Coo-coo Clock on the wall; and it is about to strike Midnight!!!

The tiny arms click into place, and the small clock chimes. The doors swing open on the clock, and the enormous Coo-coo bird that stole Clowny comes out! The giant bird flies out towards the boys, with a dreadful cry; “Cuck-coo Kuck-koo”!! The boys do not stop to think about how such a large bird could fit in such a small clock; they run and scream for their lives!

While Fritz is busy being chased around the house, Walton hides and looks at the Coo-coo clock. The doors on it are still open, and Walton is small enough to fit inside. So carefully, he sneaks from behind some curtains, and climbs onto a chair to reach the clock. Once inside the clock, he realizes it is bigger on the inside, than on the outside. Inside the clock is a large nest, with many stolen items; including Clowny! So grabbing Clowny, Walton climbs back out of the clock, and calls to Fritz.

Hey Fritz! Jump down into the trap door, I have Clowny!” Walton shouts. Fritz is relieved to hear that, as the Coo-coo bird nips his sweater. “Let’s get out of here!! The front door is locked from the outside, I already checked it!” So they jump back down the hatch, as the Coo-coo pecks after them. As they tumble down the steps to the parking lot, they hear the echoes behind them; “Coo-coo Coo-coo”!

They had gotten Clowny from the old Coo-coo Clock, so they run back to their vehicles in the basement, to try to drive back the way they came, and escape. Fritz and Walton start their vehicles, ‘vroom, vroom’; and begin driving back through the tunnel. All the while they hear the Coo-coo bird coming behind them “Coo-coo Coo-Koo”!

The tunnel begins to slope upwards again. Fritz floors it; petal to the metal! Walton floors it! ‘VROOOOM! VROOOOOOOM!’ The slope gets steeper, and steeper. The floor becomes a wall, and they are now driving straight up the wall! They make it out of the pit, just as the giant Coo-coo bird swoops from out of the darkness!!! The ramp opening closes, but the kids have made it out. They drive up the canyon road to safety, and the boys go home to bed. Some nights they still hear the echo “Coo-coo Coo-coo!”

The End

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I was brainwashed by society, schools, and parents that I should go to the most expensive college, and there were no other choices; just as they had been brainwashed before me. So I accepted the loans, forcing my family to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars, with very little financial return. Here is my life story, and before you judge me, know that I am convinced I have made the best mistakes and choices that I could, and I am very proud of the friends and experiences I have earned.

I got a Masters in Architecture, but when I graduated I tried to work at various firms (applying to dozens), and realized I was not the type of person to be satisfied with office jobs, as I found no bosses or jobs that fit me or that I could fit into for longer than a year at a time, without significant time off for adventuring and exploring my own interests.

I was always more of an artist and writer, so I picked my father’s career of architecture to bond with him, and provide a challenge as it was a combination that was the most difficult major I could find that fit my talents and I was interested in. I worked with him for years on and off afterwards, earning only several hundred dollars annually, with additional jobs, sometimes 5 at a time.

I was happiest teaching with my father at a local college, but as an adjunct they cruelly cut our classes completely after a year, simply because the department heads were jealous of our success and popularity with the students, and did not care about us. As adjuncts it was legal, although unjust. That is when I had to decide if I were going to go bankrupt to live in the woods with my homeless friend Allen, or doing something else drastic.

I was tired of struggling between jobs, none of which I seemed to fit; so I joined the US Air Force, for a secure pay check. After 5 years of sacrificing my ethics and spiritual self, I left as a conscientious objector to war, and have never been happier in my adult life. For one thing, I had married a great and loving partner, and I gave up trying to earn more when it was sacrificing my own mental well-being. I realized if I reduced my bills as low as possible, I was more content because I was able to work on my own projects. I pay my bills as a landscaper, landlord, gardener, custodian, and archivist for my family property and house; so I work for my mother, and am an occasional consultant for neighbors (which rarely pays). I often trade services and goods with willing neighbors.

To me this way of life fits my needs and circumstances, in many ways better than I can ever imagine other ‘regular’ jobs doing. Therefore I welcome others to try to not bully other people to ‘try and get a better job’, or not even acknowledge that people have jobs at all, when in fact they often do have jobs. Jobs and careers are not always conventional. If you can pay your bills, or have them covered by a benefactor, and you are not hurting anyone, and you are best fitted for doing work that does not pay very much; that is ok. In fact it might even be good, and life fulfilling. If people get high paying jobs, good for them; but if they do not want to do so for various reasons, perhaps they should not; and I say stop pressuring them and check your own stress.

I have taken a vow that includes poverty or wealth, that I shall be as content as I can be with a life that makes me happy.

(this essay was sent to Money Marketplace on NPR)