Hello, Readers. Happy Halloween, All Saints Day, or Dia de Los Muertos, depending on your affiliation and ethnicity. I’m certain that most of you had a wonderful time dressing up as a naughty whatever. I hope it was a good time.
It’s nice to be back in the blogging mode after what amounted to a week of running around the Great State of Texas in the name of various aggrieved parties in an attempt to depose, discover, and defend. I’m back in Austin for a short time now, and despite the two trips currently on my calendar for this week, it’s always invigorating to be back home for a bit. Thanks for hanging in there with me last week and thanks to all of who sent me encouraging emails wishing me safe travels.
After reviewing the past few posts, I realized that the blog has taken an almost preachy and certainly a (GASP!) serious turn over the past couple of weeks. In order to remedy that problem, I’ve chosen to dive head first into the holiday at hand and recount to you another classic story from my youth. As was the case in the past, this one also involves the now infamous MH.
For those of you who don’t recall, MH is my current close friend and also my former childhood best friend responsible for My Sex Scandal, various run ins with local law enforcement, countless acts of tom foolery, and the person who attempted to steal a wooden Indian with me in New Orleans while simultaneously rescuing me from stampeding strippers. He was once the Chewbacca to my Han Solo, the Hillary to my Bill, the steroid to my Albert Pujlos, and the Maroon 5 to my Derek and the Boys in Miami. The following story took place during my freshman and MH’s sophomore year in college on Halloween night. I hope you enjoy it.
Sitting alone in my room as a freshman in college I was distracted from my studies by the ringing phone. It was none other than MH who was calling from Huntsville, Texas where he had resided long enough to be a sophomore; however, his academic status was unknown. MH told me that he was coming back to our hometown for Halloween and suggested we venture out with a few dozen eggs and a 12 pack of beer in order to see if we could scare up a little fun. I, of course, agreed.
In order to properly set the stage for this story it is almost imperative that I date myself a bit. If we don’t count pizza places, at the time I was a freshman in college my home town had exactly one fast food restaurant within its city limits. When the Wendy’s arrived it provided more than MSG and empty calories to the teenage population: it provided a parking lot to hang out.
For my last two years of high school, the Wendy’s parking lot was the site of many break ups, hook ups, throw ups, and police round ups. When we got bored sitting on the tailgates of trucks in the middle of the place we affectionately referred to as “The Fields,” we headed to Wendy’s where we would inevitably run into the likes of Officers Bates and Sharman who would generously pepper all of us with threats of “going downtown” unless we “dispersed.”
My friends and I were well-seasoned in such legendary drive-thru pranks as ordering a full meal into the speaker and then driving out of line so that the subsequent orders were delivered out of chronology; ordering fictitious, sexually provocative items such as The Furrburger, the Furrburger with mayonnaise, and the perennial favorite, the warm Cherry Bend Over; in addition to the occasional naked drive through. One of our favorites was to have a person strip down to his underwear and wriggle around in the back of the truck with duct tape over his mouth and around his wrists while MH and I sat stoically in the cab waiting for our food. Childish? Yes. Funny? Hell yes.
It was during this wonderful time in my life that a Wendy’s marketing executive with no clear understanding of the mind of a teenage boy or any concept of an anatomy joke decided to launch Wendy’s answer to the Super Size It ad campaign that McDonald’s implemented. Much to our delight, the new marketing campaign introduced items with the word “Biggie” in front of them. What’s more, the roof of every Wendy’s, including the one in my home town, was adorned with a giant sign that read “Come Get The Biggie,” or something inadvertently suggestive to that effect.
Upon driving by and seeing it for the first time, my mind went where any overly virile, bored teenage boy’s mind would go. “The Biggie. Just like my d*ck,” I said to MH who through a hearty laugh opined that the sign, in fact, referred to his d*ck and not to mine. After some spirited debate, we agreed to disagree. However, we did agree on one thing. Like second base, wooden Indians, or the still-in-tact virginity of (some) of the girls on the drill team, MH and I needed to steal it.
After some careful consideration (and a few beers), MH and I reasoned that a good time to attempt the Biggie sign theft would be on the upcoming Halloween night since the local law enforcement (all 5 of them) would be busy ferreting out egg throwers, candy stealers, and other criminally mischievous novices. MH and I would simply shimmy our way up the back side of Wendy’s using the rain gutter for leverage and, equipped with a hacksaw and some wire cutters, steal the sign and escape before anyone knew what happened. We were like two drunken, less sophisticated, teenaged Thomas Crowns and that Biggie sign was our San Giorgio Maggiore at Dusk by Monet.
While most of our friends were headed to their favorite stash spots to uncover their booze and eggs, MH and I were casing Wendy’s and the surrounding area in an effort to put the finishing touches on Operation Steal the Biggie Sign. Eggs, you ask? Yes. Egg throwing on Halloween was so prevalent that about a week before Halloween all of the convenience stores stopped selling eggs to anyone under 35 with a grin on his face. Like most of my friends I was proficient enough to hit a moving car square on the windshield with an egg from at least 50 yards away.
Unlike the overworked chickens that produced those eggs, my friends and I were not thrilled at our inability to purchase them on the best night to throw them. Still, necessity is the mother of invention. Ergo, booze stashes in the woods soon housed dozens of pre-purchased egg cartons in addition to bottles of Boone’s Farm Strawberry wine and cases of Keystone Light Beer.
Incidentally, my friend Jeff’s parents, whose half-assed under-parenting or half-assed over-parenting (we didn’t care which) allowed them not to inquire as to why there were an inordinate amount of egg cartons in the garage refrigerator in the days leading up to Halloween. As a result, Jeff made a handsome fee leasing space inside that refrigerator so the rest of us could literally buy eggs weeks in advance in order to avoid the lockdown. Brilliant. That's capatalism at its best. These days I often think where we would be if we would have focused half of that energy where it mattered. Sigh.
Oh, and by the way, that’s the same Jeff who was called upon to empty his bowels on command into the local swimming pool so we could hit the beach. If you haven’t read my “A Friend Does His Duty” post, please do. Back to The Biggie.
After hitting the county line and obtaining enough beer to give us courage but not enough to make us too drunk to scale the back wall of the Wendy’s and steal the Biggie sign, MH and I settled in on the tailgate and talked about nothing as we awaited “Go Time.” Regardless of the illegality and stupidity of what we were about to attempt, my veins coursed with the possibility of adventure. As I thought about what we were about to do, I could literally feel the steel bindings of the rain gutter against my hands and the brick beneath my shoes as I scurried up the wall. I anticipated the exhilaration that would hit me as fear mixed with excitement and the thrill of the danger of getting caught. That feeling is impossible to replace and there are few, if any, equivalents in the adult world. Sadly, in a few years the most realistic chance I’ll have at that feeling is a sports car and hair plugs. Then again, I hate sports cars and I have all of my hair. Sigh again.
MH and I were, as any well-planned sign stealers would be, dressed in black. I remembered to surreptitiously obtain a hacksaw and some heavy duty wire cutters from my father’s tool box prior to MH picking me up and I’d made a careful mental note to return them to their exact location once the heist was over. MH and I reveled in the genius of our plan as we killed our final cans of beer and mounted up in search of the world’s biggest d*ck joke.
Like Leif Garret and the rest of the Soc’s in his Mustang casing the park where Pony Boy and Johnny innocently walked, MH and I drove slowly around Wendy’s looking for signs of our good buddy Officer Sharman or his overweight companion, Officer Bates. We even parked across the street and made a gum and soda purchase at the convenience store so as not to arouse the suspicion of…well, anyone who might have been guarding the Biggie sign for potential thieves.
Satisfied with our recon, MH and I proceeded to our secret parking spot. We’d previously selected the parking spot keeping in mind the potential weight of the Biggie sign and our ability to run with it at full speed in the unlikely event of a foot chase. Just a year prior to this heist I’d been (allegedly) involved in a pizza theft from a Waco Pizza Hut where two friends and I were chased vigorously by both the police and the local Pizza Hut staff. We’d narrowly escaped that little scenario and, after much reflection, I’d concluded that our lack of absolute success could be attributed to poor planning and execution. I burned my mouth on that stolen pizza too (allegedly).
Pregnant with anticipation, MH and I exited the truck and began our trek through the woods leading to the back of Wendy’s ready to scale the back wall and begin sawing. As we approached the edge of the woods and saw our target, nervous laughter and conversation quickly turned to determination as MH and I lied there on our stomachs like lions in the Sahara stalking their prey. My heart raced as I looked over at MH and nodded. “Let’s go,” he said.
I quickly hopped up and ran full speed at the wall before bounding up it off my left foot and grabbing onto the bracket holding the rain gutter in place. Fueled only by fear and excitement, my body willed its way up the wall and I eventually threw my leg over the top of it and rolled onto the roof above.
I lied there catching my breath until MH came rolling on top of me about 30 seconds later. Drunk with the possibility of actually pulling off our plan, I’d forgotten the part where I was supposed to move out of MH’s way. I paid for it with an errant knee to the groin, but quickly recovered. The first part of our mission was accomplished. For some reason, I remember looking at my watch as if we were on some sort of Italian Job time crunch. We rolled over on our stomachs and got our bearings---after laughing hysterically, of course.
The roof was surrounded by a three foot brick façade that spanned all four walls. It was therefore possible to crawl without being seen from the ground below. Considering the fact that a good portion of the roof was covered in tar, this was a welcome development. The sign was on the opposite side of the roof on the side of the building facing the main road. We confirmed what our initial recon discovered: the sign was indeed secured to eye hooks via ¼ inch cables and the hacksaw and wire cutters were the appropriate tools for the job. I smiled like the Cheshire Cat when I reminded MH that he believed the sign was merely secured by rope.
We also delighted in the fact that all four cables could be reached without having to stand up thereby exposing ourselves to a potential bust. “This is going to be easier than we thought,” said MH. I nodded in agreement and we began to crawl around the air vents emanating the noxious smell of Wendy’s fast food. So far, so good.
We crawled to the first set of cables. MH took the one closest to the front of the building and I took the one to the rear. Our plan was to cut the rear ones with the clippers thereby releasing the lower corners of the sign and saw the front cables thereby allowing the entire sign to drop to the roof rather than waving around like a flag reading “Catch Us. We’re Up Here Stealing Your Biggie Sign.”
I clipped the first cable and the sign stayed put. As I crawled over to the other rear cable ready to clip I could see MH begin sawing the first front cable. When I arrived to the second rear cable I realized that it was secured differently than the first cable was secured making it impossible to get the wire cutters around the tail end of it. It was necessary to cut higher on the cable.
While I was sitting there processing this information, MH, oblivious to the problem, kept sawing. Before I was able to communicate the problem, the cable MH was sawing snapped and the “IE” end of the Biggie sign snapped free from its location and began flailing around like the freaking American flag during the Battle of Baltimore in the War of 1812. I half expected gallantly streaming ramparts.
“Oh shit,” said MH as I sprung into action. I quickly crawled over to the remaining cable so I could cut it and allow the banner to fall down. The banner was waving around and the loose and frayed cables posed a real danger and a big impediment to getting the job done. It was at this point that it occurred to me (and I assume MH) that our brilliant plan lacked brilliance.
Scrambling to cut the wire I said in the loudest whisper I could muster, “hold the thing straight, MH. I need to get the cutters around the wire.” Responding to my request, MH stood up to grab the flailing corner of the sign and inadvertently exposed the majority of his torso to whomever happened to be in the parking lot. The big problem with that is that for the past 60 seconds the sign had been waving around more vigorously than the Grand Marshall in a gay parade and had undoubtedly drawn the attention of every person in the parking lot.
Luckily, I was able to cut the wire and the sign fell on top of both MH and me as we lied there and tried to catch our breath while thanking our lucky stars that our heads had not been severed by wind blown wire cables. The past five minutes looked a lot like that rooftop battle beneath the Silvercup sign in The Highlander minus the sword fighting and the homoerotic banter. We were both exhausted.
Remember the part where I said that I half expected gallantly streaming ramparts? Well, my wish didn’t exactly come true. However, as MH and I were collecting our tools and rolling up The Biggie sign in preparation for our descent of the rain gutter and our triumphant return to MH’s truck and our remaining beer, we saw the rockets’ red glare. Much to our chagrin, the red glare was accompanied by blue glare, then red glare, then blue glare.
As we sat there horrified on top of the roof of Wendy’s with a hacksaw, a wire cutter, and a Biggie sign in our hands we heard the unmistakable voice of our good buddy Officer J. R. Sharman over a bullhorn. “We know you’re up on the roof. Put your hands up and begin to come down.” Almost instantaneously, we heard the unmistakable voice of our good buddy Officer Bates on the opposite side of the building. “We have the premises surrounded. Come down now.”
Keep in mind that just a mere three months prior to the current circumstances MH and I had been caught three times in one day by Officer Sharman. The last of the three entailed what he believed to be a homosexual tryst in the neighborhood pool with menthol cigarettes and wine coolers. On that occasion we’d been given the “if I catch you so much as breathing wrong again then your asses are grass and I’m the lawnmower” speech and were sent to walk home wet and humiliated after promising to never again cross him. If we were caught this time there would be no mercy.
Paralyzed, MH and I sat there motionless lying on our backs shoulder to shoulder while our minds attempted to process our next move. As a seasoned veteran of both well-deserved interrogation (see again, My Big Sex Scandal) and downright harassment (see again, My Big Sex Scandal) from the Harris County Precinct 4 Constable’s Office, it occurred to me that I heard neither MH’s nor my own name over the bullhorn.
DP: “MH, they didn’t say our names. They have no idea who’s up here.”
MH: “So, they’re going to come up here and nail us.”
DP: “The hell they will. You think Bates’ fat ass can scale that pipe? I’m 18 years old and I barely got up here.”
MH: “What about Sharman?”
DP: “He’s 125 pounds. He’s too big a p*ssy to get up here.”
MH: “They do that kind of stuff in the Police Academy.”
DP: “Yea, the HOUSTON Police Academy. That’s why they’re Constables.”
MH: “You’re right. Let’s stay here. What if they get a search helicopter?”
DP: “From where?”
MH and DP: Laughter
And so it went. As MH and I lied there on our backs staring above into the vast expanse of the Milky Way awaiting for our fate to unfold, I vacillated between laughter and fear. I admired Orion’s Belt but prayed I wouldn’t feel the handcuffs from Sharman’s belt. I identified the Big Dipper but feared being identified by the same nickname in the Harris County Jail. Minutes seemed like hours yet somehow I felt an odd peace about me. It was as if I was exactly where the universe intended me to be at that very moment in my life. As odd as that sounds, I’ll never forget that feeling. I’m certain MH felt it too. It never occurred to us that they would get a ladder.
Luckily, it never occurred to them either. After about half an hour the red and blue stopped reflecting above us and the Q-beam search lights stopped shining. The bullhorn threats stopped alternating from each side of the building and proved to be as empty as we hoped. Afraid that we were being lulled into a false sense of security, I rolled over on my stomach and told MH to stay put while I crawled over to a drainage hole on the roof.
Peaking out I saw nothing but empty spaces and as MH and I made our way around the walls of the façade in search of those drainage holes we relaxed again before realizing we needed the courage to make the trip down the rain gutter like a couple of itsy bitsy spiders before hitting the ground and hauling ass back into the woods like a couple of itsy bitsy cock roaches.
MH: “Did I ever tell you that I’m afraid of heights?”
DP: “Yea, well I’m afraid of jail.”
MH: “No, seriously. I’m afraid of heights.”
DP: “I’m going to go first. Follow me. Keep your hands and feet on the gutter and don’t look down.”
I crawled close to the side of the wall and threw my feet over the side straddling the rain gutter. I slid down the wall and turned to run into the woods. Safe, I turned to see MH repeating the same thing. Apparently his fear of being cornholed at the county jail eclipsed his acrophobia. As he hit the woods we both took off in a full sprint trying to contain the adrenaline escaping as laughter through our smiles. We reached the truck and as MH hopped in he leaned over and unlocked my door.
DP: “We forgot The Biggie sign and the tools.”
MH: “Yea, but we still have the beer and the eggs.”
As MH and I drove away from our secret parking spot we noticed that we were both covered in roof tar and smelled like fast food. Laughing, MH took a turn down a well-traveled main road and in the distance we saw the familiar reflective paint of a Precinct 4 Constable car. MH slowed down and as we passed by under the posted speed limit MH rolled down his window and gave the horn a friendly “honk honk” before we exploded into laughter upon seeing the stoic look on the face of Officer Sharman.
DP: “He knows it was us.”
MH: “No way.”
DP: “Take me to The Home of The Biggie.”
MH: “You mean my house.”
DP: “No, mine.”
And there it is. I hope you enjoyed a little Halloween cheer. I’m back on the road today so please hit me with your comments and emails. They make a lonely hotel room less lonely. Be safe. Be happy. Until next time, if you need me, I’ll be scrubbing the tar off my Biggie. DP