Drunk In The Dorm

July 26, 2015

If you attended college you will no doubt appreciate this collection of stories.

At college you will meet some interesting people, quite a few if you live in a dormitory like I did for two years. Around all of the beer and pot you can witness or experience some interesting things. And this Note is about a couple I saw.

When I was a sophomore my high school friends Mike and Donald were my suite mates on the fourth floor of Kerr Hall. Most of the guys there were your average Joes but one dude from Virginia stood out from the crowd. Why? Because he talked about how to torture people and how much he hated his Dad and what he would do to ruin him.

Some examples you ask? One night when we were eating dinner in the cafeteria he spoke about slitting the eyeballs of immobilized people and then dripping alcohol on them. And there were others too, and they did much to curb some people’s appetites. His boundless hatred for his Dad caused him to contemplate waging biological warfare on him by culturing wheat rust and spraying it on his father’s wheat fields with a crop duster. Not a happy camper, eh?

Contrasted with this dark streak was his love for his girlfriend Michelle who was back in Virginia but mailed him cookies and letters which he would show us. The yin and yang of his persona really made us wonder what was going on in head. But one night we got a pretty good answer when he learned his beloved Michelle was regularly screwing her boss back home.

One Saturday night, the day he learned this, we were all actually in the dorm for the weekend. The beer was flowing and we tried to treat our despondent friend’s sadness by adding Everclear to his beer. He lay on his bed with his dorm room door open staring at the ceiling in what seemed to be drunken silence. Then in an instant the calm stopped and the storm raged. His room was across form mine and he leapt up screaming like a crazed banshee and slammed his door so hard some of the molding on the outside came flying off onto the beer and puke, and God only knows what else, stained carpet of the hall.

Knowing his penchant for talking about torture we all thought he would next act out his fantasies on us in some horrible way. So everyone else’s dorm room doors quickly shut and were locked. You could hear the sounds of that spreading down the two halls away from his room – a frightened rhythm of the door slamming and the lock clicking.

And then there was silence even as we called each other on our dorm phones to describe what we had just seen. And then later we came out and his door was still shut. But then he out and everyone fled but he calmly and silently went down the stairs and through the hall window we saw him go across Eagle Drive to Taco Inn and return with some food. The doors shut and locked again upon his arrival.

After that he became pretty quiet and he withdrew from the university and returned to Virginia never to be seen or heard from again. But in his absence we still recalled this story and his torture techniques to sometimes unbelieving audiences. But we knew what we had seen and heard.

And then there was the new guy from New Jersey. This student was a very good guy but we decided to “initiate” him into a little group by pulling a prank that backfired on us without a doubt.

What we did was put on suits and sunglasses and pretended to be Federal drug agents. Mike and Donald and I were the agents of course and we got the others near his dorm room involved like his two suitemates Rick and CJ. As an aside Rick had a pet white lab rat who he kept in his dorm room which calmly rode on his shoulder while he strolled around the dorm’s halls. The guy from New Jersey did not know me and my two friends so we knocked on his dorm room door and Mike pulled out a document that he described as a search warrant but was actually the court subpoena from the horrific Halloween incident performed against Mrs. Evanston, and I told him he was under arrest for drug trafficking. We hauled him and his suitemate co-conspirators down to the first floor and frisked them in front of the many assembled students who looked on in surprise and shock. One dude said we couldn’t do that, I replied he would be next if he didn’t shut up but what happened later proved that the experience from high school speech and drama had been effective.

When we got outside the guy from New Jersey lost it screaming he was innocent and didn’t do drugs at all. “I didn’t do it man, I didn’t it man” he repeated in stark terror and then passed out on the grass near the parking lot where we had one of our cars waiting – not to take him to some further place and a new act of mayhem but to tell him it was a joke, welcome him, and buy him a case of beer thus making him officially one of the trusted members of the “Kerr Fourth Floor Lounge” (KFFL) as we called ourselves. We wanted to use “First United Church Of Keg” in dorm intramural play but the acronym that moniker formed was of course not allowed so KFFL was born.

At that point we all thought “oh shit he’s dead and we were headed to jail and our parents would get sued too”. But he awoke and we hauled him to the student health center where we learned he had his gall bladder removed a week before. Sheesh, the poor guy had been under great bodily stress and we were SO convincing we tipped him over so to speak.

But in the end we told him what we had been going to do and he forgave us and we really were all friends after that. But he got us back by constantly joking about his sister marrying into a Mafia family and what they would do to us in return for our crimes against him that day. So when you pull a prank don’t forget that one bad turn might begat another…..


Arthur Andersen and Other Jobs

July 19, 2015

A tale of my first two post-college jobs. This will be in “Notes About Growing Up”.

After getting out of graduate school in 1983 my first “real job” was working for the now defunct Arthur Andersen & Company accounting and consulting firm. Yes, “Uncle Arthur” Of “Enronish” fame. I was not an auditor but was in the tax division preparing Federal and State returns, plus doing research on tax issues. I worked there for two years even though I hated the place after being there two weeks.

I actually started in the Dallas office but was sent to Fort Worth to work on a big oil and gas client since I had background in that and lived in Tarrant County too. I was glad to go due to the back-stabbing snobbery the “Big D” office was filled with practiced by the ladder-climbing inhuman corporate clones and seeing some obvious corruption too.
Corruption you say? At AA? Yep. In one Enron Moment I once heard a consulting partner tell an audit partner “If you put that in the audit report we’ll lose the consulting business”. ‘Nuff said about that obvious departure from ethics and professional standards, eh?

AA’s Fort Worth office was much calmer than its “neighbor to the east” (AA = Arthur Andersen) not Alcoholics Anonymous although some thought they were the same due to the stress induced boozing that was common). It was much smaller and the very nature of Fort Worth’s more relaxed, honest, and traditional culture made its presence known. But it was still AA – Uncle Arthur owned 24 hours of your day and what he didn’t need he let you have. One example of that you ask? In one two week period of tax season I had 120 overtime hours. That’s overtime not regular or total hours. In the end such things, the abuse of one terribly egregious assh*le tax manager, and my lack of talent for work papers & proper tick-mark usage meant I had enough and resigned. And then I went to work in IT for that big oil and gas client mentioned above, which shows Uncle Arthur did provide some side benefits. And it gave me a clear image of some of the bad things about our corporate culture and clarified what I wouldn’t endure for my paycheck. That is a choice everyone in the workforce must make and will define what your life will become over time – “Choose the form of the destroyer” it was said in the movie “Ghostbusters”. But it is still a choice…..

To be fair I will say AA was not totally cruel and inhumane since I had no trouble travelling to the hospital when my son Roger was born (see my third book) which I did every day since he was in the NICU after being born there months early. Plus they had wonderful health insurance as I saw when I saw my son’s $100K hospital bill and only had to pay $2K. “En extremis” they too became human if only for a short while until the need for greater billing & utilization reared its ugly head again. But that’s business and they aren’t charities with bottomless coffers like some deluded people in our culture wish they were – “AA means low pay” we used to say satirically reflecting the need to control costs so the partners cold get their draws.

Working at the oil company mentioned above was OK until oil prices started to drop more and I got laid off with some other folks. That company was filled with good folks who mostly and fortunately had not been in public accounting or consulting. But there were some “unique” personalities too. In no particular order there was CFO who collected expensive porcelain baby dolls (he was not a bad guy I must say but his hobby was a bit different), the controller who said he had to drink a six pack nightly due to the stress. He was not well liked but worked liked a proverbial slave for the overlords, thus his continued employment. And the Vice President who asked “can’t you just push a button and get this report out”? My reply? Yes, after 200 hours of custom programming and data conversions. He was non-plussed by my honesty. I do not think he ever worked at AA but he probably would have fitted in there given how he responded to my answer. And finally the pretty receptionist, who was always nice to me, who joked about becoming an “intrepreneur”. INtrepeneur versus ENtrpeneur you ask? IN as working as a high class call-girl, I think you understand the term now, eh? I don’t think she ever made that career change, she WAS joking remember, but it would have been tempting to “shop” with her after I got divorced from the kid’s mom. I sometimes wonder what became of her so perhaps I should fire up Google one day to find her.

Oh well, life does go on and every human group is a sapient zoo with numerous specimens in its figurative cages for us to observe and hopefully learn from. After departing oil company I got unemployment, earned my real estate broker’s license which I never really used, and obtained a job at a small software house in Dallas which was another mostly miserable Dallas company run by a group a verbally abusive workaholic assholes except for one good man, God Bless his probably still tortured soul, who his pathetic partners forced out one day in favor of my direct boss. But that’s another story for another book. Or maybe it’s the same old job story……

Playing Disc Golf as a Family

July 12, 2015

I still play disc golf, after seven years after starting. It is a fun sport and provides more to its players than simply a good throw. The course below is in Fort Worth in a park I call “Aransas Park”in the book (Notes To Stephanie: Days Remembered). You locals who play disc golf can figure out where it is…..

Disc golf, the fastest growing sport you never
heard of, was one we started playing anyway.
Most people have no idea what it is unless
someone tells them about it, or they see it being

In the past, I knew about it from people I
worked with back in the 90s, but I had never
tried it. Then living here by the park, I noticed
when the course was built, and disc golf started
being played. As a result, we ordered starter
sets with three randomly chosen discs.

We threw badly, but playing was a lot of fun
with you and Jimmy. Heading down to the
course to get some exercise after dinner was
always fun, even though our scores were very,
very bad, and we all lost discs especially on
hole #17, the so called “Beast.” Indeed, that
hole was a disk magnet, which daily sucked
discs of the unwary into its watery maw.
Jimmy started mining the creek by the Beast’s
fairway for disks and found my favorite disk,
the Instep Saturn, which I still use although I
now have some 30 different disks from the
usual manufacturers like Innova, Millennium,
and DiscCraft.

The best parts of us playing were being able to
get exercise and spend some time together.
Those things were both fun and good. You even
said as we divorced that you would miss that,
too. I missed it, although I have found new
people to play with. We play the old course, but
we also play others as well; and I have learned
about new discs to try from them. Regardless of
the new courses I play or the new discs I buy, I
still think the course in the park down the hill is
my favorite. And the good old Saturn disc is
still dependable, too.

So when I go down the hill and play the holes
on the course, I sometimes think of our times
there and how much fun they were. All families
should find some activity that everyone will
enjoy as we did and as my family did when
playing volleyball in our backyard as a kid.

Such things do more than keep one healthy.
They also build memories and family ties,
which are sorely missing in our modern age of
mindless self-interest. And thus, a bunch of
plastic discs thrown into the wind at the park,
something simple and fun, built family
memories for us all.

The Church of the Divine Fermentation

July 12, 2015

Have you ever started your own religion? I have….this will be in “Notes About Growing Up”.

We drank a lot cold beer in high school, just about every Friday and Saturday night we got wasted, and enjoyed it greatly. But I took this regular practice one step further and created a religion out of it: the Church of The Divine Fermentation to be exact. While I was hardly the biggest drunk in high school amongst its pantheon of imbibers I started The Church, created its theology, and proclaimed myself Pope.

Our family was not Catholic but The Church was modeled after the Catholic variety. I appointed Cardinals, Bishops, Priests, and Nuns. Our god was Lord Keg and our Holy Days were the keg parties held out in some pasture miles out of town at which I preached the Gospel of Guzzling to those thirsting for its Grace. I even started writing a Bible for The Church but only wrote one book which I called “Fermentisis”. Keg drank too much, puked, and the universe was born. The Adversary tried to keep you sober and his Demons (law enforcement) tried to possess you (arrest you) and take you to Hell (jail). If so taken your family attorney would have to enter Hades and perform the Rite Of Exorcism (post bond for your release). Lord Keg would smite the evil of this earth with a large beer can sent from the inebriated realms to land on the sinner who had angered him by not being as righteous as He Willed. Plus our Sacrament was of course beer and potato chips taken on the Sabbath (any day you drank beer). And so on as you might guess ad infinitum.

And yet there were degrees of righteousness among the faithful: conservatives, moderates, and liberals (the most inebriated amongst us). I considered myself a moderate and also reached out to rival faiths by ordaining some as Brothers of the Visitationist Order of the Holy Smoke as well. The sinners were few and the faithful were many it seemed but in the end you graduated, went to college, and grew up some The Church was still active in college I must say when I re-assumed the Papacy after I excommunicated a Heretic who was not as Holy as I had wished after his Election as Holy Father. But over time the fires of the old time religion lost their heat and I settled down and did not partake like I did when I was 18.

In the present age of “drinking responsibly” and the legacy of Mothers Against Drunk Driving – demons all they were in the eyes of the faithful back in the Evangelical Age of the Church – I do not drink like I used to – which is a good thing being a diabetic – but I still pop a top and guzzle a few but not to excess when I am out either. Also as many have done I have foregone “swill beer” (except for Pabst Blue Ribbon and an occasional Mickey’s) and instead drink imports and the ever growing suite of drafts from the local microbreweries. Rabbit Hole in Justin, Texas, not so far from the Ranch Estates house, is as good as any around. I did a book signing at Rabbit Hole too – they are great folks to deal with and their beer is darn good too. And I partake of others too as you might guess but there are so many beers now you could never drink them all. Unless of course you were a Saint in Keg’s squinted, drunken eyes of course.

Even with these many fermented blessing some of the new beers are quite bad and downright undrinkable too, I even poured a few out! Keg Forbid! And when I do that I still look skyward to see if Lord Keg is about to send one of His Cans of Anger And Retribution crashing down upon my head for not finishing the six-pack I started. It is the unforgivable sin you know.

The Boats

July 5, 2015

Since it is summer how about a tale about our family’s boats? It will be in “Notes About Growing Up”.

Have you heard the saying “What are the best two days of a boat owner’s life? The day he gets the boat and the day he gets rid of it”. I never owned a boat myself but Dad and Mom owned two and while there were some hassles with them I can say we had much more fun with them than we had water-born troubles.

I was about nine or so and Dad and Mom bought a ski boat. It wasn’t big but it was quite adequate for all of us, a big ice chest, and Dad’s fishing poles. Plus the life jackets and water skis too. A trip to the lake usually entailed skiing, eating some lunch, and doing a little fishing. My favorite parts were the food and skiing but not the fishing at all. Most of the time we went to Lake Lewisville, Lake Texoma, or Moss Lake but Texoma was my favorite since it is a huge lake and once was the biggest man-made in the world whose construction started in 1944 using German POWs in fact.
Regardless of the lake we sped or skied across we did it as a family and it became a big part of our lives. Many memories were built by the Lake Lewisville Dam, the sandy beaches at Texoma, or in the middle of Moss Lake casting a line for a fish on a warm sunny day.

We had a few terrible trips too like when the outboard motor stopped working and we had to be towed into shore or the time we ran out of gas and again had to be towed. Like a car the boat had to be washed but that was not so bad since we could put on our swim suits and play in the water too. And one time on Texoma a storm came up suddenly and the waves were huge. It wasn’t quite like the ones in “The Perfect Storm” but they were big enough to scare us to shore.

This cycle continued on until my Dad died and Mom sold the second boat which was a larger craft with an inboard V-8 and a little cabin at its front. Now that was a real boat! It was powerful and would pull you up out of the water on a slalom ski in no time at all. And of course it could hold more stuff than the old boat could which came in handy when the whole Couch clan went camping on Texoma’s islands or the sandy beaches by Willis Bridge on the Okie side of the lake.

And Roger and Jane were there too when they arrived in this world. We put on their little life jackets and took them for a swim. At Texoma where the new boat was there were ducks swimming about and we would feed them with the kids in tow. And of course we played in the sand making castles and drawing pictures in the countless damp grains as the sun beamed down on us all. Thus the boats were a happy part of life for three generations of our family and it seemed like this state of affairs would not end

But as I said above Mom sold the boat after Dad died so the happy times at the lake ended. He had always done the fixing and upkeep and Mom already had enough to do with the house on California Street. We went up to it one last day to clean out our life jackets and skis. The ducks were still there swimming & quacking around and my sister Terry got the skis since her and Mike had a small bass boat but that last day of owning that dear boat was not happy like the trite saying above said it should be. Without Dad it just wasn’t same. While I never wanted to own a boat myself – I’m not into fixing or maintaining a bunch of stuff – sometimes I’m still speeding around on the waves on one of those old boats in the always calm lake of remembrance in my mind, on which you won’t ever run out of gas.

KNTU News Casting

May 31, 2015

Another funny tale from college that relates to the obvious bias seen in the news.

When I was graduate school and married to the kid’s Mom I saw that radio station KNTU 88.1 FM at NTSU – now UNT – wanted volunteers to work on some of their shows. They wanted newscasters and on-air “personalities”. Since I did debate and drama in high school I pursued the news casting role since I knew I could talk.

The first requirement was to build a demo tape reading some short script. Using my stereo at our apartment I recorded one on a cassette tape and sent it to the station which was located in the Speech And Arts building next to Wooten Hall where I had economics and history among other subjects. I soon got a phone call from someone there. I was selected to do the news on the early morning show.

The show went on air at 5AM so I had to get to the station at 4AM or so. One thing they required me to do was look at the wire service print outs and then type up my own copy to read (we got to choose the stories we read; we were editor and news caster in one). Re-typing grew very tiring and I later just read stories right off of the wire on-air. Since I listened to
the station a lot I noticed the liberal slant of many of others reading the news – remember we chose what we read. Since I was a conservative and had voted for President Reagan I decided to make sure MY slant was to the right to counter the usual leftist bent. And that I did and no one ever said a word – if you think this does not happen in the national and local media think again, objectivity seems to have departed in favor of the press being a lapdog not a universal watchdog.

Actually doing the news was pretty easy, the on-air “personality” was the lead and would transition me in. I’d flip a switch turn my “mic” on and off I would go. When I was done I would transition back to the lead and he would do his thing. And this cycle repeated itself every 30 minutes until 9AM when the next show went on.

This interesting experience done until I graduated with my Master’s gave me quite an insight into what you hear on the radio and see on TV. The technology used now is light years ahead of our now ancient tape carts and non-computerized analog stuff but the general way it works is still the same.

So regardless of the technology the stories told in the news come and go as events unfold, sometimes touching us all depending on their magnitude or power of their message and sense of urgency. And so is life’s ever unfolding wire service and with that we will go to a new set of life stories down the road in Fort Worth, Texas.

Author’s note: KNTU is still on the air on 88.1 FM in Denton….

Working at the Rent Houses

May 24, 2015

This is from the now being edited “Notes About Growing Up”. It deals with my Dad’s rent houses and some interesting things tied to that, and also mentions some events when I had some for comparison. Having rent houses is not the easy care-free lifestyle the folks on TV say it is….

My Dad and Mom bought some rent houses as investments. Dad would scour the older neighborhoods for wood frame houses and find a deal. After they were bought they were rented out and he managed them also doing the vast majority of the repairs and maintenance. And of course Dad made me go with him to help. Doing that work was something I hated as a kid but it also paid off when I was a grown up.

Usually doing the repairs was not that big of a deal but two events showed that was not always the case. One rent house was not far from our old home on Congress Street and was on Texas Street near the TWU campus. After Dad had evicted some non-paying tenants we went over to clean the place up and get it ready to rent to someone else. What we saw there still makes us shake in horror. The place was not torn up per se but was laid to waste with filth. Inside there were fleas and other pet filth but one special mess I was personally detailed to clean up was where the idiots fed their dogs. Where you ask? There was a big hole in the front sidewalk leading to the door and the morons had simply used it as a bowl for their dried dog food. Suffice to say the uneaten food had massed and congealed into a maggot infested world filled morass of disgustingness. I got a shovel and scooped it all up, tossing it onto the yard – I trust the maggots adapted to that change in venue just fine.. A wonderful sight to behold let me tell you.

On another extreme, one not dealing with scumbag tenants I might add , was Dad bought a house on Mulberry Street, not the land it was on, and had it moved to the south side on Daugherty Street. It was set up on cinder blocks or maybe some pier and beam structure and we spent the whole summer re-modeling it. Yep our summer was not spent in leisure by some swimming pool but in the hot non-air conditioned house putting up sheet rock, tape and bedding it, and painting the walls. And of course doing some plumbing and related chores that were more like torture than a purposeful task one was glad to perform. You might now realize I hated every minute of it but in the end the place looked pretty nice and dad rented it out.

As a side note some flight attendants moved out of a house we had on Wood Street on the east side. They left a bunch of junk, including my future black and white TV. But as a side bonus they left some things most suited to a hormone rift teen: a stack of underground comics with all kinds of irreverent and X-rated stuff inside. Famous figures like Hungry Chuck Biscuits and Shuman the Human adorned these off the wall works and I smuggled them into my room. I thought the lady masturbating by sitting on two crow-bars were especially interesting and from time to time I would pull them out, gaze at their lurid and hilarious content, and then return them to their hiding place. But my Mom found them and they disappeared forever one day. Yes your parents might be going through your stuff looking for “unsuitable” items. She never said anything about them however. But you can find old copies on eBay even now. By the way I have not replaced them.

But things come full circle and in my 20s the kid’s mom and I bought two duplexes in Arlington and like my Dad and Mom we did most of the repairs and stuff, including evictions – one was a modern version of Texas street with dog crap, soaked carpet, needles, and used condoms strewn across the little duplex’s west side on Wilkinson Street in Arlington. And the crazy lady I asked to move out who was talking to herself while imagining things were on the roof plotting to get her” the other tenants said they would move out if she didn’t. And the one that took the cake was the drug fiend who faked disability – I took a lawyer with to the local Justice Of The Peace court on that one unlike the other evictions I had to do which were very routine (Texas is thankfully pro-landlord – you don’t pay the rent you quickly go elsewhere). But you get the point; having rent property has its ups, and the obvious downs, and is not the care-free easy money the no money down phonies say it is.

And eviction aside, and also like my parents, I dragged my kids to mine when I needed to go fix something or collect the rent. And what did they do? They bitched about it just like I did when I was a kid and still laughingly throw that up to me. Funny thing, my Dad said that might happen one day. And indeed that rent did become due. But I later sold off the remaining rent houses too – the widening of Center Street got the Wilkinson duplexes – which provided some hassle-free emotional rent in the end.