Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Let's Bingo!

I would have attended the inauguration but I had more pressing matters.

"You're not really going to make Italian sausage in my kitchen?" my friend H.'s wife asked.

"Sure," H. replied. "Where else would we?"

"How about Snag's house?"

"We're not allowed to play there anymore," I said.

"You were singing "Ring of Fire" at 11:30 on a Sunday night," she said.

"I know. My wife's unreasonable," I said. "That's why we're doing it here."

Four hours later we were regrinding six pounds of pork for the third time. By hand.

"Mrs. H, will you finish the sausage for us?" I whined.

She pretended to ignore me.

"Why didn't you tell us how long it would take?" H. demanded.

"I long ago gave up being the voice of reason for you two," she said.

"You know what we should do next time?" I asked H. "We should slaughter our own pig. That would be extremely authentic."

H.'s wife shuddered. "Hurry up," she told her husband. "We have to get our kid to a hockey game."

Eventually the pork was ground, the seasonings added, and the mixture stuffed into casings. I had some tonight. It was beyond delicious.

"I bet H. and I are going to win a Nobel Prize in sausage making," I told my youngest and one of his friends.

My son's friend peered at me quizzically.

"Too bad we didn't make it last week," I said. "We could have used it as prizes on Bingo Night."

"That's stupid," said my son.

"You're talking to the King of Bingo," I told him. "Question me not."

Bingo Night was an unmitigated success again this year, even if the day didn't start that way. Leaving the house for a morning meeting, I hit the garage door button. There was a horrible grinding noise and the rollers popped out of their track.

Late as usual, I screamed in rage and pulled the door down as far as it would go, got back in my car, and called the Lovely Bride.

"The freaking garage door's broken, I'm late for my meeting, I've got to finish bingo shopping, I'll call the repair guy when I get home, why does God hate me so much, don't try to open the door," I shrieked into the phone.

"Okay, I won't," said the Lovely Bride. "Let me know when it's working again."

Two hours later, after my meeting, she sent me an email. "I bet I know what happened," it said. "I hit it with the car when I backed out this morning."

Yes, that would probably do it.

In any event, H. and I finished our shopping. I stopped at home to pick up my middle son and a friend of his, both of whom had offered to help us get set up for the evening.

"What are you going to be this year?" my kid asked.

"You'll find out soon enough," I told him.

Once at the school, we set out the prizes. Some donated, some purchased, all arranged with precision and elegance on the stage.

"Wasn't that bike in our basement?" asked my kid as his friend positioned it next to the other prizes.

"Your mother bought it but we've never used it," I said. "We might as well raffle it off."

"How much are we getting for it?" he asked.

"Nothing. It's a donation."

"That's why we can't afford a Wii," he said. Another teachable moment, wasted.

Other dads started showing up to help. "It's show time," said H.

"Costumes everyone," I said, clapping my hands.

H. and I retired to the changing area. Several minutes later we reappeared.

"Engineers?" my middle son asked.

"That's right," I said, plucking my suspenders and tugging at my kerchief. I turned on the CD player and "Love Train" began to play.

"Choo choo," said H., patting his overalls.

"Oh, Lord," said my mother, who'd just arrived with my youngest in tow.

H.'s wife was there too. "My husband's problem is he doesn't realize overalls are a costume," she said.

"They're formal ones," I said. "He can wear them to church."

"He will," she said.

Maybe. No more time for chit chat. Time to bingo.

"All aboard the Bingo Express," I said. "Now departing for Chicago, Bozeman, and all points west."

"B9," I said. "Burlington Northern niner."

"O72," said H. "The Orange Blossom Special is on track 72."

"Don't forget to yell 'Choo choo Bingo' if you're a winner," I reminded the crowd. "Let's practice."

"Choo choo Bingo!!" screamed a hundred grade schoolers. My mother winced and glared at me.

"I can't hear you!" I said.

"CHOO CHOO BINGO!!" they yelled, louder this time. My mother covered her ears this time, which didn't stop her from glaring at me even more fiercely.

After an hour, we took a break. "Eat candy until your teeth hurt," H. advised the crowd, pointing to the concession stand.

I turned up "Chatanooga Choo Choo," followed by "Rock Island Line" and "Midnight Train to Georgia." There's a lot of good train music.

When we reconvened, it was time to sing.

"Any birthdays today?" H. asked.

A hand went up.

"Come here," H. said.

We positioned the boy at center stage, a friend's kid, put our hands on his shoulders, and started singing a birthday song. He was mortified and pleased at the same time. We gave him a prize, a wooden train whistle, and sent him back to his seat.

"Now is the time at Bingo when we dance!" I yelled.

"Dance contest! We need contestants!" H. yelled, even louder.

Hands went up everywhere and we picked three.

"Who's your teacher?" H. asked one of them. Upon getting an answer, he pointed at the teacher, who was working concessions. "You," H. ordered.

"Who's your teacher?" H. asked him when he arrived on stage. The teacher pointed at one of his colleagues, who was also working concessions.

"Get up here," H. ordered the second one. He turned to me. "Let's do it."

I hit the play button and Little Eva's version of "The Loco-Motion" filled the air. The kids started dancing. The teachers started dancing. H. and I started dancing. I glanced at my mother. She was staring at me slack jawed. I waved to her.

The song ended and we let the crowd pick the winner. The youngest contestant won, which is the way it should be. He got a bigger prize, the others got train whistles.

"Time for another game," I said. "We've got a special bingo caller for this one. Mom, come on up!"

My mother closed her eyes for a moment. Slowly, she rose from her seat and climbed the steps to the top of the stage.

"Ladies and gentlemen, my mother," I announced. "She made me what I am."

"What a horrible thing to say," she muttered under her breath.

"Love you," I said, hugging her. "Let's bingo!"

She bravely called a game. It was, needless to say, the longest one of the night, twenty minutes of unadulterated bingo hell. Finally it ended and she left the stage, her grandchildren greeting her with a mixture of glee and sympathy.

Eventually the night ended. We gave away the grand prizes, held our raffle. Talked to the concession guys, figured out how much we'd made. A pretty good year, down a little, it's a tough economy.

The dad selling bingo cards and daubers told us, "If I thought someone couldn't afford it, I cut him a break. Two for one or something, so all the kids could play."

"Good," we told him.

Cleaning up, "Last Train to Clarksville" playing in the background, I ended up next to a guy I recognized but don't know very well.

"You and H. are done after this," he said.

"Probably," I said. "Our boys go to middle school next year."

"It won't be the same without you," he said.

"For better or worse," I said.

"For better," he said. "It's been a good couple years."

Thanks," I said. "It has."


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

You should have gone as Abe Froman; the sausage king of Chicago.

Mr. Middlebrow said...

Did you ever know that you're my hero, Snag?

You had me at "regrinding six pounds of pork for the third time," but the Sprockets reference really closed the deal.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

It's never too late to have a happy childhood.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

I hope that botttle of water there is filled with gin.

Jennifer said...

What?? No Sheena Easton?? No, "Morning Train"???

Jennifer said...

Ozzy Osbourne's, Crazy Train??

1910 Fruitgum Company's', The Train?

Jennifer said...

I hope you played this.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

Crazy Train seems eerily appropriate..

Snag said...

I chickened out on Crazy Train - worried someone would complain about playing Ozzie for the youngsters. Same with the Grateful Dead's version of Casey Jones ("Driving that train, high on cocaine. . . .")

Here's what we ended up with for a soundtrack.

Take The A Train
Chattanooga Choo Choo
City of New Orleans
Long Train Running
Rock Island Line
Casey Jones (Johnny Cash version)
Love Train
Peace Train
Midnight Train to Georgia
Last Train to Clarksville
Runaway Train

Jennifer said...

I hope nobody pulled a train...

Mr. Middlebrow said...

It's my dream to someday do a special "Invector's Cut" version of the opening titles to Thomas the Tank Engine using Crazy Train.

"Welcome to the Isle of Sodor...aiee-aiee-aiee!"

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zombie rotten mcdonald said...

Snag has more fun than the rest of us combined.

Kathleen said...

I love that she didn't tell you on the phone, but waited to send you an email. That is a smart woman!

Brando said...

Simply hilarious. I wish I could have seen it live.

Righteous Bubba said...

"I bet H. and I are going to win a Nobel Prize in sausage making," I told my youngest and one of his friends.

I dunno if I trust the Nobel committee after the Ice Cream prize went to Dairy Queen.

Snag said...

I don't know whether the Lovely Bride is smart or just knows me too well. Either way, I stewed for hours before I could express my amusement.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, that was a classic "oh btw" cue wah wah music.