Jim Varagona

Month: January, 2006

>The Underpants Gnomes of the Patio Furniture Industry

>When people ask me what I do for a living, I have a difficult time explaining. The job description changes as time goes on. For the past month, I have been working a grueling 4a.m. to 1p.m. (or later) shift at various Home Depot locations across the St. Louis metropolitan area. The bulk of the time is spent assembling patio furniture. You may wonder how those displays magically come about, like the wonderful Christmas decor displays I worked on. I like to think of it like the Underpants Gnomes from South Park. For those unfamiliar with the episode, it features gnomes that come about in the night and take Tweek’s underpants. It is symbolism for those things that happen that go without explanation. Those underpants that go missing were actually taken by gnomes, and that patio furniture that suddenly shows up at your local retailers was assembled by a small group of misfits that work through a delusion caused by lack of sleep.

In fact, the lack of sleep is such an issue, that Home Depot security is cracking down on “gnomes” falling asleep on assembled furniture. We recently received a memo warning us of this. I took it as a hint to move on to a darker blend of coffee.

Anyway, the group of misfits I work with include members of a division of the Filipino Mafia. Most think Italian when they hear “mafia”, but I think the Filipinos have the upper hand now, especially when it comes to the retail servicing industry. Our boss, who actually comes from a long line of Italian mafiosos straight from St. Louis’s Hill Neighborhood, has become quite softened under the foothold of the Pinoys. He gives them many gifts, which they treat like dirt. When I see this, I grow angry. On occassion, I have taunted one of the boys for this disrespect. I even gave him a good swat to the face. No one should treat their boss like that.

The boss does not look good in this whole matter. For example, since I revealed the story of how I was molested by a nun, I have caught him staring off and even in close to a fetal position once. When I confronted him about this odd behavior, he grabbed my hand and touched it to his scalp.

“What do you feel?,” he asked me.

I was thinking a nasty case of dry scalp, but I told him, “a nice sized lump.”

He confirmed the obvious and proceeded to tell me that since I told my story, he has been haunted by flashbacks of when a nun at his grade school slapped him of the head with the narrow edge of a ruler.

I told him maybe he could still sue the church based of repressed memories. At least we had that bonding moment, when we realized the evil in nuns. With that satisfaction, we moved on to assembling a chaise lounge display.

So whenever you see any display in a Home Depot or elsewhere, think of us, the “gnomes”, and think of the nuns, those goddamned nuns.



>Boy, I Been Huffin’ That Insulin

The FDA has approved the first inhalable insulin. In this age of abuse of prescription drugs, such as Oxycontin and Adderall, will insulin inhalers be the next big thing? I, myself, enjoy the “high” of a low blood sugar. I act like I am drunk, and it’s a lot cheaper. If non-diabetics got their hands on this stuff, who knows what could happen? The thought of injecting when unnecessary isn’t very appealing to non-diabetics, I am sure, but to get the same effect through inhaling it, good lord…there could be tons of high school age kids acting like me. It’s frightening.

When I was that age, I knew people that would crush up anything and snort it, from asthma pills to vitamins, which is ridiculous, but true. Kids would sell their prescription drugs and their parents’, even Viagra was game. The underground Ritalin market was crazy. So you say, are kids really that stupid? I answer to you, yes, very much so, and even more so today.

>I Have the Sudden Urge to Learn How to Fly Fish


I admit I am a large mammal and happen to have a lot of body hair, probably because of my Italian heritage. While there are advantages to this, like being able to draw giant funny faces on my abdomen and bouncing my belly up and down so it looks like it’s whistling, there are some drawbacks. As you can see, my belly button creates some interesting lint in combination with the shedding hairs. This bit looks like a fly fishing lure. I never seem to be able to keep up with the tackle box that is my belly button. And so is life.

Comparing my body lint to a lure makes me feel old. A couple of nights ago in bed, I was about to nod off, but I felt like I was forgetting to tell my fiance something. “Oh yeah,” I said. “I had the worst gas today.” And that was it. She was astounded that I had to think about that. Our relationship has gotten to that uncomfortable comfortability point where we can freely discuss our bodily functions. It’s great. Last night she told me about an incredible crap she took. I’m joking.

>”Nice Guy Eddie” Found Dead

Chris Penn, brother of Sean Penn, and most well known for his role as Nice Guy Eddie in Reservoir Dogs, was found dead in his condo yesterday. No word on what happened. It’s a shame. He was only 40, and I enjoyed him in that Tarantino flick.

UPDATE! (2/22/2006): Toxicology report reveals deadly mix of drugs is Penn’s system.


>A Follow Up or Tom Kavanaugh, This Blog’s For You


A week ago, I discussed Tom Kavanaugh, an alum from the high school I went to, that hit it big on Jeopardy! recently (“My High School Breeds More Than Druggies and Slackers”). Well, Tom caught wind of this and commented on that entry.

I like to give Bishop DuBourg High School related folks and miscellanea kudos when I find it necessary. Sometimes it’s hard though, because personally, I didn’t like high school too much. When a guy makes it to Jeopardy! though, you got to give props. If anyone has information that they’d like me to post into the blogosphere, please forward it to me, that includes any personal advertisements Tom (i.e. what you are up to these days).

Norb Butz, DuBourg alum

In his comment, Tom brought up a good point. In the past year, Norbert Butz, also a DuBourg alum, won a Tony for lead actor in a musical (for Dirty, Rotten Scoundrels) up against John Lithgow, Tim Curry, and Hank Azaria. Back in 1985, I believe, my sister was the flower girl in Our Town, put on at Cor Jesu High School in St. Louis, and Norb Butz was a lead in that too. I went to school with Norb’s brother Adam and had classes with another brother, Kevin. The boys come from a family with 11 kids, so I guess they have to win Tony’s to stand out.

Also brought up was Ken Page (IMDB file), who I didn’t know too much about, but has done work on Broadway and voice work in The Nightmare Before Christmas and All Dogs Go to Heaven.

So once again, not everyone from that school is a loser…except add this guy to the list.


>Grape(fruit-sized) Nuts

>Since my nun experience was revealed to the guys at work, they’ve been concerned about any other experiences I may have had like that. Nothing close to the borderline molestation there, but I did have another testicular story.

My brother, Matt, and I, around the time of the incident.

Towards the end of the summer before the 5th grade, I endured a traumatic experience, of the bodily kind. I was sent by my parents to retrieve my younger brother (rest his soul) from the neighbors’ house for dinner. I walked two doors down and approached my bro and his pals on the front stoop.

“Matt, it’s time for dinner.”

“I’m not going.”

“Matt, c’mon…you gotta come to dinner.”

“No!”, he exclaimed, and with that, he punched straight forward, which considering our five and a half years difference in age and corresponding difference in height, was good enough for a direct hit to my testes. I know women experience childbirth, and men should be thankful that they don’t, but the pain of a hit to the balls is excruciating. It breeds headaches, nausea, and the following.

I instantly fell to the ground. He laughed like any kid would that overpowered someone older and bigger than them. They don’t know any better, right?

When I finally got up, I walked home like a cowboy headed for a showdown. I felt like vomiting a trail behind me.

I told my parents, and they scolded my brother. It didn’t end there for me though.

The pain lasted into the next day, so we headed for the emergency room. I had to be wheeled around, because I looked like an idiot when I attempted to walk with my aching nuts. I’m sure I was a fun oddity of the day for the staff at the hospital.

After checking me and my boys out, they determined an ultrasound should be done. I didn’t understand. I wasn’t pregnant. It would be done to find any internal damage, so I was told.

I was wheeled into a dark room lit up by the tiny lights of various machines. They left me alone with a young, female technician or nurse, or whatever the person’s title would be that administers an ultrasound. Anyway, she obviously had something against men, or had never been intimate with one before. She was nice in how she spoke to me, but she mashed my testicles like they were a ball of dough being prepared for the oven. A warm gel was applied and a device was moved around on me to check for damage, although I believe she caused more. The pain was unbelievable. It was an awkward experience. You know those scenes in the movies and on the reality baby shows when they have that moment during the ultrasound that they say, “there it is…there’s your baby”, or something similar? Yeah, well I had one of those moments, except there were 10 million of my babies being crushed before my eyes. “There they are,” she told me.

It was figured that I had some internal bleeding down there. No kidding?! I could have said, “Let me mash your crotch and see if there’s internal bleeding”, but I hadn’t acquired my sarcastic wit as of yet.

They gave me a script for Tylenol with Codeine. After a few days, the boys only got bigger. I couldn’t wear underwear, only loose sweatpants. I was a freakshow (an illustration). My brother brought over friends to come inside and laugh at me. I’d yell at them like a grumpy old man and chase them away.

I received another script for a strong antibiotic to fight any infection that was down there keeping the inflammation from going down. Ater a week or so, things went back to normal. Everytime I get knocked anywhere in that region, though, memories come racing back, and I wonder if it could happen again.


>The Pump Girls??!


The Pump Girls, diabetic insulin pumpers, with Bob Dole, (penis) pumper.

I mentioned in my last post that I’d have to discuss this. The Pump Girls–listed on the Famous Diabetics site, stating:

a new rock band consisting of 4 girls aged 12-15. The girls, who are all from Southern California, sing about boys, love, dancing and overcoming challenges. They all have Juvenile Diabetes. One of their goals is to motivate other teens to deal with the challenges of the disease successfully. The girls will launch “The Pump Girls Whirl Tour”, a multi-city tour to introduce their new CD and to raise awareness for teens living with diabetes. Part of the proceeds from the sale of their CD will go to a special “Pump for a Better Life” Fund which will assist children around the world in need of insulin pump therapy.

I’m all for education and charity, but this is ridiculous. They sound like one of those generic ’80s pop groups. Is this what has to be done to get though to diabetic kids? Why not a giant dancing syringe?

“Syringy’s my friend.”

Or an obese, hairy white boy that flies around on a rocket propelled syringe–call him Diabetoboy. He could fight evil doers with syringe darts. Michael Bay would greenlight that movie.

But no, we get The Pumpgirls. With songs like “Ollie Ollie Oxen”, “We’re Not Too Young To Rock N Roll”, and “A1C” ( a song about the blood test that helps give an idea of your blood sugar for the past three months), you may be thinking I’m the Scrooge of Diabetics for saying anything about kids’ stuff. I ask you though: look how far they went with Barney and the goddamned Teletubbies…is that what we want?! And no offense Girls, but should we really be promoting obesity with diabetes education?

Anyway, for your amusement, they offer free downloads, to compile your own best of CD, or you could find their CD at Amazon.com.


>Famous Diabetics

>While waiting in the waiting room of my endocrinologist (doctor dealing with diabetes among other things), I read through one of those funny disease themed mini-mags. I came across an interesting piece that mentioned a website that documented celebrities and other famous people with diabetes (http://www.angelarose.com/FamousDiabetics/). It even mentions characters from films that were diabetics, like Julia Roberts’s character in Steel Magnolias. They fail to mention Jodie Foster’s daughter in Panic Room, though, which plays a pivotal role in the film. The info. is very interesting, but the appearance and navigation of the site is pretty crappy. At least I now know that Halle Berry, Ray Kroc (founder of McDonalds), and Q-Tip (of the group A Tribe Called Quest) all shoot/shot insulin.

Side note: in the musicians section, they mention the musical group Pump Girls, referring to them all having diabetes and wearing pumps. That’s about as funny as Captain Novolin, the diabetic superhero Super Nintendo game (please follow that link, which everyone will appreciate). My next blog will be about Pump Girls.


>My High School Breeds More Than Druggies and Slackers

I forgot to mention this over a week ago…Tom Kavanaugh, who went to Bishop DuBourg High School in St. Louis, my alma mater, ended his 9-day reign as Jeopardy! champion on Jan. 10 with a grand total of more than $140,000. He was in my sister’s class, which graduated in 1996. They also attended SLU at the same time. It is a general misconception that people that go to DuBourg are druggies and slackers. The fact that the infamous South Side Rapist, Dennis Rabbit, went there for a short period of time, didn’t help. That is not to say that those types do not exist there, but they are not the majority either.

Anyway, after a quick search, it’s easy to see Kavanaugh’s become quite a heartthrob. Women are insulting other contestants and even calling him “the hottest thing to hit Jeopardy! in an ice age” (which I question the sense that makes).

Apparently Tom divulged on the show that “his current wife is his ex-girlfriend’s best friend. He started dating her to get back at his ex, and it blossomed into marriage.” Tom, that’s messed up, but very DuBourgian. If you could only pick up a drug habit now.


>Goodbye Ol’ Blue

Patrick Cranshaw, best known for his role as “Blue” in “Old School”, died on December 28th at the age of 86. Apparently word is just getting out now. I remember him best for his role in the Coen brothers’ “The Hudsucker Proxy,” as the singing grandpa in Woody Allen’s “Everyone Says I Love You”, and as the singing hobo in “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure”. Ah, I can still see him singing “Jimmy Crack Corn”.

“All we are is dust in the wind.”


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