12

Gator Family Vacation: A Punk Croc Odessey – Part 2

Alligators spotted at Lake Worth over Memorial Day Weekend | wfaa.com

Where we are – The gators decided to head north for a family vacation on Lake Michigan. Meanwhile, Uncle Stu has been road-tripping with his favorite punk croc band, Acrocalypse. Stu called Granny to have Stan meet him in Detroit. Stan and his family pull up outside a landmark club on Detroit’s west side, The Swamp. You can read Part 1 here.

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Justine: Gee, Dad. This place looks a little scary.

Stan: Don’t worry, girls. It’s just showing its age. This club has been around for years.

Stan walked up and tried to open the door, but it was locked. He walked around back and tried that door.

Stan: That’s odd. I know Stu said The Swamp.

Adele: Knowing Stu, he got the right club in the wrong city. Try calling him.

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Stan dialed the number and it rang. No answer and the mailbox was full. Stan let out a low growl. He called his mother.

Stan: Hi, Mom. Have you heard from Uncle Stu? I’m at the club, and there’s no one around.

Granny: Didn’t you get his message?

Stan: What message?

Granny: The band went out last night, and the bus broke down. They need you to pick them up in Flint.

Stan: Flint! We just drove through Flint. Why didn’t he call me?

Granny: I don’t know, dear. But they need to be back in Detroit in time for tonight’s show, so you better hurry.

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Stan was growling loudly by now. He turned the car around, and they drove an hour back to Flint. It wasn’t hard to find the Acrocalype bus. There weren’t many black-and-purple VW buses roaming the streets. 

Stan: Uncle Stu! We finally found you!

Stu: Stan! You made it! I was getting worried about you. Adele! It’s so nice to see you. Beautiful as ever. And the girls growing more gorgeous daily. C’mon. Let me introduce you to the guys!

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Stu introduced them to three rather small crocodiles. 

Stu: This is Billy Joe, Iggy, and Mick. Better known as Acrocalypse.

Stan: Pleased to meet you.

Billy Joe: The pleasure is ours. We appear to be stranded.

Stan: What happened?

Stu: We decided to see a band up here on our night off. When we got up this morning, the van wouldn’t start. I need you to take a look at it.

Stan: Me? I’m not a mechanic. You had me drive all the way down here to look at your van?

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Stu: Don’t be silly. I invited you to the club. But first we have to get to the club. So I need you to get the van moving. (Whispers) These are nice guys, but they don’t know the first thing about anything practical.

Stan rolled his eyes. He could hear Justine and Suzy giggling. Adele was trying not to smile. Stan opened the hood and told Stu to try to start the engine. He listened for a minute.

Stan: When was the last time you put gas in this thing?

Stu: Um. Probably about three days ago. It usually lasts about a week while we’re on a gig. We should still have a couple days worth of gas left.

Stan: How far do you usually drive?

Stu: Just around the city.

Stan: You’re not in the city. You’re in Flint.

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Stu: Oh yeah. I shoulda got gas.

Iggy: Man, Stu, you really shoulda got gas.

Stu: Okay. Let’s get gas and get back. We gotta get Stan ready for the show.

Stan: What do you mean, get me ready for the show?

Mick: You’re our bass guy for the next few nights. Iggy’s got a bad paw.

Stan: I’m not a bass player.

Billie Joe: Stu said you can play.

Global Times - 【Odd】A baby crocodile holds an electric guitar as it leans  against a tree at a crocodile breeding sanctuary in Tangerang, Indonesia.  Photo: IC http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1030457.shtml | Facebook

Stan: I’m an accountant.

Iggy: Stu, you said he could play. You said he could play our stuff.

Stu: He can play your stuff. He was in a band called Blind Justice. They were very popular locally.

Stan: That was years ago. And we weren’t punkers. We were rockers.

Stu: You were good.

Justine: You were in a band, Dad?

Stan: It was a long time ago. When I was in college and just after.

Adele: You still play once in a while.

Stan: Not professionally.

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Suzy: Dad, you have to try.

Stu drove with the gators back to Detroit. By the time they arrived, Stan had agreed to try playing with Billie Joe and Mick.

Mick: Okay. Let’s start with “I Wanna Eat Your Dog.”

Stan joined in after a few notes and kept up with the band. Stu was nodding his head and keeping time. They moved through a few more of the old hits: “I Wanna Be Your Frog,” “Eat on the Brat,” and “Cairo Calling.” Stan was having a great time. The girls weren’t sure whether they were impressed or appalled.

Suzy: Dad, you’re actually pretty good.

Justine: I’m impressed. I have to post this on my GatorGram.

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The band mates huddled together, whispering. Stu looked at them nervously. Finally, Mick motioned him over, and they whispered some more. 

Iggy: The doc says I can’t play for about a week. Think you can cover the gig?

Stan: I don’t know. I’m supposed to be back at work.

Stu: Call them. Tell them it’s a family emergency.

Adele: Go ahead, honey. How many chances like this will you get?

And Stan got to live out the fantasy of many middle-aged former rockers.

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Pictures courtesy of Google Images.

16

Gator Family Vacation: A Punk Croc Odessey

Why Are Alligators Showing Up on Beaches? | The Weather Channel

Stan and Adele were basking in the warm Michigan sun. For some reason, the family had decided to vacation Up North by Lake Michigan this year.

Suzy: Hey, Dad. Who planned this year’s vacation? It’s really pretty here.

Justine: It is pretty. But I got cold last night. You should have packed blankets, Mom.

Adele: It’s no worse than home in the winter.

Alligator On Sand - DesiComments.com

Stan: We’re only going to be here a few more days. I really like the sand. It doesn’t catch in my toes like the rocks by our creek.

Adele: I’m pretty sure your cousin Danny suggested it. He came up here when he was interviewing for a residency.

Suzy: I can’t believe he graduated from Animal Tech and is a real bird doctor.

Justine: I still think it’s goofy that he wants to treat birds. Where’s he going to work?

Stan: He got a really good offer from a clinic in the Everglades.

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Justine: Ooh! Gator nirvana! And he won’t have to worry about snow like up here. I can’t believe he even considered Michigan.

Adele: I guess they have a lot of birds in all these trees.

Just then, they heard a loud splash. Cousin Penelope had married her boyfriend Maxwell. They were trying to get their son Stephen into the water.

Penelope: C’mon, sweetie. Let’s go in the water.

Stephen: I don’t want to, Mama. You know I don’t like water.

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Maxwell: Don’t be ridiculous. You’re an alligator. We love water. It’s how we cool down.

Stephen: I’m not hot.

Maxwell: We’ll just get our feet wet.

Stephen: I don’t wanna.

Penelope: It’ll be fun.

Stephen: I don’t wanna.

Maxwell snuck up behind Stephen and pushed hard with his snout. Stephen landed in the water with a thud. The water only came partway up his legs, but Stephen was not happy. He started howling.

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Penelope: Stephen, just relax. It’s only water. You’ll have fun if you stop complaining. Look at your cousins. They’re having a great time.

Stephen: I don’t care. I don’t like water.

Finally, Penelope and Maxwell gave up. They all returned to the beach. Stephen was shivering.

Justine: How bizarre.

Suzy (giggling): You know what a princess Penelope has always been. The kid’s just like her.

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The gators laid on the warm sand and enjoyed the sun with their eyes closed. Stan was just about asleep.

Granny: Stan! Wake up! I have to talk to you.

Stan opened one eye.

Stan: What’s up?

Granny: It’s your Uncle Stu. He needs your help.

Stu was a beloved elder member of the family. He kept the others entertained with his stories. Part of the reason he had so many stories was his legendarily bad sense of direction. He spent many hours being in the wrong place and trying to get home.

dreamt that alligators and crocodiles became famous music artists and it  was very popular news, they also wore headphones for some reason : r/Dreams

He hadn’t joined the family vacation because he was spending the summer touring with his favorite punk croc band, Acrocalypse. He had been a fan for years, since it had evolved from its swamp rock roots, the band Creedence Crocodile Redemption.

Stu had been welcomed by the band and had been traveling with them on the tour bus. He did odd jobs along the way. It seemed to be working out well for everyone.

Stan: What happened? Did he miss the bus?

Granny: I don’t think so. He said he needs your help.

Gators – Gatorland

Stan: Doing what?

Granny: He didn’t say. But he want you to meet him in Detroit.

Stan loved Uncle Stu, but it was always an adventure when Stu needed help. Nothing was ever easy.

Stan: Why me? Everyone’s in Michigan. Can’t someone else go? What about my family?

You can take them with you. Please? Do it for me.

Stan sighed. He talked to Adele, and they made plans to leave for Detroit in the morning.

Next week: If he wasn’t lost, why did Stu need Stan?

Robert Irwin Shares Video Of Alligator Enjoying A Car Ride | ETCanada.com

Pictures courtesy of Google Images.

0

Not Your Father’s Union

I belong to a union for retail workers. I had never heard of it before going to work at the store. That should have been a clue right off the bat. I have been around unions my entire life and thought I pretty much had them down. Silly me.

I grew up just outside Detroit (as in one mile from the border). Detroit was the ultimate union town. Every company associated with making a car (manufacturers, suppliers, transport) was closed shop. If you didn’t belong to a union and were blue-collar, you probably didn’t have a very good job. The United Auto Workers (UAW) was king, but there were teamsters, electricians, plumbers, metallurgy workers, and an alphabet soup of others. Every fall would see one or more school district closed by teachers’ strikes. Unfortunately our district always signed.

Every three years, the automakers (GM, Ford, and Chrysler) would “pattern-bargain”, so workers at all three companies would get the same pay and benefits. The unions were extremely successful and the workers enjoyed high wages and some of the best healthcare benefits in the country. Unfortunately, it also meant that other companies couldn’t afford to move here. (cue ominous music)

But car sales slumped with oil crises and foreign competition. Did you know that UAW membership is slightly more than one third of what it was in the heyday of the 1970’s? And as Charles Wilson, President of GM said (more or less) in 1953, “As goes GM, so goes the nation.” (the music gets louder)

When I was hired, the company was semi-open. I guess that’s what you call it. It was a stupid system. Even if you didn’t sign up, you had to pay the dues. Since you were paying the dues, the union had to represent you.

Representation is kind of a strong word for what we get from our union. The wages start at minimum wage in each state. They increase by 25 cents for every 700 hours we work to a maximum hourly rate somewhere in the neighborhood of $10. There are a few specialized jobs in the company that earn $1/hour more.

The pay scale has been the same since the union “negotiated” a second tier for new employees several contracts ago. The new tier pays approximately half of what the more senior employees make. I don’t think the company would have been allowed to pay people less than the minimum wage even if we didn’t have the union. Note: our starting pay is less than the big-box store across the street.

Because of the Affordable Care Act, the company was allowed to put in more stringent requirements for part-time employees to be eligible for health-care. Guess the union was too busy to even comment on that.

We are not allowed to strike. I have no idea how the union got the store to agree to that.

The store is closed on Christmas Day. Every other holiday is treated like a regular workday. I work every Thanksgiving because Thursday is part of my schedule. Full-time or part-time is irrelevant. I bet the union had a hard time getting that through too.

The union was nowhere around when the company changed its discipline system to allow all absences and tardies to stay on our record for a year instead of dropping off after 30 days. Discipline issues and absence issues can now be combined to determine whether an employee can be terminated.

Usually a union will get some kind of concession for that type of change. Here’s ours: if we go four months with no absences, our manager stops by and congratulates us (if they remember).

Last year, Michigan became a right-to-work state. Which means we can all opt out of the union if we choose to. In what can only be described as interesting timing, the union raised our dues this week. They are now 2 hours pay + $16 per month with a minimum of $30.08.

Since the dues are taken out weekly, it was almost impossible for some of the people to figure out how much the raise was actually going to be. The calculation [(2 hours +16) x12/52] is a bit complex, particularly since the store is good about hiring mentally challenged employees for many of the rote tasks.

Of course, we can’t get out of the union until the next contract is negotiated in May 2015. The union may not be doing much for us, but it seems to be taking care of itself just fine.