Since I'm entering the last third of my life, it seemed like a good idea to start my memoirs. The plan is to record all the funny stories of my life as I think of them, then organize it later.
"Everyone, let me introduce you to David Holmes, F5's World-wide Security Evangelist and Conde Nast's Sexiest Man of the Year!"
My friend Jack Fenimore was introducing me to an audience of about 60 people in Cincinatti, Ohio. I thought that was the best introduction ever. Even if that last part wasn't true.
So I was telling that story to another friend of mine, John Wagnon while we waited for our webinar (Global Encryption Trends) to start. John was the MC and color guy and I was the main speaker. He tried to top Jack's intro.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, our main speaker today is David Holmes. Some people say he looks like Robert Downey, Jr, or is the most interesting security man in the world. Just a really smart guy."
I ran into Jack later, and told him that John tried to top his "Conde Nast" intro, but failed. Jack laughed and got this picture of me giving John's intro a thumbs down. He sent the picture to John.
John then replied with this little gem:
"I thought about saying he was selected as Runner up for 'Sky Mall's sexiest man over 50, 2015'".
Now THAT would have been the most clever introduction ever.
© 2017 David Holmes
We burst into the Marriott Residence Inn room after a long, long night of drinking and carousing. I threw my suit jacket across the kitchen table and we tumbled into bed.
A frantic but hazy hour passed.
I lay back and turned to ask her if she wanted some water, but she was already snoozing. I turned off the bedside lamp and closed my eyes. Oh, no; the room was spinning. If the room spins and my eyes are closed, it means one thing: I'm about to vomit.
I clicked the light back on and stumbled into the bathroom, closing the door behind me. Kneeling in front of the bathtub, I pulled on the knob until water was flowing strongly out of the faucet and then promptly vomited into the tub. Brown beer, Moscow mules, and whatever that Italian food was that we'd eaten downtown mixed uneasily with a frothy inch of warm water. After a few coughs and gasps, I rocked back on my knees. I could still feel a mix of beer and vodka boiling in my stomach.
Two fingers tickling my uvula enticed the rest of it to explode into the tub. Exhausted and still drunk, I grabbed a towel and wiped off my chin.
I turned off the faucet. Except it didn't. The water was still rushing out. I rotated the knob again; nothing happened. I pushed it, pulled it, and rotated it with no success. Figuring this must be "operator error,” I continued fruitlessly manipulating the control knob. I sat there, naked and burping, pawing at this stupid chrome knob. Still the water gushed.
After twenty-five minutes, I figured I'd tried everything humanly possible, and was anyway about to pass out. "What the hell, it's going down the drain. I’ll deal with this a little later," I thought. I got up, closed the bathroom door behind me, crawled into bed, and fell asleep, lulled by the distant sound of running water.
Three hours later, the phone rang. I groggily answered, "Hello?"
"Mr. Holmes!" cried a frantic woman. "Is your room flooding??? Because the two rooms below you are flooding!"
"Um. The. Um. Yeah, the faushet won't turn off," I slurred.
"WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL US?" screamed the woman. "I'll be right up!"
Almost instantly, the frenzied desk worker burst through the door, not even knocking. She was large and black, and had a huge cell phone pinned to her ear with her shoulder. She went right into the bathroom. I slowly swung myself out of bed.
"What? What's happening?" mumbled the young woman in the bed, eyes still closed.
"Nothing, go back to shleep," I said, and she did.
The woman in the bathroom was clearly on the phone with a plumber. I watched over her shoulder as she forcefully rotated, pushed, and pulled the bathtub knob.
"Shee? It won't turn off!" I asserted, feebly.
On instruction from the phone, she pulled out a standard-head screwdriver and undid the plate around the faucet. She located a screw and turned it until the water stopped. Then she turned on her heel and squelched toward the door.
"Mr. Holmes, we'll get you a new room in the morning" she said as she left. I climbed back into bed, turned out the light, and fell right back asleep.
Sunlight eventually woke me up around 9:00AM. My head was pounding. As I squished my way across the room, I saw that our kitchenette still had a quarter-inch of water all over the floor. In the middle of it all floated my suit jacket, which had apparently slid across the table and fell on the floor where it now swam.
They tried to give us the room next door, but it, too, was flooded. "We flooded at least four rooms! I hope they don't charge me for all of them," I said to the girl. They found us an empty room down the hall and we moved our stuff over there and prepared for the day.
When I checked out, I looked closely at the bill, but there were no extra charges—no flood damages. Whew!
A few days later, after I got home, I received an automated email survey from the Marriott asking how I liked staying at the Residence Inn. The last page of the survey featured a general comment field, which I filled in.
"It's probably no one's fault,” I said in my comment, "but my room flooded and my suit had to go to the cleaners."
The next day I received the following email from "Cindy," who was apparently a manager at the hotel. I thought it was really nice.
"Upholding my commitment to provide a memorable experience with exceptional service, I will purchase 10,000 Marriott Rewards points for your account for the inconveniences you incurred."
I felt kind of bad about accepting all those Marriott points—in some places they add up to a whole free night. But given the choice between paying for four flooded rooms or receiving a free nights’ stay, I know which one I would take every time. And, looking back on the situation, it wasn't really my fault, was it? Unless I've become so strong from all the working out that I broke the faucet without realizing it.
But we'll never know, now, will we. Unless it happens again, and I get another free night at the Marriott.
© 2017 David Holmes
In the months following my divorce, I dated a wonderful woman from my new neighborhood. Let’s call her Bee. Bee was about my age and also divorced, with a son about the same age as mine. She was blond with bluish eyes, three inches shorter than me, and warm and compassionate. She volunteered for her church a lot, and she loved beer and dancing.
Sometimes, when both our boys were with their other parents, we’d spend the night together at one of our houses. Bee and I had a lot in common, and if I’d been a little further along in my grieving process, our relationship might have lasted longer than six months. But I was still looking for validation from other women, and eventually succumbed to the promiscuous lifestyle that so many recent divorcés experience. Though she was hurt by what happened, Bee and I parted amicably.
We never kept toothbrushes at each other’s house, but after we stopped dating, I did find a pair of the most beautiful, sexy panties I’d ever seen. The front was a triangle of see-through pink mesh with a delicate floral design bordered by fine black lace. The lace came together at the bottom, merged, and continued a single lace G-string up the back. The tiny panties were an intricate marvel of taste and design. They were delightful.
So delightful, in fact, that I couldn’t bring myself to return them or throw them away. As men do, I considered them both a memento and a trophy, and I kept them at the bottom of my underwear drawer. As laundry day approached each week and the drawer emptied, I would catch sight of them and smile in remembrance.
About a year later, Bee and I bumped into each other again. We had some drinks and discovered that we were both in between lovers. After a few more drinks, she ended up at my place.
In the morning, as we were dressing, I reached into the drawer for some boxers and saw The Panties. I pulled them out and held them up.
“You forgot these panties here a year ago.” I said quietly. “I’ve kept them because they reminded me of you; of how sexy you are but also your good taste and spirit. And of the good times we had together. I hope you don’t think that’s weird.”
I had been imagining this tender conversation with Bee for a year. I looked into her eyes expectantly. I wanted to see if there was a reaction that would tell her heart.
She said, “Those aren’t mine. I’ve never seen them before.”
I never did figure out who abandoned The Panties.
© 2016 David Holmes
From age 14 to 16, I worked at two Burger King “restaurants” – one in Issaquah, Washington, and another in Lakewood, Colorado. The Issaquah location festers to this day; you can still see the black smoke of its ancient broiler from Interstate 90 exit 15. Like many teenagers, I worked between 15 and 20 hours a week at this menial job, earning $3.85 per hour, making sandwiches, mopping floors, and sexually harassing the other staff (ah, good times).
Once I had to wash dishes for eight hours straight. And you know what? I loved it! To this day, I still enjoy washing dishes; scientists say there is something about washing your hands that calms you and helps you make decisions.
My first manager was a dwarf named Jack. Maybe Jack wasn’t a dwarf, but he was less than five feet tall and he had that pronounced limp of someone who had to use their hip to throw their leg forward. Jack was 30, had a blond biker mustache, and played in a band. Imagine a dwarfish John Denver. He was clever and funny.
After I’d worked a couple of shifts, I brought my mom in for lunch after church. She and I were dressed in our church finest, and she was quite prissy that day. She didn’t say much, just ordered her food while looking up at the menu and let me use my employee discount to pay for our burgers.
On my next shift, Jack pulled me aside. I thought I was in trouble, but he said, “That was really classy of you to bring your mom here.” He sincerely meant it. I liked him.
Jack got married shortly after. I never met his fiancée. But after his honeymoon, he came in and told us all about how his band played the reception for his own wedding, and how much they rocked.
My shift leader was a 17-year-old named Bryan, and he’d been working at BK for years. I idolized him. He was funny and energetic and awesome in every way. He could make a burger faster than anyone else on any shift. Something like eight seconds, which was supposedly a district record. My best time was 45 seconds! While we grunts had to wear these horrible brown uniforms, Bryan got to wear a nice crisp blue uniform that looked like real clothes. Bryan usually closed the store, and he taught me how to do it.
One of the most difficult tasks of “closing” the restaurant (at least from the kitchen) was cleaning the famous Burger King broiler. The broiler was a metal box about six feet tall with an open top. In the middle of the broiler, open flames cooked the burger patties that moved through it on a circular chain shelf. The broiler operated at 800 degrees, or so I was told. Some nights we cleaned the vents over it while it was still cooking burgers in order to get done closing earlier (to go out and party after). Cleaning the broiler while it was lit was against company policy because if you fell in, well, you got cooked. Bryan and I called it “the volcano simulator” and laughed.
One night, while closing, Bryan trapped a small rat in between two fryer baskets. Guess how he dispatched it? Of course he submerged the two baskets in the fryer. The grease in the fryer is 300 degrees Fahrenheit. To this day, I think that must have been the worst possible way to die-- with your skin cooking and your eyes and brain boiling in seconds.
The makeup of the staff varied wildly during the school year, because of course during the day, smart, hard-working ambitious teens like Bryan and me were at school. During the day shift, the staff was a veritable rogue’s gallery: a tattooed parolee who took a smoke break at every possible chance, a retarded guy, and a deformed guy. They were managed by the genial dwarf.
The deformed day-shift worker was born without arms. He had hands, but no arms. His hands stuck straight out of his shoulders. He had to trim his uniform sleeves. He could never bring his hands together, so guess what job they gave him? You guessed it; he was always assigned broiler duty.
Watching him work was horrifying. He would bend sideways, grab a frozen patty and then throw his torso up onto the broiler and slap the patty onto the chain grill. He would then wiggle off quickly before he started to burn. The whole front of his uniform had the black check-marks you see on steaks when you grill them right.
The retarded guy was quiet and usually happy. Too happy, as it turned out.
On some weekends I would “open” the restaurant in the morning. One of prep tasks was opening 2’x2’ square cardboard boxes of fryer lard and dumping them into the fryers. I noticed that some of the boxes had a crude hole about the size of a two fingers cut in the side of them. This mystified me, but, not knowing what else to do, I just used the lard anyway. I mentioned it to Jack the dwarf and he too was mystified.
We would find one or two of these strange holes in the fresh lard boxes each week during the winter of 1986.
One day, Jack hobbled to the kitchen and told us that the retarded guy had been let go because he had been the one cutting the holes in the lard boxes.
“Why did he do that?” I asked Jack.
“Well,” Jack responded, “turns out he was fucking the lard boxes. Okay, back to work, everyone!”
For a moment I marveled at the simpleton’s ingenuity but then got back to work.
Years later it dawned on me that we must have (unknowingly) served bits of fried retard sperm to thousands of customers in that winter of ‘86. But please, don’t let this discourage you from hiring the handicapped when possible. You never know, they might really enjoy their work.
© 2016 David Holmes
When Casey was four, I noticed that he was shy around girls. Certain girls in particular.
One day on the playground I noticed he was fascinated with a pretty girl his age, but clearly admiring her from afar.
“Why don’t you go talk to that girl?” I asked him.
“No! I can’t!” he said, and he turned away.
“Is it because she’s pretty?” I asked. “Let me tell you something. Never let a woman have power over you because she is pretty. Got it? Now go talk to her.” And to my surprise, he did.
And in that moment, a monster was created.
Fast forward two years. Casey is six.
“Dad, I have twelve girlfriends.”
“You don’t even know number eight’s name!” I scoffed, mildly exasperated.
“Well, number eight – I’m her number five!” Apparently they had worked out some kind of scoring system.
This collection game went on for a while, despite his mother and me telling him that guys should really have only one girlfriend.
One day Casey said, “Dad, I’m going to get it down to one girl.” I told him I thought that was a good idea. About a week later he reported, “Dad, I’ve gotten it down to six.”
The following week: “Dad, I’ve gotten it down to two.”
“Oh, yeah?” I said. “Who are they?”
“Skylar and Mara.” I knew them both, and they were opposites. Skylar was tall and blonde; Mara was small with straight black hair.
On the next Friday he said, “Dad, I’ve made up my mind. It’s going to be Mara, and I’m going to give her this note on Monday!” I read the note. It said:
“Mara – I like the way you look. – Casey” It was perfect; it complimented her in a superficial way and didn’t commit him to anything.
“That’s great, son!” All day at work on Monday I was strangely excited for Casey. When I got home that night, I sought him out.
“How did it go with Mara today?” I asked him.
“Dad, it went great! She loved the note I gave her!”
“Wait a minute,” I said. “Didn’t you tell me that Mara can’t read yet?”
“Yeah. I had Skylar read it to her,” he said matter-of-factly.
I was stunned. He had Mara’s rival read his love note to her. Mara must have felt so special and victorious. Skylar must have been crushed.
I said, “Son, I have nothing left to teach you.” The student had surpassed the master.
And I have never given him romantic advice again.
© 2016 David Holmes
I have a confession to make. When Casey turned three, I became a compulsive liar.
One day he asked me (and this is the kind of question that three-year-olds ask), “Dad . . . do you like monkeys?”
For some reason I answered “No, Casey. You see, I was attacked by monkeys when I was a baby, and ever since then I’ve been scared of them.” He accepted this without question, because people of that age just do. When you are young you don’t know anything, and you have to ask the adults around you. And so began my campaign of misinformation.
I started lying to him all the time. Once, we were driving in Carnation, where he’d never been before, and he asked where we were. I said, “You see that river over there? Everything on this side of the river is Zombie Territory.”
A look of alarm crossed his face and he asked, “Dad, is that guy a zombie?”
“Yep,” I replied. “Look! He’s mowing his Zombie Lawn right now!”
“Dad . . . let’s get out of here!” For years afterward, whenever we came anywhere near the river, he’d reach over and lock his door.
Pretty soon the lies started rebounding, coming back to me in funny ways, like little “lie-bombs.”
I got a call from his mother. “Casey brought his homework home today. He had to write five things about himself. Number five says he was born with a tail,” she reported disapprovingly.
I laughed. “Oh, yeah. We were in a hurry, so I just helped him with it.”
Another time, I had purchased a birdhouse and Casey asked me what it was. Without missing a beat, I told him it was a bird trap. “See,” I explained, “you pound nails in around the hole so the birds get in but can’t get out. Then when it’s full of dead birds, you open the top like this and drop the birds into a fryer.” Later, Amy called and said Casey was patiently explaining Dad’s bird trap to the neighbors.
I was starting to feel a little guilty about lying all the time to someone who believed everything I said. I did some research and found that I was not alone; many, many, many dads lie to their sons. I’m not trying to justify my behavior, but I was comforted to read that sociologists think it might be some kind of training to help kids think independently and challenge what they’ve heard.
All my lies came back to bite me one night in the dead of winter of 2006. Casey and I were home alone. His mother was in the hospital, and it was serious. I was beside myself with worry and just trying to stay busy to keep from going crazy.
I was cleaning under the bed, so the mattress was on the floor, and Casey was jumping up and down on it. I realized my new laptop was under the mattress, right where he was jumping.
“Casey!” I screamed. “That’s my laptop! You’d better hope it’s okay, or I’m going to kill you and bury your body in the back yard, next to your older brother that you never knew!”
Casey ran out of the room. I examined the laptop; it was fine. I sat there on the bed -- mad, but not at Casey. He came back in and climbed into my lap. He was shaking. I looked at his face and realized he was crying so hard that no sound was coming out. He croaked, “Dad, I don’t want you to kill me. I love you.” And then he hugged me. It felt like a punch in the gut.
I sat there and held him, and I told him that of course I’d never kill him, I would never even HURT him. I explained that I had been lying to him. I apologized for every lie. I told him there was no older brother. I told him that it was Carnation and not Zombie Territory. I told him that it was a birdhouse and not a bird trap.
Everything changed between the two of us that night. Somehow he got it, and ever since he’s been able to determine whether I’m lying or not. For example, one St. Patrick’s Day I explained, “Casey, today if you see anyone NOT wearing green, you can pinch them!” Somehow he knew it was true, even though it’s completely implausible and sounds exactly like something I’d make up.
I still lied to him from time to time, but it was always with a wink or a smile or something in my voice that made it an easy giveaway. Once, when he asked me what I thought of Demetredons (that’s a type of dinosaur, for those of you without kids), and I replied, “I’ve hated them ever since I was attacked by Demetredons when I was a baby,” Casey just said, “Daaaaaaaad.”
The best little “lie-bomb” I ever planted, and this still makes me laugh, came back to me when Casey and I were at a big-box store in Washington. We were walking past those tiny display beds when Casey stopped me said, “Dad, Mom told me the truth! Those beds are NOT for people who lost their bodies in car wrecks and are just heads! Those are display beds!” For a second, I had no idea what he was talking about. And then I realized I must have told him that YEARS ago, and all this time he’d believed it.
Casey said, “Daaaaaaaad!” and we both burst out laughing.
© 2017 David Holmes
My brother James was one of those boys with a fascination for the rough edges of nature. We lived in Washington state for a time when I was 15 and he was 12. The soggy town we lived in, Issaquah, was perpetually overcast and drizzly. As a result, it grew enormous slugs. The most common were the black slugs, which were larger than a grown man’s thumb in both width and girth. There were also yellow slugs that could be double the length (though not the girth), and the rarest were tiger slugs, which were yellow with black spots. Sometimes you’d see tiger slugs half curled on a log with their feelers waving in the air, roaring their dominance into the jungle. (Okay, that last was hyperbole).
Our father, who had grown up in the region, showed us a neat trick.
Slugs are moist creatures and, unlike their cousins, the snails, they are completely exposed. Dad showed us that slugs have a horrible reaction to common table salt. Salt binds to water easily, and if you pour it onto a slug, the salt begins to remove the water from its body. The slug reacts violently, first by retreating into a tight ball and then by excreting copious slug-slime. The slime binds with the salt, slows down the absorption of water, and creates a gooey skin, which the slug tries desperately to crawl out of.
James found the slug reactions fascinating, and he would regularly spend afternoons in the soggy forests around our house collecting slugs and bathing them with the white. He also took it a step further. He began vivisecting the slugs, and we’d find empty slug skins in old pickle jars scattered through the garage and yard.
James took a fiendish, macabre final step. He obtained a medical syringe (not sure how) and used it to perform a series of experiments on his slimy victims. He injected some slugs with Windex and some with general-purpose cleaning solution. He noted the intensity of the reactions from the Arthropoda. Then he mixed and matched different chemicals together to create the ultimate caustic solution.
“Watch this, Dobby,” he said one day, and he brandished his horrible implement. It was filled with a streaky, bluish-black fluid, which he later told me was one part Ajax, one part salt, and three parts Drano. The needle of the syringe was crusted with the dried mucus of hundreds of slug victims.
In his other hand, pinched between his thumb and forefinger, was a slowly wriggling tiger slug.
He inserted the needle into the slug’s belly and slowly depressed the plunger. The slug’s wriggling increased dramatically as James emptied the evil concoction into it.
When the syringe was empty, he withdrew the needle from the beast. The violence of the slug’s reaction startled me: all of its internal organs came vomiting out of the tiny puncture hole in an instant. The empty skin of the giant tiger slug slowly deflated, leaking bluish-black fluid from the puncture hole. Its rigid eyestalks relaxed and sagged away from each other in death.
It was the most disgusting thing I had seen in my entire life.
That moment, though, marked a change for James. After achieving the development of the perfect slug-annihilation solution, he lost interest in his arthropod genocide project and moved on to other endeavors.
© 2017 David Holmes
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