Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Call Me Al-The Rerun

Commodore John Paul Jones.
Or Al Penwasser.
In any case, it beats the hell out of Ken Lynch.
    Recently I announced the listing of Shag Carpet Toilet on Kindle (many thanks to the five who ponied up far too much money to purchase their very own copies!  This is especially noteworthy in that I did it the same month as Girl Scout cookie sales.  Yeah, I’m a thrill-seeker that way).  Since that time, it’s occurred to me that I should come clean about this whole “Al Penwasser/Ken Lynch” business.
    With that in mind, I decided to repost a repost to:
a. Explain the origins of “Al Penwasser” for those of you who are new tenants of Penwasser Place.
b. Give me a chance to post some old crap.  This, of course, spares me from having to write something original (gotta save my creative juices-such as they are-for the A-Z Challenge in April.  Tell Jenny I said hello).
    I actually wrote the post below several years ago when I was a “freelance stringer for Navy Times, a subsidiary publication of the Army Times Publishing Company” (if that sounds like a line from a resumé, it is).  I updated it the first time I listed it on Blogger.  I then updated it a second time when I reposted it on Blogger.  I then re-updated it for this time on Blogger.  This thing has had more makeovers than Joan Rivers.
"Okay, so I look like Frankenstein.
But, I still make wayyyyy more money than you, Mr. Funny Man Penwasser, Lynch.
Whoever the frik you are!"
       Anyway, this means a few people other than SherilinR have probably read this since last year.  If that’s the case, please feel free to go visit some other very good sites like Wrestling With Retirement (Eva's a fellow traveler on Kindle-have yourself a look.  She's pretty funny!), My Own Private Idaho or Anne's Attic while the rest of us talk.  They, like many more, are much more talented than I.  And a lot better looking.
    Oh, before you start, I must caution my overseas (please excuse the fact that I refer to non-Americans as “overseas”; I fully understand that, to you, the United States is overseas.  Maybe even to my Canadian friends, too) followers.  Since this was originally written when I was working for Navy Times, it goes a little heavy on jingoistic Cold War verbiage and “gee ain’t we frikkin’ cool?” symbolism.
You're laughing right now, aren't you?
A congressman for over 12 years, a punchline forever.
    As I’ve gotten a little older, I’ve come to realize that we’re all pretty darn special as human beings (except for that Weiner guy).  Americans haven’t cornered the market on exceptionalism.  We make mistakes, too
    If you doubt that, have a look at The Jersey Shore one night.

"No, seriously, I'm frikkin' hysterical!
What, you'd rather I put Conan O'Brien on?"
    Life was considerably different in the late 80’s than today.  We didn’t fret about Mayan prophecies, fume over gas prices, or wonder why Kim Kardashian was famous.  We had Bill Cosby instead of Tyler Perry, Qaddafi instead of Osama (NOTE:  okay, so we don’t have Osama anymore.  Would you prefer I said Kim Jong Il?), and Madonna instead of Lady Gaga.  And Dick Clark instead of...uh...Dick Clark.

    The “Evil Empire” was still in business and few people did a better job of caging the bear than the U.S. military.  Our influence was felt throughout the world and it could be argued that, like the Union Jack before it, the sun never set on the Stars and Stripes.

"You want me at that barber shop,
you need me at that barber shop!!"
    Each of the services had their hand in winning the Cold War:  the Army held the line in places like Germany and Korea, the Marines scared people with their haircuts, the Navy ruled the waves, and the Air Force kept golf courses in business.  Together, they promoted truth, justice, the American way, and McDonalds. 

    The Lajes Naval Air Facility in the Portuguese Azores was just such a place.

    Perched nine hundred miles off the European coast, Lajes was a major stopping off point for forces crossing the Atlantic Ocean.  The roar of aircraft pausing to refuel there was as common as flag burnings in Tehran.

"Hey, can you ask if they have
a nice, clean rest room?"
    In addition, Lajes was an ideal spot for launching aircraft to locate and track Soviet submarines going back and forth from the Mediterranean Sea.  Crucial to this effort were groups of fixed-wing P-3C Orion sub-hunting aircraft.

    It was also where Al Penwasser was born.

    Petty Officer Penwasser was an enlisted aircrewman attached to Patrol Squadron Eleven during its deployment to Lajes in the final days of the Cold War.   

    Not many people actually saw him, but I knew he existed from the day I reported to VP-11 in 1987.  Many folks warned me to be on the lookout for this cocky individual who always seemed to be on “assignment.”

    Even though I never laid eyes on him, I did see his service record, training folder, and the volumes of mail he received on a regular basis.

    I never questioned why his picture board photograph always came up missing or why “Classified-Secret” was pasted across his face when it wasn’t.

    It certainly drove the Commanding Officer nuts that Penwasser never checked in with him.

I meant spork! Damn Google.
    He did have a checkered career, unfortunately.  Promoted to a senior rank, he was subsequently demoted for parachuting into Grenada armed with only a blow-up doll and a spork.  A week before the actual invasion. 

    After the Cold War, he realized his lifelong dream of becoming a member of the Special Forces.  Exactly WHOSE Special Forces we didn’t know; all we knew is he volunteered for only the most dangerous of missions.  Ya know, like hunting with Dick Cheney or designated driver for Charlie Sheen.

    He stayed in touch, though.  We routinely got postcards from places as exotic as the Orient, the Gulf, or Daytona Beach at Spring Break.  A sentimental rake, he always signed them, “Love, Al.”

No, not that kind of manure spreader
    Our last contact with him happened when an 18-wheeler pulled up in front of our squadron hangar.  Evidently, Mr. Penwasser had placed an order for a manure spreader (which we thought was pretty appropriate).  Luckily, we convinced the flustered driver that Farmer Al had transferred, to where we weren’t sure. 

    After that, he dropped out of sight.  We sometimes saw his name in guest registers at places like the Pantheon, the Dubai Seamen’s Center, assorted Mayan ruins, or bowling alley bathroom walls, but that was about it.

Except now, he's probably asking,
"Would you like fries, fries, baby?"
    Like Vanilla Ice’s career, Chastity Bono’s breasts, and Miley Cyrus’ innocence, Al Penwasser just disappeared.

    I never found out where he went or what he did, but his spirit lives on in this blog and elsewhere.  No matter whether the subject is Old Man Toe, Columbus Day, or Heel Piss Cream, I’m proud that Al has once more found a home for his wry take on life.  

    Oh, and as for that name.  Comes from Portuguese bottled water: 

    Alpen Wasser.

EPILOGUE:  If you haven’t figured it out by now (sheesh, were you even reading this!?), I took the pseudonym of Al Penwasser when writing, first for Navy Times and then, for Blogger.  However, I won’t be changing the name of this blog because a) “Lynch’s Place” doesn’t have near the alliterative zing! of “Penwasser Place” and b) I still have a lot of Penwasser tee shirts to sell.  Fact is, I’ve grown fond of Al and will continue to call on him whenever I’m feeling especially schizophrenic.  Now, this post has gone on far too long.  So, let's get out there and buy your copy of Shag Carpet Toilet!
While there's still thousands left!  




  1. So, instead of a pseudonym, it's more of a split personality now?

    As long as sporks are always involved, I'll keep on reading. Thanks for the shout out!

  2. You know I'd take most of those ones back then over what we got now anyday, Bill Cosby beats Perry hands down. Well at least you have a story for yours too, all I got is my cat looked at me funny so I used him as my alter ego. Short I know..haha..and a to z will also be done by me, I need a break from thinking up original ideas

  3. haha these tales are always a thrilling read

  4. Al - thanks for squeezing the A to Z Challenge in there, right at the top, no less - every little bit helps - you're Jenny's little helper...(fodder for another post, eh) - however you slice your bread, in my neck of the woods, you're Wonder Bread!!!

    Cheers, Jenny @ Pearson Report
    Co-Host of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

  5. Al Penwasser... Sounds catchy. I loved this post.

    By the way, we don't have Kim Jong Il anymore either. A good read!

    1. Reposting is kinda like eating peppermint ice cream. The first time is the big owwwee minty blast from scurrying around posting the dang thing and reposts are easy even minty joy like each succeeding bite of ice cream. I like Penwasser.

  6. i like al. and ken's not half bad either. and thankfully, he rarely takes a dump on the curb.

  7. love the pics you posted..very funny for me

  8. All that history leading up to Portuguese bottled water. Oh Al, how I love you so.

  9. That, is a way better story for the name of your blog than mine.

    I'm just an idiotic student, hence the name of my blog. :P

  10. I'm sorry I'm late! I didn't even log onto blogger yesterday. Thank you for the mention. The Cold War, those were the days. It was so much easier then, everybody knew who each other's spies were in those days! I get misty eyed, when I think of Castro now and the heady days of the nuclear arms race. Al, I'm frickin' old is what I am. And don't change your blogs name, it would just confuse me! That A-Z challenge is a long-haul, start writing now.

  11. This is great. Love the use of bottled water.

  12. You mean to tell me, again, that Penwasser isn't your real name?! I so enjoy yelling/writing "
    I will call you Al, if you call me...

  13. Awesome story man, I'm in complete agreement of the whole Penwasser Place sounding much better than Lynch Place. I still really want your book haha, and I'm pleased you're entering in the A to Z challenge too, you're going to kick some serious ass!

  14. thanks for the shout out. I hope Amazon doesn't run out of copies before I buy a Kindle!

  15. @Lost: I'm not worried about a split personality. And neither am I.
    @Pat: The A-Z IS a challenge for sure (hey, I think that's where they got the name from! Those clever dickens). I'm writing down topics now. I'm not writing them yet, but at least I'll have an idea what I'll need to write.
    @dopdavid: The scary thing is that it's a true story.
    @Jenny: By Wonder Bread, that means I'm pasty white and turn into a dough ball which sticks to peoples teeth when I get wet.
    @Thomas: So, THAT'S why Kim never returns my calls!
    @Manzanita: cream...............
    @Sherilin: Yeah, my town gets all ticked off whenever I do. To say nothing of my neighbors.
    @Jeremy: [Probably not] a secret: even though it's a repost, the pictures are all new. I actually have more fun with those than writing the post.
    @Sub-Radar: I wish I was the clever ones who saw that bottle and decided to make up a fake character. I just drank it.
    @DWei: No, your title is great (as well as your picture).
    @Anne: Won't be changing it. I know what you mean about the Cold War. We all had programs with readily identifiable "bad guys" back then. Although, as I've grown older, I may have gotten a little more cynical. Maybe EVERYbody is a bad guy in his own way (except Oprah).
    @Bea: Andy Nichols and Chris Hartford from VP-11 are Al's creators. Most people saw bottled water and asked, "Why not have a drink?" Andy and Chris saw bottled water and asked, "Why not make up a fake sailor?"
    @Dawn: Please don't stop! Betty.
    @Yeamie: "Lynch's Loft" mighta worked, but I'm sticking with "Penwasser Place!"
    @Eva: Thanks to you who inspired me to get the ball rolling!

  16. Don't think I'll ever be able to think of you as Ken. To me, you'll always be Al. And I love Al.

  17. And you've become one of "Al's Friends."
    I hope that's okay.

  18. Definitely a much better name to blog with. I have read this post before and enjoyed it again just as much. Thanks!!

  19. Al Penwasser, Ken Linch, the Master of ReRuns, or whoever you may call yourself - you could be named Seymore Butz or I.P. Freely and I'd still come around to read your stuff.

    1. No worries! You'd be surprised how many people spell it "Linch." Even my mom. Which is probably one of the reasons she got divorced from my dad.

  20. @Barb: Penwasser does have a certain pizazz, don't it?
    @Kara: or my favorite: Claude Balls

  21. When I make blog rounds, I generally comment on my favorite lines or phrases. But with your posts, I can't do it. Every bit of it's my favorite (the pictures, comments, funnies in every sentence...). You really have a gift, silly Al and silly Ken.


  22. Damn funny, but the only thing I can't wrap my head around is 'heel piss cream.' Do I even really want to know. Yes. Yes I do.

  23. But, but, you telling me Al DOESN'T EXIST?? Damn, I still have a pending child support suit filed against him..

    Great post, thanks for the revelation!

  24. Lynch's place hmmmmm I believe there might be some conflict with this one especially if your header picture was a rope. Just saying.

  25. Alpen Wasser. I didn't know. :-)

    I just love shit like this. :-) (Sorry -- feeling cocky on a Friday morning.)


  26. I already have a ton of stuff I haven't read in my Kindle, but I've got it in my Wish List to remind me to buy it, buddy. At least now I know where the name came from... er, kinda. :-) You brought back some awesome memories with that post though. Ahhhh, the 80's.

    1. Yes, the 80's were much more than big hair and a Flock of Seagulls, huh?
      Probably not MUCH more, though.

  27. @Pearl: I just thought it was funny that bottled water with a German name would be available in the Azores. Argentina I could understand....
    @Bushman: And tomorrow I head to Virginia to visit Lynchburg College with my daughter. Somehow, I doubt I'll get the family discount.
    @Shrinky: That's why I keep moving all over the world.
    @Beer: I'll spare you the whole post (I wrote one last year). Essentially, I had cracked heels (I'm thinking this, along with fungus toes, happens frequently to old guys). Anyway, I used a tube of Heel Balm to "de-crack" them. One of the ingredients is "urea" which, after the dictionary confirmed my suspicions, I learned is an element of urine. Ipso facto, I rub pee on my feet. But, it could be worse. The ancient Romans used piss to wash their togas. Which, if it isn't the reason their empire-which probably smelled like the Mens Room-fell, it should be.
    TMI, I know. But, like me in my prom pictures, life can sometimes be horrifying.
    @Robyn: Thanks! I really have fun with the pictures, repost or no, they're always new.

  28. After reading this, I feel proud to be one of the fortunate five! I can't wait to start reading Shag Carpet Toilet this weekend! By the way, do Mrs Lynch and Mrs Penwasser get along? Julie

    1. And I'm so glad that you are.
      True bit: Mrs. Lynch has never read a single word I have ever written (ever). I'm thinking that sounds kinda pitiful. Which it is, I suppose.

  29. Did you know Vanilla Ice has his own show on DIY? It beats working in that bicycle shop.
    I remember you commenting on my blog one day, telling me about the history of Al. Don't remember my post but I recall your comment.

    1. That's nice, nice baby.
      Not that I would call you 'baby.'
      Unless you wanted to me to.
      But, I kinda doubt that.