June 30, 2004

Credit Cards and Buyer's Remorse

I've never been in debt. Okay, that's not entirely true. Yes, I've been in the kind of debt where I had to make car payments, and I'm currently in the kind of debt that says I have to make house payments.

I've never been in credit card debt, however. Truth be told, I've never even owned a credit card. I don't trust them. I've been conditioned not to trust them thanks to many years of living with college roommates.

Most of my college roommates had this weird outlook on credit cards. Basically, they thought credit cards were magical pieces of plastic that just magically paid for things and that they were somehow immune from the the ensuing debt that came about due to excessive credit card spending.

I'll admit it: I was sort of jealous of my roommates and their magical credit cards. After all, they always seemed to have money and, if they didn't, they just whipped out their credit cards. Books? Put them on the credit card. Food? Put it on the credit card. Night out at a strip club? credit card.

And yet there I was writing checks and budgeting like a fool. I remember thinking that I was doing everything all wrong. I mean, there I would sit, meticulously lording over my finances, while my roommates went waltzing all over town swiping their credit cards with the careless glee of a six-year-old with a loaded pistol.

Then, one year, I was a roommate with a guy named Chad. Chad was actually a former high school classmate of mine. He was, and is, a tech-head. He's one of those guys who was born to know technology. Way back in elementary school, he taught me how to write simple programs for the Apple IIc, and he always just seemed to know everything about computers.

But he didn't know shit about personal finances. He whipped out any one of his many credit cards with the swiftness and ease of a Old West gunslinger. By the time we became roommates, he had already accrued over $10,000 in credit card debt.

I remember thinking what an incredibly large amount of money that seemed to be, especially when I factored in the understanding that he also received financial aid, and that he also worked. Granted, he worked at the local Brach's candy factory on the Gummi Bear line, which paid about as well as you might imagine, but it was still money, so I came to the conclusion that old Chad was a pretty carefree spender.

Well, one day, I popped into Chad's outrageously messy room where I noticed, tucked between two huge bags of pilfered defective Gummi Bears, a credit card notice that was slugged "Urgent!" and another that was slugged "Immediate Payment Required" and still another that read "We Break Fingers And Toes."

Then the calls started coming in, usually two or three a day. "Is Mr. Haugen available? We really need to speak with him." No, he's not here. "Are you sure you're not really Mr. Haugen?" Yes, I'm sure. "Well, when he comes in, have him call Mike at Discover immediately." *sound of shotgun cocking* Will do.

Chad was masterful when it came to avoiding creditors. He always seemed to leave the apartment just two or three minutes before a creditor called. It was like he had some sort of sixth sense. Which was all fine and dandy, except that I ended up being the intermediary between Chad and the creditors, so I got to absorb all the impatient anger and suspicion of basically every credit card company on the planet.

It was the day a creditor appeared, in person, at our doorstep that I realized Chad's debt situation was probably more dire than Chad cared to admit. There was a knock at the door, I answered, and a gentleman in a suit that looked both impressive and threatening stood before me. He asked to see a Mr. Chad Haugen, at which point I heard a little scuffling emanating from Chad's room as Chad scurried out the back entrance which, conveniently, was located at the far end of his bedroom.

We chatted together, the ominous creditor and me, for about an hour, waiting for Chad to get home, even though, of course, there was no way in holy hell Chad was going to make an appearance while that guy was in our apartment. I even had to produce my ID, so the creditor was satisfied that I wasn't, in fact, Chad Haugen.

After that, I believe, Chad ended up getting a loan from his parents, or somebody, so he could pay off his credit card debt at least enough to keep the creditors at bay. He eventually got a job working at IBM, which was a long-assed commute from Winona to Rochester, but paid a whole lot more than the Gummi Bear line.

As for me, Chad's experience with credit cards pretty much scared me away from plastic for good.

Buyer's Remorse

So, over the weekend, my girlfriend and I hopped across the border to Wisconsin (okay, we didn't hop, we drove) in search of fireworks. Granted, you can buy fireworks in Minnesota, but they're the uber-wimpy kind, the kind that spark and fizzle like wet road flares. Still, I guess I have to give Minnesota a little credit for making SOME fireworks legal. Even sucky fireworks are still fireworks.

Well, it's a funny thing about fireworks' laws in Minnesota and Wisconsin. You see, Wisconsin, too, has restrictions on the type of fireworks Wisconsin residents can buy. If you're a Wisconsin resident, for example, fireworks that explode in the air, like bottlerockets, and dynamite, are illegal.

However, if you're a Minnesota resident buying fireworks in Wisconsin, well, you can buy whatever the hell you want, even though those fireworks are mega-illegal in Minnesota. The only catch is that, even though Minnesota residents can buy the illegal fireworks in Wisconsin, they can't light them off in Wisconsin.

So, basically, you can buy all the illegal fireworks you want in Wisconsin, but if you ever intend to actually light them off, you're going to have to break a law somewhere along the line.

I have no problem with that.

So, I bought the big stuff on Saturday. I bought the artillery shells that go boom in the air, and I bought bottlerockets so complex, they look like they were constructed for space flight. And I bought firecrackers, and I bought Roman candles, and I bought sparklers (okay, that wasn't my choice, that was the girlfriend). I bought about $100 worth of pyrotechnics.

And now I'm left thinking, "why the hell did I blow $100 on shit that's just going to blow up and disappear?"

I go through this every year. I get all excited about buying fireworks. I buy the fireworks. Then I wonder why I bought the fireworks. It's a nasty cycle. Thank goodness it only happens once a year.

Well, at least my 4th of July will be bright, colorful and loud. I sure could use that $100 though, because I'm kinda hungry.

UPDATE: Remember, folks, be careful out there with your fireworks and, for God's sake, don't play with grenades.

Dave Barry's at it again, needling the folks over at Poetry.com. For a reminder of one of his previous jabs at Poetry.com, go here.

Well, this time around, it appears the theme is to conjure a poem about a pustule or numerous putules, and sign each poem with the last name "Pustule" so people can view your creative genius. I'm nothing if not a sucker for pustule poetry, so here are my submissions.

"Pus Comes From Behind" by Freemont Xavier Pustule

I awoke today, as I often do, and felt a pain on my posterior
So I hopped up on the bathroom sink, and aimed my butt right at the mirror.

What I saw there frightened me, and it would have frightened you as well
A pus-filled mound was rooted there, but what it was I couldn't tell.

It was large, golf ball in size, and it was slightly leaking.
There wasn't much that I could do, except start pinching and start tweaking.

I cannot lie to you my friends, each pinch was filled with pain.
Shooting shocks went seering up, from my butt up to my brain.

Yet valiantly I pinched and tweaked, until finally I felt it,
The pustule popped with surprising force, and suddenly I smelled it.

My mirror was all splashed with pus, and the odor was intense.
So, I hopped down off the bathroom sink, and lit up some incense.

Now, of course, the mirror's clean, and my butt now sports three stitches.
But I can tell you, without a single doubt, butt pustules are real bitches.

Dang it! That one was denied! I'll have to try again.

"Farewell To Pustule" by Freemont Xavier Pustule

A pustule sprouted upon my thigh
Dribbling a white, foul juice
The pain was enough to make me cry
As if I needed an excuse.

To the sewing room I ran
Intent on only just one thing.
Find the biggest sewing needle I can.
And forget about the string.

Armed with a three inch needle lance,
Sharpened to perfection,
I proceeded to quickly drop my pants
And said a prayer against infection.

I jabbed the pustule through and through,
And the pain was just exquisite.
Like I was giving myself my own tattoo,
Or the In-laws paid a visit.

It was over quick, the deed was done
And the pustule diminished.
I can tell you though, that wasn't fun,
And I'm glad the thing is finished.

Posted by Ryan at June 30, 2004 10:17 AM

My favorite firework I ever bought was from just over the border in Hudson, WI back in 1988. It was a little hen and sparks shot out it's ass. I kid you not.

Posted by: Heidi at June 30, 2004 11:13 AM

Oh, yeah, Heidi, they still make those. I saw a whole bunch of 'em over the weekend.

Posted by: Ryan at June 30, 2004 11:20 AM

My dad used to buy me big heaping piles of high explosives whenever he had the money. It always seemed a little strange to me until one day he told me a quick story about how his dad had never allowed him to buy fireworks as a kid because, my grandfather said, "It's just like burning money."

"Then," Dad continued darkly. "He'd light up a cigarette. It used to drive me nuts."

Knowing that my fireworks indulgence was actually just a case of my dad trying to get back at his dad took a lot of the fun out of it.

If I ever have kids, I'm going to be afraid to talk to them at all.

Posted by: Joshua at June 30, 2004 11:49 AM

My dad is actually the pyrotechnic lover of the family. Every year we get fireworks over in SD since we often vacation there. You're lucky you only blow 100 bucks a year. My dad usually manages at least double that. This often leads to some awesome nights of blowing lots of shit up and lighting up our backyard like nobody's business (it helps that we live in Middle of Freakin' Nowhere, MN). Our favorites are the artillery shells. I've had a friend comment to me once that he could see what we were launching from his house... a little over 3 miles away.

Posted by: Rick at June 30, 2004 12:18 PM

You spend the money because the boom-boom-sparkle makes Ryan smile. There's nothing, nothing at all like the giddy joy of setting fire to something you know and expect to explode in spectacular fashion!

I'm lucky since my new town is one of the few places in this area that can legally sell fireworks that are illegal to light or possess (which I love, I love the irony and bass-ackwards-ness of fireworks laws).

I should find or rewrite my favorite 4th of July story (assuming that the baby isn't born on the 4th of July like a Tom Cruise movie).

Posted by: Johnny Huh? at June 30, 2004 02:39 PM

Some friends of mine got married this past weekend, and during the reception one of the groomsmen roll up to me with a crazy look in his eye. In his hand was a beaker filled with some strang fluid and sparklers sticking out of it and along with small m80 looking things taped around the glass container. It was some sort of insane molotov cocktail. The fluid turned out to be 151, and was meant to be drank before the fireworks were set off. Needless to say, it was one scary and explosive drink. Along with that they had some really kickass bottle rockets and other brightly colored exploding things.

I agree, fireworks aren't the most practical thing you can spend your money on, but they sure are fun to stare at. Kinda like fake boobs.

Posted by: Jay at June 30, 2004 03:12 PM

All I'm saying is that living this close to the border of Mexico has it's privledges.

Very big booms. Yes...indeed.

Posted by: Lily at June 30, 2004 04:48 PM

No way, Ryan. I'll have to make a run for the border!

Posted by: Heidi at July 1, 2004 10:00 AM


There's a CAR behind all that ordnance.

$2000 worth of ordnance.

Posted by: Rob @ L&R at July 1, 2004 02:19 PM


Posted by: Ryan at July 1, 2004 02:22 PM

Dear sirs,

I kindly recommand you if you are protechnics lover, I think it's better you directly import fireworks from China or deal with fireworks business.

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Our company include Export Department, Domestic Sales Department, Packing Department, Quality Control Department, Large Display Department and Finance Department. Especially, We would like to introduce Export Department and Quality Control Department to you. We have 10 employees in Export Department and everyone has many years of experience for foreign trade and clients' service. Meanwhile, we own a professional inspection team. As they must be with responsibility for every items' quality, they must strictly check fireworks quality after every production. So, we can make sure our products' quality is excellent.

We can supply 2"-16" display shells(Cylinder), or Mortar Tube, big cakes, Rockets and consumer fireworks. We are good at producing series of fireworks assortments. We are professional manufacture fireworks assortment since the year of 1998, and we supplied series of assortments for Phantom Fireworks and Cannon Fireworks in America for six years. We have rich experience for consumer fireworks, suck as Fountains, Cakes, Reloadable Shells, Smoke, Wheel, Novelty, Firecrackers, Rockets, Missile, Snaps, Party Popper, Music Candle, Confetti and so on. So we are proud of we have rich experience to manufacture consumer fireworks with high quality, and we have got premiere reputation on this field.

In order to acquaint you with us, please kindly look through our Website: www.flyeaglefire.com. Should any of the items be of interest to you, please let us know. We shall be glad to give you our lowest quotations upon receipt of your detailed requirements.

We very warmly welcome you to visit our company and factory when you are in Liuyang China. We would like to show you all of our pyrotechnics.

Look forward to receiving early reply.

Yours faithfully,
Michael Yan
(Export Department Manager)
Flying Eagle Fireworks Co., Ltd.
Tel: +86-731-7627527
Web: www.flyeaglefire.com

Posted by: Michael at May 4, 2005 12:03 AM
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