My dirty secret…so comfortable

Spring time

Much like the famous migrating swallows who every March return to the Mission of San Juan Capistrano from their winters in Argentina, I too migrate.  I migrate to the Men’s departments of several large department stores, but not to build mud nests and lay eggs (I’m so over that phase of my life….) but to fortify my work wardrobe with a fresh arsenal of fresh ties, new snazzy shirts and black slacks that haven’t been snagged or frayed from use.  Titillating read so far, heh?  Stay with me now.

My career choice was retail management.  I wasn’t smart enough for many white collar jobs.  Accountant?  Forget about it.  Loan officer at a bank?  Couldn’t do it.  NASA rocket scientist?  Not smart enough AND I look too cool to pull off the whole “nerdy slide rule” thing without raising eyebrows.  I’m not mechanically inclined.  Don’t get me wrong…I can DO outdoorsy stuff and work in the garage, but anything much more than that and I may as well make an appointment at the walk-in medical clinic for forty-five minutes after I began said project. “Hello?  Nurse Marlene?  Rich Ripley here.  Connie wants me to hang a bird feeder on one of our oak trees.  Can you clear an examination room from 10 to 11 o’clock this morning?  Get the x-ray machine warmed up and make sure that you have plenty of gauze, iodine, two feet of thread and a couplea good stitching needles on hand.  I’m feeling really good about getting this bird feeder thing done quickly.”

Anyway…my whole work clothes thing is nice.  I wear good-looking clothes and nice shoes which don’t always look so good when I get home…but the customers and my coworkers seem to appreciate my efforts.  Dress shirts…I have around 28.  I can only wear one at a time.  Ties…over 30.  Same deal as the shirts.  Actually…I have more ties than that.  I can’t stand to part with them, I mean…we’ve been through so much.  A good shirt/tie will last me two years.  A great one, three to four years.  Most of my ties are great.  They’ve been worn through:

  • countless trucks being unloaded in all kinds of weather (our dock is outside).  Blizzard?  Back up it…get it done.  Thunderstorm?  I ain’t made of sugar…I won’t melt.
  • Miles and miles of walking around the store.  MILES
  • Consultations, hiring’s, schedule writings, orientations, meetings, trainings, buying shows, interacting with customers/employees and multiple crisis’…and all the time they’ve hung with me.  I can’t just leave them behind.  After a while…I just donate them.

Then there’s my Dad’s ties.  They’re funky colors and dare I say….retro.  I’m keeping those suckers!  I even put one or two into the Ripley Fashion Rotation every month, they appreciate it and I enjoy having them around.

I ain’t no rooster

So I used to wear my umpire and basketball referee warm-ups to the gym when I worked out, meaning I was dressed pretty much in black from chest to toe.  I didn’t like the idea of spending money for different colored clothes when I was just going to be sweating in them.  That is until I saw another guy…dressed completely all in black working out like I was. Two words.  Dork Alert!  As if I don’t already fight the whole “Duke of Dorkdom” thing with my goofy grin, bald spot and shrill laugh (my mother says that it sounds “intoxicating”) so I certainty don’t need to “pile it on” by doing something so blatantly idiotic.  Sooo…..I went out and bought some new work out shorts, socks and shirts.  I had a dizzying array of fabulously brilliant colors to choose from, many of which would likely been seen from outer space.  Blaze orange shorts?  Why the hell not?!  Hot lime green socks?  Only if they make me run faster….which they most certainly will!!  Nuclear yellow dry-fit work out shirt?  Why not?  The whole ensemble would make me look like a tie-dyed rooster strutting across the work out floor….minus the hens.  For the record I stuck with red and blue shorts that are six inches too long.  Apparently when we’re finally invaded by gangly legged aliens we’ll already have plenty of flamboyantly colored shorts to go around for them.

My secret…brace yourselves…

So my last stop on this clothes shopping craze was Men’s Warehouse.  I was hoping to score a few more ties (my addiction) and dress shirts…but found a pair of jeans.  Now let me say this…since turning 45 (give or take a few years) finding blue jeans that easily fit me and looked good has been a rare event.  If they’re comfortable…they’re too big.  If they look good on me…then they’re too tight to sit down in.  (I’m vain…okay?  Deal with it).  My waist is somewhere in the nether region of thirty-five inches.  Blue jeans skip the odd numbers and either punish you for growing old and fat and entice you to wear the lesser number or swim in the larger number and cinch your belt up two more notches. (First world problemsAm I right or am I right?) So I tried on a different brand of jeans and VIOLA!!  A FREAKIN’ THIRTY-FOUR WAS TOO BIG!!  I tried a thirty-three and it fit well, was comfortable and still had room in the front for me to gorge myself with food and still be comfortable in them.  Their secret?  (let’s be discreet now…I’m beggin’ ya.  I’m not real proud of this….but) The fabric is 84% cotton, 16% (wait for it….) POLYESTER.  Ugh.  There.  I said it….and they feel great.  You can’t even tell without looking at the label (hidden in the inside crotch…thank goodness).  Anywho…that’s who I am now.  A middle-aged man wearing polyester blue-jeans.  Deal with itI’m so comfortable.

May God have mercy on my soul.

Thanks for coming along.

R

 

RICH RIPLEY…TWO DECADES WORTH OF PUBERTY 1967-1987

We begin todays blog in 1966 where I was added to the bottom of the batting line-up as Richard Matthew Ripley, the third and youngest son of Charlie and Marcie Ripley….Davenport Iowa.

An early record of me and my brothers. Brian's looking at Mom like "...do we have to keep him...?"

An early record of me and my brothers. Brian’s looking at Mom like “…do we have to keep him…?”

I moved from the city to the country at the tender age of two (not for political, religious nor financial reasons) to just outside historic New Liberty Iowa…a town that had exactly one bank, one library, one volunteer fire station and two bars with a handful of faithful Christians sprinkled in for good measure. I brought my parents and brothers with me at the time as I felt it’d be unfair to leave them to fend for themselves in the city.  Nothing of consequence happened until first grade when I set our barn on fire.  You read that correctly…I set a barn on fire.  I blame the school system for not teaching us practical, if not life-altering, stuff such as “don’t play with matches in a barn full of straw since straw burns almost as fast as rocket fuel” or “you shouldn’t pee on an electric fence, it’ll emotionally and mentally scar you for life” or “how to shoot a BB gun without hitting window glass.”  THAT kind of information would have been INVALUABLE to a kid like yours truly who had LOADS of time on his hands.  I found out about this time that humor could potentially save me from a good old fashioned spanking.  I was across my Mother’s lap, butt up, clinching for the punishment that I deserved to get as her hand was descending upon me when I started shouting “THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT!!” My brothers fell off their chairs laughing as I continued with my defense and Mom started laughing too…so much in fact that she couldn’t finish whipping me.  We all had a good laugh and I made a mental note to have a one-liner handy for most occasions AND that I doubt that I’d get that same leniency twice in one lifetime from a deserved spanking.

Dan, Brian and I. Look at the size of that forehead. (note to self...wear bow-ties more often)

Dan, Brian and I. Look at the size of that forehead. (note to self…wear bow-ties more often)

I included the photo below if for no other reason that its the only photograph of me without a bald spot.  Just look at it!  Soft brown hair.  Straight and smooth….just like the man writing this crap.

1975 was a good year for hair for yours truly. Dead serious...it got wavy and curly just weeks after this photo was taken at Peace Church Bennett Iowa

1975 was a good year for hair for yours truly. Dead serious…it got wavy and curly just weeks after this photo was taken at Peace Church Bennett Iowa

My circles of influence ran like this:

  1. Family & dog
  2. Friends at school
  3. (repeat)

Here’s the Ripley clan in 1975.  I’m arm in arm with my cousin Doug (before he became known as Dirty Doug of Mercer County Illinois).  Doug got me into a lot of trouble, but nothing that killed either one of us…but there’s still time.

1975-1976 Ripley's Galore!!

1975-1976 Ripley’s Galore!!

Here’s why I don’t ride motorcycles.  I rode Craig “Coonie” Conrad’s Honda minibike directly into the side of school lunch lady (Gladys Lynch’s)  grass green Pontiac LeMans in the spring of 1977.  Fourteen stitches later I didn’t have the same “need for speed” as just an hour before.  Go figure.

Fun. Fast. Not entirely idiot-proof

Fun. Fast. Not entirely idiot-proof

Here’s a fun fact for all of you Ripley Minions out there.  How many kids did I graduate with in the class of 1984 from Bennett Community High School?  Twenty-four.  Just twenty-four kids.  Twelve boys.  Twelve girls.  Most of us had been together since Kindergarten, while others had been added to the mix along the way…and by the fall of 1983 we were pretty much sick of seeing each other.  I was an average student and average athlete. The girls in our class either dated guys from other schools or guys that had already graduated (looking back our guys didn’t really give the girls a deep gene pool to draw from…honestly) while the guys in my class casually dated the lower grades or out of town as well.  I remember wanting to get the hell out of Bennett so badly that I didn’t really say goodbye to anyone.  I got my diploma and left.  I wasn’t mad…just ready for a new scene with different people.  I can’t speak for my classmates…but I think that the feeling was mutual.

Graduation May 1984 Bennett Community High.

Graduation May 1984 Bennett Community High.

It wasn’t all bad.  I worked detasseling corn for three summers as well as baling hay and straw.  I got a job working at a truck stop restaurant my senior year where I found out quickly that I didn’t care for working over a steam table nor fryers. I moved to Cedar Rapids, about an hour away from New Liberty, for college.  I’d make it back to Bennett and New Liberty through the years, but only to visit my parents, occasionally running into former classmates with polite conversations.

It really didn’t happen that way…or did it?  Regardless I’ve made it back to Bennett for several class reunions and had a blast.  Flat out…my former classmates are just good people.  I wish that I could be around them more.  They entertain me.  They remind me of what was, stories either not heard or forgotten.  They’re doing well and I’m happy to see them when I do. Truth be told…its kinda hard for a group of balding, heavy-set middle-aged men who grew up in our school to be pompous and our female counterparts are looking good with solid careers and good kids.

College was just like high school but with more beer and a lot more idle time.  I met a guy in the fall of ’84 who would become my best friend…hell…he’s like a brother to me.  We’ve been drunk together, gotten in trouble together (those two most often go hand in hand) gone to rock concerts,  been in each others weddings, watched as each has raised their families, worked with each other (I hired Dave one time, and he got me to sell used cars with him for five months…so we’re even) shared concerns over our parents, drank more beer and conversed about plans for possible world domination, etc, etc.  As I scanned through the photos from this period of my life I chuckled at how many photos included Dave.  A quick but not complete summary.

Me and Dave in Des Moines 1986

Me and Dave in Des Moines 1986

Dave and me in class at Kirkwood. Look at my hair. I'd give a weeks pay to have that hair again for a few days.

Dave and me in class at Kirkwood. Look at my hair. I’d give a weeks pay to have that hair again for a few days.

Jeff Hopkins, Dave and I on Jeff's birthday at Dori's apartment. May 1986.

Jeff Hopkins, Dave and I on Jeff’s birthday at Dori’s apartment. May 1986.

I graduated from college in May of 1986 at age 19. During this time I had joined a company that hired me and would transfer me to Mason City Iowa, roughly four hours from my family, my friends and all the fun that I had grown used to.  I was to be alone, working 70-80 hours week in a place that I didn’t like, with people who were ANCIENT (they were in their late 30’s and early forties).  It was terrible and probably the best thing for me at that stage of my life…getting me out of my comfort zone and making a career.  I was miserable. I was lonely.  That was 1986-1987.  In the fall of 1987 things started to get better.  Mason City had become my home.  I was 21 and things weren’t as bad as they were.  I was coming into my own.  1988 started like ’87 ended…quietly and without anything going on…then “she” came into my life wearing baggy sweatpants and puffy winter parka and life as I knew it would be forever changed.

I’ve been blessed to be born into the family that I’m in.  I’ve been blessed with good health, stunning good looks, a quick wit and a humbleness unrivaled.  She…wouldn’t buy any of it.  Tune in next week.

God bless…

R

 

 

 

Head-banging aside…I feel pretty good about myself

The consumer affairs hotline here at RIPLEY INDUSTRIES has been a lightning rod for the past 28 days…since its been 29 DAYS since my last post.  Sorry minions….not much going on upstairs if you know what I mean.  Here’s what I’ve scraped together for this week.

  • This past Saturday night I got into a head-butting match with my nightstand.  It was a draw, but it drew blood and made a tidy little gouge just below my hairline (I don’t even have bangs to cover it with).  I can’t even make up a story like me and the wife were in the throes of passion and I bounced off the bed and hit it then.  It was just me bending over to plug in my charger cord for my phone and WHACK!!  Stars.  I saw plenty of…..stars.
  • My co-worker is in charge of posting stuff about our company on Facebook and she’s busier than a one legged man in a butt-kicking contest (that’s busy!!).  I’ve offered to help and now have the credentials to post events and such on behalf of our company.  My first (and to this point…only) post was about…wait for it….PUMPKINS!!  TWENTY-SIX THOUSAND POUNDS OF PUMPKINS!!  Which I unloaded myself.  With the idea of promoting that fact I took photos and wrote a little joke about pumpkins and VIOLA!!  Posted!  The day after I posted I was handed the guidelines for our social media posting.  Turns out I broke three rules.  No ALL CAPS (but I LOVE ALL CAPS).  No excessive punctuation (BUT I MAKE POINTS WITH EXCESSIVE EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!!) And last but not least….post no “irony”.  People do not like irony.  Let me be clear….I COMMUNICATE IN IRONY!!!  I MAJORED IN IRONY!!  So yeah…I didn’t get my creditials yanked…yet….but I’ll need to follow the rules set in place for the good of all.  BTW…our customers will be able to vote for our employees who are dressed up for our Halloween Contest via Facebook.  Let me just say….this year…I’m IN IT TO WIN IT.  Just sayin’ that I’ll rock the whole costume contest in 2015.  Take note Mark your calendars.
  • We’re into Year Two of being empty-nesters and we still have  Blues Clues and Pocahontas kids dinner plates in our cabinet.  We’re keeping them out for daily use….why?
  • I’m cautiously approaching a task this morning that will involve tools.  I wish that I could say “yeah…I’m gonna pop the hood on my ’73 Chevelle SS and change out the headers on it…blah blah blah then I’m planning on blah blah blah…” all the while sounding capable and mechanically inclined…but that’s just not me.  I’m changing out the tonneau cover on my truck.  It’ll involve pliers, and a smallish wrench…which I’ll still find a way to gouge myself with somehow…someway.  I remember when I was 16 or 17, using a table saw in woodshop class at good old Bennett Community High School…where they let farm kids and the like use dangerous equipment….and I came very close to becoming known as “Lefty” Ripley.  Lesson learned….I’m still anxious around “cutty things” rotating at a high speed.  BTW…I was working on constructing a nightstand that fateful day in woodshop that I had drawn up using one inch thick walnut.  It weighs around seventy pounds (did I mention that its three and a half feet tall?) and I still use it for storage in our garage.  If I had banged my head on that on Saturday night I might not be with you today….so count your blessings….cause I know how much that I matter to you all.
  • Life’s kinda boring sometimes, ain’t it?  You can thank God Himself for that.  I see all of those refugee’s flooding Europe from their war-torn homes and I think to myself “God help them”.  I see parents carrying their little ones.  Folks desperate for answers.  Desperate for shelter.  Desperate for food, warmth and justice.  It makes me worry….worry for them, worry for us….that we’ve grown jaded and perhaps callous to the plight of those across the ocean from us…and even in our own communities.  While I work in an environment where I see folks casually manipulate our food stamp programs to fit their needs I see others fall through the cracks and go without.  Its troubling for someone who has Matthew 25 verse 35-40 engrained into my heart.  What I’ve chosen to do is buy items not normally covered by food stamps and to donate those items to places like the women’s and children’s shelter in my town, or to a mission that operates in a poor neighborhood.  Items like toilet paper, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrushes, feminine hygiene and laundry detergent.  Or sometimes I’ll donate food and clothes….those places are just happy to get the help.  I walk away wondering if I could do more.   I bet that I could. 

matthew 25

Have a great and blessed week my friends,

God bless…

R