Memoirs »
PICKLE JUICE – Chapter 1
Chapter 12345678910

“Ghost Story Writing is a Dying Art.”
-H.R. Wakefield

Born Jaundiced and blinded for his first week; raised in small town america; Justin Richard Sandburg is a ninth generation American with roots from Denmark, England, French Canada, Ireland, Sweden, and Switzerland. Naturally, his mothers little pumpkin developed organization, spatial recognition and drive from the recipe-hound; his salesmanship, persistence, depth, and the placing of value in the smallest things, from his father; aesthetics and composure from his second father; and the ubiquitous worth of softness in speech, from his briefly-once step-mother. His grandfather, a war veteran, came back quietly–cutting sticks into six inch lengths and folding used paper bags forever. Both sides of the family are tenacious, a perfectionism passed on to Justin’s brothers and every cousin he knows. At only a couple of years old, he had already experienced vivid dreams.

One reoccurring dream was that I could fly. I would fly all around the house, dipping under the door frames, and landing on my belly. When I told everyone about it, they laughed as I lay on the ground waiting to be lifted into the air [apparently it didn’t work in front of people].

At four, I lied for some nonsensical reason, and was sat down with my babysitter to talk about lying. It was painful to be confronted with the truth; but it was the first of many experiences in facing discomfort–and in the relief after being truthful. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the last time I lied.

Fear of public speaking was intense right away.

I would quiver; my face would turn beat red; and when I tried to smile, I would have uncontrollable facial movements. I hid in the crowd of students hoping never to be called on.

Church asked me to give a talk in front of the congregation. My mom wrote it, with pictures to go along. My body was shaking as I got up to the podium, bursting into tears after the first three pictures. The church told me I never had to give a speech again. I was five.

The fear never subsided but he became aware of the importance of sharing with people what he had to say in order to be understood, resorting to throwing tantrums when he wasn’t taken seriously or didn’t get his way.

“A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.”
― William G.T. Shedd

The subject has made extensive mistakes throughout his life, clearly accumulating misunderstandings, resulting in unresolved discomfort; and has generated hard feelings from those in his personal, family, professional, sexual, social, athletic, and scholastic life; and also has a history of trouble with public decency; unrest accepting the enforcement of laws which violate natural and human rights; and a decade worth of trouble butting heads with public health concerns. Of the society of execrable encounters (ongoing), some contend he was too mature at a young age, while others suggest the manchild never grew up (earworm). These foibles moderate the abominable man’s stature as much as they define his character. The confessionals are about Justin’s failings and the reasons people–often but not limited to strangers–agree. The punishing details of his life garner sagacity, and everyone deserves to know his baggage. If anyone wants to go public with Justin, his twitter feed is @kicklabuka.

In his second year, he pooped in the bathtub. At age four, he was playing dinosaurs with other children and took it slightly too literally as he bit his brother on the buttocks hard enough to penetrate skin through his pants and scar.

In first grade, the schoolkids were sitting on the rug listening to the teacher read a story book. Someone had broken a necklace with disk shaped beads, and Justin put one in each ear cause he wasn’t interested in the story. They began to hurt, and he took one out but the other went deeper. He had to go to the hospital, where the doctor pulled it out with tweezers–warning, “don’t put anything in your ear smaller than your elbow, now try putting your elbow in your ear…see, don’t put anything in your ear.” In a moment that stuck in time, he suggested Justin would be a good physicist and told him to study science hard.

I was best man at a wedding. I wrote a speech for six weeks, making changes up until the final moment. I drank a few glasses of champagne to loosen up before talking in front of all those people. The maid of honor went first, short, sweet, and from the heart. I knew my speech was more articulate, but I wanted to say something before I started mine–along the lines of, “How am I going to measure up to that.” I began reading, timing joke after joke. The audience was into it. Then my speech turned serious, and one guy didn’t get it and laughed all by himself. I shot a dirty look over to the corner instead of absorbing it.

I had asked people to proof read the speech before hand, and a lady said, “It’s ok to cry in front of people.” That stuck in my head and I began having trouble speaking the heartfelt words on the page. My head was deep into my chest–holding the trembling paper against my solar plexus for stability. The last words were the hardest, and I burst into tears hugging the groom and bride.

By four or five years of age, he started to be interested in sexual contact, asking everybody he got alone with to play sex games. He would try to see everyone’s privates. He played with female dolls in his early years; always being fascinated by the fairer sex; but not knowing many girls outside of school until much later. After cutting off all the long hair of one doll–seeing the blotches remaining; he suddenly lost interest in dolls altogether.

Around seven or eight years old, the family went to Washington D.C. They went to the white house for the Easter egg hunt, but Justin was the only one young enough to go inside. So the family made him go through to pick up one egg, then change shirts and disguise himself to go through again to pick up another egg for each brother. They went to a museum, and he was looking at a painting of a girl walking on a sidewalk in a garden. She was carrying a watering pitcher. Justin saw it as so real, he reached out and touched the painting, full palm, to see if the stone sidewalk felt like stones. Security surrounded him and asked the family to leave; but were allowed to stay at the National Gallery of Art as long as he kept his hands to himself and off the Renoir! D.C. wasn’t very happy with him at quite an early age…

There was a secret Santa one year in elementary school, and Justin forgot. So on the day, he wrapped his favorite catalog of toys he wanted and gave it as a gift. The boy came up to him and asked him about it, and Justin said that it was cool cause he could see what toys were out there and imagine playing with them. The boy wasn’t impressed.

In fifth grade, A guy at the lunch table put a piece of lettuce on the tray of the guy across from me, then said, “you slob.” I thought it was so funny I lost control and spit out my milk, right on the poor kid.

Every time I look at somebody, I can’t help but think of their looks first. I try really hard not to think about all of the beautiful aspects of the human body, but I immediately characterize them, not giving much of a chance to those with superficial flaws. After I get past that compartmentalizing in my brain, I try to focus on getting to know them because what’s inside really is important to me; the remarkable mastery to remain measured in the moment of the exam; momentarily mustering their minds and mood and mainstay and mend; maneuvering in any migrating summit. Eye contact has been reported psychologically as “normal but intense at times.” In grade school, I tried to socialize by memorizing an obscene amount of dumb blonde jokes. Ironically or maybe fittingly, the prettier people are, the dumber I become. The difference between knowing when flirting is going to be welcome or unwelcome has plagued me my entire life. But when they look like they want to run for the door, I feel it all too well. Pornography was always welcoming, a healthy aspiration to familiarize oneself in the elusive art of sex for the benefit of everyone involved. In the face of criticism for enjoying the human form; people that want exposure should be able to pursue it. If anything, I didn’t watch enough!

Which made it difficult because I lived in a small house sharing a room with my mother because my brothers didn’t want to double up. She gave me her favorite pillow even though she had neck trouble, and as a selfish boy, I took it. I was often the first one home from school and explored my body hastily.

At nine, I was taking a swim class in school and someone told me that you could see vaginas when girls got out of the pool. I looked but didn’t see any vaginas.

Growing up, I would have a debilitating crush on one girl a year, keeping my feelings secret and ruining it when anybody found out my feelings were so strong before the first pitch. I wound up dating nobody.

Age 12; I asked a girl to be my valentine. She said yes and I was petrified to speak to her. I bought her a balloon, chocolate, and some other random and obvious Valentine’s day gifts into school early that morning, and she was totally embarrassed. I was humiliated.

I went to a play house. Adult feelings permeated the air with cute girls my age to interact with. The teacher said of understanding, get to know what you heard by restating it as a question.

when I was 14 saw a cute girl and called her over with a come hither motion with my finger. When she got close, I said, wow, if I can make you come with one finger, imagine what I can do with all ten. I had heard the joke somewhere. She told her friend that night, her parents overheard, and were quite upset over my “lude and unusual” comment. I was approached by an adult friend of her parent to answer to the charge. Gossip ran wild. My mom said, “not my son.” I denied it.

Colds and flues brought on feelings of being punished, and I would pray to God to be released of the pain, promising to be righteous; and then when I felt better, I would continue to masturbate–against church rules. I made my requests to God less frequent.

My parents took me to a female peer’s house. She showed me around and we played alone and ate out of fine dishes. I don’t know what was discussed. All I could think was, “don’t fuck up.”

I made a list of the hottest women in the school.

When i was 15 years old, there was a group of about 5-6 people, a few of them girls. There was a point where the prettiest one was giving out her number to my friend, and I thought it would be cute to write it on my arm. It wasn’t cute. I was mortified because her reaction was negative. She got afraid of me and left. Later in life, a girl I felt a connection to was giving out her email address after a pick-up soccer game, to someone else right in front of me, and I learned my lesson and fled the situation. The plan was to meet up for more soccer the next week anyway. She even called out to me as I left while she was picking up flags. I went back the next week hoping to see her and it was vacant.

I asked a girl to ask her friend out for me.

Some girl showed interest for like a second; and I drove to her street trying to get the courage to knock on the door and say hi. I felt creepy and left.

Not that insight helped; having been in a few relationships is more of the exception to the rule. Normally, I’ll come on way too strong or completely avoid an encounter in the first place. Adolescence was at a safe distance from church peers, total distance from most at school. Slowly a group of friends formed outside of church; but the conversion of friendship to romance was not learned or intuited. Consequently, I scare off and creep out the few people I venture to try and meet; or worse, hurt anybody who didn’t put up a wall at the outset.

One girl actually put up a wall. I was making pizzas and took deliveries sometimes. One was to her house who I overliked in the past. Her friends sent me right upstairs to her bedroom. When she opened the door, I wished we were at the foyer. She paid for her pizza and tipped a few bucks. I had been in her bedroom with her and her roomate at a different location, and was curious how her room had changed. I leaned to her right and forward to peek in, and she obstructed me. I got out of there.

After another delivery, I slid on the snow to a stop in the parking spot, and broke the bumper of a beautiful coworker’s car and didn’t even pay for it.

I had reoccurring nightmares of being tied up frozen like a scare crow and mocked. I would wake up screaming.

I hung out many times with a sports fan. We played two person pick-up baseball. He taught me about pitches and really liked being the leader, which was fine cause I didn’t know baseball. I was a young kid with very little exposure. So we would play. Every now and then tempers would flair, like in any friendship. One time we disagreed about something, and he put it to fists. “Go home,” I said. “Make me,” he planted. This was my first time in such a situation. But when he laid the first punch, instead of what you would have expected, my mother came bursting outside to protect her son. Anyway, the fight was over before it started. I reacted to what my mother said and got inside like she instructed. We weren’t allowed to make amends or even hang out together anymore. The next time I saw him was a decade later at a hockey game. He called me out and accused me of telling everybody I beat him up. It’s possible I said it once as a joke because the entire fight was one punch, by him. He wanted a rematch. I declined.

At age 13, I played soccer for the first time, and one of the older boys used to give me wedgies in the locker room before practice. He would wait me out and find me just to bother me. One day I cried for a half hour before showing up late to practice. I saw him at the bar after college and told him how I wanted to teach him a lesson. When he was leaving, he signaled to me, eyes full of regret; but I declined to go outside.

I participated in a church group as a young adult, where we scrimmaged with other athletes in the Special Olympics. Everyone got a t-shirt. When people would later ask me about the shirt, I lied and said, “I kicked those little retards’ asses.” It was a joke; and got a reaction. The truth is that the developmentally disabled are a protected class, protected from a world that leaves innocent people on the streets to compete.

I played a tackle football game with friends when I was 15, and slide tackled a runner from behind before he could get to the end zone. He got hurt and ended the game at my fault. That would have been illegal in soccer as well because he couldn’t see it coming. I can’t even play basketball because I’m called for fouling when people run into me. Somebody always seems to get hurt. I deflected a pass once in street ball and it hit a girl in the face, ending that game. I forgot my shoes one time during gym class when we played indoor soccer, and took a shot in high tops that went the wrong direction and hit another girl in the face, ending the game.

I babysat some pre-teens for a year when I was 18, and when one wouldn’t go to bed, I would toss him across the room onto it and slam him down onto it like a trampoline. Though I think he had more fun with that scolding than anything, it could be considered child abuse.

“One must always be careful of books and what’s inside them, for words have the power to change us.”
― Cassandra Clare

An avoidance reader, Justin participated as class clown through four years of seminary at his church; and earned a high school diploma. A friend actually checked Justin’s classes to show him how to advance to National Honor Society. He played soccer as a sweeper, and later captivated an interest in center-field in his adulthood. He tried to apply the lessons the sport taught of team play, goal orientation, stamina under pressure, and the treachery of retaliation.

I lied about masturbation to gain access to visit the temple.

A former D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) graduate, I became a regular drinker in 1999 at age 18, and am glad I experience it–though I once lost a job over a beer. Losing the job early in my life was a valuable experience, knowing what it meant when someone said, “we’ll call you if we need you.” I was so heartbroken, I would get drunk and then stumble into the workplace begging for my job back. “We’ll call you next week.” It was good preparation for being strung along indefinitely with no chance. A bar owner finally gave me a job mopping floors during the day and selling hot dogs at night. Many bars and eateries were on the same strip, and I set up the hot dog cart right across the street from my old employer; essentially hogging business. It’s amazing how low people will go for money. I stole stove top stuffing from my most generous friend’s empty cabinet, then left the dishes. I manipulated my oldest friend to buy me brand new ski pants, by giving him a Christmas present out of the blue.

Some of my most compelling insights have been realized under the influence. I have also done some stupid things after drinking excessively, including being cited in the first year for urination on a wall on a public sidewalk right in front of police; noted for possession of another’s ID; and caught attempting to purchase alcohol by fraudulent means at age 19. There’s a lot of people drunk on greed, power, and self-aggrandizement. I’d rather swim with alcohol.

Justin began studies at Clarkson, an old school calculus factory nestled in the sandstone of the north country low lands–himself majoring in Physics. It was a free ride thanks to his parents working there. He began to navigate the Physics curriculum, later joining a fraternity.

His math skills turned mediocre compared to peers, and his Physics skills were sporadic–as was his punctuality. From the school bus in high school to generous classmates that drove, Justin would crash in the mornings from the anticipation of the day, never sleeping so good as between snooze alarms; but their patience led him to class and he left with a basic understanding of the field.(Justin Richard Sandburg College Transcript) (2)(3)

I did some disk jockey work using my computer mp3’s a few times. “Is that even legal?” people asked. It raises an interesting question about technology and information. This music is these people’s raw and beat perfected emotion, and the entire community lost pay because of technological advancements in internet speed and information availability.

I played for a high school and used a fog machine, and the fire alarm was set off and a half a dozen fire trucks showed up. I didn’t play all the music that was requested or return calls to return. One time I went to a wedding and played mp3’s instead of the mix CD they brought. I was trying to mix their music with mine to make a well-rounded blend, but I was no professional. I didn’t even bring a CD player other than the computer, and it was too slow to burn mp3’s while playing music. The microphone jack didn’t even function properly and the maid of honor speech was interrupted by a short. “That’s terrible!” she said. People slowly exited the tent despite efforts to play fun music, until they began singing and playing the guitar far behind the DJ speakers. One person was left in the tent who enjoyed himself. When it came time to pay, I barely felt like I deserved anything, but I needed the money. I never DJ’d again.

I smoked marijuana for the first time in 2000, support its use, and smoke it daily when I can. Too much in a short period of time can result in either falling asleep or a feeling of muscle contractions all over the body, accompanied by fears of dying. A call to the hospital would be of no help. The lethal dose for 50% of the population is 1500 doses at once, which is impossible. Tests done on chimpanzees tied to a gas mask showed brain deterioration, but most likely was due to suffocation. Marijuana is perfectly safe. Most pharmaceutical drugs have lethal doses of merely 4x the recommended dose, with serious physical and psychotic symptoms of withdrawal, making them far more dangerous and forcing dependence. Marijuana has numerous health benefits including omega 3 oils, and healing affects for dozens of ailments. Its stems and the stems of hemp plants make the strongest ropes known to man, and are easy to grow. The fact that this drug is classified illegal as a category one drug with no medical purpose and danger to health is a complete lie propagated by alcohol companies, tobacco companies, and even nylon companies. I do not recommend pot for use before college, to ensure the sedating affects do not infringe on a decision to attend higher learning. It slows your thoughts but allows for deeper connections. Pot doesn’t cause violence. Pharmaceuticals do.


“Once you’d resolved to go,
there was nothing to it at all.”

― Jeannette Walls, The Glass Castle

The highbrow landed a contributing engineering position in the aerospace industry, thanks to family who attracted the employer by themselves. He slid into the description and developed an affinity for performance testing and writing reports.

Projections weren’t always accurate from the start. Justin had an overdeveloped sense of confidence in the products he was testing, which became clear during a visit on a train car developer. A lug nut between large metal plates conducts electricity better than the best connector.

In his spare time he began reading fiction and non-fiction, eventually fledgling into poetry; but never lost the love for Physical science. He had nursed doubts throughout his education regarding several Laws of Physics and the accepted explanations, including professors’ admissions that modern physics (from the 20th century) and even the mathematical Taylor series (18th century) for mass and charge (2003) would be imperfect approximations–notably after a lecture in 2001 or 2004 (course taken twice)–earnestly debating the most meek and undaunted physics professor’s unrelenting support and pure joy to discuss 150 year old impenetrable Electromagnetic Theory; before the pupil momentarily conceded defeat.

So after situating his career and being gifted a few books on outer space, the skeptic had comfortably spare time at home to investigate, which he prolonged in a state of drunken carelessness and dispersed with self-serving sexual happenstance–burning the candle at both ends; marginally tolerated at a workplace where he, when he finally started the day, filled it with bitter discrimination at anything less than perfect before him, and awful attempts at flirtation with the ladies. And when Justin came up with imperfect cleaning methods, he became known at work for cracking a bad whip–instilling in him the dread of losing his support networks in the company. He would go home to his solitary apartment, get naked, and relax on the couch with a beer and a bat.

College had been a difficult time for his close relationships. Justin was very secretive about his lifestyle choices, even refusing to see his mother when she visited unannounced; and Batboy lived no different a double life at work.

A few years into my career as an engineer, I became frustrated at my slow advancement. I was told that senior level positions were already filled. I said, why doesn’t that person just retire? A few weeks later, it was announced. After he left, I got the senior level job but it was a Pyrrhic victory as his health took a sharp downturn. When he came back to visit the lab, he looked thrashed and clobbered. Neither of us recovered.


“There came a time when you realized that moving on was pointless. That you took yourself with you wherever you went.”
― Stephen King, Doctor Sleep

I hooked up with a new friend. We kissed for hours on an air mattress one night and it was a great experience. When she was going home, I walked her to her car and we kissed again. We developed a relationship. At the time, we had just started dating and I wasn’t exclusive. One day, we got physical and touched each other’s private parts. She congratulated me on giving her an orgasm, which surprised both of us. She stopped when her needs were satisfied. She said, it still felt good right? I said it kind of left me with blue balls. I feel bad because I decided to stop dating her and exclusively date the other woman who was more attuned to my sexual needs–which turned out in failure anyway. I feel bad because I don’t have the best luck or track record reciprocating orgasms myself, and I rejected someone special for same. I had visited her home and she taught me beach etiquette and kept a pristine household, and she was nice to me. She had no problem finding men to adore her without sex right away. I was too eager for beaver.

My beach etiquette was improved but still lacking. I once dug a deep hole in the sand to make a pool during high tide, and then I left it there when I was done and didn’t even the area. I also had a tendency to rubberneck at the scenery.

I didn’t learn my lesson right away. Two years later, I brought a girl on a motorcycle ride and we went back to my apartment. She began to go down on me. I continued to let her try after 45 minutes, did not coach her to be more successful, and stopped dating her.

I was going to France, and on the plane, I wanted to learn a few lines. “Nice to meet you,” was one. They said, “if you really want to impress them with your French, say, ‘it is a pleasure.'” Apparently that’s only for romantic interests, because when I said it to a male French counterpart, everybody laughed at me. I brought overseas, an outdated revision of my company’s project, and totally ruined the deal.

I visited a prostitute legally in Europe; but I was too uncomfortable to get an erection. I was dehydrated and nervous. When she realized that I was not erect, she safely attempted to arouse me by hand and mouth, which was unsuccessful. “Catastroph,” she whispered. I don’t think prostitution it’s such a bad thing. I’m not sorry for that.

I got drunk one night before a tech conference in Germany, playing scrabble in a bar basement. The people I was with asked me to be the driver the day before, and I didn’t know the area at all. I got drunk the night before, and woke up to get the car out of the parking garage. I couldn’t find my way from the garage to the hotel front door, and drove around in a panic for an hour. They had banged on my door for a half hour by the time I showed up. I was still dizzy. When we got to the show, there were lots of machines set up and I was taking pictures. This hot girl was at one machine and I was mesmerized by her. without asking, I took her picture for posterity but it didn’t turn out well. She looked uncomfortable. Some may consider this an infringement.

I went to a bar in the South of France, and was minding my own business with a big beer. Everybody was dancing in a train around the room, and this girl grabbed me. Afterwards, I went back to my seat. Another person grabbed me and put me on stage to sing kareoke in the French language. I complied and read as fast as I could, not at all knowing what I was saying. Later, I saw the girl who first grabbed me and I went over to her and said the only thing I know in French, “would you like to sleep with me, tonight?” She acted like she didn’t know what I said, ignored me, and I left.

I called work after drinking a bottle of wine on my company credit card, and started blathering about my great ideas for the company. I might have ruined my standing. “Enjoy it while you can.” “I got the bill.”

I was at the beach reading a book about the failures of Physics. A hot girl was laying on her back, and I kept glancing over at her. She turned over to her stomach, and undid her top and I kept looking at her side boob between reading and looking out on the water. When she was leaving, she stood facing directly at me and just stared for a couple minutes. I was frozen.

That night I blatantly hit on an older women with no love, but I was so drunk I gave her the wrong room number. By the time I heard a knock on the door next to mine, I had already satisfied myself sexually and didn’t open the door.

In the US, I was at a beach and a girl took her top off completely. I looked over at her frequently as she lay on her back. Now I’m scared to look at any woman’s body and I shy from their faces other than when I really feel welcomed. These women work so hard for their bodies and I don’t even know how to properly appreciate them.

My loins were so hankering, I would masturbate while driving alone on long trips.

The ideas of science continued to weigh in his mind, so he decided to take his continued education into his own hands and pursue this debate more seriously. He would relax by running negative splits on an elliptical machine, sweating all over the place and making loud breathing noises. His favorite exercise was weighted dips; a practice he learned as a pizza maker during college. His ears opened up and the entire region flooded to his doorstep. Resisting neither the curiosity nor the challenge, much of 2007 and 2008 was spent delving into the heart of the problems of Physics, during which time what he considers an error in a specific scientific field was thoroughly exposed.

One girl I liked for her working, observational spirit, but I didn’t want to jump into companionship. A year or two later, I had gone through a hard break up and I saw this girl again and hooked up. We were making love and I said, “do you want to make a baby?” “sure,” she said. Not even knowing if I’ve seen enough positive parenting to be good enough to hold the job; I ejaculated inside her.

I saw her one night, sat down by her and asked her how she was doing in her life. She said she had a boy (which I knew of) and now a 18 month old girl. I did some quick math and decided it wasn’t mine, but I am not certain. I saw another girl out at the pool table and was flirting with her. The mother got upset that I was paying attention to another girl, called me out and actually said, “you know how I said I had a girl? Well…” I was initially upset and unprepared so many years later to hear that. She saw my face and then told me never to contact her [online], and walked away. I wasn’t even invited to participate in the pregnancy or first years of their life. Then in the blink of an eye, I’m not invited all over again.

Weeks later I saw her, and she walked right passed me. She went into the other room, and I followed her and stood next to her to spark a conversation, and she just walked away like it was a game. Eventually she spoke to me, “oh I can’t stay mad at you,” and we hugged. Did I really want the responsibility? Or was it just to keep a bloodline. That fall would spark the onset of mental illness; you can call it a breakdown or a breakthrough. I began masturbating into a sock.


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