Useless Information“A useless page of completely useless information that’s funny because it’s true, except when it’s not.”
Right off the bat, I have to wonder: is any information useless? Perhaps, perhaps not.Some of the following tidbits were gleaned from newspapers, books, magazines, junk mail, signs, and overheard conversation. Others are the natural result of a haphazard existence, which, for the life of me, is the best I can manage. I’m organized in my writing, but everything else is a mess. I stumble through life without a plan, waiting for things to happen. When they do, I try to interpret events to my own advantage, but I seldom succeed. Everyone is familiar with the maxim, “Just be yourself.” It’s funny something so simple should be so difficult.
BOYLE’S LAW GOES TO HELL
This was sent to me by a friend. In all fairness to him, I take credit for the title.
The following is an actual question given on a University of Arizona chemistry mid-term, and an actual answer turned in by a student.
The answer by one student was so “profound” that the professor shared it with colleagues, via the Internet, which is, of course, why we now have the pleasure of enjoying it as well:
Bonus Question: Is Hell exothermic (gives off heat) or endothermic (absorbs heat)?
Most of the students wrote proofs of their beliefs using Boyle’s Law (gas cools when it expands and heats when it is compressed) or some variant.
One student, however, wrote the following:
First, we need to know how the mass of Hell is changing in time. So we need to know the rate at which souls are moving into Hell and the rate at which they are leaving, which is unlikely... I think that we can safely assume that once a soul gets to Hell, it will not leave. Therefore, no souls are leaving. As for how many souls are entering Hell, let’s look at the different religions that exist in the world today.
Most of these religions state that if you are not a member of their religion, you will go to Hell. Since there is more than one of these religions and since people do not belong to more than one religion, we can project that all souls go to Hell. With birth and death rates as they are, we can expect the number of souls in Hell to increase exponentially. Now, we look at the rate of change of the volume in Hell because Boyle’s Law states that in order for the temperature and pressure in Hell to stay the same, the volume of Hell has to expand proportionately as souls are added.
IF I TWITTERED, THIS IS PROBABLY WHAT I’D SAY
Dostoevsky wearing a baseball uniform
Karamazov on first
Tolstoy with the pitch
There’s a train in my room
A dream about painting tree trunks with mustard
What does carbon taste like?
Lo, the cows have returned
The others, like me, are much alike in that they differ
Someone forgot to close the forest door
ANYTHING TO DECLARE?
Here’s a bumper sticker my son saw recently. If nothing else, it might raise a smile from a customs officer.
I have a perfect body but it’s in the trunk and it’s starting to stink.
SO MUCH FOR THE BRIGHT SIDE
A timeless note from Don Marquis (1878-1937), American humorist, journalist, and author:
A pessimist is a person who has had to listen to too many optimists.
WHY DID THE CHICKEN CROSS THE ROAD?
Glad you asked. Here are a few of the more obvious reasons. For more, see Bert Christensen’s Truth & Humour Collection.
Emily Dickinson: Because it could not stop for death.
Ralph Waldo Emerson: It didn’t cross the road; it transcended it.
Ernest Hemingway: To die. In the rain.
Mark Twain: The news of its crossing has been greatly exaggerated.
Salvador Dali: The Fish.
Timothy Leary: Because that’s the only kind of trip the Establishment
would let it take.
Here’s a classic quote from Three Men in a Boat (1889), a comic novel about rowing the Thames from Kingston to Oxford, written by Jerome K. Jerome:
I like work: it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours.
NOSTALGIA ISN’T WHAT IT USED TO BE
So said Peter De Vries (1910-1993), vending machine operator, toffee-apple salesman, radio actor, editor, and novelist. Here’s another quote I like:
The unexamined life may not be worth living but the examined one is no bed of roses either.
HOSPITAL CHART BLOOPERS
I was told that these are actual writings from hospital charts. The first, I think, would also make a great epitaph. The one about discharge status pretty well describes my present condition.
• The patient refused autopsy.
• The patient has no previous history of suicides.
• Patient has left white blood cells at another hospital.
• She has no rigors or shaking chills, but her husband states she was very hot in
bed last night.
• Patient has chest pain if she lies on her left side for over a year.
• On the second day the knee was better and on the third day it disappeared.
• The patient is tearful and crying constantly. She also appears to be depressed.
• The patient has been depressed since she began seeing me in 1993.
• Discharge status: Alive but without permission.
• Healthy appearing decrepit 69-year old male, mentally alert but forgetful.
• Patient had waffles for breakfast and anorexia for lunch.
• She is numb from her toes down.
• While in ER, she was examined, X-rated and sent home.
• The skin was moist and dry.
• Occasional, constant infrequent headaches.
THE ICEMAN GOETH
Thank goodness I checked my e-mail! I was just about to do some work.
A Minneapolis couple decided to go to Florida to thaw out during a particularly icy winter. They planned to stay at the same hotel where they spent their honeymoon 20 years earlier. Because of hectic schedules, it was difficult to coordinate their travel schedules. So, the husband left Minnesota and flew to Florida on Thursday, with his wife flying down the following day.
The husband checked into the hotel. There was a computer in his room, so he decided to send an email to his wife. However, he accidentally left out one letter in her email address, and without realizing his error, sent the email.
Meanwhile, somewhere in Houston , a widow had just returned home from her husband’s funeral. He was a minister who was called home to glory following a heart attack. The widow decided to check her email expecting messages from relatives and friends. After reading the first message, she screamed and fainted.
The widow’s son rushed into the room, found his mother on the floor, and saw the computer screen which read:
To: My Loving Wife
Subject: I’ve Arrived
Date: October 16, 2005
I know you’re surprised to hear from me. They have computers here now and you are allowed to send emails to your loved ones. I’ve just arrived and have been checked in. I’ve seen that everything has been prepared for your arrival tomorrow. Looking forward to seeing you then!!!! Hope your journey is as uneventful as mine was.
P.S. Sure is freaking hot down here!!!!
TO BOLDLY GO WHERE NO MAN HAS GONE BEFORE
When you have a website as big as mine, visitors drop in for all sorts of unexpected reasons. A little while ago, I noticed in my site statistics that someone landed on one of my forum pages after typing in a search for “How do I use the spit valve?” A quick check of the page showed where I had mentioned — all within a thoughtful literary context, of course — being assigned a dented trumpet by the band teacher when I was in the sixth grade, and being shown how to use the spit valve. Unfortunately, I didn’t actually explain the process, so the visitor was probably more shocked than satisfied. Oh, well — maybe next time!
A good friend of mine forwarded this after surviving another office deadline. It makes me wonder: has “dilbert” become a verb yet?
Dress Code Policy
It is advised that you come to work dressed according to your salary. If we see you wearing Prada shoes and carrying a Gucci bag, we assume you are doing well financially and therefore do not need a raise. If you dress poorly, you need to learn to manage your money better, so that you may buy nicer clothes, and therefore you do not need a raise. If you dress just right, you are right where you need to be and therefore you do not need a raise.
Sick Day Policy
We will no longer accept a doctor’s statement as proof of sickness. If you are able to go to the doctor, you are able to come to work.
Earned Leave Policy
Each employee will receive 104 earned leave days a year. They are called Saturday and Sunday. Earned leave days are only available if your supervisor does not need you to work on Saturday and/or Sunday. Therefore, earned leave days may only be taken with the approval of your supervisor.
This is no excuse for missing work. There is nothing you can do for dead friends, relatives or co-workers. Every effort should be made to have non-employees attend to the arrangements. In rare cases where employee involvement is necessary, the funeral should be scheduled in the late afternoon. We will be glad to allow you to work through your lunch hour and subsequently leave one hour early.
Entirely too much time is being spent in the toilet. There is now a strict three-minute time limit in the stalls. At the end of three minutes, an alarm will sound, the toilet paper roll will retract, the stall door will open, and a picture will be taken. After your second offense, your picture will be posted on the company bulletin board under the “Chronic Offenders category.” Anyone caught smiling in the picture will be sanctioned under the company’s mental health policy.
Skinny people get 30 minutes for lunch, as they need to eat more, so that they can look healthy. Normal size people get 15 minutes for lunch to get a balanced meal to maintain their average figure. Chubby people get 5 minutes for lunch, because that’s all the time needed to drink a Slim-Fast.
Thank you for your loyalty to our company. We are here to provide a positive employment experience. Therefore, all questions, comments, concerns, complaints, frustrations, irritations, aggravations, insinuations, allegations, accusations, contemplations, consternation and input should be directed elsewhere.
GONE TO THE DOGS
Here’s another chuckle that’s going around. For all I know, it’s twenty years old. But that’s okay, because I don’t get out much.
A guy is driving around Tennessee and he sees a sign in front of a house: “Talking Dog for Sale.” So he rings the bell and the owner tells him the dog is in the backyard. The guy goes there and sees a Labrador Retriever. He asks the dog, “Do you talk?”
“Yes I do,” the Lab replies.
“So, what’s your story?”
The Lab looks up and says, “Well, I discovered that I could talk when I was pretty young. I wanted to help my government, so I told the CIA about my gift and, in no time, they had me jetting from country to country, sitting in rooms with spies and world leaders, because no one figured a dog would be eavesdropping. I was one of their most valuable spies for eight years running. But the jetting around really tired me out, and I knew I wasn’t getting any younger so I decided to settle down. I signed up for a job at the airport to do some undercover security wandering near suspicious characters and listening in. I uncovered some incredible dealings and was awarded a batch of medals. I got married, had a mess of puppies, and now I’m just retired.”
The guy is amazed. He goes back in and asks the owner what he wants for the dog.
“Ten dollars,” the guy says.
“Ten dollars? This dog is amazing. Why on earth are you selling him so cheaply?”
“Because he’s a liar. He never did any of that stuff.”
FROM THE MOUTHS OF BABES
These arrived by e-mail late yesterday afternoon, after I had done my damage for the day and long since given up hope. Cheered me right up.
James, 4, was listening to a Bible story. His dad read: “The man named Lot was warned to take his wife and flee out of the city, but his wife looked back and was turned to salt.” Concerned, James asked, “What happened to the flea?”
Tammy, 4, was with her mother when they met an elderly, rather wrinkled woman her mom knew. Tammy looked at her for a while and then asked, “Why doesn’t your skin fit your face?”
Debra, 5, was in church with her mother. The minister was speaking: “Dear Lord,” he began, with arms extended toward heaven and a rapturous look on his upturned face, “without you we are but dust.” Debra leaned over to her mom and asked quite audibly in her shrill five-year-old voice, “Mom, what is butt dust?”
MEN DO REMEMBER ANNIVERSARIES
I just found this in my inbox. The friend who sent it knows I’ve been happily married for more than thirty-one years. He also knows I have a sense of humor.
A woman awakes during the night to find that her husband is not in their bed. She puts on her robe and slippers and goes downstairs to look for him. She finds him sitting at the kitchen table with a hot cup of coffee in front of him. He appears to be deep in thought, just staring at the wall. She watches as he wipes a tear from his eye and takes a sip of his coffee. “What’s the matter, dear?” she whispers as she steps into the room. “Why are you down here at this time of night?”
The husband looks up from his coffee. “Do you remember twenty years ago when we were dating, and you were only seventeen?” he asks solemnly.
The wife is touched to tears thinking that her husband is so caring and sensitive. “Yes, I do,” she replies.
The husband pauses. The words are not coming easily. “Do you remember when your father caught us in the back seat of my car?”
“Yes, I remember,” the wife says, lowering herself into a chair beside him.
The husband continues, “Do you remember when he shoved the shotgun in my face and said, either you marry my daughter, or I will send you to jail for twenty years?”
“I remember that too.” she replies softly.
He wipes another tear from his cheek. . . . “Well, I would have gotten out today.”
QUITE A DISTINCTION
Here’s another good one about Mark Twain that I found in the daily newsletter sent by Today in Literature. In his autobiography, Twain tells of trying to pitch his first book, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County and Other Sketches, to a New York publisher, and being laughed out the door. Twenty-one years later, while on holiday in Switzerland, Twain bumped into the publisher again, who introduced himself hat-in-hand:
“I am substantially an obscure person but I have a couple of such colossal distinctions to my credit that I am entitled to immortality — to wit: I refused a book of yours and for this I stand without competitor as the prize ass of the nineteenth century.”
NOW THAT’S WHAT I CALL SERVICE
A funny thing happened when my wife and I were at the grocery store. We needed a head of red cabbage, but the few cabbages they had were old, small, and not worth buying. After my wife examined two or three, I said, “Oh, well. If that’s the best they can do, then the hell with them.” Not one second later, a voice over the loudspeaker cheerfully exclaimed, “Thanks, Bill.”
ON SECOND THOUGHT
During a trip down a busy four-lane road on the east side of town recently, my wife noticed an empty Burger King with a big sign that said, “Closed for Remodeling.” Two days later, she passed the place again. The building was gone.
BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD
Do you know what the unsuccessful Ford Edsel might have been called instead? The following were submitted by prize-winning poet Marianne Moore, contracted by Ford in 1955 to aid the company in its search for a new name:
The Resilient Bullet
Andante Con Moto
BASEBALL IN HEAVEN
Here’s a good one I hadn’t heard in awhile. When a friend of mine sent it by e-mail, I thought I’d offer a slightly condensed version here.
Two old men, Moe and Sam, have been friends all their lives. Sam is dying, and Moe comes to visit him every day. “Sam,” says Moe, “you know how we’ve both loved baseball all our lives, and how we played minor league ball together for so many years. Sam, you have to do me one favor. When you get to Heaven, somehow you’ve got to let me know if there’s baseball up there.”
Sam looks up at Moe from his death bed, and says, “Moe, you’ve been my best friend for many years. This favor, if it is at all possible, I’ll do for you.”
Shortly after that, Sam passes on. At midnight a couple of days later, Moe is sound asleep when he is awakened by a blinding flash of light. A voice calls out to him: “Moe. . . . Moe. . . .”
“Who is it?” Moe says, sitting up suddenly. “Who is it?”
“It’s me,” the voice says. “It’s Sam.”
“Sam? Is that really you? Where are you?”
“I’m in heaven,” says Sam. “And I’ve got really good news and a little bad news.”
“Tell me the good news first,” says Moe.
“The good news,” says Sam, “is that there is baseball in heaven. Better yet, all our old buddies are here. Better yet, we’re all young again. Better yet, it’s always springtime and it never rains or snows. And best of all, we can play baseball all we want, and we never get tired!”
“Really?” says Moe, “That’s fantastic — wonderful beyond my wildest dreams! But . . . what’s the bad news?”
“You’re pitching next Tuesday.”
This was forwarded by an Armenian friend from my hometown in the San Joaquin Valley, who received it from another Armenian friend, with the comment, “Says it all.”
The old man Vartkes was on his deathbed. He had only hours to live when he suddenly smelled dolma (stuffed grape leaves). Aaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh! Vartkes loved dolma more than anything else in the world. Especially his wife’s dolmas. They were known throughout the valley as “the best of the best.” And so, with his last bit of energy, Vartkes pulled himself out of bed, dragged himself across the floor to the stairs, and crawled down to the kitchen. There his wife was rolling grape leaves for a new batch of dolma. As he reached for the ones that were already cooked, his wife smacked him on the back of his hand with her wooden spoon. “Leave them alone,” she said. “They’re for the funeral.”
JUST FOR THE PUN OF IT
After being married for years the hammer and the nail still didn’t get along, so they finally went in for counseling. “He beats me,” the nail complained. “Just look at the top of my head.” The counselor, a piece of wood, knotted. “Your problem is riveting,” he said. “Please, tell me more.” “Well, for one thing,” the nail said, “he always insists on driving.” “Ah — I see your point,” the counselor replied. He turned to the hammer and asked what it had to say for itself. “Only this,” the hammer said flatly. “I get a bang out of life. I was born a swinger and I’ll die a swinger.” “Oh, brother,” the nail said. “I can’t handle these puns of his.
I wonder what I ever saw in him.” When the session ended, nothing was resolved. “Well,” the counselor said, “It’s time for me to split.” Then he gave the couple their bill. “You know the old saying,” he said. “In for a penny, in for a pound.” “That finishes me!” the nail cried. “You’re both dumber than a post.” (To be continued. Then again, maybe not.)
Judging by the following statement, Mark Twain didn’t think too highly of Jane Austen:
“Every time I read Pride & Prejudice I want to dig her up and hit her over the skull with her own shin-bone.”
On the other hand, if he didn’t like her book, I wonder why he kept reading it.
NEVER AT A LOSS FOR WORDS
A friend of mine just sent me this quote from the late Sci-Fi author, Isaac Asimov:
“Those people who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do.”
And here’s a nice one from G.K. Chesterton, prolific Edwardian writer born in 1874 and author of 80 books. When asked during World War I why he wasn’t at the front, he replied, “Madam, if you’ll step around to the side you’ll see that I am.”
SPEAKING OF USELESS
More inspiration comes by way of famed realist Gustave Flaubert, author of Madame Bovary. When still a young man, he expressed the formula for happiness in this manner:
“To be stupid, and selfish, and to have good health are the three requirements for happiness; though if stupidity is lacking, the others are useless.”
Beside his controversial behavior and famous comedy-of-manners style, Oscar Wilde also wrote for Sarah Bernhardt. The two enjoyed a volatile and anecdotally productive relationship that produced gems like the following:
Wilde: Do you mind if I smoke?
Bernhardt: I don’t care if you burn.
I also like Henry Louis Mencken’s classic definition of Puritanism:
“The haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be happy.”
And, finally, yet another bumper sticker: Who would Jesus bomb?
A STONE’S THROW
Good old Walter Winchell. In response to the criticism that his reviews always praised Broadway openings, he replied, “Who am I to stone the first cast?”
THE PEOPLE HAVE SPOKEN
My son and I saw these bumper stickers in downtown Salem within a few feet of each other. The first featured a little picture of the current occupant of the White House, and the second was set up as a typical campaign sticker in red, white, and blue.
The Emperor Has No Brains
Cheney and Satan in ’08
THE GRIPE SHEET
This information about Qantas Airlines comes from an old friend:
After every flight, pilots fill out a form called a gripe sheet, which conveys to the mechanics problems encountered with the aircraft during the flight that need repair or correction. The mechanics read and correct the problem, and then respond in writing on the lower half of the form about what remedial action was taken, and the pilot reviews the gripe sheet before the next flight. Never let it be said that ground crews and engineers lack a sense of humor. Here are some actual logged maintenance complaints and problems as submitted by Qantas pilots and the solution recorded by maintenance engineers. By the way, Qantas is the only major airline that has never had an accident.
P = The problem logged by the pilot.
S = The solution and action taken by the mechanics.
P: Left inside main tyre almost needs replacement.
S: Almost replaced left inside main tyre.
P: Test flight OK, except auto-land very rough.
S: Auto-land not installed on this aircraft.
P: Something loose in cockpit.
S: Something tightened in cockpit.
P: Dead bugs on windshield.
S: Live bugs on back-order.
P: Autopilot in altitude-hold mode produces a 200 feet per minute descent.
S: Cannot reproduce problem on ground.
P: Evidence of leak on right main landing gear.
S: Evidence removed.
P: DME volume unbelievably loud.
S: DME volume set to more believable level.
P: Friction locks cause throttle levers to stick.
S: That’s what they’re there for.
P: IFF inoperative.
S: IFF always inoperative in OFF mode.
P: Suspected crack in windshield.
S: Suspect you’re right.
P: Number 3 engine missing.
S: Engine found on right wing after brief search.
P: Aircraft handles funny.
S: Aircraft warned to straighten up, fly right, and be serious.
P: Target radar hums.
S: Reprogrammed target radar with lyrics.
P: Mouse in cockpit.
S: Cat installed.
P: Noise coming from under instrument panel. Sounds like a midget pounding on something with a hammer.
S: Took hammer away from midget
CAN YOU READ THIS?
The following was forwarded to me by an editor I know. Maybe he’s trying to tell me something.
Olny srmat poelpe can.
I cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg.
The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Amzanig huh? Yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt!
AND IT’S ON EVERY DAY . . .
Here’s a fine quote from Kurt Vonnegut, the outspoken author of Slaughterhouse-Five:
“I was once asked if I had any ideas for a really scary reality TV show. I have one reality show that would really make your hair stand on end: ‘C-Students from Yale.’”
This just in from a friend who claims to be working: Groundhog Day and the State of the Union Address coincide this year. As Air America pointed out, “It is an ironic juxtaposition: one involves a meaningless ritual in which we look to a creature of little intelligence for prognostication, and the other involves a groundhog.”
AN HONEST SELF-ASSESSMENT
I can’t resist adding this one from Mae West. It’s short, but pretty clever.
“I used to be Snow White, but I drifted.”
SIGN OF THE TIMES
Cheerful-looking red, white, and blue bumper sticker seen recently on a car pulling into a Wal-Mart parking lot:
Sprawl-Mart - Always Low Wages
This joke was forwarded by the same person who sent the “Our Gang” info a little further down the page:
A man went to church one day. After the service, he stopped to shake the preacher’s hand. He said, “Preacher, I’ll tell you, that was a damned fine sermon. Damned good!” The preacher said, “Thank you sir, but I’d rather you didn’t use profanity.” The man said, “I was so damned impressed with that sermon I put five thousand dollars in the offering plate!” The preacher said, “No shit?”
SCIENTISTS DISCOVER NEW ELEMENT
A friend of mine extracted the following information from his office newsletter. I had no idea he was so interested in science.
A major research institution has just announced the discovery of the heaviest element yet known to science. The new element has been named “Governmentium.”
Governmentium has one neutron, 12 assistant neutrons, 75 deputy neutrons, and 224 assistant deputy neutrons, giving it an atomic mass of 311. The 311 particles are held together by forces called morons, which are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called peons.
Since Governmentium has no electrons, it is inert. However, it can be detected, as it impedes every reaction with which it comes into contact. A minute amount of Governmentium causes one reaction to take over four days to complete, when it would normally take less than a second.
Governmentium has a normal half-life of four years; it does not decay, but instead undergoes a re-organization in which a portion of the assistant neutrons and deputy neutrons exchange places.
In fact, Governmentium’s mass will actually increase over time, since each reorganization will cause more morons to become neutrons, forming isodopes. This characteristic of the moron promotion leads scientists to believe Governmentium is formed whenever morons reach a certain concentration. This hypothetical quantity is referred to as “Critical Morass.”
When catalyzed with money, Governmentium becomes Administratium, an element which radiates just as much energy, since it has half as many peons but twice as many morons.
I thought I had seen all the anti-Bush bumper stickers, but it seems there’s always another one lurking. This one’s several years old, but, what the heck, I might as well throw it in:
Family values is when your little brother steals the election for you.
THE ‘OUR GANG’ CURSE
The following vital information was forwarded to me by an old family friend. Kind of makes a guy wonder. I remember when Alfalfa played a bit part in the swimming pool scene of It’s a Wonderful Life. I thought he was brilliant. Pete the Pup’s is an exceptionally tragic-sounding case. I picture someone with a mask sneaking up on him and pouring poison down his throat. I hope it didn’t happen that way.
Alfalfa — Carl Switzer was shot to death at age 31.
Chubby — 300-pound Norman Chaney died at age 22 following an operation.
Buckwheat — William Thomas died at age 49 of a heart attack.
Darla Hood — The Our Gang leading lady contracted hepatitis and died at 47.
Brisbane — Kendall McCormas, aka Breezy Brisbane, committed suicide at 64.
Froggy — William Robert Laughline was killed in a motor scooter accident at 16.
Mickey Daniels — He died of liver disease at 55.
Stymie — Mathew Bear led a life of crime and drugs. Died of a stroke at age 56.
Scotty Beckett — He died at age 38 following a brutal beating.
Wheezer — Robert Hutchins was killed in an airplane accident at age 19.
Pete the Pup — He was poisoned by an unknown assailant.
Butch — Currently lives in California.
WHAT’S IN A NAME?
James Joyce, the reknowned Irish author of Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, was twenty-two when he met his faithful bride-to-be, Nora Barnacle. They married soon thereafter. When Joyce’s father was told that his favorite son had run off with an unknown Galway girl, he responded with typical family wit: “Barnacle? She’ll never leave him.”
WHEN IT COMES TO CORNY JOKES, I’M ALL EARS
Here are a couple of jokes that were told recently in my so-called literary forum, where things are seldom serious, and when they are, visitors still think we’re joking.
There was a folk music group having a beer in a tavern on the way to their next gig. All of a sudden one of them said, “Oh, my God! I forgot to lock the car, and my banjo’s in it!” They all rushed out to the car, but it was too late. There were several more banjos in the back seat.
A pirate walks into a doctor’s office and says, “Doc, I feel lousy.” The doctor says, “My God, man, there’s a steering wheel stuck in your crotch.” The pirate responds, “Arrrrr, it’s drivin’ me nuts.”
NO WONDER WE’RE CONFUSED
Like any other classic, the venerable Kings James Version of the Bible has had its typographical ups and downs. This list of earlier “editions” is from a newsletter I receive from Today in Literature, a website I heartily recommend:
• The “Basketball” edition, in which “hoopes” instead of “hookes” are used in the construction of the Tabernacle.
• The “Vinegar” edition, in which Luke tells “The Parable of the Vinegar” instead of “The Parable of the Vineyard.”
• The “Murderers” edition, in which Jesus says “Let the children first be killed” instead of “Let the children first be filled.”
• The “Unrighteous” edition, in which “the unrighteous shall inherit the Kingdom of God.”
• The “Wicked” edition, in which the seventh commandment is “Thou shalt commit adultery.”
IN FOR A POUND
“How did it go in the madhouse? Rather badly. But in what other place could one live in America?” So said Ezra Pound, commenting upon his thirteen years in St Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington, D.C. The funny thing is, I know exactly how he feels.
Here’s a nice quote from Leo Rosten, author of The Joys of Being Yiddish: “A conservative is one who admires radicals centuries after they’re dead.”
UH, WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY THAT?
These days, in their rush to display patriotic ribbon decals on their cars, American drivers don’t always realize what message they’re sending. Recently, I saw a gigantic SUV that had a yellow “Support Our Troops” ribbon — right next to the fuel door. A short time later, on the tailgate of a fancy, customized pickup with two gas tanks and dual rear tires, another ribbon proudly declared, “Freedom Isn’t Free.” Judging by his expression, I would say the driver had gas.
A CATCHY RHYME
Another bumper sticker I got a kick out of had a cartoon picture of the president on the left, and beside it two words: “Twit Happens.” At least I think it was a cartoon picture. With the president, it’s hard to tell.
WHAT? NO DRIVE-THRU?
A new “slogan” I saw posted on the marquee of a nearby Catholic church offers further proof of the pervasiveness of mass culture, and shows how mind-numbing its effects can be. As if it were competing with the grocery stores, motels, and burger joints that surround it, the church’s message reads, “Got a sin? Come on in.” I wonder — can drive-thru confessions be very far behind?
SIGNED, BUT NOT SEALED
Like most people, I’ve licked my share of envelopes over the years, and have enjoyed or found it disgusting to varying degrees, depending on how the glue tastes. Now, though, I’m having second thoughts. When the subject of licking envelopes came up at the table last night, our oldest son said, “Don’t tell me you don’t know about envelopes.” Then he repeated a story that has been going around lately at his place of work. With a twinkle in his eye, he began by saying the glue on envelope flaps is made using an extremely unsanitary process, and contains everything from hair to fly parts. He went on to tell us about a woman who had cut her tongue while licking an envelope, and how the accident was followed a few days later by swelling under her tongue. When she sought medical attention, the doctor found an embedded egg containing . . . a live cockroach.
I saw this bumper sticker on a car in the high school parking lot when I was there the other day to pick up our son. Naturally, I did my duty and notified Homeland Security.
If you can read this, you’re not the president.
A LITERARY TONGUE TWISTER
Here’s a catchy term I found in an old edition of The Reader’s Encyclopedia that I picked up in a used book store a few months ago. I don’t know what it means, but it sounds impressive. Bet you can’t say it ten times fast.
“Honorificabilitudinitatibus. A made up word on the Lat. honorificabilitudo, honorableness, which frequently occurs in Elizabethan plays as an instance of sesquipedalian pomposity, etc.”
MORE TROUBLE FOR UNCLE SARKIS
My poor Uncle Sarkis. Each time a salesman comes to his door, he buys whatever the person is selling. My aunt says he’s crazy. “We already have eight vacuum cleaners,” she told me, “so what does he do? Yesterday when I am at the market, he buys another vacuum cleaner. Now we have nine.” Uncle Sarkis smiled. “Yes,” he said, “but it is a very good one. Instead of shooting dust into the air, it shoots perfume.” My aunt gave Uncle Sarkis her trademark dirty look. “You talk to him,” she said to me. “I give up.” Then she went into the kitchen and turned the water on so hard I thought there would be a flood. Uncle Sarkis and I sat on the couch looking at each other. “Eh,” he said. “Eh,” I said, and we looked at each other some more. Finally I said, “So, your new vacuum cleaner shoots perfume?” And Uncle Sarkis said, “Absolutely. It’s a wonderful thing. Let me show you.” He went to the hall closet and brought back the perfume-shooting vacuum cleaner. “It looks like an ordinary machine to me,” I said, trying to sound interested. “Where does the perfume come out?” Uncle Sarkis took out the instruction manual. “I’m not sure,” he said. “I think it tells in here.” He kept flipping through the pages. The manual was upside-down, but I knew it didn’t matter, because Uncle Sarkis only reads Armenian anyway. Finally, he handed it to me. It was in Chinese. “Maybe we should try plugging it in,” I told him. “Then we can see how it works.” For a few seconds, Uncle Sarkis listened to the water running in the kitchen. “Okay,” he said. “I hope it works on water.” We plugged it in and turned it on. Right away, I could smell something, but it wasn’t perfume. It smelled quite a bit like a skunk. When the smell reached the kitchen, my aunt turned off the water and came back into the room. “What on earth is that smell?” she said. “It reminds me of a dead animal.” Instead of turning off the vacuum cleaner, Uncle Sarkis hollered, “What dead animal? Are you crazy? That’s perfume you are smelling.” And to prove how much he liked the smell, he turned the machine on high. The skunk smell got thicker and thicker, until we could hardly breathe. Finally, I pulled the plug and the machine went off. “This is not good,” I said. “I hate to say it, Uncle, but I think you got cheated.” Suddenly, Uncle Sarkis became very serious. “You may be right,” he said. “Did you hear that funny sound it made when I turned it on high?” My aunt and I looked at each other. While Uncle Sarkis tried again to figure out the instruction manual, we went through the house and opened all the windows.
HOW TO SURVIVE FOUR MORE YEARS
• Discover oil in your backyard
• Buy your own body armor
• Go AWOL — hey, it worked for George
• Go to Canada for cheaper drugs, then stay there
• Stop speaking English — hey, it worked for George
• Wear a jacket so you won’t be caught in the draft
• Become a wealthy corporate polluter
• Open a Humvee agency
• Change your name to bin Laden
• Land a military casket-making contract
10 GREAT REALITY SHOWS YOU DON’T WANT TO MISS
There is literally a rash of new reality TV shows scheduled this season, none of which will be remembered for more than a few weeks. With any luck, they will be replaced by these:
“President for a Day”
“My Big Fat Obnoxious Undertaker”
“The Search for America’s Next Great Insurance Agent”
“Surprise! I’m Not a Real Surgeon!”
“Store Clerks from Hell”
“Candidates’ Strip Poker”
“Taxi Drivers’ Smackdown”
“Cheating Husbands, Sleazy Wives”
WAYS FOR KERRY TO DEFEAT BUSH
• Challenge him to a televised game of Scrabble
• During their debate, ask him to name all the state capitals
• Ask him to name all the countries in the European Union
• Ask him to name all the countries in Africa
• Ask him to name all the presidents of the United States
• Ask him to name all the counties in Texas
• Challenge him to a word-pronunciation contest
• Challenge him to a spelling bee
• Wear a bigger belt buckle
• Drive a red-white-and-blue Hummer
• Start droppin’ his “g”s.
WAYS FOR BUSH TO DEFEAT KERRY
• Pull Bin Laden out of a big cowboy hat during the last week of October
• Issue an official proclamation saying that Kerry looks French
• Have his daughters volunteer for military service in Iraq
• Tell Israel to “tear down that wall”
• Read a long passage from Shakespeare on TV without any mistakes
• Ask him to name all the golf courses in Texas
• Do his shopping at Wal-Mart like everyone else
• Grow a beard and wear a black top hat
• Wear a bigger belt buckle
• Drive a red-white-and-blue Hummer
• Stop choppin’ the trees
HOIST WITH HIS OWN PETARD
We’ve all heard the simplified, modernized version of this line from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “For ’tis the sport to have the enginer / Hoist with his owne petar,” but how many know what it really means? According to my 1924 edition of Webster’s dictionary, petard is French (pétard), and is derived from péter, which means “to break wind, to crack, to explode.” The first definition is “A case containing an explosive, to be detonated against, and break in or down gates, barricades, drawbridges, etc., to which it has been first attached.” The second definition is “A kind of firecracker.” Dictionary.com backs this up with an interesting word history: “The French used pétard, ‘a loud discharge of intestinal gas,’ for a kind of infernal engine for blasting through the gates of a city. ‘To be hoist by one’s own petard,’ a now proverbial phrase apparently originating with Shakespeare’s Hamlet (around 1604) not long after the word entered English (around 1598), means ‘to blow oneself up with one’s own bomb, be undone by one’s own devices.’” An even more complete background is given by word maestro Michael Quinion on his website, World Wide Words.
THE DAY THE REPUBLICANS TOOK OVER HEAVEN
Did you hear what happened when Ronald Reagan died? Jesus said to God, “Well, it looks like I’m out of a job.” “Really?” God said. “What makes you say that?” “It’s on all the networks and in all the papers,” Jesus said. God smiled. “Oh, that,” he said. “Don’t worry about it. The media is run by republicans. As long as I’m around, you’re job is safe.” A few minutes later, Ronald Reagan arrived at the Pearly Gates and was promptly admitted into heaven. When God found out about it, He called on St. Peter. “Why did you let him in?” He yelled. “Have you forgotten about Iran-Contra and El Salvador, etc.?” St. Peter shrugged and told God that Reagan had brought a letter of recommendation from Billy Graham. “Oh, well,” God said. “I guess it’s all right, then.” Three days later, Jesus told God, “Ronald Reagan just rose from the dead. Are you sure I still have a job?” “I don’t know,” God said. “You’ll have to ask Bush. He fired me this morning.” Jesus was amazed. “How could he fire you?” He said. “You’re God. This is your kingdom, not his.” “That’s what I thought,” God said. “But he turned his lawyers on me. I tell you, I didn’t have a chance.” Jesus thought this over. “This is ridiculous,” He said. “Why should the republicans be able to come here and take over heaven? Who do they think they are, anyway?” This time it was God’s turn to shrug. “I don’t know,” He said. “Bush says it’s because of my views on Iraq. When I reminded him of the commandments Thou Shalt Not Kill and Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor’s Oil, the president laughed at me and said, Yeah, right.” Just then, the phone rang. God picked it up. “It’s for you,” He said, handing the phone to Jesus. “It’s Ronald Reagan.” “Hello?” Jesus said. “You’re where? You what? You need how many loaves and fishes?” Jesus rolled his eyes and held His hand over the phone. “Amateurs,” He said. God smiled. “You’re right,” He said. “The next thing you know, Bush is going to call and want me to give him the ability to speak English. Where does it end?” Jesus uncovered the phone. “All right. Maybe you can heal a few people until I get there,” He said. Then He hung up. “You’re actually going?” God said. “Why not?” Jesus said. “In fact, why don’t you come along? It should be worth a few laughs.” God shook His head sadly. “No,” He said, “I’d better stay here. You never know, there are still a lot of decent people in the world. One of them might need my help.” Jesus went to the door. “They all do,” He said. “Now, more than ever.” As He spoke, another bomb fell, far, far below.
SINGIN’ THE BLUES
To unwind in the evenings lately, I have been trying to come up with some good names for Blues singers. (A strange form of recreation, I admit.) There have been a lot of great ones over the years, so it’s quite a challenge. How do you compete with names like Howlin’ Wolf or Muddy Waters? Here are a few I’ve come up with so far:
• “Chicken in the Fridge” Leonard (likes cold chicken)
• “Big Oscar” Lemon (stands five feet tall, once played harmonica in a movie)
• “Bad Bones” Malone (uses crutches but doesn’t need ’em)
• George “Peach Tree” Hawkins (legs like a ladder, hands big as pickin’ pails)
• “Melody Harmony” (even prettier when she sings on key)
• “Hobo” Honeywell (not as poor as he sounds)
• “Mudslide” Wilson (been at the bottom, now he’s back again)
• Willie “Dough Boy” McDonald (as wide as he is tall)
• “Stone Cold Sober” (no wonder he’s got the blues)
• “Flypaper” Watson (women stick to him like glue)
ARTIFICIAL INGREDIENTS AND PRESERVATIVES
I don’t know whether I should be proud of these or not. But if I could get this list approved by the FDA, I’m sure I could make millions before the lawsuits set in.
• polycarbobelchamate (goes in hot dogs)
• tri-broccoli-chloride (for anything that already tastes bad)
• essence of fermented eucalyptus gum (canned cake frosting and cough syrup)
• partially hydrogenated sunscreen oil (condiments for outdoor meals)
• yeast benefactors (used in cheap white bread)
• mono-sodium-regurgitate (distinctive flavoring that lasts)
• modified cardboard (crackers, chips, and pastry products)
• artificial sweat and elbow grease (for products with the word home in them)
• perma-stir suspension fluid (great for canned soup and pickles)
• esophomiloputrinate (additive that fights heartburn before it starts)
THE PRESIDENT ANSWERS A NAGGING QUESTION
What did I know, and when did I know it? That’s a very good question. If I knew then what I know now, I would have known far more than I, as commander-in-chief, could, or should, have been willing to admit. But I deny any and all allegations that I denied what I knew, even though I didn’t know it. Because now that I do know what I know, it is clear that I could not have possibly known more then, because nobody told me to know it. To those who say I should have known, I say this: it is impossible to know what one should have known until later, when he knows what he knows in light of what other people knew, but for obvious security reasons were unwilling to admit. At the same time, I know now that what I know is exactly what I need to know, and that others who think they know better don’t know what they’re talking about, for the simple reason that, to preserve the honor and security of our great nation, I am not able to divulge what I know. Those who are close to me know this, for they, too, know what I know. And let me add in all honesty that they have always known what they needed to know when they needed to know it, and that they now know and will continue to know what I know, whether I need to know it or not, thanks to some of the best darned intelligence available. To those who don’t know what to make of this knowledge, I can only say, trust me.
THAT’S ONE WAY TO LOOK AT IT
For the longest time now, I’ve been meaning to add the joke the famed director Billy Wilder told several years ago at one of the Hollywood awards shows. At long last, here it is. Well up in years, when Wilder first took the podium, he said he was reminded of an old man who went to the doctor and said, “Doctor, I’m worried. I can’t pee.” The doctor looked at the old man and said, “Tell me, how old are you?” The old man said, “Doctor, I’m ninety years old.” To this the doctor replied, “Well, then. You’ve peed enough.”
FRONT PAGE NEWS
For some odd reason, this morning’s edition of The Oregonian had an article about bumper stickers on the front page. It looked a little strange surrounded by the latest updates on the killing and corruption here and abroad, but it was a nice break from the usual lies. Except for the first one in the list, which my wife and I saw in Salem yesterday morning, here are a few bumper stickers that have been seen around Portland lately:
Jesus loves you — everyone else thinks you’re an asshole
Where are we going, and why am I in this handbasket?
249 cars are at home because I’m on the road
Hang up and drive
Hemp is green / Hemp is good / George Washington grew it / Everyone should
Support your right to arm bears
My honor student sued your bully
My golden retriever is smarter than your honor student
There is only two kinds of music — Country & Western
Everyone has the right to be stupid — but you’re abusing the privilege
Jesus is coming! Look busy!
A NICE THOUGHT
I saw this bumper sticker while mired in Friday afternoon traffic. I wasn’t able to see the driver, but he must already be a good person if he’s thinking along these lines.
Lord, help me be the kind of person my dog thinks I am.
These were told me by my son. He is a big Classic Rock fan and has been teaching himself to play a well known breed of electric guitar, the Fender Stratocaster. If he were learning the drums, no doubt these would have been guitarist jokes. If he tells me any more, I’ll add them to the list.
1. What is the best way to tell when the stage is level? It’s level when the drummer is drooling from both sides of his mouth.
2. Did you hear about the guitarist who locked his keys in his car? It took him two hours to get the drummer out.
This is another great poem, by another great unknown author. I found it in the same great book that contains Dried Apple Pies.
The optimist fell ten stories.
At each window bar
He shouted to his friends:
“All right so far.”
KEEP YOUR DISTANCE
Here are three more bumper stickers I’ve seen recently. The last one looked like the only thing that was holding the car together.
My grandmother can beat up your honor student
Only you can prevent narcissism
Caution: Driver just doesn’t give a shit anymore
A nurse is having trouble getting a stubborn patient up to use the bathroom. “I don’t need to go now,” the patient keeps insisting. “I’ll go later.” This continues all morning, during which the nurse observes her patient squirming under his sheets and wearing a frown. But each time she comes in and asks if he’s ready to go, he snaps, “I don’t need to go now, I’ll go later.” Finally, he makes a big mess in the bed. To hide it from the nurse, he gathers the sheets into a bundle and throws them out the window. At that very moment, a derelict is staggering by on the sidewalk below. The sheets land on him, and he becomes engaged in a life-or-death battle to get them off. Finally, he emerges, wild-eyed and gasping for air. A security guard comes running and says, “What’s going on here? What in the world happened to you?” And the derelict replies, “I don’t know, but I think I just beat the crap out of a ghost.”
NO WONDER HE WON THE NOBEL PRIZE
Amusing tidbit found in The Winter of Our Discontent, the last novel written by the late great John Steinbeck: Two women meet. One cries, “What have you done with your hair? It looks like a wig.“ “It is a wig,” the other replies. “Well,” answers the first, “you’d never know it.”
LIFE IN THE SLOW LANE
The following entry is from my daily online journal, One Hand Clapping. As soon as I had written it, I knew it belonged here as well. Of course, as many readers have already discovered, useless tidbits like these are scattered all over this website, under various misleading headings. That’s probably why they don’t visit anymore.
Well, it’s been one of those days. First, I saw a bumper sticker that said, “It’s called thinking. You should try it sometime.” So I did. It hurt. And then I saw another one that said, “Don’t tailgate me or I’ll flick a booger on your windshield.” The message was in small type — so small, in fact, that when I read it, the driver made good on his threat. Somehow, that hardly seemed fair. Finally, I came up beside an old VW van smothered in anti-establishment stickers from days gone by. The stickers were as faded and peeled as the driver, who was peering through small round spectacles at what looked like a prescription windshield. While waiting for several dozen heavily pierced and tattooed teens to cross the street in front of us, I gave the driver a wave. He didn’t see me. I got out and tapped on his window. It cracked. He looked at me and smiled. Then he cracked. The light changed. The van died. The driver died. The tattooed teens looked back and cheered — something one never sees. A few minutes later, I had to wait for a train. I have been waiting ever since. No telling who or what will be in the caboose. But you can bet I am going to wave. After all, one doesn’t stop being friendly just because things aren’t going right.
I’M TELLING YOU ALL I KNOW
Every once in awhile, out of a sense of honesty and fairness, I think about adding to the title on this website’s main page. So far, I’ve come up with ten possibilities. Let me know if you can think of something better. If it’s not too insulting, I might even add it to the list.
I’m Telling You All I Know . . .
and it ain’t much.
whether you like it or not.
because I’d rather talk than work.
before they lock me up for good.
because I’ve already told everyone else.
and it really embarrasses my wife and kids.
so be nice and pretend to listen.
and what I don’t know I make up.
because I hate to suffer alone.
until someone pays me to stop.
U.N. INSPECTORS HEAD FOR WASHINGTON
by Trite N. True
In the wake of its unauthorized preemptive war on Iraq that has left that country in shambles, officials in the Bush administration are reeling under accusations that the White House has been hiding what have become widely known in the world community as “Weapons of Mass Corruption.” As one inspector said on condition of anonymity while winging his way to Washington, “It doesn’t take satellite intelligence to see that they’re a bunch of liars. I expect this to take a day or two at most.”
The White House, meanwhile, has issued guns, holsters, and big shiny belt buckles to all of its staff members. In a recent news conference in which members of the media were bound and gagged, President Bush officially launched “Operation High Noon,” then fired his gun in the air and said, “Whee-ha!” One observer noted that the noise wasn’t enough to startle the vice-president, who was seated nearby, busily counting his money.
The inspections are expected to begin soon. While the number of bribes and threats made to other countries will likely affect their outcome, many polls still predict that enough Weapons of Mass Corruption will be found to justify burning down the White House, impeaching the president, and injecting all members of congress with truth serum. According to some political analysts, this will allow the nation to focus on Hillary Clinton’s new book, which should in turn speed the healing process, thereby getting the country back on track in time for the next, uh, “election.”
Trite N. True is the pen name of William Michaelian, great guy and journalist extraordinaire. It is unclear whether he/they are currently on assignment, or are being held by the government for an unspecified period of time — not that it matters, or that anyone really cares.
UPDATE ON THE WAR ON TERRORISM
Ashcroft was busy detaining people, Bush was flying over his stolen country, and Rumsfeld was sneering at the entire world when Ari Fleischer’s phone rang. Much to Ari’s surprise, it was God on the line. “I just thought you’d like to know,” God said, “that I’m pulling the plug on you guys.” But Ari only laughed. “It’s out of your hands now,” he said, and hung up the phone. A couple of minutes later, there was a knock on Ari’s door. It was God. “I thought you’d like to know,” God said, “that Mr. Ashcroft just died of a massive coronary. It happened up on the ridge.” Again, Ari laughed. “So?” he said. “He can be replaced. John Ashcrofts are a dime a dozen,” and he slammed the door in God’s face. A couple of minutes later, Ari heard a tapping on his window. It was God, peeking in. “I just thought you’d like to know,” God said through the bulletproof glass, “that your old pal Rummy died from an overdose of artificial sweetener.” Upon hearing this, Ari grinned. “How about that,” he said. “I guess what goes around, comes around,” and he subsequently pulled down the shade. A couple of minutes later, while Ari was running water for his bath, God appeared in the steam. “I just thought you’d like to know,” God said, “that the president’s plane crashed over Baghdad, and that the Iraqis cut off his head and placed it on the end of a long sharp stick.” To which Ari replied, “Great, we have another hero. I’ll notify the press,” and then turned off the water, pulled down his pants and sat on the toilet. A couple of minutes later, the light went off, leaving Ari in total darkness. “You might as well turn the light back on,” he said, addressing God. “Dick Cheney’s in charge now.” At first there was no answer. But soon a great voice said, “That’s what you think.” This was followed by a mighty flushing noise, then silence.
SOME PEOPLE ARE NEVER HAPPY
Unfortunately, our recent change in URL has upset at least one of our regular visitors. When we removed the dash between “william” and “michaelian,” I thought it would have a relatively minor impact. But judging by the reaction of a demented in-law hiding behind the name “Slim,” I couldn’t have been more wrong. See for yourself:
TAKE THE “DASH” OUT OF MICHAEL MICHALIAN!!!!!! OUTRAGEOUS!!!! That’s like taking the colon out of Secretary of State Powell, or the “Dubya” out of Dubya (not much left). Can’t things just remain the same for two seconds? How can a person find any kind of stability or peace? Why must I face change at every turn? Your URL was the rock, the foundation of my small pathetic life. A place to rest my weary head. That minuscule bit of terra firma upon which I have based a life. And now, even that is lost. I’ve had ENOUGH of not having enough!!!
JOIN ME BROTHERS AND SISTERS, we must not give in to this most egregious crime. Gather your pitch forks, scythes, and flaming torches!!! This must not stand. It WILL not stand. Together we must march and set fire to the kindling underbelly of this abominable evil.
Have a nice day,
Just for the record, our new URL is www.williammichaelian.com. Please save this in your favorites. And, as good old Slim says, have a nice day.
DRIED APPLE PIES
I found this poem in The Best Loved Poems of the American People, a book I bought at Goodwill. The volume was published in 1936. The poem’s author is listed as “Unknown” — a rotten shame, because such wisdom should either be punished or rewarded, if not both.
I loathe, abhor, detest, despise,
Abominate dried-apple pies.
I like good bread, I like good meat,
Or anything that’s fit to eat;
But of all poor grub beneath the skies,
The poorest is dried-apple pies.
Give me the toothache, or sore eyes,
But don’t give me dried-apple pies.
The farmer takes his gnarliest fruit,
’Tis wormy, bitter, and hard, to boot;
He leaves the hulls to make us cough,
And don’t take half the peeling off.
Then on a dirty cord ’tis strung
And in a garret window hung,
And there it serves as roost for flies,
Until it’s made up into pies.
Tread on my corns, or tell me lies,
But don’t pass me dried-apple pies.
THERE’S A FUNDUS AMONG US
During my wife’s eye exam, I was captivated by a colorful wall chart that featured several highly detailed views of the inside of the eye. Above the pictures, there was the name of an equipment manufacturer and the words “Innovative optics for panoramic views of the fundus.” To satisfy my curiosity and for the general benefit of humankind, I looked up the word “fundus” as soon as we got home. This is what I found: Fundus. The bottom or base of (or part opposite the aperture of) the internal surface of a hollow organ. The fundus of the stomach is the greater curvature, that of the bladder the lower back part, that of the uterus the large upper end, that of the eye the part opposite the pupil. What we are to do with this knowledge remains a mystery.
WISDOM ON WHEELS
It’s funny. You can go for months without seeing a decent bumper sticker, and then all of a sudden you see several. These were all on one car. Unfortunately, I was unable to catch a glimpse of the driver, but I’m sure he looked like Einstein or some similarly gifted lunatic — which, come to think of it, includes just about everybody, except for us normal people.
Never underestimate the power of large groups of stupid people
Partnership for an idiot-free America
Where the hell is Easy Street?
TRUTH IN ADVERTISING
Yesterday, I stopped at a red light next to a parallel parking space occupied by a car parked so poorly that its left rear fender was jutting dangerously into traffic. On the bumper was a sticker that read, “The two most common elements in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity.”
MY ILLUSTRIOUS ACTING CAREER
Scene 1 — It all began in the second grade, when I was chosen to play an ordinary tablecloth. Covered with a tablecloth, I crawled across the classroom floor on my hands and knees as I was brought into the room by an evil villain, and then switched with a magic tablecloth the villain planned to steal. After he’d made his escape, I remained motionless for several minutes, while the characters with speaking parts tried to figure out what had happened.
Scene 2 — In the third grade I was a musician, so I did no acting. I played “rhythm sticks” while everyone else sang off key.
Scene 3 — In the fourth grade, I finally landed a speaking part. I played a heartless banker who came to foreclose on a woman with medical problems. I had a hat, but I didn’t wear it, because it was my brother’s and it didn’t fit. Instead, I fingered it nervously while I delivered my message of doom to a woman played by a nice girl who lived several miles away from my house, in the country.
Scene 4 — In the fifth grade, I did no acting, because I got into trouble for staying out too many times after recess to play tetherball with my friend, Edwin.
Scene 5 — In the sixth grade, I finally came into my own as Sgt. Martin in “Christmas at Checkpoint Charlie.” I not only memorized my lines, I memorized everyone else’s, which came in handy a couple of times when someone forgot what they were supposed to say next.
Scene 6 — For some reason, I never appeared onstage again. The years flew by. I got married and decided to be a writer. I acted like a husband and like a writer, which is to say I got a job. Then I acted like a father. I also acted like a son-in-law, much to the amusement of my wife’s parents, who by then had realized I was harmless.
Scene 7 — Again, the years flew by, until finally I couldn’t tell whether I was acting or not, and neither could anyone else. At this point I declared myself a success, even though I had only twelve dollars in my bank account. So I acted broke, winning many awards for authenticity.
Scene 8 — This brings us to the present day. I still have twelve dollars, but, for the record, it isn’t the same twelve dollars I had when I first declared myself a success. Now I really am a success. I say this because when I go out in public, no one calls the police — proof, once again, of the fine actor I have become. The only question now is, what do I do for an encore?
A WRITER’S CHRISTMAS, PART 2
My thanks to the many visitors who responded to my Christmas list. (I’ll get even later.) Here is a breakdown of the results:
a million dollars:
keys to your secluded cabin in the mountains:
one e-mailed photo of an outhouse
a new computer:
one e-mailed photo of an old 286 with a screenless monitor
a lifetime supply of paper:
a gift certificate for one roll of toilet paper
37 e-mailed sympathy cards addressed to my wife
FROM THE MAILBAG
I always enjoy hearing from visitors to the website. Unfortunately, they never quite say exactly what I want them to, such as, “You are the greatest writer of all time,” or, “I can’t wait until your novel comes out because I’m going to buy 100 copies and tell all of my friends to do the same.” Still, I do receive some nice letters. Here are excerpts from just a few of my favorites:
“You have one of the best author websites I have seen. Too bad it doesn’t belong to someone I like.”
“Not only do I like your section of Useless Information, I have found your entire site to be useless as well. Keep up the good work.”
“Reading your stories helped me decide not to be a writer.”
“On your way home, pick up a loaf of bread and a gallon of milk.”
(I think I must have gotten this one by mistake.)
“I really enjoy your writing. I marvel at your ability to make something out of nothing, and then turn it into nothing again.” (Glad to know my efforts aren’t wasted.)
“Love your recipe section. Do you really eat that stuff?”
“I’m really proud of you, but you need a proofreader.” (Thanks, Mom.)
And thanks, everybody, for writing. Keep those e-mails coming.
A WRITER’S CHRISTMAS
Okay, okay, if you insist on giving me a present, at least make it something practical, something I can use, such as the following:
a million dollars
keys to your secluded cabin in the mountains
a new computer
a lifetime supply of paper
If you give me the first item, you can ignore the rest of the list. If you give me the second item, I suggest throwing in the third. If you give me the third item, I would appreciate it if you also give me the fourth. If you give me the fourth item, I will definitely need the fifth. If you give me the fifth item, thanks, but I really don’t deserve it.
Now, to express my gratitude, here is something for you:
If you give me the first item, I promise to never write again. If you give me the second item, you are welcome to sleep in my backyard on the night of your choice in the year 2093. If you give me the third item, I will load your inbox with spam. If you give me the fourth item, I will write a story using your name for the main character. If you give me the fifth item, I will write a story using your pet’s name as the main character, but the character will have your personality traits.
Or, we can do what everyone else does and exchange the previous year’s fruit cakes. But if we do that, then I have one more request: new dentures. Ho-ho-ho. . . .
SEX AND VIOLENCE, BUT NO CIGAR
I see where the anti-smoking folks are up in arms because Agent 007 fires up a cigar in the latest James Bond movie. Interesting. Apparently it’s okay if he blows up people and falls in bed with every woman he meets, but when it come to smoking, ah-ah-ah, that’s a big no-no. Of course, this is only the beginning. Next they’ll want to sanitize Bond altogether. Then he can look us in the eye and say the following:
Bond. Formerly fun Bond.
Bond. Generic Bond.
Bond. Monogamous Bond.
Bond. Abstinent Bond.
Bond. Caring, nurturing Bond.
Bond. Corporate Bond.
Bond. Politically correct Bond.
Bond. Bland Bond.
Bond. Not really Bond.
GROCERY SHOPPERS UNITE!
Tired of the same grocery store employees asking you the same obnoxious questions and making the same asinine remarks week after week? Now you can fight back with the following responses.
Employee: “Sorry, this lane is closed.”
You: “Don’t worry, I promise not to wake you.”
Employee: “Paper or plastic?”
Employee: “Did you find what you were looking for?”
You: “No, but I found all this other stuff.”
Employee: “Do you have a membership card?”
You: “No, I just got out of prison.”
Employee: “Would you like to donate a dollar to the (blank) fund?”
You: “Are you kidding? At these prices, I won’t have a dollar left.”
Employee: “Have any plans this weekend?”
You: “Yes, and they don’t include you.”
Employee: “What do you do with these?”
You: “They’re for poisoning the neighbors.”
Employee: “I have a terrible cold.”
You: “Really? I won’t even tell you what I have.”
Employee: “Spill on check stand three.”
You: “That’s not all it’s on.”
Employee: “You saved eighteen dollars and twelve cents.”
You: “I did? Then why is my wallet empty?”
Employee: “Have a good one.”
You: “I’ll do my best. What do they look like, exactly?”
A FEW PRESIDENTIAL HEADLINES WE’D LIKE TO SEE
One of the good things about living in the United States is that, for the time being, at least, most of its citizens are free to say what they want. For instance, if someone wants to criticize the president (whether he was actually elected or not is beside the point), he doesn’t have to ask anyone’s permission, he can just stand up and say, “Hello, I think the president is an idiot.” Of course, no good American would do this, because good Americans — as we are frequently told by a free and independent corporate-owned press completely untainted by special interests — all think the president is wonderful. That’s why I was so mad the other day when I saw a bumper sticker that said “Re-elect Gore in 2004.” In fact, if I wasn’t so busy thinking up the following headlines, I would have flagged down the driver and given him a piece of my mind, even though I obviously can’t afford it.
Bush studies history of Middle East
Commander-in-Chief will join infantry in combat
George W. granted honorary lumberjack degree
President’s cranium declared wilderness area
Thrifty prez shops at Wal-Mart
Bush advocates sale of remaining fresh air
Persistent president passes pretzel
I’M SO CONFUSED
If the past is the past, why is the present tense? And if the future never comes, how does the past know when to stop being the present? It is said that we should learn from history, or the past will repeat itself. But if the past is the past, how can it once again become the present? In the same way, we are told to look to the future, which hasn’t happened. This means making plans on the basis of something that doesn’t exist. No wonder we’re in so much trouble — especially since most of us live in the past, rather than the present, despite the fact that the present is the only time, place, or state in which it is possible to live — or die. And yet, those who have died are said to have lived in the past, while those who are alive are said to live in the present. But what of those not yet born? When will they live? They can’t live in the future, because the future doesn’t exist. They can’t live in the past, because the past has already happened. And they can’t live in the present, because they haven’t been born. Does this mean they should be worried? No, not at all. Things are such a mess already, whether they are born or not hardly even matters — unless you happen to be one of them, which is impossible, because, as everyone knows, unborn people don’t have the same rights as people who are born. On the other hand, if you are reborn, which is an extremely difficult thing to prove, it might be said that you were born in the past, that you live in the present, and that you died in the past. In other words, you are part dead and part alive. Beyond this, I refuse to pursue the matter any further.
PARDON ME, I’M ONLY A CUSTOMER HERE
Last night my wife and I decided to rent a video. This is something we don’t do very often, because almost every time we rent a video, the dippy employees at our neighborhood major chain video store insist that our previous rental was never returned. “You owe us $5.75,” the clerk says when he brings up our name on the computer. “We what?” my wife says. “Why?” “For not returning The Maltese Falcon.” “Not again,” my wife says. “We returned The Maltese Falcon over six weeks ago.” To which the clerk always replies, “Not according to our computer.” When the clerk finally checks and sees that The Maltese Falcon has been rented eighteen times since we had it, he relents. “I’ll remove the charge,” he says. Anyway. Last night we were in the mood for the Beatles, so we picked A Hard Days Night and Help! After waiting fifteen minutes in line, all the while gagging on artificially buttered popcorn fumes, our turn came at the counter. “You owe $5.75,” the clerk said. “You didn’t return The Big Sleep and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.” After a brief but heated argument, he removed the charges. “What is it we have to do?” my wife said to the clerk, among other colorful things. “I handed those movies to one of your employees myself.” The clerk thought about this. “Better have him sign for it next time,” he said. “That way you’ll have proof.” The amazing part was, he said this with a straight face. When we were outside, I told my wife I had a better idea. “This time,” I said, “we really will keep the movies. That way, they’ll be happy, and we can watch the Beatles whenever we want.” And that’s just what we plan to do — that, and find another video store.
GOOD NEWS FOR AMERICA’S FORESTS
August 22, 2002 — Obviously amused by people’s need to “express theirselves” during his visit to Oregon today, President Bush announced his new plan for managing America’s forests. Speaking through an English interpreter, he pointed out that thinning the trees until they are gone would not only remove the threat of wildfires, but keep democracy safe by freeing up firefighters to fight against terrorism. He also stated that forest preservation advocates were hampering his efforts to sytematically rape the planet, thereby making an invasion of Iraq inevitable. “Saddam has to go,” he said, “and so do the rest of you. That’s the bottom line.” When asked who would be left to pay taxes, he uttered an enigmatic reply: “What’s good for Nike is also good for America.” Surrounded by an entourage of doting politicians, he then pointed at a passing cloud and said, “Ha! So much for your global warming.” After that, everyone went home. And cried.
CUP OF COFFEE, PIECE OF PIE
What a life. My Uncle Sarkis, he comes from Armenia, but he doesn’t speak English. In Armenian, he tells me, “Every day I go hungry.” “But Sarkis,” I say, “Why are you going hungry? This is America. There is lots of food in America.” And Sarkis says, “Because I don’t know English, if I go to a restaurant they will think I’m dumb.” So I tell Sarkis that it’s no problem, the next time he’s hungry, just go into a restaurant and say, “Cup of coffee, piece of pie.” Then I teach him how to say it, we practice a little while, and pretty soon he sounds just like an American. “Cup of coffee, piece of pie,” he says proudly. “Okay,” I tell him. “Now you’re ready. Tomorrow when you’re on your lunch break, find a restaurant and tell the waitress, cup of coffee, piece of pie.” So, he goes. Every day Uncle Sarkis does exactly as I tell him, and every day a nice waitress brings him coffee and pie. Pretty soon, though, he tells me, “You know, I’m tired of eating the same thing every day, coffee and pie.” And I say, “No problem, Sarkis. Tomorrow, when you’re on your lunch break, tell the waitress, ham sandwich, cup of coffee.” “Ham sandwich, cup of coffee,” Sarkis says over and over, practicing. Then he goes. The next day, after work, Uncle Sarkis comes to my house with a big scowl on his face. “Bah,” he says to me in Armenian, “it didn’t work. I did what you told me, I said ham sandwich, cup of coffee, but I still had pie.” “That’s impossible,” I said. And Sarkis said, “No, it’s true. When I told the girl ham sandwich, cup of coffee, she smiled at me and said, will that be on wheat, white, rye, or pumpernickel? Right away, I got confused, so I said the only thing I know, cup of coffee, piece of pie.” “Ah, Sarkis,” I told my uncle, “listen. You are lucky. At least you get pie. When I say cup of coffee, piece of pie to my wife, she says to me, you want pie, go to a restaurant.” And Sarkis smiles at me — first, because I try to make him feel better, and second, because he knows that I am crazy.
BILL’S BUSINESS UPDATE
Doctors say ethics in Bush’s colon are benign
Waving at reporters in his hospital gown, President Bush cracked a smile of relief today after learning the ethics that had been bothering him recently were benign. Urging CEOs over the age of 50 to have their colons examined, he said, “It ain’t exactly comfortable, but it’s worth it to have peace of mind.” When asked what he would have done if the ethics had posed a serious risk to his health, the president quipped, “Why, we woulda smoked ’em outta their hole.”
Martha Stewart will share recipe for cooking books
Building on her recent Wall Street success, Martha Stewart now plans a series of corporate accounting seminars for much-maligned CEOs and their accounting firms. To be conducted in prisons and golf clubs around the country, the seminars will focus on what Stewart calls a “newer, prettier math.” She will also share some of her personal fact-juggling techniques, and discuss the many uses for shredded paper. A special segment on the important role memory loss plays in the accounting field will round out the presentation. While on the road, America’s perfect hostess says she will also be signing copies of her popular new book, Making Stress Work for You, a guide that teaches people how to cope with the pressures of today’s business world.
Customers drained by power bills
Power companies are alarmed by a drastic reduction in the use of electricity, as their customers have literally been bled dry by higher and higher rates. To combat the decline in revenue, several companies have started charging their customers a new “non-use fee,” which is calculated at twice the rate of the customer’s prior annual usage times a “developmental factor of three.” Dave Watts, spokesman for Global Light, said the new fee is “in line with Dick Cheney’s License for Corporate Gouging” (LCG), which the vice-president signed into effect during President Bush’s colon exam. The LCG also gives power companies wide latitude in the way they collect on their customers’ delinquent accounts. As Watts put it, “Food is optional, our bottom line is not.”
IT RUNS IN THE FAMILY
I heard from my cousin in New Jersey recently, who wrote to congratulate me on winning the coveted Useless Website Award. Much to my disappointment, he disagreed on the site being useless. He said, “For starters, it keeps you from going out of the house. And if you did get loose, then it would be useful for the inevitable psychiatric examination.” He went on to say the staff in his office had accused him of sending “crazy” e-mails, laced with digressions and assorted nonsense. But instead of accepting responsibility for his actions, he pointed the finger at me. “Now I can blame my loose screws on my genetic pool,” he said. “See, look at my cousin’s website. Do I present myself with awards and then write to newspapers about them?” Poor kid, it’s pretty obvious he has problems. And what’s this nonsense about his genetic pool? Why, just the other day, I was talking with our grandmother, and — no, wait a minute. Grandma’s dead. Anyway, I haven’t seen my cousin in a number of years. It could be his attacks are coming more frequently now. On the bright side, he did admit he’s been signing my name to some wacky editorials he’s been sending around the country. This explains the complaints that have been filed against me lately — some of them, anyway.
Oh, Ann, how could you leave me like this? I’m having an affair with my daughter’s husband and I feel so cheap. “Tony” insists that he loves me, and I believe him. The trouble is, he refuses to divorce “Joy” and marry me unless I first tell her everything. Really, Ann, I don’t think this is my place. As it is, I already have to tell my husband, “Jerry,” who will be crushed to learn I’m leaving him for someone forty years younger. And since Jerry is also Tony’s father, this will be a major blow to his self esteem. Tony says he understands, but secretly I wonder if he isn’t trying to get back at his father for something and using me to do it. We enjoy candlelight dinners together and, just between you and me, Ann, Tony is great in bed. But at times he seems distant, and once he was downright abusive. He apologized after hitting me, and said he was worried about something at work. Ann, am I wrong to forgive him, or do you think Tony’s behavior is the sign of a deeper problem, a problem he and I might not be able to handle?
Worried in Wisconsin
As far as I’m concerned, if you’re making mistakes like this at your age, you deserve the consequences. Quite frankly, you and your “family” sound like idiots. You might try group counseling, but I doubt it would do any good. Anyway, it would cost you a fortune. A quicker solution would be to kill your boyfriend, your daughter, and your husband, and then kill yourself.
Yours very sincerely, Ann
TOWARD AN EXPRESSIONLESS SOCIETY
June 24, 2002 — I read with interest in this morning’s paper that “Botox parties” are the latest rage in stylish circles. While people sip drinks and nibble on hors d’oeuvres, a doctor administers muscle-paralyzing shots of poison to “patients” in the next room. The goal? Getting rid of crow’s feet, wrinkles, and frown lines. The result? Thinner wallets, unknown side effects, and a legion of generic smiley faces. I can see the official Botox brochure now:
Rid Yourself Of Wrinkles With Botox
Mothers Look Like Daughters!
Fathers Look Like Sons!
Shine At Your Own Funeral!
Yes, thanks to Botox and modern medicine, it is truly a great time to be alive — or dead. See you at the next party.
YOUR OPINION COUNTS
Lately, I’ve noticed that a lot of websites offer visitors a chance to rate their pages. Not to be outdone, we’ve come up with BILL’S BUTTON BAR! BILL’S BUTTON BAR! isn’t much of a button bar, because it doesn’t work. But it does provide people with an opportunity to anonymously voice their opinion. For instance, to rate the contents of this page, simply click on one of the BILL’S BUTTON BAR! options below.
There, now. Don’t you feel better?
AND NOW, FOR A FEW MORE HEADLINES TO BRIGHTEN YOUR DAY . . .
Kobe Bryant turns into Big Mac
Bush urges drilling in White House lawn
FBI finds everyone guilty
Shaquille O’Neal convicted of felony basketball
Bob Dylan signs aftershave endorsement
Nike shoe prices equal to 1962 Chevrolet Impala
Pavarotti eats two tenors
United States acquired by Wal-Mart
SPRINGTIME IN THE CITY
Last Sunday morning, while a friend and I were having coffee at a sidewalk table in downtown Salem, I was attacked by tiny spiders. My friend said they were ants, but he was wrong. They weren’t the right color, and they had too many legs. Spiders landed in my coffee and on my nose. Spiders were crawling through the hair on my arms and over the rims of my sunglasses. I said, “This isn’t very relaxing.” My friend laughed. For some reason, the spiders were leaving him alone. He settled into his chair. I was on the edge of mine. Behind me, a dog started howling. A young lady had brought him along for coffee and he was excited to be out. A guy pulled up to the curb in a big van and started unloading music equipment. “I need to get through here,” he said, as he knocked over an unoccupied chair between me and the dog with a guitar case. “Do you mind?” “Of course not,” I said. I stood up and moved my chair closer to my friend’s. The spiders followed me. “What’s going on?” I said. “Why are these things happening?” My friend smiled. “You’re covered with ants,” he said. “I wonder where they’re coming from.” “They’re not ants,” I said, “they’re spiders, and my cup is full of them. I can’t drink this. I have a cup of spiders.” My friend told me I should relax and enjoy the sunshine while he finished his coffee. The guy in the van wrestled an entire drum set onto the sidewalk. The dog yelled. I strained spiders out of my coffee with my mustache and picked them out of the hair on my arms. My friend praised the sunshine. I prayed for a cleansing rain. It was a pleasant time. You should’ve been there.
DON’T WORRY, JUST GIVE US YOUR MONEY
Ah, yes. American Business Speak. Where would we be without it? So cold, so precise, so meaningless. In a public relations newsletter I received in the mail, I learned that a new employee of XYZ Company is “passionate about developing and maintaining partnerships with customers that are win-wins.” (Plain English Version: “We hired an irritating new guy to tell lies on the phone. We’ll see how long he lasts.”) Another recent hire is “highly skilled at identifying customer service improvements and implementing initiatives to streamline and add value to a customer’s relationship with a business.” (Plain English Version: “Miss Lipgloss is an expert at finding ways to give customers less while charging them more and making them feel good about it.”)
HEADLINES WE’D LIKE TO SEE
Professional athletes struggle to make living
President reads book
World oil supply finally gone
Ann Landers seeks counseling
Pope eats fish sticks
Ringo Starr appointed to cabinet
New cell phone features shaving attachment
Cher lands lead role in Madama Butterfly
Charlton Heston intervenes in Mideast conflict
Bio-engineered corn found in pharoah’s tomb
President writes own speech
Edgar Allan Poe buried alive, research shows
Caps worn backward sign of advanced intellect, expert says
Martha Stewart denies pot habit
Paul is dead
Well, it finally happened. My shoes really gave out. I don’t know why I always wait so long. What is this attachment I feel toward my shoes? Why do I insist on wearing a pair until they disintegrate and I am crippled? This time, the family had to carry me into the shoe store on a stretcher. It was quite embarrassing, being fitted while lying flat on my back. A crowd gathered on the sidewalk outside the store window. “What are they doing to him?” I heard someone say. “Why is he yelling like that?” Sensing an opportunity, I instructed one of my sons to go out and take up a collection. “What’ll I tell ’em this time?” he said. “Medical bills,” I said. “Evil, heartless employer. Legal expenses.” I patted him on the hand. “The works,” I said. “And make it quick. These shoes are expensive. I’m going to be a little short.” A few minutes later, my son returned with a fistful of cash. “That was easy,” he said. “Okay,” I said, “Good. Give it to me.” My son handed me the money. Doing my best to look emotionally destroyed, I slipped him a fiver and waved at the crowd. When I tried to pay for the shoes, the store manager himself intervened. “No charge,” he said, wiping his eyes. “I’m glad we could help.” The crowd roared. My family carried me out into the street and back to the car. They opened the trunk, tilted the stretcher, and dumped me in. It was a rough ride, but by the time we got home I already felt ten years younger. In a few days, I hope to be walking again.
HAVE YOU HUGGED YOUR BURGER TODAY?
I see in the news that, due to the current recession and other “factors,” the State of Oregon is scraping the bottom of the fiscal barrel and soon won’t have enough money to pay its bills. As always, there is a great deal of talk about adding even more tax to alcohol and cigarettes in order to bring in revenue. What would really be funny is if everyone in Oregon stopped smoking and drinking. Then what would the government do? It seems to me that smokers and drinkers deserve some sort of credit on their tax returns as it is. My suggestion is to tax something else for a change. Why not levy a tax on hamburgers, for instance? Considering our appetite for fast food, a nickel or two per burger would generate a surplus for Oregon in no time. Instead of calling it a sin tax, we could call it a McTax — or, even better, a happy tax. In all fairness, of course, we would also have to tax tacos, burritos, and the like. This could be called a taco tax, or a chalupa tax. What do you think?
MAKE MINE BRONZE
While I was out and about the other day, I saw a sign in a car window that said “Baby Shoe Bronzing,” followed by a phone number. This was a new one on me. Somehow, a bronzed baby shoe didn’t sound very comfortable. A baby’s foot is a sweet and tender little thing. Then it dawned on me. The shoe-bronzing service was hoping to reach people whose children are grown, and who might want to use their kids’ cute, elfin footwear as paperweights — assuming, of course, that they’d saved them. I knew we hadn’t. Our kids’ shoes had been dipped in enough other things that keeping them and adding a layer of bronze would have been, shall we say, excessive. Be that as it may, I have nothing against the idea of saving baby shoes, or against bronzing them. In fact, why stop there? Bronzed baby teeth would make a nice necklace or bracelet. A bronzed diaper, while not as compact, would also bring back memories. Or why not bronze the babies themselves? Imagine the pleased voices of your friends and neighbors when they say, “What lovely children you have. Are they always this quiet?”
WHAT’S IN A NAME?
The other day, while listening to a Bluegrass program on the radio, I was inspired by the names of three Northwest taverns mentioned by the announcer when he was talking about upcoming events. According to his notes, bands were scheduled to appear at Bombs Away, The Bitter End, and The Snake and Weasel — all great names for drinking establishments. This got me to wondering: if I were to open my own tavern, what would I call it? It was a fairly important question, so I spent several minutes mulling over the possibilities. The first name I came up with was the Writer’s Block. This seemed like a good idea, because I figured I could make a lot of money catering to writers who have run out of things to say and therefore have time on their hands. Then I came up with the Rejection Slip. Meet me at the Rejection Slip. That didn’t sound bad, either. The tavern walls could be covered with rejection slips donated by writers who have run out of space to file them at home. Instead of karaoke, customers could take turns reading their favorite rejections. Those who are particularly bitter could even practice voodoo on little editor dolls. Then it occurred to me that I could charge money and furnish the editor dolls myself. Heck, I’ve got tons of them in the closet. Anyway. Before I was able to decide between the Writer’s Block and the Rejection slip, I came up with an even better name. Why not call it the Bad Review? He remembered the day they’d met. She was serving drinks at the Bad Review. In a sad voice, she said, “What’ll it be?” and he said, “Anything that will make the world slow down long enough for me to get off,” and she said, “That’ll be three-fifty.” It was love, all right. Or maybe it was just the Bad Review — the dismal lighting, the foul air, the watered-down drinks, the hopeless feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you know what you know, but it just isn’t good enough anymore. . .
HELLO? HELLO? ANYBODY THERE?
I am greatly amused by the growing number of retail businesses that require their clerks to wear telephone headsets. The other day, for instance, my wife and I visited a popular (i.e., well advertised) clothing store manned by wired twenty-something drones, who were wandering the premises mumbling and staring off into space. I wonder — is this a new form of corporate control, or do the outfits who manufacture these contraptions simply have a good sales force? Smaller stores, also, have fallen prey. In establishments no bigger than a rumpus room, clerks with plastic protrusions gather around a single cash register, pretending to ignore the silliness of the situation. My big fear, though, is that someday we’ll all be required to wear headsets. This would be terrible. I, for one, have enough trouble with the voices in my head already. The scenario isn’t hard to imagine: the government decides, for reasons of national security, that all of our conversations must be monitored. And, being the patriotic people we are, we’ll go right along with the idea. Anything for the cause, right? Those refusing to wear their headsets will be made to stand trial before the House Committee on Irregular Behavior. Once they are found guilty, they will have headsets surgically installed, after which they will be turned over to the House Brainwashing Committee, which will be in charge of explaining the importance of right thinking and how it’s for the common good. Ah, yes. I can see it now. With our little headsets, life will be wonderful.
CLASSIC BUMPER STICKER
“You think your life is tough? I’m married to a Basque.” I saw this one recently in a grocery store parking lot. My wife is Basque. Her parents were born on the French side of the Pyrenees. They were wonderful people. A little stubborn, to be sure, a little hard-headed, but this only added to their charm. When I told Denise about the bumper sticker, she laughed and said she’d like one of her own, but that it should read: “You think your life is tough? I’m married to a Michaelian.” (I hate it when she’s right.)
SORRY TO OFFEND YOU
Pretty soon, we’ll all be standing outside. Only those who speak perfectly, dress perfectly, smell perfectly, eat perfectly, work perfectly, use the restroom perfectly, and think perfectly will be permitted in public buildings. Everyone else will be crowded into doorways, cussing, stinking, complaining, and chewing with their mouths open. Inside, God (no one else will be left) will say, “It’s so hard to find good help these days.” Someday, though, He will light a cigarette, pour Himself a drink, and join the fun. And then we’ll all be free.
BUSINESS AS USUAL
For several days following the September 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center, this message appeared on a sign at a local tavern:
God Bless America
Trivia on Tuesday
I thought that would be a hard act to follow, until the management changed the sign to read:
Daytime Dishwasher Needed
LIFE IS LIKE THAT
Yesterday morning, I journeyed to downtown Salem in order to conduct some business of my own. On my way home, the light turned yellow where Liberty Street crosses Ferry. I could have made it through the intersection and still been within the law, but, being the good citizen I am, I pulled to a stop. As if on cue, a pigeon swooped by and decorated my windshield.
This isn’t the first time this has happened. Once, when I was twelve, I was playing croquet in our backyard when a blackbird flew out of our walnut tree and splattered my head and shoulders. I don’t know. Maybe that’s how the shampoo got its name.
A year or so later, I was walking across the school football field when I met a “friend” of mine and one of his buddies. After talking a minute, my friend’s buddy quietly got down on his hands and knees behind me, and then my friend pushed me backwards and I fell over him.
A few years later, my friend ended up in prison. When he was released, he got a job in a store that will remain nameless. When I went in and happened to see him, he smiled and greeted me. I returned his greeting. After that, we stood there, looking at each other. Each of us knew what the other knew, but the subject matter wasn’t the kind you bring up.
“Good luck,” I said, after I’d paid him and he’d put my purchase into a bag.
“See you later,” he answered.
And we did, many times.
SHUFFLING ALONG Since moving to Oregon in 1987, I have had four pairs of shoes. The first pair lasted a year. The second lasted three years. The third I wore for six years. My current pair is shot, and they make me limp. In fact, at this rate, they might need to be replaced in another year or two. The good news is, I still have my old shoes. So, if I need to work outside, which happens once or twice a year, there is always a pair I can slip on. But I don’t, because they’re still too good for that. That being the case, I go barefoot. Not long ago, I got mixed up and attended a wedding without shoes on. Fortunately, my pants are too long, so no one noticed. Which reminds me. I have only one pair of pants. . . .
Winner of the prestigious
Useless Website Award
Given for poor judgment,
lack of content, and redundancy
Also by William Michaelian
52 pages. Paper.
Another Song I Know
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