Aimless Wanderings

I have this problem that I can't seem to get rid of--I have a bizarre sense of humor that dogs me everywhere I go. It followed me here, too, I'm afraid. Enjoy.

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Aimless Wanderings

Observations on a Totally Mad World
from the Guy Who Leads The Pack.
-By-

Steven G. O’Dell

© 2007

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Table of Contents (You are Here) P.2

Warning P. 3

Home Ground (Pleasantly Bizarre) P. 4

The Journey Begins P. 6

Not On Solid Ground P. 12

Outlandish Reasoning P. 19

Uncharted Territory P. 23

Aimless Wanderings P. 29

Full Circuit (Home and Gone Again) P. 46

Astounding Return P. 53

Thanks (And an amazing freebie) P. 54

WARNING!

The contents of this book grow progressively more bizarre as they go on. You could start laughing at any time.

Seriously.

CH.1 Home Ground

Home Ground

Do you like to see the humor in life? Even if it gets a bit bizarre at times? Good. Let’s take a walk together, shall we? We can talk about many things along the way.

You may have grown up like I did, with a Dad and Mom and perhaps brothers and sisters in a nice little house in a middle class neighborhood. Or you could have been some rich snob that I never met. The choice is yours.

We were not wealthy, but as kids we never knew that. Education was important to us. Watching nature shows, reading books, studying encyclopedias, dictionaries and maps was common in our household. Because of this, I tend to know of the existence of certain countries that used to be popular to teach about in school. Our toys were often sticks, stones and piles of dirt or modeling clay on the kitchen table (the sticks, stones and piles of dirt weren’t actually on the kitchen table—that idea wasn’t conceived until the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind). There was always some new bug to study, patterns in the clouds or a new street to investigate while bike riding. We made our own fun—no MTV, no MP3 players or cell phones, game consoles or Internet.

Nor did we think we were poor. Dad and Mom decided they could give us things or they could give us experiences, but not both. They chose experiences. Wise choice. Each new school year’s Show-and-Tell would allow the O’Dell kids to share all the amazing travels that they had participated in over the summer. These were quite often things the other children never got to enjoy, except vicariously through us. I never knew how fortunate we were at the time. I do now.

To date, I have been in about 45 states and 2 foreign countries—one to the north and one to the south. There is some quite beautiful and amazing landscape out there. And on these trips we goofed off and joked with one another (between the ‘When are we gonna get there’s’ and the ‘I have to pees’).

My parents are some of the best in the world. We never doubted for an instant that we were loved. And the toughest reprimands were never the ones where they dragged out the willow switch and applied it to our hides. (I do remember a few of those, though, when I tried to outrun my Mom in a circle while she held my arm with one hand and used the switch with the other—like some deranged amusement park ride). The most effective and torturous ones were the “talking to”. It never failed to elicit tears of agony when I heard the words, “I’m very disappointed in you.” It wasn’t until much later that I learned to be disappointed in me at times, too. Thanks, Mom. No…really. I learned a lot.

Home life would get rather bizarre at times, though. We never saw that so clearly as through the eyes of others who might come into our home to visit. You see, in my family we teased—a lot! You not only had to be able to take it, but you were expected to dish it out, too. Not unkind prodding and poking. Just good-natured ribbings. The thing is that we became so good at it (even my sister) that we did it with straight faces and others found it hard to distinguish it from genuine upset with one another. We were actually surprised once when a rather timid and innocent friend (what attracted him to our family is still a mystery) was about to excuse himself from our home because he thought we were having a ‘family disagreement.’ The truth is that were having no such thing. I guess that incident opened my eyes to the peculiarities of different families.

You actually develop your own little world within a family, different from those of other families, although some similarities and commonalities will overlap, of course. This same friend once surprised us all when at a dinner with our family he asked if someone would “please pass the condoms.” He meant condiments. The difference was gently explained to him and he did live it down eventually. We knew not to torture unnecessarily. (Is there ever ‘necessary torturing?’) In our family, it was like a self-imposed restraining order, though. I seem to recall that one or two of us actually broke out in a cold sweat. We weren’t used to that sort of constraint in our family.

The same principle of unique individual family environment held true when I married and had a family of my own. My wife, Linda, and I not only incorporated the unusual behaviors of our own upbringings, but also forged ahead with new and more wonderful strange-ness and bizarre-ities (if that is a word—or even if it isn’t, actually). You may see some of yourself in this journey through the mind of this slightly warped modern man (the degree of which might be determined by which of my associates you may be speaking with at the time, although the basic fact itself is never questioned). If you do, then take comfort in the knowledge that you are not alone and that we may one day become the best of friends and share the same ward in our treatments and recoveries. Until then, enjoy.

CH.2 The Journey Begins

The Journey Begins

Well, since I mentioned ‘home ground’ a moment ago, that is as good a place to start as any. From there we will proceed into the more dangerous territories of the human mind. Well, at least the dangerous territory of my human mind. Okay—of my mind. Satisfied?

I took things apart as a child, just to see how they worked. Once satisfied, I sometimes put them back together. I have always been an inquisitive person and therefore seem to ask the questions that others never think to ask. Or maybe they think to, but are afraid to ask. Maybe they are just too wise. Never mind. Those questions earn me accolades at times. At other times they gets me nothing but railings and abuse. I prefer the accolades, personally. They hurt less.

Have you ever just wondered why we do what we do and what ‘human nature’ is all about? I do. A lot. Life is full to the brim with funny things when you pay close attention. Let me give you a few examples.

As a child, we had a TV in our house that had the funny habit every once in a while of suddenly getting very loud when no one was touching it. We never knew why. Bad connection in the circuitry, dust in the knob, I guess. The volume would just suddenly jump—and so would we. One time there was a commercial for…whatever it was…and there was a woman entering a room, speaking a few words to the mother of a sleeping child, who responds in a voice barely above a whisper, “Quiet. You’ll wake the baby!” She says this just before she leads the other woman into the next room where they can talk without disturbing the child. Well, that day our TV went into one of its self-tuning fits and it came out something like this:

“Quiet. You’ll wake the baby!” (The first sentence was whispered and the last came out in a roar.)

I was laughing out loud even as I jumped up to turn the sound down to a reasonable level. The humor in that was unmistakable to anyone. I think even Helen Keller would have laughed at that one. Speaking of which—do you know what her mother used to tell her constantly as a child? “Don’t speak with your hands full!” Yes, you’re right. That was terrible. But it was also funny. Go on, admit it.

My younger sister, Cathy, would at times add to the humor of television, as well. As a child, she had every commercial in the world memorized and would recite them verbatim as they played out on the air. She and I even got hold of a tape recorder and made our own commercials and stories. But what I remember fondly was the special dance that she made up to go with a certain show—The Everglades. (If that doesn’t date me, nothing will.) Her dance resembled a spastic attempting to elude an alligator while enclosed in bubble wrap from the knees up. (You had to be there—which would make you either very old or dead by now.) Anyway, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Unless, of course, she should read this and then I will vehemently deny any knowledge of such a thing and will blame it on the ghostwriter. (“I love you, Cathy.”)

My lovely wife, Linda, has an amazing and entertaining talent, saying the wrong thing at the right time. She reacts to situations by subconsciously incorporating details of that situation itself into her own responses. I’m still trying to find a label for this talent (Malapropisms? PUNctuation? Subliminal Incorporation Syndrome?), but lest I digress…. when one morning I awoke with my equilibrium behaving very badly, I noted aloud that I was ‘bouncing off the walls like a drunk man.’ Her response?

“I’m inclined to agree.”

Inclined! That was very funny to me. She hadn’t even recognized that she had done it. I thought it was marvelous and was surprised I had to point it out to her. It was amazing to me that she hadn’t done it intentionally.

Another time the boys and I were talking about one of those subjects that every real, red-blooded male is bound to discuss at least one time in his life—especially if he has boys—projectile vomiting. Well, Linda comes storming into the room, hands on her hips and indignantly blurts out, “Who brought that up?” She was genuinely perplexed with the corresponding peals of laughter so intense that we were crying for mercy, pounding the floor and gasping for breath. Of course, her perplexity made it all the more hilarious and simply extended our reaction and her perplexity. It also delayed considerably any opportunity to explain to her just why we were laughing so desperately.

I don’t know why it is that boys (of all ages, unfortunately) talk about some of the things that they do, but it is still a fact of life that they will. And often it is subject matter that the fairer sex finds not in the least humorous (or so they tell the men). So, when the boys were one day discussing seriously all the possible labels and terminologies for manure (I don’t recall whether or not I was a guilty party on this occasion but, if I was there, I most likely was), my lovely and proper wife came into the room and pronounced the edict that we were to “Just drop it!” It takes no imagination to determine that the response was identical to the previous one. Trumped again by Mom.

Also, any conversation about passing gas is expected to be met with an appropriate response from her, such as, “Just let it go, will you?” By the way, as a side note, this also leads me to wonder why, when I need to pass gas, that I am invariably in an environment with remarkably well-defined acoustic resonance properties and seated on a metal chair. It defies the odds. Can someone please explain that one to me? My wife says it isn’t so. She claims that I can do this on cue and that a simple glass of water would trigger the process. That’s not funny.

One of our personal family favorites is the time we were out camping and having a late night family discussion on music. We were gathered around the car, leaning on it in the light of the campfire. The subject turned to music and Linda mentioned that she really liked the music of John Denver. The kids rolled their eyes. Well, after she rolled them right back, she declared that he had some really great music, but with his personal problems he had just gone a bit off the ‘deep end.’ (If you don’t understand this one, read it aloud to several people and ask the ones that are laughing what it means). I know we woke everyone in the campground that night. There was no avoiding it. It was inevitable. And all the time she was shushing us, making it highly unlikely that we were going to regain any semblance of control during the next five minutes—a prophecy that was completely fulfilled, I might add.

On another occasion, to humor his younger brother, my eldest son, Adriel, looked into a pot of Chili that my wife was cooking and commented that it looked like something he had just left in the toilet. Now, I agree that this wasn’t a particularly kind statement, nor did it show any degree of tact or diplomacy (what kid does?), but my wife, in spite of being offended, somehow managed to turn it around and make it into an admirable thing of beauty in the field of humor. With justifiable indignance, she responded, “If you don’t like it, you don’t have to eat the crap!” Now, you don’t say this to a couple of young boys without expecting to get a truly predictable reaction. Angered even more by their laughter, she could only yell, “Get out! Get out!” Which they quickly did. At least they were obedient to their mother, I’ll give them that much. Wise decision, too. Hot Chili (there’s an oxymoron, if ever I heard one) down your back is not as pleasant as it sounds.

In all fairness, she has gotten to the point where she now has begun to recognize when she exercises this rare talent of hers. Recently she was at the bank to carry out a transaction before going to work. When she saw that things were progressing too slowly for her to be on time for her job, she called in to ask for an hour of personal time and to leave the message on the recorder. How did she state it? “I’m going to be a bit late. I’ve been held up at the bank.” The moment the recognition had sunk in, she began to laugh, which also went onto the recording, making it all the funnier to her and to me. I could never do this the way she does—instantaneous and without forethought. I must humbly bow to her superior skills in this arena.

I seldom witness this display of talent in another human being besides my wife and I think they do it on purpose, so it doesn’t count as an innate and subconscious talent. One friend came out of the restroom and said softly, “Man, that took the wind out of my sails.” Wind — funny, yes — but premeditated?

Now, being that genetics may have at least something to do with sense of humor, we hoped for the same talents to be developed in our children, too. Well, at least I did. Our eldest, when he was very small, overheard Linda and me talking about passing gas (don’t tell her I told you—she never, absolutely never, discusses that) and, with perfect childhood perception of the truth, he responded, “That’s ‘gusting!” I had to admit that he was right—in both senses of the word.

Unfortunately, none of the children has permanently inherited their mother’s rare ability, but it is beyond question that they have adequate skills of their own. One son, Quinn, assured me that when he attended the Seattle Wine and Cheese Festival over the weekend he would be sure to ‘cut the cheese’ in honor of the rest of the family. I have no doubt that he did— attending or not. I wonder if he whined for us, too.

Now, our daughter Joy showed this talent involuntarily once. Seems she and her Mom were hearing about an unfortunate situation a man had found himself in. A young fellow had knocked at his door one night to request use of the phone while this fellow was cleaning his gun, so he took it to the door with him when he answered. This sent the visitor running in a hurry and leaving the man very puzzled, but he went back to cleaning his gun. This is where it gets interesting. The fugitive called the police and they show up and start shining flashlights into the windows. Well, the home owner, still cleaning his gun (Which evidently had a flashlight mounted on it) starts shining it out the windows to see who is there and the next thing you know he is arrested for aiming a gun at the police. Poor guy. Darned meddling visitors. So, he goes off to jail and awaits trial. My daughter comments that she understands his actions—she would want to ‘scope it out’, too. (“Now, I don’t care who you are. That's funny, right there.”)

Joy is also talented in the humor category and, having been raised among so many males, she can certainly hold her own in nearly any situation. For example, when out at a special dinner one night with all her well-dressed friends, one of the boys burped and did his best to cover it, politely begging forgiveness. Now, any other female might have forever missed the opportunity that my daughter saw instantly and clearly, like a neon light emblazoned on a hillside. Grasping it quickly and knowing it to be her destined role for the evening, she quickly pointed out that it had been a rather weak attempt and that her grandmother could have done better.

Now, don’t ask me why, but for some reason, the guys seem to like her a lot—because of this type of response, no less. She has a scorchingly quick wit and can shut down any guy in the time it takes him to draw the breath for his next supposedly witty remark. I simply can’t tell you how proud I am of her. (And frankly, I think that she could have easily won, had the guy challenged her to a duel. There are some advantages to being raised among boys.)

On another occasion, she was seemingly acting sad or introverted, in the opinion of a neighbor lady. The woman asked her what was wrong and without hesitation Joy answers, “My pet chicken died.” She has a bizarre sense of humor, but never thought for a moment that the woman would believe it. Nevertheless, so much sympathy was poured upon her that she just didn’t have the heart to admit that she was kidding. Never mind the fact that we lived in the city and it was illegal to own livestock. Joy should have gone into acting, but maybe it’s not too late.

Our youngest son, Alma, overheard his mother and me discussing the plight she had at work with the occasional nasty customer on the phone. He quickly told her what to do about it. “Just tell them you may lose them, because you are going through a tunnel—then hang up.” I thought this solution was absolutely brilliant, if not entirely plausible. Now, whether it would actually end the problems or simply inflame them is another matter for discussion, not to be covered here.

Another time we were on a trip and having lots of fun dropping over the hills in the road at a fast speed, just to get his over-sensitive stomach to fluttering. On one particularly extreme drop he holds his belly and blurts out, “Ah! Hill!” So, from then on the comment, “Ah, hill!” became a part of the conversation at the appropriate times.

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When boys get together in groups, they do dumb stuff and talk about dumb stuff. When girls get together, they talk about other girls—and boys—and the dumb stuff that boys talk about and do.

I am not sure even God knows why boys are so fundamentally different from girls (aside from obvious architectural differences, I mean). It is like half of a boys’ brain is shut off or held in reserve for the remote chance that he might need it someday and doesn’t want to risk it being tired when he does. (So, when Rush Limbaugh is talking about having half his brain tied behind his back to make it fair, this may be what he means—imagine if he untied the other half.)) In contrast, girls seem to have both sides of their brains working overtime. Consider a possible scenario:

HIM: “It isn’t you. It’s me.”

HER: “Are you sure?”
(No, it isn’t. It’s me. Maybe I’m ugly. Does he think I’m fat? Oh, no! I’m fat! Why does he think that? Maybe he has another girl. Does he have another girl? Oh, no! He has another girl and she’s not fat! I’ll scratch her eyes out!)

HIM: “Of course. Why would I lie to you?”

HER: (Because I’m fat and ugly! I’ll scratch his eyes out, too.)

HIM: (She’s beautiful when she’s angry! Maybe I should stay with her?)

Here’s one I have yet to figure out. I’m sure you have run into these people a lot, too. I call them the “Excuse-my-French” crowd. They open their mouths and their apparent I.Q. levels hit the floor with an audible thud.

In the first place, they don’t even speak French and it’s obvious that they don’t want to be excused or they wouldn’t have said it. They don’t have the decency to blush or cover their mouths or say ‘sorry’. At least if they had said it in French I wouldn’t be offended, because I wouldn’t understand a word of it. Secondly, an additional benefit is that it would at least sound sexy, because almost anything in French sounds sexy, right?

I guess these people operate on the principle that it is easier to beg forgiveness than to get permission (“pardon me, do you mind if I say something highly offensive that will make me look uneducated, inconsiderate and out of control?”) But here’s how I look at it: I just don’t _______ _______ _____ care to hear ______ ______ any of that ____ ______ _______ _______________ at all, _____ ______. Okay? So, _____ there! (‘Excuse my French.’)

CH.3 Not On Solid Ground

Not On Solid Ground

As I’ve said, my mind doesn’t work the same as those of other folks. Not that I am one of those people you might see on the bus talking to himself—far from it. Not yet, anyway. Laughing softly for no apparent reason, perhaps. Talking to no one—never. But the way I look at it, I agree with whoever said that ‘any day you wake up on this side of the dirt is a good one.’ I just prefer to find the humor in so many things while I am still on this side of it. For all I know I will be doing it in the next life also. I’ll probably die laughing, proving that it is possible and not just a figure of speech. I just hope I don’t actually ‘split a gut’ doing it.

Yes, you might occasionally find me chuckling to myself and wonder if I am sane, if you don’t know me, but I can usually stop short of you deciding unequivocally that I am (I deserve the benefit of the doubt now and then). I just see the humor in things that others don’t, until it is pointed out to them. Okay, even then they might not see it, but it isn’t my fault that I was created with an over-developed sensitivity to the bizarre and unusual, although it might well be argued that it is my fault for adopting it so readily and so heartily exploring it to its fullest.

I also wonder about things that others don’t. I just naturally have a curious mind—in both senses of the term. For instance, I can’t help but wonder—when Frankie Vallee of the Four Seasons sings “Walk Like A Man,” why does he sing it like a girl? There must be an answer, but it eludes me. All the more disturbing is the sneaking suspicion that I may be the only person who has ever asked this question.

Other mysteries abound, as well, demanding answer. Why do they call it a ‘drill team’ when it has nothing to do with power tools? Personally, I think it would be awesome to see these guys marching around to some rousing music (perhaps Jimi Hendrix or some Wagnerian opera…”Kiww duh wabbit…”—nevermind), with surround-sound stereo tracks of revving Harley-Davidson engines accompanying them, laser lights shooting all about while they wave electric drills, chain saws and the like in the air and triumphantly take over the field. I mean, who wouldn’t find that inspiring? And…who would mess with a bunch of guys carrying on like that?

I wonder some of the most obscure things at times, too. Such as, why do women say they are ‘getting a permanent’ when it is only temporary? Another thing—why is something referred to as Cream of Tartar when it’s a powder? Can you honestly say that you understand that one? It’s just plain disturbing! These are age-old questions that need to be asked. It all seems so illogical. It’s enough to give a Vulcan a migraine and ulcers. Fascinating, simply fascinating.

Have you ever wondered this one—if you are ever going to invest in ‘cattle futures’, do you first need to consult a ‘bovine psychic’?

Okay, why do they call redheads ‘carrot tops’ when carrot tops are green? If you ask my opinion, I think this was an act of deliberate subterfuge—perhaps a plot to corrupt our language and destroy the foundations of our social stability. It’s right up there with the profound and undeniable similarity in the phrases ‘Santa Clause’ and ‘Satan’s Claws.’ A coincidence? I think not. This may be the direct result of the efforts of the Socialist Coalition for the Removal of Everything Wonderful in the United States (SCREW-US). Deliberate subterfuge, I say. There can be no other answer.

It begs the question, does it not? What else has been sabotaged in our society and why do we just turn a blind eye to it. Have we all become Lysdexic or something? ‘Darn it, Jim! I’m a writer, not a doctor!’

For example, if you want to join a college fraternity, you are asked to do some absolutely horrendous things to ‘prove your worth.’ Some of these things may include animals, vegetables and minerals, while others do not, but that is not within the scope of our lesson here. The fact is that the guy who refuses to allow himself voluntary or self-inflicted humiliation should be the man in charge of choosing the idiots that are allowed to join the fraternity. He has already proven he is smarter by far than the rest of them, has he not? Let him be the leader of the bunch. There might be far fewer hangovers on the campus this way, too.

And what’s up with the graffiti that you find these days? I saw one at the bus stop the other day that read ‘Weed heads 4 life!’ Now, is this the marijuana users faction of the anti-abortion movement? I don’t think so. No, it is painfully clear that the perpetrator of this slogan was actually proud of the fact that he was killing brain cells and would be relegated to menial jobs all of his life as a result of this choice. I can see the job interviews now:

“Can you say, ‘Would you like fries with that order?’”

“Uh-h-h-h, m-m-m-m…er, uh…no?”

“Excellent! You’ve got the job!”

And, if you are reading this WHILE you are stoned, it was funny before you got into that state—the only difference is that you would have understood it.

While we are on the subject of graffiti, let’s consider the gang graffiti that seems to abound in certain areas. Many people are afraid to erase it or paint over it, for fear they will anger the local gang members. You need to remember that you are talking about individuals who are applying for the jobs we just mentioned above—and they are getting them!

These people could raise their I.Q. level by eating a stalk of celery. There are effective ways to deal with the unsightly mess that these (is ‘imbeciles’ giving them too much credit?) are leaving in your neighborhoods. You simply “help” them with their art projects. If the sign says ‘Shy Boy...East Side Dipsticks’, you augment it a bit to say ‘Shyte Boy, etc.’ None of these folks can speak Irish. That takes an education and the brain capacity to reason the meaning of the change in the word. These people haven’t the I.Q. that God gave to a crowbar. Which is why you may actually need to escalate your campaign to get a result that goes beyond simply drawing a bunch of mystified punks to gather and stand scratching their heads for hours on end before their garage door masterpiece.

So, another addition you can make to the sign is to comment on his choice of wardrobe—‘Shy Boy...East Side Dipsticks, wears pink panties.’ Or, ‘Paco...sex change complete!’ This approach may even get the offender to erase the graffiti himself, just to keep his peers from laughing at him. If so, mission accomplished and congratulations are in order.

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Here is as good a place as any to discuss my Magnetic Fart Theory—if indeed any good place exists to discuss such a thing. Anyway, why is it that some farts seem to follow you everywhere you go and there is no way to effectively escape them? I call these Magnetic Farts. So foul are they that they follow you even into another room. It’s like they are programmed to be heat seeking. But finally, I have a theorem of sorts to explain the phenomena.

(Hang on...phone’s ringing.)

Okay, that was just plain weird! I just got a call from a woman that may be a founding member of the Weed Head Brigade. The conversation went something like this:

ME: “Hello?”

HER: “Hello.”

ME: “Who am I speaking to?”

HER: “The owner of the phone you are using. It was stolen.”

ME: “I just bought this phone a month-and-a-half ago, on Wirefly.com.”

HER: “Is your number 520-491-XXXX?”

ME: “No, it’s 520-491-XXXZ”

HER: “Hang on, let me look up my number.”

ME: ???!!!

HER: “Oh, uh….” (Silence/disconnect)

ME: ???!!!

In fairness, she did call back and apologize—she dialed the right number and found her cell phone. Life can be interesting. Reminds me of the guy that called me and we talked for about five minutes before we realized he had called a wrong number. Only after I hung up did I wish that I had kept his number—he seemed like a great guy. We could’ve had a BBQ together.

Anyway, back to the Magnetic Fart Theory. I hold that since there are eddy currents that lie in your wake as it were, as you move from one spot to another, it stands to reason that some of these noxious vapors are bound to be captured and travel in that wake, also—much like surfing, only backward, if you get my drift. (Several puns could be made of this. Seems a shame to waste them. Have fun.) Combine this with the fact that farts are composed of hydrogen, a lighter-than-air gas that rises, and methane, a heavier-than-air gas that settles, and you have the perfect explanation for why you can’t seem to get away from some of these vicious human back drafts (you might also refer to them as ‘A Blast from Your Past.’). Either way, the effects are ghastly (yes, that was a pun).

Now, there is an effective way to get rid of these toxic and odiferous gases in a hurry. It involves the use of a match or a lighter, but I definitely recommend that you be wearing some garment to cover the offending orifice when you apply the flame. It is not first-hand experience that leads me to this conclusion, but I have it on very good authority, none-the-less. Blisters can and will result.

I certainly don’t expect to win the Nobel Prize in physics for my theorem, but next time you pass gas, think of me with some degree of reverence and reflect upon the meaning of what you have just done. You won’t regret it, I assure you. This is not to say that others won’t, so be forewarned.

Also, my studies have led to the classification of gas-passing into three sonic categories that are based on the already existing frequency crossovers used in three-way stereo systems; namely: Woofers, Squawkers and Tweeters. Woofers are the low resonance, growly types—the perpetrator may be referred to as “Rumble Seat.” Squawkers hit in the mid-range band, comprising the majority of farts. Tweeters are the upper register and the sounds tend to carry the furthest. Add to these the Ultrasonic and Infrasonic farts (among these are the dreaded SBD’s—Silent, But Deadly.)

The approaches, or delivery methods if you will, of any of these will likely fall into the Bark—a single, sudden report; the Staccato—a series of sharp reports; the Floater—a long, sustained note carried out according to the skill and control of the individual deliverer; Articulated—a highly skilled individual will make it sound as if there are words or phrases being spoken (this is akin to throwing your voice, if you will, although the breath is considerably worse); and the Flat or Muffled delivery—no apparent sound is noticed. Despite common belief, the word ‘flatulence’ does not derive from Flat or vice-versa. They were labeled independently, although the coincidence is certainly eerie.

It should be noted that no truly accurate method for measuring ‘muzzle velocity’ has been developed (and anything that comes close, I don’t even WANT to discuss), so far as I have been able to ascertain (no pun intended), but that the velocities can be tremendously high is beyond question, as some will actually develop resonant frequencies sufficiently powerful enough to cause physical pain at the exit orifice. This can only be accomplished with very high velocity jets of gas.

Before passing (couldn’t resist) on to another subject, why do things seem to happen in bunches? (We could make another related pun out of that, but we need to maintain some level of dignity, do we not?) Just in the past few days I have repeatedly been on a bus that had a defective announcement system. The nice, soothing female voice that was meant to tell you what corner you were approaching or where you were getting off was having some very real difficulties. The amount of distortion in the recording made it sound, not like a woman’s voice, but a high-pressure human gas leak. No, really. So, every time someone was getting off the bus they would walk under this speaker that would make a strained farting sound. Oddly, no one laughed except me. What’s wrong with the world (I ask as I sit here on my metal chair in a small room)? Maybe I need to stay away from buses.

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This may not be the proper section for this. Then again, after the last topic, you may wonder if there ever was a proper section for anything here. At any rate, I got a laugh out of the movie Norbit without watching it. I am sure that many other films have the same notification printed on the DVD cover, but this one stood out like the proverbial sore thumb. How else would you format a movie about a 400-pound woman, except to have it in Wide Screen? Makes sense to me—she has a huge crush on the male character. What’s not funny about that?

BTW, Murphy is an extremely talented comedian and actor. Too bad he isn’t creative enough to control his “French” in this film.

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Which means it is time for a discussion about language. Not bad language, but the origins of a word. The word they use in Mexico to denote ‘restroom’ is baño (pronounced: bahn’-yo). In Brazil they speak Portuguese and call a restroom by the name ‘bañero’ (bahn-yeh’-roh). What does this have to do with anything, you are asking. Well, it has to do with the discovery of peppers. I see that giant question mark over your head, but be patient for a moment.

You see, some peppers burn just as bad coming out as they do going in. And if they give you gas, you could easily self-ignite. A sort of ‘spontaneous human combustion’ situation could ensue; but I digress. What would they do in Mexico, where there are lots of Jalapeño peppers, if they found their mouths (or their anterior regions) burning? They might yell, ‘Agua! Agua!’ which means ‘Water! Water!’ Or they might yell, ‘Baño! Baño!’ because that’s what they call their restroom. Don’t ask me why—it’s their language, not mine.

But when the Brazilian gets hold of a Habañero pepper, he doesn’t react the same way. His response is more like this—the initial moment of shock (when the body recognizes that it has been severely wounded) and he shouts, ‘Hah!’ as if catching his breath or exhaling flames; this is followed by a request for the place of relief, where he might either get water or eject the foul matter that so grievously attacks him—‘Bañero! Bañero!’

So, it makes complete sense when we put the exclamations together: ‘Hah!’ and ‘Bañero!’ Irrefutable proof that the Habañero pepper originated with the Portuguese and most likely in Brazil. …You’re welcome.

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Tattoos. You either love them or hate them. I can’t make up my mind. I love the artwork aspect of it. I even love some of the material chosen to place it on, but there is something there that keeps telling me it is defacing a monument. Besides, are these folks gonna look that good when they are old, wrinkled, droopy and the art is faded? Half of the work will look like it has melted and the other half will be like, “What the…oh” as the viewers turn away and snicker or vomit.

I have heard that some folks are actually offering their bodies to be billboards for corporate advertising. Can you imagine having this on you for the rest of your life? When does the company stop paying you for ‘breach of contract’ or for libel? When you can’t read it anymore? About the time you get to where the folks in the last paragraph are, I would guess. And if the I.Q. is sufficiently low, you may find someone with a tattoo that says, “Your Ad Here.” I think Bill Engvall would agree that it could as easily read, ‘Here’s My Sign.’

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I have a project in mind. You know all the old jokes about books and their authors—Under the Bleachers by Seymour Butts, etc? Well, I have the goal of coming up with 1,000 of the Greatest Books You Never Read. I am almost there, actually. I know the audience will be slim—maybe just grade school kids…if I can keep it on their level. My wife thinks this should be easy for me. …? She’s very supportive. No…really!

For example, one would be Starting And Finishing Your Goals by Allred E. Dunn. With some of these, I just need to work on the I.Q. level aspect of it. Does this title work for you? The At-Home Podiatrist by “Stinky” McPheeters. Maybe I need to include a glossary in the back, too.

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Addictions. There are so many these days that you never would have thought of even a few decades ago. We have become a victimized society and most of it is self-inflicted. Drug and alcohol addictions we knew about forever, but now there are far stranger ones. Food addictions. Sex addictions. Soap Opera addictions. Harry Potter addictions. What will they do for a ‘fix’ when the last Harry Potter book and movie are made? You will have junkies hanging out in bookstores and having to be removed by the police and taken to rehab centers, which have yet to be formed, but ultimately must be. Now, there’s a job to consider. Here’s what you’ll have to deal with:

“Wean me off gradually—no ‘cold turkey’, please? Maybe some Stephanie Meyer, PLEASE! I beg you—just a few chapters!”

It all seems too bizarre. But then, as a writer…. Hmmm, I think I feel a best seller coming on. Who needs a ‘fix’?

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It has been hinted strongly that I have been rambling on in this book, but in order for it to be rambling I would have to be talking about nearly everything. That is questionable at best, because there are also many who say I have yet to talk about ANYTHING, so how could I be rambling—huh? Tell me that, will ya! Rambling, indeed! Puh-leeeeez! I never…who in their right mind would ever…I mean, do you think seriously…? Well, sure, the title says…but that’s just, you know…. mmm, would you excuse me a moment?

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Have you ever noticed the names on bottled waters? For example, one of the first widely recognized names was Evian (Ah-vee-ahn). Spelled backward it is Naïve. I always thought most folks that were into buying bottled water were just that—until I moved to the Phoenix area, where they have hot- and warm-running yuck. Still…Dasani backward is Inasad (‘Isn’t that sad?’)

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Have you been as confused as I am at the grocery checkout lately? Used to be that when you were asked, “Paper or plastic?” you knew what they were talking about. Now you don’t know if they mean the money or the bags they are going to place your purchase in.

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If Al Gore really did invent the Internet, then why does it say Dubya, Dubya, Dubya all over it?

CH.4 Outlandish Reasoning

Outlandish Reasoning

It was the questions and inconsistencies of life, like those in the previous section, which finally set me adrift upon the sea of inquiry. I simply had to know the answers. I couldn’t sleep until I had them. Each time I answered one question, other ancient mysteries arose and demanded attention, as well. But one, in particular, has always remained prominent in my mind. I have deliberated over it, tortured over it, begged and cried for enlightenment and still the answer has yet to come. I became so engrossed in the absolute profundity of the question that I could not refrain from writing a song about it (refrain? Perhaps my wife’s skills are contagious—but I digress). So, here I pose the question to you, as well:

What Kind Of Best Is A Spam?
--© Steven G. O’Dell

CH. 1
What kind of beast is a Spam? Is it chicken or beef; is it ham?
Does it bark, does it bite? Is it active at night?
Tell me, what kind of beast is a Spam?

V. 1
Do they cackle or bark? Do they glow in the dark?
Are they furry and cute as can be?
Are they big? Are they small? Can you see them at all?
Are they more like a truck or a flea?

CH. 2
What kind of beast is a Spam? Is it chicken or beef; is it ham?
Are they sexed? Are they neutered? Designed by computer?
What kind of beast is a Spam?

V. 2
Are they smooth, are they hairy? Quite pleasant or scary?
Are they hooved--do they claw--are they sweet?
What’s the size of their maw? Do they have just one jaw?
Here’s the mystery: Are they real meat?

CH. 3
What kind of beast is a Spam? Is it chicken or beef; is it ham?
Are they ugly as sin? Do they have a big grin?
Tell me, what kind of beast is a Spam?

V.3
Here’s a puzzle needs solving—from what source they’re evolving.
Are its claws truly frightening to see?
If I were not quick as to bite on it first,
Tell me, would it first bite upon me?

CH.4
O-o-o-o-h….
What kind of beast is a Spam? Is it chicken or beef; is it ham?
Are they slimy and slippery? Can their hides be made frippery? (Huh? Oh, never mind).
Are they real or just some kind of sca-a-a-a-m?
Tell me, what—kind—of—beast—is—a—Spa-a-a-a-m?

And there you have it—the essence of the question, but still, the question remains unanswered; the mystery unsolved. Will we ever know the true nature of the original Mystery Meat? (Sigh…).

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Words are interesting. The first part of ‘fundamentals’ is FUN. This is important to remember when one is teaching kids. If it isn’t fun, they aren’t going to learn for long. I someday expect that someone will point out that the first part of ‘rudiments’ is RUDE. Oh…I guess I just did. And maybe our schools are there already.

Why are some words made as they are? We are taught that certain prefixes mean a specific and consistent thing and then we place them into words that make no sense when they are combined, except as we are taught to trust the definitions from our authority figures. Well, enough of that! I intend to question authority!

The prefix RE-, for example, means ‘to do again.’ You trace and RE-trace your steps. You turn and RE-turn. You move and RE-move. These make sense. So why deviate from the pattern?

What is meant by RE-peat? Can you first ‘peat?’ That’s a moss, for Pete’s sake! (I think I am getting Linda’s Syndrome again.)

You can RE-ject, but can you ‘ject?’ You can double and RE-double, but that’s actually quadruple. You can mark something and RE-mark about something, but if I mark something I can get in trouble and if I RE-mark it, I am in twice as much trouble! And then ‘RE-verse’ verses ‘verse’ is just outright ridiculous! You can RE-vert, RE-frain and RE-linquish, but to do these you must also be able to ‘vert’, ‘frain’ and ‘linquish’. Is that even possible? Before you know it, you’re chasing your tail. And what a nice one it is, too, but that’s another subject altogether.

When my brother Kevin was about ten, he once chided the rest of us for “making such a recastatory remark.” My parents and I just looked at one another in a stunned fashion and I quietly slipped off to get the dictionary. The word wasn’t there, but it had to be! It sounded official. I asked him what it meant and he nonchalantly confessed that he had made it up. Touché. Not bad at all for a ten year old kid. But when I think of these combinations of words and prefixes, I think I’ve never heard such recastatory tripe in all my life.

The prefix DE- means to “undo.” You can form and DE-form. But can you ‘cide’ or just DE-cide? You can ‘posit’ a solution, but to DE-posit means something other than to UN-posit. You can DE-bate, but can you ‘bate?’ That has something to do with fishing. Why would you DE-bate your hook if you wanted to catch a fish? You can DE-plane (“De plane, Boss! De plane!”), but to simply ‘plane’ is more like surfing, dude—gnarly!

I haven’t been so confused about the meanings of words since Bill and Al’s Excellent Adventure. And speaking of Pinocchio, some of these politicians (the word is derived from ‘poly’, meaning many and ‘tics’ —blood-sucking insects) could use a talking cricket in their ear now and then to set them straight when they make an ass out of themselves. Talk about your language skills! These guys can speak for hours and say nothing at all. It’s amazing! But two ways you always know they are lying—their lips are moving and no one is trying to assassinate them.

Language is just weird at times. Take the fact that we have derived our American English from the British, (which is a Germanic language—go figure). Except that the British spell things differently. We have taken the Bruce Lee approach and removed several unneeded letters from their words. Never mind the fact that you may not know what a ‘boot and a bonnet’ are (the trunk and hood of your vehicle), or ‘squash and a biscuit’ (soda pop and a cookie) or that you don’t wear ‘pants’ (women’s panties)—you wear ‘trousers.’ Unless, of course, you are a woman, in which case you can wear anything you please and probably look completely fabulous in it, darling.

But, back to spelling differences. I imagine a conversation between an American and a Brit on this subject might go something like this:

“Why do you Brits always put so many extra letters into your words?”

“Whatever are you talking about, my good fellow?”

“Like ‘color’, for example. You spell it ‘c-o-l-o-u-r’, with a ‘U’ in it. The same with ‘favor’. Also, you say the letter ‘H’ as ‘haytch’ and yet drop it totally when you use it in a word—such as ‘appening.’ Then you pronounce the letter ‘R’ as ‘Ah’, as in ‘hahd-ly’. What’s up with that? And I won’t even get into the word ‘aluminum!’

“Hrumph! You mean ‘Al-u-min’-ium?”

“Hey, it’s your language! I’m just trying to use it!”

Yeah, life is funny the way it works. The wonder is that it works at all.

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On occasion I have told my wife, jokingly, that she has no sense of humor. Her response? “I married you, didn’t I?” In fact, she tells people that the only reason she married me was that she was laughing too hard to say, ‘no’. At least I was doing something right. I’ve often felt it a great wonder that she hasn’t killed me in my sleep a long time ago. She deserves better. If she waits long enough, I will be better, thanks to her.

Her favorite joke? “If they can send a man to the moon, why can’t they send them all?” But seriously, folks….

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There is a very real generation gap in language these days. When the elderly and the young refer to investing their money into CD’s, they mean totally different things. When the elderly and the young are “feeling cool” or “really sick’…well, you get the idea. Different again. No wonder we can’t talk to one another.

CH.5 Uncharted Territory

Uncharted Territory

Did you ever wonder where phrases like ‘Plum Tickled’ came from? Maybe not, but I can’t help it. It’s like a man having fits—you just gotta have ‘em until they’re over. So, I carry these questions to their natural conclusions—well, as close to conclusions as I can get, because I seldom seem to get the answer. But I can envision the scenario quite clearly. Observe:

A little boy comes home with plum stains all over himself and he knows his mother is going to want an explanation as to how that state of affairs came to be. Thinking quickly, he tells her that he fell down under the plum tree and all of a sudden, “them plums just got all over me and started ticklin’ me real bad! And what with all the rollin' around, trying to get away from them nefarious fruit entities, I just got all messy and couldn’t help it one bit. And that’s the truth!”

Then I can envision this wise and good mother turning to her husband to proclaim, “Derndest thing I ever heard, Fred. The boy was tickled near to death by plums! What do you make of that?” To which the sage father replies, “Well, then, …in that case, you better steer clear of the punkin patch, boy!”

I have to be entirely honest here; I’m only guessing. It may have been something far more fantastic that actually spawned the expression, but we may never know for certain.

Lots of things are just plain weird, though. Like those Lose Weight While You Sleep! ads. Many weight loss programs have clubs to support the members who join. Can you imagine going to one of the meetings for this program? Why bother? Everyone is snoring! And another thing, if you sleep backward, with your head at the foot of the bed, will you gain weight?

“I must be doin’ it backward, Edith. I haven’t lost an ounce!”

That leads me to think of the Lay Awake Plan they have in many stores. You lay awake wondering why you bought it and how you are ultimately going to pay for it, etcetera. Maybe, with the length of some of the lines at checkout, they should have a Wait Loss Plan there, too.

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I’ve seen lots of people that start bobbing and nodding their heads when they hear music. Heck, I’ve even done it myself. It’s normal and natural. But is there a term for it? Not as far as I know. So, what do we refer to it as? Well, you can stop worrying—I have a label for it now. I call it IDS—Involuntary Dance Syndrome. Although it isn’t fatal, it could break out at any time and it is highly contagious. Some folks can actually break out into full Dance Fever, causing widespread distraction and contagious twitching among his or her peers, along with scattered snickers and giggles. The cure for this is usually simple. The afflicted subject, upon discovering that the room full of peers is watching intently, will usually be overcome by a sudden and total air of nonchalance, accompanied by temporary blushing. The effects are only momentary and not in any way harmful. Still, be aware that you could easily become a victim of IDS.

And while we are on the subject of music, I’ve been concerned lately by the continual classifying and sub-classifying of musical genres. It almost seems that many of these are being defined just for the sake of causing exclusivity. The ‘connoisseurs of musical categorizing’ have almost outdone themselves in their efforts, but there is yet some ground to be covered. They have done about all they can with the music itself—if it is not too much of a stretch to refer to some of it by that name—but now they need to concentrate on the musicians.

For instance, where is the ‘9-Fingered Keyboardist’ category? Or the ‘Lame, One Eyed Bassist’ category? We have already had a few guitarists with missing fingers. Grateful Dead and Glass Harp. And, with Def Leppard, we already have the ‘One Armed Drummer’ category and that man is amazing, is he not? No disrespect meant at all. I just see the possibilities and state them. The Universe demands it of me. What you do with the information is up to you.*

*Any similarity to actual knowledge is purely coincidental. Should you become injured while engaged in the thinking of any of these thoughts, the author assumes no legal responsibility.
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What if we were to use some clues from already-named products to take them beyond their present stages, to their logical and ultimate limits? One of my own boys gave this example: the Porta-Potty. He said that with that as a basic foundation, why not develop the Portal-Potty, combining the concept of the outhouse with a genuine matter transfer device (a la Star Trek) to project the refuse into oblivion. You would never need to have waste treatment plants again. Ingenious! It lends new meaning to the term Black Hole, does it not? Although I can’t help but think of that day when the exploration of space leads us to discover the planet all this refuse is going to. I certainly hope it is uninhabited. Still, the future is flush with possibilities or at least one must hope. My wife’s niece recently pointed out to me that the blueprints for the Starship Enterprise have no restroom facilities. No problem! “Beam it down, Mr. Chekhov.” Aye, Captain.

Although you sometimes need to laugh at yourself to remain sane, you simply must laugh at other people, too. You can’t help it. Especially when you see the goofy things they say and do. Take signs, for instance. Here are a few masterpieces—real signs:

Hagar’s ½ Pounder Cookies.
Over 163 served!
(This entrepreneur is a forward-looking individual, is he not?)

One Stop Shopping—
Miracle Grow and Viagra.
(I would think that if one doesn’t work, the other should. It begs the question of whether such a place as Viagra Falls exists--after all, what goes up must come down, no?)

Or this one:

Donalds’
(Displayed proudly under a nicely rounded ‘Golden W’—perhaps it accidentally flipped over in a windstorm?)

The things you witness on buses are often bizarre. People who talk to themselves. People who talk to others that don’t want to pay attention to them. People who talk to people who aren’t there at all. People who yell at imaginary people. And still other people who speak in the third person so that they can stay out of the arguments that they are having with the imaginary people. Actually, this last one is quite brilliant in a really warped sort of way…(I’m glad I thought of it.)

The signs you see on buses can be very funny, too. Because the riders may speak many languages, the signs are often pictographs of what you can and cannot do on the bus—such as not putting your feet on the seat, no open drink containers, no eating on the bus, no radios turned on, etc. The funny part is that the statements accompanying the pictures are written like The Commandments of God, except for one. Under the picture of what appears to be a 9mm handgun, it says “No weapons, Please.” In fact, it is the only one that says “please.” I guess they figure it doesn’t pay to antagonize a possibly armed passenger and that being polite will somehow help to defuse any probable situations before they happen. Good thinking. Just might explain the old adage that “an armed society is a polite society.” We’ll have to ruminate on that one awhile, I reckon. I wonder if a bus-load of people armed with open drink containers could take down a man with a 9mm, or would just putting enough feet on the seats keep him from boarding in the first place? “Sorry, man—all filled up. Wait for the next one.”

Another one that struck me as funny (and scary) was a conversation that was a real CON-versation. Two men were talking together in the bus. Now, you would have sworn by their attitudes that this was as innocent as two little old ladies discussing the injustice of how one had been overcharged for peaches at the market—“I only bought three, Margaret, and they charged me for four!” “Why, the nerve of some people!” Except this wasn’t two little old ladies. These men had obviously served time—both of them. After the initial comparison of who got out when, etc., the talk went something like this:

“I was convicted of four robberies and I only committed three!”

“Wow, that isn’t fair, Bro! That just ain’t right!”

“Yeah, I know!”

Tsk, tsk. To think they should be treated in such a manner when they were only trying to better themselves and help society—what is this world coming to? It just ain’t fair, Bro.

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I should have learned not to bet at an early age. First grade, as a matter of fact—in an instance of what might today be labeled child abuse, it was then called Common Sense and Logical Consequence.

My first grade teacher, whom I know dearly loved me (in retrospect I can see that quite clearly), was having trouble with lack of cooperation from a student in her class. He would not stay put in his chair, no matter how often she asked him to do so or escorted him back to it. So, she improvised a solution—she tied him to it! Don’t ask me where she got the rope. Maybe she was Girl Scout leader or something. All I know is that she was armed and ready for any situation that could arise—and I do mean any! That should have been my first clue.

One day she threatened to paddle a student in the class (the same kid, as I recall—he was a bit slow on the uptake; but then, what I am about to tell leaves me no bragging room, either) and, as I recall, she finally did. She always kept her word…darn it. So, being the extra smart and resourceful child that I was, I bet her that my Mom could paddle harder than she could. At the time it seemed I was attempting to brag in favor of my mother’s extraordinary abilities but, for the life of me, now I don’t know why. Anyway, there weren’t too many exchanges of opinion in that conversation before the actual physics demonstration began—end of discussion. I was an instant convert and from then on took her at her word. She later told my Mom what had happened and my mother expounded her undying gratitude and pronounced infinite blessings upon this teacher for all of eternity. So much for defending my mother’s honor. At least I didn’t get it again when I got home.

Actually, in ensuing years, several teachers told my mother that they wished they could have had her children in their own classes, because we were always so cheerful and polite (that may have been the Grade One lesson that did it for me). She just had to ask—“Are you sure you’re talking about my kids?” Thanks, Mom. We love you, too.

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I think we should discuss Einstein’s Theory of Relativity right about now. There are a lot of folks that can’t understand it, but I came up with a way to illustrate it and nearly everyone can figure this one out.

Let’s start with an outhouse. (Trust me, okay? This is gonna work.) Anyway, the outhouse is built at a distance of 100 feet from the house. That is a reasonable distance. Okay, now here is where the science comes in. Let’s suppose it is the dead of winter and it is windy and 20 degrees below zero. The outhouse doesn’t seem like its only 100 feet away anymore, does it? Now it seems like it is a full 100 yards away!

Conversely, let us now assume that it is the middle of August and 110 degrees in the shade. Need I explain that the outhouse is now 100 yards too close to the house? (Yes, I know it was only 100 feet from the house. Trust me, this works, too.) The distance hasn’t changed, but your viewpoint most certainly has. You see, all things really are relative. And if you think that explanation stinks, I ask you to come up with a better one.

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What’s up with all the shallow stuff on the Internet these days? It’s like it was written for 12-year-olds. A perfect example is one I saw just the other day. FIND OUT WHICH CELEBRITY YOU ARE! read the headline of the ad. O-o-o-o-K! So, I went to the site and answered a few questions before I saw where I was going—the path to Hell.

‘Hey, wait a minute! Why do you need my phone number, my email address, a blood sample, some brain tissue and my passport, Socialist Security Number, the keys to my car and all my credit cards? I think something is wrong here!’ And then I find out that before I can do all of that, I have to participate in 3 offers from Section One, five from Section Two and 2 from…Section Seventy-Five! I don’t know what you would do, but I’m strongly considering not doing it at all, quite frankly.

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As I was growing up, my mother wanted to teach me to eat all kinds of foods, so she would put a spoon of everything on my plate and instruct me that I was to ‘take one bite’. There were few things I wouldn’t eat. I’m still that way. But some things I never learned to tolerate, let alone like them, no matter how many times I ate ‘just one bite’. Stewed tomatoes was one of them. I still despise them. I wouldn’t feed these to someone I didn’t like…with very few exceptions.

‘Eat one bite.’

‘Mom, I ate one bite last time. I hated them.’

‘Just one bite this time, too.’

‘Mom, I ate one bite the last 32 times. I hated them then and I hate them now. Do you really think that the 33rd time is going to be the miracle that makes me like them?’

(NOTE: This conversation was real, except for the last sentence—she would have washed my mouth out with stewed tomatoes.)

CH.6 Aimless Wanderings

Aimless Wanderings

There are days when I feel a bit like Jeff Foxworthy, but with a twist. The goofy things I wonder about make me wonder. (Don’t try—you’ll just hurt yourself). Like the words that he transmogrifies into Redneck dialect. I can do that, too. Far too easily for most folks’ comfort, I might add.

Ball—“Bring it to a ball on the stove for 2 minutes.”

Tom—“What tom does yer watch say?”

And you have to wonder why some one-syllable words become two-syllable words when translated into Redneck. For example:

Pain —Pă-yun (This could mean severe discomfort, but it could also refer to a kitchen utensil used on the stove—so be cautious in its use).

Ham —Hă-yum. With a nice glaze, sounds great.

Finder—At first glance, this would appear to be the word we use to denote someone who locates some-one or some-thing, but I’m afraid it isn’t that simple. Instead of the familiar ‘long i’ sound that we have come to expect with this combination of letters, we are faced with a ‘short i’ sound that completely transforms it into another meaning altogether. See for yourself:

“Dale, didja fix that front finder on the truck, like I asked?” To which Dale replies with the ‘long I’ version of the same word—“I think you’ll finder satisfactory, Pa.”

If you aren’t careful when you speak this language, you might just find’jer self in trouble and embarrassed. But once you begin to understand this regional dialect and become truly fluent in it, you will invariably find yourself asking why you ever wanted to learn it in the first place. No easy answer for that, even after all these years. Sorry.

Okay, okay—not wonderful so far, but I do have other talents found somewhere in the general Foxworthy-esque cubicle, although I add my own twist to them, to be sure. This can be an advantage (it is not plagiarism) or a disadvantage (“He really is nuts, Martha!”), depending upon which camp you may occupy. But there is a creative force within me that cannot be denied—whether it be for good or evil, I know not. It just has to express itself, much like the Spam song. I simply feel better once the critter is set free.

So, without any further ado (or is it Adieu? See, I told you I couldn’t help but wonder), let me introduce you to:

You may be a heavy drinker if...

·You've ever awakened in the morning with "carpet face".
·You don't recall your shoes being that color a moment ago.
·Everywhere you go is uphill.
·Close friends wear raincoats on sunny days.
·You spend more than one minute digging for your car keys
before you realize boxer shorts have no pocket.
·You don't recall the door being there when you came in.
·It has taken you more than 1 minute to find the door.
·You've ever put your shoes on backward and it felt right.
·Even the dog hides your car keys.

·You're glad you drove because you were in no shape to have walked.
·Your head is in the toilet more than your backside is.
·You ever tried to bum a dollar from a cop or a parking meter.
·Just hearing the word "medicinal" makes you thirsty.
·You ever answered a hiccup with, "I'll drink to that".
·You've ever gone after more beer on your riding lawn mower.
·You've ever tried to climb over a sidewalk.
·If your idea of a balanced diet is a beer in each hand.
·If you dress like the Michelin Man for safety reasons.

·You conclude that you must have had a good time, because you can't remember a thing.
·If you’ve had more than one beer cap removed from a single body part.
·If gravitational anomalies seem to focus around you in particular.
·If someone burps and you holler, "Another round!"
·If you've screamed, "Stop! Let me off!" while in a prone position.
·You consider a day without alcohol to be "fasting".
·You think of alcoholic drinks as 'staples of life’.

·If you stargaze a lot during daylight hours.
·You've ever tried to answer the phone and don't have one.
·If you can name more local bars than Presidents.
·If you don't like water because fish swim in it.
·You've ever tried to put a drink coaster in your CD player.
·You and your drinking buddies think you may have decoded the TV test pattern.
·If you have ever had a "good conversation' with your dog.
·If you have ever wondered why you can't get the fishing
channel on the microwave.

·If you ever hit the bottom stair and just kept going.
·If the only thing on your Christmas list is beer.
·You think Smith and Wesson is a new distillery.
·If using the doggie door is easier than finding your keys.
·If, when pulled over by a cop, you've ever said, "Oooh, look at the pretty lights...."
·You've ever ordered another drink while wondering if you have a drinking problem.

·And the biggest indicator of all—if you've ever set your hand on fire while blowing out a match, you may be a heavy drinker.

So, there you have one of them. Yes, he inspired me, but I would never truly rip off a fellow redneck. You see, my parents were both from West Virginia, so I have some Stump Jumper, Ridge Runner and Gully Whomper in me, although one can never be certain of the percentages in the mix. I will add a few more examples of Foxworthy-isms before we are done here. You have to spread them out, you see. Too many at a time will just make your head spin. Aren’t you inclined to agree?

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I have lots of strange ideas, about all kinds of things. Restaurants, for example. You don’t wonder about them, but I do. For instance, what if you adventurously combined different cuisines and styles, somewhat like what has been done recently with certain famous chicken and Mexican food restaurants, owned by the same mother company? This bears looking into more deeply.

A Jamaican-Mexican restaurant combination might be called Rasta Mañana. It just makes sense, doesn’t it?

Or a Mexican-Italian restaurant— you could call it Hasta la Pasta. Again, perfect sense.

Or combine my two favorites, chicken and fish (‘fish or chicken’) and you get The Chicken Ship. I like this one a lot, but my wife still holds great reservations (no pun intended).

You could combine an Indian restaurant with Greek and get Indianopoulos. Too much of a stretch? It was kind of a groaner at that, but let me redeem myself.

What if you combine Thai and Mexican? You could call it Thai Juan’s. This is actually brilliant, suggesting even a third culture altogether!

My friends were puzzled as to why I would never drink diet sodas, but went for the sugar instead. The fact is that the stuff they put in it is dangerous. Some of the sweeteners break down at less than body temperature into some very nasty substances. I take the built in clue to heart—call me silly, but anything with the word DIE in it is off limits to me.
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The aisles at the grocery stores are amazing to me now. A whole aisle, packed on both sides, top to bottom, with nothing but sodas. If there was ever an explosion in that aisle, God help us all. And the cereals! You walk forever past them. Oat Groaties, Gnarly Barley, Wheat Sweeties, Corn Shards, Fruit Tooties, Cereal Fibrosis and more. When will it end? And none of them have any food value. They taste like breaded cardboard to me and sit just as well on my stomach.

My Dad, who is now a grandfather several times over, couldn’t help himself in the store one day. He HAD to buy the product he saw, because of the ‘cuteness factor’ alone. The disposable diapers he bought (he had no kids at home) were called Tinkles. What is the world coming to when a grown man can’t constrain himself from such a thing. No, he didn’t buy them for himself, but where is the dignity?
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My kids and I were once reflecting upon the dizzying array of wrapping papers we have available now. There is everything you can think of —almost. We thought of one that the industry has yet to implement. I know it would be popular for the crowd that has a gift for the Old Flame that has suddenly burned out, the ex-whatever that won’t go away or the boss to whom you wish to send that extra special message (after you quit).

The wrapping paper would have real photos of garbage dumps, leftovers in the wastebasket, candid photos from the latrine and other choices. We would call it Rude Wrap ™. After all, there is already a real market for sending a dozen dead roses to those you have special feelings for. Why not the appropriate paper to wrap other gifts in? Besides, the flaming bag left on the porch is a bit dated, don’t you think?

Ready for another Redneck view of the world? This one is on the very real dangers that may surround you even now.

You may be accident-prone if...

·You've ever fallen out of a pair of shoes.
·Your bruises heal up and friends ask, "What happened to you?"
·You have calluses on the side of your head.
·You can fall upstairs.
·People have ever tried to attach training wheels to you.
·You once got a cell phone stuck in your ear.
·You get personally offended at slapstick comedy.
·You know people around you are taking bets, but won't tell you why.
·You get hurt while climbing the wheel-chair ramp.
·You've ever cut yourself with a butter knife.
·Standing up makes you very nervous.
·Your standing up makes others very nervous.
·You won't use a pencil sharpener because "mechanical things" scare you.

·Others clear a room to "wait until you are finished with it."
·The hospital has a welcome mat with your name on it.
·The Guinness Book people have called you "because you are famous."
·You are Evel Kneivel's hero.
·Scientists want to study you and are willing to pay handsomely.
·You have been hit by more than three meteorites...this month alone.
·You have a permanent asphalt tattoo on your forehead.
·Any sudden movements, like waving, makes others cringe.
·You think using a file cabinet should be "left to the experts".
·If mail addressed to your house is prefaced with, "Keep out of reach of..." and bears your name.
·Your closest friends have had a special walker made for you, "just like the ones toddlers use, only bigger."

·You're thinking of volunteering for a cloning project, for purely personal reasons.
·You've ever crossed your fingers because it was less noticeable that way.
·You have a "permanent wave" in your skull.
·Inanimate objects seek to move out of your way.
·The words "I'm going to..." are met with peals of laughter.
·If everything in your house is decorated in Early Nerf.
·Your "train of thought" has ever resulted in a wreck.
·You cut your finger on a string while practicing "air guitar".
·Dinner forks make you break out in hives and give you hiccups.
·You've ever had a teacup removed from your esophagus.
·A new wing at the hospital may soon bear your name, though you don't recall contributing any money.

·You are the poster child for any medical organization.
· Paramedics thank you for making their early retirements possible.
·You get Christmas cards from Johnson & Johnson.
·You refer to common sewing repairs as ‘sutures.’
·You've been made an honorary lab rat.
·You change a tire and can't pull your hand free without removing lug nuts.
·You've been named the Ninth Wonder of the World.
·You've ever pursed your lips and couldn't un-purse them.
·You were told to "zip your lip" and got it caught in the zipper.
·The mere act of waking up causes nosebleeds.
·You discover you have several new wounds upon waking up.

·And last, but not least, a definite sign: If you've ever gotten hurt while changing your mind, you may indeed be accident-prone.

Okay, another breather is in order. You’ve earned it.

In our family, the more bizarre your humor, the more likely you are to get the family’s Badge-of-Bizarre-Humor Award and be inducted into Sigma Phi Moron. It’s just our way. What can I say? Much of it is intentional, but some just happens on its own.

Our eldest took us to a restaurant once, as a family, and we were asked by the waitress whether we wanted ‘soup or salad’. When she came to our youngest, he responded with, “What’s the difference?” After the initial stunned looked from all of us, there were hoots of “Duh!” and “One’s wet, the other isn’t” and the sort. Then we got an explanation—he thought she had said ‘Super Salad’ and wanted to know what made it so ‘Super’. Well, I knew right away he was a chip off the old block and his inquisitive mind was fully intact. We all relaxed and had a great dinner, as any loving family might—never letting him forget it for a moment. After all, one must have a ‘family roast’ when one is wearing roast-colored glasses.

He has his moments when he gets us back, though. He waits for the ideal time to spring it on us. He got us on the way back from a vacation trip once, in a small compact car with little means of escape. No, it wasn’t what you think, but it was just as obnoxious, in its own way.

We kept smelling this nasty ‘pickled sausage’ type of odor every now and then. Our faces would screw up and we would all complain and ask what it was, commenting on how disgusting the smell was. Had we run over some strange, decaying beast along the road? No one could say what it was, but it was certainly disconcerting. The next day we were reflecting on it and wondering aloud what it might have been and he grins, real proud-like and blurts out, “It was me-e-e-e-e!” He had been burping with silent, but deadly effect from the back seat all that time. How he had kept a straight face through it all still puzzles me. That and how he managed to survive such close proximity to the vapors.

In families, it just seems that much of the humor is the lowest, most base kind. In our family, if you were to refer to the ‘’Eternal Flame,” it would likely be met with, “Yeah, we always have a candle burning in our bathroom, too.” Or some unfortunate member of the family would be accused of being that person who bore the name, but let’s not go there, shall we? There’s no sense burning britches here.

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When it comes to foods and our family, some of us are adventurous and others are not. I still wonder if a genetic defect must have caused some of my kids to not like tomatoes or mushrooms on pizza. To this day I insist that they order their own pan pizzas or sandwiches at the fast food joints. I can’t possibly remember all the permutations they insist upon. There is no such thing as just ordering a Supreme Pizza in my family.

“I don’t want pineapple.”

“Can we get it without mushrooms?”

“The onions are gross!”

“Hey, I’ve got an idea! Let’s just order one with no ingredients and go home, okay?” (I knew I should have just taken the wife out to dinner and let the kids eat macaroni and cheese).

I and my oldest son, Adriel (who is a great cook, by the way), like to try the cuisines of other countries, adventurous souls that we are. Some of us (my youngest son) like to try other foods just for the shock value. (He could learn a lot from my first grade experiences about never responding to dares and bets.) I will never forget the time that his brothers challenged him to put wing sauce on his Jello. He liked it on so many things that they thought it would be funny to tease him. He thought it would be funny to call their bluff. He has this brave-heart attitude that no challenge must go unaccepted. It was funny, though—for all but him. He did everything but lick the bottom of his shoe to get the flavor out of his mouth. In the end, he saw the humor of it. Later—much, much later.

In fairness, he isn’t the only one that has suffered culinary sabotage, whether voluntarily or by accident. During a family get-together, I once reached for my favorite drinking container (not transparent, but large—a ‘man’s man’ type of glass) and began to pour Root Beer into it. Everyone stared in disbelief as I discovered the mash floating in my soda.

“What’s this?”

“Ummm, minced garlic for the garlic bread.”

I hated to see the soda go to waste and I liked garlic, so-o-o-o-o….
I have yet to live that one down. Actually it wasn’t as bad as it sounds, although I wouldn’t repeat it intentionally. It does, however, remind me of the time I first saw an olive tree, shortly after we moved to California. I thought that since I liked black olives, it would be cool to try one fresh from the tree. It beckoned me in, calling my name and pleading with me to try just one. It was ripe and delectable and something that my wife insisted heartily I should avoid. I countered with the argument that her tastes and mine were often different and proceeded to put it into my mouth and bite down.

I’m not sure what my muzzle velocity was, but we were both glad she wasn’t standing directly in the line of fire. Our tastes weren’t as different as I had imagined and my curiosity was instantly and abundantly satisfied. I learned that they must leach at least 17,000% of the flavor out of a black olive before it is anywhere near fit for human consumption. I suspect that there are as yet undiscovered war applications for them directly from the tree, though.

In what seems to be the proper category, now is the time to introduce the last of my Foxworthy-isms into the mix. This segment deals with food, so this is the best place to let it reside. Enjoy and Bon Appetit.

You may be a lousy cook if...

·Your dog starts howling each time you move toward the kitchen.
·Your children really believe there is such a thing as the Charcoal Lover's Pizza.
·You are always the "guest of honor" at all the church potluck dinners and as such have "no need to cook".

·You think of beans and franks as exotic cuisine.
·You make two kinds of Jello--smooth or crunchy.
·Your biscuits are heavy as lead, but they won't go down.
·A food fight with your cooking causes life-threatening injuries.
·If you start hearing things like, "No thanks, I ate just yesterday."
·If a new meal is greeted with, "Leftovers again?"
·Your guests ask you to identify which are the peas and which are the carrots.
·Your children start following dinner with ipecac and epinephrine chasers.
·Several neighborhood dogs have died of mysterious circumstances.

·Dry heaves are just a part of your life.
·You've ever bought Pepto Bismol in the ‘handy 5-gallon size.’
·Your family doctor has a stomach pump with your family crest on it.
·Your dinner table has ever been quarantined and you were banished from the kitchen for extended periods.

·Your family invented anorexia and bulimia.
·More than seven of your favorite recipes use Ramen as the main ingredient.

·The Surgeon General and several FDA officials are on a first name basis with you.
·The World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control have adopted your family.
·If Saddam Hussein ever asked you for your recipes.
·Alka-Seltzer is considered a dessert in your home.
·The makers of Raid, Black Flag and Roach-Prufe have all offered to buy you out.
·Tour buses approach, slow down, and the occupants point and shake their heads sympathetically.
·That "spontaneous picket fence" around your house is made entirely of handmade crosses, donated by anonymous caring individuals.

·Your meatballs, when fired at high velocities, have been demonstrated to kill vampires.
·A new and unusual syndrome has been dubbed in your honor.
·If anyone eating your homemade bread has ever broken a tooth or fractured a jaw.
·Portland Cement Company has identified three new molecular structures in your biscuits.

·Your dinner rolls may have newfound applications in rail gun and particle accelerator technologies.
·The Department of Defense has classified your cooking as Top Secret in the interest of national security.
·Your kitchen has ever been lovingly referred to as Ground Zero.
·If your wastebasket or garbage disposal ever threw up.
·The mere thought of "eating in" causes spontaneous diarrhea and vomiting in your family members.

·If you find that cooking is the quickest and most effective threat you can make.
·Your pancakes are often mistaken for the plate.
·Your husband asks for more pancakes just before he goes skeet shooting.
·Your children are caught skipping your pancakes across the lake and several ducks are hurt.

·You discover your kids stacking your homemade cupcakes and running for cover when they begin to tilt.
·The baby begins crying when you ask if anyone is hungry.
·The fumes from your cooked cabbage can peel paint...at a distance of three blocks.
·The FDA has ordered you to attach a warning label to all your concoctions.
·You've inspired Hollywood producers to consider a new approach to the Lethal Weapon series of films, but Mel Gibson and Danny Glover are afraid to star in it.
·Your Peanut Butter/Tuna Noodle Surprise brought the house down—literally.
·Your kitchen has been listed as a Superfund Cleanup site.

·And a huge indication to consider: If shoe repairmen use your waffles because they last longer than synthetic soles, you may indeed be a lousy cook.

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No one can explain why my mind works as it does—not even me. It’s just one of those wonders of the modern world. If you talk about ‘dog tags’, my mind comes up with ‘Collar ID’. Don’t ask why. It just happens.

When someone refers to ‘that windblown look’, I immediately jump to the next option, which is ‘storm-ravaged’. I’ve never been able to explain it. It just happens…and happens…and happens….

Like when I hear someone mention Manila envelopes, I can’t help but wonder if they actually originate in the Philippines. My mind is just wired differently from yours. The relational database is jammed and crammed with lots of seemingly unrelated things—until I get ‘hold of them, that is. It amazes even me.

‘When you cross certain animals with other animals or objects, what would you get?’

Rhinostriches. Kinda like turkey, but the skin is so thick you can’t eat them. (Hmmmm—long legs and horny, too!)

Kangaroosters. These lay eggs and crow every time they jump. Awesome! (“Breakfast is ready, kids—hop to it!”)

Woosels. I’m not certain exactly what these are, but I do know they make you dizzy if you have one for a pet.

Alligarters. Okay, your guess is as good as mine on this one, but they looked pretty menacing, so I had to include them or risk being eaten. One is wrapped around your leg right now, by the way.

Buffalumps. Soft, furry and very slow moving, these creatures cannot be used for transportation or farm applications, but genetic scientists are working on a hybrid that shows promise as a throw rug.

Rummy Babbits. My oldest discovered these when he was a toddler. Cute as they are, the fact remains that drunken rodents are still rather unnerving and bizarre.

Was Charlie Chaplin’s walking stick where the term Chapstick first came from? Or was it transliterated from the Chinese ‘Chopstick?’ Okay, that was a stretch, but I need to stretch now and then.

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Kids can be really funny. I recall when my wife was trying to teach our oldest not to belch so loud. You can’t do that with a teenager, by the way. It doesn’t work. Or it may only be temporary until they have another teen boy in their presence. At any rate, she asked him to say, ‘Excuse me’ after he did it, if he must do it. He told her that he had said it, but she hadn’t heard him and instructed him that it had to be said at least as loud as the burp. Wrong words! My son, the Howitzer, nearly scared her to death the next time he belched, following it up with a hearty “S’CUSE ME!” that any Army Sergeant would have been pleased and impressed to hear. She can laugh at it now, but nearly needed to shower back then.

Loud sounds can be funny, though. I recall a campout we had in a California state park. The restrooms were made of concrete, not very large and with ported windows at the top. I re-entered the world after a much needed visit to this little booth of relief and tranquility, only to have my family grinning and one of my smart Alec sons ask if he had heard a bear growling in there or was that me. (This was the ‘That’s ‘gusting’ kid. He sang a different tune in later years, it appears). I recall that I told him I was tuning up before the big concert, or some such nonsense. This kid does have tremendous talents, though. A musician in his own right(seriously). He is also a natural salesman. He could sell clothes to a nudist, I swear.

I always thought that no campout was complete without entertainment and the logical choices always seemed to me to be Root Beer and beans. ‘You make your own fun’, my wife was always fond of saying. We just disagreed on the methods. The boys and I were always outvoted when she was with us. The all-male campout was a different matter, though. Like Outback; no rules, alright?

My Father was a connoisseur of rude smells, it seems. He was raised in the country and on any trip that we had, when the family held their breath and groaned at some local odor we were currently passing (or passing through), he would immediately proclaim what type of animal the stench had originated with, as if we were to recall that lesson in case there would later be a final exam that might determine and seal the remainder of our lives. Okay, he wasn’t that bad, but I did think it peculiar that he could know all of this so intimately. I never envied him the ability, just thought it peculiar.

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Some folks are just born without a clue and never manage to get one, it seems. You feel like you want to get them a T-shirt that says, ‘Reality Check—Cash Immediately!’ My son, the salesman, runs into this a lot. Here is a kid that was training other salesmen after two months on his first sales job—he’s that good. A natural. What kind of customer does he have to work with?

‘Ooooh, that must be a good TV—it’s made in China!’

And one hour and forty-five minutes later, he can’t help himself. She’s still bought nothing and he simply must walk away to reclaim his sanity. She was just lonely and wanted company, I guess. (So, invite him to dinner, Lady. You get to talk all you want and he gets a decent apology).

I recall being in a church congregation of single adults before I was married and meeting the “Have We Met” girl and the “Human Magnet”. The former would remember me each time she saw me, but always ask if she had met Linda. Linda tells me this had been going on for months, even before we dated and got married. I had heard of selective memory before this, but had never actually seen it in action until this young woman came into my life. Very strange. But, as strange as that was, equally terrifying was the latter—the Human Magnet. Both my wife and I lived in fear of him. Everyone who knew him lived in fear of him.

If he saw you in the hallway, he made a beeline to you and glommed onto you like a super glue and tire chains jacket with concrete lapels. You didn’t stand a chance unless there was someone else he was attracted to with a greater magnetic density. Even yelling and pointing, “Look at that big distraction!” did no good. You were doomed. He talked about nothing, but he did it with such a desperate need that you had to be fascinated at first. That wore off quickly, however. It took exactly ten seconds. He was one that was so lonely that he smothered and alienated those he sought to befriend. I began to duck and run, as I had seen others do. I was never the type to try to be intentionally rude, but this was a matter of self-preservation and I felt God would understand. It was every man for himself!

Speaking of magnets, I have an idea for an invention made with magnets. These days the kids (of all ages) are wearing those body-piercing studs (someone’s idea of self-beautification—to me it is more like defacing a monument). Why not make them with the Neodymium magnets and save having to actually poke holes in yourself? You’d have two metal studs with strong magnets stuck to them and with opposing magnetic poles. They will stick to both sides of your lip, you ear lobe, your nostrils, your …well, never mind that. They get too creative for my liking. The way these guys look already, it would at least lend new meaning to the term “Stud Magnets ™,” would it not?

Some of these people with piercings could set off the alarms at the airport even if they were completely naked! I wonder if they pick up radio stations with those things. Maybe they even get better cell phone reception. Some people recycle metal. I could make a fortune if I could con these folks into lining up and following me.

I could never poke holes in myself that way—I’m not Swiss. If the hole wasn’t put there by God, I don’t want it. You should know that a high percentage of young folks who are doing it are coming down with heart valve problems, probably due to messing with acupuncture points. The tattoo/piercing guy may know how to keep it from getting infected, but he is no nerve specialist. You do what you want, but my heart isn’t in it (pun intended).

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I had a missionary companion that impressed me with the sense of humor that he had, when once I was on my mission for our church. He was from British Columbia and seemed the prim and proper gentleman, every bit. He even lectured me once that ‘puns are the lowest form of humor.’ He found it less-than-amusing when I responded that, in my experience, I had found them to be ‘quite punny.’ The kicker was that as we got to know one another, he played some tapes for me of him pulling telephone pranks on people. I was impressed with his skills, but after that I never quite figured out his standard for what qualified as good humor and what failed the test.

But, getting back to bathroom humor for a moment. We (the boys and I) often get a laugh from the environment that others just use and lose. Once, when two of them were lined up at wall and paying their respects, one of the boys read the brand name on the urinal—Swisher. Grinning and turning to his brother, he pointed out the name and then made the appropriate swishy motions and sounds with his mouth, as if he were about to discharge—or swallow—some liquid. It got the laugh he wanted. Another time the laughter was because of the graffiti someone had left on the dispenser that many stalls have for the paper seat covers—‘Free Cowboy Hats,’ it read.

Of course, even drinks are not immune to attack. If the color is appropriate and the timing is right, the remark will be made concerning ‘free refills’, accompanied by a big grin from both parties. On this one, perhaps you had to be there. Whether you might want to be there is another matter entirely and not discussed within the constraints of this book.

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Relieving tension is important for everyone, but how that tension is released can be a surprise, as well. On a particularly hot and miserable car trip with the kids once, we were all on edge and on each other’s nerves, also. We were about to explode when we found a place to stop and get a drink and gat a jug filled with water at a roadside faucet. When our second son bent over to let a small amount of water drip on his head, our oldest son took opportunity to open the faucet all the way and drench the poor boy. The shock of the cold water had to have been tremendous and I know the intent was anything but well meant; however, when he gasped and came up in what we expected to be a tirade of anger, he simply said, “Thanks, I needed that”, defusing the entire powder keg that could have ruined the entire trip for good. That type of response was certainly welcome, after the fact, but not expected. He had no corner on this market, though.

My daughter was once being very annoying on a trip and I was less than patient as I drove. And less than kind, I might add. I attempted to demean her with a comment like, “What did you do, take your brains out and play with them?” I heard a mumble in the backseat and the kids all started to laugh out loud. I knew they weren’t laughing at me. My wife asked what was said that caused it and one of the boys repeated my daughters’ remark—“I can’t remember”, she had said slyly. Well, that broke up the crab-in and we went on our now merry way.

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My youngest son, Alma, and I were discussing the stupidity of some aspects of the legal system. You might think it insane that Mexico City (one of the world’s largest population centers) has no law against kidnapping—until you realize that you probably can’t name a place in the U.S. that says a criminal has no legal claim for damages for any injuries received while in their commission of a crime.

So-o-o-o …if a dope fiend breaks through your bedroom window to kill and rob you and slips on your skateboard and gets hurt (well, you should have put it in the closet or under the bed, actually), you could get sued for everything you own. Not fair, right? Of course not. You just missed a perfectly good night’s sleep. That’s got to be worth something. But I digress.

Now we must also discuss the possible solutions to this predicament. The situation is this: You have a partially used and broken dope fiend on your bedroom floor. His inconsiderate moaning is bound to wake the rest of the household and he is most certainly going to be of little use in cleaning up the broken glass that he himself has so carelessly strewn about the floor for you to step on with your bare feet. Woe is me. What to do?

Well, all is not lost. If you actually have a skateboard in your bedroom, you might use it to finish the job and put the poor soul out of your…er, his misery. If that seems unlikely, then you probably have a baseball bat nearby. After all, you had a skateboard, didn’t you? So, a bat can’t be too far away. But maybe you are the bookish type and a bit squeamish about such things. ‘The mess would just ruin the carpet completely’ and all that stuff and that solution would tend to ruin your next breakfast, as well. Alternate solution for the bookish, nerdy type: liquid nitrogen. This makes the body easier to break up and carry out to the dumpster. A side benefit of the process is that it may actually raise the I.Q. of the perpetrator a few points, as well. Not a bad deal, really, considering what his I.Q. was before his “unfortunate accident” occurred. At the very least, he will finally be ‘cool’ for once in his sorry life. By the way, I call this method ‘settling out of court.’ Feel free to improvise.

Next project—the jury that awarded over a million dollars to the lady that spilled hot coffee in her lap. What is wrong with this picture, people? This woman orders hot coffee at the drive-through window at her local gilded arches establishment. She gets hot coffee—just what she ordered. So far no problem, right? Then she places the cup of scalding hot liquid between her very tender thighs and squeezes it hard. Okay, arousing as that may be, we’ve just taken a hard turn into the Twilight Zone here, folks.

Is it her fault for doing such a foolish thing? It would seem that the appropriate answer is no, despite all human desire to rationalize. The rules of some alternate universe must be at work here, because nothing I can find or think of can explain the math on this one. And the Einstein that can explain it has yet to materialize. All I can figure is that the jury that decided this case must be a dozen freaky geniuses to have all come to the same conclusion. Still, I’m 100% certain that I would not want any of them tutoring my children. Oh, and lady …next time order a cold soda.

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Okay, here’s one to think about. The person that calls you at 3 o’clock in the morning (probably from India) and asks, “Did I wake you?” You know, half of me wants to laugh, half of me wants to cry and the third and remaining half wants to say something like, “Of course not. I stay awake every night waiting for just such a call as yours. Thank you for helping my Make-A-Wish Foundation dreams come true; you angel, you!” I think I could pull it off. I’m getting pretty good at this sarcasm stuff, don’t you think?

P.S. If you are guilty of this crime, I didn’t mean you, okay? No—really. There’s a bus coming in five minutes—be under it. (Sorry, Donna--I had to. No offense, okay?)

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Sometimes I get frustrated quite easily. One thing I really hate with a passion is the hoops you have to go through to make semi-long distance calls. It isn’t to another state and it isn’t local. It’s just far enough away to confuse the issue. You dial a ‘1’ and the voice says, “It is not necessary to dial a ‘1’ with this number. Please hang up and try again.” So, you do that. This time you dial the area code and the extended number and the voice tells you that you have somehow screwed up again. On the third try, you may get it, if the lines haven’t gone down totally by then— You know the drill: “All of our circuits are busy now. Please try again later.” Yeah, probably from a thousand other people attempting the same thing you are.

What I want to know is this: If this lady is smart enough to know that you don’t need to ‘do this’ or ‘do that’, then for cryin’ out the window, why isn’t she helpful enough to just dial the stupid number for you?!!! What good is technology if it doesn’t work? Sheesh!

This space intentionally left blank.
(Except for this writing, of course.)

CH.7 Full Circuit (Home and Gone Again)

Full Circuit (Home and Gone Again)

My kids have lived a great portion of their lives on the dry desert side of Washington State and each time we went to Seattle they expected to see rain and each time they felt cheated when it failed to appear. It just seemed downright weird to me, having been raised in Indiana, to have them scream out, “Yay! Rain!” when it finally materialized for them on one trip. The locals must have thought them a bit tetched in the head, I imagine. But then, it wouldn’t be the first time. Not that they don’t come by it honest.

On a family trip to California at year’s very end, we stayed in a hotel across the street from Disneyland and sat in the hot tub until the fireworks display began across the street. At this point everyone draped a towel over their shoulders and ran to the front of the hotel to watch the festivities. Little did we know we would be part of the show. While we stared at all the people in their winter coats and hats, they stared at us in our towels, barefoot and in swimsuits, bodies dripping water, all the while giving us that unmistakable ‘Where you from, Alaska?’ look. I got the same stare in Arizona when I stood on a street corner in short sleeves and was surrounded by all these folks going by in coats and hats and even gloves. You never know when you are going to be the odd one out, so be prepared—have a towel ready.

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What one person thinks is funny may not be at all humorous to another. Take for example the time that my wife was working at the airport before our marriage—she had a lot of stories from there that I wish she had written down before she forgot them. (Hmm, regressive hypnosis maybe?) She was once at the counter when a plane landed and shortly thereafter a man came in swearing a blue streak at her and vowing to never again fly such a blankety-blank airline. The reason became clear a few moments later when it was explained to her that the hatch under the jump seat he was sitting on had popped open upon touchdown and the poor man had likely wet himself with worry that he would fall out at high speed and either be run over or be grated to death on the tarmac. Rug burn x 1,000. Who can blame him? I wonder if he sees the humor in it now.

From what my wife tells me, this was one ‘winner’ of an airline. Their post card showed a picture of their plane sailing upside down, if I recall correctly. When the mechanic once teasingly informed the flight attendant that there was to be a slight delay in takeoff (because he had to ‘go back for more bailing wire’), the attendant promptly and nonchalantly made the very same announcement to the passengers. She was obviously a city girl. Luckily for her the passengers were mostly Idaho ranchers and farmers. They just laughed. Doubtless, she wondered why they were laughing and someone had to explain. Please note: That part is funny, too.

It reminds me of another story from the travel agency Linda worked at shortly after this time. This one deals with another city gal, born and raised. This young lady came back to work complaining of how she and her boyfriend, fiancée or whatever, had gone out to dinner, ordered a whole chicken and had been cheated. She explained how it had been served to them with only three legs instead of four. Everyone laughed and soon after dispersed. Not my wife—the kind and caring soul. She asked if the girl had really meant it and was told that, yes, the story was true. When asked to explain, she told Linda how everyone knew that chickens have four legs. “You see them on those cooking shows, holding them up by two legs, while the other two dangle beneath.” Oo-o-o-ka-a-a-a-y…. See! There is a need for Poultry 101 at Berkeley. We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto.

‘Waiter, reality check, please. And a doggie bag.’

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Every now and then I get these weird urges to shake things up. So I do. During a game of hide and seek with the wife and kids in our backyard, I once got this crazy notion to do something different that would make my wife laugh when she was done counting and ready to search. The kids all went and dutifully hid. Not Dad. He had something else in mind.

When my wife completed the countdown and turned around, she found me in a huddled ball on the lawn, only about ten feet from the porch on which she stood, face down and covered, confident that I could never be found. She did laugh, as I expected, and remembers it all these years later, as do the children that were old enough to play at the time.

The weird urges don’t stop there, though. I have a mischievous streak in me. I think of what I would do if I were in the shoes of other people. A toy designer, for instance. Personally, I think they are missing a niche market for the Tattoo Biker Barbie doll. (Don’t be too quick to condemn it. They have a Trailer Trash Barbie, I’m told). It would be a hoot to see one, at least. I would even buy it —maybe.

It reminds me of a guy I heard about who was a man after my own heart, to be sure. He had evidently gone into a toy store and had managed to change the voice mechanisms between a girl’s doll and a G.I. Joe. I don’t know if this is even possible or ever happened, but I can certainly imagine the surprise one would get when the manly male toy would ask for a cup of tea and say, “Let’s play house!” Or the sweet little chatty-patty bellows out “Move in, boys! We’re gonna take that hill!” Ah-h-h-h, how sweet the sound. I love a woman who knows what she wants.

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My wife tells me of a time she was in a room full of her college friends and roommates and was planning a trip back home. She happened to be on the phone with her male friend, Charlie, and was expressing to him her concern that she preferred not to drive alone over the mountain pass at that time of year. The range was called the Blue Mountains. Her friends all stopped in dead silence for a moment when she suddenly expressed that she needed ‘a man to get her over the Blues.’ Then they erupted into laughter.

She managed to get them all settled down and explained, “You guys, the Blues are mountains!” Then, turning back to the phone, she said, “Sorry, Charlie.” The second eruption of laughter ensued immediately. (If you have no idea what this means, ask someone twice your age. Chances are they will know).

Things weren’t always easy for Linda, especially during pregnancy. She told me of one instance that I was sorry to have missed. (I think she was sorry to have told me). She was in the last stages of her pregnancy with our first child and was walking home the block or so from work that she had to go. She said she could feel her pantyhose creeping down, down, down and she was wondering if she would ever get into the building in time. Just as she stepped into the door, they fell straight to the floor. Luckily for her, the hallway was empty at the time and she managed to recover her dignity before anyone saw her. Ah-h-h-h-h, I love that story. (Heh, heh.)

Linda has been the source of a lot of good entertainment for us as a family, actually. (I hope she knows how much we love and appreciate her for that). Once she happened to be driving with the kids to somewhere and she was flipping through the radio stations and the announcer was saying, ‘What do you tell your kids about drugs?’ and she again flipped the station impatiently and muttered, ‘Yeah, yeah —whatever.” Naturally the kids thought this was hilarious and never forgot how Mom felt about their education. Poor Linda.

I recall a campout when we were all safely tucked into bed and had been having a last little chat before going to sleep. She was in the middle of a sentence when she suddenly remembered that there was still food sitting out that needed to be put away. So, instead of finishing her thought, it came out something like this: “Hey, you guys! Always remember…oh, crap!” And needless to say, we always have remembered, much to her chagrin. Knowing we love her makes it bearable, I am sure. I wonder what she was really going to tell us that night. And why she wants us to remember that in particular.

Our second child, Trevor, was the source (victim?) of a few good laughs, too. Although, again Linda was often the major character involved in the plot. It wasn’t funny at the time, I am sure, but it was later.

Linda took the kids on a trip once when I was unable to go because of work. They went to Nevada to see some friends and, as you may know, there are miles and miles of nothing but miles and miles in some parts of that state. Trevor was just a young guy and he had been telling his Mom that he needed to pee for quite some time. She kept looking for a place to pull over and let him out. Not like there was huge amounts of traffic and witnesses in the Nevada desert, to be sure, but she kept on until she had found a building to take him into. Maybe it had something to do with the time we pulled over to let him out to pee and there was a rattlesnake right at the door, but I digress. (Personally, I think he would have been all right. This little guy tried to walk across the swimming pool as a baby. When I fished him out by the suspenders, he spit out the water and was going to have another go at it. But again I digress.)

Anyway, she took the little guy into the building, through the first outer door and when she reached the second door and read the notice, she immediately turned back and dragged the poor protesting child out in a hurry. Seems she had chosen a brothel to stop at with her child (he never lets her forget this for very long) and he had to wait until they could go behind a big pile of gravel a bit further down the road. I think it was pee gravel. Is that how you spell that?

Just as bad was when she was driving through our own hometown and one of the kids, pointing to a tavern, proclaims, “Grandma took us there!” Yeah, it later came to light, to get some empty boxes to move. Whew! I thought we were gonna have to turn the ol’ gal in.

Trevor had a tough time growing up. I recall one campout when we were roasting marshmallows and his caught fire. He began to shake the stick to put out the fire. It wasn’t long before the sticky and flaming morsel was detached and deposited directly on the end of his tender little nose. He got a burn bad enough to peel, but we were all thankful that he never got it in the eye. We can laugh about it now and besides, his subsequent studies of ballistics have really paid off in water balloon launching wars.

Trevor seemed to be the target of several bullies in grade school, because he was bookish and easy to push around. I hated the idea that others would push him into lockers and so forth, but I knew that if he fought back, even in self-defense, the system would victimize the victim. Schools are often just petty bureaucracies run by insensitive tyrants. I have a theory that the kid who was victimized in school gets his revenge by becoming the principal and taking it out on everyone he can.

Anyway, what I recommended to Trevor was that they might be less likely to mess with him if they thought he were a bit unstable mentally. He became so adept at this that he had me wondering, too. In one incident the intimidating bully faced him and asked, ‘Do you want me to beat you up?’ Trevor calmly answered, ‘Might as well. I have nothing better to do.’ And he stood his ground and waited. The bully was so perplexed that he shook his head and left. The next year Trevor had grown about a foot and they pretty much left him alone anyway. Bullies are usually cowards at heart.

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Sometimes the humor is unexpected and from the most innocent of sources. One night when the kids were watching Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day on TV, Linda and I began to laugh out loud together when we heard these words: “Pooh! Was that you?” Some things just can’t be helped. They are universally funny. I just know that the producers of the show decided to slip in a fast one on us. Good one! ‘Gusting, but good.

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Kids can be a real joy to you. I love the unique ways they find to wish me Happy Father’s Day, for example. I got the normal greeting as well as Happy Pappy’s Day and Happy St. Papa’s Day. And I got a birthday card that read, 'I miss you. Being weird just isn't as much fun without you being here to see it.'

Our son Quinn has a girlfriend that won my heart at a very early stage. He was on the phone with her and I had told him to “Tell her Dad says ‘hi’” and he did. She responded unhesitatingly with “Hi, Dad!” I loved her immediately. In fact, I wish she were my daughter-in-law (hint, hint!)

She has a great sense of humor, too. Sometimes she victimizes herself with it, though. Recently I had to laugh when I called Quinn and the two of them were together. They are in Washington State right now and I am in Arizona (yeah, tell me about it). Anyway, I commented on how long it had been since I had seen her and that I missed her. She responded with, “Yeah; I miss you, too. I hope things are okay down south.” Quinn never missed a beat, noting aloud that this was rather a 'personal' thing to say. We all had a good laugh at that one.

Quinn is usually the quiet one in most circumstances. People thought we must’ve beat him because he is so shy and quiet around those outside the family. He was always that way. If he was hurt and you had your back turned to him, he could bleed to death before you ever turned around to notice it. No, I’m not kidding. He cried silently. Around the house, though, he would have the family just dieing in laughter. Turnabout is fair play, I guess. Anyway, on a trip to Calgary, Canada once, to see one of our favorite bands, The Tea Party, he was the source of a lot of fun. We told a lot of jokes on that trip, but we all remember only one. He told of a couple guys that were marveling over how big the ducks were at the sewage pond, until one of them announced that they were corn-fed ducks. Yes, it was disgusting, but in a hilarious sort of way and we all laughed really hard —even my daughter-in-law, Krystal.

And then as the laughter would die down, Quinn would just add a quiet, “Hyuh!” in a hayseed voice and it would start all over again. It got so bad that my oldest, who was driving, would laugh so hard he could barely see and he would keep slowing down and slowing down until we thought sure he would have to pull over, he was wiping his eyes so much. Krystal was beating Quinn in a good-natured way to get him to stop and it almost worked —until we got back up to speed and he started all over again. And so did we. Took us three weeks to get home. Okay...five.

He has this amazing way of delivering the goods when he is being funny. Once he had some chunks of candy corn in his mouth, blunt ends down so they looked like teeth. Then he slapped his leg and did the same “Hyuh!” and we all just died laughing. His humor is so simple and understated, but nonetheless effective for it all.

One of the boys once mentioned that it had seemed that all day the older ladies were ‘hitting on’ him. Another never missed a beat with, “Again?!” We knew it wasn’t happening all the time, but that was funny.

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You know, I find it strange that women can so easily call men shallow, but never examine themselves. (Wait…I didn’t mean it that way. I meant that they should examine their behavior, okay?) Anyway, one comedian made a point when he said that women wear padded bras, girdles, shoulder pads, high heels, makeup, false eyelashes, false nails, get tummy tucks, liposuction, lipo injections, Botox treatments and more—and then have the gall to say there are no real men left.

Men just aren’t as worried about their looks as women are about men’s looks. I mean, why settle for having a ‘six pack’ stomach when you can have the whole keg, right? Men are just more practical in some respects. The hair goes at some age, too. Worry? I used to, but that was because I was anxious to see which would happen first—would it all turn gray or would it all fall out? Do I worry now? No! Since it all fell out, it is easier to carry a dust rag than a comb, anyway. And I never worry about my hair getting wet, because I don’t have any. And if the glare bothers you, then you will just have to move, because I can’t see it.

As to this ‘no real men’ thing, I think women bring on a lot of their own problems with men. They say they want a nice guy who will treat them right and then they get one and the nicer he is, the less they want him. Will they tell him why? Of course not. They play the old game of, “Well, if you don’t know, then I’m not going to tell you.” Then they go find a guy that treats them like dirt and complain to their friends that there aren’t any nice guys anymore. Meanwhile, the poor guy that would have done anything for them is either broken-hearted or thinking “Goodbye and good riddance, foul witch!” Seems she wanted a man who was ‘in charge’ and this was the way to test him—by destroying his faith in womanhood. ‘Hi, neighbor—can you say Karma? I know you can.’ Hope you like your new boyfriend, babe. What’s his name again —Spike? When does he get out for good behavior and will you still want him on those terms? Bah, humbug!

Now, lest you think I hate women, let me clarify. I think women are great—when properly tranquilized. No, not really. Just kidding, maybe.

Having said that, I admit that I have the best wife in the entire world and I am not certain why she didn’t kill me in my sleep long ago. I will say this, that I am a better man because of her. She is a stabilizing force for me, because she herself is stable. Would that all women were that way. I know that’s not funny, but it’s the truth, so there!

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Okay, this is the part where the author tries to come up with an absolutely amazing way to end the book. So, in order to fulfill that lofty obligation, I have decided to solve an age-old problem for you, once and for all. The battle of the sexes. So, here we go:

CH.8 Astounding Return

Astounding Return

There is supposedly an ages old battle of the sexes. Quite often we all have a hard time understanding the opposite sex. As an example, when a woman looks at a catalog, she says, “These are nice dresses, don’t you think?” and Robert groans an assenting approval from behind his newspaper and all is well—for the time being.

When a man looks at a catalog, he says, “Wow! I need to get me one of these babies! 954 H.P. and 163,000 foot-pounds of torque! Man, Oh, Man!” and all the while he is drooling like a bulldog. She just stares at him and shakes her head in stunned and genuine disbelief. (By the way, not being the typical male, I barely grasp the idea of what foot-pounds are, let alone why they are to be so highly prized, so I wouldn’t be drooling at this point.)

Now, you ladies might think it’s entirely without hope that you will ever truly communicate with a man. Do not fret. There is actually more that you and he have in common than you might imagine. You just need to find that common ground, if you will. For this, you will need the right catalog.

Victoria’s Secret ought to do it. You’ll soon be asking him, “This is a cute little number, don’t you think?” And he’ll respond enthusiastically, “Yeah—and the lingerie ain’t bad, neither!”—again while drooling like a bulldog. Ladies, just remember that you are making progress—and progress is made a little at a time. Trust me, he will love you for it.

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Well, it’s been a fun walk. I’m tempted to say that this is the end, but knowing me, it’s just the beginning.
(Want to hear something REALLY scary? I‘m considering an audio version of this book. That should keep you awake at nights.)

Thanks for joining me! Let’s do it again sometime soon, shall we?

‘Til we meet again. God bless.

—Steve

Okay, here are a few freebies. Caution: They are really dumb.

What do you get when you dress up Elmer Fudd with a bandana around his head, two fully loaded cartridge bandoliers across his shoulders, a belt full of grenades and an M-16 rifle in his hands? ANSWER: Wambo.

Two men walk into a bar—the third one ducks.
Later, they all turned into a drug store.


Story © by respective author(s)
Licensed under the Creative Commons License