Monday, February 28, 2011

Today's Vocabulary

Sackcloth: 1. (n) Tighty-whiteys.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Once Upon a Time On the Fourth of July

  Please join me as I travel yet again to my childhood.  While this story is true, I’ve changed the names to protect the innocent.  And to prevent any possible legal ramifications.  Of course, at least in the case of my neighbors, I’ve forgotten their real names.  Besides, I think they’re dead. But, they really did hate us.  
  The names of “Buttons” and “Duke” are real, though.  They’re dogs so it’s not likely they’re going to sue me.  Plus, like I said, they’re dogs.  As this took place in 1972, I can say with a fair amount of certainty that they are also dead.  Unless they’re zombie dogs.  Then, we’re all in trouble.....

    I watched my neighbor, George Spinelli, emerge from the brand new tent he had put up in his backyard.  Checking that the six guide ropes were in place, he gave one a tug just to be certain.  Satisfied all was secure, he tromped towards his porch.
    Standing on the other side of bushes planted to separate our two yards, I called over, “What’s with the tent, Mr. Spinelli?”
    He looked annoyed that I could be so dense.  “I thought I’d air out our tent before Mrs. Spinelli and I leave for vacation tomorrow.”
    I leaned over, trying to get a peek inside.  “Where to?”
    “Acadia National Park in Maine.”  He tapped his forehead.  “Most people will be gone, today being the 4th of July and all.  But, Marge and I will have the park pretty much to ourselves.”
    Seeing I had no clue what he was talking about, he explained, “Most people spent the past few days up there celebrating the holiday while we were here.”
    My mouth formed a silent, “Oh.”
    Mr. Spinelli was an okay guy.  Both he and his wife pretty much kept to themselves, but who could blame them?  After all, they lived next door to a family with five kids and a dog. 
    Most of the time, George puttered about in plaid Bermuda shorts, white tank top, and Towne Faire sandals with black socks.  The only time we heard him say anything-besides complain about us-was when he found a Japanese beetle in his hydrangeas.  
    Marge rarely ventured outside.  Content to remain glued to her soap operas, the only time we saw her was after dark when she and George took their dog for a walk.
    Buttons was another story.  Combining high-pitched yipping with a screw you disposition, she was the most obnoxious wiener dog I had ever seen.  If evil walked on four legs and crapped on sidewalks, Buttons was it.
    Determined to preserve the pristine nature of his lawn, George always hooked her to a chain whenever he worked outside.  Even though restricted to her property, that didn’t prevent the hateful Buttons from snarling viciously at us whenever we were outside.
    The problem was that we had to keep our own dog, a female German Shepherd inexplicably named Duke, on a leash when she was outside.  The fact that Duke was three times her size and could swallow her like a milkbone never seemed to bother Buttons.  We always marveled that her bravado was equaled only by her apparent stupidity.
    My father loved the name Duke and called each dog we ever had by that name.  We actually owned several Dukes who, strangely, never died of old age.  Rather, they were all eventually driven in the dark of night to New York State. 
    To hear our father tell it, New York was this wonderful doggie Xanadu with countless treats, dozens of fire hydrants, and all the butts a dog would care to sniff.
    It wasn’t until we got older that we realized that Dad really loved dogs.  Until he didn’t love dogs.  Then, he loved dogs again.  Soon after that, we’d get another Duke.
    We did have a cat named Peaches once, but I don’t remember her very well.  My mother’s favorite, my father hated her.
    “I don’t trust anything that craps in a box under the stairs,” he complained before she mysteriously disappeared.
    Personally, I think Duke III ate her.
    Well, back to the story...
    I watched my father stick his head in the storage area beneath the porch.  With a cry of triumph, he withdrew a metal gas can from behind a tangle of fishing line.  Shaking to check if there was fuel in it, he joined me at the bushes.
    “Hey, whatcha got there, George?”
    Mr. Spinelli, who cared for my old man about as much as mealy bugs on his marigolds, sighed.  “It’s the new Coleman tent Marge and I bought last night.”
    “So, whatcha gonna do?  Camp in the backyard?”
    “No, as I was telling your son, we’re going up to Maine tomorrow for a few days.”
    “Wow, couldn’t get a hotel room, huh?”
    “Actually, we like to camp.  It’s peaceful.”
    “No TV, no air conditioning, no refrigerator, no thank you,” he chuckled.  “Good luck with THAT, George.”
    Mr. Spinelli answered as he pulled his back door open, “See you in a few days.”
    I looked at my only manhood role model.  “I don’t think he likes you, Dad.”
    My father shook his head.  “Screw ‘im.  Imagine that.  Living in the woods just for the hell of it.”
    “I don’t know, sounds like fun.”
    “Don’t sound like fun to me.  He’s a friggin' idiot.  Hey,” he jiggled the can, “you want to give me a hand?”
    “Sure. Doing what?”
    “Lighting the grill, of course.”
    Almost on cue, I heard my mother shout from an upstairs window, “Malcolm!  Not again with the gas...!”
    Annoyed, he searched in vain for my mother’s face.  “Charcoal lighter is crap!” he shouted.  “May as well piss on the coals!”
    “Well, remember what happened to your eyebrows on Memorial Day!”
    “It was windy that day!”
    Stepping to our little hibachi, my father formed a small charcoal briquettes pyramid.  Reaching into his back pocket, he pulled forth a section of the newspaper he had kept when he left the bathroomCrumpling it, he wedged it beneath the pile.
    He upended the can and doused the charcoal with a liberal amount of gasoline.  What wasn’t soaked up by the black cubes formed into a rainbow puddle at the bottom of the grill.  Fumes drifted upward in a shimmering haze.
    My father stuck his head into the vapors and sniffed.  Unsatisfied, he dumped the rest of the can into the grill.
    “That’ll do it.” He said as he dug into his pants for his lighter.  “Stand back.”
    With no small amount of alarm, I watched the fumes spread outward, inching toward our picnic table.  As my father placed his Zippo at the base of the coals, I hoped he knew what he was doing.
    Just to be safe, I inched away.
    He strummed his thumb on the balky lighter’s wheel and bent to ignite the mound of charcoal.  Cursing under his breath, he adjusted the pile and gripped the Zippo tightly with two hands.  He pushed down again and tried to coax something more than a tiny spark from the little metal case.
    “C’mon, c’mon, you motherless c-”
    A fireball rose above the grill and formed into a little mushroom cloud.  An intense orange flare boiled up into the sky, shrouded by an acrid black cloud.  Set aflame, the briquettes turned cherry red almost instantly.
    As tongues of flame leapt into the sky, my father stood triumphantly on the other side of the grill.  He was covered in soot and his eyebrows once more were gone, but a smug smile crossed his face.
    “Now that,” he proudly said, “is a fire.”

To be continued.....

Next: Elvis Presley, Donny Osmond, and Uncle Jim 

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Recycled Joke Saturday

  Okay, so the below isn't one of my own.  But, I heard it so many years ago and remember liking it then.  I'd forgotten it until I saw the name written in a Mens' room last Friday (it's a long story).
  But, it isn't NEARLY as funny as Oilfield Trash's "Courage" post.  If you haven't seen it, please do yourself a favor and do so (AFTER reading my post-I give credit where credit's due, but I ain't crazy!)
  Unfortunately, I don't have time today to write anything original.  But, since I know that at least a couple of you check in to see further examples of my descent into insanity, I decided to at least recycle an old joke.  Plus, I want to maintain my stylish reputation, so it's publish, publish, publish.  Who cares if it's not my own work?
  For what it's worth, I hope you enjoy this old nugget (which, coincidentally, is what they said about the elderly hooker).

***The below is a work of fiction. Any similarity between persons herein or the United Parcel Service is merely a fabrication used principally for the enjoyment of the reading audience.  The deliveryman could very easily work for FEDEX, the United States Postal Service, or the Gotti family.***

  One day, a UPS deliveryman (NOTE: I've never liked their motto: "What can brown do for you?"  It makes me think of laxatives.) strode into the Donald Trump Savings & Loan Company.
  He quickly scanned the warren of cubicles in the main office space.  His air of confidence was supreme, bordering on the cocky, despite being attired in a spiffy pair of brown shorts, a natty brown shirt, a "please-kill-me-now" brown hat, and a pair of suede Buster Browns.
  Glancing at his digital watch (on a brown wristband, naturally), he realized he would be terribly late for his next delivery if he couldn't find the recipient for the package (do I need to tell you it was brown?) he held under his arm.
  In an effort to speed up the process, he cleared his throat and boomed out, "Excuse me."
  Like so many prairie dogs, the dozen or so employees poked their heads tentatively above their cubicles.  Craning their necks and blinking their eyes, they glared at the intruder.
  The UPS deliveryman twisted the parcel in his hands and examined the shipping label.  "I'm curious," he said, "is there a Sexhauer here?"
  An employee in the back fixed him with a harsh stare.  He scoffed, "Sex Hour!?  Hell, mister, we don't even get a ten-minute coffee break!"


Tomorrow: A "Penwasser Original." Unless the men with the butterfly nets come get me.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

And the Award Goes to...

    I was recently given a major award (sadly, it wasn’t a plastic leg lamp): the “Stylish Blogger Award.” 
    When I saw my blog listed as one of the recipients, I was all atwitter although, since I sometimes don’t wear pants when I write, I have serious doubts about just how “stylish” I am.
    Plus, have you seen the picture I use for “Penwasser Place?”
    Well, I suppose if golfers can be called “athletes” and Snooki can be considered “sexy,” I guess I can be “stylish.”
    So, thanks a bunch, holsterrsss from Gormless Expression.  You should check out her blog.  I did and, much to her chagrin, I stayed on as a stalker follower.
    I’m going to try to insert the link to her blog.  Wait a that’s not right...nobody wants to see those pictures of when I attended the “Ru Paul Day Camp.”  OK, here we go...NOW!
    Hopefully, that worked.
    Anyway, “Stylish Blogger” comes with many valuable prizes which is why you should be jealous of me.  In fact, I even had Ed McMahon show up at my door with a Publishers Clearinghouse check.  Which is a pretty neat trick.  Since he’s dead.
    On the other hand, since we’re asked to nominate 15 other bloggers after we receive our award, this honor has been passed around as much as Lindsey at a kegger.
    Eventually, if this person nominates 15 bloggers and those people each nominates 15 others, we’ll all have a sparkling virtual award for our desktops.  It’ll be a lot like Little League where even the kid with no head gets a participation trophy.  Yessir, it’s a brave new world.
    On the other hand, it could be worse.  Imagine how sucky it would be if nobody knew you even existed.  Yeah, now you know how MSNBC feels.
    Another thing we’re supposed to do is provide seven true facts about ourselves.  Why seven and not ten is beyond me.  Maybe the first recipient of this award didn’t feel like writing more than seven.  Or couldn’t think of more than seven.  How sad is that? 
    Heck, if he (or she) asked, I could have at least given them Fact #8:  “I’m so dreadfully boring, I can only think of seven interesting things about me.”
    But, I can certainly provide seven, if not true, then kinda true facts about a guy who feels no qualms about sitting on a curbside toilet.  And, the way I see it, they only have to be interesting to me.  They don’t necessarily have to be interesting to you.
    In no certain order, I present some insight into what makes me tick.  Well, in no certain order mostly because they’re significant in their own right.  And I didn’t feel like putting them in order.
    Believe it or not, these are completely factual.  As far as you know.
    1.  If you comment on my blog, yours is the first one I’ll read.  (NOTE: This is in no way meant to “guilt” you into commenting.  Much.).  I still wish that guy from Slovenia would "hollah" at me.    
    2.  I like to use “parentheses” and “NOTE:” quite a bit whenever I write (NOTE: Just like now.)          
    3.  I have not been invited to Prince William’s wedding.  Which ordinarily wouldn’t bother me, except that I’ve already bought the damn cheese fondue set at Penney’s.
    4.  I have farted and blamed the dog.
    5.  Whenever I get junk mail, I mail the empty “No Postage Necessary” envelope back to whoever sent me that offer for a new credit card to Sonic in the first place.
    6.  I have set all the egg timers in the mall kitchen store and ran out before they went off in one minute.
    7.  I was in the Navy for 27 years.  Nope, nothing sarcastic to say.  The government is watching.
    Wow, you’re kidding me.  I have to stop there?  There’s lots more interesting things to say.  Man, I really feel sorry for that schmuck who was stumped after seven.
    But, if I could give you just one more, I’d have to concur with Oilfield Trash (another “Stylish Blogger”) when he was asked to pony up a few kernels of oily wisdom.  He said he thinks of weird shit.  Not to parrot him (golly, that sounds dirty), but I also think of and write down any goofy nonsense which comes to mind.  To quote John F. (or was that Bobby?  Or Ted?  Well, whoever.) Kennedy:  “Some men see things and ask why, some men see things and say why not, I see things and say man, that’s some weird shit.  I bet I can make some people laugh.”
    Anyway, I think that’s why I enjoy reading his blog.  I think we’re of a common mind that way (sort of a Bush-Quayle team.  Only with brains).  You can check out his blog, Make Daddy a Sammich, below (I think I got this whole “insert link” stuff down cold now):
    Well, I guess I should nominate 15 other folks here. 
    However, rather than going through all the trouble of doing so (believe me, monkeys can write the Bible faster that I can type.  And with fewer errors.), may I direct your attention instead to the blogs I follow? 
    Yeah, yeah, I know, it’s kinda lazy of me.  But, I have crippling arthritis in my fingers.  No?  Would you believe I have no hands?  No?
    OK, I’m frikkin’ lazy.
    Still, if I’m one of your followers, then you are most definitely a “stylish” blogger.
    Especially if you keep your pants on.


Today's Vocabulary

Polyvinyl: 1. (n) Fetish involving parrots and rubber.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Motivational Poster

Kinda makes you want to renew your gym membership, huh?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Happy Presidents Day!

WARNING: The following contains truths, half-truths, and outlandish points of wild conjecture.  Students are therefore urged to not quote any of the below for scholarly research.  Unless you do not live in the United States.  Then, who cares?  Like anyone is gonna know the difference.
This is also kinda long (no sexual double entendre intended) so you may want to pour yourself a cup of coffee with Bailey’s and get comfortable.  Enjoy!

    Happy Presidents Day!
    Until fairly recently (Or not. I’m too lazy to look it up), there was no such thing as “Presidents” Day.  Rather, we celebrated “Lincoln’s Birthday” on February 12th and “Washington’s Birthday” on February 22nd.  What’s more, these days were one shot deals, instead of the three day weekends we now observe. 
    I remember feeling gypped whenever they fell on the weekend.  So, we were all gladdened when the feds decided to ignore history and insist that George and Abe were born on Mondays.  Screw ‘em, I guess they figured.  They’re dead anyway.
    Like I said, though, we now have Presidents Day instead of two separate holidays.  Created to make room for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday holiday (no sense giving mailmen too many days off), Presidents Day was meant to commemorate both our 1st and our 16th presidents.  And sales on cars, washing machines, and living room furniture.
    So as not to offend either the Washington or Lincoln camps (boy, don’t get those two together in the same room!), Presidents Day was placed in between their birthdays.  Or the third Monday in February.  Or whichever made for the better three-day weekend.
    Like Thanksgiving, this made it pretty easy to plan for, as a quick inspection of a calendar would quickly identify when it was.  This is in stark contrast to Easter.  Besides knowing that it’s on a Sunday, I have no idea from year to year when it will happen.  Something to do with the lunar cycle and first day of spring.  During leap year.  When Jupiter aligns with Mars.  And the Pope consults his Magic 8-Ball.  Or something like that. 
    As time wore on, it transformed into a day to celebrate all of our nation’s chief executives, even the sucky ones.
    PERSONAL OBSERVATIONI absolutely love the Martin Luther King holiday.  Not only does it recognize a great man, but it comes on the heels of the post-Christmas/New Years goofing off hangover.  Having a three-day weekend in the middle of January is sweet.  No sense going cold turkey with time off.
    We now return to my decidedly unscholarly diatribe...
    As the concept of Presidents Day caught on, my family tried to come up with a dignified way to recognize the men who guided our nation’s ship of state.
    I have to admit, it was pretty difficult to get all jazzed up for a holiday sandwiched between the saccharine-sweet chocolate debauchery of Valentines Day and the inebriated bacchanalian excesses of St. Patrick’s Day.   
    We finally decided on a “Dress as Your Favorite President Day.”  That way, we could most suitably honor who it was we most admired as the leader of our country.  And, even though my powdered wig and breeches got a lot of stares at the Home Depot, I felt it was the noble thing to do. 
    This practice worked quite well for a number of years.  That is until my brother, dressed as Bill Clinton, got arrested at the Playboy mansion for goosing Miss February.
    To avoid possible litigation, we then decided to pick a president who was not so well-known.  I mean, how likely would it be that a descendant of Martin Van Buren would call us before Judge Judy for saying their great-great-great-great-grandfather’s head looked like a beachball with feathers?  Not terribly likely.
    It really did, though.
    To be sure, there are plenty of obscure stiffs from which to choose, guys who could be genuine stumpers in Trivial Pursuit.  In fact, were it not for their bosses catching cold at inauguration, having one heck of a tummyache, being assassinated, dropping dead from a stroke, or resigning, we probably would never have heard of Tyler, Fillmore, Andrew Johnson, Coolidge, or Ford.
    Bad enough we had Jimmy Carter.
    Hoping to stand out with my unknown president, I chose a man who was legendary in the Republican Party.  A man who put the needs of his fellow citizens before his own.  A man whose hard work paid off handsomely.  A man who had the fortune of being Vice-President when James Garfield was assassinated in 1881:  Chester Alan Arthur, 21st President of the United States.
    Known primarily for his facial hair and uncanny ability to remain innocuous, Arthur had the fortune of being Chief Executive during the Gunfight at the OK Corral when Kurt Russell, starring as Wyatt Earp, defeated the Clanton gang with the help of his brothers, Doc Holliday, and a killer moustache.
     Arthur became president the year Alexander Graham Bell perfected the first metal detector.  This was a step up for the beleaguered Bell who previously invented the machine used to try to locate the bullet lodged in Garfield’s (the president, not the cat) body.
    With the result that Chester Arthur and his whiskers became president.
    President Arthur was especially opposed to the Spoils System.  This was even after he was informed by his cabinet that it had nothing to do with milk being left out overnight.
    A champion of Civil Service reform, because he wanted to avoid “another Civil War” at all costs, Arthur is regarded as the “Father of the Civil Service and the Guaranteed Ten Minute Coffee Break.”
    Not content with remaining somnambulant on the domestic front, he furthered his nation’s outreach beyond Washington. D.C.  During his administration, the United States established formal diplomatic relations with Korea (thus discovering Ping Pong), organized the Alaskan territory (it was a mess), and continued the process by which land was stolen from Native-Americans and millions of buffalo were slaughtered by gangs of drunks hanging from the windows of passing trains.
    Shockingly, he was denied nomination of his party for the presidential election of 1884.  Evidently, party bigwigs weren’t terribly impressed with neither his record nor his campaign slogan of “At Least I’m Not Millard Fillmore.”
    Instead, they gave the nomination to someone whose name escapes me, but, honestly, who cares?  Whoever he was, he was defeated by the Democrat candidate for the presidency.
    Yes, Grover Cleveland became the 22nd President of the United States primarily on the strength of HIS slogan:  “I May Be Fat as a House, But I Ain’t Chester Arthur.”
    Hmm, maybe next year I’ll choose Benjamin Harrison.


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Friends, Romans, Countrymen! Lend Me Your Pee!

WARNING:  The following contains more than the recommended daily allowance of parentheses, to include liberal uses of the words “pee” and “poop” (and variations thereof).   People who are easily offended by questionable language may wish to discontinue reading.  Or they can just lighten the frig up.

First, a short RECAP:  Last week, in Modern Medicine, I recounted my efforts to soothe cracked heels with a concoction called Heel Balm.  The ointment, while ultimately effective, contained something called “urea,” which I thought sounded strangely familiar.
    My fears were later confirmed when I checked the dictionary and saw that “urea” is made from mammalian urine.  Essentially, pee.
    So, even though I now have a pair of heels which would make me a shoe-in (no pun intended) for “Dancing With the Stars,” they come with a disturbing cost:  feet lathered in piss.
   Wow.  Now that I look at the above, it wasn’t such a short RECAP, after all.  Sorry about that.

    Over the course of the past week, you lucky few who are followers of mine (talk about winning the lottery, huh?) have been treated to several lively debates over the relative merits of using bodily waste to treat skin disorders.  I was even informed that I could have merely urinated on my feet to save me the cost of heel cream and prevent any manual contact with the offending substance.
    Unfortunately, I neglected to read that part about peeing in the shower.  My neighbors are still pretty hacked off that I peed on my tootsies while in the backyard.  “Oh, oh, don’t you eat that yellow snow!”
    Then I read a comment from BlackLOG (it was only tonight that I noticed his blog name has the word “BLOG” in it.  He’s very clever and I’m a dunce.). 
    Unsolicited Plug:  BlackLOG’s blog can be found at  Check it out.  It’s well worth a look and, if nothing else, he has a cool video jukebox which automatically starts playing when you click in.  Why not?  Don’t cost nothin’.
    Anyway, he reminded me that the Ancient Romans used urine to clean their togas, since Irish Spring hadn’t been invented yet and only pussies-like the Visigoths-used Wisk.
    According to BL (can I call you “BL?”), well-to-do Romans sent slaves around to collect urine from townsfolk in an early type of recycling program (his description, not mine.  I wish I could claim it-it’s pretty funny).  After collecting a pissload (as opposed to the eminently more offensive shitload), they brought the buckets back to the washing area (I’m thinking it wasn’t in the main house).  Whereupon they handed them off to another group of slaves (who else but slaves would even do this?  There apparently was no “Slave Union”).
    These slaves, called “Fullones” (from which “Fuller” is derived.  If you know anyone with that name, go ahead and tease them-you’ll probably piss them off.  OK, THAT pun was intended), proceeded to mix the pee pee with water into a noxious cocktail in bigger vats (called Urinarium Terrariums.  Well, probably not.  But, it sounds cool, don't it?).    
    They then hiked their tunics to their knees (well, I would hope so), tossed in the soiled togas, called sorditas (or gorditas.  I’m too lazy to Google it), and proceeded to stomp away like Lucy in a grape vat.  Only they weren’t making wine.  Finally, the aristocratic clothing emerged sparkling white, if a tad pungent.
    Not only did the senators impress other fragrant patricians, but the fullones had the softest feet in the empire.  “Win-win,” if you want my opinion.
    Too bad about the lower-class Romans, though.  They had to settle for washing their tunics in poop.
    Of course, in that day and age of no central air and the aforementioned lack of soap (let alone AXE bodywash), no matter where you went, it was like the monkey house at the zoo.
    No wonder the Roman Empire fell.
    I remember something similar which happened to me.....ok, not completely similar.  But, it did involve pee.......
    When my baby brother was still forty years ago, it often fell on me and my sister to help mom out with changing the little drape ape.
    One such morning, as I got ready for school, my mother asked me to change his early-morning pissy diaper.  Even though I would have much rather preferred hauling my bowl of Cocoa Puffs over to the TV for a little Underdog, I knew better than to give her a hard time.
    She had a metal spatula and wasn’t afraid to use it.         
    Anyway, I placed the little wriggler on the changing table, removed the plastic pants which covered his sodden diaper (this was a few years before plastic Pampers), and bent down to retrieve a dry set of clothes.
    Unfortunately, I let go of him and he proceeded to roll right off the table.  Like a veteran outfielder, I scooped him up just before he hit the floor.  Cradling his body against my chest, I placed him back on the table and changed him.
    I considered myself something of a hero, despite the fact I was the knucklehead who let him go in the first place.  I reminded my friends in school how I had saved my brother from injury or possible brain damage (he did that all on his own in college).
    As the day wore on, though, and the heat climbed in the classroom, I started to smell something a little funny.  At first, I thought it was Richie Serilla next to me.  He usually smelled like cabbage.  But, no, it wasn’t him.
    I bent my head and brought the front of my shirt to my nose.
    You guessed it.
    I could have used that shirt for my heels.

OK, that's probably all the laughs I could get from my feet.

Friday, February 18, 2011

This'll Be a Quick One

  First,  I'll save any wiseguy from saying, "Hey, isn't that what you said to your wife on your wedding night"?
  OK, got it out of your system?  Laugh clown, laugh.

  I actually need to go drain my hot tub (no, that is NOT a euphemism).  Due to a lack of diligence on my part this winter, the water smells like feet.  Kinda puts a damper on that whole "relaxing warm, soothing soak" thing.  Unless you have a foot fetish.  Hey, I won't judge.

  Anyway, in recognition of the coming Easter season (yes I know, it's not even Presidents Day, that most festive time of year), the local convenience store has started selling something called "Butter Krak."

When I saw that, I appalled.  I thought it was would taste something like.....

  But, since I had to find out for myself (I'm funny that way), I bought one.  And found out it is nothing more than cocoanut and chocolate.  Which caused me to wonder: where's the butter? And what's with that whole 'krak' business?
  I think it's an Amish thing.
  So, if any of you are Amish and can answer my questions, please let me know.  But, then again, if you're Amish and you're reading this, then you're really not adhering to the spirit and intent of "Amishness", are you?

  Well, now that's that out of my system, time to go clean the petri dish which is attached to my deck.

Tomorrow: Friends, Romans, Countrymen, Lend Me Your Pee 
(Inspired by BlackLOG)

Thursday, February 17, 2011


NOTE: While this next post is not about Maine, it takes place in Maine. What happened below could have happened pretty much anywhere.  Like in Arizona.  But, then my comments about beaches and moose wouldn't make all that make sense. As if any of this does.
ADDENDUM: I'd like to give a "shout-out" to the one reader I noticed from Belize.  I love Belize.  Mayan ruins, howler monkeys, and their own brand of beer. Seriously, what's not to love?
APPENDIX:  I had one. It's gone.  Still don't know what it was good for anyway.  It's a lot like the Vice-President that way.  Or Ryan Seacrist.

    My father-in-law neglected to check the “Date of Birth” block on his driver’s license while on vacation in Maine a few months back. 
    Maine is an unbelievably beautiful state.  Whether it’s leisurely walks along pristine beaches, browsing for antiques in quaint seaside villages, cracking open the ubiquitous lobster (preferably dead), or exploring dense woodlands rich with wildlife such as moose and lost New Yorkers, “Vacationland” is certainly the way life should be.
    My father-in-law did everything the brochures recommended.  But, with “Papa,” a little bit of relaxation goes a long way.  So, to give his week of rest and relaxation a little “zing,” he exhibited a casual disregard for his personal safety.  With an enthusiasm belying his eighty year old frame, he mounted the equally ancient frame of the rusty bicycle behind his camper.
    Sadly, while he may have once been “Schwinn Poster Boy” during the Eisenhower administration, poor ole Papa now belongs on a bicycle as much as Paris Hilton belongs at a Mensa meeting.  Unfortunately, the passage of time wasn’t enough to dissuade this geriatric Evel Knievel from saddling up his pedal-powered steed and wobbling down the nearest bike path.
    Unfortunately, the abrupt collision with the ground as he and said “steed” collapsed like cardboard lawn furniture did.
    Stubbornly insisting he was okay, he tried to dust himself off and once more mount his two-wheeler.  Despite his best efforts, though, he remained under the heap of his bicycle, a victim of that malady most commonly associated with the senior years-a broken hip.  Or, more specifically, a fractured femur just as it enters the hip bone.
    Needless to say, even Papa couldn’t shrug this episode off with Tylenol and a nap.  Figuring walking was one of life’s more important skills, he grudgingly consented to a trip to the hospital to get patched up.  That lobster dinner would have to wait until next summer.
    The operation went well.  Ever the stoic, he insisted that he be given a local anesthetic, rather than being knocked completely out.  He figured that the surgeon would need him to be awake to monitor the operation’s progress and offer any suggestions.  Plus, Papa never liked to miss an opportunity to chat, never mind that his lower body would be cut open like a flounder at dinnertime.
    Following his surgery, he proudly proclaimed to one and all that his fracture was a “clean break.”  I’ve always heard that if you suffer a “clean” break, that’s a good thing.  That may be true, but I lump that cheerful little aphorism into the same category as “Heat lightning can’t hurt you.” and “Sand sharks don’t bite.”
    Yep, you may be right, but you’ll excuse me if I don’t check it out for myself.
    Anyway, hobbled as he was, Papa became the favorite of the ward.  Never wanting to bother anyone, he took care of himself as best as he could.  Shoot, I’ve heard a rumor that he actually helped one of the nurses take his roommate’s stitches out.
    He cheerfully told anyone within earshot tales of his life and relished the opportunity to brag about his family and tease those younger than he that you just “gotta be tough.”
    At the same time, he sheepishly admitted that what he tried to do wasn’t very smart and proclaimed his bike-riding days were at an end (the fact that they were actually at an end in the 20th Century never occurred to him.).
    Since the staff sincerely appreciated his cheerful attitude, they gradually let him do a lot for himself.  So, it wasn’t unusual that, on the day prior to his discharge, they dropped off a collection of unmarked bottles and a basin of water to help freshen up.
    When asked what all the bottles were for, he was informed they were just basic toiletries.  Since he couldn’t move around to the bathroom, the nurses told him to wash himself up in bed.  Granted, it wouldn’t be the same as standing under a hot shower, but it would be far more effective than being hosed down with Febreeze.
    In his typical “can-do” manner, Papa promised his nurse he’d get right to it and reached over to one of his bottles.  Thus relieved of this particular duty, the nurse pulled his curtain shut to give him a little privacy.
    A half hour later, she returned.  Flinging aside the curtain, she asked Papa if he was done.
    Sure enough, he said, although he didn’t need every bottle she brought.
    That was odd, the nurse thought.  She glanced at his bedside table and saw that, next to a damp washcloth, only one of the bottles had been used.  Suddenly, she sniffed the air.
    “Wow, it smells really fresh in here.”  She bent lower toward his bed.  “You smell really fresh.  Almost minty.  Wow.”
    “I know, that soap you people gave me was too strong.  Not like I use back home.”
    Momentarily distracted from his breezy dissertation on hometown soap, the nurse took a glance at the one that was used.  Oh.
    “Is this the bottle you used to wash yourself?”  She held it up.
    He nodded yes.
    A smile curling around her lips, she told him, “This is your mouthwash.”
    Giving no indication that he did anything even remotely embarrassing, my father-in-law fixed the nurse with an exasperated look. 
    Very calmly, but with an air that left no doubt who he thought the real simpleton was, he said, “Well, that’s to protect my body from the germs that cause gingivitis.”
   He checked out that day.  

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


I thought it was illegal to eat leopard.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

By the Way

For those of you who followed my post concerning the use of Heel Balm to cure my cracked heels....
Huzzah! (NOTE: Civil War era term for "yippee!").  My heels are now all smooth and healed (no pun intended).

Of course, they smell a little funny from all that urea, but each of us have to make some sacrifices in life.
Like never taking off my shoes.  Even in bed.

Behold! The Mighty Tree!

    This past week was a sort of milestone for my family:  my youngest child got her driver’s license.  This means I can finally retire from driver education.  I have now bequeathed two licensed motor vehicle operators to our nation’s highways, may God have mercy on my soul.  You can say my work is done as you keep a sharp eye out while on the road.
    Sure, I can choose to spend many sleepless nights fretting over sharply increased insurance, what I mean to say is, her safety while driving.  Instead, I prefer to revel in the fact that my little girl has taken yet another step towards independence.  And that I no longer have to endure mindless teenage blather as I ferry my daughter and her friends to the mall and back.
    This most dramatically hit home a few days after she was officially sanctioned by the state.  Frantically barging into our bedroom (good thing it wasn’t our month for “maritals”) at 10:00 pm, she informed my wife and I that she needed something from the store for school.  Her anxiety was real and I couldn’t help but feel her pain.
    So, it was with much sincerity and barely concealed joy that I said, “Yeah, good luck with that.  Keys are downstairs.  Me and your mom are going to bed.”
    As happy as I am, though, a part of me misses my little girl.  Like Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof (did anyone see that?  Anyone?  Anyone?) I find myself wondering where the time went (and what the hell that idiot is doing on the roof.  He wants he should be breaking his neck?).
    Why, it only seems like yesterday that I was a chaperone for her elementary school’s Outdoor Learning Experience.  This annual event was touted as an invaluable chance to get up close and personal with the glories of nature and wonders of outdoor plumbing.  Bussing 90 or so 6th graders and masochistic parent volunteers to an off-season summer camp, it offered such diverse topics as Pond Study, Animal Tracks Study, Poison Plants Study, What-First-Aid-To-Use-After-Rolling-In-Poison-Plants Study, and so on.
    It also involved a little unit called:  Tree Study or what I like to call, Naptime.
    Don’t get me wrong.  The study of trees and their benefits can be quite stimulating, in a “Spend-An-Evening-With-An-Insurance-Salesman” kind of way.  Little did I know there was so much to learn, from branch patterns to which is the best kind of tree to make slingshots out of.
    NOTE: For the “Grammar Police”: Yes, I know that I should never end a sentence with a preposition.  For those folks, I provide the following modification: “ which is the best kind of tree to make slingshots out of, you smug, pretentious jackholes.”
    We now return you to our story...
    For instance, did you know that trees which drop their leaves are called deciduous, those with pine cones are called coniferous, and those with yard sale signs are called telephone poles?
    When we arrived at Camp Swampy, I was immediately lumped with two other parents who were also too slow to score something cool like Boating Safety, Shooting At Things, or Pizza Delivery.  To our horror, we quickly learned our combined knowledge of all things “tree” consisted of:  they give us paper, shade, and baseball bats.
    Expressing our misgivings to the “Camp Nature Director and Wendy’s Drive Thru Associate”, Dr. Jones (that was her name-I am NOT making that up), we were assured we were more than capable of guiding children along the road of arboreal excellence.  Besides, if all else fails, she said, just wing it.
    With those words of wisdom, she squared away her fedora, stuck a six-gun in her belt, and used her bullwhip to swing off to the archaeology pit (OK, she didn’t wear a fedora).
    Watching the first group of shiny-faced cherubs approaching our station, we steeled ourselves for the first of ten forty-minute sessions.  Luckily, Dr. Jones already labeled our trees (Tulip, Ash, Hemlock, Dogwood, Cedar, Hickory, and Stump) and the teacher in charge supplied us with ample answer keys and field guides (which we stuck in our back pockets and forgot about until laundry day).
    Even though we were a little nervous, the three of us were as ready as we were going to get.
    Surprisingly, the first session went pretty well.  Dividing the students into three groups of three, we proceeded to go over characteristics of trees, their uses, and how to measure their growth.
    I learned that, when pressed, the students always said, “Trees lose their leaves, they can be used for firewood, and we use lasers to measure them (I guess that, since lasers sounded cool, they figured it was the right answer).
    The students also always said, “Oak” or “Maple” when asked the name of a particular tree.  Unless it was an evergreen.  In that case, they said, “Christmas Tree.”
    Subsequent lessons went just as well.  Luckily, the instructor guides were pretty basic (“Trees are made of ‘wood’”) and we were able to easily impart what we hoped was expert-sounding instruction throughout the course of the day.
    In fact, we were so successful that, when asked what their favorite topic of the camp was, the students invariably answered, Obstacle Course.
    Followed by Boating Safety, Archeology, Orienteering, Animal Tracks, Stream Study, Poison Plants Study, Going To the Bathroom, Lunch, Throwing Rocks, Wiping With Leaves, Garbage Can Hunt, Picking Up Sticks, Throwing Dead Things At Girls, Lighting Farts, Tree Study, and Pond Study.
    We took great pride in knowing we weren’t as sucky as Pond Study.
    In other words, Pond Study blows.
    Think I’ll go hug a tree.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Playing With My Daughter's Dolls

What? You were expecting something different?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Modern Medicine

    I realize that age is a relative thing. But, since I'm the oldest of all my relatives (the ones still alive, that is), it does have an impact on my view on life (which, in addition to being a family board game, is also a snappy breakfast cereal.  And defunct picture magazine).

   Anyway, like Joan Rivers, I think my body is slowly starting to dry up.  I first noticed this phenomenon as it manifested itself on my heels (come to think of it, is 'manifest' even a medical term? Like 'piles'?).   As they lose their precious moisture, they start to crack, thus causing me pain (golly, I bet I'm painting quite an attractive picture for you, huh?).  Since I'm pretty attached to walking, this pain can be a bit...uh...painful.

  To alleviate this discomfort, I've come to rubbing them with something called "Heel Balm," a noxious cream which has the consistency of wood putty.  And is as about as hard to get off my hands as Lindsey at last call.
   It actually kind of works.  My heels feel as silky smooth as a baby's bottom.  If a baby's rear end was attached to the bottom of a 52 year-old man, that is.

   Impressed at the results, I turned the tube over to examine what its ingredients were.  Among a drugstore-size list of chemicals, I noticed that it contained "Urea."

    Even though I had a pretty good idea what "urea" is I looked it up in the dictionary.  Yep, I was right.
Urea: n.  1. A white crystalline or powdery compound found in mammalian urine.

  In essence, I've been rubbing PEE on my feet!  Without wearing gloves!  How positively medieval.  Good thing my feet are the farthest thing on my body away from my nose.

    Once I got over my initial disgust, though, I felt a little better.  Especially after I consulted the entrails of an owl.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Flying the Friendly Skies

    Last week, while turning in a kidney for a tank of gasoline, I pondered the upward spiral of fuel prices.  With the price of gas rising to record levels, the cost of using my car to commute, take the kids to soccer, or driving around the yard chasing squirrels just isn’t as economical as it once was.
    As I watched the gas pump click maniacally away, I further reflected on the advantages and drawbacks of alternate modes of transportation.
    To be sure, car pools offer the best bang for the buck in that several can ride for the price of one.  But, they’re only good up to a point because, as economical as they are, you’re still tied to the schedules of your fellow commuters.  This, of course, pretty much negates the benefits of a four hour lunch break.
    And don’t get me started on Jerry the nosepicker from IT.  The man examines his nasal gleanings as if they were lost Incan gold.
    Trains aren’t bad.  But, they don’t exactly offer door-to-door service.  Unless you work for Amtrak.
    What about the bus, you ask.  Two words:  bus people.  Seriously, do I need to say more? 
    Air travel.  Now, there’s a slick way to go.  Although, if work is only ten miles away, flying isn’t terribly cost-efficient.  Even Batman doesn’t use his plane to pick up milk.
    Still, something about flying has always appealed to me, despite the fact that TSA makes me feel like I’m at a strip bar.  And I’m the stripper. 
    Travel by air remains a classy way to go, in a luxury liner, “Titanic” kind of way (probably an unfortunate comparison). 
    Recently, I needed to fly to the Midwest aboard one of our nation's leading airlines (before they filed for Chapter 11).  I figured how bad could it be?  I relished the opportunity to climb into a metal tube to zoom through the air with a hundred of my close personal friends and their respiratory ailments at 36,000 feet.
    Airports have oodles of bells and whistles which cater to the needs of the traveling public.  While there, I can gorge on a dizzying variety of goodies, from "Cinnabon" to "Aunt Annie's Pretzels"-although, on the day I traveled, ole Annie was fresh out of pretzels.  Kinda thought that was de rigueur for a pretzel shop.
    While there, I could get a neck massage, buy a ball cap for $35.00, and get my shoes shined.  Although, since I thought Kiwi would ruin my sneakers, I passed.
    Anyway, after having applied for a loan for a cup of coffee, I settled in for what I thought would be a short respite before zipping off to my destination.
    As I drank my coffee, I observed at how far we’ve come in customer service.  Not only did the surly counterman help me maintain cat-like reflexes by throwing my change at me, his grunts made it plain where I could find sugar and creamer.  Plus, I knew that without that little piece of plastic around the cup, I'd have had third, instead of only second degree burns on my hands.  Shoot, I'll spend $5.00 for that any day!
    I also marveled at the public address system.  What a boon to mankind that a disembodied voice can caution against leaving our bags unattended, walking on the runways, or using the down escalator to go up.
    But, I was unnerved when told to have an "awesome" day.  Talk about pressure!  What if I had just a "good" day or, heaven help me, a "so-so" one?
    Then, when I was urged to have an "awesome" winter, I thought I'd go into cardiac arrest!  I don’t need to live under the gun like that until Memorial Day, know what I mean?
    Finally, our time to board the aircraft came.  Finally!  Escape from "Speaker Guy."
    Unfortunately, we were denied entry, due to some unknown problem.
    A seasoned traveler, I'd seen my share of aircraft problems, some of which were serious enough to scrub flights.  Fortunately, most glitches can be fixed by doing little more than jiggling a wire or shooing the raccoons out of the intakes.
    In any case, I was relieved the crew thought so much of our safety.  Being nosy, I listened in on the gate agent's conversation with the pilot and learned that the APU (Auxiliary Power Unit) was on the fritz (NOTE: NOT an anti-German epithet.  So, relax, you thin-skinned krauts). 
    Well, I proclaimed to those unfortunate enough to be within earshot, anyone who's been around airplanes as long as I have knows how bad a faulty APU can be.  Still, I was convinced our wait wouldn't last long.
    But, as minutes dragged to an hour (during which time I was exhorted to have an "awesome" year), I suspected something more insidious than a bad APU was in play.  Could it be a bad engine or some flaw which could fail catastrophically in-flight?  Maybe the navigational system had failed ground checks?  Or, shudder, the lavatory?
    Hoping to gain insight, I eavesdropped more intently.  Imagine my surprise when I learned the real reason:  the flight attendant needed lunch and decided to hoof it to the Food Court!
    Hmm, seemed like a perfectly good reason to hold up one hundred people.  Imagine what damage an under-nourished toss of a bag of pretzels could do to someone’s eye!
    After much grousing and a near-mutiny, we managed to get the gate agent on the public address system, "One ham and cheese hoagie to Gate F39-Stat!"
    Sarcasm unnoticed, our famine poster girl, now fully sated, eventually strolled up and we were cleared to board.
    Pulling away from the gate, I felt uneasy.  And, not just because of that gremlin sitting on the wing.
    As the flight attendant began her safety brief, she barked, "If there's anyone on this airplane who doesn't know how to fasten his seatbelt, get off now.  You're too stupid to fly."
    It wouldn't be an awesome flight.