Monday, February 27, 2012

All This and the Ohio Turnpike, Too

Founder of failed "People Named Horace Are Cool, Too" movement.
Only presidential candidate to die before electoral votes were counted.
And you thought it would be Bob Dole.
    “Go West, young man, go West and grow up with the country.”
    Or so Horace Greeley, founder of the New York Tribune and former presidential candidate (I say “former” primarily because he’s dead.  Oops, you didn’t know?  My bad.), wrote in his paper.
    Actually, some people ascribe (meaning “attribute to,” it’s a Latin word which combines “ass” and “crib.”  Although I don’t know why) this to John Soule of the Terre Haute Express (whose motto was, “We Still Have Real Indians Here, So Suck It, New York”).  Learned scholars swear what Greeley actually wrote was, “Go West, young man?  What are you, frikkin’ nuts?  And get my ass stretched on an anthill by Apaches!?”
"Oh, F!!!
We're still in frikkin' Pennsylvania??"
    No matter who wrote it, my brother, nephew, and I decided to do just that last week.  So, we packed up his Nissan Murano and ventured forth through four states, two time zones, countless toll booths, many variations of IQ points, and untold roadkill to Chicago, Illinois.
    Our route crossed Pennsylvania, onto the Ohio Turnpike (I now know where Purgatory is), across the Indiana Turnpike, and into Illinois (I think it’s called the “Illinois Turnpike” but I can’t be sure.  My ass was too numb by that point to notice).  After passing through parts of Illinois (and Gary, Indiana.  Thought I forgot you, didn’t you, Gary?) in which Kevlar wouldn’t be out of place, we arrived in Chicago.
Not as tall as what those a-holes
put up in the UAE,
but plenty tall enough to
splatter your ass if you jump off.
    Only to realize that we (and our sore asses) still had an hour to go to Great Lakes, Illinois.  That was where we needed to go watch my sister’s son graduate from Navy boot camp.
    NOTE:  My sister, brother-in-law, three nieces, and a nephew-in-law (didn’t know there was such a thing, huh?) elected to fly to Chicago.  They’re from the intelligent side of the family.
    But, that’s another story for another day.  I just want to concentrate on our trip for now.
    All told, we spent twelve and a half hours in the car heading out there.  But, that was okay because we were thrilled to watch the beautiful panorama which is the United States slide by our wondering eyes.
Beautiful panorama which is the United States.
And Gary.
    Of course, it’s winter so the beautiful panorama which is the United States is pretty much brown and dead.  Also, since it is winter, we needed to keep all the windows closed.  Of a car with three dudes in it.
    Yep, the pioneers may have been forced to endure an arduous trip in covered wagons over hundreds of miles of wastelands occupied by savage tribes and wild beasts.  But, they could get fresh air.
Move along, there's nothing to see here.
And we're not kidding.
    And don’t get me started on the unrelenting sameness which is the Ohio Turnpike.  DISCLAIMER:  I’m quite sure Ohio is a beautiful state, despite having the wackiest flag in the Union.  And even though they claim Cleveland-they've been trying to convince Canada to take it off their hands (especially since LeBron gave them a big "FU!")-I know it has to have its good points.  Besides being the easiest state to spell.  But, I’m sorry.  The most interesting thing we saw while losing contact with our asses was some dog eating something along the side of the road.
    For some reason, we never thought to turn on the radio to enliven our imprisonment.  Country, Gospel, hip hop, talk radio, some itinerant preacher, farm report, anything would have been better than listening to the symphonies issuing from the seats of our pants.  Sadly, nobody (including me) thought to turn on the radio.
    NOTE:  Remember what I said about the intelligent side of the family?
Could be worse. Could be Ohio.
Oh, you've been there?
Bummer.
    Still, the ride out wasn’t Public Speaking at the Mute Olympics, either.  We discussed any number of topics from politics to weather to sports to whether Brad would stay with Angelina (I’m just kidding-we didn’t talk about the weather).  We also wondered if the Indiana Turnpike would be better than the Ohio Turnpike (it was, only because it was shorter). 
    Some conversations were dead serious while others were comic reminiscences (NOTE:  Thank GOD for spell-check!) of days gone by (ANOTHER ANNOYING NOTE:  I’m sure my 24 year-old nephew loved hearing two geezers talk about the good old days of the 70s.  That poor bastard).
    I’ve listed one such conversation below.  I’d write about more of these discussions (goodness knows I wrote them all down), but since I’m getting close to 1,000 words, I’ll spare you the details and only go with one (you’re welcome). 
Spaghetti. With meatballs.
Yeah, I love meatballs.
    Besides, the Food Network is having a Giada de Laurentis marathon.  I need to watch her breasts learn how to cook manicotti with ketchup, SPAM, and individually wrapped cheese slices.
    “Hey, you see that sign back there?”
RV-MH Hall of Fame.  Yeah, this place really exists.
Bet you thought I was kidding.
I don't blame you.
    “The one that said, ‘Welcome to Elkhart, Home of the RV-Motor Home Hall of Fame, but Little Else’?”
    “No, the one for McGregor’s Farmstand.”
    AL’s NOTE (well, whose else’s would they be?):  This is where, in typical fashion, our conversations would stray into the bizarre.
    “Nope, I needed to steer around that truckload of Amish people hauling their buggy.”
    “Wonder if they have fresh eggs?”
    “I can’t stand fresh eggs.”
    “What do you mean?”
    “If I see ‘Fresh Eggs For Sale’, I steer clear.”
    “Why?”
    “I don’t want no egg from a chicken’s butt.”
    “What?  Eggs don’t come from a chicken’s butt!”
    “Sure they do.  Where else would they come from?”
    “Their vaginas.”
    “What?  Chickens don’t have vaginas.”
    “Of course they do.  Especially the girl chickens.”
    “What!?  All chickens are girls.”
"Just because I'm a chicken
doesn't mean I'm a pussy."
    “Nope.  The girl chickens are called ‘hens.’”
    “Then, what are the boy chickens called?”
    “Barney Frank?”
    NOTE:  This elicited a laugh from my nephew, who was doing his best not to be drawn into the conversation between us two noted biologists.
    “I’ll bet there’s no such thing as chicken vaginas.”
    “Everything that lays eggs has vaginas.”
    “Easter Bunny doesn’t have a vagina.”
    “That’s because the Easter Bunny is a boy!”
    “Who lays eggs.”
    “Have you ever seen the Easter Bunny lay an egg?”
    “No, have you?”
    “Of course not.  He’s not real.  But, if he was, he wouldn’t have a vagina.”
    Silence.............then................
    “I’ll bet the Tooth Fairy has a vagina.”
    NOTE:  Interestingly, chickens don’t have vaginas.  They have what are called ‘cloacas’ which is a combination of-wait for it-butt and vagina.  So, my brother was right.  Meaning, I’ll never have a hard-boiled egg again.  How do I know, you ask?  I looked it up.  Although, I think the government is going to pay me a visit because I Googled “Chicken Vaginas” when I got home.
    Wow, I’m over 1,000 words, which is what I use to gauge how much torture to put you through.  So, I’ll close for now.
    There’s much more to tell, though.  The Mars Cheese Castle, Navy boot camp, a place called the Twisted Kilt, the effects of Thai food on hotel room chemical warfare, political incorrectness on a Chicago bridge....all will have to wait for another time.
    After all, Giada’s almost on.
Yeah. Like this.
At least it was sunny.
    EPILOGUE:  As we prepared to return home, we were in good spirits.  Since we had already proven we could drive a little over twelve hours, the return trip wouldn’t be too bad.  All was well.  Until we passed that sign in Indiana:  “You Are Now Entering the Eastern Time Zone.”  Meaning, we lost an hour.  Meaning, our twelve and a half trip became a thirteen and a half hour trip.  With the Ohio Turnpike still left to go.  Donations in lieu of flowers may be sent to help finance our ass transplants.

Friday, February 24, 2012

In Case You Were Wondering Where All the Hippies Went To

They went to Kenosha, Wisconsin


No wonder all the Cheez-Its were gone

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Star Wars Episode VII: Return of the Brainless

Movie ticket:  $10.00
Large Buttered Popcorn:  $11.50
Large Diet Soda (I said it was buttered popcorn!):  $3.25
Convincing people that a movie made with 3D sucks less than it did in 1999:  Priceless 


Oh, yeah, right, him you kill.  But...Jar Jar Binks?  Yeah, he's good to go.
For those who are all pissed off because I gave away the fact that Darth Maul doesn't live to see Episode  II,  where have you been for 13 years!?  I mean, it's not like I told you that Qui Gon Jinn dies....oops.  Oh, bugger.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Saturday, February 18, 2012

It's All Fun and Games Until Someone Strikes a Match



Following tragedy at an exhibition match at an El Paso Taco Bell, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is reportedly reconsidering its decision to admit Synchronized Lighting Farts as an Olympic event at the 2012 Summer Games in London.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Venti Event

Sorry this is a little longer than I planned, but I needed to get it written.  I’m going to Chicago for the weekend (I’m driving there from Philadelphia-ain’t that kooky?) and will be pretty much off the grid until Monday.  In fact, as you read this, my brother-you know him as ‘Phil’- and I will be evading speed traps somewhere between here and there.  Don’t worry, I’ve got a delayed post for you of...something (I can’t remember) on Saturday.  Or Sunday.  Talk to you next week!
Love, Al

"Okay, so my heart's outside of my chest.
But, this is some great frikkin' coffee!!"
(Did I mention this was in the Bible Belt?)
    On our last morning in Christiansburg, Virginia (Al’s Geography Lesson: Five miles and several IQ points away from Blacksburg and Virginia Tech.), Mrs. Penwasser asked me to go out and get her a cup of coffee.  Apparently, my delicate flower wanted something a little more robust than the hotel’s selection of brown crayon dipped in tepid water.
Sure, it's not as snazzy.
But, you probably
won't need to call 911, either.
    NOTE:  Coffee tepidity (a real word-no shit) notwithstanding, the breakfast bar at this hotel was not nearly of the same high quality as the one in Lynchburg.  Although, they did have a perfectly normal, two-slice toaster and not an ultra-deluxe, mega cyborg, James Bond, conveyor belt contraption which could turn a perfectly fine bagel into a charcoal briquette.
    Thinking it was in my best interests to feed the caffeine monkey on her back (it was), I sallied forth (I like using this phrase, although it sounds kinda fem) in search of a decent cuppa Joe.
    As I was in the Deep South (hey, get off my back, Alabama!  I was born in Connecticut-the Old Dominion’s plenty deep enough for me!), I had my doubts.  I wasn’t all that confident that I could find a quality brew in a town where dental hygiene was considered “uppity,” lawn flamingos were on the city seal, and the Ladies Room at Walmart had spittoons.
    No, I was afraid that “Dark Roast Crayola Brown” was the best Mrs. Penwasser was going to get.
The absence of pick-up trucks
completely fooled me.
    But, imagine my surprise when I spotted a Starbucks sharing a strip mall with the Heavenly Tabernacle of the Most Seriously Hacked Off God, an Assault and PepperSpray Gun Shop, and a Pep Boys.
    Not only was I shocked to find this Seattle-based coffee emporium in Dixie, I was floored to see actual people inside.  And some of them weren’t wearing bib overalls.
    Even though I was confident I could find a good cup of coffee inside (and an iced coffee-in frikkin’ February-for our daughter), I was a little reluctant to go in.  After all, Starbucks always seemed a little snooty to me.  And, the verbiage they make you use when ordering makes me feel stupid (although not nearly as stupid as I’d feel the next day with the damn toaster in Lynchburg).
    But, since I figured how snobby could a Starbucks in southwest Virginia be, I decided to try it.  How bad could it be?
    When I got inside, I joined a huge queue (NOTE:  British term for ‘line.’  Seriously, while most of your other words like ‘boot’, ‘torch’, ‘lift’, and ‘shag’ make sense, what the frik is up with ‘queue’?  Why not just say ‘line’?).  I sighed audibly as the line (screw queue) moved as fast as a fat guy on a treadmill (yes, this is a tease for the picture below). 
Her picture was on my desktop (don't ask),
 so I figured, why not?
    Well that just figures, I fumed...stupid, inbred, Virginia hicks wouldn’t know a shot of espresso from a shot of moonshine.  Give them anything more complicated than a paper hat and packet of Sweet N Lo and they shut down quicker than Lindsay Lohan at an AA meeting.
    As I looked at the menu board, though, I realized what was taking so long.  This Starbucks was just like any other one I’d been to.  No simple coffee shop selling simple coffee and bait, they had choices every bit as inscrutable as a store on 5th Avenue.  No wonder nobody knew what to order.
No, I wasn't looking at the coffee, either.
    NOTE:  Customer accents, like pretty much any of this, are wildly exaggerated.  Although I bet the southern accents have been beaten out of their employees.
    “Good morning, sir. Welcome to Starbucks.  May I take your order?”
    “Mornin’, darlin’, yew shure can.  Ahd lahk a large coffee, puhleeze.”
    “Would that be a grande or a venti, sir?”
    “No, ah want a plain ole coffee.  None a that grande, venti, whatever crap.”
    “No, sir, a venti is a large coffee.”
    “Whut?  Well, then wha didn’t yew say so?  Hokay, shure, a venti.”
    “A venti what, sir?”
    “A venti coffee.”
    “What kind of coffee, sir?”
    “Huh?”
WTF?? All I want is a doughnut!
    “Kona, Espresso, latte, semi-arid mocha twist, Colombian, Peruvian Rain Forest, Polynesian Hearty Gold, Chesapeake Bay Crabcake, Andean Spring Festival, Moroccan, Acid Rain Spritz, Puddle, Aztec Gastrointestinal Distress, Shenandoah Mule Supreme, Decaf Brown Crayola, Nicaraguan Beaver Blend, or Folgers.”
    “Whut...huh?  Don’t y’all just have black?”
    “Why certainly, sir.”
    “Then, ah’ll have that’n.  Got any doughnuts or such?”
    “We have toasted biscotti, bran-pineapple-cranberry-kiwi-orange-passion fruit-SPAM--apricot muffins, Venezuelan Tea Biscuits, Lemon Parfait Squares, Yogurt and Bean Curd Cordials, Sesame Fancies, and....”
    “Never mahnd, young lady, I reckon ah’ll just have me one of them venti coffees.  Ah gotta get movin’.  Gun shop’s openin’.”
NOTE: Imported from California.
    “Okay, sir, that will be $7.75 for the coffee, plus tax.  Sugar and stirrers are over there by the three successful looking people with laptops.”
    Deciding that I wouldn’t be able to get my order until lunchtime, I beat feet out of Starbucks.  Nothing was worth that.
    Instead, I found a Dunkin’ Donuts in the next town of Possum Gulch (NOTE: No such place exists.  But, I figured I’ve insulted Christiansburg enough.  What’s one more time?).
WARNING: Contains hot contents
which may present a burn hazard.
Because it's coffee, dumbass!
    Nothing fancy, but it did have just plain old Extra Large Black Coffees without any frilly nonsense. 
    And, more importantly, a dizzying selection of doughnuts chockfull full of sugar, lard, and the tastiest flavors known to man.  Plus, you got a free test for Type II diabetes and an autographed picture of Oprah.
    So, stick that in your toasted biscotti and smoke it.

PLEASE NOTE:  I meant no disrespect to the south, Starbucks, Walmart, or gun shops in general.  Because I’d love to live there, I really do like their coffee, you can get a great deal on hip waders and strawberry Twizzlers there if you don’t mind the toothless, and people with guns could seriously eff me up.
    As for Dunkin’ Donuts?  Oh, yeah, I love me some Dunkin’ Donuts.

Ya know, now that I look at this, he may be all naked. And all man.  Urp...

I'll have a dozen glazed with a Diet Coke.
Please don't hate me because I have breasts.
And possibly a penis.
      

Monday, February 13, 2012

911...What's Your Emergency?



Conveyor belt moves, bagel slices toast evenly,
 it remains unknown whether
the smoke detectors work.
NOTE: Placement of bagel slicer.
So that's what that thing
on top of the toaster was for!
       
              +    







=

Hmm, that's one tasty treat!



but.............

No sense slicing, I'm in a hurry,
Fergie's on Good Morning, America.
Besides, what's the worst that could happen?

These things generally
come with an 'ON-OFF' switch.
NOTE: Once again, please note
placement of bagel slicer.
+



                          



=

On the bright side, carbon is good for your teeth.

What??? There's only bran muffins!!??


NOTE:  No animals were harmed during the making of this post. However, the last remaining bagel was burned beyond recognition.  And, by the way, the smoke detectors worked. 



Next time:  The half-naked fat guy.  I promise.



Friday, February 10, 2012

Country Roads, Take Me Home


WARNING: The following could be viewed as a bigoted harangue of the southern United States.  Please know that I love the South and would love to move there (if the judge would only lift the restraining order).  I’m just exaggerating our experiences there for the sake of comedy.  But, you still may want to observe the posted speed limit if you have New York plates.  I’m just sayin’...

    As most of you know, I spent last weekend in Virginia with Mrs. Penwasser and our daughter.  The purpose of our trip was two-fold: 
Tech 'Hokie.'
Standing next to turkey tying his shoe.
    1.  We visited our son, who is a college sophomore in Blacksburg.  Virginia Tech is a beautiful school with a rich tradition of excellence, higher learning, fake IDs, and tuition higher than the national average.
    2.  We also took a tour of Lynchburg College because, for some strange reason, our daughter (like our son) has no wish to attend any school in her home state (at in-state rates). 
    Lynchburg is a lot like Virginia Tech, only without the cosmopolitan ambiance of Blacksburg.  But, what it lacks in a certain rustic savoir-faire (NOTE:  French for “Savior Fairy,” although that makes no sense), it makes up in mobile home parks, road kill, pawn shops, and fundamentalists. 
Jerry Falwell, founder of the Moral Majority
 and noted dead guy. 
    They do have the Reverend Jerry Falwell Regional Airport, though.  It’s kind of small with a grass runway, but the beauty is that you don’t need airplanes.  Prospective passengers just wait for the “Rapture” to whisk them away to such luxurious destinations as Raleigh, Rocky Mount, or Pat Robertson’s house.
Reverend Pat Robertson.
Claims to be Jesus' real BFF.
Despite the handicap of not being dead yet.









   NOTE:  For those unfamiliar with Southwestern Virginia (sorry, Mynx, Tony, Eva, Anne, Nancy, Yeamie Matthew, Pat Hatt, BlackLog, Robyn...geez, most of you), you probably don’t realize just how frikkin’ hysterical that last paragraph was.  Well, let’s just put it this way, it’s just a little piece down the road from Appomattox, the town where, in April, 1865 
"Okay, so whaddya say?
Best two out of three Rock, Scissors, Paper?
Incidentally, that 'Just For Men'...does it really work?"
[NOTE within a NOTE: a long time ago] Robert E. Lee surrendered his army, sword, and beard to Ulysses S. Grant (who gave back the beard because he already had one).  This pretty much ended the American Civil War. 

    {NOTE following NOTE within a NOTE:  For those of you who aren’t American or who are products of the New Jersey school system, space precludes me from a longwinded treatise on this most tragic event in our history.  In essence, though, a lot of people died and the blue team won}.

    Despite everything, we had a pretty good time way down South in the land in the land of cotton, old times there are not forgotten (which is exactly why this Yankee never opened his yap, except to say “y’all”, “fixin’ to”, “reckon”, and “are yew sure it’s dead?”).  So, look away, look away, look away, Dixieland.

    Our first day, we....oooh, crap!  This post is already 464 words long (471, if you count the last sentence) and I haven’t even gotten to the main points I was trying to make. 

    So, I’ll have to continue my story next time.  Don’t worry, it will be worth your while.  I’ll be talking about Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts.  Plus, there’ll be a picture of a half-naked fat guy!

    In any event, it will definitely be better than that crappy metric system post from last week.  And, don’t worry-I’m not the fat guy.

    Until then, a little tease. 

Why Al Should Not Be Left Alone at the Hotel’s Breakfast Bar:
Bagels should be sliced in half before jamming them in conveyor toasters.
Bagels not sliced in half before jamming them into conveyor toasters tend to burst into flames.
NOTE:  Flames not shown. I was a little too busy to take a frikkin' picture.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Out of Town

    You may have noticed I really haven't written much the past few days.  Sure, I've posted pictures, but they don't take nearly the same effort as writing a full-length humor classic (or the crap I write).  I have to admit, though, I really liked that Iranian Jihad Glee Club thing.  It made me giggle (and forced my family and I into hiding).  The Hillary one wasn't too bad, either.  But, the metric post was a little weak.  It may have even....sucked?  But, hey, you still looked, right?  I guess I can't hit a home run every time.


    I've been out of town taking my daughter to Lynchburg College in-you guessed it-Lynchburg, Virginia.  To say we're smack dab in the middle of the Bible Belt is an understatement.  Especially since our hotel was across the street from Liberty University, founded by the Reverend Jerry Falwell and not a single homosexual.  I did not open my mouth the entire time I was there, lest I be branded as a "Yankee faggot."  


    I think I'll write a post about my travels way down south in the land of cotton sometime this week.


    But, for now, a little weiner......








Made ya look

    Oh, were you expecting something else?  Sigh....well....I guess I have myself to blame.  Give the people what they want,  I suppose.....

So many jokes, so little time




    Well, that's just wrong, so let me leave you with these to mull over (possibly in the privacy of your bathroom with the door locked)....

My blog, my fantasy.
Oh.....Scarlett.....
Oh...Al

I know I'll get grief from my male followers for this, but who loves ya, ladies?  I've been told this guy is good-looking.  But, even though there were plenty of barechested and underwear pictures of him, no way was I going to post them.  For, in the words of Marlon Brando in The Godfather:  "That I cannot do."  Marlon also couldn't fit into a size 32 jeans, either.  And not just 'cause he's dead.


All right, time to go see where I'm going to send $40,000 a year to.  
Can I get an "Amen"?



















Monday, February 6, 2012

The Tehran "All-Jihad" Mens Glee Club



"Nuclear missiles and bombmaking classes.  Taking Jews hostage and being bad-asses.  Death to America, public stonings.  These are a few of my favorite things!"


Infidels need not apply.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Hillary and the Girls


"Ladies, ladies, please! My husband can only molest one of you at a time!"

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Glad I Paid Attention During That Class On the Metric System



Otherwise, I wouldn't know that it takes almost two gallons to flush a urinal.


I mean...


oh, dammit!!!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Call Me Al-The Rerun

Commodore John Paul Jones.
Or Al Penwasser.
In any case, it beats the hell out of Ken Lynch.
    Recently I announced the listing of Shag Carpet Toilet on Kindle (many thanks to the five who ponied up far too much money to purchase their very own copies!  This is especially noteworthy in that I did it the same month as Girl Scout cookie sales.  Yeah, I’m a thrill-seeker that way).  Since that time, it’s occurred to me that I should come clean about this whole “Al Penwasser/Ken Lynch” business.
    With that in mind, I decided to repost a repost to:
a. Explain the origins of “Al Penwasser” for those of you who are new tenants of Penwasser Place.
b. Give me a chance to post some old crap.  This, of course, spares me from having to write something original (gotta save my creative juices-such as they are-for the A-Z Challenge in April.  Tell Jenny I said hello).
    I actually wrote the post below several years ago when I was a “freelance stringer for Navy Times, a subsidiary publication of the Army Times Publishing Company” (if that sounds like a line from a resumé, it is).  I updated it the first time I listed it on Blogger.  I then updated it a second time when I reposted it on Blogger.  I then re-updated it for this time on Blogger.  This thing has had more makeovers than Joan Rivers.
"Okay, so I look like Frankenstein.
But, I still make wayyyyy more money than you, Mr. Funny Man Penwasser, Lynch.
Whoever the frik you are!"
       Anyway, this means a few people other than SherilinR have probably read this since last year.  If that’s the case, please feel free to go visit some other very good sites like Wrestling With Retirement (Eva's a fellow traveler on Kindle-have yourself a look.  She's pretty funny!), My Own Private Idaho or Anne's Attic while the rest of us talk.  They, like many more, are much more talented than I.  And a lot better looking.
    Oh, before you start, I must caution my overseas (please excuse the fact that I refer to non-Americans as “overseas”; I fully understand that, to you, the United States is overseas.  Maybe even to my Canadian friends, too) followers.  Since this was originally written when I was working for Navy Times, it goes a little heavy on jingoistic Cold War verbiage and “gee ain’t we frikkin’ cool?” symbolism.
You're laughing right now, aren't you?
A congressman for over 12 years, a punchline forever.
    As I’ve gotten a little older, I’ve come to realize that we’re all pretty darn special as human beings (except for that Weiner guy).  Americans haven’t cornered the market on exceptionalism.  We make mistakes, too
    If you doubt that, have a look at The Jersey Shore one night.




"No, seriously, I'm frikkin' hysterical!
What, you'd rather I put Conan O'Brien on?"
    Life was considerably different in the late 80’s than today.  We didn’t fret about Mayan prophecies, fume over gas prices, or wonder why Kim Kardashian was famous.  We had Bill Cosby instead of Tyler Perry, Qaddafi instead of Osama (NOTE:  okay, so we don’t have Osama anymore.  Would you prefer I said Kim Jong Il?), and Madonna instead of Lady Gaga.  And Dick Clark instead of...uh...Dick Clark.


    The “Evil Empire” was still in business and few people did a better job of caging the bear than the U.S. military.  Our influence was felt throughout the world and it could be argued that, like the Union Jack before it, the sun never set on the Stars and Stripes.


"You want me at that barber shop,
you need me at that barber shop!!"
    Each of the services had their hand in winning the Cold War:  the Army held the line in places like Germany and Korea, the Marines scared people with their haircuts, the Navy ruled the waves, and the Air Force kept golf courses in business.  Together, they promoted truth, justice, the American way, and McDonalds. 


    The Lajes Naval Air Facility in the Portuguese Azores was just such a place.


    Perched nine hundred miles off the European coast, Lajes was a major stopping off point for forces crossing the Atlantic Ocean.  The roar of aircraft pausing to refuel there was as common as flag burnings in Tehran.


"Hey, can you ask if they have
a nice, clean rest room?"
    In addition, Lajes was an ideal spot for launching aircraft to locate and track Soviet submarines going back and forth from the Mediterranean Sea.  Crucial to this effort were groups of fixed-wing P-3C Orion sub-hunting aircraft.


    It was also where Al Penwasser was born.


    Petty Officer Penwasser was an enlisted aircrewman attached to Patrol Squadron Eleven during its deployment to Lajes in the final days of the Cold War.   


    Not many people actually saw him, but I knew he existed from the day I reported to VP-11 in 1987.  Many folks warned me to be on the lookout for this cocky individual who always seemed to be on “assignment.”


    Even though I never laid eyes on him, I did see his service record, training folder, and the volumes of mail he received on a regular basis.


    I never questioned why his picture board photograph always came up missing or why “Classified-Secret” was pasted across his face when it wasn’t.


    It certainly drove the Commanding Officer nuts that Penwasser never checked in with him.


I meant spork! Damn Google.
    He did have a checkered career, unfortunately.  Promoted to a senior rank, he was subsequently demoted for parachuting into Grenada armed with only a blow-up doll and a spork.  A week before the actual invasion. 


    After the Cold War, he realized his lifelong dream of becoming a member of the Special Forces.  Exactly WHOSE Special Forces we didn’t know; all we knew is he volunteered for only the most dangerous of missions.  Ya know, like hunting with Dick Cheney or designated driver for Charlie Sheen.


    He stayed in touch, though.  We routinely got postcards from places as exotic as the Orient, the Gulf, or Daytona Beach at Spring Break.  A sentimental rake, he always signed them, “Love, Al.”


No, not that kind of manure spreader
    Our last contact with him happened when an 18-wheeler pulled up in front of our squadron hangar.  Evidently, Mr. Penwasser had placed an order for a manure spreader (which we thought was pretty appropriate).  Luckily, we convinced the flustered driver that Farmer Al had transferred, to where we weren’t sure. 


    After that, he dropped out of sight.  We sometimes saw his name in guest registers at places like the Pantheon, the Dubai Seamen’s Center, assorted Mayan ruins, or bowling alley bathroom walls, but that was about it.


Except now, he's probably asking,
"Would you like fries, fries, baby?"
    Like Vanilla Ice’s career, Chastity Bono’s breasts, and Miley Cyrus’ innocence, Al Penwasser just disappeared.


    I never found out where he went or what he did, but his spirit lives on in this blog and elsewhere.  No matter whether the subject is Old Man Toe, Columbus Day, or Heel Piss Cream, I’m proud that Al has once more found a home for his wry take on life.  


    Oh, and as for that name.  Comes from Portuguese bottled water: 


    Alpen Wasser.

EPILOGUE:  If you haven’t figured it out by now (sheesh, were you even reading this!?), I took the pseudonym of Al Penwasser when writing, first for Navy Times and then, for Blogger.  However, I won’t be changing the name of this blog because a) “Lynch’s Place” doesn’t have near the alliterative zing! of “Penwasser Place” and b) I still have a lot of Penwasser tee shirts to sell.  Fact is, I’ve grown fond of Al and will continue to call on him whenever I’m feeling especially schizophrenic.  Now, this post has gone on far too long.  So, let's get out there and buy your copy of Shag Carpet Toilet!
While there's still thousands left!