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Results 1 - 25 of 483
1. Oh Dastardly Key Fob

Who would have thought a 5k race could nearly lead to an arrest? I guess if you’ve been reading my blog long enough, you’ve figured out I can blunder my way into anything.

So it was Sunday when I ran a 5k for a benefit. The issue was not the run, I breezed through that with a typical mediocre time. The problem was that my daughter was one of the benefactors of the event and we needed to stay a long time after. A run on humid day for one who sweats profusely can lead to smells that disgust even my dog. I needed a change of clothing before I could reenter society.

Unlike most of my life, I planned ahead and brought a few towels along with a change of clothes. The race was held in an upscale shopping center that didn’t seem to accommodate porta-potties or any other proper facilities for a sweaty runner to disrobe. I couldn’t traipse through a fine dining establishment, dripping along the way and my planning stopped just short of a reconnaissance walk to find a bathroom.

Here’s where things went awry – the only thing I could think of was the back seat of the mini-van. No problem, I had towels that could allow me to be properly covered the entire time. When I got in the backseat, I looked around and noted I was in full view of the patio of three crowded restaurants. Again, no problem, the windows are tinted.

My problem? The key fob. Some people butt-dial and make innocuous phone calls. Not me. No, that’s not nearly stupid enough. No, I butt-press both sliding doors to the van open while I’m well into the disrobed portion of the clothes change. Fortunately, my posterior wasn’t into multi-tasking and didn’t hit the panic button.

There I sat, wide-eyed under a towel wondering why my display coincided with the dismissal of church leaving a sea of blue-haired ladies waiting for tables at the nearby restaurants. Members of the local fire department, who were standing by in case of a race emergency, took note of me also and began speaking into their radios. The police couldn’t be far behind.image

 

I fumbled for the elusive key fob, cursed myself for laying it on the seat, and closed the doors. In a matter of seconds, I threw on my new set of clothes and wound my way through the gaggle of old women with my head held high. During the rest of the afternoon, I kept a paranoid eye out for the long arm of the law that was sure to be clamped on my shoulder at any minute. But it never came. The firemen must have been phoning friends to laugh about my situation and not alerting the police.

In today’s day and age, these things aren’t ever over. Someone could have been fast on the draw with video and my hiney might be splattered on Youtube. Until then, let me give you some advice – if you are doing something dicey in your car, know where your key fob is at all times. Those things are evil!

 

 


Filed under: It Made Me Laugh

5 Comments on Oh Dastardly Key Fob, last added: 10/15/2014
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2. My Zombie Hamster - interview and giveaway

With Halloween just around the corner, it's a good time for a zombie book - even better yet - a free zombie book for a lucky winner.  Even if you don't win the book, you can enjoy my interview with Havelock McCreely, author of  the very funny, My Zombie Hamster

Havelock McCreely was kind enough to answer three questions for me.  Here goes ...


Three questions for Havelock McCreely, author of My Zombie Hamster:

1. I’m shocked that MS Word will highlight McCreely as a misspelled word, but not Havelock. Do you need three syllables, or can you get it done in two?
HM:    The name is Irish in origin, so the correct amount of syllables for authentic pronunciation is eight. (Or nine. It depends if you have all your own teeth or not.) But for our purposes, three will suffice.
2. I can find little about you on your “official” bio, other than “Teller of Tall Tales. Adventurer. Swordsman. Discoverer of the Fountain of Youth. Author of many great works, the latest of which is My Zombie Hamster.” Did your discovery of the Fountain of Youth pique your interest in longevity, thus inspiring your interest in zombies, or did another path bring you to zombies? I’ve drunk from your Fountain of Youth, by the way.  It tastes terrible. One does wonder though, what would be the effect of the Fountain of Youth on a zombie?
HM:    Many good questions there. My discovery of the fountain of youth is a story that would put Indiana Jones to shame. And perhaps it will one day be told. Many are the times I’ve thought about writing down my own adventures in a series of easy-to-read volumes aimed at the younger audience. Thrilling is not the word. Well, it’s one word. But there are many others. Exciting. Dangerous. Death-defying. Amazing. (For instance, there’s the time I took up with the traveling circus as they crossed the planes of Africa. This is where I saved one of my young protégés from a life of mind-numbing boredom cleaning up after hippogriffs. Then there’s the time I saved an entire city from the Witch King of Mallidar. And this is where I saved my second protégé. They booth accompanied me on my many adventures and were with me when I discovered the fabled city of Shangri-La (which lead directly to my discovery of the fountain of youth.) Perhaps someday these tales will be told. 
As to the taste, yes, I agree.  Like rusted metal filtered through an old sock in which cabbage has been boiled. It’s not pleasant. 
Finally, as to my discovery of the fountain possibly inspiring my interest in zombies, yes. You are indeed correct. The fountain was guarded by a village of zombies who had all drunk from the fountain. It brought back their minds and consciousness (but did not repair their bodies.) That was where I got the idea of my little twist on zombies.
3. And of course, the most important question, what will Anti-Snuffles do next?
HM:    Never fear, he will be back. I have recently put down my fountain pen and completed the second book in the series, Attack of the Zombie Clones. It features everything from the first book, but bigger, better, and undead-er. 

Thanks for being a good sport, and best wishes to you for continued success with My Zombie Hamster.



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3. My Zombie Hamster - a review

Put some fear of the undead into your October reading!

McCreely, Havelock. 2014. My Zombie Hamster. New York: Egmont.
See below for print copy giveaway details.

Zombie Zappers and constant vigilence keep Matt and the residents of his community safe from "deadbeats" - the zombies that live outside the town's protective walls.  So on Christmas Eve, December 24,  Matt Hunter isn't thinking about zombies; he's thinking about the new video game he wants for Christmas.  His mother, however, had a more educational, more nurturing idea. On December 25,  Matt  receives Snuffles the hamster—a dumb, boring, little pet.  At least it was—until it died.

     I'll say one thing for zombie hamsters.  They don't move as slowly as their human counterparts. ...
     Snuffles had curled up and was rolling down the stairs like a bouncing ball.  I raced after him.
     He bolted along the wall.  Dad was carrying a huge pile of firewood inside so the front door was wide open. I tried to get ahead of Snuffles to slam it shut, but I tripped on one of the stupid throw rugs Mom insists on leaving everywhere and landed on my stomach.
     I pushed myself to my knees just in time to see Snuffles dart through the door and out into the front yard.
     Was it my imagination, or did I hear a little undead squeak of triumph as he did so?

In chapters titled with the days beginning on December 24,  Matt chronicles all the events until everything comes to a head at the annual town pet show on Saturday, February 4.

Matt doesn't do it alone, however.  He enlists the help of his friends,
(excerpt from "Thursday, January 2")
I emailed Charlie and told her to come over.  I couldn't keep it a secret any longer.
     "So let me get this straight," she said after I'd explained it to her. "Your dad bought you a hamster from a sleazy store and now it's turned into a zombie?"
     "Yes!"
     "And it's escaped?"
     "Yes!"
     "And you called it Snuffles?" she asked, trying not to laugh.
     "I didn't call it Snuffles! The name sort of came with the hamster.  But now he's called —" I paused dramatically.— "Anti-Snuffles."
At 208 pages, this is a quick read, but despite the adorable cuteness of the cover, it's a suitable choice for older kids, too.  My Zombie Hamster should appeal to grades 3-7.  McCreely does a great job of combining the fear factor with humor.  Matt and his friends are believable middle-schoolers - a little bit snarky, funny, sure of themselves, and prone to making poor choices. This is the first in a series that should have wide appeal.

Want your own copy of My Zombie Hamster?  
Check back tomorrow for an interview with Havelock McCreely
 and a chance to win a print copy of My Zombie Hamster.



(digital review copy provided by the publisher)

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4. What are they Missing?

Running under a beautiful sunrise recently, I recalled a fond memory of my oldest daughter. When she was pint-sized, we figured out that she had never seen a sunrise. I know that sounds impossible, but our property lies in a valley where trees filter the sun until it is mid-morning and by then, the spectacular colors of dawn have faded away.

To remedy this, I woke her very early and the two of us went to the top of our street with lawn chairs to watch the sun peek over the horizon. It took three attempts to get a masterpiece. I remember seeing her tired, little face come alive in awe of the burst of reds and purples in the sky.

Red_sunrise

Don’t you love watching someone enjoy beauty, nature, or art for the first time?

 

This got me wondering, “What else have my kids missed?”

I know there are plenty of great movies my kids have never seen because I am not allowed to suggest films since The Great Jumanji Debacle of 2005. I built that one up to my family when they were far too young and I totally forgot some extremely spooky scenes. My third child didn’t sleep for weeks and still has nightmares about monkey boys attacking her.

Being a child of the 70’s, I have tried to share some good music with them. While I love AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, The Doobie Brothers, Van Halen and KISS, my kids weren’t fond of ringing hell’s bells and didn’t seem to want to rock and roll all night.

There were other good things from the seventies, though? I could share something else.

Mood rings

Awkwardly short gym shorts

Rotary phones without speed dial

Disco

Hair parted in the middle with wings

Bell bottoms

Car windows with cranks

Vinyl records

Ice cream trucks

Black & White TV’s with 3 channels

 

I made a mental list of these things. Although each brings back some fond memories for me, most of them have been improved upon. My kids are experiencing better versions, which made my list no less nostalgic for me, but not full of things they are poorer for missing. Frustrated with my inability to come up with much, I settled on one thing that every child needs to experience and mine had missed – until now.

Mooning! They had never been mooned. Well, they hadn’t until I thought of it. I spent the better part of the rest of that Saturday surprising them all over the house. Full moons, partial moons, waning crescents. I got them over and over. I doubt my celestial display was as majestic as the sunrise my eldest enjoyed. They giggled at first, but soon tired of it, locked their doors, and left me alone to come up with something else to share. All I could think of was streaking, but felt like my wife would be vehemently opposed to that one.

So I think we are going to put the 70’s to rest around here and let my children’s vision recover. After all the mooning, number three is having Jumanji-like nightmares again.

 

 

Photo credit: “Red sunrise”. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

Filed under: Dad stuff

5 Comments on What are they Missing?, last added: 10/8/2014
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5. What are they Missing?

Running under a beautiful sunrise recently, I recalled a fond memory of my oldest daughter. When she was pint-sized, we figured out that she had never seen a sunrise. I know that sounds impossible, but our property lies in a valley where trees filter the sun until it is mid-morning and by then, the spectacular colors of dawn have faded away.

To remedy this, I woke her very early and the two of us went to the top of our street with lawn chairs to watch the sun peek over the horizon. It took three attempts to get a masterpiece. I remember seeing her tired, little face come alive in awe of the burst of reds and purples in the sky.

Red_sunrise

Don’t you love watching someone enjoy beauty, nature, or art for the first time?

 

This got me wondering, “What else have my kids missed?”

I know there are plenty of great movies my kids have never seen because I am not allowed to suggest films since The Great Jumanji Debacle of 2005. I built that one up to my family when they were far too young and I totally forgot some extremely spooky scenes. My third child didn’t sleep for weeks and still has nightmares about monkey boys attacking her.

Being a child of the 70’s, I have tried to share some good music with them. While I love AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, The Doobie Brothers, Van Halen and KISS, my kids weren’t fond of ringing hell’s bells and didn’t seem to want to rock and roll all night.

There were other good things from the seventies, though? I could share something else.

Mood rings

Awkwardly short gym shorts

Rotary phones without speed dial

Disco

Hair parted in the middle with wings

Bell bottoms

Car windows with cranks

Vinyl records

Ice cream trucks

Black & White TV’s with 3 channels

 

I made a mental list of these things. Although each brings back some fond memories for me, most of them have been improved upon. My kids are experiencing better versions, which made my list no less nostalgic for me, but not full of things they are poorer for missing. Frustrated with my inability to come up with much, I settled on one thing that every child needs to experience and mine had missed – until now.

Mooning! They had never been mooned. Well, they hadn’t until I thought of it. I spent the better part of the rest of that Saturday surprising them all over the house. Full moons, partial moons, waning crescents. I got them over and over. I doubt my celestial display was as majestic as the sunrise my eldest enjoyed. They giggled at first, but soon tired of it, locked their doors, and left me alone to come up with something else to share. All I could think of was streaking, but felt like my wife would be vehemently opposed to that one.

So I think we are going to put the 70’s to rest around here and let my children’s vision recover. After all the mooning, number three is having Jumanji-like nightmares again.

 

 

Photo credit: “Red sunrise”. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

Filed under: Dad stuff

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6. Yet another of life’s eternal mysteries

Huck and Rilla and I have just finished reading three chapters of The Boxcar Children—they wouldn’t let me stop—and now I give Huck a big squeeze and say, “Okay, baby, time to go play.” He’s surprised I’ve called him “baby”—I usually say “monkey” or “my love” (same difference)—and shoots a reproachful gaze my way.

“I’m not a baby.”

“I know. But you used to be, so it still pops out sometimes.”

He considers. “But I am still little.” Burrows a little closer into my side.

“Mm-hmm.” His hair has that magical small-child scent, half fruity shampoo and half little-boy-sweat.

He takes a deep breath, as if about to unburden himself of a trouble. “That’s why I’ve been wondering…”

“Yes?” The moment has become suddenly fraught; whatever is coming, it’s clearly a serious matter.

“I’ve been wondering why nobody cuts the crusts off my sandwiches.”

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7. ZOO DIARY 11


ZOO DIARY 11

 

SCENE: CITY ZOO. MORNING

 
The zoo opens to visitors. The animals in the zoo, which has fallen on hard times, make the usual animal sounds that visitors expect them to make

 
CHILD

Look mom – a zebra! How many stripes do you think it has?

 
MOM

Who knows. A lot for sure

 
CHILD

A trillion? Can I feed him, mom?

 
MOM

We don’t feed zoo animals, sweetie

 
CHILD

But…there’s a machine here with zebra food. All you have to do is put in some money and food falls out

 
MOM

Let’s see...five dollars to feed a zebra? Um…perhaps another time

 
CHILD

But mom – we only come here once in a while. He looks like he’s hungry. His bones are sticking out on his side

 
MOM

Five dollars is a bit too much, sweetheart. Why don’t we go see the other animals

 
ZEBRA

Um…excuse me, lady. May I interject here?

 
CHILD

Look! The zebra speaks like we do

 
MOM

Don’t be silly. Zebras don’t talk…

 
CHILD

But…I heard it with my own ears

 
MOM

There’s probably a speaker hidden somewhere in the cage. Zebras don’t talk. Let’s move along…

 
ZEBRA

They do when the situation is desperate. May I have your ear for a moment?

 
MOM

Okay. You got me. Is it on the zebra itself?

 
(she searches the cage)
 
 
 ZEBRA

Really – there are no speakers. We’ve always had this ability but kept it quiet because that’s what humans expect of zebras. However, recent circumstances call for emergency measures and this qualifies as one. Why don’t you give your son five dollars for the feeding machine?

 
MOM

I’ll bite. This is one of those TV shows where you catch people off guard, right? I’m not forking over five dollars because it’s too much money. Got that, TV people?

 
ZEBRA

See…thing is – the zoo has fallen on hard times and consequently has cut back on the amount of food it feeds us. Look at my rib cage. Mere skin and bones. I’m starving! The last time I had a meal was breakfast yesterday. Give the kid five bucks. Please! Unless you want the slow but certain demise of a zebra on your conscience

 
MOM

(laughing)

What next? When will the program be on, anyway? We might be on TV, sweetie!

 
ZEBRA

(shaking its head sadly)

Yeah – you’re right on. There’s somebody manipulating my mouth. The producer is telling me now that they need some visuals of you putting money in the machine and feeding me for the show

 
MOM

Surrrre!

 
(opens purse, takes out five dollars and enters it in the slot. She smiles broadly)

 
I’ll go along. See? Putting five dollars in the machine. Here honey – feed the zebra

 
(boy feeds food to the zebra who gobbles it up immediately)

 
What’s the name of the TV show, anyway?

 
ZEBRA

‘Desperation’ but you might find it difficult to find in your TV listings.

 
MOM

We’ll look for it. Let’s go see the cheetahs now, honey

 
(the mother and her child move along. A rat enters the zebra cage)

 
RAT

So how’d it go?

 
ZEBRA

Managed to get something to stave off my hunger pangs for a couple of hours but it was a hard sell, let me tell you!

 
RAT

Did you do your usual tap dance routine or stand there staring at them and looking pathetic?

 
ZEBRA

Neh. Told them they were part of a TV show and that the producers wanted images of them feeding me

 
RAT

You didn’t tell me we were gonna be on TV. Going to spread the word to the rest of the animals. What’s the name of the program, anyway?

 
ZEBRA

Not really…I only said that… Desperation. The name of the show is Desperation

 
RAT

Desperation?

 
ZEBRA

Indeed

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8. The Flirt

I remember flirting – they did it back when I was in college, I think. It’s like penmanship – I was never any good at it. I was also bad at recognizing the few times it happened to me.

Case in point, I was at a party one time and a girl confided in me that she was having trouble with her boyfriend back home. She said it would be nice if she could find someone to make him jealous and gave me a long and rather odd look. I assumed the look meant she might be gassy or something, so I offered to refill her drink and plodded away.

Upon finding my friend, JC, I told him what had just happened. He gave me an equally odd look and said, “Dude, she wanted to make him jealous with you. Are you stupid?”

I refused to answer his charge, but rushed back to the young lady in question, only to find JC glued to her hip. In fact, he must have told every eligible male in the room because there seemed to be an impenetrable force field of testosterone around her. I have no idea what her intentions were and never saw her again.

800px-Eugen_de_Blaas_The_Flirtation

Now I’m old and married. I flirt with my wife sometimes. I’m so bad at it that she mostly laughs at me when I do. I am a believer in wearing my wedding ring and I don’t frequent bars – so I don’t see much flirtation anymore. If I was bad at recognizing flirtation back in the day, I’m totally out of practice now.

Which brings me to a recent lunch where a lady half my age at a table nearby seemed to be peeking my way. It got downright embarrassing. I kept my head down – no sense leading her on with my charm and good looks (Ha!). After all, I am not available. I often wonder what a man in his 40’s would even talk about with a girl in her 20’s. Most of the time when a person that young talks to me, I feel like I’m watching Telemundo – I understand every third word and just nod a lot.

I felt the weight of this young lady’s stare all through lunch. My mind was ablaze with ways to tell my wife about it – that was going to be fun. The old man still has it! I couldn’t get in trouble for this. After all, several witnesses could testify that I didn’t initiate or encourage the situation. I was just a pawn in her game of lust.

At some point, she appeared two feet away from me. I had no desire to hurt her feelings. After I spurned her advances, I hoped she wouldn’t be crushed. Now that I saw her up close, she was a very attractive young lady who could easily find love with an available man closer to her age.

“Excuse me,” she said. “I’m sorry I was staring at you.”

“That’s okay,” I answered gently. “People say I look like Opie Taylor, so I get that a lot.”

Her look of confusion betrayed that she had no idea who that was… So young.

“No, that’s not it,” she said. “You just look familiar to me.”

The oldest pick-up line in the book. Here we go.

“I don’t think I know you,” I said.

“Oh, I know that. But you look exactly like my dad if he were bald. Do you mind if we take a selfie so I can send it to him?”

Crap…

I smiled as best I could as she took the picture with my friends laughing wildly. My boastful story to my wife died with the flash of her phone, as did a piece of my self-esteem. I really gotta stop shaving my head.

 

***

Artwork:  The Flirtation by Eugen de Blaas


Filed under: It Made Me Laugh

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9. The Flirt

I remember flirting – they did it back when I was in college, I think. It’s like penmanship – I was never any good at it. I was also bad at recognizing the few times it happened to me.

Case in point, I was at a party one time and a girl confided in me that she was having trouble with her boyfriend back home. She said it would be nice if she could find someone to make him jealous and gave me a long and rather odd look. I assumed the look meant she might be gassy or something, so I offered to refill her drink and plodded away.

Upon finding my friend, JC, I told him what had just happened. He gave me an equally odd look and said, “Dude, she wanted to make him jealous with you. Are you stupid?”

I refused to answer his charge, but rushed back to the young lady in question, only to find JC glued to her hip. In fact, he must have told every eligible male in the room because there seemed to be an impenetrable force field of testosterone around her. I have no idea what her intentions were and never saw her again.

800px-Eugen_de_Blaas_The_Flirtation

Now I’m old and married. I flirt with my wife sometimes. I’m so bad at it that she mostly laughs at me when I do. I am a believer in wearing my wedding ring and I don’t frequent bars – so I don’t see much flirtation anymore. If I was bad at recognizing flirtation back in the day, I’m totally out of practice now.

Which brings me to a recent lunch where a lady half my age at a table nearby seemed to be peeking my way. It got downright embarrassing. I kept my head down – no sense leading her on with my charm and good looks (Ha!). After all, I am not available. I often wonder what a man in his 40’s would even talk about with a girl in her 20’s. Most of the time when a person that young talks to me, I feel like I’m watching Telemundo – I understand every third word and just nod a lot.

I felt the weight of this young lady’s stare all through lunch. My mind was ablaze with ways to tell my wife about it – that was going to be fun. The old man still has it! I couldn’t get in trouble for this. After all, several witnesses could testify that I didn’t initiate or encourage the situation. I was just a pawn in her game of lust.

At some point, she appeared two feet away from me. I had no desire to hurt her feelings. After I spurned her advances, I hoped she wouldn’t be crushed. Now that I saw her up close, she was a very attractive young lady who could easily find love with an available man closer to her age.

“Excuse me,” she said. “I’m sorry I was staring at you.”

“That’s okay,” I answered gently. “People say I look like Opie Taylor, so I get that a lot.”

Her look of confusion betrayed that she had no idea who that was… So young.

“No, that’s not it,” she said. “You just look familiar to me.”

The oldest pick-up line in the book. Here we go.

“I don’t think I know you,” I said.

“Oh, I know that. But you look exactly like my dad if he were bald. Do you mind if we take a selfie so I can send it to him?”

Crap…

I smiled as best I could as she took the picture with my friends laughing wildly. My boastful story to my wife died with the flash of her phone, as did a piece of my self-esteem. I really gotta stop shaving my head.

 

***

Artwork:  The Flirtation by Eugen de Blaas


Filed under: It Made Me Laugh

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10. A License for Stupid

Monotony!

Boredom!

Interstate!

 

Fortunately, I don’t have to drive the interstate very often anymore. When I find myself stuck between white lines for a long drive, my mind melts into mush and I fantasize about escaping the madness in a flying car. There are two things I’ve always wanted to do while driving on the interstate. First, I’d like to drive through a rest area at full speed and just wave at all the shocked people getting out for a stretch. Second, I’d like to go through a truck weigh station.

Even a dolt like me realizes the first dream is too dangerous and I would never do it. But the second… hmmm.

I found myself so bored on a recent business trip through South Carolina truck_weigh_stationthat I thought it might be a good time to check out a weigh station. According to my calculations, I had plenty of time to get to my appointment and I always find South Carolinians to be extraordinarily kind. So when the exit sign appeared for All Trucks to be weighed, I followed a dingy yellow 18-wheeler off the road. I drive a pick-up – which is a truck, after all.

The truck behind me started honking immediately – impatient, I guess. Nearly deafened by his horn, I waited my turn in the line. They go relatively quickly and I was on the scale in no time. When I got there, an angry looking lady in brown was waiting for me.

“You shouldn’t be here,” she called angrily. “Just keep moving.”

“But it said, ‘all trucks’,” I countered with a smile, using my stupid-card, which I keep readily available in my wallet (and an extra copy in the glove box).

“It means big rigs, tractor-trailers…” she yelled in exasperation. “That’s the only thing we weigh here. Just keep moving please.”

I pushed my luck. I was here already, might as well get my money’s worth. “But I’ve been thinking I might have put on a few pounds lately – not exercising and all. Can you weigh me anyway?”

Her sense of humor as drab as her uniform, she was done with me. “Sir, I am a Highway Patrol Officer. If you don’t move along I will deal with you as such.”

“Goodbye, ma’am,” I said as I quickly obeyed.

 

And there I thought my experiment was over. I thought…

The officer must have been the forgiving type – I didn’t get pulled over for being stupid. However, the trucker behind me with the air horn took exception to my little prank. About two miles down the road, he was close enough to my truck bed to be considered cargo. I started to get nervous, but figured he wouldn’t keep at it too long if I slowed down to obey the posted fifty-five MPH speed limit. I was wrong. In fact, I think they still actually might have one of those CB networks they used in the 70’s to call a convoy.

convoy

I say that because within a mile, I looked ahead of me and another truck was going even slower than me. No worries. I started to pass only to find a blue rig to my left going the same speed as the impediment in front. Talked about hemmed in. I was stuck… and going fifty miles per hour all the way through South Carolina. My ‘plenty of time’ evaporated and I nearly missed my meeting entirely. My little prank must have broken some kind of trucker code.

Some stupid ideas should stay just that… as ideas.

The next time I get bored, I’ll stop at Cracker Barrel for a book on tape… and I won’t park anywhere near the big rigs.


Filed under: Learned Along the Way

5 Comments on A License for Stupid, last added: 9/24/2014
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11. I'm My Own Dog - I love it!

Stein, David Ezra. 2014. I'm My Own Dog. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.


I've got a few deadlines to meet so this will be short, but I couldn't let another day go by without shouting out to the virtual world, "I love this book!"

Funny, inventive, clever and touching, this book will work its way into your heart even as it has you laughing out loud.

This is no ordinary dog.  No one owns him, no sir!

Every morning when I look
in the mirror, I lick my own
face because I am so happy
to see me.
I say, "GOOD DOG.
I AM A GOOD DOG."
You'll think so, too!

Don't just take my word for it.  See more great reviews at

From the end papers,
The illustrations' line work was created using pen as well as a kids' marker hacked to dispense India Ink; it was then photocopied onto watercolor paper.  The painting was done in liquid watercolor, with a hint of crayon on the dog's muzzle.
Ingeniously childish - a perfect presentation of a delightfully independent dog with a soft spot as big as his heart.

Click here to see an inside spread from I'm My Own Dog.

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12. Honesty Has a Smell

A relaxing morning, cooler temperatures, a good run, and a mystery to be solved. That’s what greeted me on Sunday. What started off as an excellent day devolved into a conspiracy against me! The evidence piled up early until I had no other option but to come to the conclusion that I am not trusted in my home when it comes to selecting fragrances.cp

No one would tell me this shocking news, of course. I had to figure it out on my own. Since my littlest’s sickness means my wife stays with her most of the time, I must do a good portion of the shopping. I am up to the task. I have now purchased things I didn’t know we used, needed, or even existed. One of those things is fragrance products. Did you know there is a whole store that just sells that? I knew about air fresheners, baking soda, and odor-eaters, but do we really need a store.

The aforementioned little one currently loves bubble bath – which apparently, they only sell at the smell store. So I volunteered the previous day to go and get her more. When I did so, I noticed a few sneers and strange looks around the room. Never did I think they would stoop so low as to plot an underhanded way to keep me from helping. But that’s just what they did.

I believe in honesty! If someone has an issue with me, tell me. I would much rather someone tell me that my pants are too tight and my shirt too puffy than let me walk around all day looking like a foolish pirate. I guess this is a value I have been lax in instilling in my children…

On our way home from church, we passed the smell store. When I suggested to the two daughters present that we stop in, I got fumbling excuses about homework and hunger. I should have known something was amiss right then. I mean, when do they ever want to do homework?

Arriving at home, pizza appeared from nowhere along with cold Dr. Pepper. I was ushered to the TV where the Falcons game was already cued up on the DVR. Hmmmm….

Lulled into a football coma, three hours passed as my team got pushed around by their opponent. Likewise, I got manhandled by five delicate females. Angry about the game, I grabbed my keys to go – only to find that the purchases had already been made.

I was going to get something exotic, tropical… something that would have let her float away to an island retreat… Whatever scent I picked would have soothed her beyond all her troubles. It would have uplifted her mood and spirits just to reflect on its glorious scent. My choices were as endless as a box a crayons:

Warm Vanilla Sugar

Peace, Love & Daisies

Pure Paradise

Endless Weekend

 

Why wouldn’t they let me? Why?

None would make eye contact with me as I probed for an answer, leaving me:

Hurt

Disappointed

Rejected

Betrayed

 

Finally the little one said, “Dad, you like the smell of your farts.”

And there it is! Honesty! That’s all I’m asking for.                  Wait… Huh?


Filed under: Dad stuff

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13. Sing like nothing else matters !

When you are feeling all alone, if you just sing out loud you may be surprised how many others will join in with you …JDMn6Birds62920141


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14. Upcycling

photo (39)

Contrary to appearances, we are not giving away our youngest son (and all his toys, to boot). The neighbors put out this shelving unit and we thought it might be just the thing to replace our sagging makeshift TV stand. We stand corrected. What it is JUST THE THING for is setting up a shop, of course. What were we thinking? The Legos and Wedgits are being offered in lots ranging from  “small pile” to “big pile” to “treasure.” When business is slow, you can fold yourself into your house and take a nap.

TV stand. ::snort:: What nonsense adults come up with sometimes.

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15. Middle School Ultimate Showdown - an audiobook review

Below is my review of the audio version of Middle School: Ultimate Showdown by James Patterson and Julia Bergen, as it appeared in the June, 2014 edition of School Library Journal.



PATTERSON, James & Julia Bergen. Middle School: Ultimate Showdown. 2 CDs. 2 hrs. Hachette Audio. 2014. $18. ISBN 9781478952619.

Gr 3–6—Rafe Khatchadorian and his younger sister, Georgia, here engage in a series of rants about bullies, school dances, dress codes, and other middle school concerns. However, this work is not simply about rants. It centers on a showdown between the siblings—with listeners acting as judges. Included on the CD is a 66-page PDF offering. Listeners who print it out can vote, draw, play, and create, adding their own opinions to Rafe's and Georgia's. Narrators Bryan Kennedy and Cassandra Morris make it easy for listeners to follow the inevitable disagreements between the siblings. Morris, as Georgia, is likable, confident, and youthful. Kennedy's Rafe is perfect for the wisecracking troublemaker, but he suffers from the lack of character depth in the showdown format. Listeners not familiar with his character from other books in the series will find him shallow and arrogant. While considerable adaptations were made for the audiobook format, the necessity of printing and constantly referencing the lengthy PDF will likely limit this audiobook's appeal to book group facilitators and die-hard fans of the series.



Copyright © 2014 Library Journals, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. Reprinted with permission.
###

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16. You Are How You Drive?

I’m just curious, do you think someone’s true personality comes out when they get behind the wheel or does the protection of a ton of metal magnify some suppressed aggression?

Everyone knows “that guy” – the one who is too good to wait in line to merge with the rest of us. So he goes as far as he can, perhaps driving in the median or passing over a solid white line before entering traffic.

Do you think he cuts the bathroom line at the fair or knocks down the old lady at the self-checkout line because she is taking too long? I always wonder.

Yes, I have a specific driver in mind. He drives a white BMW and takes the same route as me to work every day (Although I do so legally and courteously). I am a mellow driver and don’t wrestle with road rage often. When I happen to see him cutting people off, I don’t fume. Rather, I have this dream scenario where I am at the perfect angle to wedge my old truck in front of him and seal off his escape. Then I hop out and interview him like Bob Barker on a game show. Oh, I don’t pummel him (probably), I just humiliate him into contrition – showing him the error in his ways and giving him opportunity to apologize to me as representative of all of the drivers he has treated so rudely over the years.

Funny how life plays out sometimes. I was sitting in the exact spot I had envisioned when I saw him coming up on the shoulder. As fate would have it, the line in front of me started to move at precisely the right time and I had what I think was the voice of Ferris Bueller whispering “Do it” in my ear. So I lurched my truck to the right and cut the imbecile off.

mad

He slammed on his breaks and pounded the horn as I got out of my truck. I wish I’d had the skinny microphone and cheesy tie on – that would have been too perfect. I rounded my truck while he sat red-faced in his ultimate driving maching about to explode in rage. This was gonna be good!

Wearing my best disarming smile, I walked slowly toward his door. I wonder what he thought about the 6’, 3”, grinning, bald guy headed his way. Whatever was going through his dense mind, he didn’t feel compelled to roll down his window as he did in my dream.

Not surprisingly, he was kind of a little fella. I felt like I was forgetting something even though I knew my line was,“Tell him what he’s won, Johnny…. Well Bob, This rude driver will be late to work today!”  (cue applause)

I have to say it got a little awkward with me standing there waiting to talk to him and all the rubberneckers around us wondering what was going on.

What had I forgotten?

Oh yeah, BMW’s go in both forward and reverse. They actually go pretty fast in reverse and spit up all kinds of roadside crap on any wannabe gameshow host who might happen to be standing in front of the car. In a matter of seconds, he was gone. He zoomed around me with a final honk and a proper salute while I watched, dirty and alone.

It was too late for me to go home to change and get to work on time. I just told everyone at the office that I had helped an old lady change her flat tire and let them think I was a saint instead of an idiot…

 

It’s better that way.

 


Filed under: It Made Me Laugh

5 Comments on You Are How You Drive?, last added: 8/26/2014
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17. You Are How You Drive?

I’m just curious, do you think someone’s true personality comes out when they get behind the wheel or does the protection of a ton of metal magnify some suppressed aggression?

Everyone knows “that guy” – the one who is too good to wait in line to merge with the rest of us. So he goes as far as he can, perhaps driving in the median or passing over a solid white line before entering traffic.

Do you think he cuts the bathroom line at the fair or knocks down the old lady at the self-checkout line because she is taking too long? I always wonder.

Yes, I have a specific driver in mind. He drives a white BMW and takes the same route as me to work every day (Although I do so legally and courteously). I am a mellow driver and don’t wrestle with road rage often. When I happen to see him cutting people off, I don’t fume. Rather, I have this dream scenario where I am at the perfect angle to wedge my old truck in front of him and seal off his escape. Then I hop out and interview him like Bob Barker on a game show. Oh, I don’t pummel him (probably), I just humiliate him into contrition – showing him the error in his ways and giving him opportunity to apologize to me as representative of all of the drivers he has treated so rudely over the years.

Funny how life plays out sometimes. I was sitting in the exact spot I had envisioned when I saw him coming up on the shoulder. As fate would have it, the line in front of me started to move at precisely the right time and I had what I think was the voice of Ferris Bueller whispering “Do it” in my ear. So I lurched my truck to the right and cut the imbecile off.

mad

He slammed on his breaks and pounded the horn as I got out of my truck. I wish I’d had the skinny microphone and cheesy tie on – that would have been too perfect. I rounded my truck while he sat red-faced in his ultimate driving maching about to explode in rage. This was gonna be good!

Wearing my best disarming smile, I walked slowly toward his door. I wonder what he thought about the 6’, 3”, grinning, bald guy headed his way. Whatever was going through his dense mind, he didn’t feel compelled to roll down his window as he did in my dream.

Not surprisingly, he was kind of a little fella. I felt like I was forgetting something even though I knew my line was,“Tell him what he’s won, Johnny…. Well Bob, This rude driver will be late to work today!”  (cue applause)

I have to say it got a little awkward with me standing there waiting to talk to him and all the rubberneckers around us wondering what was going on.

What had I forgotten?

Oh yeah, BMW’s go in both forward and reverse. They actually go pretty fast in reverse and spit up all kinds of roadside crap on any wannabe gameshow host who might happen to be standing in front of the car. In a matter of seconds, he was gone. He zoomed around me with a final honk and a proper salute while I watched, dirty and alone.

It was too late for me to go home to change and get to work on time. I just told everyone at the office that I had helped an old lady change her flat tire and let them think I was a saint instead of an idiot…

 

It’s better that way.

 


Filed under: It Made Me Laugh

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18. She Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

And so, the wheel turns. My eldest has moved to college. Although my Lovely Wife (LW) tells me we have to keep her room intact because she will still come home, I remember that I never lived at home after I left for college. I am somewhat sad about that, but we’ve been prepping for this and hoping she would take flight someday. It’s just hard to watch the baby condor drop off the ledge knowing the perilous plunge that awaits.

I’m taking it pretty well, actually. LW, not so much. Everything in the house seems to remind her that one of her babies has left the nest. Tears, oh there have been tears. I don’t understand tears, nor do I deal with them very well. I remind LW that she’s always got me… forever…  Somehow, that doesn’t seem to help.

After moving our collegian, we had to take our little patient in for treatment where she and mom stayed a few days. While they were gone, I happened into the pantry and realized LW must not have been there since baby condor left. If food packaging could form a face, every piece of junk food in there conspired to draw our missing daughter – even to me and I’m oblivious to the most obvious of things.

This was bad! I couldn’t let LW see this, she would cry for days. It all had to go, but the cheapskate in me said I also couldn’t throw out all of the food. Only one option remained. A 24 hour binge of Munchos and Dr. Pepper.

Have you ever read the nutrition label on those things? DON’T! You can gain 3 pounds just from holding the bag too long. They don’t list things by proportion, otherwise the label would read something like this:

Lard 70%image

Air 27%

Salt 2.5%

Potatoes 0.5%

How they bond the ingredients I will never know. Anyway, I polished off the first bag for breakfast and washed it down with three Dr. Peppers. I checked the remaining inventory and was disheartened to discover that LW must have decided to stock up to try to lure the girl to forsake college and stay with us. Either that or she suspected a Y2k15 disaster and wanted to be prepared. Our pantry was like a saferoom.

This is where having many offspring should pay off! I enlisted the help of the remaining children. When I explained the dilemma, I got more “Oh, Dad” eye rolls than the average game of nine-ball. One took a Dr. Pepper before she left, so I was down to hoarder’s surplus minus one. Alone, I dug in for the day.

In the late evening, I was sure a trip the emergency room was in order. The pantry was reverting back to a faceless state, and my stomach was screaming something in Idahoan. I was sweating a substance that looked like maple syrup, which can’t be good. I put in a call to Poison Control where a kind gentleman told me there was no known toxicity in the combination, but urged me to go to the hospital if I felt light-headed. That’s the last thing I remember before passing out amongst the crumbs of the last bag.

When I came to, it was time to go and pick up LW and the youngest. I used the shower squeegee to remove the syrup-sweat and when I arrived, they were ready to go. The trip home was uneventful, I successfully hid the tick and slurred speech caused by sugar intake. While I was unloading the car, LW stopped me.

“Where are the snacks for the party?”

I shrugged my shoulders and grunted. I didn’t ask ‘what party’, I’m sure I’d been told.

“The pantry was full of them.”

“I dunno,” I replied without making eye contact.

“Well, we need more for the party Saturday. Can you go to the store?”

“Uh, sure.”

They say never go to the store hungry. I went full! And I bought $57 worth of Dr. Pepper and Munchos, feeling bloated and quite resentful. Even after all the sweets, this was a bitter pill to swallow.


Filed under: It Made Me Laugh

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19. Arks to Go II - the Flood

 A FRIENDLY RE-CALL
by Eleanor Tylbor
 
 
SCENE:   ANGIE'S APARTMENT.

AT RISE:  ANGIE IS WATCHING TV, ALONE.  PHONE RINGS
 

ANGIE
Hello?

NOAH
Guess who?

ANGIE
You have the wrong number

(She disconnects. Phone rings once more)

(cont'd. ANGIE)
Not again... Hello?

NOAH
We seem to have been disconnected...

ANGIE
Not really

NOAH
This is Angie, right?

ANGIE
Maybe it is and maybe it isn't. Depends who's asking

NOAH
I get it! You're joking with me, aren't you? Of course you are. 'hahahahahahah' See? I have a sense of humor

ANGIE
I'm not trying to be funny, I can assure you

NOAH
Oh...sorry 'bout that. I thought you were. Anywaaaay... so whad'ya think about all the rain we've been having? Think somebody is trying to tell us something?

ANGIE
I'm not in the mood for another one of your philosophical lectures, Noah. I'm gonna disconnect, now.

NOAH
I feel you're upset... Joe busy, is he?

ANGIE
I'm watching a movie. Alone. By myself.  What does that tell you?    But since you asked, Joe, as  many have before him, has moved on

NOAH
No problem-o. Would you like me to look up his new address? I have access to everyone's number on the planet...

ANGIE
I don't want to discuss this with you. Good-bye...

NOAH
Your voice tells me something is wrong

ANGIE
Something wrong? You have to ask me if something is wrong? You interrupted what could have been the perfect romantic evening by showing up at my door

NOAH
It was a friendly visit. I thought we could get to know each other before embarking on our trip

ANGIE
Excuse me? A really old guy with straggly long hair and a white beard dragging on the floor, dressed in army fatigues and smelling of animal dung, shows up at my door and starts asking my date questions about the next flood and his experience in building arks. What do you think he'd do?

NOAH
Would you like me to call him and apologize? Perhaps I could make it up to him by offering him a ride on my ark

ANGIE
What ark? You don't have an ark, Noah! Remember? Now if you don't mind and even if you do, I'm going to make some popcorn and...

NOAH
Popcorn? I LOVE popcorn. I'll be right over along with a friend or two...

ANGIE
I don't think so... Hello? Noah?

(DOORBELL RINGS. SOUND OF ELEPHANT AND MONKEY CAN BE HEARD)

(cont'd. ANGIE)  No...please no...

(Angie opens the door. Noah is standing outside)

NOAH
Hope you don't mind that brought along a few friends. They get a little crazy without supervision. So? Where's the popcorn? Tell me, Angie - have you ever thought about adopting a pet?

(TO BE CONTINUED)

 



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20. Floating In Pants

I don’t have a grand list of phobias. But of the things I fear, I’m pretty sure sharks top the list. As a child of the seventies, Jaws really did me in. I love going to the beach and being in the ocean, but constantly find myself scanning the horizon for a fin. I have been deep-sea fishing and enjoyed it even when I heard the eerie music in my mind and braced for the impact from the imaginary megalodon shark about to ram us from underneath.

I’ve been reading the book, In Harm’s Way, which is about the sinking of the USS Indianapolis during World War II. A few years ago a survivor of the event, Edgar Harrell, spoke at my children’s school on Veteran’s Day. His story was amazing. If you don’t know what happened, the ship was sunk by a torpedo and since they were on a covert mission, no one knew to rescue them. This led to the largest recorded shark massacre in history. While I am fascinated by the situation, it leads to all kinds of issues. Could I survive such an event? Take the sharks out of the picture, am I ready to float in the ocean for days?

Then I remembered! I have been trained to use my pants as a flotation device thanks to the Uncle Sam. That was over twenty-five years ago, though… can I still do it?

I decided to test my skill. After all, I fly over the ocean sometimes, I might need to use this someday. It pays to be prepared. The weather is perfect – why not? To my closet to fetch a pair of dungarees. In order to do this right, I have to be wearing them. If I survive the wreck, I won’t have my carry-on. Into the pool I go fully clothed.

First observation, it is hard to tread water with shoes on. You would think they would be an aid as paddles (especially my size 13’s), yet they tend to be more of an anchor.

Second, it is difficult to stay afloat and remove your shoes. Always wear slip-on shoes or flip-flops if there is a high probability of emergency flotation.

Third, taking off your pants in the water can lead to some rollovers – it is tricky to both hold your nose and disrobe.

Forth, tying off your pant legs is fairly easy. Inflating them while staying topside is not. I am not asthmatic, but I must have the lung capacity of a baby armadillo.

Fifth, you should always wear a Jethro Clampett belt. I am ditching leather for rope immediately. That will be the only way to secure the waist tight enough to hold air.

shark pants

I am happy to tell you that should I ever find myself in the ocean with pants, I will likely live to tell about it unless I see a circling fin. The trial was a complete success. Quite proud of myself, I exited the pool and would like to share just a few more observations. Unlike me, you should probably choose a friend, relative or close neighbor’s pool, not a nearby community pool. The reason for this is you will find wet pants that have been used as a flotation device are nearly impossible to untie and put back on, which makes for a disquieting two-mile walk home.

Oh, and you should probably notify the police or get a permit as if you are having a fireworks display or parade. They take a dim view to a wet, pantless man walking home late at night.


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21. The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents Macbeth - a review

Bruce Coville has done wonderful adaptations of several Shakespearean plays for a young audience, while staying faithful to the mood and dialogue wherever possible.  Now, however, there's a new, edgier, funny Shakespeare in town.  You may have seen many adaptations for the works of Shakespeare, but you've never seen them done like this. 

I present The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue. I was laughing out loud on the very first page!

Lendler, Ian. 2014. The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents Macbeth. New York: First Second.
(Advance Reader Copy)

A hilarious, graphic novel version of "Macbeth" as performed and attended by the denizens of The Stratford Zoo after the keeper has left for the evening. 

Join them in their seats (avoid the skunk!), grab a snack of rotting carrion from the vendors, and enjoy the play!  Panels featuring frequent audience commentary are done in darkened tones to denote the dim lighting of audience seating.  The play's action onstage is presented in bold color.

Intermission occurs when the zookeeper makes an unexpected late-night sweep of the zoo's grounds.

If you're a humor or comic book fan, Lendler and illustrator, Zack Giallongo, present this Shakespeare classic "as you like it" - brief, humorous, and to the point. Teachers and parents, this is a perfect introduction to Shakespeare for the young people in your life.  

(Alternatively, read it yourself and then head out to see some Shakespeare in the park this summer! I'll be seeing Shakespeare by the Sea.)

Due on shelves in September. This is the first in a series.  Look for "Romeo and Juliet" next.

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22. Four People and a Playwright Looking for a Decent Play

This was a time-waster while developing characters in my play, "Gin..." As the playwright plodded along adding and deleting dialogue, the characters of the play began to show signs of rebellion - at least they thought it was rebellion since they weren't exactly sure what a rebellion was. It's a longer piece but an enjoyable light one. It's cut and pasted from Word so ignore the formatting.


By Eleanor Tylbor
 
 
AT RISE:      
 
Four women are seated on fold-up chairs around a card table, absorbed in adjusting the playing cards in their hands. Bowls of popcorn and soft drink cans litter the surface of the table. On the other side of the stage the playwright (JULIE) is sitting at a computer desk, arms bent at elbows, staring out into space. She works the keyboard as the characters recite their lines
 
BRENDA
In case anyone cares, something is about to happen…very soon now…could even be momentarily…I can feel it…
                         Lays cards down on the table and thrusts remaining card in the
                         air for all to see
 
(Cont’d.) Victory is at hand – or inmy hand, in this case! Oh I’m a winner all right!
CHARLENE
                         Shoving a hand full of popcorn in her mouth
 
Goof fo' you. Paf me de drink, Miffi
 
BRENDA
Didn't your momma teach you it's not nice to eat and talk? Then again for some people, a full mouth is part of a lifestyle. Isn't that right Mitzi, honey?
 
MITZI
Jealousy will get you nowhere, sweetie.  At least I'm not a dried up where it counts!
 
BRENDA
Touchy! I was merely commenting to Charlene that well-bred people don't speak with their mouths full! But then being that you’re a multi-tasker…I mean handling more than one person at a time…
 
MITZI
Breeding comes naturally in your family, doesn't it? Did they forget to give you your cube of sugar today? Clop your hoof once for yes and two for no
 
CHLOE
(to herself)
Bicker, bicker…bicker, … It would be nice to have a quiet game of cards for a change without throwing verbal knives at each other
 
CHARLENE
I think I'm close to calling Gin…
 
BRENDA
I would stay out of this if I were you, Chloe. Is your brother eligible for parole, yet?
 
CHLOE
I'm gonna start calling you Bossy, along with the other "b" word that rhymes with itch, and usually associated with a female dog! I try to be nice to you and what do I get in return?
 
                         CHLOE stares into space for approx. 10 seconds in silence
 
What do I get in return? Does anybody know?
 
CHARLENE
Do we guess?
CHLOE
I don’t think so. My mind is a complete blank. Is that normal?
 
           Pause of 10 seconds while they all stare out into space
 
CHARLENE
I’m waiting

BRENDA
Me too. What are we waiting for?
 
MITZI
Some words and sentences I think

 
BRENDA
(puzzled)
Don't blame me for what comes out of my mouth. I just say the words. I don't create them. By the way, Chloe, what's your brother in for this time? Armed robbery or is it murder? I didn't mean to say that…or maybe I did…I’m not sure
MITZI
I really don't know why but I feel compelled to tell you…
 
                         Stands up and leans over the table towards BRENDA
 
BRENDA
(standing up)
What? Anybody?
 
MITZI
Why am I standing? I mean, what's my motivation? Could somebody tell me, please?
 
CHLOE
So sit down if you’re not sure. My philosophy is when in doubt – don’t
 
MITZI
Don’t what?
 
CHLOE
Um - I dunno. Take my word for it and just don’t. That’s all
 
CHARLENE
(excitedly)
Gin! What’s supposed to happen, now?
 
BRENDA
I’m not sure but I think something important is gonna happen. I can feel it in my bones. Does anybody have any ideas?
 
MITZI
Well…for starters, we’re all holding these hard pieces of paper in our hands
 
CHLOE
I wonder if that’s significant. What do yours look like, Brenda?
 
BRENDA
Let’s see… White background with red and black thingies…
 
MITZI
Thingies?
 
BRENDA
I dunno what you call them but they’re pretty, though. And there are numbers in the corners
 
CHLOE
Same here! Go figure!
 
MITZI AND CHARLENE TOGETHER
Ours too!
 
BRENDA
Okay. We’re making progress here. Hey! These are playing cards
 
 CHARLENE
You think?
 
 BRENDA
I know for a fact! Those words just popped into my head!
 
CHARLENE
So you say. You could’a just make them up on the spur of the moment to impress us
 
BRENDA
Have you ever heard me use them before?
 
CHLOE
I never heard them in my entire life and that’s the truth
 
BRENDA
Then you’re all just gonna hav’ta take my word for it! These things are called playing cards
 
MITZI
Let’s say you’re right. What about them?
 
BRENDA
I dunno…What comes next?
 
CHARLENE
Y’know - I’ve been wondering if I should be eating popcorn or maybe change it for something else like, candy for example or ice cream
 
MITZI
All you think about is food, food, food! There are more important things in life
 
BRENDA
Really? Like?
 
MITZI
Well…there just are. I feel it

 
CHLOE
Sometimes, I get the feeling like I'm a puppet on a string or something, bowing to someone's wishes. Do any of you ever get that feeling?
 
CHARLENE
I said, ‘Gin’! Hello? I'll try again. Gin… Gin… Gin!
 
ALL TOGETHER
So?
 
CHARLENE
Darned if I know. We show up every day and twice on weekends holding these playing cards in our hands. Why I keep asking myself. Why am I here? Why are we all here? Sometimes I yell out,  “Gin!” out loud but nobody answers. Shouldn’t somebody answer me? I’ve been screaming that word for the last six months. Always the same words and lines and then I call out, "Gin!"
                         Stares out in space and babbles to an invisible person
 (Cont’d.) ‘…she tries to make the others understand but they just stare at her blankly…she must determine the reason for her very existence…’
 
BRENDA
Who are you talking to?
 
CHARLENE
I really can’t say. Suddenly a bunch of words came tumbling out of my mouth for no reason. It's not the first time this has happened
 
BRENDA
Ask Mitzi. She knows all about objects in mouths
 
MITZI
I'm so sick of your sexual innuendoes, Brenda
 
CHLOE
Why do you react that way whenever the word “mouth” is mentioned?
 
MITZI
It’s not that I want to but I feel I have to. It’s as if I don’t have any choice in the matter
 MITZI stands up with hands on hips, leans forward until her face  is directly in front of Brenda

BRENDA
Yes?
 
MITZI
And…um…something else…
 
                         Moves away from table, hops up and down and starts
 shadow boxing, fists waving in the air
 
(Cont’d.) I took a self-defense course! My hands are lethal weapons!
 
                         Cuts the air with side of hand
 
CHLOE
And that means…?
 
MITZI
You are so not with it.  It means…it means…
 
BRENDA
Oh pllleeze! She doesn’t know
 
BRENDA
Let's settle this once and for all! C'mon – right here and now
 
MITZI
Fine with me…what are we supposed to do next?
 
BRENDA
Just… keep hitting the air and dancing around I suppose
 
                         BRENDA and MITZI spar, fists jabbing the empty air
 
CHLOE
                         Stands up and places her purse strap over her shoulder
 
That's it! Nobody seems to care that I have yelled “Gin!”…whatever that means, but I'm sure it's important.  I don't know about you all but I'm leaving! Anybody else gonna follow me?
 
 MITZI
                         Attempts to attract the attention of the playwright
 
Hello? You up there? Could you stop staring at that screen for a minute? This isn't working for me at all. I'm sick-and-and tired of being a slut with a one-track mind. This play of yours is a bunch of words with no plot or direction and it breaks every playwriting rule in the book. Where's the protagonist and antagonist?
 
CHARLENE
What are you complaining about? My character is insecure, indecisive and naive, and those are her strong qualities. How'd you like to have those? I'm smart, you know! I am very smart… I think
 
BRENDA
Off the top of my head, I would guess that part of your problem is that you're a minor character, while mine plays a major role and more attention is required to develop Brenda, properly
 
CHARLENE
See what I mean? How come I can't be the smart one for a change?
 
CHLOE         
With all due respect Charlene, honey, I don't think you have the emotional range to assume an analytical role of deep thinker, like we do. Right ladies?
 
                         CHLOE and BRENDA together:  ‘I dunno’
 
CHARLENE
It's just not fair! Every day I hav'ta play the part of a simple minded female when in reality, I got it up here (points to her head) I think this is what makes the words come out
 
CHLOE
You see, Charlene, sweetie, my background lends itself to being a character with class…one of the rich, beautiful people, while you – well dear - let's just say that you have interesting words in your sentences
 
CHARLENE
I'm as good as anyone here! You're all forgetting that we are the sum total of the playwright's vision. Hey – I can talk smart too! Why can't we take turns being each other?
 
MITZI
Let's not forget here that our origins are a computer memory chip. The only rich and famous person we're connected to is Bill Gates. I say…we walk. Are you with me, ladies?
 
VOICE OF PLAYWRIGHT (JULIE)
Is there a problem?
 
BRENDA
 
                         Hands on hips, facing direction of playwright
 
We got your attention, huh? We've had it with these crappy lines! We're bored of being portrayed as vacuous women with blank minds. We're people too! We have feelings and we hurt and…
 
JULIE
May I remind you that you're nothing more than a bunch of words strung together to make a sentence? I make you who and what you are and I can eliminate you all with a push of my forefinger and a delete button. You're only communicating with me now because I'm exploring dialogue choices. You're all a figment of my imagination
 
CHARLENE
No need for threats, here, dear. There's only so much that characters can take and we've reached the end of the line, so to speak. Do you like that, ladies? End-of-the-line?
 
CHLOE
Trés wit-ty, my dear
 
JULIE
What should I say? I've re-written and re-written you all at least two dozen times and no matter what I do, the dialogue sounds… wooden. And don't even ask about the plot, or lack of one, thereof
 
BRENDA      
That's because you really don't really believe in us, do you? Deep down inside you're toying with the idea of deleting the text and starting a whole new play that will move in a new direction. Do you know what it's like living under that threat? I'll tell you – it's very disturbing
 
PLAYWRIGHT JULIE
Did I write that? I don't remember writing those words…
 
CHLOE
Now there's a perfect example of what I'm talking about! We never know where you're gonna take us next, right ladies? It's like…there's giant hands hanging over the stage dangling precariously, ready to strike at a moments notice.  It's the uncertainty of the delete button that gets us down!
 
MITZI
For example, why do you always make me as an over-sexed whore? Maybe it would be good to be an upright female for a change.  Not necessarily a nun or anything but an intelligent woman who has a direction and purpose in life. Not somebody who dresses in clothes three sizes too tight. Let Charlene assume that part for once. Wouldn't you like that, dear?
 
CHARLENE
I'll pass but I know where she's coming from! In spite of all your attempts at re-writes, you still make me out like an empty-headed - duh! I want to be respected like the rest of them, except Mitzi…no insult intended…
 
MITZI
None taken, dear. I'm used to it by now
 
PLAYWRIGHT JULIE
I never realized you all felt this way
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23. A Call to Tech Support

The wifi in my eldest daughter’s laptop died recently. Being the home’s Chief Technology Officer, I worked through the handy troubleshoot on the system which told me it was working perfectly. Of course, the inability to connect to the internet and the distraught look on my poor daughter’s face told me it wasn’t. No worries, I bought a USB dongle and she was up and running.

Little did I know that my trouble-shooting skills would soon be needed again. A week ago, she informed me that her dongle wasn’t working. Of course, at 11:15, my system was shut down, so I didn’t pay much attention and went to bed. When I awoke, I realized it wasn’t her computer – there was a wholesale internet outage in the house!

I think that is mentioned in Revelation, isn’t it? The Mark of the Beast and the inability to access High-Speed Wireless is in chapter 13, if I remember correctly. I looked outside and it didn’t appear the Battle of Armageddon had begun yet. A check of the beds told me the wife and kids were still here, so the rapture hadn’t left me behind (Whew!)

But I still had no internet.

This has happened before and I fixed it. What did I do? Oh yeah, I unplugged it and it rebooted itself. So I pulled the plug and let it regenerate. Unfortunately, the light blinking was still red long after power was restored. So I called my ever-helpful internet service provider and got stuck in the web of automated attendants who sound helpful, but are very patronizing. Don’t they know I am the CTO? That should give me some status, I would think.

My biggest problem wasn’t the self-righteous know-it-all computer voice on the other end of the phone, it was the fact that my cell phone service is spotty in the basement where the router resides. So I put the phone on speaker and listened as best I could. Like a rat pushing through a maze, I found the tech support cheese after seventeen minutes and the new, smarter sounding Tech Support Weenie voice tells me we are going to have to restart the system.

TSW: I will now tell you how to restart your system. This is a medium level procedure and will take approximately 3-5 minutes.

Okay

TSW: Can you see your internet router?

Yes

TSW: Please find the power cable on the back of the router and say yes when you’ve found it.

Got it

TSW: I didn’t understand you.

Er…  Yes

TSW: Trace the cable to the electric outlet. Unplug the cable and wait 10 seconds before plugging it back in.

Well, that’s what I did before, but okay

TSW: Did this solve your problem?

NO!

At that point, my spotty cell service affected my ability to clearly hear the next steps in the process. What I am pretty sure it said was for me to disconnect all cables, kick the box across the room, plug it back in and see if any lights were blinking. Repeat until no lights function.

Done!

After I hung up, I went to work early and left this note on the floor:

936051_10152553265964675_8432536674832206132_n

 

The good news, there is free wifi at the hotel, but I really wish they would call.


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24. Awesome Author Interview: Adam Wallace

I recently had the pleasure of meeting funny man and children’s book author, Adam Wallace, creator of titles including Mac O’Beasty, The Negatees, The Pete McGee series, Jamie Brown is Not Rich, and Better Out Than In. I am even more fortunate that he has agreed to answer some of my questions! Firstly, congratulations on being […]

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25. She Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

And so, the wheel turns. My eldest has moved to college. Although my Lovely Wife (LW) tells me we have to keep her room intact because she will still come home, I remember that I never lived at home after I left for college. I am somewhat sad about that, but we’ve been prepping for this and hoping she would take flight someday. It’s just hard to watch the baby condor drop off the ledge knowing the perilous plunge that awaits.

I’m taking it pretty well, actually. LW, not so much. Everything in the house seems to remind her that one of her babies has left the nest. Tears, oh there have been tears. I don’t understand tears, nor do I deal with them very well. I remind LW that she’s always got me… forever…  Somehow, that doesn’t seem to help.

After moving our collegian, we had to take our little patient in for treatment where she and mom stayed a few days. While they were gone, I happened into the pantry and realized LW must not have been there since baby condor left. If food packaging could form a face, every piece of junk food in there conspired to draw our missing daughter – even to me and I’m oblivious to the most obvious of things.

This was bad! I couldn’t let LW see this, she would cry for days. It all had to go, but the cheapskate in me said I also couldn’t throw out all of the food. Only one option remained. A 24 hour binge of Munchos and Dr. Pepper.

Have you ever read the nutrition label on those things? DON’T! You can gain 3 pounds just from holding the bag too long. They don’t list things by proportion, otherwise the label would read something like this:

Lard 70%image

Air 27%

Salt 2.5%

Potatoes 0.5%

How they bond the ingredients I will never know. Anyway, I polished off the first bag for breakfast and washed it down with three Dr. Peppers. I checked the remaining inventory and was disheartened to discover that LW must have decided to stock up to try to lure the girl to forsake college and stay with us. Either that or she suspected a Y2k15 disaster and wanted to be prepared. Our pantry was like a saferoom.

This is where having many offspring should pay off! I enlisted the help of the remaining children. When I explained the dilemma, I got more “Oh, Dad” eye rolls than the average game of nine-ball. One took a Dr. Pepper before she left, so I was down to hoarder’s surplus minus one. Alone, I dug in for the day.

In the late evening, I was sure a trip the emergency room was in order. The pantry was reverting back to a faceless state, and my stomach was screaming something in Idahoan. I was sweating a substance that looked like maple syrup, which can’t be good. I put in a call to Poison Control where a kind gentleman told me there was no known toxicity in the combination, but urged me to go to the hospital if I felt light-headed. That’s the last thing I remember before passing out amongst the crumbs of the last bag.

When I came to, it was time to go and pick up LW and the youngest. I used the shower squeegee to remove the syrup-sweat and when I arrived, they were ready to go. The trip home was uneventful, I successfully hid the tick and slurred speech caused by sugar intake. While I was unloading the car, LW stopped me.

“Where are the snacks for the party?”

I shrugged my shoulders and grunted. I didn’t ask ‘what party’, I’m sure I’d been told.

“The pantry was full of them.”

“I dunno,” I replied without making eye contact.

“Well, we need more for the party Saturday. Can you go to the store?”

“Uh, sure.”

They say never go to the store hungry. I went full! And I bought $57 worth of Dr. Pepper and Munchos, feeling bloated and quite resentful. Even after all the sweets, this was a bitter pill to swallow.


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