Friday, October 30, 2009

Is Satan in Your Sweets?

"If this holiday is hallowed, whose service is it set apart for? The answer to that question is very easy—Lucifer’s!… [M]ost of the candy sold during this season has been dedicated and prayed over by witches! I do not buy candy during the Halloween season. Curses are sent through the tricks and treats of the innocent whether they get it by going door to door or by purchasing it from the local grocery store. The demons cannot tell the difference."
– Kimberly Daniels

I was alerted to this warning by Mock, Paper, Scissors. The helpful Halloween hint comes from Daniels' article on Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network. (To be fair to CBN, the article was taken down)

So my question goes to Ms. Daniels: How does this candy cursing work? Is it like getting certified kosher? Do the witches damn your Snickers at the store or at the manufacturing plant? It seems it would disrupt the candy making operations at their busiest time of the year.

Geez, it used to be we just had to worry about people putting razor blades in our kids treats. That, at least, was easy to find. Witch prayers are much harder to detect on an x-ray. Do I have to take the candy to Father Merrin?

The good news is that candy must not be sinful the rest of the year.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Asst A.G. With E.D. is SOL in S.C.

When a man can’t hang out at the cemetery with a stripper on his lunch hour without having his emergency sex toys questioned by police, then, well, then I don’t know what.
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- A deputy assistant attorney general who said he was on his lunch break when an officer found him with a stripper and sex toys in his sport utility vehicle has been fired.

Roland Corning, 66, and the 18-year-old woman with him, an employee of the Platinum Plus Gentleman's Club, gave conflicting stories about what they were doing in the cemetery. Corning gave (police officer) Wines a badge showing he worked for the state Attorney General's Office. Wines, whose wife also works there, called her to make sure Corning was telling the truth.”
Wait. What? The police officer called his own wife to rat this guy out? If the poor man had said he worked at the hardware store, would the cop have checked that out? The whole story sounds like the plot of a Coen brothers movie.
“He then searched the SUV, where he found a Viagra pill and several sex toys, items Corning said he always kept with him, ‘just in case’.”
Okay, who doesn’t keep that stuff handy? I go down the checklist before every trip to the store or the cemetery: Sex toys, jumper cables, Viagra, flashlight and popcorn popper, you know, just in case.
“Corning and the woman were let go without charges. Wines' wife reported the call to her supervisor, who told Attorney General Henry McMaster. ‘We received credible information about inappropriate behavior Monday afternoon,’ McMaster said Wednesday. And by the close of business, he was no longer working here."
He was in a secluded area of the cemetery. If the cop doesn’t start calling his family about it, no one knows. THAT’S the inappropriate behavior.
“Such a trip to the cemetery ‘would not be appropriate, at any time, for an assistant attorney general,’ McMaster said.”
Really? Is that in the employee manual? “Do not go to the cemetery with a stripper.” Besides, he was the deputy assistant A.G. Is he held to the same high standard as the assistant, A.G.?

The girl was 18; they both were released without charges (i.e. there was no crime committed) and he was at lunch. Viagra is not a controlled substance. So the man needed some help to get himself a, uh, “5-dollar footlong”, if you will, on his lunch break. So what? I need caffeine to get up in the morning. If I drink it at the graveyard with an exotic dancer, is my next stop the unemployment line?
“South Carolina has had its share of scandal lately, most notably Gov. Mark Sanford's disappearance in June. His office told reporters he was hiking the Appalachian Trail, but he was really in Argentina visiting his mistress.” On the state’s peso!
And the governor still has his job. The 66-year-old deputy assistant D.A. with E.D. does not. Are they running out of politicians in S.C. to pin scandals on? Come on, the guy was not even an elected official.

Todd Snider said it all:

All of my neighbors are all up in arms
About something they saw on TV.
Seems some politician got busted for something
That won't make any difference to me.
I'm sure it's all true, and I'm tired of this, too
But I can't pray for someone to fall.
Let all them people do what people do
I'm just happy to be here at all

I'm happy to be here to vote randomly
On who ought to take the next dive.
I'm eager to see what the downfall will be
And all the hilarity on Saturday Night Live.
You know, mostly it's all scandal TV these days.
That's where the real money must fall,
Down from the smog of some Hollywood haze
I'm just happy to be here at all.

I'm happy to be here
I'm happy to be

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Cooking Up Reform

Devon Henderson, a mischevious, always-smiling 5-year-old, was born with chronic hunger. His mother, Sharon lost her job last year and no longer has restaurant insurance. Devon's father walked out when Devon was born and never sent any money for support. Now Sharon cannot afford to provide Devon with the full course, restaurant meals he needs. “I’m giving him over-the-counter snack foods,” she says in a soft voice. “I don’t know how long that will sustain him.” When asked how she manages to afford the snacks, she looks off toward her bedroom, then quickly down at the floor. She doesn’t respond.
President Obama addressed Congress yesterday and again urged them to pass food reform. “Twenty million Americans are without restaurant insurance and unable to get entrees, much less full course meals when they need them. We cannot let that continue. Every American has a fundamental right to affordable meals when he or she becomes hungry,” he stated. Repeating his campaign promise, the President emphasized that the controversial provision for public meal tickets should be a part of whatever bill is passed.
Sharon Henderson spent four years at graduate school to get a degree as a cosmetologist, with a specialty in nail treatment. As a result of the recession, she was laid off from a highly paid position as an executive toenail cleaner. Sharon has an interview coming up for a job prescribing antipsychotic drugs; it’s an unskilled, minimum wage position, but one which would restore her restaurant insurance. “I will work for food,” Sharon murmurs, choking back tears, “but Devon’s chronic hunger is a pre-existing condition and will probably not be covered. It’s not fair; he can’t help being born that way.”
Republicans responded to the President’s message, saying that they would not support “the socialized meal policies” the Democrats are proposing. Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell (R-KY), said, “This is not ‘reform’. We currently have the finest restaurant chains in the world and the highest rate of hunger satiation for those who use them. Some have pointed to Canada as an example of a successful government meal system. The facts are that, in Canada, people going to restaurants are given pagers and forced to wait in cramped lobbies, or even outside, until they are called. In many cases people needing food must make reservations far in advance.

“If you get hungry in some place like China, you are afraid to go for treatment. Who knows what is in the food over there. Our free market system has allowed our chefs to develop complex meals; they are created for the rich, but eventually make their way to the mass market. The liberals want to turn us into a Communist collective, forced to line up at food cooperatives for government handouts. What’s more, the President’s food reform bill would force hungry people to go before government diet panels and face assisted dieting.”
Some critics of the current system say it is not the restaurants or the chefs who need reform. “It the insurance companies,” explains analyst, Dale Martin. “ Their top people have lost sight of their mission and purpose. Insurance used to be the business of small mutual farms who would collect premiums from members and then use them to buy food for the unfortunate members of the group who fell victim to hunger. They provided against the risk of a devastating starvation. Now insurance conglomerates are all about investing and profit. They invest in the food banks and trade in ‘toxic food stuffs’, which are chopped up, mixed with filler, blended and sold as byproducts and flavor derivatives. The insurance companies, reluctant to part with their profits, reduce allowed services or institute prix fixe meals. That’s why we have a shortage of chefs and sous chefs in this country.”

Sharon Henderson has similar complaints about the services she was able to get for her son when she did have restaurant insurance. “One chef told me to give Devon 100% Angus beef, but the insurance company would approve only generic ground beef. They told us that they would not pay for emergency cafeteria visits but that I should take him to a drive thru or a mall food court if he had sudden hunger pangs. They wouldn’t let us try alternative Eastern food preparations. They said they were not proven. Supposedly Chinese food just temporarily relieve symptoms and an hour later you’re hungry again.” Sharon said she is considering “home cooking” despite the penalties for preparing recipes without a license. But her main hope is that President Obama’s Food Reform Act passes. “I’ve not even worried about those panels the Republicans talk about. I mean, sooner or later we all have to diet.”

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Secular Saboteurs Shed a Tyr

In a guest column in the Washington Post, Catholic League President, Bill Donohue decries the destruction of our culture by “secular saboteurs”. Donohue documents the continuum from the 70s when (Reverend) Jesse Jackson led students in undermining this nation's Judeo-Christian heritage.” I’m guessing those bastards succeeded in undermining the Judeo part because everything Donohue refers to after that opening is strictly Christian. I get the sense that Donohue never cared much about the Judeo anyway, but now he’s pretty pissed that the secular saboteurs are working their “agenda to smash the last vestiges of Christianity in America.”

Bill O’Reilly identified the War on Christmas a few years ago, calling out the cultural infidels who corrupted the nation with the blasphemous phrase “Happy Holidays”. All the while, the soul of the Righteous People shriveled in absence of hearing "Merry Christmas" ring out from the merchants and moneylenders in the markets.

O’Reilly was unfortunately late to recognize the destruction being wrought by anti God terrorists. “Happy Holidays” was not the first verbal smart bomb rained upon theistic linguistic tradition. Think how long people have been saying “Have a nice day.” You never noticed, did you? You never noticed that they don’t say the proper name of any day. They have taken our Gods out of our days.

Our Romantic-Nordic-Judeo-Christian ancestors gave each day the name of a God: Sun God, Moon God, Tyr, Wodin, Thor, Frigg, Saturn. The Secular Sodomite Saboteurs have changed the familiar greetings so that, “Have a nice Thor’s Day” or “Wodin’s Day”, becomes the empty, atheistic “Have a nice day.” Frigg’s Day is even more abused. On that day, the greeting has become “Have a nice weekend”, referring limply to the following days, but not the sacred Day of Frigg. Why? Because Jesus rose on a Frigg’s Day, of course.

It is a terrifying and pathetic sight to see Christian refugees forced to huddle in the few remaining churches the government allows. They are restricted to observing their holy day “Christmas” only between the months of September and February. And they cannot honor their ancestral connection to frozen, white Norse men who worshiped the mighty Teutonic Gods.

Have a Frigging great day, you secular saboteur succubi!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Help Dress This Saucy Wench

Remember BarBe Q? She's the woman enticing people in KT's BBQ and Deli.

She has a commercial running locally that asks us to go to her web site and vote on what costume she should wear for Halloween. I am sure she would love to get voters from around the country.

(Note: the voting thing didn't work for me in Windows Explorer. I used Firefox.)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Bengals to Fans: This Flub’s For You!

The first five games for the Cincinnati Bengals this season came down to the final seconds. With a record of 4-1 and the new nickname “The Cardiac Cats”, the team decided they needed to give fans a break, so they let the sixth game get away without a wild ending.

“The ‘Cardiac Cats’ thing is all fun and games until someone has an actual heart attack,” said Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer at the post game press conference. Wide receiver, Chad Ochocinco, added that “We felt another last second win would put our fans at risk, so the responsible thing to do was let it end with a wide point margin.”

The two players were assaulted with questions by shocked reporters, asking how the team could go into the game with the intent to lose.

“This was not a preordained decision to lose,” Ochocinco responded. “We wanted to win. But, near the end, down by 14 points, we knew that pulling ourselves within one score would start adrenaline pumping in the fans, creating an unsustainable heart rate which would only be exacerbated by a subsequent tying TD.” Palmer interjected, “That’s when we agreed I should throw a pick.” (Carson threw an interception with just over a minute left in the game, effectively sealing the victory for the opponents).

“You threw the game?!” shouted one local sportscaster, vocalizing the concerns of the group.

“Do you even listen to yourself talk?” asked Ochocinco. “You used the right word. It’s a GAME, man!” Palmer put a hand on his receiver’s chest and positioned himself between the reporter and the player. “Chad’s right. In the overall scheme of things, this is insignificant. We are just playing a game.”

Ochocinco had more to say, though he was more subdued and contemplative. “When I was a kid, football skills was all I had. It was embarrassing. I’d be outside working on this game, but looking inside at the kids who got to practice piano or do homework. Now those kids are teachers or doctors or product development engineers at P&G; they help people improve their lives, their health, their cosmetic appearance. The only way I can give back is by making their lives a little less stressful. If they can relax during the last five minutes of the game, knowing the outcome, they are better prepared to move on to their next task.”

A reporter responded by quoting a study published recently which showed that people identify with local sports teams and the fortunes of the team affect the mood of the people. When a team wins, people feel better about themselves.

“If that’s the case,” Palmer proposed, “then we need to change that. Do you really believe that people build these stadiums and are then dependent on teams winning in order to feel good about themselves? Is winning really their expectation? That’s not been our experience in Cincinnati.”

More than just a respite from “Cardiac” finishes, the Bengals hope to give their fans a life lesson.

Friday, October 16, 2009

6-Year-Old Missing! But Don't Worry, It's No One You'd Care About.

NBC, and news services
updated 13 minutes ago
FORT HARLEM. Colo. - After the runaway legal charges against the media riveted the nation and led to a frantic photo opportunities by authorities who feared a 6-year-old child was getting undue attention, the focus on Friday turned to whether the entire drama was an elaborate public attention-deficit disorder symptom.

The drama began Thursday morning when Roberta Watkins called police to report that a neighbor had seen her son taken off the street by a man driving a battered Oldsmobile 88. Tapes of the 911 call captured the subdued pleas of the mother as she politely requested police to try and find the vehicle and her son.

WATKINS: Can you help me find the boy?
911 OPERATOR: Look, we’d like to help, but there’s been budget cuts and layoffs and we just don’t have the manpower. I’ll put out a call, and as soon as the officer’s get back from following that kid in the balloon, we’ll send someone out.
WATKINS: Kid in the balloon? What the hell are you talking about?
911 OPERATOR: Oh, for Christ’s sake! Turn on a T.V., woman!

Watkins tuned in to coverage of the search for the Balloon Boy, which prompted her to contact the local television news stations in nearby Fort Collins. Tapes subpoenaed by the network news to later try and cover their own asses, show that the local reporters did take a call from Watkins. Those tapes were played on the Today show as reporters defended themselves against the subsequent legal charges.

WATKINS: Can you send news helicopters to help search for my boy, like you did for that other child?
NEWS DESK JOCKEY: Really? A kid in a car? A story with an experimental, homemade balloon has legs. A car I can’t use. Besides, I mean, a balloon, we can follow. You want us to look for a car?
WATKINS: It’s a battered Oldsmobile 88. There ain’t many of them around since “Cash for Clunkers.” It oughta be easy.
NEWS DESK JOCKEY: How many kids you got?
WATKINS: Thirteen.
NEWS DESK JOCKEY: Really? Are they all adopted refugees? Or do you have any sets of quintuplets or higher?
NEWS DESK JOCKEY: Newsworthy doesn’t start any lower than 5 at a time now; and even that’s passé. Eight is more of the threshold these days. Have you ever been on a reality show for any reason?
WATKINS: No. The building next door has been. Some gay dudes from the ‘burbs bought it and their whole remodeling project is on some cable show on “Logo” or “Lego” or some crap.
NEWS DESK JOCKEY: Really? Bravo would be better. I don’t know, maybe we can use that as a hook. We can’t just put stuff on the news, you know. It has to get ratings. Let me check with my bosses.

Watkins enlisted neighbors to start searching for her son. When neither police nor media showed up to help, she remembered something she had picked up in a local hair salon. It was the business card of Al Sharpton, with a phone number and the message: “Sometimes the system is fucked up and shit needs to be stirred. Call me, if you need me.”

Watkins called Sharpton, who engaged Bernard Siegal, the attorney who then brought charges of child neglect and child endangerment against the Fort Collins local television stations and all network and cable news behemoths. Siegel also sued the entire American viewing public for conspiracy to ignore a helpless child in trouble. A media event was arranged, and thus, ironically, the defendants in the lawsuit reported on their own perp walk.

This morning on “Today” Matt Lauer, Meredith Vieira and Ann Curry interviewed each other about what they called “unwarranted allegations” brought against them.

LAUER: The boy wasn’t even cute.
VIERA: Nor exceptionally bright. Or handicapped.
CURRY: What were people supposed to identify with? What would pull at their heartstrings?
LAUER: And it turned out to be nothing. His father had picked him up to take him somewhere to do something.
VIERA: His mother just goes, “Oh yeah, the boy’s daddy does come around sometimes. I didn’t know he had a car, so I didn’t know it was him.”
CURRY: And to top it off, it wasn’t even an Oldsmobile! It was a Chevy!
LAUER: Anyway, the whole thing was local news responsibility. We’re in the clear.

The American public has stated that, “The balloon boy story came up first. There’s only so much we can invest our empathy in and there’s only so many ribbons we can stick on our cars. Hey, look! We’re on the Today Show!” They then filed a counter suit against Collins for defamation of character. A judge today threw out that claim for lack of evidence.

MSNBC reporters charged that the story was a hoax started by the 911 operator in order to get funding for more police officers in Fort Harlem. The operator has appeared on Hardball, Countdown, and various other news shows, talking about the controversy. Fox News has passed off the ordeal as just another example of the “Obama Nation” trying to control the media and destroy free speech. CNN, meanwhile, ran 12 hours of coverage for the new hit movie, “Paranormal”.

This reporter had eaten a bad burrito the day before and has been in the bathroom the entire time, so don’t look at me.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Christmas With Bob Man

At my daughter's Bat Mitzvah service, I read some lyrics from "Forever Young". I told her they were from the great Jewish poet Robert Zimmerman because she didn't like Bob Dylan - well, she didn't really know if she liked Bob Dylan or not, because she couldn't get past his voice.

That's so unfair. Do I tell her that Dane Cook is a lousy comedian because he's not funny? (Yes, I do). But people shouldn't put artists in a box; who's to say what "good" singing is? Bob Dylan is the voice of the people and the people are raspy and untrained.

The great Jewish poet Robert Zimmerman now has a Christmas album out. I was alerted to this by al in la (his name is Al and he lives in LA).

When Gary Burbank was alive, I used to write songs for his radio character, Bob Man, who sounded a great deal like Bob Dylan. Coincidentally, Bob Man has a Christmas album coming out also. Here are a couple samples:


While riding on a train going west,
I fell asleep for to take my rest.
I dreamed a dream that featured snow,
On a white Christmas like the ones I used to know.

With icy leaves, the tree tops glistened
For sleigh bell sounds, the children listened,
Ten thousand dollars for your days to be bright
I’d give that, to make your Christmases be white.


You run down the streets of town
With your broomstick in your hand
Though the sun is baking
You say, "Let’s laugh and play, man."
A cop says stop
But you pass his raised hand
Are you fairy tale
Or a jolly soul?

Because, something is happening here
Since that hat went on your head,
Frosty, man of snow.

Given the mess of Christmas, Judaism, and Dylan in my history, the Bob Dylan Christmas album would make an excellent Christmas or Hanukkah gift from my daughter, don't you think?

(The "Hard Snow" album cover is not mine, it's from here.)

If you don't know the tunes, you can listen here:

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Puffs Plus Blows

For some people it’s chicken soup, for me it’s Vicks® VapoRub®. I don’t remember getting any particular healing food when we had colds. I remember lying in bed with Vicks® VapoRub® on my chest – the soothing vapors rising up to my nose as I read selections from our box of Little Golden Books®. So comforting, and yet not. There was something irritating too… a fly in the ointment, so to speak.

My mother would take a scratchy old washcloth and safety pin it to my PJs. Or sometimes she would stuff a few cheap, scratchy Kleenex® facial tissues in there. The point was to keep the VapoRub® from staining my PJs but the items used seriously detracted from the overall sensory pleasures of the VapoRub®.

You know what I like? I like Doritos®, or one of many other brands of tortilla chips. I like the plain ones. Sometimes I spread them on a plate, put shredded cheese on top and microwave them to make delicious nachos. Do I like nacho flavored Doritos®? I do not. Cheese powder is fine for Cheetos® brand cheese doodles. Doodles by themselves have no flavor; they are a vehicle for the powdered imitation cheese flavored product. I have nothing against powdered imitation cheese flavored product; nothing is more American than that. Nevertheless, I don’t like the powdered imitation cheese flavored product on my tasty Doritos®; it muddles the salty chip taste and ruins the texture. And I would never confuse the combined product with actual nachos.

My sister just told me that she likes Puffs Plus® with the scent of Vicks®, which are facial tissues infused with lotion and, obviously, the scent of Vicks® VapoRub®. The “scent” of Vicks® is like imitation cheese flavored product. It does not benefit the tissue. If I want cheese on a chip, I want cheese on a chip. If I want lotion on my nose or I want Vicks rubbed into my chest so the scent wafts up my nostrils, that’s what I want. I don’t want an imitation flavored tissue.

It’s probably just mental. I assume if Puffs Plus® with the scent of Vicks® had existed years ago, my mother would have just stuffed those in my PJs and told me to breathe deep. The up side is that they wouldn’t have been as scratchy.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

I Hastily and Carelessly Decline Dis Honor

I wanted to be Jack Smith. That doesn’t sound like much of an aspiration; Jack Smith is the most ordinary of names. Well, it was, back when I lived in Los Angeles and the demographics were different - in the white, middle-class population segment of Los Angeles in the 60s and 70s. Not that there’s anything wrong with the changing demographics.

I seem to have gotten off track. Jack Smith was a columnist for the Los Angeles Times. I guess he started out as a reporter at the time when Los Angeles was a Raymond Chandler novel and reporters were all Hildy Johnson
"It was as a rewrite man for the Daily News in 1947 that Smith had … his stories on the celebrated Elizabeth Short murder case.
"...Within the minute I had written what may have been the first sentence ever written on the Black Dahlia case… 'The nude body of a young woman, neatly cut in two at the waist, was found early today on a vacant lot near Crenshaw and Exposition Boulevards.'" His editor added one adjective, making Short "a beautiful young woman."
"Our city editor, of course, no more knew what the unfortunate young woman had looked like than I did," Smith later wrote. "But the lesson was clear. On the Daily News, at least, all young women whose nude bodies were found in two pieces on vacant lots were beautiful. I never forgot it.""
That’s not what made me want to be Jack Smith. I’m not that old. Smith began writing a humor column in the LA Times in 1958. I started reading it some years later. He was witty and intelligent, self-deprecating and talented. He had won a "Pullet Surprise". My favorite piece was one about sentence structure (a topic as mundane as the name Jack Smith) where he analyzed a line he wrote about “a man on his front porch, chasing a cat with a broom in his pajamas.” If you don’t appreciate the humor in that, stop reading. As if you haven’t already.

I did not become Jack Smith. Suffice it to say that accounting offered a path of less resistance and more certainty of how to navigate it. I did write humor, and was randomly published, but it has not been a career. My mom used to say “You’re a good kid; too bad there’s no market for good kids.” Today she could say that about newspaper humor columnists. I mean, if she wasn’t dead. I write this blog because I just like writing and hope to amuse a few people.

So, was I pleased to find I had been awarded a "Superior Scribbler" award? (See comment on previous post). The definition of “scribble” is
1 : to write hastily or carelessly without regard to legibility or form
2 : to cover with careless or worthless writings or drawings
Would a “superior” scribbler write slightly-less worthless careless crap, or the most worthless careless crap? Either way, I feel less than honored. I have to point out though, that he gave me this dubious award for the one line post ambiguously commenting on President Obama’s Peace Prize and tying in a slap at Tim Tebow worship. It was both hastily and careless written because I had nothing better to say that day. So… kudos to me – honor well deserved.

I checked out the blog of my new patron. He is one of the Humor Bloggers I hadn’t yet read. I didn’t want to like him, but I read two posts that were very funny ("Timmy" and "Foils, Cursed Again"). I added him to my blog role, an honor as dubious for him as the SS award is for me.

I also checked out his entry about the award. My read is that the SS is a life achievement recognition on the level with receiving a chain letter, being tagged for a Facebook post about “X number of things I …” or tagged for some blog meme. It has “rules” about what the lucky recipient is supposed to do, among which is, “Each Superior Scribbler must post these rules on his/her blog.” Honestly, I prefer the Fight Club rules, number one of which is .. well, I can’t say. So out of respect for the writers whose blogs I enjoy, I will spare them this honor and just list them on the blog role over there. Read them or don’t, as you chose.

Frank, I respectfully decline the award (the picture at right is not the award)though I appreciate the thought and I encourage others to sample your blog, even the posts about awards. Honestly, I mean no disrespect to award awarders or award recipients or award coveters. They are just a different humor demographic, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Huffing-glue Post

Barack Obama wins Nobel Peace Prize. Tim Tebow supporters claim the Florida QB was best candidate out there. Ever.

NASA bombs Moon, claims space probe killed number 2 Al Qaeda leader. Intelligence reports that Osama Bin Laden was hiding in Sea of Tranquility prove to be false.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Travels With My Dead Mother

Mom had been dead for a while, so driving to New York with her in the back of the van freaked out my daughter. Allie always sat back in the third row seat, which meant Mom was right behind her. But since Mom was packed under all the luggage, I really thought Allie was over-reacting. At least Mom wouldn't be lying up on the top shelf of the closet anymore.

When I was little, riding in the station wagon, I liked sitting in “the way back”, a third bench seat that faced out the rear window - still with my mom, but far enough away to be alone with my bizarre thoughts and fantasies. I was an independent child, just like my daughter.

We had picked up Mom from my sister’s house in Las Vegas, after having our own private memorial service. Mom didn’t want a regular funeral – at least she hadn’t mentioned it recently, so my wife and daughter and I were just taking her remains back to her hometown of Niagara Falls to be buried. We flew her first to Cincinnati, packed in the big suitcase, because we weren’t sure about the rules for putting a heavy, sealed, wooden box of ashes in the overhead.

When I was little, my grandfather and his second wife moved to L.A. to live near us. When her step-mother died, Mom flew us all back to Niagara Falls for the funeral. During the service, my sister and I had to sit out in the lobby of the funeral home; I still don’t really know why. But, like sitting in the way back, I was just far enough away to be happy and secure. And my sister was with me.

Allie never had a sibling and wasn’t used to competing or sharing. I didn’t want her to start distracting me from driving by yelling from the back of the van, “Grandma’s looking at me!” or, “Grandma’s touching me!” so we had put Grandma securely beneath everything else we had brought along for our vacation. We were dropping her off in Niagara Falls on the first leg of our tour around the state of New York. This was not immediately after my sister handed her off to us. I was gainfully employed so I couldn’t take time all at once to vacation in Las Vegas with my deceased mother and then run off to New York with her; that’s why we left Mom in the closet of our house in Cincinnati for a few months.

When I was little, Mom would sometimes leave us with her newly-widowed father while she went to work. My grampa didn’t relate to us very well, but one thing that always worked for everyone was when he would buy us glazed doughnuts off the Helms Bakery truck. My sister and I would try to nibble them slowly in a competition to have the last bite left so the winner could proclaim, “I have a doughnut and you-ou don’t”. Grampa didn’t play; he was there in the next room smoking his pipe, but far enough away that we could be alone with our own bizarre games. When Grampa died, I was visiting my grandmother on my father’s side and I didn’t go to Grampa’s funeral; I’m not even sure there was one.

Allie hadn’t gotten to spend much time with her grandma because of the distance between Las Vegas and Cincinnati. The few years before she died, my mom suffered from dementia; she still knew who Allie was, but Allie didn’t know who Grandma really was. Until she got sick, she was the grandma that fell asleep in our living room while reading and snored really loudly. She was the grandma that revealed to Allie where Dad had learned to make horrible puns. But she was also the grandma that taught Dad to make mince pie.

When I was little, Mom had stories about growing up in Niagara Falls during the Depression and about her dad who worked on the railroad and her brother who became a big deal at G.E. in Syracuse, NY. She told us about her mother dieing when Mom was a teenager; how Mom had to take over preparing meals for the family and how her dad liked mince pie. She told us about her best friend, Helen, whom she still kept in touch with “back home”. Mom told us she had bought a plot to be buried in there.

So at not-quite-nine-years-old, Allie sat in the back of the van with her dead grandma behind her, traveling to Niagara Falls, New York. It was kind of like National Lampoon’s Vacation meets Little Miss Sunshine. Niagara Falls looked like it had not changed since the 1930s. This was the US side, not the touristy, honeymoon destination in Canada. Best Friend Helen was still living in the house she grew up in. Some of Mom’s other friends also still lived in town. We bought a grave marker and buried Mom while everyone told a few stories of the old days. My mom had been the adventurous one who traveled around Europe after WWII while others stayed safe in their hometown. Mom had been the smart one who had to work to help send her brother, the goof-off C-student, to college because he was a male and girls didn’t need higher education. Mom was funny, a good friend and beloved.

When I was little, I knew some of that, but mostly Mom was just Mom, going to work to support us, driving the station wagon while I played in the way back, making pies. My sister told me she was thinking about Mom yesterday and that made me start digging up these old memories. I will pass them off to Allie so that Grandma is more than that box of ashes haunting her from the back of the van.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Dawn of the Data

Zombies walk among us, causing the scientific community to ponder what societal movements are indicated by the observed empirical data, or, as the young people would say, “what is up with the Zombies?”. There are new zombie movies in the theaters, prank references to zombie invasions appear in our cities, zombie books are on the shelves, zombie bloggers proliferate and zombies music blares from our iMusic devices.

Pop culture is often a harbinger of major econopolitical transformation. Just as the rise and fall of hemlines and the ebb and flow of feminine hygiene advertising have always had a inverse relationship with stock market indices, so too has fascination with the undead correlated with a promise of peace, prosperity and better days ahead.

To establish the baseline parameters, we first define “the undead”. Although the scientific literature refers to both vampires and zombies as “undead”, vampires do not portend sociologic transformation. Vampires are merely a manifestation of repressed adolescent female sexual desire and, thus, it’s really hot and all that, but we’re talking about zombie undead, which is substantial hardcore mental stuff of higher magnitude.

The earliest known observation of the correlation occurred in 1938. At that time the United States and the world were in the depths of the Great Depression and, in Europe, millions were victims of genocide. In that year, the movie, “White Zombie” premiered. Not long after, FDR was able to instigate the entry of the U.S. into an economically beneficial World War, which coincidentally ended persecution of Jews and other religious groups.

Such prosperity ensued that it took three decades before we saw the next societal trending shift associated with pop culture zombies. In 1968, the United States and some countries in South East Asia were in the depths of the so-called “Viet Nam War”. There was rampant inflation. Young people called “hippies” and groups of African Americans were disrupting the harmony of our cities. In that year, George Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead” premiered. Subsequently, Richard Nixon was elected and unveiled his secret plan that brought about a swift and orderly end to the conflict in Viet Nam. Police in Chicago, Detroit and other cities turned back lawlessness in the streets, bringing racial harmony and Motown music.

September 11, 2001, terrorists attacked the United States. In 2002 the movie “28 Days Later” debuted. Some researchers argue that this was not technically a zombie movie. They are technically dorks. It was at that time, right after zombies devoured London in "28 Days..." that President Bush began the war on terror that soon ended with his mission accomplished and protected the American people and our economy right up until 2008.

Seventy years after “White Zombie” we are now in the depths of a Great Recession and two wars. In the past year, street signs have popped up, warning of zombie invasions. Now, a movie that looks really cool and we are really stoked about, called “Zombieland” is coming out. The reappearance of zombie pop culture bodes well for our future.

Based on the historical data from previous zombie cycles, we can extrapolate the factors of economosociopolitical prognostaforcastation and estimate that within a few years, our economy will be flourishing and Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Iran will all be stable democracies. And Jon and Kate Gosselin will have their teeny tiny brains devoured and their flesh pulled from their bones and their children turned over to social services. And the world will be at peace. You just wait.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

On the Road to Hell

This is the conversation I’m going to have with the guy struggling lip-deep next to me as we dog paddle in the flaming cesspools of Hell:

GUY: What … are you … in here … f…
ME: I was too damned impatient.
GUY: Didn’t … know that … was a si..
ME: S’not. But it’s why.

Street repair had a two-lane road cut down to one lane in a section about a mile from my house. A quarter mile before the right lane blockage, I came up on the single line of cars waiting to go through in the left lane. There were still two open lanes, but people would only use the one because … because … because WHY, goddam it?! Why does the herd mentality hold that we have to merge together when there is still a perfectly good lane the state has provided, right there before us?

I am normally one of the people who pulls into the unused lane and cruises up to cut into the space in front of the farthest timid dweeb - someone who has faith in the early merge doctrine but won’t fight to defend it. Sure, sometimes there’s the self-proclaimed traffic cop who pulls out to partially block my open lane. I love to whip out onto the shoulder around him, blatantly flouting the law to thwart him.

As you pass the mindless sheep waiting pointlessly in the line, the hatred radiates out of their cars like heat shimmering on a Texas highway. The drivers are righteously hopped up on Glenn Beck or whatever AM talk radio madness they listen to as they simmer in their idling cars. Some jolt forward to hug the bumper of the car ahead of them like a West Virginian clinging bitterly to his gun and his Bible. But I can always find the dweeb to slide in front of.

The random road repair is bad enough; then there’s the two-lane road that goes down to one near the Kroger and there’s the lane that just ends on the freeway I use to get home. I pass the idiots every day on one or the other of these. How far back are you supposed to merge anyway? A hundred yards? A half-mile? If there's a lane closed on I-75 in Cincinnati, should people driving back to Michigan from Florida get over somewhere around Atlanta? And if they don’t, should the people they pass in Tennessee be angry?

But the other day, when I came up to the end of the line for the road repair gauntlet, I just didn’t have the patience. Obviously I didn’t have the patience to sit in line. That day I didn’t even have the patience to pull out and deal with the line-jumping trauma. So I made a u-turn and went home a different way – a way that probably took me longer than waiting, but prevented my having a stroke.

And that’s why I’m going to Hell. When the gates swing wide in Heaven, there is fifty miles of elbow room. But there’s only one check in point: at Saint Peter’s podium. There may be an express line for 15 sins or fewer but I have more than that from March 1974 alone. I will be in a line behind all those same righteous sheep from the roads, now being passively guided single-file through the gate, while I can clearly see wide open space where I should be able to just walk in.

And I will just make a u-turn and head down to Hell where people don’t give a crap about social niceties and they crowd ahead to get in the flaming cesspool before anyone else. I'll be paddling next to some dweeb whose mortal sin was letting that impatient, aggressive line-jumper into the queue day after day on I-71 in Cincinnati.