Friday, February 26, 2010

Enough!



I'm about as tired of it as I could possibly be.

[Audience I carry in my head: "Tired of WHAT, Jim?"]

Thanks for asking. I'm tired of receiving awards. I've been the recipient of so many of them, and, of course, I've deserved every one, but...

["You're a pompous ass, Jim."]

That'll be enough out of you.

I've been given 36 of these suckers. It was 35 before Michelle gave me this one:




***Ponderously Heavy Sigh***

You've been coming here long enough to know what I usually do when I get one of these travesties foisted upon me, right? I attack both the giver and the gift. I spew venom and vitriol. I release my inner Godzilla upon Internet Tokyo. In other words, I become a total asshat. And now, it's expected of me. When people see that I've been given an award, they react with wholly uncalled for sadistic glee, as though I'm Gallagher and the award giver will be playing the part of the watermelon.

And I'm tired of it. I just don't want to do it anymore. Can't someone else be the asshole for a while? Why do I always have to play that role?

["Because you're perfect for the part, Jim."]

Hey! I told you to shut up over a hundred words ago!

Anyway, I could call Michelle a first cousin to a blob of snot, or a sword-swallowing buzzard-faced nincompoop, or even a jelly stain on the duvet cover of life, but where would that get us? Certainly not any closer to world peace, or even Syracuse.

Michelle calls herself The Surly Writer. But she's not, really. She's sweet, and generous, and lovely, and a nice person, and...

See? I'm going soft. I just don't have the heart to call her a big crust of, um... what DO you call that stuff that forms in the corner of a dog's eye? Whatever it is, I see no good reason to call her that. She's never done anything even remotely nasty to me, so...

Well, except for the fact that she gave me this award when she knew full well the sort of festering pile of seagull guts I was likely to become when I wrote about it. I suppose that counts for something.

So, since I don't really feel like insulting anyone anymore, but since she's obviously expecting it of me, here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to go back through some of my previous awards posts, take random insults from each one, and insert Michelle's name as need be. Michelle can pretend that I'm really saying every one of them specifically about her. I won't be, though, and to prove it, each insult will have a link back to the original post so that you can find out just who I was saying them about. For instance, let's pretend I said this to Michelle:

I'm giving you the "3 Is For What Finger I'm Holding Up And Aiming At You Right At This Very Moment And What Are You Going To Do About It, Bitch?" award, OK? So there, smarty! How do you like them apples?

If you click onto it, you'll see that I actually said that to Crazy Cath, not Michelle.

(Not that Crazy Cath deserved it any more than Michelle does. And now, Crazy Cath has vanished. The awesome force of my vituperation seems to have obliterated any trace of her previous existence from the face of the blogosphere. I am truly a reprehensible human being. Pretend I'm making a really sad face to show you I'm sorry about it.)

So, back to the transparent conceit previously fabricated, I'm NOT saying these things to Michelle:

For a dimwit, Michelle shows great perspicacity. Despite how my agreeing with her will lower the estimation of my IQ in the eyes of the intelligentsia (that is, non-Canadians) I find that I must concur with her on one thought: What in hell does a woman in an apron have to do with being over the top?

Well, OK, some of them seem a bit weird out of context, but if you click onto the link, you'll get to see some titties!

Here are some better insults (but not better titties!)

... being a blogger deemed worthy of note by Michelle is similar to being a food item declared healthy by a sack full of Twinkies.

She looks as though she just discovered there's a wombat in her panties.

I suppose Michelle is creative, in the same way that a vicious dog leaving a cat only three legs to hobble around on is creative, but that does little to swell the dog’s reputation and leaves you with somewhat less of a cat. In certain circles, that might qualify as art.

Next up on this edition of World's Dumbest Criminals is Michelle Hickman. Michelle hails from Pittsburgh, and her hobbies include pretending she's Queen Elizabeth and fondling herself.

I'm wracking my brain trying to come up with just exactly what type of gift Michelle might have, other than the ability to induce type-2 diabetes, but I think the idea is to just acknowledge that such gifts exist in all of us, even if when we put on a jumper and sandals we become the stuff of a bad STP trip.

To be singled out, in her estimation, as funny myself, is certainly an honor that ranks up there with, say, being named starting first baseman for the 1963 Washington Senators.

Well, that's a pretty fair bunch of insults. How about one more for good measure and then we'll break for lunch?

Values? I'm displaying values? I suppose I am, but I wouldn't brag about them. If Michelle wants to be recognized as being associated with my values, so be it, but it shows tremendously poor taste on her part. However, de gustibus non est disputadum, as my grandfather said that time he was arrested for tattooing Mussolini's face on the neighbor lady's butt.

Hey! Wait a minute! The only one getting insulted there is me, I think. And that post actually was about Michelle. She gave me PD, the dusky minx! And now, you have to hit the link to find out just what it was, so there! Nobody's getting out of here alive, Bucko.

I hope the above has fulfilled my contractual obligation to be nasty. If you feel I haven't lived up to my usual standards, give me another frickin' award and I'll see what I can do.

Soon, with...

Oh, hell, one more for the road.

I think lemonade sucks. It’s the most over-rated drink in the history of the universe. It doesn’t satisfy your thirst, and even though it has enough sugar in it to send your average diabetic into a coma, it still puckers up your kisser and makes the phlegm clog your throat. And... Oh, Hell, I don’t know where I’m headed with this, but you’re still a freakin’ FROG. There was a reason God made tons of them fall from the sky on the Egyptians, you know. It’s because people think they’re slimy and gross. The Egyptians weren’t standing in the middle of the street going, "Aw, look at the cute little frogs!" They were running away, screaming, "Shit! Frogs! Quick, Amenotep! Close all the windows!"

... more better...

Too easy a target. I mean, sure, I could sit around all day bashing Michelle, but where's the sport in that? I'd have her skewered before she could wipe the tobacco drool off of her chin. It would be like... well, like making fun of Texans or lesbians. All they have to do is show up and it's funny. I don't have to say a damn thing.

... stuff.



(No Michelles were harmed during the making of this blog.)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

If You Don't Find This Amusing, Have Some Cookies






I once owned a cat who adored watermelon. Any time I would have a slice, he would sidle up next to me and meow for some. The first couple of times he did so, I more-or-less ignored him. I said, "Silly cat! You don't want watermelon! I'll give you some mackerel after I'm done."

Finally, perhaps the third time he jumped up on the table and meowed for the watermelon, I said, "Okay, dopey, I'll give you a little piece, but you're going to be disappointed."

I broke off a tiny bit of the fruit and held it out for him. He gobbled it up, then meowed for more. I sliced off a couple of larger hunks and proffered them. He chomped on them greedily, even licking up the juices after the solid stuff had disappeared down his gullet. It was so much fun to see a cat lusting for watermelon, I gave him half of my slice, rind and all. He attacked it, devoured it down to the rind, and then he gnawed on that for a while, too. When the watermelon was completely gone, he seemed to be as sad as I was (and I was pretty sad, too, because I had given half of my watermelon to him.)

After that, whenever I had watermelon, I would cut him up a small bowl of it, and he'd dive into it with the sort of fervor usually reserved for female cats in heat. I've never seen another cat with such a taste for watermelon.

****************************************************************

Speaking of cats, I once tried smoking catnip.

This was during my more experimental drug days, as you might imagine. I was temporarily out of the sort of weed I usually smoked, and the catnip was handy. I figured, what the hell? Cats seem to have a great time with it, maybe I'll discover something really excellent and a bargain besides. I rolled a small catnip joint, lit it up, and took a cautious toke.

After waiting a minute, and seeing that I didn't die or go into a fit, I took another draw on it. The taste wasn't entirely unpleasant - nor was it something I'd do again just for that aspect of it. I checked all of the usual suspects for signs that something useful might be happening - paranoia; obsession with small details; unfunny things becoming hilarious; the delights of music multiplying exponentially. I came up blank. Nothing.

Well, I shouldn't really say "nothing." I had the strangest craving for watermelon...

****************************************************************

Speaking of watermelon, you're familiar with Murphy's Law, right? In case you need a refresher, here it is:

Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

Since the time when Murphy first uttered those words - probably after downing eight or nine pints, and then finding that his zipper was stuck - there have been a multitude of additions, addenda, and analyses from other philosopher types. For instance...

O'Toole's Commentary on Murphy's Law - Murphy was an optimist.

... which has always been my favorite.

I recently unearthed a few more.

Klink's Theory of Relativity - All tragedy, no matter how horrendous, will eventually become comic material.

Ramone's Law of Reduction - Everything can be simplified, and usually to good effect.

Moe's Dictum Regarding Free Speech - Just because you're free to say whatever you want, that doesn't mean you won't get a ripsaw dragged across your noggin for having done so.

Curly's Corollary to Moe's Dictum - N'yuk! N'yuk! N'yuk! Ow!

Fluffy's Valid Observation - There's a reason they call it catnip, Jim. As a matter of fact, it's the same reason why they call the stuff that gets you off, "dope". Hey! Is that watermelon? Yum!

**************************************************************

Speaking of segues, I don't have one. However, let's finish this off with...

Sullivan's Suggestions for Happy Living

Never stand if you can sit.

Never sit if you can lie down.

Never run when you can walk.

Never walk when you can ride.

If somebody is perfectly happy pulling your wagon, it makes little sense for you to get out and push.

Cookies make everything better.

And, if you find yourself with the opportunity to take a pee, what are you gonna gain if you don't? Of course, if you ate less watermelon, you wouldn't have to pee so often.


***************************************************************

Speaking of Google, if you enter "Cat Watermelon" in a search for images, you will come up with an amazing assortment of photos to choose from. Who knew? The one I chose to adorn the top of this page came from Epic Pics Of Win. I would have assumed LOLCATS, but I smoke catnip. What do I know?

Soon, with meow better stuff.


Monday, February 22, 2010

I'd Rather Be Curling



This piece originally appeared back in April of 2006. What with the Winter Olympics happening, it's the only time I could possibly re-print it and have anyone even remotely interested in seeing it. I could wait another four years, but you might be dead by then. What good would that do either of us? So, as a service to you, I'm running it now.

Almost four years later and I still enjoy the sport of curling tremendously. I wish the U.S. teams were doing better, but expecting them to win these competitions is a little like rooting for a college football team to beat an NFL squad. Possible? Sure. Probable? Hardly. Anyone who saw the Canada - Great Britain match on Saturday, and who has even a rudimentary grasp of the sport, knows that those two teams are as far ahead of the rest of the field as Secretariat and Man O' War would be over a bunch of $2,500 claimers.

(I could have used a more accessible simile. I should offer a definition to make your life easier. A 'claimer' is a low-level thoroughbred racehorse, so called because, by virtue of being entered in a claiming race, anyone may buy said horse for the claiming price, which in this instance - $2,500 - is a low price, indeed, for a racehorse.)

(A good tip for writers aspiring to be a better writer than I am is the following: If you have to explain your simile, and especially if the explanation of your simile takes more words than the simile itself, it's a crummy simile. If you get nothing else out of this, I will at least have done you as much of a service as an oxpecker bird performs for a hippo.)

Anyway, here's...

CURLERS HAVE BIG STONES



Last night, MY WIFE and I went to the 2006 World Mens Curling Championship at the Tsongas Arena in Lowell, Massachusetts.

I'll give you a chance to let that sink in, and then to crack a few jokes about watching paint dry. Go ahead. I'll wait.

(*taps foot, while whistling tunelessly*)

Ready to go on now? Good.

We really like this sport. Really. Yes, it's a bit like shuffleboard on ice (actually, I'd say billiards on ice is a more apt comparison) but there is athletic skill involved, as well as deep strategy. You need a keen eye, flexibility, strong nerves, coordination and, above all, you can't be susceptible to chilblains.

(*rim shot*)

Thank you. I'll be here through Sunday, eh?

********************************************************************

It's almost impossible not to make curling jokes. Even someone who really - really! - likes the sport, and admires the athletes involved, can see the absurdity of sliding big hunks of granite down a sheet of ice while two guys run along in front of the rock feverishly pushing brooms.

(I wonder if janitors would make really good curlers?)

There actually is a point to that sweeping, you know. If you sweep hard enough, it accomplishes two things. First, the stone will travel farther. Second, it will continue toward the target in a straighter line than if you didn't sweep.

And it keeps the ice tidy.

**********************************************************************

We arrived at the venue a couple of hours before the start of the matches. We wanted to grab something to eat and then take a look around. This was the first time either of us had ever seen a live curling match, so we wanted a chance to soak in whatever atmosphere might have been available.

(It was mostly the smell of Molson's. Ha-CHAH!)

Just outside of the arena, there was a hospitality tent set up. It was called "The Rock Garden" and inside there were a number of food vendors, as well as folks selling curling-related merchandise. Aside from the usual souvenir-type items (coffee mugs, hats, pins, etc.) there was one vendor selling curling jewelry.

Yup. Curling jewelry. The stuff was actually quite pretty. Stick pins, earrings, necklaces and all the rest, in the shape of brooms. There was an 18ct. gold and diamond brooch in the shape of a curling stone. Goes for about $4,000.

You think I'm kidding? Check it out.

You could also buy all sorts of curling apparel, from casual wear for the fan - turtlenecks, polo shirts and t-shirts, emblazoned in your country's colors - to things meant to be worn in competition, such as special sliding shoes and rubber pads to put on your shoes so that they won't slide. About the only thing you couldn't buy was an actual competition stone, but that's probably only because the damned things weigh 42 pounds, so how in hell would you carry it around with you all night and then get it home to Finland after the matches?

Yes, the stones weigh 42 pounds. Not so much like shuffleboard-on-ice now, is it, tough guy? More like tenpin-bowling-on-ice. So there!

***********************************************************************

I'm being way too snotty for someone who really (really) likes this sport. It's not at all fair to the people involved. And from what I saw last night, this sport is followed by some of the nicest people on the planet. Everybody roots hard for their team, but everybody also gives a nice round of applause to the opposition and nobody taunts anyone, except in a good-natured way. For example, during last night's USA vs. Canada match, there was one woman holding up a pro-USA sign. You know what it said? "U.S. - Eh?" It got a big laugh from both the Canadian and American fans.

There is also no "in your face" crap from the athletes themselves. As a matter of fact, they are the least demonstrative bunch of competitors I've ever seen. And the fans never boo anybody.

Well, almost never. Last night, during a particularly tense point in the Sweden - Denmark match, one of the Swedish players slammed his broom on the concrete behind the rink, upset at his team having basically lost any shot at making the medals round. The sharp sound made by the handle of the broom striking the hard surface was followed by the sound of a gasp - a sharp intake of breath by many in the crowd - and then there was one lone "Booooooo!" from somewhere behind us. As many people turned to look at the fellow who was booing as were now looking at the Swedish kid who had slammed down his broom.

**********************************************************************

If you have any interest at all in the sport, I'd highly recommend getting out to see a match. As sports go, it's one of the easiest to watch. No matter where you're sitting in the arena, you can clearly see everything that's going on. The folks who follow it closely are very nice and will not belittle you in any way if you ask them a stupid question. They're more than willing to teach you about their passion, and will do so with a smile. All in all, it's a very agreeable night out.

And I guess that's it. I could rack my brain for something clever and snarky to end with, but I won't. It was fun and we enjoyed it. Bravo to the curlers.



Soon, with more better stuff.


Friday, February 19, 2010

Destination: 180



Go see Rainy Day Old Maid. It's a damn sight more interesting than anything you'll find below this cat.


Lent began on Wednesday. As is my wont - but only somewhat my want - I have given up flour and dairy for the duration.

Lent is comprised of the 46 days from Ash Wednesday until Easter (through Easter Saturday, that is, although some Christian denominations have the end point at the Thursday preceding Easter - Maundy Thursday - making it 44 days for them.) Generally speaking, it is a time when Catholics (and some other Christians, although not all) emulate in some small way the 40-day fast that Jesus undertook, in the desert, upon the beginning of his earthly ministry.

It is customary for those observing Lent to deny themselves something that they enjoy greatly. Many children give up sweets. According to some, that’s why baskets full of candies and chocolate became a customary gift for children on Easter Sunday. They were rewards for having completed the regimen. The abundance of the baskets was meant to show the children that denying oneself in small ways, for the glory of God, would result in future rewards more plentiful than the sum of the denials. Where and how bunnies became involved in this, I'm not sure. Probably some marketing thing cooked up by Hallmark.

(No, I'm not that dumb. I know it has to do with ancient pagan fertility rituals, but I'm not entirely sure why. Actually, I don't care. If somebody wants to give me copious amounts of chocolate, I'm not going to throw a monkey wrench into things just because a rabbit is supposedly delivering it. More power to you, Harvey.)

Why 46 days to commemorate a 40-day fast? In Catholicism, the tradition is to observe 40 days of fasting within the 46-day period, taking Sundays off. Sundays are supposedly off because that is a day of joy, a day for remembering Jesus' resurrection, and fasting does not easily lend itself to joy. I do the full 46, however, because I don't figure Jesus was returning from the desert to eat Ice Cream Sundaes on the sabbath, so neither will I. Anyway, keeping on with the fast actually makes it easier for me. Breaking it gets me strongly craving again for the day or two following.

Scholarly stuff may be found HERE and HERE and HERE.

As I said at the beginning, I've given up flour and dairy. This is something I do for the spirituality of it - the sacrificial is an attempt to become a better person through denial - but I have to be honest and say that I also undertake this fast for selfish reasons. Lent, although a movable thing, always appears on the calendar prior to softball season. By not eating bread, crackers, pasta, milk, cheese, pizza, cookies, cakes, ice cream, butter, and whatever else I've forgotten and will want tomorrow, I will drop somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 pounds between now and Easter. This is important because, by dropping that extra weight, I might not suffer a massive heart attack and keel over dead the first time I run the bases in April.

This year, I will attempt to go from 195 to 180. If I can't get down to 180, I won't play ball this year. My skills will have deteriorated enough, what with becoming 53 next month, without handicapping myself by dragging fifteen extra pounds of blubber onto the playing field. Unless I can drop the weight, I'll most certainly embarrass myself. So, no more cheesesteak subs or peanut butter crackers with chocolate milk until April.

When I reach 180, I'll let you know. If I don't, I'll deny ever writing this.

*****************************************************************

Now, having nothing whatsoever to do with any of the above, here are two places for you to go and have fun.

First, My Darker Gray Friend, Michelle Hickman, is having a contest and giveaway over at her place. Jewelry is the prize, ladies, so maybe you'd like to get your lovely selves over there and take a shot at winning? Go HERE.

The other place I'd like you to go is You Tube. No, wait! Don't just go there without knowing what I want you to see, you dope! Daryl, of Out & About In New York City, has turned me on to a film that is - in my humble opinion - hilarious and wonderful. It is definitely my cup of tea. It is about two slightly-past-their-prime degenerate gamblers (one definitely a bit more degenerate than the other) and I think it's absolute genius stuff. Of course, I came damn close to being one of those guys, more than I'd like to sometimes admit. Runs about 7 minutes, I believe, and well worth the time. Go see Rainy Day Old Maid.

And there you go. A bit of education, a smattering of holier-than-thou whininess, a swell contest, and a funny short film. What more do you want for the price of admission?

Soon, with more better stuff.

[Photo of bread and milk, which already look overwhelmingly delicious even though I'm only two days into my fast, came from All About You.]


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Breaker! More Ants!




[The title is a reference to an Australian movie from the 1980's. That movie has absolutely nothing to do with ants. The cabbage does, though.]

The piece I published yesterday, The Ant & The Dishwasher, certainly spurred some of you to lengthy and interesting comments. Some agreed with my general attitude toward insects, while some wholeheartedly applauded MY WIFE for wishing to off the little buggers. I was amused by all, of whatever opinion, but one in particular brought to mind another ant story.

First, the comment, by Eva Gallant, of Wrestling With Retirement:

I had a bout with ants, years ago. We had just moved into a house and my in-laws had come to dinner for my son's first birthday. After dinner, I opened the kitchen cupboard to get the birthday cake, and my baby-blue frosting was black! The cake was covered with little black ants - hundreds of them! I screamed and screamed, and hubby grabbed the cake and threw it out onto the front lawn. No birthday cake that day! Luckily, at 1 year old, my son had no clue what had happened. We ended up getting the exterminators in and they found a huge ant nest in behind the dishwasher. No, no qualms about killing those suckers :-)

Aside from alarming me concerning the possibilities now inherent with my voluntarily having left an ant in my own dishwasher, Eva brought the following memory to mind.

In a previous home, we had ants. No big deal, though. We would see one every so often, but never more than one at a time. Whenever I saw one, I usually just let him be on his antly way. He wasn't bothering me, so why should I bother him?

Well, one evening I had made a New England Boiled Dinner. It was mighty good, too, and mostly finished in a rather expeditious fashion by the two of us. The next day, I had the little bit of leftover ham for a mid-morning snack. All that remained was a decent-sized hunk of boiled cabbage. We then went out on some errand or another.

When we returned home, I saw that I had left the bowl of cabbage on the counter, uncovered, rather than returning it to the refrigerator. And, when I walked over to the bowl, I saw that it was FULL of ants; thousands of them. I guess they really, really, really like cabbage.

Anyway, it made disposal of them quite easy. I took the entire bowl outside and left it there. And I'm delighted to report we had no ants after that - not even a lone straggler - for months. I can only come to one of two possible conclusions:

1 - Cabbage kills ants.

2 - My New England Boiled Dinner kills ants.

In any case, if I ever again find us infested with a large and troublesome colony, I will try to remember this lesson. I will lay out a large bowl of cabbage and see what happens. Rest assured that, when I do, you'll hear about it, in detail.

Soon, with more boiled cabbage (which drawing of, by the way, I got from Uncle Stinky. No, I didn't make that up.)

P.S. It just occurred to me that perhaps the ants all got vicious gas from the cabbage and then exploded. I still don't like killing insects, but if that's what happened, I wish I had seen it.

[Addendum having nothing whatsoever to do with ants: My Darker Gray Friend, Michelle, is having a contest and giveaway over at her place. It's a guessing game. Why not head on over and take a shot? Go HERE to play.]


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Ant & The Dishwasher




Saturday morning, MY WIFE and I were watching TV. She was sitting on the couch, while I was in an easy chair. She made an annoyed sound, and I asked her what was the matter. She said, “We’re going to have to buy some ant cups. The little ants are back.”

Little black ants intermittently invade our house. They show up once a year or so, usually during a colder month. They’re harmless, so far as I know. If I see one or two, I either try to ignore them or trap them to put outside. The problem is that one or two are almost surely followed by forty or fifty, and then they become impossible to ignore. If I ignore the forty or fifty, they’d be followed by a couple of thousand, and then maybe a quarter million, at which point they’d lift up the couch, carry it outside, and dump us on the lawn. Then they’d take the couch back inside, flip on the TV, and eat all of our graham crackers while watching… I don’t know; horror films about anteaters or something. I haven’t thought this through completely. You get the idea, though. At some point, the ants have to go.

The problem is that I hate to kill insects. They’re usually not doing anything to me personally. They just happened to wander into the same space I’m occupying. I hardly think that gives me the right to croak them. I mean, if a mosquito lands on me, that’s one thing. A mosquito will try to suck my blood. But, a little black ant? The worst he’s going to do is climb on my arm and tickle me. I should kill something because it makes me laugh? That would be bad news for The Three Stooges, if they weren’t already dead. Of course, some women wouldn’t mind seeing them killed all over again, but I digress.

Speaking of women, MY WIFE does not hold the same opinions concerning life that I do. She feels it’s just fine to squash an ant. It does not trouble her conscience in the least to provide an early demise for an ant. When I express my displeasure with her morality, she says that I should become a vegetarian. She says that I kill cows and such, if by proxy, and that’s the same thing. No, it isn’t. I tell her that if she wants to EAT the ants, I’m fine with her killing them.

Be that as it may – and, unfortunately, it is – I’ll buy the ant cups next time I go shopping. MY WIFE is more important to me than the ants are, so if it will keep peace, fine. And I can sort of rationalize the ant cups. I’m not shoving the ants into the cups and forcing them to eat the poison; they’re entering of their own accord and eating what they choose. So, it’s more like they’re committing suicide, if perhaps unwittingly.

Well, anyway, I tired of our continuing debate concerning the propriety of killing some creatures but not others. I decided to cease fire and enjoy a nice cup of coffee. I asked MY WIFE if she’d like a refill of the used mug she had in front of her on the coffee table. She answered in the negative. So, I grabbed the mug to put it in the dishwasher.

I hit the kitchen and opened the dishwasher. As I was placing her mug in the rack, I saw that one little black ant had hitched a ride on the handle.

I could have squashed the ant, but you already know how I feel about that. Another choice was to pick up the ant and place him outside. If it were spring or summer, that’s probably what I would have done. It’s winter, though, and putting the ant out into the snow seemed just as cruel as squashing him; maybe more so, as I have no idea how long it takes an ant to freeze to death. What I finally decided to do was just leave the ant in the dishwasher. He could fend for himself and my conscience wouldn’t bother me.

As I put the mug in, the ant fell off the handle and landed on the floor of the dishwasher. There were some tiny bits of food there. He no doubt thought he had hit the ant lottery. He immediately made his way to them. Satisfied that not only had I saved the ant, but had probably made him much happier, I shut the door to the dishwasher.

A couple of hours later, I had forgotten about the ant. I had eaten some toast and I went to place my plate in the dishwasher. As I did so, some buttery crumbs fell off of it. The ant – presumably the same one, anyway – reappeared, perhaps wondering if he had died and gone to ant heaven. All he had to do was wait a bit and, every so often, he’d receive a bonanza of food residue, refreshing liquids, butter, sugar, and other bits of treasure. Life was great!

Of course, his general attitude toward the beneficence of his God will change when the dishwasher is full. As he’s wondering just how much more good stuff can possibly come his way, the worst will happen. He will become a victim of a deluge that, in ant terms, will make the one suffered by Noah seem a light sun shower by comparison. Rather than getting another treat, he will be scalded, shaken, swirled about in a soapy morass, shot through the drainage hose, and then deposited in the sink. If he somehow survives that initial thrill ride, he will then find himself riding a wave into our garbage disposal, where he will not have time to admire his new abundance of wealth, but, instead, will be whisked away to his final place of disposition: a sewer.

I can’t help but think that, given the choice – and maybe granted the intelligence to make such a choice worthwhile - he might have decided that eating a bit of poison from an ant cup was not so bad by comparison. Or maybe, if granted that intelligence, he might be able to judge an appropriate time to exit the dishwasher of his own accord, rather than stick around to see what happens when his cup literally overfloweth.

Well, you can occupy your day for only so long with such flights of fancy, so I then went to do the grocery shopping. Among the things I bought were the ant cups. When I got home, I saved MY WIFE’s soul. Rather than delegating to her the duty of placing the poison, I laid out the cups myself. Hell, one way or the other I was to blame for killing the ants. Just buying the cups was enough to make me a hypocrite, so I saw no reason to remain all high and mighty from that point on.

I did try to get the ants to understand that they had a choice. I said to them, as I was laying out their poisoned treats, “Ants, this is poison. If you just go away now, you’ll be happier than you will be if you eat this. My advice is to leave our home immediately, not eating any of this seemingly delicious treat on your way out. It is not a delicious treat. It is death.”

I’m sorry to report that the ants did not listen to me. They fairly much ran towards the poison. As I write this, most of them have eaten their fill and died. Meanwhile, I haven’t done the dishes yet, so I’m still providing ONE ant with what he thinks is paradise but is actually an impending horrific doom. What a swell fellow I am! For all of my talk about not liking to kill bugs, I’m doing a fairly comprehensive job of exterminating them.

And now, I wonder if we’re actually any better off than those ants. Adam & Eve (or, if you wish, Adam Ant & Eve) were presented with a similar choice in the Garden of Eden. They could have lived indefinitely in paradise, so long as they didn’t eat one particular fruit that was poison to their souls, but they chose the poison. The result was death. God told them what the result would be, but they ate it anyway. And, much like my one ant in the dishwasher, after a while there were was only one person remaining that God deigned to talk to. Maybe I should try to get Noah, the ant in the dishwasher, to build an ark. I wonder if he knows what a cubit is? I really don’t want to imagine what he might be gathering two-by-two of, though.

Soon, with more better stuff.

[Image of little black ant from How To Get Rid Of Things, which appears to be a great resource should you be planning an insect holocaust.]


Friday, February 12, 2010

The 404 Error Blues



A few months back, we did some re-design and re-populating of our web pages at my place of employment, Marketing Messages. At that time, we tossed around ideas concerning original content; interesting stuff we could put on the site to make folk's visits more entertaining. Perhaps we could more often generate return visits, or maybe have folks tell their friends, "Hey, go to that website! It's pretty neat!"

One of the ideas we had was...

Well, before I tell you about the idea, and how it was finally fleshed out, let me see if you're familiar with what I'm going to talk about. Have you ever encountered a "404 error" while surfing? What happens is that you somehow land on a page that doesn't actually exist, usually via a spelling mistake in what you typed in as an address or perhaps because the page you were trying to visit was made inaccessible by the web administrator for one reason or another. Here's an example...

http://www.marketingmessages.com/suldogisagod

Sometimes the page you end up on will actually say "404 error", like this example...

Wikipedia example of 404 Error

As you might imagine - actually, as you no doubt know - it's aggravating to encounter one of those pages. Well, some folks have become inventive in their ways to make those mistakes entertaining rather than aggravating. Check out these examples of how wrong turns on teh intertubes were made into what were probably pleasant (or, at least, not boring) experiences for the unlucky surfer...

100 Funny Or Unusual 404 Messages

Okay. With all of that in mind, here's what we did. My production buddy, Dan, figured that, since we specialize in sound, we should probably have a 404 page that featured some. The further idea was put forth that perhaps I could compose a song to be used on the page, said song being entitled "The 404 Error Blues".

I thought it was a fun idea, so I said I'd write some lyrics. And so I did write them. The next day, I showed the lyrics to Dan. He liked them, so all was swell so far.

I then wrote a simple blues-based tune to go along with the lyrics. I showed Dan the basics of it - bass line, rhythm guitar part one, rhythm guitar part two, etc. - and suggested we record the basic tracks so that whomever we had to sing the song could have some skeleton of it to reference.

After I had most of the tune recorded, I threw down a sample vocal on top of the backing tracks. That way, the real singer could listen to the whole thing and know exactly what we were going for in terms of style. I had in mind a hard-rock-cum-proto-metal sort of vibe. I growled out the lyric.

I gave the semi-finished product to another member of our staff, the person we were hoping might record the lead vocal. However, when he heard my growling, he leaped through a window and we haven't seen him since. No, actually, when he heard my vocal, he said that he liked it and probably couldn't do much better himself. That was a surprise to me, but a pleasant one. My singing voice isn't what it used to be. During my time in actual bands, I had a better range. I can't hit too many highs now. However, that was 25 or 30 years ago, so I accepted the compliment concerning my growling and decided that there would be no other musicians involved. I'd finish it up myself.

In the meantime, while I was finishing up the song, it seemed to me that the project was sort of tabled. Whenever I'd bring it up to Dan, he'd say something faintly encouraging, but the song never did get put out on the website. Which is cool, by the way. I understand. Maybe my finished product is a bit raw for our company website. We don't want to do anything that might rub folks the wrong way. If someone heard the song and said, "Well, I don't want my Message-On-Hold to sound like that!", then it would cost the company some business and, no matter how I might feel about the artistry of my song, that wouldn't be cool.

But I'll be damned if I'm not going to at least get a blog post out of it. So, here are the lyrics, and if you follow the link at the end you'll be able to hear a mix of the song as it is at present. While talking to Dan this morning, we decided to do some more work with it and actually put it out on the company website at some future time. So, at a later date, I'll probably have multiple mixes, with differing endings and whatnot, for you to listen to, and I may then ask for your opinions concerning which of those you prefer.

Final Note: Every sound you'll hear is mine; nobody else played any of the instruments or did any of the vocals. The only "cheat" was the use of a drum track. I can play some rudimentary drums, but I don't have a drum kit at present, so...

The 404 Error Blues (Sullivan)

You’re at a page that doesn’t exist
You’re at a page that doesn’t exist
When you typed it in, there was something you missed
Or maybe something extra; in any case, you’re dissed
You could click the “BACK” button, but you wanna know why
Don’t it make you just wanna cry?
Roll over Steven Jobs and tell Bill Gates the news
You’ve got the 404 error blues

404! 404! 404! 404!

Lost on the information superhighway
Lost on the information superhighway
You swear you were at this page just yesterday
Did somebody evil come and take it away?
The URL you requested was not found
It’s buried six feet underground
Face it, Bub, your brain took a short little snooze
You’ve got the 404 error blues

Blue screen of death! Don’t hold your breath!

[guitar solo]

That page is forbidden! Go take some Ritalin!

[repeat first verse]

404! 404! 404! 404!


Click HERE and be taken to the actual song (unless the gods of irony are working overtime and you actually end up at a 404 error page.)

Soon, with less sonically disruptive stuff.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

It Was Twenty Years Ago Today...



(If you're in the vicinity of my age, your immediate thought when you saw that title was, "Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play!" Sorry for the confusion. This isn't about The Beatles. It's about MY WIFE. Feel free to hum the tune while you're reading this, though, as I'm sure John Lennon and Paul McCartney won't mind. Well, anyway, John Lennon won't. In the meantime, here's how MY WIFE feels about the whole thing.)




Twenty years ago, on February 10th, I met MY WIFE. I've told the story before, and I won't rehash it now. You could go here and read it. It's a long story, but a good one.)

I could fill a few pages with flowery prose expressing how much I love MY WIFE, but that sort of thing, heartfelt though it may be, would probably become a repetitious drag. Instead, I'm going to go visual. After a few more words, there will be photos; to the best of my knowledge, every visual instance of MY WIFE ever to appear on this blog. They may or may not be in chronological order, and so am I.

Understand that MY WIFE does not particularly enjoy being photographed, and there haven't been more than a handful of times I've NOT heard her complain about how she looks horrible in a photograph. As a result, I often forgo including a photo of her, even when one would add something to the story being told. But, even with that self-imposed prohibition, it seems I've run a lot of photos of her. That will tell you either how much I love her or how often I disregard her stated wishes in favor of getting my own rocks off.

Enough jibber-jabber! Here's the woman I met twenty years ago today; fell in love with shortly thereafter; married in 1992; and with whom I am planning to spend the rest of my life (unless she really hates these photos and asks for a divorce when she sees this.) Enjoy!














Since it doesn't actually show her face, that last photo is probably the only one she doesn't mind. If I were her, though, I wouldn't complain about the one where she's dressed as a cherry pie. Hubba-Hubba!

Soon, with the rest of my life.


Monday, February 08, 2010

Jugglers, Contortionists, Hula-Hoopists, Two Strippers, A Blockhead, And A Monkee (Among Other Things)



No need to alert the authorities. I am safe, sound, and spectacularly spoused.

(If you need enlightenment - and who doesn't - see my previous post.)

I met MY WIFE in Harvard Square at 6:30. The latest mystery date had begun. Before we went to wherever it was she was taking me, however, she wanted to treat me to dinner. Since I had no idea where we were going, this could well have been my last meal. I hoped it would be a good one.

The only thing she told me was that we would be headed toward Central Square, Cambridge, about a mile up the main drag. Since that was the case, and we needed to be there before 8 o'clock, she suggested we head in that direction and eat at a restaurant we came upon along the way. That sounded reasonable, so I followed her lead and began walking. Before too long, we were at John Harvard's Brew House. This was good. At least I'd have an excellent beer before I died. They brew their own, on premises, and also feature a selection of fine microbrews from elsewhere. I feasted on medium-rare steak, mashed potatoes with red wine gravy, a lovely concoction of spinach and green peppers for my vegetable, and an accompanying pint of strongly-hopped Bad News Brown ale. If this was going to be my last night on Earth, I'd be going out with a full belly and a frothy head.

After MY WIFE paid the check (love that woman!) we ventured out into the rather cold night. As I lit a smoke, I wondered whether we might take the subway to our destination rather than walking it. No go. MY WIFE said that our destination was more-or-less equidistant from our current position and from the subway stop we would have to disembark at. I certainly couldn't argue; I had no idea where we were headed. So, faced with cold logic - and I do mean cold - we began our frigid walk. It's all good when I'm with MY WIFE, though, so the walk was, too. Though the trek was relatively long for such a frozen night, it passed quickly. Before frostbite had a chance to set in, MY WIFE told me that we had reached our destination.

It was a YMCA.


Now, the first thought that went through my head was that she had tricked me into going someplace for unwanted exercise. I quickly remembered our very filling and beery dinner, though, so I figured this wasn't some devious plot to make me healthy. We entered the Y. She directed me up some stairs.

When we reached the second floor, I saw a mustachioed man, in top hat and tails, reminiscent of a ringmaster. To my immediate right, there was a person selling tickets to whatever it was. Then, on the left, I saw a bulletin board filled with headshots of performers, many of whom seemed to be practitioners of circus-related arts such as juggling and acrobatics. Amidst these head shots, I recognized a very familiar face: Peter Tork.

(If the name isn't immediately recognizable to YOU, try this link.)

Well, what MY WIFE had brought me to, for our mystery date, was Carny Knowledge, a collection of performances by, and short plays about, carnival people. The featured performers included Bella Curva (a two-woman contortionist team, photo of one featured at the top of this post); Honey Suckle Duvet (a large and in charge burlesque dancer); The Boston Hoop Troop (or, at least, three of their number, all of whom were pleasant to look at and did amazing things with the hula-hoops); and other talented and fun acts.

Peter Tork was part of the band providing accompaniment for the performers. His brother, Boston-based graphic artist, Nick Thorkelson, was the bandleader, and he plays a mighty fine piano. Peter was on guitar. It was fun to listen to him play. The Monkees were slagged unmercifully, by some critics, as a pre-fabricated group of non-musicians. To a certain extent that was the truth, but it had to hurt Tork to get such criticism. He was somewhat a part of the folk music scene of the early 60's and could actually play. He still can, and appeared to be enjoying himself as a somewhat non-central member of this production.

Before the stage show actually began, various performers were lined up along the walls of the theater doing their specialties. There were jugglers, plate spinners, the aforementioned contortionists and hoopists, as well as a fortune teller, a blockhead (more on him in a minute), and a performance artist doing a bit as a freakshow crocodile (or was it an alligator?) man. There was also a clown going around doing bits of funny business, which I found amusing; MY WIFE less so. She, unfortunately, suffers from Frolicphobia (which is the fear of clowns, and which term she made up, so if you steal it, we'll sue.)

Well, the whole thing was bizarre, I'll say that. Some of the performers were great, others a bit less so. It was all done with heart, however, and that makes up some for lack of talent. Once we had seen enough of the sideshow acts, we picked out a couple of seats near the band (I always like to sit near musicians, given a chance, so that I can watch technique) and we awaited the start of the performance proper.

While we sat and listened to the band, a fellow named Nicholas Ridiculous came up to our seats and inroduced himself. He was the blockhead. Now, if you're unfamiliar with carny lingo, here's the deal: a blockhead does things like drive nails up his nose with a hammer. And that's just what Nicholas Ridiculous did, close-up and in-person, for MY WIFE, me, and the six or seven other folks in the immediate vicinity.

[To the left, that is NOT Nicholas Ridiculous driving a nail into his head. That is Sideshow Bennie. I can't find a photo of Nicholas Ridiculous doing it. However, to the right is Nicholas Ridiculous. Use your imagination to combine the two images and there you go!]

A woman behind us yelped when he drove the nail in, so (of course) she was the one he handed the hammer to in order to use the claw end to pull the nail OUT of his nose. I wondered how you find out you have such a talent in the first place. I mean, I’ve certainly put some strange and toxic things up my nose in the past, but I never once gave consideration to snorting a roofing nail.





Shortly after, the staged part of the exhibition began with a couple of decent jugglers. Then, Honey Suckle Duvet took the stage to do a striptease. As
she began her unclothing, she looked directly at me with a mix of aggression and sensuality that was a bit unnerving considering her size. She has about fifty pounds on me, I would imagine, and is probably a few inches taller, too. I was a tiny bit afraid that my proximity to the stage might end up as cause for me to become part of her act. As much as I appreciate the charms of all women, of whatever bulk, I’ve known linebackers who were smaller and less scary than Ms. Duvet. I was, for lack of a better way to put it, unengorged. Thankfully, she did not invite anyone to share the stage with her, and she finished the display of her ample wares with no audience members being harmed. She was entertaining, to be sure - and, in searching for her photo on-line, all I saw seemed to indicate that she is a very sweet woman - but I prefer my flesh in smaller portions.
(Photo by Dylan Cyr)










The Boston Hoop Troop followed, all of them visual antidotes to the fun Ms. Duvet. They did marvelously artistic things with their hula-hoops, incorporating dance and acrobatics into the mix, and the overall effect was rather sexy. Later on in the evening, one of their number – her name is Lolli Hoops, if the program can be believed - returned to the stage to do a striptease.

Photo by Jeff Berg


She was the antithesis of the amply endowed Honey Suckle. On a day when I have a couple of pizzas, my boobs are about as big as hers were. That’s not to say she wasn’t hot, though, because she was, very. Girls, if you feel a bit sluggish and chubby, the evidence I saw suggests that hula hooping will give you a flat stomach and an extremely cute ass.

Soon, a member of Bella Curva took the stage. I’m afraid the program didn’t specify which of the two women it was, otherwise I’d give her name. She was the one whose photo is featured at the top of this post. She was painfully flexible. That is, she twisted her body into the most amazing and seemingly impossible positions, a few of which had the audience gasping, and – as with Mr. Ridiculous’s odd insertion of hardware into a bodily orifice – had one wondering how a person comes to the realization that she can do such things. Was she sitting around one day, watching re-runs of Gumby, when the thought came to her, "Hmm. I wonder if I could get my ass on top of my head?" Well, however she came to try it, she found out she could and I would assume her life hasn’t been the same since. Being who (and what) I am, I couldn’t help but think of the sexual possibilities such a twisty female might afford. I quickly dismissed the thoughts, though, because MY WIFE was sitting right next to me (and, besides, maybe a contortionist would expect more flexibility out of ME than I had to offer.)

During the second act, both of the female pretzels worked together in what was about as outrĂ© an exhibition of lesbianism as is possible while fully clothed. By that point, had we been at home, I would have had to rip MY WIFE’s clothes off and… well, no, I’m not the type to rip off someone’s clothes. I would have strongly suggested, however, that we stop watching their act and do one of our own.

Lest you think the greater part of the show was lascivious, I’ll tell you that there were great comic bits, and small vignettes of weirdness, and long dramatic tableaux as well, but I'm me. The naughty bits tend to swirl around the forefront of my brain, more often and for a longer time, than most anything else. On the day when they don’t, that’s when I’ll be ready to check out.

Of the scripted scenes, one particularly hilarious playlet stood out. Written by M. Lynda Robinson, an actress whom MY WIFE and I have enjoyed for many years in various local productions, it was entitled Wife Of Bobbo. It was a scene from the home life of a woman married to a clown. She is on the phone, discussing her marital problems, when said clown (played by David McCaleb) comes home dressed in full costume and make-up. His wife (Sally Nutt) tries to seduce him with a romantic dinner, sexual innuendo, and other wiles of the feminine trade. He never stops clowning, though, and that’s apparently a sore point for her. She becomes more and more insistent in her demands for him to pleasure her, he keeps doing bits of clown business, and the entire production comes off as roll-on-the-floor funny. I won’t spoil the ending, except to say she finally gets her way in a most unusual fashion.

I could go on describing the whole show, but those were the highlights for me. Well, of course, the biggest highlight was being able to enjoy it with MY WIFE. And I wouldn’t have been enjoying it at all if she hadn’t made it her bit of funny business to ask me out on another mystery date. She’s one of a kind.

Oh, just one more thing I suppose I should mention. After the show, MY WIFE went up to Peter Tork and told him that she always thought he was the cutest one. She also confessed that she had once entered a contest, via Sixteen magazine, to win a date with him. Now, some men might have become jealous if their wives did that, going up to talk to a legendary rock star and television heartthrob, and telling him how hot he was. Not me, though.

I was still thinking about the contortionists.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

If You Don't Hear From Me By Monday, Send The Authorites



MY WIFE is fun, in a worrisome sort of way. She just called me at work, and said, "If we went on a mystery date, would you prefer tonight or tomorrow night?"

I didn't ask her to elaborate; it would have done no good. However, from past experience, I know that whatever she has in mind will be interesting, entertaining, relatively harmless, and something I'll enjoy. She has done this to me before. So, I said tonight would be fine.

And you may have read about something like this happening to me before. Here is a re-print concerning such occurrences. Before reading it, though, would you do me a favor and make a notation on your crackberry (or whatever device you kids use for a notepad these days?) If I have not written, by Monday, something concerning whatever happens to me tonight, would you please send the cops to Watertown and have them start nosing around for my remains? Thanks much.

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

MYSTERY DATE





This past Friday, I went on a mystery date. Unlike in the Milton-Bradley board game from the 60's with the cheesy-catchy commercial theme song, my mystery date was guaranteed to be dreamy. This is because it was with MY WIFE.

"Oh, that's so sweet!" the females are saying, while the males are thinking, "Whipped!" Wrong on both counts, conventional-thinkers-trained-by-TV-to-react
-as-though-you-were-the-studio-audience-at-a-bad-sitcom.

My expectations were grounded in reality. Although those who would sell you mutual funds are required by law to tell you that past performance is not an indicator of future success, I know MY WIFE. She always comes through with the goods. I'll give you a few examples of what I'm talking about, but first let's go back to the genesis of this story.

********************************************************


I was at work, doing whatever it is that I do, when I got a phone call.

"Jim Sullivan", I said.

"Hello, Jim Sullivan", MY WIFE replied.

After a bit of small talk, she got down to the reason for the call.

"How would you like to go on a mystery date next Friday?"

"Next Friday? The 1st?"

"Yes."

"Ummmm, sure. OK. A mystery date?"

"Yes."

"..."

And that was that. Exciting stuff, eh?

******************************************************************

I had no qualms or trepidations about said mystery date because MY WIFE had surprised me a few times before. Those were good times, so why not this, too? For instance, she has twice thrown me surprise birthday parties. I had no clue either time. Considering the circumstances, why would I?

The first surprise birthday party was at a McDonald's. Yes - Ronald McDonald, The Hamburglar, You Deserve A Break Today - that McDonald's. Who throws a surprise birthday party at a McDonald's? MY WIFE, that's who.

There was a particular McDonald's we sometimes went to when we were in my mother's neighborhood, so it wasn't anything out of the ordinary when she suggested we stop there to grab a bite before heading to my mother's house. When we walked in the front door of the restaurant, there were 14 or 15 relatives and friends waiting - my mom, my stepfather, my grandmother, my uncle, nieces, nephews, etc. I ate cheeseburgers and fries, got the love from a whole bunch of my favorite people, and marveled at how MY WIFE could have possibly set this whole thing up with a straight face.

"“You're throwing Jim a surprise party where?"

"At The McDonald's in South Weymouth."

"Golden Arches, Mayor McCheese - that McDonald's?"

"Yes."

"Ummmmm... Black tie and tails?"

*************************************************************

The next surprise party, a couple of years later, was at an Italian restaurant in Newton. Again, it was a place we frequented, so I was utterly clueless when she suggested we eat there. Of course, having already had a surprise birthday party thrown for me, I never expected another one from the same source, which no doubt figured into her thinking. We walked in the door and, again, a whole bunch of relatives and friends showed me the love, albeit this time with frutti di mare and wine instead of fries and thick shakes.

I am now very wary when MY WIFE suggests going out to eat anytime near my birthday. This, of course, means she'll never do it again. Unless the idea is to make me think that she'll never do it again and then she'll do it. Yes, I'll still keep up my guard.

*************************************************************

Another time, she shanghaied me. Literally, by the dictionary definition, but if you don't know the dictionary definition don't look it up yet or you'll spoil the story that follows.

She said she had a surprise for me, but she wasn't going to tell me what it was. This made sense since, if you tell someone something, then it isn't a surprise anymore.

It was an overcast and drizzly day. MY WIFE led me on a journey, in the subway, to Boston's waterfront. The dark skies and slow rain only added to the feeling of mystery. It's one thing to be surprised at a restaurant, because when you're going to a restaurant you know the worst thing that can happen to you is getting a crummy meal. Being led on a trip to the waterfront, in the rain, makes you think of every noir film you've ever seen. It didn't help that, when we got there, she took me out on this rickety old pier with big gaping holes in it. We stepped over the gaps in the pier - a misstep would have landed us in the drink - with the seeming objective being a rundown and shabby old building at the end of the pier. I was seriously starting to think back on recent events to see if I had done something worthy of being bumped off for.

MY WIFE went inside the building and indicated that I should, also. So I did. She spoke to someone and he handed her a key. We then went back outside, onto the rickety pier again, and MY WIFE told me to follow her, which I did. She led me to a gate that led to some stairs that led us down to an actual dock. Once on the dock, we walked to one of the six or seven boats moored there and climbed aboard. It appeared that whatever it was I was being bumped off for, the job was going to happen at sea.

We were greeted by a woman with muffins.

She turned out to be the owner of the boat, a marvelous little cabin cruiser named The Golden Slipper. Turns out that MY WIFE had seen an ad in The Improper Bostonian that stated that the boat could be rented out as a sort of floating hotel room, so she did and here we were. The Golden Slipper was a lovely place to spend a night. It was 40 feet long, with the below deck area divided into cozy sleeping quarters, a sitting room with TV/VCR/stereo and a comfy couch, and a fully-functional galley complete with essentials such as coffee, milk, and - courtesy of the owner who was just leaving - muffins.


We had a wonderful time! I especially enjoyed sitting out on the deck in the captain's chair, having a smoke and pretending I was actually well-off enough to afford such a nice toy. The small waves lapping against the side of the boat were very conducive to all bedtime activities. All in all, it was one of the nicest nights I've ever spent anywhere.

And so it was, with such a nice track record to comfort me, that I had no fear concerning whatever MY WIFE might have had planned for our mystery date this past Friday.

*************************************************************

I was to meet MY WIFE at her place of business at 6pm, from where we would go to wherever it was we were going. I usually get out of work at around 5pm, so this gave me plenty of time to drive there. As it turned out, I had even more time. As it turned out, I should have used it, too, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

My boss decided to let us go around 4:30 or so, in order to get an early start on the long weekend. It surprised him slightly when I told him "thanks, but no thanks". I explained that I was meeting MY WIFE at 6pm, so it wouldn't do to leave so early.

"Where are you going? What are you doing?"

"I don't know."

"You don't know?!?"

"Nope. It's a mystery date."

He understood, actually. He was the one I had called to tell him that I had been shanghaied when I missed work the day following our night on The Golden Slipper.

I hung around the office until about 5:20, doing some minor bits of work, and then hit the road with what would have appeared to have been plenty of time to get downtown. I decided to forego the Mass Pike and instead took Route 9, saving the toll.

It was a mistake. By taking Route 9, I put myself right into the middle of pre-game Red Sox traffic. By 6:00, I was still only on Boylston Street by the Prudential Center. I finally reached where MY WIFE was waiting for me, 20 minutes late, and beeped at her as I passed by, headed for the parking garage by Government Center. After leaving the car at Center Plaza, I walked back to meet her. Since I didn't know what it was we were doing, I hoped that my lateness didn't ruin things.

Thankfully, whatever we were doing wasn't going to happen until 8pm, so it was OK. Actually, she wanted to have dinner first, so we went to The Kinsale, an Irish-themed pub/restaurant on Cambridge Street. We enjoyed a nice dinner - roast pork loin for me; scallops and crab cake for her - and then started walking in the direction of Quincy Market.

Along the way to whatever it was, we stopped to look at some entries in the Cow Parade, a collection of fiberglass bovines scattered across the city and painted in whimsical themes by various local artists. It was fun, but I had been assured that this was NOT the surprise.

We walked all the way down to the end of Faneuil Hall and then started back up the other side. When we got about halfway, MY WIFE led me inside. I still had no idea where we were headed. As we actually reached the middle of the inside of the building, I finally got it. We were headed upstairs to The Comedy Connection.

The Comedy Connection, as you might have guessed, is a comedy club. OK, that would be fun, but whom were we seeing?

I looked at the poster with pictures of the performers. Excellent! Josh Blue, recent winner of Last Comic Standing, was the headliner. Appearing with him were two of the comics eliminated prior to his win, Michelle Balan and Kristin Key. This was a tremendous surprise! I thought that Josh Blue was one of the funniest people I had ever seen and MY WIFE knew this. When she happened to see an ad for his appearance, again in The Improper Bostonian, she bought the tickets.

If you didn't see this edition of the show, I'll tell you just a bit about Josh Blue. He has cerebral palsy. He does a good deal of material about his disease, but with or without that material - with or without the disease - he is just plain flat-out hilarious. A great deal of his humor is visual, and even the material that doesn't have to rely on sight is spectacularly enhanced by his one-of-a-kind delivery, so I won't try to transfer much of it to the written page. I don't think I could do it justice. Suffice to say, if you see that this guy is coming to a club in your town, go. You'll laugh so hard you'll get a headache from the lack of oxygen. I did.

The openers, Michelle Balan and Kristin Key, were both good. Key is so blue she'd make old-time "party comediennes" like Rusty Warren blush. Balan isn't afraid to trot out a few swears, either, but her material - since she is a bit older than either Key or Blue - is slightly tamer. Josh Blue works in a manner befitting his last name, which he acknowledged might have been a surprise to the audience that has only seen him on the TV show. He said that, if they were dismayed by it, to just pretend that he had extremely well-timed Tourette's Syndrome.

Well, what else can I say except that it was a great time and I thank MY WIFE for another sweet surprise. I'm sure it's not the last one I'll get. And whatever the next one is, I'll again have no worries about it before I find out just what it is. I implicitly trust MY WIFE, and that's no joke.

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Still true, of course, and I was only joking about sending out the cops. Unless you don't hear from me by Monday.

Soon? With more better stuff?


Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Roddy Oddity



My car’s name is Roddy.

(I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: If your car doesn’t have a name, then one of you has no soul. This tale revolves around Roddy, so I figured I should get the explanations out of the way immediately. You might have thought I was talking about an afghan hound or something if I just started writing "Roddy had to be registered" and "He also had to go for a wash".

So, anyway...)

Roddy had to be registered. He also had to go for a wash. In addition, he needed to be inspected, but he wouldn’t pass the inspection unless he had a headlight repaired. After all of those things were taken care of, I was going to get him gassed – it seemed like a nice reward for going through all of that - then I’d do some shopping and get a haircut.

When I left work on Friday, I told everyone that I’d be a bit late on Monday due to going to the registry. I knew I had to do the other things, too, but I figured I’d take care of those tasks at various odd times throughout the week. However, come Monday morning, I decided I might as well take a personal day and get everything done at once. So, I phoned the office and left a message on Dan’s phone.

I usually get to the office by 8 o’clock or so, the first one in. Dan is my partner in the production department, and he’s generally the next one to arrive. So, I called, left him the message, and went about getting the various tasks done.

I should explain why Roddy needed to be registered, lest you think I’ve been driving around in an illegal car during the eight years since I bought him. Almost four years ago, I requested a vanity license plate from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. At that time, they started offering Boston Celtics license plates. Dan, as a matter of fact, told me about it. He and his wife, Mandy - as well as me and my wife, MY WIFE - are big Celtics fans. He and Mandy had been at a game, and they saw a table manned by people hawking applications for these license plates. They signed up for one. They told us about it, and we ordered one.

Now, you have to understand something important. The Celtics were hideous then. They weren’t the once and (possibly) future champions they are now. They were in the midst of an 18-game losing streak, the worst such streak in franchise history. The Garden was half-filled for most of their games. There were about as many people who wanted a Boston Celtics license plate as might have desired a case of the trots. So, in order to entice folks into ordering the plates, the Celtics were offering a pair of free tickets with each order.

The thing was, the plate came with a $40 fee. The tickets were worth something like $60. In other words, the Celtics and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts were willing to pay us $20 to get a Celtics license plate and see a game. And proceeds from sales of the plates benefited Childrens Hospital Boston, one of the top pediatric facilities in the nation. Who could say no to such a deal?

The answer, apparently, was "almost everybody in the state." Before production would begin on the plates, the state wanted 1,500 applications. Here I was, yesterday, after almost four years, finally getting my plates. I still find it hard to believe it took this long to find 1,500 Celtics fans. I mean, come on! They won a championship in the interim. Every frontrunner and bandwagon-jumper in the state must have ordered them. But, has the state ever lied to me before? Not in any way for which I could give you concrete evidence, and I’m not interested in having them look into whether I’ve lied to them, so let’s just drop it.

I had to do things in the correct order. For instance, if I had Roddy inspected before I had him re-registered, then I’d have to get him inspected again. In order to pass the inspection, he needed to have his headlight fixed. In the meantime, if he ran out of gas? Then I’d get nothing accomplished and need a tow besides. In addition, he was fairly cruddy from road salt and such, so a nice wash would probably smooth out any concerns the inspector might have been less willing to overlook if he weren’t such a nice-looking and gentlemanly automobile.

Before I could get the new plates, I had to strip off the old plates to hand in at the registry. This was a nice little workout for me. Roddy had not had his plates removed in eight years. The screws were rusty and very tightly screwed. I leaned into them, while kneeling on the street in the very pleasant 18-degree morning, and it only took 15 minutes and every ounce of my strength to get the damn things off.

Now I had to drive a car with no plates, which is illegal. I hadn’t thought of that. I considered putting the plates back on while I went to the car wash, but I wasn’t about to tighten the screws back to their previous level. And, if I left them loosened, with my luck they’d fall off (and the plates, as well) when I went through the car wash, breaking all of their machinery and costing me a bazillion dollars. I left them off and took my chances.

Of course, when you’re driving around with no plates, in a car with an inspection sticker that expired yesterday, and a broken headlight, you run into four times as many cops as usual. I imagined every one of them giving me the stink eye, ready to pull me over and throw the book at me. Amazingly, though, not a single one of them seemed to notice. While I was happy to be so spectacularly unarrested, it did give me pause to think that perhaps the local heat weren’t paying as much attention as they should. Or maybe they were busy busting murderers and rapists and terrorists. I’ll pretend that was the case.

One of the guys at the car wash noticed. As he was soaping Roddy down, he said to the other guy, the one operating the machinery, “Hey! This guy has no plates!” The other guy said, “I don’t give a shit. He paid.” That’s the sort of attitude that keeps this country running smoothly and it makes me proud to be an American.

After the wash, I drove through the many police again, but this time they probably let me go because Roddy looked so spectacularly shiny. I drove into a gas station that did inspections, got a fill-up, and inquired as to whether or not they could repair Roddy’s headlight prior to doing an inspection. I was assured that it could be done, so I told the attendant I’d be back after I got my new plates.

I should mention here that I didn’t repair the headlight myself because new cars (or, in Roddy’s case, relatively new cars, if 1997 is relatively new) have all of their stuff jammed up against all of the other stuff so tightly, you can’t get at anything unless you remove two or three other things. I used to own a 1965 Ford Falcon, and I could do every repair I needed to do on that car, myself, because there were only six moving parts under the hood and one of them was a cat that crawled up into there to get warm on a cold night. There isn’t room under Roddy’s hood for a hummingbird to wedge itself in.

OK, so I went to the registry, where the line to get into the place was about a quarter-mile long. This is because the registry, being an arm of the state government, is always trying to do helpful things to ease the burden of the workingman. They had thoughtfully made their schedule 9-to-5, Monday-Friday, so that nobody could come, say, after work, or before work, or on weekends, or any other convenient time for somebody with an actual job. I got into line with all of the other folks who were missing work and waited.

Actually, the line moved fairly quickly, all things considered, and I got to the front of it only twenty minutes after entering it. Then I was given a number and told to wait for it to be called. It was, about fifteen minutes later. I traded in my plates, went back outside to the parking lot - where the temperature had shot up to 21 degrees by this time – and installed my lovely new Celtics plates on Roddy. Then it was back to the service station, where only two cars were now in front of me for inspection, whereas none had been before. Whatever. Another 45 minutes, combined, for the headlight repair and the inspection, and $60 or so later I was on my way with a lovely clean car, full of gas, headlights beaming, fully registered and inspected, and sporting Lucky The Leprechaun license plates.

It was about 11:00 now, so I decided I’d do a little bit of grocery shopping, then get a sorely needed haircut, and then head home. I did these things and was mighty proud to have accomplished so much in one day and still have time for a decent snooze, which I did and which I took.

Do you believe in ESP? I believe in ESPN, but that’s about it. Sometimes, however, you find yourself getting signals of some sort and it’s hard to ignore the implications. During my little nap, I had a most vivid dream. I was at work. For some reason, I was still trying to get everything I detailed above done, but I couldn’t leave work. They needed me because someone else hadn’t shown up.

I woke up with a vicious headache. That has nothing to do with the story, but I just felt like complaining.

I got out of bed and went into the other room. I saw that there was a message on our answering machine. It was from Kim, our office manager. She asked me to call the office. I did. She asked me where I was. I said I was at home. She seemed relieved to hear this, but she wondered why I hadn’t called in earlier to tell everyone that I wasn’t going to be in. I said that I had, and had left a message on Dan’s voicemail.

“Ah,” she said, “That explains it.”

It seems I had run into one of the problems with working in a smaller office. I had taken a personal day, but Dan had also decided to take one. So, nobody ever heard my message. They all thought I was dead or had run off to join the circus or something like that.

Spooky! Perhaps the headache and the dream had come about because all of my co-workers had been thinking about me and broadcasting their thoughts and I was picking them up. Or not.

This has been a fairly pointless 2,000 words, but I appreciate you having slogged through them. You must really like me. I could have said most of what needed to be said in the following twelve words: Roddy looks really nice in his new plates, and here’s some photos.




I know those don’t make up for your time, but it’s the best we can do at the moment. Roddy asks me to tell you that he appreciates your patience and he loves you all. He says that if you ever need a ride to a Celtic's game, he'll gladly give you one.

Soon, with more coherent stuff.