Monthly Archives: June 2013

Humble Pie

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I believe humble pie is God’s way of reminding us just Who the boss is.  Case in point: last week I fell trying to step over a Birdie (the dog) barrier (Jack – the cat – has got to have his own space free of the BEAST, fer cryin’ outloud – and rollin’ in the mud) and temporarily reverted to heathen status while in the course of the event I shall always call the ‘fall’.  I caught my back foot on the knee high barrier, and realized in that instant that I would eventually find myself in a classic death pose on the kitchen floor in just the matter of a heartbeat.  As I plummeted toward the tile I had time to say one last, profound word that would speak for my entire life.  My primitive side stole the mike, though, and croaked “F**K!”  The syllable bounced loudly off the walls and ceiling all through the house like a barbaric YAWP (nod to Walt Whitman), and as soon as the sound vomited from my lungs I knew I had been exposed as a true redneck, so I repeated the verb one more time for good measure as my old bones kissed the ground.  I lay there, hearing that word echo like bullets into my civility, and it reminded me there were still some remnants of my old salty dawg days hanging around the cobwebbed rafters of my mind.  Pride and arrogance flew out the window for a moment, and that’s when the Creator shoved a mouthful of humility down my throat.  The only thing left of me was laughter, so I used it to pick myself off the floor.

Now I’m not sure what’s going to come out of my mouth if, for instance, I were involved in an automobile accident.  I’ve heard it said “first you say it, then you do it”, but would rather not have either.  It seems instinct has the upper hand on what wisdom will spew from my lips, though, so I really shouldn’t torture myself pretending I’d have a choice in the moment.  I mean, I’d prefer to quote Apollo Creed in that beer commercial: “Here we go!” or to even come up with something all my own, like “Cancel my Bar Mitzvah!” or “Wotten Totten Piddly Pie!”  Yes, that would be nice – but we both know it won’t happen.  I’ll be caught up in the moment and announce the arrival of my bodily waste.  That’s what makes humble pie so tasty.  Hey, it’s better than eating crow, if you consider tripe superior to bird meat.

Look, I’m as humble as the next guy. Wait. I’m way more humble than the next guy, if you’re talking about that guy over there. Heck, I’m so humble, I spent the better part of one whole day with bird poop on my head and didn’t give it two thoughts. Well, to be technical, I didn’t even give it one thought. I’m used to people pointing and laughing at me for something or another, so I just checked for a booger on my mustache and kept going. Maybe that wasn’t a good example of being humble. Let me think. Uh, hold on. Thinking isn’t my strong suit. Let’s see what ole Webster has to say. Humble: not proud or haughty; not arrogant or assertive. Wow. Thanks, Noah. You just told me what it’s NOT. Sheesh. They don’t make dictionaries like they used to.

I heard a story once about a guy in Chicago who wanted to spread his religious beliefs and asked God to give him a suggestion. God must have been in a rare mood that day, because He told the guy “Make a sandwich board with your church’s worship times on it, and walk all around the downtown area.” The guy grumbled about it (but not too loud lest God hear him) but made a sandwich board, painted the information on it, strapped it onto himself and spent the day wandering up one busy sidewalk after another, feeling very self conscious and ‘not proud or haughty’. Finally the day was done. The guy took the sandwich board off and went home, thinking to himself, “I bet nobody else in Chicago has the humility it takes to do what I just did.” So much for not being proud. Reminds me of the old song “Oh, Lord, it’s hard to be humble, when you’re perfect in every way.” I know how that feels. Really.

Perhaps humbleness doesn’t know itself. Not that it’s ignorant or anything like that. It just won’t put a spotlight on itself. I think humility must be unassuming, too, and not likely to take credit for anything. You know, humbleness would be a pretty good friend to have around. Imagine how much attention you could get just having it nearby. I think I’ll make a huge humble pie and hand it around, because we need more of it in others. It gets mighty lonely up here on Humble Mountain.

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The Joy of Cheese Cutting

farting for fun

I know a young fellow named Art

Who squirted the wettest of farts.

His soiled underwear

Had such vision and flair

That Art turned his farts into art!

Admit it. We all love a robust discussion about farts. Oh, there are some of you pretending to be Puritans, with your eyebrows raised, your mouth in an ‘O’ and your hand in front of it. That’s the same reaction you have when you expel flatus from your anus, especially if it is sudden, extremely loud and odoriferous.  So don’t look all spiritual at the screen; everyone from Adam to Obama farts. Mother Theresa farted. The Dalai Lama farts. The Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed and Billy Graham farted. Al Capone, Hitler, Alexander the Great, John F. Kennedy and Genghis Khan farted, along with all the Pharaohs, the Kings and Queens of England and Henry Ford. It’s a way of life. If farting is as common as breathing (but I would advise breathing before you fart – the other way around can be kind of tricky), we should be able to talk openly about it. That last sentence is primarily aimed at women, because the vast majority of men talk about it all the time. As a matter of fact, 86% of all conversations between men include at least one mention of passing gas. You ladies may be talking about farts in your little nose-powdering sessions in restaurant and bar bathrooms, but you’re not admitting it. So let’s get the subject out in the open, why don’t we? (but first, let’s move upwind of each other – not a small task to accomplish in person)

Did you know that the average person farts around ten times a day? I personally let ‘er rip between 90 and 100 times a day, and I’m proud of it, especially since almost all of them smell like I’ve got my own personal body farm shoved up my butt. If you and I are in line at Burger King and I fart, don’t be embarrassed if when the smell starts causing customers to panic and bolt for the doors I’ll shout out “OH, THAT’S NASTY!  WHO WOULD DO SOMETHING LIKE THAT IN A PUBLIC PLACE?” and then point at you like Donald Sutherland at the end of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. If we’re in private, however, I’ll say something right before the smell hits like “How do you like my new aftershave?” or “I think I saw something crawl under your chair that looked just like a skunk!” My favorite places to fart are elevators and movie theater lobbies, but my dream is to fart as I’m being greeted by a world leader. “Welcome to the United States, Mr. Prime Minister.” Welcome indeed.

I uncovered quite a few educational facts about flatulence that I’d like to share with you. If you seek a really stinky fart, eat plenty of cauliflower and eggs, but if you’re just going for the sheer number, you can consume the old standard by ingesting large quantities of beans.  They are good for healthier cardiac functions, too. You know the old ditty: “Beans beans, good for the heart. The more you eat, the more you fart.” I still recite that in my head every time I see beans on the menu. My grandmother told me once that if you roll lima beans across the floor before you cook them it will take all the farts out of it. I only get gritty lima beans with all the farts still intact when I try.

I think that if you just understand that farting is a natural body function (it is only a turd honking for the right of way) and that we all do it (Confucius say ‘Man who fart in church sit in own pew’), you will be less embarrassed when the inevitable happens. You know you’re in a committed relationship when your significant other toots their butt horn in your presence. That’s why I always farted on second dates.

One more ditty about farts before I go with the wind: trumpet players make the most melodious farts on the planet, second only to the Chlorestas Notatus, commonly called the Blue-Chinned Sapphire Hummingbird of South America. The sound they make when they fart will make you weep with joy.

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June 14, 2013 · 7:49 pm

Incompetence, Incompetence Everywhere, and Not a Fop to Think

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When I was in the Army – birthplace of the snafu – I saw a sign once that said “There is nothing more dangerous than ignorance in action.” I thought at the time it was a fairly profound and accurate statement, considering all I had to do was look around. Shortly thereafter I read a book called “The Peter Principle” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Peter_Principle) which talks about a common phenomena that inevitably occurs to employees within a bureaucracy. Quite simply put, members of an organization tend to get promoted to their level of incompetence. For instance, Bub has been slinging French fries, cooking good, greasy food and making sandwiches for three years at the local burger joint.  He has mastered the back area, and when the restaurant manager finally notes how well Bub works, he thinks Bub would be an excellent candidate for Crew Chief. Bub accepts the promotion, appreciates the raise and works hard to learn how to coach and supervise the employees. At times he struggles with some of the leadership skills, but eventually, after a couple of years, becomes proficient in his job. There comes a time when the restaurant manager needs an able assistant manager, observes his mid-level employees and decides Bub is the best candidate. Bub accepts the promotion, appreciates the raise, but finds himself way over his head trying to keep labor costs down, order supplies and hire and fire employees. He can’t get help from his boss because the restaurant manager had been promoted to his level of incompetence also, and is barely keeping the joint open. So when you have incompetent leaders, you’re eventually going to see your product or service suffer. Now think about something as large as the Federal Government. Wowser! Who needs to go to the zoo when they can turn on C-Span and watch all those buffoons in action?

My adopted 92 year old Papa started convulsing and exhibiting mental changes last night, so the nursing home sent him to a local hospital Emergency Room to be evaluated. He was admitted to a room for further observation and tests, and I was with him until after 3:30 am. He was in such a state that he didn’t know what was going on around him and could only speak gibberish (lucky for him, gibberish is my second language). I went home and slept until 11:00 am. When I awoke I called the ward where Papa was roomed. I’ve already posted the transcript of that exchange onto Facebook, but I’ll be glad to share it with you. By the time I was done with that phone call I was fit to be tied. (I’ll supply the velvet ropes, ok?) Here goes:

NURSE: How can I help you?

ME: I’m calling to see how Papa is doing this morning. His patient code is 5555.

NURSE: He’s doing fine. He slept well last night.

ME: I was with him when he arrived at the ER at 10:30 last night and stayed until three thirty this morning. His seizures (acute dyskinesia, for all you med heads) wouldn’t let him sleep. So his symptoms have resolved?

NURSE: If you’d like I can transfer you to his room.

ME: He was uncommunicative last night, so you’re saying he’s better?

NURSE: I can ring his room for you.

ME: Have you seen him today?

NURSE: No, but as I said, I can transfer-

ME: Um, Papa wouldn’t be able to answer the phone on his best day since he fell and broke his hip. I don’t think he’d be able to pick it up.

NURSE: I’ll be glad to ring the room and then go down there and hand the phone to him.

ME: So he is able to talk?

NURSE: I don’t know, but we’ll find out.

ME: Tell you what, I’ll just come over there right now and see for myself.

NURSE: Thank you! CLICK

I kept repeating James 1:19 over and over (be slow to wrath) to keep from having multiple demons from flying out my butt bent on the nurse’s destruction, got dressed (something a competent and prudent man would do, right?) and only broke four traffic laws getting over there. When I arrived I went directly to Papa’s room where I found a nurse’s aide trying to shove a pork chop into his mouth (he has no teeth, and I told at least two nurses last night he has to be on a soft diet). He was a little better than last night but was still very confused and couldn’t speak properly. When I told her about his food restrictions she vanished like smoke and reappeared half an hour later with a small bottle of Ensure. I asked to speak to the nurse and was told “She’s in another room but I’ll tell her,” then the aide poofed again and after I realized I hadn’t missed the rapture I settled down to spend time with Papa.

After two hours I strolled casually up the hallway (where a tired looking woman was mopping the floor with what looked like a cross between a garden rake and a Bentley) and found the nurse’s station empty. You don’t know how tempting it was to want to steal every pen on the desk. I mean, they were so lonely, begging me to give them purpose. Now I wish I had kicked on the intercom system and announced “Due to a mix-up in Urology, we will not be serving apple juice for dinner.” I camped out there and watched a spider build her web on the patients’ charts, but eventually grew bored and left. If the doctors came from the dredges of this medical bureaucracy, I’d be better off taking Papa to a gypsy voodoo shaman witch doctor.

Incompetence should really be a four letter word.

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Spirituality 101

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Today I’ll be teaching you how to pass yourself off as a spiritual person.  Note that I didn’t say I’d lead you anywhere close to the geographic area of spirituality – that’s up to people behind the dais, wise men wearing turbans, bartenders and cabbies.  What I’m going to do is show you how you can mystify and amaze others into wondering if maybe they’ve underestimated your ability to trip-the-go-into-the-light-fantastic.  You may have no idea what happens to us when we die, or what God’s area code is, or what colors go best with Easter Sunday, but you’ll be able to at least hobnob with the gospel elite without looking like a heathen.

The first thing you have to do is get the look down.  Under no circumstances should you ever act surprised in any way, shape or form.  Spiritual people can have a piano fall from a twenty story window right next to them without blinking an eyelash.  Why?  Because they know that everything is in God’s hands, even if it slips out of His fingers from a twenty story window.  If you’re in a conversation with someone about spirituality and they say “The universe sits on a turtle’s back,” you can shoot a knowing look at them that says “I knew that all along”.  In my two hundred level class How to Speak Spiritually, you’ll be able to say to such a person with absolute confidence, “Yes, and I know that the turtle sits on another turtle’s back because it’s turtles all the way down”.  For now, though, you have to learn how to look like you’re in the loop.  This is how you make a ‘knowing look’: For starters, keep your mouth closed.  Nothing screams idiot faster than a gaping mouth.  If you have trouble with this you can always chew gum, but not while you’re trying to look spiritual.  Secondly, as you’re listening to someone talk about something spiritual, keep one eyebrow raised.  Watch Spock from Star Trek.  He’s got the eyebrow thing down.  This gives the impression that you are weighing their words with your other eyebrow, which is very, very spiritual.  Finally, if the person you’re having a conversation with speaks more than five words, make sure you put your hand up to your face, lay your forefinger on your temple and let the others just hang there like they’re resting but at the same time poised to make a dramatic gesture.  This combined with a raised eyebrow and closed mouth absolutely radiates spirituality.  If you’re serious about making this your major, you’ll need to take How To Dress Spiritually which also incorporates the art of standing and walking spiritually.  For now, though, you just need to look like you’ve been hanging out with Gandhi.  I will give you a teaser about that class: sarong.  If you didn’t catch the double entendre there, I’m sari.

Now, there’s going to come a time when someone asks you what religion you are.  They are actually setting you up for an argument about religion.  There’s nothing worse than religion if you’re trying to be spiritual, because if you allow yourself to be nailed down to one particular theology you’ll end up being God’s dartboard.  The correct answer to such a question is “I’m not religious; I’m spiritual.”  This send the message for them to back off because they’re dealing with a dyed-in-the-wool mystic who doesn’t mess around with trivial things like belief systems and good versus evil.  Which leads us to the next phase of passing yourself off as being spiritual.  Spiritual folks don’t subscribe to the whole “God and the Devil” motif.  It’s all about positive and negative forces.  If you really want to impress them and let them think you completely understand duality, there are a few catch-phrases you can let roll off your tongue.  Feel free to memorize these, but whatever you do, don’t make things up.  Unless you’re actually a bonafide spiritual guru, you’re liable to say something that proves you a fool.  You can say “Everything comes full circle,” of if you know the person you’re speaking with has even less than a clue than you about the subject and you don’t want to lose them with too many heady words, you can say “What comes around goes around”.  If you’re in a group of people, it’s always proper to use the words karma and causality.  Just throw them around like snowballs in the winter.  They’re liable to hit someone.

Overall, you can memorize a few terms that will keep you afloat in a conversation about spirituality, at least until you can excuse yourself and find something appropriate in my handout Spiritual Things to Say in a Pinch.  My favorites are “Hmmm,” (use this with the entire compliment of facial cues I’ve already mentioned) “I couldn’t agree with you more,” (a fine saying that can have two meanings) “I see,” (straight and to the point, it tells the others that you’re not someone to be trifled with) and “Joseph Campbell had a lot to say about that”.  While we’re on the subject of name-dropping, you can pass yourself off as a spiritual giant if you tell your audience that you were influenced by Moses, Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, any other saint or prophet, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Junior, Billy Graham or Bono.  I encourage you to get the crib notes highlighting the things these great spiritual beings have said so you don’t go down in conversational flames.  Again, these are just a few suggestions.  My other classes will get into greater detail.

If you look like you’re spiritual and act like you know a thing or two about such a deep and socially acceptable topic, you’ll be able to pass yourself off as an enigma.  There’s nothing more spiritual than an enigma.  Except a paradox.  But that’s another subject entirely.

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