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Well, I’ll Be Hanged!


I read this morning about a scientist in 1905 who was fascinated with hanging. The kind that hangmen used to practice. The kind that makes your feet do a frantic little dance looking for something to stand on to. Well, I have to admit it fascinates me, too, but only in a ‘better him than me’ sort of way. There was a movie back in the ’70s called “Faces of Death” which was a compilation of real-life ways to die. A bunch of us teenagers would get together and start watching the tape and then see who would last the longest before throwing up or running away. I always won, but only because my friends duct taped me to my chair. But there was one scene that showed a row of men being hanged at the same time. I can’t remember if it was the standard gallows or if they were pushed off a ledge or what; all I can remember is their feet doing that frantic little dance a few moments before settling down. Fascinating but gruesome.

So this fellow by the name of Nicolas Minovici from Romania set out to study all he could regarding the whole hanging thing. He ultimately produced a scientific paper almost 300 pages long called “Studies on Hanging”. They weren’t that sophisticated back then. A paper now would probably be called “The Morphology, Physiology, Trigonometry and Metaphysics of Terminal Asphyxiation.” But hey, in 1905 they hadn’t invented all those five dollar words. So Nicolas began analyzing suicides by hanging – 172 of them, to be exact (this was before the days of being distracted from depression with such things as sitcoms and Facebook) – and broke the occurrences down by gender, race, how sophisticated the rope was, what time of year it was, the circumference of the rope and even the kind of knot used.  I’m disappointed to mention, though, that he didn’t record if they had their tongue hanging out or not. When we were kids we used to pretend we were dead by rolling our eyes up in their sockets and sticking our tongue out. I can’t remember if the “Faces of Death” hanging folks had their eyes rolled up and tongue out, though. I was too busy watching their feet do a jig.

It wasn’t enough for Mr. Minovici to study other peoples’ hanging. He had to go and try it himself. Idiot! That’s why God made assistants! Anyway, he started out by hanging from a non-contracting noose. He wrote “I let myself hang six to seven times for four to five seconds to get used to it.” I don’t think I could get used to a thing like that. He obviously didn’t find it too pleasant, either, because he wrote that he found the pain ‘almost intolerable’. Talk about being a pain in the neck! You don’t need me to tell you what he would be called if he hung himself by the butt cheeks.  He also reported that his neck hurt for weeks afterwards. They didn’t make scientists too bright back then, because he wrote that he was ‘comforted by the results’. I think I would have chosen another transitive verb other than ‘comforted’. He was so comforted that he decided to go all out and experience the real thing. Like I said, not too bright.

Nicolas stuck his head through a regular contracting noose and directed his assistant to hang him twelve times. Honestly. I bet he gave his assistant a hefty raise right before the experiment, because that guy could have literally gotten away with murder. “Honest, officer, look at his notes. He told me to do it!” This is where it gets really interesting, though. The scientist apologizes profusely in his notes afterwards that ‘despite all my courage I could not take the experiment any longer than three or four seconds.” All that work for nothing. I’m just glad he lived to tell about it. He did invent tap dancing, though.

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Going Postal


I’ve been around the block enough times to know that if you tell the whole world that you have an irrational fear of something, the whole world will use it to scare the button off your belly. I actually conducted an experiment along this line a couple of years ago by sharing on Facebook that I was deathly afraid of spiders. The first few times someone slipped a picture of one on my wall or mentioned it to me, I’d pretend to be freaked out and do the keyboard equivalent of screaming (you know, AAARRRGGGHHH!!!). This only made things worse, or at least it would have if I really did harbor a phobia about spiders. Even by making this admission, my friends will never stop with the spider thing, because they’re already convinced that I’m just trying to get them to stop. One little experiment and I’ll always be known as that guy who hates spiders. That’s ok. I eat spiders for breakfast. But if you promise not to tell anyone, I’ll tell you what I’m REALLY afraid of. Promise you’ll keep it to yourself? I believe you. I’m secretly terrified of the Post Office.

You won’t find my particular irrational fear in an old edition of “Psychological Freaks” magazine. It doesn’t even register on the phobia Richter scale, because as far as I know, I’m the only human being alive who has it. I mean, who’s afraid of the Post Office, right? MEEEE! I’m sitting here having to squeeze my butt cheeks together because my IBS just jumped into overdrive; my hair is on end (quite the feat since my hair is about two feet long – I look like the world’s biggest paint brush) and I’m sweating like a china plate in a bull store. If I were any more nervous, I’d have – hold on, be right back…

Boy, that was close. Ok, I think I at least owe you an explanation (no, not about my explosive nervous bowels). There isn’t anything about the Post Office that doesn’t make my skin crawl and want to take a box cutter to my wrists. First of all, they’ve always got their own special little building, and you can’t go anywhere but the lobby. Listen to this frightening fact: you can’t even go to the bathroom at the Post Office! I can’t tell you how many times my IBS has caused unmentionable embarrassment while waiting in line. All you see are the stern-faced-uniform-wearing-no-sense-of-humor-whatsoever-must-be-hiding-a-shotgun-under-the-counter counter clerks screaming “NEXT!” Every Post Office I’ve been forced to enter always had at least forty or sixty stations, but there are never more than two of them open at any given time. I don’t care if the line is all the way to Timbuktu, they’re not going to open another one up. Makes me feel like cattle going to the slaughter. I can hear the Postmaster General (by the way, does it bother anyone else that the Post Office has a frickin General? What do they plan on attacking, if it isn’t us?), I can hear him say to his Aide-de-Camp “Keep those civilians in a single line in case we have to shoot ’em. We can pick ’em off from the back to the front like we’re hunting turkeys.” All we see are those angry clerks, but you know there has to be at least a few hundred more just waiting back there for someone to get out of line. Whenever it’s my turn, I crawl up to the one who screamed at me on my rubbery hands and knees and do my best to communicate my reason for being there. They never believe me anyway, so I say things like “Can I ship a jellyfish without bubble wrap?” and “I bet you have comfortable shoes,” and “May I have some paper towels? I’m afraid I crapped all over your lobby.” Believe me, those guys are never amused.

I’ve tried looking through the holes where you’re suppose to drop your mail – you know, there’s one for local and one for anywhere else in the world except local – to see if I could spot any mail soldiers getting ready to go postal. Think about it. If those postal postal guys are capable of shooting up their own base of operation, imagine how much they hate the outside world! I can never see anyone, though, because they make those chutes so that you can’t view anything but the threat of your own doom. The Post Office lobby always has row upon row of those metal doors with little tiny windows staring at anyone wandering around. If you want you can rent one (they don’t have renter’s insurance, either, those tyrants) and then once a day you have to go pick up your mail from there. If you miss one single day you’ll get that dreaded pale green notice telling you to go to the counter so they can scream at you over and over again until your IBS kicks up and you have to run away with your hands between your legs. No, don’t EVER get one of those little PO Boxes because they’ll pretty much own you then.

Have you ever seen those ten most wanted papers at the Post Office? Those jokers look so dangerous I bet they’re postal employees who have gone AWOL. Any place that warrants a Postmaster General must be pretty tough. The worst thing about them is that they know where you live!!! I’m sure one of these days my doorbell will chime and on the other side of my flimsy screen door will be three or four of those most wanted thugs demanding extra postage or else.

Yep, the whole postal system just freaks me out. Thank GOD for email! Wait. Who delivers emails? It couldn’t be. You’ve got to kidding – oh no, gotta go, feeling like I’ve got to…

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Rocket Science


Rocket science is so last century. These days babies are born knowing trajectories and fuel weights and all that other highfalutin junk. Just ask one. You may get some garbled secret code language response like ‘Gaga goo-goo,’ but it’s rocket science stuff, trust me.

I’ve always heard that every generation is smarter than the one before it, and I believe it to be true, but if that’s the case why do old people sit around and tell one another “This new generation has got to be the stupidest ever!” Well, I can believe that, too. It is possible to be smarter AND dumber at the same time. For example, a kid today can calculate pi to the seventy-third number, but will get on a skateboard and roll off a cliff.

But I know today’s new generation is way smarter on their worst day than I ever was on my best (which hasn’t happened yet, by the way). Give an average 5 year old a Playstation 3 controller and in 10 minutes she’ll be battling demons, growing a crop of soybeans, watching the latest bad lip-reading video on YouTube, updating her Facebook status, Tweeting the Gettysburg Address in under 120 characters, printing coupons for her favorite ice cream and Skyping with all her kindergarten buddies. At the same time. Hey, it took me over a decade to figure out how to get a four digit score in Pac Man. I’m still working on Tetris. I mean, there’s a BLIND kid now that can work a Rubik’s Cube. I can’t even get two squares to match. Donkey Kong was above my pay grade.

It’s nice to know kids today are smarter than my generation. In the 70’s we played with this thing called Clackers, which were nothing more than two huge glass balls joined together by a long string. The object was to hold the string in the middle and, with an up and down motion of the hand, make the glass balls smash together. Orthopedic hand surgeons made tons of money back in those days. Now kids can point a smart phone at the night sky and tell you the name of every star in the heavens. I don’t think Clackers will be making a comeback anytime soon.

When I was a kid we went into the first grade barely able to tie our own shoes. The most popular reading source was “See Jane Run.” We had to use pencils the size of railroad ties, and were just as heavy. It wasn’t until the 5th grade when we were introduced to multiplication, and then the highest we would go was 12 times 12. These days first graders debate the Theory of Relativity while picking each other’s noses, and discuss fluid dynamics over milk and cookies. It blows me away.

It shouldn’t be surprising, though. The knowledge of the universe can be accessed in a few seconds by a phone, for goodness sake. Wait. I wouldn’t even call it a phone, even though phone calls can be made on it. It’s a Wonder Box to me.

You know, I just thought of something. What would happen if you took a smart phone away from a kid? He’d only be capable of staring at his hands as if the device might at any moment appear out of thin air. Well, to be honest, if you took a smart phone away from a kid your life would be in danger. You don’t want to be bludgeoned to death by a bunch of skateboards. I wonder just how smart today’s new generation would be if we took their computer technology away. Maybe they wouldn’t be much smarter than anyone else. I don’t know. I’d be willing to bet, though, that even without their smart phones and internet, today’s kids would be capable of making missiles out of beach sand and old toasters. It is rocket science, after all.


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I really don’t know why, but I’ve always had a fascination with poop. When I have a good bowel movement I will stare at it for hours, or until someone starts banging on the door. There’s something about poop that makes me curious. I wouldn’t call this an obsession; you won’t find me looking at crap porn in the middle of the night, and it doesn’t consume my mind all the time. I think it is merely the scientific muse within me that wants to find out all I can about it when I come across a turd, especially someone else’s. Think about it. It’s kind of magical, really. You put food in your mouth and in a few hours it comes out again, transformed into a log of brown wonder. I think it can even be compared to childbirth, if you think of food as sperm and stomach acid as eggs. I don’t dwell on that comparison, by the way. Before you start getting all judgmental, let me tell you that there is actually a branch of science that focuses on poop, called scatology. I really think I was born to be a scatologist but didn’t realize it until it was too late to get into the field. That’s ok. I’ll happily be an amateur, a wanna be, a civilian scatologist. Great discoveries have come from the private sector before, but I can’t think of them now because I’ve got poop on my mind now.

It started in childhood when my mother would periodically find turds under my mattress. They weren’t mine, either, well I mean they didn’t come out of me. Whenever I went in the bathroom and discovered one that hadn’t flushed, I had an overpowering urge to rescue it. Sometimes there was so much toilet paper that I just couldn’t save it, but it was never from lack of trying. I can hear you wondering how I retrieved those darlings from their watery grave, so I’ll tell you. I kept a good supply of empty toilet paper rolls on hand just for such occasions. It’s like that’s what they were made for, really. I only touched poop when I examined it, rolling it over to see if I could find something that hadn’t quite digested. When I got older I would use my mom’s dishwashing gloves, or would snatch a handful of rubber gloves from the doctor’s office. I always fought the urge to palpate the poop bare-handed, because I knew how difficult it was to get it out from my fingernails, and it would sometimes take weeks to get the smell off my hands. Well, there was the whole thing about being sanitary, too.

When I was a kid I just kept turds the way I found them, but eventually I began to explore their inner workings, in the name of science, mind you. Do you realize you can tell a lot about a person by their crap? A normal poop is medium brown, with the consistency of toothpaste, and is usually 4 to 8 inches long. I’ve never found another person’s poop over a foot long, but once after eating a bunch of Mexican food at my niece’s in Houston, I pushed out a turd that was EIGHTEEN AND A HALF inches long, counting the taper. I’ve got photos, too. Anyway, that’s the morphology of a normal poop. If a turd sinks, it usually means that a person isn’t eating enough fiber-rich foods, such as vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, or drinking enough water. This stool is often dark because they have been sitting in the intestines for a prolonged time. Stool that is pale or grey, especially if it is shiny and greasy, is indicative of being saturated with undigested fat. Sticky mucous in the turd means there is an inflammation in the intestines. I could go on forever, literally. There are different colored poops that point to certain disorders, there is the classic chimichanga explosive crap, pencil-thin turds and pellets. By now hopefully you’re beginning to catch some of the excitement I feel when I think about poop.

I apologize if this subject offends you or makes you ill, but it is a natural function of the body; after all, I mean, we all ‘doo’ it. You should be proud of your poop for many reasons, but mostly because it brings out the worst in you. The next time you squeeze out a log, make sure to thank it for its service and sacrifice. I’d be grateful if you took a photo of it and shared it with the rest of us. I know, it takes extraordinary courage, but you’ll feel so much better afterwards. Isn’t that how a good crap should make you feel?


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Say What?


One of the perks of growing old is that the hearing starts to fade.  For those of us who went to Jethro Tull and Doobie Brothers concerts, the fading started right after the show.  I consider hearing loss a benefit for a number of reasons, but to preserve my health I won’t mention anything about not listening when my wife asks me to do something.  My sweet, darling spouse knows just the right frequency to get all my attention.  I knew before I said anything that a hole was being dug under me, but I’ll quickly change the subject before I get in over my head.

I really enjoy the things that I think people say to me, like “Did Jews take the Crash Cart?” for “Did you take the trash out” and “Get Nut Logs, Dip and Guns” for “Get hot dogs, chips and buns.” I’ve got enough wrong stuff to open an Emporium. If I don’t ask the speaker to clarify what they just said, I’m usually stuck with the weirdest images in my head. Great fodder for a writer, I must say. At a recent party I overheard the following conversation:

“How’s your poo today?”

“I stink; I might be hunting clowns with a cold butt in a snot bag.”

“Don’t sweat two ghosts to pee! Bats the past swing in seed!”

“Pit juice the nipples. Sit tight elven bean calories.”

“Do you shave a cat? Hive pot a bearable cat Mallory.”

“No, hunt my saber juice mopped fun.”

I tell you, I could listen to that kind of stuff all day.

If I’m in a setting where there are a lot of people talking at once, like parties, waiting rooms, grocery stores and such, I usually hear nothing but babble. By the way, I can speak babble in twenty six languages. Writing babble, however, requires extra doses of a couple of my medications. If I concentrate on what one person is saying in a crowd, and can see their lips moving, I can generally understand most of what they are saying, unless it’s in Farsi. I have trouble lip reading Farsi.  Most of the times, however, I just like to hang out and let the murmuring wash over me like nippled pit juice.

In 1978, while driving a taxi in Decatur, Alabama, a drunk guy in the back seat once fired two rounds from a .357 through my windshield. Seriously. The story is far too detailed to put in this article, but the bottom line is that the sound popped my eardrums like champagne corks on New Year’s Eve. Since  then I’ve had a hate-hate relationship with loud noises. If the dog barks next to my head or someone claps their hands near me, I suddenly get this really loud high-pitched sound that sends knitting needles through my brain. People say I look like Pinhead from Hellraiser. My wife likes to hang laundry on them. I like to blame my hearing loss on that incident, even though I know it was probably Queensryche and Metallica. Such sweet, painful memories! I could have an entire wing in my Emporium just for knitting needles.

Hearing loss is inevitable, but with a little imagination and a sense of humor, you can turn it into a constant adventure. Go to an ice cream store and hear the cute little worker ask, cone in hand, “Cow plenty poops?” The next time you check out at the grocery store, the cashier will probably ask “Did supine every fling Yuma booking floor?” Imagine the fun you’ll have when your spouse wants you to do the dishes. You can smile and say “I fed the fishes this morning, thank you.”  And don’t forget to turn the volume way up on the TV, unless you enjoy listening to Farsi.

by Jay T Harding


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Tool Tips


I try to come up with one profound thought a day.  Usually it smacks me upside the head like a carp, but sometimes I smack the thought.  Like a man.  A confident, manly man.  Today the thought got to me first, and I’ll share it with you as I wipe the scales off my face:  Pistol-whipping is nothing more than using a tool in a way it wasn’t intended.  This profundity assaulted me as I heard a news report on the radio about a seventeen year-old girl who pistol-whipped her mother into buying her a car.  According to the reporter, the mother refused to file charges because her daughter was being considered for entrance into a number of Ivy League schools, and she didn’t want to sully the girl’s chances.  In addition to being hammered by an insightful revelation, I was left with a number of questions that burned my consciousness.  My first question was: Why, of all fish, a carp?  I suppose it’s better than getting beat up by a tuna.

What in Samantha’s Hell is this world coming to when a teenager doesn’t know a pistol from a blackjack?  That’s the problem with kids today.  They go to hang a picture and can’t understand why their toenail clippers aren’t pushing the nail into the wall.  One of the important lessons my father taught me was to choose the right tool for the job.  He also told me that if I absolutely had to pick my nose, make sure no one witnesses it.  It’s important to use the right tool for the job even in this endeavor.  You won’t believe the idiots out there trying to prune their nostrils with scissors.

I can look into a guy’s toolbox and tell in an instant if he knows which end of the wrench to use.  This is not a veiled gay joke, either.  If I see pock marks on a screwdriver handle, either he’s grabbing the first thing he gets his hands on to pound a nail, or he’s got a teething puppy lurking about somewhere.  You could argue that this sort of fellow is merely utilizing good ole American ingenuity, but you would be flat wrong.  Ingenuity is turning a paper clip into an ear curette for removing unwanted wax buildup.  Ingenuity is going out and buying a Waterpik for the same reason.  Stupidity is shoving a flathead screwdriver in your ear when a Phillip’s head can do the job.

The only excuse for using a tool inappropriately is plain old ignorance.  Somebody’s daddy was taking a nap on the couch the day he was suppose to teach his little ones the First Law of Mechanics:  It is always easier to take something apart than putting it back together. While we’re at it, here’s the Second Law of Mechanics: If it jams, force it.  If it breaks, it needed replacing anyway.  Given those two laws, you have to know which tool will get the job done.  Of course, this assumes you have enough tools to make a choice.  Maslow said, “When your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.”  Every successful toolbox has at the bare minimum the following: a hammer; a bigger hammer; an even bigger hammer.  Everything else is gravy.  Just try using gravy as a tool.  I’m still trying to clean up the mess.

I know, it sounds like I contradicted everything I said about using the right tool for the right job.  Not really.  What’s a blackjack but a hammer covered in leather?  For that matter, what’s a screwdriver but a hammer with a flat or pointy end?  What’s a pistol but a hammer with a firing pin and some gunpowder?  Yes, my profound thought for the day has indeed blossomed into a practical point that has been driven successfully home:  Next time, do me a favor and use a minnow, ok?

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The OTHER Rumination (was: How to Speak English in Eleven Different Languages)


I’d like to share a disturbing trend that threatens to undermine the very fabric of our society.  A growing number of people are being afflicted with Rumination Syndrome, and to be honest with you, it’s making me sick to even think about it.  Rumination is the act of bringing food from the stomach back up into the mouth to rechew it.  Cows do it on a regular basis, and we all know it as ‘chewing their cud’.  How it got started in humans is still a mystery, but I would imagine somewhere in ancient history some guy got shitfaced and had to throw up in a public place but didn’t want anyone to know, so he vomited in his closed mouth, decided it wasn’t so bad and proceeded to gnaw on whatever it was some more before swallowing it again.  Disgusting, right?  Honestly, I’d rather do that on a regular basis than wait until it came out the other end.  But get this: a 17th century medical student said that ruminated food is “sweeter than honey and accompanied by a more delightful relish”.  I feel sorry for his wife.

I read that about 10% of institutionalized mental patients ruminate.  I would, too, if I had to eat the food they serve in those places.  If you think about it – and I know you’re thanking me right now for making you think about it at all – rumination can’t be good for the teeth, what with all the stomach acid rolling around in your mouth.  If you become one of the lucky few that develop a liking for re-eating your own partially digested food, you won’t have to worry about those pesky teeth for very long.  Stomach acid is stronger than Coca cola, and Coca cola is used by mechanics everywhere to wash excess acid off of batteries.  I guarantee that if you engage in tummy leftovers at least once a week, in six months you won’t have to worry about toothaches any more.

I never knew that rumination was something that was even remotely studied.  I always thought rumination was what happens in your head when you get an idea.  I mean, I’ve always known that most of us have in our life have had a stomach full of food and burped, only to have some of that pumpkin pie jump back into our mouth.  I’ve always called it ‘verping’.  In my vast experience on the subject, it never did taste any better the second time around.  Perhaps if I mix a few pieces of lettuce or a black olive with it, it might take the edge off.

The scientific paper that told me all about Rumination Syndrome states that there is a general lack of awareness of the condition by patients, doctors and the general public.  Wow.  That’s a shocker.  How often have you ever been to a fancy party and overheard someone talk about their rechewed steak?  That’s like saying there is a general lack of awareness of the amount of sweat that rolls off an illegal alien’s back as he crosses the desert. (For your information, it balances out to around two quarts, give or take half a pint depending if he travels at night)  Now that I’ve decided to expose the threat of Rumination Syndrome, those eggheads in their porcelain towers can’t complain that no one knows about it.  Now that I’ve brought this unsavory issue to light, the scientific community can begin doing studies to see just how widespread the problem is.  There will no doubt be obstacles in their way, though.  Who’s going to admit to blowing cookies in their mouth, chewing it up and swallowing it again?  Also, will the researchers require their test subjects to throw up and masticate their vomit before spitting it into a cup for analysis?

I just had a brilliant idea.  Let’s turn this lemon around and make lemonade out of it!  Here goes: If only one day a year everybody in the rich countries of the world ate a big meal, stuck their fingers down their throat and then ate their meal again before putting it in a Tupperware bowl, we could combine our resources and feed all the hungry people!  It would be the ultimate in recycling!  Ok, I need to stop right here so I can draft a letter to the U.N. and get the ball rolling on this revolutionary plan.  I could come up with a trademarked ‘Gagbag’ so the ‘haves’ could give to the ‘have nots’.  I’ll call it “Retching for the Wretched”.  Yes, we can turn Rumination Syndrome into a worldwide movement!  I wonder who from the Hollywood elite will be the first to hand over their Gagbag . . . oh, the future has suddenly turned bright!

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Morning Rituals


 I had planned on writing a stinging essay regarding one of the topical news items of the day, but evidently life had very different plans. You see, my typical day is heavily involved with certain rituals that, if interrupted, threaten to derail my fragile state of balance. This is how it goes:  I wake, drag our dog Birdie out of my side of the bed (yes, I usually have to sleep sideways at the foot of the bed) and take her out for her morning constitution. I learned long ago that if I waited to take her out until I had done MY morning constitution, she would not only relieved herself on and around the front door, she somehow would always manage to roll the cat Jack around in it against his will. So I always take Birdie out first and do the pee pee dance while she hunts for just the right spot to leave her leavings, but not before sniffing out the nocturnal wandering of all the other creatures in the neighborhood. Usually by the time Birdie is done, my bladder is about the size of Connecticut.

 So then I get dragged back into the house, except before I am allowed to visit the toilet both Birdie and Jack expect their good morning treats. How this ritual got started is kind of fuzzy; I think it had something to do with the threat of using my coffee in a way for which it was not intended.  After presenting them with the daily fatted calf I am free to tend to myself.  God help me if I don’t close the door all the way. If I’m doing the standing thing, Birdie thinks I’ve turned into a water fountain and… well, it’s not pretty. Jack’s been known to take photos, too, but I have no idea how he manages to get them on Facebook. Thank goodness he doesn’t tag me. Hold on, I’m not done. If I’m doing (double entendre, fyi) a sit down job in the bathroom, the cat and dog play paper rock scissors to see who sits in my lap. A claw-bearing animal next to my legacy is not conducive to the relaxation needed to doo what I have to do. Thank goodness for inner happy places.

After surviving that necessary part of the morning – having everyone’s pipes cleaned out – I move into the coffee slash Facebook phase of my morning. It is as it sounds, dear reader. Funny, but some of my best self-depreciating, ironic, pithy humor happens while I’m working on getting both eyes open. When I was a kid, my mom told me that coffee helps open your eyes in the morning. I tried it, but it burned the hell out of my eyes. I’ve since learned that coffee works better internally. Thank goodness for Wikipedia. So, every morning I sip java and scroll through the inner recesses of my Facebook friends. I’m really surprised I’m not schizophrenic.  This subject itself requires about forty seven more articles, but for the purpose of today’s rant, let’s just say I usually lose one to two hours of my life every morning browsing Facebook. Just like those alien abductees, to be exact.

I eventually rescue myself from Facebook’s addictive claws (just one more cute kitten video and I’ll be done) it’s time to wear the house animals out. My goal is to exhaust them to the point of near-comas so that I can crank out a couple of thousand words without having cat butt in my face and dog drool in my lap. So I go around the house gathering up every tennis ball I can find, no matter how ratty or deformed, and take my customary spot on the living room floor while Birdie runs in circles around me yapping in a tone that would make deaf people cringe. And then it begins. I throw a ball as hard as I can across the living room, through the dining room and into the kitchen, and Birdie gleefully chases after it. It is SOO fun watching her try to catch a tennis ball on a tile floor. Just like in the cartoons, seriously, with legs flailing about in fifteen different directions at once, her tail cartwheeling madly like a broken fan blade, sliding around like an ice skater on crack while trying to avoid slamming into cabinetry or butcher block table legs, her canine teeth snapping randomly in the air hoping the tennis ball lands near her snout. Don’t look at me that way. Birdie loves it! Sooner or later she snags the tennis ball and trounces back to me just in time for me to throw another one.  This continues until 1) Birdie collapses in tongue-dragging bliss, 2) the tennis balls become so slobbed up I can’t hold on to them anymore, or 3) I run screaming out of the house while discarding my clothing and climb the nearest tree. It’s always a toss-up as to which one will manifest first.

Once Birdie’s had her tennis ball fix, she lays sprawled on the floor, her panting sounding very much like one of those old steam engines trying to make it up a hill. I moved on to my Mister Kitty Jack. Compared to Birdie, he’s a piece of cake (light on the frosting, please). A little cat nip, a couple of lizards from the back yard and he’ll leave me alone for the rest of the morning. The only drawback is when he actually catches one of the lizards and plops it on my keyboard while I’m working. I’ve had lizards take over typing my articles before, and some of them aren’t half bad. They do tend to get a little too political for my taste, though.

NOW I can sit down and concentrate on writing. Unless the warden wants me to go to the grocery store. Or if the yard needs mowing. Or if the honey-do list is found (God knows I’ve tried hiding it). Or if Facebook starts calling my mind with its evil seduction. Or if the news channel is showing a high speed chase or murder trial. Or if the sun is out. Or if the sun isn’t out.

At this rate I may never be able to write again. And who put a drool-saturated tennis ball into my hard drive?

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Flight of Fancy, Redux


Last night while my wife and I were in bed waiting for the Sandman to beat us about the head, I asked, “What in the world should I write about tomorrow?”  Now, I’ve never had a shortage of things to opine about, and wasn’t out of ideas this time, but I was feeling particularly lazy and secretly wanted my wife to brainstorm a subject for me.  Well, as is usually the case with my wife, what I want and what I get are two different things, unless it’s my birthday in which case I can always count on my favorite meal of meatloaf, mashed potatoes and sweet peas.  Sometimes tradition can be wonderful.  But as I lay next to her waiting for a stream of great ideas to come gushing out of her mouth, she said, “Think of something.  You have a vivid imagination.”

If we had been playing chess, I would have been checkmated.  If we had been playing checkers she would have said “King me”.  If we had been playing Monopoly, I would have landed on her fully developed Boardwalk with only three dollars and a Baltic Avenue in my pocket.  You get the gist of what I’m implying here.  Instead of drawing on her vast reservoir of intriguing topics, she shifted the burden back on me.  I was stymied, and by that I mean this surprised me so much that the five hundred forty nine ideas I had in my noggin up and flew away, leaving my brain with nothing but a sink full of dishes and an overflowing garbage can.  Great.  Now I’m out of ideas AND out of dish soap and trash bags.  What’s that old saying?  When it rains it snores.

You see, I used to have a vivid imagination.  Ok, technically I still do, and it’s doing fine, thank-you-very-much, but for years I abused it and neglected it so much that I wouldn’t have been surprised if it packed up and found new digs.  I didn’t pay attention to it, didn’t become friends with it, and for awhile it got so bad I couldn’t feel or see it, which meant either my senses were aiding and abetting it, or it had finally jumped off the flat part of my medulla oblongata.  Now, as imaginations go, mine has a long and eventful history.  In my childhood it was my best friend.  It could turn a towel and pajamas into a superhero outfit, and then stuff my small world with high adventure.  It provided me hours and hours of fun with nothing more than Lincoln Logs or Hotwheels.  Of course, even back then my imagination had a dark side.  One time as I was drifting off to sleep I rolled over in bed and accidently hit a picture frame over the headboard.  It made a swishswishswish noise that sounded just like a monster sliding toward me, and I was so scared I couldn’t scream.  I mean, I opened my mouth almost as wide as my eyes in the dark and could only manage a squeak.  I’m sure if I had poop in me that night it would have tried running away.

My imagination went wild as I grew older, filling my head with fanciful ideas and getting me in more trouble that is legally allowed.  I tried harnessing it into the world of creative writing, but there always seemed to be a disconnect between my imagination and my hand.  That was when I began to learn that an imagination does not guarantee the birth of skill.  It wasn’t until I was introduced into the world of Dungeons and Dragons that I was finally able to harness my imagination, or so I thought.  It was like a match made in heaven, or in this instance, a match made in the Prime Material Plane.  I quickly memorized the rules, and within a year was a Dungeon Master extraordinaire.  My imagination was so vivid that it literally shined as I created worlds and populated them with all sorts of creatures (including the swishswishswish monster).  This forum gave me the practice I needed to sharpen my writing skills, so within a decade I became really good at cranking out fantasy adventures. 

Unfortunately, it wasn’t until I went to college some twenty years later and actually took a few hundred English classes that I realized I had been wasting my imagination on drivel for so long it had relegated itself to mere flights of fancy.  By the time I graduated, my imagination was hanging around a younger crowd, leaving me in the company of practicality and sobriety.  Oh, we still had a few good times, my imagination and me, but only when I could tie it down in one spot. 

Then on Saint Patrick’s Day 2010 God blessed me with a heart attack. Oh, no, it couldn’t be your garden variety kind of myocardial infarction, it had to do so much damage that my ticker runs at 30%, literally keeping me from working the rest of my life. As it turned out, that hammer was the best thing that ever happened to me, unless you count that time on Lake Ontario, but we won’t go there now. I had nothing left to do but write, and write I did because the muse moved in lock, stock and barrel (that barrel has the best tasting inspiration I’ve ever imbibed). The muse and I took my imagination hostage that following year and forced it to help me crank out two novels, but I still didn’t feel it had given me its best effort.  You see, even if you have a muse and imagination, your work will generally be steamed over crap as long as you don’t put your heart into it. After I finished “The Dreamweaver Archives” and “Oobers” my imagination became disgusted and ran away, and for awhile I thought I would have to fill out a missing noun report.  My muse was despondent.

Then, thanks to the wonders of the internet and Facebook (yay Facebook) I found my long-lost cousin from Iowa, Dana LisenBee. Let me tell you, if you could split a soul in two, he and I would be the halves. I love him in every way except sexual, and that’s only because he doesn’t comb his hair. Just kiddin’, cuz. Anyway, I knew that just having a connection with him was enough to woo my imagination back to stay. Have you ever known someone who makes you a better person just by being there? It’s absolutely poetic. So, once we got caught up on the however many years we hadn’t seen each other, we started talking story ideas. That’s when my imagination and my muse finally fell in love and started having babies, like short stories, sitcom pilots, TV drama specials, screenplays, commercials, you name it. All my cousin had to do was plant a seed, and it would grow into a full-fledged tree, right in the middle of my brain. The only thing I don’t like about that are the squirrels running around my head. What happened was, Dana showed me how to put a fire in my belly (jalapeño-style), how to knock down the ‘can’t-dos’ and ‘it’s-too-hard’, and set my feet on the path of true writing.

I let the muse and imagination team take me where I need to go, but I still have to do all the work. That’s ok, it’s better than being a road-kill scraper. Right now I’m using my inspiration to keep three and a half blogs going strong: Beast by the Horns (an all-out assault on progressivism and radical islam), Back of the Choir (notes on my spiritual journey) and Beans on the Grill (all the crazy stuff none of the other blogs want). The half blog is my home site at .  I really need to start a new blog, though. I’d call it “Great Advice My Wife Doesn’t Give Me”. At least that’s what my imagination’s telling me.

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On Finiteness


You may not know this, but we all have a finite number of times we can do anything. Take breathing for example. You inhale and exhale for years and years, hardly ever thinking about it until one day when you run out of breaths, and then you wished you could have conserved your breathing more when you were young.  Talk about getting out of breath. It’s this way with everything. Trust me.

When my sons began experimenting with touching themselves (I’m keeping it clean, folks, and if you know me you understand how difficult that can be), when they first discovered multiple uses for their skin flute, I tried to warn them by saying “You only have so many times you can do that, so use it wisely.”  Did they listen to their old man? I tried warning them. I now have a 27 year old son who cannot for the life of him choke his chicken any more. 

Some philosopher said “You cannot step in the same water twice.” I’ve been trying my whole life to prove him wrong, but I think I’ll have to give up one of these days, especially before my quota of stamping water runs out. That’s the whole thing about finiteness. The number of times we are allowed to do anything is usually different with each of us, but some things we only get once. Consider youth. One day, if you haven’t run out of days, you’ll look in the mirror and discover your youth has slipped out the back door with your teeth and hair. Happens to us all if we get old enough. Another thing we only get one of is virginity. Use it and you lose it, simple as that.  Now, don’t become hopeful that if you lose your virginity you can find it again. Some things stay lost.  You only get one phone call when you’re arrested, too. So if you’re considering a life of crime, make that one phone call count.

Face it, everything is finite. Even though some things seem to last forever, they really don’t. One of these days you’re going to listen to your favorite album for the umpteenth time, and something inside of you will start screaming “ENOUGH!” You only get to look at the moon so many times. I know this woman who ran out of moon sightings a couple of years ago. I can stand right next to her at night with the full moon so big you can see the man on the moon’s pimples, I can point it out to her and she’ll get this puzzled look on her face as she stares up to the sky and say “What moon? Where is it?”  Poor lady. There’s this fellow in Australia who ran out of blinks. I read that he has to manually open and close his eyelids with his fingers. Imagine what would happen if you use up all your bowel movements. You would only be good for a life in politics, then.

The reason why I’ve brought up this subject is so that you’ll realize how precious everything you do is. Be grateful when your bladder gets full and you’re able to relieve yourself. Rejoice every time you get your mail, because there are not too many things sadder than running out of it. Oh, you think you could do without junk mail? Run out of toilet paper and see how quickly you’ll miss that Fingerhut catalogue. Cherish the moments you get with your little ones, because one fine day you’ll realize the baby has turned into a demon-possessed teenager. Pray that your significant other uses up their farts. Be relieved that I’ve only got so many words on the subject, and I’m running out of them quickly. Most of all, be prudent in all that you do. You never know when your next breath will be your last. I just hope for your sake that your last breath doesn’t smell like a locker room.

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