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Friday, September 30, 2011

America getting too smart for its own good

My daughter, 11 and already beginning to sense fatherly failures, asked if I’d be teaching again this year. For three of the past four years I’ve taught creative non-fiction to graduate students at Point Park University in Pittsburgh.


No, I said. I’m done teaching.


“Did you get fired?”


No, it’s impossible to fire someone who doesn’t have a job.


“Why won’t you go back?”


They’re not interested in me. They said I’m no longer qualified.


“Too bad. I know you liked doing it.”


For a split second I thought about launching into a little parental dissertation about the importance of education, but my heart wasn’t in it.


And I don’t want to risk my daughter growing up over-educated like the rest of America.


New state regulations mean I have to on paper be at least be a smidgen smarter than the people I teach and that’s no longer possible.


I was an adjunct professor -- no salary, no benefits, no commitments. It’s the professional equivalent of a one-night stand. And I’m all for that.


The first day was always my favorite. I’d deliberately rush in to the first of 16 three-hour sessions 10 minutes late. Everyone was pissed.


Then looking frantic as a meth chef on deadline, I’d pull out a single sheet of paper and begin stammering: “When . . . I . . . heard . . . I’d . . . be . . . teaching . . . a . . . three ...”


Now imagine those excruciating pauses here: “When I heard I’d be teaching a three hour class I figured the only way I could talk that long for that duration was if I put . . . really . . . really . . . really . . . long . . . pauses . . . between . . . all . . . the . . . words.”


I had them by the end. They knew it was a joke.


My teaching was not. I earned uniformly good student evaluations and have maintained warm friendships with students who still seek my advice.


I think they liked my class because I’m an omnibus of their combined career dreams. Some of them dream of writing books. Some wonder what it would be like to dabble in tabloids. Some are ambitious to land bylines in prestigious magazines like Esquire, Sports Illustrated, Cooking Light, Men’s Health and Playboy.


I’ve done all that.


I loved college, but I’m confident I’d be the same writer I am today if I’d have skipped college and the subsequent student loan burdens and had instead sought a six-month internship under a crackerjack editor.


That was a recurring theme of mine made most emphatic in what I called my little-old-lady-in-the-woods postulate.


It’s about how while we’re engaged in lofty and theoretical discussions about writing, there’s a little old lady in the woods who just woke up today and decided she’s going to be a writer.


She never went to college, studied formal sentence structure or done much of anything but live her happy little life up there in the woods.


“This is the only calling where you don’t need any education. You can’t wake up tomorrow and say, gee, I think today I want to become a doctor, an engineer or even a school crossing guard. But anyone in the world with drive, a good story and a sharp pencil can tomorrow wake up and be a great author.


“Sucks, doesn’t it?”


I’m friends with many successful tradesmen. They repair roofs, unclog drains and fix your furnace when it fritzes.


They don’t talk about working. They work.


I’ve been encouraged to go back to school and earn another degree so I can resume teaching. Most of the people encouraging me to do so are the people who most benefit from all these people going back to school to earn more and more degrees.


They are academics. They think any problem can be solved through additional study.


On paper, America’s never been smarter. Everyone has a B.A., an M.A., an LL.D. or a Ph.Ds in sociology, poli sci or English lit. Many of them are doing honest work in places like Target and Lowes.


We do more thinking than doing and I’m thinking that’s a problem.


Pretty soon we’ll all be some sort of titular doctor fretting over coffee to one another about how there’s no one left who knows how to fix a busted fridge.


So, no, I’ll not incur $12,000 in debt to add another title indicating I know how to write.


If someone wants to see if I know how to write, I don’t show them a resume. I show them this blog.


It would require further study, but I wonder if this over-education is the root of Global Warming.


We’re all being burned out by too many degrees.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Happy Birthday Maj. Frank Burns! A holiday tradition


At Christmas, many newspapers are of the custom to re-publish verbatim the original Francis Pharcellus Church editorial, “Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus,” from the New York Sun in 1897.
It has become my custom to on this day to re-run verbatim my 2009 post celebrating the birthday of Maj. Frank Burns. He would have been 72 today.
I realize it’s kind of lazy, but I think I exhausted the topic last year and without the benefit of a spiritual seance will have nothing to add.
So here I re-run my salute to Frank Burns.
Later today or tomorrow I’ll come back with something fresh and relevant.
I’m thinking something about if dogs can be retarded!

Take the day off and do something incompetent and mean-spirited: It’s the 72nd birthday of Maj. Frank Burns!
Larry Linville, the man who crafted perhaps the most indelible character in American pop culture, was born on this day in 1939. The five-times married Linville, whose only other claim to fame was, coincidentally, a series of ill-fated romances aboard the fictional “Love Boat,” died April 10, 2000, at the age of 60.
But to me at least, ferret-faced Frank Burns will live forever.
It’s a measure of the esteem in which I hold Burns that when Matt Lauer saluted former Today Show colleague Bryant Gumbel on their shared birthday, I thought of calling up and demanding equal time for Burns.
M*A*S*H remains one of the most endlessly fascinating TV shows in history.No other show has ever ranged the gamut from fall down funny to train wreck terrible. From 1972 through 1983, the show was compelling, sometimes for all the wrong reasons.
Many argue on www.jumptheshark.com about when the show leaped the great white maneater.
Was it when Klinger stopped wearing dresses? When B.J. took over for the incomparable Trapper John? When the insufferable Sidney Friedman became a fixture? Or was it when Col. Blake’s plane nose-dived into the South China Sea, a riveting episode that to this day lands like a punch to the solar plexus.
The show took hits with all those dramatic transformations.
But nothing caused the essence of the original hilarious premise to leak out of the storied series like when they lost Frank Burns.
He was the moralizing prig who cheated on his wife. He was the flag-waving patriot who stole purple hearts from wounded soldiers for his own self-glorification. He was a bumbling doctor who kept getting promoted over worthier physicians.
I’ll never forget the episode when Radar was a budding writer doing an assignment about amusing anecdotes. Burns told a story about growing up in Indiana next door to a little wheel-chair bound boy named Timmy.
With evident glee, Frank tells of how Timmy was happily waving at the Burns family when he lost control of the chair. It plunged down the stairs, across the lawn and crashed the flailing invalid into the Burns family sedan.
He cackles witch-like through out the storytelling as B.J., Hawks and Radar listen in horror. When he concludes, B.J., the designated voice of conscience says, “That must have been awful!”
Frank says: “No, he just scratched the paint a little.”
Then he gets furious when the cheerful buddy-buddy reaction he’d sought results in scorn.
It’s brilliant. It combines a kind of malevolence and mean-spirited pettiness that used to unite the nation.
Today, all our bad guys divide us. You either love Barack Obama or hate him. Same goes for Sarah Palin.
Even deliberately cast evil doers like Montgomery Burns and Tony Soprano have their rooting sections.
That’s why we need more men like Frank Burns in our lives. We need people so bumbling and loathsome that the whole world can point our children to and say, “See that man in the white smock with the stethoscope. He’s pure evil. You don’t want to be grow up to be like him. He’s a mean, cheap and selfish stooge from whom no goodness results.”
So today, in honor of the great Frank Burns, I’m going to try and do something incompetent and mean-spirited.
Looking back over this incoherent blog post, I can surmise the incompetent part’s already taken care of.
Now, the hard part. Can I go against my gentle nature and do something deliberately mean-spirited?
I suppose while I’m thinking about it, I could call up Matt Lauer and demand he salute Frank Burns, too, instead of his suck-up buddy Gumbel, the egotisical poser who’s been on the fast track to Nowheresville since leaving the Today Show and whose head is becoming so big he ought to be called Giant Gumball.
Hmmm . . .
Maybe this mean-spirited bit won’t be so difficult after all.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Stink bug evolution anything but rosy



I wonder if I’m on the verge of becoming the Oskar Schindler of the stink bug. I realize the risky analogy is over-the-top, but I just don’t see anyone doing what I’m doing on behalf of the stink bug, which mostly involves resisting the urge to squash ‘em.


Maybe it’s because I feel a sort of kinship to the stink bug -- and talk about your risky analogies.


I think if people took the time to understand the stink bug, they might learn if it has anything to offer or maybe read its stink bug blog.


Of course, unlike me, the stink bug isn’t suffering from under-exposure.


No, stink bugs are like the U.S. Congress: high visibility, abysmal approval ratings.


Me, I’m fascinated. Eighteen months ago I’d never heard of stink bugs. Now they’re everywhere. I know it’s bound to sound redundant but dedicated Keystone State entomologists are bug-eyed over the repercussions.


As if dedicated entomologists can be anything but bug-eyed.


They say stink bugs were introduced to Pennsylvania -- “Stink bug, meet Pennsylvania!” -- in 1998. Like so many other crappy goods we purchase to our national detriment, the stink bug is a Chinese import.


They are a problem here and in 34 other states precisely because they do what are increasingly obese children do not: they eat fruits and vegetables.


They eat apples, pears, peaches, mulberries, etc. It’s been reported their healthy eating habits caused $37 million in damage to apple crops alone last year.


They don’t eat Big Macs, Whoppers, KFC Double Downs or -- and here’s a plus -- me or you.


There’s a lot to be said for that. I golfed the other day and was inundated by lousy black flies. They bit my exposed skin and did true nose dives into my nostrils.


They were terrible.


Tank-like stink bugs are much better company. They are very live-and-let-live.


The only time the stink bug offends non-farmers is if you kill it, an action which liberates its stinky soul to I guess rise up to heaven where I’m sure the chosen have been scrambling around for things like nose plugs and the heavenly suggestion box.


Sure it’s sort of creepy to have something so alien, so offensive and so potentially stinky in the house, but our children are all those things and we don’t suck them up with vacuum cleaner attachments.


It’s never been studied, but the stink bug may actually be the intellectual superior to the average kid. Think about it.


These are true in-sects, as opposed to the bugs that prefer nature (I’ve for years tried in vain to get people to call them “outsects”).


The stink bug spends its entire life trying to get into our homes.


Our children spend their childhood trying to get out of our homes. It is my understanding -- and personal history -- that this behavior lasts until we’re about 22 and decide to find homes of our own.


Then, and again this is just from my own experience, we return home for a six- year mooch until Mom refuses to do another load of laundry.


So there’s a reason why they’re not called stupid bugs.


Instead of killing stink bugs, we ought to appeal to their apparent intellects and train the ones that invade our homes to eat our unhealthy leftovers.


That way, like us, they might die of massive heart attacks, which I would guess would keep their stink intact.


Being a clear-eyed visionary in every regard except where it comes to my own income, I wonder about the evolutionary future of the stink bug.


The world climate is changing rapidly and I’m concerned the sudden rapid rise of the heretofore unknown stink bug might be a portent of future change.


Forget Global Warming. Could the world be on the verge of Global Stinking?


That could be catastrophic. It could lead to social upheaval. Civilization could plunge into reeking chaos.


That would really, really . . .


Dang . . . what’s the word I’m looking for?


Suck?


In a rare display of remarkable consistency, Friday will be exactly one year from when I wrote my first loving ode to the beleaguered stink bug. I may flip-flop on any number of issues, but I’m steady on stink bugs. Check it out if you haven’t gotten your daily fill of stink bugs already.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Custer's Last Penis



The topic of General George Armstrong Custer’s penis has been on my mind for several months now. Please don’t take that literally and get that awful image out of your head this instant.

I’ll not change my profile picture to accommodate your lurid imagination.

It’s been there since about March when I finished Nathaniel Philbrick’s “The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull & The Battle of Little Big Horn.”

I’ve been reluctant to address it -- the topic, not the penis -- for several reasons. First, it’s just so unseemly, as patient readers are about to learn.

Second, I know the instant I type “general custer’s penis” into a subject line it may awaken a sleeping automatonic army of Custer devotees who stir when the computer pings over that very subject.

They’re probably all very pleasant and informed people. Certainly, they’re history buffs like myself and we’d no doubt find much agreeable ground to discuss.

But the mutilated penis of a historically inept general is an unsound basis for lasting friendship. I’d much rather engage someone over, say, a shared fondness of Mark Knopfler music.

I tackle the topic now because a part of me that is very dear made what very well could be its last stand three weeks ago.

I am, of course, talking about my hair.

I’ve had long, luscious hair several times in my adult days and it’s always controversial. My many redneck friends, several of them former servicemen, stereotypically tease I’m some sort of sissy.

One joked it looked like I’d enlisted. Really, I asked? What century?

Because the second most enduring memory of the Custer era has to do with military hair. It was everywhere.

It cascaded down their shoulders. It spilled over their lips, cheeks and chins.

It was mostly that way with the mustachioed Custer, too, in 1876, the year he met his doom. Yes, one of America’s most famous and beloved generals could have time traveled a century hence and fit right in on stage with the Village People.

So when did short hair become so synonymous with our servicemen?

The most obvious answer is when the military became more mechanized. Perhaps some long-locked solider got his curls twisted in a Gatling gun. Or maybe it was for sanitary purposes, short hair giving crafty head lice fewer places to hide.

Either way, it’s a pity. Some of the greatest fighting men in literature and history -- Zeus, Samson, Robert the Bruce -- had long hair.

In fact, all the braves who slew Custer at Little Big Horn had what could be called Cher hair.

Yet, these long hairs were often virile and lady-loving men. Take Custer nemesis, Capt. Frederick Benteen, not to be confused with Capt. Benteen from the outstanding 1963 “Twilight Zone” episode, “On Thursday We Leave for Home.”

This Capt. Benteen was a warrior with an artistic bent. From Philbrick’s book: “He loved his wife, Frabbie, intensely and passionately (he sometimes decorated his letters to her with anatomically precise drawings of his erect penis).”

So primitive sexting pre-dated the smart phone by nearly 130 years.

Philbrick is even more emphatic when detailing Custer’s lusts. It turns out the man whose name is most synonymous with American military catastrophe was a serial rapist who repeatedly violated Indian women as the spoils of war.

One of the last quotes attributed to him in the book deals not with military strategy, but of sexual violence: “When we get to the village I’m going to find the Sioux girl with the most elk teeth on her dress and take her along with me!”

The reference goes unexplained, but I’ll bet elk teeth dresses aren’t synonymous with a squaw’s ability prepare a tasty meal.

His reputation for wanton massacre, treaty violation and rape was so renown that two Cheyenne women pierced the ear drums of his lifeless body with long sewing awls in the hopes he’d hear better in the afterlife. How thoughtful.

What I’d never heard before -- and can now never forget -- is those same women jammed an arrow up the general’s penis. The afterlife lesson they were trying to impart there eludes me.

So what are we to make of this man once so beloved by his contemporaries and today reviled by those of us who abhor war crimes and injustice? What would we say to his spirit?

I do not know. All I know is we’ll have plenty of time to decide.

We’re bound to see Custer coming from a mile away.


Related . . .







Sunday, September 25, 2011

September Tweet round-up

I’m closing in on my 1,000th tweet and 100th follower at 8days2amish. I guess if Twitter had a Mendoza line like baseball does for barely acceptable incompetence, I’d be far below it.


I don’t care. I don’t expect much from Twitter. I don’t use it to inform people I’m going camping or, yikes, the car payment’s due.


I’ve always said it’s a farm team for lines that may or may not one day turn into blog items. And that’s where my focus is. I’m blogging about five days a week now and the effort seems to be paying off.


My numbers in just the last two months are way up. If you’re reading and referring, thanks so much.


I think it’s a sign of blog competence that I only do a twitter round-up once a month and haven’t done one in six weeks.


So today’s full of leisure fun, not the least of which involve’s Josie’s 11th birthday. Hooray for Josie!


May each of you have a fun and soulful Sunday.


Here’s some of my favorite tweets from the past month.


• A Sunday win-win: NFL’s back, Brett Favre isn’t.


• My daughter collapses in disbelieving hysterics when I tell her there's a man whose name's pronounced Dick ButtKiss and no one makes fun.


• I'd love to hear Nat X's conspiracy theory about why MLK statue had to be made from white marble.


• Molar, bicuspid and uvula are all words of mouth.


• It's a mystery why anyone would opt for Oreos over Double Stuffed Oreos. It'd be like choosing to watch a skit featuring The Two Stooges.


• National unity will ensue when states reconfigure awkward borders so all are either square, circular, etc.: The United Shapes of America!


• Actual score from Week 1 of western Pennsylvania high school football: Mars 26, Moon 8. Team transport costs must be truly astronomical.


• Even cheerful foot doctors are occupationally bound to be a little calloused.


• I'm convinced the first thing to go is the inability to resist saying, "The first thing to go . . .”


• If guns are such a benefit to society, how come there are metal detectors outside the doors to the public at the U.S. Capitol?


• Centers for Disease Control says people touch their own faces 500 times a day. Says its unsanitary. What about how much butt we all kiss?


• Biden gives a helluva speech but I always get the feeling he leaves the stage and right away asks someone to pull his finger.


• Sex change ala Chaz Bono becoming common. Future surgeries will allow for species changes. Unhappy humans can become cats, parrots, etc.


• Why does the party that's institutionally opposed to evolution always rely on Darwinism when it comes to dealing with society's neediest?


• I am fearful the world could one day run out of water, but I can't imagine the world ever running out of beer. It helps me carry on.


• Only a mental midget would ever give a damn if Jimmy cracked corn.


• In terms of raw impact, succinctness and message mission, history's greatest poem may be "Be kind, Rewind." Even Shakespeare can't touch it


• Bi-partisan idea for deficit-busting Buffett tax: $100 surcharge on anyone who's ever heard badly singing "Margaritaville" in public. And that includes Jimmy.


• At what stage of hillbilly puberty does Manfred stop being Boyfred?


• If book allegations are true that Palin had random sex, smoked dope, snorted cocaine then she's more "real American" than I thought.


• Trout being scooped into the net await whatever's to happen next with baited breath.


• Am I sorry Kate Gosselin won't be around as much to ask and answer her own questions? I am not.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Mom's making crazy contagious by a nose

If you think by writing about personal issues involving personal tissues twice in three days I’m developing an unhealthy obsession, you are correct.


But like a bad cold, it’s something I can’t shake.


Oh, how I only wish it were a common cold. At least then I’d know where to go.


Straight to Mom’s Kleenex castle.


When well meaning people ask me how she’s doing these days I usually just say she’s doing her best to make crazy contagious.


It’s working with me, at least.


Call it dementia or early Alzheimer’s onset. I call it crazy. And it is indeed viral.


The trigger with me is Kleenex. She says she needs three boxes a week.


She lives at her condominium home mostly with my dear second cousin, a 22-year-old godsend who’s staying with Mom while she’s looking for work.


I say selfless prayers that Trump hires this sweet, energetic girl -- the day after Mom’s funeral.


And just when will that be? God only knows.


I suppose my PC answer sure to please the never-say-die Terri Schiavo crowd is, “And I hope that won’t be for many, many years!”


Instead, I’ll offer a black humor example from my own mother who seeded any wit imbued in my life. I’ve never written about this stuff before.


She was saddled with caring for her father for three years until his 2009 death at the age of 97. Unlike her, his mind was firecracker crisp right up until the bitter end.


I remember asking him once if he ever feared death. He pounded the steering wheel (he was cleared to drive until 93) and said, “Hell, no! I pray every night it’s my last. My body’s broken down, I’ve buried all my friends. I’m sick of living.”


A pity it was. He still had 11 years to go.


About eight months before he died, he told my mother, “You know if it wasn’t such a disgrace to the family, I’d --” he made a slashing motion with his right index finger across his left wrist.


Mom with a straight face said, “I wouldn’t be ashamed.”


It was hilarious, only slightly less so when three months later he locked the bathroom door, climbed in the tub and made a slashing motion across his left wrist with something sharper than his right index finger.


To his furious shame, he survived. I remember picking him up from the emergency room -- as per stipulations in his living will, they didn’t even stitch him up -- and helping him into the car.


I asked if he was going to put his seatbelt on.


“Ha, ha,” was his sarcastic reply.


One more story from that indelible day. Famished and overwrought, I went out for some sushi for Mom and me. We ate it bedside as Papa lay there weak and mortally embarrassed.


The sight of an unusual food perked him up. What is that, he asked.


It’s sushi.


“Let me try a bite of that.”


I don’t know what I was hoping would happen. I guess I thought it would be cool if he’d spring out of bed and exalt, “Now, thanks to sushi, I have something to live for!”


Those hopes were dashed when I asked what he thought.


“I wouldn’t hit a dog in the ass with it.”


So there’s a strain of gallows humor in our family. I wonder if I’ll have enough of it to get me through.


I wonder if I’ll have enough Kleenex. I doubt it. She needs Kleenex the way fish need water.


As previously mentioned, she lives alone, has only one nose and there’s no evidence she’s decorating a parade float in her apartment.


Yet, she maintains she needs three boxes a week. So Kleenex has become our tissue-thin mother/son flashpoint.


“I need a lot of Kleenex! I have a big nose and it’s always running!”


Gold medal Kenyan marathoners don’t run as much.


So in a fit of childish pique, I raced to the grocery store and purchased $17.35 worth of Kleenex; nine boxes, 1,458 individual tissues.


It’s a good thing one of my best traits is self-forgiveness because I’m ashamed of what I did next.


I stacked the boxes in a little tissue pyramid on her dining room table and said, there, now you have three months supply. That gives you 16 per day.


Yes, I even did all the lousy math.


Happily, she laughed at me and my absurdity.


She’s always fretted her nose is her most dominant feature. She's way off.


Her warm smile’s always been her most dominant feature.


She’s my honky-honk woman.


She blows her nose. She blows my mind.


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Don't ever say don't ever change

I sent in my $60 high school reunion registration fee and in 23 days will show up with multiple scores to settle.


I’ve for 30 years bore a grudge against the people who were once my very best friends, the ones who taught me all I know about laughter and friendship.


Today I resent them.


Why?


I’m the guy who never changed.


It’s scribbled in there all over my 1981 Mt. Lebanon (Pa.) High School yearbook: “Don’t ever change!”


Well, by God, I didn’t. And it’s been my ruin.


The high school reunion is a pivotal take-stock milestone. We look at our hairlines, our wrinkles, our midriffs and we time travel back to when we were all trim, beautiful and bubbling with enthusiasm about our rosy futures.


And, inevitably, we look at who we were and what we’ve become.


Today some of us are respected bankers, prestigious attorneys and celebrated educators.


People will embarrass these accomplished classmates by saying, “Tom! I remember you with that bowl haircut and those dorky glasses. And now look at you! Handsome in a tailored suit. I can hardly believe you’re the same guy who spent his whole junior year with his finger jammed up his nose!”


Tom will show he’s matured in other ways too by refraining from punching the uncouth lout in the kisser like he’ll surely deserve.


I confess I’m feeling a little anxious about attending. Not because I’ve become some sort of disgrace or have let myself really go to hell. No, my anxieties are symptomatic of my whole affliction.


I still get nervous around grown-ups.


I’ll hear some of them expertly conversing about the global economic upheavals, about college endowments and ground-breaking pharmaceuticals they’re helping to market.


Overhearing any of these cerebral discussions will be to drive me to the distant wall (the one nearest the bar).


Just like high school, I’ll be the guy in the back of the class giggling at all the fart jokes.


Is that anyway to go through life?


It began to dawn on me that I’ve never changed when a good friend’s mother told me her son had told her I’d never changed.


And I haven’t.


In many ways, my job description is exactly the same as it was when I was a paperboy and was paid to deliver stories.


The real shame is my income is roughly equivalent to what it was when I was a paperboy, too.


Informing people what I do for a living is always tricky for me. It often changes from week to week.


Some weeks I’m a bona fide author. That’s when I’m pitching book proposals and having discussions with editors and agents about the viability of my latest pipe dream.


Next week I’ll be a magazine writer again. I’ll be interviewing Arnold Palmer for about the 50th time. That tends to impress so I may go with that. Being quasi buddy-buddy with AP is one of the coolest things that’s happened to me since graduation.


Travel writer works, too. I’m doing two or three travel stories a week for msnbc.com and that sounds like a real job, even when most of the stories can be done by phone.


I hope to God I don’t blurt out “Blog!” when someone asks me what I do. I probably feel more like a professional blogger than anything else these days but everyone knows blogging doesn’t pay squat so they’ll burst out laughing and continue to laugh until they decide it’s time to give me a wedgie.


And, boy, will that take me back.


So how’ve I changed since high school? I weigh about 30 pounds more than I used to, am more hairy in some places and less hairy in others, and I don’t need to ask anyone if I can have the car on Friday night.


And I drink on school nights without having to produce a fake ID.


What happened?


I never changed. I remember being very happy in high school so it seemed like good advice.


In so many ways I guess I’m still a pretty happy little kid. And there’s a lot to be said for going through life happy as a high schooler.


If your old classmates were signing your year book today, would they urge you to remain the same or would they write, “Change! Now! Please!”


If it's the latter, come see me.


We should talk.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Poo Pooing too much TP

I always feel as conspicuous buying toilet paper as I do buying porn.


I feel shame. I don’t want people to see me. I think people will think less of me for knowing I use the stuff.


This makes zero sense because I have no such prim inhibitions about people watching me eat.


And if I’m going to do one, I’m going to do the other. Rather, if I’m going to do one, I’m going to do No. 2.


I bring all this up because I just spent what I guess we can go ahead and call -- forgive the inevitable vulgarity -- a shitload of money on a mattress-sized raft of industrial strength toilet paper.


It’s was $12.78 for the Charmin Ultra Strength MegaRoll 9-pack. That’s 352 2-ply sheets per roll or 375.7 square feet of TP.


The package specs makes it seem sturdy and voluminous enough to construct a big top circus tent. It makes flushable toilet paper sound more durable than steel wool.


Coincidence alert! I’m writing about TP while I’m listening to TP. By perhaps subliminal determination I included the 1981 Tom Petty album, “Hard Promises” in a playlist that includes Dire Straits’ “Making Movies,” and Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.” Sorry you can’t be here. I’m having fun.


It would have been freaky if I’d have selected an album by the old punk band, the Butt Hole Surfers. They were, ahem, a cheeky bunch.


Anyway, I get home -- thought I’d have to bungie strap the purchase to the roof of my Saturn -- and discover Val had bought the same thing. Twice!


She’s a coupon clipper and found a great deal on toilet paper.


And now we may be the first family who has toilet paper both out and up the ol’ wazoo.


The surfeit of toilet paper has me thinking of despotic North Korean ruler Kim Jung Il. Or should that be des-potty-ic?


Official North Korean history books declare his body so evolved it produces neither urine nor feces.


That’s certainly a pity. You’d think the sprinkled tinkle from a body so divine would be nourishing enough to feed the millions who’ve starved to death under his tyrannical rule.


It may be the lone evidence of humanitarian concern from him that all his palaces include dozens of toilets. How thoughtful.


He’s not at all like my mother. Because I’m obliged to shop for her and attend doctor visits, I’ve become grimly familiar with the natural bodily functions of this woman I always considered too pure to have even engaged in sex.


Well, maybe once or twice.


It might be entertaining to post a YouTube video of someone like me sitting there wincing every time the doctor casually asks his 78-year-old mother, “So, Rachel, how are your bowels these days?”


Her big thing is Kleenex. She can’t get enough of it.


I go to the store about once a week for her and she always insists I bring home three new jumbo boxes of Kleenex. She lives all alone, has only one nose, and there’s no evidence she’s decorating a parade float.


I once gently asked, Mom, are you sure you need three?


The impudence nearly made her head explode, which I guess would have required a cleanup involving nearly 300 boxes.


I lavish her with rolls of toilet paper and she’s unmoved by the gesture.


I try and be the good son. I try and not get upset with her.


It’s not easy, as many of you sadly sympathize.


I know I’ll again run out of patience and will again feel sad at my human shortcomings.


I wish I could convert all this toilet paper into patience. Then I’d be on a real roll.