Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Words & how the dildo got stuck in my head

I’m uncertain how I got the dildo stuck in my head, but I can assure you it didn’t enter through one of my ears. Heck, I know better to shove a cotton-tipped swab in there let alone a big honking dildo.

Blame the Oxford English Dictionary. That’s up in my head, too, and it’s way, way bigger (135 pounds) than your common love toy.

See, I’m a word guy. Words fascinate me. I enjoy knowing where they came from and when they reached the point of critical mass and someone decided, well, enough people are using this word so we ought to explain it and stick it in a dictionary. 

The word “dictionary,” by the way, dates back to 1480 and means, “A book which explains or translates, usually in alphabetical order, the words of a language or languages, giving for each word its typical spelling and usage.”

A little verbose, isn’t it? But who can blame the dictionary for being, well, wordy.

Here’s another quibble: I contend if dictionary publishers were serious about their mission they’d call dictionaries, “definitionaries.”

But I still love them in spite of their occasional incompetence.

I mean, who am I to cast stones in that realm?

Anyhoo, I keep two of ‘em on my desk, a 150,000-word hard cover American Heritage, and a duct-taped paperback (75,000) I’ve held in my hands nearly once a week since 1979.

Guess what: They’re still not enough.

I need more. Bigger. Enhanced girth.

And, yes, we’re still talking dictionaries. We’ll get to the dildos.

But for true word sleuths, there’s nothing like the OED. It has the definitions of 600,000 words. My ardor for it is so all encompassing that one of my failed years — and I’m about oh-fer-25 in that regard — was devoted to trying to create a word and whoring it out so compellingly that word would earn OED recognition in record time.

At the time I was seized by the idea that the only thing easier than writing one book a year was writing just one word. And, yes, to emphasize my fecklessness, I even wrote a book proposal about my word: “Zeitgust! How Words Become Words & a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Dash at Dictionary Recognition.”

“Zeitgust! A contrived and deliberate act of trying to mass manipulate popular culture to an individual whim.”

So how come I have dildo on the brain?

Blame Jason Priestly. I saw the old “Beverly Hills 90210” actor making the rounds and instantly thought, “Dildo!”

Not prick, cock, pecker, wang, dork or dong.

Just “Dildo!”

Priestly starred in a well-crafted SNL skit, “The Life and Times of Johnny Hildo” from ’92 (cast: Hartman, Rock, Spade, Myers. Wow). The premise was Priestly was Hildo who in three acts is ridiculed for having a name that sounds like dildo.

Classmates, perspective dates, professors all thoughtlessly call Hildo, Dildo until he blows up: “It’s Hildo, damnit! Hildo!”

The shot cuts to a mock newspaper picture of Hildo under the headline, “Crazed Dildo Kills 7!”

He’s then shown being marched into a cell where he’s greeted by cell mate Kevin Nealon who extends a hand in friendship: “Hi Hildo. Nice to meet you.” Hildo is floored. Did someone just call him Hildo?”

“That’s your name, isn’t it,” says Nealon, who completes the introduction by saying, “My name is Larry …”
“Larry Bagina.”

And that’s why the sight of Priestly sent me scrambling for the on-line dictionary.

I had to know: how old is dildo?

Dildo is 421 years old!

This is bound to sound sexist, but I’d have thought the women folk in 1598 would have been too busy cooking for the men, cleaning for men and laying down on the straw for the 0.08 seconds it took to satisfy men. Too busy to enjoy what I’ve heard referred to as the external hard drive.

The idea that anyone back then had time for recreational sex while I guess there were still one or two dinosaurs roaming the neighborhood seems preposterous.

Who knew sex was fun before the 1960s?

Oh, and did you know the band Steely Dan took its name from a strap-on dildo in the William S. Burroughs book “Naked Lunch?”

Sorry for all these silly diversions. But once I get going about word origins I’m apt to get off on tangents.

And what story about dildos would be complete without a little getting off?

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July Tweets of the Month

These tweets are from 8Days2Amish. For those who prefer longer form posts, check back around noon today when I’ll post something meatier. It’s about dildos. 

• It says something wonderful about simple human decency that ever since word got 'round I have an incurable disease more people have told me I look great than ever told me back when, gee, I really looked great.

• Being responsible for transporting the graduation cake from the baker to the pavilion is like being responsible for transporting the baby but without the baby seat.

• You can gauge the true happiness of any person or family by the amount of time it takes for the smile to leave their faces after the picture's been taken.

• I predict the next big body alteration movement will be the detachable nipple, so urged by the fashion industry for a sleeker bosom. Think people panic over a lost contact lens? You wait.

• I wonder if fruit flies ever tire of their holier-than-thou diet one day and just say, "Screw it. Tonight I'm having cheeseburger!”

• Megan Rapinoe says #USWomensSoccerTeam victory has team "on Cloud 9." She's mistaken. On-going gender equality issues mean they're only on Cloud 5.

• Bible makes clear God has blessed man with the gift of free will. Show of hands: who follows the news and wishes He would become just a bit more of a control freak?

• Some believe I'm motivated to get out of all work by sheer laziness. Wrong. I labor to get out of all stupid work by what I call strategic laziness. It's not as easy as it looks. Ironically, avoiding hard work is hard work.

• There must be a baker's equivalent to "piece of cake" that is not "piece of cake." Because if a baker says something is going to be a piece of cake and shows up with a pie instead he could be accused of loafing -- and don't get me started on bakers who loaf.

• Do us all a favor: Next time anyone asks how you're doing, don't say, "Busy!" We're all busy and saying so only reinforces the mistaken belief that there is something wrong with having nothing to do. Instead say you're happy or hopeful. Or better still, say you're horny!

• Man, the only animal to spend 80 percent of its time either seated or laying down, is also the only animal to spend billions on footwear.

• I enjoy looking at pictures from old high school year books and trying to guess which students are aliens and which are human. Usually in cases like this, my guess is they're all the former.

• Devoted linguists who spend an inordinate amount of time studying obscure dialects forgotten by all but the most arcane scholars are Accent-rics.

• This is the season when warm temperatures confuse people into thinking we should be doing everything outside. Let me remind you that very little has changed since the age of the cavemen. Outside is the reason man invented inside.

• I’ll bet there are many days each week when Dick Cheney wakes up and is stunned to realize he is no longer President of the United States.

• The next breakthrough in the battle against climate change will result when some genius discovers a way to convert all our fake laughter into clean renewable energy.

• Chicken wings are among our most ubiquitous meals, yet in all my life I've never seen a single airborne chicken. Question: How different will our urban landscapes become when our nation's menus begin including pigeon wings?

• Dictionary definition of dictionary is “A book which explains or translates, usually in alphabetical order, the words of a language or languages, giving for each word its typical spelling and usage.” A bit verbose, isn’t it? Guess I can't blame the dictionary for being, well, wordy.

• We somehow wind up missing so much whenever we always end up going exactly where we think we need to go.

• Unlike here on Earth, I hope in heaven -- fingers crossed -- I become blessed with the ability to fix things. But I worry in heaven nothing'll ever break and my feelings of uselessness will persist.

• There ought to be a game show where top rock stars are quizzed on things like who can say things like, "Are you ready to rock!" in the most foreign languages.

• The deep, soulful satisfaction I get from squashing a common house fly with a lightning-like bare-handed swat  has me re-thinking my native pacifisms.

• Freedom (pronounced FREE-dumb) isn't free. And dumb can be pretty pricey, too.

• People who say Jerry Falwell Jr. sold his soul to support Trump have it all wrong. Conservative Christians who at face value support Trump have no souls.

• I appreciate the wisdom of the Bible verse that advises we love our neighbors as we love ourselves. But speaking for narcissists everywhere, the premise is just preposterous.

• When you're in worship and the preacher begins telling stories of notable Bible figures, do you in your mind picture them as having perfect teeth? That's probably unrealistic. Question: Could you follow The Savior if He had real Billy Bob teeth?

• A game show where contestants had to pick between Mr. Keith impostors and the real deal might be popular: "Toby or Not Toby: That Is the Question!”

• Looking in the mirror when you wake up can ruin your psyche for the whole day. Me, I try not to look until I've had at least three beers.

• I agree with the shrill MAGA voices who say in America today minorities need to “know their place.” Well, my dark-skinned brothers and sisters, your place is right beside me. Unfortunately for both of us, we’re both way back in line behind a bunch of much richer white guys.

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Tuesday, July 23, 2019

My Tin Lizzy ghost story

I’m often asked if I think the Tin Lizzy is haunted and my answer’s always been what you might call ghostly equivocation.

I said I was the kind of guy who didn’t believe in ghosts, but felt too spooked to be in the old building after dark and all alone.

Last week, my answer changed.

I still can’t say I’ve seen a ghost, but I can now honestly say I think I felt one.

Or one felt me.

I felt something firmly slap me twice on the shoulder. I was the only soul on the whole 2nd and 3rd floor. Or maybe soul is the wrong word.

A little background: Whether it’s age, medication, occupational anxiety, too much booze or not enough, my sleep pattern has for two years now been shot to hell. I fall asleep most every night at 11 p.m. and wake up like clockwork about four hours later.

Then I read, check out the web, do a crossword puzzle and distractedly wonder if browsing the porno sites would relax me or lead to a whole host of other recreational problems.

Then about 4:30, I roll back into bed for another 90 or so minutes of fitful dozing.

The upshot is I spend my days in a zombie-like state.

One remedy is the office cat nap. I put the ringer on silent, set the alarm clock for 30 minutes and put my feet up. 

It’s more like quiet time. True sleep is impossible. 

Beer trucks idle, sirens wail and Buck, the building owner since 1982, is always              barging into my office to challenge me to a swearing contest. He recently read the “In praise of profanity” link below and now feels liberated to cuss all he wants, which is mostly at me.

And although he’s not my boss, I know he’d find a colorful way to swear at me for snoozing and for reasons I cannot fathom I’d rather Buck call me a c—-s——-g m———f——- than a sleepy one.

He doesn’t believe in ghosts, but welcomes the squads of ghostbusters who come to the bar to investigate and get drunk.

“I think they’re just looking for an excuse to get out of the house,” he says.

I get that. I used to tell my wife I was in a dart league.

The building’s roster of alleged ghosts in led by The Girl in the Red Dress, who once appeared so vividly a second floor bartender skedaddled and hasn’t been seen since. 

I don’t understand the spectral obsession with clothes. If I ever get to ghost, I’ll be known as “Chris The Pantsless Ghost.”

I was telling this yesterday afternoon to Laurie Mcginniss, owner of Second Chapter books in Ligonier, one of my very favorite places to buy and sell books. She was here with her friends, sisters Tessa and Mary Kay, and they stopped up for a friendly howdy.

Tessa said she could tell she was in the presence of strong spiritual activity. 

I guess she was only being polite by not saying she could tell she was in the presence of a blogger who spends more than he earns.

I told them about my encounter. 

“It was firm, but not aggressive,” I said. “It woke me up. I wasn’t scared. I didn’t imagine it. I thought maybe it was warning me to be alert to something, to keep watch. But all that happened was I got annoyed.”

Tessa then surprised me with her take. Maybe the ghost wasn’t messin’ with me, at all, she said.

“Maybe it was encouraging you to keep doing what you’re doing,” she said. “Maybe it was a pat on the back.”

How utterly charming.

It’s what we all yearn to hear.

That’s my Tin Lizzy ghost story.

I’m still not sure I believe in ghosts, but it’s nice to think maybe there are ghosts that believe in me.

Related …

Monday, July 22, 2019

Finally getting around to writing about procrastination

My friend Jim S. of Bovard was putting off more pressing matters to read a story about procrastination cures when, alas, his mind began to drift.

Was reading a story about how to stop wasting time a waste of time?

“It made me wonder how many hours I’ve spent reading about procrastination cures while I should have been doing something else. Then I thought, ‘This sounds like a topic that Chris has probably addressed.’”

Just marvel at the foundational elements in my friend’s note. There is wistfulness, fledgling determination, folly, distraction, avoidance, defeat…

And it all leads straight to thoughts of me!

I was in the middle of some important deadline research when I saw his note, so I was delighted by the excuse to put it off.

Procrastination? I felt sure I’d have tackled that one. I couldn’t think of a single personal or professional flaw I hadn’t exposed to readers, once even posting a story under the daring headline, “Exposing myself to high school students,” which isn’t what you think (see link below).

This is the 1,975 blog I’ve posted since 2008 when I began blogging, which in hindsight feels like a marathon procrastination from career advancement. Sort of like an extended gap decade with no end in sight.

Certainly, I’d have written one measly story about procrastination.

In fact, no. This is the first. And I say that with the understanding that this won’t qualify as the first until it’s actually finished. The odds of me becoming distracted and either going for a walk and not returning or just deciding to succumb to the temptations of the morning drunk are alarmingly high.

I consider myself a situational procrastinator. It’s maybe the only thing I have in common with Napoleon, the fabled Emperor of France from 1804-1814. 

He wouldn’t hesitate to declare war, but would dawdle over opening his mail, which he did maybe once a month. He did so because he was convinced that by the time he read any letter the problem it addressed would have been resolved by a subordinate.

In that regard we’re opposites. I never declare war, but I obsessively check my email every 4  minutes ‘cause you never know when some general might seek my advice on a tricky Austerlitz flanking maneuver.

A situational procrastinator puts off distasteful duties that are apt to get done by others while instead embracing fun that should be experienced first hand right away.

I became a situational procrastinator in Athens, Ohio, 30 years ago. It was prior to one house party when I got into an argument with a house manager over my refusal to clean a basement window in a room known for rowdy behavior. I objected on the grounds it made no sense to clean a window that might in two hours no longer exist in one piece.

Turns out I was a prophet. Indeed, the window did get smashed.

On purpose.

By me. 

It was a great party.

I today procrastinate over attending parties because I recall what a great party’s all about and I haven’t been to one in 30 years.

Other examples:

I put off watching new shows until a critical mass of tasteful friends tell me its worth it. But I immediately tune into all-time favorite movies like “A Few Good Men”  to watch where Col. Jessup tells off the pansy Tom Cruise character. 

I put off things like mowing the yard or shoveling the snow on the grounds global warming will soon eliminate the timeliness for such drudgery. But I immediately say yes to any intimacy offered by the frisky missus knowing my principled objections to common housework may one day lead to spousal cooling and the withholding of such favors. 

I put off thinking about what one has to do with the other because I can’t handle the truth.

I put off paying bills, doing taxes, seeing doctors and while I’ll drop everything to spend time with an old friend I put off returning their calls because I hate talking on the phone.

Yet I’ll always find time to read, watch baseball, play with a child or listen to a friendly stranger. 

Life is short and is beset with too many chores and bores not to engage in situational procrastinations.

I’d like to thank you for putting off some of life’s tediums to spend time here with me.

I enjoy the blog and will never delay in its production.

For instance, this one only took two snappy hours to write.

Two hours and 11 years.

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