The Writing Wombat

An American Marsupial in Fiction Land

Category: Blog Entries

Taking the Oregon Trail to My Bowels

My daughter gave me dysentery for Father’s Day. I guess ash trays are gauche these days, and ties are SO bourgeois.

Okay, it might not have been dysentery. It might have just been the flu. But somewhere around 8:00 last night, I was pretty sure this little Oregon Trail of life wasn’t quite making it through to Willamette.

Baby brought it home from day care, throwing up throughout the night on Thursday. Poor thing. I really sympathized with her. Sympathy, from the Greek word for “to suffer.” Even stayed home with her all day Friday.

Baby was mostly clear by Friday afternoon. Yay! We’re in the clear!

But that clearly wasn’t enough for the gods of tragedy. They had to pass it along to me and my wife with an Oedipal fury. Not Oedipal as in sleeping with our parents. More along the “gouging our eyes out” variety.

Wife and I actually caught the symptoms within an hour of each other on Saturday.  Thank God for grandparents nearby. If you don’t have any of those, I suggest you grow some.

Then it was just wife and I dealing with the rigors of keeping things down. We failed miserably. It seemed like we were aligned perfectly, each bout of “Out of Both Ends” starting within minutes of each other. Thank God for multiple bathrooms.

There are a few things I’ve never quite understood about the human propensity to purge the system during sickness. I know that we occasionally have to get something harmful out of our system. I have dogs and cats, and they both vomit. But dogs and cats just vomit once and then they’re done. No histrionics, no curling up by the commode waiting for the next round. Never once seen my 17-year old cat (who vomits often) dry heave. Never seen Hershey squirts flying out of his ass.

As an evolutionary trait, how did humans come up with this particular purging mechanism? How did we survive as a species? Because I think any wolf or bear in a five-mile radius would’ve heard and smelled me last night. Any other tribe members would have done their best to steer wide from me. Leave me with a little tombstone that said “Here lies Wombat. He done shat himself to death.”

During the second half of the last night’s plague outbreak, I grew tired of dry heaving and cotton mouth and feebly stated “I’d rather be vomiting up something instead of nothing.” A statement I would not agree with an hour later, but at the time it seemed logical.

I’ve always been a fan of water. It seems an odd statement, but I know a lot of people who aren’t. Think of how many products are out there to make water more palatable. But I love the stuff. On the average day, I only drink three types of fluid – water, coffee (black), and iced tea (unsweetened). Because when I drink, I want fluid, not sugar. I’ll save my sugar intake for ice cream. Or beer (drink number four on the “non-average” days).

And that first gulp of water I had last night was exquisite. My mouth was so parched. I wanted to drink a gallon of it. I downed the first pint in one gulp. Maybe not the best idea, but it was soothing every square centimeter of my mouth, tongue, and throat. I tried to pace myself. I swished some of the second pint in my mouth instead of swallowing, then fill a third pint and put it by my bed as I tried to pass out for another hour.

And then it all came back up. More violent than before. As if my body was shaming me for attempting to, I don’t know, hydrate? Survive? Seriously, body, what the fuck is your problem?

And this is, again, when I start to question the purpose of vomiting, and especially of repeat vomiting. The symptoms when we are sick are not actually from the virus or bacteria itself, but from our body’s attempt to attack and remove those foreign agents. The flu doesn’t cause you to vomit, your body attacking the flu causes you to vomit. As a lifelong allergy sufferer, I know that no amount of logic and reason will stop my body from thinking dust is a mortal enemy.

So the first round of vomits is understandable, removing a bit of poison. Your stomach doesn’t like the last thing you ate, so get in there and remove it. And if I put something potentially damaging in afterward, it’s probably a good idea to be on guard. My body really doesn’t have the fucking time to process shit right now, what with the fighting off Montezuma’s goddamn Revenge, and all.

But water? If I had put some Crystal Light in it, I could understand. My wife tried some Sprite and on an earlier respite, I had a little ginger ale. Our bad. I deserve that sickeningly-sweet upchuck and the burned nasal hairs that come with it.

But it was just basic water. What the fuck kind of overzealous white blood cell is deciding that the building block of all life is somehow detrimental to my wellbeing? And has this little fuckwad checked in with my mouth recently? Because my mouth is definitely on board the whole “water is good” train.

I seriously question how humans are still around. How did we even get to the point where ol’ Jebediah could set out from Independence, MO, in the hopes of maybe only catching cholera this time.

Good news is I’ll have plenty of time to think about it. I feel another flux coming on.

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Twinkle, Twinkle, Embryonic Gas Giant

My musical appetite has been changing.

Well, not my appetite, so much, as my ingestion. Because while I would still prefer a prime cut of Beatle with a scant Traveler de Bleu aperitif topped off by a Bosstone nightcap, I have a toddler. Meaning that my music consumption has become the symphonic equivalent of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese/Mayonnaise Casserole.

Children’s songs haven’t changed much since I was a kid, or since my mother was a kid, or since Thomas Jefferson was a kid. Seriously. Jimmy Crack Corn and Eenie-Meenie-Minie-Moe are slave songs.

And the goddamned bough continues to break and the fucking dead baby falls out of the tree. Now sleep tight, sweetpea.

But while the song remains the same (C’mon, two-year old, gimme some Zeppelin), I approach them from a different vantage point. I notice different things about them. Because when I was a child, I never stopped to ask what the fuck the baby was doing up in the tree.

Things like: How was I forty years old before I realized “ABC” and “Twinkle, Twinkle” are the same melody? I know that, before the Beatles, there were only three chords, but weren’t there more melodies?

And I’m not talking about unintended references. For instance, the Poli Sci major in me thinks of Non-Governmental Organizations in the third verse on B-I-N-G-O, but I know that wasn’t the intent of the song.

And if I snicker every time I hear “The prettiest hole that you ever did see,” that’s on me. It’s clearly not what the song is about.

And don’t even get me started on “She’ll be coming ’round the mountain when she comes.”

But there are many children’s songs that do sound different as an adult.

To wit:

Baa, Baa, Black Sheep

First of all, it’s the same song as “ABC” and “Twinkle, Twinkle.” Good thing it predates copyright. 

It’s a song about feudalism. The local lord, or maybe a census-taker, is coming around to inquire about his manorial duties. “Yes, sir, yes, sir, three bags full.” Because, y’know, if he didn’t do my full three bags, it’s off with his head.

But what happened to the poor peasant’s wool?

The first one went to the local lord in taxes. So one might think this is some conservative diatribe against excessive taxation and the welfare state. Even the Beatles have been known to write a ditty questioning an exorbitant tax structure, a point lost on my daughter when I tried to subtly replace her Fischer Price CD with “Revolver.”

But the poor peasant would love to be saddled with a mere 33% tax rate. You see, after he gives one bag to the Master, he must also give one to the Dame, which is the Catholic Church. Wow, even the Mormons only take ten percent. It must’ve been nice to be the only church in town… or country… or continent.

So where does the last bag of wool go? To the little boy who lives down the lane. Because that’s how feudalism works. No ownership allowed. And your work is divvied up for the whole manor.

But seriously peasant, quit your whining. You know you’re getting wheat from the little boy’s family. And I bet their wheat’s up to snuff, not this black wool shit that you’re trying to pass off as legit.

Just be thankful it’s not a market economy or your ass would be out on the streets.

Speaking of market economy….

Mockingbird

That might not be the actual name of the song, but y’all know which one I mean, right?  The one the starts out: “Hush little baby, don’t have a cow, Daddy’s gonna buy your affection now.”

Compensating much?

Every verse is “I’ll buy you something, and if it doesn’t work, I’ll buy you something else.” Sponsored by Target.

Hey, here’s a thought. Maybe try engaging your child instead of instilling the bourgeois mentality of consumerism in her.

And the father ends it with the ultimate statement: “If that horse and cart fall down, you’ll still be the prettiest girl in town.”

Aww, what a pretty sentiment. After I’m such a huge disappointment as a father, at least you’ll still have your looks to fall back on.

Can we say future stripper?

Speaking of which: We’ll all go out to meet her when she comes? Ouch. I’ve heard of the Walk of Shame, but this seems excessive. Is this a royalty thing, where the nobles would applaud the new king and queen on their wedding night?

Sorry. Back to the children’s tunes:

Mary had a Little Lamb

I get that the lamb has some rather serious separation anxiety. If this were a psychologist blog, maybe we’d go into the root causes of bovine angst.

But this is a teacher’s blog. So I choose to focus when the lamb follows here to school, “which was against the rules.” I’ve worked in a number of schools over the past twenty years, and while I can’t necessarily quote every rule verbatim, I don’t know that I have ever come across a Lamb-specific rule.

Now, maybe it’s a general animal rule. But I feel the implication is that only a lamb would make the children laugh and play. A non-lamb would be far less disruptive to the educational environment.  Aren’t cats and dogs brought in for show-and-tell?

Clearly this school had a lamb-specific rule, and I wonder what necessitated that. Was a school board member speciest? Had other lambs followed other children to school in the past?

More importantly, from a twenty-first century educatrat perspective, was the rule properly enunciated ahead of time? Possibly in the student handbook or on the school’s website? I’d hate to think Mary’s being dinged for some unknown statute.

And what about full-grown sheep? Would that be acceptable? When does a lamb become a sheep, anyway? Is there a bar mitzvah or quinceanera?

Actually, on second thought, I don’t think I want to know.

Keeping it in the pastoral setting:

Farmer in the Dell

I could probably critique this song for playing into the age-old practice of picking other children from a group for popularity and mocking prurposes. Red Rover, Farmer in the Dell, Smear the Queer…

What, your bullies didn’t sing as they chased you? Did I mention I grew up in a musical?

But kids songs are always going to be cliquey and segregatory. It’s the way in which this particular songs divides that I question.

The farmer picks his wife. Okay, I suppose.

The wife picks her child? Did she stop taking birth control without mentioning it to the farmer?

The child picks the nurse? Who includes their child in this decision?

Then it gets weirder. The dog picks the cat, the cat picks the mouse, the mouse picks the cheese. We’re aware these lesser animals are being “picked” as dinner, yes? I guess we can’t say what we mean, “the cat kills the mouse,” because then the less-popular kids would get picked first.

And then the cheese stands alone. Huh, huh, I used to think when I was a child. Because he cut the cheese, so he stinks. That’s why he stands alone.

Forty-two years of wisdom tells me the last verse probably wasn’t based on flatulence. But to be honest, I can’t think of an alternate explanation for the cheese standing alone. Hell, maybe he really did cut the cheese.

Speaking of food, we’ll all have chicken and dumplings when she comes? Is this a fetish thing? Does the promise of soup really get her going?

Hole in the Bucket

Passive aggressive much?

Look, Henry and Liza, it’s clear neither of you want to do shit around the house. Why not just be upfront about it?

“I need a pedi, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry.”

“But the game’s on, dear Liza, dear Liza, dear Liza.”

Maybe instead of fetching some water, y’all might want to sign up for counseling. The bucket ain’t the only thing that’s got a hole in it.

Itsy, Bitsy Spider

I don’t have a new, adult reaction to this song. I can merely enunciate my childhood quandary with fancier language.

I know it’s supposed to be a song about perseverance. That brave, brave spider keeps getting back on that horse, er, water spout, despite the deck stacked against him, that ever present rain storm.

Maybe I am supposed to identify with that spider. I could get back in the blogging habit or finish one of those books that are 30,000 words in. Or I’d finally get that Master’s Degree. Or, you know, finish digging for that treasure chest I dreamt was buried in my back yard.

Except that it’s a nasty spider. Are we really supposed to root for him? I can’t be the only one who was rooting for the rain, right?

Oh no, oh no, the spider’s getting closer. Down came the rain and washed that motherfucker out.

Whew.

This Old Man

Dude’s a drunk, right? He rolls home every night. If he was sober, wouldn’t he walk or drive himself home? And it’s happening often enough where he can’t just plan ahead and uber home.

And what the hell is knick-knack? It’s got to be shuffleboard, cornhole, or some other bar game, but he seems to play it ON a lot of things and/or people. On my thumb, on my knee. Knock it off, you lush. Play knick knack on your own goddamned shoe.

And what a shock that he played it in heaven. Maybe he should be keeping track of AA steps, not the number of paddy whacks.

And speaking of giving a dog a bone…

She’ll be riding six white horses when she comes?

Wow, okay.

I’m feeling a little inadequate now.

 

Messiah Holding on Line Three

So, Jesus’s best friend was a rabbit that fucked a chicken, right?

‘Tis the season when an organization that promotes celibacy usurps a bunch of springtime fertility symbols. Just keep your peep shows to the marshmallow type, buster.

As I mentioned during Saturnalia (what the pleebs refer to as Christmas), I understand that advertising for Christianity’s got to be a little difficult. Back in the nineties, I was annoyed when those “Got Jesus?” bumper stickers started popping up. I thought it was bush league. Maybe Christianity can’t pay the same as Madison Avenue, but isn’t the cause of all inspiration supposed to play for your team? The best you can do is steal somebody else’s ad campaign?

Well, at least there aren’t any commandments against theft or anything. Moses couldn’t be bothered with intellectual property and copyright law.

But I’m a little older now, which might (Might!) mean I’m a little wiser. I kinda get it now. Advertising for any of the various Christian faiths has got to be tough.

“Think you’re a good person? Come in and find out why not.”

“You’re a sinner! Find out how!”

“Limited time offer: Join during Lent and give up meat on Fridays!”

So I’m a little bit more lenient toward religious advertising these days. But I was still a little taken back when I saw this:

Jesus

This fills me with a lot of questions.

I live and work in a pretty high-Latino area, so my first thought on seeing this sign was to read it in Spanglish: Hay-zeus called.

So my first question is: Is this a landscaping issue?

Or is my student calling me about the homework assignment? And if so, can’t he e-mail me?

I’ve noticed that, in my classroom, Jesus seems to be the only Spanish name that nobody anglicizes. Pablo? “Call me Paul.” Jorge? “It’s pronounced George.”

But I’m still waiting for the first “It’s Gee-zus, not Hay-zeus.”

But with this sign, seeing as it was outside a church,  I assume that the Jesus who is calling is Mr. Christ. But this doesn’t stop the questions.

Actually, the first question is the same, regardless of if it’s the Savior or my student. Why is Jesus calling? Can he not e-mail me instead?

Maybe Jesus was illiterate. It would fit His position in life. Not sure how many carpenters in the conquered territories of the Roman Empire could read or write. Maybe that’s why everybody else had to write down what He said.

Okay, so e-mail is out. Too bad, Jesus. There are some great websites I could’ve directed you to.  (You or you? Do I capitalize You when I’m referring to Him in the second person?)

Okay, so no e-mail. Jesus is calling me on a landline. It’s not even cordless.

Is this a money thing or a technology thing?

I can’t imagine it’s about money. There’s plenty of cash coming in to the Christly coffers on a regular basis. Just ask Tammy Faye Bakker – she was big right around the time Jesus bought that phone. I’m pretty sure Jesus wouldn’t have to pay taxes, either. Partly because He’s a non-profit, but He also seems to have every politician in his pocket. They invoke his name even more than the oil companies and unions, and you know those two groups don’t have to pay for shit.

So it’s about technology. Jesus is opposed to modern contrivances. I guess that makes sense. Idle hands, and all that. Maybe he subscribes to the whole Protestant work ethic. Sorry, Catholics.

But still, this advertisement suggests that  Jesus DOES still own a phone. So some form of instant communication is acceptable. As long as it’s analog.

But when, precisely, did Jesus gave up on technology? If the advertisement had shown the telephone chassis instead of just the receiver, I might be able to decipher if He lost hope in the 1950s or the 1980s. According the the Republicans, those were definitely the last two time Jesus loved America. But which one? Does Jesus strike me as a guy who takes the time for rotary dial? Or has He at least allowed for touch-tone technology?

Regardless, it’s clearly either computer or wireless technology that the Savior has problems with. I don’t know which, but I can maybe make an argument for each. Wireless travels through the ether. Maybe that’s where He lives. It goes back to the whole Copernicus issue. If Earth goes around the sun, then where is heaven? And now we know the answer. Heaven is where radio waves reside. Marconi was the one that killed him, not Galileo.

Or maybe it’s computer technology that He’s opposed to. But, Jesus, if you can get past all the free porn, you’d find your name all over social media. Nobody really gets your message, but trust me, your name is everywhere. You and Chuck Norris have cornered half of the meme market by yourselves.

I know. It’s hard to get past all the free porn. But I think you mentioned something about your right hand causing you to sin during the Sermon on the Mount. Or you might not have. I’m not sure. Most Christians don’t actually pay attention to what you actually said.

So I get that you’re opposed to most modern form of communication.

But the problem with calling on the landline is that it’ll probably just go to voicemail. Nobody answers unknown phone numbers anymore. If you really want to get ahold of me, maybe try texting instead of calling. I know that brings up the whole literacy thing again, but honestly, you’ve had a couple of centuries to learn. You really only have yourself to blame.

Regardless, I am at least comforted by one fact. If you’re still using a landline, you won’t know about call waiting yet.

So sorry, Jesus. I heard you were trying to call me, but I must’ve been on the other line.

God damn that busy signal.

Camptathalon 2016

Wow, here we are already planning Camptathalon 2017 and I haven’t even updated the world with the results from 2016. I suck. But in my defense… nah, screw it.Here’s what happened last June.

Editor’s note: The campground right next to ours was called “Little Beaver Campground.” I’m sure you can already see where this is going.

Tony & Sparky arrived Thursday night.

Friday:
6:45 Sparky sleeps in. A Camptathalon record!
6:50 Tony wakes up early. A Camptathalon record!
7:40 The Official Camptathalon Flag is raised:IMG_1843.JPG

Oops, almost had an upside down cock.
7:52 The MacGyver Hammock has a door. “You sure you want it up that high if you’re going to be drinking?” (Editor’s Note: “MacGyver Hammock” in background of this picture, after it had been moved down)

IMG_1846

7:55 Donuts and Bear Claws – Breakfast of Champions
~9:00 Heading to town for ice. Did not stop on way in last night because it was dark and there was beer to be drunk.
9:45 Rick drives past us while we are trying to thieve WiFi from “hotel” in “town.”
9:55 Sparky: “There’s some really nice looking logs on the side of the road.”
9:59 Tony: “We have to put the other two pubes on ice. You can’t have a foursome with only two pubes.”0218171606

10:05 Of the four coolers we have, only the smallest one has food.
10:20 “Any request for music? I don’t feel like listening to status.” “Actually, I’m kind of in a static mood.”
10:41 “It’s called a piledriver…”
11:41 Chris arrives.
11:44 “We can all back up another six inches and maybe you’ll fit.”
12:23 Sparky’s MacGyver Hammock shall henceforth be known as “The Little Beaver.” In perpetuity.
12:42 Chris unveils memes:
IMG_1845
12:58 Camptathalon 2015 Champion Chris unveils Camptathalon Trophy in its Wisconsin Lunchbox.
13:01 Rick starts singing Frozen.
13:04 Tony tries to get WiFi on Chris’s camping chair.
13:35 “Demi Moore is from Roswell and her bush is what swallowed the UFO.”
13:55 “Where’s my koozie?” “It’s on my finger. I can fit three fingers inside your koozie.”
14:20 Tony claims his genitals will burn holes in the tablecloth.
14:26 Cheese Ball Bucket begins.
14:29 SOCIAL!
14:43 “I have three more guys to play with.”
14:48 Rick apologizes for farting and sheds a tear. (Editor’s Note: Rick wrote “Fuck you, Tony!” next to that note, perhaps questioning its veracity)
14:50 Chris needs more lotion on his mosquito bites. Sparky: “My 7th grade girlfriend had mosquito bites, too.”
14:57 Tony: “I can’t keep these (Cheese) Balls out of my mouth!”
15:00 Rick almost eats a Carcassonne piece because it is the same color as Cheese Balls.
15:02 “I brought some good beef jerky.” “Oh, I love some jerky.” (Pantomimes masturbation)
15:31 Rick: “This weekend is already crashing and burning.”
15:41 “Dick.” “Ass.” “It’s much too early for dick ass.” “Is it ever too early for dick ass?” “Not sure. Give me more Cheese Balls.”
16:06 This beats being at work.
17:03 “Did anyone bring a target?” “Your chest is a target.”
17:12 “As long as, every time someone takes a leak, they bring back wood, we’re good.”
17:28 Dinner is served.
18:27 Loser Libation revealed: Foster’s Oil Can. (Editor’s Note: The Loser Libation is picked by the Champion and must be consumed by the loser of the poker tournament)
18:28 Official Camptathalon Opening Toast: Pube Beer.
18:35 Chips out. Pic taken. Pube open. (Editor’s Note: While “pic taken” was written in the log, nobody present can’t account for said picture. Here’s the closest we can find: Camptathalon Toast
18:55 “Daniel-san. You cum too fast.”
18:58 “Give me a finger right there.”
19:24 “The Ol’ Ten-Ten. 1-0, 1-0. Everybody’s got a dick in their mouth.” “That will wake me up screaming in the middle of the night.” “You can’t scream with a dick in your mouth.”
20:03 We are not our fathers.
20:14 “Remember that time I picked you up in the lobby and we drank at Dick’s for two hours?”
20:38 Sparky is nearing Foster Territory.
20:50 “I’m finally on top of Tony and it feels good.”
21:28 Nobody out yet. Longest entry poker tourney ever.
21:34 Rick: “I haven’t looked at my cards yet. I’m putting on my vest.”
21:35 “See my vest, see my vest, made of real gorilla chest.”
21:44 Tony goes all in because he has to shit, gets trip-7’s.
22:03 Sparky and Tony all in. Sparky “wins” the Loser Libation.
22:45 Chris out.
22:46 Rick and Tony are tired. Ask permission to split top two point values. Request denied.
22:57 Tony beats Rick

Saturday
5:55 Tony up first. WTF?
6:25 Sparky up.
6:55 “I just realized I have tea bags. I could’ve had tea last night.” “Or we could just wake the other two up with tea bags.”
7:32 Tony throws teabag into Rick’s tent.
7:48 Chris emerges from tent, produces Dick Butt

Dick Butt

8:05 Breakfast. Forgot tortillas and can’t find cornbread, so it’s Breakfast Bowls.
8:20 Skid marks in the underwear. “Did you wipe your ass with your underwear?”
8:40 You can’t call it a nap when it’s 8:30 in the morning.
9:12 Hey, there’s the bear that took our fucking cornbread:Campting Bear
9:46 Sparky starts in on the second half of last night’s Fosters. “Not bad. Still some carbonation.”
9:51 Oh, hey. The cornbread is in the cooler.
10:06 First beer of the day opened.
10:20 Event Two: Whiffle Ball Home Run Derby.
10:30 Tony loses bottle opener ring while throwing whiffle ball.
10:37 Rick is really proud of his epic 2 Homeruns in the Derby.
10:40 First Round: Chris – 7, Tony – 6, Rick – 2 (Best Ever!), Sparky – 3 (Retired with only two outs used)
10:43 Cock ring found!
10:50 Second Round – Chris – 3, Tony – 4 (with six outs used); Sparky – 4 (with seven outs used)
11:06 Final Round – Tony 6, Sparky – 3
11:07 After two events, Tony -8 pts, Sparky – 2, Rick – 2, Chris – 2
11:30 Oh hey, Cornbread!
11:31 Event Three: Adventure Bocce
11:51 “Guys, don’t scuff my balls.”
12:07 Adventure Bocce results: Chris – 11, Tony – 9, Rick – 7 (Won the “Toss-Off”), Sparky – 7
12:08 After three events: Tony  – 10, Chris – 6, Rick – 3, Sparky – 2.
12:15 Sammiches.
12:35 Margaritas: A Toast to Scurvy and Dick-Butt.
Dick Butt
12:40 Margaritas are classy when they come out of a 2-liter Sprite bottle.
12:54 Event Four: Slingshot
13:19 Slingshot targets: Adele Fan Meme, Nicholas Cage, Grumpy Cat
13:50 After Four Events: Tony – 10, Chris – 8, Rick – 7, Sparky – 3
14:20 Anne Heche is a pretty good looking dude.
14:36 Event Five: Chipping
15:07 Standings: Chris – 12, Tony – 10, Rick – 8, Sparky – 5
15:08 Tony has come in fourth of every competition since margaritas began. Rubs frisbee golf frisbee on his nads.
15:40 Event Six: The Butter Toss (at Leonardo DiCaprio’s chin) (Editor’s Note: No results recorded, but we did get a picture of the end results)
Leo

15:50 Final Event: Cards Against Humanity
15:57 “I had semen. I thought semen would work.”
16:07 With “Stephen Hawking talking dirty,” Chris wins Camptathalon 2016.
16:12 I think about the Underground Railroad during sex.
16:16 The random draw has won twice in a row. (Editor’s Note: They would throw one randomcard in from the draw pile to see if it was funnier than anything they could come up with. Clearly it was.)
16:21 Sparky places second in Cards Against Humanity with “Smegma.”
16:22 Tony takes third with “My Black Ass.”
16:44 Social: “I drink to forget (Blank).”
17:17 The bet is over. We have all lost. The Cheese Balls still exist and reign supreme.
18:09 There is a clearing house in Tony’s ass.
18:21 Sno Balls appear to be made out of napalm. That have a skin flap like a vagina, but are not as flavorful.
18:22 General disagreement over definition of felching. No Urban Dictionary access at 5,000 feet.

Sunday
Butter still on Leo’s chin

Cheese Balls still exist. Saying “Fuck you, motherfuckers. We’re still here!”
Hey look! Cornbread!
And I’ll miss you most of all, Dick Butt.

Dick Butt

Wasting Away Again

I turned 42 earlier this month, and tried my best to act 24. I’ve been to three concerts over the last three weeks.

It would have been four concerts if not for a Kenny Loggins health issue. He was scheduled to play at an Indian Casino with Air Supply.

Okay, so maybe these concerts aren’t technically in the “acting like a 24-year old” vein. The acts themselves were more in the “Middle Aged White Male” range. But nonetheless, it was three concerts, hundreds of miles apart from each other, in three weeks, with nary a stop for Matamucil in between. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.

Literally, I got the T-shirts:
t-shirts

First up was a flight to Southern California for Mumford & Sons. It was my birthday present from my wife, so I didn’t even know it would be happening until a few days prior.

Next up was a train trip to Reno to see Straight, No Chaser, an a capella group that sings medleys and various other non-instrumental versions of modern hits. Like “All About That Bass (No Tenors).” That was my anniversary gift to my wife.  Concert gifts all around this year.

But I’m not here to write about listening to ten men sing Christmas songs in October. Nor shall I delve into… whatever the hell style of music Mumford & Sons is. Folk? Bluegrass? I tried explaining them to my Mother-in-Law.

“Bluegrass? Are they from the South?”

“No. England.”

“…”

“They play a lot of mandolin.”

“Maybe my hippie brother would like them. He’s been teaching himself mandolin.”

“…”

But I’m here to talk about the cherry on the top of my Middle-Aged White Male Trifecta Sundae, when I lowered the average age at a Jimmy Buffett concert by about a decade. I did not have as great of an effect on the Hawaiian shirt average – my Tommy Bahama kept the ratio perfectly pegged at 1 to 1.

Jimmy Buffett is another musical act that’s hard to classify. His music isn’t overly complex. I’m pretty sure the chord progression on “Fins” and “Cheeseburger in Paradise” is exactly the same. But he’s worth $400 million (behind only Paul McCartney and Bono, according to a Google search), so he must’ve figured something out.

He started out primarily as a country act, and I suppose is still heavily grounded in that particular genre. But I know a lot of Parrotheads that have no love of country music. I sometimes refer to Jimmy Buffett as beach music, but that tends to conjure up images of Brian Wilson and Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello dancing in a bikini.

Oh wait, I know. Jimmy Buffett is drinking music.

But not so much. Because in reality, Jimmy Buffett plays Jimmy Buffett music. He’s worth so damned much because he is his own genre.

Jimmy Buffett is a lifestyle, with maybe a little bit of music attached.

I first discovered Jimmy Buffett when I was in college from a Parrothead who lived on my dorm floor.  I assume “some guy in college” is how most people first encounter Jimmy Buffett. Isn’t that the type of alternate lifestyle that college is for? Sure, that “guy in college” must have discovered Jimmy Buffett elsewhere. He was two years ahead of me, so I assume he caught it from a junior when he was a freshman, thus continuing a herpes-like chain reaction stretching all the way back through time.

Someone must have started the chain, but I can’t imagine who. I know there were those old PSA’s from the 1980s (“Where’d you learn to do drugs? “You, okay? I learned it from watching you!”), but I doubt either the parent or the teenager in that ad was pleasantly puffing away to the prospect of visiting that “One Particular Harbor.”

That’s why I think it has to start in college. Because, contrary to how most people classify Jimmy Buffett, his songs aren’t drinking songs. We don’t see the neediness of a “Tubthumping” or “Red Solo Cup.” They aren’t party songs. You don’t crank up the Jimmy Buffett at a rager like you would Beastie Boys or Sublime. Jimmy Buffett is much closer to “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” than he is to “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer.” Even if “Pencil Thin Mustache” references marijuana, you’re not going to puff-and-pass to it like you would to “Gin and Juice.”

I teach high school. I hear a lot of stories about drinking parties. I’ve had plenty of burgeoning alcoholics and chronic addicts come through my room. But I can only think of a very small collection of students who could truly understand what Parrotheading is all about.

The confusion about what Jimmy Buffet is singing about is understandable. His most famous line, after all, is “wasting away again in Margaritaville.” My students would probably say “Yeah, man, I’ve totally been wasted on margaritas, too.”

Okay, margaritas might be too fancy for my students. So maybe “Wasting away again in straight-shot-of-tequila-with-Coors-Light-chaser-ville.”

But anyone who thinks that song is about getting wasted misses the point. One is not wasting away in Margaritaville due to the alcohol content of said drink. It’s the introspection that comes with each successive drink or hour or day spent there. From “it’s nobody’s fault” to “it could be my fault” to “it’s my own damn fault” – one of the most brilliant evolving choruses of all time.

I once got in an argument with an English teacher about whether or not the entire song is a metaphor or not. Even the tattoo is a mental tattoo. Who the hell describes ink on an arm as “a Mexican cutie?” That tattoo has been stamped on his brain, and it ain’t leaving until he blends that next frozen concoction.

I’m right. The English teacher is wrong. What the fuck do English teachers know about metaphors? Seriously. If he really blew out his flip-flops, he could’ve just bought new ones – Margaritaville has a shit-ton of merchandising.

But to understand why Jimmy Buffett isn’t just about drinking and partying, you need to go beyond his most famous title. A better song to reflect what the Parrothead life is about is “Changes in Latitude, Changes in Attitude.”

Sure, Mr. $400 Million might be able to live the lifestyle permanently, the rest of us can’t party all day, every day. We have to wait for, or in some cases force, a change in attitude. The easiest way to do this, and yet the most complicated, is to go on vacation somewhere tropical. That fixes up your attitude right quick.

But sometimes we can’t pick up and shove off to the Mexican Riviera. That’s okay. The change of latitude need not be extreme. Go downtown for the evening. Veer off the home-to-work commute. Date night with the spouse. Whatever it takes to change the attitude, if only for an hour or two.

Carpe diem. YOLO. Make the most of the times that should be made more of. That’s what Jimmy Buffett really is about. Drink? Sure! Party too hard? Absolutely! But make it about enjoyment, make it about reflection, not about obliteration. Because “If we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane.”

Most non-fans don’t realize how much introspection Jimmy Buffett sings about. It’s not in “Cheeseburger in Paradise” or “Why Don’t We Get Drunk” (and screw?), but you don’t have to delve deep into his track list to find it. It’s the reflection that comes from sitting on a beach or a bar and having a few drinks. Or from talking to the old guy next to you at the beach or the bar.

To understand the appeal and the staying power of Jimmy Buffett, you need to listen to the lines the audience sings along to most fervently at his concerts. It ain’t “Volcano.” Despite the elaborate hands-above-head movement, it ain’t “Fins.” It isn’t even “Margaritaville.”

Those songs all have sing-alongs, but they are rote. People sing the whole song at the same volume. There are no natural crescendos, no particular lines that have more gravitas than the others..

The ballads are where you’ll find that extra connection that defines Jimmy Buffett.  “A Pirate Looks at 40” is a wonderfully retrospective song about mid-life crises and how we are never able to do that thing we always thought we were destined to do. Perhaps I should re-title this blog “An Asshole Looks at 40.” But I doubt I could fill it with anything as profound as “I made enough money to buy Miami, but I pissed it away so fast.”

That’s a line that gets the concert crowd warbling. Because we’ve all been there, haven’t we? Everybody’s been Candide, looking back on his time in El Dorado, thinking “What the fuck was I thinking leaving that behind?”

(How do you like that allusion, English teachers?)

Some other artists dally into Jimmy Buffett territory, but few stay for long. Toby Keith definitely has some party songs, and a few of them manage to toe the line between happy drunk and angry drunk. Paul Simon’s an excellent lyricist and musician who has some wonderfully happy and introspective songs. But neither of them have a niche that is entirely of their own creation.

The most obvious non-Jimmy Buffett Parrothead song is “It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere.” How the hell did Jimmy Buffett NOT write that one? I almost wonder if Alan Jackson felt guilty after writing it. Like “Oh, shit, what is this? This is not an Alan Jackson song!” So he invited Jimmy Buffett to sing along with him and included him in the lyrics. Then he went back to writing more snoozers like “Country Boy.”

The one band that seems to be hanging out in Margaritaville on a more permanent basis is the Zac Brown Band. But consider this: Zac Brown wasn’t alive when Jimmy Buffett released his first album. So maybe that niche is only big enough to be filled once per generation. Zac Brown’s next on my list of concerts to attend. I wonder if I will skew the average age down by a decade, as I did at Jimmy Buffett, or if I will skew it up.

I also don’t know if Zac Brown has quite figured out the retrospective part yet. He can’t sing about a 40-year old pirate if he isn’t even a 40-year old musician yet. I don’t know if the Zac Brown Band has any ballads that sum up a life’s journey yet. They need to add some if they’re still want to be playing new arenas, not state fairs, in forty years.

Jimmy knows this. He knows that people come for the “Boat Drinks” and stay for the “Son of a Son of a Sailor.”

That was evident in how he finished the concert I saw. The main concert ended with “Volcano,” because it’s named the “I Don’t Know Tour.” The first two songs of the encore started out with “We are the People our Parents Warned Us About” and “One Particular Harbor.” The latter is a standard Parrothead anthem and the former is more quotable than singable. It was pretty standard stuff, except for the voracity with which he sang “But Not Yet” after the line “I can see the day when my hair’s full gray and I finally disappear.”

Then he did something that I have never seen in any concert before. After the entire band left the stage, Jimmy doubled back out. I assumed he would give one last wave, but instead he pulled out an acoustic guitar and broke into “He Went to Paris.”

That’s how the concert ended, with Jimmy Buffett alone on the stage, playing one of his softest ballads. And it was brilliant. Because if it’s the “I Don’t Know Tour,” what better way to end than with “all of those answers and all of those questions” that we never quite finish.

And if you sing about the great adventure that is life, there can be no better line to walk off the stage to than:

“Jimmy, some of it’s magic, some of it’s tragic, but I’ve had a good life all the way.”

The Potty Fairy

The Potty Fairy visited our house!

Are you familiar with the Potty Fairy? She’s similar to the Tooth Fairy, but instead of taking teeth, she takes bodily fluids. And instead of putting the item under your pillow, you deposit it into a toilet. And instead of replacing it with money, she replaces it with a clean toilet bowl… and an empty diaper drawer… and no more wiping of asses.

Okay, there is still asswiping. But it’s with toilet paper! And it’s in the asscrack! It’s no longer seventy-five babywipes removing the artistic spackle-smear of shit spreading its territory from knee to ribcage.

The excitement and anticipation my daughter will someday have about the approach of the Tooth Fairy is nothing compared to the excitement and anticipation my wife and I had over the arrival of the Potty Fairy.

My wife always hates when people post about the potty training process on social media. Nothing can quite derail the beautiful, picturesque stroll through election postings  and hipster food photos than a description of a potty fail. It’s like “Trump, Hillary, pot pie, Trump, shit dribbling down the leg, Hillary.” Come to think of it, can we have more descriptions of bodily functions? Seems less offensive.

Because of this, I have politely refrained from any discussion of the trials and tribulations of this process on the Facebook and the Twitter. But this is an anonymous blog, so nobody will be any the wiser.

Oh wait, did I mention that I’ve recently been published? And finishing the sequel was what kept me away from blogging for the last few months? So if I start shilling my book on this blog in the future, it won’t be anonymous anymore. Shit.

I mean, oops. I shouldn’t be using “shit” as an exclamation in this post. Henceforth, shit shall only refer to the scatological product of a bodily function. Can’t run the risk of causing confusion. That would be a pisser.

The potty training started as quite a surprise. My wife and I had discussed it, dreamed about the day, but more in the vein of some future trip to Tahiti. We weren’t really sure when or how to begin.

Then one day my daughter’s talking things over with her mom.

About shit, not Tahiti.

“Pee pee, potty?”

“Yeah, baby. Mommy and daddy pee pee in the potty. Someday you’ll pee pee in the potty.”

“Pee pee… potty?”

“Wait, do you want to pee pee in the potty right now?”

“Pee pee… potty… right now.”

Oh, shit!

I mean… Whoa!

We were caught completely unprepared, but we took her to the toilet, anyway. We didn’t even have the child’s seat, so instead, daddy had to hold baby up hovering in the middle of the toilet seat.

For a half an hour. Because baby was going to be milking this one.

Guess I won’t need to be doing sit-ups this month.

And the result? Nothing. Baby was convinced she had accomplished something, but I can neither confirm nor deny whether anything exited my daughter into its proper watery receptacle. Too bad her vocabulary is not full enough to teach her the “Here I sit, broken-hearted” poem.

Next came the true adventure of baby’s first toilet experience: the wiping. She was all jazzed to wipe. Of course, she didn’t really wipe, just emulated what she had seen us do. Grab a few squares, place them between your legs, then drop them into the toilet.

And by a few squares, I mean three or four or, I don’t know, twenty?

Then she’d need to “wipe” a little more.

“One more, daddy. One more.”

She held up one finger to indicate what she meant by one more, a phrase I was previously unaware she knew. From a linguistic standpoint, she definitely understood the “more” concept. The “one?” That needed a little more work.

By the time she was done, about half a roll of toilet paper had been dumped into the toilet. Wife read that this was normal and that we should let her explore it on her own. You know, in order to increase her comfort in the bathroom.

This child-rearing literature, however, must not allow for low-flush toilets. Because when we finally flushed the alleged half-ounce of urine with the half-gallon of toilet paper, wouldn’t you know it, the toilet clogged. And this wasn’t one of those, “plunge it and flush it again” types of clogs. I assume that too much of the paper hadn’t touched water, and plungers seem predicated on breaking apart wet products. So even when we went in with the snake claw, it only tore away the first layer of wet paper, barely exposing the next line of wad.

This particular clog required going in from the outlet valve on the outside of the house.  Good times.

But with that crisis averted, we were revitalized. We had that enemy, the diaper, which had entrenched itself in our household for close to two years, on the run. We hit the Babies’R’Us for the weapons necessary to finally vanquish our foe. We bought the baby toilet-seat extensions. We purchased Pull-ups and underwear with cute critters on them. We ensured there was never more than a half of a roll of toilet paper on the spool at any given time.

And then… nothing.

The One Weekend Method says this would be a good time to go cold turkey. There’s one problem this plan, though, and that’s Day Care. In California, the mandated teacher-to-child ratio changes at age two. So two-year-olds tend to be in a different room than the babies and toddlers. If our daughter, being 21-months old, were to go into the “Twos” room, where the bathroom is, the day care center would be in major violation of state law. And from what I gather, day care centers tend to follow state law. At least our particular one does.

So what’s the use of potty training her if they’re still requiring her to shit herself at school? Instead, for a few months, we stayed in a holding pattern where we talked extensively about the potty. Baby occasionally pretended she needed to use the potty, but more often than not it was “All full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Shakespeare wrote that about flatulence, right?

Even when baby’s wolf-crying was legitimate, the process and result were more novelty than normalcy. She became very good at telling us WHEN she was expunging herself. Telling us BEFORE was still a mystery.

She became more aware of her bodily functions. One bathtime, she let out a fart that I could have won some fraternity championships with. “Oh shit,” I thought, both literally and figuratively, envisioning a reenactment of the Baby Ruth scene in Caddyshack.

I asked her if she needed to poo-poo or if she was just farting.

“FAR-eeeeeeeen,” she said, then laughed hysterically.

Yep, that’s my daughter.

A month or so after she turned two, we noticed she was consistently staying dry throughout the night. She would go long periods of the day without shitting or pissing herself. I can’t always make the same claims for myself, so we figured, what the hell? Let’s do this.

We didn’t quite go the “cover all the couches and floors and have her go naked all weekend” route that the cold turkey’ers suggest. Instead we took her to the potty on a regular basis. Sometimes she went, sometimes not. By the end of the first day, she was pretty adept at identifying which times she would pee and which times she would not.

By the end of the next day, she was potty trained.

I’m not going to say she’s batting 1.000. She still has some “Oopses. And by “Oops,” I mean “Shit.” A few pisses, too, but most of her oopses are shits. It seems odd that she would recognize an impending urinary incident more readily than a bowel emergency. To me, the latter seems much easier to feel coming from a mile away. But I’ve been assured that #1-awareness usually predates #2-awareness by the teacher in the two-year old room to which my daughter was recently promoted. And if you aren’t going to believe someone who spends her entire day around two-year olds, who are you going to believe?

And why does the Toddler keep saying “Poo Poo Power”? Oh, never mind. She’s saying Purple Flower. Lost my translator for a second…

A week or two after “The Transition,” this same teacher asked if I wanted to take home the diapers and wipes we had at Day Care. It hadn’t occurred to me. When I got home, I presented the returned items to my wife.

“I guess we can clean out her diaper drawer, huh?”

“I can hand them down to a co-worker.”

“You know what? We haven’t had to empty the diaper sausage in a month.”

We looked at each other and smiled. It was only then that we realized what had happened. The look we shared was the same look of hope that a child has, waking up and gingerly lifting the pillow to see what lies beneath…

“The Potty Fairy was here! The Potty Fairy was here!”

 

 

 

 

Finely Aged Spam

You know that feeling you get when you see an old friend?

You’re in line at the store and, “Hey, how have you been? Wow, your kids are how old now? Gosh, I remember when they were… Did you hear…? That’s great. We should totally get together sometime. No, not this month. How about…? Okay, well, great seeing you!”

Such a heartwarming feeling.

Or when you hear from an old penpal.

What’s a penpal? Well, back in the… it’s kinda like a, um, ask your par… uh, grandparents.

I used to have a penpal in the mid-nineties. He used to write me with fantastical stories from a far-off land. He had some great business plans going on in his life that he liked to tell me about. Hardly a week went by without another e-mail.

Then he stopped writing. Who can ever pinpoint where these relationships go awry? Maybe both of our lives became more hectic. Maybe he became upset that I didn’t respond often enough. Maybe he was like, “Hey, Wombat, the e-mails go in both directions, y’know.”

Or maybe it was just my spam filter.

Did I mention my penpal was a Nigerian prince?

Maybe he wrote to you, too?

Well, if you’re like me and you’ve wondered what happened to him, I’ve got good news. I recently signed up for an e-mail account through a non-profit and, needless to say, whatever free service the group gets its accounts from has less stringent filters than the Gmails and Yahoos of the world.

I had barely visited my first porn site sent my first e-mail from this account before I started hearing from my old penpal, still just NEEDING to transfer me a few million dollar

Or maybe it wasn’t two million dollars, maybe it was just two dollars. It’s hard to say because the commas were where the decimals should be and the decimals were where the commas should be. So whatever the fuck $2.ooo.ooo,oo is, my prince friend needs to give it to me for safe-keeping. You’d think with all of that money to burn, he could purchase a Strunk & White guide for proper numerical structure when writing to an American audience.

And the Nigerian prince wasn’t the only one. He managed to keep the band together. All of his old buddies are still out there.

You know the ones.

A relative I didn’t know just died while visiting Burkina Faso, someplace my relatives are notorious for visiting because who doesn’t love a wonderful evening stroll through Ouagadougou? This relative decided to leave me, because I have the same last name, their entire fortune of $47.543,13. Strunk & White tells me that’ll cover a tank of gas with 3,13 leftover. You sunk my Battleship!

There is also the woman whose husband is dying and is desperately in need of some penicillin. No problem, I’ve got antibiotics from my last infection. I’ll drop a few pills in an envelope and… wait, you need my bank account number? I don’t think there’s any Keflex in there.

And let’s not forget the personnel manager from a “Large International” firm that is willing to pay me $2.500-$5.000 a week for some undisclosed work. Given my understanding of unnamed firms with anonymous solicitations, I assume it includes sexual favors. Nonetheless, I think need a little bit more information about the firm and the job before I give you my direct deposit information.

Yep, they’re all still out there inundating unsuspecting inboxes. What better way to relive your Macarena days than an e-mail from a Nigerian prince? It’s almost as painless as a herpes flare-up. And substantially less itchy.

Speaking of herpes, the boner pill ads are not as commonplace as they were a decade ago, but they’re still there.

It turns out there are some new spammers out there, too. Some of them are getting trickier. Some of them are just getting more hilarious.

The ones that I could actually see working appear to come from banks or credit card companies. An e-mail from Bank of America or American Express saying “Verify your deposit” or “Security Message” presumably leads to a website where I should type in my account number. I think I forwarded the first “Suspicious Activity” e-mail to the treasurer of our organization.

“Um, do we have a Bank of America account?”

“Nope. Wells Fargo.”

“Good to know.”

I was less worried when I got the email about Fraudlent Activity on my account. Whew. If it was fraudulent, I’d be worried, but I think a little fraudlent activity is good for a growing account.

There was also an e-mail from Discover that was titled “Security Message from American Express.” How nice of Discover to be so worried about the security of their competitor.

I also receive a lot of invoices and receipts for services I’m pretty sure I didn’t purchase. And why are all of your invoices zip files? That seems like an odd business practice.  And to the person who sent me an e-mail with “Pictures you requested?” Dude, don’t zip those photos, just send them individually. My MB allowance can handle it. Ditto on the financial report.

I also enjoy getting three copies of the same e-mail from different people at the same time.  I also seem to be getting a lot of e-mails from myself. Damn, just what did I do last night? I must’ve requested a lot of pictures and reports while I was blacked out.  Who knew I was a “On my desk by noon” kind of drunk?

So, just in case you wondered, all of your friends are still out there.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I just won a VisaCard e-Lottery. I’m off to go buy an Aston Martin.

The Tooth Noob

“The hygienist is out today. The dentist will be cleaning your teeth.”

I used to think these were the most terrifying words one could hear upon arriving at one’s biannual scrape-and-blood-fest. Most dentists I’ve encountered combine the bedside manner of an executioner with the gentle, nurturing touch of a detoxing crackwhore.

How the hell can someone drill trough enamel and perform root canals, yet be incapable of putting the X-Ray film in my mouth without puncturing through to my nose?

The typical hygienist has had, I’m guessing, seventy fewer years of schooling, yet they still managed to fit that vital “Scrape, Don’t Stab” class in. Is that the stuff they cover on Dentist Ditch Day? Or is it all the dentist’s extra classes that make them forget Dentistry 101: Patients Wincing. Dentists only remember those upper division classes – Dentistry 515a: Scrapers Between the Teeth (Because Floss is Too Forgiving) and 515b: Scrapers & Gums (The Lawn Darts of the 21st Century).

Whereas the hygienist seems to realize that there will be blood and have the sanitary napkin ready to go.

Wait, that gauzy cheesecloth they use isn’t called a sanitary napkin? Sanitary napkins go where? Hmmm. Maybe I should’ve been concerned by the Dentist/OB-Gyn sign on the front door. But the Dentist/Bartender sign next door looked so shoddy.

Regardless, I learned this week that there is a situation worse than dental dictator subbing as sympathetic schoolmarm. One that can’t be cured by a simple “Milkshakes for dinner?” text to the wife.

“Your hygienist retired. I’m your new hygienist. Today is my first day.”

Yikes. Is this going to be as bad as that first-day hooker I visitied?

The answer: more pain, less chafing.

She asked me how I felt about my dental health. Um, fine? Do I brush twice a day? Let’s say sure. And floss? Yes, I’ve heard of it.

She asked the questions while out of sight, standing behind the upright chair. She paused after each question because she was writing down my answers. Then she asks me to sign the paper. Whoa, whoa, whoa. Will this be used against me in a court of law? I mean, I just told you that I floss regularly, but if I’m required to testify, I might need to plead the fifth.

On this sheet she hands me to sign, I see all the notes the previous hygienist had kept on me. Sentences and sentences appeared on each previous visit. Discussions we had had, what vacation I’m going to be taking before my next visit. Ha! I knew she didn’t “happen to” remember my child’s name six months later! It was all written down on that sheet. The sheet I had never seen, nor had to sign, before.

Today’s “notes” say “Health: Fine. Flosses.”

Alright, as long as I don’t have to use a thumbprint or retinal scan, I’ll sign that. But I’m going to sign it soppy so the prosecution has a tougher time pinning it on me.

Then the festivities began. She handed my some loaner sunglasses. “Wear these so the light doesn’t hurt your eyes.”

Um, how about you just not shoot light into my eyes? Last time I checked my teeth aren’t in my eyes. There’s an entire nose in between the two. If you feel the need to shoot light somewhere other than my mouth, have a gander at those lustrous nostrils.

But not only was she using the standard hovering dentist light, she also had a miner’s lamp strapped to her forehead. Wow. Are we going spelunking?

She then lowered my chair into the reclining position. And then she kept going. Holy crap. The old hygienist could work wonders if I was at a 45-degree angle. Maybe she’d occasionally drop me to 35-degrees. For this chick, zero-degrees wasn’t enough. We were heading into Graphing Quadrant IV.

“Is that comfortable?” She asked as I started clutching the side of the chair to offset the gravitational pull on my head.

“I don’t know. When I come down from the high of blood rushing to my brain, I’ll tell you. Y’know, the hooker made me wear sunglasses and hang upside down, too.”

She reluctantly put me back to horizontal and went to work.

In the teaching world, it can be refreshing when a new teacher shows fresh out of Teacher Prep school. They bring new technology and websites that I might not discover on my own. And I reciprocate by giving them some of my old videos, but mainly just to watch them try to figure out how to jam a VHS tape into their laptop.

So maybe, I thought, this new dental hygienist would bring a similar novelty to the process. Maybe some laser wash that instantly removes all plaque with no scraping.

It turns out she did, in fact, have a newfangled tool. Unfortunately, it resembled Doctor Who’s sonic screwdriver.  It vibrated and shot water at the same time. The vibration felt like drilling, because patients loved the drilling sensation so much, they added it even when not filling cavities. The water came out at roughly the same force as a fire hydrant. Because, “Yay, Waterboarding!”

But the really great news was that, after the sonic screwdriver was finished, there was still scraping to look forward to. Whew! In her defense, though, the scraping went faster. I assume all she had to do was scrape the few bits of enamel that hadn’t been pulverized over the twenty minutes of tooth fracking.

She didn’t really know where to sit to gain the best access to my mouth. Probably because I was an asshole and wouldn’t let her hang me upside down. So she kept moving her rolly chair from one side of my head to the other, trying upside down, sideways, whatever. She asked me to move my face and body one direction, then the other, so she could get the best angle. The various tubes and cords came close to strangling me a few times, but what’s a little asphyxiation amongst friends? The hooker would have charged me more for that, but here it’s an all-inclusive price.

During the entire process, she kept the suction tube hanging from my cheek like a goddamned breathing tube. Could she have at least given me some nitrous? Hey hygienist, maybe you can just keep that suction thing nearby and only use it when necessary, huh? Then again, when you’re pumping ten thousand pounds of water pressure into my gumline, I guess the suction needs to be continuously running. Delta Dental ain’t paying your salary if I drown.

So while the cords and suction were constant, you know what was missing? Any conversation whatsoever. I get that it’s awkward to have me deepthroating on a first date, but how about some of that bona fide hygienist banter? I know that has to be taught in hygienist school. It truly is a skill. No other profession on the planet has mastered one-sided conversations. Who else can get somebody’s life story based only on yes-no questions and guttural plegm? I mentioned that my old hygienist had listed my baby’s name as “fghrghrxchtl,” right?

Any big plans for this weekend? Swimming, you say? What hobbies do you enjoy? Blog writing? Interesting! Sado-Masochism? Whips and chains, huh? Does this hurt? Yes? Do you want me to stop? No?

Sorry. Got confused with the hooker again.

But this new hygienist didn’t say a damn thing. I get that I was the first patient she ever had without a giant button between my nipples, but even Resuscitation Annie likes to be asked how her day went, right?

But maybe it’s for the best. Unlike my former hygienist, this one’s copious notes can’t ever be stolen for identity thieves.  The fact that I’m behind on my grading isn’t going to appear on Wikileaks.

The only thing the NSA or some Nigerian prince is going to get on me now is some suspicious self-reported dental habits.

$10,000 OR THE WORLD LEARNS THAT YOU LIE ABOUT FLOSSING!

The Great Red (Muppet) Menace

Back around Christmas time, I remember talking to some family members and friends who had kids around my daughter’s age (between 14-20 months). Lots of questions about what her favorite TV shows were. I tried to fake some answers but in reality, she didn’t watch much. It’s not like we had actively tried to encourage or discourage TV Time, but there were certainly times that the TV was on, and even times we put on a children’s show in an attempt to actually get something done around the house. But she didn’t seem interested and when confronted by other parents, I wondered if she was an anomaly Were we good parents or were we the bad parents?

I mean, the experts say no screen time until they’re two, right?

Hey experts, you want to come offer some free babysitting while I’m getting ready in the morning?

Because my baby’s aversion/disinterest in television came crashing down right around twenty months. Now she regularly wants to take her place among the American public by plopping her butt right in front of the Boob Tube. And she can binge watch like a motherfucker.

Oh hey, kids? If you just found this blog after googling Sesame Street, this might be a good time to move along to another blog. And maybe stop going to the 117th page of Google results.

My daughter’s tastes are not all that refined, however. In fact, there are really only two shows she watches. The first is Bubble Guppies. I like Bubble Guppies. It features six mermaid-type kids that are in school. Or at least they are enrolled in school despite their best attempts at truancy. Each episode starts with two of them seeing something as they dally, unsupervised, on their way to school. Then they get to school and are excited about what they witnessed, and their teacher, Mr. Grouper, immediately delves into a lesson on the topic.

Really, Mr. Grouper? It’s called a lesson plan. You’re just going to scrap what you were going to teach because some kids come in excited about something? If I did that, every day I’d be teaching about teenagers getting “hella crunked over the weekend.”

To say nothing of the Bubble Guppies’ parents. What the hell are you doing letting your kids randomly walk to school through marathons or loading docks or the train station? Just because their teacher indulges their delinquent behavior doesn’t mean you should!

But I digress. The episode then revolves around this theme. They sing songs, they set up a make-believe shop selling items related to the topic, then they have lunch, then go outside (“Line up, everybody, line up, line up…”) and pretend to be that thing. And through it all they ask the viewers to help them solve problems with budding skills in math and literacy.

As I said, I like Bubble Guppies. But my daughter quickly grew tired of it, and now always tries to push me toward her current addiction. She asks, and I say, “Bubble?” “No Bubble, Daddy.”

Except sometimes she manipulates me. After I say I don’t want to watch the other show, she says “Yes, Bubble.” And I say, “Yay, Bubble,” then I go turn on the TV, and repeat “Bubble?” Then, with the TV on and me already thumbing through the DVR, she magically changes her mind. “No Bubble….”

“Elmo!”

Shit.

“Elmo! Elmo! Elmo!”

I don’t even know how she learned who Elmo was, but she was saying his name before she had watched an episode of Sesame Street. I’m sure it’s just like every other addiction – peer pressure from those other kids at school.

I originally pushed for Sesame Street. Before we discovered Bubble Guppies, Sesame Street was one of the shows we tried to occupy her with back when she wouldn’t watch. I was keen to avoid the likes of Caillou and Barney and the other dregs of children’s television.

I grew up on Sesame Street.

But this ain’t her father’s Sesame Street.

“Can you tell me what they’ve done, what they’ve done to Sesame Street?”

And before I get all “get off my front lawn” about it, I’m not saying they should have always kept things the same. I’m not opposed to change for change’s sake. It wouldn’t really make sense for all of the characters to be wearing disco pants like they were when I was watching the show in the 1970s. And for obvious reasons, Jim Hensen can’t voice a lot of the Muppets that he used to voice.

I like that they encourage kids to get up and move around more than they used to.

And I know that Snuffleupagus can’t be an imaginary friend anymore because we don’t want kids to keep quiet about abuse. I might question how much it’s made a difference. I’d be interested to see if there was an uptick in child abuse reports once Snuffleupagus was revealed to be real. But if that statistic was even one, then it’s worth it.

And truthfully, some of the problems are getting a little better since HBO took over. HBO’s increased the production value immensely. Once you can get past the all the full frontal nudity. (I’ll take “The Obvious Joke” for two hundred, Alex.)

But there are some things about Sesame Street  that still bug me:

  1. Character Voices.

Grover is now voiced by the same person that does Miss Piggy. Grover sounds exactly like Miss Piggy. And Big Bird sounds like Big Dork.

  1. Muppet Lower Torsos.

I assume this is easier with CGI, but just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. It just looks awkward. Check out the closing credits from last year or this year. Awkward. And man, in the latter, Grover needs to do some squats or something. Not sure how he manages to lug that potbelly around on those spindly legs.

  1. Abby.

If you’re as old as me, you might have noticed some new Muppets in those clips. Of course, I pre-date Elmo, but you would have had to be deaf and dead to not know of him. One in particular, the pink one with pigtails and a wand, is Abby. Abby Cadaby, to be exact. She is a magician. Abra Cadabra – Abby Cadaby, get it?

Abby is probably the second-most featured character on Sesame Street these days. She hasn’t infiltrated out amongst the general population as much as Elmo has yet, but among Sesame Street groupies, she’s almost as ubiquitous.

Abby Cadaby, being a magician, actually casts spells and makes things magically appear. Really, Sesame Street? Magic? What a lazy shortcut to storytelling. I mean, stick to the giant talking birds and cookie-obsessed monsters and green dudes that live in trash cans. Why do you need to add something fake, like magic?

  1. Episode structure.

I seem to remember that the interactions between humans and Muppets on Sesame Street (ie the entire point of the show) were spread out over the course of the entire episode, interspersed with various vignettes. A typical episode might go: Introduce Problem/Theme, Video of animals, Continue storyline, Aliens creating compound word, Preview resolution on “The Street,” Different Muppet video, then back to the Street for resolution and lessons learned.

Today’s episodes frontload all of the plot/lesson/Street scenes so they are self-contained, and completely over by the time we hit the ten minute mark. Then it’s on to the vignettes, maybe with Murray and his Little Lamb at a school or Cookie Monster exercising self-control. I will address the last ten minutes in #5 below.

I assume this re-organization is partly because episodes are now only a half-hour instead of an hour. Damn you, Mitt Romney! Oh wait, he lost? But you know what happens. Republicans are elected and they cut funding, then Democrats are elected and they restore the funding but also increase the ability of Muppet Local 2658 to negotiate exorbitant pensions that shoestring the show’s budget.

Or maybe it’s because these whippersnappers can’t pay attention to a storyline once it breaks away. We’re no longer training the TV watchers of tomorrow to remember the plot through a commercial break. Boy, back in my day, we had to watch commercials, uphill both ways, in the snow. You little rats have DVR’s now.

Then again, Bubble Guppies can break up the theme throughout an episode.

“Bubble? Bubble?”

“No, Daddy, no….”

  1. Elmo!

As I mentioned, I was familiar with Elmo going into this rediscovery process. I used to use Tickle Me Elmo as an example of demand and shortages in economics class, up until that particular zeitgeist craze started pre-dating my students. I’ll let that sink in with some of my older readers – current high school seniors were born in 1998.

So yeah, I was aware Elmo existed. What I wasn’t aware of was that Sesame Street had pretty much become the Elmo show. Take Sheldon from Big Bang Theory, multiply it by Cartman in South Park, and raise it to the power of Barney in How I Met Your Mother and you will begin to approach the degree to which the Giant Red Menace has spread his socialist scourge across Sesame Street. And his pinko girlfriend, Abby, too.

I would guess one of those two is on screen about seventy percent of the time. And if you only count the times that a Muppet is on screen, that would rise to over ninety percent. I’m trying to think of a time that any other Muppet shows up without Elmo lurking on the margins like a Mafioso Union Boss. The only time is when Murray and his Little Lamb go to school, and that’s only in the recent HBO shows. By comparison, Big Bird doesn’t even show up in half of the episodes, and Oscar the Grouch might as well be considered a guest star these days.

Oh, and that “last ten minutes of the show” I referenced earlier? That’s “Elmo’s World,” a completely separate entity. No other cast members, puppet or human, are allowed entry into Elmo’s World. Not even Abby. It’s Elmo, his pet goldfish, and a couple of humans named Mr. Noodle. There are two Mr. Noodles and they are both called Mr. Noodle, unless they’re both on the screen at the same time, in which case they are Mr. Noodle and Other Mr. Noodle. Just like a tyrant to not let the dudes each have their own name. But Mr. Noodle(s) are contained in the Sweatshop that is Elmo’s World, and are not allowed to venture out into Sesame Street proper. Elmo needs to keep his empires separate, like when Walter White picked up that second cellphone.

And really, how is Elmo a good role model? He talks about himself in the third person constantly. “Elmo has a question.” “Dance with Elmo.” “Elmo’s gonna fuck you up and Elmo-shit on your Elmo-fucked corpse.”

That last one might be a misquote.

I know no Muppet is perfect. Each has his or her own little foibles. Oscar represents sloth, the Count has certain OCD tendencies, and Big Bird suffers from the deadly sin of dorkiness. Cookie Monster, in addition to some slightly gluttonous persuasions, also uses the word “me” in place of “I.” But a little subject/direct object pronoun confusion is fine next to the megalomaniacal tyrant that is Elmo.

In fact, I expect Elmo to endorse Donald Trump any day now. It’s too bad he’s only been around since the early 1990s, he’s too young to be Donald’s VP pick. They’d make a natural pairing, and Elmo might be able to bring Republicans back to the fold, reminding them of the third-person self-references of the Bob Dole days.

And with Elmo on the campaign trail, maybe I’d finally win the mental tug-of-war with my twenty-three month old daughter.

But until then, it’s another steady dose of…

“Bubble? Bubble?”

“No, Daddy, no… Elmo!”

…on a Spring Break Afternoon

Last week I started my “What I did on Spring Break” de-brief by recounting a couple of the characters I met on my Booze Cruise to Mexico (Is that a Jimmy Buffett song?). Head back there if you want to read about the tour guide in Ensenada or the Piano Bar singer. They were each entertaining in their own regard.

But I held back on describing the biggest character of the trip. Because the Mexican diplomat and the singing copyright lawyer paled in comparison to a certain bus driver on the island of Catalina.

To say this guy was a cross between Richard Pryor and the Cryptkeeper would be insulting. Not sure to whom. My money’s on the Cryptkeeper.

The bus driver looked to be in his late fifties, but he easily could’ve been thirty-three with a steady dose of cocaine. His hair was ratty and continuously above/behind his head, as if he was being electrocuted in a windstorm. Or discussing gigawatts with Marty McFly.

I think maybe he put some Jheri Curl in his hair in 1999 and hasn’t washed it out since.

My first impression of the bus driver was not the first impression he was aiming for. I watched out the bus window as he interacted with the cruise personnel who were informing him he would have to wait for a few more people to get off the boat. He was pissed, and I can’t blame him. How hard is it to follow the “be at the tender by x time to be on shore by y time to give yourself z minutes leeway before the tourbus arrives.” And you know the cruise people were now telling the bus driver that, even though there would be people on his bus who couldn’t bother being on time, he still had to get us all back by <insert Sanskrit letter> time, or else they weren’t going to use his company any more. Who cares if he has to drive seventy miles per hour in a bus that tops out at forty on dirt roads designed for twenty?

So he was pissed, and his body language showed it. His jaw was set, lower lip out. His hands were on his hips when they weren’t running through his hair. He paced back and forth along the lawn, looking at the tender boats as if he could will them to go faster. I’m sure there was some “motherfucking kidding me”s escaping his mouth.

He looked like Pedro Martinez cooling himself off behind the mound after strike three was called a ball. Or Lionel Richie the day “Dancin’ on the Ceiling” dropped to number two. Like Richard Pryor after he set himself on fire. Or the two jive guys on “Airplane!” when they… hold up, they had afros, not Jheri Curl. Never mind.

After we finally had the missing cruisers in the bus, he gave us what he had intended to be his “first impression.” He closed the door, trapping (oops I mean “securing”) us inside, put on his microphone headset, and introduced himself as he pulled out into what counted as traffic on the only street in town.

“Welcome aboard,” he said in an obviously-affected, meek falsetto. I think he was aiming for Michael Jackson, but came across as Laverne from Police Academy instead. “I’d like to thank you all for putting your trust in me. Don’t worry. I’ve done this a… couple of times before. You’re… um… safe.”

I’ll give the guy credit. He kept the ruse on for a full minute or longer. I knew it was fake from the start, but still reached the point where I cast a skeptical, nervous side-glance at my wife before the bus driver broke character.

“Hahahaha,” he couldn’t contain himself any longer. “I love seeing all your reactions in the rear view mirror. You’re looking at each other like are we gonna have to listen to this for the next six hours? Like do I have to be polite?”

But here’s the thing. His voice hadn’t dropped that much. Sure, it’d grown in gravitas, but it’s not like his Michael Jackson had morphed all the way to James Earl Jones. He seemed to have settled somewhere in the Chris Tucker range. Or Dudley Moore. In fact, his voice and general disposition might have been part of his audition for a remake of Arthur. In this remake, though,  spends his time in the front of a bus instead of the back of a limousine.

And the bus was a character of its own. To call it a Muppet Movie or Partridge Family bus would make it about two decades too modern. This bus, a refurbished bus from the 1950s, would have called my 1985 school bus “luxurious.”  Think it harkened back to the Freedom Riders movement. And I don’t mean from that era. I mean actual bus might have physically been a burned out husk in 1961 that had been retrofitted.

And, really, what do you do with a bus that’s been fire-bombed by segregationists? Hey, I know! Sell it to a company that drives a bunch of drunk tourists around an island! I imagine the sales pitch went something like:

“Want a ride that’s as comfortable as a youth hostel cot?”

“No thanks, I live on an island with one town.”

“It corners like a tank!”

“I’m listening…”

“It gets two miles to the gallon.”

“Where do I sign? Is the bus here right now?”

So the guy drives us up the winding road into the mountains surrounding the town. I was on the right side of the bus, so I was only able to see how close he was coming to the mountain, not the cliff on the left side of the road.

But at one point, even from my vantage point, I could tell that was going straight when the road and, more importantly the mountain, were curving around to the right. This is it, I thought. It’s been a nice life but now it’s going to end in a fiery heap of asbestos-filled steel at the base of a mountain, the smoldering form of a still-cackling wraith spewing puns to my corpse.

Tomorrow, my undead corpse will be driving a new set of tourists off the cliff.

Wait, did they put asbestos in busses back then?

But he didn’t drive us off the cliff. At least not right away. What would be the fun in that? Killing your victims at the first chance is a strictly zombie move. Why do that when you can drag it out? When you can spend the whole time looking at the fear in their faces in the rear-view window?

Because it’s not like he was using said mirror to watch the road.

Instead, he brought our attention to the beautiful view of Avalon, the Pacific Ocean, and Southern California beyond as the bus hung precipitously from the cliff.  Or we were safely positioned in a turnout that I couldn’t see. But I assume the former.

“Where’s your Michael Jackson now, bitches?” I imagined Monsieur Keeper de Crypts cackling.

And then, after the pheromone level of his passengers dropped, our Dementor started up the bus again and drove us forward. I mean forward on the road, not forward off the cliff. Farther up the mountains and out of Avalon. There’s actually a barrier gate to get out of the “urban” area outside of the city. You have to be authorized to drive on the meager dirt paths that count for roads on the island. The golf carts that dominate the city are not allowed outside.

But a bus with no power steering driven by somebody whose head can spin around? What better definition of “authorized” can there be?

And for the rest of the trip, it was relatively painless. We were told we would visit a bald eagle sanctuary, and we did. Although there was nobody there, and it was pretty much just a netted enclosure that happened to have an eagle inside. I assume the driver’s buddy had just trapped an eagle and now it was a tourist trap. Although we didn’t pay to see it, so it’s a pretty shitty business plan for a tourist trap.

We drove to the east side of the island. At one point, he just randomly stopped the bus in the and told us we could get out to look at the view. It was indeed a beautiful view, if a bit marred by the bus sitting in the middle of the road, blocking any chance to escape. At least he hadn’t repeated his driving-off-the-road feat from earlier.

We ended up at the airport. I think that was the original purpose of the tour, but by this point in the day, I had forgotten. I half expected the driver to beeline it to the bar there before getting back behind the wheel with a foofy umbrella drink. But instead he told us that we were running low on time, so we had to take a couple pictures and run. Any food would have to be scarfed down. I guess all of that traffic we ran into had put us behind schedule. There were maybe two or three cars we encountered all day.

Or maybe he could have told one or two fewer puns. Or seventy-five fewer.

If you missed my earlier post, here are a few of his “highlights:”

  • “Love isn’t compromise, love is surrender. That’s why they call it a French Kiss.”
  • “The bumpy drive isn’t my fault. It isn’t the bus’s fault. It’s the asphalt.”
  • “Why don’t they play poker in the jungle? Too many cheetahs. If he says he’s not a cheetah, he’s probably a lion.”

On the way back to the ship, we were on to him, so he had to go a little farther for each zinger. “A crow has five wing feathers, called pinions. A raven only has four pinions. So the difference between a crow and a raven is all a matter of a pinion.”

His last zinger was quite electrifying. While stopped to watch the zip lines, he told us not to try to zip down the OTHER lines that were right there. Those were power lines.

“I zipped down those lines once. It was an electrifying experience. I used to be blond haired, blue eyed, and six feet tall.”

Nice one. And were you alive back then, too?

But what can I say? The guy was a professional. He safely drove a behemoth around on shaky infrastructure, kept us entertained and still had us back to the ship in time to depart. Quite the professional.

But even so, I still find myself questioning whether he was an employee of the company at all. Or if he was just some random dude who had escaped from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest with the bus.