Monday, September 22, 2014

My First Epic Battle


My first Epic Battle Was with a kid named Keith - I don't remember his last name.  Keith was handsome, tall for a third-grader, and extremely well-dressed.  I remember he wore a button-down shirt every day instead of a pullover, and I never saw him in dungarees.  (This was the late sixties when childrens' denim was making the unsteady transition from dungarees to jeans.)  Keith was self-confident and well-liked.  The teacher would call him up to the blackboard to do long division and he would race through problems like he was born with a piece of chalk in his hand.

I liked him, too, but I knew it was essential that I fight him.

I was a new kid, having just moved to Georgia from Florida, and I could see that fighting Keith - and winning, I had no doubt I would win - would earn me eternal glory in Mrs. Brown's class in Washington County High.

I told Keith I was going to fight him, and Keith, while somewhat nonplussed, accepted the challenge.  He was a polite kid and willing to oblige a newcomer.  He had a sidekick named Ricky, whom I always thought of as Ricky Ricardo, who was very derisive about my chances.  In truth, I don't think Ricky was really Keith's sidekick, but just someone who was nearby when I made the challenge and who - wisely - predicted I was going to get a whooping.

(In 1968 Sandersville, Georgia, children did not use the expression "ass-kicking."  We did not say "ass" at all, and some of us did not suspect such a word existed.  A vandal had spray-painted "Class of '67 SUX" on various surfaces throughout the county, which left me totally mystified.  I thought it was Roman numerals.)

We fought during recess, but we didn't even get as far as the playground.  We fought on the sidewalk just outside the front door.  "I'm going to fight you now," I informed him, and went for him.  Most of the kids went on to the swings, but two or three onlookers stayed to watch.  The tension was so thick, it was noticeable.

In my mind's eye, I pictured the sort of fights I'd seen on Bonanza.  I actually believes that at a climactic point, I would seize him by his belt and his shirt collar and send him crashing through a plate glass window.  However, the setting was not congenial to such maneuvers, there being no windows handy.  Instead I seized him by his upper biceps, and attempted to hurl him to the ground.  He seized me likewise.  I do not know if he was attempting to hurl me to the ground or not, but he might have been.

That's where we stuck.  Neither of us could let go without being hurled to the ground by the other.  It would never have occurred to me to throw a punch; I didn't want to hurt him, just beat him.  Kicking was also out of the question.  This was years before the TV show Kung Fu made kicking okay; in those days, kicking was still something only girls and sissies did.  So we stayed there, locked in a mortal grip.  Two of the three onlookers got bored and went to the playground.  Mrs. Brown, if she observed the tableau from the window, did not rush out to break up the fight.  If she'd seen it, she wouldn't have known it was a fight.

It was Ricky Ricardo who indirectly broke up the fight.  Ricky, the only remaining onlooker, inquired of Keith why he didn't simply beat me up.  Keith, still as pleasant as ever, said that I was a lot stronger than I looked.

That was all it took.  I released him, and he me.  I was stronger than I looked, which was high compliment coming from Keith, who was clearly pretty strong himself if I hadn't been able to send him crashing through a window.  After that we could be friends.
I had proven myself and earned eternal glory in Mrs. Brown's third grade.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Multi-Species Meal

Last night Nancy waxed eloquent about Sunday dinners her mother used to make.  For any Yankees out there, "dinner" is not the evening meal, but a late lunch, especially if it is large and company is expected.  Momma's Sunday dinners featured a slicing roast, ham, and fried chicken, plus any number of vegetables, cornbread, biscuits, and on special occasions, chocolate pie.

A friend of ours, Lane, was struck by the marvel of a meal featuring three different meats and said she'd like to eat a "multi-species meal" herself some day.  It was no use pointing out that if she'd ever had a bacon cheeseburger, she'd eaten a multi-species meal already, nor would she admit on at least one Thanksgiving to having both turkey and ham.  

I think what she really wants is to be at a table where there aren't quite enough chairs to go around, and at least one full-grown adult is sitting on a stool with a phone-book on it, so he'll be more than eye-level to the table.  She wants field peas and snaps with little onions cut up in them.  She wants turnip greens with a jar of pepper sauce handy.  She wants boiled red potatoes and rutabagas.  She wants sliced fresh tomatoes and sliced Vidalia onions.  She wants white rice, stirred in the pot until it is a mushy white slab.  She wants steamed cabbage and yellow squash.  She wants sweet tea.  She wants cornbread, biscuits, and white bread all at one table.  She wants there to be sorghum for the biscuits and buttermilk for the cornbread; she probably doesn't eat sorghum or buttermilk herself, but it is imperative they be there and that at least one person is enjoying them.  Two chocolate pies should be waiting on the counter.  If at all possible, she would like there to be a box-fan in the window, and sheets drying on a line outside.  And there should be at least three meats: a slicing roast, ham, and fried chicken.

And all of this should be served up by someone who has never heard of goat cheese or balsamic vinegar or edamame, and who would think shrimp and grits is "weird," and who, before anyone can touch a fork, will make someone say grace, and after the "amen" will say - as always when offering such a feast - "I just hope it's fit to eat."  

What Lane really wants is the multi-species meal Momma used to make.  I don't blame her.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Discovery and Use of the Whoopee Cushion

The Whoopee Cushion.

Any schoolchild will tell you the Whoopee Cushion was pioneered by the Roman Emperor Elagabulus who delighted the ancient world by placing an inflated sheep's bladder on the chair of a guest.

We can imagine the dinner conversation going something like this:

Emperor Elagabulus: (With unusual solicitude.) Have a seat, Marcus.
Marcus: With pleasure, Caesar.
Whoopee Cushion: Ffffflbrt!
Elagabulus: Ha ha ha!  You fell for it again, Marcus!  Ha ha ha!
Marcus: Yes, Caesar, I fall for it every time.  It is as funny as ever.  By the way, could you let me hold 45 drachmas til payday?

Incredibly, Elagabulus was only fourteen when he first played this prank.  Less incredibly, he was assassinated at eighteen.

For centuries, the haggis industry placed sheep organs out of reach for the average person and only the wealthiest could afford to offer their guests the amusement of the Cushion de Joie, as the French named it.

That is, until the 20th Century when August Vink and his crew of researchers at JEM Manufacturing were looking for a way to use sheets of scrap rubber.  The prototype probably originated as an inter-office prank, but Vink immediately spotted the commercial potential.  He took his device to Samuel Sorenson Adams founder and president of the S S Adams Company.

When we consider the sheer breadth of Adams' inventive powers, we cannot but stand in awe.  The invention of the joy buzzer alone would have ensured him a place among the immortals, but he also gave us the snake-nut can, the stink bomb, and the dribble glass.  Adams had made a fortune almost overnight from the sneeze-powder craze, and had built from it a formidable company.  The man was a living monument, and therefore, when he rejected Vink's discovery as "too vulgar," it must've seemed like there was no hope.

But Vink was a man with a vision and was not to be deterred.  He took his invention to Adam's rival Johnson Smith Company.  

Johnson Smith in those days was plucky and hungry, an ambitious young upstart ready to try anything.  The launch of his X-Ray Vision Glasses had won him supporters among the intelligentsia and he was cocky enough to rush in where others feared to tread.  When Vink demonstrated the novelty cushion, Smith didn't hesitate to snap it up.

People have objected from that day to this that the name Whoopee Cushion is unhelpful and misleading, as the cushion does not make a sound which at all resembles Whoopee.  Perhaps the name was a corruption of "whoopsy," an interjection of chagrin.  Perhaps Whoopee was an attempt to imitate the name of Adams' "joy buzzer," implying that the purchase of the product would result in boundless delight at social gatherings.  Perhaps it was a reference to a forgotten Vaudeville routine in which a comedian referred to flatulence as "whoopee."  Whatever the case, the origin of the name seems destined to remain shrouded in mystery.

It was the Roaring Twenties, and didn't take long for the cushion to become all the rage; it was a time of bathtub gin, flivvers, and flappers, and people knew a good time when they saw it.  Adams, belatedly seeing the money to be made, came out with his own version, "The Raspberry Cushion."  It was a cut-throat move all too typical of the novelty industry and a blatant violation of patent rights.  Smith planned to file suit, and no doubt would have won, but he fell an early victim of the Crash of '29; he'd unwisely poured a fortune into rubber chickens, which had proved a dud among the buying public.  Of course, Salvadore Dali's endorsement was later to lead to a rubber chicken renaissance, but that was years in the future, and meanwhile Smith was unable to muster funds for a legal team.

Young people today may not even know a Whoopee Cushion when they see it.  Thanks to technology and the new Fart App for IPhones, no one need ever inflate a rubber bladder again, yet we still owe a debt of gratitude to Vink and Smith, and the halls of history echo with the fart sounds of their invention.

Friday, September 19, 2014

What Happens in Scotland


Dig In!
Scotland has decided not to secede from the UK, so now we can all breathe a sigh of relief.  I know how concerned you all were.  Major catastrophe, narrowly averted.

The real terror, of course, was that had Scotland left the UK, they might have wanted to join someone else.  They might have wanted to join us.

I have Scots ancestry myself, and I have nothing but pride for my heritage, and yet there are some things that are better left in Scotland.

There are some things
I cannot even comment on
Other than scotch whiskey itself, Scotland's primary contributions to civilization are dubious at best.  Take for example, plaid.  The last time plaid was considered fashionable was... well, never.  Paisley goes in and out of fashion, but plaid has always been out.  Take a close look at a paisley and you'll get an idea just how bad plaid must be to lose by comparison.  

Apart from kilts and gimcrack novelty tams sold at Scottish fairs, the only people who wear plaid are eight-year-olds whose mothers dress them in it, deliberately to humiliate them.   The eight-year-olds sense this and are rightly indignant, but being underage, have no recourse but to wait until they are adults and can dress their own children in plaid.  You also see plaids on boxer shorts, but never the boxer shorts of single men.  Women buy their husbands plaid boxer shorts as a preventative for adultery. 

My family has a plaid, but it is not one of the good plaids.  You may not have known there were good plaids.  Clan McDonald has a very good plaid as plaids go.  It is red and blue and white and very distinctive.  My family's plaid has dull bluish green horizontal stripes offset with dull greenish blue vertical stripes against a dull blue and green background.  You have to look closely to know it is plaid.

The British isles were never known for their cuisine, but even there Scotland sets a low-water mark.  Haggis.  The first step of an acutual haggis recipe I found online runs thusly; "Clean stomach bag thoroughly and soak overnight.  In the morning turn inside-out."  Next, you are to clean the "pluck," and mouthwatering collation of lungs, liver, and heart, allowing the "windpipe to hang over the pot" to drain out "impurities."  I will spare you the rest.  No one should read a Scottish recipe on an empty stomach.  Or a full one.  Suffice to say, later it calls for oatmeal.

The Scots did give us golf, which outdoes even baseball for sheer dullness, but their primary sport is the caber-toss.  This, for the uninitiated, is a test of agility and split-second timing wherein a lunatic in a kilt attempts to throw a telephone pole end-over-end.

And then there's bagpipes.  Dear lord, the bagpipes.

Some people say bagpipes are beautiful.  Then again, some people like haggis.

So Scotland will stay in the UK.  Be glad.  Be very glad.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Barbie Apologizes

Talina Woods, 25, from Wales, recently purchased a "Life In The Dreamhouse Talking Barbie Doll" for her daughter, Demileigh, according to UPI.com....Demileigh had the Barbie for two days before her mother heard the doll blurt out an off-color, three-word phrase summarized by the letters W, T and F. - David Moye, Huffington Post

Alright, look, I snapped.  That's all there is to it.  Everyone looks at me and thinks, "Oh, you've got it so easy, you've got looks and... well, looks.  And how hard can it be being a plastic doll with ginormous boobs?"

Let me tell you it's not that easy.  For starters, I don't have a man in my life.  I'm not one of those women who needs a man to make her happy; I'm pretty much happy all the time.  I can't help it.  My face is made this way.  But sometimes a girl wants a little masculine companionship, you know?  As for Ken, you knew he was gay, right?  I mean, just look at his wardrobe.  But I've seen him naked.  Gay is the least of it.  He's in good shape and all, but...  Well, I can't go into details, but let's just say he doesn't have what it takes to satisfy an eight-inch tall plastic woman.

And it's not easy keeping the equivalent of an 18-inch waist and a 39-inch bust, especially since I can't do Pilates, yoga, or anything.  My knees don't bend.  God, just one day I wish I could sit down.  My only alternative is to diet.  I simply don't eat.  Ever.

So can you blame me for letting fly a little F-Bomb?  But I'm sorry.  I know I said it in front of a little girl who is impressionable and looks up to me as a role model to teach her important values like shopping, getting mani-pedis, having nice clothes, an 18-inch waist, and 39-inch boobs.  I let her down, and I'm sorry.

Bitch.  

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

My Blockbuster Novel

I may not be able to devote my fullest attention to my blog because I have an idea for the next super-huge blockbuster novel: in a dystopian future world, where the government pits teenagers against each other in mortal combat, and where individuality is a crime, a passionate but chaste love affair commences between a sensitive young woman and a vampire.

I predict I will soon be wealthy beyond the dreams of avarice.

There may be a werewolf in the sequel.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Putting on Shoes

This morning, I made a particular effort to sit in a chair as I put on my shoes.  This sounds like a small matter, but it was peculiarly odd.  I am accustomed to sitting on the edge of the bed in the morning, but I have been told by my wife that doing so musses the covers, and then she must come later in the day and straighten after me.


Now I'm the first to admit when I am wrong.  Actually, I'm usually the second; Nancy is the first, but I come right after her.

So this week I am making an effort to put on my shoes sitting on a chair.  I can't explain how oddly formal this feels.  I'm used to sitting on the bed when I put on shoes.  Sitting on a bed feels right and natural.  It feels like what Jesus would have done.  Sitting in a chair, while not wrong in itself, seems unnatural.  I'm aware that a moment before I'd been standing in naught but my boxer shorts, and that image is still floating in the back of my mind.  To sit in a chair, an object admittedly made for sitting, while I put on my shoes, seems to disrupt the easy mood of domestic informality of the morning rituals.

You might say, why don't you just smooth the covers yourself after you get up?  This is not so easy as it sounds.  For some reason, I lack aptitude at smoothing things.  It may have to do with the configuration of my hands, the angle and trajectory of my smoothing motion, or unintentional torque applied by my wrist, but whatever the case, when it comes to smoothing, I am no better than a well-intentioned gorilla.  If a surface is extremely wrinkled, I can in some cases make it smoother, but I am never able to make it smooth.  Worse yet, I have smoothed things to the best of my ability, and perceived them as smooth, indeed, glassy, but then watched Nancy come behind me with a casual hand and make it smoother still.  

A similar effect is noticeable when I clean the kitchen.  I will leave it spotless, gleaming - the plates are so clean, you could almost eat off them - but then Nancy will come behind and make the kitchen cleaner still.  No, rather than attempt to smooth the bed, it is better I try not to wrinkle it at all.

Fortunately, Nancy and I have a fair division of labor.  She pays the bills, does the laundry, cooks the meals, takes care of the dog, cleans out the chicken coop, sweeps, mops, washes toilet bowls, makes sure prescriptions and insurance are up to date.

I put on my shoes while sitting in a chair.

We all pitch in the way we can.