Royal Scam

Read recently that the media circus and frenzy surrounding the birth William and Kate’s son is expected to generate some seven billion dollars in revenue, most of that coming from sales of Royal Baby Bobble-Head dolls. To be honest, the extended Royal Family makes me vomit and I think that country’s a couple of centuries overdue for a revolution which would send all those royal money hogs packing off to Pakistan or some other Hell-On-Earth place.

What’s the baby’s name? Why are they withholding this announcement? Right now, it’s the Royal IT; Prince Something Or Another who will someday become King What’s-His-Name?

Perhaps Will and Kate are stumped for a name for the critter that’s glued to Kate’s tit right now and for the near future. I have some suggestions, if they’re open to such.

How about….

-Prince Donald

-His Future Majesty, King Dick?

-Prince of Wales Biff?

-Prince Happy?

-something New Age-ish like His Majesty, King Sky?

-Prince Pud-Puller?

-Future King Tony?

-something traditional and Yiddish for a nice change of pace: Prince Meh?

-something cute and endearing like Prince Bubbles?

-get a British corporation to sponsor the kid. King Rolls-Royce or Prince Virgin!

-Prince Goofus?

-Prince Satan?

-Prince Ambrose?

- or His Future Majesty, King Obama?

Personally, I’ve got money down on “Prince James” which is nice and safe and boring, just like the Royal Family itself. Whatever they eventually call him, I wish him good fortune, good health, and a lot of luck. He’s going to need it. With six fingers and huge webbed feet, he might have trouble finding princesses.

Posted in Humor | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Redeeming Social Value

I have been wrestling with this blog for weeks now, trying to determine what ails it beside the facts that it is generally negative in tone, boring and self-centered. These attributes…if you can call them that…come naturally to me, the scant master of the misanthropic screed. I dearly wanted this blog to be about something or someone besides myself but, to be tediously frank, I am all I can think about at the moment. I have a boatload of financial problems, I’ve developed an actual physical aversion to the process of writing…which used to be my “bread and butter”…and, to quote the Bard of Asbury Park, Mr. Bruce Springsteen, “my life’s on the line where dreams are finally lost.” ( From “Darkness at the Edge of Town.” )

I’m at the age where people…friends, inspirational idols and loved ones…are dropping like flies around me so I spend an inordinate time pondering The Big Sleep and the meaning of Life. Trust me, it’s really difficult to find material for humor in those two topics. I mollify myself by thinking that this blog…this running record of my deteriorating spirits…might serve as a cautionary tale to whomever reads it. Please do as I advise and do not live as I live. Get Happy or Get Lost and, my least favorite, your Attitude determines your Altitude. I hate that aphorism mostly because it’s true and I am currently hovering somewhere just beneath sea level, wracked with that most poisonous of obsessions, Remorse. At last count, I have determined that virtually EVERY decision I have made in my adult life has been a grievous error however well-informed I thought I was when I made them.

Knowing that I’m probably incapable of making good choices, I opt to make none which leaves me immobilized and stagnating. It’s a sorry state of affairs and even as I am certain it makes for boring reading, I feel compelled to put it down and share it with my meager readership…perhaps because I imagine they might feel as I do and gain some small measure of solace with the knowledge they are not alone. I only wish I had some answers but even these would be served up with a disclaimer: don’t listen to this guy; he’s got it all backwards. Rather, do exactly those things that he does not and you’ll stand a better chance at success.

I know the world is filled with misery far worse than my own and many would call me self-indulgent for airing my despair instead of cogent opinions about our crises-riddled planet and solutions for the problems that plague us all. But I’m no Pope nor President; woefully under-educated and intellectually void. I don’t know how to fix the world except to say STOP DOING WHAT WE’RE DOING to ourselves and our planet.

Truth is, it’s been a tough week all around. The Boston Marathon bombings…the sheer ridiculousness and stupidity of the crimes…has got me down. I know, I know…I’m supposed to take pride and feel encouraged by the heroic response of everybody involved, at least that’s what the news media keeps telling me: the upshot of the whole tragedy is that we proved our mettle.

(Though I’m perplexed by how those two scumbags weren’t on any Homeland Security watchlists. How does a guy travel freely to Russia and Chechnya to and from the U.S. with out arousing someone’s suspicions? It’s not like those two places are vacation resorts that welcome floods of fun-seeking tourists every year. Not only that but an AMERICAN guy who posts what amounts to terrorist rabble on the Internet and raises no eyebrows, either here or in Russia?)

I’m digressing into a depressing subject. You know what this blog needs? Some old-fashioned redeeming social value. So here it is; enjoy. I’m going to take some more medicine and climb back into my wallow for a while. And, NO, you are not welcome to join me!

Redeeming Social Value

Redeeming Social Value

Posted in depression, Essay, News, Waxing political... | Leave a comment

The Seven Habits of Highly Ineffective People

Highly Ineffective and Happy About It !

Highly Ineffective and Happy About It !

Loathe as I am to compile lists for this blog…because I think it’s a cheap and easy way to fill up space and I dislike organizing thoughts in general.., occasionally I come across one that’s just impossible not to share with my readership. I can say with conviction that reading this list and living by its few, basic rules has simplified my life immensely, enabling me to better cope with an increasingly complicated world. I hope they help you all as well.

Be Inactive – Time is a two-faced friend so waste as much of it as you can. It’s really your enemy and it’s sole purpose is to kill you in the end. Time is best ignored. Deadlines cause stress and stress is a proven killer. Learn to flex your schedule especially if you are unemployable or perpetually “between assignments” so that you’ll be sure to “sleep in” every morning. Highly Effective people are notorious early-risers and they’d like nothing more than to drag you up out of bed and into some miserable job with them. Highly Ineffective People know how to best apportion their precious time by throwing all of their timepieces in the toilet. (If someone ever happens to ask you, “Do you have the time?” answer “No” or “For what?” and don’t be afraid to be rude about it.)

Computers are probably the single greatest time-wasters ever invented; facebook is a marvelous “time-sink” and Googling up videos of pets being forced to act like people or do dangerous, demeaning stunts is a pastime that I can honestly say saved my life and never fails to make my day brighter. Or duller, I mean. Yeah, duller. A whole lot duller.

Begin with No Idea of Where You’re Going – Every day, I start a novel. I have about 17,000 unfinished two page novels. If you start something, it’s much more satisfying, and far less stressful, to never know where or when you’ll finish. Your life becomes less rigid, more improvisational.

Be sure you always start with the best intentions so you can fool people and compile a handy list of the (imaginary) external forces that keep you from completing your task. Call it “The Dog Ate My Homework” list. Tell people you are jinxed. Tell them the whole universe is aligned against you. Say “The Force Is Not With Me and Never Has Been” over and over again until you can actually feel the Force leaving your body and say “good riddance!” to it. Who needs you anyway, stupid Force!

Put First Things At The Bottom of the List – “First Things” are usually the most annoying because they are often “mandatory” which is an ugly word. If you have important phone calls to make, get them out of the way fast by re-scheduling them to after 5p.m. when all of the Highly Effective people are either done with work or on their way out.

This increases the likelihood that you’ll never make that all-important contact that could change your life and simultaneously disrupt your TV viewing schedule…which could actually cause you to miss “Law and Order: SUV” serial re-runs on USA channel, a crime worthy of buxom Marisa Hargitay’s investigation!

Think “Win-Win Lottery” – Unless we’re all being deceived, actual people actually do win those Mega-Millions and Powerball jackpots. One of those people could be you. Granted this would most likely happen after you’ve been struck by lightning ten times on the same day a meteorite falls through your living room ceiling and accidentally opens a rich deposit of oil reserves underneath your house but you CAN win.

Many Highly Ineffective People have their retirement funds wisely invested in the California Lottery. Note also that lottery winners always tend to be Highly Ineffective People…illegal immigrants who can’t speak English; hard-core unemployables and just plain poor folk. It follows then that you can increase your chances of winning by joining their ranks.

Seek To Be Misunderstood, so you can Misunderstand – Mumble your excuses for failure; talk gibberish and sprinkle your speech with colloquialisms of your own invention. Be sure to say “like” and “you know” after every other slurred expression.

“It’s, like, you know, I couldn’t return your phone call ‘cause, like, you know, I was pffffft! Whooosh! RRRarn’t! watching, like, SUV and it was, like, you know, Phewww! the one where Mariska Hargitay looks like a real Plain Jane and then the next show was, like, you know, the episode where she turns into a super-hottie and I was all, like, wow, she did all that without like ANY plastic surgery or like boob jobs, you know?”

I think you get the idea. Be wary of gaining knowledge or expertise; these complicate your thinking and negatively affect your mental health and your ability to stay focused on whatever TV show you are watching.

Synergize…Tomorrow – Look up the word “synergize”…tomorrow or the day after. Get your ducks out of a row as fast as possible. Disconnect “cause” from “effect” and embrace a working philosophy that everything in the world just sort of happens, like, by magic or something. Don’t go looking for the interrelationships between events. That just makes everything more confusing and complicated. Resist the urge to forge connections with people or help anybody else get anything done. And NEVER volunteer for anything especially where it might involve doing two or more things at one time. This can have serious side-effects on your mental health.

Dull Your Wits – Stop reading anything but the back of cereal boxes and whatever celebrity gossip rag you keep by the toilet. Remember what happen to that chick Eve in the Bible when she ate some berries from the Tree of Knowledge. Pretty soon she had her boyfriend Adam hooked on the stuff and together they figured out how to build the atomic bomb…which really put a damper on all the fun they used to have in Paradise.

Mix ‘n match drugs and alcohol: remember, those warning labels are put on beer cans and drug vials by Highly Effective People who want you to stay sharp and focused and actually, like, “ACCOMPLISH” stuff. Watch a LOT of TV especially reality shows where you can boo and ridicule all of the stupid, lazy people in America and feel better about yourself because you’re not one of them…even though you actually are.

Because you have worked at it. Diligently. With purpose and focus and gritty determination to make your life utterly meaningless in the grander scheme of things. Remember that “the grander scheme of things” has been working against you from the moment you were born.

There are many more things I’d like to say about becoming a Highly Ineffective Person but to continue past this point would bring me close to the end of my essay and, remember, I do not allow myself to–

Posted in Essay, Humor, self-help, self-improvement | Leave a comment

Writer Beware

My wife wants to know where my “impetus” has gone. She’s at the point where she wonders if I ever had any at all. So am I. She’s growing tired of working hard while I am hardly working. I wouldn’t blame her for hating me even though she doesn’t. At least she hasn’t said so in a while. I take that as a positive indicator that our relationship might be starting to solidify. After 35 years together. (We married in elementary school.)

I’ve been griping lately about “writer’s block” which, if you think about it, is actually an oxymoron of sorts. With the emphasis on “moron.” A “writer” who cries the foul of “writer’s block” is in fact NOT a writer. Nothing on page = no product= not a writer. A something other than a “writer.” A day-dreamer running on empty; a wanna-be who has finally run out of the hot air I’ve been blowing for virtually every decade I have been alive. Being of Polish extraction, I’m blessed / cursed with a thick protective skull. The downside of that phenomenon is very little real inspiration can penetrate into my hippocampi.

To be a real writer, you have to be a mutant with your heart (mis)placed inside your skull. I have two lobes of pudding where my brain should be. Soft stuff; good for storing minutiae that I can regurgitate when I want to seem like I’m smart but too cold to get any real fire going. Fueled by passion, real writers burn words onto pages. My furnace is running out of gas, I’m afraid, and this should be evident in the indigestible mixture of metaphors I’ve just set down. Lately, when I sit at the computer, something like the voice of Andy Rooney on clonazepam comes out. Perhaps I’m inadvertently channeling good old Andy but I don’t want to be “good, old” anything primarily because it doesn’t sell.

Writing used to pay my fare in life. It doesn’t anymore. What used to come so easily to me, doesn’t; what used to be actual “fun” isn’t anymore despite whatever my cheap gags and general silliness might lead readers to believe. Just to maintain this blog, I’ve bitten my fingernails to the quick and scratched so much dandruff onto my computer keyboard I can hardly see the letters anymore. I used to be a story editor, a pro rewriter and a gushing font of story ideas; now I’m a naval-gazer…the absolute worst sort of writer… stressed to the max by a series of serious miscalculations. I did not pick my subject carefully and lost the knack for knuckling down. As a result, I’ve got a never-ending book and a half-dozen unfinished screenplays floating like little cartoon bubbles around my head.

Some time ago, I set myself the task of telling the story of my fucked-up family, convinced I might mine some tin from a vein best forgotten. I might as well have tripped over my best intentions and fallen into a black hole. I tried with all my heart to make these stories read funny. The net result was an ugly realization that I’m nothing more than the product of a degenerate abuser and his favorite target, and my “comic” white trash upbringing hampered my chances for a better life before I even left the starting gate. Writers beware: your own story is not necessarily the one you want to tell…unless you happen to be “Pi” and “Mr. Parker” that is.

"Boy, am I a geneuous or what? Not only is this fun but it's easy,too!

“Boy, am I a geneuous or what? Not only is this fun but it’s easy,too!

Be wary of something else. Virtually every thought I have as I go about my boring day becomes the title of a story I’ll write “someday” with absolutely no regard for the fact that I don’t have that many “somedays” ahead of me. None of us really do. Death has your number whether you like it or not. Someday has to be today, something I recently learned the hard way by procrastinating about going to see my mother while she waned through her latter years.

She died last month; I hadn’t seen her in thirteen years. Now she’ll weigh heavier on my conscious in death than she ever did in life. And her passing will probably color everything I do henceforth. I’m Catholic and we wear guilt like other people wear ties or underpants. We don’t do guilt well.

Writer, beware and don’t wait. Especially don’t wait for that mythical “EUREKA!” or “AH-HA!” moment of inspiration to solve your story problems. I’ve been staring out the same window, thinking really hard, for almost a decade now and I haven’t seen one yet. When I think about the times I did have those moments, they all have one common denominator: they all came to me when I was working and not thinking about working…if that makes any sense.

Despite all I’ve beefed about in this installment, I love my work, I really do. And the very best part of that work is finishing. Typing “The End” at the bottom of a page is the closest I get to an orgasm these days so…”smoke ‘em if you got ‘em,” pop open a beer and order a pizza  because I’m done with this subject.

Thanks for reading.

Posted in Essay, Humor, TV Writer, Writing, About writing, writing sucks | Leave a comment

Auto Pilots

The television business’ annual “Running of the Bulls” ritual, Pilot Season, is over and the networks have made their selections for next season’s new shows. The winning pilots are in production now but once again, I have been shut out having batted zero with what I truly believed were my best pitches. See what you think…tvwriter

“Pistil and Stamen” They are cops AND botanists. She’s a hardass, tough as nails and hard as oak. He is the quietly brilliant half of the pair who’s fond of flowery, scientific language. No one could see the innumerable possibilities for edgy dramas inherent in the concept even when I reminded them that most illegal drugs are in fact, derived from plants.

“Chopper Vet.” Dedicated veterinarian and hot shot helicopter pilot who uses his Bell Jet Ranger to rescue pets in peril, protect wildlife from evil poachers, and rescue big animals in trouble. This pitch hit the deck hard like a fatally wounded auto-rotating Apache helicopter, partly because shows about helicopters are expensive to shoot and no one seemed to have the slightest idea of what I was talking about. This happens to me a lot.

“Happily Ever After” was a proposed “dramady” about perfectly content married couples and their well-adjusted families. The catch was they were all extra-terrestrials because we know that no such creatures live on planet Earth. This one never even got off the launching pad. A studio junior exec actually threw one of his Gucci loafers at me as I was leaving the room.

“Rug Mob” I threw this one out in a meeting at the Cartoon Network: they’re pre-school kids and organized criminals. I think the shorthand version was “think Tony “The Toddler” Soprano.” Two very muscular and none-too-amused “gentlemen” showed me the door right after this pitch.

“The Secret Life of Puppets” was intended to be a fun and sexy romp all about the various “couplings” among a group of upscale New York friends, played by puppets. Don’t know about you but I have not seen a good puppet show on TV in years and I thought my timing was right on the money. I actually was booed at one meeting where I pulled this idea out.

“Little Boys” was pitched as a take-off on HBO’s popular series, “Girls” with all of the latter show’s quirky frankness. I spent a night in jail after I pitched this one to a cable network. Not only did they not like the idea but now I am wearing an ankle bracelet with a GPS locater for the foreseeable future. The damn thing is uncomfortable as hell, too. I guess I shouldn’t even mention what became of “Sandusky and Sons,” my story about a wrestling coach and his charges. No buyers even when I suggested I could set in in the Old West seeing as Westerns seem to making a big comeback in first-run cable.

Some men are born to innovate…to lead. Others like me are sadly born to follow…surreptitiously, at a discrete distance. I thought a show about people like myself might be a good arena for stories about also-rans, wanna-be’s and has-beens. I don’t think a single  listener got past the working title, “Losers, Inc.”

Horror and gore are selling well lately. Witness the success of “Walking Dead” and “American Horror Story,” two killer shows that are cleaning up on cable. I threw those two shows into a blender with “Dexter” and came up with a real champion …or so I thought. The show would have followed the misdeeds and misadventures of a serial killer ghost. One fatal error…naming the protagonist “Casper”…sent this pitch to an early grave.

Reality TV is hotter than ever thanks to the Kardashians and “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.” Seems like viewers can’t get enough inside stories about the rich and famous. Even trailer trash have their own hero now in Honey Boo-Boo. I figured I would split the difference and pitch a reality series that traveled right down the middle of the road. Studio execs thought otherwise and my pilot for “Americans Anonymous” didn’t exactly blow up any skirts, if you catch my meaning.

Forget TV. The Internet is where all the action is now. I put up my own podcast about something I know best, the struggle of the unknown writer, adrift in a sea of nincompoopery, trying his best to make a splash and garner, if not widespread fame, then a few bucks here and there. (Forget about respect and admiration.) The program tanked: my series of fifteen-minute shorts of me, sitting at the computer keyboard and bouncing ideas off of my Jack Russell terrier drew exactly two hits, both of which came from another writer trying to lure me to his own pornographic website.

So I am down but I’m not out, by any means. Original ideas are my stock in trade, my bread and butter. I’m having a hungry decade, that’s all. Everybody slumps now and then. Quitters never win and I’m not one to quit. There’s an old expression about how one door opens every time another is closed. I intend to keep knocking until it kills me…sometime between midnight and 6am I’ve calculated. All good things come to those who wait. They also come to those who say, “You want fries with that?” and “Paper or Plastic?” the only two pitches I have left right now. Like the mythical Phoenix, I know I will rise again from these ashes and take wing. With my luck though, it will probably happen right at the moment that “Phoenix Hunting Season” opens.

Posted in Show business, television shows | 1 Comment

Broken Automatic Writer

I can only guess at the number of people who have been wondering where I have been. ( One, maybe two…)

Around New Year’s Eve, I made noises about keeping after this blog and being more prolific in general. The very next day I spiraled down into that black hole where writers can only scrawl notions for High Concept films on bar napkins or draw stick figures with empty caption balloons on whiteboards; sentenced, I am convinced, to writer’s hell for six weeks for wasting valuable time web surfing to see what other bloggers are doing.

My Muse has been standing me up lately (that bitch!) and I have been staring so hard at blinking cursors on blank pages that my retinas vibrate when I close my eyes. I have never believed in Writer’s Block before now. Always thought it was an excuse before it felled me like bubonic plague some weeks ago.

Being a victim now, I can report that the phenomenon is real and as enervating as chronic pain…, which I also enjoy thanks to three butchers who masqueraded as neurosurgeons. Honestly, is there anything in the world more boring than a writer who scribbles at length about how he CANNOT WRITE? Actually, I am only posting this piece to fill space that might on better nights be crammed full of bon mots, excruciating puns, show-biz gossip and mildly witty observations. The black hole of writer’s block only has one escape route. You have to come out the same way you got in. You have to write your way out. You have to write ANYTHING…paranoid ramblings, Satanic meanderings, Hallmark Card haiku, the Cyrillic alphabet, you name it…to restart your cold engine.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

I almost wish I lived in the Northeast so I could blame the great blizzard of ‘13 but I’m here in sunny Southern California blaming the dog for eating my homework, claiming household chores are distracting me, and secretly praying for a minor earthquake so I can say it’s (literally) the fault’s fault I’ve been so unproductive. If you take too long to analyze the problem, the creative juices get siphoned sideways into making excuses for lack of output. Can’t write because____________ ___________(fill in the blanks.)

Truth is I have no excuse. I have oodles of free time, which I have been wasting trying at last to learn to touch-type, convinced this might help me out of the rough. Whom am I kidding? I will never master the QWERTY keyboard, no matter how hard I try. The quick brown fox can go fuck himself; I almost tossed a laptop out the window I got so hot fumbling over the exercises. I should just accept this as insurmountable handicap and move on, hunting and pecking myself to death. I have the digital dexterity of a three-toed sloth; I might as well be typing with my elbows. I am convinced now that the only thing more torturous than a blocked writer’s whine and stutter are those bloody touch-typing exercises. (Hint: do not rest your palms on the home keys and the exercises go much easier.)

My wife thinks this blog is one big “jack off.” I stammered and drooled to explain that my blog is a noble experiment, a venue to expand my horizons and experiment with different styles, an attempt to amass a body of work in heretofore-unexplored genres.

It all smelled like bullshit coming out of my mouth so she is probably right. (She is always right about everything. Seriously. She missed her calling; she would have made a great lawyer. You cannot get anything past her in a debate.) She did have one constructive suggestion, offering that I should try the old magic trick of automatic writing to heat up the cold fissile matter between my ears.

Use the Force, Luke.

Use the Force, Luke.

Take a pencil and a blank sheet of paper and just write whatever comes to mind. At this point, I am game for anything so I tried it. Here is a partial list of what I generated.

-“fuckshitpissjumpupmyassshooolllee!…why are my genitalia shrinking?…I don’t like that my genitalia are shrinking. It makes me cry…It was a dark and stormy night…Hi, I’m James Patterson. I can touch-type so be sure to read my latest book, “Alex Cross Dresses. The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog…I wonder if Burger King is hiring?…Am I done yet?”

See it works! I feel better already even though, in days gone by, I could robo-churn out material. Once I turned out a one-hour script in 36 hours. I could take a bad script and turn it into a shooting draft overnight. My fingers never left the keyboard for 12 straight years. Now I have reached the “point of diminishing returns.”

I desperately need a new rut.

P.S. I promised a haiku so here it is…

Loin of fine pork cut

Thick chops for fam and humble guest

Good eatin’ at its best

Like I said, I am expanding my horizons. I will be amending my resume accordingly and adding “poet” to my list of marketable skills. I think this will go well with “quiet guy who mostly keeps to himself” and “kind of weird.”

Posted in Essay, Humor, self-help, self-improvement, writing, being a writer | 1 Comment

B Tru 2 Yer Blog

I’m so fat and lazy from Christmas self-indulgence that I forgot to compile…much less think about… my annual list of New Year’s Irresolutions after a long-standing tradition that I started one year ago.

Foremost among my intentions for the year ahead is the promise to be more faithful to my blog and to expand its parameters to include stuff that actually has meaning. I aim to cut to the very meat of whatever matter I tackle whether it be an essay on how I spoon-feed my spoiled, disobedient terrier or an always-popular list of self-improvement tips for all of my fellow travelers out there, the reclusive and chronically depressed. My “base,” if you will.

This year, “Santa” stuffed an iPad into the underwear I hung by the fireplace which makes me an official member of the human race now and your newly minted, ever-plucky spot reporter.  I intend to carry the thing with me wherever I go and write henceforth in the very instant where inspiration strikes. In other words, my blog will be portable and “live;” I may even bring it to sessions with my shrink on the off chance my middle-aged “man-o-pausal” moaning makes for scintillating posts.

I have handcuffed myself to the machine so I can even use it on the toilet. It’s only too bad I cannot use it in the shower where I get my absolute best vague notions and half-baked ideas.

But never mind all that. The year ahead looks to be MY year because many of the projects I’ve quietly and steadily set into motion should come to fruition…wherever the hell that is…and my ship is sure to arrive, ten years late but welcome nonetheless. At the very least, I plan to draft another chapter for my ongoing novel, a crime thriller set in Antarctica. (Working title: “Ice Cold Dead.”)

This year I am going to learn some new tricks and promptly teach the same to my dog. Said pup will also start earning her keep around here as I’m planning to farm her out as a cadaver dog given her fondness for sniffing out and bringing home stinky, dead critters. ( I think I’ve mentioned previously that she has some mysterious addiction to rolling around in roadkill. )

2013 promises to be a meaningful year in as much as I’ve reached that point in life where one starts to number one’s years and count them down with dread. “Make money!” is my new mantra for this New Year. (Other pledges along that line include “Start Stealing Stuff!” and “Master the Art of The Stick-Up!”)

Another promise: no more “naval gazing.” This year, I’m going to stare at some members of the other armed forces as well, U.S. Marines in particular, especially women in uniform who somehow give me an unprecedented chubby these days. Another function of age, I guess.

No, what I meant to say is, no more dwelling on my own concerns in this blog. I am going to spy on my neighbors and dwell on THEIR concerns, especially now that “Santa” also left me a video camera with a VERY long telephoto lens. From here forward, this blog will be dedicated to real life matters…such as the young couple in the house across the hedgerow who don’t seem to know how to close their drapery when it’s boom-boom time. They can’t seem to get enough of one another…newly-weds, I suspect…and YOU, the reader and blessed subscribers to my blog, won’t be able to get enough of THEM! I will see to it.

This will be a year of spiritual evolution for me for a number of reasons. One, I pretty much have eaten and drunk all I could hold over the holidays and my body can’t expand any more or I’ll be forced to scrap my current wardrobe for XXL kaftans and, two, because it’s time for me to re-examine my earthly priorities. I think it was Ghandi who said, “Live each day as if it were your last but learn each day as if you are immortal.”

I’m not sure what that means…get back to me on that… but right now, I think you could fit a dozen Ghandis into my khakis so I think his dietary guidelines would be more useful to me in this present incarnation.

Seriously, though… I am what is commonly called a “lapsed Catholic.” Unfortunately, these days that means I haven’t scored with any under-aged boys lately.

I cannot, in good conscience, return to the faith beaten into me by sadistic nuns and queer priests even though I know in my heart that Jesus was right on the money, philosophically. Islam is falling out of fashion really fast…at least on this side of the globe… but Judaism, the other half of my Judeo-Christian heritage is looking better and better to me. For one thing, I love the Orthodox wardrobe…all black; so slimming!.. and I gave up pork at least ten years ago so I might just be primed to join the Tribe. Any Tribe, even one of the Lost ones.

I don’t care because what I seek now is fellowship…but I’ll settle for membership, especially now that my union card has expired. In anything. Seriously.

I’m also leaning toward Zen Bhuddism because they have the catchiest aphorisms of all the religions I’ve surveyed. The only problem I have is “Being In The Moment” because every friggin’ time I try to “Stay In The Moment,” the DAMN MOMENT CHANGES!

Mostly, I would like to be true to this blog in the coming year and be more prolific for my readership of…what is it now? Twenty-one million souls? My wish for all of you is that you find peace and prosperity in the New Year and that you will each send me a dime…I’m not greedy…in return for those good wishes.

More than anything, in the coming year I want to work on becoming a better husband and father. These are the things that matter most and, if my wife will start communicating with me in some language other than semaphore…and my daughter will break up with that motorcycle gangsta’…my dreams for the year ahead may just come true after all.


Posted in Humor, Is this funny?, self-help, self-improvement | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Ancient Phlegm

( Please pardon my absence from this blog. I have been preoccupied with another assignment which had nothing to do with the normal concerns of this blog. I have finished ( read: “shelved”) the aforementioned project and as a result, I have some free time to spend in the Sunny Corner. Hope you like this installment. It’s a science project, for lack of a better word and I did a whole lot of research…maybe five or six minutes worth of Googling…in order to make sure the science is all correct.)

If there are any, regular readers of this blog will have noted by now that I am a connoisseur of all things physiologically disgusting and just plain weird. (see previous posts re: “Epochs in Earwax.” ) For the record, I have visited the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia…my hometown…many times and spent dozens of happy hours ambling through their collections of preserved human oddities. At the Mutter, a world-renowned repository of preserved medical rarities, one can find the skeletons of conjoined twins, grotesquely misshapen human parts and an embalmed giant colon, extracted at death from a monstrously obese individual, which looks like something gone missing from the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade. There are thousands of exhibits just as engaging as the giant colon. If you are ever in Philly with time to kill, the Mutter Museum is definitely worth a visit and you should plan to bring your own lunch because there is no cafeteria. On second thought, skip the lunch; you will not have an appetite for days after the tour.

My uncle was a dermatologist and the greatest fun I ever had as a youngster was visiting his home and sneaking into his office files to pore through photographs of myriad “dermatological wonders” he had removed from patients’ skin over his years of practice. There were graphic pictures of melanomas, benign growths and a good many items that resembled tropical fruits that had somehow taken root on peoples’ faces. To this day, I can remember every vivid detail of the photographs, each one more bizarre than the last. (My uncle…who has probably long forgotten me…has no idea that I invaded his privacy in this manner. Fortunately, for me, there’s the slimmest chance…something on the order of a billion to one…that he’ll ever read this confession.)

Some years ago, my brother had surgery to correct a deviated septum and the damage done to his nose from years of playing football. I think he lost count of how many times he broke it. For years, he suffered from sinus problems as a result.

This man was gracious enough to allow me to cut his face in half to illustrate some of the points in this essay. We should all thank him and wish him well. People with half a face generally have a difficult time finding employment so his sacrifice for science is nothing short of heroic.

After the procedure, the doctor told him that among other nice things he’d done while tidying up my brother’s honker, he had flushed my brother’s sinuses of something the doctor called “ancient phlegm,” which sounds on first blush like some forgotten city that was sacked by the Roman armies. I had never heard this expression before but it piqued my interest immediately given that I am infatuated with gross bodily functions and the bizarre things that grow on us…literally not figuratively. It also has a neat, oxymoronic ring to it and conjured up one of the most disgusting images I’ve ever known. Apparently, years of hawking back and not properly discharging loogies, post-nasal drippage and…my wife’s second least favorite word after the aforementioned phlegm…mucus had packed the stuff deep into the labyrinthine recesses of my brother’s sinuses.

Dissected human sinus. Before you start gagging, bear in mind that everyone…even you… has one of these things in their head and, if your lucky, it’s a pretty and pink as this one.

That part of the substance which the body could not eliminate through natural processes became impacted, causing him years of sinus headaches and general discomfort. It also impeded his breathing and this made him snore unlike any other human being I have heard. He snored like a Grizzly bear desperately in need of a CPAP machine. Not only did it rattle every glass or crystal object within a mile radius, Brian’s snoring could actually be picked up on sonar by nuclear submarines patrolling the deep Atlantic.

Assuming you have read this far, you’re probably wondering why I brought this subject up at all. I’m actually not sure myself except that I have this uncontrollable compulsion to gross people out and the story just sort of popped out of my head when I was blowing my own nose this morning in the throes of an allergy attack. Perhaps there are readers out there with similar disgusting stories. Please feel free to keep them to yourself as now that I’ve finished this piece I think I’ll leave off these kind of subjects forever and find something more heartwarming to write about.

Like tapeworms for instance.

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Apocalypse Then ( Part Four)

“Would,uh, you, er, um, please demonstrate your,uh, courageous profile and,er, eat my, um, soiled shorts, Comrade Pedophile!”
“Sure, secret movie star fucker! Only after you are having had to be licking my collective hemorrhoids, Capitalist Chimp Monkey!”

Classmates would boo and hurl erasers at me. No one likes a know-it-all, something I refused to accept no matter how many times peers shunned me. At home, the Cuban Missile Crisis provided an opportunity to foist all of my accumulated scientific crap on my family. I comforted my sisters by telling them that we wouldn’t feel a thing because all of the energy of a nuclear blast is released in something like 1/50,000 of a second. “That’s faster than you can blink your eyes.” We won’t suffer, I promised. The bomb’s first light would boil our eyeballs. The blast wave will atomize us into a fine spray of former body parts. Why, we’ll never even know what hit us especially if we’re asleep. I figured the Russians will probably use a five megaton bomb to take us out which mean there’s no way we would survive. Our demise would be instantaneous. We’ll be the lucky ones because, even if we survived, we would all be radioactive and get so sick, we’d probably die in a few days, anyway. I was Doctor Strangelove’s bastard little boy, sitting in a sandbox with General LeMay and the other Joint Chiefs, babbling genocidal scenarios like they were no more than goofy cartoons in my head.

My Dad always got sour when I trotted out my smarts on this subject, censoring me whenever I’d bring up The Bomb, knuckle-rapping the back of my head and finally in complete frustration, kicking my butt, commanding me to “stop scaring your sisters.”

”Oh, but it’s all true, Dad. I studied up on it. Like, e.g. did you know that the blast radius of just a one megaton bomb would be enough to destroy all five boroughs of Manhattan in New York and, like, if the Russians drop an even bigger bomb on us–“

“–will you please just shut the FUCK UP, you little, Know-It-All shit!”

Truth was, for all my junior bravado in the face of Doom, I was just as terrorized as everyone else who lived through those horrible thirteen days. Faith and relentless prayer helped me. I was very devout back then; such a good little Catholic boy, our Parish priests were already grooming me for the Altar Boy Squad, our parish’s version of Seal Team Six. (Our motto: “Let’s roll…Holy!”)

Although the Cold War continued to ice up, I eventually pushed my anxiety to a backburner when I became hopelessly enamored of nudie rags and Mad magazine, much more age-appropriate reading for my eight-year-old demographic at the time. The anxiety of life in the Nuclear Age still figured largely in my nightmares though. Mushroom clouds sprouted nightly and blast waves chased me down through my dreams. Not so co-incidentally, I would often spring awake from these awful dreams to the sound of my parents fist fighting in the kitchen at three o’clock in the morning.

To assuage my fears, I would ponder the fate of the earth when we are all gone. After our garbage rots in a hundred-thousand years, the world would become a prettier place with sweet Mother Nature at the helm again, directing dog to eat dog and predators to capitalize on the weak; overseeing life consuming life to survive. She would still quake the earth, whip up massive hurricanes, and stir sleeping volcanoes. Everything will be dire again but in the correct and natural style. At least until giant, radioactive cockroaches grow brains big enough to re-discover Nature’s nuclear secrets and set the cycle of self-destruction in motion again.

The daydream mollified my lowest moods in childhood, just as pleasantly as a Xanax sprinkled in with my morning cornflakes does today, especially if I am watching the planet go to hell in real-time on CNN. Often, I turn down the sound and let the mayhem play while I mentally strain to reach some spiritual higher ground again, sown lately with fantasies about life in the New World Order after alien spacecraft rescue us from ourselves, perhaps to enslave us in the process; a dystopian future being better than “NoTopia.”

All this optimism and I still wonder why I never receive any party invitations. Not even from Scientologists.


Posted in Apocalypse, Cuban Missile Crisis, Humor, Memoir, Nuclear War, Short story | 4 Comments

Apocalypse Then (Part Three)

These were the coldest days of the Cold War in the hottest years of the arms race. Bombs built then were “City Busters,” multi-megaton blunderbusses; no one pondered the concept of “Surgical Strikes” to cripple their enemy’s ability to wage war; maybe go easy on the “Collateral Damage” to hold down the numbers of “Acceptable Losses.” It was “Mutual Assured Destruction” for any countries who might square off with their biggest guns.

“There goes the neighborhood!”

The Cold War nukes were city busters and both enemies kept redundant reserves to “Bounce The Rubble” of metropolises (“metropoli???”) flattened in first strikes. In 1962, the Philadelphia Naval Yard was a keystone military base, almost as active then as it was during World War II. A contingent of the Navy’s Atlantic fleet berthed there, a juicy target in the opening salvo of any nuclear dust-up. Our rat warren house was three miles downrange of the Naval Yard.

“I’ll take a dozen if you’ll throw one in for free.”

Thanks to the tutelage of my oldest sister Mary, who would let me do homework with her (or was itfor her?) every night, I started elementary school already knowing how to read, write, and do simple math all the way up to long division. With no modesty about myself, I was the brainiest second-grader in my school, acing every standardized intelligence test they threw at me. I had an insatiable appetite for science books and fact-finding, undercut by an obnoxious penchant for correcting classmates.

Before I finished first grade, I had a nickname: “Mr. Know-It-All.” My rewards for academic excellence were regular, after-school pummelings by the midget Neanderthals who flanked me in the classroom. Bloody-nosed, I would gather up my strewn science books and homework, run for my life; at a safe distance, I’d turn back to the group and throw the worst insult I knew at the time, “Go FUCK your fat Mother’s asshole ,” punctuating my slur by flipping them the Bird…with one unfortunate complication.

I knew that “The Finger” was shorthand for “Fuck You!” but I mistakenly believed the digit you flipped was your pinky finger. Worse still, I did not perfect the proper technique for a matter of months so, every time I gave someone the finger, I was mocked for my in-bred Polish stupidity.

At age seven, fascinated by the new space program, I sent away a coupon to join a NASA Book of the Month Club. Every few weeks, I would get a book about the burgeoning technology of space travel. I could read these books and actually digest the information they contained: schematics of liquid propulsion vs. solid rocket fuel systems; the processes used to liquefy oxygen and hydrogen for the ICBM’S that would shortly fall on our front lawn and concurrently fly up Khrushchev’s parted ass-cheeks just as he was mooning JFK from the other side of the world.

All of my studious probing, delving deeper and deeper into the science of it all, eventually led to the ultimate, dismal revelation: the Bomb. In my pre-school years, I can recall pressing my snot-laden nose against the nine-inch screen of our primitive TV to watch newsreel footage of H-bomb tests on newsreels. While still a sprog, I discovered the first H-Bomb test was code-named the “Mike Shot” and this was all I needed to know. The Bomb was mine; I was not born when the Mike Shot blew a chain of potential Pacific vacation spots off the globe but that didn’t matter. In my deluded mind, they named it after me.

While my peers were scooping grounders up at Little League shortstops or beating each other up in pre-arranged, after-school Smackdowns, I had my head buried in library books about outer space and the Bomb. Seven years old and I was disagreeably chiding anyone who called them “nu-cue-ler” weapons. I may well have been the only second-grader in Pennsylvania who could have done a classroom presentation on strategic nuclear weaponry. Such a precocious little turd, I would actually drop expressions like “i.e.” and “e.g.” in my speeches.

And I never got invited to any of my classmates’ birthday parties.

(To Be Continued)

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