Author Archive: Christopher Waldrop

Give Me That Old Time Religion

February 19, 1999

One of the nice things about living in the South is religion. Unlike other more cosmpolitan places like Los Angeles, where one has the option of belonging to a splinter group of the Unitarian Pantheistic Neo-Manichean Ascetic Protestant Buddhists, or any other of about ten thousand different splinter groups, or, for that matter, not practicing any sort of religion at all, the choices are considerably narrow. In the South, you’re one of two things: a raving lunatic fundamentalist, or going to Hell.

Speaking for the faction that is going to Hell, large and diverse group though it is, I have to say that going to Hell is not as bad as it might sound. You can smoke, drink, swear, watch cable TV late at night, read horoscopes, get a tattoo, cross-breed animals, covet your neighbor’s ass, covet your neighbor’s wife, covet your neighbor’s wife’s ass, or just sit around wishing your neighbor would get some hideous terminal disease and give you his Corvette. Amazingly, this is as close as most of us who are going to Hell will come to killing anyone. Killing people seems to be a special privelege reserved for those who have complete assurance that they’re not going to Hell, but they can only do it special situations, such as when they meet someone who disagrees with them. And as for going to Hell, having seen some lists of what is required for membership, I can honestly say that all the really interesting people are either already there or are headed that way, so it can’t be that bad. Besides, according to those who seem to be "in the know", a lot of really interesting books, magazines, musical groups, movies, videos, and different religious groups came to us straight from Hell, so maybe what they really mean is that we’re just going to Los Angeles.


FACT: A lite beer has between 70 and 100 calories, is almost all water, and the part that isn’t water is almost pure carbohydrates.

FACT: The average diet recommends a daily caloric intake of 1,200 calories for women, 1,500 for men, if you want to lose the medically safe two to three pounds a week. On the "Beer-Me" diet, that equates to at least 12 beverages a day for women, and 15 for men. A measurable goal.

FACT: The alcohol in beer is a diuretic, which causes the water to flush out almost immediately, leading to a consistent workout regimen including deep knee bends (getting out of the chair), fast walking (very good for your heart) and squats (as the case may be).

FACT: Drinking beer actually helps you sleep-even when you aren’t necessarily tired. All that added rest is certain to help any problems you may have experienced in sleep deprivation, counting calories on those other fad diets. In addition, you may experience the occasional "How did I get here?" when you wake up, which always makes for lively conversation, and possibly additional exercise if you have to sneak out and run home.

FACT: The "Beer-Me" diet is good for your heart. After just one day of consuming your required 12-15 beers, you will certainly want to consume some aspirin, which is medically proven to help prevent heart attacks.

FACT: On the "Beer-Me" diet you can eat anything you want. The only rule is that you cannot consume any food until you have consumed at least half of the day’s required beers. This way the food will probably only stay in your body a short time, until you again exercise the deep knee bends, quick walk and, this time, the "lean-over-and-hurl" stomach crunches.

FACT: Beer drinking is often done in bars, where other forms of exercise are common. Dancing, for example, is a good way to build up a thirst, as is chasing members of the opposite sex. If you really want to maximize your workout, try actually walking up to the bar, versus using a waitress. To take this to the extreme, you could even get up and get someone else a beer-perhaps someone who is newer to the diet plan than yourself.

FACT: Beer is cheaper than Jenny Craig. Based on these facts, let’s run through a given scenario for diet implementation.

CAUTION: This is a weekend diet plan, and should be attempted during the work week by only the staunchest of dieters.

MONDAY THROUGH THURSDAY: Eat junk food and basically be a slob.

FRIDAY: Feeling "huge," swing by the liquor store and stock up. Go to favorite place of beer drinking and begin the consumption process (remember 12 for women, 15 for men).

SATURDAY: Wake up (as required) and lounge around all day, feeling slightly smaller after expunging any food that you may have accidentally consumed (particularly if it involved beef jerky from 7-11). Take aspirin. Notice that you have absolutely no interest in food, anyway.

SATURDAY (p.m.): Restart cycle, noticing that your appetite has still not returned. Perhaps only meet half of your consumption goal due to an ongoing discussion with "the dog that bit you." This is a good thing, as only half-consumption means less than 1,000 calories for the day, and you still don’t feel hungry.

SUNDAY (a.m.): Wake up for mandatory sports day. This is a very convenient diet during football season, but it can be successfully implemented year-round. There is some major professional sport being played every day of the year except the day before and the day after the Major League All-Star game (fact–look it up). Consumption on this day should be paced to cover the entire day-you don’t want to peak too soon. Again you notice a lack of appetite, and are feeling thinner all the time. Don’t forget the aspirin.

MONDAY: Return to work, feeling thinner, well rested, and surprisingly mellow. Mark your log book, and begin preparation for the upcoming weekend.

Happy dieting!!!

It’s about time!

Feburary 12, 1999

Some of you may remember an incident involving a giant ball of string, a pink toy hippo, and a seventh-storey window. (For those of you who don’t remember this incident, see the archive, June 14th, 1996.) What I failed to mention at the time was that this was an exercise in the preservation of sanity. It may be easier to believe that I was doing this because I had lost my sanity, but no, the truth is much more complicated. Almost everyone has had the experience of being caught in Friday Afternoon At The Office Slowtime, a bizarre spatio-temporal phenomenon which causes time around us to slow dramatically while we continue to move at exactly the same speed. This probably has something to do with the fact that all offices now have microwave ovens. In the old days, a standard TV dinner would take about half an hour to warm up. Now, with microwave ovens, a TV dinner only takes three minutes. But if you’ve ever been hungry and watching your food go around and around, you know that a strange thing happens. Time becomes distorted and elongated so that, regardless of what all the clocks say, it still takes half an hour for your food to warm up. (Then, of course, for reasons not even brilliant theoretical physicists will attempt to explain, the apple cobbler is boiling hot while the corn niblets are still embedded in a solid block of ice. Anyway, I was going to share with you some other creative ways for getting through the long dark Friday drag, but I seem to have run out of time.

Enjoy this week’s offerings.

A Priest wanted to raise money for his church, and seeing that there was a fortune in horse racing, he decided to purchase a horse and enter it into a race. However, at the local auction, the going price for horses was so steep that the priest ended up buying a donkey. The priest figured that since he had the donkey anyway, he would go ahead and enter it into the races. Much to his surprise, the donkey came in third.

The next day the local sports section of the paper carried the headline "PRIEST’S ASS SHOWS". The priest was so pleased with the donkey that he entered it in the races again the following day. This time the donkey won! The next day the local paper read "PRIEST’S ASS OUT IN FRONT". The bishop was so upset with this publicity that he told the priest not to enter the donkey in another race. The headline that day read "BISHOP SCRATCHES PRIEST’S ASS". This was too much for the bishop, so he ordered the priest to get rid of the animal at once. Not surprisingly, the headlines reported "RACING PRIEST LOSES HIS ASS". The bishop was horrified, but figured that was the end of the matter. Unfortunately, the priest disposed of the donkey by giving it to the nearby convent. So, the local paper was able to report "NUN HAS BEST ASS IN TOWN". The bishop fainted! He informed the nun that she would have to dispose of the donkey immediately. She found a farmer who was willing to buy the animal for $10. The next day the headlines stated "NUN PEDDLES ASS FOR TEN BUCKS".

They buried the bishop that afternoon, and on the day following the funeral, the headlines read "TOO MUCH ASS RESPONSIBLE FOR BISHOP’S DEATH."

The Mr. Right Rejection Letter Form

Dear [____rejectee’s name here_____],

I regret to inform you that you have been eliminated from further contention as Mr. Right. As you are probably aware, the competition was exceedingly tough and dozens of well-qualified candidates such as yourself also failed to make the final cut. I will, however, keep your name on file should an opening become available. So that you may find better success in your future romantic endeavors, please allow me to offer the following reason(s) you were disqualified from the competition:

[Check all those that apply]

___ Your breasts are bigger than mine.

___ Your last name is objectionable. I can’t imagine taking it, hyphenating it, or subjecting my children to it.

___ The fact that our finest dining experience to date has been at McDonald’s reveals a thriftiness that I find unappealing.

___ Your inadvertent admission that you "buy condoms by the truckload" indicates that you may be interested in me for something other than my personality.

___ You failed the 20 Question Rule, i.e., I asked you 20 questions about yourself before you asked me one.

___ Your legs are skinnier than mine. If you can FIT into my pants, then you can’t GET into my pants.

___ Your "Putting on a few, aren’t you babe?" comment, given the 9-months pregnant size of your beer gut, was inappropriate.

___ You failed the credit check.

___ I find your inability to fix my car extraordinarily unappealing.

___ The fact that your apartment has been condemned reveals an inherent slovenliness that I fear is unbreakable.

___ The phrase "My Mother" has popped up far too often in conversation.

___ You still live with your parents.

___ You mention your ex-girlfriend’s name more than you mention mine.

___ Three words: Size does matter.


[Your name here]

Das Ist Verboten!

February 5, 1999

Despite my strong belief in the First Amendment (for reasons that should be obvious) I’ve finally decided to get on the wagon with several other people who also have a strong belief in the First Amendment but who at the same time see nothing wrong with declaring certain words "off limits". Words of the past have included share, fuzzy, nifty, and dude, and such useful phrases as "happy camper", "don’t have a cow, man", and any form of the suggestion that you take something and put it somewhere or do something with it. Luckily some other banned phrases, such as "gag me with a [insert object of choice here]" died a natural death, but individual words can be so insidious we can’t count on them to do this. So here’s my one "off limits" word for 1999 (although I think we’d all prefer that it be a permanent removal): TOTALLY. Not long ago this word was used exclusively by people between the ages of 11 and 19, and occasionally by older people who were either being sarcastic or trying to convince their kids that they were more hip than anyone with kids has a right to be. In a recent commercial, though, I heard a man who was old enough to be my father say something was "totally affordable". The invasion of this word has gone too far. First of all, someone that old should not use the word "totally" to describe anything and, second, someone who considers side-impact air bags to be a greater priority than stereo equipment, a string of flashing lights around the license plate, or other rad accessories, should know that using the word "totally" is going to sound, well, bogus. So let’s stop the madness. If you’re over the age of 19 and think you’re about to say "totally", try falling back on some words from simpler times like "very", or "completely", or "wholly". Words like "utterly" sound funny enough that you can use them to your advantage in a business meeting. Finally, if you are under the age of 19, maybe you too should think about trying other words. Face it: when you use "totally" to modify anything, you sound unmitigatedly lame.

Enjoy this week’s offerings.

ADULTS: Group of people Mom longs to communicate with after several hours of talking in small words about topics like "who touched who first"

AIRPLANE: What Mom impersonates to get a 1-yr.-old to eat strained beets.

ALIEN: What Mom would suspect had invaded her house if she spotted a child- sized creature cleaning up after itself.

APPLE: Nutritious lunch time dessert which children will trade for cupcakes.

BABY: 1. Dad, when he gets a cold. 2. Mom’s youngest child, even if he’s 42.

BATHROOM: a room used by the entire family, believed by all except Mom to be self-cleaning.

BECAUSE: Mom’s reason for having kids do things which can’t be explained logically.

BED AND BREAKFAST: Two things the kids will never make for themselves

CARPET: Expensive floor covering used to catch spills and clean mud off shoes

CAR POOL: Complicated system of transportation where Mom always winds up going the furthest with the biggest bunch of kids who have had the most sugar

CHINA: Legendary nation reportedly populated by children who love leftover vegetables

COOK: 1. Act of preparing food for consumption. 2. Mom’s other name

COUCH POTATO: What Mom finds under the sofa cushions after the kids eat dinner

DATE: Infrequent outings with Dad where Mom can enjoy worrying about the kids in a different setting

DRINKING GLASS: Any carton or bottle left open in the fridge

DUST: Insidious interloping particles of evil that turn a home into a battle zone

DUST RAGS: See "DAD’S UNDERWEAR." EAR: A place where kids store dirt

EAT: What kids do between meals, but not at them

EMPTY NEST: See "WISHFUL THINKING." ENERGY: Element of vitality kids always have an oversupply of until asked to do something

"EXCUSE ME": One of Mom’s favorite phrases, reportedly used in past times by children

EYE: The highly susceptible optic nerve which, according to Mom, can be "put out" by anything from a suction-arrow to a carelessly handled butter knife

FABLE: A story told by a teenager arriving home after curfew

FOOD: The response Mom usually gives in answer to the question "What’s for dinner tonight?" See "SARCASM" FROZEN: 1. A type of food. 2. How hell will be when Mom lets her daughter date an older guy with a motorcycle

GARBAGE: A collection of refuse items, the taking out of which Mom assigns to a different family member each week, then winds up doing herself

GENIUSES: Amazingly, all of Mom’s kids

GUM: Adhesive for the hair

HAMPER: A wicker container with a lid, usually surrounded by, but not containing, dirty clothing

HANDI-WIPES: Pants, shirtsleeves, drapes, etc

HANDS: Body appendages which must be scrubbed raw with volcanic soap and sterilized in boiling water immediately prior to consumption of the evening meal

HINDSIGHT: What Mom experiences from changing too many diapers

HOMEBREAD BREAD: An object of fiction like the Fountain of Youth and the Golden Fleece

ICE: Cubes of frozen water which would be found in small plastic tray if kids or husbands ever filled the darn things instead of putting them back in the freezer empty

INSIDE: That place that will suddenly look attractive to kids once Mom has spent a minimum of half an hour getting them ready to go outside

"I SAID SO": Reason enough, according to Mom

JACKPOT: When all the kids stay at friends’ homes for the night

JEANS: Which, according to kids, are appropriate for just about any occasion, including church and funerals

"JEEEEEEEEZ!" : Slang for "Gee Mom, isn’t there anything else you can do to embarrass me in front of my friends?" JOY RIDE: Going somewhere without the kids

JUNK: Dad’s stuff

KETCHUP: The sea of tomato-based goo kids use to drown the dish that Mom spent hours cooking and years perfecting to get the seasoning just right

KISS: Mom medicine

LAKE: Large body of water into which a kid will jump should his friends do so

LEMONADE STAND: Complicated business venture where Mom buys powdered mix, sugar, lemons, and paper cups, and sets up a table, chairs, pitchers and ice for kids who sit there for three to six minutes and net a profit of .15 cents

LIE: An "exaggeration" Mom uses to transform her child’s papier-mache volcano science project into a Nobel Prize-winning experiment and a full-ride scholarship to Harvard

LOSERS: See "Kids’ Friends" MAKEUP: Lipstick, eyeliner, blush, etc., which ironically make Mom look better while making her young daughter look "like a tramp." MAYBE: No

MILK: A healthful beverage which kids will gladly drink once it’s turned into junk food by the addition of sugar and cocoa

"MOMMMMMMM!": The cry of a child on another floor who wants something

MUSH: 1. What a kid loves to do with a plateful of food. 2. Main element of Mom’s favorite movies

NAILS: A hard covering on the end of the finger, which Mom can never have a full set of due to pitching for batting practice, opening stubborn modeling clay lids and removing heat ducts to retrieve army men and/or doll clothing

PANIC: What a mother goes through when the darn wind-up swing stops

OCEAN: What the bathroom floor looks like after bath night for kids, assorted pets, two or three full-sized towels and several dozen toy boats, cars and animals

OPEN: The position of children’s mouths when they eat in front of company

OVERSTUFFED RECLINER: Mom’s nickname for Dad

PENITENTIARY: Where children who don’t eat their vegetables or clean their rooms eventually end up, according to Mom

PETS: Small, furry creatures which follow kids home so Mom will have someone else to clean up after

PIANO: A large, expensive musical instrument which, after thousands of dollars worth of lessons and constant harping by Mom, kids will refuse to play in front of company

PURSE: A handbag in which Mom carries the checkbook and keys she can never find because they’re buried under tissues, gum wrappers, a plastic container full of cereal, toys from a fast-food restaurant, a teddy bear, a football, wallpaper samples, a grocery list and several outdated coupons

QUIET: A State of household serenity which occurs before the birth of the first child and occurs again after the last child has left for college

RAINCOAT: Article of clothing Mom bought to keep a child dry and warm, rendered ineffective because it’s in the bottom of a locker stuffed in a book bag or because the child refuses to wear "the geeky thing." REFRIGERATOR: Combination art gallery and air-conditioner for the kitchen

ROOM MOTHER: A position of great honor and responsibility bestowed on a mom who inadvertently misses a PTA meeting. SCHOOL PLAY: Sadistic ritual in which adults derive pleasure from watching offspring stumble through coarse re-enactments of famous historic events

SCREAMING: Home P.A. system

SNOWSUITS: Warm, padded outer garments that, when completely zipped and snapped performs two important functions: Protecting children from the cold and reminding them that they have to go to the bathroom SOAP: A cleaning agent Mom puts on the sink on the off-chance one of her kids will accidentally grab it while reaching for the towel

SPIT: All-purpose cleaning fluid especially good on kids’ faces

SPOILED ROTTEN: What the kids become after as little as 15 minutes with Grandma

SWEATER: Magically charmed article of clothing that can ward away colds, fly and even pneumonia

SUNDAY BEST: Attractive, expensive children’s clothing made of a fabric which attracts melted chocolate and grape juice

TEACHER CONFERENCE: A meeting between Mom and that person who has yet to understand her child’s "special needs." TERRIBLE TWO’S: Having both kids at home all summer

"THAT WAY": How kids shouldn’t look at moms if they know what’s good for them. Also applies to how they talk

TOWELS: See "FLOOR COVERINGS" TRAMP: A woman with two kids and no stretch marks

TROUBLE: Area of non-specific space a child can always be sure to be in

UMPTEENTH: Highly conservative estimate of the number of times Mom must instruct her offspring to do something before it actually gets done

UNDERWEAR: An article of clothing, the cleanliness of which ensures the wearer will never have an accident

UTOPIA: See "BUBBLE BATH" VACATION: Where you take the family to get away from it all, only to find it there, too

VITAMINS: Tiny facsimiles of cave people Mom forces you to swallow each morning as part of her sinister plot to have you grow up to be "Just like Daddy." WALLS: Complete set of drawing paper for kids that comes with every room

WASHING MACHINE: Household appliance used to clean blue jeans, permanent ink markers, loose change, homework, tissues and wads of gum

"WHEN YOUR FATHER GETS HOME": Standard measurement of time between crime and punishment

XOXOXOXO: Mom salutation guaranteed to make the already embarrassing note in a kid’s lunch box even more mortifying

XYLOPHONE: Small toy musical instrument often given as gifts to children who show their appreciation by playing the stupid thing constantly, over and over, all day long! See also "DRUMS" YARD SALE: Heart-wrenching emotional process wherein Mom plans to sell kids’ outdated toys and clothing that she decides at the last minute are treasured mementos she can’t bear to part with

"YIPPEE!": What Mom would jump up and shout if the school year was changed to 12 months. See also "YAHOO!" ZILLION: Amount of times Mom must have gone to the supermarket already this week

ZUCCHINI: Vegetable which can be baked, boiled, fried or steamed before kids refuse to eat it.

A young shepard became quite renowned for his storytelling and decided to travel in the desert, sharing his wise gospel with all those he met. He walked barefoot everywhere, to the point his feet became quite thick and hard. He also was a spiritual person. Even when he was not on a hunger strike, he did not eat much and became quite trim and frail. Furthermore because his diet consisted entirely of grubs and dirt, he ended up with very bad breath. Therefore he came to be known as a: "Super calloused fragile mystic, plagued with haltosis."

What Was Your Question?

January 29, 1999

Earlier this week I heard a science show on the radio that was so amazingly informative I had to share it with you. So, for something a little different this week, here’s a transcript of some of the best programming public radio can offer: (Begin catchy, repetitive, synthetic theme music) Direct from the radio, it’s the Write In A Science Question And A Retired High School Science Teacher Will Answer It. This week our question is from Jim in North Dakota, who wants to know if he can find satellite pictures of his house on the internet. Well Jim, for our listeners who might not be familiar with satellites, here’s a little background information: from the dawn of time people have looked to the sky and wondered what those little bright dots were, and why the sun and moon moved around in the sky. Wacky! The Mayans and Egyptians were among the earliest people to track the movements of the sun, moon, and stars, but, for the most part, people remained completely ignorant about everything, and burned anyone who discovered anything relevant. Even in the twentieth century, people believed space was filled with a substance they called ether. This is not to be confused with the stuff Freud and other medieval doctors used to give patients until they found out it was bad for you. Wait, that’s cocaine. Well, earlier in this century the Wright Brothers actually developed a machine that could fly. Then in 1926 Robert Goddard launched a liquid-fuel powered rocket. This started the Space Race. Well, I’m afraid that’s all the time we have for today. Tune in tomorrow when I’ll answer questions about attention deficit disorder. (Begin catchy, repetitive, synthetic theme music.)

Enjoy this week’s slightly more educational offerings.

Excerpts from actual letters sent to landlords

  1. "The toilet is blocked and we cannot bathe the children until it is cleared."

  2. "I want some repairs done to my stove as it has backfired and burnt my knob off."

  3. "This is to let you know that there is a smell coming from the man next door."

  4. "I am writing on behalf of my sink, which is running away from the wall."

  5. "I request your permission to remove my drawers in the kitchen."

  6. "Our lavatory seat is broken in half and is now in three pieces."

  7. "Will you please send someone to mend our cracked sidewalk. Yesterday my wife tripped on it and is now pregnant."

  8. "Will you please send a man to look at my water, it is a funny color and not fit to drink."

  9. "Would you please send a man to repair my downspout. I am an old page pensioner and need it straight away."

  10. "When the workmen were here they put their tools in my wife’s new drawers and made a mess. Please send men with clean tools to finish the job and keep my wife happy."

(Note: I’m forwarding the following before it’s too late and I have to update the title to "You Know You Work In The 00’s", although for most of us this is already true.)

You Know You Work In the ’90s When….

20. Cleaning up the dining area means getting the fast food bags out of the back seat of your car.

19. Your reason for not staying in touch with family is that they do not have e-mail addresses.

18. Keeping up with sports entails adding ESPN’s homepage to your bookmarks.

17. You have actually faxed your Christmas list to your parents.

16. Pick up lines now include a reference to liquid assets and capital gains.

15. You consider 2nd day Air Delivery and Inter-office Mail painfully slow.

14. You assume any question about whether to valet park or not is rhetorical.

13. You refer to your dining room table as the flat filing cabinet.

12. Your idea of being organized is multiple colored post-it notes.

11. Your grocery list has been on your refrigerator so long some of the products don’t even exist anymore.

10. You lecture the neighborhood kids selling lemonade on ways to improve their process.

9. You get all excited when it’s Saturday so you can wear sweats to work.

8. You refer to the tomatoes grown in your garden as "deliverables."

7. You find you really need PowerPoint to explain what you do for a living.

6. You normally eat out of vending machines and at the most expensive restaurant in town within the same week.

5. You think that "progressing an action plan" and "calendarizing a project" are acceptable English phrases.

4. You know the people at the airport hotels better than your next door neighbors.

3. You ask your friends to "think out of the box" when making Friday night plans.

2. You think Einstein would have been more effective had he put his ideas into a matrix.

And, the number one sign you work in the nineties…

1. You think a "half-day" means leaving at 5 o’clock.

Poe Folks

January 22, 1999

This is true: Every year a mysterious stranger leaves roses and a bottle of cognac on the grave of Edgar Allan Poe on January 19th, Poe’s birthday. The ritual always takes place between midnight and five a.m. and has now been going on for fifty years, since it was begun in 1949, Poe’s 140th birthday. I thought I should do something to mark this special occasion, so here’s an almost-unknown work on an extremely important subject by the man himself:

The Mammoth Squash

Green and specked with spots of golden,
Never since the ages olden–
Since the days of Cain and Abel,
Never such a vegetable,
So with odors sweetest laden
Thus in our halls appearance made in.
Who–oh! who in kindness sent thee
To afford my soul nepenthe?

Rude men seeing thee, say "Gosh!
‘Tis a most enormous squash!"
But the one who peers within,
Knowledge of himself to win,
Says, while total silence reigns,
Silence, from the Stygian shore–
(Grim silence, darkling o’er)
"This may perchance be but the skull
Of Arthur Cleveland Coxe* so dull–
Its streaked, yellow flesh–his brains."

(An Episcopalian minister. Why Poe wanted to squash him is a mystery–at least to me. For more information, see The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe, edited by James A. Harrison, v.7, pg.236.-CW) Enjoy this week’s other offerings.

On a ski lift in Taos, NM:
‘No jumping from the lift. Survivors will be prosecuted.’


Official sign near door: Door Alarmed.
Handprinted sign nearby: Window frightened.


Guys: No shirt, No service
Girls: No shirt, No charge


Road sign seen on the island of Cyprus
(translation of the Greek):
‘Caution: Road Slippery from Grapejuice’


A sign advertising a Company wide skiing race
Let’s see who can go downhill the fastest


Sign in King’s Canyon in California.
‘Slow Parking Ahead’


A billboard seen next to the highway, travelling from Johannesburg International Airport into town. An Ad for BMW showing a photo of a BMW 328i convertible with the roof and all the windows down. The caption reads:’ Our hardware runs better without WINDOWS!!!’


Two signs found on top of one another in a country
kitchen several years ago:

Please wait for hostess to seat you.


Sign in front of church in Montpelier, VT:
Bingo Friday night at 8:00pm
Quickies Thursday at 7:30pm.


Seen in a health food store_
" Shoplifters will be beaten over the head with an organic carrot "


"Children left unattended will be towed at parents expense."


I went to a little hole in the wall restaurant:
the sign read: Women are not served here…
You have to bring your own.

Think about it:

1. Accept that some days you’re the pigeon, and some days you’re the statue.

2. Needing a man is like needing a parachute. If he isn’t there the first time you need him, chances are you won’t be needing him again.

3. I can please only one person per day. Today is not your day. Tomorrow isn’t looking good either.

4. Last night I lay in bed looking up at the stars in the sky and I thought to myself, "Where the heck is the ceiling?!"

5. My Reality Check bounced.

6. On the keyboard of life, always keep one finger on the escape key.

7. Someday we’ll look back on all this and plow into a parked car.

8. There are very few personal problems that cannot be solved through a suitable application of high explosives.

9. Good news is just life’s way of keeping you off balance.

10. Carelessly planned projects take three times longer to complete than expected. Carefully planned projects take four times longer to complete than expected, mostly because the planners expect their planning to reduce the time it takes.

11. God did not create the world in 7 days; he messed around for 6 days and then pulled an all-nighter.

12. I still miss my ex-husband, but my aim is improving.

13. Stupidity got us into this mess — why can’t it get us out?

14. Politicians and diapers have one thing in common. They should be changed regularly and for the same reason.

15. People will accept your ideas much more readily if you tell them that Benjamin Franklin said it first.

16. I don’t mind going nowhere as long as it’s an interesting path.

17. Indecision is the key to flexibility.

18. If it ain’t broke, fix it till it is.

19. I don’t get even, I get odder.

20. In just two days, tomorrow will be yesterday.

21. I considered atheism but there weren’t enough holidays.

22. I always wanted to be a procrastinator, never got around to it.

23. Dijon vu — the feeling you’ve had this mustard before.

24. My inferiority complex is not as good as yours.

25. I am having an out of money experience.

26. I plan on living forever. So far, so good.

27. Not afraid of heights — afraid of widths.

28. Practice safe eating — always use condiments.

29. A day without sunshine is like night.

30. If marriage were outlawed, only outlaws would have inlaws.

‘Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks!’–King Lear, Act III, Sc. 2

January 15, 1999

Who came up with the idea of wind chill? Weather reporters always say something like, "With this high pressure front, the current temperature is 30 degrees, but the wind chill makes that feel like negative 47." Did I hear that correctly? Are they really saying "feels like" every time they talk about wind chill? And yet no one seems to question this. Most of us, I hope, would question any doctor who took our temperature with a thermometer and felt our forehead, and declared, "Your real temperature is 98.6, but you feel like you’re running a fever of 110. I’m going to put you on heavy antibiotics." (And this would probably happen every time since all the doctors I’ve ever known had cold hands. Either doctors are really reptiles, or they all spend too much time with their hands in the refrigerator where they keep urine samples.) I know meteorological science has made extraordinary advances in the past few years, but a machine that can not only tell us what the actual temperature is and what the temperature FEELS LIKE must be a pretty amazing piece of technology. Of course there isn’t anything that advanced, so the meteorologists must just be making it up. Like the doctors, they probably judge the wind chill by stepping outside for a couple of minutes. So why don’t they just tell us what they’re thinking? "Folks, the temperature out there is 20 degrees, but with the wind chill it’s cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey. So keep your tongue and lips away from fire hydrants, metal poles, and train tracks." Hey, it beats trying to figure out what all those H’s and L’s mean.

Enjoy this week’s medium cool offerings.

Advice for Yankees Moving South

  1. Save all manner of bacon grease. You will be instructed later how to use it.

  2. If you forget a Southerner’s name, refer to him (or her) as "Bubba." You have a 75% chance of being right.

  3. Just because you can drive on snow and ice does not mean we can. Stay home the two days of the year it snows.

  4. If you do run your car into a ditch, don’t panic. Four men in the cab of a four wheel drive with a 12-pack of beer and a tow chain will be along shortly. Don’t try to help them. Just stay out of their way. This is what they live for.

  5. Don’t be surprised to find movie rentals and bait in the same store.

  6. Do not buy food at the movie store.

  7. If it can’t be fried in bacon grease, it ain’t worth cooking, let alone eating.

  8. Remember: "Y’all" is singular. "All y’all" is plural. "All y’all’s" is plural possessive.

  9. Get used to hearing, "You ain’t from around here, are you?"

  10. Don’t be worried that you don’t understand anyone. They don’t understand you either.

  11. The proper pronunciation you learned in school is no longer proper.

  12. Be advised: The "He needed killin’" defense is valid here.

  13. If attending a funeral in the South, remember, we stay until the last shovel of dirt is thrown on and the tent is torn down.

  14. If you hear a Southerner exclaim, "Hey, y’all, watch this!" stay out of his way. These are likely the last words he will ever say.

  15. Most Southerners do not use turn signals, and they ignore those who do. In fact, if you see a signal blinking on a car with a Southern license plate, you may rest assured that it was on when the car was purchased.

  16. Northerners can be identified by the spit on the inside of their car’s windshield that comes from yelling at other drivers.

  17. Satellite dishes are very popular in the South. When you purchase one it is to be positioned directly in front of your trailer. This is logical bearing in mind that the dish cost considerably more than the trailer and should, therefore, be displayed.

  18. Tornadoes and Southerners going through a divorce have a lot in common. In either case, you know someone is going to lose a trailer.

  19. Florida is not considered a Southern State. There are far more Yankees than Southerners living there.

  20. If you are cursing the person driving 15 mph in a 55 mph zone, directly in the middle of the road, remember, many folks learned to drive on a model of vehicle known as John Deere, and this is the proper speed and lane position for the vehicle.

The following are actual stories told to travel agents (and you wonder why US citizens generally score less than the rest of the world on geography)…

A client called in inquiring about a package to Hawaii. After going over all the cost info, she asked, "would it be cheaper to fly to California and then take the train to Hawaii?"

I got a call from a woman who wanted to go to Cape Town. I started to explain the length of the flight and the passport information when she interrupted me with "I’m not trying to make you look stupid, but Cape Town is in Massachusetts." Without trying to make her look like the stupid one, I calmly explained, "Cape Cod is in Massachusetts, Cape Town is in Africa." Her response? ….click.

A secretary called in looking for hotel in Los Angeles. She gave me various names off a list, none of which I could find. I finally had her fax me the list. To my surprise, it was a list of hotels in New Orleans, Louisiana. She thought the LA stood for Los Angeles, and that New Orleans was a suburb of L.A. Worst of all, when I called her back, she was not even embarrassed.

A man called, furious about a Florida package we did. I asked what was wrong with the vacation in Orlando. He said he was expecting an ocean-view room. I tried to explain that is not possible, since Orlando is in the middle of the state. He replied, "Don’t lie to me. I looked on the map and Florida is a very thin state."

I got a call from a man who asked, "is it possible to see England from Canada?" I said, "No." He said, "but they look so close on the map."

Another man called and asked if he could rent a car in Dallas. When I pulled up the reservation, I noticed he had a 1-hour layover in Dallas. When I asked him why he wanted to rent a car, he said, "I heard Dallas was a big airport, and I need a car to drive between the gates to save time."

A nice lady just called. She needed to know how it was possible that her flight from Detroit left at 8:20am and got into Chicago at 8:33am.I tried to explain that Michigan was an hour ahead of Illinois, but she could not understand the concept of time zones. Finally I told her the plane went very fast, and she bought that!

A woman called and asked, "Do airlines put your physical description on your bag so they know who’s luggage belongs to who?" I said, "No, why do you ask?" She replied, "Well, when I checked in with the airline, they put a tag on my luggage that said FAT, and I’m overweight, is there any connection?" After putting her on hold for a minute while I "looked into it" ( I was actually laughing) I came back and explained the city code for Fresno is FAT, and that the airline was just putting a destination tag on her luggage.

I just got off the phone with a man who asked, "How do I know which plane to get on?" I asked him what exactly he meant, to which he replied, "I was told my flight number is 823, but none of these damn planes have numbers on them."

A woman called and said, " I need to fly to Pepsi-Cola on one of those computer planes." I asked if she meant to fly to Pensacola on a commuter plane. She said, "Yea, whatever."

A businessman called and had a question about the documents he needed in order to fly to China. After a lengthy discussion about passports, I reminded him he needed a visa. "Oh no I don’t, I’ve been to China many times and never had to have one of those." I double checked, and sure enough, his stay required a visa. When I told him this he said, "Look, I’ve been to China four times and every time they have accepted my American Express."

Happy New Year!

January 7, 1999

The new year is here, and, as usual, it arrived just in time. Any longer with the old year, and we would have suffered a complete collapse. Plus, if the old year decided to hang around, no one would really be sure when it was leaving, and everyone would wander around occasionally chanting, "TEN! NINE! EIGHT!…" just hoping they’d get it at the right time. Actually what most people don’t realize is that each year is about six hours too long, which is why we have those pesky leap years. Since the next leap year won’t be coming up for a while, I’ll save all the things I have to say about it. The only way to really be certain when the year actually ends is to observe Earth from outer space, but it’s better to go along with what everyone thinks is the end of the old year and the beginning of the new, because here is where all the good parties are. They do have parties in space, on the Mir station, but they have bigger things to celebrate than a new year. For instance, when the oxygen stops draining into space, that’s usually considered a good thing to celebrate. Then the parties get too wild, and somebody accidentally breaks the orbital control panel with a wrench, and the whole thing starts all over again. That’s why it’s better to celebrate anything here on Earth, especially the New Year. Or if we ever find out that our oxygen is draining into space and then stops, we can celebrate that too. Enjoy this week’s offerings.

December 8: 6:00 PM. It started to snow. The first snow of the season and the wife and I took our cocktails and sat for hours by the window watching the huge soft flakes drift down from heaven. It looked like a Grandma Moses Print. So romantic we felt like newlyweds again. I love snow!

December 9: We woke to a beautiful blanket of crystal white snow covering every inch of the landscape. What a fantastic sight! Can there be a more lovely place in the Whole World? Moving here was the best idea I’ve ever had. Shoveled for the first time in years and felt like a boy again. I did both our driveway and the sidewalks. This afternoon the snowplow came along and covered up the sidewalks and closed in the driveway, so I got to shovel again. What a perfect life.

December 12: The sun has melted all our lovely snow. Such a disappointment. My neighbor tells me not to worry, we’ll definitely have a white Christmas. No snow on Christmas would be awful! Bob says we’ll have so much snow by the end of winter, that I’ll never want to see snow again. I don’t think that’s possible. Bob is such a nice man. I’m glad he’s our neighbor.

December 14: Snow, lovely snow! 8" last night. The temperature dropped to -20. The cold makes everything sparkle so. The wind took my breath away, but I warmed up by shoveling the driveway and sidewalks. This is the life! The snowplow came back this afternoon and buried everything again. I didn’t realize I would have to do quite this much shoveling, but I’ll certainly get back in shape this way. I wish I wouldn’t huff and puff so.

December 15: 20 inches forecast. Sold my van and bought a 4×4 Blazer. Bought snow tires for the wife’s car and 2 extra shovels. Stocked the freezer. The wife wants a wood stove in case the electricity goes out. I think that’s silly. We aren’t in Alaska, after all.

December 16: Ice storm this morning. Fell on my ass on the ice in the driveway putting down salt. Hurt like hell. The wife laughed for an hour, which I think was very cruel.

December 17: Still way below freezing. Roads are too icy to go anywhere. Electricity was off for 5 hours. I had to pile the blankets on to stay warm. Nothing to do but stare at the wife and try not to irritate her. Guess I should’ve bought a wood stove, but won’t admit it to her. God I hate it when she’s right. I can’t believe I’m freezing to death in my own living room.

December 20: Electricity’s back on, but had another 14" of the damn stuff last night. More shoveling. Took all day. Goddamn snowplow came by twice. Tried to find a neighbor kid to shovel, but they said they’re too busy playing hockey. I think they’re lying. Called the only hardware store around to see about buying a snow blower and they’re out. Might have another shipment in March. I think they’re lying. Bob says I have to shovel or the city will have it done and bill me. I think he’s lying.

December 22: Bob was right about a white Christmas because 13 more inches of the white shit fell today, and it’s so cold it probably won’t melt till August. Took me 45 minutes to get all dressed up to go out to shovel and then I had to piss. By the time I got undressed, pissed and dressed again. I was too tired to shovel. Tried to hire Bob who has a plow on his truck for the rest of the winter; but he says he’s too busy. I think the asshole is lying.

December 23: Only 2" of snow today. And it warmed up to 0. The wife wanted me to decorate the front of the house this morning. What is she…nuts??? Why didn’t she tell me to do that a month ago? She says she did but I think she’s lying.

December 24: 6". Snow packed so hard by snowplow, l broke the shovel. Thought I was having a heart attack. If I ever catch the son of a bitch who drives that snowplow, Ill drag him through the snow by his balls. I know he hides around the corner and waits for me to finish shoveling and then he comes down the street at a 100 miles an hour and throws snow allover where I’ve just been! Tonight the wife wanted me to sing Christmas carols with her and open our presents, but I was busy watching for the goddamn snowplow.

December 25: Merry Christmas. 20 more inches of the goddamned slop tonight. Snowed in. The idea of shoveling makes my blood boil. God I hate the snow! Then the snowplow driver came by asking for a donation and I hit him over the head with my shovel. The wife says I have a bad attitude. I think she’s an idiot. If I have to watch "It’s a Wonderful Life" one more time, I’m going to kill her.

December 26: Still snowed in. Why the hell did I ever move here? It was all HER idea. She’s really getting on my nerves.

December 27: Temperature dropped to -30 and the pipes froze.

December 28: Warmed up to above -50. Still snowed in. THE WENCH is driving me crazy!!!

December 29: 10 more inches. Bob says I have to shovel the roof or it could cave in. That’s the silliest thing I ever heard. How dumb does he think I am?

December 30: Roof caved in. The snow plow driver is suing me for a million dollars for the bump on his head. The wife went home to her mother. 9" predicted.

December 31: Set fire to what’s left of the house. No more shoveling.

January 8: I feel so good. I just love those little white pills they keep giving me. Why am I tied to the bed?

  1. A stunned, bewildered idiot will stand at the intersection of two or more major traffic aisles so as to cause the most inconvenience to passers-by who do know where they are going.

  2. Such idiot will be carrying at least one bag capable of comfortably holding a ’57 Buick, and will make sudden, random turns so as to fling the bag into the shins (or worse) of passers-by.

  3. When such idiot is intercepted by family and/or friends and removed from the location, they will be replaced by a freshly bewildered idiot within 2.5 minutes, maximum.

  4. No matter how many signs (or how big they are) the store puts up clearly announcing "NO RETURNS OR EXCHANGES DEC 26 or 27" there will be no less than 5 morons crowded into every cashier’s line who figure this rule couldn’t possibly apply to them. And they’ll be pretty huffy about it, too.

  5. Nitwits who can clearly afford baby sitters (either that, or they’re shoplifting the 5 high-end DVD players under their arm) will have the curious impression that Boxing Day shopping is exactly the sort of bonding event their squalling 3-week-old offspring wants most to do in this life.

  6. The parking lot of any store over 300 square meters will contain no less than 17 Sport Utility Vehicles with dogs pretending to be ready to drive off at a moment’s notice. When the supervising human does return, odds are 50:50 that the dog will occupy said human’s lap as driving commences. Especially if the dog is the size of a Saturn Launch Vehicle.

  7. No idiot driving a SUV has any grasp of the physical size of the vehicle, with the result being that parking them involves manoeuvers hitherto unaccomplished by the entire Kirov Ballet.

  8. Imbeciles paying for purchases of Items Necessary to Life (consumer electronics, compact disks, angora sweaters..) with $50 bills will be constantly complaining about the state of abject poverty they live in.

  9. Seven hours before closing time December 24, Wal-Mart will start setting up displays of huge saccharine Valentine’s Bears, eachclutching oversized satin hearts. (I actually SAW this happen.)

  10. Any mall containing a theatre will have an aroma of popcorn frying in rancid canola emanating into the hall. The smell will be strong enough to gag a badger. And patrons will buy it at prices per ounce greater than those for top sirloin, under the impression it’s somehow "healthy" for them, and that the 4 tablespoons of salt on it somehow don’t count.

Cough cough.

December 18, 1998

Okay, I was going to write about the unseasonably warm weather we’ve been having, and the kind of office insanity inspired by this weather, an insanity which caused me to blow up a surgical glove like a balloon and send it flying out of a seventh-storey window, but, as always happens with the weather, right when I was planning to comment on it, it became seasonably cold. In fact the change was so dramatic it’s caused me to write unbelievably long run-on sentences and use strange words like "seasonably". So, in keeping with the winter weather, here’s a little story from my childhood: I once had a really bad cold that kept me up most of the night coughing, so my mother made up a batch of what she called Aunt Chloe’s Cough and Congestion Curative. The recipe was simple: a cup of honey, a cup of lemon juice, and a shot of whisky. It wasn’t much whisky, but it was enough that I stopped wearing scarves and recklessly endangered my throat anytime there was cold weather. One day, for reasons I can’t remember, I was staying with my grandmother the teetotaller. Because I’d been without Aunt Chloe’s miracle elixir for several hours, I coughing as though my lungs were going to come out through my nose. My grandmother asked, "Are you taking anything for that?" I made the mistake of telling my grandmother about Aunt Chloe’s recipe, or, as she translated it, "Satan’s syrup." After throwing around several colorful antiquated expressions such as "ruination" and "seasonably", she ran to the phone. She then spent several hours on the phone with my father who averted a very ugly child custody battle by explaining to her that what I was taking had less alcohol than most cough medicines on the market at the time. This was true, too. When I was growing up, cough medicines had about the same alcohol content as tequila and had a few other pleasant ingredients like codeine and essence of wormwood. They didn’t cure coughs, but hey, with a cocktail like that, coughing would be the last of your worries. Home remedies, are, of course, always best, especially since most cough syrup companies have now changed their formulas to make them less tempting to people in twelve-step programs. Now they just taste like bubblegum and grape soda. There’s a moral in there somewhere, but you’ll have to figure it out for yourself. I feel a cold coming on.

Enjoy this week’s offerings, and, since you’ll all be spending time with your families rather than your computers next week (or at the very least using your computers to try out all those cool new programs Santa left under your tree) have a wonderful holiday. By the time you hear from me again, we’ll be partying like it’s 1999.


One particular Christmas season a long time ago, Santa was getting ready for his annual trip … but there were problems everywhere.

Four of his elves got sick, and the trainee elves did not produce the toys as fast as the regular ones so Santa was beginning to feel the pressure of being behind schedule.

Then Mrs. Claus told Santa that her mom was coming to visit.This stressed Santa even more.

When he went to harness the reindeer, he found that three of them were about to give birth and two had jumped the fence and were out, heaven knows where. More stress.

Then when he began to load the sleigh one of the boards cracked and the toy bag fell to the ground and scattered the toys.

So, frustrated, Santa went into the house for a cup of coffee and a shot of whiskey. When he went to the cupboard, he discovered that the elves had hid the liquor and there was nothing to drink. In his frustration, he accidentally dropped the coffee pot and it broke into hundreds of little pieces all over the kitchen floor. He went to get the broom and found that mice had eaten the straw it was made from.

Just then the doorbell rang and Santa cussed on his way to the door. He opened the door and there was a little angel with a great big Christmas tree. The angel said, very cheerfully, "Merry Christmas Santa. Isn’t it just a lovely day? I have a beautiful tree for you. Isn’t it just a lovely tree? Where would you like me to stick it?"

Thus began the tradition of the little angel on top of the Christmas tree.

Twas The Night Before Christmas

‘Twas the nocturnal segment of the diurnal period preceding the annual Yuletide celebration, and throughout our place of residence, kinetic activity was not in evidence among the possessors of this potential, including that species of domestic rodent known as Mus musculus. Hosiery was meticulously suspended from the forward edge of the wood burning caloric apparatus, pursuant to our anticipatory pleasure regarding an imminent visitation from an eccentric philanthropist among whose folkloric appellations is the honorific title of St. Nicholas.

The prepubescent siblings, comfortably ensconced in their respective accommodations of repose, were experiencing subconscious visual hallucinations of variegated fruit confections moving rhythmically through their cerebrums. My conjugal partner and I, attired in our nocturnal head coverings, were about to take slumberous advantage of the hibernal darkness when upon the avenaceous exterior portion of the grounds there ascended such a cacophony of dissonance that I felt compelled to arise with alacrity from my place of repose for the purpose of ascertaining the precise source thereof.

Hastening to the casement, I forthwith opened the barriers sealing this fenestration, noting thereupon that the lunar brilliance without, reflected as it was on the surface of a recent crystalline precipitation, might be said to rival that of the solar meridian itself – thus permitting my incredulous optical sensory organs to behold a miniature airborne runnered conveyance drawn by eight diminutive specimens of the genus Rangifer, piloted by a minuscule, aged chauffeur so ebullient and nimble that it became instantly apparent to me that he was indeed our anticipated caller. With his ungulate motive power travelling at what may possibly have been more vertiginous velocity than patriotic alar predators, he vociferated loudly, expelled breath musically through contracted labia, and addressed each of the octet by his or her respective cognomen – "Now Dasher, now Dancer…" et al. – guiding them to the uppermost exterior level of our abode, through which structure I could readily distinguish the concatenations of each of the 32 cloven pedal extremities.

As I retracted my cranium from its erstwhile location, and was performing a 180-degree pivot, our distinguished visitant achieved – with utmost celerity and via a downward leap – entry by way of the smoke passage. He was clad entirely in animal pelts soiled by the ebony residue from oxidations of carboniferous fuels which had accumulated on the walls thereof. His resemblance to a street vendor I attributed largely to the plethora of assorted playthings which he bore dorsally in a commodious cloth receptacle.

His orbs were scintillant with reflected luminosity, while his submaxillary dermal indentations gave every evidence of engaging amiability. The capillaries of his malar regions and nasal appurtenance were engorged with blood which suffused the subcutaneous layers, the former approximating the coloration of Albion’s floral emblem, the latter that of the Prunus avium, or sweet cherry. His amusing sub- and supralabials resembled nothing so much as a common loop knot, and their ambient hirsute facial adornment appeared like small, tabular and columnar crystals of frozen water.

Clenched firmly between his incisors was a smoking piece whose grey fumes, forming a tenuous ellipse about his occiput, were suggestive of a decorative seasonal circlet of holly. His visage was wider than it was high, and when he waxed audibly mirthful, his corpulent abdominal region undulated in the manner of impectinated fruit syrup in a hemispherical container. He was, in short, neither more nor less than an obese, jocund, multigenarian gnome, the optical perception of whom rendered me visibly frolicsome despite every effort to refrain from so being. By rapidly lowering and then elevating one eyelid and rotating his head slightly to one side, he indicated that trepidation on my part was groundless.

Without utterance and with dispatch, he commenced filling the aforementioned appended hosiery with various of the aforementioned articles of merchandise extracted from his aforementioned previously dorsally transported cloth receptacle. Upon completion of this task, he executed an abrupt about- face, placed a single manual digit in lateral juxtaposition to his olfactory organ, inclined his cranium forward in a gesture of leave-taking, and forthwith effected his egress by renegotiating (in reverse) the smoke passage. He then propelled himself in a short vector onto his conveyance, directed a musical expulsion of air through his contracted oral sphincter to the antlered quadrupeds of burden, and proceeded to soar aloft in a movement hitherto observable chiefly among the seed-bearing portions of a common weed. But I overheard his parting exclamation, audible immediately prior to his vehiculation beyond the limits of visibility: "Ecstatic Yuletide to the planetary constituency, and to that self same assemblage, my sincerest wishes for a salubriously beneficial and gratifyingly pleasurable period between sunset and dawn."

Holiday Cheer

December 11, 1998

It’s that time of year again. The holidays are brought on earlier every year as marketing gurus attempt to counteract the effects of global warming with fake snow, fake fireplaces, and, most importantly, fake goodwill. Some new traditions have begun emerging, among them the mad scramble for interactive toys that are teaching a whole generation that human relationships are completely unnecessary so long as you have enough batteries to light up southern Albania for a year. One of the older traditions that I consistently miss (in the sense of "avoid" rather than "pine for") is the employer-sponsored holiday party. From what I’ve heard, the party here gets worse every year. A few years ago the gift given everyone at the door was a tin can with six chocolate chip cookies. This year it was a multicultural calendar, which just proves that trying to offend no one really does offend everyone. In the next few years the party itself is expected to be replaced by a celebratory committee who will visit various departments passing out brightly colored boxes of landfill. One person proudly told me that, in thirty years, she has never attended the big holiday party. "Those things are always a madhouse," she told me, "and besides, I can buy my own cookies." The amazing thing is she learned this despite having grown up without interactive toys.

Martha Stewart’s Christmas letter to Erma Bombeck:

Hi Erma,

This perfectly delightful note is being sent on paper I made myself to tell you what I have been up to.

Since it snowed last night, I got up early and made a sled with old barn wood and a glue gun. I hand painted it in gold leaf, got out my loom, and made a blanket in peaches and mauves.

Then to make the sled complete, I made a white horse to pull it, from DNA that I had just sitting around in my craft room.

By then, it was time to start making the place mats and napkins for my 20 breakfast guests. I’m serving the old standard Stewart twelve-course breakfast, but I’ll let you in on a little secret: I didn’t have time to make the tables and chairs this morning, so I used the ones I had on hand.

Before I moved the table into the dining room, I decided to add just a touch of the holidays. So I repainted the room in pinks and stenciled gold stars on the ceiling.

Then, while the homemade bread was rising, I took antique candle molds and made the dishes (exactly the same shade of pink) to use for breakfast. These were made from Hungarian clay, which you can get at almost any Hungarian craft store.

Well, I must run. I need to finish the buttonholes on the dress I’m wearing for breakfast.

I’ll get out the sled and drive this note to the post office as soon as the glue dries on the envelope I’ll be making. Hope my breakfast guests don’t stay too long, I have 40,000 cranberries to string with bay leaves before my speaking engagement at noon. It’s a good thing.

Love, Martha Stewart

P.S. When I made the ribbon for this typewriter, I used 1/8-inch gold gauze. I soaked the gauze in a mixture of white grapes and blackberries which I grew, picked, and crushed last week just for fun.

Erma Bombeck’s Response:

Dear Martha,

I’m writing this on the back of an old shopping list, pay no attention to the coffee and jelly stains.

I’m 20 minutes late getting my daughter up for school, packing a lunch with one hand, on the phone with the dog pound, seems old Ruff needs bailing out, again. Burnt my arm on the curling iron when I was trying to make those cute curly fries, how DO they do that?

Still can’t find the scissors to cut out some snowflakes, tried using an old disposable razor . . . trashed the tablecloth.

Tried that cranberry thing, frozen cranberries mushed up after I defrosted them in the microwave.

Oh, and don’t use Fruity Pebbles as a substitute in that Rice Krispie snowball recipe, unless you happen to like a disgusting shade that resembles puke!

The smoke alarm is going off, talk to ya later.

Love, Erma

Okay, Don’t Hang Up.

December 4, 1998

Earlier this week I heard an interview with a telemarketer on the radio. For those of you who don’t know, telemarketers are annoying twerps who call you up at home at dinnertime or some other really inconvenient moment with useless items to sell. Useless? All right, I’ve never actually bothered to listen to what telemarketers are trying to sell, but, honestly, if it’s something that can’t be advertised in a magazine, newspaper, radio or television commercial, or, for that matter, placed on store shelves, is it really something anyone wants to buy? Maybe if I stopped and listened to telemarketers I’d find that they’re selling really great things like cures for baldness. Or they might have equally useless things like car insurance for dogs. The fact that someone has to call me up at home and attempt to harass me into buying something automatically makes me not want to buy it. I’ll go bald, and I’ll never let my dogs borrow the car. That solves the problem without having to listen to some pinhead who has failed to find a way to answer his true calling as a malevolent dictator’s lackey. Here’s what really surprised me in the interview, though: telemarketers aren’t allowed to hang up on customers. Only customers can hang up first. So some people will keep telemarketers on the line with no intention of buying anything. According to the guy being interviewed, that’s rude and inconsiderate. Really? I can’t believe a telemarketer would have the cohones to say in a national interview that anything people do to him is rude. That’s like saying I’m rude because I slap mosquitoes when they bite me. If there are any telemarketers out there reading this, consider how your profession was invented: in a late-night meeting, after too much Thai food and Brazilian-Mozambique blend coffee, an executive said, "Hey, I think I’ve figured out a way to make our customers hate us and sell as few items as possible!" At some point, you probably realized just how idiotic this scheme is. And yet you went along anyway. Now…who’s the rude one here? Enjoy this week’s offerings which, I guarantee, will not try to sell you anything.

The following are actual comments received last year from Forest Service registration sheets and comment cards after backpackers completed wilderness camping trips:

"A small deer came into my camp and stole my jar of pickles. Is there a way I can get reimbursed? Please call."

"Escalators would help on steep uphill sections."

"Instead of a permit system or regulations, the Forest Service needs to reduce worldwide population growth to limit the number of visitors to wilderness."

"Trails need to be wider so people can walk while holding hands."

"Ban walking sticks in wilderness. Hikers that use walking sticks are more likely to chase animals."

"All the mile markers are missing this year."

"Found a smoldering cigarette left by a horse."

"Trail needs to be reconstructed. Please avoid building trails that go uphill."

"Too many bugs and leeches and spiders and spider webs. Please spray the wilderness to rid the area of these pests."

"Please pave the trails so they can be plowed of snow during the winter."

"Chairlifts need to be in some places so that we can get to wonderful views without having to hike to them."

"The coyotes made too much noise last night and kept me awake. Please eradicate these annoying animals."

"Reflectors need to be placed on trees every 50 feet so people can hike at night with flashlights."

"Need more signs to keep area pristine."

"A McDonald’s would be nice at the trailhead."

"The places where trails do not exist are not well marked."

"I brought lots of sandwich makings but forgot bread. If you have extra bread, leave it in the yellow tent at V Lake."

"Too many rocks in the mountains."

Here are some actual answers from contestants who have appeared on Family Feud.

Name something a blind person might use: A sword
Name a song with moon in the title: Blue suede moon
Name a bird with a long neck: Naomi Campbell
Name an occupation where you need a torch: A burglar
Name a famous brother & sister: Bonnie & Clyde
Name a dangerous race: The Arabs
Name an item of clothing worn by the 3 musketeers: A horse
Name something that floats in the bath: Water
Name something you wear on the beach: A deckchair
Name something Red: My cardigan
Name a famous cowboy: Buck Rogers
Name a famous royal: Mail
A number you have to memorise: 7
Something you do before going to bed: Sleep
Something you put on walls: Roofs
Something in the garden that’s green: Shed
Something that flies that doesn’t have an engine: A bicycle with wings
Something you might be allergic to: Skiing
Name a famous bridge: The bridge over troubled waters
Something a cat does: Goes to the toilet
Something you do in the bathroom: Decorate
Name an animal you might see at the zoo: A dog
Something associated with the police: Pigs
A sign of the zodiac: April
Something slippery: A conman
A kind of ache: Fillet ‘O’ Fish
A food that can be brown or white: Potato
A jacket potato topping: Jam
A famous Scotsman: Jock
Another famous Scotsman: Vinnie Jones
Something with a hole in it: Window
A non living object with legs: Plant
A domestic animal: Leopard
A part of the body beginning with ‘N’: Knee
A way of cooking fish: Cod
Something you open other than a door: Your Bowels

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