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September 8, 2000

Every year when kids go back to school, I think back on my own childhood, and how I got most of my education during the summer when I was out of school. That’s the most profound thing I have to tell younger generations, and it’s probably the last thing teachers want me to tell them. Unfortunately it’s true. I have nothing profound to say about growing up because I have a hard time remembering most of it, and when I do, it seems like I was on a speeding train in a tunnel, facing backwards. My childhood is the fast-receding tunnel entrance. But there are a few small, less than profound lessons I do remember, lessons I learned from my friend Phil. My friend Phil taught me about:

Hair. I learned that a human being (namely, Phil) could be lifted by his hair off of my tricycle. This was especially useful on that one occasion when Phil refused to get off my tricycle when asked.

Behavioral conditioning. Once you have lifted someone off of your tricycle by the hair, he won’t get on your tricycle any more.

Gravity. When pushed off a three-foot retaining wall, Phil would fall. (There was no reason for this, as in the case of the hair experiment. Pushing Phil was, as they say, done purely in the interests of science.)

Cushioning. The thick layer of flab around Phil’s middle protected him from any lasting damage when he happened to be pushed off a three-foot retaining wall.

Arachnology. Perhaps the most important lesson Phil ever taught me was that black widow spiders are deadly. Actually my parents told me that, but they never would have had to if it hadn’t been for Phil. I had my trusy bug-collecting jar, and was turning over rocks. Under one I found this amazing looking spider. It was shiny and black, with a really cool red hourglass design on its belly. But it looked potentially dangerous, so I said, "Hey Phil, come here and grab this spider and put it in my bug-collecting jar."

Looking back, I realize that, as a child, I was destined to be a movie producer, or a tenured university professor, or to hold some other job in which lackeys do all the work and I get all the credit. So how did I avoid such a career? Beats me. I don’t remember much after I entered the tunnel.

Enjoy this week’s offerings.


  1. You believe in Santa Claus.

  2. You don’t believe in Santa Claus.

  3. You are Santa Claus.

  4. You look like Santa Claus.


  • Raising teenagers is like nailing JELL-O to a tree.

  • There is always a lot to be thankful for, if you take the time to look. For example, I’m sitting here thinking how nice it is that wrinkles don’t hurt.

  • The best way to keep kids at home is to make a pleasant atmosphere and let the air out of their tires.

  • Families are like fudge . . . mostly sweet, with a few nuts.

  • Today’s mighty oak is just yesterday’s nut that held its ground.

  • Laughing helps. It’s like jogging on the inside.

  • Middle age is when you choose your cereal for the fiber, not for the toy.

  • My mind not only wanders; sometimes it leaves completely.

  • If you can remain calm, you just don’t have all the facts.

  • You know you’re getting old when you stoop to tie your shoes and wonder what else you can do while you’re down there.


  • Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional

  • Insanity is my only means of relaxation.

  • Forget the health food. I need all the preservatives I can get.

  • You’re getting old when you get the same sensation from a rocking chair that you once got from a roller coaster.

  • Perhaps you know why women over fifty don’t have babies: They would put them down somewhere and forget where they left them.

  • One of life’s mysteries is how a two pound box of candy can make a person gain five pounds.

  • Every time I think about exercise, I lie down till the thought goes away.

  • It’s frustrating when you know all the answers, but nobody bothers to ask you the questions.

  • I finally got my head together, and my body fell apart.

  • There cannot be a crisis this week; my schedule is already full.

  • Time may be a great healer, but it’s also a lousy beautician.

  • The older you get, the tougher it is to lose weight, because by then your body and your fat are really good friends.

  • Age doesn’t always bring wisdom. Sometimes age comes alone.

  • Just when I was getting used to yesterday, along came today.

  • Sometimes I think I understand everything, then I regain consciousness.

  • Amazing! You just hang something in your closet for a while, and it shrinks two sizes.

  • It is bad to suppress laughter; it goes back down and spreads to your hips.

  • Freedom of the press means no-iron clothes.

  • Inside some of us is a thin person struggling to get out, but he or she can usually be sedated with a few pieces of chocolate cake.

  • Seen it all, done it all, can’t remember.

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