The Weekly Essay

It’s Another Story.


October 26, 2007

He, my best friend and I, were just bouncing
A fuzzy gray ball that had lost most
Of its bounce back and forth. The dog,
The big sheepdog who lived next door,
Was in its own yard, just on the periphery.
It was always there like the broken sink
In the vacant lot we went to sometimes
To look down at our houses. And then
It jumped at him, knocked him down, that
Engine in its throat humming loud enough
To be heard over him screaming. I ran.
I couldn’’t tell where he was under the dog.
I’’d been told not to run, that was wrong,
But what was I supposed to do? His mother
Was already coming out right at me
And I got behind her. The dog was gone.
And then he was gone.
The big blue car came
Out from behind the house and he went in,
Still screaming, a towel pressed to his face
With a stain starting to come through.

I heard enough from what his mother told mine
To see what happened, why the dog was gone.
Two men from the pound came and stood
On his porch and stared at themselves
In the man’s wraparound sunglasses. I’’d seen him
Through the slits in the fence that kept his back
Yard from the neighborhood, so I could see him
In his white t-shirt, V-neck, telling them they
Were welcome to take the dog if they were willing
To come in and get it. And they said they’’d be back.

That was the summer of the drought. Toward school’’s
End I watched the corn come up emerald then turn gold
In a field just past the road my street disappeared into.
A year later the field itself was replaced by turnkey
Condominiums, every other one painted yellow.

That was the summer my quarter-Cherokee grandmother
Pulled down from the overhead crawlspace an old book
Of tribal stories and I learned that in the beginning
The wolf and the man used to sit together by the fire,
Until the dog came down from the hills and drove
The wolf away. Now the wolf lives alone in the hills.

I had to pee. My dog and I were out
Together in the summer night, following each
Other and finding our way in the dark by smell and sound.
If I went back inside I’’d lose my night vision
So I dropped my shorts by a tree and let go, the stream
Reflecting the pieces of streetlamp that came through
The trees. I couldn’’t see the mark I left but I knew
It was there. My territory. I was zipping back up
When I heard my dog barking in the street. I ran,
And there she was with the man who lived two doors up
Pinned against his car. She went after him like a stranger.
“Dammit! You’’d better get this dog away from me
Or I swear I’’ll do somethin’’! I’ll kill it! I swear!”
He swore and leaned at me while I grabbed my dog
And put my face in her ruff and pulled her back to me.
It was time to go in. The next day I was in my front yard
When he came home. He came over and didn’’t look
At me, just said, “Son, I wanna apologize about last night.
I’’m sorry. I just wasn’’t myself. You understand.” He raised
His fist and something gold flew from it, sparkling
And I caught a butterscotch medallion. I understood.
I knew more than he realized, had known since the first
Week of summer when I was coming up the back steps
To water the bean plants I’’d brought home from school
In a paper cup where they’’d sprout and die. I heard
My father talking, telling someone who’’d dropped by
Something so serious I knew I shouldn’’t be listening.

“He’’d been drinking all day.
Maybe around sunset he decided he
Wanted fried chicken for supper and sent
His wife out to get it. We hadn’t been here
That long and didn’t know any of this
Was going on. She was gone too long to suit
Him or something, I really don’t know, but while
She was gone he decided he was going to kill
Her when she got back. She
Got away somehow and came down to our
House. We let her in and he stood there on
The porch and yelled and swore. The kids were
Gone that night, away at camp. I called
The cops and it took eight of them to get him
Into one of their cars. She stayed with us
That night and told us, It’s over, he
Won’t do this to me ever again. We
Didn’t know it had happened before.
We saw them next week at the pool
Holding hands. She smiled, but he wouldn’t
Look at us. I thought, Never again.
They’re lucky it wasn’’t worse than it ended
Up being with all those guns he has in there.”

This was news to me. I thought all attics
Were the same, webby with years of old clothes
And moth dust and naked bulbs over rivers
Of cotton candy insulation. Now I saw the inside
Of the three-cornered roof with blue-steel bars
Marching along the walls like corrugated wallpaper
Or bare columns propping the whole structure.

On the dead-end street late in summer
The world was hot and thick all night. Not even the moon
Frozen outside my window could cool it. In drought
Wind in the leaves sounds like footsteps.
You wake up believing someone else is in the house
And the phone is in the other room or dead.
There at the yard’s edge the jingle of metal
On metal means tags for rabies, or just
House keys, someone else coming home. Across
The street is the opal of a doorbell
Or a cigarette of someone blindfolded.
The movement I see in the window is my hands
Washing the dishes, the reflection imposed on
The brown stubble of the yard. If I went out
Water on my hands would freeze and break.
I keep all the doors locked from inside.

Gene Shalit’s Wife [Part 3]

October 13, 2006

It’’s a two-hour drive to her mother’s house. She’’s not sure why she was expecting something more significant, some turning point like the ones in the endless string of Scandinavian movies Gene brought home seemed to revolve around. She’’s glad it was nothing more than a fall even if it worries her that the doctor wants to keep her mother for overnight observation.

The city limits rapidly give way to cornfields and radio static. She feel’s she’s escaped the world into a timeless place where the wheels of the car are spinning in air. She doesn’t mention this to the cop who pulls her over for speeding.

She calls Gene from her mother’s house and tells him she’’s decided to stay through the weekend. She’s brought with her a paper she’s been writing comparing Kashubian vampire legends and flying-head tales of natives of Rondonia. For years she’’s been writing papers on anthropology and folklore and submitting them to various journals only to have them returned with notes that say the papers aren’t what the editors are looking for or that they don’t have enough space. Most of them encourage her to try again, but she feels she’s spent her entire life trying again.

She goes to the movie theater where she and Gene had what she now considers their first date. It’’s still a movie theater, but part of the lobby has been converted to a video rental business. The greasy-haired boy behind the counter doesn’t ask for ID when she signs up for a membership, and she puts down her mother’s address on the form. She rents “Rear Window”, but when she gets home she discovers that her mother doesn’t own a VCR.

Fast-forward five years. Gene understands her decision to move in with her mother rather than making her mother move in with them. She doesn’t mind being a caretaker, and Gene spends a large amount of time away from home attending film festivals and conferences. At home he still occasionally reviews movies on the news, but there’’s less call for film critics. Most of his time is taken up with editing a film journal. Her time is spent either with her mother or answering phones in a customer service job. It pays the bills, but she’s exhausted. Gene sends her a book about the Kung people of Namibia and she barely manages to read a page a night.

During a checkup her doctor notices something unusual and orders more tests.

On the operating table she breathes deeply, taking in the smell of the plastic mask. Then someone leans over her. It’s her late father. He tells her it’s going to be fine, that it’s only a cyst. She thinks, He looks a little like Gene. She sees herself in fifteen years. She is an assistant in the local college and teaches English as a second language. She’s surprised to find this is what she wants.

Gene Shalit’s Wife [Part 2]

October 6, 2006

Part 2 – Parental Guidance Suggested

Her mother tells her the boy next door, the one she used to babysit, is going on a date and that it would be nice if she agrees to be a chaperone. She knows her mother is really trying to get her out of the house some time before her spring break ends and she goes back to college. It turns out the boy’’s girlfriend’’s older brother, Gene, is also chaperoning. Her mother jokes that they’re double-dating. The kids want to see “Jaws”. The theater’s smaller screen is running a series of Hitchcock films. Gene suggests that they let the kids go see their movie while the “adults” see “Rear Window”. She agrees. Gene is pleased. He asks her a little about herself–where she goes to school, what her major is. Gene goes to Columbia. He tells her he’s going to be a film critic. He’s so confident in saying this that she doesn’t know how to answer. She’s majoring in Anthropology because she doesn’t know what she wants to do and it was the first listing in the college catalog. She enjoys it. She even thinks she has a talent for it, although she thinks it might have been the same if she’d majored in Zoology. Gene starts talking about the genius of Hitchcock. She looks at him and thinks of a bullfrog she caught in the creek behind her house. She remembers that in early versions of “The Frog Prince” the princess doesn’t change the frog into a prince by kissing him but by throwing him against the wall. She is only twenty. She looks around the theater, and everyone there is older than she. She feels much older than she really is.

Gene is silent through the movie except once. There’s a scene of a man playing a piano with someone is standing behind him. Gene leans over and hisses in her ear, “”That’’s Hitchcock.”” She’s seen the movie three times already, but always on television, and she’s never noticed this before. She thinks Hitchcock looks a little like a hairless Gene.

Gene is driving. After he drops off the boy next door Gene turns to her and says, “”Would you like to go for a drive?”” She declines. He smiles and says, ““See you later, then.””

He calls her in late May. She’’s in the middle of finals. She’’s studying the Netsilik peoples. One of their gods is an angry abandoned child who sits at the bottom of the ocean causing storms. She imagines him as a big, fat infant pounding his fists on the black, silty ocean floor. She’’s so stressed she launches into this without giving him a chance to explain why he called. After she finishes there’’s silence. Then Gene says, ““Listen, would you like to go out while we’re both home for the summer?””

Fast-forward five years. She and Gene have been married for two years now. He’s been working as a feature writer at the paper and has finally gotten the chance to do film reviews. She works part time doing check out at the grocery store. One night they go see a film called “The Elephant Man”. Gene strikes up a conversation in the lobby with a man who, as it turns out, is a producer of one of the local television news shows. They discuss Kubrick, Kurosawa, and Ophuls. She feels lost. She looks at a small sign that says the Disney film “Alice In Wonderland” is being re-released.

After the movie Gene and the producer continue their conversation. Gene tells her he won’t be late. She takes the car home and spends the evening reading. She is studying Norse mythology.

Fast-forward five years. Gene has become something of a local celebrity, appearing regularly on both the local morning talk show and the evening news. He’s happy, but occasionally moody. One night as they lie in bed he tells her he’s given a movie called Summer Rental a glowing review even though he thought it was the most awful thing he’d ever watched. She tells him that what’s important is that he’’s successful, that he’s set goals for himself and has achieved them. Inwardly she berates herself for sounding like warmed-over graduation speech, and wonders, as she does on a regular basis, what purpose critics really serve. She’’s been taking a class in Egyptian mythology at the local college, but still hasn’t decided what she wants for her own future.

Gene spends a lot of time on the weekends watching movies. He tells her the VCR is an amazing invention, that it will revolutionize the film industry and give everyone a greater appreciation of film history. She only regularly watches television on Saturday nights. She watches an old British science fiction show called “”Doctor Who””. Several actors play The Doctor, an alien who travels through space and time saving the universe from other aliens. She thinks the culture of actors would be a fascinating anthropological study, but she doesn’t know any actors.

Of all the actors who play the Doctor her favorite is Patrick Troughton. He’’s small and clownish and absent-minded. He reminds her of Gene. Gene tells her Troughton was also in The Omen II and Sinbad: Eye of the Tiger. She watches these films, but doesn’t recognize the funny little man she’s accustomed to. She wonders what the real Patrick Troughton is like.

The same day she reads in the newspaper that Patrick Troughton has died she gets a call from her mother in the hospital.

To be concluded.

Gene Shalit’s Wife [Part 1]

Source: Wikipedia

September 29, 2006

Freethinkers Anonymous has been modified as follows. It has been formatted to fit this screen.

Part 1-Coda

There was a local writing contest that I entered for several years. Each year I managed to be a runner-up. I apparently made it through to the final round of judging, but always managed to fall short of third place. It became almost a badge of honor, so much so that I became afraid of winning. I would joke that I was, metaphorically, always a bridesmaid but never a bride. But I still hoped to win. One year, after I’d mailed off my submission, I had a strange dream that I was Gene Shalit’s wife. Gene Shalit is a movie critic who’s probably best known for his big moustache and wild, curly hair. I don’t know why, of all people, he percolated up from the depths of my brain. It’s also hard to explain what I mean when I say I was his wife. Sometimes in dreams I assume completely different identities; I become a different person with a different life history. Many cultures believe that, in dreams, we leave our bodies and can enter the bodies of others. I don’t buy that myself; it’s more like getting deeply involved with characters in books or movies or plays or television shows. We sympathize with and understand these characters sometimes even more intimately than the real people who are closest to us because their most private moments, though fictional, are on public display.

In the dream I, Gene Shalit’s wife, also entered a writing contest and also had a long history of being a runner-up. I told Gene this, and he laughed and said, “Well, move over Susan Lucci!” Susan Lucci, by the way, is a soap opera star who was nominated for a Daytime Emmy award approximately one-hundred and thirty-seven times before finally winning. I’ve said there’s no such thing as useless information, but knowing who Susan Lucci is comes darn close. I’d tell people about this dream and they’d laugh. What they missed was that, from my perspective, Gene Shalit’s wife was more tragic than comic. She and I shared the feeling of never being quite good enough, although my own wife was a lot more sympathetic than her husband seemed to be. Finally someone suggested that I should write a story abo ut Gene Shalit’s wife, and I realized that this character I’d briefly inhabited had a story, and that she deserved to have it told. Since I don’t know anything about Gene Shalit other than what I’ve told you, the story isn’t really about him or his wife, if he’s ever been married, but rather about the wife of a movie critic. I’m grateful to Mr. Shalit for bubbling up in my sleeping brain, maybe as a way of telling me that just because critics are paid for their opinions doesn’t necessarily make them more right than anyone else. And the same is true of contest judges. Ultimately, though, this is a work of pure fiction. I hope you’ll sympathize with and understand her, but remember that any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Party time…

January 24, 1997

The other day at an office party a fellow Freethinker happened to mention that we never have office parties of the kind you see in movies–the sort of parties where you REALLY get to know the people you work with. Well…maybe it’s better that things aren’t like the movies. After all, there are some pretty strange comments flying around even the current dull and boring office parties. Here are a few things I happened to overhear at the last one:

"How would you like to work on my large database?"
"Have you met —-‘s monkey?"
"I never get out of my office."
"Is this crap homemade?"
"No, this is storebought crap."

This kind of witty repartee is the exception to the rule, though. Mostly it’s a lot of shop talk, and if the punch were spiked, it would be teary, broken, confessional shop talk. People confessing a deep and profound love for their computer terminals, supply managers telling gruesome tales of paperclip and post-it-note misuse, administrators yelling out the REAL reason no one got raises last year…As funny as some of it would be, I can’t help thinking that maybe it’s better that no one spikes the punch. When you work side-by-side with someone for forty hours a week, there are some things you just shouldn’t know.

And now for the weather:

+50 / +10 (Fahrenheit / Celsius)
* New York tenants try to turn on the heat
* People from Ontario plant gardens

+40 / +4
* Californians shiver uncontrollably
* Albertans sunbathe

+35 / +2
* Italian cars don’t start

+32 / 0
* Distilled water freezes

+30 / -1
* You can see your breath
* You plan a vacation in Florida
* Politicians begin to worry about the homeless
* Manitobans eat ice cream

+25 / -4
* Lake Ontario water freezes
* Californians weep pitiably
* Cat insists on sleeping on your bed

+20 / -7
* New York water freezes
* San Franciscans start thinking favorably of L.A.
* Green Bay Packers fans put on T-shirts

+15 / -10
* You plan a vacation in Acapulco
* Cat insists on sleeping IN your bed with you
* B.C. residents go swimming

+10 / -12
* Politicians begin to talk about the homeless
* Too cold to snow
* You need jumper cables to get the car going

0 / -18
* New York landlords turn on the heat
* Newfoundlanders grill hot dogs on the patio, yum!

-5 / -21
* You can HEAR your breath
* You plan a vacation in Hawaii

-10 / -23
* American cars don’t start
* Too cold to skate

-15 / -26
* You can cut your breath and use it to build an igloo
* People from Miami cease to exist
* Canadians lick flagpoles

-20 / -29
* Politicians actually do something about the homeless
* People in NWT and Yukon think about taking down screens

-25 / -32
* Too cold to kiss
* You need jumper cables to get the driver going
* Japanese cars don’t start
* Ottawa Rough Riders head for spring training

-30 / -34
* You plan a two-week hot bath
* Pilsener freezes
* Bock beer production begins
* NWT residents shovel snow off roof

-38 / -39
* Mercury freezes
* Too cold to think
* Canadians do up their top button

-40 / -40
* Californians disappear
* Your CAR insists on sleeping in your bed with you
* Quebecers put on sweaters

-50 / -46
* Congressional hot air freezes
* Alaskans close the bathroom window
* Green Bay Packers practice indoors

-60 / -51
* Walruses abandon Aleutians
* Sign on Mount St. Helens: "Closed for the Season"
* Ontarians put gloves away, take out mittens
* Boy Scouts in Saskatchewan start Klondike Derby

-70 / -57
* Glaciers in Central Park
* Hudson residents replace diving boards with hockey nets
* Green Bay snowmobilers organize trans-lake race to Sault Ste. Marie

-80 / -62
* Polar bears abandon Baffin Island
* Girl Scouts in Saskatchewan start Klondike Derby

-90 / -68
* Edge of Antarctica reaches Rio de Janeiro
* Lawyers chase ambulances for no more than 10 miles
* Ontarians migrate to New York thinking it MUST be warmer south of
the border

-100 / -73
* Santa Claus abandons North Pole
* Canadians pull down earflaps

-173 / -114
* Ethyl alcohol freezes

-297 / -183
* Oxygen precipitates out of atmosphere
* Microbial life survives only on dairy products

-445 / -265
* Superconductivity

-452 / -269
* Helium becomes a liquid

-454 / -270
* Hell freezes over

-456 /-271
* Quebec drivers drop below 150 KPH on 400 series highways

-458 / -272
* Jean Cretien renounces a campaign contribution

-460 / -273 (Absolute Zero)
* All atomic motion ceases
* Canadians start saying how it’s a tad nippy outside


January 17, 1997

Winter has finally arrived in Nashville, so lately I’ve spent a lot of time watching the Weather Channel, and listening to weather reports on the news, just so I know what’s not going to happen during the course of the day. I think all this is starting to really affect me, though–I’m actually starting to find these weather reports interesting. I had to slap myself awake the other night because I was mesmerized by those little H’s and L’s buzzing across the screen. As my last defense against completely losing my mind in a cold front, I started thinking of ways to make the weather more interesting. With all those graphics they have, the weather isn’t far off from being more than a giant video game. People by the millions would tune in to hear updates about Ralph the intern and Lisa the anchor blasting each other with hurricanes, gale force winds, and tornadoes. It would be a lot more interesting than what’s really going on. The problem is it would upset too many people. There would be bets on where the next tornado would touch down, there would be under-the-table payments for rain to wash out baseball games, and schoolkids would flood the office with mail begging for snow. Maybe it’s better just to leave it alone. Besides, there’s something reassuring about the weather report. It does my ego a little bit of good to know that, even if I can’t predict the weather, neither can anyone else.

Enjoy this week’s offering.

From a newspaper contest where entrants were asked to imitate "Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey."


My young son asked me what happens after we die. I told him we get buried under a bunch of dirt and worms eat our bodies. I guess I should have told him the truth–that most of us go to Hell and burn eternally–but I didn’t want to upset him.

It sure would be nice if we got a day off for the president’s birthday, like they do for the queen. Of course, then we would have a lot of people voting for a candidate born on July 3 or December 26, just for the long weekends.

Democracy is a beautiful thing, except for that part about letting just any old yokel vote.

Home is where the house is.

Often, when I am reading a good book, I stop and thank my teacher. That is, I used to, until she got an unlisted number.

As you make your way through this hectic world of ours, set aside a few minutes each day. At the end of the year, you’ll have a couple of days saved up.

It would be terrible if the Red Cross Bloodmobile got into an accident. No, wait. That would be good because if anyone needed it, the blood would be right there.

Give me the strength to change the things I can, the grace to accept the things I cannot, and a great big bag of money.

The people who think Tiny Tim is strange are the same ones who think it odd that I drive without pants.

For centuries, people thought the moon was made of green cheese. Then the astronauts found that the moon is really a big hard rock. That’s what happens to cheese when you leave it out.

Think of the biggest number you can. Now add five. Then, imagine if you had that many Twinkies. Wow, that’s five more than the biggest number you could come up with!

I bet living in a nudist colony takes all the fun out of Halloween.

The only stupid question is the one that is never asked, except maybe "Don’t you think it is about time you audited my return?" or "Isn’t is morally wrong to give me a warning when, in fact, I was speeding?"

Once, I wept for I had no shoes. Then I came upon a man who had no feet. So I took his shoes. I mean, it’s not like he really needed them, right?

When I go to heaven, I want to see my grandpa again. But he better have lost the nose hair and the old-man smell.

I believe you should live each day as if it is your last, which is why I don’t have any clean laundry because, come on, who wants to wash clothes on the last day of their life?

I often wonder how come John Tesh isn’t as popular a singer as some people think he should be. Then, I remember it’s because he sucks.

Whenever I start getting sad about where I am in my life, I think about the last words of my favorite uncle: "A truck!"

If you really want to impress people with your computer literacy, add the words "dot com" to the end of everything you say, dot com.

I like to go down to the dog pound and pretend that I’ve found my dog. Then I tell them to kill it anyway because I already gave away all of his stuff. Dog people sure don’t have a sense of humor.


I don’t know about you, but I enjoy watching paint dry. I imagine that the wet paint is a big freshwater lake that is the only source of water for some tiny cities by the lake. As the lake gets drier, the population gets more desperate, and sometimes there are water riots. Once there was a big fire and everyone died.


I once heard the voice of God. It said "Vrrrrmmmmm." Unless it was just a lawn mower.


I gaze at the brilliant full moon. The same one, I think to myself, at which Socrates, Aristotle, and Plato gazed. Suddenly, I imagine they appear beside me. I tell Socrates about the national debate over one’s right to die and wonder at the constancy of the human condition. I tell Plato that I live in the country that has come the closest to Utopia, and I show him a copy of the Constitution. I tell Aristotle that we have found many more than four basic elements and I show him a periodic table. I get a box of kitchen matches and strike one. They gasp with wonder. We spend the rest of the night lighting farts.


If we could just get everyone to close their eyes and visualize world peace for an hour, imagine how serene and quiet it would be until the looting started.

Shooting my mouth off…

January 10, 1997

I have big lips. I know that sounds like a weird thing to say, but it’s something that so troubled me during my childhood that I would sometimes press my mouth closed to make me look thin-lipped. My parents overlooked the incredible advantage they gained by this (it shut me up for a while) and instead reassured me, as parents will do, that I would eventually grow into my lips. When I was in college, actresses with oversized lips became very popular and friends informed me that women were spending huge amounts of money to have lips like mine. I had to remind them that, despite the insistence of store clerks, waiters, and my Aunt Molly, I’m not a woman. Besides, none of Hollywood’s leading men have ever felt the need to spend a few thousand dollars on shooting their faces full of collagen. Over the years, it’s simply something I’ve come to live with, and once I got used to buying Chapstick by the crate, I even discovered advantages to oversized lips. I can do great impersonations of famous rock stars. Lip-readers can understand me from a couple of miles away. And these facial protuberances have actually kept me out of quite a few fights. They scare bullies off because, let’s face it, one good punch and these things could explode.

Enjoy this week’s offering.

The British Military writes EPRs which are officer fitness reports. The form used for Royal Navy and Marines fitness reports is the S206. The following are actual excerpts taken from people’s "206s"….

His men would follow him anywhere, but only out of curiosity.

This Officer is really not so much of a has-been, but more of a definitely won’t-be.

When she opens her mouth, it seems that this is only to change whichever foot was previously in there.

He has carried out each and every one of his duties to his entire satisfaction.

He would be out of his depth in a car park puddle.

This young lady has delusions of adequacy.

When he joined my ship, this Officer was something of a granny; since then he has aged considerably.

This Medical Officer has used my ship to carry his genitals from port to port, and my officers to carry him from bar to bar.

Since my last report he has reached rock bottom, and has started to dig.

She sets low personal standards and then consistently fails to achieve them.

He has the wisdom of youth, and the energy of old age.

This Officer should go far – and the sooner he starts, the better.

This man is depriving a village somewhere of an idiot.

Works well when under constant supervision and cornered like a rat in a trap.


I’m baaaack….

January 3, 1997

Well, it’s good to be back, on the first Friday of the new year. During my vacation I had a dream that was so real, so vivid, that during it I thought I was awake, which is what happens when I gulp half a pepperoni pizza, two tacos, some garlic bread, and a couple of beers right before bedtime. That is, if I remember correctly, the same combination that inspired Coleridge to write "Kubla Khan." In the dream, I walked past two billboards. One was encouraging me to join one of those underground Nazi militia groups. The other was encouraging me to join the Jimi Hendrix fan club. About the only thing these two have in common is that I’ve never been a big fan of either one. Such is the nature of the subconscious, though, that I started considering how joining either of these organizations would affect my job. Private militias have been pretty badly put down, but as far as employers go, they’re really a big plus. You learn to think fast, you’ll always be the most alert employee in the office, and you’ll also be the most motivated person your boss knows. Other benefits include having a fully loaded file cabinet in case the building is suddenly surrounded by hostile forces from another company, and frequent opportunities to promote the company’s product to the FBI. On the other hand, if your boss asks what you’re doing and you answer, "Accountin’ in the purple haze with a flyin’ hippo"…well, it just doesn’t sound as good.

It’s been a hard week. Cheer up!

HEY !!! Cheer up…

  • The parachute company says you’ll get a full refund.

  • They say the house didn’t float very far at all.

  • We’re all amazed that you go on living each day.

  • Well, at least the operation was a partial success.

  • The "National Enquirer" just loved those nude shots of you.

  • The insects hardly touched your other eyebrow.

  • With the lights dimmed, it looks almost normal.

  • The District Attorney sez he only has a few more questions.

  • At least the passenger side air bag inflated.

  • Jenny Jones wants you for this "secret admirer show".

  • The reward for your capture has reached fifty thousand dollars.

  • At least we never thought you were guilty like that Jury did.

  • The insurance pays the full book value ($ 312) for your 1956 T Bird.

  • The thieves left the push lawn mower and hedge trimmers.

  • Those Grand Juries always over-react. Don’t worry about it.

  • Lots of guys face multiple paternity suits.

  • The boss said while you’re sick, he’d do all your work personally.

  • MicroSoft’s Tech Support said those errors just aren’t possible.

Ho ho ho!

December 19, 1996

You didn’t think you’d get away that easily, did you? Well, I thought you’d get away that easily, but then I remembered one last gift–I hope you don’t mind that it isn’t wrapped.

December 23rd, the day REAL MEN start shopping

Real Men don’t start shopping until December 23rd. Real Men do this because Real Men don’t trudge like wool-swaddled lemmings from store to store. Real Men see it and they buy, full price. None of that sissy sale stuff.

Real Men also enjoy the challenge of rack-to-rack combat. Real Men will compete for parking spaces with the feistiest of blue-haired women in the biggest of cars. Real Men will not hesitate to remind retail elves with the vacant eyes of stone-cold killers that the customer is always right.

How can you tell Real Men from all those testosterone-deficient John Wayne wannabes out to just pick up a few last things? Listen and listen tight pilgrim.

  1. Real Men never work from lists. They go on instinct.

  2. Real Men don’t get all anal about stuff like style, color and size.

  3. Real Men don’t hesitate to ask strange women what size they are.

  4. Real Men have great difficulty deciding between the appliance and the necklace.

  5. Real Men find nothing wrong with merchandise that has been handled more than Madonna.

  6. Real Men see no reason for removing price tags or saving receipts.

  7. Real Men can locate a neat gift while the attendant is filling the tank.

  8. Real Men sincerely believe the frilly number from Victoria’s Secret is a present for their wives, and not for them.

  9. Real Men wrap their gifts with duct tape.

  10. Real Men have no problem giving loved ones cash.

Happy holidays to you/Until we meet again…

December 19, 1996

Just a quick step up on the soapbox: there should be a rule against people going out and buying stuff for themselves after Thanksgiving. Especially stuff that other people know they would like. And this especially applies to people who are hard to buy for. I suppose they’re trying to force the rest of us to be more creative, which wouldn’t be a bad thing since some years I’ve felt that the most creative aspect of the presents I’ve given has been the wrapping. Honestly–I envy those of you with the manual dexterity to wrap a package perfectly without having to resort to taping large squares of completely different paper over the sides or other odd wrapping tricks which, so far, I haven’t had to resort to. Speaking of wrapping, I guess that about wraps things up, so have a wonderful holiday everybody, and to my operatives in Sri Lanka, take a well-earned break.

Here is a word problem: If Santa leaves the North Pole headed south at the speed of 8 tiny reindeer with a payload of one gift per child (see, here you get to use x’s and y’s), and delivers every gift during a relative 24 hour period (that’s the trick part of the question), why can’t I ever get my Christmas cards in the mail on time?



  1. No known species of reindeer can fly. But there ARE 300,000 species of living organisms yet to be classified, and while most of these are insects and germs, this does not completely rule out flying reindeer.

  2. There are 2 billion children (under 18) in the world. But since Santa doesn’t appear to handle Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and Jewish children, that reduces the workload to 15% of the total — 378 million or so. At an average rate of 3.5 children per household, that’s 91.8 million homes. One presumes there’s at least one good child in each.

  3. Santa has 31 hours of Christmas to work with, thanks to time zones and the rotation of the earth, assuming he travels east to west. This works out to 822.6 visits per second. This is to say that for each Christian household with good children, Santa has 1/1000th of a second to park, hop out of the sleigh, jump down the chimney, fill the stockings, distribute the remaining gifts under the tree, eat the snacks, get back up the chimney, get back in the sleigh, and move on to the next house. Assuming that each of these 91.8 million homes are distributed evenly (which we know to be false but for the sake of these calculations we will accept) we are now talking about .78 miles per household, a total trip of 75 1/2 million miles, not counting bathroom stops. This means that Santa’s sleigh is traveling at 650 miles per second, 3000 times the speed of sound. For comparison, the fastest man made vehicle, the Ulysses space probe moves at a pokey 27.4 MPS; the average reindeer runs at 15 MPH.

  4. The sleighs payload adds another interesting element. Assuming that each child gets nothing more than a medium sized Lego set (2 pounds), the sleigh is carrying 321,300 tons not counting Santa, who is invariably described as overweight. On land, conventional reindeer can pull no more than 300 pounds. Even granting that "flying reindeer" (see point one) could pull TEN TIMES the usual amount, we can not do the job with 8 or even 9. We would need 214,000 reindeer. This increases the weight, not even counting the sleigh, to 353,430 tons. Again, for comparison this is 4 times the weight of the Queen Elizabeth 2.

  5. 353,000 tons traveling at 650 miles per second creates enormous air resistance. This will heat the reindeer in the same manner as a spacecraft re-entering the earth’s atmosphere. The lead pair of reindeer will absorb 14.3 QUINTILLION joules of energy. Per second. Each. In short, they will burst into flame almost instantaneously, exposing the next pair of reindeer, and creating deafening sonic booms in their wake. The entire team will be vaporized within 4.26 thousands of a second. Santa, meanwhile, will be subjected to centrifugal forces 17,500.06 times the force of gravity. A 300 pound Santa would be pinned to the back of his sleigh by 4,315,015 pounds of force.

  6. Conclusion: There was a Santa, but he’s dead now.