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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.

I’m dreaming of a heat wave…

December 18, 1996

It never ceases to amaze me that, for Nashville, snow is an excuse to panic. Let me rephrase that: in Nashville, the threat of snow, the very mention of the words "light flurries" are an excuse to panic and run to the grocery store to stock up on eggs, milk, bread, and toilet paper. A woman I work with was complaining this morning that she’d been up half the night studying with her daughter because the teacher, so convinced by the words "no accumulation" that we were going to get seventeen feet of snow, decided to reschedule all of next weeks’ tests for today. I guess I can understand her point. Our weather service has been known to report "clear skies" during blizzards, but everyone around here seems to forget when they hear the word "snow" that Nashville is not north of the arctic circle. While it’s chilly this week, temperatures around here fluctuate so wildly that we’ll probably be back to short sleeves by the time Christmas gets here.

Enjoy this verbose Christmas piece.

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas
(Written by the Government)

‘Twas the nocturnal segment of the diurnal period preceding the annual Yuletide celebration, and throughout the 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 (mouse). 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 traveling 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."

Jingle bells…

December 17, 1996

Well, folks, I have some bad news and some good news. The bad news is that yesterday’s supposed good deed has in fact turned out to be a hoax. The good news is that it means my record is still completely free of good deeds, nice things, and other assorted decent acts.

Enjoy this special time-line which traces the development of Christmas from its earliest, most shadowy origins all the way up to the present. Well, almost…perhaps it’s just as well that it leaves off after 1970 because, let’s face it, the present is best enjoyed thirty years after it’s gone.


1200: Druids / Vikings celebrate Winter solstice around December 22 as tradition had it, evergreen trees were brought indoors as a symbol of good luck (only tree that kept it’s "leaves" in the cold, winter months); the tree was decorated with dried fruit and candles; holly decorated the house as well, for luck, since it retained it’s leaves and bore it’s fruit in the winter;

274: Romans celebrate feast of Invincible Sun on December 25

4: Christ is born a little early.


29: Christ dies

66: Druids and Celts defeated by Romans

336: Pope Julius starts to celebrate Christmas on Dec 25 to counter the pagan celebration of winter solstice

350: the Christmas stocking tradition starts rumor has it, St. Nicholas (Russian bishop) tossed money into window of widower (with 3 daughters) and it fell into a stocking hung by the fire (to dry after washing)

500: Pope Gregory officially declares Dec 25 as Christ’s birth

550: Pope Gregory asks archbishop Augustine to convert pagan customs (of winter solstice celebration) to Christmas yet another way to counter pagan celebrations and win them over to Christianity;

1224: St. Francis of Assisi introduces the CRECHE he placed it in his church so that the Christmas story would be better understood by his people (who were predominantly unable to read); it aroused a new spirit / interest in Christmas

1300: Christmas carols come to England from France

1350: Boxing Day starts (Dec 26) a tradition (still custom in England and Canada) of employers giving money to employees; money, food, clothing to churches for poor; originated in middle ages when an earthenware "alms" box was placed in a church for donations to poor; on Dec 26 the box was shattered – this gave way to the, now, tradition of the (you guessed it) Piggy Bank

1648: Cromwell comes to power and Puritans rule and rule lasts until 1659; however, because Puritans controlled ALL religious matters Christmas was all but outlawed; businesses were required to be open and churches closed; it wasn’t until the 1800’s that Christmas became popular again

1700: Plum pudding becomes popular

18–: the rhyme "The Twelve Days of Christmas" becomes popular in U.S. it got it’s origins from Medieval times and is actually a numerological wit; by the end of the rhyme the person received from his/her true love 364 gifts (one for each day of the year but one – Christmas); the actual 12 days of Christmas was started by the Saxon King (Alfred) who decreed that Christmas should last from Dec 25 to the day of Epiphany (Jan 6, the day the three wise men first saw Christ); during this time, no business was opened and many festivities occurred (gambling – otherwise illegal – was allowed as well)

1824: Clement Moore writes "A Visit from St. Nick" which starts with: "Twas the night before Christmas. . ." Moore is credited with the myth that Santa rides in a sleigh pulled by eight tiny reindeer (and also for naming them)

1843: Charles Dickens writes "A Christmas Carol"

1843: John Horsley prints the first Christmas card the first year, he only sold 1000

1850: Christmas gifts become tradition

1852: Dr. Joel Poinsette, brings the poinsettia to the U.S. the poinsettia was native to Mexico and became popular because of it’s red/green colors; Dr. Joel Poinsette was the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico and a botanist; he is credited for cultivating the plant here in the U.S.

1880: the Santa Clause myth (but is it?) is firmly established Santa Claus is the American adaptation of St. Nicholas; Santa’s name is derived by the Dutch: Sinter Class; his attributes are also from the Dutch (his red suit’s modeled after their Bishop’s white-fur-trimmed cape and miter)

1892: Tchaikovsky writes the "Nutcracker" ballet

1897: Francis Church writes "Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Clause" as the story goes, Virginia O’Hanlon could not understand why none of her friends believed in Santa Claus (she was 8 years old); her father, an avid reader of the New York Sun, was fond of saying "if it’s in the Sun, it had to be true"; so she wrote the Sun asking if there was a Santa; on September 21, 1897, Francis Churches article appeared; so it has to be true

1898: electric Christmas lights are invented replacing candles;

1906: T. Roosevelt helps make Christmas trees a U.S. crop

1919: Madison Square Garden has a public Christmas tree

1920: red Christmas wreaths become popular

1942: Bing Crosby makes "White Christmas" popular

1949: Gene Autry sings "Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer"

1952: outside Christmas lights become popular

1955: aluminum Christmas trees become popular

1970: artificial Christmas trees become popular

Merry Christmas, Bedford Falls!

December 16, 1996

Well, folks, it’s going to be a short week for me, but it’s a special week, so I’ll try to get something out to you each of the next four days. Just a quick mention from last week’s edition: yes, it was Friday the 13th, but I’m not superstitious. Besides, it’s really really unlucky to talk about Friday the 13th, especially since I’d spilled some salt and nearly walked under a ladder earlier in the day. I didn’t want to make things worse than they already were. Here’s something I also don’t normally do: advertising. Well, it’s not real advertising, it’s more of a request. Houghton Mifflin publishers will donate one book to a children’s hospital for every 25 e-mails it receives. I know, I know, you’re all gasping at the thought that I might do a good deed. I promise not to make it a habit. The e-mail address is:

Despite your best efforts, you might find yourself at an office party with Induhviduals. Here are some tips you will want to share with them in order to avoid any embarrassing or dangerous situations. If your boss gets drunk and offers to photocopy her posterior, do not helpfully suggest pressing "reduce 75%." If you hear someone yell "Empower THIS!!", try to put some distance between you and whatever happens next. Never ask, "Is *that* your wife or did you cash in some stock options?" If the party is held on site, don’t ask for directions. When you meet your boss’s spouse, never say "Wow, I didn’t know you two were married. What’s it like to have an open relationship?" Don’t put the eggnog in your own flask. Don’t ask the band to play "Take This Job and Shove It." It’s never a good idea to use the mistletoe as a fig leaf.

Deck the U-Hauls…

December 13, 1996

Well folks, it’s that time of year again, and you know what that means: decorations. I love to go out and look up and down the street at the different varieties. There are the really eager people who put theirs up the day after Halloween, when most of us are throwing out the catalogs that we’ll wish we’d saved when we see the crowds at the mall, but most of these people stick to the very subtle decorations. Usually nothing more than their tree and a few lights. Some go for the too subtle–that single string of red lights that makes their house look more like a brothel than a place of Christmas cheer. Next come the less than subtle decorators, the ones who actually fall at the other end of the decorating spectrum. These are the ones who pride themselves on adding at least one Santa and one nativity scene to their yards every year. Santa on the roof, Santa on the porch, Santa in a sleigh, Santa standing up, Santa taking a nip from his very own bottle of Christmas cheer, and in every space not occupied by a Santa, there’s a nativity scene. A stable with animals, a stable with three wise men, a stable with a star on the roof, a stable with Santa and his reindeer on the roof. And even the minute spaces aren’t left empty. No, they’re taken up with elves, reindeer, igloos, six-foot plastic candles, and blinking light displays that, by themselves, take enough electricity to power a small town. My favorite of them all, though, has been the smallest. Last year, an out-of-the-way house I see every morning on my way in to work had a nativity scene perched on the seat and handlebars of a Harley Davidson. This year, the original Christmas family occupies the back of a U-Haul trailer. Looking at the general trend of decorations, I can’t blame them for wanting to travel. Who could sleep with the cross between Christmas and Las Vegas lighting up the night next door?

Have a nice holiday everybody, and before you go, here’s a little something else. And let me remind you that Freethinker Editions may be non-returnable and non-refundable, but they’re also non-fattening and, like mail-order fruitcake, you can keep passing them around for years to come.


Dear Santa:

We’re worried about you. From your rosy red cheeks to your legendary girth to your all-night sleigh ride around the world, you may be at risk for diseases, maladies, mishaps and lawsuits that send chills through our Santa-loving hearts.

The latest warning comes from the National Rosacea Society in Barrington, Illinois. Dermatologist Dr. Jerome Litt says you have "a clear-cut case of rosacea," a skin condition that also affects millions of Americans, particularly at middle age. Unable to examine you personally, the good doctor based his finding on a well-circulated report that your "cheeks were like roses, (your) nose like a cherry."

Sadly, many observers conclude that red-skin condition comes from hitting the Christmas-punch bowl a little too hard. Sadder still, rosacea can be aggravated by holiday stress, hot chocolate and overexertion…all things you may encounter this time of year. The one bright note in Dr. Litt’s message is that certain antibiotics can help, and he advises you to see a North Pole dermatologist. But the news about your facial tint is only our latest source of concern.

A careful examination of what we know about you and your lifestyle raises a host of other trouble signs:

OBESITY: Frankly, Santa, this may be your biggest area of concern. Studies show overweight men have more than double the normal risk of heart attacks and increased chances of many other diseases. We’ve seen the pictures; we’ve noticed you in the malls. And we’ve heard that your tummy shakes "like a bowlful of jelly" when you chuckle. On this, we’ll take part of the blame. All these years, we’ve set out milk and cookies on Christmas Eve. With 102 million homes in the US alone, even if 1 in 100 homes put out two cookies and a cup of milk, that would make and overnight snack of 2 million cookies and 63,750 gallons of milk. Maybe it’s time for Mrs. Claus to get you a NordicTrack or a Thighmaster. But be sure to have the old ticker checked out before you start an exercise regimen.

PIPE SMOKING: You’ve been pictured with a pipe, and even though an apologist in The New York Times once claimed it’s only a prop, a witness who encountered you in his home said "the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath." According to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, pipe and cigar smokers have twice a nonsmoker’s risk for lung cancer, four times the risk for larynx cancer and two to three times the risk for cancers of the mouth and esophagus. Even if the pipe’s just a prop, it might be a good idea to lose it. Remember, you’re not just a saint, you’re a role model.

STRESS: Dealing with Christmas wishes from millions of kiddies could certainly put one on the emotions hot seat. And anxiety can surpass even smoking as a risk for certain heart problems. On this point, though, we have some good news: A medical news service says laughter… evidenced by your trademark "Ho, ho, ho"… one of the best stress-busters going.

SOOT: We admire your ability to slip up and down the average chimney, an opening about 12 inches by 16 inches. But creosote flakes on the chimney walls are toxic and can lead to respiratory problems. Brent Rigby of Emerald City Chimney Sweeps in Kirkland said his people never actually go into a chimney, and wear protective masks when they reach up through the fireplace to vacuum the soot.

RSI (REPETITIVE STRAIN INJURY): Cards and letters by the bagful arrive on your doorstep through regular mail, but this year we’ve noticed you’re also receiving, and answering, e-mail on at least four Internet addresses, including one based in Seattle: We applaud your move onto the information superhighway, with this caution: too much keyboard work can result in painful injuries to the hands, wrists and arms.

DEER MITES: Close, continuous contact with your trusty reindeer means if they get mites, so might you, says Dr. David DuClos, a veterinary dermatologist in Lynnwood. Watch out for itchy rashes, and keep the deer out of your bed.

FROSTBITE, HYPOTHERMIA: You usually bundle up, and that’s good. A Weather Service satellite recently showed the temperature at the North Pole was 13 below zero, and high winds are common. Exposure to such conditions can cause frostbite in minutes.

MALL THUGS: You spend a lot of time in shopping malls, so you already know things are getting a little tough out there. Try not to walk back to your sleigh at night alone.

MEMORY TROUBLE: It’s been said that you make a list, then check it twice. Just being careful, or developing a little memory problem?

SAD (SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER): This time of year, there is virtually no daylight at the North Pole, and a lack of sunlight can trigger depression in some people. Maybe a full-spectrum light would help keep you jolly.

VIRAL INFECTIONS: A young witness saw you kissing Mommy underneath the mistletoe last night. You know this is colds and flu season, don’t you?

SLEIGH ACCIDENTS: We’ve seen plenty of pictures of you in that sleigh, but never with a seat belt, and we’d sure hate to see you get hurt. By the way, when you cruise through Seattle this year, be sure to cover the load.

JET LAG: Fatigue, dizziness and insomnia are all dangers that travelers face when they cross through several times zones. And few travelers cross all 24 of them in a night, like you do.

SKYJACKERS: OK, you’ve been lucky so far, but they’re out there.

Knowing all the dangers you face makes us feel that much more fortunate that you’re still faithfully delivering the goodies to good boys and girls every Christmas. But you might want to try to reduce some of those risks before your insurance company decides to boost your rates. Which reminds us: You DO have insurance, don’t you?

Jack Brown
Seattle Times staff reporter


December 6, 1996

Folks, it’s been one of those weeks. Among other things, I ran out of post-it notes, my computer crashed fourteen times, I didn’t even have time to dangle strange things out of my office window this week, and to top it all off I spent one afternoon getting a tooth drilled and filled which, no matter what drugs they load you up with, is never a pleasant experience. Right when I thought I was about to go completely insane, I got an e-mail with the subject "Remember Cancun?" I’ve never been to Cancun, but according to someone named Ivor Feldman, he and I had a really wild time down there a few years ago. If he wasn’t kidding about the amount of tequila I had that weekend, then it’s possible that my lack of memory is because of brain damage but…well, who would EVER forget having a friend with a name like Ivor? Especially one who claims to have been right there with me when I wrapped bar towels around my waist and danced for pesos on a cantina table. He said he still isn’t sure where I managed to find high heels in my size at four in the morning. No amount of brain damage would ever blot that out of my memory…or could it?

Anyway, once I recovered from my confusion, I suddenly felt a lot better. Ivor and his fantastic weekend were exactly what I needed–whether it really happened or not. A wise man once said, "When the going gets weird, the weird turn professional." Thanks to Ivor, I feel like I’m practically chairman of the board now. Although it was probably a mere case of misdirected e-mail, I couldn’t resist giving back to Ivor a little of what he’d given me. I wrote back, "Thanks for the pick-me-up, Ivor. How are Gretchen and the kids?"

Hey, it’s the least one professional could do for another. Enjoy this week’s two offerings.

In France, the young assistant pastors do not live in the main rectory. That is reserved for the Pastor and his housekeeper.

One day the pastor invited his new young assistant pastor to have dinner at the rectory. While being served, the young pastor noticed how shapely and lovely the housekeeper was and down deep in his heart he wondered if there was more between the pastor and the housekeeper.

After the meal was over, the middle-aged pastor assured the young priest that everything was purely professional…that she was the housekeeper and cook and that was that.

About a week later the housekeeper came to the pastor and said, "Father, ever since the new assistant came for dinner I have not been able to find the beautiful silver gravy ladle. You don’t suppose he took it, do you?"

The Pastor said, "Well, I doubt it but I’ll write him a letter."

So he sat down and wrote, "Dear Father, I’m not saying you did take the gravy ladle and I’m not saying you did not take the gravy ladle. But the fact remains that it has been missing since you were here for dinner."

The young assistant received the letter, and he answered it as follows:

"Dear Father Pastor, I’m not saying that you do sleep with the housekeeper and I’m not saying that you do not sleep with the housekeeper. But I do know for sure that if you slept in your own bed you would find the gravy ladle."


1. Call.
2. Don’t lie.
3. Never tape any of her body parts together.
4. If guys’ night out is going to be fun, invite the girls.
5. If guys’ night out is going to involve strippers, remember the zoo rules: No Petting.
6. The correct answer to "Do I look fat?" is never, ever "Yes."
7. Ditto for "Is she prettier than me?"
8. Victoria’s Secret is good. Frederick’s of Hollywood is bad.
9. Ordering for her is good. Telling her what she wants is bad.
10. Being attentive is good. Stalking is bad.
11. "Honey", "Darling", and "Sweetheart" are good. "Nag","Lardass", and "Bitch" are bad.
12. Talking is good. Shouting is bad. Slapping is a felony.
13. A grunt is seldom an acceptable answer to any question.
14. None of your ex-girlfriends were ever nicer, prettier, or better in bed.
15. Her cooking is excellent.
16. That isn’t an excuse for you to avoid cooking.
17. Dishsoap is your friend.
18. Hat does not equal shower, aftershave does not equal soap, and warm does not equal clean.
19. Buying her dinner does not equal foreplay.
20. Answering "Who was that on the phone?" with "Nobody" is never going to end that conversation.
21. Ditto for "Whose lipstick is this?"
22. Two words: clean socks.
23. Believe it or not, you’re probably not more attractive when you’re drunk.
24. Burping is not sexy.
25. You’re wrong.
26. You’re sorry.
27. She is probably less impressed by your discourse on your cool car than you think she is.
28. Ditto for your discourse on football.
29. Ditto for your ability to jump up and hit any awning in a single bound.
30. "Will you marry me?" is good. "Let’s shack up together" is bad.
31. Don’t assume PMS is the cause for every bad mood.
32. Don’t assume PMS doesn’t exist.
33. No means No. Yes means Yes. Silence could mean anything she feel like at that particular moment in time, and it could change without notice.
34. "But, we kiss…" is not justification for using her toothbrush. You don’t clean plaque with your tongue.
35. Never let her walk anywhere alone after 11 p.m.
36. Chivalry and feminism are NOT mutually exclusive.
37. Pick her up at the airport. Don’t whine about it, just do it.
38. If you want to break up with her, break up with her. Don’t act like a complete jerk until she does it for you.
39. Don’t tell her you love her if you don’t.
40. Tell her you love her if you do. Often.
41. Always, always suck up to her brother.
42. Think boxers.
43. Silk boxers.
44. Remember Valentine’s Day, and any cheesy "anniversary" she so-names.
45. Don’t try to change the way she dresses.
46. Her haircut is never bad.
47. Don’t let your friends pick on her.
48. Don’t bad-mouth her family/friends/job — even if she does.
49. Listen.
50. The rules are never fair. Accept this without question. The fact that she has to go through labor while you sit in the waiting room on your ass smoking cigars isn’t fair either, and it balances everything.

A Weather Report

November 27, 1996

Look for clear skies in the morning, high of about eighty degrees, and the monsoon rains beginning at 2:30PM. And if you live in the Northern hemisphere…

Well, folks, it’s nearly that time. Aunt Vita began warming up the deep fat fryer early this morning, and all of us are, I’m sure, looking forward to a well-deserved vacation. All of us, that is, except for the Canadians, who celebrated earlier in the year, which probably makes their Christmas shopping a lot easier. And then there are my operatives in Sri Lanka, who don’t have a major holiday until February… Now that I’ve successfully led my train of thought so far around the bend that there’s no hope of ever getting it back, let me just say have a happy Thanksgiving, and hope that none of the kids below are cooking at your house.

A Thanksgiving Cookbook

by Mrs. Geraghty’s Kindergarten Class

NOTE: Mrs. Geraghty will not be reponsible for medical bills resulting from use of her cookbook

Ivette – Banana Pie:
You buy some bananas and crust. Then you mash them up and put them in the pie. Then you eat it.

Russell – Turkey
You cut the turkey up and put it in the oven for ten minutes and 300 degrees. You put gravy on it and eat it.

Geremy – Turkey
You buy the turkey and take the paper off. Then you put it in the refrigerator and take it back out and cut it with a knife and make sure all the wires are out and take out the neck and heart. Then you put it in a big pan and cook it for half an hour at 80 degrees. Then you invite people over and eat.

Andrew – Pizza
Buy some dough, some cheese and pepperoni. Then you cook it for 10 hours at 5 degrees. Then you eat it.

Shelby – Applesauce
Go to the store and buy some apples, and then you squish them up. Then you put them in a jar that says, "Applesauce". Then you eat it.

Meghan H. – Turkey
You cut it into 16 pieces and then you leave it in the oven for 15 minutes and 4 degrees. you take it out and let it cool and then after 5 minutes, then you eat it.

Danny – Turkey
You put some salt on it to make it taste good. Then you put it in the oven. Then you cook it for an hour at 5 degrees. Then you eat it.

Brandon – Turkey
First you buy it at Fred Meyer. Then you cut it up and cook it for 15 hours at 200 degrees. Then you take it out and eat it.

Megan K – Chicken
You put it in the oven for 25 minutes and 25 degrees and put gravy on it and eat it.

Christa – Cookies
Buy some dough and smash it and cut them out. Then put them in the oven for 2 hours at 100 degrees. Then take them out and dry them off. Then it’s time to eat them.

Irene – Turkey
Put it on a plate and put it in the oven with gravy. You cook it for 1 minute and for 100 degrees. Then it’s all cooked. Your mom or dad cuts it and then eat.

Moriah – Turkey
First you cut the bones out. Then you put it in the oven for 10 hours at 600 degrees. Then you put it on the table and eat it.

Vincent – Turkey
You cut and put sauce on it. Then you cook it for 18 minutes at 19 degrees. Then you eat it with stuffing.

Jordyn – Turkey
First you have to cut it up and put it on a plate in the oven for 9 minutes and 18 degrees. Then you dig it out of the oven and eat it.

Grace – Turkey
First you add some salt. Then you put it in a bowl. Then you put brown sugar on it. Then you mix it all together with a spoon and then you add some milk and mix it again. And then you put it in a pan. Then you put it in the oven for 15 minutes and 16 degrees. Then you take it out of the oven and then you eat it.

Alan – Turkey
First you shoot it and then you cut it. And then you put it in the oven and cook it for 10 minutes and 20 degrees. You put it on plates and then you eat it.

Jordan Salvatore- Turkey
First you put it in the oven for 15 minutes at 100 degrees. Then you cut it up and then you eat it.

Jordan Simons – Chocolate Pudding
Buy some chocolate pudding mix. Then you add the milk. Then you add the pudding mix. Then you stir it. Then you put it in the refrigerator and wait for it to get hard. Then you eat it.

Whitney – Turkey
Cut it and put it in the oven for 50 minutes at 60 degrees and then you eat it.

Jason – Chicken Pie
Put the chicken in the pot and put the salad and cheese and mustard and then you mix it all together. Then put chicken sauce and stir it all around again. Then you cook it for 5 minutes at 9 degrees. Then you eat it.

Christopher – Pumpkin Pie
First you buy a pumpkin and smash it. Then it is all done. And you cook it in the oven for 12 minutes and 4 degrees. Then you eat it.

Christine – Turkey
First you buy the turkey. Then you cook it for 5 hours and 5 degrees. Then you cut it up and you eat it.

Ashley – Chicken
Put it in the oven. Then cut it up. Then I eat it.

Jennie – Corn
My mom buys it. Then you throw it. Then you cook it. Then you eat it.

Jordan – Cranberry Pie
Put cranberry juice in it. Then you put berries in it. Then you put dough in it. Then you bake it. Then you eat it.

Adam – Pumpkin Pie
First you put pumpkin seeds in it. Put it in a pan and bake it at 5 degrees for 6 minutes. Then take it out and eat it.

Jarryd – Deer Jerky
Put it in the oven overnight at 20 degrees. Then you go hunting and bring it with you. Then you eat it.

Christina – Turkey
Get the turkey. Put it in the oven. Cook it for 43 minutes at 35 degrees. Put it on a plate, cut it up, then eat it.

Joplyn – Apple Pie
Take some apples, mash them up. Take some bread and make a pie with it. Get some dough and squish it. Shape the dough into a pie shape. Put the apples in it. Then bake it at 9 degrees for 15 minutes.

Isabelle – Spaghetti
Put those red things in it. Then put the spaghetti in it. Then cook it in the oven for 2 minutes at 8 degrees.

Bailey – Chicken
Put pepper and spices on it. Cook for one hour at 60 degrees. Then eat it.

Nicholas – White and Brown Pudding
First you read the wrapper. Get a piece of water. Stir. Then you eat it.

Sean – Turkey
Put it in the oven for 5 minutes at 55 degrees. Take it out and eat it.

Lauren – Turkey
First you find a turkey and kill it. Cut it open. Put it in a pan. Pour milk in the pan. Put a little chicken with it. Put salsa on it. Take out of pan. Put it on the board. Cut into little pieces. Put on a rack. Put in the oven for 7 minutes at 10 degrees. Take out of the oven and put eensy weensy bit of sugar on it. Put a little more salsa on it. Then you eat it.

Olivia – Corn
Get hot water and put on stove. Wait for 8 minutes. Put corn in. Then put it on a plate. Then eat.

Siera – Pumpkin Pie
Get some pumpkin and dough for the crust. Get pumpkin pie cinnamon. Cook it for 20 minutes at 10 degrees.

Kayla – Turkey
Buy it. Take it home. Then you cook it. Put it in the oven for 1 hour. Take it out of the oven. Put it on a plate. Then you eat it.

Tommy – Pumpkin
Cook the pumpkin. Then get ready to eat the pumpkin

Wai – Pumpkin Pie
Get a pumpkin. Cook it. Eat it.

All tangled up and no place to go

November 22, 1996

I have slightly longer than average hair, which in some cultures is normal, but in the South it has resulted in some rather strange reactions. The most interesting one yet occurred only a few nights ago. While walking into an establishment with my wife and another young woman, a gentleman on his way out said, presumably to the three of us, "Hellooo ladybugs." Admittedly, the gentlman in question had an excuse. He’d obviously spent the better part of the evening with his friend Jack Daniels and could barely walk straight. I knew there was no point in mentioning that all of us, myself in particular, did not deserve that name, since we lacked hard red shells, wings, and an extra pair of legs. It would also have been pointless to mention to this particular gentleman that he was in no condition to be driving, much less trying to score with insects. Instead I enjoyed the good laugh he gave me, which is more than I can do with some of the other comments I get when I explain that my name is not "Ma’am." They range from the tight-lipped "H’m!" to obsequious grovelling. And let’s not forget all the times I’ve been on my way out of a public lavatory and been informed that I was in the wrong one. I have to say that I have at least some hope for the grovellers, though. They’re on their way to learning a lesson my Aunt Molly taught me long ago: Always be polite, and remember that we all make mistakes. It’s a lesson I tried hard to remember when, at a family reunion, Aunt Molly asked me whose daughter I was.

Enjoy this week’s offering.

50 Fun Things to do in a Mall

Note: Any resemblance of names in this article to actual large powerful corporations capable of destroying mere mortal humans like sparrows in a jet turbine is, um, pure coincidence. Really.

1. Ride mechanical horses with coins fished out of the reflecting pond.
2. Try pants on backwards at the Grap. Ask the salesperson if they make your butt look big.
3. Dial 900 numbers from demonstration phones in Radio Shlock.
4. Sneeze on the sample tray at Heckory Farms and helpfully volunteer to consume its now unwanted contents.
5. At the bottom of an escalator, scream "MY SHOELACES! AAAGH!"
6. Ask the sales personnel at the music store whether inflated CD prices are in pesos or rubles.
7. Teach pet store parrots new vocabulary that makes them unsalable.
8. Stomp on ketchup packets at Burger Queen…
9. …but save a few to slurp on as snacks. Tell people that they’re "astronaut food".
10. Follow patrons of D. Balton’s around while reading aloud from Dianetics.
11. Ask mall cops for stories of World War I.
12. Ask a salesman why a particular tv is labeled black and white and insist that it’s a color set. When he disagrees, give him a strange look and say, "You mean you really can’t see it?"
13. Construct a new porch deck in the tool department of Sears.
14. Wear pancake makeup and new clothes and pose as a fashion dummy in clothes departments, occasionally screaming without warning.
15. Test mattresses in your pajamas.
16. Ask the tobaccanist if his hovercraft is full of eels.
17. If you’re patient, stare intently into a surveillance camera for an hour while rocking from side to side.
18. Sprint up the down escalator.
19. Stare at static on a display tv and challenge other shoppers whether they, too, can see the "hidden picture".
20. Ask appliance personnel if they have any tvs that play only in Spanish.
21. Make unusual requests at the Piercing Pagoda.
22. Ask a salesperson in the hardware department how well a particular saw cuts through bone.
23. At the pet store, ask if they have bulk discounts on gerbils, and whether there’s much meat on them.
24. Hula dance by the demonstration air conditioner.
25. Ask for red-tinted lenses at the optometrist.
26. Sneak up on saleswomen at the perfume counter and spray *them* with your own bottle of Eau de Swanke.
27. Rummage through the jelly bean bin at the candy store, insisting that you lost a contact lens.
28. Ask a saleswoman whether a particular shade of panties matches the color of your beard.
29. In the changing rooms, announce in a singsong voice, "I see London, I see France…"
30. Leave on the plastic string connecting a new pair of shoes, and wander around the mall taking two-inch steps.
31. Play the tuba for change.
32. Ask the Hamond organ dealer if he can play "Jesus Built My Hotrod".
33. Record belches on electronic sampling keyboards, and perform gastric versions of Jingle Bells for admiring onlookers.
34. Ask the pharmacist at the drugstore which leading cold remedy will "give you a really wicked buzz".
35. Ask the personnel at Pier 1 Imports whether they have "any giant crap made out of straw".
36. "Toast" plastic gag hot dogs in front of the fake fireplace display.
37. Collect stacks of paint brochures and hand them out as religious tracts.
38. Ask the information desk for a stroller, and someone to push you around in it.
39. Change every tv in the electronics department to a station showing "Saved by the Bell". Chant the dialogue in a robotic voice, and scream if anyone tries to switch channels on one of the sets.
40. Hang out in the waterbed section of the furniture department wearing a Navy uniform. Occasionally run around in circles yelling "scratch one flattop!"
41. Hand a stack of pants back to the changing room attendant and scornfully announce that none of them are "leakproof".
42. "Play" the demo modes of video games at the arcade. Make lots of explosion noises.
43. Stand transfixed in front of a mirror bobbing your head up and down.
44. Pay for all your purchases with two-dollar bills to provoke arguments over whether they’re real.
45. If it’s Christmas, ask the mall Santa to sit on *your* lap.
46. Answer any unattended service phones that ring in department stores and say "Domino’s."
47. Try on flea collars at the pet store while occasionally pausing to scratch yourself.
48. At the stylist, ask to have the hair on your back permed.
49. Show people your driver’s license and demand to know "whether they’ve seen this man."
50. Buy a jawbreaker from the candy store. Return fifteen minutes later, fish it out of your mouth, and demand to know why it hasn’t turned blue yet.