Sunday, December 30, 2018

Patreon week

My column, about New Year's Eves I recall, is available this week to Patreon subscribers. Thank you for your support!

Monday, December 24, 2018

New Christmas Carols For These Times

There was a time when having a dark sense of humor just made you seem negative, and a little weird. I think a dark sense of humor has, in recent years, become a necessary coping superpower. 

"Zuckerberg Is Doubling Down" 

(To the tune of "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town")

You better log out, you better comply
better bail out, I'm telling you why—
Zuckerberg is not backing down...

He's checking your history and it's nice
to sell it to Amazon for a price
Zuckerberg is doubling down

You might think that it's creepin'
Your IP address to take
He knows better than hackers could
all your pics of that beefcake

Oh! You could do without that Jeff Bezos guy
He and the Zuck don't need private eyes
Your priv'cy is gettin' shook down

"Awake In The White House"

(To the tune of "Away In A Manger")

Awake in the White House
No need to feel dread
The president (Jesus!)
won't worry his head

The stars from the movies
Can say what they say
The president (Jesus!!)
Is tweeting away

The blowhard is blowing
No spell-check he makes
As belly laughs seize us
He airs bellyaches

I love it when (Jesus!!!)
Crap flows from this guy
Please let me preside
When they declassify

Be near me, if (Jesus!!!!)
They let this putz stay
I'll hold forth forever
With wry play-by-play

Bless all the brown children
Encaged in despair
But don't judge me, Heaven,
I sent Trumpy Bears

"Frosty the Puddle
(To the tune of "Frosty the Snowman")

Frosty the Puddle
Melted down into a hole
Thanks to climate change, well now we all know
You can blame a lot on coal

Frosty the Puddle
Couldn't keep that heat at bay
So then Frosty cried when
He realized
He'd be mist by Christmas Day

His melting down was graphic
As his carrot hit the ground
We knew that he was almost dead
By the awful gurgling sound

Frosty the Puddle
Was as wet as he could be
And his dank bouquet
Kept the kids away
Plus his fate they could foresee

Frosty the Puddle
Tried to make his thoughts array
But his smarts had run
Like the setting sun
And his limbs had gone astray

So vast was the spillage
Drinking up, a thirsty band
Of some birds, a bear and a little hare
Then kersplash! a moving van

He looked around as the sun beat down
On that forlorn blacktop
Then a basset hound jumped into him—
a perfect belly flop!

Frosty the Puddle
Saw his doom as plain as day
He'd have waved goodbye
But his wet was dry
Raise a glass to him today

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Things too hard to toss

There are two things people are unable to bring themselves to throw away—old keys and National Geographic magazines. Well, three. Books. Most books. At my library, people donate to our used book store all manner of unsaleable gems. Computer textbooks from 1985, religious pamphlets, microwave oven manuals. This comes from the ancient human impulse which goes all the way back to when a caveman first set a meatless elk skeleton at a crossroads "just in case somebody can use it." 

Humans collect keys. They pile up in empty peanut cans in the garage or gather on key-rings hung in the kitchen cupboard. Why? BECAUSE THEY "GO TO" SOMETHING. How will I ever unlock the things these keys go to if I throw them away? Yet once the collection gets past five keys, no human on Earth has ever had the will to methodically take them around to items with keyholes and test them. We intend to. Some day, when there's time. We intend to see the Northern Lights some day too.

National Geographic magazines are the most beautifully produced things humans have managed to achieve thus far, plus they are ringed with a golden border. You can't just throw something ringed with a golden border in the trash! Each issue contains fascinating, surprising insights about our world which, before Facebook, could only be found within. And the pictures! They are art and science in one. A horde of very bright people put together each issue. And every human on Earth bought one, even in outer Mongolia, and then stored it in his garage or tool yurt. 

Once we have learned, from a golden-bordered copy, all there is to learn about, say, the radioactive reindeer of Chernobyl, we store it, and store the next issue and the next, until we have what is known, in scientific terms, as a "sh*t-ton." Then, in a rare fit of non-procrastination, we take this in boxes to the library, where maybe somebody can use them. People who have never seen them can use them, absolutely. These people do not exist on Earth.  

Everyone who has ever lived has dropped off three cases of pristine, golden-bordered beauties at the library, but the library already has bound copies, collected by year, going back to 1934. So that leaves the used book store, but they receive roughly four sh*t-tons every week, so they become your surrogate. They do the dirty deed. They toss them in the trash for you. You don't have to witness the discarding of a fellow human's hard intellectual efforts. I am not judging. I absolve you. It is a difficult thing to see. A lot of people, from the slaughterhouse to Congress, do things we need done but don't want to behold.

Come January 1st, a new show on Netflix debuts, starring Marie Kondo. She is the author of the wild best-seller from a few years ago, "The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up." Her clutter-reducing philosophy is basically hey, if it's not a functional item, a pot or steam iron or bath towel, and it doesn't bring you joy, toss it. Seriously. Joy. That is a high bar to get over. Kondo would toss your clump of old keys so fast. Sayonara, radioactive reindeer!

In the preview, she appears at people's doors like a tiny Japanese Mary Poppins, and commences kicking clutter's ass. I will be all over that show. What's more fun than watching other people make hard, mature decisions without making them yourself? Is "clutter porn" a term? There's a lot to unpack here. I wonder where I left those keys.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Letters to Santa in this political climate / exclusive this week

My column this week, letters to Santa which reveal the toxic political climate we are living in, is available only to my Patreon subscribers. Also a vintage column about the things, in middle age, that I have in common with my dog Skipper, and sound recordings of my columns from the last month. Thanks again for your support.


Sunday, November 25, 2018

Holiday letter (second draft)

Dear friends and family,

This year finds us surviving as best we can very well after the semi truck ran straight through our living room window causing grandma to wet herself and wet little Timmy too winning the lottery. Grandma survived her embarrassment is over the moon. Little Timmy is probably scarred for life can't wait to try out the new Xbox. We had no insurance, so we have begun calling the huge hole in the house "the new doggie door" inkling we would ever be so lucky. When Martin got home, he like to die from shock bought that lottery ticket, it was just as a lark. 

Who knew how much pain joy one family could endure enjoy in a single year? After that freak tornado took Cousin Moe job promotion Buster got at the shoe store, we thought things could not get worse better this year. I guess the Fates are totally out to get us looking out for us. How else do you explain Franny's getting held hostage for 12 hours at the grocery store instant success selling handmade insects online? We feel it must be due to somebody with a grudge and a whole handful of voodoo dolls divine intervention, or maybe karmic payback for that time Jane flipped off that blind panhandler saved that puppy. 

Martin says his job at the tallow factory software firm continues to be "like getting a preview of Hell something out of a holiday movie." Cousin Moe is still enjoying his extended dirt nap trip to India to find himself. We don't know what county he was blow to how long he will be gone, but we trust he will never need his tractor again be in touch when he gets a chance. 

Timmy has developed a nervous tic because of getting peed on by a relative a real talent for whittling, and we think he will probably end up hurting somebody some day winning some contests. I continue to work part time in Barty's Bait Shop & Diner pet rescue, and find fulfillment in just being able to still fit in my shoes give back to the community which has ostracized us ever since Moe abducted that letter carrier given us so much. 

Grandma is still ornery as the bull that gored her in '74 full of life and keeping busy blasting crows off the lawn with a BB rifle she traded a guy some pot for making brownies. We all have ringworm (long story) our health and we wish you would stop telling the Feds about our Ponzi schemes as much joy as the season can provide. Next time you are in California, don't you dare show your face and still hope to live hesitate to stop by and set a spell. 

Happy in spite of your restraining order Holidays,

Name redacted pending bail

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Walkaway Non-sequitur

I was at the supermarket today, crouching down, looking at the "honey butter" crescent rolls. Four days before Thanksgiving, the regular rolls were blown out. There were plenty of "Hawaiian" ones, and "big and buttery" ones, and "big and flaky" ones and "butter flake" ones. I suspect those are all the same dough in different canisters, but I am suspicious by nature when it comes to things that rise. 

A lady crouched down next to me. "If you're looking for more of the regular," she said, "they're over there. What are those?"

"The honey butter," I said. 

She stood and walked away, saying jovially, "Oh no, I can't put those on my rattlesnake bites."

Now, I realize I should have run after her and asked her to elaborate, but part of me was afraid. I figured she was either a Pentecostal snake-handler or, worse, just a snake-handler. She appeared normal, but you never know with grocery shoppers. Especially outside the organic department. 

She said it so casually, as if one always throws out snakebite remedies to total strangers who aren't snakebit. Honey butter crescent dough for a rattler? Are you trying to get me killed? 

I learned what a poultice was by reading "Clan of the Cave Bear." A poultice was apparently great for applying to an open wound 30,000 years ago. Here is a typical exchange on the topic, paraphrased from my memory of reading it in the 1980s:

Ayla: (using crude sign language) Let me treat wound, Creb. 

Creb: What wound? I fine.

Ayla: Your arm, flayed by giant cat. I fix.

Creb: That not wound. That ketchup.

Ayla: Ketchup not invent yet. That blood.

Creb: I invent ketchup two moons past. 

Ayla: I put poultice on ketchup then.

Creb: Mmmm. That good. That Pillsbury crescent dough? Good on ketchup.

Ayla: Yes. Honey butter.

Creb (recoiling) Honey butter?! You try to kill Creb?!

I gave the lady nothing. No nod. No "Ahhhh." No affirmation that her knowledge of yeast-based snakebite remedies was at all unusual, or appreciated. I played it off as completely ordinary, so now I picture her at home with her husband:

Lady: I did the snakebite schtick at Vons and the guy didn't even look at me weird. 

Man: No dirty look? No disgust? He didn't even back away slowly?

Lady: Nothing. He just read the calorie info on the honey butter rolls, cool as you please.

Man: Next time, finish with a crazed cackle. 

Lady: Yes! A cackle. That's what it needed. 

Man: And a leer. Then you're golden.

Lady: People are getting harder to freak. I blame the president.

Man: Did you get the rolls?

Lady: Ohhhh. I totally forgot.

I will never know if she was crazy or just a fan of the walkaway non sequitur. If it's the latter, she has my admiration. A lot can go wrong there. You may get followed. Yelled at. Insulted. The timing has to be just right; the delivery, the nonchalant turn, the exit. Yes, I admire it. 

I found the regular rolls around the corner, just where she had pointed. She may have been nuts, but she saved me a trip to another store, another gallon of gas, saved the environment a little bit, saved me from having to write about my dumb dog again. And that's not nothing. 

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Charles, the legend

As I wrote previously, we inherited a little dog from my wife's aunt when she passed away in June. Charles is, best we can tell, a chihuahua/deer mix. His alertness suggests deer, but I admit that most deer, even fawns, are taller than 10 inches at the shoulder. He has a very deerlike quality, though, in coloring and in skittishness. I wonder if deer also love bananas. 

Four months ago Charles would not abide anyone but my wife. My son and I were automatically suspect. I gradually won him over, so that now he does this coy sidling-up, you-can-pet-me-now-dude move. He comes close, then turns his back to me and looks over his shoulder like Clara Bow in a silent film. I'm ready for your adoration, Mr. DeMille.

He still nips at my son, barks at him whenever he comes in sight. Even the sound of my son's bedroom door opening evokes a volley of vitriol, until he sees it is me coming through. He seems to want to have a dog in the house lower in status than himself, so he has made Ben that dog. Charles himself thinks nothing of taking over our other dog Skipper's bed, the bed he has enjoyed for a decade. Skipper will approach as if to say hey, my bed. Charles will snarl as if to say "fake news." 

Confidence is everything.

In dog years, Charles is probably 80, and he has a cough now, a deafening hack, as if a cat with a hairball has somehow gotten ahold of a megaphone. It seems to be triggered by stress, or a change in the dynamics of a room, good or bad. My wife (Mama) comes home, and it's time for several minutes of is-Charles-dying? Ben heads to the kitchen for ice cream, and it's time for a tiny, furry command performance of "Camille." A vet said he has an enlarged heart, but Charles is fine until somebody gets up from a chair, or the mailman comes. I'm calling BS. 

I think he has Napoleon Complex. We will leave for a walk, go half a block and then Charles sets his heels. The stiff defiance of his front legs brings to mind Max, the dog in the Grinch story, balking at the top of a sheer snowy cliff. He has no idea I could effortlessly juggle him. To Charles, he is masculinity itself; dominant, eternal, unquestionable. It is hilarious. 

I only wish he could be momentarily human, with a human's self-awareness, so we could laugh together over a beer at his comically extreme obsession with squirrels. No sports fan alive has had his level of passion. But my wish cannot be. As I write this, he is unselfconsciously chewing on his own foot. Now he has shaken out his ears, with a soft flapping sound, so that they are, I guess, at their full length and functionality. 

There are critters to hear. And mailmen. And kids on skateboards. Vigilance is key. If you ever doubt this, just ask Bambi's mom. 

Monday, November 5, 2018

This week's a Patreon week

My column is available this week to Patreon subscribers. Thank you for your support!

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Liverwort is the new Mary Jane

The journal Science Advances reported this week that an extract from the plant known as liverwort, in a study with mice, produced many of the same effects as the THC in marijuana. Equally important are the implications on these scientists' social lives, as they can now answer the question at parties, "So what do you do?" with "I get mice high." 

And then the followup, "So Jonas Salk can eat my shorts."

According to an article in the L.A. Times, an hour after partaking of the liverwort, some mice apparently "entered a trancelike state" and "lost some of their ability to move," an effect I have often experienced myself while watching a Keanu Reeves movie. 

You are in great luck today, because I have one of the mice from the study with me.

GW: Welcome, Mr. Mouse. Is that what I should call you?

Larry: Larry is fine.

GW: Larry the mouse.

Larry: No, George the human, just Larry.

GW: Got it. Larry, did they tell you ahead of time they would be giving you liverwort? 

Larry: No, but they smiled at each other a lot. 

GW: How did they administer the liverwort?

Larry: They soaked my favorite gummy bears in it.

GW: Wow.

Larry: I'm being sarcastic!. They injected it in my ass. It's called "animal testing," remember?

GW: Did it hurt?

Larry: No more than that last Dodgers game.

GW: Mice follow baseball?

Larry: Only the postseason, like anyone sane.

GW: So how quickly did you feel the liverwort effects?

Larry: Pretty quick. At first I couldn't feel my tail. Then I started to love my tail, like it was some kind of magical paint brush made out of joy. And then I remember thinking that my water dispenser looked like a giant robot anteater, and I don't even know what an anteater is. 

GW: Had they ever given you anything like this before?

Larry: No way. Usually they are putting eye shadow on me or shaving me bald and posing me for bondage pictures. 

GW: Seriously.

Larry: Seriously! They sell them anonymously to those "stop cruelty" organizations.

GW: That's dark.

Larry: Everything is a racket. Every. Thing.

GW: So tell me more about this liverwort.

Larry: They made the cage floor hot to see if you'd jump, like normal, but I was loving it. I tend to run cold. 

GW: So you were feeling no pain.

Larry: Exactly. Then this guy put my legs up on this bar, which I guess is another test of discomfort reaction times, but I was like whatever, dude. 

GW: You were chill.

Larry: I was like stick my whatever wherever, dude. 

GW: Have there been any lasting effects?

Larry: Not unless you call a non-stop craving for Flamin' Hot Crunchy Cheetos an effect. 

GW: So what's next for Larry?

Larry: I overheard one of the white-coaters saying I was due to be retired, so that's good. I've heard nice things about the Bahamas. Is that where anteaters are?

GW: No, but there are some nice beaches. Retired, huh? They said that?

Larry: Yes. It's happened before. Some of my friends have retired. The nice lady carries them out in a special cage and I heard her say once, "It's time to go on a little trip." Why are you looking at me like that?


Larry: Anyway, wherever I end up I hope there's liverwort. 

GW: Is there anything else you would like to tell the people?

Larry: Elephants are not afraid of us! That's a myth. Oh, and Bigfoot is real, man. But that's a story for another day.