Monday, January 30, 2012

Cleveland, Your Room Awaits You

Being civic-minded as usual, I cringed a little when I read this story about the San Francisco airport opening a yoga room. Why?! I cried. Why didn't my city, Cleveland, think of this first? Why Oh Why?! I cried. Why didn't I think of this for my city first? Not a yoga room per se for Cleveland's airport, but a room, any kind of a room, that screams Cleveland to the world's travelers as appropriately (within the bounds of family-values propriety) as a yoga room screams Frisco. Now I'm sure every city's airport will follow suit and construct a "signature" room. We could have been the first Cleveland.

Or could we have? Is there a theme room for Cleveland's airport that could succinctly express just what Cleveland is all about? I think there is. Several, at least, being such a diverse, heritage-rich city (Lord knows, based on the last time I was at the airport, there are enough empty gates there to house a bevy of Cleveland-themed rooms). Just off the top of my ever-spinning head, here are some ideas for CLE's own themed-room, offered gratis, as a proud native son.
  • A Cholesterol Room: Nothing fancy, just some old couches, a TV with fair reception, a keg of Schmidt's, and plenty of bowls of snack foods, cheesy dips, brats, etc.
  • A Take-a-Hubcap/Leave-a-Hubcap Room: A paean to the city's ubiquitous and man-sized potholes.
  • A Fire Room: Nothing but a raging fire inside, to celebrate the city's fiery infamy when, within a few years, the city's river caught on fire, as did the mayor's hair.
  • A Hater's Room: Maybe not politically correct, but what do we care? A room filled with effigies of all the folks we used to love but learned to hate at a moment's notice--LeBron, Art Modell, Albert Belle et al.--and those we never cared much about in the first place but seem to hate more and more all the time--John Elway, Michael Jordan, anyone from Pittsburgh.
  •  A Dennis Kucinich Room: Who knows, maybe Sean Penn and Shirley MacLaine will hang out there.
No, no, I've got it. THE room to sum up Cleveland: Signs throughout the terminal direct you to a room where paradise, redemption, and salvation await you. Just around the corner, down that hall, to the left then jog right. You're almost there. See it up ahead, the room with the door opened on sunlight, soothing breezes, the whiff of fine cuisine and spirits, right in here ... and boom, the door shuts permanently in your face just as you're about to walk in. That's Cleveland. Get to work, CLE.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

This Blog Closed Today For A Private Party

Don't you just hate seeing that sign when you go to a favorite restaurant or bar? Sorry, but I got caught up in a long, blog-like email. Be back tomorrow, or the next day, or the next. In the meantime, try the drive-thru down the street.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Eye Eye

Can I ask you a question? Is the question, "Can I ask you a question?" not one of the most leading, instantly nerve-wracking questions there is? Doesn't it just scream I'm curious about something I know you don't wanna talk about? Isn't asking the question a bit like practicing dialing the number for a phone call you're nervous about (yes, I've done that)? Isn't it a bit like asking someone if you can sucker punch them, right before sucker punching them? Forget the ha ha response to the question of "You just did" and walking away. When you graduate from the 4th grade you can really ponder the baggage that goes along with the question "Can I ask you a question?" Obviously it's a question the questioner hesitates to ask, one he or she thinks might be too prying or too annoying or too something for the answerer to answer comfortably. Right? Don't you kind of cringe and immediately start battening down psychic hatches when somebody comes up to you and asks, "Can I ask you a question?" Your mind races to come up with plausible responses to the question, "Where are the bodies buried?"

And so it was the other day when in the middle of doing The Job, Co-Worker asked me, "Can I ask you a question?" Paranoia immediately struck deep, as it always does when I'm asked that question. I checked my fly. I quickly glanced down to make sure I was wearing exactly one, no more or less, pair of matching shoes. I activated the stand-by button on my mantra chant, "No comment. There will be no comment at this time." I did my best to maintain my usual cool and braced myself for being asked if the piece of lettuce stuck between my teeth was some kind of fashion statement, or if I was aware I had a 50% Off sticker stuck on my butt.

(Now having said all this, and before revealing the question that needed to be prefaced with an introductory question, let me state that Co-Worker is one of the most polite human beings I know, truly. He is not one to not only ask if he can throw a sucker punch, but he is not one to actually wish to, contemplate, or indeed truly sucker punch anyone. As it can get pretty busy and distracting while doing The Job, in retrospect I honestly believe Co-Worker was just being polite as ever when he asked me if could ask me a question; there was no intent on his part to actively induce a paranoia attack in me. This should all be clear when I get around to revealing what his question was, which, given the entire context [which said Co-Worker didn't provide as a prelude to his question {the actual question, not the pre-question question} which, not providing the context, is the source of all this bafflement, but which, ironically, makes the whole story pretty funny and worth--trust me--telling you about], really isn't as odd as it first seemed. Anyway, my point is to absolve Co-Worker of any blame for using the pre-question question as anything but a polite request for my time.)

So, in the middle of doing The Job in our own separate ways and not having had any immediate previous conversation, Co-Worker asks, after asking if he can ask me a question, let's not forget, "So how did Marty Feldman actually die?"

Marty Feldman, ladies and gentlemen. Crazy-eyed actor. Died December 2, 1982, of a heart attack, though read further about how six packs of cigarettes a day, a surprise guest, and a shared food-poisoned knife might have been involved. (Okay, full disclosure here--yesterday I wrote about a two hour, very funny post about all of this, but somehow before publishing it I lost the last hour and a half of work; what you've read so far is what was salvaged; I'm having trouble re-creating it all, so trust me, what follows is not nearly as good as what's floating around the ether, never to see the light of day again; we beat on, boats against the current).

I must admit, even though my vast knowledge of arcane nonsense is fairly well-known and thus I receive a lot of bizarre questions (including a drunken post-midnight call from a friend in Chicago calling to confirm that the Book of Lists once ranked Cleveland as a windier city than Chicago) as a sheer out of the blue, devoid of context question, the Marty Feldman question now tops the list as the strangest, beating out the nearly thirty-year-old question from a deep slumbering college roommate who woke up long enough to squint down at me from his lofted bed to ask, "Did you ever get the feeling Henry Fonda was about to walk in?" After quickly checking the door and considering the possibilities of Henry Fonda making an appearance at my fraternity, I turned back to tell him no, but by then he had rolled over and was snoring again.

What, do I look like a card-carrying member of the Marty Feldman Fan Club? What is it about me that when people get a crazy question in their mind they think, Oh, I bet Dan will know the answer, though before asking him I should ask him if it's okay to ask him a question first? Turns out Co-Worker was assessing the worth of a Marty Feldman DVD at the time, so his question wasn't that much of a non sequitur, but still. Though I might just add here that my immediate response, while my mind was going WTF, was, "I'm not sure, I think it was a heart attack." Grace under pressure, folks. That's me.

Now although the sainted George Noory always claims, somewhat eerily, that "there are no coincidences," I'd sure like to know what pattern, what significance for my life put me in position the very next day to answer another Youngun Co-Worker's question that led to another eye-related, long-forgotten (or never even known, as was the case) celebrity reference. Said Youngun Co-Worker pointed to the Bette on a Bette Davis book and asked me, "It's pronounced Betty, right?" "Yes it is," I helpfully and non-judgmentally answered (a fair enough question coming from a mere 20-something), but I couldn't help adding, "She of the famous eyes." "Hunh?" Youngun Co-Worker replied with a twisted face (no sweat, by now I'm used to twisted-face hunh replies to half of my utterings). "You know," I prodded, warming up the singing pipes, "'She got Bette Davis Eyes' by Kim Carnes." I must admit, her reply of, "What the hell are you singing about?" was a new one for me.

How old am I? Older every day. Because not only did said Youngun Co-Worker profess no knowledge of Kim Carnes (wiki refers her to as "the female Rod Stewart" for her husky voice, so, Rod-bashing other Youngun Co-Worker, investigate no further) and her ubiquitous 1981 smash (nine, 9 weeks at No. 1, second biggest single of the entire 1980s next to Olivia Newton-John's "Physical") "Bette Davis Eyes," but two other Youngun Co-Workers professed/confessed to similar ignorance. True, all three delightful and very intelligent Co-Workers were not yet born in 1981, but one might assume with I Love the 80s saturation and everything else that they might have heard the song by now. Sorry, Kim, fame is fleeting; my sympathies. Needless to say, though, when talk turns to any TV show of the last twenty years, let alone last night, I'm helplessly clueless; one man's Kim Carnes is another's Snooki, I guess.

Can I ask you one final question, though? Aren't you jealous that I co-work with so many friendly, inspiring, and fun Co-Workers?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


Of course I'm prejudicial. And you're not? At least I have a system, a method to my mad prejudices. When faced with meeting a person, I quickly apply my elevator test: What would it be like to be stuck indefinitely in an elevator with this person? Might I commit murder in the first fifteen minutes? When meeting two people, I apply the Simon & Garfunkel test: Which one's Paul, which is Artie? Things, as you can imagine, develop from there. Three people, it's the Love Triangle question: Which one's bound to be the odd one out--that's my new compadre. Five people, I envision a basketball team and gravitate naturally toward the point guard. Six on up it's a crapshoot; I usually find myself bonding with either the cutest, the richest-seeming, or, most effectively, the one who is most likely to listen to the most Bob. Criticize my methods, sure, but I've got the best friends in the world; you can't argue with success.

But you notice that I skipped a group of four people. Yes, that one's a bit trickier. Whereas the other tests are usually pretty quick and intuitive, a foursome (for whatever reason) calls for a lengthier examination, one based on hard empirical evidence. I can't help it, I've got caddie blood in me, probably because my most impressionable years (age 13-22) were spent looping it, hauling golf bags and chasing carts and catering to the whims of golfers of all stripes. A lifetime education indeed. Thus, when confronted with meeting four people at once, I take my time and envision caddying for them over the course of four (one hopes) or maybe even six (forget it, I'll go it alone, folks) hours.

And so, confronted (an apt word, I believe) with the four remaining Republican candidates for the Presidency (full disclosure--not that I'm likely to vote for any of them, especially when I would never vote for two of them), I've decided to make my caddie test of them public, in the hope, as always, that my words do not necessarily merely persuade, but truly enlighten.

The most difficult job for a caddie is the two-walker, two-rider foursome. You lug two bags and tend to every need of the walkers while still having to keep eyes on the two riders, spotting their golfballs' travels, raking everybody's sandtrap mess, reading putts, cleaning balls, fetching clubs, pampering one and all. An ADHD nightmare, especially if the sun's blazing hot and the breeze is on strike.

Romney and Santorum are the walkers while Newt and RonPaul (some kind of weird amalgamation of RuPaul and Pope John Paul II I keep seeing there) ride. The first introduction for a caddie to the next four plus hours of his life, even before meeting the golfers, is the load--the bags he will carry, which often is all he needs to know about how the day is going to go. Romney's bag is sleek, relatively light, and very manageable. Santorum's is too big with a too small strap that will dig into your shoulder all day. The clubs are of the department store variety and are separated in the bag by individual "tubes"--not a good sign. Add to that the extendable ball-retriever that can't be quite unextended so that it sticks out of the bag like a giraffe amongst horses and the short little golf towel, emblazoned with the logo of some Kiwanis outing from seven years ago, attached to the bag with a metal hoop which will dig into your thigh all day, and already you're cursing this guy.

Get to the first tee for the introductions. Romney, dressed nattily, introduces himself to you right away and asks your name, and you know he won't forget it and will call you by it throughout the round. Santorum just says hi and proceeds to duck into the bag and spend five minutes sifting through dozens of balls to come up with two decent ones (never the same make) to stuff into his pocket. You naturally uncover his driver and hand it to him and he politely says, "No, I can't hit that. I tee off with my five iron, usually." You immediately want to kill him, to save yourself from five hours of torture, but there's something kind of tolerable about him, a small guy out playing with the big guys, an underdog in this foursome, that makes you think, based on past experience, that he might be the only one you like by the 18th green, and the only one to come through with a decent tip. So you leave the jury out on him and stroll over to the cart to meet those duffers and see if there's any way you can ingratiate yourself with them from the start.

RonPaul acts like you don't exist, in fact like nobody exists, and you wonder how he got into this foursome to begin with. His bag is old (a Burton, I believe) and crammed with even older clubs, a genuine "niblick" and woods, actual woods. He's dressed decently, if not fashionably. As you start cleaning off Newt's very old-mud-encrusted clubs (there must be seventeen of them in the bag, you estimate, and are thankful his large, garish, six-toned bag is sitting on the cart and not your shoulder), he introduces himself by farting loudly as he waddles off the seat and, with no further salutation, tells you to clean up the three Top-Flites he hands you absently. His shorts are too short and his purple golf shirt has sweat stains on it and looks impossible to tuck in short of giving the guy a cardiac arrest.

Romney, the de facto chief of this foursome, expertly spins his tee to determine partners and honors. When RonPaul dribbles his first shot, Romney graciously tells him to take a Mulligan. Santorum's five iron dives wickedly right off the tee; his Mulligan merely slices into the rough 150 yards out and he seems deeply relieved as you reach for the club; "No, I use this until I'm up around the green." A definite hack, you realize, but at least he'll be easy to deal with, you think. Romney looks like a real golfer right away as he tees up his ball, takes a couple practice swings, goes through an efficient and well-grooved pre-shot routine, and laces his drive straight down the middle well over 250 yards. Well alright, you think. You look hopefully up at the clouds as Newt limbers up, exposing his ample white belly. "Shit," he mutters as his first shot dribbles barely past the ladies tee; by the time he gets to "-it" of the shit he's got another ball out of his pocket and teed up again. "Crap," he says a little louder as his Mulligan pops up to the right and knocks around a half dozen branches before meekly bouncing back up the cart path. As he puts another ball on the tee, Santorum seems a little offended. "Are we playing 'hit 'til you're happy'?" "This isn't a Mulligan," Newt announces. "The third is called a Callista." He promptly strokes it right into the creek running along the left side of the fairway. "Damn wind. I'll drop from up there," he announces as he shoves his driver back into his bag and dives into a pocket in search of more balls.

As an experienced looper, you can almost predict the entire round just from the doings on the first tee. Santorum blithely walks the right rough with his five iron, requiring little assistance until he finally gets close to the green, where you hand him this "trusty" chipper and then his putt-putt putter. You double check him as he stands on the green looking back over the hole and visibly recounts his strokes; he's always honest when reporting his sevens and eights and occasional fives. RonPaul's short game is pretty impressive, saving him countless bogeys and a few pars. Your only interaction with him is on the 13th green when you pick up his pitching wedge for him. "Thank you," he kind of whispers and heads back to the cart. Romney's easy. He's usually in the fairway and actively seeks your valued input. After telling him to hit the seven instead of the eight on the third hole because it's more uphill than it looks and the wind's picking up, he sticks it to within four feet, smiles, and says, "Good call." From then on he relies on your club selection and reads. He magnanimously gives not so short putts, though Newt quickly takes advantage of this and gives himself all his third putts. Callistas abound for Newt and he's constantly talking about how the layout of the course could be better, what kind of grass the greens should be, and how they need to move that bunker over there--the one he never offers to rake. He calls you "son" all the time and leaves two or three clubs per hole on the green for you to retrieve. Needless to say, the rule about staying on the cart path and walking to your ball doesn't apply to him. By the turn you've lost track of your mental math adding up the differences between his actual strokes and the "gimme a five" he boldly announces after picking up his ball. Afterwards you try to remember if he ever holed out.

After the round RonPaul quietly hands you a twenty and says, "Thank you." Santorum, seemingly proud that he almost broke 100, pats you on the back awkwardly and gives you all the loose change from his pocket and fails to notice the absence of his ball retriever which, on general purposes, you tossed in the pond behind the 14th green. "My favorite hole, the 19th," Newt announces as he walks right past your ostentatiously outstretched hand; lucky for you, he left behind in the cart the third package of Oreos he bought from the beer cart girl. So at least you've got that going for you, which is nice. Romney thanks you by name and shakes your hand vigorously as he hands you a crisp fifty. Nice guy, you think, but you get the feeling he's just going through the motions, as he has all day.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Turn The Page On Page-A-Days

How far behind are you? Have you given up yet? The New Year is almost three weeks old already, so these questions are very pertinent. Resolutions? Hell no, I'm not talking about New Year's resolutions. If your New Year's resolutions aren't long-ago-broken and forgotten by now, you either didn't aim high enough or you're a much-too-together person to ever waste time reading this blog. I'm talking about the biggest Christmas present scam ever, the most useless and unused but always sold in droves item--the ubiquitous page-a-day calendar. Read those questions again now: How far behind are you? It's still January 4th, isn't it? Have you given up yet? It's buried under two weeks of desk crap, isn't it? And those are merely the questions for you Type-A people. For you Type-B people, the only question is, are you ever going to open it and tear off at least one page, just to, you know, validate the gift in some way?

I got to thinking about page-a-day calendars (pad-cals) because some poor fool was still looking for one today. Look folks, if you really need a calendar in today's high-tech world and you haven't gotten around to getting yourself one by January 19th, there's a whole lot of shit you need to get together in your life before you go calendar hunting.

Now I'm as all-around guilty as I'm sure all of you are--I have given and received my fair share of pad-cals in my time. Let me just say, blanketly, to those I've given, I'm sorry. To those who gave me a pad-cal, thank you, the thought really counted, and I appreciate your generosity.

But let's be honest, they're a waste of paper and money. Not time, really, because who ever spends even the ten seconds necessary to rip off the previous day's page and read the present day's tidbit? Coincidentally, I'm thinking that January 19th was the furthest I ever got ripping off each day's page. Anybody out there ever make it to March? Didn't think so. And then there's the sad guilt of ripping off, en masse, like two and half months' worth of pages just to bring yourself literally up to date. You know that clump of pages, don't you? I will say they make good scratch/memo paper, though. Still, I defy anyone alive to swear on the playground's proverbial "stack of Bibles" (does God differentiate lies? "Well, you only swore a lie on one Bible, so, what the heck, in you go. But you, now, you swore that lie on a genuine stack of Bibles, sixteen, if memory serves Me well. It's Downstairs for you, kiddo. Might want to take off that sweater.") that he or she has made it through an entire year assiduously tearing off one page per day every day (and not right away peeking ahead to one's birthday to see what that special tidbit is) for 365/6 consecutive days (just don't do it--the swearing that you did do this--in my presence because, frankly, you're not the type of person I want to know). That said, to prove my point about no one in the history of pad-cals ever actually making it through the year tearing off a page a day, I will offer any maker of pad-cals free publicity (as long as you provide the web-cam equipped with automatic time-date stamp) for an entire year. Send me your calendar and the above-mentioned computer hardware, and next year I will post video of me reading and ripping a page a day (which makes me think--do these pad-cal manufacturers even bother to write copy on days for the second half of the year? they must know no one ever gets half that far).

Now I'm not totally condemning pad-cals here (as I said, they make for handy scratch paper). I remember fondly a Quote-a-Day one I received and a Weird Word-a-Day one. Great stuff, but really, how can anyone expect anyone else to keep up with the daily chore? (There is probably some poor secretary out there who is chastised daily for not keeping the boss's pad-cal up to date.) I just think enough's enough. With the Internet and smart phones and everything, do we really need these pad-cals anymore? Yes they're quaint, but, I believe, quaint is just another word for what the hell is this thing still around for?

Alas, I'm afraid they're here to stay. Such an easy gift, such an easy thing to wrap. But come on, no more. Why the fruitcake still gets kicked around as the go-to default Christmas joke, the present no one wants and everyone gets (and really, when was the last time you saw, let alone received, a fruitcake?) is beyond me when pad-cals seem to be everywhere. You heard it here first, folks: Page-a-Day Calendars are the new Fruitcakes (I can only hope you readers have short memories, because I think I just doomed myself to receiving nothing but pad-cals for Christmas next year).

But, but, there is one pad-cal that makes sense, and is probably the only pad-cal that hasn't yet been produced--The Anal Retentive Page-a-Day Calendar. Now that one makes sense and might actually be an appropriate gift for the AR person on your gift list. Can't you just see it? Each page would have a message like this: "Is this the correct date? Did you tear off yesterday's page yet?" On Fridays it could read, "It's Friday. You might want to tear off today as well as Saturday's and Sunday's so that when you return to work on Monday, your calendar will be just right." Just a thought. It's your's for the taking, pad-cal industry. I admire you bastards.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Our First Inductee: Dagwood Bumstead

I found twenty-seven cents in an old pair of jeans the other day when I was cleaning out my kitchen cupboards (a long and ultimately not funny at all story), and for once not dashing off to the nearest bubblegum machine, I decided to "do something" with this unexpected windfall. As I mulled my options, the word philanthropist kept popping up in my consciousness. I felt the urgent need to endow something. Thus, after a not-enough-donuts-and-too-much-talk-about-Green Initiatives-from-that-gadfly-Troy meeting with spitoutyourgum's Board of Trustees, it was decided that we would create a Hall of Fame, mainly because there just aren't enough of them around these days. And so, today I am proud to announce the opening of the American Fictional Character Hall of Fame (AFCHoF, pronounced how it reads).

The idea is a genius one, if I may boast. Since the idea is to honor fictional characters (American only; the Board is vehemently anti-globalization as I found out), there is no need to erect an actual Hall or hold elaborate induction ceremonies because nothing is really real, right? It's all fiction. Ergo, the initial $.27 endowment should last forever. Which is all not to slight the idea or the great American fictional characters that will be honored with enshrinement; it's just nice to have such a gleaming monument to America's imagination without any overhead costs.

The list of characters who will, I'm sure, be inducted to the AFCHoF in time is long and glorious. But where to start? The rules of induction stipulate that only one character be inducted at a time, to prevent Inductee Class Envy (ICE). Which fictional character will be able to bear the burden of being the AFCHoF's initial inductee? That question plagued me for a few torturous minutes (I mean, how is it possible to rate and rank the cultural influence of such stalwarts as Huck Finn, Rick Blaine, Ishmael, Hester Prynne, The Dude, and Carla Tortelli?) before I was able to come up with a most deserving, and, I believe, in the spirit of all-men-are-created-equal America, a most representative American fictional character: take a bow, Dagwood Bumstead, for you are the inaugural inductee to the AFCHoF!

The Blondie comic strip, created in 1930 by the estimable Chic Young and now written by his son Dean, was one I must admit I had long merely tolerated on my comics page, reading it only when I was bored or wasting time and decided to read all of the comics, instead of just my favorites (oh, where have you gone, Herman, The Far Side, Calvin & Hobbes, Foxtrot?). But as I've grown wiser (sic?), I've come to not only enjoy Blondie daily (sans italics, a man can dream, can't he?) but to look forward to its joie de vivre, its insouciance, its downright Zen-like effect on me. Most of this comes from Dagwood who, despite the title of the strip, is now pretty much the focus. If Dagwood isn't the embodiment of the good old American Male, I don't who is. He seems to want nothing out of life but naps, a hassle-free job, a good couch, a great sandwich, and the love of a wonderful family. And although these aspirations are nearly always thwarted in some way, he still ends up relatively happy and content. Like the aforementioned Huck and Ishmael, Dagwood possesses an uncanny ability to adapt, survive, and endure, with humor, good will, and a great deal of hard-earned wisdom. I can think of many characters--real and fictional--who are a lot less qualified to stand as role models in daily life, and few better. Dagwood, you're an inspiration, even though you're merely a figment of someone's imagination. Congratulations on your induction to the AFCHoF. It is well deserved.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sesquipedalian or Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobe, Which Are You?

Co-Worker was in my way the other day, which frequently happens when you're a frantic little drone always scurrying to the next task like I am. Fine, I'm not so little and as far as I know, only mice and nuns scurry. I'm stocky and I kind of tugboat my way to the next task. The point is, Co-Worker was standing with her back to me right in my path. As usual, in such a situation, I applied the WWSFoAD test: What Would Saint Francis of Assisi Do? Unfortunately, as usual, the answer was "go feed some birds," which would have been pleasant but not while on the clock, so I went to Plan B and its ice-breaker question: If I start a fight with this person, can I emerge unscathed? Well, that was a fifty-fifty proposition, but with the box cutters she was holding, I made the split second decision to cease and desist all potential bellicosity. So, like much of life itself, I just waited, if perhaps a little too close to her and breathing a little too loudly. Soon she turned and saw that she was blocking my path and quickly moved and apologized. I told her no problem and that I hadn't wanted to disturb her contemplative mood. That's when things got combative.

"Ooohhh, contemplative," she sing-songed, as if we were eight and on a playground, not adults in the hallowed workplace. "You just love using big words, don't you?" This is why I mainly drink decaf. If I had the slightest little juiced-up buzz going in situations like this, in which I tend to find myself quite often, blood would spill. Scrutinize her words and tell me there aren't at least half a dozen jumping off points for verbal, if not physical, fisticuffs. Any inquisitive (accusatory) sentence with the "You just love ... don't you?" construction screams donnybrook, no? And, big how? A word merely containing a lot of letters or a word that, God forbid, might make people actually use the greatest secular bible (outside of the rules of golf) known to humankind, the dictionary? Classifying the word "contemplative" as a big word fails on both accounts, I believe, and only serves as further proof of our (humankind's) rapid descent to inarticulacy, illiteracy, and idiocy. Thirteen letters is a nice round, medium-sized word. Contemplative, "given to or characterized by contemplation; a person devoted to contemplation," is hardly an obscure, difficult word, if one takes some time to think about it. And that insidious "just." No, Co-Worker, I don't "just" love using big words, I revel in, delight in, and celebrate--gleefully and willingly, proudly and gluttonously--employing erudite, eclectic, and even esoteric words. I feast on language's panoply and invite all (co-workers, too, troglodyte or not) to indulge likewise. What's the fun of going to an all-you-can-eat smorgasbord (buffet) (and how come you never see any s'mores at a smorgasbord?) and electing to eat only a salad with like two garnishes and no dressing? I am not an animal; I am a sentient, intelligent human being--I utilize an elephantine cornucopia of words.

(As an aside, it was in this specific moment that I experienced satori re my relationship with Co-Worker. In the split second of comprehending her loaded question, I saw completely the inseparable gulf that divides us. She adores Reel Big Fish, I worship Bob Dylan; she is a baker, I consume baked goods; she loves manning (sic) the portable phone at work, I despise it. Now I'm sure, like that thing that takes two separate pictures of people and merges them into one hideous Frankenstein, there is an app out there that could find common ground for the two of us between RBF and Dylan, baker and eater, phonephile and phonephobe, but at that moment I refused to believe there could be any common ground between a "big word" lover and a hater; go ahead, Mr. Venn, have at it. This all made me sad, because despite our obvious differences, Co-Worker and I--up unto this point--had achieved a tacit, delicate detente that had enabled us to co-work quite well, even convivially, I might suggest. But this, this contretemps, nay this wrangle, would brook no brooking. We had reached the Rubicon of our cooperative co-working.)

But, dammit, I had been drinking decaf so I couldn't pick a fight with her then and there, and I couldn't say all of this because the perfect riposte, a sentence consisting of but three words, one a contraction (I'm), one a one-letter, never-to-be-mistaken-for-a-"big"-word (a), and one the killer, the put-you-in-your-place biggest word of all big words (um, um, um) had gotten side-tracked on its journey from my brain to my tongue: I couldn't remember how to pronounce that one great, I'll-show-you word. And so, my only response to her finger-pointing, mocking accusation that I just loved to use big words was a paltry, "I've got work to do." I then scurried--it's true, for the first time in my life--I--channeling an inner nun I knew not I possessed--scurried off to find a dictionary where I could find that nuclear bomb of a word and its correct pronunciation: 
sesquipedalian [ses-kwi-pi-dey-lee-uhn, -deyl-yuhn]. I am not an animal! I am a ses-kwi-pi-dey-lee-uhn! Sesquipedalian: a person who uses long words; a long word. Admittedly, not in the moment, my rushing back to inform her that I am a sesquipedalian did not carry the same heft that an immediate response would have had, but, like any Cleveland sports fan, I'll take any victory, as small and merely moral as it might be. It was then, as Mick Jagger says, surprise surprise: I discovered that Co-Worker is quite possibly, against her most fervent wishes perhaps, a closet sesquipedalian. Because, with the aid of a computer, she taught me a new word, a truly big word, a word I had never even heard of, a word (naturally) I couldn't have even dreamt of in my most noxious nightmares: Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia, the fear of long words. Wikipedia lists it as a "fictional or jocular" phobia. Fictional I would like to believe, but I guess if there are sesquipedalians, the laws of physics or something or other demand that there be hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobes as well. Jocular, definitely--such -phobes are to be laughed at.

And so, in the best Hegelian, resolution-out-of-conflict way, Co-Worker and I have reached a deeper, more complete detente. We talk openly and deliciously of a Reel Big Fish-Dylan collaboration; we fantasize about bacon chocolate cinnamon scones; we playfully toss that cordless phone back and forth. She is coming to terms with being a sesquipedalian, and I have a new "big" word to love--hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia (with, in the true yin yan fashion of this whole experience, a meaning I despise). All of this, obviously, makes me think of that oft-seen image of frail, sinful human beings marching in line up the sky into a cloud on the Day of Judgment. I'm pretty sure, now, after this experience, that up in the cloud there's a sign that reads "Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobes to the Left, Sesquipedalians to the Right." I know which side I'm on, you? 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Addendum Fee (NSFW If You Work In Ireland Or Have A Boss Named Paddy)

I can think of no better follow-up to my previous post about the insidiousness of fees. I don't know where I've been because I've never heard of this amazing group, Fascinating Aida, or seen this video, despite it having over 4 million hits on youtube. But better late to the party than not there at all. Having coined the verb feek (to charge a fee) last time, I think it's quite obvious now that its past tense form would be feck.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Fee, And Other Nasty Three-Letter Words

Are you like me? Kind of tired of all the hype over four-letter words? Oooh, that guy just used a four-letter word! Big deal. Everyone now uses four-letter words in this crass age, but somehow the chic stigma still clings to those words, so much that I believe those words are the only ones classified by their amount of letters. You don't hear anyone specifically calling out six-letter words, or twelve-letter words, do you? Well, in these down-sizing, budget-cutting, less-is-more times, I think it's high time we turn the spotlight on the maybe-not-so-attention-hogging-but-damn-so-much-more-insidious three-letter words. These are the real bastards of our modern day, and it's about time they get vilified for what they are: crap. That's right, it takes a big bad four-letter word to describe the overall essence of these tiny tortures. I'm talking words like sin, tax, yap, zit, lie, die, bug, pus, rat, pol, dun, and irk.

True, true, there are three-letter words, just as there are four-letter words, that delight, positively sing with vim and brio and panache: par, lit, pun, gay, tea, tee, zip, tit, wit, nap, hug. It's only fair. But still, you have to admit the fact that that venomous list of three-letter words back in that last paragraph carry as much negative weight, if not shock value, as any four-letter word you could hurl. Let's face it, those famous four-letter words (five of George Carlin's famous list of seven naughty words) are mainly just epithets, shock words. But it's these three-letter ones that really wreak the havoc in our lives, these little nuclear bomb words that cause us to lie awake at night cursing with four-letter words our lot in life. Now scribblers far more adept, and angrier, than I have taken on sin and tax to death, but today I'm focussing my ire on the biggest tiny word piece of bunk in the world--fee.

What a miserable excuse for a word, fee. It's like an amputation. It's a sound, not a word. And a pretty paltry sound at that, something you might emit, not even utter, Job-like, after you've just lost everything you've ever had in the world and you realize it's all one cosmic joke at your expense and you don't have any fight or bile left in you and you observe the smoldering embers of your life--"fee." It's the last fart of air passed from a dead balloon, an infant's utterance at best, and yet, there it is, staring us all in the face day after day with its niggling pawing at our purse-strings--"more."

I just bought a car, a process that in my world compares unfavorably to root canal. But, to be honest, with the help of Marcus, the experience was fine. And I'm very happy to be driving a car with modern amenities, to be driving a car in which the winshield wipers wipe, the brakes brake, the windows roll up and down (electrically, who knew?), the heater heats, the engine purrs not curses, the lights light, the radio (and CD player, what brave new world is this?) plays. The only negative to the whole thing was one line on the bill of sale: Documentary Fee. What, am I being filmed taking bruised used cars out for a test drive? Not coincidentally, my not-too-conpsiracy-theory-laden mind thinks, the Documentary Fee was exactly equal to the "value" of the car I traded in (not much, mind you [see above] [okay, I'll admit it, I was driving a car that brought a whopping $250.00 in "trade" {yes, the amount of zeros and the decimal point placement are correct; I wanted to peel off and keep my beloved "This Aggression Will Not Stand, Man" bumper sticker, but I thought such action might reduce the trade-in value by at least $100}], but still). Documentary Fee. From the looks of them, Michael Moore's made films for less money. Documentary Fee. I half-expected to open the glove compartment and find an original copy of the Declaration of Independence (the irony would have been worth it). Granted, to get out of the dealership and drive away in my new old car, I had to sign about forty-four pieces of paper, but come on, $250? Go to Staples and buy a ream of paper for $5.99. Documentary Fee, my ass.

See, that's the problem with "fee"--there's literally no accounting. The Suits just figure, we're not getting enough out of this deal with the advertised "sticker" price, so let's really 'sticker' the bastard with a fee, round it up, Jake, always up. I want documentation. I want an audit of every one of those 25,000 pennies. You see, as maligned as the word tax is, at least (thanks to those original [not the pseudo- modern day pretenders] tea partiers) there is representation with taxation. You see or hear the word tax and you obviously grumble, but deep down you know that at least there's a system and somehow it was voted on, approved. But with Fee, who knows? Just add it to the long list of itemized costs, Vic, and they'll never even notice, especially using such an inept, three-letter word like fee. I don't know about you, but I'd be much happier if they'd all (and it's everyone, not just car dealers--let's not delve into the abyss of banks and airlines) just be a little more honest (a tough task, admittedly) and jettison the non-word Fee and substitute a real word, a great word despite its meaning, a word with character and flair--Gouge. "And what's this $250.00 charge here?" "Oh, sir, that's our Gouge." "Oh, right then, where do I sign?" No problem, and being a five-letter word, gouge is above all scorn, right? Now if you look it up, (don't worry, I already did, for which there'll be a fee, but I'm coming to that), fee can also be a verb, but really who uses it as such, and come on, verbs are allegedly "action" words and fee just doesn't move, does it? But there has to be a verb for what these people do, right? Assessing fees (yes, some call it a fee, others fees, trying to make it a big bad four-letter word, I'm sure). May I then just coin (fee for that, too, naturally) a new verb--feeking. "What, just what are you doing reaching into my pants pocket like that?" "Just feeking you, sir." "Oh, of course." Feeking without representation, accounting, auditing, or documenting--that's what commerce has become in the 21st century.

I assumed the word fee had some nefarious origin, maybe coming from the word flea, another nasty irritant. Or maybe it's some cruel joke, a play on the word free, thinking the human eye, so primed to read free in anything, will gloss over the fact that the 'r' is missing (little boomerang-shaped whisp of a letter; maybe it's piratical in origin--"you thought the graciousness of our company was free, but we've taken the rrrrrrrrr, along with all of your booty--call it a fee!") But no, fee, quite appropriately, comes from fief, from feudal times. So, even in these enlightened times, we are all just lowly, forking-it-over subjects of the corporate fiefdom.

But, but, the lonely would-be insurrectionist, the Chinese man with the shopping bag stopping the line of tanks in me cries, but if feeking is truly wreaked without representation, accounting, auditing, or documenting, why the hell shouldn't I, shouldn't each one of us, raise a solitary fist (or some part thereof) of protest and start doing some frickin' feeking of our own? Be a feeker, dear reader! Who's to stop us when nobody, it seems, has the power to stop anyone else from feeking us to death? As of right now, I'm going feeking nuclear. Read my parenthetical asides, boom, there's a fee. Laugh at something I say, pay up (a tee-hee-hee fee; and, ooh, you hit your patella on that bon mot, that'll be five bucks--knee-slapping fee). There will be a listening fee assessed for all you windbags out there I have to endure, you elevator orators, long-line palaverers, adjacent urinal pontificators (zip up and pay up, buddy; I shouldn't have drunk so much coffee), and Deadheads (if you dare to tell me about Jerry's awesome solo on "Box of Rain" from the second Tulsa show in 1975, I'm taking your last 32 cents and your hacky-sack). And for you really insufferable nabobs of nonsense, there'll be a strict, graduated toleration fee--ten dollars for the first 60 seconds, thirty for the next 45, and so on. Time is money, so if you ask me what time it is, two bits, plus you have to listen to me sing a verse of Chicago's "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is," for good measure (you can opt out for a one-time three dollar fee). Call me Buddy, Boss, Guy, or Hey You? Fifty clams, minimum. Make a right turn in front of me without using your turn signal? Seventy-five bucks, plus I get to peel off one of your bumper stickers. And that's not all when it comes to my feeking. I'm also introducing an echo fee. If, within three seconds of assessing me a fee, I snap back, "Fee Fee!" you have to reimburse me 50% of the fee, argue and it's 60%.

God it feels good to join the feeking ranks. And what contentment. Usually it's mid-July before I decide on a motto for the New Year. Ten days into this one and I'm all set--Feeking: I'm Gettin' Mine in 2012!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Elvis @ 77

Yes, The King turns 77 today. It's become a tradition here to celebrate his birthday every year because, well, he's Elvis, and it's either celebrate his birthday or weigh in on the Republican primaries. When I was thinking about Elvis this morning, I thought of my two wonderful trips to Graceland. Coming up with one or two memorable moments from those excursions is difficult (there are so many), but what came to my mind was the gold sink in the bathroom of the Lisa Marie, Elvis's late-career TCB jet (I think you need to purchase the premium ticket at Graceland to gain access to the Lisa Marie [parked across the street], but why anyone would go to Graceland and not shoot the works on the premium ticket is beyond my ken). A gold sink! And then I remembered a video that was playing, probably in some gift shop, or maybe it was at the racquet ball court (the mind gets dizzy with Graceland memories)--an early 70s Elvis singing Neil Diamond's warhorse "Sweet Caroline." I've always remembered the cheesy (but in a good Elvis way) little dance move Elvis does after singing "Caroline" and "inclined." Well, I found a video (maybe not the actual one, but a good one) of the performance (alas, I can't get it to embed here, just click the link, it's worth it). Elvis is still pretty lean and good looking here (even in white boots, of which we get a close-up), but there are hints of what's to come: the performance at times gets a little lazy, the chain things on the jump suit seem to anticipate an expanding girth, and if you look closely, there seems to be a rip in the jumpsuit (Elvis's right pelvis, appropriately) that Elvis not so discreetly tucks away during the performance. Anyway, have a 
look and raise a toast to the The King!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The New PMS: The Password Is ...

Mama never told me there'd be decisions to be made like this. But then again, if Mama could have foreseen the complexities of 21st century life she would have raised me to be a Reality TV star. To cut to the chase, though, I have to change my password. The one at work, not the one to get on my computer, not the one to get my email (or to get my other email), not the one to write a blog, not the one to get money from my bank, tunes from itunes, books from amazon, and on and on. I hear your moans. Is there anything more mind-messing these days than Password Management Stress (PMS)?

Ah, remember the good old days of, say, ten years ago? Back when passwords were like five letters and you could get away with something as simple as "genius"? And you could use the same one for everything and never have to change it? Gone the way of the five cent cup of coffee and actually talking to a live person on the telephone. Now you practically have to write an original algebraic formula and change it every time Sarah Palin announces she's not yet ruling out a run for the White House, "at this time."

For a week now everytime I log on at work (on the average, six to ten times a shift) I get a message that my password will expire in so many days (I think I've still got a week--at least the computer recognizes this decision is not to be taken lightly and it gives me ample time to compose [because let's face it, and this I believe is my point, present-day password coming up with is a creation, an exercise in cryptic personal poetry that only Emily Dickinson could fully appreciate]). Now of course I could have been efficiently snarky and, the first time I got the message asking me if I want to change my password now, just typed in as my new password, "noIdont666" and been done with it (actually, that sounds like a good idea; wish I'd thought of it then). But no, one (and now let me take back my earlier praise of the computer's thoughtfulness in giving me such an early warning; with 15 days of countdown time and having to navigate the message every time I log on, I now realize that computer is just contributing to my PMS, making me think I've got plenty of time, but constantly reminding me that the clock is a-tickin' and constantly making me think about starting over from scratch and composing another little gem of personal identification that I can live happily with for the next three months [because that's what it is, isn't it? a password? your own little island of personality and identity in this cold, personal, identity thieving world of ours? and let's not forget that not only am I a tail-cusp Baby Boomer {which automatically should qualify me to be excused from all this technogobbledygook but I'm also a tail-cusper when it comes to typing class, just before the advent of "keyboarding skills" and I didn't grow up banging on a keyboard and I'm a complete doofus when it comes to hunting pecking looking at the keyboard and btw for every typo that finds its way into this blog there are three score that have been corrected in medias res (i.e. these posts don't just roll off my fingers) and now I have to come up with longer and longer passwords for everything and worry about capitals and symbols and numerals {let me here just make an addition to the previous post's modern Roman Numerals: TEBOW=6 out of 22) and then I have to remember the stupid thing {screw the poetry, a password is no such thing, it's stress, man, pure stress, only and always] when I've just gotten used to blindly tapping in the previous one, and speaking of tapping and getting back to the whole typing-challenged thing, it works better for me if my passwords are all accessible by one hand, preferably the left, so my passwords need to be basically all left of the 6yhn keyboard equator and why can't I just type in my obscure middle name, six simple easily typed letters and leave it at that but no for a week now I've trying to come up with the perfect password that satisfies all my special needs and one that won't be rejected when I first plug it in and of course have to enter it at the right moment so in case problems do arise I can reconfigure without customers and Co-Worker and Boss breathing down my neck to complete transaction/log off already and has it really come to this a world full of cyper terrorists and malevolent hackers and identity thieves [wasn't adolescence all about identity crisis, one where you emerged not unscathed but functional and with your identity in cement? and now look at me this new-fangled PMS has got me to the point where for the first time in my life I've lost control of my parentheses and brackets and grammer and punktuation and spelling concerns have fled the ship and metaphor management is three sheets to the rain and somebody please help me i need a password that works and can remember i just want qwerty and correction tape a laddie pencil and futuristic ads about wonderful life will be with computers and where am i what decade is this how do I finish this thing ){]({}]

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Roman Numerals For The XXIst Century

I discovered the other day that Co-Worker has made a little "Roman Numeral Cheat Sheet" that she keeps near a computer. Now I don't work for the Super Bowl or for a bunch of monks (is there a collective noun for monks? a shhh of monks? a pate of monks? a thelonious of monks?), but in our business one sometimes has to wrestle with Roman numerals. As somebody who attended grade school before calculators, studied (sic) Latin, and loves watching movie and TV credits roll by to see how quickly he can convert those lettered "numerals" into numbered numerals (I'm so competitive in the stupidest of things that I often toss and turn all night because both of my sides want to be the one to be slept on), I must admit, I'm pretty good with Roman numerals, though that D=500 thing always makes me pause. But after pondering Co-Worker's cheat sheet, I started wondering about those RNs. Are they still taught in school? I asked youngest Co-Worker that very question. He said yes, but then failed pretty miserably my pop quiz; surprisingly, it seems, L=50 eludes a lot of folks.

So, in the spirit of "the glory that was Greece, the grandeur that was Rome" (or however E.A. Poe put it) I started thinking it might just be time for a bit of a Roman Numeral Revival. And where else to launch such a thing as this ever-pertinent, ever-serious blog? The time seems totally ripe to celebrate numbers that are actually letters, or vice versa. We live in a time when nothing is as it should be, don't we? We have phones that are used for everything but calling people (and especially returning calls!), we seem to be rapidly giving up on a world rife with a variety of crazy despots (though who knows, Newt hasn't taken himself out of the race yet), and somebody named Snooki has published a book before I have. So what the hell, let's have numbers that are letters, right?

Naturally, though, we need to modernize things a bit for our (generally) non-toga-wearing way of life. The old standbys I, V, X, L, C, D, M (did the Romans count beyond 3,999?; what's 5,000 or 10,000 or one trillion?) are fine and very useful, but our needs in this century are much greater than Caesar's and the boys', don't you think? What follows (admittedly in the Beta [Greek, Roman what's the difference?] phase only, and certainly open to 21st century tweaking by committees and sub-committees) is a jumping off point for a new era of Roman Numerals. Tell me what you think.

  • YOY=the estimate the auto repairman gives you
  • OHPLEASEOHPLEASEGODOHPLEASE=the numbers you play each week in Lotto
  • UMMMMM=the number you report to the score keeper after hitting two balls out of bounds, one in the water, and three-putting on a short Par 4
  • OHSHIT=the difference between the price of what you've just purchased and the amount of money in your wallet
  • P=the cost of a pay toilet (do pay toilets still exist?)
  • XXX=30, still (perverts)
  • DMV/BMV=infinity
  • BYOB=the going rate of a liver transplant on the black market
  • WTF=the number of people who will voluntarily vote for Newt Gingrich in MMXII
  • DREAMONOLDMAN=the year Cleveland will next celebrate a sports championship
  • CELIBACY=the total amount of $ Tiger Woods will spend in his lifetime on alimony and hush money payments
  • LOL=what your dentist charges for a hit of nitrous oxide
  • Nth=the number you get from the pull-a-number thing at the bakery
  • BRRRRR=the temperature in Cleveland tonight
  • TnA=the standard cover (sic) charge at your local strip club
  • BUYGOLDGUNSANDSOUP=the tipping point of the national debt
  • FUBAR=the national debt
  • T=the price of tea (CWE) in China
  • SNAFU=the overdraft fee your bank charges
  • HELL=the price of your soul

Sunday, January 1, 2012

My Middle Ten For 2011

The older I get the humbler my pleasures seem to be. This morning when I woke up the greatest feeling I got about it being a new year is that finally all the Top Ten lists of 2011 will stop. I used to be a sucker for these things, top ten movies, records, books, top ten pictures, influential people, events, etc. I used them to measure my hipness and to gain lists of further things I needed to check out. But that was all back then when there were about a dozen, two score tops, of the things. Now everyone's not only got an opinion but the means to broadcast it to the world. We're saturated with best of lists, and the result is cultural inflation; look hard enough and just about everything makes it to somebody or other's list. I don't know how many best of music lists I've scanned in the last month or so, but I can tell you there is an incredible absence of overlap in them. If that's good or bad in your calculus I don't know or care, really, but it reminds me of Lester Bangs's prediction that "we will never agree on anything like we agreed on Elvis," or something like that. 

Thus, you'll get no best of list from me. Only dead fish go with the flow, right? But the flow flows still, doesn't it, and as a fellow blogger, it would be horribly remiss of me if I didn't offer some kind of list at this time of the year. And so I offer you what follows below, a list of the exact middle ten on my holistic best of the year list (I mean figuring out your top ten of anything and then justifying the order of them doesn't take much gumption, does it?, but calculating the middle ten of every best of experience of the year, well now, that takes some genius, and I know such effort and accomplishment is what brings you expectantly to this blog).

I came up with the idea of a holistic best of list a couple years ago, when I realized that life is not compartmentalized into movies, records, books, events, experiences--it's all knit together in some grand latticework of life, innit? So, quite simply, what I do is catalog my entire year's life constantly--any experience that has any positive impact (no need to catalog the negative ones; they loiter with no effort on my part) on me at the time gets logged onto my virtual hard drive--i.e., my memory. Periodically throughout the year I sift through this particular file, deleting what turned out to be mirages of bestness or ones that proved to be wholly fleeting, while also adding those that lingered, slowburning, not qualifying at the time to be considered a best, but whose impact over time proved to be undeniable. Anway, enough of the science. This year (this morning, actually, because you can't really construct your year's best of list until the year is actually over) I took the time not only to count but also order my best of list. It turned out I had 438 best experiences this year. Not bad, not great. What follows are numbers 215-224. Read on and you'll get a decent approximation of how averagely best my 2011 was, which (this middle list) is a lot more accurate a representation of me and 2011 than anybody else's probably fudged-a little-to-make-it-seem-holier-than-it-really-is top ten list. Extremes are fickle; the middle is where we live, whether we like it or not. Read, ponder, and have a fair to middling 2012 you can look back on with contentment.

215. The "bear claw" croissant bought at the Monticello-Green BP station and consumed on my way to work, October 23. A breakfast staple when I'm working mornings, this particular croissant seemed perfect--moist and not too flaky. For some reason I was able to pay for the delicacy--along with the daily paper and my coffee--with exact change, the banter with my second favorite cashier there was wittier than most days, and I not only got to make a right on red while masticating the croissant, but also then made the following left hand turn unimpeded, which is a rare occurrence. All in all, a great croissant experience.

216. In the middle of a movie-going spree, before viewing Moneyball, I saw for the third time the trailer for some wacky woman private eye comedy thriller coming sometime soon (not yet, I don't think) which convinced me that all the good parts of the movie were in that trailer, so I needn't waste time and money going to see the movie when it does come out, but which, at about 3 minutes, was still pretty entertaining and provided me with enough knowledge that I could easily feign having seen it in case co-workers some day are engaged in a giggly discussion of the movie or in case it winds up on a majority of best of lists next December.

217. That late afternoon nap on March 6. Sometimes I wonder if I've ever completely awakened from it. Glorious.

218. Sitting in a bar listening to a band play but watching intently a marathon of The Big Bang Theory on a big screen TV above the bar. Even without the sound on, and too far away to read the closed captioning, I was able to get the gist (and some of the nuances) of the show during the band's relatively short set. For a man without a TV, having a working knowledge of yet another TV show is always a good thing. Funnier than I had assumed, that Big Bang.

219. Ironically, my annual July 2 "half the year's gone" party. About half the people I invited showed up, which is good because I had dropped the second 12 pack of beer I had bought and all the bottles broke. We grooved to new albums by Paul Simon, Darryl Hall, and Sam.

220. The chuckle I got from hearing co-worker say, after rounding a corner and being bumped into by a customer, "Good thing I'm sturdy," and then spending a few hours contemplating what a great, and much underrated, word "sturdy" is.

221. Hearing my 12-year-old nephew say, while walking stiffly into the house covered in mud from a soccer game, "I'm in need of a major shower."

222. The interaction I had with a customer when I made note of the book he was buying (either one by David Mitchell, David Foster Wallace, or David Brinkley--I can't remember the exact one, just that it was one of the three Davids in my pantheon). "Oh God," I gushed, "I love this book." To which he replied, without a British accent, btw, "It's for my nutzo brother. It's the only thing he wants in hospital."

223. The new Tom Waits song, "New Year's Eve." We've heard it all before, Tom, but it sure feels nice. Nice like slipping into your favorite pair of Long John bottoms on the first cold day in December, especially if you've washed them since the last time you wore them in early March.

224. Discovering this great picture of Bob Dylan, avec moustache, which I had never seen before: