Where Fwog?

“Where Fwog?”

Don’t answer. It’s possible she’ll go away if you don’t answer.

“Where Fwog?”

Don’t, don’t look up, don’t look away from your book at all. Don’t give her any indication you have anything to do with her, you don’t even know her, all right? This is not something you want to be a part of. Trust me.

“Dada. Where Fwog?”

A tiny hand is tugging at my pant leg. Looking down (I told you not to do that!) her giant, anime baby eyes lock with mine.

“Drabby. Where Fwog?”

The nickname. Because she knows. It’s in her Baby manual. The Nickname will always work.

She’s twenty-two months old and she made up a nickname for me, and lately she’s decided that her Mother can’t put her to bed. It’s me. It has to be me every night. It’s my job. And that’s all right. It’s kind of sweet, actually. But see, I don’t get to work alone. I have a partner. Baby Tad.

She got Baby Tad for Christmas. He’s a Baby Frog the size of a terrier and he sings. See, I was naughty all year and instead of coal in my stocking, Santa brought my daughter Baby Tad. And I’m a bad father for even thinking that, because she loves that frog, that frog is what the French call a “sine qua non”.

“Drabby. Drabby!… Where Fwog?”

Here’s how it works. My daughter and baby Tad and I retire to my darkened bedroom and lie down together, Baby Tad sings a six-minute cycle of lullabies, then she says “More song, Fwog.” And we repeat this process until she falls asleep. It’s kind of a slow hour to an hour and a half in six-minute lullaby singin’ Frog segments.

“Drabby! Drabby! Where Fwog, Drabby?!”

A note of panic has crept into her voice. There’s no point in delaying this and after all, how hard could it be? Baby Frog is right where we left him last night, at the foot of her bed.

But you and I both know he’s not there, don’t we? We didn’t even really have to look to know he wasn’t there. Looking was a mere formality. But let’s not panic, after all, Baby Tad isn’t frog sized, he’s bigger than my Daughter for God’s sake. The house has a finite number of rooms . How hard could it possibly be to find something the size of a fireplug that looks like a Day-Glo green malformed Dwarf in a yellow jumper? Well, let me put it to you this way. The Lindbergh baby? Still missing.

“Where FWOG, Drabby?!”

And the hell of it, see, she knows, she KNOWS where Fwog is, because you know who doesn’t know? You know who has not one stinkin’ clue where fwog is? Drabby. Because, and I’m only being honest here, I don’t play with Baby Tad all that much. She’s shoved him into some little Baby hideyhole, some toddler size cranny that exists next to, but not in, this dimension. The little singin’ creep is keeping company with a wide selection of sippy cups full of month old milk solids, socks, bibs, soiled diapers and over seventeen thousand pacifiers. I am down on my side sucking lungfulls of dust waiting for my eyes to adjust so I can see under the couch and while there are enough baby toys under there for an orphanage, Tad is not among them. I knew that because Baby Tad could not fit under there unless you coated his horrible Frog body with Vaseline and asked a Russian Weight Lifter to take a moment out of his steam bath and SHOVE THE LITTLE FREAK UNDER THERE. But see, now, I’ve already looked under everything baby Tad would fit under. Twice. What was it Sherlock Holmes said? “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable is WHERE YOU’LL FIND THAT F-ING SINGIN’ FROG!”

“Where Fwog, Drabby, where, where, where, Fwog, oh where baby Fwog?!”

And I whirled on her and I screamed “I don’t know where Fwog is, I am LOOKING for Fwog but the truth is Drabby doesn’t give a little tin POOP where Fwog is! Drabby hates Fwog, oh, yes, he does, hates him right now with a dangerous passion and if Drabby happens to find the hammer before he finds Fwog? Well! Fwog is going to be in a mighty tight corner! Do you HEAR me little missy?! A MIGHTY TIGHT CORNER, I SAY!!”

And then I did an interpretive dance involving violent, spastic hammer blows and Baby Tad’s piteous attempts to shield himself. I played myself and Baby Tad and did all the sound effects, too. The choreography was improvised but it came out pretty good.

Of course, I didn’t really do any of those things. I looked for Baby Tad until I found him. He was at the foot of my bed. My Pajamas were on top of him. See, the wife says I should put away my Pajamas when I get dressed in the morning, but she’s insane. I solved the problem my way and it won’t happen again. Threw ‘em out. The hell with ‘em anyway. Sleep in my underwear from now on. It’s more comfortable, and they are too small to cover up a Fwog.

My Daughter was quite giddy with relief, and honestly, seeing how happy she was I’d found Baby Tad, I wasn’t angry anymore. I felt foolish and ashamed for having been so mad in the first place. She’s a baby and she wanted her Drabby and her Fwog and she won’t be a baby forever or even that much longer if the truth be told. I lay down with her and I felt happy to be her Father. Until about the third time through Tad’s six-minute lullaby set when his batteries started to run down.

Because if we have any fresh batteries? I’m pretty sure they’re with the Lindbergh Baby.

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Things That Make Me ‘Tick’: Thing Two

My Grandmamma always believed I would be famous. She went to her grave believing it, but her belief had taken on a slightly desperate, needling quality. My bride of twenty some odd (twenty? Twenty-one? I know it isn’t twenty-five) years reminds me frequently that in the course of wooing her, I suggested she ‘Hitch her wagon to a star’. I was referring to myself, and not so much lying as not caring whether it was true or not if it got her to say yes. Regular readers of this ‘Blog’ will note I am not famous and in addition, I am not getting any younger.

 

I hate to be rude, but I blame you. I’m doing my part, and you obviously enjoy it enough to read it for free, but have you told two friends? And have they told two friends? And so on, and so on?

 

Does Max Burbank crave fame to fill some emotional void created by uncaring parents, disastrous affairs of the heart, some third thing that is funnier than the last two things? No. The void Max Burbank wishes to fill is in his wallet. It is far less awkward to talk about oneself in the third person when oneself is rich.

 

It may surprise you, but I have dark appetites you cannot even comprehend. Or, more accurately, I wish to acquire a taste for dark appetites etc. The metaphorical wheels of the metaphorical machines that will satisfy my completely non-metaphorical desires must be greased! And while the grease is metaphorical, the money for which it is a metaphor is very, very real. The only free hobby I have is running toward things while screaming. Everything else? Moolah required. Have you any notion how much it costs to use the word ‘criminently’ as often as I do? The usage fees are staggering! Criminently!

 

Come on, now, muck in, help out, enable me to escape the kind of life you lead. Doesn’t it pain you to imagine me slaving away at dreary ‘paper work’ when by rights I should be supine atop a huge heap of velvety pillows sucking on a hookah hose and wearing pantaloons? When, when will I be able to swan dive off said pillow heap into vast piles of coinage in which by dint of some assumedly expensive physical augmentation I shall be able to swim? Where is my robot butler, my brace of pickpocket ferrets, good lord, where are my HELPER MONKEYS? I am LANGUISHING in relative obscurity! Doesn’t one of you reader bastards have an impressionable relative in the film industry, or an eccentric venture capitalist college pal with his ‘eye’ on the ‘main chance’? Whichever one of you makes me famous, scouts honor, you can have dibs on all the fame crumbs that spill from my endlessly devouring chops. And the greater my fame, the greater those crumbs! It’s a win/win! Is it too much to ask that you spam a link to this article to every single person in your address book?

 

Oh, well. While you’re bottom feeding off the decaying corpse of my not famousness, I’ll ‘grind’ more free ‘grist’ from the ‘mill’ of ‘comedy’. Always remember that resentment aside, I love you all. I’m truly grateful you are reading this sentence, assuming you have read this far. Ego gratification, while nowhere near as gratifying as financial gratification, is more gratifying than no gratification at all.

 

Criminently.

Things That Make Me ‘Tick’. Thing One.

On fine Early Autumn days like this I like to stick a towel and box of Cabernet in my rucksack and sally out into a meadow to walk a while in the tall grass and truncheon puppies.

 

There are a few slight problems with this statement, and here are some of them.

1.) No one sells a decent Night Stick anymore let alone a good Truncheon

2.) One doesn’t just happen upon puppies in any old meadow, and I am not the sort that would go to a place where they stock the meadows with puppies any more than I’d go dynamite fishing in a fish farm like some sort of bloodsucking, Robber Barron, old money Senator.

3.) I would never Truncheon a puppy. For the love of Christ, man, anybody knows puppies are the only reliable evidence that God feels love on occasion.

 

The opening paragraph was not meant to ‘reveal’ anything to you about my ‘true self’. Writing never does and that goes for ‘memoirs’, ‘autobiography’ and especially ‘slice of life sketches’, a form that should be avoided like asbestos. The more ‘true’ someone’s writing is, the more chock full of self-aggrandizing malarkey it is bound to be. Hence, the most revealing writing needs a number of lies roughly corresponding to the number of rocks one puts in ones pockets when walking into the sea. Do I believe that? Honestly, I haven’t really given it much thought. I do know I was able to use the words ‘malarkey’ and ‘hence’, so I’m good.

 

My point is ‘Blog’ is another word for ‘lies on the Internet’. When I said I liked to ‘truncheon puppies’ I was lying. I used the phrase ‘truncheon puppies’ because of the way those two ‘U’ sounds go together when followed by an image of totally unacceptable violence. I was being ‘funny’. If I had said ‘truncheon babies’ it would have been just crass. Because of the vowel sounds.

 

The image itself was meant as substitute for the more benign gentleman’s pursuit butterfly hunting, except I don’t hunt butterflies and I could never conscience a man who does. What has a butterfly ever done to you, more to the point, what could it do, even if sorely provoked, even by a damnable provoker such as yourself? Now if the butterfly was as big as Volkswagen and armed with a flamethrower, that would be something worth hunting, or more precisely I would happily watch you do it. To me it sounds dangerous.

I don’t truncheon puppies, and for that matter I don’t ‘Sally’ anywhere, no offense to Sally. But If I’d said “On fine spring days like this I sit alone inside and drink an entire box of wine” you’d feel sorry for me, and you shouldn’t. Box wine is economical and much nicer than you think when consumed by the boxful. In fact once you commit yourself to drinking the entire box it’s really just as good as anything else. Yes, yes, let it be known I am a box wine enthusiast, unashamed, naked, proud.

 

Did you see how I slipped ‘naked’ in there? I didn’t have to. I just like it. And I brought my own towel.

The 100 Things I Don’t Like List

1.) Hot coffee in the face

2.) TYPING ALL IN CAPS TO INDICATE YELLING!

3.) YELLING!

4.) UNWARRANTED USE OF EXCLAMATION POINTS!

5.) Grabby Monkeys

6.) Gropey Monkeys

7.) People who jump out at you in Haunted House attractions

8.) People who jump out at you at all

9.) Actually haunted houses

10.) Dave

11.) Completely made up words like ‘cinabun’

12.) Punch in the face

13.) Punch in the face causing temporary blindness

14.) Punch in the face causing permanent blindness

15.) Blindness

16.) People who think doing a passing imitation of a funny catch phrase is the same as being funny

17.) Dead rat on a rope traveling at forty-five mph in the face

18.) Fear of late night monsters in the toilet continuing out of toddler years and straight through to adulthood

19.) Finally getting to see a show you really wanted to see for the second time and it’s a rerun of the one episode you already saw

20.) Unidentified pinching sensations below the belt while swimming

21.) That dream where Lucy Lawless made this whole big deal over my inadequacy in the sex department

22.) That dream where Scarlett Johansson made this whole big deal over my inadequacy in the sex department

23.) That dream where Ernest Borgnine made this whole big deal over my inadequacy in the sex department

24.) Jumpy Bean Dave and his all Pre-op Samba Orchestra

25.) Bad touchies

26.) Owies

27.) The Pina Colada song

28.) Uncle Dave who I am pretty sure was not my uncle

29.) All those guys Dad did time with

30.) “Mexican” Dave Saunders who was not Mexican at all but was hiding in our garage that one time and jumped out at me

31.) People quoting Monty Python until I couldn’t even like Monty Python anymore

32.) The dark

33.) Barbara Streisand

34.) Meat cutters with an evil glint in their eyes and forearms like horse legs roped with muscle and covered in hair and tattooed all over with images of Barbara Streisand

35.) That stone ass Mo-Fo Dave

36.) Pants fulla Monkeys

37.) Elephantiasis

38.) When a mosquito gets into your house and flies near your ear when you’re trying to sleep and you can’t catch it, and every time you think you’ve driven it away it comes back and wakes you up again until around 4:32 AM you bust into a neighbors house, set free his damn barky ass dogs and set fire to the place to cover your tracks.

39.) My neighbor Dave and his God Damn barky ass dogs

40.) Tiny, angry, microscopic Monkeys in your bloodstream on nanotech motorcycles

41.) God Damn ghost of Mary baker Eddy with her constant need to play Canasta

42.) Leprechauns

43.) Leprechauns

44.) Leprechauns

45.) Leprechauns

46.) Jew Leprechauns

47.) When you’re necking with a girl and suddenly you see in the mirror you’re necking with a corpse because she’s a ghost and then you realize you’re just remembering that time you watched “The Shining”

48.) Genocide

49.) Cancer

50.) Poverty

51.) Wintergreen gum

52.) DaaaaAAAAAAAAAVE!

53.) Weiner in a mouse trap

54.) Dogs in Iron Lungs a-takin’ our jobs and a-stealin’ our womens

55.) People who jump out at you in libraries

56.) Eye worms

57.) Shenanigans

58.) Jiggery-pokery

59.) Malarkey

60.) Flim-Flam

61.) Chumbawamba

62.) When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie

63.) Open casket funerals of people who died from being partially dissolved by industrial solvents

64.) Hassles

65.) Snake oil salesman that promise you the moon but leave you high and dry holding the bag

66.) When your doorbell rings and you open the door and there’s nobody there and you look down and there’s a paper bag on your doorstep and Jesus, it’s on fire, so you stamp on it without even thinking and the god damn bag turns out to be full of memories of a girl you knew in high school who you never asked out even though on certain summer nights you can still smell her hair

67.) “The bottom line”

68.) “At the end of the day”

69.) “When push comes to shove”

70.) Shut up Dave, just shut up, can’t you GOD DAMN SHUT UP!?

71.) That Seven Eleven Microwave Burrito at 2:00 in the morning in 1987

72.) Hitler

73.) Hi-lighters

74.) The strongly held belief in my own exceptionality which I know is wrong

75.) The fact that you think my strongly held belief in my own exceptionality is wrong

76.) When you look in the medicine chest mirror and say ‘Bloody Mary’ three times in a row and that time in highschool where you finally got up the courage to speak to that girl you really liked and said something unforgivably stupid appears right behind you.

77.) Reflux

78.) Haters

79.) Belt Sander in the face

80.) People who jump out at you in elevators and the next thing you know you’re waking up in a bathtub full of ice cubes minus a kidney

81.) Hong Kong Phooey impersonators with the ‘friendly’ hands

82.) Grab ass meter maids all hopped up on electric fun juice and stay awake pills

83.) Okay, that last one was mostly alright

84.) Those ads for Werthers caramels that make you feel all wrong and nasty even though you can’t figure out exactly why

85.) Figuring out exactly why

86.) Wrecking ball in the face

87.) Prejudice

88.) Intolerance

89.) Bigotry

90.) Foreigners.

91.) Flammable pajamas

92.) Really flammable pajamas

93.) Extra flammable pajamas with hair trigger zippo lighter accents

94.) That time in high school

95.) That time in High School Musical

96.) Things in lists that don’t make any damn sense at all

97.) Everybody

98.) Everything

99.) All the time

100.) Did I mention Dave?

Another Poem

SUMMER ENDS

 

The last day

Of school, the sun hung

On late into the night

Like it didn’t want to let

The sky go.

Fire flies,

In short supply these days,

Came out in galactic clusters and

 

All us kids would run around as if

Running was all the entertainment

We needed, which

Indeed

It was

 

My Dad on the porch saying “The most

Effective mosquito repellent known

To man is Gin. A couple of these

And the blood suckers

Just vanish.”

 

Later I became a teenager and

It all fell to shit but

Of course I was

An old soul by then

Busy moaning how I’d never get

A girlfriend.

And if time

Was speeding up a little no one said

 

“It just gets faster, son

Blink twice, a deep breath

And you’re half the way to dead.

Know what’s behind

The big splash at

The end of the Flume Ride?

Brick friggin’ wall,

That’s what.”

 

Take the time to

Take a sigh,

Leaves begin to turn. They

Used to let us burn them

And I loved that smell

But all of that is sold at swap meets now.

Yard sales, flea markets,

Bunch of banged up crap

Spread on a blanket,

‘Each thing here

One buck’

 

An eight-track tape

Of Three Dog Night,

A Charlie’s Angels Lunchbox

And the summer I was ten years old.

Things the Old Man Taught Me

A lot of folks don’t care for it, but I like the phrase ‘passed away’, which is what my Father did six years ago. He’s not gone exactly,  just far enough ahead of me on the path I can’t see him. But maybe over this next rise, or around that bend I’ll catch a glimpse of him for a moment, and the ghost of his memory is walking right beside me anyway. I wrote the first draft of this shortly before he died, having no idea that’s what I was doing. Here’s where it’s at now.

 

THINGS THE OLD MAN TAUGHT ME

My Old Man was a doctor, a fact that kept me out of the local emergency room on a number of occasions, as minor repairs could be affected in our kitchen with tools he kept handy. A hypodermic full of tetanus booster was never far from hand for the occasions when I, involved in metamorphosing a pile of pilfered construction site detritus up a tree, might put one or more rusty nails through one or more of my toes. Once I tried to teach a neighbors’ Golden Retriever to waltz. He returned the favor by trying to teach me how to take a quality mauling. Neither of us did very well in our lessons, and the Old Man was required to sew portions of my ear and face back together in much the same way other people’s mothers repaired stuffed bears. He was a dab hand, and the scars can only be seen today in the right light. On another occasion the boiler that powered our forced steam heat went and we formed a hasty bucket brigade in the basement to drain it before it exploded. The water came hissing and boiling out of the spigot, but it was all hands on deck to avert disaster and I was right there with my older Brother and Mother hauling buckets and passing them hand over hand toward the door where they were hurled out into mid winter New England, turning instantly to dense white fog. Inevitably I stumbled and the boiling grey water splashed up and over my entire face. Before I even felt the shock of it, The Old Man was hauling me up by the scruff of my shirt and the ass of my pants, trundling me up and out and face first into a snow bank. In the moment it seemed insult on injury, first to have been scalded, then hurled bodily into the snow by the Old man, probably a punishment for screwing up, but he knew what he was about. The snow and ice took the heat immediately. A few hours later the top layer of skin sloughed off my face like a bad sunburn or athletes foot and that was it. The damage was contained.

 

The Old man cursed fluently, like a well-educated sailor, often, with great fervor and very specifically. It meant something to him that the word ‘fucking’ is a gerund, as in “The fucking decline of western civilization!” To not fully pronounce the I-N-G was a disservice to the language and impolite. No one under his roof said, “fuckin”, and “friggin” was for hillbillies, reprobates and white trash.

 

Language in general around my house could be caustic. I was in second grade before it even began to sink in that most people, particularly teachers, find the phrase ‘Shut up’ rude. I’d always taken it to mean, ‘It’s my turn to speak now’. I casually tossed around the phrase ‘blow me’ assuming it was short for Popeye’s ‘Well, Blow me Down’. At age twelve I was informed by a horrified creative writing teacher that it in fact referenced oral sex. I was briefly mortified.

 

He could employ at any moment The Voice That Must be Obeyed. I long ago caught up with and surpassed him in volume, but never hit on the exact tone and tenor he had such easy access to so that words spoken to children upon entering the ear attached themselves directly to the autonomic nervous system.

 

 

The Old Man procured for my brother Nick and me several large, wooden cable spools of the kind used by hippies in lieu of tables. He taught us to walk them by standing up on the spool section and steadily rolling them along with our feet. This we did in our long horseshoe driveway, and soon we advanced this capability to it’s logical conclusion, Chicken fights, and their natural evolutionary successor, jousting. Initially we used windfall branches but soon graduated to rusty lengths of pipe we found in our barn. I cannot recall if our Father encouraged or perhaps even devised these developments of the original spool walking skills he passed on to us, but he was certainly on hand for the inevitable field side doctoring. At the time I never wondered where he got the six or seven giant spools he gave us. In retrospect, I imagine he liberated them from construction sites, just as we stole our tree house supplies.

 

When I would tire of jousting and beg off, my brother would recite epic poetry by wrote while spool walking. This was something the Old Man had been required to do by the Brooklyn Public School System of his youth, and I’m told this was not an entirely uncommon practice. By the time we were in school they contented themselves with multiplication tables and survivable levels of playground violence. Nick favored length over quality and so leaned heavily on “The Charge of the Light Brigade” and “Horatius at the Bridge”, a work in which three Roman Soldiers hold off an army of 5000 that for sheer sweaty masculinity makes “300” look like a particularly violent episode of “The view”. Having not heard anyone recite “Horatius” since I was eight, I don’t know if my recollection that it takes in the neighborhood of nine hours is exact, but that was certainly the experience. The first demonstration of an eleven year old boy rhythmically chanting all six hundred lines of nineteenth-century English poet, historian and noteworthy Whig Thomas Babington Macauly from memory while spool walking is impressive in a circus sideshow sort of way. When it is immediately followed by a second performance it becomes first alarming, then tedious and finally annoying. I have often wondered whether the Old Man made similar demonstrations of near savant level talent in his youth or if this was an example of genetic funneling, where ability passes through a generation like sunlight through a magnifying glass, becoming far more focused and dangerous. However it functioned this particular inheritance passed me by.

 

I was less fortunate with the crippling headaches The Old Man sometimes retired with to dark rooms when not off doctoring. Coupled with a certain specific melancholy notably characterized by sudden violent haranguing of nearby family members, the Old Man’s paternity shines in me like a beacon, the Burbankian equivalent of a cleft chin or Hawk-like profile. While less flowery than the poetry with which my brother was afflicted, my legacy is not without romance. The Old Man and I have suffered a level of pain the merest whiff of which would reduce most men to motes of dust that wept as they scattered, and we have bourn it with grace, dignity, shrieking and pissyness, as the occasion demanded. We share this, the knowledge that we have carried the one ring and you have not. Graciously, we keep the knowledge that this makes us better than you sheathed.

 

The Old man taught me by example that reading was a high focus activity, no more to be interrupted than ping pong, oil painting or open-heart surgery. Attempts at communication when he was submerged in a book were met with a silence that was not stony so much as it forced you to question your own existence. He accumulated books the way the side of a house accumulates autumn leaves, by ones and twos and then suddenly in great drifts. He took to building bookcases of increasing intricacy and so began accumulating power tools and lumber. He took up at one time or another guitar, golf, fencing, the shooting of skeet, cold water wet suiting, ice climbing and the manufacture of harpsichords. A like-minded colleague went so far as to raise owls, but to my great disappointment the Old man drew the line at living things.

 

I could say ever so much more but won’t. The Old Man is no longer with us, but that’s beside the point. I’m certain he’d have digested whatever I put down with the appropriate number of grains of salt, sorting truth and the kind of crap he taught me to delight in foisting off on any old person once he had them listening just to see how it went down with all the rest. Any shiny broken bit a person digs up out of the earth can be easily turned on its side by another the better to cut themselves with. There is a mystery between fathers and Sons best not spoken of too much, particularly by the participants.

So You Got Laid Off!

 

Say, Sport! Why the sour puss? Oh, no! You got laid off?

 

Well, you and about six million other Janes and Joes, Chucko, so turn that frown upside down, pack up your troubles in the ‘ol kit bag, straighten up, fly right, and read these…

 

TIPS FOR THE TERMINATED!

 

1.) WEEP!

You’re going to cry like a baby woman (No offense, babies!). The only real question is, how long can you hold it in and who will you weep in front of? A lot of people are going to tell you to ‘take it like a man’ (no offense, men!), so you don’t ‘burn any bridges’. To which I say, ‘piffle!’ Go ahead and cry! Getting laid off is sad! And you know who isn’t as sad as you? The person laying you off! This is your chance to make them feel as bad as you can, and unless your willing to really commit to a super big display a few weeks later involving liquor, lots of guns and you dying at the end, this is your very last chance!

 

Take it from me, no matter what anyone tells you, YOU’RE BRIDGES HAVE ALREADY BEEN BURNED! That’s right, ‘The Man’ has torched them to ashes, and no amount of smiling through your tears will be seen as anything but groveling, which is just what it is. They aren’t going to give you your job back; they aren’t going to hire you into a new position, and that letter of recommendation? THEY AREN’T GOING TO WRITE IT! In today’s modern now a go-go world of the future, the recommendation letter has been replaced by something a tad more formal. The confirmation of employment dates from a Human Resources secretarial temp. Why? Because a lawyer who still has a job told your boss who also still has a job that’s the thing to do. Is that a little harsh? You bet a big bag of ‘Piffle’ it is.

 

2.) FILE FOR UNEMPLOYMENT

You should head for the nearest unemployment office, excuse me, ‘career center’, as soon as the security guard lets go of your elbow. Go ahead; take your sad little cardboard box of personal belongings with you. You can lighten your load by giving your pen and pencil set, inspirational calendar, left over business cards and pictures of your family to various homeless people on the way there. Don’t go home and hide under the table with your dog. You need to file RIGHT AWAY because the department of unemployment needs as much lead time as possible to screw your claim up so badly it would take a team of highly skilled unscrewers to unscrew it! And now that you are unemployed and your unemployment checks are all screwed up, unscrewers are just one of the many, many things you can no longer afford.

 

3.) GO HOME AND HIDE UNDER THE TABLE WITH YOUR DOG

Now you can go home and hide under the table with your dog who will give you the unconditional canine love your spouse and kids will be too terrified by your new employment status to fake. If you don’t have a dog, you should have bought one back when you could still afford it.

 

4.) REEEEE-LAX!

“Looking for a job is a full time job!” is a phrase you are going to get very sick of very soon. Don’t listen to it! IF you get a job before your unemployment runs out (and look at yourself, that’s a pretty big IF), you’ll be back in the rat race with no vacation time built up. Unless you’re lucky and get a non debilitating injury just bad enough to climb aboard that sweet, sweet, Streetcar Named Disability, this is the very last time in your life your old Uncle Sam is going to pony up for you to get some rest. Here’s a list of things you’ll need to get some quality relaxing done.

  • Earphones
  • A television that takes earphones
  • A comfy chair
  • A comfy bathrobe
  • Ratty ass P.J.s
  • Ratty ass slippers
  • A vast amount of the liquor of your choice
  • Cough syrup
  • Heroin (optional, and only if you had a really good job, because SPOILER ALERT, your unemployment check is going to be SMALLER than your paycheck was)
  • Ladies of the Evening (optional for pretty much the same reasons as the Heroin, also your Spouse and kids are NOT prostitute friendly)
  • Fresh water
  • Eats
  • Smokes
  • Enough Razor wire to make a good perimeter
  • Super bouncy Moon Boots with springs on the bottom to get over your perimeter whenever you have to do your business, unless you opt for a-
  • Matching catheter and Chamber Pot set
  • Guns and ammo
  • Horse blinders so all you can see is your TV
  • A baseball bat in case anyone gets through your perimeter and stands between you and your TV
  • A helper monkey, preferably named ‘Cletus’

 

5.) JOB HUNTING

Okay, sooner or later, me time is over. If you ever want to go on unemployment again, you’re going to need a job. First things first; you’ll need-

 

A RESUME

Lots of sample resumes can be found on the Internet, which if you don’t have, your Library and unemployment office, excuse me ‘Career Center’, do. Print them all out and start mailing them to employers, because A.) Each and every one of these sample resumes is way better than yours, and B.) Nobody pays any attention to these things anymore. There’s only one thing that’s going to get you hired, and that comes later in the INTERVIEW section. IMPORTANT NOTE: Cut and paste your name into the sample resumes before sending them out. Either that, or be prepared to dress as a lady about half the time you interview (No offense, Ladies!)

 

INTERNET JOB SEARCH TOOLS

Monster.com, linkedin.com, and Russianmailorderbrides.com are some pretty good sights, especially if you are an attractive unemployed Russian Woman. Most of these places will let you post the sample resume you downloaded, and they’re a good place to look for sample resumes as well, so it’s one stop shopping. Then every day you’ll find an inbox full of job listings that are sometimes marginally related to things you can do, if you’re really lucky. IMPORTANT NOTE: Any site with the word ‘wet’ in it is NOT a job search tool. Unless you are looking for a job in the sex trade, in which case, I beg your pardon.

 

NEWSPAPER WANT ADS

Ha ha ha. Ha HUH ha ha ha. Excuse me. This quaint relic of the past is… wait; you can’t afford a paper anyway now that your unemployment has run out because you spent too much time relaxing. I should have told you that relaxing was time limited. Sorry. My bad.

 

DRESS FOR THE JOB YOU WANT

This step is critical, because it allows you to max out your credit cards and be humiliated by how much weight you’ve gained since the last time you bought nice clothes. Those may both seem like bad thing, but the fact is, they are. And there are a lot more bad things coming, so why not get used to it in a clothing store, where the multi sided mirrors can make multiple images of you crying in public because you’re fat and broke.

 

GO COMPLETELY MENTAL

This is not so much as a step as something that is going to happen to you whether you like it or not. Sorry. You might want to have your spouse hide all the breakables and ‘sharps’. I probably should have told you earlier.

 

HIT THE PAVEMENT

Try to get out of the house at least once a day. It’s good exercise, it keeps you away from your progressively traumatized spouse and kids and it’s a great way to pretend you’re looking for a job. IMPORTANT NOTE: The early bird gets a spot on a park bench before they are all taken up by other pre-hobos like you.

 

THE INTERVIEW

Lets say for the sake of argument, some employer got the sample resume you sent in and has called you to set up a time for an interview. Put on the nice new clothes you got. IMPORTANT NOTE: No eating or drinking before the interview. You might spill something on your new clothes, and also, sad jobless folks like you don’t deserve to eat and drink. Get to your interview early! This is really, really important, because the person interviewing you is going to make you wait a long time to show you who has the power and nothing prepares you for a job interview more than sitting still for about an hour. I’m kidding, that’s actually the worst way to prepare for a job interview, but if you show up on time, your interviewer will have already gone home. That’s a promise. IMPORTANT NOTE: Bring absorbent hankies! Nothing kills an interview like lots and lots of visible sweat. The only way to know how much you’re going to sweat during your job interview is to run a marathon wearing one of those racially offensive rubber sumo suits. Think not? Call me after your first job interview. MOST IMPORTANT NOTE OF ALL: You have one and only one objective in your job interview. You must come off as a person who will not come back and kill a lot of people if they get laid off. Trust me, this is the only qualification Human Resource professionals are looking for. Nail that puppy and you can be the CEO of a big ass, soulless corporate behemoth. And you know what your very first job duty will be?

 

DOWNSIZING, BABY!

Your Termination Package

About seven years ago I was ‘laid off’ by the institution I’d been employed by for sixteen years. Below you will find a word-for-word copy of my termination letter. It has not been doctored, redacted or re-written in any way. I’m sure doing this is totally illegal, but it’s not as if anyone actually read my ‘blog’ anyway, so caution to the winds I’m letting the ‘chips’ fall where they ‘may’.

 

 

Dear Former employee (To be classified as ‘former’ beginning the moment you read the word ‘dear’)

 

In connection with the termination of your employment, you are eligible to receive the severance benefits described in this document, henceforth referred to as ‘Description of severance benefits’. Should you sign and return this document to the Vice President of Human Resources, You will be entering into a binding legal agreement with us, henceforth referred to as the company you worked most of your adult life for right up until you read the word ‘dear’ in this document, at which time we shut of your phone and email account and deactivated the badge that allowed you to enter what was once your office and use the elevator you just rode up in. Therefore, you are advised to consult with an attorney before signing this letter, which you might be able to afford if you still worked for us, and could still afford if you sign this letter accepting your severance package, except by then it will be too late.

 

If you choose not to sign the letter of acceptance, you will not receive your severance package, sending you out into a rapidly decaying economy with no money beyond whatever you’ve saved, and with what we’ve been paying you, we can be reasonably sure this is a negative number. In addition, security will not call the elevator for you, and you will be forced to take the stairs to the ground floor and exit the building which was your workplace five days a week for the bulk of your adult life, a sweat soaked, pathetic wreck.

 

The following numbered paragraphs, hereafter referred to as ‘the stations of your humiliation’, set forth the totally legal and utterly binding conditions, no matter how bizarre, arbitrary and illegal they may seem to be, that you will be subject to under penalty of law.

 

  1. Termination Date – Today, about five minutes ago, based on our assumption you are a slow reader.

 

  1. Description of Severance Benefits – The only money you will be getting in the near future apart from Unemployment, which if you’ve never gotten before, we should tell you pays for either your food or your rent/mortgage, but certainly not both. As for the debatable solace of cable, believe us when we say it will not be in your budget. But don’t sign if you don’t want to. For all we know you won the lottery last year and only continued working here because… okay, that’s not very likely, but we don’t know it’s statistically possible. You do what you feel is best.

 

  1. Release – This is the big one. Take a deep breath before continuing, then say this real fast: In consideration of the payment of severance benefits, which we in no way have to give you, so think carefully, you hereby fully, forever, irrevocably unconditionally, no backsies no matter how bizarre and seemingly illegal our stipulations; release and discharge this company, it’s officers, it’s directors, it’s stockholders, it’s Mom, it’s friends named ‘Dave’, it’s clowns, it’s monkeys, it’s one armed preachers (each in their individual and corporate identities, hereafter referred to as ‘anyone we say’) from any and all, (take another deep breath, and…) claims, charges, complaints, demands, actions, obligations, liabilities, lawsuits, blood oaths, vendettas, tit-for-tats, which you had or might have or thought of or dreamed of or made a birthday wish about or briefly hallucinated after a head trauma; Including all claims arising out of title XXIVLMX of the civil rights act of 1918, the Americans with funny hats act, the Federal Farm Animal Noises Act, or any other claims that can be made out of any words in any language ever by you, your lawyer or any animal that can be trained to mimic human speech or use sign language; and you hereby recognize that at any time for the rest of your life we can smash through your bedroom window While you sleep, inject you with psychotropic drugs and insert any number of spindly objects, such as, but not limited to, an extendable feather duster into any orifice or orifices existing or to be created upon you at that point forever and ever, world without end amen. If you want your money, you’ll let us.

 

  1. Non disclosure– No telling. No matter what we do to you now or have done to you in the past or might do at any time for the rest of your life when you least expect it. Not a peep, not a whisper, so help you god or we will bash you with a hammer from behind.

 

  1. Non-disparagement – You understand that as a condition of accepting your severance you will not make any false, disparaging or derogatory statements to any media outlet, industry group, friend, relative, acquaintance, pet, plush toy, lamp post and even in your most private moments alone in the dark you will not say one bad word, not one, not ever, not even on your death bed, not even as a ghost after you die, and that to be on the safe side you will never again so much as mention our name so that if a dinner guest asks you “Where was it you used to work?” you must say “Mmmmmnh?” or pretend to have a stroke or deliberately wet yourself to divert attention.

 

  1. Validity – should any line, clause, word or emoticon found in this letter be found by a court of law illegal or invalid, the remaining parts, every damn word of them, some of which are printed really, really small and maybe in invisible ink, shall remain valid and binding so good luck Charlie.

 

  1. Confidentiality – If you show so much as a corner of this letter to anyone, even that lawyer we recommended you have look at it, we get to chop your nuts right off. Seriously.

 

  1. Cooperation – If any of your former colleagues, both those terminated (hereafter referred to as ‘disgruntled psychopaths’) and those still employed (hereafter referred to as ‘chumps’) decide to sue us, you will testify against them on our behalf just like you were a puppet and we had our hand up you, which we may literally do, should it prove necessary.

 

  1. Nature of Agreement – You understand that this letter is a really, really nice severance package that we in no way had to do at all, and not an admission the shoving you out the door after however many years with no warning whatsoever in a totally humiliating manner is kind of a morally lax thing to do. We are great guys treating you way better than you deserve and if you make us feel the least little bit guilty for even a second we may change our minds and leave you with doodly crap.

 

  1. Voluntary assent – You love this. Say it. Say it. Say it now. LOUDER! YOU LOVE THIS SEVERANCE PACKAGE! IT’S SO BIG! TAKE IT! YEAH! TAKE IT!

 

  1. Involuntary assent – Remember last Saturday? When you went to that bar? And things got kind of crazy? And when you woke up the next day you weren’t entirely sure how things had gone down? Yeah. That was us. We put a ‘roofy’ in your drink and took you to a soundstage and dressed you up as a sexy chicken and made you say you were totally into this severance package. And on the video? It kind of looks like you were into it. We’re just saying. And it would be a shame if that footage got on You-Tube. Capice?

 

In conclusion, Thanks for the gumball, Mickey.

 

Now smile while you sign your name.

 

Remembering Carrot Man

I.)

My earliest memory of Carrot Man is from my Third birthday. I’d gotten this sailor suit from my Grandmother, and it had a white ceramic whistle on a leather thong. I kept blowing and blowing that whistle. Suddenly someone snatched it out of my hand. I had to look way up, because the person was really tall. It was carrot Man. He didn’t say anything. He just looked at me. Then he walked away. I kept thinking “If I ever get a whistle like that again, I’ll wear it around my neck so people can’t take it.”

 

II.)

The summer after Second Grade, Carrot Man lived with us. He was supposed to be finishing this back porch my Dad had started building at some point, but I don’t think he did much on it. He taught me how to cook pork chops in the oven. He used to smoke these hand rolled cigarettes that looking back I now realize were ‘joints’. He’d smoke them even if my parents were there. He told me I could try it. He held it out to me. A‘joint’. My parents were right there. They didn’t say anything.

 

III.)

Carrot Man was coming for Passover. I was really excited. I couldn’t wait for him to get there. He was pretty late. We had to wait for him and my Dad got angry. Finally he came. It was raining out and his cape was all wet, but he wouldn’t take it off. It was dripping on the kitchen floor. I really wanted to show him this picture I had drawn. I was really proud of it. It was of ‘Carotene, the Kid Carrot’. I made him up. I drew him all the time at school. I had to wait through the whole Seder and all I could think about was showing Carrot Man my drawing. I didn’t even care about the plagues. After dinner I showed it to him. He was holding it and looking down at it and it was trembling a little in his hand. He was looking at it like something was on it, like a bug or a tiny clump of shit. “Did you draw this?” he asked, “Is this supposed to be you?”

 

IV.)

It’s the middle of the night. Carrot Man is flat on the Kitchen table. My Dad is operating on him. He has three bullets in him. He’s biting on a belt. My belt. My Dad yelled I better go and get it so I did. Carrot Man is trembling all over, just a little, like he’s cold. His tiny little arms are shaking. His shirt is off, but he’s still got his mask on. My Dad didn’t take it off, out of respect. Mom boiled dad’s instruments on the stove in the pot we make spaghetti in. Dad’s cutting into Carrot Man where one of the bullet holes is. His inside isn’t much different than his outside. It’s just a little darker orange. His insides bead up where Dad cuts. Like he’s sweating inside. Like on a glass with a cold coke in it. “There it is,” says Dad, “There it is.” He’s holding up one of the bullets with one of his instruments. It’s about the size of a pencil eraser. He drops it in one of our soup bowls and it makes this little ‘clink’.

 

V.)

One time I came home from school and I went into the TV room and Mom and Carrot Man were already in there. I don’t think they saw me right away. They were sitting in the two chairs near the fireplace. My Mom was looking at the floor. Carrot Man was looking at her. They looked serious. Then Carrot Man sees me and he goes “Hey! Hey, Sport!”

 

VI.)

I was in a bookstore. I was going up to the counter and I almost passed him and I stop and go back and it’s Carrot Man. I’m like, “Carrot Man?” He looks shorter. His skin isn’t so good. We talk for a while. I ask him for his e-mail but neither one of us has anything to write with or on. He looks at the book I’m going to buy and says “Is that what you’re reading?” like he doesn’t approve of my taste in authors. He tells me to say hi to my Dad the next time I talk to him. I keep thinking he’ll say we should get together for lunch or something but then it’s my turn at the counter and he just says “Listen, I’ll see ya,” and I’m fishing around in my wallet for my debit card and when I look up he’s gone.

 

VII.)

I was visiting my Mom and I asked her if she ever heard from Carrot Man. She said “I didn’t hear from him for years. Then one night I’m about to go to bed, the phone rings, it’s him. And he’s just making small talk, hey, how are you, that kind of thing, like we talked last week. He goes on for a while about this and that. He’s taking longer and longer pauses. There’s these big long silences where he doesn’t say anything and I don’t say anything. I keep thinking, here’s where it comes, he’s going to ask me for money or a place to stay for a while or something. But after a while he just says, hey, good talking to ya and hangs up. I don’t know. I don’t know. I guess I never got that guy.”

Scenes of My New England Boyhood

 

 

 

It was a different time.

 

Adults were in short supply, more flinty and aloof in affect. Those who were not Teachers were Store keeps, Police or Firemen, one’s parents or the parents of others. All were suspect.

 

An hour lasted at least seven of what you have now and a mile was half again as long on any given day, particularly the miles between home and school.

 

In autumn we burned our leaves without resort to permit, and their aroma could be smelled for miles and days beyond the burning. Fires might spread to fields and yards, structures, children, dogs: all were abundant. The loss of some few was bittersweet but unremarkable.

 

You could see further then, especially if trouble was coming and you squinted. Playgrounds were our battlefields. In the woods beyond low stone walls there was certainly quicksand. It was widely rumored the railroad tracks led to china, but I never followed them that far.

 

The wheels on our skateboards were made of stone that sparked against asphalt. If you lost a leg, it grew back, like a starfish, but it was a torment to resist picking the scab.

 

We feared and admired the French Canadian heathen in their shantytowns and tarpaper shacks down by the river. “Canucks” I’d whisper under my blankets in the flash lit light, imagining their ridged brows, their ruddy skin, their beaver pelt coats, their hockey sticks.

 

My brother and I, the loose knit band of nearly feral youth we ran with, swam the fall of the Nixon administration like it was a river, forded the Ford and came ashore on Carter, never once knowing our games of army and Red Rover were played out upon squares of yellowed Kodachrome.

 

THE ENERGY CRISIS

This was several years before the Crisis on Infinite Earths, around the time of Giant Size X-men #1 in fact. Gasoline became so scarce our fathers stood in lines for it. They gambled for it, traded food and women. I once came upon a family of seven, mummified in their station wagon for want of gasoline, even the dog, mummified. I snapped a finger off the Grandma for a souvenir and kept it in a Lost in Space lunchbox like a reliquary. My father once traded me to a traveling Gypsy knife sharpener for a jerry can of watered down gasoline, but it was understood if I could use my wits and lock pick tools to escape I would, and so I did after a week and made my way back, but had to sleep on the porch having lost my share of the bed to our dog Stephen Foster. That was the summer I ate lightning bugs. The use of electrical devices including the telephone machine was curtailed to necessity and enforced by law, personal shame, and roving gangs of Baseball furies, Lizzies, Rogues, Riffs, Hurricanes and Boppers.

For a year we were forced to forego Daylight Savings Time and so walked to school before sunrise in the pitch black. We carried variously flashlights, Coleman lanterns, torches, but still passing cars picked us off here and there. A Billy Macavoy, a Mary Lee Porrier did not answer ‘present’ when their name was called and that was how you found out the dark had got them.

 

SCHOOL

Steven Shaheens’ head was torn clean off by an expertly thrown package of Grape Bazooka on the playground and so all gums were outlawed. We made do smuggling in Blowpops, which had gum at their center. Owing to a general lack of coordination and a paralyzing degree of self-awareness, I was consigned to ‘Special Gym’ with three retarded children and a legally blind child who wore glasses so thick they required a delicately balanced counter weight to remain upon his face. We were told we could tell the other children that our gym was not ‘special’ it was ‘extra’, but any damn fool knew an idiot enclosure for what it was. I excelled, particularly on the balance beam. Our English teacher, Mizz Della Dinowski was over three hundred years old and lived with her mother. She routinely ran children down with her Oldsmobile for spite and no one did a damn thing, crushed them to death like squirrels under her wheels and drove on. My friends and I attended many funerals.

 

I played harmonica at graveside. The preacher remarked on the fragility of modern children, which is what we were to him. He was seventeen feet tall and his skin was so dry it had peeled away at the nose entirely, revealing the bleached cartilage beneath. At assembly I was required to explain what Jews were, and at this I failed. To this day the town I grew up in is unclear on the nature and status of Jews, to my great and lasting shame. On the playground, the law of the jungle prevailed. A child might be stoned to death for swinging out of turn or crucified upon the monkey bars to appease an angry God before a science test. My best friend Mike was often called upon to fight for our lives, but I became expert in burrowing, weaseling, slipping between the edges of things and becoming invisible. In extreme need I could sometimes summon a short burst of speed that would leave me in a neighboring town, shoes burned away at the sole, smoking, hungry beyond words. I grew my hair to tremendous proportions and refused to brush it, so I could blend seamlessly into thickets. We would meet up at the fire station, Mike covered in swellings and bruises, me with half the forest in my hair, and buy pop from the soda machine and stare at the firemen who might have been chainsaw carved stumps and spoke in a language comprised entirely of curse words.

 

THE WOODS

My property abutted a large parcel of disputed acreage, owing to surveying irregularities dating back hundreds of years. Nothing could be built upon the contested area and it had run wild. This no man’s land connected to a friends field and woodlot at the end of which was a swamp that if crossed let out on the town cemetery. In all, seventeen thousand square miles into which we could and did disappear regularly. One of the Donahue boys did not return at all from play, but they had almost a dozen and didn’t notice until five years later when a small portion of the swamp was drained to build a filling station and the child was discovered living with Beavers. After several failed attempts to reintroduce the boy to society, he was put down.

 

Indian caves could be found in those woods, as could the skeletal remains of bandits, more than one Hobo Jungle and a species of Salamander the size of a German Shepherd long thought extinct by science. We built a machine gun nest overlooking a valley and took note of Nazi troop convoys until I got cholera. The cemetery was a great place to be reminded of mortality, skateboard and get flowers on Mother’s Day.

 

ERNTERTAINMENT

The music was a hellish torment. One foul July Saturday the American Top Forty featured thirty-eight songs off the soundtrack album of ‘Saturday Night Fever’, ‘Saturday Night’ by the Bay City Rollers and ‘the Night Chicago Died’ by Paper Lace. All across town people beat their skulls in with their own clock radios until the local emergency room nailed it’s doors shut. There were four channels on the TV machine and also UHF if you were a man of science. Mike and I tried to assemble a UHF antenna from salvaged washing machine parts, my mother’s hair drying machine, tin foil and tape but succeeded only in creating a sentient computer which we were forced to go back in time and prevent from coming into existence. Only we remembered. ‘Star Wars’ debuted at the Cineplex and many of us took up residence therein to facilitate continuous viewing. We built ourselves hanging nests of found twine and hanger wire like giant featherless weaverbirds. We would drop from the ceilings between showings and forage for spilled popcorn, petrified gum, orphan Ju-Ju Bees, our ranks thinned by Rickets, Typhus and a host of other sailor’s diseases brought on by malnutrition. Comic Books cost fifteen cents, were One Hundred to Three Thousand pages long and printed on a wood pulp so cheap that I once turned an issue of The Brave and The Bold featuring Batman and the Metal Men to dust by simply by speaking to it.

 

THE BLIZZARD OF SEVENTY-EIGHT

The blizzard of ’78 was actually several storms coming together on each other’s heels and generally overlapping. Trapped in place by a Canadian high-pressure system, hurricane force winds battered us and snow fell twelve inches an hour for most of February. An atypical development of vertical storm clouds brought thunder and lightning as the temperature dropped to Seven Hundred and Twenty-Eight bellow zero. Unlucky dogs sailed through the air and shattered like life sized glass dog statues against equally unlucky frozen weathermen. At the height of the storm, Snowmen came to life and slid about ravenous for human flesh and the wind blew so hard the First Congregational Church of Gloucester was turned inside out. When the sun finally came out, we awoke to find ourselves buried beneath fourteen miles of snow. A complicated system of connecting tunnels were dug out in a showing of classic New England spunk that soon turned sour when it became clear their primary purpose was to facilitate cannibalism. Spring came, but many were too snow blind to believe it and continued to freeze to death in their dreams or brag so much their lungs exploded.

 

Scattered now, like the autumn leaves that smoldering lit on the sheds and garages of our youth and burnt them down, we survivors of those old days will fade into memory. One by one until all are gone, like the last Veterans of the Great wars or aging Apollo Astronauts winking out in nursing homes, we antiques born before the Internet machine, the cell phone machine; Keep off our lawns, don’t back sass us, salute as we go by and for God’s sake, pull your pants up, pants are not meant to be worn that way.