Open Wide

    

     I’ve been retired a little over six months.  Actually, like “second breakfast” from Lord of the Rings (a practice I wholeheartedly endorse), this is really my second retirement (which, to be honest, has nothing to do with breakfast.  I just wanted to mention breakfast.  Because bacon and eggs.).  I retired from active duty in the Navy sixteen years ago. 

“Mmmmmmmmmm…………………bacon…………”

     Shockingly, once I left the service, I realized that I couldn’t sit on my ass for the rest of my life.  Hey, my military retirement isn’t bad; it just wasn’t enough to keep me clothed and fed.  “Clothed” to the relief of others.  And “fed,” which, once again, is a practice I wholeheartedly endorse.

     So, I ventured back into the workforce.  I started as a substitute teacher.  Then, after I scraped spitballs from my back, I became a Teacher’s Assistant.  That was a pretty nice gig, but unfortunately, after two years I suffered a small reduction in available hours (translation: complete reduction).  So, I became a high school custodian (aka “Environmental Services Associate”) and remained so for the six years before my second breakfast retirement.

     So now, I spend most of my time writing hideous little pieces like this (thank you, faithful three readers), writing a hideous set of memoirs (which are sure to sell in the teens.  To blind people), complaining about [insert old man beef here], volunteering as a Meals On Wheels driver, and taking care of my spiritual, medical, and dental well-being.

     I mean, after all, if it hasn’t happened already, I’m sure I’m approaching the expiration of my body’s warranty.  Come to think of it, to whom would I complain about that warranty?  I think I’ve been had.  I knew I shouldn’t have answered that phone call to extend my body’s warranty.

     Let’s put it this way, if life was a game of golf (it’s not), I’d be teeing off on the 17th Hole.  And the 18th Hole is a Par 3.  If you don’t play golf (Scottish for “Shit”), then you probably wouldn’t get that metaphor.  Trust me, though, it’s pretty clever.

     Yes, in an effort to forestall the ravages of Father Time (who’s a real mother), it’s in my best interest to take better care of my body.  So far, so good.  While I may not be able to donate it to Science, I certainly don’t want to donate it to Science Fiction.

     Sadly, though, gone are the days when I thought a well-balanced meal was a double-beef Whopper with cheese and extra mayo, a daily bowl of Raisin Bran was only for my dad, and getting up at dawn was for the Amish.

“Seriously, why TF do we do that?”

     Now, from the precarious vantage point of late middle age (frankly, I’d only be middle-aged if I was going to live until I was 124.  Like Stevie Wonder, though, I can’t see it), one beer makes me sleepy, hot dogs give me gas, and I actually read nutrition labels…with bifocals.

     Plus, doggone it, that Wilfred Brimley really makes sense.

     NOTE:  Much to my writer’s chagrin, Wilfred passed away last summer.  Well, the joke stays.  Comedy must go on!

     Therefore, to achieve my goal of hanging in there as long as Larry King (without that whole mummified look), I keep regular appointments with my doctor and dentist.

     NOTE:  Larry King has also recently passed.  Damn!  That’s what I get for delaying this post.  I should have said Alex Trebe….oh, son of a ….!

     I could go on and on about visits to my doctor (whose face I haven’t seen due to his mask.  For all I all know, he could be an Environmental Services Associate in a lab coat), but I thought I’d start off with something a little less invasive (guys, you know what I mean.  Ladies?  Shut up.  We get it.).

“Just try to relax. This won’t hurt me a bit.”

     Still, visiting the “Rinse and Spit” club is a chore.  I most assuredly do not enjoy latex-clad fingers in my mouth (if you do, I won’t judge).  But, as four out of five dentists will tell you, “It’s your responsibility to take care of yourself as long as possible so you can become a burden to your grandchildren.”

     That said, a visit to the dentist, while beneficial to both my dental health and his ability to take vacations to the Caribbean, is not without its discomforts.

     Take cleaning.  Doesn’t it strike you as odd that metal is used to clean our teeth?  Now, I wouldn’t advocate using gummi bears to shine my enamel, but using a screwdriver to scrape my molars doesn’t seem right, either.

     Once my teeth have been violated, it’s time for a good polishing.  Dipping a Dremel-like device into a cleaner-I swear it’s Comet-the dental tech proceeds to spit-shine (an unfortunate phrase, I know) my pearly whites until they’re, well…pearly white.

     I don’t know about you, but the combination of the little drill’s high-pitched whir with the cleanser’s grit does not a “fun” experience make.  Unless you dig that sort of thing (once again, I will not judge).

     After that, I’m treated to a courtesy flossing by a tech with knuckle hair and gorilla fingers (who, thankfully, is not my doctor.  Amirite, fellas?).  This delightful sojourn into “eww” is only enhanced by a stern scolding while trying to pass clothesline between my ravaged teeth.     

     I swear, the next time I’ll wear a sign around my neck that says, “Yeah, I know.  Floss.”

     The funny thing about this is the insane insistence on maintaining a running conversation.  Just talking to me is okay, I suppose.  Just don’t ask any questions which require an actual response.  At the very least, it makes me look stupid when I grunt an answer.  At worst, I start choking on my own spit when asked my opinion on North Korea or whether Baby Yoda is cuter than Baby Groot.

     Things have gotten better since I first visiting the dentist, though.  Largely gone are the days when we rinsed our mouths in those little sinks found only in dentists’ offices.  Instead, we now have nifty vacuum dealies, which, when placed in our mouths, remove unwanted dental by-products…and prevent us from drowning in the chair. 

     Although, I can’t shake this fear of having my tongue sucked right out of my head. 

     Anything more complicated than cleaning has its own “features”, too.  It’s then when the industrial-strength tools (“New from Ronco, the people who gave you the ‘Do-It-Yourself Colonoscopy’!”-seriously, there really is such a thing) are trotted out.

     We yearn for the tranquility of cleaning as the dentist administers painkiller with a dull No. 2 pencil before it’s time to drill a tooth, fill a cavity with molten metal, or peel away our gums in pursuit of the evildoer “plaque-the germ which causes gingivitis.”

     And, I think you’ll all acknowledge the terror inspired by three little words:  “Impacted Wisdom Teeth.”

     Luckily, I’ve not been blessed with the joy of erupted wisdom teeth.  Due to a genetic quirk in my make-up, those little buggers have remained so far up in my mouth they’ll never make an appearance.  They’re a lot like the Cleveland Browns at the Super Bowl that way.

     On the downside, I’ve had some cavities.  I’ve more metal in my mouth than a refugee from “I, Robot” thanks, in large part, to a childhood filled with the likes of “Sugar Pops”, “Sugar Smacks”, and “Super Sugar Crisp.”

     Granted, cavities and tooth decay have obvious drawbacks.  But, there’s something to be said for all my shiny fillings.  Not only can they tune in my favorite radio stations, they’ve pretty much exhausted the number of places where a cavity can actually take hold.

     Of course, a rigorous program of conscientious dental hygiene probably would’ve done the trick just as well.

     As much as I like to complain (and I do), you can’t beat the care I’ve received.  Not only do I not have to place my teeth in a jar at night, I’m free from the ill effects of gum disease, tooth pain, and discoloration.  To say nothing of halitosis.  I hope.

     So, the next time you dread going to the dentist, remember the alternatives.  By ignoring your teeth, not only will you end up looking like the Royal Family, you may also condemn yourself to eating foods no harder than tapioca and sporting gums which recede to your eyeballs.

“We are not amused. Please note that I’m keeping my mouth closed.”

     Oh, and while you’re at it, remember to floss, willya?

    

    

Happy Presidents Day!

“Okay, he was after my time, but was Buchanan really that bad?”
“You do know I’m called Honest Abe, right?”

WARNING: The following contains some truths, half-truths, and outlandish flights of conjecture.  You are therefore urged to not quote any of the below for scholarly research.  On the other hand, your school is probably closed because of the Chinese Flu.  So, this may be the best you’re gonna get.  Yeah, that kinda blows.

     NOTE:  Yes, Presidents Day isn’t for another five days, but I’ll be out of town that day.  A North Carolina Christmas Shop is having a 50% off sale and I need to get another skeleton for my collection.  What do Christmas and Halloween have to do with each other, you may ask?  Just shut up and read.

     Until fairly recently there was no such thing as “Presidents” Day.  Rather, we celebrated “Lincoln’s Birthday” on February 12th and “Washington’s Birthday” on February 22nd.  What’s more, those days were one shot deals, instead of the three-day extravaganzas we now observe. 

     I remember feeling gypped whenever they fell on the weekend.  So, schoolchildren across the fruited plain were thrilled when the feds decided to ignore history (a pretty common thing nowadays) and insisted that George and Abe were born on Mondays.  Screw ‘em, I guess they figured.  They’re dead anyway.

     Like I said, though, we now have Presidents Day instead of two separate holidays.  Created to make room for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday holiday (no sense giving mailmen too many days off), Presidents Day was meant to commemorate both our 1st and our 16th presidents.  And sales on cars, sheets, and living room furniture.

     So as not to offend either the Washington or Lincoln Fan Clubs (suffice to say, you don’t want to get them together in the same room), Presidents Day was set in the middle of their birthdays.  Or the third Monday in February.  Or whichever made for the better three-day weekend.

     Like Thanksgiving, this makes it pretty easy to plan for, as a quick inspection of a calendar would quickly identify when it was.  This is in stark contrast to Easter, which I know is on a Sunday.  Other than that, I have no idea from year to year when it will happen.  Something to do with the lunar cycle and first day of spring.  During leap year.  When Jupiter aligns with Mars.  And the Pope consults his Magic 8-Ball.  Or something like that.

     You used to be able to count on whenever The Ten Commandments aired on ABC.  No more, unfortunately.  Just as well.  All the preaching in that movie got on my nerves.  Plus, did anyone really buy Edward G. Robinson as an ancient Egyptian? 

Eventually, Presidents Day transformed to a celebration of all the nation’s chief executives, even the sucky ones.  Like Buchanan.

     Don’t know who James Buchanan was?  Well, he was a president.  A sucky one.  Google him, if you like.  But trust me.  He sucked.

“Hater.”

     As the concept of Presidents Day caught on, my family tried to come up with a dignified way to recognize the men who guided our nation’s ship of state.

     I have to admit, it was pretty difficult to get all jazzed up for a holiday sandwiched between the saccharine-sweet chocolate debauchery of Valentines Day and the inebriated bacchanalian debauchery of St. Patrick’s Day.   

     We finally decided on a “Dress as Your Favorite President Day.”  That way, we could most suitably honor who it was we most admired as the leader of our country.  And, even though my powdered wig and breeches got a lot of stares at Sears, I felt it was the patriotic thing to do. 

     This practice worked quite well for a number of years.  That is until my brother, dressed as Bill Clinton, got arrested for loitering around a Nursing School.

     To avoid possible litigation, we then decided to pick a president who was not so well-known.  I mean, how likely would it be that a descendant of Martin Van Buren would call us before Judge Judy for saying their great-great-great-great-grandfather’s head looked like a beachball with feathers?  Not terribly likely.

     It really did, though, when you take a good look at it.  Google him when you’re done with Buchanan.

     To be sure, there are plenty of obscure stiffs from which to choose, guys who could be genuine stumpers in Trivial Pursuit.  In fact, were it not for their bosses catching cold at inauguration, having one heck of a tummy ache, being assassinated, dropping dead from a stroke, or resigning, we probably would never have heard of Tyler, Fillmore, Andrew Johnson, Coolidge, or Ford.

     Bad enough we had Jimmy Carter.

     I remember the year I chose an unknown president who was yuge in the Republican Party.  A man who put the needs of his fellow citizens before his own.  A man whose hard work paid off handsomely.  A man who had the fortune of being Vice-President when James Garfield was assassinated in 1881:  Chester Alan Arthur, 21st President of the United States.

     Known primarily for his facial hair and uncanny ability to remain innocuous, Arthur was the Commander-in-Chief during the Gunfight at the OK Corral when Kurt Russell, starring as Wyatt Earp, defeated the Clanton gang with the help of his brothers, Val Kilmer, and a killer moustache.

     Arthur became president the year Alexander Graham Bell perfected the first metal detector.  This was a step up for the beleaguered Bell, whose previous attempts tried to locate the bullet lodged in Garfield’s (the president, not the cat) body.

     To give you an idea how well that worked out, Chester Arthur and his whiskers became president.

     President Arthur was especially opposed to the Spoils System.  This was even after he was informed by his cabinet that it had nothing to do with milk being left out overnight.

     A champion of Civil Service reform, because he wanted to avoid “another Civil War” at all costs, Arthur is regarded as the “Father of the Civil Service and Union-Mandated Ten Minute Coffee Break.”

     Not content with remaining somnambulant on the domestic front, he furthered his nation’s foreign policy outreach, also known as “talking to fuzzy-cheeked foreigners who smelled like cabbage.”  During his administration, the United States established formal diplomatic relations with Korea (thus discovering Ping Pong), organized the Alaskan territory (it was a mess), and continued the process by which land was stolen from Native-Americans and millions of buffalo were slaughtered by drunks hanging from the windows of passing trains.

     Shockingly, he was denied nomination of his party for the presidential election of 1884.  Evidently, party bigwigs weren’t terribly impressed with neither his record nor his campaign slogan of “Wait Until You Get a Load of Joe Biden.”

     Instead, they gave the nomination to someone whose name escapes me, but, honestly, who cares?  Whoever he was, he was defeated by the Democrat candidate for the presidency.

    Yes, Grover Cleveland became the 22nd President of the United States primarily on the strength of HIS slogan: “I May Be Fat as a House, But I Ain’t No Chester Arthur.”

    Hmm, maybe next year I’ll choose Benjamin Harrison.

“So, on Presidents Day, go out and get yourself a nice set of sheets or a new car. Just make sure you do it peacefully and patriotically so those pains in the ass in Congress get off my case.”

Xerxes and Friends

Historical Xerxes
California Xerxes

Prologue:  When trying to come up with a proper “Dust Bunny” for the two of you who may be reading, I thought I’d trot out another history lesson.  Don’t worry, this will probably be it for a while.  I may have something to say about a visit to the dentist next week.  Or maybe not.  Won’t be a history lesson, though.  You two have suffered enough.  You’re welcome.

     I remember a movie I watched last Easter (okay, so it’s almost Valentines Day…give me a break) when The Ten Commandments got so doggarned preachy.

Even though Lily Munster was in it. Hubba hubba.

     Sure to be a future Easter classic (perhaps not), 300 on TNT is the story of three hundred (that’s where they get the title…duh) Spartans led by King Leonidas and his loincloth against the evil Persians of…uh…Persia.

     You know these crazy cats better as Iranians.  Yeah, for reals.

     For almost two hours, the brave warriors used sword, spear, and pectoral muscles against the very best the enemy could fling at them (which included some funky-as-shit looking elephants).  It’s only after the treachery of some guy who would make Michael Moore look attractive that the Greeks were defeated.

“He was a beast.”

     After I got over my initial sadness that there was no nudity (female) in this “Modified For Television” feature, I grew curious about Leonidas’ opponent, Xerxes.

     Was he the most powerful individual in antiquity?  Did he hold sway over all the world, except for China, the Mafia, South America, the Eskimos, New Jersey, Tony Fauci, the Super Friends, George Soros, Batman, and Betty White?  Was he the raging flamer who showed an inordinate interest in Leonidas’s fighting prowess and loincloth?

“Not that there’s anything wrong with that.”

         Since I’d been disappointed by Hollywood before (I honestly thought a man-and monkeys-could fly), I decided to do some digging.  Figuring a source which gave us Bernie’s mittens, dancing babies, and Tik Tok nurses couldn’t steer me wrong, I consulted the Internet.

     After getting Al Gore’s permission, of course.

     Xerxes the Great was born in 519 BC to Atossa and Darius the Great.  Both of his parents were descended from Achaemenes, but of different Achaemenid lines.  The source documents were pretty clear on that as they wanted to leave no doubt there was no incest hanky-panky going on (this isn’t Game of Thrones, you know).  After all, they weren’t Egyptians.  If those people wanted kids with feet growing out of their foreheads, that was their business.  But, the Persians played it on the up and up.

     Anyway, Darius knew that marrying a daughter of the great Cyrus the Great (but I repeat myself)) would certainly help his plan for kingship.  And grease (homophone for “Greece.”  Ain’t I frikkin’ clever!?) his application to the Nineveh Country Club approved.

     NOTE:  Apparently, the suffix “the Great” was a pretty big honorific in ancient Persia.  Which was why Darius’ brother, Herschel the So-So, was never taken seriously.

     Anyway, Darius was all pissed at off at everyone, from Babylon to that guy who sold him those Kinoki foot pads.  But, he was most hacked off at the Greeks.  Who, besides having grass and a recipe for some kick-ass souvlaki, had some of the sweetest nude beaches in the Mediterranean.  So, he made intense preparations for an invasion of…Egypt.

     Hey, I didn’t write this stuff.

     Before he left the country, Persian law (wasn’t he the boss?) dictated that he name a successor.  I guess this was just in case he got whacked by an errant throw of a petrified papyrus roll.  Or was having too much fun on a Greek beach.

     Before doing so, he contracted with Gambino and Sons building contractors to build him a tomb.  After permits were finally approved once the Zoning Officer found the head of a camel in his bed, construction began at Naqsh-e Rostam (yeah, I’m not going to look it up, either).  Freed from the stress of planning his final resting spot and picking out window treatments, Darius then named his son, Xerxes, as his successor.

     He chose the little freak mostly on the strength of he being the son of the daughter of Cyrus the Great.  And because he threw paper when his older brother, Artobazan, threw rock. 

     Then, having finished construction of his tomb, Darius made ready to invade Egypt.  As if the revolting Egyptians (go ahead, feel free, make a joke here) weren’t bad enough, he was totally hacked off because their pyramids were much bigger than his ziggurats.  Apparently size mattered, even in the ancient world.

     But, wouldn’t you know it, Darius died before the Susa AAA Office could finalize his Trip-Tiks and his reservation for a non-smoking room at the Saqqara Days Inn could be confirmed.

     Good thing he had that tomb built, huh?

     Almost immediately (by “almost immediately,” I mean “a year”), Xerxes the Great (“the Great” being passed down to him in the will) put down the revolts in Egypt.  And, for good measure, he decided to jump ugly with the Babylonians.  If only because he didn’t really trust the Husseins of Tikrit.

     In 484 B.C. (i.e., “Before Cable.”  Okay, not really.  Look it up yourselves), he outraged the Babylonians when he violently confiscated and melted down (yep, I think the word “violent” just about does it) the statue of “Marduk” (luckily the statue of “Marmaduke” was spared).  Either that or he farted on it.  The Greek historian, Herodotus, is unclear on this matter.  He may have been drunk.

     Outraged by this sacrilege, the people revolted again in 484 B.C. and again in 482 B.C., when they remembered they were still pissed off.

     Because of this, Xerxes rejected his father’s title, King of Babylon.  Instead, he named himself “King of Persia,” “Great King,” “King of Kings,” “Sky King,” “King Creole,” “King Kong,” “Don King,” “Chicken a la King,” and “King of Nations.”

     The little dude was full of himself, huh?

     Meanwhile, as if there wasn’t enough on his plate, Xerxes took on the task started by his father:  punishing the Greeks for their interference with the Ionian Revolt (I don’t feel like looking it up), the burning of Sardis, their victory at Marathon (yep, that’s where the long ass race came from.  Only without Kenyans), and for effing up his order of baklava take-out.  Well, that and putting in a spare bedroom at the palace.

     From 483 B.C. onward, Xerxes prepared his expedition.  A channel was dug through the isthmus (NOTE: fancy word for “small strip of land between two bodies of water.”  Rhymes with “Christmas.”) of the peninsula of Mt. Athos, provisions (including granola, paraffin-coated matches, and sewing kits) were stored in the stations on the road through Thrace, and two pontoon bridges (known as “Xerxes Pontoon Bridges,” totally pissing off their designer, Leonard the Meek) were built across the Hellespont (which I sincerely hope was water).

     Soldiers of many nationalities made up the Persian army: Assyrians (getting their “freak” on), Phoenicians (who brought the alphabet and potato salad), Babylonians (who finally forgave Xerxes for that farting thing), Egyptians (who were so bored they started mummifying cats), and Jews (legal counsel to the King of Kings in all matters pertaining to invasion).

     Setting out from Persepolis (after having to turn back because the damn Assyrians left the water running), Xerxes decided it would be quicker to go by way of the Hellespont.  But, only if there was a nice clean gas station along the way, the Phoenicians complained.

     Resisting the urge to fire back, “Yeah, as if YOU people ever wash your hands,” the King of Nations grudgingly agreed.

After all, they did bring the potato salad.

     The journey was an arduous affair, made even more so when they had to detour around construction of the “Death to America” monument and the fact that nobody remembered to bring the horses.

     Finally reaching the Hellespont, the strait of water which separated Asia from Europe (and crazy people from other crazy people), nobody remembered where they parked the pontoon bridges left the previous year.  Unfortunately, by the time they found them, a fierce storm (taking Chief Meteorologist Chip “Hurricane” Achaemenes completely by surprise) destroyed the only way to Thrace (NOTE:  this is in Greece.  I looked it up).

     In a fit of rage, Xerxes ordered the Hellespont whipped 300 times and had fetters thrown in the water.  Despite Ahmed Fetters swearing he had nothing to do with the storm.

     Finally, after getting help from the Trojan AAA office, new bridges were built and the army invaded Greece.  Threatening local people with the loss of their lands, rape of their women, and vicious titty-twisters (or Indian Burns.  Source documents are unclear), Xerxes picked up allies along the way.  Thessaly, Thebes, Argos, and France (who figured, “you never could be too sure”) took up the Persian banner as Xerxes moved to face his greatest foes, Athens and Sparta.

     Taking up winter quarters in Sardis, because there was no sense visiting nude beaches in the winter, Xerxes set out in the spring of 480 BC.  His fleet and army had been estimated by Herodotus (noted drunk) to number 1,000,000, along with 10,000 elite warriors known as the Immortals (the Avengers having bowed out because the Hulk couldn’t find a suit of armor which fit).

     First concentrating on Sparta (since Athens was still in the shower), the Persian army clashed with those 300 warriors led by King Leonidas (thought I had forgotten, huh?).  Even though initially rebuffed by fierce Spartan resistance and an inability to understand why the Spartan king had a Scottish accent, the 300 were slaughtered after a traitor showed the Persians the rear entrance (Greeks being very familiar with rear entrances).

The Spartans fell despite their secret weapons of rock-hard abs.

     After Sparta, Athens was captured.  Some historians claim Xerxes ordered the cradle of democracy burned while Persian scholars claimed he did nothing of the sort.  Who would be crazy enough to destroy a major center of trade and commerce?

     Oh, I don’t know.  Anyone who’d whip water a couple hundred times?

     Xerxes then decided to attack the Greek fleet at Salamis in September, 480 BC.  This proved to be a disaster because, despite outnumbering their foe, the Persian warships were no match for the maneuverable little Greek vessels.  Plus, they should have known better to attack right after lunch, when all they wanted to do was take a nap.

     Using the excuse of unrest in Babylon (who really never got over the fact that he farted on their god), Xerxes sent most of his army home.  He left a token force behind in Greece under command of Mardonius, but they were overrun by a Greek Amish family and herd of sheep at Plataea the following year.  After a few Persian ships anchored at Mycale were destroyed, the Greek city-states once more felt the breath of freedom.

     To continue to kill each other.

     In 465 BC, Xerxes was murdered by Artabanus, commander of the royal bodyguard (how frikkin’ ironic is that?). 

     What transpired next has led to confusion among historians (hey, cut them some slack.  It was almost 1,500 years ago and Al Gore hadn’t invented the internet yet).  Let’s see…Artabnaus accused Crown Prince Darius of the murder and persuaded his brother, Artaxerxes (NOTE:  Persian for “sucky name”) to kill him.

     However, according to Aristotle, noted Greek philosopher, mentor to Alexander the Great, and owner of a chain of diners in the Peloponnesus, Artabanus killed Darius first before killing Xerxes with the help of a eunuch, who undoubtedly was cranky because he didn’t have coffee.  Or balls.  Then, once Ataxerxes found out who the real culprit was, he whacked Artabanus.

     Seriously, though, who really cares?  They’re all dead now, anyway.

     Xerxes-one of the great leaders of the ancient world, source of pride for the Persian people (who really haven’t had all that much to brag about since), and reason why the letter ‘X’ is pronounced like the letter ‘Z.’

     There’s much more to his story, to be sure.  For instance, I omitted the details of his public works initiatives, construction projects, religious beliefs, and his tempestuous 72 day marriage to Artossa Kardashian.  Yes, the King of Kings was much more than a megalomaniac bent on assimilation of all the peoples of the known world. 

     He also liked body piercings and balloon animals.

     But, like what Rosie O’Donnell looks like naked, I’ll just leave that to your imagination.

     You may want to have that imagination steam-cleaned though.

Don’t Know Much About History

This is the Kublai Khan from the TV show. He’s much scarier looking than pictures of the real Kublai, despite the fact his barber got a little carried away.

    To celebrate my release from Facebook Jail (screw them anyway), I thought I’d favor you with my version of a bit of the history of the world.  Relying solely on what I remember from high school, I’ll just blast away at whatever topic I choose.  No encyclopedias, Google, libraries, or bathroom walls (“Here I sit, broken-hearted, the Romans shit while the Greeks just farted”) for me.  Meaning, this will probably be an indictment of the educational system of Stratford, Connecticut. 

      While I can’t promise that everything I write will be the complete truth, it’s at least my understanding.  Indeed, it may compel you to actually do a little research on your own.  Yeah, right, like that’s gonna happen.  After all, The Masked Singer’s on.

      WARNING:  If you use any of what I write to prepare for a History AP Exam, you are truly an idiot. You didn’t go to school in Stratford, did you?

      Anyway, when I’m not doing anything constructive as I while away retirement (i.e., this is most of the time), I read a lot and watch a lot of TV (i.e., I don’t really read a lot).  For my viewing pleasures, I prefer reruns of The Twilight Zone and whatever historical dramas which happen to be on things such as Netflix.

      Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know…Obamas own quite a bit of a service which is in thrall to Progressive ideals.  But, I’m not paying for it.  I’m using my daughter’s subscription so eventually, when I won’t be able to anymore (i.e., she catches on), I’ll assert my conservative ideals and…probably pay for it myself.

      Don’t judge me.

      I started off bingeing on The Tudors or, as I prefer to call it, The Power of Boners.  It was actually a pretty good tale of King Henry VIII and all his excuses to boink six women.  My only big kick about it was that he was never portrayed as the bloated, Jabba the Hutt lookalike that Harry eventually became.  Meh.  It was entertaining, nonetheless.
     

Then, I started watching The Borgias, the story of that horndog, Pope Alexander VI and his equally debauched kids.  A Power of Boners Lite, it was also pretty goodWith a fair selection of beautiful girlies and never a scene where we had to endure a naked Jeremy Irons.

      Now, I’m watching Marco Polo.  It’s a very interesting look at a Venetian (from Venice.  In Italy.  You’re welcome) merchant as he gingerly dodges the hazards of the court of Kublai Khan.    

      Kublai Khan was the founder of the Mongol Dynasty (or was it Genghis?  Well, at any rate, it sure AF wasn’t Marco Polo).  You know, those kooky Dothraki-like dudes who rode in from East Jesus to terrorize hapless peasants.  So, instead of arranging chicken bones into the image of a saint or dying from the Black Plague, the serfs of Pre-Renaissance (French for “lavatorial facilities”) Europe ran screaming through the mud like Justin Beiber groupies (if he lived in the Middle Ages) just to keep their heads on their shoulders.

      Kublai (not to be confused with “Kublai, Fran, and Ollie,” a popular Chinese children’s puppet troupe) grew up in East Asia sometime in the late 13th century, or what historians call “A Long Effin’ Time Ago.”  I’m thinking his birthplace was in Mongolia, but what do I know, he was only leader of the Mongols.

      Grandson of the great Genghis Khan (of the Lake Baikal Khans), young Kublai had historic shoes to fill (literally. Genghis’ yak footwear was passed down from generation to generation).  At first, Kublai sought the life of a businessman when he opened a chain of restaurants on the Asian steppes.  Unfortunately, the huge popularity of “General Tso’s Chicken” eclipsed his own “Kublai’s Kippers” and he was forced into a life of conquest. 

      Smarting from his culinary comeuppance, Kublai swore revenge on his Chinese rivals.  Making an end-around the Great Wall of China (via the Not-So-Great Picket Fence of China), he established his headquarters in what is now known as Beijing (although the Mongols probably called it something Mongolian.  I forget.  If I ever knew.  I probably didn’t).

      From the relative luxury of his capital (NOTE: Still without indoor toilets), he oversaw his vast kingdom which stretched from the eastern coast of Asia through Europe and into the smarty-pants Islamic world.  His only major setback was his invasion of Japan.  The crafty Japanese used their secret weapons of dinosaurs and sex robots to thwart the horseback invaders, who, incredibly, failed to realize their horses couldn’t swim in the Sea of Japan.

      Insert inevitable “Water Polo” joke here.

      Later in his reign, the great Khan was visited by Marco Polo, inventor of the swimming pool game.  The Italian merchant was awed by the beauty of the great khanate, the jeweled riches he beheld, and the exotic spices sure to spice up whatever dead thing was found floating in a Venetian canal.  He was especially intrigued by Chinese handcuffs.  In fact, Marco used one of these devilish restraints to help his father, Water, break his nose-picking habit.

      NOTE:  See what I did there?

      Likewise, Kublai was fascinated by these pungent visitors from lands he had just raped and pillaged.  Still, he was amazed that they had the audacity to show up without calling first.  Or having the decency to bring even a bundt cake.

      In an effort to get to know people he would eventually behead, he urged Marco to send back as many learned men and clerics he could find so that he may learn more of the European people and of the religion which flayed the skin off non-believers who did not follow the science that the Sun revolved around the Earth.

      Flaying, though?  This was right up Kublai’s alley.  That, and shoving wooden sticks up people’s asses.  And I don’t mean donkeys.

      With a smile on his face (and dozens of fortune cookies on the back of his camel), Marco returned home to Venice where he was soon arrested for doing…something (once more, memory fails).  But, while in jail, when not fending off prison rape, he wrote a book about his visit, “How I Did It.” (which, coincidentally, was used by OJ more than 700 years later).

      Marco’s Jailhouse Journal was the catalyst for the insatiable European desire for more of what China and India offered.  It spurred Portuguese exploration around the southern tip of Africa so they could avoid having to deal with those showoffs in Genoa and Venice.  It even inspired Christopher Columbus in his voyages of exploration.  However, he read Polo’s book backward and, so, went in a completely different direction (this will be the subject of a later post, “What The Frig You Mean This Isn’t China?”). 

      Sadly, Kublai Khan died of a cold he caught while waiting for the priests Marco Polo had promised.  Apparently, he failed to put on a coat and didn’t have the sense to wear his slippers.  (NOTE: I’m more than likely wrong here).  He also didn’t realize that Italy wasn’t just around the corner because he lacked Map Quest.

      So, what legacy did he leave the world?  Well, his masterful guidance of the Mongol horde brought death and destruction to much of the known world and played a great part in the persistence of feudalism in Russia.  Wait, that’s not it.

      No, I got it.

      His leadership of ferocious invaders whose torching of Europe through over one hundred years lead to a favorite among diners throughout much of the world:

      Mongolian Barbecue.

  Okay, my head hurts now.

      Think I’ll watch a little TV.          

Ghosties and Ghoulies and Things Which Go Bump In the Night

FULL DISCLOSURE:  I was raised a Catholic and, as some of you know, was even an altar boy for four years.  Anyway, the following may offend the deeply religious.  And piss off people from Bridgeport, Connecticut who, let’s be honest, have enough problems.  In any case, if that describes you, you may wish to move along. Because I’m a sensitive soul who’s concerned about your feelings.  Anyone buy that?

  My daughter loves to watch “Ghost Adventures.”

  For those who have lives, “Ghost Adventures” is a program on the Travel Channel (Travel Channel??) that purports to show what the “living-challenged” are like.

  Oh, sure, some of you may smugly think you know everything there is to know about ghosts.  You’ve seen Casper cartoons, watched Bill Murray in “Ghostbusters,” and thought Patrick Swayze was the hottest spook you have ever seen.

  Poor Taste Department:  Of course, as we all know, Patrick Swayze has since become a ghost.

  Anyway, “Ghost Adventures” follows the…uh…adventures of Zak (he of the big biceps) and his two sidekicks as they crawl around supposedly haunted places in the middle of the night (never in broad daylight.  I think that’s a law or something).  Using state of the art equipment, two cheesy goatees, and panicked gasps of “Dude!” from Aaron, they try to convince us that mouse farts are, in reality, calls from beyond the grave.

  Hey, who’s to say that “PFFFFFTTTTTTBLURRRPPPPP!!!!!” isn’t

“Get out, before I pants you!”?

  Sometimes I watch the show with her just to make fun of it and poke her in the side while screaming, “Boo!”  Our favorite episode was when the boys visited the abandoned Remington Arms factory in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

  For those of you unfortunate enough to be traveling through Bridgeport (hopefully at warp speed, with the doors locked), you can see the factory just before you disappear in a pothole on I-95. 

  The reason I liked that particular show was that, since my personality was forged in that cauldron of urban decay, I recognized the area.  Which is why I moved very far away from it.  And have zero intention of ever going back.

  I had to laugh at Zak and company.  Even though they tried to impress upon us that their immortal souls were in danger, they were actually safer locked inside.  I’m not saying Bridgeport is dangerous, but even the birds carry guns.

  The more I thought about the idea of ghosts, the more I thought about what people do to get rid of them, especially if they’re stupid enough to build a house over an Indian (the Native American, not the Microsoft Call Center kind) graveyard (Never Amish).

  For instance, are Catholics the only ones allowed to be exorcists?

  What happens if a priest wasn’t available and you had to call in, say, a Methodist?

  OK, raise your hands.  How many think a demon would be intimidated by a Methodist?  That’s right, any self-respecting spawn of Satan would just yawn and put up drapes.

  I gotta think those plagued by poltergeists would have to call in a priest (sort of like a theological Batman), no matter whether they belonged to the true faith (see, Sister Mary Caligula?  I remember my teachings) or not.  Who’d then sprinkle some holy water on the sofa, say a few “Be gone from this holy place, foul demon!” incantations, and pass out some Bingo cards.  Voila!  No more demon!

  It couldn’t be that simple, though.  Certainly, there’d have to be Jewish ghosts.  Would a Catholic work then?  A crucifix would have no effect on a Yiddish evil spirit, I’m sure.  Maybe a Star of David?

  I would think for a Jewish ghost, you’d need a rabbi.  Imagine that….

  “So, Mr. Fancy-pants, you think you’re so special you can come in here and terrorize these nice people?  So, stop with the scary big shot act already, get your coat, and scram, ya schmuck, ya. And don’t forget to wipe your feet.”

  Plus, what about Muslim ghosts?  How would you even know your ghost was a Muslim?  Would you have a shoe thrown at you in the middle of the night?  Would you wake up without a head?

  How ‘bout Mormon ghosts?  I wouldn’t think that’d be so bad.  They’d probably only possess your bicycles. Still, they’d probably show up in pairs, disguised as Donny and Marie Osmond.

  Finally, how would you get rid of an atheist ghost?  Surely there’d have to be some.  Maybe all you’d need to say is, “You don’t believe in me?  Well, I don’t believe in you.  Swear to God.  Cake?”  Problem solved.

  Just to be on the safe side, better keep the Vatican on speed dial, though.  

Target-It’s More Than Stuff Made in China

    Well, not a lot more.  But, more.

    I love going to Target, even though they’ve prostrated themselves to the Social Justice gods and allow all manner of freaks to use whichever bathroom they choose.  Plus, that dog with the red bullseye kinda creeps me out.  Not as much as that pedophilic Burger King, but still… 

    Sort of like an upscale Walmart (which itself is a “Discount Target”), it offers a vast array of quality products at bargain prices.   Unlike Walmart, though, it’s remarkably mullet-free and you don’t have near the same chance of blundering into a stray cloud of some indeterminate gas.  Plus, most customers actually have a full set of teeth.  And pants.

NOTE: One of the benefits of this mask hysteria is that, at both Walmart and Target, the ugly people now have their faces covered by face diapers. To me, not a completely bad thing. Remember that the next time you see that hot girl in the banana section. She may be buck-toothed.

    Whether the latest in books, video equipment, sporting goods, Gorilla Glue, or household appliances, Target has most of what I need.  It’s my number one destination when I can’t afford to go anywhere remotely interesting.  What’s more, four weeks before Valentines Day, they’re already selling Easter cards. 

    Plus, as I discovered this week after wandering past the frozen foods section in search of fat-free Tostinos with extra cheese (HINT:  there aren’t any), I noticed they also offer a generous assortment of toilet paper.

    NOTE:  I originally wrote in “huge,” but went with “generous.”  Mostly because of the whackos who cleaned the shelves out last year at the beginning of the Chinese Flu.  At any rate, the selection is still bigger than you’d find in Europe, South America, or San Francisco.

    Wedged between a disturbingly diverse selection of adult diapers (Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton must be customers) and a paper plate display large enough for a typical Mormon family, Target’s wall of bathroom tissue (a euphemism if there ever was one) was most impressive.

    It contained more paper than the Library of Congress.  If the books in the Library of Congress were written on little sheets of paper which dissolved in water.

    Speaking off…I usually take perverse pleasure in moving any book by the Obamas, Hillary, or Idiot Joe to the bathroom tissue aisle.  But, I digress…

    In addition, there was a dizzying variety from several manufacturers.  This puzzled me.  After all, I would think the basic design wouldn’t change all that much from paper to paper.  Then again, I never received a business degree.

    One of our most basic needs, toilet paper has been around for centuries.  Or at least since I was born.  Frankly, I couldn’t care less what people used before 1958.  Or before I was potty-trained, if we’re being honest.

    They could have used slow moving midgets, for all I cared.

    Still, imagine what life was like before its invention:

    “Zook, me need drop big load.  Bring bush over here.  And give something read.  Like painting on rock.”  

    NOTE:  For Entertainment Use only.  Cavemen clearly did not speak English.

    Even when folks came out of their mud huts to build the pyramids (my history may be sketchy on this point), all they had to use when they wanted to take care of “business” was the available leaf, corn cob, or serf.  Not a lot of fun.  Especially for the serf.

    It was only when the last page of the last Sears catalog was used did it occur to someone not named Edison to take the same material we used to blow our nose a little further south. 

    I know what you’re thinking, but it’s not opposable thumbs, Twitter, or televisions above urinals which sets us apart from the beasts of nature. Or Antifa.

    It’s potty paper.

    Incidentally, I know what bears do in the woods.  I don’t care how cute and cuddly they are, they most certainly do not use anything on a roll when they do it.

    HINT:  They shit.  You’re welcome.

    So why do we hawk toilet tissue using spectacle-wearing bears walking around with bits of paper clinging to their shaggy behinds?  Babies I can buy despite the fact all they’ll do is eat the paper.  But, c’mon, a bear would prefer to use a slow camper than two-ply unscented.

    While we’re at it, I also saw pictures of puppies adorning a few of the packages.  Now, I’ve owned several dogs throughout my life.  Not once did I hear them complain that nobody changed the roll or “who took the newspaper!?”

    As I further pondered Target’s collection, I noticed a confusing assortment from which to choose.  Specifically, Charmin’ offers “Ultra-Soft” and “Ultra-Strong.”

    You tell me, which would you prefer?  “Ultra-Soft” so you don’t scrape hard enough to expose colon?  Or “Ultra-Strong” so you don’t run the risk of giving yourself a prostate exam?  I don’t know about you, but I would think Charmin’ could easily combine the two.  As long as it’s perfumed.

     Which is something that corn cobs, midgets, or those fancy-pants serfs with their Bubonic Plague never were.

Epilogue:  In case you were wondering, our toilet paper is American made.  No sense of running the risk of rubbing some COVID up our bums.  Plus, apparently, there’s still some national pride left.

USA!  USA!  USA!   

Better You Should Clip Your Nails

                I saw Wonder Woman 1984 the day after Christmas.  While I certainly would not have been afraid of going to an actual movie theater to see it, I actually watched it on HBOMax on someone else’s dime.

                Boy howdy, am I glad I did so.  No, I’m not glad I viewed it.  No, I’m glad because I didn’t waste  any money on a ticket (along with the obligatory popcorn and soda).  I didn’t have any turkey for Christmas this year.  Or so I thought.

                Let’s put it this way, Wonder Woman 1984 makes Green Lantern look like Gone With the Wind.

                And that’s saying a lot.

                Where do I begin?  While the following are my impressions on this “film,” I’ve read similar complaints.  So, either a whole bunch of us are crankypants lunatics or there’s something to our crankiness.

                The beginning starts off with an Olympic-style (Olympics because…oh figure it out yourselves) competition between a group of Amazons.  And a ten-year-old Diana Prince.  Why was she the only child?  I don’t know.  Maybe because she’s a superhero?  Or the daughter of the HAIC (Head Amazon In Charge)?  Or maybe because…oh, shut up, you misogynist hater.

                This overly long “oh-my-God kill me contest” starts with the ladies (yes, I didn’t fail to notice the tight costumes.  Sue me.  Except on the ten-year-old.  Ewww.) jumping off telephone poles then proceeds to jumping in the water, swimming to shore, leaping on horses, shooting arrows through hula hoops, and dashing about like an estrogen Chinese fire drill.

                Just when some people thought Diana would win, it turns out that she cheated (she should work for Joe Biden).  So, the lesson here is…uh…you have to earn what you get.  Nothing is just given to you.  I think it has something to do that getting your wish without working can turn out horribly.  I think.

                Fairly pointless lead in, if you ask me.  The thing is?  It was the best part of the movie. 
                Anyway, we next jump to 1984.  Why?  Well, believe me, this “film” needs a gimmick.  Too bad that, apart from very few instances, the 80s really don’t much factor into this besides workout clothes, fanny packs, and desktops.  Waste of a decade, if you ask me.     That honor more properly belongs to the 70s, to be honest.

                Wonder Woman busts up a jewelry store robbery in plain sight of dozens of people (hmm…but I thought she told Bruce Wayne/Batman in Batman v Superman that she just laid low after WWI…really coulda used her against Hitler.  That bitch).

                Well, one of the items recaptured in the robbery is a crystal thing (called a “Dildo Stone” in the Critical Drinker’s review of the movie.  Look it up on You Tube.  Pretty damn funny).  It grants wishes to whoever…uh…wishes something.  One of Diana’s coworkers , Barbara, wishes she could be more like Diana.  More on that later.

                We learn later (mucccccchhhhhhh later) that it was created by a “Trickster god.”  One would naturally think Loki, but we can’t mention Loki because Loki is a Marvel property (fuck Norse mythology).  DON’T MIX UP YOUR EXTENDED UNIVERSES!!!  Nerd.

                Because she has an itch which needs scratching, Diana wishes that she could see Steve Trevor again, the man she loved who blew himself to bits in Wonder Woman (a much better movie, one that I enjoyed).  And who bombed in Star Trek:  Beyond (but that’s another story).

                Well, before you can say “What the f…”, Steve pops up in the body of some schmuck who apparently was in the wrong place at the wrong time.  The simian-like writers could have had Steve magically appear without resorting to a body-snatcher like plot device.  Why not?  Suspension of belief and common sense had long since left the room by that time.  But, hey, who cares if we just take over the body of a man without his consent?  Especially since he’s a man.

                Enter the villain, Max Lord.  Some people said he was modeled on Donald Trump, but I didn’t see it.  If nothing else, the fact that he evolves into a more sympathetic character at the end convinces me that no way the director/aforementioned simians would have done that.  Unless they were idiots.  Oh.  Wait.

                Max wishes for business success and all the power available to him.  Only he begins to exhibit physical failings (one of the drawbacks to getting your wish is that you lose something of yourself.  Whatever).

                Speaking of losing something, Diana realizes she’s losing her powers now that she gets to boink Steve Trevor while in the body of another man.  Without his permission (NOTE:  okay, time to be a pig, but not for nothin’ I gotta think the possessed dude would’ve been okay with bedding Gal Gadot.  Just saying.).

                This means that WW realizes she must renounce her boytoy in order to confront Max and Cheetah (back to Barbara, who all of a sudden becomes this super-sexy badass who will eventually assume a ludicrous CGI cheetah look.  Uhhhhh…..).

                Before that…Diana and Steve decide to steal a fully-fueled and otherwise ready to go jet aircraft from the Smithsonian Institution so they can catch Max in Egypt.  They do so because Steve flew biplanes in World War I.  Naturally, he can handle a supersonic fighter.

                My son asked me if that could actually happen.  I told him no.  No, it couldn’t.

                As they are being targeted for capture, Diana all of a sudden remembers that she has this power to make things invisible.  Voila!  Invisible jet.  Yes, I know an invisible jet was in the comics, but WTF?

                After the invisible jet is cleared to land in Cairo (at the very least, a flight plan wasn’t filed), Diana and Steve miraculously find Max on a road and yay ACTION!  Ludicrous action, but action.  Which bored me.  So maybe not so “yay.”

                Well, Max gets away so Diana uses a pay phone on an Egyptian street to call the United States!  Not for the first time, I throw the bullshit flag.  I was overseas…in Egypt among other places…and NO WAY could this have happened.

                Following the phone call with some Mayan type of researcher back in DC, off they wing it back home.
                NOTE:  Apparently, the apes who wrote this thing subscribe to the same “Time/Space/Distance” theory that their fellow chimpanzees adhered to in Game of Thrones, Season 8.  By the way, if you haven’t seen GOT, Season 8, good for you.    

                 Blah, blah, blah, ridiculous fight scene in the White House where things happen that no way could have happened even if the President was a doddering old numbskull (this really could have taken place in 2021).  Barbara, now Cheetah (I think) kicks the crap out of Wonder Woman (because naturally) and Max steals a helicopter to go to some secret Army/Air Force (who cares?) base so he could speak to the entire world (because that’s a thing).  Cheetah (of course) hitches a ride and off they go.

                Immediately following this dustup, Wonder Woman wishes Steve away and off he goes leaving the body he had inhabited the past few days wondering, “How the fuck did I get here?  Whew!  I knew I should’ve stopped drinking when I…and why is my penis sore?”

                With Steve gone, Wonder Woman’s powers come flooding back (proving you don’t need men, ladies) and she takes off via latching onto clouds, an airliner (I think), and lightning bolts with her lasso (didn’t know that was possible).  Then, just when you thought you had seen everything, she starts flying (yeah, woulda come in mighty handy in Justice League).

                She grabs a suit of armor that she had just laying around her apartment (it was probably an 80s thing) and off she goes to find Max (how she knew exactly where he was is never explained).  When she arrives at the base (no invisible jet, she just flew I suppose), she fights the now CGI buff Cheetah in the most idiotic looking fight sequence I’ve seen since…well…ever.

                Luckily for the fans of WW, she defeats Cheetah when a power line conveniently  drops into the water in which they’re fighting.  Cheetah is electrocuted, but doesn’t die (because I guess that’s a thing, too) and Diana remains unscathed (hooray, plot armor!).

                Wonder Woman barges into the studio where Max is speaking to the entire world.  In English.  To the entire world.  Alrighty then.  She tries to overcome this madman, but is rebuffed by…wind (might I remind the reader that this is the same woman who took a head butt…from Superman).

                Oh no, if she can’t do this, the world will end (much like the Georgia Senate races)!

                Eventually, though, through the power of persuasion (and boobs probably) she convinces the world to renounce all their wishes (NOTE:  I gotta tell you, if I had a million dollars drop in my lap, I’d have to give that a hard no, apocalypse notwithstanding).

                Voila!  Max becomes becomes good, Barbara becomes good, the world didn’t end, and Steve Trevor stayed dead.  Probably a mixed bag, I’d guess.

                Basically, this movie is pretty much a retelling of the classic story, Monkey’s Paw.  Except this one was written by actual monkeys.

                On the whole, I’d rather clip my toenails than put myself through this thing again.  There were bright spots, true.  Even though kind of wasted, Chris Pine and Pedro Pascal put in pretty decent performances (by the way, Pedro Pascal played a character in Game of Thrones, even though his character was kinda wasted there, too.  Coincidence?

                And the ending credits scene was pretty cool in a Marvel kind of way.

                Special effects?  Even when they were CGI, the special effects looked like they belonged in 1984.  On Saturday morning cartoons. 

                The editing process made no sense and had the viewers jump from here to there, with no explanation or lead-up given.

                Plus, does anyone buy Kristen Wiig as a sexpot?  Hahahaha.  Sure, she’s no “Throw Momma From the Train” woman or Hillary Clinton, but as an evil yin to Gal Gadot’s yang?  I repeat…hahahahaha.

                Overall, I’d rate Wonder Woman 1984 as a pile of hot garbage.  I’d rate it as just ‘garbage,’ but the leading role was played by Gal Gadot.

                And that woman is hot! 

The Worst of Times, the Best of Times

                Christmas is a time for reflection.  When we were kids, we fretted over whether we were nice or naughty.  Being nice was vitally important, don’tcha know.  How else would we maximize the chances of getting that brand new Hot Wheels Sizzler set?

                Of course (and, sadly, to be honest) we aren’t children anymore.  We no longer wonder how a fat old man could squeeze his fat old butt down the chimney (or just magically appear in our chimney-less living rooms.  Hey, we were kids, man.  We didn’t question the magic).  Instead, we now ponder the year past and what it all meant.

                Well, I’m here to tell you, what it all means is that 2020 sucked. 

                With the possible exception of George Soros and the Democrat Party (there’s a difference?), I seriously doubt there would be much disagreement on that point.  Businesses have been destroyed, lives have been irreparably disrupted, and, infinitely more important, hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens have paid the ultimate price due to a pandemic which, despite the naysayers out there, traces its origins to China.

                NOTE:  It’s not my intention here to debate whether 300,000 people died OF COVID-19 or WITH COVID-19.  That’s a topic for another day.

                With that in mind, I threw myself a pity party.  I bemoaned the possibility that 2020 would be the worst Christmas ever in my life.  But, the more I thought about it, the more I came to the realization that this is just not so.  There were plenty of Christmases which were much worse.
  

              So, if you’ll indulge me…


8.  1983-Even though I was able to spend the holiday with my brothers, sister, and stepfather, this would be the first Christmas we would spend together without our mother.  She had passed away the previous June and, even though we put on a facade of cheer (augmented by alcohol), there was no escaping the sadness in the room.

7.  1988-After a break of twelve years, I found myself in Keflavik, Iceland, while on deployment with a Navy squadron.  However, even though I didn’t spend the holidays with family, I did spend them with friends.  On the downside, a blizzard, resulting in “white-out” conditions, meant I could not eat a Christmas meal at the galley.  So, I opened a can of tuna fish in my underwater which I ate with crackers while watching reruns of “Dynasty.”

6.  1977-What would prove to be my second Christmas away from home in a row, I was inport with USS America in Palma, Spain.  I was able to go ashore, true, but I would have much preferred to be back in New England.  As an added bonus, I came down with food poisoning from the shrimp cocktail served during the ship’s “Holiday Feast.”

5.  1976-At only eighteen years old, this was the first time I was ever away from home at Christmas.  As such, I was awash in a miserable “woe is me” state of mind, longing for my family and new girlfriend.  On the bright side, I didn’t get food poisoning.  On the other hand, my girlfriend dumped me in a couple years.  So, there’s that.

4. 1997-This Christmas could have made my “Best Of” list.  Even though I was on a Mediterranean cruise with USS George Washington, we were due for a port visit in Marseilles, France.  Once docked, several of us would shoot up to Paris to meet our families.  Unfortunately, because Saddam Hussein decided to be Saddam Hussein, we were ordered to the Persian Gulf, where we spent the next several months.  I would end up being at sea on Christmas and, since I worked all night on Christmas Eve, slept away December 25th.

3.  1996-Even though I was still part of a ship’s crew, I had the day off.  This meant I was able to watch my young children open their presents from “Santa” (I was actually the jolly fat man).  Mid-morning, I took a phone call from my brother who told me that our stepfather had succumbed to cancer.  My wife and I would be in Connecticut the next day.

2.  1982-My mother is diagnosed with lung cancer.  If you’re curious how this turned out, refer to #8.


1.  2017-Without question, the very worst Christmas of all time, my father-in-law passed away on Christmas Eve.  Even though I was in the midst of a divorce and had lived apart from my wife for over a year by that point, my heart broke when she called me that morning.  Without hesitation, I rushed to her house to give what comfort I could to her and our daughter.  A tragic epilogue?  His funeral was on New Year’s Eve.

                So, this means that, if nothing else, 2020 would come in as the ninth worst Christmas of my life.  And, frankly, if I thought about it, it would probably drop much farther.  Such is the “advantage” of having lived through sixty-two Christmases, I suppose.

                Because, when you come right down to it, things aren’t nearly as bad as I may be tempted to think.  I have my health and, much more importantly, so does my family.  From what I can tell, we’re fairly happy with our lots in life.  True, this year may not have as “Christmasy” a feel as in years past, but the love we share for each other has never wavered and gives no indication that it ever will.

                I’ll be spending the day with my daughter and her husband.  I will see my son and his fiancee this weekend.  The coming year gives a bright promise that we’ll emerge from the national funk in which we find ourselves.  Indeed, things could be much, much worse.

                Now I know what you’re thinking.  Surely, you have fond memories of many Christmases, don’t you?  Of course I do.  Far more than what I’ve listed here.

                Obviously, the years I spent as a child with my brothers and sister stand out as some of the happiest times of my life.  We believed in magic and, when the magic faded away, we basked in our love for each other.

                Although, if pressed, I can immediately list the top twenty-seven Christmases without hesitation.  Since my eldest son is twenty-eight and his sister two years younger, I’m sure you can detect the common thread (in fact, were it not for #4, the number would be 28).

                Still, my very best Christmas?  That’s actually simple:

                in 1994, In the early morning hours, I watched a toddler rip through though his presents while his infant sister watched, goggle-eyed, from her mother’s lap on the couch.

                Take that, 2020.

                You still suck, though.

The Unkindest Cut of All

    Having children is a wonderful thing, especially if you’re a man. 

    All we have to do is get the ball rolling, so to speak (a euphemism if there ever was one), sometimes more than once if we’re lucky.  Then, following a few weeks of pensive waiting (during which we get to keep the ball rolling-if you know what I mean), our wife/girlfriend/woman we met in a bar looks lovingly into our eyes (hopefully, not during the ballgame). 

    In a soft, trembling voice suffused with tender devotion, she whispers, “We’re going to have a baby.”

    Then, she goes to throw up in the toilet.

    The next nine months, 30 weeks, baseball season (whatever) then becomes a non-stop rollercoaster ride.  Mixed with equal parts of emotion and curiosity over whether she’ll eventually explode like one of those critters on “Alien,” we eventually arrive at the magic time for our baby’s entry into the world of songbirds, sunshine, and Joe Biden.

    Hopefully, in preparation for an induced labor (so a perfectly good weekend isn’t messed up), the woman settles in for the blessed event.  Followed by several hours of screaming bloody murder at the evildoer who did this to her.

    Just so you don’t think we men have it rough, don’t forget:  while you’re trying to force a bowling ball through a garden hose (I know that’s not original!), we’re struggling just as strenuously.  You think it’s easy to watch television with all that racket going on?

    Soon enough, we’re given a gift from God (although the deity wasn’t in the room).  Mother and father tenderly hold their precious bundle, bathed in the warmth which comes from the knowledge that they are a solid family unit.

    Only later that night does Dad mark on the calendar when he can start the ball rolling again.

    Luckily for me, my wife presented me with two beautiful children (beautiful because they don’t look like me).  I have a son who is the model of the man I wish I was and a daughter who is everything I wasn’t in high school: popular.

     NOTE:  Mind you, this was a couple decades ago.  Nothing has changed.  Except we’ve all gotten older.  Looks much better on them.

    With that in mind, we both decided not to press our luck.  Odds were that a third child would look like me, act like me, and use my jokes.

    That, along with a state law that forbade me from further reproduction, compelled us to seek methods of permanent sterilization.

    We first considered having my wife’s tubes tied.  But, since that conjured up a vision of a rodeo where a chaps-wearing doctor would wrassle my wife to the operating table, we didn’t want to try that.

    I also considered radiation to fry my “boys.”  But, since taping a cell phone to my crotch was impractical and sticking my junk in front of the microwave delayed dinner, we decided on a vasectomy.

    Since this decision was made while I was still in the Navy, there was no worry about how we were going to be able to pull this off (an unfortunate phrase, that).  The local Navy hospital was more than capable of performing the procedure (NOTE: No way was I going to have this done on a ship.  A MOVING ship.).

    So, after talking a couple of the guys into joining me (the hospital was having a special.  Bring a friend and get 10% off a car wash), I decided to close the “Be Fruitful and Multiply” store.

    The three of us were ushered into what looked like a MASH operating room.  After a couple of questions, like “Have you eaten in the past 12 hours?”, “Are you sure you want to do this?”, “Have you shaved this morning?” (ever the wise guy, I stuck out my chin and asked, “Sure, but what does that have to do with it?”), we were instructed to disrobe from the waist down and cover ourselves with a white sheet.

    Frankly, I wanted to go all nude, but my friends chickened out.  I think they were jealous.

    Anyway, the three of us laid (or is that ‘lied’? I can NEVER get that straight) down on the table, sheets draped across our laps, our “privates” (wait a minute, we were in the Navy-we didn’t have “privates.”  Okay, “seamen.”  There, that’s better.”  Oh.  Wait.) poking through holes. 

     I swear, we looked like a row of ghosts wearing Jimmy Durante masks.

    Assisted by a dour-looking corpsman, the doctor (whose mustache drooped so low he was able to suck on it.  Ewwww, so much for hygiene) stood in front of us.  He reassured us that the procedure would be painless.  Especially, he laughed, for him.

    Yeah, I know.  Laugh, clown, laugh.

    There would be, he cautioned, a small “stick and a kick.”

    Starting with me, he injected my laddies (the “stick”) to numb them.  This was immediately followed by a substantial “kick.”  Visions of playground bullies at Saint Stanislaus immediately swam into focus as I struggled to breathe.  Before I had the chance to lie that I was okay, though, the parts surrounding my fun factory lost all feeling.  I gave mustache-sucker a thumbs up. 

    So, it went with the rest of us.  In no time, the genital assembly line (thanks, Henry Ford!) was closing up shop.  Gingerly putting our trousers back on, we cracked jokes about unloaded guns and laughed about whether we should show our scars at the next family reunion.

    Still, we were happy that we were finally taken off the playing field, in a matter of speaking.  Instead of being put out to stud, we knew that the limited editions of “us” were finally at an end. 

    As we got our parking validated and received our car wash vouchers, we took comfort that our lives would be spared from future unplanned, unforeseen “Uh-ohs.”

    Even more, we were thrilled that we would be able to “get the ball rolling” in only a couple weeks.

    Unless the ballgame was on.

Waiting To Be Rescued

               For example, Vice-President Pence has been inoculated.  Joe Biden is due to receive one this coming week, although I think you could pump him with oatmeal and he wouldn’t know the difference.

                Like an early Christmas present, the first doses of the Chinese Flu vaccine have arrived.  The media is putting on quite a propaganda show as the first, at least with the Pfizer dose, of two injections are delivered.  Priority is, I would think obviously, being given to health care workers.  A selected few, though, are getting their “shots,” as well.
 

                The rest of the population will receive theirs in the coming months.  Many doubt whether it’s safe to inject themselves with what is viewed as a rush job.  I, for one, wonder why I would introduce something into my body which is 90% or so effective against a disease with a more than 98% recovery rate.

                Still, it would appear that we’re beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel.  A good thing, even though some knuckleheads caution that we still should wear face diapers (i.e., masks), observe social distances, and close everything but Target and Walmart.

                Incidentally, I predict that, if Idiot Joe and Chlamydia Harris do wind up in the White House, this kind of talk will largely disappear.

                At any rate, I maintain that, despite the good news of a vaccine, things will get worse before things get better.  I believe that otherwise smart people (although the past nine months have shown me that intelligence among a good portion of society is sorely lacking) will freak out over the [non] dire consequences of coming down with a [non]deadly scourge.

                Why do I think this way, you may ask.  Well, I compare the coming hysteria to what Captain Quint had to say in the movie “Jaws.”  Now, before you “WTF?” me, hear me out.

                In his monologue about the torpedoing of USS Indianapolis and hundreds of his shipmates killed by sharks, Quint mentioned that he was most frightened while waiting his turn.  How cruel would it be, he reasoned, to be cut in half by a shark while he was waiting to be rescued?

                So it is with people who are waiting their turn to be inoculated against the virus.  These spineless cowards are terrified that they will come down with COVID before the “rescue planes” of Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson deliver them.

                As a result, many will insist on any number of draconian measures by their government to protect them from a disease which has killed people, to be sure (I’ll not deny that), yet gives them a substantial chance of recovery .  They will gladly surrender their freedoms if they receive assurances that they will never die.  Freedoms that the government will be loathe to return.

                I hope I’m wrong, but the bumbling moron from Scranton has already predicted a “dark winter.”  And no amount of vaccine will convince the unconvinceable that the light is coming.  Escpecially if it has anything to do with Donald Trump.
  

              NOTE:  I included the entire clip of Quint’s monologue.  There’s no need to watch the entire thing, but it’s worth it.  99% of it (you know, like the COVID recovery rate) has nothing to do with the plague that torpedoed (see what I did there?) the Trump presidency. But, it’s a chilling story of an actual event which really was lethal.