So You Think You Know Narwhals?

“Be honest, does my tusk make my butt look big?”

WARNING:  When trying to come up with a column for today, I was faced with a choice of addressing hard-hitting news or dementia in Washington, D.C.  I chose this.  The following contains absolutely zero intellectual value.  Unless you’re a marine biologist.

Even then.

Sources:  Wikipedia, National Geographic, a sixth-grader named Stewart

     The narwhal or narwhale (that’s what Stewart told me anyway) belong to the species Monodon Monoceros (Latin for “Watch Out, This Bitch Carries Mono”).

     It’s a medium-sized whale (not unlike Oprah) which lives year-round in the Arctic (after its distant relatives, the manatees, got all uppity and kicked them out of their Tampa winter homes for laying around and eating all the fish).

     One of two species of whale in the Monodontidae (there’s that ‘mono’ word again) family, along with the beluga whale (who knew?), they are distinguished by being punier than their snotty cousins, the sperm whale (who really have no reason to feel superior.  Given their name and all).

     In addition to the lack of a true dorsal fin, they possess a characteristic long tusk which extends from a hole in their upper lip.  Primarily a male feature (as if a penis wasn’t enough), they aren’t actually “tusks” at all, but some kind of weird-ass tooth. Which makes them a target for ridicule by fish and even squids. 

“Boo hoo. Cry me a river.”

     Evidently-drunk medieval Europeans confused this tusk as the horn belonging to the legendary unicorn.  Which had no business swimming. What’s more, they believed this horn had magical powers which could cure melancholy, poison, plague, and the Moors.  But, since Europeans also believed that elves caused genital herpes, it’s kind of hard to take them seriously.

     The purpose for this narwhallic snaggle-tooth (I just made that up) remains a mystery.  Differing theories hold that it may have something to do with mating, breaking through dense pack ice, capturing prey, scratching the itch of friendly sea lions, or for advertising.  Although, most reputable biologists now refute its use for catching food.

“Eff.”

     These creatures are found in Canadian, Russian, and Greenland Arctic waters, Seaworld, and with Buddy the Elf.  A specialized predator, their diet consists primarily of benthic fish (NOTE: I have no clue what that means. Feel free to look it up).

     Narwhal have been hunted for millennia by native Inuit people (the Polynesians having long since left because the beaches were much better in Hawaii) for their meat, ivory, skin, blubber, and as conversation pieces for igloo coffee tables.  However, this practice has dwindled due primarily to a shrinking herd, conservation efforts, evolving cultural practices, and the fact that Door Dash now delivers to the North Pole.

“I could be wrong, but I’ll bet all that snow will be a bitch. I knew I shoulda worked for Uber Eats.”

     Other predators include killer whales (which aren’t whales at all, but particularly bad-ass dolphins), polar bears, and the occasional confused mountain lion.

     The narwhal. 

     Master of the Northern Ocean (if sperm whales are on vacation), Denizens of the Deep, Bucktoothed Whipping Boys of the Whale World, Scourge of Benthic Fish. 

     Or, as Qaanaaq, Tribal Elder and Noted Inuit Crazy Person, likes to call them, “Nanooq lamooq na attatook hanni boof.”

     Or, “Beast In Front of Whom One Must Never Bend Over.”

     But, I could be wrong.

DISCLAIMER: A lot of the above is probably definitely not true.  Especially that “Qaanaaq” business.  But, elves probably do cause herpes.  At least that’s what Sister Mary Ignatius of the Yardstick told us in Religion and Marine Biology class.           

Hecho En Vietnam

They’re a bit wrinkled. Should probably fix that. Yeah, that’s not happening.

     NOTE: The following has very little to do with Vietnam.  As you read further, you’ll see what I mean.  In fact, I know very little about Vietnam, apart from where it is and that a fat Marlon Brando once waddled around its jungles while a thin Martin Sheen went mental there.  I did coach a soccer team with a man from Vietnam once, though.  He was a real nice guy who had mad soccer skills, even though I questioned his penchant for using punji sticks during defensive drills.  What’s more, I had a devil of a time understanding him (although, to be fair, if I tried to order lunch in Ho Chi Minh City, I’d probably get a rectal exam.  Unless that’s part of their culture.  Who am I to judge?).  Anyway…

“The horror.”

     As you’ve no doubt surmised (snooty word for “figgered out”), I often look at things in a, shall we say, wiseguy kind of way.

     If I see something which strikes me as funny, I’m of course going to make things worse by pointing it out or even correcting what I think was a slip of the tongue, grammatically speaking (medically speaking is a whole ‘nother ball of wax).

     That being the case, though, I have cut down on pointing out the verbal and spelling gaffes of others, even though I thought I was being cute by doing so.  I came to the conclusion that I was being somewhat of a douche.

     However, I still notice the odd bits of life.  So, if you throw me a softball that I just can’t help putting over the fence in a double entendre kind of way (especially in a double entendre kind of way), I probably won’t be able to help myself.  It’s a sickness.

See? Like this. I can’t resist this kind of stuff.
Like I said. It’s a sickness.

     So it was this morning with my underwear (no, NOT by what was in it.  Although…).  As I was getting ready to start my strenuous day of lounging about, I read the care label on my skivvies (boxer briefs, in case you dig knowing that sort of thing).

     Hey, I left my cell phone in my room.

     I saw that they were “Hecho En Vietnam.” (Language Tip: This means, “Made in Vietnam” for those who took “History of Flan” in high school instead of language classes or who are too cheap to buy Rosetta and the Family Stone lessons).

     It caused me to wonder.  Is underwear-making such a complicated science that it needs to be shipped overseas?  Or is it so damn simple that the Vietnamese can handle it?  It’s obviously a money thing, but for cryin’ out loud, it’s only a cloth pouch for the boys, not sex robots.

     As I looked at it further (I was still busy doing bidness, if you know what I mean), I saw that, under the English writing, were washing and care instructions in Spanish.

     Why not Vietnamese?  Or do the Vietnamese not wear underwear?  Or, as I suspect, are the Vietnamese so smart they don’t need to be told how to wash their frikkin’ drawers?  I don’t know, maybe a combination of the two.  Going “commando” can be liberating, after all.

And why Spanish? Do people assume that Hispanics need to have that kind of information while white people don’t?

     I further noticed the following (in English and Spanish): “Cool iron if needed.”

     Excuse me, who the hell irons their underwear!!??

     I didn’t even press my tighty-whiteys in boot camp.  And they made us shave our chest hairs. 

     On further deliberation, I guess maybe you’d want starchy drawers if you were visiting Michael Jackson’s gravesite (oooh, sorry.  Too soon?).  Plus, what if you got into an accident?

     “It’s hard to tell what caused this horrific accident, Sarge.”
     “Any evidence of speeding?”
     “Not that I can see.”
     “Drinking?”
     “No, but his skivvies were wrinkled.”
     “Well, there’s your answer!”

     So, maybe I oughta plug my iron in because there’s no sense in having creases in my “gotchies.”

     But, first, I think I’ll give that guy from the soccer team a call.  Maybe he can give me some advice.

Pass the Matzah

“Soylent Green is peopl…crap. Wrong movie.”

     The following could be considered wildly irreverent.  Could be?  Please accept my apologies in advance.  I just hope Hell has visiting hours so you can come see me.

     As a test of how much I learned in school, I’m not going to consult Google, the entrails of an owl, or Mr. Fineman from across the street. 

     I’m also too lazy to open a book.

     A good lot of you are preparing for Easter, which is observed the…let me see if I have this straight…first Sunday after the full moon which occurs after the spring equinox (or whenever the calendar says).

     Recognized by Christians worldwide as the most sacred day in their calendar, Easter is a time to reflect on the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, a carpenter’s son from Nazareth.

     NOTE:  Not all Christians mind you.  The Eastern Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, or Romanian Orthodox Episcopate know-it-alls use the Julian Calendar (don’t get me started) so, by their reckoning, Easter is a week later.  I think.  Meh.  They’re just showoffs with funny hats anyway.

“Yeah, laugh clown, clown. Who can get Easter candy on clearance? Winning!”

     Gathered together as one (augmented by “twice a year” Christians checking off the first of their churchly obligations-the other being Christmas), they ponder the awesome mysteries of their faith.  And how exactly a bunny could lay eggs.

     But did you know (okay most do), that Jesus was a rabbi?  That He, along with his followers, was in Jerusalem to celebrate Passover, one of the most sacred days of the Jewish calendar?    No, he wasn’t Catholic, despite what Sister Mary Gregory of the Titanium Yardstick tried to beat into you.

     In fact, as I write this, it is “Holy Thursday,” the night Jesus and his disciples partook of what Christians call “The Last Supper” (so that’s where Da Vinci got it from!).  In reality, this was a Passover “Seder.”

     Despite what Cecil B. De Mille would have you believe, The Ten Commandments, while playing on ABC annually on Easter Night (God knows-no pun intended-when it’s on now) is not an Easter movie.

     King of Kings?  Yeah.  The Robe?  Okay.  Ben-Hur?  Sure.  Ben Gay?  Now you’re being silly.

Ben-Him.
Also played by Charlton Heston.

     But, The Ten Commandments?  Oy.     

Also not an Easter movie.
But, it did have Charlton Heston it.
So, there’s that.

     Passover is a Jewish (I think we’ve already covered that) celebration which commemorates the exodus (so THAT explains the book) of the Hebrews from Egypt, way back when Betty White and Keith Richards were teenagers.

     They were led by Charlton Heston, who if he’d only kept his trap shut, could have eventually become Pharaoh (or at least Vice-Pharaoh) and freed the slaves.  Along the way, he could also have bagged the hot Nefertiri (not to be confused with ‘Nefertiti.’  Who was in The Mummy.  But, she was hot, too. Plus, she’s not dead now, either).  Then, Ramses (aka Yul Brynner), inventor of the prophylactic, wouldn’t have donned the royal loincloth and bedded Anne Baxter.

Nefertiri. See what I mean? By the way, I know where you’re looking. Pigs.

     But, noooooo, Moses just had to schlep out into the desert, raise some sheep, marry Lily Munster, open the Midian chapter of the NRA, and meet God (who did not look like George Burns).

Sure, she’s no Nefertiri, but still…

   

“I’d hit it.”

  Moses, heeding a divine call (not of nature necessarily), decided to go back to Egypt to free the slaves.  Imagine Ramses’ chagrin when the “Big Mo” barged into meetings of the Pyramid Planning Commission, waved his stick around (double entendre intended), and ordered his BFF, Aaron, to turn goats into chickens.  Or grass stains into dazzling whites.

     Moses warned (well, after God sent him a text) that a series of plagues would be visited on Egypt: frogs, locusts, boils (eww), bloody water, the Pelosi Pox, irritable bowel syndrome (double eww), etc.  Each were meant to convince Yul Pharaoh to “let the people go.” 

     They were actually starting to work, too, until Ramses looked at the latest Gallup poll numbers.  Figuring he had to satisfy his “pro-slavery” base, his heart was hardened and he called the whole deal off.

     Well, Moses eventually had enough of this crap.  He told Ramses that the first-born of Egypt would be slain in punishment for enslaving his people.  This included (spoiler alert) the Pharaoh’s own son!

     NOTE:  I think this was true, at least according to the movie.  The film industry was pretty truthful sixty years ago.  Even though I didn’t think monkeys could fly, Hollywood wouldn’t lie to me.  Is it any wonder I have trust issues?

     The Hebrews, feeling pretty damned cocky, painted goat (or sheep?) blood over their doors.  They felt quite safe that death would “pass” them “over.”  (Get it now?).  Mostly because Death got wicked skeeved at the sight of blood.

     So, they hung out while the “Destroyer” (depicted by a red cloud.  Special effects were kinda cheesy back then.  After all, “Industrial Light and Magic” hadn’t been invented yet) went from door to door seeking out Egyptians who won a lottery they hadn’t reckoned on.  It was accompanied by a couple of Mormons on bikes who figured it “couldn’t hurt.” 

     The Hebrews sang songs, prayed prayers, played “Old Testament Yahtzee”, and ate unleavened bread called “matzah” (because Dominos stopped delivering at 10).

     When the day dawned and Ramses saw the mess (“Now, we’ll never get that blood out!”), he ordered Moses to pack up his shit and get the hell out.

     NOTE:  Ramses may not have said ‘shit.’

“I know what I said. So let it be written, so let it be done.”

     So, Moses jumped for Joy (his sister-in-law) and convinced everybody to pack their toothbrushes and a change of underwear (“So, where is it we’re exactly going, Mr. Fancy Pants Big Shot?”).  He wasn’t exactly sure where they’d be going, though.  Unfortunately, Aaron had turned his map into an origami whooping crane.

     Bottom line, the Hebrews finally left Egypt.  Along the way, the Egyptian Army went for a one-way dip in the Red Sea, Edward G. Robinson talked a lot of smack, Aaron was forced to make some seriously effed-up looking calf, they all got jiggy with their bad selves at the base of Mount Sinai, Moses saw a wicked cool light show on the mountain, and had bread fall out of the sky for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (“So we couldn’t maybe get a nice brisket instead?”). 

Wrong statue. But you get the idea.

     They were finally allowed to enter the Promised Land after 40 years (the prior tenants had a wicked long-term lease).

     Since I’m sure I’ve put you to sleep by now, let me finish by saying that Moses wasn’t even allowed to enter with the rest of his people (he didn’t get his wrist stamped). 

     He had to watch while Joshua (played in the movie by John Derek.  Before he got fat, married Bo, and died) led his people into…Canaan?  At any rate, someplace the Iranians would get all hacked off about eventually.

     I think it had something to do with smacking a rock to get water.  Which was a mistake.    

     Because, as we all know, paper, not water, covers rock.     Now, since I’m probably in hot water with Christians, Jews, and Muslims, I’d better start packing for Purgatory.

     I’m sure I’ll be spending a lot of time there.

     At least that’s what Sister Mary Gregory said.

Take Me Out to the Ballgame!

“You know, if we just had a guy named ‘Babe,’ we’d totally kick ass.”

NOTE:  As I write this, Spring Training is in progress at sites in Florida and Arizona.  One can only hope that we see a return of the grand old game, albeit in a more subdued manner.  I’ll probably never get to redeem a rainout voucher from Allentown’s Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, though.

     What is baseball? 

     For starters, it’s a game you can watch for three innings, fall asleep for the middle three, and wake up for the final three as if nothing had happened.

     Which nothing usually does.  Unless you count when those huge sausages chased each other around the park.

     No, baseball is much more than that.  Sometimes, it goes into extra innings.  Then, you can go back to sleep.

     As the icy grip of winter gives way to the balmy tranquility of spring, we emerge from our dens like so many hibernating creatures.  Seeking to warm our blood, we throw off the shackles of a catatonic languor wrought by hours of televised bowling and those obnoxious commercials to come visit Florida.

     Hey, Florida?  Laugh it up while you can.  Come July, you’ll feel like you’re inside a bundt cake.

     NOTE:  I apologize to the Southern hemisphere.  I realize that the coming of spring for you is not a harbinger of pleasant weather.  Winter will soon darken your door.  But, cheer up, at least you have poisonous snakes.  And we have Biden, Dr. Jill, and Cardi B.

     Like the first robin, green grass poking through melting dog turds, or slowly receding snow banks revealing how many critters turned out to be slower than the plows, it’s the reappearance of the “boys (sometimes girls) of summer” on ball fields which tells us the NBA playoffs haven’t started yet.

     YET ANOTHER TEDIOUS NOTE:  It must be said that baseball is played throughout the winter in Central America and the Caribbean.  Not only does it hone their ability to kick our ass, it also takes their minds off the fact that there’s nothing to eat.

     The quintessential American sport (unless you count the Japanese, Venezuelans, Cubans, Dominicans, Panamanians, Puerto Ricans, Chinese, Indians, Koreans, Mexicans, Dutch, Colombians, Australians, and Canadians), baseball has been around since the beginning of the republic.

     Or nearly a hundred years afterwards.  Shut up, Mr. Big Shot Know-It-All.

From its beginnings, though, baseball players were lauded as being perfect physical specimens.

     Many historians trace its origins to the British game of “Rounders,” a game played since Tudor times shortly after Henry VIII discovered he could no longer see his toes.  Or penis.  I guess they needed something to do between plagues or whenever there was a shortage of witches to burn.

     Rounders involved hitting a small, hard leather ball with a round wooden bat or skinny peasant.  Each team had nine players who, upon hitting the ball, rounded four bases.  The idea was for the batting team to avoid three outs before losing their at-bat.

     You were pronounced out if tagged with the ball, if the ball reached the base before you, or you were beheaded.

     For you etymological savants out there, guess where the term “rounders” came from?  Yeah, good for you.  Have a cookie.

     However, when Albert Spaulding observed in 1903 that Rounders used five innings instead of nine, he declared there was “no frikkin’ resemblance” to baseball, a distinctly American sport.

“SPAULDING!”
Wrong Spaulding.
Sorry.

     Besides, with four more innings, you could sell more beer.

     Quickly searching for an unquestioned “Father of Baseball,” he selected Civil War general Abner Doubleday.

     Mr. Doubleday could not be reached for comment, because he had been dead for 15 years.

“Hey, I did spit tobacco juice on some Confederate prisoners. That’s gotta count for something.”

       Over the years, baseball has seen its share of upheavals.  After the Chicago White Sox starring Charlie Sheen threw the World Series in 1919, America’s pastime was on life support.  That is, until a fat guy from New York became the toast of the nation, proving a man could be called “Babe” as long as he hit over 700 home runs.

“I loved you in ‘Two and a Half Men.’ Hey, what say after we throw the Series, we go snort some blow? Winning!”

     For decades, baseball had been a strictly “whites only” affair.  The “Negroes,” the “coloreds,” the “good ballplayers” were forced to “play with their own kind” in organizations such as the creatively-named Negro Leagues.  Black people, as well as Hispanic and Japanese ballplayers were denied a chance to show what they were capable of.  Although, to be fair, the Japanese were pretty busy elsewhere, what with conquering East Asia and all.

     However, in 1947, Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier as a Brooklyn Dodger.  Not only did he dazzle America with his good-natured athleticism (after a substantial amount of racist abuse), he made fans realize that Phil Rizzuto wasn’t all that good, after all.  

     Washington got a baseball team, then they didn’t, then they did, then they didn’t, then they did again (I guess the only Senators with term limits wore spikes).  The Dodgers and Giants left New York for California in 1958 when they couldn’t find a cab late at night. 

     In 1981, a labor dispute forced baseball to split into two seasons which had serious ramifications for the playoffs.  And the fall TV line-up.

     Then, an earthquake caused so much damage in California that the World Series had to be delayed a few days.  But, I’m not exactly sure what year it was.  It was between two teams I didn’t care about, let’s put it that way.

     As if that wasn’t bad enough, continued bad blood between owners and players reached a boiling point in 1994.  This resulted in cancellation of much of the season and the first year without a World Series (like A Year Without A Santa Claus, only not as bad).

     Luckily, this happened while America’s newest pastime was being played:  professional football. 

     So, nobody noticed.

     Then, in 2020, the Chinese Flu pandemic gripped the world in a hysteria that is only now starting to (hopefully) abate.  Among many other institutions, baseball suffered.  Spring Training was abruptly cancelled, with the season delayed until July.  Even then, fans weren’t allowed into stadiums leaving some to watch games featuring recorded crowd noise and Dr. Fauci absolutely proving to the world that he had zero athletic talent.

     Jeez-a-Lou, Wilfor Brimley could have thrown out a better first pitch.

“Diabeetus.”

Too soon?

“Frankly, not a little hurtful.”

          Making matters worse, some jackasses decided to blather on about perceived societal injustices.  Refusing to be lectured to by millionaires, many thousands of fans won’t return to their television screens or to stadiums (if Major League Baseball allows it, that is).

     Baseball is my favorite sport so I’ll probably return.  After all, it’s not like social justice virtue signaling jackassery by overpaid baboons isn’t universal.

     Speaking of the NFL, you think baseball is confusing?  Football traces its beginnings to Assault, Rugby, and Soccer.  Which is called football by the rest of the world.  This is interesting, because soccer uses the foot, while football pretty much doesn’t.

     Besides, they don’t have a dead general as the “Father of Football.”

     It all makes my head hurt.

     Rounders, anyone?

Tie a Yellow Ribbon, Infidel

            Have you ever stopped to consider the multitude of car ribbon magnets which adorn the back of mini-vans?  You know, the ones just below the “My Kid Beats Up Your Kid the Honors Student” ones. 

            The colors, and the causes they represent, are as varied as a bag of M & Ms (and much less fattening).  For example, there’s a Crayola Box used to raise consciousness for a variety of cancers, camouflage ribbons for each branch of the military, red for HIV awareness, pink denotes breast cancer sensitivity, and even one which uses a jigsaw puzzle for Autism Awareness.  All the colors of the rainbow are taken, even Brown for “Coprophilia Awareness.”

NOTE:  If you don’t know how unbelievably clever that line is, Google “coprophilia.”  Then, prepare to be disgusted laugh your ass off. 

            Mind you, none of this is meant to denigrate any of the worthy causes for which those ribbons champion (well, except maybe the brown one.  Which doesn’t exist.  I hope.). 

            No, I’d just like to explain where the practice of affixing ribbons to trees, the outside of your house, your trunk, the elderly, etc., came from.  While you may think I’m making this up (and, after reading this drivel, who could really blame you?), I swear this is true.

            Mostly.

            It was 1979 and, while everyone was dancing to that disco beat or trying to find an open gas station, the Ayatollah Khomeini whipped his followers, who hadn’t had their cups of coffee yet, into a frenzy when the United States offered to let the deposed Shah of Iran seek medical care in the Land of the Free and Home of Drive-Thru Liquor Stores. Little suspecting they would star in a Ben Affleck movie in 2012, the “college students” stormed the American Embassy in Tehran and took everyone hostage.

            President Jimmy Carter was outraged.  Trying everything from talking tough to asking “Pretty, please?” he desperately tried to win the release of the hostages.  Including an aborted desert rescue which looked as if it was planned more by the Three Stooges than the Pentagon. 

            It all proved for naught until the American people deployed their secret weapon:  Ronald Reagan.

            All during the “Hostage Crisis,” we felt powerless.  We desperately yearned for a way to pitch in and to show that we really meant business.  Well, without actually putting ourselves in danger by enlisting in the military, don’tcha know.  We had to go see Saturday Night Fever, after all.

            So, taking inspiration from a Tony Orlando and Dawn song about tying yellow ribbons around trees until a convict came home, we all went into yellow ribbon fever.  These things popped up everywhere and even hung around long after the hostages were eventually freed after the Peanut Farmer returned to Georgia to build houses for the poor.

            Seeing the success of the yellow ribbons to trumpet a cause, we then took it upon ourselves, aided by Madison Avenue, to exploit all the other colors.  To the extent now that, 41 years later, multi-colored ribbons, like MAGA hats, are ubiquitous American icons.

            Except that brown one.

            Which is a relief. 

(Serious) NOTE:  Come to find out, there actually is a valid use for a brown ribbon.  According to Wikipedia (frankly, I’m too lazy to consult a reputable source and grabbed the first thing which popped up.  Still, it seems legit):  “Brown ribbons also represent anti-tobacco and colorectal cancer (hopefully not at the same time).  Brown is the alternate color, dark blue is the official colorectal cancer ribbon color.”

Frankly, that dark blue thing?  Thank God for that, amirite?

Still, color me embarrassed.

Well, don’t I feel shitty?

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.