FIRE UP THE WEED WHACKER

Yes, it’s a difficult topic but, unfortunately, a necessary one and I think you know I’m talking about men’s facial grooming or lack thereof.  I’ve received several listener emails recently from woman asking me to address the issue.  Amber from Wappingers Falls writes:

“Bob, what is wrong with men? Do they not have mirrors?  How can someone not see that they have nose hairs flowing from the nostrils practically long enough to hop on and scale down from a burning building? Weed whacker please!”

“Amber, you make a very valid point and that’s the  precise reason I’ve written my new book, Bob’s Complete Guide to Men’s Grooming. Without giving too much away, in it you will learn that when boys of the male persuasion first notice that they’re developing even the slightest hint of facial hair, they try and enhance that look to impress girls. Some of them go so far as to massage the face to encourage growth. Some talk nicely to it and, yes, some even try to pull on it with tweezers in a feeble attempt to elongate the hair. It’s all very sad of course but at the tender age of 14 or so, they’ll do anything to increase their chances of getting laid. As they grow older, most men realize that follicle growth from nostrils long enough to, as you pointed out, hop on and climb, or ear hair that could easily grow a nice crop of potatoes is not socially acceptable. It would be on a par with, for instance, shopping at Walmart wearing pajamas, which one never sees.”

Becky from Lake Katrine says her husband is more concerned with properly grooming his nether regions than he is with his nose, ears or the back of his neck.  “It’s gross, Bob, and very counterintuitive. He’s all trimmed and spruced up below the belt but if he doesn’t do something with the forest he has from his facial appendages, I can’t bring myself perform on his other appendages.”

Becky, truth be told, I wrote this book with women like you in mind. The mere threat of, um, withholding services, should be enough to convince hubby to break out the sheers. You may want to drop a subtle hint and take him to Home Depot and chain him to a stantion in the lawn and garden equipment isle until he sees the light.

You may be asking, ‘Bob, what qualifies you to pen a book on men’s grooming? Let me explain. When I was 8 years old, I met our new neighbor, Mr. Sticken. He had nostril hair practically down to his chin. I later learned that he would occasionally wax it and try to pass it off as a moustache. That vision was disturbing to say the least. What made it even more frightening was the fact that it was tobacco stained from his 2 packs of Camels a day habit.  It took me three years before I could even look at a nose again. I think that qualifies me, no?

I often scratch my head wondering if men are just oblivious to the yardstick long tufts exploding from the nose and ears or do, they believe that it’s a macho thing like the equivalent of carving an Anheuser-Busch logo into their chest hair? Hint: It’s not.

Men, we are not trying to pick on you, merely attempting to guide you on the right path to proper grooming. And by doing so, you’ll actually be able to breathe and hear better. Pretty neat, huh? Next up: Bob’s Complete Guide to Male Toenail Maintenance.

DAMAGED FRUIT

I have been contacted by a concerned young father named Steve, who is also a member of the male persuasion. Steve brought to my attention a problem that’s becoming so rampant that unless something is done about it right now, many men will find themselves unable to re-produce or for that matter even have normal relations ever again. I’m sure the mere thought makes men cringe but something must be done about the current design of shopping carts! 

Steve says he placed his son, Joshua, in the shopping cart, legs facing him. As he was dutifully making his way down the aisles, out of nowhere there it came…WHACK! The flailing legs of an excited two-year old found their mark. “Bob, my little Joshua turned me from a baritone to a soprano with just one well-placed kick. I buckled, dropped the pickle jar and went down on my knees before collapsing into the fetal position. It certainly gave new meaning to the term, ‘clean up in isle 3!”

Through a flawed design in shopping carts, once the children are placed on the top shelf, they are facing their parents and as Steve painfully discovered it doesn’t take much to be dropped like a stone. Just who is the degenerate masochist who thought that having little thrashing legs pelting off your groin was a good idea? We must have a complete overhaul of the shopping cart design if men are to have any kind of a fighting chance.

All Steve and the other young fathers are asking is that the leg holes face the front. Turn the future midfielder around and let him kick the rutabaga, the brisket and the beer in the cart instead. Remember, he’s not partial. He’ll kick anything. This is a serious concern of families worldwide who may be wishing to someday expand their brood and it needs to be rectified immediately, and by immediately, I mean let’s not involve Congress.

Emergency rooms are packed with dads who won’t be walking upright for months and they’re understandably embarrassed to tell anyone how it happened. This is why it took courage for Steve to come forward. By the way, the correct medical term for this trauma to the nether regions is The Shopping Cart Salvo. 

Steve, I hope you get back on your feet real soon and without any permanent damage. Thank you for your note and I hope we’ve taken the first step to insuring a more man-friendly shopping cart in the not too distant future. I would also like to leave you with an appropriate sentiment I noticed on a new line of Hallmark Cards:

Get back to work soon;

We miss you in our hallowed halls; 

And we all feel terrible;

Your son kicked you in the…supermarket!

GOBLINS, MONSTERS & … TEE SHIRTS?

I remember trick or treating on Halloween and actually getting dressed up. Yeah, I know, what’s wrong with me? Today, I see more and more kids ringing my bell at the ungodly hour of 7:00PM sporting a tattered and torn, although highly stylish, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. tee shirt, a pair of heavily soiled Levi’s and toting a crumpled bag from Price Chopper to house your ill-gotten booty. Thanks for the effort.

Bob:  Well, what do we have here?

Bill:   I’m, um, Bill.

Bob:  I don’t recognize your costume. What are you?

Bill:   Um, I’m, like, Bill.

Bob:  Hang on a second Bill. We’ve got a little issue here. “Honey, have you seen that nasty Boa Constrictor?”

(SWOOSH!)

Bob:  Hey Bill, where are you…going?

Halloween was something special back in the day. We used to work on our costumes for weeks at a time. Mom’s would spend hours at the sewing machine and dad’s would take pictures and send them to all our relatives who would in turn, toss them in the nearest garbage on top of the coffee grinds. For two years in a row, I glued some dirt and a rosin bag to my face, put a prophylactic (stolen from my father’s top dresser drawer) on my nose and went as a rubber on the pitcher’s mound.

Kids, a little ingenuity, please. Jeans, a sweatshirt and doo rag aren’t going to pass muster anymore. If you want our Snickers bars and Peppermint Patties, you’ll need to bring your ‘A’ game. If you show up like Bill did, you’ll likely be handed this year’s boogie prize: a smear of 9 Lives Liver and Bacon on a Triscuit. We’ll have two bowls ready at the front door. We’ll inspect and then decide. Hey, even a Mike Pence wig with a bug on top would show more drive than a tee shirt you got by being the 9th caller to some radio station. At least that would probably net you a roll of Sweet Tarts. Come to think of it, a bug on Mike Pence’s head that’s holding a flyswatter would get you an extra Nestles Crunch bar.

After doing some research, I discovered that the concept of trick or treating dates back to the stone age. The candidates for elected office had one night, October 31st, to go around and knock on cave entrances and hawk their agendas. “If I get elected, I give bearskins to all.” They would then continue to bore the cave dwellers for hours about how they would put wooden clubs in everyone’s dwelling and also decrease taxes. The cave owner would then either agree to vote for them and indicate their trust by offering up a mouth-watering dinosaur testicle or show that they disagree by hitting them over the head repeatedly with a rock. And with that, the concept of ‘trick or treating’  was born. Yes, even back then, politicians were viewed a monsters.

One more thing, kids: please don’t try the old, “May I have one more for my sister who is too sick to go out?” By doing this, you’ll be providing us with an excellent opportunity to take from the dreaded Bowl #2. “Hey, mister, this smells like cat food.”

Happy Halloween!

SALUTING THE ASSISTANT MANAGER

Today we acknowledge and salute the hardworking men and women whose business cards read, Assistant Manager. For far too long, the Manager has taken credit for jobs you’ve completed and strategies you’ve implemented. In many cases, the Manager is there simply to hold the coffee cup and remind people that they report to him. Occasionally, he’ll flex his muscles and issue a sternly worded memo declaring the deplorable condition of the office refrigerator. And how would Quanisha in Human Resources ever know the essence of a real man without the Manager parading in front of her office every ten minutes flashing his pinky rings and gold chains and proudly adjusting his virile…man stuff. Oh, the wonderful dreams he must provide for her every night. Make no mistake, the Manager’s main function is to remind people of who he is. Example: 

Customer: May I see these in a size 11?

Manager:  Of course, ma’am. I’ll get the Assistant Manager on that right away.

Customer: Can’t you get them for me?

Manager:  Ma’am, please. I’m The Manager.

Customer: Hey, Mr. Manager…

Manager:  Yes?

Customer: You’ve got toilet paper dragging on your shoe and your fly’s open.

The Vice President of The United States could be considered an Assistant Manager…but, no, come to think of it, that’s a bad example, so let’s move on. You are truly the unsung heroes. Every single day, you must come to work prepared to ‘take the field,’ never knowing when the Manager may call in sick or have to attend to pressing Manager type business out of the office like stopping by Dave’s Driving Range and Tackle Shop for their big one day only putter exchange (free box of nightcrawlers to the first one hundred arrivals).

Let’s look at Jim, The Assistant Manager of Sonic’s in Happy Jack, Arizona. Jim spoke candidly to us about the joys and heartache of the job. “The paycheck’s worth it, ($139.00 a week plus dental), but sometimes, I wish I could just take my mind off it all and play Mortal Kombat 11 for eight hours a day.” We asked Jim about his most grueling responsibility and he didn’t hesitate when he said, ” It’s those dang roller skates. I’ve got to make sure every single pair is properly shined and lubed every day, first thing.  And, if a girl slips and falls while toting an Ex-Long Chili Cheese Coney, that meal comes out of that day’s cash register receipts. Try explaining that to the ‘big guy’ without drowning in a pool of sweat. It’s brutal.”  Jim also explained that losing hard working employees is a bitter pill to swallow. “Oh, it’s really hard to see a person just up and leave after you’ve spent nearly two whole days training them on every aspect of the business. Just last week, the best French fry gal in the southwest left us for a sweet deal at The Dollar Store. She’s going be the Head Greeter in charge of Isle Maintenance. You can’t hold a person back from something like that. You just have to let them go, but it’s tough.”

Yes, Assistant Manager’s, without you in charge, those widgets would get shipped in the wrong boxes or, God forbid, maybe not at all. The tube socks and boxers wouldn’t be inventoried properly and those pep talks you deliver right before the doors open for the day are all masterful words of true inspiration. “Let’s sell some stuff today, guys.”

So, Assistant Manager’s everywhere, we salute you today. Thank you for all you do. Slap that name tag on proudly and get to work. You are the backbone of our infrastructure and the GPS on our highway to greater prosperity. And, please, always keep in mind when the ‘big guy’ gives you lip, that ‘Manager’ spelled sideways is ‘Mean Rag!’

BOARD OF MANAGERS

I can’t begin to tell you how much I love not having to shovel snow, rake leaves and lugging that garbage can brimming with bags of used litter down to the curb twice a week. That said, I really find the Board of Managers of my Homeowner Association, um, what’s the word?  Yes, ‘exasperating’ works.

Every condo association has one and they are supposedly put in place to keep order and symmetry to the entire living experience. And, yes, a great many of these meetings are meaningless or worse, counter-productive. Why? Because when meetings are held decisions have to be made. Does it matter that those decisions are? Does it matter that those decisions in no way affect the daily life of the residents? Don’t be silly. Just make a decision…on something.

 Having attended a meeting or two, I can say with some certainty that many of them sound like this: “Welcome everyone. As you all know, this is a meeting and we’re here to discuss a concern of many of our residents. Now, does anyone recall what that concern is?” “Wasn’t it about the, oh wait, I think it might have been about the dog poop left in mailboxes?” “No, that wasn’t it. Okay, let’s take a vote. Who wants pizza? All in favor of getting pizza, raise your hand. (Hands waving in the air) Great, pizza it is.”

We had a small tree in the back that by all accounts died sometime during the Hoover Administration but, for some reason, was still in the ground. We wrote to the board asking if it would be okay to have the tree removed and put up a small, latticed type fence in its place. We, of course, mentioned the demise of the tree and that the fence we have chosen would only add to beautify the property. A few days later, we received an unsigned note from a member of the board saying that we could proceed with the plans.

We put our contractor, Gomer, on it and a week later, the tree was gone and the fence was up. It was truly a work of art and although we greatly appreciate his handywork, what we loved most was the fact that he worked for four cases of Bud Light. Oh, how I wish the story ended there, but, no.

The board had to perform what the call a ‘walk around.’ This is where they take a stroll around the complex and find problems that don’t exist for the sole purpose of having another meeting. They descended to have a look, led by the president, a gruff guy named Jim with armpit stained tee shirts and a faded Randy ‘Macho Man’ Savage tattoo on his bicep. “Where’s the tree and who gave permission for this fence,” he wanted to know?  “Donna, was it you?” “Well, I’m not sure, Jim. They said the tree was dead but I thought Betty had talked with Norm and everyone had signed off on it.” “That’s ridiculous,” Jim screamed. “ I don’t think I ever knew about this, did I Norm?” “No sir. If you say you didn’t, you didn’t.” “Betty, do you remember speaking with the Miller’s?” “Not really, sir, no. I’m pretty sure I never spoke with them…I think, maybe.”  By now, Jim was ready to explode. “Well, how dead was the Goddamn tree, anyway?” “Pretty dead, sir.” “Crap! Meeting in 5 minutes!”

So, the fence remains up while they continue to ponder just what to do to us for the horrific display of malfeasance we have burdened them with. Please don’t misunderstand me. I have the utmost respect for the Board of Managers. I just think that their decisions should be confined to things that they feel strongly about. Something that evokes a visceral reaction in them. Something they can really sink their teeth into. Wait, I got it…pizza!

LITTLE OL’ MATCHMAKER, ME

 

I’m not a matchmaker nor have I ever tried to be one…until recently.  Our friend,  Linda, is a lovely single woman with a steady, well-paying job and a back yard that replicates the perfectly manicured infield at Yankee Stadium, complete with pitcher’s mound and rosin bag!  Yes,  Linda is THE BIGGEST YANKEE FAN IN THE WORLD! We all have our own crosses to bear, I guess.

Linda’s tried all the computer dating sites including something called E-Horny. After she fed in all the figures and the computer did its homework,  it turned out her ideal match was Alex Rodriquez. As much as she loves the Yanks, that would never do. Linda made a promise some time ago never to step in the romantic ring with J-Lo.

Let’s consider this year to be an anomaly, but Linda could probably get into Yankee Stadium anytime she wanted to. I think it may have something to do with those photos she claims to have of Aaron Boone involving a jock strap, a hula dress, a bottle of tequila and some pink flamingos.

Enter Curt: A caring, unattached man in his 40’s who can actually carry on a conversation without using the words ‘I,’ ‘Me’ or ‘Myself’ in a sentence. Unlike many Linda’s dated, Curt never breaks out a mirror so he can have an occasional glance at his favorite person in the world. He visits his mother on Mother’s Day and tries to stop by OTB on Father’s Day to see how dad is faring. He rides a Harley but loathes the typical motorcycle stereotype: the chains, the tattoos and the black leather everything (including underwear). Curt’s the real deal and I thought he might be a great match for Linda. His only character flaw is that baseball leaves him cold. His knowledge of America’s past time is somewhat limited. Other than his knowledge of Jon Fogerty’s song, Centerfield, and that Joe DiMaggio used to date Marilyn Monroe, the concession stand is pretty much closed.

I got them to agree to go out but, before the big day, I cautioned Curt about her obsession with the Yanks. I said WHEN the subject comes up, which it probably would within the first two minutes, just shout, HERE COME THE JUDGE, or ‘VOGT SENDS ONE TO DETROIT.’ That will win you some points.

As for Linda, she demanded to know if he had any issues she should know about. “Issues?” I asked, thinking she would press me about his baseball allegiance. “Yeah, Bob, does he try and impress women with his marvelous array of arm pit noises or will he tap me on the shoulder and say, “Watch this,” as he ‘hocks a loogie’ twenty-five feet into a garbage can?” I assured her that she had never met a guy quite like Curt before. He was a very genuine and talented person. I did however let it slip that he has a slight obsession with the Rubik’s Cube and that he can also recite the alphabet backwards, in Latin while pogo-sticking.

As I’ve mentioned, I hate trying to hook people up, but I must admit, I envisioned giving a toast at their big 25th Wedding anniversary party where their kids, Babe, Derek and Roid would deliver chin quivering, tear dripping, heartfelt memories of mom and dad.

It was showtime and Curt had arranged a very impressive first date. They were going to The Bronx Zoo where I’m sure he will enlighten Linda on the mating habits of the Poison Dart frog. Then it would be off to dinner at Harry’s Hot Dog Haven (buy one, get one free with the purchase of a diet egg cream). What could possibly go wrong? Well, let’s find out.  My father always told me to count to three before I said anything stupid. I must have left that part out when training Curt, which may have been why he blurted out to Linda, “What’s with all the homoerotic behavior among ballplayers, anyway?” She stopped in her tracks, shook her head and said, “Say what?” He elaborated, “Why do ballplayers always pat each other on the butt and perform a type of Cirque du Soleil dance with each other after someone does something good? I don’t walk into Hannaford and fondle the guy in the green apron who’s putting out fresh apples?” Oops! That’s what could go wrong. Shortly thereafter, Linda, inexplicably, developed the mother of all headaches, abandoned her half eaten Sabretts, called a cab and told the driver to “Just get the Hell out of here!”

 

In my postdate meeting with Curt, I told him he really had learn to think before he spoke. I told him he has to know his audience. “Jesus, Curt, why don’t you just go up to Jerry Falwell, Jr. and ask him if he knows of any good pool boys!”

Clearly, my dreams have been shattered to smithereens. There will be no 25th wedding anniversary party. There will be no Christmas cards thanking me for getting these two lovebirds together and, more to the point, there will be no second date. Curt, my friend, you blew it and you made me look bad in the process. From now on, you’re on your own. If you want to try looking for love on E-Horny, knock yourself out but should you notice an ad that reads, ‘Single Gal with dreams of $12 beer and long, romantic walks through Monument Park,’ better keep looking.

BAN THE SPROUTS; SAVE THE CHILDREN

 

I strayed from my usual dinner of Salsa a la Triscuit the other night and had something called Brussels Sprouts. As I recall, they weren’t very appealing and tasted like wet cardboard with a dash of cumin, which is something I’m sure we can all relate to. They also had a negative effect on my digestive system and consequently the environment but that’s not what this is about.

This is about a dream I had concerning Jimmy Wolinski the same night I ate the sprouts. Coincidence? Jimmy was a friend of mine when we attended Deerfield High School on the north side of Chicago. Jimmy was a good kid and the first to suggest that we play a game of touch football instead of tackling our biology homework. Twist my arm, Jimmy. It should come as no surprise that you will not be reading about Jimmy discovering a cure for cancer or even an ergonomically correct beer glass anytime soon. Jimmy now teaches gym at the very same high school that he attended and I can say with confidence that his students will never have a better mentor on the proper way to climb a rope (an exercise that  comes in handy should you ever need to scale a prison wall) or how to serve shuttlecock in badminton and still look cool. However…

In my dream, Jimmy was called into service to teach trigonometry in addition to his torturous gym instructor duties, which include blowing the whistle and carrying a clipboard.  Let me be clear: Jimmy MUST NOT teach trigonometry. Jimmy’s highest math class was a paint by numbers pre-introduction to junior remedial algebra. I know because I sat right next to him. I would be willing to bet my Cubs footsie pajamas that Jimmy thinks trigonometry is a breathing procedure where a tube is placed in the neck.

I’m painfully aware that the current economy is forcing workers to double and sometimes triple up on duties as a result of lay-offs and as distressing as this is, the thought of Jimmy going anywhere near a classroom where they have actual books and instruments of higher learning is mind-numbing.

Teachers need to stick to what they know and I certainly wouldn’t want a trig teacher telling me how to put someone in a full nelson or how to do backflips. I need Jimmy for that. Here’s what some of his former gym students have said about him.

“His gym shoes were always really white!”.”

(Steve Kelly)

“Mr. Wolinski taught me one of the most valuable lessons in life; never eat an entire pizza before doing somersaults.”

(David Ives)

“That man could really blow a whistle.”

(Hunter Lessner)

“Thanks Mr. W. for the valuable lesson about the jock strap and the hockey stick.”

(Dan “The Soprano” Lindquist)

Jimmy’s a great physical education teacher and the master of the wet towel snap to the buttocks, but teaching trig?

“Okay, Kids, settle down. My name is Mr. Wolinski and if you don’t behave, I’ll blow my whistle. Today, we’ll be discussing the Pytha…that theory thingamabob that says that 2 sides of a triangle equal…no, wait a minute…I mean when you add up three sides then subtract the short…no, wait. Ah heck, anybody want to go outside and play kickball?”

Hey, dreams can come true and if this one does, the kids in Deerfield are in a world of hurt! I’m planning on doing my part. There will be no more Brussels Sprouts on my menu, ever again. As much as my mouth salivates for the taste of soggy pizza boxes, I’m giving them up and I suggest you do the same. I say keep Jimmy in the locker room and out of the classroom. Our children deserve at least that.

 

MY SUMMER VACATION

 

I picked up copy of The Sun the other day. In this particular issue the big bold headline was, “MAN HOLDS STORE MANNEQUIN HOSTAGE: THREATENS TO BLOW HER BRAINS OUT.” I also noticed an ad they were running that read, “We pay money for stories. Be a Sun reporter. No experience necessary.” I liked that idea, especially the part about no experience necessary. That’s my best thing. So, I thought I might submit a paper I wrote in the second grade entitled, “What I Did on My Summer Vacation.”

We were traveling from Chicago to a place called Meadville, Pennsylvania to see my grandparents. For you non-historians, Meadville is not where the mighty Casey struck out; it’s where technology struck out.

We stayed at the Ro-Ho-Cho Motel and I must say that the view we had from our room of the ice machine was the reason the Lord invented post cards. Couple that with all the marvelous things my grandmother could do with her false teeth and, well, the trip was just a couple of inches shy of Nirvana. But, unfortunately, this year I didn’t quite make it all the way and so my paper began.

My father, tooling down some dirt road in Ohio singing Tennessee Waltz at the top of his lungs, suggested that my sister and I play a game in the backseat. I think his exact words were, “Kids, why don’t you play the game called, “See who can throw the other one out of the car first.” My sister won.

I got picked up by this farmer plowing his field who was totally convinced that I was the baby Jesus sent from Heaven to pray for his freshly planted corn crop. He took me inside to meet the ‘Mrs.,’ and as soon as she laid eyes on me, the funniest thing happened. Her arthritis, bursitis, laryngitis as well as the dandruff that had been plaguing her for years mysteriously vanished. The next day, with the full intention of adopting me, they loaded me on the tractor and took me down to Balls, the local bowling alley, where the town judge, who moonlighted as a custodian was busy disinfecting bowling shoes. I tried to tell them that they were making a big mistake. I said that I was just a six-year old kid who got tossed out of the car by my sister at my father’s urging. I tried to convince them that I was part of a loving, nurturing, wonderful, nuclear family, but they wanted no part of it.

The next day, the local paper ran the headline, “Farmer Drover and wife adopt the Baby Jesus. Good corn crop all but Guaranteed.”

Days passed and neighbors became more envious of my presence in their little town.  Every night when I went to bed, they would take turns climbing through the window begging me to help them out. Many were on their knees, face to face with me, tears streaming down their cheeks, tugging on my pajamas, pleading their needs all the while spitting the remnants of that night’s squirrel dinner on my forehead.

Finally, I was able to sneak out of the Drover’s place late one night and head back to the main road. I knew that my family would be returning home to Chicago and I was hoping that if they hadn’t already passed, they might stop if they saw me. Then in the distance I heard a disturbingly loud muffler noise and the sound of an equally obnoxious country song blaring on the radio. I was in luck. They stopped. Mom said that she felt terrible about not turning around and picking me up but added, “You know how your father gets when he wants to be someplace.” Then they asked me what I did and I told them that I stayed with this old farmer and his wife. It was at that moment that something strange happened. The muffler started purring like a kitten, my father’s cigar fell into his coffee cup and the country music station just vanished from the air!

We had been home for about three days when my mother heard a story on the news about this town in Ohio that had a miracle corn crop, prompting the President to proclaim it “Corn Capital of the World.” I thought, “Hey, that’s neat. I was just there.”

Yeah, it was a summer I’ll never forget and believe me I’ve tried. But when I got my paper back, I got the shock of my life. There was a humongous red “F” sprawling the full length of the page. “Oh no,” I thought. “I’m going to get killed. I just failed my very first paper of the school year.” Then I looked up as the principal came strolling in. He said he was there to unveil the school’s new grading system. “Boys and girls, from this day forth the new grade scale will be as follows: A = abhorrent; B = below average; C = commonplace; D = dismal; and F = fantastic.”  Wow! Double Wow!

When I submitted the story to The Sun, I got this response: “Thank you for writing to The Sun. Unfortunately, the story you submitted has already happened to one of our staff members. However, if you should ever run into Jimmy Hoffa enjoying a peanut butter and banana sandwich with Elvis in the French Alps, let us know. And remember, if you subscribe today, you can get 50% off the newsstand price. Sincerely, The Sun.”

 

 

NO CLOWNING AROUND

 

Hello and thanks for coming. My name is Bob and I’m afraid of clowns.

(crowd responds) HI BOB!

I first developed a fear of clowns when I was six years old. We were at my father’s company picnic when a strange looking man wearing red and green size eighty-two shoes and sporting really bad hair tried to stuff a pound of steaming hot bratwurst down my pants. When I finally came to, my pockets were turned inside out and, well, let’s just say I was red and blistered. My father then pulled me aside and told me that I had met a very bad man. “Gee, thanks dad for that stunning observation.” I never got over that incident and my fear of clowns has only intensified over the years.

Obviously, the good clowns outnumber the bad clowns. OK, not obviously, but hopefully. I’m also sure many parents of newborns raise their fresh from the womb additions high up in the air and exclaim with tears in their eyes, “Son, you’re going to be everything I wasn’t. You’re going to be a clown, damnit!”

My old roommate in New York was a clown. Prior to that, he was something equally as frightening, a New York City taxi driver, something he had to give up due to his penchant for running into fire hydrants. Mark was a great guy and at one point he even attended clown college. Yes, there really is such a thing. But, as luck would have it, he didn’t make it all the way through the entire program. Maybe he wasn’t quite scary enough but I never inquired as to the full story. He did tell me that he was infatuated with the idea of clowning because it gave him the opportunity to become someone else entirely. By the way, a few years later, Mark accomplished that in spades. He not only changed his name but his gender as well. At last check, ‘Marsha’ had found love in the arms of a fireman. A fireman, who apparently doesn’t mind getting squirted in the face with a carnation. Was it something about being a clown that forced such a life altering change? Only Marcia and her therapist will ever know the answer to that.

According to the Coulrophobia Society of America, of the nearly 328,000,000 people in this country, fourteen, at last count, had no feelings, good or bad, concerning clowns.  Showoffs!

I’m a straight thinking and logical adult and I know in my heart that no clown is ever going to break into my house in the middle of the night, spray me with his tulip and strangle me with his suspenders all the while blowing his silly little horn but that’s exactly what’s going to happen and I know it.

Well, that’s my story. Thanks for coming. My name is Bob and I’m afraid of clowns.

(WILD CROWD APPLAUSE) “Thanks Bob. Hey, got any brats?”

 

KEEP THE CHANGE

 

So maybe you’ve noticed over the past few months the entire world has turned upside down on us. It has brought us such novelties as not being allowed in a bank without a mask, earworms in everyone’s brain of Happy Birthday as a result of washing hands every three and a half minutes and, of course, finally coming to the startling realization that your partner or spouse can be really annoying!

In addition to all of these little annoyances, we also have a national coin shortage. We’re not buying anything so there are no coins in circulation. As a point of full disclosure, I have a massive collection that I am loathe to part with. Why?  Allow me to rip the bandage off and air it out for you.

Sure, there was a time when I had no problem cashing in my coins. I’d roll them in those paper coin roll wrappers and after a few paper cuts, I would take them to the bank where they would be transferred into dollar bills and I’d merrily be on my way. Then came the dreaded Coinstar machines. My anonymity has now vanished.

The last time I turned in my coins was the day I started therapy. Let me explain. I walked into Stop & Shop, unshaven, wearing my favorite pair of shorts that were literally being held together by about thirty or so iron on denim patches and on my back was a tattered and torn old radio station Battle of the Sexes tee shirt.  As I pushed my wheelbarrow up to the Coinstar machine, I couldn’t help but notice the number of shoppers that were gathering around much like they would after witnessing a train wreck. Some even had tears dripping down their cheeks. I’m pretty sure I heard one of them say, “How sad. What do you say we all chip in and buy the poor guy an apple of something?”  I tried to carry on but I felt a little like the guy who stands at the intersection holding up a piece of cardboard with the writing, ‘4 children, 2 dogs and 3 kids in college. Anything you can do. I really could use a beer. God Bless.’   

As a result of that horrible experience, I believed therapy was my only option. I found a very talented and lovely woman named Marilyn. When entering the room, I would always take the seat on the end of the sofa right next to the small table with the Newton’s Cradle and the obligatory box of Kleenex.   

During our first session as I was explaining that damaging episode of my psyche, I was shocked to learn that Marilyn was actually in the store at the time and, in fact, was the one who suggested buying me the fruit. As difficult as this experience was going to be for me, it must have been Hell for her thinking that my brain was just up there floating around, unattached.

Marilyn told me early on that although she understood that being seen turning in coins could possibly be perceived as a sign of desperation, it probably didn’t help my cause any by using the wheelbarrow. Unfortunately, we didn’t make the progress that either one of us had hoped for and it eventually came to an end. It was in our final session that she sighed, leaned forward in her chair, cupped her chin with both hands and said “Bob, I seriously don’t think I can help you. I think you have issues that are beyond the scope of my diplomas.” Ouch!

As I pulled myself off the couch and slithered towards the door, she turned and said, ‘I’m so sorry, Bob. Here have this apple. No charge.’