Heroes of the Shutdown (1995 Edition)

With the 2018 Federal government shutdown careering along, I thought I’d share a treasured old, but true, story.

Carole and I were on our first date on Saturday, December 16, 1995 in downtown Washington, DC — during the 1995 Clinton/Dole/Gingrich shutdown of fond memory. There was nothing else open in DC thanks to the shutdown so we went for a walk around the Mall and Washington Monument and environs.

An ABC TV news crew was there at the Washington Monument interviewing tourists, and since we were just about the only tourists there (except one cranky old guy and a bunch of homeless people) we of course got interviewed. Didn’t know until later that we’d actually been aired as part of that evening’s ABC World News Tonight, but Carole’s dad had set the VCR to record just in case, so that’s why we’ve got the video to share (see below).

I suspect we’re just about the only married couple who can truthfully say that their first date was aired on national television as part of the evening news. We got married in September of 1997 and are still married twenty years (and two more shutdowns) later.

Playing Footsie?

So there I was, dozing on a late flight from Chicago to Vermont, my arm dangling down next to my seat. Next thing you know, I’ve sleepily grabbed the shoe of the guy behind me and am trying (in my not-quite-half-awake stupor) to figure out what it is. Thank God he pulled it back abruptly and said nothing.

Mister Sour Mash

Remind me sometime to tell you the story of how I walked into a bar in Virginia to ask directions and two hours later stumbled out, having somehow won the title of “Mister Sour Mash”.

I hadn’t even known that there was a “Sour Mash Pageant.”

Violate All Principles of Decency and Sanity This Halloween

For those of you with depraved senses of humor, here’s your Halloween 2017 costume.1If you really want one, search for “Inflatable Mr Superawesomeness Adult Patrick Costume”. And may God have mercy on your soul.

It's apparently supposed to be Patrick Star from "Spongebob Squarepants", only I think they got the one from the universe where Cthulhu took over around 1945.

Just imagine wearing this, lumbering down the streets of your town, shouting “THERE IS NO GOD”.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. If you really want one, search for “Inflatable Mr Superawesomeness Adult Patrick Costume”. And may God have mercy on your soul.

Strangers at a bar

“So there I was, working construction, doing site cleanup work where a new office tower was going up, okay?

“And I came across this little bottle buried in the mud. Nothing special to look at. Little brown bottle with a cork in. Pretty well buried when I came across it. Who knows how long it’d been down there?”

I nodded at the rough, heavyset guy in jeans and a dirty Dallas Cowboys sweatshirt on the next barstool who’d decided, lacking any other obvious targets in the all-but-deserted bar, to honor me with his life’s story. Since he hadn’t yet tried to wheedle a drink out of me, I let it go. It could’ve been worse. I’ve known a lot of rambling drunks; he could’ve been drooling, or worse, drooling on me.

“So I pulled the cork out. Not like I expected anything to be in it, but someone’d taken pains to jam the cork in there pretty good, so I figured something had to be in there.”

I nodded, following him so far. “You weren’t worried that it might have been something bad? Poison? Something toxic?”

He glowered down at his beer. “Buddy, I wish I’d been so lucky.”

“No, what was inside was like outta one of those movies or fairy tales. Some sparkly, shiny smoke, and then a little guy about six inches tall dressed in pajamas and wearing a little helmet. Shiny little gold helmet. Little orangey-yellow guy. Damndest thing you ever saw.”

I turned and stared irritably at him, wondering where this was going. This was a bit outside your normal late-night drunken bar rambling gibberish, although to be honest, I guessed I owed him a point for originality, if nothing else. “An actual genie? Came right out of a little bottle you found in the mud?”

“I guess. Only this genie didn’t give me any three wishes or nothin’ like that. He said thank you, and he said that as a reward for freein’ him he’d give me all the talents and abilities of the next seven people to walk by on the street.”

Frowning at the strange direction this odd story had taken, I motioned him to go on.

“So he did. Only the first six guys to come by were all accountants from the same company down the street, all heading out to lunch after a hard morning doing revenue projections and audits and tax preparation and so on and so on.” He made little “blah blah” motions with one hand while gripping his beer with the other.

For a moment there he sounded like he was channeling one of those guys you meet at Rotary who hangs on your lapels wanting to talk investments and tax preparation. Not what you’d expect, looking at him. Nodding, I said “And the seventh?”

“He was a mortician.”

“A mortician?”

“Yeah. An undertaker. A funeral director. One of them guys.”

“So now…?”

“Yeah, so now I’m sitting here, never done anything but construction and demolition in my life, an’ I’ve got my head crammed full of every damn number-crunching concept invented since Adam ‘n’ Eve got kicked out of the garden, with no sort of professional documentation nohow. I know how to do all that stuff, but who’s gonna pay me to do it?”

I had to agree he had a point.

He glared back down at his beer. “But the worst part is I keep looking at people and imagining what they’d look like stretched out all naked on the embalming table.”

Fiftieth Birthday/Twentieth Wedding Anniversary

2017 marks two landmark dates in my life: my 50th birthday on September 20, and Carole and my 20th wedding anniversary a week earlier on September 13. (I was determined to get married before I turned 30. I managed it with a week to spare.)

Carole and I are taking an early 20th anniversary trip to Hawaii next month — we’re taking a Norwegian Cruise Lines seven day cruise around the Hawaiian islands, starting in Oahu and spending two days each in Maui, the Big Island, and Kauai before returning to Oahu. We’ll also be hanging out on Waikiki Beach for a few days before and after the cruise. This’ll be my 50th state, incidentally — I’ve been to the other 49, and not in the “I changed planes in an airport there” sense.

I know everyone else has already been to Hawaii, but we just never got around to it before. Hopefully no typhoons or cane toad infestations will ruin things for us.

As for my birthday — I don’t normally make any big deal out of my birthday. Most years I don’t ask for or receive any presents, but since you only turn 50 once (in most cases), I thought I’d mention that anyone who does want to get me something is welcome to pick most anything from the following website:


Send me an email if you want my shipping address. I’d set up a profile and wish list there, but alas, they haven’t configured the site to make that possible. I know September is a long way off, but I want to give people plenty of advance notice. Great tragedies only come around so often, you know.


Call The Governor of Tennessee…

Carole and I took an extended trip to Canada’s Maritime provinces (well, all except Newfoundland) in 2003. For the most part, we had a good time, although the mosquitoes in coastal New Brunswick were something we could have easily done without.

The high point of our trip was our stopover in Cavendish, Prince Edward Island. Cavendish is known for a few things:

  1. Potatoes
  2. Every single church running a nightly “Lobster supper” to raise funds
  3. “Anne of Green Gables”
  4. Tackiness

Cavendish is a waterfront community on the Gulf of St Lawrence. There’s a Canadian national park there with campgrounds and some surprisingly nice sandy beaches. You can visit the house where “Anne of Green Gables” lived — albeit in a notional sense, since Anne is a fictional character. You can eat lobster until you burst — every single church in the area runs a lobster supper in their fellowship hall. If you want, you can take home huge bags of potatoes; they raise a lot of potatoes in the area.

But our overwhelming impression of Cavendish was that it was Canada’s answer to American tackiness. Imagine a hodgepodge of the worst American tourist dives you’ve ever seen — places whose sole purpose is to appeal to the part of the human brain that treasures cheap plastic souvenirs and t-shirts with lamely funny art and slogans — mixed in with Canadian politeness and wholesomeness. Evidently our neighbors in the Great White North had not wanted to be outdone when it came to letting stupid people behave stupidly. Every store advertised their “unique gifts”… all of which were exactly like the “unique gifts” sold at the store next door.

We arrived in Cavendish on Canada Day (July 1), 2003. We put up our tent at the national park campground at Cavendish Beach and went looking for a place to eat. Rather than partake of one of the church suppers — Carole was doubtful about lobster cooked in a basement kitchen by some half-trained former lumberjack named Beau — we wound up at a sprawling local restaurant. I say “sprawling” because fully half of its footprint was dedicated to a sizeable gift shop that had everything you could possibly not need: day-glo flip-flops, shot glasses with double entrendres printed on the side, weird hats, weirder shirts, ashtrays made from large shells with patches of glitter and sand hastily glued down here and there. They were leaving no stone unturned; in fact, all the stones had been painted to look like frogs, with googly eyes attached.

And lobster hats. Did I mention the lobster hats?

In fact, if you wanted to outfit your house with an entire suite of lobster-enhanced artwork of dubious taste and merit and fill your closet with lobster socks, shirts, sunglasses, swimsuits, bras, panties, flip-flops, thongs, you would not have needed to look any further. “I’ll simply back my car up to the door,” you’d say. “Throw it all in the back. If it’s got a lobster, googly eyes, or glitter on it, I want it. My neighbors at the trailer park may as well give up competing for the Most Beautiful award when they see me come home with all this.”

We stood there surveying the god-awful Grand Guignol decadence as our eyes adjusted to the dim light indoors. Dumfounded, I leaned over to Carole and quietly hissed “Carole — call the Governor of Tennessee. Ask him to check and see if Gatlinburg is missing.”

Carole dissolved in laughter. It was quite some time before she recovered enough to try to explain the joke to the perplexed shopkeepers. As it happens, they never did understand; they’d lived, surrounded by all that stuff, so long that it had become normal.


Embrace Your Inner Scumbag

Worst Person In The World
I’m selling “Worst Person In The World” t-shirts as a fundraiser for next year’s Seattle Susan G Komen 3-Day walk. (I’ve got to raise $2,300 to take part in the event, a sixty-mile, three-day walk to raise funds for the fight against breast cancer.) The cost of each shirt includes approximately $20 for Susan G Komen. They make great holiday gifts!

Click here to order your shirt!

I grant you that there is NO CONNECTION between the message on the shirt and the fight against breast cancer, but from the look of things lately, nihilism is IN. Buy a shirt for that special someone in your life — or heck, buy one for yourself! And know that as you proudly announce your depravity to everyone you meet, you’re also supporting the fight against breast cancer!

Please re-share this!

DNE: The Saga Continues

dne june 13 2016

This is my first time back at this customer since early May. I’m pleased to report that the seemingly random string of hexadecimal code I left on a conference room marker board back on April 12 is still there today.

The breaks in the blue surrounding the code make me think that people have written all around the code and right up to the boundary, but have tried with some care to not erase the blue or the code itself. Thanks, people!

The Unbearable Lightness of Ice Cream Cakes

Carole really likes ice cream cakes. I mean she really, really likes ice cream cakes. Even though I can take them or leave them, she used to try to twist my arm into consenting to have an ice cream cake for my birthday every September. It just seemed like such a waste to have a cake-eating occasion and not have ice cream cake. So, as a result, I try to order an ice cream cake from our local Ben and Jerry’s scoop shop (theoretically, it’s Ben and Jerry’s Store #1, although it’s not at the location of the original one a couple of blocks away) now and then, often for contrived holidays like “National Squeakin’ Day”. They always give us a $4 Off Your Next Ice Cream Cake coupon, which sort of traps us in an infinite loop of ice cream cakes. (Carole says “And your point is?”)

I couldn’t think of a good faux holiday that coincided with last Saturday, although technically it was my parents’ wedding anniversary (56th). Celebrating their anniversary two and a half years after my mom’s death, with my father not on hand, seemed pointless, so I just plain winged it. Thanks to B. Kliban, may he rest in peace.

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That’s a layer of “Hazed and Confused” (hazelnut and chocolate) and a layer of “Chocolate Fudge Brownie”, in case you were wondering.

Carole pronounced it “gooooood”.