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W.B.’s Resolution: Find a Rhyme for Penguins

5 Jan

by Roger White

 

Ah, my cosmic cohort, mi altruistic amigos, another calendar has been trash-binned. Another yuletide has been yuled, another new year’s staggered through, another den full of pine needles and confetti swept up, another damn wrinkle found in the mirror. This can mean only one thing: It’s time to hear from the great Willie Bartwhat a nightholin Cowper, former poet laureate of south Hudspeth County and professor emeritus at the Fort Stockton Night School for Girls. The legendary W.B. has agreed to grace us with his poetic rendition of thoughtful resolutions for the year 2015.

 

Please understand, my existential adherents, as I turn this forum over to W.B. that the professor, while still brilliant and incisive, tends to wax a tad eccentric of late. Prof Cowper, a true Renaissance man, spent the greater part of his life as an inventor-philosopher perfecting a type of home insulation crafted from radium-coated asbestos. Take this into account as you glean what pearls of wisdom you can from Dr. Cowper’s musings. I give you the renowned Willie Bartholin Cowper:

 

“Now that 2014’s gone and a new year is before us,

Let’s make some resolutions—because some rocks are rightly porous.

 

“Let’s vow to argue less, to see the other’s position,

Walk a mile in another’s shoes, but don’t catch his foot condition.

 

“Know that Republicans are simply Democrats with their insides turned out,

And Methodists are actually Baptists with a bad case of gout.

 

“Let’s eradicate Ebola with sarcasm and unmanned drones,

Let’s toast the Kardashians with mint tea and scones.

squirrel bagged

“Make an effort to floss more, text less, and put the lid down,

Above all, avoid the squirrels in the road on the east side of town.

 

“Let’s vow to remember what’s important in life,

It’s not fame or fortune or having a trophy wife.

 

“No, it’s about family and friends and love, goodness knows,

And finally squeezing that pimple just under your nose.

 

“Let’s resolve to drive friendlier, to let the other guy in,

And reol nancemember that Nancy Reagan had very weak shins.

 

“Let’s keep foremost in our minds that inside we’re all the same,

Except, of course, for the Norwegians—we all know their little game.

 

“Take time in this new year to stop and smell the roses,

And forget you saw your mother-in-law in just her pantyhoses.

 

“Fill your days with things you love, put petty squabbles aside,

And remember—your sister’s poodle likes to drink formaldehyde.

 

“Be kinder to your neighbors; being friendly’s not that hard,

If you recall, they’re the ones who saw you passed out in the yard.

 

“Be more like little children—worry less and play more,

But try hard this year to blow less snot on the floor.

 

“Be there when your kid learns to ride her first bicycle,

But trust not that new proctologist with hands like icicles.

 

“Don’t be so body-conscious, so you’ve gained a few pounds,

Your hiney is your cushion—it’s meant to be round.

 

“Take your wife out to dinner, or if she’s out of town,

Take your friend’s wife to dinner; we know she’s been around.

 

“Walk a few blocks when you can; clip your nose hairs often,

Eat the pickles in the side drawer before they start to soften.

 

“Tell your mother that you love her; tell your stepdad he’s the tops,

Find your nephew’s medication before someone calls the cops.

 

be a pepper“Consume more uncooked greens, learn to brush behind your molars,

Drink more Dr. Peppers; drink fewer Coca-Colers.

 

“Keep your poise, keep your cool, keep your sense of humor,

Have that weird mole checked—probably not a tumor.

 

“So look for the good in people, but watch for the bad in penguins,

And remember through life’s journey—nothing really rhymes with penguins.”

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

Suburban Worldsick Blues

27 May

by Roger White

 

With a tip of the hat to a master chronicler of the American age, it must be noted that Bob Dylan never lived in a 3/2/2 with central heat/air and two and a half mortgages during a time when, by all appearances, our society is on the verge of utter decay—all viewable with the click of a mouse or touch of a pad.

 

So I give you “Suburban Worldsick Blues.”

 

Perry’s in the Capitol, railin’ against abortion,

I’m lookin’ at my taxes thinkin’ it’s extortion,

The man in the trench coat shootin’ up the school halls

Says he got bullied so everybody must fall.

 

Look out, dad, the economy is bad,

God knows what we did, but the country’s on the skids.

 

You better duck down, turn page, watch out for road rage,

Another mass swhyhooting, another senseless rampage,

Sterling’s on his cell phone reminiscin’ ’bout slavery,

Miley’s twerkin’ onstage, scandalous behavery.

 

Look out, mom, Gotta stay calm,

Soldiers in Kabul dodging roadside bombs.

 

Get sick, get well, they’re laying off again at Dell,

Are we winnin’ whatever war, it’s gettin’ kinda hard to tell,

Presidenidiotst says our healthcare system’s unfit,

All Congress says is where’s your birth certificate?

 

Well, Hormel, GM organizin’ recalls,

Bad meat, bad brakes, pickets down at town hall,

Daughter’s college fees call for medical sedation,

Building border walls to stifle immigration.

 

Look out, pop, no tellin’ where it stops,

Younger daughter’s boyfriend working at a head shop.

 

Mortgage underwater, excess beer consumption,

Viagra wants to help with that erectile dysfunction,

The factonoworkry just made a Chapter 11 declaration,

School board says it’s gonna teach divine creation.

 

Text tweet online, your selfie looking so fine,

Kids in Bosnia steppin’ on old land mines.

Icebergs meltin’, droughts killin’ all the wheat,

Just global warmin’ lies of the liberal elite.

 

Well, get dressed, get stressed, face the day’s traffic mess,

Oops, your job’s just been outsourced to Bangladesh.

Don’t follow leaders, take pills for all the cedars,

Find yourself a new position as a Walmart greeter.

 

Look out, mama, you’re dyin’ from the trauma,

Increase yer Prozac dosage, tune in the dalai lama.

 

Well, jump down a manhole, filibuster gun control,

thebardThink I saw a shadow up there beyond the grassy knoll,

Headin’ to the car, another day in the loony ward,

Shakin’ yer head ’cause the vandals keyed yer new Ford.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

143a.

 

It’s Official Now: We’re Part of the Big, Bad City

25 Jun

by Roger White

 

Is anyone reading this? I can’t be at all certain, my free-ranging earth mates, that my dispatches of late are not being intercepted by the local gendarmes. So send up a flare, if you would, if I’m getting through.

 

As I pen these nuggets, you see, my house—in fact, the whole neighborhood—is under police lockdown. Nobody in, nobody out without proper identification. Road blocks, complete with all sorts of uniforms and squad cars and news trucks, clog all exits from our little subdivision.

 

I’ll begin at the beginning, which is always a good place to begin. It started out like any other normal suburban Sunday—I’m up at the crack of 10:30 a.m.; the wife’s sipping coffee and reading the paper; I’m searching for my pants and trying to remember if I wore pants the previous night. Then the wife takes our dog out to do his business. When she returns, Sue has that look on her face like the time my mom and stepdad showed up at the door unannounced, with luggage and pets.

 

“Ralph got the runs again?” I inquire.

 

“No. Cops. Everywhere. With German shepherds. And guns. Lots of guns.”

 

Our first notion was yet another kegger gone wild at the rent house down the block, but no, this was much more serious. Our youngest daughter then relayed a text message she got from her pal one street over: “Sta in yr hous. Kllers loos” or something to that effect. Sure enough, we found it on our local news web site: The police found a guy croaked in his car in our little neighborhood park right behind our house. Right behind our house! And it wasn’t natural causes, if you know what I mean. This was a homicide! A 10-12, or 687, or BLT, or whatever the cops call it. This is stuff that happens on the east side, in places that exist only on TV—not in our quiet, covenant-protected enclave! Holy Peyton Place!

 

For the rest of the day, we perched at our windows, eyeing helicopters circling low overhead, watching all types and sizes of uniformed men combing the greenbelt behind our house, walking the streets, carrying all types and sizes of Rambo-looking weaponry. I briefly entertained the notion of taking my Swiss pen knife in hand, but then I figured if the constabulary needed my help, they’d ask.

 

Rumors began flying, via Facebook, texts, and the neighborhood cell phone grapevine. It was the Mexican Mafia; it was crazed hippies from Arizona; it was the guy’s wife; it was the guy’s girlfriend; it was the guy’s girlfriend’s husband; it was the guy’s wife’s boyfriend; etc. Eventually, the best information we could get was that it appeared to be a carjacking that began outside the neighborhood but somehow ended up here.

 

As tragic and frightening as this event was, the aftereffects were almost as disturbing. As the manhunt went on, suspicions mounted. Everyone became a suspect.

 

“Who is that?”

 

“Where?”

 

“Right there! Walking down the street. I haven’t seen him before. He looks kinda dodgey. Where’s that police chopper when you need it?”

 

“He lives down the street, hon. He plays with our kids. He’s 12, for crying out loud.”

 

“Oh. Well, he could use a haircut.”

 

By afternoon, it got to the point where we were jumping at shadows. I was in the den, watching England try to hang on in quiet desperation against the Italians in the Euro 2012 soccer tournament, when something flicked rapidly across our back deck.

 

“Hon!” I screamed. “Get the Swiss pen knife!”

 

Then I heard the plaintive meow, signaling that Max our cat wanted to come in.

 

“Never mind!”

 

“You thought Max was the murderer?” Sue teased.

 

“Killers can be very small, you know.”

 

Oddly enough, as we became more accustomed to the siege mentality, we soon realized that this “house arrest” was actually not any different than any other summer day. I mean, who’s leaving the house when it’s 104 degrees outside? By the way, as of this writing, the suspect or suspects remain at large, so if you don’t hear from me again, find out the number for 911.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

This Was Going to be Funny. Honest, It Was.

26 Aug

by Roger White

All right, you caught me. Put the flashlight and rubber-band guns down, I’m not going anywhere. I’ll talk. I tried. I really, truly tried to write this week’s column. Had my topic, had my three main points with some minor diversions, all with clever punchlines and cute little asides. There was even a comic twist and a reversal in there. We in the biz sometimes call this the counter-clockwise swirl, in deference to the great Jerry Seinfeld (played by Jerry Seinfeld). Jocular juxtaposition. Classic formula. I just couldn’t get motivated to finish the darn thing. It was going to be funny this time, too—not like usual. I was going to regale you with tales of my domestic do-it-yourself adventures gone wrong. You know, how clumsy and endearingly goofy I am at trying to fix things around the house. Oh, it was going to be a hoot. Like the time I went up in the attic to bait raccoon traps and fell through the attic floor/bedroom ceiling and caused a massive pink and avocado avalanche of insulation and raccoon droppings all over our master bedroom carpet. At least we had a Sears coupon for flashlights and duct tape–but where does one find rubber band guns anymore? Oh, lordy, it was to be hilarious, and most of it true, too, except for the part about the baby hippopotamus and the peanut butter.

But no. I just couldn’t do it. I am stalled, stagnated. Dulled into a slackjawed stupor by the Venutian heat of a summer from hell and heavy, unrelenting doses of CNN and reruns of “The Waltons” on TV Land. By the way, did you know that in the 1971 pilot for “The Waltons” – called “The Homecoming: A Christmas Story” – that the part of Grandpa Walton (later played by Will Geer) was originally played by the famed ventriloquist Edgar Bergen, father of Candice Bergen? Bet you didn’t know that.

And as we all know, Candice Bergen and then-boyfriend Terry Melcher (son of Doris Day) once lived in the very house that Sharon Tate was living in when that horrible Manson thing went down. In fact, it was Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson who introduced Manson to Melcher because Melcher was in the music business and Wilson had been impressed with some of Charlie’s songs. Creepy, huh? Yeah, I know.

You see, it’s developments like this that keep me from staying on task. I am supposed to be telling you about my uproariously amusing attempts at home repair and maintenance, like the time a friend was helping me move my mom’s heavy (and expensive) thick glass coffee table and we turned it upside-down not knowing that the glass table top wasn’t attached to the frame and the slab of beautiful smoked glass fell onto the sidewalk and smashed into a bazillion little smoked shards of dangerous, beautiful rubble. You would have laughed. The way I was going to tell it, oh, how you would have howled. And that yarn would have been factual, as well, if not for the bit about police intervention and the buxom neighbor down the street who was once Steve McQueen’s torrid lover. McQueen, by the way, starred in the 1966 film The Sand Pebbles, which also featured one miss Candice Bergen from earlier in this column. Is that fate or what?

Ah, well. Look, I’m sorry. Instead of just standing there staring, you could help me, you know. Think of something funny. How about this? DVD titles you’ll never see. Try this one: Me and My Vivisection. Right, it’s a bit on the morbid side. What’s that? Not bad, not bad. Great French Military Campaigns of WWII. Kinda obvious, though. Hmmmm. Yoko Ono Sings Perry Como. Talking with Your Teenager. No? A Wall Street Guide to Secure Investments. Good one. Now, that’s funny.

You see? If we work together, you and I, we can pull this off. We can create a new genre of participatory journalism. This, in turn, will help usher in the new era of peace and enlightenment that is to come as we near the bend to 2012 and the eventual end of the world as we know it. You see, I knew there was a reason I couldn’t finish this week’s column. It’s all about world peace. I’m glad I could help.

But please, be thinking of something for next week. I don’t want to have to do this again.

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

Here’s Your Chance to Win Five Easy Dollars. I’m Not Joking. Maybe.

19 Aug

by Roger White

It’s that time again, kids! No, not International Slinky Races Day, as exciting as that is. It’s time once again to play Spot the True Story. I know, I know, NPR Radio has its version of this shtick, but I’ve been doing it for 31 years now, so if anyone has a case against anybody, it’s me. Against them. About this. But I love NPR, and only lawyers win when you sue, and who needs wealthier lawyers? Not me, pal. Which reminds me of a joke:

Q: What do you call it when you have 100 lawyers buried up to their necks in cement?  A: Not enough cement.

God, I love that joke. Anyway, those of you who are faithful followers of my weekly epistles know that every 20 years, rain or shine, I present Spot the True Story. How it works is this: I give you, dear reader, three news reports from around the globe. However, only one of them is—you guessed it—true. Your job is to determine which one. First one to e-mail me the correct answer at rogdude@mail.com wins five real U.S. dollars. No kidding. Second place wins three bucks; third place, one genuine American dollar. Fourth through sixth place wins a nifty fridge magnet of my choosing; seventh through ninth earns a hearty “Thanks for Playing Our Stupid Game!!!!!” from yours truly. Taxes on winnings are sole responsibility of individual winners. Void where prohibited. Prohibit where voided. Violators will be prosecuted. Prosecutors will be etc. etc.

If you don’t want to play this time around, worry not. You’ll get another opportunity in August of 2031. So here goes. Spot the True Story:

1. Researchers in New Hampshire have apparently discovered a duck-billed platypus that displays a unique ability to detect exaggerated campaign promises by presidential candidates. Working in his Concord lab, wildlife biologist Myron Glunden and his team observed that a female platypus named Gigi, when shown videotapes of every successful presidential candidate’s speech since the Kennedy Administration, nods slowly and issues a soft snort when a promise later confirmed to be kept is spoken by a presidential hopeful. However, when a promise later verified to be either exaggerated or completely false is delivered by a candidate, Gigi lays an egg and flaps her tail vigorously until exhausted.

Glunden reported, for example, that when Gigi watched George H. W. Bush’s “read my lips—no new taxes” promise, she produced 13 eggs and had to be sedated after severely spraining her tail.

This, of course, explains why you’ve never seen a duck-billed platypus anywhere near a political campaign bus.

2. Researchers in Germany are reporting that dogs can “smell” cancer. That’s right, a report from Stuttgart claims that canines are able to whiff the organic compounds linked to cancer in humans. The report’s author, Enole Boedeker, claims that two German shepherds, an Australian shepherd, and a Labrador retriever were trained to signal when they smelled the presence of cancer in lab samples.

Specifically, the dogs smelled test tubes containing the breath of approximately 200 people. Some had lung cancer, and some didn’t. The dogs were then trained to lie down and touch their noses to the tubes that contained the cancer cells. Boedeker said the dogs successfully identified the cancer-containing test tubes in a startling 71 out of the 100 people who had the disease.

I suppose the lesson here is to pay attention when your dog sniffs you a little more than usual. Then again, dogs spend an inordinate amount of time smelling certain things; so if you’re prone to panic, you might mistake a simple friendly greeting as a canine warning of colon cancer or something.

3. Scientists in Pamplona, Spain, have discovered that Siamese cats can “see” when you’ve been drinking. According to a report from the Navarre Regional Association of Veterinary Research, a seven-year study on the peculiar visual structure of the Siamese breed (which sometimes manifests as crossed eyes) shows that these cats can distinguish between the perspiration of a person who has a moderate level of alcohol in his system and a person who does not.

The study was originally intended to determine if Siamese are less active at night than most cats due to the fact that their blue eyes lack a tapetum lucidum, a structure that amplifies dim light in the eyes of other cats. The mutation of this structure in the Siamese cat has been found to produce abnormal neurological connections between the eye and the brain.

Researchers also found, quite by accident, that this mutation apparently allows the Siamese to detect alcohol vapors in human perspiration. Following a social gathering, a team member who came into the research lab one evening noticed the peculiar behavior of the Siamese cats, who eyed with great curiosity the man’s sweat-soaked T-shirt he discarded—even though the cats were separated from the researcher by a pane of glass. Acting on a hunch, the researcher later repeated the scenario, using a “sober sweat” T-shirt as a control measure; the cats again reacted to the shirt moistened by “vodka sweat,” as he termed it.

Following publication of these findings in a popular local magazine, pet shops across the greater metropolitan Pamplona area quickly ran out of Siamese cats, besieged obviously by wary bosses, housewives, and local temperance movement advocates. The Pamplona PD also instituted a pilot “SSC” (Siamese Sobriety Check) program, in which a cat rides along on each patrol. Tiny, little policeman’s caps were made, but the cats kept brushing them off and chewing on them.

Good luck, players! And keep your hands where we can see them.

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

Mr. All-Day Sucker-Head and Your Friendly Fix-it Shop

6 Jun

by Roger White

Our little family was tooling along this year, struggling to stay within our monthly budget while juggling life’s big-ticket items—you know: braces, home improvement loans, countless teenage daughter items, summer camp fees times number of children squared, etc., etc.—when the two most feared words in all of suburbia’s lexicon knocked us flat.

Car repair.

Funny thing is, it all started with just a broken brake light. I’m sitting in my wife’s car at a stop light, waiting to turn right, when a smiling woman pulls up next to me and says, “Hey, your right rear light is out. Better get it fixed, ’cause the cops will stop you for that.”

Instant adrenaline panic overdrive. The cops! Where?

Ever since I was a teenager, having a cop stop me for any reason has always struck fear deep in my heart, even when I was doing absolutely nothing wrong. Readers of a certain age will remember the CSNY lyric: “Like looking in my mirror and seeing a police car!”

So the wife and I promptly hightailed it over to our nearest franchise fix-it shop, thinking that a broken rear light costs, what, five bucks maybe?

Hah. The franchise fix-it shop guys saw us coming a mile away. I should have known. I can’t think of any other scenario where I feel so much like a life-sized walking all-day sucker than talking with the mechanic man. I’m thinking I’m not alone on this.

I believe that auto repair types begin sizing you up for the big squeeze the minute you walk in the door.

“Hello, sir, I see you and your wife have a Honda V6.”

“Uh, yes.”

“Does your model have the actuated re-inverter or self-regulating?”

“What?” Off guard, I blurt, “Actuated, I think. Really, we just need a brake light…”

“Uh oh. Actuated.”

(The other guy behind the counter sadly shakes his head at this point. The choreography is keen and well-executed, I must say.)

Still, I play along, because I don’t know enough about cars to bluff them, and they know that I don’t know. Furthermore, I know that they know I don’t know. You know?

Dang, I should have said self-regulating. We’re already off on the wrong foot. “Well, it may be self-regulating, I’m not sure.”

“No, you said actuated.”

“Is that going to be a problem?” I ask.

“Depends. What are you in for?”

“Busted rear light.”

“Hmmmm.” More head shaking. Some computer clacking, looking in reference manuals.

We left the car with the fix-it shop crew, said three quick Hail Marios to the Great Grease Gods, hoped and prayed for the best, and went about our day. I tried googling “re-inverter,” but all I got was something about how to design a death-ray gun. When we got the call that the car was ready, we swallowed our gum, put on our all-day sucker heads, and made our way back to the garage. A different guy behind the counter gave us a bill that was a good 25 percent over the estimate. On the bill was a hefty item—I kid you not—that was labeled “service fee,” on top of labor, parts, tax, recycling charges, oil disposal fee, and all the rest.

My wife, always the braver of us, questioned this item, noting that the estimate was much less than the sum before us.

“This is way over what you said,” Sue said right out loud, turning all heads in the shop. I cringed. In a western movie, this was one of those moments where the piano player stopped playing and the saloon grew deathly silent. “What is this service charge?” A tumbleweed rolled eerily across the shop floor.

I expected another stern, condescending talking-to about how variable fluctuations in the world of auto parts derivatives combined with the situation in Libya, hourly swings in crude oil prices, and our particular vehicle’s unfortunate re-inverter configuration all coalesced in the time it took to repair our rear brake light to necessitate an additional service charge. But the guy looked at the bill, looked at my wife, and said, “Huh. Don’t know what that is. I’ll take it off.”

Booiiiinnng. That was the sound of my brain leaping out of my skull and bouncing on the floor. How many people, I wondered as I chased my brain across the floor, pay this “service charge” without a second thought?

“By the way, you need new struts. They’re bleeding onto your brakes. That’s about $600 without tax.”

Flush with new confidence instilled by wifey, I took my turn. “Oh, no you don’t. I know how you guys operate. Struts. No such thing as struts, I bet.”

I got some looks of approval from some of the other guy customers as we walked out of the shop. I think they were looks of approval, anyway. I had a bit of difficulty getting my all-day sucker-head in the car, but we drove away with a bit of salvaged pride. Struts, indeed.

“Hey, what’s that noise, hon?”

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Oak Hill with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.