Friday, March 29, 2013

A short conversation between an NFL player and the team physician

"How's it look, doc?"
"Well, not good, frankly. The results are in and it looks like you have failed the physical exam. This essentially voids your contract with the team."
"Wow. This is a lot to process. I guess I'll need to worry about my career options later, but more importantly, am I okay? Do I have serious medical issues that need immediate attention?"
"Who gives a shit? Next!"

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Temptation keeps me on the run

I really like my job. That wasn't the case for a long time, specifically those couple of years of my life that went down the toilet when I worked for the worst hotel in the world (message me privately if you're planning a visit to the Tampa Bay area so you don't wind up in this shithole by accident). But now, yeah, I'm very happy and I really don't want to lose my job. Not just because looking for work, specifically when you have to look for work, is a horrific experience but because I am just that happy.
In spite of that (or maybe because of it), I find myself challenged and tempted by circumstances that could easily result in my termination. For example, recently my company sponsored a 5K fun run and a week or so after it was over, a participant called in for the results. I resisted my natural urges and am thankfully still employed, but this is how that call could have gone if I were a person of even slightly weaker resolve...

Caller: Hi, I participated in the fun run last week and just wanted to check the results.
Me: Are you Kenyan, sir?
Caller: Um...what?
Me: Are you from Kenya? It's in east Africa.
Caller: No.
Me: Well, you didn't win then.

Caller: Hi, I participated in the fun run last week and just wanted to check the results.
Me: Were you alone when you got to the finish line, sir?
Caller: Um...what?
Me: Were there other people at the finish line when you got there, people who got there before you did?
Caller: Yes.
Me: Well, you didn't win then.

Caller: Hi, I participated in the fun run last week and just wanted to check the results.
Me: You didn't win.
Caller: I realize that but I'd still like to know how I did.
Me: Oh, because you're trying to gauge how well you did in comparison with the the other participants, just for your own sake?
Caller: Yes, exactly.
Me: You lost.

Monday, March 25, 2013


As I careen clumsily towards becoming a bonafide old man, I find myself developing a deeper understanding of things I either didn't get at all or only understood superficially before. One of those things is older men dating younger women. Like, women young enough to be their daughters. I mean, I'm not going to start doing that because it's creepy and pathetic, but I think I get the appeal. I mean beyond all the obvious superficial and stereotypical reasons, there's another level that most people don't take into consideration: older mature women have already seen everything. What I mean by that is that you can't shock them. When you're looking for a companion, you want someone on whom you can make some kind of impression. Since, in all likelihood, we (men at this age) have already done everything that anybody would consider good or nice or pleasant, the only impression left to make is to horrify someone with our awfulness. Women my age are likely to have been around the block at least as many times as I have and are probably jaded to some degree. Not that the purpose of being in a relationship is to startle your partner, but when you're old and disgusting and you introduce something horrible to your partner, be it a kinky, perverted habit or just a disgusting part of your body or your life in general, you not only expect, but kind of want more of a reaction than, "Yeah? And?".

"So... now you know."
"Okay then. Thanks."
"Thanks? No thoughts on that...?"
"Listen, my last boyfriend and I broke up because I caught him wearing my heels. I've already seen your feet and they're much larger than mine so I figure I'm already ahead of the game."
"Well, thanks, but..."
"Wait, you said you have a job, right?"
"Huh? Yeah, I have a job."
"Whew. All right then. Everything's fine."

That's not a conversation you're ever going to have with a girl in her 20s. Like I said, I'm not going to go all mid-life crisis and start dating embryos. But I understand one of the underlying reasons why other old dudes do.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Uncle Andy's Dandy Land O' Candy!

Hey kids of all ages, remember when you were little and your favorite thing in the whole world was to pay a visit to Uncle Andy's Dandy Land O' Candy?

"Uncle Andy's? Why, sure I do! I loved going to Uncle Andy's! Candy, as far as the eye could see, any kind you could think of. And the train! He had that wonderful toy train that ran around the entire store. Wow, I haven't thought of that in ages!"

"My goodness, how could I ever forget Uncle Andy's! I would sit for hours and just watch the little toy train make it's way around the store... while eating more than my share of jelly beans, of course. Ha ha!"

"It really was like a magical place; any kind of candy you could think of. And that marvelous little train! I loved that train! Such a delightful childhood memory. I sure do miss good ol' Uncle Andy."

Good news! Uncle Andy is still around and you can step right back into the enchanted days of yesteryear with a visit to Uncle Andy's Dandy Land O' Candy! 

"Yeah, I'm still here, you rat bastards. I mean, the store isn't where it was but it still exists and I still own it. I had to move out of downtown in the 1970's, when it became overrun with junkies, bums and the coloreds. I was in that location for 32 years and since I moved out, it's been six different homo discotheques and burned down twice. All the stores downtown moved to the mall so I did too. I made a go of it there for a while but damn if the same thing that happened downtown didn't happen there too. Mostly in terms of the coloreds. Now, I'm in some non-descript utility warehouse facility out by the highway. It's fine except it's not a place where you're going to find a lot of kids. Obviously, that's not ideal for a good old fashioned candy store. On the other hand, most of my sales are in bulk now so I don't have to bother setting up displays anymore; everything just stays in cardboard boxes, stacked up along the walls. I knew 20 years ago that retirement was a pipe dream and I have bills to pay, so here I am. Honestly, I had hoped I'd be dead by now but I guess God hates me. Every so often, somebody will stop by who used to come in to the store downtown when they were children. They have fat, ugly kids of their own now, and they drag them in here and ask me where the train is, a train I haven't had since some filthy Puerto Rican kid stole the engine just before I moved the hell out of the mall. I'll tell you like I tell them; If you want to look at trains, go down to the goddamn freight yard with the rest of the hobos. Otherwise, unless you're interested in buying a carton of malted milk balls, get the hell out of here and leave me alone, you shit weasels."

"You know, now that I think about it, I remember Uncle Andy usually smelling like whiskey and how he used to warn me and my friends to behave ourselves by showing us a baseball bat he kept behind the counter. And not just a regular baseball bat; this one had nails sticking out of it."

"He was forever sticking his hands down his pants and if he caught you looking at him, he'd mutter something about keeping his shirt tucked in. I was little and naive then but I knew there was something not right about that."

"I stopped in at his store at the old mall once to see if he still had that little toy train. I didn't even touch it but he yelled at me to keep my hands to myself. Then for some reason, he called me a filthy Puerto Rican and came after me with an old baseball bat with nails sticking out of it. On second thought, fuck Uncle Andy. I thought he was dead and I'm sorry to hear that he isn't."

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Here comes the neighborhood

Yesterday, I saw this article about the latest rad protest against everybody's favorite universally-despised hate mongers, the modern-day Nazis known as the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC). 
A gentleman named Aaron Jackson found a house for sale across the street from the WBC headquarters in Topeka, Kansas, bought it and is painting it the colors of the rainbow flag. Jackson is a founding member of Planting Peace and the house will be known as "Equality House"
"We want this house to be a message that where there's hate, there's also love. But we also want to raise awareness and capital, and we want to put all that money into creating and sustaining anti-bullying programs, along with supporting anti-bullying programs that already exist," he said. "Beyond the symbolic message of the home, [the house] will be utilized by volunteers to live here, and these volunteers will work on promoting equality anywhere in the world and managing these anti-bullying initiatives that we plan on creating."

That all sounds fine. The only thing that keeps me from pumping my fist and yelling, "HELL YEAH!" is that I think the WBC is kind of overstated as an actual menace. Don't get me wrong; there's no question that they're opportunistic parasites who promote an unspeakably ugly agenda. Their antics have pushed my buttons and raised my ire more than a few times over the years, too. I question how much of an actual threat they pose, though. Their tactics and message aren't going to appeal to anybody who isn't already twisted in that direction. They're extremists on the outer edge of the fringe and will never enjoy anything resembling mainstream credibility. If you dig just a little deeper than the inflammatory news reports of their plans to show up at this tragic event or that, it becomes obvious that they're far more interested in getting attention than they are with gaining converts or sending anybody to hell. It's even more pathetic than attention seeking behavior; it's a money hustle. When you really look at it, it's all pretty transparent. 
I could be wrong about that but I don't think I am. Do a search on YouTube for "Westboro Baptist Church" and you'll find several counter protests, many of which are sincere and inspiring. But as you peruse, you'll start finding some where those who have a legitimate reason to be upset about the WBC are replaced by a douche-y, frat boy, yokels-with-pitchforks looking for kicks element, where the mindset isn't "this is inappropriate and a counter-statement must be made for the sake of what's right", it's "hey, let's pound some PBRs and go down to the cemetery and fuck with the freaks!". I'll bet Shirley Phelps eyes turn into dollar signs like a Tex Avery cartoon character when she sees those cement heads show up. A punch in the face equals money in the bank.
I wish Mr. Jackson nothing but success. Far be it from me to tell people what should or shouldn't upset them and how they should or shouldn't react. Heaven knows that nobody could ever be faulted for the infuriating antics of the WBC getting in their head and I'm definitely not saying that hate mongering should go unchallenged. But I really do believe that without the attention they crave, and need to keep their lights on, that they'd shrivel up and die. They're utterly lacking in substance beyond their made-for-reality-tv train wreck appeal, which has already carried them further than it should have. If anything, Jackson's approach is clever and likely to be far more effective than trying to pick a fight with or throw a rock at a member of the Phelps family, even though a rock upside the head is exactly what those people deserve. Personally, I've seen the WBC's act and I'm convinced that's all it is and it's all they've got. I'm far more afraid of organizations that aren't as flamboyant as the WBC in pressing their agendas of hate (hint: they tend to throw the word "family" around a lot). Those are the people who have the ability to exi$t in the main$tream and manipulate it to their benefit. That's who I'll be keeping my eyes on.
Subtlety, as personified by the WBC.

Monday, March 18, 2013

McContingency plan

McDonald's ran a special promotion during the recent St. Patrick's Day weekend; between the hours of 11pm and 4am, Big Mac sandwiches for just $1.00!

So if not enough people were going to throw up already, you can't say that McDonald's didn't do their part.

Friday, March 15, 2013

I like Tina Fey

Hi. I've never met Tina Fey but I like her. I recognize this doesn't make me special as lots of people like her. I've liked her since seeing her at Second City in Chicago (in a cast that included Scott Adsit, Kevin Dorff and Rachel Dratch) when nobody knew who she (or anybody else in the exceptional cast) was. This makes me a little special, as it's the comedy equivalent of saying you saw Hank Aaron play in the minors and comedy nerds who can't say that are probably somewhat envious. She's married and has kids but is a celebrity so it's totally fair game for me to admit I have a crush on her, just as long as I don't do anything to push things past reasonable bounds of behavior into the realm of creepy. These actions would include (but are not limited to):
  • Following her around, taking pictures and generally just being a pest.
  • Getting tattoos of her (or even just her name).
  • Sending her a whole shitload of letters, like more than two. Because honestly, two letters from someone you don't know is already a lot.
  • Sculptures. Or drawings, but especially sculptures.
  • Writing and publishing a series of stories in which she is constantly in some form of danger and I am rescuing her because I have an enchanted sword and also can communicate with a dragon I've named "Frenchy".
  • Writing and publishing a series of stories in which the behavior is so explicitly raunchy that the dragon stories are comparably sweet and innocent.
  • Anything at all that might remind anyone even slightly in any way of "The Silence of the Lambs". 
I have absolutely no intention of doing any of that stuff or the five or six things that you've already thought of that would be far, far worse. One, because that behavior is simply unacceptable. Two, because this is a case where my laziness could actually work in my favor for a change.
I'll probably never get a chance to meet her and run the risk of saying something stupid and inappropriate (all I'd want is a photo or maybe an autograph, but there is simply no way of predicting or controlling what horrible things could happen when you engage in a conversation with another human being), however, thanks to the magic that is the internet, I get to see what her reaction might be...

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

I'm really good at games

Sunday, Carrie Bailey, my editor (boss) at Peevish Penman, who finds me irresistibly charming, challenged me to a game of 20 Questions. Here's how that went...

CARRIE: I'm unwinding from finishing my novel with a coffee and a donut. Anyone want to play 20 questions?
ME: I do!
CARRIE: Okay, go.
ME: All right... Is it a stovepipe hat?
CARRIE: No, Clark, it is not a stovepipe hat.
ME: Hmm, this is tough. Is it a golden retriever puppy named Daisy?
CARRIE: No, that's two. It's actually somewhere in between a puppy and a hat...
ME: Ah! Okay! Now we're getting somewhere! Is it in the cyst or boil families, something unpleasant one would have lanced?
CARRIE: That's question 3 to 5. It is not something you
ME: Not a hat, not a puppy, not an unpleasant body growth... Is it a banana?
CARRIE: No, but you're surprisingly close.
ME: Ah! Is it a banana slug?
CARRIE: It is not a banana slug.
ME: Does it enjoy calcium?
CARRIE: Clark, I don't know if I can make it 20 questions. I'm pretty sure it doesn't enjoy calcium, but hey? I'll say yes anyway.
ME: Are you sure it isn't a stovepipe hat? Ooh wait! Is it a banana slug wearing a stovepipe hat?
CARRIE: Yes! Yes! It is a stove pipe hat.
ME: Hurray! I win! We will have to play again some time!
CARRIE: I suspect you will always win.

The point is, I am really good at games.

Monday, March 11, 2013

How you can help the Brooks family!

This is an appeal on behalf of my cousin Derrick (the Brooks family is a very diverse group; just ask our Uncle Mel). Derrick played linebacker for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for 14 years, leading the Bucs to their first and only Super bowl championship. He is now the president of the Tampa Bay Storm of the Arena Football League, who play their games where I work, at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. There is a campaign taking place to determine who will be on the cover of the next Madden football video game and Derrick is representing the Bucs in the "legends" division of an online tournament and he really wants to win. He really wants to at least beat out Ray Lewis in the first round.

How you can help: Clicking this link will take you to the tournament where you can vote, which you can do once every day.

Why should you do this? Derrick is one of the best players to ever suit up for the Buccaneers and will eventually be in the pro football Hall of Fame, so he deserves the recognition. Also, this will give us all something to talk about at the next Brooks family reunion.

As always, thank you for your support!

It's Just Lunch!

Sometimes, it's not the words you use that get you in trouble, sometimes it's the words you don't use in addition to the ones you do that get you in trouble.

Kenny* is an acquaintance of mine. I'm probably supposed to call him a friend. There are people who would feel more comfortable if I did that. I'm sure there was a time when I did consider him a friend. At this point though, I only ever hear from him when he wants something from me. Two, three, six months at a time go by and I don't hear from him. Suddenly, there's something he thinks I can do for him and it's "Hey, buddy! How ya been? Long time no, see! We'll have to get together soon!". That kind of person. More of a free-loading phony and a pain in the ass than anything else. Frankly, calling him an acquaintance is being generous on my part. Recently, I've decided not to waste valuable resources like time on people like that. Not out of anger or bitterness, really. Mostly for the sake of brevity. For that reason, this why a recent conversation initiated by Kenny via text went like this:

"Hey man, whats shakin? You wanna grab some lunch today?"

I rarely eat lunch, choosing instead to have a nice breakfast and dinner with a small snack or two in between. I was working that day and I don't like to leave work during the day because parking is something of a hassle. I didn't particularly want to sit across from Kenny under the pretense of lunch with a buddy and listen to him hit me up for something; that's something that can be done just as easily via a text message without having to look at his big, stupid, enormous face and shell out for a sandwich I don't want to eat. I think it's beautiful that I can express the last three sentences in one, two-letter word: "No". Melissa, a mutual acquaintance called to inform me I was alone in feeling that way.

"Hey, did you tell Kenny you don't want to have lunch with him?"
"Yes. Sort of."
"Sort of?"
"He asked if I wanted to have lunch and I said no. He didn't specify with whom, if anybody at all. If he thinks I was saying no to lunch with him in particular, that's an assumption on his part. It's correct, by the way. He also asked what was shaking. I didn't even bother to address that query."
"Because it's a ridiculous question and he knows it. The only possible answers to it are 'nothing' or a wildly inappropriate joke about Parkinson's."
"No, I mean why did you blow off his lunch invitation?"
"Oh. Because I don't want to have lunch with Kenny. Look, I could run it all down for you, but it's a whole thing and it's not important."
"Are you mad at him?"
"Well, he thinks you are and he's all upset about it."
"Oh Jesus."
"Yeah. So you need to call him and tell him you aren't mad."
"Oh. Okay. Well, that isn't going to happen, so... "
"Why not?"
"Because the whole point of saying no was to avoid wasting time dealing with Kenny. It would defeat the whole purpose. I'm already wasting time on him without even dealing with him at this point. So, no, I'm not going to call him and waste more of the time I had planned on saving."
"Great. So what do I tell him?"
"Don't tell him anything. He'll get over it and in six months, he'll want something else and we can start this whole thing all over again."
"Thanks. You're a big help. "

I didn't get a chance to ask her why she felt like she needed to get in the middle of it in the first place but now there are at least three people (counting me) who are at least annoyed (me) or pissed off (Melissa) if not truly upset (Kenny, apparently), all because I provided a simple, one-word answer to a question. You know, we all claim we want more efficiency but nobody really appreciates it.

* No, I'm not worried about him seeing this; he doesn't read my stuff. See? Not really a friend.

Friday, March 08, 2013

I'm sick and tired of clichés

Recently, I was having a conversation with someone who is struggling with some personal issues and I tried so hard to avoid the inevitable outcome in that circumstance, and I was successful for a while, but eventually that's always going to be an effort doomed to failure. Eventually, I had to drop the ...
"Well, hang in there."
Yep, that's it. Conversation over. As the words were leaving my mouth, my head dropped in defeat. In 1990, Mike Godwin observed that given enough time, in any online discussion—regardless of topic or scope—someone inevitably makes a comparison to Hitler or the Nazis. They made a law about it:  Godwin's Law of Nazi Analogies - "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1". Invoking "Hang In There" when attempting to offer encouragement is the same way in that it's eventually going to happen, and when it does, the discussion is ended for all intents and purposes. When it comes to clichés, "Hang In There" is a brick wall at the end of a dead-end, one way street. Because what are we saying when we say "Hang In There"? We're saying, "I've run out of actual advice and empathy and anything worth saying so, in conclusion, I guess, if nothing else, don't kill yourself. And not because I have an alternative; just because I'm supposed to say that."

It doesn't help that the word "hang" is part of it.

"Well, hang..."
"What? You think I should hang myself?"
" there."

Clichés serve their purpose. How else am I supposed to defend my failure to apologize without blaming it on love? But why are there so few clichés for certain situations? Every football game in Green Bay during January is played on a frozen tundra. Is there any other kind of tundra? Does anything else ever happen on a frozen tundra? Apparently not.

"Um, hello?"
How is it possible after all this time of human beings speaking to one another in English that we don't have more clichés to express encouragement? We have probably a million hackneyed ways to say "screw you" but when it comes to trying to provide motivation and hope, we're stuck with "Hang In There". Seems like somebody has dropped the ball there.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

A trip to the zoo

Tuesday, I had a rare week day off. That was nice, because between a pretty intense work schedule and being as sick as I have been lately, a day off where I didn't have to spend it doing laundry and running errands was just what the doctor would have ordered if I had visited a doctor. I considered spending it sleeping and goofing around on the internet but opted instead for fresh air and sunshine. I almost went to a spring training baseball game but opted instead to go to Lowry Park Zoo. The deciding factor was a temporary exhibit they're hosting, "DinoQuest 2: A Jurassic Journey". Don't get me wrong; I love baseball, but I luuurrrrv dinosaurs. I just think life would be more interesting if there was a possibility of looking out a window and seeing a T-Rex stroll by. Since that isn't going to happen, exhibits like this are the next best thing.
Plus, I just like the zoo. My grandfather loved animals and nature and I think some of that rubbed off on me. I know the zoo isn't really nature but again, it's the next best thing. I can sit for hours and just watch animals being animals and that's what I did. The only drawback for me, the only thing that kept it from being a perfect day was the other people, especially the ones toting children around. I don't care for them. I recognize that's an inherent flaw in plans to visit a place like the zoo, but still. What I need is a friend who works there who can just let me in when it's closed so I can just sit there and not bother anybody or have anybody bother me. Instead, I had a lady pushing a baby carriage who stopped it right behind the bench I was sitting on and watching a zebra eating grass when the little tyke started crying. Just parked it there and started asking the baby "What's wrong? What's the matter?", to which the baby replied with shrieking as a means of expressing displeasure because it's a baby and its grasp of spoken language is extremely limited at this point. Now, obviously I'm not an expert on raising children, but when it comes to a screaming baby in a public place where normal people are trying to relax and enjoy themselves, I believe they should be handled like this...

If I ever get crazy, stupid rich, you can bet that I will blow big bucks on renting out the zoo for myself for a day and having a sign posted that says, "ZOO CLOSED TODAY BECAUSE CLARK WANTS IT ALL TO HIMSELF. WHY DON'T Y'ALL TAKE YOUR ANKLE BITERS BOWLING OR TO CHUCK E. CHEESE OR SOMETHING INSTEAD?"

Still, it was a very nice day. Here are some pictures...


Look between the two big ones and you'll see the zoo's star
attraction, a baby African elephant, born on December 23rd.

Giraffes are my favorite, probably because
 they kind of remind me of dinosaurs

Suddenly Salad!

Not real. Unfortunately.

Also not real (sigh)


Monday, March 04, 2013


"Seen any crimez?"
"Just some bank robberz, a couple murderz and some rapistz"
"I hate crimez"
"Me 2"

Friday, March 01, 2013

An Unbelievable guest star! (WARNING: Gratuitous pluggery follows)

Are you keeping up with The Unbelievables? If so, thanks a million!!! My writing partners Jeff Hickmott and Michael Noble and I work hard to make it funny in the hopes that you enjoy it because we love you. I think it's funny, anyway. If you're not, I really wish you would. For the same reason listed above as well as the fact that we will actually have a celebrity guest star on this Monday's chapter!

Kendra Morris is a singer/songwriter from St. Petersburg, Florida, now living in New York. If you saw "Django Unchanged" in theatres and got there early enough to catch the previews, you probably saw a trailer for a movie titled "Dead Man Down" that featured her cover of Pink Floyd's "Shine On You Crazy Diamond". She reminds me of Roberta Flack, Phyllis Hyman and Anita Baker as well as all the stuff I liked about Amy Winehouse. Somebody told me she reminds them of Adele but I haven't heard enough Adele to draw that comparison. She definitely draws inspiration from vintage soul music, citing Marvin Gaye as a major influence. I've been a devoted fan since stumbling across her single "Concrete Waves", which resulted in me going out and buying all of her music without even hearing it first, but her retro roots aesthetic makes her an ideal match with what we're doing with The Unbelievables. I had the opportunity to meet her when she played The Orpheum in Ybor City a while back, so I sent her a note with a link to the site to let her know that I planned on drawing her into our twisted little retro crimefighting universe. Her response was more enthusiastic than I could have hoped for:
"Ha! This is awesome! Thanks for having me!!! Can't wait to see what you do.."
Not only that, but she agreed to write her own dialogue!
So Monday morning, look for Kendra Morris, the first actively participating celebrity guest star in the history of The Unbelievables, a tale that will involve a love song written for a tortoise. In the meantime, here's some of Kendra's real music for your enjoyment (all of which is available at her site, iTunes, Amazon...)