Tag Archives: humor

Reading for the end of February

Do you ever have one of those days where you feel like you may have morphed (a la Gregor Samsa) into somebody’s ancient aunt Hilda – the one who stopped soaking her dentures after her husband died? For those of us with an advanced case of the mullygrubs, or who are feeling a bit like Miss Havisham, but without all the dough on this icy February afternoon, here are some books to make you laugh. None is exactly new, but I think of them as essential equipment for the late-winter blahs.
We start with the juvenile (but in a good way – it’s young adult literature): Away Laughing on a Fast Camel, by Louise Rennison will make anyone with a pulse positively bray. It’s the fifth in her Confessions of Georgia Nicholson series, but there’s no reason you have to read them in order. Skip right to this one. They’re all good, but I think it’s the funniest. Who is Georgia Nicholson? She’s a self-obsessed British teen with a great attitude and a horde of killer one-liners. Think Bridget Jones\’ Diary except that you don’t want to smack the narrator. (Sorry, Bridget fans:  I seriously wanted someone to drop that girl with a tranquilizer dart & have her wake up in therapy by the end).
Then there’s Janet Evanovich. Enough said. She’ll make you giggle. She also always makes me gain about 5 pounds per novel. I’m from Jersey, and between the descriptions of Garden State pizza (none better) and the Tasty Pastry Bakery I generally need to do a face-plant in some junk food by Chapter 3.
Tom Robbins. My fave is Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas, but any will do.
P.J. O’Rourke’s Holidays in Hell is a delight. If you are not as old as I am, you may not get some of the pre-Glasnost era jokes, but he is just one fine humorist. I’m about as left as he is right, but I love his writing. I also recommend his guide to housekeeping, Bachelor Home Companion, which includes the Tuna Casserole recipe that I use to strike terror into the hearts of small, misbehaving children.
Want a classic? P. G. Wodehouse is your man. The Code of the Woosters is my favorite.
Prefer your laughs straight-up and unadulterated? Try one of these comics collections. Sheldon is a web comic that’s a lot like the early days of Calvin & Hobbes. Dave Kellett doesn’t sell to the trade, so you can only get it hereUnshelved is set in a library, so it’s perfect for fellow book-nerds. You can read it daily on the web, here. Or buy one of the books.
Last but not least, I give you,  You Are a Dog by Terry Bain. Want to know what your canine companion is really thinking? Are you sure? This will have you rolling – but it’s also an incredibly touching book, so you may want a hankie in places.
This is your bookseller, signing off and headed for the tub.


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Library Materials

No Library Materials in the Restrooms

Really? Really? Is this something we have to tell people? I am mystified by this sign on the library bathroom door. Are people bringing books in there? Why?

Ok, I know why. But this is not the privacy of anybody’s own home, so I’m thinking that no one would seriously bring reading materials into the public restroom.

Obviously, I’m wrong. Otherwise there wouldn’t be a sign. But you have to admit, The Library Materials would be a great name for a band.


The Library Materials with their first single, "Dewey to Me One More Time"

Other signage I feel we could do without:

 My state has a concealed carry law, so citizens are out there roaming around armed. Very important in my small, suburban town, where one could easily be attacked even in broad daylight by a gang of rampaging squirrels.

The bank, and the library and the churches and the temple all have these please-don’t-bring-your-gun-inside notices stuck on the doors. It sort of reminds me of that old country song, and makes me feel a bit like I’m living in the old west.

Maybe we should post a please-check-your-gun-at-the-door notice at the bookshop. We could use the old umbrella stand for rifles, and get a hat rack for balaclavas, hockey masks, and Halloween Nixon-faces. Hmm…

Please place smaller weapons in basket.

It’s harder to know what to do with sawed-offs and pistols. They’d just rattle around at the bottom of the umbrella stand and somebody might put their eye out on the barrel of a .22 while reaching in for their glock. I’m thinking a nice Longaberger basket, attractively perched on a slim end table, for the smaller weapons. Cuz you know, that would be tasteful.


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A while ago, before I folded and made a doctor’s appointment for my sad, too-young-to-be-this-ouchy knees and was simply hobbling about making do, I advised a young co-worker, using up absolutely all of the old-people-speak at my disposal:

“You don’t think it’s important now, but whatever you do, always take care of your knees.”

“Always take care of my needs?”

“No, KNEES. This is not that kind of advice. Knees. Like feet, but higher up.”

Thank God we resolved that. I thought social services might come.

So I finally visited my doctor, who is a very nice person, and she looked at my knees and said, “Do you know your knees are swollen?” And I said, “I thought maybe they were just fat.” She laughed and had the lab take most of my blood.

It’s been a week, and I still don’t know what it is my blood has told them (or not).

They took my blood and now they’re not calling. It’s like I’ve been on a bad date with a vampire.

All the parts of this image have been stolen and shamelessly cobbled together by me. Because information wants to be free. Or at least cheap. And is wondering if you'd pick up this round.


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This afternoon I spent half an hour in a crowded supermarket taking a cell phone call from my mom’s doctor.

Did you know that the quietest place in a busy supermarket is the condom aisle?

I have trouble hearing properly on cell phones, and as a result tend to shout into them. So I crouched on a little step-stool there by the Trojans and listened to an internist tell me all about aortic aneurisms.

There are two types. Well, who knows? Maybe there are a dozen. I learned about two today: thoracic and abdominal. Happily, I learned about the kind that are fairly regular in shape and only four centimeters in diameter.

In retrospect, I wonder what the heck that step-stool was doing in the condom aisle.

I mean, the highest shelf is a little below eye-level.  I think most people browsing the

This is an aisle at Thompson Dean Drug in Sioux Falls, Iowa. I offer it here for scale.

 prophylactics would be tall enough to reach them – sort of a You-must-be-this-tall-to-ride-this-ride phenomenon.

Of course there are little people and folks in wheelchairs to be thought of, but the step-stool can’t be much help to those with limited mobility, so really that just leaves the under-4-foot crowd, of which there are few. Are people sending their children to buy condoms for them? I can see it now… “Do you like being an only child, Jane? Good. Here’s Mommy’s wallet – off you go.”

Regardless of age or height, any shy people hoping to buy vaginal lubricant or pregnancy tests today between 4:00 and 4:30 were out of luck, because there I was, parked in front of those and other supplies, yelling “WHAT?” and “You mean we need to see a thoracic surgeon and a vascular surgeon and – wait, which do we have to do first?”

During a long silence on my end, a friend spotted me and put her hand comfortingly on my arm, then looked startled and said, “Sorry!” Sorry because I was on the phone? Or sorry because she found me in the condom aisle? We may never know.

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I Love you, Eustace Tilley!

Since my mom took a spill last week, we’ve been spending a fair amount of time in doctors’ waiting rooms, catching up on the latest in periodical literature. For the rugged awaiting x-ray, there’s Outdoor Life, from the pages of which I bring you:

Great Moments in Taxidermy

1876: Martha Maxwell shows her specimens at Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia.

How could you not want to find out more about that? I refer you to the delightfully informative Mississippi Library Commission Reference Blog.

Here’s a photo:

Image courtesy of the good folks at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Foundation

Also revealed by Outdoor Life: The Secrets of Garlic Bait. They are safe with me.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that Vogue is smarter than I remembered (or possibly, I am just less dim). Thumbs up, Vogue, for interviewing Timothy Geithner, and for your brief but useful book reviews.

Cosmopolitan however, remains a box a hammers.

Not the cover of a current issue, but I like this one much better. For more, visit http://www.EllisParkerButler.info

But I was sucked right in by their feature story on how to give yourself a bikini wax without violating the Geneva Convention. My summary:

  1. Buy home waxing kit.
  2. Follow directions.
  3. Being waterboarded is still more comfortable.

 And Cosmo? Your piece, 50 Great Things to do With Your Breasts? I don’t even know what to say to that… Do you have a room full of fifteen year old boys who write the copy now? When I am so bored that I need a list of things to do with my boobs, I am confident that the nice people from the asylum will come and take me away.

 Tune in Next Week, when you’ll hear me greet that delightful and rare compendium of waiting room diversion with: “Ooh Lookie: A New Yorker!”

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Nom de Guerre

The upper branches of my family tree are just chock full of lovelies. There’s scandal, suicide, possible spies or war profiteers, black people having to pass as white, white people fleeing various countries one step ahead of the law, and somebody who could potentially qualify me for membership in the DAR if we were sure he wasn’t a mercenary.

But the thing I like best is the names.

Sure, you’ve got your Abrahams and Hortenses. You never meet a Hortense anymore… Horaces abound. There’s a Thaddeus, whom we do not talk about. But my absolute favorite name of all time from my family tree is: Anastasia Murphy.

I know nothing about her. Her name makes her sound like she ought to have been a Vaudeville showgirl in 1918, but I’m guessing not. Our distaff side does not seem to have had that much fun.

It’s possible that somebody was a fan of late-medieval manuscript borders & decided to tip their hat to an illuminator by that name who Christine de Pizan lauds in her proto-feminist opus, The_Book_of_the_City_of_Ladies.

Knowing my people, probably not. And since I think she was around quite a while before the Russian revolution, Anastasia was likely just born near Christmas time, when the feast of St. Anastasia is held – or was, back in the day.

The point here? Is that if I ever join a rock band I have the perfect stage name at the ready. Just a wee change to the first part of her monniker & I could be: Anesthesia Murphy, drummer for the Grrl Group, The Peppermint Westies. First single: When Plaid Goes Bad.

Not that I know how to play drums. But I feel that this is only a minor setback.

I’ve always been a huge fan of Dave Barry’s proclivity for extracting band names from everyday occurrences & it’s become a habit to do so myself. He’s got a new book out this month that you might want to peruse: I\’ll Mature When I\’m Dead, or watch the man himself:   If the Westies don’t go big, I’m thinking maybe we could form a They Might Be Giants tribute group. The Mesopotamians would be an awesome name for a band..

(Thanks for your link, Inveterate Optimist!) inveterateoptimist.blogspot.com

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Veni Mani Pedi

Today I trimmed the dog’s nails. The dog is 90 pounds, and he does not like having his nails cut. With frequent breaks for treats and chase-the-ball (not to be confused with fetch – the rules of chase-the-ball specify that the person throw or kick the ball for the dog to chase. When the dog has chased it, he looks up from where the ball has come to rest in order to let the person know that it is time to come over and throw or kick the ball again), I tried to win the dog over to the idea that nail-trimming is not fatal. Though he liked the treats and the games, he remains unconvinced.

What? They look fine to me.

You would think that 90 pounds of dog would somehow wear down his own nails during the normal course of his digging, romping and walks. Walking on pavement does something for the back paws, but because of the way most dogs pick up their feet, the front, left unchecked, would grow to resemble those of your weirder old-time Asian emperor.

I have thought of buying a metric ton of emery boards and hiding a dog treat underneath them.

There we were in the back yard, me shuffling around on my knees trying to grab a paw in one hand while I scratched an ear with another. It’s a beautiful sunny day and being able to be in the backyard with the dog is wonderful. I found myself singing along to our little project. Blondie’s Greatest Hits. Specifically, “Someday/I’m gonna’ clip nails/I’m gonna’ clip them/I’m gonna clip ‘em, clip ‘em, clip ‘em, clip ‘em…”

 Yeah. I’m really very glad that I work most weekends. This means my day-off activities tend to fall on a Monday, when the neighbors are at their jobs and won’t bust a gut laughing at me.

 Of course, Blondie only led to worser things:

Don’t sleep in the subway, Darling,

Don’t something-or-other else…

Which makes me recall that the 70’s were distinguished by a kind of crime-wave in New York. I have been known to sleep on the subway, on occasion. I even know people with the uncanny ability to wake up just as the train pulls into their stop, sort of like waking up the instant before your alarm clock goes off in the morning.

Eventually, I got the last nail by straddling the dog and picking up his paw the way you pick up a horse’s hoof. He’s got to go to the vet tomorrow for a limp, so I really wanted to clip as many as I could with him lying down.

So, to recap my day –

Dog nails: trimmed.

Neighbors: (ones that are home) now secure in the knowledge that I have a vast array of disco tunes in my repertoire.

Dog treats: entirely depleted.

My work is done.

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A Classical Education

Today years of labor on the part of dozens of educators bent on enriching young minds and keeping the great knowledge of ages past alive paid off.

To the tune of approximately 34 cents.

Yes! The trivia question of the day (which, in case you do not visit the fine beverage emporium known as Caribou Coffee, is always written up on the blackboard behind the counter and entitles a patron with the correct answer to 10% off their order), was:

Martha Graham as Clytemnestra. She'd have made an awesome ninja...

Who killed Agamemnon?

Easy. Peasy.

Sometimes there are sports questions, or questions having to do with musical entertainment or reality TV, and then I must pony up full price. But today I Win.

Why was this particular question so delightfully simple, while others remain baffling? Two reasons: 1) I have actor friends. 2) I live under a rock.

So, while I was attending a nifty little liberal arts mill out in Ohio, where they tried their best to fling a few seeds of wisdom, discernment and wonder into the largely fallow, yet heavily irrigated (with grain alcohol and cool-aide) fields of youthful intellect, my two best friends were at drama conservatories.

One went to Carnegie Mellon, where, during her stint, they produced the entire Oresteia. She played Clytemnestra. The other went to Adler at NYU, and had the great misfortune of participating in something called The Cassandra Project (not to be confused with the current Cassandra Project going on in and around that institution. The new one seems to be about online communities and sharing and draws on drama, art and dance in a more peripheral way). The one I am talking about took place in 1992 (or maybe ’91 or ’93 – I’m fuzzy on this. See grain alcohol, above.).

I recall only two things about The Cassandra Project from the performance I was privileged to view:

1)      It smelled like a sweat sock. They covered the performance space in sand and finding it dusty, watered it. This is not a good idea for the indoors.

2)      A substantial person had, at one point, to perch above the stage (and much of the seating – it was stadium style) on what resembled an abbreviated diving board, rend her clothing, and declaim in what used to be called a Brooklyn accent before Brooklyn got all trendy: “I bear my breasts to thee, Apollo!”

 But of course these things are meant to be learning experiences.

And learning experiences they were, since, fortified with a sketchy but vivid knowledge of Greek drama, I could cry, “Clytemnestra!” and keep my thirty cents.

 The classics never die.

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From the Department of Don’t-Try-This-at-Home

Ignorance is not always so blissful.

I am losing a fingernail because of this. Not in a girly sort of oh-I-broke-a-nail kind of way, I mean losing a fingernail as in my-fingernail-is-falling-off-of-my-hand.

This, and a bad knee combine to make me feel a bit like a leper.

Or a zombie.

Mmm… zombies… Make it a double.

Ever wonder why they don’t call those toxic, pink drinks with all the fruit in them “lepers?” It would be way more appropriate, as the next day you will resemble a leper. And, if memory serves, be about as popular.[1]

There are some basic things a single girl needs to know. Married girls too, unless you’re married to a forest ranger or physician or something. A generation or two ago, most public educational systems in the U.S. thought they could remedy this knowledge-gap by instituting what is euphemistically called “Health Class” in the schools.

I am, as a result, blessed with a general knowledge of birth control techniques, and know what “reds”[2] and quaaludes looked like in 1987.

Also, I know how to treat venomous snake bites.

I grew up (and took Health Class) in New Jersey. There are about three venomous snakes in New Jersey.[3]

What I did not learn and what I now pass on to you:

If you, the intrepid woman who Can Hang Her Own Pictures, Damnit, or Finds Herself Inspired by Martha Stewart to Attempt Reupholstry, or Who Just Wants to Nail Something – Is That Too Much to Ask, ever hit your finger with the hammer (or slam your finger in a car door by accident, or whatever), and you wind up with a Very Nasty bruise underneath your fingernail, you should do something about it.

What you should do is this: if it is throbbing, and the nail turns all kinds of colors, and your finger swells way up, go to the doctor, in case you have broken something. If it just throbs and hurts like hell and turns colors and swells up a little, do this:

1)   Take six or eight Advil (or scam high-dose ibuprofen from your boss, who takes them for her back and is a Saint).

2)   In a few days, when the swelling has gone away, get a needle, heat it way up with a match or a candle. If the tip is a little bit red, that’s more than plenty hot.

Take the needle and make a little hole in the top of your nail (no, not underneath, a la the Viet Cong). I mean put your hand on a flat surface and puncture the nail from the top, just a little, until you can see serum (clear liquid) or dried blood. The point (Heh, heh. Ick. But you gotta) is to relieve the pressure that the blood will have built up between the layers of your nail (yes, your nail has layers — which you already know if you’ve ever a) been bulimic, or b) had a Bad Acrylic Nail Experience). If you do this, you will not lose the whole damn nail (as I am about to) when the pressure of the dried, congealing blood forces the nail’s layers apart and the top part falls flat off.

There you are. Forewarned is forearmed. Any good Outdoor Medicine, what-to-do-when-you’re-camping-and-something-gross-happens-to-you Guide will tell you this. I recommend Medicine for the Outdoors, by Paul S. Auerbach. http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780323068130 It’s good to invest in a book like this to keep around the house, even if you don’t camp or hike or think you’ll need it, because, as I wail over my Way Ouchy fingernail, I ask:

Who knew?

[1] You’d like to be known as the spouse who challenged all the CEOs at the telecom conference to a who-can-sing-Danny-Boy-the-loudest competition? Drink up.

 [2] Surprise: they weren’t all red! I think these may have been amphetamines of some sort. I very much doubt anyone calls them “reds” anymore, or indeed calls them anything at all, since crack is probably the thing now. 

[3] They all listen to Sinatra.

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Careful what you wish for

Today we had an author event at our local retirement community. All sorts of organizations in town meet & host activities at this venue. It’s a logical choice – a nice place with a good sound system.

It’s very cheery, really. I know lots of the residents, and one in particular is always a top contender in our yearly book shop poetry contest.

As you walk in the front doors, you pass through a greenhouse area with some really impressive staghorn ferns. There’s almost always a fire lit in the gas fireplace next to the lobby. A room nearby holds the snack bar and a big-screen wii set up. Another large-screen TV in the main hallway lists upcoming events:  Thursday is Movie Night!

“Wow,” I think, “can I move in?” It’d be like college, but better: no exams (plenty of classes to take if you want, though – a book club did Russian Round-Up last year: Tolstoy, Turgenev & Dostoyevsky), instead of kegs of Blatz, there’s basically decent wine – and your whole world is a co-ed dorm…

As I go to bring in another carton of books from the car, a well-dressed middle aged woman gives me a friendly wave and asks quite earnestly, “Ready for your tour?”

Have I been mistaken for a potential resident? Suddenly the proliferation of tattoos & piercings among the 40-plus crowd in my town is completely understandable. It may be time to dye my hair magenta, or green… before somebody gives me a blue rinse.

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