Friday, January 29, 2010


     I found this in an ancient journal.     

     It's either from an old printout of some of my greeting card titles from yesteryear, or brilliant poetry. Or both.

     Things start out sad in Varicose Village, but later on things get happy when Isaac Newton goes on a vacation. Along the way are life's ups and downs: one day you're poolside, the next you're groveling. Throw in some bloopers for comic relief and you've got poetry gold.

     I must admit I was shocked to read of my death in the final line, but hey, that's poetry.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


I had no apples, so I used tweezers. 

I had no bowl, so I used scissors. 

I had no chianti bottle, so I used a nail clipper. 

I had no oil paint, so I used Photoshop. 

I had no talent, so I used sheer gall.

Monday, January 25, 2010


I was always a very intense guy.

I was never nonchalant. I was chalant.

I was more intense than Kirk Douglas. Even in the movie Detective Story, when Kirk tells Eleanor Parker that he wishes he could cut off the top of his skull and hold his brain under the faucet so that he could wash away the dirty pictures she put there.

I was raised by intense parents. Dad was a former marine drill sergeant. So was Mom. We lived in an intense city in an intense state. Technically, it was a commonwealth, not a state, which only seemed to add to the intensity, somehow.

As a child, I had an intense Shetland pony named Satan. Satan and I would ride like the wind, or at least like an intense breeze.

As a teen-ager, I ran with an intense crowd. We drank caffeinated soda and played Scrabble with a timer. The timer was set to seven seconds per turn, one second for each letter in one's rack.

My high school career counselor told me I should become a political assassin for the CIA. I told him I wanted to do something more intense. Or, if that wasn't an option, then something more creative. I asked him if it was possible to earn a decent living bending spoons with my mind. He asked me if I was able to do that. I couldn't (yet), so I just gave him an intense look.

We haggled for a while and eventually came up with professional dog grooming as a career path. It seemed like a sensible compromise at the time, though I can't trace the logic step by step in my mind now.

At some point in adulthood my intensity began to affect my work. The dogs were afraid of me, especially the skittish Labradoodles. They could smell my intensity a mile away, and I began losing clients.

It also started affecting my love life. I would grind my teeth during sleep, and if I had company, it would keep them awake. My dentist gave me a dental guard to prevent grinding, but I just ended up eating it.

So I decided to buy a hot tub. I hoped that the soothing, undulating, hot water would mellow me out.

I never had the patience for instruction manuals, so when the tub arrived I just filled it with water, jumped in and set the temperature way up near the very top, somewhere between "poach" and "sautee."

They say that if you throw a frog into a pot of boiling water, he will jump out, but if you put him into a pot of cool water and slowly bring the water to a boil, the frog will stay in the pot until he boils to death.

What am I, a frog? No, of course not. I leaped out of the tub somewhere around "tea cozy."

But after I toweled off I felt different somehow. A strange new calm began to wash over me, like tranquil ants swarming over the carcass of an angry wildebeest.

Over the following weeks and months I began to lose a lot of my intensity. I stopped giving my dogs mohawks, and they began to warm to me. I stopped listening to Metallica and started listening to Jewel. I stopped reading Charles Bukowski and switched to Rod McCuen. I sold my black Hummer and bought a loden Prius. I had my tattoos and piercings removed and developed a fondness for cardigan sweaters. Filtered water replaced unfiltered Camels, and Cuervo Gold gave way to Selestial Seasonings.

Then one day I met Amy, a massage therapist, and we fell in love. We took long walks on the sand and held hands in the moonlight. The sex was loving and gentle, and involved no props, devices or wardrobe changes of any kind.

Within a year I had gone from Jack Palance to Perry Como; from G. Gordon Liddy to Mr. Rogers.

On the one hand, I was glad about these changes, but on the other hand, I missed the old me. I wanted at least some of my old edge back.

I consulted the medical comminity, but they were stumped.

Then over a cup of Sanka one Christmas Eve I was listening to a Mel Torme CD, and thanks to a song lyric, I think I figured out what had triggered my transformation that day in the hot tub: "chestnuts roasting on an open fire."

Yes, I believe the "roasting" of my "chestnuts" had for some reason caused my intensity level to plummet.

I tried to publish my theory in the Journal of the American Medical Association, but they rejected it for some reason. (Okay: the reason was jealousy).

So I put my theory on my blog, and the reaction in the Comments section has been, well, intense. You'd be surprised how many intense people are out there leaving creepy comments on blogs in the middle of the night.

Anyway, I'm still a little more laid back than I'd like to be, but I'm better off than I was before.

If Amy's happy and the dogs are happy, I'm happy.

* * * * *

This story originally appeared in Narrative magazine.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


When I wrote this, the part about the camel's bladder made sense to me, then it stopped making sense, and now it makes sense again.

I don't remember why it originally made sense, but it stopped making sense when I thought, if he needed to go into a men's room, she couldn't follow him in anyway, so, no problem there, plus, he could even climb out the window and lose Tina entirely.

Then I realized that if he had a strong bladder, Tina, who probably has an average bladder, would have to find a bathroom before he would, and that would be that.

It occurs to me only now that I really have no idea if camels have strong bladders in the first place. I know they can go a long time without water, but does that translate into an impressive bladder? I mean, during these long periods when they're not drinking water, are their bladders empty, or full? Or do they empty them along the way, and if so, how often?

Of course, it's possible I'm over-thinking this.

Friday, January 8, 2010


Who knew the Fusco Brothers spoke Italian?

This is from the November, 1994 issue of the Italian comics magazine, LINUS.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


I found this Mexican wrestler sticker on a Chiquita banana recently.

I don't question things like this, but if I did, this is the kind of thing I would question.

Monday, January 4, 2010


     According to Chinese legend, if, on the the anniversary of Key Luke's birthday, three strangers stand nude before an idol of Win Ho, the Chines Goddess Of Fortune And Destiny, and make a common wish, Win Ho will grant that wish.

     Zina Von Eggnart read about this on a placemat in a resaturant in Chinatown and believed it immediately. "They wouldn't let them put it on a placemat if it weren't true," she reasoned.

     She finished her pu pu platter, took the placemat and went down the street to a mysterious little shop, where she bought a Win Ho idol from a mysterious little man.

     As fate would have it, the next day was June 18th, Key Luke's birthday. Upon learning this on the Internet Movie Database, she thought, "What are the odds?" and took is as a good sign.

     At two o'clock she went down the street to the corner newsstand and bought a Powerball ticket with a potential jackpot of 20 million dollars. Then she started looking for random strangers. She went up to a gaunt man with a bad haircut and said, "Do you want to get lucky?"

     He eyed her up and down. "How much?" he replied.

     "According to the placemat, the sky's the limit!"

     "That sounds high," he said. "What placemat?"

     "What's your name?" Zina asked.

     "Karlle Pfeffernüesse," he answered.

     "Wait here a minute while I grab another stranger, Karlle," she said, and moved toward a group of passersby.

     Karlle knew he should walk away. "Why am I not walking away?" he wondered. "Why did I tell her my real name? What placemat??" 

     Before he knew it Zina had returned with a big, mangy, brown mongrel.

     "Karlle, this is Bub. Bub, meet Karlle. And I'm Zina. Shall we go to my place and get undressed?"

     "Woof!" said Bub, drooling and smiling from ear to ear. He elaborated. "I'm only wearing this dog collar, but it IS rather confining! Whatever you say, Zina!"

     "Look, Lady," said Karlle, "I think I'm in way over my head here. I've got a girlfriend, a towheaded hamster and Home Box Office, and I don't want to risk losing any of that. Having sex with a prostitute is the next-to-last thing I want to do, right after having sex with a prostitute and a dog."

     "Karlle, I've never been good at explaining things, especially when I'm excited," said Zina. "Obviously there's been a misunderstanding."

     "I would hope so," said Karlle. 

     "Damn it!" said Bub.

     Zina explained about Win Ho, Key Luke and the placemat in Chinatown, and the three strangers went to Zina's apartment.

     Karlle and Bub each gave Zina one third of the price of the Powerball ticket. The three strangers got undressed and stood naked before the cheap, gold-plated Win Ho idol. Bub began humping Karlle's leg, and Karlle took the placemat, rolled it up and whacked the mongrel on the rump.

     "I LIKE it rough, Karlle," said Bub.

     "You're an animal!" said Karlle. who had a flair for the obvious.

     "Keep it down, you two," Zina said. "Show some respect for Win Ho."

     The trio stood silently for a minute and finally Zina invoked the spirit of Win Ho, asking her to make their Powerball ticket the big winner. 

     Bub suggested they stay undressed to make sure they were following the rules to the letter, since the placement didn't say anything about getting dressed again. Zina and Karlle agreed, reluctantly.

     They had several hours to kill before the live 7 o'clock Powerball drawing on TV. Zina made a pitcher of Cosmopolitans and heated up a tray of those little frozen wieners in puff pastry. Next, it was a pitcher of dirty martinis and zucchini sticks, which no one ate. Halfway through a pitcher of Alaskan Polar Bear Heaters one thing led to another and things got WAY inappropriate during a game of Twister involving Wesson Oil.

     At 6:59 they turned on the TV and watched the drawing. To their drunken dismay, not one number matched. Not even the Bonus Ball. They were dumbfounded.

     There's nothing like losing 20 million dollars to sober someone up.

     They looked at each other in shame and embarrassment. Zina reached for her muumuu, Karlle clutched his jodhpurs, and even Bub reached for his collar. "I feel so dirty," he said.

     "Me too, Bub," said Zina, sobbing. "That's why Win Ho didn't grant our wish; because we're unclean and unholy!"

     Karlle spoke up. "I hate to agree with that hound from Hell, but I too feel soiled. I only pray that Stephanie never knows what went on here today."

     "Your girlfriend won't hear about it from me, Karlle," offered Bub, trying to help.

     ""Stephanie is my hamster, you bastard."

     Just then there was a knock on the door. Zina wiped her tears, adjusted her frock and answered it. It was the mysterious little man from the mysterious little shop.

     "A thousand pardons," he said, "but I neglected to include a fortune cookie with your Win Ho idol."

     Zina thanked him politely and closed the door.

     She read the fortune aloud.

     "Confucius say, there are no strangers, only friends who have not yet met."

     "Good to know," Karlle said sarcastically. Bub growled.

     They sat silently, and Zina realized that her mistake was in introducing herself to Karlle and Bub, and getting their names in return. They were no longer strangers! It had nothing to do with the drunken depravity that had gone on all afternoon.

     She decided to keep this insight to herself, as it would only make the others feel bad. But she decided then and there to repeat the ritual the following year, minus the introductions and the pina coladas.

     The trio said their goodbyes awkwardly, knowing they would never meet again.

     There are no strangers, only friends who are too embarrassed to look each other in the eye.