Monday, October 25, 2010


May your Monday Morning Chuckle be happier than Mr. Kitty’s

Friday, October 22, 2010


We will play with light and dark.

And in the end, a whole picture emerges.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


I’m a big fan of spontaneous moments of unexpected joy.

Like watching the reaction of the elderly woman at Denny’s Restaurant when a stranger paid for her and her friend’s breakfast. Her face lit up like a perfect Christmas morning.

Or the look of surprised realization when a child sees the bunny in the sky instead of just the clouds.

But this morning I was taken aback when, in an instant, what would normally be considered a day-ruining event became a wonder-filled celebration.

The rain had fallen suddenly and fully. Sewer grates and curbs were overflowing. Umbrellas were the uniform of the morning.

The gentleman stood close to the intersection, waiting to cross, dressed impeccably in suit and tie, lost in the screen of his iPad. A car driving a bit too close to the curb, without warning, created a splash that literally drenched the middle-aged executive. Most people who saw it happen visibly gasped in sympathetic reaction.

He stood motionless for a few seconds. He put his iPad in the inner pocket of his soaked suit, closed his umbrella, looked up into the falling rain and smiled. Then broke into the opening lyrics of, “Singing in the Rain.”

Most of those who had moments before gasped in sympathetic reaction now looked at him as if he were crazy. I just smiled, for a I realized that he had consciously decided to take a negative and turn it into a positive. His joy was obviously genuine, and I for one was thankful for it.

The rest of my day was sprinkled with smiles, every time I remembered the gentleman who turned a splash of unexpected adversity into a splash of unexpected joyfulness.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Is this a “real” picture or a ‘shopped photograph?

In the real world of writing, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that it is a rich and dynamic source of storytelling. And whether you need to review art magazines or you can just sit back and let your mind put together a mix of unusual sights (or sounds or smells or whatever), just do it.

See it, hear it, smell it, then write it. You’ll be amazed at the wonderful worlds where your imagination can take you.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


It was one of the more unusual statements I’ve ever heard an 8-year-old utter.

“I’m fierce. I’m bold. And you will remember me. Always.”

I asked her how she had come to proclaim such a statement.

“My mom always said that.”

“Said?” I asked her. “Doesn’t she say that anymore?”

“She died of cancer seven months ago.”

I told her how sorry I was about her loss, but I had to ask her why she said it.

“’Cause I want to be just like my mom,” she said with absolute conviction. Her eyes started to tear up, but after a few moments, she interrupted her gentle crying with, “I’m fierce. I’m bold. And you will remember me. Always.”

That happened almost ten years ago. And while I don’t know whatever became of her, one thing is certain … I do remember.

If you only had ten words to guide and motivate you, what would they be?

Monday, October 18, 2010


May all your Monday Morning Chuckles be good ones.

Friday, October 15, 2010


it is important to find the bright spots.

And therein, to find respite.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


The pitchman said, “One hundred percent of all net proceeds is donated to …”

All of the emotional tugs and tearful hugs up to that point was having its intended effect. Purses, wallets, checkbooks were opening, debit and credit cards were getting ready. Most people would respond to the emotions. But there is a caveat.

Net proceeds.

Let’s say I’m offering a nice looking lapel pin for your donation of $1 and that I’ll give the net proceeds to charity. The pin cost me 15 cents to produce. After all, it really is a nice looking pin, all shiny and sparkly and noticeable, and those Chinese workers do have to get paid something. Then there’s shipping and handling – say 45 cents. Handling is always this nebulous charge, also known as a profit center. Add the promotional costs, administrative costs, and miscellaneous costs of, maybe another 30 cents. So far the gross cost is 90 cents of the $1 you’re donating. That leaves 10 cents. Oh, but I forgot the 7 cents in “other necessary” costs. So now we’re down to 3 cents out of that $1 you’re giving me. That’s the net proceeds.

Three cents. Not much real money going to help those in need, is it?

I’m not saying that all charities have such high costs. I am saying that the wise and careful contributor looks behind the tugs and hugs to see what how much of their dollar is really going to help.

But what happens if you donate $5 or $10 for that $1 lapel pin? Well, the unscrupulous will suddenly find that their shipping, handling, administrative, promotional, miscellaneous and “other necessary” costs increased. The net proceeds are, after all, a line item in the budget and may not be subject to change.

As we draw closer and closer to the holiday season, we are going to be subject to more and more appeals for our help.

Give generously. Give wisely.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


In the “out of the mouths of babes” department, comes the answer to the age-old question on how to rid the world of hate.

“Just get rid of the letter ‘e’,” she said without hesitation.

“That was a very quick answer, Leslie,” the teacher said. “Any other suggestions?”

I thought Leslie’s teacher dismissed her answer a bit too quickly. After all, with the stroke of a good eraser, no one would ever again be subjected to, “I hate you.” Instead, everyone could get a little chuckle when in a fit of anger someone would scream, “I hat you!” At least, I would chuckle.

And there are more possibilities for ridding the world of some other maladies. Evil would disappear. Ego would simply go. “Rates” of interest would be more aptly described as “rats” of interest. We could celebrate the demise of greed. And a lot of men would be happy to trade having to share their “feelings” with women for simply having “flings” with women.

Of course, there is also the down side of getting rid of the letter “e”. Many would weep over the loss of beer and beef. In the cold of winter, we would have to settle for turning up the hat, since heat would be gone. And everybody I know would really prefer looking through panes of glass rather than pans of glass.

Some things of course wouldn’t really change that much. For example, a txt mssg would still be a txt mssg.

I know what you’re thinking. If we took Leslie’s advice, her name would just be Lsli and “Mr. E” would just be “Mr.” No longer could we shout “Eureka!” upon some great discovery. Instead we would have to be content with “Urka!” which sounds more like some kind of whale than an exclamation.

My point to this post? Nothing but silliness. Sometimes, after the end of a particularly hard day, silliness is the best medicine.

Anyway, it’s tim to go to bd and gt som wll-arnd slp.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


If you knew you would never be caught, would you ever lie on a job application or exaggerate your accomplishments or responsibilities on your resume? Why or why not?

If I answer “no” then I would be lying and they would probably disqualify me automatically. But if I answer “yes” then they will probably think I’m a liar and unworthy to be hired. But if I answer “no” then even if I would never lie or exaggerate they will think that everybody lies and exaggerates so they will conclude I’m lying. But if I answer “yes” they will think I must be a fool to disqualify myself by admitting to lying. But if I answer “no” then I answer “yes” but if I answer the question but if I don’t know what to do and I answer something but …

If your answer to that question would have you spending time with that kind of circular reasoning, you probably won’t be called back for the job.

It is a trick question, actually having nothing at all to do with the application or a resume. It is a question about self-awareness, character, and integrity.

Most employers believe that 99% of job applicants lie and/or exaggerate during the application and interviewing process. They expect it. But the answer to that question reveals a lot about a person’s value system. And where your answer falls on the spectrum of lies/exaggerations will mean different things to different employers.

But it’s the question they ask right after you answer the first question, that really reveals individual principles and honor. With maybe a dash of quick thinking.

The next question is: Have you lied or exaggerated during this application/interview process? Why or why not?

Monday, October 11, 2010


Contemplating Your Monday Morning Chuckle

Friday, October 8, 2010


I don’t know if this is a joke or a real story because I’ve variations of it over the years. But I had the pleasure of re-reading it today in Harvey Mackay’s newsletter and wanted to share it with my readers as well.

The kindergarten teacher handed out a coloring sheet and gave what she considered to be simple instructions: Color the duck yellow and the duck's umbrella green.
But when little Betsy turned in her paper, the teacher asked, "Didn't you understand the directions, Betsy? You colored the duck red and her umbrella blue. How often have you seen a red duck?"
Betsy didn't miss a beat. "About as often as I've seen a duck carrying an umbrella," she replied.

It’s a cute story, but it also offers us an important lesson about the current political season we are enduring.

Politicians want you to color things a certain way. And usually it’s the way that they are most comfortable and familiar with. But the reality is, while ducklings are often yellow, ducks are rarely so.

This political season, don’t just blindly follow instructions. Think about things. Deeply and critically. And in the end, if you feel strongly that your duck has to be red. Color it so.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


My birthday is quickly approaching and having a number of “rewards” cards for local merchants I am receiving birthday wishes from some of them. Mostly, they mean nothing.

Some actually send a real gift. A free entrée, a $10 gift card and a free massage are keepers. Mainly, because they require no purchase and are useable. I like the “no purchase required” aspect, which means not only will I redeem these gifts but I am so much more likely to continue doing business with them.

On the other hand, are the “Are They Kidding?” gift givers. These guys just don’t get it.

Consider the restaurant that sends me birthday wishes and a coupon good for half-off the price of two desserts. Yes, I have to buy two desserts. But before I can to enjoy my half-off desserts I first have to buy two dinners, with beverages, but only between Monday and Thursday nights, except on holidays or other special events. So on a limited night, I would have to spend around $50 or more, and not only will I not get a complimentary dessert, if I want dessert I’ll have to pay half price and have to buy two in order to use the coupon. Are they kidding?!

Or how about the tools and supplies store that sent me a $5 gift card for my birthday? All I have to do to enjoy their magnanimous generosity is spend a minimum $50 before the end of the month. Of course, there are thirteen brands that I am excluded from purchasing with the $5 gift card, but hey, if I need fifty bucks worth of generic nails or light bulbs, they’re the go-to place. Are they kidding?!

And then there’s the truly thoughtful gift sent by an area hotel. A photocopied “Birthday Wishes Certificate” good for a free continental breakfast on Sunday morning, if I spend Friday and Saturday nights in one of their “luxury” suites. For those who don’t know, a “continental breakfast” is typically donuts/pastry and a beverage. The per night rack rate for accommodations? A mere $127.50. So for only $255 I can get a couple of free donuts and a cup of coffee. Happy birthday to me! Are they kidding?!?!

But what I really want to know is … how many suckers do they hook with that crap?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


What does evil look like? What does it smell or sound like? Do you know what it tastes like? Would you recognize it if it touched you?

Is evil male or female? Tall or short? Fat or thin? Married or divorced?

Does it hide in the shadows or walk in the light? Is it capitalist or socialist? Is it living or dead? Can it make you do things you really don’t want to do?

Since the beginning of time, humanity has wrestled with evil, both real and imagined.

But we rarely think about it, until it’s too late. Until we are already engaged in the battle.

There is one strategy and three keys to winning any war. The strategy is preparation. The keys are (1) know yourself and your allies; (2) know your enemy; (3) be well armored and well armed.

To be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserving peace.” –George Washington

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


Our lives are filled with pebbles and stones and rocks and even a huge boulder every so often. We call them, things. Or more specifically, things we need to get done. Our little Post-it® reminders become not-so-little to-do lists which transform into a Getting Things Done® system which eventually morphs into a “help-me-I’m-drowning-in-clutter-and-stuff-and-need-to-simplify-and-minimize-my-life” revelation. Then we rinse and repeat.

We talk about balance and priorities. We worry about lost time and last minutes. We tell ourselves that what we want is what we need, effectively blurring the distinction between the two. And before we know it, we are tending to a rock garden.

Are you happy? Look around your life. Does every pebble and stone and rock add to the quality of your life, or does it merely add weight?

Lose the weight, save your life.

Monday, October 4, 2010


Ready? Get Set. Go! and enjoy your Monday Morning Chuckle.

Friday, October 1, 2010


“Daddy,” the five-year-old said, “do you believe in dragons?”

“Sure,” his father said.

“Have you ever seen one?” his son excitedly asked.


“Then why do you believe in them?”

His father thought for a few seconds then said, “Because sometimes you have to believe in something before you actually see it.”

Such is the stuff of faith. And there are libraries dedicated to the power and practice of faith.

American author, Napoleon Hill wrote one of the best-selling books of all time, Think and Grow Rich, predicated on one of his most famous quotes: “What the mind of man can believe, the mind of man can achieve.” And there are plenty of similar tomes patterned after his book.

French philosopher Voltaire, penned that “Faith consists in believing when it is beyond the power of reason to believe. It is not enough that a thing be possible for it to be believed.”

Or consider the words of the United Kingdom’s Poet Laureate of the mid-1800s, Alfred Lord Tennyson, “Faith is believing what we cannot prove.”

And then there is my personal favorite: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”, found in Hebrews 11:1 of the Bible.

Throughout the ages of man, faith has been a remarkable tool in his arsenal of advancement. And it shall be no different in our future.

Whether it’s believing in dragons or having enough belief to work through more than 10,000 attempts before discovering the American light bulb, faith plays its part.

Make it a part of your life.

Thursday, September 30, 2010


Choose wisely.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


If you’re in the business of cleaning, shouldn’t your own stuff be clean?

It seems counter-productive to drive a vehicle around, painted bright yellow so you are clearly noticed, prominently featuring the word “clean” in your business name, caked with dust, dirt and grime.

It is, after all, a mobile representation of your commitment to the service you propose to do for others. If you show up at my home or business, in a dirty truck, wearing a stained shirt, holes in your pants and shoes that look like they haven’t been cleaned and polished since the day you bought them, I’m not going to trust you to do a good job cleaning my home or business.

At the end of your task, I really don’t want to hear, “Well, it’s cleaner than it was before. That should be good enough.”

Good enough?

If 75% is good enough, does that mean when you need to replace all four tires on your car, and they only put three tires on, that’s “good enough”?

Maybe 85% is good enough for you. So when you give me your bill for $100, does that mean I only need to pay you $85, since that’s your standard for “good enough”?

And if “cleaner than it was before,” is your measure of success, then just giving you a few dollars should be good enough, since it will be “more than you had before.”

That is, assuming that I let you in my home or business in the first place, given that you showed up looking rather dirty and disheveled.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Forget about fingernails raking across a chalkboard. This was rusty tines of an old metal rake gouging themselves deep into the slate of the soul. It was enough to send the undead, screaming in terror, back to hell where the wailing and gnashing of teeth would be a comfort to their decaying ears.

And then, in a $5 instant, the discordance rang with near perfect pitch and clarity. A song wonderfully recognizable and truly worth taking the time to stop and enjoy. Exactly one hundred and fifty seconds after it started, it abruptly stopped. For thirty seconds, there was silence.

Suddenly, the ear-splitting rail tore through the air, looking for another soul upon which to deeply rake itself. This time, it took only seven seconds for another thirty-second respite.

He carried on like that throughout the day. Alternating between the peal of perdition’s Dogs of Dissonance, the sweet sound of silence, and the hail of Heaven’s Dulcet Doves. Although seldom in that order.

Here was a homeless man who thoroughly understood the genius of marketing and the value of keeping one’s word. He started singing badly. Very badly. Very, very badly and very loudly. But for a buck, he would stop for a half-minute. If someone dropped in another buck during the silence, he would extend the quiet time another half-minute.

But the genius behind his cardboard promise, was his ability to sing beautifully, with strength and feeling. For exactly 2-½ minutes, whereupon he would immediately stop, even in mid-note. Unless someone had dropped another $5 in his sidewalk hat, whereupon he would continue through an additional 2-½ minutes.

It was, as it turned out, a very lucrative way to earn a living. He said he averaged $300 to $400 a day on non-holidays. From Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve, he averaged between $500 and $700 a day. All cash.

He wasn’t actually homeless. Although by dress and demeanor, he allowed passers-by to make that assumption.

Why did he do it? Simple. He enjoyed his independence, the daily interaction with people, and his minimalist lifestyle.

And I couldn’t really argue with him about that.

Monday, September 27, 2010


Your Monday Morning Chuckle, with a side of caution.

Friday, September 24, 2010


It was not the sound I expected to be coming from the sight of an elderly man, slightly bent over and walking with a cane. Whistling. In fact, it apparently caught others by surprise as well, given their reactions as he walked past them.

Whistling seems to be a fading public expression of happiness or contentment. I don’t remember the last time I heard anyone whistle.

And yet, here was this seventy-something seasoned citizen, brightening moments in the days of so many around him.

I found myself remembering songs I used to hear that featured whistling.

“Whistle while you work,” from the Disney movie, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”

“Sweet Georgia Brown,” the warm up song used by the Harlem Globetrotters.

Bing Crosby in his seasonal hit, “White Christmas.”

The theme song to the 1950s TV show, “The Andy Griffith Show.”

But perhaps my favorite is Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” You can check it out at

As you go through this Friday, maybe you can try a little whistling. I found it surprising refreshing and happy-invoking.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


I don’t know which I dislike more. Turgidity or wordification. But I think I’m leaning toward disliking turgidity more.

Permit me to share an example of each to which I was subjected recently.

In a lecture hall of a college campus, we were told by the visiting professor, “It is endemic among noeticists to discontinuously reach ebullition when the prolixity of their paradigmatic disceptations are more casuistry than verity.”

What the WHAT? I knew the professor was speaking English, and yes, it is expected that students in post-graduate classes have a higher than fifth grade grasp on communication, but … what the heck did he say?

Roughly translated, it means that sometimes smart people argue “violently” when their long-winded discussion becomes more fiction than fact. So why couldn’t he have simply said that?


That is, language which has become pompously embellished. Now, I know that the word turgidity is not exactly common either, but I really like it because it sounds like it could be related to turds. Which, it could be loosely argued, it is. After all, many of the comments by those who were listening to the visiting professor, included the word, “s#!t.” As in, “What kind of s#!t is this guy saying?”

The second example is what I call, wordification. The making up of words which, within context, can actually make sense to those listening. Incidentally, wordification is a word I made up.

At a community discussion regarding the deteriorating state of public education, one of the speakers, a middle-school teacher, with heart-felt passion, said the following: “With all seriosity, I emplore are leaders to stop dumb-downing education goals and lifting are sights to set higher goals. We need, with all seriosity, to begin the progress of undumbifying are children if they are ever going to dream about getting ahead. They have a dream and we must stop turning them into nightmares by ignoring them in the abakiss of despair.”

Granted, her passion was obviously genuine, and she received applause at the end of her comments (which continued on in a similar vein), but might we be able to be taken more seriously without the made up words? Or worse, the sad misuse of words? (I’m not sure, but given the context of her comments, I think she meant to say the “abyss of despair.”)

Somewhere in between turgidity and wordification lies simple communication. Truthful communication.

Somewhere in between saying what you mean and meaning what you say lies simple understanding.

We have to get away from the Humpty-Dumpty approach to communication. In Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking Glass,” Humpty-Dumpty says to Alice, “When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.” To which Alice replies, “The question is, whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

To which I would reply, it is time to stop making the same words mean so many different things.

It’s time to stop hiding our ignorance behind the veils of our vanity. And it’s time to stop feigning our intelligence behind the whimsy of our wordification.

It’s time we let our yes, be simply yes. And our no, be simply no.

Otherwise, we’ll be left to suffer the words of a former spokesman for the State Department, Robert McCloskey, “I know that you believe that you understood what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


You won’t find a lot of book reviews or recommendations on the Eclectic Chalkboard, but today I would like to recommend one that has had a tremendous amount of influence on its readers, including me. It’s a perennial that’s been around since 1970 and is considered the bible on job search.

What Color Is Your Parachute,” by Richard Bolles, through good times and bad, is an invaluable resource for personal and professional employability. It was instrumental when, having gone a few years without any real employment (hey – I was a stupid young “adult”), I used it to land my first professional gig – Director of Public Relations, for a not-for-profit organization. My PR experience prior to the job? None.

The 2011 edition will undoubtedly continue its trend of being a best-seller and helping hundreds of thousands of those seeking work to better know themselves in order to better market themselves to prospective employers.

It’s not about classified ads, or craigslist, or schmoozing, or networking, or even knowing the employer as well as you know yourself. (Although those things can be included in your skill set.) It really is about getting to know yourself so well that no matter what the question is regarding what value you can bring to the employer, you will have the answer.

Suffice it to say, if you’re in the market for a job, make it your job to figure out what color your parachute is.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


I spent a basketball season coaching a first year, fifth grade, girls team. It was the first time the girls had participated in structured league play, and it was the first time I had ever coached a sports team. Oh. And I didn’t particularly like playing or watching basketball, but they desperately needed a coach and I … well … I thought, “Why not?”

The other teams in the league were seasoned and accustomed to the rigors of competitive practice and play, their ultimate goal to beat every other team and win the trophy in the end. My team, not so much.

I didn’t know the difference between a point guard and a power forward. Curl cut versus a back screen? Couldn’t tell you. A double-post motion offense versus a zone defense? No idea which is better or why, or even what they truly mean.

I did have two rules for practices and games.

One: Have fun.

Two: Think it in.

We did a lot of running and blocking and shooting and laughing and talking. I’m sure a few of them had doubts about my ability to coach them to a winning season, and frankly, that wasn’t my main goal as their coach.

And so the season started.

Game one – won.

Game two – won.

Game three – won.

And so it went through the thirteen games of the season. Win after win. Whether the opponents drilled and played hard or soft, or their coaches screamed loudly or softly, we always ended up winning. Sometimes by only a couple of points, sometimes by quite a margin.

Through it all, I kept telling my girls, “Have fun” and “Think the ball in.”

They did both.

Our first season was a perfect season.

The next year, the girls were excited for the new season to begin. Because of the success we enjoyed, a few more fathers were willing to volunteer to help coaching. One, a big basketball fan offered to be the assistant coach in charge of strategies and plays. I thought, “Well, why not? I don’t have any.”

The girls learned a lot of different plays and specific strategies for offense and defense.

Me? I kept telling them to “Have fun” and “Think it in.”

Unfortunately, the assistant coach didn’t think too highly of my two rules. Instead he focused a lot more on his X’s and O’s, half-court and full-court diagrams, and practicing and playing specific plays for specific situations in the game.

The girls stopped having as much fun. They also stopped thinking their shots in the basket, and relied more on “shooting” the ball in the hoop.

The second season, not so perfect. In fact, more imperfect than perfect. It was a losing season.

Some of the girls instinctively knew why they lost. As one of them profoundly said, “Different mindset, different results.”

Monday, September 20, 2010


But I do know it’s the Monday Morning Chuckle.

Friday, September 17, 2010


I was sitting at one the outdoor tables at my local Whole Foods Market, enjoying my morning coffee and making some notes for another story I’m working on. Every so often I would hear, “Aawwwwww,” followed shortly thereafter by, “Oooh” and a sharp yelp.

As the sounds got closer, I stopped taking my notes and waited to see what it was all about.

Within minutes, the cutest beagle puppy I’ve ever seen, was happily strolling along. As it came within arm’s reach of me, I instinctively bent down to pet the happy bundle of fur. I heard myself uttering, “Aawwwwww,” like so many before me had done. He and I became “best friends forever” if only for the fleeting minutes of that moment. And I’m sure he had collected BFFs all along the sidewalk.

His owner, an elderly lady with a cracked face, a deep frown and a scowl that could frighten a vulture, sullenly walked passed, retractable leash in hand. She had no greetings for the many people who had instantly fallen in love with her beagle. Just a sour look.

As she would reach about twenty feet away, without looking back, she would harshly yank on the leash, snapping the puppy away from his admirers.

I heard myself say, “Oooh,” in reaction to the dog being yanked at leash end, as the beagle let out a sharp little yelp.

It quickly scurried ahead, until it reached the next dog lover who said, “Aawwwwww,” and made yet another BFF.

Again, within minutes, I heard the reactive “Oooh” and the innocent little yelp.

I looked at the guy at the table next to mine. “I wonder why she has such a lovable little pup when she’s going to treat it like that?” I asked.

“Witch’s brew,” was his half-serious response.

I hoped, for the puppy’s sake, that he would be able to soften her heart before she hardened his.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


As nonchalant as I tried to be, he caught me staring at his legs. I smiled rather weakly and said, “They almost look real.”

“Thanks,” he said simply, nodding at what he undoubtedly considered one of his wiser decisions. “I’ve been wearing them for eighteen months straight and they’re still as good as the day I put them on.”

By “put them on” he meant tattooing socks on his calves.

“Won’t they eventually fade?” I asked.

“Yeah, they do somewhat,” he answered. “But I’ll just get them darkened.”

“Why’d you do it?” I asked.

“I just hated wearing and washing socks and having them fall down and, you know, just the whole hassle,” he said. “So one night, feeling sort of numb from a few hours of drinking with my buddies, I figured for some short-term discomfort, I’ll get a lifetime of freedom.”

I nodded, with a half-smile on my face. Not in any sort of agreement with his decision, but I guess in that, “I’m so grateful I’ve never been that drunk” sort of way.

“A lot of people think I’m nuts,” he offered. “But we’ll see whose laughing when the price of socks goes up.”

“Wow,” I thought to myself. “The best reason he can come up with to justify his drunken decision is to hope the price of socks goes up?”

I boldly went where no man had apparently gone before, and asked him, “So what do you do when you want to go swimming?”

“What?” he said blankly.

“You know, go swimming.”

“What?” he repeated, still blankly. “Umm, I don’t swim.”

“Well, I guess that’s a good thing.”

“Uh, yeah,” he said, still looking rather blank. “That’s, that’s a good thing.”

I thought about crying because I had no coffee until I met a man with no forethought.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


He sat in his car, idling in front of me while we waited for the train to pass. It was one of those four engine, fifteen-minute-minimum-wait trains.

Occasionally the breeze would blow the blue haze in front of me that seemed to get thicker with each passing minute.

The biggest sticker on the back of his bumper stated: Save the Planet. It’s everybody’s responsibility.

I’m assuming he bought the car used, never looked in his rear-view mirror, and was illiterate.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Photoshop alteration by Mr. Eclectic

I noticed three things about her. As she walked through the door, her fallalery was at once inescapable, prismatic and almost blinding. The longer she stayed, the more apparent her appetency became. And finally, the logorrhea with which she was obviously afflicted, seemed to be of no bother to her or her friend, but of great disdain to everyone else around her.

So now that we’ve covered three of this week’s words to know, let’s take a closer look.

The door opened and with almost simultaneous movement, just about everyone in the restaurant shifted their gaze to the twenty-something woman walking through. Perhaps the most glaring statement of her apparel was the tie-dyed tank top with the words, “F#&K MINIMALISM.” It was roughly hand-applied with a rainbow of glitter and outlined with appliquéd shards of plastic jewels. There were at least a half-dozen chains around her neck, an equal number around each wrist and ankle, rings on every finger, a nose-ring with a chain looped to an earring, at least a half-dozen studs in each earlobe and just to mix things up a bit, some makeup that looked like a hybrid of goth and high fashion. Her shredded jeans were garishly pockmarked with plastic jewels, as if to compete with her similarly shredded and decorated jean purse. To say she was bejeweled would be a gross understatement. There was no doubt that she was deeply committed to her tank-top’s proclamation. (And if you haven’t figured it out yet, fallalery is showy articles of dress.)

The restaurant served up a limitless buffet, and though her appetite was more Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” than Aesop’s “The Ass and the Grasshopper,” her body was more wisp than whale. It was almost entertaining to watch this little lass pile up full plate followed by even fuller plates followed by overloaded plates of food enough to give a sumo wrestler a stomach ache. Yet she consumed it all with nary a hiccup or burp. In the universe of all-you-can-eat buffets, she was the dark hole from which no crumb could escape. It wasn’t so much that she seemed to eat anything and everything, but that she kept eating and eating and eating. (Think you know what appetence is? It’s a craving, as in, she had an appetence for eating).

And what about her logorrhea? Let’s make this one easy. Break up the word logorrhea into its two parts. Logo, an alteration of the Greek word logos, meaning words. And rrhea, as in diarrhea, as in diarrhea of the mouth. That’s right, little miss “notice-me,” the anti-minimalist in fashion and the pro-maximumist in eating, was also someone who wouldn’t or couldn’t shut up. That’s right, she was talking when she came, she talked while loading up her plates, she talked with food in her mouth. Thank God she occasionally took a breath in and drink once in a while. She talked while paying her bill and she talked while she walked out the door. She talked while heading toward her car and continued talking after she got in her car. And as if to punctuate her nonstop soliloquy, the rear end of her car was plastered with bumper stickers full of more and more words.

As the din of her dining blissfully faded and I reflected on the ripple effect of her presence, I realized a sad truth. She was not the stone that created the ripple. Rather, she is the ripple. And the stone that caused her is the gluttony that surrounds us all the time.

Okay, so she was perhaps more a rogue wave than a benign ripple, but the fact remains that in America we are living in gluttonous times.

Think about it the next time you walk into a grocery store. Or you want to buy a car. Or you contemplate the size of government.

Or maybe you just want to collect the different kinds of quarters issued by the U.S. Mint since 1999. Think it's maybe a dozen or so? Try more than a hundred. More than two hundred if you count each quarter produced in the Denver and the Philadelphia mints (each quarter is stamped with the letter of the mint, making each one slightly different). It started with a new quarter for each of the fifty states releasing five designs per year over ten years. And as if that weren’t enough, the U.S. Mint decided to release 6 more different quarter designs last year to commemorate Guam, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, the Virgin Islands, the Mariana Islands, and the District of Columbia.

Still not enough different quarter designs?

This year, the U.S. Mint launched its America the Beautiful program which eventually will issue 56 more quarter designs, with each mint giving its lettered difference.

Not satisfied yet? How about adding the Mint’s silver proof sets. Or maybe the silver bullion quarters might satiate that appetence.

No longer do we wonder when enough is enough. We now begin to wrestle with when enough is still too much.

It’s long past the time to simplify, to unclutter, and to unburden our lives. But that’s okay. As the old saying goes:

Better late than never.