Saturday, July 8, 2017

Necessity is the Mother of Invention

NECESSITY is the mother of Invention. Invention's father is a guy named Bob. Bob told me he wanted to name his daughter Mary, but Necessity wouldn't hear of it. She had her mind set on "Invention."

Bob tried to reason with her:

•None of the other kids in school will be named 'Invention.'

 •Boys attempting to write her Valentine poems will be forced to use words like intention, declension or detention.

"I'd spend two hours in detention,
If I could be with you, Invention."

•Or her friends will call her Venti, and she'll be humiliated when a middle school boy discovers that at Starbucks, Venti means "very large."

But Bob's arguments were unpersuasive. Necessity was determined.

After giving the matter the thirty seconds of thought that such matters demand ("That's pretty much your thought limit, isn't it Rusty?--PB)  I realized that surely Necessity must have been teased about her OWN name. Kids at school would have called her "Nessie," which not only rhymes with "messy," but is the chosen name of the Loch Ness monster.

Thursday, July 6, 2017


Last Friday night we were attacked by a suicide-attack deer as we were driving the Prius, our car from the future. It was after 9PM, when most respectable deer are home from work, bouncing their fawning offspring on their numerous knees. The one who attacked us was evidently crouching behind a bush, awaiting our approach on a dark country road in Maryland.  It certainly seemed that he knew we were coming, which makes me suspect that he was tipped off by someone like Tommy (Pretty Boy) Humphrey.  Since I don’t know anyone like Pretty Boy, it was probably him.

He leaped in front of us at the last possible second (the deer, not Pretty Boy), and although I immediately hit the brakes, we collided. The good news is that if the deer was wearing a suicide-vest, it didn't detonate. I suspect this was because he hadn't anticipated my cat-like reflexes, so he was struck in the hindquarters rather than the chest as he evidently intended. The point of impact was the very front of the car, where there is (or was) an oval shaped Toyota emblem.

I don't think I'll ever forget the hatred I saw in his eye just before impact.  (The hatred was in his left eye, in case you were wondering.) My first thought was that the attack might be ISIS-related, through its radicalized deer army, DASH (Deer/Angry/Suicidal/Hostile).  But as you know, those attacks are usually planned for places where large numbers congregate. This deer seemed to be waiting for us specifically.

At Risk to Die of BB's

After some routine blood work involving a small vial of My Precious being extracted from my left arm, I had a follow up appointment with my new Asian doctor.  Although I should point out that he is far more fluent in my native language than I am in his, issues remain.

"Blood levels not good. Too high. You at risk to die of BBs."

This came as a complete shock, first because I assumed my risk of dying of BBs dropped dramatically after my brothers stopped shooting me; and second, because even with all the trumpeted advancements in medicine, I couldn’t see how a simple blood test could reveal the risk of a future BB shot. 
“The patient’s blood looks normal, with that red color we’ve come to expect, but his BB titers are elevated.  The short term risk of a lethal BB shot is quite high.”

Then it occurred to me that maybe what the doctor meant was that the test revealed BBs already present in the blood, BBs that have presumably been there for decades. 

If so, the BBs would have company.  I remember one day when I dropped my pencil while sitting on a stool in a Lyman High drafting class in Longwood, Florida, north of Orlando.  I had the presence of mind and the catlike reflexes to clap my legs together and catch it, thus saving me the trouble of stepping off the stool to retrieve it, as some of my slower classmates had to do when they dropped their pencils.  Had my recently sharpened pencil been falling vertically, this clapping together of the legs might have been a good plan.  It was not.  If you are ever assigned the task of identifying my body, let me make it easy for you.  Look for a 1/8 inch black foreign object below the skin on my right thigh about six inches above the knee.

Rusty Dumpty's not so Great Fall


Our home has two skylights.  They both fulfill their purpose well, if as I assume, their purpose is to bring in sky light.  One of them, however, has developed the annoying habit of also bringing in sky rain.  I don’t know about your home, but in ours, light is welcome; rain is not.  I consulted a man more knowledgeable in such matters than I (which was easy, as I just had to consult any other man).  We went on the roof together one November day and he showed me where to caulk to prevent further interior hydration.  An hour or two later the skylight was as tight as your Uncle Scrooge, or your Uncle Scrooge’s drum, or your Uncle Scrooge  beating a drum with the minister’s cat, after a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop.

For several weeks after what I’d like to call the November Peace Caulks (but decided against it), I was cautiously optimistic that our détente might lead to a permanent resolution. But during a heavy downpour one December morning, rain began dripping down our living room wall and onto our carpet, a flagrant violation of the Rooftop Peace Accord.  Our response had to be swift and firm if we were to maintain any credibility in the international skylight community.  Heedless of the wind and weather, I donned rain-gear and ventured out.  [“Wait---if you had been in fact heedless of the wind and weather, Rusty, you wouldn’t have donned rain-gear.”] Look Pretty Boy, apart from one carol, when do we get to use the phrase, “heedless of the wind and weather?”  If you expect me to let your thoughts intrude into my stories, you’ll have to cut me some slack.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Everyone's a Critic

The experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have declared June 1 to November 30 to be “Hurricane Season.”  When they did this last year, I thought it was a bad idea, and sure enough, before long a Hurricane with the odd name of Arthur ambled up the east coast, messing up beach vacations.   No one declares a Volcano Season or an Earthquake Season for good reason; we don’t want to encourage such things.  The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) doesn’t declare a Bubonic Plague Period, or Typhoid Time.  The Justice Department doesn’t announce a Murder Month, or a Kidnapping Week.  This is plain common sense.  In the same way, you don’t put a mobile home in an open field in Oklahoma unless you want to attract tornadoes, and you don’t hang a ham in your garage unless you want to attract stray dogs, flies, or Tommy Humphrey. 
NOAA has even gone so far as to pick out names for each storm this year, including Bill, Fred and Sam for the run of the mill storms; Claudette for a storm of French origin; and for a fierce tempest they never want repeated (or pronounced), Joaquin.  I am particularly troubled that they have chosen to call one of the storms Grace.  Even if this were not the name of our sweet daughter, it would still be a lousy name for a violent storm.   Why not Hurricane Hannibal, or Hurricane Hitler?  Or does NOAA think we can tame the beast by assigning it a benign name?  I’ve tried it.  It didn’t work with Pretty Boy Humphrey.

Talk of violent storms takes me back to South Florida, where we coexisted with hurricanes (sometimes just barely) for several years.  Remind me to tell you about playing ball there.  Oh never mind---you have enough things to remember.  I’ll tell you about it now. 

Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Battle of Glenridge: Thus Always to Tyrants

My parents moved our family from Maryland to Central Florida in the summer after I completed sixth grade.  That fall, after a few traumatic weeks finding my way around my new school, it was becoming clear to me that none of the friends I had at Old Post Road Elementary in Abingdon, Maryland had been promoted to the seventh grade; or if they had been, clearly none had been assigned to Glenridge Junior High in Orlando.  Every living being in the school was a complete stranger to me; and if there were dead beings there, they were even stranger, although perhaps less complete.  

The campus was sprawling, covering several acres, and just a single story high, as are most Florida schools.  That way, if a building or two is swallowed by a sinkhole, or lost in a hurricane, it’s just a single story loss.  For some reason I had chosen Band as my seventh period elective, although I had two relevant problems; I couldn’t play an instrument, and I couldn’t read music.  Even today the smell of a clarinet reed strikes me with terror.  You would be terrified too if you were expected to play selections from Scheherazade with the aforementioned handicaps.  The Persian bride Scheherazade faced beheading if the king decided he wanted to hear no more from her.  I experienced a similar dread every time the teacher asked me to play.  I grew to hate Rimsky; and truth be told, I wasn’t that fond of Korsakov.

The alternative courses available during seventh period must have been really horrid---“Sinkhole Filling for Newcomers,” or “Sandspur Picking, 101.”  Sandspurs, for the uninitiated, are sharp spiny things, like three-dimensional asterisks, about the size of pencil erasers, and they’re as common in Florida as moss on trees. They stick to your socks, find a way to your skin and can’t be removed without drawing blood from your fingers.  Their primary function, it seems, is to keep Floridians from overdosing on Vitamins C and D by releasing a healthy bit of their blood each day.  Their secondary function is to make Phys. Ed class in the heat and humidity even more unpleasant than it would otherwise be, and make no mistake, it would otherwise be unpleasant enough.  

The worst thing about PE, of course, was showering with a slew of other boys, some of whom had so perfected the art of snapping a towel against an unsuspecting posterior that it would leave a welt.  The other worst thing (yes, there were two worst things about PE) was when, once every eight or ten days, presumably because the coach was in a foul mood, the dreaded words began to filter through the school from the earlier periods, “Happy Hour Today.”  Happy Hour was the name coined by the Marquis de Sade for an entire PE period devoted to jumping jacks, sit-ups, pull-ups, and laps around the track.  I believe he called it "l’heure joyeux."  Some of the kids blamed Happy Hour on the fitness initiative of President Kennedy (whose French wife, it was rumored, was related to the Marquis).  But I have come into possession of an old reel-to-reel tape recording from a closed-door session in Tallahassee.  The following is an exact transcript, with expletives deleted: 

Monday, January 26, 2015

When Blizzards were Blizzards

Earlier this winter, my brother Doug and his wife Nancy endured a Buffalo snowfall with accumulations recorded between five and seven feet----but enough about them.  Their storm can’t be compared to the one Donna and I survived when we lived there, the historic Western New York Blizzard of ‘77.  In those days, before the environmentalists got their hands on our atmosphere, America was cranking out pollutants to beat the band, and Buffalo was a major band beater.  The weather pattern then was as follows:  In Buffalo’s summer, which usually fell sometime between the first and fifteenth of August, industrial waste would block the sun’s rays and help to hasten the season we were famous for, winter.  In winter, moisture from Lake Erie would condense around the various toxins in the clouds, and the result would be the descent of huge, semi-metallic snowflakes, and lots of them. 

Yes, other cities received occasional snow pollution; my brother Kenny, who as a child in Baltimore would catch snowflakes on his tongue, still has tongue shrapnel, which along with his suspicious-sounding last name, makes it tough for him to get through airport security.  But Buffalo snow was renowned for its high metallic content.  When the mountains of snow eventually melted, almost always before the Fourth of July, our kids would earn spending money raking up the metal fragments in the yard and selling them back to one of the local steel plants.  The air pollution wasn’t especially good for our lungs, but in those days, you must remember, lungs were toughened by the second-hand smoke everyone inhaled in public places.

Let the record show that the recent snow in Buffalo was comprised entirely of young, flighty November flakes.  By contrast, the Blizzard of ‘77 used only mature, January snow.  In Buffalo, January flakes are ripe and plump, and they hit like mini-snowballs.  The flakes in that blizzard were especially fat; every time three of them landed on each other they formed a snowman.  Donna and I were in Northeast Philly visiting our friends, Wayne and Phyllis Clapier, when we heard a forecast of heavy snow for western New York, which didn’t alarm us.  If at that point they had called it the historic blizzard of ‘77 we might have been more concerned, but no one got around to naming it until later.  It’s also true that at the time I didn’t put much stock in meteorologists’ forecasts because I thought, “What qualifies someone who studies meteors to make predictions about the weather?”  It has since been explained to me that meteorologists focus not on meteors, but on meteorites, and anything that plunges into our atmosphere must have some effect on it.  So I stand corrected.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Bye Bye Birdies

If you’ve read my little book, Wry Bread, then you already know me to be a man of exceptional courage.  Those exceptions include bears, sharks, wolves, high school principals, feisty aunts, Godzilla and any other real or fictitious creature which may inadvertently (or advertently) bring me harm.  Some throw caution to the wind (and when you think about it, we’ve never been offered another place to throw it) and do things like attend Yankee games, as if they had never heard of Lou Gehrig’s Disease.  But it’s not through such recklessness that I’m just one day shy of reaching the ripe old age at which, as I was told by my high school mentors John and Paul, every summer Donna and I can rent a cottage in the Isle of Wight (if it’s not too dear) with Vera, Chuck and Dave on her knee.  In high school it didn’t seem preposterous that at sixty-four we could put three grandchildren on one knee.  This snake adventure highlights the caution that has served me so well yea these many years.

It was a warm evening in early summer; the Katydids were chattering and the lightening bugs flashing---wait, maybe they weren’t.  I can’t remember now.  But I remember I happened to look out our large front picture window and see a long black something on our white porch railing.  (Why we call it a picture window, I don’t know, as there’s no picture on it---I just checked to make sure.  All I could find is an ADT™ sticker left by the last occupant.  I suppose I should have removed the sticker sometime in the past ten years, since ADT™ has never received a dime from us to protect our home, but as I didn’t put the sticker on there, I felt no constraint to take it off.  The only person it might mislead is one intending to rob us, or one trying to sell us a home-security system, and I have little sympathy for either of those fellows, who, now that I think of it, may in fact be the same fellow.  The ADT™ sticker really has nothing to do with the story, so why don’t we just move on?  We’re almost at the snake part.  We’d have been there a lot sooner if not for the sticker, but remember, I’m not the one who put it on the window.)  

You’ve probably guessed by now that the long black something on our white porch railing was----a dog leash.  Wrong.  It was a snake.  Don’t you remember when I called this a snake story?  Not only was it a snake, and black, but it was a Black Snake, which makes it doubly black and doubly snake-ish.  He or she was about 3 feet long, and about two inches in diameter, and shall be referred to hence as “it.”  It seemed to have an inordinate interest in the small cylindrical wooden birdhouse hanging from the porch roof support, about two and a half feet above said snake.  You may have already deduced, from the snake’s interest, that the birdhouse was occupied by a family of-----dog leashes.  Wrong again!   It was occupied by a family of birds, including several recently hatched chicks.  

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Ivan The Terrible

The following item appeared in our newspaper last week:
“On this date in 1547, Ivan IV of Russia, popularly known as ‘Ivan the Terrible,’ was crowned Czar.”

This got me wondering:  Just how dreadful must the other candidates have been, if the man popularly known as ‘Ivan the Terrible’ was crowned Czar? Then I discovered a rare transcript of the Czar Search Committee from early 1547.

“Thank you all for coming.  Let us get right to the point.  Vlad the Horrendous, you have many qualities we were looking for in a leader.  But I’m afraid the committee has decided to go in a different direction.  With so many ruthless applicants, we hope you understand our dilemma. Sergei the Atrocious, you were under serious consideration, as were you, Igor the Malodorus.  All in Russia have heard of your great exploits, and of the Cossack town, Slovitch the Serene, known since your visit as Slovitch the Smoldering;  surely never again will any innkeeper be so imprudent as to suggest that you and your men should ‘sleep with the pigs.’   The decision we announce today should not be understood as disparaging your capacity for pillaging and plundering.  Keep up the---ah, work.  I must say, Pavel the Appalling, the committee was impressed with your collection of Polish toes, until one member pointed out that it is impossible to determine if, as you say, they were cut off the unfortunate peasants following your sacking of a defenseless town, or they simply reflect natural Siberian-winter toe-loss.  Dimitri the Despicable, and Nicolai the Nefarious, we love the alliteration; but although we have no reason to doubt your claim to be scoundrels of the baser sort, we were unable to verify any truly heinous acts ascribed to you.” 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Wry Bread Now in Book Form

As readers of Little Loaves may know, several months ago I compiled the stories I had written up to that point into a book, and self-published them as an E-book on   You can see it by going to the Amazon site, clicking Kindle Books, and searching for Wry Bread. Since then, the book has far exceeded all expectations.  (This was not hard to do, in that no one expected it to sell any copies.)  Having persuaded, cajoled and shamed several family members and friends into buying the book, sales of Wry Bread have plateaued at about 30. Let me emphasize, that's thirtynot thirty thousand.  By the way, you can encourage more people to read the book by giving it a positive review on the site.  The best thing to do with a negative review is mail it to me without postage.

Some friends asked if I would publish Wry Bread the old fashioned way---you know, printed on paper made from trees. That has now been done, and those are selling like---well not so much like hotcakes, more like bread that sells slowly. The paperback books of 190 pages are available for a suggested donation of $8 each, or $10 with shipping included (within the U.S.) Just Email me at to request your fresh baked copy. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Best Laid Schemes

When my lovely wife Darla and I had some plans derailed recently, I was reminded of the words of Robert Burns: “The best laid schemes of mice and men gang aft a-gley.”  What he meant was, they get messed up.  Take that verse, for example.  Burns started off well: “The best laid schemes of mice and men…”  That phrase showed promise.  We weren’t sure where he was going with it, but juxtaposing the mice with the men was enough to generate interest, and spin off a novel or two. Then his verse got sidetracked with gangs and gleys.  I suppose his gang reference shouldn’t surprise us; he wouldn’t be the first poet involved in gang activity (Longfellow’s Gitche Gumee Boys spring to mind).  But what’s this business of afting a-gley?  “The best laid schemes of mice and men gang aft a-gley.” 

I’ve concluded he intentionally messed up the line to prove his point.  The verse didn’t just pronounce that the best-laid schemes tend to go awry, it demonstrated it, by going awry.  It’s kind of like onomatopoeia---you remember: the word used to identify the noise bees make actually sounds like the noise bees make.  I think Burns was handing future generations a fresh figure of speech---let’s call it “gang-afting,” to add to metaphor, simile, alliteration, personification, etc. (If you’ve ever had to create a Match the Figure of Speech to its Name Quiz for an English class, you know that you can always use another figure of speech; if possible, you’d rather not resort to the use of Metonymy and Synecdoche).  Burns gifted us with gang-afting: to start out with a good plan that gets royally messed up.  I suspect there are other examples of it out there. We just didn’t know it because we weren’t looking for them, and we wouldn’t have known what to call them if we’d seen them.  I could do a search of English literature and maybe come up with a few examples, but that would require time and effort, and alter my normal pattern.  However, any reader who performs such a search will receive extra credit.

I’m more curious about how Burns determined that the best-laid schemes of mice go astray. We won’t give him any argument about men’s schemes, having watched a number of botched rocket launches (which were presumably planned by rocket scientists), but there seems to me to be no good reason to impugn the best-laid plans of mice.  Granted, some schemes of mice go astray, unless those particular mice schemed to have their backs suddenly broken while they nibbled on a tiny glob of peanut butter or cheese.  But I suspect that, among all the schemes those mice may have entertained for that particular evening---chewing into the box of rice in the pantry, eating the crumbs around the toaster, making the humans jump and scream, encouraging the Mrs. to try to make more mice---the plan to eat the food on that odd looking wooden contraption under the kitchen sink was not among the “best laid.”  I would not want to be the reporter, interviewing the grieving mouse spouse on the following day, who suggested to her that the unfortunate events of the previous evening were the results of her hubby’s “best laid” scheme. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Colonoscopy Games

Since I revealed my shocking medical condition in the article, Hospital Cat Scams, scores of Wry Bread readers on various continents have written to inquire about the present status of my health.  Well, maybe not scores, but several of you.  Okay, the word several may give the wrong impression, let’s just say that some of you have---well, you haven’t actually written---you’ve been busy with other things, I’m sure, but I have no doubt you’ve been anxious about my current condition, perhaps subconsciously. Yes, that’s it.  There’s been a lot of subconscious anxiety going on.  So to ease your mind, and to permit you to focus on your daily tasks undistracted, I will bring you up to date on my progress. 

As you may recall, I was driven to an emergency room by severe stomach pain (and for a pain, it drove surprisingly well), where a cat scan revealed that although my intestinal tract was completely cat-free (as I kept insisting), there were diverse ticks in my litis (a segment of the colon, I presume).  The technical name is Diverticulitis.  I was told to follow up with the doctor who had conducted my last colonoscopy.  This seemed an odd choice, because in that procedure, just months before, this “expert” had detected no signs of ticks.  The question before us was a simple one; in light of the new diagnosis, should I schedule another colonoscopy?  I argued for the opposition. 

In case you haven’t yet had the experience, the colonoscopy, as one might guess, involves a colon and a scope.  As the patient reclines face down in a poor-excuse for a robe, the doctor, having previously chosen a convenient point of access, drives a remote-controlled camera through the hairpin turns of the patient’s digestive tract, all the while trying not to collide with the intestinal wall.  If he touches the wall, a buzzer sounds and he loses his turn.  Then the next doctor steps in, but he can’t begin where the first doctor left off.  He has to begin at Start (also called Home). 

In the Sorry™ version of the colonoscopy, before he can enter the colon with his scope, each doctor has to draw either a one or a two from the deck of cards which the nurse has provided.  Furthermore, if while Doctor A is probing the colon, Doctor B draws a Sorry™ card, Doctor A has to go all the way back to start, even if he was almost at the end (you’re right, Pretty Boy, one might say these doctors are always at the end).  This version can take a bit longer than the classic version, but it has the advantage of suspense, in that one can never tell which doctor will complete it first. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

Our Car from the Future

We recently bought a Prius.  It’s from the future.  Like cars from the past, it has a gasoline engine, but it also has a mid-twenty-first century energy generator that, even if I understood, I’m legally forbidden to describe until the year 2050, when the car was built, which happens to be long after my prospective departure date.  Exactly how we bought a car from the future will be explained below.  You need to learn to be patient. 

When we mention to people that we’re averaging between 55 and 61 miles per gallon (and that seems to come up a lot) they usually say, “But you have to plug it in, right?”  I think what they’re saying is:

“You doofus!  It’s not such a bargain if you have to pay the electric company for the juice you use---plus you have the hassle of having to remember to plug in the car every night, and you have to find charging stations when you’re traveling.  Don’t call me when you’re stranded on I-95.”   

But I respond, “That’s not the way it works (in other words, I see your doofus, and raise you one).”  It’s not a plug-in car.  It generates some of its own energy.  The whole scheme is displayed in animation on a magic 3D monitor in the cockpit (apparently they no longer use written language in 2050).  The 3D image depicts energy flowing from brakes to batteries to motors and back again.  I’m sure it makes perfect sense to the young engineer who designed it, who probably won’t be born for several years. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Hospital Cat Scams

I had to have a Cat Scan this week.  It’s no wonder health care costs are crazy high, when invariably, the first thing that’s recommended, when you’re sick, is an expensive test to scan you for cats.  The statistics are not readily available (surprise), but I suspect that fewer than one in ten thousand Cat Scans comes back positive.  Just because there’s a machine that can do it doesn’t mean it should be done.  This is a perfect example of big medical corporations marketing products that hospitals don’t really need.  All an aggressive salesperson had to do was convince one hospital administrator to invest a few hundred grand (which, I understand, a hospital can make from one day’s mark-up on Acetaminophen) for the “latest technology,” and every other hospital had to follow suit.  No hospital wanted to be the only one in town without a fancy new Cat Scanning device.  Did any administrator pause to ask, “How in the world would the cat get in there in the first place?”---Evidently not.  Now that universities have cracked down on fraternity cat-gulping parties, abdominal cat diagnoses are actually relatively rare.  Are we supposed to believe that thousands of kittens are wandering into their owner’s open mouths at night, attracted by their snoring?   I know kittens are curious, but that sounds a bit far-fetched.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Foxes and Beavers and Owls, Oh My.

We’ve been told since we were children that foxes are sly.  But I’ve seen quite a few of them dead in the road recently.  I can only assume they’re having some unpleasant interactions with fast moving vehicles.  I don’t know about you, but it strikes me as not particularly sly to run directly across the path of a car or truck hurtling down a highway.  

“Hey, Ralph.  How much you wanna bet I can get to the other side of the smooth trail before that next giant monster runs by?” 

“You mean that big one with the round black feet and the fire-eyes that’s coming incredibly fast?  I’m not sure that’s a good idea, Sly. Why don’t you just wait until he goes by?  Remember Cousin Wily tried the same thing last week and—Sly?  SLY!

Even people generally regarded as, shall we say—not particularly sly—seldom try to outrun cars and trucks.  If they did, there would be a severe pastor shortage, and perhaps Pretty Boy would be known as Pretty-Banged-up-Humphrey. 

Now someone may respond (let’s call him Melvin),

“This is simply nature’s way of weeding out the foxes that don’t deserve the sly label—in other words, a way of protecting the brand.  The vast majority of foxes are clever enough to wait until the monster passes before crossing the street.  The ones you see flattened are the few, the proud, the non-sly.”  

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Though it be Madness

My watch battery died.  Now I have to advance the minute hand manually.  It pretty much takes up my whole day.  This has given me a greater appreciation for people in the old days, before there were time-savers like batteries.  It’s no wonder it took them forever to get anything done, like, inventing batteries.  For example, it has taken me twenty-two minutes just to write the above, taking a break every fifty-five seconds to advance my watch.  Of course moving the minute hand only takes about five seconds.  The time-consuming part is counting “one Mississippi,” “two Mississippi,” etc., until I get to “fifty-five Mississippi,” over and over again.  (The only thing worse might be typingone Mississippi,” “two Mississippi,” etc.  By the way, I don’t know that I’ve ever been to Mississippi, but the scuttlebutt seems to be, one Mississippi is more than enough, and fifty-five Mississippies would be way too many---But this is getting us off track, or it would be if we had some sort of track, and if we were on it.)  

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Dead Men Walking

According to God's Word, there are people who have died who are now walking around on earth. In fact, you might have one or two in your home right now. What's that sound in the basement? Some might call them zombies, and some might call them other scary names, like Baptists, Lutherans, Methodists or scariest of all, Presbyterians.  Listen to this 6 minute segment of a sermon on 2 Corinthians 5, if you dare.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Cryptic Sayings

Living next door to a funeral home tends to remind one of his mortality.  So it’s going to be embarrassing if, after over nine years of such reminders, I kick the proverbial bucket without clarifying some things regarding my departure.  First, as I’ve mentioned to my lovely wife Darla numerous times, and in my previous article, Between the Quick and the Dead, I don’t want to be exhibited, as if I were a science project, or a blue fin tuna.   My body never looked especially good when I was alive; I have no reason to think it will look better when I’m dead.  Why would I want my friends and family gawking at my carcass?  I never gawked at theirs.  Who came up with the open casket idea anyway?  How much do you want to bet it was a self-satisfied embalmer?   If one of you Wry Bread readers should happen to find me displayed in such a manner, I hope you will have the decency to close the box, or at least flip me over.  If people must gawk at me, I’d rather they do it behind my back.  

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Monkey Madness

I remember hearing several years ago that a few drivers in Virginia reported their vehicles had been struck by crab apples thrown by a band of roaming monkeys.  It was either that, or it was a band of roaming crabs throwing apples at Virginia monkeys.  I’m almost certain there were monkeys involved, and Virginia.  Anticipating that some (myself included) would doubt my memory on this, I have taken the liberty of exhuming the story, as told by Virginia State Trooper Mike Scott to an AP reporter.  I shall quote the gist of it for your reading pleasure.  There is even a bonus banana in the story, to which I have not yet alluded, because I had no recollection of it. 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Treadmills and Timbuktu

Last Christmas, my lovely wife, Darla and I decided to buy a gift that would benefit us both.  I rejected her first idea, which was a one-way ticket for me to Timbuktu, on the grounds that it was unclear exactly how such a trip would benefit me.  Her second idea, rejected for similar reasons, involved Nome, Alaska.  Eventually we came up with something we could agree on.  We decided to buy a treadmill.  The thinking was, she could use it for hanging wet sweaters that she didn’t want to put in the dryer, and I could benefit from the mental gymnastics of figuring out how in the world to get the monstrous thing into the house.
We did not run out and buy the first treadmill we could find, primarily because, at this advanced stage of life, commonly known as the pre-death stage, we do not run. That’s another reason I agreed to buy a treadmill.  Should the impulse to run ever strike me, I didn’t want to have to run outside, where children might point at me and say,
“Look, Mommy, Santa is wearing shorts and trying to run.  I can see his bowl full of jelly.”  A lump of coal is too good for such a child.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Time Thieves

Daylight Savings Time is misnamed.  They should call it Sleep Losing Time.  It seems like The Central League of Clock Keepers of America (CLOCKsA) always picks the least convenient time to make us turn our clocks either forward or back----Sunday mornings at 2 AM.  In other words, they pick a time when they know----or should know, that most law-abiding citizens are fast asleep, and a number of us have to get up and preach in the morning. They’re always telling us what to do with our time, and our clocks.  Would it be so hard for them to move the clock adjustment time forward or backward a few hours?   Why couldn't they tell us to jump from ten to eleven, or eleven to ten?  Every six months or so, when I have to set my alarm for 2, just so I can crawl out of bed and stumble around the house resetting our clocks, I wish I had someone from CLOCKsA on hand.  

Sunday, September 30, 2012

My "60 Minutes" Interview

I don’t recall having volunteered to single-handedly prevent America’s forest fires.  I’m willing to do my part, of course, as I care about Bambi, Thumper and their woodsy friends as much as the next guy raised on Disney movies.  But as I told my church family, I was somewhat taken aback recently when a rather official-looking giant bear with a shovel told me that of all the people in America, I’m the only one who can prevent forest fires.  Granted, there is some satisfaction in being recognized among my peers, and to be honest, it doesn’t come as a complete surprise.  But I would have guessed that the national acclaim I so richly deserve would have come for being an excellent driver.  I’ve always half-expected that one day an officer would pull me over to commend me for coming to a complete stop before making a right hand turn at a red light, or for being one of the few Americans who knows the order in which to proceed at a four-way stop sign.  I assumed that, as a result, I’d be invited to a ceremony for America’s Best Drivers (maybe sponsored by Allstate, so I could meet that reassuring “good hands” fellow---you know, the one who was Jack Bauer’s president for a while).  Then I’d make a few guest appearances on the morning talk shows, and perhaps have a sit down with Steve Kroft of 60 Minutes.

“So is it true, Russ that you’ve been driving for almost half a century without an accident?” 
“That’s essentially true----no accident of any substance, Steve.” 

Monday, September 17, 2012

An Accounting of the Free Treasure

Why would a King, in an act of mercy, sovereignly pardon a criminal sentenced to death, and entrust to him an inestimable and inexhaustible treasure, with instructions to freely give it away? Why would he not, instead, entrust it to mighty messengers from his court?  How might some respond to the offer of such a free gift? How might the king react if the pardoned criminal did not offer the treasure to others, but kept it all for himself?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Mouse That Roared

When I was a child, our family received a wonderful present every year from Dad’s sister in London, an aunt we children had never met.  A week or two before Christmas, something remarkable would happen.  A box full of luscious Belgian chocolates would travel all the way across the ocean, the same ocean, I was assured, that we’d go swimming in each summer, and that box would magically land at our door in NE Baltimore.  Somehow, my dad’s sister had access to the world’s best chocolates. These chocolates were related  to the Milky Way and Three Musketeer bars on our drug store shelves, in the same way that Baltimore’s jumbo lump crab cakes are related to the frozen hockey puck-like objects that Mrs. Paul sells---that is, in name only.  Aunt Money’s boxes included orange flavored bars, and strawberry flavored bars, white chocolates and dark chocolates, chocolates shaped like sea shells and chocolates shaped like tiny pyramids.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Who Can See Better?

Who Can See Better - those who can only see the transitory things of this world, things which are fading away and will soon be no more, or those who can also see the things which are spiritual and remain forever? Do you look forward to coming days on earth only, or that day when you will see God face to face? Can you see better when you are young and your eyes work well, or when you are old, and your eyes are failing, when you have been weaned from the milk of human kindness and long for the wine of heavenly joy?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Biting the Screen that Feeds You

I grew up watching TV---Robin Hood, Lassie, Rin Tin Tin, Sky King, Superman, to name a few, and tons of westerns: Roy Rogers, Hop-a-long Cassidy, Maverick, Cheyenne, Gunsmoke, Have Gun-Will Travel, The Rifleman, and my favorite, The Lone Ranger.  I think I was twelve years old before I met any three-dimensional people.  In my TV world, I knew that if I fell in a well, there would always be a collie nearby to summon help; if bad guys robbed my wagon train and left me hog-tied, a masked stranger and his trusty Indian companion would come along and make things right; and if I ate all the cream-filled chocolate eggs I was supposed to sell for school, my older brother Wally would somehow get me out of the jam, and ask Mom and Dad to not be too hard on me, because I was just a goofy kid.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Mother Country Syndrome

Most Americans love Britain. She is, after all, our mother country, and how can you not love your mother? That’s why America ground to a halt when we heard the news about Lady Di, and why we were glued to our satellites when Kate Middleton married Prince What’s-His-Name. I believe the technical term for this is Mother-Country Syndrome (MCS). As unpopular as it may be to say it, perhaps our love for Britain causes us to overlook some important things.

Here in rural Maryland, for example, lots of people have been diagnosed with Lyme disease, which we are told comes from ticks. I’m not so sure. I’ve noticed that some of those who contract it are indoor types who work in offices and live in homes that are generally tick-free. Besides, it’s called Lyme disease, not Tick disease. Surely I’m not the only one to notice that lyme is obviously a British spelling of lime. We don’t need Miss Marple or Inspector Lewis to deduce that America’s outbreak of Lyme disease can be traced to infected British fruit. Was it just coincidental that America’s first reported incidents were in New England?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Count Your Children

My parents had piled the kids in the Plymouth station wagon and we were on the first leg of a long vacation trip, no doubt headed to a beach, with Dad driving late at night.  The back seats had been folded down, and the five kids were lined up like logs on blankets, trying to sleep.  Somewhere along the line, Dad stopped for gas.  Later, when he came to a toll booth, the attendant said, “Count your children.”
“Count your children.”  
Dad turned around.  “Ricky, Russy, Kenny, Dindy…Wait!  Where’s Dougy?”  

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Field of Nightmares

The summer after I completed sixth grade (yes, Pretty Boy, I completed sixth grade, and I resent the question) my family moved from Maryland to central Florida.  (And yes, they brought me with them.  One more question like that and I might just stop answering you.)  The move was exciting, although I was concerned about being so far away from the Orioles. One of the first things that my younger brother Kenny and I did that summer was look for a place to play ball.  Until we found a vacant field, we played catch on the lawn of the Lake Dot Motel in Orlando, where the family stayed until we moved into a rental house in Winter Park. 

By the way, the Lake Dot Motel was (and perhaps is again) a lovely peaceful oasis.  But it wasn't very peaceful when the Sukhia boys arrived with bags of firecrackers and cherry bombs.  We had finagled them from a fellow named Pedro a few days before at his establishment that he called South of the Border, by shrewdly trading for them American paper money.  If he knew that cherry bombs exploded even under water, Pedro would never have parted with them for a few gringo dollars.  Let's hope the fish population in Lake Dot has recovered from the Disaster of '62.

Getting back to baseball---as it happened, the Lutheran church our family began to attend in Winter Park had a pastor who had once been a Minor League player (in the Pirate organization, as I recall) and he conducted a baseball camp in South Carolina.  I spent two glorious weeks there---sliding pits, batting cages, individualized instruction, movies of old World Series games at night, and grits at every meal.  I think Kenny got homesick and left after the first week, or else he came up just for the second week.  For the facts, you’ll have to consult his future blog, Littler Loaves.   
That camp was the scene of one of the greatest embarrassments that a 12 year old could endure.  On the final day, when the parents came to pick up their kids, there was a father-son game. 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Guess Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf

I don’t know if you’ve ever had this experience, but when I was about ten years old, a wolf would come to my bedside at night.  He wasn’t the sort of wolf that howls at the moon and travels in packs.  He was the sort of wolf that walks upright on his hind legs, with a long snout and a dangling tongue dripping saliva.  In other words, he was the type that would occasionally get bit parts in Disney cartoons.   He didn’t watch me from my closet, or from across the room.  He would come right up to my head, sit on his haunches so he was at eye-level, and stare at me.  What particular interest he had in me, I did not know, and he would not say; but I guessed it was the same interest that Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother with the big teeth had in her; which happened to be the same interest that the huffing  puffing pursuer of the three little pigs had in them. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Dougy's Big Adventure

When we were kids, in the fifties (yes, I mean the nineteen-fifties) our parents used to say that my brother Doug was accident-prone.   What they meant was, he had a defective warning light.   In normal children, as you know, that light blinks in their brain just before they do something like jump from a moving vehicle, dive in an unfamiliar body of water, climb a rusty water tower, or otherwise endanger life or limb.  Doug’s warning light had evidently shorted-out in some dirty pond.
Our home in the NE Baltimore area called Overlea was on Powell Avenue, a dead end street, and we lived at the end of the dead part.  I know it sounds weird that a dead end street would be called an avenue, but I don’t make the rules, although, of course, I should.   Today our street would be described as a cul-de-sac, but this was back before America purchased the word cul-de-sac from the people of France.  I understand we got it for just $300 billion and Euro-Disney.  This is a lot more than we paid for the word chauffeur, picked up just before the war for next to nothing; but it’s quite a bit less than we paid for the word carte blanche, for which, I was told, we gave the French a veritable blank check.