Doodle Week- or- The Further Adventures of Back-up Girl

To help celebrate my friend Claire's latest Doodle Week, I thought it might be fun if our buddy "Back-up Girl," from the other day's post (Back-up Girl Takes on Captain Anonymous), flew in for the "Doodle Air" theme day.

As you may or may not know, Back-up Girl is BurghTown's resident marketing superhero. When other marketers are unavailable to fight the Dark Forces of Corporate Silliness due to disinterest... incompetence....sickness.... or actual personal lives, Back-up Girl is there!

Sweeping in, she uses her Super Follow-up Skills and her Red Editing Pen of Justice, to save the project!

Today, we find the Red Phone ringing at Back-up Girl's Super Secret Marketing Headquarters, located at 200 Main Street, Third Floor in BurghTown... Also found in the Yellow Pages and on Google via satellite...

Back-up Girl picks up the receiver. "Hello? Back-up Girl here. What seems to be the trouble?"

A child's scared voice quavers over the line. "It's Mayor Skippy, Back-up Girl!"

"Mayor Skippy?" Back-up Girl frowns and looks at her desk clock. "It's 8 o'clock at night. Isn't it past your bedtime?"

"It is and it's making me cranky. But there's no time for that now. This is an emergency! Miss Management has been taking over marketing campaigns all over town!"

Back-up Girl gasps. "Miss Management! Oh NO!"

"It seems she encouraged one of BurghTown's major advertisers to launch a billboard marketing campaign that is definitely not 'Rated for General Audiences' -- and the billboards are offending people all over the city!"

"That's terrible!" Back-up Girl says. "What are the billboards of, exactly?"

"I don't know," Mayor Skippy sighs, "my mommy won't let the Deputy Mayor show them to me. But I hear they're really bad. That's why we called you."

"Understood!" says Back-up Girl. "I'm on my--"

"Because, you know, the billboard people aren't answering their phones."

"Okay, then. I'm on my--"

"And our city PR rep is on his honeymoon."

"I hope he'll be very happy. I'm on my--"

"And I called the marketing company who designed the ads, but they all really kinda don't feel like taking the ads down right now..."

"All righty, then, Mayor Skippy, I'm on my--"

"And we all know you don't actually have a family or, gosh, even a DOG who might miss you... so we figured you'd probably wouldn't be doing anything tonight, anyway, other than drinking wine coolers and watching re-runs of Monk and--"

Back-up Girl grits her teeth and takes a deep breath. "Er, Mayor Skippy? I hate to interrupt you, Sir, but--"


"I'm on my way!"

Meanwhile... in the historic center of BurghTown..

Miss Management is doing end-zone dances over the success of her most recent nefarious project.

"HAHAHA! I have changed all of the city's billboards to a campaign for my client that is so racy... so over-the-top... so mind-numbingly stupid and so fingernails-on-chalkboard offensive, even Girls Gone Wild, Gary Glitter, life-long porn stars and Courtney Love will be calling in to complain about it!"

Miss Management's lips part in a smile that reveals she has lipstick on her teeth.

"By the time I am done with this city, everyone in BurghTown will have my client's messaging burned indelibly in their minds-- forever! HAHAHAHAHA!!"

"Not so fast, Miss Management!" says a determined voice.

"Back-up Girl! You!... But I thought a Monk marathon was on tonight!"

"The continual battle against tasteless marketing ideas never stops, Miss Management!... Anyway, Monk would want it this way. I'm going to clean up this town."

"Oh, really?" Miss Management asks, with a narrow gaze behind her high-fashion spectacles. "Well, we'll just see about that."

(GASP!) Look! An electric bolt is shooting from Miss Management's evil Power Tie!

Watch out, Back-up Girl!

Phew! A near miss!

"You'll never stop me, Back-up Girl! I have my hand in businesses all over BurghTown!" Miss Management laughs. "Wherever you find catch phrases that don't make any sense...

"Or ads selling jeans without a single pair of jeans in the picture....

"Wherever you find typos on banner ads... Or badly mixed metaphors....

"Or billboards advertising events that ended MONTHS before...

"Whenever you get courtesy calls that interrupt your dinner...

"Or multiple copies of the same flier stuffed in your mailbox...

"I am there! You can't get rid of me, Back-up Girl. I am all around you."

"Maybe so," Back-up Girl says. "But I can take care of this offensive campaign!"

Miss Management laughs heartily. "How? The client wanted something that would grab the attention-- and I've given it to them!"

"I'll tell you how. Through something that's even more powerful than your cheap publicity tactics, Miss Management! Good old-fashioned quality writing!"

And with this, Back-up Girl brings out the red editing pen of justice.

Going from billboard to billboard, she battles with wording...

Struggles with unruly themes...

Gets knocked out by some powerful cliches...

But rallies under the cloak of a giant brainstorm.

"Okay, Back-up Girl," Miss Management sneers. "You might have won this one. But I won't be down for long. And just you wait...

"The Presidential Elections are coming up, and the candidates need a fine ad woman with an aesthetic just like mine. So why am I waiting around this hick town? I'm off to DC!"

Will America soon see political campaign ads offensive enough to make candidates need a good cry in private?

Will Mayor Skippy finally get to sleep-- once his Deputy Mayor gets him a drink of water and tucks him in?

Will Back-up Girl finally get to finish her Monk marathon and her wine spritzer?

Stay tuned, for the next thoroughly-punctuated adventure of Back-up Girl.

Vote for Of Cabbages and Kings at And don't forget to check out all the funny doodlers participating in Doodle Week over at Stickfiguregrrl.

The Mom-isms of Mystery

"We're off like a herd of turtles!" I exclaimed to my two buds in the car.

They stopped in mid-seat-buckle and exchanged a glance. "Say what?!"

And I realized I'd done it. A full-blown, full-fledged Mom-ism-- one of those bizarre things my mother would habitually say to me under the very same circumstances.

And hearing it come out of my own mouth... well, the terror was palpable.

Which got me thinking about all the other things my parents would say every time a certain occasion would come up. Some parental knee-jerk answer to communicating.

And how these quips and quotes and half-proverbs are now ingrained in my brain, ready at a moment's notice to leap out of the shadows and from behind Life's shrubberies like some trench-coated pervert...

Unexpected... unwanted... unwarranted... and unfortunately, wholly void of pants.

Like, say, someone tells you their hand or nose itches. That is the perfect moment to proclaim, "Come into money, or kiss a fool!"

Now, I can't recall ever receiving the big bucks, or getting smooched up by, say, Pauly Shore following an itchy palm or an allergy attack. But the phrase sure lingers.

Okay, here's another one. Say someone tells you they've had to do a lot of different, unrelated jobs at work during the week. Do you ask how it's going? Do you offer helpful hints from your own career experiences? Do you listen to their tale with a sympathetic ear?

NO! You say, "Ah! Chief cook and bottlewasher!"

Let me tell you, that pretty much puts an end to any added discussion right away.

Next-- say your friend sitting across from you in a crowded coffeeshop mentions they think they're being stared at. The appropriate response here? "Always lookin' at ya, never stops!"

WHAT this phrase was even from-- a TV commercial? An episode of "Laugh-In"? A film?-- appears to be lost to time. (Or really, really buried in Google.) But it has become another Mom-ism of Mystery.

My father, on the other hand, leans more toward the creative license with words and music. If you fill up your car's gas/petrol tank, you are filling it with "gasolino." If you have allergies? The little pill that you take? That's an "antihistamino"...

Why these words have become either faux Spanish or Italian, when the Pop's side of the family is peopled with Swedes, I simply cannot say.

But this charming trait now haunts the next generation.

Lastly, I'd mentioned how the Pop likes to make merry with the music, changing the lyrics to some well-known songs to give them that special, added zing. (Read: embarrasses the hell out of you when you're a teenager.)

The real problem with this is, I've heard these songs incorrectly since I was a child, with no idea that my father-- the authority figure who I was supposed to trust to guide me in the important things in life like good decision-making and, y'know, song lyrics-- all this time has been taking liberties with lines of Gershwin. So things like the classic tune "Summertime" have become:

"Summertime, and the living is easy
Fish are jumping
And the cattle are high."

Perhaps Porgy and Bess found a more lucrative crop than cotton. No other explanation, really.

So I'm curious, folks-- is it just my incredibly strange family, or as an adult have you found yourself spewing out the little catch phrases, Fortune cookie wisdom and other mumbo-jumbo passed down to you courtesy of your parents?

Well, gotta go-- Time waits for no marmot!

(Okay, that's not really a Momism, I made that one up. But, who knows? Maybe it'll catch on.)

If you enjoy this site, vote for Of Cabbages and Kings at Humor-blogs.

If you don't enjoy this site-- well, dude, what are you waiting around here for? There's a whole blogosphere out there. Go! Find something you truly love! Carpe diem, my friend!

Back-up Girl Takes On Captain Anonymous

"Back-up Girl."

Filling in, at the speed of light, for those originally hired to do certain tasks but who decide they don't actually, really, ever want to do them... but still kinda sorta would like to continue being paid for said tasks, and also get the credit for their success.

That's when she gets called in on the Red Phone.

Back-up Girl is silent, ever-vigilant, invisible-- and has a certain amount of inner-rage.

Yes-- I am Back-up Girl . (Shhh, don't tell anybody.)

As a result, Back-up Girl has had a very interesting array of projects under her utility belt during her lengthy trouble-shooting career-- many of which go well-beyond simple marketing writing.

Today, I will tell you about one such project, which happened a number of years ago. Names have been changed to protect the innocent. (Namely me.) Because Back-up Girl believes in the powers of loyalty, confidentiality... and, you know, a regular paycheck.

We begin our story in the city of BurghTown. A local company, RandomCorp, is about to create a whole new marketing brand. And Back-up Girl has been called in to survey the firm's internal staff.

Her mission? To solicit honest employee opinions about the company’s current marketing efforts.

This is to be done through an easy-to-use online survey, where employees share their feelings and ideas anonymously, in a secure environment.

That way if anyone wants to say, "I think our marketing blows chunks," Back-up Girl is armed with invaluable data ("chunk-blowing marketing"). And the good people of RandomCorp get to retain their jobs.

Harmony reigns in BurghTown.

The survey takes place, the people of BurghTown offer their insights and then, one day, the Red Phone rings. Back-up Girl picks it up.

"Hello-- Back-up Girl here! What seems to be the trouble?"

"Hi, this is Mr. Blank, of RandomCorp." Back-up Girl recognizes the name instantly as the key contact for her client firm.

And that's when Mr. Blank says this real and 100% for-true sentence:

"I need you to give me the names of all the people who filled out the anonymous survey."

Back-up Girl is hit with an enormous unexpected blow! Recovering her breath, she grounds herself. "Mr. Blank, I'm afraid we hadn’t set the system up to collect that information. Since, you know, the survey was anonymous."

"Oh, okay," Mr. Blank continues, wholly unfazed. "Then just give me their e-mail addresses. We can figure out their names from those."


Back-up Girl is tossed across the room, her head spinning.

She leaps to her feet. She takes several more deep breaths. And she picks up the Red Phone once more.

"Mr. Blank, I don't know how to tell you this, but the system you approved wasn't programmed to capture that data, either. As it was… you know… an anonymous survey."

Mr. Blank goes silent with confusion.

Back-up Girl perseveres. "The anonymous survey was anonymous so your colleagues would feel comfortable sharing their opinions and so you would get honest answers. If you knew who they were, then the survey wouldn't be anonymous anymore. It would be... er... Nonymous."

"Oh." Mr. Blank considers this a moment. "Well, I just think there are a number of people who didn't respond to the survey. And we want to get as many people as possible. So I need to know who's missing and remind them."

So Back-up Girl assures him she would send a second blanket e-mail to everyone at RandomCorp telling them the deadline for the survey would be extended. That would get the maximum number of respondents.

Mr. Blank was saved!

But wait! Something is now in Back-up Girl's email Inbox!

Why, it's many of the fine people of RandomCorp. And one after one, they wonder why they’re being asked to fill out this anonymous survey now-- again-- when they already had submitted it.

Did Back-up Girl not receive their anonymous survey?

Shouldn't Back-up Girl make sure she checked their name off The List…? Off the List of the Non-names of the People Who Filled Out the Survey Anonymously?

Back-up Girl grabs the bottle of Excedrin from her desk and chews two tablets thoughtfully. Captain Anonymous has been an admirable foe...

And she surely hasn't seen the last of him.

Back-up Girl says people who vote for Of Cabbages and Kings at Humor-blogs are super.

Beware the Penquins and Other Cases for Proofreading

"Benaughty! Rise you potential," the banner ad exclaims.

I've been chuckling over this for a few days now, and felt compelled to share. It hovers over my Statcounter stats in rotation with other less grammatically free-spirited ads.

The first time I saw it, I just caught it out of the corner of my eye. And the message routed itself from eyeball to the brain, where it hung in that big echoing room with all the windmills... And it whispered...

"Rise you potentialllllll...."

Rise me potential? What the-?!... I stopped what I was doing and raised an eyebrow. Or rised it.

But when I looked up, the panel had rotated over to something else. So typical of potential, really. There and gone in the blink of an eye.

Well, the next day, there it was again. "Rise you potential." The brain processed it right away this time.

And do you know how the Benaughty folks think I can rise me potential? By placing hardcore "adult dating" ads on this blog!

Yup, there's a surprise. Gosh, we'll be rising all sorts of things, won't we?

The actual surprise, I'd say, was that their main site appears fairly well proofread-- because, well, with a lead-up like that, I simply had to check it out and see.

And yessir, there weren't any of those pesky typos detracting from their offer of big money for connecting beloved readers with buxom Scandinavian hotties who are, in all likelihood, sweaty men with comb-overs who answer to the name of "the Dwayne-meister."

(The sweaty men answer to "Dwayne-meister"... not the comb-overs. Just so we're clear.)

So I actually started to feel a little sorry for the Benaughty people. I mean, here they are, wanting to lure in potential potential-risers. And instead they're probably getting a bunch of amused marketing writers, rigid schoolmarms, Grammar Nazis, and out-of-work copy editors looking for employment.


I sympathize, you see, because I have not been without my own share of typos. Why just recently, when we were here at Cabbages waiting for Godot, I got "Hooked on Phonics" somewhere along the way and he went all Godoh on us for about three hours. Before I was enlightened to my error.

I'm also reminded of a craft project an acquaintance was working on. This girl-- we'll call her "Stephanie"-- Stephanie had a boyfriend who loved the Pittsburgh Penguins hockey team. And so she decided she'd quilt this fine fellow a Penguins-themed blanket for Christmas.

A nifty idea and a gift sure to be appreciated, right?

Well, Stephanie worked long hours on this, crafting it in yellow and black stripes, cutting out each square, each letter, with love and care and nimble fingers...

And then it was complete. Thick, fleecy and beautiful, with lots of hand-done touches, Stephanie finally showcased her work.

"Um... Stephanie?... How do you spell 'penguins'?"

Stephanie's face grew dark. "Er... what?"

"How do you spell 'penguins'?"


"Uhhh.... let me stop you right there, Steph. G."

Stephanie had lost all blood to her head and neck at this point. "Excuse me?"

"It's G. P-E-N-G... U-I-N-S."

She probably would have been better off just quilting, "Go Pens."

So remember, folks--

Whether you're selling money-making schemes involving "hot broads looking for a good time" who are actually B.O.-radiating Dwayne-meisters...

Or whether you're humor blogging about existentialist literature while undercaffeinated...

Or whether you're just trying to create the gift that keeps on giving...

Good proofreading really can be your fiend.

Er... freind. Er...

Beware the Penquins.

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Cortez' Six and the Edgar Allen Poe Junior High School Cardsharps

"No running, jumping, skipping, sports equipment, hopscotch, tree-climbing, gum-chewing, or pointy, pointy arts-and-crafts."

The swing sets had been removed for our own safety, as had the jungle gym. This left the school playground flat and empty. A desolate black macadam sea.

Such was the start of lawsuit fever in the 80s. And rather than run the risk of being sued by an angry parent when little Suzie sprained her knee in a tragic hopscotch accident, the school determined they had two choices:

They could wrap us all in giant bags of foam packing peanuts...

Or they could just remove everything on the playground that might cause injury.

Or temptation.

Or, you know... fun.

As a result, after lunch, many a kid decided that going out onto the playground wasn't really worth the effort. With all the play taken from it, there was only ground. And bullies had a habit of making you TASTE ground when they didn't have anything else to do. Like out on a Jersey blacktop wasteland.

Then one day one of my lunch pals, Felix "the Cat" Cortez-- the kind of kid who was practically a jaded divorcee by age 12-- plunked the deck of cards onto the cafeteria table with a narrow gaze.

"Gin rummy," he proclaimed. "Play for points. Highest points at the end of the school year-- which will be me-- is the winner. Everybody else? A giant loser." He smirked at the kids around him. "Which we already knew. So who's in?"

Well, every one of us knew gin rummy sure beat lunch followed by a knuckle sandwich.

"Me," said Pete Cobb, a sci-fi/fantasy nut who knew how to wield insults like Excalibur. I once bought an insult book just to keep up with him.

"I'm in," said Manuel "Manny" Esteban, a talented young singer with a baby-face, who never quite got over the fact he wasn't selected as the most recent member of Menudo.

"I am gonna cream you buttwipes," announced Jan McNeely, who knew more colorful curses than a Jersey cabdriver, and who'd dyed her blond hair black in some grand statement she no longer remembered anymore.

The group turned to my friend Josette.

"Well... " began Josette hesitantly. I know she was weighing what her CCD teacher would have to say about this, and whether gin rummy was just one more step on the road to Hell. But the peer pressure was simply too much. "...Okay."

"Thorson?" queried The Cat, raising an eyebrow over the table at me.

"Never played it," I said, "but I'm in, too."

The Cat cackled. "Never played it? Girl, you are gonna be dead in the water."

"We'll see, Felix, we'll see," I said, trying to sound sure of myself.

"Rules of the game," began The Cat. "Seven card. Four of a kind or same-suit runs. Jokers, my friends, are wild. Cut the cards to see who goes first. High card has it."

We made the cut and Manny came up aces.

And this was the beginning of Cortez' Six, the greatest gin rummy tournament that Edgar Allen Poe Junior High School had ever seen.

Day after day we would choke down our peanut butter sandwiches, gorge our bananas and slurp down our Capri Suns, only to stash away our lunchboxes and clear time and space for the next deal.

Josette kept track of points meticulously in her Trapper Keeper notebook. She had the best handwriting of our group, and anyway, we all knew we couldn't trust anyone else with the tally.

Months went by this way. Initially, The Cat was well in the lead, but as time went on, the rest of us began to close in.

Pete Webb dealt name-calling with every hand...

Jan McNeely cursed with some crushing losses...

Manny was nearly ejected from the game many times for his annoying humming. Which, in retrospect, was probably a tell...

And even I grew more and more confident in the game by the day, eventually wiping the smug smile off the Cat's face as the tally grew neck-in-neck.

Winter turned to spring, and as the trees budded on the school playground, we remained immune to their greenery.... Unmoved by the gentle breezes. Just a few weeks more and the tourney would be over. Just a few weeks more and we'd separate the men from the boys...

Er, the women from the girls...

Er, the loser kids from the, um, non-loser kids.

And then, somewhere in the middle of a hand, a shadow fell over our table. We looked up to see Mr. Selleck, the wiry hatchet-faced vice principal in his perpetual brown tweed suit.

"What are you doing?" he asked, peering down on we six with the cards fanned in our hands. I half-expected The Cat to laugh and answer dominoes, but his expression was very grave.

"Gin rummy," Jan McNeely spoke up.

"Well, you can't do that. It's gambling!"

My heart was pounding in my chest. Would we be expelled for this? Or get detention? I just couldn't understand why this was a problem now, so close to the end of the year, because Mr. Selleck had to have walked past us a thousand times during the course of a hundred other rounds.

"We're only playing for points," I explained, and held aloft Josette's notebook as evidence.

But Mr. Selleck was already scooping up the cards from the table and grabbing the remaining ones from our hands. "No, I'm sorry, it doesn't matter. This is gambling and... and, well... that's simply not allowed in school." He seemed to be winging it with this little speech. "I have to take these. I'm sorry."

"It was only points!" Manny exclaimed.

Mr. Selleck's pointy mustached face went a bit red and he wouldn't look us in the eye. "Look, I'm sorry. Just go out onto the playground."

On the playground. Great...

We grabbed our lunch boxes and bookbags and slumped from the cafeteria, out onto the playground. But by the time the bell to class had rung, we'd already developed our own theory for the breakup of Cortez' Six.

"Papercuts," laughed Felix. "We could have mortally wounded ourselves from papercuts from those cards."

"And-- gasp-- sue the school!" Josette agreed.

"Did you know 15% of visits to the school nurse involve paper cuts that won't stop bleeding?" I suggested. "Oh, it's true!"

"My cousin almost lost his effing arm that way," Jan confided with a grin.

Yes, we determined-- somewhere in the vice principal's office there would soon be a dangerous deck of cards secreted away in a folder, a drawer, or a wall safe.

And maybe Cortez' Six never did get to determine who was real cardsharp among our ranks...

But we sure as heck had fun those remaining weeks plotting the heist of that Bicycle deck of 52.

Vote for Of Cabbages and Kings at Humor-blogs. A vote for Cabbages is even better than winning a hand of gin rummy! Or visit the good folks at

Cracking the Fortune Cookie

"Talk to me, cookie."

Each week, I find myself at the Chan An Chinese restaurant suffering from a serious General Tso craving. And each week, I crack open a fortune cookie and read its post-lunch message.

No, let me rephrase that. I crack open a fortune cookie... read its post-lunch message... and then promptly forget about it, leaving said fortune on the desk by my computer.

Where it sits. And accumulates with other fortunes. Where they have a caucus, and talk about things like Confucianism. And the Lucky Numbers of the Day. And the Cantonese word for "fish." And tricks of the trade like that.

I wasn't buying their jive the first time around, of course. But now, taken as one collective, overall Mega-Fortune, I'd say they break down into three basic categories:

  • Vague Predictions
  • Vague Predictions With Metaphors
  • Advice from Mom

Vague Predictions:

"Your dream will come true."

Really? Which dream? I mean, I'd like to know. The one where I get a major exciting book deal? The one where I go to dinner with Johnny Depp, Will Snow and John Corbett, and I somehow lose my shoes and hope no one will notice?

Or the one where vampire zombies start chasing me around an old warehouse which eventually turns into my elementary school, and then I don't know where my classes are, and I'm late, and still the zombies follow but they don't have the class schedule, either, because I ask them, and...

Well, which one, O Cookie? It does make a difference. Footwear is at stake here!

Or how about:

You will soon meet the person you admire.

And once again, the cookie is delicious and crisp, but light on the details. I mean, I admire a lot of people:

One of my friends' dads for his kind-hearted patience....

Screenwriter William Goldman for his ability to transfer books effectively to the screen-- while Stephen King only thinks he can...

Mother Theresa for her charitable efforts...

And the Dyson Vacuum Cleaner guy for single-minded devotion to 'never loses suction' vacuum cleaner technology... Just to name a few!

But the cookie, the cookie doesn't care. The cookie just tosses out its vagaries, looking for some schlump, some maroon, who'll give it an easy out and make the fortune fit for it. But that's baked goods these days, I guess. They want all the credit, but none of the responsibility.

Vague Predictions With Metaphors:
"The wheel of good fortune is finally turning in your direction."
"Doors are opening for you in many areas of your life."

So we've got wheels and doors now. And gosh, with all these opportunities headed my way, I imagine pretty soon I'm not going to even have time for fortune cookies. I'll be too busy wheeling, dealing and door-opening!

Of course, what good fortune is headed my way, and which areas of my life, the cookie is strangely mum about. I guess there's only so much space on that slip of fortune paper to dish the dirt. Sort of like Twitter, or a Classifieds Ad. You work in what you can with a limited number of characters.

Advice from Mom:

The third category of fortune cookie messages seems to think we'll be so wow-ed by its sage advice, we won't even notice that it hasn't given a fortune at all.

This is the type of fortune that has our best interests at heart. It wants to make us a better person. And it's a bit abrupt in its style of expressing itself.

This fortune might as well be from Mom. The advice you didn't want. Contradictory messaging. A little bit pushy.

"Be careful! Bees with honey in their mouths have stings in their tails."

Yes, yes, Mom, I know-- he couldn't possibly like me for me, blah, blah, blah...

"Take advantage of your great imagination. It will serve you well."

Well, gee, Mom, thanks! I'm touched. You know, I really appreciate this uncharacteristic show of support for my work, and--

"Be tactful: overlook not your own opportunity."

Okay, I mean I wasn't trying to be rude, Mom, I just--

"The successful man waits for no one; the lazy man waits forever."

Well, gosh, I mean, I've got two blogs and a full time job and--

"Those who make excuses, find little reward."

I wasn't trying to make excuses, I was just explaining--

"Be patient in one moment of anger and escape a hundred days of sorrow."

I didn't think I was being especially impatient with you, but you're sorta getting on my n--

"Those who stand up straight today, will not go crooked tomorrow."

Are you still on about my posture, Mom? Geez Louise, you've been nagging me about that since I was eight-frikkin'-years-old!--

"A filthy mouth will not utter decent language."

What?! I wouldn't even qualify that as swearing! I'm just really starting to get frustrated now and--

"Hair that follows the trends, follows fools."

Are you kidding me? Hair comments now? I'll have you know, I happen to like my hair just the way it is, and--

"Wait-- you have something on your face. Let me just get that."

I'm outta here!

(PS--Have a great weekend, folks!!)

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"A freely-given vote is like a crane in flight-- uplifting."

The Fanged Behemoth Panthers of Toronto, Canada

I forgot to warn her. Kathy of the JunkDrawer was headed to Toronto and I somehow neglected to give her the tip that very well could have saved lives....

Beware the squirrels.

Heyyyy, you're laughing... Stop laughing, you!-- What do you think this is a humor blog or something? I'm very serious about this.


But okay. I guess I understand.

When you think squirrels, you probably think little, fluffy gray fellows who hop around with bushy tails and soft white tummies, looking cute and and stealing Clusters cereal with their adorable little paws...

You think of hundreds of busy, nose-wiggling, society-approved rodents, shelling walnuts for Willy Wonka by the hour for peanuts...

Or "Andy" the sawdust-stuffed muse from Mrs. Dingus' antique shop in the Chevy Chase film Funny Farm.

But these are not the squirrels of which I speak. Oh noooo...

I speak of Toronto squirrels. Which aren't, in fact, squirrels at all, but giant free-roaming, fanged-and-venomous, Canadian black panthers that stalk, and sneak and lurk in public spaces.

(black squirrel photos courtesy of and LOL-enhanced by me)

Toronto squirrels are a whole other dish of nuts, my friends.

Gosh, I recall the first time I saw them. I was on a trip to see Phantom of the Opera at the Pantages Theater, and was roaming the city a bit before the show.

There in the park, the sunbathers were enjoying the summer sunshine beaming down on them, catching up on their reading, playing a casual game of frisbee...

WHOLLY UNAWARE that there were these unnaturally large, fleet-footed carnivorous beasts surrounding them, creeping stealthily, hopping from bench to bench, waiting for the right moment to STRIKE... and sink their shiny white vampire teeth into the unsuspecting good folk of Toronto.

I saw this spectacle and wanted to shriek:

"What are you people DOING, lying there so casually?! How can you READ at a time like this?! RUN, people, RUN! Run like the wind!! There are panthers! Giant vampire panthers here in the park!"

But I realized my own safety was also at risk, and I'd shelled out too much for the Phantom tickets to get killed and drained of blood before seeing the show. So I did what any self-respecting tourist would do.

I ducked into the safety of a hockey collectibles shop. ("Ooooh, Ron Francis photos..." )

I returned home from that trip unnerved, but wiser. And as I drove down my driveway and scared the walnuts out that same simple gray squirrel I scare each night--

(I swear, every evening, he's like some teeny Indiana Jones trying to escape that giant rolling ball-- )

--I had an all-new admiration for our neighbors to the north. They are made of tough stuff, our Canadian friends. To all my Canadian readers, I give you great credit for your bravery in the face of perpetual skin-shredding, eyeball-eating, blood-sucking danger.

And to Kathy, I can only extend my most sincere apologies. I failed you. I am only relieved to learn that you and your traveling companions arrived home safely.

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Exotic Dancers and Country Mice

Thongs. Lots of 'em. In fact, every single pair of underwear strewn about the duplex laundry room was of the butt-crack wedging variety. They hung from clotheslines, they dangled from pipe knobs, they danced across the dryer...

It looked like party decor for a Hugh Hefner surprise birthday extravaganza.

Now, I understood there being a few thongs, of course. Heck, Babies 'R' Us probably sells Infant Thong Diapers these days-- counterproductive, yes, but oh-so chic.

But all? Not one single pair of underpants hearkening back to Ye Olde days of Bikinis, or-- God forbid-- Granny Panties?

I shrugged. Okay, it seemed a tad excessive. But neither am I hip. I am the opposite of hip, in fact. I am square... Though, Huey Lewis says it's "hip to be square"...

And by citing Huey Lewis, any remote sense of hip has thereby vanished.

Cool! Good to get that out of the way.

So back to the Wide, Wide World of Thongs and how this relates to small, brown furry rodents.

See, this was about six years ago, when I was still a renter. A roommate and I rented the lower half of a duplex, with a second set of roommates upstairs. In this case, it was a pair of blonde Floridians with a BMW convertible.

Like most of these rental situations, home wasn't exactly a haven. I'd come back to the apartment from a stressful, deadline-oriented, angry-boss day only to be confronted with interesting through-the-ceiling entertainment from Autumn and Trish upstairs.

I always suspected they watched a lot of Melrose Place, because their drama was of the Face-Slapping-Hair-Pulling-Pushing-Someone-In-The-Pool variety.

Arguments with their boyfriends resulted in the guys' stuff being chucked off the second floor balcony into the backyard, where it would stay for days and weeks in the elements. Until I would get tired of seeing it there and bag it up.

I got a couple of CDs this way.

The other unique facet of the girls upstairs was that they slept during the day, went to work around 6pm and then didn't get in until 4 in the morning. My bedroom was directly under the stairs, so every day at 4 a.m., they'd go clomping up the stairs with Frankenstein-thick soles, and then they'd turn on their music and fight with their boyfriends for a few hours before getting some well-earned rest...

Meaning more ashtrays and boxer shorts and CDs in the backyard. And more guys banging on the communal door begging to be forgiven and let in. I'd have said something, but I had a feeling my car tires would have been slashed.

I operated for the first month or so of this situation thinking, well, maybe Autumn and Trish were taking night classes. But night classes, it seemed would probably end before 4am.

So maybe they were bartenders... Well, yes, bartending was certainly a possibility, but my mind kept flashing to that waving string of thongs, and the fact these girls were 25 years old but driving a new BMW convertible.


Anyway, it was about three months into their stay that my roommate and I began noticing the little black pellets that connoted furry visitors in the kitchen. We scoured the kitchen, looking for where they might be getting in, but didn't see anywhere specific.

And my roommate, who was just absolutely brazen about dealing with creepies like spiders, was unexpectedly terrified of mice. So we got some of those covered mousetraps and put them around. That way neither of us would have to get too close to the carnage.

Days passed, the traps were undisturbed, and something was still leaving pellets.

Deciding we needed to build a better mousetrap, I laced the traps with peanut butter and removed the cover from the trap. I didn't want to have to kill the little fellows, of course. I tend to think they're cute, really. Like gerbils or Richard Hammond. And they were certainly welcome to the entire outdoors...

I just didn't want to have to fight them for my Lucky Charms every morning.

So as the sun did finally rise over the Pittsburgh skyline, I saw just why the covered traps weren't working.

The mice were entirely too fat and bloated to fit in the hole.

Yes, that's right, we had mutant mice. Giant, over-fed Hulk mice making themselves merrily at home in my kitchen. The Fat Bastard of mice, really. And since we didn't have a whole lot of food they could nosh on, we wondered just what it was they'd been gorging.

We found out all right! And it was directly related to the strippers-- er, ahem-- bartenders upstairs.

See, when Autumn and Trish suddenly made a quick and surprising disappearance one day, our landlord discovered that-- in addition to the sun-room, two bedrooms, living, kitchen and bath featured in each of the units-- the girls from Florida had also created a refuse containment center on the upper level of the porch.

You know, a big ol' garbage heap.

Meaning that when the rest of us on the block were putting our Hefty bags to the curb each week, Autumn and Trish had come up with the clever, much more convenient storage solution of just stacking it up above our heads, bag upon bag.

And the mice were absolutely digging it!

But as the garbage buffet moved to more appropriate accommodations, so eventually did the mice.

And I often wonder if those four-legged furries didn't shed a tear at the loss of their benefactors, Autumn and Trish...

Create a little mousie shrine to those Great Days of Plenty, as they'd call it. Kneeling before a black lace thong and saying a few words in prayer that someday... someday their golden-haired goddesses would return and reward them for their continued adoration.

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Nature's Big Sneeze

"...The hurricane....?"

"...Wanted to ask you about the Hurricane..."

"...Your dad, how is...?"

"...Evacuation of the Florida Keys, is he...?"

As Tropical Storm Fay makes landfall, folks who know my father lives one island down from Key Largo in Florida all wanted to know about his evacuation plans. And I tell them:

"Ha! Evacuation plans? De Pop don't need no stinkin' evacuation plans!"

And then, because it makes me sound like a horrible, callous daughter (also with a mysterious Mexican accent considering I'm a redhead living in Pittsburgh), I have to go on to explain:

You see, Fay was predicted as a Category 1 hurricane.

The Pop only considers evacuation for a Category 3 hurricane.

Cows and Auntie Em in her rocking chair have to be flying by the window before my father even considers loading up the car and leaving la vida Margaritaville. This has been discussed thoroughly and at length between he and I more than once.

Believe me. It has.

It doesn't matter if the sky turns black and the canals and palm trees swim with blood and pina colada mix. It doesn't matter if plagues of grouper fall from the sky or, say plagues of lawn furniture from a yard three canals over drop in for a visit.

It doesn't matter if the neighbor's cat, Mr. Mittens, will be clinging to the top of the flag pole down at the marina by day's end. Or if Jimmy Buffet himself crashes through the back porch screen with a plate of cheeseburgers and that lost shaker of salt....

The news says Category 1, and one laughs in the face of a Category 1. It is apparently not so much a storm. It is a sneeze... with gusto.

So around 10:30 yesterday morning, I got an email from the Pop. The gist of it was (and I'm paraphrasing here):

I guess I'm not going to get to go to Dairy Queen today for my medium pineapple milkshake and barbeque sandwich which I have every Monday night for dinner. The winds are at 60 miles an hour outside and the neighbor is out in the wind and rain looking for Mr. Mittens.

I don't know why. I'm sure Mr. Mittens has found shelter somewhere.

Now, of course, I am not only worried about my dad. I am now worried about the welfare of the neighbor, and Mr. Mittens. Who I have never even met before. (The neighbor, I mean. I think Mr. Mittens might have rubbed up against my leg once.)

Reading the news this morning, it appears Fay's winds have reached the 75 mile an hour range over the Keys... Just under what it takes to make this tropical storm an official hurricane.

And I know my father is there at home, strapping himself to the mast as the power zaps out, the first floor floods, and neighborhood pets and free-range iguanas everywhere are swimming for higher ground. But let's get back to the really important things here...

The Pop's schedule has been all blown to heck because he never did get his Monday Dairy Queen run.

Gosh, the whole week will have been thrown off!

Stupid Mother Nature.

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Fig Newton, Angry Unger, and the Birth of Tyrone

As summer slips away to fall, and kids resume the routine of Readin', Writin' and Math That Makes Sense to No One Over 20, I'm reminded of my own days in the public school system. And throughout high school, much of that involved a substitute teacher we'll call Mrs. Unger.

Mrs. Unger was a gray woman. Gray hair, gray skin, gray bottle-lensed glasses and gray clothing. The reason for this was she'd already been substitute teaching through most of the heyday of ink engravings and black-and-white media. And when everything else made the switch to color, Mrs. Unger just didn't have the energy to make the leap, too.

It was we students who kept her from going Kodachrome in the 60s, I think. Decades and decades of students who drained the very the color from her day-to-day life.

We know Mrs. Unger had been teaching a long time because she told us so, every class. Whenever her authority would come into question-- even whenever a student would try to give her a helping hand-- Mrs. Unger would spit out the tally of her years in service to the school like a wad of well-used tobacco.

And for every year we encountered her, it seemed her years of teaching would increase by at least five.

"I know where the seating chart is by now, Jose Rosado!" she'd snap. "I've been substitute teaching in this school system for 27 years!"


"Don’t you tell me how to run a classroom, Marisol Nieves! After 32 years, I'd say I know very well what I'm doing without any help from the likes of you!"


"What’s that, Rodney Goldblum? No, I see it right in front of me. I haven’t been teaching for 489 years for nothing. Why, in fact, Richard III was a smart aleck just like you are. And I didn't take any lip from him, either!"

Yes, we drained her sense of time along with her color. Oh, not us specifically. But decades of students like us. We wore out her memory... her patience... her hearing...

Mrs. Unger wasn't born, she was made.

So that's why initially, many of us felt kinda sorry for her. This gray woman with features eroded into a hard, scowling mistrust.

I know initially a few of us girls thought we could soothe her with kindness. A cheerful greeting. A polite word. An olive branch, so to speak, extended from Kiddom to the adult world. Anything to see her turn from gray rock to something less cold, less impenetrable.

But it was too little, too late. Good kids, bad kids… She'd endured so much Post-Traumatic Student Syndrome over the years, we were all the same now. One hateful mass.

And that caused the birth of "Tyrone."

You see, one kid, Jerry "Fig" Newton, was kind of a joker. Fig was a pretty good guy really. A tall, broad, curly-haired kid who was as sharp on the football field as he was in the classroom. A bright kid with energy to burn off, Fig had an ornery sense of humor that couldn't quite be contained.

And this left him cracking jokes when the mood struck... offering loud tuneless serenades in the hallways... and developing the keen ability to imitate the precise sound of the bell.

It was seventh grade and all the planets had fallen into alignment. Fate brought Fig Newton to Mrs. Unger.

Mrs. Unger had subbed for our class maybe two times at this point, but whether she remembered us or not, it's hard to say. Individual faces and names seemed long ago unimportant to her. We were One. A giant seething hormonal mass, precisely the same as the kids in 1965, 1776 and in 1483, when her career had really just started taking off.

So she began each class by calling attendance. And one by one we shouted out our names.







"Newton….? Gerald Newton?"

Only Fig Newton just sat in his chair, still, patient.

"Gerald Newton?"

I don’t think anyone dared to look directly at Fig, but out of the corner of my eye, I could see his small, amused smile.

Behind her gray lenses, Mrs. Unger's gray eyes fixed on the class. "Is Gerald Newton not here?"

"He’s out sick, Miz Unger," offered Fig helpfully.

The answer pacified. Mrs. Unger made a note in the attendance book and then pressed on.

Timmons… Thorson… Varges… Weiman… West…

One by one we all responded when our names were called. Until process of elimination caused Mrs. Unger to finally turn her focus back on Jerry Newton.

Mrs. Unger frowned. "Didn't I call your name?"

"Nope," said Fig.

"Well, what is your name, then?"

"I’m Tyrone," Fig told her not missing a beat.

"Tyrone?" Mrs. Unger squinted at the list before her, trailing a finger down the chart, name after name checked and double-checked. We didn't breathe. We didn't move. A stillness had come over the class like the achingly-quiet yellow haze right before a tornado.

"I don’t see a Tyrone here," she said finally.

"I’m new," said Tyrone.

"Oh." Mrs. Unger blinked. Reread the list. And promptly penciled "Tyrone" at the bottom of the attendance list.

She went on with the class.

That's how it began, and that's how it continued.

Seventh grade… eighth grade… ninth grade… Tyrone persisted for Mrs. Unger.

Though, if pressed, I doubt she would have remembered the name of any other kid in the entire school, Mrs. Unger surely remembered Tyrone.

Tyrone once got our entire class dismissed five minutes early with his expert bell imitation, and too late did Mrs. Unger discover the truth. Armed with this knowledge going forward then, just as Tyrone made it his quest to unnerve Mrs. Unger, Mrs. Unger had pinpointed a troublemaker. And she made it her solemn mission to quash Tyrone.

So class after class, year after year, Mrs. Unger scolded Tyrone... gave Tyrone detention... sent Tyrone to the Principal’s office and wrote him up for our regular teacher.

Tyrone never felt compelled to show up for these punishments, of course-- owing to him not actually existing. But Fig Newton would enjoy a nice afternoon in the boy’s bathroom. Or the gym. Or dawdle over an early lunch. Or just go home for a pleasant freebie day.

Tyrone may have eventually gotten suspended for all I know. But Fig Newton, well, he had an impeccable school record-- if a lot of absenteeism.

Somewhere in tenth grade, Mrs. Unger did eventually find out that Jerry Newton and Tyrone were, in fact, one and the same. To this day none of my classmates remembers precisely how, and Fig, as far as I know, hasn't come clean about it.

I'd like to think it was something dramatic, like taking the mask off Spiderman only to find Peter Parker underneath it all... Like seeing beyond Clark Kent's glasses in one moment of epiphany to the Superman who was there all along...

But I imagine it was just some innocent conversation in the teacher's room over cardboard pizza and three-bean-salad, how this mysterious student, Tyrone was penciled in every time the teacher had a day off. Notes got compared. Things were mulled over. And two and two were finally put together to make four.

Even the New Math told us that.

But year after year, I remember waiting for it. That's what said "school" to me. The anticipation of gray Mrs. Unger, squinting over attendance...

And that melodic sound, as Tyrone's name echoed out over the classroom.

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The BlogCatalog Appreciation Day Barbecue

In the list of obscure holidays, "BlogCatalog Appreciation Day" has to be up there as among the most obscure. You know, somewhere along with "Left-Handed Pitchers' Day", "Let's All Eat Cheese Day" and "Take Your Marmot to Work Day."

But as a blogger, BlogCatalog-- its blog directory and discussion boards-- has actually done quite a lot for me for almost two years now. So it seemed only appropriate-- now that it's getting its own day and all -- to spread the word about why I've appreciated it.

  • It's a place you can carry on a discussion with a panda, an incontinent aardvark, a championship race horse, assorted monkeys, a girl with a bra on her head, a ninja, a baby, a deceased rooster, and a gaggle of cartoon characters, all at the same time, and not actually be institutionalized.

  • Cabbages was born of a BlogCatalog discussion thread, where a brainstorming moment aloud turned from "Why?" into "Why not?" Also, the fact that one of the people I had the discussion with is a lawyer, and thereby is skilled at the Jedi Mind Trick.

  • BlogCatalog meant I was able to go from pretending to write for people reading, to people actually reading.

  • When I screw up something on my blog, chances are someone else has screwed that up on their blog first-- and a third person will know how to fix it.

  • On 08/08/08, when fans of numerology were predicting the "End of the World As We Know It," we felt just as fine as Michael Stipe-- because we'd already gotten the scoop on the Lack of World Ending in India from a sarcastic pink teddybear, and the dish on the England situation from a mad British doodler. All within moments.

  • I learned through the discussion boards that many, many of us have Clown Fear. And I even got to discuss it with a guy who was a professional clown. This is cheap therapy.

  • I now know more invisible people than I do real ones. And, again, my friends actually aren't considering institutionalizing me... Well, not for that, anyway.

  • I learn about all the latest social media applications I'm never going to use-- but at least I know why I don't want to use them.

So these are just a few reasons I've enjoyed hanging out at BlogCatalog. And also the fact that I've met many, many of you good folks there.

But in case you're a blogger-type-person and you haven't yet joined BC, you might want to consider it, and tap into all the merriment, marketing, mayhem, and other marvelous things that may or may not start with the letter "m."

And otherwise, here's some virtual grilled meat or veggies of your choice. Potato chips-- crisps for my British friends-- are over there... Tim Horton's donuts for my Canadian chums.... Mani, just because it's Belgian beer, doesn't mean you get to drink it all. Daniel's bringing the pizza. Everyone's welcome. Grab a plate and heap it high.

We expect the table-top dancing to start at noon. So put on your dancin' shoes.

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Netflix Amnesia

I slit open the familiar red envelope with anticipation. I slipped the printed sleeve out and read the name printed on it in confident black lettering. It was:

The Machu Picchu Elevator
(Special 'More Llama' Edition- Now with English and Creole Subtitles)
  • Gordon Chen-Murray
  • Beatrice Cannes-Darling
  • Jose Santa-Maria-Nina-Pinta-Escobar-de-Arte-y-Pico
  • and Steve

Okay, so that wasn't really the name of it. But it might as well have been. I turned that envelope in my hand, confirmed my address on the front-- yes, yes, that was me-- and had to admit, it had happened again...

Netflix Amnesia.

For my friends outside the U.S. who may not have this, Netflix is a nifty little system by which you rent movies online. You choose a selection of films, and the Netflix folks just mail them to you, so you don't ever actually have to get dressed or leave your house.

When you're done with them, you pop 'em back in a pre-posted envelope, and mail 'em back.

Or, if you're operating on that Not Leaving Your House or Getting Dressed thing, you leave 'em for the mailman with a nice note.

It's a super little service, for this most part. Not only is it perfect for we lazy folks who don't want to be standing around a video rental place, dancing around forty other people trying to choose from a selection of the same four films, but Netflix also seems to have everything.

I mean, I know because I've tried stumping them.

Let's see, do you have....

Bowling for Anchovy Pizza, Season 2?

Yes, yes they do.

Do you have....

Cholera, the Golden Years?

Yup, present and accounted for!

How about...

Queen Elizabeth Three: Queenie's Revenge?


So I'm getting a chance to see a lot of films and television series I otherwise would never get a chance to enjoy. Which is terrific!

The thing is, I also tend to get swept up in the moment. So sometimes I'm online choosing films, and Netflix tells me:

"If you liked The Darjeeling Express and Cannonball Run and Pan's Labyrinth and The Teletubbies, you might also enjoy The Machu Picchu Elevator..."

And I read the little blurb and think, "Why, Netflix, you might just be right! I MIGHT just enjoy The Machu Picchu Elevator. Let's put that bad boy on my list!"

And now, my list is, like, a mile long. Meaning it can be months before I ever see The Machu Picchu Elevator in my mailbox. And a lot goes on in those couple of months to distract. Like work. And other Netflix films. And whole presidential elections.

So every now and then-- well, maybe every couple of weeks-- I am confronted by a movie title I have absolutely NO IDEA where it came from or why, and I have no one to blame but myself.

Oh, I have been moved to choose things because of Netflix Peer Pressure, where the recommendation comes so often I eventually cave in and add it to the list just to shut them up.

I have been moved to choose things because some obscure actor was in it that nobody else cares about but me and the guy's wife-- and even the guy's wife not-so-much.

I have been persuaded by well-written summary blurbs... And because something was directed by the second cousin twice removed of someone I once saw do a different Netflix movie...

And then I discover the thing has subtitles.

Well, it turns out, Netflix was right; I ended up actually liking The Machu Picchu Elevator. I give it four stars.

"If you liked the Machu Picchu Elevator, you might also enjoy: Dancing in Owen Wilson's Bathtub- V."

Ask me in three months.

If you liked Netflix Amnesia, you might also like some of these other posts over at Humor-blogs.

All the News You Never Wanted

There it was, sitting smack-dab in the middle of the front porch.

My housemate cursed, shook her fist at the heavens, and vowed revenge.

It was... the daily newspaper. And this marked the first move in an epic struggle of right and wrong, free-will and oppression, technology and Ludditism, between my friend Scoobie and the very-determined people at the Post-Gazette.

It all started a couple of weeks ago when the P-G called for the housemate, apparently telling her how marvelous it was that she was getting the newspaper on Sundays, and now, because of her Sunday subscription, she would be lucky enough to receive even more newsaliciousness each day every day for FREE.

Scoobie, as I understand, relayed to them that she did not, in fact, want this paper every day, because she:

  1. Did not have time to read it
  2. Did not have the physical strength to carry pounds of newsprint to the curb for recycling every other week

The conversation, as Scoobie tells it, then shook out this way:

P-G: Oh, but it's free.

Scoobie: I don't care if it's free. It being free doesn't give me more time to read it, or make it lighter to carry 12 extra newspapers down for recycling.

P-G: Couldn't a friend or neighbor help you carry it to the curb?

Scoobie: Why should I have to have a friend or neighbor help me carry a paper to the curb that I don't want? Plus, as I said, I don't even have time to read it.

P-G: Well, you don't have to read it. Just take it.

Scoobie: Why would I have you deliver me a newspaper each day, with absolutely no intention of reading it?

P-G: Our drivers need the money.

Scoobie: So I should have you deliver papers I'm not going to read so your drivers get paid more?

P-G: They really could use the money.

Scoobie: So could I. Hey, maybe I should become a paper carrier! It looks like they've got a pretty good racket going here. I could buy a house, upgrade my car, finally finish paying off those student loans...

P-G: (Crickets)

Scoobie: I don't want the paper. Please do not send it to me.

So Monday morning of this week, that is when I heard the oaths cursed to the dawn sky. Because there the paper was, its folded faces to the floor as Floyd would say, serving as a testament to the fact that purveyors of news have no Listening Ears.

And every day since then, there has been a newspaper sitting on that front porch. I know it to be true because I can hear the cursing all the way up in my room.

Scoobie has called them before about this, of course. And they say she won't be receiving the newspaper seven-days-a-week anymore...

But then every single morning-- "THUMP!"


So I think Scoobie is just going to have to look at this as, not an Inconvenience, but an Opportunity. I think it's a sign that she should start a shiny new business endeavor... hand-made papier mache pinatas.

It would solve her cash flow problems, PLUS give her a unique way of recycling all of those newspapers. In fact, I'll even clean out one of those third-floor attic rooms and let her have that for her Pinata Workshop. This could be an lucrative business, and I wish her a lot of luck with it.

Because we are both aware she will be receiving these newspapers for the rest of her life, or until she moves. And then I imagine I will inherit this problem.

Anyone local want to help me carry some papers to the curb? How do you feel about some hand-crafted pinatas?

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The Magical 'Of Cabbages and Kings' Humor Factory Tour

Here at Of Cabbages and Kings, our Quality Control Managers (okay, the Jane Austen Bobblehead on my desk and I) work tirelessly to ensure readers like you receive a consistent Online Humor Experience from visit-to-visit. But how do we do it?

Well, today, we'll take an exciting tour behind the scenes at Cabbages Central, the high-tech neurocenter where minutia, tedium, childhood trauma and scenes from the grocery store salad bar are fed through, washed, chopped, processed and packaged into regular bite-sized humor posts.

First we enter the Inspiration Room, the place where our Forensic Humor Investigators inspect and analyze all that is Truly-Funny, Might-Be-Funny or Pressed-For-Time-So-What-The-Heck.

Animatronic dancing gophers who groove to Kenny Loggins are always funny....

Bobblehead dolls based on the great names in literature are also funny...

Lots and lots of Johnny Depp action figures posed so it looks like they're talking to each other can be very funny, indeed!

Here you see the Cabbages Idea Documentation Lab. This is where we take the inspiration and add a crunchy outer coating. Only the very latest technology is good enough for this critical step in Cabbages post creation.

For example, just five years ago, Cabbages management made a significant technology investment to improve our connection to the burgeoning Web.

This technology is called "dial-up" and it changed the way Cabbages blog posts are created. Prior to this, all online composition was fueled through foot-power, generated by management on a stationary bike. The wonders of lightning-fast dial-up have allowed Cabbages to increase productivity by an incredible 2%!

Unfortunately, it has also caused your hostess to pack on a few pounds.

Once ideas for posts are generated, they sit in the Waiting Room. We give them year-old magazines and let them have a good think.

The moment they get bored enough to rise up and threaten to head to other blogs where they'll actually be appreciated, we choose an idea from the ranks and bring it into the Aesthetic Surgery Chamber.

Here we flesh out the idea and then give it the nips, tucks and really surprised look that makes it barely recognizable from what it once was. Then we shove it out into the world with the bandages still on.

This is how we ensure the bruised words, grammatical scars and discolored typos that make a Cabbages post truly unique.

Ideas that haven't been chosen at this point continue to wait in the Waiting Room, until they are either eventually selected and developed, or die of old age and irrelevance. In those latter cases, we sweep their decomposed skin and bones under the area rug and let the cleaning people deal with the rest.

We try not to ask too many questions about the disposal details, just in case there's a trial later.

Old King Cole Slaw, the blog's famous Front-cabbage and Chairman of these operations, is integral in day-to-day life here at Cabbages Central.

Like other powerful men and women of business, he sits in his office and "facilitates." This means he doesn't actually do any of the work, but knows how to tell your Blog Hostess to do things she's already currently working on in such a way that makes Cabbages look like it's crisis-solving.

In this way, Cabbages Central really isn't any different from your standard corporate structure.

Well, I hope you all enjoyed your time here at the factory today. Please take only one Everlasting Gobstopper on your way out, keep to the right of the First Draft Crematorium, and have yourself a truly Cabbagalicious Day.

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"Well, hello, Mr. Fancypants!" and Other Things Not To Say to B-Movie Celebrities

Ah, here at Cabbages, we have not been without our brushes with fame...

Like when my friend Squeaky swore she saw Richard Gere's entire elbow as he got into a limo during The Mothman Prophecies filming....

Or when my friend Weasel got trod on by Mario LeMieux during a Pens game because she wasn't walking in his stratosphere.

Oh yes, my friends and I have, indeed, known greatness.

And what's my story, you ask? Well, my story involves a life-changing quest, a magical book, a series of obstacles designed to test the bonds of man... Oh, and B-movie actor Bruce Campbell of the Evil Dead movies.

Ever since college, my friends and I have had fond associations with Bruce Campbell and his Army of Darkness film. Our first exposure to it was as a welcome respite during senior year finals, where we sat on the furry, sticky purple couches of the King's Court theater in Oakland and watched the heavy burdens of our workload drain away through zombies, chainsaws, questionable special effects, and a few needed laughs.

So it was little surprise a few years later when my friend Scoobie hinted to her inner circle that she'd like a copy of ol' Brucie's autobiography for Christmas. Yes, indeed, that girl went on a several-week campaign of nuances so subtle only her very closest friends could possibly discern her desires.

Phrases like, “If someone were to get me a copy of Bruce Campbell’s autobiography, I probably wouldn’t mind...”

We picked up on it. We’re clever that way.

But when we heard that Bruce Campbell would actually be in town to have a signing for that very book-- and coinciding when Scoobie was far, far away on vacation, no less!-- well, we suddenly knew what we must do to enable the Very Best Gift Ever.

My partner-in-crime, Austin, and I found our way to the DeStinta Theater. And the moment we stepped through those shiny glass doors it became clear we had entered the Fanzone.

What I'd thought would be just a tidy little group of dedicated viewers, was actually a sea of people of all ages, and from all walks of life-- though, admittedly, most of us were wearing black and enjoying haircolors not generally found in nature (mine, I believe, was sort of a misguided fuchsia-burgundy at the time).

"Oh boy," breathed Austin, taking in the ocean of humanity before us. It was a testament to his resolve and friendship that he didn't turn rapidly on his heel and simply disappear into the night...

Only, I think I was the one with the car keys.

Anyway, soon we discovered there were lines to get movie tickets. There were lines to buy books. There were even lines to get tickets to get in line. And all of it unmarked, banking on the overly-broad assumption that each of us had special psychic powers we'd like to test out.

So after some detectivework and with Tickets To Get In Line firmly in hand, we stepped behind a guy with a homemade "Shop Smart, Shop S-Mart" shirt and waited for our moment with The Man Himself...

And we waited... And edged up.... And shifted feet... And examined our shoes... And counted the repeat patterns on the theater carpeting... And waited some more.

I guess it was somewhere into the second hour of the Bruce Campbell Queue of Tested Patience that I realized that if we ever made it to the front of the line, I would probably have to actually talk to the fellow.

And heck, what would I say that someone else hadn't already said a million times before? I mean, I know these folks are just people, too. And I’m not the type to want to be anything less than sensible in the proximity to semi-fame.

So would I tell him that the night I saw Army of Darkness was one of my favorite college memories?

Would I share that after two days of stressing out over a tedious final paper on Russian history, my friends had kidnapped me for a late night viewing?

Would I describe how we sat on the questionable sofas of that gummy, goth theater and took in one of the funniest horror flicks I’d ever set bloodshot eyes upon?

Would I tell him how, years later, his film had become inextricably intertwined with a brief, shining moment of much needed escapism?

Would I say how I’d rented the rest of the series? That I enjoyed how he didn't take himself too seriously? That I was genuinely pleased to meet him?

No, because he headed us off. "So what do you do for a living?" he asked.

And I blanked. What did I do for a living? I'd been standing in line so long, I didn't even remember my life anymore beyond the theater walls.

For all I knew, we would come out of that theater and see the city of Pittsburgh had, in our absence, fallen to atomic war, or some other post-apocalyptic cliche.

We'd exit to discover everyone we knew was dead, my apartment was just rubble, my car burnt out, and our system of government being overrun by punk road warriors proclaiming themselves king.

"I'm a marketing writer," I said, finally remembering something about ads and scripts and their general relationship to me.

Bruce Campbell turned to Austin. "And you?"

"I'm unemployed!" Austin announced with a broad, confident smile.

"All riiiight!" Bruce Campbell cheered.

So that, my friends, was my moment of interaction with b-movie acting greatness. Four hours in line, sore feet, hair which ended up smelling like hot buttered popcorn even after a serious shampoo, one thoroughly signed autobiography, and Bruce Campbell rooting on my jobless friend.

On our way out, I turned to see the slack-jawed never-ending hoarde, groaning, shuffling and moaning in queue. We were free, but poor Bruce, he had a long dark night ahead of him.

We walked into the cool night air to see the world hadn't, in fact, changed while we were gone. And I drove off thinking it couldn't be such an easy life when it's not just the zombies who want a piece of you.

The signed book, by the way, was quite a hit.

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