No Vampirization without Caffeination

So this morning I had to go for some routine bloodwork. And yes, I saw a couple of you cringe just now at the thought of needles... And bodily fluids... And giant rubberbands whipped around to try to find veins which are shy, sleepy, and not so interested at popping out to say "hi" at 7 o'clock in the morning.

And while I sympathize with you-- and the veins, too, frankly-- and suggest you elevate your feet for a moment and put a cold compress on your head.... there, that's more like it... I have to say, the blood-letting itself does not bother me.

Sure, my friend Scoobie has been known to keel over in a drop-dead faint and look like something out of an Edgar Allen Poe story at the very thought of it.

But I am not bothered by the modern version of leeching. If a leech were involved, perhaps, yes, we'd have to come to some sort of new accord, the leech and I. I'd have some questions about its lifestyle.

But the needle... the needle and I have already come to terms. What really bothers me about going to have bloodwork done is...

I cannot have coffee.

See, regular readers, like you there with the cold compress on the head, you've heard me say how I write my posts half-caffeinated in the morning as part of an important morning Columbian-bean-stimulant consumption ritual.

But when you're supposed to fast for 12 hours before the vein-poking begins, the critical bean-runoff ingestion portion of my morning ends up with a 2-hour-long "Postponed on Account of Vein" delay.

This does not work for me.

And why this does not work for me was proven this morning in a very public place.

Defying all odds, I managed to get myself showered and dressed and possibly-- although the verdict is still out on this-- even with eyeliner on my eyes that doesn't resemble a Tammy Faye Baker crayon portrait.

This, however, is all routine. What was not routine was me plucking myself from the safety and comfort of my home, where the coffee lives, to getting behind the wheel of a several ton automobile, with no greater sense of who I was, or what I was doing there, than an amnesiac soap star.

Fortunately, the Place of Vampirization is only 15 minutes from my house, and traffic in that direction is light. So while I made it to the very building I needed to, a small problem emerged once I was in the lobby.

Not only did I not remember where the room was for these Modern Leechers I'd seen at least three times before...

I completely blanked on the name of the company that did the leeching. The company I'd phoned only a few days earlier.

I stood there at the directory scanning my mind for the name. And in asking the brain to cough up the info, I learned the brain was more than happy to provide all sorts of information I didn't actually need to know.

Brain: Your first grade teacher was Mrs. Schoal!

Me: Lab company... lab company...

Brain: Did you know that the reason colored bubble bath looks white when it foams has to do with light refraction?

Me: What is the name of that lab company?

Brain: Judge Reinhold. That was the name of the actor you were trying to think of last week. You can thank me later.

Me: No, no, no optics, no childhood memories, and no co-stars from Beverly Hills Cop! Curse all Judge Reinholds and the squad cars they rode in on. I need to know the name of that lab company!

And that's when a voice outside of my brain decided to be helpful. "Are you looking for something in particular?"

Oh. I blinked. A person. And I found myself saying to her the only sentence my poor, leaden brain could manage. "Yes, but I haven't had coffee."

As if "I haven't had coffee" explained every important question she could possibly hit me with following that. As if I was worried next she'd ask me some real toughies. Like: how do you operate a nuclear accelerator?

She didn't. She seemed to think it was better for me to deal with my amnesia alone, and zipped off.

Well, I finally found the place, and eventually did get my cup of coffee. But to my embarrassment the lab company is called the rather obvious, descriptive name of "Labcorps."

Which just goes to show, addiction is an ugly, ugly thing. (Sluuurp!) Ahhhhh....

PS- could some of you tell me stories of strange things you've done when you're tired? I really don't even care if they're real. Lie to me. I'll feel better.


Apologies from the Management...

See anything, er, wrong... with the Persian restaurant site above? No? Well, how 'bout just a bit... closer...?

Heh, guess it's good when a restaurant knows what to apologize for before you've even had the meal...

And yes, I'm aware I don't normally do funny photo posts, but this is a real-and-for-true web site my friend "The Rhet" sent today, contact info removed by me to protect the incontin-- er, innocent.

Just had to share.


In Honor of Towel Day: Office at the End of the Space-Time Correction Fluid Blob

Monday was "Towel Day" in honor of humorist, Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series. But I'm afraid I'm only getting around to celebrating it today...

Oh, it's not that I'm late, per se. It's just that the anomaly in the space-time continuum only dropped me off here now, two-days off schedule.

And it's funny, because the week had started out pretty much like any other.

I woke to the smell of coffee and struggled out of bed, per usual....

And I blessed my automatic-timed coffeemaker, set to deliver mind-clearing, bean-based Life, like any other day...

That's when I noticed the maker of java was there, levitating, four feet away in a bright green glow.

Strange, I thought. I'd had this coffeemaker for years and it had never levitated to my bedroom before. But that's what you get when you don't read the whole manual.

So I reached for the small appliance, hoping to guide it toward some mugs, as even a half-awake Me knows a handful of coffee is less tasty.

And that's when I ended up in a bright entirely white office kitchenette, standing by a giant coffeemaker with a large, hairy man peering down on me.

"Ah, you're here!" boomed the man. "Let's get cracking!"

"Here? Where's here?" I said, blinking at the room that was not my bedroom.

He raised an eyebrow that looked like a wooly-bear caterpillar on steroids. "Er... your workplace?" he prompted, bewildered. "Place of employment? The office? The 9-5? Grind? Biz? Firm? HQ?... The ad agency?" he added for extra clarification.

I glanced around at the piles of nondescript garbage piled around the kitchenette. Some of it was small and granular, some of it large and chunky, some in broken boxes, some just balled up on the floor. All of it, like the rest of the room, was white. "Funny. I don't remember it quite like this."

"Well, it's probably because of the Blob that went through here this morning," he said simply.

"The Blob?"

"Heh..." He glanced red-faced at his shoes and shuffled his giant feet, like a mountainous child who had something for his more mountainous parents to sign. "Er... we kind of made a Blob in the space-time continuum."

"A Blob."

"You see, we got a project to do, but the moment it was assigned, it already needed to be done yesterday. So in order to meet the deadline and get it done before we received it, we had to jigger things around a bit, space-time-continuum-wise. You know, blot out the day we signed the agreement, so we could go back and get the job done before it happened. And now there's this Blob over it. "

"A Blob," I said again, and it didn't improve for saying it thrice. I grabbed the pot of white coffee and poured myself a white mug, and took a deep revitalizing swig.

I looked around.

No, I was still here.

"It's little like working with correction fluid," the man went on affably, warming to the topic. "You can try to write back over it, but it's never quite the same, is it? It gets... lumpy."

I wiped the coffee from my mouth with the back of my hand. "Who are you?"

"I'm your coworker, Kitty," he said, with an injured astonishment. "Don't you recognize me?"

I peered up, up, up at the man. "Last I saw Kitty, she was female, 5-foot-nine, married, and had a new baby."

Kitty shrugged. "I'm Kitty 2.0."

"Where's the baby?"

"Teacup poodle. Named Rocco."

"And her husband, 'The Dude'?"

Kitty beamed. "He abides. We had a lovely barbecue last night."

"Great," I said. "My best girlfriend at work is now a six-foot-four, male, gay dog-lover, and I'm supposed to repair a Blob in the space-time continuum."

"Oh no," said Kitty quickly. "We don't need you for the repairs. We need you for some data cleaning. See all of this stuff?" Kitty motioned to the broken boxes and piles of sand-like dust and crumpled up balls of whatevers.

"Er, yeah..." I said hesitantly.

"Well, when you blot out a day with the space-time correction fluid, and then you brush off a bit of the excess Happenings, well, this is what you get."

I frowned at it. "Don't we hire a service for this?"

"These are all the extra occurrences that would have gone on during the day we had to overwrite," he explained, folding his arms and surveying the landscape. "So what I need you to do is some serious data scrubbing."

"That's not really my area of expertise," I said. Then I noticed I was still wearing my pajamas. "I'm also not dressed for it."

But Kitty just went on unconcerned, "Stack the Epiphanies, Revelations and Major Life Events here..." He patted the kitchenette countertop, "we'll want to sort through those and figure out where to tuck them in going forward.... And sweep up the Minor Annoyances, Watercooler Discussions, Mindless Television Watching and Sandwich Breaks over there into bags, for disposal."

"We're disposing of parts of peoples' days?"

Kitty waved it away. "Aw, they won't miss 'em. Especially since, technically, they never really happened. Good luck." And at this, Kitty thrust a broom and dustpan into my hand and vanished in a blip of light.

I recalled Kitty used to be more helpful than this.

Well, anyway, I swept up some Messy Confrontations, and was just reaching for a towel to sop up some Brainstorms, when, as soon as I touched that towel--

Poof! I ended up back here.

So, I apologize if I'm running a little behind. And as for celebrating Douglas Adams' holiday, I'm not entirely certain what to do for it. Perhaps I'll have a sandwich and a bath.

I think Doug would have really liked that.


From Novel to Nostril: Book-Inspired Fragrances

Paris... Gwyneth... J.Lo... Sarah Jessica... Every celeb worth her weight in Manolo shoes has her name emblazoned across a bottle of high-priced stinkum. So how come our best-selling novelists have been left behind in the world of fragrance immortality?

Well, no more! Now five popular penners have gone from author to odor. And once you smell the book, you might never take your nose out of it again!

  • Stephen King's Misery. A backwoods blend of pork, painkillers, and mountain pines, this is the scent that knocks 'em off their feet and totally incapacitates them. Accept no oogy, caca-doody knockoffs! Also in the Stephen King line of fragrances is Desperation, a hot dry scent of desolate canyon roads, plague and gun oil. Haven't you always wanted to smell of Misery and Desperation? Now's your chance.
  • Terry McMillan's Groove. This rich, heady fragrance combines musk with overtones of fruity tropical drinks, sea salt, and the pheromones of men half your age. Once you use your first bottle of Groove, you'll want to get your Groove back again and again. Stellar!
  • Dan Brown's Conspiracy. This bewilderingly complex scent is designed to continually keep 'em guessing. A mixture of Renaissance turps, gold, frankincense, myrrh, incense and Holy Water, plus 30 other mystery aromas as a part of its secret formula, Conspiracy entrances, beguiles and is almost impossible to follow. Get caught up in it today!
  • V.C. Andrews' Faded Flowers. This light scent evokes the feeling of decades-old pressed corsages and ancient shawls, musty attics and sweet, arsenic-filled donuts. Give it to your girlfriend. Or your sister. Or your sister-girlfriend, if you don't get out much in the world.
  • Michael Crichton's Caught in Amber. Get lost in this fragrance, a seductive mixture of Jurassic jungle flowers, mosquito blood and the breath of giant scaly reptiles. The aroma transports, lingers, chases, and might just make the object of your desire scream. Comes in unique Raptor Egg packaging, too!

I'm sure as rabid readers, you all are just as excited about these new fragrances as I am!

And if you've heard of any additional perfumes based on our most beloved authors, I'd love to know about them. Me, I smell of Desperation already!


Custom Cars, Pitttsburgh Penguins and the Autograph Nazi

It was a carnival of airbrushed wonders... Of whirling hubcabs and wheels... Of buxom bumper babes and NASCAR jackets.

It was the 1997 Pittsburgh Custom Car Show and I'd taken an on-ramp to the Unexpected.

My friend Scoobie and I looked around us with an uncertain gaze. Er... were we in the right place? Was this really where Pittsburgh Penguin Ron Francis-- my beloved hockey hero-- would be signing autographs?

I watched a fellow with a Dale Earnhardt tee stretched over his broad belly, his Earnhardt jacket over that, his Earnhardt hat topping off the ensemble of pure Earnhharted glory...

He chatted with a guy who'd taken months to paint intricate skulls, wings and barbed wire on his Harley. He smiled with teeth that resembled a large jagged gear.

"You're a good friend," I told Scoobie. "If it weren't for my deep Ron Francis appreciation..."

"I know.... I know," Scoobie nodded, patting my shoulder reassuringly. While I had my dear Penguins jersey draped over an arm, she cradled my other piece of Ron Francis memorabilia to be signed. I owed her big-time... Possibly of the chocolate bribery variety.

This would be the closest we'd ever gotten to actually meeting anyone from the team. I mean, sure, my friend Weasel had once gotten stepped on by Mario Lemieux.... Largely because, as a human skyscraper, he didn't spot Weasel in the dark canyon below.

But that wasn't exactly a feel-good moment for anyone.

This, this was my last chance to have my jersey signed before Ron would be traded to the Carolina Hurricanes. Being more girlie than gearhead, I knew the event itself wouldn't be quite my scene. But with there being a Pens signing, I guess I'd just expected more... Er, less... er...

I averted my gaze from the virtually-naked booth chick standing there giving out fliers.

"And to think I left my leather string bikini, cowboy hat, and boots home today," I told my friend, looking at my poet blouse and jeans.

"If only 'bikini casual' had been written on our tickets," Scoobie said philosophically. "It's so hard to dress appropriately these days."

We got in line behind some fellow Pens fans and wound our way past the displays. Here was a replica of the Addams Family car-- both creepy and kooky, mysterious and spooky. Well-done, folks-- 10 out of 10 for ookiness!

And, why, here was another Penguin-- well, the Penguin from Batman Returns, anyway. Along with the mighty Batman and the lady Cat, Danny DeVito's black-toothed Burtony likeness peered out at us from the side of a motorcycle.

We wound around A-Team vans and the Dukes of Hazzard's General Lee... We shuffled past leopard-print, hot pink steering wheel covers and fuzzy dice... We marveled at muscle cars covered in sparkles and classics licked with flames. We even spied a mural of a hairy, hunky Magnum P.I. before a palm-treed Hawaiian landscape.

And then we could see the end of the line. There, at a table, on a podium, sat centerman Ron Francis, focused, just signing away, some official-looking dude next to him, moving the crowd forward.

And move us forward he did. What the process had in speed, it lacked in... well, humanity. We were brought one by one to the signing area, where we stepped sideways, handed our item to the Event Manager Dude, who handed the item to Ron Francis who, in turn, passed it back to us.

The manager was silent, stoic, a cold marble expression on his face. One look at him, and you knew he meant business.

He was a drill sergeant, a schoolmaster, or a cop who'd just pulled you over for speeding... He was an NHL referee or Seinfeld's Soup Nazi. He had no time for tomfoolery and he knew than any moment someone would try to fool the tom...

He wasn't about to have it.

You could see my fellow Pittsburghers tense. All the jovial fuzzy-dice-molesting and booth-babe-jibing of moments before evaporated from us all like hockey game beer buzz by the fourth quarter.

We became quiet. We turned into ten-year-old students queuing for a gym class scoliosis check...Or citizens accepting that ticket from Sheriff Little. We were tense, sullen, grey.

Finally, it was my turn. This Stern Schoolmaster, this Soup Nazi, this NHL referree took my jersey from my sweating fingers and presented it to Mr. Francis. And I knew any word but "thanks" would result in my speedy dismissal...

My "No Soup For You" of hockey encounters...

My expulsion from Custom Car Elementary School, empty-handed, hopes dashed.

Barely able to even glance at my favorite hockey player for the tension, I got my autograph, stepped sideways out of the line and waited for Scoobie, who also made the nervous sidestep to the exit and handed me my signed goods.

The air seemed to lighten. We'd made it through, mission accomplished.

But now I wonder... If Ron had gotten all jiggy and started actually chatting with the masses -- would he have gotten put in the penalty box and given five minutes for interference?

I think so, somehow... Ze Autograph Nazi, he had vays of making you Not Talk.


Deer Stalkers and DoeTube

Stealth... Subtlety... And surveillance technology. This is the style-- the secret passion-- of today's Deer-American population.

Yet, most humans are unaware of the rich lives these deer lead along our nation's highways... in our forests... in our very own backyards. Many are unaware how they put our personal privacy at risk.

Today, in an Of Cabbages and Kings' Very Special Report, we'll expose the dark, disturbing world of DoeTube and its fans. This is a forest of organized thrill-seeking and black humor, pandering to the sickest side of human-deer relations, where the competition for the best digital material is as stiff as a buck on the bumper...

But where the lulz are on us.

Little did we suspect these deer aren't the innocent little creatures we thought they were. The cute ear-twitching we see in that graceful fawn in our backyard? Bugs, yes-- but state-of-the-art inner-ear audio and video recording equipment... Barely visible to the naked eye.

Eating the heads off all of our bulb plants in the backyard?... Not the random hunger of one of our wildlife friends, but munchies while on a lengthy stake-out of your home, waiting for you to bring DoeTube the funny.

The deers' very existence has been so traditionally innocuous, it gives them a terrifyingly unexpected advantage. They catch us in our most private moments. Rendezvous stolen in Lovers' Lanes... Drunk hunters falling out of tree stands and shooting their buddies.... Drivers weaving down backroads while on the cellphone, putting on lipstick and driving with the knees...

They see into our hearts, our minds, our souls, and also the windows of our B&Bs while we're coming out of the shower naked...

(credit to Kathy of The Junk Drawer for this photo)

"Oh, but it's okay, it's just a deer..."

Ah, but is it? Is it really?

Or maybe it's footage in the making for DoeTube's sinister snickering. The three minute film that helps these great racked fiends rack-up points among their peers.

Says one DoeTube member who prefers to remain anonymous, "People think we just spend our days gamboling around the meadows and hanging out with rabbits. But it's all I can do to keep from bursting out laughing when half-wit humans spot me, and coo and whisper like they're having some meaningful spiritual connection with nature. I made a highly-rated montage of it...

"I also have some good footage of 12 soused rednecks accidentally shooting each other in their tails. It won a Bambi award, DoeTube's highest honor."

Of course, this hobby of theirs is not without its share of dangers. More than one pitch-black chase scene has resulted in an violent end of twisted metal and sacrifice. Deer in headlights? Yes. But only because they got caught in the middle of filming.

The pastime has its price.

I hope as a result of this report, readers of Of Cabbages and Kings have gained a better understanding of the furry white underbelly of mockery, sarcasm and rage that bounds within the wild kingdom.

But take hart. The key to prevention is awareness. Remember, by keeping your eyes peeled for these miscreants of the meadows, you can help prevent one more human from being the butt of yet another buck's jokes.

You can help keep the stag at bay.

I hope those of you who have been victims of this growing subculture will share your stories here with us today. So those who have been violated by Doetube's practices can gain a sense of community and closure. And by banding together, we can generate even more awareness for this breach in personal privacy rights.


Pennsylvania Bloggerpolooza 2009: What Really and Truly Happened

Ah, there and back again! I return to you all fresh from my three-day roadtripping journey to meet Pennsylvania blogging friends... And do I ever have some tales to tell! Yes, here you'll get the real skinny on some very talented bloggers. Because I would never, ever, ever lie to you folks.

First, let me tell you a little about the area to which we forayed... We wound our way to a mystical, magical realm, where the men are men, and the dogs enjoy a good pipe after dinner...

Where the turkeys and bobcats find happiness and harmony...

(Also sawdust stuffing.)

Where giant robot frogs run wild and free...

And where some of us end up looking at the world from a slightly skewed angle...

And here, we meet two of the stars of this weekend's adventure... Shieldmaiden, and her husband UnfinishedRambler...

Yes, I know, the RamblingDude looks a little stiff, but really, he's a very nice, friendly guy.

In fact, here, he's just finished his set at the local Chippendales where he moonlights, and took the time for a few pics before he got changed. That's the kind of guy he is!

Not to be forgotten, I also met Lisa of Boondock Ramblings, and Carmelita-- er-- Kathy, of the Junk Drawer. Kathy. Regrettably, because Carm- er- Kathy is actually in a Witness Protection Program, no photos of her will appear today. It is important to ensure the secrecy of her identity, lest certain persons get wind of her locale. You can never be too careful. This sort of thing is to be expected, of course, when you're a former gun maul for a fat cat in the Eastern Pennsylvania underworld.

I guess, it might also be a good idea for her to keep a low profile after we enjoyed an afternoon stealing a pair of fire trucks and cruising them around the city.

I'm not really good driving automatic, so it was only a matter of time before those lights were flashing in pursuit of us...

Fortunately, Kathy is an amazing driver. I mean, you should have seen her peel out and plow through those barricades! The coppers certainly weren't expecting that.

Ah, we gave the rozzers the slip. Afterwards, though, we were fairly tired out. So we ditched the firetrucks, got in an inconspicous car, put on fake noses and mustaches, and headed to the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon to do some bungee jumping.

Now, Shieldmaiden bungee jumps regularly-- in fact, she's got the world record for most boings per dive. But this was the first time for Kathy and I.

I have to admit, I don't think I have any talent for it-- the gabounce in my bungee was all over the place. But Kathy, she's a natural! I think with a little practice, she could beat Shieldmaiden's record.

After that, we were hungry. So we decided to do a bit of hunting, and bagged ourselves a large juicy oppossum, which Shieldmaiden did rotisserie style.... It's amazing what that woman can do with marsupial.

What? The snow you see there? Oh, yes, we had a freak snowstorm in between the bungee jumping and the wild game hunt... You mean you didn't hear about that on the news?

Funny. Must have been really localized.

Well, after dinner, we headed back to the hideout-- er, Shieldmaiden and RamblingDude's house-- and played a few games of Twister. Unfortunately, RamblingDude pulled his back, so he's got to take a break from Chippendales for a few weeks. Doctor's orders... Get well soon, Rambler.

And that about sums up the weekend! I managed to slip out of town without the Smokies realizing I was involved in that firetruck theft, so I consider it a really eventful weekend.

But, you know, it's funny how bloggers project a certain sort of persona online, and then you meet them and find out they're totally different...

I mean, you'd think Shieldmaiden, Rambler, Lisa, and Carm-- er, Kathy--- were these really super-stable, kind, self-deprecating folks from their blogs. When actually, there's so much they do every day that we just never hear about...

(Shrugs.) Oh well. Gotta go now and dispose of my fake nose and mustache. Best not to leave evidence behind.

Tell me- how was your weekend, folks?


Got a Full Tank of Gas, I'm Wearing Sunglasses, Hit it!

So it's Road Trip Time for me today. Yep, as you all read these words, I'll be running down a dream... The radio playing a forgotten song... In a little deuce coupe... Along the Ventura highway in the sunshine... Alligator lizards in the --

(I think I need to pull over. I'm way off my route and those hallucinations are getting colorful.)

Ha, actually, no, I'm just fine. And I'm headed on a journey to meet Pennsylvania blogger buds including:

Yes, a veritable Who's-Who Bloggerpalooza! (Now stop saying, "Who?! Who?!" and click their links.) (No, wait: read the post first, and then click their links. What was I thinking? Must be those hallucinations again.)

Now, I like traveling. I like the sound of asphalt under my tires...

Singing loudly with my tunes...

Drinking too much coffee and desperately having to find a rest stop, lest my arrival at my final destination make a somewhat different impact than I'd hoped...

(Well, not that last one, and you'll see why.) So I give you: Of Cabbages and Kings Official Tips to a Better Road Trip:

Don't Sweat Getting Lost: Most Roads Won't Actually Lead You to the Children of the Corn.
When I was a little kid, my father thought it was super-funny to drive Mom and I somewhere, and then look confused and worried and say, "Jenn, where are we? We're lost! You've got to tell us how to get back home!"

And of course, responsible five-year-old that I was, I would break into tears with the sudden burden of being propelled into the role of family Sacajawea. I would try to explain how I wasn't even allowed to cross the street myself yet, and how there had been, not so-long-before, a period of time I'd thought Bing Crosby and Bill Cosby were the same guy. "Is this the sort of mind you really want in a leadership position?" I would ask him.

Okay, I didn't really. But I should have.

Well, thanks to the Pop's rather sadistic idea of fun, I now have no fears about being lost at all. (Thanks, Pop, the years of mental anguish have been good for somethin' after all!)

One reason is, I will get lost at least once anyway, even though I now know how to cross the street pretty much. (I don't get lost to the degree of my friend Austin, mind you. But a good U-ey is bound to happen.)

And I keep in mind that most roads will not, in fact, lead to a small town with no phones and scary children who sing eerie songs and carry scythes. And if it does, I should really blog about it... quickly.

And that leads me to point two on my list...

If You Don't Have GPS, Print Your Travel Directions Big Enough That Satellites Could Read Them If They Wanted. I print directions from home to my destination... From the destination back... From side trip destination to hotel... From hotel to side trip destination... From back yard to front yard. From front yard water feature to back yard garden hose... From...

Well, you get the picture. Having to be a five-year-old Magellan tends to make a person a bit over-prepared.

Plus, I make sure I write up an abbreviated version of those directions large enough that other drivers can read them. It's good to give them something to do in between their cell phone conversations, putting on makeup, and texting.

A Dehydrated Driver is One Who Doesn't Dream of Rest Stops.
I like to cease all liquids, oh... five days or so before my trip. I figure I can have beverages when I get there. You know, if I don't turn to dust first.

I just can't stand driving and not knowing where the next restroom will be. Because, and I imagine this won't be a surprise to you, I came from a family where the Pop was also not so inclined to stop for road-trip pee-breaks.

Nope, we had somewhere to go and we weren't going to dilly-dally gettng there. So unless the Popper had to go, asking to make an unscheduled stop was only going to cause a mood. And inconvenience everybody.

So, no fluids. Hydration is overrated, anyway. Who wants a nice dewy look when you can be hollow-eyed and interesting?

Well, folks, it's time for me to R-U-N-N-O-F-T... I'll be checking in over the next couple of days with my handy-dandy laptop. And I'll be seeing you on Monday with a fresh new post!

And in the meantime, do you have any roadtripping secrets to share? I'd enjoy reading them-- and I'm sure those kids with scythes would, too! They don't get a lot of levity in between their corn sowing and mass murders.



Magical Markets for Oprah Beyond the Twitter Rainbow

Twitter--the social media bluebird that allowed us common folks to connect, make friends, increase blog readership and talk about bacon in 140 characters--recently was discovered by the Wonderful Wizard of Oprah...

And Tweeting, well, it'll never be quite the same.

Yup, Oprah, smart business woman that she is, knows:

It's not good for any area of the media to be simply left to people without their own book clubs, and TV shows, and magazines, and charities, and giant websites....

People who can't merely mention a freebie and then send the store chain crumbling under a lightly-perfumed stampede.

I mean, we non-Oprahs, we weren't really using Twitter responsibly anyway, were we? Just quips, and quotes, and chat, and photos of our lunch, and motivational posters.

But now, thanks to Oprah's great and powerful entrance into the Twittering scene, we don't even have to think of ideas to Tweet ourselves! We have the exciting opportunity to Retreet true Oprahanian Wisdom....

I can't believe we'd managed this long!

So, now that Oprah has expanded her empire to Twitter, it got me thinking about other new and little-imagined marketing niches Oprah might want to also consider:

  • Lemonade Stands. No, wait, hear me out on this... Children really don't assure proper food safety with their small-time lemonade operations. But Oprah's "When Life Gives You Lemons" Lemonade Stand could promise suburbanites a reassurance of wellness and safety in every paper Dixie Cup, that little Suzie's stand could not. Think lemonade, using Oprah's special recipe, featured in Oprah's magazine, as demonstrated on Oprah's show. It's perfect! Oh-- but don't think Oprah would be trying to squeeze out your darling children's capitalistic ambitions along with those lemons.... NO! There would be franchise options available to all children looking to make one penny on every ten cents of sales.

  • Paper Routes. Along these lines, think about the "Oprah Newsies." Your local paper branded with Oprah helpful tips, advice, quotes and so much more, and delivered by newsies in old timey dress wearing a cute Oprah Newsie logo on their cap. It's just one more way Oprah could help underprivileged children.

  • Valentine's Day Candy Hearts. For years, those little candy hearts at Valentine's Day have read things like "Hot 4 u" and "Be Mine" and "Maybe." Well, why not make them truly mean something with special Oprah branding? Think of it this way, Oprah has gotten used to typing in 140 character Twitter installments. She should have no trouble paring it back a bit further to candy-size. I expect we'd see things like: "Dr. Phil Luvs U." "Eat Dinner 2Gether." "Oprah: 2day at 4." Just to keep her franchise top-of-mind during this very special holiday.
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  • Fortune Cookie Messages. Similar to the Valentine's candy hearts, these fortune cookie messages would be a great way to enjoy a moment with Oprah over the egg foo young, the kung pao... whatever your favorite dish. I mean, Confusius... after hundreds of years, hasn't he already about said all he can say to us? It's time to let Oprah have her shot. Nothing tops off a good hot and sour soup like sweet and spicy wisdom from this media sensation.

  • "OprahVee's," a New Oprah-based Taxi Service. These SmartCar cabs would be manned by drivers up on the very latest hot Oprah topics and ready for discussion of the current book club feature. Plus, having completed a Dr. Phil-endorsed psychological training course, these cabbies will be able to counsel you and your family on your ride to the airport, to tourist destinations and more... Travel is stressful, and often a cause of family friction. And in the past, cab drivers have wasted time chatting about the weather, sports, or shouting at other drivers. So why not let an OprahVee you take you where you want to go, and help you learn a little about yourself on the journey?

I'm excited! Are you excited?

Now, obviously, I am very open to hearing any additional ideas you good folks might have, for helping Oprah brand her business well beyond the social media venue where the bluebirds fly!

I mean, there are a lot of regular joes out there struggling to enjoy their little slice of life using mediums that are terrifyingly Oprah-empty... Doesn't Oprah deserve a chance to show 'em how it's really done?


The Lewis and Clark of Big Lots

My dear friend Austin could get lost in a department store dressing room. To his credit, many of the short cuts I now use around Pittsburgh were because Austin had once gotten lost there, and had charted an unexpected path back to civilization...

Or, say, Target.

But one day, Austin got lost big-time... And he took half the traffic of Route 30 with him.

It was a sunny summer day, and Austin was driving back from teaching karate class. There, his young students learned Karate Lite and looked up to my friend as a powerful mystical ninja master. And not just some dude who didn't know north from North Versailles.

Music playing, and having smoothly answered his students' questions about pinwheel kicks to the neck and such, Austin was pleasantly tired and feeling good about life in general.

And then he heard the multi-car accident just a few cars ahead.

Now, Route 30 is a busy four-laner, and this accident blocked two lanes. In no time, the local police had swept in... lights swirling, sirens a-blaring, tazers prepped for tazing, megaphones for, er, megaphoning... And they contained the area, in only the way Pittsburgh police truly can...

Meaning, they saw it was a great time to exercise all that authority and equipment that had been sitting around dusty for a while...

Taxpayer dollars at work, you know.

So they put on their stern faces, because clearly we're all guilty of something here, and they motioned the two undamaged cars ahead of Austin, out of the way of their work.

This meant there was now the accident scene... And Austin, lead car in the lineup of an increasingly long line of cars.

Well, the traffic sat there a while. And Austin, laid-back soul that he is, had zoned out contentedly in the sunshine, as his tunes played.

So he was somewhat jarred when the stern sunglassed face of an officer appeared at his window, and spoke.

Austin rolled down the window. "Pardon?"

Only the words of the officer were not clearer for repetition. This officer was a mumbler of the highest caliber. And Austin, aware there were marble busts with softer, kinder features than this cop, decided it was best not to push his luck and ask the officer to repeat himself again.

No, Austin decided to go by the cop's body language, instead. Which had pointed off the road and into the Big Lots parking lot.

The Big Lots parking lot has two exits. And what Austin gleaned well after the fact was that the officer had wanted him to pull into the parking lot, circumnavigate the accident, and take the second exit back onto the road.

The key words here are "Well After the Fact."

Because Austin pulled into the strip mall parking lot... and then just kept going. Yes, our Austin had the idea that perhaps the officer knew of some other exit behind the Big Lots building...

And so he pursued this course with dogged ambition, missing the exit entirely, and instead swept around the building and back to a dead-end alley lined with dumpsters.

All of this would have been fine. Only the officer had also waved the 50 cars that had been backed up, to follow the lead car. Y'know: Austin.

It was somewhere about the time that Austin tried to get his car in reverse when he noticed-- for the first time, in his rearview-- the long line of cars snaking behind him. Yes, his fellow travelers had turned to him as the Great Trailblazer, leading them all to the Promised Land of New Farvignugen.

So in under three minutes, all of westbound Route 30 was gridlocked in the Big Lots parking lot, several of those cars now attempting to k-turn with Austin, amid garbage, back behind the store.

Not to be deterred, Austin assumed this unwanted leadership position and decided he'd better at least look like he knew what he was doing. They were depending on him, after all. And in a panic of trial-and-error, he now shot off in the exact opposite direction toward Dick's Sporting Goods.

And 50 cars trailed along to Dick's Sporting Goods, too.

It was somewhere at this point that Austin recalled, oh! He'd actually wanted something in this store, hadn't he? What luck! And so he parked. And thought he'd get out to run a few errands.

And that's when other drivers got the idea that maybe Austin's plan was not so much for them.

As he stepped from the car, he was yet again startled to see people in minivans and SUVs, Accords and Camrys, spread out higglety-piggelty across the strip mall parking lot, scratching their heads and wondering how things had gone so very wrong in such a small space and short time.

Austin, told us later that he'd felt the drivers pretty much got what they deserved, for relying on a stranger's critical thinking skills, when he knew very well he couldn't find his way out of a sealed Zip-loc baggie.

And now, every time I pass that strip mall, I find my own thoughts drifting to my fine friend Austin.... The good-natured, bewildered soul who wanted nothing more than a short cut and new jogging shoes... Some sunshine and a little music...

And instead gave his fellow travelers a behind-the-scenes tour that they were not soon likely to forget.


And today's question- How's your sense of direction? Or is GPS your best bud?


Offish and Waisted

Ah, I love home-grown banner ads! The way they have that warm fertilizer smell, and don't burden themselves with the gloss of those suspiciously-perfect, actually-proofread ad company creations.

I love them because then I get to see things go public like this real-and-for-true ad...

He's waisted thousands. And yep, I hear him. It always feels like the thousands go right to the waist, doesn't it? Why, Waist Control Management is rough these days for everybody.

Hey, but it got me thinking what a unique spin this tiny typo can give to a whole lot of things...

  • The Who's "Teenage Waistland" turns into the tale of a teen beauty pageant full of girls with eating disorders... (Okay, so, any pageant, then.)

  • "Elegantly Waisted" by INXS becomes Michael Hutchence's obsession with a high society ab cruncher...

  • And Snoop Dogg's "Waist of Time" relays the story of Snoop's relationship with a slim, female Doctor Who. (Spoilers: it doesn't work out.)

Ah, but our writer of the banner ad isn't talking about dieting, is he? No, he's waisted his thousands on Adwords until he started making money in "3 week." But, he reveals, he doesn't even have a web site!

Um... dude, if you're spending money placing ads on sites that aren't yours? This could very well be the reason you weren't initially seeing the profits. Just tossin' that out there. Next time try placing the ads on a site you own.

I know, business gets confusing that way.

Well, it was about the time I spied our friend with the thick waist, that I found another friend-- Markus, here...

...Markus is "" Which might explain why he's saying how "being single gets kind of old after a while." Girls don't like guys who are plenty offish. They like guys who seem a little interested.

Okay, okay, I know it's Plenty of Fish... I'm just giving Markus a hard time because of his URL, the fact that he seems to have a strong fear of commas, (but has embraced the semi-colon), and that he's the first man to write a full novel in the space of a banner ad.

I really shouldn't poke fun, though. I myself narrowly ended up with blog title that didn't quite work out in URL form the way I'd hoped.

Yes, you might recall me telling the story of "Angela's Shark." The Blog Eventually Named Cabbages was once "Angela's Shark," after a phrase liberally used in one of my favorite P.G. Wodehouse stories.

I thought it was obscure, eccentric and, as my name is not Angela, humorously confusing. Y'know, like the "Thompson Twins" being comprised of three people.... Or "Brazilian Girls" only having one female member.... Pink Floyd having neither a Pink nor Floyd among them.

That sort of thing.

Only as a URL? With no apostrophe allowed, suddenly it turned into:

Angel Ass Hark...

Ange Lass Hark...

Angela Ssh Ark...

Groovy! A blog either about a heavenly bootie call, a Christian myth about a talking donkey, the speech of some Scottish girl named Angie, or Mrs. Angela Noah being shooshed while her husband droned on about boat-building and the weather.

Needless to say, adjustments had to be made.

Which has me wondering:

  • Did you have other candidates for your blog title before the one you settled on, and if so, what were they?
  • And what's your favorite (or least favorite) home-grown banner ad?

(I had found another banner in the past that had me laughing-- you can click here to read about that one, in "Beware the Penquins: and Other Cases for Proofreading".)


The Washed Up Divas of Today's Vocabulary

Once, they took center stage to "oohs" and "ahhs." They stood for something. They had it all. But now, they make their appearance in a tagline or op-ed piece? And, well, we blush... we cringe for them... we have to avert our eyes.

I'm talking about those words overused to the point that, as a writer, I just can't face 'em anymore. Perfectly serviceable at one time, they are now tired and haggard, with nothing new to offer. Yet still, across the globe, they desperately struggle for impact.

They're those phrases that, just when I think they've had their final day, they resurrect themselves. They're the Britney Spears or Madonna of today's vocabulary....

Let's trot 'em out now, shall we?

  • Outside-the-box. Everyone wants ideas that are "outside-the-box." This has gone on for about 20 years now. And you know what? I don't think there's anything left in the box anymore. The box has gotten rained on. The box is soggy and saggy. The box has structural problems. It's an old freakin' box. If this were one of our divas, it would be Nora Desmond or, say, Joan Collins. One who had her day, but there's no need to roll her out onto the stage at age 80 and have her play the vamp. It's time to move on.
  • Drinking the Kool-Aid. Okay, so, fine, it's shorthand for political party-oriented brainwashing. And it doesn't matter what political group you're with, the phrase has a unique power. It's one that, the very moment it comes from the lips, it goes to the speaker's own ears. Forming a soft cottony-like barrier preventing any further sound to get through. It's like Tom Cruise, talking about psychotherapy to Matt Lauer. The lips move, but he can't hear what you're saying. That's why I think the Kool-Aid diva needs to stop jumping on the couch and take its freaky giant pitcher on outta here.... Oh yeah.
  • Patented. If this word were just used in terms of, "Received a U.S. Patent" that would be fine. But like the sad case of Marilyn Monroe, advertisers have exploited "patented" beyond its original purpose. To snake oil salesmen, "patented" somehow now means "proven" or "approved by the government as legit." Where all it truly means is it's been certified that no one else has submitted this particular idea yet-- whether it would work, or blow Wile E. into coyote nuggets. So when you see "patented" on an infomercial, try to remember what it used to be like, when it was fresh, smart and dewy. Before it succumbed to the bright lights and drug culture.
  • Drive-by Media. I know this is a Rush Limbaugh-ism. Fine. It served its purpose. But I feel like a good chunk of folks need reminding that, "You are not Rush Limbaugh." If a TV personality coins a phrase-- any phrase, any TV personality-- this doesn't automatically make you cooler or substantiate your argument by proxy. It just makes you unable to come up with your own way of expressing yourself. Please stop. It's like a Fred Willard character, quipping 70s TV catch phrases in 2009 when there's too much silence in the room. It's like saying, "Whatchu talking about, Willis?" four times during a sales meeting that's going badly.
  • World-Class. Ah, so elite... so high-end... of such exquisite caliber that it is among just a few in the world. The problem is, in advertising this is now being applied to... oh... community colleges... health insurance plans.... dog food. I know the world seems to be getting smaller, but once "world-class" starts being applied to kibble, I think we need to reevaluate. This is the Reality TV show songstress-- any songstress-- who belts out one melodramatic ballad and for a whole 15-minutes, she's "the next Maria Callas."
  • World Famous. As an off-shoot of "world class," I'd like to get "world famous" to rethink it's current career direction. I've seen small fish sandwich shops in the Florida Keys proclaim their "world famousness" of their fish. Every time, I picture the owner, wracking his brain for the sign out front, saying:
"Let's use 'world famous.' Didn't we have a guy from Hawaii come here once?"

The waitress shifts her cigarette to the other side of her mouth. "Hawaii's still the U.S., Ted."

"Yeah, but it's really far away. Let's go with 'world famous.'"

World famous is like being a performer on a Carnival Cruise... Yes, you've seen the world, but does anyone really know you outside of the guy in Cabin 2?

Well, those are my suggestions for the falling stars of vocabulary today. Let's give 'em a big round of applause.. (Psst!-- you in the wings, can you get that big hook please?... Yeah, thanks. It looked like they were trying for an encore.)

So tell me, gang-- what words would you prefer never to lay eyes on again?


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