Branded!- Literally: Mr. and Mrs.

"It has nickname possibilities, but the .com at the end just feels unwieldy," I thought to myself.

I was reading this article, about how the president of the NASCAR venue Texas Motor Speedway, Eddie Gossage, has offered $100,000 to disc jockey Terry Dorsey to officially change his name to for a year-- and get himself a permanent tattoo to commemorate the occasion.

Dorsey has 24 hours to accept this very literal branding effort.

Now, I don't know about you folks, but for me, it would have to be a heckvua lot more than $100,000 to even make that worth 24 hours of consideration.

Shouldn't the going rate for stupid be just a little higher? I mean, Robert Redford paid Demi Moore $1,000,000 for a single night in his Indecent Proposal. And it's not like Demi had to have a permanent Sundance Film Festival logo tramp stamp slapped on her as part of the deal.

But besides that-- and ignoring, y'know, any pesky ethical choices or anything-- here are just a few additional reasons our DJ friend might want to rethink saying "yes" to the proposal:

  • Any woman who has ever changed her name after marriage will tell you that it might take Dorsey a whole year just to unstick all the various Bureaucratic Moniker Alteration Red Tapes from his elegantly-worn cowboy boots
  • He would have to get all new checks and address labels made, though admittedly those personalized check services always have a nice wide selection of appropriate NASCAR themes
  • This will confuse the mail carrier. Does the mail go to his house, or the speedway? Whose route is that? It's a .com, so shouldn't there be an email option? This will back up delivery of the man's Netflix for months.
  • Does the DJ's family become the Texasmotorspeedway.coms? Or do they hyphenate?
  • When monogramming, do you include the .com?
Now, I was thinking, if the guy really wanted to make some money, he could just tattoo various NASCAR sponsor logos all over him, like one of the cars.

He could even get a nice body-part specific branding tie-in theme going. Like TUMS on the ol' mid-section... Goody's Headache Powder on his forehead... Viagra on his... Pending legal approvals and whatnot, of course.

So that leads me to today's question: what would you do if you were this DJ?

Personally-- I'm a big fan of, say, savory snack crackers, but that doesn't mean I'd transform into little Jenni Cheez-It for a year...

I mean, I have a whole box of business cards I haven't used yet. And I'm lucky to get my mail delivered as it is.

The Milk Crate Redemption

I wondered just when I'd hear the sirens, get glimpses of the red and blue whirling lights through the curtains.

I wondered when the big boots would clomp up the steps. When the knock would resonate, firm and unamused. I imagined the clink of cuffs. The jingle of cell keys. The light buzz of an anxious taser, waiting for me to give any whiff of doing something stupid that required a quick, sharp shock to the system...

Yes, I had in my possession two stolen milk crates from local dairies. And it was only a matter of time before I'd be hauled in by the coppers for illicit Calcium-Based Beverage Conveyance Hijacking.

At least, that's what the warning on the gray plastic crates had implied:

"WARNING! Unauthorized use or possession of milk cases is against the LAW. Criminals WILL be prosecuted."

I'd unthinkingly rescued the things from my college dorm dumpster right before summer break. I had snagged them along with three only slightly bent posters, a broken VCR I was sure I could get working again, and a desk lamp that, I later learned, gave off more heat than a dwarf star and was likely the cause of the Chicago Fire.

At the time, though, I had thought it quite a haul. See, I didn't have much to my name then.

In fact, if you added to the above list a case of Spaghetti O's and a clunky 80s laptop computer suitable only for the lap of the Fat Lady from a traveling carnie show, well, you pretty much had what was to my name. Not even my full name. Just a nickname maybe. Or initials.

And the Spaghetti O's were only visiting.

So, initially, I was really excited about the milk crates. They could carry my laundry to the dorm washers. They could serve as unique storage solutions. They could transform into a creative table for fine dining on the aforementioned Spaghetti O's.

I had plans for them. Oh, how I had plans!..

Until I noticed that warning on the side. The one that let me know I was in possession of hot merchandise.

I went cold. It was a jar to my nerves. And it tainted all that was good and true about my dumpster diving.

I knew already I was not up for the criminal life. This was only my second dip into the world of theft and evil, and that first one hadn't gone so well.

In my misguided youth, I had pocketed a bunch of shiny plastic sequins and fake gems from a giant thrift store artwork in the back of a shop. I knew it was wrong-- oh, I knew-- but they were so bright, and shiny and magical, I thought I could make a crown out of them and peeled a few off.

However, the guilt, which my mother had a talent for layering thickly over life like butter to bread, began to work on me even without Mom's involvement. Yep, I had developed a good strong Guilt Autopilot. Had she known, Mom would have been delighted at her handiwork. I had crowned myself the Queen of All Cheats and Liars, and saved her the trouble.

The very thought of my bad behavior kept me awake nights, in a sweat. This was not the person I was raised to be. A jewel thief. A gem smuggler.

Eventually, I formulated a plan to make things right. To repair what I'd done with no one ever the wiser. There would be no loss of TV privileges for a month. No embarrassing admissions to the store owner. No formal letters of apology. No grounding until infinity-- or high school, whichever came first.

No, this would be subtle. This would have style. I'd gotten a glue stick and, heart pounding, I went back to the thrift store and tried putting the plastic gems back into place when no one was looking. Some stuck, but some didn't. I felt sick. I had not only stolen, but I had ruined what I determined had to have been a priceless work of art. I decided to live silently with the knowledge about my sneaky, underhanded nature. Such evil, my eight year old vocabulary was unable to put into words. But it haunted me... oh, how it haunted me... like my own personal Jacob Marley.

And that college summer, it all came rushing back to me when I saw that warning on the dairy crates. Sure, the stolen crates having falling into my possession were an accident. But would the authorities ever believe that?

And what kind of authorities were there to track down and prosecute for milk crate theft anyway? Were there Dairy Agents who follow trackers on milk crates, and show up on your doorstep wearing mirrored sunglasses and milk mustaches?

I read the names of the cities on the milk crates and had no idea where these places even were to return them, even if I'd had a car. So I spent my various moves in and out of student housing with a blanket over the hot merchandise in question, careful, eyes suspicious, looking for signs of any rogue Dairy Agent on my trail.

I realized the other day I still have these crates. Yes, after decades, the only thing that has come clean is the laundry they still carry. I no longer wait for the knock on the door, the ring of the bell. But I'm older now. Wiser. Able to look at the logic behind it all.

Anyway, nowadays I'm mostly focused on that tag I ripped off my mattress.

Surfin' Alpaca (Sorry, Beach Boys- SOMEONE Had To)

I hit the news site expecting to hear about Rivers of Blood, 100 years of darkness, boiling seas and a severe locust surplus. And that was just bracing for the Opinion section.

But instead-- there in a moment of joy, whimsy and "what-in-the-name-of-Jack-Hanna-is-that?" was a photo of Peruvian surfer Domingo Pianezzi, hitting the waves with his talented surf amigo, Pisco the Alpaca.

Yes, that's right: alpaca. One of those cute, fluffy, sheeply, llama-ish, mini-camelesque fellows we see in craft stores sometimes hocking their luxurious, wearable locks as yarn. See Pisco here needing quality time under a blow-dryer.

In an instant, a song popped into my head. The Beach Boys, singing Surfin' Safari. But the words... Oh, how the words had changed...

Sing with me now.

Surfin' Alpaca

Let's go surfin' now
Pisco’s gonna show us how
Surf with an alpaca or three
(Surf with an alpaca or...)

Early in the morning on San Bartolo
See a strange form shootin’ the curl
He’s the free-stylin’ honcho
You can make into a poncho
And a great way to meet girls

Come on (two-toes) baby, come and see (surfin' alpaca)
This alpaca (cute nose) surfin' (surfin' alpaca) with me
Come along (he spits) baby, wanna see (surfin' alpaca)
Ramma-llama (no shit!) out there surfin' (surfin' alpaca) with me

Let's go surfin' now
Flip yer camelid, and how!
Surf with an alpaca or three
(Surf with an alpaca or...)

All around a-Lima, well, they come for miles
Just to see him catching the waves
And to make things even better
He can even be your sweater
At fiestas he’s a fave

Come on (too cool) baby, come and see (surfin' alpaca)
This alpaca (wet wool) surfin' (surfin' alpaca) with me
Come along (he spits) baby, wanna see (surfin' alpaca)
Ramma-llama (no shit!) out there surfin' (surfin' alpaca) with me

Let's go surfin' now
Flip yer camelid, and how!
Surf with an alpaca or three
(Surf with an alpaca or...)

There’s mania in Mancora:, in Pacasmayo
They’re open-mouthed in Organos, too
So go and tell it to your mama
That he’s really not a llama
He’s a camelid from Peru

Come on (soft fleece) baby, come and see (surfin' alpaca)
This alpaca (sharp teeth) surfin' (surfin' alpaca) with me
Come along (he spits) baby, wanna see (surfin' alpaca)
Ramma-llama (no shit!) out there surfin' (surfin' alpaca) with me

Let's go surfin' now
Pisco’s gonna show us how
Surf with an alpaca or three
(Surf with an alpaca or...)

(Surfin' Alpaca)
With me
(Surfin' Alpaca)
(Surfin' Alpaca)
Yeah me
(Surfin' Alpaca)
With me

"That alpaca dude is, like, totally shorn to surf, man!"

(And yes, it IS Friday.... why do you ask? :) )

The Great Jersey Kiddom Nature Experience

Jumping off the roof... Biking 'till ya barf as a test of physical endurance... Breaking the land-speed record for downhill sledding until being formally introduced to a tree...

These were all things one of my friends and I detailed recently as very real, once entirely logical past-times of Kiddom.

Ah, Kiddom. That time when virtually anything seemed possible, and sharp boundaries of good judgment often took on a somewhat hazy, more Guideline-oriented position in our enthusiastic, still-developing brains.

I suspect the brains of my friend Sarah and I had been stunted due to one of these boundary issues. If not before one particular day, certainly afterward.

Sarah had lived down the street from me for Practically All of My Life. Which was to say, a couple of years.

And at the very end of her housing complex, at the far back of a long winding drive, was the closest most of us New Jersey-born city kids ever came to Nature...

It was a small park by a brook.

Oh, the park wasn't anything to speak of. It had two metal creatures on springs you could bounce on-- at least until the summer sun got too hot, would heat 'em up until transparent waves reached the power lines, and they'd sizzle our shorts-clad thighs like flabby grilled cheese sandwiches.

There was a circular board on a reluctant lazy-susan type apparatus. Where, with enough energy, you could get to speeds of upwards 1/4 mile an hour. We were more likely to pass out of exhaustion from the effort rather than the thrill.

There was a rusty jungle gym, which soon became just a little too low for us to enjoy in any particular Tarzan antics.

And there were a set of swings, which squeaked their plea for oil the moment you looked at 'em.

Sarah and I liked the swings well enough. But we actually preferred the metal safety bars in front of them. They were designed to keep non-swinging spectators a sensible distance back. But we found them ideal for practicing Olympic-style uneven bars routines.

It was just as Sarah was going for the Gold one day, that I noticed the drops of blood on the ground below her. Sarah was one of those kids who got nosebleeds practically on schedule. I was sure there was a paper on her fridge at home that read:
  • Home from school
  • Homework
  • Snack
  • Nosebleed
Well, normally we were at Sarah's house the times her daily Nasal Leeching would begin. But with us out there in the midst of Nature-- a whole 15 minute walk from her house-- well, we weren't about to head home just because of Old Faithful.

No, we decided we would instead find something to sop up the bleeding.

And my, didn't those giant leaves over there by the little brook look handy?

We moved in closer for examination. Or rather, we both moved in-- but Sarah had her head elevated, so I examined. The leaves were beautiful. Great crinkled prehistoric-looking things on long stalks. Something straight out of Land of the Lost. A quick moment of discussion, and we ripped one off and Sarah pressed it to her leaking facial feature. It was working! We had done it! How resourceful we were!

Until we noticed the smell.

We learned later that this beautiful leaf, this fine example of botany was, in fact, Skunk Cabbage. And its stench which-- if we had been truly honest with ourselves, probably smelled no worse than we did as we radiated Olympic sweat and spilled soured Yoo-hoo from lunch-- sent us fleeing into the gently babbling brook.

Sarah began to wash her face, ewwing and shrieking as only a pre-teen girl could. And it was there, in the greenly leaf-dappled light, in the world of waterbugs and mossy rocks and the occasional oily rainbow swirling along the water, it was there we became very thirsty.

And we decided to drink of Nature's Bounty. We'd seen them do just like this on Little House on the Prairie. And Mr. Ingalls would never steer us wrong.

Well, when we arrived back at Sarah's, it didn't take much to determine we'd been up to something. Blood still traced around Sarah's neck. Leafy green stains still smeared her nose and freckled cheeks. Our shoes squelched. Our socks sagged damply around our ankles. Mud dotted our calves.

And in moments, the story unraveled of how yes, Sarah had had another nosebleed but we had completely taken care of it. We were wholly self-sufficient. We mopped up the blood and even enjoyed a nice little drink from the stream.

"Er, which stream?"

"The one by the park."

Here we learned a new word: contaminants. And that our region of Jersey was one of the largest pharmaceutical and chemical producers in the state. And how that particular creek stretched for miles, in and around this amazing mecca of export, until it eventually dumped into the Lackawanna River along the railroad tracks not far from my house.

A phone call brought this little geographic and manufacturing trivia to the attention of my own mother. Who made me promise never to drink from the stream or any other non-faucet water source again.

And I couldn't be sure, but Mom seemed to survey me more closely that evening at dinner.

It wasn't with anger, necessarily. Just this uneasy, furtive evaluation.

In retrospect I think I now know what she was looking for. She was searching for signs of a third eye, the bud of an 11th finger. Or skunk cabbage leaves to sprout from my ears.

This was North Central Jersey Nature, after all. You never could be too sure. Nature, we knew, worked in mysterious ways.

Dear Blabby

I don't know why I do it. But every day with lunch, I find myself reading the age-old advice column, Dear Abby. (The column is age-old; the advice appears just lightly dusty.)

Anyway, the more I read, the more a pattern has begun to emerge for me. So today-- using my Super Marketing Person Skillz (it's a little like Spider Sense, but doesn't use thought bubbles, and has a going rate of $50/hour)-- I have translated what the readers who write into Dear Abby would say if they truly communicated exactly what they meant.

I give you... Dear Blabby.

DEAR BLABBY: I'm writing in with a problem that isn't really a problem. So, "why bother?" you ask? Well, the reason I'm completely wasting your time is because yes, I know the answer already... But I want to use use your response as leverage to prove I'm right to my husband, my sister, my dog, and the mailcarrier who's gotten just a bit above himself. Normally, I use the opinions of my friend Marge (not her real name) and Esther (her real name, bummer for her). But after 40 years, my husband no longer cares what they have to say. Please publish my letter so I can passive-aggressively remind my husband I'm right, by cutting this out of the paper and tacking it to the refrigerator where it will yellow with age, as I have in the last four decades. —MRS. RIGHT IN BLACK AND WHITE

DEAR MRS. RIGHT- Your husband has already heard that this is coming. Your friend Esther told him. I know because she also wrote in to me, regarding the affair she's been enjoying for 40 years with her best friend's husband. Perhaps you would like to tack this to the refrigerator. Or share it with the marriage counselor you're about to call.

DEAR BLABBY: I have this problem that is entirely made up, just to test and see if I can make a fool out of you for responding to it. I've decided to include a nice mix of personal conflict, six of the 10 warning signs of domestic abuse, a remarkable lack of self-awareness, graffiti art addiction, and the custody of 20 orphaned emus. I will ask you whether my long-time, live-in boyfriend's airbrushing the emus with satanic symbols is harmful to my beloved birds, and whether you think this constitutes negligence enough that I should be awarded them in the commonlaw separation. I hope you won't notice the absurdity of the situation, particularly that anyone could truly love an emu. --GIVING EVERYONE THE BIRD

DEAR BIRD: I already let one in three joke posts go through as a joke on the people who are joking. Did you really think I didn't know MARRIED TO THE BLOB was a total farce? Or that SLEEPLESS IN SADDLE wasn't a complete practical joke? Oh, I know. But I publish them, anyway. How else do you think I get my material for this column in a time when when people have moved to Yahoo Answers as the premier place on the internet where you can ask the world moronic questions, only in real-time? Think about it. I take what I can get... So let's talk imaginary emu.

DEAR BLABBY: I'm a person who suffers from extreme insecurity in my decision-making skills so my friends, who are sick of hearing about every little stupid thing I need help on, have suggested I write you so they can have a break. Of course, with turnarounds in the newspaper, by the time I get an answer to my issue, that issue will be long-done and I'll be on to some other problem that I can't solve myself. Won't I? I'm not sure. What do you think? — DIRECTIONLESS IN DAKOTA

I've decided, in the interest of time, to give you the answers to your next five problems. Here they are: Talk to him. Make a list. Discuss this with your religious advisor. Don't buy the flame-thrower, you won't use it as much as you think. And 42. You're welcome.

DEAR BLABBY: It's been slow at the newspaper and you've received thousands of inquiries with poor spelling, lots of capital letters, and problems that are impossible to decipher without the person who writes the closed capitioning for the Jerry Springer show. So mine is the letter that was completely made up at the water cooler by three newspaper executives brainstoming ideas over some cold, high-quality H2O. We're hoping no one will notice. —ABBY NORMAL

DEAR MS. NORMAL- Yes, I'm aware. Because I'm you. But I'll try to treat you like anyone else who writes in just to flush out the column space. I'm considerate like that. So thank you for your question.... No, thank you... No, really, thank you.

Do YOU have a question for Dear Blabby? Just leave a comment below! Maybe she'll even respond before your divorce, your child runs away, or the family holiday is over.

Digging in the Dirt

My childhood amateur archaeology career had begun, oddly enough, due to culinary ambitions. That was when two whole slant-shadowed summers transformed my backyard into the location of the neighborhood hot dog and hamburger joint.

The venture soon proved to be not as popular as my original business plan had predicted, however. This wasn't because of the service-- which was fast and enthusiastic. But largely to its stick-and-leaf hotdogs and mudpat-and-leaf hamburger menu.

Local tastes had simply not caught up to such progressive, organic cuisine.

So, like many small business owners, by my third summer I realized I needed to re-examine my vision, or close up shop. Which lead to my repositioning the firm into an extensive mud-based bakery operation, with multi-layer mudcakes frosted liberally in creamy mud frosting, and decorated with luscious mud swirls.

These confectionary masterpieces baked in the sun and towered and teetered on plastic thrift store dishes I'd bought using my fifty-cents-a-week allowance from nightly dishwashing detail.

The best part of this operation was that my supplier was the Way-Back Yard, a small unmowed field behind my family's actual backyard and near the railroad tracks. It was ideal because this supplier always delivered on time, never ran out of what I needed, and only probably had a little bit of lead and tetanus and Lyme disease running through it.

It was during supply acquisition that I found myself in the midst of unexpected archaological wonders.

See, for over 40 years, the Way-Back had drawn neighborhood children, sly illegal dumpers and the occasional King of the Road passing through on the way to train-hopping adventure. What started as a search for better batter quickly unearthed surprise.

The lure of easy riches and the love of serendipity encouraged me to abandon my bakery aspirations and shift into these more historical, scientific pursuits.

Why, I unearthed slivers of broken bottles, and entire beer bottle caps-- their graphics swirly and faded, speaking of brands that came and went before I was ever born.

I found most of a bucket-- a sizable chunk of metal held only together with rust.

And I uncovered a shard of this most amazing rainbow-infused glass, which my mother told me was from the carnival prizes they gave away long ago. It was just cheap junk, she said-- tacky-- and I shouldn't waste my time with it. It was not treasure, as I had suggested. It was not something to be admired.

But I rinsed it off, anyway, and tucked it into my jewelry box with the ballerina in it. The ballerina spun on her toes, her reflection in the glass fragment seeming to shimmer in dazzling circles like a carousel.

I liked it better than the arms and torso I dug up, anyway. A good scrubbing showed that they had been bits of GI Joes, who in the heat of battle had met with unfortunate circumstances and eventual disembodiment.

After I found a head, with a peach-fuzz crewcut and a beard, I had hoped to find enough pieces of Joe to eventually Frankenstein them together into one complete Real American Hero-- so my Barbies would have some company. My only Ken had been disabled due to my cousin Sticky's overly-enthusiastic attentions ("crrrrrack!!!"), and his leg had been duct-taped on for most of his life.

But alas, the Joe situation proved to be just another disappointment for Barbie. A head, torso and assorted arms did not a boyfriend make. At least not one that could take her dancing.

Still, my interest in excavation continued. Like any good archaeologist, I understood patience was at the core of the occupation. I could dig for days and find nothing-- reverting in those lulls to the occasional mud-cake creation.

But perseverance would eventually pay off. I did my dad a service by locating one rusted-out half of his long-lost Buck Rogers raygun. A deed which, in some ways, brought life full-circle.

And then there was the time just a bit of metallic emerald green flashed in the dark loam.

Jewels? Pirate booty? Hidden spoils from a long-ago Jimmy Cagney style bank heist?

I brought the little round faceted item to Dad like Queen Elizabeth might have been presented the coronation crown. With pomp, dignity, a Bounty paper towel...

I even washed the thing off first.

"I think it's just a bicycle reflector," my dad said meditatively, showing none of the joy he'd displayed during the earlier Buck Rogers pistol recon mission.

Still, the earth-emerald was deposited in my jewelry box next to the piece of carnival glass.

Well, decades passed and about two years ago I was walking through the Frick antique car museum, looking at the handsome cabs, the early Fords, the surreys with the fringe on top. And as I was admiring the upholstery, the chrome, the artistry of less-bustling times... my eye caught a very familiar flicker of green.

And there, on the side of one of the headlamps of a 1920s car was...
My beautiful faceted gem.

I still have it, by the way. It sits in my living room in a bowl of shiny beads and glass spheres-- proving true treasure really is in the eye of the beholder.

The Pop Cultures of Yogurt Fanaticism

Maybe you guys can help me out.

  • Have you ever made a scene in public due to the joy of an enzyme-based milk product?
  • At gatherings with friends and family, does the conversation naturally lead to bloating, irregularity, and the miraculous relief you find through a daily cup of bacteria-laden dairy?
  • Do you feel yogurt flavors are perfectly comparable with finely-made baked goods?
  • Have you ever swirled your hand in a sweeping motion, as the unspoken International Gesture of Happily Irrigated Bowels?

I ask because, being Lactose Disgruntled myself, I have not enjoyed any of these experiences. And, based on the persistent commercials on television right now, I'm getting the impression that there's a Train of Feel Goodness, Beauty and Wonder rolling on through, carrying better health, gourmet delicacies, and unmatched vitality... And I'm the only one who hasn't leapt aboard singing and waving.

I'm starting to wonder if it's this Outside Looking In perspective that's causing Jamie Lee Curtis-- in her single-minded Activia enthusiasm of late-- to seriously annoy me.

I feel bad about it, too. I mean, I was full of empathy for her when she was on serial killer Michael Myers' shit list in Halloween.

I chuckled with her as she manipulated John Cleese using humor, initiative and a new set of implants.

But now... now I just want to push her off that stupid green Activia sofa and shout, "For the love of Wanda, please, please, please stop talking!" every time she turns a perfectly normal discussion into the Wide, Wide World of Intestinal Bacteria.

Then there's the Dan-o-nino jingle that runs every five minutes on BBC America. Based on its name, Dan-o-nino is apparently the first yogurt targeted specifically to Latino and Hispanic boy children. Or large climactic irregularities. I'm not sure which.

Actually, I hope it's the last one, because given all the probiotic hubbub, the thought of marketers suggesting the product causes sudden wind and weather shake-ups just makes me laugh.

Anyway, before I even got done picking apart the name of the thing, my brain got a hold of the repetitious jingle, where small children sing the "Dan-o-nino" name, oh... like... ten times to infinity until I'm ready to stick a yogurt spoon through my ear.

I find myself doing things around the house, with "Dan-o-nino... Dan-dan-no-nino" running through my brain.

And yes, I know-- some would suggest that creating something that's so catchy is good marketing.

Some would say it's the irritating quality of the Dan-o-nino song and name that's what's getting the product press right now through my blog at this very minute, and isn't it clever?

Of course, some would also say it's wrong to stick a spoon through your ear or push Jamie Lee Curtis off the sofa.

We can just agree to disagree.

Peter Graves, Booth Scrounge and the Mission Impossible

"Bring me back some Mardi Gras beads. Or a yo-yo. Or food. Or socks. Or a glass of wine."

Those were the marching orders to my colleague, Lars. And as the words escaped my lips and I watched his broad retreating back, I'd realized; only at a tradeshow could you request items of that level of diversity all at the same time.

"How about a stapler?... A golf club?... One of those little hotdogs wrapped in pastry?... An elephant.... A t-shirt reading 'Year 2000 Programmers Do It on Dates?'"

All was equally possible in the bright, shining world of Booth Scrounge.

Yes, for anyone who's ever worked a tradeshow booth, you know how it goes. You can be bitter rivals with another company, fighting it out tooth-and-nail for every lead. Ready to slash tires, kidnap grandmothers and slander favorite pets to get that extra competitive edge.

But when it comes to Booth Scrounge-- giveaway treasures like logo-imprinted stressballs, T-shirts, solar calculators, and bobbleheads-- things you'll take great care stowing in your luggage on the ride home so it can gather dust in your attic for the next decade-- why, the deep primal drive to Hunt and Gather supersedes all company loyalties...

And you cheerily approach your sworn enemies in an unspoken d├ętante to exchange brand-emblazed mechanical pencils for magnetic chip clips.

It's an evolutionary need bigger than us. We are incapable of Swag Resistance.

For a number of years, I was the event planner for these shows. My job was to first make sure everything got there and was in its place... Then stand for eight to 12 hours a day straight, smile at people, hand out literature, and pretend I knew what I was talking about.

This meant that while the sales reps were wandering around free-range, meeting folks, making deals and even savoring daylight, I was seeing the back of the same event coordinator's head at the booth perpendicular to mine. As he stood there smiling, handing out literature, and pretending he knew what he was talking about.

It was a unifier between those skilled in my field.

Food sometimes involved brief planned lunches. But usually it involved whatever hors d'ouvres hired booth babes named Autumn and Fawn were out passing around, whatever I could pick-pocket from the promotional bags of potential customers when they weren't looking, and the occasional glass of wine one of our reps would retrieve for me.

Nothing like booth-tending and talking technology you don't quite understand with a couple of glasses of wine sloshing around in an empty stomach, let me tell ya.

"Wwwwwanna hear 'bout the Year Two-Thouuusshhhand problem, missshhter? Do I have some shhhoftware fer you!"

Anyway, my coworker Lars was a friend of mine, and pretty good about bringing me back tokens from the outside world to prove it still existed. So I had been fairly confident that he would, at the very least, retrieve me the wine, some nibblies, and the Mardi Gras beads I'd been coveting from a booth three aisles over.

It seemed like he was gone awhile, but then again, you tend to lose your sense of time when you spend hours on your feet under fluorescent lights staring at the same person's cowlick. Seasons could turn. Wars could start and end. The Pittsburgh Pirates could win the World Series.

Okay, well, not that last one. But those other things. Definitely.

And as summer slipped into fall and I was still standing there, I thought, in my nutrient-deprived brain, that I had started to hear the "Mission Impossible" theme.

Yes, Lalo Schifrin's catchy 60s television tune, ba-da-daaaaa, ba-da-daaaaaa, ba-da-daaaaing it's way into my consciousness.

I wasn't sure it was real or not. Delirium from the past three days had set in. But deciding that it was probably no stranger than the guy dressed as a caveman, passing out caveman's club rock-candy lollipops I saw earlier, I thought little more about it.

Until Lars popped his blond head around a corner, motioning and hissing at me, "Peter Graves, Peter Graves..."

My brain was still stuck on the fact Lars didn't seem to be carrying any Mardi Gras beads or tiny quiches. What had he been doing all this time if it wasn't out pilfering quality tradeshow tat-- Actually selling stuff?


"Mission Impossible," he said.

"Yes, I heard it."

"Jim Phelps," he told me.

"Is this some sort of booth trivia game?"

"Peter Graves," he insisted, and then vanished around the corner as suddenly as he'd appeared.

Well, there wasn't a single other one of our sales reps around for miles-- they'd vanished like migrating birds the moment they'd landed. And technically, we were not to leave the booth unmanned. (Or unwomaned in my case.)

But after a moment, as I wrenched my mind from the fact Lars still hadn't brought me any food and I was beadless, I decided I had just make the step out of our 10-by-10 and into No Man's Land.

First I saw Lars, standing around in a crowd with others. And before them, sitting on a stool at a booth and brandishing a microphone, was actor Peter Graves of Mission Impossible fame.

He was telling some sort of tale, presumably MI-related and, I imagine, connecting it in some grand metaphor to our competitor's Year 2000 software.

"See?" whispered Lars to me with a self-satisfied nod. "You thought I was making it up."

I hadn't thought, actually. My brainpower had died by hour six on Day Two.

What I did notice, however, was that on a table near the esteemed actor before us were a pile of mardi gras beads, a glass of wine, and a plate of flaky, savory hors d'oevres.

And that's when I realized. "The only Mission Impossible around here is getting something to eat," I whispered back. I shook my head at Lars, at the presentation, at the giant room of freedom and, apparently, a snack bar-- and hastened back to the captivity of our 10X10 where potential clients were now standing, helping themselves to literature and t-shirts.

Salesmen and actors: feh!...

At least the guy dressed as the Caveman had brought candy.

I was reminded of this tale by the recent unfortunate death of actor Peter Graves. Which is a loss, but at least it probably wasn't brought about by working on the tradeshow circuit without food.

Bloggy Birthdays and Sleeper Posts

When you get to a certain age, you start to forget things. Like where you put your denture cream. And why you weren't talking to Aunt Laverne for 30 years. And birthdays. Yeah, you block those babies right the heck outta there. It's for your own good.

Wednesday, Of Cabbages and Kings celebrated its second bloggy birthday. Bloggiversary. Anniversary of blogdom.


And I guess my mascot, Old King Cole Slaw, had to party without me, because I completely forgot about it. And when I did finally remember, my bud Kathy of The Junk Drawer promptly made me promise cake. So, if you were keeping score, that's Stomach: 1, Memory Skillz: Zip.

Anyway, I thought-- other than giving Kath an opportunity to stuff her face on sweets, what else should I share with you guys for this special (totally late) occasion?

With Cabbages being my youngest of two blogs, I've done a few different things over the years to celebrate. We've talked about Lessons Learned. We've done giveaways. We've even danced on the tables. (Deny it if you want, you know who you are.)

So this bloggy birthday, I thought I'd do something a little different. I've pulled a few posts from the archives that I don't think many of you might have gotten to see. Some of my favorite sleeper posts, if you will.

Because, hey, it's Friday. That calls for a little bit of levity! So if you need a break, pop by, put your feet up and check out one of these blasts from the past...

And have some virtual cake.
That is, if Kathy hasn't eaten it all already. :)

(Watercolor illustration above courtesy of my friend TJ who made that for me on my own birthday this last year. Thanks again, TJ!! You're a gem.)

Dead Man Calling

"...If you or a loved one suffered serious injury or death," explained the commercial.

My brain immediately blocked out just which lawfirm it was, and what medicines they were pitching for Class Action Ambulance Chasing Fun, to dwell on that last bit.

In fact, my Internal English Teacher wrote the sentence on my mental chalkboard.

"If you or a loved one suffered serious injury or death."

"If you..." (erase, erase, erase) "...suffered death..."

Yep. That was it. That's the kicker!

It brought to mind rather Beetlejuician visions, where all these Recently Deceased folks are sitting in an Otherworld reception area for the offices of Dedham, Digman and Moribund waiting to collect on their death through no fault of their own in some grand post-mortum legal loophole.

"Hey, buddy-- You die due to side effects including spontaneous head implosion, bleeding from the eyes and uncontrolled samba?" one client asks the other conversationally, as he peers over a dusty, dog-eared copy of Morta Slewhart's Afterdeath Living magazine.

"Yep. But I hear Dedham, Digman and Moribund are the best in the industry. They'll get us what's coming to us. Of course, it's their 75% cut of the damages award that really kills me," says the other.

It almost makes me wish I recalled the lawfirm running the ad. Can you see it now?

"Hi, yes, I'm calling because I saw your ad? I recently suffered death while taking the drug Ixplasm, and I was wondering what you could do to help."

How much do you want to bet, they'd take down the caller's contact information without batting an eye? Name, address, doctor's name...

"And when exactly did you die, ma'am?"

"Last week. I would have contacted you sooner, but up until yesterday I was fighting sandworms. You lose your sense of time when fighting sandworms, you know."

"We hear that all the time. Now-- next of kin? Please spell the names, last name first."

Okay, I made up that last bit. ("No, really?" No-- honest. I did.) But I still think you could get pretty far into the client qualification process before they noticed that pesky little Dead Man Calling problem.

Which now has me wondering about cell phone coverage. I mean, the range for, say, Yerizin Wireless to even connect the call, well, it's got to be a lot better service than the rest of us are getting.

The Fourth-and-a-Half Sense

I smell dead people.

Actually, no. I probably wouldn't.

I mean even if a spectral Bruce Willis and I found ourselves hanging out in a mafia meat locker after a particularly busy week, I think we'd have a better chance of ol' Brucie announcing, "Phew, this is a good place for a Plug-In" before I ever would.

I am allergy-impaired, you see. And I think I actually prefer it that way. Because a brief moment of allergy-meds-induced, smell-based lucidity last evening led me on a bloodhound-like chase that I don't care to repeat.

I mean, you people with normal smellerificness-- do you go around sniffing your home entertainment system very often?

My money is on "no, only on special occasions."

See, I'd been running around the house finishing up a few things post-dinner. I sat down to watch a DVD, and then...

"I smell something on fire. Something electrical. Or metal. Or burnt dead dog. Or maybe spareribs."

(Cut me some slack-- having not smelled anything since about January, I lack your ninja-like Smell Precision Reflexes.)

There were a number of possible culprits in the area for this:
  • The broiler of the stove I had used for dinner. Could sirloin steak grilled on a metal pan smell like the Sony warehouse going up in flames?
  • A candle in a votive. Had I been freshening my house with toxic candle fumes, thus explaining my penchant for eccentric narrative?
  • The heating system. Was she gonna blow, Kiptin?

To my fleetingly clear sinus, which had had only clocked a total of two full hours actual smell-training, it really could have been anything. Or nothing.

Well, I sniffed around. I stood on the heat vents and sniffed them in a pajama-clad, non-blonde, nasal-oriented version of Marilyn Monroe in the Seven Year Itch. (It smelled heaty.)

I stuck my head in the oven and sniffed. (It smelled meaty.)

I blew out and sniffed the possibly aromatic candle. (Nope, smelled like birthday disappointment.)

And then I started sniffing my TV, cable box and DVD player.

Because, in spite of the fact that the thing sounded great, the picture was clear, and there were no flames licking the TV cabinet, it was possible that there was some quiet inner-operative brush fire that would rip across the country to wipe out Malibu unless I stood there for the next half hour, strategically smelling it, while simultaneously missing my program.

What I finally concluded was that my nose was experiencing an ol-factory hallucination due to the allergy meds. I didn't fully believe the theory, of course. But we lie to ourselves to get through the night...

Preferably so that night is not spent sleeping propped up with one's nose stuck to the widescreen.

Yet this morning, as I came downstairs and slurped the first cup of java for the day, the hallucination returned.

"Fire. I smell fire."

It was only as I'd been heading to work and locking the front door-- the smell gaining significant stink-momentum-- that I realized...

The neighbors next door have a wood-burning stove. They've lived next to me for at least three years, but this was the first time I'd actually be able to smell it burning.

I'd wasted 40 minutes of my life trying to locate a scent that wasn't even in my house.

So, I really can't wait until my nasal passages close up again. This extra sensory stimuli is really just too much to handle. The burden, it's too great.

I don't know how all of you fully-smelling people handle it with such grace.


If Social Media Venues Had Theme Songs

The world's going increasingly multimedia. Video and web sites have become like Cheez Whiz to cheesesteak...

Online ads have transformed into mini-iMax presentations, only without someone kicking your chair...

And bloggers insist on sharing their favorite tunes as a kind of background Muzak you can't shut off quickly enough, particularly if the boss is coming by, not that that ever happens because we don't ever read these things at work no really...


All designed to offer a more dynamic, sensory-oriented online experience.

But I've noticed that with all the new goodies social media sites have, they don't yet have their own theme songs--

Until now! Yes, today at Of Cabbages and Kings, I'd like to make a few preliminary suggestions for theme songs to accompany some of today's most popular social media venues.

(You'll note, I went heavy on the classic rock here, because I figured more folks would know the songs.)
  • Twitter- Follow You, Follow Me (Genesis)
  • Facebook- You've Got a Friend (Carol King) or, given the mind-boggling number of farm and stray pet apps, At The Zoo (Simon & Garfunkel)
  • MySpace- Fifteen (Taylor Swift)
  • Qwitter- Ex-Girlfriend, or Don't Speak (No Doubt)
  • Friendfeed- Message in a Bottle (Police)
  • Digg- Everybody Wants to Rule the World (Tears for Fears)
  • StumbleUpon- Can't Find My Way Home (Traffic)
  • Reddit- Don't Come Around Here No More (Tom Petty) or possibly You Know You're Wrong (Big Bad Voodoo Daddy)
  • BlogCatalog- Given how many spammers there send me PMs claiming they've click the ads which I don't have, I'd like to suggest: Money for Nothin' (Dire Straits)
  • YouTube- You Can't Always Get What You Want (Rolling Stones)
  • Entrecard- Hello, Goodbye (Beatles)
  • LinkedIn- Take this Job and Shove it (Johnny Paycheck)
Want to make an alternate suggestion? Or want to add another venue I didn't include here? Just give me a shout in the comments below.


Killing Abe Vigoda

We've been killing Abe Vigoda off for a while now.

We. Us. The general populace has. He's that guy in Barney Miller who played "Fish." Apparently, according to CNN, he's been learning he's dead since 1982.

I bet that put a crimp in his day.

But there are other celebrities who I'll hear about after a lengthy hiatus from the public eye and I find myself wondering, weren't they, too, of non-living status? And no, I don't mean Ben Stein, that's just his style. I'm talking about celebrities who fill our lives with TVLand reruns, cameo appearances, and infomercial advice and then vanish into the Great Cocktail Party of Obscurity.

Here are just a couple of celebs I've inadvertently offed over the years:

George Hamilton- A skin cancer discussion came up between some friends and I, and at least two thought Mr. Hamilton was dead. He is actually alive and doing baked cracker ads, as a form of intentional poetic irony and retirement plan.

But really, how come skin cancer hasn't snagged this guy? The answer: he's been a vampire since the 70s, so melanoma can no longer affect him. Being a method actor for Love at First Bite, he ran right out and got bitten. Now the light of day burns his flesh-- but tanning beds are apparently a-okay. Who knew?

An alternate theory from fellow-blogger Cari, of Two Kids and a Beagle, was that his leather-like skin has just morphed into a protective coating. In which case, Mr. Hamilton might be representative of the Human of the Future, should the ozone layer finally give out.

Things to think about.

J.D. Salinger- He died recently. Unfortunately, my reaction was, "You mean he was alive?" Of course, in my mind, if you are a renowned writer who has had a book that reached "classic" or "reading list" status, you are automatically dead to me. No one living can possibly have a book school children are supposed to spend pouring over in July instead of swimming and breaking assorted limbs attempting misguided stuntman impersonations.

Bob Barker- Is he alive, or not alive? I know he opened up a can of whoopass on Happy Gilmore, but that's been over a decade. I can't keep up with these things because I'm not home to watch daytime television. So for that matter, I am starting to question Drew Carey and Wayne Brady's aliveness. Once you start hosting a game show, your chances of me offing you preternaturally are increased by approximately 76%.

In a total reversal of all this, I am still seeing infomercial hawker Billy Mays, and I am pretty sure he's no longer with us.

What can we believe anymore? Really?

Question of the day: What celeb did you think was dead, only to find out was alive and kickin'?

The Shoveling Gnomes

I swear it wasn't done when I went to bed.

I recall specifically lookin' out my front door, without any of that that "doo-doo-doo" enthusiasm John Fogerty expressed back at his house in the 60s. And with 100% fewer giants doing cartwheels, too...

Even though I was pretty tired.

But there was absolutely nothing to sing about, as far as I was concerned. The snow had piled up a good eight inches in no time, creating an image of idyllic postcard winter. Because y'know, those Currier and Ives landscape people clearly had snowblowers. What else could explain how they could summon up so much seasonal appreciation to paint under these sorts of conditions?

So I went to bed. And when I got up in the morning and faced the tundra again with a hot cup of java, that's when I saw it.

My walk, and the first three stairs of my house, had been shoveled.

There was also a path carved so I could get into my car.


Yes, this was the third time this had happened.

The first time, I had already shoveled, but overnight a mysterious, convenient path had been dug to my car that I didn't recall doing.

The second time, someone beat me to shoveling my front walk in its entirety, again somewhere between 10pm and 5am.

And now... this time, the walk was shoveled, along with three steps to the house.

I would say it was my neighbors, but initial dealings with one of them in particular hadn't proved to be overly... Mr. Rogersy. So unless it was guilt-ridden, Apology Shoveling, it just didn't seem likely.

And no one has come ringing my doorbell asking for money, saying if I don't pay up they'll put it all back.

So the only possible rational explanation is that I have Shoveling Gnomes.

I mean, sure, as kids we all heard the tales. Magical elfin people who'd repair massive amounts of shoes overnight. Or spin straw into gold. Or fold your laundry and stack it in your underwear drawer.

(Oh, wait, no, that last one is sometimes called "Mom.")

But the other two. Those. They count. So who's to say these magic-packed little people aren't expanding their operations to shovel snow?

What happens to lawn gnomes in winter, anyway? Do we really believe they're just under two feet of snow sleeping it off for six months?

No. They make themselves useful. Tidy up the place. And we have evidence that they're attracted to colder, snowier climes. I mean, who hasn't heard of Gnome, Alaska?

Okay, yes, I know that's spelled differently. But I think that's just a diversionary tactic used by real estate agents to strengthen the market values.

So, as winter slowly melts into spring, I'm looking to see what the future brings. Perhaps they'll turn their hands to gardening this year, and I'll find annuals where none were planted.

Maybe I'll find the barbeque polished up for a fresh season of grilling.

Or maybe I'll just find a ton of teeny-tiny beer bottles tossed under one of my shrubs, along with a pink plastic flamingo wearing a saddle.

Work hard, play hard, you know.

There's no place like gnome.