Treasure the Eclectic – I do (let’s revisit an old post)

The world would be much less interesting without our eclectic friends. Conformity is overrated and when done in excess makes us too vanilla in our thinking. We need a little Cherry Garcia ice cream to keep things entertaining and innovative. It is not unusual that some of our most brilliant minds and artists have been willing to leave the white lines of life’s highway. As a result, we have benefitted from their eclectic thinking.

In fact, a Higher Education expert says innovation often occurs in the various intersections of different disciplines. These intersections are enablers of creative ideas and discussions. This is one reason, before he died, Steve Jobs designed the new Apple headquarters with small rooms that would allow these accidental intersections to occur as people ventured from the restroom, breakrooms, workout rooms, etc.and bumped into each other. “Whatcha working on?” would lead to a brainstorming session.

This is one reason Malcolm Gladwell’s books (“The Tipping Point,” “Outliers,” “Blink”) stayed on the best seller list so long. Gladwell said he has always looked differently from others and his parents moved some, so he felt like he was always an outsider. So, his writings seem to have an outside looking in perspective on things. In other words, he had not grown up in area, so he did not conform to the local way of doing things. He could question why do you do the things that you do. Gladwell had an eclectic bent.

Yet, I did not want this post to turn too serious, as I preferred to highlight a few eclectic stories, some real, some fiction that I treasure. They exemplify who we are as a world of imperfect humans.

– Several years ago, the Chicago River was leaking into a tunnel as a hole was accidentally punched into the bottom of the river. The story I was told was after much consternation and failure to stop the leak, a boy suggested that old mattresses be used. Guess what, they plugged the hole with a combination of cement and old mattresses.

– My father grew up in a rural town in south Georgia. He was given the chore to look after the hogs which included the naming rights. So, my dad named all the hogs after movie stars. Sophie Tucker, Mae West, etc. Of course, this became a problem later on, as he became too attached to the hogs and farm life is very basic in mission.

– Speaking of naming rights, my family has a habit of driving named cars, some we named, others which were given to us. My wife likes red cars, so she has driven Miss Ruby, Ruby Red Dress and Miss Scarlett. My cars have less fun names in the Purple Dragon (it was burgundy) and the Grey Goose. My daughter had a red car at first, which she called Percy, the name of the Scarlett Pimpernel lead character. Now, her gray car is called Dorian Gray.(note, the car does age, though). One of my best friends used to drive us around in high school in “Old Betsy” a beat up Chevrolet he inherited from his dad.

– One of my favorite Pat Conroy characters is in his novel “The Prince of Tides.” Unfortunately, the movie did not include this character, so you need to read the book to find his story. The grandfather of the main character was very religious and would demonstrate his faith every Easter by dressing up as Jesus and lugging a homemade cross around town. When he got older and the cross became too heavy, his family put the cross on roller skates, so he could complete his annual mission.

– Speaking of fictional characters, one of the most inventive series of characters were on the second Bob Newhart show. And, they never spoke. Into the Inn three brothers would walk and only one would speak. “Hi, I am Larry. This is my brother Darryl and this is my other brother Darryl.” Priceless. Of course, in real life, the boxer George Foreman named all his male children George. I guess he was covering his bets that his name would live on.al

– Speaking of Easter, I would try to attend midnight mass each year with my best friend who is Catholic unlike me. Each midnight mass, the priest would wish to his congregation “Happy Easter” as well, as he knew he would only see a great percentage of them again in 365 days. This Father is still with us as he presided over the funeral of another friend’s mom a couple of months ago.

– The other midnight mass ritual we would do, is afterwards, several of us high school or home from college friends would go caroling into the wee hours. Our other friends would be greeted by a knock on the door at 2 am. They would open the door to see these big guys singing horribly various Christmas carols.

– I have written before about my wife’s Aunt Mary. She died at the age of 99, living all but five weeks in her own home. Aunt Mary never replaced her false teeth once they were burned up in a fire, so the last twenty years of her life, she gummed her food after tearing it up with her hands. She did not want to bother with new ones. She also was candid with her economy of words, while her younger sister, my wife’s mother, was effusive and did not let the facts get in the way of a good story. After my mother-in-law went on about how good-looking a young man was, Aunt Mary said “all I can say is he was a poor pasture to lead your cows into.”

My wife and I treasured Aunt Mary. I treasure the eclectic. In the southern United States, we often use the word eccentric to mean someone a little different from others. A little “southern eccentricity” can be a good thing. I told my wife, I want to be that eccentric old man, as it would be too boring to be a conformist. At a bare minimum, I want to remain ecelectic. Please feel free to share your eclectic stories. I would love to read them.

Friday funnies – an encore

Since I am expecting some tree folks any minute to take down a dead pine tree, let me repost an encore of an earlier post.

Earlier this week, attending a funeral of a good friend’s mother allowed us to catch up with many high school and college friends. Stories abounded, so here are a few to get a smile, a laugh or a surprise. No one was harmed during these stories or their retelling.

When a couple of friends visited me in Atlanta, one forgot his walking shoes. I lent him my brand new pair which molded to his feet, not mine. It took several wearings a to remold them to my feet.

While taking baseball batting practice, the pitcher wondered why I was laughing at the plate. Behind him in the outfield were two friends who knew I liked hard rock music. They were hopping toward each other doing air guitars as some guitarists would do on stage.

Three friends roomed together as young adults. One observed the birdlike first names of the girlfriends of the other two. He noted, one is dating Robin, the other is dating Lark. It looks like I will need to find a girl named CON-dor, emphasizing the first syllable.

I mentioned we often hung out at the house of my friend’s mother (who just passed away). Late one evening, she told her son to remember to take out the garbage. But, he soon was out like a light. Since my ride home was now asleep and I lived just a 1/2 mile away cutting through yards, I locked up, took the trash out to the curb and walked home. He called me the next day to ask how the trash got out.

This same friend worked briefly at a bank branch. While on the phone with a customer, the branch was held up at gunpoint. The robber told everyone to hit the floor. My friend slowly starting to get down without hanging up. The robber shouted at him “Mo..erfu..er, I said hit the floor!” He said he was grabbing some carpet. Ironically, the person on the phone heard this and called the police, who arrested them outside.

One of the two classmates who rides herd over our high school reunion was ragging a friend who has only been to one early on. She teased him that he vaguely resembles our classmate. The real reason he does not attend is his wife teased him unmercifully about his ex-girlfriends fawning over him.

One set of friends got married and adopted a Korean boy as they had troubling conceiving. When he was a toddler, he was pitching a fit in a grocery checkout line with his red-haired mother. My blond haired friend had left the line to get a forgotten item. As he hustled back, other patrons expected to see an Asian-American husband. As they looked puzzled, the father said to all, “he is adopted.”

Finally, the funeral mass was in the church where we attended Midnight Mass. The contemporary folk choir inspired us high schoolers so much, we would go out and sing carols at 1 am waking up friends. Some did not appreciate our holiday spirit.

There are so many more stories, but I hoped you enjoyed these few. Have a great weekend.

Anecdotal, but seem like truisms

Yesterday, I went to a local Farmers’ Market that crops up (pun intended) on Saturdays and Wednesdays during harvest season. And, it started me thinking about anecdotal observations. They may be just anecdotes, but they sure seem to be truisms.

Have you noticed that people who go to Farmers’ Markets to buy fresh vegetables and fruits tend to be in better shape than the average person?

Have you noticed the opposite is true with people who dine at fish camps? – the more colorful the food, the better it is for you

Have you noticed a man will never be shot while doing the dishes?

Have you ever noticed that someone who is very skilled at something does not tend to brag about how good they are at it?

Have you noticed that someone who brags about his or her capabilities is trying to convince others of something that is less true than accurate?

Have you noticed the first suspect in a TV crime show shooting will usually end up dead, often discovered by the police going to see him or her?

Have you ever noticed the best coaches tend to be the ones who had to work harder at their craft than those where it came naturally?

Have you ever noticed the unknown actor beaming down to the planet with Captain Kirk is not going to make it back?

Have you ever noticed that lies travel faster the truth and, sadly, get more read? – the truth is often less exciting than a story.

Have you noticed a truism right out of the Ziggy comic strip – the better the packaging a presentation or product has, the less believable it is?

So, to sum up. Do the dishes, brag less, eat more colorful foods, be skeptical of provocative stories, don’t beam down with the star (this one is more profound than you think) and trust in Ziggy.

A man will never be shot while doing the dishes

Truisms. Sometimes we overlook obvious truths, as we look for deeper enlightenment. Here are a few to sink your teeth into regarding relationships.

  • A man will never be shot while doing the dishes. Even if he has driven his wife past the breaking point, she will at least wait until he finishes to do away with him.
  • The first sign of thinning hair for man is when he spends a day on the beach building sand castles with his kids. He will wonder that night why his scalp hurts so much – it is called sunburn.
  • A woman does not want a man to fix her problem, which is in our nature. She wants him to shut up and listen as she vents. The man’s job is to nod or say “uh-huh” on occasion.
  • A man is officially overweight when his belt buckle is more parallel than perpendicular to the floor.
  • A woman who can laugh at herself is far more desirable than a woman who cannot. The same holds true for a man.
  • Women tend to be in better shape than men as they work at it more. Drive down any road and compare the number of female joggers to male ones.
  • A man who can fix something or who is willing to crawl under a house may have discovered that he is at his most desirability to his spouse. Just do not let the tool belt reveal a fanny crack as you stoop over as that will end said desirability.
  • A woman who can cook will end up with a heavy husband unless she discovers low-carb cooking. See above comment about the belt buckle.
  • That honeymoon period does wane and the love ebbs and flows, so you better like your spouse or significant other as much or more than you love him or her. That will help greatly between the ebbs and flows. The ability to laugh will come in handy.
  • Finally, true equality in marriage will occur when LGBTQ plus couples get divorced at the same rate as heterosexual ones. Doing the dishes will help lessen the divorce propensity for all types of couples.

There are two secrets to good relationships above. The first is that word “laugh.” The second is that word “like.” Both work with all types of marriages and relationships. They will help sand over the rough patches when love and lust hide in the closet for a time. Just don’t let them hide too long. An unexpected hug or caress might get them to wander out for a spell.

None of the above is intended to offend anyone. If I did, please let me know. After thirty-five years of marriage, I have been blessed with a woman who still stands the sight of me and can laugh with me even when she has heard my jokes many times before. I do need to find some new material, though.

You have a “towards” problem – revised old edition

Since we are in need of humor, the following is a revised reprise of an earlier post from several years ago. Although I left out some of the more colorful metaphors, I did include one or two that might sit less well, so please forgive. My wife does not like the prom queen reference, for example, but I wanted to deliver the line as uttered.

Sports competition often provides us with comic relief. The more down time between shots or plays gives more time for one liners and jokes. Golf is ideal for comedy for this reason, especially when you fail more in golf than you succeed which offers fodder.

While golfing with an elderly couple with whom we were paired, my wife was apprised by the gentleman late in the round that he had diagnosed her swing  problem. On the 17th fairway, he quietly said she had a “towards problem.” A “towards problem” she exclaimed. “What is that?” He said, “Your are hitting the ball towards the wrong direction.”

On another occasion, yet another elderly couple played with us. I think we attract them when we play, but now we are the elderly couple. Again, the man said to my wife on the infamous 17th hole he also had diagnosed her problem. As she was all ears, he said, “You are standing too close to the ball after you hit it.”

I have seen some strange things on the golf course, some that I have done, as well. I watched the wife of a friend hit the ball and it went through her legs and struck a male friend in the face standing behind her, maybe two feet ahead. She swung and he sprawled leaving a golf dimple mark in his face – he was OK. I had a boss who could hit the ball a long way, but straight was usually not the direction. He would normally play the hole from another hole adjacent to the one we were on (a definite “towards” problem).

I used to golf with another boss, who had many one liners, some courtesy of TV evangelist Reverend Ernest Angley. If he hit into the woods, he would say, “Out Satan” or “Be healed” using his best Ernest southern drawl. If a tree knocked it back into the fairway, he would say “I played it off the tree.” Or, if he hit a ball into the water and it splashed out, he would say, “This game is easier when you know where all the rocks are.”

One of my favorite golfing buddies loved to offer his sayings. When he had a nice swing pattern going, he would say, “That swing was smoother than a prom queen’s thigh.” Another friend when he pulled the ball way left, would call it a “Babe Ruth.” When we asked what a Babe Ruth was, he said “It is a dead yank.” 

Another popular golf saying I think is traced to Lee Trevino, the very funny pro. He routinely hit a nice fade shot, not unlike Ben Hogan. Lee would say, “You can talk to a fade, but a hook just won’t listen.” When my Ernest Angley quoting friend lived in Dallas, he saw Lee in a McDonalds the day after Trevino won the tournament in Dallas. My friend complimented Lee on a memorable chip shot, but Trevino responded “Thanks, but I really have to thank my five iron, as it is the club that keeps me from having to dig ditches.”

Some of the sayings are not very flattering, so I will leave those behind. It should not be a surprise when a guy says something that could be offensive. Much teasing can go on when your fellow foursome member tops it, hits it into the woods, does not hit past the ladies’ tee box, hits it out-of-bounds or misses an easy putt. It should be noted, my golf swing created many a comment like this.

But, the funniest line I ever heard on a golf course was by a sassy beverage cart woman. She did not take guff from anyone which served her well around her usual customer base. One day, she had a stone hanging from a necklace. When our group inquired about it, she said “It is a sex stone.”   We asked what it did to deserve such a name. After sufficient baiting and time, she said “You don’t get it. It is just a f**king rock.”

On that note, I will say sayonara. May you find your golf balls in bounds and on the green ground. Please share some of your favorites, whether they are golf or another sport.

A few needed work funnies

I have written about some of these stories before, but permit me to repeat a few much needed work related funnies.

  • An old colleague said he liked having the office right next to his mercurial boss. He said the boss would get so mad, he would storm out of the office, but the boss’ momentum would not allow his boss to turn quickly enough to come in his office. So, the person in next office to his got to hear the boss’ furor.
  • Long before social distancing, my boss’ boss would routinely violate personal space and get six inches away from your face as he talked. No one was free from this invasive practice. My boss had a recommendation that you needed to follow when meeting with his boss. Always keep a piece of furniture between you and him to avoid the invasion of personal space.
  • Another colleague told me of the funny story when he realized his boss had a major comb over. He was showing his boss something on the computer and his boss asked if they could switch places. My friend said he saw a long hair on his boss’ shoulder and thought he would do a kindness and brush it away. One problem, though, it was still attached and he jerked his boss his head to the side.
  • At the time, the CEO of the company was a learned man who wanted to read every piece of communication that went out to employees and customers. He had been a newspaper reporter just out of high school, so space and brevity was at a premium. He had a term called “widows and orphans” which meant one or two words on a line of type. He would reword things to make paragraphs more blockish, ending near the right margin and avoiding the widows and ophans.
  • This same CEO would keep a cup of very short pencils, as he would used them down to their last 1/4 inch of use in his hand. When he was rewriting paragraphs, I would look over and count easily a dozen or more pencils.
  • I have written before about some of the greediest CEOs in my work experience. There was one who had every perquisite known to business. He had a body guard chauffeur who would pick him up at home and drop him at the office, then go back and drive the CEO’s wife shopping. My boss was once talking with a building security guard and said the body guard chauffeur was not protecting the CEO at the right time. He told the security guard there were more people inside the building who wanted to kill him than outside the building.
  • Some folks believe a travel and expense budget allowed them to spend on things they could not do at home. The above CEO was just one terrible example. He charged the company for his daughter’s wedding, because he invited clients to the wedding. Another person I know would put speeding tickets on his T&E report, as he was driving fast on company business. After the speeder metered his personal mail with the company postage meter, our boss went in and put a quarter on his desk and said that is the last personal envelope I am mailing for you.

The stories are many. Please share your funny work stories or reactions to the above.

Those preciously funny memories

You will never truly know how much your parents love you until you have children. But, with families come family memories, some of them are preciously funny. Here are a few to mull over:

– My sons could recite verbatim lines from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” complete with accents. It made for interesting car trips.
– When smaller, these same boys mistook the word “sassy” for “sexy” and took delight in using it as such. After we finally figured it out, I felt obligated to inform of the more apt word.
– My daughter would hold her own with her older brothers. When our younger son became a Pescatarian, meaning he ate fish, but no other meats, she would teasingly tell him and his friends, he was an “Episcopalian.”
– My daughter had dozens of stuffed animals when she was little, but they all had female names. Yet, she was old enough to know, when I asked her the name of a very red cardinal and she gave me a female name, that she messed up. “I thought the red cardinals were boys,” I teasingly queried. She started laughing.
– In our first house, our kitchen table was my parents old contemporary dining table and reupholstered chairs. When another couple came for dinner, the chair our male guest was sitting in just collapsed. Fortunately, he was not hurt.
– Speaking of collapsing, our oldest son was sitting in a small garden area in the woods behind our house. My wife and I joined him and sat down on a wooden bench that had deteriorated with the weather. It came down like a house of cards.
– Our kids shared their friends and we would often have kids, even as they came back from college, in our upstairs game room. Our kids wondered why we knew so much about their friends, but it was a simple exercise of chatting with them before they headed upstairs.

These memories make me smile. I am sure you have a few in your families. Please feel free to share.

Make me smile

Humorous things pop up when you least expect them. In this spirit, here are a few surprising and funny things that make me smile. I hope you will as well.

We called my grandmother Big Mama which was not an unusual moniker in the south. While Big Mama had a piano, I never saw her play. One day she saw me chop-sticking and sat down. When she obliged my request to play, I expected something classical. What I heard was flat out boogie-woogie. And, it was well-played. She added to my surprise saying she played by ear.

My mother surprised me by telling of the time my father was visiting her at a pond near the female college dorms while they were dating. Lingering near the female dorms was frowned upon in the late 1940s at this small college. When she espied the female dean watching them, she playfully pushed him and he fell into the pond. That certainly disarmed the situation.

My date and I were at a community theatre which was held in a church hall. The audience sat in fold out chairs on chorus risers. We were in the last row about eighteen inches off the ground. After intermission, unbeknownst to me, one of my rear chair legs moved off the riser. As I sipped my wine, my date appeared to be going forward, but actually I was falling backward and crashed on the floor with a loud boom. Everyone turned. I was not hurt, but it sure was funny later.

Finally, another date became offended when I asked if we could use her car, so my visiting friend could borrow mine. Unfortunately, she told me she did not want to go out after I arrived. In a huff, I tried to back down her diagonal and downhill driveway. Unfortunately, I backed into a rock garden and got stuck. Her father had to tow me off the garden with her watching from the living room window. Oops. It was funny by the time I told my friend, but at the time…

What are your unexpected funny stories?

Racing in Texas

My grandmother had a lot of character, but she also was a character. She loved to tell stories, the funnier the better. And, we have learned from her keepsakes, she would write down funny stories she came across. Going through my mother’s things, we came across the following story her mother recorded.

Racing in Texas

A preacher wanted to raise money for his church. Being told there was a fortune in horse racing, he decided to purchase one and enter it in the races. However, at a local auction, going prices were so steep, the preacher ended up buying a donkey instead.

He figured since he had it he might as well enter it in the races. To his surprise, the donkey came in third. The next day the racing news carried this headline:

“Preacher’s ass shows”

The preacher was so pleased, he entered it in the races again and this time he won. The news read:

“Preacher’s ass out in front”

The bishop was so upset with this kind of publicity, he ordered the preacher not to enter it in another race. The newspaper head lines that day read:

“Bishop scratches preacher’s ass”

It was too much for the bishop. He ordered the preacher to get rid of the animal. The preacher decided to give it to a nun in the nearby convent. The headline the next day:

“Nun has best ass in town”

The bishop fainted and informed the nun she would have to get rid of the donkey. She found a farmer willing to buy the animal for $10.00. The next day, the paper stated:

“Nun peddles ass for ten bucks”

They buried the bishop the next day.

My grandmother died almost twenty years ago, but her memory lives on. She was indeed a character. So, were her many brothers and sisters. We called her Big Mama, just like the matriarch in “Cat on a hot tin roof.” Unlike the character in the play, my Big Mama was very much her own person and would have given it right back to Big Daddy.  I miss her.