Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Short History of Humanity

We have shoving each other, why do we need grunting?

We have grunting, why do we need short bursts of grunting?

We have short bursts of grunting, why do we need small words?

We have small words, why do we need big words?

We have big words, we do we need big and small words together?

We have big and small words together, why do we need many big and small words together?

We have many big and small words together, why do we need talking?

We have talking, why do we need a man talking to one man and then running to other places and talking to another man?

We have a man talking to one man and then running to other places and talking to another man, why do we need a man carrying talking inscribed on dried clay tablets riding in an oxcart to other places to give talking inscribed on dried clay tablets to another man?

We have a man carrying talking inscribed on dried clay tablets riding in an oxcart to other places to give talking inscribed on dried clay tablets to another man, why do we need a man carrying papyrus scrolls riding in a chariot to other places to present papyrus scrolls to another man?

We have a man carrying papyrus scrolls riding in a chariot to other places to present papyrus scrolls to another man, why do we need a man carrying official communiqués of the realm and correspondence to and from the educated elite riding in a carriage drawn by a team of horses to other places to provide official communiqués of the realm and correspondence to and from the educated elite to another man?

We have a man carrying official communiqués of the realm and correspondence to and from the educated elite riding in a carriage drawn by a team of horses to other places to provide official communiqués of the realm and correspondence to and from the educated elite to another man, why do we need a man or woman carrying the U.S. Mail riding in a stagecoach or steam locomotive to other places to deliver the U.S. Mail to other men or women?

We have a man or woman carrying the U.S. Mail riding in a stagecoach or steam locomotive to other places to deliver the U.S. Mail to other men or women, why do we need the telegraph?

We have the telegraph, why do we need the telephone?

We have the telephone, why do we need faxing?

We have faxing, why do we need e-mailing?

We have e-mailing, why do we need e-mailing to lap-tops, blackberries, and other portable devices?

We have e-mailing to lap-tops, blackberries, and other portable devices, why do we need texting?

We have texting, why do we need I-Phones, myriad apps, Twitter, and Facebook?

We have I-Phones, myriad apps, Twitter, and Facebook, why do we need teleporting?

We have teleporting, why do we need teleporting to distant planets and other dimensions?

We have teleporting to distant planets and other dimensions, why do we need time traveling?

We have time traveling, why do we need gerwaffling?

We have gerwaffling, why do we need krelmaning?

We have krelmaning, why do we need Badidi Badidi Badidi Roy_ying?

We have Badidi Badidi Badidi Roy_ying, why do we need shoving each other?

The End.


Monday, September 20, 2010

Coffee with Perry

Charmante, n'est-ce pas?

A lovely corner cafe, situated in the romantic and enchanting city of Paris France. What's more, the prospect of, ahem, coffee with me.

What could be better?

What's that? The only thing that wrecks the mood is that thing about coffee with ..... That's not nice!

How did all of this come about?

“Let’s pull a swap,” my friend Carrie Bailey, a very good writer, tweeted me one unsuspecting Sunday afternoon.
“Whatever could she mean?” I wondered. Oh, how I had longed to hear those words 20 years ago or so from at least a half dozen of my male friends!

But that was not her meaning, that much was clear. My life could never be that hot and kinky!

“What are we swapping?" I tweeted back. "Or are you still in the fur-trading business?"

Carrie had a hunter-trapper background, being a United Nations of ethnicities, most prominently Metis (an indigenous Canadian people) and Jewish (a highly indigenous to me people).

Bet you’re just waiting for a Jewish/Metis joke here, aren’t you, dude? Well, I’m sorry, in the time I allotted, I couldn’t think of one. Write your own damn joke!

“We are swapping stories,” Carrie tweeted back. “On our blogs. You write a story to post on my blog, I write a story for yours.”

"Oh," I typed, making sure to spell it correctly. "But what do we write about? Do I write about Metis stuff? Do you write about being un-athletic and insecure?"

“We pick a common topic and both write about it from our own perspectives. Any ideas?”

A common topic? Aside from our modest ethnic linkage, about all that Carrie and I have in common is that we are both carbon-based life forms.

"I’ve got it,” tweeted Carrie. “You and I are each in Paris.”

So far, so good.

“And we decide to meet for coffee….”

Hmm, provocative!

“And then we save the world!”

“Umm, Carrie?” I tweeted back. “I don’t even save string, let alone the world."

“Perry,” Carrie tweeted firmly, “it’s fiction and you’re a writer. You can do it!”

And so, Carrie and I have done it.

What follows below is Carrie’s unique take on the story entitled “Coffee with Perry.” I know you’ll enjoy. And if you want to read the version from the guy what brought you to the dance, my story "Paris France" is on Peevish Penman, the blog that Carrie edits and writes for.

If it's still there. 


Writer Carrie Bailey on the streets of Santiago Chile, 2009

Coffee with Perry
by Carrie Bailey

On one of my trips to Paris I had the opportunity to meet Perry Block, a friend and fellow writer. A month ago he had misdialed the number for some take-out and won a free weekend vacation to the City of Lights. That’s right, Paris. As I was in France too on an academic assignment, he agreed to meet me for coffee.

Perry chose a café close to Notre Dame. The Eau de Paris catered to the American tourist breed of awkward and frightened travelers who generally don berets in an attempt to “fit in,” yet fail to notice they are the only ones wearing them. Beneath the gaudy cathedral, I quickly identified the awkward Jewish baby boomer amongst the veritable sea of striped shirts.

Perry had emailed me this picture:

Yes, it wasn’t hard to pick out the only late middle-aged guy in the bunch lame enough to try to pass himself off with such an obviously bogus picture!

Perry shouted “Howdy!”

“Is that how you think Oregonians speak?” I asked. I went to shake his hand and missed, hitting him mid-chest.

“You done touched my breast!” he said.

I ignored his dazed and shocked expression and pointed to a group comprised of angry looking Koreans, Saudis, and Bolivians that were entering the café. As soon as they entered all the dumpy beret-wearing American tourists vanished, and the café was almost as empty as that one social networking site, what was it called? Oh yeah, MySpace.

“Baby-boomers,” I sighed under my breath so Perry wouldn’t hear me.

“Have you caught anything here in Paris yet, Carrie?”

Confused for a moment, I didn’t know what to say, “Nothing, aside from a case of airborne mono.”

“And your traps made it alright through the metal detectors?”

My traps. Of course! I’d told him that the French Canadian fur trade was responsible for the formation of my ancestor's language. As a linguist and expert on the dying language, I was asked to give a speech on the subject at a local college there in France.

As our coffee arrived, Perry began to regale me with the highlights of his career in Human Resources. I reached for a second dose of my Adult ADHD medication.

In a way, he was very charming, though every element of this man was wrong. An East Coaster through and through, he was able to punctuate his speech with vowel sounds I couldn’t even begin to attempt to reproduce. That kept me entertained at least. And there was something sweet about how he thought I was interested in every minute detail of his life. After all, we were both writers, and I suppose he felt some sort of common interest or bond even...

“You gettin’ this down?” he asked, apparently in another attempt to use proper Oregonian dialect.

“Huh, what are you TAWLKING about?” I asked to my embarrassment. I covered my mouth. Since childhood, I had often been afflicted by the compulsive need to imitate other people’s accents. Perry didn’t seem to notice. He handed me a pen. Then, I remembered I was incapable of making the 15th vowel sound, the “AW” of “CAWFEE” that East coasters take for granted.

Listening to Perry continue his soliloquy of things-he-purchased-from-a-catalog-when-he-was-36-years-old, I nearly snorted coffee through my nose when he asked if I’d like to “rustle up some grub” with the Daniel Boone meets Wild Bill Hickok accent he was using to put me at ease. “East coasters,” I muttered under my breath.

But things only worsened as Perry soon slipped into his natural speech pattern. I now had to hold in the giggles with one hand and prevent my body from convulsing with hysterics by gripping the edge of the table with the other. This was the worst sort of liability for a linguist...

“...yes, I have always regretted not having ordered the red staplers,” said Perry, continuing unaware of my difficulties.

I excused myself so I could hide in the restroom for a giggle fit. On my way back through the café one of the Saudis pinched me and then flicked the ash from his cigarette directly onto the hardwood floor. Back at our table, I saw Perry had ordered for us.

“Perry, at least take your beret off while we’re eating,” I requested kindly before I noticed that in front of me sat a spoonful of pâté wrapped in prosciutto and coated with sausage gravy made from the milk of a hand fed sow.

“I’m not eating that,” I said.

“I thought you said your mother’s family had a ranch in Washington?” Perry replied, sounding a little wounded.

“I also said they were Jews, Perry.”

“You told me that they homesteaded!”

“For six months in 1881! At which point they hired ranch hands and moved to the cities. That was six generations ago. You do know we have cities in the Northwest, right? And listen to me talk. Yes, I quilt. I organic garden. I cook from scratch. I know a lot about farm animals, but I’ve not touched one...well not many. "

"I spent my summers in the general store of my grandfather’s ghost town generating business documents on an old jeweled key typewriter. And on that ranch I was never allowed outside because of rattlesnakes. I had a dull childhood, a dull, drab dreary, despicably uninteresting childhood! THAT is why I… ”

Overwhelmed with my repressed-childhood frustrations, I hadn’t immediately noticed that Perry wasn’t listening. He was staring off across the street. I pulled out my iPod and did a quick search for rattlesnakes+habitat+Okanogan County to show him how perilous it would have been to leave the ghost town. But the entry read:

No rattlesnakes have ever been observed on the Eastern side of Washington and especially not in the turn of the century mining boomtown, Nighthawk… not ever.

I screamed. Perry was nearest to me so I tossed my water in his face. He appeared mildly puzzled like a man who was used to being drenched. Horrified by my own impulsivity, I immediately started to clean it up. Then, I thought, was it really Paris if you didn’t throw water in somebody’s face? Or, as in Perry's case, get a little water tossed at you? Or was this a classic instance of what my therapist would call “transference?”

I reached over with a napkin and attempted to dry Perry's shirt. Unintentionally, I touched his “boob” for a second time that day.

“I get these muscle spasms in my arm… ” I tried to explain, but just then the sound of a thousand angry voices erupted from a hotel across the street. “DIE OBAMA DIE. DEATH TO AMERICA! DEATH TO ISRAEL! KILL THE COWBOYS!” The maniacal laughter peeled through the streets.

“What is THAT?” Perry asked Gaston, our stereotypical French waiter.

“Why she is but a small gathering of ze members of the International Coalition of Anti-Americans. It is a sort of, how du you zay ‘pep rally’ for ze next attacks on your vile country.” They toasted the demise of America. Perry looked green, but I knew what we had to do, so I grabbed him by the shirt.

“Come on.”

“I’d love to go” said Perry, looking at his wrist as though there was a watch on it,”but I have an appointment with some people. Uh, they’re doing a trailer for my book. Yes, I’m sure it won’t last long.”

“Here, stick your hands in the avocado tree pot,” I offered.

“What?” Perry and Gaston said in unison.

“It’s a disguise. They’ll never know you’re an American Jew if your fingernails are dirty.”

“What about you?” asked Perry reaching toward the plastic fern.

“I am a tribally enrolled Native American as well as a Jew, Perry." I said. "It’s practically written in international law that you have to love me and buy my handcrafts."

I dragged Perry from the café after prying his hands from the doorknob.

In the hotel’s lobby, the speaker’s face contorted and spit flew from his jagged American-hating teeth. I had no idea an Englishman could emote with such raw passion. He was followed by three African Bushmen who clicked away in their native tongue while a tiny Yemeni translated. I muscled my way on stage after him. It wasn’t difficult since they left the Kuwaiti students in charge of security.

“Friends,” I said, "while some Americans are evil, we cannot condemn an entire population based on the actions of a few.”

Perry passed straight out.

“She’s an American!” one screamed.

“Want fire water now!” I cried.

A hushed awe descended upon the room full of angry men and women, obviously familiar with old TV sitcom stereotypes. I continued speaking.

“Many moons ago my father had vision to kill white man. But other tribe was too strong. At Wounded Knee they were surrounded by FBI agents. Many warriors died.”

“Can I touch you?” asked an Asian Kiwi.


“I’m blind and I was wondering if…” asked a Pakistani man.

“No,” I said more firmly. I knew my grandma wasn’t just rolling over in her grave as I spoke, she had undoubtedly grabbed a shovel and was digging herself in deeper to hide from this embarrassment. On the floorboards beside the podium, Perry stirred, took a look around, and passed out again.

“Good, this is good dialogue," said what appeared to be Hugo Chavez. "Then we will leave the white Americans up to you. Good luck! Now this specimen …. he’s ours!”

After that, I walked through the hushed crowd, shook a few hands, kissed a baby’s forehead, and dragged "the specimen" protectively back to the café and tossed more water on him until he woke up. I filled him in on a few of the details of the coalition meeting that he had missed.

Before we parted, he asked me when I would have his biography ready to edit.

“What are you TAWLKING about?” I asked.

I couldn’t believe it. Perry must have thought I’d invited him for coffee in order to interview him and write a biography about his career in Human Resources. Gaston appeared with the check in hand.

“Aren’t you going to pay?” Perry asked.

“You… after I just saved… you want me to pay for our meal?”

“Saved? I'm thinking you're going to scalp me before I make my return flight to Philly!”

I took his cold damp hand and told him calmly, “Perry, Indians have never given up trying to back the country.” I shook my head and smiled at his naiveté.

“The indigenous native American population comprises only 0.5% of the total U.S. population. Between organizing AA meetings and placating people who want to find out about distant Cherokee Princesses they believe they’re descended from, we don’t have the time or the resources to organize to take back a gift to Walmart, let alone take the whole country …. ”

And it was at that very moment, a metaphorical light bulb appeared only five or so inches above.

“So, Perry, Human Resources, huh? That’s very interesting… Retirement must be boring for you… Have you thought about volunteering? I know a few reservations desperately seeking the kind of skills you have to offer… ”

And that was how Perry Block and I saved America.

The End

Friday, September 10, 2010

Beware the LOJM!

 The LOJM?

I’ve never been one to believe in tall tales, myths, and urban legends.

I don’t believe the tooth fairy could ever turn a profit on used enamel, doubt the existence of Bigfoot, Nessie, and writers on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon because there’s just no evidence for them, and scoff at aliens crash-landing at Roswell NM because beings that advanced would know there’s no other place to crash-land than Vegas, baby, Vegas!

But all of you, please: Beware the LOJM!

Today is September 12, 2010. On this day I am 35 years old, just as I have always been and always will be. But today somehow the rest of the world will look upon me and see something obscene, loathsome, and truly terrifying!

The world will see a dude who’s 60.

Beware the LOJM (pronounced “LOW-JIM”)!

Known more formally as the “Little Old Jewish Man,” the LOJM is a foul and malignant creature indigenous to the geographical environs of the greater Philadelphia PA area. And I am its victim!

The LOJM stalks me as if I were Jennifer Aniston.

Anymore, I can’t even have my picture taken in peace. The instant a camera is produced, the LOJM dashes in front of me with blinding speed. He’s kind of like the DC Superhero the Flash if the Flash were equipped with the additional superpower of being able to speak fluent deli.

The LOJM next freezes himself between me and the camera, musters his most hideous visage, then blazes off as soon as the picture is snapped! Were it not for the quick tell-tale glimpse of a blurred and vibrating white belt and plaid polyester pants, I would not perceive the fiend at all.

But then I see the picture!

No winning boyish grin, smooth and supple cheeks, or lush brown hair swooping low across my forehead.

It is the LOJM!

The creature has even mastered the power to make a person invisible! How else to explain that a trim, handsome 35 year old such as myself can walk the streets of Center City Philadelphia without a lick of attention?  The LOJM directs the flow of humankind away from me so effectively that it seems almost as if people are crossing the street to avoid me --- sometimes swiftly and directly into the paths of onrushing traffic! 

No one ever checks me out on the streets of the city short of an ambitious and forward-thinking salesperson from Levine’s Funeral Home.

No one walks up to me to strike up a conversation unless the operative words are “stick ‘em up, grandpa!”

Beware the LOJM!

Most wicked and perverse of all is what the beast LOJM has done to my relations with the fair sex --- you know, “the babes,” as we 35 year olds call them. He has cast a spell of avuncularity upon me!

Thanks to this spell, no women under the age of 55 can visualize an encounter with me to consist of anything spicier than sipping herbal tea and sharing the New York Times Crossword Puzzle.  A far more proper encounter for one in the prime of life such as I would have the two of us sharing matters a bit more intimate than the seven letter answer to No. 24 Down and me sipping something way tangier than herbal tea!

Curse you, LOJM!

Avuncularity may have its place, but only when it’s Hanukkah and your uncle is Steven Spielberg.

Beware the LOJM!

Now it is September 12, and the LOJM of Philly invades my very birthday celebration! Halt, you fakockt fiend! Be gone, you evil alte cocker! Can’t a guy turn and remain 35 in peace?

It’s my party and I'll cry if I want to, cry if I want to, cry if I .....

Wait minute. If I’m 35 years old, why am I singing an old Lesley Gore song that only a 60 year old Nouveau Old, Formerly Cute Baby Boomer would know?

Do you never miss a trick, you Meshugana Monster?!

Beware the LOJM!


And just when you thought it was safe to have another birthday, it's  Beware the LOJM! II