Sunday, September 30, 2012

Prepare To Die!

“I’m sorry, but I have to kill you.”
“Why? Am I bothering you?”
 “No, but that isn’t the point.”
“What is the point? I have a right to know. After all, it’s my life we’re talking about.”
 “Well, it’s hardly a life. After all, you’re only a spider.”
 “Only a spider? How dare you! I belong to a species so perfect in design that nature hasn’t changed me in hundreds of millions of years. Do you know what humans looked like millions of years ago? Here’s a clue: check the treetops.”
 “So you admit that humans are more evolved than spiders?”
“You miss the point. Are all humans as dense as you?”
“You’re making it a lot easier to squish you.”
“Let me put it another way. Do you believe in reincarnation? I understand many of you humans do. Perhaps I was once your ancestor—a beloved grandfather. You wouldn’t want to squish Grandpa, would you?”
“I don’t believe in reincarnation.”
“Shit…thought I had you on that one.”
“Enough, already. It’s time to end this. Are you ready to meet your Maker?”
“Not so fast. Keep your shoe on. What’s the rush? I mean, how often do you have a conversation with a talking spider?”
 “You don’t understand the delicate dance of human relationships. You’re in our
bathtub and my wife is in her bathrobe, cringing behind the door and waiting to hear the
flush that will send you swirling down the toilet.
 “Bathtub? I thought I was on a glacier. Anyway, please tell me I’m not about to die just because your wife has ordered you to murder me. Do you do everything she tells you to do?”
“It goes back to that delicate dance I mentioned. I’m the man; I kill the bugs. She does nearly everything else around the house and my main purpose is to kill bugs.”
“I’ll have you know that I’m much more than a bug! I’m a miracle of nature. I can lift ten times my body weight, go months without eating, and I can produce a web capable of withstanding a hurricane. Can you do any of these things?”
“I see from your expression that I’m not convincing you to spare my life. Spiders often eat their mates. If you ate yours, you wouldn’t have to obey her anymore.”
 “Nice try, but it’s the female spiders, larger and more powerful than males, who do the eating.”
“Drat! Somebody’s been watching the Discovery Channel too much.”
“Enough already. I’m taking off my shoe so you’d better look away.”
 “Okay. I gave it my best try. Just one more thing. When you were a kid did your teacher read you Charlotte’s Web?”
 “What was the name of Charlotte’s friend, that cute little pig?”
 “His name was Wilbur.”
 “That’s right. Tell me, did you cry like Wilbur when Charlotte died at the end of the
“You really are a son of a bitch.”
“Hey, where are you going?”
“To the kitchen to get a glass. I’ll trap you and dump you in the garden.”
“Thanks, Wilbur.”

Submitted to my friends at DudeWrite.

Friday, September 28, 2012

A Masterpiece of Loathing

The Family of Carlos IV hangs in a place of honor in Madrid’s Prado Museum. At first glance Goya’s painting doesn’t seem exceptional, just a bunch of self-satisfied people dressed in finery while having their group portrait painted. But if we look harder we can see what prompted Ernest Hemingway to call this painting a masterpiece of loathing.
Francisco Goya (1746-1828) held the position of First Painter to the King of Spain, and was his personal friend. In fact, the two liked to wrestle when prying eyes weren’t around. But Goya’s integrity as an artist compelled him to depict the king warts and all. Goya was an ill-mannered skirt chaser, a relentless social climber, and stone deaf. The artist also went through periods where a recurring illness rendered him insane. He couldn’t have been easy to get along with.
Spain’s most complicated artist has always captured the public’s imagination; we reject the notion of him as a rich courtier currying favors from nobility; instead we think of him as one of us, poking and prodding the establishment with his wit and genius. This was the guy who painted the famous Clothed Maja (lower class woman of mystery) along with the more famous naked version—the first female nude ever painted to show pubic hair. The nude version was hidden from the Inquisition behind a wall that spun around when a cord was pulled. 
Goya was known to seduce married women and engage in swordfights and duels from time to time, and there were those bouts with insanity that would eventually set him on the path to artistic exploration heralding the birth of modern art.
 In 1800 Goya was commissioned to paint the family of King Carlos IV. This was the last time Goya would paint for the royal family and it’s tempting to think the reason had to do with this remarkable painting, but not so. No one depicted in the painting ever registered a complaint. The truth—the royal family was too dimwitted to see what Goya had done. He’d peeled back the layers on this rotten onion to expose the stinking center; it’s as if Goya had decided to bury forever the concept of the divine right of kings. Goya seems to be saying: if this greedy grasping family has been elevated by God, then surely God doesn’t know what he’s doing. 

An art critic once commented that this didn’t resemble nobility at all, claiming this looked more like the corner baker and his family dressed up after winning the lottery. An apt description, even though the man in the brown suit happens to be King of Spain. Showing off his mastery of brushwork, Goya whips up glorious silks and medals on the monarch’s chest, but the King’s face, bloated from a lifetime of excess and privilege, is piggish and stupid. 

In this painting as in life, Carlos has been pushed aside by a legendary shrew, his overbearing wife Queen Maria Luisa of Parma, so unsightly she often made fun of her own ugliness. But she was proud of her plump arms, which Goya paints as if about to explode like overripe fruit. The little boy in the red suit is Maria Luisa’s youngest child, Infante Francisco. Francisco’s face is a dead ringer for that of Manuel de Godoy, Spain’s Prime Minister and Queen Maria Luisa’s not-so-secret lover.
On the left side of the composition a young man in pale blue struggles to conceal the Draco Malfoy sneer of someone who delighted in torturing small animals. He is Crown Prince Ferdinand who would one day reign as Ferdinand VII, arguably the worst king ever to sit on the throne of Spain. He insisted that Goya include his beautiful bride. Notice how the bride’s head is turned so you can’t make out her features. Why? Because there was no bride. The crown prince wasn’t even engaged at the time. He’s portrayed for all eternity standing beside a faceless woman.
Other interesting details can be found in this masterpiece, including Goya himself, lurking in the shadows while creating this very painting. The flashing blue diamond in the Queen’s headpiece is probably the diamond that disappeared from Versailles during the French Revolution—now in the Smithsonian and known as the Hope Diamond.
It’s said that when The Family of Carlos IV was finished, a friend of the artist saw the canvas and was so horrified at this depiction of the royal family that he feared Goya would be thrown in prison. Fortunately for us, the painting was never altered.   
Goya had originally supported Napoleon, but disillusionment with the French emperor prompted him to turn his back on public life as he grew older. Instead, he channeled his tormented subconscious and created some of the most powerful art ever conceived. To this day, many of us still see Spain, the horrors of war, superstition and witchcraft through his eyes.
At the end of Goya’s life his country was controlled by the tyrant Ferdinand VII, depicted by Goya as a foul-faced boy years earlier. Goya had not supported Ferdinand’s rise to power, and was surprised when the new king confronted him with, “The only reason we don’t hang you is because we admire you so much.”
As it turned out, admiring Goya was the only thing Ferdinand VII ever did right.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Conclusion: An Edsel And The Crown Jewels

After his brush with death, Bud Holloway herded his family into Moby Dick—the enormous white Edsel that had nearly crushed him—and headed to Texas for a visit with his mama. Hollowhead later described what happened.
As Bud drove through Albuquerque, he toyed with the radio and managed to tune into a radio station somewhere in Midland, Texas, which coincidentally was close to where they were headed. 
The disk jockey came on and announced a contest. “Our l’il ole’ radio station is gonna give away a check for one hundred dollars to the first ‘58 car to pull into our parking lot.” The deejay set a one hour time limit for someone to claim the prize.
Hollowhead said his dad didn’t give this much thought because they were hundreds of miles from Midland. The hour came and went, and no car arrived to claim the prize.
The deejay returned. “All right now, ya’ll, let’s sweeten the pie. We’re gonna make it three hundred dollars if a white ‘58 car pulls into our parking lot within one hour!”
Hollowhead said his dad still wasn’t thinking about it much, but there was a slight possibility Bud tapped the gas pedal a bit harder.
Another hour passed.
“This is getting interesting, folks. It’s hard to believe that in the entire Lone Star State there isn’t a white ‘58 car around to claim this prize. So here we go again, more milk for the kitty. Now we’re looking for a white ‘58 vehicle with a red interior. And we’ll pay five hundred dollars!”
Bud must have glanced over at his wife rubbing her sore back as she sat beside him on the Edsel’s red vinyl front seat. I imagine he gave thanks then and there for the powerful V-8 engine as he put the pedal to the metal. The city of Amarillo must have passed by in a blur.
When the deejay interrupted a song to announce a winner, Bud reportedly started to slow down. But he accelerated again when the deejay exclaimed, “Sorry folks, thought we had a winner, but some guy was trying to pass off an orange interior as red. No dice. We want red, and now we want a Ford as well. Bring in a ‘58 white Ford with a red interior, and we’ll give you seven hundred dollars. Now listen up folks: a few of our great Midland merchants are calling in to see how they might participate in our l’il ole’ contest. Midland Tools has agreed to add some honey to the pot. In addition to the seven hundred dollar prize, Midland Tools will gift a thousand dollars’ worth of tools to the first car meeting our specifications.”
According to witnesses in the car, tool-addicted Bud started drooling at this point. Another hour passed without anyone claiming the prize, after which the deejay demanded the sought-after car have air-conditioning. Sixty minutes later, the car needed to be a station wagon. Another hour and it needed to be manual, not automatic. Hollowhead said his dad fingered the column shift out of overdrive, dropped to a lower gear and pressed the gas pedal to the floor.
Merchants were calling the radio station and donating all sorts of goodies to cash in on the cheap advertising, but Wilma was most intrigued when a jeweler phoned in to donate an unusual item. He had an imitation of the crown jewels worn by Catherine the Great of Russia at her coronation, a set that, although not genuine, was still valued at five thousand dollars. How such an item came to be in Midland, Texas, was a mystery, but this was also added to the booty for the first white ‘58 Ford air-conditioned car with red interior and manual drive that also happened to be an Edsel
Speed limits were definitely a thing of the past when they rocketed through Lubbock on their way to Midland. Another contender for the prize was eliminated for exceeding the amount of recorded mileage the deejay had requested. Miraculously, Moby Dick had just the right number of miles on its chrome speedometer. They’d come halfway across Texas by the time they reached the radio station and screeched to a halt in a cloud of dust. They’d won, and it was too bad for that other white ‘58 Ford Edsel wagon with air-conditioning and red interior and manual drive and equal mileage that blazed into the parking lot just moments after the Holloways had claimed all the prizes.
Local reporters made a big deal out of the contest, and pictures of the Holloways made it into several newspapers. Hollowhead even got to talk on the radio about life in California. The deejay unofficially proclaimed him an honorary Texan and wanted to know what he thought of Texas so far. Hollowhead said it was just fine and that he wanted to spend the afternoon touring The Alamo. The deejay tried to explain that The Alamo was in San Antonio, not Midland, but Hollowhead insisted that it must be hidden around there someplace. 
 I learned that people phoned the radio station to question the quality of California’s public school system or to ask if Hollowhead was retarded. Evidently it was beyond any Texan’s imagination that a school kid anywhere wouldn’t know the location of The Alamo. Finally, a hotel manager in San Antonio called; he’d been listening and offered a free hotel suite if the Holloways wanted to drive on to San Antonio to see the Alamo, which they did. It was with reluctance that Hollowhead climbed back into the Edsel—he was convinced the Alamo was hidden somewhere in Midland. The twins had no interest in The Alamo, but a monumental fascination with the hunky deejay. They would have preferred hanging around Midland but Bud rounded up his family for the drive to San Antonio so Hollowhead could finally tour the Alamo. On the drive back to California, somewhere near Flagstaff, Bud remembered they’d forgotten to visit his mama.
When the Holloways returned home, everyone in the neighborhood took turns ooohing and aaahing over the treasure. Bud was nearly readmitted to the hospital after learning the amount of his tax liability for all the money and prizes, but Wilma took it all in stride. She wore Catherine the Great’s coronation jewels while manning the lawnmower—claimed they made cutting the grass easier. I can still picture her mowing her front yard, a bejeweled crown twinkling on her head, her chest covered by a glittering necklace weighty enough to stop bullets.

Monday, September 24, 2012

An Edsel And The Crown Jewels

Our annual kick-off event for the summer of ’63 had just begun; neighborhood kids had gathered around the Zenith in our living room to watch Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. The local TV station always ran the comedy the Saturday after school let out. We watched the movie in a different house each summer. This year it was my turn.
Dad was attending big brother’s baseball game and I couldn’t wait for my mother to make herself scarce. She’d already hung around too long. I was worried when the movie started that she’d give us all a lecture on Mary Shelley and other female writers. I was relieved when she finally retreated to the room she referred to as her boudoir—to my knowledge the only boudoir in the neighborhood.            

Noticeably absent was goofy Andy Holloway (a.k.a. Hollowhead) from across the street. After his parents’ divorce, Hollowhead and his older twin sisters (see Tight Asses) spent the first two weeks of every summer with their mom in Redwood City. Today Andy would probably be diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder, but back then we just said he had ants in his pants. He wasn’t missed because he could never sit still through an entire movie. 
 We sat in a semi-circle on the floor—little natives paying homage to the great god Zenith. It was a reeeaally good part in the movie, when Costello first sees Frankenstein. We always screamed in mock terror…but this time someone outside beat us to it—Hollowhead’s stepmom. Wilma Holloway couldn’t have sounded more upset or frightened had Frankenstein himself just pressed her doorbell. 

We poured out of the house to see what was up. Wilma was across the street running in circles around the white Edsel station wagon that was her husband Bud’s reason for living. The Edsel was a ‘58 Bermuda, with the famous (and later ridiculed) horse collar grille, scalloped indentations on the sides and gull-wing taillights. It sat nine passengers and was designed as a chrome-and-steel homage to the American spirit. It weighed nearly as much as a Sherman tank. Bud nicknamed it Moby Dick.

At first we couldn’t tell what had caused Wilma to come unglued. But we soon pieced together what had happened: Bud had been in his usual spot on the driveway, tinkering beneath Moby. The huge station wagon had slipped from its jack and now rested directly on Bud’s chest. A moment earlier he must’ve barked for a beer and Wilma had dutifully fetched it, arriving just in time to observe the car slipping onto her husband—the can of Pabst was still in her hand. Good thing she was prompt with the suds; the weight on Bud’s chest would have prevented him from yelling for help.

As we stood around like statues, Wilma ran to the front of the station wagon, tossed aside the beer can and grasped the chrome bumper in an attempt to lift Moby off her husband. I’ve since read amazing stories of people doing incredible things when pumped up with adrenaline and this was undoubtedly the case here. Wilma couldn’t actually lift the car, but she did budge it enough so Bud could replace some of the air squeezed from his lungs.

Luck arrived in the form of a Sears repairman, who was conveniently passing by. The bull-necked fellow hopped down from his truck and raced to the rescue. Mr. Simons dashed over from the house next door, which further added to the drama because Bud and Mr. Simons worked for rival auto companies and detested each other. Mr. Simons and the repairman quickly re-jacked Moby.
Bud was in the hospital for a few days with several cracked ribs, but it was Wilma who endured the most pain. She had damaged her back trying to lift the Edsel and would suffer for the rest of her life. Bud undoubtedly felt badly about this; there was soon a change at the Holloway house.
Most people in those days had push mowers, and mowing the lawn was an unpleasant chore many parents passed on to their children. But Wilma enjoyed mowing the grass in the front yard, claiming it relaxed her. Now, because of her bad back, she considered giving it up. But when Bud recovered from his brush with death he bought her the first power mower in the neighborhood.           
Wilma loved her new power mower, but not as much as she hated that Edsel. She was not pleased when Bud turned a deaf ear to her demand that he get rid of it. Wilma never again wanted to ride in the Edsel, but Bud decided that while on medical leave from the Ford plant he would load his family into the Edsel for a long overdue trip to Texas to visit his mama.
Hollowhead’s sisters weren’t pleased to be pulled out of cheerleader camp. They were at that age when it was a disgrace to be seen with parents, much less vacation with them. They had no interest in Texas, unlike Hollowhead who was determined to see The Alamo, even though he was repeatedly told they weren’t going anywhere near it. Hollowhead was a big Davy Crockett fan and would still have been wearing his prized coonskin cap if Ricky Delgado hadn’t swiped it and buried it in a shallow grave in his backyard.
 For most families, having the head of the family crushed beneath a behemoth car would have topped the list of memorable summer moments, but for the Holloways the excitement was just beginning.

Conclusion on Wednesday

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sex And The Senile Girl

Conversations with my mother can be disturbing (Check out my recent post What Do You Believe In?) but she also makes me laugh. I call every morning to check on her. This morning’s conversation went like this: “Good morning, Mom. What are you doing?”
“Same as always. Surviving.”
Surviving is her favorite response when asked what she’s doing. “You sound a bit listless. You okay?”
“Just tired. Couldn’t sleep last night.”
 “Anything bothering you?”
 “I’m eighty-seven years old. EVERYTHING bothers me.”
“Anything interesting happening at The Lodge?” The Lodge is the name of her retirement facility.
 “Yes. We’re getting free HMO for a few days.”
“Free HMO?”
 “Yes, on the TV.”
“Do you mean HBO?”
“Stop with the constant corrections. You know what I mean.”
“So last night I watched Libyan porn.”
Not something one expects to hear from their mother. “Libyan porn?”
“That’s what I said.”
Complaining about her retirement home’s TV programming is one of her favorite pastimes. “Mom, I doubt you were getting porn from Libya. I seriously doubt Libya is exporting porn these days. And if they were, your cable provider would probably charge you extra for it.”
“Did I say Libyan porn? That isn’t what I meant. I meant Lisbon porn.”
 “You’re watching Portuguese people having sex?”
I could hear her sigh into the receiver. “Lisping porn! You know—two women.”
After letting my mind wrap itself around the notion of lisping porn, I decided to shut her down before this got out of control. “Are you telling me you were watching lesbian porn last night?”
“Yes. And they were leaving nothing to the imagination. Hour after hour—they wouldn’t quit.”
“So that’s why you’re so tired? You couldn’t sleep because you were up all night watching lesbian porn?”
She didn’t answer my question. “You get HMO TV don’t you?”
 I nodded at the receiver in my hand and let out a wary, “Yeees.” I had a bad feeling about where this was going.
“Do you ever watch porn on TV?”
“Absolutely not. Besides, the Internet is packed with porn. I can see anything I want 24/7 on the computer.” Yes, I’m really that stupid.
 “Is that what you do all day on that computer? Watch porn? You told me you were writing on the blog thingy of yours.”
My mother is an expert at changing the subject, but this time I wasn’t about to let her. “Wait just a minute here. YOU’RE the one watching porn, not me.”
 “Well, maybe you and your wife (she seldom calls Mrs. Chatterbox by name) should check out this TV porn. Not the lisping kind; the regular kind. God knows you should exercise more, burn off a few calories.”
 “Yes, son?”
“Could we please change the subject?”

Friday, September 21, 2012



I’ve struggled with this idea of multitasking for a long time, wondering why my wife can keep so many plates spinning in the air while I have difficulty remembering to bring my plate to the sink after she’s prepared a delicious meal. Multitasking probably developed shortly after humans stepped out of caves. Men stomped off to acquire meat at the walk up window at Bison King while women frittered away hours fending off predatory animals, stoked fires, gathered fruits, grains and nuts, tended babies, and developed language and culture. But my wife is hardly concerned with my anthropological examination of multitasking—she just wants me to get off my ass and do more around the house.

Mrs. Chatterbox has great difficulty sitting still and is always cleaning something. While I’m prattling on about America falling into the same trap that brought down the Roman Empire, she’s organizing a drawer or dusting shelves. While I’m dissecting the plot of last night’s movie on HBO, she’s pulling out the vacuum and telling me to lift my feet.
In my defense, (no need to point out that I sound defensive) it isn’t that I do nothing around the house, it’s just that what I do pales in comparison to all she does. My job, as I see it, is to kill bugs and provide muscle for lugubrious tasks she can’t handle. We live in a townhouse so the yards and landscaping are taken care of, but I scrub the shower when the glass doors get too filmy to see through, unclog drains, change the furnace filters twice a year (maybe once) and lift furniture so she can vacuum beneath. I provide the muscle, but when it comes to doing chores I am only capable of doing one thing at a time. Granted, I usually manage to do a good job of whatever she asks me to do, but in the meantime my wife has accomplished half a dozen tasks while I’ve done only one. She knows I’ll do anything she asks, but she has this unsettling belief that I shouldn’t need to be told what to do.
Mrs. Chatterbox has worked outside of the home our entire marriage and now that I work out of our house she expects me to help out more. I suppose she’s right; it’s only fair that I chip in more to lift the burden of household maintenance from her fragile shoulders. I need to change my lazy ways. When she asks me to take the kitchen mats outside and shake them I need to refrain from telling her we wouldn’t need to shake food from our mats if we had a dog. When she asks me to do something I need to resist telling her I am doing something—naming the dust bunnies. In short, I need to see what needs to be done and do it, instead of relying on a convenient case of chore blindness.
The time is fast approaching when my wife will ask me to do something and one of my ill-timed attempts at humor will cause her eyes to roll so far back in her head that they’ll get stuck. Then she’ll be blind, and if she can’t see I’ll have to do all the housework. I’d better get off my ass.
But first my dust bunny friends and I are going to discuss the calamitous situation in the Middle East.

Submitted to the great guys at DudeWrite.    

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

What Do You Believe In?

I recently had a disturbing conversation with my eighty-seven year old mother, which isn’t unusual because so many of my conversations with Mom these days are unsettling. While it’s common for the elderly to focus on the past, claiming everything was better in the “old days,” my mother has chosen to see the world through a dark lens. For her, everything is horrible. The world is tearing apart at the seams. America is on its last legs. Our freedoms are being whittled away and all politicians should be taken out and shot.
In truth, my mother has always been as supportive of the Federal government as a bootlegger hiding a still during Prohibition. When I point this out to her she claims I’m telling a big fat lie. I’ve encouraged her to prove me wrong.
A recent conversation went like this: “Mom, if it’s true you don’t hate your government, say one good thing about it.”
“There isn’t anything good about it. Socialism is destroying America, and if you weren’t so blinded by your liberal views, if you didn’t swallow all the malarkey you read on that computer machine of yours instead of learning to think for yourself, you’d see that I’m right.”
I ignored the socialism comment because, like most Americans, Mom doesn’t understand what socialism is. “I notice, Mom, that you didn’t answer my question. Surely there’s something good about the government. Your Social Security checks arrive on time, your mail is delivered promptly, you have fine healthcare cover—”
“I pay for those things!” she snapped, cutting me off.
I listened patiently as she continued to disparage not only our country (offering a feeble excuse for not voting even though our state has mail-in ballots) but also religion (Muslims in particular), healthcare and young people everywhere. “Prices on everything are too high,” she said, “and there’s nothing to watch on TV in spite of all the channels.”
I pressed on. “Mom, I’ve known you for nearly sixty years, and in that time you’ve managed to detail all the things you don’t believe in. But I’m curious; what do you believe in?”
 “I don’t understand the question.”
“Yes you do. Mom, I know you don’t normally take me seriously, but this is important; I need your help because you’ve been blessed with eighty-seven years of life and who’s in a better position to answer my question than you. So I ask again: What do you believe in?”
“It’s a trick question. I refuse to answer.”
 That was as far as I got, except to suggest to my mother that I’d hate to sit at the banquet of life at her age only to find myself starving. My mother is an unhappy camper, and since she’s blessed with great health and a sharp but cynical mind I can plan on her being unhappy for many years to come.
A philosopher once said: The unexamined life isn’t worth living. I believe this, more so as I approach the sunset of my life. I was disappointed that, at the very least, my mother didn’t say she believed in her family. In me! But Mom did provide something I desperately need—she prompted the question I must answer for myself: What do I believe in?
After considerable thought I had my answer: I believe in my family and know I am loved, and capable of returning love. I believe in my imperfect country. I haven’t given up on the dream that is America even though we’ve often diluted our principles with arrogance and greed. I believe that people everywhere want the same things I do—dignity, security and opportunities for their children in a world free from fear. I believe terrorists will never speak for the vast majority of people on this planet, and that building schools and hospitals will always be more rewarding than blowing them up. I believe that good-hearted people will always make a difference in the lives of those they touch.   
 People often ask, “What is the meaning of life? Are we flukes of nature, cosmic mistakes, or is there a reason we are here? I’m beginning to think we’re here to answer this simple question: What do I believe in?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Peculiar Picture #14


This illustration was marketed on my Royalty-Free CD Business Fundamentals, sold on the Internet by Getty Images. Unlike some of the illustrations I’ve posted, this “peculiar picture” has sold very well outside of the United States, the last time to a company in South Korea. Since I don’t read or speak languages other than English, I have no idea what foreign companies are marketing with the help of my illustrations. Do you have any idea?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Don't Quit Your Day Job!


Let’s start on a high note: Did you know that in addition to being an engineer, inventor, philosopher and painter, Leonardo Da Vinci (1452-1519) was also a comedian? In his day he was considered quite the cut-up on the comedy circuits of the Renaissance. Here’s a genuine five hundred year old Leonardo joke taken from one of his notebooks:
A wealthy patron asked a famous artist, “How is it that you create such beautiful paintings but the children you create are so ugly?” The artist replied, “It’s because I create my painting in the bright light of day but I create my children at night, in the dark.”
I know what advice you’d give Leonardo: Don’t quit your day job! Well, I have a confession to make, I also dabble at joke writing, not that I’ve shared my efforts with anyone. I’m toying with the thought of adding a new feature to Chubby Chatterbox called DON’T QUIT YOUR DAY JOB. I intend to post a few of my humble attempts at humor. My hope is that people will find these, if not funny, at least amusing. I also hope people will improve on them by making them funnier with their comments whenever possible—which will be most of the time. Please note: any improvement to my jokes will be promptly stolen. Also, any jokes belittling Mrs. Chatterbox are purely the result of my feverish imagination and have no basis in reality, but Mrs. Chatterbox wants it known that jokes belittling my mother are totally accurate. Now that the disclaimers are out of the way, here we go:

#1  I didn’t graduate from Mime College. They withdrew my diploma when they offered it to me and I said, “Thank you.”

#2  Has it occurred to anyone that at least some ladybugs must be cross-dressers?  

#3  My wife just can’t understand evolution. Every time I try and explain it she throws 
bananas at me.

#4  I traded my soul to the devil for eternal youth. That’s why I’m a wrinkled sixty year old man with acne.

#5  My wife is hard to please. She sent me to the store for a can of alphabet soup. How was I supposed to know she wanted the Cyrillic alphabet?

#6  If Jesus appeared today, Republicans would ask to see his birth certificate. (Inspired by the fabulous Eva Gallant at Wrestling with Retirement.)

I know what you’re thinking: Don’t quit your day job, Chubby Chatterbox!         

Friday, September 14, 2012

Peeping Toms

Writing coaches caution anyone from starting a story with: It was a dark and stormy night, but I’ve always wanted to begin a tale with these words and now you know what I think of writing coaches. Anyway, Mrs. Chatterbox and I had only been married a few years and were living in a duplex in Oxnard, California, so close to the beach that our driveway was covered in sand.
One stormy evening, Mrs. Chatterbox phoned to say she was leaving work late and was in no mood to fix dinner. “I’ll pick up something on the way home,” she said.
 I  felt guilty that she was the one caught in the storm. “It’s raining pretty hard. Be careful,” I said, just as the electricity went out.
As I waited in darkness for her to reach home, I lifted a blind and glanced out our front window to check on the storm. Without street lamps I couldn’t see much, but I could hear the wind howling like a banshee in heat, along with the sound of swirling sand scratching the world raw.
A light winked on across the street, the golden glow of an oil lamp. I could clearly see into the bedroom of the young couple who’d recently rented the bungalow across the street. I’d yet to speak with them; for some reason I’d been put off by their attractiveness and athleticism. They stood beside a large bed. He leaned toward her, bent down and kissed her long and hard. She unbuckled his jeans.
It felt wrong to be ogling them as they undressed, their perfect bodies reflected in the circular mirror of an old vanity hugging a wall. I considered lowering the blind, but couldn’t. It was like watching a porn movie being filmed before my very eyes. What if
they needed extras?
 As the wind whipped sand around the edges of their window, I watched as they pleasured each other. I’d been married a few years to a woman with healthy sexual appetites, and I’d read Everything You Always Wanted To know About Sex*But Were Afraid To Ask, not to mention my familiarity with the Kama Sutra, whose illustrations I’d committed to memory. I wasn’t without a certain expertise in this area and considered myself a competent swordsman, but the Olympian aerobatics and exuberant gymnastics of this energetic couple were far beyond anything I’d imagined, much less attempted. Whereas I’d be huffing and puffing with sweat dripping from me in unsightly fashion, this couple was clearly not out of breath. Instead of sweating like railroad workers shoveling coal into a blazing furnace, their naked bodies glowed like burnished gold in the lamplight.
Minutes passed as I lost track of time, the window steaming over from my hard breathing. A noise alerted me to the fact that I wasn’t alone. Mrs. Chatterbox was standing behind me, a boxed pizza in her hands. I could feel my face turn scarlet and I wondered what she was thinking: I’ve married a voyeur, a Peeping Tom!
 But her eyes weren’t on me; she was watching the couple across the street, the marathon pair into their second hour of lovemaking. I took the pizza from Mrs. Chatterbox’s hands and walked it over to the kitchen. When I returned she was still standing there, watching as intently as I had been. I tried to remove her coat but she was transfixed by the show and wouldn’t budge.
Fine, if she was going to enjoy the performance I saw no reason why I shouldn’t as well. At that moment, we witnessed something taking place in the bedroom across the street that shocked both of us. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing; neither could my wife, whose jaw was hanging as low as mine.
Mrs. Chatterbox finally tore her eyes from the window. She swung her purse at me, yelling, “You told me that was IMPOSSIBLE!”
She stomped off.
Back in the bungalow, the dude who’d made me feel like an incompetent kindergartener was no longer naked. He and his lady had donned terry robes, and they were waving at me.

Submitted to Yeah Right.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Conclusion: Giant Killer

Ricky let out a shrill whistle and waved urgently to stop me from staring at the Scottish lady on the billboard. A mistake. He drew unwanted attention before running away.

Chris Ferris and two of his henchmen, Donny Greco and Phil Jaggly, approached like jackals about to pounce on Bambi. Chris Ferris, a head and a half taller than me, had long ago assumed the task of making my life miserable. Jaggly, who had so many freckles it looked like a fountain pen had exploded in his face, spent many an afternoon in detention. Greco, like Ricky, was becoming well-known by the police. I was too fat and slow to get away, and they took their time surfing the gravel slope to the bottom of the creek.

Ferris, with his trademark toothpick dangling from his lips, looked even more vicious than he did when adults were around. “She’s got big tits,” he said, jutting his jaw in the direction of the pretty lady on the billboard. “Like big tits, do ya?”

I had nothing against big tits, but kept quiet.

“Know what I think,” Ferris said, “I think you’re sweet on her.”

He reached down for a rock and threw it with all his might.

I don’t know how long the Scottish lady had hung there, or what type of surface she’d been painted on, but the first few throws bounced off of her, after which she disintegrated easily. First to go was her beautiful smile, with a rock taking out several pearly teeth.

“Leave her alone,” I begged, as if she were real and could feel pain.

A mistake.

Greco and Jaggly snickered at me before joining in. They worked up a sweat blitzing that beautiful face until it was a grotesque ruin of what it had once been. As if in response to her agony, a breeze kicked up, twisting and spinning the fragments raining around us.

It felt like an execution. I tried to leave.

“Not so fast, “ Ferris said, blocking my departure with a beefy hand. “What you got there?”

“An albino tadpole.”

“No, I mean on your wrist.”

“You mean my Zorro watch?”

“Yeah. Hand it over.”

No way. The Zorro watch was a birthday present, one of my most cherished possessions. Maybe he could be distracted. “Check out this albino tadpole.”

Jaggly tore the jar from my hands, peered through the glass at the tadpole swimming about in murky water and handed the jar to Donny Greco.

“What the fuck do we want with a freak tadpole?” Greco said. “Let’s dump it on a hot rock and watch it fry.” He passed the jar to Ferris.

Ferris grinned. “Not a bad idea,” His eyes were dark and menacing. “I bet you wouldn’t like that. Just look at you—about to blubber. Give me that watch or this thing’s gonna sizzle like bacon.”

The watch was too precious to hand over. I tried to convince myself he wouldn’t harm an innocent creature, but I knew better. Ferris was known to run through the neighborhood, whacking butterflies with an old tennis racket. “You can’t have my watch!”

“We’ll see about that. But first things first…” He threw the jar high into the air in the direction of a large chunk of concrete surrounded by a sizable puddle. The jar caught the bright slanting light before it collided with the concrete and shattered. The tadpole made like a Mexican jumping bean on the griddle-hot concrete, but with one impressive leap rose into the air, spun about several times and kerplunked into the muddy puddle, disappearing under the concrete.

Ferris noticed the look of relief washing over my face at his failure to torture and kill something I cared about.

“Hand over the watch, Porky!”

“No.” I’d take a beating, but I wouldn’t hand it over.

Ferris approached and stood so close I could smell cigarettes on his breath, undoubtedly smoked on the scaffold. All was quiet while I anticipated that first punch, until the silence was broken by a voice behind me. “You can’t have his watch.”

I spun around and saw Ricky quickly approaching. In years to come I’d always recall him dashing to my rescue with a shimmering sword and knightly armor, but in reality he was unarmed, until he reached the shattered mayonnaise jar and reached down for a shard of glass. Ferris and company had been too distracted to see him returning.

“This isn’t your business, Delgado. Get your bean-shitting ass out of here,” said Greco.

Ricky was the smallest guy present, but when challenged he could puff himself up like a cobra. “It’s a fuckin’ kiddie watch; you don’t want it,” he said, addressing the three of them calmly.

Ferris bent down and plucked a rock from the ground. Greco and Jaggly did the same.

The broken piece of glass in Ricky’s fingers reddened when his grip tightened on it. “C’mon, we’re leaving,” Ricky said, pushing me toward home with his empty hand.

“There’s three of us, Delgado,” Ferris growled, “and only you and this fat sack of shit.”

If Ferris thought Ricky would back down, he was mistaken. Ricky never backed down, not even when beaten by his drunken old man. Ferris took a step forward; so did Ricky. Ferris took another, but never reached us. At that moment a chunk of billboard, sporting a giant eye, caught the breeze, sailed down and caught Ferris on the side of his face. The material was sharp enough to cut. Ferris dropped his rock and pressed a hand to the side of his face, now seeping blood. He moaned and sank to his knees.

Ricky punched me in the arm to shake me out of my paralysis. We beat a hasty retreat while Greco and Jaggly stared at their leader and wondered what to do.

By the time we reached our bikes dinnertime had come and gone. An hour later we peddled to a stop in front of my house, where hell would break loose as soon as I opened the front door. I pulled off the Zorro watch and handed it to Ricky.

“What’re you doing?” he asked.

“Take it; I wouldn’t have it if it weren’t for you.”

He reached for it, his hand caked with blood from clenching that piece of glass. But he changed his mind. “Naw, don’t want it. Got my eye on one with real jewels inside. But I might borrow it sometime, if you don’t mind.”

I didn’t.

This wouldn’t be the last time Ricky Delgado would slay a giant for me.

He never did borrow my Zorro watch.