Category — Humor/Satire
I’m looking for an oldies rap station…
By Galanty Miller
I truly hope it works out between whichever Kardashian and the next professional athlete she marries./ The only thing we have to fear about clowns is fear of clowns itself./ I go to the bathroom outside because I’m more of a “dog” person./ I would only quit my job if I’m absolutely certain I’m going to win the lottery./ I’m looking for an oldies rap station./ Going to a psychic tomorrow. But I think he might be a scam artist because he just started following me on Twitter./
My patient only has two days to live. I told him, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.”/ You know what they say about meth-coated potato chips; Bet You Can’t Eat Just One./ Hey, even a clock is right three times a day. (I own a f**ked up clock.)/ The woman ahead of me in the supermarket aisle took forever because she paid by barter./ I only read articles about naked women for the articles./ I ate an entire plate of pot brownies and got a real sugar high./ There are so many incompetent college students. But they’re protected by the Student Union./
I can’t remember what I ate for breakfast this morning. And yet I can still remember the popular kids from high school./ I’m feeling great because my mortician gave me a clean bill of health today./ (Thanksgiving) Happy Thanksgiving! You know what that means, don’t you? Christmas shopping officially began two and a half weeks ago!/ If Michael Jackson didn’t die, I believe he’d still be alive today./ Today is “Small Business Saturday.” And so I’m going to give my meth dealer a little something extra./ My wife and I hate each other, but we’re staying together for the sake of the children we might eventually have./ I wish we lived in a world where EVERYONE could afford a live-in maid./ We were trapped in a house fire, but it wasn’t uncomfortable because it was a dry heat./
If dog is supposed to be man’s best friend, how come he still hasn’t accepted my friend request?/ I consider myself bipartisan because I’m sexually attracted to both political views./ Condoms: they’re not just for sex./ Thank you for coming to my garage sale. And here’s a garbage bag to carry your purchases./ It’s sad that more American children can name ‘Ronald McDonald’ than can name the President of McDonaldland./ I don’t let my kids watch TV because of all the sex & violence I’m having next to it./ My lucky day! I found 30 million dollar Picasso painting at a garage sale for just 12 million./ My VCR is state-of-the-art./ I don’t believe in “flags.” My allegiance is to the Pledge./ I only send Facebook friend requests to people I may know./ We don’t want the kids eating junk food. That’s why my wife and I keep all the snacks in our bedroom./ My New Year’s resolution is to drink beer and kick ass. And we’re almost out of beer./ For just a few dollars a day, you can help a starving African child buy lottery tickets./ If the plural of “person” is “people,” then shouldn’t the plural of “purse” be “peep”?/
I’m starting to think that Prince Charles will NEVER become king of beers./ My girlfriend and I have agreed to see and get engaged to other people./ I tried “speed dating” and it actually went pretty well. I picked up my date, took her to dinner, & had sex all in under 15 minutes./ “Maybe we SHOULD let the witch have the ruby slippers since they ARE her property,” said the only munchkin with a conscience/ Why can’t all of our different Gods just co-exist peacefully?/ My friends always have my back… as long as my back has money they can borrow./ I constantly warn my kids about the dangers of smoking pot without a prescription./ I think it would be a much better world if everyone stopped having children./ My mom keeps nagging me to find a nice girl & fall in love. She doesn’t care about my happiness; she’s just tired of being a teapot./ Not counting ‘Norbit,’ name the best movie you’ve ever seen./
There are literally billions and billions of people on the planet who will never love you./ There’s never an inappropriate time to smoke crack because it’s always 3 in the morning SOMEWHERE in the world./ I like to go to the zoo and watch the people at the concession stand./ Only God should be able to take a human life, which He does millions of times a day./ I have several emails in my inbox from friends asking me to help them move. Or as I call it: “my spam folder.”/ You know what you never hear? “You’re never too old to wear a Speedo.”/ I don’t understand why people would want to alter their minds by using drugs… is one of the many thoughts I have while high./ I don’t have an accent, but it’s very thick./ My kid got beat up by your honor student. (My kid is dumb AND a pussy.)/
My son is allergic to peanuts. So during family meals, he has to leave./ I hope I never become famous because I hate my fans./ Enjoy this tweet, but take some time to think about the millions of children in poverty who don’t have access to it./ They say when you have sex with someone, you’re never more than six degrees from Kevin Bacon./ Statistic: “Leggo my Eggo!” triggers approximately 10 murders per year./ Are you in the Middle Class? Here’s how to calculate your wealth; (Your Income + Your Assets minus Your Debt) x Zero = Your Wealth/
If celebrities’ children hate the paparazzi so much, how they all want to grow up to become actors?/ I FINALLY finished Leo Tolstoy’s “War & Peace.” Geez, that was a really long movie./ My grandmother died in her sleep. (I waited until nighttime to shoot her.)/ I would never try crystal meth unless it was literally right in front of me./ When drug companies want to test out a new placebo, what do they give the control group?/ At dinner, everyone has to turn off their cell phone so we can have a nice family discussion about what to watch on TV during dinner./ I keep all my ex-girlfriends on speed dial because it’s hard to remember phone numbers when you’re drunk at 3 in the morning./ I’m making a pornographic sex movie. But I had to trim the violence in order to keep the PG-13 rating./ I don’t care what people think about me. I only care what they SAY about me./ I hope my life has a surprise twist ending./ I never show up to work drunk. However, I sometimes *leave* work that way./
If, instead of a prison, the punishment was “an all expense paid trip to Europe for a week,” that would still deter me from committing crime./ Before Twitter, we used to have to send our tweets through the mail./ Don’t make gasoline jokes because I’m dieselly offended./ Why does everything have to be so instant? Take some time to reflect. I’m going to join Eventuagram./ I’m not a big “birthday” person. That’s why I never celebrate my birthday more than 20 or 30 times a year./ I would only consider running for President if my sit-com pilot doesn’t get picked up./ I suffer from a fear of not being afraid of anything./ Hey, if life was easy, they’d call it a slut./ My position on “intelligent design” is still evolving./
True love is never having to feel you’re sorry./ I’ve set the bar low… due to the number of shorter drinkers here tonight./ My wedding day was the happiest day of my life because that’s the day I won 40 bucks on a scratch-off ticket./ I have my privacy settings up so that only friends and friends of friends can receive my unsolicited dick pics./ I received my doctorate in “avoiding the real world by staying in school well past the appropriate age.”/ Never stop believing in yourself unless you’re absolutely sure that you’re a loser./ My magic act requires that the audience closes their eyes a lot./ Kids today have it easy. When I was young, I had to walk three miles in the snow to get my porn./ I have the Constitutional right to do whatever I want./ Open the safe and give me the money! This is a stick-up! Oh, and I’d also like to deposit this check./ I went to a psychic who told me that my house would burn down. I was amazed because there’s no way she could’ve known I was an arsonist./
I tattooed your name on our relationship, but I don’t think it’s permanent./ My friend’s birthday is on 9-11. Every year I wish him a very somber birthday./ I’m filming a documentary about why I’m so unsuccessful. Hopefully, this will be my big break./ I went to a gay dating site. I’m not gay, but I figure everyone always lies on those things, anyway./ Friends are just lovers you’re not attracted to./ If dogs could speak English, they’d probably say “bark” and “woof” a lot./ If I had a time machine, I’d travel 2 seconds into the future to see how this tweet turns out./ I know a guy making a living teaching people how to carry a purse & hammer nails. But what kind of idiot would hire a purse & nail trainer?/ You know what you never hear? “My life is so happy and fulfilled. Hey – let’s go to a nightclub.”/ The food on the plane was terrible! (I brought Taco Bell in my carry-on.)/ My child’s teacher is sick. So I’m having a parent-teacher conference with the sub./ I’m not homeless. Every night I just need a place to crash./
My wife and I won’t let our son play football because he’s so bad at it./ May 11, Mothers Day, Today we’re ALL mothers./ I don’t let my kids use their cell phones at the dinner table… unfortunately, I can’t enforce the rule since we eat separately./ I’m reading a magazine on the plane. I hope the guy sitting next to me takes the hint and starts up a conversation./ According to the home pregnancy kit, my wife is having a baby. But just to make sure, we made an appointment with the Maury Povich show./ When you go in for a job interview, it’s important to ask what kind of “quitting benefits” they offer./ I got out of a speeding ticket by bribing the police officer with my time machine./ It’s better to give than to receive… especially ‘death threats.’/ My loyal friend is an obsessive gun owner, which is why I know he’ll never stab me in the back./ When I was a young boy, I wanted to be a fireman or an astronaut because they get all the best pussy./ ‘Choices’ are simply regrets before the fact./
I found out my wife was cheating on me through Facebook! (Because she changed her relationship status to “cheating.”)/ I allow my children to bully other kids at school as long as they keep their grades up./ I would never let the government take away my gum./ If Lindsay Lohan and the Hulk had a baby together, the baby would constantly be getting smashed./ Every time a matador is brutally gored, an angel gets its wings./ If you are a black cat, is it bad luck to walk in front of a superstitious imbecile?/ The world may never know if OJ Simpson really feels bad about murdering those people./ I hate when teachers stifle creativity. Hence, I tell my students that 2+2= anything they want it to be./ At weddings, they usually sit me at the enemies table./ “Let’s not kid ourselves” is what I said right before we turned on the humans-morphing-into-baby-goats machine./ Laughter *was* the best medicine. But now there’s Prozac./ A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. That’s why I judge humanity by Kanye West./ I have an American flag cooking in the oven, but there should be a Constitutional amendment against burning it./
I wanna be a rock star until I reach the age of 28 or I die, whichever comes first./ My fiancé finally got a chance to meet my friends with benefits./ I ask that the media respect my family’s privacy during this difficult time of us being on a reality show./ I’m concerned that my son will grow up to be a serial killer because he’s only 11-years-old and he has already started killing people./ I’m writing 4-hour play about what it feels like to sit in the audience. I hope audiences like it./ I’m listening to a mash-up of Nicki Minaj and Me Screaming For It To Stop./ I wrote a kids joke! QUESTION: How many monsters does it take to change a light bulb? ANSWER: Look under your bed tonight to find out./ It should be illegal to spank your children unless it’s in self-defense./ When I play basketball against Al-Qaeda, I never spot them any points because that’s letting the terrorists win./ I don’t think you’re supposed to interpret televangelist Pat Robertson literally./ I hate you specifically because you’re YOU… but don’t take it personally./
Big Brother may be spying on you. But, when I was a kid, my big sister made me wear dresses. That was worse./ And on the 8th day, God created the dormant alien species that will eventually rise up from the ocean and kill us all./ I started my own religion, but I’m non-practicing./ I’m seeking Donald Trump’s advice on how to be born into money./ I always stand during the National Anthem because it’s impossible to dance while sitting./ I really only need to lose about five or ten pounds. Is there a reality show for that?/ I performed my stand-up act for a group of subatomic particles determined by their invariant mass. It was no laughing matter./ When I was on the operating room table, I saw a white light and an angel who said, “Tell people about this on a talk show.”/ We need to legalize marijuana, or at least make it easier to get./ My nudist colony lets you carry a concealed weapon./
8th Rule Of Fight Club: Clean up after yourself./ When people try to keep you from reaching your dreams, just flip it around and try to prevent them from reaching THEIR dreams./ I’m not very high up on the “liver transplant” list. Not too concerned, though, since I don’t need a new liver./
I’ve spent my life in and out of prison − mostly because I escape a lot./ What’s interesting is that even if people are having a nightmare, they’d still rather sleep in than go to work./ I named my boy “Sue.” That way it will be more convenient if he ever gets a sex change./ Here’s another kids’ joke for adults. QUESTION: Why won’t a grizzly with a flashlight make you fat? ANSWER: It’s a light bear./ My lucky day! I found a 20-dollar bill on the sidewalk. It was just lying there next to the wallet I stole./ I wish people would just leave me alone while I’m bothering them./ Gas prices in Colorado are so high./ I stay healthy by eating at least one fruit a day − or at least one thing that’s fruit *flavored*./ I changed my password to something only honest people would know./ Presidential historians rank Donald Trump as the worst President the nation would have ever had./ According to my job evaluation, I spend too much time goofing off and… ooh, I better get back to work − my boss just came back./
Last night I dreamt that I couldn’t get to sleep. I woke up tired./ I’m not hitchhiking. I just like to give cars the thumbs up./ I hate trying to make conversation with birds of prey because it’s always so hawkward./ My phone number is easy to remember because it’s also my Internet password. So give me a call sometime at 123-4567.
About the author:
Galanty Miller is a contributing humorist to Ragazine.CC, writer for the Onion News Network, and professional joke writer. Read more about him in “About Us.”
October 31, 2014 Comments Off on Galanty Miller/Retweets
It was a dark and stormy night when he ran up against Writer’s Block. “I should have had fewer children,” he thought, as multiple lightning strikes outside his fogged-up window failed to spark his imagination…
Successful Writers’ Secrets
by Mark Levy
This year’s Best American Mystery Stories anthology just arrived in the mail. In addition to the 20 best stories themselves, this issue of Best American Mystery Stories includes short biographical notes about the authors. I decided to read the bios first, since my attention span is even shorter than a short story. My hope was that I could find something most published mystery writers have in common. This would give me a clue as to what makes a writer successful. Needless to say, I had an ulterior motive for learning and applying that secret.
Sure enough, the answer leapt out at me like a bloody dagger at a crime scene. A number of authors stated they are married and have a son or daughter. The writers who didn’t mention the number of children they had might have had more or less than one kid apiece. Whatever the case, they decided not to mention that fact in their bio. Of the writers who mentioned having a family, only the ones with a single child declared themselves.
The authors had different socioeconomic backgrounds and came from different locations in the U.S. and Canada. They were ethnically diverse and represented both genders. In fact, except for writing the best stories of the year, they seemed to have nothing in common, but for the fact that some of them are the parent of an only child. I decided to investigate other writers to see how prolific they were, progeny-wise.
While Googling the topic, I discovered that Lauren Sandler, who wrote a book about children without siblings titled, ONE AND ONLY, had also already written an essay for The Atlantic magazine, observing that many women writers, like Susan Sontag, Joan Didion, and Mary McCarthy, have only one child. There you have it. Ms. Sandler preempted me. And here I thought I was the first to discover the secret of literary success.
What a surprising but simple characteristic successful writers have in common. The key to being a proficient writer is not necessarily one’s formal education, or books one reads on writing, or where or when one writes every day, or how quickly one writes, or whether one prepares an outline prior to writing, or what one drinks and how much.
Success is based not only on an extraordinary ability to create a plot, or develop characters, or produce conflict, or rewrite a piece over and over and over, as I used to suspect, but merely on parenting one and only one child.
Lauren Sandler seems to think it may be that fewer children provide a smaller distraction for their writer parent. Or maybe the money a person saves by raising only one child — as opposed to a bunch of them — can be used to hire a babysitter.
Of course not every famous writer followed this practice. Norman Mailer and his nine children come to mind. Now Mailer had six wives, but that still averages 1.5 children per wife. You know what they say: It’s the exception that proves the rule.
Interestingly, some very good writers were only children themselves. I’m thinking of E.M. Forster, Ezra Pound, Hans Christian Anderson, John Updike, Lillian Hellman, and Jean-Paul Sartre. I’m not sure what that shows, except Google is really an excellent vehicle for discovering trivia, useful or otherwise.
This brings me to my struggle to become a famous novelist whose books are made into blockbuster Hollywood movies before they’re even published. My major mistake was having too many children. I have two daughters when I should have had one.
I should have evaluated whether a fulfilling life with two or more beautiful, loving, talented, accomplished daughters outweighs a career, say, as a potential Nobel Prize-winning author. That’s like saying would I rather have a cut body with an incredible six pack or be President of the United States; or would I rather have a full head of hair or be the first astronaut on Mars? It’s one of my many regrets, as you can imagine, that I can’t have great abs and luxurious hair and be the first President to visit Mars.
Now I can’t guarantee that my life would have been different if I had limited my number of children, but at least I can fantasize where I’d be if I had only one beautiful, loving, talented, accomplished daughter instead of a backup for her.
Ah well, unless I want to jeopardize my chances for visiting Mars, it’s probably too late to do anything about that now.
About the author:
Mark Levy is Ragazine.CC’s “Casual Observer.” He is a lawyer, lives in Florida, and is an occasional contributor to National Public Radio where his columns can be heard some Saturdays around noon. You can read more about him in “About Us.”
October 28, 2014 Comments Off on Casual Observer/Mark Levy
* * *
by Mark Levy
At the risk of putting you to sleep faster than my essays usually do, I’m going to discuss naps, those precious intervals of sleep during the day favored by the very young and, I’ve discovered, many older people including me. In fact, a recent Pew Research Center survey shows that one out of three adults takes a daily nap. More men do than women.
The Internet is full of advice about the advantages of napping during the work day and how to get the most out of your napping time at the office. Someone even invented an unofficial holiday called National Workplace Napping Day, to be celebrated the first Monday after the start of daylight-saving time each spring. The theory is you need a nap on that day more than any other day of the year to make up for the hour of sleep you missed the previous Sunday morning.
I would use that logic to argue for a nap the day after New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving Day, the Fourth of July, Academy Awards night, Superbowl Day, World Series Day (all seven of them), and even Flag Day for the excessively patriotic.
Of course, not all of us work in offices. Aren’t hospital workers, professional basketball players, and retail sales clerks entitled to a nap, too? If you operated a jack hammer, for instance, I think you should be able to take a short nap every day, which would be a relief not only for you, but for the rest of us within earshot.
Taking a nap during the workday has a number of advantages, the most important one being an opportunity to be more productive afterwards. But if you wake from a nap feeling groggy and grumpy, as I usually do, you might feel productive even if all you do is stumble your way to the bathroom.
Here’s another advantage of taking a nap when you should be working: you can make up for nap time by working late, thereby avoiding the evening rush hour, which is its own reward.
Frankly, though, as much as I appreciate workday naps, I find great pleasure also in napping during the weekend. For most of us, the weekend is for recuperating after a long week of whatever it is we get paid to do. Sometimes I’m so exhausted on Saturday morning, the first thing I do upon awakening is take a nap. That way, instead of merely sleeping in all morning I feel that I’m actually accomplishing something I can brag about on the rare occasion that I’m invited to a party that night.
Napping has been good for my marriage, too. My wife is always concerned about my well being, which is why she pesters me about any number of what used to be pleasurable activities. Lethargy in front of our TV and fried chicken come to mind. Her concern for me has certainly curtailed my unhealthy behavior. But by the same token, her abnormally strong desire to keep me healthy at least until our mortgage is paid off has actually resulted in my getting out of most physical tasks from drying dishes to mowing the lawn to attending those interminable grade school music recitals. All I have to do, after beginning the activity, is clutch my heart and make a funny face and I’m excused from completing the job.
I have to admit, though, I haven’t been successful at ducking all of those so-called concerts. I know what you’re thinking, but the kids’ performances are so dreadful, no one could sleep through them.
I’m in good company as a professional napper. Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein, and Thomas Edison advocated naps. So did Gene Autry, the singing cowboy, and Salvador Dali. And look what they accomplished.
Business people call them “power naps,” which elevates them to something more meaningful than what cats and dogs do at every opportunity. In fact, before the expression, “power naps” became popular, we used to call them “cat naps.”
The Mayo Clinic also thinks they’re a good idea for some people’s hearts some of the time. How’s that for a strong recommendation? Personally, I think that indicates the Mayo Clinic employs too many lawyers.
John Kennedy also used to take naps, or at least that’s what he told Jackie. I really have to hand it to Kennedy. If Marilyn Monroe had visited me at nap time, I’m not sure what activity I would have chosen.
About the author:
Mark Levy is Ragazine.CC’s “Casual Observer.” He is a lawyer, lives in Florida, and is an occasional contributor to National Public Radio where his columns can be heard some Saturdays around noon. You can read more about him in “About Us.”
Illustration by Walter Gurbo. You can read more about Walter in About Us.
August 29, 2014 Comments Off on Casual Observer/Mark Levy
Kilinski statue, file photo courtesy histomil.com
Hurled Into Eternity
By Paul West
Weeks later, as he bled through clumsy necktie tourniquets into the makeshift bed of a big wooden drawer hauled outside by the few surviving Red Cross nurses, Ludwik Czimanski remembered the golden Poland of before, and the bicycle festooned with his suits. The land had been alive with doomed people full of flamboyant bad humor, dryly joking about motor torpedo boats, the famous statue in Warsaw of Kilinski brandishing his saber at the sky with a face of invitational outrage, and the invincible yellow-capped national cavalry whose red and white guidons flapped above their heads like swallows’ wings. How uncanny the sky had been, stunning him like a blue gas his mind’s eye inhaled again and again: the drug from nowhere that wiped out the ills of the land. Everyone had looked upward, inhaling hard (at least as he remembered them), looking not for the first wave of bombers but for scrubbed and rosy refugee camps arranged in vistas tapering infinitely up to that comfy otherwhere in which, as legend said, everything went right.
Ludwik began to finger the five suits, one with satin lapels, one of a tweed perfumed with Baltic heather, a third with two vests of which one was velvet with maroon pearl buttons, while the other two were ordinary and a bit worn at the cuffs and elbows: these two culled from the house, not his own at all, and certainly not his taste, which did not run to tree-bark brown.
“Worn,” muttered Gnonka thickly into his splattered shirt, then added that the gold didn’t amount to much either.
“All there is.” At this they began to argue, the one voice raw with clumsy sullenness, the other clipped-brisk and only letting the words out a little more than it drew them back in again, as if communicating only through tone. What you expect—The bargain—Which was?—Two children—Two!—Two, as he had said the last time, ashamed and half-willing to kill, to walk away at least, as if he had caught himself making overtures to a pig.
“Two’s a lot. Which’s the Jew?”
“You don’t need to worry, squire. They’ve nothing against Poles, why should they? But Poles that have Jews in tow… They sell better things than you in Kazimierz market. Why don’t you go and peddle your suits where they belong?” Gnonka, who had a pea-sized polyp growing either side of his nose where it joined his face, scratched them both now with slow, studious vexation, savoring the gulf between his customer and himself. Then, as he saw the suits go back into their brown-paper, “Well, maybe for a few more. I’ve a busy winter ahead of me, see, I’ll be a man in demand, what with visitors. I can’t be signing milk contracts in my working clothes, can I, my lord?”
“Yes or no? For two?”
“I’ve sacking aplenty.”
Promising to return in one hour, Czimanski rode away on the disencumbered bicycle, eager to breathe a different air, and Gnonka’s German shepherd chased after him until Gnonka slurred a one-syllable command, at which it loped back and followed him, desperate, lumpish, flawed; a man contemplating the scenario of his own end as vaguely as this could hardly accuse himself of being self-centered, but he felt he was, against his will soothing himself with that finality instead of bracing himself with what the Admiral had said: We’ll pick you up in Kazimierz, remember: in Warsaw it won’t work at all, there won’t be any Warsaw left. Just think of it: a million fewer violins!
Right where he was, Major Czimanski wanted to cry, because highly evolved human companionship, sustained across frontiers through several languages over many years in complete accordance with elaborate protocol, should not (he said “must not” aloud and made Gnonka flinch) be subject to something essentially barbaric. It was as if crocodiles were running the world, who could not be swayed, argued with, or bought off; and men of brains and sensitivity found themselves driven to inventing gruesome and unseemly plans, primitives all over again in a world gone mad.
The other plane curved away to watch the Polish one reel flamelessly smoking into a low hill lush with trees. Faltering like a small leaf, the wingtip sailed into the flank of an oblivious cow in Gnonka’s main pasture, causing a minor stampede, after which it sat there on the grass, among the cowflops, arbitrary but final, the size of a breakfast tray, all of a sudden perched upon by haggling sparrows in whose landbound airscape it had become a permanent ramp, already subject to weathering, birdlime, and decay.
The Nazi fighter, its pilot unaware that Kazimierz had already fallen, cruised back low over the town and machine-gunned the steeple of a local church, making its bells pong-pang and en passant shredding the skull of an old man in the belfry to repair sections of rope, which he did (and was doing that morning, Nazis or no) by rolling retied sections under the sole of his boot. Next the fighter redundantly shot up a stationary motor coach used for outings to Warsaw, only to pass through a fan of vertically fired rounds from an old-fashioned Lewis gun worked by a wounded Polish soldier cut off from his unit and just waiting for something to do, unable to carry the gun away, reluctant to leave it for the intruder, and uncertain how to immobilize it. Shot through the groin, all the way up into his trunk, the pilot clasped his belly, sagged against the control column, and dived the Messerschmitt right into the post office and the lending library. The gas mains exploded with a gigantic bang, scattering envelopes and stationary far and wide. Books flew through the air as well, more of them leaving the shelves in that second than Kazimierz took out each year. A copy of Gulliver’s Travels done into Polish landed in the Sakal’s back yard with a fluttering plop, just beyond the verandah.
“What on earth was that,” Suzanna said, “I’ll go and get it.”
“Incendiary bomb, no doubt,” Wilson told her.
“I can see it. It’s a book. Or it was.”
“Even so.” He wanted the world to be still, to keep its distance from him, and his mind, recoiling from bangs and shots and bells and distraught women, had fixed on a big bowl of petunias, kept in the house for a month until they began to wilt and fade, then unleashed into full sunlight like a small wild animal incapable of being housebroken, and thereafter blooming a profound purple as never before.
“If it was an incendiary,” Suzanna pursued her point, “then our children are not safe where they are. But it’s a book, it’s just a bit of a book. You won’t have to throw sand on it to put it out.”
With a pout, a toss of her shoulders, and then a gathering snarl she did not quite know how to complete, Suzanna went outside, picked up the half-burned book, brought it in and tossed it into his lap.
“It’s still on fire, Wilson.”
“I’ve read it,” he said proudly. “Long ago.”
Deciding it was her turn to speak, Wanda said something mild and faint about the gift of life, the gift of a book, the way in which a book is the life-blood of a stranger made available for a pittance. “Ludwik’s mother,” she said eventually, “once took a honeybee into her cupped hands and let it sting her, saying, ‘It’s life, it’s life. Why not?’”
“I’m not that disabused,” Wilson scoffed. “Neither was the author of this burnt offering of a book.”
“Disasters,” Suzanna said, “ought to be in winter, not in weather like this. It’s hot, it’s glorious. It’s obscene.”
“A good sky for dive-bombers,” he whispered. “I don’t want to see anybody heading for the door. Stay put. In light as good as this, a pilot can see for miles, and they’ll shoot at any target that offers. I still can’t fathom why they’re shooting up the town after they’ve already taken it.”
“It’s because,” Wanda told him curtly, “because the only people left in town are Poles. They’re having target practice.”
“I don’t want to live in a ravine like a savage,” she told them all. “I wouldn’t know how. Your mother’s better off.”
“You’ll be lucky if you get a chance to,” Ludwik said. “But he’ll find us, I’m sure he will. He’s a man of his word.”
“He sounds might distant to me,” Wilson said loudly. “Maybe we’ll have to join the Nazi party before he’ll do anything at all. They might not be so eager to have Jews with fully paid subscriptions. We’ll take a raving any day. Just lead us in. Now what about the farmer?”
“If you don’t want them to get you,” Izz announced with cantankerous brightness, “hide in a museum, among the statues, still as stone, and someone will bring you a bagel at night to keep your tummy from rumbling during the day.” Shushed, he subsides, but mouths his impatience to Myrrh, who giggles, then says her piece.
“Husband, you haven’t told anybody anything yet.”
“I think he means,” said Izz with an elaborate, cunning look at his mother, “the domestic form of emigration! That’s what the Germans call it, isn’t it? You vanish without going away.”
“The domestic form of evacuation is more like it.” Ludwik looked at his son with unfocused eyes. “How ironic that you have come to know German so well. How elementary some mysteries are.”
“Are we going to take poison,” Izz asked. “Like Socrates.” Heroic nausea made him rub his mouth and then, even as he looked up to watch his parents watch him, halted with his wrist in front of his lips, as if stifling a burn.
“You and Myrrh are going to hide.” Ludwik thought he was going to faint, and abruptly fixed his gaze on Myrrh, who had stood in order to fidget about, and now faced away in profile with one hand on the smudged veneer of the dining table, fingers together in a trowel shape, as if imperceptibly nibbling across the surface to a bowl of grapes. God save us, he thought. How scraggly and golden she has become. She reads Verlaine in French and draws penises freehand with her eyes closed. They think they have secrets, but they have none from me. Imagine a regime, to which I myself have been some kind of cavaliere servente, or go-between, wanting to wipe out the likes of her, just because her mother descends from Shem. It’s unbelievable. The light doesn’t refuse to shine on her. The air allows her to breathe it. Water doesn’t rebel when it enters her mouth. The table reflects her without demur. Why, she looks more Slavic than anything, yet she’s one of the doomed. Look how her lower face falls away from its natural sit, but because she sucks in her mouth and tugs back her chin when she’s lost in thought, as if she’s just swallowed the idea of death and is waiting for it to go down. She could stand there forever against that folded screen, a long black-haired pixie lost in cogitation. She knows. And so does he. They pick things out of the air. They receive our transmissions before we even formulate them. That’s what adolescence is for: the intuition of essentials while the grown-ups shuffle their vocabularies. “Hide,” she said in belated echo. “What are we doing now? Advertising where we are?”
“Underground,” he told her, told the room, with lips like slabs of cement. “Briefly, until help arrives. And then another country where,” he let the limp joke out, “for once I have no diplomatic privileges.”
“Then,” Myrrh said, again sitting, “tell us where, and we can all begin learning the language. Is it where the rivers go uphill and the natives live on liquids only?”
“Cuckoo clocks,” he answered, desperate for something precise, unwilling to admit he didn’t know.
“Or sleds drawn by reindeer?” Izz had come back from a reverie so intense his top lip shone and his incipient mustache looked plastered down.
“Make them grow, Izz. And don’t bite.”
“Like baby lemons,” he gasped, his truant mind on Bantu women who stretch out their bottom lips with a wooden disk, and Bantu men who elongate their penises with a stone tied on.
“If I were bigger,” she told him languidly, “I wouldn’t seem so optional. You’d want me more. And so would other boys.”
I am mouthing inverted daffodils crammed with clay, he told himself. I’ll end up making her sore. No, this is what they’re for. Then he heard a muddled purr begin, and fixed his mind on what he was doing, lost in a rhythm with her, in a spell of things imminent: two actors endlessly repeating their opening lines.
About the author:
The author of 50 books, Paul West has received the Literature Award from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters in 1985, a 1993 Lannan Prize for Fiction, and the Grand-Prix Halperine-Kaminsky Prize for the Best Foreign Book in 1993. He has also been named a Literary Lion by the New York Public Library and a Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French government. The Tent of Orange Mist was runner-up for the 1996 National Book Circle Award in Fiction and the Nobel Prize for Literature. His previous work in Ragazine was an essay on Beckett’s Texts: http://old.ragazine.cc/2012/10/paul-west-beckett/
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March 1, 2014 Comments Off on Paul West/Fiction
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The ‘Gou-gou World’ Series
In the spring of 2010, a new figure appeared in Edmond Rinnooy-Kan’s paintings. It was a simple, stocky creature, not more than a head on legs. His name was Gou-gou. Since then Gou-gou has been coming back and now has a dominant presence in all Rinnooy-Kan’s work.
Gou-gou is always shy, uncomfortable, detached and out-of-place. He is an archetypal outsider, not unfriendly, but not friendly either. Neither is he happy nor unhappy. He just has a hard time relating to anything.
Edmond Rinnooy-Kan's sidekick travels the world...
Gou-gou in East Meredith, Upstate New York.[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/gou-gou-world/thumbs/thumbs_gg-in-arizona-f.jpg]00Gou-gou in Arizona
Blue as the sky, and the pool.[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/gou-gou-world/thumbs/thumbs_gg-in-the-louvre-f.jpg]00Gou-gou Visits the Louvre
Loves the Mona Lisa[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/gou-gou-world/thumbs/thumbs_gg-in-rome-f.jpg]00Gou-gou in Rome
Tete-tete with the Pope[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/gou-gou-world/thumbs/thumbs_gg-in-dandong-f1.png]00Gou-gou In Dangong
A different kind of thousand-mile march[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/gou-gou-world/thumbs/thumbs_gou-gou-in-london.jpg]00Gou-gou in London
A little knight music.
With no roots to keep him anywhere, Gou-gou is always on the road. He sees no danger or opportunity. He takes things as they come and goes with the flow. Not out of a philosophy but by lack of it.
Is he having a good time? Not really. Neither does he have a bad time. He is just having a time.
— Edmond Rinnooy-Kan
For more about Gou-gou go to http://www.gougouworld.org.
March 1, 2014 Comments Off on Gou-gou World
Bill Dixon drawing. Felt pen. 2014.
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Review and Revision:
A Distant Relationship Revisited
By Bill Dixon
I was lying in a sweaty hospital bed, feverish and largely out of my head: 102 point something on the thermometer. I had no idea where I was, or why, and no dividing line between delusion and reality. I couldn’t make heads or tails out of the situation, but that didn’t seem particularly important to me. Bags of liquids hung above me and below me, and taped-down needles were inserted in the veins of my arm. A catheter had been poked into me, and all of these things were busily adding or subtracting bodily fluids. There were people around me I didn’t recognize, looking at me from time to time, chatting with one another, or with someone out of my field of view. None of this seemed at all odd to me. It was like driving down an unfamiliar stretch of road, with nothing much of importance to look at through the windshield.
As it turned out, I was hospitalized in the Florida Keys, about seven hours away from home, and almost anyone that I knew. Although I’d gotten my flu shot two months earlier, I still had contracted influenza B. Somehow, I’d also simultaneously come down with pneumonia. To top it off, a wardrobe malfunction, in the form of a twenty-year-old sandal disintegrating, caused me to take a spill in a Key West street. I’d broken a toe or two, had bleeding scrapes in several places, and bent my left thumb backwards to my wrist. It’s still in a brace.
My long-suffering “significant other,” Susan, was flying in that same day from Ohio, en route to Key West, for our Christmas vacation. I went back to my timeshare, got the bleeding stopped, and kind of cleaned up. An hour later, I took a cab to the airport to meet her. Susan is an RN. She looked me over, and immediately told the cabbie to take us to the closest emergency room. I was glad that someone was able to make a rational decision, since I certainly couldn’t. The hospital was my home for the next eleven days. We celebrated Christmas there, more or less, although I have almost no recollection of most of my hospital stay. I was out of it. Way out of it.
All sorts of odd things percolated through my semi-conscious mind, both real things and imaginary things. There were distant memories and totally imaginary occurrences, in no particular order. I couldn’t tell which were which. Very little of these visions stayed with me, but one, a real or imaginary memory of my father, did, and it grew and expanded afterward. In that vision, he looked at me, and said, “Well, at least I did teach you how to play poker.”
My father and I were never very close. He was a mostly intermittent authority figure, and I was mostly raising myself, and to some degree, my younger brother. My mom was sick during most of my early childhood, in and out of the hospital. I was shuttled around between my numerous aunts and periodically, my grandmother. As a result, I had pretty much put myself in charge of my own affairs by the time I entered elementary school and I resisted all other forms of authority. No one seemed to have much interest in taking on that particular responsibility, so I handled it.
My Dad was drafted into the army in 1940, and outside of a few brief rotations back to the States, was in Europe until late Spring, 1946. I was two years old by the time he came home. When I saw him for the first time, I decided that I didn’t like him much and I was afraid of him. We managed to get along most of the time, but I was a headstrong, loose cannon of a kid. That pretty much summed up our relationship until I graduated from high school. I put myself through Ohio State, doing anything that I could to earn the money to do so. I worked at the Columbus Zoo, tended bar, bounced, made pizzas and sandwiches as a short-order cook, and worked as a bookstore clerk. I did iron work, mostly on swing-stage scaffolding, on microwave towers and way up in the air. That paid a lot of money, because people with good sense wanted no part of it. On a work/study program, I edited a social studies book for one of my professors. I sold my oil paintings in campus gift shops, carried out groceries, managed pet shops, and more. I was a self-sufficient kid. I lived at home until I graduated from high school, but I managed my own expenses and income from about tenth grade on. I bought my own car and paid all the expenses associated with it, bought all my own clothing, and put money aside for college. I moved into an apartment with two upper classmen, near the University, as soon as I graduated from high school. I was pretty much impossible to control, since I worked evenings, almost every day. “Grounding” wasn’t an option, obviously, nor was refusing to let me drive my own car. I had to get to work or I’d lose my job. My father quit trying by about eleventh grade. I played guitar in University-area coffee houses at night in my spare time, and in the process, discovered that I preferred dating college girls to the high school alternatives. My roommate and I started getting paid to play and sing folk music, although not very much and not very often, in the local bars. I thought I was “all grown up.”
While I was still at home, I learned some things from my father. I learned how to fish, hunt, and be a man. I learned how to play poker: five-card stud and draw poker, mostly and how to evaluate the hands I was dealt, both literally and figuratively. It had been drilled into me as a small child that I would get a college education. When I was about thirteen, I learned that it would also be my responsibility to pay for it. There was no money at home. These were all valuable lessons in retrospect, and I never resented any aspect of it. It was just how it was.
My father was a very bright man. He graduated from high school at age sixteen and was given a full scholarship to Notre Dame. He didn’t take it, for reasons known only to him. He told me that he had to work to help his family. Since he had five brothers and sisters, I thought that one or two of them ought to be able to do that, in his absence. In his mid-twenties, he was drafted into the US Army. That was in 1940 and he was immediately sent off to an army post in Kentucky for basic training. After his preliminary evaluation, they put him into MP school. In 1942, he was shipped off to North Africa, to fight the Germans. He was rotated back to the US in 1943, where he sired yours truly. I was born in 1944. By then, he’d gone back across the Atlantic to North Africa and up through Italy, then into France. He stayed in Europe until 1946, with a short trip or two back home. He’d been promoted to First Lieutenant, with a “field commission” of Captain and by the end of the war, he was put in charge of transporting some of the trainloads of POW’s, hauling them back from central Germany, and then to Western Europe to sort them out. He was mostly away from home for about six years, before, during and after the War’s end. Somehow, all that turned up in my fever-wracked visions in the hospital, and for the first time, I began to put myself in his shoes, a little at a time.
My Dad never talked much about the war. When he did, he spoke about it mostly in generalities. He always dodged direct questions like, “Did you ever shoot anyone?” Questions like that were promptly redirected to responses about his dislike of the food, or the arbitrary treatment of the soldiers by the Army. He was particularly unhappy about having to eat mutton (shipped into North Africa from Australia) on a regular basis.
As I grew up, I felt he didn’t seem to have ever developed much in the way of any personal ambition. He never earned much money and we were always pretty poor with him as the breadwinner. The hardest I ever saw him work was when he was fishing. He’d fish from dawn to dark, if the fish were biting. It now gradually occurred to me that what I saw as his taking the easiest course in life might have been a reaction to having had no ability to choose his own course for about six years. This was mostly worked out during my semi-delirious hospital stay. Furthermore, why was I judging him at all? Like every person, I’ve had triumphs and failures both. Perhaps I wasn’t cutting the old man any slack, as we said in the sixties. I finally started to look at how he played the cards that he was dealt. It slowly occurred to me that maybe he hadn’t done such a bad job, after all.
He was shipped off to fight in World War II in his mid-twenties. In my mid-twenties, I was teaching high school and finishing my Masters’ at Ohio State. I was never drafted, because I had been asthmatic as a kid. It had only lasted until I was about thirteen. Any way you look at it, I’d been given a pass on compulsive military service, he hadn’t. He got jerked out of civilian life and put into a stressful, dangerous assignment for six years. I didn’t much like hanging onto a scaffold swinging in the breeze four hundred feet in the air, but at least it had been my choice to do it. It was almost fifty years ago, but it paid almost ten dollars an hour. If I could work three months a summer at it, I could pay for a whole year’s tuition and books, and tend bar at night during the school year, to earn more money toward the next quarter at school. I was motivated to do things like that, and he just wasn’t. Even if he was somewhat motivated to “get ahead”, he’d gone through both the Great Depression, and the Second World War. I don’t know just what he faced during those two catastrophic events, but it couldn’t have been very pleasant. All these things occurred to me as I flopped in that sweaty hospital bed in Key West.
Prior to my hospital stay, I had kind of stuck with the familiar idea that I had developed as a high school kid of my father not being either ambitious or hard-working. My illness, and perhaps my high fever, gave me another point of view of that long-held opinion. How it came up, I have no idea, but it certainly had some value. It reminded me of an old Ukrainian neighbor’s remark that I’d heard a long time ago. He said, “Ain’t nothin’ so bad that it don’t do someone a little good.” Perhaps my illness had actually benefited me in some ways. I’ve given my father’s situation a lot of thought since I got out of the hospital. I can do that with an unclouded mind, now. My dad had never been out of Ohio before he went overseas and never away from his family and friends. He had to have been in fear for his life, crossing the Atlantic in military transport ships several times and vulnerable to German submarines. He had to have been in harm’s way any number of times in the course of his military service in Europe. It couldn’t have been any other way, even if he wouldn’t talk about it. He had to have been lonely, he had to have found military life disagreeable and he had to have suffered from PTSD. I never had to contend with any of these things, mostly as a result of my uncommonly good luck. It was time to rethink things.
As a result, and after considerable review, I’ve given the Old Man a full pardon. Here you are, First Lieutenant Paul Edward Dixon: you are hereby awarded full exoneration, this pardon and my profound apologies. I want you to know that I’ve taken your good advice numerous times, too, and never drawn to an inside straight. You were a good guy, and I misjudged you. I’m sorry, Dad.
Your son, Bill
About the author:
Bill Dixon is a contributing columnist to Ragazine.CC. You can read more about him in About Us.
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March 1, 2014 Comments Off on From the Edge/Bill Dixon
“You know what nobody
ever asks for
on their death bed?”
Statistically speaking, flying in an airplane is actually much safer than flying in a car./ I will only join cults that accept me as their lord & savior./ Human nature is to desire what we can’t have. That’s why the hottest woman in every strip club is the waitress./ Is there such thing as a dumb question?/ Big news! I was promoted to “head writer” of my Twitter account./ I oversee a sweatshop of children age 8 to 12. It’s not easy balancing work with kids./ Luckily, my Sex Addiction Counselor is really attractive… just in case the counseling
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“… / Take the name of your 1st pet & put it in front of your 1st street. That’s your “porn name.” My 1st pet was named Todd & I lived on Palin Ave./…”
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doesn’t work./ Someone get the license plate of that guy who just stole my car!/ I saw a 13-year-old clown, but I think that’s too young to be wearing make-up./ We were driving on the highway and my girlfriend gave me a blowjob. In retrospect, she probably shouldn’t have been the one at the wheel./ But is Lebron James TRULY happy?/ If Thomas Edison were alive today, I bet he’d invent a machine to destroy Twitter./ If I had to move to Europe and could only bring five things with me? I’d bring cyanide and… well, that’s about it./ Before Einstein theorized that “E=mc²,” what did scientists think E equaled?/
Instead of “in bed,” we play the game where you finish every sentence with “when tweeting.”/ I wish they’d show more family programming in the middle of the night so my kids would have something to watch while I’m out drinking./ The policeman who stopped me for stopping was a really cool guy. He let me off without a warning./ You know what nobody ever asks for on their death bed? Diet soda./ The 4 words no college student wants to hear from a professor: “Split up into groups.”/ Throughout history, nothing has caused more death than religion, although movie popcorn comes a close second./ Each morning I take a pill that helps me remember to take my other pills./ The Best Man at my wedding is also my sex addiction sponsor./
My kids make fun of me because I still use an old landline phone to call my coke dealer./ I’m being sent to the electric chair tomorrow, but I’m optimistic because there is always a chance it won’t work./ My goal is to write for CSI because I have so many great ideas about twisted ways to murder people./ My favorite part of cuddling is the ‘beforehand sex.’/ It’s wonderful when people adopt shelter dogs. But I’d prefer to have my own biological pets./2005 just called. It wants its “’something’ just called: it wants its ‘thing that we associate with that specific something’” back./ Well I learned my lesson; I promise that’s the last time I jump on a trampoline with a loaded gun./ I always carry a magazine with me just in case I get buried alive./ I don’t get mad, I get EVEN… is what I say when you post Facebook pictures of your children./ I got a great deal on life insurance because the insurance company was having a going-out-of-business sale./ It’s never too late to be late./ Take the name of your 1st pet & put it in front of your 1st street. That’s your “porn name.” My 1st pet was named Todd & I lived on Palin Ave./ I like that Florida is wider on top than at the bottom because it makes it easier to get out./
My favorite part about living in the Sado-Masochist Spiked-Leather Fetish House is Saturday evenings. Because it’s game night!/ “I’m thinking of writing a tweet.” (This is the prequel to my previous tweet.)/ I spend all my free time thinking about how busy I am, and that is what keeps me busy. It’s a vicious cycle./ My wife and I already have three boys. So now that she’s pregnant again, we’re really hoping for a girl to replace our third son./ Here’s a kids joke for adults: What happened when the elephant drank beer? He got trunk./ I’m very close to my kids, and they know that they can always email me about ANYTHING./ To celebrate my 1000th Tweet, I’m going to shut off my computer and do something productive.
About the author:
Galanty Miller is a contributing humorist to Ragazine.CC, writer for the Onion News Network, and professional joke writer. Read more about him in “About Us.”
March 1, 2014 Comments Off on Galanty/Re-Tweets
What’s A Decade?
by Mark Levy
As geologic time goes, a decade is almost insignificant. Dinosaurs, for example, thrived in the Jurassic and Cretaceous Periods for eight million decades. Those two periods, by the way, make up only two-thirds of the Mesozoic Era, which lasted an additional fifty million years or five million decades, if you’re a stickler for consistent units of measure, and who isn’t?
And geologic time doesn’t hold a candle to astronomical time, measured from the Big Bang, almost fourteen billion years ago. I guess I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know, but I wanted to put in perspective how insignificant a decade can be if you’re measuring dinosaurs or galaxies.
On the other hand, in human lifetimes, a decade is quite significant. For example, it’s unheard of for a person to make it to even twelve decades, although some giant sequoias and sea turtles do better.
Much has been accomplished by humans in a decade or less. The American Revolution, for example, took less than a decade. So did WWI and WWII. Speaking of which, the Nazis were able to wipe out millions of people between 1939 and 1945. The total number of casualties in WWII is estimated to be 60 million. And that all happened in barely more than half a decade.
Most studies of infant mortality measure casualties of babies up to one year old as opposed to child mortality rates that measure casualties of children from one to five years old. Few studies discuss mortality rates of children up to a decade old.
Here is one more depressing statistic before I move on to more pleasant thoughts. When it comes to newborn babies, the United States has the highest first-day infant death rate out of all the industrialized countries in the world. About 11,300 newborns die within 24 hours of their birth in the U.S. each year, 50 percent more first-day deaths than all other industrialized countries combined.
Frankly, though, I’m more impressed with positive things people can do in a relatively short time, like a decade. Take Barack Obama. He lost an election for the House of Representatives in 2000 when he lived in Illinois, but he became President less than a decade later. In ten years, Picasso moved through his Blue Period, his Rose Period, and into Cubism. In Mozart’s first decade and a half, he wrote thirteen symphonies and a few other musical pieces. In 1961, President Kennedy announced his goal to Congress to send an American to the moon and less than a decade later, Neil Armstrong was taking a giant leap for mankind in the Sea of Tranquility.
In 1879, Edison invented the first incandescent electric lamp and during the next decade, made improvements to dynamos, voltmeters, sockets, switches, insulating tape, gummed paper tape, now commonly used in place of string for securing packages, the first electric motor for a 110 volt line, a magnetic ore separator, and a life-sized electric railway for handling freight and passengers, and he obtained 300 patents along the way. He also invented a system of wireless telegraphy to and from trains in motion, wax cylinder records, and — almost forgot — the motion picture camera.
So you see, many significant, depressing, or exciting thing can happen in a decade.
Only 29% of all businesses survive for 10 years. Ragazine is one of them. As Mr. Spock is known for saying during Star Trek’s original one-third of a decade TV run, “Live long and prosper.”
About the author:
Mark Levy is Ragazine.CC’s “Casual Observer.” He is a lawyer, lives in Florida, and is an occasional contributor to National Public Radio where his columns can be heard some Saturdays around noon. You can read more about him in “About Us.”
March 1, 2014 Comments Off on Mark Levy/Casual Observer
“Fountain.” Marcel Duchamp, 1917.
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Automatic Men’s Rooms
(Or, love at first flush)
by Mark Levy
Have you experienced those automatic toilets in men’s rooms and I suppose, now that I think of it, in women’s rooms? They’re the ones that know when you’re finished doing your business and they flush without your having to touch the lever. They’re installed on urinals, too. It’s the most amazing invention since indoor plumbing, if you ask me.
Sometimes, though, you stand up to stretch and they flush before you actually finish. And once, the automatic toilet didn’t flush for me even though I stood up, so I sat down again and stood up. Nothing happened. Then I waved my hand in front of the sensor. No luck. As far as I could see, there was no emergency override button to push for just such situations. So I sat down again with all of my clothes on, feeling foolish, and I got to my feet again.
Finally it flushed.
I believe it was trying to embarrass me, but the joke was on the toilet. After all, I was the only one in the stall, so no one else knew about my silly shenanigans — until just now, that is.
When you exit your stall, you find the sink, of course. Some sinks now have their own sensor. Water comes on and shuts itself off when you move your hands in and out of the sink. You can’t adjust the temperature, but that’s such a small price to pay for advanced technology.
A soap dispenser can also be automatic. Same story. But if you’re as impatient as I’ve been known to be, you might pull your hand away just before that last drop of soap is dispensed, wasting that drop at the edge of the sink and making you hope the dispenser doesn’t report back to that big soap reservoir in the sky.
The real problem arises when the faucet is automatic but the soap dispenser isn’t. Then you have to push down on the soap dispenser physically and pump it to get it to work. What’s with that? Either the bathroom is automated or it’s not, right?
Believe me, I enjoy futilely waving my hand in front of a soap dispenser while other people are standing in line behind me as much as anyone. But there comes a time when choreography becomes a pointless exercise. You don’t know if the thing is out of soap — in which case you can shift to the adjacent sink — or if you’re inadvertently dealing with a manual pumping dispenser à la the 18th century.
I recently entered a men’s room that had a big circular contraption, about four feet wide, between the door and the toilet stalls. At first, I thought I might have to use what could be a communal urinal, but it quickly dawned on me that the contraption was just a large sink. Whew, so far, so good.
I wonder how many guys are fooled into unzipping in front of what looked like a satellite antenna urinal. But as I approached the contraption to rinse my hands, nothing happened.
I started to wave my hand, both hands, in fact. Still nothing. Luckily, a gentleman was nearby, fussing with an automatic paper towel dispenser. What an idiot, I could imagine him thinking. He had that pitying look that my grandmother reserved for certain inept underlings. She even had a Hungarian word for it: sagan. It means “poor thing.” What he said was, “Buddy, just step on the bar under the sink and the water will flow.”
I guess more embarrassing things can happen in the men’s room than requesting help at a sink, but most humiliating events seem to happen to me in public, unfamiliar restrooms.
When you finally figure out the weird, over-sized faucet and sink and you rinse your hands, you approach the paper towel dispenser. Here we go again. Some of them are automatic and begin to eject a sheet of paper when your wet hand approaches them. But some extend part of a roll of paper. Am I the only one who resents having to grasp the sheet with my wet hands from the otherwise automatic paper dispenser? If it’s smart enough to sense your hand and eject paper, shouldn’t it be smart enough to cut the paper, so you don’t have to rip it from the machine?
Of course, one sheet of paper is rarely enough. Your hand can still be damp and you don’t want to exit the restroom like that. What if you bump into someone outside, like your stockbroker, and he offers you his hand to shake? You can see his expression when he meets you, just out of the men’s room, and shakes your damp hand. You’re forced to apologize, explaining, “No, it’s not what you think; it’s just water.”
Here’s the situation: you haven’t seen the fellow in four months, your stock portfolio is taking a dive, he never returns your desperate calls, and all you can talk about is the source of your wet hand. He doesn’t really believe you, anyway.
Okay, so you will need a second sheet of paper, either to finish the hand-drying job or to stockpile some for the trip home. You wave your hand in front of the damn automatic paper dispenser a second time. But the machine knows the first sheet should be enough, especially if you have small hands and you already shook them vigorously over the sink, or you rinsed only one of them, or it’s thinking maybe you’ll give up after the first sheet if it waits long enough to dispense another one. Sometimes you have to wait eight or 10 seconds before it will give you a second sheet. Who has time for that, when your stockbroker, sagan, is outside waiting to shake your hand?
About the author:
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Lynda Barreto Illustration
December 31, 2013 Comments Off on Mark Levy/Casual Observer
“My doctor told me I was going to die at some point…”
If you can’t fit your political opinion on a bumper sticker, then keep it to yourself./ I won’t let my daughters twerk until they’re sixteen./ What came first- the chicken or the other side?/ Don’t you hate it when you’re having a really great day, and all-the-sudden out-of-the-blue you feel like murdering a Pigmy?/ Can you get fired for looking at porn on your computer if you work for an internet porn site?/ I hate everything about Twitter. That’s why I’m part of it./ I only watch movies in 1-D because I find width distracting./ I hope my new wife gets a chance to meet my current wife./ I DVR the entire season of “Biggest Loser” and then watch the episodes in reverse because I like to watch people gain massive amounts of weight./ On Facebook, I have my privacy settings at “everyone has to see my personal information even if they don’t want to.”/ I’m taking my son to a baseball game because he’s still too young to understand that it’s boring./ I’m joining the Church of Scientology because it seems like the best way to get my screenplay to Tom Cruise./ I’m thinking of having plastic surgery in order to look more like Joan Rivers. / There’s absolutely nothing funny about heart disease during one of Jay Leno’s monologues./ I retired from my job as a political lobbyist but I still want to remain unproductive./ Can God hear ALL our prayers, or just the ones directed to HIM?/ I don’t want to be rude, so I greet all women with “When is the baby due?”… just in case they’re pregnant./ When we’re young, we’re obsessed with our physical flaws. But with age & wisdom, we’re able to get used to them./ As a society, we need to finally have an honest discussion about what Mariah Carey’s race is./ Doctors told my wife she only has 3 months to live. But luckily, that gives us enough time to get divorced./ I’m having plastic surgery on my brain. I want to *think* more attractive./ When I went away to college, my mom threw out all my baseball cards, comic books, & hundred dollar bills. But now they’re worth a fortune!/ I consider myself to be a very eligible for parole bachelor./ My limbs are just getting too sore, and so I had to close my Twister account./One time I went without food for two weeks. But I survived on McRib sandwiches from McDonalds./ I’m very open about my sex addiction. I’ve told my wife AND my prostitutes./ My friend has had sex with lots of teams of women because he has always been a real team playa./ My daughter’s boyfriend is very traditional and he asked for my blessing before proposing to me./ If I lost the ability to lie, I’d finish most of my sentences with “… or not.”/ I named my son “Rosebud,” but I won’t tell him what it means until the very end of his life./ Just a reminder to have your children spayed or neutered./ My Facebook profile picture was taken ten years from now, so I look a lot younger in person./ I’m too impatient to listen to an entire monologue. But I’d be willing to go see “The Vagina Quips.”/ Does anyone know the Heimlich Maneuver?! I just swallowed a lot of carbs! / “I love U, but I need my space.”- Q’s breakup speech/ If God made man in His image, then God must be putting on some pounds./ **Spoiler Alert Warning** This tweet dies at the end./ My limo gets good gas mileage and my servants recycle… because I want to protect the environment *and* the status quo./ Things women don’t say: “I like it when a guy sings to me.”/ My wife & I are so close that we keep the door open when we go the bathroom on each other./ A friend is someone who is always there when they need you./ My doctor told me that I’m going to die at some point./ Don’t criticize your kids for listening to Justin Bieber. Remember when *we* were their age, we were listening to One Direction./ I was on match.com but she was on eHarmony. That’s how we knew we weren’t soul mates./ You know what you never hear at a restaurant? “Waitress, I’ll have the yogurt.”/ The MUSEUM museum has a wonderful new wonderful new exhibit at the Smithsonian Museum exhibit./ Tomorrow is Labor Day. Congratulations to all the women about to give birth./ Someone stole my identity. I feel bad for whoever it was because now they’re in a lot of debt./ I watch the nightly news to catch up with what’s going on in prescription drug commercials./ If you delete a tweet, where the hell does it go?!
About the author:
Galanty Miller is a contributing humorist to Ragazine.CC, writer for the Onion News Network, and professional joke writer. Read more about him in “About Us.”
December 31, 2013 Comments Off on Galanty/Re-Tweets
Photo courtesy of Fresh Tracks Canada
The Canadian Caper
(Operation Duck Soup)
by Bill Dixon
I was sitting in front of my fireplace having a cold adult beverage with some friends, one of whom was my pal, Jack. Jack had worked for the same bank I had a few years earlier and we’d become good friends there. Jack and I both loved the out-of-doors life and we had started talking about taking a canoe trip in Canada when summer arrived in Ohio. I had a canoe and a Volkswagen bus. It seemed like it might be a lot of fun to plan a camping and fishing trip, and to drive up into western Ontario to do it. We could get there in one hard, long day’s driving from Columbus. The idea was to figure out a loop where we’d portage through a chain of lakes going mostly north, then catch a river flowing mostly south to get back to our departure point and the car. We’d head home from there at the end of our voyage. Duck soup, we thought.
We already had most of the gear we needed for camping. I had a two-man tent and Jack had a “Duluth pack,” which is a large, shapeless backpack, made of waterproofed heavy canvas. Its shape, or perhaps its lack of shape, makes it fairly easy to fit into about any open space in a canoe but it was an uncomfortable thing to carry on your back. In retrospect, it was rather like an overweight three-toed sloth clinging to your shoulders. The appeal of using this system was that we’d have a seventy-pound canoe for one person to carry across the portages and a fairly similar weight Duluth pack for the other person to lug. That way, we could theoretically go across a portage in one trip together. The Duluth pack guy would carry both paddles lashed together in one hand. I’d carry the canoe on my shoulders, Jack would carry the Duluth pack on his shoulders.
In terms of food, I’d be the designated camp cook. Nobody in their right mind would appoint Jack as the chef. We’d eat freeze-dried chow and at breakfast, instant oatmeal. Dinner or lunch meals would be supplemented with the fresh fish we’d catch. We’d drink water out of the lakes we went through, so we wouldn’t have to carry it in. Jack and I both liked beer but that would be for the night before we left our Canadian motel and the return trip’s “mission accomplished” celebration. We couldn’t carry beer into the woods because of the weight and disposal problems with the empties. But we could get a bottle of Canadian whiskey at the duty-free store going in and bring the empty bottle out in the Duluth pack, along with any other trash we’d accumulated. I’d pack a few squares of heavyweight aluminum foil and a plastic bottle of cooking oil so we could cook our fish in the campfire coals. I’d also bring seasonings for the fish. We’d take instant coffee and pack instant oatmeal and freeze dried fruit for breakfast, some sugar packets from a restaurant and we’d be ready to go. Jack, who’d been a navigation guy in the Navy, was going to do the compass work for us and get all the routes figured out for the portages. We bought maps, researched our route and were all planned out for the trip — at least on paper.
Prior to the actual departure, we each laid out all of our gear. This was to make sure that we weren’t carrying stuff we didn’t need and were carrying all the things we would need. We each had veto-power over the other guy’s gear selections. Jack wasn’t a tough guy to deal with but his fraternity brothers had named him “Ninny,” with some justification. He’d packed a double-bit axe that had to weigh four pounds with its protective leather cover and the over-all length was about three feet: VETO! I argued that we could gather enough dead wood to provide a small fire for food and wouldn’t need to cut any wood at all. He reluctantly set his axe aside. We each took a pack-size fishing rod and reel with us, justifying the duplication with the old “How’ll we catch fish to eat, if our only rod breaks?” argument. We also each took a waterproof match safe, same argument. I had to leave my binoculars behind because most of the time we’d be in brushy places and wouldn’t get much value out of the extra weight. Anything we were likely to see wouldn’t require binoculars to identify. We took “mummy” sleeping bags: they didn’t take much space, and we would pack them in trash bags to keep them dry. One cook kit, GI style, was enough to cook up our freeze-dried meals and our oatmeal, which we would eat out of sturdy paper hot cups, then burn the cups in our campfire. Our fish meals, we’d eat with our mess kit forks, right off of the aluminum foil they were cooked in. Rain gear, mosquito repellant, duct tape, compass? Check! Clothes were going to be the worn-out, ratty, disposable kind. After a week in the woods, we’d put them in a trash can at the motel we would be departing from to head home, along with the used fish foil and any other trash we picked up or had packed into the woods. We knew we’d need rope. We took seventy-five feet of braided nylon, 250 pound capacity.
Jack scared up a detailed trip description of the route we’d settled on taking, somewhere. We’d park in a public access area, along the river and leave a note with our names, addresses, planned route, the dates of our departure and expected return, on the dashboard of the mini-van. The key to the van was placed on top of the right front tire so it wouldn’t get lost. I would keep an extra key in my billfold. We got various maps and both of us read and reread the trip guide Jack had gotten. We would travel north by canoe through a dozen or so small lakes, two of which were connected by a stream described as “clear and easily navigable.” The rest of the series of lakes had overland portages of five hundred yards or less. When we arrived at the last lake, we would then portage about a hundred yards overland to the river which ran back south and within a short haul of our parked car, roughly twenty miles downstream. The whole trip was about ninety miles, total. Again, duck soup!
We were as excited as ten-year-olds when we took off. Somewhere around Grayling, Michigan, one of the bungee cords holding the canoe on the roof of my VW snapped loose, and fired itself across the centerline and into the windshield of a big truck headed the opposite direction. We decided that we’d solve the problem at the next pull-off. I had extra pieces of rope and additional bungees in the van, and we quickly made sure our canoe was better secured to the foam roof mounts before we headed back onto Interstate 75 and before an angry truck driver with a tire iron showed up. The rest of our drive was fairly uneventful. At the border, we selected a bottle of Canadian whiskey at the duty-free store and a few hours northward, found an inexpensive motel fairly close to our departure point. We said an emotional goodbye to cold beer at the motel and left the warm beer in the van for celebrating our triumphant return from our adventure.
Jack was an enthusiastic early riser. It was still dark when we rolled out of the last warm beds we’d see for six days, and went to a convenience store that the motel owner had recommended for the last decent coffee we’d have for a week. Actually, it wasn’t all that good but it was similar to decent coffee in terms of color, price, and temperature. We drank it. It was just getting light when we found the unpaved road to the public parking area we were looking for and we selected a spot to leave the van. There were no other cars there. On the actual trip we only encountered voyageurs, as we now considered ourselves, on one portage path we took several days into the trip. We saw just two fishermen at a distance, in the largest lake we paddled through. Apparently other potential fellow travelers had seen the weather forecasts and thought better of going for a canoe trip.
We were on a scheduled week away from work and were going, come hell or high water, as they say. We offloaded, shouldered our loads, and headed up the path to the first lake we’d cross. The rain was fairly light, then actually paused as we got to the next portage on the far side of the first lake. The mosquitos were fierce, but stayed roughly an inch from our bug repellent-smeared skin. If an area of skin got rubbed by a strap or an article of clothing, the bug dope would wear off and the mosquitos would descend on our exposed flesh. I was lugging a canoe through a wooded area, and had a rain parka with a drawstring hood that rubbed the skin around my face. On the first portage we went through, the mosquito repellent gave out where the parka hood rubbed, in a thin band from chin to forehead. I looked at my reflection in the water at the end of our first portage and it looked like I’d been struck with a whip: a red ring of mosquito bites circled my face. I slapped on a fresh application of repellent, as soon as we slid the canoe into the water. The bugs never got any less numerous or less aggressive but I got used to them, more or less. Jack seemed to be less desirable to them, or perhaps less willing to bitch about them. We pushed off, into to a very calm lake, and once we got fifty yards or so out from shore, the bugs were fairly tolerable or not in evidence at all.
It was wonderfully quiet on the lake. I could hear the canoe swishing through the glassy surface of the water and our paddle noise but little else other than distant bird songs from the shore. There were no other noises that I could discern. Down in the clear water, I could see boulders the size of my Volkswagen and fish darting here and there either chasing food or fleeing to avoid becoming it. It was very serene and neither of us talked as we glided across the still water of the first lake. Jack was never much of a talker but I usually made up for it. Now, however, I was unable to be very talkative because I didn’t want to disturb the amazing silence around us. Perhaps an hour passed. Jack bent over his compass. He pointed his finger and we turned slightly to our right. In a few hundred yards, we saw the pull-out spot for our next portage and we headed for shore. The portage was a fairly short one and the next lake was the smallest one we’d be crossing. We left the gear in our canoe and dragged it, one on each side, since the portage we were on seemed to have no difficult slopes, according to our topographic map. We got to the second lake and began crossing when the rain started again. We finished crossing the small lake to the next portage point and pulled our canoe out. We were hungry and wet. We decided to eat something. Granola bars seemed like the best choice, since we could eat them in the rain, and we wouldn’t care if they got damp in the process. As we were gnawing on them, we heard thunder in the distance.
We looked at one another and decided that we ought to immediately do the portage in front of us. We then set up our camp for the night before the rain rolled in. That should put us on a rocky point jutting into the lake with the wind coming at us over open water. That, theoretically, would blow the bugs away from us, rather than deliver them to us from a nearby brushy area. The pull-out from the small lake was steep enough that we had had to empty the canoe and pull it up to the path with our rope, then have one person shoulder the Duluth pack and have the other pull him up the steep ascent. Then we headed for our planned campsite. Jack, who had been pretty quiet, suddenly spoke up: he wanted to switch jobs. He apparently had decided that the canoe was lighter than the Duluth pack and since he was smaller…etc. That was fine with me. I’d weighed the fully-packed Duluth pack before I put it in the VW and knew that it was nine pounds lighter than what the canoe weighed, according to the specifications printed on a label in the canoe’s bow. Also, the canoe was a pain in the ass to navigate the trail with, going through the wet brush, balanced upside down on my shoulders with my hands on each gunnel to balance it and steer it through the brush and trees. I cheerfully helped Jack shoulder it and threw on the Duluth pack. I was just thinking that the canoe at least kept the rain off my glasses, when, after about a half hour of our last portage of the day, I noticed that Jack was losing altitude. He appeared to be about a foot shorter. Simultaneously, he announced that he’d prefer to go back to his old job, the Duluth pack. I put down the pack and trotted up to shoulder the canoe. Jack stood up straight, tentatively, and silently relinquished the canoe with no sign of remorse.
When we got to our rocky point the rain had started then slacked off, but we could still hear distant thunder. There was a likely-looking spot for a tent facing the breeze and the water. We were able to get several tent pegs driven between the stones on the rocky flat spot we’d chosen. A big, weather- beaten deadfall provided a secure tie-down for the other side of our tent. It seemed like a good time to do a little fishing after everything was set up including a fire ring and the evening firewood gathered. We took the now-empty canoe into lake number two and started casting artificial baits along the shoreline. After two fishless hours, we decided that freeze dried food would be just fine. The water along the shorelines was somewhat murky and had minor debris floating in it, so we filled our canteens with the clear, clean water in the center of the lake, and paddled back in the impressive silence that surrounded us. We got a fire going, promptly, and it cheered us up. There was plenty of dead wood in the trees we’d hiked in from, to feed it. The freeze dried food, tuna & noodles, was fairly grim stuff, but it was better than nothing at all. The Canadian whiskey, however, was excellent, and gave us the courage to persevere. We just drank it out of the bottle, passing it back and forth like two (damp) downtown bums on a spree, sans the usual wrinkled paper bag. We could hear loons calling in the distance and if it hadn’t been so cloudy, the stars would have been magnificent.
It was about two AM when the major-league storm rolled in with lots of lightning and thunder, then fairly furious rain. Within a few minutes, everything we had with us was soaked. We talked in low tones, and decided that about all we could do was weather it. There wasn’t any place any dryer than our tent in the vicinity, so….we tried to go back to sleep. At some point, the storm passed and we were awakened by strong sunlight in a nearly cloudless sky. We hung the sodden sleeping bags over our length of rope, in the sun, and I made breakfast: oatmeal with freeze-dried fruit and damp sugar, accompanied by black instant coffee. It was a humble repast but the only game in town, as they say. After breakfast we burned the paper from meal, dumped water on the fire, brushed our teeth in a murky shoreline water made worse by the previous evening’s storm, and peed back in the woods, off the path.
We were looking forward to the next leg of the trip. Once we crossed the large lake we were on, we had a short portage to the “clear and easily navigable stream” promised in Jack’s guide book. The guide promised a steep cliff on our left side with numerous hawks’ nests. We paddled leisurely down the aforementioned stream that linked us to the next lake. It was a beautiful day and our spirits were high. It turned out that the guide book had probably been printed when Jack and I were in high school, well before the beavers had dammed the stream, but we didn’t know that just yet. The clear and easily navigable stream was now mostly a large shallow lake choked with cattails and water lilies. Jack’s compass work would be complicated by wet meadows of tall cattails and winding shallow channels through huge areas of water lilies. There were no lines of sight, so we would be navigating by compass. There was nothing to do but push off into the shallow beaver lake and do our best.
It was like the Wizard of Oz, when the movie turns suddenly from black and white to Technicolor. As we moved into the lake, we were transported into a strange and magical land. Everywhere we looked, there were acres of huge yellow water lilies in full bloom, and outside of an occasional beaver slapping his tail on the water as an alarm signal, the only sound was the loud and constant buzzing of hundreds of thousands of large, slow-moving bumblebees. It was dreamlike and I just wanted to stop and absorb it for hours. It was one of the most beautiful and dramatic scenes I’ve ever beheld. I knew that if we left it, I would miss it, and never see anything like it again. Jack wasn’t that fond of bees or of sitting still, though, and after a few minutes he wanted to move on. He was right, of course. We didn’t know what we were heading for when we got to where the beavers had dammed the stream and created the magical lake full of water lilies and bee songs. The buzzing was so loud that it masked the bird songs. It was absolutely wonderful.
We pushed on through dead-ends and islands, beaver lodges and cattails, following the compass as much as we could. There were no straight lines there. Thanks to Jack’s compass work, we eventually got to the beaver dam. It was about ten feet high at the tallest spot and blocked the narrow stream channel at a spot perhaps forty feet across. The dam released a trickle of water, ten feet below us, down at the new channel it had created where a deeper stream had once been. The stream was choked with deadfalls. Water depths varied from a few inches to holes three- or four-foot deep. It was hellish to get through. We lined the canoe down the face of the beaver dam empty and scrambled down to the shallow stream with the Duluth pack between us. All charitable thoughts about beavers dissolved on that transition. We then had to walk the loaded canoe down the trickle, pushing or pulling it as we went, maneuvering it around, under or over deadfalls with one of us up front, one of us in back, on opposite sides. It was slow, torturous work. Periodically, we’d walk into a hole and sink in up to our armpits. Branches would slap our faces: underwater snags of various sharp branches would cut our skin. We were exhausted when we got to the next lake. It seemed like miles but it was probably only a few hundred yards of profound misery. We didn’t realize that we were covered with leeches from the hips down until we got to the lake. We’d gone from the Land of Oz to The African Queen.
We pulled the canoe to the edge of the new lake, and stripped to the skin. Leech removal is pretty disgusting work. We each removed all the leeches we could see on our own bodies by pinching them between thumb and index finger and jerking them. Sometimes the heads stayed on briefly but usually they ripped right off. Blood ran freely down our legs and ankles. Then we yanked the ones we couldn’t see ourselves off of each other. I remarked to Jack that his butt was particularly unattractive in that process but he refrained from comment, mostly. We rinsed our shorts and underpants and pulled them on over our bloody legs. We were a mess and we now were dealing with the mosquitos in new body regions. We decided that the day was pretty well shot, that we were pooped out, and that we should set up our second campsite as soon as we located a good spot. We found one near the next portage site that apparently had been used by others: there was already a blackened fire ring and a fairly level site facing the water and the westerly wind. We set up the tent, hung out our wet sleeping bags and paddled back into the lake to resupply our water. We headed out to catch our dinner as soon as we gathered our evening firewood from the woods.
We were pleasantly surprised to begin catching some smallmouth bass on small artificial baits. I was hoping for perch or walleyes but we didn’t catch any. I find them considerably better tasting than smallmouths. We caught enough bass in about an hour for a good dinner, though, and were thankful for them. I filleted the fish and seasoned the boneless slabs of meat, then wrapped them in two square pieces of aluminum foil with a little cooking oil. As was usual, we hoisted the Duluth pack about twelve feet off the ground by a rope tossed over a branch and tied off to a second tree. This was to discourage bears from eating our food supply and destroying everything else in the pack in the process. I got the fire going by using dry bark and twigs until some deadfall wood could catch fire. Jack set up the tent and turned the mummy bags to get them marginally dryer. We brought out our bottle and rolled a semi-dry log to face the water with our tent behind us. We were covered with mosquito bites and leech wounds, numerous scuffs and scrapes, and were still bleeding in spots but we felt pretty good about getting the canoe hauled into the new lake. We were beat. The fish tasted great and the Canadian whiskey restored our enthusiasm as we sipped it by the fire. The breeze kept the mosquitos down, or our smelly bodies discouraged them. We were content.
After an hour of chatting by what remained of our campfire, we decided to hit the (damp) sack for the night. As Jack was kissing the bottle goodnight, I turned to walk toward the woods to take a leak and saw the black bear looking back at me, thirty feet away. It scared the hell out of both of us! I howled and started throwing rocks at the bear, rushing at him. I don’t think I hit him with any of the rocks but he must have been partially blinded by the firelight, because as he sped away into the woods. He ran into a tree, and veered off at speed, my rocks bouncing past him. Going to sleep that night wasn’t easy, except for Jack. He wasn’t awake for more than a couple of minutes after he crawled into his damp sleeping bag. I wasn’t able to get much shut-eye, though. I don’t know if the bear slept at all. Having a large, drunken, roaring biped with his pecker hanging out charging him, hurling stones, was probably profoundly unsettling for the poor brute. As for Jack, well, he acted as if nothing had happened. Go figure, huh? In the morning, we ate our oatmeal, drank our coffee and pushed on after bathing in the lake and running another leech check. Leeches and beavers and bears: oh, my.
Frankly, there weren’t very many more notable events in the voyage. We went through our routine of portaging through a series of lakes until we got to the last lake before taking the river “home” to the VW bus, and decided to camp one more night. We’d had light rain off and on a couple more times but no worthwhile adventures and we were going to camp one last night, then paddle south with the current in the morning. We’d finished off the bottle the second night we tested its restorative powers and put the empty in the trash bag with the litter we’d created or picked up in the Canadian woods, and had two more fish dinners, lakeside. We were never completely dry on any part of the trip but we’d paddled a long way, had some excitement to tell our mates about and overcome some limited adversity en route. We’d seen some beautiful scenery. The vision of that beaver lake is still with me, if I shut my eyes and cast my vision back through the years. Jack probably recalls the bees and the leeches, mostly.
We’d set up the tent and were getting ready to sleep in our new camp when we heard thunder in the distance, off to the west. We held a huddled, brief conference and both voted to paddle back to our car. There was moonlight that illuminated the river, nearby and Jack was confident that if the light held out for an hour or two, we could paddle to our car with the help of the current pushing us along. We packed up, loaded, and shoved off. Jack had smuggled a small head lamp in his rain jacket and by some miracle, it still worked. He figured that he could consult the map and spot a prominent (bus-sized) partially submerged rock, about a half mile from our last pull-out, at the car, especially if we hustled. The storm was edging closer. The thunder was louder and the lightening more frequently visible, but the rain held off.
I was the stern paddler and bent into every stroke. The current was pushing us at a good clip and we were moving right along. I asked Jack if he had any projection on when we’d be getting back to our parked minibus and he flipped on his headlight and regarded the map. “Ought to be coming up pretty soon,” he replied. About twenty seconds later, we hit it, midstream, and damn near got tossed out of the canoe. Luckily, my canoe was a sturdy fiberglass model from L.L. Bean and it scratched the keel up but didn’t knock a hole in it. We resettled and picked our way slowly along the shoreline. There was the VW. We hauled ashore, threw the Duluth pack in the back of the VW. We hoisted the canoe with its foam padding blocks snapped onto the gunnels and started roping and tying it down just as the downpour arrived. We got soaked again, of course, but we got the canoe secured and headed for the highway, southbound. In about forty or fifty miles, we spotted a run-down little motel with about six cabins around it. There was a flickering blue light in the back of the office. The owner was in, watching the tube. We banged on the door until he stumbled out, smelling a little like our empty whiskey bottle. We struck a deal and paid in cash for a night: our first night inside for a while. I took off my clothes and sat down on the bed. It broke in half, midway between the head and footboard.
“Oh, hell,” Jack said, “I’m still dressed. I’ll go get the owner to move us.” No, this’s fine,” I said, and pushed the broken bed against the wall with the mattress flopped on the floor. Jack shrugged. I slept like a baby. In the morning, we stuffed our filthy, bloody sleeping bags and clothes into the dumpster, along with the trash. We got some coffee, or something fairly similar to coffee, and headed south. Duck soup.
About the author:
Bill Dixon is author of “Disorderly Conduct,” a book about the group he hung with in the 1960s at Ohio State, and “Guitar Collecting,” a niche book about building a collection with minimal investment. Besides being a writer, his varied background includes artist, bank CEO, teacher, bartender/bouncer, zoo keeper, iron worker, political campaign manager, musician, real estate manager and smuggler of Russian Icons out of Eastern Europe. He spends his time these days pretty much between Maine and Florida. You can contact him at email@example.com.
* * * * *
Walter Gurbo, Drawing Room,
December 31, 2013 Comments Off on Bill Dixon/From the Edge
November 2, 2013 Comments Off on Galanty Miller/Re-Tweets
An excerpt from Something Wrong With Her,
a memoir by Cris Mazza
(Jaded Ibis Press, October 31, 2013)
Any Lower than the Floor?
by Cris Mazza
In grade school, I regularly neglected to pee at the end of the school day before starting my mile-long uphill hike. One by one, the classmates I walked with would peel off when they arrived home. I was always alone the last 200 yards. During this span my urgency to pee peaked. I would hold myself, stop and contort, legs twisted together like pipe-cleaners.
In my final stages of distress I squatted on the dirt shoulder of the road, my Achilles tendon jammed into my crotch, resisting the fierce convulsions of my bladder and surrounding muscles. I pretended to be tying my shoe, in case anyone drove by. Or I completely removed my shoe and pretended to remove pebbles from it.
Meanwhile my body was a shuddering pressure-cooker: If I stood up, I would pee my pants. On more than one occasion, however, while I crouched on the roadside — rocking, squeezing, squirming… fighting the muscles that were straining to relieve my bladder — there was a distinct snap. Something broke. My muscles went instantly lax. Pee flooded out of me. I could do nothing to stop it. By later that same day, I would be once again holding my urine.
I know now that the pelvic floor musculature is the muscle that prevents one from peeing oneself. I have never in my life, other than those times alongside the road, been incontinent. But now — as I try to get at the heart of why intercourse has frequently felt like I’m wearing an inflexible transvaginal chastity-belt, causing sharply painful penetration, which I also blame for a lifetime of dysfunctional sexual relationships and anorgasmia — I can’t ignore those childhood incidents. Maybe I didn’t damage the pelvic floor muscle into incontinence-causing weakness; perhaps I only confused it as to what it was supposed to be doing and when.
* * *
I have had vaginismus most of my life, and the defective sex life to go with it. Call it frigidity if you like. Vaginismus, an involuntary habituated spasm of the pubococcygeus muscle, affects a woman’s ability to engage in any form of vaginal penetration. I recently discovered that vaginismus sometimes has a conjoined-twin: pelvic floor dysfunction. According to the refreshingly wry Dr. Robert Moldwin, (Director of the Interstitial Cystitis Center, Long Island Jewish Medical Center, New Hyde Park, N.Y.), pelvic floor dysfunction is “uncoordinated behavior of the pelvic floor musculature. … [T]hese muscles need to contract when you walk around without urinating. When one voids, the muscle of the bladder contracts, thereby forcing out urine. At the same time, the muscles of the pelvic floor have to relax. They also need to relax during both a bowel movement and during sexual intercourse. Even more importantly, one part of the muscle may be contracting while the other is relaxing: You would most likely rather not have a bowel movement while you are having sexual intercourse.” Thus, pelvic floor dysfunction is related to pain-based frigidity because it can cause one or both of “two different types of complaints regarding intercourse: either there is terrible pain during intercourse because the penis is coming directly into the rigid muscles, or there is discomfort a day later.”
It took me thirty years (thanks to my own silence on the gyno table) to discover it might not just be me being a frigid nutcase in the world of open sexual pleasure.
Therapies for vaginismus and pelvic floor dysfunction are distinct from each other, semi-controversial, and both somewhat gnarly. Marketed home therapies for vaginismus comprise a set of “dilators” (objects resembling vibrators of graduating sizes) and a DVD program to use them, all offered at prices $40 to $100. None of the doctors I went to even vaguely alluded to this kind of therapy.
Despite a prevalent misunderstanding, pelvic floor therapy is not just for incontinence. Possibly because most women with vaginismus, like me, silently assume there’s something wrong with them, the majority of pelvic floor therapy patients seem to be those with menopausal or post-childbirth incontinence. My urologist and pelvic floor therapist, however, knew I was not in the wrong place. Treatment protocols for pelvic floor dysfunction range from biofeedback, electrical stimulation and Kegel exercises of the pelvic floor. I partook of all three.
The electrical stimulation was only as painful as a 15-minute pelvic exam, and included a probe jammed inside my vagina, and a rhythmic insect-sting somewhere deeper inside. My understanding is that electrical stimulation causes the pelvic floor muscles to tighten and relax on a non-spastic schedule, ideally simulating normal function. My therapy was taking place before the mediastorm over laws to require transvaginal ultrasounds before an elective pregnancy termination, so I missed the opportunity to rise above the undignified absurdity with empathy. My therapist, bless her heart, did her best to distract me by talking about my role as a college professor, my work as a novelist, while I sat impaled by an electric probe (which my insurance company required me to purchase myself).
Biofeedback consisted of a split screen, the top part showing the activity of my pelvic floor muscles, and the bottom part showing a graph of my abdominal muscles. It took just one session for me to isolate which muscle I needed to control: Watching the graph on the abdominal screen flare-up, my brain instantly registered which muscles I was using that I shouldn’t be using. The most interesting feedback on the graph, however, was in the weeks after I’d successfully isolated which muscles to exercise. During the rest period when I was supposed to be relaxing the pelvic floor muscles, sudden spikes would appear in the graph that the therapist explained were muscle spasms. I couldn’t feel the spasms, but possibly would have experienced them as pain if they’d occurred during sex. I was sitting there with a probe inside me, but since the probe wasn’t moving, it possibly didn’t have the same effect of meeting, over and over, a spasming/rigid muscle and resulting in pain, as might happen with a thrusting penis. The therapist said that the Kegel excercises I was doing at home would strengthen the muscle so that it wouldn’t spasm.
Could a pelvic floor muscle weakened in childhood learn to be spastic? Is it possible pelvic floor dysfunction initiated vaginismus, which then took over my brain — the organ we know to be the most powerful sex organ? Could it be that my brain then translated vaginismus into anxiety, stress, even panic, perpetuating not only the physical pain, but a cycle of fear? Even so, none of this can explain why I felt no sexual desire; why my hand never moved instinctively/unconsciously to touch myself; why I didn’t know what “horny” meant when everyone was saying it and doing whatever they could to assuage it.
Pelvic floor therapy doesn’t undo a lifetime of anorgasmia. In my case, it didn’t have the slightest effect on anorgasmia. But after three months of therapy, the seemingly freakish pain I felt during intercourse was alleviated. To this I can attest; I can endorse. And with the alleviation of pain, the fear also dissipates, though more slowly.
Pelvic floor physical therapy did more for me than any sex therapy or books about fantasy and masturbation, or friends steering me toward a vibrator, because the therapy targeted an actual source of pain: a weak pelvic floor muscle. Not all women with these conditions have been raped or are believers that sex is bad and dirty. That’s the cliché in which a sex therapist was mired when I tried to solve this problem 25 years ago.
But I know eliminating pain is not the same as experiencing pleasure. There are roads — that I’ve been the one to construct — yet to be cleared.
About the author:
Cris Mazza, a native of Southern California, professor, novelist and editor, directs the Program for Writers at the University of Illinois at Chicago. An interview with Mazza appeared in Ragazine.CC about the time her book, Various Men Who Knew Us As Girls, was published in 2011. Click here to read the interview by Kristin Thiel. Her memoir, Something Wrong With Her, will be published in October 2013 by Jaded Ibis Press.
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ILLUSTRATION: JONATHAN KELHAM
August 31, 2013 Comments Off on Cris Mazza/Creative Nonfiction
Life as a Pomegranate
by Mark Levy
The other day I had the surreal pleasure of speaking with a pomegranate. This may sound fantastic, but suspend your disbelief for a few minutes. After all, stranger things than talking pomegranates have happened — at least to me.
My new friend, the talking pomegranate, suggested I could call him Pomeroy.
“Bein’ a pomegranate ain’t as simple or as relaxing as you might expect,” Pomeroy said. “Oh sure, I’m grown in warm climates. I soak up the sun like a movie star and, basically, I dig the weather of Persia. I’m one of those entities that don’t object to climate change. I think you call them Republicans.”
“Whoa,” I said. “Don’t get started with me.”
“Well, dude,” Pomeroy continued, “the more the climate heats up, the more you’ll see of me and my relatives, right up till our planet is reduced to cinders. That’s all I’m sayin’.”
I changed the subject. “Isn’t it true the rind of the pomegranate fruit and the bark of the tree can control diarrhea, dysentery, and intestinal parasites?” I asked. “Maybe the College of Gastroenterology should adopt a pomegranate as its mascot.”
“Darned right,” said Pomeroy. “You sound like you’re speaking from experience. You probably know my fruit can also treat hemorrhoids, but slatherin’ up hemorrhoids with pomegranate juice results in colorful underwear — a small price to pay for being able to ride a bicycle, don’t ya think?”
“Agreed,” I said, shifting uncomfortably in my chair. “I’ve heard you’re also a powerful source of antioxidants.”
“Believe it, bro,” Pomeroy said, his color turning even a deeper red. “I’m the best. Most people wouldn’t know an antioxidant from an oxymoron. Punicalagin compounds are the major components responsible for our antioxidant benefits and they’re found only in us pomegranates. Beat that.”
“I’ll try to remember ‘punicalagin’ for Scrabble games.”
“Whatever,” Pomeroy said. “And while we’re on the subject, not to brag, but just sayin’: a glass of pomegranate juice has more antioxidants than red wine, green tea, blueberries, or cranberries. We not only lower cholesterol, but also lower blood pressure and we help melt atherosclerosis. We’ve even been linked to longevity, even immortality, according to some ancient Chinese witch doctors. Did I tell you when squeezed into eye drops, our juice can slow development of cataracts?”
“That would help explain your sense of superiority,” I said under my breath.
“Hey, buddy, I’ve got a pretty tough skin, or haven’t you noticed? Now that you can sit comfortably and see clearly, you might be interested to know we can even help firm up sagging breasts (heh heh). And speaking of a subject near and dear to our hearts and other organs, we might help prevent or combat prostate cancer and erectile dysfunction, which is especially valuable if you’re going to be immortal. I mean, without sex, living forever would feel like a very long time.”
“I can only imagine,” I said.
“I don’t think you can, sparky.”
“It sounds like you have a pretty enviable life,” I said. “So why are you acting like the toughest guy in the orchard?”
“I’ll tell you, my fruit-talking twerp. The thing that really fries my rind is confusion with the lowly, boring, common apple. The Persians got it right. They believed Eve actually plucked a pomegranate — not an apple — from the tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden. In fact, we pomegranates are sometimes known as Chinese apples. My scientific name, punica granatum, even comes from Medieval Latin pōmum ‘apple’ and grānātum ‘seeded.’
“And even though Greeks break us open at wedding celebrations because we symbolize prosperity and, of course, fertility, life isn’t all, well, peachy. My seeds are encased in arils or arials and I’m squished among hundreds of other seeds in my colony, man, while I ripen. Sometimes 1,400 seeds are pressed against each other in each 5” bulb. Sardines have nothing on pomegranate seeds. Can you imagine? Well, I guess you can, since you’re about to cut me open and yank my seeds right out of my membranes.”
I didn’t want to interrupt Pomeroy. He was on a roll.
“When we’re processed to make juice and to make liquid flavoring for alcoholic drinks,” he continued, “we’re pushed and flattened and squeezed mercilessly under unbearable pressure, until our arils rupture and burst open and our juice spurts out. It’s a barbaric way to extract our essence, if you ask me; I thought that technique went out with ancient Egyptians’ method of extracting brains of cadavers through their noses. That’s called excerebration, by the way, chump. And I dare you to use that word in polite conversation.”
I felt badly about splitting open the fruit, but by this time I was really hungry. The discussion with Pomeroy the proud pomegranate gave me a lot to… um… chew on.
About the author:
Mark Levy is a regular contributor of the Casual Observer column to Ragazine.CC. You can read more about Mark in “About Us.”
August 31, 2013 Comments Off on Mark Levy/Casual Observer
On Being Rich & Famous
and other cogitations
by Galanty Miller
If everyone on the planet was old, then who would be left to take away our car keys?/ There’s literally nothing I despise more than hyperbole./ Facebook is *our* generation’s Christianity./ To spice up our sex lives, my wife and I agreed to swap partners./ I’m the perfect political candidate because I’m both pro-choice AND pro-life./ You know what you never hear? “They’re having a Downton Abbey marathon over at the frat house.”/ Every week, I spend a thousand dollars on “Win a $1000 a Week for Life” scratch-offs./ I’ve changed a lot since high school. For example, I can still fit into my prom dress./ My parents threw me out of the house the day I graduated from high school. (Though, in fairness, I was 32.)/ It’s so expensive to take a family to the movies nowadays. That’s why I refuse to take families to the movies./ My poetry book hit #1 on the ‘New York Times’ Poetry Best-Seller List! I want to thank the 7 people who bought it./ It’s not that I don’t care what people think about me. It’s that I just pretend everyone likes me./ When I die, I want to be buried in heaven./ My way-too-personal trainer made me run 4 miles and then confessed that he and his wife no longer have sex./ The economy is rough. We’re losing all our “fireworks instructions” translator jobs to China./ Growing up, my parents believed in “tough love” when it came to disciplining me. It was easy for them, though, because they didn’t love me./ Women are attracted to men with a good sense of humor about their Porsche./ “I’m just waiting for the right project to come along.” – (fill in name of unemployed sit-com star from the 1990s)/ I’m very interested in what I have to say. That’s why I follow myself on
Twitter./ Clowns are basically mimes that won’t shut the hell up./ I’m 200 lbs overweight. So I have to decide whether to lose it via surgery or on a reality show./ I name my pets after my biggest fears. “Sit, Herpes, sit!”/ How do you know if there are job openings at a store that makes “help wanted” signs?/ I did NOT accuse you of stuffing our Scrabble set down my throat! Now you’re just putting words in my mouth./ I lost my virginity while skydiving because I wanted my first time to be special./ They say that when you become rich & famous, you end up losing all your friends. But there are other reasons why I want to become rich & famous, too./ My friends have been w/me through the good times & the bad times… though in fairness, they were the ones responsible for the bad times./ One day I hope to have children so I can tell them how I wasted my life./ I came here to drink beer, go out and get more beer, and kick ass. And we’re almost out of beer./ Gas prices are so high! I can still remember a time when gas was free. (That was back when I used to steal it.)/ You control your own destiny… unless your parents named you “Destiny,” in which case you’re probably gonna be a stripper./ Hey! I lost ten pounds beating the crap out of Jared, that annoying Subway guy./ That pregnant woman is absolutely glowing. Hey- get the hell out of the nuclear reactor!!/ Little League is great for kids because it teaches them how to field ground balls./ When I was young, I had to go to summer school because my parents couldn’t afford camp./ Do you realize Martin Luther King’s dream of a world where “race” doesn’t matter has come true in strip clubs?/ I wanted a tattoo that really expresses who I am. So I got a tattoo of me getting a tattoo./ I want to buy a new Ferrari but the car dealership doesn’t take Discover./ I just watched “The Life of Pi.” I thought it was never gonna end./ I can still fit into the tux I wore when I took my girlfriend to the prom. (Though, in fairness, that was last week.)/ I took a paternity test and, yes, the baby is my father. / If I win the lottery, I’m going to quit my job as a lottery player./ I hope ‘future me’ goes back in time and tells me that I invented a ‘time machine.’ It would give me more incentive to get started./ How many senior citizens does it take to change a light bulb? (Yeah, it’s an old joke.)/ I’m glad they cut our school’s budget because now we get to have class outside!/ I called 1-800-Eat-Shit. The person who answered the phone wanted to know how your driving was./ I punched him in the face and he didn’t even flinch. Damn, that’s one tough dead dude./ The worst part about being stuck here in prison is that I absolutely hate cable TV./ Let’s just agree to disagree about where we’re meeting tonight./ Think of a number between 1 and 2. There is a 50% chance I’m about to amaze you./ We’re at the top of the food chain. Arby’s is at
the bottom./ You know what you never hear? “It’s the Grammy Awards- hosted by Sean Hannity.”/ Instead of secretly spying on my Facebook activity, the government should’ve just sent me a friend request./ Only God could give us the ability to question whether or not God could make a rock too heavy for Him to lift./ I’ve been hit in the head more times than I can remember./ I don’t have any children – at least that I CARE about./ I just found out God was in a serious accident. I would pray for his recovery, but what’s the point?/ High school graduation is a special time because it means you can finally sleep with your teachers./ I have a gun and I’m not afraid to use it. (I use it as a paperweight.)/ (Father’s Day) All my Facebook friends posted such nice comments today about their fathers. I’m surprised because all my FB friends are strippers./ According to my Art-to-English dictionary, “subjective” means “stupid.”/ My marital vows are very important to me and my mistress./ You know what you never hear? “I want to use all the money I made from porn for good.”/ Someone please call 911!! #BeingRobbedAtGunpointRightNowAtThisMoment/ I feel like a man trapped in a transgendered woman’s body./ I agree to pay my son’s college tuition. In exchange, he has to promise me that he’s having a good time./ By mathematical logic, anytime someone makes a new best friend, that means someone else just lost their best friend./ Friends are forever… although “forever” ends around the time they steal your stuff.
About the author:
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August 31, 2013 Comments Off on Galanty Miller/Re-Tweets