Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Father and Son

Hi everybody,

I'm thankful for the positive response to my Presidential Trivia series. Rest assured that - yes- I will continue until every President has been addressed. But at present I find myself in an introspective state of mind, so I thought - for better or worse - I'd provide a rare glimpse of my serious side.

I don't have many memories of my dad, because he died when I was quite young. But from older siblings, mom, aunts and uncles, I've learned much about him over the years. I knew that he had a hard life, having not much of a childhood himself, and later on having to struggle often to provide for his family. I knew my parents' marriage went through many rough patches, and that mom even had to kick him out of the house a few times.

I discovered that his relationship with his brother was based on unhealthy competition rather than brotherly love. He could never measure up to his older and only brother, even though the man turned out to be a cold and calculating white-collar crook.

Perhaps this is why he drank so much. But he was my dad, and the adoring eyes of a son saw nothing but the good in him. Even today, so many years removed from my childhood and with the benefit of maturity and pragmatism, I can only remember the good times.

One father-and-son moment in particular still reverberates with crystal clarity in my mind. Dad had a rough week, having put in over 50-hours on a construction project through that Thursday. As if my prayers were answered, dad's boss gave him that Friday off, and - bless his heart - dad vowed to keep me out of school so we could have a "boys' day out".

Now, for my last birthday, dad surprised me with my very first hunting rifle. It was a rite of passage for many youngsters growing up in the south. But I hadn't been able to use it. Until this day. Because finally MY dad was going to teach me how to shoot. He would patiently show me how to calibrate the gunsights, account for wind velocity and direction, and gently squeeze the trigger in order to "maintain your bead on the target".

So we got in the car and headed to a railroad yard where we could line up a slew of tin cans along the top of a fence. It was perfect for target practice! Dad and I carefully placed the cans and affixed paper bullseyes to the fronts of each one. Then he and I measured exactly fifty paces from the fence line to our firing spot. I could barely maintain any reasonable semblance of composure. The anticipation was too much. I would finally get the chance to fire my weapon and show my dad what a naturally great shot I was.

Then the moment had arrived. I steadied myself and took careful aim. Slowly and deliberately I squeezed the trigger, and the first shot was on it's way. Then another. Then another. After that, it all seemed like a dream. I could imagine that the cans were more than cans. They were adversaries, and it was "kill or be killed". I convinced myself that there were screams as my shells found their mark. It felt as if each moment was playing out in slow-motion, frame by frame.

As I later found out, Dealey Plaza and - unbeknownst to us both - President Kennedy's passing motorcade lay just beyond that fence. One life touched many that afternoon. A rite of passage for one resulting in last rites for another. Needless to say, dad and I never spoke again of that day. And it would be close to 5-years before I could bring myself to shoot that rifle again, and only after departing the haunted memories of Dallas for new beginnings in Memphis.

I regret that I cannot admit to where I was and what I was doing when President Kennedy was shot, other than to say - proudly - I was with my dad.


Sunday, June 17, 2007

Presidential Trivia - XI thru XV

Hi Everybody,

Welcome back to the captivating world of Presidential Trivia, now with EVEN MORE ACTUAL FACTOIDS! Who knew that our great leaders, past and present, were so damned "3-dimensional"?

Now, for some odd and unfounded reason, I've been accused of starting multi-part posts that I don't finish. So allow me to incrementally dispel that nasty rumor with a continuation of this particular series. In fact, I'm having SO much fun, that I've decided to draw it out by "kicking it down a notch" to 5-Presidents at a time. So, my fellow Americans and Americanophiles, enjoy!

11) James Knox Polk - The first so-called "Dark Horse" candidate to be elected President. What most people don't know is that he validated this title by wearing a ridiculous "Black Beauty" equine costume at the first Thanksgiving dinner to be held in the White House. I can't blame him. His wife Sarah Polk was a devout Presbyterian who banned dancing, card-playing and alcoholic beverages. Of course back then, it was considered "improper" to refer to these types of First Ladies as "stifling bitches". So President Polk - under the guise of "entertaining his guests" - simply donned the horse costume and imbibed the Sour Mash Whiskey that was secreted inside. So what if he made an ass of himself? He beat the system. And that is what we look for in a leader.

President Polk is also responsible for helping to "encourage" Mexico to cheaply sell a "teensy-weensy" sliver of land to the U.S. which includes California, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Utah and parts of Colorado and Wyoming. And lucky for us, soon after GOLD(!) was discovered in California (it would have really sucked if it were discovered BEFORE the purchase), starting a rush, the name of which is long-forgotten. We are grateful to our "Amigos to the South" for their generous deal, but prefer to show that gratitude from afar by waving at them over the fence.

12) Zachary Taylor - Even though his nickname was "Old Rough and Ready", don't get too excited. It had nothing to do with sex.

Rather, his nickname should have been "Old Coot", as this charmer was known for returning mail that had postage due, and also for chasing kids off of the White House lawn with a horse whip. But being a man of double-standards, he kept "Old Whitey" (the horse he egotistically named after himself) on the same grounds, where it crapped at will. Eventually everyone pitched in for a bowl of cherries laced with arsenic and left them on his night-stand, proving that certain Presidents have a gift for galvanizing and uniting Americans into action.

13) Millard Fillmore - While thirteen is usually considered an unlucky number, this President spent a great deal of time getting lucky, or as he called it: "Rockin' the Fillmore". In fact, he often boasted that he was able to "fill more" of his constituants than any previous President.

He was controversial for his compromise and fugitive slaves acts, and also for inspiring the insipid "Mallard Fillmore" comic strip. On the other hand, he did help to make the White House a less odorous place, by installing its first bath tub (probably the same one that fat-ass President Taft later got stuck in).

14) Franklin Pierce - President Pierce was arrested while in office for running over an old woman with his horse, but his case was dropped because - duh - he was The President. The woman's family was jailed for abetting the obstruction of his carriage, and their vacated home was used to stable the horse.

Pierce had fought in the Mexican War and was wounded by an errant burrito. One of the Democratic party's slogans during Pierce's campaign for president was: "We Polked you in 1844; we shall Pierce you in 1852." Well over a century later, William Clinton melded these slogans into a similar one that targeted the bimbo demographic.

The Franklinator was the only elected President who sought but did not win his party's nomination for a second term, giving many Republicans false cause for hope in the year 2004. He was also the first President to have a Christmas tree in the White House, and the first to unwrap a dried piece of dogshit on Christmas morning.

15) James Buchanan - He was known for his uncanny resemblence to W.C. Fields (who was also a gambling, alcoholic grouch who hated kids and dogs), and for his ineptness in failing to defuse Northern and Southern pre-Civil War tensions. He dressed impeccably, was a neat freak and never married. As such he was likely our first gay President. Those who knew him, bragged that he could "make over" an entire room in the White House over a single weekend, always picked the perfect wine, and never failed to moisturize. He loved going to plays, but was paranoid about unwelcome visitors to his private booth, so he always bolted the door and propped a chair against it. Darn.

See you next time, for the next "fabulous five"!


Sunday, June 10, 2007

Collective Craziness

The Joke:

Doctor Joe had sex with one of his patients and had felt guilty all day long. No matter how much he tried to forget about it, he couldn't. The guilt and sense of betrayal was overwhelming.

But every once in a while he'd hear that soothing voice within himself, trying to reassure him. "Joe, don't worry about it. You aren't the first doctor to have sex with a patient and you won't be the last. And you're single. Let it go."

But invariably the other voice would bring him back to reality: ...

And now ... The Punchline ...

"Joe, you're a vet."


Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Presidential Trivia - I thru X

Hi Everybody,

I have a backlog of promised posts to get out, but - despite my increased fiber intake - have been finding it difficult to deliver any polished gems just yet. However, I am acutely aware that I need to post something new for you bloodthirsty savages. Fortunately, inspiration has struck. As an avid fan of history shows, I've become aware of a particular topic that - in my humble opinion - hasn't been sufficiently addressed: Presidential Trivia. So without further ado, I would like to present little tidbits about U.S. Presidents that you probably weren't aware of. Enemy, feel free to print out this post in your classroom for the delight of your students.

1) George Washington - Of course, everyone knows that he had wooden teeth. But did you know that he turned down the opportunity to appear in advertising for this new-fangled innovation under the tagline, "Got Wood"?

2) John Adams - Perhaps our creepiest President, it's rumored that he and wife Abigal served as inspiration for "The Addams Family" sitcom. In fact, he had a severed hand that he kept in an ornate box, and would pass it around at dinner parties.

3) Thomas Jefferson - In recent times it's been revealed through DNA testing that he fathered offspring with Sally Hemmings, one of his slaves. But did you know that one of those children looked amazingly like Lenny Kravitz, and was equally talented on the Lute (a precursor to the modern day guitar)?

4) James Madison - A short man, he suffered from feelings of inadequacy. And as such, he would "overcompensate" at parties with his drunken, obnoxious behavior. He was notorious for groping women inappropriately while exclaiming, "Hello, Dolly"! He is also the first famous person known to wear platform shoes.

5) James Monroe - Sure he was renowned for his "Monroe Doctrine", but were you aware that he inspired the "Monroe" character in the sitcom, "Too Close For Comfort"?

6) John Quincy Adams - The first dumbass son of a mediocre former President, he helped paved the way for a future dumbass son of a former mediocre President. When my time machine is FINALLY complete, zapping his dad with my "Sterilization Ray" (which is the 2nd deliverable - along with the time machine, of course - due from PugWorks Labs after the first round of pre-IPO funding) will be the second "covert op" after "Mission: HW".

7) Andrew Jackson - Famously known as "Ol' Hickory", what most people don't know is that folks avoided his barbeques like the plague. The man would NEVER use mesquite, even though he was provided with cords of it. Every damned food item tasted like hickory; even the potato salad, for some odd reason. It was way too cliche, even for one of our lesser Presidents.

8) Martin Van Buren - An incompetent President, Martin had prodigious music talent. In fact, he and his brother formed an eponymously named quartet that developed an enormous cult following, but eventually became middle-of-the-pack due to a revolving door of increasingly mediocre vocalists.

9) William Henry Harrison - Just like the Martians in "War of the Worlds", Harrison was defeated by the common cold. So his similar plan of enslaving mankind and decimating the planet would fortunately be shelved until 2000.

10) John Tyler - DNA testing has only recently revealed that he is actually the father of Liv Tyler, and not the singer from Aerosmith. Turns out that Liv's mom gained access to one of my early time machine prototypes and ... well, I'm sure you can guess the rest.

Stay tuned next time for XI thru XX!