Our dad began this book when we were both in middle school. We never knew how he came up with this idea, but we knew our dad was a bit odd. He started carrying a notepad everywhere and would stop at red lights—or sometimes mid-sentence—to write down things like “belly button lint” or “farts.” We found the house littered with napkins and scraps of paper covered with unrelated topics. It was then that we realized that Dad was losing it. He was never really like other dads, though, so it shouldn’t have surprised us. This was the father who locked himself out of a running car (multiple times, although he swears it was only once) and left outgoing voice messages about self-answering desks and smartphones taking over the power grid.
One of the strangest things our dad does is his annual holiday newsletter tradition. Instead of sending a normal holiday message to friends and family, Dad decided to make fun of people who send out a yearly report. He started writing his own version for our family, but with extreme exaggerations. He pretended we were astronauts or winners of the lottery and Nobel Peace Prize. The newsletter began with half-truths that actually gave a vague idea of what we were up to, but has since morphed into something like the eighth Harry Potter book. Dad seems to like writing down his crazy ideas and thinks that people really enjoy his sense of humor. We hope he’s right.
Regardless of how many people read it, we know how much this book means to him. It might actually come in handy if we ever get around to reading it ourselves. Actually, we hear it’s pretty good. In all seriousness, our dad has spent a lot of his time and effort working on this Morpheus blob of a book, and we could not be any more embarrassed proud.
Sam and Amy
There’s an old Yiddish expression which loosely translates as follows: “Opinions are like tushies; everybody has one.” (I cleaned this up a little. OK, so maybe something got lost in the translation.) Now as for me, I only have one tush, which is plenty. But I’ve got a million opinions and lots of advice to hand out. Give me a subject and I’ve got something to say. It’s like a disease—I just can’t keep things to myself.
You see, this book was originally intended to be an essay for my children—14 years ago (oy!). It was to be a kind of whimsical ABC guide to life through a father’s silly, passionate, cynical, sensitive, offbeat, serious and sometimes jaded eyes. They are both young adults now (at least chronologically), so they are still not supposed to pay much attention to anything I have to say. But before they put me into the home, I decided to impart my precious wisdom, handed down from generations (well, not really), and commit my pontifications, witticisms and quips to writing. You know, my dos and don’ts, my philosophies, my observations and perceptions, my musings on life’s unanswered questions, etc. Anyway, some people I respect encouraged me to turn all this into a book, suggesting that others might be interested in reading about my thoughts and musings. (Ultimately, you’ll decide if that was a good idea—or not). So I took their advice and, lucky for you, I’ve got lots to discuss. If you’re interested in tongue-in-cheek humor and a veritable cornucopia of useless information, with a little bit of stream of consciousness and plenty of cross-references thrown in, you’ve come to the right place. There is something for everyone here, so you’re bound to find a section of interest.
In my subtle and not so subtle ways, I’m offering lots of advice; not just to my children, but to anyone else reading (so you might want to take some copious notes). I’m like a volcano, with my creative juices flowing, endlessly spewing my incessant ramblings and diatribes (see Diarrhea). I can riff about life’s inconsistencies with sarcasm, cynicism, racy language and a touch of irreverence (well, maybe more than a touch). Hoping not to offend anyone, I can rant and rave about anything and everything (see Freedom)—and being completely ignorant about a subject doesn’t stop me at all. Oh, and you may want to check out the innuendo; I’m big on innuendo. And by all means, please read between the lines; there’s plenty there too. It’s a lot of fun. But you shouldn’t take me too seriously. I don’t.
When I was a little boy, I was quite inquisitive. My uncle would answer my endless series of questions with: “What, are you writing a book?” Well, I guess now I am. But I should have paid a lot more attention (see Remembering).
Please don’t look here for heavy themes like the purpose of life. But I do wax poetic about hundreds of other topics. Sorry, I don’t have all the answers, and I’m not always right; I’m just mostly right. Fortunately, I was the product of good parenting, learning the difference between right and wrong. Unfortunately, I’m afraid that many struggle to really understand the difference today.
When I was growing up, I had a boss who took great pleasure in teasing me relentlessly, pointing out everything I was doing wrong. I guess I wasn’t too offended, as I came back to work each day. So when he would find me loafing somewhere, not doing anything, he would berate me to “do something, even if it’s wrong.” That always stuck with me, as it was good advice (see Do Something).
Even though the subjects are arranged in alphabetical order, they actually appear randomly on the pages (they call that dichotomy). Serious follows stupid, which follows self-deprecation, and on and on. Open the book anywhere and read away, as there really is no beginning and no end. I’m sure you will find it quite riveting. But reading this book from cover to cover will drive you absolutely crazy (see Overkill). Would you read an encyclopedia from beginning to end? Of course not. It’s best to pick it up, read a few pages and then find something else to do. Trust me on this. My head has already exploded several times. It took me 14 years to write this, so it will likely take you 10 years to read it.
I’ll sum up my redundant and rambling themes this way: do the right thing, be nice, be smart, be yourself, chase your dreams, make a difference and be proud. Oh, and have lots and lots of fun. Simple enough, right? Just always be satisfied that you are doing the best you can. That may sound trite, but it’s a great way to live. You can’t fool yourself, you know, as you tend to be your biggest critic.
It’s easy to sit on the sidelines and whine and complain (usually to yourself) about life. So I’m writing down what I think is right and wrong, with plenty in between. But maybe someone, even my children, will read this and find it enjoyable, entertaining, thought provoking and possibly just a little bit helpful. Who knows? Stranger things have happened. Now be my guest. Go take a seat in your easy chair (no idea what that is), relax, enjoy and read on. I’m sure you will be spellbound, hanging on my every word. You might even be inspired to do something.
At least now I’m doing something.
HERE WE GO
So here’s how this works. I pick a topic and write something serious/ cute/ silly/ stupid/ funny/ sarcastic/ whimsical/ personal about it. And you’re quite moved and impressed that it is so thought provoking/ profound/ perceptive/ insightful/ stupid/ uproariously funny/ clever/ nutty/ subtle/ not so subtle/ charming/ enlightening, which causes you to read on. You get the idea; I’ll do my job and you’ll do yours. Fasten your seatbelt and enjoy the ride. Just read, read, read (see Reading), for God’s sake.
Please pardon my ignorance, but as for aardvarks, I don’t know much about them, except they’re weird looking. One thing has always bothered me, though. Who was in charge of deciding how to spell this word? It should be “oddvark,” right? Look, this is the beginning and that’s the best I could come up with. Sue me.
How can gas stations, in all good conscience, charge for air? It’s free almost everywhere else, isn’t it? I guess capitalism has reached a new low.
Come on. Why on earth would anyone want to pretend to be playing a guitar? And in public, yet? Do you see anyone pretending to play a piano or trombone? Well, maybe you do, but that’s weird too. Do you think they know how ridiculous they look? Probably not.
The best ways are to always:
- Back up your files.
- Be clean shaven (girls too—you know what I mean).
- Be fair.
- Be faithful.
- Be honest with yourself.
- Be on your best behavior.
- Be you.
- Blot stains before trying to rub them out.
- Bus your trays.
- Carry some cash with you.
- Check the expiration date on your medicine.
- Check your fly after visiting the bathroom.
- Clean up after yourself.
- Clear the snow off your car before you drive away.
- Cover your mouth when you cough.
- Double-check the recipient’s address before you send an e-mail.
- Do what you say you’ll do.
- Do your chores.
- Finish what you start.
- Flush when you’re done.
- Give a good tip.
- Go down swinging.
- Have an exit strategy.
- Have a daily routine.
- Have a spring in your step.
- Have some blueberries (best fruit for you).
- Hold your ground.
- Hug and kiss your mom and dad.
- Keep your car doors locked while driving.
- Keep your head up (and your chin too).
- Keep your room clean.
- Kiss your children goodnight.
- Kiss your life mate goodnight.
- Kiss your toad goodnight.
- Knock before entering any closed door.
- Know your limitations.
- Know yourself.
- Lead with your strengths.
- Leave the house expecting to meet your boss.
- Look both ways before crossing the street.
- Look like you know what you are doing.
- Look presentable.
- Make your bed after you get up.
- Mind your manners.
- Pay attention.
- Pick up after yourself.
- Play nice.
- Proofread your work.
- Put things back where you found them.
- Remember who your friends are.
- Repeat your phone number when leaving a voicemail message.
- Respect boundaries.
- Respect intelligence.
- Respect other’s privacy.
- Respect other’s privates.
- Respect other’s time.
- Respect your elders.
- Replace toilet paper to roll over the top (paper towels too).
- Return borrowed items.
- Speak the truth (or almost always).
- Stand and sit up straight.
- Stay grounded.
- Stay to the right (in America, anyway).
- Stretch before and after exercise.
- Take the high road.
- Take your hat off indoors.
- Take your time.
- Tell your children you love them.
- Think before you speak (reversing this order is a big mistake).
- Tip the wait staff (unless the service is horrible).
- Treat people as you’d like to be treated.
- Tuck your shirt in.
- Turn off the light when you leave the room (TV too).
- Use spell-check before sending an e-mail.
- Use sunscreen when you’re outside.
- Use those tushie protectors when sitting on a public toilet.
- Wait your turn.
- Wipe off your shoes before you come into the house.
- Yield the right of way.
Ah, who cares about ambivalence (see Voting)?
I guess there are people in this world who like to throw up. That’s my only explanation for the strange attraction of so many to be flipped upside down and in circles, in unnatural positions and at Mach speeds. And they call that fun? Maybe the fun happens when the ride is finally over. If they enjoy that feeling so much, wouldn’t it be easier (and cheaper) to simply stick their fingers down their throats?
ANNUAL BIRTHDAY CARD DAY
I know I’m not the only one who has trouble remembering everyone’s birthdays. I have a solution to that age-old problem. On January first of each year, I’m going to mail birthday cards to all of my friends and family members. They will all likely have birthdays sometime during the year, right? So I’m giving them a very special early birthday greeting. We’ll call it the lazy approach to birthday card giving. Everyone is included in this very special greeting (see Insincere), so what’s not to like?
ARGUING WITH YOURSELF
Yup, we all have two of us inside; and those two constantly argue with each other. Should we go to work or school today, or should we call in sick? Should we eat that very tempting piece of chocolate cake, or stick to our diet? It’s a wonder we ever get anything done, with all of that internal dialogue and noise going on. In the end, we should just listen to the one who’s right. And deep down inside, we always know which one that is, don’t we now (see Conscience)?
Don’t you just hate it when someone is talking to you and they insist on tapping your arm as they’re speaking? Like there is any way to ignore their incessant ramblings when they are right in front of you. I guess they already know they are going to bore the hell out of you and have to keep hitting you to make sure you haven’t fallen asleep.
The human ass is a very durable piece of equipment. And contrary to popular belief, you can’t freeze, work, scare, sneeze, sweat or laugh your ass off. You can’t bust your ass either, even though it’s already cracked (some are more cracked than others). And making an ass out of yourself is always a possibility, especially for those with oversize cabooses. There’s also no such thing as a dumb ass (there is such a thing as a dumb waiter, though), because most of us don’t have any brains there. And if you have to ask: yes, your ass does look big in that. However, you could wipe your ass off (see Hemorrhoids), so be careful. All this means that your ass will likely always be there. That’s not necessarily good news, as some of us could do with a little less ass and a little more brains.
No one really knows why, but having your back scratched just feels indescribably good. Maybe it’s got to do with carving away dead skin. It’s hard to get into too much trouble with this, especially if they scratch your back and you scratch theirs (see Friends).
Your bathroom isn’t a library, or an office; so keep the books (including this one) and magazines somewhere else. Unless you really like the ambiance in there, just take care of business and get out. I can think of much nicer places to spend my time. Your tush will thank you (see Hemorrhoids).
Innies, outies—how do you really know if it’s buttoned or not? Imagine going out of the house without your belly button buttoned? What would the neighbors think? And whose idea is that belly button lint?
Oh girls? Little belly shirts should only be worn by those with little bellies. Boys? Don’t bother.
Why is it that when someone sneezes, you’re supposed to wish them well? Is having snot coming out of your nose something to celebrate? Whoopee. In any case, I prefer to use the German term, “goes-in-tight.” Or should that be tightly?
Want to see your blood pressure go up? Just sit impatiently in the doctor’s office; the longer you wait, the higher it gets (see Anxiety). It’s called the directly proportional rule. But here’s where most doctors make a mistake. They should always check your pressure after the physical, not before. Your blood pressure goes way down after they tell you you’re not dying. This is called the indirectly proportional rule.
BLOWING IN THE WIND
If your attitudes change by whichever way the wind blows, you’re missing something (see Substance). You’re actually missing a lot of things.
Very few people are satisfied with their bodies, especially if all of their parts are still original and un-retouched. All of us know our bodies better than anyone else, as well we should. We know where all of our visible (and not so visible) imperfections are, and assume that everyone is constantly focused on them. Well guess what? Because the rest of us are so wrapped up worrying about our own appearance, we rarely even notice your little zit popping out. Now if you have one big eyebrow—that we’d notice. Some things are clearly worth fixing. Remember, your body is like a temple; if you take care of your body, your body will take care of you.
First of all, body piercings have gotta hurt. Second of all, they look stupid. And how practical is it? Could you imagine getting your nipple ring or your nose ring caught on something? Or worse yet, your nipple ring caught on your nose ring. Or even your nipple ring caught on someone else’s nose ring; not to mention their tongue ring getting in the way. Ouch! So why do people do it? I don’t have the slightest idea.
BOXERS vs. BRIEFS
Boxers. Got to let “the boys” breathe, you know. Anyway, if you’re ever caught with your pants down, it looks like you’re wearing a bathing suit, not your birthday suit.
If you have to tell everyone how great you are, you probably aren’t (see Modesty). Leave the gloating to the Gloats (I made that up).
It’s not just the brainiacs who are brilliant. If you radiate happiness and warmth, you’re brilliant. Shine on.
Ah, togetherness. Imagine the quality time you can spend with those special to you during a bad storm. There’s a blizzard or hurricane outside, but you are nice and safe in the warm confines of your abode. Then the power goes out. Nothing to do, nowhere to go, no air conditioning or heat—for days; maybe weeks. Those close to you become way too close. The walls close in, you’re lucky if you don’t kill each other and it becomes more like house arrest. I last about five minutes in those situations. Way too much togetherness for me. I’ll take my chances fighting the elements.
You know how some things just warm the cockles of your heart? So how can you be sure that your cockles are working properly? Do you tell the doctor that you think you have a cockle problem? Do they have to do something invasive, like peek-a-boo into your heart to check? I worry about things like that. You probably should too, unless you’re really in touch with your cockles. What you do in the privacy of your own home is, of course, your own business.
Could you imagine starting from scratch, writing a document to set up the laws, basic concepts and parameters for a brand-new country? Our forefathers (my guess is that there were probably more than four) had such a daunting task, with little or no precedent or history to guide them. If you ask me, they performed some miracles getting consensus and getting this done. We’ve lived under the Constitution for well over 200 years and built the strongest and best country in the world. And those Amendments aren’t too shabby either. Good job, fellas.
Dinosaurs are extinct. If you keep thinking and living like a dinosaur, you’ll be extinct too. Get with it already (see Caveman Syndrome).
If they’re constantly walking all over you—it’s not them, it’s you (see Self-Esteem). Tell them to wipe their shoes somewhere else.
Do double chins serve any real purpose? We’re supposed to have two eyes, two ears, two arms, etc. But only one chin, right? Another design flaw, I think; hopefully, it will be corrected in the next model.
I’d close down the electoral college; blame budget cuts. Know anyone who’s graduated from there? Not me. In the early days of our country, an elite group of men (see Sexist) chose the president, allegedly by taking into account the desires of their constituents. Now it’s an all or nothing deal. The candidate who gets the most votes in a state gets all of that state’s electoral votes. Theoretically, a candidate can win the election for president while getting only a minority of the country-wide popular vote. Right, President Gore? That’s stupid, and causes some candidates to decide to abandon a state and not campaign there at all. But he or she will eventually govern the whole country, so what good does that do? The popular vote should decide the winner, as the electoral college has outlived its usefulness.
So what kind of drugs were they taking when they decided to write down the English language? For starters, why would anyone go through all the trouble of adding silent letters into words (“sword”—what the heck is the w for)? And spelling two words identically that are pronounced differently and mean two completely different things (“wind” a clock—and “wind,” brrr)? Not to mention having the same sound come from different (or a combination of different) letters (see Enough). Do we not want anyone else to be able to read or write English? And why should Bud Abbott get an extra b and t in his last name? Was he so special? Does Illinois really need those extra letters? And enough with the gh’s and ph’s already. I’m all for having challenges in life, but this is ridiculous (see Overkill).
An expert is someone from out of town who says they’re an expert.
The average person farts 14 times a day. Let’s just say that puts me a bit above average (OK, maybe a lot above average). In most situations, good discipline dictates that you try to hold it in (see Manners). However, sometimes nature just won’t cooperate and you have to let it rip. So be discreet—or stand near a dog. Going to the bathroom also helps. Stay away from the ones who say they never fart, because with all of that built-up gas, they will probably explode at any given moment. (That’s my own version of the Big Bang Theory.) Oh, and girls don’t fart; they simply fluff (see Pandering).
We all tend to forget that food is merely a means to an end—the end being nutrition for our bodies. We make such a big deal about every aspect of a meal: preparation, presentation, texture, aroma, taste, you name it. If we spent as much time and effort worrying about important issues like war and disease, we would be able to solve all of society’s ills in no time. Unfortunately, the level of taste in our meal is directly proportional to the amount of extra pounds we carry around. We are a nation obsessed with food and eating: fast food, eating out, eating in, gourmet food—and it goes on and on. We lose sight of the fact that eating is just another bodily function. And food is simply fuel for our bodies; it goes in and comes out. It’s those damn taste buds that create so many of our problems (see Dieting). Here’s a rule of thumb: If it’s fried, sweet, creamy or salty, it’s generally not good for you (see Disappointment). We need to find a way to dull our taste buds and desensitize our minds to the visual attractiveness of decadent delights. We would be a much healthier (not to mention skinnier) country. It’s really all about making good choices. Just remember: after those first few delectable bites, the novelty and excitement quickly wear off. I think that’s another Garden of Eden punishment. Thanks a lot Eve (and Adam too).
Those damn French. We save their asses in two World Wars and the best they can do is give us French fries? That’s the thanks we get? Those delicious, irresistible little hunks of fried potatoes do nothing but clog our arteries and fatten our behinds. And the only French we Americans understand is: “Do you want fries with that?” How do you say thank you in French (see Gesturing)?
The world is a very diverse place. People come in different shapes, sizes and colors. If we were all the same, it would be a very boring planet. That’s why everyone’s different. I think they call it “gay” because they deserve happiness, just like everyone else. I don’t understand people being attracted to others of the same sex, because I’m not. But plenty of people are, for a variety of reasons. That’s life, and that’s what makes the world go around. As long as innocent people aren’t hurt, and laws aren’t being broken, people’s sexual orientation is their own business—not mine, and not yours.
What the heck is “heck”? And where the heck is heck? I know it’s not hell, because hell is hell, and war is hell. I guess heck is heck.
Yes, God really does have a sense of humor.