Category Archives: Awfully Funny

The gift of a memorable zucchini

When I was 17, a woman gave me a zucchini. I remember it like it was yesterday.

Why are you laughing? What’s so funny about a zucchini? Zucchini jokes in the summer are like fruitcake jokes at Christmas:

“Did you hear the one about the lady who grew the world’s largest zucchini? It was so big, it stuck out the hatch and she couldn’t lock the car. Then she stopped for some things at the drug store, and when she came back to her car, something terrible had happened. Somebody had left her the second-largest zucchini, too!”

Pumpkins, yellow squash, sweet potatoes — they all produce prodigious amounts, leading gardeners to force free vegetables on their friends. Even cucumbers, which look just as goofy, are not as maligned as zukes.

The problem with zucchini is it grows from a tiny edible blossom to a 10-pound lump of bland green flesh in about 24 hours. You have to watch it carefully, to make sure it doesn’t take over your garden patch, and possibly, the entire world. There’s an idea there…keep reading.

Barry’s grandfather, Percy, had a younger brother who was famous for his practical jokes. In hindsight, they were pretty funny, but they nearly started several feuds. Milton knew that Percy was extremely particular about his pickle patch, and that he always picked the pickles when they were tiny and would bring the greatest price on the market. So one day, Milton snuck in a large zucchini and tucked it amongst the pickle plants. It was worth it, just to see the look on Percy’s face.

When I got out of high school, I had a job going door-to-door collecting signatures and money for a grassroots lobbying group. After talking the person into signing the petition, usually a little guilt was enough to capture a donation as well. One woman, in a small town in Ohio, signed the sheet, and then she said, “Wait here, I’ll be right back.” Usually, that meant the person was going to find their wallet or piggy bank. I waited patiently.

To my surprise, she returned with a gigantic zucchini. “I don’t have any money, but please take this,” she said.

I was just a kid. I didn’t realize I’d been had. I thought she was giving me something of value. I couldn’t figure out why my supervisor and all my coworkers fell over laughing when I returned with this huge green log under my arm.

That night, my collection was dreadfully low, because after the zucchini, I couldn’t get any donations. I figured out that I couldn’t go door-to-door with a zucchini and a clipboard; at each house, I had to stash it in the bushes before ringing the bell. I mean, what would you do if a stranger showed up at your door, at the height of summer, with a huge zucchini under her arm? You certainly wouldn’t open it!

In hindsight, I wonder if it was a diabolical plan on the part of the zucchini-grower. Maybe she really despised my cause, but pretended to support it. She knew that anyone carrying a zucchini would be suspect to the rest of the neighborhood.

The more I think about her perfect strategy, the more I think I’m on to something. This summer, our military can foist zucchini on our enemies, whose neighbors will have nothing to do with them, leading to their eventual downfall. It’s a great way to get rid of unwanted zucchini, and it solves the problems of world hunger and world peace. We can even can print zucchini recipes on pieces of paper and drop them from airplanes over war zones. Even better, we can print zucchini jokes and drop them, too.

We could also drop the zucchinis themselves from the airplanes, but in order for it to be peaceful, we’d have to come up with little parachutes for them. Otherwise, people might mistake them for green bombs. And being hit with a falling zucchini could actually hurt.

If you think this is a great idea, then it’s time to start planning your “Victory Garden” now. World peace is going to require a lot of zucchini, and it’s up to us to provide it. Go ahead and plant lots of seeds, and then let’s sit back and watch the zucchinis take over the world.
For zucchini recipes, please see the recipe page.

Confessions of a Limerick Junkie

I’ve always loved to read good poetry. In college, I read serious stuff, like “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” I mooned over lyrical phrases, like,

“I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.”

Later, I saved all the letters from my dear friend, Elizabeth Bolton, because so many of them included her original poetry. Her posthumously published book Lost Farm included a favorite of mine and Barry’s, Fowl Language, with seven hilarious stanzas like this one:

Even a hen doesn’t need much luck
To communicate exactly with a squawk and cluck
Yet if you notice what a hen must endure
You won’t be surprised that her words aren’t pure

And in Dawson City this summer, I reveled in the sing-song poems of Robert Service. In my lifetime, I couldn’t imagine a best-selling author known to everyone in the U.S. writing poetry. Perhaps his success was more akin to today’s country songwriters, with stanzas like,

Till I came to the marge of Lake Lebarge,
And a derelict there lay;
It was jammed in the ice, but I saw in a trice
It was called the “Alice May”.
And I looked at it, and I thought a bit,
And I looked at my frozen chum;
Then “Here,” said I, with a sudden cry,
“Is my cre-ma-tor-eum.”

Still, my own notebooks are full of scribbled prose, not poetry. Wait, wait, you might cry — what about the limericks?

A form of madness

When my mind is quiet, especially in dark hours when I can’t sleep, a line for a limerick comes into my head. Instead of counting sheep, I start going through the alphabet to find words that rhyme. Like popping corn, the words jump around in my head until a couple of pieces match. Suddenly, it all clicks into place, and I have to turn on the light and write it down before it escapes.

This limerick madness that possesses me happened unexpectedly, and it continues to amaze me. Since February 2003, when my first one bopped me on the head, I have written over 100 limericks. The actual milestone slipped by, unnoticed — at last count, I found 106 originals on my website, plus about a dozen inspirational guest submissions.

What keeps me awake at night these days, though, is anapestic meter. Most folks who write limericks follow the basic rhyming structure: AABBA. But a true limerick has proper meter: “dah-DAH-dah-dah-DAH-dah-dah-DAH-dah.” You know it when you hear it, as in:

There once was a girl from Nantucket.

I’ve found, however, that I am not alone. There are other limerick-writers on the Web, and my favorite site is the Omnificent English Dictionary in Limerick Form. Lately, my own site has suffered, as I’ve been sneaking over there to submit my pieces. They actually have editors who will pick apart a limerick with lousy meter. Hence this new preoccupation with anapestic meter.

I sent them last year’s Christmas special that defined agnostic, and it got some good feedback. More recently, I’ve submitted limericks for the words aghast, Andouille, benefice, and black-eyed pea. Just a couple of hours ago, inspiration struck, and I wrote one of my most clever bits yet, a definition of the word anusless. That one’s not visible yet, but I hope it will be soon.

If you’re looking for a good time, be sure to bookmark the OEDILF site. And I promise, when I’m not writing essays, recipes, or food pieces (I started a new feature on, “The Foodie Gazette“), I’ll be writing the old AABBA. In my sleep.

There once was a girl with a pen
Who wrote a few lines now and then
But at night in her bed
She would cower in dread
From that terrible limerick yen.

Flying With Pirates (and an apology)

For those of you who receive these by e-mail, Barry says he wants to apologize. His add-on code went haywire last week and resent a whole bunch of old posts. I was mortified! I hope this new piece makes up for the unintentional spamming of your e-mail.

I’m sitting in the Atlanta airport, reminiscing about the good old days. Those were the days before 9/11, when airport security changed forever.

Back then, you could walk someone to the gate and say goodbye, with their very plane visible through the big windows. You could meet people at the gate, too, carrying huge bouquets of flowers and gigantic teddy bears. One year, I put on my leather jacket and chauffeur’s cap and made a large cardboard sign reading “SCHULTE.” My brother didn’t recognize me standing at the gate. Given that he walked right by me, he must not have recognized his own name, either.

They were worried about terrorists back then, but they didn’t know which weapons to be afraid of. Flying home from a Christmas celebration in the early 90’s, Barry and I were just about strip-searched. Grandma had given us a lovely letter opener shaped like a butter knife, and we foolishly left it in our carry-on. They didn’t have envelopes like they do now, so you can nail your sentimental nail clippers home; back then, they just let us carry that scary butter knife on the plane.

They used to put the metal detectors a lot closer to the gates, too, so waiting passengers could enjoy the show. We were sitting near the checkpoint in a Michigan airport once, when everyone started talking and snickering. A biker had walked up to the metal detector. Every square inch of his leather jacket and pants was covered in decorative metal rivets. He sported earrings, a nose ring, chains around his neck and waist, a studded collar, and a studded wristband.

The security fellow sighed, waved him over to the side, and pulled out his wand. It was useless to try to “detect” metal within about ten feet of him, so the screening was silly. Nonetheless, they didn’t subject Mr. Metal to the embarrassing pat-downs used today. A few minutes later, the voluptuous Mrs. Metal appeared, togged out in matching attire, and was given even less of a screening.

My favorite story about travelers with interesting attire was on a redeye flight from Seattle to this very airport, Atlanta. I was traveling alone, on business, and Barry walked me to the gate. We were distracted from our farewell embrace by the arrival of a half-dozen pirates. They wore pantaloons and pirate blouses, bandanas and eye patches. Luckily, since Barry had accompanied me to the gate, I was able to confirm that I was not hallucinating.

The pirates were incredibly loud and boisterous, laughing and joking and slapping each other on the back. Every step jangled and clanked, thanks to the chains and medallions around their necks, plus each one had a huge pewter tankard hanging from his belt. “So much for sleeping on this redeye,” I commented wryly to Barry.

But I was wrong! They were not the youngest pirates, and shortly after settling on the plane, they were all fast asleep. The only noise was a little snoring.

They turned out to be Seattle’s infamous Seafair Pirates, headed to a pirate rendezvous in the Caribbean. A bunch of pirates were getting together from all over the world, and these guys wanted to be well-rested for the nonstop partying ahead.

When we got off the plane in Atlanta, it was about 5 am. The pirates and I were all a bit wilted as we started walking down the empty concourse. Just before we parted ways, I pulled out my camera. “Just one picture,” I pleaded, “or nobody will ever believe this.” They insisted on putting me in the middle of the photo, and we found a sleepy passenger to snap the photo.

Ever since that experience, I have always wanted to dress up as a pirate and jump on a jumbo jet. Sadly, I think I would have to pack my costume in checked baggage. I’m not sure what the security folks would do to a lady in an eye patch with a pewter tankard hanging from her belt, and I’m not sure I want to find out.

The Best of Beans Lit

Another Monday has come and gone. Still no message from Dave Cash. I could cry.

The night before Hurricane Katrina came ashore, I sent a tongue-in-cheek e-mail to Dave, in New Orleans. The subject line was “World’s largest bowl for soaking beans” and the text read: “If the whole city fills up with water, you could soak a LOT of red beans! Good luck with the storm — we’ll be thinkin’ of you and the Monday night gang.”

Looking back at the message, I cringe at my attempted humor. Even with the warnings and predictions, we all thought that the storm would bring only minimal damage to folks like Dave.

We met him at a birthday party in New Orleans. We’d been nervous and unsure, not knowing anyone at the party. The only other private party we’d been to had involved a lot of drinking, and someone had thrown his (not-quite-empty) daiquiri cup on my head. But Simon and Kalleen put on a low-key, fun celebration, with Lebanese food and a Mexican pinata. Guests took turns hanging upside down from Simon’s inversion table, with much hilarity.

Finally, they brought out two birthday cakes, ice cream cakes from Dairy Queen. Then Simon looked over at Dave, with whom I’d been chatting, and looked abashed. “Oh, sorry about that, Dave,” he said. Dave just smiled. “It’s OK,” he said. “I’m used to it.”

Dave Cash is a vegan, the only healthy-looking person I’ve ever met who eschews all animal products, including dairy products and eggs. (Most vegans I’d met were teenaged girls who live on peanut butter and celery.) At Simon’s party, Dave invited us to his house for red beans and rice. “I do it every Monday,” he said. “Give me your e-mail address, and I’ll add you to the invite list.”

The following Monday, the first e-mail arrived. The subject, “Red Sea’s Cleft Wide,” made no sense to us, but the salutation, “Hello, Hungry Person!” got my attention. The message included the time, address, and directions. At the bottom was the recipe for the beans.

What makes the weekly invitation special, and the reason we asked Dave to leave us on the list when we left New Orleans, is something called “beans lit.” Friends and participants in the weekly dinner send poems — limericks, haiku, songs — and Dave publishes one of them each week with the invitation.

The first invitation we received was especially fortuitous. It included a piece by Mike Hahn entitled “The Ballad of Bean Night,” and it actually explained Dave’s tradition:

(to the tune of “The Ballad of Jed Clampett” with apologies to Paul Henning and props to the late, great Buddy Ebsen)

Come and listen to a story ’bout a man named Dave
and the celebrated legend of the weekly feast he gave.
He came from Californy went on down to New Or-leens,
where his roommate Chris started cooking up beans.

Red beans and rice that is. Big Easy style. Nice and spicy.

Well, afore too long Chris moved outa town,
But Dave up and said “I think I’ll stick around”.
So he loaded up a pot with his special recipe
and started serving beans out for absolutely free.

No cost that is. Gratis. Everybody’s welcome.

Well the next thing you know Dave’s got a million friends
And folks might think this is where the story ends.
But the legend carries on, to everyone’s delight,
Beans are on at Dave’s place every Monday night.

Bean eatin’ and jawbonin’. Come on in and set a spell.
Take your shoes off.

Y’all come back now, y’hear?

We later found out that Dave had been doing this, every single Monday, for almost ten years. It’s not a potluck, although people occasionally bring a salad or some wine, and Dave never asks for money. Over the years, he’s built a small community around the weekly dinner.

At the time, the three-person crew of Cayenne was no stranger to red beans and rice, since Brian had discovered a 10-minute mix made by a local food company, Louisiana Fish Fry. He loved the stuff and could have eaten it every day. When I provisioned the boat for long-distance cruising, I tucked dozens of packages of it into every locker and crevice.

On that first Monday at Dave’s, I felt like I’d found an oasis in the middle of the desert. For me, the boatyard where we lived was a lonely place. I couldn’t converse with the men who worked there, all of them sexist, racist, or both. The people I ran into at the grocery store and the post office were from east New Orleans — black folks with their own social structure, not interested in friendly banter in the checkout line.

Suddenly, I discovered a whole new group of New Orleans people: People who were open-minded and liberal. We stood around the kitchen, grousing about politics and the war, and the conversation drifted to music, psychology, and books. It was an old kitchen, functional but not beautiful, with a long table along the wall for the crockpot and rice cooker. An open cupboard held dozens of multicolored handcrafted bowls, and there were plenty of mismatched spoons for everyone. A shelf over the beans held bottles of hot sauce, the variety looking like a grocery store display.

Dave explained that Monday beans is a tradition in New Orleans; in the old days, women who worked on plantations did laundry that day. The beans would simmer on the fire all day and be served up with minimal fuss in the evening, when the laundry-workers were tired. The same technique worked for Dave, whose beans simmered all day in the crockpot while he worked, too.

Barry and I tried to start a similar tradition in Seattle, while we were refurbishing our house. We sent out an e-mail invitation, cooked up a mess of beans and rice, and waited expectantly. From the message I sent Dave, the first week wasn’t much of a success:

“Well, it was a total bust, here in Seattle. We sent the e-mail out over the weekend, but nobody got it until Monday morning. Since Seattlites are notoriously un-spontaneous, nobody showed up! I think we’ll have better luck next week. We might be a bit tired of red beans & rice by next week, since we’re gonna be eating the leftovers ALL week, at EVERY meal.”

On week two, luckily, some of our Seattle friends came by. That inspired my first Seattle-based beans lit:

Way up here in Seattle we thought
We would cook Dave’s red beans in a pot
All the chickens are glad
And the cows are not mad
Now we hope our friends come eat a lot!

But my attempts were nothing like the real, New Orleans-based beans lit. We had asked Dave to leave us on the list, so every week an invitation appeared in our e-mail box. The first one of 2005, by someone named “Dapper Dave,” read:

I have never been one to believe in a higher power. However, after I started reading and writing Beans Lit. I started getting a glimmer of belief. How could it be just coincidence that “beans” rhymes so conveniently with one way of pronouncing “Orleans”?

A couple of months later, Dave was desperate. He had no submissions from his friends, and was forced to write the following himself:

I sure wish I had some nice penneds
From my bean-eating, scribbling friends
But alas I have naught
So I whine in this spot
And hope this sad word drought soon ends

This was so successful (or so awful) that Dave subsequently received five new submissions, including this winner from Tom McDermott:

One night, when low on his means,
Hunter Thompson came over for beans.
He smashed all the glasses
offended the lasses
then wrote up all of these scenes.

A few weeks later, McDermott had me on the floor, laughing:

One week when they tired of rice
Dave and Ana served red beans and mice
Their guests were appalled
Overwhelmingly galled
But both their cats thought it was nice

Laundry, one of the two cats, made a guest appearance in this poem, one of the last we received:

Laundry is in a quandary; she knows not what to do.
Should she stay with Dave and Ana, or start her life anew?
Eight more lives of eating cat food is an outlook horribly bleak
Compared to being able to eat red beans and mice once a week.

Not all the poetry rhymed. Dave Martin provided this lovely haiku:

How can seventeen
Syllables suffice to praise
The glorious bean?

Most folks wrote about the beans, this piece, from Dapper Dave, gave a different perspective:

From “A Liberation Manifesto from Friends of Oppressed Grains”:

Too long has a certain delicacy been called “red beans and rice”, for red beans would be nothing without the support of the noble rice grain. Red beans are totally dependent on rice to be edible. Not so rice, which is a delicacy when combined with many of the world’s finest foods. Demand that from now on this dish be referred to as “noble grains of rice with a few red beans”!

My favorites were always the ones by Mike Hahn, who Dave called “the father of the beans lit and the no-beans lit.” Hahn invented something called a “beanerick”:

A beanerick is a poem of five lines
With a-a-b-b-a ending rhymes.
Its strange sounding name
Derives from the claim
That at Dave’s we eat beans, not limes.

Hahn’s inspirations are varied, and he juxtaposes some weird stuff:

Hieronymus Bosch was uptight,
So he painted all the wrong sights.
Remove the sordid and doomed,
replace with tasty legumes,
For a Garden of Beanly Delights.

Not all of Hahn’s stuff was beanericks, as this piece illustrates:


I THINK that I have never seen
a poem as lovely as a bean.

A bean my hungry mouth does seek
to probe its form with tongue and cheek.

A bean that looks me in the face
And promises delightful taste.

A bean I measure head to head,
A prolate spheroid cloaked in red.

Upon whose bosom spice has lain,
That spark synapses in my brain.

Like all beans past and those to come,
To nourish us it will succumb.

For poems are made by fools and queens;
But only God can make a bean.

Dave only took a few Mondays off from red beans and rice each year. He had a stock message for those times when he was out of town:

“Regretfully, I must inform you that our usual Monday night beans and rice dinner will not be happening tonight. Unless you hear otherwise, we’ll be back at it next Monday. So keep your spoons sharpened and come see us soon!”

But Hahn was so inspired last year that he raised the bar. In addition to submitting beans lit, he also started writing no-beans lit, pieces Dave could send out on the rare occasions when supper was cancelled:

When Bean Night goes on hiatus
Dave emails to update the status
And his trusty bean pot
Stays stone cold, not hot
Cause he’s resting his bean apparatus

On August 22nd, we received the usual invitation with a subject line of “Rock Bridge O’er Tides” and a short poem by Rachel Watts. The following Monday, I didn’t expect to get an e-mail from Dave — I figured the power was out and he was “resting his bean apparatus.” But four Mondays have gone by now with no message to my in-box, and I wonder and worry. Where is Dave? Has he lost his computer and his e-mail list? Where are the rest of the folks who get together on Mondays? Will we ever receive another message?

I’m sure this is not the end of the tradition, and I’m keeping my spoon sharpened. Someday, I’m sure Dave will return, and the beans will bubble in the pot. Then Monday nights will again be like this (from David Martin):

‘Twas steamy and the garlic cloves
Did waft and tittle down by Dave.
All famished were bohemians
And auto mechanics raved.

Dave serves the beans on Banks, my friends –
these meatless beans they have no match.
knock and they will let you in:
there’s no doorknob but a latch.

Dave takes his kitchen knife in hand,
takes out the fixin’s he has bought,
not reading from some recipe
he chops into the pot.

And as a chopping there he stands
the red beans soaking e’er the same
the beans get spilled and get spilled good
a-burbling o’er the flame.

Two by two they’re through and through
Dave’s kitchen on a Monday night.
He leaves them fed and it is said
he does that very right.

Oh have you eaten Dave’s red beans,
vegan legumes: his fiendish ploy?
O Mondilicious-day! Callooh! Callay!
Dig in now don’t be coy!

‘Twas steamy and the garlic cloves
did waft and tittle down by Dave.
All famished were bohemians
and auto mechanics raved.

You can find Dave’s recipe on the recipe page of our site, under Red Beans and Rice from Dave Cash.

That’s me in the monkey mask

New Orleans is a city known for parades. They pack hundreds of parades into Mardi Gras season, lining the streets to catch plastic beads and a glimpse of a bare breast.

Here in Seattle, we do it differently. We have a few bare breasts, but without as much alcohol, the spontaneous ones are more rare. Our summertime is a parade of parades, one in a different neighborhood every weekend.

For me, the best one kicks it off: Opening Day, the so-called opening day of boating season. Although we “open” the season, we’ve actually never “close” it — we sail year round!

Our first years in Seattle, we sat on shore with family members, munching on picnic fare. After the crew races came a parade of boats through the narrow Montlake Cut. There were classic powerboats with yachties on them, standing at attention in white pants and blue blazers. There were sailboats, flying huge beautiful spinnakers. But why were the sailboats motoring backwards? Oh – the wind was from the wrong direction! Barry loved the little floating Shriner cars, complete with round headlights. We all oohed at the fireboat, all hoses going, like an enormous red fountain.

My favorite were the decorated boats, true parade “floats.” Just like a land parade, there were people in costume on boats that were decorated to look like something other than boats. Gigantic umbrellas one year, coffee puns the next — there was always a theme to spark creativity.

Once we got involved in sailing, we started recognizing our friends in the parade. I grew envious, sitting on shore. What fun it would be to sail in the parade, waving and grinning at the crowd!

Last week, that’s where I was, aboard the sternwheeler Banjo. I wore long gloves and a garden hat, throwing kisses to the fellows onshore and waving at the children. Barry, in ascot, sleeve garters, and spats, waved at the ladies. The weather was perfect, the potluck was fun, and the boat’s owner, Sam Garvin, got a third-place trophy. It was my dream come true. My friends ashore probably wondered why I was frolicking, showing an inordinate amount of bosom, aboard a boat with a huge banner reading “Seattle Singles Yacht Club!”

Sam Garvin and Banjo
A gal and her sternwheeler: Sam Garvin and Banjo

Barry with Meps and Sam
Barry has his hands full!

The crew with the SSYC banner
Don’t tell ‘em we’re married!

Our Banjo invitation had come, not from Sam, but from Craig, a man with an amazing wealth of boating friends and connections. A few years ago, coming back to the lake aboard the Northern Crow, our engine died. Judging by the number of boats hurrying past us to the locks, Labor Day was the unofficial “closing day” for powerboats. I anxiously scanned the vapid faces on the Tupperware powerboats going past, and finally decided to hail an intelligent-looking fellow on a classic Chris Craft. Little did I know what an excellent choice I’d made.

I had the good fortune to choose, as our rescuer, none other than the infamous Captain Craig, Scourge of Lake Union and Environs. Tying alongside for the trip through the locks, he cast a practiced eye on our boat and asked us, “What have you got to drink?”

I was embarrassed by the question, because we’d been dieting. “Uh, water,” I stammered, “and a little soymilk, I think.”

“That simply will not do!” said Captain Craig. “Sara, fix these folks a gin and tonic.”

By the time we reached our marina, the experience seemed hilarious, and we were fast friends with Craig and Sara. We exchanged phone numbers and e-mail addresses, and that spring, I got a call. “Craig here,” said the deep voice on the phone. “Would you and Barry like to go on my boat for Opening Day?”

The theme was “Jungle Party.” When we arrived aboard Flagrante Delicto, our hosts produced animal masks, and we produced food and beverages. For about an hour, we milled around Portage bay with hundreds of other boats, waiting. A yacht club boat passed by, and a woman in a blue blazer and white pants called out, with a slight accent, “That’s a nice boat! What does the name mean?” We all turned to stare at our skipper, to see how he would respond. Meanwhile, the lady’s boat drifted farther away, and Craig had to shout. “IT MEANS ‘CAUGHT IN THE ACT!'” She called back, puzzled, “OF WHAT?” We were rolling in laughter. “OF SEX!” he hollered, loudly, because they were quite far now. “OF SEX?” she repeated back, then realized what she’d shouted. She clapped her hands over her mouth, aghast, and quickly disappeared below.

We did not win a prize for our animal act, which mostly consisted of seven people scratching themselves and hooting like monkeys. We should have won a prize for chutzpah, because just when we passed the judges’ float, the engine died. Craig tried gamely to restart it, then gave up, produced a battered bugle and played the most pathetic version of “Taps” I’ve ever heard. His monkeys were doubled over, laughing.

Unfortunately, as we were drifting, powerless, we were blocking the parade route. A police boat came out, grabbed our line, and towed us out of the way. “Can you fix it?” asked the officer. “Sure, I can try,” said Craig, looking as smart and efficient as that day I’d picked him out of the powerboat lineup for a rescue.

To my shock, the police officer took us to a navigational aid, the number 15 green can, and told us to tie up.

One of the first things you learn in any Coast Guard class is: Do not ever, ever, ever tie up to an aid to navigation. Who were we to argue with a police officer? I looked nervously over at Craig, expecting him to dive into the engine, fix the problem, and untie the boat. To my surprise, he poured himself a drink. “I, for one, am not going to disturb the food,” he said. It was true, the engine compartment was completely covered with salads, chips, cookies, and beverages. “Besides, we have the best seats in the house!”

Tied up to number 15
Do not try this unless a) a policeman says it’s OK and b) you are wearing a mask. Craig and Sara are in the rear. Barry’s the lion, and I’m the monkey with sunglasses.

We were literally across from the judges’ boat, alone on our buoy, not jockeying for space or tied to a bunch of other boats. Craig was right: It didn’t get any better than this.

At the end of the day, a friend towed us back to the marina entrance. Craig turned the key, saying, “Let’s see how this works,” and miraculously, the engine started! Was it really a fuel starvation problem, as he claimed, or a ruse to get the best seat in the house for the Opening Day parade? I’ll never know, and I don’t think I’ll ask.

Something to tickle your funny bone

If you are like me, you get lots of jokes in your e-mail box. Some are funny, some are not so funny. Sometimes, people just try too hard to be funny.

For me, the best humor comes from things that aren’t supposed to be that funny. I’ve found a couple of them on the Internet lately.

Searching for a photograph of a dog wearing a sweater for a practical joke, I found a site with over two dozen photos of dogs in sweaters. My favorite is “Killer.” After picking myself up off the floor laughing, I noticed a link at the bottom to cats wearing sweaters. “Wow,” I thought. “Did they really find a similar number of cats that wear sweaters? What unusual cats!”

Take a look at the dog page, and then click on the Scratching Post link at the bottom. As you’ll see, crocheted sweaters aren’t quite so popular with cats:

On another day, I was looking at websites for real estate agents. I don’t know anything about this Seattle real estate agent, but her Elvis sightings sure tickled my funny bone. The best part is, she didn’t just take photos of Elvis. She had photos taken of herself, with Elvis. There she is, is in every single photo!
Seattle Dream homes — “Elvis ‘n’ Me”

A Writer’s End-of-the-Year Housecleaning

As an aspiring writer, I collect words the way a seamstress collects scraps. My notebooks are full of unpublished paragraphs, sentences, and ideas. There are character sketches and conversations. There are even single words jotted in the margins, words I want to use someday, like “urticate” (if I can figure out what that means).

Travel writer Ronald Wright was once asked to submit some really gritty travel writing for a collection. He used this as an excuse to publish his scraps, cobbling them together with rough transitions like literary rusty staples. With no editors beating down my door, I thought I’d just publish some of my scraps here, an end-of-the-year housecleaning.

Bounding down the road on Cape Breton Island, we pass a café called “The Yack ‘n’ Snack.” A street called “Puddle Hill Lane.” A mailbox in the shape of a grinning lobster, covered in pastel polka dots.

“Polka dots” is a funny phrase. Why do we call them polka dots, and not just dots? It’s an example of rampant commercialism from the 19th century. There was a polka dance craze in Europe and the U.S., and many unrelated things were named polka-this and polka-that, from polka hats to polka curtain-hangers. Dots became polka-dots, and have stayed that way ever since. We experienced something like this during the (polka) dot com boom of the late 90’s, when the country went crazy with e-this and e-that. My employer at the time, a loser with the awful name of “Millennia Vision” had a slogan, “E-business in e-time.” What the heck is e-time, anyway? Someday, children will ask their parents what eBay means.

Leaving Nova Scotia for New Brunswick, we tuned the radio to CBC. Over a month before Halloween, there was an overview of modern witchcraft in popular culture, provided by a man from British Columbia. He told the moderator, “I’m a witch. Not a wizard, or a warlock, or any of those silly things. A witch.” A radio book club panel discussed the role of the acknowledgements section in books. The panel’s conclusion was, “It’s not who you put in, it’s who you leave out.” A registered dietitian discussed the nutrition of hot dogs. Did you know one wiener can provide 26% of your RDA of saturated fat and 22% of sodium? As the dietician said, “Hot dogs are, well, marginal.” Our favorite radio show was a college student who did a blind survey to rank brands of macaroni and cheese. The winner, based on cost and color (blaze orange), was Kraft dinner, affectionately called “K.D.”

I have an incomplete list of places where we connected to the internet. The Columbus Colony for the Deaf. A miniscule library overlooking the harbor in Cutler, Maine. The most stunning library building I’ve ever seen, the Athenaeum in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. Echoing hallways after school at Roncalli High, in Newfoundland. In Québèc; the keyboards were French. A rest area with computer kiosks at the Nova Scotia border was mobbed with tourists. In Baddeck, Cape Breton, Barry used the internet at the library while I took a walk. I found a free computer at the tourism office and sent him a message. “Hi, Sweetie! I’m on the other side of town!”

One Sunday, we find a community center with a sign indicating that they have Internet. In the parking lot, a bewildered couple asks us if we’re here for the birthday party; they’ve either got the place or the time wrong. The front door is open, but the restrooms are locked. We use a hallway computer to download our e-mail before being gently kicked out by a tai chi instructor who informs us that the building is closed.

In Port Au Choix, we were resting after a hike to the Dorset Paleoeskimo village. An angry fisherman, the only one I met, sat down beside me on the edge of the parking lot and bent my ear. “Confederation was the worst thing to ever happen to Newfoundland. The Canadians raped our land! If you put all the politicians together, you wouldn’t get the brains of a chicken.”

On a beautiful, sunny day, Dad tried to start a conversation with a fellow sitting by the beach in his truck, the window rolled down. “Great day for fishing,” Dad said. “It’s not allowed,” the man said. End of conversation.

We toured a blacksmith’s forge, full of working original equipment. There were rows and rows of letter openers and candle holders for sale. “Do you ever make grapnels or anchors?” I asked. The blacksmith said, flatly, “You can’t fish.” End of conversation.

In Canada, a scenic view is a “lookoff.” Bathrooms are washrooms. The cash register is simply the “cash.” No Chevy’s, only “Chevs.” We had no idea what we were getting when we ordered a “donair” pizza. It turned out to be seasoned lamb, what we call “gyro meat.”

My favorite signs: “Sydney Curling Club – New Members Wanted. Take advantage of our early payment plan!” “Memory Lanes – Glow in the Dark Bowling.” “Thank you for visiting Newfoundland. Long may your big jib draw!” In Minnesota, “Coffee and Fresh-Baked DIESEL Cookies.” In a Montana rest area, “Rattlesnakes have been observed. Please stay on sidewalks.” It’s November, and 45 degrees. Are there rattlesnakes this time of year? Going into the bathroom, I’m extremely nervous. Maybe that’s where the rattlesnakes go to keep warm.

In Idaho, a highway sign says “Weather Info: Tune Radio to 620 AM.” When we do so, it only brings twangy country music with a Christian theme. Is the highway department in cahoots with the evangelical Christians? We listen as long as we can stand it, about 45 seconds. The same thing happens again in Montana, and we turn it off immediately.

Gordon and Gloria Smith are country music fans. She wears a denim jacket with rhinestone snaps. His cap says Nashville. Chatting beside their fifth-wheeler in Nova Scotia, we shared a laugh about the bluegrass concert we’d attended the night before. “We were the youngest people there,” I said. “When we go to bluegrass concerts, we’re the youngest people there,” Gloria replied, “and we’re sixty!”

In Cox’s Cove, two men were driving a small herd of cattle. They looked like Laurel and Hardy. One rode an ATV. The other one, wearing rubber boots, ran up behind a cow and kicked it in the butt. It took off running, along with the rest of the cows, whereupon he tried frantically to get ahead of the stampede, waving his arms and shouting, “No! No! No!” Watching, unseen, from our cabin, I laughed myself silly.

Tyrone, an EMT, was pinch-hitting for his sick wife in her parents’ restaurant, waiting tables. His mother-in-law needed him to help with the french fryer. He drafted a friend, who happened to be eating dinner, to take over the water pitcher and order tablet. When Tyrone came back, he was friendly and chatty, and told us a variant on an old sailing joke. “A Newfoundlander wins the lottery. He goes out and buys a big new pickup truck and a fancy snow blower to put in the back. Then he heads south. When someone asks him what the snow blower is, he knows he’s gone far enough.”

Newest Minority Voting Bloc

Studies show that the average indoor cat now lives to be 17 years old.
That means there are many exceptional cats living into their 20’s.

After her 18th birthday, I found my cat watching CNN and reading the
newspaper, preparing to make an informed decision. Although she’s
concerned that her vote may not count (this IS Florida, after all, where
minorities are discouraged from going to the polls), she plans to
register and participate. As evidenced by the following photo, she’s
eagerly looking forward to her first election.

Voting kitty