Joe Meets the Confederacy

Soon after I entered college in 1986, a few fraternities asked me to consider joining them. I wasn’t the frat type so I politely declined, but one fraternity didn’t want to take no for an answer.

I don’t recall their name now, but they aligned themselves with the Old South – right down to a confederate flag outside their house. I was from Tennessee and they wanted a “real” southerner to join them (never mind the fact that I was born in England, which made them all Yankees to me).

They considered themselves southern gentlemen, which apparently required being Caucasian. Despite the diversity of those attending the school, the fraternity was completely white.

One day I was asked to attend some event they were having to recruit new members. Rather than turn them down again, I said sure and asked if I could bring my friend Joe. They thought it was a swell idea.

I’m not sure they thought it was so swell once we showed up, though, because Joe was black.

I figured bringing him would get them off my back and let me thumb my nose at them at the same time. Joe cracked up when I proposed my scheme to him and quickly agreed to do it.

We spent the evening eating their food and consuming their drinks, having ourselves a good old time. Joe, of course, stood out like a sore thumb in that sea of white folk, and tried his best not to burst out laughing.

After that night, I was never invited to another event at that fraternity.

Teased by Dolphins

The day before my latest kayak misadventure, I had a much more enjoyable kayaking experience.

A school of dolphins were feeding not too far offshore, so I decided to kayak out to see them. As I got close they suddenly dove under, then a second later reappeared about 100 yards away.

I paddled to where they moved to and once again they disappeared, this time resurfacing where I had first seen them.

So I paddled back to their original spot, only to see them resurface 100 yards away again.

I did this a few more times before it occurred to me they might be toying with me – that making me paddle back-and-forth was how they played a game of “stupid human.”

Dolphins have always seemed playful to me, but this was the first time I thought about them as pranksters. I’ll see them that way from now on, though.

A Disgusting Dog Story

poop-bagA while back I was walking my dogs in the neighborhood, which by itself is a hairy proposition. They like to pull really hard, so I wrap their leashes around my hands for extra leverage. One of my dogs, Ripley, is terrified by the sound of children (can you blame her?) and wants to take off running when she hears them.

On this fine day I had just scooped a rather generous amount of their poop when a group of kids started making a racket. Ripley, as usual, tried to run away at full speed. No big deal, I thought, until I realized her leash had wrapped around the poop bag I was carrying.

Before I could react, the bag popped – all over me.

I stood there in shock, not knowing what to do. I was a long way from home, and I didn’t have my cell phone on me so I couldn’t call my wife to come get me (“Hey honey, remember how you said you were having a shitty day…?”).

I had no choice but to walk through the neighborhood looking like the victim of a drive-by pudding attack. Luckily I didn’t run into anyone I knew, and nobody stopped me to point out I had something on my shirt (and my pants, and my shoes).

From that day on, I’ve been much more careful about how I hold their doggy droppings.

Run to the Hills


I attended my first rock concert when I was 16: front row at Iron Maiden on their “Piece of Mind” tour.

My musical tastes have changed since then, but when I found out that Maiden was coming to a town near me – for the first time in 21 years – I just had to go and relive my long-haired “Wayne’s World” youth.

I was not disappointed. Thirty years (!) after the first time I saw them, these guys still put everything into their performance. Front-man Bruce Dickinson has more energy than should be humanly possible for someone half his age.

But the highlight for me was beforehand, when hundreds of aging metalheads in black t-shirts were waiting to get in to the arena. The show was in Nashville, and directly across the street from the arena there’s a bar where a country band plays on a patio. Much of the Maiden crowd was cringing at the country music infecting their ears – and then the country band suddenly launched into “Sweet Leaf,” a classic Black Sabbath tune.

The stunned metalheads turned around – almost in unison – shocked at what they were hearing. After it sunk in that the country band was paying tribute to one of their gods, they pumped their fists in the air and shouted in appreciation.

It was a “can’t we all get along” moment I would never have expected.

Farty Shoes

One recent rainy morning, I stopped at the grocery store after walking my dogs in the park.

As I strode into the store I realized that my wet shoes were making farting noises with every step. I tried walking more slowly, but that just resulted in slower, deeper farts.

So I paused for a moment, too mortified to move. Then like any geek of good conscience, I asked myself, WWJCD?

"What would John Cleese do?"

Suddenly the moment was transformed from one of extreme embarrassment to one of merriment. I put on my best Cleese straight-man face and continued walking, all the while pretending I had no idea the flatulent feet were attached to me.

If an unexpectedly boisterous blast burst from my soggy sneakers, I'd look around as though someone else was to blame and I was offended by their presence.

When the shopping was done I picked up the pace, resulting in dozens of quick squeaky blats following me as I left the store.

I have no idea what anyone else's reaction was, but I certainly had a good time.

So if you ever find yourself in an awkward situation, don't worry about it. Just ask yourself, WWJCD?Everything will be fine after that.

My Top 20 Minor Annoyances

If you've been on Facebook or Twitter for any length of time, chances are you're following at least one person who constantly complains about all the little things that annoy them. If they stub their toe, wake up with bad hair, or someone just looks at them funny, they immediately post about it.

In an effort to not become one of these people, I've decided to spout off my minor annoyances here. That way I can get them off my chest without bothering my Facebook friends. So, in no particular order, here they are:

  1. People who blow their nose in restaurants
  2. Lights that are controlled by more than one switch
  3. Wearing wet socks
  4. Dr. Phil
  5. "New" music which rips off classic rock
  6. Fitness fanatics who worry about eating too much at Thanksgiving and Christmas
  7. Fake eyebrows
  8. People who think you can't see them picking their nose because they're in their car
  9. Athletes who all-too-obviously thank god when they win a game
  10. Doorbells that play music
  11. Anyone who tries to cure your hiccups
  12. Sarah Palin
  13. TV commercials that are twice as loud as the show you're watching
  14. Walking down stairs and thinking there's another step when there isn't one
  15. Being woken up by the sound of your own snoring
  16. Food with an unreadable expiration date
  17. Slow elevators
  18. Waiting for a long time at a red light when there's no other traffic in sight
  19. People in an audience who loudly say "Shhhhh!" when everyone is supposed to be quiet
  20. Clogging up the toilet in someone else's house

Bonus: Geek that I am, I can't help but mention my top five geeky annoyances:

  1. Software that asks whether you really want to exit
  2. Constant Adobe Flash and Adobe Reader updates
  3. Anyone who acts superior because of their choice of operating system
  4. Video games that make you start the level over when you die
  5. Auto-correct that turns a technical term into a cuss word

Flippin’ Dummy

Yes, that's me as a kid (the one on the right) When I was a kid, one of my weirder hobbies was ventriloquism.  I don’t remember why I got started, but I do remember that some people thought I was pretty good at it.  In the short time that I was a ventriloquist, I won several local talent shows, and one time I even got to appear on live TV.

The TV appearance started off badly.

The crew sat me and my dummy in a chair in front of the camera, and soon afterwards the cameraman made some sort of hand motion at me.  I had no idea what the hand motion meant, so I just sat there, assuming it was nothing I needed to be concerned about.

Then he did it again, and this time it was clear that I was supposed to do something.  But I didn’t know what to do, so I simply looked at the camera and said, “what?”  He did it one more time, this time more forcefully, and again I said, “what?”

The cameraman, obviously displeased that I didn’t grok his secret language, leaned forward and said, “YOU’RE ON!”

Oops.  I’d just screwed up on live TV.

I nervously launched into my routine, which began with a joke involving three pieces of candy.  I was supposed to hold up three fingers when I mentioned the candy, but I was so distressed with how things started that I forgot to hold up two of them.

The one finger I held up was the middle one.

In slow motion, my eyes moved to the upheld digit, and a look of sheer terror crossed my face when I realized that I’d flipped off everyone watching.  Doing that as an adult would’ve been bad enough, but it’s infinitely worse doing it as a kid.  The middle finger held a mystical quality back then, and raising it – even accidentally – was a very bad thing.  I was pretty sure that raising it on live TV would mean a lump of coal come Christmas morning, and possibly even eternal torment in the place with the guy with the horns.

To my surprise, nobody mentioned my one-fingered salute after the show, and I never got in trouble for it.  But somewhere deep down, in the same place I store my guilt over setting off those stink bombs in third grade, I just know I’ll eventually pay for flipping off my home town.

My Master is an Asshole (a Response From Calvin)

CalvinApparently my master thinks I’m an asshole. Well, big deal. I can tell you the feeling is mutual.

If you don’t think he’s an asshole, then explain to me why he wants me to call him my “master,” like I’m in frickin’ “I Dream of Jeannie” or something. Hell, if I was a genie, I’d blink my eyes and transport myself to some poodle harem. And then I’d turn Nick into a cockapoo, if for no other reason just because the name fits him. Anyway, he’s not my “master” – he’s my captor.

Yeah, he’s my captor, ‘cos I can’t leave the house without him, and I have to wait for him to give me water and food. He’s even forgotten to feed me for several hours when he’s lost in some stupid coding frenzy. It’s not like I can order a pizza – I have to wait for the geek to get away from his computer before I can eat, and even then, he gives me the same boring dog food night after night. How ’bout a little variety now and then, pal? The only reason I lick peoples’ feet all the time is so I can taste something different (btw, people taste like chicken – just thought you’d want to know that).

He even complains that I won’t protect his family from intruders, like that’s supposed to be my job or something! Look, buddy – I’m a 15-pound dog, and you’re a 170-pound man. Yet somehow I’m the wimp in this situation?

And I’m amazed that he bitches about me waking him up at night so I can go outside. First he complains that I pee on the floor, then he complains when he has to get his butt out of bed to let me outside so I can avoid staining his precious carpet. It’s an ugly carpet anyway – I’m just adding a little color.

So, he doesn’t like it when I pee on the carpet? Well, what does he expect after getting me neutered? There I was thinking I was going for a nice car ride, and the next thing I know, I’m waking up in the vet’s office and I discover that my cherries are seedless, if y’know what I mean. I figure that peeing anywhere I damn well please is payback for getting me snipped.

Oh, and to make matters worse, after he neutered me, he brought Gypsy – a sexy female dog – into the house. What a frickin’ tease! Do you think he’d like it if I had him castrated and then invited Angelina Jolie to come stay with us?

Anyway, enough of this – my paws are getting all gummy from using Nick’s keyboard (he never cleans the damn thing). I may not be a perfect dog, but I just wanted y’all to know that my master captor isn’t exactly a shining example of his species, either.

Peace out, folks.

My Dog is an Asshole

There, I said it. And I’ll say it again. Despite being cute enough to make the furry felines at seem ugly by comparison, my dog is an asshole.

Oh sure, you’re probably saying, “deep down, I’ll bet he’s a nice doggie.” But you know what? When you have to say that “deep down” someone is nice, it’s because they’re an asshole.

We got him when he was a pup, and I named him “Calvin” after my favorite comic strip, Calvin & Hobbes. Like the lead character in that cartoon, our dog is always causing trouble, and he acts like he’s living in a fantasy world. Except that the cartoon Calvin was actually a likeable kid, whereas our canine Calvin is truly obnoxious.

Calvin constantly wakes us up at all hours of the night wanting to go outside, but when we open the door for him, he sits there and looks at us as though he’s saying, “you don’t actually expect me to go out there, do you?” Then he pees on the carpet.

He splashes his paws in his water bowl and treads muddy footprints all over the floor, then scratches at the empty bowl until we fill it up again. He torments every guest by licking their feet, and when we scold him for it, he starts licking the air around their feet instead, like he’s testing our resolve. And as soon as we start to pet him, he rolls over and exposes his private parts, then looks up at us hopefully (yes, he’s not only an asshole, but he’s also a pervert).

By comparison, our other dog, Gypsy, is one of the sweetest creatures you could ever meet. We picked her up as a stray, and every day she acts thankful for being taken in. Calvin, on the other hand, acts like he expected to be living with royalty, and is supremely disappointed at having to stay with mere commoners.

Late one night a few years ago, after everyone was asleep, an old guitar stashed away in some forgotten upstairs closet suddenly broke a string. Fearing it was an intruder, Gypsy (bless her heart) leapt out of our bedroom, ready to tear apart whoever was responsible for the ruckus. But did Calvin try to protect us? No. Instead, he jumped up on our bed in fear and planted his furry behind squarely on my face. As you can imagine, being awoken by a loud noise in your house and then having something hairy smother you is not a pleasant experience.

He’s clearly a defective dog, but it’s not like we can return him. We have to keep him, even though he steals food from our kids and barks at the slightest noise. I guess we’re stuck with him for the rest of his life (and just before he goes to meet his maker, I’m sure he’ll find time to poop all over the house).

Don’t get me wrong – we love our little Calvin, of course. But he’s still an asshole.

Update: It appears that Calvin has taken offense to this post and has written a response.