My version of ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ looks more like Taco Bell, Practice Novel, Tentacle Porn

Why would you want to read the latest Oates or Grisham when you can choke down some schlubb’s amateur musings?

Good question. Does anyone else feel a non sequitur coming on?

Which brings me to my next point …. lately, I’ve been trying to think of how to share some of my serious fiction work with folks without disqualifying myself for literary magazine submissions and agents and publishers.

After all, anyone who knows me knows the bulk of my work has been in the category of humor essays.

Then, this weekend, while reading an article on places to share chapters of your novel, I remembered I have a supernatural thriller sitting in the closet that I wasn’t planning on doing anything with.

I know, if it’s so great, why is it sitting in the closet? I could ask you the same.

Once I’d put together my humor collections for the tens and twelves of my fans to read a few years ago, I decided I needed a break.

And since this ain’t Eat Pray Love, I had to change something without leaving Northern Michigan. Besides, I’m fine with my version of EPL: Taco Bell, Practice Novel, Tentacle Porn.

As much as I enjoy making people laugh, I’d long wanted to do something with the dozens of unfinished short stories I’d written, as well as a handful of long fiction ideas I had kicking around in my head.

Problem was, after a decade of producing 700-1,200-word pieces for newspapers, magazines and my books, I wasn’t sure I could stick with something so wordy as a novel.

To be honest, I’ve always had trouble seeing things through.

I left college after a half of a semester, I walked out on the big play audition because the director made us walk on all fours and bark like dogs, and I was afraid to kiss my first love … so she went and did the hunka-chunka with my friend Bill on the basketball court.

How I ever quit smoking or stayed married for 22-years-and-counting or kept a company running as long as I have is really beyond me.

In fact, I was so afraid of not finishing the great book ideas in my head, I refused to even start them.

I know me.

I tend to get really excited about a new project and then peter out about halfway through.

So, I chose not to do anything with any of it.

Then, back in maybe 2013, this one idea for a historical adventure novel kept pushing its way into my thoughts. I figured it would make for a good read and might even have a chance at commercial success.

But, still, I was afraid of lousing it up.

Then, one day, while daydreaming about how much I hate basketball, I hatched a plan … a plan to write a practice novel.

It was genius. Well, in a this-has-been-done-to-death sort of way.

Among the ideas floating in my skull was one for a supernatural thriller—taken straight out of the Stephen King wannabe universe—which I thought could make for an interesting read. (That is, it’s King-esque. I didn’t actually steal one of his ideas … yet!)

I began with sketching my thoughts longhand as I always do. And, by the time I had filled a legal notepad, I also had a fully formed concept.

I promised myself I would work on it every week until it was done … knowing the entire time that I’d never even come close to finishing the first chapter.

That’s the key: low expectations.

You’ll never be disappointed as long as you shoot for the mud. (Gee-zus, thanks for spellcheck. I’m 42-and-a-half and still cannot spell “disappointed” correctly. Which is ironic for someone who is so good at disappointment.)

Any-hoo, the more I wrote, the more I cared about the story, and the more excited I was about finishing, and the more I knew I was gonna rub my success in the faces of Bill and whats-her-name? (Yes, I’m pretending I don’t remember.)

As shocked as I was, after about a year of plugging away at it, I had a solid second/third draft of an 86,000-word book called “One Cold Turn.”

I originally called it “A Clash of Wants” but then my lovely wife pointed out that every story is a clash of wants and that if I kept a book title that stupid she would leave me for someone who likes basketball.

Biiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiill!

One Cold Turn follows a Catholic priest, in one of them ye olde crises of faith, about to leave his Detroit church when he finds himself entangled in a murder mystery where he is the prime suspect.

Murder?!

While he and a private eye look into the matter in hopes of finding the true killer, they uncover an ancient conspiracy responsible for some of the worst catastrophes in human history—disasters like the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, and 9/11, and Keeping Up With The Kardashians.

It ain’t A Farewell To Arms (I don’t even like that book) but I think it’s a solid thrilling horror story.

More important, it was good practice for the Great American Novel I’m currently fine-tuning. Did I say “fine-tune” because I meant “somebody get me outta here!”

True, I could have just let it sit in the box in my closet. But, the truth is, I ended up putting a lot of work into it. (And, first novels aren’t anything if not intended to be shoved down the throats of unsuspecting friends and family.)

Hi, mom!

With some reader input and revision, it might make for a decent beach read.

And, if not, I could always dump a bunch of violence and sex scenes (so many tentacles) into it and publish it under the name Dirk Throbbington.

Chuck Wendig was right: my self-publishing cautionary tale

Chuck_Wendig_by_Gage_Skidmore
Chuck Wendig | Photo by Gage Skidmore

OK, I’ve had about four-and-a-half years to think about this, and I’ve decided that Chuck Wendig was right.

You might be thinking “who gives a shit?” but hear me out.

Way back in 2012, a frustrated journalist working on a couple of humor essay collections stumbled across a blog post entitled: “Why your self-published book may suck a bag of dicks.”

Out of my desperation to be a rich and famous author after like five minutes of effort, I was furious at Wendig’s assessment of some self-published books.

And, I reacted like a butt-hurt jerk on the internet tends to react—I left a nasty comment attacking Chuck’s writing ability.

See nasty comment here:

December 25, 2012 at 2:47 PM – I hope no one is taking writing advice from an author who is incapable of proper use of colon, semi-colon and long dash. But, to be fair, you lost me when you tried passing “bludgeoning shame” off as coherent. Then again, what do I know? I’m not a big fancy novelist/screenwriter/game designer. If you are going to pass yourself off as a worthy critic you may want to go back and improve your skills. Try reading B.R. Meyers’ work “A Reader’s Manifesto” to see what adroit criticism is. If anything, you should be elated with the large number of poor writers in the world—it only makes an apparently superb scribe like yourself seem all the better.

I know. I know. Still makes me cringe.

I had forgotten all about it until recently when I found myself grumbling about how many bad self-published and traditionally published books there are out there.

I Googled a phrase, something along the lines of “why are there so many bad self-published books?” and once again came across Chuck’s article re: bag of dicks.

About halfway through the article, I remembered that I had already read it … a long time ago.

By this time, I was a fan of Chuck’s blog. (Little Ferrero Rocher nugget of fucking irony, no?)

Also by this time, I had been asked to buy, review, and critique hundreds of books in both my capacity as a small-town newspaper editor and as a frustrated writer.

Because struggling writers seem to be attracted to one another like moths to a flaming ball of crack cocaine.

While reading along, I remembered the nasty comment I left on a certain someone’s article. (Why, internet, why?!)

I found myself agreeing with every line he wrote. Ninety-nine percent (my number, not his) of these books are terrible. They are laden with gross misspellings, grammatical errors, ridiculous prose, and juvenile premises.

The covers do look like they were designed at an academy for blind chimpanzees on Bring-Your-LSD-to-School Day. (Note: write YA fantasy series set in chimpanzee academy. Heroine allergic to bananas. Hero secretly half-orangutan. Both hooked on smack. Yes, I know LSD is not the same thing as smack. Can we focus?)

When it comes to failed books, I speak from experience.

Heck, I took the time and expense to have my books professionally laid out and edited and they still bombed. Yes, I designed the covers. Yes, they could have been better.

The real problem was my utter lack of book marketing know-how, zero platform, and a severe deficiency of stick-to-it-ive-ness. Not to mention that I since learned humor books, even for famous authors, are a tough sell.

Now, as I revise and edit and pray for the death of the manuscript for a historical adventure novel I plan on querying agents over the head with, I have those self-published stinkers hanging around my neck.

Would an agent have been interested in my previous work? I’ll never know because I took shortcuts.

Which brings me to the real point of this piece (other than fulfilling my blog’s need for content and trying to assuage my guilt over something no one probably even remembers) and that’s: be patient!

I’m not one to give book-writing advice because I’m far from an expert. (You want tips on how to make a great pot of bean soup or craft a sufficient nut graf or overuse asides in parentheses? I’m your man.)

I caution anyone looking to become a professional writer to be patient and focus on craft and don’t be in such a hurry to get to the finish line that you sell your soul to the first vanity press that shows a little leg.

Trust me, under that skirt is nothing but pinball machine parts and the sawdust they use to soak up your dignity once it’s run down your leg and onto the billiards room floor.

Sure, there are some self-publishing success stories—the guy who wrote The Martian, that one chick with the humiliating sex fetishes—but for the most part it’s yadda yadda yadda.

To misquote dying Darth Vader: “Chuck Wendig was right. Tell your sister he was riiiiiiiiight.”


Seriously, if you’re not already following him, go check out terribleminds.com

And, Chuck, if you do happen to read this, I am sorry for taking a cheap shot.

bjg

Talk therapy with Dr. Nussbaum

Thursdays with Nussbaum art - web

talk therapy Week 18: Nocturnal Admissions

By Robert Ringtail

Thursday again!

Waiting for my appointment.

He’s late … as usual.

At least the waiting room is empty. Nothing worse than a room full of mental cases breathing heavy and staring at each other.

Every one of us calculating the others:

“Lady in red looks like a manic-depressive.”

“Fat guy in the corner, definitely depressed.”

“Emo-looking kid with ‘SLAYER’ carved into his forearm? Generally bugshit.”

And god help us if anyone was to realize they’re the nuttiest mope on the couch.

Been almost two weeks since we last met, me and Dr. Nussbaum. I like that name “Nussbaum.” Sounds like an expensive chocolate bar or a four-star hotel.

“Please enjoy your stay at the Royal Nussbaum,” says the British concierge. “We have six kinds of caviar, bath towels made from baby seal fur, as well as hot and cold running fanciness.”

Last time, Dr. Nussbaum asked me if I was Jewish … again. That makes it like 17 times now.

Perhaps he thinks his faith will rub off on me. Then again, maybe he’s just trying to unload an ugly daughter.

Our last session got kind of weird. I told him I didn’t have my first wet dream until I was 29. Well, it was one week before my 30th birthday.

In the dream, I was riding a giant sea turtle, bareback. The creature wreaked of Winston cigarettes and rosewater perfume.
My therapist looked as stunned as I felt.
In fact, I’d never seen him pour a second glass of scotch during a therapy session before.

His diagnosis was penis envy.

“But, doc,” I said, “I thought only women suffered from that.”
“Me, too,” he said, sipping his hootch.

He said I was subconsciously working through some unresolved teenage sexual frustrations.

“Have you ever fantasized about your mother?” he asked.

I was mortified.

“Never?”

“No. Never.”

Dr. N said he had, and asked for her number.

He asked me a lot of questions last week about everything from my personal hygiene, hobbies and hopes to my favorite foods.

I told him everything he wanted to know … except for directions to my parents’ house.

Dr. Nussbaum decided I “hold private counsel” with myself “too much,” which, he said, is not to be confused with “too often.”

While occasion of my intimate monologues is seldom (lest insomnia be present), their duration—while unproductive—borders the pathological.

While conscious fruition has never been reached, I do tend to pass out quite frequently.

My inability to handle certain recreational equipment, says Dr. N, stems from my having also been chosen last in sports throughout both childhood and adulthood. All that pent-up potential energy would manifest itself in stalled kinetics—what Freud called “Blau Balle.”

Anyway, Dr. N suggested that, from now on, when I get the urge to vigorously knead my shame, I should practice the coping exercises he taught me until the urges pass. I asked him when I might be ready to try the dating scene but he just exhaled loudly through his nostrils and poured a third glass of scotch.

My coping exercises are as follows or follow. (I’m not really sure which. I’ve never really been that good at grammar. Dr. Nussbaum attributes that to my having a dominant mother and an artistic, though passive, father. By “passive” I believe he meant “wore dresses and lipstick.”)

Coping exercises:

Step 1. Find a quiet, open space in the basement

Step 2. Take off all clothes (he said flip-flops are OK)

Step 3. Neatly fold clothing so as not to disrupt the basement’s natural harmony.

Step 4. Scuttle back and forth with hands in the air like crab claws while reciting the “Meditative Prayer of Forbearance”

Meditative Prayer of Forbearance:

Oh, Universe, sweet Universe, cold unfeeling Universe … your unworthy guttersnipe calls upon the vast emptiness to remind him that I am but a lowly meat bag with a second mortgage and occasional erectile dysfunction.

Lo, hear the call of this pig-butt worm (which surprisingly is a real thing) and know that I know that you know that I know I am undeserving of even the disgust reserved for people who leave take-out menus under windshield wipers and who take multiple free grocery store samples with no intention of ever buying the product itself. It’s just shameless.

And yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of debt, I shall fear no creditor, for thou art with me for 52 minutes every other Thursday, reminding me to reality check my anxieties and to stop playing those “old negative tapes” to which you keep referring.

I also promise to buy all six of the books in Dr. Nussbaum’s series on self-help entitled, “Kvetch to Kvell in 52 Shabbats: The Goy’s Guide to Good Living” … and leave him five stars on Goodreads.com.

Finally, I admit that I do not visit my mother nearly enough and that she worries and that she nearly killed herself raising me and how hard is it to pick up the phone once in a while?

(NOTE—Before doing any more of Dr. Nussbaum’s exercises, be sure the basement door is locked. Sorry, kids.)

I’m glad I killed my dreams, and other writing advice not from Samuel L. Jackson

 

What’s that, you ask? What did I do about those pesky flashbacks in my soon-to-be nowhere-near-ready-for-querying-agents historical adventure novel?

To quote the great Samuel L. Jackson as Carl Lee Hailey in the movie A Time To Kill:

“Yes, they deserved to die and I hope they burn in hell!”

When writing the two rather lengthy scenes—each well over a thousand words and a good 10-15 pages—I thought I had no other choice.

After all, anyone who’s ever heard harp music knows how important dreams are to books and movies and dead-eyed journalists.

The first dream sequence, in chapter two, dealt with the past of one of the main characters and offered insight into some of his life choices … his rapey, rapey life choices.

The second dream sequence was intended to foreshadow an event. Because apparently, unbeknownst to me, one of my characters is a fucking psychic. (Can you use “apparently” right next to “unbeknownst”? At this point, who gives a shit.)

But, after receiving negative but astute feedback on both dream sequences from my manuscript critique, it was obvious I needed to address them.

  • Beta reader comment 1: “There are moments when it is unclear whether the father is dreaming, recollecting a previous life, or filled with unconscious fears. Some clarity is required.”
  • Beta reader comment 2: “Some more backstory on (character), rather than merely dreams, would serve to make the reader care more about (main character) wanting to write a letter. Why should the reader care about (main character) preserving the memory of who her father was?
  • Beta reader comment 3: Although I enjoyed this chapter, I found the dream sequence to be too long given that it didn’t really reveal anything and made me wonder if (character) is actually (main character’s father.

I spent a good week staring at the sections in question, wondering what to do with them. What to do with my life. What to do with that liquefied cucumber in the bottom of the fridge.

Should I cut them and go on?

Say “pshaw” to the reader and leave them as-is?

Edit for clarity?

Dance the Funky Chicken whilst high on cocaine?

After a second week of paralysis, and a funky sprained ankle, I decided to do what I always do: Google for help.

I found no shortage of good articles on how to handle dream sequences and flashbacks. I also found no shortage of Japanese octopus porn. What in the hell is going on in Yokohama harbor?

Most of the pieces I read said to avoid dream sequences altogether.

Some of them said opening a book with a dream sequence will guarantee your manuscript ends up in the agent or publisher’s garbage bin.

But, none of them said anything about having an actual dream about being breastfed by a giant burrito, or that it means it’s time to lay off the cherry whiskey. So cheers, MF’ers!

After careful consideration, and a whole lot of swearing and vowing I was done with writing, I realized there was nothing in my dream sequences that couldn’t have been better done in another way.

So, I cut them.

The beta reader was right. All I needed was some snappy dialogue to fill the gaps.

Example of snappy dialogue:

“As you know, Laura, my cocaine habit drove me into the Japanese octopus porn business.”

“Why yes, Jim, who has been my friend for 17 years, I did know that.”

See, dream sequences no longer needed.

But, seriously, the first dream sequence will be better worked into the story as a sentence later on.

The second dream sequence I killed completely because my main character is not a psychic.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m having a vision of me getting drunk on cherry whiskey.

Those triple X squid flicks ain’t gonna watch themselves.


https://litreactor.com/columns/wake-up-and-stop-writing-dream-sequences

http://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/dream-little-dreambut-not-in-your/

But I don’t want to kill my darlings

africa novel ms web
I make it a point to work “Blargh!” into all my manuscripts.

I began revising my second novel (noose) today for the umpteenth (eighth?) time and it seems (noooooo!) to be going pretty alright (FML).

As a big boy, I haven’t cried or threatened to quit writing forever, and the cinnamon schnapps is still safe up in the booze cupboard. (I’m not fancy enough for a liquor cabinet.)

The suggestions made by the manuscript critiquing service I hired were most insightful and will go a long way in helping me improve this particular story—a historical adventure set in the antebellum North as well as parts of Western and Southern Africa.

Think Uncle Tom’s Cabin meets Treasure Island meets Little House on the Prairie meets The Jetsons meets Boogie Nights. OK, scratch those last three.

While I was impatient and shortsighted when I self-published two collections of humor essays and a book on religion and philosophy, I vowed to take it slow with my novels and do things the right way.

For me, that means crafting a solid story, finding an agent who believes in my vision, and landing a deal with a major publishing house … all without developing a crippling cocaine habit.

I started my fiction work seriously a few years ago when I wrote my first (unpublished) novel “A Clash of Wants” (terrible working title) which I call my practice novel.

After years of writing essays and editorials, I wasn’t sure I had it in me to stick with one subject for 80,000 words.

So, I set out to write this practice novel, which I did. It came in at 85,905 words, actually.

I don’t expect I’ll ever do anything with it … it’s pretty much a Stephen King-esque tale of a man who’s lost his faith and ends up chasing something evil across the country in hopes of saving mankind.

Sound familiar?

That first book actually turned out better than I expected.

Though I must confess that, after the second draft, I put the manuscript in a box and shoved it into the closet where it now rests comfortably some 206.1 miles away.

Once I’d proved to myself I could do the sticking-with-it of the thing, I got right to work on this second novel, the one which had been assembling itself in my mind over the course of a few years.

While waiting a few months before going back to revise for the first time, I wrote my third novel. Stephen King suggests something like six weeks or so but I’ve found that I like a good three or four months off from a book after I’ve written it. This has given me the opportunity to work on new projects while the completed works simmer.

Today, at lunchtime, I began work on the intro, of which my critique service stated, “The story begins with a narrative summary which reads like a dry historical lesson rather than focusing on (main character) and drawing the reader into her world. I would open with a stronger opening line/paragraph which pulls the reader in straight away and even using her full name in the first paragraph. Revealing the time in which the story is set is not as important as introducing the main character, and can be revealed organically as the story progresses.”

I agreed with his assessment and rewrote something I feel will accomplish what a good story should—draw the reader in.

The next task will be to decide what to do with the dream sequence in chapter two; something I feel is necessary and artfully done but more and more seems to be considered hacky, cliche and confusing.

I want my book to be the best it can be … but I don’t want to cut the dream sequence!

Alas, I hear harp music. That means I must get back to work on the newspaper. My partner is going away on his honeymoon this week and I should probably work ahead a little just to be safe.

bjg

You can’t make this up

You can’t make this up.

You may think this is made up because it involves Bigfoot or aliens or female orgasms.

However, rest assured in the knowledge that this is not about any of those mostly real things, nor is this made up.

People like to say “You can’t make this up” when they tell amazing stories about the time their dog got its head stuck in a KFC bucket or how, if you squint your eyes enough, Abe Lincoln looks like Mr. Peanut with his head stuck in a KFC bucket, or maybe it was the one about how aunt Matilda had a peanut allergy and a beard like Abe Lincoln.

Either way, I promise you this is not made up.

You know what else you cannot make up? Jalapeno ice-cream, running shoes for dogs, Sarah Palin having authored at least two books—in English, no less—and the president having admitted to trying dog meat. (Apparently the sneakers didn’t aid in the getaway.)

If this were made up, it would be about the time you got high on cocaine and ran down the street in an “I Heart Huckabees” T-shirt while singing The Pixies “Where Is My Mind” at the top of your lungs. And then, the next day, your mom kicked you out of her basement until you promised to go to the community mental health clinic.

If this were made up, it would be about how gay marriage is to blame for global warming … or global cooling, whichever is worse and also caused by the bumping of weenises.

If this were made up, it would be about how easy it is to get an adorable Shih Tzu puppy to stop leaving her adorable bundles on the rug outside the bathroom door.

But, as was earlier indicated, you can’t make this up. (If you paid more attention, you would know that.)

Maybe someday, when scientists have solved world hunger, and the Earth is no longer heating (or cooling) at an alarming rate, and Dr. Nussbaum convinces your mother that you’ve got your drug habit under control, and someone has a good explanation for why you have to wade through a goddamn puddle of oil to get to the high-end peanut butter, maybe then you could make this up.

But even then you couldn’t.

Sure, there are those who misuse the privilege of deciding whether something is or isn’t made up. Like your friend who said “You can’t make this up” after he claims he found two double-yolk eggs in the same carton, or how your grandma said “You can’t make this up” when she recounted how she saw Elvis in the women’s underwear aisle at Walmart last week and that he winked at her and said “Uh-huh” to himself while he pawed through a bargain bin of satin undies.

But I think we know better, because double-yolkers are a rare treat, my friend. And, let’s face it, grandma is a pathological liar.

Maybe, just maybe, if a lobster the size of a German Shepard rode a horse off a diving board onto a net supported by blind, diabetic, midget accountants dressed as Ewoks, who then proceeded to do the lobster’s taxes—but probably not even then—maybe you could get away with saying “You can’t make this up.”

But, no. (By the way, the highly improbable and utterly fantastical series of events just described is known on the street as a “working Congress” … cuz that shit ain’t never gonna happen!)

Unlike you, I have plenty of stories which rightfully end with me saying, “You can’t make this up.”

Like this one time, my family was eating fried chicken and somehow the dog got his head stuck—never-mind.

Who am I to decide who gets to say what can and can’t be made up? I’m the man with the gold. And, as the saying goes, he who has the gold makes the pancakes. And, as we all know, he who pancake wins!

But enough waffling, for crape’s sake.

I know what you’re thinking, this is no time to fritter away precious time or word count on silly puns and childish wordplay—so why are you?

No matter what season it is, nothing beats a convenient segue.

Regardless of how old you get, or how young your sex doll is, people are always trying to convince you of things that they assure you cannot be not made up.

When I was quite young, my own parents convinced me that an elderly voyeur with a penchant for toys watched me all year long. They even said he would occasionally creep into the house, unannounced, to leave gifts, put things in my socks and drink our milk.

I never did believe them, of course, because it all sounded made up.

Year after year, mother and father assured me that I’d better be good, and that they were not making it up that this so-called “saint” would visit our home, especially on Dec. 25, leaving behind all kinds of goodies.

But, as most kids do, I finally came around to their way of thinking.

Especially after the authorities caught that homeless pervert and sentenced him to 20 years in prison, which just goes to show that you can’t make this stuff up!

Despite its dubious veracity, I don’t think we use the phrase often enough. (I’ll wait while you look up “dubious” and “veracity.” Just kidding, I’m sure you’re very smart—and I’m not just making that up.) Imagine how handy it would be when you find yourself in a difficult situation with the wife.

“Just because I have lipstick on my collar and perfume on my jacket and my belt buckle smells like pickled herring, that doesn’t mean I was at the strip club all night.”

“Oh, really,” says the wife.

“For your information,” says the me, “I went to the kosher deli to pick up some kippers because I know you love them, and I just happened to walk in on two transsexual Japanese fisherman as they were sticking the place up. I hit one over the head with the bottle of perfume I was going to give you for our anniversary seven months from now, and I tied the other up with my belt until the authorities arrived.”

She’ll probably still divorce you and marry that cocky dentist who lives down the street.

When your kids come to your crappy apartment on the “you-can’t-make-this-up” side of town, one Saturday-a-month, and brag about how cool their new scuba-diving, sky-diving, Ferrari-driving, bull-fighting, sky-writing, name-brand-soda-buying step-dad is, you may get the urge to call “B.S.” But they’ll be well within their right to say, “Dad, you can’t make this up.” Besides, B.S. is busy with his own divorce.

While you can’t make this up, you can take some solace in knowing you are not alone.

Book publishers told Michael Crichton, “You can’t make this up!” But he just backed over their azaleas and went home and wrote Jurassic Park anyway.

They told Bill Clinton “You can’t make this stuff up.”

He just looked right into the camera and said “I did not have sexual relations with that woman Ms. Lewinsky” and then he wiped his pants off with what looked like a giant blue napkin. (Bill Clinton also loves mustard, and my book—available on Amazon for $8.99. Remember, you can’t make this up.)

I even told my wife, “You can’t make this stuff up” before I introduced her to my family.

For some reason, she didn’t seem very surprised.

The moon landing, now that’s another thing you can’t make up. Unless they did make it up. In which case, I’m furious.

What’s depressing about middle age?

Signs you are suffering from middle age depression include the following:

HYGIENE – You used to shower, shave and put on fresh clothes just to run to the corner store for milk and cigarettes.

Nowadays you have no problem grocery shopping in flip-flops and sweats with a half a butt cheek hanging out.

When people ask more than once if you’re ready to go, it’s because they are shocked at what you plan to wear out of the house.

HAIR – There was a time when your hairstyle said a lot about you, and it still does.

Except, instead of it telling people you care about your appearance, it now hints at the underlying despair every waking moment serves you.

The typical men’s “I gave up” hairdo consists of a buzz cut with anywhere from a quarter of an inch to a full inch of hair left on the head.

This cut, popularized by Appalachian middle-schoolers screams “Pass the Skoal” and “Shut yer mouth, devil woman, these food stamps is mine!”

The ladies, on the other hand, tend to go for the look made famous by Pat Benetar in the ‘80s. It’s short, black and straight, and lets everyone know you are down with the husky lesbians.

DIET – You haven’t been on one in years and it shows. Nowadays you do most of your eating out of containers.

Oh, sure, there was a time when candlelight dinners filled your day planner but lately the elegance of plates and flatware has been replaced by the convenience of Styrofoam and sporks.

Your friends and family may have concerns over the stacks of cardboard and plastic boxes threatening to bury you and your nine cats but they just don’t understand the benefits of takeout dining.

If you cannot finish the portion, all you need do is close the lid.

It’ll still be there on the coffee table when you reach for it next Thursday.

Besides, lots of people don’t cook for themselves or wash their own dishes.

Does Bill Clinton cook his own meals?

Do you think Julius Caesar ever washed a dish?

Who would dare tell Mussolini to set the table for supper?

Leaving culinary matters to others also gives you all kinds of time to pursue other interests, like gently sobbing in the dark or obsessing over all the horrible diseases you’re silently developing from your diet of takeout food.

ISOLATION – Withdrawing from family and friends is a sure sign something isn’t right. (Was there ever a time when you actually wanted to go to a family get-together?)

Either way, if you’re doing the hermit thing, then you are bound to be making excuses in order to avoid contact with others.

The worst excuse I ever gave for not going somewhere was that my grandmother had died. Granted, she’d been in the ground for going on three years but, in my defense, she had died.

The best excuse I ever gave was that I thought I was having a heart-attack.

In both cases the recipient of my lies was unimpressed and unconcerned. (I need to get better friends … and stop lying!)

Poets and losers need not apply

Most of my life I’ve been a loser.

Contests, family members, jobs, loves, keys, the lotto—you name it, I’ve lost it.

When you’ve spent as much time losing at things as I have, you get to a point where you’d be happy to win just about any old thing just to feel like a winner for a little while.

When I was 11 years old, I entered a school-wide poetry contest. The theme was “Michigan” and I intended to win, baby. I spent hours composing the perfect prose.

It was a great poem. The greatest poem. A masterpiece. Other poets would write poems about my poem’s greatness.

Governor Blanchard would call my family to tell them how my poem changed his life, and he’d call me “sport” and say I could call him “Jim” and me and Jim would have dinner in the governor’s mansion and they’d commission an oil painting of me standing at a podium, reciting my poem.

Even the title “Ode to Michigan” was a bit of terrific. I remember it still:

Cars are great and so is money

but I know a state that’s sweet as honey

Michigan’s the state, yes it’s true

if you lived here you’d love it, too

How could I possibly lose?

I lost. I lost? How did I lose? I had the soul of a poet and the wit of a—well, something pretty goddamn witty!

The incident so galled my prepubescent brain I vowed to someday win a subjectively bestowed award in a narrow category of peers who varied widely in ability. And then I would have my revenge!

Then there was the Halloween costume contest of 1995.

I was dealing blackjack at a casino that fall. Employees were encouraged to dress up for the occasion. I guess the idea was to cheer up the alcoholics, degenerate gamblers, and make the evening shift just that much weirder. (Frankly, between people dropping dead at the card tables, soiling themselves and refusing to leave their slot machines, patrons getting beaten in the parking lot for their winnings, and the gaming commission storming the place on a semi-regular basis to haul some middle-management type out in cuffs, we were the least scary thing in the building.)

Still bitter from my big poetry prize loss, I went all out to win the $50 costume purse by spending roughly twice that much on an outfit. I would win the love and respect of my peers and customers. I even had my speech all planned out. (And, yes, I intended to open with my poem.)

I rented a long black cloak and cowl. My aunt did my makeup. Warren Zevon sang “Werewolves of London” at some point during my Oct. 31 commute. (My hair was perfect—it was a good sign.)

I was going to be the scariest grim reaper outside an Obama Death Panel … or an Ingmar Bergman flick for you artsy liberal types. (It’s called “The 7th Seal,” look it up.)

What I hadn’t planned for was the tall muscular coworker who dressed likewise. Nor was I ready for how much my shorter, chubbier reaper resembled not the eternal symbol of death but a younger fatter Uncle Fester.

My uncle—a pit boss at the time—sealed my fate by reciting lines from The Addams Family whenever he walked past my table.

He took a break from calling me by his usual nickname for me: the sausage (because I was packed into my tuxedo uniform like a bratwurst in patent leather shoes.)

“Hey Gomez!” he’d shout across the room in his best high-pitched Fester voice. (He’s pretty brash for a guy named “Bert” but he gets away with it because he’s the funniest guy I know.)

He laughed, the customers laughed, and the physically fit grim reaper laughed all the way to first prize.

I fumed—stop laughing! I’m the grim reaper, damn it!—but it was no use. Even with all the makeup and costuming I was, at best, the Grim Sausage.

But all that changed two weeks ago when my newspaper won first place for General Excellence in the Michigan Press Association 2014 Better Newspaper Contest.

To be honest, I’ve always felt excellent in a general way. And, now that I’m generally excellent, I won’t have as much time for corresponding with the common man—that’s you. I’m going to be too busy doing generally excellent things to bother with chores like writing this column or neglecting raking my yard, so I plan to begin interviews right away for a personal assistant. The position doesn’t pay money, per se, but one cannot put a price on the sheer amount of general excellence you’ll witness while under my tutelage.

Prospective candidates must be proficient at backgammon, raking, and be old enough to get my cherry whiskey from the corner store.

Poets and losers need not apply.

Struggling writer seeks love, agent and burritos for author platform

ben's writing stuff
Perhaps it’s time to invest in shelves and a writing desk. (This is one of several piles.)

You’ve heard of shotgun weddings. Well, this is a shotgun blog post.

It has been some time since I posted new material on my website, I know. I put humor writing on hold for the most part this past year to focus on my dramatic works.

After nearly 20 years of practice, maybe 15 of those serious, I find my path as a writer at a most difficult stage.

I feel like I’ve worked my craft enough to try for an agent while I continue to read and write, learn and improve.

After all, I’ve penned three novels, two humor essay collections, a book on religion and philosophy, a 110-000-word memoir no one will ever see, a couple hundred poems, stacks of journals, and at least 3,000 news stories in addition to I-don’t-know-how-many editorials, anecdotes, and pieces I’m not really sure how to classify. (Not to mention a few dirty stories about naughty stewardesses.)

Thing is, now that I’ve actually begun submitting my work—something I have avoided out of sheer terror these decades—I see more and more agents and publishers demanding a writer have a robust “author platform” consisting of scads of Facebook and Twitter followers, as well as a highly trafficked blog.

I don’t have any of those things. For whatever reason, as witty (go ahead, roll your eyes—I am) as I think I am, I’ve had real trouble with engagement.

It can’t be my sparkling personality, can it? Well, answer me you bastard!

When people like celebrities with zero writing ability are able to land big book deals, it’s obvious just how important the platform is.

To make matters worse, I impatiently went ahead and self-published a few books in recent years.

It was lazy.

It was stupid.

And it is forever … since Amazon will not let you take a book off its listings no matter how much you beg or swear.

To make matters worse, I read not too long ago that it can be difficult to get a book deal if you have self-published stinkers hanging around on the internet. Call me “Skunk Boy.” (Melville would be proud.)

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve perused the articles of tips on how to build the author platform, which on paper looks surprisingly like an old English gallows.

I think I understand the science (?) of it: Dancing bear + Drunk uncle over Video = Likes squared [DB+DU/V=L2]

I even stooped to sitting in on a few webinars and purchasing some e-books from “authors” who said they could help turn me into a star, just as long as I paid the extra $99 for the undercoating.

Their answers all turned out to be sales pitches to buy more webinars and e-books.

I get it. I’m supposed to generate fans so that, when I get a book deal, I’ll have a preexisting customer base. But, first I need to give people a reason to become fans.

Sounds simple enough.

That might work if I was a teen mom with a sassy catchphrase, or a sexy single lady looking for love from a gaggle of rich bachelors, or even a drunk idiot from New Jersey with big hair and a spray-tan.

But, I’m not.

I’m just a middle-aged hypochondriac with bad teeth and a spoiled dog.

I don’t see anyone making a reality TV show around that.

I don’t have a dancing cat or a llama who does long-division or even a parrot who sings heavy metal.

So, what can I do?

I hired a couple beta reader services to critique two of my novels, the ones I finished over the last year.

I’m about to do another round of revisions on the historical novel based off their (betas’) insights.

This past week, I submitted a short story, three poems, and an essay to three separate literary magazines.

I also sent a copy of one of my humor essay collections as an ice-breaker to a literary agent I think would be a good match for my work. Not the proper way to do business, I know. But, I’m impatient and dumb, remember?

I’m not about to give up but there are several times each week when I ask myself, and my poor patient wife, if this quest of mine isn’t an insurmountable one.

Then I sigh, eat a peanut butter and orange marmalade sandwich, read a chapter of a good book, and go back to writing and revising.

I’ve also decided to start blogging about my journey because the experts say this will make you love me.

I don’t know if that’s true.

I mean, I love burritos but I don’t follow them on Facebook. (Although, I did dedicate a book to Taco Bell—no foolin.)

I follow Joe Scarborough on Twitter but I’m not about to buy any of his books.

Anyways, if you do end up loving me, maybe you will buy my books when that one agent in New York stops laughing at my hilarious collection of humor essays and calls to say he’ll take me on even though he’s not currently accepting new clients.

And maybe we can get a burrito together. You know, before I become too famous. I mean, we’ll each get our own burrito but at the same time.

That’s all for now.

If anyone needs me, I’ll be in the kitchen sighing and making a PB&M sandwich.

What I’ve learned since moving to Lansing

I also learned that my broken truck window happened because it got hot in the sun and exploded, not because vandals broke it. A local cop said this. It never exploded up north but, apparently, windows in Lansing just explode sometimes.
I also learned that my broken truck window happened because it got hot in the sun and exploded, not because vandals broke it. A local cop said this. It never exploded up north but, apparently, windows in Lansing just explode sometimes.

I’ve learned a lot about the City of Lansing (population 114,297) in the six months I’ve been here.

The wife and I came down from Charlevoix County (population 26,000) this spring after the state made her an offer she couldn’t refuse.

I, being an aspiring novelist (deadbeat) and full-time hypochondriac shut-in, can work (Breaking Bad reruns) from anywhere.

So, on April 2—as April 1 would have been far too ironic—we loaded up the truck and moved to Holt, which they tell me is in Lansing but isn’t. It’s a city … but not really. A community, actually. Kind of. I guess.

So, what have I learned?

You have an inordinate number of chain-smoking pirates.

I can’t see them, per se, but in my apartment complex I can hear them in the walls and ceiling thumping around and always the smell of cigarette smoke follows.

Sometimes the pirates waltz—thump thump thump—and sometimes they boogie—thumpity-thump-thump, thumpity-thump-thump. And, sometimes, like his morning, they tap out the Gettysburg Address in Morse Code.

You have smeed.

woodys-oaisisI don’t know what smeed is, exactly. They say it’s cracked wheat and dried tomato but it tastes like heaven.

Our first day here we ordered from a place called “Woody’s Oasis,” which sounds like a hillbilly truck stop but is actually a middle-eastern restaurant.

I won’t say smeed is the best food ever but I have eaten roughly 26 quarts of it since moving down here.

You have crime.

We had crime up north but it was the folksy rural kind.

Our town drunk would let himself into the jail at night. Someone might steal a pie off a windowsill. The occasional bathtub meth operation would explode.

You know, real Mayberry R.F.D. type stuff.

Our third night here I was awakened by a noise. I decided to look up your local crime stats.

Big mistake.

Did you know this is one of the most dangerous U.S. cities with a population of under 200,000. (lawstreetmedia.com 2015) You’re ranked at #8, in case you were curious.

I was curious.

And, by “curious,” I mean paralyzed with fright.

Turns out what I thought was The Purge happening outside my window was a cat in a potted plant.

One can’t be too careful.

You love college football.

msu-spartan-headEverywhere you go you see green and white and that mongoloid Spartan head with the angry eyebrows.

It’s like living in a Salvador Dali painting minus the melting clocks.

I’m not much of a sports fan. I follow the Lions but only to satisfy some latent masochism developed when the parents divorced.

My analyst says it stems from feelings of abandonment.

I think daddy, I mean Stafford, just needs to get a handle on the got-dang turnovers.

You have traffic.

mad-maxWhere I come from, a traffic jam is six cars stuck behind a slow-moving tractor. Which is good because I don’t do well on crowded roads.

I do less well on interstates.

Lansing has somehow managed to jam the chocolate into the peanut butter and combine those two things into a Mad-Maxian hellscape.

To keep things interesting, you sometimes have bank robbers who abandon their vehicles in the middle of the crowded expressway while state police and helicopters swarm the area.

My lips and hands are numb just thinking about it.

I haven’t seen any tractors on your roads yet but I’m holding out hope.

I am the body, I am the catcher

Thoughts on “The Catcher In The Rye”

catcher-in-the-ryeMother told me, occasionally, since I was in my early teens, that I should read “The Catcher in the Rye.”

I haven’t talked to her about it in years, and she didn’t really mention it more than a few times many decades ago, but there was something about the way she said it that made it memorable.

Seems like she’d say it with a smirk, like the idea of me reading the book contained in it some inside joke just between her and J.D. Salinger.

Maybe it was the kind of smug satisfaction a certain type of person might draw from recommending Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn” to a black person, knowing well just how many goddamn times they’d be jabbed in the eyeballs with the word “nigger.” (219 times to be exact.)

Then, again, perhaps she saw something in the book that reminded her of me. Or, maybe she thought I might enjoy the book and wanted to share the literary experience of chatting with me once I’d read the work.

Don’t get me wrong, she wasn’t blatant in her delivery—hence my confusion—but still there was an implicit strangeness, possibly my inference alone, that there was something wrong with the book, or with me, or both, and that I would be uniquely qualified to relate to its character(s) and/or message.

Well, fuck me if I didn’t recently start and finish the novel, and I finally get the “joke.”

In the 25 years or so that I’ve known the book existed, I’d only ever heard one recurring theme from those who claimed to have read it: that Holden Caulfield was just a spoiled brat. I felt the same way from the beginning of the book. That feeling only strengthened as the story progressed.

I soon found myself wondering, at the end of each of the four sessions I read from it, what mother could have intended.

What did I possibly have in common with a wealthy prep school dropout who had a dead brother and a superiority delusion?

The further I read and thought, the more I realized a strange dichotomy existed within Holden.

In one way, he seemed deluded about his own motivations and intelligence because most people he met were, in his estimation, either phony or moronic.

By constantly labeling folks as either, he seemed to be thinking that he was one of the few intelligent and genuine souls.

It wasn’t until I reached the end of the book, when the reader discovers Holden is in a mental health facility receiving treatment for his neuroses, that I realized I had recognized many of his behaviors from the previous pages.

What appeared to so many readers and critics through the decades as puerile and overindulgent behaviors were actually more serious, and more deeply rooted than a simple tantrum or laziness would suggest.

I noticed the clue that tipped me off to the rest in the last few lines of the book. Holden Recounts a discussion with a psychoanalyst, recalling how he had told the doctor he had no way of knowing whether he would do what he was supposed to do until it came time to do it. Holden gave that answer in response to the doctor asking whether Holden planned to apply himself when he went back to school in the fall.

All those annoying, immature behaviors are absolutely trademarks of a spoiled brat. And, some—like being mean to his date—were. (His latent homosexuality notwithstanding.)

However, there were a great many signs that Holden Caulfield was suffering from depression and anxiety, and possibly other mental disturbances.

And, considering how often modern doctors still fail to recognize or properly diagnose the panic disorder family of conditions, it is certain that readers and critics had no clue what was likely the true motivation behind Caulfield’s seemingly simple juvenile outbursts.

Consider the paralyzing ennui, the pathological disillusionment—these behaviors and thoughts were more than mere dissatisfaction stemming from boredom.

Holden’s malaise concerned the very essence of existence, and it generated a futile worldview where prospects of the slightest effort or even the most exciting activity were rendered exhausting, unfulfilling and pointless.

Is mine a childish read of the material? Perhaps. It is entirely possible that my sympathy, my empathy, and my analysis are rendered biased and unreliable due to my own skeptical views on life.

I have often shared the feelings of annoyance at the seemingly superficial concerns—fashion, senseless infighting, occultism—of those around me.

I Have spent most of my life with the distinct feeling that I am an alien creature among a homogenous horde.

I also know the excruciating fatigue of attempting to camouflage oneself in hopes of avoiding detection … while simultaneously aching from the pangs of isolation.

Is Holden Caulfield a spoiled brat or just a fellow broken person trying to comprehend a world in which he does not belong? I’ll leave that to someone smarter than myself to attempt to answer.

One last note: The notion that means and money determine happiness or sanity is a childish one. To presume Holden Caulfied had no cause to misbehave because he had a full belly and fine clothes is to miss completely the complexity of mental illness and its effects on the human mind.

Celebrating humor this 2016 #ComedyBookWeek

I love to laugh.

OK, who doesn’t, right?

But, for me, it’s an obsession; which is why I’m so excited for the upcoming 2016 Annual Comedy Book Week, July 16-23, organized by Ana Spoke, author of Indiot and Shizzle Inchttps://anaspoke.com/

More info here https://comedybookweek.com/

Sure, I have other important things in my life, a wife and kids and a job I hate, but I spend most of my time, regardless of where I am or what I’m doing, trying to make people laugh—trying to make myself laugh—working through skits in my mind, making notes of essay ideas or themes for more humor books, and finding new ways to fall down hilariously.

Laughing feels good. It’s why we pay folks like Adam Sandler and Louis CK and Tina Fey and Joe Biden the big bucks.

#ComedyBookWeek is an annual, online celebration of humor in writing. It is a free event, and all writers, readers, and book bloggers interested in funny books are welcome.

Humor, for me, isn’t just something I do to kill 80 minutes while watching the latest yuck-fest Hollywood has to offer.

Comedy is an escape, it’s a way of looking at life, and it’s good therapy.

Growing up poor in the pre-internet world, and with a whole bunch of siblings, there wasn’t much to do that didn’t require equipment or money or transportation.

If you wanted to go for a bike ride, you needed a bike—which I often did not have.

If you wanted to play a sport, you needed the money for physicals and travel and uniform—which I did not have.

If you wanted porn, you had to steal it from the utility shack at the grainery near the railroad tracks like everybody else.

If we were lucky, we got our old black and white TV to bring in three or four channels, usually fuzzy, which played whatever ABC, NBC, CBS and, occasionally, PBS (if Saturn was aligned just right, and if the coat hanger was facing west) were willing to give. And that was usually golf or Meet the Press or some sweaty televangelist panhandling to pay for his new water park.

Sure, we explored, we threw rocks at things, we drew pictures of naked ladies, and we fashioned guns out of sticks so we could play “army.” (This was the ’80s. “Cowboys and Indians” hadn’t been a thing for a good twenty years. Rock-throwing, however, has never gone out of fashion. In fact, I think I might go throw me some rocks after lunch today.)

What we did spend a lot of time doing was making each other laugh—full-bodied, tear-jerking, snot-bubble-blowing, hyphenated-word-inducing guffaws.

The seven of us, six boys and a girl, entertained ourselves by making up songs and comedy skits and putting together radio shows which we recorded onto an old cassette deck; sound effects courtesy of a miniature keyboard which supplied just the right amount of barking dog, applause, seagull squawks, and digital fart sounds recorded by yours truly.

To this day, our family get-togethers sound like a white trash open mic night. We spend most of our time trying to make the others laugh by any means necessary.

What can I say? I was obsessed with comedy as a kid—still am.

I watched and re-watched and watched again all the classic comedians and their movies, from the Stooges to Oliver & Hardy, Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein, Fletch, Garrison Keillor, anything by John Candy. The list could go on and on.

When I got a little older, I discovered the humor essay.

I was dazzled by writers like Nora Ephron, Gene Shallit, Fran Lebowitz, Mark Twain, Woody Allen (even if he’s a pervert) and, later, by Jack Handey and David Sedaris. And, I guess, if I hafta, Dave Berry.

While making small crowds laugh in my high school drama classes, I dreamed of moving to Hollywood and becoming the next John Belushi—or at least the next Jim Belushi.

I never left Michigan but I did start putting my desire to make folks laugh onto paper.

The first humor pieces I ever penned became an unpublished memoir (maybe I’ll share it when the parents die) which I shared with some of my siblings. They liked the humorous spin I put on our rough upbringing so I kept on writing.

When I began working as a journalist in the early 2000s, it wasn’t long before I tried out my material on the local masses; kind of by accident.

First week on the job, the editor said I had to write a column introducing myself to the town. Terrified, I retreated to my safe space and did what I always do when I’m nervous: play the jackass. (I remember breaking tension in the newsroom during stressful times under one editor by spontaneously falling out of my chair and taking a filing cabinet with me. She nearly peed her pants on account of me on more than one occasion.)

I didn’t think for a moment they would publish what I submitted.

I even apologized when I handed it in, saying that I would have the real, more subdued version, to the editor by the Friday deadline.

Little did I know the chuckling coming from the editor’s desk, later on, was due to that ridiculous piece I wrote about having come to journalism after failing as a plus-sized underwear model. (Not my best stuff but not terrible, either.)

The piece was well-received by the readers, too.

I was hooked.

It never occurred to me earlier in life that I could make people laugh with nothing more than pencil and paper but I loved it.

Many years later, I would compile some of those columns into a humor book which got pretty good reviews.

A couple years later, I wrote a few dozen essays from scratch for another humor book, this time focusing on my ridiculous struggles with middle age.

Now, I have the opportunity to participate in #ComedyBookWeek.

And, so can you. Whether you’re a reader, writer or book reviewer, you can participate.

There are all sorts of books on all sorts of topics.

Many of the authors, like me, are giving away free review copies for the event in exchange for a blog post or a review on Amazon or Goodreads or all of the above.

Plus there’s all kinds of other special offers in connection with the event.

If you do want to read and review one of my books, either I’m So Great & Other Delusions or Frickin 40: Funny Stories About Middle Age shoot me an e-mail with your mailing address or indicate you’d prefer a digital copy at benjamingohs@gmail.com.

I promise not to send you any hand-drawn pictures of naked ladies … unless you’re into that sort of thing.

humor_book1

Middle-aged politics or Gohsarchy in the USA!

Just in time for the 2016 presidential race, yet another jackass with all the answers—ME!

Though often wrongfully attributed to Winston Churchill (and, really, what isn’t wrongfully attributed to the chubby little drunk?) the axiom that one who is not a liberal when young has no heart, and one who is not a conservative in his later years has no brain, is still an interesting one.

I think it was Winston Churchill who also once said, “Politics shmolitics!” (Or was that Benjamin Disraeli?)

Anyway, there was a time when I really gave a rat’s ass about elections and political parties.

By the by, what is up with that saying? “I don’t give a rat’s ass.”

It means you don’t really care. So, does that mean if you do care you’d be willing to give a rat’s ass?

And, if you did, who would want one? How much can a rat’s ass be worth?

The Wife: “I really love you and I care deeply about your feelings.”
Gohs: “Oh, I am so glad to hear that.”
The Wife: “Here, I got you something.”
Gohs: “Oh, what is it?”
The Wife: “It’s that rat’s ass you’ve been asking for.”
Gohs (wipes away tear): “I hope it’s the brown one!”

Anyways, my political awakening occurred after a long unhappy childhood as a strict Republican.

I began life as an impoverished neo-con. If the gays are Log Cabin Republicans then we were the Cardboard Box Republicans, those pitiable poor types who favor all the same things their wealthy counterparts pretend to espouse—self-sufficiency, hawkish foreign policy, an end to the welfare state and so on—and all to our own detriment.

Nonetheless, I deplored those whiny liberals with their public handouts and touchy-feely social programs just as much.

But, then, something happened over the period of several years that began to soften my crusty exterior and open my mind up to the idea that all of us are alone in this great universe and so we should damn well take care of each other.

Nowadays, I am more middle of the road, looking fondly on America’s mix of perks for the ambitious and safety net for the less fortunate.

Oh, sure, I still believe everyone should do his part to make society safe and healthy, and I am all for rewarding those who go above and beyond what is expected of them.

But, I no longer fall for the line that the handful of rich people in this world all got there because they are simply more talented and hardworking than the rest of us.

Unless you think Bill Gates worked four billion times harder than you do at your job.

So, what could it have been that changed me so? Well, as it so often happens, you hear about some guy who was anti-gay his whole life until his son came out of the closet, and then the father had a change of heart.

Or, the rich guy, who thought all poor people were just lazy, until circumstance found Mr. Big-Bucks down in the gutter, giving hobo hand-jobs for apple cores, through no fault of his own.

My political awakening was like none of those. I began changing my mind because of talk radio.

I listened to right-wing talk radio five days a week for at least four years before coming to the realization that these guys were just mean and stupid, and that their self-contradictory, childish views of the world were not for me.

To be fair, I never had much love for the Democrats, either.

They always just seemed to be Republican-lite, like the diet Mountain Dew of ideological bullshime. And, so, I decided to just withdraw from politics altogether.

I stopped voting, I stopped lecturing coworkers on the evils of “the other guy” and I quit writing politically motivated columns for the newspaper at which I worked.

Presently, I don’t do too much opining on politics nor economics. I’m simply too busy running my businesses to protest. But, In my younger days I did sit on the fence and fling my fair share of poo, at my leisure, at the foot soldiers from all the parties.

And, having gone through quite an extreme spectrum, from conservative Republican to Libertarian to Democrat to Marxist to a 50/50 mix of socialist and capitalist with just the right mix of Green Party, and finally to bleeding-heart Libertarian, I feel like I’ve had enough vantage points from extremist ideologies to offer a comprehensive look at this diverse fustercluck we call “Democracy.”

(I know, someone with more broken TVs than teeth and waving a Confederate flag just screamed, “It’s not a Democracy, it’s a Republic!”)

The American political system has its perks but it also has plenty of flaws. But, whenever I begin to point them out, there are always those voices saying “Oh, you’ve got a better idea?” or “What are you, some kind a communist?” or “Stop hitting on my wife!” The fact is that I do have better ideas than those policies currently used to run our local, state and federal governments. And, no, I will not stop hitting on your wife.

Therefore, being the reliable source of information and insight you’ve come to know and trust for the last few dozen pages or so, I give you Gohsarchy.

The rules under Gohsarchy are so painfully easy that most people ironically find them confusing. Some might even say the structure is downright ridiculous. To them, I say, “Watch your ass!”

Rule #1 – You must be 37 years old to vote. Let’s face it, when you were 18 you were still incapable of doing a great many things right in your life. Those incapable of balancing a checkbook, returning items they borrow or listening to decent music should be kept as far away from the voting booth as possible. You want to have a say in how the country is run? Come back and see us when Lady GaGa no longer sounds good and your credit score is above 650.

Rule #2 – Campaign finance. Do they expect us to believe that it’s just a coincidence that he who raises the most money is more often than not the one who ends up in office? About as much of a coincidence as … as … as something coincidental, that’s what!

Under Gohsarchy, all campaigns would be publicly funded. Each person who ran for office, regardless of whether it was for local dogcatcher or U.S. Senate, would get a stipend of $5,000 and no more. You don’t get to raise funds. Nobody can donate to your campaign, and there would be three televised debates for every race that would get played on every major network and streamed to the web.

The public campaign funds would be kept topped off by a new “Annoyance Tax.” This tax would be retroactive to 1999, and would fine anyone misusing certain words, like, “Epic, sketchy, sick” or any utterance of “YOLO” or “Cray cray” for $100 per violation.

Also, any “family values” politician who is later caught having an affair with a member of their own sex, or any politician who so blatantly and severely contradicts himself would also be fined.

For example, voting against providing medical care for the poorest among us while simultaneously voting to increase the amount of money America spends on its war machine under the guise that the health and safety of the American people cannot be measured in vaccines and physicals but that it can be in the number of bullets and rocket launchers we give to third world thugs … that’s a no-no.

Rule #3 – You must have the skills to pay the bills. It’s fine for an asthmatic 15-year-old to pretend to be Jamrod, the 12th Century warrior mage from beyond the Ghastly Zone.

However, we must stop running this country like it’s a game of Dungeons and Dragons.

If your biggest claim to fame is porking chubby secretaries in your Little Rock law firm, or shooting slow-moving wildlife from an attack helicopter, your application is going straight to the basket with the Thorazine admirers and the guys who think the X-Files is real.

Rule #4 – Foreigners can run for all offices. If it’s one thing I’m sick of hearing, it’s my fellow Caucasians screaming about how they want their country back. Excuse me, you want your country back? I have a feeling there are a handful of people who might disagree with the pecking order on that one.

What my pasty brothers and sisters fail to realize is that this is a nation of immigrants.

OK, so they were mostly angry white immigrants who couldn’t understand why God would lead them to a new nation only to leave a bunch of half-naked heathens all over the place. But, frankly, I think this nation could benefit from some outside perspective.

Maybe if we were forced to learn that we’re not the only people on the planet who matter, we might stop being such world-class assholes about everything.

Don’t worry, Hubert, having to hear someone speak a language other than English isn’t going to make your wife’s tits fall off or anything.

And, who knows, you might actually learn something about geography other than that the Tim Horton’s is up two blocks from the Walmart. (Doesn’t Tim Horton’s have the best coffee?)

Rule #5 – Pay and perks. I don’t expect it to solve a lot of social issues but these monkeys we’re sending to have feces fights in congress and the senate would be overpaid if we compensated them in bus tokens and lard sandwiches.

The fact that they make anywhere from $200,000 on up to $400,000, not including benefits and perks, is downright disgraceful for folks who work part-time in air-conditioned offices while folks are busting real ass to barely make ends meet.

Therefore, under the super keen rules of Gohsarchy, all state and federal politicians—including the president—will earn the current American median income of $50,017. It’s a very respectable amount for where I come from, and paying these self-serving tools closer to what real people are making should help assuage some of the angst we feel when we vote for their dysfunctional asses. (By the way, before you politicians start complaining, most working folks aren’t making near $50,000 a year.)

Rule #6 – No more job jumping. Beginning immediately, there will be a 10-year-long embargo preventing politicians from working as lobbyists or paid political consultants—other than for political campaigns. There will be no more of this congress-to-corporation mutual masturbation that’s gone on too long.

Rule #7 – No more partisan elections. Under Gohsarchy, we will vote for the person, not the political party because there won’t be any. You want team sports, go watch women’s synchronized scissoring or something like that.

Rule #8 – Greater access to the polls. Under Gohsarchy, people will be able to vote from any digital device, from smart-phone to laptop, in addition to being able to go to the traditional locations. In this day of never-before-dreamed-of technology, there simply is no valid excuse for making people line up for hours like wombats in the kill line at the hotdog factory. (It’s an Australian hotdog factory.)

After all, if people know they can have a little tender “alone time” right after they vote, I’ll be much more likely to participate. (I mean “they,” they’ll be more likely to participate.) I expect as near a 100 percent voter turnout as is statistically possible.

Rule #9 – No more negativity. Your mother always said if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. That rule will apply under Gohsarchy.

No negative campaign ads will be allowed.

You either have to talk about yourself or say something nice about your opponent.

Also, whoever loses the election will have the opportunity to work on the cabinet of the person who won. This will help ensure everyone is represented.

Rule #10 – Liberty for all. Personal choices that do not directly affect or harm others will no longer be fodder for ballot measures. You and your gay lover wanna snort cocaine and shoot off machine guns to celebrate your black atheist wedding, then you work it, girl!

As long as you don’t take out any street lights or ejaculate on public property, you’re untouchable! (And not in that creepy Hindu way, either.)

Note to self: add “shoot out street lights” and “ejaculate on public property” to bucket list.

Curse of the sandwiches; planning for aging parents

The struggle is real for people caring simultaneously for their children and parents … what is referred to as the “Sandwich Generation.” (It’s not nearly as delicious as it sounds.)

Something that never entered my mind as a young moron was what you’re supposed to do with your parents when they get too old to take care of themselves.

The wife and I have only recently begun asking each other what we’re going to do when either of our set of parents begins pooping in the hamper and sticking the cat in the microwave.

One of the biggest issues with this is that some of our parents are so nutty to begin with.

How will we know when they start to slip?

And, let’s say they do come to live with us—where are we going to put them?

I guess I could stick them in the basement like that John Carpenter movie The People Under The Stairs.

How creepy is that going to be when the voices start wafting up from under the floorboards?

“Please feed us, Benjamin, we’re so hungry.”

“The wife said not to.”

“I’m sorry I called you an ‘uneducated bum.’”

‘No, you’re not.”

“We haven’t seen sunlight for months.”

“Sorry. You should have thought about that when you bought me women’s swim trunks for ninth-grade pool class.”

I guess we could use it as an excuse to get revenge on our parents.

But I’m not that kind of person. (I mean I’m not the kind of person who is stupid enough to admit to a crime in writing before I commit it.)

On the upside, I’d get to be the one to say, “Don’t make me come down there.”

Of course, I am never going down there.

They’ll be OK if I toss some canned tuna and peanut butter down the steps, right?

There is this old cinder block one-car garage out behind the house that kind of looks like a 1950s bomb shelter. I could always stuff them in there and hope for the best.

Of course, the neighbors might get suspicious when they see me trotting back and forth with cans of ensure and bags of cat food.

Not to mention the stench—there’s no bathroom in there.

Nothing but minimally adequate for our elders.

And what happens if both sets of parents have to move in at the same time?

They don’t really care for one another, by which I mean the Bloods and the Cryps don’t really care for one another.

My living room will look like the Gaza Strip.

Oh, they’ll promise Jimmy Carter peace at the breakfast table but by the time Dr. Phil is on, they’ll be hurling insults and rocks, and by then, probably poo, too.

I guess I can keep some canisters of tear gas on hand.

Does Amazon carry tear gas?

We could stick them all in a nursing home but frankly it would be too cruel of treatment for my in-laws and way too nice for my parents.

Besides, my wife put herself through school—all twenty-eight-and-a-half years of it—by working as a nurse aide.

It’s how she ruined her back and managed to be in constant pain for the rest of her life.

I’ve heard enough horror stories over the years to know that I’d rather be sold to a Slovakian circus or end up a carnival sideshow attraction than be sent to a nursing home.

“Step right up! Shiver in terror at the ungodly ear hair! Gasp at the amazing man-boobs! Dare to bear witness of Middle-Aged Dad!”

Anyways, those nursing homes are nuts!

And I don’t mean “nuts” in a “Mr. and Mrs. Gohs, the side-effects of the mercury Benjamin drank are worse than we had originally feared. He will never play the cello.”

I mean those nursing homes are just a balls-to-the-wall free-for-all of pant-pooping, boner-popping, old-person-sex-having prison where they are dropping like flies—insane, wrinkled, pee-soaked flies.

One day you’re getting punched, dry-humped and cried to—all by the same resident, by the way—and the next day you’re putting someone else’s stuff in their room. (Not so feisty now, are ya, granz?)

People don’t realize it when they tour these places but it’s death’s waiting room.

(Cue voice-over in creepy Boris Karloff tone.)

“Welcome to Expedient Meadows Retirement Community, we just had a room open up! Does grandpa bruise easily when punched?”

Of course they have a vacancy.

There is only one reason those rooms are empty … and it ain’t cuz grandma got better and went home.

Oh, sure, they try to dress the place up with a meeting room where they serve ice-cream on Tuesdays and hold a happy hour on Fridays.

Because if it’s one thing grandpa needs on top of all his medical conditions and medications is sugar and alcohol.

“I’m sorry, we’re at full capacity. But if you could call back on Saturday I think we might have an opening.” (Even sooner if the lady in room 12 doesn’t lose the attitude.)

And don’t think you’re getting off cheap.

Even the really crappy ones are charging like $1,000 a day—a day! You could set grandpa up with hookers, blow and an all-u-can-eat buffet in Vegas for that kind of cabbage.

(Note: remember to schedule trip to Vegas when book is finished. Also, stop calling money “cabbage.”)

I guess we could make things interesting and force our parents to “Thunderdome” it but I don’t think any of them have the vigor necessary to swing swords or chainsaws.

There’s no getting around it.

If we end up with all four of them at the same time, my house is going to look even more like a Wes Anderson movie than it already does.

Mom’ll be in the corner painting portraits of naked U.S. Presidents.

My father-in-law will spend his time lecturing everyone on the weather patterns he tracked throughout the 1980s.

And, dad, dad will continually interrupt my mother-in-law’s obsessive pulp fiction reading to horrify her with his vast repertoire of “dick” jokes, but only until he drinks himself to sleep each noon.

Now I understand why my biological father disappeared when I was seven.

I’ve got the perfect nursing home in mind, should he ever return.


Find any of this funny?

Consider getting one of my humor books.

They make great bathroom/waiting room/marriage-counseling-session reads

BOOKS AVAILABLE AT AMAZON HERE

‘Frickin 40’ middle age humor book selections take state press award

FRICKIN 40 DARK BLUE - webI published three selections from “Frickin 40: Funny Stories About Middle Age” in the Boyne City Gazette newspaper under my “Don’t Get Me Wrong” column last year and it looks like I won Best Column in the Michigan Press Association Better Newspaper Contest for a Class D Publication in 2015. I would have preferred Newspaper of the Year but I’ll take it.

Judge comments:

“Very well written, point is clearly stated. Particularly enjoyed the ending, with concise questions posed rapid-fire style—it was VERY effective. The clarity of the writing impressed me a lot.”

“There were some entries that clearly stood head and shoulders above the rest, writers whose columns went beyond simply providing information. I gravitated toward those pieces that were particularly evocative, writers who wrote with emotion.”

You will note that he said nothing of how hilarious the selections were. I give you the Donald J. Trump Seal of Truthiness that the book is hi-larious. (100% imitation humor. Contains no actual hi-lariousness.)


 

Get your own copy of Benjamin J. Gohs’ new-ish true-ish humor-ish book here: MAGICAL LINK

My quest for boredom

I no longer have any friends. Oh, I still have people I consider friends in the technical sense but my social life has been nonexistent for going on five years now. Of course, with as much gas as I pass, that may be a good thing.

I mean, up until yesterday, I had nearly 550 “friends” but I decided to delete everyone off my Facebook account who I don’t personally know or interact with for work purposes.

I trimmed the list down to 97 people—that includes a few dozen family members, a dozen or so work colleagues, assorted acquaintances and the 13 people who bought a copy of my last book. (Take that, Stephen King!)

Truth is, I haven’t hung out with, or even talked to, any of my real friends in years. Most of them live hundreds of miles away. They’re busy. I’m busy. And, what with me being a reclusive workaholic and all, who can find the time? I wish I had time to be bored.

Nonetheless, I am addicted to Facebook and I’m trying to figure out a way to break the habit. I must check it every ten minutes from the time I awaken at 6 a.m. until I pass out from exhaustion at 1:30 the next morning.

I can’t believe it’s taken me this many years to figure it out but those social networks just seem to be catering to people’s most narcissistic, self-indulgent and overall worst behaviors. And that’s not good for a self-indulgent narcissist like me.

Before I cleaned house on the friends list, I knew a woman who divided her time equally between swearing about how rotten her kids were and praising them for being the most wonderful offspring in the Midwest.

I had one “friend” who chastised me for mentioning one too many times (I think I might have brought it up twice) that I had gone vegetarian, but he can’t seem to go five minutes without reminding everyone on the internet that he had toe cancer once and that he is indeed a hero for having contracted the awful disease.

Then there are the people posting pictures of their dinner, breakfast, snacks—injuries.

My goodness, I’ve seen people’s bleeding, pus-filled, bruised and contused bodies. Why are people sharing this stuff?

It’s like soft-core porn for idiots. I mean, I’ve always tended to over-share information about myself throughout my life but that’s because I’m a jackass, and I’m usually doing it to try and make people laugh. (Why is it better to be a narcissistic attention whore in a book than on social media? I don’t know. It just is.)

How did it get like this?

This kind of thing didn’t exist when I was a kid, and thank Gene Roddenberry that it didn’t.

I can’t imagine what kind of self-serving, socially retarded, mean-spirited, arrogant little pricks it would have made of my generation—oh, wait, I don’t have to imagine.

There is something inherently messed up about a species that feels the need to share its every thought, word, and entrée with the rest of the planet.

Of course, even most of those pathetic losers still lead much more exciting lives than I do. After all, you’d think that having nobody to hang out with would have increased my chances of finding hobbies. It hasn’t.

I can’t remember where I was when my fun clutched its chest and fell down the basement stairs. I think it was sometime in my late 20s.

Regardless, it’s been a good long while since I’ve done anything enjoyable outside of eating Taco Bell.

I didn’t used to be like this.

There was a time when I played poker with the fellas, went camping*, cycled and did all sorts of other activities. (*Camping has to go in the same category as mushrooms. I used to eat them. I thought I liked them. Then, after like 35 years of swallowing the slug-like fungus I realized I had been tolerating them when in reality I loathed the nasty little suckers.)

The moral of the story: screw mushrooms and camping!

My lack of hobbies is only exacerbated (I love that word, and not just because it sounds like “masturbated.”) by the fact that I don’t leave my house—ever.

Mercifully, my job allows me to work from home. This gives me the freedom to explore the hermit lifestyle in all its shut-in, pasty-skinned glory but it also makes relaxation a challenge.

Try to picture working 100 hours-a-week in your office, then punching the clock and continuing to sit in your office.

OK, so my office has a bed and cable and a store a mile away that delivers pizza and beer. (Hey, that’s big doins out here in the country.)

Once upon a time I enjoyed shooting—targets and clay pigeons, not crowded shopping malls—and collecting and working on classic cars, until that became too expensive.

Lately I’ve been thinking about taking up painting. I took a bunch of art classes in high school. Not just for the easy credits—for the easy credits and the fact that the art teacher let us listen to heavy metal in class and go out into the parking lot to have a cigarette.

I was never much good but neither were Pollack or Picasso and look where it got them. (Wait, didn’t they die miserable and broke?)

One time I worked really hard and came up with an oil painting of a big yellow moon behind a creature that appeared to be half bat and half rabbit.

My friends donned it “Bat Bunny.” It was creepy but kind of cool in a Donnie Darko kind of way. I miss Bat Bunny.

I’m willing to try just about anything that doesn’t involve leaving the house.

That being said, there are a great number of activities I would never attempt, even if I were wont to venture from my cave.

Lucky for you I have listed some of them below. (I do plan to give drunken Jenga a try.)

Skydiving

I have been on a plane exactly four times in my life. They were the jets that took me from Auburn, Michigan, to Seattle, Washington, and back again during winter break of 1992.

This trip taught me a few valuable lessons: airplane food is only bad if you’ve never been really poor.

I can’t remember what I ate but I do remember thinking that people must have been greatly exaggerating their in-flight mealtime woes; I also remember that trying to charge me $7 for earphones to listen to the crappy in-flight movie, after they charged $400-and-some for the ticket, was a pure dick move.

Of course, back in 1992, we didn’t use the term “dick move” so I probably thought it was “bogus” or “not righteous” or that maybe it “reeked.”

I also remember thinking, as I dangled my feet from my seat for four-and-a-half hours because I was convinced I would fall through the floor if I put them down, that man should really only fly for one of the following good reasons:

• A considerably large person tosses a considerably smaller person clad in Velcro against a wall also covered in Velcro

• A fat man is shot out of a cannon toward a pyramid of pies

• Children wearing garbage bags as capes jump off a roof

• Superman doing Superman things

• You are riding an atom bomb that has been dropped over a major Russian city

Reasons I could not sky dive:
• Fear of a fatal terror-induced mid-air heart attack
• Too fat for parachute
• Too fat for plane
• If I did manage to go up and jump and survive the ordeal, I wouldn’t be able to stop screaming—ever! Hell, I’m screaming right now just thinking about it. Will someone please slap me!?!

Golf — I’ve only gone a few times but it was evident from the first rotator cuff injury that it’s just not the game for me.

For starters, the walking—oh the endless endless walking—gives a new meaning to the word tedious. (OK, I guess it still has the same meaning but man that’s a lot of walking.)

And then there are the slowpokes. Folks who seem to be more interested in chatting about how they golfed last weekend—you know, when nobody else was around and they shot a hundred under par—than actually whacking some balls. (Hey, if that sounds dirty it’s only because you’re a degenerate. It’s OK, some of my best friends are degenerates, ya pervert.) Worst of all is that damnable windmill.

Hunting — Now that I’m a half-assed vegetarian, hunting is out. I guess the agoraphobia pretty much fixed that one but I had to give a half-assed shout out to my vegetarian peeps. (“Peeps?” Did I use that word correctly? All I know is I saw someone on Keeping Up With The Kardashians say it and it sounded cool.)

Anyway, my dad taught me how to hunt beginning the winter when I was nine years old.

Hunting when you’re nine means munching on a frozen bologna sandwich your mom stuffed in your pocket while sitting in the snow against a tree after your father tells you to sit still and shut up.

I’m not sure of all the mechanics but it seems that you then return four hours later, breath smelling like rotten apple cider and mysteriously light the deer.

The first and only time I ever went deer hunting as an adult was in 1997, when a friend and I decided we would become big time he-men that were going to fill our freezers with meat.

We spent the summer building a portable deer blind which we hauled some 200-plus miles to my grandparents’ wooded property in a remote location in Northern Michigan.

We set the blind up a few dozen yards from the kill zone. We even visited several times throughout the late summer and early fall to replenish the bait pile.

“Bait pile?” you say.

Perhaps I should explain Michigan deer hunting to those of you who don’t live next door to the Waltons.

Step 1 – dump a bunch of fruit, vegetables and salt in a pile roughly the size of a ‘78 Buick Le Sabre in the middle of the woods. This used to be legal (I think the salt lick part was a no-no) but then they outlawed bait but then they changed the law saying you could only use so much, like a pail full. I’m not sure if they define the word “pail” but judging by the size of the bags of carrots and beets for sale at the up north gas stations, the pails are also the size of a ‘78 Buick Le Sabre.

Step 2 – Put on camouflage pants, camouflage shirt, camouflage boots, camouflage paint on your face … and a bright orange hat on your head to let the other hunters know not to shoot you. This step is very important because every good hunter knows that just about everything—from water heaters to the duck-billed platypus—starts to look like a whitetail around deer season. (Sorry, “whitetail” is a kind of deer, not slang for Caucasian trim.)

Step 3 – Douse yourself with copious amounts of deer pee. The mere sight of you with that bottle of pungent sauce will have them jumping for joy and approaching you with lust in their eyes. And if it works that good on the deer pee salesmen, just think what the deer will do.

Step 4 – Smoke cigars, eat pickled meats and drink beer while compulsively checking your weapon to be sure it’s as loaded as you are.

Step 5 – Resist the urge to shoot other animals not in season.

Step 6 – Resist the urge to shoot hunting partner when he starts stinking up the camper with pickled meat and beer farts. (Don’t worry, chances are he will eventually try too hard to fart once while you’re playing cards in the camper and he will soil his pants right in front of you. You know who you are!)

Step 7 – Yell “Hunting!” Then pack up and go home.

Signs of manopause

Then you realize … you’re the old guy at the party

Realizing I was getting “older” didn’t all happen at once.

It was a gradual unfolding of occurrences over and over and over again until I slowly and with great hesitation began to accept them as reality. (By which I mean drank heavily and began closing my eyes when I walked by mirrors. Oh, how I wish that weren’t true.)

I will never forget back in the early 2000s when I was still rocking bleach blonde hair and a sweet Guy Fieri spike and spatula.

One of the waitresses was waiting for her food in the window between the cook’s station and the front of the restaurant while I put the order together and she said “Looks like your hair is starting to thin.”

I laughed and said that, no, I just have really fine hair. And that the gel made it look that way.

I really-honestly-seriously-and-for-true had no idea I was losing hair.

It wasn’t until I took to shaving my head for a few years and then let it grow back that I was treated to a balding patch on the front right side of my forehead.

I was dumbfounded, flabbergasted, even flabberfounded! You get the idea.

I’m pretty sensitive about my hair, so it took some years before I allowed myself the realization that the thin patch was not going to thicken back up.

My hair had a one-way ticket to the shower drain and there was no getting it back—regardless of what Joey Fatone promises.

Slowly, I began to notice other symptoms of this syndrome we call middle-age.

As I am wont to do, I compiled a list of things that tipped me off to my life change.

SIGNS OF MANOPAUSE

  • I began using the phrase “The young people.” (Now it’s just part of my working vocabulary.)
  • I get more excited about new snow tires than I do about sex.
  • I make noise every time I get out of a chair or bed or fart.
  • At the end of the day, a body part, like an arm or leg, just stops working so well. And, and when I’m tired, I walk like a cartoon old person.
  • I have begun thinking about how I’ll fall in different scenarios.
  • I try to plan how I’ll land if I slip in the tub or on the icy driveway or the steep basement stairs. I never worried about falling when I was a kid, but a broken hip or twisted knee could really cause me trouble.
  • And, the older you get, the better chances there are that a fall could kill you. (Those “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” commercials ain’t so funny now, are they smart-ass?)
  • Naps. Also known as “you’re too old to get through the day without sleeping.” Turning into a giant newborn, a very real part of manopause.
  • Butterscotch starts to taste really good. Admit it (if you are over 40), you’re getting horny just thinking about it.
  • I realized snoring can kill you.
  • Sleep apnea is no joke.
  • Now when I see the Three Stooges doing their loud obstructive snoring routine I yell at the screen: “Wake up! You’re suffocating!”
  • I’ve begun planning my day around bathroom trips. I know I can’t do any interviews before 9 a.m. because there is a chance I’ll be on the pot when they call back.
  • Everyone under 30 seems to be an idiot. (I suspect this one is more than just a feeling.)
  • 18-year-olds look like babies. How was I supporting a woman and child when I was 19? It just doesn’t seem possible. (Oh yeah, I was doing it badly.)
  • Old people don’t look as old as they used to, and they don’t look at me suspiciously any more. It’s almost like I’m becoming one of them. (One of us. One of us. Gooble gobble!)
  • Toenails become like heat-treated glass. And, if left unattended, can also kill you.
  • New found obsession with with the weather. Never used to care about the forecast. Just figured it was going to do whatever it was going to do. But, now? I mean, have you seen what they’ve done with the Weather Channel? It’s amazing.
  • Dessert has become a mandatory part of supper.
  • I’ve begun to call dinner “supper.”
  • I head into the shower with the care and preparation of a mountain climber, knowing each trip could be my last. (See also: falls kill)
  • I pay more attention to the obituaries than I used to. (Wracking up silent victories over everyone I’ve outlasted.)
  • I finally “get” jazz.
  • I still bitch about my taxes but I secretly realize their necessity.
  • Music that came out when I was a kid is now being played on the oldies station. (This one irks the shit out of me!)
  • I keep catching myself telling the same few stories over and over again. But, with a little luck and a few years, I won’t be able to remember that I’ve told the stories before, and people will be too polite to tell me they’ve heard them before.
  • The only problem is, I keep catching myself telling the same few stories over and over again.
  • Birthdays look less like Christmas and more like toll booths on the way to the graveyard.

MORE FUNNY STUFF IN THIS HERE BOOK

Failed model turns to the mean streets of journalism

Going through some oldish files not-so-recently, I found the first newspaper column I ever wrote. My editor at the time decided I had been writing news stories long enough to give column writing a shot. I asked him what I should write about. He told me to write a column introducing myself as the new full-time general assignment reporter. I had no idea what to write. Sure, I’d read lots of local columns and followed a handful of national pieces by folks like Georgie Anne Geyer and David Broder and that scamp Dave Berry but I had no idea what to write. So, perennial smart ass that I am, I wrote the following—assuming it would be rejected outright and my editor would kill the idea of forcing me to write a weekly (or so) column. It backfired. He enjoyed it and so did some of our readers … and an ego was born. “It’s a bouncing baby fragile need-machine!”

Originally published in Charlevoix Courier, May 20o5

I survived my first week on the Courier staff and I must say things are a bit different from when I was a freelancer.

The dress code for one: I used to work out of my home office so I spent most of my time in pajamas. My new editor frowns on the idea of me showing up to work in a bathrobe.

The other major change is the condition of my new office; clean, organized and replete with every convenience imaginable, while my old office looked like a grenade went off in a flea market that specialized in children’s toys, empty cereal boxes and vintage typewriters.

The biggest advantage I’ve seen so far is that my wife is now unable to tape to-do lists to my computer screen.

Before I go any further, I must be honest, as much as I love my new job, working for the Courier wasn’t my first career choice. Two years ago I left food-service in hope of becoming a fashion model for Tommy Hilfiger in Hollywood—my wife’s ear piercing and incessant laughter told me otherwise.

It took a week of crying myself to sleep before I decided to go after my longtime (and slightly more attainable) goal to write for a living. I wrote news, feature, advertising, sports and websites for every publication that would have me. The more I wrote, the more opportunities showed themselves.

The next thing I knew, I was offered the position as staff writer. Due to the competitiveness of this market, I know how lucky I am to be here. As far as my goals, well, for the most part I’ve achieved them. I have my dream job. I live in the most beautiful town I have ever seen. And, I have a wonderful family with which to share my good fortune.

The only other goals I have now are to report the news and avoid those damnable to-do lists.

And just one more thing, Tinsel Town has nothing on Charlevoix, but if you run into me on the street, please, don’t ask about the modeling career—it’s still a bit of a sore spot.

Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, Michael Meyers and Leatherface … on vacation

movie killers jason voorhees, freddy krueger, leatherface and michael meyers

What do famous movie killers do in their downtime?

They slash, they stab, they saw, and they are all around inconsiderate to the rest of society.

While Jason, Freddy, Mike and Bubba (aka Leatherface) do spend a good deal of their time terrorizing the populace, murder isn’t their only love.

For the first time (and god knows it should be the last) I take an in-depth look at what our favorite silver screen killers do in their off time.

JASON — Having died at around age 11, yet somehow managed to become an adult-sized hulk of around 6 feet, 8 inches and weighing nearly 300 pounds, Jason Voorhees has spent so many years killing hapless sex-crazed teens that he neglected his own needs.

Now, after extensive psychotherapy and heavy doses of Lithium, Jason is focusing on more “me” time. Oh, you’ll still find him off in God’s country, but instead of swinging a machete at foreheads, he’s swinging a nine iron at a Titleist.

“There was a time when I thought there was nothing more to life than stabbin’ sinners,” Voorhees said. “But, the more humping teens I killed, the more depressed I got.”

Voorhees has made peace with his mother’s killer, and he’s done his best to make amends with the families of the counselors he massacred.

Recently, he even started a charity called “Jason’s Kids” which provides at-risk inner city youth with machetes of their own.

“Nowadays, when I hear that ‘Chi-chi-chi-ha-ha-ha’ sound in my head, I go out and hit a bucket of balls,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong, I still kill, but I do it for me—and not to impress my mother.”

FREDDY — Life ain’t easy for an undead pedophile with third-degree burns over 99 percent of his body. Try logging that shit into Match.com and see what kind of results you get.

“Dr. Neil Clark Warren can suck a squid’s dick,” said Krueger, who doesn’t sugarcoat his long history of piling up body counts.

So, what does a supernatural murdering fiend do when he’s not terrorizing sleeping teenagers? He volunteers his time as a political fund-raiser, and works the phone bank for various political campaigns.

“Sure, I got off to a rocky start with my, ‘Hey, bitch, be sure to vote Democrat on Tuesday’ pitch. But, after some coaching and a whole lot of vicodin milk, I managed to tone down my vulgar language and penchant for diddling the young people. Listen to me, ‘The young people.’ I sound so old.”

You might be wondering if Freddiy is a red- or blue-stater. The answer is, he’s both.

“I tried volunteering at the Catholic church, but even they wouldn’t take me. Something about ongoing scandals and not needing any help scaring small children,” Krueger said with a snort.

“Then, one day, while I was jamming a political yard sign through some 15-year-old’s spine, it came to me: Politics is my passion. So, instead of wasting my evil on little brats who don’t put out half the time, I could do some real damage to the world by supporting the never-ending line of moneygrubbing scumbags who run this country.”

Krueger had been facing over a dozen life sentences for his horrifying crimes, but the Koch brothers simply donated some cash to a few congressmen and the whole thing went away.

Krueger added, “Democracy, bitches!”

LEATHERFACE — Decidedly not the sharpest ax in the torso, Bubba aka Leatherface is a member of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals).

Still a devout cannibal, Bubba thinks it unconscionable to eat any animal products or by-products.

You may have seen his now infamous commercial where he uses his chainsaw to quarter a human for eating a cheeseburger.

The commercial was banned, of course, because it was real. (And, apparently, the producer didn’t have permission to use the particular brand of chainsaw seen on camera.)

“Bubba love kitties and puppies, but not to eat,” said Bubba. “Bubba realize him stance on animal cruelty directly conflict with him pathological desire to kill human but Bubba no perfect.

Me believe it Nietzsche who said, ‘Distrust all in whom the impulse to punish is powerful.’ But, what me gone to do?”

He added, “Bubba love kitties and puppies but not to eat.”

Nonetheless, Bubba has made it his life’s mission to free the world’s animals from the tyranny of meat eaters by marching with celebrities and unveiling his own line of vegetarian meat substitutes which, ironically, contain 15% human.

Ask your local grocer if he carries “Chainsaw Sunrise” brand luncheon and breakfast meats.

MICHAEL MYERS — Certainly the quietest of the bunch, Mikey is also the poorest.

While Freddy and Jason are supernatural creatures, and even Leatherface has a family home at which to hang his hat (granted, a hat made out of the faces of people), only Michael Myers is homeless.

But, that hasn’t stopped him from dressing like a plumber and driving aimlessly around in a van.

And, really, what better occupation is there for an escaped mental patient on the run than the plumbing and heating business? Have you met my plumber?

While he cannot speak—due to an unfortunate but sexy Lincoln Log incident while in prison—Mr. Myers was able to communicate for this interview through a primitive form of sign language.

He said most of the time he can find worm on a contracting crew for a few weeks, and when his globs are completed, he can collect his gay and hop a bust to the next town.

In fact, Mike communicated, he has found he enjoys the worm so munch, he maybe just consider salting down someday and opening ump his own shoe, and perhaps even startling a family.

Of course, that’s only if he can get the good Dr. Loomis off his bass long enough to find sweaty work and get set up in a new frown.

Oh, yes, Michael Myers may seem like an absolute psychopath in the movies, what with the stabbing and the choking and the stab-choking and all, but what they don’t tell you about are all the horrible things his doctors did to him while he was serving his sentence in the hospital for the criminally insane plumber.

You’d be a little loopy too if you were subjected to 20-some years of electroshock therapy, heavy doses of long-since-outlawed tranquilizers, Dr. Phil and group therapy with some of the world’s biggest nut cases. (There was also some serious homoerotic farm animal stuff going on that he doesn’t want to get into.)

Nowadays, with the advances in anti-depressants and Obamacare’s promise that no one will ever again go without hastily-brought-to-market mystery substances whose side-effects far outweigh any potential benefit, our little Mikey just might have a shot at a normal life … or at least the life of an NFL player.

I wish I could quit you Taco Bell

There’s nothing funny about domestic violence … unless it involves me getting my ass beat by a giant taco.

I’m not saying I don’t deserve all of the blame for the position I find myself at this midlife juncture but I am saying I plan to blame everyone else for my problems.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve tried really hard over the years to take responsibility for my mistakes, be they minor faux pas or king-size clusterfucks.

The truth is I’m tired. I just don’t have the energy for introspective. Nor do I have the stomach for reflection followed by positive action.

After all, if people who smoked all their life can sue the tobacco companies and win big fat paydays, then I should be able to squeeze the tits of Nabisco and McDonald’s for a few million each.

Granted, most of the blame for my weight belongs to me being undisciplined when it comes to Taco Bell.

I want to quit this abusive relationship but our passion keeps me crawling back, no matter how destructive our love is to one another.

Cops: “We received a complaint from the neighbors about the noise over here.”

Taco Bell: “I was just leaving.”

Cops: “Mr. Gohs, is everything alright?”

Me: “Yes. Just fine. We were having a discussion about politics … (I pause for nervous laughter) and I guess it got a little heated.”

Taco Bell: “It got heated because you’re a stupid bitch what don’t know when to shut her mouth!”

Me: “Don’t mind him, officer, TB just has a wicked sense of humor.” (more nervous laughter from me)

Cops: “Easy, Mr. Bell. You folks mind if we come in and take a look around?”

Me: “Sure. I’ll put on some coffee.”

Taco Bell: “You fuck faces got a warrant?”

Cops: “Please, Mr. Bell, just have a seat and try to remain calm.”

Taco Bell: “Nobody but nobody tells me what to do in my own home!”

Me: “TB, please! You’re just going to make things worse!”

Cops: “It looks like somebody did a number on this place.”

Taco Bell: “What number is that? A number two? You sayin’ my house looks like shit?”

Me: “I’ve been spring cleaning, officer. Please excuse the mess.”

Taco Bell: “Only thing you ever clean is crumbs from the bottom of the cookie jar, you fat pig.”

Me (sobbing now): “You didn’t seem to mind when I was eating your burrito last night.” (more sobbing)

Taco Bell: “I’ve had better.”

Cops: “Mr. Gohs, what happened to your face.”

Taco Bell: “Ugly parents. Ha!”

Me: “I-I-I fell down the stairs … and hit my face on his fist.”

(Cops grab Taco Bell, trying to restrain him from hitting me.)

Taco Bell: “You bitch! How could you do this to me?”

Cops: “Alright, Mr. Bell, you’re coming with us.”

Me: “Don’t! Please! I love him! It wouldn’t have happened if I wouldn’t have brought the wrong beer home.”

Taco Bell (hogtied and dragged from the domicile): “You did that on purpose, you bitch! You know I only drink Rolling Rock!”

Does Weight Watchers have a plan for that?

 

Things are big and tough and hairy all over

Why did I write about Bigfoot going to Alcoholics Anonymous? I don’t know. Why do you do any of the stupid shit you do?

My name is Philip Bigfoot, and I’m an alcoholic.

[Hello, Bigfoot! Welcome to AA]

I guess the drinking started around the time my second wife left me.

I came home to an empty brush pile after a long day of gathering pine cones and wood grubs.

She had taken everything: the kids, the furniture, even my scratching stick—she knew I loved that stick.

Things were pretty rough there for awhile.

I stopped hunting and gathering in the forest.

I quit picking the lice off my body and eating them.

I didn’t even bother scraping the poop off my leg fur anymore.

It was about six months later while drinking tequila and licking a big block of salt outside a human hunting cabin that I had the epiphany that made me give up the drink.

You see, I’m normally a pretty happy drunk. But, when those hunters started shooting at me, I went berserk. I chased them into the cabin and started screaming and foaming at the mouth.

Seeing the terror in their eyes had always been enough before, but something inside me was broken.

I was beating this hunter over the head with the stump of his buddy’s arm when I caught my reflection in a Coors mirror.

“Who is this bloodthirsty savage?” I asked myself. “What happened to the Phillip K. Bigfoot who used to play slow pitch softball and moon truckers out on the interstate?”

That was my rock bottom moment.

Well, needless to say, my apology didn’t go very far.

It was then I knew I had to get my shit together.

In the days following, it took some soul-searching, but I finally realized Sharon didn’t leave me because of who I wasn’t. She left me because of who she was.

Sure, I’ll never be rich like the Yeti or handsome as the Sasquatch. But, if the Skunk Ape can hold his head up high, then by God, so can I.

I’ve been sober for almost three months now, and I’m feeling good.

I’m back to banging rocks against trees, and my bloodcurdling night screams can be heard all over the forest.

The other day I even let a reclusive nutcase take some grainy video of me walking through the woods.

A couple weeks ago, I began dating this real nice black bear. Who knows, she might be the one.

Sure, her parents disapprove, but they’re from a different generation.

And, if I can change for the better, then so can they.

Parenting never ends … ever!

Children ruin everything.

Those words should be stamped on our genitals.

Joy in its every form is a booby-trap.

Eat a chocolate-chip cookie, get fat. Smoke a cigarette, get cancer. Date a model, get herpes. Have sex … get children!

As a parent, you are Wile E. Coyote, and children are the explosion that leaves your head blackened and hairless.

I know what some of you are saying. “But, Ben, children are a miracle. The only reason we exist is to have children and propagate the species. Children should be loved and nurtured and revered as a national treasure.”

Hey, I love my children. Everybody loves their children. It’s what keeps us from selling them to the Gypsies. That doesn’t change the fact that child-rearing takes arguably the best 20-or-so years of your adult life and leaves you a fat, wrinkled, nervous, and penniless mess.

With all the babbling, puking, pooping, snotty-noses, incoherent screaming, lying, manipulating, stealing, destruction of property and combativeness, raising kids is most akin to working as an orderly in a psych ward—or maybe a German porno.

Except, I’m going to guess the turnover rate for psychiatric hospital orderlies is much higher than the turnover rate of parents.

Yet, unlike the psych ward, you can’t just up and quit.

OK, I guess you can abandon your kids but most of us stick it out because we love them so dearly.

That, and for fear of being blamed once the little lunatic grows up to be a big lunatic and starts blabbing to some smart prick with a Ph.D.

Your kid: “I think the reason I drink is because my mother refused to buy the name brand cereal.”

Smart prick with Ph.D: “Tell me, how did that make you feel?”

Your kid: “Inadequate. Buying generic choco-poofers was mother’s way of telling me I wasn’t good enough for her … or Cocoa Puffs.”

Look, I’m not saying parenthood doesn’t have its fair share of good times. I’m just saying the price tag is awfully steep for a few poorly crafted Christmas ornaments and the occasional macaroni artwork.

You’re not fooling anyone, Tommie. We know you traced your hand to make that turkey.

We Had Our Kids Young

Of all the valid reasons you should not have children when you yourself are quite young—lack of maturity, lack of patience, lack of money, lack of housing, lack of life experience—there is one excellent reason to do just that, and it involves simple mathematics.

See, when I was just 19 and had a woman and newborn son to support, I watched with a generous portion of envy as my friends all continued to play the role of high-schooler-plus.

They were all still living at home. Few had jobs. None were planning to attend college right away, and that left ample time for drink and drugs and women and mischief, and as much free time as they could possibly hope for.

Remember what it’s like to be bored? I don’t.

Your average post-graduation interaction went something like this:

“Hey, Ben, wanna go to this concert?”
“Can’t, I spent all my money on diapers and a car seat.”
“Hey, Ben, you going to Florida with us for spring break?”
“Can’t. If I miss any work I won’t make my bills.”
“Hey, Ben, we’re going to the Foosball tournament in Vegas, you in, brother?”
“I’d love to. But, this weekend I’m planning on stuffing myself into a wood chipper.”

Year after year, I watched my pals splurge their youth and vitality on adventure after adventure.

Hell, some of them didn’t have their first kid until just a few years ago.

What this all means, for those of you who are as bad at math as I am, is that, while my kids are both college-age, my friends are dealing with everything from diapers and the Terrible Twos (and threes and fours and fives and sixes) to the early teen years … and at twice the age and half the energy at which the wife and I endured child-rearing.

Nowadays, the conversations (at least until my daughter moved back home with us) went a little something like this:

“Hey, Ben, you coming to my daughter’s second birthday?”
“Sorry, the wife and I are converting the family room into a wet bar.”
“Hey, Ben, my son’s Little League game is this Saturday.”
“I’d love to, but I’m going to stay home naked all weekend drinking whiskey.”

I am chagrin to report the instances of wine-related shenanigans and spirited house-wide nudity dried up approximately ten minutes before our empty nest returned to three’s a crowd.

It was a fun year but college isn’t for everyone. And, how hard could I come down on my kid?

After all, I made it exactly one-half of a semester before giving up. Of course, I’d been out of my parents’ house for damn near a decade when I decided to fail miserably at going back to school. So the only wrath I had to face was that of the wife. Oh, the wrath!

Of course, when your kids are in college, you haven’t really gotten rid of them.

They still spend nearly half the year creating dirty laundry for you to wash and dishes for you to wash and dirty floors for you to wash and medical bills for you to pay and grocery bills for you to pay. (I guess I’m trying to say there’s a lot of washing and paying still happening. Don’t go. It gets better, I promise.)

Something they don’t explain to you in bad parenting 101 is the strange dichotomy you eventually face when your child-children become adult-children. Legally, they are free to do as they please.

Yet, they still need to be parented to a certain degree. They demand to be respected as adults but sometimes expect the same amount of praise, attention, and material support they enjoyed back when they were still the unemployed midgets under your legal guardianship.

As the wife told me the entire time the kids were growing up: you have to parent your kids as individuals. What works for one may not be right for the other.

She was right, the wife, but now I’m using that same logic in parenting our adult children and it’s not flying so well.

The wife decided we should have been done parenting once the kids reached college-age. And, to be fair, that’s when she and I were out on our own with no help.

Though, we did end up moving back in with parents a couple times until we finally got things figured out. So, I guess we’re stuck until the kids hit their early 20s.

Regardless, the wife was really looking forward to the empty nest. I didn’t know it until it happened, but I was, too.

We had our kids way too early in life and that caused us to both miss out on a whole lot of living.

Nonetheless, good parents never stop parenting their kids.

Apparently, neither do mediocre ones.

That being said, I am under no delusion that I have all the answers now any more than I did when my kids were two and three.

So, out of boredom as much as curiosity, I recently stumbled across a Focus on the Family article about parenting adult children.

The author—a divorcee who apparently knows a lot more about how to maintain a healthy family than the rest of us—wrote that she was distraught over her relationship with her son, who was apparently making poor life choices.

She said she began sobbing during a prayer meeting and asked what she could do.

She was assured by an older lady that she needed only pray for her relationship to improve and God would snap his celestial fingers and make it all better.

Further, the article says I’m supposed to recognize and respect the differences between us—the kids and the wife and I. I think that will go a little something like this:

You: “Son, I recognize your desire to smoke weed and drink beer instead of studying, and I respect the fact that you are OK with a C-minus in Algebra.”

Your kid: “Dad, I recognize that you worked really hard to have very little money in the bank, and I respect your decision to keep handing it over to me.”

Next, I’m supposed to share my wisdom and insight without being critical. For example—a completely made up and not at all real example—you should address your adult child’s decision to use an entire roll of toilet paper to clean up a puddle of dog puke instead of getting the mop and bucket by saying something like, “Dear child, it is my experience that warm soapy water will do a better job of un-funking that barf stain than all the bathroom tissue in the world.”

In reality, what I want to say is, “What in thee actual frick are you doing with my toilet paper? Are you telling me that you’re so goddamn lazy you’d rather waste a whole roll of butt-wipe than go fill up the mop bucket and clean this the right way? No matter how dry you get that spot with TP, the living room is still going to smell like doggie upchuck, dumb-ass!”

But I don’t say that, because I love my children. And I don’t want the wife to slap me.

Lastly, I’m supposed to relinquish my kids to God. Let’s be realistic: He didn’t stop the Jews from being gassed; He didn’t prevent Princess Diana from dying in a car wreck; and, He allowed Jimmy Fallon to take over The Tonight Show. If He can’t deal with real atrocity then He sure as hell isn’t going to remind my kids to stop leaving leftovers out on the stove at night.

However, I am running out of excuses and ideas. So, maybe I’ll work some prayers into my regularly scheduled bouts of sobbing.

My midlife crisis bucket list

There is zero chance I’ll be getting a new sports car or a hot little mistress or any of the neato toys the other fathers will get for their midlife crises so it’s up to me to make my own fun.

With that in mind, I present to you my midlife bucket list. The following are listed in order of how badly I had to pee when I wrote this list.

Enjoy it or don’t … you’re not paying for it.

• Punch a shrimple

• Kiss Tom Selleck (but would settle for a hug)

• Beg a little person for forgiveness (stop calling them “shrimples”)

• Read all Marvel’s “Secret Wars” I and II

• Send death threat to Jimmy Fallon (watching you, laughing boy!)

• Get restraining order filed against me by Jimmy Fallon

• Moon a cop

• Get maced by a cop

• Have beer with cop who maced me

• Laugh while he maces someone else

• Become pen pals with an Amish

• Win a trophy in something, anything

• Build something out of LEGOs

• Paint a picture of the fabled bat-bunny

• Eat a blueberry cheesecake

• Get drunk and light off fireworks inside LEGO creation (kaboom!)

• Throw-up most of a blueberry cheesecake

• Fly a helicopter around a parking lot (no higher than 10 or 12 feet)

• Baba Booey CNN (look it up)

• Meet John Waters for coffee and cigarettes (try not to swoon)

• Dip a sleeping person’s hand in warm water to see if they pee the bed (I don’t care if you know it works. I wanna see it for myself.)

• Get ass kicked by drowsy person in wet pants

• Let a monkey loose in a courthouse

• See how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop (without cheating) – Wiggle eyebrows at people while licking, then try to explain to cops I’m not a pervert

• Learn Chinese

• Swear in Chinese at a person who does not speak Chinese

• Call Buckingham Palace and ask if they have Prince Albert in a can

• Drink entire bottle of prune juice … and wait

• Give a Jehovah’s Witness who comes to my door a Spider Man comic and ask if they’ve heard the good news about Stan Lee … then sick attack hippo on them (Be sure to get attack hippo)

• Forward mail to White House; see how long before anyone notices

• Replace church organist’s sheet music with death metal

• Give homeless person a bag of money

• Dress in drag and perform “I touch myself” in a burlesque theater

• Watch Blade Runner, Vertigo & Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

• Mix and drink a Shirley Temple

• Officiate a gay wedding

• Send batch of Ex-Lax chip cookies to DMV (sit in lobby & wait)

• See both kids living on their own

• Shave my head bald again

• Sit in bathtub on hill at sunset while sipping wine

• Eat a piece of apple pie with cheddar cheese on top

• Pick up a hitchhiker

• Survive hitchhiker attack

• Convince cops hitchhiker was not a hooker

• Build a doll house for wrestling action figures (replica of Pee Wee’s Playhouse should do)

• Eat a six-pack of Taco Bell hard shell tacos … with beef!

• Run down street naked, screaming “Save me Jesus!”

• Get a star named after me

• Go drunk driving on a lawnmower

• Spend the night in the drunk tank

• Get lawnmower out of impound

• Return neighbor’s lawnmower

• Make hot sauce popsicles for my nephews

• Do something hilarious just before I die like maybe say “Pudding pop!” in Bill Cosby voice or do the robot. (By “do” the robot, I mean the dance, not make sweet love to a robot)

Middle age intimacy: nothing remotely resembling sex

As much as I’d like to regale you with erotic stories of my time as a naughty park ranger in need of a good thrashing, the wife forbade me to write this chapter.

And, as bad of a listener as I usually am, I’m not a complete moron.

She’s not real keen on “the little stories” I write in general, and that goes quintuple for something as taboo as issues amorous.

Whenever I get to waxing moronic about some ridiculous event in my life, she ends up fielding a bunch of questions from coworkers and the little old ladies at church about some ridiculous thing Ben did or said.

I even had to change the title of this section because, even though we’ve been together for over 20 years, and even though we have children, and even though we sleep in the same room, as far as the world is concerned, we have never had anything remotely resembling the act of reproduction.

I suppose it’s better for the mental health of my children and the public at large to maintain the facade of celibacy.

The problem is, you really can’t talk about aging or midlife crises or relationships with any ubiquity without at least touching on the issue of intimacy.

So, since I can’t talk about doing the hunka-chunka in a marital way, I’m going to use this space to explore my own curiosities and observations about this most demonized of the most common natural occurrences in American society.

When you’re young and fresh, doing it (“it” being that thing of which I may not speak) is all about solving some great cosmic mystery.

What is it?

How do I do it?

How do I know if I did it right?

OK, for men, the most important questions are “Who am I going to do it with?” and “When can we do it again?”

But, as you get older, the act becomes less about the act and more about the nuances. When you’re starving, you’re happy just to have a bowl of gruel.

But, once the fridge is full, you’re faced with the opportunity to experiment.

You could eat a plain slice of cheese or maybe you could stick it between two different kinds of meat and stuff in into a pita pocket. (Hey, I’m not going to judge. Whatever four consenting foodstuffs do in the privacy of their own dining room is their business.)

Regardless of the reasons, I’ve gotten to an age where I’ve become more curious about some adult activities that I once dismissed as too weird or too labor intensive to bother with.

We might as well start things off with one of the big taboos—homosexuality.

Now, before my mother-in-law and wife and grandmother and everyone else I know faint, I don’t have a gay bone in my body. (Though that does sound like something someone would say right before they come out of the closet.)

The truth is I’ve always just been fascinated by gay people; gay men, to be specific.

Granted, most of my exposure has been through movies and television.

I guess what I’m trying to say is there is a small part of me that’s always wanted to be gay—and, no, I don’t mean my butt hole.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the sex I’m after.

I’m just enamored of the seemingly fabulous lifestyle.

I want a tastefully decorated home.

I want to have chats about drama queens over brunch.

I want to say something catty and refer to myself as a “bitch.”

I want to drink orange juice and champagne out of a fancy glass and say things like “Don’t go there, honey.” (I swear, all my horny-ness is aimed at women.)

And, I want to be able to cry in front of my male friends when I’m having a rather stressful day without them running away in terror.

Recently, I’ve been getting some real-world insight into homosexuality from a guy I know through my time spent on the radio.

My acquaintance lives in Chicago and is fabulous.

He has a great sense of humor and plenty of patience with my stupid hetero questions.

Just how fabulous is he? He recently took a panini press with him on vacation to a Wisconsin Gay Pride Day or some such event.

I don’t take vacations. But, if I did, I’d like to be able to take a sandwich press along, too.

Do I have to be gay to get away with such a thing?

I don’t know, but it probably wouldn’t hurt.

The truth is, I’d never make it as a gay. For starters, I cannot imagine kissing another man.

Second, I’m way too obsessed with breasts.

But, more than that, I don’t think I have the equipment for the job.

I’m not what you’d call large and in charge. Thanks to the genetic lottery, I have been cursed with mediocre hardware. (Thanks, Dad!)

It’s not tiny but it’s not big, either.

Certainly not something you’d go showing off at dinner parties. (People do that, right?)

If the wife and I ever truly engaged in maintenance of the marital variety—which she has explicitly instructed me to deny in all circumstances—I’m sure she would politely smooth my stubby “ego” with some lie about how only whores care about such things.

I don’t know for a fact that the gays are hung up on size more than their straight female counterparts but I know plenty of straight men … and everything is a competition with them.

So, I just figured, you know.

But even more so, these guys are not only vying for a mate who finds them attractive and sexually competent, but they all have the same mechanisms, so they know bad from good. I just couldn’t take that kind of pressure.

By now, some of you (much like my shrink) have likely decided this little literary exercise is just a steam valve for some latent homosexual erotic curiosity of mine.

To which I say “pish tosh you silly billies.”

But, if I was going to be a gay person, I would do it up right.

And, by “right” I mean stereotypical, over-the-top show-tunes-and-pastels, screaming sailor. (I used to use the phrase “flaming” for gay but I learned its history stemmed from when they used to use bundles of wood called “fags” to get fires going for witch burnings. They would burn the gays with the rest of the “fags” hence the practice of calling homosexuals “fags.” See, I told you you’d learn something.)

The next most pressing curiosity for me is this S&M stuff.

I just don’t get the whole leather outfits, whips and chains thing.

It’s not so much that I want to try it as much as I want to understand how someone can be sexually aroused by being spanked or having their groin stomped on by a woman in high heels or what’s so fun about being called horrible names.

Luckily for you, I found a very long list of kinky sexual desires I’d never heard of.

Maybe you perverts know them all but most of them came as a surprise to me.

I was even more surprised to see some of my darkest desires on the list. (Which ones? I’ll never tell!)

Electrophilia, also known as Ben Franklin Syndrome, involves people getting randy over electricity. Why would someone rather stick their winky in a light socket than in a VJ? Only the coroner knows.

Acrophilia is when people are aroused by high places. Look, in the sky, it’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s your mom and dad doing the hunka-chunka on the roof.

Harmatophilia is when you or your partner becomes sexually aroused by being with a bad lover. I’m guessing these folks get snapped up in the first round draft. How many jobs, other than an elected office or professional sports refereeing, can you excel at by being lousy?

Among some of the more bizarre desires were folks who like to have sex with amputees and mannequins, clowns and spiders, though not generally all at the same time.

Some folks get horny over the smell of flowers or the sight of high heels and some can get off through dancing. I find this last one difficult to believe because my dance moves have only ever led to falling and vomiting.

Coprolalia is being turned on by swearing. (Let’s do it, butt-face)

Is James Lipton of Inside the Actor’s Studio a Vicarphile? Maybe. After all, this kink is for folks who love to hear people’s life stories. The only thing I ever get from listening to people’s histories is sleepy.

Some people get excited over vaccinations, some over obscene phone calls.

Even weirder are the folks who go “boing!” over trains, reptiles and getting their teeth pulled.

Those of you obsessed with big weenies are down with the Haemophilia. (You tramp!)

If you have a hankering for plush animals and other stuffed objects, you are a plushophile … and a goddamn pervert!

Metrophilia is the lust of poetry. I’ve been inspired and saddened by poetry but it’s never gotten me horny.

Roses are red
Violets are blue
Cover your eyes
Now make me a sammich!

When noses turn you on, it’s called Neophilia.

“Oh, yeah, look at those nostrils. I am going to pick you all night long. Blow it baby! Blow that nose!”

Even worse is the desire to lick someone’s eyeball. I’m not going to bother telling you what it’s called but, rest queasy, it has a name.

When you like to bite or get bitten, it’s called Odaxelagnia. It’s also called felony assault, so be careful.

Some people are excited by the sight of insects and small animals being crushed.

If seeing a small creature get squished turns your partner on, you need to get out of the house immediately and call the police because that is some serious “it-puts-the-lotion-on-the-skin” trouble.

When you rub your weenis parts up against a stranger, say in the subway or walking down the street, it’s called Frotteurism.

Apparently this is really big in Japan.

Where I come from it could get you shot.

And, quite possibly, your victim would then rub their stuff on you after they shot you, and you’d totally deserve it.

We’re all familiar with exhibitionism, but it’s one that I actually found interesting; not because it sounds sexy or anything. It just seems like it might be fun to try, depending on where you are. (Like, maybe walking around with your pants down at the old folks home just to see if anybody notices. Or even better, streaking naked through the department of motor vehicles to see how fast you can clear the place out.)

Fetishism is the desire for inanimate objects. Not sure I get this totally but there have been a few big screen TVs that made me a little horny, and my new snowblower is definitely a lusty trollop.

Formicophilia means doing sexy things with ants.

I’m not sure what it means to do sexy things with ants, and I don’t want to know.

I might be able to give the whole robotism thing a try.

There are some mechanized sex dolls from Japan now that are dang lifelike.

And, for $7,000, you could have a lifelong sex partner who won’t look at you funny for your weird sex habits, be they involving fire or burglary or enemas or even ants.

And now for a moderately amusing list. Yippee!

The Top Six Middle Age Sex Positions
6. Mutual aggravation – Similar to mutual masturbation but there are seldom orgasms and often bruising.

5. 99 – It’s going to bed with the intention of sex but napping instead.

4. Walrus Style – A lot of heavy breathing and grinding but the genitals never actually touch.

3. Kitchen Sex – Where you tell each other to “Frig-off” over dinner.

2. Frantic Whisper – You try to have some “alone time” without waking up your spouse.

1. The “Adam & Eve” – This is where you both resort to using sex toys, by yourselves. (Preferably in a garden.)

For more hit and miss ha-ha’s and he-he’s, check out my book on Amazon.com. Don’t let the fact that there are only three reviews scare you. (Run! Run for your life!)

BOOK LINK HERE

Realistic descriptions of 53 Disney movies

not mickey mouse

Insomnia strikes again.

Instead of using all those hours I cannot sleep to work on my big epic slavery novel—yes, there really is one in bits and pieces—I decided to write more realistic descriptions for some of Disney’s biggest movies.

Why? Not even my therapist knows.
Please enjoy this bit of self-sabotage.

  1. Woodland communists pilfer the coffers of job creators and redistribute wealth back to the lazy 47 percent. Also, arrows.
  2. Naive housekeeper shacks up with a half-dozen-or-so midgets so you’d think, at some point, there’d be an awkward orgy but no.
  3. Heroic! Dog! Betrayed! By! Immature! Owner! Boom!
  4. Lonely pedophile’s sex doll comes to life. Also, other stuff happens.
  5. Mickey Mouse trips balls for two hours and five minutes. Beware the dancing broom.
  6. Mutant elephant baby breaks free from slave-masters. Racist birds crack wise. Circuses are evil. Seriously, animal slavery is a crime against nature.
  7. Young deer wanders wilderness after parents are slaughtered.
  8. The only way out of an abusive home for a young girl treated like an indentured servant is to find a rich white man. But, what’s new?
  9. What it must look like inside the drug-addled mind of a sexually ambiguous poker player with an eating disorder. (Hint: just remember what the dormouse said.)
  10. A-sexual man-child hounds one-handed shipping magnate through Florida Everglades. (At least, I think it’s in Florida.)
  11. Sooo far under water.
  12. Dogs from different socioeconomic worlds meet. Dogs fall in love. Dogs eat spaghetti. Ironically, movie contains no doggy-style.
  13. Beautiful coma victim can only be cured by sexual assault from an elitist already in jail for god-knows-what.
  14. Lawyer-turned-dog makes trouble for pharmaceutical company.
  15. Delusional girl refuses to see the awful truth all around her.
  16. Fencing Mexican foilz bad guyz.
  17. Mean bitch tries to steal bitch’s bitches to make a fur coat.
  18. This guy should not be working in the laboratory.
  19. Asshole twins refuse to accept parents’ divorce.
  20. Singing nanny endangers lives of children but it’s OK because Dick Van Dyke dances with penguins.
  21. Black pussy credited with FBI’s ability to bust kidnapping ring.
  22. Brown kid does brown kid stuff in a rain forest while being chased by a snake and a tiger.
  23. Animated Volkswagen has various adventures. Whether the car is possessed by its co-creator Adolf Hitler is unclear.
  24. Kurt Russell rips off Flowers for Algernon, sort of.
  25. Stupid boy from the northeast hallucinates large reptile.
  26. Tragic racial allegory explained to children with a red fox and a hound dog.
  27. Wife, I minimized the children in an otherwise tired premise. What happened to me? I used to be on SCTV.
  28. Half-fish half-human girl wants to live on dry land in order to get some mammalian D.
  29. Miserly Scottish duck’s greed knows no bounds. Also, he inherits triplets.
  30. Rodents have high adventures in Australia.
  31. Ugly rich dude. Poor hot girl. Evidently, this movie is based on true events of everywhere always.
  32. Emilio Estevez coaches a terrible hockey team—why not?
  33. Radical Islamic terrorist dabbles in the dark arts in order to bed a hot persian chick and gain wealth. Plus, Robin Williams.
  34. Age-old story of a divorced parent using the kid for economic gain. Apparently, Mark Twain felt 219 was the perfect number of times to use the king daddy of racial epithets.
  35. Jamaican bobsledders and, for some reason, John Candy.
  36. Candy bar namesakes fuck shit up old school during the French Revolution.
  37. Jeremy Irons kills his brother James Earl Jones in a power grab. Then, Nathan Lane and some fat guy escort an effeminate lion cub across Africa for revenge.
  38. That other movie that mixes Biblical themes and baseball. If you build it, Christopher Lloyd will come.
  39. Bad father accidentally kills and assumes the identity of a beloved children’s icon.
  40. The secret lives of playthings.
  41. A kid with big fruit.
  42. Freak in a church falls for a girl way out of his league and the town is so pissed.
  43. Brendan Fraser tries unsuccessfully to reprise his role as Stoney. (He’s no Johnny Weissmuller.) This movie could have been greatly improved with some Samwise and the Weasel … bu-u-u-ddy.
  44. Dog plays basketball and, apparently, everyone is OK with this.
  45. Matthew Broderick is a mentally impaired robot detective. Completely unwatchable.
  46. Joe Dirt becomes a llama. David Puddy hunts him down. Much funnier than you’d think.
  47. Hillbilly grizzlies screwed over by Christopher Walken.
  48. A look inside the juvenile criminal justice system with haunted Jewfro Shia Labeouf.
  49. Lost fish eventually relocated. Folks on dry land couldn’t care less.
  50. Refugees (not Syrian) get sidetracked (not prostitution) on the way to Australia (not Austria) and go native (not interracial marriage.) But, oh, what a tree house they build!
  51. Unpopular orphan wins contest and becomes king.
  52. This movie is not nearly as dirty or interesting as the title might suggest. Think less “50 Shades of Grey” and more Angela Lansbury as a Nazi-hunting witch.
  53. Guy gets sucked into a computer and battles a virus way before anybody knew what computers were for or what the hell a computer virus was. For some reason, everything is neon blue.

More funny stuff in my new book Frickin’ 40: Funny Stories About Middle Age

GET BEN’S BOOK IN PAPERBACK AND KINDLE HERE