Sunday, December 4, 2016

HAVE A ZOMBIE HOT PANTS CHRISTMAS

    Time once again for my five favorite Christmas gift suggestions. These are real items, made in China, and designed for those special someones in your life. Here is where the true spirit of the holiday season enters my heart, as I think of those lonely sea captains picking their way across unbounding mains --- oceans of floating plastic junk --- with their cargo holds full of plastic junk.
    First up, the Bunny Ear Salad Servers. These are (floatable) plastic simulated bunny ears. Apparently, you stick them into a simulated grass pattern-decorated plastic salad bowl (sold separately) to help get you into the mood to munch, and “now even the kids will want their greens!” It’s not likely, after you’ve traumatized them into thinking you’ve buried the Easter bunny alive in the radicchio.
    (HUMORIST’S NOTE: Some of these Chinese-made items are shipped from the United Kingdom. This means that we live on a planet where petroleum-based rabbit ear utensils first go around the world before they ultimately land on the “Free!” desperation tables at next summer’s yard sales in America.)
    A moment of silence and season’s greetings, please, for the sea captains out there separately shipping a few tons of plastic salad bowls.
    Next, the Cat-A-Pencil. This is a working pencil. For my younger readers, a pencil was a writing instrument that you chewed until suffering gum slivers, eraser-head tartar and lead poisoning. The Cat-A-Pencil is shaped like, I’m not kidding, a slingshot, and is “not suitable for children,” yet the description also adds that it’s “perfect for mischievous Monday morning office desktop fun after you’ve finished doodling.”
    There is so much wrong with that statement. No one has pencil-doodled for thirty years, and the “mischievous Monday” is why it takes six to eight weeks for your bunny ear salad fork order to be processed.
    I’m only thinking of Christmas day emergency rooms filling up with moms & dads presenting with their children's puncture wounds:
    “Uh … how’d this happen?”
    “My son winged a plastic bunny ear into his sister’s ear with his pencil slingshot.” I see a whole new branch of pediatric medicine in the works.
    Next, the Re-usable Hot Pants Hand Warmer.
    Ah, nothing says Christmas spirit and/or New Hampshire winter weather to me better than designer underwear used to warm your hands, and I looked at this one closely.
    Wait. It seems these are shaped like skivvies, but are NOT made to be worn as such. You keep them in your coat pocket until needed, then take them out, “click the tab inside,” and insert your hands. To re-use them you “simply pop in a pan of boiling water for a few minutes and allow to cool.”
    I already see the lawyers lining up on December 26th for these lawsuits, as someone is surely going to forget the allow to cool part and ignore the no they’re not meant to be WORN you idiot part. Emergency rooms, already jammed with ear trauma cases, will fill up with an outbreak of groin burns.
    There’s little I can say about the Christmas Inflatable Fruitcake, designed to “repay your Aunt Franny’s kindness” in sending you a real one, by giving her a (yes, plastic) blow-up one. We can now add dear Aunt Franny’s choking on fake candied raisins to the influx of speared ears and scalded crotches. These folks also score points for truth in advertising: "It's festive, it's traditional, and it's inedible -- just like the real thing!" 
    Lastly, my favorite Christmas gift offering:
    It’s plastic, and comes packaged in enough plastic to open up another sea lane. The special holiday sentiment it invokes is perfect, and it comes when you press the button on the plastic brain-shaped remote control, and your Yuletide zombie “trudges forward and groans.”
    When it comes to Christmas gift shopping, we can relate.

* * * * *
   Senior Wire News Service Syndicated Humor Columnist B. Elwin Sherman writes from Bethlehem, NH. He is an author, humorist and agony uncle columnist. His latest book is "Dear Witbones" -- Ask A Humorist!, now on Kindle and in paperback, from Curry Burn Press. You may contact him via his website at Witbones.com. Copyright 2016. All rights reserved. Used here with permission.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

GOING ON SIXTY-SIX AND DISCOUNTING


No kidding, leaf peeper-ready and there we were: my new wife Diane and me, standing at the Cannon Mountain Tramway ticket desk, about to buy two round-trips. It wasn’t the first ascension for either of us, but it was our first together. Then came one of many elevations in the ups and downs of marriage, when the young woman behind the counter asked me if I was a “senior.”
Ack! It was the first time I’d ever thought of myself as a golden ager, and because the legal and social definitions can vary from one person, state, business or country to another, I found myself pausing in the awkward moment. She must have sensed my uneasiness because she quickly added, and with a little too much bubbly in her voice for my tastes: “Just to let you know, sir, if you are sixty-five and a New Hampshire resident, it’s always a free ride Monday through Friday!”
As a humorist, I call this kind of comment: praising with a faint damnation.
It just so happened that it was Sunday and I was sixty-five. She didn’t ask Diane her age, but I wasn’t offended. Diane is five years behind me (a junior-senior, I like to remind her), though she looks ten years younger, and now, at my age, if I was any younger I’d look the same. Must be the new beard.
“Well, can’t you pretend it’s Monday?” I said to the effervescing cashier. “The mountain won’t know the difference, and now that I’m apparently as old as them thar hills, I doubt it would mind.” She stared blankly at me, unsure of my footing.
My wife, although we’ve only been married a short time, knows my sense of humor full well, and she is often my dutiful but reluctant enabler. As she gave me a gentle piercing elbow nudge, she also looked at the hapless young woman and said to her, “You’re on your own, m’dear.”
I didn’t get the discount, and Diane, still five years away from complimentary weekday tram rides, got the tickets. Up (and down) the mountain we went, but I couldn’t stop thinking about how I’d failed.
Would I have better-enjoyed the ride and spectacular views if I’d been more attentive to the calendar and returned on Monday to cash-in on the laurels of my longevity and locale? You betcha! Had I lived long enough to richly deserve my free banker’s hours upward mobilities? Yes! Had surviving sixty-five Granite State winters entitled me to gratis mountain peak perks? Yes!
Now, where else had I come up short on the long-terms? When we got home, I got to Googling. I wanted to discover the host of grand New Hampshire places and events I could now attend at or near free, using my seniority and in-staterhood as the measures.
Aha! As it so often goes, I found myself finishing at the beginning when I learned that I can still, as of this writing, hit the slopes at Cannon this winter for no charge during the week (and hitting the slopes is a good way to describe my skiing.).
See you up and down there. Until then I’ll be discounting the days.

* * * * *
Senior Wire News Service Syndicated Humor Columnist B. Elwin Sherman writes from Bethlehem, NH. He is an author, humorist and agony uncle columnist. His latest book is “Walk Tall and Carry a Big Watering Can,” from Plaidswede Publishing. You may contact him via his website at Witbones.com. Copyright 2016. All rights reserved. Used here with permission.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

"THE GREATEST" RABBIT PUNCH


             
     This is another true story, but I want to be clear: that’s not the reason I’m including it.  Not all true stories should be told.  Some, in fact, should be snugged into a shoebox like a long-loved rabbit and buried in the back yard of childhood.
            Oh, it’s okay to place its last-nibbled carrot in there alongside it.  It’s okay to do it unceremoniously, alone.  It’s okay to even leave a marker that has temporary lawnmower immunity.  But, a generation later, there should be nothing left for passers-by but a little depression in the ground where the shoebox collapsed.
            This isn’t one of those stories.
        It happened at one of those rare moments in history, when all the airy tumblers of a single thunderclap fell into place, never to strike just that way, at just that place, ever again.
            The world’s then greatest boxer was once invited to receive an honorary degree from a college I was attending. He was renowned for his singular skill in the art of formal human pummeling, but he’d also often demonstrated his virtuosity as an impromptu poet.  That day was no exception:
            “I like your school; I like your style, but I don’t like your pay; I won’t be back for a while,” he’d said later at the press conference.  Celebrated dead poets everywhere no doubt turned a little in their graves, but who cared about them.  They were dead.
            And, I’d like to see Carl Sandburg rope-a-dope with a stanza, dead or alive. 
            For my money, “Hog Butcher for the world” could never go the distance with “I can drown the drink of water, and kill a dead tree.  Wait till you see Muhammad Ali.”
            I’ll see your Chicago and raise you a lightning-fast jab, Carl.
            That morning, my four-year old daughter was with me.  I can’t remember why, except that maybe it was my weekend to have her.  Perhaps it was Liberal Arts Father-Visitor Daughter Day.  Lucky for us, though, it was the same day the world’s greatest rhyming boxer was to receive his publicity sheepskin.
            Let’s face it:  giving an honorary college degree to a high-profile notable is a two-way street.  Yes, the honoree is pleased to be post-secondarily validated without ever having to sit through an un-elective, but it also doesn’t hurt the school’s image.
            Sometimes, the trustees later voted to stick up a statue near the athletic field.  In my mind, I can’t look at a statue without thinking about a favorite Vincent Price movie, but I might feel differently if it was me standing up there as a pigeon-shit depository.  That’s more than most of us ever achieve.
            We arrived early, and I took her hand the best I could as she three-limb pinwheeled alongside me across a large open field to the reception house.  To this day, I wish I’d pinwheeled along with her, but I was too distracted by the fear of having to return a daughter to a mother any less intact than how I’d received her.
            I needn’t have worried.  Four-year olds are either indestructible or delicate as a feather, and she’d been delivered to me in full indestructible mode.
            Today, I couldn’t do a pinwheel if you stapled me to a windmill.
            By the time we reached the reception house, she’d settled down into mere hop-a-long pull-toy mode, and I’d survived.
            We went inside, and there, like a stop-motioned bolt of lightning, sat the man.   The room was empty except for him, and he sat slumped on a couch, unmoving, staring at us.  Impossible, but lightning is like that.
            He immediately straightened up, smiled broadly and opened his arms toward us.  Toward her.
              “Hello, girl!” he said.  I thought my daughter would do the natural thing, having never seen this big dark hulk of a man before, and immediately switch to snake mode around my leg.
            Instead, she showed me how much fathers know about such things, and went right over to him in fearless kangaroo mode.
            He picked her up and hugged her close as I stood across the room in abandoned lighthouse mode.
             He opened his eyes wide in mock surprise and did the sitting version of a complementing pinwheel.  She giggled and bobbled and matched him, twirl for playful twirl.
            For my part, ships were going aground on the rocks over there by the dozens, and I couldn’t move.
            Soon, other people began entering the room.  Statue-erectors and grown-up dead rabbit internors crowded in -- the usual media blitz – and daughter and I were reduced to those subtle variations that you can never quite find in a picture puzzle.
            I retrieved her from his arms like a reinstated lighthouse with a good excuse, no questions asked.  When I moved in close to them, I saw that his face was bruised and swollen from a recent close fight.  I was glad that she was still too caught up in child mode to notice this, or to know why if she had.
            He returned her to me like a child alone placing a beloved pet in a shoebox.
         Today, forty years later in her life’s back yard, he has passed into the eternal ring, but I hope she still remembers and loves why the ground is shaped like that.

* * * * *
Copyright 2016 by B. Elwin Sherman. All rights reserved.  Adapted from a story in B. Elwin Sherman's book: "In Watermelon Salt: "The Lost Richard Brautigan."  Used here with permission.

Friday, November 27, 2015

LIVE FREE OR CUT BAIT

(A readers' favorite, first published in NH Magazine February 2012)

There I was: a New Hampshire traveling male nurse working temporarily in Arizona and visiting Aldo, a brusque, nonagenarian male patient living permanently in a ramshackle house trailer outside Tucson.

A "nonagenarian" is a person who has reached 90-plus years of age. He was brusque because it's impossible to pass nine decades in this life without some crusty in your character, and Aldo was so crusty that if he'd been 10 years older or younger, he'd have looked the same.

We argued all things indigenous to his Grand Canyon State and to my Granite one.They weren't really arguments. One doesn't win arguments with a 94-year old man, not if one is as smart as one thinks one is.

When I arrived he was hunched over on his front porch, sitting on two stacked milk crates, cleaning catfish and dropping the innards into buckets, sorting them by their edible hierarchy. Fish heads here. Fish guts there. Plop. Plop.

My 97-year-old great-grandfather was born and brusquely died in the same Belmont, NH, bed, and spent many of his catfish-cleaning days on such a porch.

The next day I skipped his vital signs and we instead went fishing and brusquely argued all things free, bait and alive.

Before I checked Aldo's vital signs (which he always thought foolish: "When I'm dead, you'll know it; I'll be paying more attention to you"), I challenged him about his buckets of piecemealed catfish:

"Say, Aldo, whereinheck do you get catfish in a desert? I know where to get them in New Hampshire, but out here?"

"Don't be an idiot," he said, ending the argument.

Fact is, and because he made it clear that I wasn't as smart as I thought I was, there was indeed a nearby desert lake where catfish roamed free, which prompted my next series of losing arguments:

"Well, Aldo, in New Hampshire, when I hike up Mt. Washington, I pass the tree line and come out on top of rocks. Here, when you climb Mt. Lemmon, you go up past rocks and come out in the trees."

"Nature's way," he said, plopping a skin into its designated pail. "Don't be an idiot."

Undaunted, and a little smarter, I pressed on: "I do miss the seasons back home. Out here, it must be hard to tell one from another."

"Only if you look at 'em from back there," he plopped. "Don't be an ---"

Daunted, and a little dumber, I stopped him and tried one more time:

"Now, wait a minute, Aldo. In New Hampshire we take great pride in our state motto, 'Live Free or Die'. It's not just a slogan for a license plate; it's a way of life."

"How's that?" he asked, glancing at my truck.

Plop.

"Well, we work hard, our winters are the harsh flipside version of your summers, and we live free."

"You think you're free?" he admonished, wagging the last head of his cut-up catch at my truck. "Try driving back there without that license plate."

Plop.

The next day I skipped his vital signs and we instead went fishing and brusquely argued all things free, bait and alive.

* * * * *
Senior Wire News Service syndicated humor columnist B. Elwin Sherman writes from Bethlehem, NH. His new book, “Walk Tall And Carry A BigWatering Can,” is now available.  You may contact him via his blog at witbones.com. Copyright 2015. All rights reserved. Used here with permission.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

HAPPY NI!


Sharing our shadowy "Knights Who Say 'Ni!'" impression, a Happy Thanksgiving to all.

 Ni! Ni! Have a good bird, and send us a frosty shrubbery!

 El & Diane