Sunday, January 10, 2016

"DEAR WITBONES" --- Lost It In The Sun

  "Dear Witbones" -- Ask A Humorist! is B. Elwin Sherman's agony uncle advice column for the laughlorn. Today's Witboner:
 "Lost It In The Sun." 

DEAR WITBONES: 
        "I saw a story about a guy in North Carolina who is worried about solar panels installed in his town ‘sucking all the energy out of the sun.’ I laughed at first, but then I thought about it a while. I know that you’re no scientist, and it’s clear that I’m not one either, but is there ANY reason to fear that we could go too far with solar power? --- SUN BELIEVER IN BANGOR

        Dear SUN BELIEVER: As an energy-seeking species, we went through something similar a few decades ago, when people worried that if we built too many tidal power stations, the resulting water friction would slow down the earth’s rotation.
        I’m married to a scientist, and she informs me that yes, in fact, harnessing the power of the ocean does put the brakes on our big blue marble, but the effect is so negligible that we’ll be okay for the next few hundred million years or so. She explains this by telling me all about “angular momentum” and “rotational kinetic energy.”
        Yowza! I don’t know why I find it so sexy, but it's always a turn-on when she talks science-y to me. Sometimes I’ll ask her things like why we all don’t have identical fingerprints or why no two snowflakes are exactly alike, just to hear her whisper sweet somethings like ‘volar pad regressions’ and ‘deuterium atoms’. That kind of pillow talk keeps the spice in our love life.
        I did ask her about your life-sucking sun anxiety, and she told me to assure you that you needn’t worry. We can’t deplete the sun’s energy simply by redirecting it after it gets here. She then went on talking “parabolic troughs” and “heliostat power towers” and I’m now ready to jump her bones.
        Thanks for Witboning, and please keep me posted.

* * * * *
Copyright 2016 by B. Elwin Sherman. All rights reserved. Questions for his agony uncle “DEAR WITBONES" -- Ask A Humorist! column may be submitted to: WITBONES, c/o B. Elwin Sherman, P.O. Box 300, Bethlehem, NH, 03574. Or, you may e-mail Elwin via his Witbones.com blog.

Friday, December 18, 2015

"DEAR WITBONES" --- Christmas Holiday Unmentionables

            "Dear Witbones" -- Ask A Humorist! is B. Elwin Sherman's agony uncle advice column for the laughlorn. Today's Witboner:
 "Christmas Holiday Unmentionables." 

        Dear WITBONES:
       Here we are again, rockin’ around the “holiday” versus “Christmas” politically correct tree, and I’ve about had enough of this nonsense. If I say “Merry Christmas,” I’m being insensitive to non-Christians, but if I say “Happy Holiday,” I feel like I’m being denied my religious freedom. What can I do to keep everyone happy, beginning with me? And, please, no jokes about my home town. CONFUSED IN CORPUS CHRISTI

     Dear CONFUSED:  A long time ago, when I began writing humor as means of insuring a substandard living wage, I swore to never write about religion or politics.  Both have now morphed into what the Urban Dictionary calls “Religitics,” so I’ve given up on that oath.
       I’d never make jokes about your home town. Its name translates from the Latin as “Body of Christ,” but you’ll have to sort that out for yourself. I write from Bethlehem, NH, so I’m really not one to talk. People travel to our post office from far and away at this time of year just to get this little town’s postmark on their Christmas holiday cards and packages. Well, one person’s Holy validation is another’s non-fragile, non-liquid, non-hazardous, non-perishable priority mail, I always say.
       Yesterday, I was speaking with a cashier in the checkout line at a department store. In the true spirit of remaining seasonably religitical, I will not name either of them here. When she handed me my Tums and eggnog, she blurted out “Merry Christmas,” but quickly corrected herself: “I’m sorry, I’m not supposed to say that,” she apologized.
      “Not to worry,” I said. “I forgive you.”
       I think Jesus would’ve given me an attaboy.
   Funny you should mention rockin’ around the tree, prompting this seriocomic historical footnote: let’s not forget that Christmas trees in this country were once deemed symbols of “pagan mockery and heathen traditions” by our Puritan forebears. And because I’m a big fan of history (after all, it’s the birthplace of some of our best facts), I hold with H.L. Mencken’s definition of a Puritan, which still rings true today as the model for too many blowhard holdouts from the good ol’ 17th Century: “A Puritan is one who suspects somewhere someone is having a good time.”
       My Grandma had a great leveler for anyone caught in your moral dilemma. She’d tell you: “Whatever flips your skirt.”
       So, why not, whatever your madcap persuasion, if someone wishes you a Merry Christmas, just thank them, give it right back and Merrily move on? If they hope you have a Happy Holiday, let your secular light shine and fire off your best Happy Ditto in their direction. No different if you get hit with a Kwanzaa, or a Hanukkah, or even a Pancha Ganapati --- "Hey, much appreciated and same to you, buddy!"
       Now, what should YOU say this time of year, if you find yourself greeting someone first? Best to just go with “How about those Red Sox?”
       Trust me, this will even work in Texas, generating some good will and world peace before you part company. 
       Thanks for Witboning, and keep me posted.


* * * * *
Copyright 2015 by B. Elwin Sherman. All rights reserved. Questions for his agony uncle “DEAR WITBONES" -- Ask A Humorist! column may be submitted to: WITBONES, c/o B. Elwin Sherman, P.O. Box 300, Bethlehem, NH, 03574. Or, you may e-mail Elwin via his Witbones.com blog.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

"DEAR WITBONES" --- Pink Flamingoes In The Naked Skies

            
"Dear Witbones" -- Ask A Humorist! is B. Elwin Sherman's agony uncle advice column for the laughlorn. Today's Witboner:
 "Pink Flamingoes In The Naked Skies." 


Dear WITBONES:  

I'm what you might call a nature lover, and I enjoy back yard sunbathing in my altogether. Trouble is, I'm now a victim of 21st Century technology, because lately I've seen those little drones flying around when I'm naked out there.  Should I worry that one of these days I'm going to be famous on YouTube for the wrong reason?  How can I protect myself from these prying eyes in the sky?  What can I do to keep my life (and my airspace!) private?  BARE IN SANTA BARBARA

     Dear BARE:   As a Californian, you'll  be encouraged to know that your Governor recently signed a bill prohibiting paparazzi from using drones to photograph celebrities on private properties at an altitude below 350 feet. It was designed to keep those prying eyes you cite from becoming high-tech peeping Tom profiteers. Thus, your first line of defense is to avoid becoming a celebrity and remain at sea level.
     Not becoming a celebrity, however, is becoming increasingly difficult. These days, it takes so little to become famous, we have to work at remaining anonymous (or in your case, just another naked Golden Stater).
     You must also be aware that today we all have so little privacy no matter where we go, clothed or in the buff. By the end of any average day in public, all of us have been videoed at least half a dozen times -- at banks, department stores, town halls, fast-food drive-thrus, hospitals, health clubs -- and I won't even mention Google Maps until the next paragraph.
     Because you sent me your street address, I can, e.g. look up your house (all wordplay intended) follow along in street view, and see where you live.  I'm doing it now. Yep, there it is. Hey, nice porch, cool wind chimes, but I'm not a big fan of pink flamingo lawn ornaments. Now, let's see, if I switch to satellite view, I can see ... YIKES!
     Right about here, I'd suggest a backyard beach umbrella.
Thanks for Witboning, and keep me posted.
* * * * *
Copyright 2015 by B. Elwin Sherman. All rights reserved. Questions for his agony uncle “DEAR WITBONES" -- Ask A Humorist! column may be submitted to: WITBONES, c/o B. Elwin Sherman, P.O. Box 300, Bethlehem, NH, 03574. Or, you may e-mail Elwin via his Witbones.com blog. His latest book is:  Walk Tall And Carry A Big Watering Can.    

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

Sunday, October 25, 2015

LET THE FLIGHT OF THE BUMBLE BE


            The last three hundred-plus times I’ve flown in airplanes, I didn’t land in them. I used to skydive, and I always looked forward to getting out of aircrafts in mid-flight. I never liked landing in airplanes.
            That’s when they crash.
            BUT … last winter my wife Diane and I had our first vacation together, and because getting to our destination meant either a three-hour flight or a three-day drive akin to roller-skating on ice, I agreed to fly with her. In a plane. Without a parachute.
            I confessed my concerns to her, not just of being airborne in an airplane without a means of air-escaping, but of how I might navigate airport etiquette and the protocols for commercial flight, which I hadn’t done in a couple of decades. Diane was savvy with the recent ways & means of air travel, and she assured me that she would guide me through. I knew that a few things had changed since I’d last flown the friendly skies.
            First, they’d become less friendly. If Diane hadn’t been there to give me some advance cues on what was coming and how to act, I no doubt would’ve been spread-eagled, body cavity-searched and shipped off to Guantanamo. This is because bumbling activity, in the eyes of the Transportation Security Administration overseers, is automatically considered and treated as suspicious activity, and there I was, bumbling around, even under Diane’s tutelage. I was hesitative, awkward, sweating and I’m sure my eyes were darting.
            In the crowd (I don’t think I’ve ever used the word “throng” in a humor column, but I will now), Diane and I were thronged into separation, so I lost my pre-flight coach.
            Panic was setting in when I bumbled forward, thronging along alone, to a semi-uniformed TSA man who soundlessly held his hand out in front of me.  I did the reflexive thing and reached out to shake it. WRONG. He’d wanted my boarding pass and proof of identification. He snapped his hand away and didn’t smile as much as I’ve ever seen anyone not smile.
            “Boarding pass and ID,” he said, smiling even less than he wasn’t before.
            I held out my driver’s license and boarding pass. He looked at them, pointed to his right and said: “Wall!”
            Now, I ask you: if someone in authority, just as you found yourself in a position of abject fear and surrender and without a clue what to do next, pointed to a wall and barked “Wall!”, would you summon up your best Leslie Nielsen impression and say “Yes, I know,” or would you say nothing, do as you were told and go stand by the wall?
            Drawing from flashbacks of long-gone boyhood time-outs in the corner (of the wall), I thought the latter was the better part of discretion, so that’s what I did. I stood there, facing the wall, and waited. I waited some more. I waited for Armageddon. I waited for Godot. I waited for the Marines (see: Guantanamo, shipped off to).
              Several people thronged past me. What? How was it possible that they’d passed the “Wall!” test where I had failed? Was there a secret word? Specialized coded carry-ons? Had Diane forgotten to tell me about the treacherous wall trap?
            Finally, after who knows how long (time warps when you’re about to lose your mind), a voice that I hardly recognized as human shouted “Sir!  Come this way!”
            Ahhh. It seems that when I’d been ordered to the “Wall!”, it meant that I was supposed to walk in the aisle next to the said wall and make my way to another checkpoint, which was apparently there to prepare me for the next pre-flight part of the shakedown/check-in.
            Oh.
            I know that the more I then tried to look casual and innocent, the bumblier and guiltier I presented. I didn’t place my shoes in the tray properly. I wrongly put my knapsack on the rollers and not on the conveyer belt. I missed my mark on the yellow footprints. Then came the body frisking scanner, which made me feel like I was committing a fully-clothed full monty. Before I went through, another TSA agent asked if I had any other metal objects on my person, and I unthinkingly said “Uh … well … just the metal in my legs.”
            This immediately pricked up his ears (and the ears and eyebrows of two other nearby agents, who began to throng in closer to me) and I tried to explain, as unterroristically as possible, the history of my knee surgeries and the utterly non-explosive nature of the implanted screws therein. I was near breathless with anxiety when they suddenly and inexplicably shrugged me off and waved me through. I didn’t understand how I could so quickly go from mad bomber suspect to harmless land mammal rookie, but I didn’t look back long enough to grab the wrong backpack and walk off with their plastic shoe caddy. 
            Diane had already expertly zipped through her inspection and detection lines, and was waiting for me in the post-gauntlet, fly-safe neutral zone. She’d been watching helplessly from the other side as I was over there mysteriously self-imposing my wall exile.
            Much to her credit, when I explained what had happened, she did not laugh until we’d left and returned to the ground.
            Safely. Without a parachute.
           
* * * * *

Senior Wire News Service syndicated humor columnist B. Elwin Sherman writes from Bethlehem, NH. He is an author, humorist and infrequent flyer.  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.