researching it, I’ll bet that cancer in Colorado is no funnier than cancer in New
Hampshire, but I can only speak for the Granite State and my lung tumor.
Google reveals that no one living here
has ever said: “as funny as cancer in New Hampshire.” That’s why I must say it
now, living and writing as your native nurse humorist-tumorist.
The ER doc unceremoniously said:
“You have a mass on your lung.” With an inspired aplomb that only a New
Englander would appreciate, I said: “I’m assuming you don’t mean
Bang. Pow. Zoom. (I’m reserving
exclamation points for the first finale of my second act, and that’s my first
living with cancer in New Hampshire inside joke).
When I heard my diagnosis, the words
“Live Free or Die” shifted from the affairs of my state to my state of affairs,
and immediately became my adopted up close and personal motto. I felt like a rock-tumbled
Old Man of the Valley as an internal voice interrupted my shock: “Wait. Could
you spare a minute for mortality?” Why, yes, I could but---
Funny as cancer?
My training and thirty-five-year career
as a bedside care nurse taught me that humor is as essential to healing as not getting
there is from here.
I had cancer, so I did what only a
New Hampshirite would do: started a wicked pissah cancer blog, made a
Fluffernutter and washed it down with a frappe. Massachusettsans will claim the
latter as theirs, but they do things like that.
I then began searching my muse for
the lighter side of what I knew would be hauling a heavy load down a long road.
I’ve attended many patients with
cancer, so I know the lie of its rugged landscape and many perils. But, when it’s
MY trip as amateur pilot, not professional navigator? Funny as cancer? Here, in
a state where freedom or death is a mandate?
Yes. Especially here.
First chore? Name my tumor. Men do
this. We personalize our body parts and functions, errant and otherwise, and
women will never understand it, beginning with the otherwise devoted wife lying
next to me. She thinks it’s weird.
I needed both radiation and
chemotherapy, so I came up with “Rad Chemo.” Great moniker for a body-ambushing
villain, and it kept with our New Hampshire tradition of seriously naming funny
My sympathies and apologies to the
residents of Effingham, who undoubtedly live with a year-round tongue-in-cheek
at the ready for any inquiring tourists. Effingham has always sounded to me
like something expletively done to a ham.
Or, when you think Kanca, is it suffixed
with Mangus or Magus? Forever funny, and even we can’t decide.
I was also inspired by other
typically New Hampshire seriously funny things: Squirrel-proof birdfeeders (ha!),
no-see-ums, wearing shorts with winter coats, and no-faultlessly driving unlicensed
but self-designated road-legal snowmobiles, golf carts and riding mowers to the
When I began my radiation, I found
the spirit of our White Mountain State humor alive and free at Dartmouth-Hitchcock
hospital, when they snugged me up and into my treatment table mold with Rad
Chemo. I felt like a human skewer hosting a hitchhiking saboteur kabob on a
stationary spit as the linear accelerator rotated around us.
The “Radionettes” (the techs I’d
so-dubbed because they knew my musical likes and dark sense of humor), played
“You Can’t Always Get What You Want” through the overhead speakers.
No, you can’t, but if you try
sometimes, you just might find, you get what we need.
---- Illustration by Brad Fitzpatrick. All rights reserved. Used here with permission. This column is appearing in the February 2019 issue of New Hampshire Magazine. Senior Wire News Service Syndicated Humor Columnist B. Elwin Sherman writes from Bethlehem, NH. He is an author, humorist, agony uncle columnist and poet. His latest book is “THE DIOECIANS – His and Her Love“. Copyright 2019. All rights reserved. Used here with permission.
Sometimes, it's about the music.
When I got cancer this year, I took up with the keyboard again after years of neglect. As I reorient to reading and muscle memory, I've been clunking along with some of my favorites. I'm a sucker for the iconic jazz/pop Classics. If you can hear past my wannabe piano bar/tip jar mindset and stumbly treatments, I'll keep practicing. Enjoy!
For my Dad, Alger Sherman: piano barman extraordinaire, who could play everything.
I’m not here to debate changes
in the global environment. Let’s just
say that this past spring was the first time I can remember riding the Harley
in 80-degree weather, and the following week I was mowing the lawn, and the
week after that I was shoveling 14 inches of snow.
Not really that unusual for New Hampshire, where “nine months of winter
and three months of poor tobogganing” has long been the mantra.
That does bring us to what we won’t debate: the difference between weather and
climate. We can all agree that weather
is the six inches of partly cloudy in our basements, and climate is when it’s
in our attics.
Those of us who began as children and stubbornly refuse to
give up those origins, all have stories about the “normal” outdoor seasonal
conditions when we were kids. “When I
was a kid,” I would say, “the snowbanks were up to the window sills.”
“When you were a kid,” my mother reminded me, “you never
came out of the basement.” Funny,
because I remember it as the attic.
There was once a TV show called “The Imploders.” For me and my off-season sense of humor, this
may have been the most unintentionally hilarious reality program ever produced,
as I watched a family of “demolition experts” travel around the country and
“bring down buildings.”
They didn’t employ the usual bang-boom application used to
pancake an obsolete structure, but rather the “tripping” method. Here, the building is weakened by cutting
holes in it, (no one in the crew could agree on how many were needed) tying a
cable to it and pulling it over. Simple
The crew chief, whose knowledge of building-pulling was
seemingly based on his frat house prank days of attempting to stuff a grand
piano into an occupied shower stall, then said to the guy operating the building-puller: “Hey! If she starts to go, get out of there!”
(Warning: When someone needs to tell or be told this, they
might need another year of postsecondary bathroom piano-stuffing before they
start knocking down buildings using methods and forces that could … well …
knock down a building.)
They used this scientific method of wreckification on an
old paper mill near here in the North Country, and we locals were there to
watch the spectacle and re-live their attic-dwelling childhood roots.
When the time came, I watched them give it a mighty non-explosive
heave and, voila! It shuddered a little
and stood there. Someone, apparently,
had forgotten to make the pressure-relieving cuts in the back, and the
resulting tug was like trying to raise the Titanic with a Slinky.
This is where I stand with weather forecasters and climate
change experts. Their collective
expertise alternately tells us that we’re either in for a light sprinkle or a
re-enactment of Noah’s maiden voyage. This usually translates as a foot of snow.
Who should we believe? Should we entrust our Icelandic retirement plans to an “expert” who says
things like “inter-glacial warmth is driven by orbital mechanics”? Or, should we accept that if we wait long enough,
we’ll be low & dry because of the old New England
salt’s riposte, when asked if it will ever stop raining:
One scientist says that “we should not stop breathing, even
though it would be one of the most immediate steps to slow CO2 emissions.” I do love egghead humor, but I’m not
convinced he was trying to be funny.
Or, as the well-seasoned North Country
sage would offer, “If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute.”
I think I’m going with the time-tested building destructor’s
code: “If she starts to go, get out of there!”
I’m not sure where “there” will be, but if any of us hope
to make it from here, we should pack up our umbrellas and our sunscreens and
head way up northeast, just south of the western skyline.
Either that, or it’s back to the winterized subterranean attics
of long-past summers.
* * * * *
Senior Wire News Service Syndicated Humor Columnist B. Elwin Sherman writes from Bethlehem, NH. He is an author, humorist, agony uncle columnist and poet. His latest book is “THE DIOECIANS – His and Her Love“. Copyright 2018. All rights reserved. Used here with permission.
I live in the New Hampshire boonies, and every late
summer and fall it’s possible to spend months full of weekends doing nothing
but hopping the archipelago of Country Fairs. All one needs is a lawn chair, sensible shoes,
an appetite and the intestinal fortitude for steamed burgers, dogs and fried
Upon arrival, prepare to wait for a moment above the
fairgrounds in a high pasture parking lot, as two retired firemen in red vests,
blue hats, and wielding orange batons argue over whether you should “back in
heah” or “head in over theah” to that gap in the stone wall.
Be patient. This
is just an extension of the lifelong arguments they’ve had over checkerboard
strategies and tractor maintenance, and when they’re through you’ll end up
wedged in an impossible parallel park by the rock maples anyway.
Urban street smarts will serve you no good here; these
are country folk. At the ribbon awards for “Best Udder,” the qualitative and
quantitative differences in cow udders may be lost on you, but to the dairy farmer
who has bag-balmed Bessie’s undercarriage all year, it’s his milk, butter and
crop of the cream.
On to the live music. If Rick Norcross and TheRamblers’ country boogie rendition of “Paint It Like A Cow” doesn’t give you
happy feet, you’ve been sitting too long in the concrete jungle.
Don’t pass up The Pork Chop Revue, where you’ll see a
50-pound, five-year old boy onstage singing “Popeye The Sailor Man,” with an
800-pound pig. Thus:
Boy with microphone: “I’m Popeye the sailor man.”
Big pig singing into microphone held by boy: “Toot-Snort.”
If you couldn’t justify the price of admission and the
shoehorned parking place up to then, that alone should do it.
No Fair is complete without the carnival rides and midway.
Here, you’ll fill up on cotton candy, snow cones and candied apples. Lady Luck
might also find you winning a giant stuffed pink duck, your prize after you
finally succeed in hooking an eight-inch basketball through a seven- and
It can be done, and it will seem like a bargain.
The rides: Here you’ll be launched above the treetops,
slungshot and whiplashed silly while strapped in a human bird cage. Momentarily
upended at the top of one perfectly-named ride known as “The Zipper,” you’ll
catch a glimpse of your vehicle on the hill being completely blocked in by a
At the ox-pulling contest, you’ll witness two sweaty guys
each the size of your car, backing up two yoked animals each the size of your
garage, tethering them onto a concrete sled, and upon a cue known only to this
team of man and beast, prompting them to haul it a designated distance.
My favorite was the young man who stood between these
tensing, hoofed freight trains and eyeballed them into submission, freezing
them stock-still in the ancient power of his hypnotic, bovine whammy, then
leapt out of the lane, snapped his whip, and whoop-hollered them to the winning
Before the sun sets beneath the tilting row of portable
potties, and after you’ve seen your first Sheep Obstacle Course and more jams,
hams and quilts than you can stick a Shaker at, it will dawn on you, too:
The Country Fair is not just kids living grown-up dreams
or oldsters reliving glory days --- it is the patchwork of life, and the best
we can be.
At the end of it, if you can find your car and get out of
theah from heah, I’ll meet you back at hindquarters.
Fair enough. ---- Illustration by Brad Fitzpatrick. All rights reserved. Used here with permission. This column first appeared in New Hampshire Magazine. Senior Wire News Service Syndicated Humor Columnist B. Elwin Sherman writes from Bethlehem, NH. He is an author, humorist, agony uncle columnist and poet. His latest book is “THE DIOECIANS – His and Her Love“. Copyright 2018. All rights reserved. Used here with permission.