Monday, October 1, 2018

MEET YOU BACK AT HINDQUARTERS


   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 dough.
   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 three-quarter-inch hoop.
   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 horse trailer.
   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 pull.
   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.

Friday, August 31, 2018

ULTRACREPIDARIANS ANONYMOUS


  Long time, no posting.

  I could complicate things by explaining and/or excusing why I’ve neglected this space since June, but let’s go with the simple:

  I got cancer.

  And, because the only time I can abide duplicity is with cookies and rollercoasters, I’ll just direct you to where I have applied the muse since then, at my cancer blog.

  On this day, August 31, 2018, I’m just on the other side of completing weeks of chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

  If you are in any way connected with this disease --- family, friends, even yourself --- I think you’ll find the daily reportage on my blog helpful, if not informative, and dare I say it, even entertaining (I am an incorrigible humorist, after all).

  I’ll leave it there for you to explore.

  Meanwhile, let’s revisit some chestnuts that still ring fun, funny and true.

  Hey! Dave Barry makes a living recycling ten-year old humor columns. Good enough for Dave, good enough for a cancerous fellow funster.

  Enjoy both spaces, here and there.

      All best, El
      P.S. Okay, okay … cookies, rollercoasters AND past humor columns. That ought to do it.

* * * * *

ULTRACREPIDARIANS ANONYMOUS

  I knew there was another noun to describe me:

  Ultracrepidarian.   
 
  Don’t run away, I had to look it up, too. I just needed a label for this tendency of mine to sometimes operate away from my area of expertise. The word means: “a person out of his or her element.” I’m by no means a consummate Ultracrep; I do know my limits in most things. But, I wrote the Ultracrepidarian Bible when it comes to one field of endeavor:  the Mr. Fix-It home front.
 
  For this outing only, we will cover excerpts from Genesis and Prophecies:

  In the beginning, Man created machines and machine parts. And the machines ran smoothly until they broke, and the machine parts were called upon to fill the void, and this is where I got into trouble.

  And Man said: “Let there be a connection between machines and machine parts,” and I’ve been looking for it ever since.
 
  And the partner of Man said: “Honey, don’t bother about that old lawnmower, it’s time to replace it, anyway.” And the man said: “What, are you kidding?  I can fix that.
 
  And the Man’s partner rolled her eyes and became mute and dark, smug in her unspoken prediction.

  And on the second day, cast out from the lawn and garden, the lurching, smoking, three-wheeled grasscutter was brought forth to the scrap metal pile in the Garden of Landfill as prophesized by the partner’s silent treatment, followed by a gathering together of man and partner in the Land of Outdoor Tools in Eastern Wal-Mart. Amen.
 
  This is not all my fault.
 
  I am equipped with the temperamental curve of a scientific poet, one who at once believes the mysteries of tree rings and bone structures can be finite blueprints, while sump pumps sometimes require exorcism along with priming. Hence the limping, spitting lawn machine that, despite my earnest tinkering with recycled sinktrap parts, became a pouting recluse in a combustible cave.
 
  Now, hold on, I’m not dumb to the nomenclature and workings of machines; I’m just stuck with this idea that nothing mechanical works entirely right without a dash of body English and a pinch of “Go baby go!” Conversely, feeling blue must have some roots in a dysfunctional thyroid.
 
  The mathematics of freshly baked bread. The tantrums of my truck transmission.
 
  If I investigated the inner workings of a toilet tank, I could tell you, coil and spring, and in strict, structural terms, why in fact the “jiggling the handle” remedy is effective. But, even then, were I to pass on the procedure to a novice flusher, I’d have to add, “No, here, see it’s all in the wrist."
 
  This dooms me to forever suffer from two infernal conclusions:

  1. The exact same amount of flour, sugar, oil, salt and yeast mixed, kneaded, risen, greased and baked in the exact same pans, oven and temperature will always yield slightly different loaves.
 
  2. Pounding a steering wheel will sometimes start a cold engine.
 
  And lo, the shivering crankcase brought forth the hissy fit parallelogram, which begat the incontinent sinktrap, which begat the asymmetrical tulip bed, which begat the bipolar lawnmower.
 
  In his poem, “All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace,” Richard Brautigan wrote:
     
I like to think of a cybernetic forest
filled with pines and electronics
where deer stroll peacefully past computers
as if they were flowers with spinning blossoms.

  And Man looked ahead and said, “Let us move into snow season as our conspiratorial snowblowers lurk in the shed.
 
  And Man’s partner said, “Woe be unto us, should the toilet water rise or the bread collapse."
 
  And life was good.   

* * * * *

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.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Monday, May 7, 2018

EVERYTHING LOVE IS OLD AGAIN


  Before you meet Annie, I have to set the stage.  No better way than to give you a gift from long ago.
   Let's look at some rules of etiquette from "The Treasury Of Useful And Entertaining Knowledge," compiled by Nugent Robinson in 1882, given here as they were written. If we're not careful, (and, if we're lucky) everything love might become old again.

    In 1882:

LADIES:
  1.  Visits should be short. Beware of letting your call exceed half an hour’s length.  It’s always better to let your friends regret rather than desire your withdrawal.
  2.   In the morning, limit your jewelry to a brooch, gold chain, and watch. Your diamonds and pearls are as much out of place in the morning as a wreath.
  3.  Dressing well is a duty every lady owes to society, but make it not your idol. Fashion is made for woman, not woman for fashion.
  4.  When entertaining, try to suit your music to your company. A Beethoven solo is as much out of place in some circles as a comic song at a Quaker’s meeting.
  5.  Upon entering the carriage, if you are going to take the seat facing the horses, go in such a way as to drop into it at once.

GENTLEMEN:
  1.  If you are on horseback and wish to converse with a lady who is on foot, dismount and lead your horse, so as not to cause her fatigue in looking up to your level.
  2.  A man should always be so well dressed that his clothes shall never be observed at all. Perfect simplicity is perfect elegance.  Let a wise man seek to be appreciated for something of higher worth than the studs on his shirt or the trinkets on his chain.
  3.  When eating or drinking, avoid every kind of audible testimony to the fact.
  4.   Use your handkerchief noiselessly; do not blow your nose as if it were a trombone.               
  5.  If a man be a bachelor giving a dinner, he had better do so at a good hotel.

   This brings us to Annie, a centenarian pearl who arrived on earth in an era when women knew when to leave and men knew when (and where) to stay.
   In her lifetime, Annie has traveled the world. She’s made her bones as a dancer, sculptor, photographer and poet. She continues to write poetry, and gives readings to her fellow artificial hipsters in the nursing home where she still tends to most of her own needs.
   She climbs aboard her electric cart and zips around the complex, running in the fast lane past the walkers and quad canes. There has been talk about either revoking her buggy license or installing speed bumps in the hallways.
   Though she accepts it, she thinks it silly that her children never visit her. “They’re in their eighties, you know, and don’t get around like they used to,” she says, her bright eyes shining. " Upon her reaching the century mark, I asked her how she’d done it. She must have learned something special, and practiced some secret formula for living that had carried her so far. What had she done, or not done, to have lived so long?
   She just looked at me, astonished that anyone would ask such a thing.
   “Don’t die, you damn fool,” she said, winking.
   We both laughed, and she went on to explain:
   “No, I mean use all the tools you have, play all the instruments in your orchestra, switch to other gears, do whatever you have to do to keep going. When the world goes mute, stick in a hearing aid and turn up the music. When you can’t smell, look at the colors and shapes of things. When you can’t taste, pour on the sugar. When you can’t see, get a looking glass.  When you can’t play the notes --- sing ‘em!”
    “Sounds too simple,” I said.
   “It is. Don’t be a melon head. When your body goes, use your mind. When your mind goes, use your soul. When your soul goes, get on with the next life. Just keep living.
   She added one more thing: “And, don’t waste time.  When you can’t walk --- RIDE!” and sped off into her next hundred years, facing the horses, narrowly missing my toes and leaving me on the horseback of humility.
   Annie has an embroidered sign above her bed. It reads: THE OLDER THE VIOLIN, THE SWEETER THE MUSIC.
   So, if there is a five-score Romeo out there looking for a tuneful, high-riding Juliet, have I got a date for you. Be dapper yet sublime, dress casual, call the Hilton, cue-up the mood music --- and get down off your horse, you damn fool.

* * * * *
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.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

"DEAR WITBONES" --- Ask A Humorist!


 "DEAR WITBONES"  --- Ask A Humorist!


            DEAR WITBONES:
          I'm a senior living alone, and a polio survivor confined to my wheelchair. No complaints there, but I have two other nagging problems:
            1. I need to find a way to dog-hair proof the wheels. Eventually, it wraps around the axles so badly that it slows me down.
            2. Worse, because of my rolling hairball, when I'm out and about in public, dogs will follow me around, and sometimes come over and "mark their territory," if you know what I mean. Later, when I get home, my dog goes nuts over the smell, and he does the same thing! He's long been house-trained, but dogs will be dogs. What can I do?
          ---DOGGIE DON’TS IN DENVER

DEAR DOGGIE:
            Whenever I’m flummoxed by a submission like yours, I turn my fieldwork to the home of our collective lowest common denominators. Google.
            I asked: "How do I remove dog hair from wheelchair wheels?" and I found a chat room with the following answers:
            "I use drain cleaner and a hacksaw."
            "Try a cigarette lighter, CAREFULLY, and it works fine if you don't mind the smell of burning dog hair." The next comment took that a step further:
            “Have you tried a blow torch?"
            Lastly, my favorite: "A very high-powered vacuum should do it."
            I can't help you much with the doggy urine smell problem, though I did find (again, using my crackerjack research skills) that you could try an application of tea tree and bergamot oils. I don't know if it works or not, but someone on the internet said it did, and because they took the time to write-in about it on a public forum, I'm giving it both a thumbs and paws up. Maybe you should, too.
            Thanks for Witboning, and please keep me posted. 

            DEAR WITBONES:
            I am about to be a remarried woman heading into my late middle-aged years. When I tell my friends and colleagues that they’ll need to update their address books with my new last name, I am often asked: (and rather aggressively, too) "WHY will you change your name?! You don’t have to do that, you know!" It’s really beginning to bother me. I have a hard time explaining it, and I’m tired of trying. Can you help me with a response? 
--- NOM DE GROOM IN GARDEN GROVE
           
           DEAR NOM:
            You’re in luck, because I too am “heading into my late middle-aged years” and have recently remarried. For the record, my wife calls me a “senior junior.”
            Before we wed, I non-aggressively asked Diane Lillian Church if she was planning to change her name. She said yes, she wanted to be Mrs. Sherman. When I asked why, she said “because I want to be.” Reason enough. I sense that you’ve been giving your friends and colleagues a similar response, but it’s leaving you peeved and them unsatisfied.
            These days, you do have other options besides a complete birth name surrender and new designation. You could use your maiden name as your new middle name. Or, in nine states, and yours is one of them, your husband could change his last name to yours. Or, (my favorite) you could legally “blend” your names.
            If Diane and I had wanted, we could now be the Churchmans or the Shmurches, or we could’ve even anagrammed Church/Sherman and re-dubbed ourselves: Mr. & Mrs. Hunchcharmers. We actually discussed doing the latter as a way to create exactly the kind of thing you’re trying to avoid. I believe a little public spectacle on occasion is good for the soul.
            “Hunchcharmers?  Party of two?”
            Your call.
            Thanks for Witboning,and please keep me posted.

DEAR WITBONES:
            “My kids are all grown up but they won't leave home. I thought these would be my Golden Years but I'm still shelling out money for gas, buying milk by the barrel, and I can't find my phones or remote control. What can I do?” --- WITLESS IN WELLS RIVER

            DEAR WITLESS:
            If you’re in your “Golden Years,” then your kids must still be living at home in their fifties. I’m not surprised that you’ve finally lost your “remote control,” because that’s obviously the only kind of control you’ve had for some time.
            If your middle-aged offspring haven’t gotten the hint by now, they never will. At this late date, the only way left for you to change their lives is by radically changing yours. I’d suggest the following:
            Stop buying groceries and remove your car battery. Then, start a naked tuba & bagpipes band and have nightly rehearsals at your house.
            Fake a few heart attacks.
            Start talking to dead people at meals.
            When you write-in six months from now complaining that you never see your children anymore, we’ll deal with it.
            Thanks for WITBONING, and please keep me posted.

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“. You may submit your Witboner via his website at Witbones.com, or write to P.O. Box 300, Bethlehem, NH  03574. Copyright 2018. All rights reserved. Used here with permission.