Tuesday, November 13, 2018

BUILDING A WINTER FALL



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 enough. Right?
     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 a 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:
     “Always has.”
     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.

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.