Stick This Holiday With A Fork – It’s Done

Once upon a time, we had a perfectly good holiday.  It was steeped in tradition, as holidays tend to be.  It was non-denominational and based upon the universal notion of pausing to take stock of how much each of us has to be thankful for.   How could it possibly be ruined?

I’m not talking about the Thanksgiving when Aunt Glenda drank too much wine and subsequently wet herself.  Nor am I referring to when Jimmy Jr. and Cousin Earl stirred things up over at the kid’s table when they staged an epic farting contest.  Those events are called “memories” people, and given enough time, they can become ones we cherish (though Glenda may not fully agree).

One sure way to ruin a holiday is to let time-honored traditions be replaced by new things, which may or may not turn out to be tradition worthy.  Here are just a few ways that folks have managed to make hash out of our beloved turkey day:

Tradition: Cook an elaborate meal, centered around a sizable turkey, which fills the entire house with a its intoxicating aroma while roasting for hours and hours.

Replaced With: Deep fry the turkey out in the driveway, investing as little time as possible.

Result: Congratulations on taking the turkey cooking chore away from Mom so she’s free to bend the elbow with her sister Glenda.  In doing so, you’ve unwittingly pinned the responsibility of turkey cookery on Uncle Phil, who is also known as “Nagasaki Phil” for what he’s done to various cuts of beef at 4th of July barbeques.  The timeless aromas of roasting turkey have been replaced by the scent of several gallons of heated oil intermingled with a hint of gasoline from the lawn mower which sits adjacent to the propane tank by the shed.  As an added entertainment bonus, there’s a chance Uncle Phil will live up to his nickname and light the dog on fire.

meme from the net, where humor goes to die
meme from the net, where humor goes to die

Tradition: Taking time off to reflect on what we’re thankful for.

Replaced With: Squandering precious vacation hours on rampant consumerism.

Result: For many, Thanksgiving has already become nothing but the day before Black Friday, wherein we immediately discard being thankful for what we have and focus instead, on what we want.  Since Black Friday can’t come soon enough, America’s heartless retailers have started having stores open on Thanksgiving itself for even deeper discounts.  It’s only a matter of time before even deep fried turkey and instant mashed potatoes will not be quick enough for the schedules of bargain crazed shoppers – precipitating the change over to Wendy’s Turkey Gobbler Wrap with a side of fries.  At this rate, Halloween will eventually become the start of the Christmas shopping season with Thanksgiving being demoted to the unofficial midpoint of gift buying frenzy.

If your bank account looks like this, you need to stop watching the Cowboys get their asses kicked and go do some shopping!  Rumor has it Romo jerseys are going for bargain prices.  (Image from picsbox dot biz)
If your bank account looks like this, you need to stop watching the Cowboys get their asses kicked and go do some shopping! Rumor has it Romo jerseys are going for bargain prices even before December this year . (Image from picsbox dot biz)

Tradition: Scores of special side dishes are made and brought by family members from far and wide to accompany the turkey.  Oftentimes, these rare culinary gems are only seen on Thanksgiving, due to the closely guarded nature of secret family recipes and the labor intensive realities of making Grandma’s famous creamed onion and mashed rutabaga casserole from scratch.

Replaced With: Increasingly simple and/or instant dishes which require little more than adding the right amount of water and knowing how to use a microwave.

Result: It stands to reason that if you’re going to deep fry a 22 pound turkey in 13 minutes, you can’t spend hours and hours in the kitchen screwing around with the sides.  Besides, gourmands agree that the taste of deep fried meat is best complimented by instant mashed potatoes, Stove Top Stuffing, Pillsbury dinner rolls and of course, a freshly opened can of cranberry sauce.

Your guests won't believe that it's instant!  It'll be our secret!  (Image from 313merch dot com)
It’s a sure sign that Aunt Glenda’s had way too many white zinfandels when she starts huffing the jar of Instant Shit. (Image from 313merch dot com)

Tradition:  Rivalry football games.  In the halcyon days of my youth, the football teams of neighboring towns would meet every Turkey Day for bragging rights.  Win or lose, we’d return home to the smells of roasting turkey and Grandpa’s White Owl cigar smoldering in the ashtray.  Later, a couple of teams from the NFL or college ranks would square off on the TV.

Replaced With: The NFL has totally taken over Thanksgiving football.  There may still be some other games played, but you’d never know it.  The Lions play someone each year, then the Cowboys play someone else.  This year, San Francisco played yet another game after the other two contests were over.

Result: Now that the NFL has cornered the market on televised sports for this holiday, their focus has shifted to covering even more time zones to create constant grid iron action.  They’re trying hard to land a team in London, and rumor has it they have plans for franchising teams in Hawaii and on a special floating stadium in the north Atlantic.  Let’s hear it for the Fightin’ Cod!

 

 

You can't watch these warriors on Thanksgiving because A. They aren't in the NFL and B. They are presumably busy that day, making green bean casserole. (Image from football dot wonderhowto dot com)
You can’t watch these warriors on Thanksgiving because A. They aren’t in the NFL and B. They are presumably busy that day, making green bean casserole. (Image from football dot wonderhowto dot com)

Tradition: The kiddie table

Replaced With: The phasing out of the kiddie table due to hovering parents who can’t stand the thought of their kids being alone.  Surely there have been kiddie table lawsuits filed claiming discrimination and/or forced segregation as well.

Result: Letting the kids sit at the table with the grown ups inhibits parents from spending the entire meal talking about this year’s strategy for Christmas gift shopping once they’ve finished speed-eating.  This will also give parents insight into what a mediocre job they’ve done teaching the young ones table manners.  Honestly, when Little Brittany bit into that Turkey Wrap without holding her pinkies out, I could have just died.

There's cousin Earl making his "He who smelt it dealt it" face.  The little rascal!  (Image from 999thepoint dot com)
There’s Cousin Earl making his “He who smelt it dealt it” face. You can tell from Jimmy Jr.’s reaction in the background that having whiffed Earl’s air biscuit, he knows he’s finished a disappointing second again this year. Brittany must be upwind of the action.  (Image from 999thepoint dot com)

I’d like to go on at greater length about this sad topic, but the time is already running out for my whining about the ruination of Christmas.  I hope I didn’t give you indigestion.

 

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Meet The Parents – Mr. and Mrs. Public Enemy

Perhaps you’ve heard about the New Jersey girl who is attempting to sue her parents for her current private school tuition then college costs and legal expenses.  In her suit, 18 year old Rachel Canning claims her parents tried to make her live by their oppressive rules.  She has been living with the family of a friend.  The friend’s father happens to be a lawyer who apparently has a little time on his hands.

While a judge has made a preliminary judgement against Canning’s case, there’s no question she’s opened an exciting, slimy can of legal worms for the rest of us to consider.  Upon learning of the story, my first instinct was to follow her example and go after my own parents for punitive damages.  I made a short list of their horrible transgressions which included my lack of birthday ponies in the 60’s and top shelf orthodontia in the 70’s.  After considering their fixed-income octogenarian lifestyle as well as some issues with the statutes of limitations, I’ve decided against that route.  Looks like they’re going to be able to afford a little sweater for their dog, after all.

Look at that sweater!  That's custom work and it don't come cheap.  I grew up wearing hand-me-down Sears jeans and that mongrel gets European duds?! (image from Wikimedia commons)
Look at that sweater! That’s custom work and it don’t come cheap. I grew up wearing hand-me-down Sears “high-waters” and that mongrel gets European duds?! (image from Wikimedia commons)

My other alternative is to join Rachel’s legal team.  I watch my fair share of TV crime dramas and as such, I’m pretty sure I could do the whole lawyer thingy.  While tuition and expenses are certainly good starting points, there are a bunch of other potential claims which have been overlooked by her current squad of legal eagles.   As a show of good faith, I’m willing to divulge a few examples.  I hope her lawyers have the good sense to add me to their team, or I might have to take some legal action myself.  After all, I’m an American and goddammit, somebody owes me something!  Here now, are a few of the additional offenses which Ms. Canning’s parents may well have perpetrated over the years of oppression.

Oh the humanity!  Little cabbages make you gassy!  (Image from wikimedia commons)
Oh the humanity! Little cabbages make you gassy! (Image from wikimedia commons)

The pain and suffering of having to eat Brussels sprouts.  Your honor, Brussels sprouts are a member of the cabbage family and as such they are yucky.  My client has been scarred by their foul, sulfurous taste and may have been socially embarrassed on more than one occasion by the resulting flatulence of having been forced to eat such inhumane fare.

Aunt Hilda in her youth back in the 1920's.  Otto is hidden in the shadows, and possibly devoid of hair in those early years. (Painting by Korb from wikimedia commons)
Aunt Hilda in her youth back in the 1920’s. Otto is hidden in the shadows, and possibly devoid of hair in those early years. (Painting by Korb from wikimedia commons)

The repetitive trauma of having to kiss Aunt Hilda every Thanksgiving.  If it would please the court, please refer to Exhibit A, to be identified as the photograph of one Hilda Shisler, the maternal aunt of my client.  As you can see, Ms. Shisler has a prominent hairy nevus on her left cheek, known to the Canning children as “Otto the hairy mole.”

It wasn't bad enough to be segregate the kids in those days, they weren't even fed indoors. (Image from wikimedia commons)
It wasn’t bad enough to be segregate the kids in those days, they weren’t even fed indoors. (Image from wikimedia commons)

The social stigma of being relegated to the children’s table at Christmas dinner.  Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, eating at the children’s table may have passed for something of a tradition for many of you back in the days of your youth.  Fooled by the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia, some of you may even have fond memories, when in fact it was nothing less than age-discrimination against the youth class!  The sagging, stained tops of folding card tables and lack of good china have hurt generations of Americans, and my client is bravely taking her pain public to stop this barbaric practice once and for all.

Courtroom artist's illustration of the Easter Bunny in the off-season.  Those poor children can still smell the bourbon and carrots on his hot breath.  (Illustration by the author - yup, I drew the wabbit all by myself)
Courtroom artist’s illustration of the Easter Bunny in the off-season. Those poor children can still imagine smelling the bourbon and carrots on his hot breath. (Illustration by the author – yup, I drew the wabbit all by myself)

The mental torment of being betrayed and at times threatened with repeated lies.  Among the fictitious demons planted in the head of my client are a giant mysterious rodent known as The Easter Bunny and an obese night visitor who goes by the name of Mr. Kris Kringle.  The psychological terrorism and invasion of privacy was further perpetrated by her parents via their emissary of evil, The Elf on the Shelf.

You can't tell from this picture, but those girls were laughing at her.  LAUGHING!  (Image from wikimedie commons)
You can’t tell from this picture, but those girls were laughing at poor Rachel. LAUGHING! (Image from wikimedie commons)

The social ostracization due to the forced use of sub-par athletic equipment during summer field hockey camp between freshman and sophomore years in high school.  Your honor, if it would please the court, I refer to exhibit 13-J which is a generic brand field hockey stick typically available at large sporting goods retailers for prices ranging between $35 and $40.  My client specifically requested a Nano brand carbon fiber composite field hockey stick like all the starters on JV already had.  Mr. and Mrs. Canning denied her requests and Mr. Canning reportedly commented that he wasn’t buying a field hockey stick that costs more than a monthly payment on the family’s minivan.  (I pause here, letting the unfairness of it all sink in – pursing my lips, blinking and swallowing repeatedly to hold back the outrage, keeping the tears of injustice from cascading down my face.  Point made, I slam the stick onto the display table and walk away from it as if it has the cooties).

No further questions, your honor” I say, my voice nearly cracking with emotion.

The judge, tired of my drama and a little pissed about the scuff mark on his display table, points out that I wasn’t questioning anyone.  He further states that I am not actually a lawyer.  Embarrassed and without an opportunity to retrieve the field hockey stick I paid $37.95 for out of my own pocket, I’m escorted from the courtroom by a guy who looks a bit like Rusty the Bailiff.

After a moment, it occurs to me that my lack of a legal degree is not my fault.  The blame lies squarely on the shoulders of my parents, who neither applied to law school on my behalf nor offered to pay for it once they did.  Statutes of limitations or not, I want justice.  Looks like their little mutt is going to be shivering on his morning walks in Sunset Acres.  Justice will be served!

Author’s disclaimers: I don’t know any more about Rachel Canning, her family or legal representation than what I’ve read on the internet.  While the case in question has given me fodder for a satirical post, I am certain it is no laughing matter for any of those involved.  I do not condemn either side and any opinions regarding the shortcomings of her legal team are purely comedic in nature and should not be considered slanderous.

My parents actually paid more than enough of their hard earned money to raise me right.  In truth, I was an emotionally needy child with a massive appetite.  They had every right to put me up for adoption just to save money on tissues for my tears and groceries for my constant hunger.  My lack of ponies and orthodontia ended up helping me develop the character traits and coping mechanisms which serve me to this very day.  The preceding post was a satirical commentary on the news of the day.  As for my parents, I’m sure they’re beaming with pride that their little One Point has written what some might consider to be “satire”.  Their little dog’s sweater is safe.

Tattoo Or Not To Tattoo?

Is it just me, or does he look familiar to you too?  (Image from 6 abc dot com)
Math class is sooo boring!  Is that bell ever gonna ring? (Image from 6 abc dot com)

I saw this guy’s mug shot in the news a few months back.  He looked familiar to me.  I couldn’t imagine that I could have met a guy with all those tatts and not recalled him.  I figured that perhaps I knew him long ago, and tried to picture him sans artwork.  Even then, I couldn’t place him.  I gave up on trying to figure it out and resumed my humdrum life of working for a living and writing blog posts for the amusement of my seventeen loyal followers.

A few days ago, my wife and I were trying to clean some junk out of the basement.  After fifteen minutes though, we were hopelessly frozen in our pursuits, as we had each become stuck looking at crap artifacts from our past.  Throwing stuff away is tough when there’s even a glimmer of emotional attachment.  I pulled out a spiral bound notebook of one of my grown children from what might have been 5th or 6th grade.  I didn’t bother flipping it open to see the scribbled notes, but stared instead at the mural of doodles on the cover.

In a flash, it hit me.  The tattooed mugshot was not of anyone I knew, but his artwork bore a striking similarity to the notebook covers of middle-schoolers everywhere.  Old timers like me may also find a certain resemblance to the walls adjacent to payphones in college dorms of the late 70’s and early 80’s.

As I just admitted, I’m no spring chicken.  Back in the halcyon days of my youth, tattoos were for guys in the Navy and Hell’s Angels.  I suppose prison inmates had them too, but I lead a sheltered life back then, which limited my exposure to only the tattoos of sailors and bikers.

Obviously times have changed.  The future has arrived, and it’s not entirely pretty.  We have wristwatch phones and cars that park themselves.  We also have morbidly obese exhibitionists twerking on YouTube and scores of people who flaunt their God-given right to cover themselves with as many tattoos as they desire.

That's either Darth Vader or a very poor representation of a black pug in a rose bush.  (Image from geekology dot com)
That’s either Darth Vader or a very poor representation of a black pug in a rose bush.  By the way fella, you’re rockin’ that beard.  (Image from geekology dot com)

Back in my college days, I had an acquaintance who was going to get a tattoo of a lightning bolt on his hip. At the time, he was a freshman who played attack on the lacrosse team, and the image had a degree of legitimacy.  Of course, now he’s likely a pudgy investment banker in his mid-fifties, and the bolt may be over-shadowed by a nearby hip replacement scar.  Before going for the ink, he tried to get many of his teammates to join him.  I recalled considering it for a few seconds.  At that time in my life, I was lucky to be able to scrape together enough loose change for a six pack, so paying for a tattoo was out of the question.  Still, I considered what image I’d choose.  I politely declined, but the thought of the Zig Zag Man on my arm did stick in my head.

That's not a zit; Zig Zag Man's spleef is all sparked up.  (Image from hellnbak at deviantart dot com)
That’s not a zit; Zig Zag Man’s spliff is all sparked up. (Image from hellnbak at deviantart dot com)

A few years later, I put my fine arts degree to use tending bar.  One of my fellow mixologists was a Jewish kid from Cherry Hill, NJ.  I was under the impression that tattoos were against his religion, but he was crazy about inking himself up.  He had a bunch of body art and was constantly looking ahead to the next one.  Like the lacrosse player, he was always trying to convince people to join him.  Newly married to a woman who abhorred tattoos, I didn’t consider it for more than a fraction of a second.  I did think about what image I’d pick though, and briefly recalled the one I’d considered in college.  I shuddered at how horrible my former choice was, and said a silent prayer of thanks that I had avoided going through with it.

So I was in a tough place emotionally, you know?  I was frustrated with my inability to move up the corporate ladder and finally get out of the mailroom.  I just said, you know, what the hell, I'll get a picture of a big penis tattooed on the side of my face, and then, you know, to give it that special zing, I'll pierce my cheek.  So then Monday I show up to work and the supervisor tells me I don't have a job anymore.  I've put some resumes out, but I can't seem to get past the first interview.  I wonder if I need some breath mints of something.  (Image from moosiemoose dot tumblr dot com)
So I was in a tough place emotionally, you know? I was frustrated with my inability to move up the corporate ladder and finally get out of the mailroom. I just said, you know, what the hell, I’ll spend my rent money on getting a picture of a big penis tattooed on the side of my face.  Then, to give it that special zing, I’ll pierce my cheek. So Monday I show up to work and the supervisor tells me I don’t have a job anymore. I’ve put some resumes out, but I can’t seem to get past the first interview. I wonder if I need some breath mints of something. (Image from moosiemoose dot tumblr dot com)

The cycle has repeated itself every so often throughout my life, where I think of what tattoo I would get and where I would put it, but each time, I recall the images I’d considered the previous times and realize how awful and obsolete they’d look on my body in the present day.

I have tons of friends and colleagues now who have tattoos.  For the most part, their choices of tattoos strike me as somehow appropriate for each of them .  I don’t shake my head and wonder what they were thinking when they chose what they chose.  In my defense, I don’t have any friends with tattoos of Mickey Mouse, Captain Kirk or bedazzled shlongs on their faces.

Like most people, I tend to be far more critical of my own decisions than those of others.  Lord knows I’ve done my share of things which I realized were mistakes.  The prospect of living with my bad decisions is a fact of life, I don’t need illustrations.

Farewell To A Soon-To-Be Bygone Era

With the opening of pot stores in Colorado in January 2014, the writing is on the wall for the impending demise of what was considered by some to be the outlaw-vogue marijuana mystique.  I thought I’d better write this before this culture of cool disappears entirely.

Smuggler’s Blues

I recall a girl I encountered one summer in my youth.  She was wafer thin and very cute.  She may have had a twin sister, I’m not sure, my memory of such ancient trivia is worn by the years.  One thing I do recall was her ingenious method for hiding a bag of pot on her person.  The tube-top and hip hugger bell bottoms she wore left precious little room for smuggling illicit cargo.  Once she was convinced that I was “cool” she lifted up the hem of her bell bottoms and revealed a bag of weed held with a safety pin to the inside of the leg of her pants.  The fact that I recall that episode at all should reflect just how impressed I was at the time.  With pot legalized, the creativity of hiding such bulky contraband will go the way of dinosaur farming and rum running.

For the record, the girl in question wore no such hat, which would have provided her with yet another hiding spot.  (Image from etsy dot com)
For the record, the girl in question wore no such hat, which would have provided her with yet another hiding spot. (Image from etsy dot com)

A Weed By Any Other Name

Once upon a time, pot was known by relatively few names like Mary Jane, Reefer or Wacky Tobacky.  As the culture of marijuana grew, smokers could choose from (alleged) strains such as Panama Red and Acapulco Gold.  The monikers of today’s varieties are certainly a departure from the names of old.  As an example, one medical dispensary in Michigan is currently offering varieties such as Cataract Kush, Ziggy Starcrunch and  Death Star Clone.  As pot becomes mainstream, it’s only a matter of time before Madison Avenue gets involved and starts coming up with slicker brand names to appeal to target demographics and such.  Potential product names include Appee-Tight, U-Wanna-Ganja, and Happy Hippy Swirl.

The New Riders of the Purple Sage had an entire record album named after Panama Red.  That's an A side and a B side, folks, a big honor indeed.  (Image from en dot Wikipedia dot org)
The New Riders of the Purple Sage had an entire record album named after Panama Red. That’s an A side AND a B side, folks, a big honor indeed. (Image from en dot Wikipedia dot org)

Max Head Room

A unique byproduct of the illicit marijuana trade was the head shop.  Largely already gone from the landscape, head shops sold rolling papers, pipes and all manner of bongs.  In addition, there were lots of cool items to enjoy once one had partaken in some git-high, such as black lights, dashiki’s for white people and slow-motion wave machines.  It’s hard to imagine smokers choosing to spend their cash on a slow-motion wave machine when for the same money they could have bought a bag of Jamaican Lamb’s Breath Ganja and still had enough spare change left for Taco Bell.  With herb going legit, the few remaining head shops will be replaced by kiosks in the mall and maybe a special counter at the local Costco.  No doubt merchandisers like The Sharper Image will get in on the market selling bongs and marijuana vaporizers.  It wouldn’t surprise me if someone came out with some sort of Keurig-like device for the people who don’t want a lot of muss and fuss with their pot preparation.

It's like watching waves form in like cross section, but then it like crashes into the opposite side and starts over again like going the other way all slow and stuff, and then it's like whoa - going the other way and...oh man, did I miss my bus? (Image from plus dot google dot com)
It’s like watching waves form in like cross section, but then it like crashes into the opposite side and starts over again like going the other way all slow and stuff, and then it’s like whoa – going the other way and…oh man, did I miss my bus? (Image from plus dot google dot com)

Consume Mass Quantities

Back in the day, buyers could get dime bags, nickel bags, and something called a “lid”.  I’ve never purchased any of these amounts myself, but I’ve watched enough episodes of Mod Squad and Dragnet to have a pretty good idea of what I’m talking about.  With legitimacy will come a new set of packaging strategies.  What was once referred to as a “loose joint” will become a “pre-rolled individual cigarette kick”, or P.R.I.C.K.  A “bong hit” will now be packaged as “single serving” or a “B-Cup” for use with the newly created Keurig-style electric bong.  The old ounce bag with be sold as a “Super Valu Pak” complete with a colorful logo and anti-theft chip imbedded in its plastic container.

You may find a nickel bag under Willie's hat, a dime bag in his pocket, and a Super-Valu-Pak in his tour bus.  (Image from Huffingtonpost dot com)
You may find a nickel bag under Willie’s hat, a dime bag in his pocket, and a Super-Valu-Pak in his tour bus. (Image from Huffingtonpost dot com)

Gather Round Kids, Pappy’s Gonna Tell You A Story About The Olden Days

I guess it was all inevitable.  The world changes and something which was once taboo becomes accepted, only to be replaced by a new naughty.  Perhaps someday, when there’s a break in the conversation around the Thanksgiving dinner table, I can clear my throat and tell the great-grandkids about the olden times.  They’ll look up from their heaping plates of genetically engineered turkey flavored nutri-paks with cranberry-essence gelcaps and listen as I tell them all about the exciting adventures of Panama Red.

Auggie DiNapoli’s Travel Tips For Politicians

See if you lie like this, you get that sexy armpit tan.  Of course, you can't get any tan with a suit on - I'm a politician, not an idiot! (Image from update dot gawker dot com)
See if you lie like this, you get that sexy armpit tan. Of course, you can’t get much of a tan with a suit on – I’m a politician, not an idiot! (Image from update dot gawker dot com)

NJ Democratic Senator Robert Menendez went on two, 3-day trips to the Dominican Republic at a cost of roughly $58,000.  As an inquisitive sort of fellow, I’d like to know how anyone can spend $29,000 apiece on two short trips to a the Dominican Republic?

For those of you who are not familiar with the Dominican Republic, here’s a brief overview.  The D.R. is 2/3’s of an island in the Caribbean – the other 1/3 of the island is known as Haiti.  It’s a hop-skip-and-a-jump away from any east coast airport.  The Punta Cana region of the Dominican Republic is an especially popular vacation destination offering many resorts for budget-minded travelers who yearn for some fun in the sun.

In order to understand how Senator Menendez could have spent so much money going to such a nearby, economical destination, I’ve brought in Auggie DiNapoli, travel expert and owner of the website flywitauggie.com to help.

That nail salon used to be the home of DiNapoli's Travel Depot.  I moved into modern times and now I operate outta the rec room.  Who needs a fancy desk when you got a ping pong table - am I right? (Image from green prophet dot com
That nail salon used to be the home of DiNapoli’s Travel Depot. I moved into modern times and now I operate outta my rec room. Who needs a fancy desk when you got a ping pong table – am I right? (Image from green prophet dot com)

1PP:  First Mr. DiNapoli, I’d like to thank you for visiting my blog.

Auggie D:  My pleasure, One Pea.  Hey, call me Auggie!  I appreciate this chance to clear things up about travel costs.  You can always come to flywitauggie.com for great deals on airfare, car rentals and travel packages.

1PP:  That web address is interesting.  How’d you come up with it.

Auggie D:  I had my heart set on fly with auggie dot com, but it was already taken.  So I dropped the “h” offa “with” – that’s how you pronounce it anyway, right?  Turns out some lady in Orlando wit a little weiner dog named Auggie had snatched it up.  She likes to post pictures of her dachshund in action-shots jumpin in her pool.  She coulda chose “swimmin wit weiner dogs” – that woulda been fine wit me.

So who knew these weiner dogs could fly?  More important, who cared, right? (Image from pets for sale dot co dot za
So who knew these weiner dogs could fly? More important, who cared, right? (Image from pets for sale dot co dot za)

1PP: OK.  Sorry I asked.  Let’s get to the question at hand.  How could anyone manage to spend $58,000 on two trips from New Jersey to the Dominican Republic?

Auggie D: Well, I’d try callin his office, but Senator Menendez prolly aint talkin.  If he don’t wanna talk to the FBI bout it, he aint likely gonna talk to Auggie, am I right?  My guess is he spent around 35 large on the first trip, learned a lil bit about travel expenses and then only dropped like $23,000 on the second one.  That’s a lot cheaper than the first go-round but hey, that’s still a lotta cabbage.  You can’t figger some political guy’s gonna learn much quicker than that though, right?

1PP:  I hadn’t thought of the possibility that he spent different amounts each trip.  Even so, $23,000 still seems like an excessive amount of money for a three day trip.  Do you have any tips for Senator Menendez on how to cut his travel costs further?

Auggie D: Sure!  One thing, right off the bat – chartering a private jet aint cheap.  That’s gonna really eat up the dollars.  He coulda flew down there for like $1500 first class.  It aint that long of a flight, so he wouldna got more than one meal and a glass of domestic champagne in him, but that wide seat is a nice perk for the fat cats.  Plus, they give ya them hot towels to wipe yer hands wit – that’s classy, huh?  He coulda really saved some dough if he sat back in coach – those seats are only like 150 bucks.  He wouldna got no food or champagne though.

1PP: How about accomodations?  Surely there are some bargains to be had.

Auggie D: Absolutely!  There’s bargains galore down there!  I got two words for the Senator: All Inclusive.  Punta Cana is packed with all sorts of options for all-inclusive hotels.  They cover everything!  You got your buffets, your well drinks, and even shows at night.  It aint Broadway, but you get enough mai tai’s in you, who cares they don’t know all the words to the show tunes, am I right?

1PP: All inclusives!  I bet the senator wishes he thought of that as an option.  How else could he cut costs?

Auggie D: I’m thinking he coulda saved even more if he woulda gone down to the conference room off the lobby and listened to the time-share sales pitch.  It’s only a couple of hours, there’s no obligation and the whole rest of the night is “me time”.  Just don’t buy one – you aint gonna be a senator forever, know what I’m sayin?

1PP: This is great advice!  I hope the rest of Washington is paying attention.

Auggie D: My pleasure, 1 Pint.  Another budget buster is getting sick away from home.  Stay away from that suh-vee-chay stuff and if possible, you wanna bring your own snorkelling gear.  Those rental fins won’t fit and you don’t wanna find out what nasty types of diseases can grow in those mouthpieces.  By the way, when I talk about dirty mouthpieces, I’m talkin about snorkels, not Washington lawyers!  That’s a little joke I made.

1PP: Ha ha – Good one!  Well, we’re running out of time.  Do you have any other helpful hints for bureaucratic budget travel?

Auggie D: Just a couple, PeePee.  One thing, always skip that mini-bar in yer room.  If you wanna hit the sauce, stop for a bottle of rum on your way in from the air-o-port-o.  Sneak some fruit juice up to the room from the breakfast buffet and make yer own cocktails.  You dont even need to tip the bartender, cause you ARE the bartender, you know?  If you’re really hurtin for bucks, a lotta these joints have wet T-shirt contests with cash prizes.  Bring yer trophy wife or mistress down there and let em earn their keep fer once, am I right?

Listen, Bobby, I'm sure she's a smart gal, but she aint winnin' one of those contests.  You need some advice, talk to Fred Gwynne over there to her left - he'll give you some pointers.  (Image -cropped- from AP photo / J. Scott Applewhite)
Listen, Bobby, I’m sure she’s a smart gal, but she aint winnin’ one of those contests. You need some advice, talk to Fred Gwynne over there to her left – he’ll give you some pointers. (Image -cropped- from AP photo / J. Scott Applewhite)

1PP: OK, that wraps up today’s edition.  Tune back in next time when I talk with local experts about another important topic.  Remember, if you have a pressing question, put it in the comments section and I’ll round up a local expert to help me get the answers you deserve!

Grading Papers and Nailing Perps

Okay kids, today we're going to look at this picture and find something that doesn't belong in it.  (Image from panhandlepost.com)
Okay kids, today we’re going to look at this picture and find something that doesn’t belong in it. (Image from panhandlepost.com)

I just read a fairly preachy post on Facebook.  It was written by a “friend”.  I would not have classified him as a friend in the traditional sense of the word, but in Facebook parlance, people are either your friend or they aren’t.

In any case, the guy wrote about how putting armed police in every school could be an expensive option, and offered the alternative prospect of arming teachers.

I prefaced where I read the post, because I don’t want anyone to think that I got started on this thought process by going to the websites of political parties or special interest groups.  I certainly did not find this topic by reading the news, which I can’t really bear to do lately.  I make no apologies for not keeping abreast of a nation’s heartache; as a rational adult, I know all I need to right now and choose not to saturate my brain with the minutiae of every sickeningly painful detail, as reported ad nauseum by each and every news outlet.

I hoped that my “friend” was a lone voice and that he wasn’t just echoing the thoughts of someone with a broader audience than Facebook.  Somehow I doubted it.  A quick Google search proved my instincts correct.  An elected official in Washington State is pushing for teachers to have the right to carry weapons into the classroom.  Where would we be without some lawmaker telling us how to fight fire with firepower, or as I like to put it, fight crazy with insanity?

I feel I have a fair amount of first hand experience with schools and with teachers.  I attended public schools for kindergarten then twelve more years before moving on to several universities where I earned multiple degrees.  For the past 15 years or so, I’ve worked in schools.  I’ve dealt with every type of school employee from custodians to superintendents and many, many teachers in between.  I’ve dealt with new-graduate teachers and tenured, published PhD’s.  I’ve dealt with a lot of students as well.  My exposure to homicidal maniacs has been much more limited.

I am not a teacher.  I am not in the teachers’ union.  My father was a teacher, as were some of the most influential, important people in my life.  I admit that I’ve also dealt with a few teachers who were inept, sad examples of their profession.  Sitting here in my kitchen, I can’t think of a single one of those educators who I could imagine carrying a gun in the classroom.

In recent years, public school teachers in many states have wrestled with taxpayers and politicians over merit-based pay, benefits and tenure.  Apparently in the halls of power of at least one state, the argument has now switched as to whether or not to arm teachers.

Let’s take a moment to review: Elected officials and taxpayers can’t decide what a teacher’s work is worth, or how to determine if they are even effective at performing their jobs, but you’d like them to carry firearms?!  OK, just wanted to make sure I heard that right.

On a side note, law enforcement professionals routinely carry guns.  In many states they face the same scrutiny of pay and benefit issues which teachers do.  Unlike teachers, they enter their chosen profession knowing their duties may invlove the use of deadly force.  As a profession which has a fair amount of power in its armed authority, police training is designed to help weed out candidates who are unsuitable for the responsibilities of the job.  Despite the careful screening, history has shown us that sometimes the wrong people get badges and guns anyway.

Teachers’ challenges managing kids are pretty well documented.  In addition to teaching the three R’s, they are often called upon to teach kids things which would traditionally be taught at home and only reinforced in school.  Things like respect, being able to tell right from wrong and the basics of ethical behavior.  There have also been more than a few complaints about children in the U.S. falling behind their counterparts elsewhere in the world.  Tacking on the additional responsibility of acting as an armed guard just doesn’t strike me as a particularly effective way of improving overall job performance.

Owning and being capable of using a firearm is strong stuff.  Despite walking this planet for over 50 years, I have yet to find it necessary to even hold a gun, let alone carry one to work.  The first part of my personal rationale for not owning a firearm is that I don’t think I need one.  I believe, perhaps foolishly, that I can use other personal attributes to avoid gunplay.  Like a teacher, I’m convinced that I can use my knowledge and ability to communicate.  The other part of my rationale is that owning a gun would somehow reduce my belief in the  first part of my rationale.

In my opinion, a teacher who wants to bring a gun to school, has to accept the same thought, on some level.

The horror in Connecticut has dominated the news, but it is not an isolated case of senseless violence.  Two innocent people were killed by a shooter in a mall near Portland, Oregon.  Two volunteer firefighters were killed and others seriously injured by a sniper in New York who set fire to his home and car strictly to draw the firemen into his line of fire.

If the logic for arming teachers holds water, then it’s only fair that Foot Locker employees and firefighters are also encouraged to pack heat.  I’m sure that if one analyzed the data for victims of gun violence nationwide, it would be difficult to find a demographic which wouldn’t qualify for carrying a gun.

I know Facebook is filled with people who pop in photos of puppies or little quips about how annoyed they are with the weather without giving it a second thought.  One would hope they would stop and think before proposing something as controversial and fundamentally absurd as arming teachers.  As for state lawmakers making the same proposals, I’m at a loss for words, finally.