Most reindeer couldn’t say where things went wrong. I can tell you every detail.
It was 1947. We were on a steep roof on the outskirts of Nutley, New Jersey. The big man was carefully making his way over toward the chimney. We stood there waiting, trying to be quiet. As he heaved himself onto the chimney, a brightly wrapped present fell out of his sack and skidded across the roof, I lifted my right front hoof and gently stopped it before it got past me. I looked up at the fellas, hoping for an “Atta boy!” or a “Nice stop, Cupe!” but no one had seen it.
I turned back to the Chubster, but he’d already dropped down the chute. I looked at the present. The tag read “To: Salvatore – From: Santa“. I made my fateful decision. I picked it up and tucked it out of sight under the strap of bells on my neck.
Otherwise, the night was uneventful. I had a few moments of guilt, but mostly spent the rest of the night wondering what was inside the wrapping paper.
It was a little metal car. I didn’t spend much time thinking about the Salvatore kid. I covered it with hay in the corner of my stall. The next year it was a doll meant for Gertrude in Dekalb, Illinois.
Some years I don’t manage to take anything, but most years I do. I’m not proud. I just can’t help myself.
I saw a news story the other day regarding some legal maneuvering over a nasty accident in New Jersey. Someone had driven into someone else while texting and hurt them badly. Certainly this type of foolishness is happening with increased frequency and is not to be tolerated. Common sense and civility dictates that someone who is operating a motor vehicle should not be reading or typing while doing so. It’s a well known fact that a large percentage of people can’t even drive safely while doing nothing else whatsoever.
What struck me about the news story was not that the driver was at fault – that was fairly clear. The amazing part was that the lawyers for the prosecution were trying to spread the liability to the person with whom the driver was exchanging the texts!
As it happened, the court decided that the person at the other end of the texting chat was not liable for injuries. Once in a while, the legal system proves itself not to be totally insane, but the damage in my mind was already done.
I started thinking about my writing. I recently reached a modest milestone in blog hits and my mind couldn’t help but drift into the dark place of “what if’s”. While my blog has supplied me with a creative outlet, I don’t think it’s worth losing my house over. For the sake of the legal covering-of-my-ass, please observe the following guidelines while reading my posts:
Do not operate heavy machinery while reading. This includes, but is not limited to: jumbo jets, dump trucks, jet boats, nuclear power plants and cruise ships.
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Do not make important life decisions based on anything I’ve written.
In the event of a water landing, do not attempt to use my blog posts as floatation devices. Though they are often light in character, the blogs do not float.
Do not try to amuse others by attempting to re-tell one of my hilarious blogs, my wit is sharp and if mishandled, may result in nasty puncture wounds. Give them the link and let them read it themselves.
In the event that laughter lasts more than four hours, seek medical attention.
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If reading my blogs in bed, please do not attempt to use your sex swing at the same time, and refrain from smoking until after the blog is completed.
Do not pass on the right or drive on the shoulder under any circumstances, irrespective of whether you read my blog or not – it just pisses me off.
It is permissible to drink alcohol while reading my blog, as it tends to improve the humor, but let’s try to be a little more mature and skip the keg stands and jello shots.
Reading blogs while bungee jumping has caused seizures in laboratory animals
Keep hands and feet away from moving blog parts – seriously, are you that stupid?
No animals were harmed in the writing of this blog
The author is in no way responsible for the time you’ve wasted reading this drivel – he bears no blame for the important things you failed to accomplish by choosing to sit on your fat ass reading when there were other, more significant things to do.
Anything you say can, and will be used against you in a court of law, but please leave me and my little blog out of it.
“We’re pretty excited around here. Nat-Geo’s working on season 2 of Doomsday Preppers. The pre-production staff should be here any time now. I’m hoping they pick us. We’re new to prepping, but I think we’re pretty well set, right honey? Honey? C’mere, I’m talking to the writer guy about our prepping! She’s a little quiet about all this, but I know in her heart she’s glad we’re getting ready for the apocalypse. Don’t bother trying to get any quotes out of her, she likes to pretend that she’s not into prepping, but I know she is.”
“Was that a van pulling up out front? They’re here!?! Oh my God!! How do I look? I went out and got new camo just for this! Kids! Tuck your fatigues in and try to look respectable, the TV people are here!”
“Hi! Come on in! I’m Claymore Billups and this is the missus, Lucinda. These are our kids, Alexa, she’s 12, Bryson, he’s 7 and last but not least is Amanda-Sue, she’s just about 4 and a half. Oh, and this is Dave, he writes a blog and is hanging around ’cause he’s writing about us for the world wide web.”
“I’m a retired municipal employee here in Jersey. I never gave much thought to prepping till last year when I started watchin’ your show. Then I started thinking and worrying more and more. There’s so many things that could happen and it’s a good idea to be prepared – just like the scouts say right? Always be prepared? I wasn’t actually in the scouts myself, the troop in my town just played dodge ball and collected dues. Nobody learned how to tie knots or camp or any of that stuff, so I never got around to joining – I was never much of a dodge ball fan.”
“My biggest fear used to be terrorists, but lately it’s the collapse of the financial infer-structure. I figured when Wall Street goes down, money won’t be worth anything. People will have to spend their life savings for a bottle of Pepsi. There’ll be rioting in the streets. It’s only a matter of time before city dwellers come out here to the suburbs looking for food and virgins. Ha ha – not really the virgins part, that’s my little prepper joke! But there will be lots of undesirables coming looking for anything of value.”
“They’ll have field day next door at Schmidt’s house. Al Schmidt and me, we talk out back when we’re working on our “honey-do” lists. Women huh? That list never ends. Anyway, Al thinks the whole ‘prepper’ thing is silly. He told me that he’s got a bottle of single malt scotch he’s been saving and a whole buncha pills from when he had a root canal. He says if the end comes, him and Audra, his wife, are just gonna sit out on his patio and wash down those pills with scotch and that’ll be that”
“Me, I’m more of a fighter than Al. Is Schmidt a French name? I always thought it was German or something. Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, prepping, of course! Ha ha. So, I figure food will get scarce pretty quick. If a bottle of soda costs thousands of dollars, people won’t be able to afford grocery shopping. Even if they did, the stores’ll run out. Hell, when the weatherman predicts 2 inches of snow, they run out of milk and bread in a coupla hours down at the Shoprite. So I’ve been trying to buy a little extra whenever me and Lucinda go grocery shopping. My idea is that I buy a couple cans of beans and some bottled water every trip. Lucinda rolls her eyes sometimes, but she’ll change her tune when hoodlums are running wild through our development and the Schmidts are out on their patio decomposing.”
“Lemme show you my bunker. My wife still calls it a garage, but in my mind, it’s a bunker. I got more of what you call that survival mentality. These supplies take up some space, but we haven’t had room in here for cars in years anyways. This is my water supply, I got about 7 or 8 cases of Poland Spring, and another couple of cases of the store brand so far. Lucinda started giving me grief about the name brand water runnin our bill up too high, so I gave in and started buying the generic stuff. I figure when the going gets tough, this generic water will taste a whole lot better than the stuff down the block in the retention pond. Any idea if you can boil goose poop outta pond water? I hope I never have to find out the answer to that, huh?”
“Over here I got my beans. At first I was buying cans, that’s them over there on the shelf next to the lawn dart set. But then I was worried they’d expire by the time I needed them. Canned beans expire right? It seems crazy to survive the apocalypse and then die with botulism from a bad can of beans. So yeah, I stopped buying the canned beans and started buying dried ones. I got pintos, blacks, pinks, black-eyed peas, garbanzo beans – the Italians call them Cici and other people call ’em chick peas – pretty complicated for a bean to have three names, huh? So I was thinking that we might get sick of eating nothing but beans, so it’d be better to have all these different kinds, it’d give us some variety”
“This spot over here by the weed whacker and Bryson’s Little League bat is where my other weapons’ll go. I call it my arsenal. It doesn’t look like much now, I just started filing for permits and stuff when I found out you guys were coming to interview me. I’m figuring maybe a couple of rifles and some handguns for the kids. The ammo can go right up here on the shelf by the jumper cables and the paint thinner. Lucinda doesn’t know yet, but these guns are pretty expensive. When she finds out what I’m gonna have to spend to defend our family, she’s gonna blow a gasket for sure.”
“I’ll have to tell it like it is, really get through her head how critical this is. ‘Honey,’ I’ll say, ‘you know I love you, but if you can’t get behind me on this, then you’re welcome to join the Schmidts out on their patio.’ I figure that’ll get through to her. I don’t wanna traumatize her, but sooner or later she’s gonna have to get on board a little more than just lettin me buy beans and water.”
“We don’t really have much else to show you right now. We haven’t come up with a bug out plan just yet. It’s miles and miles of these suburbs before you get anywhere much different. Lucinda’s parents live in a retirement community down the shore, but I’m not sure that’ll be much better than here when it comes down to it. Half the people down there are on walkers or in wheelchairs already, can’t see where they’ll be much help when it all hits the fan. Her brother and sister-in-law live up near the Poconos, but I’m not sure how that’ll work, since Lucinda and her sister-in-law aren’t getting along too well since the whole thing with my niece’s birthday party invitation getting lost in the mail. I’m thinking that things will get patched up pretty quick when we show up with guns, ammo and all the dried beans we can carry. If not, we’ll bunk out in the minivan while we plan our next move.”
“That’s pretty much it so far. I’m sure we’ll have a better plan once I get Lucinda to come around to my way of thinking on the guns and everything. In the meantime, I’m considering adding limas and navy beans to my stockpiles. I know it’s early in the process and all, but whaddya think, we gonna make the show?”
“You’ll call? Great! Just make sure you call before the power grid goes down, right? Ha ha! That’s more prepper humor, right?”
I’ll admit it, I’m not exactly on the cutting edge of trends.
Take for example, the fact that “The Hunger Games” movie came out the other day, and I’m just starting to read the book. Actually, I’ve been reading the book for a while, it’s just that between blogging and working and drinking, there isn’t too much awake time left for paperbacks of “The Lottery” meets “A Coalminer’s Daughter” meets “Futurama”.
I’m not a literary critic, so I’ll try to stop that.
When I started reading that book, I couldn’t help but notice that the words on the pages were echoing in my head in a British accent. If I’m reading a P.D. James mystery or Thomas Hardy novel, the same thing happens. I’m not sure if it’s due to my knowing that the authors are from jolly old England, or if it’s because they write in a British style – I just know what the narrator’s voice in my head sounds like. For the record, when I read the works of Stephen Hawking, the voice in my head takes on the automated sound of computer generated speech. I know who wrote the piece, and it adds to my reading experience. Besides, it adds an element of entertainment to the chore of reading the otherwise incomprehensible work of a mega-genius.
As for the accents, it’s usually my voice, but a decidedly British version thereof. If I close my eyes I can practically see the Brit version of myself, sitting in a wing-back chair with a snifter of something brown on the table next to me with a doily beneath it. There’s a tasteful lamp barely lighting the dark wood library behind me. My pipe sits prominently in it’s holder next to the snifter. My legs are crossed in the more feminine vertical fashion and I appear to be wearing some kind of Hugh Hefner/Don Draper smoking jacket. I tilt my head slightly in an intellectual fashion and smile gently at the camera, revealing my crooked yellow teeth. A dusty, leatherbound edition of “The Hunger Games” is open in my lap. I regard the camera one last time, put on my trusty wire-rimmed reading glasses, look down to the pages and start reading. You could practically smell the steak-and-kidney pie and scones baking in the nearby kitchen.
I needed to confirm my suspicions that the author of “The Hunger Games” Suzanne Collins, was originally from England, or had at least spent some serious time there. I looked for a quick explanation, flipping my paperback over to find the usual all-about-the-author blurb. You know how those go:
“R.I.P. Skippy – We Miss You!” is David Lovett’s 4th blockbuster novel. He lives with his wife and several beloved pet iguanas in a small cabin in the Azores. Born in Illinois and raised in the hard-scrabble streets of suburban New Jersey, he attended several American Universities earning degrees in fields which he eventually abandoned in favor of writing blockbuster novels. Look for his next action packed novel “A Hangover Dissected” hitting shelves in Early 2013.
I was unable to find anything on the book cover and had to look online to find out whether Suzanne Collins came from Oxford-Hamptonshire or Hastings-On-Kent. I was amazed to discover that she doesn’t appear to have a single tie to England whatsoever (She did work as a writer on the Nickleodeon show “Clarissa Explains It All” – which may or may not explain why she wrote a series of books about teenagers hunting and killing each other).
I was stumped. The British voice in my head was still there. Was it the bleak, Dickensian setting of “The Seam”? Was it the weird names the characters had? One’s named Katniss, one is Peeta – her bio says she’s adopted feral cats – are we surprised? Anyway, back to the voice in my head. I was having a hard time enjoying the book, because of reading each sentence multiple times. The first time would be in a stiff, formal British Parliamentary kind of tone, the second would be more on the Cockney side (Eh Guv-nah?), then the third would be in my own glorious American accent. By the time I’d read a given sentence three times, I’d have to go back and read it a fourth time because I was too busy affecting an accent to actually absorb the meaning of the words. If you’ve read the book, you know these are not generally sentences which improve with multiple readings.
Luckily for me, lots and lots of people have read the book. Even people who almost never read seem to have read all three of “The Hunger Games” books. I began asking people who I work with whether they had had similar experiences with the whole British accent thing. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that not one person understood what the hell I was talking about. Despite being rabid fans of the books, almost all of these people wanted to drop the topic of Katniss and company and talk instead about the voices in my head. Many of them became convinced that I have some kind of paranoid schizophrenia and a few seemed a little frightened of what the voices might say to me.
“Is the voice in your head a man’s or a woman’s?”
“When the voices speak in accents, do they tell you to hurt yourself?”
“Does your dog ever tell you to do things?”
After a day or two of this, the voice in my head told me to stop asking people about the voices in their heads. It went something like this: “I say old chum, it seems these blokes think you a bit daft. I suspect you’d be better off not chatting them up about what I say to you. Wouldn’t want them committing you to some sort of ‘looney bin’ as you Yanks like to say, what? Now then, let’s not tarry, we’ve got rope and shovels to buy and a list to finish”