Garage Sale Table of Treasures

I recall many years ago, saddled with small children and the very limited social life which came with them, I worked in an office.  Somehow, there came a Saturday night when no one was to be at my home but me.  I couldn’t squander such a rare opportunity.  I went from cubicle to cubicle in the weeks before recruiting my colleagues for a night of drinking, raucous humor and poker – a festival of male bonding in a time in my life when such things were as rare as hens’ teeth.

The weekend finally came.  I was psyched (old-school guy talk – “psyched” is how guys felt about going to cool bars, buying hot rods or finding $50 in the pocket of an old sport coat – not that I’ve ever done two out of three of those things).  I straightened up the house, set up the dining room table, bought some beer, and even found a deck of playing cards without pictures of Old Maids on them.  After what seemed like an eternity, the doorbell finally rang.  It was one of my buddies from work.  I welcomed him in, got him a frosty malt beverage, and we sat down amid the bowls of chips and made small talk as we waited for the others to show up.  After more than another hour had passed, it began to be clear that no one else was coming.  My lone party participant made his graceful exit and I sat there, shuffling the cards and simmering.  After a while, I poured the corn chips back into their bags and put them away.  The kids would be home the next day and would certainly enjoy eating them.  I rearranged the furniture and put the house back into wife-and-kids mode, dumped out the last of my beer, and went to bed.

I swore that I would return to work on Monday and give those no-shows the cold shoulder they deserved.  I considered not bothering to speak with any of them about anything except work-related topics until the end of time.

Last week, I got this idea to hold a blog garage sale.  I offered to put five of my dead-draft ideas out on a virtual table for people to browse and take if they felt like it.  While baring my soul is a fairly frequent occurance on these pages, it still seemed kind of risky to show people what my bad ideas looked like.  Hell, even some of my good ideas look like crap to me.  I decided to make it more of a neighborhood garage sale, inviting any and all of my blogging colleagues to join in.  Misery loves company, so I thought that having a few others along with their dreg post ideas would soften the blow and minimize the embarrassment factor.

I know it doesn’t look like much, but some other bloggers are ‘sposed to be showing up soon. I’m sure they’ll bring lots of stuff. We’ll probably need more tables (Image by list-alert.com)

Today, true to my word, I’m going ahead and posting the 5 dud ideas.  Much like my poker night of decades ago, I’m alone with my beer, Tostitos and playing cards.

I’m a relative newcomer to blogging, having only been at it for 6 months, so I guess I still have a lot to learn, particularly in regards to the audience participation angle.

Here are my five duds, in no particular order:

  • Complaints Department – I envisioned this being from the viewpoint of a bored, underpaid clerk at a complaints desk.  The twist was that people came up and complained about all sorts of things which there was no real answers for, like traffic, the way we end up  looking more and more like our parents, and how there isn’t anyone on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team who appears to be even remotely Irish.
  • Purgatory – What’s not funny about purgatory, right kids?  The purgatory I had in mind was the one where you’ve posted something which you labored over, but have yet to get any feedback whatosever on, except from that one oddball, who always hits “Like” faster than he or she could have possibly read the piece.
  • But Honey, These People LOVE Me! – This piece was going to be a cynical take on explaining to my wife why I spend more time trying to entertain hundreds dozens of adoring readers than I do giving her foot massages, or policing the yard for dog dootie.
  • Reflections on Mediocrity – Thought of this one after doing an admittedly mediocre job on a lecture.  While I’m surrounded by mediocrity and take great pains to point out the shortcomings in the efforts of others, looking at my own mediocrity proved to be both painful and of no interest to me (or presumably others).  Like many things we put on the table at these blog-garage sales, I’m embarrassed to take ownership at all.  It’s free, just take it and don’t tell anyone where you got it, okay?
  • Miscellany – I know, you’ve probably already got one of these right?  This is the “junk drawer” of the draft files, containing all sorts of odds and ends, dead calculators, paper clips, faded receipts, and in the case of my file, thoughts on a trip to the urologist, experiments with hitting the “formatting” button, and a reminder that a haiku is 5-7-5 (it is, isn’t it?).  This one is the biggest gamble of the whole table, but at least you’ll come away with a few paperclips and some emery boards.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll revert to the original version of audience participation, where I write and you, hopefully, read.  Then you write and I’ll read.

The Bitter Truth

My fingers were crossed. Psych! Those aren't even my fingers, it's clip art from bigstockphoto!

Yesterday, I posted my humble Versatile Blogger Award acceptance speech and fulfilled all the requirements for winners, including listing 7 little known facts about myself.

Being something of a prankster and pathological liar, I couldn’t help but sprinkle a few stinking lies in the seven facts about myself.  I requested that readers of the post give their opinions as to which ones they thought were true and which were not.

As of this moment, there have been 41 views of that piece and exactly three people have made guesses.  To be fair, I asked that anyone who actually knows me in the real world restrain from blurting out the answers, lest I brand them as “tools”.  I find it a little difficult to believe that of those 41 readers, only three of them don’t know me in the real world.  For one thing, I’m fairly confident that I don’t actually know 38 people who read all that much.

This is only the second or third time I’ve asked for audience participation in a post.  The previous efforts were also met with the similar soundtrack of a solitary cricket chirping in an empty auditorium.  When you’ve had several consecutive days with higher than usual number of hits on your blog as I have, it’s easy to get carried away and think that people are reading your stuff and getting you.  Maybe they are getting me, but are so awestruck by the brilliance of my sarcasm that they dare not attempt a public exchange of ideas with me for fear of looking less than intelligent.  I know when I comment on posts, I give careful consideration to my chosen words for just that reason.  Sadly, on my award post, the response requested was basically true/false – so we can eliminate fear of ridicule as an option.

In fairness to those few brave, loyal readers who went to the trouble of guessing, here are the answers.  Thanks to all three of you for participating.

1.  I was born in Vienna, AustriaFalse – I was in fact, born in the town which is the home of Northern Illinois University on a bitter cold January morning many decades ago.  I’m sure I stumped a few people on this one, as my sparkling command of the English language is more consistent with those who hail from other parts of the world.

2.  I am a physical therapist who works with special needs kidsTrue – Satirical leanings and a rapier-like-wit are actually assets in my career.  For the record, I also work with adults in other settings.  Just to clarify, I would never ridicule one of my patients, but the rest of you dolts are fair game.

3.  I have a fondness for dessert winesFalse – Very false.  I am no stranger to spirits of all sorts, but I’d prefer a strong, hoppy India Pale Ale, any number of tequila’s, boutique bourbons, or single malt scotch over some nasty, sweet dessert wine.  You can save that swill for someone who eats dessert.  This one should’ve been easy, as I have never been seen wearing an ascot – ergo – no dessert wines for me.

4.  My son is a jet-setting professional poker playerTrue – He’s abroad as I type this, flying hither and yon to play in tournaments and make more money than his old man.  If you sit at a Texas Hold Em table with him, don’t come crying to me later looking for cab fare and your retirement savings back.

5.  My younger brother met Kurt VonnegutTrue – Worst of all, I don’t think he’s a fraction of the fan that I am.  He actually meets all kinds of famous people all the time anyway, so I don’t think it meant much to him even if he was a fan.  I’d ask him, but his mellow attitude about it would just infuriate me.

6.  I see my mother on TVTrue – Mom is an actress and she shows up on my TV from time to time.  She hasn’t been acting too much lately, as she and Dad are bogged down with blog reading assignments.  As you may have read in an early post of mine, she and my father have a history of squandering her residual checks on cruises and dog-sweaters.

7.  My basement is filled with survival gear and back issues of Guns and AmmoFalse – While I’ve written, and will write again very soon about the Nat Geo series “Doomsday Preppers”, I am not a survival expert (Not yet, but that show is getting to me…stay tuned).

Those are the 7 little known or false facts.  In the fun spirit of lies, here are a few bonus lies:

8. I’m a massive fan of operaFalse – If I wanted to see some fat lady sing in a foreign language, I’d take public transportation in Philly.

9. Yardwork is a passion of mineFalse – Paying non-English speaking gentlemen to do yard work on my behalf is a passion of mine.

10. I’m a pet loverFalse – My gimpy dog left me a prize this morning which, due to a slight slope in the floor, extended the entire length of the hall.  I am convinced that this accident was no accident at all.

11. I prefer movies about space travelFalse – In fact I avoid movies with the word “Star” in the title.  I don’t know an Ewok from a Tribble, and I’m fine with that.

12. I love writing listsFalse – Good opportunity to wrap up this drivel.

“What is a lamp, you nincompoop? It’s a major award. I won it!”

Mr. Parker: It's a Major Award!
Swede: Shucks, I wouldn't know that. It looks like a lamp.
Mr. Parker: What is a lamp, you nincompoop? It's a Major Award. I won it!
Swede: Damn, hell, you say won it?
Mr. Parker: Yeah, mind power, Swede; mind power.
(Image and dialogue from Jean Shepherd's "A Christmas Story" - MGM)

I was recently named as a winner of the Versatile Blogger Award.

I was nominated by the presumably lovely and unquestionably talented Emma of In Other Words .  Thanks Emma – I’m not worthy of your praise.  While I appreciate the award, it’s made writing even more challenging than it already was.  It’s always been a bit daunting to hit the “Publish” button on a piece.  With my award, I now have to ask myself,

“Is this worthy of a Versatile Blogger Award recipient?

“Is it too trite?”

“Is it versatile enough?”

“Will posting this give Emma reason to doubt her judgement?”

Clearly the bar has been raised, and now I’ll need to consider my stellar reputation as a wit (or half-wit) before I post just any old thing.

I read how after winning the Academy Award for “Hamlet”, Sir Lawrence Olivier had the good judgement to turn down the title role in “The Incredible Mr. Limpet” – leaving the door open for Don Knotts to star as the man-turned-fish.  That’s the kind of foresight I’ll be needing from here on out.  I don’t want to be the Don Knotts of blogging – there are too many of those already.

To add further doubt to my already shaky self-image, I’ll be damned if I can figure out how to post a link to Emma’s site in here.  Fortunately, I stumbled onto a video tutorial on the VBA page, and after watching it an embarrassing number of times, I was able to negotiate myself through the process.

Now the other award shoe drops.

As if it wasn’t difficult enough writing with this massive new weight upon my shoulders, the award stipulates that I, in turn, award the VBA to no less than fifteen of my favorite bloggers.  Fifteen?!!  That means I’m going to leave someone out and undoubtedly hurt their feelings.  In addition, I’ll be saddling fifteen other bloggers to this same horrific batch of challenges and angst.  What fun!

The positive aspect of this is that all fifteen of my nominees write way better than I do, so they should skip through this effortlessly.  In the event that as a recipient of this noble chain letter award you choose not to follow through with your sworn duties, don’t be hating on the nominator.  It’s not my fault you write well and entertain me – that’s on you.

Here then, in no particular order, is my list of fifteen wicked-good blog writers.  I apologize in advance to both those who I nominated and to those I did not.  If you are one of the award winners, try clicking on a link besides your own, ferchrissakes!

The Good Greatsby

The Byronic Man

japecake

Prawn and Quartered

Paltry Meanderings of a Taller Than Average Woman

publikworks

Notes from a She-Hermit

blogdramedy

TEStazyk

Shut Up Dad

freddyflow

White Elephant In The Room

Perverted Wisdom

She’s a Maineiac

Peg-o-Leg’s Ramblings

I know that some if not all of my nominees are wildly successful bloggers who can’t be bothered with this nonsense, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to put some hack on my list and risk guilt by association.  Many of these blogging superstars have the good taste not to follow yours truly, so I have no idea when or if they will even hear about this.

The final requirement for winners is to tell seven previously undisclosed things about themselves to their loyal readers (This is a lot like work).   I’m not exactly a private person, but I’ve decided to just make some of this stuff up rather than risk boring people with nothing but facts.  In a wacky twist, you’ll have to decide for yourselves which of my following are facts and which are fabrications.

1)  Born in Vienna, Austria

2) I’m a physical therapist who works with special needs children

3) I have an admitted fondness for dessert wines

4) My middle child is a jet-setting professional poker player

5) My younger brother once met Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. – and I resent him for it (My brother, not Kurt)

6) I see my mother on TV sometimes

7) My basement is filled with survival gear and back issues of Guns and Ammo magazine

My god, I feel so exposed !  For those of you who don’t know me personally, I’d love to hear which of the 7 attributes you think are true.  For those of you who know me in the “real” world, don’t be tools and spoil it for everyone else.

Marriage 101: Constructive criticism

Having been married for quite a few years, I feel it’s my civic duty to give a pointer now and then about relationships to all three of my regular readers.  The marital status of you loyal fans is irrelevant, as I’m offering free advice for free, so stop whining.

I had written the first draft of my homage to St. Patty’s Day, and asked my wife to give it a read and see what she thought of it.  This woman is no stranger to me (obviously) and certainly no stranger to reading.  She plows through books constantly in what most would consider to be a thinly veiled attempt at avoiding having to speak with me any more often than absolutely necessary. She seemed like the perfect person for the job.  Plus, she was sitting right over there.

Hey Honey? As long as you're over there hanging that art on the fridge, why not whip me up a little something to eat? (Image from Good Housekeeping 1948)

My standard way of writing these masterpieces is to just spew every word and thought I have out onto this virtual paper.  Then I go back and filter through it, taking out redundancies and dead sentences and trying to make it flow.  My St. Patty’s Day piece was created in much the same way.  I had put it through the distillation process several times (alcohol-related pun intended – I’m just so clever) and thought that it was ready for a critical eye.

My expectation was that my wife would read it, stopping only to chuckle or dab the tears of laughter out of her beautiful eyes.  She would finish it, shaking her head in amazement at my creativity and savvy with the word-thingies.  She would pronounce it hysterical and ready for print.

She did read it, but there wasn’t a single guffaw the whole way through.  She did shake her head, but it was in more of a dismissive “I can’t believe you made me read that crap!” kind of way.  She proclaimed it “wordy” and suggested I cut out at least half of it.

I’m sure she meant well, but it still hurt.

If your child showed you a picture they drew, would you tell them that they need to work on their shading and composition?  Of course not!  You’d praise their incredible talent and put that hideous mess of crayon and marker right up on the fridge with the rest of their body of work.  If your wife asked whether a particular outfit made her ass look fat, would you say yes?  Of course not!  You’d tell her that the garment which is capable of making her ass look fat has yet to be invented, then you’d politely ask her to move her tiny derriere out from in front of the TV, as it looks like the Ducks might be going for it on 4th down.

So, when your ruggedly handsome, hard-working husband finally stops playing poker on the computer and looking at smut, deciding to write a blog instead, be thankful.  Then, when he asks you your opinion of what he’s written, try one of the following:

1) I LOVE IT!

2)You’re a genius!

3) Don’t quit your job to do this full time, it just wouldn’t be fair to those poor authors who don’t have the other marketable job skills that you possess.

4) Did you steal this from David Sedaris?!  It’s just so witty!

5) I think it’s great, Sweetie.  I’m going to put it right here on the fridge next to your drawings!

That wasn’t so hard now was it?