My Checkered Past

I grew up in the deepest jungles of Brazil. A rebellious teenager, one day I came home from school without the ritualistic bone in my nose. My father was furious and really let me have it: “As long as you’re living in my thatched hut you’ll wear a bone in your nose! We’re having our family picture taken today so take off that ridiculous suit and tie and strap a leaf between your legs. You look ridiculous!”

In college I majored in advertising and soon was able to land a job with a small firm in the heart of the Amazon. It was fun at first, dreaming up winning campaigns for dreamers, mostly smalltime entrepreneurs. But then we landed a big fish – Viagra – and all the creative joy was gone. The couple sitting in bathtubs on the beach sharing a bottle of champagne? That was mine. I was desperate to come up with an idea that would get me fired but nothing seemed beyond the pale as far as Viagra was concerned. I was finally fired after developing a two-page pop-up ad. I exited the building with a severance package that consisted of two weeks’ salary and a piece of biscotti and never looked back.

With my father’s help I landed a job as wine critic for Popular Mechanics magazine. I was utterly unqualified – to this day I am unable to distinguish a red from a white. I did, however, learn to appreciate any wine with possessing notes of buttered toast, an aftertaste of pomegranate and the ability to get me drunk in under 20 minutes.

From there I landed a job at a men’s big-and-tall clothing store. At 5’5″, I was hired, in my bosses’ words, to loiter around the store and “make customers feel big and tall”. A kind and gentle man, he would nonetheless point me out to customers and say “Hey look – Pinoccio is a real boy!” I quit when I realized I was unable to trigger the electronic eye above the urinal in the break room. I tried everything to make that damn thing flush: stand on my toes, wave my arms above my head, jump up and down – the whole shebang. Ultimately I had to ask help from my co-workers: “Hey Bob, would you give me a hand over here? Hey! Where are you going?! Come back – you didn’t wash your hands!”

Most of the jobs I’ve been worth a nickel at tend to exploit my diminutive physique. I’ve been a jockey, a chimney sweep and once, in Cleveland, I was used to prop up the short leg of stool. When times were hard I always found work assembling those sailboats inside the those little bottles.

I was happy just dime dancing around the country. Then I up and married my landlord. That my wife not only continued to charge me rent but refused to replace the squeaky hinge on the screen door was no small source of friction between us. One night, feeling frisky, I was put a move on her in bed and she said “It’s that time of the month”. Given that she was both my landlord and my wife, this was fraught with meaning. But what did it mean? I decided that the safest way to proceed was to give her a thousand bucks in cash and slowly back out of the room. She still writes me every Arbor Day.

It was exhilarating to be single again. For a while there seemed to be sex available around every corner and even, sometimes, at the end of long hallways. In Denver I fell in love with a beautiful prostitute, Helen, whose innate modesty caused her to rebuff my sexual advances “until we’re married”. I thought about paying for it but it was just too degrading. One night we got into a screaming match over the proper use of “suffice” – she insisting that “suffice to say” was correct while I knew from my days in advertising that the correct use is “suffice it to say”. She calls me each year on my birthday, although to this day she stubbornly refuses to acknowledge that I was right.


My Wife Has A Few Days Off

My wife has five days off. She kicked it off by backing the car over my Kindle. I had just put the baby into the car seat then waited outside the garage for her to pull out. When she did, there was my Kindle on the floor of the garage with cartoon-like tire tracks on it. My best guess is that I was holding it under my arm and with my winter coat on I forgot it was there. While haphazardly strapping the baby into the car seat, it probably fell silently (I keep it in a vinyl case) to the ground. In any event, she crushed a couple hundred books.

I couldn’t blame her and felt no impulse to do so. When I removed the Kindle I was kind of surprised to see that the casing was perfectly intact – like new. When I attempted to turn it on, of course, it displayed the Kindle equivalent of a severe neurological problem.

The baby was dressed like a dragon for Karnival this morning. It was a beautiful costume, thoughtfully modified by our friend Annalie who surgically sewed on a tail in such a place that he could sit in perfect comfort. When I think about the thoughtful little things adults do for children I tend to get weepy.

Several Germans asked me this morning if we have Karneval in the U.S. and I said that the closest thing we have is Mardi Gras but that it’s hardly a kid-friendly celebration. It’s not even family-friendly. Who am I kidding: I’d be reluctant to bring my wife to Marci Gras.

It was downright exhilarating to spend the day with Sabine, just she and I. After dropping off Lucas at our friend’s we drove to Marcus who is, I think it’s called, an “Osteopath”. At any rate, he gave Sabine and I treatments which feel great but whose effectiveness I have very little faith.

In his right had Lukey holds a green tube lovingly tacked to nylon ribbons to suggest a fire-breathing dragonSabine explains to me that my lack of faith is what prevents it from being effective. It’s a chicken-and-egg thing.

Leaving Marcus’ we headed directly to the Zentrale Cafe. The food was good and we talked about Sabine’s plans to work part-time next year and I expressed my wholehearted support. I felt grateful that a simple trip to a cafe with my wife felt like the adult equivalent of Christmas morning.

Then we went and bought me a new tie and pocket square and a couple of small toys for Lucas.

On the drive home I wrote a joke about my ignorance about wine which then became two jokes about my ignorance about wine and seemed to quickly develop into a full-fledged “bit” about my ignorance about wine. Note to husbands: do not expect your wife to share your enthusiasm about your new bit about your ignorance about wine.

Once home, Sabine and I watched “Julie and Julia”, Nora Ephron’s homage to Julia Child. For this, I figure Sabine now owes me big time. Actually I enjoyed it, at least until one of the two main characters is hauled into her boss’ office, is warned that the success of her new blog is compromising her work and told, in effect, to shape up. The scene concludes with her boss adding, gratuitously, “A Republican would have fired you”. Nora Ephron’s conceit is staggering…

The 10 Worst Jokes I’ve Ever Written

Someone once said “Thank God the audience doesn’t see the first draft.” Well, in today’s blog post you DO get to see the first draft! Some of these efforts are so scatterbrained that to call them “bad jokes” gives them more credit than they deserve. In other words, no premise, no punchline, no problem!

Jerry Seinfeld once characterized a successful joke has helping the audience to cross a deep chasm. If the chasm is too wide – if the connection between the premise and the punchline is too convoluted or complicated- then the audience falls in the chasm and there is no joke. If the chasm is too narrow – if traversing it is too easy – then there is no release, no titillation. The attempts below to get my comedy engine running generally belong to the former: pertinent details are left out, the train of thought can’t be followed and in the end, there is not a bad joke, but no joke.

Forthwith, then, with the 10 worst jokes I’ve ever written.

1 You know where I tend to put on weight? In the bathroom. Clearly I don’t get my best ideas in the bathroom.

Like most husbands, I like to make everything I do sound more manly than it really is. For example, I don’t tell my wife I’m “going fishing”, I tell her I’m going “hunting for fish”. Then I throw in an “Uga! Uga! Me go trout farm!” This isn’t the worst joke I’ve ever written, but it’s completely out of character for me and I can’t imagine pulling this one off in front of a paying audience. Also, for maximum effect I would have to pound my chest and most physical mannerisms beyond removing the microphone from the stand are beyond me. Maybe I can sell it to Robin Williams.

People are very accomodating in Maine. I went to buy a newspaper in Bar Harbor and I didn’t have enough change so they accepted a two Canadian nickels and a Pepperidge Farm cracker. This is clearly a naked and sad attempt to exploit the comedy potential of a punchline that contains both the words “Pepperidge” and “cracker”.

4 I drove from L.A. to New York once. And after so much rural U.S., it’s nice to arrive at a place where there’s all services. This is a joke that I can never seem to make work and yet it keeps popping into my head from time to time. I think the idea is funny, but conveying it into words has eluded me. In my mind I see the Manhattan skyline in the background and a sign that says “Welcome To New York – All Services”. I need a slide show.

5 People like to approach comedians and tell them jokes – no other proffesionals have this problem. Nobody goes up to Wolfgang Puck and says “I’d like you to check out this meatloaf I’ve prepared.” Here we go again. Meatloaf. Puck.This is another “Insert-favorite-comedy-word-here” effort. Lazy!

6 I couldn’t fall asleep last night so I did what I sometimes do when I can’t fall asleep and that is I counted women. I think I got them all, but I still couldn’t fall asleep so I started counting sheep. I think I got them all… Get it? I sleep with sheep!

7 You ever get undressed for bed only to realize you haven’t been wearing pants all day? I guess that’s a guy thing. It’s not a funny thing, either

8 I like to leave little notes in my kids’ school lunches. Nothing profound – just little reminders, like “Lucas, remember that when you’re in math class today, I’ll be at home getting quietly hammered.” Ha ha! Jokes about telling my kids how I drink alone while they’re at school! It works for Ray Romano, right? People eat this stuff up!

9 My wife and I are settling into marriage now. For example, we each have our own side of the bed. Sabine always takes the right side and I always lay across the top. Eeuuww! Inappropriate visual!

10 I was very young when my grandfather past away but I still remember his last words: “I’m pretty sure this isn’t a supporting wall.” I’m pretty sure this isn’t funny joke, either.

If you managed to navigate your way through the less-inspiring entries in my comedy journal, I salute you! You deserve a palate cleanser…

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