Thanking You For Listening


As a white guy who’s liked Popeye’s Fried Chicken I’m often asked why I don’t host a pop-culture hangout podcast. “Hey, you!” people will gather around my house to cry out. “There’s stuff you watch and read and listen to that you think is bad! Why aren’t you snorting into a microphone about that with some of your friends?” It’s becoming a nuisance. “I’m just putting these old fenceposts out for someone on Freecycle who says they’re going to pick it up tomorrow but is lying,” I answer. “I don’t have time to podcast!” They’re unmoved. But I have reasons.

First is that I have this problem with my voice. I mean, I have one that I use almost every day. But I’m hard to understand. I’ve avoided having my New Jersey accent be incomprehensible by not saying much of anything out loud. I’m not trying to hide my voice. I just don’t know how to talk loud enough to be heard over other people, or ambient music, or background noise like our pet rabbit breathing. Or my own breathing. When I say something the words come out of my mouth, then plummet, bouncing off my feet and rolling underneath the bookshelf, there to be harvested by mice.

Also I have to cough, a little but insistently, every 26 seconds. I’ve had this condition since like 1997. I’ve tried to ask my doctor about this, but she can’t hear me. We could edit around that, but editing seems like a lot of work for a pop-culture hangout podcast.

I could set the microphone on my feet so when words tumble onto them some get caught. But then there’s my sentence problem. At some point I figure I’ve said as much of any sentence as could benefit anyone to hear, and then I stop. I trust people to work out the rest. For example, suppose my love wants to know what that racket out back was. I might say, “I knocked over two of the empty flowerpots, but they didn’t break.” But that takes more words to say than interest in the subject warrants. I’m sorry to spend so much time on it now. So I would answer, “I knocked over two”, and figure that’s as much of that as anybody could stand. Oh, I’ll drift off, letting my voice get somehow even softer. My love can probably work out the rest of the sentence from context anyway. That and the flowerpots. But I know that’s not good asynchronous radio.

Plus there’s getting together with friends to record something. I’ve got friends, people I know well enough to help them move furniture. But most of them are online. We could only record a podcast by organizing whatever the Internet equivalent of a conference call is. I hear there are people who can do this. But I also hear there are people who can climb Mount Everest in their shorts or who can magic Magic-Eye Puzzles work. I’ll never manage the trick. People I know in real life — people near enough that I could lick their bodies — are mostly folks I see at pinball events. They’re fun to hang out with, but who could record over all that pinball and bar noise? I don’t know how pinball podcasts do it. I imagine a lot of shouting.

Oh gads and then there’s voices. I’d probably have to do some characters by way of funny voices. I can’t. I haven’t got any way of making my voice do anything on purpose. I could do a character that’s “me, only talking a little faster”. Or I can do “me, only talking a little slower”. But could I do, like, Columbo? Popeye? Any of the supporting cast of The Simpsons? Not even remotely. I’d have to call in experts to support me. That runs into money and social obligations.

Plus there’s having feelings about stuff. You can do a pop-culture hangout podcast about stuff you like, or about stuff you hate. But that means you have to like or hate stuff. I don’t trust strong feelings about stuff, even if they’re my own. It’s asking a lot out of me to have them, never mind to keep them viable for, what, a half-hour of recording before I can get to letters from listeners?

So that’s why, despite my record of being a guy who sometimes likes dumb stuff, I don’t figure on starting a podcast anytime soon. Thanks for listening, and remember, Patreon subscribers at the $5 or above level get my monthly special episode about which Funky Winkerbean comics most make you want to slug the guy who writes Funky Winkerbean. Next episode’s dropping Sunday. See you then. If you need some fenceposts, please, come take them now. They’re just taking up space.

That Moving Spirit


I had something remarkable happen. A friend asked me to help him move. I see this as a big deal. It’s not like I even own a truck. I’d never own a truck. If you own a truck you have to deal with a never-ending string of people asking for help moving. They’re not even people you know in the slightest. Travel sometime to a place where strangers gather, so far as anybody gathers anymore. A mall food court, or a town hall meeting, or a stunt organized by the radio station. You’ll encounter folks going up to strangers and saying, “Do you own a truck you could help me move with?”

But as a truck-less person the question has a different connotation. Someone would ask me to help them move just because they think I might be a tall guy who can probably hoist stuff. And they’re right. Even for a tall guy I’m pretty good at hoisting stuff and lugging it around. This is because I used to be a tall, fat guy, and I had to build up some serious hoisting and lugging muscles just to stand up and waddle over to lunch. I’ve lost most of that weight. You’d be surprised what you can throw in the dumpster behind a Shop-Rite before they catch you. But I’ve kept most of my hoisting and lugging muscles.

Really I kind of hope for chances to show off my hoisting and lugging prowess. But it’s awkward just asking people, “Can I help you move this weekend?” It has connotations of your hoping to get rid of them. They’ll let you ask once or twice, and then decide they’re never going to move, just to spite you. And just walking down the street, holding a cardboard banker’s box full of books is no way to go, because a cardboard banker’s box full of books weighs two and a half times what Mars’s moon Phobos does, and the cardboard will tear and they’ll all drop on your foot, denting some of the books. You have to just wait for an offer to lug stuff around.

Yes, this does sound like the kind of thing standard-issue guys would do. And yes, it’s a good rule of thumb that “stuff guys do should never be done by decent people”. Granted. But I’m not talking about lugging stuff around until somebody weeps. I’m just talking about, you know, here are some masses of things, and they could be somewhere else, and I am the kind of guy who can make that happen.

So I was glad to be asked, and to be able to say yes. But the really thrilling thing is that the question came from a friend of my love’s. He and I had gotten to be friendly, yes, but what we mostly had in common was knowing my love. We had some things to talk about, like how he beats me handily every time we play pool, and how I could beat him handily when we play pinball yet somehow do not, but we didn’t have any serious connection. And now we do.

Asking someone to help you move when there’s not truck ownership involved shows you think the friendship has reached a higher level. It marks the falling-away of a certain guardedness and reserve. Someone who’s asked you to help them move is saying, “I trust you to not freak out when you see how I arrange stuff in the moving van all the wrong way. It’s like, do we even recognize the same principles of spatial reasoning? No we do not but I believe you are a person who can accept that and not turn this into a quarrel, unlike some people we could name but won’t, like D----.” This is meaningful stuff.

This is also important to me because it signifies my forming a new real friendship. Most of my social circle is made of Internet friends. Internet friends are much like real friends, except that your Internet friends have a built-in excuse for not being able to help you move, and you’ll eventually break up with your Internet friends in a shockingly bitter fight that starts over which of you better exemplifies the ideals of the “Mane Six” characters on My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. I like my Internet friends, the ones who are left after I told them I don’t ever want to hear about any of the characters on My Little Pony. I feel a little dirty every time I encounter the phrase “Mane Six”. But getting to this fresh level of friendship with someone in real life is a wonder.

I hope the new place has an elevator.

Why People Just Stop Talking To Me Until I Wind Down


One friend: “Saturdays are usually busy for me.”

Me: “What with?”

That friend: “It varies, but usually trails or volunteering related.”

Other friend: “You volunteer to be a trail?”

Me: “She was always prone to letting people walk all over her.”

(Correctly, no one laughs.)

Me: “She tried sitting up, but they fell off.”

(And everyone is silent until I remember that just because a sentence appears in my mind that’s no reason I have to put it out where anybody else has to live through it.)

My Next Doom: Nicknames


I have to start this with a bit of found-humor, and I hope you’ll forgive me for that. I was looking at the sorry state of my investment portfolio (that cheese un-slicer company was a fiasco) when I barely noticed something that looked too much like an advertisement to read. Then I thought about what it said, but I’d already clicked away from that page, so I went clicking back and forth on the site time after time until finally the ad-like structure came up again. Then I clicked past because I forgot what I was looking for, and finally stopped when I got back to this again after figuring I’d have to give up and just tell you about it.

Continue reading “My Next Doom: Nicknames”

Tests of True Friendship


“How can you say you’re glad Carol doesn’t hang out with us anymore?” said an Ira as incredulous as any such Ira will get before setting down his coffee on yet another quirkily off-shaped coffee shop table.

“Well, I can’t think of one time I was glad to have seen her.”

Erica said, “Oh, now, you’re being pretty harsh on her. I know you and she had your little differences of opinion, but every friendship has a couple of scratchy points.”

“We were never friends. I put up with her because you all found something appealing that nobody ever let me in on.”

Jon said, “Oh, I know she liked you. What are you holding against her?”

“The first time we ever met, she told me my job was stupid and I should be ashamed of taking money for it.”

“Aw, don’t you feel like that about your job yourself?” said Jon. “I’ve said it about mine sometimes.”

“She didn’t even know what I was doing.”

Ira said, “It was probably a joke. You know what a sense of humor she has.”

“Like the time she spat in all our coffees before she went to the bathroom?”

Erica smiled, though with a little hollowness that wasn’t quite satisfying enough after that. “Well, that was … this conceptual thing. You had to be there to see what was funny about it.”

“I was. It wasn’t. What was the joke?”

“Well, what kind of person would spit in her friends’ coffee if it wasn’t a joke?”

“A horrible person. A person we’re lucky we don’t see anymore.”

Erica said, “Well, we spat in her coffee while she was away.”

“No, we didn’t. We agreed that would be fair but nobody was willing to do it.”

“Oh, yeah,” Erica admitted, “But we thought it was OK, so it all evens out. Wrongs on both sides, and all that.”

Ira added, “You can’t fault a person for doing something nasty when her friends are doing the same thing.”

“That’s — do you remember what she said, when your father was in that car crash?”

Ira scratched his cheek, and then nodding, said, “No, but I remember it being comforting.” And after a pause, “And that you made some drama over that.”

“She said that if you were lucky your father and mother would die and you’d be free of them.”

Ira waved a hand. “Oh, she was just trying to make me see how good his chances were. You’re overreacting.”

“She said she hoped he couldn’t take morphine so he’d be in agony every minute.”

Erica pointed a finger, one of her favorites, this one acquired by honest means. “But then you went and made this scene when you punched the dartboard.”

Carol punched it. And yelled at the guy who tried putting it back up. I was the one telling her she was being insane.”

“Oh, that’s right,” said Jon. “I couldn’t think why you would punch a dartboard.”

“I wouldn’t. Nobody would. Carol’s punched that dartboard off the wall at least four times. Last time she broke the drywall.”

Jon nodded. “Yeah, that is the sort of thing she does. It’s kind of great, isn’t it?”

“And they made me pay for it.”

“Be fair. Most of the fire damage was from your flailing around.”

“After she set my hair and shirt on fire!”

Ira accepted this but held up just two fingers, thus making his point more convincing than if he’d held up just the index or even his whole hand. “But if you hadn’t provoked her she wouldn’t have had to — hey, isn’t that the time she grabbed Erica’s phone and sent the Doom Text to her boss?”

Erica nodded. “Oh, boy, it took me forever to live that down.”

“How did I provoke her? Was it intemperate public declarations of my belief in my non-flammability?”

“Let’s just say,” Jon proposed, “that there’ve been wrongs and hard feelings on both sides, then.”

“I’ll bite. What’s one thing I’ve done to her that’s anything like what she does to us?”

Following the short yet infinite pause Jon said, “Well, look at the way you’re talking about her.”

“Yeah,” said Erica, “and when she’s not even here to defend herself.”

“That sort of thing will keep Carol from coming around again,” Ira added.

“I need to set something on fire.”

This was agreed to be an unacceptable response to the situation. Carol, after a text inviting her to the gathering, reported to Facebook that they had all died.