Gone vacationin’

VacationMy wife and I haven’t taken a vacation in years, decades actually. Not because we don’t want to go on one, or can’t afford to go on one, or even that we can’t decide where to go on one.

No, it’s because of the kids. You know, the pets. We’ve got too many to take with us, unless they rent rooms with a view and beachfront access at a kennel on some Caribbean island. Of course we can’t leave them home alone – we’d come back to find most of the house destroyed and probably a few of them missing. We can’t leave them with someone – we’d come back to find most of their house destroyed and probably our friends missing.

No, we’ve got too many animals and not enough disposable friends to go on vacation. Which leaves us one choice when we yearn to see the world beyond our backyard. We have to live vicariously through others’ vacations.

But not just any vacations. Just the bad ones. Looking in on someone’s great vacation would make us sad. But looking in on someone’s …
vacation from hell … now that’s a vicarious vacation that’s well worth the, uh, vicariousing.

For the best in worst awkward vacation moments, or anything awkward when it comes to families, there’s no better place to click than AwkwardFamilyPhotos.com. Just possibly the most fun website on Earth. It’s so great, I love it. It’s so great, I hate it. With a passion. Because I didn’t think of it. Set up a website, let people from all over the world send you their awkward family photos and just post them for all to see. Wonderfully simple and wildly successful. I despise it.

Let’s see some “highlights” of what some fortunate families are doing with their paid-time-off and where they’re doing it, shall we? Yes, let’s shall.Drip Rock KentuckyWho needs a coast, or a beach, or even a sandbox, when you and your kin can get away from it all in Drip Rock, Kentucky? The only answer: “Ayup, damn straight … know whatimtalkinbout?” Bathing suits are optional. Beer, mandatory.
tree straddlersDear Charles Darwin: Hey Chuck, you were right. You just left off one part. It may have taken us tens of thousands of years to climb down out of trees, walk upright and become Man. But it only takes a week in Hawaii for us to get species-identical, scamper back up one and feel right at home. Evolutionarily yours, GW.
take a hikeAw, look honey – gotta take a picture here. We’ve got a couple of great girls, don’t we? I told you a couple of weeks hiking through the Cascades would be good for all of us. Not sure why they look like that kid on the porch in the Burt Reynolds’ movie, “Deliverance,” but it’s true – for a good time, get back to nature!
family squatIt’s said, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” That said, take a look at this happy brood and what can one conclude? There must be a popular vacation destination out there called Toilet, and the family that squats together … are just doing as the Toiletians do. Of course. Now this makes perfect common sense.

And lastly, my favorite place not to get away from it all.
lobster potLooks like a fun family all piled into the hot tub, right? Look more closely. At the much happier crowd, lined up in a ring ’round the tub’s rim.

Ayup, damn straight. A vacationing family of lobsters … having a cookout.


Life: Time to dumb it down

mad_scientistI never had much use for science when I was in school. At the time I thought it was because I was too dumb. Now I know better.

Science is stupid. And worse, it’s making our lives more stupid every day. Why? Because they do stupid studies that come up with stupid conclusions. And a lot of people stupidly believe them because they’re living with the stupid impression that science is all about being smart.

And that’s really stupid.

Take, for instance, a group of scientists in the U.K., “leading experts on food safety,” who decided to find out how clean and sanitary is the average backyard grill in the Land of Brits. They released their findings over there on Friday, just in time for the start of the Memorial Day holiday weekend over here. The headline on the story posted on one U.S. news website, theweek.com, sums it up pretty well.

“Happy Memorial Day: Your BBQ grill may have more germs than a toilet seat.”

I knew there was more than one reason to wage war on that country.

Let me introduce you to the Three Bringers of Your Apocalypse: Sam Onella. E. Coli and Les Teria.

Allow me introduce the Three Bringers of Your Apocalypse: From left, Sam Onella, E. Coli and Les Teria.

Seems the average home BBQ grilling surface is a magnet for harmful bacteria like salmonella, e-coli and listeria. Because most of our backyard grills aren’t kept clean enough to … well, to eat off of.

Interesting. Now, wait just a minute. Before you, me, and every barbecuing person in this country runs out into the streets and falls on our long-handled meat forks, let’s recall one little-bitty, silly thing that seems to be missing in this whole conversation here.

I see cavemen. I see meat. I see dirt. Whoa now - I DON'T see any Handi-Wipes! How the hell did we ever freakin' evolve!?!

I see cavemen. I see cavemen cooking meat. I see dirt. Whoa now – I DON’T see any Handi-Wipes! How the hell did we ever freakin’ evolve!?!


Fire is enlightening. Fire is even somewhat pretty. But fire also is hot. Fire burns things. Like houses, paper, trees. Why, fire’s even been known to burn people’s beating hearts … with a hunka-hunka burning love. Oh, and also quite a few hamburgs and hot dogs too.

Grill, meet fire. Fire, meet grill. Bacteria? Meet your destruction.

Grill, meet fire. Fire, meet grill. Bacteria? Meet your destruction.

But before it ever puts a sear on a steak, I’ll bet it burns up every single bad ol’ bacteria that might be hanging on to that grilling surface as it burns and brings up the temperature to the necessary sizzling point – hot enough to grill those hunksa-hunksa barbecue food items.

But what if they don’t all die? The bacteria, I mean. What if a few get through and into your disgestive innards?

I’ve already thought of that, got it figured out. And I’m not even one of those smart scientists. Remember, I flunked science.

A bottle a day keeps the bacteria away.

A bottle a day keeps the bacteria away.

Beer – cold, sparkling, refreshing … and alcoholically antiseptic.

Solved: A condiment conundrum

When I was working in the newspaper business, I got to know all kinds of people. From all walks of life, every social strata of the human, and not-so-human, condition. Odd ones, bombastic ones, eyes-a-poppin’-in-their-heads ones. Some heard voices, other seemingly talked in tongues at times, there were just a lot of downright creepy people.

And that was just in the newsroom.

Probably one of the more interesting ones was my boss, head of the paper’s layout desk. It was our job to take all of the stories, photos and other tidbits that make up a daily newspaper – all the news that was fit to print – and somehow get it all to fit into it, in less time than was physically, or mentally, possible.

Every day, three times a day. Then, out the door and come back for more on the next one.

My boss is one of the most intelligent men I’ve known. Attended and graduated from MIT, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. And actually belonged there. He could spew about quantum physics with one gesturing hand, while laying out a page on his computer screen with the other one. And never miss a beat, a period or a semi-colon.

Oh yeah, he did have one little problem. Just an itsy-bitsy one, really. He wasn’t exactly what you’d call a shining example of “grace under fire” when the pressure got ramped up, as it always did. The number of minutes before a deadline seemed to disappear far faster than the number of pages still waiting to be done.

He was fine, he was workable. Unless someone came up to him, at the wrong moment.

Once I looked up just a nano-second before a brand-new reporter arrived at his desk. Too late to help him, too little time to stop the apocalypse.

“Excuse me …”

The explosion was just about equal to that of the hydrogen bomb, sans the mushroom cloud.

“WHAT THE F*&&&*^###$%^^*&((*^^ A%^&&^%% F%&^^%&% DO YOU WANT???!?!!?”

Enter one tirade, exit one reporter. Swan-dive, right under my desk.

“Hey Flash, it’s OK, you can come out now,” I said as I was writing my 150th variation of “Man Bites Dog” for the front page. “I think he ran off into the pressroom. What was it you needed?”

“I was just going to ask him to point me to the men’s room,” the cub mumbled as he dusted himself off and left the area muy pronto. “But it’s OK, I don’t need it now.”

“Hey, get back here and wipe that up!”

Other than that little flaw, his only failing in life, that I could see, was working for a newspaper. How the hell a truly-talented and gifted MIT guy ended up toiling in the midst of all this mentally-numbing mayhem was beyond me.

He should have been working on discovering a cure for it.

I think this dark thought of mine was pierced by a small ray of light the other day when I read that a team of MIT engineers had come up with the answer to one of society’s most perplexing and confounding problems.

Anticipation … anticipay-yay-tion.

The cure for cancer?

The secret formula to turn straw into biodegradable and abundant fossil fuel?

Concocting the answers to Man’s two greatest, yet never-yet-answered questions:

What is the meaning of life? and,

How does Donald Trump keep that combed-forward patch of lower back hair glued to the top of his head?

Nope. None of the above.

This group of intrepid, inquistive and inventive MIT intelligensia has created a bottle coating that makes ketchup pour out like lava-on-steroids, all of it out. They say this may save 1 MILLION TONS of perfectly good but inaccessible ketchup and other squirty condiments from being thrown out each year. Oh, and bring an end to our incessant thumping, our valient but vain attempt to free just one more little tomatoey bit that until now, alas, has forever stayed stuck to the bottle’s bottom.

Think of all that ketchup. Think of all the bottle-thumping.

That MIT, it sure is a plenty interesting and smart place. And there’s a whole passel of great minds in there, no doubt about it.

But it’s also home to some really dumb career counselors.

News you can use, right about now

Look at you … will you just take a minute and take a good, hard look at yourself.

There you are, sitting alone at a picnic table in the backyard of a cousin you didn’t know existed until the “Let’s PAHTAY” invite showed up in the mail a few weeks ago. There before you, in lurid tiki-torch technicolor, you watch with dumbstruck awe as your parents and the rest of your family do a very poor, yet very drunken dance that’s best described as a mutant macarena-limbo-polka.

And you, you miserable cuss, are careening, no, make that spiraling, toward sober. You are almost pitiful. Almost.

It’s your own fault. You had to be different. You had to bring that oh-so-classy imported beer with you. The brew with the label of a sacred cow sitting at a bar and the ingredients listed in Gujarati …. but no twist-off cap.

All of the easy-access beer is gone, it’s out there, sloshing around in the bellies of the inebriated near-human mass in front of you.

So, you have your beer, you have your needs, you have your powerful thirst, but you have no … bottle opener.

You had a bottle opener. You brought your own, in fact. It was just there, right there on the table, next to the bowl of nacho-avocado potato chips. One of your best ones too – a work of art that seemed molded just for your hand and your hand alone. Cold, hard, premium aluminum – in shape of a naked woman with breasts big and shiny and strong enough to hook onto the lip of a bottle cap and … rip it off.

A thing of beauty. She, I mean it, was an engineering marvel as well as an artistic one, a true symbol of an advanced civilization. But now she, I mean it, is gone. And you can’t find her, I mean it, anywhere.

How depressing – a man and his beer and ne’er the ‘twain shall meet. It’s at times like this, when faced great and deep loss, that one turns to drink. And you ain’t even got that.

The last time you saw her, your punch-drunk Uncle Louie was holding it up, admiring it and mumbling to himself. At least that’s what you thought at the time. Now you’re worried. Uncle Louie, as he has told you every time he tops his internal 48-ounce alcoholic-beverage fill level, hasn’t been with a woman since before Fiorello LaGuardia had an airport named for him, not since Columbus stopped in the Bahamas to ask for directions to the East Indies, not since the end of the Ice Age.

And then, it comes to you. Your jaw drops; you know that this can mean only one thing. Louie has taken your buxom bottle opener, stolen her, and run off to Vegas. Your only hope is the Elvis Presley Memorial Combination Drive-Thru Chapel of Eternal Wedded Bliss/Electrolysis Clinic/Coin-Op Laundromat is closed for the holidays.

But you know it’s open. And you know Louie has their “Frequent Flyer” platinum membership card. Yes, one desperate man’s hungover cries of woe soon will be heard up and down The Strip in the morning, but what does that matter, your own personal hell is now.

Have you got a belt buckle? Sheesh, you wore draw-string shorts. Good set of teeth? Aha – so that explains why you had the two front teeth capped last year. Lemme think. I’ve got it! Have you got a chain saw?

Don’t look at me that way, of course there’s a chain saw there. No self-respecting American backyard is without one. Look under the picnic table.

See, I told you. Oh, ye of little faith ye. And a Husqvarna, to boot. Nice.

I want you to see something. Prepare yourself for the coming of your mind-numbing salvation. Click below, watch the video and kid, you might learn something:

Behold, the glory of the pre-mix-powered, two-stroke beer bottle opener …


You don’t have to thank me … just a flip of your cap will do.

Holiday food for thought

It is Saturday, May 26, 2012. The first official day of the three-day Memorial Day holiday weekend.

That means a lot of things to a lot of people in America. First and foremost, but sadly too often overlooked, is this is a time for us to stop whatever silly or self-indulgent thing we may be doing now and remember how it is that we’re even able to do it. We owe it all to so many Americans who came before us, who fought and died to keep this nation’s beliefs and ideals safe from enemies who, had they won, would have crushed them. No matter how much we’ve screwed up this country lately, it was our freedoms that got us into this mess, and we’ll use the same ones to get us out of it as well. No one should forget that for one moment this weekend. Or on any weekend, or day, or minute, for that matter.

But you can’t overlook the fact this weekend means a few other things as well. Maybe not quite so reverent, but certainly not irrelevant.

It’s the unofficial first weekend of summer, the first opportunity to take our summer clothes out of our closets, hold them up to us, look in the mirror and put them right back where we found them. Looks and the physics of fitting do not deceive – no point in even trying it on. Maybe next Memorial Day.

It’s the first time for many of us to hit the road … to travel and join friends and family to enjoy the long holiday together. This is soon followed by another first, at weekend’s near-end, when many of the same people are snagged in their first highway radar trap of 2012. This, as they just attained Mach 1 speed to race – these sunburned, overindulged, slightly hungover bats-out-of-hell – to get away from those same friends and family. Never met those people before in my entire life, or the two previous ones either.

But for most us, at home or away, Memorial Day weekend is the first chance we have to venture out into our backyards, pull the proverbial manstove out from under its winter wraps, shove out the mouse nests, knock down the spider webs, and scrap off the remnants of last year’s Labor Day holiday weekend.


And with patriotic and enormous pride, we load up our grills with propane or charcoal briquettes, strike a match and in one flip of the wrist, in one single macro-mini-micro-nano-second of an instantaneously combustible moment … we singe off most of our facial and frontal body hair, in one flew swoosh.

But undaunted, and though soon to be under a doctor’s care, we forge ahead, we endeavor to persevere … and we proceed to blow our already semi-bulging waistlines all to bloody, char-broiled hell.

Hey gang, gather ’round! It’s that time again and we’re ready – let’s have ourselves a cookout! Let the dietetic debauchery begin!

There will be flipping and sipping and munching and crunching, forking and knifing and sizzling and wizzling (I know, I know. It just sounded better). Slurping and slathering, belching and burping, chewing and spewing, moaning and groaning, brapping and barfing.

God Bless America.