Clowns Eternal

A Bob Walker of Wichita, Kansas asks if I have any circus anecdotes.

Uh, my auntie used to place me on her knee and tell one. She'd say,

"I love to watch crowds of clowns pile out of teensy automobiles. It goes back to my childhood. We didn't have a car, so, instead, I'd imagine how many clowns I could pull out of my pants.

"The answer is three. Four, if the boys are a little short in the shoes."
That dear woman's gone now. Every few months, I visit her mausoleum and rake up the rubber noses that pop from her urn. The Perpetual Care people have quit asking questions, but are visibly afraid of dolts and the pies. We pay good money to have her hosed down with holy water from a spritz bottle every Sunday, while some Bozo plays hymns on a calliope.

Thanks for writing. I'm here at The Help Desk.


I'll Think Up a Title Later

I've been procrastinating again. I'm out of control. I'm even procrastinating about the procrastinating. I'm putting off putting off.

I simply have too many things I don't want to do, like the teeth examination. The clinic mailed another reminder. My dentist has a special: "Bring in your bleeding abscess, get a free Big Gulp!"

Okay, I'll make an appointment, but it wouldn't be so bad if he didn't lecture me.

"Michael, did you bring gums for everyone?"

Frankly, if it weren't for the spit sink, I'd stay home. I give a quart twice a year. Otherwise, the sewer mice have no place to swim before drool.

I guess I'm still miffed about my last check-up.

"How much for a Brite Smile?" I asked.

"Five hundred," said the dentist.

I flashed a twenty. He gave me a book of matches and wax lips.


Puss in Booth

My friends, Rich and Anna, are in the envious pursuit of a state-of-the-art home theater. He's shared photographs of the remodeling progress, emailing today that the speakers are wired and mounted with the 80" screen ready for installation, and, the, uh ... OH, NO! Rich writes:
But wait! Our projector port has been appropriated! The entire project is in jeopardy! Negations are underway, but this is really serious! Any suggestions?
Fluffy the Cat lounges in the projection booth porthole. Photo copyright 2004 Richard Greenhalgh.

Yipe! In my other career as a union projectionist, I've dealt with scabs, but this is explosive -- a scat!

Rich, I went to ask Morty, our resident mouser, what to do about your situation. He's asleep on the TV. There is great wisdom in his snooze....
Get a television.


Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch

For many years, congested in the big city, I dreamt of moving to Mayberry. Five years ago, it became a reality. Although, as things are never what they appear, we find ourselves a smidgen off target, living outside Hooterville.

We've enjoyed our time on the bluff above the gurgling creek, hidden amidst the trees and bunnies of a dense forest. We planned to enlarge our cabin and spend the golden years here, dodging falling pine cones and acorns, and the occasional raccoon, duck, and box turtle.

The new road pierces the forest.Wednesday morning, our bliss sprung a leak. Heavy equipment rolled onto the virgin acreage adjoining our spread, ripping out immense oaks like they were twigs. A new driveway was carved through six acres of hitherto serenity and beauty, terrorizing the wildlife, the Durretts, and our smattering of neighbors who had moved nearby to dodge "progress."

To make matters worse, the disruptive landowner is far too secretive about his plans. He says nothing, answers no questions.

Zoning laws are lax in the country. We face either one to four unwelcome houses, a chicken farm, a trailer park, a campground, commercial enterprises, or any horror one can fit on a pretty hill. We tell ourselves the intrusion might not be so bad, but some bad will be attached nonetheless. I cling to the wavering hope of no Shoe Circus.

And the wildlife. We grieve for the critters. Man strikes again and lives are ruined.

I find myself peering out the kitchen window dozens of times throughout each day, expecting to see the next piece in the puzzle struggle up the gravel road to claw septic holes and pour the concrete. An occasional gopher, clutching a carpetbag, scurries down a path in the opposite direction.

Our pals, the deer.For now, uprooted extended families -- the deer, our favorites -- continue to make skittish appearances in our yard. We wonder, as I suspect they do, how long it will be possible to survive in nature.


Bye Bye Birthday

Thanks to everyone for the cards and good wishes during this weekend's Mikemas birthday festivities. It was pleasant waving to the throngs, through the vigor and shouts of "Twelve more months! Twelve more months!"

I felt the parade was our best ever. I apologize for the inebriated Local 632 workers who flew the Garfield balloon into the chopper. Thankfully, no one was hurt in the burst. My cats took notice, though. They've stopped swatting bees.

Several revelers expressed an interest in seeing some baby pictures, so I'm delighted to oblige. Here is a pair I keep on my desk. That's me with Daddy.

Image: From ''Baby on Board,'' copyright 1994 by Randy StewartImage: From ''Baby on Board,'' copyright 1994 by Randy Stewart


I'm Old, Dammit!

My birthday celebration was action packed. I blush to mention my fortune. I'll hold the glitzy details down to a sentence.

I spent the day outside an abandoned Wal-Mart practice greeting.
Don't hate me because I'm old. You'll have your chance, too. Put on a yellow smiley face and pretend!

I've reached an age where I have to alter my ways of living. For example, I've replaced the Golden Rule ("Do unto others what you would have them do unto you") with "Blow a nose, break a hip."


They Call the Windbag Michael

Life's little game rolls on. I awoke this morning to see another birthday. Hurrah for our team!

I debuted at the Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, District of Columbia. I really don't recall much about it, except some guy slapped me on the ass. He hardly gave me a chance to catch my breath. Why, I never!!

My first doctor -- obviously, he couldn't wait to make some money off of me -- states on my birth certificate: "I hereby certify that this child was born live on the date stated above at the hour of 10:31 a.m."

Thus, the pattern of life began. I slept in.

There's also no mention of Tigger slippers. I must've left them at Mom.


Wal-Mart, My Muse

Southern Humorists, a writers group I hang with because they're congenial and always good for a cup of dangling participles, sends this survey question:
You're in the middle of Wal-Mart when inspiration hits! You've got a great idea for a piece. ... What do you do?
Pick up a P. A. phone: "Attention, Wal-Mart shoppers, a trucker, a duck, and the extremely grotesque clerk now frightening the Paint Department went into a bar..."

If I hear it, I remember it.


Sexual Hee-Healing

I reviewed Funny Condoms over at About today. Fortunately, my research was consummated entirely online, not requiring the usual tongs and dry ice compresses of the real world.

A display box of Music Condoms.
''Hi, Honey, I'm home! Is it Karaoke Night?''
According to the Funny Condoms Web site, they sell actual rubber bedroom products in the shapes of animals and zany figures. Why anyone would want to resort to such foolishness in the bedroom is beyond me, but, then again, I am a master and commander of traditionalist boudoir puppet shows.

I cover the details of the novelty merchandise in the profile (linked below). I direct your attention to the disclaimer stickers the manufacturer claims to place on its various condom packaging.

Novelty condom disclaimer.
"Not intended for use in preventing pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases. Not to be used as a substitute for a condom."
They left out "Females not included."

That's what I want for the prevention of babies and disease, a contraceptive which guarantees nothing.

So, do we wear the additional stunt condom over or beneath the Hippopotamus condom? I'm concerned about safe sex AND fashion.

Funny condom disclaimer.
"Warranty: 24 months."
Hey, I've got Burt Bacharach tickets for May, 2005. And I'm gonna need time for a shower.

Twenty-four months? C'mon. Even I'm not that swanky.

Besides, we'd run out of Bugles and squirt cheese.

::::: Go: Funny Condoms Review and Photographs


Email Emichael

Mike and his Tiggers read email.Noting the 1394 messages in the Inbox, my trusty Tigger slippers and I read email. These occasions are among my favorite parts of the cold weather season. Soon, it'll be much too warm. I'll hibernate the slippers, spending my summer with John Kerry flip-flops.

Filmmaker Randy Stewart comments on my schnoz snafu snapshot, from "Confessions of a Dangerous Mike." I've known Randy and his brother since they were babies.

One of my earliest memories of your home ... was when Dan & I were kids and spending the night. Apparently you had to be at work the next morning, but on your way out, you stuck your head in the guest bedroom, chapstick up the nose, asking if anybody had seen it laying around anywhere.

I guess some things never change...
Oh, ha ha ha. What a smart little boy your are! Yes, you are! A smart little boy.

A Bob Walker of Wichita, Kansas sends in this doozy. (All of a sudden, I'm TV's Hazel.) ...

Hey, Mike, thought you would like this bit from Bob and Tom [radio show]. They say "Passion of the Christ" is really accurate. ... I was troubled by one scene where you can see that guy with the rainbow afro and the John 3:16 sign.
True story: My mother-in-law broke a tooth during that movie. I told her she should have been in Cinema 2 watching "The Passion of the Crest."

She's still staring at me.

A Bob Walker of Wichita, Kansas (perhaps, the same one) types:

Do you know any "pop machine bits?" The only one I know is Mountain Dew is coming out with Diet Mountain Dew, no caffeine. ... It's called Mountain Don't.
Uh, um, I don't know any pop machine anecdotes, but I was once arrested for taking a bottlecap opener to Goober Pyle's hat.

That was after a far-out Fizzies Party bonging Bubbles.

Bubbles, what a nice little lass. Yes, she was. A nice little lass. We'd put four straws in a Nehi and snort 'til our nostrils flared come hither.


P. P. and Me

Researching a short profile of the Mr. Picassohead Web site, I test drove the ingenious software, building my self-portrait from selections of facial and abstract clip art.

The first thing I noticed was none of my actual body parts match the heralded artist's concepts of the human anatomy. Well, that's not completely true. There are sideburn trims on my sink which could have been inspired by Picasso's bag of lips. And, if a "Star Wars" princess is accepted coifed in sugarless swirled bear claws, why not ears by Jelly Roll Pablo?

Mike at PlayAlthough my final canvas strikes as simplistic, it evolved through two extended sessions wherein I mixed and orchestrated squigglies, wigglies, and proboscises to sculpt my puss. The hair, interestingly, is a four-times repeated snippet of Picasso lines, rotated, flipped, or resized to approximate my solemn Curse of the Perpetually Windblown.

Prompted for a title, I named the painting "Mike at Play," because it catches me not in my Sunday-go-to-meeting professional exterior, but at my everyday comfort, quipping asides beneath a forest of boyish, snowcapped bangs.

No one would ever connect this Mr. Picassohead caricature to me if we were to pose side-by-side, but having toiled to create it from strange crumbs of the master, I am struck by how much of my essence has been captured.

There's my lazy eyelid.

There's the eternal slouch.

There's the attire, often teed, incorporating, as revealed in the companion article, "my ever-present unsightly shirt stain."

There's my left eyebrow, a manipulative marvel, if I may boast. I can raise and finesse the lad into a repertoire of contortions, while its mate to the side is untalented, forever a straight line.

On the whole, this doodle is me. It feels me -- the best testament, I suspect, to a good self-portrait.

Plus, it doesn't hurt I come off resembling teen throb Peter Noone of the Beatles' era Herman's Hermits band. Ha! That makes me smile, ludicrous as it certainly is. I remember those days and how I wished I could look like the guy.

It only took 40 years. I tell ya. Customer Service just sucks.

I've been fortunate to view Picassos in museum collections, yet I've come away from this experience with a new appreciation for his art and minimalist ways. Being able to recreate myself through his eyes was enlightening and I see we have more in common than our Blue Periods.


Confessions of a Dangerous Mike

I've been holding back this story. For its duration, I'm changing my name to Cooper Huckabee to protect my identity.

I've borrowed the name from Cooper Huckabee, an actor in "The Pom Pom Girls" (1976). In that film, he plays Hardin Tough. I considered using "Hardin Tough" myself, but he already used it. And I thought it was silly.

I'm stalling. Here's my true tale:

Sixth grade....

On the school bus to home, I, Cooper Huckabee, stuck a cylindrical cattail flower up my nose....

It went too far, deep, deep, darkest deep inside the nostril cavity and I couldn't fetch it....

Cooper shares his memories of sadder times, so as to help others.
Mr. Huckabee takes time from his evening meal at a busy restaurant to revisit that disturbing day. His mother would be so proud. Winter lingers its gloom, thus no cattails are available. A flourescent Hi-Liter marks the spot in this graphic SIMULATION.
It moved under my eye....

I thought it was coming out my ear....

I tried inhaling, exhaling, again and again. It was like cleaning a musket.

But, hey, I got more laughs than the kid making duck noises.

We're hoping to get Nicole Kidman for the movie. Ernie Borgnine for the cattail. And a tie-in with Denny's.

Trust me. I should stop here.

Huckabee out!


Nice Kitty, Sir or Madam

MEWER MAIL -- I found this cat in my box. Anyone know how to change the litter in Outlook Express?

Mammoth cat held by proud human.

Yipe. That's either a very tiny woman -- or the furballs must look like poodles.


Three Strikes, You're Devout

On my third attempt to see "The Passion of the Christ," I feared the movie might incite anti-Semitism, however I found everything about the film to be free of concern. At least, until the audience pelted the screen with Jujubes.


Spin City

Our washing machine stopped its circle of life. So, while we wait for parts and service, my wife and I returned to those wonderful days gone by, heading over to the launderette to update my unmentionables, the happiest panties in all the world, but you didn’t hear it from me.

The last time I recall paying by the load was in 1980 – not counting “Slam Dunk Ernest” (1995) – before Donna and I became one in marriage and dirty clothes hamper.

In my single days, I inserted either a quarter or 50 cents to spin an armful of soiled shirts and socks into “GQ” splendor. The price has soared to $1.50 or $1.75, depending on mechanical capacity and/or accounting errors (a k a coin gobbling).

The cleansing results, it seems, have also changed over the years. In the rumpled, devalued, pay-as-you-go laundry of the 21st century, I look less like I stepped from the pages of a rugged male magazine and more like something a John Deere tiller belched and shucked.

That’s okay, though. Donna watches HGTV and knows how to fashion me into a handsome planter among a nosegay of hibiscus. I get lots of nice comments everywhere I go, except I find my style to be easier to maintain when I avoid the near-sighted product testers in Wal-Mart’s garden center on Fertilizer Sampler Day.

Photo: Donna peeps into every top-loading washer.In her spare moments at Washy Wash and Possible Stale Snax in Yet Another Threatening Machine™, Donna annoyed a few locals with what appeared to be her intrusive peep-eyes at those strangers’ laundry (see photo). She’d march up and down the aisles, raising the lid on each top-loader washer while humming “Pop Goes the Weasel.” We never mention her Jack-in-the-box compulsion.

As our clothes whirled and gurgled their debris and perspiration down the drain, I devised strategies to put my slice of the good Lord’s afternoon to high pursuits and bounty.

Photo: Mike follows the griping adventures of towels in a dryer.I couldn’t help but notice I got clearer reception on the ax-murderer-acting-all-ferrety-by-the-emergency-exit’s stolen motel towels than I get at home on Turner Classic Movies.

When host Robert Osborne didn’t appear at the end of the fluff cycle to tell me what I had just watched and how it related to C.B. DeMille, Miss Edith Head, and the fresh late Ann Miller, I paraded around the premises of this allegorical Ship of Suds, glad-handing and introducing myself to ye weary, fellow travelers.

“How do, Matey, awash your swabs and swaddling clothes,” I hailed with my lazy eye shut for grins. “I’m an All Free Clear Stainlifters Allergen Fighter myself. The li’l noble lady espouses Tide FREE of Perfumes and Dyes. You, sir, you no doubt be an Ultra Clorox2 for Colors man. Stain Lifting Action and Brighter Colors!”

Amazingly, more than one soul responded, “Move it, Chumwhiff,” we-uns gonna gits me a Spwite.”

I spent much of my wash-n-dry purgatory in the casino, playing the slots.

Photo: Mike inserts a dollar into a slot machine.Photo: Mike scores four more quarters!

I was on a streak! I won every time.

Our interminable damnation and rinse at the coin laundry crawled to an end, although we’re still bickering over the motive. I say we ran out of quarters. Donna cites a waning desire to endure more Univision.

Such a shame, because they were funnin’ a review of that hit new movie, “Titanic,” with a man in a fright wig and comedy goggles reading goofy nutty wacky zany gags off cards. I laughed ‘til I got myself elsewhere, finding an hour of amusement impersonating a harmonica on a lint trap. I was pretty good, too, only stopping to spit brassiere fuzz during my “Petticoat Junction” medley.

We strolled hand-on-basket-in-hand back to the dorm to cram for the Poli-Sci pop quiz and eat pizzas. Next week, spring break!


My Religious Experience

I returned to the multiplex to see that new movie epic. I'm no theological scholar, but I believe there's either a misprint in my bible or the projectionist mixed up the reels. Nevertheless, I was thoroughly riveted by "The Passion of the Mooseport," and I'll be converting the next time I get to a meadow for the sacrifice of the Hackman.


Taste Test: Rice Krispies - The Cat in the Hat Recipe

I am a big fan of cereal. I eat a bowl with milk each morning, generally mixing three or four selections together. Today, it was oat bran, granola, cinnamon Life, and honey shredded wheat. Yum. I could eat cereal all day long. In the pantry, there are seldom less than a dozen boxes of crunchies waiting to festoon my spoon.

Mike poses with a test box of The Cat in the Hat Rice KrispiesWhen I heard March 2 was Dr. Seuss' centennial, I foraged through the raisin brans and Froot Loops to find the vintage Rice Krispies we purchased in November. They are special Snaps, Crackles, and Pops, teaming up with that darn The Cat in the Hat for toasted rice goodness and Universal / Dreamworks big movie plug schlockiness.

I'd been saving this box of R.K.'s, waiting for a perfect occasion, mostly the shelf expiration date, so I could throw it away.

Since childhood, I have loathed Dr. Seuss and every crappy, unfunny thing he stood for. His writing is the easiest, feeblest sort of drooled garbage and your kids must, I say, MUST be on drugs or sugar binges to tolerate him. Do an intervention, parents, GET YOUR KIDS OFF DRUGS AND SEUSS!

I digress. I love the Rice Krispies, always have. Well, I ain't fond of the Snaps, but Crackles rock!

Mike enters the box of cereal.So, I thought I'd break down and try The Cat in the Hat recipe in honor of the birthday bore -- and make needed room on my shelf for silly rabbity Trix. Okay, Mr. Funny Puss, Mr. Comedy Cat, you, here's your chance to make me laugh with your hilarious breakfast munchables.

I'll be impartial. I promise. I will be a sport and give The Cat in the Hat Rice Krispies a fair evaluation. In fact, I'm rooting for this cereal to be the rib-ticklingest food feast of my slurpin' 'n' chompin' career. Man, I'm almost purring.

Mike selects an especially robust Krispy.I sifted through the box for a puff in the shape of The Cat in the Hat. There were none to be found. I was cheated. I was misled. I'm really going to be miffed if these Rice Krispies aren't cat-flavored.

I chose a plump Krispy for the taste test. The little guy certainly looked amusing, and I savored its promise of spicy calico bobtail.

Mike reacts to his sad assessment.The Verdict: It don't taste funny. Or catty. Or chapeauy.

::::: Taste Test: Dexter's Mini Sandwich Cookies | Taste Test: Scooby-Doo! Baked Cheddar Crackers


"Come Back on the Third Day"

Mike outside ''The Passion of the Christ'' theatre, or so he thought.I tried to see "The Passion of the Christ," but the ticket lady was agnostic. She didn't know if the movie was showing or not.
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