Viewing posts from January 2015

Groundhog Day

GroundhogThough you wouldn’t know it by looking at storefront windows, there’s a holiday coming up next week. There will be no parade. No front page headlines. No spectacular electronics sales. No day off from work, either. Next Monday, February 2nd, is Groundhog Day.

You have to admit, this is one of our weirder holidays. Banks don’t close and mail gets delivered. But there it is on your calendar. It’s kind of like Secretary’s Day, only the groundhog gets paid 23 cents more per hour because he’s a guy. Go figure.

It’s believed that a similar tradition started in ancient Rome. The early settlers here wanted to continue it because we didn’t have a lot of holidays at that time. There was no Thanksgiving yet, or George Washington’s or Lincoln’s birthdays or arguably the biggest holiday of the year—Black Friday. So they looked for a hibernating animal that would awaken from months of sleeping to signal when Spring would arrive. Unfortunately, the first attempt was Grizzly Bear Day, which only lasted fifteen minutes, ruined the picnic and ring toss equipment, and didn’t result in any forecast being given. Still liking the idea, but agreeing to retool, the holiday founders who survived and were still fully functioning, wisely settled on the tamer, vegetarian groundhog for the following year.

PunxatawnyDrPhilLooking at the bigger picture, the whole day has to be pretty traumatic for Punxsutawney Phil, the official groundhog. Here he is, tucked in for the winter, sound asleep for months with all the utilities turned off. Ahhh…peace and quiet. Suddenly he’s yanked out of his bed and forced to go outside into the cold without even having his first cup of coffee. How’s he supposed to know what’s going on? The guy’s barely awake. I feel ya, man.

GHDayDrivingBut in this day and age, the real question is why are we even perpetuating this outdated, lowest-of-the-lowest tech celebrations? Hallmark doesn’t even bother making cards for it. We’ve got hundreds of billions of dollars in weather satellites circling the planet. We’ve got state-of-the-art computer networks programmed with models of every storm pattern and atmospheric anomaly known to Man for the last one hundred years, and the best projections they can give us is up to a week in advance. So naturally, at dawn on a cold day in February, we look to a shy animal who lives in a hole with no internet to tell us when Spring is going to be here? True, he’s got a 50-50 chance of getting it right, which is better than our weathermen, but if I’m Phil, I’m not concerned about the weather at that point. I’m being held up in the air looking at thousands of people on my front lawn and I’m thinking, “They want to eat me.”

That’s not the only flag that’s thrown on this play every year. First, how do we know his name is Phil? Since this tradition has only been going on in modern times since the late 1800s, are we supposed to believe that all male groundhogs are fully vetted with only the ones really named Phil being eligible for the position? How do we know their names aren’t Fritz, Jamal or Wally, and aren’t using a fake ID to get the job? Are they even from this country? Personally, I like “Punxsutawney Jamal.” “P-Jam.” Yeah. Cool. But no matter. They’ll probably keep it Phil so he won’t have to get new checks printed up.

TeapotDomeGasSecondly, how do we know it’s the same groundhog from last year? Who’s to say that the old Phil didn’t get fed up with the job and moved to South Carolina in July when nobody was looking? Maybe the new groundhog is a charlatan with a prison record. Just what we need, another scandal in Pennsylvania. I guess they weren’t embarrassed enough after Teapot Dome.

MinelliSilhouette'Thirdly, the President of the club that holds the event interprets what Phil tells him about seeing or not seeing his shadow. Let me repeat that. The President of the club that holds the event interprets what Phil tells him about seeing or not seeing his shadow. I find that baffling. Having studied groundhog at University, the language is not easy to learn. It has lots of nuances that can escape even the most trained ears like mine. For example, “I see my shadow” sounds very similar in groundhogian to “you’re hurting my arm.” Likewise “I don’t see my shadow” is commonly confused with “Has anyone seen Liza Minnelli?” And let’s be clear about something. Phil comes out of the ground when he wants to come out and he’s not coming out to see his shadow. He’s coming out because he’s been sleeping all winter, he’s hungry and he wants a woman. Luckily, if Groundhog Day falls on a Sunday, his first stop is a sports bar where he can get both needs taken care of.

PhilBraunsteinI hate to disparage P-Jam, uh, Phil, but I think he secretly wants six more weeks of winter and is putting his thumb, if he has one, on the scale. That means he can go back to sleep and not have to worry about anything til Spring. Who wouldn’t want that? I want that! So why are we relying on this self-serving little fur ball? I’ll make this offer to the good people surrounding Gobbler’s Knob where the whole ceremony takes place—without trying to break the bank, pay me $500 a year, wake me up on Feb 2, I’ll check the weather app on my smartphone and tell you if I’m going to see my shadow or not. Better yet, don’t wake me up. I’ll text you whatever you want to hear right now. That way you get what you want, I get to sleep in and I make $500 to boot.

To keep the whole thing transparent and legit, I’ll even change my name to Phil… but not til after that first check clears.

Happy Groundhog Day!

13 Benefits to Getting Older

whahappenedGetting older, as they say, is a privilege not afforded to everybody. True, but those who aren’t so privileged don’t have to deal with the stuff the rest of us have to face every day. We who are on the downside of the life curve aren’t real happy about where we’re headed. That’s why we become our parents and complain about our deterioration.

It’s a blood sport, a sort of “Can You Top This?” with the category being the crap we’re all going through. If it was a contact sport, we’d all be dead.

So what can we do about our downward spiral? Not a damn thing. So we might as well embrace it, have fun with it and be positive! In other words, go into denial.

1. You’ll stay young by surrounding yourself with lots of young people, who include pretty much everybody else on Earth.

Paramedic2. More and more you’ll be the center of attention. Paramedics always draw a crowd.

3. You’ll stay flexible and in shape with exercises like Breath Catching, Prescription Medicine Ball, Going for a Walker, and Spinning Room classes.

4. When you go to the movies you’ll get the Super Senior Discount because you won’t be able to see or hear anything. Unlike the regular Senior Discount, you’ll get a seat to eat all the popcorn and other unnatural garbage that enabled you to qualify for the Super Senior Discount at age 50.

5. As you get older, you’ll be getting more and more support…starting with a cane.

CatInTheHat6. You won’t pay as many bills, not because you’ll be getting fewer of them, but because you can’t hold a pen or write anything that remotely looks like your real signature.

7. Your doctor will give you two Growth Charts. One for marking how small you’re getting, and the other for pointing to all the spots on your body that need to be biopsied.

8. For those who are still working, technology will finally deliver the paperless office. In fact, the only paper in your office will be your disposable underwear.

9. You can gain comfort from knowing that the person you’re looking at in the mirror really isn’t you, but actually… okay, it is really you. Sorry. I couldn’t come up with anything for this one.

10. You’ll enjoy getting wrinkles. They’re handy and give you additional places to store things.

11. You’ll never stop your thirst for knowledge. You’ll constantly ask probing questions like, “What’s your name again?”

12. You’ll stay hip and young at heart because those are the only parts of your body that are new.

13. If you thought bars were fun when you were younger, as a Senior, bars will play an even bigger role. You’ll have bars to help you get out of the tub, bars to help you get up off the toilet and bars to keep you from falling out of bed.

In short, so is life. Enjoy it.

What bothers you most about getting old? Tell me!

5 Stupid Sayings We Have to Stop Saying

DeloreanBTTFEver since we all drove up the on-ramp to the ol’ “information superhighway” years ago, we’ve been in the fast lane and going faster. It’s no wonder that nobody’s “in the now” because the now is now and what’s important is what’s “in the tomorrow.” That’s where our minds are. Always racing, looking ahead. “Now” has lost its appeal which is ironic since “now” is what we were chasing yesterday. I guess when we got here, it wasn’t good enough.

To straddle the fence so we can be in the present while we concentrate on the future, we have developed a series of instant conversational auto-responders that are mostly meaningless, stupid phrases. They’re triggered by key words that our mouths react to while our brains are busy elsewhere. That’s as close as we get to “now” nowadays. These auto-responders need to go. And so does my usage of each of them. For example:

Xanax“I’m fine. How are you?” Probably the most overused response in history. It’s our default, reflex reply. The reason it has taken hold is because “fine” is the ideal response in today’s world. One quick syllable. Over and done. It’s half the syllables of “okay,” which has two. But who has that kind of time? The “How are you?” part is an empty question that nobody wants to hear the answer to, not even the person who asks it. This would require a response from the askee who, after answering, will then feel obligated to ask how the asker is, meaning a conversation has started over something neither one is interested in. Truth is, nobody’s really “fine.” Nobody. We’re all taking mood stabilizers. That’s nowhere near “fine” unless your Bucket List includes having a drug dependency.

“Get home safely.” Gee, hadn’t thought of that. Here I was planning to drive home as fast and erratically as I could at night with no lights on. I was also thinking that I might not even park my car in the garage. Why go through that hassle? I could simply plow through the front window and park in my living room. That’s where I was going to spend the rest of my night anyway so why not save a few steps? The take-away? Let’s can this one for good.

“Have a safe trip.” This is similar to “Get home safely,” but varies because when you’re flying, taking a bus, train or cruise, the whole safety issue is in someone else’s hands. Which is why saying “Have a safe trip” to your loved ones is totally worthless. They’re not behind the wheel. They’re not running the show. We’re turning our lives and our luggage over to somebody who, in many cases, isn’t making what they think they should be making, owes money to the IRS, and may have decided that today is the day they’ll go out in a blaze of gory and end up as the lead story on Twitter. So instead of your loved ones, deliver this message directly to the only person who matters—whomever is sitting with their foot on the accelerator.

“Have a good day/…great weekend/…Merry Christmas/…Happy Hanukkah/…Happy New Year!” Again, gee, thanks for the tip! I was kind of hoping that my menorah would fall over and the candles would set fire to my kitchen.

“Be well.” This isn’t commonly heard unless you visit one of the largest nationwide pharmacies. It’s beyond stupid; it’s inane. I was in one of their pharmacies recently to pick up a prescription and upon leaving I was told to “Be Well.” Uh, that’s kind of the reason I went to the doctor’s and why I’m here now getting this prescription. It’s almost as if the pharmacist was wishing me good health because she knew that the side effects included possible vomiting, heart attack, kidney failure, bleeding eyes, and singing show tunes. Or maybe she was trying to tell me that “be well” was an affirmation I should be muttering to myself to make it so. I think it would be a lot more honest if she just said, “Good luck.”

What sayings drive you crazy? Let me know.

Thanks, and have a great… never mind.

6 Phrases That Need to be Retired in 2015

3StoogesWhile many people are busy making their New Year’s Resolutions, I’m a-lookin’ at January, 2015, as a prime time to bid adieu to a slate of stale, overused phrases that once seemed hip and cool, but have finally degraded themselves to the verbal diarrhea they’ve always deserved to be labeled.

It is what it is.” Okay. Let’s get something straight–as profound as those five words may sound together, they’re stupid. When is something not what it is, or when isn’t something what it is? This is the kind of mental gymnastics that could easily send Stephen Hawking into convulsions and, let’s face it, the guy’s got enough problems already, you know? It’s like a doctor telling you have hemorrhoids and you ask for an explanation of what that means, and you’re told, “Well, a hemorrhoid is a hemorrhoid.” At that point, it’d be perfectly acceptable to borrow a line from The Three Stooges and respond, “Get me something to hit you with.”

After having put Stephen Hawking and The Three Stooges together in the same paragraph probably for the first time in history, let’s continue on with retiring Phrase Number Two.

can-o-duh“Well, duh…” When said to someone who has just stated the obvious, this is one of those insulting, annoying responses that really never should have gone further than a sitcom or movie script. We’ve all stated the obvious at one point or another. We knew what it was when we said it. That’s why we said it. To make a point. It wasn’t meant to be a revelation. Therefore, the person who says “Well, duh…” should be drawn and eighth’d because merely being quartered isn’t justice enough for acting so superior. The only time one can legitimately use “Well, duh…” without the threat of bodily harm is if it’s in response to someone who just said, “It is what it is.”

“Been there, done that.” Well, aren’t you special! Worse still is “btdt.” The phrase is meant to a) commiserate with the speaker, and b) even out the ego field and not let them get away with thinking that they’re better than you. For once I’d like to hear somebody follow that up with, “You went there and did that? You’re an idiot.”

Ifeelya“I feel ya.” Apparently, “I understand” isn’t personal enough. Try being in an office setting and telling one of your co-workers that you “feel” them. Next thing you know, you’re in court defending yourself in a sexual harassment lawsuit and you’re out on the street. Even the telephone company had to scrap their “Reach out and touch someone” campaign because too many people were taking it literally and now we have overcrowded prisons. Make no mistake—showing compassion is a threat to the well-being of our society. Let’s just stick to “I understand.”

“Moving forward.” This is one of those aggravating, sterile, change-for-change-sake phrases that middle management loves to come up with. “From now on” has, for centuries, always seemed to get the point across and still be logical. It has no direction and is, therefore, less restrictive and less stressful. It applies no matter which way the company tide turns. “Moving forward” has inherently more stress. It demands that the business and its employees go in one direction only. It’s asking for trouble because most of the people at the top have no clue which way they’re facing to begin with. So what happens if the company doesn’t move forward? Suppose it moves sideways, or tanks completely? What does that mean? I guess what it means is that moving forward, you’re all going to be looking for work.

calmdownsquirrel“It’s all good.” Yeah? What world are you living in? Anybody who truly believes it’s all good is either in denial, in denial or in denial. First of all, things can’t be “all good.” That’s not how the Earth rolls. In fact, it’s never been that way. Right out of the box, Adam screwed things up. Imagine doing what he did, then trying to get a job with that on your resume. As punishment, Adam and his lady friend had to populate the Earth. Sure, that was fine for him. What guy wouldn’t want the chance to do that! I’m sure Eve had a different perspective after having the first few kids with nobody around to help out. Rumor has it that she once threatened to leave Adam and screamed, “Hey, pal, we’re not the freakin’ Duggar family!” Again, that’s just a rumor.

Getting rid of these phrases won’t change the world, but it might just make it a less stupid place to live. We’ll see. The year is young.

Have a phrase or term that drives you up the wall and needs to be retired? Send it to me and maybe it’ll make next year’s list!


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