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Do Not Go Gentle…

david letterman retirement cbsI was never a huge fan of Brett Favre.

I worked in the restaurant industry, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, during his ascension, and was “lucky” enough to hear all the stories of his drug use and constant womanizing before they made their way to the general public. Not that there’s anything wrong with either vice, but the philandering left me a little cold. Brett was in a long-term relationship, then engaged, and then married. All the while he was publicly monogamous, you’d hear from waitresses in his steakhouse about his behavior.

(You’ll note that after the 2010 scandal where he allegedly *cough* texted graphic shots of his genitalia to a woman, no reporter seemed surprised; this behavior may not have been public, but it was well known in certain circles.)

But I could have forgiven him all that, if not for one thing.

The Green Bay Packers won the 1996 Super Bowl, and immediately following every Super Bowl the winning quarterback appears on The Late Show with David Letterman. In a pre-show interview, Brett quipped something terse along the lines of, “I’m not going to let Dave pull anything on me.”

Brett said his guard would be up for Letterman, and lived up to that promise by giving a lifeless interview.

Several months or years later, I forget which, Favre went on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. He was relaxed, happy, smiling…

…and like that, I knew why I never embraced him: Favre was a Leno guy.

I have been a Letterman guy since episode one on NBC. I heard Bill Murray was the main guest, and if there’s one thing I’ve loved ever since SNL, it’s Bill Murray.

I fired up the television, staying up well past my bedtime, and discovered an unintended bait and switch: I had tuned in to see Bill Murray; I turned the television off wondering who David Letterman was.  Being a kid meant I had no idea a talk show could be interesting; I only knew of serious interviews, such as those on The Phil Donahue Show. David Letterman was different.

Turning on the TV at 11:30pm became a regular occurrence for me. In the days before DVR and TiVo—and with the programmable VCR being slipshod at best—going to school exhausted (or sleeping until noon in summer) was the only way to get my nightly fix. During the school year, it was worth the sleep deprivation. In summer, it was worth missing the sunrise. David Letterman was doing things any teen would find compelling, and only years later would I read that he was given a show specifically to target “young males.” The network suits may have been after the expendable income of my demographic, but Dave was simply relating to us. He did so by being hilariously immature, whether it was by throwing a flaming bag of flour off a 5-story building, smooshing hot dogs in a hydraulic press, or running items over with a steamroller. Dave would put on a Velcro suit and bounce off a trampoline, sticking himself to a Velcro wall. He’d yell out a window—using a bullhorn—at the Today show, which was taping live on the street below. It was incredible.

Dave was ahead of his time. Yes, that phrase is used too often when showering praise upon someone, but it’s true. Before YouTube existed as an outlet to become famous for doing something dumb, Dave had both Stupid Pet Tricks and Stupid Human Tricks. Did you have the ability to shoot milk out of your eye, or two dachshunds able to run their impossibly tiny legs off on a treadmill? Dave wanted you on the show.

(He also, and you didn’t have to watch closely to catch this, often enjoyed interacting with the people in these segments more than he did interviewing pampered millionaires offering their mediocre films.)

Dave was also the first entertainer to shatter my innocent naïveté regarding the way show business works.

(I shall explain.)

A few years deep into existence, Late Night with David Letterman aired what was to become one of the few bits to carry from NBC to CBS: Dave’s signature Top Ten List. What perked my ears upon hearing it’s announcement was not the Top Ten List itself, but the prelude sentence; “And now, from our home office in Milwaukee, Wisconsin…”

Not knowing any better, when Dave spoke those words, I believed him. I believed there was a staff of writers in a city I had once lived in, and that was still a mere 30 miles away. They were relatively close to me, creating hilarious lists weekly, and I wanted to meet them. New York might as well have been on the other side of the world. But Milwaukee? That was quick drive; you could go and return home within an afternoon.

It was a dream of mine to look up the Late Night Home Office and visit. Maybe take a tour, in the same way people tour Universal Studios or meander their way through a zoo.  I just wanted to go see where the magic happened.

Then, without warning, one day Dave spoke ominous words: “And now, from our home office in Omaha…”

I was shocked; what happened to Milwaukee? What caused the move? I had never made my way to the home office, and now it seemed I never would.

It was eventually explained to me Dave was simply being a goof, and that neither Milwaukee nor Omaha ever contained a home office. Picking a random Midwestern city and declaring it the base of operations was just part of Dave’s character. Something he would find amusing, even if no one else did.

Which was a huge part of his charm, the quirks.

Dave was a rare brand of performer, someone who didn’t pander, but instead did things he found amusing. His belief was that if you put honesty behind your art, people would be interested.

And they were.

For a while.

The problem with America—or maybe most people in the world—is that if given the option of being challenged, or catered to, the majority will choose “catered to.”

People don’t always appreciate unique, original, or even enlightening. America likes safe, vanilla, and easy-to-understand. When Leno took over The Tonight Show, there was a short period where Letterman bested him in the ratings, but simple soon overtook challenging, just like it always does. For most of the Letterman/Leno run, Leno won in the ratings. Letterman was John Coltrane, Leno Kenny G.

Which isn’t always a bad thing. Coltrane is a legend, Kenny G. a punchline; the same is true of Letterman vs. Leno. Letterman is widely respected. Leno, not so much.

As he aged and matured, Dave entered a new role: the elder statesman. He turned intelligently political, adding a gravitas to his interviews with those able to rise to the challenge. He could still goof around with a movie star, but throw a senator or newsman in the guest chair and Dave spoke from a depth of knowledge unparalleled by your average citizen.

After 9/11, every TV show host gave a return-to-air speech. I watched as many as possible, and none were as powerful as Dave’s. Though every speech was sincere, and many had emotion behind them, only Dave’s carried weight. True weight.

Without meaning to, he became Generation X’s Johnny Carson. The Frank Sinatra of the talk show world. Keith Olbermann compared him honorably to Babe Ruth.

Dave deserved all of those comparisons, but above and beyond, he was David Letterman. Unique, original, and at times enlightening.

Brett Favre appeared on The Late Show again many years later, in 2008. This time he was more relaxed, because he had an agenda. Brett was on his “Twin Middle Fingers to Ted Thompson” tour, playing to nothing but his ego and ignoring 16-years of dedication by Green Bay fans.

He was selling his “Aw, shucks, I’m just a country boy” persona the best he could, but I wasn’t buying it. I still looked at him as the philandering, nudity-texting, “Dig me” guy.

Dave will retire with more grace and power than Favre—or Leno—attempted to.

And I will miss him.



A Fetish for the Ages

1920399_10151946693355868_1654255535_nMarch 17, 2014

Dear Hillary…

…it was laundry time, and because you were a little under-the-weather emotionally—you wanted to be right next to me; needed a little “Daddy time”—you were sitting on my lap as I pulled clothes from the bin and threw them into our front-load washer. I two-armed a particularly large batch of items, and as I tossed them into the washing machine you started howling. You were off my lap and head first into the washer before I could react. Over the shoulder you threw item after item, digging deep into the pile of stinkables waiting to be cleaned.

I sat back and waited to see where this was all going, when finally you emerged from the basin triumphant: in each hand was a pair of Mommy’s underwear.


You began to coo happily, and wandered off waving them in the air like pom-poms: Go Team Go! Your fascination was so strong I had to wonder if you are a reincarnated Japanese businessman.

As I returned to the task at hand, re-loading the washing machine, you wandered back, smiling. I looked up and you had thrown one pair of Mommy’s underpants over your shoulder and around your neck; you were wearing it like a sash.

Miss. America, dirty-underwear contestant.

It was too much for me to bear, so I took a picture and quickly posted it online for all the world to see. Because who wouldn’t want to share an image like that with everyone?

(Mommy, for the record, is the answer to that question. She wouldn’t want to share an image like that with everyone, and was less than pleased with my decision to do otherwise.)

After that, we went to the living room, and for reasons unknown to me you decided to pluck the pacifier out of your mouth, and pop it into mine. I smiled and scrunched up my face in a silly manner as you did so, which made you giggle. Which means you repeated the process. Over and over, you plucked the pacifier (now from my mouth) and then shoved it back in there. And each time I scrunched my face up, and you giggled.

At some point, maybe after three minutes of this nonsense, the thought very clearly crossed my mind: “I never thought I’d be sitting on a floor, having a toddler shoving a pacifier into my mouth, and loving it.”

But I do.

You keep me forever smiling in your direction.





Gradient Change

muppets-waldorf-stadlerI almost sat down to write another episode of, “People are Goddamned Annoying,” but as I started typing, I noticed something.

Here’s the backstory: The other week, three rude women did their best to ruin a comedy show; they talked and texted through several comics before the establishment threw them out.

Time was, I would have ripped them a new one the instant I hit the stage. But ever since my daughter was born, I’ve been trying to do a better job of controlling my irritation with the insolent few who walk among us. Instead of attacking, I watched silently as employees, the other comics, and audience members continually tried to quiet the disrespectful three.

After my set, I sat at a table to watch the next comic, and though the women talked and texted and made entirely too much noise during his set, I vowed to let the situation to resolve itself without me. Two tables surrounding the women tried to quiet them to no avail. When one customer finally said he was getting management and left the showroom, one of the trio said, “Jesus, what’s his problem?” This prompted a woman at another table to respond, “You’re being rude is the problem, and I wish you’d shut the fuck up.”

A manager arrived and asked them to pay up and leave; the women were belligerently surprised by the fact their loud talking and texting was bothering people: “Us?! We’re just trying to have fun! What’s wrong with having fun?”

As they stood to exit—making a show of it, of course, disrupting the show again with their actions—one approached the man who complained to management and got in his face: “You know, we were just trying to have fun. Maybe someday you’ll be a good person and learn what it’s like to have fun too!” she slurred, leaning in on him.

The man put his hands up defensively—palms out to prevent her from pushing in on him too far—so the woman yelled, “You touched me! Maybe I’ll press charges for that!”

I had had enough, and snapped: “Maybe he has witnesses who saw he didn’t do anything,” I said flatly.

“Maybe you should mind your own business!” she yelled at me.

“Maybe you should go be fat and obnoxious somewhere else,” I responded.

Her jaw dropped. She was stunned for a moment, but when she recovered it was like the detonation of a nuclear bomb. “What did you say?” she shouted. “What did you say?!”

“Please leave,” I said, bored with the proceedings. “Just please leave.”

She put her middle finger right up against my nose, shouted “FUCK YOU,” and stormed out.

The people around me golf-clapped their appreciation of my action.

The show continued, and I sat and pondered my words; had I gone too far? Maybe. Had the woman deserved it? Yes. Because she deserved it, did that mean I had to stoop to her level to deliver the slam? No.

And therein is the problem: just because someone deserves poor treatment, doesn’t mean I want to be the karmic come around. I didn’t feel bad about my actions, but neither did I feel proud; there was no “I sure told her!” high-fiving going on in my mind.

After all had ended, while standing in the bar outside the showroom, one of the more-polite women from the trio approached me. We began a nice conversation regarding public etiquette; she still didn’t understand why they had been asked to leave: “I hadn’t seen my friends in a year, and we were just trying to catch up.”

I felt it somewhat confusing and sad that I had to explain, to an adult no less, that talking and texting during a live performance was inappropriate. She seemed to come around, and she and I got along famously throughout the dialogue. I admitted that I had lobbed my insult at her friend because I was overly annoyed by her behavior, and since civility hadn’t been able to burrow it’s point into her noggin I wanted to say something mean to provoke a reaction. The woman agreed they should have quieted down and remained silent after their first warning. A resolution to the whole sordid event was in the works, when the rude one returned and started calling me an asshole. I shrugged and walked away; no one wins a shouting match, so I try to avoid them as much as possible.


At the beginning of this, I sat down to write about how clueless people can be, how some people shouldn’t be allowed in public and so on and so forth, when something dawned on me: the last time I witnessed audience members as disrespectful as these three was almost one year ago.

One year.

I wondered how many people I had been in front of since then, how many thousands.

I wondered why I wanted to focus on the negative, the offensive, and the clueless/classless, when the obvious focus could/should be the majority of people who were wonderful. Hell, that night alone I had been in front of 250 people, and of that only 3 were bad. And of those 3, only 1 could be completely written off. That’s less than 1% of the audience.  That means 99% of the people in attendance were upstanding, there-to-have-fun folks.

Considering the last time I wrote about an event involving obnoxious audience members it also involved 3 people, that means that out of—and I’m just spitballing here—6,000 people I’ve been in front of in a year, only 6 were really, really obnoxious.  Yes, there were drunken louts, and idiots, but when it comes to people who had to be removed from the showroom: 6.

The percentage of shitty people becomes microscopic.

Yes, one drop of poison can ruin water for everyone, and that’s the problem. The minority can disrupt the majority; the few can harm the whole. But overall, people are good. And personally, I’m getting better. As said, time was I would have begun the proceedings with an inappropriate, cutting remark, but these days I’m waiting until the bitter end to pull out the big guns.

More proof: I saw The Monuments Men in the theater with my Mrs.

(Side note: I don’t recommend it. Love me the George Clooney, but not this time around.)

Behind us was a couple, talking.

I granted them the previews, because, fine, they’re the previews.

When the movie started and they continued their chatter, I turned and gave them a very hard look. They responded with confusion and slight embarrassment; “Why is this person glaring at us?”

And then they continued talking.

So I whispered very politely, “Excuse me, could you please talk after the film? Thank you.”

Again, they looked slightly confused and embarrassed…

…and continued talking.

So I turned around and said, firmly and somewhat loudly, “Seriously, shut the fuck up.”

And they did.

For the whole movie.

After looking at me in shock and horror for my rude action.

Two years ago, that would have been my opening salvo, not a final straw.

I may not be the tyranny of evil men, but I’m trying real hard to be a shepherd.


In Memory of Harold Ramis

5d165265c3dd7c7edcf7e3f36294832cFor reasons I can’t explain, when I was a child I began doing something most adults don’t even do: reading the credits during (and after) a movie. I found it fascinating one could be set in Detroit, yet say “Filmed in Los Angeles” at the end.

Within the span of a few short years, I noticed the movies I enjoyed the most had one thing in common: Harold Ramis.  His name would pop up all over the place.

It started innocently enough, when I saw Animal House. “Written by” was something I liked taking note of; who was behind the hilarity I was seeing? Then he directed Caddyshack… wrote and starred in Stripes

(Side Note: I remember seeing Stripes and being enthralled when John Winger’s girlfriend entered her scene while topless. I had the thought, “Is that what a relationship is like? Full of awesomely casual nudity?” It looked like the best thing ever… until she dumped him one minute later.)

Harold Ramis was the complete package: he could write, act, direct, and produce.  And not only could he do each of those things, he could do them well. It wasn’t like a movie star saying, “I want to direct” and creating some haphazard mess; Ramis was a master across the board.

He became sort of an idol of mine. Yes, Bill Murray was nothing short of fantastic, and every boy wanted to be as cool as him… But there was something about the power of Harold Ramis. Maybe he wasn’t as cool, maybe he wasn’t handsome, but he was smart and talented. As a teenager, I knew there was power in talent. Being a face on a screen was one thing; being able to write was another. Being able to direct on top of that? Get the fuck out of here. That was a threat to be reckoned with.

For a while, it seemed like he could only get better. Ramis followed movies like Vacation and Stripes with Ghostbusters, and then followed that with Groundhog Day, which may have been his plateau.

(Yes, I know he didn’t direct all of those films; I’m just discussing anything he was an important part of.)

I enjoyed his later work—Analyze This! and even Multiplicity—but he will always be remembered for his classic work of the late 1970s and the decade known as the 80s.

Sadly, I didn’t even know he had fallen ill. To find that at one point he had to learn to walk again was tough to read.

It is a sad day for the planet when Justin Bieber, Chris Brown, and Lindsay Lohan are still alive, and Harold Ramis is not.



A Moment to Myself

Screen shot 2013-11-08 at 3.25.45 PMDear Hillary,

You know I love you more than words. You are my everything, and I orbit around you as does the earth the sun. I love spending almost every moment I can with you.

Note that word, “almost.”

As much as I love you, you do not need to hunt me down every time I sneak off to relieve my bowels. Pooping is a nicely private time to me, and I try not to male it up too much, with a newspaper and 20 minutes of solitude. No, I’m a fast, one-minute get-it-outa-me fast pooper.

(I have a healthy colon.)

I also, for the record, find it a bit disconcerting you feel the need to go peering into the toilet after I stand up. I know you’re just an inquisitive child, but the arch of your eyebrow that signifies interest on your little face… Yeah, it’s poop. Nothing interesting there.

I would close the door, but you crying and pounding on it is good for neither of our mental states.

Maybe you think, “But Dad, you see me poop all the time!  I make quite a show of it!”

And you do.

You furrow your brow and gain a look of intense concentration.

Your face becomes red with pressure, as you try and work out exactly what’s going on with your little body.

And like a summer storm, everything passes quickly and you go on about your day happily.

Or, you try to, but I scoop you up and it’s time for a diaper change, where you fuss and squirm and flail all four appendages as I try to wrestle you into a clean Pamper.

Anyway, I can only hope that you soon remain distracted enough by whatever you are doing that when you notice I am not around, you grant me the moments of respite from your presence I require.





November 23, 2013

aIMG_5896Dear Hillary,

I am in Chicago, and missing you dearly. This past week contained quite a few wonderful moments, which you didn’t notice as you are a delightfully unaware fifteen-month-old.

Monday was my birthday, and it’s the first time I’ve ever felt old. My whole life I’d looked at being an adult as something more interesting than being a teenager or dumb punk in my twenties, but now reality is sinking in. I lament the thought I had you too late in life, and that had you been born when I was 30 I’d have another whole decade to spend with you.

I worry about being an “old dad,” someone you will be embarrassed by in your teen years. I know kids are naturally embarrassed by their parents, but I’m talking about the “Is that your grandpa?” situation.


Also on Monday, I posted a meme of a joke of mine online. It soon went viral, with people sharing it around the world. It hit the front page of two very popular websites—Reddit and The Chive—and within a day several hundred thousand people had viewed it.

That was pretty nifty.

Because of this success, I posted a video of the joke online Tuesday night. When I woke up Wednesday morning, the video had received more views by far than most of my offerings do. I soon found out that some unknown kind person posted it on Huffington Post, which is a goulash of entertainment and news. 17,000 people watched me (and hopefully giggled) within 24 hours.

Finally in the Wednesday world of Dad’s career: my latest CD was approved to stream on a service called Pandora. With millions of subscribers, this will hopefully expose my comedy to many new people.

All this attention could be nice for my career; whether or not the comedy Gods take notice remains to be seen.

I remain ever hopeful.

Thursday follows Wednesday, and Thursday, November 21st may become a milestone… or perhaps it will fade into obscurity. Mom and I will soon learn how the day will be defined.

On Thursday, Mom and I went to the hospital and she had a microscopic embryo implanted in her uterus. In vitro fertilization, it’s called, and it’s how we were able to bring you into our life. The procedure is too much to go into at the moment, but suffice to say we are trying to bring another child into the family.

You, dear one, were such a wonderful addition that we are trying to give you a brother or sister you can befriend and mentor. Someone you can grow up with, someone you can play with night and day, a secret-keeper, someone you will watch learn to crawl and walk, just like your Mom and I watched you learn to crawl and walk…

From the moment you were born, your Mom has been resolute in the concept that when she and I are gone you will need someone to share memories with. Personal memories, like she shares with her sisters; someone you can always call upon to wax philosophic about childhood.

We named the embryo Squeak, just as we named you Peanut; Mom feels it’s good luck to add a little flavor and personality to the proceedings. When Squeak was injected into what is (hopefully) a nice warm home in Mommy, a small amount of air was released. This air made the embryo appear white on the ultrasound monitor. Amidst the gray and black hues on the screen, the embryo looked like a star in the twilighted sky, a tiny white dot living inside your mother.

You, Hilly, were once a tiny white dot living inside your mother, and look how perfect you turned out.

Because of all the struggles to get pregnant with you, all of our friends and family were told the instant you were placed into Mommy. After two years of struggling with infertility issues, everyone was with us every step of the process used to create your life.

But we’re keeping Squeak a secret until the time is right.

Because sometimes… well, it’s just nice to surprise people.



(TL/DR watch this instead)

Unconventional Boundaries

And this goes on the floor, and this goes on the floor, and this...

And this goes on the floor, and this goes on the floor, and this…

My whole life, I’ve watched parents swat at their children’s hands in stores.

The action is usually accompanied by the words “Don’t touch,” which come out in the most unusual combination of whisper and shout; hushed yet somehow still roared. Sometimes the children whimper or cry, sometimes they just look defeated. The adults, they are alternately embarrassed and irritated. “What if someone saw me allowing my child to grab an item? They’ll think I’m a bad parent!”

On occasion, the swat is followed by a yank of the arm; “Come with me, now!” said via physical intent, not verbal interaction.

It’s always made me cringe.

Oddly enough, I never played any “What if?” games in those moments. I never put myself in the position of the parent, and thought, “I’d certainly react differently” or “What would I do in that situation?”

Well, here I am.

My Hillary is officially a toddler now—fifteen-months strong and interested in walking everywhere and grabbing everything. When we go to the store, she’s more interested in exploring than sitting in the cart.

So what do we do?

We explore.

And we grab.

Hilly walks where she can, and tries to pick up everything. Sometimes she fails—as with bags of flour—sometimes she succeeds. When Hilly has discovered an item she can lift, one of two things happens: she either carries that item around the store with her, or she begins taking multiple amounts of said item off the shelf and setting them on the floor next to her. It is then my job to pick each item up and place it back where it goes, so she can repeat the process and believe we are having “fun.” Because it is fun. To her. And that, in turn, makes it fun to me. Shopping isn’t really fun for anyone, so if Hilly can make it interesting for us, hell, more power to her.

If we make it through our shopping experience with her item still in hand, I’ll swap it out with something we’re actually purchasing; “Good trade,” as Wind in his Hair might say. We then return the un-needed item to its place on the shelf, because that’s what happens when playtime is over: toys get put away.

Hilly doesn’t get to play with everything; of course certain items are off limits. We’re not going to toss eggs or anything else fragile around. But instead of swatting and yanking, I monitor my body response carefully. I generally pick Hilly up and start making faces at her. She understands “No,” so I exaggerate it mightily, shaking my head as I smile “Noooooooo” to her. It’s my way of letting her know she’s not going to get to play with everything she wants, while maintaining that just because she doesn’t get her way doesn’t mean it’s all bad.

At Target the other day, the two of us ended up in the vitamin aisle. Hilly’s eye spied small items; something easily grasped by her tiny hands and limited dexterity.

Immediately she began picking up the pill bottles.

Ever the helpful father, I showed her that if she shook them, they made a neat rattling sound. This made her grin ear-to-ear. Hilly began experimenting with a multitude of containers; each one picked up, shaken, and then either handed to me or placed on the floor.

Let me out of here!

Let me out of here!

Knowing this could take a while—there were quite a few options available for all her shaking needs—I pushed the cart aside and sat down next to her. Hilly would grab a bottle, sometimes two, and shake and wave them in the air, and look at me, beaming. To me, this was the most important moment, the interaction. Children take their life cues from us; they absorb how we relate to the world and reflect it as they age. So as Hilly would look to me, I would smile and grab and shake my own pill bottles. It was my way of letting her know that she was doing nothing wrong, everything right, and that I was enjoying myself just as much as she was.

Which, of course, I was.

Discovering which vitamins carry which maraca tone was a much more interesting way to spend ten minutes in Target than actually shopping.

At some point, a couple turned the corner into our aisle. From my vantage point, all I could see was from knees-down, but I know they paused at the sight of a grown man and his daughter playing among the pill bottles.

Sometimes you don’t need to see a face to understand intent. Sometimes you don’t even need words.

“Oh…” sounded forth from what sounded like an elderly woman.

I didn’t need to see her to know she was smiling; the warmth contained in her “Oh” could have melted butter.

I looked up, and she and her husband were gazing down at me in a way only grandparents can, love glowing through their eyes.

Some people won’t understand a grown man sitting on the floor in Target shaking pill bottles with his daughter.

But some will.

Here’s to hoping there are more of the latter on this planet than there are the former.



The Fault Within

11-15-black-friday_full_600Every holiday season, I’m struck by the innocence and splendor created at the ending of the movie It’s A Wonderful Life.

As we all know, George Bailey wishes he had never been born. Through the angel Clarence, George is exposed to the utopia that would have existed in a world without him. “Pottersville” replaces Bedford Falls, and is a brilliant combination of shantytown and Las Vegas. Residents live in shack-like homes, pay usury-rate interest on them, and the downtown area is aglow in neon-signs and filled with alcoholic rage. People are detached from humanity; they interact with one another in a survival-like mode.

Upon seeing this Nirvana, George Bailey knows he has to go through with his wish, so Clarence grants it. George is never born, and the world is better for it. Everyone sheds a tear, and the film ends.

Wait, what?

That’s not how the film ends. While the description of Pottersville is accurate, the true ending is that after witnessing just how much meaning his life actually had, George lives. People watching the movie are touched because they are witness to the best humanity has to offer,

So, if we are moved by fiction, why do we not strive to make it reality? Do we feel powerless, or that our own lives have no meaning?

When I moved to North Liberty, Iowa, the town was growing. Small, but growing. I liked it, but feared what it could become. Unfortunately, the future is now, and like the fictional Pottersville, North Liberty is a shadow of what it used to be. In the past year a McDonald’s, a Pizza Hut, and a Jimmy Johns have all opened. Because the furthest ones away were, respectively, 5 minutes, 8 minutes, and 5 minutes away. And when you want a Big Mac, heaven forbid you have to drive an extra 5 minutes.

Now, when I walk my dog down the path that connects North Liberty to Coralville, I see nothing but McDonald’s trash strewn about. Yes, there used to be the occasional wrapper or other assorted waste item, but with the arrival of McDonald’s the amount of garbage has exploded. I’m guessing because the kind of person that eats and McDonald’s is also the kind of person who isn’t the best steward of the environment. As you treat your body, so will you treat the planet. And if you want to destroy something, just add humans.

I never wanted to grow old and lament yesteryear; I’ve long believed that reminiscence is a trick of the mind, where you believe what you want to remember, not what actually was. But, that said, I do notice change for the worse, and it bothers me.

In November 2012, the store JC Penney blitzed America with an advertising campaign: Thanksgiving is for family. The retailer announced they would not follow the lead of many companies out there and be open on a day meant for togetherness; their employees would rest, and all stores would open for Black Friday at 6am. A throwback to a form of nostalgia that enthralls many people, “The way things used to be.”

Several months later, JC Penney’s board of directors fired the CEO behind that campaign.

This year, internal memos discuss JC Penney’s desire to “Own Thanksgiving,” and the store will open for business 8pm Thursday night. Cash registers will remain humming from that moment through Black Friday.

Because, you know, fuck family.

I recall a time when everything was closed on Thanksgiving. I remember when stores didn’t stay open overnight in order to cash in on the masses gorging on manufactured savings. I don’t know when things changed, or who decided to open earlier first, but I hold no ill will for whichever company went first. The onus for all that’s gone wrong is on the civilian population. Us. The consumers.

When the first store to open on Thanksgiving did so, we could have ignored it. We could have stayed home and actually not gone shopping. But we didn’t. Or, at least enough of us didn’t. The masses lined up, credit cards in hand, so other stores followed suit and opened earlier and earlier. And here we are today, where every year we hear of fistfights and people trampled to death, just so they can save a few dollars on un-needed trinkets.

The silliest part to the savings game is: most deals run all day. Sure, there are a few special deals that are limited, but those are very small runs. TVs that sell for $300 usually carry the fine print “2 available.” The rest of the bargains run until closing time.

My wife and I went shopping at 6pm one Black Friday. We stopped at a Gap, one attended by the two of us and maybe 5 other shoppers, and purchased some clothes. I asked what it had been like at midnight, as the clock ticked from Thanksgiving to Friday, and the clerk laughed and shook his head.

“Packed,” he stated. “We had a 45-minute line in here.”

What kind of savings did those people get that I missed out on? Nothing. I got the exact same apparel, at the exact same price, I just had no line when I went. The Gap had stocked up well in advance, and therefore kept shelves full throughout the night and day.

The bright side to all of this is: there is always hope for the future.

On the corporate front, as JC Penney continues it’s slow decline into oblivion, better champions of decency are thriving. In 2013, Costco has taken out the ad, “We won’t be open on Thanksgiving.” It’s not a day for greed and consumerism, it’s for other, more important things.

What’s right isn’t always what’s easy; Costco is turning down millions of dollars of business. But that’s the Costco way. In the era of Scott Walker and the Koch Brothers doing all they can to destroy the middle class, businesses like Costco are proving you can be good to your employees and still turn a profit. The more we consumers support the good guys, the better it will be for all of us.



Dear Hillary…


It is November 15th, and I am sitting in a hotel room in Moorhead, Minnesota, missing you dearly. Yesterday you and I saw one another via the wonders of modern technology. Or at least modern to 2013. By the time you read this, video chat may be old hat and holograms the hip, new, trend. But I’ll take seeing you wobble as you attempt to walk any way I can.

You aren’t really sure what a phone is—to you it’s a toy Mommy won’t let you have no matter how hard you reach or how much you protest; last time you got a hold of one, you slobbered it to death with your teething. But you do know that sometimes I appear in Mommy’s untouchable toy, and you light up in smiles when I yell my exaggerated “Hello!” your way. And your smiles, little one? Oh, they are my fuel. They are as important to me as air, or food.

Traveling and missing you is difficult, but, this is my job, and my job helps keep you in diapers, so travel I must. After the first show tonight, the doorman walked by me, paused, and offered this compliment: ”I see too much comedy, but dude, you were funny.” When a jaded worker tells you you’re good, it’s high praise.

The dream in all of this is to someday be a known entity, someone people specifically want to see, not just a warm body gracing the stage during an arbitrary visit to the local comedy club. Hopefully, if and when that day comes, I’ll be able to choose fewer gigs, and be away from you less often.

Until that time, I will do my best to make people giggle, and wonder if you are noticing my absence while I am gone. Most likely you’re too fascinated by the dog’s food bowl to realize I’m not around, because those little kibbles are so very tempting, sitting there on the floor in front of you, waiting for you to pick them up and gobble them down…

…but I can always pretend you are thinking of me.

Either way, I am absolutely thinking of you.





It’s the Little Things in Any Marriage

photo (1)

Enthusiasm = captured!

On Friday, October 25, 2013 (year of our Lord, Praise Him. PRAISE HIM.), Hillary Fine Timmel took her first carousel ride.

It was mostly uneventful; when the rig started moving, she was a little startled, but overall nothing to write home (or a blog) about.

(Side note: did you know carousels have seatbelts now? Seriously. You spin in a goddamn circle, slowly, and ride a plastic horse (or unicorn) that goes up and down. Slowly. And because America is the leading exporter of pussy—and not the good kind—if you ride a carousel, you have to wear a seat belt. By 2020 you’ll probably have to wear a Goddamned plastic helmet, too. Christ.)

Naturally, as parents, the Mrs. and I took several pictures, and even a little video. Actually, I wore the robe of Ansel Adams and did all the picture snapping. Considering Hilly’s age and stability issues—she’s a Weeble-Wobble that does fall down—Lydia stayed by Hilly’s side.

(OK, maybe I could understand safety belts for one-year-old kids, but everyone had to buckle up, which is absurd.)

We rode our ride, visited the Children’s Museum, and went on our merry way home.

At some point later in the evening, I received a text from a friend. It was a simple text, “Did you see the pic of the ‘Clown Pirate Hitler?”

I responded I had not.

A few moments passed, and my phone dinged; I had a picture.

A picture of “Clown Pirate Hitler.”

Or, more accurately, I had a picture of my friend’s ball sac done up in a wig, mustache, and googly-eyes. Because that’s how my friend rolls.

I laughed, and showed Lydia, who howled her disapproval; “Don’t show me that shit!”

(Lydia = prude)

That night while settling in to bed, Lydia realized she hadn’t seen any of the day’s carousel pictures. I held up my phone, and we right-swiped through all the precious moments we had going round ‘n’ round, and up and down with Hilly.

“I like this one,” Lydia said, picking out a particularly endearing image (defined as: one she thinks she looks good in). “Send it to me.”

photoAnd so, a few seconds later, my wife’s phone went “ding.” She casually prepared to place her darling new image on some form of social media or another…

…and then “Nathan!” was shouted, and I was the victim of numerous spousal-abuse blows to my body.

Why she didn’t see the ball-sac picture coming is beyond me.

It was such an easy throw.

I giggled myself to sleep through the bruises on my body.

When I awoke, I lamented the fact I probably won’t get laid for a week because of my “antics.”



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