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Not long ago, a friend, his two adult kids, and I visited the St. Louis Zoo.

If you’ve never been, the STL Zoo is (in my opinion) very impressive for a smaller-sized city. Many cool exhibits.

We walked around for a while, then came upon the gorilla pit. It’s mostly fenced in, but there’s a small enclosed area on the path, with a plexiglass window.

There was a big gorilla sitting in a rubber tub about five feet from the window. Of course, several people (mostly kids) were gathered around to take a look.

The gorilla was just sitting there, mellow. He’d slowly look off to his left at the sky, then slowly look to his right and glare at the people behind the window. He repeated this several times.

It was interesting to see a gorilla up close, but let’s face it, after about a minute of watching the equivalent of a Chuck E. Cheese robot, it’s time to move on.

We walked out of the enclosed area a little further down the path, around the pit, and could still see the gorilla; he was up on a hill with his back to us.

Then he got up, looked at the people, picked up the tub, and viciously slammed it against the plexiglass.


Everyone behind the window jumped back in horror, and dozens of kids ran out of the enclosed area. Most were screaming; some were crying. One girl ran up to us and said, “I’ve seen Planet of the Apes. They know how to use machine guns!”

I learned two things that day:

First: Everything has its limits. All God’s creatures. That gorilla was clearly having a bad day and snapped.

Second: In five years or so, there are going to be a lot of STL teenagers in therapy (“I keep seeing the monkey smash the glass!”).

I grew up mostly in Carlyle, IL, in the 70s. I was raised Methodist and had to go to Sunday School and church every Sunday.

One of the other churches in town was the Second Baptist Church, which was predominantly African-American.

There must’ve been a mutual agreement on visitation, because one Sunday, when I was about 10, folks from their church were invited to our church, and vice-versa.

My parents told me about it and asked if I’d like to go. Of course I said yes. Had to be better than my boring church.

So I went to a service at Second Baptist Church. I don’t remember my parents being there, but a few other members of my church were there, so I wasn’t the only white dude.

Wow. First of all, there’s an energy to everything. Anything spoken or sung is passionate.

The music is rockin’. And the choir is totally into it.

The minister is enthusiastic and invokes the spirit in you. He gets many “amens” from the congregation.

It was surprisingly different than my usual hum-drum hymns and mundane minister.

In summation: If you get an invite to attend an African-American church, go. It’s fun.

Idea for a movie trailer:

Blank screen. The Pogues’ “Worms” begins and plays throughout.

A worm whizzes across the screen. Is it angry? Fleeing? What the heck?


CUT TO: An attractive woman and man.

Woman: You’re not listening to me! I’m talking about the goddamned WORMS!

SCREEN TEXT: Zooey Deschanel

Man: The worms can go fly a kite for all I care!


CUT TO: Worms flying kites.

MONTAGE: People eating fried worms, worms eating fried people, clothes made of worms, big pots of worm soup, worms marching in unison.


(cont’d): HELL ON EARTH??

Big explosion for no reason.



CUT TO: Thousands of worms going apeshit.

CUT TO: Woman and man again.

Woman: What did I tell you about the WORMS?!

Man: Those stupid worms can take a hike.

CUT TO: Worms taking a hike.



MONTAGE: Worms taking hostages, worms taking selfies, worms performing Shakespeare, worms playing billiards, worms screenwriting at Starbucks, a worm riding a donkey.


CUT TO: Big CGI worm battle. An epic showdown with advanced weaponry. A huge explosion and —

Fade to black.

CREDIT SCREEN: APESHIT WORMS, starring Zooey Deschanel, Joe Pesci, Kiernan Shipka, Dustin Diamond, Warwick Davis, and Fluffy the Anaconda. Written by Alan Smithee. Produced by Quincy Jones, Judd Apatow, and Dawn Wells. Directed by Jim Jarmusch and Uwe Boll.

END SHOT: A worm screaming in agony as Warwick Davis laughs.

I’ve been around awhile now, and I’m just coming to the realization that I’ve never been truly passionate about anything.

I played guitar and sang in bands for several years, which was fun, but I never wanted to be a rock star. I did stand-up comedy for a few years; again, no desire to hit it big and move to L.A. to be in movies.

I’ve never been the gung-ho employee-of-the-month shootin’-for-the-corner-office type. I only taught school for one year; that’s all it took for me to figure out that wasn’t a passion.

I can’t think of any political issue that would motivate me to make a sign, put on pants, go outside, and march either for or against it.

I like a few pro sports teams, but I’m not a fanatic, and I don’t lose my shit if the teams do poorly.

I don’t collect anything. I’m not a superfan of any musicians or celebrities. I like movies and TV shows, but they’re just entertainment. I’m not into exercise and pop culture.

And romantic relationships? They’re okay, but I don’t think I’ve ever been PASSIONATELY in love with anyone.

So I’m not sure if I’m just lazy (strong possibility) or it’s the chemical imbalance in my head. I just don’t get fired up.

Maybe that’s why I like Bernie Sanders. Whatever you think of his policies, you have to admit the man’s passionate. He utters passion with every breath in his frail old body. Maybe I’m living vicariously through him.

So hats off to all you folks with true passions. It’s what gives us doctors and scientists and captains of industry and whatnot. And protesters can incite change.

Maybe I’ll find a true passion someday. I can see maybe really getting into old Teletubbies DVDs.

The satirical site The Onion has a feature called “what do YOU think,” where fictional people are asked their opinions about current events. The writers always come up with some clever occupations for the interviewees.

Here are some of my ideas for professions/job titles:

Squid polisher

Aquatic ninja

Subpoena eater


Perfume farmer

Handshake expert

Gentle boxer

Professional doofus

Uptight sycophant

Children’s stripper

Political scrubber

Amoeba psychiatrist

Competitive cow tipper

Union concubine

Locomotive stuffer

Urban Troglodyte

Amateur rock-skipper

Roller coaster licker

Toenail model

Corpuscle wrangler

Festive buffoon

Rodeo caterer

Swine flu enthusiast

Airport tester

Rhododendron inspector

Potato sack artist

Part-time euthanizer

Acid flashback comptroller

Amphibian rights activist

Movie taster

Upbeat stoner

Scone surveyor

Undercover beekeeper

Water park dentist

Foppish womanizer

Trapeze delinquent

Drinking-straw whittler

Antelope slapper

Musical bailiff

Go-kart fetishist

Business defiler

Hot tub liaison

Situation exacerbator

Manatee tutor

Honky-tonk mime

Oak tree paramedic

Shrapnel grinder

Existential entrepreneur

Brothel cashier

Celebrity bricklayer

Axle grease purveyor

Park bench machinist

Rambunctious roustabout

Shaving cream researcher

Motel haberdasher

Orangutan decorator

Freelance hobnobber

A few months ago, I had the brakes on my car replaced. The process took a few hours, and my phone bores me quickly, so I checked their magazines.

The choices were car mags (which bore me more quickly than my phone) and a Redbook.

So I scanned the Redbook for a few minutes. Here’s my assessment of both the editorial and advertising content, broken into segments:

1. Hair care products or styling advice

2. Cosmetics

3. Fashion/clothing

4. Diet/weight loss

As I read I couldn’t help but think about what they were selling. “Your hair should be full and lustrous and have a certain cut. Here’s the make-up you should be using, because you need make-up, right? And you need to have this dress and handbag. And you could stand to lose a few pounds.”

It did have an article about how to work on your relationship, which is better than “50 Ways to Please Your Man.”

I guess I was wondering why they didn’t have content about education or reading or health (other than diet tips). I assume those topics are in other women’s magazines. But Redbook, like many others, is geared toward how to look pretty on the outside, presumably to attract or keep a mate.

I know there are men’s magazines like Esquire and GQ that put an emphasis on looking good, but they generally have interviews and discuss culturally relevant topics. And there are about 10 times as many women’s magazines as men’s.

And it’s always bugged me that the cosmetics industry is a multi-billion-dollar-a-year industry. If every woman decided to simultaneously stop wearing makeup, we’d get over it.

Maybe Margaret Atwood sums it up best:

“Vanity is becoming a nuisance, I can see why women give it up, eventually. But I’m not ready for that yet.”

In my very early years, my family lived in the small town of Hudson, IL. We went to church every Sunday, and my parents would always stay after the service for a while to chat with others in the congregation.

One Sunday, when I was about seven, I was bored with the adult chatting, so I did what I usually did – wandered around the church hoping to amuse myself somehow until we went home.

I went upstairs to one of the Sunday school rooms, maybe to look for a book to read. For some reason, I was drawn to a closet door. Something told me I was supposed to open that door.

I walked up and slowly slid the door open.

Inside, on the floor, was a large, lit candle. Wrapped around the candle were torn-out pages from either a Bible or a hymnal. The candle had burned down so that the pages’ edges were just above the sides of the flame. Lots of other pages were bunched around the base of the candle and scattered around the floor of the closet.

I was a bit shocked, but even my kid brain knew someone was trying to start a delayed-reaction fire.

I blew out the candle and immediately ran downstairs to tell my parents.

I don’t remember much of the details after that, except:

The next week, the minister told the congregation that there had been an arson attempt on the church.

My mom asked me, “why did you open the closet door?” I said, “I thought I was supposed to.”

The Lord works in mysterious ways.

Since 1982, the English Department at San Jose State University has held the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, in which entrants submit the first sentence of a terrible novel. Here are some I’m thinking about submitting:

It was the kind of day that shone with the brilliance of a silver turd that got stuck somewhere in the toilet of a billion universes; the planet’s top scientists said such luster would not be seen again until the ice age of 3045, which would kill off all the Venus flytraps, xenophobes, and alter boys.

He awoke from a deep, sultry, and ironic sleep, likely induced by a harsh drug mined from some evil pocket deep in the earth, and discovered to his delight that his entrails were wrapped around both his neck and his genitals; from his experience, this was probably either a hilarious sorority prank or a sign he should buy a condo in Vermont.

The logy and sarcastic ant was prone to flatulence, which caused tremendous unrest amongst not just the colony, but all living creatures in a two-mile radius (it was quite the talk around the water coolers); the queen, however, adored the intoxicating scent, which drove her into a murderous frenzy when she listened to Mel Torme.

Quasar was cruising to the Pleasureplex in his vintage hovercar, chartreuse and exfoliated hair flapping in the balmy breeze, when a dilapidated orangutan from a hostile wormhole appeared and smashed him in the cheekbones; he was sent careening into another dimension where nuns and accountants run rampant in the streets and eat raw possum.

Eighteen dollars and seventy-nine cents later, Sandra discovered that the shiny but eerily-glowing toe ring was neither whimsical nor fragrant as promised but was, instead, a portal to the very depths of hell (or Miami, depending on the tides); she began to grow suspect of the slithery but gorgeous bullet-train engineer who sold her this droll but unholy relic.

The surly barista, weary from seven straight hours of Mongolian throat singing, looked lustfully at the knick-knacks on the tawdry Ikea shelf, then – with no provocation from his criminal parrot Irving – swept them to the uncannily clean floor with a robust gesture of his macho hand; the trinkets shattered into 438 heart-rendering fragments of a world gone mad.

Sure, he was a master of upside-down ping-pong, owner of a second-hand hubcap empire, father of 25, grandfather of 3,942, held the record in projectile vomiting (class 5), thrice beat up drunk congressmen, ate 32 ounces of meat an hour, and could smash a LEGO brick with his pinky finger…but could he name the capital of Fiji for $200?

The hunchbacked and fertile bricklayer approached the sarcastic and unruly koala with the brazen cojones of a hopped-up preschool teacher whose last paycheck bounced and whose box turtle had savagely bitten her buttock; as he rudely closed in, he readied the nine-iron wrapped in spoiled bacon and prepared to annihilate the beast, or at least offer the fuzzy bastard a smelly gift.

I’ve read a few articles about how people just aren’t naming their kids “Gary” anymore.

Think about it: How many famous Garys can you name? Oldman, Sinise, Hart, Shandling (with 2 r’s), Busey, Cooper (which may have spiked popularity back in the day)…but probably not a whole lot more. And how many Garys do you know who are under 40?

Maybe the Gary Glitter scandal way back when soured folks on the notion. Who knows.

*FUN FACT: There were 90 girls named Gary in 1947.

I was named after my dad’s best friend, Gary (name redacted). My dad was 25 when I was born, and he and Gary had been friends for a long time. I remember visiting with his family several times. He seemed like an okay guy.

When I got older, I asked my dad about him, because it seemed like he never talked about him or mentioned trying to get together with him.

My dad told me that, many years ago, Gary had gotten a job with UPS that paid pretty well. He worked his way into management, and made some serious bucks. That’s when things changed.

The way my dad put it, Gary basically made new rich friends and wanted nothing to do with him anymore because he didn’t make enough cash.

So not only is my name going extinct, but I’m also named after a douchebag.

Let’s say you work for a large company. Your job is in an office, with a desk and computer and phone and whatnot (perhaps this applies to you already).

You come in every morning and get your muffin and coffee. You fire up your computer and check your e-mail.

Each day, you see four or five e-mails (or more) from your new CEO, hired a year ago (you know, the guy in charge of everything). The messages are sent to the entire company.

The e-mails sporadically praise a group of individuals, often executives in the company. But most of the correspondence entails:

1. Bragging about himself, and taking credit for things with which he had nothing to do

2. Blaming other people when he doesn’t get his way

3. Pushing expensive agendas that don’t seem to help the company

4. Complaining about everything

5. Lying about basic things everyone in the company knows

6. Insulting others and name-calling

Wouldn’t you start thinking, even if it were a decent-paying job: “Hey, what’s this guy’s deal? He’s nuts. Why am I working for a madman?”

You mention it to some co-workers. “Isn’t this a little disturbing?” Two-thirds of your colleagues say, “yeah, it’s at least a little disturbing.” Some say they’ve even gone to Human Resources about it.

But one-third respond, “they hired him, so he must be competent. And I think it’s cool that he speaks his mind.”

You’re torn. The e-mails get more and more unhinged, and you think the company is suffering. He just signed off on a proposal that put the business even more in debt.

When do you say “enough’s enough,” and either look for another job or push to get a new CEO? Or would you just hope he gets fired as soon as possible?