I'm excited to announce that as of (checking my watch) well,now, you can go to Wordpress to read both my personal blog and a blog specifically designed for my novel OOBERS.  It would be a real honor if you could visit them, a true blessing if you subscribe to them and a rare treat if you send me your comments.  Here are the links to these blogs:

Jay T Harding     OOBERS
The other day I noticed something unusual as I slipped some of my dinner under the table for our cat Jack and puppy Birdie: it’s easier to slip mashed potatoes under the table than trying to push a whole turkey down there. Also, people tend to notice when the critters begin fighting for the legs. I also noticed that Jack is a lot more selective in what he does and doesn’t eat, whereas Birdie will eat first and wonder what it was later.  It’s a known fact (I like saying that – ‘a known fact’ – as if what you say after should not be questioned) that dogs and cats have different tastes. Dogs prefer postmen and cats prefer my bare legs.

After a bit of research I discovered that dogs have about twice the taste buds of a cat, and that’s why our feline friends tend to be cats are finicky eaters.  If I try giving him a kernel of corn he’ll look at me and say “You’ve got to be joking.  Where’s the beef?”  That’s when I remind him of the time I failed my furniture-making finals in college because the professor found a piece of corn in my stool.  Jack doesn’t appreciate the fine art of woodworking humor. Birdie, on the other hand, will laugh at anything as long as I keep the food coming.  She doesn’t even waste time chewing.  She reminds me of a vacuum cleaner, especially between meals when she licks the dining room floor trying to get every last atom of dropped vittles.  Cats, though, are persnickety about what they eat.  Most foods taste like cardboard.  Actually, cardboard isn’t all that bad if you toss a little spaghetti sauce and parmesan cheese on it.  But try selling that to a cat.   I bet every cat owner in the world has at least once in their life gone out and bought some kind of food or treat they think their kitty will like only to have it turn into a science experiment on mold growth. Dogs, though, will eat poop wrapped in cardboard even without the spaghetti sauce and parmesan cheese.  Well, at least Birdie will.  She doesn’t even need the cardboard.  The first time I saw her wolf down some dried number two I almost threw up.  I’m glad I didn’t because Birdie would have considered it a hot lunch.  Now I use her to keep the litter box clean.  If you see my son Adam, don’t tell him this as it may cause him to change his mind about letting Birdie lick his tonsils.  No wonder Jack considers Birdie some sort of mutant alien species. Believe it or not, scientists even have a name for this.  It’s called ‘coprophagy’.  I don’t care what they call it.  I’m thinking of farming her out to some of the neighbors – for a fee, of course.  
But then I read that humans have about twice the taste buds of a dog.  Wait just one minute here.  If that’s true, we’ll pretty much eat anything that fits in our mouths. Now everything is starting to make sense.  There’s a reality show on TV that spotlights people with weird eating disorders.  I saw a lady who likes to chew on chalk. Whenever she farts dust flies out her butt.  I feel sorry for her kids.  “Ok, who’d turn is it to take my cheeks out back and bang the powder off of them?” Then I saw a man who made it into the Guinness record books for eating a freakin’ CAR!  Man, I wouldn’t want to be his plumber.  I can see how someone could consume a car, especially if they chopped it up small enough and followed with some white Zinfandel.  What would really impress me is to see the guy put the car back together again after it passes through his digestive system.  Gives new meaning to the term “piece of shit”. That reality show has people gnawing on about everything you can imagine.  There is an actual record of this man in 1985 who had to have surgery after doctors found – get this: 212 objects in his stomach, including fifty-three toothbrushes, two razors, two radioscopic aerials and 150 handles of razors. That’s not even the worst case! In 1927 a 42 year old woman went to the doctor complaining of slight abdominal pain, and they eventually found 2,533 objects in her stomach, including 947 bent pins!  What a
cheap date.  “Listen, you start in
on the napkin holder and salt shaker while I get a salad.” 
No wonder Birdie considers humans some sort of mutant alien species.  Point taken. 
Now I’m starting to get a bit hungry.  I wonder how this keyboard will taste
with a touch of garlic in an oil soup?

Last night I had an Army-college-work dream, and I woke up exhausted this morning.  On any given night I’m liable to dream that I’m still a uniform-wearing Combat Medic/human guinea pig, or that I’m back in college as usual trying to get out of class, or that I’m either driving a taxi or working patients up for a doctor.  But all in one?  Remind me not to mix Rice-A-Roni with gummy bears again.  And extra fudge.  Gotta have the fudge.

Dreams have always fascinated me. As a child, I had this recurring dream that I was in a strange house rummaging around in an upstairs bedroom where I found a secret door, and upon opening it was able to see into a completely different world from the sky as if I were looking out of an airplane window, except it was, you know, a door.  I stepped over the threshold like a big dummy and began to fall toward the ground.  My dream sight is a heck of a lot better than my waking peepers, because I instantly noticed that everything - the clouds, the birds, the idiots that followed me, the forests and mountains below - was made entirely of cotton candy.  What a freakish coincidence!  I happen to love the stuff.  As I plummeted, I reached over and grabbed a couple of handfulls of clouds and munched them down.  The cool thing about cotton candy is that it dissolves in your mouth and disappears.  Food's little magic snack!  When I awoke (right before landing on a pink and blue cotton candy Jersey cow which would have been cool) my pillows were gone, and from that day on have had an aversion to chicken feathers.  But not cotton candy.  As a matter of fact, when National Left-Handed Writers Day rolls around again you can send me as much of that manna as you wish. It weighs next to nothing, and that keeps shipping costs down.

Let’s talk about the meanings of dreams.  I’ve already suggested that our dreams can be influenced by what we eat prior to going to sleep. But that only goes so far.  You can’t blame every chased-while-naked-in-Times-Square dream on pizza.  There is a gaggle of ‘experts’ who try to make a living telling you what your dreams are all about.  Buy one of those “Dreaming for Dummies” books and you’re liable to be turning over your next paycheck to some psychic with a third grade education who will read your palm and the bumps on your behind as they're gazing at your stars and wallet.  Look, if you've dreamt that your teeth are falling out, those guys will try telling you it’s all about hidden anxieties, fear of rejection or menopause. What a bunch of hooey.  You probably forgot to brush your teeth before you went to bed, or else you’re worried that jerk living next to you will catch you peeking at his girlfriend sunbathing and deliver a knuckle sandwich, heavy on the mustard minus the pickles.  Bottom line is this: they’re your dreams, and they’re custom fit for you.  It’s silly to think that everyone on the planet that dreams of being naked in Times Square (ok, that’s the second time I’ve used that metaphor, but that’s the image in my head, and I’m stickin’ with it) is afraid of being exposed about something or another. I may be having that dream because I left my clothes at home, or forgot to pay the laundry bill, or want everyone to see my marvelous physique.  Well, ok, that may be stretching it a little, but you get the idea.  The body of a God: Buddha.

The coolest dreams have got to be the ones where you can fly (I'm talking about telling gravity it can shove it while you leap tall buildings in a single bound or beat up a truckload of redneck demons with one foot tied behind your back. If cotton candy gives me that kind of dream, I’ll take seconds.  I love it when I somersault out of a car doing eighty miles an hour, have time for a full manicure and pedicure while sailing through the air, and then land in the middle of an earthquaking tornado without messing up a single hair on my head. Those kinds of dreams are awesome, and for the record, you should never be afraid of dying if you fall and land in your dream.  Just be afraid of where it bounces you.  Have you ever been just on the shy side of barely asleep, headed there with a big gob of cotton candy,and find yourself walking down a flight of stairs and trip, and that makes you jerk awake like you’ve just been tazed?  I hate when that happens, especially if I'm headed down to the kitchen for another helping of that sweet nothingness.

I've been told I speak in my dreams, but that I mumble so low no one can make out what I’m saying.  What you don’t know (well, I mean, what you're actually about to know as soon as I stop this blather) is that in the dreamworld I’m proficient in mumble-speak – all fifty-four dialects.  I also know a smattering of gargleese and can snore in twenty nine different languages.  For me, the weirdest dream is the one where I know everybody and I’m familiar with my environment like I’ve lived there all my life, but the moment I wake up I have no earthly idea where I was or who those freaky people were.  Usually that sort of dream is so real I’m discombobulated for awhile upon awakening.  Reminds me of Chuang Tzu when he said, “I dreamed I was a butterfly, flitting about in the sky; then I awoke.  Now I wonder: Am I a man who dreamt of being a butterfly, or am I a butterfly dreaming I am a man?”  I’m not sure, but if I were you (and I might very well be) I’d lay off the Moo Goo Gai Pan for at least an hour before you go to bed next time.

I’d love to continue this conversation, but there's a world of cotton candy just waiting for me in my dreams.  A word of warning:  Cotton  candy rots your teeth out, but that's ok because you don't need teeth to gobble it up. Sweet dreams!

As long as I can remember (the MAN says about five minutes) I have always loved the BALL.  The way the BALL gets moist and sticky, especially if I’ve had the BALL in my mouth for awhile, or if the BALL drops in the DRINK.  My friend MCDUFF tells me he thinks the BALL is filled with crack, whatever that is.  know when I really give my jaw a workout on the BALL a crack happens.  That’s when I like to set the BALL between my paws and pick at the BALL to make the hole bigger; there’s all this fuzzy and springy stuff everywhere, but I keep at it until the BALL is just the right size so that the BALL can make that awesome ARP ARP sound when I squeeze the BALL in my snout.  When the BALL gets like that the MAN always wants to drop the BALL in the STINKY box where it disappears forever.  I work hard to free the ARP ARP from inside the BALL and I don’t want to give it up, so the MAN and I play hide-and-seek.  I hide and the MAN seeks.  I’ve got ARP ARPs everywhere.  You can say I’m the one with all the BALLS at HOME.

The BALL is so much more than an ARP ARP, though.  I have BALLS in every stage of degeneration –that’s a word MCDUFF taught me; you can tell he’s smart.  The MAN goes out with me to the YARD and brings a lot of BALLS, and throws them for me to FETCH.  That is the most FUN thing in the whole DOG world!  If the MAN let me, I would chase the BALLS until my tongue drags the ground and my BREATH is running.  When the DAY is straight up and I’ve been playing with the BALLS, I LOVE to flop on my side in the grass, a slobbery BALL in my snout, my tongue laid out beside me and my insides as hot as fresh MEATLOAF.  MCDUFF calls it DOG heaven.

Sometimes I catch the stupid CAT playing with one of my BALLS and I chase him away.  He has no idea how to play with a BALL.  I have seen the CAT put his hind legs on it, and other times the CAT hides behind the COUCH or under a CHAIR and then pounces it. The stupid CAT has no business with a BALL anyway.  If the CAT was suppose to have a BALL, it would be a DOG.  The MAN brought a CAT toy home one day with a STICK (my second favorite thing) a string and a tiny BALL with feathers.  The MAN made me stay away and watch as he tried to play with the stupid CAT.  Notice I said tried.  As soon as the MAN left I took the CAT toy behind the COUCH and reverse engineered the CAT toy, another term MCDUFF taught me.  The MAN called it DESTROYED.  He has said that about some of my BALLS, too, but they look nothing alike.

In the HOME I like rolling a BALL under things I can’t get to and then BARK at it until the MAN gets on his hands and knees and retrieves it.  I call this FETCH, too.  I can do this only a couple of times before the MAN yells NO, my least favorite word. I thought my name was NO for a long time.  It doesn’t stop me from playing FETCH with the MAN, though.  At least until he calls me a BAD DOG and takes some of my BALLS away. Then I cry and cry until the MAN says WELL OK and gives them back.  I can have BALLS everywhere but if the MAN puts one out of my reach I go NUTS.  The MAN knows the power of the BALL and uses it against me sometimes.  MCDUFF says DOGS are naturally addicted to BALLS, just like those little smoky HOT STICKS used to be  to the MAN.  The MAN got over his addiction.  I should ask MCDUFF if the MAN was really ever truly addicted, because I can’t even imagine life without my BALLS.

One day the MAN brought a BALL HOME that was bigger than me!  I tried and tried but just could not BITE the big BALL.  That made me so MAD!  I chased that big BALL all over the house while the MAN and stupid CAT laughed at me.  They stopped when I got a FANG in the big BALL and a pathetic, STINKY ARP came out and the big BALL was no longer big.  The MAN took what was left and dropped it in the STINKY box.  No more big BALL.

Sometimes when I am cleaning myself the MAN says he wishes he could lick his BALLS.  I give him a BALL to lick but he just plays FETCH. Sometimes the MAN is a mystery to me. Maybe he has his own BALLS hidden somewhere, but not only can I not find his BALLS, I have never smelled BALLS on his breath.  I believe if the MAN kept one of my BALLS in his mouth for awhile he would find true happiness.  BALLS are a DOG’s best friend.  That’s what MCDUFF says.  Here is a picture of MCDUFF with some of his BALLS.  He is a GENIUS.

There were only three times a day while in Army basic training when I was completely alone, and that was in the port-a-johns just outside of the mess hall. It became the only time I would be able to smoke, so I developed the habit of wolfing my chow down then holing up in the crapper hot-boxing a cigarette.

It was a brilliantly blistering July day, and we had just arrived for lunch en masse, standing at attention in our uniforms, web gear and helmets. As was the established routine, at command and in unison, we all took our helmets off and held them in front of us until we heard the barked order to place them on the tarmac between our feet, and it had better be with one sound of fifty helmets clopping onto the pavement or we’d do it again until we got it right. Then came the web suit – a wide, strong utility belt with thick suspenders designed to hold a rucksack, a canteen, a small shovel, two full clips of .22 shells for our M16A1, and various metal loops for grenades - placed around the helmet, also in unanimity.

The drill sergeants had us go into the chow hall in single file, take our plate of food and eat it as quickly as we could. I always tried to be one of the first ones out, just so I could get a prime seat in the portable toilets outside and smoke. This day, as I puffed away, trying not to notice the lung-searing chemical smell wafting up from below, I spotted a pigeon feather caught in the vent. Almost unconsciously, I picked it free and sat twirling it between my thumb and forefinger as I inhaled smoke.

In a couple of minutes I was done, so I hot-footed it over to my position in the platoon and waited. About half the group was already milling about, chatting with each other. As there was nobody close to me, I squatted down and sat on my helmet, absentmindedly putting the feather in an elastic headband wrapped around the helmet’s base, designed to hold the forest-colored liner in place. And then I forgot it was there, plain and simple.

Soon, the drill sergeants sauntered out of the mess hall and the entire platoon stood behind their gear. A couple of commands away, and we had out gear back on and were marching back to the barracks . . .when one of the drill sergeants yelled at the platoon to stop, came within an inch of my face and screamed, “Harding, what in the hell are you doing with a goddamned feather in your helmet?”

Without hesitation I stammered, “Whawhat feather?”

The DI yanked it out of my headband and held it out in front of me, and though he didn’t say a word to me, I could feel his eyes burning into me. I’m sure my own eyes must have been as large as frisbees as I felt all the blood drain from my head, threatening to take me down in a white cloud of unconsciousness. My brain screamed Deny!, and I found my voice squeaking, “I . . .duhdon’t know!”

Instead of scorching me with his tongue, the drill sergeant took a step back, held the feather up high for everyone to see, and thundered, “So which one of you shitheads thought it would be a good joke to pull on your platoon leader (me, btw)?” After a few seconds of nothing but fifty scared men breathing and looking around, the sergeant added, “Somebody better come clean, or you’ll all be low-crawling all over the company grounds!”


The drill sergeant had us double time (meaning a jogging run) to our barracks and proceeded to make everyone but me hit the ground and crawl themselves through a maze of dirty obstacles. I stood next to the sergeant as he punished the platoon, reminding them that one of our number had brought this about, and that when he found out who the culprit was, he’d make sure they all found out who the clown was. One of the things he said was, “I’m not going to punish Harding, because he was the object of your little prank!” Knowing I was indeed the one who had done this, I felt shame as I’d never known before, witnessing the entire platoon being grilled in the indomitable heat.

Finally unable to take it anymore, I approached the drill instructor and blurted out the truth, willing to face whatever derision would befall me. To my utter shock, the sergeant made the platoon stop and stumble into formation, then told the ragged lot, “Your platoon leader has just informed me that he’s willing to take the blame for this, and I find that so damned honorable I’m going to show each one of you how unworthy you are to be in his presence! Now back to your bellies and crawl!” If this story happens across the view of any of those poor guys in my platoon, I want you to know that life has a way of balancing everything out, and I’m sure at least three of my
own personal hells were in payment for that day. 

I like reading a wide variety of subjects, and keep certain volumes around, like a book of quotable quotes, a rhyming dictionary, and the New York Public Library Desk Reference. Now, I’m not entirely an academic reader – I’ve been known to carry on a relationship with a good novel from time to time, and I especially like some of the things found on the Wal-Mart bathroom wall, but generally I enjoy sticking my head in books that give me plenty of trivial knowledge so I can bewilder and dazzle anyone unlucky enough to be trapped in an elevator with me. Well, I was poring over a book that tells when certain things were invented, and who the inventor was, when I came across an entry that read that in 1866 a fellow by the name of Alexander Melville Bell (evidently not the Bell that invented the graham cracker – you know, Alexander Graham Bell) came up with the idea of lip reading.

As soon as I read that, I knew someone was making things up.  Do the writers of that book of inventions mean to say that no one did any lip reading before 1866?  What about the poor slave in ancient Egypt who watched two task masters chatting at the bottom of the pyramid?  I suppose since this is before the invention of lip reading, he looked at the one task master’s lips moving and thought he said “Let’s free the slaves after lunch,” when the fellow actually told his buddy “Let’s beat the slaves for lunch.” Imagine the letdown.  How can someone invent something like lip reading? That’s like saying Herman Toot invented the fart.  Before that everyone had to pass gas through their ears. I’d be willing to bet that Oog the caveman was sitting in his cave, saw Mrs. Oog grunting with their neighbor and was able to tell by watching her lips that she said Eekanbeack instead of Hottontott.  I’m not trying to take anything away from Mr. Bell.  If the scientific community felt the need to give him credit for being able to tell what the people down the street were saying, so be it.  It made me wonder, though, what other silly things have been attributed to a single individual, so I did a little research.

In 1285 a fellow by the name of Alessandro de Spina is credited with inventing eyeglasses. I suppose before that, people had to prop their reading material on a tree stump and back away until they could see it. Before eyeglasses people actually had to look through coke bottles.  Before eyeglasses you could flip an old geezer off without him throwing his dentures at you.

Sir John Harington invented the flush toilet in 1589.  If he didn’t get a ticker tape parade for that one, he should have.  Can you imagine what people had to do before that? “Harriet, could you hand me some toilet paper and a fork?  I’ve got a floater here.”  I would have solved the unemployment problem by starting the world’s first pooper scooper business.  Its motto would have been: “Like it never even happened”.

The medical thermometer was invented in 1616 by Santorio Santorio.  He’s probably the ancestor of Duran Duran.  Before his invention patients had to hold mercury in their mouths and then spit it into a bowl of tea leaves.  I bet he had a few bumps in the road along the way, though.  “Mr. Feliciano, I TOLD you not to bite down! Now you’ve got to hold the mercury and broken glass in your mouth until I can get some tea leaves.”

Of course, everyone knows the sandwich was invented by the Earl of Sandwich.  I’m just glad his name wasn’t the Earl of Crap.  “Would you children rather have a peanut butter and jelly crap, or a bologna and cheese crap?”

A man by the name of Edward Beard Budding (someone should have invented a better name for him) brought the first lawn mower into the world.  Goats around the world began dying of starvation.  Yeah, well they should have been grateful they didn’t have to drink all that gasoline anymore.

I could probably go all day like this, but I’ll save you the incredulity.  I do need to mention one of the greatest inventions of the modern world: in 1860 a Mr. John Newnham came up with the idea of the snap button.  Think about how much time and effort he saved! I’ve got another book that chronicles famous last words, and one of my favorite is the suicide note of a man who obviously lived before Mr. Newnham’s invention.  It simply said: “All this buttoning and unbuttoning.”  I
feel you, sir.  Where was the snap
button when you needed it?

     This world has become interesting and fun!  You never know what’s going to be the next viral hit, the next catch-phrase, the next thing people love to hate, the next rave, the piece of flotsam that happens to catch the world’s eye for a few seconds. Fifteen seconds to be exact.  It seems our technology has reduced the world to one set of eyes, a single schizophrenic mind oozing with ADD, thousands of millions of plastic cards just one click away from anything money can buy, and of course there’s the whole degradation of humanity thing. You know.  Less time playing Frisbee catch with your dog.  Less time filling the neighborhood with the scent of your barbeque and the upcoming feast you’re going to have while they gag over the night’s TV dinner. Less time connecting with flesh and blood human beings, each one of us with the eyes of the world, forgetting or pretending we’re not connected in a far more substantial and vital way. There’s much to be said about sitting face to face with someone, but that is the subject of an entirely different rant.  Please remind me somewhere down the road and I’ll let you know how I feel about being face to face, toe to toe.  

      Now we have so much knowledge at our fingertips, and in as much depth as we want, too.  Sometimes when we are online and a friend brings a subject up of which we have absolutely no knowledge, we’ll be right there on Google or the Urban Dictionary, and within seconds be able to wax philosophical all the way from da hood to the halls of higher learning. And as far as credibility, who cares if it’s true or not, long as itlooks good and does something to you! (That was for all you vacuous souls who have no idea I’m talking about you) When I read the news online every morning and evening, I have four different sources, and if three out of the four share one part of the story, that’s what I’m probably going to believe, if at all. I do it that way because no one source has all the truth. Our fathers had three channels, a radio and a newspaper. Not to mention all the scuttlebutt that’s been going round since the dawn of time.  Now we have, well, you KNOW how much we have today that keeps us hooked up with everyone else on the planet.  That’s part of the thrill of living in such an information rich environment.

     My favorite thing to do on the internet (okay, my second favorite) is getting to try out different voices, kind of like characters in some cosmic comedy tragedy; you’re liable to encounter a country bumpkin whose goal in life is to be called a redneck, or a snippy old curmudgeon who says the first thing on his mind, or a wise, ancient Master of the Secrets of Everything, or a doting senior citizen who can’t figure out how to put a link to a picture, or simple just the one billion four hundred nineteen thousand six hundred and thirty fifth most interesting man in the world.  I don’t think of it as deceit, no, not at all!  I am not a sociopath, either (I think), so I won’t take your medicine. (But I will take that shot.  You know the one.  Yes.  My Precious.) I am merely riding the ebb and flow the world has given each of us.  It’s like surfing. I catch my wave, get up on the board and nearly drown because I don’t know how in the hell to surf. That’s the real secret to life. Try not to die.

     My beloved cousin Dana LisenBee told me once (isn’t it strange how thirty eight people can tell you the same thing, but only one get through) that one way to make it in the world today is to splash yourself everywhere, and you’ve got to be good. It can be as simple as a single word that catches fire to blaze around the world, or an expression on someone’s face, but in order make a lasting mark upon the fickle whims of the masses, you’ve got to have talent, sure, but you’ve got to be persistent.  The crumbled dust of magnum opuses reach to the sky from those thought not good enough and left to rot in a trunk or closet. Are you an artist?  Perform your art every single day, I don’t care what the excuse is, DO IT.  Find what it is you do well(well, not THAT, for God’s sake) and completely and utterly consume yourself with it.  Be that person in the family one hundred years from now who is thought of as being passionate about something.  Make a deep mark with whatever stick you’ve got.  I believe every single one of us on this planet is GREAT at something.  I mean better than anyone else who have ever lived.  Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to find out what that thing is and then do that with all your guts until it’s your turn to leave this tavern of interest and fun!  Oh, and while you’re having fun . . . try not to die, ok?

Writing is very hard work.  I think it’s even harder than digging ditches, performing a lumbar laminectomy or even competition-level peach pit spitting.  Imagine how difficult it is for squirrels to run and up and down trees all day.  Much harder than that.  Let me tell you how hard writing is.  Writing is so hard because there are so many words to choose from.  I just came from a five minute exhaustive search of the internet and discovered that there are about one million words in the English language.  I was going to say that it might take me forever to run out of words but then realized you would probably stop reading me and go on with your life.  That will not do.  I just need to pick the right drops of water from the ocean and mesmerize and entice you until the world around you slips away and my story is a river that takes you over countless rocky rapids and miles of rowing until you come through on the other side having discovered something profound about yourself.  Tell me THAT ain’t hard.  I don’t know the first thing about rapids.

I believe writing involves a responsibility that should never be taken lightly.  It should be taken just before meals to aid in digestion.  Technology has given writing a towering platform in the form of texting from any number of devices, blogs, chat, email and others. (note to self: from now on, any time I say ‘and others,’ it means I ran out of examples) Most texters today have caused professors all over the world to gnash their teeth, but I for one am in favor of anything that will make writing easier.  Fifty years from now novels will be reduced to a single letter.  Future teenagers will sit around breathing black market air and discussing their summer. “S?” (which means, ‘have you read the book S yet?’)  “N.” (you guessed, ‘no’) “W?” (use to be a curse word but now means ‘wanna hang out?’) “N.” “H!” (I have no idea what that means . . .)  But for now, writers have a whole BUNCH of words and combinations of words to choose from, and to be accountable for.  Someday some brainy math demigod will finally figure out exactly how many choices the English writer actually has.  I’d be willing to bet it is WAY more than the number of people who get injured by folding chairs each year.  For now let’s just say for the sake of arguing (note to self: whenever I say ‘for the sake of arguing,’ I don’t mean it.  Arguing sucks) that we’re talking about a Huge number of phrases to choose from.  Because words have power (who’s going to dispute that?), mixing them together can produce toxic lies and incredible truths, gripping stories and paint-peeling drivel like this, can inform, delight, incite, quiet, give you a smile or take it away, make you mad, make you sad, make you full, leave you empty, show you the way, show you the way it was.  Words, words, wonderful words, the more you poop the more the turds.  is stuff is harder than you think!  To this point I’ve laid about five hundred and fifty words out on you, and if you think this train has jumped the track, leave the metaphors to the experts, hon. Like I was saying, we need to own our words.  
Don’t just go flailing your words all over the place like I’ve done for years. They’ll come back to haunt you for sure. I had a phrase that still gives me nightmares and anxiety.  Ever heard of an “Alabama Hot Pocket”?  I originally coined the phrase to describe the slightly-heavier-than-air farts that result from eating chicken gizzards, pickled eggs and Moon pies – a delicacy in Alabama, - but some pervert stole it and now it’s a disgusting – I’ll tell you later when we’re alone.  You’ll shudder.  You better. Just be careful about what you write, unless you particularly like being haunted.  And it’s ok to say penis.  After 5pm on the east coast.  Unless you belong to a ‘Ban the Word Penis’newsgroup.  If that’s the case, be a good Do-Bee and keep your hands away from the  keyboard, but above your waist.  But if you have a pet name for it, write away!

 Writers never get the money that they are worth.  If I had a nickel for every time I said ‘if I had a nickel,’ I’d have two.  I think writers should have a place to go where they can ply their trade, like going to work. “By, honey, I’m off to work on my biography of Woody Harrelson! Remember, we’ve got that hemp party tonight!” They can sit around all day and talk, two things writers love to do, because everyone knows the average writer finds it damned near impossible to write anything substantive when there are others around, especially people who understand the colossal amount of brain sweat it takes to crank out five thousand words a day. I’m telling you now, if publishers paid writers what they’re worth one of two things will happen. Either the writer will step up act and write like the professional she is, fulfilling every nuance of the twelve page contract she signed without really reading it, or wait until the last minute of the deadline to crank out the Great American Novel.  I read it and it’s good.  Here, see for yourself:    M

Actually, the title of this article is only meant to pull you in so that I can share a disturbing trend that threatens to undermine the very fabric of our society.  A growing number of people are being afflicted with Rumination Syndrome, and to be honest with you, it’s making me sick to even think about it.  Rumination is the act of bringing food from the stomach back up into the mouth to rechew it.  Cows do it on a regular basis, and we all know it as ‘chewing their cud’.  How it got started in humans is still a mystery, but I would imagine somewhere in ancient history some guy got shitfaced and had to throw up in a public place but didn’t want anyone to
know, so he vomited in his closed mouth, decided it wasn’t so bad and proceeded to gnaw on whatever it was some more before swallowing it again.  Disgusting, right?  Honestly, I’d rather do that on a regular basis than wait until it came out the other end.  But get this: a 17th century medical student said that ruminated food is “sweeter than honey and accompanied by a more delightful relish”.  I feel sorry for his wife.

I read that about 10% of institutionalized mental patients ruminate.  I would, too, if I had to eat the food they serve in those places.  If you think about it – and I know you’re thanking me right now for making you think about it at all – rumination can’t be good for the teeth, what with all the stomach acid rolling around in your mouth. If you become one of the lucky few that develop a liking for re-eating your own partially digested food, you won’t have to worry about those pesky teeth for very long.  Stomach acid is stronger than Coca cola, and Coca cola is used by mechanics everywhere to wash excess acid off of batteries.  I guarantee that if you engage in tummy leftovers at least once a week, in six months you won’t have to worry about toothaches any more.

I never knew that rumination was something that was even remotely studied.  I always thought rumination was what happens in your head when you get an idea.  I mean, I’ve always known that most of us have in our life have had a stomach full of food and burped, only to have some of that pumpkin pie jump back into our mouth. I’ve always called it ‘verping’. In my vast experience on the subject, it never did taste any better the second time around.  Perhaps if I mix a few pieces of lettuce or a black olive with it, it might take the edge off.

The scientific paper that told me all about Rumination Syndrome states that there is a general lack of awareness of the condition by patients, doctors and the general public. Wow.  That’s a shocker.  How often have you ever been to a fancy party and overheard someone talk about their rechewed steak?  That’s like saying there is a general lack of awareness of the amount of sweat that rolls off an illegal alien’s back as he crosses the desert. (For your information, it balances out to around two quarts, give or take half a pint depending if he travels at night)  Now that I’ve decided to expose the threat of Rumination Syndrome, those eggheads in their porcelain towers can’t complain that no one knows about it.  Now that I’ve brought this unsavory issue to light, the scientific community can begin doing studies to see just how widespread the problem is.  There will no doubt be obstacles in their way, though.  Who’s going to admit to blowing cookies in their mouth, chewing it up and swallowing it again?  Also, will the researchers require their test subjects to throw up and masticate their vomit before spitting it into a cup for analysis?

I just had a brilliant idea. Let’s turn this lemon around and make lemonade out of it!  Here goes: If only one day a year everybody in the rich countries of the world ate a big meal, stuck their fingers down their throat and then ate their meal again before putting it in a Tupperware bowl, we could combine our resources and feed all the hungry people!  It would be the ultimate in recycling!  Ok, I need to stop right here so I can draft a letter to the U.N. and get the ball rolling on this revolutionary
plan.  I could come up with a
trademarked ‘Gagbag’so the ‘haves’ could give to the ‘have nots’. 
I’ll call it “Retching for the Wretched”.  Yes, we can turn Rumination Syndrome
into a worldwide movement!  I
wonder who from the Hollywood elite will be the first to hand over their Gagbag
. . . oh, the future has suddenly turned bright!

I’ve been house-sitting for a friend in remote Michigan (no, he’s NOT militia), and part of the job requires me to care for Lucky, a four year old Pomeranian.  Dogs and I go way back.  When I was twelve I became Animal Man complete with costume, chopped out bicycle and a baseball bat.  Dogs saw me coming and said to one another, “Howl for our Hero!”  Now my costume sits collecting dust in the back of the closet. I’m currently the spiritual Master of all horses.  I know, it looks like a down-grade, but I just call it species specific specialization, or Sss for short.  Anyway, I’ve still got this good karma thing going on with dogs, so Lucky and I hit it off famously from day one.

Ok, when I met Lucky he was practically an obedience school alumnus.  All 6.2 ounces of him sat looking up at me plaintively and patiently waiting at my feet until I patted what is left of my lap and he hopped up, fairly shivering with anticipation and I am sure fear. 
Within the hour I had him on his back wrestling with my fingers and playing tug-of-war with one of my socks.  I spoiled him absolutely rotten, let me just state that for the record. Now he hangs off the arm of the couch with his tongue lolling or whatever it is a dog’s tongue does, playing Modern Warfare all day, not listening to a word I say.  My kinda dog.  I almost had a spiritual epiphany watching Lucky’s first experience with pepperoni.  He is now a pepperoni whore.  Don’t get me wrong.  I am grateful beyond expression for my host’s kindness and trust, but my GOD I couldn’t sit there all day staring at it staring at me from across the room like a mirror, watching him eat food so small I can’t even see it and then letting him out twice a day so he can water and fertilize a hedge like some kind of waste machine and then back inside to stare at me stare at him.  No.  I went out and got a nasty, slimy tree branch that he can carry around the house whenever he wants, I cut off a piece of rope that he is currently turning into lint, and, oh my, the BALLS!  I have video proof an animal can become addicted to an object.  He had ping pong balls surgically implanted in his chest. Now he looks like the cross between a gremlin and Dolly Parton.  I’m afraid if I put a pepperoni on one plate and a miniature tennis ball on another,  Lucky’s little head would explode.  You can say anything you like about Lucky, he’s cool.  I let him lick a popsicle once; his jaw quivered for half an hour.

But here’s the most intriguing thing about Lucky: the floors throughout the house are tile.  Not a scrap of carpet.  I sit here and watch him get around like a drunken baby on ice, his toothpicky legs working overtime trying to change his momentum.  No wonder he always wants to go outside.  At least outside all he has to worry about is flying off the planet.  The first time I tossed him a ball his excitement was almost overwhelming.   He dropped it, of course (rookies) and it rolled across the room.  He waiting until the ball stopped and then causally tip-toed over to it and gingerly retrieved it, like some virginal debutante picking up a dropped dance card.  It took me awhile to realize Lucky was traction-challenged, but once the full realization of his plight sunk in, I went directly out and got him a tiny set of inline skates.  Unfortunately, as soon as I strap the cute little things on, Lucky loses all motivation to do anything but lay there and bark.  You can’t blame me for trying.

My host will be back in a couple of months to reclaim his
  home and living dust mop – well, that’s not entirely accurate. 
I shaved Lucky from his neck to his tail.  He now looks like a miniature lion (on
skates!).  But when that moment
comes to hand over the keys and bid my friend adieu, Lucky better have learned
his most important trick: When in doubt, remember that hiding place under the
refrigerator with the secret door to pepperoni.