Friday, November 29, 2013

Here Lies...

Have you ever wondered what people will say about you when you’re gone?  Or what they’ll put on your headstone? 
            Obviously they’ll include your birth and death dates, but what about “the dash,” as the saying goes, the stuff that happened in between?  Whether you’re cremated or buried, there needs to be some kind of epitaph or label.  You don’t want your ashes mistaken for potting soil, nor your body to lie in an unmarked grave, right?  Actually, once you’re gone, I doubt you’ll care.  And lots of folks’ remains are scattered, legally or not, in scenic locations they’ve always enjoyed.
            But some of us want to choose which words will adorn our final resting place.  It can’t be too lengthy because engraving is expensive.  And let’s face it-- there’s only so much space to work with, so your whole eulogy can’t be on there.  Just something that captures your essence, like the “Beloved Wife and Mother” we often see in cemeteries.
            In case you need a bit of help, I thought I’d share some headstone ideas you may not have considered.  I like the this one, something we've all been told will happen:

Then there's always the final pun:

Obviously this guy got what was coming to him:

and here's one way to look on the bright side:

This is one you see in almost every cemetery.  I guess there'll be no shortage of comedians in heaven:

I'm not even sure if this one's real, but it's clever:

If we're smart we'll plan our entire funeral, rather than leave it to chance (after all, who can embellish our fine points better than we can?)   But unless you buy a slab of granite and get it partially engraved beforehand, you can never be sure what your posterity will say about you.  I'm hoping mine will write, "I told you we should have stayed with the group."
Never let it be said that you forgot to give wonderful Christmas presents.  Might I suggest the handy list of books on this very home page?  You're welcome.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

You're Thankful for What?

 It's Thanksgiving week, which means most families gather around a feast and express thanks for the many blessings they enjoy.  So, going around the table and expressing your gratitude should be a slam dunk.

 Except that this is my house, filled with my children, every one of whom has to do things differently.
             It all began when our youngest, Nicole, decided this round robin should be alphabetical. 

 And that changed everything.  Now, instead of heartfelt expressions of gratitude, the door is now open for her three older brothers to become raucous wise guys, making a mockery of the tradition, and coming up with the (dare I say stupidest?) things they can think of, and then arguing with their mouths full of mashed potatoes. Here's a snippet from the past:
            “Asiatic Flu,” Cassidy says.
            “Oh, come on,” I say, rolling my eyes.  “Nobody is thankful for the flu.”
            “Plus Asiatic is the adjective,” Richie points out.  “You have to pick a noun.”
            “Who says you have to pick a noun?” Bob says, the husband who chose himself, last year, for the letter B.
            A short argument erupts, and suddenly we’re all grammar experts, establishing ridiculous rules.  We are also car experts, apparently, as the boys proceed to express their thanks for Corvettes, Hot Rods (another adjective—oh no!), and some kind of engine booster. 

            When the letter G lands on Nicole, she tells us she’s thankful for Garlic Bread.  “And how come we don’t have garlic bread on Thanksgiving?”
            A discussion of other foods I should be willing to get up at 2:00 a.m. to prepare, now ensues.  Fried rice, ice cream, carrot cake, cotton candy, and fried chicken are all agreed upon as if we hired circus clowns to revise the food pyramid. 

            I do my best to get them to think about gratitude, but all they can think of is comedy.  Is this happening in other households across America?  Probably not.  Probably other families are expressing their thanks for one another, for shelter, for the joys of daily living.
            Bob shamefully chooses urinals for U.

I stare at him.  “You had all that time to think, calculating which letter would land on you, and you picked urinals?”
“Hey, they’re handy to have,” Bob says.  Nicole and I are outvoted.
            As we clear the dishes, I think about this free-for-all, the endless teasing and carping that has become our family’s tradition.  I picture future spouses, married to our kids, with bug eyes as they witness this wacky debate each year.
           I look at my grinning kids, who are still arguing over whether pneumonia can count for p, since the p is silent.  Even though they drive me crazy sometimes, maybe this is our essence—the way we interact and love one another.  Maybe that’s how our hearts are knit together, knowing we’ll always be passionately nutty, ever willing to debate the merits of proper versus common nouns. 
            But this year we have our first spouse-- Cassidy is bringing his adorable bride, Tiffany.  I can only imagine what she's going to think.  On the other hand, she's been married to this monkey boy for just over a year, so I think that's probably adequate preparation. 
If I get the letter S this year, I'm going to say "Subscribers."  Hey-- that's you!  Tell your friends to sign up for Joniopolis, too.  Why should you suffer alone?

Friday, November 22, 2013

Say Whaat?

I am jealous of New Yorkers.  Actually, I am jealous of anyone on the East Coast of the U.S., and also of folks from Louisiana, because they pronounce certain words better than I do.   

           Sure, I could copy their accents, but I would look like a total doofus, since everyone who knows me knows I have a California accent.
            I love this sort of thing.  It’s why I minored in linguistics.  And I used to think I couldn’t be fooled by someone faking a straight-up, non-geographical, American accent.

            And then I met Bob.  I knew he hosted a TV game show, a talk show, and had anchored news. This is a fuzzy photo, but that's Bob in the middle, with Dick Clark and Monty Hall.

            And that was about it for several years until our paths crossed again, almost a decade later.  And still, I figured him for a California guy.  But I will say I was very impressed with how he enunciated certain words, and he was extremely polite.
            Still there was no way I would have guessed the truth.  It turned out St. Bob was from Lake Charles, Louisiana and grew up with a Southern accent as thick as molasses!  

            This is why he pronounced literature “litter-uh-tyure” instead of “lidder-uh-cher” as we do out West.  And why I could hear a difference in how he said “Don” and “Dawn.”  It also accounted for his courtly manners and charm.
So what happened to the Southern twang?  Turns out Bob began working in television at 15, as a cartoon clown, while still in high school.  But he wanted a career in broadcasting, so he asked his station manager for advice. 
            “Lose the accent,” the guy said.
            “What axe-sayent?” Bob drawled.  The guy had him pronounce the number nine. 
  “Nan,” Bob said. 
            “No; nine.”
            “That’s what ah said--- nan.”  Bob had a long way to go. But he worked at it and developed a completely new inflection—a non-accent, if you will.  Even Henry Higgins couldn’t have created a more authentic result.

            And I’m jealous.  We Westerners think we’re saying everything correctly, but we’re sloppy when it comes to certain words.   We pronounce “off” like cough, when “off” should really have a bit of a longer O sound, the way we say “aww.”
            In the West, merry, marry, and Mary, are all pronounced merry.  Not for many Easterners, and not for Bob. They say Mary with a long A, as in lady.  And marry with a short A, as in happy.  Only merry gets the short E sound, as in berry. Folks from New York also say “aven-you” instead of the western “aven-noo.”  And “cost-yume” instead of “coss-toom.”  It sounds more accurate, somehow.
            And it makes me feel lazy about language, like speaking to someone British and realizing how truly we Americans have erased all those pin-pressed edges that make English such a delight.
            It happens all over, of course.  You hear dialects in every country of the world, departures from the pure standard. 
            Where I grew up, in Utah, letters get added and subtracted. 


           “Going skiing” becomes go-een ski-een, and else becomes elts, with a little T thrown in.  It took work to de-regionalize my own accent for broadcasting, but I still slip into my childhood ways around other Utahns.  
This morning I was thinking that I’ll probably never be as precise as St. Bob. And then, glory of glories, I asked him what he’d like for breakfast and caught him at a relaxed moment.  “Aigs,” he said.  Over medium.  You got it. 

No matter where you're from, you'll love my books-- check 'em out, and give them to your loved ones for Christmas!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Kids Will Keep You Humble

            Some time ago I was putting on makeup in my bathroom.  I was wearing only my underwear, and was leaning into the mirror to deftly apply my eye shadow.  And there, in the reflection, I noticed my 12-year-old daughter, Nicole, in the background, watching me.
            Aww… she’s probably imagining the day when she can wear makeup, and is watching how I do it, I thought.  Carefully I stroked the blush across my cheeks, dabbed on some lipstick, feather-stroked my eyebrows.  I wanted to make this a perfect demonstration for my sweet daughter, who was still watching.

            After a few minutes of this, Nicole said, “Mom, do they make a butt bra?”
            Yes, dear readers, true story.  Instead of taking mental notes as I carefully applied my cosmetics, she was staring at my back side and, well, you can imagine what prompted her question.  There was nothing to do but bend over the sink, laughing.  Here I was so sure she was oozing admiration and instead it was pity at best.  Maybe fear for her own destiny.  I even put the incident in my book, Funeral Potatoes, and in my play, Does This Show Make My Butt Look Fat?
            But let’s think about that butt bra for a moment.  If fashion designers did come up with one, can you imagine the stampede?  We’d all rush out to purchase this gravity-defying wonder.  

 I suppose the straps would go over our shoulders, but that’s okay—we’re used to that.  Of course, heaven help you if one of the straps broke—you’d be unevenly humped, shall we say.

            And I’m even used to that!!  Yes, two exclamation marks that I only wish I could place slightly ajar, to emphasize the asymmetry we’re talking about.  Come to think of it, Nicole is responsible for this other example, as well.  When she was a baby she would only nurse on one side.  

            Oh, I tried to trick her and hold her like a football, but she was having none of it.  Thus I walked around lopsided for six months, like someone trying to affect a Quasimodo costume on the front.  

             I looked ridiculous.  It’s a wonder I didn’t get accused of shoplifting a cantaloupe at the grocery store.
            I suppose there are things you can do to fake a balanced bustline.  But our derrieres have, sadly, been forgotten by undergarment manufacturers. Sure, there are “body slimming” products, but they can’t work miracles.  What we really need to do is to walk on our hands.  Imagine the results!   

            Not only would our breasts and bottoms sag in the right direction, but our faces would get a lift as well.  Somebody might even think we’re street performers and give us money!  Younger-looking and richer!  Don’t say I never gave you a fabulous idea.
And here’s another one:  Subscribe to this blog and get all your friends to do the same!