Out Of My Mind https://www.theoutofmymindblog.com Little-Known Stories About Well-Known Stuff Sun, 02 Jun 2019 10:00:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://www.theoutofmymindblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/cropped-oomm-itunes-version-32x32.jpg Out Of My Mind https://www.theoutofmymindblog.com 32 32 Everything I Own Will Soon Be History https://www.theoutofmymindblog.com/everything-i-own-will-soon-be-history/ https://www.theoutofmymindblog.com/everything-i-own-will-soon-be-history/#comments Sun, 02 Jun 2019 10:00:55 +0000 https://www.theoutofmymindblog.com/?p=4528 Truck Loaded Down With Junk - The Out Of My Mind BlogWe had a late spring in Los Angeles this year, but as this essay from 2008 reminds us, a late spring only postpones the inevitable.

Spring is in the air (though if you live in a major metropolitan area, what isn’t), and, as always, spring ushers in that most stressful time of year.

No, not tax time. There you’re only up against the government. This is much worse, as Michael, a fingernail-less reader from Cambridge, Massachusetts writes, “It used to be that when my wife felt our home was getting cluttered she would simply crouch behind the vacuum cleaner waiting…waiting…waiting, until, on March 21st, she would jump out and yell, ‘Spring cleaning.’

“Then, we would sit down and, like reasonable people, separate our valuable stuff from the junk. Lately my reasonable explanations of why I want to keep things no longer work. Last week she told me I can keep everything I own as long as it fits in the doghouse. With the dog. And my side of the bed. What’s wrong?”

The answer, of course, is nothing’s wrong. This is a perfectly normal side effect of your wife watching home improvement shows on cable television.

Mostly, women watch these shows to learn valuable decorating tips, such as wouldn’t the heaviest piece of furniture in the room look better if your husband moved it around six times? Or any home remodeling project, including gutting the foyer and replacing it with a polo field, only takes half an hour.

Unfortunately, women also get mistaken ideas about home improvement because cable shows are not produced with the high production values of big network televisions shows like Are You Smarter than a Leprechaun?

To make the matter clearer, I took the liberty of recording a typical program on home organization, during which the following exchange took place.

ORGANIZATION EXPERT: And what do we have here?

WIFE: A gold-plated, sterling silver toothpick scrubber.

EXPERT: Excellent. A rare find. Perfect for display on your coffee table. Put this in the keep box. And this?

HUSBAND: It’s a…

EXPERT: Is it yours?



WIFE: Junk.

EXPERT and WIFE: Junk. Junk. Junk.

I think we can all agree that even the most reasonable wife could come away with the confused impression that junk is anything owned by a guy.

What can you do? (I am assuming that moving to Stepford is not practical at the moment.) Accept your manly responsibility and explain to your wife the real reason men acquire so many things. It has nothing to do with being lazy, careless or genetically unable to part with a forty-foot long necklace of beer can pop-top tabs. No, it is that we men take seriously one of the manly roles of life.

Preserving history.

That’s right. Men do not collect junk. Collecting junk is a childish activity born out of total disregard for other people. Preserving history, on the other hand, shows a concern for the future and may be tax deductible.

When I was a boy, things were made to be passed down from father to son. I know this because my father would explain this to my mother every time she threatened to clean out the hall closet.

I’ll never forget the day my father put me behind the steering wheel of his first car, a 1948 Studebaker. I would have preferred the whole car, but it was long gone and, besides, the steering wheel was all he could fit in the hall closet. No way he could have gotten the car in there. Unless he’d listened to my mother and gotten rid of his father’s old sewing machine.

Nevertheless, I spent hundreds of miles in the family car, that old steering wheel in my lap, mimicking my father’s every move. So, on the day I turned 18 and took my driver’s test the license examiner congratulated me for restoring his faith in religion.

Seems all I learned from watching my father was to hook my left pinky over the steering wheel, turn my head to the right and argue with my mother. But, that’s not the point. The point is I learned two valuable lessons.

The first is that a real man never shirks his responsibility to preserve history. The second is just because a license examiner has his eyes closed it doesn’t mean he isn’t paying attention.

Last week, I again explained my manly destiny to my wife and yes, Michael, there is hope. Finally, she agreed history should be preserved, and suggested I share my preservation program with the whole world.

“Sell that stuff on eBay,” was the way she put it.

I pointed out that our children shouldn’t need eBay accounts to enjoy that old steering wheel the way I did. Whereupon my wife pointed out that, unless I knew something she didn’t, we didn’t have any children.

I’ll be on the computer tomorrow morning. That’s when they’re installing internet in the dog house.


From my book I Don’t Have All the Answers Only Because There are Too Many Questions, available from Amazon.com. Yes, if you buy a copy Amazon does pay me a commission. But it’s not nearly enough to replace my Studebaker steering wheel.


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Our Good For Nothing Future https://www.theoutofmymindblog.com/our-good-for-nothing-future/ https://www.theoutofmymindblog.com/our-good-for-nothing-future/#comments Sun, 19 May 2019 10:00:27 +0000 https://www.theoutofmymindblog.com/?p=4526 Cartoon Of Man Watching Television - The Out Of My Mind BlogThe end of World War II left thousands of German rocket scientists out of work. Many of them wanted to escape to Argentina. Unfortunately, they also wanted to bring their work with them, but few emigrants thought raining V2s on Buenos Aires would enhance their chances for asylum.

In a brilliant move, today known as the brain drain, the United States enticed Germany’s best and brightest scientists to live in our country. They were so glad they were going to California and not Nuremberg they helped us put men on the moon.

Now, apparently, those wonderful folks who brought us the Second World War want to square the deck.

A German institute is offering a job that includes a regular paycheck, medical benefits and life in a country that considers beer a food.

In return, they expect you to do absolutely nothing.

You pretty much lie in bed. The hardest thing in the job’s description is opening your pay envelope. (If you can arrange for direct deposit the job is even easier.)

Once in a while, a team of experts lifts you onto a table, wheels you over to a centrifuge and spins you around for a while. The idea is to get some blood into your feet. Apparently, doing nothing is hard on your lower extremities.

(This occupational hazard might one day qualify you for disability pay, although you’ll have to take up bowling or rock wall climbing. If the Germans catch you doing nothing losing your benefits will be the nicest thing that happens.)

Job experts predict that it’s only a matter of time before US companies hire people to do nothing, lest we watch our civic pride deteriorate as our best and brightest do-nothings put their expertise to work for a foreign power

(The wood-paneled conference room of a large, American corporation. A human resources interviewer sits on one side of a conference table. Not far from his right hand is a bell, the kind you ring for service in a dry cleaners.)

INTERVIEWER: Fred, I see you have a degree from USC.

FRED: Uh, huh.

INTERVIEWER: A little too ambitious for us. (He rings the bell. DING.) Next.

FRED: But my parents bribed the debating team coach…

INTERVIEWER: So you didn’t exactly work….

FRED: Never touched a number two pencil.

INTERVIEWER: We’ll let you know. Next. (DING)

(A young woman in her early twenties enters. Her makeup is ghastly but it makes her look good in selfies, which she takes throughout the interview.)

INTERVIEWER: What makes you think you’re good at doing nothing uh…

(He looks at her application.)

INTERVIEWER: …Snowflake?

SNOWFLAKE: I spend all my time on Instagram.

INTERVIEWER: Got plenty of those. (DING.) Next.

SNOWFLAKE: No you don’t.


SNOWFLAKE: My mother says there’s no one like me in the whole world.


SNOWFLAKE: Can I take a selfie with your bell?

(A tall senior citizen enters. He has all his hair, including a full beard.)

MITCHELL: I sent you my résumé.

INTERVIEWER: Initiative is hardly a trait you want to see in someone who does nothing. (DING.) Next.

MITCHELL: If you’ll only give me a chance.

INTERVIEWER: Do you realize there are thousands of people who haven’t sent me résumés that I can choose from? Why would I want you? (DING.) Next.

MITCHELL: Because I have more experience than they do.

INTERVIEWER: (sighs) That’s what they all say. I think it has to do with the internet making nothing so accessible.

MITCHELL: But do those people have references?

INTERVIEWER: If they were out collecting references they wouldn’t be doing nothing, now would they? (He raises his hand over the bell.)


(The interviewer lowers his hand.)

MITCHELL: Would it help if I told you I worked for the government?

INTERVIEWER: Ahh, now we’re getting somewhere. What did you not do?

MITCHELL: Every time you read that nothing happened in Washington…


MITCHELL: …that was me.

INTERVIEWER: Impressive. How long have you been doing nothing?

MITCHELL: Since 1985. But for the last four years I’ve been in charge of doing nothing.

INTERVIEWER: Say…do I know you?

MITCHELL: Why do you ask?

INTERVIEWER: Because your beard is coming off and now I can see that you don’t have a neck. You’re Mitch McConnell.

MITCHELL: (sings) I’ve got plenty of nothing…

McConnell remains in the interviewer’s office for six hours while reading aloud from a 1987 copy of the Manhattan telephone directory. During that time, the interviewer gets nothing done. He gets a promotion.

McConnell returns to Washington and schedules a fact-finding tour to Germany.


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The Times They Is a-Changin’ https://www.theoutofmymindblog.com/the-times-they-is-a-changin/ https://www.theoutofmymindblog.com/the-times-they-is-a-changin/#comments Sun, 05 May 2019 10:00:38 +0000 https://www.theoutofmymindblog.com/?p=4486 New York Times Building At Night - The Out Of My Mind Blog

“A couple of years ago I got in trouble for ‘hand job.’ In a quote.”
— Emily Bazelon, staff writer for The New York Times Magazine, 2017.

Two years later how things have changed, as demonstrated by this letter we uncovered from Arthur. G. Sulzberger, the Times’s publisher.

Mr. Christopher A. Wray
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Washington, D.C.

Dear Chris:

So good to hear from you, especially since the envelope didn’t contain a subpoena. Heaven knows, the lawyers went through it twice. They were as surprised as I was.

How are the wife and kids? I’m impressed with the way you keep them out of the public eye. Not like my family. Grandpa dragged all of us in front of photographers when we were infants. But you, it’s almost as if your family is in witness protection. Or shouldn’t I ask?

I have to admit I was a bit taken aback by the tone of your letter. It was awfully lawyerly. I thought our relationship was beyond that. However, since you brought it up I feel duty bound to correct the record.

First of all, our decision to use “those words,” as Grandmum would have called them, was not entirely ours. As the nation’s newspaper of record, we hold a mirror up to society. If society doesn’t like what it sees, our only responsibility is to clean the mirror. (By the way, Windex and crumpled pages from our Arts section do a first class job of that.)

The Monica Lewinsky case brought the word “penis” to our pages. Don’t ask about that dust up. I remember Pops coming home one night and asking Mum if “the body part involved in circumcision” was a reasonable substitute. She said only if the byline belonged to Alex Trebek.

If there’s anyone to complain to, it’s your boss’s boss. Even if we were prone to put words in his mouth (we’re not), our managing editor would have insisted on, “That’s the end of my presidency. I’m the past tense of a vulgar term for sexual intercourse.”

But’s let get to the heart of the matter.

Why is it our fault if some of your agents find today’s cut-and-paste ransom notes offensive? Your basic ransomer could have used vulgarities any time in the past. The idea that by making it unnecessary to spell out “those words” letter by letter we are lowering the quality of ransom note discourse is an assertion totally unsupported by the facts.

I think you will find general agreement among social scientists that ransomers have long harbored a secret desire toward vulgarity, but only now that your boss’s boss has given them permission have they felt comfortable incorporating “those words” in their writings.

Kick the blame upstairs. The private sector does it all the time.

(You might point out to your agents that our type font, on which we’ve spent upwards of a million dollars in development, gives a clean look to those dirty words. It would be nice to give us a little credit for, if nothing else, raising ransom notes’ visual appeal.)

Since you are a senior law enforcement official, do I need to remind you that everything in our newspaper is copyrighted? Using any of it for ransom notes is a violation of the law. While you’re throwing the book at these people, you might want to tack on a chapter or two about that.

Also tell them they are in breach our terms of service and, upon conviction, we will cancel their subscriptions.

Maybe you weren’t counting on my reading your letter to the end, but I assume that your PS, in which you claim to have first discovered “those words” in our pages while lining your parakeet’s cage, was an attempt at humor.

It doesn’t suit you, Chris. Maintaining a secret file on me doesn’t give you the right to be insulting.

And, by the way, my Bureau nickname isn’t very flattering. Iron Man or Gray Hair, maybe. But Gray Lady’s Man? Honestly? What if I started using your old college nickname. Would you still answer to Doodles? (We have secret files, too.)

Better yet, what if I sent you a ransom letter? “Hand over a million bucks or we publish ‘Doodles’ all over the front page and your career is f’ed.” Only I’ll use the whole word. It’s no problem at all. I’m sure I can find a copy of our April 18th edition on my coffee table.

Give my best to your wife.


A.G. Signature - The Out Of My Mind Blog



A. G. Sulzberger


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Men Can Be Catty Too https://www.theoutofmymindblog.com/men-can-be-catty-too/ https://www.theoutofmymindblog.com/men-can-be-catty-too/#comments Sun, 21 Apr 2019 10:00:04 +0000 https://www.theoutofmymindblog.com/?p=4467 Cat In Repose - The Out Of My Mind BlogKeep in mind that what follows is my wife’s side of the story.

The other day, she called to me from the kitchen and I didn’t answer.

That night we had a quiet dinner. Quiet like dining in a cemetery quiet, where your wife never speaks above a whisper and refers to you in the past tense.

Over dessert, she accused me of not caring about her nearly being attacked by a spider the size of a pregnant schnauzer.

“That’s why I called you,” she said. “I know you heard me. You just didn’t care.”

“What?” I said. (I don’t care. I think it was a clever ad lib.)

“I even called you by name.”

When your wife —- in a whisper and using the past tense —- says that she called you by name, you have to be careful not to break the quiet by saying something you’ll regret.

Which, until now, was any combination of vowels and consonants. Fortunately, after two weeks intense googling, I found the safe response.

According to some very serious research reported in the very serious Wall Street Journal (SLOGAN: We Give You the Business), there is a rational explanation for what happened.

“Honey,” you can say, “I must have been channeling my inner cat.”

Do not be upset if there is more silence. View it as an opportunity to demonstrate your grasp of modern behavioral science.

Tell her, “According to a serious study at the University of Oregon, cats know when you’re calling them. Their response, however, is very subtle.”

“Subtle, like what?” your wife will probably say.

Explain how scientists took cats and played them recordings of four spoken nouns followed by the their names. (Nouns were used because cats, not unlike most college students, are verb-challenged.)

When cats heard their own names they twitched their ears.

I think it’s safe to say that you don’t get a more positive result in a scientific experiment since Alfred Nobel lit a match and said, “I wonder if this stuff burns?”

Probably the most important part of the study, certainly the one most worth citing, is that after hearing their names the cats didn’t move. The scientists in Oregon concluded that cats recognize when they’re being addressed and demonstrate their recognition by going back to sleep.

Your wife may find this hard to accept, but that’s normal. She probably comes from a world in which sentient beings respond to sounds with physical actions. (PROOF: Try sneaking up behind a stranger and yelling “This is a stick up.”)

If your wife doesn’t point out that a cold and uncaring response is what you get from a dead goldfish you’ve passed the first major hurdle. Remind her that the people who reached this conclusion —- that by not responding the cats demonstrated their total engagement —- were objective scientists.

Skip the point that they also admitted they were dedicated cat owners.

Also skip the part about how most cats’ names are nouns and it’s possible that the cats thought they were being told a joke —- five cats walk into a research lab —- and were politely waiting for the punch line before responding.

(SCIENTIFIC NOTE: Be careful with this explanation, because it assumes cats have social skills that, unlike Brigadoon, appear more often than once a century.)

“So you see,” you tell your wife, “what I don’t do is important as what I do do.” Try not to show surprise if she agrees.

It could be all your wife heard was “do-do.”

Also, hope your wife doesn’t ask you if this kind of scientific nonsense has anything to do with why people don’t believe in climate change.

If she does, urge her to substitute “government-funded research” in place of “nonsense.”

In my case, my wife was willing to accept the scientific explanation that my ignoring her was an indication that I cared.

Not that she said so out loud.

She’s more of a demonstrative person.

On the bright side, I’ve learned that making pasta is not as easy as it looks, even if you do it every night; that there are things living under the bed you’ll never see in a Disney nature film; and that it’s possible for me to write and do the dishes at the same time, although it takes a while for the paper towels to dry before I can edit them.

By the way, if the topic comes up, two cups of laundry bleach is too much. By a lot.

I also learned my wife is damn good at twitching her ear.


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Ms. Communication https://www.theoutofmymindblog.com/ms-communication/ https://www.theoutofmymindblog.com/ms-communication/#comments Sun, 07 Apr 2019 10:00:18 +0000 https://www.theoutofmymindblog.com/?p=4423 Women Communicating - The Out Of My Mind Blog

DREW: Welcome to Who Wants to be a Millionaire, the special couples addition. I’m Drew Carey and I’m your special host because who knows more about couples than someone who is often mistaken for one? Let’s meet our first couple, Bert and Sally Ann Wizzle from Kalamazoo, Michigan.


DREW: The purpose of our couples edition is to give spouses a chance to yell at each other on stage instead of from the audience.

BERT: Ha, ha, Drew. We’re not going to yell at each other. We get along just fine.

DREW: Well, then we’re in for the dullest half hour in television. Sally Ann, why do you two want to be millionaires?

SALLY ANN: Wouldn’t you like to have a million dollars?

DREW: Not as much as my agent would like it.

BERT: We’re gonna buy a new house.

DREW: Well, that sounds like an excellent plan. Keep the wheels of commerce turning. Okay, here’s your first question. Oh, this is appropriate. Who wrote the book Men are From Mars Women are From Venus. Was it (a) Philip Roth, (b) John Gray, (c) Maya Angalou or (d) Gallileo?

BERT: John Gray.

DREW: Is that your final answer?

BERT: Yeah. Right, hon?

SALLY ANN: Four seems like an awful lot of choices, dear.

BERT: Yes, but John Gray is the answer.

SALLY ANN: Remember when I had four pairs of shoes and you thought that was too much?

BERT: Well, it’s not Gallileo. And it was written by a man…

DREW: It’s a little early, but you can use your fifty-fifty lifeline and remove two choices.

SALLY ANN: It’s up to you, dear.

DREW: I already removed two choices.

DREW: You know, technically, you only have fifteen seconds to answer.

BERT: I’m going with (b) John Gray.

DREW: What do you say, Sally Ann? Final answer?

SALLY ANN: Wouldn’t you trust your spouse, Drew?

DREW: I’d answer that, but fifteen seconds wouldn’t be enough time. The correct answer is…John Gray. You have five hundred dollars.


DREW: Don’t sound so happy. At this rate, they’re getting less than minimum wage. Your next question is worth one thousand dollars. In 2006, Pluto was demoted. After all those years. Wow, Disney is cold. I’m joking. We’re talking about Pluto the former planet. Astronomers now consider Pluto (a) a plutoid, (b) an asteroid, (c) a schadenfreude or (d) a hemmeroid?

BERT: It’s either plutoid or asteroid. Hon?

SALLY ANN: You know, it was so nice of Wanda to come with us today. You remember Wanda. My old college roommate.

BERT: And…?

SALLY ANN: It’s just been a while since I’ve seen her.

DREW: She’s here? In the audience?

BERT: Are you saying you want to use the plus one lifeline?

(He turns to Drew.)

BERT: I think she wants to use a lifeline…

(He turns back to Sally Ann.)

BERT: Say, “I want to use the plus one lifeline.”

SALLY ANN: You don’t have to get so upset. If you don’t want to talk to Wanda you don’t have to.

(Bert turns to Drew.)

BERT: We’ll use our plus one lifeline.

DREW: Sally Ann, with a plus one lifeline you can have a friend from the audience join you here on stage and help you answer the question. Is that what you want?

BERT: Bring up Wanda.

DREW: Sally Ann?

SALLY ANN: I think she’s sitting way in the back.

BERT: So she’ll walk to the front.

SALLY ANN: Do you want her to come up here?

BERT: Why are you asking me? This show was your idea.

SALLY ANN: You filled out the application.

BERT: Because you wanted a new house.

SALLY ANN: I like our house.

BERT: You said our house was too far from shopping.

SALLY ANN: I said that since they closed the Publix we have to drive further.

BERT: And when we went shopping you pointed out that house you said was so cute and so much closer.

SALLY ANN: I’ve always liked the Cape Cod style, that’s all.

DREW: Speaking of moving, we really need to move things along before that million is only worth a dollar and a quarter.

BERT: The answer is (d) hemmeroid.

DREW: That’s your final answer? Really?

(Shouts of “No, no,” arise from the audience.)

BERT: Unless my wife has any last words.

DREW: Wait. I’ll go to my dressing room and get my striped shirt and whistle.


DREW and BERT: Yes?

SALLY ANN: Could I have a woman host?

(The show cuts off abruptly to make room for the next program, Family Feud.)


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Here’s Looking In You Kid https://www.theoutofmymindblog.com/heres-looking-in-you-kid/ https://www.theoutofmymindblog.com/heres-looking-in-you-kid/#comments Sun, 24 Mar 2019 10:00:37 +0000 https://www.theoutofmymindblog.com/?p=4428 Sewer Pipe Drain - The Out Of My Mind Blog

[FOR THE RECORD: There is nothing conclusive that explains why February got Black History Month and March got Colon Cancer Awareness Month. Frankly, I’d prefer spending more time (if only three days) discussing Black History than my colon. However, most of the people I asked said that you had to put Colon Awareness Month somewhere and no place would make everybody happy. This is the same answer I got when I asked about the placement of hemmeroids.]

One of the advantages of being on the leading edge of the baby boom generation is that I get to tell those who came after me about some of the wonderful things they have to look forward to as they move into a new and wonderful phase of their lives.

Total organic breakdown.

This is a condition that will strike you somewhere between your first pair of bifocals and senior citizen pricing at movie theaters, although it begins harmlessly enough.

One day, when you are feeling so good about yourself you might actually rehang all your mirrors, your doctor will tell you that it’s time for your first colonoscopy.

He or she will keep a straight face when discussing this but, and this is the sort of wisdom that comes with being a Baby Boomer, deep inside your doctor is laughing harder than a pack of hyenas on nitrous oxide.

Your doctor will then explain the procedure to you in medical terms which, when translated into English, roughly mean that one day soon, a total stranger will do to you what you’ve always wanted to do to your boss but couldn’t because you lacked the required medical license.

For your own peace of mind, it is best to accept this explanation and get on with your life. (IMPORTANT: Never, ever look up colonoscopy on Google. Hey, you heard what I said. Get your hand off that mouse.)

As grim as this may sound, I have just described the easy part.

Your doctor will also give you a prescription for a medication that I’m sure won second place in a C.I.A. grant competition. (FOR THE RECORD: The winner of the competiton was waterboarding.)

The prescription is for a colorless, odorless and pretty much tasteless liquid you will drink every ten minutes the night before your colonoscopy. By the time you’re ready for bed, your colonoscopy will be the last thing on your mind.

It will take about six hours to finish every drop of the stuff. This is long enough to thoroughly hydrate every organ in your body, including your eardrums, without providing you with the welcome relief that comes with kidney failure.

At the same time, something called your electrolyte balance will be in as much disarray as an R. Kelly interview. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself waddling around the house screaming, “I never wanted to be pregnant.” It’s just the electrolytes talking.

What is all this for?

Sorry, as a licensed Baby Boomer I’m not allowed to spoil the surprise. I can, however, suggest you set your phone’s GPS to BATHROOM. Also, bring lots of reading material.

It’s difficult to write about an actual colonoscopy without using terms such as rectum, anus, tushi, butt and Gateway to the Ileum — none of which tested well at the dinner table. I was inclined to try substitutes such as weasel hole, gerbil burrow, Mr. Whipple and the names of several east coast cities. Unfortunately, writing about what it’s like to have a medical device inserted up your Seacaucus seemed to detract from its importance.

The best I can do, then, is describe how my first colonoscopy felt.

Just great.

At least once the drugs kicked in. Nobody was talking, but I suspect what they gave me won last prize in the C.I.A. competition.

I remember firing off several zingers (“Wow, does that hose say Return to Parks Department?” and “Don’t forget to remove that thing or I’m going to walk like John Wayne for the rest of my life.”) before waking up in the recovery room.

“Good news,” said the nurse. “The doctor says you don’t have to come back for five years.”

I was relieved and, according to the nurse, so was the doctor.

“Don’t forget these,” the nurse said, handing me what I can only describe as colon selfies. I took them home and dropped them in some electrolytes.


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Well What Do You Know https://www.theoutofmymindblog.com/well-what-do-you-know/ https://www.theoutofmymindblog.com/well-what-do-you-know/#comments Sun, 10 Mar 2019 10:00:28 +0000 https://www.theoutofmymindblog.com/?p=4403 Little Girl with Eyes Crossed - The Out Of My Mind BlogAs the day dawns, we find ourselves facing news of yet another species on the verge of vanishing from our great land.

That would be the old college fight song.

Also, the old college drinking song, the old college Alma Mater and, possibly, the old college.

Thanks to the internet, high school students believe it’s no longer necessary to spend four years getting smart when, in a couple of hours, they can do it on their own. As many a high school junior (channeling Mark Zuckerberg) will tell you, everything in life you need to know you can learn on Instagram (although unlike high school juniors, Zuckerberg makes billions selling everything he knows).

(We’re in the middle-class living room of a middle-class family in the heart of Middle America. If not the heart, then something nearby, such as the aorta. Mom and Dad sit, side by side, on a Crate and Barrel sofa [Petrie Midcentury in sea mist]. Their darling high-school junior daughter sits across the Crate and Barrel coffee table [Dillon Spalted Primavera Round Wood]on a Crate and Barrel chair [Aidan Velvet Tufted Chair and a Half in sea foam]. She has a name, but no one seems to remember what it is. Call her Snowflake. Everyone else does. Snowflake waits for the right moment to speak as Mom and Dad are busy texting. Each other.)

SNOWFLAKE: Mom. Dad. I have something to tell you.

MOM: Mmm.

DAD: Uh, huh.

SNOWFLAKE: I’m not going to college.

(Mom and Dad stop in mid-text. They look at each other. The room isn’t just quiet it’s Grant’s Tomb on a Sunday at midnight quiet.)

MOM (big sigh): Thank goodness.

DAD: Amen to that.

MOM: Your father and I were so worried, what with all those brochures you’ve been getting from Harvard and Stanford.

DAD: Soulless places. Antiquated. A shell of their former selves.

MOM: All they do is crank out students who know little more than how to think critically…

DAD: …and how to paint their faces for football games.

SNOWFLAKE: Now, since the average college tuition is…

MOM: Oh, it’s not the money, Snowflake.

DAD: We could sell the house. We were planning to buy an RV anyway.

SNOWFLAKE: Oh. Okay. Well, if you would just sign over my college fund…

MOM: Don’t be silly. We got rid of that years ago.

DAD: Put it all in Bitcoins.

MOM: What we’re trying to say is that we never thought college was right for you.

SNOWFLAKE: So you agree college is outdated.

(She hesitates.)


MOM (sighs): It does take so long to get smart.

DAD: And you know how you get when the internet is slow.

SNOWFLAKE:  It’s a fact that in today’s economy you don’t need to be smart to succeed.

DAD: Yeah, smart is so overrated.

SNOWFLAKE: You agree?

DAD: Lots of Baby Boomers went to college.

MOM: And look at how they changed the world.


MOM: Pet rocks, Knott’s Landing…

DAD: …The Captain and Tennille.

MOM: Grandpa George went to college.

DAD: And now he doesn’t have a job.

SNOWFLAKE: Didn’t he retire to Orlando?

MOM: Besides, you have lovely hair.

SNOWFLAKE: I need basic…what?

MOM: Look at Einstein. He was smart. And his hair was frightful. All those things he knew…

DAD: …and when they didn’t fit inside his brain…

(Dad reaches across the coffee table and messes up Snowflake’s hair.)

DAD: …poof.


MOM: You’re much better off moving out and learning what you need to know from experience.

DAD: Nothing college can teach you that you can’t learn from bartending. That’s what I always say.

SNOWFLAKE: What are you talking about?

DAD: Chemistry. Psychology. And, if there’s a good barroom brawl…

(Dad puts up his fists.)

DAD: …P.E.

SNOWFLAKE: If I move out can I still start a business in our kitchen?

MOM: I think waitressing and retail sales are great opportunities. Without all that knowledge weighing you down you’ll have plenty of energy to save the world.

DAD: Let’s not overlook being a Wal-Mart greeter.

MOM: We paid a lot for your smile. People should see it.

DAD: Nobody smiles in a statistics class.

SNOWFLAKE: I can’t believe you don’t want me to go to college.

MOM: We don’t want you to throw your whole life away on a whim.

SNOWFLAKE: I hate you.

(Snowflake stomps out of the room. Mom and Dad look at each other.)

DAD: Where’d you learn that?

MOM: First semester, junior year. Professor Dorfman’s psych class.

(Dad picks up his phone and checks his email. Mom goes shopping.)


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Good Buy https://www.theoutofmymindblog.com/good-buy/ https://www.theoutofmymindblog.com/good-buy/#comments Sun, 24 Feb 2019 11:00:06 +0000 https://www.theoutofmymindblog.com/?p=4385 Poured Concrete - The Out Of My Mind BlogDuring the record 35-day government shutdown, government workers and contractors weren’t the only ones hurt. There was fallout across the economy.

(We’re on the set at QVC, the home shopping channel. It looks like a typical suburban backyard, if you ignore the hundreds of bags of concrete piled everywhere. Also out of place is a six-foot by four-foot by three-feet tall wooden frame that’s about 7/8ths full of wet concrete.

On the set are Joey and Sonia. He’s a typical suburban husband, if typical suburban husbands wear wide-pinstriped black suits with bulges under their left breast pockets. She is a typical suburban housewife, if typical suburban housewives look like mail-order brides from Russia. In her short pencil skirt and tight cashmere sweater she shows off a figure to die for. Which is what would happen to any typical suburban husband who hit on her.)

JOEY: Hi. I’m Joey…

SONYA: … and I’m Sonia.

JOEY: We’re here to make you an offer…

SONIA (full of excitement): …you can’t refuse.

JOEY: Not quite, Princess. This is an offer you can’t get anywhere else.

SONIA: All time you tell people this is offer you can’t refuse. Can’t refuse. Can’t refuse. Sonia says it, it no good? Only you can say it?

JOEY: You don’t make offers you can’t refuse to your friends. And these are our friends.

SONIA: I go shopping now.

JOEY: I told you. I need you here if you ever want to see Little Joey again.

SONIA: Maybe buy expensive car. Drive around looking for rich man in better health.

(Joey talks to the camera.)

JOEY: Listen folks, I made a large investment in concrete for this former real estate guy who promised me the inside track on a large construction project out west.

SONIA: Which Sonia say don’t do. In Russia we learn never trust former real estate guy who join government.

JOEY: Let’s just say I thought I had a better relationship with this…

SONIA: …rat.

(She thinks.)

SONIA: Instead of car, maybe I buy see-through lingerie.

JOEY: Anyway, I borrowed some money from some…family members, who are now looking for, what you might call, a quick return on their investment.

SONIA: They tell Joey want money back.

(Joey looks earnestly into the camera.)

JOEY: That’s where you come in. You couldn’t buy concrete at these prices even if you went to another supplier…which I wouldn’t recommend.

SONIA: I tell Joey not to do business with relatives.

(She looks at her watch.)

SONIA: Ooo…it almost 5 o’clock.

(Sweat beads form on Joey’s forehead as he addresses the camera again.)

JOEY: I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, Joey, why do I need concrete? I’m not in the construction business like you and your business partners. But, let’s be honest. If your family is anything like mine, you’ve got a few skeletons in the closet. Which is a really dumb place to keep them ’cause it’s the first place the cops are gonna look. Am I right?

(He points at the concrete slab.)

JOEY: This is a much safer place to hide those skeletons. Even if they’re not skeletons yet. You put your kid’s playhouse on here…I mean…what DA is gonna knock down a kid’s playhouse? How’s that gonna look on cable news?

SONIA: Look like Russia. In the spring.

JOEY: Folks, If you’re one of the first ten husbands to call, my little princess will deliver your concrete personally.

(Sonia faces the camera and jiggles her breasts.)

SONIA: Sonia drive truck for Russian army.

JOEY: Call within the next three minutes, and use a burner phone, I’ll give you an extra five percent off.

SONIA: Also, I neatly fold soldiers’ uniforms and test their beds not make squeaky noises.

(Joey steps to the side where there’s an empty bucket and a sack of concrete.)

JOEY: Let me show you how easy this is. You just empty the concrete into a bucket, like this…

(He coughs and wheezes as he wrestles with the bag.)

JOEY (out of breath): …add water…

(Fortunately, the ersatz backyard has a hose with running water.)

JOEY: …stir and pour.

(He pours the concrete, which tops off the wooden frame.)

JOEY: How we doin’, Princess?

(She checks her watch.)

SONIA: Ooo, two minutes to go…

(A title appears at the bottom the screen: Only 1,465,880 Bags Left)

SONIA: …and so far, we sell incredible zero bags of concrete. That leaves plenty for rat if he change mind.

(Without a word, Joey climbs into the wet concrete and disappears.)


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Episode 064—A Christmas Shepherd https://www.theoutofmymindblog.com/episode-064-a-christmas-shepherd/ https://www.theoutofmymindblog.com/episode-064-a-christmas-shepherd/#comments Tue, 18 Dec 2018 11:00:27 +0000 https://www.theoutofmymindblog.com/?p=4308 Jean Shepherd - The Out Of My Mind Blog

Listen to Episode 064


Almost everyone knows the role of the shepherd in the story of Christmas. This podcast tells the story of that other Christmas Shepherd, the one who has nothing to do with religion, heavenly stars or mangers. Nevertheless, this Shepherd is as much a part of Christmas as Santa, stockings and the Harry Simeone Chorale.

But for the grace of a good woman he wouldn’t be.

If you know the name Jean Shepherd at all it might be as the voice of the adult Ralphie in the 1983 cult-film hit A Christmas Story. (If, like me, you were fortunate enough to grow up within the sound of New York’s WOR radio you might know Shepherd as that guy who talked for hours, without notes, spinning stories of a Midwest childhood and big-city angst.)

Without A Christmas Story, the TNT cable network would have to satisfy itself with reruns of Miracle on 34th Street or a flickering yule log on Christmas Day. And, TNT almost did. Because Shepherd, the film’s co-writer and driving creative force, came close to not writing the script at all.

He thought his other stories — ones he deemed to have more gravitas — would propel him to fame.

The events leading up to A Christmas Story, are far more complex, and human, than can be dispatched in a few minutes. So, Out Of My Mind podcast host Jay Douglas traveled to Long Island to interview two men with intimate knowledge of Shepherd and his life —- author, blogger and Shepherd historian Eugene Bergmann, whose book Excelsior, You Fathead; The Art and Enigma of Jean Shepherd is the closest we’ll ever get to a look inside Shepherd the man and the artist; and Tom Lipscomb, media executive, publisher, writer, editor and playwright, who published a number of Jean Shepherd’s books.

Euguene and Tom sat down for a lively discussion of Shepherd, his art, his frustrations and his battle with his own ego over A Christmas Story.

It’s a Shepherd story you probably never he(a)rd.


Listen to Episode 064


Eugene Bergmann - The Out Of My Mind Blog

Courtesy of Eugene Bergmann

Eugene B. Bergmann began listening to Jean Shepherd radio shows in 1956. His book, Excelsior, You Fathead! The Art and Enigma of Jean Shepherd, a detailed description and appreciation of Shepherd’s creative world, was published in 2005. His transcribed and edited selection of Shepherd’s Army stories never before in print, Shep’s Army: Bummers, Blisters, And Boondoggles, was published in 2013. He has also written the commentaries for sets of Shepherd’s syndicated radio shows and several published articles about his work. Bergmann continues such activities with his blog, www.shepquest.wordpress.com, and has recently been adding to it, Artsy Fartsy, illustrated essays on his wide-ranging adventures in the arts. He and his family live on Long Island, N. Y.

Tom Lipscomb - The Out Of My Mind Blog

Courtesy of Tom Lipscomb

Thomas H. Lipscomb is a media executive/CEO; publisher of numerous bestsellers; editor; writer. He was the founder of Times Books at the New York Times Company. As a serial entrepreneur he was the founder and CEO of two high tech public companies (based upon his patents in digital rights management). Tom founded The Center for the Digital Future, now the Annenberg Center at USC. A former visiting professor and lecturer at numerous universities, he is the author of articles in dozens of publications from the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal, to Harper’s and the Readers Digest. Tom is a prize-winning playwright and is currently writing a nonfiction book on what Rebecca West has called “the greatest mystery of the Second World War.”


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Actions Speak Louder Than Words So To Be On The Safe Side Just Speak The Words https://www.theoutofmymindblog.com/actions-speak-louder-than-words-so-to-be-on-the-safe-side-just-speak-the-words/ https://www.theoutofmymindblog.com/actions-speak-louder-than-words-so-to-be-on-the-safe-side-just-speak-the-words/#comments Thu, 27 Sep 2018 10:00:10 +0000 https://www.theoutofmymindblog.com/?p=4273 Love In 2 Fingers - The Out Of My Mind Blog

Experts say that cell phones are upending relationships as couples increasingly spend more time with their screens than their mates. But, as I discovered ten years ago, technology can also help keep married life blissful.

Christopher L. from Naperville, Illinois writes, “I have in front of me an anniversary card for my wife and I want to write something personal on it. As a professional writer, do you have any suggestions?”

Yes. Re-read the card, absorb the sentiment, pick up your pen, and this is the important part, write ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. If the card says “To My Wife…” on the front you may be able to get by without even signing your name. So much the better.

I say this in all sincerity as a professional writer who knows the power of the written word. When it comes to greeting cards for your wife, that word is “liability.” This is because men and women view greeting cards in entirely different ways.

For example, when a woman buys a birthday card for her husband, she spends time at the store carefully reading EACH AND EVERY card (including those labeled “anniversary,” “graduation,” “bar mitzvah,” “confirmation,” and “reorder number 11”), weighing each sentiment until she finds just the right message to convey her feelings.

A man surveys the rack of cards and, because the store is closing, selects the only card left with a matching envelope.

When a man gets a card from his wife, his first thought is, “When I throw it away can I toss it on top of the garbage or should I hide it under the milk cartons?”

A woman, on the other hand, especially your wife, will keep the card forever. Remember the “till death do us part” of your wedding? She was looking at you, but fantasizing about the greeting cards.

And while you think adding “I would move heaven and earth to make you happy” demonstrates you have sensitivity and sincerity, not to mention the vocabulary of a gigolo in a Harlequin romance novel, your wife will see it as something completely different.

SHE: Honey, you once told me you’d move heaven and earth to make me happy.

HE: Uh, huh.

SHE: Well, I’d settle for your moving the garbage to the trash can.

HE: Isn’t this why we have kids?

SHE: Oh, and I have it in writing.

What can we, as sensitive, sincere men do? We can do what all the sensitive, sincere men before us have done. Curl up in a ball and suck our thumbs. Or, we can pretend we are 21st century sensitive and sincere men and turn to…technology.

It seems Hallmark is selling a line of new cards that let you record a personal message IN YOUR OWN VOICE. These cards make use of a wonderful invention that solves all our problems.

A battery.

Batteries are amazing devices because they have the ability to go from marvels of scientific engineering to useless blobs of toxic chemicals all in a period of a few months.

You are now free to record a personal message, confident that when your wife drags the card out of her underwear drawer a year or two from now, she will open it up and…NOTHING.

Just the tender, romantic printed message inside the card which, frankly, you could argue is hardly binding, having been told to three million other English-speaking women. (Important: This may put your sensitivity and sincerity at severe risk.)

Based on my extensive knowledge of battery dynamics, most of which comes from a phone call to Hallmark, I have developed some tips for the effective use of the card, which is good for 200 playbacks.

First, record your message several times to get it right.

About 134 ought to do it. Next, hand your wife the card personally so you can not only share the moment with her, but also make sure that she fully appreciates the effort you have put into your message.

HE: You just open the card and, listen, my very own voice telling you how I feel.

SHE: I didn’t hear it. You were talking.

HE: Sorry. I’m opening it again. You can’t get much more personal than that.

SHE: Then what?

HE: What I said.

SHE: You were talking.

HE: I can play it again.

SHE: Let me do it.

HE: Okay. You just open the card…

SHE: I know…

HE: Ooo, and listen. There I…

SHE: Is there a reason you don’t want me to hear what you said?

HE: No.

SHE: Did you buy this card used on eBay?

HE: No.

SHE: I’m calling mother.

Keep it up. Your goal is to share a lifetime of memories in the lifetime of a fruit fly. After which you wife will have little choice but to toss any incriminating evidence in the garbage.

To be on the safe side, check under the milk cartons on your way to the trash can.

From my book I Don’t Have All the Answers Only Because There are Too Many Questions, available from Amazon.com. And, yes, if you buy it I do make some money. But not nearly enough to get a real job.

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