Category Archives: Paffooney

The Secret Identity of Super-Mickey

Cartoon villains take note; Super-Mickey’s secret identity is Filbert Hazelnut. I make that revelation without worry. After all, Mickey is not really me. So, if the Messmaster, Badnose the Clown, or Daniel Quilp are going to try to apply the Mickian version of Kryptonite, not laughing at the jokes, in order to slay Super-Mickey, Filbert is immune to that. I am too for that matter. If you are a school teacher who uses humor in the classroom, you soon learn that only the smartest kids actually understand the jokes, and half of them are just too cool to laugh when the teacher wants them to. (Although they will tell you years later that they still use concrete details in their writing because you said that if you routinely whack the reader in the head with verifiable concrete examples, they will be totally stunned enough to believe you know what you are writing about. That was, you must understand, a concrete detail I just whacked you with to help you remember what it is, not to make you laugh… even though it was a joke… but you are permitted to laugh if you want to.)

The basic point of this essay is Mickey is not really me. I never went by that name as a kid.

I was always called Michael, sometimes Mike (though they were usually talking about the Other Mike when anybody said Mike in school back then… circa 1963 to 1969). In high school I was given the nickname Superchicken after the Saturday Morning cartoon on the George of the Jungle Show. In college I was given the rhyming nickname Spike by my college freshman roommate because he ludicrously thought I was the opposite of a Spike, like calling a huge football player Tiny Tim, or a midget Big Bad John.

When I started teaching school, they called me Gilligan because I was thin and they wanted to pretend I was a hopeless stumbling fool (Which I was at times my first two years, just as all beginner teachers are.) My classroom became known as Gilligan’s Island on the day in third period when I made the comment, “Gilligan is lucky enough to be the only really eligible bachelor on the same island with Ginger the movie star and cute little Mary Ann. I would find out later that same day that three eighth grade girls in that very class had huge crushes on me and were fighting over which one was Mary Ann and which one was Ginger and, unsurprisingly, which one was the other girl.

And, of course, Rudolfo Hernandez tried to get everybody to call me Batman because I bought a used Ford Torino with fins on the back. But to promote the nickname, Rudy came to class wearing a Halloween Batman mask and afterwords had to learn to live with being called Battyman himself. (I wish i could take credit for calling him that first, but I am sure I did not. I distinctly remember it coming from a girl in his class that made fun of him for every stupid thing he did because she apparently adored him. I just reinforced it about a thousand times.)

Mickey is a name that I have only ever been called by me myself. It was a name I signed some of my cartoons with (using The Little Fool, Le Petit Fou, Leah Cim Reyeb, and Dr. Seebreez on the rest.) It also became the name I use to refer to myself on this blog when I talk about myself in the third person like a crazy person.

I have given myself other pseudo-pen-names in my writing. Googol Marou, as the only first-person narrator of the AeroQuest series, speaks with my voice as the primary storyteller in the tale. In Norwall, the fictionalized version of Rowan, Iowa in most of my other books, Branch McMillan, the writer-character, is actually me. (Like Charles Dickens switched his initials to write the semi-autobiographical David Copperfield, I created that one by switching the M and the B.

Of course, the many me-characters in my fiction books are also basically me. Superchicken is me. Milt Morgan is a combination of me and the Other Mike. Brent Clarke is the football-player me combined with two other football teammates. Certain parts of Todd Niland’s story are really about things that happened to me, and things I was afraid of at his age.

In some ways Tim Kellogg and Dorin Dobbs are me too, though both of those characters are actually based on my eldest son. It is possible, I suppose, that you could consider my actual son to be a me-character too, as people do live on through their own children.

But, while Mickey might be me more than I care to admit, Super-Mickey’s secret identity is definitely Filbert Hazelnut.

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Filed under autobiography, cartoons, humor, novel writing, Paffooney

Front Covers

I write novels, and so, I need covers that hopefully spark interest in potential readers. After all, what is the purpose of writing a novel and putting it in the closet where no one will ever read it.

But where do you get a good cover? Not from publishers. The only cover I ever got that was publisher-made was highly misleading about the contents of my book. And it was stock art that they had o hand and simply wanted to charge me a lot of money for.

So, I figured, I do not have comic-book-art habits for no reason. Since that first go, and the other scam publisher that took advantage of me, I have done my own cover art.

So, today, let me show you my own criminally amateur cover designs for Art Day.

Here’s the one from last night;

And these next few are the more recent stuff.

So far those are unpublished covers for works in progress.

This one, about nudists and mythological teenage boys, is already published.
This is the stock cover from I-Universe Publishing. It is not worth what I paid for it. There is no girl flying a kite anywhere in the story.

This last one is not the final version I published. I got rid of the garish yellow for a grayish wood-grain. But my poor internet connection on a hot Texas summer day will not yield any more than I have already shown you.

Ah, well… At least it is already more than last Saturday.

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The Real Magic in that Old Home Town

Rowan, Iowa… Not the place I was born, but the place where I got to be a stupid kid, and have the lessons of the good and god-fearing life hammered into my head hard enough to make a dent and make it stay with me for more than half a century. I got to go to grade school there. I learned to read there, especially in Miss Mennenga’s third and fourth grade class. Especially in that old copy of Treasure Island with the N.C, Wyeth illustrations in it, the one Grandma Aldrich kept in the upstairs closet in their farm house. I got to see my first naked girl there. I learned a lot of things about sex from my friends there, and none of them were true. I played 4-H softball there, and made a game-saving catch in center field… in the same game where my cousin Bob hit the game-winning home run. But those were things kids did everywhere. It didn’t make me special. There was no real magic in it.

Being a farm-kid’s kid taught me the importance of doing your chores, every day and on time. If you didn’t do them, animals could get sick, animals could die, crops could be spoiled, the chickens could get angry and petulant and peck your hands when you tried to get the eggs. Cows could get grumpy and kick the milk bucket. Cats could vow revenge if you didn’t direct a spray or two at their little faces as they lined up to watch you milk the cows. And you never knew for sure what a vengeful cat might do to you later, as cats were evil. They might jump on the keyboard during your piano recital. They might knock the turkey stuffing bowl off the top of the dryer when Mom and Grandma and several aunts were cooking Thanksgiving Dinner. And I know old black Midnight did that on purpose because he got to snatch some off the floor before it could be reached by angry aunts with brooms and dustpans. And all of it was your fault if it all led back to not doing your chores, and not doing them exactly right.

But, even though we learned responsibility and work ethic from our chores, that was not the real home-town magic either. I wasn’t technically a real farm kid. Sure, I picked up the eggs in the chicken house at Grandpa and Grandma Aldrich’s farm more than once. And I did, in fact, help with milking machines and even milking cows by hand and squirting cats in the faces at Uncle Donny’s farm. I walked beans, going up and down the rows to pull and chop weeds out of the bean fields at Uncle Larry’s farm. I drove a tractor at Great Uncle Alvin’s farm. But I didn’t have to do any of those things every single day. My mother and my father both grew up on farms. But we lived in town. So, my work ethic was probably worth only a quarter of what the work ethic of any of my friends in school was truly worth. I was a bum kid by comparison. Gary G. and Kevin K, both real farm kids and older than me, explained this to me one day behind the gymnasium with specific examples and fists.

Being a farm kid helped to forge my character. But that was really all about working hard, and nothing really to do with magic.

I truly believe the real magic to be found in Rowan, Iowa, my home town, was the fact that it was boring. It was a sleepy little town, that never had any real event… well, except maybe for a couple of monster blizzards in the 60’s and 70’s, and the Bicentennial parade and tractor pull on Main Street in 1976, and a couple of costume contests in the 1960’s held in the Fire Station where I had really worked hard on the costumes, a scarecrow one year, and an ogre the next, where I almost won a prize. But nothing that changed history or made Rowan the center of everything.

And therein lies the magic. I had to look at everything closely to find the things and strategies that would take me to the great things and places where I wanted to end up. I learned to wish upon a star from Disney movies. I learned about beauty of body and soul from the girls that I grew up with, most of them related. And I invented fantastical stories with the vivid imagination I discovered lurking in my own stupid head. I embarrassed Alicia Stewart by telling everyone that I could prove she was a Martian princess, kidnapped and brought to Earth by space pirates that only I knew how to defeat. And I learned to say funny things and make people laugh… but in ways that didn’t get me sent to the principal’s office in school. Yes, it was the magic of my own imagination. And boring Iowa farm towns made more people with magic in them than just me. John Wayne was one. Johnny Carson was one also. And have you heard of Elijah Wood? Or the painter Grant Wood? Or the actress Cloris Leachman?

Yep. We were such stuff as dreams were made on in small towns in Iowa. And that is real magic.

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Filed under autobiography, commentary, dreaming, farm boy, farming, foolishness, goofy thoughts, humor, magic, Paffooney

The Case for the Clown

The criminal was led into the courtroom in chains and forced to sit in a box made of metal bars so his influence would not reach out and harm anyone by drawing their sympathy in.

“Mr. Prosecutor,” said the learned judge, “what terrible crime has the perpetrator been charged with?”

“The alleged perpetrator!” objected the defense attorney, a mousy old man who looked like a cross between Santa Clause and Robert E.Lee because of his white beard, stern face, and a twinkle in his eye.

“Shut up please, Mr. Badweather. You will have your turn to speak.” The judge banged his gavel smartly to emphasize the shut-up-ness of his overruling.

“Your honor,” said the prosecutor, “Mister Pennysnatcher Goodlaughs stands accused of being a clown.”

“The people of the State of Texas, home of the free, land of the brave, and place where cowboys can hang their hat on the antlers of a moose they shot in Canada, will prove that Mr. Goodlaughs did willfully, and with malice of forethought, commit acts of supposed humor in order to make people laugh. And we will further prove that in a time of very serious things, he intentionally made light of very serious matters and the very serious men who try to turn those serious things to their exclusive… err, sorry, I mean… everyone’s benefit.”

“Your honor,” said the defense attorney, looking like a cross between Mark Twain and Colonel Sanders, “I would like to request a new venue for this trial. My client will not get a fair trial here.”

“Sir, your stupid request is rejected on the grounds that Mr. Goodlaughs cannot get a fair trial anywhere. We are all conservatives, and are therefore incapable of having a sense of humor. Continue, Mr. Prosecutor.”

“We will show numerous instances of Mr. Goodlaughs putting paint on his face to hide his true features or assume the identity of a character not his own. He has repeatedly used false noses, large shoes, and floppy hats to exaggerate his flaws and scare young children. He repeatedly wears polka-dotted clothing to simulate terrible taste and ridiculous lack of fashion-sense. He employs pratfalls and slapstick humor in his performances, things that, if any school-age child would imitate the behavior, might lead to serious injury or even death. And he has even dared to make fun of our glorious leaders, implying that they make mistakes and may even have hurt people. That they act without thinking about anything but their own pocketbooks. In other words, this clown has knowingly made jokes in order to get people to not take things seriously.”

“Your honor, I object to this jury. I object to the fact that it is made up of fifty percent rednecks and fifty percent kangaroos! My client demands a new, more impartial jury!” cried the defense attorney, looking like a cross between Captain Kangaroo and Ronald Reagan.

“Has anybody noticed?” asked the judge, “that this attorney looks like he could influence this jury unfairly? He looks like two people who could lead the two halves of this jury to the wrong conclusion. Bailiff! Take the defense attorney out back and execute him by firing squad.”

After the entire courtroom heard the gunshots go off, the judge then turned to the prisoner.

“It seems, Mr. Goodlaughs, that the defense’s opening statement is now entirely up to you. Do you have anything to say in your own defense?

“I do, your honor. Ladies and gentlemen, kangaroos and Reagan Republicans of the jury, I submit to you that I have never actually been a circus clown, or wore face paint. Not that I wouldn’t if the opportunity presented itself. I merely claim the right to laugh at anything I think is funny… or can be made funny. Whether I am being what you call a clown, a humorist, a cartoonist, a comedian, a fool, a village idiot, or a witty fellow, I believe I have the right to make light of anything. Life is always better when you can laugh. Especially if you can laugh at yourself.”

“I’ve heard enough,” said the judge. “What say you, jury?”

“Guilty!”

“Yes. And I preemptively waive the prisoner’s right to appeal. Sir, you are guilty, and you shall be executed immediately.”

Everyone in the courtroom breathed a long-awaited sigh of relief.

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Filed under clowns, comedians, commentary, foolishness, humor, insight, Paffooney, pessimism

AeroQuest 4… Canto 105

Canto 105 – Don’t Nobody Bring Me More Bad News

The Outstation is a unique form of living arrangement.  It is a sealed, self-contained environment in the middle of an empty parsec.  Nothing around for many light years, no stars, no planets, no people, no nothing, and, hopefully, no black holes either.  It has to be totally self-sufficient and self-sustaining.

The Rimbaud Memorial Outstation was in the middle of a whole lot of nothing, and so, it was critical that it was there to provide a little something for space travelers tired of parsec after parsec of nothing. 

The crew of the Leaping Shadowcat appreciated it because it was a large gap full of nothing between the system of Farwind and the system of the planet Coventry.  But they weren’t the only ones who needed something to be there in the middle of the nothing.

Shad Blackstone in his black cape and black gangster hat wearily took a seat at the table we were all sharing in Banzai Joe’s French restaurant.

“You look like you’ve been through hell, Mr. Blackstone,” Duke Ferrari said.

“You don’t know the half of it.  Tang descended on Dancer with his whole Imperial fleet and two pirate bands besides.”

“Did they take the planet?” Ham asked, horrified.

“No.  Their target wasn’t the planet.”  The oriental man massaged his forehead with a black-gloved hand.

“What did they get?”

“The target was our defense forces.  They obliterated the Blackhawk Corsairs as a fighting force.”

“Is Razor dead?” Ham asked.

“No, but he and I are the only two ship captains that still survive with intact ships.  The rest are space debris.  And they got the White Duke.”

“Wait a minute!” I said, breaking into the conversation.  “You know the White Duke at Dancer was just a clone, don’t you?”

“Professor Marou, you didn’t know this, but he was the last clone.  The real Duke died some time ago.”

I was stunned.

“Can we rescue Duke Keyser?” Ham asked naively.

“Gravely says he sacrificed himself to buy time for the rebellion.  Tang won’t move on Tron and the New Star League until his mind-sucked every bit of secret information he can get out of the old clone.”

“Do we need to go warn Outpost?”

“No.  That’s where Razor went.  You need to complete your mission to Coventry.  That’s a high population world with a manufacturing system that can turn the tide if it is on our side.”

Captain Trav Dalgoda, his ultra-nervous first officer, Dana Cole, and the Outstation’s leader, Banzai Joe came into the restaurant arguing.

“I am just saying…” said Trav too loudly for indoors, “That if I knew there were Space Nudists here, I’d have ordered my whole danged crew to get naked before I gave them shore leave!”

“It is not necessary, Messieur Goofy.  Classical Worlders do understand that some people in some places must wear something.  But since Rimbaud’s is completely enclosed and temperature controlled, it is only natural for people with the Divine gift of perfect human form to wear nothing in places where nothing is perfectly fine.”  Banzai’s reasoning seemed sound to everyone but Goofy Dalgoda.

“You say perfect?  I saw what the Space Nudists look like.  Even the prettiest girls sag in some places and have spots and blemishes in some other places.  Even I, a perfect male specimen, only have one eye when I’m naked.”

“Captain, you actually have two eyes.  You just wear an eyepatch for no reason.” Dana looked forlorn as she reminded him yet again.

“Well, now, you see?  If I were to go completely naked, I wouldn’t be perfect because I wouldn’t have the eyepatch over the eye that I am not supposed to have because I am a pirate.”

“Messieur Goofy, why should people raised as nudists need to go clothed in a completely controlled space like this.  It is not in the nature of people who normally practice the social nudism.  And the right is established for them because this Outstation was established by businessmen from Samothrace and New Paris.  In fact… by me and my partner.”

“Don’t call me Messy-ur Goofy.  Call me Captain Goofy.  And why are we arguing about this?  I am fully in favor of Space Nudists.  The ones who are good-looking anyway.”

“You are… in favor?  I thought you were arguing against it, Captain Goofy.”

“Ah, no.  First Officer Cole, take off all your clothes right now so I can win this argument we are not having.”

“But, Trav…”

“Just do it, Cole.  You kept wanted to get naked in the shower with me whenever I was playing with my Ancient Doomsday Bomb!”

Dana Cole reluctantly got naked while those of us waiting for our French cuisine watched, some of us amused, and some of us greatly embarrassed.

“So, Goofy, won’t you join us.  We’ll order some chat vomit sur du pain grillé beurre,” said Ham with a big grin on his face.

“Oh, sounds good,” said Trav, sitting down and indicating that his naked first officer should sit next to him.

“Okay…” said Banzai Joe.  “On toast… right away… as soon as we can find a cat.”  He scurried off to the kitchen to avoid laughing in front of everyone.

“Only the best for your friend, eh, Ham?” I asked.

He just smiled.  He was strikingly handsome whenever he smiled.

“So, you will go on to Coventry now that your man Dalgoda is here?” said Shad Blackstone.

“Yes, as soon as our mission is refueled and resupplied,” said Ham.

“And we apparently need to hurry to get back to Tron and Outpost in time,” said Duke Ferrari.

“But we may get slowed down by terrorists,” said Goofy.

“Terrorist?  There are no terrorists here,” said Shad Blackstone.

“No?  They let me land here.  And I have an Ancient Doomsday device on board my spaceship.”

“You refer to the Tesserah?” asked Shad.

“Of course.  I said it was on the space ship, didn’t I?  The other doomsday device is sitting here next to me with no clothes on.”

Dana Cole turned crimson with embarrassment… pretty much all over her bare body.

At that moment we spied the first of them.  A chef chased out of the kitchen a three-legged Space Goon.

“He is a little terrorist, that one.  I was trying to make some chat vomit sur du pain grillé beurre which is hard enough when you have to get the chat to cooperate.  That little three-legged terrorist just ate the chat.  Swallowed the thing whole, it did.”

“And what’s worse, if there is one Space Goon, there will be more on the way.  Especially if there are cats to eat,” said Duke Ferrari morosely.

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Filed under aliens, humor, novel, NOVEL WRITING, Paffooney, science fiction, Uncategorized

Living in a Fictional World

My title for today has at least a double meaning, if not a triple or fourple one.

“Fourple?” you say.

Yes, four plus the color purple. Purple, after all is the dominant color used in the video game “The Legend of Hoodwink“.

And, of course, the video game is not real. It is the virtual reality video game used in the story as the secret land that the orphans and their mother’s friend flee the authorities to live in after the deaths of the Brown family’s parents.

So, I have been living in the world of Glammis, the imaginary game world inside a mainframe supercomputer. I started this story back in the 1980’s, inspired just a little bit by the Disney movie Tron. Of course there are all kinds of more current technological details to employ to make the story more up to date. The story has been reset to 1999. (I don’t write stories set in the 21st Century. I just don’t. Mark Twain never set one in the 20th.) And one of the ways to create the game-world of the story is to draw pictures of it that I can use as illustrations in the book.

Hoodwink and Babbles (the horse-headed Kelpie) are both game characters that play key roles in the story. They transform from game characters following the script to real people fighting for their lives and honor in the course of the story.

A key setting is the candle-castle called Candlemere, for obvious reasons. The wizard, Milt Morgan, lives there, though he is a real person from Iowa living in Texas as a game designer.

These are the three orphans that Milt Morgan has rescued after the car crash. Mortie Brown, Daisy Brown, and Johnny Brown now live in Glammis after the deaths of their parents, Brom and Stacy Brown.

The three orphans are being pursued in the real world by an FBI agent, a relentless tracker and pursuer named Agent Brent Clarke. What the kids don’t know is that Agent Clarke is trying to find them for their grandparents that they don’t realize are still alive. And Clarke is also their uncle, their mother’s older brother.

In the video game, they are pursued by the evil Daniel Quilp, who is in the video game playing the wicked King Murdstone of the Chelsrod’s Spire. He is not a relative. He is secretly the enemy of their parents and the wizard Milt Morgan.

The servant of Murdstone in the game is Errol of the Devylkind. He is more than he appears to be as well. He is another player character who is also very much acquainted with Daisy in the real world, and has a huge crush on her.

But, at present, I haven’t yet reached that part of the story, the latter half of Act One. Instead, I am today establishing setting further by narrating the visit to BrooglieTown, the home of the chocolate dwarves (literally made of chocolate and not a racist faux pas by any means.)

So, in the middle of writing a novel, I am describing the world-building I have been doing… and drawing… while pretty much living in this made-up game world due to the ongoing pandemic and intense heat of Texas in July. It is a better place to be living for now, though it is soon to heat up too as the plot gets churning and the Devylkind, rather hot-blooded fantasy characters, get further involved.

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Pirates are People Too

Science fiction, even if it is comically trying to exaggerate everything and satirize current-world character types, oh, and parody Star Wars and Star Trek, it still needs to truthfully engage with science facts and the basic truths that make the universe operate.

My book that has space pirates as central characters uses a fundamental truth about people. People who lead hard lives and have a lot of difficulties to overcome tend to become better people. But people who have things handed to them (by inheriting a planet because you are immortal or by the magic powers granted to you by Ancient artifacts) tend to become corrupt and criminal.

The book is the first of a five-part series of which the first three are already published and available on Amazon. And this book is free from now until Tuesday, the 21st. Click on the link above and get yourself a copy of the e-book.

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Filed under novel, novel plans, Paffooney, publishing, science fiction

A Single Work of Art

Today, instead of dropping a pile of pictures into my Art Day post, I decided to explain a single work of art, what the idea was, and how I think it succeeded.

This picture, called “March of the Tin Soldiers” was created in 1994. It was done on a large sheet of white art paper from a super-sized art pad purchased a decade before in an Art Store in Austin, Texas. I did the initial drawing with a pencil and then colored over that with colored pencils, mostly art-grade pencils from Prismacolor. It took most of a month to complete because I was in the middle of a busy school year at the time, teaching mostly at-risk and special-programs kids.

The idea is that these toy soldiers are larger than life-size. They are marching up a hill, and now that they have reached the top, they are in various stages of making ready for battle. They will be moving into the darkness on stage left. They are leaving the bright pastel world behind and moving into potential future conflicts. The drummer boy is basically me. I am leading the way. The trumpet girl is the young Math teacher that I proposed to that year. The news is in the newspaper hat that is on her head, and she is in the act of trumpeting the upcoming charge.

The army, you may have noticed, are not real soldiers. They are imaginary and inspired by the soldiers in the Disney movie, Babes in Toyland. Thus, I am relying on the powers of my imagination to move forward into the future in this picture.

Now that I have exposed the thinking that was in my stupid head when I made this picture, I may have spoiled it for you. Ultimately, it is supposed to be up to the viewer to interpret a work of art. And I have added information to it that you couldn’t possibly have known if I hadn’t told it all to you. But art is always more complicated than the viewer can ever know. This is why my family gets impatient with me whenever we go to an art museum. I get stuck in front of paintings where I ponder all the unknowables that make it look like what it is, and may be hidden in it somewhere if only I can look hard enough and long enough to see it.

The number three is important in this composition. You may notice that there are three tin soldiers. The three blue towers in the upper left of the picture are spatially related to the positions of the three soldiers on the hill. This is an intentional echoing. There are also three folds in the flapping flag the third soldier is carrying. The three mountains between and above the three tin soldiers are also spatially echoing the soldiers, though in the opposite direction, symbolizing possible retreat. There are only two children in the picture, but the tin soldier leader is positioned so that he can share a single leg with each child, making three and three, symbolizing support and protection, the big three, husband and wife supported by God’s blessing.

Now I have successfully revealed way too much about this picture, more than you could possibly want to know. But if you have questions, you can always ask in the comments. Though I can’t promise honest answers. That kinda depends on what you want to know.

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Filed under artwork, Paffooney

I Sweetpotato What I Sweetpotato

If you are as goofy and cartoon-obsessed as me, you may remember that Popeye the sailor was known for the catchphrase, “I yam what I yam”. And if you do remember that, it will not surprise you that, when told a yam is another name for sweet potato, Popeye was furious. “It cannot be!” he argued. “I would not say I sweet potato what I sweet potato! That’s ridicumess!”

Well he has a point.

But I would like to talk today about the things that I sweet potato, and why I sweet potato those things.

First of all, I yam a humorist.

I yam this thing not because I am funny. You may think I yam funny because I say really goofy things for no apparent reason, and then keep on talking long enough to convince you that I did have a point to make, but my brain leans so far to the left that I am hardly right about anything.

And I make bad puns a lot.

You see, I have to use humor constantly to deal with all the hard things in life, because being too serious in the face of the world’s basic uncaring cruelty only leads to depression and taking a beating from life. In fact, I can think of any number of situations in my past where I avoided a beating only because I made a joke that made the bully laugh.

So, being a humorist is a survival tactic. Humor keeps you alive.

You see someone like me has to face all the pain and heartache and cruelty the world has to offer by using humor. The real reason is that, when faced with a bad situation, if the humor gland can’t empty itself of all the jokes it produces, it will begin to swell. The humor gland is located either in the brain or maybe in the behind (I am not medically qualified to tell you which it really is), and it can only swell to a certain point, and then it will explode. This is very bad thing for you, if you survive it, and certainly unpleasant for anybody nearby.

But the joke, properly launched at the target, will make somebody laugh, even if it is only the humorist himself. And laughter is the best medicine. Unless it kills you. You have to be careful not to die laughing. The angels will be offended, and the demons will all laugh too.

But I yam not only a humorist. I yam also a teacher.

I began to realize that I might be a teacher when, in graduate school to get a remedial master’s degree to help with the fact that plain English majors all starve to death, I discovered I had a talent for explaining things in simple terms. And then, immediately afterwards, I discovered I had an even greater talent for being ignored while the people I was explaining to made the mistakes they wouldn’t have made if only they had listened to me, before they failed spectacularly, and then realized how the solution I had explained would’ve made them succeed instead. There is apparently no better way to learn an important lesson.

Teaching is, of course, a pretty cool job. You tend to have the summers off. And you get paid for summer because they split the amount of money you earn for the year (which considering what a babysitter makes on average per child and per hour is far too little for the hours you put in) into twelve monthly pittances.

Of course you are expected to have a university degree (although no teacher college in the world can teach you what you really need to know in order to face that many little monsters… err, darlings… every day) and preferably some grad school, and a certification to teach in your chosen subject, and an additional certification if you are going to teach more than one subject (and ESL and Speech and Journalism, all of which I was expected to teach, are separate certifications) and you have to take hours of additional training every single year, and you have to get re-certified every five years, and… Well, you have to be basically smarter and much better-educated than Bill Gates… But the school janitor will probably be making more money per month than you do.

Anyway, it’s a job you just gotta love. I yam a teacher.

And really, there are a whole lotta yams in my basket yet that I could tell you about. I yam a Red Skelton fan. I yam sometimes a nudist (when I don’t have to put on clothes to keep myself from scratching all my psoriasis-plagued skin off). I yam also an artist (of the type known as a cartoonist). I yam pig-headed sometimes, and I yam Grumpy sometimes (so I go from being Porky to one of the Seven Dwarfs.) I yam a lotta things. And my sweet-potato basket is large.

But I can’t talk about all of my yams today. Too many yams are bad for my diabetes.

But here’s one last yam. I yam a storyteller. And I have a free Kindle e-book promotion this weekend. The book is the first in my series of AeroQuest books. It is a science fiction story with a humorous bent. And I mean, it is seriously bent in some places.

So, click on the link and get yourself a copy. It’s funny. And I will save the other sweet potatoes for another day.

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Filed under humor, metaphor, novel writing, Paffooney, self portrait, writing teacher

My Childhood in a Nutshell

Essay #1 :  Childhood in a Nutshell

Right off the bat, I’m sure you’re wondering what sort of nutshell is the right size for Mickey’s entire childhood to be put into?

Is it a coconut shell?  That would certainly be big enough to contain a lot of big words, complex sentences, and stuff that Mickey is likely to write repeatedly in this book.  His paragraphs are filled with purple paisley prose that use way too many adjectives and lists of things pointlessly put together in difficult and unlikely ways.  And he’s known for using lots of details when only a few would do quite well for making the pictures he is describing pop into the movie theater that is your imagination.

Or is it a walnut shell?  Mickey’s brain is all twisty and has deep grooves in the middle of it, lots and lots of wrinkles, and probably looks exactly like the walnut’s own nut meat.

Or maybe it is a Brazil nut, as those things are dark and had to crack like the themes that rattle around on the inside of nutcase Mickey’s peanut head.

But it is not a peanut.  It just isn’t.  Mickey’s childhood can’t be put in a peanut shell.  Because peanuts grow underground.  They are not actually a pea, nor are they a nut… by definition of each.  And Mickey did sometimes have to pee, but he was also not a nut.  So, not a peanut.  Definitely not.

Anyway, Mickey was born in Mason City Iowa.  It was mid-November, and a blizzard was raging.  And it was somewhere in the middle of the night.  It was 1956.  Dwight Eisenhower was President.  Richard Nixon was nefariously somehow the Vice President.

It was the age of television, but mainly in black and white.  My parents watched shows like “Garry Moore’s Variety Show” with Carol Burnett and Durward Kirby on it, “What’s My Line?” the blindfolded guessing-game show, and, of course, the Lawrence Welk Show with the champagne orchestra music and wild polka dancing to the accordion stylings of Myron Florin.

Mickey was not much more than a little, fat, and stupid thing until the 1950’s ended and Mickey turned at least four.

He lived in Mason City where his sister was born in 1958.  He was moved to Garner, Iowa, a place he barely remembered at all, and then to Rowan, Iowa.  It was a little farm-town where his mother’s family lived while she was growing up.  Lots of blood relatives lived in the area.  Which led to big family reunions with many Aldriches, Hinckleys, Beyers, Hoaks, and Utzes attending.   There was lots of German food, as well as Swedish meatballs, casseroles with who-really-knew-what in them, potato salad, deviled eggs, carrot salad, tuna salad, and other salads with meat and mayonnaise and lots of gooey green bits in them.  You were all right as a kid if you remembered not to ask what was in the food.  You could eat it until you had a basketball where your stomach used to be, and you would need a nap or lots and lots of running around Grandpa’s or Uncle Larry’s farm yards.

Mickey went to grade school in Rowan, where he could walk to school by himself, even in the snow, and walk home the long way home so he could get into trouble with Larry from next door, Alan the preacher’s kid, the other Mike and his brother Danny, Verner from the old house with the cinders in the basement, or sometimes with Bobby or Richard from the other side of town, a whopping five blocks away.

He had a huge crush on Alicia but could never tell her, even though he often sat next to her in class because of last names arranged alphabetically.  He kept up the story that he hated girls, the same story all the other boys told, and was surprised to eventually learn that they all had a crush on Alicia too.

He had to survive not only chickens from Grandpa Aldrich’s hen house, with occasional roosters who would chase you like they wanted to eat you, but also the constant fear of those Muscovy ducks with red wattles on their faces and bills.  Those feral ducks, when they had ducklings with them, were even more terrifying than the roosters who regularly got their heads cut off.  Muscovies would chase you down the farm lane, out onto the gravel road, and all the way to Uncle Don’s place if you didn’t find something along the way to distract them into thinking about their deadly vendetta and need to slay you.  Dried cattails at the railroad crossing worked.  A well-aimed stone raised a cloud of snowy white things rising into the cool autumn breeze like some alien creature that could actually scare wild ducks.  And wild ducks never got beheaded because, except for Grandpa’s original pair bought from a catalog, they didn’t have their wings clipped and could simply fly away.  They only stayed around because of the duck pond in the south pasture, and the fact that Grandpa always fed them kernel corn from the corn crib.

Roosters, once their heads were gone, actually deserved to be cooked in the oven after hours of cleaning, removing pinfeathers, and extruding weird smells in Grandma’s kitchen as they had their chicken guts removed.  We didn’t know it until Mickey grew up and went to college, but chickens are related to bird-hipped dinosaurs like Tyrannosaurus Rex, and they longed to live up to the deadly reputation of their distant ancestors.  Yes, they definitely deserved to die in the cook pot.  Chicken-pot-pie was a well-earned fate.  Mickey never liked eating chicken much, even though it was a form of revenge.   It wasn’t that he just wasn’t vengeful enough in spirit.  He was an Iowa farm boy, after all.  But he really didn’t admire the taste with the gusto his cousins all had for it.

Mickey was fifty-percent raised by television in the 60’s.  He learned a lot of moral lessons from “Gunsmoke,” but never actually got any practice shooting bad guys with a six-gun, though he did have a cap gun more than once that he wasn’t allowed to point at anybody… ever. 

And he learned about real life problems from “I Love Lucy” and “The Beverly Hillbillies.” But he was confused by never seeing a real-life chocolate factory like the one Lucy and Ethel worked in and then got to eat most of the chocolate on the fast conveyor belt.  And he was confused when the only “cement pond” he knew about, the public one in Belmond, didn’t allow “critters” to “swim wif the young-uns.”

And he learned about love from “Gilligan’s Island” where Mickey was definitely “Team Mary-Ann,” even though if Gilligan ever got the girl in any episode, Mickey never saw it.

And Mickey learned that Mr. Howell and Mr. Magoo were the same man.  Wow!

And Tarzan Johnny Weissmuller and Jungle Jim Johnny Weissmuller were both the same guy, but Jungle Jim wore actual clothes.  And Tarzan Ron Ely was on Friday Nights along with “Daktari” while both Johnny Weissmullers were on Saturday Afternoons along with, sometimes, Flash Gordon Buster Crabbe.  And if you took any of them for role models and began swinging on the pipes in the cellar ceiling at Grandpa Aldrich’s place, something would break and your Mom and Dad would get very mad, though Grandpa just fixed the pipes and told it as a funny story every Thanksgiving after that.

So, what kind of nutshell can actually contain all of that?  It would have to be a nut with a funny name.  Cashews would qualify because the name sounds a lot like a sneeze.  That’s an undeniable rule in life, “Sneezes, burps, and farts are all funny.”  But Mickey learned that, while nuts are, in fact, seeds, roasted salted cashews do not grow into trees when you plant them.

Macadamia nuts also have a name that would qualify.  But the macadamia nut is round and a pile of them can look too much like goat poop.  But when they are sliced and baked into cookies by old German ladies who really know how to cook, they are good enough to make your toes curl up and your smile to get so big you risk having the corners of your mouth meeting in the back of your head, causing the whole top part of your head to fall off.  So, that’s too dangerous of a nut for Mickey’s childhood.

No, I think it has to be the humble hazelnut.  Because, after all, not only does it have a witchy sort of name, it is also called a filbert.  Now there’s a funny name if ever I heard one.  Imagine if SuperMickey had to assume a secret identity as a newspaper reporter.  You couldn’t call him Clark because that name was already taken.  But Filbert!  Ah, comedy gold!  And therein lies the true nutshell, round and stumpy-small, a nut you can’t just crack with your fingers.  Along with the Brazil nuts, it was always the last available nut in the Christmas nut bowl at Grandma’s house, the perfect little place to store childhood memories for winter.  And there’s a lot of winter in Iowa.  I know.  I was born there.

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Filed under autobiography, Paffooney