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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Saying So-Long

Walter Bego, the chief muckety-muck of Go Figure Reads called me the other day.
(Never a good thing.)
“So Headley,” said Walter, “how do you think the blog is going?”
“Stupid as always,” I say defensively.
“Stupid, yes,” said Walter, “like a stupid box set.”
Maybe I could have found a more intelligent rejoinder, but the fact is, Walter was right. All of my highest view-count posts are more than a year old. Most Wednesdays and Saturdays (the days after I make my posts,) the most recent post is behind two – to – five older posts in the 24 hour rankings.
“I see a lot of pictures of other people’s kittens lately,” said Walter.
“I know.”
“You’ve been taking stuff from Stanley too.”
“He offered.”
“And that’s with you serializing Dirk Destroyer, a novella that might be breaking records for unpopularity.”
“That’s because I didn’t include Donald Trump.”
"I don’t think so,” said Walter. “Avoiding The Donald should have helped your ratings.  We really should find a good place for that guy.”
I hate it when Walter’s right.
“And how long has it been since you finished a novel – two and a half years?”
“I started two.”
“And the last one you finished?”
“Dirk Destroyer...”
There was silence at the other end of the line. I was hoping it was because someone was garroting Walter, or maybe he had been transported to a planet full of Barney Dinosaur wanna-bes.
“Sorry Headley,” said Walter finally, not really masking the glee in his voice, “Your blog just isn’t cutting it any more. It’s sucking you dry. Let’s face it; you didn’t have much talent to start with and now with all this sucking – your blog really…”
“Admitting the problem is the first step to recovery.”
Walter hung up, but not before I heard him start humming a merry tune.
The great sensei of blogging and originator of Great American Things, Robin Chalkley said that a successful blog should be updated at least twice a week.
What he didn’t have to say is that the material needs to be decent. So now I put Just Plain Stupid on hiatus. You may see a new post here or there, but only when I have something worthwhile to say - so Walter would tell you not to hold your breath.  In the meantime, check out Junk Drawer, which might have more stories now that I'm not being stupid - intentionally.  Junk Drawer
So, it’s not goodbye – just so long,.  Oh, and Walter - too many kittens?  In the words of Bill the Cat:


Friday, August 26, 2016

Dirk Destroyer - The Final Insultment

  Here it is, the HIGHLY ANTICIPATED (if two people following this thread constitute high anticipation,) conclusion to Dirk Destroyer's Less Destructive Brother.  What's happened so far?
   Mostly political cheap shots and cigar innuendo.  (Wow!  That sounds painful.)
   And now the end...

 Chapter 27
Mysterious Ending – That Is, Until You Read It

I was back on the couch in So-Ho. The twins must have gotten up because the futon was empty, and I could hear them moving around in the kitchen. Dirk was playing around with a magic box on his desk.
“Check this out,” he said. He manipulated a small item on the desk, and suddenly there were two people inside the magic box and they were singing – which would probably not be my reaction if Dirk had imprisoned me in a magic box.
My goodness they were singing! I’d never heard anything like it before.
“Who are these musical people you’ve imprisoned?” I asked.
“Steve and Eydie,” said Dirk.
“Steve and Eydie would be musical gods on Two!” I said.
“I know,” said Dirk, manipulating the magic box in such a way that Steve and Eydie shut up. “That’s why I had to leave. Maybe tonight we’ll go hear some real music.”
“We could play some Fassentinker,” I said.
“I don’t see how,” said Dirk. “You lost the scratchwing.”
“I lost the scratchwing?”
“Yeah, and I don’t know how I’m ever going to find another one. I told you to hold onto it.”
“That wasn’t the real reason you asked me to hold onto it,” I said.
There was a suspicious gleam in Dirk’s eye. I checked my fanny pack. There was no fish stick. What did that mean?
“If I didn’t know you better…” said Dirk.
Maybe it wasn’t the Stevens twins in the kitchen, maybe it was…
Mage-e-not came in bare-chested. I was glad to see him, but not like that. He held up a wet ball of shredded cloth. “Your magic cleaning box ate my shirt.”
Dirk looked at me. “Tomorrow we go find you a place of your own.”
I nodded absent-mindedly. Mage-e-not was here, but what about…
Something crashed in the kitchen. “Broken dish,” squawked Swampy.
“Oopsie,” exclaimed the voice I most wanted to hear.
“Tomorrow,” I agreed with Dirk. Would we be looking for a short-term lease, or one for the next several thousand years? I knew where Ono’s immortality switch was, and where mine was as well.

Whichever we decided, we’d live at the same setting.

   What - that's it?  I wrote the stupid thing and I think that was a lame ending.  It's a good thing I didn't charge anybody for this.  Bundle up these posts and give them to someone you can't stand this Christmas.
   All I can say is the vid better be good.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016


I wrote a novel in my mid twenties. I thought it was great.
Of course the technology was a little different back then. We didn’t have smart phones, or pads or laptops or even desktops back then. You had to chisel your story onto rock slabs.
When you made a hard copy, you really had a hard copy.
I sharpened my chisel, and let the chips fall where they may. Not surprisingly, my rough draft was full of misspellings, grammatical errors, and plain old miss-chips.
Cleaning up the mess did a job on our pre-historic vacuum cleaner.
My mother had spent some time as a secretary before she married Dad, and could chisel sixty impressions a minute. She volunteered to proofread and rechip my manuscript.
She acted like doing all that work was a treat, and being an ungrateful and self-centered son, I never doubted that it was.
Until this year.
One of the things about rock-slab hard copies is that the technology is not compatible with either Microsoft or Mac. The other, is that a novel of rock-slab tends to weigh down a bookcase after thirty years or so.
I could have just thrown the whole thing out, but instead I decided to transcribe it slab by slab into Word.
In many ways I was doing the same work my dear mom did, with one major difference. I didn’t have to correct grammar, spelling or punctuation. Mom’s work was impeccable.
I wasn’t five slabs in before I understood something basic about motherhood.
Moms are cool
Moms are calm
Moms don’t care
If your book’s a bomb

They somehow know
The things kids need
How to make a project
Of fix knees that bleed

Moms work hard
To make kids happy
And all they ask
Is a poem that’s sappy

So while I review
My story that ain’t
I realize
My Mom’s a saint

Now a clip from Throw Momma From a Train.  What-do-ya-mean inappropriate?

Friday, August 19, 2016

Dirk Destroyer Part 46 Chapter 26

Now that I've angered both of you who are reading this serialized novel by posting the appendix last week, I'll get back to the story.

Chapter 26
Fate without Tartar Sauce

“Fish Stick,” Swampy croaked when I arrived in Two. All right, that made more sense now. I knew right where I was, and where I was going.
I had the two bags of fish sticks slung over my shoulders so instead of landing on me, Swampy circled impatiently. I put the sacks down and began feeding the flying swamp-rat bird. It was only after a couple pounds of fish sticks that Swampy settled into a gluttonous stupor. Still he opened his repulsive beak.
“You eat much more and you’ll never fly again,” I said.
Swampy croaked incoherently. Maybe that meant he agreed. Uncle Egg never wanted to be understood when he agreed with me.
“So the other me is talking to Mage-e-not and Ono right now?”
“Fish stick?” said Swampy softly.
“It’s your belly-ache,” I told him, tossing him a fish stick. I looked around my location and tried to remember where I’d been yesterday. Unless something changed, I was safe – meaning I wasn’t about to destroy everyone I’d ever met.
Dirk had lied to me. Did Dude lie too? Would his law code of what-ever-ma-call-it allow him to lie? He told me not to come back, or play with the dial in the nurse’s office before. Did he lie when he said that?
I couldn’t remember well enough – certainly not well enough to risk killing everyone I knew. I would wait here until Ono had gotten Tease to agree to let her take Mage-e-not along with her to Phasia as carry-on.
“I thought I smelled fish sticks,” said Akwar. “Is there enough for everyone?”
I hadn’t bargained on Akwar. She could spoil everything. I didn’t dare say a word to her in case I (the other one,) overheard myself and investigated. I handed her the bag I’d been feeding Swampy out of. Did Dude know I’d need two bags?
“Any tartar sauce?”
I shook my head in the motion that means no everywhere but Pogo. She seemed to understand the gesture which indicated that she was as non-Pogoian as Ono. That along with a vague femaleness was her only similarity to the woman I admired.
Thankfully, Akwar went away with the fish sticks without causing enough of a disturbance to bring the me that wasn’t me in my current location to investigate. Then again, would I have investigated, even if I had heard Akwar? I would probably have ignored her and hoped she’d go away.
Had she been there when I’d been the guy in the clearing instead of the guy in bushes? Did this change things?
Stay with being stupid, Dude had told me. All right, I wouldn’t worry about it.
I stayed low in the bushes and watched Ono give Tease his shower. I waited until I was certain that I was gone. Then I stood up and stepped into the clearing.
“I thought I smelled fish sticks,” said Mage-e-not.
“You flip-flopped?” asked Ono.
“That was the younger Elmer,” said Tease. “This Elmer is older by about a day.”
“How can you tell?” I asked.
“You have fish sticks.”
“I’m starved,” said Mage-e-not.
In the distance I heard Lustavious singing. “I will intercept him,” offered Tease. “It is best if he does not meet your elder self.”
“Thanks,” I said. “Do you want to go to So-Ho?”
“Do they have showers?”
“I didn’t check.”
“I will return to Phasia. I have missed the showers of Shangra Dee.”
“Near the fields of Salley?” asked Mage-e-not.
“You have heard of it?”
“My friend Gidget went there.”
Lustavious’ voice was closer now.
“I must go,” said Tease.
“You don’t want any fish sticks?” asked Mage-e-not.
“Gluten-free,” said the monk, and passed through the underbrush to intercept the Light Bringer.
“We don’t have much time,” I said.
“Yeah,” said Mage-e-not. “Did you bring any tartar sauce?”
“No, sorry,” I said. “Look, I know that Lip Ton Tease agreed to take you both to Phasia, but I need to know if that’s what you want.”
“Do they have tartar sauce there?” asked Mage-e-not.
“Oh no,” said Ono.
“How do you know?” asked Mage-e-not.
“I’m not naying your know,” she said to Mage-e-not, and then she turned to me “I want to be with you.”
“With me?” asked Mage-e-not.
“Oh no,” said Ono, “with Elmer.”
“What if they don’t have showers in Ho-Ho?” asked Mage-e-not.
“Filthy Elmer sizzles more than squeaky clean Phasia.”
“Even without tartar sauce?”
“In bubble of algae bars.”
“Wow,” said Mage-e-not, “you are stuck on the guy.”
“What about you, Mage-e-not?” I asked.
“I’m not really stuck on you, Elmer.”
“Do you want to go to Phasia?”
“Nah,” he said, “I’d rather go to Ho-Ho, but you better have something other than algae bars to eat there.”
“There’s good food in Phasia, I hear.”
“Yeah, but I’m not that good at math.”
“Alright,” I said. “I’m not sure exactly how this works, but in case I can’t do anything, stay close to me.”
“Right,” said Mage-e-not, getting far too close – especially after eating so much fish.
“Actually, I mean the other me.”
“Teeny-tiny Elmer,” said Ono.
“I suppose,” figuring that younger was not a concept with many sound words. “You’ll be able to tell the difference because that me will be carrying around a scratchwing.”
“Instead of fish sticks?” asked Mage-e-not.
“Probably. Now when Lustavious points his finger at Dirk, and Dirk says, “That oughta do it,” you have to take the scratchwing out of my hand, and hold onto me.”
“What if you won’t let it go?” said Mage-e-not.
“I’ll fling scratchwing and clutch Elmer,” said Ono.
“Good. Swampy is around here somewhere. I don’t know what he wants to do, but…”
“I’ll quiz Swampy,” said Ono.
“You have real conversations with him?”
“Oh yes,” said Ono. “He cackles poetry!”
“It’s derivative,” said Mage-e-not. “I prefer a good lymric myself. You know, this planet really needs a place that rhymes with bucket.”
“The other me will be back soon, so I have to go. It’s important that you never saw me.”
“Which you?” asked Mage-e-not.
“This me.”
“But I can see the other you?”
“Hey, wouldn’t it be great if I could teach you to disappear.”
“Yes,” I said. “How do I do it?”
“I have no idea,” said Mage-e-not. “I just thought it would be great.”
As I sat back in the bushes I wondered why I wanted to take Mage-e-not to So-Ho. I almost went back into the clearing to change everything when I heard Akwar shout. I ducked back into the overgrowth.
I’d left the bag of fish sticks with Mage-e-not and I watched amazed as the other me didn’t seem to notice that Mage-e-not was eating something out of a silver bag. I wasn’t that stupid, was I?
There was nothing I could do about it now. I sat back against a tree to wait. The fish sticks did smell pretty good.
I opened my fanny pack and had a fish stick. It really didn’t need tartar sauce. I sat back wondering what else I needed to do. There was something important – something I wasn’t thinking about. I munched on fish sticks and tried to think of what it was.
Finally I was down to my last fish stick. I was about to pop it in my mouth when I remembered. “I need to save the last fish stick,” I said to myself as if I needed to both hear and think the thought.
I put the fish stick into my fanny pack, and the world got fuzzy.
Was fuzzy a good thing? I didn’t think so.
A teenage girl appeared. Her eyes were closed, she was tapping her shiny red shoes together and saying something about home.
No, this wasn’t good. If I left now, how could I be sure everything would work out? How could I be sure if I stayed? All I could do is kill everyone I ever knew by coming out of the woods and interfering. Even if everyone survived the whole death problem, there was no way Dirk would go along with taking Ono and Mage-e-not, and maybe Swampy to So-Ho. It was only a three bedroom apartment, and he had the Stevens twins to think about.
Things got fuzzier. It was beginning to look like I was going to have to count on me – the younger me, to do the right thing. If only the younger me wasn’t so stupid.
Now I felt offended, and I had only myself to blame.
But wait! It wasn’t just me, I was counting on. Ono would make things work – just like when she lifted things in the air, and…

Oh crap!
   Just one more installment to go - really!  You don't believe me?  I guess I can't blame you.

As we approach the election I wonder how many comedians are hoping to get their break impersonating President H. Clinton, D. Trump or PCTBDL (Presidential candidate to be determined later.)

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Reigning Cats and Dogs (and other potential monarchs.)

   When we domesticated the dog to help us watch livestock - it was our idea.  When we brought cats into our huts to cut down on rodents - we THOUGHT it was our idea.
   We don't even call our relationship pet and master any more.  We know who's in charge.
   If only...
If dogs could talk
Or delegate
And didn't listen to cats
If they lived in castles
And played poker
Or performed on stage
Maybe with a chorus line
They'd still be suckers for toddlers
If cats got framed
Or were rechargeable
If they lived with fantasy creatures
Or way down south
If they were in charge of your garden
Or performed in movies
Or did impressions
They'd still be suckers for toddlers
If others dream of houses
and being creepy cuddly
I wouldn't trust their kisses
They might not even fear our toddlers
Knock Knock

   Here's a short from Pixar.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Dirk Destroyer Appendix Thirty-Seven Really Good Ideas

I have two confessions to make.  1) I miscounted the chapters in Dirk Destroyer's Less Destructive Brother.  There are two (which is more than one) chapters remaining (cunningly labeled Chapter 26 and 27.)  This means that I will not (as I despicably (or some other negative adverb) promised,) conclude the story today.
And so...
   2) I'm giving you the Appendix today instead of Chapter 26 (or 27 for that matter.)  Why?  I guess I've just been hanging around Elmer's more destructive brother too much lately.
   For those of you who showed the good sense not to read this disaster, the planet Two has been ruled by the thirty-seven really good ideas for more than eight thousand years - or longer than Elmer has been alive.  Unfortunately, they had lost all but three by the time Elmer was born, and in spite of Elmer and Dirk's protests, they lost two of those three and changed the meaning of the third.  The following is the original thirty-seven really good ideas.

(Thankfully, not the one attached to my colon.)
The Thirty-Seven Really Good Ideas
Waving a fistful of twenties in the air is more likely to get thee a hackneyed carriage in the great city than yelling, “Hey nonny nonny, Fair Thee well, Good Person.” (also more likely to get thee mugged.)
When a person sayeth to thee, “Frankly,” “To be honest,” “I gotta level with thee,” “In all sincerity,” or “As mine congressman told me,” Thou shalt not believe a word of what that person sayeth next.
Peas are for eating – not sticking up thy nose.
And 3a
Thine dinning date will not be impressed with any nose-related amazing feat thou doest at the tavern table.
Be happy when thy boss sayeth, “We want to promote thee.” Do not be happy when thy boss sayeth, “We want to give thee more responsibility.”
If thou doth not already know how to use chopsticks, only utilize them when thou art dining alone, or with people thou wisheth to offend.
When in a business meeting, thou shalt not interject with, “I read in Ye Olde Mad Magazine…”
Thou shalt not start a land war in Phasia. It be-eth big, populous and its hardworking people art good at math. They are also polite – but not so polite as to refrain from applying their feet forcibly to thine posterior.
When thine woman sayeth, “I want thine honest opinion,” thou must never offer it. Thou must say only what thee believes thine woman wisheth to hear.
When an acquaintance asketh thee, “For whom art thou going to vote in the next election?” thou shouldest feign a fit of nausea, and run to the outhouse.
Thou shalt not consign a problem to the government to fix lest a century later, thine great-grandchildren pay taxes for a great host of government workers to fix that same problem - which shalt be worse for their efforts.
When thou art apprehended by the magistrate, thou shalt not make the noise of pigs grunting and squealing, lest thou receiveth from said magistrate good cause for thine grunting and squealing.
Once thou passeth the age of five, thou may no longer display thy ABC food.
Thou shalt not paint a depiction of dogs playing poker and call it fine art.
Thou shalt not feel uncomfortable when thee encounters a woman who loves other women. Thou shalt offer her a brew and asketh her about her favorite jousting team.
Thou shalt not stride out into a bull’s field with a red cape just to see what happeneth.
When thou art building a structure, thou shalt not sing with nails in thy mouth.
Thou shalt not eat anything that smells fouler than thine own self.
Thou shalt not attempt a youthful fashion statement after the age of thirty.
Thou shalt not prevent persons from smoking cigars in their own home.
Thou shalt bathe at least once a year – more-often-so if thou hopeth to mate with a woman.
If thou tosseth a coin in the air to decide how to vote, thou needest stay home on election day. If thou tosseth a coin to decide any matter of importance, thou shalt not procreate.
If thou pisseth on the same spot thine dog just pissed. The next place the cur pisseth is likely to be in thy bed. Thou shalt not piss off thine dog.
If thou hath dealt it, thou shalt not complain about the smell. Thou may however, blame the dog.
If thou hast dreams that thou flyest – place thine bed on the ground floor.
If thou wisheth for a uniting of all countries – imagine living under the world’s worst ruler with no place to runneth.
If thine sir name is Bates – do not seek to be anyone’s master.
If thou art content with thy level of taxation – tell not thine rulers.
If thou liketh not window blinds – it be-eth curtains for you.
If thine chicken crosseth the road – ask not why.
If thou tasteth a foul concoction – do not bid thy friend, “try this.”
No matter how interesting its writing may be, thou shalt not bring thine woman paper thou findest in the outhouse.
Planteth thine corn early.
This idea space to let – reasonable rates.
Thou shalt not comment on how these thirty-seven good ideas are written primarily for men. Thou shalt instead consider how women customarily respond to advice.
Thou shalt not bug(ger) the sheep. (translation in dispute.)
Thou shalt not make a religion out of a list of ideas, ‘Really Good,’ or otherwise.

When thou hast lacks wisdom, thou shalt not attempt to make a list of Really Good Ideas that’s longer than five or six entries lest thou look like an ass.
   So I'd ask you to tune in next week for the 26th (or penultimate - great word, eh?) chapter of Dirk Destroyer - but would anyone believe me now if I did?

For no particular reason, here's a spooky, largely forgotten, song by Jim Stafford.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Actonian by Will Wright

The Actonian
by Will Wright

A jukebox is a magical thing to a five-year-old. A hamburger and fries in a plastic paper-lined basket is a revelation. I discovered these two wonders at a diner called The Actonian.
I was the youngest of four, so my job in the family was be wide-eyed. My big brother – 13 whole years old, put a nickel in the juke box, and out came the strains of Puff the Magic Dragon. He paid a price for that kindness, beyond his nickel. I pestered him to play the song again and again… and again. If the other diners minded, they didn’t say anything. Puff fit right in with jukeboxes, and dinners in a basket.
“The song’s about drugs,” said my brother, getting a frown from my parents.
“They have a jukebox in the drug store too?” I asked.
Actonian would have been a pretty strange name if it hadn’t been located in Acton, Massachusetts, my home town. It was conveniently right across from the bowling ally to set up a perfect family outing. That was candlepin bowling, small ball, skinny pins, and a longer ally. Any ball my littler sister or I threw was lucky to reach the pins at all. My brother, being man-sized could break a hundred – a respectable score. Few people bowl candlepin outside of New England.
(Candlepin and ball on right)
“It’s too hard for people from other places,” said my bigger sister, who try as she might, rarely bowled higher than eighty.
After a few gutter balls, I usually tired of the game. I’d watch my brother and Dad compete for high score or try to catch the balls as they rolled back, as if by magic, from behind the pins.

“Don’t catch your fingers, Will,” my mother would warn.
“I won’t,” I’d reply, though I always did. The softball-sized concrete balls seemed to be rolling slowly, but they always hit the last ball in the rack with a loud, “Clack!” I couldn’t resist trying to stop them before they hit that last ball, and tried not to cry when the two balls crushed my hand on impact.
I made the tears dry up by thinking of French fries in a plastic basket.
“And what do you want today?” the waitress asked my brother one night after bowling.
“I’ll have ham,” he said.
“Huh?” I said. The baskets always had hamburgers in them, didn’t they?
“I’ll have fish,” said my bigger sister.
“What?” I asked.
“See,” my sister said, “it’s right here on the menu.” I knew the letter W, because it was my initial, but I couldn’t read, though I stared at the plastic-coated cardboard as if I could.
“And what about you, Young Man?” the waitress asked me.
I couldn’t ask for a hamburger now, not with people ordering other stuff. “I’ll have what my brother is having.”
“The ham?”
I nodded shyly.
And so began my life-long love of ham, which I called, the pink stuff the next two times because I couldn’t remember the word even though it was the first syllable of hamburger.
When I was in Junior High they tore down the Actonian and put up a McDonalds – the first one for many miles. McDonalds was a great novelty for a year or two, but as I matured, I began to miss our Actonian. Our family outings became less frequent, though there was still Kimball’s Ice Cream in neighboring Westford.
Now when I go out to eat with friends, I frequently order the ham steak. It’s usually disappointing, but sometimes they get just right. When they do it’s as if I can hear Peter, Paul and Mary singing Puff the Magic Dragon, and a flood of memories threaten to leak out of the corner of my eye.

“That’s good pink stuff,” I say to myself.

The pictures of Kelly's Corner in Acton, and this video are courtesy of one of our great Acton historians (though not nearly as stodgy as that sounds,) Dion Rajewski.