And Next Week, Son, I'll Tell You All About Walnuts

There they go, Jeremy, off on their mysterious pilgrimage...stand back behind the trees now, we don’t want to frighten them off, do we? This is something that happens only once every twelve years; what you’re seeing you won’t see again till you’re a man of twenty-one! Look at that slightly dazed expression in their eyes, their heads all tilted slightly to the left as they march along. What is this long, long procession of part-time nature center volunteers hearing as they move? Watch closely, Jeremy, for you won’t see this many skinny unmarried bespectacled women in their mid-fifties with long gray hair who dress like boys in one place for a long time to come.

Oh, oh, there’s Miss Formsby from the Scrupps Bird Sanctuary! We went there two years ago, remember, and we asked her where the bathrooms were! Oh, and there’s Miss Numster from the Evelyn S. Thangis Wildlife Trail Park in East Smithy---I specifically recall her telling me when I stopped there one day to get directions to Pizza Hut that she worked at the visitor’s kiosk on Tuesdays and Thursdays. So many others I think I recognize…well, they’re all one now, all part of this great and sacred autumn journey that begins at the ocean and moves west toward Ann Arbor, where these thousands of polite, soft-spoken women in ponytails and old jeans who like reading Anne Tyler novels and volunteering at the nature center because it gives them someone to talk to and nice fields to look at will seem to disappear into the earth’s crust itself for exactly nine days, at which point they will reappear as if nothing had ever happened, their memories wiped utterly clean of the fourteen hundred mile walk down I-70 through rain, sleet, hail, snow, and very very rare catcalls. What secret information is imparted to them when they finally vanish from human sight, what immense communal experience do they share as their minds become psychically entwined on a level no normal human can ever experience? We’ll never know, Jeremy. We’ll simply never know. The only thing we do know for sure is that some of them never return, sacrificed by the group to appease the higher entity which silently summoned them. The Overmind must be obeyed, it seems. Yes, yes, it must.

Now then, Jeremy, I also wanted to take this time with you to explain a few other things about the way the universe works. Sometimes, when a man and a woman love each other very much, they want to express that feeling in a physical way. This is called “playing Frisbee on the beach.” You’ll see it happening when we go to Ocean City this summer. The thing to remember in this life, Jeremy, is that no matter how badly you want to do it, playing Frisbee on the beach is not even remotely fun. It’s too windy, the sand is difficult to run around in, you can cut yourself, it’s hot, and women suck at throwing the damn thing. Take it from your old pa, Jeremy---just lie there on the beach towel bored out of your mind when you’re there with a girl; don’t try to bring props or “do something fun.” Got that? The “fun” part is heading to the seafood buffet later and going to freaking TOWN. You’ll see. Oh yes, yes you shall.


And the Aide Whispered, "Stop Talking, Please Stop Talking"

My fellow Americans, I, like any other person, have failings, and I stand before you today having confronted them and hopefully bested them. It is true that in the past, I performed at a level that I knew was not up to my capabilities. I am ashamed to say that I often put movies in the mail without first making sure I had selected others I wished to see, resulting in either long downtimes between the arrival of new discs, or receiving titles I had long since lost interest in. I was also at times careless with my spelling and memory of which sequels went with which originals, and so I often found myself shaking my head at what came to me. And yes, more than once during the year 2008, I sent back a movie in the wrong envelope, or no envelope at all. In short, as was accurately reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, my queue was a study in inefficiency and miscalculation. But an examination of my opponent’s record uncovers some equally startling truths. In 2009 the average time he spent watching any one particular Watch Instantly selection was sixteen minutes, a startlingly low figure suggesting indecisiveness and poor decision-making. A disturbing total of seven months of that same year were spent clumsily working his way through the Leprechaun movies---he even got part three twice, apparently having forgotten he’d already watched it. Even worse, he contacted customer service no less than four times because he could not remember his login or password. Now I have always stressed that my campaign is about issues, about the economy, about national defense, and the future of our children. But if we are to enter into a war of words about our Netflix management skills, I am not a candidate who will back down. The record clearly shows that since my initial mistakes I have become a fully functional Netflix user while Seymour Hersh’s investigative reporting in Esquire has shown that my opponent still remains unsure of the difference between ‘Save’ and ‘Add to queue.’

You know, I didn’t want to have to mention this, particularly since this occasion is supposed to be about nothing but crowning a new Miss Teen El Paso, but guess what else my opponent does a lot of? He kills people. That’s right---he just goes out and literally takes human life. See, this is why he’s on what is commonly referred to as “death row” and four days away from being executed by firing squad. So, here’s a news flash---voting for him in seven days is going to be kind of a waste of everyone’s time. Now Bob Gershner---he’s a candidate. I’ll give him that. A man of respect, of vision, of principles, and a man whose appeal to the state Supreme Court should get him off death row in a matter of months. Okay, I will now field questions about the unfortunate ceremonial opening pitch I threw at the Rangers game last week. But before I get totally raked over the coals here, ask yourself this: what the hell were the last three remaining World War I veterans doing at a Rangers game to begin with, and why didn’t they have any dental insurance?


True to One Another Till the Rebranding

Well, Mr. Plywall, the scenario we find ourselves in is indeed unusual, but it’s certainly not without precedent. Right here in St. Louis a few years ago, Altered States Biometrics was spending a lot of time with United Separators, the company that makes those fabulous orange tubes you like so much, and at some point, who knows when, the whole thing just kind of happened---they were in love. And then there’s the Great Northern Popcorn/Amalgamated Curvature merger, which started out about the money but of course wound up being a simple case of overpowering emotions between the two---though pessimists will claim it never went any deeper than mutual logo lust and now you can sense they made a mistake. The legal issues that we’ll have to deal with if IntegraCor confesses its feelings for Reliable Flushes are myriad, but I suppose at some point we simply have to ask ourselves: is our company in love with them? If the feelings are genuine, then I won’t stand in our way of finding happiness, but remember what happened when KetchupConnect moved into the office park across the way and we spent all that money and attention on them and then found out their employee pension plan was woefully underfunded and all they wanted to do was work and maybe restructure their shipping routes once in a while? I remember you sitting in this very office and telling me, “Winkovich, never let this company give its heart away again,” and then you using my personal copy of What Color is My Parachute? to dry your tears. And let’s face it, this isn’t a brief fling with some nonprofit with a short lease or a summer romance with a company that sells a product we always wanted to but were afraid to try, making us feel electric and alive for a few months---no, this goes beyond that, doesn’t it? I mean, when the board of directors calls a special meeting on the beach at one in the morning and comes to a consensus that a single day without Reliable Flushes is “like an eternity,” we’re in for the long haul. So what I propose is this: we continue to supply them with crossover cords and thirty-six inch feeder pods at cost, maybe throw a red rose into one of the shipments now and then, but all the while we keep cool and aloof, see if they come to us. If by the end of the fiscal quarter they haven’t made a move, then we just plain come out with it in the standard PowerPoint presentation that lays our cards on the table. If they’re not interested, fine---there are other fish in the sea, right?

Sorry...sorry, let me gather myself a bit. I just got to thinking what it would be like if we’ve totally misread the signals. God, the rejection! What would the industry say? We’d have to close the Cannondale office and lay everyone off at the very least. But if they say yes...oh Mr. Plywall, tell me they will! Tell me they’re not just interested in raiding our award-winning HR department for cheap hires, and that they love us for what we are and can become if only we find the right company to believe in us! We could be so happy together! Unless of course they’re talking about settling down right away and expanding to more locations. Ha, IntegraCor still don’t play that, am I right? Eh? Am I right?


Inexplicable, Really

I don’t know what to tell you, honey. If I broke your heart, I’m sorry---but I’m The Calibrator. I move from town to town, alone but not lonely, untouchable, unknowable. When I get to a new place, I make sure the C02 cartridge inside the local convenience store’s fountain drink machine is properly set to deliver maximum carbonation to the water passing through the bib connects and syrup pumps, I befriend someone whom justice has done wrong, I break a heart, and then I move on. The Calibrator knows no other way to live, and just as sure as you should never hook a generic secondary regulator to any post-1997 stainless backflow preventor lest you want your town’s Dr. Pepper to come out flatter than the opening number of High School Musical 3, I never will. I’ve calibrated in burgs bigger than this and loved women more beautiful than you---but neither my heart nor my mission ever changes.

But because you’re special---yes, it’s true, no woman ever had the kindness to show me season five of The West Wing before---I’ll leave you with a little memento of our time together. This here’s a 10-button bargun with barbed input fittings, drain tube, and mounting hardware. I took this off a Pepsi fountain drink machine in Winnipeg nine years ago. See how the soda water button is a little chipped? Still works perfectly.

I also want to leave you with this DVD, The Calibrator’s 20-Minute Ab Workout. I produced it a couple of years back. It did okay, I guess, but I wish the public wasn’t so fickle. There’s a problem with the left audio channel on this copy, like most of the others, so it can be tough to hear at points.

Oh, here’s a keepsake I know you’ll like: a hardbound copy of Archery Basics with The Calibrator. Everything you need to know to get started is right in here, and of course I’ll autograph this before I hit the road. There’s some pretty serious legal wrangling going on with this book at the moment, so this edition may get kind of rare.

Let me see here, what else...oh, here’s a roll of nickels. Nowhere I go ever seems to have a CoinStar machine. Man, how I’d love to get into that racket. I bet those things are really easy to fix. And that sweet music they make...RATCHA RATCHA RATCHA RATCHA RATCHA RATCHA RATCHA....ah, pure pleasure!

Do you want these Clippers tickets for next Tuesday? Section 370, row H...not terrible, not great, but I just can’t deal with the NBA since they put in the jump shot.

Okay. Ready to go. If you could just sign this release form saying that I didn’t damage any property while I was here...great. Thanks.

I leave you now the way all Calibrators have always left their lovers: by gently singing Rush’s classic eighties hit “Tom Sawyer” to you as I back slowly away.

Oh, sweetheart, looking at you as I fade away into your trove of most secret memories, I can tell exactly what you’re thinking: A) Who the hell is this total freakazoid, and B) how quickly can I close and lock the door behind him, peering out the blinds when he leaves to make sure he’s really gone. And it’s okay; I know that the Calibrator has some quirks, and I’ve accepted them. I should probably tell you, though, that I have an unfortunate habit of getting ridiculously lost on my way out of every town, to the point where I usually have to walk back in the middle of the night and ask if I can sleep on your sofa until the next Greyhound run, so you might want to open up that sofabed before you go off to do your errands. FYI, the Calibrator’s always been a two-pillow man, so if you could make that happen, that would be aces.

Is that a policeman you’re waving over here? Sure, I understand. No problem. I would do the same thing in your position. Just one question before I run for it: Are you really happy with your current cable, internet, and phone bundle?


Great. Yet Another Supernatural Smackdown.

There I was on Tuesday, kind readers, awash in delirious celebration over the fact that this blog, barely four years old, had just notched its fifth subscriber, when it all came crashing down around me. No sooner had I rented a Big Wheel to cruise around the campus of Dick’s Notch Community College proclaiming the blog’s success through my friend Eppy’s bullhorn when the IP address of that fated fifth subscriber became visible to my horrified eyes---and when this data was coupled with the emerging patron’s screen name, the awful truth was revealed: my newest fan was Blacula.

Blacula. The very name conjured up waking nightmares of brain-squishing terror. Like everyone else I foolishly believed that the dark vampire once known as Prince Mamuwalde, who came from Africa to America hidden in an antique coffin accidentally purchased by two gay interior decorators in swinging 70s San Francisco, had died on that downtown rooftop after intentionally exposing himself to the dawn’s early light, his mighty evil heart broken by the death of his beloved Tina. Such a fool I was---we all were---to believe that his maggot-devoured bones would lie still for all eternity!

I recovered my senses quickly (rapid sense recovery after a sudden psychological blow is one of my untrumpeted strengths) and yesterday I went over my options. They seem to be these:

1) Do nothing. I can continue to blog as usual, keeping an eye open for any comments Blacula might leave on it which might provide a clue as to his intentions and/or whereabouts. I could slowly look for an opening which might allow me to sneak a message to the authorities, and perhaps my information could assist them in finding and destroying He Who Walks By Night. But would a foe as savvy as Blacula reveal his dastardly schemes in my blog comments box so easily? I know Charlie Sheen did, but to expect lightning to strike twice---madness.

2) Confront the monster myself. A risky, desperate, and foolhardy plan, to be sure---but how can I not feel that even now, someone’s life is in danger while I continue to selfishly share my thoughts and feelings in electronic diary form? If I don’t attempt to draw Blacula out in some way---perhaps by blogging about efficient methods of garlic dispersal or offering relationship advice to the small percentage of my audience who possess three or more castle-bound brides of darkness---he will undoubtedly keep killing, and my conscience cannot allow this. Or can it?

3) Ratchet up the American Idol jokes. I was planning on doing this anyway, and it might provide my tortured, frightened mind with a valuable bulwark against inevitable thoughts of vampiristic doom.

Above all, I must keep calm, and I must also avoid any friend request that Blacula might send me on Facebook. Looks like he needs all the help he can get in that area. He’s got a lousy 18 friends and it looks like he’s been spending most of his time messing around with Farmville. Could it be that the relentless time demands of social media, and not the cold-blooded wooden stake, will spell his ultimate demise? Looks like he’s still got the ‘stache working, though. Let’s face it, that thing’s been carrying his career for the last 150 years.


# * % ! ^

Frankly, Sergeant Dell, I’ve never been this worried. This is not like losing a Picasso or a thousand gold bars...we’re talking about the DeVance comma here, and this whole city should be shaking in its boots today. Imagine a bit of punctuation crafted so meticulously and so brilliantly by Franciscan monks four hundred years ago that even today it can be used anywhere---even within a simple phrase, even between the letters of a word, for the love of God---and still work as a completely legal, dictionary-recognized comma. The possibilities if the wrong sort of criminal has made away with it...I can barely speak of them. If the DeVance is placed just so, God knows what elements in a series might be separated from one another, what independent clauses could become irreparably divided. The entire meaning of key passages from any number of national constitutions could be changed overnight, or we may wake up tomorrow and have to pause between pronouncing the first and second syllables of Kiefer Sutherland’s name. Dare we even recall what happened during that dark episode not so long ago when splinter elements of the Mossad inserted a crudely fashioned but fully functioning ampersand into the Al-Bereh Treaty, making their enemies believe they were in favor of both war and peace? The confusion which set in has reigned for a thousand years! (Well, not a thousand obviously. The math isn’t important.) Either way, I say we pay the ransom tonight, no questions asked. I can come up with the fifteen dollars by making a few phone calls, but I’m a little confused as to why we have to put the bills inside the jacket sleeve of a new copy of Frampton Comes Alive. In fact, the more I look at the note, the more that references such as this one, plus the fact that it’s dated February 3, 1977, make me think that this matter should have perhaps been brought to my attention more than thirty years ago. So let me get this straight: the DeVance comma has been missing for three decades, and you picked this occasion---the traditional father and bride dance to mark the midpoint of the wedding reception---to inform me of it? Was there a reason you had to cut in as opposed to just waiting four minutes and ten seconds for it to be over with? I don’t know what’s gotten into you these days, Sergeant. First you completely forget to tell me the Pound Sign Killer is still on the loose, then you totally blow the Symbol for Absolute Value kidnapping investigation....sometimes it seems like you’re losing control of the entire department.

On a side note, should we maybe adjust the fifteen dollars for inflation? And since the last Bugle Boy outlet store closed about ten years ago, do you think the thieves would want us to make the drop at a comparable jeans retailer instead, or should we just call them back from the pay phone they mention that was removed in 2002 from the front of the Dart Drug they refer to that went out of business in 1995? See, this is the problem with making these ransom demands so topical.