Take That, Enriching World of Arts and Leisure!

Sometimes having a blog means being utterly fearless, and if I may toot my own horn, such was the case last Thursday, or as it’s now referred to, the Day of the Bloody Knife, when without reservation I took down fourteen American philharmonics in a single paragraph by referring to them as “only average,” going as far as naming names, because I felt it’s what I had to do. I regret nothing. Because I do not possess the bandwidth to respond with cutting prose to each and every savage attack that followed, I present here a brief summary of the ensuing carnage for posterity, for I shall never, ever be silenced:

CONDUCTOR'S RETALIATION: Squeezed out the entire contents of an economy-sized tube of Aquafresh into my asthma inhaler
MY RESPONSE: I stand by my courageous words

CONDUCTOR'S RETALIATION: Somehow acquired my credit card number and subscribed me to no less than one hundred and fifty adult web sites
MY RESPONSE: You can attack me, but you cannot attack the reality of your transparent averageness

CONDUCTOR'S RETALIATION: Broke into my home and took my cat
MY RESPONSE: The truth I bring to the world about your middling philharmonic cannot be denied or contained; also, please bring me back my cat, as I have grown quite fond of it

CONDUCTOR'S RETALIATION: Called me a "numbnut bastard"
MY RESPONSE: You yourself are the thing you have accused me of being, good sir

CONDUCTOR'S RETALIATION: Openly challenged my citizenship status in an essay for Atlantic Monthly
MY RESPONSE: I say again: my eleven years working for North Korean intelligence forces were a youthful mistake for which I shall not apologize again

CONDUCTOR'S RETALIATION: No action yet taken
MY RESPONSE: I take your silence to mean that you will soon quietly disband for the benefit of all who love beautiful things

CONDUCTOR'S RETALIATION: Quietly left the music business
MY RESPONSE: Your overly restrained direction of The Magic Flute completely justifies your sad end

PHILHARMONIC DEVASTATED: The Boys' and Girls' Club of Flint, Michigan
CONDUCTOR'S RETALIATION: Came at me with a machete as I stood in line for Eat, Pray, Love
MY RESPONSE: Yeah, uh-huh, where's your machete now, friendo?

It Could Happen, Actually. I Read an Article.

It was showtime. The cameras rolled. The classical music was piped in and the director cued the talent to speak.

"Hello, and welcome once again to Tea Time for the Pleasant,” said the man in the sweater vest sitting at an oaken dining table. “I am your host for today’s tea, Grady St. Paul. With me today is a very special guest and one of my oldest friends, Lynette Van Ott, the curator of fine teas at the Paris Annex of Gentle Sigh University. Lynette, it’s lovely to see you.”

Lynette smiled. “I’m delighted to be here, Grady. Do you realize we haven’t seen each other since Earth Day?”

“That’s very true, Lynette. Thank you for pointing that out.” He gestured at the several teacups placed before them. “Now as you know, I’m very excited today because you’ve brought with you some teas which I have not stopped talking about since the Twinings Taste-Off in Nantucket. The first one I cannot wait to try is Lemon Dusk, which won the 1997 Legion of Loveliness Award for Quality Teas and hasn’t been tasted in this country for seven years. Lynette?”

“That’s right, Grady,” said Lynette as they both dipped their teabags. “It was originally brewed in the Hudson Valley, but was found mostly in Quebec for many years and was sadly unavailable to us until now--and I don’t know about you, but this absolutely makes my decade.”

“Shall we?” Grady asked, removing his bag.

“Indeed,” said Lynette, removing her own.

They both gently sipped their tea with silent anticipation. A moment passed. Then Grady spewed the tea out of his mouth in disgust, spraying it the full length of the table. Lynette gagged and dropped her own teacup in revulsion.

“My GOD!” Grady said, wiping his mouth and grimacing. “What was THAT?!”

Lynette couldn’t speak for a moment. She looked around for a rag to brush her tongue with.

“That is the WORST taste I’ve ever had in my mouth!” Grady proclaimed. “It’s like licking a stop sign!”

“Ah...perhaps we should move on to the Paris series,” Lynette said, trying to keep her composure. “I’ve brought it from over two thousand miles away.”

“Let’s do that,” Grady agreed. He moved on to the next teacup and Lynette did likewise. “The Paris series consists of several highly acclaimed teas endorsed in the pages of This Week in Steeping. The tea we’re most interested in sampling today is called Vive La Soleil--loosely translated, meaning ‘Long live the sun.’ Some say it was the favorite of no less a dignitary than Prince Mahibna of Ivory Coast. Lynette, are you ready?”

“I am, Grady,” she said hopefully, lifting her bag and placing it daintily beside her cup. “This should be super.”

In unison, they sipped the contents of their fine china cups. Instantly they ejected the tea into the limpid air with the force of an anti-aircraft missile, their taste buds lashing out in terror against the accursed liquid. The mist hung in a cloud for several seconds while Grady seized the tablecloth so as not to fall backwards out of his chair. Lynette clawed at her throat like a vampire suddenly exposed to the sun.

“Good god, woman, what are you trying to do to me?!“ Grady shouted. “Where’d you get this, a dead goat's kidney?!”

Lynette settled herself, regaining her on-camera persona with great difficulty.

“ know, some teas just aren’t suited for all palates, I suppose, um...”

“This crap isn’t suited to paint my Prius!” Grady yelled.

“Please, Grady--”

“Look at that color—-I know CORONERS who would get the creeps over this!”

Lynette pushed on. “Yes, ah...I was going to save the finest tea I have for the end of the show, but I think you deserve a little treat now, Grady...let’s play a game: can you name a tea that was actually honored by Canadian Parliament?”

Grady stared daggers into her, nodded threateningly. “All right, I’ll play your little game, sis. Is it Earl Sunflower?”

Lynette attempted a smile. “No...”

“Geneva Apple?”

“No...this tea was featured in the motion picture Breakfast at Tiffany’s...”

Grady closed his eyes, exhaled bitterly. “Island Mist?”


Grady slammed a fist on the table. “OH CHRIST, YOU SLAG, JUST TELL US THE BLOODY NAME!” The teacups rattled.

Lynette cowered. “’s Tangerine’s in the cup beside your elbow. Shall we...shall we give it a whirl?”

“All right,” Grady said with menace. “All right. But listen, if I send THIS one back out of my piehole, I’m hurling myself across this table and strangling you with your own phony accent, understand?”

She nodded defensively. The teabags were removed. The cups were placed to their mouths. In less time than it takes a pretty hummingbird to flap its wings but once, Grady dropped his cup on the floor where it shattered.

“Look at this!” he cried. “There’s a RAZOR BLADE in this!!”

“Oh my goodness,” Lynette whispered. “It must be a new derivative of a classic—-”

“RAZOR BLADES IS NOT A DERIVATIVE, SLUT MONKEY!” Grady shouted, waving the object in her face. “RAZOR BLADES ARE RAZOR BLADES!”

Suddenly Lynette grinned strangely. “That’s right, Mr. St. Paul,” she said, standing. “Razor blades are meant only to put an end to your reign of tea tyranny!” She yanked off her wig in one violent motion. Grady gasped. “We, the People of the United Front of Leisure Time Beverages, declare your hosting days over! No longer will this publicly-funded PBS station be a slave to your pedestrian palate! I, Hortense Mozart, will be taking over! Henchmen, seize him! Seize him now!”

“I’ll die before I let you tell our viewers what to drink, Nazi cow!” Grady cried. The oafish, lumbering henchmen were not quick enough; by the time their simian hands brushed his vest he had put a couple of cyanide-tipped slugs into each of their patellas. He turned his revolver on Hortense.

“Don’t do it! We can rule together!” Hortense pleaded, backing away.

“Rule THIS, assneck!” he declared, and took her out with his dead aim. Then, for reasons which would remain unclear for months, he leapt out the closest window, screaming out his love for the fatherland as he descended to the unforgiving pavement below.

An absurd dream or a cautionary reality? When viewers like us fail to meet our moral obligation by making good on pledges to local PBS stations, funding problems can lead to our favorite shows getting lost in the shuffle, or even the ghoulish deaths of their hosts. Please stand up, be counted, donate generously, and everything should be all right come the harvest.


Down into the Zero

(Blogger's note: Due to temporary and perhaps permanent creative bankruptcy, I turn now to the Old Files for whatever content I can squeeze from them. Please, no complaints, as you were warned about this some time ago.)

Wendell and Doris drove toward East Whippany. It was going to be a super weekend of fun which might or might not include eating in a restaurant--the kind advertised on television and in newspapers.

“Hey, remind me,” Wendell said, “we should stop in Oatesville and shop for jeans at this great bargain store, Gabe’s Warehouse.”

“Do we have to stop for that?” Doris asked, daydreaming of restaurants and the food she believed them to contain. “You can get that stuff anytime.”

“You can’t get jeans for seven dollars in Beebs Gulch,” Wendell noted.

Doris frowned. “You can get jeans at the Games Warehouse?”

“Games Warehouse?”

“Yes, you said Games Warehouse.”

Wendell clarified. “No, I said ‘Gabe’s Warehouse’.”

“Games Warehouse?” Doris asked, puzzled.

“No, Gabe’s Warehouse.”

“That’s what I said.”

“No, Gabe’s Warehouse.” This time Wendell overpronounced the B.

“You sound like you’re saying Games Warehouse,” Doris said.

Wendell shook his head, frustrated. “I’m saying Gaaaaaaaabbbbbbbbe’s Warehouse!” he said. “Buh! Buh! Buh!”

“You keep saying that!” Doris said. “Games Warehouse!”

“B! B! B!” Wendell shouted. “The second letter of the alphabet is what you’re hearing!”

They drove in silence for a while. They passed some trees.

“Games Warehouse?” Doris asked, very confused. “Say it again.”

Wendell slammed on the brakes and pulled over on the shoulder. He got out of the car and walked over to a road sign that read SPEED LIMIT 55. He pointed at the M over and over again. Doris stared out the window at him.

“This is NOT the letter I am saying when I speak of the topic at hand!” Wendell shouted over the noise of passing traffic. “Imagine this as a B!”

"You're pointing at the T!" Doris yelled back.

Wendell saw that his finger was, in fact, a bit wayward and he corrected this. "NOW look at what I'm pointing at!"

“But it sounds like an M!” Doris protested. “As in ‘Games Warehouse’!”

Wendell got back in the car and they drove on in silence. He just didn’t even feel like talking to Doris anymore.

They passed a business on the side of the road. It was called THE GAMES WAREHOUSE. Wendell pulled into the parking lot.

“What are you doing?” Doris asked.

“I want to check this place out,” he said.

“But this isn’t the place,” Doris said. “Is it?”

“NO!” Wendell yelled. “The place I want to stop is called GABE’S Warehouse!”

“Then why are we stopping here?” Doris wanted to know.

“It’s unrelated! I happened to see it, okay?!”

“Okay!” Doris said. “No need for a hissy fit!”

Doris waited in the car. Wendell came out ten minutes later with Deluxe Stratego under his arm, which some game enthusiasts claim is twice the Stratego that Stratego ever was.

“There, did that kill you?” he asked Doris crossly.

She didn’t answer. They drove on.

They passed another business on the side of the road. It was called GABE’S WAREHOUSE. Wendell drove right past it. Doris held her silence for as long as she could, but then turned to a stone-faced Wendell out of a nagging curiosity.

“Why are you going pa--”


Wendell pulled over again. He looked at Doris tenderly and recalled how beautiful she had looked when he first saw her at Battlestar Galacticatoberfest.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m sorry I got angry.”

“It’s all right,” Doris said grumpily.

They drove on. Two hours later Wendell slapped his forehead.

“I think that was Gabe’s Warehouse,” he said.

“Of course it was the Games Warehouse, assface!” Doris said furiously. “You’ve got the Deluxe Stratego receipt to prove it!”

For these two young lovers, marriage seemed a dubious idea at best.


The Blatant Unfairness of It All

I am very weak as I write this---oh so very weak---but I shall try my best to finish these sentences before I pass out again on my filthy straw mat.

As I announced on this blog two months ago, I am on a hunger strike until the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-14) defeat the 2007 New England Patriots (16-0) in a football game simulated by the WhatIf? Sports stat generator.

Every day for sixty-one days I have had the stat generator simulate a contest between these two historic teams, and every single day my dream has been crushed.

I can take this no longer.

I don’t know if I can go even one more day without taking in substantial nutrients---and yet I refuse. I refuse to ingest anything other than Orangina and clam juice until the inevitable happens.

For all I know, this could be my last day on earth---sometimes now when I drift in and out of unconsciousness, I see a dark specter beckoning me.

Now, while you are here with me, and my strength is high (the afternoons are always better; I don’t tremble so much then), I shall click the SIMULATE! button afresh.

Please, Lord...please let this time be different. I simply don’t have the strength to continue.

Now. NOW: