Saturday, December 31, 2016

Christmas Letter Nine

The Wanklestein Syndrome (dander feud in process)

Cousin Shennie Wanklestein is neither a large man, nor one most people would invite to a picnic until the entirety of the planet’s ant population decline invitations.  He does however, have some ideas he claims will both better the planet AND earn him enough cash to build the world’s largest roller coaster constructed from pressed canine dander.  His business plan is simple; he will open a store catering to pet owners nervous about household pet dander.  For a fee, Shennie will de-dandrify clients’ pets using an electrostatic apparatus.  The tool is currently in pre-patent pending phase due to a small product testing incident resulting in 7 of his neighbors “achieving minor hearing losses” as Shennie describes it.

The store’s slogan is, “IF THE DOG HAS DUST, SEE SHENNIE YOU MUST”.  For you see, his philosophy is that life is a marathon, not a foot race.  At 26, his plan is for the life clock to begin counting at 30 and end at 50.  He estimates it will take approximately 19 years to collect the required amount of dander for the roller coaster and 1 year to construct the behemoth.  By his thinking, 0-30 and 50-80 are “fluff”, or as he calls them, “The Fluffenstein Years”.  The 0-30 years are meant to be used thinking about plans for pet dander and the 50-80 years are meant to be used writing essays about his experiences collecting the dander while taking a brief daily respite to sniff the newly mimeographed copies.

Unfortunately for family onlookers, Shennie’s twin sister Hatia has taken a passionately opposed stance on her brother’s life plan.  She was overheard at a family gathering recently saying, “I would like to snuff my brother with a dander filled pillow or stuffed zebra”.  Hatia’s primary pastime when not inspecting olives at the local cannery is continuing education.  After lobbying with the local liberal arts college’s dean of physical sciences, she is slowly achieving an associate’s degree in “Not Olives”.  She looks forward to the day when she can look interviewers in the eye and say, “I am a hard working, honest person with less than 5 parking tickets who can cook breakfast using only my feet and wrists and who possesses an associate’s degree in not olives”.

Her most recent curriculum fulfillment course came in the form of a C- in astronomy.  She claims a B- had been in range mid semester prior to her need to split her focus between studies and her efforts to lead a grass roots campaign titled, “NOT OLIVES STUDENTS AGAINST DANDER COLLECTION”.  You see, Hatia came to the realization that improperly displaced dander might disrupt the natural order due to the laws of gravity.  Her thesis is that if too much dander is concentrated in one physical place, the weight of the mass of the dander could cause the earth to as she says, “spin wobbly like a ruptured basketball” thus changing its current orbit causing a mass sun burn issue. When asked by the local gossip columnist about the dander feud, Shennie and Hatia’s mother Sparla commented by saying, “The only comment I can legally make is they both adore pudding, they always have and they always will”.

Oh, by the way, uncle Shuckie set a new world record for running backwards for 5 miles in the fog in under 25 minutes, cousin Gaberdine got a new tattoo of a mouse dressed as a doctor performing a lobotomy, and grandma Magdalene still coughs each time she sees a picture of Shennie.



Christmas Letter Eight

Drowning the Sound of Songbirds With a Roto Tiller

Her majesty Queen “Froth at the mouth at the sight of mustard” Jonah (known to our family as Cousin Crackpot # 7 twice removed) moved nicely along in her bid to gain respect and notoriety within her immediate family this fall.  Over the summer she broke into her brother Wally, “Cleanest toenails in my County” Beefjudge and built 19 small pyramids constructed of mothballs around his house including one under each of his dining room chairs.  She then promptly contacted the neighbors on either side of his home and let them know that Wally would soon be fighting an Egyptian moth war and to purchase much duct tape.  When asked what quantity “much” was, she replied, “How many ducts do you have?”  I can’t tell you if this made sense to the neighbors, but on her telling of the story during the August Beefjudge family reunion, Her Majesty received a standing ovation.

Wally’s Sister, Lilly Beth “Lampholder” Beefjudge was also in on the act this year with some truly innovative ideas.  Lilly Beth trolled the internet for the largest part of the year in order to find a partner in a world record attempt.  In the later part of July, Lilly found a willing partner somewhere in Africa named Calisso.  After some email exchanges, Lilly Beth suggested a “cultural gift exchange” in order to learn more about each other’s cultures and that she would be sending a gift from the States.  After a week or so passed, the below email exchange occurred between Lilly Beth and Calisso:

Dear Lampholder,

I today by postal received most unique item in small box.  I spending much time this day researching by way of internet as to meaning of gift, please tell more about gift, is this American Custom?



Dear Calisso,

I am very pleased that you received the box and its contents in such a quick time.  We are one quarter the way to a new record!  The contents are something we call broccoli in America.  Please untie the attached string and keep it always with you to keep the evil demons away from your insides.  This American magic secret works and is invaluable!  You will also notice a smaller piece of cardboard included that can be folded and taped to make a box in which to send the broccoli back to me.  After you send the broccoli back to me, I will send it back to you, then you will send it back to me.  After I receive it the second time, we will likely become as you like to say, “American Famous”.  I have spent much time researching, and we will be the first world record co-owners for the “Most traveled food element”.




The third and youngest of the Beefjudge clan, Henry “Finch sized Sweater” Beefjudge took advantage this year of the internet as well.  Henry started a free dinner contest in October on his internet site asking for entrants to please email him photographs of them smiling.  He then sent various email responses such as, “Can you meet for dinner next Thursday, I’m having Tilapia?”, “Your smile is wide and interesting, can you dine this Monday, I’m having mahi mahi?”, and “If that’s a mole I’m having Ostrich, if it’s a wart, then I’ll have to go with the pork chops, please respond and are you open for dinner on Saturday?” In the event a contestant met Henry for dinner, he would explain that he prefers to dine with folks who resemble the main course.
Please remember, good things come to those who wait, but if one of those good things is a banana, don’t wait too long.  

Cheers to the Good Doctor Hunter S. Thompson who left us in February to search for the next high water mark, who unknowingly goaded me into new kinds of thinking and the occasional bad decision. Godspeed and rest in peace man.

Res ipsa loquitur
(Let the Good Times Roll)     


Thursday, December 29, 2016

Christmas Letter Seven

Flagrant Misperceptions in the Year of the Coyote

Being a visionary hasn’t been the easiest character trait for cousin Bobbie “Saliva is my life” Sophocles.  Plagued with a lineage of hyper creativity and nausea, Bobbie set forth earlier this year to prove once and for all time that he and his immediate portion of the Sophocles family were destined to be regarded as geniuses.  “It’s called, “The 3 Stooges Rice Kit”, he would mutter just before being awakened each morning by the clipping sound caused by his father Speedy Sophocles attempting to clip the sleeping boy’s toenails.  Bobbie had been waiting with much anticipation for nearly a year for his eighteenth birthday and shortly after the day arrived, the plan began.  He promptly purchased a phone list, which he was now legally able to do, and began targeting 65-90 year old retirees in the guise of a serious market survey.

“Yes, hello Dr. Thumb, this is B. Sophocles and this is a market survey.
“I don’t have any soft trees.”
“Sophocles, sir.  Let me ask you this, if your eyesight is good, how happy would you make at least one of your loved ones on their birthday if you gave them 3 pieces of rice, each painted in the likeness of one of the 3 Stooges?
“Is this one of those crank arborist calls?”
“No sir, it’s a market survey.  The kit includes 5 pieces of rice, a fine horsehair paintbrush, and a more than adequate amount of India ink.
“Why would you want to cook ice?”
“Dr. Thumb could we please get back to the subject?  The kit allows one to paint the stooges including Curly Joe and Shemp, or if an inexperienced stooge painter, an allowance for 2 “mistake” rice.
“I’m tired”
“Thank you for the input and I love you”

In some contradiction to the rest of the family’s judgment, Bobbie always ended the conversation with those words.  He said they sound like “prune juice” and would have a positive subliminal effect causing the kit to be purchased once on the market.
Bobbie was merely a continuance of his family’s aspired mass marketing desires.  Speedy Sophocles had ended his education early in order to attempt to publish, “The Stenographers’ Almanac”.  The catch phrase for the product was, “It will likely rain”.  This had been the first of many of Speedy’s marketing ideas ending in varying amounts of public dissatisfaction.

Following this product was a sort of “Where’s Waldo” book game.  The idea was to find the Achilles tendons of different animals in the midst of painted jungle scenes.  Following this was a game for the young entrepreneur.  “Princess Sweat Puddles” was the title.  It came with a plastic princess doll filled with olive oil. The winner of the game was entitled to squeeze the doll, which oozed olive oil from tiny simulated pores.  The winner was further entitled to put the oil in a tiny vial, (provided with purchase of the game), and attempt to sell it to the neighbors as authentic princess sweat.

When querying my father about my cousins the Sophocles, he would always say, “The monkey has escaped the cage”.  I didn’t really know what that phrase meant until I was older and realized it must have been a code he used in his military days.  My father has many sayings like that one. His favorite is, “Take everything with a grain of salt, son.”  Then he will pause a moment and look at his shoes and say, “Unless it’s okra, for that you’ll probably want several grains.”

Next year, be nonchalant, even when it’s not fun.  (Think of your audience as cooked spaghetti, like they taught you in speech class.)

Mr. Harrison thanks for the music.

And on……………….                                                                                                   Bryan

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Christmas Letter Six


Everything is as it should be.  Technology has replaced wishful thinking and the twist as my favorite pastime.  I recently was married online to a beautiful girl named Joanna.  I say beautiful because it’s as likely an accurate descriptive word as any other.  She may turn out to be a plastic donut hidden behind roller skates in some prankster’s attic.  I hope this is not the case, for you see I am not ready to be a single parent.  Yes that’s correct, we have adopted two cyber kids named Elgin and Margueritte.

Elgin is eight years old.  His hobbies include carpooling and drinking chocolate milk.  Margueritte, or as her former care provider likes to call her, Barry, seems swift in the head and heavy in the earlobes, (probably just a digital camera problem).  Joanna and myself spend most evenings giving parental advice to them over the internet in a private chat room they jointly named,  “Do you want to be called Bill?”  We do normal family things.  We discuss world politics, fried foods, and Parker Stevenson.  We tell them how important it is to be clean when attending the symphony.

We sometimes play family games also.  Elgin likes a game he invented call slug pigeon.  It is a derivative of the old game slug bug.  You type in SLUG when you see a pigeon.  He always wins. I think he may live in New York.  The one Barry likes best is called, duct tape the next person you see. Barry loves the book, “Catcher in the Rye”.  She also likes Jodi Foster so much.  I think it’s sweet................... We’re well out of the nineties now and I suppose this is as good a time as any to let you in on a couple of secrets.  I did not invent spray cheese, the doorknob, or the pop group New Kids on the Block.

Sayings I overheard misquoted at family gatherings this year

“Without order nothing can exist – without chaos nothing can evolve – and if your wife is going bring key lime pie again next week, just stay the Hell home”.

“You can’t win them all, but you can lose your car keys in pudding”.

“A bird in the hand has got to be worth something besides ham salad”.

“You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t bake a duck for seven hours”.

Aunt Bonnie ‘Toledo Slew’ (formerly of Seattle with litigation pending) is nearing retirement and has already started her quest to be an accomplished world traveler.  Bonnie recently visited sunny Florida. She said her favorite activity on the jaunt was spending a full week in the Miami sun with her Florida native sister, Boola.  Through the family grapevine, we were told that Bonnie spent one day in the sun, then consumed enough margarita salt to incapacitate her due to swollen ankles. Bonnie’s daughter, Cousin "salad days" Slew has offered some corroboration to this story and allegedly is in possession of several panoramic pictures of Boola’s coffee table.

Boola’s husband, uncle Francis "don’t sleep near my telescope" Slew supposedly told another family member that Bonnie and Boola had a rift and have not spoken since.  Apparently Boola and Bonnie nearly went to blows near the Cuisinart over the mean size of Cornish hens in Florida versus those in Missouri.  No one seems to be clear whether they feel a bigger bird is a better bird.  I personally have always judged by texture………………I think the year 2002 will be peachy beyond anyone’s imagination.  I think old Halogen Bill from down the road said it best when after gazing for a few minutes at the dirt underneath his thumbnail pronounced, “The year 2001 was scruffy, like an uncombed jackass” …………………….This year let’s spend some time combing the jackass.

Rest (or whatever you may happen to be doing) in peace to Ken Kesey and George Harrison.

Love and Progress,


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Christmas Letter Five


Lucidity has returned in Y2K, as some of us expected.  The muddy mind of yesteryear was bade a much needed farewell.  Having grown tired of pondering, clique-ing and monkeying with the meaning of the turn of the century, many in my fold and the near periphery diverted to what I can only term, “blind sanity”.

Cousin Jimmy “Coleslaw” Parksnip developed a new plan.  He went out into the world after near graduation from high school to make his way. He took with him a prized formula that included hedonism and turnstile paranoia.  His plan was simple.  Go to the big city, make a lot of money, and retire to the country within 3 years to raise milk badgers.  He envisioned lazy days sitting on the porch couch eating badger milk coleslaw and whispering to no one specifically.  The plan, though poorly devised, went not as well as one might imagine.  Jimmy’s mom, Ardella “Momma Weevil” Thurston-Parsnip informed us of Jimmy’s fate at the Blastenfink-Parsnip family reunion this fall.  She had received a call the prior month explaining that Jimmy had been incarcerated. He had been apprehended a few feet away from a turnstile in the US patent office.  The informing party continued that Jimmy was noticed fear frozen, mumbling, “Weevil Slaw”.  The informing party went on to document that Jimmy was not being held for psychological evaluation or Freudian analysis, but as she went on to explain, “fun”.

Favorite terms or phrases overheard at family dinners this year

“Hold on a minute while I get the tweezers out of the freezer”

“Would you like to hear what my cat sounds like inside the piano?”

“Throwing up is not performance art just because you’re wearing tights, Paul.”

“You got a brand new pair of roller skates, I got a brand new strain of the mumps.”

“Persimmon upside down cake anyone?”

“No, Petey, your aunt Beverly is wrong, Van Gogh did not cut off his ear and use it as a hood ornament, he merely mailed it to someone.”

“My name is not Carol, Mom.”

Obsessions with prior pop culture continue to haunt the family in the new millennium.  Uncle Grover traded his silver dollar collection for several wooden nickels bearing stamped likenesses of Elvis in which he promptly drilled holes and constructed a necklace.  Uncle Grover II, named after his father, continues to join the annual Christmas parade midway through and proceeds to do a sort of marching “safety dance” wearing parachute pants and a “Where’s the beef?” t-shirt.

As the great magician Doug Henning said, “There’s always time for magic.”  This statement could be none more true in anyone’s existence than that of mine or many members of my family.  Many have surrendered on the cusp of normality while others would require the Hubbell telescope to get even a glimpse.  It may be that Old uncle Willie “honk if you love honking” Taylor said it best, “If you can get an isle seat next to a fire exit, do that.”


Bats go in the belfry.  Soup goes in the pantry……………………No one needs a belfry full of soup………………………………….Happy New Year.

Christmas Letter Four


The old saying goes, Rock n’ roll is for blowing your mind, THE DOORS are for when your mind is already blown.  Well I don’t know who said that, but I’ll bet they would have rethought the statement if they saw DOORS listeners today.................Wow did that come out of my head? That was meant for an essay I was going to write in 1993 of the effects on modern society of a generation of pseudo anarchistic, hedonistic, Age of Aquarius seeking dopes with flowers in their hair and guns on their belts.

It was to be titled, “Cool huh huh, mac and cheese, does anyone want to go camping?”  Here’s the gist so that I won’t have to ever write the sucker.  My advice to anyone over 40 is DON’T RELY ON SOCIAL SECURITY!, the gene pool designed to make the money to support your old age is probably at this moment thinking, Man, what if Jerry Garcia would have lived forever you know, like Bugs Bunny, that would have been cool. ....................Bare with me, I’ll get in the Christmas spirit momentarily.

It has been an excellent year for me.  I had all of my teeth x-rayed twice, the most since 1989.  I plan to do this each year there is at least one 1 in the title of the year.  My neighbor old “Halogen Bill” came by the other evening to whittle and shoot the breeze around the fireplace, and some of his life observations/sayings can’t go without being repeated.  I’m not sure why they call him “Halogen Bill”, but I fear it has something to do with deer hunting.  Here are a few examples. “Never trust a man without first checking the back of his neck for Smurf tattoos.” “Always look both ways before joining a cock fight.”  “Fiddle dee dee, Fiddle dee arthroscopic surgery out for four weeks.”  “Cancor sores, by God we oughta giv’em to the Russians.”  “If you see a nun with a bag of Hershey’s kisses, well you just knash your teeth like a raccoon and I’m bettin’ she’ll give you one.”  “Chronic asthma my ass.”  “Halogen Bill” is one of those guys that even though you may have no common interests and no hope to gain any, you can still get him to mow your yard for 1975 wages.

My cousin Eddie stayed with me for a few days this summer.  He was on leave from his normal life as caretaker of a dog crematorium.  He had been there a couple of days when I awoke to a rumbling in the next room.  I should tell you that Eddie is a known sleep walker.  I went to the living room, then followed Eddie through the front door.  He had his bags packed and seemed ready to leave.  “I’m going down to Georgia to shave the fuzz from all the peaches,” he said.  My response, knowing his condition, and being as caring a relative as possible, I think was appropriate.  “Good damn luck,” I said while throwing a twirling baton between his legs as he attempted to traverse the front steps, thus tripping him......................I think what would cause a lesser amount of regional wars, and thus much less trouble and destruction on the planet, that all peace treaties be in the language of the Navajo Native Americans. Only a few people know the language, so it might take opposing nations years to actually interpret what they signed.

Warning ! there is a pyramid scheme praying on innocent citizens in the area.  You should be apprised.  I, unfortunately was a victim of this scheme.  Here is how it happened.  I was minding my own business rebleaching some faded tube socks in an empty trash receptacle at the post office when a man approached me and asked me if I wanted to be wealthy.  I said, “yes”.  He then told me to cut a small lock of hair from my head and give it to him along with 20 dollars.  He said the hair was in order to keep things legal and to insure that I knew the situation to be legitimate.  I agreed to the proposal.  The scheme worked like a charm sort of.  About two weeks later I started receiving clumps of hair from all over the United States.  I received one clump with a piece of gum stuck in it.  It had a note attached that read, “Please don’t tell Linda Tripp.” Unfortunately, none of these clumps were accompanied by any legal tender.  To make a long story short, I have a closet full of human hair.  I tried to make stew from it but unfortunately it was not edible.

Love and much progress, 

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas Letter Three

Happy Happy Happy (say it like Sammy would have)

Yes, it was February best I can remember.  Ah, beautiful sniffling February.  Billy had just received a new red 3 speed bike for his birthday.  Billy had overheard his parents speaking of his third grade class presidency bid and became angry at their poor opinion of his platform based around cold soup. Billy’s political aspirations were pure but misguided.  He wanted to focus on one issue as had his idol Ronald Reagan years before when he asked the question, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?”  However the question that Billy wanted to put forth, “How much cold soup did you drink last semester?” was just not going to cut it.

Yes, Billy decided to punish the buggers.  Starting on February 1, Billy drank 1 gallon of milk per day.  On February 27th Billy was finishing his second glass of milk for the day and found a live beetle near the bottom of the glass.  Well that was that for Billy and milk......Meanwhile, my neighbor Jim “Spacefiller” Hoogstogle, his wife Betty Tiger, and their daughter Tess “Teacup” Hoogstogle passed the time  playing “name bad chicken illnesses”......Oh, excuse me, I didn’t mean to let that get in the way of my end of 1997 update.

It’s been a beautiful year.  This means it’s been a horrible year for a lot of other people.  This is how I judge years.  If life sucks for a lot of people, it must have been good for me.  I traded in my favorite color red for a more trendy earth brown this year.  Also I chipped a few peoples’ teeth.  It had to be done.  I briefly was filling in for a sick relative in the electric gadgets department of a local store and was put in charge of electric toothbrush demonstrations.  It seems not everyone wants to try electric toothbrushes.  I was forced to treat the duty much like snipe hunting by jumping from behind a clothing island while gently sliding the toothbrush into the customer’s mouth.  Instead of being the success that I had imagined, it turned out to be an action that is more likely to get someone fired.

I continued my streak for weeks in a row without viewing the thriller “The Towering Inferno”.  1997 brought many important personal achievements for myself as well as the small Greek elves appointed to look after me.  One of the elves which I will refer to only as Zorba “The Anonymous” was named by the Greene County Greek Elves Society as flute polisher of the year.  After I learned of this honor, Zorba was promptly fired by me for noncompliance of our verbal agreement regarding moonlighting with woodwind instruments.

I learned a great many things in 1997.  Not as many as in 1984, but it’s so much easier when you have a guide such as Mr. Orwell’s.  I didn’t get ill the entire year.  I think I can attribute this to the ingestion of large amounts of whiskey and bologna (The author can not however recommend this combination in tandem).  At this point, I would like to point out that my psychic abilities have returned in 1997 after an absence of several years when I predicted that Milli Vanilli’s hair was in fact not real.  If those of you who have a copy of last year’s letter will now refer to it as proof, you will notice that I sort of predicted a teamster’s strike which would render fruit undeliverable.  Eerie huh?

Since this is the case, I would now like to make a prediction for 1998.  I hereby pronounce that this year two Middle Eastern countries will have a near conflict over use of the phrase “now with freshness” on their respective national flags.  This year I cooked and cooked and cooked.  Then I realized that the burner had not yet been turned on.  Then it was March.  The leaves began to leap from the ground back onto the trees and the double jointed birds pecked at each other backwards.

Then in June it was warm.  Too warm, so I turned on the air conditioner.  Then August came and after heavy thought I decided to continue use of the air conditioner.  Next was October.  Some days I used the heater in my car.  I considered moving to the mall for a more stable environment. Well I guess that’s why they call it the “Show Me” state.  I would however like to amend the slogan, and with your support maybe I can.  I would like the slogan to read “Missouri, can I see your receipt?”  I guess the time has come again to say goodbye for another year.  Here’s wishing that this year none of us shrink like in that movie.

R.I.P. Mother Theresa, the world will miss you.

Love and more progress,