Banned in the U.S.A.

Bart Simpson

Today, March 7th, is the 26th anniversary of 2 Live Crew’s Supreme Court victory, which protected parodies from copyright infringement lawsuits. The song they parodied was Pretty Woman, by Roy Orbison. Freedom of Speech was honored. The Supreme Court ruled that parodies are covered under the fair use doctrine. Weird Al Yankovic and a host of comedians breathed a big sigh of relief.

In celebration, 2 Live Crew then recorded a parody of a popular Bruce Springsteen song which they called “Banned in the U.S.A.” Bruce didn’t sue them. Yay Bruce!

I loved the original, Born in the U.S.A., but I never heard the parody before today. Maybe you haven’t either, so here’s a link.

When you finish watching that clip, you might want to enjoy President Andrew Shepard’s speech from the movie The American President.



Then, to put it all in context read the words of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

This was so important, that it was the very first Amendment in the Bill of Rights, but the ink was barely dry when Congress passed the Sedition Act and President Adams signed it into law on July 14, 1798. Fortunately, that was quickly repealed, but Americans have always had to fight to keep this right to the free expression of controversial subjects. Comedians, musicians, and writers have led the fight, but it’s an uphill battle we all face.


The tough part, of course, is defending the right of free speech for those with whom we disagree, but that is the core of the Amendment. The only way for us to understand both sides of an issue is to listen to both sides of an issue. Unfortunately, most of us on the left are now glued to MS-NBC, while those on the right are joined at the hip to Fox News. I admit that I’m guilty. The Internet doesn’t help me, either. It records what I watch and then steers me to more like-minded material. Once in a while, I can watch a right-leaning comedian like Nick Di Paolo, but I still don’t watch Fox News.


The thing is that when we stifle free-speech we impede our chances of learning something new. I read yesterday about a government employee who got fired for his controversial ideas on handling the Coronavirus epidemic. He kind of suggested that, because 80% of cases are mild and many will show no symptoms, instead of strict quarantines, we should all mingle freely so that the epidemic could spread rapidly and then be over just as quickly. His main idea was that in the long run the virus was going to infect just as many people, but instead of the epidemic lasting for years and destroying businesses, it would just be a short time before things could get back to normal.


This sounds like a crazy idea, but I remembered back when I was a little kid. If either my brother or I caught something like measles, my mother, a nurse, would immediately tell the other one, “Go play with your brother.” This way both of us had it at the same time and she could take care of us both at the same time, instead of having to deal with two sick kids at two separate times. Instead of having the illness in the family dragging out for a month or more, it was all over in a week or two. Just look at how many large conventions were cancelled recently, and how the stock market tumbled. Imagine what will happen if this drags out for years.

So maybe there was some merit in the idea, even if it was a bit harsh and hard to swallow. The thing is that he was just expressing an idea, “spitballing” the problem. By firing the man, it, in effect, stifled any new thinking on how to handle the emergency. What good is a think tank, if it is limited to ideas that are only “inside the box”? The whole idea of brainstorming is to explore as many ideas as possible, even bad ones, in hopes of finding the best ideas.


People getting fired for expressing their ideas is not unusual, but it is wrong. Some ideas are terrible ideas, but in rebutting these ideas we might come up with some good ideas. Some ideas, like Nazism, are repulsive, but people should still be allowed the free expression of their ideas. I know that when I listen to someone with whom I strongly disagree, I try to pay closer attention to what they are saying, so that I will be able to present a better argument against them. Some ideas may be dangerous, but controlling ideas and punishing free thinkers is even more dangerous.


Long after his death, the spirit of Lenny Bruce still lives.


Peace & Love, and all of the above,


The Monkey Wrench, A Labor-Saving Device?

Monkey Wrench pic

Labor-saving devices in the home are great. Throwing a load of laundry in the washing machine is surely better than dragging a load of laundry down to the river and beating it with a rock. Labor-saving devices in industry, though, can be hazardous to the financial health of the laborers.

Labor-saving devices reduce the amount of work necessary to perform an operation. This makes things easier, but it doesn’t make thing better for a company’s workforce. If one person with a labor-saving device such as a computer can do something that used to take 10 people to do, 10 people don’t wind up with really easy jobs. One person winds up doing all the work, and 9 people are let go. Labor-saving devices are very good for the owners and stockholders of companies, but they do absolutely no good at all for the employees, or should I say former employees, of those companies.

This wasn’t always so. Back in our hunter-gatherer past, any labor-saving device was a boon to the entire tribe. The invention of the wheel, for instance, made it much easier to haul a big ole wooly mammoth from the spot where it was killed to the tribe’s cozy kitchen. Since the whole tribe didn’t have to drag the heavy carcass for miles, more people would be available to gather the fixin’s to augment the meal, the various grasses, tubers, nuts, fruits, and seeds that grew in the area. After the invention of the wheel, simple meals could become feasts, and back in those days, anything that made work easier for anyone in the tribe made life better for the whole tribe.

Then somebody invented money, and people started paying others to work for them. It was a fair system, at first, with each side getting what they wanted, until around the Industrial Revolution.   Since then, thousands of labor-saving devices have been good news for employers, and bad news for their employees. With each new labor-saving invention, the employers could save money by cutting employees from the payroll. The rich got richer, and the unemployed went hungry. Income inequality on steroids. This led to some desperate employees trying to save their jobs by sabotaging the new equipment.

Back in 1991, I learned from watching Star Trek VI that the word sabotage came from poor workers in France, who wore wooden shoes called sabots, and tried to break the job-stealing machines by throwing their sabots into them.


Today I learned not to believe everything I see in the movies. I learned that, however, from another notorious font of misinformation, the Internet. According to Wikipedia, “those sabot-wearing labourers interrupted production by means of labor disputes, not damage.” So, I don’t know which story is true, but the Star Trek version makes a much better movie.

Either way, sabotage became a tool of organized labor.


Today, industrial workers have another expression, “Throw a monkey wrench into” which means to sabotage or frustrate a project or plans, as in She threw a monkey wrench into my plans for a one-night stand, when she told me she didn’t drink. Workers today are a lot smarter than those old French Sabot tossers. They know that a metal monkey wrench can do far more damage to a piece of equipment than some old wooden shoe. Plus, you don’t have to go home barefoot after you’ve completed the destruction.

Sabotage, like riot, though, “is an ugly thing.” In the end it hurts everyone. The employer loses money and the saboteurs wind up in jail. So how can we encourage the invention of labor-saving devices, without hurting organized labor. I think the simple answer is for employers to give stock in the company to the employees. Let the employees finally share in the benefits of new inventions. I know what you’re thinking.


I’m not saying that the employees should own the entire company, though, just a fair share of the company, enough to make them want to see the company prosper. That way when the company moves the factory to a foreign country, they won’t be completely screwed. They will, at least, see their stock rise.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,


Goodness Gracious, Great Balls of Buchanan

Since I’ve been here in Lancaster. I’ve enjoyed many lectures at Wheatland, the former home of James Buchanan, our 15th President. The scene shifted on President’s day, though, and the lecture was held at a local bar, The Shot and Bottle, just a few blocks from my apartment. It was the best lecture so far. Stephanie, from Lancaster History, spoke on the theme of the evening, the life of Harriet Lane, Buchanan’s niece.

Since it was a bar, I started the evening, of course, with a beer. Then I looked at the President’s Day appetizer menu. The items included Buchanan Balls, Polk Stickers, Eisenchowder, Roosevelt Fireside Catch Tacos, Barackoli and Shrimp Salad, Bernie Sandler, Kennedy Fried Chicken, Trump Roast, Sherbert Hoover, and Washington Apples. I began with Buchanan Balls, breaded and fried sausage, beef, onion and sauerkraut served with sprouts, Dusselforf mustard and cucumber aioli.

It reminded me of the old joke about the tourist in Spain who looks at the menu and orders the Matador’s Surprise. It turns out to be a huge pair of baked bull balls. Though a little odd, they are so delicious than on his second night in Spain the tourist goes back to the same restaurant and once again orders the Matador’s Surprise. This time, however, he receives two very tiny balls, and he asks the waiter, how come it is so different from the meal he had on the first night. The waiter quickly explained that “Sometimes, senor, the bull wins.”


They turned out to be delicious, and the effect of the positioning of the sprouts got me laughing even more than that old joke did.

Two actors dressed as James Buchanan and Harriet Lane wandered around the room all evening, chatting with all the attendees and making themselves available for pictures. “Harriet” and I chatted for a long time, and she even displayed her Victorian-era curtsy move, but, unfortunately, I didn’t get that on camera.


I had a nice chat with the speaker, Stephanie, before she got up to present her lecture on Harriet Lane, and, unfortunately, the picture below does not do her justice. She, and the blonde on the far right of the bar, both had very pretty eyes, which were nothing like the “deer in the headlights eyes,” which reflected the bright flash of my camera.

Stephanie at Shot and Bottle

When the talk was over, I spoke with Robin from the Lancaster History, who reminds me of Robin Scherbatsky from How I Met Your Mother. We debated the merits of James Buchanan’s Presidency. Since I seemed to be Jimmy’s biggest fan in the room, a member of the LH invited me to volunteer to be a guide on the Wheatland house tours. I’m going to take them up on the offer, and I pity the tourist fool who tries to tell me that James Buchanan wasn’t a great President. They just might find themselves drowning in James Buchanan’s bathtub.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,


The Search for Intelligent Life

Two Aliens out in space were looking down on our planet. The first alien said, “It seems the dominant life-forms on Earth have developed satellite-based weapons.”

The second alien asked, “Are they an emerging intelligence?”

“I don’t think so,” the first responded. “They have the weapons aimed at themselves.”

– joke I read in Playboy


I recently attended a lecture given by David Quammen at Franklin and Marshall College. The lecture was on the importance of Grizzly Bears, wolves, and other predators in the wild. For many years in our National parks the rangers concentrated on trying to eliminate predatory species and keep only the “nice” tame animals. They only wanted the bears that acted more like Yogi Bear and Boo Boo. It turns out that circus bears who can ride bicycles are not what the park needs. Now, they realize that biosystems work best when predators such as grizzly bears and wolves are not driven away or killed. You shouldn’t take the WILD out of wilderness.

We, as a species, are very worried about predatory animals. On land there are lions, and tigers, and bears, and oh my how they scare us. In the ocean, predators such as sharks are widely feared by people, especially people who have seen the movie Jaws.  Alligators scare us both in and out of the water. All these animals are potential man-eaters, and we should take precautions not to come into close contact with them, but we go way beyond being careful, we try to exterminate them.

Okay, if a bear leapt into my backyard while I was grilling a steak, I would shoot it (if I had a gun). If an alligator was chasing my dog, I would shoot it (if I had a dog and a gun). If a shark was chomping on my surfboard, I would shoot it (if I had a spear gun and knew how to use it). We have every right to protect ourselves, especially on our property. The problem is that we are taking over almost the entire planet and making it all “our property.” Except for the penguins in Antarctica, where we don’t want to live, we’re not leaving any room for the wild animals of the planet to have a space where they can do their own thing and mind their own business. They would leave us alone and not eat us, if only we would just leave them alone, but we don’t.

We justify killing predators, with the argument that it’s a matter of kill or be killed, but we go overboard. There are several dozen shark-attacks every year, but mostly it is a case of mistaken identity. When we paddle around in the water, we look like tasty fish treats to them. One bite, and they often spit us out like a child would a vegetable. Unfortunately for us, one shark-bite can do a lot of damage and even be fatal, but, still, worldwide, fewer than a dozen people actually die from shark attacks in any given year. Meanwhile, we retaliate by killing about 7 million sharks a year. That seems like overkill to me. Shark fins are used in soup, so I can see fishing for them as a food source. That’s natural. But the fishermen catch the shark, cut off the fins and dump the rest of the shark back into the ocean to die. Killing sharks just for their fins is just plain cruel.

We’re at the top of the food chain, and, as such, we can feed on whatever we want. Years ago, I went to a restaurant in Manhattan that served blackened alligator. I gleefully ate it, even though no alligator has ever threatened me. Heck, I’ve eaten plenty of cows, pigs, and chickens, and they certainly don’t even pose the slightest threat to me. I figured that eating a predatory alligator was kind of a public service (and it provided a short breather for cows, pigs, and chickens). Actually, the alligator did taste like chicken though.

The point I’m trying to make is that killing for food is natural. Killing purely for the fun or luxury of it, is unnatural. Plus, maybe we should have a tiny bit more consideration for big predator animals, especially since we humans are the biggest predators on the planet. Call it “professional courtesy.”

The irony is that as much as we fear death by some big predatory animals, it’s really the tiny bugs that kill the greatest numbers of us. Millions of people in poverty-stricken areas get sick and die from bugs in the unhealthy water they drink. Tiny mosquitos infect great numbers of people with deadly malaria. Some tiny virus is currently killing a lot of Chinese people. We’ve got our weapons trained on species that look scary, instead of the really scary things. The only big predatory animal we really need to fear is ourselves. People kill more people than lions and tigers and bears and sharks combined. People kill thousands of people every year, and, unlike lions, tigers, bears, and sharks, it’s not because they are hungry. It’s because they are cruel.

Many hunters explain that even non-threatening animals need to be kept in check. Overpopulation of deer in an area can lead to fatal car accidents when they wander on the road. So, instead of giving the deer more land to roam, we thin the herd. Maybe things like the Coronavirus are just nature’s way of thinning the herd of the most dangerous beasts on the planet, us.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,



Knock Knock

In my last article I mentioned for the umpteenth time that I was an Atheist and that I would require a personal visit from a Deity, before I would believe in any God. Then yesterday, there was a knock at my door.

My first thought was, “It’s probably the upstairs neighbor Shawn needing flour or sugar or something for whatever his wife Rene is making for their Super Bowl snacks.” I grabbed my cane and limped for the door.

I opened the door, expecting to see Shawn, and I was startled by a tall bearded man who seemed to be backlit by a thousand LED lights. I jumped backwards.

“Jesus Christ,” I exclaimed. “You startled me.”

“Wow,” he said. “You recognized me right away. That’s pretty good for an Atheist. May I come in?”


“May-I-come-in?” he said pronouncing each word slowly.

“Who are you?”

“I’m Jesus Christ. Didn’t you just recognize me and say My name.”

“No. That was just an expression, an expression of incredible surprise.”

“Oh, I’m not used to hearing my name used like that. Hmmmm. Interesting. May-I-come-in?” he repeated.

“Sure, sure. Come in. What can I do for You?”

“I’d like to talk.”

“Then let’s go in the kitchen. We can sit and talk there. Would you like something to drink?”

“Just water.”

“I’m gonna have wine. Unless, of course, you’re planning on doing some of that changing the water into wine stuff. I’d be very interested to see how that trick is done.”

“What the Heaven,” He exclaimed. “It’s your house, and I am here on a friendly mission. Give me two glasses of water.”

If I really believed that a miracle was about to go down and this bearded stranger could turn ordinary tap water into wine, I would have poured two glasses of ordinary tap water. I had my doubts, though, and I knew I would be required to taste the post-miracle results, so I used the good Brita-filtered water in the refrigerator. I didn’t grab dainty wine glasses, though. I filled up two large water glasses, just in case this did work.

He took the two glasses, folded his arms and crinkled his nose, like Barbara Eden used to do in “I Dream of Jeannie.” Then he chuckled to Himself and smiled. He was just teasing me.

I Dream of Jeannie

He got serious for a moment and then, He said, “Amen” and handed me one of the glasses. I tasted it. It was delicious, the best wine that I’ve ever had. (I know this doesn’t sound like much of a compliment since I drink wine from a 5-liter box found in the economy section of the local liquor store.) It was great tasting wine, though, and it was strong too. I started getting a buzz from the very first sip.

I asked Him what He wanted to talk about. He said He was there more to answer any questions I might have. So, I tried to think of a question for Him, as I drank more of the wine.

“Do you have a girlfriend?” I finally asked Him.

“I meant questions about Religion.”

“Oh, yeah, right.” I took another sip of the wine and tried to think of a Religion question, but I was getting a little drunk. Maybe I could ask Him how he felt about Judas. Was that a Religion question?  Forgiveness?

Then, the doorbell rang.

“That can’t be my doorbell. My front doorbell hasn’t work in six years.”

“It’s your doorbell. I fixed it.”

“How did you know it was broken?”

“I just know these things,” He said, and He gave me a look that was a very polite way of saying, “Duhhhhhhhhhhhhh!”

I got up and I ran for the door. I stopped halfway to the door and grabbed my hip. I didn’t have any pain, and I wasn’t using my cane. My hip felt brand new. I turned to Him and He gave me another of those very polite looks.

“Did You fix my hip, too?”

“It’s what I do.” He said. “Healing is one of My hobbies.”

I continued to the door and when I opened it, a very old man with long silver hair and a beard was there.

“I’m here to pick up my Son.”


“He’s the only Son I have.”

“He’s in the kitchen. Do you want to come in?”

“No, we’ve got to get going. We’re having a Super Bowl party in Heaven, and He’s in charge of the liquid refreshments.”

I turned around, and Jesus was right behind me. “I wish we had more time,” He said, “but everyone loves my wine. Plus, Me and Pop have got a lot of prayers to answer this weekend. Sunday is supposed to be Our day of rest, but everyone in Kansas City and San Francisco is on their knees asking for a miracle. I’ve got to go.  We’ll have to do this again sometime. You could always come and visit me in Church tomorrow.”

“Okay, I will” I said, “Thanks for stopping by.”

They left and I went back to drinking the delicious wine. After a while I fell asleep. Then when I woke up this morning, my hip hurt, my 5-liter box of economy wine was empty, and the doorbell didn’t work. I guess that it was all just a dream. Well, at least that gets me out of going to church today.

Happy Super Bowl Sunday.

Peace & Love, and all of the above.



Cogito Ergo Sum

Rene Descartes

“I think, therefore I am, I think.”

-The Moody Blues


Rene Descartes, the 17th century French mathematician and philosopher decided to question absolutely everything he believed in and start his philosophy from scratch. The very first thing he questioned was his own existence, which resulted in his famous postulate, Cogito, ergo sum, which translates into English as, I think, therefore I am.   He concluded that because he was capable of thought, he must exist. Nothing more was required. His ability to generate thoughts was enough to prove to him that he was real.

I recently watched a TED Talk in which the lecturer said that we have a mind-boggling 70,000 thoughts a day. Only 3% of our thoughts are new, though. According to the lecturer, 97% of our thoughts are just repeats of previous thoughts we’ve had. Be that as it may, it still indicates to me that we have 2,000 new thoughts every day. That was encouraging.

On a less encouraging note, another TED lecturer said that despite all this thinking, we really don’t know much. Each of us, in fact, knows very little. We have the mental ability to store only about one gigabyte of information. I have a flash drive smaller than my thumb that can store 64 gigabytes of information. The little knowledge we have is only because we have access to the collective knowledge of mankind, and most of us don’t really understand much of that knowledge. We have a general idea from what we’ve been told or read, but we’re really fuzzy on the details.

One example he gave was the Solar System. Not too long ago, we were told that the Earth was the center of the universe, so, back then, everyone “knew” that the Earth was the center of the universe. Then the invention of the telescope led scientists to discover that not only were we not at the center of the universe, Earth wasn’t even at the center of our own Solar System. The sun was. We’re on one of a number of planets that revolve around the sun. Thanks to the knowledge gathered by those scientists, most of us now know this, though we may argue over whether or not Pluto deserves to be called a planet.  The point that the lecturer made, though, was that we get the general idea, but only a very few of us actually understand the Astronomy or Physics involved. I’m not one of them. I didn’t even learn enough Astronomy to get a Boy Scout merit badge, and I completely flunked Physics 101.

I know that gravity keeps us in orbit around the sun, but I don’t really know very much about gravity or planetary orbits. I don’t own a telescope, and I haven’t done any studies of my own. What little I do know is thanks to what the collective knowledge of mankind has taught me. Like Newton so modestly said years ago, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”  During my life, I’ve picked up a few bits of information about various subjects from books, teachers, TV, and lectures, but the only thing I really know is that in the grand scheme of things, I don’t know very much. Physics wasn’t the only subject I failed.

I still try to learn. Just the fact that I’m watching TED Talks indicates that I’m interested in learning more. Some of the things I’m learning are discouraging, though. I’ve learned that once we develop an opinion, it’s very hard to change our minds. Most of us have strong opinions on Politics, Religion, Global Climate Change, Immigration, Homeland Security, Income Inequality, Abortion, Conservation, and War. Very few of us will change our opinions on these subjects no matter how much “evidence” we are shown to refute what we already believe. Studies that support our opinions will elicit praise. Studies that do not support our opinions will be dismissed as being absurd.

For example, it’s an election year and politicians will literally spend hundreds of millions of dollars to try to sway people’s opinions. However, most Democrats will remain Democrats, and most Republicans will remain Republicans. Another example is the mountain of scientific evidence on Global Climate Change.  It fuels the opinions of those who view it as a problem, but only leads those who don’t view it as a problem to worry about what the heck is wrong with today’s scientists, and what are they smoking.

No amount of data, less than an actual personal appearance by a Deity, would sway me away from Atheism, but by the same token, no amount of data would convince a Bible Belter that there wasn’t a God or that Noah’s ark didn’t save two of every animal from dying in a great flood. Do you believe in Evolution or Intelligent Design? How much data would be required to get you to change your opinion on these two controversial subjects?  Probably, nothing would sway you.

I was watching a Martin Scorsese movie called Silence. In it, Liam Neeson has a line in which he says that the Japanese have an expression, “Mountains and rivers can be moved, but man’s nature can not be moved.” In a similar vein, the Jesuits say, “Give us a child till he’s seven and we’ll have him for life.”

Many opinions formed, or given to us by our parents, very early in life, often stay with us for our entire life, and the older we get, the more set in our opinions we get. (At least that’s my opinion.) We are capable of thinking, so according to Descartes, we exist, but 97% of our thinking just reinforces what we already believe and doesn’t lead to any new ideas. They don’t change our opinions or improve our lives. However, we do have 2000 new thoughts a day. That’s 2000 opportunities to go beyond merely existing and find a way to grow, to learn, to make ourselves and our world better. We have 2000 new chances every single day, and, if you think about it, it really only takes one good idea to make a big improvement in your life. Those are pretty good odds, I think. What do you think?

Think about it.


Peace & Love, and all of the above,



My Moment of Zen

Back in the days when I watched TV, one of my favorite shows was the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Each show ended with an interesting “Moment of Zen.” Zen, according to Wikipedia, emphasizes rigorous self-control, mediation-practice, insight into the nature of things, and the personal expression of this insight in daily life. It was the perfect way to end a comedy show.

Comedy is a funny thing, and not everybody finds the same things to be funny. I watch a lot of comedy specials on YouTube and lately I’ve been watching shows produced by an outfit called Dry Bar. They specialize in “clean,” family-friendly comedy. I prefer my comedy rough, but after I watched a few of their specials, YouTube decided that they belonged at the top of my list of recommended shows. So, as soon as I click on YouTube, I am instantly made aware of the dozens of Dry Bar comedies I’ve missed that they “think” I would enjoy. I click on one of them and YouTube automatically updates my profile so that I will be made aware of even more of them in the future. A Zen Buddhist might see this as the self-fulfilling prophesy chasing its own tail.

The Dry Bar comedies are recorded in Provo, Utah, which instead of being a comedy capital, used to be a comedic punch line. The audience is probably about 99.9% Mormon, a group more known for being made fun of than being funny. Did you see the show The Book of Mormon? It’s hysterical. I was always amazed, though, that there wasn’t a picket line the size of Utah outside the show. A comedy show called The Book of Islam probably wouldn’t last a day before the theatre was bombed, especially if posters for the show contained pictures of Mohammad. The Mormons may have some weird religious beliefs, but at least they do have a sense of humor.

So, I laugh at all the clean jokes, but I fondly remember late comedians like Richard Pryor, Lenny Bruce, and George Carlin, who were far edgier. I don’t think any of them would have ever been invited to perform in Provo, Utah.

But…I digress. This isn’t supposed to be a story about comedy. It’s supposed to be about Zen. In 1974, a book came out called Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. It was a catchy title and it became an instant bestseller. Now, history has a chance to repeat itself. A book just came out called Zen and the Art of Grocery Shopping by John Karolefski. Can Zen once again be a best seller?

Full disclosure. I know John Karolefski. Back in the mid-sixties he was the leader of the band I was in, the Townsmen. We were also known for some time as The Heard. Whenever we got a bad review, we just changed our name. Business cards were cheap, and, one way or another, we were going to be rock stars.

The Townsmen

John, Earl, Victor, Dennis, and Joey on their way to being rock stars.

I met Victor, our drummer, last year at an Art Festival where he was selling designer eyewear. I keep in touch with John online and he has a blog called Grocery Stories.   I haven’t seen Joey or Dennis since the ‘60s, so I don’t know what they’re doing, but I never saw either of their pictures on the cover of The Rolling Stone. So, I must assume that none of us became rock stars. Life found other purposes for all of us. Like John Lennon said, “Life is what happens, while you’re busy making other plans.”

Recently, John sent me a copy of his book, and since I’ve been writing blogs for ages now, he thought I might write a review of the book for Amazon. I read the book and thoroughly enjoyed it. I had a few “clean” laughs, and I learned some stuff about what’s happening today and what might be happening someday in the future at supermarkets across the country. I grew up back when if your mother sent you to the store for milk, you didn’t have to ask, “What kind?” There was only one kind. One of the chapters in John’s book, explained the hundreds of different varieties of milk that are now available, and today I bought my first container of Vanilla Almond milk. I liked it. Score one for John.

So, I went on Amazon to write a review of the book, and Amazon declined my review. I didn’t meet their criteria for reviewers. I’ve written three screenplays, one children’s book, a country song, a children’s song, a rap song, and hundreds of blog stories, but I wasn’t Amazon-qualified to write a simple book report. That was my moment of Zen, my reality check.

Maybe I should have told them that I was a former Rockstar.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,




“Someday we’ll look back on this, and it will all seem funny…”

From Rosalita by Bruce Springsteen


Okay, it’s not funny yet, even though it’s been almost two months. I am starting to smile about it, though. So, I guess it is finally time to tell the story.

First a little background. My friend Marianne and her family go away every year to a family reunion at the White Stallion Ranch in Arizona. Back in 2018, she called me up in a panic. Their dogsitter wasn’t going to be available. Could I come up to New York? Sure, why not. Maisy was just a small dog, and I didn’t even have to walk her, just let her out in the big fenced-in backyard whenever she had to go. Plus, it was a chance for me to see my New York friends. So, I quickly said, Yes.

A little before Thanksgiving this past year, Marianne called me. Could I watch the dog again? Sure, no problem. In a way it was kind of an honor. Marianne’s family is special. She was once voted Nassau County’s Person of the Year. Her husband Tres is one of the best video editors in TV, and he has the Emmys to prove it. How many Emmys? I don’t think he even knows the exact number, but if you were trying to count them all on your fingers and toes, you would have to take off both shoes. Their oldest boy, Will, just accepted a teaching position in Japan. Their daughter, Jessie, is a world-famous Irish Step Dancer. The youngest boy, Shane, is a musical prodigy, who gets along with everyone. After their vacation at the ranch in 2018, the owners of the ranch begged him to stay there as one of the horse wranglers. He did, despite the fact that he had never ridden a horse before going to the ranch. Now, he’s a bonafide cowboy, a musical cowboy, the next Gene Autry.

Gene Autry

The only problem I remember having had in 2018 was that Maisy didn’t always want to come back in. If there was a squirrel, raccoon, possum, or anything that moved in the backyard, she wanted to chase it and bark. I wasn’t nearly fast enough to catch her, so I always had to just wait until she was ready to come back in on her own. So, this time I had a plan. When I got to Marianne’s house on Long Island, I got out my phone, switched on the voice recording ap, and had Marianne say, “Maisy…Maisy…come here girl.” Now, I was all set. I also know that Marianne has a support group behind her that is more efficient than any SWAT team. They are a SWAT team, they’re a Support With Attitude Team. They do a lot of charity work. They hold drives and collect food and clothing for the less fortunate.   Anything that needs to be done, these ladies get it done. So, I knew that If I had any trouble, all I had to do was call Sherri, the Captain of the SWAT team.

My first night there, I went to sleep and had a great dream. This is very unusual, because my dreams usually suck. I don’t have nightmares, but I don’t have very satisfying dreams. I usually dream that I’m lost, or late for work, or having a serious problem at work. This is really odd because I’ve been retired for close to 10 years now, and I never even think about work during my waking hours.   But there I was having this dream, one of the best dreams of my life. I was the judge of a beauty contest and all the contestants were flirting with me to try to get me to vote for them. Flirting is a mild word compared to what I was actually dreaming, but you get the point. So, I am enjoying their attention and really getting into it, when I suddenly wake up to find that Maisy was licking my face like it was a bowl of ice cream.

I got up and slid the outside door open for her. She just stood there wondering why I had ended the make-out session so abruptly. Well, now I had to pee. I slid the door closed, did my business and returned to bed only to find Maisy waiting for me.

“Okay, but no tongues,” I said, quoting a line from Young Frankenstein, as I crawled in next to the dog.

That turned out to be my wake-up call every day for the entire week I was there. Basically, all I had to do was feed the dog, make sure there was water in her water dish, and let her in and out whenever she had to take a stretch or fertilize the yard. So, I made a lot of plans to see my New York friends. I spent some time with my former next-door neighbor, Susan, my friend Linda, my friend John, and my family. Nice work if you can get it, huh? I was even able to get high while on the job.

The first night while I was getting high, I heard barking. What a noisy neighborhood, I thought to myself. It sounds like the Hounds of the Baskervilles out there. Then I realized what was happening. That was Maisy barking. I had forgotten that I let her out, so I quickly went to the door and let her in. I’m not used to taking care of anyone besides myself, so I would have to either stay straight and sober or come up with a foolproof way to remember when the dog was out. I came up with a plan. Whenever I let her out, I turned my watch band around, and with a permanent marker I wrote D-O-G on the back of my watch. That worked!

I spent a lot of time talking to the dog that week. Naturally, she didn’t talk back, but I pretended that I could tell what she was thinking just by the look on her face.   On Sunday she told me she wanted to watch football. Not out loud, of course, but that’s what it looked like she wanted to say.


Unfortunately, the game I was looking forward to watching wasn’t on. New Yorkers don’t care about the Eagles. They want to watch the Giants and Jets. So, I shut off the TV. I don’t have cable in Lancaster. I had it removed when they doubled the price. I usually just get DVD’s from the library or watch YouTube on my phone. So, everyone expected that I would spend the week watching HBO, etc., but I’ve become so used to not watching TV that most days I didn’t even turn on the television. I had my laptop, and I watched a lot of Harness Racing.

That amused me, but it bored the heck out of Maisy. So, we played Fetch. That didn’t work out too well, though. Back when I was married, I used to play Fetch with my wife’s dog, Liebchen. She would get a ball and drop it by my feet. I would pick it up and throw it. She would fetch it and drop it at my feet. I would throw it again. This went on until she was tired of fetching. Maisy liked to fetch, too, but she didn’t believe in dropping the ball at my feet. She wanted to play tug of war with it, and she wouldn’t let go for anything. Trying to retrieve a drool-covered ball from her mouth didn’t much interest me, so that game didn’t last too long. Maisy came up with another game, though. There are sleigh bells hanging by the door and when she wants to go out, she just has to ring the bells. She came up with a game I called, Make the Dogsitter your Bitch. She would ring the bell. I would get up and open the door. Then she would give me a little doggie laugh and casually walk away. This went on constantly, and there was nothing I could do to win the game. I had to open the door. If she really had to go out and I didn’t open the door, I would have to clean up the consequences. So, I kept getting up to open the door and she kept doggie laughing at me every time.

I mentioned that Tres is a video editor, so I invented a game of my own. I pretended that Tres had placed a nannycam on the dog, and I acted out what I thought would be funny scenes with Maisy for Tres to make into a hilarious video. I made a fool of myself, but I was just having fun, and I didn’t really think that Maisy was wearing a miniature camcorder.

Maisy and I were flowing into a rhythm. She was getting plenty to eat and drink, and a good bit of exercise chasing whatever squirrels dared to trespass on her domain. We were in sync. Then came Black Friday.

Maisy woke me up as usual at 7:30 a.m. I let her out into the yard, so she could do her business while I cooked her breakfast, two-thirds of a can of dog food, heated in the microwave for 12 seconds.

When her breakfast was ready, I went to the back door to see if she was ready to come in. I didn’t see her anywhere. I watched for a while. I still didn’t see her. I put on my coat over my pajamas and I went outside. She was nowhere to be found, but I did find that a strong wind had blown the gates open just far enough for a little dog of Maisy’s size to get out. She was gone, and I had discovered her escape route. My heart sank.

I thought about calling Marianne’s SWAT team, the numbers she had given me to call in case of emergency, and Sheri was at the top of the list. I thought about it for a couple seconds and decided to at least check to see if the dog was on the front porch before I went into full panic mode. Pictures kept flashing in my mind. Pictures of Maisy on a milk carton. Pictures of me on a wanted poster. I wondered if I was too old to join the French Foreign Legion.

I checked the front porch, but Maisy wasn’t there. It was my worst moment of the year. I decided to spend a few more minutes looking for the dog, before I called in the cavalry. I started walking around the neighborhood with my phone ap constantly playing “Maisy…Maisy…Come here girl.” I was like John Cussack in the movie “Say Anything” when he was standing outside his ex-girlfriend’s house holding up a boombox playing their song.

John Cussack

When I got to the corner my phone rang. It was Marianne. I hesitated before I answered. Remember how Ralph Kramden would stutter humminahumminahummina whenever he didn’t know what to say. My “Hello” must have sounded a lot like that.

“Maisy is down the block” she said casually.   “A neighbor found her. Sherri is picking her up. She’ll be there in 7 minutes.”

Marianne was 2500 miles away, and she had already found the dog that I had just figured out was lost.

It was 5 o’clock in the morning where she was. How was this possible? Was Maisy actually wearing a Maisy Cam?

A few minutes later Sherri pulled up with Maisy sitting contentedly in the passenger seat. I was quite sure that she was doggie laughing at me, but I didn’t care. I was just relieved that Maisy was no longer missing, even if I was gonna look like an idiot if a video ever came out. Maybe that’s when it will all seem funny.


Peace and Love, and all of the above,



Spinning Stories for Fun & Profit


I don’t even subscribe to any local Lancaster newspapers, but I do have an online subscription to the San Francisco Chronicle. The newspaper, which was once a media outlet for such esteemed writers as Mark Twain and Jack London, is the primary source of family news for me. Every Wednesday, my brother Kevin Fisher-Paulson writes a column in The Chronicle about life in the bedlam-blue bungalow in the City by the Bay. Sometimes he even mentions Brother X and me in his column, but rarely in a good way. The little squealer tells of long-forgotten, and best-left-forgotten tales from our childhood.  This irks the hell out of my other brother, who is the butt of a lot of Kevin’s humor, but it always provides me with a good laugh. Like P.T. Barnum said, “I don’t care what the newspapers say about me as long as they spell my name right.” Unfortunately, they don’t. To avoid lawsuits, Kevin never uses our real names. To his readers, we are simply Brother X and Brother Dos Equis, a nickname which hints that I might have a drinking problem. Oh brother!

Kevin and his family are famous in San Francisco. This doesn’t surprise me in the least. Besides writing his weekly column in the paper, Kevin is a gay captain in the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department. His husband Brian is a world-renowned dancer and dance instructor. Their two adopted children are legendary in the academic world for the number of times they have been threatened with expulsion, and their pack of rescue dogs have marked every one of the dozens of trees Kevin and his extended LGBTLSMFTLOL family have planted throughout the city. No, I’m not surprised that they are famous. I’m surprised that they are not the stars in a TV sitcom.

Several years ago, Kevin wrote a book about the at-risk triplets they foster-parented for years, “A Song for Lost Angels”. Now, to the great embarrassment of Brother X, Kevin has gathered some of his favorite newspaper columns into a second book, “How We Keep Spinning…!”

It’s available at:

If you want to, you can go to his webpage to see a bunch of stuff he has previously written (, or e-mail him at Just don’t tell the little squealer that I sent you.

How we keep spinning

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Brother Dos Equis

I Shoulda Paid More Attention in School


I gave up cable service several years ago when they told me that the introductory offer expired, and they were going to double the price. Unlike most of the decisions I make, it turned out to be a good decision.

I don’t waste my time anymore watching mindless TV game shows, but I still get to see all the movies I want to see thanks to the wide selection of DVDs at the library. Since I quit cable, I’ve watched almost 1500 movies. As an amateur screenwriter, I consider that my film school. I can also watch almost anything else I want on

I don’t have an Internet connection in the house anymore, but I have my cell phone, and I can use that to check my e-mail or surf the Internet. I take my laptop to the library and use their WIFI when I want to download something.

I listen to the Eagles games on the radio and let my imagination work for me. It reminds me of when I was a kid listening to baseball games with and earbud in my ear and my transistor radio hidden under my pillow. If I really want to see what happened on a play it usually can be found the next day on a YouTube highlights video.

Every once in a while, though, I can’t watch what I want to watch, because one of the TV stations has exclusive rights to the program. Tonight, is one example. It’s the fifth game of the World Series and the series is tied up at 2 games apiece. I haven’t followed any Major League teams this year, because I was busy going to Lancaster Barnstormer games, but I always enjoy watching the World Series. I could just go to a sports bar, like I do for the Super Bowl, but that’s just one game. The World Series can last 7 games and I’m not interested in spending 7 nights out watching two teams I never watched all year.

So, I thought I would just have to be content watching highlight videos on YouTube, but then I got lucky. I found a Spanish ESPN broadcast. So, now I’m enjoying all the games in Spanish, Astros y Nationales. The only thing I understand is the score, as long as no team scores more than 10 runs. That’s as far as I can count in Spanish. Fortunately, all the important details, like the score, the count, and the number of outs, are in the upper left-hand corner of the screen.

The interviews are very different, too.  The Spanish players who barely say two words in English interviews, have a lot to say in Spanish.  It’s interesting to watch them, even if I don’t know what they’re saying.  Now, I guess I’ll have to go to Google translate, to find out what encerrarlo means.

YouTube has been berry berry good to me.


Peace & Love, and all of the above,