Archive for July, 2008

Midnight Bus to Iguacu

July 31, 2008

Author’s note: This was originally written on the very bus which is the subject.  I was with a group of Baptist volunteer missionaries in Southern Brazil.  Our host missionary booked us on a bus leaving Caxias do Sul at 7:00 pm which would arrive in Iguacu at 11:00 am the next morning.  My friend and translator, Jose’ Isidoro, upon seeing we were about to board a bus, said to me, “Why is John sending us to Iguacu on this bus?  I have friends who made this trip and were robbed.”  Apparently many southern Brazilians travel to Paraguay with large amount of cash to buy electronics, which are about half price there.  Banditos, knowing this, will cut down trees which fall across the roadway stopping traffic, then they emerge from the forest with sub-machine guns and rob the passengers.  This is just what I wanted to hear as the driver yelled, “All aboard.”  I rode and bounced and cramped from 7 pm to 3 am, when bored to death and unable to sleep, I wrote the following.  Enjoy!

Midnight Bus to Iguacu

A bullet hole was in the windshield of the mighty bus
Then came the tale of armed banditos frightening all of us
I said, “You’re joking!” but my friend insisted it was true
And thus began our fateful trip to Foz do Iguacu.

Rolling through the darkness, there’s nothing else to do
But grab a pen and maybe then record a thought or two
Cramping thighs and bloodshot eyes are what’s in store for you
Riding on the midnight bus to Foz do Igucu.

What’s that I see, why, could it be a playground or a park?
It’s hard to tell at 3 AM when all you see is dark.
I feel a little better as I see the moonlight glow
Until I hear the driver say there’s eight more hours to go.

“Maravilha” said the driver as we stopped once more
Getting up to stretch my legs I headed for the door
I went into a little bathroom thinking it was free
Until a man behind a desk said, “Thirty cents to pee.”

On and on into the dark the mighty carriage rolls
Delivering its cargo of exhausted Christian souls
Before too long will be the dawn and then those skies of blue
But still there is no thrill, just six more hours to Iguacu.

Sixteen hours of tribulation, backache and despair
Could that be the falls I see? Thank God we’re finally there!
Stepping off that bus I am so glad this trip is through;
And next time I will fly to see the Foz do Iguacu.

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Phone Solicitors

July 23, 2008

I try to keep up the appearance of a mild-mannered, easy-going guy.  You might think that someone like me, whose toughest daily assignment is to write and occasionally perform comedy, would be a real happy-go-lucky kind of person.  I mean, how upset can I get when I sleep late, work from my home in my boxers and have my entire pantry at my disposal all day long?  But there are evils lurking within the apparent paradise of my home-based business that threaten my sense of well-being.  I am talking about phone solicitors.

I get calls all day long!  I try to weed them out from actual business calls or the occasional social call which is usually for my wife.  For someone that meets thousands of people and makes them laugh, I have surprisingly few friends.  This is not to say I don’t know a lot of people, I do.  I just don’t know them well.  I meet people one time at a party or business event and their face is indelibly etched into my memory for life.  But the name attached to that face is often gone by the time I release the handshake.  I just meet too many people to remember names, so I have pretty much given up trying.  But, since I am probably the only magician they will ever personally meet, they all remember me although they seem to have the same problem with name retention that I do.  “Hey, aren’t you the magician?”  Or, “Hey, aren’t you the raccoon guy?”  Or, “Hey, don’t you owe me money?”  When my daughter was younger and would still go places with me, I would be stopped several times a day by someone who remembered me from somewhere.  “Hey, funny guy.  You remember me?”  I looked closely and said, “The face is familiar, but…”  “Shoot, I’m Booger.  You got me up and threw the handkerchief over my head at Cooter Brown’s party in Pearl River back in ’87.”  And the sad thing is, I DO remember him.  Of course, he is the only Booger I have ever personally met.

Oh yeah, phone solicitors.  So I get these calls that, for the first ten seconds, are just dead air while I am saying, “Hello…hello…buenos dias.”  Finally a voice comes on to say, “Please stay on the line for an important message.”  Excuse me but, if the message is all that important, why doesn’t a real person initiate a conversation from the beginning?  And what is the deal with AT&T?  I am not kidding when I say I get a call from AT&T every five days wanting to upgrade my DSL.  To start with, I pay WAY too much for DSL already.  In order to get a Yellow Page listing, I have to have a business line which costs about three times what it costs for a home line.  Then I have to pay for the Yellow Page ad on top of that.  Then, if I want DSL, it costs three times what it costs a private citizen because I am a business and am already paying three times too much for phone service.  Now excuse me but, if I were to count up the time I spend on-line and compare it to Mary Housewife who is downloading recipes, uploading pictures of the kids and playing blackjack at night, I should be the one getting the discount. 

“This is Jason from AT&T, please stay on the line for an important message about your DSL package.”  This time I DO stay on the line because I have just written a blog about the subject and I am losing my mild-mannered-ness.  (Real voice)  “This is Jason from AT&T.  I am happy to inform you that, if you sign up today to upgrade to our 6 mg service, you will receive free DSL.”  “Free?”  I ask.  “Yes,” Jason responds.  “For three months you will not be charged for our superior DSL service.”  “Three months, hmmmm.  How much is it after three months?”  I ask.  “After the third month you will receive our 6 mg service for the low price of $89.95 per month.”  “But Jason, if I’m paying $89.95/month, then IT’S NOT FREE, YOU MORON!” 

Even more aggravating is when I initiate the call and get a voice-mail type response system.  This actually happened about three months ago when I called Time-Life to order a wonderful looking DVD package on the Viet Nam War.  All I wanted to do is order the DVD, give them my credit card number and return to the show I was watching at the time their ad came on.  But this is what I got:

  • AUTO SYSTEM: Thank you for calling Time-Life to order our DVD entitled “Viet Nam: An American History.”  Please enter you credit card information now.
  • ME: enter number
  • AUTO SYSTEM: Because you have ordered “Viet Nam: An American History”, you also qualify to receive our DVD, “World War II: An American Legacy.”  Please press 1 to order, or press 2 to decline.
  • ME:  press 2
  • AUTO SYSTEM: Are you sure?  This offer will not be repeated.  Please press 1 to order, or press 2 to decline.
  • ME: press 2
  • AUTO SYSTEM: Okay.  You have declined our DVD, “World War II: An American Legacy.”  Maybe you would prefer our DVD, “The Civil War: America Divided.”  Press 1 to order, or press 2 to decline.
  • ME: press 2
  • AUTO SYSTEM: Are you sure?  This offer will not be repeated.  Press 1 to order, or press 2 to decline.
  • ME: press 2
  • AUTO SYSTEM: Okay.  You have declined our DVD, “The Civil War: America Divided.”  Maybe you would prefer our series of hard-bound books entitled, “An American Photo History.”  Press 1 to order, or press 2 to decline.
  • ME: press 2
  • AUTO SYSTEM: Are you sure?  This offer will not be repeated.  Please press 1 to order, or press 2 to decine.
  • ME: press 2
  • AUTO SYSTEM: Okay.  You have declined our series of hard-bound books entitled, “An American Photo History.”  Maybe you would prefer…”

I am not kidding, this went on for close to 10 minutes and, because I was on the line with an automated system, it was virtually impossible to get off the line since they never offered a “Press 3 to complete my order and leave me alone.”  Anyway, I hope you found today’s essay entertaining.  To read more of my essays, press 1 now, or just stay on the line and Jason will tell you how you can receive free DSL.

Spellcheck: No Substitute for Proof Reading

July 18, 2008

Technology is moving us closer and closet too a thyme when we know longer need to due anything, we can just set back and bee served.  Butt I am increasingly worried about computer accuracy.  Case in point is spellcheck, the feature of any word processor that automatically checks and corrects(?) errors in hour written documents.  My daughter, the English major and my wife, the ultimate proof reader, have both admonished me to never rely on spellcheck as the soul method of proofing an assay.

Whether ore not you agree is a mute point.  The increase of spelling and grammatical errors is showing up in magazines, newspapers, even on TV. You mite think TV would be exempt from this malady, but as long as subtitles and clothes captioning are a part of the broad cast, their will be errors.  I do knot have this problem because I right very carefully.  But they insist I should still manually reed and check every peace I right.

Last weak I rote about We, the game that stimulates real life.  Their were no mistakes in that peace, sew I don’t know why now they’re is so much concern about checking every single article eye publish.  The people who make soft wear are smarter than I yam, I feel confident letting spell check my work. 

But I regress.  Watt I have learned is that improper grammar is a problem to.  Years ago there was a grammar checker in Word perfect, butt its programming seemed to miss a lots of things, sew I quit using it.  Beside, nobody uses Word perfect anymore any weigh.

The problem with spellcheck seams to be homophones, which are words that sound like each other, like boy and buoy.  Spellcheck does not recognize homophones because its programming was dun by a politically incorrect person who is homophobic and prefers heterophones, like buoy and gull.  But if I were ewe, I would not worry to much about that, unless you are buy lingual.  There’s no knead to worry as long as this grate country continues to tern out quality graduates form our schools and collages. 

(This article was subjected to revue by spellcheck.  It mistakenly tried to correct homophone which, as it terns out, is spelled correctly. It also tried to correct the word “heterophones” which is knot a reel word, it appears hear for comedic porpoises only.  The only other word it tried to correct was “Spellcheck”.)

Keeping It a Secret

July 14, 2008

A current TV ad shows a husband and wife shopping for insurance.  As they are being checked out, the clerk confirms their purchase of motorcycle, RV and boat insurance.  The wife says, “But we don’t have any of that stuff.”  “Actually,” the husband adds nervously, “I do…we do.”  Now, I don’t mean to dispute the integrity of advertising, since we all know they are committed to uphold the principles of truth and fair play in America.  But I want to know how this guy is hiding a bike, RV and boat from his wife.  I can’t buy a pair of socks without my wife finding out.

Not that I feel it necessary to hide the purchase of socks from her.  I just assume such an insignificant purchase will get lost in the abundance of socks currently occupying the third drawer of my dresser.  But nothing seems to get by my wife.  “You have new socks!” she proclaims, as if I had just purchased a condo in Florida.  And, just as I am trying to come up with some justification for the purchase, she says, “It’s about time.  But why didn’t you throw out the ones with all the holes in them?”  No, not them.  Those are my lucky softball socks.  I will keep them until they dissolve off my feet, which should be sometime next week.

The fact is, I don’t seem to be able to lie to my wife, according to her.  Not that I make a regular habit of it, but sometimes you just have to keep a secret, at least for a little while.  Her assessment that I cannot lie to her strikes me particularly deep since I am, after all, a professional liar.  Have I mentioned previously that I am a magician?  Please do not confuse me with the senator from District 12, who is also a professional liar.  But it would be helpful if, at least occasionally, I could get away with something.

  • Me: “Honey, I have a little surprise for you.”
  • Her: “Are you talking about the little jewelry box you hid in the hall closet?”
  • Me: “No…well, yes.  I wanted to surprise you.”
  • Her: “You surprised me all right.  You bought me topaz earrings.  You know I hate topaz!  Well, I can take them back tomorrow and get the sapphire ones I wanted.”

I can only imagine the conversation if I tried to hide a motorcycle, RV and boat.

  • Me: “Honey, we need extra insurance.”
  • Her: “Are you going to finally insure the motorcycle, boat and RV?  It’s about time.”
  • Me: “Honey, we don’t have any of that stuff.  Well, actually I do…we do.  How did you know?”
  • Her: “I started to get suspicious when you had the trailer hitch installed on the SUV.  All I want to know is, where have you been keeping the stuff?”
  • Me: “It’s been in the garage at my girlfriend’s house.  Shoot!”

Maybe it’s just as well I can’t lie to my wife.  I can’t think of a thing I need to keep from her.  I don’t even need to keep gifts a secret since she usually buys her own gift six months ahead of time. 

  • Me: “What am I getting you for your birthday this year, honey?” 
  • Her: “You’ll just have to wait and see because…I CAN keep a secret.”

Verses 1, 2 and 4

July 8, 2008

I grew up going to church most Sundays.  My parents were not manic about it, like my in-laws were with their kids.  My wife said they were in church “every time the doors were open.”  We went Sunday morning and that was pretty much it until I was a teenager and went to some youth functions in the middle of the week, but that was more social time than church time.  I go regularly now, in fact I am now a minister.  I’m not a pastor, I’m a magician/comedian/evangelist.  Say that fast three times!

Church music is quite varied.  You have the contemporary style, which can be anything from a couple of guitars with an ensemble of singers, to a full-out rock band.  I like contemporary.  Then you have traditional, which is what I grew up with.  Some churches try to blend the two.  I served as an interim music leader at a Baptist church that did blended.  We had a choir, but for the “special” someone would come in with a tape or CD and sing with it.  It usually had guitars, drums, horns, the whole deal.  I never understood why the pastor was okay with that but, when I suggested we bring a set of drums in for the regular music, he threatened to send me packing.  We had a nice mixing board, but the guy doing the sound was 75 with a hearing aid and was hooked up to an oxygen tank.  Now I have nothing against old people, I’m on my way to be one.  But it seems to me the guy running sound should actually be able to hear!  When a CD got near the end and the singer was done, but there was still some instrumental music left, he had this habit of cutting the music off.  Not fade it out, he would just cut it right off.  I always wondered why he didn’t do that with the preacher’s microphone about 12:00 when the football game was starting and the preacher was going long.

Many churches hang on to tradition.  One tradition that seems to have hung on is not to sing all of the verses of a hymn.  Most hymns are written with four verses.  I don’t know if the third verse is not as well written as the others, or if the music leader is anxious to catch the kick-off.  But quite often you will hear the music leader say, “Turn in your hymnals to hymn number 10 ‘How Great Thou Art.’  We’ll sing the first, second and fourth verses.”  I admit there are times I was serving as an interim worship leader and I did it myself.  But what if the rest of the world adopted this practice?  Does leaving the third step out really make a difference?

       Setting Up New Computer

  • Remove all parts from carton
  • Assemble all parts and center in workspace
  • Plug into 120 volt AC power source
  • Push “Power” button  

                Roast Chicken

  • Wash and dry chicken
  • Season with salt and pepper
  • Bake at 350 for 2 hours
  • Serve with dressing or potatoes

               Brain Surgery

  • Shave area of incision
  • Disinfect area with Betadyne
  • Anesthetize patient
  • Cut through skull with bone saw

I don’t know if this raises any red flags with you but, if I ever have to go in for brain surgery, I want to make sure my surgeon goes to a church where they sing all four verses!