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Outfoxing your uncle can be a worthwhile pursuit, if you have the right kind of uncle. Seemingly no uncle is the wrong kind for outfoxing, yet there are particular characteristics that elevate one to a high susceptibility. Feeble-mindedness is one such characteristic. If there was a regional ranking of feeble minds, Uncle Garvin would place in the top three.

I like to call him U.G., which he dislikes on account of it sounding too similar to Eugene. He never clarified his opposition to being called Eugene. It’s more sophisticated than Garvin, and if ever there was someone in need of refinement, it was Eugene. U.G., I mean.

Uncle Garvin rarely fails to misplace his eyeglasses, but never his drink glasses. He subscribes to the theory that a certain quantity of spirits in his body brings about immunity from a swollen appendix, his greatest worry. More often, the booze shields him from clarity of thought, furthering his chances of being outfoxed. He proudly tells and retells the story of swilling three full glasses of Merlot just before bowling a lifetime high of 191. Whenever he recounts this achievement I feel compelled to finish it for the benefit of the listener by recalling that after the second frame, a bowler in the next lane went home with U.G.’s shoes. His friends concluded that he carelessly laid them under the neighbor’s chair when changing into the rented shoes. Uncle G. insisted he was the victim of a “scum thief ” born of unwed parents.

Uncle Garvin stops by uninvited on Sunday evenings to “keep a good eye” on me. His excuse never varies. I’m unsure what laws he fears I am apt to break if his supervision lapses. Though, the man does provide a level of mirth on the occasional sullen Sunday. He came by last week, wearing jeans that have seen bluer days. (There was a shirt, too). With a half-smile I informed him I had [better] plans for the night. Pretending not to hear, he slumped down into my light brown leather lounge chair which always pulled him like a magnet and developed a gentle crater from years of his not-so-gentle weekly impressions. Wanting neither to be outwardly rude nor to miss my night out, I reminded him of our conflicting agendas. He responded by suggesting a game of battleship. I responded by walking into the kitchen and out the back door.*

*I’m after an ending that makes me out to be less of an a-hole. Still, the man had it coming. And he’ll be back next week.



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Plunking a sack of potatoes on a hardwood floor may startle a sleeping parrot. Though waking a parrot may seem regretful, what if the parrot is a master potato peeler? If so, the loud plunk turns two tricks: it relieves your back of the sack’s burden, and alerts the parrot that work has arrived.

Peeling allows this particular parrot to clear his mind. Distant memories surface. He recalls his youth, when he arrived at a port in Lisbon in a wooden crate with three siblings. A burly merchant heaved the crate on the quay, seeking a buyer for its contents. Three days later the parrot—let’s name him already; not a “p” name, as that would be just too much for one day; how about Rodrigo? at least it’s close to “p”—had a new owner. Rodrigo perched on a carriage bouncing along a gravelled road through Portugal’s countryside, heading to his new home. Rodrigo that day took shelter in one-room wooden cottage with his lonely master Pablo. The soil surrounding the cottage was perfect for growing potatoes (but not parsley; such a crop wouldn’t suit this story so well, since parsley isn’t peelable, depriving the parrot of his main occupation). He couldn’t recall how he discovered his talent for peeling potatoes, but what a talent it was. The parrot’s adroitness with tubers drew villagers from afar, providing Pablo with steady cash: more than a few visitors was willing to part with some coins to witness the spectacle of a bird fervently engaged in culinary pursuits.

Ricardo’s daydream ended as he handled the last potato. Dinnertime approached.

On a cool spring morning 43 years hence, the parrot plunked Pablo into a shallow grave in the potato patch. (It was shallow since parrots aren’t by nature good hole diggers.)



Quays are properly pronounced “keys”. Less properly, but more popularly, speakers go with “cays”. This distinction may seem trivial, and of little consequence, but in can carry profound implications.

Let’s create a setting: the Caribbean island of Antigua. It’s capital, St. John’s. Redcliffe Quay, a wharf that groans under the strain of constant waves of cruise tourists. Now, suppose an Irish visitor, while strolling among the jewelry shops bespeckling the Quay, falls ill. Better yet, he was ill to start with, and then falls after tripping on a carelessly laid extension cord. Now he’s compounded his misery. More troubling for Robbie is that his travel companion, an equally Irish lady, is at this moment staring in awe at St. John’s Cathedral, a good six blocks up the hill and away from the harbor. Lucky for Robbie, his wife has a functioning cell phone. (And lucky for this entry, which really needs to get to the point). The store clerk gets her on the phone. She abandons plans to light an altar candle and scampers down the steps of the cathedral, into a taxi. She cries “take me to the quay!”, though uses the incorrect pronunciation. As a result, the cab delivers her to Kay’s, a food mart two miles from her husband. Robbie has to soak in misery alone, sporting a new bruise on each knee and a sore left wrist. He forgoes any purchase of jewelry. He sits on a bench outside of the shop, clutching his stomach and rubbing his knees for 45 minutes before his wife finally appears. An argument ensues. Neither tourist recalls St. John’s fondly.


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Rapscallions, like scallions, abound in the majority of U.S. counties. Despite the pleasing rhyme and apparent similarity of these words, it may benefit those speaking of rapscallions to know that the word lacks connection to scallions. Curiously, though (or, for some, not at all) the Roanoke-based Brotherhood of Scallion Growers reports in their 2009 year-end wrap-up that 4.1% of its members spotted uninvited rascals scouring their scallion patches for a few choice stems. The report does not conclude the farmers thought little enough of the intruders to curse them with the label “rapscallions”, but I will.


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Sibling rivalry is a worldwide phenomenon. Yet, it rears its head most worryingly in Scandinavia, literally: siblings forcefully and with malice direct their heads at the rears of their kin. These events are not misguided displays of affection. Rather, they intend to inflict serious pain to the posterior of the receiver (though in most cases result in a nuisance to the noggin of the giver). Brother (say, a chap named Søren) and sister (Sonje, for alliteration’s sake) might go at it for various reasons: the unauthorized “borrowing” of an IKEA gift card, Sonje oversalting the meatballs on her night to cook, or Søren returning the Saab with hardly enough fuel to get to Stockholm, let alone back home.


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“Tommyrot” is silly nonsense. The general population, in encountering tommyrot, might direct itself to more serious pursuits, such as inserting a new strip of staples into the government-issued Swingline or briefly contemplating the small white splotch on the nail of the right index finger. Meanwhile, this blog is perfectly content wallowing in tommyrot. Indeed, it is the direct aspiration of DCO to deliver daily tommyrot of an increasingly moldering sort. Spent staples and splotchy fingernails are best left for those eager to arrive at the funeral home for their closing ceremonies ahead of schedule, due to stress-induced blood pressure issues.

Though he’s quite dead, Winston Churchill provides this insightful tommyrot:

“I like pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.”


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Ulsters, or long-sleeved overcoats from the Victorian period, may have been useful in covering up ulcers, but that was not their primary occupation. This is not to suggest that folks in mid- to late-19th century England had no ulcers in need of obscuring. Surely an odd skin lesion appeared; surely its owner shied from displaying it to his or her critiquing contemporaries, and thought it convenient that the ulster coat resting on the rack in the foyer might do the trick splendidly.

A careful study of the Victorian era, including a glance at the works of Dickens, reveals that ulsters’ principal occupation was to shield the wearer from the persistent and pesky drizzle common in the British Isles. As a side perk, the coats allowed you to pretend you don’t have nipples, since owning a set could get you into hot water with the nipple police.

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