Humor is a Serious Business

By Larry Teren


There is a time to work and a time to play. A time to eat and a time to sleep. A time to watch and a time to read. A picture says a thousand words and a good book conjures up a thousand pictures in the mind.    Continue reading “Humor is a Serious Business”

Idioms For Idiots

Why do we “beat around the bush” to say what we really want to say? For example, instead of coming right out and admitting a hesitancy, we say we have “cold feet” or we “can’t pull the trigger.” Well, does pulling a trigger warm up the feet? Of course not. I’ve never heard of anyone on the recipient end of a gunshot stating that his feet all of a sudden feels warmer. And the person who does the shooting doesn’t a hot foot. Now, if someone should give a guy carrying a pistol a hot foot, maybe he would be inclined to pull the trigger. But does his failure to pull that trigger means he has cold feet?
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The Play’s The Thing

Now I tell you that I consider the people of the east side of New York City are the finest, the kindest, the most intelligent people in the world. People who are not afraid of no word like.. like, anarchist.” So began the opening lines to a play that debuted on Broadway in late March of 1968 and lasted about a month before closing.

In the mid 1970’s, I belonged to a community organization that decided to put on this same play for four benefit performances on two successive Saturday and Sunday evenings. Among other energetic amateurs, I volunteered to play whatever part was deemed appropriate for me. Being in my early twenties and among the youngest among the volunteers, I was given the role of Jimmy the Anarchist. It was by no means a lead part but it was significant because the character spoke the opening lines to both the first and second acts. I had to memorize about ten sentences in all plus sing background in the chorus. In both scenes my character had to interact with a street cop. The officer was to bark at me and make an effort to put me under arrest. The fellow who was given this part looked it perfectly when he put on the uniform. He was the nicest guy but he just could not remember his lines. It ended up practically each time I had to say both his and my lines to get through the exposition.

In one exchange, I was supposed to say, “I hear they’ve taken Charlie McKenna off the machines and into the hospital. Are we gonna stand for it?” The copper was then supposed to say, “hear, now! You come over here, lad.” Except when the curtain was up, lights dimmed with a live audience hovering over every word, he froze and mumbled a bit. So I said, “what’s that, copper? You want me to come over to you?” And all he could do was shake his head yes.
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Writer’s Block

I live in a suburban area on a very long street. It is actually two blocks connected as one separated by a long ago removed right-of-way set of railroad tracks. With the tracks gone it looks like a small prairie between the condominium building I live in and the one just east of us. But, it is a world of difference.

The other condo is for the rich people who can afford to go to live in warmer climes during the winter while mine is for those brave enough to deal with the snow and patient enough to handle parking restrictions between November and March.

They have a tennis court; we have azaleas planted in the back garden. They have a uniformed doorman; we, a buzzer to let you in. The village put a stop light at their entrance to facilitate getting in and out of their compound. At our street connection, we wait for traffic to dissipate and pray that someone doesn’t try to speed up and clip a car as they rush to make it to the safety lane.
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Driving Me Crazy

Ma never learned to drive which is why I inherited the job of going to the pharmacy to get the latest scheduled pick-up of any of her eight medicines. It also meant that I got the honor of taking her shopping on designated days.

Dad drove until his eightieth birthday on which as he got out of the car and walked up the stairs into the house, managed to fall down and break both ankles. He came back to the scene of the crime maybe three times in the course of the next six years and nine months as he spent the rest of it in a twenty-four hour care facility.
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Baby Boomer Power

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) indicated that baby boomers seem to be watching television more than other age groups. This is creating havoc on Madison Avenue, home to the world famous ad agencies. The corporate thinking men want to believe that it is better to cater to a younger crowd because they are more willing to spend money. But, what are you going to do if they aren’t watching the shows broadcast on prime time?

American Idol has been around since 2002. It has been a bellwether for ratings supremacy. According to WSJ, The median viewer age for this current season is 43.8 years. This is less than two years short of the official starting age of baby boomers.

NCIS, the number one hit of last year, had a median viewing age of 57.4! Twenty years ago, the top shows had a median age of the mid thirties. What’s a network to do? How do they cajole baby boomers who already have bought most of the toys they want into spending excess dollars? Especially when Boomers are worried about having enough to last them once they retire.

That’s enough about that. They pay the network and advertising executives way too much money so let them have sleepless nights. I’m content with and What I really wanted to talk about is how I got to reading the Wall Street Journal.

It was by accident, I promise you. You see, my mother gets it delivered to her house every day. She didn’t subscribe- my brother did. He gave it to her as a present. Why? Because he thinks it is the best newspaper in America. So, now she gets it along with the Chicago Tribune. It’s what you call a safety valve because who knows how long the Tribune will still put out a printed edition.

It’s a reality that will come into being within five years or less. You want to have the newspaper sitting in front of you while you eat or whatever, you’ll need to print it out from your computer. Online is where it’s at, baby. This fact is changing the scope of news production. The Linotype guys are going the way of the dinosaur being replaced by people who know how to use Adobe Photoshop and it’s clones in laying out web generated screens full of news and advertisements. This is also wreaking havoc on the printing unions who are scrambling to redefine membership requirements and the new job descriptions.

When I was a young adult back in the 1970’s, I took a certain elitist pride in having a magazine such as The Atlantic Monthly and others like it mailed to me. My brother even convinced me in the following decade to subscribe to The New Republic. Back then, a person would patiently wait to get a hold of intelligent thoughts put in writing on various subjects even if it meant that by the time you read it the subject was old news.

Today, there is no such luxury. We are dialed into the heartbeat of the world instantaneously. We no longer want to receive in the mail articles of information on events that happened a week earlier. Three more crises would have already happened in the meantime that would have usurped all our attention. Andy Warhol once famously spoke about everyone getting their fifteen minutes of fame. Today, fifteen minutes is about it with little recall.

As Baby Boomers, though, we want a piece of the world we used to live in and all the modern improvements that become available. We’ll decide what to watch on television and the network executives be damned! After all, the doggone home entertainment box was invented on our watch.

An Arresting Development

The other day I got a phone call from my cousin’s son telling me that he has been reading my stories blog and thought he had a good one to tell. You see, Jake lives in New York and had a recent run-in with the cops.

Jake, his wife and the two youngsters were out for a joyous ride to visit family in New Jersey. (That’s where he went wrong in the first place.) A half hour into the trek, they approached the toll booth in the Midtown Tunnel and gave the attendant the necessary coinage. Immediately, an officer who was hanging out with the toll taker took a hard look at the windshield of Jake’s car and with his Superman eye strength noticed that the registration paper indicated that it was now expired. He rushed out of the booth and made them pull over.

Jake’s wife was driving the car so the officer asked for her driver’s license. She pulled out a learner’s permit. The policeman then asked Jake to show his license. He had one, but it was from out of state and suspended. He then asked for a registration card which they could not find and for his insurance card, which turned out to be… you guessed it- expired.
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Fall In The Family

It seems as if I suffer from genetic imbalance. In other words, I come from a long line of people who tend to fall down at the wrong time and do damage to themselves. The earliest recollection that has any significance is the time Dad started things rolling. It was in the late 1970’s and my older sister had moved to her first house in Skokie. It was wintertime and a bitter cold had turned snow into icy patches on the sidewalk. Dad was now in his fifties and maybe a little too confident about his gait. Before he could make it to the front door, he slipped and proceeded to break his left arm to such an extent that a surgeon placed a metal rod in his arm. One could see its very obvious outline under the skin. He kept the rod in him for years out of fear- not of the bones falling apart inside but of the pain in having it removed. However, it finally got to a point about twenty years later when another surgeon removed it because it was causing a hole in his skin by the elbow and he was leaking in more than one place, if you know what I mean.

It was Ma’s turn next and she made Dad look like an amateur. She and I had gone to visit another sister on the East Coast. Ma was in a hurry to go between rooms at a banquet hall where they just recently waxed the floor. She was wearing high heels which she hardly wore anymore. You guessed it. She went flying as she fell and ended up not only tearing her shoulder but also breaking a hip to boot. She stayed on the East Coast for a couple of months at a rehab place after a doctor had repaired her hip. He did little for her shoulder other than pat her on the back and wish her well.
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Lowered Expectations

Baby boomers are getting to that age where we expect to get the short end of the stick. Many who have lost jobs during the most recent economic downturn have found there to be an unspoken prejudice against anyone over the age of fifty who are seeking employment. After all, a younger person can be hired at a lower salary, less expensive health insurance premiums and tends to not need to take off as much time as an older person. A younger person also seems to have more energy in doing his or her work. Experience, thus, doesn’t seem to count as much as the pocketbook.
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Games People Play

Baby Boomers well remember three big games shows that were broadcast in prime time during the 1950 and 1960’s. They were What’s My Line, I’ve Got a Secret and To Tell The Truth. For sure, there were others but these were unique in that they matched up four celebrity panelists against guests whose job it was to keep them finding out something about them. Most often the give-and-take led to embarrassing moments. The panelists would dress up in their finest clothes and try to act dignified and with a sense of propriety. This made any red faced discoveries that much more dramatic and fun to observe.

I’d like to see a new game show called It’s Embarrassing. A contestant would let the viewing audience in on an incident that left them with egg on their face. I’d volunteer to be on the show at least twice. Each one had to do with events that happened around a work situation but not exactly because of it.
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