Tag Archives: Education

Everything Old Is New Again©

                 Putting an actual pen to an actual piece of paper is becoming a thing of the past.—at least that’s how it seems most days. I started writing quips and short stories back in 1945, back in the days that surely pre-date any social media account, smart phone app, tablet or laptop. This doesn’t mean that I don’t still like to scribble and jot ideas down when the mood strikes or when the deadline for my column is just around the corner.

          What it does mean is that writers of my generation communicated in a different way than today’s 21st-century wordsmiths typing and uploading their stories at lightning speed. Now that I’ve been living as a “writer” for nearly 75 years, I can look back over my stories and notes I’ve jotted down since I was nine years old, and see how putting a pen to paper has shaped my life as a writer,

          Looking back, I’m shocked that I’ve been writing this long. I hadn’t really given it much thought until I was chatting with my friend and childhood pal, Eloise Simplekins.

Eloise had always been considered plain—beginning with her name and continuing with her squat chunky figure, her thick unruly hair, her flat face, her squinty eyes, and her pug nose.  But she is, and always has been very smart. Eloise always had a unique perspective and a kind word.

          We met for lunch at the Main Street Diner in downtown Letongaloosa last Tuesday. Eloise wanted to tell me about her latest idea to expand her current business as La Mancha’s premier pre-cleaning lady and to reminisce about “the good ol’ days.”

          “When I started my company, people in town thought I was just plum crazy, but I didn’t listen and I’m glad I didn’t…just like you”, Eloise grinned.

          I smiled. I knew the story she was about to regale me with.

          “I’ll never forget the look on Miss Bunker’s face when she read that note she caught you passing to Dean Larson. I still can’t believe that you convinced her that what you wrote was an idea for a story.”

          “Ha, yeah. ‘Screw You’ I told her it was a title for a story about a boy who gets a toolbox for Christmas.”

          Eloise laughed, “Miss Bunker said she wanted to read the story and threatened to call your mother if you didn’t finish it before we left school that afternoon.”

          Smiling, I thought back to that day. Putting a pen to that piece of paper changed my life. It was the catalyst for my life as a writer—for my becoming a foreign correspondent, world traveler, newspaper reporter, and now, a humor writer.

           I don’t consider myself to have had a particularly exciting or extraordinary writing life, but Eloise likes to remind me of that story I wrote for Miss Bunker.

          A few years ago, Eloise started a company that services fastidious homemakers.  Her idea was to send pre-cleaning ladies to homes where the homemakers can’t stand to let their regular cleaning ladies see the mess.

          “Your gumption ‘way back when’ stayed with me. It gave me the courage to start my company. It took me a while, but I finally got to where I want to be…thanks to you, old friend.”

            Over the years, Eloise and I have managed to keep up. We both have websites, blogs, a presence on social media.

          So, I was truly surprised when Eloise told me her new idea: hand-written notes. She wanted to jot down “Thank you” messages  to her clients for their business and support.

          In a time when messaging and texting has become our primary form of communication, the idea showed 21st-century genius. Even I couldn’t remember the last time I had written or received a personal note—a grocery list from my wife, Emmaline, doesn’t count, does it?

          It had been a good day. I left the diner that afternoon feeling good about my life as a writer and headed home to work on this month’s column. A few days later, I received a note from Eloise. It was hand-written and one of the best messages I have ever gotten from my old friend:

          “Everything old is new again.”

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Dr. Larry Day is a retired J-School professor turned humor writer. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia is available for purchase via his website: http://www.daydreaming.co 

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One if by Land II©

Eleven years ago the Kaw Valley Senior Monthly published my humor column titled “One if by Land.” That story centered on Ribby Von Simeon. Ribby is the son of internationally renowned movie star Sippa Margarita and Balderdash Von Simeon, the news and entertainment magnate.
Ruthless Von Simeon, Ribby’s grandfather, was a Western mining tycoon. Between them they acquired a heap of money.
Miss Margarita’s media profile says that she was born in Valencia. Her public relations packets contain photos of her in and around Valencia, Spain. Reality insists that Josipa Margarita Ruiz was born and raised in Valencia, Kansas. The couple had one son, Ruthless Ignacio Balderdash San Bernardino Cortez Ruiz Von Simeon, known all his life a as Ribby.
Ribby Von Simeon was raised by his Latino grandparents in Kansas. It was all his mother could do to handle her fast-paced movie career. Ribby’s one enduring childhood memory of his mother was of a voyage they took. He flew to Europe and together he and Sippa sailed back on an ocean liner.
The voyage was bittersweet for Ribby. He had his mother all to himself. But he was seasick from the moment he stepped on board until the ship docked. He spent the whole voyage in bed being tenderly cared for—this is to her credit—by his mother. She brought him hard rolls and broth. She read to him, and told him tales of adventure and derring-do. For the rest of his life Ribby loved ocean liners but hated the ocean.
Ribby didn’t come into his inheritance until he was in his forties. By that time he was living simply but comfortably as an adjunct professor at Letongaloosa Community Junior College. The news that he had inherited a pile of money came at the same time news reports said that the luxury liner Santa Maria de la Valencia on which he and his mother had sailed the Atlantic had been decommissioned and would be sold for scrap.
The thought of that dearly remembered vessel ending up as scrap iron infuriated Ribby. That fury transformed him from a diffident and taciturn academic into a man as rapacious as his grandpa Ruthless Von Simeon and as vociferous and belligerent as his father Balderdash Von Simeon.
Ribby used all his available resources to attack the astonished lawyers, financial conservators, bureaucrats, politicians and shipping company executives. When it was over, Ribby owned the ship and had permission to do anything he wanted with it. He had the ship carefully dismantled and transported piece by piece to Kansas. Then Ribby had the ship reconstructed, refurbished and moored at the top of a hill on a large tract of land he owned outside of Letongaloosa.
After the re-commissioning of the Santa Maria, Ribby dropped back into academic anonymity until 10 years later when another crisis arose.
Newly elected county officials were young, and eager to raise tax revenue. They changed zoning regulations. Ribby’s property became part of an urban renewal project. The officials knew little about Ribby except that despite being a lowly professor at LCJC, he owned the land and the ship. They ordered him to dismantle and remove the vessel at his own expense.
That order transformed mild mannered Sippy Von Simeon into an amalgam of his forebears Ruthless and Balderdash. Within hours highly placed officials were threatening to strip the county of federal funding; bankers had cancelled favorable interest rates. Bureaucrats, politicians, and diplomats denounced the county officials and demanded that they cancel the project or leave Ribby’s land out of it. The county capitulated.
When the chairman of the county commission, a young commodities trader, went to see Ribby, all traces of Ruthless and Balderdash Von Simeon were gone. The county commissioner encountered a diffident, taciturn adjunct professor in a rundown university cubicle typing e-mails on an outdated computer.
Suddenly the brash young county commissioner doubted the need for treating Ribby with kid gloves. Fortunately for him, his eye fell on an autographed photo of Ribby standing with three former U.S. presidents. He caught his breath.
“Professor Von Simeon,” said commissioner, “the county will support you anyway it can.”
“Thank you,” said Ribby, diffidently.

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Climbing Higher In La Mancha ©

There are few moments in life where the time span between the current and younger versions of yourself collide. Étienne Haute-Montange had such a moment three weeks ago and despite his aversion to leaving Provence, the newly retired French cyclist was excited for his next adventure. But, he never thought it would bring him all the way back to Letongaloosa.
In the early 1980’s, Étienne was working on his grandfather’s lilac farm when news came that he had been accepted into a business program in the United States at La Mancha University. He didn’t want to leave. He wanted to stay at home and compete and after only a month in La Mancha, he rushed back to do what he loved—cycling high into the mountains.
Étienne had had a two-decade long career as a competitive cyclist.
Fast forward to just a few weeks ago. After completing his final time trial, Étienne packed up and set out to retrace all of his favorite bike routes, He wanted to think. He needed to figure out where the next stage of his life would lead.
Two days later he rode onto his favorite old roman bridge, Pont Julien. He wanted to take in its height and its spectacular views. As he gazed, his cell phone buzzed. The message was from his bug-loving best friend, Zimmy Tarbox. The call solved Etienne’s “what’s next” problem, and put him on a plane bound for Letongaloosa Community Junior College.
The LCJC was offering a summer cycling course for La Mancha and Letongaloosa residents. The course needed an instructor, and Zimmy knew Étienne would be perfect for the job.
Étienne arrived in the small Midwestern college town and got together with Zimmy. Then he went to meet with the chair of the Department of et. al, et al, Dr. Ima Farseer to get her help with the academic paperwork.
Then he headed over to the entomology department to see Zimmy.
“Be careful. The legs of a Cuban rainbow beetle can be rather delicate, or so I’ve read in a paper a good friend of mine wrote.”
Zimmy looked up from the cage of rainbow beetles and smiled.
“Is that so? Well, you know, the Cuban rainbow beetle is tougher than most people would think. This particular species lives high in the mountains and the best way to see one is to climb high into the mountains. You should know all about climbing.”
Étienne grinned, “Yes, I know a quite a bit.”
Then they headed over to The Enchantment—a bar on the outskirts of town. The kind every college town needs to keep its accreditation. They ordered root beers. Étienne filled Zimmy in on the details of his final professional time trial. Then they talked about life in Provence.
Etienne mentioned how he would miss competing in races like the Tour de Fleur, but he was delighted to come back to Letongaloosa to teach others to climb the mountains as he had done in Provence,
Zimmy laughed,” Slow down, old friend. Most of the residents taking part in the summer cycling program are looking to go bike-packing on the surrounding trails or enjoy a leisurely ride around town.”
Then Zimmy remembered the Fourth of July celebration sponsored by La Mancha U, LCJC and some of the other businesses around La Mancha and Letongaloosa. Of course, there would be fireworks, games, and a big cycling race to be held at the Letongaloosa Lake Loop Trail,
“There’s a cycling race on July 4th if you’re interested. It’s no Tour de Fleur, but it is fun and the climb might even challenge you. Plus, Bastille Day is just around the corner. I think you’ll enjoy the festivities,”
Étienne was delighted. He sipped his root beer and thought about this new stage of his life. Coming back to the small Midwestern town was the right decision. He had good friends. Étienne was able to continue doing what he loved.He was on the right path,
Zimmy and he finished their root beer, paid the bill and headed for the door. It was going to be a great summer. Étienne was ready to climb higher and have the time of his life!

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Dr. Larry Day is a retired J-School professor turned humor writer. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia is available for purchase via his website: http://www.daydreaming.co 

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Climbing High in La Mancha©

Étienne Haute-Montange sat in the Aéroport Marseille Provence. He had two hours to kill before heading off to Letongaloosa to enroll at Letongaloosa Community Junior College, the town’s center of higher education.
In the last 28 days, after completing his final professional time trial, the newly retired French cyclist had spent his time bike-packing around Provence.
He had put everything he would need on his bike frame and set out for the week to retrace all of his favorite routes. Étienne wanted to relax and think. He needed to figure out where the next stage of his life would lead.
Two days into his trek, on his way to the hidden village of Goult, he stopped on his favorite old roman bridge, Pont Julien, to take in its height and its spectacular views. As he gazed, his cell phone rang. The message put him on the path to his next great adventure.
In the early 1980’s , Étienne was working on his grandfather’s lilac farm when news came that he had been accepted into a business program in the United States at La Mancha University. He didn’t want to leave. He wanted to stay at home and compete–climbing high into the mountains.
In his imagination, Étienne was a decade into his career as a competitive cyclist.
There are competitions and races throughout the world, but certain locations are synonymous with cycling. Étienne knew he’d be a part of it all someday so he tried to learn as much as he could about the trails, the climbs and the cyclists in those races. He knew he could learn more about the lilacs, the farm and his fate if he stayed in Provence. He was right.
Within a few months of packing up and setting out for La Mancha, Étienne was back riding through the tall, deep flowers and the high roadsof Provence. But not before he had made a longtime friend in Zimmy Tarbox.
Zimmy Tarbox was in the graduate program in the Department of Entomology at La Mancha U. He met Étienne on a campus bike trail while searching for beetles. Étienne was standing on a bridge that overlooked one of the university’s highest points.
The view included lilacs, which are hard to find in a small Midwestern college town. Étienne came to the bridge when he felt homesick.
The two students struck up a conversation. Zimmy, was about to capture a cockroach he had spotted on the rail of the old bridge.
“What’s up?” asked Étienne. Zimmy smiled as he snagged the insect. He was planning to measure the space between its eyeballs.
“What in the world are you doing?” asked Étienne looking down at the small cage and the large bug. Why would anyone want to capture it?
Zimmy explained that he was studying the anatomy of the bug and that he must successfully identify all of its parts for his midterm exam. In turn, Zimmy learned that Étienne’s true passion was cycling, not business, and he really wished to return to Provence.
The two became good friends over the next few months. Zimmy became well-versed in the highest climbs in Provence, and Étienne learned the best way to obtain the measurements of a baby cockroach without harming it.
After Étienne returned to Provence the two kept in touch–a friendship that lasted through the years. Zimmy went to Provence to celebrate Étienne’s win in the Tour de Fleur and Étienne went to Cuba when Zimmy and Kate made their big rainbow beetle discovery.
So when his cell phone sounded as Étienne was standing on that bridge in Provence, he was delighted to learn that he would soon be heading back to La Mancha to see his old friend.
“The university is offering a summer cycling course for La Mancha and Letongaloosa residents. They need an instructor. Kate and I think you’d be a perfect for the job. What do you say? ”

Even though it was only for a few months, Étienne was delighted.
“Of course, my bug-loving, friend! See you soon!”
So now Étienne was waiting in the Aéroport Marseille Provence eager to follow the next stage of his adventures–in a small Midwestern town.

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Dr. Larry Day is a retired J-School professor turned humor writer. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia is available for purchase via his website: http://www.daydreaming.co

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“Kaybe and the Six Million Dollar Project©”

The phone rang at our home one evening recently. On the line was my friend Four-Finger Fanny, an alien from outer space. Fanny works as a waitress at The Enchantment. I listened then said “I’ll be right there.”
I asked a young waitress to tell Fanny I was there, and then went to my booth in the back.
The Enchantment is a dingy roadhouse on the outskirts of Letongaloosa. Every college town needs a joint like the Enchantment to maintain its academic accreditation. I go there quite often to relax with a soft drink.
That night, however, I was there on urgent business. Another being from outer space, my friend KB2.11, (I call him Kaybe for short) had contacted me. He needed $6-million for a charity project that leaders at our end of the Milky Way galaxy were sponsoring.
“What’s up?” asked Fanny.
“Can you get in touch with Kaybe? I’m helping him raise money for a galaxy charity project and I need to know how and where to send the funds.”
As you may remember, my friend Kaybe looks like a giant tuna fish can. Erector Set arms sprout from the curved sides of his body. Three spindly legs drop from the flat underside of his stainless steel torso. He has ball bearing wheels for feet, and three sensor-eyes wave at you from the ends of floppy antennae on the top his lid.
Kaybe is from the Milky Way, but his home planet is several parsecs closer than the Earth to the center of the galaxy. And his people have solved the problem of traveling faster than the speed of light.
Kaybe speaks telepathically. His words form letters in your mind. Four-Finger Fanny is also from outer space, but she just looks like a
middle aged woman who has spent too much time on her feet.
Kaybe and Four-Finger Fanny communicate telepathically, but Four Finger
Kaybe’s $6-million project.

Fanny also speaks human. That’s good, because I’d rather not converse telepathically.
Some wealthy friends—people who have appeared in previous columns, Blair Timert, Eloise Simplekins, and Sir Jeremiah Teancrumpets,–had agreed to donate two million dollars each to the galaxy charity project.
Blair Timert, was adopted by wealthy Basque parents who lived in Letongaloosa. Their Basque name was unpronounceable for most people so they retained Blair’s birth name. Blair learned to speak Basque. In one adventure, Blair bested some Basque hoodlums who tried to kidnap him.
Eloise Simplekins was a cleaning lady for wealthy women of the wealthy La Mancha neighborhood. She realized that wealthy women in town hired pre-cleaning ladies to clean-up their husbands’ messy bathrooms before the regular cleaning ladies arrived. Eloise figured that other upper class women in the U.S. also hired pre-cleaning ladies. She founded a pre-cleaning business and sold franchises nationwide. She made a fortune.
Sir Jeremiah Teancrumpets was a British billionaire. He used to become angry at even the slightest irritation. His neighbor, a physician, taught Sir Jeremiah to laugh when he became angry, instead of becoming apoplectic. The laugh-it-off formula probably saved Sir Jeremiah from death by heart attack. But hearing Sir Jeremiah’s laugh causes some people fear and consternation.
Sir Jeremiah is a tightwad, but he hates paying income taxes. So he takes inflated income tax write-offs for donations he makes to charitable causes.
“How do we transfer these funds to Kaybe?” I asked Fanny.
“Well,” she said, “you just…” Then with a look of consternation, she added, “Wait. I’ll have to get back to you on that.”
A week later the phone rang.
“I’ve got an answer, but you’ll have to come to the Enchantment.”
“I’m on my way,” I said.
When I got to my booth, Four-Finger Fanny handed me a soft drink and said, “What I’m going to tell you is top secret. You have to guard this information with your life.”
She then gave me the name of a bank, a routing number, and the name and the number of the account. The electronic transfer went through flawlessly.
Sometime later I got a message saying that the donation had been received and that everyone involved was most grateful.
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Dr. Larry Day is a retired J-School professor turned humor writer. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia is available for purchase via his website: http://www.daydreaming.co 

 

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Sports Bon Mots, Part 2

The Jargon:                              The Response
“He’s down for the count,” “Too bad he can only count to six.”
“This one’s going down to the wire,” “Hurry, call Western Union.”
”The coach called for a full court press,” “It’ll be back from the cleaners Monday.”
“That was a low blow.” “Even for a base saxophone”
“Smithers is on deck,” “they’re playing poker in the dugout again.”
“They need to bench that guy,” “Or maybe give him a sofa”
“He tried a head fake (basketball term)…Or was it just brain freeze?”

Dr. Larry day is a retired J-School professor turned humor writer. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia is available for purchase via his website: http://www.daydreaming.co

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Letongaloosa Goes to a Bowl Game©

Decades ago families used to gather on New Year’s Day in front of a 12-inch television screen to watch the Rose Bowl Parade and the Rose Bowl football game. In the early days there were only a couple of other bowl games. Now, news reports say, more than 40 bowl games are played during the holiday season.
The 2017 Letongaloosa Community Junior College Leopards had their best season in the last 10 years. They won five games, lost five, and tied one. That record earned the Leopards an invitation to play in the Marginal Bowl against the Sand City Bison.
Many home towns submitted applications for a chance to host the Marginal Bowl. In their applications the cities reported their plans for the bowl parade and the number of seats available at their stadium. Applications routinely mentioned what treats and activities were planned for members of the Marginal Bowl Committee.
Some cities that weren’t selected to host the bowl complained of favoritism on the part of the Marginal Bowl Selection Committee. No wrongdoing was discovered, but to remove any hint of favoritism the committee decided to select the host city by a random process. As the cities’ applications came in, each was assigned a number. The number of each applying city was written on ping pong a ball. The balls were dropped into a rotating plastic bin. The city whose number was selected from the bin, won the opportunity to host the Marginal Bowl.
Thus it was that Pigeon Creek became host city for the 2017 Marginal Bowl. The Pigeon Creek Marginal Bowl Committee had promised to mount a parade that included at least 18 floats. The Marginal Bowl Queen and her two attendants would ride on a beautifully adorned float. Marginal Bowl Committee members would ride in an equally beautiful float directly behind the queen’s float. Nature smiled on Pigeon Creek the day the Marginal Bowl game was played. The sky was clear at game time. The temperature was 41 degrees which was high for Pigeon Creek at that time of year. Still, cheerleaders for both teams wore tights with their short skirts.
Days before the bowl parade, Pigeon Creek citizens placed folding chairs along Main Street to assure themselves of a spot to watch. Grocery stores and other businesses stocked up on merchandise in anticipation of a flood of out-of-town spectators.
It was a classic bowl game. The score was tied 7-7 at half time and the defenses of both teams continued to prevail in the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth quarter. Then the Bison scored and took a 14-7 lead.
After that neither team could make a first down. As time ticked away the Bison team punted and the Leopards got the ball on their own 17-yard line. Somewhere in their heads they heard a bugle sounding “Charge!”. And down the field they went executing running plays and short pass plays to perfection.
The Leopards were first and ten on the Bison two-yard line when the rally ran out of gas. The Bison line held against a run and two pass plays. It was fourth and two. A field goal would do the Leopards no good. The officials called time out. The exhausted players on both teams grouped around their coaches.
Play resumed. “Hut two, hut two, hut, hut, hut.” The Leopards tried a quarterback sneak. The Bison line held. The drive had died. Time ran out. The game was over.
But before the Bison crowd could rush onto the field, the crowd heard a referee’s whistle.
All activity stopped. The teams froze in place. Officials conferred on the sideline. Then the head ref signaled a violation against the Bison:
“Defense. Twelve men on the field. Replay the last down.”
The Leopard quarterback threw a pass to his tight end.Touchdown!
At the victory parade on Main Street, two of Letongaloosa Community Junior College’s most ardent adversaries: Irma Farseer, the hardnosed dean of the Department of et. al. et. al., and the Leopard’s “Please don’t make classes so darn hard for my atha-letes” coach, stood side by side and smiled.
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Dr. Larry day is a retired J-School professor turned humor writer. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia is available for purchase via his website: http://www.daydreaming.co

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