One Nation Indivisible

Monday is Memorial Day, the day we honor the men and women who gave their lives in service to their country. This holiday began as a remembrance of the soldiers lost in the Civil War, and has since expanded to honor those who paid the ultimate price in the subsequent wars, and simultaneously devolved into a nationwide barbecue celebrating the coming of summer.

It is interesting the aspects of today’s culture that have their roots in the Civil War. One of these is the Pledge of Allegiance. A great deal is made from time to time about the phrase “under God” in the pledge, but what many people don’t know is that the phrase “under God” was a much later addition to the pledge that significantly subverts it’s original and intended meaning.

The key phrase in the pledge, as originally written, was “one nation indivisible”. The pledge was created as a response to the Civil War. It was meant to be a promise that we are, and will forever be, a unified nation. That we would never again fracture or splinter, that we would never again take up arms against our own. The pledge was meant to be a solemn vow of unity that fully transends the hollow “under God” alteration brought on by Eisenhower-era anti-communist hysteria.

It is sad that this original message has been lost. As a country we have become more divisive than ever. We could use the occasional subtle reminder that we are meant to be “one nation indivisible”, that we have all pledged ourselves to the same thing. Those who are so caught up in the polarization between liberal and conservative, Republican and Democrat, red state versus blue state, they would do well to take a moment to remember the original purpose and meaning behind Memorial Day, and our Pledge of Allegiance.


I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America,
and to the republic for which it stands,
one nation indivisible,
with liberty and justice for all.

Recollections of Easter (The Easter Egg Hunt)

This is a paraphrased recollection of an actual conversation I had with my mother when I was about four or five…

Me: What’s an easter egg hunt?

Mom: We take easter eggs and hide them all over the yard, and you try to find them.

Me: But I don’t like eggs.

Mom: These are easter eggs.

Me: What’s an easter egg?

Mom: It’s like a regular egg, but they come in lots of pretty colors.

Me: So what do I get if I find them?

Mom: You get the eggs.

Me: Can I eat them?

Mom: Can if you want to.

Me: Do they taste different?

Mom: No, they taste like regular eggs.

Me: But I don’t like eggs.

(pause)

Me: You sure they’re not candy eggs or something?

Mom: No, their regular eggs.

Me: Can I eat them scrambled?

Mom: No, they’re hard-boiled

Me: What’s that?

Mom: They’re cooked in the shell in boiling water.

Me: Does that make them taste different?

Mom: Yes.

Me: Would I like them?

Mom: I don’t know, have you ever had a hard-boiled egg?

Me: I don’t think so.

Mom: Would you like to try one?

Me: Yes.

(we pause here for a few minutes as mom makes me a hard-boiled egg, and shows me how to peel and eat it.)

Mom: Well, what do you think?

Me: Mmm, not sure. (I take another bite)

(pause)

Me: I don’t like it.

Mom: What don’t you like about it?

Me: The taste.

Mom: What’s wrong with the taste?

Me: It tastes like eggs.

Mom: It IS an egg.

Me: But I don’t like eggs.

Mom: Fine, then you don’t have to eat it.

Me: So how do I win this easter egg hunt?

Mom: By finding the easter eggs.

Me: How many do I have to find?

Mom: As many as you can.

Me: What do I get if I win?

Mom: You don’t get anything, it’s not like that.

Me: There’s no prize?

Mom: No, there’s no prize.

Me: Just the eggs.

Mom: Right, just the eggs.

Me: And you’re sure they taste just like regular eggs?

Mom: Yes, I’m sure. It’s just food coloring, it doesn’t change the taste.

Me: And there’s no candy eggs, or chocolate eggs, or anything?

Mom: No, no candy eggs, no chocolate eggs, just regular eggs, that have been colored like easter eggs.

Me: I don’t like eggs.

Mom: I gathered.

Me: If it’s all the same to you, can I just stay in a watch cartoons instead?

Mom: Fine…

Why we dream in metaphor

I have a friend who is starting a new job soon. I just had a dream where I was concerned about whether or not he would like this new morning radio show we were listening to. When I woke up, I knew one was a metaphor for the other, but then I thought, why? Why do we dream in metaphor? Why do we always dream in metaphor, why can’t we just dream about the underlying thing?

Our brains are predisposed to think in terms of metaphor. Why? Because metaphor is closely related to analogy, and analogy is necessary for classification. Metaphor it is a way of dealing with one thing by referring to its analogue, and usually pointing out how responses to that analogue are also appropriate to the original thing. As for classification, if you can find an analogy for some new unclassified thing, then you immediately know the new thing has the same classification as its analogue.

Our brains are hard-wired for classification. It is necessary so we can use limited memory space to store the learned responses for a variety of situations. Here’s how it works: Let’s say you have a hundred different situations, each of which requires you to learn a response composed of nine steps, and the steps must be executed in the correct sequence. That’s ten pieces of information for each situation. To deal with all one hundred situations, that’s 1,000 pieces of information to learn.

Now let’s say that those same hundred situations can be classified into five general classes. Now you only have to learn 10 pieces of information for 5 classes, plus one piece of information for each situation, namely what class it belongs to. Now to deal with all one hundred situations you only need to learn 150 pieces of information. That’s an 85% reduction. If you further assume that each situation has two exceptions from the general class that also must be learned, that’s still only 350 pieces of information, a 65% reduction.

This is how we deal with a huge variety of things from all areas of our life on a regular basis. Classification is the “compression algorithm” of learning. Analogy and metaphor are integral subroutines of that algorithm, without which classification would not work. Dreaming is a poorly understood, but important part of the learning process. This is why we tend to generalize. This is why we alphabetize our DVD collections. And this is why we dream in metaphor.

My Florida

The little Pontiac is a mid-engined two seater, and 20 years ago it was bordering on the exotic. Today, well, it goes from point A to point B, with an acceptable level of reliability. I let her warm up as I loaded up some supplies in the passenger seat and in the small cove it calls a trunk. When we were both ready I hopped in and drove south out of town, past the edge of civilization, and the antenna farms that lie just beyond. Through the jungle and into the Florida savannah that stretches southward towards the Everglades. The open landscape is flavored here and there with farms; growing oranges, tomatoes, strawberries, and tropical fish. And everywhere cows, always cows, and stands of live oak, and the occasional palmetto bush.

There are a few little towns along the way, a curious miixture of retirement communities of old people from the Northeast and Midwest, where polyester is still a viable fashion choice, and the best parking spots at the Publix supermarket are reserved for golf carts; and immigrant enclaves, where Mexicans and Guatamalans and Hondurans and others are busy chasing their own version of the American dream, which for them is little more than working in the fields by day, to put food on the table and a roof over their family’s heads at night. In between these villages you find the good old fashioned Florida crackers, the spiritual descendants of the original farmer/ranchers who were the only ones willing to settle this land from the time of the Spanish until the invention of air conditioning. This is red state country, land of Jesus and Budweiser and Nascar and Marlboro.

Here moss doesn’t grow on the north side of the tree; It hangs thick and silvery from every branch. Here a Cuban may be a person, but more often than not it is a sandwich. It is rarely, if ever, a cigar. It is hot here, and unbearably humid, but most years the summer rain comes and goes in the afternoon with a regularity that the retirees envy. Most true Floridians do not own an umbrella, for to carry an umbrella is a full time commitment with little payoff.

If you ever come here, you should know – the people here are insane, but for the most part harmless, and they can be quite fun if you get to know them. For lack of a better word, they are “kooky”. They, like the state itself, are a confusing mixture of oddities that make no sense together, yet somehow, it all works.

The Meaning of Life

When I was a child, I had a dream that I looked up at the stars, and in the stars I saw the answer. THE answer, the ultimate answer to everything. It was perfect, it was beautiful, it was complete. Suddenly, the Universe, and everything in it, made sense. Then… I woke up.

Of course the answer was gone. It evaporated the instant I opened my eyes to this reality. I could remember having the dream, and that there was an answer. I could remember how it all made perfect sense. But I could not remember, not even the slightest detail, what that answer was. It was gone.

When I was a young adult, I experimented with cognitive dreaming. This sounds more impressive than it is. It’s nothing more than the ability to recognize the fact that you are in a dream, while you are in a dream. It’s easy enough to do, you just “will” it to happen every night before you go to sleep. It may take weeks, but eventually you will wake up in a dream, so to speak.

Once you realize your current reality is a dream, you have options. You can just let it play out, and see where it goes. You can guide it, direct it, change it, push it in whatever direction you like. Or, once you’ve had enough, you can simply end it, and return to our other, less malliable reality. (Freddie Kruger will NEVER get ME.)

I’ve always felt there are answers to be found in dreams. There’s nothing necessarily mystical or supernatural about it. Dreams are a doorway into our own subconscious. And our subconsious is quite good and putting things together, working out the details, and coming up with interesting answers for us. If we just tap into these answers, they can be very informative.

Many years later, when I was a not so young adult, I came up with a plan. The next time I was dreaming, and became aware of the dream, here’s what I would do: I would find the closest telephone, dial information, and ask the operator, “What is the meaning of life?”

If she gave me any crap about only supplying phone numbers, I would gently remind her that this was MY dream, and in my dream you could call information and get ANY information you wanted. (The ability to change the rules of your current reality can be both useful and exhilarating. Really. Try this sentence on for size: “Oh yeah, I almost forgot… I can fly!”)

It took a while. There were many false starts. I didn’t realize was how hard it would be to remember to do something once you’re in a dream. In all fairness, I have a hard time remembering to do things as it is. Let’s just say I had many, many dreams where I wandered around with the nagging sensation there was something I was supposed to do, but couldn’t remember what. But I did go flying a lot – I highly recommend it.

Then one night it happened. I was in a dream. I knew I was in a dream. And, I remembered what I wanted to do. Yes! This was it! I was on my way now. I was both nervous and excited, and very pleased with myself for having finally remembered. I found a phone quickly and with little difficulty. I picked it up and dialed information, so I could finally ask my question. THE question.

Well… You know what I got?

Boop-boop-booooop. We’re sorry, your call cannot be completed as dialed. Please check the number, hang up, and try again.

Silence. (The long awkward type.)

Fuck! Okay. Don’t panic. Maybe I misdialed. That’s possible, right? Sure, I never said I couldn’t misdial. You can misdial in a dream, right? Let’s try this again…

I tried again. I tried every number I know for information. Twice. I dialed the operator directly, and asked her to put me through. I made up a special number that only worked for my reality, that always, always, always connects you to information, and dialed that. It was no use. No matter what I tried, the result was always the same: A recording. THE recording. “We’re sorry, your call cannot be completed as dialed…”

Then… I woke up.

I couldn’t hear it, but I know, I just know… Somewhere, the Universe was laughing.

Danger Ball

Several years ago my wife and I lived in a small town where there wasn’t a lot to do on a Saturday night. A good friend or ours would come over to the house, and we would all sit around and drink beer and think of new ways to amuse ourselves. On occasion we would invent new sports. My favorite was a creation we called “Danger Ball”. Danger Ball was a simple game, all you needed was a baseball, a dark night, and a large backyard. It helped if you had been sitting around drinking beer before playing, but that part is optional. The game works like this: you go outside on a dark night, and toss the baseball straight up into the air as high as you can… then try to catch it. You can keep score if you like, but the fun part was simply trying not to get yourself conked in the head when you lost sight the ball. Ah, good times…

My wife sent me an email the other day, about a story she heard on radio while listening to Paul Harvey. This was the full text of her message:

“Just heard a story about a man playing ‘Danger Brick’, sounded very similar to ‘Danger Ball’… except with a brick. He was found the next morning laying unconscious in his yard.”

I could SO not be Amish

Monday night (Labor Day), a storm blew through here.  Typical Florida storm, but…  In one instant there was a bright flash, and a really LOUD boom, and all the lights went out.  It got real, real dark.

I didn’t think about it before then, but it’s been a really long time since we lost power that wasn’t during a hurricane.  And a hurricane is different because we always have people with us, and there’s lots going on, and we sit around and eat and drink and play cards and watch the flying debris outside.

This was just me and Kat at home, nothing going on, and just a piddly, boring little storm outside.  I swear to God within 10 minutes I was bored out of my mind.

I asked Kat how people did it, living with no electricity.  She said it was about 9:30, so the Amish were in bed already.  After all they had to get up at four in the morning to do farm stuff.

I could so not be Amish.

I Have Seen It All Now

I can die now. I have seen everything. There is nothing left that could possibly top what I have seen. Oh, I thought I had seen it all. I have seen a man walk on the moon. I have seen the fall of the Berlin wall. I have seen solo synchronized swimming. I have seen the president of the United States playing Elvis tunes on a saxophone. I have seen a movie called Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers. I have seen Howard Stem. I thought I had seen it all, but nothing could beat what I saw on TV the other night.

I have always suspected that television was indeed a vast wasteland, but I didn’t know how bad it had become. When I was a child there were only three channels on the tube, and quite often there was nothing on to watch. But we were quite happy watching our three channels of nothing. Then along came cable, and suddenly our entertainment options exploded. We now had thirteen channels of nothing to watch. Some of them even had nothing on 24 hours a day. We marveled at this electronic miracle. Then VCR’s were invented, so that if nothing was on, we could tape it and watch it later. Plus they had those nifty little digital clocks on the front of them. We didn’t even mind that turning on the vacuum cleaner and the air conditioner at the same time would cause a micro-second flicker that instantly reset the clock to a flashing 12:00. Then cable grew, soon there were 30, or even 60 channels of even less interesting stuff to watch. If that wasn’t enough, along came home satellite systems. Now you could watch nothing in a foreign language, like Canadian. And it is an even wider variety of nothing. Never again will you miss you favorite lose weight and get rich through psychic 1-900 counseling infomercial, they run 24 hours a day. There are exciting sports like harness racing, cricket, and Scandinavian women’s full contact volleyball. (Well, not really, but I wish there was.)

And the movies are great too, classics like Meatballs 3, the memorable Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers, and, of course, Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death. (I swear I didn’t make that up. It is a touching version of that old traditional love story: boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, girl eats boy in a sacred ritual to please the pagan gods of the mighty avocado.) Now they say that soon there will be 500 channels on cable. It boggles the mind. I hope somebody makes a remote control with turbo so I can keep up. The way I figure, it should break down something like this: In addition to the 60 or so channels of nothing we already have, there will be at least 100 channels of non-stop infomercials, another 100 or so home shopping channels, roughly 100 channels of religious programming, probably about 100 channels showing nothing but reruns of Cheers and/or Simon and Simon, at least one all-Elvis channel, and 39 channels of Guatemalan rules flag football.

One night I was channel surfing through the electronic ocean, and I saw it, the sight to end all sights. It is etched into my mind; it is indelibly stamped into my very being, I will carry this image with me to the day I die. I saw Robin Leach eating Spam on a Twinkie. I swear this is true; even my mind cannot invent something as twisted as this. Right there on the Television Food Network, in living color and full stereo sound, was Mr. Lifestyles himself choking down a Spam covered Twinkie. Any more questions about TV being a wasteland?

How does something like this happen? Well to start with, you need a food channel And, yes indeed, there is a food channel. There is a channel for everything, there are channels about other channels, there are channels about channeling, there are channels about the English channel, there are channels about Chanel no.5, and in the midst of it all, there is a food channel. As it turns out, Robin Leach has his own show on the food channel; it’s called Food That Might Possibly Be Eaten By People Who Think They Are Rich And Famous, or something like that. This particular night he had two items on his agenda. One, showing the correct way to open a bottle of champagne, and two, talking to a woman who had written a book about Spam. I don’t know which is more disturbing, the fact that someone has written an entire book about Spam, or that there are people out there who will pay good money to read it. Or the fact that this Spam person was being interviewed on national television. Or the fact that Ms. Spam was so seemingly important that she was being interviewed by phone. Or the fact that I was actually watching this. Take your pick of disturbing images, at least I didn’t buy the book. Actually the Spam lady’s book was about all different types of junk food, not just the slimy pink kind that comes in a tin can.

Robin Leach lost it. Somewhere between talking about that strange glaze-like jelly at the top of the Spam can and talking about where the cream in the Twinkie comes from, and how it gets there, he simply lost it. Perhaps he had been practicing on opening the champagne bottles earlier, I don’t know, but in any case he completely lost it. He had a package of Twinkles and a can of Spam in front of him. He cracked open the Spam, scooped out a nice healthy chunk with his fork, and tossed it down. The stage crew audibly grimaced, if such a thing is possible. Robin didn’t seem to like the Spam very much. Looking back, I don’t think he really cared much for the Spam lady either. Then he broke out the Twinkies. He seemed to like those better. Then he popped open a Coca-Cola and washed it all down. He seemed to like that too, although not as much as, say, champagne. Then the perverse side of Robin Leach came out, he began mixing and matching. He grabbed another Twinkie in one hand, then a forkful of Spam in another. The crew began to grimace again. They urged him not to do it, but he was out of control. He spread the Spam on top of the Twinkie like it was cheese on a cracker, only it wasn’t. And as God is my witness he ate it.

He seemed to enjoy it, sort of like Jack Nicholson seemed to enjoy smashing things up in that Steven King movie. Some of the crew excused themselves and ran towards the bathroom. He didn’t stop there. Since Coke and Twinkies go together, and he forced the Spam and Twinkies together, he thought he would give Coke and Spam a try. He poured the Coke into the Spam can, making what may be the world first Coca-Cola and Spam float. Little pieces of that jelly-like stuff started floating to the top. It turned a very strange color, one you don’t find occurring in nature. Then Robin Leach drank his Spam float. I was stunned. The crew was gone. Robin Leach grimaced. Robin Leach turned a very strange color, one you don’t find occurring in nature. This seemed to snap him back to his senses. He hung up on the Spam lady, tossed the whole Spam/Twinkie/Coke mess into the trash, and moved over to work on opening those champagne bottles. He seemed to be in a bit of a hurry. He opened one of the bottles, not at all the correct way, and poured himself a tall one. The crew was slowly beginning to return. He mumbled something about never having Spam on the show again, tossed back his champagne glass, and went to a commercial. Hopefully, he’s learned his lesson. If there is anything to be seen that can top this I’m not sure I want to see it. I’m pretty sure I didn’t want to see the Spam incident, but it’s too late now.

Last Days in Cincinnati

I have some very useless things lying around my house. The most obvious are our two cats. My wife would disagree with me on this point. Not that I have anything against cats, I like cats, but it’s just that our cats simply don’t do anything. They just lay around the house being, well, useless. I wouldn’t mind so much if every once in a while they would wash the car, or take out the trash, or maybe mow the lawn. You know, if they won’t go out and get a job, the least they could do is try to pull their weight at home. I have spoken to the cats about this on a few occasions. The ignore me. They are very good at that. It takes millions of years of evolution and breeding to produce an animal this capable at the art of ignoring. But this isn’t about or cats; but rather about another useless thing I found laying around the house. (You can make up your own joke here, if you like.)

While wandering around looking for useless things, I found a coupon for a free pizza. This is a good thing. One large pizza with two toppings, free. This is a very good thing. It is redeemable at any location in the Greater Cincinnati area. This is not such a good thing anymore. I do not live anywhere near anything that remotely resembles Cincinnati. This is a good thing if you consider the difference in the amount of snow there and here in Florida. (Cincinnati – entirely too much, I’m not going out there, it’s too darn cold vs Florida – none in this decade.) This is also a good thing if you consider the distance to the closest beach. (Florida – a 15 minute drive vs Cincinnati – what’s a beach? Oh, you mean with sand and water and stuff like that. I think they have one in Cleveland.) But, I was not considering the snow or the beach, I was considering my free pizza, which was in Cincinnati, over a thousand miles away from me, and my coupon, and they don’t deliver. This is a bad thing. My hopes of feasting on free pizza would not be realized tonight.

You may ask why I had a coupon for a free pizza from a pizzeria in Cincinnati, Ohio. If you did, I would tell you that is a very good question. After all, most people in Florida do not normally have a coupon for a free food from another state. You might then ask how I got this coupon. If so, I would tell you it’s all because of the Flintstones and/or Ross Perot. You would probably fail to see the connection; which is understandable. To be perfectly honest, Mr. Perot personally had very little to do with my free pizza. The company he founded, however did. They are the ones who moved me from Florida to Cincinnati in the first place. No, let me correct that. They gave me a job and an expense report. A Ryder truck moved me to Cincinnati. I’ll explain the Fred and Barney connection in a minute.

About six months after that company moved me into Cincinnati, they moved me out again. I was going to Dallas for a ten week temporary assignment. Afterwards, they would send me somewhere else, though they didn’t know exactly where yet. These unusual circumstances resulted in a three way split. I would go to Dallas, my wife Kathy would go to Tampa, and our furniture would go to a warehouse somewhere in the midwest. Chicago, I think. The three of us would then be reunited ten weeks later in an entirely different city. (The whole thing looked kind of silly when this new city turned out to be Dallas.) It would be three years before my wife and I found our way back to Florida. Sadly, some of the furniture passed away before then, and did not return with us.

My wife left Cincinnati first. Shelly, her best friend (at the time), flew up from Tampa to help her drive back. Shelly had never been out of Florida before in her life, (Valdosta doesn’t really count.) She had never seen mountains, or snow, or any of those things you don’t normally find in Florida. Shelly was very exited about seeing all these things on the way back. The cats were going with them too. They were not very excited about the trip back; after all, they had seen all the sights on the drive up six months ago. Plus, they didn’t really care about mountains, and they were completely unhappy about this snow substance. Not to worry, they would meow a little at first, but they would settle down after a couple hundred miles.

To say cats do not travel very well is like saying dogs don’t do quantum physics very well. Our cats can no more relax in a car than a dog could work out the theory of relativity on a cocktail napkin while sipping a gin and tonic, making passes at the cocker spaniel at the end of the bar. In light of this, we thought perhaps the cats might travel better if they were sedated. Yes, we gave our cats drugs. We wanted to do it right though. Rather than just fill their milk bowl with Jack Daniel’s, we went to a vet who gave them some kitty quaaludes to help them relax. It seemed like a good idea at the time. It wasn’t. The cats started tripping. Then, the apartments across the street caught on fire. (I swear, I had nothing to do with it.) Fortunately, there was nobody home at the time. All the noise and commotion and flashing lights and sirens did nothing to help the cats’ state of mind. The vet said that the cats should be given about six hours to fall asleep before traveling. But after all the excitement, what with a fire and all, Kathy and Shelly were wide awake. They decided to leave then, rather than wait until morning. This was probably a mistake, because the cats were also wide awake, and very high, when we loaded them in the car. I think it is safe to say that the cats had never been for a ride when they were high before. From what I heard later, I don’t think they enjoyed the experience very much. Probably the kitty equivalent to a bad trip at a Hendrix concert, only without the music.

My furniture left Cincinnati next. Movers came the next day and packed up all our worldly possessions and stuffed them in a truck. As far as I know none of the furniture was given any medication. When they were done, I saw what was essentially my whole life (materially speaking) packed into the back of the truck. My life didn’t take up that much room. There was space in the truck for three or four other lives at least. By that night, my bed was about half way to Chicago, along with the rest of my belongings. I decided to spend the night in a motel. They have beds there. The next morning I would go into work for the last time, pack up the last few things, say good-bye to everyone, and goof off for a few hours. After which I would jump in my car and ride off towards Texas, which was conveniently located in the general direction of the sunset. I always thought it would be neat to ride off into the sunset; I didn’t think about the fact that the sun would be shining in my eyes and I wouldn’t be able to see anything. I didn’t think about that fact because it rained the whole way to Dallas.

That morning, as I was getting ready for my last working hours in Cincinnati, I was listening to the radio. Pay attention, this is where the Flintstones and the free pizza all come together. Every morning, the radio station had a trivia question. First caller with the correct answer would win, guess what, a free pizza. I had never called in because they rarely asked a question to which I knew the answer. If they did, I was in my car, nowhere near a phone. I wasn’t about to invest a couple hundred in a carphone just on the hopes of winning a free pizza. The question this particular morning was “On the Flintstones, what was the name of the lodge that Fred and Barney belonged to?” Easy, they were Water Buffalo’s. They wore those funny blue hats with the horns on them and did the secret Water Buffalo handshake. Then I realized that since I was still in the motel room, I was near a phone. It had finally happened. I knew the answer and I was near a phone. Just my luck, it was my last day in town and I knew there was no way I would be able to cash in on a free pizza even if I did manage to call in first.

I decided I would not call in. I figured that while I was debating about fifteen people would be on the line with the correct answer. Besides, I never win at these kind of things anyway. So I sat down and listened to the radio, waiting to thear what lucky sap would win my pizza. First caller – no clue. Second caller – Elks lodge…get real. Third caller – Shriners…come on. Maybe I should call in. Naw, any minute now someone will get it. Fourth caller – Racoon lodge…no, no, no, that was the Honeymooners you moron. Then I had the sudden realization that the Flintstones and the Honeymooners were really the same show. This had never occurred to me before. Same show just a different historical setting. It was like a vision. I was so taken by this that I completely missed what the fifth caller said. Whatever it was, they were wrong. Sixth caller – Elks lodge…no, somebody already said that, pay attention. On and on it went, nine or ten callers, all wrong answers, none of them even close. I couldn’t stand it anymore. I had to call in and give them the correct answer. So what if I couldn’t use the pizza, at least I would be the one who answered the question. I dialed. Busy. Damn. I decided to call now and someone else is going to beat me to it. I dialed again. Ringing. Cool. I was almost there, no one had given the answer yet. The DJ answered. He asked me if I had the answer. “Yup, Water Buffalo” I said extremely confidently. Then he through me a curve. “What was the FULL name of the lodge?” Boy, these guys were tough. I didn’t even know there was a full name, I just knew that Fred and Barney were Water Buffalos. You know, they wear those funny blue hats with the horns and do that secret handshake. I was beginning to panic. I had no idea. I was beginning to see my free pizza sprout wings and fly away from me. I was running out of time, and still had no idea. So, I did what I always do when I have no idea. First, I thought about it carefully, logically, practically which always fails to come up with anything useful; so I reach back and take a wild-ass guess at it. This technique is known as the SWAG, or the scientific wild-ass guess. This particular SWAG came out something like “The Royal Order of Water Buffalo.” Boy, what a stupid answer; where did I pull that one from? I was really surprised when the DJ told me that was absolutely right.

He asked me to stay on the line so he could get my name and address. He was going to mail me a coupon for a free pizza. This presented a real dilemma. Not only did that blow my chances of getting my free pizza before I left town; but he wanted an address. I didn’t have an address anymore, I was moving. Today. I told him this. He understood, but he still had a pizza he had to give away to someone. We decided to mail it to my old address, since it would eventually be forwarded to me, and I could then mail it to one of my friends back in Cincinnati. This made sense to me at the time. When my coupon promptly arrived six weeks later, all my friends in Cincinnati, who worked for the same company I did, had all been moved out of town like me. There was no one left to mail the coupon back to, so, I kept it.

That is why I have a coupon for a free pizza that I will never use, unless I find myself back in Cincinnati. I keep it as sort of a trophy of the trivia question I successfully answered on the radio. I keep it too because it reminds me of a neat time in my life when I was living in and moving out of Cincinnati. I was only there six months, but it was a good six months. I also keep it because you never know, I may one day pass through Cincinnati again. If I do, I’m going to take my coupon and get my free pizza. Or maybe not, it looks like it’s expired.

My Collection

I am a collector. Collecting is a great hobby, if you can afford it. I can’t. So my collection is a little different. There are lots of things to collect, but I have no interest in collecting physical things, mainly because I have no where to put them. Plus I have noticed that people who collect thins tend to be a little annoying about it, unless, of course you have a genuine interest in whatever it is they have devoted their life and/or life’s savings to. The problem is, you have to look at their entire collection of baseball cards, comic books, Elvis plates, or whatever, and pretend that you really care. And the stories surrounding their collection can do the impossible, which is, they are more boring than the collection itself.

My collection is different; I collect trivia. I have found this to be almost the perfect hobby. It costs no money, takes up no space in my house, and occupies very little of my time; all attributes that appeal to me. It is not entirely perfect, however. I have found that it is possible to annoy others with my collection. I have been threatened with bodily harm if I didn’t shut up. (The actual words they use are usually more colorful than just “shut up.”) And forget about playing Trivial Pursuit. Like Monopoly, it is a game that can bring out some very ugly emotions from the most stable of people. I am convinced that my wife and I would not be together if we attempted to play Monopoly together more than once every five years. An even then it’s a little touchy.

Lately, I have been working on a particular collection of trivia, specifically the full names of everyone from that hallmark of modern culture, Gilligan’s Island. Hey, I’m a child of the early seventies, what do you expect. Oh sure, Thurston Howell III and his lovely wife Lovey are easy. But how about Mrs. Howell’s maiden name. A little tougher than you thought, huh? Sure, everyone thinks it’s easy, but this trivia business is definitely not for weenies. I doubt that more than one person in a thousand know the professor’s name, or the skipper’s. And even rarer is the person who knows Gilligan’s full name. If you ever meet such a person, do not be afraid, they are mostly harmless. Please do not stare at them, as you will make them uncomfortable, and they may scamper back into the woods. Be careful, they may bite if cornered.

Here then for your approval is the complete list of passengers and crew that set sail that fateful day for a three hour tour. Yes, I know, if it was only a three hour tour, why did they take their luggage. My sister-in-law can explain it, but it involves Camelot, and John F. Kennedy, and is very bizarre. It is a little beyond the realm of my comprehension, although to hear her tell it, it makes perfect sense. That is until you sit down and try to sort it out for yourself. Enough about that, here then is the list: In addition to the Howell’s you may already know the full names of Ginger Grant and Mary Ann Summers. Those are the easy ones. By the way, Lovey’s maiden name was Wentworth. Give yourself extra credit if you remember that episode. The professor’s real name was Roy Hinkley. It was mentioned less often than Wentworth, which is to say it was mentioned once. Likewise only revealed once was the skipper’s name, Jonas Grumby. You really had to be paying attention to catch those.

At last we come to the holy grail of seven stranded castaways trivia. Gilligan’s full name. If you don’t remember it from the reruns, don’t feel bad, it was never mentioned. (Although they did mention a brother named Peter.) The question of Gilligan’s name has been a great kept secret from the masses for all these many years. A question left to only the most serious of trivia collectors. Gilligan was named by, Sherwood Schwartz, the creative genius behind the Island. (Okay, maybe genius isn’t the right word.) For many years, not even Bob Denver, Gilligan himself, knew his character’s full name. After growing tired of not being able to answer this seemingly simple question, Bob went to Sherwood to find the answer to this, the mother of all trivia questions. I saw Bob reveal the answer to this last piece in my collection tody on TV. It was truly a momentous occasion. At last, my Gilligan collection would be complete. Maybe now I would be able to sleep at night. As the great Bob Denver spoke the words, I felt a heavy weight lift from my shoulders. His full name was…Willy Gilligan. I feel much better now.