I'm gonna make you breakfast, babe Sit tight, it won't be long She finds me later in the kitchen Says babe, "you're doing it wrong" —
[Lady Bracknell and Algernon have just exited into the music room.] JACK Don't worry Miss Fairfax, nothing will come of all this. In my experience nothing ever comes of anything. GWENDOLEN Pray don't talk to me about nonexistence, Mr. Worthing. Whenever people talk to me about nothing, I always feel quite certain that they mean something else. JACK I do mean something else. GWENDOLEN I thought so. JACK Nothing is or is not, but that thinking determines the matter. GWENDOLEN Lady Bracknell has a way of coming suddenly back into rooms, and thinking has never made it not so. JACK I should get to the point then. There's something I desperately need to discuss with you. GWENDOLEN Critical Race Theory? JACK Um… no. I am in love with you Miss Fairfax. GWENDOLEN Romantically? JACK Madly. I know that's terribly conventional but it feels utterly unique somehow. GWENDOLEN Are you sure it isn't existential angst? JACK It's hard to tell the difference sometimes, isn't it? GWENDOLEN Oh, very, Mr. Worthing. Very. JACK I fell in angst once. This is different. GWENDOLEN Oh, I'm sure it's nothing, Mr. Worthing. JACK I'm sure that it's not, but you asked me not to talk about nothing. GWENDOLEN So long as you don't mean something else. JACK Marry me, Miss Fairfax. Before you change your mind. Or I mine. GWENDOLEN I've never believed that one should marry for angst. JACK Well, then do it in haste. Does this village have a vicar? GWENDOLEN Not any more. Now we have a meteorologist. JACK Does he preside at weddings? GWENDOLEN He talks about the weather. Is it true what they say? JACK You would have to wait until they say it. In my experience, the voracity of statements not yet made is exceedingly difficult to ascertain. GWENDOLEN They say that love is forever. JACK Oh, that. No, I think they mean existential angst. GWENDOLEN It's hard to tell the difference sometimes. JACK Sometimes I feel it's just a thought. Other times I think it's just a feeling. GWENDOLEN Maybe we should just talk about the weather. JACK When people talk about the weather, they usually mean something else. It makes me quite nervous. GWENDOLEN It's all weather, Mr. Worthing. Everything is exactly like the weather. JACK I was afraid this all would come to nothing, Miss Fairfax. And now it actually has. GWENDOLEN It's a wonder anything happens at all, Mr. Worthing. [Lady Bracknell fails to come suddenly back into the room. Awkward silence.] —
With all respect to Mr. Oscar Wilde.
A Social Researcher named Fender Mixed HE, SHE, and IT in a blender But the sample got out And it spread all about Now we all get to pick a new gender
* For the record, please refer to me as He, Him, or “Hey You!”
”A Face-lift for your Low Functioning Similes”
Subject: “Like taking candy from a baby.”
I assembled our crack team of analysts as soon as the boss transmitted the new assignment. We can usually hammer out a simile makeover in one session as my people are some of the best in the field.
Our team consists of Kaplan, a portly and opinionated cab driver; Peggy, who used to work in human resources at a large insurance firm until they downsized; Weber, a freelance cartoonist; and myself, the sole liaison to our secretive employer.
We convened within the hour to our usual rendezvous at Starbucks and went to work. We use the free and open brainstorming method to get started. Almost immediately Peggy suggested that there was nothing wrong at all with the original simile. This evoked affirmative murmuring from around the table. “It’s a classic,” she continued, “what do they expect us to fix?”
“You know how it is, Peg,” I said . “If they knew what they wanted they’d just write it themselves.” We never knew who the client was or what they intended to do with our output.
“Might I suggest,” Kaplan said with a raised finger as he shoved half a pumpkin spice scone into his face. We waited patiently as he chewed and finally dispatched the pastry with an audible gulp. “Perhaps the client doesn’t like the fact that babies have all this candy. Sugar is not good for infants.” Or portly cab drivers for that matter. This was politely left unsaid.
Peggy nodded eagerly in agreement. “High fructose corn syrup is the devil. Candy is loaded with the stuff.”
Weber jumped in. “All the more reason to take the candy away. Perhaps they want something more high concept. The action is pretty straightforward. You have a baby with candy. You steal the candy. Conclusion? It was pretty easy.”
Peggy brightened noticeably. “It’s easy to steal from a baby because we are bigger than them and can outsmart them and overpower them, but is that the easiest thing you can think of? It would be easier to not steal from a baby.”
“As easy as doing nothing at all.” echoed Weber.
Kaplan let out a harrumph. “Too easy.”
“Yeah,” replied Weber, “there’s nothing left to call back the original. We fix similes, we don’t create new ones from whole cloth.”
“Why aren’t we into that market, anyway?” said Kaplan. “Nobody wants new similes? Seems like we could use some new ones.”
“We’ve been over this before,” I said. “Find us some clients and we’ll start knocking them out.”
“I think Peggy’s on to something though,” said Weber. “Babies aren’t total pushovers. They can scream and they can grip the candy with those tiny hands. And they have filthy diapers and germs. I’m not sure I’d want candy that’s been anywhere near a baby. The client is right, this simile is weak.”
“Like taking candy from a dead baby,” Kaplan blurted. Peggy gave him the look. The one she’d given him many times before.
“Okay, look,” he continued, “of the many types who like candy I have to say that babies are the most vulnerable to potential smash-and-grabs. Cry as they may and the diapers notwithstanding.”
“Like making babies and eating candy.” I offered.
“Noted,” said Weber, “though I’m not sure I like the shift in tone.”
“Let’s break it down,” Kaplan said. “We have three points of departure. You have the candy, the baby, and the act. We can change any two by my estimate and still have call-back to the original.”
“The baby’s got to stay,” Peggy said.
“Second,” I said, raising my hand.
“Third,” added Weber.
“Fine,” said Kaplan. “Now, what can we do to this baby that’s totally easy? What can we do that just screams effortlessness. Come on people. Get a cappuccino if you need one. Find a gear and let’s get this thing done.”
It wasn’t often that Kaplan took command like that. Everyone sat up and took note. His pastry was gone and he seemed antsy.
“Then again, you could take candy from the break room refrigerator,” I countered. “That’s completely easy.”
“Someone else’s candy?” asked Peggy.
“Well, easy if you possess no trace of a conscience,” she said.
“Are you implying…”
“Who here has, or has had, a baby? Anyone?” Kaplan asked impatiently.
Silence around the table. “Good grief we are the barren lot aren’t we?”
“I had an abortion once,” Peggy offered shyly.
“I payed for an abortion one time,” I added helpfully.
Then Weber let fly his brilliant coup de grâce. “Why don’t we just give the candy to the baby.”
Kaplan sat up straight and pointed his stubby finger at Weber. “My god. It’s perfect. Completely removes the negative connotation while retaining full call-back.”
“Like giving candy to a baby,” repeated Peggy. “That is slick.”
“Table that and let’s vote,” I said.
The motion passed 4-0 in favor. Like I said, my people are the best. It was almost as easy as, well, never mind. I formatted the report and placed it in the hollow tree trunk in the park at midnight per my standing instructions. We were positive the client would be thrilled. We’d taken a stumbling half-functional simile(1) and transformed it into an almost certainly improved simile.
1. The wanton use of similes in literature is a cautionary flag.
This was written in 2014. I think I may have submitted it to McSweeney’s at one point.
I like to go down to the hardware store with my yardstick and inspect all the yardsticks. You know, what if they’re off? Vigilance, my friends. Trust, by all means, but verify.
Once I found one that was 1/64th off by the 20 inch mark and I complained. The clerk deferred to the store manager like they always do and this guy accused MY yardstick of being the one that was wrong. Pretty much what I expect in a country that has clearly lost its moral compass.
I was escorted off the property as I hurled threats at them. “You’ll be hearing from the folks at New Yankee Workshop!” I couldn’t wait to file my report. What outrage! I fear for the future of my country.
Where do companies go to get the measurements to make a ruler? I mean, without stealing them from a competitor. Is there like an official yardstick kept in a vault somewhere and you go in with some newsprint and charcoal and make rubbings?
You could just buy a Stanley tape measure and copy the marks off onto a stick. Sell it as a ruler. There’s no oversight. The whole business stinks to high heaven.
So I set up a stake-out on the hardware store. (I’m not allowed in there anymore.) Watch the comings and goings for suspicious activity. Keep an eye on things. Vigilance, my friends.
“I’ll take Amphibian Lushes for a thousand, Alex.”
According to Three Dog Night, Jeremiah was one of these.
“What is a bullfrog?”
I’m sorry, the correct response was, “what is a wino.”
[contestant registers dismay]
Wait, the judges are saying ‘bullfrog’ is technically also correct.
[contestant pumps fist triumphantly]
So I gave them enough rope like you said, and they tied me up with it. I bring this up, because if you'll recall our conversation you had said, and I quote... Yes, I'll hold.
It played out slow, like danced-out
Music, a trace of smoke from
A years-old fire, like doubts sneaking
Peeks at a once-proud confidence
I’ve had my encounter with the covid-19, or at least suspect I did. One night of fever and feeling quite ill, followed by a week of mild flu-like symptoms. I was already in self-isolate mode and well stocked for supplies so no biggie. At day five I called Family Medicine at UTMB and they got me right in for the test. Being aged sixty-five gets you something like a senior discount in this particular pandemic. During my examination I got to revisit my blood pressure issue and got a new stronger scrip right there on the spot. The covid test came back the next day, negative, but with the caveat that they’re seeing a lot of false negatives.
Two weeks out and I’m feeling back to normal, newly resigned from my job, looking at a thin gruel of future to sustain me. The new blood pressure meds are working great though. About the only good set of numbers I’m seeing these days.
Stability is sodded
with an eagerness to perceive
that things aren’t changing.
aging: —a gradual dissipation of vanity, by force if necessary. Resistance is possible, though the subject’s levels of self-absorption must increase four-fold in proportion to the level of sustained mirror gazing desired.
Being is the tiger’s tail
these bodies come and go
Being is the monkey’s grin
if only it weren’t so
Notebook, April 2020