This is an offshoot of the original Liam & Janet blog. That blog has become overrun by Liam's inability to keep his mouth shut when something annoys him. The serious rants there seemed incongruous with the humor columns. The plan for the humor columns continues to be to post a new one every Friday, plus occasional extras when the mood strikes.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Sheepishly Posting Another Quickie

According to the news, as of this afternoon, tropical storm Dolly has been upgraded to be the second hurricane of the 2008 season.

That alone doesn't concern me, but we'd best hope she doesn't cause any big problems, because you just know scientists are going to manufacture lots of identical storms just like her.

(And you thought I was going to go with the "I'm afraid it's just one of two really large storms" joke.)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Blog Quickie...

Y'know, as I slide slowly past "early 40s" and into "mid", every once in a while it's nice to recognize the problems associated with aging that I am not having...

Today, for instance, I've proven that I can still "get wood".

I just have to pay a guy $260 to deliver it.

I was going to say "And have my children around to help stack it", but if you're still stuck on the double entendre, that'd just be creepy.


Friday, July 18, 2008

That Surgeon Really Has Gall(bladder)

[NOTE: It's been a good run of essays, but the well seems to have run dry again. This may be the last one for a while. I hope you've enjoyed them, and hopefully I'll come up with something funny to write again soon. -- Liam]

My wife was at the hospital this week. Yes, we spend a lot of time at hospitals. And doctors offices. And dentists. And, heaven help me, orthodontists. Please, whatever power of the universe there may be, help my book start selling in unprecedented numbers! There have been orthodontists!

But I didn't begin this to talk about orthodontia, and frankly, there's simply nothing funny about finding out that all of my success and all of the money I get paid in the lucrative field of changing the magnetic patterns on a spinning disk can be swallowed up with nothing to spare by four of our five children (yes, heaven help me, four) who all need braces. I think I may cry.

And so it is that my wife is extremely fortunate to be moaning in agony at this moment, for at least she's got something to distract her.

Janet had her gallbladder out this week. She went in to the hospital a more or less healthy woman and came out a broken shell of humanity, able to keep the demon pain at bay only via the use of powerful sorcery called "Percocet".

They perform this removal in what used to be called the "Outpatient surgery" section of the hospital, but is now called "Same Day surgery" in the mistaken belief that we won't notice that she was on the waiting list for her "same day" surgery for about 3 months. They even rub your nose in it: if you call the hospital, they answer "Same day" in the sort of perky voice that tells me my wife isn't the only one dipping into the Percocet.

We started Monday morning off by getting up at an hour which is referred to in scientific circles as "way too F-ing early", because apparently the doctors have figured out that if they get you into the operating room while your organs are still asleep they'll put up a lot less of a fight. And of course, when someone has major surgery and more pain killers than Rush Limbaugh coursing through their veins, it's not a good idea for them to drive home, which meant that it was best if I brought her in before going to work, so that I could retrieve her after the procedure (they always call it a "procedure", because "sucking one of your major organs out of your body via a straw" might attract vampires).

And that's pretty much what they did. Janet had her gallbladder out by a technique called "laparoscopy", from the Latin "lapros" (many tiny holes) and "copus" (in my wife Janet). I'm not exactly sure how this works, except that they said her major discomfort (they always call it "discomfort", because "pain equivalent to rabid wolverines devouring your neck and shoulders" leads people to think they might hurt, and so they refuse surgery, and then the doctors have no choice but to perform their "procedures" on each other) would be caused by left over gas that they blew into her belly. Yes, really, apparently as part of the procedure they inflated my wife, secure in the knowledge that if there's one thing every woman on the planet is looking for, it's an excuse to need a larger size of outfit. I'd complain, but I'm afraid if I did, next time they'd install one of those little plastic beach ball valve things and tell me that in order for her to heal, I had to manually re-inflate her twice a day, and frankly, this is just too family friendly a column for me to finish this joke.

Anyway, as I mentioned, while they were doing that, I spent the day at work, interrupted about every seventy seconds by another phone call from the kids complaining about each other's behavior or asking if they could, just this once, pour the bottle of rubbing alcohol from the medicine cabinet into the sink and light it on fire. Or something... frankly after the third call, I stopped listening. And in this entertaining fashion, I passed the day in roughly the same time it would have taken me to hitchhike the entire length of the Great Wall of China via rickshaw until sometime in the early afternoon, when I received a phone call from the doctor, who told me everything had gone swimmingly and that Janet would be in recovery for "about an hour" after which they'd call me to come pick her up.

They got "about an hour" from the same Bob's Big Book o' Medical Understatements that they pulled "discomfort" and "procedure" from, and so it was that several hours later I got a call from a nice woman who announced she was from "same day" (which reassured me, I live in constant, paranoid fear whenever the phone rings that it's someone from the future) and that Janet was done recovering (if only) and that if I'd come over to the hospital, they'd make sure to have Janet ready to go when I got there. This, as I'm sure you've figured out, also came from the book.

And so I made my way back to the hospital and the first thing they did was they asked me for Janet's pin number. A PIN number! As if the hospital were now some giant, wife-dispensing ATM, which scared me a bit because if you deposit a twenty dollar bill into an ATM and then withdraw a twenty dollar bill, you do not get the same twenty back again. I’ve checked. Don't ask why. What if I didn't get the same wife back? Would my kids still call her "mommy"? And most importantly, would the new one continue to pretend to find these essays amusing?

But the worst of it is, the woman at the front desk was the same woman who had just called to tell me to come pick up Janet. So she knew I was coming, she knew who I was, but she wasn't prepared to even admit that Janet was present or a patient in the hospital unless I recited the correct four digit code to her. Which begs the question what would they have done if I hadn't had it? Would they have kept her? Would she, even now, be lying in a bed in the hospital, wondering why I'd abandoned her? Or would some other husband have come along with the right pin number and withdrawn her? And, most importantly, since they'd already called in the prescription for the Percocet to the pharmacy, could I have filled it anyway and had me a good old fashioned bachelor pad party, complete with five children under foot and a middle-aged body that handles "partying" the way a toilet paper hat handles "rain"?

But fortunately I had the PIN, and so I was able to withdraw my wife (astounding that they were able to feed her out through that little slot!) and bring her back home and keep her doped up so that she can no longer perform any task more complex than drooling without assistance, leaving me, in the evenings, to provide primary care for five children who have been free during the day to consume what I can only assume is 50 cans of "Jolt" brand cola each while under Janet's less than attentive eye.

I'm really proud of Janet, though, because she's not letting it get her down or stop her. She's not letting a little thing like major surgery get in the way of making difficult plans. It's the follow through that's leaving a bit to be desired. For instance, yesterday she decided that what she really wanted to make for dinner was calzones, a fairly labor intensive task. So she put all of the ingredients for the dough into the bread machine, got it going, and then announced, as the dough cycle completed, that she was way too tired. I was thus left with five starving children, a wad of dough roughly the size of "the Blob" from the 50s Italian cooking documentary of the same name and absolutely no interest what so ever in either making or consuming calzones.

But I made them, and even managed to get the kids to stop making disparaging comments about them long enough to actually eat them and ask for seconds (of which there were none).

I just wish I'd had the foresight to slip a Percocet in each one.

[NOTE: As you may have noticed, I don't mind "fictionalizing" (aka "lying about") events that happen in order to make these essays more amusing, but I do feel rather bad about the light in which I have unfairly portrayed my children. On the whole, they behaved admirably, and I can only hope that one day they will grow up to forgive me, if not for this essay, then at least for not saving them each one of the "Percocet" pills.]

Copyright © July 3, 2007 by Liam Johnson.

Sunday, July 13, 2008


I just wanted to put in my guess for the name of one of Angelina Jolie & Brad Pitt's twins, now that they're born and before the names are widely publicized.

I'm going with "Shiesoh" (pronounced "Shee-so"). Because we already know how wonderfully cruel they were to their eldest daughter, giving her a name (Shiloh Pitt) which spoonerizes so crudely, why not continue the tradition?


Monday, July 07, 2008

Senators, Out Standing In Their Field

If you pay any attention at all to the news or politics, you're aware that last Friday there was an event of earth-shattering import to no one in particular except a few people who are still holding grudges among the supporters of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. An event in which the two, who until two weeks ago were treating each other like the single worst thing that could befall the United States (even including the remote chance that Richard Nixon might come back to life and drunkenly admit to the United States that he was its actual father) but who are now suddenly, through the magic of "politics" behaving as though each was a noble opponent and the single best thing (other than themselves) that could possibly ever befall the United States (including the even remoter chance that the United States could one day be offered a "threesome" with Jessica Simpson and Betty White (ok, I've got odd tastes, sue me)) would appear for the first time together on the same stage.

After a long and bitter primary battle (a primary being the process by which a large number of Democratic politicians lie to us while NOT in the direct conduct of the jobs we elected them for, and we are so appreciative that we reward them by choosing one of them to get beaten thoroughly by the Republican candidate in November), it was time to come together, and so for the sake of symbolism, they chose the town of Unity, New Hampshire for their first public event together (apparently "I Can't Stand You But I'll Smile Nicely For The Cameras Because It's My Job, Texas" was already booked for the Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie "Simple Life" reunion). Since the town of Unity is only about 15 minutes away from my home, I thought this was one of those "once in a lifetime" opportunities that come along once in… well, I can't think of a good metaphor, but not very often. Kind of like a "Woodstock" for my generation, but with fewer musical acts and a far smaller number of topless crowd surfers (although Hillary Clinton… no, I can't finish that, I almost threw up in my mouth a little bit just thinking about it).

In the interest of security, or more likely because the town of "Unity" has a total of three parking spaces, two behind the police station and one at the general store, attendees were asked to park in one of two convenient locations about fifty miles from the site and be "shuttled" to the event. It turns out that by "shuttled" they meant "packed onto every yellow bus from every school in a 100 mile radius, driven by people who treat potholes like pac man treats dots, making sure not to miss a single one", because there's nothing that really gets a large political event going like the entire audience one good lurch away from vomiting.

I thus parked my car at in the lot for the Mount Sunapee ski area (which is actually slightly further from my home than Unity is, but in a different direction) and got onto a line of people that stretched all the way back to my house. I thought this was a lot of people… until I arrived at the site of the event.

How to describe this…

My kids and I often play a game when we're on long car trips that we call "the American flag game", in which we count how many American flags we can spot during our trip. This game has many rules designed to minimize fights and keep me safely focusing primarily on avoiding the other cars on the road and only secondarily on verifying that each new flag is actually extant and not, technically, someone's laundry hanging in the back yard. One of these rules is that any single location with more than 5 flags is considered to be 5. This prevents me from having to try to verify a count at high speed or worse yet, having the kids demand that I pull over and count every last flag on every last antenna at the used car lot.

So, in the spirit of that game, you'll understand what I mean when I say that if everyone there (except Mr. Obama, of course) had been wearing a flag lapel pin, there would have been five flags there. A really really BIG five flags. The five-est flags I've seen yet. And none of them would have made it through the metal detector. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

One interesting thing I saw that I hadn't ever seen before was snipers, real honest-to-goodness snipers walking into the woods with nasty looking rifles and camouflage outfits and everything. I couldn't decide whether to feel incredibly safe or to keep checking my chest to make sure there wasn't a tell-tale red spot on it. I'll tell you, though, nothing dampens the urge to make wiseass comments while passing through security like the knowledge that there are high powered rifles trained in your general direction by sharpshooters who could probably shoot the wings off of a fly from half a mile away.

Security was vaguely similar to the TSA screening at the airport, except thorough and they took it really seriously. I have no doubt that I could, if I chose to, smuggle just about anything I chose onto an airplane. These guys found every conceivable possible weapon I was carrying. On the plus side, I don't need to have another prostate exam for another five years.

Nevertheless, apparently I don't look threatening, because they let me through at which point I became aware of several things:
  • The entire event was outdoors
  • There wasn't a spot of shade anywhere near where the two Senators would be speaking
  • I had forgotten my sunscreen
  • I had brought a bald scalp with me

So I looked around and found, conveniently located just as far away from the dais as humanly possible while still remaining technically at the event, a tiny little structure large enough to comfortably cast shade upon about 4 adults, under which 7 were currently standing, and made really close friends with a largish biker named Steve.

I have been remiss until this point in not giving you the full scope of the day. The busses began running at 10am. We were advised to show up no later than 9:30. Once they got us to the event site, the gates opened there at 11am. Senators Obama and Clinton were not scheduled to begin speaking until 1pm, which left a lot of time for Steve and me to get really close, but also for almost every other member of the crowd to form two lines, one for the food vending, and one for the port-a-potties, and since my little shady oasis was right next to where they were cooking, I'm not sure it wouldn't have been healthier if you’d gotten in the port-a-potty line with either goal in mind. But I digress.

Surrounding a central podium were several large bleachers that had clearly been rented, because the bottom of each was a trailer from which the seats had unfolded. Attached to these heavy steel structures were 30 foot tall metal poles atop which were high intensity lights, which had been brought because there were clouds rolling in and there was a chance it might get too dark to see the Senators, apparently because politicians and physics majors do not mix and no one considered that when it gets storm dark you sometimes get lightning, and when you do, the place you want to be is not the middle of a large open field on steel bleachers attached to large metal poles.

Sometime after one, Senators Clinton and Obama arrived, in much the same way that man arrived "sometime after" the universe formed. At least, I assume they were Senators Clinton and Obama, from my vantage point they could well have been former President Clinton in a wig and Ben Affleck in black face. Honestly at no point did my 42 year old eyes manage to get close enough to confirm that the shapes standing at the podium were, in fact, homo sapiens. But their voices (what I could hear of them) were pretty good approximations of the two I'd expected, so I'm willing to assume it was actually them.

Which, it only now occurs to me, means that I took a day of vacation from work and braved the indignity of school busses and the livestock mentality of repeated lines for an experience I could have completely and successful replicated with a couple of large sacks of potatoes and a boom box across a large field and a large, vaguely smelly man pressed up against me, and the only thing I really got out of it was an essay in which I find three different ways (including this one) to reference "upchuck". Woodstock indeed.

Except no topless potatoes.

Copyright © July 4, 2007 by Liam Johnson.


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