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.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Yule Be Happier Staying At Home

These are the waning hours of Christmas Day, 2010. We are snowed in (unusual for North Carolina), two of my children are sleeping in a Hilton in Chicago, I'm still trying to figure out how to tell my body that no matter how much foreign fluid is in my lungs, there's no sense in trying to eject them wholly from my body, and I am lying in a bed in the main guest room at my parents' house in North Carolina, pondering on how I got here.

Actually, come to think of it, as I am in my PARENTS' house, I should phrase that differently. I don't know about you, but as I have children, I have some sense of how I got here, and I really would prefer not to ponder that deeply into the mechanics of it all, if it's all the same to you.

Our Christmas travels began on the evening of Wednesday the 22nd, Liam's birthday. With the threat of impending snow (an event which, I am told, came to little more than a few inches of snow, which in New England is considered about average for a July afternoon, while (this is true) a similar amount here in North Carolina has shut down the airport), Liam and I drove down to stay overnight at a hotel adjacent to the airport for our morning flight on Thursday. Well, when I say "Liam and I drove", of course HE drove, I was much too drunk after celebrating his fifth birthday.

Our first flight of the day, we sat next to a lovely young college student named Molly, who apparently attends college one town over from the CA town that my Aunt and Uncle live in, and I learned significantly more about her life than I would have thought possible in a two hour flight, largely because she spent the whole trip talking to Liam. Now, it's not that I'm jealous, exactly. As a middle-aged man, I wouldn't really want to have any success with a young woman only a couple of years older than my oldest child. It's just that Liam has only comparatively recently discovered he HAS, er, naughty bits, while mine (being a divorced man) are woefully underutilized, so it is disconcerting to me that, should he turn his mind to it, he could pick up hot babes at the drop of a hat, while for me to accomplish the same thing, I'd have to be babysitting an infant with a fever.

Our flight had a three hour layover in Charlotte, NC. This is not unusual. Virtually every flight that terminates somewhere in the southeast routes through Charlotte, and the layover is generally either short enough that you arrive at your connecting flight smelling like the locker room after a hot August pre-season NFL football game, or long enough to encompass the rest of the season. And as is not uncommon, there were earlier flights going to our same destination, and so we walked to the departure gate for one of these earlier flights to see if we could "stand by" and get there earlier.

Now, let me say right off the bat, there are some very fine airlines out there. Even in these days of trying to make up lost revenue by charging an extra fee for everything (one airline is considering a fee to use the rest room on the flight, although as I understand it, cleaning moistened seats is still an included part of the service. It's really up to you!), some airlines are better than others, and we're flying on one of the others. This particular airline, which rhymes with "U. S. Stairways", seems to have decided that it makes good business sense for them to charge a $50 per person "standby" fee to allow you to change flights. Now, understand, the earlier flight was half empty. We had no checked luggage. And the flight we were on was oversold. If they had merely allowed us to fly on the earlier flight, they would not have had to bump someone to another flight, and pay that person $200 for the privilege, but for want of my paying THEM $100 for the opportunity, they lost money. This is not the Einstein of airlines.

So Liam and I made our way across the terminal (Don't be silly, of course they were at opposite ends of the terminal) to the proper gate for our flight, at which point I committed the first sin of anyone traveling with a small child: I forgot to check every 3.2 seconds to see that the one little bag Liam was carrying (as I hauled the remaining approximately 700lbs of carry on bags behind me) was still, technically, somewhere on his person. It wasn't. Somehow, somewhere, Liam had set down his little cloth lunch box with the blue star on the side of it, carrying his three small toy cars and a snack for the plane, and was now upset with ME because we didn't have it.

Now, in hindsight, I realize my son was just trying to help us get into the "Christmas Spirit" by reenacting the journeys of the "three wise men" in search of one particularly important thing indicated by a star, but at the time I was rather miffed. Nonetheless, in about the same time it took Balthasar, Melchoir and Casper, the Friendly King to reach Bethlehem, Liam and I retraced our steps back and found, in a Christmas Miracle, the bag, just moments before the TSA swooped in and blew it up, in much the same way that the TSA in Bethlehem would have swooped in and blown up Mary's new baby, had he been left unattended in Concourse D of a major American airport.

The rest of our trip was uneventful, except for the various maladies each of us is currently suffering, but I shall not spend too much time on those, as there are at least two other recent essays on those topics, and I'm sure you're getting (ahem) sick of that as a topic.

This is getting longer than I had planned, so I will continue next week with Andrew & Katie's travel travails. This will also give me some time to allow them to come to a full conclusion before I have to write the end of the story. Not that I'm above making something up, I'm just too lazy to do it if I don't have to.

* * *

I just want to throw in one last thing here. Sometimes I have a joke that I'm afraid just won't go over very well, because it relies on a word or phrase that is no longer in common or popular use. Still, there is a particular pun which makes me laugh, even though I'm afraid that about 90% of my readers, being people of fine taste and an admirable lack of pedantry, won't get it. So I'll just include it here. An earlier version of this essay included the phrase "In about the same time it took Balthasar, Melchoir and Caspar to reach Bethlehem, I had an epiphany." If you don't get it and really want to, Google the Christian meaning of the word "Epiphany", but I warn you, it's really not worth the effort!

Copyright © Dec 25, 2010 by Liam Johnson.


Monday, December 20, 2010

Drink? Yes Please, But Something Stronger Than Holiday Cheer!

One of the things I like best about this time of year, as the father of a small child, is that the opportunities to entertain said child are myriad. During most of the year, if you suggest "shopping" to a small child, you'd think you'd told the child you were going to read him the entire U.S. Tax code as a bed time story. For the rest of the year, if a stranger has cookies or candy, you tell your child "we don't take food from strangers" or "it will ruin your dinner", not "well, OK, seeing as you're only vibrating at that low frequency, why not. Have one more."

And at other times of year, if you suggest to anyone that you plan to have your child sit appallingly close to a complete stranger with a garish, almost cartoon fashion sense you might get a call from Child Protective Services, but during this time of year as long as the gentleman in question is obese and wearing sufficient false facial hair to ensure that under no circumstances could he ever be identified in a police line-up, you are considered mildly neglectful (or, dare I say it, Jewish) if you refuse your children this ritual.

And so today, dutifully, I bundled Liam up in his warmest clothing and hauled him out to the car to go out in search of the elusive Santa Claus. And it's quite the search, generally at this time of year you can go to five or six shopping centers and not find that the jolly fat man more than five or six times. Really, it does make one start to wonder if Mr. Claus is actually in the employ of the Department of Homeland Security and you have suddenly found yourself on some sort of terrorist watch list, considering how many places to which he seems to follow you.

Still, though, it's worth the effort, there's nothing quite like the joyful tears in the eyes of a child who knows he is going to get to get to tell Santa his deepest desires for Christmas morning. And they express their gratitude to you so sweetly, usually with some variant on the phrase "but Daddy, I want to play Wii!"

Liam and I started the day out with a "hey ride", so named because everyone in the horse-drawn carriage said to each other "Hey! These cold metal seats would be much more comfortable if they had some straw or something to sit on." Horse-drawn carriage rides have a certain nostalgic charm in theory, but we must remember that they were invented in a simpler era. A time when Santa wasn't painfully aware that his every move was being taped by 17 different cell phones, such that the slightest hint of an inappropriate glance on his part will result in the confiscation of his false beard and quite possibly his gonads. A time when the Wii had only four or five games available, and they were all variants on "pong", but that was OK because the TV hadn't been invented yet, so there was really no way to play them. A time when there was so spectacularly little to do that nipping off for a drink or seven and then heading out into the cold night with a dozen similarly inebriated people to torture various homeowners with horrendous renditions of Christmas carols was seen as a good night's entertainment.

Actually, I strongly suspect that Caroling wasn't invented so much a fun activity as it was a self-defense mechanism, because at least if you are drunk and singing at the top of your lungs in 7 different keys you aren't sitting at home, sober and being accosted by the same cacophony often enough that by the time Christmas actually arrives, you can think of no better Christmas gift to find under the tree than a pair of newly sharpened pencils, ready for ramming deep into the ear canal as a protection against any such future assaults.

Next up in our daily agenda was "story time", rendered by the town librarian, and if you can find a woman who's style and demeanor scream "librarian" (but scream it in a respectfully quiet whisper) more than this woman, I'd like to meet her. She first read a well known story in simple verse about a home invasion on Christmas morning, while the inhabitants are all asleep in the naïve belief that their home is secure against just this sort of intrusion, and then for a change of pace she read "How the Grinch Stole Christmas".

I joke about "A Visit from St. Nicholas", better known as "Twas the Night Before Christmas", but in all honesty, can you read this story these days and NOT realize just how different times are today? They clearly had MUCH stronger hooch back in those days, who today would consider going to bed in a kerchief or cap, or be so unabashedly sex-starved as to talk about the "breast" of new fallen snow. And the man of the house, presented with this jolly secretive fellow doesn't whip out a cell phone and begin texting photos of the man to his friends and the National Enquirer, and his children, not lying in bed awake thinking greedily about their "haul" in the morning are peacefully dreaming of "sugar plums" and other Christmas goodies.

Anyway, Liam and I finally made our way down to get on line to see the jolly fat guy, were each handed a miniature candy cane by a different sort of "sugar plum" in an elf costume, and then our afternoon was over and we made our way back home for a good, old-fashioned Yule-tide Saturday afternoon. Dad dozing on the couch dreaming of holiday blog entries, Liam playing the games on the Wii he'd been so cruelly denied all afternoon.

[Note for those playing along at home, this was the third essay written in the "15 in 30" series.]

Copyright © Dec 11, 2010 by Liam Johnson.


Monday, December 13, 2010

The Realization of Years of Teen Aged Fantasies

[Hopefully, this does not even need to be said. However, on the off chance that any in my reading public is a sensitive, delicate type, rest assured that this particular essay contains a level of factual accuracy which represents a new low, percentage-wise. I mention this only so that the aforementioned sensitive, delicate individual does not find him or herself overcome with emotion at the opening line of my prose and find him or herself unable to continue on.]

Apparently, my brother was murdered tonight.

Now, you have to understand, this is my younger brother about whom we are speaking, the one human being alone above all others who, but for the least remembered first two and a half years of it, has been my biggest nemesis and the largest thorn in my side for my entire life. One might expect that this would mean that I would feel a certain... relief, perhaps, or spiteful joy at the news, and yet this does not appear to be the case.

Alternately, this is also the only brother that I have and along with my lone sister, make up the population that the phrase 'my siblings' comprises. This might lead one to conclude that my feelings at tonight's news would be more feelings of sorrow and loss and perhaps a haunting sense of the ephemeral nature of life and the fleeting time which human beings enjoy in this world. And yet, again, that doesn't seem to match my current emotions, which can best be described as a wry sort of coincidental amusement.

Of course, there's a very good possibility that part of the reason for my emotions is that the murder did not, technically, occur tonight. In fact, it occurred about a week ago, well before the most recent time that I spoke with him on the phone, although in truth at the time of that phone conversation, neither of us yet realized that he was, in fact, dead, because I had not paid attention the week before, and because the news of his death was still sitting, unwatched until this very evening, on my TiVo. Specifically, this week's episode of the CBS crime drama "The Mentalist".

Understand that even with a last name as common as ours, we don't seem to run across too many people who share my brother's name, and so it was rather unusual to spend an entire hour of episodic television hearing the stars of the show repeatedly invoke my brother's name while looking for clues as to his murder and/or people who might have had motive.

My real brother, of course, is quite alive and currently visiting my mother in North Carolina. I know this, because it was the phone call yesterday morning in which he announced his intention to make that trip to which I referred earlier. And while I do not, actually, honestly wish him dead, there is still a lingering part of me that wishes occasionally for the chance to get him back for some of what he put me through during the years that we were growing up together.

But still, as soon as I learned of the death of his namesake on a television show, I sat down and wrote this essay, and he will not likely learn of it for another several days, after some family member or other reads this essay and shares it with him.

And THAT, I think, is the appropriate level of revenge at this late stage in our lives. My brother was murdered tonight, and I'm not going to bother to tell him about it. That'll show him.

[Note: This represents the first of the "15 in 30" series.]

Copyright © Dec 10, 2010 by Liam Johnson.


Wednesday, December 08, 2010

15 In 30 Progress

This is the progress report on the status of "15 Essays in 30 Days". If I have properly set up the parameters on the mailing list, it shouldn't be e-mailed to everyone every time I update it. If you want to keep track of my writing progress, please check back to the blog.

Because I am starting on 12/10, the first essay is "due" on 12/11. Each entry will take the following form:

Essay # - Due date - Completed date - title

So for instance, if this was one of them, it would look like this:

1 - 12/8/10 - 12/8/10 - 15 In 30 Progress

And so, without further ado, the chart:

1 - 12/11 - 12/10 - The Realization of Years of Teen Aged Fantasies
2 - 12/13 - 12/11 - Something untitled about the Shingles.
3 - 12/15 - 12/11 - Drink? Yes Please, But Something Stronger Than Holiday Cheer!
4 - 12/17 - 12/14 - Hey, Universe! Stop Throwing Things At Me!
5 - 12/19 - 12/20 - A Germ of An Idea
6 - 12/21 - 12/20 - Unnamed essay about my failing memory
7 - 12/23 - 12/22 - Private (not for publication)
8 - 12/25 - 12/25 - Unnamed Christmas Travel Essay, Part 1
9 - 12/27 - 12/26 - Unnamed Christmas Travel Essay, Part 2
10 - 12/29 - 12/28 - Visions of Meconium Dancing in My Head
11 - 12/31 - 1/4 - Mr. Love Pickle
12 - 1/2 -
13 - 1/4 -
14 - 1/6 -
15 - 1/8 -


"The Realization of Years of Teen Aged Fantasies" (unless I can come up with a better title) is scheduled to post on 12/13.

The second essay is not currently good enough to post. It's got potential, but I got bogged down in facts and got away from humor, so for now, it's not scheduled. UPDATE: This is now called "Shingles? But I Have a Metal Roof!" and is scheduled to post on 1/3 1/10.

"Drink? Yes Please, But Something Stronger Than Holiday Cheer!" (ditto on the title) is scheduled to post on 12/20.

"Hey Universe!..." is currently scheduled to post on 12/27 1/3, although I'm thinking of writing something in a Christmas theme, and if so it will make more sense for it to post in the Christmas week and push everything else back a few weeks.

"A Germ..." is being reviewed by someone I trust. I was pretty tired as I wrote it, and I'm not sure if it's worth posting. UPDATE: Because I do not wish to post two essays about being sick in a row, this is now scheduled to post on 1/17 1/24.

The one on failing memory is, I think, pretty good, but I need a title. It is currently scheduled to post on 1/10 1/17. Update: It is now called "Memory-Rolled". You'll probably understand why when you read it.

The private one is just that. It is not humor, but it is an essay, and since the rules don't TECHNICALLY say they have to be humor essays, I'm going to count it. As with some of the introductory ones, if I can finish all 15 as humor essays, I'll drop this one from counting. But it's an essay and I spent several hours on it today, so I'm going to count it, even if no one outside of immediate family will ever see it.

The Christmas travel essay is now scheduled to post on 12/27, pushing everything back by a week. Likely the second part of it will post on 1/3, pushing everything else back by ANOTHER week, but as it isn't written yet, I don't want to assume part two will turn out good enough to post.

The second half of the Christmas travel essay was... not good. The first half wasn't my best work, so you can imagine. The second half will not post, unless I at some future point do some serious reworking of it and make it post-worthy.

The "Visions Of" essay, although it will be sadly out of date by then, is scheduled to post on 1/31.

"Mr. Love Pickle" is scheduled to post on 2/7.


15 in 30 update

Ah, the best laid plans of mice and men...

Mice, for example, are forever announcing ambitious plans moments before learning that their lives and schedules are going to be turned upside-down for the next few days, and then forgetting to go in and change the scheduled "post time" on that announcement on their blogs, such that the original announcement goes out well after it's become inconvenient or downright impossible to fulfill in their newly hectic mousy lives.

Not to get too into details, but since I wrote the post early Monday morning and scheduled it to post on Monday evening, I have learned that I am going to be making a 5+ hour round trip to go pick up my son, due to a personal emergency in my ex-wife's life. That's happening today, and I have neither the patience to compose an entire essay using 'text' language typed entirely with my thumbs on a cellular telephone keypad nor the inclination to become intimately familiar with a bridge abutment as I pay particular attention to one tricky turn of phrase and fail to notice the turn of highway.

I knew I wasn't going to get started on it yesterday, because Tuesday is generally my chorus rehearsal night, which runs from right after work until 10pm, and by the time I get home only a moron would delay sleep and make the following day correspondingly horrible just to write an essay, and while I admit, I am just such a moron, I may be gaining a certain amount of common sense in my old age. Or maybe it's just forgetfulness.

Either way, 15-in-30 is still on, but I've decided to delay the start until this Friday, 12/10. It's the only fair way for me not to put myself behind from the very start and then feel the need to put out sub-standard "product" in order to keep up my schedule (and since we've all experienced just exactly where my standards ARE, I think we can all agree sub-standard is not a territory we want to explore).

So 15-in-30 will now run from Friday 12/10 until Saturday, 1/8 (and yes, I actually counted out the days on my fingers to figure out when the 30th day would be. I'd like to see a mouse try THAT!).


Monday, December 06, 2010

15 Essays in 30 Days

I've often had people ask "How do you come up with your humor essays?"

This is not, strictly speaking, true in the sense that I've never had anyone ask that. But one of the important parts of my process is never letting a little thing like reality get in the way of a good premise, and so, let us begin again.

(Ahem). I've often had people ask "How do you come up with your humor essays?"

The truth is, the process is very much like digestion, in that I begin with a hearty, nutritious germ of an idea, rife with vitamin potential and whole-grain humory goodness. I take that idea and chew it up, swallow it, and in the end process it into a batch of cheap poop jokes. I strive never to have anyone describe one of my essays as "moving", because of the image this conjures up.

Anyway, it appears as though I've been consuming too many cheesy jokes, because my "humor intestines" have become seriously backed up, leading to the distinct paucity of, er, output on this blog in the past several months.

And to resolve this particular problem, I've hit upon what can only be described as "a particularly awful idea". Specifically, I have a number of friends who are songwriters, and several of them in the last year or two have gone through an experiment with various names, but which always boils down to "30 songs in 30 days", and so I've decided "Hey! I should try that with essays!", in much the same way that the owner of a quarry might watch someone do a swan dive and say to himself "Hey, I don't have a pool, but..."

I'm afraid that this is destined for spectacular failure, not the least because that "30 songs in 30 days" far more commonly turns out to be "about 3 songs and 27 things I will later hope never to be reminded about again in 30 days". There is a very good chance that many or most of these essays will not be worth the time it takes to read them. But hopefully I'll get two or three really good ones, and perhaps some of the less worthy will contain something I can later rework into something resembling comedic genius (as in "Luanne, c'mere, the damn dog left some 'comedic genius' on the carpet again!').

So here are the rules.

  1. I'm not sure I can do 30 in 30, so I'm going to do 15 essays in 30 days. For the next 30 days, I will attempt to emit something resembling a humor essay every other day.
  2. In order to be a valid essay, each must be at least half a page long (roughly 25% of the normal length of my essays). They may be longer, of course, but I may not resort to posting a one-liner and claim that's my "essay" of the day.
  3. I will decide whether this one counts as the first one or not based on just how exhausted I am with the idea when I reach 14 essays.
  4. I will post my progress, but possibly not the essays themselves, to the humor blog in an index post I'll keep up to date with dates and titles.
  5. The essays which are good enough to which to subject you, my loyal fans, I will post on a "one per week" basis as I used to post, because it seems like "one every two days" would be too much of a thing.
  6. I won't say "too much of a good thing", because that's just too much hyperbole for one essay.

So that's it. That's my plan. I don't know how it'll turn out, I may decide I'm not coming up with anything worth posting and give up the attempt in a few days. But I promise you this: I will write at least one for each person who has asked how I come up with my humor essays. They deserve nothing less.

Copyright © Dec 6, 2010 by Liam Johnson.

[ Previous 5 Sites | Skip Previous | Previous | Next ]
Visit HumorLinks!

This HumorLinks Ring site
owned by
Liam\'s Weekly Humor Column

[ Skip Next | Next 5 Sites | Random Site | List Sites ]
Website Counter