Sunday, December 15, 2013

Pomp and Circumstance

It was a big weekend for this pater familias. My son, Ben, graduated from Georgia Southern University (lyric from the Alma Mater: "I'm gonna aim my headlights into your bedroom window, throw beer cans at both of your shadows") this past Friday with his Bachelor of Business Administration Degree in Marketing.

Of course, we are very happy that he graduated and he made fantastic grades in 2013. It was just years 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012 that had us worried. A lot of  his classes were like the NCAA Basketball Tournament: Survive and Move One.

He survived and now he has all of the rights and privileges that come with being a college graduate, mainly paying off his student loans.

Georgia Southern University is located in Statesboro, Georgia, the birth place of Blind Willie McTell. Nobody could sing the blues like Blind Willie McTell. However, if Blind Willie had his eyesight and could see what Statesboro looked like, he probably would have been an even better blues singer. The town is a combination of Old South, New South, Dirty South, and a few other Souths that you probably don't want to know about.

Statesboro is about 3 1/2 to 4 hours from the Atlanta area. It is probably the worst drive in the United States.

From Marietta, where I live, you have to drive through downtown Atlanta, which is always a nightmare due to various expanding and contracting lanes and traffic going 120 mph bumper to bumper or you can go around Atlanta on I-285, which could make General Patton have a nervous breakdown.

After you make it through Atlanta, you'll stop in the Eagle's Landing/McDonough area for about 30 minutes due to various fatal traffic accidents that occur about every 15 minutes in that part of  Metro Atlanta. Then it's on to Macon!

In Macon, you'll get on Interstate 16, which is known as "the most boring Interstate in America". Fortunately, due to your 1200 near death experiences just getting to Interstate 16, you are wide awake for your trip into Statesboro. 

We made it into Statesboro and met up with our son. We discovered he had another accomplishment besides graduation: a haircut. His apartment was decorated in what I call "Young Adult Male".  It had several sports teams posters on the wall and a Christmas Tree that could even cause Charlie Brown to shake his head. We went and picked up his girlfriend, had dinner and then went to the school for a "Latern Walk". We joined her parents and sisters for this walk. No one in the girlfriend's family is under 5'11". My wife and I looked like Hobbits searching  for the ring.

The "Latern Walk" is a Georgia Southern tradition. The graduating seniors walk around campus with a latern and talk about all of the good times they had at Georgia Southern. You can imagine that with some students, this might be a very R rated conversation. However, my son just pointed at the College of Business building and said, "I hate that place".

When the walk finished, my wife and I retired to our motel. Our room was nice. The room next door to us, however, had a family that argued all night long. At least one person in that family argued. This person was apparently telling the other person what he thought and why he shouldn't think that. That's what I got out of the seven hour discussion. Guess the gender of who was doing the most talking.

The big day came and my son's girlfriend graduated first. It was then I realized that something I started years ago at Louisiana College came back to haunt me.

During my roommate's graduation in 1980, I was seated in the back of the auditorium in the balcony. When they called his name, I yelled "YAY BILL!" to much laughter. Afterwards, I went up to this very attractive Cajun co-ed (jet black hair with deep blue eyes and is a grandmother now) and said, "Did you hear me?". She said, "Yes, Alan Manis, everybody could hear you".

Back then, graduations were solemn occasions and my rebel yell must have punctured the seriousness of the ceremony because graduations now are sort of like WWE wrestling matches. The audience is begged and pleaded not to shout, holler, dance, sing, applaud, or speak in tongues by various high ranking members of the University's faculty. These appeals for an hour of decorum flew through the air and enter the ears of  the audience as "Shout as loud and long as you want".

Thus, the awarding of the degrees sounds like this: Bob Smith ("WOOOOOOOOOO BOBBY, MY MAN! DRIVE 'EM REDNECK CRAZY"); Jane Smith, Summa Cum Laude (no appaluse); Jerry Smith ("WOO-WEE, YOU WENT AND BROKE THE WRONG HEART BABY") and on and on. This is funny the first two hundred times you hear it, but then you start fearing for the future of your country.

Of course, when they said, "Benjamin William Manis", I stood up and did "The Wobble". We met one of his professors after the service who saw my little display of joy and said I was the happiest man in the building.   She was right.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Caught In The Act

One thing Evangelical Christianity does, which it does not get any credit for, are the programs which gets the yard ape kids out of the house for an evening or two to learn about a holy and disciplined life. This also enables the Evangelical parents time to get "reacquainted" (wink, wink).

I remember one program in which our son, who was then 15, was going to be away from the house for the entire weekend. Of course, we were interested in what deep spiritual insight he might acquire from this weekend retreat. That and how many times we could get "reacquainted" (wink, wink), yeah come on.

When we dropped our son off at the church, I knew this was going to be a magical weekend, because we went to dinner at Captain D's, which is a great seafood place.

Let me admit this: I love Captain D's. I could probably eat a meal there at least once a day. I love fried fish, hush puppies, the fries and the tartar sauce. I know it is bad for you, but I have an excuse. I am not very smart and I like food that is not good for me.

The problem with Captain D's is that my wife, Lori, does not share my enthusiasm. It was not her fault.

When she was pregnant with our son, we had dinner at Captain D's one evening and we were going somewhere in East Cobb, just tooling down Old Sewell Mill Road. Out of the blue, my wife looked at me, all green in the gills and said "ALAN! I AM GOING TO THROW UP! NOW!"

Well, we had a new car and I didn't want that to happen in the car, so I went on two wheels and whipped into the Weatherstone subdivision like Starsky and Hutch. The car was still moving when Lori jumped out and blessed somebody's yard. I always wondered if the home owners saw this and what they might have thought. I also wonder if grass can grow there even after all these years.

                  I'm not saying this was the house, but......

During the rest of her pregnancy, I could hum the Captain D's jingle and she would get sick, so for years, we didn't go to Captain D's together. But, time had passed and I was able to take my beloved to my favorite fried fish place for a romantic fish dinner.

With our bellies full of fish, we headed to our usual Friday night place, which I called "The Temple": The Target on Dallas Highway. Mentally, I was planning that after we went to Target, we would go home and have our "quiet time" (wink, wink).

At the front of this store was an area called "The Dollar Spot", which had merchandise that cost only a dollar! It was great economics lessons because there was a lot of supply in terms of products but there was very little demand, so Target did everything except give you this plastic cheap stuff just to get rid of it.

My precious wife could not walk past "The Dollar Spot" without stopping. However, this time she really had a reason to browse because it was near Easter time and and "The Dollar Spot" had all of your Easter needs as long as it was cheap. They had a bag of plastic Easter eggs for a dollar. At that time, we still had younger nieces and nephews that hunted Easter eggs and Lori and her sister would fill these plastic eggs up with treats. Then they would make me and my other brother in law Bill "hide" the Easter eggs in my in-laws backyard. (Hide as in "putting it on the ground while talking about work".)

While Lori was doing a cost analysis on the bag of $1 plastic eggs, I began to look around myself and saw something, for once, that I would think about buying: a set of bunny ears that a person could place on their head and resemble a person who bought bunny ears for dollar. Yes, I am that guy.

One thing about Lori and me: our "love language" (you have to be an Evangelical to understand this) is laughter. We spend a lot of time trying to make each other laugh. My wife can do imitations and I have all of these witty asides; we're like a morning drive time radio show.

I decided to put on the bunny ears  and I know this is shocking and if you have young children you might want to escort them out of the room, because I wanted to FLIRT WITH MY WIFE. There, I said it.

I stood there for a while wearing the bunny ears, hoping she would look up and laugh and then we would go home for vespers (wink, wink). Finally, she looked up and gave me "that smile" that I knew meant I hit a home run.

Exactly at the same time I look over her shoulder to the front door of Target and in walks a friend from church, Kelly, and her lovely 12 year old daughter Kimberly.  Kelly saw me and grinned, hurrying Kimberly along. I could only imagine the conversation. It was either like this:

 Kimberly:  "Mommy, why does Mr. Manis have bunny ears on?"
 Kelly:  "Well, honey, when mommies and daddies love each other, sometimes daddies put on bunny ears."

 Or it was something like this:

 Kimberly:  "Mommy, why does Mr. Manis have bunny ears on?" 
 Kelly: "Well, honey, Mr. Manis is insane."

We bought the eggs and went home. I know what you sick people want to know and you should be ashamed of yourselves. (Wink,Wink)

Sunday, December 1, 2013

God Rest Ye Hairy Gentlemen

The Christmas Season is a reflective time of year and I like to reflect upon my spiritual roots.

There is a misconception that I was raised as a Southern Baptist. I was not. I was raised a Christian, ha, ha.

Here’s the story. My Uncle was raised in Texas and through a series of jobs found himself in Mississippi and met my Aunt. The next job took him to Marietta, Georgia. World War II came and went. Soon, my Uncle and Aunt had twins. My mother, who was trying to escape Mississippi and a horn dog boyfriend, moved to Georgia to help my Aunt with the twins.  My Uncle was a member of The Christian Church and when mom moved Georgia, she joined that church because “Baptists vote on you”.

Once in Georgia, my mother met my father, who was a Methodist. So, once they married, they went to The Christian Church too, whose minister was a gentleman named Jack Daniels. I am not making that up. 
The Christian Church, for you church history buffs out there, is a denomination that doesn’t claim to be a denomination but for the sake of not going crazy when writing about it you call it a denomination. It was part of “The Restoration Movement”, which began in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s and their mission was to “restore” Christianity to back to its First Century roots.

However, like most things Church related, “The Restoration Movement” split into three factions. One was The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). These were the liberal guys. The preachers wore robes (you would not believe how controversial that is) and you heard some really great book reviews as sermons. The most famous member of this branch was Lyndon Baines Johnson. The church with the Jack Daniels pastor was a Disciples church.

Of course, if there is a liberal side, there has to be a conservative side. This faction is The Church of Christ. They do not use musical instruments in these churches. I would advise you not to ask.

Well, in the mid-60’s, Mom and Dad had all of their stair-step kids and moved from our two bedroom house in East Cobb, to a four bedroom house in East Cobb, that was next door to the junior high school and across the street from Wheeler High School. Next door to Wheeler  was built the third kind of “Restoration Movement” church: The Christian Church. It was different from The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) mainly because it was more conservative than that branch but it wasn’t as Conservative as The Church of Christ. Mom decided, in a moment of deep spiritual consideration, that we should go to the church that was closest to us. Thus began my decades long affiliation with The Christian Church that wasn’t The Disciples of Christ.

It was difficult to explain your church to others. When someone asked me what I was and I said “Christian”, they would press further by saying they were a Methodist, Baptist, etc, Christian, and I just said I was a “Christian,Christian”.

It was really a neat a little church and I have life long friends (and a wife) that I met there. Probably, though, when I think back to my childhood days at that church, I think about The Christmas plays that were performed.

Every year, the church allowed the children to put on a Christmas play that would retell the birth of Christ. The year I got my glasses was probably the most memorable.

It was 1967 and I had been alive for eight years. No one ever noticed that I was near sighted. It didn’t make an impression that I sat close to the TV or that I held the book close to my face. Or that I couldn’t catch a ball. That’s just Alan.

But, late that fall there was an eye exam given at school and lo and behold, I was as blind as a bat. I was prescribed a pair of glasses known in the optometry world as “Coke Bottles”. The fuzzy world became clear.

I had my glasses only a few weeks when The Christmas play practice began. I had the part of a Shepherd. We were to watch over our flocks by night. The head shepherd was an adult named Ned and he had the shepherd lines in the play. The problem was he couldn’t remember his lines. I remember being on stage and Ned not remembering to say “Behold, let us go to Bethlehem and find this baby” without another eight year old shepherd boy (Gary) who had memorized the lines repeating it to him.

The director of the play was a rather rotund women who insisted on historical accuracy in this production. So, all us shepherd boys, the oldest was probably eleven, were placed in make up and given beards. I had a white beard. I looked like the abdominal snow man in “Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer”.  She also insisted that I should not wear my glasses because they didn’t have glasses back in Biblical times.

I told my mom about that and she hit the ceiling. I remember her coming to the dressing room and telling the director that I had to wear my glasses because I couldn’t see. I also remember her telling the director that “this ain’t Broadway”.

I sit back and I think about this a lot. It didn’t bother the director that an eight boy has a beard, but wearing glasses was just such an historical error. But, it is still a pleasant memory, when I found out what I would look like with a beard and that my mother would stick up for me and my glasses.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Affordable Care Act Answer Man

As an ongoing public service, here is The Affordable Care Act Answer Man, the man with all of your Affordable Care Act answers that are current, at this present time, which might or might not be in effect depending upon The President’s poll numbers.

Will Healthcare Insurance Coverage become affordable?  Yes, it is in the name of the law “The Affordable Care Act”. DUH. This how Health Insurance works. People (members) pay a fee (premium) to be a policy holder in a health insurance plan so when they do have an illness, like their legs being too hot to touch, as the Answer Man once saw during his career in health insurance. Incidentally, this incident (claim) was denied because hot legs were not covered under this insurance plan and this member had to pay for their hot legs out of pocket and is probably homeless at this moment. The Affordable Care Act will provide affordable coverage so our fellow Americans with hot legs will no longer have to go bankrupt to pay for their hot legs.

That’s funny because my policy this year was $150.00 a month and next year it is going to be $408,555,755.00 a month. That is because your old policy was, in insurance terminology, a long tube of fecal matter. Your new super-duper health insurance covers everything, including certain cosmetic surgeries, your 24 year old Art major college sophomore and her cat.

What are some the Essential Health Benefits of The Affordable Care Act?  It pays for everything. Don’t worry about it. You are now free to live your life. You can now go where you wanna go, do what you wanna do with whoever you want to do it with.

What are my free preventive services that I don’t have to pay for?   It pays for diet counseling. In case you haven't noticed, our country is now a country of fatties. The United States will now pay for a counselor to tell you to put down that Pop Tart and go outside for a walk. If we can put a man on the moon, we can put you back into a pair 34 inch waist jeans. It also pays for Tobacco Screening, just in case you don’t know if you are a cigarette smoker.

What are my birth control benefits?  You get a poster of Harry Reid to put on your bedroom wall. That should get you out of the mood.

Why did insurance companies use “pre-existing conditions” to deny people coverage?  Because they were mean and they hated people. It has nothing to do with the fact that all insurance is based on one word, "risk", and that there is more "risk" involved with health insurance than in any other type of insurance.

What is it with the website?  The internet is part of the magical information super highway and it is very difficult to understand. Try dragging your mouse while you are standing on your chair and hit the side of your computer a couple of times. It might work then. If not, please feel free to call our convicted felons navigators and give your private information like your social security, when you are not at home and where you keep your valuables.

The President said if I liked my policy, I could keep it. Period. Now I have found that my insurance policy has been canceled. What gives?  Look, the President says a lot of things and you can’t hold him to a promise he made on his signature legislation.  It was not the President’s intention to have your insurance policy canceled. He was as surprised as your were. Really. No joke (suddenly the Affordable Care Act Answer Man looks up into the air and starts to whistle)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Going, Going, Gone

Never thought the words you said were true
Never thought you said just what you meant
Never knew how much I needed you
Never thought you'd leave, until you went
~ Kasim Reed  Don McLean

You probably have heard by now that The Atlanta Braves are doing what it seems like everybody on earth has done one time or another: move to Cobb County.

I must admit it; I was shocked and awed by the news. I have never thought about The Braves moving out of Turner Field, which just opened 16 years ago. In comparison to Atlanta Fulton County Stadium, Turner Field was The Taj Mahal.

Even if it was on the dumpy side, I had a spot in my heart for The Atlanta Fulton County Stadium. It was the first place I had ever saw a baseball game: Pirates vs. The Braves in 1967. I sat right up in the top row. I was at the game that Morganna  The Kissing Bandit (she was a , um, blessed stripper, who would run out on the field and kiss ball players) planted one right on Clete Boyer’s mouth. This caused Mr. Boyer to have a walk off home run. I have never seen a smile that big on a baseball player’s face as when he was rounding third base.

It was the stadium in which I took my wife when we were courting. It was there I saw and said hello to the legendary Harry Caray. Our seats were above the WGN booth. I looked down and there he was, reading his mail. I said, “Hey Harry”. He looked, smiled and waved. I told my wife to say hello. When she said “Hey Harry”, he looked and said, “Howa ya doin’ doll?” I will never forget Harry Caray calling my wife "doll".

But The Olympics came to town and we had to build The Olympic Stadium for the world. After the Olympics, The Olympic Stadium was retooled to become a new baseball field and The Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium became a parking lot.

Even though it was new, Turner Field had the systemic problems as the old stadium. It was in a rough part of town (featuring Atlanta's finest winos, junkies, pan handlers and thugs) that was a gigantic pain in the butt to get in and out of.  It was that way in 1966. It was that way in 1976. It was that way in 1986. It was that way in 1996. It was that way in 2006. The City of Atlanta had almost 50 years to solve the problem of traffic and the safety issue but Atlanta never saw it as a big deal. Just a bunch a hicks from the sticks complaining about life in the big city.

The great planners of MARTA, the rapid transit system of Atlanta, put the nearest train station a half of a mile from the stadium. Sometimes they would have buses. Sometimes they would not. I’m sure The Braves noticed that MARTA has a station at The Georgia Dome and Philips Arena.

I remember the last time I went to Turner Field, I took my son, who had just “graduated” fifth grade (to show you how long ago it was) to a game with a set of free tickets given to us by some friends. It cost me ten dollars to park. We were waiting to cross the street when a entrepreneur wanted to sell me his “last” action pictures of The Braves. I told him. “How much will it cost to make you go away?” Seven dollars. We had to eat supper. Twenty dollars. Two hot dogs and two soft drinks.  A monsoon hit in the first hour causing a two hour rain delay. We didn't stay.

Atlanta’s mayor, Kasim Reed, seemed to be as surprised as everyone else. At first, he said it wasn’t a “done deal”when it was obvious it was as done as a Waffle House steak.  Then he held a news conference in which he made this startling announcement: The City of Atlanta is fiscally conservative. This means they use coupons when they bring a Ferris Wheel into town.

Mayor Reed acted like he had no clue that The Braves were unhappy. He moved heaven and earth (almost literally) to ensure The Falcons had a new stadium. When it came to The Braves, the Mayor began channeling his inner Paul Ryan and started talking about budgets.

Actually, Mayor Reed was just following the script that all of the mayors have followed since Ivan Allen. If you build it, they will come and they will just have to put up with it. The Braves got tired of that and took their ball to the land of The Big Chicken, which is only about five miles away from where the new stadium will be.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Lady And The Fat Man

In case you missed it, we now have our nominees for the 2016 Presidential election.

For the Democrats  the nominee will be Former Secretary of State First Lady Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton because twenty-five years of the Clintons is just not enough. Who is her competition? Joe Biden? Our nation turns its lonely eyes to Joe Biden, woo, woo, woo? Not  going to happen.

The reason for Clinton’s nomination is simple. She was kind enough to “let” President Obama win in 2008 and she was kind enough to “serve” as Secretary of State. It is her turn to be historic, thank you, so shut up and elect her President for eight years.

Clinton’s positives: The largest collection of pant suits in the Western Hemisphere.  She can go days without washing her hair. She has a really big brain and a really big imagination (see Benghazi).

Clinton’s negatives: We have seen this movie before. Do we really want Bill unsupervised in the East Wing? Do we really want to get an invitation that reads, “The First Gentleman Invites You To The White House Christmas Decorations Tour and Wet T-Shirt Party Sponsored By Hooters of DC”?

This week, the BIG news was that Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey became the HEAVY favorite to win the Republican nomination despite his obese, plump, pudgy, husky, paunchy, whalelike, gargantuan, roly-poly, oversized, fleshy, large, inflated frame. Governor Christie is fat. How fat is he? He is so fat that they took of picture of him last week and it is still printing. He is so fat that not even Dora could explore him. He is so fat that when he gets on a scale it says “To be continued”. He is fat.

He would be the first fat President since William Howard Taft. Let me tell you, President Taft was fat. He was so fat that when he went to the movies he sat next to EVERYONE. He was so fat that he ate Wheat Thicks. He was so fat that when he went to a restaurant he would just look at the menu and say “Okay”.  He was a fat man.

Christie won re-election as the Governor of New Jersey despite the fact that most of New Jersey sees The GOP as some sort of snake handling church. Christie won all of the major demographics that Republicans generally don’t win including single women, women in “complicated” relationships, women in love with Gay men, transgendered male Eskimo lesbians with Hispanic surnames and the people that understood the song, “What Does The Fox Say?” the first time they heard it.  

Christie’s positives: He’s outspoken. He will tell you what he thinks, even if it doesn't make a lot of sense. He likes Bruce Springsteen (the old good stuff-not the past 20 years stuff). He has survived The Tenth Avenue freeze out. He's been to a lot of  great restaurants. We may be able to settle the great Dunkin Donut/Krsipy Kreme debate that has been tearing this country apart. He may actually be a Democrat.

               Scooter and The Big Man busting the city in half

Christie’s negatives: He’s really fat. Did you know that? You don’t want him coming to your house and sitting on your furniture.  Plus, and this can not be stressed enough, he is from New Jersey and may be in The Mafia. His cabinet will have a lot of men named "Petey" and "Paulie".  His press secretary will be called Jimmy Two Times: "The President will make a speech, make a speech".  He may actually be a Democrat.

                           President Christie's Press Secretary

Sunday, November 3, 2013

What Women Want

“What do women want?” ~ Sigmund Freud
“Who cares?” ~ Roger Sterling


It should be pretty obvious by now, after thousands and thousands of years of courtship, that men have no idea when it comes to the subject of women. Yes, we do understand the infield fly rule and how a third basemen can obstruct a runner even if he didn’t mean to, but when it comes to the fairer sex, men have no clue.

Women have a list of  rules that they expect men to know, even if it wasn't published anywhere and  they were raised in a male hot house, like I was. I spent a good part of my youth trying to understand women; primarily why they liked handsome, smart athletic types and not someone who tells a really good joke.

Unfortunately for me, I was raised before the internet. My guide to understanding women was Alan Alda and The Phil Donahue Show. But now there is a website called ChaCha which has posted an article titled “How You Can Non-Sexually Turn Her On." This article gives men “tips” on understanding women. Think of it as a tutorial for all of the trousered apes out there. (The article should have been titled “How To Treat A Woman As A Human Being And Avoid Having Her Call The Police”.)  

Here are some of the tips.

Woo Her With Eye Contact. As odd as it may seem, women like you looking into their eyes. This means you are paying attention to them and you are not just checking out other areas of the body, which of course, you are, because you are a pig. The eyes are found on her face which is north of what you are usually looking at.

Be Chivalrous. This means being polite and doing things like opening the doors and paying for the date. Ladies like it because it shows you care! Showing you care is really big with women. For example, if you do become engaged to a woman, she will take you to look at silverware and china patterns like you have ever given two nano seconds of thought to either one. But, you have to show you care.

Listen When She Talks. This tip comes with a bit of advice: “Maintain eye contact” (see the first tip). “Nod and smile/frown, depending on what she is saying” (Hint: if she says, “I’ve just won an Oscar”, you smile. You frown if she says, “I got black balled by my sorority”.  Good news = smile. Bad news = frown. Got it?)

Give Her Classy Compliments This is where it has become obvious that we live in a post apocalyptic world. Young men actually have to be given advice as to what to say to a woman. It tells young men not to tell a woman she has a “Nice Rack” even if she has one.  For some reason, women find this offensive, particularly if you say it in front of their parents, grandparents or clergy. ChaCha says, “Tell her that she looks nice in her dress or that she has a pretty smile.” You might want to mention that you enjoy listening to her.

Show Your Emotions. Women actually like the fact that men have other emotions instead of anger. For some reason, they want to see you cry. BUT, it cannot be over something like The Notebook. You might be able to shed a few tears over Old Yeller. She also wants to know about your dreams, like you want to be a Rock Star/Football Player/Baseball Player all at the same time even though you can’t play the guitar and you are as athletic as a bowling ball.

                                         I'm feeling a little verklempt

Don't Be Controlling. I’ve run across several men over the years that have tried to control their wives. I call them “Divorcees”.  Women do not want you to control them because they know you are stupid and have the emotional intelligence of a baboon.  
There you have it young men-you now know what women want. They want you to act like you have some sense. You might want to consider acting lessons.

Don't Be Controlling
Don't Be Controlling

Sunday, October 27, 2013


A feeling of enjoyment that comes from seeing or hearing about the troubles of other people.

Okay, I will admit it. I had a real immature reaction when I started hearing of all of the problems with the roll out of The Affordable Health Care Act, aka: Obamacare.  It was: Ha-ha. (Pretend you see me at home pointing at the President on TV doing my best Nelson Muntz imitation.)

It has been all over the papers. The big moment in American history: Open Enrollment. It used to be big moments in American History were things like Landing on The Moon and Winning World War II. Thanks to The Obama Administration, now a big moment in American History is getting a quote from Cigna.

However, it didn’t quite work out that way. The website people had to go on to get a quote from The Health Exchanges had a technical computer issue called “a glitch”. According to highly placed White House Information Systems sources, the website’s “thingamajig” didn’t “jeehaw” with the “watchamacallit” and caused the system to go all “out of whack”.

As you might expect, this White House jumped into action. The President asked for the resignation of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. No that did not happen. Instead, Sebelius has been given the task of explaining what happened to Healthcare.Gov website when it is obvious that her knowledge of the internet is limited to Pinterest.

The President has promised that the website will be fixed and up and at ‘em by the end of Thanksgiving. Of course, he promised that you could keep your insurance if you liked it (didn’t happen) at the same price (didn’t happen) or you could get a better policy at a cheaper rate (fat chance).

For example, say you are a 54 year old humorist and you want to buy health insurance. You are a non-smoker and non-drinker. Your last medical issue was a sebaceous cyst that you somehow miraculously survived.  You eat a banana a day, unless they are mushy, because  they make you gag. You go to the gym at least five days a week.  What do you think your medical insurance would cost?

Nobody knows because the website doesn’t work. Anyway, Obamacare doesn’t want you to sign up, per se, they want your kids to sign up. So you know it is in trouble.

We were not bad parents to these kids. They got all of the Barneys and Power Rangers they wanted. We taught them not to judge people. They responded by becoming really good at texting and giving us President Obama. Thanks, guys.

What is funny is that this President made it a point to be The Information Super Highway President. He communicated by Twitter! Who can forget where they were when they got the tweet from Candidate Obama that he had selected Joe Biden as his running mate?  Both his campaigns were politico-techno models for the future. Hippie-Commie rag magazine Mother Jones asked Obama’s 2008 techie Clay Johnson why Candidate Obama used the internets so well and President Obama hasn’t, Johnson said, “The first person that you need in order to start a Web company would be a Web developer; the first person you need to start a government-contracting firm is an attorney.”
The problem with Obamacare is not a website. It is the product. It is a governmental version of New Coke. Coke spent a lot of time and money to tell us we needed and wanted a Pepsi product called “New Coke”. It didn’t work. This won’t either.

Ha. Ha.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

What I Like

Once, when the world began, I heard these words: “Alan, this is Stephanie Pickel”.

Like my wife, I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know Stephanie Pickel. She’s Stephanie Harkins now and lives on a farm in Maryland. She has raised three boys (she was from a family of three girls) and had a successful career in nursing. Now, and this is quite troublesome for me because she is very good, Stephanie has become a blogger.

Her blog is Front Porch Tales-Pursuing Purpose and Passion in the Mid-Life Maze. This is much better than my blog Humor Me-Hey Y’all Here’s Another Booger Joke.

I mention Stephanie’s blog because one of latest, “My Happy List” inspired this week’s posting. Because a lot of humor is negative in nature and I admit that my nature is as negative as it comes. We spend a lot of time in the Humor World talking about things we don’t like. I’m going to be a little different today, thanks to Stephanie. I’m going to discuss what I like.

I like the way my wife smiles at me. It gives me the feeling that she adores this stupid lump of flesh. She could have done a lot better than me-I’m just happy she didn’t.

I like that my son can do impressions. I don’t know what it is about impressions I like, but I like it when people do good ones (like Dana Carvey) and my son can do great impressions. He does an impression of Eric Cartman from the awful “South Park” that will cause you to bust a gut laughing.

I like jokes. I like the way jokes give you all of the information you need up front. “A man walks into a bar with a penguin..” that’s all you need to know about the man, the bar, and the penguin.

I like it when an old friend says, “I remember” about an incident from the past that you know you haven’t spoken to him about but he knows it was important to you.

I like making people laugh. There’s something about the moment when people validate that what you are saying is funny. Especially if it is something you thought up by yourself.

I like coffee. But I like my coffee like I like my jazz: smooth. This coffee that knocks you down and makes you spontaneously start sprouting body hair is not for me. There’s something about a smooth cup of coffee that relaxes me.

I like music. I’m glad I grew up in “The Singer-Songwriter Era”. I like the way Jimmy Buffett said “Life is just a tire swing”. I like the way John Prine says “Eggs” (“Eaigs”). I like the way Dylan sounds on “Lay Lady Lay” and bleats “His clothes are dirty but his hands are clean. And you’re the best thing that he’s ever seen”.  I like the way Mark Knopfler plays the guitar. I like side one of an album called “The Blue Ridge Rangers”. It is John Fogerty of Credence Clearwater Revivial playing every dang instrument and singing the heck out of some country classics.

 I like that I had parents that took care of me.

I like that I have a job and that I get paid for it. My job has one huge perk: I can leave my work at work when I leave work. That and  I have about 100 weeks of PTO hours.

I like my iPhone. It still gets me that I’m carrying around a miniature computer in my pocket.

I like watching college football even though there are a thousand truck commercials (you need more torque!) and middle aged man pills commercials.

I like finding out something new about people I have known for a long time. Like Stephanie’s writing talent. You can read it here:

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Out of Many, Dumb

You may have noticed that I have not written on politics lately. The reason is I wrote a lot about politics in 2011 and 2012. You may remember I was the one that told you that neither Haley Barbour, Newt Gingrich or Donald Trump would become President. Did I win a Noble Prize for that? No! Are they making a movie about me like The Fifth Estate? Of course not! I don’t have goofy hair. (If they did make a movie about me it would be centered on the time I got stuck in my locker at East Cobb Junior High School in 1972. I’m pretty sure it was Nixon’s fault.)

I decided to branch out and discuss other topics. I hope you have enjoyed them. However, The Great Semi-Sort of Government Shut Down of 2013 compels me to respond, much like I did to the girl in high school who told me “People think you’re funny, I think you are sick” simply because I told a joke about Professor Backwards (he was a comedian in the 70’s that could take any word and pronounce it backwards and he died tragically in a mugging). The punch line of the joke (originally told by Chevy Chase) was, “No one responded to Professor Backwards’ cries of pleh”. My response to her statement, and these are my exact words, “Um”, because she sure was built.

                             The Late Great Professor Backwards

There are many culprits in The Great Semi-Sort of Government Shut Down.

One culprit is The Affordable Healthcare Act better known as Obamacare. This is a Democratic Party’s dream of combining the two things American like the least: Government and Health Insurance.  The President said, while campaigning in those glory years of 2008, that you would be able to keep your insurance (if you liked it), keep your doctor and pay the same rates that you pay now. The problem: None of that is anywhere close to reality. The response: Lots of whistling and looking up in the air.

It is interesting that the same group of people who had the Monsters of Technology working for the President’s re-election have now given us websites for the Health Care Exchanges that look like something from AOL in 1999. They have just had three years to get this up and running. Some have called for Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to be fired. Will this happen? No, of course not. Democrats are never held responsible for anything. Drive off a bridge with a young campaign staffer and leave her for dead? No problem! You can become a lion of the party.

Another culprit is the Tea Party Wing of The Republican Party. This is the part of the Republican Party that likes to yell “RINO” (Republican In Name Only) at anyone that even has a mild disagreement with it. Here are some RINOs: George Will, Fox News, Paul Ryan, Newt Gingrich, Bob Dole, Dwight Eisenhower, James Garfield, Teddy Roosevelt, Alf Landon, Thomas Dewey, Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and Abraham Lincoln.

                                Famous RINO: Abraham Lincoln

The newest star of The Tea Party is Ted Cruz. He is the junior senator from Texas that gave a four month filibuster on stating that Congress should defund Obamacare. No matter what you think of Obamacare, it  really is stupid to think that the Democrats would go along with an idea to defund it. Actually the filibuster should have been called “My Name is Ted Cruz and I’m Running for President Whooo Hoooo!” because that was its real purpose. To top everything off Cruz has a way of speaking which sounds like he is two seconds from telling you that drinking a wine cooler is a sin.

                     "You really shouldn't be having that for lunch"

The President has been his usual passive-aggressive self. He’ll talk to the Republicans but first they have to become Democrats. We don’t want the American people to feel pain, but it is okay  to rope off open air monuments and make Ranger Smith of Jellystone Park an agent of an American Gestapo.

 Ranger Smith with some of his bosses from The Office of Management and Budget

Where has our Fourth Estate been during all of this?  Just the usual: trying to place blame on the Republicans and not ask the Obama Administration anything close to uncomfortable. You know, just another day at the office.

                               The American Press Hard at Work

Just when it sounds like Congress and The President are making progress, Cruz will say something stupid. Or Harry Reid. Or the President.  It is really a contest to see who can say the dumbest thing, and so far it is a tie.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Cancer In The Rear View Mirror, Part Two

The children are out of the house-in college, most likely, but they are gone. No more interruptions when Mom and Dad are about to, as the kids say, “get busy”.  He holds her in his arms and plants a kiss on her fulsome and compliant lips. “If one were to grade this kiss on a scale of One to Ten”, he thinks to himself, “this is definitely an Eleven if not a Twelve”.  She looks up into his eyes and moans, “I am so hot”. He responds, “I know baby, you are hot”. She says, “NO, YOU DOPE, I AM BURNING UP BECAUSE OF A TAMOXIFEN FUELED HOT FLASH!” as she bolts from his arms and runs into the kitchen to try to climb into the refrigerator.   (**This has never happened to us. At least some of it. Okay, Lori's never tried to "climb" into the refrigerator. However, she has stuck her head inside of the freezer.)

After my wife finished her radiation treatment, she went to see an Oncologist. Here is my opinion about Oncologists: you better listen to what they say because they are not joking. All cancer is extremely complicated and Oncologists deal with it every day, so I would listen to them. Call me crazy-listening to a doctor.

The Good News was Lori did not require chemotherapy. This meant that she would not have to go through the pain of chemotherapy and lose her hair. My wife has a special relationship with her hair. It has been a constant topic of conversation in our marriage. I was glad we didn’t have to go and select a wig. I probably would have suggested an Afro wig.

The Oncologist explained that Lori’s tumor was estrogen fed. This meant Lori would have to be prescribed an estrogen inhibitor. This is when we met our good friend, Tamoxifen.

Lori has to take Tamoxifen for five years. Like all medicine, Tamoxifen has side effects. The most notable being Hot Flashes.

These are not the run of the mill Hot Flashes. These are the Mother of All Hot Flashes. One minute, Lori and I are talking about some non-hair related subject, like our cat, and  it is really pleasant and suddenly Lori looks like she just ran a marathon. Then when the Hot Flash ended, she felt like just ran a marathon. Sometimes, this would occur a couple of times an hour.  

Of course, I was my usual supportive self: “At least you’re not in hospice, dying”.  (For some reason that didn’t make her feel better.)  Finally, Lori went back to the Oncologist to see if there was anything that could be done for her Hot Flashes.

It turns out that the Oncologist was familiar with Tamoxifen Hot Flashes and prescribed the GREATEST MEDICINE EVER INVENTED: Effexor.

Effexor (Venalfaxine) is “a serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor”. This is fancy science talk for “Drug Handed Down From The Right Hand Of God”.  It is a drug primarily used for Depression-the real kind, not the “My Fantasy Football Team Blows” depression.

Somebody (and whoever it was you need a couple of Nobel Prizes) discovered it could be given to women who have Hot Flashes and let me tell you-it works. Effexor hasn’t taken away every Hot Flash. She’s not having  the multiple Hot Flashes an hour and that was a major big deal.

It also did something else for which I am eternally grateful. Like all men, I am mentally challenged, big time. I don’t mean to be or act stupid, it just happens. There are have been times in our marriage, and I’m not giving out any deep dark secrets, that I have been grass and Lori has been a Lawn Mower, if you know what I mean. 100% of the time I’ve deserved it. I either said something I shouldn’t have (trying to be funny), did something I shouldn’t have (trying to be funny) or forgot to do something I should have (because I was thinking about something funny). Sometimes my good sense of humor has really gotten me into big trouble.

However, since Lori has been on Effexor to help her with the Tamoxifen, the Lawn Mower Lori times have been few and far between. One time, I was supposed to let her drive my car to her work. It is a small SUV and she was going to use it to transport some items for a corporate meeting at the airport. Of course, I kissed her goodbye, hopped into the car and drove to my office. As soon as I sat down I thought, “Oh Rat Fink”(or something like that, remember I'm a Baptist).  Just then my phone rang-Lori’s number. I braced myself for a chewing out that I deserved.

Instead, Lori was very pleasant and nice about it. She understood that I have a small brain and can only hold a certain amount of information.  She just calmly told me that I would have to pay for my sin by driving to Buckhead (in Atlanta, there’s an area of town called Buckhead, for no known reason, and it is a pain to get in and out of) and pick up the materials.

Effexor is a wonder drug. I wonder why we just don’t just hand it out to people.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Cancer In The Rear View Mirror

It has been three years since my wife found a lump (bump, knot, whatever). It felt like a small marble. Since we don’t eat marbles, she went to her OB-GYN.

One of the changes in the past twenty years is that women are switching from male OB-GYNs to female OB-GYNs. My wife was no exception. It wasn’t like she was creeped out by the male doctors, it is just her female OB-GYN doesn’t act like she invented science. Sometimes her male doctors gave the impression that they were the ALL POWERFUL OZ while her female doctor gives the impression that she just did really good on the SATs and here she is now, YAY!

A former leading OB-GYN in Georgia

(By the way, around this same time I went to have my yearly physical. In comes my doctor with a female medical student that was shadowing him for the day. My doctor went into great detail over the proper technique in what the medical profession calls “The Moon River Procedure”.  He said, “This provides the maximum comfort for the patient “. From my point of view, “maximum comfort” was a relative term.  As an added bonus, she watched with intensity my hernia check. As he was instructing her on the best way to “perform” this procedure [“You grab this and say ‘cough’ in a nonchalant manner”], she stared at my man parts. I know she was a doctor and I was just another human body, but I must admit I felt kind of weird, especially when she gave me her phone number. Not really. I just told my wife that to be funny)

Photographic evidence of when Chevy Chase was funny

My wife’s doctor came in, all smiles and hugs, as usual, until she felt the lump. Her countenance changed and she became very serious. Lori was sent for a diagnostic mammogram and it went all down hill from there.

Soon we were hearing those dreaded words, “You have an Invasive Ductal Carcinoma”. You always hear about others having breast cancer. I was in medical insurance for years and paid a ton of breast cancer claims. Yet, I guess I was too stunned to realize what happens when breast cancer enters your life.

First, the cancer has to be removed. If the tumor is small, like my wife’s, this can be done with a lumpectomy. Of course, I had to be the shallow one and ask the question: What will it look like? The doctor said, “Well, it is going to be smaller.”

Without going into great detail, a lumpectomy looks like a shark bit your wife on the breast. There is a scar. The scar is deep. The Bad News: Your wife won’t be in Playboy anytime soon. The Good News: insurance pays for the plastic surgery to repair the breast back to its normal function

So a year after she finished her radiation treatment, we found ourselves in a plastic surgeon’s office going over possible strategies to repair her breast.

The surgeon walks in and he is everything that an average husband (particularly this one) is not: young, good looking, and smart. He begins his examination and it was odd watching another man gaze at your wife’s bare bosoms even if he is doing it clinically. (By the way, wouldn’t “Bare Bosoms” be a great name for a band?)  Then he got out a tape measure and measured from point A to point B, if you catch my drift.

Soon, he gave us his recommendations. She could have a fat grafting procedure. This would take fat from another part of her body and put it into the scar of her breast, much like you would put dirt into a hole. This procedure would have to be done three to four times to be successful.

Or she could have implants. The cancer damaged one breast and made it a half a cup size smaller. They do not make “half a cup” implants. So, she would have to have implants on both sides for symmetry purposes, which would make her, um, quite a bit larger.

He left us alone, with a couple of implants in our hands like we were going to give them a test drive, to discuss the procedures. On one hand, the fat grafting procedure was recommended by her breast surgeon and is a little more natural. On the other hand, I could have a wife with big ones. Oh yeah, she wouldn’t have to go through multiple surgeries either.

Believe it or not, I didn’t plead for the implants. I’m not a big fan of the implant look. My wife is a little person and I’m not sure she could have carried the load without falling over. Plus, it was really her decision since it was her body. I definitely should be nominated for Husband of The Year.

Next Time: Tamoxifen-Mommy’s Little Heater

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Thanks, Braves

It takes an old guy like me, to remember the real Atlanta Braves. The Atlanta Braves of Pat Rockett, Biff Pocoroba, Brian Asselstine, Albert Hall, Bruuuuce Benidict, and others. The Atlanta Braves managed by Eddie Haas. The Braves in which the photograph of the new broadcast team of Erine, Skip, and Pete shows them holding silverware like microphones.

The Braves played at The Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, which until 1990, always smelled like beer. They had real classy uniforms for a while, then, in some early 70's drug trip, began outfitting their players in a uniform that can only be described as something Walt Disney might have thrown up. It got better in the 80's when they went to the modified softball player look until 1987 when they adopted the classic look they have now.

There was never anything about the Braves to like or dislike. Unlike the Chicago Cubs, people never wrote songs about how neat it was to be a miserable Braves fan. No, the Braves were just "meh" a loser of a team with no soul.

In 1990, something began to happen. Dale Murphy was traded. Dale Murphy was the epitome of what a professional athlete should be. I mentioned at the time that if he wasn't a Mormon, he'd make a great Baptist.

Then Bobby Cox took over as manager. He had come back to Atlanta after a time in Toronto and worked in the front office. But the managers he put in, Chuck Tanner and Russ Nixon, just did not have it.

After that season John Schuerholz was hired away from Kansas City. Soon "The Stadium" (as we natives always called it), didn't smell like beer anymore. What's more, the Braves started doing some really weird: winning baseball games.

I remember 1991. We just want to win the Division! Just give us that, Lord. Then it was the National League. Just that, Lord, I won't ask for anything else, promise. Please. Then it was the World Series. I know, Lord, I said I wasn't going to to ask for anything else after the NLCS, just don't let us get swept

Atlanta went nuts that year. There were t-shirt stands all over the place. I just had to buy a shirt that had "Braves National League Champions" on it. It was like People magazine had named me "Sexiest Person Alive" and I had to buy up all of the magazines just to prove it to people.

During that time, my wife and I were pushing a baby stroller down Town Center Mall and bumped into Ralph Swearngin. Ralph had been our interim Minister a couple of times at the church we were at. He is a great guy with one major flaw: he's from Southern California and was a Dodgers fan.He said something I've never forgotten: "I always want my team to win the division, but I worry when they do, because it usually means that they won't be as good the next year".

Of course I knew what he meant. Enjoy it now because the Braves will probably stink next year.

Well, in 1991, the Braves defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates, a team that was, let's face it, better top to bottom than the Braves, to go to the World Series to face the Minnesota Twins. The Braves took the Series to seven games, losing in the 11th inning. That's okay. We had our one shot. That's all we wanted. One time to see our players jump up and down in the middle of the diamond. One time to see our players interviewed in a champagne soaked locker room. One time we could tell all of those obnoxious New York, Philly and Cincy fans that the Braves were the best and don't start talking to me about what happened when Eisenhower was President.

Twenty two years later, the baby in the stroller is in his last semester of college. Ralph is the executive director of high school sports in the state of Georgia. Atlanta Fulton County Stadium is a parking lot.

The excitement of going to the post-season was less the next year. Not as many t-shirt stands. Braves lost the World Series to Toronto in six games that year.

They finally won the World Series in 1995. Lost another one in 1996. Lost another one in 1999. Went as far of the National League Championship in 2001. Out early since then.

Last year,  the Braves made it into the playoffs due to some bright baseball idea: dual wild cards. It featured a "play-in game" in which the Braves left four hundred runners on base and had an infield fly rule called on a ball that was hit into the middle of the outfield.

This year, the Braves were supposed to battle the Washington Nationals. The Braves showed up-the Nationals never did. The 2013 Braves are a very good, if not a little bit streaky team, and they might just win the whole thing.

If not, that's okay, they have been competitive for the entire life of my son, which isn't bad at all when you think about it.