Out of Kilter

Ken Carpenter's Out of Kilter has hit the web. The same original blend of history and humor. None of the editorial restrictions.

Month: April, 2014

A dirty tale

Today I have a story about dirt; part historical, part geographical and all dirty. The prudes among you don’t have to worry, it barely registers on Prickter Scale.
I’m fairly fond of dirt, as long as it isn’t too sticky. I can’t stand sticky fingers. Dirt clods hold a dear place in my heart, I love the way they splatter.
I once nailed an older bully with one when he was smoking during recess, at Evergreen School in 1958. It knocked the smoke out of his mouth and I ran so fast I got lost in the woods and the whole school went out looking for me. I wandered back and had no clue where everybody was. By some miracle the bully let me live, though he threw many a murderous glance my way through the next ten years of school.
Yes, dirt is downright handy, even if it can be troublesome

Dishing the dirt on dirt

The main thing many people have against dirt is, well, it’s dirty. That’s also the thing people who like it find in its favor. A little grime on a guy can be manly, a dirty-cheeked boy is the most natural thing in the world and a smudge on a pretty lady’s face can be endearing.
Mud pies are cool up to a point, unless you are one of the starving Africans who actually have to enhance their diets with dirt cookies, just to fill up. That is not cool, I can’t imagine the desperation in their lives.
It takes 500 years to form one inch of topsoil, and one tablespoon of soil has more organisms in it than there are people on earth. We all eat our share every day too, even if you are one of those ballistic dirt haters. You can’t help it, it’s part of life, and there would be no life without it. Dirt makes the world go around.
Soil is 49% Oxygen, 33% Silicone, 7% Aluminum, 4% Iron and 2% Carbon. I mention that for only one reason: boob jobs. If you prefer, you can call it breast enhancement, but whatever you call it there is still the odd fact that dirt is 33% Silicone and enhanced bosoms are about 33% Silicone.
Now you can just forget about it. It is a trivial thing that has no explanation or importance. If I didn’t have a dirty mind it would never have occurred to me to compare soil and surgically augmented breasts.
Dirty minds are as common as dirty faces, so I don’t feel too bad about my affliction. In my mind, soiled though it is, the real dirtbags of the world are the ones who are tormenting us unmercifully with the horde of lying, dirt dishing, dirty trick, political advertisements that treat us all like dirt by showing a lack of respect and consideration for every American’s intelligence.
I wish I could pepper all state and Federal politicians running for office with dirt clods. It would only be fair, they have been cramming dirt down my throat for years, hoping I don’t choke to death on it until I vote. After that, they could care less if I take a dirt nap or not. Bunch of clod hoppers I say.
Man, sometimes I wonder about myself. From basic soil to boob jobs to political boobs without so much as a sidelong glance. It seems obvious I won’t hit pay dirt today.
OK, back to the soil. There are 80,000 different types in Europe and the U.S. alone, coming in red, yellow, black, brown, gray and white. It takes around one acre of land to supply the food for each person in the world.
Of course, it is not spread equally. One large rumped American might need seven or eight acres to supply him, while somewhere in the world a scrawny little urchin survives on 20 square feet.
Greek philosopher Plato had this to say; “People are like dirt. They can either nourish you and help you grow as a person or they can stunt your growth and make you wilt and die.” Pretty wise words, even if they are exaggerated a bit, but it brings one question to my mind.
How in the heck do you make a living as a philosopher?

A Man’s Brain Can Be A Lost Horizon

My story today is from 2003, and it tries to make a mockery of the male tendency to refuse to ask directions. In truth, many people who give directions are so clueless they can cause a guy to become even more lost than he was to begin with. So reducing a guy to plead directions from a possibly incompetent guide accomplishes little more than pacifying the driver’s tooth-gnashing female passenger.
There are exceptions to the rule of course. Certain levels of frustration can push some of the most stubborn of the male species to request directions.
In most cases though, nothing can be bad enough to trigger a man’s faith in his built-in brain compass to fail. Absolutely nothing.

The manly man does not need any stupid directions

Men throughout the ages have been chastised and ridiculed by women for their natural-born reluctance to ask for or follow directions. I am not here to dispute the fact that this fear is one of the dominant male characteristics.
I just think it is about time that a man stood up and cried, in a stern voice, “We don’t need no stinking directions!”
No denials, no arguments, just some good old down home facts to point out how fruitless a life of direction-following can be. We are not sheep, we do not bleat, and as strong individuals we will fight to the death to avoid shepherds of any kind. Even paper ones.
I started thinking about this longstanding stigma when I happened to recollect some time I spent last summer sitting in a park next to an obviously retired couple who were attempting to put up a portable umbrella cover. At first it did not seem like a noteworthy event, just a routine act of picnic mechanics.
It started becoming interesting when twenty minutes passed by with only two aluminum poles connected together, and the brightly striped fabric still lying on the ground. Something was amiss it seemed, and the female half of the duo was obviously gritting her teeth to keep from barking in front of witnesses.
The other half did not look unduly perplexed, but he was showing an amused expression when his back was to his wife. I think he was wise to keep his amusement to himself, for there were numerous bludgeons strung about.
He had no interest in looking at the colorful box his wife kept trying to show him, obviously content to decipher the mystery without any guidance from a cartoon drawing.
I had to admire his independence, and I decided after another ten minutes went by with only one more pole being attached that it was all an act. He must have owed her a payback for something, and was just taking care of the bill in the only way he had at the moment.
Act or not, I can’t think of more than a handful of men who would have stooped to reading the directions for a simple device like an umbrella cover. Any self-respecting male will gladly take triple the time to construct something rather than read the directions.
It is just not the manly manner.
There is also the added bonus of irritating some female to within an inch of a murderous act. Innocently, of course.
The only thing a man hates more than following written directions is asking for directions when those around him think he is lost. He may even be lost, but he will rarely admit it.
Cruising around aimlessly for an hour or two, but in a decidedly determined manner, is preferable to choking down the portion of crow asking directions from a stranger requires. Eventually the destination will be reached, and no amount of verbal abuse will pressure the driver into abandoning the masculine code.
With summer fast approaching, the percentage of disoriented males will rise dramatically.
I will be one of them, for I never saw a mall I couldn’t get lost in.
But I will find my own way out, thank you very much, and I don’t need some dumb map to do it.

Dining In The Third Dimension

Strange experiences in restaurants are not unheard of. I’m sure almost every dining establishment has some every day. It is very unlikely that they are as weird as the ones I attract though.
I found out long ago that while I don’t necessarily have a black cloud over my head, I might have one with a devilishly red tint to it.
My story for today just highlights two from the distant past. You be the judge if they set a record for bizarre. Please excuse the part where I make a wisecrack about those with little hope. I feel for them but think they need more guidance at times.

A couple of dining fiascos

Dining out is viewed by most people as a treat. There are those who do it so much that they may take it for granted, but that is their problem.
Odds are pretty good that just about everybody has a few accounts of less than successful restaurant experiences. Some of us have more than others.
One of my most vivid public dining memories took place around 1963, in a little diner somewhere between Coeur d’Alene and Lewiston. We went to Lewiston about 4 times a year to see my Grandma, and we rarely stopped to eat. On this occasion us four kids were thrilled when Dad parked in front of the café.
I was the oldest kid, about 12, and my youngest brother was about 3 or 4. He put the “P” in precocious, and could switch from cussing like a sailor to critiquing politicians at the drop of a hat.
We all ordered and as we happily watched the waitress saunter toward the kitchen, horror struck!
“Don’t forget the hair!” my youngest sibling bellowed at the waitress’s back.
She froze, as did everybody in the place, and all eyes swiveled toward our table. The beastly bellower, Nate, could have cared less. The rest of us were mortified into an uneasy silence.
No amount of threats or bribes could coax Nate into telling us why he would yell such a thing. There was a very good reason for that. The little wretch didn’t have a clue why he did it.
It was an uncomfortable meal, and for some reason I carefully eyeballed every bite I took for hair. Who knows why, but I wasn’t alone. I think we all did.
It was futile, there was no hair. At least nowhere outside my brother’s fuzzy brain.
In 1977, the lady who would become my first wife and I sat in a trendy burger joint in Napa, California sipping cokes and observing humanity as we waited for our burgers. Humanity had a surprise in store for us.
Through the door walked 7 or 8 of the local residents of the psychiatric hospital. A beady-eyed caretaker guided them to the corner tables behind us. I suspect you would call it an experimental field trip, because it was obvious they didn’t get out much.
We made it a point not to look at them, not wanting to offend anyone accidentally. They had no such reservations about us.
After five minutes of odd noises, we felt a presence behind us, glanced at each other, and looked around. A tiny Bette Davis clone was on all fours on top of the table adjoining ours, staring at us with a maniacal grin.
Apparently her sidekicks also found us enormously intriguing, for the rest of them were clustered behind the table she was on, ogling us with glee and babbling in an unintelligible manner. The caretaker could have cared less, he sat bored in the corner and I could have gladly choked him.
I doubt anybody is used to being treated with that kind of morbid fascination, so needless to say, we were freaked out. I went up to the counter and changed our order to go. I also told him to add a couple of hot fudge sundaes.
“You want nuts with those?” the boy asked.
“No thanks,” I muttered, “I’ve had enough for one day.”

Some old comments on diets

I know I posted a diet story from 2006 the other day, but I have a 2002 story today with a different twist. The constant desire by the media to make people feel embarrassed unless they are first cousin to a sapling never ceases.
I’m not saying I am totally immune to wanting to be a 30-year old version of myself. The truth is, that is not going to happen so why not be pleased with what I am? Everybody should just be content with what they have as long as they are healthy and happy.
Period.

For a hundred bucks, I’ll tell you how to lose forty pounds in ten days

The world has a way of becoming obsessed with certain things and then forgetting to get de-obsessed about them. Skinny is the first thing that comes to mind.
Back in the sixties there was a British model named Twiggy (no doubt her given name) who was all the rage. Her legs looked like rake handles, her arms were like white pepperoni sticks, and her rear end could fit in teacup.
Her overall appearance made even me, a teenage boy, feel a motherly urge to cram four cheeseburgers down her throat.
Unfortunately for the civilized world, humans will mimic anything that becomes popular. The half-starved look came into being and it has never left.
I got on the Internet the other day and typed diets in the search window. When the first page came up I was flabbergasted to learn that it contained the first twenty listings of 2,050,000 hits. No lie.
At twenty per page I could spend the rest of my life searching for the perfect diet.
Five-day jumpstarts, thirty-five pounds off in thirty-five days (Guaranteed!), any plan you want anytime you want. You just have to be willing to shell out the dough for that professional guidance.
Personally I think a fat guy in a dingy little office smelling of deep fried lard balls designs most of these diets. His paycheck comes from all the TV stations.
The funny thing about dieting is that many of the people on them are probably only five or ten pounds overweight. They compare themselves to all the bony celebrities they spend half their time watching, so they naturally start to think they are not skinny enough.
If the scarecrow wannabes look closer, they will notice that every one of their role models has the features of an angel or the chiseled good looks of an Adonis. Average looking people need not apply.
Looking at all this perfection makes some people think they are not only flabby, but ugly too. They decide they just have to shed those extra, at times imaginary, pounds.
Unfortunately there is no cure for ugly. That’s OK though, because it is most likely imaginary as well.
People on restrictive diets like nothing better than talking about food. I think their taste buds actually kick in when an especially tasty dish is described.
I overheard a lady drooling at the prospect of being allowed a two-ounce steak for dinner. Heck, some folks dig that much out from between their teeth after a meaty meal.
I think everybody should be a few pounds over the prescribed weight for their height. They just look more comfortable that way.
Now is probably the opportune time to announce that I too am on my idea of a diet. Slim Fasts for breakfast and lunch, and all I can hog down for dinner.
I just need to get rid of some of that bumpy-road jiggling I have been enduring lately.
I first became aware of diet shakes back in the sixties. A fellow I knew decided they would be just the ticket for a man about town.
This guy’s body was in a quandary. His enormous behind was in a constant battle with his pompous attitude for leadership of the rest of the body.
The attitude decided to get rid of the competition once and for all, with the help of diet shakes.
Alas, the behind was a sneaky adversary. Every day the dieter would open up his lunch box at work and pull out a six-pack of the tasty shakes.
None of them survived the lunch hour.
Needless to say, the lifelong battle for supremacy continued, fueled by the behind’s sudden surge of popularity.
There is a minor struggle going on in my body too, and the belly seems to be winning.
My smart-aleck attitude has a card up his sleeve though.
I wonder what that belly would have to say about a little exercise?

Is man more chimp or woman?

I know that you can’t trust all scientists, much less all of their conclusions, but I read something interesting that I wanted to pass along.
Some brainiac figures that DNA evidence shows the human male shares 98.7% of his DNA with a male chimpanzee and only 98.4% with the human female. As I peel a banana and scratch my behind at the same time, I am contemplating this strange claim.
He also states that we share 75% of our DNA with a nematode, which is a kind of earthworm. I don’t know about you, but I never liked being called a worm, even if I am having a very satisfying roll in the dirt, which can be quite comforting.
OK, let’s start at the top. A man, a woman and a chimp are strolling down Main Street, they get to a shoe store, and the woman physically drags the unsurprised man and the bewildered chimp into the store.
Within five minutes the man has found, tried on and purchased a pair of shoes that fit perfectly. In the same amount of time the chimp has discovered that the purple stiletto heels make a dynamite back-scratcher, so the man buys them for him.
An hour later man and chimp are still sitting cross-legged on the sidewalk out in front of the store, leisurely scratching every inch of their bodies with the nifty stilettos. The woman is just then staggering out the door with four pairs of ill-fitting shoes, each pair of which only match one of the outfits hanging in her closet.
After divvying up the load, the trio continues their little jaunt. They decide that a bite to eat wouldn’t be bad, so they stop by the Slappy’s Pappy Makes ‘Em Happy sandwich booth. Man and chimp order 12-inch subs with three inches of meat and cheese heaped between white French bread rolls.
They plop on the grass and dig in, interested in only one thing, a quick and untimely demise to their huge sandwiches. It does not occur to them that their companion is still ordering a healthy, complicated concoction on Columbian pumpkin seed bread until they both finish their meal, burp and look at each other in surprise.
Mama has just daintily sat on the last available lawn stool, eying her sandwich with suspicion. Did they skimp on the sprouts again?
Man and chimp sigh and dig out the stilettos. Just then both of them perk up their ears, for the distinctive “plop, plop” of two beers being opened has just wisped past them on the afternoon breeze. The nearest bar is two blocks away, but male hearing is attuned to that particular noise.
The woman hears nothing, but an instant later her nostrils flare and she looks around, suddenly wary. She can smell beer, but does not spy any drunks lurking nearby. Women can smell a burp from three blocks away, and analyze the last two meals the cretin has eaten with one whiff.
This admittedly unscientific and potentially biased scenario will not likely sway the judgment of anybody out there. Every man will have to decide for himself if he is more ape or woman, and every woman will have to decide if her man has very much in common with an ape. I do suspect that a few doubts will pop up here and there, but probably not anything serious.
For the men, I would try not to get too upset if your wife brings home twenty pounds of bananas. They might have been on sale, and no woman can resist a good markdown.
For the ladies, if you catch your husband trying on your bloomers, don’t treat him too harshly.
He could have been sitting up in the tree out front, eating bugs.

UPS hating dogs and chimp loving men: get your mind out of the gutter!

In truth, neither of the two stories for today is that funky, though one has a monkey. They were both fun to write, which usually bodes well for my comfort zone
The second story is about the relationship between dogs, specifically mine but including all others, with UPS trucks and drivers. If you have not noticed, dogs automatically hate them like poison.
The first story investigates whether a man has more in common with a woman or a chimp. You make the call. As for me, “Peel me a nanner!”

Another old diet bit the dust

Happy Day After Easter! Now, what are you going to do with all that candy? Almost seven years ago to the day, I didn’t have to ask that question. I was in the midst of a sentence in the South Beach Diet Prison, and glad to write about it.
It is not that it is worse than other fad diets, in fact it is one of the better ones. The main point I want to make is that fancy diets are putting millions of dollars in somebody’s bank account. That somebody quite often only pretends to care if an individual loses weight as long as they pay their share.
You might be glad to know that I survived that particular diet plan with minimal scarring. Since then I have relied on occasional fat-fueled diets of my own invention. They all fail or semi-work as well as the big name diets.
Enjoy your Monday, and I hope all the candy doesn’t make you drag all day.