Category Archives: humor

Oh Captain, My Captain!


Scene of the crime. Note the harmless looking buoy that mischievously refused to be hooked up at ride’s end.

He never aspired to greatness when it came to navigating bodies of water. Salt-laden or spring fed, large or small, Atlantic Ocean or Plymouth pond, it didn’t matter. He knew his place in the world, and it was not in a vessel afloat on water wearing the captain’s mantle. His destiny was that of a passenger or crew member. His comfort lay in never making decisions that affected the well being of a boat or the safety of its passengers.

And now, at the tender age of 69, he suffered a temporary loss of self-awareness that saw him purchase an inflatable boat so small as to be unfit for carrying more than three slim and motionless passengers at the same time. Though if they weren’t so difficult to bring on board, he would have preferred his passengers to be comatose, which guaranteed their weight would never shift. But then again, he correctly figured, the inflatable dinghy had little room to cater to the needs of supine or prostrate passengers.

And so, on a recent morning, he boarded his craft and set out by himself to voyage on a nearby pond where the craft was moored.

How easy to blithely declare “he boarded his craft and set out by himself to voyage on a nearby pond.” Much easier, it turns out, than it actually was to board his craft or voyage on the pond. For one thing (and remember we are speaking about a 69 year old sailor) our brave adventurer had considerable difficulty jumping into the boat at the depth it was moored.

The only rock  visible on the 62 acre pond. Can you sense it's magnetic pull?

The only rock visible on the 62 acre pond. Can you sense it’s magnetic pull?

Before he could board his craft, after numerous attempts, he needed to guide it into shallower depths where he could essentially step into the boat one foot at a time. Fortunately, the electric motor allowed for such shallow depths, its shaft and propeller easily pivoting out of the water. Once, of course, he finally remembered to release the catch. This the same valiant motor, which had lately survived an ignominious submersion when the inflatable boat had flipped upside down in unusually blustery, if not hostile, winds.

Clearly, to those with eyes to see, casual boating was not for the faint of heart or those fully ripened in their years.

And did I mention the wind?

Yes, there was a wind blowing this fateful morning. A strong wind that created a current he could see rippling across the surface of the pond. A wind so strong, he quickly surmised, that his modest motor could not easily steer the flat-bottomed, lightweight boat in any direction that resisted the wind’s steady resolve. And so after a brief excursion to the center of the pond our venerable skipper decided to cut his voyage short.



As if to prove the danger inherent on the water, and the wisdom in his decision to cut and run, our captain entangled the motor’s propeller in an errant coil of rope—“IT’S NOT ROPE, IT’S CALLED LINE,” his wife, who grew up on boats, repeatedly told him—and found himself magnetically drawn to the three hazards that surrounded his cottage’s shoreline.

First, he ran over a giant branch whose spindly grasping limbs reached out from the water like witches’ fingers issuing a stern warning. A warning he was unfortunately unable to heed, much as he and his fouled, struggling motor would try.

Next, after safely untangling the propeller and feeling newly invigorated, he and his boat were inexorably drawn into the rough facing of the only rock that stands above the surface in the entire expanse of the pond’s 62 acres.

Lastly, as if to end his voyage on a note of poetic irony, he was swept into, and half across, the buoy whose mooring line he was desperately reaching for.

The day before he had taken his 5-year old granddaughter for a boat ride without noticeable wind or incident except, as he explained to her mother, “I have trouble parking,” which he proceeded to prove at journey’s end by ingloriously falling out of the boat. This day was no different as he attempted to dismount the boat and ultimately found himself falling head-first into the shallow depths and struggling once again to regain his footing. Almost immediately, as he surfaced, he realized the boat’s electric motor was still engaged, or had re-engaged by accident, and quickly and energetically—for a man his age—chased the boat down and turned off the motor.

No applause, please!

And so we leave our stalwart senior once again on land and once again shivering in his wetness in the wind. Nothing seriously hurt except perhaps his vanity. In the last few weeks he has spent more time in these pond waters than he had the six previous summers. First there was the mooring that had to be set up; the knots that had to be tied and re-tied. Then the rains came, sending him out twice in two days. First to rescue the battery that was dangerously close to having its plastic case breached by the accumulating rain water. Second, to bail out the rain water. Next, he had to go in to rescue his overturned boat and motor. Then lastly, once again into the water to restore the boat to its mooring.

Now, it bobs gently on the water, pretending to be easily boarded and safely steered wherever whim or whimsy might take it. And maybe someday he’ll believe that’s true.

But for now, it seems truer that—to quote the poet—“Home is the sailor, home from the sea.” To which I would only add…

“And the clumsy captain free from his pond.”













How To Train A Rock, Part 2

Our last blog posting on the care and training of rocks drew emails and letters from rock owners anxious to build upon the article’s understandably superficial lessons. Today, we offer targeted advice in response to your questions. dancing rocks

William G. of Hartford, Connecticut writes: “For some time I have observed Sparky, the favorite of my rock collection, frequently disappearing, sometimes for days on end, only to return covered in bruises and what I can only characterize as a smug, satisfied expression. What do you think is happening and, more importantly, what can I do to keep Sparky safe at home?”

William G., it’s my sad duty to suggest that Sparky isn’t actually a rock but a rolling stone. If that proves true there is little you can do other than accept Sparky’s natural inclination to periodically roam the highways and byways whistling Bob Dylan songs at sub-atomic auditory levels. This is perfectly natural behavior on Sparky’s part and nothing you should take personally. Besides, rolling stones deserve the same tolerance the Holy Bible teaches us to extend to all our fellow creatures (except, perhaps, gays, blacks, Asians or undocumented immigrants).

Ethel B. of Hingham, Massachusetts asks: “Is it bad form for me, as a young single woman, to take

my favorite rocks along with me on my dates? I ask because my rock collection clearly acts jealous and resentful when I display interest or affection towards possible suitors.”

Training your rocks should not be a struggle!

Training your rocks should not be a struggle!

Thank goodness you wrote for our advice rather than acting on well-intentioned impulses. Ethel B., DO NOT take your rocks with you on dates. As you’ve already seen, rocks are terribly jealous creatures with so little emotional control they will attack a rival suitor with deadly, gravity-defying intent. If your rock collection is large enough, it is conceivable your suitor’s very life could be at risk. Far better to pretend you are working a second job than to flaunt your active dating life in front of your rock collection. In fact, given that your rocks have already displayed disturbed emotions around this subject, I would strongly advise you not to sleep with them in your own bed. Of course, if there’s one particular rock you find especially attractive . . .

Moving on, Max W. of Clearwater, New Jersey writes to ask: “What is the ideal number of rocks for one’s rock collection? There are times when I think I may have more rocks than I can emotionally care for. As you know, rocks are such needy creatures and once ensconced in your life so very difficult to get free of. Tell me what you think, but please keep in mind I love all my rocks.”

Of course you love your rocks, Max; we wouldn’t suggest otherwise. To answer your question, however, there is no ideal number of rocks for one’s collection. Human beings, like rocks themselves, are all different, with different sets of needs. You might be a two-rock person while I might be a 2000-rock person. Nobody is wrong in this matter. There is no right and wrong when it comes to sharing your life with these stolid, long-term companions.

Lastly, for this week’s “A Rock’s Throw”, a number of you have questioned whether I was being subtly political in writing last week’s “How To Train A Rock.”

Ira R. of New Paltz, New York complains: “I don’t like that you tried to slip a column so overtly political right past me. Fortunately, my 78 year old mother who has asthma and collapsed cheek bones pointed out how similar “A rock” sounds to “Iraq.” How to train a rock. I get it. And thanks, Ma!”

And Shirley S. of Bedford Falls, California, writes: “What the hell was that all about? It wasn’t funny; I didn’t get the jokes; if there was a political message, it flew over my head. Who the hell are you writing this crap for anyway?”

Well, Shirley, you should be able to figure that out.

I write for the rocks.


This was the second in a trilogy of essays detailing “How To Train A Rock,” which coincidentally is also the name of my story and essay collection. To read the first essay in the trilogy, go to here. For more information about “How To Train A Rock,” go to Amazon or my web site.




Call it bravado, an innovative political maneuver, or an outright felony, but whatever you call it, Mitt Romney has taken a decisive step towards grabbing the Republican nomination for president.

“It all happened so suddenly,” cried Marie Fayreweather in describing the former Massachusetts Governor’s dramatic hostage-taking of her 6-month-old son, Bailey. “One moment I told Mr. Romney that as much as I admired his good looks and vast riches, I still intended to vote for Rick Santorum, the next moment he cried, ‘Not on my watch you won’t!’ and grabbed my little Bailey.

“Wait a second,” I pleaded, “Bailey is too young to vote, and besides I’m afraid he wouldn’t like traveling on top of your family station wagon.”

“Never fear,” Mitt rattled back, “Seamus never shares his dog carrier with anyone. And besides, if you won’t vote for me I’ll hold onto Bailey until he’s old enough to vote for me himself.”

Romney’s campaign later issued a statement denying that the candidate had wrested the child from his unwilling mother, but that Bailey had clearly indicated a preference for the moderate-but-severely-conservative Republican candidate. And that Mr. Romney intended to hold onto the ‘little tykester’ as he’s already called until Romney wins the Illinois Republican primary or the hunting season begins, whichever comes first.

Romney, as he’s often stated, is a gun-loving member of the NRA who has killed so many rabbits that the town of Belmont, where the governor once lived, had to restock the town forest on a yearly basis.

The Romney campaign’s newest political slogan, “Vote Romney if you ever want to see Bailey in daycare again!” is already picking up momentum and voter support. Without a doubt, a majority of undecided Republican voters find it more convincing than Romney’s earlier tagline, “I made $250 million off the sweat of others, imagine what I can do for our country.”

It’s too early to tell what long-range effects the hostage-taking might have on the primary or, eventually, the general election, but political pundits have already begun talking up Bailey as a possible Vice Presidential candidate.

So far there’s been no comment from Bailey, who hasn’t yet learned to speak.


At the time I first went to work for Mr. Byron my family was in a sorrowful state. My dad, much as I can recall, was one of those roving kinds, called himself a carpenter or contractor, depending on the kind of job he was aspiring to, and was subject to fits of disappearance, sometimes for months on end.

“Ain’t your Dad’s fault,” Mom would tell us. “It’s the saddening fate of a contractor to make himself scarce once he’s signed for a job.”

To our pitiful cries of “when’s he coming back?” Mom would only say, “Lord knows, my dears. I suppose when the weather turns and he can’t be expected to do the job—certainly not before.”

Mr. Byron was second cousin to my dad and far and away the most successful member of our extended family. He’d already been through 14 bankrupt mortgage finance companies, and I was being apprenticed to work in his 15th.

“It’s this way, my boy,” he told me at the start. “You get three years to bankrupt your business. In the first year, you do a praiseworthy job and make a fair living. For the next two years, you do execrable work, providing financing to impoverished homebuyers, ignoring complaints, messing up their paperwork, picking up virtually every penny that falls to the floor, and you make a god-awful fortune! By which time there are so many lawsuits pending, so many angry customers ready to shoot you, that only a fool would stay in business. True, there are those mortgage companies that swim against the current, but nobody in the industry thinks much of them or appreciates the damage they do to the general reputation.”

Now to look at Mr. Byron you wouldn’t have thought he’d be old enough to have outlasted 14 bankrupt businesses, working with the customary three-year life cycle.

“Well, you’re a smart lad, all right,” he beamed in answer to my query. “No, I long ago reasoned that since time worked in a linear fashion I could only overtake it by multiplying my efforts. Generally speaking, I’m partial to moving two or three businesses through the bankruptcy cycle at the same time. Fact is, my biggest moneymaker in the current cycle, aside from the mortgage business, is what I call my ‘Honest Response’ Answering System, which takes phone calls from irate customers of banks, mortgage companies and private contractors like your dad, and assures the caller in the most humble fashion that their problems will be resolved within a day, or that their missing contractor will absolutely, without question, be out to do the job first thing in the morning.”

Well, I put myself into apprenticeship to Mr. Byron and within three years had worked in five separate businesses that no sooner made a fortune than they went belly-up, with Mr. Byron and his overworked attorneys left much the richer if not also the wiser. If I had any difficulty with this arrangement it was not with the constant change in my employment positions but with the lack of change in my outlook. In all that time I had earned barely enough to sustain myself, much less my hungry brothers and sisters back in our tenement apartment.

I steeled myself to the fact that I must discuss my privation with my employer, and did so one evening after work. Mr. Byron, instead of feeling put upon, broke out in a wide grin and clasped me in brotherly fashion around the shoulders. It was then that he gave me the advice that would truly lead me on towards making my own fortune.

It’s a valuable lesson you’ve learned, my son,” he said, “namely that fools serve the needs of the wise while wise men serve the desires of fools. Fact is, you’ll never make your fortune in service to the greed of others. Knowing that as you now do, you should be ready to begin amassing your own fortune by joining the Republican party and turning your agile mind to the weaknesses of the witless and the weak. All you lack, I should say, is what we in the business world term a ‘Specialty’.”

It was barely two weeks later that I opened for public accommodation my first auto dealership. And my first decision as a budding entrepreneur was to hire my father to manage the service department.

Uncle Bernie’s Commencement Speech

To The Graduates Of The Class Of 2011:

You are here today at a critical crossroads of your life. For most of your 21 or more years you’ve been taught to work hard, obey the rules, listen with respect to your elders and to trust that every effort you make will receive an ample and just reward.

You recognize that sound, don’t you? A few of your parents and teachers couldn’t keep their opinions to themselves…but let’s examine the reasons behind their laughter.

Yes, I am afraid that for most of your life you’ve been handed a script from “Leave It To Beaver” and that all those wonderful principles I enumerated earlier—work hard, obey the rules, etc.—won’t take you very far down the Road of Life in today’s America. In fact, if you insist on playing by the rules and trusting in the fairness of others you’ll very quickly get run over and flattened like so much road kill on that very same Road of Life.

All across America speakers like me are admonishing new graduates like you to live up to principles that are no longer relevant or practical. Hollywood Hero Principles no longer acknowledged in today’s business world. Principles which, like fragile Louisiana marshlands, cannot survive today’s overwhelming inflow of dark, viscous wealth-making ideas and ventures.

Go ahead, take a deep breath and smell the oil vapors. That’s America! That’s your future! It ain’t roses but it’s sure sweet!

Yes, other commencement speakers would tell you to work hard, play fair and be nice as you emerge from college to make your way in the world. I’m here to advise you to look both ways before crossing the street and to pick the other guy’s pocket before he picks yours.

Those other commencement speakers are frozen in time, spouting axioms and adages that long ago ran out of gas on the American Road of Life. Like scenes from an old black and white Hollywood movie they make us smile but they don’t prepare us for a world more reminiscent of “Jaws” than it is of “Flipper.”

“Be nice,” they say.

I say “Be nice when it helps, cruel when necessary, vicious when it counts.” People will tell you Bernie Madoff was a nice guy, but I never forgot to take all the money off the table before I went home.

“Don’t forget the Golden Rule” they say, most of them unable to keep a straight face while saying it.

“I also say “Don’t forget the Golden Rule”, only my Golden Rule is a little different from theirs. My Golden Rule says “Go for the gold and screw the rule!”

They would also tell you to, “Follow your bliss” in choosing a career.

Whereas I would advise you to follow the money.

So in short, members of the graduating class of 2011, I advise you to live richly as well as wisely, to always give to yourself first, to always take the largest slice of the pie, to choose financial gain over spiritual growth, and to steadily amass more and more physical possessions which, even though they rust and corrupt (as Jesus pointed out), they also clean up pretty easily these days.

So yes, graduates, feel free to live lives of unbridled hunger, unquenchable thirst and unfettered avarice, happily unburdened by a commencement speaker this morning who urges you on to seek out greater challenges while doggedly building strength of character.

For those of you who would like greater instruction on how to achieve your own wealth-based lifestyle filled with houses, boats and servants, see me at Webster Hall immediately after you receive your diplomas. Here in prison I’ve written a little advice book, only $35.95, on how to live the life you’ve always wanted when nobody’s watching.

The rest of you, I wish good luck and happy trails. I recommend you wear heavy boots.

This is a more fanciful version of a commencement speech that appeared a year ago on these pages. Again, I should credit a Ken Read-Brown sermon (in the form of a commencement speech) that served as inspiration for the original blog posting.