Suzanne Olsen's Humor Blog - I don't offend some of the people most of the time

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On Thursday I had lunch with Cory, a 43-year-old Black man I visit as part of a volunteer thing through an organization that builds community with low-income people. I enjoy our visits because he makes me laugh. We meet on the phone now, because of Covid, but every so often I go downtown and take him lunch in the park. This is the first time we’ve gone to a restaurant.

We met at Chipotle. As we waited our turn, I explained that he’d go down the line and tell them what he wanted. While I paid, I asked for some hot sauce – mild for me and regular Tabasco for him. Cory’s told me many times, “I like a lot of hot sauce on my food.” The server handed us two little clear plastic cups filled with about an eighth of an inch of sauce. Poor Cory, what he calls “hot sauce” apparently isn’t Tabasco.

Even though it was chilly, we sat outside. He took a bite of his steak bowl and said, “This is good.” He told me about his pending lawsuit against the guy who ran into him and broke his femur. “The lawyer said the son-bitch’s insurance will pay for me to have a maid if I want one.”

“You only have a one-bedroom apartment with no furniture except a bed,” I said. “Why do you need a maid?”

“Hell, if the son-bitch’s payin’ for it, damn right I’m havin’ a maid. A mother-f-ing butler too. I needs me a butler.”

He took a couple more bites, then remembered the little cup of hot sauce and picked it up, still talking. I watched him pour the whole thing on his food. When I shake Tabasco from the bottle, I count the drops – about 7 is my limit – each drop carefully spread out so I have the flavor without getting excessive heat in one bite. Cory poured that whole little cup on his bowl, and even thumped the cup with his finger to get the last few drops. I figured there were about 250 drops coating his food.

I stopped eating and watched him take a bite. He put the fork into his mouth, pulled it out, did a little shake of his head and said, “Man, that’s some hot sauce.” I started laughing. Anybody who’s ever used Tabasco knows that feeling, the heat, the burning that won’t stop, and he had just dumped enough on his food to belch fire.

 “I thought you liked hot sauce.”  

“I do, I do.” He paused as if trying to convince himself. “I do.” He looked at the bowl like it was a rattlesnake or something worse, but I could tell he wanted another bite because he had his fork raised, ready for action. Finally he got up his nerve. He aimed the fork, then slowly, cautiously, put the bite in his mouth and deposited the food. He looked straight ahead, his eyes bugged out. “That’s some hot sauce,” he said. He shook his head a little and let out a “Shwooo,” sound. He grabbed his water glass and took a sip. “Wooo,” he said.

I started laughing and couldn’t stop. Not only was it funny the way he said it, but I understood the dilemma he was in – between a culinary rock and a hard place. He wanted to eat, but he was scared to because his mouth was on fire. He also probably didn’t want to seem like a wimp. He’s six feet tall, meaty, with a bushy grey beard and shaved-bald head. A sweet guy in a hardened shell. The times we’ve eaten together in the park, he’ll only eat a couple of bites then say, “I’m going to take the rest home. I wanna put some hot sauce on it.” He had an image to uphold.

So I just watched. He looked at the bowl as if it was now the enemy. He stirred it. Stared at it. Stirred it again. Pushed the food from one side to the other. Then he took another bite. As he pulled the empty fork away he paused midair. “That’s some hot sauce,” he said, and shook his head. I laughed again, actually I guess I hadn’t quit laughing from his previous bite. 

He put the fork down and picked the empty sauce cup up and looked at it, like it had betrayed him. He put it down and said, “I called Merry Maid and told them I wanted a maid. I can’t just get somebody off the street. They might rob me. You can’t trust people. Not around here. They said they’d call my lawyer and get it all set up.” 

I continued to eat and just let him talk. A couple of times he looked down at his food, like he was getting up his nerve. Finally he loaded the fork half-full and hesitated a split second before putting the bite in his mouth. He chewed a couple of times, shook his head and said, “That’s some hot sauce.” I started laughing again.

I was enjoying this lunch. A lot. It was cold sitting out there under the October overcast sky with wind trying to steal our napkins, and I ate quickly so I could be done and climb back into my warm car, plus all the laughing was wearing me out. I often tell Cory how funny he is, though I’m not sure if he means to be. It’s a combination of all the cussing plus the way he tells the stories. His eyes twinkle and he grins when he sees me laughing, so I know he does some of it on purpose, but not this time. He picked up the aluminum to-go lid and molded it over his bowl and put it in the bag.

“Too hot for you?” I ask.

“No girl, you know I can’t eat much at one time. I’m gonna take this home and munch on it later.”

“Yeah, right,” I said to myself. He asked me to drop him off at his dentist’s office a few blocks away. He made fun of the way I drive, and I thanked him for all the laughs. On the way home, every time I hear him in my mind saying, “That’s some hot sauce,” I start laughing, and it’s a hearty, deep, lasting laugh.

They say it’s better to give than to receive. For the small price of a Chipotle lunch, I enjoyed a lot of entertainment. I also got a blessing that filled my heart, and my soul. Thank you, Cory!

Happy to Be Average

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about being average. I’ve pondered if it’s just being unmotivated, or not really wanting to work hard.

Nah, I don’t think so. 

Beer Bottle Billie Jean

I’d never seen anything like this video, and as I was watching I wondered how these guys came up with using beer bottles to make a song. The following scene unfolded in my head as if I’d been there with them.

Disclaimer: This is all made up. I don’t know these guys or anything about them. I have made all of this up. None of this is true.

It’s a Sunday morning. A bunch of fraternity boys like the ones in Animal House are sprawled like rag dolls on couches and chairs, empty beer bottles everywhere. The one who doesn’t get hangovers is awake. The remote control is too far away, so he starts blowing into an empty bottle to entertain himself.

Machinery and the Difference Between Men and Women

I recently decided to pressure wash the concrete around my house, but I couldn’t get the pressure washer to start after pulling on the cord a few times,  So I did what every smart American woman does when she can’t get machinery to work, I asked a big, strong, burly neighbor to help me.

Sheila moseyed over and yanked the cord a few times but with no success.

I consulted Google and found a video on YouTube showing a guy repeatedly pulling the cord of an identical pressure washer. I’ve put the video below. Skip the first three minutes – he’s just putting gas in the tank, etc. It’s probably better if you read this whole thing before watching the video.

Another site said to check the air filter. I had no idea what it was supposed to look like, but checking helped because when I put the cover back on I noticed a 1-800 number.

Beaten by Waves Like Gerard Butler

I saw Gerard Butler on the Daily Show last night. My, my, my he is one fine specimen. He was promoting his surfing movie, “Chasing Mavericks,” and they showed a clip with this giant wave rolled over him – it was thirty feet high and looked like a tsunami. When John Stewart asked him about it he said, “Yeah, it was really scary – I looked up and saw this thing and then it rolled over me, and another one was right behind it. I finally got up to the top for air and here was another one…”

Spoiler alert: He survived but only after someone on a ski doo got to him and hauled him out. The movie’s insurance company said, “You inexplicable idiot. No more. You use a stunt double from here on out!” Butler didn’t say those exact words, but I imagine this is about what the insurance said to him.

The purpose of this blog, however, is to tell about MY experience, which was quite similar to Butler’s except the waves were higher. Or at least they seemed to be. We were in Maui at this “locals only” beach full of surfers and their families, along with the odd pale tourist.

The waves were easily ten feet high, which is no sissy wave, especially when you think of most waves being three or four feet. It’s daunting when one is coming right at you. You see nothing but a wall of water and then, if you don’t have enough sense to dive under it, you get pounded like tough meat in a butcher’s shop.

When you dive under, you feel the wave rolling over the top of you, from your head to your toes, like one of those chairs that massages your back when you get a pedicure. It would be pleasant if it weren’t so utterly frightening.

Once the wave rolls over you, and you come up for air, you open your eyes and see another ten-foot wall of water. It’s right there. If you’re lucky you gulp a breath of air and dive down to the ocean floor and feel the wave rumble over you again. You come back up, thinking that these crazy back-to-back giant waves are just a fluke,  and another wall of water is right there, big as life and twice as ugly.

I was hoping to get the hang of it after about twenty of these, but I didn’t. I was worn out and started swimming back toward shore, which was about fifty feet away. When I got out of range of the giant waves crashing on me, I got sucked up by an undertow. It started sweeping me sideways like I was a cork in river rapids. I tried to remember the rules of undertows from my lifeguard days, “Don’t swim against the undertow, swim parallel to shore but consistently try to make your way toward shore in a diagonal fashion.”

As the water continued to drag me sideways and out to sea, I started to panic, which the Lifesaving book said not to do under any circumstances or you’ll drown for sure. There was a lifeguard on the beach looking all official and worthy, and he simply watched me sweep by, apparently thinking I had the situation under control because I didn’t have enough wind to yell for help. Luckily, I turned and saw a head behind me being swept along at my exact rate of speed, and we went racing through the water like this for a good ways, making a parallel and somewhat diagonal course toward shore. Just seeing the other head bobbing along made me feel less anxious, and I was able to relax and really experience how exhausted and close to drowning I was. Then my toe brushed against a rock and I realized I had the possibility of getting dragged over jagged rocks as well.

But (spoiler alert 2) I survived it. It was one of the rare times I’ve been really afraid in the water. I have a whole new respect for waves and the ocean, and for Gerard Butler. I’m going to see the movie just so he and I can commiserate together in my mind.

The Magnificient Spit

Today I was behind a car waiting at a stoplight, and I noticed it was a single guy in the driver’s seat with his arm on the back of the passenger seat. Why I was looking at him I don’t know, but just at that second I saw two white masses, side by side, come sailing out of the passenger window, fly over the grassy strip on the side of the road, and hit a bush a good fifteen feet away.

They had to have been spit or loogies hocked by a mouth that could have launched a satellite. I was utterly amazed. You don’t see freaks of nature like this every day. In fact, I’ve never seen a loogie hurled that far.

That’s probably why he had his arm on the passenger seat – to hold him steady.

My daughter won a watermelon spitting contest in kindergarten. I was quite the proud little momma. She beat everyone by several feet. That child’s mouth was lethal – even to this day you should never EVER get near her teeth if she’s mad at you. You risk coming away with a missing hunk of forearm. But even she could not have launched spit that far.

What was so amazing is that he was so accurate. He had the opening of a window to get through, and you might not think that’s difficult but it is. Not that I’ve ever spit out the passenger side – I’m not brave enough for that and besides I don’t spit. Never have, except if a bug flies in my mouth or something. But on occasion I will eat an apple and find myself holding a sticky core and nowhere to put it. I start thinking about the little birdies or rodents that would be delighted to munch on that core, and why should I deprive them?

But you can’t throw it out the driver’s side – you’d end up with the core in the road, and then some little furry thing eating it would get squashed flatter than a tortilla. So I throw them out the passenger window. And I have to thrust really really to get it into the bushes completely off the shoulder so the little creatures feasting on it will be safe.

I cock my elbow and bring the hand holding the apple all the way in front of my face to get more leverage, and then I fling the arm toward the passenger window as hard as I can.

Nine times out of ten it hits the inside door and leaves a wet, mushy spot before landing on the passenger seat and rolling onto the floor, going front to back on the hairy carpet like some golf course lawn mower, leaving a trail of apple juice over every fuzzy inch.

This is why I was so amazed that the guy got those loogies out the passenger window today. And that they flew so far. It really was truly amazing. Wish you could have seen it.

Witchteria Lane

I played a really fun game called Mexican Train tonight with some of my friends.

The evening was great except for one thing. Patty’s house, where we had it, is on a flag lot down a narrow lane. She warned those of us who hadn’t been there before, “Whatever you do, don’t park in the lane because the neighbor thinks she owns it and she’ll get really mad.”

I stayed at work too long so I arrived at Patty’s about an hour late. I drove up her long driveway but there was nowhere left to park, and it was too narrow to turn, so I had to drive the few extra feet up to the cranky neighbor’s. She had ample room for me to turn around.

When I got beside her house, I saw her coming out her door toward me, but I pretended I didn’t see her and started maneuvering my turn. She came up to my car and tapped on the passenger window. I rolled it down and said, “Hi!” all bright and cheery.

“Could you please tell Patty I don’t want any more of you people turning around in my driveway. There have been 5 or 6 cars already.”

“Oh, I’m SO sorry,” I said, turning on my southern charm. “I’m really late so I know I’ll be the last one.”

“Well, we’re expecting company tonight and I need this lane clear and I don’t want anyone else coming up here.”

Before turning I noticed a ladder next to her hedge, and an extension cord running from the house, across the driveway, to a set of electric pruners lying beside the ladder. Who trims their hedge at 7:00 at night if they’ve got company on the way? I decided not to bring this up because the woman gave me the creeps.

“Well, I can assure you that I’m the last one here because no one is ever as late as I am.”

“Well, you be sure to tell Patty what I said.” Then she looked at me and said, “I think I’d better go over there and tell her myself.”

I could just see this half crazy woman with her unnaturally black hair and her black flashing eyes twitching and blinking as she cussed sweet little Patty out in front of all of us. I wasn’t going to let that happen. Not on my watch. For one thing, this group of women might have pounced on her and stuffed her into a garbage can. We’re pretty feisty. The police would be called. Someone would go to jail.

“Oh, you don’t have to do that,” I cooed. “Trust me, I have always been the very last one to arrive every single time, and I can guarantee that no one else will come.”

She glared those black eyes at me and I could see that she thought I was no better than coughed up bile. I rushed out of her lair before she had a chance to get the hedge trimmers after me.

I found a parking spot a million miles away and jogged across the street carrying my brownies and a bottle of red wine. When I turned into the driveway I saw that the old hag had put that ladder right in the middle of the road so no one could go on her property.

Now there’s a welcoming sight for her alleged “company.”

I don’t know why people have to be this spiteful. If I hadn’t been so late, maybe I would have climbed out of my car and said, “Well! Since you don’t want me to turn around in your driveway I guess I’ll just leave my car here and you can have it towed. And by the way, that’s what you are. A warty old toad. Why don’t you get some civility and quit acting like a constipated badger?” But I didn’t. I smiled and told her to enjoy her evening, and left her to her private fuming.

Silence is often the best way to goad a toad.

Who Is Erma Bombeck?

I went to the Willamette Writer’s conference yesterday. Boy what fun!  Except for one part, I had a fantastic day. I got to be with my friends from my writing group, all of whom are successfully doing great writing, getting published, getting awards, and getting better looking all the time.

The one exception was my “pitch” meeting with an agent who looked about fourteen. Why, he was so young his diaper was hanging out of his pants leg. He was so young, he was still packing a placenta. He was so young, ah heck, you get the picture and I just Googled “he was so young” and can’t find any more besides these ones I just made up.

But this guy, who, in his bio said he handled “humor,” this guy had never heard of (gasp) Erma Bombeck! Oh my gosh. How can you be an agent who promotes humor writers without knowing something about humor legends?

I am not going to go off on this guy here. Well, yeah I am. When I was young, of course I knew all the bands/writers/politicians from my time period, but I knew previous ones too, if for no other reason than to make fun of them. If all I knew was what was occurring now or in the most recent past, I would have been a pretty dull person. I was pretty, but I was not dull. Well, actually I was cute. That’s what everyone always said, “Suzanne is so cute.” Strangers used to come up and pinch my cheek. “You’re so CUTE,” like they’d do to a baby. I’d bite them.

My daughter and her friends know the words to all the old songs. “How do you know the words to that song?” I asked, and they ignored me, as usual, so I don’t know how they know, but they do.

So this agent had never heard of the woman who wrote a syndicated humor column read by millions, who wrote several best-selling books, who was a speaker all over the world, on TV and at the White House, a champion of women, a household name, and still has such a following that the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop in Ohio sells out every year. Plus at least a couple of times a year I get an email with her sayings about how she wish she’d done some things differently and slowed down and enjoyed life more.

A great resource for humor writers is a website dedicated to her, (where you can register for the Workshop, see a picture of Erma, and learn about her funny life). Here are some of her quotes that I snagged off the website in case you don’t bother going there.

“Insanity is hereditary. You can catch it from your kids.”

“The only reason I would take up jogging is so I could hear heavy breathing again.”

“Laughter rises out of tragedy, when you need it the most, and rewards you for your courage.”

“In general, my children refused to eat anything that hadn’t danced on TV.”

“When humor goes, there goes civilization.”

“Seize the moment. Think of all those women on the ‘Titanic’ who waved off the dessert cart.”

“Never loan your car to anyone to whom you’ve given birth.”

“The grass is always greener over the septic tank.”

“A child needs your love more when he deserves it least.”

“There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt.”

“It takes a lot of courage to show your dreams to someone else.”

“If you can laugh at it, you can live with it.”

Never heard of Erma Bombeck…what is this world coming to?

Almost Close to a Celebrity

I promised last night to tell you about Gene Simmons.

We were at the Legends golf tournament, hosted by Tommy Thayer, a member of the band, KISS. I don’t know much about the band except they sing that song, “I Wanna Rock and Roll All Night, and Party Ev-er-ry Day,” and they do Dr. Pepper commercials. And that Tommy Thayer is one heck of a nice guy who has helped raise money for Pacific University for the last 4 years, according to the stuff I just Googled. He gets a bunch of celebrity “legends” together (hence the name) and they come to the dinner/auction on Sunday night and then play golf with athletic supporters. They also play with other golfers. Pretty bad, huh? Well, I am getting NO sleep around here and it’s the freaking best I can do.

We went last year to the dinner for the first time and it was scads of fun. All of these musicians got up on stage after dinner and sang great songs. We decided to go back this year.

Yes, I’m getting to Gene Simmons. He’s the lead singer of KISS, the one with the tongue that could lick his own forehead it’s so long. Personally I think it’s a tongue extension. I bet there are lots of Gene Simmons tongue jokes on the internet. I’ll go hunt for one.

Well, the only one I came up with quickly is from some reporter who quipped, “Gene Simmons gave me a tongue lashing.” Lame, but better than nothing.

Anyway, he also has a TV reality show called Gene Simmons Family Jewels. I watched parts of it a couple of times and he seems like a nice, regular guy. I really like his girlfriend/mother-of-his-grown-children, Shannon Tweed, who he’s been with for 25 years.

Here was my little taste of celebrity. Gene Simmons walks into the big outdoor room under a circus tent with Shannon and an entourage, with cameramen in front, on the sides, and behind him and a guy holding a microphone boom thingy. It was like being on the red carpet! One of the ladies I was sitting with said, “That must be awful having all those people following you around all the time,” and I said, “I think all those people represent money in Gene Simmons’ pocket. When nobody’s around, he’ll be a poor guy.”

He walked in slowly because the other celebrities came up to greet him. I didn’t know who they were, but I live a sheltered life. Many were star athletes with honors and awards a mile long, but they weren’t Joe Montana so I didn’t recognize their names. There were also music legends, including the drummer from the band, Chicago. Boy was he good!

Gene had on sunglasses even in the darkish tent, and a black shirt, black pants and silver/gray cowboy boots. He would have been your nice, average Mafia guy if it hadn’t been for the cameras. Shannon looked just like she does on TV.

I think the reason KISS has had such a long run of fame and fortune is Gene Simmons’ marketing skills. He was filming the auction as part of a Family Jewel’s episode, and he offered bidders a chance to be seen on the show, which drove prices up. When people were bidding to have him on their golf team the next day, and the bid only got up to $6,500, he bid on himself for $10,000. “This is a fundraiser,” he said, “and I’m here to raise money.” The auctioneer said, “Gene, am I understanding this? You’re bidding $10,000 to play with yourself?” That got some laughs.

Someone bid $10,500, and Gene bid $11,000. He kept counter-bidding until he’d driven his own price up to $15,000. I thought about the poor guy who would be writing a check for that in order to play one round of golf and get a cameo on a reality show, but hey, I’m not criticizing – if I’d had a wheelbarrow full of spare money, I’d probably have bid as well.

Gene offered a home cooked meal and evening at his house to 4 couples, each bidding $11,000 each. He and another guy named Doc egged the crowd on to bid higher, throwing in airfare and hotel. I’m sure there were wealthy people there who could afford it, but not at our table.

They ended up raising about $400,000, and I think a good chunk of that came from people willing to bid sky-high to hang out with Gene Simmons.

I didn’t get to meet him, I was busy trying to entertain Ray Kennedy, the celebrity who was assigned to our table and ended up sitting beside me. He was a handful. He had played with the Beach Boys and a ton of other bands – a very talented guy – but he wasn’t with us much because he was too hyper to sit still, and he knew everyone in the room and kept making the rounds.

I don’t know why I needed to take up a whole blog with this – I guess it’s because I don’t get around “stars” and it was a fun experience. All the musicians jammed, and we danced. A couple of women got up on the stage and danced in the background. If they don’t get edited out, you’ll see them on the show. I’ll let you know when it airs. We were a couple of tables away so maybe we’ll be on TV, too. Then I’ll be a celebrity, too. I’ll send you an autograph.

Want Some Advice? Don’t Take Mine

I just read a note on this blog from someone asking me for advice. I must say that even though I’m quite flattered, I never meant to come across as the type of person who has a handle on life. My life has been one rocky road full of trips and falls, skinned knees and black eyes, stubbed toes and swollen lips, falling down hills and running into doors, metaphorically speaking. I have pretty much done what I felt like I needed to do one minute, and then spent the next year or two trying to get untangled from the consequences. I have rarely taken anyone’s advice unless it was something I was going to do in the first place.

The problem with trying to give advice is that most people won’t listen to it, even if they’ve sought it out, and if they listen they won’t follow it, and if they follow it, they only get a 50/50 chance that it was good advice to begin with. History is full of people who took the wrong advice. Just ask the Donner family.

When I was young I wouldn’t listen to anybody. I bull-headed my know-it-all way through every foolish decision imaginable, and it took me a couple of decades to realize that I could have saved myself a lot of time and energy if I would have just listened.

I see my kids doing the same thing. I say to them, “If you get your homework done now you won’t have to worry about it all weekend.” But they always say, “There’s plenty of time, I wanna hang out with my friends.” Then late Sunday night they’re melting down, stomping around saying how stupid the teacher was for giving them so much homework.

I have a friend who is constantly complaining about her husband or kids. I see how she could fix things so easily. “Why don’t you just….” I say to her, but she has NEVER ONCE followed any of my suggestions, no matter how I liberally I dole them out. So to have someone ask me what to do is pretty amazing.

Sometimes I’ve thought about being an advice columnist, but I fear I lack tact.

Dear Suzanne: I found out my mother wants to have an affair with my boyfriend, and he’s okay with it, what should I do?

A: Get your white trash rear end off of that flea-bitten couch and walk right out the holey screen door of that rusty trailer and don’t look back at either one of them. And take their Twinkies and pork rinds with you.

Dear Suzanne: My neighbor’s dog barks all night long. Before I die from LOS (lack o’ sleep) what should I do?

A: Get a tape recorder and go to the Humane Society and find you a German shepherd or Mastiff or Rottweiler – something with a mean, fierce bark. Record about 20 minutes of it, then call your neighbor every night around 3 am and play the tape. Be sure your name is blocked on caller ID. This works  – trust me, I know. I can now sleep with my windows open.

Dear Suzanne: I’m a Mac but my boyfriend is a PC. Will this relationship work?

A: Hell no.

Dear Suzanne: I am a woman in my 80’s. My husband has started using Viagra and he sleeps on his back. Our bed has now become a tent, letting the cold night air in. What can I do?

A: Bless your heart. Before you catch pneumonia, go down to the fabric store and buy you some sticky-back Velcro and lash that one-eyed stake to his belly so you can get some sleep. A day or two of peeling off that Velcro should do the trick. If not, hide the Viagra.

Well, you can see that I would not be much of an advice columnist. I lack the patience and the couth to be giving anyone direction in their lives.

Now if you want to know how to screw up. I’ve got ample expertise in that area.

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Copyright © 2021 by Suzanne Olsen