Saturday, March 7, 2009

A Thought for these Tough Times.

For Family and Friends,

I heard on the radio today that 8 out of 10 Americans are stressed because of the current economic situation. A physiologist said that in times like these stress levels drop if people pull together as family and friends; therefore surviving this economic situation is a team, not an individual sport.

We all have our days when we're one trick ponies - we do our thing and that's about all we can do. We all have our days when just getting through it is like a three legged dog struggling down the street. They call it a recession and times are tough but there is always something left at the bottom of our emotional barrel, the vapors that remind us that others depend on us. So we buck up, wipe the blood off our faces, put the straps around each shoulder and start pulling again because it is what we do. A set back or two can't stop us.

Banks may fail and jobs are lost. Home are foreclosed and soup lines may form but in our little corner of the universe, in our own Confederacy of Dunces, we have each other, family and friends. So hold on to what matters and remember, we are all in this together.

Be there for each other. And here in Cloverdale, I'll keep the lights on for you ;)

Mr. Kranker's Observations

Mr. Kranker, Teacher of 38 years and an Undisputed Old Krank.

Mr. Kranker is retiring after nearly forty years as a teacher at Cloverdale’s Comprehensive School. Mr. Krankoff taught the 10th thru 12th Forms in World History and Dunce Ethics and Philosophy.

Although not considered to be particularly witty or even marginally intelligent, Mr. Kranker made up for his intellectual short comings by sticking to the subjects he understood best - common sense, in a Dunce sort of way. This devotion to the science of common sense was evident in the decorations adorning Mr. Kranker’s classroom. Common Sense was celebrated with hand written observations of life and our relationship to it. Each observation was written on butcher paper, the kind that comes on large rolls sitting in the hallway of every school world wide.

Mr. Kranker’s observations had an Eiffel Tower appearance. He didn’t take the time to be sure the paper was cut at perfect 90 degree angles. The obserations all seemed to be leaning to one side. The paper’s color didn’t matter much to him either. He used whatever was on the spool. He was careful enough to write his observations with a marker color that could be read against the background paper.

The observations were scattered here and there; strung across the front of his desk, hung from the classic 1955 florescent light fixtures, others were directly over the drinking fountain and sink in the back corner of the room, still others directly in your face as you sharpened your #2 pencil. Some observations served duel purposes, observations and window blinds. Mr. Kranker’s window shades never stayed down when pulled. If you pulled one down it immediately spiraled back up so fast you were forced to cover your face to avoid getting whipped by the chord.

Each year Mr. Kranker required his students to memorize one of the observations and be ready to repeat it at any moment. He enjoyed abruptly stopping a lecture in mid sentence and shouting out the name of any student he found suffering from brain paralysis.

“Mr. Cromble,” he shouted. Dorf Cromble, a student in name only and always in a semi conscious state jumped to his feet and took a moment to get his bearings.
“Present Mr. Kranker,” Dorf replied.
Mr. Kranker paused for effect, knowing he had the dumbest student in the class squarely in his sights. Once the entire class was focused on Dorf’s sorrowful situation, Mr. Kranker continued. “Mr. Cromble, your observation about Dunce life in our wonderful vibrant Confederacy.”
Dorf began searching the room for his observation. He knew it had to do something with being rude to a waiter but the exact words failed him, which wasn’t uncommon for Dorf.
“Mr. Cromble!” Mr. Kranker shouted to get his attention. “Your eyes must be on mine. Searching the walls for something you should have set to memory long ago will not help you.”
Great beads of moisture ran down Dorf’s face. His bottom lip trembled and a slight stream of mucous broke free from his left nostril, forging downward toward his quivering mouth only to be swept away a moment later in one great swipe of the tongue.
“An Apple a day keeps the doctor away?” he said sheepishly. The class erupted in laughter. Mr. Kranker stood in front of the Confederacy of Dunces flag at the back of the room.
“Silence!” he bellowed. “ Mr. Cromble, you have again amazed me. In a country of Dunces, known for Dunces, you take being a Dunce to new heights. Tell me Dorf, can you see any of us down on this plane of existence from way up there in the clouds? Sit down and I’ll see you after school for 50 lines.”

Dork Cromble at the Party Given for
the Survivors of Mr. Kranker's Class

All are sure the period of mourning for Mr. Kranker’s retirement will be short lived.

In honor of Mr. Kranker’s retirement the school’s newspaper printed his observations in their last edition of the school year. They are listed below for your enlightenment.

Thank you Mr. Kranker for 38 years of devoted service to the students of Cloverdale Comprehensive School in the Confederacy of Dunces.

Mr. Kranker’s Observations:

  1. Never, under any circumstances, take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night.
  2. Don't worry about what people think; they don't do it very often.
  3. Going to church doesn't make you a Christian anymore than standing in a garage makes you a car.
  4. Artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity.
  5. Not one shred of evidence supports the notion that life is serious.
  6. A person, who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter, is not a nice person. (This is very important. Pay attention! It never fails.)
  7. For every action, there is an equal and opposite government program.
  8. If you look like your passport picture, you probably need the trip.
  9. Bills travel through the mail at twice the speed of checks.
  10. A conscience is what hurts when all of your other parts feel so good.
  11. Eat well, stay fit, die anyway.
  12. Men are from earth. Women are from earth. Deal with it. Embrace your differences. Love each other.
  13. No man has ever been shot while doing the dishes.
  14. A balanced diet is a cookie in each hand.
  15. Middle age is when broadness of the mind and narrowness of the waist change places.
  16. Opportunities always look bigger after they have passed.
  17. Junk is something you've kept for years and throw away three weeks before you need it.
  18. There is always one more imbecile than you counted on.
  19. Experience is a wonderful thing. It enables you to recognize a mistake when you make it again.
  20. By the time you can make ends meet, they move the ends.
  21. Thou shalt not weigh more than thy refrigerator.
  22. Someone who thinks logically provides a nice contrast to the real world.
  23. It ain't the jeans that make your butt look fat.
  24. There is a very fine line between 'hobby' and 'mental illness.'
  25. People who want to share their religious views with you almost never want you to share yours with them.
  26. You should not confuse your career with your life.
  27. Nobody cares if you can't dance well. Just get up and dance.
  28. Never lick a steak knife.
  29. The most destructive force in the universe is gossip.
  30. You will never find anybody who can give you a clear and compelling reason why we observe daylight savings time.
  31. You should never say anything to a woman that even remotely suggests that you think she's pregnant unless you can see an actual baby emerging from her at that moment.
  32. The one thing that unites all human beings, regardless of age, gender, religion, economic status or ethnic background, is that, deep down inside, we ALL believe that we are above average drivers.
  33. Your friends love you anyway.
  34. Never be afraid to try something new. Remember that a lone amateur built the Ark. A large group of professionals built the Titanic.
  35. How old would you be if you didn't know how old you are?
  36. If you want to speed up your life, sign a 90-day note.

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Confederacy's Burger Cold War! Wendy's VS. Wimpy's

Cloverdale's Wendys Hamburgers has declared war on Cloverdale's Wimpy Burgers. Wendy's wants to remind you that Wimpy's Burgers offers you no choice for freshness for your burger much the same way as the Russian Communists offered their citizens no choice for almost everything in the days of the Cold War.

During Russia's communist days choices were limited. The Government made all decisions on what the factories produced and what the shops sold. Public taste and choice was rarely considered. You did what the communist party said or you risked spending an extended holiday at a lovely concrete gray vacation villa in northern Siberia.

According to Wendys, Wimpy Burgers is the same. At Wimpy's your burgers are frozen solid slabs of meat thawed and cooked on the grill. Fresh is out of the question. You march up to the cash register. They will tell you what you want and you will like it. Choice and your personal taste isn't considered part of the buying experience. Frozen meat, cooked and presented on a bun with their toppings. And...... your burger was most likely cooked several minutes before your arrival and has been sitting in the warming bin.

This commercial is Wendy's firing the first shot at Wimpys. Wimpy's is not amused. Wimpy's reminds you that wait time for their 'cooked slightly ahead frozen burger' saves precious time and everyone knows you don't always have time for fresh. There is talk Wimpy's is preparing a new commercial but when and where it will be broadcast is uncertain. All we know is that Wimpy's is about to unveil a new hamburger called 'The Reagan'. It is reported to be cooked on order and you choose the trimmings. They will not respond to the question of frozen or fresh meat. There will be a warning about wait time while they cook the burger for you. There is talk of a special line for those wanting 'The Reagan Burger'. Instead of a cash register it will have an abacus to tally your bill.

The citizens of the Confederacy are anxious to see which burger chain will emerge victorious in this new Burger Cold War!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Abernackles: Able, Ann and Hickory - their trusty mount

Ann Providing the Counter Balance. The Post Office is their First Stop.

A parcel has arrived for Able and Ann Abernackle. It came special delivery. Normally the CD Post Office delivers special delivery right to your door, but not in the case of the Abernackle’s. Able and Ann live at the top of Moon View Road. The locals call it Brown Shorts Drop. The name is self explanatory. Anyone foolish enough to drive it, considering the road seems no wider than an large sidewalk and has several drop offs that would give anyone the true feeling of free falling for several seconds, usually soil themselves by the time they reach the road’s end where it merges onto the Coastal Highway.

The road doesn’t seem to bother Able and Ann. They make the journey on a regular basis to pick up supplies, mail, and of course Sunday worship at the First Methodist Church in Cloverdale. Able and Ann’s ‘Going to Town’ transportation is Able’s old tractor affectionately called ‘Hickory’. Able figures the name adds a bit of character to a rusty relic from the days of the first gasoline engines.

As you see in the photograph, Hickory is missing one wheel. It dropped off several weeks ago on the slow descent down Moon View Road. Luckily Ann was sitting where you see her pictured. If her weight wasn’t counterbalancing the tractor the couple would have enjoyed one last thrill before Going to Jesus! They’ve been driving Hickory this way for the last few weeks while waiting for a replacement tire being shipped to them from a junk yard outside Warsaw, Poland. It seems the tractor is a bit peculiar. It is an old Polish communist tractor. Able joked that his beloved John Deere was really a Comrade Hickorovsky. This often repeated joke puts Ann into fits of jolly laughter. Ann is careful to bring her hand up to cover her mouth when she laughs. Life hasn't been kind to her teeth.

Spare parts for an old communist tractor are hard to find. Luckily Able and Ann's granddaughter Fanora has an internet connection and found a replacement wheel on Ebay. Fanora says that you can find anything on Ebay. Fanora used her Paypal account and ordered the wheel. The wheel has arrived.

Today, Able and Ann are making their last journey on three wheeled Hickory. Their first stop will be the Post Office to pick up their special delivery wheel shipped from Poland. Able is excited. He’s hoping there will be a few interesting stamps for his collection. After collecting the wheel the Abernackles will stop at the Food Amazatorium to pick up a few supplies. Their next stop will be the Auto Parts Store for the necessary tools to do the repair and attach the tire.

Cloverdale's Wimpy Burger.
Home of the World Famous Clogger Burger
and the Confederacy's Best Chips

The last stop of the day will be to meet granddaughter Fanora at Cloverdale’s Wimpy Burger. Able and Ann promised her a special treat for helping find the replacement wheel. While Ann and Fanora enjoy a burger Able will attach the new tire in the car park. He should be finished by the time they finish their chips.

Fanora will decline a ride home on Hickory. She loves her grandparents but must think of her reputation at Cloverdale Middle School.

At the end of the day Able, Ann, and ever trustworthy Hickory will sputter their way home up Moon View Road. Ann will knit. Able will doze. Hickory will navigate and they will all enjoy the views and each other's quiet company.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Zoemund Miller and Cloverdale's Zoo Lite.

Zoemund Miller, Zoo keeper at your Service.

Zoemund Miller is the manager of Cloverdale’s small zoo. Well, he calls it a zoo. In reality it is a combination of the city’s animal shelter and small petting zoo established by the CSPCA (Confederacy Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). You'll find it two blocks from Town Centre on the High Street next to the police station. For a small entrance fee you get to walk through the police station and out into the shelter / zoo for a tour. If you’re lucky you may see Alfred Potts, one of Cloverdale’s more notorious citizens, locked up in one of the two jail cells. Alfred has a problem with parking. He believes that parking should be allowed anywhere you see asphalt and / or concrete. On any given day you’ll find his 1962 Volkswagen Bug parked on a sidewalk, someone else’s driveway, the outdoor basket ball court at the Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, or even the small spillway used to empty a small holding dam when the water levels are too high on Rapid Creek.

Alfred's Bug found parked correctly at Home. Alfred was given a choice,
park correctly at home or get his supper in his lap and not on a plate.

Alfred could wallpaper his small bungalow with the traffic tickets he's been issued by every village constable for the last fifty years.

The village locks Alfred up every time he does something really stupid, like park in front of the village fire truck - at the fire station no less. You would think Alfred would correct his bad behavior but he doesn’t. He seems to like his time in jail. Even his wife Martha isn’t bothered by his time away from home.
“He's always underfoot,” she says. “When he’s locked up I can get things done around the house.” It seems Alfred has a problem with more than parking. According to Martha he never puts anything away where it belongs.
“His junk is like the consumption. It spreads and becomes unstoppable. You just watch, one day I’ll disappear, only to be found dead weeks later under a pile of his crap!”

The shelter / zoo has a wonderful assortment of cats and dogs. Many are friendly. Most don’t bite or scratch. The ones that do have cages with a skull and crossbones sign over the opening. There are a few rabbits, usually around Easter. Once in awhile the zoo gets a snake or a lizard resulting in an increase in attendance. Last year a black and white, severely overweight, dog was brought in. Zoemund put a poster in the police station window advertising Cloverdale’s first Panda, shipped directly from China. The line went right out the door and spilled onto the street for that special event. A few asked for their money back. Others didn’t seem to mind. Some days are boring, even in Cloverdale. Any distraction is welcome.

Zoemund's newest addition to the zoo is a sign he found while shopping on Ebay. It warns you not to feed the animals or you might make them sick. He and Alfred laughed for nearly a quarter hour the day the sign arrived. Today, the sign hangs over the guinea pig pen. Most read it curiously, smile and move on to the frogs. Others read it carefully and step away from the cage not sure if it was safe to be that close to man eating guinea pigs.

Two weeks ago Zoemund had the first graders from St. Bartholomew’s School visiting the zoo. While they were completely fixated on a three legged dog named Ilene, he pulled their teacher, Sister Mary Prudle of the Sisters of Ever Increasing Hope, away from the class and asked her to fill out a field trip questionnaire. While she was out of sight in the police station he moved the children to the guinea pig cage and read the sign to them outloud. The class immediately backed away in fear.
“By the way, where is your teacher?” he asked in a very innocent voice. The children looked back and forth. Sister Mary was always within arm’s reach. Where was she? Zoemund continued, “The last time I saw her she was standing right here next to the guinea pig cage. In fact I saw her leaning over the cage to give one of the them a few peanuts from her purse. Oh no... you don’t think the guinea pigs.......... Oh no. It can’t be.”

Needless to say, Sister Mary was out the door when she heard her class's horrific screams. She was not please and asked for her questionnaire back. She modified her comments to reflect Zoemund’s latest stunt.

Zoemund received a reprimand from the Chief. The sign was removed. Zoemund was required to bring one of the guinea pigs to Sister Mary’s classroom to show them that guinea pigs do not eat people.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Cloverdale's Fainting Goats

Of course, who could live without one of Cloverdale's famous fainting goats? Talk about a unique party pleaser. Gather everyone around and startle the goat. It will drop to the ground when its muscles freeze up. What a laugh. What a hoot.

You hear your mother in law is coming for a visit. Plan on taking her outback to introduce her to your new family pet. Have junior shoot the goat with his BB gun just as she reaches out to pet it. The goat will take one look at the woman and faint away. Yes, you'll get plenty of mileage out of that one from the kids. You may need to spend one night sleeping on the sofa but a laugh is a laugh. .

When you're ready for some real fun. When you want a family pet that mows a pretty good lawn. Come purchase your very own Fainting Goat.

For further information call Fillmore 2322.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Make A Wish Point and the Mountain Trolls

Their First Wish Has Been Granted.

The rolling countryside becomes forested hills the further north you travel out of Coverdale on the Capital City Highway. As you continue north for several miles the Highway navigates a steep climb into the Citadel Mountain Range. Towering high in the Citadel Mountains is Wish Mountain, known throughout the Confederacy for its breath taking views. It is a favorite stop by locals and tourists alike wanting a day long adventure of mountain hiking and scenic vistas.

Make a Wish Mountain gets its name for its famous mountain top lookout. A flat slab of granite extends outwards creating a ledge with a perilous drop. This ledge is called Make A Wish Point. For generations, Dunces have traveled to this point to take in the views, breath the crisp mountain air, make one wish and toss a coin. The legend says that when you reach the edge of the cliff the first wish to emerge from your thoughts will be granted by the Mountain Trolls if a coin is tossed to demonstrate an attitude of goodwill.

Hundreds, if not thousands of coins are tossed from this Point every year and if you ask any adult you’ll discover that their first wish really did come true. Ask any child and he will testify that his wish didn’t. Only when children are older do they understand the magic of Make a Wish Point. Only then do they realize that their first wish really did come true.

You see, the first wish from anyone’s mind upon reaching the cliff and seeing the chasm below is one the Mountain Trolls have been granting for hundreds of years.

You wish you won’t fall.

And that is the very essence of Make A Wish Point. A landmark in the Confederacy of Dunces.

And so the sun sets on another day in the Confederacy of Dunces. A cool breeze brings the smell of rain and steaks on a nearby grill. Somewhere a dog is barking. A perfect evening is forming from the day's departing light. Time slows as it passes through our village on the edge of forever.