A Bit About Me

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Along with my daily duties as founder and head writer of HumorMeOnline.com, in 2003, I took the Grand Prize in the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest (also known as the "It Was a Dark and Stormy Night" competition). I've also been a contributor to "The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson" and the web's "The Late Show with David Letterman". I also occupy my time writing three blogs, "Blogged Down at the Moment", "Brit Word of the Day" and "Production Numbers"...and my off-time is spent contemplating in an "on again/off again" fashion...my feable attempts at writing any one of a dozen books. I would love to write professionally one day...and by that I mean "actually get a paycheck".

30 November 2011

Foreign Thoughts

Okay - first off, I am not a racist, nor someone who jumps to any type of conclusions about what you eat, what you watch, which church you go to, who you sleep with, what politician you like, how attractive you are, what your weight is, etc. Basically if you are nice to me - I'll be nice back and I don't care if you are pink, purple, beige, blue, brown, yellow, or orange. I really don't mind. I never have.

But tonite, after stopping at Starbucks to get my daughter a mochachocolatte, there were two men outside the building conversing with a foreign accent...speaking a foreign language. One was younger...the other about 20 years older. I don't know what language they were speaking - coulda been Arabic, coulda been Serbian...didn't sound Swedish and it certainly wasn't French or Spanish.

The bad thing is - I got into my car and mentioned to my daughter something about "Hope they're not terrorists." It wasn't exactly that - but it was along those lines. Then I stopped myself and told her how incredibly bad it was that I was thinking that...just based on the fact they were two men of a nationality which undoubtedly gets a lot of suspicious glances nowadays, i.e., they didn't look like the blonde guys who sang that "Take On Me" song.

Ordinarily I wouldn't have thought this - I grew up in Jersey - and many people were of Polish, Italian, and whatnot descent. I just kinda disgusted myself and wanted to share. How terrible it is to automatically think terrible thoughts because I've been conditioned by the media to fear someone who looks a certain way. Granted, terrorists did some heinous crimes and I don't discount those...but, to think that of these two guys outside a Starbucks just because they are "different" from me...just annoys me.

I grew up in a time (I was born in 1960) where the 1970s saw its share of plane hijackings, bombings in airports and the horrible massacre of Olympic athletes during the 1972 Munich games. I can never remove the image (or the name) of ABC news reporter, Bill Stewart, forced to kneel on the ground after being pulled from a van and then shot in the head. Why I have that one etched into my memory is beyond me. I guess it was because it was shown over and over on television at the time...and the shock of seeing a life one second and a death the next...has stayed with me. Just like images of people jumping out of the World Trade Center buildings...it's not something you can just erase.

And now I can't erase this impulse thinking I have in my head...and what was probably a pleasant conversation outside a coffee shop makes me anxious and I hope and pray nothing bad was actually going on.

That...to me...is sad.

And to those two men -- I apologize.

08 November 2011

The Waiting Game

Another half-hour spent isolated in the "patient room" at the doctor's office again.

I don't know if you've made the observation that all the magazines are typically in the waiting room -- and, if you don't tag one along when you get called in the "patient room"...chances are you are left alone to sit and stare at your "temporary lodgings" for the next 30 minutes or so.

I don't know about you...but my mind goes like this:

Read anatomical posters first.

Depending on how in-depth they are and which doctor you are seeing - this can be most rewarding. For example, I pretty much know where all my internal organs lie and I also know that "Circle of Willis" thing in my brain...looks like a tiny alien.

But most times it's a bust. Plus some of these posters have lost their vivid colours and have been on the walls since 1982. Not that our body parts have shifted or mutated into anything remotely Darwinian-ish...just saying a new shiny poster without the frayed and/or missing edges and without the 23 thumb-tack holes...is probably long overdue.

There's only so much staring you can do at the posters of otitis media or the cutaway eye one. "Yep, that's an eye. And that's one with glaucoma. That's an eye with a stye...and that's what various stages of conjunctivitis looks like when you have no skin surrounding your eye."


I then progress to reading the pamphlets (not all offices have these mind you - the eye doctor's office is the best place if you want to brush up on short stories featuring the eyeball).

From this fascinating foray into the "short story medical" genre, I have come to the conclusion I now know almost as much about Crohn's Disease and IBS as the people who wrote those things...and my ability to spot a "floater" is phenomenal. (Oh, c'mon...I was talking about the EYE...seriously...you should be ashamed of yourselves.) I also know all about Macular Degeneration ...and how to treat dry eyes.

The next stage on my journey inside the "little room" begins with the picking up of...and prerequisite dismantling of...the plastic models. Putting them back together as I found them is sometimes more challenging...but most times I just resort to childish hi-jinks.

Anyone with half a brain (and I've dismantled that model as well)...can put them back together...but it takes a really bored genius to put them back...creatively.

I'm not proud to admit that I put the "normal thyroid butterfly" in the "Grave's Disease" spot...and I've switched the normal rubber prostate "feel for yourself" exam helper with the abnormal one.

I am nearly shaking my head in abject shame as I type.

I often wonder if they change them all back around to their proper locations after I leave...or if they stay that way until someone inadvertently puts them back in correct placement because they were as bored as I was that day. I also wonder if they red flag you as a "switcher" and annotate it in your records.

Usually, by this time, the doctor comes in...but I've actually had to wait much, much longer on some occasions...and this is the part in my visit where I get downright creepy.

You know how they have the wooden tongue depressors, the little rubber hammer, the extraordinarily long Q-tips, and those drawers they keep unlocked?

Well, my imagination starts roaming around as my eyes dart from place to place and object to object...and I start wondering how many people might have skipped touching that take-apart eye "toy" and made a bee-line over to the rack of assorted eye-drop vials instead. If you pay close attention - those things are just too tempting for anyone who always wanted...but never got...a chemistry kit when they were a kid.

I've visions of rude and moronic people licking the eyedroppers -- putting a couple drops of one eye solution into the other...and switching all the stoppers around.

"Ooooh...an irrigation device...I wonder if it fits in HERE..."

I mean, unless there's a camera in that little private room of yours...how'd anyone know?

I guess it all boils down to the fact that I'd really hate to be swabbed with the giant Q-tip the guy before me used to relieve an itch. I honestly don't want them to use anything on me that doesn't walk in with the doctor or nurse...or that doesn't come out of some locked-up cabinet.

Face it, if I think these things -- someone else has undoubtedly done them...or is seriously thinking about doing them.

I just hope and pray their appointment is AFTER mine.

03 November 2011

Volunteering the "Old-Fashioned" Way

This was a proposed article for the Montgomery Advertiser which I wrote (but never used) back in August 2010. I'm not sure how current it is now...certainly his age and the original time-frame has changed. I decided to post it up as a blog for two reasons: This man met with me and spent a couple hours hoping to get some publicity for Fort Toulouse and for what all these volunteers do...and also because Fort Toulouse's "Frontier Days" is going on now until the 6th of November. Please check the website link at the end of my article for more information.

Everyone's heard the phrase "history repeats itself", but for 52 year-old Michael McCreedy, it really does.

Since 1988, McCreedy has been actively re-enacting a by-gone period, donning clothes of another era and making history come alive for countless Fort Toulouse visitors to witness. And he does all this voluntarily.

I sat down with him the other day to get an "insider-look from the outside" as I've always been fascinated about history.

First off, I was told I really shouldn't say "re-enacting". The participants prefer the term "living history" for what they do, and "historical interpreters" for who they are.

Secondly, I was not aware most of these portrayals are based on actual people; so when a historical interpreter chooses a name from the list, they are literally adopting the attitude, mannerisms and persona of a real individual who once lived at or visited Fort Toulouse in the 1700s.

"Most people who do this had a love of history early on." McCreedy stated, "For me it was the childhood trips with my family from San Diego to visit my grandparents in Montgomery and stopping at various historical sites along the way."

Of course if you have a mother who is interested in genealogy and volunteers at the Archives and History Department's "research room", as he does, history already seems to be in his blood. In fact, for the past three years, McCreedy has delved into his own Scot Clan lineage by "becoming" Lachlin MacGillivray, Highland Scot trader and interpreter to Britain's King George II. Prior to this recent change of sides, he spent 19 years as a French Colonial Marine.

McCreedy contends the reason he and countless others volunteer their time is because they have a true passion for what they do, enjoy the educational aspects of it, and also because it's fun. "Everyone dies, they come back to life, you get to do it all over again, then you get to have a beer." McCreedy quipped.

While volunteers don't get paid, they do have to outfit themselves with the proper gear. They actually have "loaner clothes" for those who want to try it out, but these clothes can only be used for a short period of time; after that, you have to buy or trade things to get your own uniform, shoes and musket.

McCreedy's initial expense, about twenty years ago, was $1000 on a musket (he points out these firearms aren't "guns", they are classified as "working antique replicas" as per the Gun Control Act of 1968), and another $800 for the uniform. So, while this is not an inexpensive hobby, fortunately most people find out relatively early on whether or not this is something they want to pursue. McCreedy remarked, "If a person sticks with it for the probationary one-year period, and they like us, and we like them, they are voted in.

But don't get any fancy ideas of showing up with a Commandant's uniform and thinking you're going to run the place. While there are promotions, typically new historical interpreters at Fort Toulouse start at the bottom.

Considering McCreedy was a cook, a French Marine and now a prosperous fur trader in his twenty-two years of interpreting living history, he definitely earned his promotions among the volunteer ranks.

In his present-day life, McCreedy is the Executive Director at "The F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum" in Montgomery and is working on getting his Master's Degree in History. He hopes one day to become a historical advisor for film or television.

Just to put this in a "sum it all up" perspective, McCreedy figures that over the course of his twenty-two years of volunteering, 13 months of his life was actually spent "living in the eighteenth century".

This is indeed quite an amazing feat which only a dedicated few can say they've accomplished. Seems historical interpreters get the best of both worlds: reliving old history while all around them new history is being made ever day.

How can you get into the "act"? Please go to http://www.forttoulouse.com/ or call 334-567-3002. They'll be more than happy to explain to you how you can get involved.