Tag Archives: Humor

Tough Skating

Line art drawing of a roller skate.

(Wikipedia image)

I was very much a dweeb and a mama’s boy while growing up and consequently lacked many of the social skills necessary for early teen survival. Other boys learned to swim, ride bikes and play a decent game of baseball long before I did. So it should come as no surprise when I say that I didn’t know how to roller skate or talk to girls when I first started to catch the Everett Roller Rink bus that ventured into Snohomish on Saturday nights.

The bus came by my house around 6:30 and stopped at the mom and pop grocery store two blocks up the street on its last stop before heading to Everett. The round-trip fare was free if you bought a three-hour skate pass at the rink, which cost a dollar or so and included skate rental.

As I said, I couldn’t even skate. But I got talked into giving it try by buddies who claimed it was a great way to meet girls outside school. What they neglected to tell me was that you also had to contend with bigger boys who were on the bus for the same reason, as well as to punch, tease and generally ridicule mama’s boys like myself. I was never a small kid, but these were older, tougher boys who smoked cigarettes at 15, swore like mule skinners and put their arms around girls in the back of the bus.

Shyness broke my back in most every attempt at conversing with girls, and my inability to skate left me wearing a neon “loser” sign inside the rink and hugging the rail whenever I did venture onto the floor. Finding a partner for the couples-only skates was about as likely as finding money.

Only once did I manage a scratch single in hitting on girls at the rink, and that happened more by luck than pluck as I fell and accidentally tripped a cute Everett girl named Trish, who was apparently blinded by my sign while skating past too close to the losers on the rail.

“Oh, I’m so sorry. I didn’t see you. Are you alright,” Trish gushed after picking herself off the floor.

I told her it was all my fault, as I couldn’t skate a lick and had no business on the floor anyway. But she took pity and made it her business for the rest of the session to teach me how to skate, or die trying. She held my hand and voiced encouragement as I stumbled around the rink beside her. And she never let go when the lights dimmed and the couples-only skate began.

By 10 o’clock, I was ready to propose, but the session ended and I had to catch my ride home. Trish walked me to the bus, and said she’d look for me the next time I came to the rink. But I never saw her again after she blew me a kiss as the bus pulled away.

(This was  written as a Writers Kickstart prompt, 500 words or less  on The Bus Pulled Away.)

Copyright, Keith L. Olson, 2013

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The Polar Bear Dip

It’s my first trip to the Polar Bear Dip. New Year’s Day 2012.

Hundreds have turned out, many in costumes, to eat, drink and party hearty on the Pilchuck River behind Doc’s Pilchuck Tavern in Machias, Wash. I’m with my wife Toni and our friend, Karen, and we’re meeting my old high school chum, Gordy, and his wife, Tina, who talked us into joining the insanity.

Polar 002Gordy is the event’s Grand Poobah, making his 36th annual river plunge, and he’s wearing a drum major’s hat with “Grand Pupa” across the front. I’m wearing swim trunks and a tank top under my sweat clothes. My wife’s wearing workout gear under her coat, plus a jingly dance belt from her zumba class, which will earn her spot in the photo gallery published by the local newspaper.

Fortunately, it’s a balmy 48 degrees for this New Year’s Day, under sunny skies with only a hint of hangover. The river, though, is just above freezing and about four feet deep.

Inside the tavern, it’s a mosh pit. The two pool tables are covered with plywood and tablecloths to hold Polar Dip t-shirts and a smorgasbord of potluck items. The Gator Bowl is on TV, but no one is watching. To get to the bar you have to Polar 019rub through a mass of humanity, and the only lines are those to the two tiny restrooms that double as changing closets.

Outside the back door, there’s a patio overlooking the river and burn barrels every 20 feet or so with warming fires. There’s also a beer station selling $3 cans of Budweiser, and a kiosk selling $2 oysters raw or barbecued on the half-shell. A big man in a woman’s swimsuit with oversized breasts and an overabundance of pubic hair holds court while posing for pictures.

Polar 011It’s only slightly less crowded outside, with a line forming on the bank below the patio and extending a good 60 yards downstream. At noon, a blow horn signals the start of dipping, and Gordy is the first to plunge into the frigid stream, leaving his “Pupa” hat on shore. For more than two hours, revelers file past to enter the river at the designated spot. Wedding and prom dresses are popular attire, as are diapers, loin cloths and flannel underwear. Everyone wears shoes to handle the rocky river bottom as well as the shore.

I’m in and out in less than a minute, emerging with clenched teeth while streaking for dry pants. Inside, the restroom lines remain long, so I opt for one of the porta-potties in the parking lot. But there’s a backup in those lines, too, so I duck between two parked trucks to drop my trunks.

At that moment, four women happen past and get an eyeful of the naked man.

“Water must REALLY be cold,” one of them hoots.

“You have no idea,” I answer.

“Oh, I think we do,” another voice shoots back amidst group laughter as they move on.

(This was written as a Writers Kickstart prompt, 500 words or less on the topic “Standing There Naked.”)

Copyright, Keith L. Olson, 2013

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Throwing F-Bombs

I must have heard or read this somewhere, because I can’t possibly be the first person to ponder the usefulness of the word fuck.

First off, it’s vulgar. We all know and recognize that. But I think we lose sight of that the more we hear and use the word. Rather like swearing in general, it becomes second nature.

F-BombI once tried to give up swearing for Lent, and it lasted about 30 hours.  First swear word out of my mouth was fuck. Don’t recall the precise circumstance, but it didn’t take a pry bar to come out.

As a young man, I bought into the notion that salty language just added color to one’s voice.  Now I have trouble reining in the rainbow in front of Aunt Fran, Aunt Teddy or anyone’s mother. Probably embarrass myself more than I embarrass others. But only when I bother to think about it.

The word fuck has multiple uses, some of them contradictory or confusing.

It can be  a noun or a verb or an either/or, as in “So-and-so is a lousy fuck.”

It’s a frank and straightforward word for sexual intercourse. But why then do we “feel fucked” when we’re ailing or when someone does us wrong? Or why is it “fucked up” when something goes wrong? I like to think that having sex feels good. Beyond the glow, however, feeling fucked might be seen in terms of being in a subordinate position. Kind of a domination thing or manipulation, regardless of the activity. I guess being fucked or being a fucker  rests on control. And when it’s not going your way, that’s when you can ask, “What the fuck?” in a bid to find out where you stand.

In summary, for those translating earthy English, keep this in mind:

Glossary of “Fuck” Usages

1.  Fuck! (Simple expression of exasperation; also a little used and rarely successful mating call.)

2. Fuck? (Uttered in a quizzical sense, it means surprisingly good or at least not half-bad!)

3. Fuck me! (Acknowledgement of a mistake, whether true or not, often tied to slapping your own head; also, a demand for sex.)

4. Fuck this! 0r Fuck that!  (Stop; unless spoken in a literal sexual context, when it means just the opposite.)

5. Fuck yes! (Firm affirmation.)

6. Fuck no! (Firm denial, or I wouldn’t do that if you paid me!)

7. Fuck off! Fuck you! or Go fuck yourself! (Leave my presence and go pleasure yourself till you’re raw but don’t enjoy any of it.)

8. Fucked up. (Confused, injured or ailing; also, under the influence of  drugs.)

9. Fucking around. (Spousal infidelity, promiscuity or generally silly behavior.)

10. Fucking New York Yankees! (The despised baseball team.)

11. I’m fucked! (Faced with unpleasant consequences.)

12. New York Fucking Yankees! (The lionized baseball team.)

13. Wanna fuck? (Invitation to sexual intercourse; also an invitation to face slapping with Nos. 6 and 7.)

14. What the fuck? (Expression of incredulity)

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Lutefisk Leftovers

English: A fork next to a serving of lutefisk ...

A fork next to a serving of lutefisk at a Norwegian celebration at Christ Lutheran Church in Preston, Minnesota (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I had lutefisk for lunch the other day and invited  all my Facebook friends. No one accepted, but many sent their happy regrets.

Around here, stating publicly that you like lutefisk could haunt you later in any civil action in which your judgment is questioned.

I eat it because my heritage is Norwegian, my folks ate it every year at Christmas time, and my sister maintains tradition by serving lutefisk at our joint family Christmas dinner. My sister and her husband, another fellow with Viking blood in his veins, like the stuff well enough, but my late brother wouldn’t touch it, nor do either of our wives or any of the kids, who double-down on the meatballs and gravy.

Back in the day, my mom made Christmas lutefisk the old-fashioned way. She bought it in frozen blocks that came  in a wooden crate from somewhere in Minnesota. Classic lutefisk is codfish that is cured in lye as a preservative, and you had to the boil the fish in cheesecloth to get the lye out while maintaining at least a degree of solidity in the fish. The process left a gelatinous mound of product and a stink that could cover up a meth lab.  And I can recall the occasional poisonous zing of biting into a pea-sized bit of lye that somehow survived the boiling and made it onto my plate.

For me, biting into a bit of lye was the ultimate “nasty” associated with lutefisk.

My dad enjoyed his lutefisk spread onto potato lefse and bathed in melted butter. Others mix their fish with a forkful of mashed potatoes to get it down. Some folks also serve it with bacon and onions. Like my dad, I prefer the lefse method, and refer to it as a Norwegian taco. Wash it down with dark beer and a shot of aquavuit, and you can ski, skate or copulate like an Olympic medalist.

I’m not sure how lutefisk is processed these days, but it no longer comes in lye. My sister, who sent her uncooked leftovers home with me,  got hers from an outfit named ScanSpecial, Inc., in Poulsbo, WA, and paid $11.99 a pound, which made it more expensive than fresh salmon or beef steak.  She bought lefse, too, although homemade lefse isn’t that difficult to come by. The kids at my church make and sell lefse as a holiday fundraiser. And, you know, the commercial lefse  sold under the name Mrs. Olson’s isn’t half-bad, and, by golly,  it lasts longer than the homemade stuff by several weeks in the refrigerator.

My sister sent me home with one pack of lefse and about a pound of fresh lutefisk. The cooking directions on the bag were partially obscured, so I called the phone number for ScanSpecial, Inc. to ask whether boiling or baking was the best method, and a polite female American voice told me to do both. I boiled some salted water and simmered my lutefisk for awhile before rinsing it and baking it in a 400-degree oven till it was done. Notice that I do not provide cooking times here. As they say, cooking times vary with elevation and appliance types, and I won’t be held responsible for anyone’s undercooked, overcooked or bad-tasting lutefisk.

Old Norwegian joke: What’s the difference between good lutefisk and bad lutefisk? Church attendance.

Flavor? I would almost categorize lutefisk as essentially tasteless. But that would be heresy! How about saltines with the texture of raw oysters. Without salt. Unless you add some salt and pepper yourself, as well as melted butter, to give it some flavor.

No one came by for my lutefisk lunch. But I had three helpings, eating in the living room while watching SportsCenter. Oddly, none of my dogs came over to sniff my plate or beg for a morsel. Guess my training methods are finally working.

Since my dogs wouldn’t eat my leftovers, I deposited them in a plastic bag in my garbage can outside, and sprayed the kitchen and living room with aerosol cleaner to disperse any lingering smell. I then went out and skied a quick 10 kilometers while smoking a cigar and satisfying a sudden craving for pickled herring.

Ten Good Things About Eating Lutefisk

1. Not as bad as people say, and a little goes a long way.

2. Attests to your Scandinavian mettle.

3. Keeps cats away from your door.

4.  Leftovers will remove wallpaper.

5. Farts or body odor go undetected.

6. Codfish get their revenge.

7. Someone somewhere makes a killing, shoveling fishy stuff into a bag.

8.  Promotes hair growth (especially blond)

9. Turns women into electric blankets of lust turned up to 10.

10. Makes men horny, too, with no need of medical attention for an erection lasting longer than four hours.

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Turd in Hand

Walking my greyhounds the other day, I stumbled into one of those sublime moments that you file away and retrieve for personal merriment, or whenever someone starts up about how cute, smart or clever their pet might be.

It’s damp, chilly and nearing twilight on a late winter afternoon as we round a corner near the middle of our route near the high school, and Chatterbox pulls up and assumes the dump position just off the sidewalk.

I reach into my pocket for a plastic bag, as I’m usually quite fastidious about picking up after my own dogs in public. But not this time.

Didn’t see it before, but Chatterbox had squatted over a lost glove lying palm-side up in the grass and left her deposit directly on center. Could not have sculpted a more elegant tower myself with can of chocolate whipped topping. Held like a trophy.  Wide base uniformly tapering to a twist at the top.

It was a work of art. Call it greyhound graffiti. A turd in the hand.  Bansky outside the bag.

I left it for the world to see. Came back the next day with my camera, but it had rained and the tower had turned to oatmeal.

Didn’t scoop that time either. Hey, someone might still be looking for their glove!

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Women of Letters

Ruby and Judy sat facing each other at a table for four in the Oxnard Tavern, draining Coronas and talking smack.

“So, you’re really gonna hang it up and get married?” Ruby teased. “Sweetie, I’m surprised at you. What are you gonna do for sex?”

“Jeez, girl, I’ll have a husband,” Judy answered. “Won’t have to go looking for it any more. It’ll always be there. Whenever I want it.”

“Yeah, ‘IT’ will be there for you. And that’s what you’ll think of ‘IT’ before for too long. Same man. Same stuff. Bet you’re howlin’ like a dog within a month!”

The old juke box in the corner played a 45 record of Hank Williams’ “Your Cheatin’ Heart” as the two women continued.

alphabet letters“Hey, I love Quinn,” Judy said. “He’s tall, dark and handsome. Makes lots of money. Hasn’t been married before, so there’s no exes or step kids to worry about.”

“I know all that,” Ruby replied. “He’s a fine hunk of man, and you’re lucky to have him. But what about our oath when we turned 21. Neither of us was gonna settle down till we had our fill of men, or turned 30, and that meant sampling the whole menu before declaring a favorite. We promised we’d both go through the whole alphabet of men before we picked one.”

“I know we promised,” Judy said. “And I’m right at the edge of my alphabet. Quinn was my Q, and I only have an X left.”

“Ah-huh, and what are you gonna do after you’re married and Mr. X comes around?” Ruby chided. “Just say, ‘No thanks, I’m married?’ ”

“Well, yes, I guess that’s about the size of it,” Judy said. “The whole alphabet thing was fun while it lasted. But honest to god, how many X-men do you even meet in your life, let alone couple up with. And we’re both gonna be 30 before you know it. We’re runnin’ out of time.

“How you doin’ on your list anyway,” Judy asked. “Had an X yet”

“No,” Ruby said. “I haven’t had a Q or a U, either. And Keith Urban hasn’t answered any of my texts.  Could I borrow your Q stick sometime before the wedding?”

“It’s all pretty silly,” Judy replied. “Let’s forget it, and we can both just focus on Mr. Right instead of Mr. X.”

“Maybe so,” Ruby said, as the handsome new bartender approached their table, picking up empty glasses and taking orders.”

“Two more for you ladies?”

“Yes, definitely,” Ruby said, “and two shots of  Cuervo, too!”

The bartender returned with their drinks, then stepped outside for a quick cigarette.

“Did ya get a good look at that guy. Nice face, and cute butt, too. And did ya see his name tag?” Ruby asked. “Xavier!”

“I did notice that,” Judy said, throwing back her shot.  “Join me for a Camel?”

“One hump or two?” Ruby chirped

“Let’s make that his call,” Judy said.

(Note: This was written as a Writers Kickstart prompt, 500 words or less, on the topics Two Camels and a 45, plus Walk Me to the Edge of the Alphabet.)

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Toy Killers

The carnage is appalling. Entrails scattered all over the living room.  Severed foot here.  Detached eyeball there. Lifeless body shredded. Nearby, a heavily chewed squeaker mechanism.

Squeakers 002Yet another victim of my 3-year-old greyhound BB, the serial toy killer.

My wife has been a co-conspirator in these crimes. Or least an enabler as the supplier of cute but easily ripped squeaker toys for doggy enjoyment. The latest victim, a stuffed squirrel, had a hole in it within minutes of introduction. By the next day, it looked like road kill in the snow under a Greyhound bus.

I’ve lost count of the desqueaked and shredded bodies I’ve disposed of. Squirrels, cats, possums, monkeys, snakes, sheep. We make Sid from Toy Story look like a choir boy.  I’m reminded of the last scene in Toy Story, when Woody gets the Christmas Day report from Sarge in the flower pot: “It’s a puppy!”  Previously thought the puppy merely represented another possible alienation of affection. I now realize the potential killer seen in Woody’s eyes.

Chatterbox, our 10-year-old greyhound, occasionally amuses herself with stuffed  toys, too, but age has taught her that the squeaky things can’t run and are no real threat. She simply grows bored once the carcass is desqueaked and Squeakers 007prefers chasing the live animals that venture into our yard. Trouble is, word’s out in the critter block watch  network to steer clear of our backyard where the assassins roam. The dogs can go from zero to full speed in three strides, and they can get anywhere in the yard within four seconds. Squirrels once delighted in instigating a chase before leaping to apparent safety atop the fence while scurrying to freedom. That lasted until one of them was ripped from the top of the fence and chewed from the middle like a hairy sausage link.

I have two sacks of desqueaked dog toys in various states of mutilation from BB and previous serial toy killers that we’ve fed. The plan is to one day launder and repair them with new squeakers sewn inside, but the Frankenstein procedure has yet to happen. Rather, we continue to play Nero, offering up fresh innocents and enjoying the spectacle like mob Romans.

BB is  currently working on a canvas-skin frog. Haven’t heard a squeak out of it for more than an hour. Must be nap time.  Or send in the  litter bearers!

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